31 July 2013

Book Review: It's Raining Men by Milly Johnson

"A summer getaway to remember. But is a holiday romance on the cards…? Best friends from work May, Lara and Clare are desperate for some time away. They have each had a rough time of it lately and need some serious R & R. So they set off to a luxurious spa for ten glorious days, but when they arrive at their destination, it seems it is not the place they thought it was. In fact, they appear to have come to entirely the wrong village… Here in Ren Dullem nothing is quite what it seems; the lovely cobbled streets and picturesque cottages hide a secret that the villagers have been keeping hidden for years. Why is everyone so unfriendly and suspicious? Why does the landlord of their holiday rental seem so rude? And why are there so few women in the village? Despite the strange atmosphere, the three friends are determined to make the best of it and have a holiday to remember. But will this be the break they all need? Or will the odd little village with all its secrets bring them all to breaking point…?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy It's Raining Men as a paperback or an eBook now.

Milly Johnson is one of my most favourite chick lit authors, and I get really excited whenever she has a new book out! This book was delayed from an April publication date, so I've been really eager to read it as the story sounded brilliant! I was thrilled when a review copy landed on my doormat last week, and I got stuck straight in to it. The cover is lovely, simply and elegant but not too fussy, and certainly suits the title of the book well! I never go into a Milly Johnson book worrying that I won't enjoy it, and it was certainly true for this one, I couldn't put it down and couldn't wait for a few free minutes to pick it up again!

May, Lara and Clare are three hard-working women who are in desperate need of a break from their busy work lives. They've all had trouble in their respective relationships lately, and need some girl-time away from it all. They decide to go on a break today, and book a luxury spa. But things go awry when they end up in a tiny village called Ren Dullem, in the back of beyond and no spa in sight. However, Ren Dullem isn't the boring village it seems from the outside. Why are there hardly any women in the village, and why are the male residents of Ren Dullem so rude to the 3 visitors? Despite the frosty reception, the women are determined to have a great holiday in Ren Dullem, but secrets are they all about to uncover....?

As with many of Milly's books, it doesn't follow just one character, and this book treats us to three great female lead characters. There's Lara, who is living with her boyfriend James, a divorcee, and his two teenage children who she is sure hate her. But Lara doesn't let on to the other girls how bad it is, pretending that her ready-made family is just what she wants. There's Clare, in a relationship with German man Lud, but soon finds things become unsettled when she is offered her dream promotion which can finally impress her parents, but Lud has news of his own that could scupper everything. Finally, there's shy May, dating married man Michael, but all is not as it seems for the pair of them. I have to say I loved each of these characters, they are all very different in their own ways and Johnson writes each of them so believably, you really get caught up in their stories and the emotion of what happens to them.

I really liked the mystery of the town of Ren Dullem as well, and was honestly clueless as to where the story was going. I didn't know why there were virtually no women in the village, why the villagers were so horrible, and there was a strange little subplot involving a local landowner and a new face in town who goes to work for him, but clearly has ulterior motives. It all leads to there being something very odd going on, and when it became clearer, I was truly shocked. Milly throws you a bit of curve ball in this story, it's totally unexpected and nothing like I've read before, and I actually really enjoyed that! Everything from the village to the cottage they stay in to the villagers themselves are so well written and described that you can imagine them so clearly as you're reading.

It's Raining Men is an utterly charming and engrossing read that really takes you in, and I honestly loved every single page of it. Milly's writing is fantastic, she is so warm and funny that you certainly smile along as you're reading, and the real emotion of the story and characters comes across too. I loved reading about what Lara, May and Clare got up to, and I enjoyed discovering the secrets of the village of Ren Dullem along with them... Clare's lagoon was honestly just amazing, I want one! It's a magical read, one that mesmerised me, and it's definitely one of Milly's best books to date. It'll be one fans of Milly will love, and if you haven't read anything by Milly yet (where have you been?!), then you wouldn't go far wrong starting with this one. I loved it!

30 July 2013

August 2013 Releases

Finally, we're in summer and there are some great books coming out this August for us to read in the sunshine! I'm really looking forward to quite a few of them, including Milly Johnson's, Rebecca Chance's and Sinead Moriarty's new books, and I have to say some of these covers are gorgeous too! Which are you looking forward to most this month?

Author Interview: Alice Peterson

Yesterday, I reviewed Alice Peterson's new novel By My Side, and it was certainly my stand out read of 2013 by far, a really stunning book. Alice was kind enough to answer some of my questions about the book, and other things I was curious about, so I hope you enjoy the interview! My biggest thanks go to Alice for taking the time to answer my questions.

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'By My Side'.

Firstly By My Side is a love story and I’d say it’s probably one of the most romantic & emotional of my novels.

It’s narrated by Cass, who thinks her life is over when she has a car accident that leaves her paralysed from the waist down. She gives up her passion to be a doctor, her boyfriend leaves her and finally she has to move back home to live with her parents – not what you want in your twenties! Her mother, determined not to let Cass give up, secretly arranges a visit to Canine Partners – a charity that trains dogs to transform the lives of those with any kind of disability. Cass has always loved animals, so it’s here that she meets the most loyal golden Labrador called Ticket. It’s love at first sight, and from then on, with the support and friendship of Ticket, Cass rebuilds her life. Soon she’s skiing in Colorado, returning to London and falling in love again. What she thought was the end, is now only the beginning.

Q2. The topic in 'By My Side' is not one you read about every day in Women’s fiction - what made you choose to cover the subject of paralysis in your book?

I read an article about Canine Partners (caninepartners.org.uk) and knew I had to write about these amazing dogs. As you probably know after reading Monday to Friday Man, a dog walking comedy, I am a massive dog lover! I contacted the charity to see if I could watch some training sessions and when I met these bouncy puppies opening doors and pedal bins my heart melted! At this stage I wasn’t at all sure of the outline of the story, but obviously if I was going to write about a Canine Partner my character had to go through a life-changing event. Through my research I came across a woman called Sarah Orr, who had been in a wheelchair since she was 16. She is incredible – beautiful, self-assured and determined to lead as fulfilling a life as possible. She inspired Cass – so really, the story came about naturally, after meeting Sarah.

I am also drawn to disability through my own circumstances. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis aged 18, which turned up life upside down overnight and my own experiences have definitely influenced my work. Often I have a disability theme running throughout my books; in Monday to Friday Man it’s Gilly’s sister, Megan; in Letters From My Sister, it’s Bells, born with a cleft lip and palate. Disability doesn’t have to be gloomy – it’s real and gritty, but there’s always humour too. Humour often comes from the darkest of places.

By My Side isn’t about paralysis or disability. It’s a love story where the character happens to be in a wheelchair. We all go through very tough times in completely different ways, and I think that is why a reader can relate to Cass whether they have a disability or not. We want to root for our heroine and see her get that happy ending.

Q3. I absolutely loved Ticket, Cass’s assistant dog. In the back of your book, you talk about a real organisation that does such things, it isn't something I haven’t heard of before so how did you come across it?

In a weekend magazine. I too had no idea such organisations existed; I’d only ever thought of guide dogs. Canine Partners is a wonderful charity that shows how dogs truly can change people’s lives. I came across a woman called Eileen who had been in hospital for 20 years. 20 years! It’s unthinkable. Then she came across Canine Partners, was matched with a golden Retriever called Sailor, and is now living independently with Sailor and a carer. She’s one very special person. That’s why I kept the name, Canine Partners – why make it up? I want as many people as possible to know about this charity.

Q4. Cass is such a strong character. Despite all she goes through, she seems to want to work through it where as I think I'd want to hide away from everyone and everything. Did you base her on anyone you met through research or was she purely a figment of your imagination?

Sorry Chloe, I got carried away and answered this one earlier! It’s loosely based on Sarah. Sarah and Cass’s lives are completely different, but their fighting spirit is the same.

Q5. How much research did you put into writing this book, and was it hard to talk about such things with people? I found it very emotional to read, so it must have been the same to research?

I don’t think I’ll ever write another novel where I need quite so much research! Along with Canine Partners I worked closely with another charity called The Back Up Trust (Back Up – backuptrust.org.uk) who support thousands of people with spinal cord injury (SCI). They understand an injury can be devastating but they also believe it shouldn’t prevent someone from leading a full life. They have been incredible too, letting me talk to people who have been on these skiing courses and I was able to watch some of the wheelchair skills sessions.

