30 April 2012

Book Review: The Runaway Actress by Victoria Connelly

"When the stresses of being an A-list actress get too much for her, Connie Gordon decides to escape to a tiny Scottish village. But little does she realise that whilst Lochnabrae might be quiet, it’s far from sleepy…

Beautiful, rich, famous – and seriously stressed, actress Connie Gordon is ready for a change. Deciding to accept an invitation from her fan club in Scotland, Connie kisses goodbye to her ex-boyfriends, stalkers and double-crossing agents, and prepares herself for complete relaxation.

But swapping the Hollywood Hills for the Highlands of Scotland doesn’t make for the easiest of transitions and, when she meets local playwright, Alastair McInnes, who’s sworn he’ll never become involved with another actress again, sparks fly, and the sleepy village of Lochnabrae will never be the same again."

Rating: 4/5

For some reason, I haven't gotten around to reading any of Victoria Connelly's novels before so when I received a copy of her latest book The Runaway Actress, complete with really gorgeous cover(!), I decided it was time to finally pick up one of her books and I am really glad that I did because it was an easy and light-hearted read that was well written, and very enjoyable too. It was a really good twist on a runaway story, involving a celebrity instead and it certainly allowed for some really funny story arcs to develop, especially with the somewhat obsessive Connie Gordon fan club!

The book is the story of Hollywood actress Connie Gordon, who has decided she has had enough of the high life and desperately needs to escape to somewhere with a bit of normality. She flies across the world to the small town of Lochnabrae in Scotland, the place where her mother was born. However, she doesn't realise that Lochnabrae is the home of her biggest fan club, run by the very keen Maggie. When she arrives in Lochnabrae, Connie finds a warm welcome, and soon settles in to Isla's bed and breakfast. However, she doesn't count on meeting playwright Alistair, who has a few secrets in his own past as well... will Connie be able to find the peace she wants in Lochnabrae, or is there more for her there?

I have to say that straight away, I found this book so easy to get into. I warmed to the character of Connie immediately, despite her lavish lifestyle in Hollywood, she was a very lonely and sad individual and hatt goes to show that money doesn't always equal happiness. Connie's decision to go somewhere new was good, and I was glad she made the move. Throughout the book, Connie comes more into herself as a person, and copes with the awe and love from her fan club members really well, and  I really liked her all the way through. The other characters however, I'm not so sure about! Maggie really was embarrassingly obsessed with Connie, and I could honestly feel myself cringing as I read the scenes with the two of them, it was just embarassing. Yes, she's a fan but she didn't even attempt to hide it and I found myself getting a bit annoyed with it by the end!

Alistair on the other hand was a really good character. He has a secret that he is hiding about his past which he doesn't want revelaed to the other residents of Lochnabrae, and as the book goes on, we find out what it is, and why he likes to keep himself to himself. Yes, the book is predictable regarding Alistair and how it all ends up, but I enjoyed the journey it took to get there. Lochnabrae is written as a small community of friendly people, and it was nice that there were no really horrible bits in the book, it was all very pleasant and easy to read. I loved Connelly's descriptions of the small Scottish village, the surrounding nature areas sounded beautiful, and it certainly makes you want to go and see it for yourself!

I really enjoyed this book overall, and found Victoria Connelly to be a really good story-teller and I whizzed through this book in just a couple of evenings as I really wanted to find out if Connie would get her happy-ever-after, whether it be with a man or just within herself. It's a read that had me laughing, smiling and generally in a good mood after reading it, and Connie really was a great character, willing to help out however she could, and be a friend to the people who idolised her. There were a few twists and turns along the way which kept the book fresh, and although I had guessed the ending a way into the book, it didn't spoilt my enjoyment of the read at all, and I was looking forward every night to picking it up and finding out a bit more about Connie and the residents of Lochnabrae. Definitely a book I would recommend!

You can buy The Runaway Actress as a paperback or as an eBook now.

Book Deals: The Round-up

Here are the latest book deals that I've found online, I love finding out the latest and greatest in the publishing world, it's always exciting to find out about brilliant new books that are coming out! Which books are you looking forward to most?

Hodder buys first Oliver adult novel
"Hodder & Stoughton has acquired the first adult novel by YA crossover author, Lauren Oliver, whose previous works include Before I Fall, Delirium and Pandemonium.

Senior editor Kate Howard bought British Commonwealth rights in the title from Arabella Stein at Abner Stein on behalf of Stephen Barbara at Foundry Literary + Media, with plans to publish in hardcover in autumn 2014.

The novel, Rooms, is described as a “gripping and beautifully composed ghost story”, with two ghosts haunting a country estate following the death of its elderly inhabitant, Richard Walker, who leaves the house full of mementos, junk and valuable possessions. One ghost is the book’s narrator, Alice, who is desperate to burn down the house to escape both it and the fellow spirit living there, whom she now loathes.

Howard said: “Rooms is an unnerving and intensely emotional novel that will leave you with your hair on end and your heart aching for more. Lauren Oliver is an outstanding storyteller, and has a remarkable ability to create characters who walk off the page and straight into your life. I’m delighted to be publishing such a spectacular, exquisitely written book by such an incredibly exciting talent.”

Canvas acquires 'laugh-out-loud' debut
"Constable & Robinson imprint Canvas has acquired a "laugh-out-loud and heart-breaking" debut with plans to publish in hardback in 2013.

Commissioning editor Victoria Hughes-Williams bought UK and Commonwealth rights in the title by Angela Jackson through Anna Webber at United Agents, with the book provisionally titled The Emergence of Judy Taylor. It will be published in April 2013.

Hughes-Williams said: "I was completely won over by Angela's cast of characters, who are so deftly drawn that you feel as though you've known them for years. They really are as flawed, endearing and unpredictable as life itself.

"The Emergence of Judy Taylor is laugh-out-loud and heart-breaking in turn. Relationships are cleverly examined, thanks to Angela's unique insight into the psychology of the human condition."

Century acquires high-concept women's fiction debut
"At Century, editorial director Kate Burke has snapped up UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to a high-concept women’s fiction début, The Life List, by Lori Nelson. Burke did the deal with Rachel Kind at Random House Inc, following a multi-publisher US auction. The book follows thirtysomething Brett, who inherits a list of 10 life goals when her mother dies. Burke described it as “poignant, funny and romantic”. Arrow will publish in summer 2013." 

All articles are taken from The Bookseller website. 

27 April 2012

Picture This, Picture That: Uncoupled by Lizzie Enfield

This week for Picture This, Picture That I am looking at 2 very different covers for Lizzie Enfield's latest release Uncoupled. I did like the hardback cover (left) in striking purple, it looked very different to other covers out there, but I really do like the new paperback cover (right) which is due out in September. I am surprised by how different they look too, and I like that the author's name is far more prominent on the new edition, whereas it looks a bit lost on the hardback.

So, which cover do you like best?! Which one would make you pick it up off the shelf in a shop and buy it? For me, I think it'd be the paperback. Vote in the poll below and we'll see which one is most popular!

surveys & polls

26 April 2012

Author Interview: Sinead Moriarty

I'm lucky enough to be welcoming the wonderful Sinead Moriarty to my site today for an author interview. I adored Sinead's latest book Me and My Sisters when I read it last year, and when I was offered the opportunity to interview Sinead about her books, I jumped at it! Please enjoy the interview, and my thanks go to Maura at Riot Communications and Sinead for answering my questions!

Q1. Please tell me about your latest book Me and My Sisters.

Me and My Sisters is the story of three very different sisters all going through difficult stages of their lives. There is quite a lot of friction between them and it is only when faced with life-changing challenges that they come together. They realize that they are all vulnerable fragile people who need the love and support of each other to deal with the long road ahead. I wanted to explore the theme of identity - particularly the loss of identity when you have children and how lonely and isolating it can be as a mother. I also wanted to look at the issue of having your identity tied up with what you own/wear/drive. What would happen if all your riches were suddenly taken away - who are you without your car/diamonds/designer clothes? And finally I wanted to explore what happens when you have a child that you don't really want and feel nothing for. How do you deal with having a baby you have no love for, a baby that is interfering with your career - the career that means everything to you.

Q2. I read the book last summer and really loved it. I really liked that all the sisters were so different, and how events through the book changed them. Did you like writing about a family of characters, and do you base your characters on anyone in particular?

