31 January 2012

Author Interview: Jessica Thompson

Yesterday I brought you a review of Jessica Thompson's fab new novel This Is A Love Story. Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing the author herself, Jessica Thompson, and asking her a few of my burning questions about the book, her plans for a second novel, and a few other things in between as well! My thanks go to Jessica for answering my questions, and to Lucy at Hodder for helping organise this. Please enjoy, and do take a minute to check out my review of this fantastic book too!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book This Is A Love Story.

This Is a Love Story is a modern 'will they won't they' tale with a twist. Set in London, the story begins when Nick and Sienna meet eyes over a copy of The Metro. Over a five year period the two share an unusual 'friendship' where they try to hide/fight their feelings for each other with sometimes hilarious effect. The humour is very British, the topics are wide ranging, and many people will be able to relate to this story and all the confusions that come with modern relationships.

Q2. Sienna and Nick are fantastic characters, and both equally loveable in their own ways. Could you pick a favourite between them?!

I couldn't pick a favourite between Nick and Sienna. I can obviously relate to Sienna more because she is a woman, but I thoroughly enjoyed writing Nick's chapters too. I became very attached to them in the writing process and they felt like real people in the end! I feel like I know them inside out. Who they were as characters was very clear in my head from the first line, and I think that's a good sign. I'm delighted that they turned out how they did and that I was able to bring them to life in this way.

Q3. There is a really serious storyline in the book involving Sienna and her father, and their relationship was perhaps my favourite in the book. How did you come about deciding to put this particular storyline in, and what research had to go into it to ensure you portrayed it accurately?

The narcolepsy thread in This is a Love Story was inspired by knowing a man who has the condition. A lot of the film and television depictions of narcolepsy can poke fun at it, and I had already been exposed to narcolepsy through the media before I met him. But when I did get to know him, my experience was totally different. All my expectations were turned upside down. I found myself unable to stop thinking about him and the life he lives, and I was keen to incorporate this kind of experience into my story by creating a character with narcolepsy. I was struck by how sad and debilitating the condition is, but also how positive and inspiring this man is, and how he always has a smile on his face. I respect him greatly for this. I carried out a lot of research, and consulted sites such as Narcolepsy UK (http://www.narcolepsy.org.uk/).

Q4. I think the cover of your book is gorgeous, and even better in real life than it looks on a computer screen! What was your reaction when you first saw it, and was it what you imagined for the book?

I am glad you love the cover as much as I do! The artist, Zeena Shah (http://www.zeenashah.com/) has done a wonderful job and I'm so thankful to her. When I first saw it I was delighted. I actually rang my friend Louise as I was opening the envelope and it was a moment I will never forget. My publisher's direction and guidance in creating the perfect cover has been invaluable. I have total trust in their ideas and judgement.

Q5. How did you feel when you got your publishing deal with Coronet, and how amazing has it been to be on the publishing journey with your book? What has been the most exciting part of your publication journey so far?

When I first got my publishing deal I was in shock in the best possible way. I still to this day can't believe it has happened, and I just feel so grateful to everyone who has been involved. The year before publication has gone so quickly and I just feel like I've been walking on air. The best bit so far (after the initial deal with Hodder) was finding out that there was such positive interest from publishers overseas. It will be published in Germany, Spain, Brazil and the Netherlands, and that for me is the biggest compliment I could have wished for, and the icing on the cake after getting a deal with Hodder. Getting to know staff at Hodder better has also be wonderful and of course, lunch meetings with my agent Sheila Crowley are something I very much look forward to.

Q6. This Is A Love Story has a pretty simple title which describes the book to a tee. How did you come about choosing this title for your book, and how long did it take you to write the book overall?

The title came to me one weekend while I was brainstorming ideas with my parents. It is simple, but I think I was attracted to it because there are several love stories in my book, whether or not they are conventional romantic ones. Sienna's relationship with her father and Pete are love stories in their own right, just of a different kind.

Q7. Chick Lit does take a bashing in the press and with other readers a lot - what are your thoughts on the term, and how do you feel about your books being classified as chick lit? Are you a proud chick lit author!?
I know that the chick lit term is a subject of hot debate in the book world and brings about a lot of strong feeling. I think it's natural for things to be put in boxes and categories. The same happens with music through titles like "pop", "rock" and "hip hop" even though it might encompass several different genres and styles. I feel that as long as people enjoy my work I don't mind what box it goes in. It's all so subjective and down to personal opinion. I don't think the term chick lit is damaging, but I do think it's a shame that women's writing is separated in this way and we do not see this with the work of male authors. I think that is one of the main issues with the term and why it stirs up so much debate.

Q8. What do you do when you aren't writing books? What inspired you to become an author?

When I'm not writing books I'm either at my full time job as a reporter, in the gym, running or seeing my friends. My life is pretty busy, but I like it that way. I have always been writing creatively, and I wrote a little novel when I was about 14. I think it was always there but I didn't necessarily realise it. I had focused on journalism for my studies in my late teens and then eventually that became my career. When I was contacted by Mark Booth from Hodder about my feature writing, I was so excited to send him some of my creative work and I'm so pleased it has worked out how it has.

Q9. Who are some of your favourite authors, and could you name your top three books of all time?

I love the work of so many writers, particularly Jojo Moyes, Lionel Shriver and James Frey. I also love the classics, such as Dickens and Austen among others. I find the writing styles of Caitlin Moran and Charlie Brooker hilarious, and I feel really inspired by their humour. Favourite books include Moyes' Last Letter from Your Lover, Lionel Shriver's We Need to talk about Kevin, and I was really impressed by Julian Barnes' The Sense of an Ending. I know there was a lot of controversy surrounding James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, but I thought the writing was fantastic and it evoked really strong feelings in me. I have also enjoyed a lot of the texts for my university course, including Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev and Alice Walker's The Colour Purple. My taste is very varied!

Q10. Finally are you working on another novel (please say yes!) and if so, can you tell me something about it?!

I am working on another novel. The first draft is complete, and I am now on the initial editing phase. I have loved writing this book as much as I did the first, and I hope I can write many more. The story is not a follow on from TIALS. It is a little more complex and involves a series of threads occurring separately and then overlapping. I am excited to be able to get some more feedback on it.

Thank you for interviewing me, and for your support.

Thank you so much, Jessica!

Book News: The Playgroup by Janey Fraser

Janey Fraser's debut novel The Playgroup is due out at the end of this week on February 2nd, and I think it sounds like a great read. Janey is the pen-name of Sophie King, whose books I have really enjoyed in the past, so I can't wait to get stuck into this one.

"Puddleducks Playgroup has been run successfully for several years. Now, with an opportunity to prove herself Gemma Merryfield can't wait to take over running it in September. But the arrival of the new head of the infant school, Joe Balls soon tempers her enjoyment. Ex-banker Joe has been employed to bring the school back up to scratch, and that includes intefering with Gemma and her playgroup. Gemma adores her unruly group of children, and she can even find affection for the parents, but Joe's inteference is the last thing she needs.

Meanwhile, Nancy is in turmoil. Her only son has just started playgroup and her husband has taken a temporary posting to Vietnam. Even before he left, there hadn't been much hope of conceiving her much-wanted second child. And with Danny gone for most of the day, what on earth is she meant to do now? Does she have the strength to find herself again, and maybe make some friends along the way?

Little do any of them realise what a tumultuous term it is going to be..."

You can pre-order The Playgroup in both paperback and as an eBook now.

30 January 2012

Book Review: This Is A Love Story by Jessica Thompson

"This is a love story.

Boy meets girl and girl falls for boy - that much is true.

But when Sienna meets Nick it's not the way it happens in love stories. It's because of a squirrel on water skis...