It has been emotional, you’re right. I have become friends with many of those I spoke to. Towards the end of my research I met an ex Royal Marine called Jon Flint. He walks with an aid and has a handsome dog called Varick, his little black shadow as he calls him. When I asked him about his life now, so different to what it used to be, I could see he was in constant pain answering my questions, but his sense of humour and character shone through. I went away moved and humbled. I feel lucky to have met such wonderful people.

Q6. You've had an amazing reaction to the book on lots of reviewers sites and Amazon - how does it feel to have a book be so well received by readers?

It’s lovely – I have been so overwhelmed by the reviews. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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

Dog walking! I love cooking too and have just booked myself a week’s holiday on a cooking course in Puglia – surely good writing material?

Q8. What sort of books do you enjoy reading? What was the last book you read, and what's your favourite read of all time?

I enjoy all kinds of different books but one of my most favourite contemporary authors is Jojo Moyes.

I last read a Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman.

Favourite book of all time has to be Pride and Prejudice. I named my dog after Mr Darcy, after all!

Q9. How do you feel about the digital media age - Kindles, eBooks, Twitter, Facebook etc. Do you think it's had a positive effect on people's reading habits, and do you enjoy the interaction with readers on social media?

I am a big fan of eBooks. It’s often so hard to get your books into shops so it’s a relief for me to know that people can access my work on-line. I am sure it’s encouraged more people to read too, which is fantastic.

I really like Twitter and Facebook. Nothing gives me more pleasure than someone contacting me to say they loved one of my books! It¹s a solitary job so it¹s great to have that contact with readers. I really enjoy following other writers too.

I also feel I have met some of the loveliest bloggers through Twitter ­ and what a great job you do helping authors firstly by reading so much and then reviewing our books on your sites. I feel, for this book particularly, the on-line community has really embraced By My Side - I¹ve had some of the most heart warming and emotional reviews and responses ­ I won¹t forget any of them and it honestly means so much to me.

Q10. What is next for you? Have you started your next book?!

My next book is nearly finished. I’m excited about it. It’s full of drama, twists, romance, love, betrayal…

Thank you, Alice!

www.alicepeterson.co.uk
www.caninepartners.org.uk
www.backuptrust.org.uk 

Photo credit to Paul Donnellon.

29 July 2013

Book Review: By My Side by Alice Peterson

"One step can change everything… 

Cass Brooks loves her job, her boyfriend Sean, her life. Until, leaving home one morning, distracted and hungover, she steps into the path of a truck. 

When she wakes up, she can’t walk. And suddenly all her hopes and dreams, the plans she’d made with Sean, the future she thought she’d have, seem out of her reach. 

But then fate intervenes again. Cass meets Ticket, a loyal golden Labrador who refuses to leave her side. And on a flight to Colorado, she sits next to Charlie, who believes he can show her a life full of possibilities, if only she’ll let him. 

Cass wants her life back the way it was. Charlie knows this cannot be. Yet a future beckons all the same.."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy By My Side as a paperback or an eBook now.

Every once in a while you read a book that truly moves you and stays with you, and sometimes you have no idea before you start that the next book you're about to pick up will be one of those special ones. Last year, it was Jojo Moyes' 'Me Before You' that was a stunning read that to this day moves me when I think of the story (and I think that's quite true for pretty much everyone who has read it). I wasn't expecting when I started Alice Peterson's novel that this would be my 2013 'Me Before You' book, but it certainly is. With a very touching storyline and an amazing lead character that you'll love, By My Side is my must-read of 2013 so far.

Cass Brookes would admit she had a pretty good life. She's living with her boyfriend, they're happy and she's at University studying Medicine, her dream job. However, that's all completely shattered in a moment when one morning, Cass steps out into the road into the path of a truck. She's paralysed, and has to adapt to a completely new life in a wheelchair, and living back with her parents again. Just as she was struggling to find hope, Cass meets Ticket, a beautiful dog who she quickly falls in love with. And then a on a skiing trip, she meets Charlie, who also seems destined to change her life in other ways. As much as Cass yearns for the life she had before the accident, she knows she has to make the best of the one she's got... can Charlie and Ticket help her find her path to happiness again?

What I found odd about this book is the fact that the blurb pretty much tells you the main crux of the story. It isn't a surprise to the reader that Cass ends up paralysed, and I was sort of wondering where the book would go after that. I needn't have worried, because it is so much more than the accident and Cass becoming a paraplegic. In fact, it is exploring her life after the accident and how it affects not only her but those around her too, in particular her family. Some of the scenes with Cass' parents are very touching, and moved me because of the emotion involved in them. You can see how hard it has hit Cass' parents that their daughter is now paralysed, it's one of those things you dread as a parent for your child, and Peterson really puts across in her writing how emotionally hard the situation is for everyone.

Cass is such a strong character, and you can't help but love her. Yes, she finds it incredibly hard to adjust to a new life, as anyone would, but together with her family, friends she met in the hospital where she started her recovery and her new found friends Charlie and Ticket, she begins to see there is more to life than being stuck in all day, and wants to make her life better for herself and those around her. Peterson does not shy away from the difficult realities of the situation, and writing in an honest style that really does make you want to keep reading to find out what Cass is going to do next. At times, it isn't easy to read, when Cass is frustrated and upset, you certainly feel upset with her, but it's a very rewarding read and certainly made me feel very grateful not to be in her situation, and full of admiration for those who deal with these things day in, day out.

Another thing I want to mention is a few organisations in the book. Back Up is one charity who help organise adventure holidays and such things for people like Cass who have disabilities, and this is included in the book, and where Cass meets Charlie. It sounds like an amazing organisation, I had no idea that something like this existed and reading about Cass skiing was just eye-opening and brilliant. The other is the association where Cass finds Ticket, her assistant dog. Again, I didn't know this existed but this book opened my eyes to what a wonderful thing it is, and how these dogs really can help people with their independence and just generally making them feel loved and cherished. Cass and Ticket have such a special bond in the book, Peterson makes you fall in love with the gorgeous Ticket, and I could have read so much more about the pair of them.

This really is a superb book that will not only emotionally touch you, but totally open your eyes to a world we don't perhaps think about - one where normal, everyday things in our life become a struggle, where the lives of our family are entirely different in just a few seconds, and even how we can perceive people in wheelchairs, and their lifestyles. Cass shows us that you can live life to the full, with the help and care of the people around you, and shows us how much we can take for granted by being about to do such simple things as walk up a flight of stairs, or reach something from the top shelf in the supermarket, things Cass finds she can no longer unaided. Peterson's writing is simply brilliant, honest and frank, emotional and very touching. By My Side is a book you should read this summer, and it will stay with you long after you turn that final page. An utterly amazing book.

Book News: Christmas at Claridge's by Karen Swan

Christmas is definitely my favourite time of year, and therefore it's pretty certain that I adore festive books too! Karen Swan is back this year with another festive tale, this time called Christmas at Claridge's and it's due out on November 7th, so we've got a while to wait! I love the cover, it's so Christmassy and snowy, I'm really looking forward to this one!

You can pre-order Christmas at Claridge's as a paperback or an eBook now.

"‘This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn’t blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn’t fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.’

Portobello – home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She’s the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything – her home, her job and even her adored brother’s love.Portofino – a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour, and where a neglected villa has been bought by a handsome stranger. He wants Clem to restore it for him and it seems like the answer to all her problems – except that Clem has been there once before and vowed, for her own protection, never to return . . ."

26 July 2013

Book Review: Party Games by Jo Carnegie

"FOR THE PERFECT LIFE . . . YOU MAY HAVE TO BREAK SOME RULES

I'm Vanessa Powell.

People think they know me because I'm famous. They think I've got the world at my feet and the husband every woman wants to marry.

But fame can be a lonely place and the perfect marriage can be even lonelier. Now someone's come into my life who makes me feel alive.

For the first time ever, I'm thinking about what I really want. No matter what the consequences."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Party Games as a paperback or an eBook now.

I love Jo Carnegie's novels, and have read all of her 'Churchminster' series of books, which were fantastic bonkbusters that you could really lose yourself in! With her latest book Party Games, Carnegie has moved away from the village of Churchminster and the familiar characters and introduced us to a whole set of brand new ones. This time, we're in the village of Beeversham where things aren't quite as picture perfect as they may seem. I really loved the book, and the cover is bold and fun looking too. Carnegie hasn't failed me yet in her deliverance of brilliant summer reads, and luckily she didn't let me down with this one either!

