25 November 2009

Author Interview: Lucy Dillon

Author Lucy Dillon first came to my attention when I read her brilliant debut novel The Ballroom Class and loved it. Since then, I've been waiting for a new release from her, and it's finally (almost!) here. Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts is due out on 26th November, and looks like a fabulous read! Lucy was kind enough to grant us an interview, so have a read to get an insight into Lucy and her life!

1. Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book, Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, is set in Longhampton's dilapidated dog rescue, and is the story of broken-hearted Rachel's mission to pair up her late aunt's collection of waifs and strays with new owners. Rachel starts off her rehoming drive just to get the rescue emptied, so she can sell Dot's house and move on, but by the end of the novel she's discovered that there was much more mystery in Dot's life than her family ever realised, and that her real future - and a real love - might lie in a very unexpected place. You don't have to like dogs to enjoy the story - there's a big cast of friends juggling romances, dramas and laughs - but it's the sweet, silent unconditional love between Rachel and her aunt's faithful collie, Gem, that made me cry (and smile!) most when I was writing it.

2. Your brilliant debut novel The Ballroom Class was based around dancing. Is this something you enjoy doing yourself? How did you come up with a plot around a dance class?

I absolutely love dancing - it's the best escape you can have from everyday stresses and worries. You feel glamorous, energised, uplifted - a bit like a night on the champagne but without the hangover next morning. And I'd really encourage anyone who loves Strictly to book some proper ballroom lessons: knowing the steps takes some of the 'fear' out of getting up onto the floor, especially for men. The lessons I took with my husband inspired the story - we had a fantastic teacher called Diana, who told us all sorts of great dancer gossip, and we met lots of different couples and professionals while we were stumbling about, getting our feet in a muddle. My husband was a bit like Ross to begin with - not that keen, but willing to give it a go - but after a month or two, he was the most majestic waltzer I've ever seen. It sounds a bit corny, because it's exactly what happens in the novel, but we honestly did see a whole new romantic side to each other, and now you only have to show us a dancefloor for us to get our foxtrot on.

24 November 2009

Book Review: The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

The residents of 66 Star Street in Dublin are all being watched... but by what? Maeve and Matt seem happy enough to anybody looking in, but behind the facade is a truth that neither of them wants to be made public. Katie and Conall have a love/hate relationship, but how will the arrival of TVgardener Fionn affect their relationship?

Lydia lives with Polish men Andrei and Jan, but can't stand either of them... not to mention the problems Lydia is having with her own mother as well. And Jemima lives with her lovely dog Gurudge, but is sure she feels the presence of something hanging around the house of 66 Star Street. Just what, or who, is watching these people? And will the secrets that bind them ever come out?

Marian Keyes is one of the most successful chick-lit authors of all time, yet strangely I have only read 2 of her books. I loved Watermelon, one of her earliest books, but her last release This Charming Man just didn't do it for me. So it was with trepidation that I decided to try out her latest offering which has probably been the most anticipated books of 2009. It's had numerous cover designs posted all over the net (some loved, some hated), but finally the book had its British release at the end of last month, and I couldn't go into a bookshop with seeing Marian's gold shiny book everywhere. I got my copy from the library as I don't buy hardbacks and quickly sat down to read it.

19 November 2009

Book Review: Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon

Rachel is a bit horrified when she finds out that her Aunt Dot has died and left her entire estate to her. Dot's legacy is a boarding kennels in the middle of nowhere, a huge house and a lot of debts to go with it, and Rachel doesn't much fancy moving and becoming at one with the dogs and their owners. However, when she arrives, she finds the people are nice folk with hearts of gold, and that the dogs quickly grow on you as well. Rachel soon begins to make friends with George, the dishy local vet; Zoe, a single mum of 2 young boys struggling to cope with them and new puppy Toffee; Natalie and Johhny, a couple who subsitute a baby for a dog for the time-being whilst they hide a painful secret, and of course Megan who helped Dot run the whole show. Will Rachel be able to settle down and mend her lonely heart once and for all?

I read and adored Lucy's debut novel The Ballroom Class when it was released last year, and I've been really eager for her to bring a second book out! When I found it was about dogs, I was a bit unsure as I'm  not the biggest dog lover in the world, but the cover won me over with its lovely winter setting, and I think it's going to be a big seller in the run up to Christmas.  The book is published on 26th November, and it's one that will be worth the wait and is perfect for the cold winter nights.