She sees Nick's dangerous brown eyes and thinks,





Who will be there to catch Siena when she falls? She is so fragile. She has so many secrets, and he is not that serious.

Funny and sad, this is the story of two people destined never to come together in the great love affair they crave more than anything else.

I adore debut novels, there's something about the unknown and the anticipation of a brand new story experience that really excites me, and I'm always really keen to read them as soon as they arrive through my letterbox! This book was certainly one that caught my eye, not least because of the absolutely beautiful cover it has! It's a subtle light blue with pretty white detailing, but it's just so different from any other cover on my shelf that I loved it. Also, the title really draws you in and if you're a soppy soul (like me!), then it's the perfect book for you to snuggle up with in the evenings, or whenever you have 5 spare minutes. I loved every page of this book and didn't want it to end, and here's why!

It's simply the love story between two characters, Sienna and Nick. They are strangers who meet by chance on a London train, realise they are colleagues and proceed to love each other from afar for the next few years, without admitting it to each other. But behind their feelings are a few other secrets too... Sienna has more going on a home with her Dad than she cares to reveal to anyone, and Nick is too stubborn to tell Sienna he loves her so keeps heading into relationship after relationship, no matter how much it's killing Sienna inside. He just wants her to let him in, and let him help her. Will they be able to ever admit to each other how they? This is pretty much the crux of the storyline, and while it's simple, it's very effective and gives plenty of scope for the characters to develop, and I was completely sucked in from the first page.

Sienna is such a loveable character, and I loved her from the beginning. She's a young character, yet she's hiding a really serious secret from everyone who knows her. I don't want to say too much about her dad and what's going on there because it's best to read it as you progress in the book, but it was so beautifully written by Thompson. You can tell she has put so much research into it because it's written with real compassion and feeling, and I ended up so attached to both Sienna and her father in the end. The relationship between them is written so beautifully, it makes for very touching reading, and I love how it slowly unfolds. Sienna also has another important relationship in the book, with a man called Pete and again, this story was incredibly touching, and really showcases what a lovely person Sienna is, and perhaps how judgmental and cruel we cna be to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Nick is a different kettle of fish altogether. He's a lovely male character, and to be honest it's nice to read a male character in chick lit that isn't a pig, a cheat, a liar or just a complete pleb really! Nick is blatantly in love with Sienna, I'm  not sure how she doesn't wise up to that fact throughout the book, but the little things he does for her as his best friend is really sweet, and he's brilliant when Sienna comes up against some hard times. I was willing him on to tell her throughout the book how he feels, but the wrong moves he makes along the way had me cringing and wanting him to wake up to what a mistake he was making! However, together he and Sienna are the perfect characters to read about, and I really was consumed by their love story, and their will they, won't they ending.

It's set in London, and I felt Thompson writes the setting really well. She brings to life the place of work of Nick and Sienna, the house where Sienna lives with her dad, and even the parks that Sienna meets up with Pete in, with her vibrant writing. The characters feel so realistic that they almost feel like real people by the end of the book, and you don't want to leave them behind! From the extremely touching and emotional side of the book, to the funny moments which had me smiling along, I loved everything about this book. I was up until about 1.30am finishing this, because one I hit 3/4 of the way through, I couldn't stop and by the end, the tears were flowing, I'm not ashamed to admit! But I think the best thing of all is that this could be true. So many times, we don't want to/can't admit we love someone from afar and I'm sure a lot of people will be able to relate to Sienna or Nick! This is a stunning debut from Jessica Thompson, one which really pull at your heart-strings, and leave you wanting more. Brilliant.

You can buy This Is A Love Story in both paperback and as an eBook now.

Book News: The Out of Office Girl by Nicola Doherty

One debut I am really looking forward to this year is Nicola Doherty's new book, The Out of Office Girl! It's not out until July 6th, but Nicola revealed the cover last week, and I thought it was so amazing I wanted to share it with you! I love the orange font for the title and the summery scene behind, and the story sounds fantastic too! Are you looking forward to this one?

"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"

You can pre-order The Out of Office in paperback now! (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

26 January 2012

Book Deals: The Round-Up

Here's a few more book deals I've seen on The Bookseller website, and thought I'd pass them on!

Fern Britton signs further two-book deal with HarperCollins
"HarperCollins has acquired two more novels from television presenter Fern Britton, with HarperFiction ­commissioning editor Kate Bradley acquiring world rights from Luigi Bonomi at LBA, on behalf of Lacey Associates.

The first title, The Holiday Home, will be published in hardback in spring 2013, with Britton also to write two short stories that will be available with the e-book editions. The Holiday Home will be the story of the Carew sisters, Ally and Dede, who are at war with each other over the inheritance of a Cornish holiday house.  

Bradley said: “Fern is a natural storyteller and her writing is full of humour and warmth.”"

Linda Green moves to Quercus
"Quercus has acquired two novels by women's fiction author Linda Green, with the author moving from Headline, which published her previous four novels.

Paperback publisher Joanne Dickinson acquired world English language rights, excluding US and Philippines, in the two as-yet-untitled novels through Anthony Goff, managing director of David Higham Associates. Quercus will publish the first in 2013.

Dickinson said: "I am thrilled that Linda is joining the Quercus team. She is a very talented writer, incredibly skilled at combining warmth and humour with serious and very moving storylines. Linda has some fantastic ideas for future novels and I'm really excited to be working with her."

These sound like great deals, and congratulations to all the authors and publishers involved! All articles are taken from The Bookseller. 

25 January 2012

Book Review: More Like Her by Liza Palmer

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5

I haven't actually read any of Liza Palmer's books as of yet, so when I was sent a copy of her new book More Like Her for review, I was really determined to read it because it sounded really interesting and a few American reviews of it made it sound like a book not to be missed as well. I have to confess to not being mad on the cover, I find the (awful) coloured boots to be a strange choice as well as the odd flooring, I think the publishers could have made so much more than this, but really don't judge this book by the cover because it is so much that what I had expected from the cover. It is chick lit but with a difference - it's meaty, and its got a plot that you don't see coming without a doubt!

The main character is Frannie, a woman who is somewhat lucky in love after yet another break up with boyfriend Brad. She's fed up and is determined to find a guy who loves her for who she is not, and not who they want her to be. I really liked Frannie, even if she did frustrate me at times because of her woe-is-me attitude and constant bickering with the lovely Sam, the male lead in the book. Sam was lovely, very affected by what he had to do in the book but this made me feel even more sympathetic towards him. Frannie is a bit stand-offish towards him, you can understand why in some respects but at the same time, I wanted her to wake up and see what a good guy Sam was! Emma doesn't appear heavily in the book, but in some ways she's the most important person in the book. Her life isn't what she wants everyone to think it is, and it's going to have huge ramifications for everyone she knows.

I'm not going to go into any detail about the events in the book, because it's best to read them as they unfold, and be shocked by them as I was when I read the book. Palmer writes the surprising storyline really well, with great emotion, detail and a lot of compassion for the characters who are going through these issues. I felt the reactions of all involved to  be very realistic, from Grady and Lisa's relationship twists and turns, to Sam and Frannie's upset and nightmare to Jill's denial as well. It isn't something I would expect to read in chick lit, yet it really made me think about things, and the issues involving Emma too, the woman Frannie wanted to be like her. It's a sad story, and one will certainly stay with you for a while.

I found it very easy to read, and get into, and Palmer's writing style was a joy to read too, slowly unfolding the story, and setting up a good amount of background for the main story to start being told as well. It's a very emotional book, that's perhaps more about the inner turmoil and struggle of the characters, and how they come about rescuing themselves from it than anything else, but it's compulsive reading that will have you wanting a happily ever after for these poor characters. If you want chick lit with a difference, something that packs a bit of a punch and is a meaty read, then look no further than a copy of More Like Her. It'll have you wondering whether everyone else's lives are the dream world that they outwardly appear to be.

