31 August 2012

Book Review: Ten Minutes to Fall In Love by Julia Llewellyn

"Zu Forbes has a complicated relationship with love. Her mother died when she was a teenager, leaving her with a lonely father and emotional baggage. So at the earliest opportunity she switched the baggage for luggage and took off around the world.

But now she's home and working for a dating agency. Can she find the perfect match for her dad? If only she can pair him off, she can run away again with a clear conscience.

While Zu busies herself fixing her dad's love life, she almost misses Cupid creeping up behind her. They say it takes ten minutes to fall in love so how can she be falling for someone she's known for years? And why is it taking so damn long to matchmake her dad?

Zu must make a commitment one way or the other: to her love life; to her family; and to the memories of a mother she's tried so desperately to forget.

Ten Minutes to Fall in Love is an engaging, witty and romantic story about finding that perfect person to share your life."

Rating: 4/5

I've read a few of Julia Llewellyn's novels in the past and enjoyed them, but it's been a few years since we were last treated to one of her books, so when I saw her latest book Ten Minutes to Fall in Love advertised on Amazon, I was excited to read it and therefore pleased when I received a review copy. I loved the cover as well when I saw it, it was unusual and pretty, certainly like no other book cover I have seen this year so far. I found the book very easy to read and I enjoyed reading about the lives of the characters, Zu in particular who was a great leading lady and carried the story perfectly.

Zu Forbes struggles with love, in all its forms. Her mum died when she was young, and she has a somewhat strained relationship with her father, and younger brothers, especially since she moved away to do volunteer work abroad. When she returns to London, she finds herself in need of a job, and stumbles into one at a dating agency. Zu thinks she can also help out her lonely dad at the same time, but realises she's all alone herself. When Zu meets up with old friend Jack, she finds that it might take a bit longer that just ten minutes to fall in love, no matter what her dating agencies motto says. Will Zu be able to find happiness for dad and herself, or is love lost for all of the Forbes?

I found this story was quite a break from the norm, it felt really refreshing to read it and I liked that it wasn't like a lot of other books I read at the moment. Zu is a great leading character, a strong, independent young women and not perfect, and Llewellyn is happy to show us her flaws. Zu is half Indian (her mother was Indian and her father is a white English man), and after the death of her mother when she was young due to a car crash, Zu has struggled to keep any sort of relationship, although she is still close to her younger twin brothers she virtually raised. I felt really sorry for Zu, she is clearly a deeply troubled character who needs help but won't seek it, and I found her realistic and quite a sad person.

The other characters in the book are extremely well written, and cover a broad ranges of sexes, ages and backgrounds. There's Zu's grandmother Naani, an Indian woman who owns a cosmetic company and is still reeling over the death of her daughter. There's Zu's father Tony who has been alone since his wife's death and is prompted to start dating again by Zu, despite his hesitations, and finds that love isn't perhaps as easy to come across as he thought. Finally, there's Gillian, a story seemingly unconnected to Zu's - Gillian is mother to teenager Holly who is rapidly going off the rails. When Holly's life descneds into chaos, Gillian realises she doesn't have anyone to turn to, but when tragedy strikes, Gillian finds help in the most unlikely of places. Each of these people have their own interesting story, and I really loved reading each of them, and loved how Llewellyn easy wove these stories altogether to make a seamless novel.

I really enjoyed reading Ten Minutes to Fall in Love, and found it such a refreshing read, and one which didn't seem like it had an obvious ending at all which was even better. All the way through, Zu kept going against what I wanted her to do, and I found myself getting irritated with her, then loving the new things she'd get up to, although I really wished she could have a better relationship with her poor father. Llewellyn juggles the multiple stories in the book easily, and manages to connect them all so you find it easy to follow the book, and wonder how each of these characters is going to end up by the final page. I read the book quite fast, in just a few sittings because I was keen to not put it down, and think it's probably my favourite of Llewellyn's books so far. She covers some big issues in the book; alcoholism and drug abuse among them, but does so without preaching, and makes them an important crux of the book. A refreshing and interesting read that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I recommend you give it a try too!

You can buy Ten Minutes to Fall in Love as a paperback or an eBook now.

Deal News: ITV snaps up adaptation of Dorothy Koomson's 'The Ice Cream Girls'

Dorothy Koomson's 2010 novel The Ice Cream Girls has been snapped up by ITV and is to be turned into a television drama! It's going to be a three part series which will be screened in 2013, and while Dorothy says they've changed the ending (she revealed this on her blog), I still can't wait to watch it and see how well they've adapted it. Congratulations to Dorothy, it's well deserved!

"British actresses Lorraine Burroughs, star of summer hit Fast Girls and TV drama Spooks, and Jodhi May, of Strike Back and Tipping the Velvet fame, will join Line of Duty actor Martin Compston to play the lead characters in the new, three-part television drama. 

