30 March 2012

Book News: Sealed With A Kiss by Fiona Walker

To celebrate the forthcoming release of her new book The Love Letter on 3rd May, Fiona Walker has released an e-book short story as a prequel to that book. It's a great idea to get your interest piqued for her new book, and I'm looking forward to reading, hopefully it'll be an exciting short story!

"Allegra North's second thoughts about splitting with childhood sweetheart Francis need a first-class stamp. But with her unfinished letter to him still in her handbag, she can't find the right words to express her regrets. Invited to a big movie premiere through her work, she resolves to put all thoughts of her ex fiancé out of her mind; then she loses her handbag in the foyer. Francis meanwhile is determined to win Allegra back. Convinced that they should never have parted, he intends to declare his feelings in front of crowds of press and film fans that evening, unaware that his meticulous plans are about to be hijacked by his hired accomplice, a movie stuntman with a thirst for publicity . . . By the time the closing credits roll, the crowds will be baying for a kiss. Can a letter right wrongs, or do actions speak louder than words?"

You can buy Sealed With A Kiss as an eBook now!

29 March 2012

Book Review: Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan

"Were you a sherbet lemon or chocolate lime fan? Penny chews or hard boiled sweeties (you do get more for your money that way)? The jangle of your pocket money . . . the rustle of the pink and green striped paper bag . . . Rosie Hopkins thinks leaving her busy London life, and her boyfriend Gerard, to sort out her elderly Aunt Lilian's sweetshop in a small country village is going to be dull. Boy, is she wrong. Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton's sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. As she struggles with the idea that it might finally be time to settle up, she also wrestles with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully coloured sweets. Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams - a novel - with recipes."

Rating: 5/5

After reading (and loving) my first Jenny Colgan novel last year, Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe, I was really, really keen to read to read her brand new novel, especially as it sounded like it was going to be about sweets... how could you go wrong?! The cover is fantastic, red with the teal foil highlights for the lettering, and I think it is certainly going to be a book that people will want to pick up and find out more about, especially thanks to that tantalising title! I have to say I found this book better than Colgan's last release, and that's certainly saying something considering how great that book was, and I ploughed through this book in just a few days because I was in love with the characters, and the interesting way in which it was written, it really did keep me hooked. I have to say as well, whether you're a fan of sweets or not, do read this book because it's a joy!

The book tells the tale, funnily enough, of Rosie Hopkins, and her sudden move from London to the countryside where her ailing, elderly Aunt Lilian is living alone, and needs Rosie's help. Rosie is reluctant to leave her job as auxiliary nurse in a busy city hospital, and boyfriend Gerard behind, but does so for her family, especially mother Angie. When she gets there, she finds Lilian's sweet shop closed and it looks like it hasn't been open for a while, and Lilian is in a fairly bad way too. Rosie struggles to get used to country life, every knowing everyone elses business, but befriends the local doctor, and ends up with stroppy local patient Stephen to tend to. Rosie is determined to get Lilian's shop ready for selling, and sets about making it look brand new, but ends up falling in love with it herself. I loved Rosie straight away, she's the perfect heroine for a book, and is so loveable, there's nothing at all to fault about her!

Rosie is all about her family, which is a good message to send out, and helps Lilian out even though the pair barely know each other. I liked that Rosie didn't take any nonsense from her elderly Aunt, and found the pair to be quite the comedy duo as the book went on, with both girls giving as good as they got! I especially enjoyed reading about Rosie's escapades with the locals in the village, some hilarious moments did make me laugh out loud, and I found it so easy to read. Lilian herself was a great character, clearly troubled by events that happened in her past, but reading her unfolding relationship with her niece was fantastic, and I really liked the stroppy old woman by the end of it! These two were definitely the main characters, but there were a few others who were important too, such as Rosie's hideous boyfriend Gerard, just an awful character and I could not understand for the life of me why Rosie let him treat her that way! Moray the local doc was lovely, a really friendly face for Rosie in the book, and I loved their scenes together, and the medical issues that came up were well written too, I enjoyed the realism of those.

Now to the sweet shop. Well what can you say? Colgan has clearly done her research (lucky her!) about all manner of sweets, old and new and so many make an appearance in the book that it makes for fantastic reading! As well as mentioning the sweets in the shop, Colgan has introduced extracts from a book Lilian wrote about sweets, which has real recipes in it too if you fancy trying those out, and they sound amazing! I found the extracts at the beginning of the chapter were funny and enlightening, and added something a bit different to the book. I also really enjoyed the descriptions of the sweet shop, from the fancy chocolate boxes to the big glass jars lined up on the shelves... it sounded like heaven! Another thing I want to mention about this book was the way it was told. The majority of it was in the present day with Rosie and Lilian, but throughout the book, there were flashbacks to Lilian's youth in the 1940's, and what exactly went on there is nothing short of heart-breaking, and very emotional to read. Colgan easily manages to transport you back many years into that time period, and it was great to have a background for Lilian to explain her in the present day, I found these parts of the book so touching and incredibly well written.

Overall, this book was a joy to read, and I really can't recommend it enough. From the enticing, bright front cover that immediately draws you in, you're then sucked into the world of Rosie and Lilian and the glorious sweet shop, as well as the things in the women's lives too. There is a great cast of characters, from the youngest villagers through to the oldest, and a moody young man thrown in to boot, and I loved every single page. Colgan manages to combine this story with Lilian's youth with ease, and I enjoyed each part of the book equally. This book delves deep into the heart of family, love and sweeties, and I defy you not to crave at least half of the things mentioned in the book, especially in a candy striped paper bag as you're reading along! I miss the days of proper pick n mix, and this book will definitely bring that all back in your mind, and more! A fantastic novel that I know will be a surefire success, and it thoroughly deserves to be! A really treat of a read!

You can buy Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams as a paperback or an eBook now!

28 March 2012

Picture This, Picture That: 4am In Las Vegas by Michelle Jackson

This week's Picture This, Picture That takes a look at two different covers for Irish author Michelle Jackson's latest novel 4am In Las Vegas. I reviewed the book at the end of last year, and really enjoyed it, especially the bright and bold cover which is very evocative of a typical Las Vegas type scene (left picture). However, for the paperback, publishers Poolbeg have gone for a very different look, looking at the city through an open curtain which I kind of like when you consider the title of the book, peering through the curtain in the middle of the night, but I think the curtain is a little too much in the book, a bit more of the colourful backdrop would've been good! Which cover do you prefer and why?

You can buy 4am in Las Vegas in paperback now.

Book News: The Perfect Location by Kate Forster

I was browsing Amazon last night and came across the gorgeous cover for Kate Forster's new novel The Perfect Location! I think it looks so summery and gorgeous, I can't wait to read it because the plot sounds fantastic. It's out on 10th May, so not too long to wait!

"Join these three Hollywood actresses as they set upon The Perfect Location to create a film that will change each of their lives forever. The question is, can you guess which real life star each of these characters is based upon?

Calypso arrived to the party first. She glowed in the courtyard like a firefly, stunning in a One Vintage gold lamé dress from the 1920s that had been reworked for her. The beaded appliqué around the low neckline shimmered and a tulle detail around the skirt edged up over one side to reveal just the right amount of thigh. Worn with a pair of patent leather Christian Louboutin black slingbacks and her new evening bag from the Perugia flea market, Calypso shone in the dark.

Next came Rose: tall and slender in a peach georgette chiffon, halter-neck Chloé gown, she was beautiful. Her shoulders and arms were lily white, and she wore a gold Etruscan cuff on one arm and matching gold hoop earrings, which showed off her long neck. Her brunette hair was swept up into a ponytail and she had applied her makeup in such a way that it looked as if she had barely any on but her features were perfect. Rose was an icon and had the power and had real respect within the industry.

And finally Sapphira arrived and the whole table fell silent. She stood in the doorway of the courtyard, wearing a white leather Pucci mini dress, with a huge silver and black eagle on the front looking as if it were about to land on its prey. She wore no jewellery and long black hair hung loosely down her back. Her legs seemed to stretch forever, ending in a pair of Balmain suede calf-high boots, with five silver buckles up each side. Her entrance stunned the room; it was dramatic and powerful, not unlike Sapphira herself."

You can pre-order The Perfect Location as a paperback and as an eBook now.

27 March 2012

Book Review: Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

"When Luke Warren is involved in a car accident which leaves him in a coma, his family are gathered together against the odds; they face an impossible dilemma.

His daughter Cara is praying for a miracle: she will fight everything and everyone to save her father's life.