Vanessa Powell seems to have it all. Married to handsome TV actor Connor, living in a huge mansion house in a quiet village, and all the money she could ever want. But behind her glitzy facade, Vanessa is a very sad and lonely woman. What could she do to make herself more happy? Catherine had a successful career as a magazine editor, but has now settled down to country life with her loving husband. But Catherine is worried that the quiet life means that she's forgetting about the more exciting side of life, like the one she had in London. Finally, there's Fleur, who is trying desperately to save her family farm from financial ruin. When local hotshot playboy Beau starts making eyes at the farm, Fleur is worried she's going to lose it all forever. Will Fleur, Vanessa and Catherine be able to make their lives in Beeversham a little happier or are they destined for a life of upset and misery?

I have to say that right from the start of this novel, I loved it and I was completely taken in to this new world around Beeversham and it's residents, and I couldn't wait to see what secrets the village was going to hold within. I don't want to spoil it by talking too much about the story because I really enjoyed finding out what was happening as I read, and not knowing anything about it made it all the better for reading it. However, the twists and turns as I read were fantastic and really kept me hooked, and the main crux of the story involving Catherine was completely unexpected, and was actually quite a breath of fresh air! It isn't a subject I've ever read a lot about in chick lit before so I was surprised to see it in the book but it worked really well. Beeversham, the new village, sounds picture perfect, with its rolling hills and countryside, gorgeous mansions and eccentric villagers and I found Carnegie's writing really brings it to life from the pages and into your mind.

The main three characters are brilliant to read about, and between them there is plenty of scandal, shocks and loving going on as well! Catherine is happily married but her inability to conceive is slowly destroying her marriage. She's a troubled character, unable to settle for the quiet life and missing the buzz her London job gave her. I liked her emotional back story as well, I felt Carnegie balanced all aspects of this character well and I really warmed to her. Vanessa seems like a spoilt princess, expecting everything that she wants given to her but is sad behind the happy facade she puts on to the villagers and the press. I actually felt really sorry for her, she was definitely trapped, and needed a way out that wouldn't destroy her beyond repair. As the book progresses, we see other sides to Vanessa and it shows you can't judge a person by how they present themselves to everyone around them!

Finally, there's farm girl Fleur who is desperately trying to save her family farm from financial ruin, after her father is losing the plot after his wife's death. Her storyline with local playboy Beau is really intriguing and I was constantly left wondering whether there would be a happy ending or if he had ulterior motives. The three women, and the funny villagers were brilliant to read about, and I really enjoyed reading about a new cast of characters to get involved with. There was a lot going on in the book and I really had to concentrate as I was reading, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story, and Carnegie is able to bring these villages and their inhabitants totally to life with her writing, you really can lose yourself amongst the pages of this book. It's a big old book with lots of sex, scandal and surprises within, and it's the perfect escapist read this summer. It's a real page-turner, and I loved it. Read it now!

Book News: The Reunion by Amy Silver

Amy Silver's previous two books have been wonderful, seasonal reads, but it seems like we are in for a bit of a change with her new book, The Reunion. The cover is quite striking, I really actually like the look of it, and the story sounds very intriguing to me too. It's due out on 12th September, and I'm very excited to read it.

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

"They thought they'd be friends forever.

Jen, Andrew, Lilah, Natalie and Dan were inseparable at university, but in the seventeen years since they left they have hardly seen each other. Until Jen invites them all to stay at her house in the French Alps. The house where they once spent a golden summer before tragedy tore them apart.

When a snowstorm descends, they find themselves trapped and forced to confront their unresolved issues, frustrated passions and broken friendships. And as relationships shift and marriages flounder, the truth about what really happened years before is slowly revealed. And Jen realises that perhaps some wounds can never be healed..."

25 July 2013

Book News: Christmas at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown

Today the cover for Alexandra Brown's new book Christmas at Carrington's was revealed and it's gorgeous! It's due out on Kindle on 7th November and in paperback on 5th December (hate that we have to wait for the 'proper' book), and I'm so excited to read it. I loved her debut novel Cupcakes At Carrington's and this is a follow-on and part of the series, so look out for it!

You can pre-order Christmas at Carrington's as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Georgie Hart loves Christmas time at Carrington’s Department store. Running the luxury handbag department, Georgie adores helping customers in the hunt for the perfect gift for the perfect someone. And this year is no exception – now she has the hunky Tom, Mr Carrington himself, to spend the special day with. Life couldn’t get any more perfect.

But when Tom springs a surprise, all of Georgie’s plans are thrown into chaos. Carrington’s is getting a fresh lease of life in a hot new reality TV show, featuring the formidable retail guru, Kelly Cooper.

As the first show airs, Georgie is horrified to be shown in a far from flattering light. Worse is to come when Kelly’s vile daughter appears to get her claws into Tom. Georgie fears this will be the worst Christmas ever, but Santa still has a little surprise for her stocking this year – she’ll just have to wait until Christmas to find out…"

Book News: How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern

One of chick lit's favourite authors is back this winter! Cecelia Ahern returns on 7th November with her brand new book How To Fall In Love. I have to say I quite like the cover, it's simple yet effective, and I really like the sound of the story as well, it sounds like something I would really like to read. Luckily, there's not too long to wait!

You can pre-order How To Fall In Love as a hardback or an eBook now.

"She has just two weeks. Two weeks to teach him how to fall in love – with his own life.

Adam Basil and Christine Rose are thrown together late one night, when Christine is crossing the Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin. Adam is there, poised, threatening to jump.

Adam is desperate – but Christine makes a crazy deal with him. His 35th birthday is looming and she bets him that before then she can show him life is worth living .

Despite her determination, Christine knows what a dangerous promise she's made. Against the ticking of the clock, the two of them embark on wild escapades, grand romantic gestures and some unlikely late-night outings. Slowly, Christine thinks Adam is starting to fall back in love with his life. But is that all that's happening… ?

A novel to make you laugh, cry and appreciate life, this is Cecelia Ahern at her thoughtful and surprising best."

24 July 2013

Book Review: Midsummer Magic by Julia Williams

"Recently engaged Josie is visiting her parents in Cornwall with best friend Diane, fiancĂ©e Harry and his pal Ant. Josie can’t wait to start wedding planning, if only Harry was more interested, and Diane and Ant weren’t at war with each other.

As the four make amends over a drink in the local pub, they meet Freddie Puck, a well known TV hypnotist and find themselves agreeing to a dare – to stay out all night on the hills by the standing stones.

Local mythology says a young married couple will find true happiness if they can last a whole night there on Midsummer’s Eve. But as night time falls, not everyone seems to have remembered the boundaries of love…"

Rating: 2/5

You can buy Midsummer Magic as a paperback or an eBook now.

I really look forward to reading Julia Williams' books - her past few offerings have been seasonal treats, and I always enjoy her festive novels which are a real treat. Her latest book is certainly another seasonal favourite, entitled Midsummer Magic, and is somewhat based on the book by William Shakespeare, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. The cover is stunning, really beautiful and is a triumph by the publishers, and I was really excited to read it. I have to confess, though, that this was one summer read I really wasn't enamoured by and really struggled to get to the end of it which left me really disappointed!

Josie and Harry are engaged to be married, and are both thrilled with the prospect. They decide to take a trip to Josie's parents house to plan the wedding, mainly with Josie's mum, and decide to take along their respective best friends, Diana and Ant too. However, it's quickly obvious this isn't going to be a holiday from heaven. Harry doesn't seem interested in any wedding planning much to Josie's chagrin, and Ant and Diana seem to oddly be at loggerheads. One evening, at the local pub, they meet TV hypnotist Freddie Puck, and agree to a group dare. Will the group have the guts to follow through on their promise to Freddie, and will it help the course of true love to run more smoothly?

One of the things I really struggled with in the book was simply keeping up with the story. I didn't have a problem with the characters, and who was who, but it was just the other characters and the idea of the story which seemed to oddly confuse me. The first part of the book was fine, focussing mainly on Josie and Harry, and their upcoming wedding but then it just seemed to get too confusing for me. There was far too much going on, and I honestly could not remember what was happening. Who was meant to be asleep? Who was awake? Where had they gone? It was just too much, and I found myself virtually skim-reading some of it because for me it just didn't work and I was left baffled. Even re-reading some of it didn't help it make any more sense to me, and for me this is a fundamental flaw.

