30 November 2011

Book Review: Working It Out by Nicola May

Ruby Matthews has a plan. Twelve jobs in twelve months, until she finds the one of her dreams...

After an unexpected redundancy, Ruby begins to question her priorities. Inspired by a quote from Kahlil Gibran about loving your work, she launches her mission to find the ideal job.

Her year of gainful (and sometimes painful!) employment includes nannying for clients in the South of France; dealing with embarrassing ailments in a Harley Street Clinic; waiting tables in a buzzy Soho cafe; and meeting the celebs of years gone by in a home for retired actors. And even though love is no longer top of her list, relationships just seem to start happening along the way - which sees her handing out some P45s of her own!

But will any of the jobs, or men she meets, see her dreams come true? Or will Ruby just end up back where she started?


I have to confess and say that I don't usually read self-published novels, as they really can be a bit hit and miss and I have enough trouble squeezing the ones from publishers into my reading schedule! However, Nicola May's new book Working It Out has received some really great reviews from both authors and other bloggers, and it really left me intrigued about this book. Luckily, Nicola was lovely and wanted to send me a review copy so I decided to give it a go, after all, all these reviewers couldn't be wrong could they?! I do have to say that the cover is pretty good for a self-published book, one of the better ones I've seen actually, and the quality of the book itself is fantastic, there is nothing there that would put you off reading it as a self-published novel at all!


The story is led by our character Ruby Matthews, and the book is told in the first person so we really get to know her well as the story progresses. I do tend to like books written this way as I just feel more involved in them, and I think May made a really good choice here. I did like Ruby right from the start, she didn't wallow around once she lost her job and started to go straight out there and get another one, something I really liked. Although I liked Ruby, there was one aspect of her that I didn't like and that was her way with men. She is rather, shall we say, promiscuous in this book, and I wasn't too keen on that to be honest, she doesn't seem to put much thought into jumping into bed with a variety of men, whether it's safely or not and I'm not sure that's the right sort of thing to be promoting in fiction, and this is really the only aspect of Ruby I really didn't like. Other than that, she's great and really gives all her jobs a go, and her friendship with her elderly neighbour is lovely.


Her idea of 12 jobs in 12 months is a really great one, and certainly made for interesting reading. Due to the fact that the book isn't overly long, and 12 jobs in a year is a lot to get through, some jobs get more page time than others, which is a bit of a shame as I'd have loved a bit more detail about those and less about Ruby's escapades with the various males in the book if I'm honest! My favourite job of Ruby's was at the care home, and I thought these were the best scenes of the book, and Ruby's friendship with the residents, especially Lucas, was really touching, and certainly showed that sometimes these older people have more to them than meets the eye. The other jobs include a sexual health clinic (hilarious), an old café (charming), and a party planner's assistant (fun) amongst others, although none stand out as much as the old people's home for me. This job kept coming back to haunt (in a good way) Ruby throughout the book and I liked how it had knock-on effects on her. I do quickly want to mention another of my favourite characters here, Ruby's brother Sam. He's blind, and is the first blind character I've come across in chick lit, he was so well-written and lovely, and I really loved Ruby's relationship with him too.

Overall I thought this was a very enjoyable book, and I think Nicola May is going to be a chick lit author to look out for. It's a strong novel, well written and enjoyable to read with good characters, and a great plot, and I can see why so many people have enjoyed it. If you don't normally read self-published novels, much like me, put your prejudices aside and give this a go. Yes, there are a few bits that could do with some tighter editing and I found some of May's writing to be a bit too crude (I HATE the c-word in chick lit and it was totally unnecessary in this book, and really annoyed me that Nicola May had chosen to include it actually) but other than that, it's an enjoyable read that I can definitely recommend. Like I said, ignore the fact that it's self-published and just allow yourself to sit down and enjoy a really good story.


You can buy Working It Out in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now

Book News: More Like Her by Liza Palmer

I haven't yet read one of Liza Palmer's novels, yet her new book More Like Her sounds really great. I have to confess to not being a huge fan of the cover... the boots are simply awful(!) but the synopsis does sound great. It's due out on 19th January 2012, and do let me know your thoughts!

"'I'm not the girl men choose. I'm the girl who's charming and funny and then drives home alone wondering what she did wrong. I'm the girl who meets someone half-way decent and then fills in the gaps in his character with my own imagination, only to be shocked when he's not the man I thought he was. I'm the girl who hides who she really is...'

Frannie has spent her life disguising who she really is for fear of falling short of other people's expectations. And when she meets her new boss, Frannie can't help but wish she was just a bit more like her. Because Emma has it all: the job, the lifestyle, the happy marriage... even the perfect dog.

But everything is not as it seems. And Frannie's about to find out - in the hardest way possible - that chasing perfection isn't necessarily the route to the happy life that she's always imagined it to be.

A heartbreaking and romantic story about love, life, friendship and the true importance of chasing your own dreams."


 You can pre-order More Like Her in paperback now

29 November 2011

Author Interview: Clare Dowling

Yesterday, I reviewed Clare Dowling's latest book Too Close For Comfort, and thought it was a great read. I was also given the opportunity to interview Clare and ask her a few questions about the book and a few other things as well. I'd like to thank Emily from Headline for organising the interview and of course Clare for agreeing to be interviewed by me! I hope you enjoy the interview :)


Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'Too Close For Comfort'.

It’s about sisters, and how they can drive you mad, but also end up being your biggest cheerleader.  In ‘Two Close For Comfort’, sisters Ali and Emma have lived separate lives on different continents for years – then are thrown back together when their relationships simultaneously implode.  But the big question is, can they recapture the closeness they had? 

Q2. I found Ali and Emma to be complete opposites, and if I'm honest I found Ali quite hard to like, disagreeing with how she went about coming back to Ireland with her children. How was it writing about Ireland from Ali's point of view as someone who is coming back after many years away, and did you agree with Ali's choice regarding her marriage and children and coming back home?

Ali’s decision to leave the way she did was a disaster!  But I love characters with flaws, and she certainly has her fair share.   She’s ended up trapped in a bad marriage, and her decision comes out of a desperation to escape.  I really felt for her, being so far from home, and so culturally alienated in the deep south of America, and I really wanted to explore her loneliness and need to get back to where she feels she belongs.

Q3. Emma goes through quite a harrowing time in Too Close for Comfort, and I certainly didn't expect that particular storyline to appear in the book. What made you want to include this topic in the book, and how much research had to go into it to ensure you covered it correctly?

We tend to think that really bad things only happen to other people, or at least only certain types of people, and I wanted to look at that with this particular storyline.  Emma is a middle-class, educated high achiever, and the last person you would think would land herself in this particular mess.   I’m a bit of a medical anorak – I’d be a doctor in another life! – so I already knew a lot about the subject matter.  But I’ve tried to address the impact on Emma’s life rather than get into the nitty gritty of medical detail. 

Q4. Your books all seem to revolve around family dramas, be it pregnancy, affairs, divorce, or having a baby alone. Where do you get the ideas for your stories, and do you ever find it hard to write about the topics that you do, and the emotional situations your characters find themselves in?

Great ideas never occur to me while I’m on the bus, unfortunately, or at the supermarket check-out.   It’s always a case of sitting down with a notebook and trying to figure out what interests me for the next book; then, how to put an original slant on it.  I think that women make the world go round in terms of sustaining relationships and family ties, and for me, that’s where the real stories lie.  There’s nothing I like better than getting stuck into a messy emotional situation – in my books anyway; not so sure about real life...

Q5. You've now had 8 books published, with your 9th out in 2012. Do you have to be strict with yourself to get your books written on time, and do you find it easy to write a book a year?

I really need to hire somebody with a whip to stand behind me for five hours a day.  I’m terrible for making cups of tea, checking the post, and going online ‘just to check’.  Then I realise two months have passed and I’ve achieved very little.  I tend to be very, very slow to start a book, as it takes me ages to get to know my characters, but then I’ll speed up, and towards the end I’ll be working fourteen hours a day, mostly because I’m wildly behind deadline.  Luckily, I have a wonderful and patient editor!