His son Edward can't imagine that a man who once ran with wolves could ever be happy with a different life.

But Edward hasn't spoken to Luke for six years. How can he dare to speak on his father's behalf?

Somehow, they must choose:

Do they keep Luke alive?

Or do they let him go?"

Rating: 5/5

I am a huge fan of Jodi Picoult's books but for one reason or another, I haven't gotten around to reading her last few books just yet. When I was sent a review copy of her latest book, Lone Wolf, I was most definitely intrigued by both the title and the idea of the book that I decided it was time I read one of her books again. I'm not a person who is into nature or wolves especially, but the idea of children fighting over what's best for their ailing father sounded interesting, and I know Picoult always manages to write a wonderful drama into a story, and that I'd be guaranteed an amazing read. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed at all, and found myself totally engrossed in the world of Luke and his wolves that I really didn't want to put the book down, and even now, a week after finishing it I'm still thinking about it as well as the dilemma the book poses to its readers.

The book is based around the character of Luke Warren, a man who loves everything about wolves and decides to go and live with them in order to understand a wolf pack completely and utterly. He does this at the expense of his marriage to his ex-wife, and his relationship with his children Edward and Cara. Edward later runs off abroad to live, causing a further rift between the warring parents even more, and younger daughter Cara decides to go and live with her father and live the 'lone wolf' life as well. But when Luke is involved in a near fatal car accident along with Cara, it leaves his children at war as to what to do. Loyal Cara wants to keep Luke alive at any cost, even if there is no hope whereas Edward is trying to be more realistic and realises his father has no meaningful life ahead of him. But Cara is prepared to fight as long as it takes to keep her father with her, but at what cost?

What I found interesting about this book is the way that it is written. The action of the present day makes up the bulk of the book, with the story involving Edward and Cara, and their fight over their father. The chapters alternate between narrators, so we hear from the points of view of both of the siblings, as well as others including Edward's lawyer Joe (also his mum's new husband!), and Georgie, Luke's ex-wife and Cara and Edward's mother. Luke's chapters come as the form of a sort of diary narration, written about his life with the wolves, how he came to do the things he did and also his emotional take on everything around him. These pages were written in italics, separating them from the rest of the book, and the pages had a smudged, almost dirty look to them which made it feel more authentic, and I loved this attention to detail. All of the characters were so well written, you can sympathise with each of their plights, but for me my favourite by far was Luke. I was totally taken away into his wolf world when I was reading, from imagining how the wolves looked, to how he reacted to the frightening scenarios, Picoult writes so beautifully in these parts its almost hard to believe its fiction you're reading.

As well as Luke's tale of survival and living with wolves, there is of course the fight for Luke between Edward and Cara. Cara was written perfectly, a teenage girl who adores and idolises her father, and is unwilling to accept that there is no hope left for him anymore, and even those as a reader we can see that her father is truly gone, as a daughter myself, and a mother, I can understand her loyalty and despair at the idea of losing him for good. Edward on the other hand was harder to warm to, he almost didn't know his father but as the story progresses and things are revealed, your emotions are toyed with and I ended up empathising with him too, and understood his need to do what he believes his father would want. It's an interesting moral dilemma, and one which Picoult presents both sides of brilliantly, and writes so emotionally for all of the characters involved. There's a fair bit of medical jargon in there, enough to give you an idea of what's happening and to realise Picoult has really researched this, but its not too complicated that you won't understand a word! As usual, it climaxes in a court room drama but I felt this part was shorter than in previous novels, and I enjoyed the closing of the book very much.

Overall, this is a very emotional read that delves into the feelings of grief a child goes through at the loss of a parent, but also deals with other important issues such as the rights of children, especially minors, when decisions are made about someone's life or death. The wolf scenes however stole the show for me, and were an absolute joy to read, from Luke's raw emotions and feelings that were written, to the vivid descriptions of the world around him when he's living in the wilderness with the wolf pack, and how he interacts with these amazing animals. I found myself reading into the wee hours of the morning with this book as I couldn't put it down, and couldn't convince myself it was a good time to put it down and wait until morning to carry on reading! The writing style was incredibly easy to read, and the book flowed so well, even though it jumped around in times periods a lot, from Luke's narrative chapters, to Cara's childhood, Edward's childhood and then the present day also. However, all bases are covered and we're given a detailed and brilliant story that'll have you thinking and pondering for weeks and months to come. Simply brilliant. A must read.

You can buy Lone Wolf in hardback and as an eBook now!

26 March 2012

Book News: The Long Weekend by Veronica Henry

I always know I'm guaranteed a great read when I pick up any one of Veronica Henry's books, so I'm really excited for her new read The Long Weekend. I really like the cover, it looks so summery and I can imagine myself sitting reading it on a nice sunny beach myself! It's not out until 5th July, so we've a bit of a wait but it sounds great!

"In a gorgeous quay-side hotel in Cornwall, the long weekend is just beginning . . . Claire Marlowe owns 'The Townhouse by the Sea' with Luca, the hotel's charismatic chef. She ensures everything runs smoothly - until an unexpected arrival checks in and turns her whole world upside down. And the rest of the guests arrive with their own baggage. There's a couple looking for distraction from a family tragedy; a man trying to make amends for an affair he bitterly regrets . . . and the young woman who thinks the Cornish village might hold the key to her past. Here are affairs of the heart, secrets, lies and scandal - all wrapped up in one long, hot weekend."

You can pre-order The Long Weekend as a paperback now.

23 March 2012

Book News: The Runaway Actress by Victoria Connelly

Victoria Connelly's new book is due out on 12th April 2012, and it's called The Runaway Actress. I think the cover looks really fun and bright, and I can't wait to read the book! Somehow I haven't managed to read any of Victoria's books yet so I hope this is the start of many!

"When the stresses of being an A-list actress get too much for her, Connie Gordon decides to escape to a tiny Scottish village. But little does she realise that whilst Lochnabrae might be quiet, it’s far from sleepy…

The latest charming novel from chick-lit’s answer to Richard Curtis.

Beautiful, rich, famous – and seriously stressed, actress Connie Gordon is ready for a change. Deciding to accept an invitation from her fan club in Scotland, Connie kisses goodbye to her ex-boyfriends, stalkers and double-crossing agents, and prepares herself for complete relaxation.

But swapping the Hollywood Hills for the Highlands of Scotland doesn’t 
make for the easiest of transitions and, when she meets local playwright, Alastair McInnes, who’s sworn he’ll never become involved with another actress again, sparks fly, and the sleepy village of Lochnabrae will never be the same again.

Get your running shoes on to catch the latest hilarious, charming and utterly engaging novel from Victoria Connelly, chick-lit’s answer to Richard Curtis!"

You can pre-order The Runaway Actress as a paperback or for just 99p on Kindle!

21 March 2012

Book Review: Unsuitable Men by Pippa Wright

"After eleven years of coupled-up domesticity, Rory Carmichael is single for the first time in her adult life. Even she would admit that her ex-boyfriend Martin wasn’t the most exciting man in the world – let’s face it, his idea of a rocking night was one spent updating his Excel spreadsheets – but Rory could rely on him and, having watched her mother rack up four turbulent marriages, that’s what matters. But when she discovers that her supposedly reliable Mr Right is a distinctly unreliable cheater, she’s forced to consider the possibility that everything she knows about relationships is wrong. In an effort to reinvigorate both her love life and her lacklustre career at posh magazine Country House, she sets herself a mission to date as many unsuitable men as possible. Toyboys. Sugar daddies. Fauxmosexuals. Maybe the bad boys she’s never dated can show her what she’s been missing in life. But if Mr Right can turn out to be so wrong, maybe one of her Mr Wrongs will turn out to be just right . . ."

Rating: 4/5

I really enjoyed Pippa Wright's debut novel Lizzy Harrison Loses Control which was released last year, it really was a laugh-out-loud book that had a great story and fab heroine to match! I was lucky enough to receive an early reading copy of her latest book Unsuitable Men and was hoping for another hilarious read that would keep me hooked from the start to the end. I have to admit I really enjoyed the book, but I did find the names of Rory's posh colleagues at Country House magazine to grate on my nerves after a while, and the annoying way they spoke wound me up a little too, but once I got past that, I found it to be a light-hearted and enjoyable read that will have you giggling along as Rory tries to find herself a suitable man, and road tests some unsuitable ones along the way.