I love writing about families because I believe that the family is the most fascinating of subject matters. No family is the same, no family is 'normal'. Every family has skeletons in its closets. Every family has a story to tell. Relationships within families have always fascinated me, especially the relationship between siblings. I really like the dynamic of three sisters because you have three women with very different personalities, minds, desires, aspirations and lives. How these three women interact and behave towards each other under duress was really interesting to explore.

Q3. The new cover look for Me and My Sisters is very different from the original release - do you get much say in the cover style, and are you happy with the fresh new look?

I do have a say in the covers but I usually let the creative department at Penguin do their thing and unless I really dislike it, I tend to go with it. I really like this new cover as I think it's evocative and has a brightness to it that hopefully people will be drawn to.

Q4. Your stories are always very realistic and about women that could easily be someone we all know. Do you prefer writing realistic stories, and where do you find your inspiration for them?

I like writing about real people. I find life and people endlessly fascinating. I get my inspiration from daily life. I listen, observe, read and soak in everything around me and then, usually in the middle of night, I wake up with an idea for a book. My novels always start with an idea - I've written about anorexia, breast cancer, infertility, mixed marriages...  this one started with the idea of exploring how mothers lose their identity when children come along, how they become invisible women. The story then began to take on a life of its own and other characters appeared and I began to weave a story around this main theme.

Q5. You write a trilogy of books starring the character Emma Hamilton and her struggle to conceive and become a mother. Are you planning on bringing those characters back, or do you think their story is finished now? Do you prefer writing a series of books or stand-alones?

Actually, I am currently working on a book about Emma and James. I decided to go back and revisit them and it's been really lovely getting to know them again and meeting all the old characters from those first books. I like to write stand alone books too, but I do feel that there is scope with all my books to write sequels at some point.

Q6. Female-written Irish fiction seems to be ever-growing in popularity at the moment, authors such as yourself, Melissa Hill, Colette Caddle, Martina Reilly, Cathy Kelly, Marian Keyes and more are hugely successful and popular. What do you think it is about Irish writers that make us want to keep reading your novels, and make them so popular?!

I think Irish people generally have the 'gift of the gab'. We are storytellers by nature. I think Irish women in particular know how to mix humour with darkness which is what I try to do in my books. It's a very Irish thing to find humour in difficult situations. The best humour can often stem from the darkest of places and I think people respond to that.

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

I read a huge amount and I spend time with my family and friends. I like switching off, I think it's important as writing can take over your life and all of your head-space. So, I'm very grateful to have three small children who need my attention and draw me away from my desk.

Q8. Who are some of your own favourite authors, and could you name your top three books of all time?

I like so many authors the list is endless. But my top three favourite books would probably be: The Dead School by Patrick McCabe, Four Letters of Love by Niall Williams and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

Q9. Finally, your new novel is out this summer, can you tell us about it please?! I can't wait to read it!

The new novel is about an eighteen year old girl called Sophie who lives in London with her mother Anna. One night, something happens, and Sophie realizes that her mother - the only mother she has ever known, the mother she loves and adores - is not her mother but is actually someone who abducted her seventeen years ago. The book then goes back in time and we find out why Sophie was taken and who her real mother is...

Thanks so much, Sinead!

You can buy Sinead's latest book Me and My Sisters as a paperback or an eBook now.

Book News: Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair

Jenny Eclair's fictional novel Life, Death and Vanilla Slices is due out on July 5th 2012, and I think it's going to be a funny read! Jenny is great comedienne and I can't wait to read her book. Here's the synopsis:

"Jean Collins is in a coma. She stepped out into the middle of the road without looking and was run over by a motorbike. But what had distracted her? And why was she carrying a box of vanilla slices - the cream cakes she only ever bought for special celebrations?

 For Jean's daughter Anne, these questions are the least of her concern. Travelling back up north to visit her mother, Anne frets about leaving her two sons behind in London - boys who are rapidly becoming men, and not very pleasant ones at that. And there are secrets waiting for Anne, back in the house where she grew up. Secrets she doesn't want to think about - that she buried a long time ago..."

You can pre-order Life, Death and Vanilla Slices as a paperback now!

25 April 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades Darker by E. L. James

"Romantic, liberating and totally addictive, the Fifty Shades trilogy will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you for ever ...

Daunted by the dark secrets of the tormented young entrepreneur Christian Grey, Ana Steele has broken off their relationship to start a new career with a US publishing house.

But desire for Grey still dominates her every waking thought, and when he proposes a new arrangement, she cannot resist. Soon she is learning more about the harrowing past of her damaged, driven and demanding Fifty Shades than she ever thought possible.

But while Grey wrestles with his inner demons, Ana must make the most important decision of her life. And it's a decision she can only make on her own..."

Rating: 5/5

After reading and absolutely loving the first novel of this trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, I was over the moon to receive a parcel containing the second and last books, the second of which was this one, Fifty Shades Darker. It apparently kicked off where the first book ended, with Ana having left Christian because she though she couldn't be what Christian wanted i.e. a submissive. Despite this, I was desperately hoping for a happy ending in this book for the both of them, and I wondered if author E L James would make Ana and Christian have a proper relationship this time, one he could settle down into, and so I eagerly began, hoping for something that would be as fantastic to read as it's predecessor, yet a great story in its own right too, and I really wasn't disappointed! I'll start by saying that this review might contain spoilers about the nature of the story, but I don't think its anything you won't guess from reading the blurb of this book, or even that of the final book, Fifty Shades Freed. So please click away now if you don't want to find out anymore!

Ana and Christian split at the end of the end of the last book, but after a short period of separation at the start of this book, they realise that they can't live without each other, and without mentioning the L-word, they decide they want to be a couple again. However, Ana knows she still can't be the complete submissive that Christian wants, although she's still open to some visits to his playroom, but under her rules. Christian is just happy to have Ana back again, wanting her to live with him and be his 100%. He knows she cant' be his submissive, and is determined to try and live a life without the BDSM relationship he thinks that he wants. Will the pair be able to come to a compromise, and make themselves happy, without sacrificing something that each of them really needs? Can Christian really let go of his past and move forward with Ana?

This book is far less about the sexual side of the relationship between Ana and Christian than the previous book, although there are still a lot of sexual scenes within. However, I felt that these took more of a backseat to the real love story at the heart of this, and how the relationship between the pair is developing. It isn't until Ana leaves that Christian realises how strongly he feels about her, and this sends him into a spiral of desperately wanting her back, willing to do anything to prove to her he can change and be the man she needs and wants. I found the Christian in this book to be loving, caring and very insecure, and you can't help but love him as you read about him. We also find out a lot more about his past and childhood, and why he is how he is, and it's quite emotional in parts, and I felt so sorry for Christian and what he'd been through. I was glad Ana made breakthroughs with him, because it's clear straight away he's a great person inside, he just doesn't know how to believe it himself.

There's a bit of a spanner in the works for the couple however, when one of Christian's previous submissives shows up again, threatening Ana, and Christian doesn't know how to protect her fully. Why is this girl after Ana, and what is going to happen if Christian and his security crew don't catch her in time? It's an exciting little plot line thrown in to stir things up for the pair again when they finally get back together, and it shows us another side of Christian, how protective and cautious he can be, and I wanted to give Ana a bit of a slap occasionally when she went against the safe rules Christian put up for her - those really aren't the times to disobey a Dom! I really liked this story, and found it picked up the pace of the book really well, and I was hooked! As per the first book, there are quite a few sexual scenes, but it was more about seeing how the sexual side of their relationship grew and how Christian could adjust rather than just running through BDSM scenario's as they were doing a bit in Fifty Shades of Grey. Again, they were well written, and there's something just so likeable about Christian, even when he's in "Dom" mode, James has really created a fabulous character with him!

The end of the book leads nicely onto the start of the next, and although I had an idea what was going to happen, I was so pleased when events in this book happened as they did. I loved that Christian loved Ana so much he was wiling to make such a change, and it goes to show if you love someone enough, you will be what they need you to be to keep them in your life. The love story just grows further in this book, and as I was reading, I forgot the world around me and totally immersed myself in the land of Ana and dreamy Christian Grey. Yes, it's partly an erotic novel, but again it's just a wonderful love story, and for anyone who dreams of a happily ever after, I urge you to pick up the Fifty Shades trilogy because these are books you won't forget in a hurry. I actually thought this book was even better than the first, delving into the life of Christian was great, and seeing the man behind the Dominant facade was fantastic. I loved every page, and started the next novel immediately, make sure you try it! I think every girl dreams of being loved like Christian loves and adores Ana... and until then, I'll settle for reading about them :) Just brilliant!