You can buy More Like Her in both paperback and as an eBook now.

Book News: Sweet Little Lies by Alison Bond

I really loved Alison Bond's 2010 release A Reluctant Cinderella despite the awful cover and misleading blurb, therefore I was really pleased to see her publishers have taken a totally different route with the book cover for her 2012 release, Sweet Little Lies, which is due for release on February 16th. It sounds like a great read, and I can't wait to read it!

"What if your best friend tried to ruin your life?

Take two childhood friends: glamorous, rich Chrissie and clever, down to earth Anna. But what was once the perfect friendship - despite their differences - is now a web of lies and betrayal.

Years ago, Chrissie did something terrible to Anna and it caused more pain and heartbreak than she could ever have predicted. Anna must never find out.

But Chrissie's guilt is suffocating her - especially when the man they both loved walks back into their lives. When she starts to fall apart under the pressure, the one person she wants to confide in is the one person who must never know. But perhaps Anna isn't telling all she knows either . . .

Can a friendship made of a patchwork of lies endure? Will the truth end it completely? Or can Chrissie and Anna put their sweet little lies behind them?

You can pre-order Sweet Little Lies as both a paperback and an eBook now!

24 January 2012

Author Article: Zoe Miller

Yesterday, I reviewed Zoe Miller's latest book Rival Passions, a fantastic read set in a glamourous Irish hotel that I really enjoyed! Zoe was kind enough to write an article for the site for me, about how she juggles being an author and having a full time job as well! Thanks go to Zoe for taking the time to write this for me!

Novel Writing and the Day Job - How I Cope!

Sometimes I get my best ideas when I’m commuting to the day job in the morning. I’d be driving over Templeogue Bridge at 7.30am, listening to the radio, and a piece of dialogue would pop into my head. Or when I’m stuck in slow morning traffic, I might get an idea about how best to bring two characters together. (Or tear them apart!)

But all those ideas have to be left to simmer in the back of my mind when I reach the office around 8.15 am, and get caught up in plans for the day. I work in the field of training and development, mostly skills such as Customer Service, Communication, etc.  On a typical day I could delivering a training course, or preparing for a course, meeting with managers and staff to discuss training needs, or handling a variety of admin queries.

Combining my life as a novelist with the day job is a challenge, but I’m finally fulfilling my lifelong dream. Once upon a time I was one of those book lovers cum writers who was passionate about the idea of writing a novel. But I never seemed to find the time to knuckle down, what with a busy day job, and a house to run, not to mention a husband and family.

Then the penny dropped.  I was never going to ‘find’ time. If I wanted to follow my dream, I would have to carve out writing time and guard it with my life. So I had to learn to fit it in around my job, ignore the telly / the internet / the phone, and forget about leisure time. My family and friends had to get used to me slinking off to write. And they did. As for housework? One of my favourite sayings is by an American author Joy Held – ‘Women with clean houses do not have finished books’. I have pinned this to the wall of my writing room!

When I finally got my first 2-book deal, I reduced my day job to four days a week.  I usually leave the office round 5.00 pm and as soon as I’m in the car I’m back with my characters and I start thinking of how I’m going to pull apart their lives, for better or worse. Once home, I get into my comfy jeans, catch up on stuff like emails and essential phone calls, and then it’s into my writing room, where no matter what kind of day I’ve had, I enter the world of romance, glamour and intrigue! I work for a couple of hours most weekday nights. I usually set a target word count to reach, but I don’t always get there! On my day ‘off’, it’s bliss to forget about the office and head straight into my writing room, where I’ll work a full day. I also work between eight – twelve hours at weekends, depending on deadlines and family life. My family and friends are very supportive and hubby has even discovered how to load (and empty) the dishwasher and washing machine - of his own volition!

The good thing about having a day job is that it gives you a regular income to help cover life’s little essentials, leaving your mind free to create. There’s also plenty of social interaction, which is a big plus, because writing can be a very solitary occupation. The hustle and bustle of the day job also helps to keep me on my toes and it broadens my horizons. At a deeper level, this feeds into my writing.

To combine the two, I have to be focussed and disciplined, and I always spend a little time on Sunday planning the week ahead, but I also know I have to be flexible and allow for occasional down time! My writing life is very important to me and time is precious, but family always comes first.

Most writers I know are juggling their writing careers with other commitments. If you think of it, most people have to juggle various aspects of their lives on a daily basis. I feel very grateful that I have a career as a novelist, even if I have to manage it alongside the day job!

You can buy Zoe's book Rival Passions in both paperback and as an eBook now! You can also read my review of the book here.

Book News: Infidelity by Tara Palmer-Tomkinson

Tara Palmer-Tomkinson is back with her second novel Infidelity next month. It's a sequel to her first book, Inheritance, and I have to say I really don't like the cover... it's never good when the author's name comes above and beyond the title of the book, and it's too pink for me. I haven't read the first book either, but this does sound interesting. It's out on 16th February and here's the synopsis:

"The glamorous headline-grabbing Lyric Charlton has finally put her unhappy past behind her. She has her adoring family and a lover who worships her, but as Lyric has always known, life is a very uneven path, and things have a habit of tripping you up when you least expect it. When tragedy strikes at the heart of her family, Lyric’s world is once again thrown into turmoil. Before her very eyes everything she thought was safe now seems more fragile than ever. From the luxurious yachts on the Mediterranean to the super-charged atmosphere of the Melbourne Cup. From the brilliant white ski slopes of Klosters to the serenity of a Buddhist retreat, Infidelity is a tale of lovers and losers, cheaters and winners, as only Tara Palmer-Tomkinson can tell it."

You can pre-order Infidelity in both paperback and as an eBook now.

23 January 2012

Book Review: Rival Passions by Zoe Miller

Brother and sister Jack and Serena Devlin are the owners of Tamarisk Manor, a chic, luxury hotel, ranked as the ultimate retreat for socialites and celebrities. But behind the indulgent façade, the privileged Devlin family is in turmoil ... Serena's commitment to the hotel is taking a toll on her once-perfect marriage. She finds it easier to run a multi-million euro business than to be the kind of wife that her husband expects, or the mother that her daughter deserves. Jack, struggling to come to terms with the shocking death of his wife, takes refuge in La Mimosa, their sister hotel in France. Until a chance encounter forces him to re-evaluate his whole existence... Will Serena sacrifice her marriage for the sake of success? And will Jack give up his birthright for the sake of love?

Rating: 5/5

I have never yet read a Zoe Miller novel, but when I was sent this one to review by the publishers, my eye was really caught by the bright cover, and it sounded like the sort of book I would enjoy as well. Miller is an Irish author, and since I seem to really enjoy Irish penned fiction, it seemed a sure bet that I would like this one too. Luckily, I was right and Rival Passions was a fantastic book that I really didn't wany to put down in the evenings! It was an intriguing and fun story that had me guessing how things would end up for the characters up until the last page, and it's certainly made me want to pick up more of Zoe Miller's books!

The book is the story of twins Jack and Serena Devlin, who run a hotel called Tamarisk Manor. While Serena is dedicated to making the hotel a success at apparently any cost, Jack has recently been widowed and is struggling to put his life back together again. He's pretty much run out on the business and has left Serena to run it all alone, much to the annoyance of her husband Paul and their four year old daughter Harriet. But when it seems Jack might have other things on his mind, Serena is determined to make him step up to the plate and the legacy that their parents left them. Their mother is also suffering, watching her daughter struggle and her son not step up to his responsibilities but is powerless to act and help them out. This is really a family saga, involving lots of members of the Devlin family, and how they struggle to keep their relationships both personally and professionally, and this is for me what made it such a great read.