After the demise of her long relationship with boyfriend Martin, Rory is heartbroken and doesn't even know how to get back into the dating scene, and whether or not she really wants to start that again. She's forced out of the home they shared in London, and has to move in with her aging Aunt Lyd, who runs a hotel style house for actors, and is currently living with 2 older retired actors. Her colleague Ticky decides that to find someone she wants to settle down with, Rory must date lots of unsuitable men to find one that is suitable for her. As well as dating them, Rory has to write them for her new online column for Country House magazine where she works, and editor Amanda (Mahn!) is unsure about whether its for their target market. Cue Rory dating a whole host of unsuitable men, and perhaps finding a suitable one where she'd least expect!

I really enjoyed Rory's dating escapades, which ranged from much older land-owning gentlemen to work experience students, and it certainly made for some funny moments, as she realised that these men weren't right for her, and the consequences that her decisions had for her! As well as this which is the main story, we also have another story relating to Rory's relationship with her Aunt Lyd, who is very much a mother figure for Rory, and how she views Rory's latest break-up. There's an interesting dynamic going on between Rory and the older characters in the book, and I enjoyed reading how these changed as the book progressed. I also really like the character of plumber Jim, who suddenly pops up in the book, and I really loved his friendship with Aunt Lyd, it's so genuine and you can see why he's so fond of the older woman as the book progresses.

While I found the romance at the end to be somewhat predictable, it didn't really matter to me as a reader because I really enjoyed the book as a whole, and the things that Rory went through in order to get her suitable men once and for all. I loved that the book took a bit of a serious turn towards the turn, and I felt that Wright wrote this part of the book especially well, it was very emotive and seemed to be a turning point for Rory too. Overall, I found the book to be a great read that I loved picking up each night, and was really hoping Rory would get her happily ever after that she so deserved. It was funny and genuinely had me laughing out loud in parts, and yet managed to have an under-current of emotion from Rory that she'd end up alone forever. The scenes at her magazine were very funny too, some of the names were a bit of mouthful and a tad annoying in parts, especially the silly nicknames, but it certainly made for amusing reading, especially when Wright wrote things exactly the way they were spoken, very amusing! I'd definitely recommend this book, it's funny and fab!

You can buy Unsuitable Men both as a paperback and as an eBook now!

Book News: Revelry by Lucy Lord

One summer read I am really looking forward to is Lucy Lord's debut book Revelry. I've been lucky enough to get an early reading copy and the cover is just gorgeous, it screams summer and fun, and I don't think I'll be able to wait until June to read it! It's out officially on June 21st and I can't wait!

"One summer can change everything…

What happens when a friend breaks the one rule that should never be broken?

Best friends Bella and Poppy are living the dream – Notting Hill glamour, Shoreditch lofts, exclusive parties and drop-dead gorgeous men. But sometimes living life to the max catches up with you, and even the strongest friendships can be pushed to the limit.

Poppy, Bella and their friends spend the summer having as much fun as they possibly can – from the hedonistic escapades of Ibiza to doing Glastonbury in style. But amongst the laughter come tears, betrayal and backstabbing and one devastating decision threatens to bring it all crashing down. And, once the sunglasses have come off, Bella is forced to question if her lifelong friendship has been broken beyond repair."

You can pre-order Revelry as a paperback or an eBook now.

20 March 2012

Picture This, Picture That: The Camera Never Lies by Tess Daly

This week on Picture This, Picture That I'm taking a look at 2 very different covers for Tess Daly's book The Camera Never Lies. The cover on the left is the original hardback release which I really liked - it's simple and elegant, and just looked really nice. However, her publishers have gone for something really different for the paperback release which is due out this April, and I quite like it too. It's far brighter and more eye-catching, and looks pretty fun as well, much like the book itself. I actually really like both covers, for different reasons, and can't choose one over the other! Which one do you prefer and why?!

You can pre-order the new paperback now or buy the book in hardback or as an eBook too!

Book News: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

Hannah Richell's debut novel isn't one I had heard of until I received a review copy through the post today. I have to say the cover is beautiful, it looks really enchanting and seems to fit in with the title perfectly, looking mysterious and curious. It's out on 12th April, and is certainly one I'll be reading as it sounds amazing.

"Every family has its secrets. Some are small, like telling a white lie or snooping through a private drawer. Others are more serious, like infidelity and betrayal. And some secrets are so terrible they must be hidden away in a deep, dark place, for if they ever came to light, they would surely tear a family apart¿ The Tides are a family full of secrets. Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house high on the Dorset coastline, youngest daughter Dora hopes for a fresh start, for herself and the new life she carries. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you can forgive, can you ever really learn to love again?

You can pre-order Secrets of the Tides in paperback now.

19 March 2012

Book Review: The House on Willow Street by Cathy Kelly

"Tess used to be happy with her lot: she lives in the idyllic Irish coastal village, Avalon, with her teenage son, Zach and nine-year-old Kitty, and works in the local antiques shop. Her only regret in life is that everything went so horribly wrong with her first love. Then her marriage falls apart and her first love returns to Avalon.

Suki, Tess’s sister, fled Ireland years ago to marry politician Kyle Richardon, but when Suki discovers that a biographer is planning to tell all, there is only one place she can go to ensure that her secrets stay hidden.

Danae is the village post mistress in Avalon and she’s worked very hard to make sure nobody knows where she came from or who she is… Her past is her business and that’s the way she would like to keep it.

In Galway, Mara sits with a smile glued to her face at a wedding; she only wants to ask the groom one thing: why did he tell her he loved her? Needing to put her past behind her, Mara packs up her life and gets ready for a fresh start.

Can these four women lay their pasts to rest? Or do they need to look back before they can begin to live for the future?"

Rating: 2/5

I've read a few of Cathy Kelly's books in the past, and have to be honest when I say that they have been a bit hit and miss for me. However, I adored the cover for this one, and thought that the plot sounded really interesting and I was curious to find out what the secrets were that these women were hiding. Cathy Kelly has written a lot of books, and has a big fanbase so it's always quite exciting when she comes out with a new title. I'm always honest in my book reviews, so I have to confess that this book left me a little cold, and found me thinking "is that it?" when the secrets were revealed because they simply weren't as big of a deal as I expected, and I did find myself wanting to get through the book faster as it seemed to really drag in parts which was a shame, and here's why.

First of all, the cast were okay but there was no stand out character that I felt could be the leading character of the novel. It seemed at first like postmistress Danae was being set up to be the main character, but that soon proved not to be the case. We barely know anything about Danae, neither do the residents of the town of Avalon, but things are revealed about her more as the book progresses. I liked Danae a lot, she was a good character but managed to sink too much to the background for my liking, and when her story was revealed, I had sort of guessed it was something like that, and although I had sympathy for her, it wasn't as much as I had expected at all. Another main character was Tess Power, mother of two and recently separated, not really by her own choice and so is struggling with it. She also runs an antique shop. I felt sorry for Tess but also wanted to give her a bit of a shake, there was just something about her that wasn't completely likeable.

The other characters in the book were okay, but nothing really to write home about, especially the males. However, my favourite character was the youngest of the group, Mara, a breath of fresh air in an otherwise slow and sometimes dreary novel. Mara creates life, love and laughter in the book and I wish she was in it a bit more. My main problem with the book comes with the books length, and the pace of it. Unfortunately, it progressed so slowly for me, and I did find the initial few chapters hard going as nothing seemed to happen to draw me in and want to read more. Instead of not being able to put it down, I found myself forcing myself to pick the book up to carry on reading, and that's never a good thing. It just moved so slowly, it could have had a good few pages cut out of it to tighten it up a bit and a little more action because the whole thing just seemed like nothing major happened in the entire book, and by the end, I couldn't help but think 'Is that it?', and was thinking surely there had to be more to it than that.

The other big problem for me was the ending. I won't spoil it by telling you what happens, but for me, it came out of the blue, almost as if the author literally ran out of time, and had to stick a concluding chapter in that didn't relevant to the rest of the book at all, and that was perhaps the biggest let down for me. It seemed a shame to build up the entire book on these secrets, reveal them and then end it with something that didn't match up at all. It's a shame Kelly didn't put more into that because for me, an ending makes or breaks a book, and sadly for me, this just didn't work at all. I really would struggle to recommend this book, it's a shame because Cathy Kelly's earlier books are fantastic, but I can't help but feel she has lost her way with her past few novels, and this was a very disappointing read for me. It was a bit bland, very slow, and had a terrible ending, what a shame.

You can buy The House on Willow Street in hardback and as an eBook now.