You can buy Fifty Shades Darker as a paperback or an eBook now.

Book News: The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

One of my super-duper top 10 exciting debuts for 2012 to look out for is most definitely Mia March's first book The Meryl Streep Movie Club! Just the title makes me want to read it because I love Meryl Streep, and the idea of a movie club about her is just so fab! The cover is pretty gorgeous as well, so bright and colourful, I cannot wait to read it. It's out on 30th June. Click the cover to see a bigger image!

"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."

24 April 2012

Book Review: Alice Brown's Lessons in the Curious Art of Dating by Eleanor Prescott

"Looking for love? Call in the expert. Alice Brown is a matchmaker extraordinaire. She has never, ever failed to find her clients the man of their dreams, and she doesn't intend to start now. As she tells her clients: Life's more exciting when you let yourself be surprised. But Alice's latest client Kate is proving her biggest challenge yet. Kate is a on a mission: she wants the perfect man. Trouble is, Kate could find fault with George Clooney and reject Johnny Depp. Will Kate be the first client for whom Alice fails to find love? Truth is, Alice has failed once before - she is the one person who remains resolutely single. In helping Kate, will she finally learn to take her own advice too?"

Rating: 3/5

This is one debut novel I have been curious about for a while. Ever since I saw it on Amazon, I thought it sounded like quite a good idea, and I liked the cute green cover, it was certainly different and stood out to me compared to the normal chick lit covers we see. This is author Eleanor Prescott's debut novel

The book tells the story of dating agent worker Alice Brown, who is determined to find true love for each of her clients. She really believes that there is someone out there for everyone, and puts her all into her matches, trying to make sure that they meet someone they will be compatible with. However, her boss isn't quite as honest as Alice is, trying to hang on to the male clients by matching them with unsuitable women to keep them on her books, oh and her marriage to John isn't quite all she makes it out to be either. Alice's latest client Kate also believes in true love, but doesn't fancy going out every night to meet a man. Despite mocking from her best friend, she moves along with the plan andi s unsure after a few poor dates. But will Kate meet her Mr Right? And is Alice ever going to be lucky in love herself?

I have to confess that when I started reading the book, I was a lttle disappointed as it felt a bit slow, and I found it hard to get into it. I decided to persevere and carry on with it, but I did feel like I had to push myself to pick the book uprather than wanting to pick it up at every opportunity which how I like to feel about my books! As the book progressed and I got a little bit more into the story, I enjoyed a little bit more, but still found it went a bit slowly for me, and I wished things would happen a little quicker as I did guess who Alice would end up with, and I sorted want her and him just to get a move on with things a little bit! I did enjoy the dating agency aspects of the book, they were quite readable and it was fun to read about all the girls that worked there, and their rivalry with Stella from another agency who made me laugh, and I wished there was more of these scenes!

Alice was okay as a lead character, but I did find her a little dull to read about after a while. Yes, she's got a good heart and wants the best for everyone, but that didn't mean she was fun to read about unfortunately. I was a little bit fooled by the blurb as well as it makes out that Kate is the other main character in the book, but I found her not to be, and was just a minor character really. In fact, the other main character was Audrey, Alice's boss at the dating agency. In some ways, I actually preferred her story over Alice's because it was really interesting, and although it too was a bit slow-burning I wanted to see how it would pan out, and I ended up feeling a bit sorry for her, she was just a naive old lady really. Kate's story, however, was made up of a few dates, and then what happened after those dates and that was it. She wasn't particularly fun, or good to read about, and I found myself wanting to skip over her parts a little bit, especially as her dates progressed a bit more. I couldn't stand her best friend either, and don't see what she added to the book at all.

Overall, I have to say I found this book a bit disappointing, and wasn't the fun story I had hoped for before I began the book. It felt like it took me ages to read compared to others I have read this year because I really couldn't get into it enough and didn't get that feeling of wanting to read it all the time which was a shame. If you fancy something a little more slow-paced, then this might be the book for you, but I just couldn't get myself into it as I had hoped. It had a good cast and good potential, but something didn't click for me. For a debut novel, this by far isn't the worst I have ever read, in fact the writing is quite good, and I enjoyed the way the chapters alternated in terms of narrator so was kept quite fresh and allowed us a good insight into all the characters and their thoughts and feelings, but for me, the more negative bits outweighed the good for me, and so the book gets 3 stars from me!

You can buy Alice Brown's Lessons in the Curious Art of Dating as a paperback or an eBook now.

23 April 2012

World Book Night!

Happy World Book Night everyone! What a great day to celebrate... a whopping one million books are being given away by 20,00 givers across the UK and Ireland today... have you been given a free book? There are some great events going on up and down the country today, are you thinking of attending any? Me? I'll just be sat at home all evening curled up with a great book... sounds like heaven to me!

You can find out more about the World Book Night events on their website: http://www.worldbooknight.org/

Author Interview: Lulu Taylor

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming the lovely Lulu Taylor to the site for an author interview! Last week, I reviewed Lulu's new book Outrageous Fortune which I loved, and Lulu was kind enough to answer some questions for me. Please enjoy the interview, and my thanks go to Amelia from Random House and Lulu for answering my questions :)

Q1. Please tell me about your new novel Outrageous Fortune.

Outrageous Fortune is the story of two girls, born into very different circumstances, whose paths cross and whose lives become entwined – though they have no idea of it for a long time.  It’s about the pampered rich girl who loses everything, and the poor girl struggling to make her way in a tough world, and how they overcome those challenges and resolve the secrets in their pasts...  There’s love, intrigue, sex, deception and all the stuff that makes, I hope, a juicy, entertaining read.

Q2. Where did you come up with the concept of the story for Outrageous Fortune?

Usually, I hear a true-life story that sparks my imagination.  In this case, without giving away too much, I heard about a man who coldheartedly rejected his son for reasons that weren’t the son’s fault.  It was such breathtakingly awful behaviour that it stuck with me.  Then I went to an amazingly glamorous party where there were a lot of rich old men and some beautiful dancing girls, and imagined how it might be if one of those girls decided to make the most of her opportunity...  The stories came together to form the plot of my novel.  It’s a reversal of fortune story, with a good dollop of transformation – because I do love it when people reinvent themselves!

Q3. All of your novels are fantastic, and what I would call 'bonkbusters' - a great story, a bit of sex and scandal but keep you hooked until the end. What made you choose to write this type of book, and is it fun to create such lavish worlds for your characters?

Thank you very much!  I’m glad they are page-turners, I think that’s the highest compliment.  I loved bonkbusters when I was growing up, there was something so exciting about losing myself in a totally different world where the most outlandish things happened.  I also adored Dynasty and all those big soap operas.  I wanted to write something fun, entertaining and escapist.  There’s a place for novels about heroines who are just like us, and a place for books about people who live in a world completely removed from the everyday.  I love doing my research, dressing my characters and giving them luxurious lives.  The odd thing is that some of the bits people find most unbelievable are true or based on fact – but of course I can’t say what they are...

Q4. Your novels are quite long, Outrageous Fortune was almost 700 pages! How long does it take you to write a book, and what's your favourite part of the book process, from start to publication?

The whole thing takes about a year from start to end, but writing the first draft takes three to four months.  I tend to write quite fast and towards the end, I’ll be completely immersed in it and writing a lot every day.  At that point, I’ve been known to go away by myself to work completely alone.  The books are long, but I’m always looking to cut where I can.  Editing takes another month, and then it’s into copyedits and proofs.  The feeling of delivering an edited script is a wonderful one, definitely the best part – although getting my hands on a finished copy is also exciting.

Q5. If you had the choice to live as any one of your characters, who would you choose and why?

Goodness, it’s hard because nearly all of my characters have very gilded lifestyles which can sound hugely attractive on the surface... but they all have their problems and difficulties too, of course.  I thought Jemima in Heiresses had lots of blessings and ended up in a very happy place.  She reappears briefly in Outrageous Fortune and it was lovely to see her again.  We also meet Allegra and Xander McCorquodale from Midnight Girls, definitely two of my favourite characters.