I did feel sorry for Serena, being left to run the business by herself and also struggling to cope with being Harriet's mum as well. As a reader, we could see what was going on with her yet her husband Paul seemed (understandably) a bit blinkered and just wanted her to be a wife and mother again. I did have a little dislike for Jack, he seemed very irresponsible and too quick to land his sister in trouble at work, and only cared about himself. Yes, he'd been in a tough situation but still that was no reason to abandon his responsibilites. I also liked the character of their mother, she was a feisty lady, who ran a hotel pretty much single handedly for years, and I enjoyed reading her develop as the story progressed. Overall, it was a great cast and Miller really brings them to life in her writing, creating these people and a fantastic setting too.

Miller writes the luxurious and beautiful resort of Tamarisk Manor perfectly, you can really imagine the setting in your mind as you read about the sumptuous rooms, the spa and beautiful grounds, and it really does sound amazing! Yes, we know there's a recession going on and that is mentioned in the book, with the hotel having to make cutbacks but there are a few mentions of luxury and splurging and why not? It's nice to read something a bit out of the ordinary and I loved it. The setting of Ireland is fantastic, and although it flits around a bit as well, it always comes back to Tamarisk and it always felt like coming home when the book returned here. The book contains a great cast of characters, a beautiful setting and a storyline that will keep you guessing. I loved that life wasn't all plain sailing for the Devlin family, yet they tried to help each other make it through the tough times like family should. I loved this book, and will certainly be looking out for more of Zoe Miller's books after reading this fantastic book!

You can buy Rival Passions in both paperback and as an eBook now. (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

20 January 2012

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5

I read Mink Elliott's debut novel The Pissed Off Parents Club a couple of years ago when it came out, and really enjoyed it. As a mum, I could relate to a lot of what the main character Roxy was going through as a new mother, and found it to be quite a funny and good read. Mink is back this year with a follow-up to that book, joining the character of Roxy and her husband Jack again in Australia this time, with a new addition on the way too. I was looking forward to finding out what these characters have been up to, and I have to confess that the cover is really good, and I love the bright yellow because it's really fun and bright, much like the story inside!

Roxy is now living in Australia with her husband Jack, and now three year old daughter Joey, and struggling to adjust to life in the sunshine, without her friends and family around her to help out. She's looking for a new job as they need money, and is shocked to find out she's expecting another baby, something she wasn't entirely sure she wanted. She then starts up a mums cafe with best friend Shoshanna, and is determined to make a success of it. I really liked Roxy from the beginning, she was just as I remembered her from the previous book and a bit of a disorganised mum, something I'm sure a lot of mum's reading it will be able to relate to! Roxy struggled to juggle her job, being a mum to Joey and being a good wife to Jack, as well as being herself and in that respect, I think Elliott has done a great job in creating a realistic and believable character in Roxy.

The setting of Australia was great, and it made a nice change from the hundreds of chick lit books I seem to read that are set in London at the moment as well! It was nice to be all cosy under my blanket reading about the beautiful sunshine of Australia, and the funny escapades Roxy and co manage to get themselves into. Her cafe was a great idea, yes it was a bit idealistic how quickly and easily Roxy and Shoshanna managed to set it up and get it running, whereas in real life it'd take ten time longer and be much more a struggle to become a success, but I guess that's the escapist fun of reading it in books! The cafe was a really good thing and made for a great storyline within the book. I have to say I really liked Roxy's best friend Shoshanna as well, and although I totally didn't agree with the actions that she had in the book, I felt it was realistically portrayed and well written.

I have to comment on the way Roxy and Jack handled their relationship, and I think a lot of parents of young children will be able to relate to the troubles that they went through. I was really willing them on and hoped that they'd get the happy ending that they both deserved. The book has a lot of light-hearted humour, especially relating to their precocious and adorable daughter Joey, who has some great one-liners in the book, and there is a lot to make the reader smile. Yes, some things happen too easily, but the obstacles Roxy comes up against and the way she works through them is great and I really loved her as a leading lady. I think the ending of the book was open enough to bring back these characters for a third time, so we'll just have to wait and see for now. I definitely recommend Just Another Manic Mum-Day to anyone who likes a light-hearted and happy read, and especially to mum's who want something to relate to as they're reading! It's a great book and I really enjoyed reading it.

You can buy Just Another Manic Mum-Day in both paperback and as an eBook now. (links go to Amazon.co.uk) 

Author Article: Mink Elliott

Mink Elliott's second book Just Another Manic Mum-Day, a follow-on from her debut novel The Pissed-off Parent's Club, was released yesterday and is a really fun look at life as a busy working Mum in Sydney, Australia as our main character Roxy decides to open a café with her new best friend. Mink kindly agreed to write an article on my site on the topic of cafe's, so here it is,  please enjoy! My thanks go to Mink to for writing the article.

Why Cafes Are Great

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about cafes - and not just lately, either, because my new book, Just Another Manic Mum-Day is about a cafe catering specifically for stressed-out and exhausted mums, dads and carers. No, I’ve always loved planning the decor, the location and the menu of my favourite fantasy cafe – ever since I was a nipper. Well, not quite a nipper, but a lot younger than I am today, that’s for sure.

The first time I went to a proper grown-up cafe (not just a chippy with some chairs in it) was with my mum, one stormy, wintry lunchtime in Adelaide, South Australia. I must’ve been about 12 or 13, on the brink of young womanhood (i.e. a stroppy teenaged nightmare – although Mum still says my adolescence began in earnest when I was about five years old) and we’d been shopping for an outfit for me to wear to a friend’s birthday sleepover.

We plumped (plump being the operative word for me, what with my penchant for all things sugary and an intolerance to exercise) for a claret red velvet pencil skirt and a black angora jumper in the end, I think. Although my memory’s not what it used to be, I freely admit. I mean, this happened a long time ago in the early 1980s – so, really you could tell us now that we actually purchased matching rah-rah skirts and a big box of XL shoulder pads and I bet neither of us would be surprised.

Mum, a teacher, and by now also a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown after spending a few hours alone with mardy, mono-syllabic me, was desperate for her cappuccino fix. So we took shelter in a cafe above a hairdressers in the newly-built, swanky shopping mall, The Gallery.

As I recall, Mum asked for some pumpkin soup, doorstop slices of rustic, crusty bread (this was pre-Atkins/Zone/cutting out evil carbs for life) and I ordered the oh-so-sophisticated asparagus quiche and a Tab (which is what you had back in the Dark Ages, before they invented Diet Coke).

Anyway, we sat there, arms crossed, looking around at anything but each other  in stony silence for a while until Mum eventually extended the olive branch by saying: ‘Tell you what. I’ll buy you that enormous piece of Black Forest cake over there on the dessert trolley if you can tell me, in 200 words or more why having a carpet in a cafe isn’t the smartest of ideas.’

My mouth started to water instinctively and I looked down at the royal blue and gold swirly carpeted floor.

‘Because it’s ugly?’ I offered, falling way, way short of her preferred word count and then adding for good measure, ‘So ugly it’ll put everyone off their food?’

‘Well, yes, maybe,’ Mum smiled. ‘Maybe that’s one very good reason...’

And that was it. We were off, banging on about the considerable merits of easy-to-clean, country kitchen-y cosy floor boards versus food trapping, eye-wateringly unpleasant carpets made out of nylon which give you electric shocks, whether you’ve ordered them or not; the fabric of the curtains and whether, indeed, Venetian blinds might not have been a better option; the layout of the tables and booths and whether red and white checked tablecloths would have been too much or simply a nice touch yada yada yada. Oh, and after I’d been to the loo, why asparagus makes your wee smell so weird and asparagus-y. 