Book Deals: The Round-Up

Here are a few of the latest book deals I have found online that I thought I'd share with you!

The Only Way is Avon for Ziepe
"HarperCollins imprint Avon is to explore the lives of "an impeccably glamorous group of Essex girls" in two new novels.

Commissioning editor Caroline Hogg acquired UK and Commonwealth rights in two novels by debut author Laura Ziepe via Hannah Ferguson at The Marsh Agency.

Both follow the lives of the girls as they "navigate the ups and downs of relationships, careers and fake tan". The first is lined up for early 2013.

Caroline Hogg says, ‘I have been such a fan of 'The Only Way Essex'since it hit TV screens and so when I read Laura’s manuscript it clicked instantly with me . . . She’s wonderfully bright and a fantastic addition to the Avon list."

Essex girl Ziepe runs her own fashion business mycelebritydress.com."

Four more novels from Katie Fforde for Random House
"Random House Group imprints Century and Arrow have signed a four-book deal with Rona-winning novelist Katie Fforde.

Publisher Selina Walker acquired UK, British Commonwealth, Europe and Canada and non-exclusive throughout the rest of the world (excluding US) rights from Bill Hamilton and Sarah Molloy of A M Heath.

The first title will be published in 2015.

Fforde said: "I am absolutely delighted to be signing another contract with Random House." She has been published by Century and Arrow since 1999."

Picoult to write YA for Hodder 
"Hodder & Stoughton has acquired a YA title by bestselling author Jodi Picoult and her teenage daughter Samantha Van Leer.

Publishing director Carolyn Mays bought UK rights from Emily Bestler Books at Atria, and will publish the title, Between the Lines, at the end of June 2012 alongside the US publisher.

The book is described by the publisher as being "about what happens when happily ever after isn't so happy, and when the barriers between books and life begin to crumble". It will have full colour illustrations and silhouettes throughout.

 Mays said: "This is a wonderful mixture of fairy tale and real life—a novel that will speak to book lovers of all ages. It's a book that mothers will want to share with their daughters and celebrate the reading experience together."
Patricia Scanlan moves from Transworld to Simon&Schuster
"Irish author Patricia Scanlan has left Transworld for Simon & Schuster. The novelist, who has been with Transworld since 1994, has signed a new deal with Simon & Schuster."

All articles taken from The Bookseller.

16 March 2012

Book Covers: Freya North's redesign


Freya North's older books have been given a makeover by her publishers, and here are some of the new covers! They fit in with Freya's newer titles including new book Rumours, and I think they are gorgeous! I especially love how all the covers are really bold, and make each book look really individual, even though they all have the same sort of design. I think they'd look gorgeous on my bookshelf too. What do you think of Freya's new covers?

Click the covers to see larger versions of them!

Book News: Labels by H. C. Carlton

H. C. Carlton's new book Labels is due out at the end of this month, 29th March to be exact and it sounds like a great read! I'm not usually keen on books set in years gone by, but I might make an exception for this one because it sounds fantastic!

"From the wild sixties to the sexy seventies, they ruled the world of fashion - and fashion ruled them. Mackenzie Gold - outrageous, racy, shocking, yet desperately yearning for what she can never have. She's fashion's pop queen, obsessed with designing the hottest threads on the scene. Mia Stanton - gorgeous, refined, but tormented by the most shattering hang-up a passionate woman can possess. Her designs set trends that reap fame, wealth... and the undying envy of the person who should love her the most. Coral Stanton - uninhibited, unscrupulous, untrustworthy. She's Mia's mother, the hellfire editor of a top fashion magazine, a woman prepared to pay any price to get what she wants. Set against a canvas of free love, passion, ambition and betrayal, LABELS draws you into the world of three women determined to stop at nothing to fulfil their dreams of fashion."

You can pre-order Labels in paperback or as an eBook now!

15 March 2012

Author Interview: Sue Welfare

I recently read and really enjoyed Sue Welfare's latest book One Night Only, and thought it was a fantastic read. I asked Sue if she would kindly answer a few questions for me about the book amongst other things, and Sue agreed! My thanks go to Sue for answering my questions.

Q1. Please tell me about your new book One Night Only.

It's about what it's like to come home after years and years of being away - all those memories and might have beens - the old friends and old lovers and the places you used to go.
Helen, the book's main character, is an actress doing a guest appearance on a TV show looking back at her roots. She uncovers all kinds of ghosts from the past along the way.
The idea came from a friend who I met who had come home for a funeral and hadn't been back for years ( live in the town where I grew up)

Q2. Helen is such a likeable character - in fact, the thing I've noticed about your characters, from both this book and The Surprise Party is that they're all so likeable and believable. Is it important to you that you write characters people can relate to and believe in?

Oh yes. For me creating the characters is  the best bit of writing a book.  I try to create complex rounded ' real' people to explore my stories; people who you would easily recognise and understand - if not always sympathise with -  their motives. People are seldom all good or all bad, but a blend of both, so I hope that emotionally my characters make sense to people.

Q3. I take it "Roots" is based on programmes such as "Who Do You Think You Are?" on television. What inspired you to use a TV show for the basis of this story, and how much research did you have to put into what goes into making a show like this?

I used to love This is Your Life and have also watched a few episodes of Who Do You Think You Are - so yes it is based loosely on that format but the twist with Roots is that they aren't adverse to using more current stories rather than digging back a long way into the past.  Also  I suspect the WDYTYA researchers are way better than the Roots team!

I have done some filming so used that experience as the basis  for the bits about filming the show. It was great fun and I learnt very quickly how all the power is in the editing - Although I imagine it will make anyone who who works in the industry  groan with horror.

Q4. You've published books under 2 different pen-names - Gemma Fox and Kate Lawson. Why have you used pen-names, and how do you actually go about choosing a pen-name?!
My publisher decided that ' Welfare'  sounded odd and also any author's name beginning with W sits  low down on the bookshelves. So they asked me to come up with another name. We tried all sorts of things. I came up with Molly Fox but the publishers - while liking Fox - thought Molly made me sound like a Saga writer , so my then editor came up with Gemma. Some of my favourite books were written as Gemma!

Unfortunately at the same time as  we launched Gemma a singer by the same name launched her music career - causing Googling Chaos! 

Kate Lawson came about  because of that.  It's my favourite name.
I have some great friends called Kate and it was the name I was going to call my first baby if it had been a girl
( He wasn't!  I ended up with 4 sons so no chance to use any of my girls names! )

Lawson came from a shortlist of names that we liked that were already famous  and rung a bell with the reading public.
I was very nearly Kate McEwan!

Q5. You can't help but notice that your covers for One Night Only and The Surprise Party are very similar - how do you feel about these covers and their similarites?
The publisher decided they would go for a certain look - i have quite a few reservations about how similar they are - not least because I'm worried people will think it's the same book - but generally i like the style. We'll see how it works out!!

Q6. How do you feel about the term "chick lit" and the idea that it is dying out? Do you mind your books being classified as such?

Lol - I think of my work more as cellulite lit!  The media are always looking of easy ways of labelling things - I'm not offended by the term, just saddened that a lot of the books lumped under it contain  very powerful, clever, well crafted writing, tackling big themes - the expression trivialises that work and that talent.

Q7. What do you do when you aren't writing?

Loads of things! I sing in an acapella choir and a quartet called Tenor Ladies, make rag rugs and teach other people how to make them too, cook, garden and am always making something -  currently papier mache bowls - oh and I love photography and I teach creative writing - so I'm not usually at a loss for something to do!  If anyone wants to find out more I'm on Facebook as Sue Welfare.

Q8. Can you tell me your top three books of all time? What sort of books do you enjoy reading yourself?

Impossible! I love books for different reasons.

My Current top three are different from those i would have chosen last week, but here we go:

Eats Shoot and Leaves - Lynne Truss - brilliant and funny and invaluable.
Before I go to Sleep         SJ Watson - one of the best books I've read in years
The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe -  made me  begin to be aware of the ' what's going on behind the story/ what is the bigger picture ' aspect of story telling.

I read thrillers and crime for pleasure: Lee Child, Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reichs & Carol O' Connell being some of my favourites.

Q9. What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given about writing?

Don't get it write, get it written! It's a mantra I pass on every chance I can. Get it down on the page and then you have something to work with an edit and improve on.

Q10. Are you working on your next book yet? If so, can you tell me anything about it?

Oh yes - it's called 'Cooking up a storm' and it's about a TV chef - and is proving huge fun to write - oh and there are recipes in it too!