Q6. Your book covers have been redesigned so that they all match each other, albeit in different colours and slight design differences. Do you like the new look that your books have been given, and do you think book covers are more important than ever?

I absolutely love my new look.  We wanted a clean, fresh design, and I think the Headline team have really pulled it off.   Covers are vital – if readers aren’t tempted to pick up your book, then you’ve lost them straight away.   It’s really tricky getting the look right, but it’s your calling card, and as important as what’s inside.

Q7. What is your opinion of the term 'chick lit' and how do you feel about your books being classed as such?

I get very irritated when the term is used in a derogatory fashion, to imply that these books are only about women who shop and seek out men.   The genre is a very, very broad one, and a vast array of women’s experiences are covered by the books in this field, a lot of the time expertly, movingly, intelligently and in a way that enriches the reader.  So to dismiss them as fluff is to say that what happens to real women doesn’t matter.   It does, so chick-lit detractors, button up. 

Q8. How do you feel about the fact that your books are doing well in the UK as well in Ireland? Do you think Irish women's fiction is becoming more popular in the UK, and why do you think this is?

I’m thrilled to be making an impact in the UK.  I think Irish authors have always been really welcomed by UK readers, and there’s no sign of that letting up, thankfully.   We share the same sense of humour and way of looking at things, I think.  In turn I love books by UK authors such as Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde.  I ‘get them’ and I think UK readers feel the same about Irish writers. 

Q9. You have recently joined Twitter (www.twitter.com/clare_dowling) and also have a fan page on Facebook too (http://www.facebook.com/claredowlingauthor). Are you enjoying using social networking so far, and do you think it's an important tool for authors to use to keep in touch with readers?

I was petrified starting out.   I’m a keep-my-head-down kind of person, and the idea of announcing to the world what I had for breakfast made me go weak.  But of course it’s not about that at all, and now that I’ve got the hang of it, I find it a completely invaluable way of keeping in touch with colleagues, friends, readers and anybody interested in books.   It’s the perfect antidote to writing at home all day long, and having worryingly long conversations with yourself. 

Q10. You have your next book Would I Lie To You already due for release in 2012, but are you working on a 10th book yet?!

Yes!  I’ve wanted to write a ‘stalker’ book for years.  I used to have this weird guy who’d ring me up religiously wanting to know the colour of my undergarments.  I hadn’t a clue who he was, and I thought it was funny, but also a little disconcerting.  He’s stuck in my mind ever since.  Stalking is, unfortunately, on the rise, and a real problem for many women, and it’s the subject matter of my next book. 

Thanks so much, Clare!

You can buy Too Close For Comfort in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now. (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

Book News: Pear Shaped by Stella Newman

When the original cover for Stella Newman's debut novel, Pear Shaped, was released, I was less than impressed. It was bland and boring, but luckily the publishers have had a rethink, and have come up with something a little more fun and colourful, and I love it! The pink title stands out against the light blue background, and I just think it's so much nicer. It's out on 19th January 2012, and I can't wait to read it!

"Girl meets boy.
Girl loses boy.
Girl loses mind.


Sophie Klein walks into a bar one Friday night and her life changes. She meets James Stephens: charismatic, elusive, and with a hosiery model ex who casts a long, thin shadow over their burgeoning relationship. He’s clever, funny and shares her greatest pleasure in life – to eat and drink slightly too much and then have a little lie down. Sophie’s instinct tells her James is too good to be true – and he is.

An exploration of love, heartbreak, self-image, self-deception and lots of food. Pear-Shaped is in turns smart, laugh-out-loud funny and above all, recognizable to women everywhere."

You can pre-order Pear Shaped in paperback and on eBook now. (Links go to Amazon.co.uk)

28 November 2011

Book Review: Too Close For Comfort by Clare Dowling

"There's nobody like your sister when things go wrong. At least that's what Ali hopes as she flees America and a broken marriage. Emma will surely take her and her kids in, and it'll be just like old times, right? But the last thing Emma needs right now is her sister descending upon of her. Not when she's recovering from some earth-shattering news of her own. How can she tell Ali her secret, when she can't even get her head around it herself? Ali and Emma want to pick up where they left off - but it's not going to be easy." 

I haven't read any of Clare Dowling's books for a while, although I have enjoyed reading them in the past. When I received a copy of her latest book, Too Close For Comfort, to review I was really pleased because I was interested to see how Dowling has progressed in her career, and if I'd enjoy this book as much as her previous reads. I have to say I am not too sure about the cover myself, it's quite bland and nothing really stands out, but then again there are far, far worse out there and it does look quite fresh, although as I said I think it's main issue is that it just won't really stand out or grab you from a bookshelf in a shop... well in my opinion anyway. Either way, the story inside was really enjoyable, and I'm pleased to say that I think Dowling is as strong an author as ever!

The book follows 2 sisters, Ali and Emma, who it has to be said aren't entirely close. Ali went to America when she was younger for a short stint and ended up staying, getting married and having 3 children. Ali seemingly didn't care about the feelings of her family and friends, yet when her marriage crumbles, she comes running back home for their support, surprised when they all carry on as normal when she arrives. I have to say I really struggled to warm to Ali as a character, and found her to be quite selfish. As a mum myself, I couldn't just run away with my son to another country, yet Ali seems to think it is okay to do just that, and not care about the consequences. I found this to be really wrong, and I liked how her sister Emma was playing devil's advocate a bit and telling her how wrong she was.

Emma was a great character, and very well written. She's a bit of a workaholic, loving her job on breakfast television and trying to keep the ratings up despite some pretty dire presenters. However, she's going through a bit of a personal turmoil too, something she doesn't want to admit to anyone, even her sister and this really does play on her mind. I did find that I liked her and felt so sorry for her because of everything she is going through and I think that Dowling did a really good job in writing this particular story. It's written really well and very realistically, without becoming too over-powering in the book, instead just bubbling gently in the background. It's not an easy subject to write about, let alone weave into this book but Dowling does so effortlessly, and I think it was so well done and all credit to her for that.

Although I really didn't like Ali, I have to say I enjoyed the story and the way everything panned out as the book progressed. Ali doesn't find life in Ireland to be as easy and happy as she thought it was going to be, what with her sister Emma being a bit off with her, her mother struggling to deal with her ailing father and also her estranged American husband on her tail, yet it was very easy to read and I found myself easily slipping back into it whenever I picked up a copy of the book. Dowling writes beautifully about Ireland, and the best parts of the book have to be at the TV show where Emma works, it was simply hilarious and had a good few comedy moments in there too. Dowling manages to weave the lighter-hearted moments in with the more serious stories, and I really did enjoy every page. You might not agree with Ali and her choices in life, much like I didn't, but you'll still enjoy reading about what happens next for her!


You can buy Too Close For Comfort in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now. (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

Book News: Even Better Than The Real Thing by Martina Reilly

Martina Reilly is back early next year with her brand new novel Even Better Than The Real Thing, and she's got a fab new cover look to it as well! The new book is out on 5th January 2012, and sounds like its going to be a great read, and very different to her other books too.

"What would you do if you were an unwitting part of the greatest art scam in history? Eve Cole knows. She's going to get her painting back and return the eleven million paid for it. The only thing she needs is a plan that won't implicate her or her family.

Enter Larry, her handsome, duplicitous next-door neighbour. Larry is full of plans and he might just be amoral enough to go through with them.

Eve, knowing she has no choice but to trust this ex-con, reluctantly throws her lot in with him. But is Larry the real deal? Is he just another big fake? Will he con her out of her ill-gotten millions?

As the plan escalates, Eve learns that much like riding a rollercoaster, life would be much more fun if she could just let go..."


