31 July 2012

Book Review: The Day You Saved My Life by Louise Candlish

"A child falls into the river.

A stranger jumps in to rescue him.

And four lives are changed for ever . . .

On a perfect summer's day in Paris, tourists on the river watch in shock as a small boy falls into the Seine and disappears below the surface. As his mother stands frozen, a stranger takes a breath and leaps . . .

From the internationally bestselling author of Since I Don't Have You comes a spellbinding story of passion, heartbreak and destiny - an unforgettable novel about mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and the extraordinary ways that life and love intersect."

Rating: 4.5/5

I have to confess that I haven't really read the last few of Louise Candlish's releases, but there was something about this book that really intrigued. I thought the whole idea sounded great, and really different from anything else I was reading at the moment, and the cover stands out with its bright blue and red too, so I decided to take a chance. My previous gripes with Candlish's books are that they are awfully predictable despite claiming to have big twists, so I was hoping that this book, which has been a couple of years in the making, was going to break the mould and be one that made Candlish one of my "ones to watch" for the future. Luckily I wasn't disappointed, and this is most definitely her best book to date, and here's why!

Joanna, her daughter Holly and grandson Mikey are in Paris for a short holiday to try and give Joanna a break, and help Holly out of the awful depression she is suffering from. However, when they're on a tourist boat ride, tragedy strikes when Mikey suddenly falls overboard into the river Seine. Holly is stunned, and luckily a stranger jumps in and saves Mikey from drowning. Back on shore, James and wife Alexa, who are in Paris to try and save their ailing marriage, are thrust into the limelight when the press find out it was James who jumped in to save the baby boy's life. Returning back to London and normality, Holly begins to come back around again and realise how much being a mother means to her, and starts a journey that is set to change the lives of everyone around her for good. But is Holly taking on her actions for the right reasons, and will James and Alexa survive their rocky patch?

There was something about this book that was really captivating, and I really did enjoy every single page, although it wasn't what I was expecting when I began reading. I don't know what I really expected, but it just felt new and fresh, and totally unlike anything I've read by Candlish before. I found her narrative voice in the novel, which chopped and changed between the characters, was clear and easy to read, and it moved about and around the characters with ease, keeping you in the loop with all of their lives, and making you feel a range of emotions about these very different people. The first part of the book is set in Paris when the accident occurs, but the remainder of the book takes place in London, when the action really starting hotting up and things start changing for them all. The accident, I have to say, is written so incredibly realistically, I almost wanted to stop reading because it was so horrible to read, especially as a mother, and I think it's this hard-hitting realism that makes the book so readable.

Joanna is the eldest character in the book, and the one I really felt sorry for throughout. She's done an amazing job of raising daughter Holly all by herself, and also becoming a young grandmother, and subsequently almost raising Mikey single-handed when Holly suffers from crippling depression. Candlish writes about this issue with a harsh sense of reality, it isn't pretty and it isn't easy to read, but I like that she didn't dress it up, and made you realise how awful Holly felt her life was and how it affected not only her but those closest to her too. I felt desperately sorry for Holly, even as she does the things she does later in the book which I really disagreed with - I felt she was just a lost little girl, and although she puts on a brave face, I don't think all was okay behind the front she puts on. The female characters are so well written, particularly Alexa who I enjoyed reading about so much, seeing a character like her unwind in front of my eyes was fabulous and I was left wondering what she'd do next.

The only male characters in the book worth mentioning are Mikey, the gorgeous son of Holly, and James, Alexa's husband. If I'm honest, although he did a heroic thing, he was someone I instantly disliked, and as the book went on, it just solidified in my mind even more why I didn't like him! However, he's a great contrast to the others in the book, and was the perfect "knight in shining armour" for the story. Candlish weaves the separate stories together with ease, describing the ups and downs of the characters live with real feeling, and I really couldn't predict if it was going to happily ever after for all of them in the end or not. I really was left guessing with this one, and while in parts the action did slow down, it was a fabulous read, and it was a book that really had me enthralled and gripped right from the off. A triumphant return for Candlish, and it makes me excited to read more from this author! A great must-read for the summer.

You can buy The Day You Saved My Life as a paperback or an eBook now!

August 2012 releases

August is shaping up to be a great month for book releases, and already there are plenty that I can't wait to read! I'm excited for books from Sinéad Moriarty, Rebecca Chance, Hazel Osmond, Julia Llewellyn and Molly Hopkins... which are you most looking forward to? Book covers are clickable to take you to their page on Amazon.co.uk for you to find out more :)

30 July 2012

Book Cover: A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams

Okay, I think this is my favourite Christmas book cover ever!! Julia Williams' A Merry Little Christmas is due out on 25th October, the run-up to the festive season, and my gosh have the publishers got this one perfectly right! It's everything I want from a Christmas book cover, and I am now so excited to read this one! Do you like the cover? I'll post the synopsis as soon as it's available. Click the cover to see a bigger version!

You can pre-order it as a paperback or for just £2.99 on Kindle now!

27 July 2012

Book Review: The Beach Holiday by Anita Hughes

"Have you ever wanted to escape?

When Amanda finds her French husband wrapped around his sous-chef, her perfect life comes crashing down. Worse, Andre seems to think she should just accept his infidelity and carry on as normal for the sake of their young son, Max.

Devastated by his betrayal, Amanda accepts her mother's offer of an holiday and runs away with Max to an exclusive resort in Laguna Beach.

The St. Regis Hotel is heaven on earth and Max is having the time of his life. But while Amanda knows she should be using the time to think about what she wants, her life gets more complicated by a meeting with a handsome older man..."

Rating: 4/5

I was approached by Anita earlier this year to review her American published novel 'Monarch Beach'. I said yes because I was really interested after reading the blurb, but when Anita told me she was also being published in the UK by Ebury but under a different book title The Beach Holiday, I decided to wait until the UK release as it would be more appropriate given my readership is mainly UK based. The cover is pretty gorgeous, and I think it's definitely been released at the perfect time for the summer holiday market, and although it wasn't a long book (just shy of 300 pages), it was a really charming read, and it makes me look forward to reading further books from Anita!

Amanda Blick is happily married to French chef Andre, and living in relative luxury with their young son Max. However, Amanda's happy world is shattered when she walks in on her husband getting rather friendly with one of his staff members, and soon discovers this isn't the first time it's happened. She seems advice from her mother, and flees to a posh resort in Laguna Beach for some much needed R&R. When she stumbles across older man Edward, she doesn't expect to find herself attracted to him. Amanda struggles with her new feelings, and whether or not she really wants to leave behind the family life she's built up with Andre. Will Amanda's beach holiday be the end for her, or just an exciting new beginning?

This book doesn't hang about with setting up the scene for the plot, it just happens right at the start and I liked that. It dives straight in at the action, and immediately readers have sympathy for Amanda and her situation. Andre is written as being a French lothario, someone who doesn't see the wrong in what he's doing behind his wife's back because he still loves her and wants a family with her, but a little bit of extra on the side. I was worried that Amanda would be another in a long line of women who forgive their cheating spouse to keep the family together, or because she didn't want to lose him. When she decides to leave town with her mother, I was pleased as I hoped her mum would be a good influence on her. I have to say I loved the character of her mother, she's still grieving the loss of her husband and her own life is led in her husband's memory, not leaving her marital home and feeling somewhat lost. Amanda's trip is not only a life change for her, but for her mother too and I enjoyed reading the close relationship the pair shared.