Great to chat to you as always, Chloe xx

Thanks, Sue!

You can buy One Night Only as a paperback or an eBook now! 

14 March 2012

Book Review: One Night Only by Sue Welfare

"Fame and fortune can’t hide the secrets of her past…

When fading soap star, Helen Redford, goes back to her old home town to make a TV show about her glittering career she catches a glimpse of the might-have-beens that drove her to leave in the first place.

Ex boy friends, old scores to settle, friendships gone sour, chances not taken,and secrets about Helen's family that have haunted her since she was a little girl.

Will Helen be able to put her past to rest?"

Rating: 4.5/5

This is the second of Sue Welfare's books I have read, the first having been The Surprise Party which was released in 2011, a book I found to be a delightful read. I was luckily sent a copy of One Night Only for review from Sue's publishers, and was really looking forward to delving in. The idea of a story about a celebrity going into their past sounded like an interesting one, and I wondered where Sue would be able to take the concept. While I have to confess to not being madly keen on the cover which is a little bit too similar to The Surprise Party if you ask me, I hope that like me people choose to not judge this book by the cover because its a wonderful story that I really couldn't put down!

I really loved the main character of Helen. The book really in entirely about her so its important that as readers we can like her and warm to her, and I feel like Sue has created a warm and realistic character, who even though she is a celebrity, she seems real and like a really nice person. Her career is on the wane a little bit, so when she's approached to be on TV show 'Roots', she decides its worth a go. Her agent and ex-husband Arthur urges her to, and boyfriend Bo is supportive as well. I liked that Helen was really unsure about the show and didn't just jump in for the money as we might assume that she would, but instead she took the time to think about it and the positive and negative things about it too. Helen was just a great character to read about, and I enjoyed reading her story.

The idea of the TV show within the book sounds loosely based on shows such as "Who Do You Think You Are" which features real celebs and their past lives. Roots more chooses to look at the person's present day and their own story rather than their ancestors, and this allows Welfare to delve in Helen's past and present a totally different character to us. As well as the modern day chapters where we see Helen filming the show and the secrets being revealed, there are alternate chapters which go back to Helen as a young school girl, with best friend Kate being a singing double act at a local talent show, and how things progress for them from there. It mainly focuses on the one night of the show, and then Helen's discovery of fame and her agent shortly after that. I enjoyed very much how the book flitted between the two time periods of Helen's life, and it kept the narrative fresh, and me interested in the book.

Some of the storylines are bit seedy, involving Kate and 2 "agents" that the girl's meet backstage at their gig, but I think it's a very real issue and certainly something that must happen up and down the country unfortunately. I also liked the storyline of Helen's mother and how she disappeared when Helen was a young girl, leaving her to be brought up by her father. It wasn't an overly soppy and emotional tale, yet was told matter of factly, and you could see how Helen, even now as an adult, is deeply affected by her loss and not knowing what happened to her mother. All of these brought together created a really deep and insightful book, that had me giggling in places and crying in others. You really want everything to work out for Helen, and for her to have a good time on the TV show, and not be too upset by certain revelations that come forward in the book.

Overall, I thought this was a brilliant read that will have people hooked from the first page until the very last. Welfare has created a really great leading lady in Helen, and the other characters within the book are really well written and fit perfectly into the story as well. I especially liked how the friendship between Helen and Kate are written, very reminiscent of teenage relationships for a lot of people I suspect. I found that the two stories of modern day Helen and school girl Helen made for great reading, and I really liked seeing why Helen was how she is today, and how her past has shaped her future. It's a really interesting look not only at how a TV show like this is made, but the impact it has on the people who are the subject of it as well, which I really enjoyed reading about. I loved every page of this book, and while it may not have the best cover in the world, the story inside is fantastic, and I highly recommend that you read this book!

You can buy One Night Only in paperback and as an eBook now.

Picture This, Picture That: The Real Katie Lavender by Erica James

Welcome back to my feature Picture This, Picture That! This week I'm taking a look at 2 very different book covers, this time Erica James' latest release The Real Katie Lavender. These covers couldn't be more different if you ask me, with the original one being so bland and actually one of the worst book covers I've ever seen, and then a bold and bright look for the paperback release in July 2012. I hated the original because it's so generic, has no colour and tells me nothing about the book, whereas at least the new one has some colour and a personality, and is certainly more eye-catching in my opinion. Which of the two covers do you prefer and why?!

13 March 2012

Author Interview: Elizabeth Noble

Last week, I read and reviewed Elizabeth Noble's latest book Between A Mother and Her Child, which was an emotional rollercoaster of a novel that I really enjoyed. I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask Elizabeth some of my questions, and my thanks go to Kate at FMcM for arranging the interview, and to Elizabeth for answering my questions!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book, Between A Mother and Her Child.

Between a Mother and Her Child is the story of the Bartlett family, who you meet 2 years after their seemingly happy life has been decimated by the death of the eldest child of the family, Jake.  It is a novel about the effects of grief on all the members of the family, as well as the story of part of their journey towards a kind of healing, a journey on which they are accompanied by a stranger who comes to live with them, Kate.

Q2. I loved all your characters in the book, especially Aly who I felt was such a wonderful character, and Maggie who is written so realistically. Where do you draw the inspiration for your characters, and do you have a favourite from this book?

I’m really happy you liked Aly – I adored her.  She’s a normal teenager in utterly abnormal circumstances, trying to fix things beyond her control, and cope with her own confused feelings about everything happening around her.  I think she’s my favourite too, although I love the whole Bartlett family.  Creating characters whom I hope resonate and are plausible is probably my favourite part of the process.  They are never directly lifted from real life, but rather amalgams of lots of different people.

Q3. I hope that you've never had to go through the hardships of the things your characters do such as Maggie and Bill in this book, and Barbara in Things I Want My Daughters To Know - how do you go about researching these topics to write about them empathetically, and also to do them justice?

I did a fair amount of reading, listening and watching on the subject of grief and grieving.  It struck me how extraordinarily individual and personal the experience is.  There are statistics, for example, about the increased incidence of divorce amongst couples who have lost a child, but Bill and Maggie are just two people having that experience.

Q4. What made you choose to use the 2004 Tsunami in your book with regards to Jake's death? It isn't often you find real-life events like this referenced in chick lit so I found it a curious choice, and wondered what inspired it.
I’m not sure why ‘chick lit’ writers would avoid real life incidents.  It never occurred to me that I should.  I did think hard about how Jake died – he could have been killed on his gap year in a thousand different ways – but as a plot device I was drawn to an event that affected millions – each one a private tragedy on a very public stage.  Also, I needed to highlight how Bill and Maggie reacted to Jake’s death – Bill by throwing himself into things, and Maggie by hiding from everything – Bill’s trip to Thailand was an important stage in his grief and also in his estrangement from Maggie.

Q5. Your books are all very emotional reads, and deal with emotive topics that some may find quite upsetting, and I'm often in tears reading them! Why do you choose to write "weepies" (as I call them!) and do you find yourself often getting upset when you write about these things?

I have often asked myself the ‘why a weepie’ question!  I’m not a miserable person, I hope…  But the truth is that the sad stories are the ones which most appeal to me.  And yes, I cried most days as I wrote the novel, putting myself in Maggie’s shoes and imagining the awfulness of her loss.  I cried a lot writing Things I Want My Daughters to Know as well, for similar reasons…

Q6. You recently took part in a Q&A session on your publishers Facebook page, The Book Boutique, do you enjoy this interaction with your fans, and do you think social networking is an important tool for authors to use?

I know that social networking is becoming an essential way for writers to communicate with their readers.  I’m a dreadful luddite, and doing my best to catch up, though I’m not sure I have an inner twitterer…  I prefer face to face, but that isn’t always possible, and it is great for someone in an essentially lonely profession to have company, even if only through a screen!

Q7. How do you feel about the term "chick lit"?

I’m not a great lover of the term chick lit, mostly because I write more for hens than for chicks.  I try not to take myself too seriously, but I do think it is too often used in a derogatory and dismissive way – often by people who don’t read much of it.  I set out to write novels women will love, will save for their summer holidays, will pass on to others, and remember for at least a while after they’ve finished them.  If  I succeed in that, then you can call me whatever you like…

Q8. Some of your books have been given new titles for their American release (The Way We Were, The Girl Next Door). Is this new title the choice of your American publishers, and are you given any say in the new titles? Or is it that the UK titles are the changed ones?!