You can pre-order Even Better Than The Real Thing in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now.

26 November 2011

Book Review: Baby Be Mine by Paige Toon

"'He's not mine, is he?' That's the question I fear the most. You see, I have a secret. My son is not fathered by my boyfriend, but by one of the most famous rock stars that ever lived. And he doesn't even know it. One-time celebrity personal assistant to wild boy of rock Johnny Jefferson, Meg Stiles is now settled and living in the south of France with her doting boyfriend Christian and their son Barney. But they're living a lie - a lie that will turn their lives upside down and inside out - because as Barney reaches his first birthday, Meg can no longer deny that her son is growing to look more and more like his rock star father every day, and less and less like Christian, and sooner or later, the world is going to realise ..."

I have read and loved all of Paige Toon's books so far, and I have to admit that I think they have the nicest book covers in the entire world! So imagine my surprise when I saw the cover for her latest book, Baby Be Mine, and seeing that it couldn't be more different from the previous covers, and sadly not in a good way! It's wishy-washy, dull and boring, whereas I feel Paige's books are vibrant, fun and colourful, much like her previous covers. However, since this book is the eagerly anticipated sequel to the brilliant Johnny Be Good, I decided to definitely NOT judge a book by its cover on this occasion and just get stuck in to what I hoped was another of Paige's brilliantly readable novels!

The book finally brings to a close the question that left all of Paige's readers hanging at the end of Johnny Be Good, who was the father of Meg's baby - rock star Johnny Jefferson or her loyal boyfriend Christian? Since it's actually written in the blurb of the book, it isn't a spoiler for me to discuss this outcome, and the fact that Johnny is Meg's baby-daddy. I was so hoping this was the outcome, but the book certainly didn't go as I expected! I felt really sorry for Christian when it's revealed he isn't Barney's dad, and surely it's every guy's worst nightmare, and Paige manages to tap into that emotion really well, without making the reader hate Meg as well. You can see she is completely ripped up by what has happened, and that makes her even more likeable, and I really did feel sympathetic towards her too, because you see she is hurting from how she has hurt Christian. Meg is fab throughout the book, with the escapades she gets up to and how she treats Johnny when he wants to get in contact with Meg and his son. She's a great leading character, and it is fab to read about her in another book!

The male characters as ever were brilliant. I really did love Christian, and although we don't see huge amounts of him in the book, I felt he was so well written that he felt like a big presence anyway. However, the main male is of course Barney's dad, and all round rock-god Johnny Jefferson. He hasn't actually changed that much from the first book but I loved that! He is arrogant yet the scenes with him and Barney are fab, showing us a different side to him in some respects too. I love that Meg doesn't give him an easy ride and the way the story develops between the pair is very realistic and believable. I have to say I loved all the settings in the book, how it travels about with Meg and Barney and certainly keeps the reader interested all the way through. Toon writes great descriptions of everywhere, the showbiz parties and everything, that you really feel absorbed into the world of Meg!

For fans of Johnny Be Good who were hoping for a sequel that would really match up to that book, you will certainly not be disappointed with this one! It's a great visit back to Meg, Johnny and co to find out what they are up to next, and how things are going to work out now the truth about Barney's paternity is out. It's a sweeping read that has you hooked from the very first page, and I whizzed through it in just 2 days because I couldn't put it down! As usual, Toon's writing is fantastic and really thrusts you into the middle of the action, displaying plenty of emotion from all of the characters and keeping it fresh and fantastic all the way through. It was nice to get an end to the parentage storyline but really that is just the beginning of an exciting new adventure for these characters, and I do hope that the door has been left open enough to revisit them again in the future. The characters are exactly the same people that I remember leaving behind in the previous book, and it was fab to bring them back again. You must read this book, especially if you loved Johnny Be Good, it's just brilliant!

Rating: 5/5


You can buy Baby Be Mine in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now! (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

25 November 2011

Author Interview: Amy Silver

After recently reading and loving my third Amy Silver novel, One Minute to Midnight, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Amy some of my questions about the book, herself and her thoughts on things such as the term 'chick lit' and about her next book as well! My thanks go to Amelia at Random House for arranging the interview, and of course to Amy for answering my questions. Enjoy!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'One Minute to  Midnight'.

The book tells the life story of Nicole Blake through her New Year’s Eves past and present. In the present day, Nicole is preparing for a dream New Year trip to New York with her husband, but she’s also dealing with the ghosts of New Years’ past: former lovers, old friends and her father from whom she’s been estranged for many years.

The story is about the difficult – sometimes impossible – choices that we need to make in order to take our best shot at a happy and fulfilling life, as well as about the changing nature of friendships, and the way that love can endure through even the most hurtful of betrayals.

Q2. I loved the way you wrote the story, with alternating chapters between Nicole in the present day, and Nicole's previous New Year's experiences. Did you enjoy writing the book this way, and was it fun creating Nicole not just as an adult, but young teen as well?
I did enjoy it, although the structure of the book presented its own challenges, because it isn’t always easy to tell a character’s story when you’re dipping in and out of their life at irregular intervals. It was certainly fun to go back to Nicole’s teenage years though, to try to remember what we music we were all listening to, watching and wearing back in those days.

Q3. I found Nicole to be a very realistic character, even if I didn't like some of her choices. She's also been through a lot in her life, especially regarding her relationship with her father. Did you have to do a lot of research to write about this topic realistically, and are any of Nicole's relationships (i.e. with Alex, Aidan or Julian) taken from real life?
I think the fact that Nicole makes plenty of bad choices is what makes her realistic. I wanted to create a slightly more difficult central character this time around - I think that makes the book a more interesting read - although I know that some readers may warm to her less than they did the characters in my last book.

As for the relationships, none of them are taken directly from my experiences (my Dad is a very nice man, for example...) but I have taken bits and pieces of past relationships and friendships and used those to help create what I hope to be believable characters and situations.

Q4. The cover for 'One Minute to  Midnight' is absolutely stunning - do you think it's perfect for the book, and do you have a favourite amongst your three book covers so far?

Yes, I think it’s lovely. Very festive. Definitely my favourite so far.

Q5. What is your own personal favourite New Year's celebrations you've ever had?!

Like Nicole, I went to a party on a houseboat in Paris when I was nineteen which was very glamorous and lots of fun. I also enjoyed some fairly raucous house parties when I was in my twenties, though I have to say the details of those are (thankfully) rather hazy. Lately I’m more likely to be found sedately sipping champagne with a few friends.

Q6. I have to say my favourite book of yours is 'All I want For Christmas' - I found Bea's story to be really touching and it was a lovely Christmas tale. Would you ever consider revisiting these characters again for a sequel, or do you prefer writing stand-alone novels?

I don’t have any plans to revisit the characters from All I Want for Christmas at the moment, but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I loved writing those characters and I can think of plenty of interesting directions in which I could take them.

Q7. The term 'chick lit' seems to be forever taking a bashing by both critics and readers - what is your personal view of 'chick lit' and how do you feel about your books being classified as this?
The term ‘chick lit’ is now used to cover so many different types of books – it is applied to pretty much any commercial fiction written by a woman which doesn’t fall into a particular genre such as crime or science fiction – that I think it’s become almost meaningless. The other problem with the label is that it is often, though not always, used in a sneering, derogatory way: if something is chick lit it must be trivial and silly, yet many of the books which are placed in this category deal with the least trivial of subjects – love and loss, careers and families. Unfortunately these books are not taken as seriously as those written by men, like David Nicholls, for example, who deal with similar subjects.

Having said all that, I don’t object to my books being classified as chick lit, since this places me in very good company: the likes of Marian Keyes and Helen Fielding and dozens of other brilliant, witty authors.

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

I do a bit of freelance journalism, although a lot less than I used to. If you mean in my spare time, I’m currently trying to improving my woeful culinary skills and learning to speak Italian. I also enjoy watching football, preferably with a glass of strong liquor to hand.