Q6. How do you feel about your books being called Chick Lit?  What's your opinion on the bashing Chick Lit has been taking in the media lately? 

We’ve got very used to the term Chick Lit, and no one’s ever agreed on what it means, except that it’s books aimed at women, so it covers a wide school.  I’ve always thought that by Chick Lit, most people mean contemporary romance; sometimes it’s humorous and sometimes not, but it tends to portray a realistic life.  The blockbuster is more in fantasy territory, closer to fairytale or gothic, though of course they can still be emotionally true with rounded characters.  There are plenty of other categories that might fall under the Chick Lit banner – comic romps, thrillers, historical fiction..., you name it.  The problem is that Chick Lit is a rather dismissive term, which is why so many authors dislike it.  But women’s fiction, particularly romance, has always been seen as second rate, and it’s usually treated with scorn by people who consider themselves terribly literary and clever.  I find that depressing but I comfort myself by remembering that these books often have bigger sales than most literary books could ever dream of.  Despite snobbish assumptions, they are in no way easy to do well and the most successful ones are often brilliantly executed.  And they bring enormous pleasure to many people.  No one should be ashamed of reading what they enjoy – I think it’s the sign of well-rounded human being that they can read a wonderful romantic novel one day, and TS Eliot or the latest Booker winner, or whatever, the next.  I also remember that Charlotte Bronte was told by a sneery literary writer of the day to get on with womanly pursuits and leave the writing to the men.  Funnily enough, I can’t recall the name of the man who told her that.

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

Read, of course!  I read all sorts of things.  By my bed at the moment, I’ve got a biography, poetry, and three novels – I’m reading Costa winner Andrew Miller’s Pure at the moment – plus my Kindle with the latest Sophie Kinsella on the go, and more lined up.  I also love newspapers and magazines, where there are often lots of ideas for stories, so they count as research.  However, when I’m not reading or writing, I have a couple of small children to look after as well.  I’m training them to be bookworms as well, as it keeps them quiet.

Q8. Do you like reading chick lit? Who do you think are the best authors of the genre, and what is your favourite Chick Lit book of all time?

I love reading chick lit, it provides so much entertainment and pleasure.  The best books are so cleverly done you hardly notice the skill that’s gone into the story, the characters, the dialogue, the description – it just flows like hot caramel.  We’re lucky in this country to have so many talented authors, particularly funny ones (I think humour is incredibly difficult to do well), and I’m in awe of all the big ones: Lisa Jewell, Lucy Dillon, Sophie Kinsella, JoJo Moyes, Katie Fforde, Jenny Colgan and many more.  My ultimate chick lit novel is probably The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford which I fell in love with at thirteen and still adore.

Q9. Finally, are you working on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell me anything about it?!

I’m always working on the next novel, making notes and scribbling ideas.  I’m not quite in a position to tell all yet – I tend to work out a lot in the writing – but I hope it will be entertaining and that people will want to read it.  That’s the most important thing of all!

You can buy Lulu's latest book Outrageous Fortune as a paperback or an eBook now.

Book News: Chelsea Wives by Anna-Lou Weatherley

One summer release I am really looking forward to is Anna-Lou Weatherley's new book Chelsea Wives. I love the cover, it looks really fun and different, much like the story! I think this book is going to be a great summer read, a good bit of escapist reading, just what I like! It's due out on 21st June and here's the synopsis:

"It bags, Botox and Platinum Amex cards – welcome to the glamorous lives of the Chelsea Wives

They are the ultimate ladies who lunch: Imogen, the beautiful ex-model, Calgary, the glamorous, former fashion editor, and Yasmin, the feisty ex-party girl.

On the surface they have it all; beauty, wealth and status. But underneath their perfect, glossy world of show-homes, champagne and immaculate wardrobes, secrets and lies lurk…

When Imogen's despot husband, Sebastian, publically humiliates her, she decides it's for the last time. Plagued by personal tragedy and united in their destructive marriages, the three women come together to mastermind a shocking crime that's set to turn the tables on their men and shift the balance of power once and for all….

Set against a backdrop of exotic locations, designer boutiques and London's high society scene, these Chelsea Wives are about to join forces and risk it all for the ultimate revenge…"

You can pre-order Chelsea Wives as a paperback or as an eBook now.

20 April 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

"When literature student Anastasia Steele interviews successful entrepreneur Christian Grey, she finds him very attractive and deeply intimidating. Convinced that their meeting went badly, she tries to put him out of her mind – until he turns up at the store where she works part-time, and invites her out.

Unworldly and innocent, Ana is shocked to find she wants this man. And, when he warns her to keep her distance, it only makes her want him more.

But Grey is tormented by inner demons, and consumed by the need to control. As they embark on a passionate love affair, Ana discovers more about her own desires, as well as the dark secrets Grey keeps hidden away from public view …"

Rating: 5/5

You simply must have seen the hype about this new book from E L James - if not, where have you been?! It's first went viral in America, and has since been published in the UK and shot straight to number 1 on the bestselling charts. The author, E L James, has appeared on numerous shows both over the pond and over here in the UK, from serious broadcasts such as Newsnight to breakfast TV 'Lorraine' almost defending her book, which certainly piqued my interest. Why has this book caught the public attention so much? And how did something that started off as a Twilight fan fiction end up being a global hit, especially given the subject matter within. Despite my initial reservations, I decided I just had to take the plunge and read the now infamous Fifty Shades of Grey... and I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The book tells the story of two people, Anastasia Steele, or Ana as she's known throughout the book, and Christian Grey. The two meet when Ana is sent to interview Christian in place of her friend, and she doesn't realise how much she has caught Christian's eye. Things develop between the pair, but as Ana starts to consider a relationship with Christian, he has a confession to make. Ana is shocked and uncertain that she wants to get involved in the things Christian enjoys, and the pair embark on a love affair, each trying new things with each other and Ana trying to come around to Christian's way of thinking. What exactly are Grey's secrets and can Ana cope with his demands and expectations?

Now, before I go any further, it isn't spoiling anything in the book to talk about what Christian's secret is, and to be honest it's been covered so much in the media, I don't really think it's a secret anymore. Christian is into BDSM - bondage, domination, and sado-masochism. This isn't a topic I know anything about, or have read about in any previous books I've read, but I was willing to be open minded and read this. Now I've read it, it wasn't as bad as I thought it'd be, and was certainly eye-opening. Yes, there are a lot of graphic sex scenes throughout the book, some involving BDSM and some not, but they were tastefully done and covered the topic of BDSM well. Another interesting point to make is that Ana was a virgin before her relationship with Christian, and as the book is told her from point of view, we almost learn about the topic with her from Christian, and it's dealt with quite matter of factly. There are checklists involving the things Christian likes and wants to do with Ana, with hard and soft limits, safe words, and other things covered that I had no idea about at all.

While the storyline of the BDSM relationship between Ana and Christian is what has hit the headlines, and I'm sure helped the book soar up the bestseller charts, for me that wasn't what I enjoyed about the book. For me, I liked that it was a proper love story, slow burning yes, but a love story none-the-less. We have a naive young girl who falls in love with a strong minded, more experienced man, and the relationship blossoms before our very eyes. Although Christian has his wants and needs in the bedroom, we see he is a very insecure man with a hidden past that isn't really revealed much in this book, and his relationship with Ana exposes his softer side. Some of my favourite bits of the book were the emails exchanged between the pair, and show a funnier, softer Christian than other parts of the book, say the sex scenes, would have you see. And yes, I do rather like Christian - he's described as very handsome, strong and sexy - he is what made the book so readable, and I can see why Ana doesn't want to give up on him! He's a flawed hero, and I think that is what is so likeable about him - he can't see why Ana would love him and yet as a reader, I could.