The UK is my primary market, so whenever one of my books has a different title in the US, that was their decision…with the exception of The Tenko Club, which the Americans called The Friendship Test, a title Penguin later adopted.  My US publisher felt strongly that The Way We Were wouldn’t work in the US because of the association with Barbra Streisand…I did rather like their new title, When You Were Mine.

Q9. What do you enjoy doing when you aren't writing?

When I am not writing, I love to cook, to potter about the shops, to watch films and too many boxed set dvds, to exercise (a new habit!), spend time with friends and family, and to travel whenever and to wherever possible….and I have two teenage daughters, which any mother will tell you is pretty much a full time job in itself…

Q10. Are you working on your next book yet? Can you tell me anything about it?

My next novel is the as yet untitled story of two women who set up home and businesses together when they are divorced from two brothers, after long marriages, and find themselves alone and a bit hard up in their forties….

Thanks, Elizabeth!

You can buy Between A Mother and Her Child in paperback and as an eBook now.

12 March 2012

Book Review: IOU by Helen Warner

"Amy has enjoyed a charmed life, shopping and lunching while the nanny looks after her children. Until her world is thrown into disarray when husband Ben's business collapses overnight, taking their house and savings with it. Suddenly Amy finds herself the breadwinner. Can she rise to the challenge? Will her marriage survive such an upheaval? Or is it a case of 'Till Debt Do Us Part'? Kate has always had to struggle by, juggling her job with two children and a husband, though she wouldn't have it any other way. But her safe little world is rocked when she meets enigmatic Jack in a chance encounter. Feeling increasingly estranged from husband Miles, Kate wonders if Jack can offer her a fresh start. But there's something about Jack that Kate doesn't know...Jennifer is only just beginning to recover from the death of her own husband. When Jennifer makes contact with old flame Hugh she unlocks a dangerous Pandora's box. She is desperate to find the answer to a question that has tormented her for decades. But will she be able to cope with the truth?"

Rating: 4/5

I read and enjoyed Helen Warner's debut novel RSVP last year, and was lucky enough to receive a review copy of this book too. Clearly Warner really likes her acronyms because this book is named after one as well, this time IOU. I really like the cover, anything purple makes me happy so this one was pretty good in my eyes! I didn't realise before I started it that the main characters in this book are family - a mother and her two daughters, and when I found that out, I thought the book would be even better as I always like it when there is a family connection in a book. I looked forward to tucking in to this one, and when I did, I found it to be a really good and readable book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The book centres around 3 female characters - mother Jennifer and her 2 daughters Kate and Amy, who all live very different lives and aren't as close as they would perhaps like to think that they are. Jennifer is still grieving after the loss of her husband Michael, but is wondering if it is time to start seeing a face from her past once more, however feels afraid of upsetting her daughters. Kate, a busy heart nurse, is feeling like something is lacking in her marriage to Miles, and when a stranger suddenly comes into her life, she wonders if it worth risking her stable life for a bit of fun and happiness. Finally, there's her sister Amy, the one with the privileged life thanks to her marriage to wealthy Ben. But when Ben loses his job, and consequently their money, income and house goes down the drain as well. Amy has to learn to cope without the money she's always had, and the big adjustments this has on her family life too.

As you can see, there is quite a bit going on in this book, but I enjoyed that fact that it was busy. It was easy to tell the difference between the three stories, as it tended to be that every chapter followed a different woman, although as they are family their stories were woven together somewhat, and all the characters frequently appeared all over the book. One thing I really liked were the flashbacks throughout Jennifer's chapter to her courtship and early life with husband Michael, it really set the scene for her grief in the present day, and confusion over what to do with the new man in her life, especially being who he is. I felt that Warner handled this story especially well, and I really loved Jennifer straight away, she was just a woman who wanted to please everyone and keep everyone happy, something I know a lot of mums do for their families and I was willing her to put herself first! At first, I found her daughter Amy really unlikeable, but as her story unfolded, I started to warm to her and you could sort of understand why she was how she was, she had no reason to be otherwise.

Finally, there was Kate, probably the most level-headed of the three women, and the one her mother and sister confide in as well. I enjoyed reading Kate's story, and felt that the family as a whole worked really well, including the more minor male characters who were really well written too. Quite a lot of important issues were covered in the book, from the financial crisis, to infidelity, grief and health problems too. There was a surprising turn at the end of the book, I won't spoil it by revealing anything about it as I think it's important to read it in the context of the book, but I have to say it was so moving and emotional to read, I did shed a tear by the time it was all done, and I felt Warner covered it so well. I didn't expect it to happen, but it certainly made for some interesting revelations and was a sudden change in direction for the book.

Overall, this was a really positive book about women coming through in the face of adversity, via the three very different stories of Amy, Kate and Jennifer. All of them have different obstacles to overcome, whether it's financial, personal or otherwise, but all have to find an inner strength to get past them, and I enjoyed reading their journeys in this book. I also liked that they were family too because it felt important that all the stories were linked, and added an extra depth to the book as well. I found the writing was really easy to read, and I was absorbed into the book really quickly, and read it pretty fast as it was something I didn't want to stop reading. Although I loved her debut book RSVP, I feel like this one is an improvement on that and that Warner is in her stride writing-wise here, and I felt much more for these characters too. It was a really great book to sit down with and devour, and I'd highly recommend it, it's a fantastic read, with some great characters that you really can care about.

You can pre-order IOU as a hardback and an eBook now.

Book News: White Wedding by Milly Johnson

Milly Johnson's brand new book White Wedding is due out on 26th April, and I really can't wait for this one! I absolutely adore Milly's books and reading them, and always love not only the story but the characters too, and it sounds like this one is going to be just as good. Not long to wait now!

"It's the day they've always dreamed about. But will it turn out to be a nightmare ...? Bel is in the midst of planning her perfect wedding when disaster strikes and everything she thought she knew is turned on its head. Can she hold it all together and, with the help of her friends, and a mysterious man she meets unexpectedly, turn disaster into triumph? Bel's best friend, ice-cream parlour owner Violet, is engaged to Glyn, who is besotted by her although Violet fell out of love with him long ago. But however trapped she feels in the relationship, she can't quite say the words, 'I don't want to marry you anymore.' Then, just when she's about to give up and resign herself to married life, she finds love in the most surprising of places. Will duty rule her heart or will she allow herself to be swept off her feet? Their childhood friend Max was planning a quick registry office do with her fiance Stuart until she sees a TV programme about traveller brides and becomes determined to have the most extravagantly glitzy wedding ever. But in all the excitement has she lost sight of what's really important? Does she want the wedding more than she wants the groom? And as all three friends find the dress of their dreams at the White Wedding bridal shop, its owner, the lovely Freya, guarantees that her gowns will bring them happiness - though maybe not quite in the way they expected ..."

You can pre-order White Wedding in paperback now or as an eBook now.

9 March 2012

Book Cover Exclusive: The Charm Bracelet by Melissa Hill

I really am a lucky lady at the moment! Melissa Hill's publishers Hodder have sent me the exclusive first look at the cover for her new book, The Charm Bracelet which is due out on 24th May 2012. I think the cover is gorgeous, I adore purple covers, and I think the silvery white works so well, especially with the charm bracelet connotations. What do you think of the cover?!

Click on the cover to see a bigger version!

"Every charm bracelet tells a story and Holly O'Neill knows this better than most.

Years ago, at a difficult time in her life, a silver bracelet in a pretty wrapped box was delivered anonymously to her, a single charm attached. Some time later, another mysterious charm appeared, and the same thing happened many times over the years. Each charm proved to be significant in her life, as if her unnamed benefactor understood she needed some kind of talisman to help her through challenging times.

Since then, she has added her own charms - special reminders of the most important events in her life. Her bracelet makes memories tangible - spelling out the nuances of cherished moments through the shorthand of each tiny charm. For this reason, Holly's charm bracelet is her most prized possession.

So when one day, she stumbles across a bracelet that somebody else has lost, she recognises a lifetime spelt out through the very different charms, and knows she must try to reunite it with its owner. In order to try and track this person down, she uses each charm to help discover more about them.

But as Holly gradually begins to piece together the details of this person's life, her quest leads her somewhere she never expected."

You can pre-order The Charm Bracelet as a hardback now.

Author Interview: Rosie Fiore

Yesterday I reviewed Rosie Fiore's brilliant new book Babies in Waiting, and thought it was a wonderful and touching read about pregnancy, babies and motherhood. Rosie was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions for me, so my thanks go to her for taking the time to answer the questions for me!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book Babies in Waiting.