I enjoyed reading about the dislike between Ant and Diana, we aren't told for a long while what went on with these two but at times it was a little childish, and you couldn't help but feel like shouting 'grow up' at the pair of them. In fact, all the characters were slightly annoying throughout the book. Josie was a complete bridezilla who just had a streak about her I didn't like, Harry was a wimp who couldn't be a man about his feelings and admit how he felt, and Diana and Ant played childish mind games on each other. I found the way many of the characters had Shakespearean names was a tad annoying too simply because I felt I kept looking for them as I was reading, which again didn't help with my concentration on the story.

Julia Williams is usually such a fantastic author that I was really sad to not enjoy this one at all. With a confusing and somewhat repetitive plot line, and characters that I didn't really care all that much for, there wasn't a lot in this book to keep me reading, but I felt like I had to finish it in case something exciting happened that I wouldn't want to miss. Sadly, it didn't, and I ended the book still feeling confused (and if I'm honest, I still have no idea what really went on in the Midsummer's Eve bit, too much waking, sleeping, running away and silliness for my liking), and the hypnotism part of the plot just didn't work for me either. As I said, I really have loved Williams' previous books, so fingers crossed her next one will be one I can enjoy once more. I'm sorry to say I can't recommend this one unless you plan to be really confused for a few evenings.

Book News: The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

I have to confess that I hadn't heard of this debut novel until it came through my post box last week, but after seeing the gorgeous cover and reading the blurb, I'm very excited to read Lori Nelson Spielman's new book. The Life List is due out on 1st August, so not long to wait, and it sounds fantastic.

You can pre-order The Life List as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Things to do when I grow up:

1. Have a baby

2. Fall in love

3. Perform live on a super-big stage

Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all: a plum job, a spacious loft and an irresistibly handsome boyfriend. That is, until her beloved mother passes away leaving behind a will with one big stipulation: in order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the life list of goals she'd written when she was fourteen.

Grief-stricken, Brett cannot believe she can ever fulfil her mother's wishes, because to do so would mean losing her job, her apartment, and her boyfriend.

But as Brett reluctantly embarks on a perplexing journey in search of her adolescent dreams, one thing becomes clear: sometimes life's sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places."

23 July 2013

Book Review: Save the Date! by Allie Spencer

"Family weddings can be hell.

...and, marooned in Italy for her cousin's nuptials, Ailsa can be forgiven for thinking that this one is worse than most. With the bride and groom at loggerheads and the guests in uproar, it is a million miles away from the rest and relaxation she'd been hoping for.

And then suddenly, in the middle of the mayhem, she comes face-to-face with Nick, the man she walked out on just a few months earlier.

How can Ailsa help get the wedding back on track when she and Nick can't stop arguing? But if they do, she might remember why she fell in love with him in the first place - and then there really would be trouble."

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Save the Date! as a paperback or an eBook now!

I've read a couple of Allie Spencer's previous novels, and thought that they were great summer reads - light-hearted and fun but with stories you care about. Allie is back this year with another brilliant summer read called Save The Date. I have to say I loved the cover from when I first laid eyes on it, so summery and gorgeous, and the fact it is set almost entirely in Italy is certainly in its favour as well! I am pleased to say that Allie Spencer has certainly delivered with a brilliant novel here, and it's one I definitely recommend for your holiday reading!

If she's honest, Ailsa can't say that she's looking forward to her cousin's wedding in Italy. There's some serious family rifts which means that Ailsa's parents won't be attending, and the bride and groom seem to be arguing non-stop too. It doesn't seem like the dream day is going to go as planned. Just as Ailsa starts getting used to her holiday lifestyle, a blast from the past, her ex Nick suddenly comes back onto the scene. They find that they are put in rooms next door to each other and it's impossible for Ailsa to ignore Nick as she wishes she could. Will Ailsa be able to help the wedding go ahead without a hitch, and be able to make things up with her ex to make both of their lives much easier?

I really liked Ailsa from the beginning of the book. You can tell there's something in her personal life which is upsetting her, and I felt really sorry for her because of it. She's clearly missing Nick, and although she knows it isn't the right thing to get back with him, she's lonely, and misses his company. The book quite quickly moves to Italy, and I really enjoyed that it didn't hang about and got straight to the beautiful location of the wedding, so we could also meet some more characters and get really into the story. There were a few characters I really didn't like, Kitty, Ailsa's sister was one of them, and another was Charles, one of the groom's colleagues. He seemed slimy but I enjoyed waiting to see what was going to happen with these two characters as the book went on!

Spencer writes the scenes in Italy so well, that you can really imagine you're there when you're reading it. The weather sounds perfect, the hotel sounds very glamorous and despite the arguments going on all around Ailsa, it sounds pretty perfect! As well as the fabulous descriptions, I really loved the feel of romance in the book, and also the humour that was littered throughout. It really did make me smile, and I have to say I did fall a little bit in love with Ailsa's new doggy friend Arthur, he certainly created some very funny moments! There was a lot of drama going on in the book along with the laughs, and you do have to concentrate as you're reading to make sure you keep up with what's going on, who is who but I really did enjoy it from start to finish.

Spencer's writing style is incredibly easy to read, and with a heroine that you enjoy reading about and a gorgeous summer setting, I definitely recommend reading Save the Date! this summer. Yes, perhaps the ending was a little bit predictable, but for me, I sometimes like reading and hoping there will be an ending I know will satisfy me and make me happy to finish the book. It'll put a smile on your face, and warm your heart, and is a lovely way to spend the warm summer nights. I think Allie Spencer is getting better with each of her books, and Save the Date! for me is her best book to date. I loved it, and hope you will too.

Book News: The First Time I Said Goodbye by Claire Allan

Irish author Claire Allan is back this summer with a brand new novel, and it sounds fantastic! The First Time I Said Goodbye is due out on 28th August, and I love the cover, it's very pretty and the story sounds wonderful, a real love story. I can't wait to read the book.

You can pre-order The First Time I Said Goodbye as a paperback now.

"Would you hold on tighter if you knew you were saying goodbye forever?

In 1959, factory girl Stella Hegarty finds herself falling unexpectedly for the charms of a handsome US marine based in Derry.

Caught up in a whirlwind of romance which rivals the great love stories in the movies she so loves, Stella finds herself planning a new life in America with her beloved Ray.

But when tragedy steps in, both their lives are thrown into turmoil and they come to realise they may have said their first, and last goodbye.

In 2010, Annabel Jackson, reeling from the loss of her beloved father, agrees to accompany her mother Stella back to Ireland to meet her family for the first time. 

As the pair arrive in Derry - they both start to realise that some times you have to say goodbye to what you thought you always wanted in order to find what you have needed all along."

22 July 2013

Book Review: Deep Blue Sea by Tasmina Perry

"Beneath the shimmering surface lies a dark secret...

Diana and Julian Denver have the world at their feet. With a blissful marriage, a darling son and beautiful homes in London and the country, Diana's life, to the outside world, is perfect. But nothing is as it seems... 

When Julian dies suddenly and tragically, Diana is convinced there is more to it than meets the eye. She calls on the one person she had never wanted to see again - her sister, Rachel.

A former tabloid reporter, Rachel appears to be living the dream as a diving instructor on a Thai island. The truth is she's in exile, estranged from her family and driven from her career by Fleet Street's phone-hacking scandal. 

For Rachel, Diana's request opens old wounds. But she is determined to make amends for the past, and embarks on a treacherous journey to uncover the truth - wherever it may lead..."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Deep Blue Sea as a paperback or an eBook now.

I am a huge fan of Tasmina Perry's books, and have really enjoyed reading her latest few books, which have been perfect summer blockbuster reads. Once again, Perry's publishers haven't disappointed with a gorgeous cover that totally blows you out of the water, and I could not wait to get stuck into the book. It's a rather long one, at nearly 500 pages, but I loved that it was a longer book - I really got my teeth into the story and I wanted to keep reading long into the night, to find out the next revelation and to find out what was going to happen next. As always, Perry didn't disappoint me and I loved the book from start to finish, and it's a must-add to your summer holiday suitcase!