Q9. Who are your own favourite authors? What would you say are your top three books of all time?

I’ve been reading quite a bit of crime lately – there are some really interesting modern takes on the crime genre by authors like Tana French, Belinda Bauer and Erin Kelly. I am also a huge fan of Kate Atkinson’s crime novels, which I think are close to perfect. If you really want me to come up with my top three books of all time, you’ll have to give me about a year to think about it – off the top of my head though: Regeneration by Pat Barker, The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver and When Will There Be Good News? by Kate Atkinson would all be up there. I’m woefully bad on classics, but I did love Wuthering Heights.

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

I am: the story takes place during a snow storm in a chalet in the French Alps where five friends who haven’t seen each other for ages are tricked into an unexpected reunion. When the storm hits, they find themselves trapped, forced to confront the all their unresolved issues, their frustrated passions and broken friendships, as well as dealing with their guilt over the terrible incident which separated them all those years ago…

Thanks so much, Amy!

You can buy One Minute to Midnight in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now! (Links go to Amazon.co.uk)

24 November 2011

Book Review: One Minute to Midnight by Amy Silver

"Nicole Blake's New Year Resolutions, 1990:

1 Start keeping a journal;

2. Lose half a stone;

3. Kiss Julian Symonds

If there are two things Nicole can guarantee about New Years Eve it's that there are always fireworks and Julian Symonds is always there.

Since she was thirteen, no New Year has been complete without Jules. Through school, university and beyond, as friends come and go, Nic and Jules are at the centre of every party.

Until one year everything changes...

Now, as another New Year approaches, Nicole has ghosts to lay and bridges to build - with her husband Dom, with her best friend Alex, and with Aidan, the man who broke her heart.

Life is about to change again for Nicole, and once the fireworks are over and the dust has settled, this time she is determined it will be for the better."


This is the third of Amy Silver's books I have read, and after how great her previous novels were, I knew this one wasn't going to disappoint! I have to say when I first saw the cover of this new book, One Minute to Midnight, I was so impressed, I think its absolutely gorgeous and certainly makes the book jump out at you from a shelf, especially in a day and age where book covers are more important than ever. The premise of this book sounded really interesting, lots of different New Years Eves, and seeing what happened to Nicole in her past and what's going to happen in her present. I eagerly started to read and found I couldn't put it down and finished it just a few days later, and I'm pleased to say that Amy Silver has once again delivered a superb read! However, don't be fooled by the cover into thinking it's a light and fluffy read - Silver manages to cover some hard-hitting themes in here and it makes it all the better.

The book begins in 1990, when a 13 year old Nicole is excited that her crush Julian Symonds is coming to her parents New Years Eve party. They quickly become close, and form a friendship that is going to last a lifetime, despite the initial reluctance of everyone around them.  We then revisit the pair at various New Year Eves throughout their lives up until the present day, when it seems all is not well in Nicole's world. Her relationship with her husband Dominic is on rocky ground, and I very much enjoyed reading the pair trying to work through their problems to get their marriage back on track despite everything else going on in their lives. I actually weirdly felt quite sorry for Dominic, even though I really shouldn't have done, and I found Nicole to be a bit hard and a cold fish, which is probably the opposite of how I should have felt, but maybe it's why I failed to warm to Nicole for quite a while.

I really enjoyed the alternate narrative of the book between New Years Eves of Nicole's pasts, and then coming back to the present day and her current plans with husband Dom for a trip away to New York City to meet up with old friends. It was interesting to see how past events really shape the Nicole of the present day story, and what exactly went on with their group to make things as they are today. I loved reading the complex relationships in the book too, not just Nicole and Dom, but also with best friend Julian, her Uni friend Alex, and Julian's wayward cousin Aidan, a bit of a bad boy that you can't help but like. Nicole is clearly changed by these relationships and their changing dynamics, and as I say, each of the characters really help shape the book, and the direction that Nicole's life is going in.

This book was a really great read, and certainly gives you a lot of food for thought about how your actions make a big impact on other people's lives, not just for the short term but the long term too. Silver really does cover some big issues in the book, from adultery to abuse in relationships and death as well, but are all written in such a fresh and interesting way you are consumed by the book and Nicole's story. The flashbacks were really fun to read, from the clothes they wore to the music that they listened to, and you can really sense the movement of time in the book which was great. Although I did find Nicole a little hard to like at first, she was definitely a complex leading character, and it was fun to revisit all of her New Year's celebrations with her - in fact, it was nice to read a book not completely focussed on Christmas but on the fun of New Year, and also read Nicole's ever-changing resolutions too! A really great read that I can highly recommend.

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy One Minute Before Midnight in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now. (Links go to Amazon.co.uk)

Book News: Just Another Manic Mum-Day by Mink Elliott

I read Mink Elliott's debut novel The Pi**ed Off Parents Club last year, and I really enjoyed it, so I was pleased to see that Mink is back next year with a sequel to that book called Just Another Manic Mum-Day. I love the cover, the yellow is really distinctive and makes it look like a really fun read! It's out on 19th January 2012.

"Roxy, Jack and daughter Joey, three, are building a new life for themselves in sunny Sydney, Australia, but Roxy's finding it hard to settle down. When she discovers she's pregnant again, things become even more complicated - how will she cope with a second child?

Frustrated at the lack of places for stressed-out mums to go, Roxy and her new friend, Shoshanna, set up Just Another Manic Mum-Day - a café catering exclusively for parents. But when an opportunity arises for Roxy to return to England, she realises just how much she's missed home . . ."


You can pre-order Just Another Manic Mum-Day in paperback and on eBook/Kindle now.

23 November 2011

Giveaway: Win a set of Ciara Geraghty novels!

Thanks to the lovely Katy at Hodder, I have another fab giveaway for you all today! You have the chance to win a set of Ciara's three published novels; Saving Grace, Becoming Scarlett, and her latest book, Finding Mr Flood. Ciara is a great new writer in the women's fiction market, and anyone would be very lucky to win this great book set! To win the three books, simply fill in the Google form below and I'll select one winner at random after the closing date.

Details: Closes on Sunday 4th December at midnight. Open to UK entrants only. One entry per household. Please ensure the form is filled in fully and correctly otherwise your entry may be removed. Good luck!

Book News: Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans

I recently read Harriet Evans' last book Love Always, and was impressed with it, and what a different type of story Harriet wove for her readers. Her new book, Happily Ever After, is due out on 19th January 2012 and I think the cover is absolutely gorgeous, really stunning. I'm actually really looking forward to this one, are you?

"At twenty-two, Eleanor Bee is sure about three things: she wants to move to London and become a literary superstar, she wants to be able to afford to buy a coffee and croissant every morning, and she doesn’t believe in happy endings. She saw what divorce did to her parents, especially her mum: happily ever after’s fine on the last page of a book, but it just doesn’t happen in real life.

Elle moves to London. She gets a job at Bluebird Books, a charmingly old-fashioned publishers. She falls out of pubs, wears too-short skirts, makes lots of mistakes and feels like she’s learning nothing and everything at the same time. And then, out of the blue, she falls in love, and that’s when she realises just how much growing up she has to do…

Ten years on, and Elle’s life has changed in ways she could never have predicted. Because no matter where you go and how much you try to run away, the past has a funny way of catching up with you, and Happily Ever After comes in all shapes and sizes…"

You can pre-order Happily Ever After in paperback or on eBook/Kindle now (link goes to Amazon.co.uk)

22 November 2011

Giveaway Winners: Chick Lit Bundle competition

My fantastic Chick Lit bundle competition closed on Sunday, and I have now picked the 5 winners who are listed below! Thank you to all the entrants for taking part, and I hope to keep bringing you as many fab giveaways as I can!