This was the original pitch to my agent:
“Meet Gemma, 18, Toni, 26, and Louise, 38. All pregnant, all due to have babies this September.
One of them got knocked up by mistake on a one-night stand. One of them conceived in a hurry because she was running out of time. And one of them fell pregnant on purpose to keep a man.
You probably think you know which is which.
You’d be wrong.”

I know from experience, as many women do, that pregnancy doesn’t always come at the right time and in the right circumstances. I wanted to write about that nine-month journey, and how much things can change in that time!

Q2. I loved that each of the women had their own story, and their own experience of pregnancy. What research did you have to put in to this book about their pregnancies and births to make sure it sounded realistic?

I have two children of my own, and I had them sixteen and a half years apart, so that’s quite a lot of experience right there! And, like most women, I have sisters, relatives, friend and acquaintances whose experiences were extremely diverse. I also spent months obsessively reading and posting on one of the major pregnancy and baby forums and you see all forms of humanity there, that’s for sure! In terms of medical details, I relied on Google (the writer’s friend!), and sent lots of stupid questions to my sister who is a doctor. We also had the book read by another doctor before publication to make sure I hadn’t got anything horrendously wrong.

Q3. Each of the women, Louise, Gemma and Toni have their own issues, but are all really likeable. Where did you draw on inspiration for these characters?

Characters are funny things. I don’t believe that any writer simply “copies” someone they’ve met. I start with the barest idea of who someone is, and then as I make decisions that at first seem small (where does she live? Does she have siblings? What work does she do?), they begin to take on a life of their own. All three women grew very organically. I found quite late on in the book that some of the things I’d planned for them just didn’t work, and I had to change direction. You have to let them tell you what they would do.
Q4. Can you tell me about your publishing journey for Babies in Waiting? How long did it take you to write it, to getting it picked up by Quercus - how did you feel to find out it was going to be published?!

It was a long, long journey. I’ve been a commercial wrier for about twenty years. I wrote my first novel, This Year’s Black, in 2003, and was lucky to get a publication deal in my native South Africa, even though I was living in London at the time. It did really well, got great reviews and reasonable sales, and I thought, “Well, that’s it! Now I’ll just get an agent and a UK deal!” To cut the story short, it took me four years to get an agent, and it took another four years and three more books before Quercus made my dream come true, I definitely paid my dues!

Q5. Why did you want to become an author?

I’ve always worked as a writer, in all sorts of forms, TV, theatre, advertising… but there is no bigger, blanker, more exciting canvas than a novel.

Q6. How do you feel about the term "chick lit" and your books being classified under this term?

It’s a very misleading term in my opinion. I’ve read books that are labelled chick-lit that are awful, fluffy sexist rubbish, full of cardboard characters and, I believe, terribly demeaning to women. But on the other side of the coin, there are wonderful writers creating insightful, witty, compelling stories about complex and interesting characters, and those books are also called chick-lit and jacketed and marketed in the same way.

We all know when we read a bad one because we want to throw it across the room and we have no empathy for the heroine. We all also know a good one because it’s so very satisfying, and we feel like we know the characters as friends at the end. I’m more than happy to aim for that end of the chick-lit spectrum!

Q7. Who are some of your favourite authors? Is there a book out there that you wish you had written yourself because it's so good?!

I’m a very broad and eclectic reader, and I have read and loved thousands of books. Recently read for the first time and LOVED David Copperfield, and Dickens remains (in my opinion) the greatest, funniest novelist with the best characters. I found Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex awe-inspiringly brilliant. And Catcher in the Rye has been a favourite since I was 16. That’s the one I wish I’d written, I think. On a more recent and commercial front, I thought Lisa Jewell’s After the Party is one of the best studies of a long-term relationship I’ve ever seen, and I’m currently reading Stella Newman’s Pear Shaped, and it’s very, very good.

Q8. What do you do when you aren't writing?

I spend most of my time running around after a very active two-and-a-half year old, worrying about a fiercely independent, brilliant and brave nineteen-year-old who doesn’t need me nearly as much as he should, laughing with my amazing husband, cooking, reading and singing in a choir because I am a giant nerd.

Q9. What is the best piece of advice you've received as a writer?

In Julia Margaret Cameron’s amazing book, The Artist’s Way, she says “Show up at the page”. That’s it. It’s very simple. If you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. Having a great idea isn’t writing, Thinking about it isn’t writing. Wrestling the words onto the page, whether they’re right or wrong, whether they’re finished or not, that’s writing. And it’s the only way to learn.

Q10. Are you working on your next novel yet, and if so, can you tell me anything about it?

I’m about two-thirds of the way through the first draft of my new book. It’s provisionally called Now and Then. It’s about the eternal problem of balancing work, family and relationships, and it’s also about that moment we all have when you wake up and look at your life and wonder, “How the hell did I end up here?” I’m loving every second of writing it.

Thanks, Rosie!

You can buy Babies in Waiting in both paperback and as an eBook now!

Book News: Perfect Strangers by Tasmina Perry

I've become a huge fan of Tasmina Perry's novels after reading her last 2 and loving them, so I was really excited to see the gorgeous new cover for her 2012 summer release Perfect Strangers! It's not until July 19th, but the cover is so summery looking, and already I can't wait to read it!

"Just an innocent invitation...

When Sophie Ellis is asked to house-sit at a luxurious Knightsbridge townhouse, it appears to be the offer of a lifetime. Drawn into the glittering circle of the home's owner, she meets wealthy American businessman Nick Cooper and is swept up into a thrilling and passionate affair.

But when Nick is found dead in his hotel suite, Sophie is suddenly the prime suspect for his murder, and soon realises Nick was not the man he seemed. Racing to find the truth and clear her name, Sophie must elude not only the authorities but also a group of dangerous players who believe Sophie has something that they want. And who won't stop until she's caught...

Breathlessly exciting, gloriously glamorous, Tasmina Perry's new novel jets from London to New York to the exotic Cote D'Azur, and into a world where a simple case of mistaken identity unravels a web of lies and international conspiracy."

You can pre-order Perfect Strangers as a hardback now!

8 March 2012

Book Review: Babies in Waiting by Rosie Fiore

"Meet Louise, 38, Toni, 26 and Gemma, 18. They are all expecting babies in September. One of them conceived in a hurry because she was running out of time. One of them fell pregnant to keep a man and one got knocked up by mistake after a one-night-stand. But none of them realized what they would come up against as they face nine long months of pregnancy, and the reactions of friends, family and colleagues. Meeting through an online forum, they form an unlikely but powerful bond. When it seems that all they have is each other, their lives will be thrown into turmoil, as a blast from the past threatens to destroy everything. Babies in Waiting is a heart-warming novel about motherhood, friendship and finding love at the most surprising time in your life. It is also very funny, sexy and utterly compelling. "

Rating: 5/5

I love books about motherhood and babies. I have done even before I had a child myself, but now I'm a mum, I love to read these books to see how well researched and written they are, but also to relate to the stories that the writers tell about these women too. This isn't Rosie Fiore's debut novel but I haven't read her previous novel so I was new to her writing. I loved the idea of this book from the minute I spotted it on Amazon, so was really pleased to receive a review copy from the publishers, and got stuck in. I can't say I am hugely keen on the cover, it's a little bland but I suppose it relates quite well what is in the book, and has a fairly serious look to it as well. It was so good that I read it in just over a day because I didn't want to put it down and was totally absorbed by this novel, and here's why!

The book tells the tale of 3 pregnant women. Firstly, there is Louise, the oldest of the women who ends up getting pregnant after a one night stand with someone at work. She decides to keep the baby, and move to London to live near her brother and sister. Only Lou's pregnancy proves to be a sore point for Lou's sister Rachel who can't seem to have children herself, and opens up a rift between the pair. Then there's Toni, who is told by her doctors she'd better hurry up and have a baby with hubby James after finding out she has fertility problems, and suddenly finds out after a short while of trying that they're pregnant. The sudden pregnancy proves difficult for the couple, can they make it through? Finally, there's teenager Gemma, who wants to get pregnant for all the wrong reasons with boyfriend Ben. But with parents who don't really give a damn, an interfering mother-in-law and dad-to-be who doesn't want to know, will Gemma manage alone?