Unbeknownst to me, Mum had used the alien surroundings of an adult cafe (and the promise of cake) to trick me into talking to her. And I loved it! Safe from the storm outside, warm and close in the relative sanctuary of the cafe, we bonded again. There we were, sharing Mum’s Bic biro and drawing our Grand Designs on paper serviettes, oblivious to and no longer bothered by our usual every day annoyances (that would be me, if you asked Mum), injustices (that would be my mum, if you asked me) and daily distractions (Rubik’s cubes if you asked anyone in those days). 

Eventually, though, I got bored and wanted to get back home so I could ring my mates to discuss what they were going to be wearing to the party and whether or not Anna Johnson really was going to bring cigarettes and Brandivino with her. Because really, there’s only so much one-on-one time with her mum a 13-year-old girl can take. Especially in public. 

Years and years (and, ooh! What was that? Oh, only about 10 more years) have whizzed by and I still love spending hours sitting in cafes, drowning myself in Earl Grey and thinking about what I’d do to improve the place. Only difference is I drag my five and a half-year-old daughter along with me and bore her to tears with my cafe plans while she sips Baby-Cinos and scoffs gourmet goujons et frites. Now she’s the moody little madam who’s giving her mum grief with the old arms crossed, bottom lip dragging on the ground routine.

Like mother like daughter, eh?

Yes, indeed. And so, as family tradition tells me to, I’ve already started bribing my daughter with cream horns, banana bread and Smarties cookies in calorie-laden attempts to keep the lines of communication open. Now I just hope the reassuringly cosy nature of our favourite cafe can do the rest. Well, it worked for my mum. And they do say the mini cupcake never falls far from the cake stand, don’t they?

19 January 2012

Book Review: Horse Play by Jo Carnegie

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5/5

I've read all but one of Jo Carnegie's Churchminster series and really enjoyed them. I have to admit the last one wasn't the best, but when I received a copy of Horse Play for review, I was really hoping that it'd be back up to the standards of the other books, and luckily Jo Carnegie really didn't let me down! I also like her new cover look, with the bold photography making the book stand out far more and it has a bit of a fun look to it as well. Although it's book 5 of a series, you could also read this without having read the previous 4 novels, you just won't know some of the background although the important bits about the characters are explained as you go along! So why should you pick up a copy of Horse Play?

The book contains many characters as most of the Churchminster villagers make a comeback of sorts in this book, even if its just a brief mention. The main ones from previous books are sisters Caro and Calypso, both wildly different but equally fun to read about, Angie and Freddie who own a big house and horses, and of course the lovely Granny Clem. We are introduced to a few new characters in the book, Kizzy, a young girl who works for Angie and Freddie, and Javier, a former Olympic dressage rider and object of Kizzy's affections. These new characters blended in perfectly with those of old, and I really did like Kizzy, despite her naivety somewhat towards Javier and things like that. Kizzy and Javier's story, which does take some surprising twists and turns is one of the main focuses of the story, together with Kizzy's loves of horses. Caro had her own storyline too, to do with her hideous ex-husband and son Milo, I found it quite hard to read and get to grips with, I think every mum dreads being in Caro's position here but I felt Carnegie handled it very well and it moved with a good pace in the book too.

I'm not a massive fan of horses if I'm honest, they freak me out a bit as they're huge and you just don't know what they're thinking behind those eyes but since this book really focus on them, I had to put my dislike behind me and plough on. However, I found the horsey bits really enjoyable, and there wasn't anything too technical in there, in fact I really liked the detail about the horse riding and Kizzy's experience with the horse and Ed, the rider too. It was funny to see Carnegie write about the racecourse which my garden looks over too, I wish there was a little more about Newbury racecourse in there but it was fun reading it in a book for sure! You don't have to be a horsey person to understand these bits either, and what you don't understand obviously isn't hugely important anyway!

This book is full of fun, laughs, sex and living in the countryside, and it's a complete joy to read about from start to finish. Yes, there's lots of characters to keep track of, but once you've got them all down, it's easy peasy to follow as they are all so different. There are also lots of different stories going on too, from the fun horsey story involving Kizzy, the Fox-Titts and Javier, and then Caro's family dramas, and Calypso's life dramas too! There's some raunchy sex scenes, lots of laugh out loud funny moments and just a bit of everything for everyone really. You'll really love this if you've enjoyed the rest of the Churchminster series so far, but if you haven't yet experienced Churchminster, this would certainly be a great place to start! I enjoyed every page and didn't want to leave the residents of Churchminster once more... I can't wait for the next one!

You can order Horse Play as both a paperback and an eBook now.

Author Interview: Jo Carnegie

Jo Carnegie's new book Horse Play is due out tomorrow, and I was lucky enough to get an early reading copy of it, and it was a fantastic read that I'll be reviewing shortly! Jo was kind enough to agree to answering a few questions I had for her, so many thanks to Jo for answering them, and please enjoy my interview with Jo!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'Horse Play'.

Horse Play sees the return of the feisty Calypso, along with sisters Caro and Camilla and a fab new character called Kizzy. The book has an exciting racing storyline, as well as some sizzling romances and lots of trials and tribulations facing the three sisters.... I've also introduced a GORGEOUS new topical character; the dark and brooding Javier Hamilton-Scott, who is training Britain's great dressage hope for the Olympics.

Q2. This is the fifth book in the Churchminster series. Did you always intend the books to be a series, and what made you continue writing Churchminster books rather than stand-alone novels?

I always saw the book as a series, I love the characters so much I could let them run forever! I also think my readers have built up real relationships with them and they want to know what happens in their lives. Plus I hear so much good gossip, it's a shame to let it go to waste! The village I grew up in in Bedfordshire and where my parents still live is completely outrageous. I love going home and heading down the local boozer to hear the latest scandal.

Q3. How do you keep track of all the characters in Churchminster?! Have you always had their stories planned out or does it change for them the more books you write about them?!

There are a lot of characters in my books, but I guess that goes with writing about a lively fun village. I do always have their endings planned out, but I think it's fun to veer off into different situations along the way. It keeps people guessing!

Q4. I have to confess to loving the sisters Camilla, Calypso and Caro - who are your favourite Churchminster residents?

I love Calypso and I also have a soft spot for Clementine and the relationship they have. I also LOVE the Fox-Titts, I want them to adopt me! Every woman needs a Freddie in their life, I think.

Q5. Where do you get the inspiration for your stories? Some of them are quite outlandish!

From real life! I grew up in the country and it's certainly never boring. I live in Wales now and the Welsh are also a lively lot, so I'm always getting fresh ideas. In fact I might do a series one day about a village by the sea. My in laws live in a beautiful place called Mumbles and there's always lots of shenanigans going on there…. Welsh men are buff!!

Q6. You used to work at Heat magazine - what made you leave there and decide to become an author? Is writing something you have always wanted to do?

I knew I wanted to write for a living as a six-year-old. I loved being a journalist and working in the crazy world of heat, but there was always a book inside me bursting to get out. I still do interviews for heat though, in fact I'm off to interview Daniel Radcliffe after this!

Q7. Who are some of your own favourite authors and books, and do you enjoy reading Chick Lit as well as writing it?

Weirdly, seeing as my books are so fun and lively, I really love dark Scandinavian fiction. The plots are so masterful and I love the sparse, clean writing. But I think it's important to read right across the board; Jilly Cooper is my heroine and I love the George McDonald Fraser Flashman books. I'm reading Sophie Kinsella's new one I've Got Your Number at the moment and really enjoying it.

Q8. What do you think of the term 'Chick Lit', and how do you feel about your books being called 'Chick Lit'?

I don't mind being called chick lit at all. I think some people can be a bit sniffy and think it's fluffy, but under the remit you have a fabulous array of women writers writing about a wide range of issues. Interesting how there's no 'Bloke Lit', isn't there?