From the outside, it looks like Diana Denver and her husband Julian have it all. Money, gorgeous homes and nice friends, the pair have a lifestyle to be envied. But when Diana suddenly and shockingly finds herself widowed, she's convinced there's more to Julian's death than meets the eye. She doesn't know what to do except to call the last person in the world she thought she ever wanted to talk to again - her sister, Rachel. She's been happily living in Thailand working as a diving instructor, but when Diana calls, Rachel can't resist hopping off on a plane to the other side of the world again, leaving behind her best friend Liam. Will Rachel be able to find out if there's been any foul play in Julian's death, and whether he was hiding any secrets from his loving wife? And will Rachel and Diana be able to end a long-lasting family feud for once and for all?

The book opens with an evening spent with Julian, Diana, and a group of their friends at their latest dinner party. A few facts are revealed, but by the end of the evening, and that chapter, Julian is dead. There's nothing better than a book diving in with the action, and this one certainly delivers on that. I did feel very sorry for Diana in the beginning, there's a lot going on in her personal life and her marriage that we do have to sympathise with, but she is quite a pathetic character really, and I wanted her to grow a bit stronger as the book went on. She did seem to use her sister a bit, her contacts and her journalist skills to find out more about Julian's death, and I did hope that they would be able to heal their rift.

For me, though, Rachel was a far more interesting character. I loved reading about her life and business in Thailand, although that bit was too short for me. I loved Perry's descriptions of the island, Rachel's diving, and how she holds back on what is keeping Rachel from contacting her family and returning home. In fact, it takes a good while for things to come to light in the book, and it really keeps the mystery factor going, making you want to keep reading until you know about it all. The friendship between her and Liam, her business partner, was quite touching too, I enjoyed reading about them. The two sisters are the main characters in the book, we do meet their mother Sylvia who I really didn't like at all, she was horrible to Rachel, and not overly nice to her recently widowed daughter either! Julian is someone we really only meet at the beginning and through other people talking about him, and his brother Adam is also mentioned, although I had my doubts about him and his feelings.

I found this book to be really gripping, and such an exciting read. Perry's writing is fantastic, it really draws you in to the action, and has you flitting around with the story, wondering what shocking revelation will come up next and shock you! I didn't expect some of the things in the book, and I loved the ending too, it seemed very fitting and I was happy as I closed the book for the last time. Yes, Tasmina Perry's novels seem to follow a formula but I don't mind at all - in fact, I love knowing what I'm getting when I start reading her books. They really are escapist reads - usually involving rich people, glamourous locations and an exciting mystery too. I really liked seeing the phone hacking scandal from a journalist's point of view too, it was an interesting look at it, and I liked that Perry included something that was quite recent in her book. Everything about the story was fantastic, and I loved every page of it. Yes, it was a long book but I was up late every night I was reading it as I couldn't put it down. A fantastic summer read, Tasmina Perry has done it again!

17 July 2013

Book News: The Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson

I am a massive Dorothy Koomson fan - her books often take my breath away, and her writing is just fantastic to read. Dorothy is back this year, on 7th November to be precise, with a brand new book called The Flavours of Love. The new cover is featured on the left, and while I wasn't hugely keen on it at first, it's grown on me as it's very different to anything else out there, and I of course can't wait to read the book, it sounds so intriguing!

You can pre-order The Flavours of Love as a hardback now.

"'I'm looking for that perfect blend of flavours; the taste that used to be you. If I find it, I know you'll come back to me.'

It's been 18 months since my husband was murdered and I've decided to finish writing The Flavours of Love, the cookbook he started before he died. Everyone thinks I'm coping so well without him - they have no idea what I've been hiding or what I do away from prying eyes. But now that my 14-year-old daughter has confessed something so devastating it could destroy our family all over again, and my husband's killer has started to write to me claiming to be innocent, I know it's only a matter of time before the truth about me and what I've done is revealed to the world.

My name is Saffron Mackleroy and this is my story."

16 July 2013

Book Review: A Night on the Orient Express by Veronica Henry

"The Orient Express. Luxury. Mystery. Romance.

For one group of passengers settling in to their seats and taking their first sips of champagne, the journey from London to Venice is more than the trip of a lifetime.

A mysterious errand; a promise made to a dying friend; an unexpected proposal; a secret reaching back a lifetime...As the train sweeps on, revelations, confessions and assignations unfold against the most romantic and infamous setting in the world."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy A Night on the Orient Express as a paperback or an eBook now.

I am a massive Veronica Henry fan - I've read almost every book she has written so far in her career, and I always look forward to her latest book because I know it's going to be a treat. Her brand new book is about the infamous Orient Express train. I'll be honest and say I didn't know a huge lot about it before I went into reading this book, so was hoping Henry would be able to fill me in on the glamour and grandeur of the train, as well as a riveting story about the characters who climb aboard it too! The cover is gorgeous, with a stunning scene of Venice, and makes it look like the perfect summer read.

Adele Russell owns an art gallery, but knows that in her later years, she's going to want to relax, and that her grand-daughter who is running it at the moment, Imogen, is ready to move on to bigger and better things. But first, there's something from her past that she has to collect, and sends Imogen on the Orient Express to retrieve the said item from her old friend Jack. There's young farmer Archie who is set up on a blind date with a milliner called Emmie; Stephanie is off on her first proper holiday with partner Simon and his two troubled teenage children, and there's old romantics Sylvie and Riley, who have a tradition of travelling aboard the Express together. This group of passengers are unaware of how much their lives are destined to change on their latest ride from London to Venice on the Orient Express...

I was so eager to get stuck in to this book, that I'll admit I was surprised about the amount of different characters within the story, but as usual, Henry juggles them all with ease and I didn't struggle at all to keep up with who was who, and what their storyline was. Henry introduces them to us bit by bit, telling us about their back story and why they are going on the train, and I really found getting to know these characters to be a really enjoyable experience. They were all very different, at various stages in their lives, and I wondered how many of them would have happy endings. Henry doesn't shy away from writing about some tough subjects within the book, and the way she approaches these in the book makes for really good reading, and certainly had me surprised as things become revealed.

My favourite characters, though, had to be Adele and Jack's story, something which was utterly riveting. We are told about Adele's past through flashback chapters in the book which come quite frequently, but I found myself getting lost in her story, and what she did when she was a young woman. Even though I was totally absorbed with the story aboard the Express, as soon as it switched to Adele's tale, I was enthralled by that - there was something deeply romantic about it, and you're left wondering how it's going to relate to her in the modern day part of the book. I also loved reading about Emmie and Archie, who are set up on a blind date together, and struggle to find any common ground. It was a bit of light relief with poignant overtones thanks to the set-up of their story, and I really enjoyed reading about them.

Now, I can't review the book without talking about the infamous Orient Express train, which is pretty much the centre of the book! It sounds so glamourous, and Henry really brings it alive in your mind with her vivid descriptions, I love reading everything about it, from the opulent dining cars to the cabins, and even the exterior of the train. Even the staff stand out in their own way too, and it sounds like the perfect trip in so many ways. There was something magical about the train, and as the book moved towards it ending, I was hopeful for a pleasing ending for all the characters, even though I really didn't want it to end! Veronica Henry's writing style is so easy to read, you can immerse yourself straight away in her stories, and this book is certainly no exception. It features a likeable cast of characters, lots of love stories and drama too - what more could you ask for?! The perfect summer read :)

Author Article: Veronica Henry

After reading Veronica Henry's amazing new book A Night on the Orient Express, I approached Veronica about writing a piece for my blog, and she came up with the brilliant piece on her own trip aboard the Orient Express... all in the name of research of course! My thanks go to the Veronica for taking the time to write this :)

Ok, so no prizes for originality.  I can't ignore the fact that one of the most successful and best-selling books in the world is Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.  But when I was casting about for the setting for my next novel, I knew I wanted it to be somewhere special.  And one day the idea jpopped into my head out of nowhere and I got the tingly feeling that all writers will be familiar with - when you know you've hit on the device that brings all your characters together: a trip on the Orient Express.

Of course, the one flaw at that point was that I hadn't actually been on the train, and so I steeled myself - ha! - to undergo some rigorous research.  My husband and I arrived at Victoria one Easter weekend, ready to embark on the journey from London to Venice.  I had a stash of notebooks and pens at the ready.  And as soon as I saw the other passengers in the departure lounge, all dressed in their finery, I knew it wouldn't be a question of finding inspiration, it would be knowing when to stop.

Over the next twenty four hours, myriad tales unfolded in front of me.  Everyone on board was there for a reason - whether it was a landmark birthday, an anniversary, a reconciliation, an illicit encounter ... My imagination went into overdrive.