The three mums-to-be all seem very different, but that's the great thing about being a mum. You end up talking to people you'd never have spoken to before, because you have these little people in common, and you form friendships quickly. I like that Fiore chose to bring in the multitude of parenting websites and forms out there that mums-to-be use for a lot of different reasons, and how Lou and Toni turn to these for support. Having been on one myself, they can be both a gift and a curse, but years later I'm still in touch with mums I met on them, and I like the positive tale that Toni and Lou have from these sites. Gemma is brought into the friendship through a real life friendship and realises she has more in common with the older women that she originally thinks. I thought each of the women were fantastic, and totally realistic and relatable for mums.

None of them are perfect, by any means. Lou gets pregnant after a one night stand, but I like how she decided to face up to her responsibilities after an initial wobble, and how well she copes on her own, especially when a face from her past comes back on the scene. I felt sorry for her halfway through the book when her friends aren't so happy with her, but she was a great character. Toni's story made for interesting reading because although she was desperate to get pregnant after medical issues, the suddenness of her pregnancy causes problems with her and her husband. I felt that this was especially well done, because you can never prepare yourself for how much of a shock a baby coming in to your life is going to be, even when you're just pregnant and they aren't here yet! James' reactions were so well written, a lot of men will certainly relate to him and I felt Fiore did this story so well. Finally, there's Gemma, who gets pregnant for all the wrong reasons but ends up making the best decisions for her and her baby. The young relationship between her and boyfriend Ben is touching, and while you can see what Gemma can't i.e. what will happen to their relationship and how he'll react to being a dad, it's interesting to read it unfold.

Everything about this book was a joy to read. It was easy to differentiate between the three women's stories, with Fiore using first person narrative for Toni and third person for Gemma and Louise, and I felt this worked really well for the book, and kept it fresh as I was reading. Fiore isn't afraid to shy away from the real feelings a woman (and the men!) go through from the minute they find out that they're pregnant, and the fears, worry and joy you experience through to the births, which aren't overly graphic but are fitting for the tone of the rest of the novel - do expect a bit of realism when you're reading though. I loved this book, and though Fiore has covered the issue of pregnancy, birth and early motherhood so well that this book will resonate with women up and down the country. I felt the extension of Toni's story for the latter part of the book is hugely important too, and I applaud Fiore for covering this issue in the book. If you want a funny, realistic and touching tale of babies, please pick up a copy of Babies in Waiting because you really won't be disappointed, it's fantastic.

You can buy Babies in Waiting in paperback and as an eBook now.

Book News: What I Did On My Holidays by Chrissie Manby

One book I'm really looking forward to this summer is Chrissie Manby's new release, What I Did On My Holidays! It's out on June 21st, and I think the cover looks so pretty and summery! It sounds like it's going to be a funny read too, perfect to stick in your beach bag on your own holidays!

Click on the cover to see a bigger, clearer version!

"Sophie Sturgeon can't wait for her annual summer holiday. Not only will it be a week away from work, it will be a chance to reconnect with her boyfriend Callum.

So this upcoming trip to Majorca is a big deal. Sophie's spent a lot of time getting ready. She's bought a new wardrobe. She's been waxed to within an inch of her life. She's determined she and Callum will have the best time ever.

Then Callum dumps her, the night before they're due to leave. In a show of bravery and independence, Sophie says she'll go to Majorca alone - but in fact, she hides in her London flat. But when her friends, family, and even Callum seem so surprised and delighted at her single girl courage, Sophie decides to go all out and recreate the ultimate 'fake break' . . . with hilarious results."

You can pre-order What I Did On My Holidays as a paperback now.

7 March 2012

Author Article: Julie Cohen

I reviewed Julie Cohen's new book The Summer of Living Dangerously which was a fantastic book set both in the modern day and in the Regency period. Julie kindly wrote an article about this topic, so here it is! My thanks go to Emily at Headline, and to Julie for writing the article!

The British Love Affair with Stately Homes

When Elizabeth Bennett says of her love for Mr Darcy,‘I believe I can date it to my first seeing his grounds at Pemberley’, she is only half-joking. Great romances have always been linked to great houses, with the settings often becoming as important as the characters. The most passionate novel in the English language isn’t called Heathcliff and Cathy...it’s called Wuthering Heights. Most often the grand houses are linked to the heroes, as symbols of their wealth and power, but occasionally they are owned by the heroine’s family—in which case they are most likely crumbling, as in I Capture the Castle, or the heroine has just been booted out of them, as in Sense and Sensibility.
Readers love finding the real-life inspirations for these houses. Mr Darcy’s Pemberley is said to have been inspired by Chatsworth. Daphne du Maurier based Rebecca’s Manderley on Milton Hall, transporting it from Cambridgeshire to Cornwall and combining it with her own future home, Menabilly—and then, of course, burning the whole thing down.

Modern romantic novelists have been inspired by stately homes too. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley is set at a fictionalised Avebury Manor, slipping between present day and 1665. Chick lit author Sarah Duncan borrowed bits of Stourhead for Nice Girls Do. And Mills & Boon have partnered with the National Trust to produce a series of historical romances set in their properties, including Ham House and Wimpole Hall.

I grew up on the east coast of the USA, in a Victorian house which was one of the oldest things in town. In history lessons we were taught of the Anasagunticook settlements on the Androscoggin River, but they were long gone from view. When I travelled to Great Britain for the first time at the age of sixteen, suddenly history was all around me. It lay thick on the buildings and the landscape.

I’ve always been a reader above all, so I was most interested in the rich layer of fictional history in Britain. Stonehenge was all about Tess of the D’Urbervilles; every rabbit I saw in an English field reminded me of Watership Down. In London, I propelled myself immediately to Baker Street and thence to a pub called The Sherlock Holmes, which had a reproduction of the great detective’s living quarters behind a pane of glass upstairs.

‘Look!’ I cried in ecstasy, ‘there’s the V.R. shot into the wall! And the slipper full of tobacco! And the correspondence impaled on the fireplace with a knife!’ The other tourists, some of whom probably quite liked Sherlock Holmes, edged away from the mad teenager.

As an adult, I moved to the UK because of love and stories. So when I was writing a romantic novel featuring a heroine who’s a costumed historical interpreter in a stately home, I jumped at the chance to layer my own fictional story on a real place. National Trust property Basildon Park had recently featured as Netherfield Hall in the film of Pride and Prejudice. It was the perfect setting for my romance-reading heroine.

Basildon Park has its own share of real-life romantic stories, though perhaps with less happy endings than mine.  Francis William Sykes, the grandson of the baronet who built the present house, married raven-haired beauty Henrietta Villebois. Lady Sykes conducted love affairs with Lord Lyndhurst and Benjamin Disraeli. The future Prime Minster wrote about his ‘happiest year’ with her in his romantic novel Henrietta Temple: A Love Story. As a National Trust volunteer told me, Lord Sykes didn’t mind his wife’s high-profile lovers or their romantic novels; it was only when Henrietta took up with an artist, Daniel Maclise, that her husband became properly scandalised.

I was invited to have tea with Basildon Park staff and volunteers on the lawn one sunny spring morning before the house opened to the public, and then—bliss of bliss—I was allowed behind the velvet ropes to wander freely through the house. In those precious minutes before ten o’clock, I stood in the Green Drawing Room with the light slanting in from tall windows, breathing in the scent of old silk and imagining that I was a Regency gentlewoman about to settle down for a full day’s work of embroidery and gossip.

Because my novel is a contemporary set in a house that’s open to the public, I also needed to know some of the nitty-gritty about how Basildon Park is run. I noticed how volunteers were alloted their rooms by drawing tags from a sack. I watched how the guides answered question after question from visitors with good-humour and a genuine fondness for the property. I catalogued the different types of visitors: strollers, examiners, questioners, researchers, distracted parents. The ones who read the guidebook, ticking off items, and the ones who carried on personal conversations, walking straight through as if they were in a train station.

The steward, Neil Shaw, circulated through the house, discreetly making sure everything was in its proper place. He told me there had been a series of thefts of small items, some of them quite valuable: ‘People just tuck them into their pockets.’ After I observed him straightening the bedclothes in Lady Iliffe’s room, he asked me if I would be interested in seeing his cleaning cupboard. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance and took in the period-accurate cleaning fluids, the tidily-labelled brushes. At the end of the day I followed him, closing shutters, as he put the house to bed.

In my book, Basildon Park has been transformed to Eversley Hall, with a different history and a slightly bigger floor-plan. I needed to add a fountain outside for my heroine to jump into. I omitted the Shell Room, which sort of gives me the creeps. But the Green Drawing Room remains, albeit in a more Regency style, and so do the dreams I had when standing in it.

You can buy The Summer of Living Dangerously as a paperback or an eBook now!