Don't write this book off because you think it isn't going to be your cup of tea. Yes there are graphic sexual scenes throughout the book, and while some comment that they don't really add anything to the story or move it along - they aren't supposed to move it along, and yes they do add something it shows us Christian's hidden self and brings Ana out of her shell far more. Some won't like the topic covered in the book, and that's fair enough, but I am glad I was able to look past that side of it and delve deeper into the heart of the book which is a love affair between the two least likely lovers, and how they help each other grow in many ways throughout the book. Although it was written as Twilight fan fiction, I tried not to make comparisons in my head between Ana and Bella, and Christian and Edward, and to be honest, after a while, I didn't even remember the Twilight link and just read it for what it is - a really interesting, and readable novel. I'm currently reading Fifty Shades Darker, the second novel of the trilogy and have to say that is just as good. If my review has at all persuaded you that Fifty Shades of Grey might be more than just a kinky book full of sex, then I urge you to pick up a copy and try it - I'm sure you won't be disappointed! And yes, that silver tie on the cover is quite significant... ;)

You can buy Fifty Shades of Grey in paperback or as an eBook now.

19 April 2012

Book Review: The Jane Austen Marriage Manual by Kim Izzo

"It's a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen knew more about marriage than anyone else. (Never mind that she never got married herself...)

It's in the midst of the recession when Kate, a freelance journalist and self-professed Jane Austen addict, finds herself single, unemployed and soon-to-be homeless (not to mention about to turn 40).

In desperation she accepts a writing assignment to prove a theory that in the toughest economic times a wealthy man is the only must-have accessory. So, with just Jane Austen's advice for company, she sets off to see if Mr Rich can ever become Mr Right.

Her mission takes her to Palm Beach, St Moritz and London. Where, in keeping company with the elite, she meets billionaires, oil tycoons, and generally men who make Mr Darcy look like an amateur. But will rubbing shoulders with men of good fortune ever actually lead her to love?"

Rating: 3/5

Kim Izzo's debut novel is one I've been looking forward to for a while. The idea of the story sounded great, and I really liked the cover when it was debuted online. In real life, it's far pinker and prettier, and certainly looks like a book I would really enjoy. I've read a few Jane Austen novels, and really enjoyed them, and have also read a few modern retellings of the stories, so I was curious to see where this would fit into those sort of novels, and if you actually had to like Austen to read this book at all! As it turned out, you don't need to have read an Austen novel to keep up with this, and I'd go so far as to say you don't even have to like Austen that much to read and even enjoy this. Sadly, it didn't really work well for me, and although I enjoyed parts of it.

The book is the story of American Kate, a journalist who adores the novels of Jane Austen. She's been unlucky in love so far, and lives in a house with her grandmother who virtually raised her, and mother who is keener on gambling than she is on her family. When Kate loses her job, she embarks of a rather strange adventure (of sorts) - to write an article to show how to get a wealthy man like the heroines of her favourite Austen novels. Kate ends up travelling the world on the last few dollars she has left, but is she going to find the man of her dreams and the happiness she desperately craves? Or is it going to be a big disappointment if she finds out that a rich man doesn't automatically mean her dreams will come true...

My first big problem about this book was Kate's whole philosophy of finding a rich man simply to help pay for her mother's debts and sort out her life as she had no job and therefore no money. She seem quite cold and calculated in bagging a rich man, one she didn't even necessarily have an attraction to in order to fulfill her need to get a rich husband. It sat rather uncomfortably with me, even though it perhaps wasn't meant to be taken 100% seriously, I just couldn't make sense of what she was doing in my head and it felt a bit awkward to read because I didn't like the way it was going. Kate started off being quite likeable, and I felt quite sorry for her with the storyline regarding her mother and grandmother, but as it progressed, I found myself disliking her more.

I enjoyed the travel aspect of the book as Kate travelled the world on her savings, and with some new friends that she meets along the way. It was nice to read of the glamourous locations, from the ski slopes to the polo club, and some of the characters that appear there were good and made for interesting storylines. However, I could see by about halfway through who Kate was going to end up with, and I wish it had got there sooner because it could have saved a lot of story with these unsuitable men that Kate forces herself to be with. I like the Izzo has brought up the story of a woman not wanting children, something which weirdly seems to be quite taboo these days, and it was nice that Kate was a strong, independent woman - well at the start anyway.

Overall, this book was an okay read but I have to confess that it did leave me disappointed as I turned the final page. There wasn't as much about Austen as I had expected given the title, just a few references by Kate here and there and of course the story that Kate is writing an article based on what the women in Austen's books used to do, but that was it really. I just didn't like the way Kate went about it, and I think that is what left a sour taste in my mouth because the writing was really good, the book was very readable but just something about it just didn't jump out at me as I had hoped. Perhaps it's just me taking it too seriously, I don't know but The Jane Austen Marriage Manual wasn't the read I was expecting it to be.

You can buy The Jane Austen Marriage Manual  as a paperback or an eBook now.

Book News: Frisky Business by Clodagh Murphy

Clodagh Murphy is back with her third novel this year called Frisky Business, and Clodagh has revealed the cover! It's due out on 7th June, and sounds like its going to be a great read! Here's the synopsis:

"Romy Fitzgerald's life is firmly on track. She runs a successful business, has great friends and knows what she wants.

That was until her father died. Suddenly she's not sure about anything anymore.
So when she has a one-night stand at a party with a stranger dressed as Darth Vadar, she tells him things she's never told anyone before . . . about herself and her father's death.

They'll never see each other again so her secrets are safe, right?

Until Romy realises that she's pregnant with Darth Vadar's baby and now she has to face some awkward questions about what really happened the night of Luke's conception.

Romy's going to have to come clean, but when  her ex-boyfriend Kit Masterson returns from New York and seems happy to go along with the charade of playing the part of Luke's father, it seems like the answer to her prayers. Kit was the love her life, and maybe her secrets, and the true identity of Darth Vadar, can stay hidden forever.

But Kit has his own reasons for coming home and buying into the ready-made family.

And as masks slip and true identities show, Romy and Kit quickly discover that in real life secrets never stay hidden, especially when it comes to love . ."

You can pre-order Frisky Business as a paperback now.

18 April 2012

Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance Shortlist announced

The shortlist for the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance 2012 has been revealed! The award is held in memorium of the chick lit writer Melissa Nathan who tragically died of cancer aged 37, and celebrates the best in the chick lit world. Congratulations to all of the nominees, I don't think I could pick between them all, there are some amazing books listed there!

  • Milly Johnson - An Autumn Crush
  • Sarra Manning - You Don't Have To Say You Love Me
  • Allie Spencer - Summer Loving
  • Jane Costello - Girl On The Run
  • Jenny Colgan - Meet Me At The Cupcake Café
  • Jane Lovering - Please Don't Stop The Music

Book News: Recipe For Love by Sasha Wagstaff

Sasha Wagstaff is back next month with a brand new book, and I can't wait to read it! Recipe for Love is due out on 10th May and I think the cover is gorgeous, so pretty and summery looking! I've read a few of Sasha's books now and loved them, so I'm hoping this one will be great too.

"Summer in a luxurious Italian villa should be a taste of heaven, shouldn't it?

Talented, passionate and notoriously private, Italian chef Rocco Disanti
never talks to journalists. So why, when Cassia Blake has just three months to organise her wedding, has he suddenly granted her magazine an exclusive, all-access interview? Against Cassia's better judgement, she hands the wedding planning over to her frosty mother-in-law, and flies out to Italy to spend time with Rocco. But Rocco isn't exactly looking forward to Cassia's arrival. Persuaded to do the interview to help publicise his business, he has enough on his plate with his fiery girlfriend, wedding-obsessed sister and fiercely protective grandmother. And now it seems as if someone is trying to sabotage his restaurants too... Cassia's summer in Sorrento is shaping up to be a recipe for disaster. But could it also be a recipe for love?"

You can pre-order Recipe for Love as a paperback or an eBook now.

17 April 2012

Picture This, Picture That: Me and My Sisters by Sinead Moriarty

Sinead Moriarty's latest book Me and My Sisters has had quite a cover makeover for the publication of the UK paperback through Penguin. Instead of the pretty purple of the original paperback release, they've gone for a lovely fresh yellow with a summer scene picturing 3 women, the sisters of the story inside. I really love both covers but for me, I love the latter one, the yellow just jumps out at me and I'd certainly love to add that to my bookshelves!

You can buy Me and My Sisters in the UK paperback format now.

Book News: Whatever It Takes by Adele Parks

I've found Adele Parks' recent novels to be riveting reads, and therefore I'm really looking forward to her latest release Whatever It Takes. It's due out on 21st June, and I quite like the cover, although it's a tad generic and doesn't tell me a lot about what's inside! The synopsis sounds great though, and I'll certainly be reading it.