And that was before I had even begun to capture the splendour of the train itself, the sumptuous food, the spectacular scenery.

Writing the book was a dream.  I've explored many different kinds of love: passionate, unrequited, unexpected ...  And the train arrives safely in Venice without a single murder.

13 July 2013

Author Interview: Tamar Cohen

Today, I'm delighted to welcome Tamar Cohen to my blog for an author interview! I reviewed Tamar's latest book Someone Else's Wedding yesterday, which was a gripping read that I really loved. Tamar was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so here they are! My thanks go to Tamar for taking the time to answer them for me :)

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'Someone Else's Wedding'.

Hi Chloe. Well, Someone Else’s Wedding focuses on Fran Friedman, a woman in her mid forties at a crossroads in her life in every sense – marriage, career, family (her daughters have just left home). It is set over a wedding weekend at a country house hotel near Bath where Fran is a guest along with her husband, Saul and their two daughters, Pip and Katy. It quickly becomes obvious that along with everything else that’s worrying her, Fran is also nursing a somewhat unhealthy obsession with the groom! The book has thirty-six chapters, each representing a consecutive hour between 8am on Saturday morning and 8pm on Sunday evening. The rigid structure reflects the claustrophobic mood that long drawn-out weddings often induce.

Q2. I found all of the characters to be quite flawed in the book, I found myself even struggling to like Fran in parts. Do you like writing characters who aren't perfect, and have certainly done things wrong, and how easy is it to make sure they aren't entirely dislikeable so a reader wants to keep reading about them?

There’s a big debate raging at the moment about whether or not it’s valid to talk in terms of characters in a book being ‘likeable’ or ‘unlikeable’. Some people insist they can’t enjoy a book if they don’t like the characters, but I emphatically disagree.  Yes, you have to be interested in the characters, but you don’t necessarily have to like them. To be honest, I don’t know many people who are flawless and haven’t ever put a foot wrong. Well, let’s just say it – I don’t know ANY people like that. The people I know have made plenty of mistakes, and get in bad moods where they say things they shouldn’t, and have upset the people they love, sometimes without knowing it, and on occasion deliberately. They frequently drink too much, and speak without thinking, and wear totally the wrong clothes. But they’re human, and I hope my characters are too. I’ll admit it’s a fine line though, and sometimes after the reaction of my early readers, I’ll go back and think ‘hmmm… maybe that was a little too barbed’.

Q3. I found the book really emotional to read, both from the stand point of Molly, Fran's stillborn daughter, and the other storylines. Do you find it emotionally draining to write stories like this, and do you get upset when you write certain scenes?

Writing the stillborn story thread was very emotional. I did a lot of reading about the subject and found myself sitting at the computer day after day with tears running down my face. It’s the most terrible experience, often made worse because people feel they’re not allowed to talk about it.

Q4. The cover for 'Someone Else's Wedding' is quite shocking - do you like all of your book covers so far, and do you get much of a say in the final design?

I always get sent the design in advance, but by that stage the editors and in particular the sales team have already given it the thumbs up, so they really, REALLY want you to like it. Luckily I’ve loved all my covers, although the cover for The Mistress’s Revenge was very different from the cover I’d had in my head, so it took a little persuading before I came round to it. Of course once it was published, everyone raved about the cover and I realized I know nothing and really I should just leave it up to the experts. Funny, now I absolutely adore that cover. I don’t think the images on the covers are meant to shock, but they need to convey a sense of things not being quite what they seem – the decaying flower with the wasp on it, the ripped wedding dress - because that’s what the books are about; the darkness under the surface of people’s lives.

Q5. This is your third novel - and again it has an element of controversy to part of the storyline. In fact, this is something that's been present in all of your books so far - do you like writing about more unusual topics/stories, and things that will evoke emotion in your reader? I have to say you shocked me with the twist in this particular story!

I honestly don’t set out to be controversial, but I guess I like exploring extraordinary situations where people are taken out of their comfort zones and pushed to extremes – that’s when they reveal who they really are. And that’s something I’m fascinated by – the gap between how people present themselves to the outside world (and even to themselves) and how they really are.

Q6. What is your typical writing day like? How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?

I don’t really have a ‘typical’ writing day. Some days I’ll get up and sit down at my desk and start writing and not look up until lunch time, but more often, I’ll get waylaid by other things that need doing – dogs that need walking, insurance that needs renewing, windows that need staring out of - and I’ll get to the end of the day and have nothing to show for it and be furious with myself. Then I’ll make myself work at night or weekends as penance, even though I ought to know by now writing doesn’t work that way. It’s not about the number of hours you put in, it’s about the number of focused hours. As for how long it takes to write a book – probably as long as the proverbial piece of string. One book took four months, one six and another took a year and a half. There’s no rhyme or reason, they just come at their own pace.

Q7. What are you reading at the moment?

I’m half way through Bring up the Bodies. I loved Wolf Hall but it has taken me ages to get around to reading this second Thomas Cromwell book because it’s just so big! I kept looking at it looming there by the side of the bed, and feeling overwhelmed, and choosing something else instead, something less dense and demanding. Now I’ve started it, I’m really enjoying it, but a little part of my head is still buried in the book I just finished reading – Apple Tree Yard, by Louise Doughty, which was a really rich, tense, totally absorbing literary thriller. I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Q8. Do you enjoy chatting with your readers on social networking, particularly Twitter and Facebook? What are the best and worst bits of social networking for you?

Having readers get in touch on Twitter or Facebook is one of the most rewarding things about being a writer. Knowing that people were affected by your book enough to get in contact is really touching. Often people will want to share how some element of the narrative, or one of the characters or situations reminded them of something in their own lives and I really love that – partly because it shows you’ve made a connection and partly because I’m naturally nosy and relish these glimpses into other people’s lives. For me the best aspect of social networking has been making contact with readers and also with other writers. I’m still astonished that I can read a book I love one night and get in touch with the author the next morning, just by putting their name in a search box. The immediacy of it is unbelievable. The worst thing about it is that the same neuroses that beset my writing, also affect my social networking, so I’ll spend ages trying to think of something to say, and then if I put it out there and get no response, I’m immediately convinced it was the most rubbish, unfunny comment ever, and I just want to crawl under a rock somewhere – preferably one with no wi-fi!

Q9. What are you working on next?

I’m working on a book at the moment that’s quite a departure for me in terms of style, nudging more towards psychological suspense. But it’s like the other books in that it’s looking at the cracks that run under the surface of seemingly ordinary lives – and how all it takes is one shocking event for those cracks to be exposed bringing everything crashing down.

Thank you so much, Tamar!

12 July 2013

Book Review: Someone Else's Wedding by Tamar Cohen

"Mr & Mrs Max Irving request the company of:

Mrs Fran Friedman, mourning her empty nest, her lost baby, the galloping years, and a disastrous haircut.

Mr Saul Friedman, runner of marathons, avoider of conflicts and increasingly distant husband

The two Misses Friedman, Pip and Katy, one pining over the man she can't have, the other trying to shake off the man she no longer wants

At the marriage of their son James Irving, forbidden object of inappropriate and troubling desire

For thirty-six hours of secrets and lies, painted-on-smiles and potential ruin. And drinks, plenty of drinks.

There's nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past. As Fran negotiates her way from Saturday morning to Sunday evening she is forced to confront things she's long thought buried, sending shockwaves through her family, and to make decisions about the future that will have far-reaching consequences for them all."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Someone Else's Wedding as a hardback or an eBook now.

I've been lucky enough to read both of Tamar Cohen's previous novels, The War of the Wives and The Mistresses Revenge, and I was completely engrossed by both of them. I have to say both have a pretty controversial topic, where you end up a bit shocked by what you're reading but at the same time, you just can't put it down because you have to know how things are going to be tied up nicely for the end! Cohen's writing is fantastic to read, and I was thrilled to receive a copy of her latest book Someone Else's Wedding, complete with a pretty shocking book cover that actually I really liked, and eagerly got stuck into the story.

Fran Friedman is getting used to life on her own. Her two daughters have grown up and left home, leaving her home alone with her husband Saul, and she doesn't know what to do with herself. She's still mourning the loss of her stillborn baby just a few years ago, and struggles to cope with the insensitivity of others to the issue. When she and her family are invited to the wedding of Jamie, a family friend, Fran wonders if she can hide everything she's thinking behind a smile. Those around her keep throwing looks at her and Jamie, wondering what could be going on between the older woman and young groom, but Fran is determined to keep her secrets well and truly hidden. At the end of the wedding day, will Fran have made some life-changing decisions of her own?