17 November 2009

Book Review: Once In A Lifetime by Cathy Kelly

The town of Ardagh in Ireland loves its local department store, Kenny's, run by David Kenny. But things to do with the people aren't all rosy. David's wife Ingrid, a politics TV Presenter is juggling her family life and work life, but she soon unearths a secret that will shatter her world. Kenny's employee Natalie is starting to question her father about her long-deceased mother, and finds out some shocking revelations that rock her. Charlie Fallon, a make-up guru at Kenny's is in despair at her rocky relationship with her mother, but loves her own husband and son. She's determined to make it right with her mother, but are they both too stubborn? And finally, Star Bluestone who provides tapestries for the store, holds the knowledge to help all these women in their hours of need. Star knows how important it is to these women to find closure... but will they let her provide it?

Cathy Kelly is a very popular Irish author, and amazingly this is the 11th book she has released. She's been writing since 1997, but since I was only 11 years old then, I've only just really got into her work, my first Kelly novel being her previous release, Lessons in Heartbreak (reviewed of course). I wasn't overly impressed but hoped that this one would be more enjoyable for me. When I read the blurb, I wasn't too sure as it sounded like a lot of characters and would therefore require a bit more concentration that I liked to give a book but still I was willing to give it a real go and head into it with an open mind. It was a rather chunky book, so was one that would take me a while, and consequently give me a chance to really get into it.

14 November 2009

Book Review: The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

16 year old Tamara Goodwin had it all - a loving set of parents, a huge house, enough money to buy whatever she wanted whenever she wanted it. But when she finds her father dead in his office and uncovers a huge load debts that he was hiding from her and her mother, Tamara's world comes crashing down around her. She's forced to leave her beloved home and move in with her mother's brother Arthur and his wife Rosaleen who are a tad strange to say the least.

Tamara hates living in the back of beyond with no shops around or social life to speak of. When the travelling library pays a visit, Tamara decides to give it a go, and uncovers an unusual book. It's got no author or title, and it's locked too. Eventually Tamara manages to get the lock open and is shocked to her core by what she finds inside the pages. The book seems to be telling her what's going to happen in her life tomorrow... but can Tamara believe it?

This is one of the year's biggest releases in the world of Chick Lit in my opinion - Cecelia Ahern has really hit the big time with her writing since the success of her debut novel PS... I Love You written a few years ago now. Since then, she's been bringing out magical books one after the other, and The Book of Tomorrow is her latest release. I didn't like Cecelia's debut at all, although I loved the film, and then last year I devoured her Christmassy-themed book The Gift and adored it so was hoping for similar feelings toward this book. I finally got my copy from the library a few days ago and sat down to enjoy this book.

12 November 2009

Book Review: The Dilemmas of Harriet Carew by Cristina Odone

Harriet Carew is struggling to juggle all of her commitments, be it financial, family or job and its stressing her out. Her and her husband Guy are determined to send their boys to the local private school, but are finding it hard to pay the fees. Consequently, Harriet finds herself at work more to earn some pennies while hubby Guy is being wooed by BBC to turn his books into TV documentaries.

But Harriet's past comes back to surprise her in the form of her ex-boyfriend James who's now a rather wealthy businessman. Is Harriet going to be attracted by what could have been, or will she stay with financially struggling Guy and their family?

According to the first couple of pages, Cristina Odone originally wrote the character of Harriet Carew for the Daily Telegraph newspaper in a series of columns called "Posh and Poor". The column was so well received that she was commissioned to write a book about Harriet, and this is the result. Now, I've never read either the Telegraph or Odone's column so I didn't know what to expect from either thing, but I presumed it must be quite good for a book to have come out of it. I therefore looked forward to good characters and a good writing style, and while I was satisfied on one account, the other sadly left me cold and somewhat annoyed by the time I finished my book.

10 November 2009

Book Review: The Difference A Day Makes by Carole Matthews

William and Amy are happily married, have 2 lovely children and both have great career in the world of television as well. Life is treating them well, but when Will suffers a heart attack on the underground, he makes the momentous decision not to go back to work... ever. Amy can't believe he'll stick to it, and so is horrified when Will decides to buy a delapidated old country house and move the family halfway across England to live there. Amy isn't cut out for farming or the slow pace of country life, but she wants to adapt to make her husband happy.