Q9. Are you working on a sixth book, and if so can you tell me more about it?!

Yes and I'm SO excited. It's still set in the Cotswolds, but this time in a gorgeous market town called Beeversham. Catherine Connor, one of my lead characters from Naked Truths is in it and I've introduced a whole cast of new characters I'm really hoping people will love. There's a few mentions of the Churchminster lot as well, popping up when you least expect it.

Q10. Finally, what is the best writing tip or piece of advice you have ever received?

Just start writing! The more you write, the better you become. Trust me, there is no perfect first draft. I've spent hours in front of my laptop, only to delete the whole lot at the end of the day. It's not always right first time, but have the conviction you'll get there in the end.

Thanks so much, Jo!

You can order Horse Play in both paperback and as an eBook now.

18 January 2012

Book Review: The Wife Who Ran Away by Tess Stimson

"Kate Forrest is invisible… Ned, the husband she adores, doesn’t seem to know she’s alive, and her two charming children have grown into stroppy adolescents. Her boss is suddenly shunting her towards career Siberia, and her demanding mother is never off the phone. With her fortieth birthday fast approaching, all Kate wants to do is run away from the lot of them. And so she does. On impulse, Kate walks out of her job, her family and her life, and gets on a plane to Italy. With no ties and no responsibilities, she soon finds herself deliriously caught up in La Dolce Vita – and the arms of a man barely half her age. But when the unthinkable threatens her family, Kate is brutally forced to choose between her past and the future."

Rating: 5/5

The thing I love about Tess Stimson's books is the controversial stories she always manages to cover - you never quite know what you're going to get when you begin one of Tess' books and how it's all going to end up for the characters involved too. Therefore, when I received a copy of Tess' new book The Wife Who Ran Away, I was really excited as it sounded like a good concept for a book, and I was curious about whether I'd hate the main character for actually running away, and doing what is socially very unacceptable to most people. I quite like the cover, I really like the blue highlights against a more sepia toned background, and think it's quite pretty. So why did I love this book so much?

The book begins with Kate, a self-confessed workaholic who literally works to pay the bills and provide for her family. She made the choice with husband Ned for him to be the stay-at-home parent and take care of their 2 children while she progressed in her career and made a good salary to look after the family. However, when their marriage starts to fall apart, and her career is on shaky ground, Kate has had enough and runs off to her friend's house in Italy, at first only intending an overnight stay. But it quickly snowballs and before she knows it, it looks like Kate's run out on her life, her marriage and her children, leaving them wondering where Kate has gone to. As I was reading, I was almost egging Kate on to respond to her feelings of guilt and return back home, and as she made decisions not to go, I was cringing and wondering how as a mother she could leave her children in the lurch like that.

Kate is a controversial character, but I think it is this fact that makes the book such compulsive reading. As a woman and a mum, I couldn't quite believe Kate actually did run away, not only that but she didn't tell anyone she was leaving or where was going, something I found quite shocking. I'm sure all mum's out there have feelings of wanting to escape and run away from the day to day drudgery that can be our lives, but I'm sure most of us would never act on it, yet Kate chooses to do this. The book portrays Kate's marriage as falling apart, and I found that I couldn't have much sympathy for her husband because of his attitude, and I felt as a house-husband he was actually a bit crap and needed a kick up the bum! However, there are issues here that we don't initially know about and as the book progresses, these become clear to the reader and things start to make a bit more sense. Kate's actions in Italy are still quite shocking as well, and I was surprised at the things she got up to myself, but it just serves to create Kate as a person, rather than just a mother and wife although I didn't agree with what she was doing.

As well as the main story of Kate's running away, there is the minor sub-plot of their son Guy and the terrible time he is having at school at the hands of bullies. This is quite a shocking story-line, and some of the things that occur did make me gasp, and it might be a bit hard to read for some. However, it's clear that Stimson has done her research and the story does take some surprising twists and turns along the way, almost eclipsing the main storylines in part, and I found myself really engrossed in this story. I found all the characters in the book were well written, from the young daughter to the adults all in awkward situations themselves. Each of them really does bring something to the book, and I enjoyed how Stimson chose to write it in alternating narratives, so we hear not only from Kate but also from her husband and son's points of view as well. It's a gripping book that will have you glued until the last page, and wondering exactly where life is going to go for Kate and her family now. I loved it!

You can buy The Wife Who Ran Away in both paperback and as an eBook now.

Book News: The Stag and Hen Weekend by Mike Gayle

Mike Gayle is back next month with an interesting concept for his new book, The Stag and Hen Weekend. It's not exactly a traditional book - there are two sides of it, the pink Hen weekend side and the blue Stag weekend side, and it's up to you which you read first! I think it's a great idea, and I can't wait to read this one! It's out on 2nd February and here's the synopsis:

"The Stag and Hen Weekend is the story of Phil and Helen, a couple in their thirties about to commit their lives to one another . . . that is of course if they can just manage to get through their respective stag and hen weekends (his: Amsterdam; hers: a country house and day spa in the Peak District) without falling apart. Told in the unique form of two separate stories that have common characters as well as themes and conclusion, The Stag and Hen Weekend can be read from front to back or from back to front putting the reader in the driver's seat as to which story they wish to read first."

You can pre-order The Stag and Hen Weekend in both hardback and as an eBook now.

17 January 2012

Book News: Between A Mother And Her Child by Elizabeth Noble

I really love Elizabeth Noble's books, even though they more often than not make me cry due to the emotional tales she alwasy weaves! After a little bit of a break, Elizabeth is back next month with a brand new book, Between A Mother and Her Child. I can't wait to read this one, and it's out on 16th February so not long to wait! Here's the synopsis:

"For Maggie and Bill it was love at first sight . . .

One impulsive wedding later and with the arrival of three perfect children, Jake, Aly and Stan, the Barrett family seem to have it all. Until the day their world stops turning.

When Jake dies suddenly, they're swept away on a tide of grief that fractures Maggie and Bill's marriage. She and the children are left clinging to the wreckage of their family. And they need help, because in her grief Maggie is in danger of losing Aly and Stan too.

Enter Kate, housekeeper, companion and shoulder to cry on. She's here to pick up the pieces and fix what isn't completely broken. But can Maggie trust Kate? And why is Kate so keen to help?

When Bill falls for another woman, Maggie realizes she will have to fight to put her family back together - but will they still want her?"

You can pre-order Between A Mother and Her Child in paperback now. (link goes to Amazon.co.uk)

16 January 2012

Book Review: Happily Ever After by Harriet Evans

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

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

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

It's weird to me that Harriet Evans has written quite a few books and yet I've somehow only managed to only read a few of her books. I was glad to be sent a copy of her latest book Happily Ever After for review because I think the story sounded great, and I always have a soft spot for books which feature characters that have something to do with books (other than featuring in one of course!). I think the cover is really gorgeous as well, the white works really well with the red and green highlights, and is certainly enticing. It's quite a large book at nearly 500 pages, but I found it a very enjoyable that whizzed past as I read, and here's why.

Eleanor Bee, or Elle as she prefers to be called, was always a bit of a shy child, probably not helped by the awful relationship had by her parents as well. Elle loves books, and when she grows up, she manages to get a job working for an independent publishers Bluebird Books. Elle takes a while to settle in, and when things happen that she doesn't expect, Elle's life begins to suddenly change. Her relationship with her mother disintegrates as the alcohol problem plaguing their lives comes to the forefront again, and her job takes her in unexpected directions. Put this together with her poor relationships with men and Elle is starting to feel a bit lost with everything.