Congratulations to the winners:
  • Nathalie G
  • Louise L
  • Caroline C
  • Rosie P
  • Maureen M

Book News: The Wife Who Ran Away by Tess Stimson

I really love Tess Stimson's gritty novels, they're always something a little different from the normal chick lit stories and I find them such an exciting read. Her new book, The Wife Who Ran Away, is due out on 19th January 2012, and again sounds like it's going to be a great read!

"Kate Forrest is invisible… Ned, the husband she adores, doesn’t seem to know she’s alive, and her two charming children have grown into stroppy adolescents. Her boss is suddenly shunting her towards career Siberia, and her demanding mother is never off the phone. With her fortieth birthday fast approaching, all Kate wants to do is run away from the lot of them.

And so she does. On impulse, Kate walks out of her job, her family and her life, and gets on a plane to Italy. With no ties and no responsibilities, she soon finds herself deliriously caught up in La Dolce Vita – and the arms of a man barely half her age. But when the unthinkable threatens her family, Kate is brutally forced to choose between her past and the future." 

You can pre-order The Wife Who Ran Away in paperback now (link goes to Amazon.co.uk)

21 November 2011

Book Review: The Secret of Happy Ever After by Lucy Dillon

When story-lover Anna takes over Longhampton's bookshop, it's her dream come true. And not just because it gets her away from her three rowdy stepchildren and their hyperactive Dalmatian.

Unpacking boxes filled with childhood classics, Anna can't shake the feeling that maybe her own fairytale ending isn't all that she'd hoped for. But, as the stories of love, adventure, secret gardens, lost dogs, wicked witches and giant peaches breathe new life into the neglected shop, Anna and her customers get swept up in the magic too.

Even Anna's best friend Michelle - who categorically doesn't believe in true love and handsome princes - isn't immune.

But when secrets from Michelle's own childhood come back to haunt her, and disaster threatens Anna's home, will the wisdom and charm of the stories in the bookshop help the two friends - and those they love - find their own happy ever afters?


I've been lucky enough to have read all of Lucy Dillon's previously published novels (The Ballroom Class, Walking Back to Happiness and Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts), all of which have been brilliant stories, and such lovely reads. I was therefore thrilled to receive her new book, The Secret of Happy Ever After, complete with gorgeous wintery cover and decided I had to get stuck into it. With Lucy's books, I always feel like I'm guaranteed a lovely, heart-warming story and this book certainly delivered on that. I think I would even go so far as to say that it's my favourite of her books so far, and that's no mean feat considering how much I have loved her previous books. So without further ado, allow me to tell you exactly what it was about The Secret of Happy Ever After that had me hooked.

Although the book begins with a prologue following a new character into Longhampton called Michelle, she isn't actually what I would consider the actual main character of the book for the most part. Michelle is living alone after the end of her awful marriage to a slimy husband, and is running a very successful homewares shop. However, she won't admit her feelings of loneliness to anyone, not even her best friend Anna. When the opportunity arises to buy another shop, the bookshop next door in fact, she does and puts Anna in charge of it, knowing how much her best friend adores books of all shapes and sizes. The friendship of the pair however is soon put to the test because neither will divulge their secrets to each other, and the weight becomes too much to bear for the women. Michelle's secrets however are ones that she is sure going to ruin her hard-earnt reputation, and she's troubling herself worrying about it. She does come across quite cold and harsh, even to her best friend Anna but reasons for that do become clearer as you read on.

Anna is struggling with very different problems. I really liked Anna though, she is such a realistic character and I felt so sorry for her throughout the book. She's happily married to her husband, but the marriage isn't fulfilling Anna completely. Yes, she's step-mother to his 3 daughters, but Anna is desperate for a baby of her own and xx isn't so sure. However, Anna tries to be the best mother to the 3 girls that she can be, and run the bookshop as well, the job of her dreams really. Anna's passion for books is absolutely fantastic and it made the book such fun to read, hearing her gush about all the childhood books that I enjoyed, and seeing her trying to bring more people into reading is fantastic! I don't think I have ever read a book set in a bookshop with a character so passionate about books, and I'm really pleased Lucy Dillon has created such a wonderful character and setting for this book. She's very much the opposite of Michelle, very warm and inviting and I think that's why I warmed to her so much, there was nothing to dislike!

Something I really liked about this book was the small book reviews at the start of each chapter by characters in the book. It's just a nice little creative touch, and it was fun to be reminded of a lot of my childhood reads again, especially the fantastic Malory Towers! It was also nice to see a reappearance of the leading character from one of Dillon's previous novels, Rachel from Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, and catch up with her and her life, without it intruding too much on this book. I just found this book was a pleasure to read from start to finish, and I never really wanted to put it down. I was so wrapped up in whether Anna was ever going to get the family of her own she'd always wanted and whether she'd make the bookshop a success, and why Michelle was such a cold fish and what exactly this dark secret is that her ex-husband holds against her throughout the book. As I said, although I felt Michelle was very cold and somewhat unlikeable in parts, you do feel sorry for her because you know something is bubbling away beneath the surface, and I was just willing the women to confide in each other! This read really touched me, I did shed a bit of a tear for a few particular scenes and I just think this is the perfect book to curl up with under a blanket and just devour... it's simply brilliant.

You can buy The Secret of Happy Ever After in paperback and on eBook/Kindle right now! (Links go to Amazon.co.uk)

Blog Tour: Ali McNamara

Today I'm delighted to welcome the lovely Ali McNamara as part of her 'Breakfast with Ali' blog tour to celebrate the release of her new novel Breakfast at Darcy's! I reviewed the book last week, so today Ali is here to answer some of my burning questions for author interview! Thanks to Hannah at Little,Brown for setting this up, and of course to Ali for answering my questions!

Q1. Please tell us about your new book Breakfast at Darcy's.

 

Breakfast at Darcy’s is about a girl called Darcy who finds out at a funeral she’s the sole beneficiary of her Aunt’s wealthy estate. But the terms of her Aunt’s will state before Darcy can inherit any of her money she must go and live on a remote island off the west coast of Ireland for a whole year, and set up a new community of people to live there with her.

Being a city girl, Darcy doesn’t find the switch from high-heeled boots to wellington boots an easy one, or for that matter any of the other many changes that the island of Tara has in store for her…

Q2. Where did you get the idea for Darcy setting up a new community on a remote island? It's not a concept I've ever come across in chick lit before, but it worked really well!

I got the idea when I was on a touring holiday of Ireland and my husband and myself were parked up one day overlooking the island of Great Blasket in County Kerry. We were having a conversation about how you might go about living on an island as remote as the one in front of us, and all the problems that might arise from doing so, when I began to realise what a great plot it would make for a novel.

Q3. The island of Tara sounds absolutely beautiful - did you base it on anywhere you have been to yourself? Also, the legends of Tara that appear in the book - are they made up by you or are they real legends from other places?!



Yes as I said above my fictional island of Tara is based on the real island of Great Blasket off the West Coast of Ireland. We went back and visited the island with our children so I could research the book after my initial idea was formed. All the legends mentioned in the story are genuine Irish myths and traditions. I enjoy researching my books as much as I love writing them. The research process inspires so many of the ideas that you find in the final story.

Q4. I loved that there were so many different kinds of characters within the book, and that they were each important to the story in their own way. Did you base any characters on anyone, and do you have a favourite amongst the characters in your book (mine was Dermot!!)?


Ah now that would be telling… I can tell you Dermot’s extensive practical knowledge definitely comes directly from my husband though. He’s very clever like that and I couldn’t have written the book without his technical help in answering my many questions about how I would begin re-building a deserted island!

Q5. The cover for the book is absolutely stunning - what did you think of it when you first saw it? Do you get much say in your covers, or is it all down to the publishers and designers?



I’ve been very lucky with my covers so far, and loved this one just as much if not more so than my first novel, From Notting Hill with Love…Actually.

No, I have no direct say, but when they’re as lovely as this why would I need it!

Q6. Breakfast at Darcy's is your second book, following the success of your debut novel From Notting Hill With Love... Actually. How have you found being a published author, and what have been the highlights for you so far?