When the other male in Amanda's life Edward was introduced, I have to confess to being hesistant - he didn't seem like the knight in shining armour Amanda was looking for. In fact, the best male in the entire book was Max, Amanda and Andre's son. He's written perfectly for his age, largely unaffected by his upheaval, and happy to go and do his sports. He was a joy to read about, and was the star in every scene he was in. I loved how close Amanda was with her son too, and how she wanted to try and do the best by him she could. It's a book about different relationships, and how you can learn to define yourself as someone outside of them after being trapped for so long, and I found it a refreshing read in this respect. I hate to use the term, but Amanda does really go on a journey throughout this novel, and I was rooting for her to break away from the awful Andre all the way through the book, he was just slimy and nasty!

The setting was lovely, and the St Regis resort at Laguna Beach sounded like heaven on earth. Amanda and her mother are very wealthy, and Hughes makes this clear by her designer label dropping, descriptions of posh Bentley's and luxurious surroundings at the hotel, but whereas in other books designer brand dropping has annoyed me, it didn't in this book as it isn't used overly heavily or to show off, it's just to remind us of Amanda's lifestyle and financial circumstances. Although Amanda and her mother are wealthy, they aren't defined by their wealth and I liked that. I enjoyed Hughes' writing style, it was very easy to read and I found myself getting into the book straight away. As it's a fairly short book, I read it quite quickly but enjoyed every page. Having read it, I think I like the original title of 'Monarch Beach' better, the reference to something significant in the book is well done there, but there you are! A very enjoyable book I recommend for good summer reading.

You can buy The Beach Holiday as a paperback or an eBook now.

26 July 2012

Book Cover: One Hundred Names by Cecelia Ahern

The book cover for Cecelia Ahern's new book One Hundred Names has finally been revealed, and here it is! It's quite pretty with the pattern made of grey and purple across it, and certainly stands out compared to a lot of cover's we've seen this year. The book is due out on 11th October, and I'm intrigued as always to read Cecelia's latest! What do you think of the cover? Click it to see a bigger version!

"Journalist Kitty Logan’s career is being destroyed by scandal – and now she faces losing the woman who guided and taught her everything she knew. At her terminally ill friend’s bedside, Kitty asks - what is the one story she always wanted to write?

The answer lies in a file buried in Constance’s office: a list of one hundred names. There is no synopsis, nothing to explain what the story is or who these people are. The list is simply a mystery. But before Kitty can talk to her friend, it is too late.

With everything to prove, Kitty is assigned the most important task of her life: to write the story her mentor never had the opportunity to. Kitty not only has to track down and meet the people on the list, but find out what connects them. And, in the process of hearing ordinary people’s stories, she starts to understand her own."

You can pre-order One Hundred Names as a hardback or an eBook now!

24 July 2012

Giveaway: The Day You Saved My Life by Louise Candlish

Thanks to Madeleine at Little, Brown publishers, I have 3 copies of Louise Candlish's brilliant new novel 'The Day You Saved My Life' to give away. I read the book last week, and thought it was an emotional rollercoaster of a read, and quite different to anything else I've read this year. I'll be reviewing the book later this week, so look out for the review then, but in the mean time, enter now to see if you can win yourself a copy!

One entry per household, open to UK residents only, and the giveaway closes on 31st July 2012 at 23:59. Good luck!

23 July 2012

Book Review: The Out of Office Girl by Nicola Doherty

"From London.... Alice Roberts is having a rubbish summer. She's terrified of her boss, her career is stalling, and she's just been dumped - by text message. But things are about to change... ...to Italy When her boss Olivia is taken ill, Alice is sent on the work trip of a lifetime: to a villa in Sicily, to edit the autobiography of Hollywood bad boy Luther Carson. But it's not all yachts, nightclubs and Camparis. Luther's arrogant agent Sam wants him to ditch the book. Luther himself is gorgeous, charming and impossible to read. There only seems to be one way to get his attention, and it definitely involves mixing business with pleasure. Alice is out of the office, and into deep trouble... ...with love"

Rating: 4/5

The Out of Office Girl is one debut I have really been looking forward to all year! It's Irish author Doherty's first novel, and sounded like the perfect summer read. When I first saw the cover as well, I thought it seemed exactly right for the book, lots of bright colour and made the book look fun too, so I eagerly got stuck in. I actually read this book a couple of weeks ago, but due to a broken laptop, I'm only just getting around to reviewing it, but I still remember it very clearly which goes to show what a fun and good read it was overall! If you're looking for a fun and light-hearted holiday read for the summer (if we ever get one!), then look no further than buying a copy of this!

Alice isn't really enjoying her summer. Her career seems to be going nowhere, and to top it all off, her so-called boyfriend has decided to end things by text message, and Alice has had enough. Just as she thinks she doesn't know where else to turn, her boss Olivia sends her on an amazing trip of a lifetime to Italy to hurry up Hollywood actor Lucas Carson with his autobiography which currently seems to be going nowhere. When she arrives though, things don't seem to be as easy as she thought it would be. Lucas' agent Sam does not want him to write the book, and tries to make it difficult for Alice to get alone time with Lucas. So when Lucas offers her the chance to go partying with him to get to know him better, Alice has no choice but to take it. Is Alice actually going to get Lucas' book finished, or does she have other plans for while she's out of office?!

I have to say I loved that this book was written in the first person from Alice's perspective. It really allows us to get into the mindset of Alice, and allows the reader to really follow her story closely, and understand why she does the things she does in the book! Alice is a really likeable character, a normal girl who feels like her life is going wrong. When she's dumped by her boyfriend, it's the last straw and she decides she has to change things. I loved that she jumped at the opportunity to work with Lucas, and reacted how any of us would do to news we'd be working with a Hollywood superstar! She doesn't try to play it too cool, she's excited and normal about it which was great! I liked her all the way through the book, even when her actions seemed a bit questionable, but you know she's got a good heart! She's quite confused throughout the book too, and I had my own hopes for who she would end up with, and Doherty kept sending down several different paths before finally coming to a conclusion, and I loved that the book had a definite ending, I hate it when they are left up in the air!

Doherty writes the other characters in the book really well too, and I enjoyed getting to know them through the duration of the book. My other favourite character was definitely Lucas, the Hollywood actor who is trying to write his autobiography. At first, Lucas seems reluctant and I disliked him for making Alice's job harder, but as things are revealed in the book, I felt a bit more sympathetic towards him. Doherty has made him a bit more human but there's still that celebrity side to him which creeps in all of the time! Sam is his American agent, and a tough character to like. He's a bit rude and brash, but you can see he's only got his clients best interests at heart. Finally, there's precocious young actress Annabel, utterly loath-able but hilarious to read about - you just know there are hundreds of actresses out there behaving like Annabel does every single day!

This is the third book this year I have read that is set in Italy, but I didn't mind too much as it seems such a fun place to read about! It's actually set in Sicily, and Doherty writes the setting beautifully. You can fully imagine the beautiful Villa, gorgeous towns and picturesque views that Alice describes throughout the book, the clear waters and everything just sounds perfect, and it's a joy to read about, especially when we're here in the rain of a British summer! Doherty doesn't shy away from making it sound gorgeous, and accentuates this nicely with lovely descriptions of Alice's clothes, the parties they get up to and weaves this aspect of their lifestyle in with Lucas' past, and the dilemmas that Alice faces as the book progresses. It was a hugely enjoyable read from start to finish, and I felt that it went far too quickly for me. I really loved Doherty's writing style, and found it so easy to read. It's a fantastic summer read, and you'll find yourself transported to Italy with Alice, Lucas and co, and having fun along with them!