Doesn't sound too jolly so far does it? While the book isn't packed with laughs, it does cover some serious topics, most importantly Elle's mothers struggle with alcohol and how this impacts on not only her life, but Elle's, and the rest of her family too, and not just when they are young children. Some of the scenes are harder to read about than others, but they all play an important part in setting up the books, and the consequences the actions of all the characters have on each other. I found Elle's story quite sad really, she constantly blames herself for her mother's condition and as a reader, we're really wanting her to realise she isn't to blame. It does however highlight how hard it can be for children of alcoholic parents dealing with the responsibility, and the knock on effect it had for Elle with her brother and her father also was hard to read about.

I liked how Elle changed as a character as the moves on in time, and we can see the difference in her as her home life changes, and her role at work changes. Probably the only consistent thing about Elle in the book is her love of books, and I really loved her passion for the best stories she could find, and her job in publishing was really enjoyable to read about. Elle is determined to never give up on succeeding in publishing, and this was definitely my favourite part of the book. Overall, I felt it was a really good read that had me intrigued from start to finish, wondering how things would end up for Elle, both for her family life and in her relationships as well. Her mother's alcohol problems affects every part of her life, and it's fascinating to read about her learning to put that behind her a bit to try and move on with her life. I found Evans' writing style easy to read, and I enjoyed that the book spanned a good portion of Elle's life, not just a few months as is usually the case in books. I'd definitely recommend this, but don't expect a light-hearted and fluffy read - Happily Ever After certainly delivers a lot more than that.

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Happily Ever After as a paperback or as an eBook. (Links go to Amazon.co.uk).

Giveaway: Win a copy of 'The Wife Who Ran Away' by Tess Stimson

Thanks to the lovely Chloe at publishers Pan Macmillan, I have 5 copies of Tess Stimson's fab new book The Wife Who Ran Away to give away! I've read it already and it's a brilliant read, so if you want to bag yourself a copy, all you have to do is fill in the Google form below, and I'll pick 5 winners using random.org.

The competition is open to UK residents only, and it closes on Sunday 22nd January 2012 at midnight. Only one entry per household. Good luck!

13 January 2012

Book News: The Darker Side of Love by Jessica Ruston

Jessica Ruston is back next month with a new book, and it's one I've been looking forward to for a long time! I loved her previous book To Touch The Stars and think this sounds like it's going to be a great read. I love the cover as well, it's a really unusual look! It's due out on 16th February and here's the synopsis:

"Lies: we all tell them.

To protect those we love, to disguise failure, to hide disappointment. To mask betrayal, or deceit. But what happens when those lies start to catch up with us? When our lives begin to be shaped by the lies of others?

The late 'noughties'. A global recession looms. A group of old friends, all leading outwardly successful, interesting lives. All in apparently loving, secure relationships. Yet all, in some way, lying to those closest to them, concealing secret worries, jealousies, desires. This group of friends is about to discover that the truth won't stay buried for ever...

Welcome to the darker side of love."

You can pre-order The Darker Side of Love as a paperback now.

12 January 2012

Book News: A Walk In The Park by Jill Mansell

The lovely Jill Mansell is back next month with (amazingly) her 23rd novel, A Walk In The Park! Jill's books are always wonderful, heart-warming novels and I really can't wait to read this one! I think the green cover really suits the book and the title as well! It's due out on 16th February and here's the synopsis:

"It's been a while, but Lara Carson's back in Bath and lives are set to change as a result. Because Lara left her family and boyfriend Flynn eighteen years ago without a word to anyone. Why has no one heard from her since? Her childhood best friend Evie is thrilled Lara's back and able to share her happiness. Evie's about to walk down the aisle with her dream man, Joel. Or so she thinks... Then there's Flynn Erskine, even more attractive now and stunned to see Lara again. The spark between them is as strong as ever, but how's Flynn going to react when he discovers the secret she's been keeping from him? Oh yes, there's a lot of catching up to be done..."

You can pre-order A Walk In The Park in both paperback and as an eBook  now!

11 January 2012

Book Review: Pear Shaped by Stella Newman

"If you found yourself glued to David Nicholls’s One Day or belting out the lyrics to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black then you’ll love this book.

Girl meets boy.

Girl loses boy.

Girl loses mind.

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

As I've mentioned before, I love reading debut novels, and I especially love it when I see people say "It's brilliant!" and "it had me laughing out loud!" about a debut novel before I read it. Therefore, when I received a proof copy of the debut from Stella Newman, I was really excited because I'd heard really good things about it, and the blurb sounded really good. Imagine my disappointment when by the end, I found myself really annoyed the drippiness (is that even a word?!) of the main character Sophie, her apparent inability to keep away from her emotionally abusive boyfriend and thinking that the book doesn't really send out a good message to its readers?! I really did want to like this book but despite it having its good moments, I felt it was let down a lot by the character and her actions which was such a shame!

Sophie Klein is happy when she meets older man, James Stephens. He seems to have a great personality, has plenty of money to treat Sophie and make her feel like a Princess but the fact is that he's a pig. He's an awful, hideous human being and possibly one of the worst male characters I have EVER read in chick lit before. Now, I read 119 books last year, and I didn't read a character as awful and horrible as James Stephens, he would most definitely get the award for "Worst Male Character EVER" and I really don't quite know what Newman was thinking as she was writing him. He was nasty to Sophie, put her down, made her feel too fat when she was skinny and was constantly indecisive. Why oh why would you want to stay with someone who makes you feel like that? I just couldn't understand Sophie's obsession, especially when you see her fall apart as a character in front of your eyes.

Sophie has a fabulous job working for a supermarket producing yummy deserts, and I have to say the scenes set at her workplace were the best in the book without a doubt. It was great reading Sophie's different relationships with her colleagues, in particular her awful boss (again another awful male character) and also the funny taste testing events that she goes on are brilliant. The descriptions of the desserts are amazing, and they sound so scrummy! Despite all of this, she puts her job at risk because of this stupid man and her inability to get over him, however badly he treats her again and again, and how many times her friends have to tell her he isn't good news. I found it hard work in places to keep reading on because I was getting angry at Sophie and the way she behaves. No, she doesn't care that James is a rich guy and can buy her anything she wants, can build her a dream kitchen but at the end of the day, anyone who speaks to her like he speaks to Sophie doesn't deserve a woman like her but she can't see it.

Overall, I have to say I was disappointed with Stella Newman's debut - perhaps it's just me finding her relationship with James to be a complete sham and that he is an absolutely awful character, but I did find it hard to enjoy. It felt a bit too long to me, it dragged in places and Sophie seemed to keep doing the same things over and over when she's moping over awful James, and it was a struggle to plough on at times. There was a lot of dialogue as well, and it did feel a bit heavy at times with it. The good parts of the book were good, although certainly not really funny in the way I hoped, and I don't think it really gives out a good message that going back to emotionally abusive men is a good idea. I loved the cover and had expected so much so it kills me to write a negative review of it, but the problems I had with it just really outweighed my enjoyment of the good bits. It's meant to be a look at people's relationships with food, and their self-image, of which Sophie seems to have none, but for me these more important elements are over-shadowed by the sotyr of her ridiculous relationship with James. Fully expect to hate James, and want to give Sophie a good talking to as you're reading. Bit of a shame for me! :(

Rating: 2.5/5

You can pre-order Pear Shaped as both a paperback and as an eBook now (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

Book Deals: The Round-Up

New Year, new book deals! Here are the some of the latest book deals about chick lit with the major publishers!

Headline acquires new Jennifer. E. Smith title
"Headline Review has acquired a new title by the author of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

Headline senior commissioning editor Hannah Sheppard bought This is What Happy Looks Like, the fifth novel by YA author Jennifer E Smith, for publication in spring 2013.

The title begins with a misdirected email which sparks an "unlikely and irresistible romance" between two 17-year-olds on opposite sides of the US.