Definitely hearing from my readers. I’ve had so many messages and emails over the last year from people not only telling me how much they’ve enjoyed my first book, but how much they’ve identified with Scarlett, the main character. Some of the best emails have come from people that say they don’t usually read, or they’ve lost their love of reading, and my book has encouraged them to start again!

Q7. What do you do when you aren't writing books? When you are writing, do you have to be strict with yourself in terms of a writing schedule to get things done?!



I’m usually a really organized person, but when it comes to my writing I’m awful at organising my time. But I think it’s pretty impossible to treat writing as a 9-5 job, as it is any creative profession. Otherwise the things you’re attempting to create would come across as forced and uninspired.

Q8. You are very active on Twitter and Facebook - do you think social networking is important to authors, and do you enjoy being able to interact with your fans online?



Yes, I love it. Although I’m very much on Team Twitter, Vs. Team Facebook ;-)

Q9. This is a question I like to ask all authors - what is your opinion of the term chick lit, and how do you feel about your books being classified as chick lit?

I just write the way I write. If someone wants to label the way I put words on a page and stack me neatly into an appropriate box, then that’s up to them. People will always try and define you as something so it fits in with their way of thinking, I’ll always try and be a little different. Watch out for it in the future….

Q10. Finally, are you working on a third novel? If so, can you tell us something about it?!


Yes! A sequel to ‘From Notting Hill with Love…Actually’ due out in 2012! 

Scarlett gets to go a bit further afield than London this time when she gets a chance to visit New York …
I went there this year on a research trip and had a fantastic time. But Scarlett’s trip is even better… ;-)

Thanks so much, Ali!

You can buy Breakfast at Darcy's in paperback or on eBook/Kindle right now! (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

19 November 2011

Irish Book Awards Winners Announced

The Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards 2011 were held Thursday night, and there were some great winners! It sounds like it was a fab night, so congratulations to all the winners and commiserations to the nominees as well!

Selection of Winners:
Popular Fiction Book of the Year: All For You by Sheila O'Flanagan

RTÉ Radio 1's The John Murray Show Listeners' Choice Award: How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Best Irish Non-Fiction Book Award: Easy Meals by Rachel Allen

Hughes and Hughes Irish Novel of the Year: Mistaken by Neil Jordan

Specsavers Irish Children's Book of the Year Award: The Real Rebecca  by Anna Carey

For a full list of winners, please visit the Irish Publishing News website.

18 November 2011

Book News: Watch Over Me by Daniela Sacerdoti

A debut novel which has been brought to my attention is Daniela Sacerdoti's book Watch OverMe. It was out a few days ago, on the 15th of November, and sounds like a really intriguing read, not to mention with a gorgeous cover! The publishers have been kind enough to share the book trailer with me too so I've posted that on here for you to have a look at!

"Eilidh Lawson's life has just been turned upside down. Her marriage is ending and she's lost her much longed-for baby. Mentally and physically exhausted, she's not sure what to do but feels oddly compelled to return to Glen Avich, a small village in the Scottish Highlands, where her family has lived for generations. Here, she meets her best friend from childhood, Jamie McAnena, who is raising his daughter alone. Following the death of his mother, Elizabeth, Jamie has resigned himself to being a family of two, closing himself off and devoting his life to his daughter, Maisie. What none of them can know is that it is Elizabeth who has called Eilidh back to Glen Avich. Though dead for three years, she has not been able to leave Jamie behind in his lost and lonely state. Now, she starts working behind the scenes for Jamie and Eilidh to get close again, but both are scared of repeating the past and Elizabeth's influence can only reach so far. An ethereal tale narrated from several different perspectives, Watch Over Me is a beautifully written debut novel. It is a poignant yet subtle story about letting go and moving on - with a little bit of help from beyond the grave."

You can buy Watch Over Me in paperback or on eBook/Kindle

17 November 2011

Book Review: Breakfast at Darcy's by Ali McNamara

When Darcy McCall loses her beloved Aunt Molly, she doesn't expect any sort of inheritance - let alone a small island. Located off the west coast of Ireland, Tara hasn't been lived on for years, but according to Molly's will Darcy must stay there for twelve months in order to fully inherit, and she needs to persuade a village full of people to settle there, too. Darcy has to leave behind her independent city life and swap stylish heels for muddy wellies. Between sorting everything from the plumbing to the pub, Darcy meets confident Conor and ever-grumpy Dermot - but who will make her feel really at home?

After reading and absolutely loving Ali McNamara's debut novel From Notting Hill With Love... Actually which was released in 2010, her new book has been really high on my to-read list all year, and it's one I have really been looking forward to. When the cover was released earlier this year, I thought it was beautiful and although I still do, I struggle to think about how it relates to the story which is a bit of a shame, but I will overlook that minor detail considering it's so beautiful! I was expecting something that was going to be along the lines of McNamara's debut novel, but what I got was something completely different, and it was very readable and enjoyable, but very much not what I had expected, although believe me that isn't a bad thing!

The lead character, as you may expect, is called Darcy. She loves her life in London, working on a big fashion magazine, with access to all the mod-cons she would ever want, and a wardrobe that any London girl would be envious of as well. However, when her Aunt Molly dies suddenly in Ireland, Darcy finds herself swept off to a remote Irish island called Tara, bequeathed to her by Molly before she died, and Darcy has to do the seemingly impossible in order to fully inherit - set up a community of people there for one whole year. I was curious about the concept, thinking it isn't something that would be easy, but as it is in all books, things go rather well for Darcy and plenty of people come forward to live on Tara. However, she was a lovely character, someone I really warmed to and I felt she was a good lead character for the book because she wasn't perfect, and you can see her fighting her conflicting emotions about everything all the way through.

Darcy goes through quite a change on Tara, one I had expected if I am honest. She suddenly went from being looks obsessed to realising that really designer labels aren't all that important, and happy to rough it with the other new residents of Tara. She also adapts surprisingly well to a life without her much-needed mod-cons as well, but I suppose she didn't have much of a choice! Her friendship with builder Dermot was interesting to read about, and I really liked his character even though he did come across as a bit stroppy and dislikeable for the most part! He had an interesting story from around halfway through the book and I liked that McNamara introduced a very new plotline like this, it kept my interest peaked! My other favourite character was Darcy's solictor Niall, a sweet and unassuming man who doesn't quite know what to make of the London girl Darcy when he first meets her! His and Darcy's friendship was brilliant, and I loved how his character evolved throughout the book.

One thing I loved about this book was the descriptions used throughout of the island Tara that Darcy and her friends are living on. McNamara manages to describe the landscape, the sea, the newly erected buildings and everything about the island so well that you can really imagine it in your mind. Many of the legends are spoken about by the island's only permanent resident Eamon, an old friend of Molly's and someone who knows about every legend of Tara. These were interesting to read about, and I felt they added a little bit of a magical element to the book, and I was left wondering how much of these legends were true and what effect they would ultimately have on the story. The plot isn't something I have ever come across in chick lit and while I was initially a bit unsure when I first read the premise, I have to admit it really had me hooked as I loved how the story slowly unfolded, revealing things about the characters slowly but surely, and turning Darcy into a whole new person. McNamara's writing is a joy to read, very descriptive yet fun to read at the same time, and you can feel she really gets into the heart of her characters. It's nothing at all like her debut novel, but it's a wonderful second offering, and McNamara is cementing herself as one of a new generation of chick lit writers to watch out for! Recommended!

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Breakfast at Darcy's in paperback or on eBook/Kindle (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

Book News: What Might Have Been Me by Yvonne Cassidy

Another 2012 release which I have been looking forward to is Yvonne Cassidy's new book What Might Have Been Me. I think the cover is quite intriguing and unusual, and the story itself sounds like a fascinating read. It is due out on 19th January 2012, and here's the synopsis:

"At the corner of west 43rd and sixth, if you face downtown you'll see the treetops of Bryant Park, fresh and green. Behind them, the Empire State building rises, and keeps rising, above its neighbours. Of all the views I loved of the city that was my favourite - the spot I came to re-set myself when I was lost or lonely or just bored.