You can buy The Out of Office Girl as a paperback or an eBook now!

eBook News: Before the Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson

If, like me, you're a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson and you just can't wait another month and a bit for her new book The Rose Petal Beach, well you're in luck! Dorothy has released a free prequel called Before the Rose Petal Beach, and it includes the first two chapters of The Rose Petal Beach, a Q&A with Dorothy and a scene that happens before the Rose Petal Beach. I've had a read, and it's fantastic, I can't wait until 30th August for The Rose Petal Beach now!

It can be viewed online here for those who don't have an eBook device, or be downloaded as an ePub or mobi file on Dorothy's website.

21 July 2012

Book Review: In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas

"One ordinary morning at work Hannah Brown glimpses a young woman with dark hair, wearing a green coat spattered with rain. The woman is identical to her childhood best friend, Ellen Brecht. But Hannah believes Ellen is dead. Can it really be her?

For a moment it is as though the past twenty years have never happened; life becomes dazzling and exciting again and Hannah remember how it felt to be young and strong, and without regret. Then she thinks about what happened to Ellen and to her all those years ago and she's filled with a terrible fear. Because the seemingly idyllic Cornish childhood she and Ellen shared ended in obsession and betrayal. Has Ellen returned to forgive her, or to punish her?"

Rating: 4/5

I am a big Louise Douglas fan, and have read every book she has had published so far. Her 2011 release, The Secrets Between Us, was a fantastic read, and has rightfully been chosen as one of Richard and Judy's Summer Reads of 2012. That's great news because it's a treat of a read, and I hope it'll open up Douglas to a wider readership because although her books are probably best defined as women's fiction, they are somehow also psychological thrillers in a way too. I think the dark covers hint best at what is inside her books, and I was very pleased to receive a review copy of her latest release In Her Shadow, and very much hoped to enjoy it as much as her previous novels!

Hannah Brown is a normal woman who is trying to get by in life, and put her troubled past behind her. But when she is at work and spots her old best friend Ellen Brecht in the corner of her eye, it starts Hannah on another downward spiral, and makes her panic. The reason for this is that Ellen died years ago, but Hannah knows what she saw. Hannah decides she has to try and find out whether it really is Ellen that is following her, and embarks on the task of finding out more about her friend that she left behind so many years ago. What really went on between Hannah and Ellen all those years ago that shattered not only their friendship, but two families as well? Why is Hannah destined to forever live in Ellen's shadow?

I will confess straight away that this book isn't anywhere near as good as 'The Secrets Between Us', and for me there is one reason for this - the characters. I found both Ellen and Hannah to be fairly unlikeable people, I couldn't empathise with either of them despite what happened to them in the book, and if I don't get on with the characters, it's always a job to give a book a great rating, despite how brilliant other aspects of it may be. Ellen is so self-centred that you just want to tell Hannah to walk away, she's a user and not a very nice human being at all. I felt slightly sorry for her because of her troubled relationship with her father, but for the most part, she wasn't likeable and I didn't care much for her at all. Hannah on the other hand needed to grow a back bone, she couldn't just tell Ellen "no", instead choosing to be destructive in sly ways, and I didn't like that at all. As an adult she isn't much better, doing what she thinks is best despite how it would affect others around her.

The best part of the book for me was the way it alternated between the present day story of Hannah trying to find out about the Ellen who is chasing her around, and the past tale of Hannah and Ellen as children, and how things came to be on such a decline between them. I was really intrigued by their childhood tale, with Ellen being ruled with her father's strict upbringing rules, a very awful man that you cannot help but hate. However, it was so well written that you couldn't see the twists and turns coming, and by the end when all is revealed, I was truly stunned because I didn't forsee anything like that at all, and I loved that Douglas was able to hide that from her readers. She describes the setting, the events so well that you're there in the book with Hannah, feeling her emotions along with her, even when you dislike her and don't want to feel any empathy for her at all!

I found in parts it did drag a little bit, and I had to force myself to carry on for a while. Some of the descriptive passages, particularly those with Hannah and Ellen's childhood tale were quite long-winded and I felt I had to really press on through. However, the book seemed to really pick up around halfway through and I read on to the end as I wanted to find out who was chasing Hannah and why she had been living with such a guilt over Ellen. Things are really slowly revealed to the readers, and it keeps your attention in that respect, as you're always wondering what is going to be revealed by Douglas next. It's not as tense or thrilling as The Secrets Between Us, but is certainly a good read for those who like something a bit darker in their reading material, and some quite serious issues are covered in the book. It's a well written and enjoyable read that is well worth picking up this summer.

You can buy In Her Shadow as an eBook or a hardcover now.

19 July 2012

Giveaway: Win a copy of 'Finding Mr Flood' by Ciara Geraghty

Thanks to Ciara Geraghty's publishers Hodder, I have one copy of her new look novel Finding Mr Flood to giveaway to a reader! Simply fill in the Google form below, and you're entered into the draw.

Only one entry per household allowed, and as it's open to UK residents only, please only enter if you live in the UK. Winners will be chosen at random using random.org after the closing date on Monday 23rd July 2012 at 23:59. Good luck!

Book News: The Wedding Diaries by Sam Binnie

I do love a new book series, so I was really excited to receive an ARC of Sam Binnie's brand new book The Wedding Diaries last week! It's the first in a new series starring character Kiki, and it sounds brilliant. I also love the cover, very pretty! It's out on 16th August as a paperback and eBook, so not long to wait.

"The first in a brand new series introduces Kiki Carlow, a woman on a mission to create her perfect wedding.

Kiki Carlow is shocked but delighted when boyfriend Thom proposes. Planning a wedding is easy, right? That’s as long as you ignore:

1. The utterly bankrupting price of the only dress you’ll ever truly love.
2. Your suddenly pregnant sister – surprise!
3. The celebrity wedding you’re covering for work which is devouring your every waking thought.
4. The Mother of the Bride. Entirely.

Kiki soon discovers that planning the perfect wedding might just bring total chaos to the rest of her life. Can she stop being a Bridezilla in time to marry the man she loves?

Heart-warming and hilarious, The Wedding Diaries will make you laugh, cry, and want to watch Bridesmaids all over again…"

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

18 July 2012

Book Review: Perfect Strangers by Tasmina Perry

"Just an innocent invitation...

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

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

Escape with Tasmina Perry from London to New York to the exotic Cote D'Azur, and into a world where a simple case of mistaken identity unravels a web of lies and international conspiracy."

Rating: 5/5

For some reason, I never used to read Tasmina Perry's novels, but when I read her 2010 release Private Lives I was hooked, and have loved all 3 books of her I have read since then. I was so excited to receive an ARC of Perfect Strangers. As usual, it's a rather long book at nearly 600 pages (well my ARC was anyway), but I find that with Perry, every page counts and I couldn't wait to get stuck in. The cover for the book is absolutely gorgeous, a perfect summer scene that will make you want to grab a copy off the shelf, but doesn't actually hint at the amazing, exciting and thrilling read that lies between the pages! I wasn't expecting the story I got with this book, but I loved all of it and really couldn't put it down, you'll be dying to see how it's going to end!

Sophie Ellis' life has come crashing down around her lately, and she doesn't know where to turn. Her beloved father recently died from a heart attack, leaving her and her mother in dire financial straits, and with nowhere to turn, Sophie accepts the offer from a rich client to house-sit in Knightsbridge for a few weeks. There, she meets American businessman Nick and the pair embark on a passionate relationship which ends abruptly when she finds Nick dead in their bathroom. With Sophie convinced the police are on her tail for murder, and a gang of gun-toting Russians following her every move, Sophie has no alternative but to go on the run with a new found friend, and hope that they together can find out the truth before Sophie pays the price with her life.