But when tragedy strikes, can Amy hold it altogether for the sake of their 2 young children? Will young vet Guy be able to help Amy not only with her animals but with rebuilding herself too? This is a tale of living the dream... but what happens when it's not your dream but someone elses?

Even though she has a very large catalogue of books, Carole Matthews' isn't actually an author I have read all that many books by! My first of her books, It's A Kind of Magic, was good but not really my cup of tea. So when I was sent this by the publishers for review, I hoped it was a little more down to earth as the plot sounded exactly like something I would like to read. Amazingly, this is Carole's 13th novel, and her latest (book 15!) is due out early next year entitled It's Now or Never. The pretty orange cover of this book gives an impression of summer but I actually found it to be a great winter read as there are some touching Christmas scenes in here!

7 November 2009

Book Review: The Jewel Box by Anna Davis

Grace Rutherford loves living in 1920's London. She's got a good job in advertising, and has a column in a great newspaper writing under the pseudonym of Diamond Sharp which tells ladies in London of the best places to go and the in-fashion haircuts to have too... a 1920's 'IT' girl if you will. Grace meets famous writer Dexter O'Connell and begins a passionate affair with him, swept up with the romance and excitement of the moment, and the pair have fun.

But when Grace is introduced to her sister Nancy's new friend John Cramer, Grace begins to find herself having feelings for him too even though she knows her sister adores him. As she woos both men, she finds they are bitter enemies but it isn't clear why. Can Grace discover the truth behind the animosity and will she be able be to choose between Dexter and John once and for all?

When I first saw this book, I adored the cover with its blue theme and foil highlights but I wasn't sure the story was my cup of tea. I'm not overly keen on books set in anything but a modern time, but I was really determined to give this a go as it sounded so interesting, and I am really glad I did because I think this is a real gem of a story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. This is author Anna Davis' 5th novel - Anna used to work as a columnist for The Guardian newspaper and at a literary agency as well, so she has plenty of experience with writing and this really shows throughout the book.

4 November 2009

Book Review: All I Want Is You by Martina Reilly

All I Want Is You tells us the story of Poppy Furlong. Poppy has grown up in a wealthy family, always having the best of whatever she wanted and never having to work for it either. But Poppy gets a shock when her husband Pete comes home one day with a shocking revelation about his successful Architects business. Poppy's life is thrown into disarray as she has to give up her beautiful house, settle in to a more surburban area than she is used to, as well as coping with her wild and difficult 6 year old. Poppy isn't used to being challenged, but she's about to face some pretty big ones...

Martina Reilly is actually the same person as writer "Tina Reilly", she has just changed her first name to apparently appear more grown-up, and has changed the cover style of her books from loud and garish, to more mature and chic. I wasn't too annoyed at picking this up thinking it was a new author to discovering it was someone I'd read much before as I did enjoy her books but I was unsure whether she would have changed her writing style as well as her name....

2 November 2009

Book Review: Last Christmas by Julia Williams

Cat and Noel Tinsall are having a few troubles in their marriage at the moment. Cat is struggling to juggle her home life with her job as a columnist, and Noel is scared of being made redundant, something he doesn't want to share with his wife.

In the small village of Hope Christmas near to where Noel's engineering company is building an eco-town, the residents there are gearing up for Christmas. Marianne is still reeling after being dumped by Luke, her fiancĂ©e; and farmer Gabriel is helping his young son Stephen get over the abandonment of his mother Eve.

Will all 4 be able to get over their worries before the festive season is upon them once more? Or is their Last Christmas their last happy one?

When I heard that Julia Williams was bringing out a Christmas-themed novel, I was really excited because a) I love Julia's book and b) I absolutely adore Christmas. I was even more happy when I saw the cover of the book for the first time - it really captured the essence of Christmas in one picture and couldn't wait to read it. As soon as it came through my letterbox, I picked it up ready to devour and did so within a few days... I couldn't put it down! Suffice to say it's put me right in the Christmassy mood even though it's only early November, but there you go! This is Julia Williams' third novel following Pastures New (which I loved) and Strictly Love.