Ten years ago, when I dropped out of Trinity college to stay here, I wouldn't have believed it was possible to get bored of New York. But just because you don't believe something doesn't mean it's not true.

My friends went back to college in Dublin and I stayed. I stayed because I fell in love, with Eddie, with the city. At twenty one it was okay to be illegal, to wait tables. It was okay for a long time, until it wasn't. Not that I did anything about it, until the morning I got the call from Mum.

My name is Carla Matthews. This book is about who I was, who I am and who I might have been, if things had been different. It's Eddie's story too. And my Mum's and my sister Suzanne's.

And after all this time, I'm finally understanding that it's my Dad's story too."


You can pre-order What Might Have Been Me in paperback now (link goes to Amazon.co.uk)

16 November 2011

Book News: Comfort and Joy by India Knight

India Knight's latest book actually came out at the end of last year, but I really wanted to post about it now because of the fantastic and gorgeous new cover it's been released in this year... how Christmassy is that?! It should be available now as it was released on 10th November, but I really do think the cover is totally amazing, and the story sounds great too!

"'I'd say Christmas was about hope. Yeah. Hope. And optimism. It's like the fairy tales in the window: for families, every Christmas is a new opportunity for Happy Ever After. No pressure, then . . .'

Oxford Street, two shopping days left to Christmas, and wife and mum Clara Dunphy is desperately, madly trying to make everything, not perfect, but just right for her extended family on the greatest day of the year. But then she gets distracted . . ."


You can buy Comfort and Joy in paperback and on eBook/Kindle (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

15 November 2011

Giveaway: Win a signed copy of 'It Started With A Kiss' and CD by Miranda Dickinson!

Thanks to the lovely Miranda Dickinson, I have a great prize to give away to you today! I have 2 signed copies of Miranda's brilliant new book It Started With A kiss to giveaway, and 2 copies of her brand new album too! Miranda is an excellent singer - her song 'Beneath The Stars' featured on her book trailer. In order to win this prize, just fill in the Google form below, and 2 winners will be picked at random after the closing date.

Open worldwide, one entry per household. Please ensure you fill in the form correctly, otherwise your entry will be removed. This giveaway closes on Saturday 26th November at midnight, good luck!

Book News: Horse Play by Jo Carnegie

I have loved Jo Carnegie's 'Churchminster' series since I read the second book in the series Naked Truths a couple of years ago. Now we're onto the 5th book of the series, Horse Play, and I can't wait to read it once again! It's due out on 19th January 2012, and it's nice to see that Transworld have given the cover a bit of a makeover, although I have to say the synopsis really doesn't give much away about the story at all!

"Churchminster village - picturesque, quaint, sleepy - OR NOT...

A place where women know exactly what they want, and it's not cream tea with the vicar.

A place where anything can happen . . . so be careful what you wish for.

And a place where the men had better behave . . . because the girls won't take it lying down (well, not unless they want to!)"

You can pre-order Horse Play in paperback now.

14 November 2011

Book Review: Christmas at Tiffany's by Karen Swan

Cassie settled down too young, marrying her first serious boyfriend. Now, ten years later, she is betrayed and broken. With her marriage in tatters and no career or home of her own, she needs to work out where she belongs in the world and who she really is. 

So begins a year-long trial as Cassie leaves her sheltered life in rural Scotland to stay with each of her best friends in the most glamorous cities in the world: New York, Paris and London. Exchanging grouse moor and mousy hair for low-carb diets and high-end highlights, Cassie tries on each city for size as she attempts to track down the life she was supposed to have been leading, and with it, the man who was supposed to love her all along. 

Despite this being Karen Swan's third novel, I haven't actually managed to read anything by this author yet. I don't know what it is, I haven't been especially taken with the covers for one, but other than that it might just have been that her books have passed me by. However, when I was offered the chance to review her new title Christmas at Tiffany's, I jumped at the chance because let's face it - I'm a sucker for a Christmas book. However, now I've finished the book, I have to say I felt a little robbed because it wasn't really a festive book at all, BUT it was a really enjoyable story, perhaps just marketed a little wrongly! I found Karen Swan's writing very easy to read and despite it being a fairly long book, I found it very consuming and I really loved the cast of characters within. I think my favourite thing about this book is that you really don't know how its all going to end up, there are clues throughout but nothing to spoil it for the reader, and I loved that!

Book News: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes


After reading my first Jojo Moyes novel last year, The Last Letter From Your Lover, and absolutely loving it, I cannot wait for her new book, due out on 5th January 2012. Me Before You has a beautiful cover, plain and simple but there is something really lovely about it and I can't wait to read it, it sounds amazing. 

"Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. 

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.


Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.


What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time."

You can pre-order Me Before You in paperback and eBook/Kindle now (links go to Amazon).

12 November 2011

Book News: Watching Willow Watts by Talli Roland

Talli Roland's new book, Watching Willow Watts, is out at the end of this month, 30th November to be precise, and aside from having a GORGEOUS cover, it sounds like its going to be a fantastic read too! It's already been out on Kindle for a few months, but the paperback isn't due out until the end of this month, hence posting it now!

"For twenty-five-year-old Willow Watts, life has settled into a predictably dull routine: days behind the counter at her father's antique shop; nights watching fuzzy telly whilst the elderly residents of Britain's Ugliest Village bed down for yet another early night. But everything changes when Willow's epically embarrassing Marilyn Monroe impersonation is uploaded to YouTube. A canny viewer spots Marilyn's ghostly image hidden in the film and Willow becomes an international sensation. Her dire little town is suddenly overrun with fans proclaiming her to be the 'new Marilyn'. Egged on by the villagers - whose shops and businesses are cashing in - Willow eagerly embraces her new identity, dying her hair platinum and scoffing cakes to achieve Marilyn's legendary curves. But when the only man she has ever truly loved returns, seeking the old Willow, it's decision time. Should she risk stardom and the village's new-found fortune on love? Or is being Marilyn Willow's real ticket to happiness?"

You can buy Watching Willow Watts on eBook/Kindle right now or in paperback.

11 November 2011

Book Review: To The Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

When Ellie Kendall tragically loses her husband she feels her life is over. But eventually she’s ready for a new start – at work, that is. She doesn’t need a new man when she has a certain secret visitor to keep her company... Moving to North London, Ellie meets neighbour Roo who has a secret of her own. Can the girls sort out their lives? Guilt is a powerful emotion, but a lot can happen in a year in Primrose Hill...

 The theme of death of a loved one and moving on seems to be quite a big theme in chick lit these days. I recently reviewed Lucy Dillon's Walking Back to Happiness which was a book on exactly that theme, and then just a few weeks later, I start to read this latest offering from Jill Mansell covering the same subject again. I was curious to see how Mansell would approach the story, as I adore her books, I always manage to lose myself within them and with the characters, so I was definitely looking forward to seeing how To The Moon and Back would deal with quite an emotional and difficult subject.

Book News: The Fat Chance Guide to Dieting by Claudia Pattison

Another novel which caught my eye on Amazon the other day is Claudia Pattison's new book, The Fat Chance Guide To Dieting. The cover is great, and looks very fun, and it sounds like it'll be an interesting read. It's published by Penguin on 29th December so you can treat yourself after the hard work of Christmas!

"Think nothing tastes as good as slim feels? You're obviously not eating the right food . . .

Holly, Naomi and Kate are determined to win the battle of the bulge. So it's down to the local slimming club, where carbs are strictly off the menu and there's no escaping the scales. But calorie-counting isn't the only thing on their minds.