As you can see, this isn't your usual chick lit novel, sounding more like a thriller from the synopsis. It begins simply enough, with Sophie trying to get her life back on track but as soon as she finds Nick dead, the book takes a big turn and the chase is on. I absolutely loved this part of the book, and thought it was so well done that you can't help but be absorbed into the tale. I felt so sorry for Sophie, she is just a girl caught at the wrong place at the wrong time (in her eyes) and is scared witless when Russian gangsters start shooting at her, as we all rightfully would! Perry writes these scenes so realistically, she draws you straight into the action and moves it along at such a fast pace you feel like you're in the middle of the scene with Sophie and Josh. What makes it better for me was that Perry chose to write in the third person, so although it's written from Sophie's story, we have the benefit of not being in her mind as such, and it makes it very exciting.

The characters in this book were brilliant and for me, they made it even better. I really liked Sophie from the beginning, she's likeable and realistic, and reacts to her situation exactly as I think I would, scared and trusting of someone who seems to know what they are doing - Josh. The pair have great chemistry, and I really loved the "will they, won't they" aspect of their relationship. Josh was brilliant, there were so many layers to him and all the way through I wasn't sure if I could trust him or not. The other excellent character is Ruth, a journalist based in London who has caught onto Nick's murder and wants the exclusive, whatever the cost. Perry writes this character with such ease, showing how journo's work with the Police to get their information in a variety of ways, and I was shocked and loving Ruth's work along the way! A great cast work so well for this plot, and Perry makes the plot perfect for the people she's put within it.

The excitement of this book is fantastic, and never lulls. It travels from London to Europe, and finally over to America, so there's always something going on. Perry writes beautiful about the places the characters visit, from the rural areas to the hotels, both good and bad, and you really feel like you're in these places along with Sophie and Josh. The pace never slows down, and I loved how you couldn't guess where it was going, the Russians suddenly pop up and the action goes into over-drive once more. I was completely hooked by this book, and couldn't put it down until I found out if Sophie and Josh would be okay, what happened next and just who murdered Nick! We're strung along all the way and I have to say I loved that I couldn't guess the ending, it made it even better! I can't recommend this book highly enough, it's definitely my favourite Tasmina Perry novel to date, and it's a must-read for the summer!

You can buy Perfect Strangers as a hardback or an eBook now!

Author Article: Tasmina Perry

Today I am lucky to be welcoming the lovely Tasmina Perry to my site with a fabulous author article about 'Where Inspiration Strikes'! Tasmina's new book Perfect Strangers is due out tomorrow, and it's a great read, I'm reviewing it this afternoon. My thanks go to Tasmina for taking the time to write this article!

"When Inspiration Strikes"

Something I hear a lot from people is that they’d love to write a book if only they knew what to write about. Let me reassure you – there are ideas all around you! Here are a few places I get inspired.

Talking to friends
The idea for my second novel Gold-diggers was based on a party I went to with a friend who had started going out with a very rich and connected businessman. What an eye-opener it was meeting and hearing about the wives and girlfriends of some of the wealthy men who were there. Some were childhood sweethearts but others seemed quite ‘focused’ in landing their rich paramour. The more questions I asked the more it seemed there was a whole scene of very beautiful woman who had it in their sights to land a millionaire and knew all the places to go, where to shop, how to look to do it. It was fascinating and I knew I had to get pen to paper to write about it!

On holiday
I know you’re supposed to go on holiday to relax but I usually take my laptop with me wherever I travel. Maybe I’m solar-powered but I always seem to write more when I’m away! More likely is that going on holiday relaxes you and the ideas flow more freely than when you are stuck at home worrying about when you are ever going to get down to the supermarket or the gym. Plus on holiday you get to see places and experience things that aren’t usually on your radar.

My new book Perfect Strangers is a chase story which takes our heroine Sophie around the world in search of the secret behind her boyfriend’s death. Several scenes are set in Cap Ferrat which I been to a couple of times and which I thought was so beautiful and elegant I knew I had to one day write about it.

On day trips
I visit as many museums and exhibitions as I can. In the past few weeks I have been to the Scott of the Antarctic exhibition at the Natural History Museum, Hampton Court, a talk by famous Pop artists Sir Peter Blake and the Ballgown exhibition at the V and A. Sometimes I feel guilty about bunking off from work but reading things, seeing things, hearing things that help you jump into another world, another time really does spark off an amazing amount of ideas. I am currently writing a book for next Christmas called The Proposal. The entire idea came from visiting the Last Debutantes exhibition at Kensington Palace. Seeing all the beautiful dresses, the dance cards, the cigarette cases and lipsticks from the 1950’s helped it come alive in my head.

In Bed
Some people count sheep. I count plot holes! And it works! I’ve worked out lots of twists and turns for my novels as I’m drifting off to sleep. I also drive my husband mad turning the lamp on in the middle of the night to scribble down a dream I’ve just had.

On long drives
Somewhere among the sweet-wrappers, the road atlases and the CD cases, our car is stuffed with notebooks. Every time we take a long drive my husband and I talk for hours about plots and ideas for new books. We plot and dream and scribble it all down. Dozens of scenes of books have been brainstormed on the long drive to Cornwall or going up to see my parents in Manchester.

At work
I was a magazine journalist for years. It was the best job in the world and I got to travel the world and meet lots of famous and interesting people some of whom have inspired and influenced lots of the characters in my novels.  Before that I was a solicitor which really helped me when I was writing Private Lives – which was set in a media law firm.

The point is, it doesn’t matter if you are a history teacher or a hairdresser, what you do, people you meet can light the crucial spark for a book idea.

17 July 2012

Picture This, Picture That: This Child of Mine by Sinead Moriarty

I really loved the cover for Sinead Moriarty's next book This Child of Mine (due out on 9th August - left), but the publishers have taken the unusual step of completely changing it for it's paperback release in 2013. The trade paperback cover, left, is gorgeous, very pretty but the new look is totally different! According to Sinead's Facebook page, the new cover on the right is for the paperback release in 2013. I actually really like this cover too! I don't normally go for photographic covers, but I think with the title of the book it works really well, and I love the purple highlights too, it's really fresh and emotive... now I think about it, I think I might prefer it, and it might get a broader readship too. So... which cover do you prefer? Vote in the poll below now and let me know! :)

surveys & polls

eBook News: It Happened At Boot Camp by Molly Hopkins

Ahead of the publication of her brand new novel It Happened in Venice, Molly Hopkins is releasing an exclusive short story starring the great Evie Dexter and it's got a bit of a twist... you can choose which ending you're going to pick for her! It's due out on 19th July as an eBook only so keep an eye out for it!

"Give up men for 2 weeks? Impossible!

But Evie Dexter has challenged her flirtatious, man-addicted best friend Lulu to do just this. And Lulu never shirks a bet.

In a flash of deranged inspiration Lulu books them both on a week's stay at an all-female military-style Boot Camp in the boringly beautiful English countryside - surely a guaranteed man-free zone. But with one meagre gym visit between them, a shared passion for white wine, saturated fats and sitting in front of the television - just how long can Evie and Lulu stick it out?

This story is sooooo good it has three different endings, but there can only be one winner! You decide."

You can buy It Happened At Boot Camp as an eBook!

16 July 2012

Book Review: The Au Pair by Janey Fraser

"Apparently anyone can set up an au pair agency around their kitchen table. So when money gets tight, Jilly does exactly that. But she hadn't reckoned on Marie-France, a sparky French girl, signing up in the hope of finding her father, twenty years after her own mother had been an au pair in the same town.

Then there's Matthew, a confused widower whose daughter has driven away a string of au pairs. Can Jilly ever find him the perfect match?