I have to first of all mention the narrative of the book, which is each chapter is an hour of the wedding weekend, a bit like episodes of 24 which was my first thought when I started reading lol, although with less guns and no Jack Bauer of course! The book only takes place over a few days, but this doesn't slow it down at all, in fact, moving in real time really draws you and you know that things are going to happen quite quickly and dramatically to keep the tension, and I was left wondering how long it would be until Fran gave herself away or something else happened to shock us readers. We follow Fran for the entire book, reading all about her, her thoughts, feelings and her watching the action of the wedding around her, so she is the one we get to know best. She isn't a perfect character by any means, she's clearly hiding something (we don't find out what for a huge chunk of the book), and you cannot help but feel immensely sorry for her over the death of her baby, Molly, and how it affects her in everything she does. Her pregnancy is documented in flashbacks in the book, and were very emotional to read for me, I found some of the scenes quite hard actually.

There are quite a few other characters in the book to keep track of, but the main ones are Fran's daughters, her husband Saul, and the bridge and groom from the wedding. We only get Fran's point of view about these people, so it is a little biased but it's fun to try and form your own opinion of them from things that happen as the book progresses. Jamie was the only one I struggled to like, there was just something a bit funny about him that I couldn't warm to, but when things were revealed (and oh my goodness, I did NOT ever see that one coming!!), it sort of made sense a bit more, I loved that Cohen was able to play about with these characters so well. The wedding itself is the perfect setting - lots of people, lots of things going on, and Fran and Saul's marriage really being put to the test and under scrutiny too. It shows how outward happiness can be a facade, and you feel sorry for Fran as you can see she is still suffering throughout the book.

I loved Cohen's writing, and found her pacing of the book, and the way she spaced it over just a weekend was a really unique way to write, and it was easy to dip in and out of the book as well. You are left wondering and guessing as to what the twists are going to be, but I was truly surprised when things came out in this book, and I really love it when an author can surprise me, especially when I'm right near the end of the book and am sure I've worked it all out! It's an emotional book, very tied up with Fran and her feelings, so be prepared to get quite invested in that, but it is worth the read. I honestly did enjoy this book so very much, Cohen is a fantastic storyteller, and while the cast of characters aren't especially likeable people, you will want to read all about them, and keep turning the pages until you reach the last one. A super story that makes me eager for Tamar Cohen's next book!

9 July 2013

Blog Tour: Author Interview with Lindsey Kelk - About A Girl Blog Tour!

Today I am delighted to welcome one of my favourite authors to my site... Lindsey Kelk! Lindsey's amazing new book 'About A Girl' is out now, and it's an absolute must-read for the summer, I loved every page of it. Lindsey was kind enough to answer lots of my questions, so here it is! My hugest thanks go to Lindsey for taking the time to answer them!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'About A Girl'.

Well, not to state the obvious but it’s about a girl called Tess who thinks she’s got her entire life planned out, thinks she knows exactly what she’s doing and exactly what she wants – a top job at an ad agency, her own flat and the love of her life, Charlie. So when her life is pulled right out from underneath her, she decides to try on someone else’s instead, unfortunately, that someone is her nightmare flatmate. Before she even knows what’s happening, Tess’ London life is far behind her and she’s pretending to be a fashion photographer in Hawaii, fighting off the advances of an irritating journalist and knocking back cocktails with her NBF, Kekipi. But real life has to catch up with her eventually and then what will she do?

I think it’s a fun, funny book that really addresses what we do in life when the thing we thought we wanted turns out to be not be the thing we needed. Or something. I think.

Q2. 'About A Girl' is the first in a new book series for you - what is it about writing series' that you enjoy so much? How many books are there in the new series?!

At the moment I’m planning three books in this series but I was only planning five books for Angela and now it feels like her story will never end! It’s always fun to write characters you know because they more or less write themselves but as a writer, it’s refreshing to create new people and develop their personalities, their relationships and have no idea where they’re going to go. It’s genuinely such an adventure, you never really know what someone’s going to do until they do it.

Q3. Tess is a great lead character for the new book - were you conscious of making sure she wasn't too much like Angela, and making her own person??

For the first few chapters it really was weighing on my mind but after a while, it got easier. Tess felt pretty real from the off. I think because she’s a lot more like me than I’d really like to admit…

Q4. Recently you wrote the last book (for a while) in your 'I Heart...' series (although Angela's now back in 'I Heart Christmas', hurrah!). Before you knew that was happening, how did it feel to write the ending to those characters are 5 books? How has it been to rejoin Angela and Alex again?

Before I started writing I Heart London, I was so done with everyone in that I just wanted it done. I felt exhausted, like I had nothing left for them to say or do but really, I think it was me who was tired and not them. As soon as I got to the end of the book, I was devastated and couldn’t deal with the thought of never seeing them again but I didn’t want to flog a dead horse. It didn’t seem like it would be fair on the story that had gone before. Then, when I was working on About A Girl, I suddenly knew what Angela’s next story was and then I couldn’t wait to start writing them again! It’s been fun to catch up with everyone but it was difficult to get back into the swing of writing people and a city that I know so well when I’d just had the adventure of everyone in About A Girl and exploring Hawaii… Happily, I do heart Christmas so that helped!

Q5. Thanks to Twitter, we can all see that you travel around a lot, especially around America. Where have been your favourite places to visit so far, and where is still on your wish list?

The thing is, I keep collecting people in specific places and then all my spare time is spent going back there to visit. Not that I’m complaining! Hawaii was definitely my favourite place EVER. I really didn’t think it would be as I’m not much of a beach person, generally speaking but wow, it was so beautiful and so relaxing and I just want to be there ALL THE TIME. There aren’t many places I haven’t absolutely loved, Austin is great, DC was so interesting and every time I come to LA I think I never want to leave. Next cities on my US wish list are Portland, San Francisco and New Orleans but I really want to go back to Hawaii and I really, really want to visit Alaska but it’s so far away. In September, I’m off to Italy and I can’t wait. I’ve only ever been to Milan for work so I’m super giddy about this trip. And it might be research for my next book.

Q6. You've lived in NYC a while now - what are you some of your best discoveries from living over the pond... any new foods or products we gotta get over here?!

Honestly, there isn’t much you can’t get everywhere these days – I am obsessed with Sour Patch Kids but they’re in the UK now, thank god. You were being deprived! My favourite US treats are buffalo wings and blue cheese dressing and the amazing Mexican food that you can get everywhere here. Happily for the size of my bum, the chocolate is terrible over here so it’s easy to keep my sweet tooth under control although, if you do come over, make sure you go to a Trader Joe’s supermarket and just buy everything. I’m serious, EVERYTHING. The chocolate covered crisps sound disgusting but they are delicious. Honest.

Q7. Have you read anything lately that you've thought - wow, I wish I'd written that?

Everything I read! I just finished Bright Lights, Big City which I can’t believe I’d never read and loved it and I loved The Selection and The Elite by Kiera Cass. I haven’t been reading any chick lit at all this year because I’m writing all the time and I can’t read my genre when I’m writing. I know, I’m mad. Looking forward to enjoying some of my friend’s books on my time off though.

Q9. We haven't yet seen a cover for I Heart Christmas - have you seen any early designs for it? Will you be coming back to the UK again for the launch of it?

I’ve seen a first sketch and it’s LOVELY. Can’t wait to see the final thing – I’m hoping for lots of glitter – and yes, I should be back! I have to pop back near Christmas anyway to stock up on advent calendars. They don’t have them in the states and it’s a CRIME.

Q9. Can't have a Q&A without a WWE question lol - you went to WrestleMania recently - was it everything you wanted to be, and what is your dream match to see??

Of course! The actual card for Mania was a bit rubbish and the matches weren’t brilliant but the spectacle of it, the size, the pyrotechnics and everything are amazing. I definitely want to go back again. I actually don’t know what my dream match would be… maybe Edge, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and CM Punk in a fatal fourway no DQ match? That would be FUN.

Q10. When I tell people I'm a WWE fan, they're always surprised, tell me it's fake and ask me what on earth I like about it. Why do you think people are quick to mock our love of it, and what do you say to those who don't understand why we like it so much?!