Newly engaged Holly should be over the moon. So why does she blush every time her sexy boss walks into the room? Curvaceous Naomi finds herself the object of a very unusual fetish and a shocking secret is revealed when an unexpected visitor arrives on Kate's doorstep. 

Yet with a little group support (and a particularly brutal weight loss boot camp) the women manage to stick to their regime, in time for the glamorous Slimmer of the Year Awards. But with tempting buffet tables, highly competitive contestants and even the odd fat fetishist lurking, it's anyone's guess as to what will happen . . ."

You can pre-order The Fat Chance Guide to Dieting in paperback and on eBook/Kindle

10 November 2011

Author Interview: Miranda Dickinson

Today, I welcome the lovely Miranda Dickinson to my blog for an author interview following my review of her fabulous new book It Started With A Kiss! This is Miranda's third novel and it was a joy to read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone. Miranda was kind enough to answer some of my questions so without further ado, welcome Miranda!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'It Started With A Kiss'.

It Started With a Kiss is a romantic comedy about following your heart. It’s the story of Romily Parker, a local radio jingle writer who sings with a wedding band at weekends. On the last Saturday before Christmas (shortly after disastrously declaring her love for her best friend Charlie), Romily has a brief encounter with a handsome stranger. They share a kiss and then he is gone – so Romily decides to spend the next year trying to find him again. She’s helped by her friends in The Pinstripes wedding band and her crazy Auntie Mags and Uncle Dudley.

Q2. The idea of being kissed by a stranger and then spending a year hunting for him is a new one on me! Is Romily's story inspired by a real life story at all and if not, where did you get the idea from?!

The idea for Romily’s quest came from a conversation I was having with my friends about our ‘what-if’ moments. You know the ones I mean – when you catch someone’s eye in a crowd and, for a fleeting moment, there is the possibility of something coming of it, but then the moment passes and you’re left wondering what might have happened if you’d pursued it. During the writing of It Started With a Kiss, I spoke to a lot of people about these moments and so many people had similar experiences. For example, one of my twitter friends (and a brilliant author himself), Tom Cox, had a ‘what-if’ moment on a tube train when there was a girl he wished he’d given his number to. And my favourite ‘what-if’ moment was from my friend Kim, who had a complete stranger give her a full, Shakespearean bow in Covent Garden before he left. That one made it into the novel because I love the romance and possibility of it. What would have happened if he hadn’t walked away? That’s what fascinated me and I wanted to write about someone who decides to pursue the possibility.

Q3. Romily is a wedding band singer, as are you! Are any of The Pinstripes gigs based on any that you've had with your own band, and are any of the Pinstripes based on your own band?

Thankfully, we’ve never done a wedding gig with bunny ears! A lot of the detail of rehearsals, setting up at gigs and the camaraderie between the band is based on my own experience and my band’s favourite gig stories. I’ve read several books featuring characters that play in bands where it’s quite clear the author has no experience of what it’s actually like, so I wanted to provide a faithful portrayal of the work that goes into playing for weddings. Being a wedding singer gives you a unique perspective on other people’s weddings and it’s a great opportunity to people-watch. My real-life wedding band, The Peppermints, will recognise traits of themselves in all of the characters (I think they’re all a bit nervous about how I’ve portrayed them!)

Q4. The cover of It Started With A Kiss is gorgeous! Do you have much say in your book covers? They have all been gorgeous wintry scenes so far - do you think they are perfect for your books?

Generally, authors don’t have a lot of say in their covers, but I’ve been quite lucky in that the team at Avon always asks my opinion. I adore the covers that Nicky, the cover designer, has designed for me – all three are so warm and sparkly and inviting!. When Fairytale of New York came out, no other books had covers like it, so it was then really interesting for me to see how that cover started a trend, just like I’d seen with famous book covers like the Dan Brown series. All my covers have a wintry feel because they’re published in November, but with the exception of It Started With a Kiss, none of them are set at Christmas, although they all have a Christmas scene in the story. It would be interesting to see what a summer cover for Fairytale of New York and Welcome to My World might look like – designed by Nicky, of course!

Q5. Your debut novel 'Fairytale of New York' was released after you were discovered on 'Authonomy'. Now you've had 3 books published by Avon/HarperCollins... how does it feel to see your books on the shelves and know you are now a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestselling author?!

Put simply, it’s just nuts! I get tingles every time I go into a bookshop and see my books there – and more so with every new book. Earlier this year, I saw Welcome to My World in the window of Waterstones and I was so excited I couldn’t speak for about five minutes! It was so fab to see it next to books by David Nicholls, Lee Child and Ian McEwan. I have a photo of me pointing at it excitedly like a loon! From being discovered on Authonomy.com (where I never expected anyone to notice my book, let alone want to publish it) to now publishing my third novel has been a breathtaking rollercoaster of a ride and I’m constantly amazed by what my writing has achieved in such a short time. Being a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestselling Author is completely crazy, too. It feels completely unreal most of the time but every now and again I have a little sparkly moment where I remember and I feel incredibly lucky to have had so many lovely people reading and loving my books.

Q6. How has your life changed since you've become a published author?

It’s become a lot busier! I’ve gone from working a nine-to-five day to working almost non-stop, but I love the variety of my week. I work three days a week writing reports for a food research company, with two days to write, plus evenings and weekends. When I have a deadline looming, I’ll even write in my lunch break at work and have been known to write through the night. I think as a writer I’ve grown in confidence since I became a published author – I’ve certainly learned a lot and I feel like I’m still learning. I hope that shows with each successive novel I write.

Q7. You recently launched your own writing prize, the New Rose Short Story Prize 2011. What gave you the idea to launch your own award like this, and how important do you think opportunities like this are for budding authors?

I wanted to create opportunities for unpublished writers. Before I was published, I was always hoping that someone, somewhere would open a door for my writing and it was frustrating that people who became published authors then never seemed to do anything to help other people. Now I’m in the amazing position of being able to open a door for other writers, so I want to make the most of it. My influence is very limited – I would love to be able to do more – but by launching the New Rose Prize I hope I’ve highlighted the wealth of incredible talent out there. It might not be a publishing deal, but at least I can over some recognition that could boost a writer’s confidence. It’s vital that opportunities exist for unpublished authors and I will do everything I can to do this.

Q8. Who are some of your own favourite authors? Do you have an all-time favourite book that you can read again and again?

I adore Sarah Addison Allen, Cecelia Ahern, Jill Mansell, Isabel Wolff, Jasper Fforde, Neil Gaiman, Charles Cumming and Sir Terry Pratchett – they are all incredible writers and reading their books is like opening presents for me! As for my all-time favourite book, it would have to be Pride and Prejuduce by Jane Austen – it’s just the perfect novel.

Q9. What do you think of the negative press that the term 'Chick Lit' is getting in the media at the moment? How do you feel about your books being classified as Chick Lit?

I think it’s a lot of fuss over nothing, fuelled by lazy journalists jumping on a very decrepit bandwagon. Chick-lit (in the sense that readers of the genre understand it) is full of wit, originality and real-life issues tackled with humour and hope. It’s not all about shoes and shopping and sex – there’s very little of that in my novels – it’s about love in all its forms, hopes, aspirations, relationships and life in all its frustrating brilliance. I don’t like the term, largely because it’s used as a derogatory tag-all by the media, but as far as readers are concerned, I’m happy to be a chick-lit author.

Q10. Finally, are you working on your next novel? If so, can you tell me anything about it?!

Yes! My fourth novel will be called When I Fall in Love and it follows the story of Elsie Maynard, who finds herself setting up a choir after a crazy incident at a beach café. It’s going to be full of laughter, surprises, rivalry and maybe the odd jazz hand, together with the last item on a very important list… I’m going to continue my vlog about it next year, so keep watching for exclusive sneak-peeks as the novel progresses!

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Chloe!

Thank you, Miranda!  

You can buy Miranda's new book It Started With A Kiss in paperback and on eBook/Kindle (links go to Amazon).