And let's not forget the rest of the au pair mafia, including Heidi, Fatima and Antoinette who 'likes children but not very much'.

The Au Pair is an hilarious but truthful romp through the world of au pairs and their unsuspecting families."

Rating: 4/5

Janey Fraser's second novel of 2012, The Au Pair, is one I have been looking forward to reading since I enjoyed her debut novel The Playgroup earlier this year. When I first saw the cover too, I thought it was perfect for the book and I was even more excited to read it. I have to say I was surprised when I received a review copy because it looked like a long read, at nearly 600, longer than most chick lit books are, and considerably longer than her previous novel. Still, I was hoping the story inside would be good enough to carry it through, and hopefully be as enjoyable as The Playgroup! In case you didn't know, Janey Fraser has also published novels under the name of Sophie King, all of which are fabulous too!

The book tells the story of several au pairs living in Britain with different families in one small town. Jilly decides to start up her own 'Au Pair Agency' after finding her financial situation at home a bit too tight for comfort, and the fact that she can't go out to work full time due to her young twins. Her first au pair, a young French girl called Marie-France seems like a dream, and is placed with a quite dislikeable British family, with the mother Donna treating Marie-France as her slave. Another client of Jilly's is widower Matthew, struggling to bring up his daughter alone, especially as she's adamant she doesn't want an au pair in her home. Jilly's other au pairs including Heidi, Fatima (who's hiding a bit of a surprise!) and Antoinette, the trouble maker. Will Jilly be able to make a success out of her agency, or has she got one au pair too many on the books?!

Now just from that synopsis you can see that there are a lot of characters, and that's the way it is throughout the book. There are a lot of names to get your head around and I found myself struggling a little bit at first to keep with who was who! After a little while, I settled into the different stories and started to enjoy the different characters, but it is a little mind-boggling at first! I also found that I confused the au pair's more than anything else, as some of them only get a passing mention whereas others (such as Marie-France, my favourite by far) are far more pivotal in the story. I think Fraser enjoys writing big casts in her books, as there were a lot of them in The Playgroup too, and as long as you're paying attention you won't find too many problems as you are reading!

All of the au pairs in the book are foreign and come from Europe with various states of English language, qualifications and expectations in the job, something I expect is quite reflective of real life. I found the language barrier was an amusing addition to the book, because it caused some humour between the characters and it did make me giggle at times. I liked the way Fraser weaved it easily into her stories, and it made me realise how easily we use our funny English expressions, and how they often don't relate at all to what we are trying to say! I found the au pairs were all well written characters, with Marie-France being my favourite and the nicest of the bunch - I can't say I would want any of them in my home though, most of them were dreadful! Saying that, the English housewives (and Matthew) weren't much better and clearly blurred the lines of what they thought an au pair was for! Jilly, who is trying to run the ship, was honestly quite useless and I got a bit exasperated by halfway through at her!

There are a lot of things going on in this book, and while I enjoyed it a lot, I did find there was too much happening for me in parts and I did struggle to keep my head above water with what was going on. I really enjoyed reading the story of the widower Matthew bringing up his daughter alone after the death of his wife, it was sad and dealt with the difficulties a single dad has to go through, and how grief affects adults and children in different ways. Fraser deals with this story theme, and the others in the book very well, including Marie-France's own desperation to find her British father whilst working as an au pair. It felt really long as I was reading it, and there were perhaps a few stories which could have been cut out and not missed, but its a good book to take on a longer holiday to sit and enjoy in the sun, good escapist reading that'll make you glad you don't have an au pair to be honest! It's funny, well written and an enjoyable book which is perhaps slightly too long, and while it's not as good as The Playgroup, it's still very much worth reading!

You can buy The Au Pair as an eBook or a paperback now.

Book News: Looking for Fireworks by Holly Cavendish

I saw this cover on Twitter last night and just had to share it with you, I think it's so beautiful! (Click it to see a larger version) Holly Cavendish's novel Looking for Fireworks is due out on 11th October 2012, and sounds like a great read. Holly is the pen-name of brilliant author Ruth Saberton, so if you've loved her book, you'll enjoy this too!

"When it comes to finding love, every girl is . . . looking for fireworks...

When her father becomes ill, single city girl Laney Barwell moves to the Cotswolds to look after him. She’s been looking for fireworks in her love life ever since she broke up with her predictable ex-boyfriend Giles, but she has no thoughts of kindling the spark she’s looking for here. If she can’t find love in a big city like London – with all its internet dating, singles nights, and socials – how can she ever hope to meet the man of her dreams in the tiny village of St Pontian?

But there are two prospects when she gets there: Martin who can always be depended on for a kind word of advice. And Toby, who is distant, but who sets her heart ablaze.

When it comes to love, should Laney trust the logic of her head or the racing of her heart?"

15 July 2012

Book Review: On The Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

"When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a summer job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family's holiday home in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation: a tropical island beats the library any day.

T.J. has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He's almost seventeen and if having had cancer wasn't bad enough, he now has to spend his first summer in remission with his family instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.'s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Marooned on an uninhabited island, Anna and T.J. work together to obtain water, food, fire and shelter but, as the days turn to weeks then months and finally years, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man..."

Rating: 5/5

Although I am quite a prolific reader, I have to confess to sticking to what I know in my reading material. I rarely go away from the women's fiction/chick lit genre, so it has to be something really good to entice me away from my known and trusted books. I received a review copy of Tracey Garvis Graves' debut novel On the Island a few weeks ago, but quite quickly dismissed it as it didn't seem like something that would interest me hugely. Then I saw a few tweets about it, and then decided to look it up on Goodreads. Well, that instantly changed my mind as there were so many reviews raving about it. I did wonder if it was another Fifty Shades of Grey... you'd love it or hate, but decided to try it nonetheless. Was it any good? Well put it this way - I read it in just 6 hours and was up until 3am doing so.

The book quickly dives into the action, and I loved that. It begins introducing us to high school teacher Anna, who has just accepted a summer tutoring a teen who is in remission from cancer on holiday with his family. The pair are flying out separately from their hometown, and when they arrive near their destination, they hop on another plane which has an awful accident. The pair ended up crash landed on a desert island in the middle of nowhere, with no hope of being found. The pair are frightened, and start to learn how to survive on the island, learning how to find food, shelter, and cope with being the only people in each others lives for the forseeable future. As the months turn into years, the pair grow closer, and have adjusted to their lives as survivors against the odds. But do the pair stand a hope of ever being found?

As I said, the book quickly gets to the part of the plane crash and Anna and TJ's subsequent stranding on the island. The way Garvis Graves writes the scene is extremely realistic, and has you on the edge of your seat, wondering who is going to survive if at all. It's frightening to read, probably not one to read if you're afraid of flying already but I enjoyed the scene. The book is then with these characters stranded, and what I found was so amazing about this book is how beautifully Garvis Graves writes the emotions of these characters, and how realistic it all sounds, and it consequently made me feel so sorry for Anna and TJ. Their fear, worry, solitude and loneliness are profound throughout the story, and even when they seem to have settled into their new lives, and are quite accepting (in a way) of what has happened, you can still feel their grief at their circumstances.

The book is told with alternating chapters, with Anna as a narrator, followed by TJ. This worked so well because it allowed to really understand the feelings of both of these characters completely, and really get into their heads and states of mind. Garvis Graves also writes their different ages and personalities too, from the older, more mature Anna who has concerns about her career, her family and TJ's health, to TJ, a younger teenage boy who comes with all the feelings being a teenage boy en-tales! The relationship between the pair is so well written, with Anna being the more cautious and hesitant of the pair, with TJ stepping up to the plate of being the only male around. I found myself loving him for wanting to help and support Anna even though he is in the same cuircumstances as her, and loving Anna for just being herself. Despite the considerable age difference  between the pair (Anna is in her early 30's, and TJ is mid-late teens), they bond quickly, and the friendship and relationship between them seems so natural and is a joy to read about - in fact, their ages work to their advantage several times in the book - Anna's for wisdom and maturity in times of danger, and TJ's for his youth and optimism.