I think most people just think of it as a kids’ thing because they watched it as kids. I try not to be offended, I do understand their position but I just love it. Yes, the storylines are pre-written but a lot of people don’t appreciate the athleticism of the wrestlers, the training, the injuries and the crazy demands of the lifestyle. They’re on the road 200 nights out of the year, that’s not easy. Great wrestling is so much fun to watch, just like any sport. So it’s hot guys, sport plus soap opera – what’s not to love?

Q10. What's next for Lindsey Kelk?? :)

Right now? A shower. And then the beach because it’s my last day in LA before I fly back to London for the About A Girl launch. And then I’ve got to do the final rewrites on I Heart Christmas and then it’s right into the sequel to About A Girl! I think I get another day off some time in March 2014…

5 July 2013

Book Review: About A Girl by Lindsey Kelk

"Tess Brookes has always been a Girl with a Plan. But when the Plan goes belly up, she’s forced to reconsider.

After accidently answering her flatmate Vanessa’s phone, she decides that since being Tess isn’t going so well, she might try being Vanessa. With nothing left to lose, she accepts Vanessa’s photography assignment to Hawaii – she used to be an amateur snapper, how hard can it be? Right?

But Tess is soon in big trouble. And the gorgeous journalist on the shoot with her, who is making it very clear he’d like to get into her pants, is an egotistical monster. Far from home and in someone else’s shoes, Tess must decide whether to fight on through, or ‘fess up and run…"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy About A Girl as a paperback or an eBook now!

Lindsey Kelk is back! Yippeeeeee! I was over the moon when I was sent a really early review copy of Lindsey's brand new book About A Girl, which is the first in a brand new series of books by her, and stars a brand new leading lady, Tess Brookes. I have loved Lindsey's 'I Heart...' series, always eager to pick up a new Angela Clark adventure so I hoped I would be able to get into this too and start to love Tess like I loved Angela! I have to say the cover is so gorgeous and summery, it's most definitely a book you'll want to take with you on your summer holidays and enjoy in the sun, but I enjoyed it just as much on my sofa in a cloudy April too lol!

When Tess Brookes suddenly finds herself being made shockingly redundant, she doesn't know what to do with herself. She loved her career and put everything into it, so now what does a girl do? Tess also manages to make a bit of a hash of things with her best friend Charlie, so when she accidentally answers her horrible flatmate Vanessa's phone, she accepts the job as a photographer in Hawaii, and hops on the next plane out there, never mind the fact she hasn't done any photography in a long time. Armed with Vanessa's camera, and a small supply of clothes, Tess goes about convincing everyone, inclduing journalist Nick who is working on the exclusive job with her, that she is in fact Vanessa, photographer of the stars. The job doesn't exactly go to plan though, and Tess is left wondering how she can possibly pick up the pieces of the mess she's managed to make...

One thing I loved about this book was that Tess wasn't a perfect woman by any stretch of the imagination - she's flawed and she knows it. However, I loved her despite those flaws and I was really keen to read her story and find out what madcap idea she was going to get into next! The fact she accepts someone else's job and hops a plane without thinking of the consequences made for a hilarious story, especially when she realises she actually has to be Vanessa for the duration, and that her reputation isn't the best! I don't think I could have kept it up like Tess does, and it's hilarious to see her as she tries to remember who she is every morning she wakes up! It leads to a lot of laughs in the book, and you can't help but feel a bit sorry for her when it all gets too much and she can't cope! Enter Kekipi, the wonderfully hilarious man in charge of the estate where Tess is staying, he's every girl's perfect BFF and he and Tess were fab to read about together!

Nick was the main male character that we see in the book, a journalist with quite a good impression of himself, and he isn't afraid to show that women like him either. He's a bit of a cad, but you can see why Tess falls for him, and her dilemma in admitting the truth about who she is to him! One of my other favourite characters was Paige, the designer from Vanessa's magazine who is in charge of the photoshoot, a bit of a crazy woman whose heart is in the right place, but you wonder how far Tess can trust her. The whole cast is really likeable, and between them cause a lot of really funny moments that will have you laughing out loud, and cringing as well! Tess is perfect though as the main female character, and I really can't wait to find out more about her other adventures, she's the perfect next Angela!

The setting of Hawaii sounds absolutely perfect, and I am so jealous that Lindsey got to go there to research the book, it's one of my dream holiday destinations! Writing from Tess' point of view, we get to discover the island through her eyes, and it sounds like a dream, Tess certainly picked the right job to accept! I loved that there was a bit of everything in here - love, laughs, sex and a gorgeous location to boot. It's got that typical Kelk writing style too that just makes you want to keep ploughing on to the end of the book, I just didn't want to put it down, it was so much fun to read. I love escapist books that I can get lost in of an evening, and About A Girl certainly delivered that for me. I have to say I loved the little plot twists along the way too, it kept it fresh and me surprised, which is always a good thing! The ending is one that'll leave you satisfied, but certainly wanting to find out what Tess is up to next. It's definitely my Summer Read of the year, and I'm so looking forward to the next book in the series due out in 2014!

4 July 2013

Book Review: Always You by Erin Kaye

"It’s 1992 and Sarah is in love with Cahal, a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. As they plan to graduate from university, all seems set for their happily ever after…

Fast forward to 2012 and something’s gone wrong. Cahal is out of the picture and Sarah is divorced from Ian by whom she’s had two children. What happened? As Cahal walks back into Sarah’s life, can they overcome past decisions and surrounding prejudice and make it work a second time around?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Always You as a paperback or an eBook now.

This is the first novel by Erin Kaye that I have read. I have to be honest and say I was tempted to read it by the cover, purple is my favourite colour and it was so pretty and inviting, I couldn't resist giving it a go. I have read good reviews of Erin's work on sites like Amazon and other book blogs, so I was hopeful that she would become an author that I'd really want to read as I seem to love a lot of Irish authors' writing. Luckily for me, Erin Kaye didn't let me down, and I have to say I really enjoyed Always You and I'm so pleased I decided to give it a try.

Young and in love, Sarah and Cahal are sure that their relationship is going to last forever. However, there's a few obstacles in their way. Sarah's from a well-to-do family, and Cahal is from the other side of the tracks, so when her father finds out, he immediately tells Sarah she is to end their relationship. Move on a few years to the present day, and Sarah is now divorced from Ian, the father of her two children, and Cahal is suddenly back in her life from halfway across the world. When the pair meet entirely by chance, Sarah recognises a spark, and wonders if her feelings for Cahal have ever really gone away. Will Cahal and Sarah be able to make a go of it once more?

The book begins with Sarah and Cahal as teenagers, enjoying their relationship but already showing a slight division, as Sarah is reluctant to tell her family about their relationship. Quickly though, we move to the present day where Sarah is living as a single mum, working hard and juggling her home commitments, as well as her somewhat awkward relationship with her ex husband Ian, and his sick mother, a part of the book which I felt was very emotional and so very well written. The way the broken family blends together in times of sadness was very touching, and I have to admit to shedding a tear or two at some of the times, Kaye certainly writes them with real heart and feeling behind them. Sarah herself was very likeable, and although you get the impression she married her husband for the wrong reasons, she is doing the best she can by him and her children, despite his obvious desires.

Cahal was a fantastic male lead, and you can understand why Sarah loves him! He's the bad boy gone good, and it is quite heart-breaking to read the scenes with Cahal's parents, and you can see why he has a need to be so close to his own family, and his feeling of being torn between those he loves. The love story between them was wonderful to read, it's very much a Romeo and Juliet type story, and as the twists and turns are revealed towards the end of the book, I have to say I was shocked, hadn't seen it coming at all but was praying for a happy ending for everyone. I have to say, actually, that all of the relationships in the book are really wonderful to read, from Sarah and her ex-mother-in-law, to Sarah and her sister, and even Ian and his mother, and Cahal and his children, they're all positive and realistic relationships that were a joy to read about.

I'm so pleased I decided to read Always You because it was an utterly brilliant read that I will certainly be recommending to anyone who loves a proper love story. The characters within a likeable, all keen to do the right thing by those they love yet battling with intense feelings, about many different things. I was kept guessing all the way about Sarah's dad's dislike for Cahal, and Erin Kaye really kept that under wraps, I thought it was very cleverly done in the book. Her writing style was incredibly easy to read, and I was able to dip in and out of the book when I could, and simply pick up the story where I left off. This book definitely makes me want to read more books by Erin Kaye, I certainly really enjoyed this book, and it left me with a lovely warm feeling inside. A fabulous read.