"Eloise Hamilton is a Londoner born and bred, so it is a momentous day when she reluctantly agrees to uproot to Dartmouth, leaving behind her perfect world so her husband can finally live in his. There are compensations, however. Her mother-in-law Margaret will welcome her with open arms, and besides, she can still rely on best friend Sara to be her lifeline to London.

Yet, both Margaret and Sara are facing their own difficulties, and thrust into unexpected turmoil, Eloise finds she is the one holding everything together for her loved ones - and by an ever-weakening thread. As her world implodes with the strain of being responsible for all around her, someone is bound to be overlooked. And the damage might be irreparable..."

You can pre-order Whatever It Takes as a hardback or a paperback now.

16 April 2012

Book Review: Outrageous Fortune by Lulu Taylor

"Daisy Dangerfield has been brought up in the lap of luxury. Her father, Daddy Dangerfield, has given her the best of everything, she's not known a moment's doubt or worry. Until a shocking secret is revealed, and she is thrown out of the family with nothing but her dreams of revenge.

Meanwhile on a rough council estate in East London, Chanelle has wanted to be a dancer her whole life. Dancing is the one thing that takes her out of the grim reality of her life with her alcoholic mother and she is determined to use any means possible to become successful, no matter how underhand her methods.

Born on the same day Chanelle and Daisy's lives could not be more different. Until everything changes, and they discover they have more in common than they could ever have imagined."

Rating: 5/5

I've read each of Lulu Taylor's novels so far and loved them all, so when I was offered the chance to review her latest book Outrageous Fortune, I jumped at the chance because I just knew it was going to be a great read! The cover style has broken away from the previous look which I did love, but this one is nice enough too, and I do like the metallic pink of the title which makes it stand out a bit. It's a pretty huge book at 688 pages long, but soon flies by as you're reading because you end up whizzing through the chapters to find out what dramatic event is going to happen next! As usual, there's plenty of sex, shock and scandal in the book to keep you hooked, and it does just that.

The book tells the tale of 2 women who have no idea the other exists. Daisy Dangerfield is born with a silver spoon in her mouth, to a father who absolutely idolises his youngest daughter, and a mother who prefers the bottle to her child. Even so, Daisy is thrust into her father's company at a young age, so is horrified to suddenly be cast aside with only a few pounds to her name, never to speak to her father again and no idea why. Chanelle is the opposite, born to a drug addict mother who has no time to mother her daughter, and Chanelle is pretty much left to bring herself up. She's determined to be more than what others expect her to be, and sets about setting up a new life for herself. However, the women's lives collide in a shocking way and leave them changed forever...

Taylor's book is simply a fantastic bonk-buster novel, and I loved it. From the very first page, I was completely absorbed by what I read about Daisy and her life with the Dangerfields, the same for Chanelle and her tough upbringing, and I was left really curious about how these women were going to end up in each other's lives in some way. Taylor draws you right into the action, portraying these women in their own individual ways and I found it to be really fun reading. I loved reading about Daisy's opulent lifestyle, having anything she wants at her disposal, being the apple of her wealthy father's eye, and being groomed for greatness. On the other hand, I felt really sorry for Chanelle who isn't given the best start in life, yet wants to be something more but is hindered somewhat by her lack of money troubles. However, she finds a new way for herself, and I found myself rooting for her to make more of herself, and be more than she thought she could be.

As the book progresses, there are a lot of twists and turns along the way, but the big shocker reveal regarding Daisy comes about a third of the way into the book, and I had guessed a little bit what it could be. I wasn't 100% right but was along the right lines, but it was still really well done by Taylor, and I felt really sorry for poor Daisy! The scenes written after this change were fantastic, drew me totally into the new world of Daisy, and also Chanelle's depths of despair and was written so believably too that I just couldn't put it down. Taylor allows us to keep up with both sides of the story via alternating narratives for each chapter, so one chapter is from Daisy, the next from Chanelle and so on, and I didn't find it hard to keep up at all. I didn't find that the pace lacked at all, in fact, each of the 688 pages was crammed with a fantastic story, it really couldn't have been shorter!

This book was fantastic, and I highly recommend it! Yes, there is a bit of language, a bit (okay, more than a little bit...) of sex and plenty of drama to keep you interested, and you can't help but root for these characters, wishing them both the happy ending they deserve, and the comeuppance for the horrible people they have been lumbered with in their lives! It's well written, from the fabulous life of Daisy to the sad upbringing of Chanelle, and really highlights how a person can find strength within despite where they have come from, and that we can do things we might never have dreamt possible. It's one of these books that takes you into the world of the characters and leaves you there until you reluctantly drag yourself away again, I loved every page and am now eagerly awaiting Lulu Taylor's next book! Fab!

You can buy Outrageous Fortune as a paperback or an eBook now.

Book Deals: The Round-Up

Here is the latest book deal, I think the book sounds fantastic, and congratulations to Julie Cohen!

Heart-rending conception story to Transworld
"Transworld has acquired a novel about a couple's struggles to conceive a child by author Julie Cohen, whose previous books were published by Headline.

Corgi and Black Swan publishing director Catherine Cobain bought UK and Commonwealth rights to Dear Thing and one other novel. Bantam Press will publish in hardback in June 2013 and in paperback by Black Swan in 2014.

The first title follows a couple as they try to have a baby, and focuses on their best friend's decision to carry one for them as a surrogate.

Cobain said: "Julie is an incredibly talented writer whose books I have always been passionate about. Dear Thing touched all of us at Transworld who read it—it's brilliantly written, with a complex story that is quite simply heart-rending."

Articles taken from The Bookseller.

13 April 2012

Book Review: Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell

"Every family has its secrets.

Some are small, like telling a white lie or snooping through a private drawer. Others are more serious, like infidelity and betrayal. And some secrets are so terrible they must be hidden away in a deep, dark place, for if they ever came to light, they would surely tear a family apart...

The Tides are a family full of secrets. Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house high on the Dorset coastline, youngest daughter Dora hopes for a fresh start, for herself and the new life she carries. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you can forgive, can you ever really learn to love again?"

Rating: 5/5

I have to confess that this book isn't one that caught my attention until a review copy arrived on my doorstep, and I initially dismissed it as something I wouldn't really like to read, although I don't really know why! I read a little more about it on Amazon, and found that it was an interesting family saga, and the pre-reviews on there were excellent, and I decided to give it a try. I am so glad that I did because it was an utterly stunning book, and I was up until nearly 2am finishing it because it had me completely captivated, both with happiness at the book, and sorrow at the story. For a debut novel, this book is so well written, and with such an adorable cover, I hope this is going to be the hit it deserves to be.

The story tells the tale of the Tide family. There are parents Helen and Richard, who together have 2 daughters Dora and Cassie. Through a series of alternating narrative chapters, and a leap about in past and present time, the book tells the story that managed to split the Tide family forever, ending in a divorce for Helen and Richard, Cassie running away from home never wanting to return, and Dora feeling like that tragedy that occured one awful summer's day was completely her fault, with Helen also blaming her youngest daughter for their loss. It's a sad and emotional read that will have you in tears, sympathising and feeling the pain of these characters, but there is something utterly compulsive about it which means you just won't be able to put it down.

I found that Dora is the main character of the book, and we first meet her in the present day, when she and boyfriend Dan have some exciting news. However, things are revealed that show the strained relationship between mother and daughter, and slowly the story begins to unfold. I really like Dora, and felt incredibly sorry for her as the story progresses. It's clear she is haunted by something that happened in her childhood, and when it's revealed you understand why, it is truly awful. However, although I sympathised with Dora's mother Helen, I found myself really hating her and found the way she treated her daughter was disgusting, and some of the scenes with the pair made for awkward reading at times. Cassie, Dora's sister takes more of a backseat, but with her around you can see the impact that the tragedy of the family has on the family as a whole, and why she felt the need to escape Clifftops.

The fact that I really disliked Helen is a testament to Richell's writing, and how realistically she creates these characters. She writes their personalities, their pain, their sorrow and suffering so believably, you almost feel it with them, especially when the story is in the crux of the main story itself. I especially liked the way the book flitted between the past and present day, allowing you to understand why the adult characters behave like they do now as we can read their back story and apply that to the modern day one. I didn't find it confusing to chop and change time, or indeed the narrative as each chapter is headed by who it focuses on. Also, the writing changes tense, with the present day chapters being told in present tense, and the past in past tense. This was odd to read at first but you soon become accustomed to it.