Their stay on the island is so well imagined by Garvis Graves, that for the time you are reading the book, you are the third inhabitant of that island along with them. Everything, from the way they hunt fish, to the medical problems, dire weather situations and exploring the island is perfectly written, and jumps out to you from the page. I loved the realism Gravis Graves used, and the language allows you to really imagine so brightly in your mind. I felt emotional along with these characters, everything they felt, I felt too and it allowed me to get so into the book, I could enjoy it even more. I am not going to spoil it by going into any plot detail, but I loved it more as it went along, and the twists and turns along the way just kept me glued. It got better and better, and even when it was way past my bedtime, I couldn't put it down as I had to find if there would be a happy ending for Anna and TJ. This is one of those books you'll be thinking about long after you put it down every evening, and I will be recommending it to everyone I know. It's emotional, you'll feel everything from fear, shock, love and relief, but it's worth every bit of it. A stunning debut - if you read one book this year, make it this.

You can buy On The Island as an eBook now, or pre-order as a paperback (18th August).

11 July 2012

Book Review: French Lessons by Ellen Sussman

"The only thing that lasts is love, even when it's gone. Three French tutors meet at a small café that spills out onto the sunny Parisian backstreet of Rue du Paradis. Nico, Philippe and Chantal meet here every Wednesday morning, before leading their students along the grand boulevards, winding alleyways and sweetly perfumed jardins of the city of lights. But today's lesson will be very different - and none of them are remotely prepared. Josie arrives in Paris desperate, alone, and hopeful that this trip might mend her broken heart. Ex-pat Riley is a long way from home and drifting further and further away from her husband. Could Philippe provide the distraction she craves - and can she gain the courage to break free? Jeremy is the dutiful husband of his famous actress wife. While she is busy filming on the banks of the Seine, he is content playing second fiddle. Until he meets Chantal... In the haze of a Paris summer, long-buried secrets rise to the surface and relationships are challenged. Can the lessons learned in one day change all of their tomorrows?"

Rating: 4/5

I received a review copy of this book from American author Ellen Sussman last year, but for some reason decided against picking it up. When I received another copy of the updated cover for this book, it reminded me how much I wanted to originally read after some other reviews online I had read, and so I decided to give it a try. I had a little space in my review schedule, and felt like I needed something a bit different, and wondered if French Lessons was going to be it. I hadn't liked the new cover up until I saw it for real, and I think it's quite beautiful and under-stated - not at all in your face but subtle and soft. As I said, this was first book from Sussman so I went into reading it without any expectations, but I'm so pleased I gave it a try as it was a really lovely book.

I didn't realise when I began reading this book that although the characters were linked by the fact that they are all French language tutors in Paris, the rest of the book is actually separate tales of what each of them gets up to in the city with their latest students, and the effects this has on them as people. The book starts with the three tutors, Chantal, Nico and Philippe meeting in a café, awaiting their students for the day, not expecting to be dealt the hands they are. Nico meets American French tutor Josie, who is getting over the death of someone close to her, but is also hiding a secret she doesn't know how to deal with. Philippe meets American housewife Riley, who now lives in Paris with her family, but her marriage might be falling apart. Riley knows its wrong but feels the pull of Philippe away from her husband. Finally, Chantal is paired with film star's husband Jeremy, a man playing second fiddle to his superstar wife. Can she coax him out of his shell?

What I loved about this is how the book is defined by the three separate stories and really allows you to get immersed into them, as there is no diversion until the story has reached its conclusion and it moves onto the next one. At the beginning of each story, there is a small map of where they travel in Paris which I thought was a lovely addition, although I have to be honest and say that I didn't follow it! Josie's heart-breaking story is up first, and Sussman covers this delicate issue with ease, balancing Josie's grief with wanting to be happy about her secret, yet feeling completely isolated and over-whelmed. Josie's story is revealed gradually, and although we wouldn't perhaps usually sympathise with her, I found myself feeling incredibly sorry for this lost woman, and thought Nico was the perfect character to empathise with her. Her tale, and what they get up to in Paris, brings the truth of their realities home to both of them, and I felt this story was the best in the book by far, it really touched me.

That isn't to say of course that the other two stories, with Jeremy and Riley aren't really good too, but I just felt Josie's was my personal favourite. I found Riley a little bit dislikeable if I am honest, and I couldn't sympathise with her feelings all too much. Philippe too wasn't a particularly nice character, and this comes across as the story between the pair develops further. Jeremy and Chantal have a nice story, with her showing him her city, and Jeremy consequently realising what is important in life. Sussman has the knack of writing about these sensitive issues with ease, and with real feeling too. No matter how you feel about these characters, you can't deny that you are moved by their stories, and what happens for each of them. The fact each of the students are far away from home, somewhat alone and lost is important, and this novel conveys all of those feelings and how it makes all the other problems seem much worse. The way the characters open up easily to strangers is also interesting, and made me think.

The setting of Paris for this book is fantastic, and Sussman must have personal experience of the city because she writes it so clearly and beautifully. I enjoyed reading about all of the places that these characters visited during their sessions with their tutors, each being important in their own way. French language is of course used in the book, and most of it is explained by the English speaking characters, but when it isn't, it's clear there is a reason for that too. Sussman really explores the Parisian setting and lifestyle beautifully in the book, and weaves the individual stories of the characters into this, allowing them to develop and make momentous decisions for their lives based on their own French Lessons. I found Sussman's writing style very easy to read too, and I ploughed through the book in no time at all. There's no big shocks or cliffhangers - it doesn't need them and works perfectly without them -  it's just a well written, character driven novel of discovery, truth and love. It's a lovely story with powerful themes, and is a thoroughly enjoyable novel, a great summer read.

You can buy French Lessons as a paperback or an eBook now.

Blog Tour: Author Article by Ellen Sussman

I recently read and absolutely adored Ellen Sussman's new novel French Lessons, and was asked to be a part of Ellen's blog tour for the paperback release of the book on July 5th. (You can buy the book as a paperback or an eBook now). Ellen was kind enough to write me an article about her own writing, it's a great read! My thanks go to Emily at Corsair, and to Ellen for writing the article!

"I’ve been a writer all my life. I write about contemporary life, about relationships and love and loss. I always push myself to go deeper as a writer, but it wasn’t until I pushed myself deeper as a person that I was able to make some real breakthroughs as a writer. How’d I manage that? I left the country.

When I was thirty-one, I moved to Paris for five years. It didn’t just change my life – it changed me. Some of those changes were small – I learned to dress better, I expanded my food horizons, I learned to love city living. Some of those changes were momentous. In my twenties I was conflicted about being an American – I had been part of the hippie culture and the anti-Vietnam war movement. In Paris, I became an American. Being a foreigner made me clear about who I was in a way that I couldn’t fathom when I was among my own kind. And I learned to see the world from a much broader perspective, instead of a small American perspective. 

My writing flourished after that experience of living abroad. I felt as if I could write more deeply about my characters’ experiences – because I understood my own in a new way. My eyes were wide open – and I tried to capture that every day when I sat down to write.