Sheppard said: "It has been fantastic to watch the love pour in from readers of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight so I'm thrilled that Jennifer is writing another gorgeous contemporary romance. Jennifer's skill at developing the romantic relationship through dialogue and banter make her books an absolute joy and a luxury to read. I know her fans will love This is What Happy Looks Like."

Avon acquires three books from debut author Olivia Luck
"Avon has acquired three books by debut novelist Olivia Luck, with the first novel in the series set to follow lead character Kiki Carlow as she plans her wedding.

Editorial director Claire Bord bought UK and Commonwealth, including translation, rights in the trio of books from Claudia Webb at WME, with plans to publish the first title, The  Wedding Diaries, in August 2012. The second, The Baby Diaries, will be released in February 2013, with the third, The Home Maker Diaries, to come in autumn 2013.

Bord said: "[The trilogy is] terrifically entertaining, with a sharp knowing humour that had me literally snorting with laughter in places. Olivia also writes with great warmth and in Kiki, has created an authentic female character that women will connect with immediately."

Pan Macmillan sign two more books from Karen Swan
"Pan Macmillan has purchased two more novels from the author of Christmas at Tiffany's.

Editorial director for fiction at Pan Macmillan, Jenny Geras, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights for a further two Karen Swan novels to follow her next release, The Perfect Present, which will be published later this year.

A former fashion journalist, Swan topped The Bookseller Heatseekers' chart in 2010.

Geras said: "Christmas at Tiffany's worked so well because it took Karen's trademark themes of love, glamour and friendship, and wrapped them up in a gorgeous Christmas package. Her new book for next Christmas, The Perfect Present, will build on this success, and I am thrilled to have signed up two more books by Karen for 2013 and 2014."

I think these all sound like amazing book deals, I'm especially happy with the idea of another Christmas novel from Karen Swan, and another super love story from Jennifer E. Smith! I'm also excited to read the trilogy from Olivia Luck, they sound great! Congrats to all publishers and authors involved in the deals.

All articles taken from The Bookseller.

10 January 2012

Author Video: Martina Reilly chats about 'Even Better Than The Real Thing?'

Author Martina Reilly's latest book 'Even Better Than The Real Thing?' is due out next week on January 19th, and to add a bit of information in for the book launch, Martina has a video on YouTube of her discussing her new book! Take a look at the video below :)

You can pre-order Even Better Than The Real Thing? in both paperback and as an eBook now!

Book News: The Great Escape by Fiona Gibson

I love Fiona Gibson's books - they're laugh out loud funny and a lot of mum's out there will certainly be able to relate to the escapades of the characters! Her latest book, The Great Escape, is due out on 16th February and sounds like it's going to be another great read! Here's the synopsis:

"Can any woman ever grab back a piece of her younger self? For one weekend only, Hannah, Sadie and Lou are determined to give it their best shot.

Hannah’s getting married… and has serious pre-wedding jitters. She adores Ryan but can’t figure out how to fit into his grown-up, family-sized life. There’s that fridge, for starters. That, too, is family-sized, with a gadget on the front that spits ice in her face. More alarming still are Ryan’s children, Daisy, 10 and Josh, 13, who clearly don’t relish the prospect of Hannah, a free-spirited greetings card illustrator, becoming their step-mum.

So she fires off invitations to a hen weekend – just the ticket to get her into the marrying mood. Trouble is…

New mum Sadie is leaving her twin babies for the very first time with their terrified dad…

Lou is unaware that her long-term man Spike is desperate to bundle her onto that Glasgow-bound train so he can hot-foot it round to see his secret fling Miranda…

And, unbeknown to the girls, Johnny, their sexy upstairs neighbour from their art college days, is still frequenting those haunts, desperately in need of a little magic to happen."

You can pre-order The Great Escape in paperback and as an eBook now!

9 January 2012

Book Review: Any Dream Will Do by Maria Duffy

"'Tis the season to be jolly, except single Dubliner Jenny Breslin is feeling something a little closer to gloomy. Everything about her life - her boring job at the bank, the complete lack of romance - has been untouched by holiday magic, and she dreads the thought of spending yet another festive season with her larger-than-life mother and her new boyfriend.

Thank God for Twitter, a place where there are always people ready and waiting to have a chat. She's even managed to make a couple of genuine friends there, even though she's never met them IRL (that's 'In Real Life' by the way).

'So who's on for a few days in Dublin? Would love to meet you all in person. I have a spare room in my house'
- this drunken tweet to her Twitter pals changes Jenny's life forever. Before she knows it, she's counting down to a Christmas visit from London-native Zahra Burns, make-up artist to the stars; Fiona Lee, a stay-at-home mum from Galway, and nurse Kerry (the Twitter buddy Jenny feels closest to).

Suddenly, Jenny becomes aware of how her life will appear to these strangers. In a word: Boring. It's easy enough to pretend that you're an exciting and sophisticated person when nobody can see you, but now Jenny's worried about being caught out in the occasional lies that she's told. All the more incentive to change her life for the better! But once her pals arrive, Jenny finds herself pining for the past and wondering if people are ever who they claim to be."

I do love a good debut novel, and when I was offered the opportunity to review Maria Duffy's new book Any Dream Will Do, I of course jumped at the chance. I think the cover is absolutely beautiful and really stands out, and it looks wonderfully wintery as well which is always a bonus in my book! I knew that the book is about Twitter as well, which sounded interesting as Twitter is getting ever-popular and I don't think anybody has actually written a book based around it before so I was curious to see how Duffy would deal with it and how easily it would be woven into the story.

The main character is a lady called Jenny, and I have to be honest and say from the off that I really didn't like her at all. I found her hard to warm to from the start and annoyingly my feelings towards her didn't change at all as the book progressed, something which I often find can be the case to be honest. Jenny seemed weirdly obsessed with Twitter - no reason was given for this obsession and her constant 'embellishing of the truth' shall we say, and I found it a bit odd. When she suggests a meet-up between her and her 3 online "friends", I think I could immediately see where it was going and was almost cringing because I knew Jenny was making an awful decision in meeting up with 3 total strangers. Jenny also had a strange relationship with her mother, and her new boyfriend, another thing that I disliked about her! It was clear that the man she was dating wasn't right for her yet she doesn't give it up, and I couldn't really understand her decisions with things like that! She seemed a very immature grown-up, very odd!

The three people Jenny meets on Twitter aren't exactly what they claimed to be when they finally descend of Dublin as per Jenny's instructions. I don't want to say too much but it went exactly as I thought it would go, and I found some of the scenes were just awful and I wanted to skip them because I felt so awkward reading them. It wasn't the writing style or anything to do with that, but it was just characters, their interactions and the general way that they were which didn't sit right with me, and as I said, I struggled to plough on through some scenes as they just felt like hard work. Jenny managed quite well considering the awful circumstances I suppose but I couldn't really sympathise with her as all I could think was that she had brought it on herself! I guess it goes to show the perils of a site like Twitter as well and how people can become anyone they want to be, and nobody on there is going to know any different.

Overall, this was a good book but it didn't blow me away like I was hoping for it too. I found the constant tweets throughout the book somewhat annoying as they broke up the flow of the rest of the novel, and I just hated the main character Jenny, never a good thing really! Duffy does weave a good story, and I can see she has the talent to write something amazing but this one just felt a bit clunky and awkward to me which was a shame. With dislikeable characters and a plot that's a bit far-fetched but does have it's funny moments, Any Dream Will Do  is a strange kind of book that you might not completely love but there's something very readable about it which will make you want to keep reading until you've finished it, if only to find out how it'll all end for Jenny! Will she still be as obsessed with Twitter as ever or will her bad experience put an end to that?! Read it and find out!

Rating: 3/5

You can buy 'Any Dream Will Do' in both paperback and as an eBook now!