As well as writing the characters incredibly well, Richell writes the setting of the book perfectly too. The old house, Clifftops, is written so beautifully you can imagine it easily in your mind as you read, and it brings the book all the more to life. This is a stunning novel, ridden with pain and sorrow which makes it a tough and uncomfortable read at times, but somehow you want to keep reading despite how sad it is, and how badly these characters are affected by the awful events. I found myself willing happiness for Dora, and that she would get the happy ending she so deserved. Secrets of the Tides is a really haunting and emotive novel, and for a debut, it truly is wonderful. If Hannah Richell continues to write novels like this, she will certainly have a strong career ahead of her, and she's done an amazing job with Secrets of the Tides. Read it - you won't be disappointed.

You can buy Secrets of the Tides as a paperback or an eBook now.

12 April 2012

Book News: In The Name of Love by Katie Price

Katie Price is back this summer with her latest novel In The Name of Love. It's out on June 21st and while it's not one that I will be reading, I do like the summery looking cover a bit! Here's the synopsis:

""Despite her humble background, Charlie Spencer has made it to the coveted role of sports presenter. But the glamour wears off when her footballer boyfriend cheats on her in a most humiliatingly public way. Licking her wounds in Barbados, Charlie meets the irresistibly gorgeous Javier. Instantly attracted to each other, they begin a passionate love affair - but when he discovers she's a journalist he walks out with no explanation. It is only then that Charlie finds out that Javier is related to the Spanish royal family and is the lynchpin of the Spanish showjumping team. Once again, Charlie is heartbroken. Until Javier, realising he was wrong about her, comes back into her life. But not everyone is happy to see them together. Javier's parents are horrified at the idea of him marrying a nobody from Manchester. And someone at work is waging a hate campaign against her, threatening to expose all her family secrets. As the pressure mounts for both of them, Charlie must ask herself, will their love survive?"

You can pre-order In The Name of Love 

11 April 2012

Book News: The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

One book I'm really looking forward to this year is Tamar Cohen's second book The War of the Wives. I loved her first novel The Mistress's Revenge which came out last year, and this one sounds like it's going to be just as good! It's out on July 19th.

"Imagine being happily married for 28 years. You have three children, a lovely house and a husband who travels a lot - but even after all this time, you still love each other.

Or: imagine being happily married for 17 years. You have a young daughter, a lovely home and a husband who travels a lot - but you really love each other.

Then one day you get a call that turns your world upside down: your husband is dead. You are devastated. You go to the funeral... And come face to face with his other widow.

Another wife, another family. They never knew you existed, you never knew they existed. It can't be true. It must be a mistake.It has to be her fault - all of it. Or: is it?

With the sharp and witty scalpel she used in The Mistress's Revenge, Tamar Cohen again eviscerates so-called normal family life.As the two women are forced to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew, will they discover who is really to blame?".

You can pre-order The War of the Wives as a hardback now.

10 April 2012

Book Review: The Greatest Love Story of All Time by Lucy Robinson

"It's Fran's thirtieth birthday and things are good . . .

She's bluffed her way into a Very Posh Job and her outlandishly handsome and talented boyfriend Michael is escorting her to the Ritz with a bulge the shape of a ring box in his pocket.

But something has gone wrong. Very wrong. By the end of the evening Fran is howling in bed with a bottle of cheap brandy and one of Michael's old socks.

In her quest to figure out why her life has suddenly gone down the pan, Fran comes up with a failsafe plan: live like a badger, stalk a stranger called Nellie and cancel her beloved Gin Thursdays in favour of drinking gin every night. But then Fran's friends force a very different plan on her and it's nowhere near as fun. How could eight dates possibly make her feel better?

But eventually she agrees. And so begins the greatest love story of all time . . ."

Rating: 4/5

Lucy Robinson's debut novel is one I've been looking forward to for a while now, so when I received a review copy through the post, I eagerly got stuck in. I was surprised to see that the cover has been changed from the lovely blue that was originally mooted to a more bland beige cover that frankly doesn't do any justice to the funny and fabulous story inside, but still, don't judge a book by its cover as the old saying goes, and I am glad that I didn't. It's a fun and heartfelt look at what happens when the love of your life leaves you without you expecting it, and I really did enjoy every page.

The book is the story of Fran, who is devastated when her boyfriend Michael tells her that they need to take a break on the very night Fran is expecting a romantic proposal from him. She decides to hibernate in her bed until her friends come over and make her get up, get back to work and start dating again, very much against her will. Her best friend Stefania decides she has to date a few men before making a decision about ex-boyfriend Michael when they next meet again a few months down the line but Fran isn't sure. She's also got problems with her alcoholic mother, problems at work and a huge lack of self-confidence - will Fran decide it's better the devil you know than better the devil you don't, or is her greatest love story waiting around the corner?

I really enjoyed the book from the very beginning and found it easy to get into. The main character Fran was really likeable, you could feel her pain at suddenly being dumped and not knowing why, and I certainly understood her reluctance to get back on the dating scene. She was really just a nice girl with a broken heart and is the perfect heroine, even if at the end she is a little bit naive when anyone who reads it will see who she is meant to be with! One of the other main female characters, Stefania, Fran's foreign neighbour is hilarious and I loved the way Robinson writes her words exactly how she says them, accent and all!

The male characters in the book are interesting too, from her best friend and camera man Dave, to ex-boyfriend Michael who I thought was pretty horrible from the start! There's something lovely about Dave where I loved every scene he was in, and overall, the cast of characters was fantastic, and provided a lot of different stories for the book to get into, and they were all really believable as friends, which makes the book so much easier to read overall! The book is set in London, and I think Robinson writes it very realistically, and it was a nice setting for a book, especially since it's partially set in important London television studios, and I felt those parts of the book felt really realistic as I was reading.

There is quite a bit of swearing throughout the book which I wasn't keen on and found it unnecessary but that's just my personal preference. I don't think it added anything to the book, perhaps exacerbated Fran's anger but I prefer books without that. However, this wasn't enough to spoil my enjoyment of the book and I found it to be an easy and fun read overall. I loved Fran, and by the end, I'm sure you'll have strong feelings like I did about who you want Fran to end up with! I found the flashback scenes into Fran and Michael's old relationship really interesting and a good addition into the story, and found Robinson's writing style really easy to read and I sped through the book at a speed. I'd highly recommend this book, it's an easy and fun read that'll keep you turning the pages to see who Fran will end up with! A great book!

You can buy The Greatest Love Story of All Time as a paperback or an eBook now.

Book Cover: Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Gorgeous cover alert! I've just seen the cover for Jenny Colgan's Christmas novel Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe and just had to share because it's absolutely beautiful! It's not out until 25th October, but already I can't wait! It's a follow on from Jenny's book Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, and sounds fantastic"

"Issy Randall, proud owner of The Cupcake Cafe, is in love and couldn't be happier. Her new business is thriving and she is surrounded by close friends, even if her cupcake colleagues Pearl and Caroline don't seem quite as upbeat about the upcoming season of snow and merriment. But when her boyfriend Austin is scouted for a possible move to New York, Issy is forced to face up to the prospect of a long-distance romance. And when the Christmas rush at the cafe - with its increased demand for her delectable creations - begins to take its toll, Issy has to decide what she holds most dear.

This December, Issy will have to rely on all her reserves of courage, good nature and cinnamon, to make sure everyone has a merry Christmas, one way or another . . ."

You can pre-order Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe as a paperback now!

6 April 2012

Book Review: Star Fish by Nicola May

"Tired of looking for love Amy Anderson decides that an astrological dating agency is the only way she is going to meet the man of her dreams. Star Fish follows Amy’s hysterical search for her ‘sole mate’ as she dates her way through the twelve signs of the zodiac. So who will finally woo Amy? Will it be Ted the Arian photographer with a passion for ice skating, or maybe Laurence, the Libran IT whiz kid who likes to get behind the wheel of a fast car? Or, how about Capricorn Christopher, the owner of Starr & Son, the dating agency? You’ll be kept guessing until the very last page!"