When I started to write a novel that took place in Paris, I began with an idea: how could one day in Paris, one hot summer day, change the lives of three Americans? As I entered their world, I saw the ways in which a foreign culture challenged them, opened them up, and took them someplace new. I could use all my knowledge about how living abroad – or even travelling abroad – gets under our skin and makes us feel different. I’ve never had so much fun writing a novel. 

FRENCH LESSONS tells the story of one American ex-pat and two American tourists. One loves Paris, one hates it, and one is seeing it for the first time. All three grow to love the city by the end of the day. But, more importantly, they all come to know themselves because they are in a new, unfamiliar world. 

I still travel a great deal. I’d still like to live abroad again for some length of time. The experience of leaving home is remarkably valuable for a writer – when we leave home we begin to learn ourselves in a brand new way. And we use that knowledge to deepen our fiction."

Thanks so much, Ellen!

9 July 2012

Book Review: Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer

"Delilah knows it's weird, but she can't stop reading her favourite fairy tale. Other girls her age are dating and cheerleading. But then, other girls are popular.

She loves the comfort of the happy ending, and knowing there will be no surprises.

Until she gets the biggest surprise of all, when Prince Oliver looks out from the page and speaks to her.

Now Delilah must decide: will she do as Oliver asks, and help him to break out of the book? Or is this her chance to escape into happily ever after?

Read between the lines for total enchantment . . ."

Rating: 4/5

I don't normally read YA novels, as while I enjoy them, I still prefer the fiction aimed at my own market. However, I am a huge Jodi Picoult fan, and when I was offered the opportunity to read and review her brand new YA novel written with her daughter Samantha Van Leer, I decided I wanted to give it a try even though it isn't normally something I would read. The cover for the book is stunning, a gorgeous mix of yellows and purples (and is immensely better than the US cover, well done to publishers Hodder) and looks somewhat magical just by that. I started to read, wondering if I'd find this as compulsive as Picoult's adult novels, and I was really surprised by the story inside... a magical fairy-tale of love and books!

After reading Picoult's author notes at the start of the book where she writes about how fans of her books have asked her to write something for a younger market, it made me realise how much of a broad appeal this author holds. Her books are worldwide best-sellers, turned into Hollywood movies, and it seems that younger readers want in on Picoult's work too. Some of her adult novels contain themes perhaps inappropriate for younger readers, but Between the Lines balances that problem perfectly. It's a magical story aimed at the younger market, those readers old enough to sustain a near 400 page novel but has that brilliant Picoult writing we adult readers have come to know and love. The inclusion of her daughter Van Leer as a co-writer is a good one, and you cannot tell where one person's writing ends and another begins.

I'm not nomally a fan of magical books - I personally just prefer something a little more realistic and true to life, and have really struggled with chick lit books with the magic element before by authors like Cecelia Ahern. However, Between the Lines doesn't pretend to be anything other than a magical tale, and I loved that from the outset. Our protagonist is a teenage girl, Delilah, who realises she probably shouldn't be reading fairytales (says who?!) but is so in love with the book anyway, she doesn't care. Delilah goes through all the emotions you'd expect of a character in her circumstances - shock, disbelief, awe - and I liked how Delilah's obsession started to affect other parts of her life too, showing how reading and books can encroach on even the most studious student and loving daughter! The way Picoult and Van Leer unfold the world of Oliver within the pages of the book is so clever, and I didn't disbelieve anything I was reading, and I certainly didn't scoff at it like I have magical tales in the past.

What worked so well for me was how they constructed this world between the pages of the books for Oliver and the cast of his novel, who come to life when the book isn't being by a reader. Oliver is his own person despite his character and flaws, and is desperate to experience the real world with Delilah. The pair go through several means and ways of helping Oliver escape the pages, and we're really left wondering if the pair are going to be able to complete the feat. Oliver and Delilah's burgeoning romance is very sweet to read, and while you realise Delilah's naivety for falling in love with a character in a book, there's something wholesome and touching about the whole. Picoult and Van Leer tell the story through 3 main storyline threads - interestingly, they are all in a different colour print which is something I've never seen before in a book like this, but I really liked it, it was different! We have Delilah's story, Oliver's story and then the actual fairytale story, which is far less prominent than the other two but still important.

The other thing I want to mention are the drawings. At the start of each of the fairytale chapters, we get a beautiful hand-drawn picture relating to that part of the book, taking up a whole page, and they are really stunning. There are also small drawings across the pages of the book too which is a lovely addition, and they are just a lovely addition, some of them are gorgeous. This is a really lovely YA novel, which I think is going to appeal highly to the younger age of the market simply because I think the upper end is catered for with the hard-hitting teen fiction out there (Twilight, Hunger Games) and there are some who just won't like the magical element. Me? I really enjoyed it, found the writing style easy to get into and I really liked the cast of characters as well. Oliver is a British Prince, the perfect antithesis of American teen Delilah, and it's a sweet romance that will leave you with a smile on your face. Lovely book.

You can buy Between the Lines as a hardcover or an eBook now.

Book News: Little Sister by Lucy Dawson

One book I am really looking forward to this year is Lucy Dawson's brand new book Little Sister. I've been waiting a couple of years for this book after it was put back a year from an original 2011 release date, but is all set for publication on 11th October, and I can't wait! Here's the synopsis:

"In the dead of night, Kate receives a phone call. Police have recovered her sister Anya's clothes and personal belongings at the poolside of a remote hideaway in Mexico - a place she had no idea Anya would be. Anya was last seen getting into a vehicle with a local diving instructor but now he's missing too. Their relationship has been complicated ever since a devastating tragedy blew their family apart, but Kate cannot believe Anya would willingly travel somewhere so isolated with a man she barely knows ...would she? In a race against time, Kate must fight to find her little sister before it's too late."

You can pre-order Little Sister as a paperback now.

6 July 2012

Book Review: The Long Weekend by Veronica Henry

"In a gorgeous quay-side hotel in Cornwall, the long weekend is just beginning . . .

Claire Marlowe owns 'The Townhouse by the Sea' with Luca, the hotel's charismatic chef. She ensures everything runs smoothly - until an unexpected arrival checks in and turns her whole world upside down.

And the rest of the guests arrive with their own baggage. There's a couple looking for distraction from a family tragedy; a man trying to make amends for an affair he bitterly regrets . . . and the young woman who thinks the Cornish village might hold the key to her past.

Here are affairs of the heart, secrets, lies and scandal - all wrapped up in one long, hot weekend."

Rating: 5/5

I've been a big fan of Veronica Henry's books for years, and always really look forward to her books coming out every year as I know I'm guaranteed a great read! Her 2011 release, The Beach Hut was one of my favourite summer reads of last year, and my favourite Veronica Henry book I've read so far. Therefore when I received a copy of her brand new book, The Long Weekend, complete with a beautiful summery cover (something foreign to all of us in the UK at the moment), I was really excited and looking forward to reading this one. From the blurb, it sounded like the sort of thing I would enjoy, and I'm glad to report that I wasn't wrong - it's brilliant!

Claire Marlowe is happily running her beautiful hotel with boyfriend Luca, the hotel's chef, and it seems like life is good. The hotel is a success, and things between the pair seem to be going well too. However, when an arrival from Claire's past checks into the hotel, she is shocked and begins to remember her life before she owned the hotel, and her feelings from the past as well. While Claire is doing this, the stories of the current guests and staff begin to unravel, from Colin and his "friend" who seem to be more than they seem, to young couple Dan and Laura on the hunt for someone very important, to receptionist Angelica whose home life is one she loves to leave behind when she starts work every day. What will the guests and staff get up to on one long weekend? Will things be able to go back to the way they were?

Allow me to warn you now. This book is completely engrossing. I seriously didn't want to stop reading because there was always something happening, and I wanted to find out what was going to happen in the next chapter, so I really had to force myself to put it down every time I had to do something, but I could have easily sat for a day and read the whole thing through in one sitting! There is something about Henry's books that I don't find in other books, and that is the way she transports me away in my head to the location of the book when I'm reading. I was totally in Cornwall with Claire and co. every time I picked that book up, and I felt totally immersed in the characters. There is something about the way she wrote the small town where the hotel is that makes it sound perfect, from the glorious hotel to the lovely views and everything else there - it sounds perfect and it even mentions that magical ingredient missing from our lives at the moment - sunshine!

The characters in this book make it worth reading, because they are great and you genuinely care about their stories and what is happening in their lives. They are all normal people, flawed humans who are trying to make sense of the troubles in their lives in different ways. There's the landlady Claire, whose past is suddenly brought back to the forefront of her mind when someone from her past makes an unexpected arrival in her hotel - I really loved Claire, and I actually preferred her past story to her present, I really got lost in her tale and lost romance, it was so well written and enjoyable to read. Then there is Colin, who has turned up with a friend and her daughter, with a secret he is trying desperately to make amends for without really knowing how. Receptionist Angelica is great at her job, and manager Claire is proud of her, but behind the business facade is a troubled home life she is desperate to run away from. The other characters are young lovers Dan and Laura, hunting a person who could make Laura feel complete, and hotel investors Trevor and Monique who are more than the rich, clueless people they seem to some.

There's a lot of characters in the book but Henry writes them all so well that I never confused with them at all. Each of their stories is an important as the next, covering different themes from lost love, to infidelity and grief. It's all sensitively handled, and the stories happen at just the right pace that they seem believable and like it'd happen that way. It's written in the third person which allows all of these stories to happen at the same time, and Henry seamlessly chops and changes between them all, keeping the action going all the time. The setting of the hotel is great - things happening away from home makes the characters be a little braver than normal, and I enjoyed watching each of the stories slowly unfold. Although Claire is the main protagonist of the book, the one holding it altogether, that doesn't stop the other stories being just as important, and I loved this about it. It was a joy to read from start to finish, I didn't want to leave these characters behind in sunny cornwall, and as usual, Henry has left me wanting much more. An absolute joy, the perfect book to sit down and lose yourself in. Brilliant.

You can buy The Long Weekend as a paperback or an eBook now.

5 July 2012

Book Review: The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

"Welcome to The Three Captains. A charming bijou guesthouse on the Maine coast which is a haven of calm for guests and owners alike. When Lolly summons home her nieces, Isabel and June - one recovering from a broken heart, the other struggling to bring up her young son singlehandedly - they assume she's going to sell The 3 Cs, the place they called home after they lost their parents in a car accident. But the truth is much more heartbreaking than that. Along with Lolly's daughter Kat - also at a crossroads in her life - the women spend their first summer together in years and home truths and long-buried secrets begin to emerge. Then movie buff Lolly invites her three offspring to attend her legendary movie nights and what at first seems like a few hours of distraction from their tumultuous lives becomes so much more. What they discover shakes them to the core, brings them together after years of discord, and provides them with the inspiration that they need to truly connect with each other and find happiness."

Rating: 5/5

This is one debut novel I've been really looking forward to reading for a while now, so I was thrilled to receive a review copy from the publishers a few weeks ago. I think the cover is lovely, really fresh and bright and would certainly make me want to pick it up in a shop and find out more. I happen to really love Meryl Streep and her movies, so I was curious how the author Mia March would be able to weave Meryl's movies into the story and not make it seem like they were just there for the sake of it. As soon as I began reading the book, my fears just melted away because it was a fantastic read, and I loved every page, not wanting it to end!

The book is the story of the women of one family, each going through their own personal turmoil but being united by the weekly Meryl Streep Movie Club held at their guesthouse. There's family matriarch Lolly, who has her own daughter but took in her nieces when they were children after their parents were killed. The three girls think Lolly's distant and not overly affectionate, but when she summons them all to the guesthouse for a surprise announcement, they are left wondering what it could be. Lolly's daughter Kat is running her own cake business but is struggling with her love life and the expectations put on her. Her cousin Isabel, living a comfortable life and married to husband Edward is about to get a shock, one that will make her question everything she thought was true, and welcomes the break at Aunt Lolly's guesthouse. Then there's her sister June, a single mother to son Charlie, and whose heart is still in the past and damaged. Will June be able to find answers to hers (and Charlie's) questions, and will the Meryl Streep movie club make the four women closer again?

What I loved about this book is how much it relies to family to work, and highlights the importance of letting your family take care of you when you really need them. None of the women in the story are especially close at the beginning of the book - sisters Isabel and June don't even speak unless they're at a family occasion, and Lolly and Kat aren't exactly a close mother and daughter. Yet events throughout the book enable the women to let down the boundaries they have built up and finally let the others in to help them, even if they can't be of much use, just for emotional support. I loved each of the female characters in the book, Mia March has written them to be really likeable and I found myself feeling sad along with Isabel and June, frustrated along with Kat and accepting along with Lolly.

My favourite character was certainly Isabel. She's a bit of a snob at the start of the book, someone you can't expect to like but as the book goes on, I really warmed to her and felt sorry for her due to her circumstances. She is really going through a bad time, and I liked her development throughout the book. I really enjoyed reading June's story as well, how well she does as a single mother and her wanting to find Charlie's father - that was an intriguing storyline and it was really fun to read too. Lolly and Kat were also well written characters, and the mother-daughter relationship wasn't at all perfect which I am sure a lot of women will be able to relate to in different ways. The chapters are all written from different perspectives too, all in the third person, but the change allows the reader to get more involved in each of the stories, and I found it really fun to read.

The issues in the book were all written so incredibly well. I don't want to go into any real detail here to avoid spoilers, but I found all the themes weren't easy but were weaved into the book beautifully and were each important for their characters in their own ways. I found the way March used Meryl Streep's movies at exactly the right part of the book to be fantastic, I haven't seen some of the movies but they are each perfect for the time they appear and for the characters to see something in them that helps them too. The whole thing is just beautifully written, from the lovely descriptions of Lolly and Kat's guesthouse, to the small town they live in - it all sounds perfect, and a great cast of likeable characters make it even better. This book will be a keeper on my shelf as I know I'll want to read it again, and this is certainly up there amongst my favourite reads this year, it's fab!

You can buy The Meryl Streep Movie Club as a paperback or an eBook now.

Book News: Can We Start Again? by Shirley Benton

Irish author Shirley Benton is back with her second novel this summer, and what a gorgeous cover it has too. Can We Start Again? is due out on 5th July (and well done to Poolbeg for finally bringing out Kindle books!), and is one I will be looking out for - it sounds great!

"Is it ever too late for a second chance?

Tammy and Alvin had mapped out their entire lives together, including a pre-parental plan – a list of everything they wanted to do as a couple before they have children. But no amount of planning could have anticipated the heartbreaking problems that lay ahead of them – problems that shattered their once-perfect relationship and led to a traumatic break-up.

After years of trying to move on, Tammy’s world is turned upside down when Alvin comes back into her life asking for a second chance – with a difference. He proposes that they spend time together, doing the challenging activities they had once so eagerly planned, in a bid to remember why they felt they'd have children together some day, and ultimately recapture what they had.

Still in love with Alvin, Tammy finds herself powerless to say no even though their problems are still simmering in the background and threatening to boil over at any moment. Still, what they once had is surely worth trying to save?

But can something that’s broken ever truly be whole again?"

You can pre-order Can We Start Again? as a paperback or an eBook now.