Rating: 3.5/5

I don't normally review self-published books simply because I don't have the time to alongside the books sent to me by all the big publishers. However, after I read Nicola May's last book Working It Out and really enjoying it, when Nicola offered me the chance to review her next book Star Fish I decided to take her up on it. I have to confess I adore the cover, the bright blue is really eye-catching and stunning, and to me it certainly doesn't look like a self-published novel, it's great. The premise of Star Fish, a dating agency based on star signs was interesting and although I don't follow astrology that much, I thought it was a fun concept and I was looking forward to seeing how May would tackle this!

The book follows the character of Amy Anderson. She's unlucky in love and decides to join an astrological dating agency 'Starr & Son' in order to find her 'sole mate'. Her best friends are a bit uncertain about Amy's latest adventure but of course get behind her. However, Amy soon realises that not all star signs are a good match for her after a few disastrous dates but she's determined to keep going until she's dated each of the signs. Cue some pretty hideous dates, some funny ones and some fairly nice ones as well... but Amy finds herself shocked when someone from her past makes a surprise reappearance. Is Amy going to find love with her astrological soul mate, or is love already written in the stars for her?

I found the whole story at the dating agency was really entertaining, and I enjoyed reading about Amy's matches, both good and bad as the book went on. You could sort of anticipate whether it'd be a good date for Amy or not by the lead up and way the person was discussed, but that didn't spoil my enjoyment of the book. I had a bit of a soft spot for Christopher, the owner of the dating agency, Amy just pretty much ignored him aside from when he was useful to her and I felt sorry for him as I could read between the lines a bit. Amy herself was a fun character, I do have to question her morals a bit because a few of the things she did in the book I found a bit questionable and seemed out of the blue, but in her more normal moments, Amy was great. I can't confess to knowing a great deal more about star signs and compataiblity now I've read the book, but there is enough in there about to keep you going as you read, and it's fun to read about astrology as the book goes on too.

Even though I enjoyed the book as a whole, I did have a few problems with it. First of all is the language. Now I'm not a prude and I don't mind swearing in chick lit, but as with Working It Out, I found it to be a bit excessive in this book also and the c-word was used more than once and unnecessarily so as well. I really dislike this word and it lowered the tone for a bit. Also, I felt Amy was very promiscuous, jumping into bed with several men in the book very quickly, and even choosing to sleep with a married man, despite telling herself not to - she seemed to have no self control and I didn't think her promsicuity was necessary for the book. Also there was one scene I felt was in very poor taste, and all I will say is it involves sex and a church. I was horrified when this scene came up, and although I read it, I almost wish I hadn't because it really angered me at the time, and it made me put the book down for a few days. It's a shame that scene was there as the book was fine without it and it really did spoil it in my opinion.

Star Fish is a very enjoyable read if you can look past the bad language and promiscuity of the main character, both of which did hamper my enjoyment slightly. Nicola May is clearly a talented writer, but I do wish she wouldn't resort to the shock tactics that she has employed across both books that I've read as they do nothing to entice me in, and if anything put me off somewhat! The story of the Amy's dating experience really was well written and fun to read, especially the many dates which had some real laugh out loud moments, and I enjoyed reading Amy's friendships growing and changing too. I feel Star Fish is a really good novel and I enjoyed it for the most part, although it's just a shame that it was spoilt by a few areas that I felt didn't suit it at all!

You can buy Star Fish as a paperback or as an eBook now!

Book News: The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

Having read Jojo Moyes' amazing last novel Me Before You (read it if you haven't, read it again if you have) and thinking it was one of the best books I have ever read, I am so excited for her next book, which is due out on 27th September.The cover is really pretty, and I adore the use of the poppies on the front, especially given the book's topic, and I cannot wait to read it.

"What happened to the girl you left behind?

In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to go to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything - her family, reputation and life - in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.

Nearly a century later and Sophie's portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting's dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened...

 In The Girl You Left Behind two young women, separated by a century, are united in their determination to fight for the thing they love most - whatever the cost."

You can pre-order The Girl You Left Behind in paperback now.

4 April 2012

Giveaway: Win one of 5 copies of Fiona Walker's new book 'The Love Letter'

To celebrate the upcoming release of Fiona Walker's new book The Love Letter, I've got 5 copies of the book to giveaway to my readers! Just fill in the Google form below to enter, and you're in with a chance! The giveaway is open until Sunday 15th April at midnight, and is open to UK readers only.

Don't forget Fiona's short story Sealed With A Kiss is out now for just 99p as well!

Good luck!

Book Review: The Two Week Wait by Sarah Rayner

"After a health scare, Brighton-based Lou is forced to confront the fact that her time to have a baby is running out. She can’t imagine a future without children, but her partner doesn’t seem to feel the same way, and she’s not sure whether she could go it alone. Meanwhile, up in Yorkshire, Cath is longing to start a family with her husband, Rich. No one would be happier to have a child than Rich, but Cath is infertile. Could these strangers help one another out? Combining Sarah Rayner’s deft exploration of raw emotions with the joy and resilience of friendship, The Two Week Wait is a memorable, moving page-turner about two very different women, each yearning to create a family of her own."

Rating: 4/5

Although I haven't read Sarah Rayner's last book One Minute, One Morning which is a sort of prequel to this book, I decided that The Two Week Wait was certainly going to be a book that I would really enjoy because from the blurb, it sounded fantastic. I have to confess that the cover isn't overly inspiring and isn't one which would make me pick up the book to find out more as it's a little bland for me, but the story inside is certainly fantastic, and I'm glad I didn't judge this book on appearances. The Two Week Wait is an emotional, curious and fascinating read which is completely well written and very interesting to read from the first to the last page.

The story tells the tale of 2 women who are weaved intricately into each other's lives without ever knowing each other. Cath and her husband Rich are desperate to start a family together, but know this is impossible thanks to Cath's illness and consequent infertility so are looking for alternative ways to have a baby together, and are open to new ideas. Then there's Lou, whose recent relationship isn't going the way she planned, and a health scare makes Lou realise she wants to be a mum, despite the fact she may have to go it alone. Lou stumbles across something that might help her out, and consequently might help out Cath and Rich too without even knowing them. All it'll take is a two week wait...

This is quite a serious book, and perhaps would be better classed as women's fiction than chick lit, as it does deal with some serious themes such as infertility, fertility treatment, illness and grief too. The characters in the book range in age, with the younger Lou in her mid-30's and Cath in her 40's, but both at very different points in their lives, with different lifestyles too. It was heartbreaking to read of Cath's fertility after her previous struggles are revealed to the reader (if you've read One Moment, One Morning) I assume you'll know about that too. Rayner portrays Cath's struggle really well, from the emotional points of view to the more practical as well, and it was a fascinating read. It's clear Rayner has really done her research as well on the topics of treatment that Cath (and Lou) go through, there's enough detail in there for the reader to really grasp it without having your mind boggled over it all.

Both women, Cath and Lou, were really likeable and I felt for them both in their own situations struggling with tough decisions, and coming up against obstacles they never thought they'd encounter. I perhaps sympathised more with Cath simply because of her illness, and how unfair it seemed they would have to pay for IVF to have a baby after her illness and treatment, but Lou was also sympathetic. The way she goes about having a baby is somewhat unconventional I suppose, but I liked that Rayner covered this topic, and felt it was really well done and presented both the positives and negatives of the idea without being too biased either way. Again, Rayner writes it really well, and makes you think about how you'd react if you were in that situation as well as just reading and taking in what you're reading on paper.

It's a very emotive book that doesn't come with the usual happy ending, but while I initially didn't like this and found myself a bit upset and bereft at the ending of the book, with hindsight it was realistic of her to take it down this route because of course, life doesn't always end with a happily ever after. However, I was sad to leave these characters behind because I'd really gotten into their story, and felt emotionally connected with them after all they'd been through, and shed a tear or two as well. The Two Week Wait is a frank and honest look at infertility and an unusual women can undertake to have a baby against the odds, and certainly makes those of us who are able to have children without intervention feel very lucky to be able to do so. Cath and Lou were wonderful characters, and I found it especially nice in a way that they didn't meet, and were able to do something so amazing for pure strangers. A lovely and inspiring read, one to look out for!

You can buy The Two Week Wait as a paperback or an eBook now.

Thanks go to Emma at EdPr for sending me a review copy.