The drama will be based on Dorothy Koomson's 2010 novel of the same name which follows two teenage girls from very different backgrounds who, in the summer of 1995, are accused of murdering their schoolteacher. Poppy is convicted of the crime while pretty, popular Serena walks away free. 
Fast forward seventeen years and the women find themselves back in the same seaside town for the first time. Serena's comfortable life as a devoted wife and mother couldn't be further away from Poppy's as she emerges from the end of her seventeen year sentence determined to prove her innocence.They are now forced to confront each other and the truth behind their shared history. 
The Ice Cream Girls will be produced for Left Bank Pictures by Lucy Dyke who said of the project: "We are very excited to be in production on Kate Brooke's captivating scripts, based on Dorothy Koomson's bestselling novel. We have a stellar cast in place, led by two strong women, and look forward to bringing this powerful emotional thriller to the screen for ITV1."
Taken from RadioTimes.com.

You can read my review of The Ice Cream Girls here!

30 August 2012

Richard and Judy's Autumn 2012 Book Club titles revealed

The titles for Richard and Judy's Autumn 2012 Book Club have been revealed, and I was thrilled to see a few books on there that I have really loved this year too! There has also been a new app released for this book club, a handy thing to have if you love reading the titles and taking part. I wonder which author will be following in the footsteps of Spring winner Jojo Moyes and Summer winner Emylia Hall?!

  • Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell
  • Between A Mother and Her Child by Elizabeth Noble
  • The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
  • The Seamstress by Maria Duenas
  • The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
  • Fault Line by Robert Goddard
  • The Guilty One by Lisa Ballantyne
  • The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore
  • Double Cross by Ben McIntyre
  • The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

Snow Day: How I Met Eowyn Ivey by Jeff Kleinman

Welcome to Snow Day 2012! Eowyn Ivey's gorgeous debut novel The Snow Child is being released in paperback today, and to celebrate, her UK publishers Headline are running Snow Day for Eowyn! As part of the tour, I am hosting a lovely piece from Eowyn's agent Jeff Kleinman about how he met and signed Eowyn, it's a fantastic read. If you haven't yet read The Snow Child, look out for it from today in the shops, it's a fab read, and you can read my review of the book here. My thanks go to Sam from Headline, and to Jeff for writing the article!

"She was late.  I was tucked back in a corner of the empty restaurant that the conference had appropriated for agent/writer meetings – I was here as a guest of the Kachemak Bay Writers Conference in Homer, Alaska, and part of my duties was to meet, one on one, with prospective writers.  Now, between the lunch and dinner crowds, the restaurant was empty – from where I sat, I could watch the sunlight play over snow-capped mountains towering over the bay, count bald eagles gliding in the wind.

I’d met with a bunch of writers already – this next one, clearly, had stood me up – either forgotten, or got too nervous, or misunderstood the time.  Just as I was ready to pack up and leave, a woman appeared – flustered, nervous, out of breath, apologetic, Eowyn Ivey.  She sat down across from me – brown hair, bright white teeth – and I tried to figure out what to say to put her at ease.  So of course I gushed about her name, how I wished my parents had come up with a cool name for me – although I’m really not a Meriodoc; and Sauron or Glorfindel don’t really go with the “Kleinman”.

Finally we started talking about her manuscript.  A lot of writers want to talk – they want to tell you about their book, what they were trying to accomplish, what they hoped the book could do.  Others think it’s some sort of a Hollywood pitch session – have a great log-line and I say, “Sold!” and somehow magically conjure up a publisher and a six-figure advance out of the blue, all based on that thirty-second pitch.  For me, though, it’s all about the book itself, about the words on the page.  So poor Eowyn was a little flustered when I asked her if she brought any pages of her book with her.  She had, but not the book she was working on – she wanted to tell me about a novel called The Snow Child, but didn’t have any of those pages, just pages from another novel that wasn’t working.  But maybe I could look at this other novel, anyway?  She fumbled in her backpack, pulled out the opening pages of the Other Novel, and chattered about the book as I scanned the opening pages.

She could write.

Writers conferences can be deceptive: a lot of hopeful writers attend, but most are still learning the rudiments of novel-writing – how to craft realistic characters, how to develop the narrative voice, how to write effective dialogue, and so forth.  I generally go to half a dozen writers conferences a year, but I rarely find clients from these events – they’re good networking opportunities, and if I can provide some guidance and advice to new writers, then it’s a successful conference.  Very very rarely can writers really write.

Eowyn was one of them, though.  I could tell immediately from her opening sentence that she knew her way around a page – that she could tell an interesting story that I wanted to read more about.  So at the end of our ten-minute session, I asked to see The Snow Child (rather than the problematic manuscript) – could she email it over to me?  I’d love to see it sooner rather than later.

Uh, the manuscript wasn’t done.  She had about three-quarters finished.  Was that enough?  She knew she shouldn’t be taking up my time.  Her mom, who was there with her, really pushed her to do the meeting.  Maybe she should just leave now.

Generally, we agents only want to see manuscripts once they’re completed – how else can we know if the characters continue to develop, if the author can maintain the action, if the novel concludes intelligently?  But I liked the premise of this.  Here, incidentally, is the description that Eowyn sent me:

Based on a Russian fairy tale about an old man and woman who build a child of snow that comes to life, “The Snow Child” weaves enchantment through a landscape of savage beauty. Aging and desperate, Jack and Mable struggle to homestead in Alaska in the 1920s with no hope of having their one wish fulfilled – to have a child of their own. But one magical night they shape a heap of snow into a little girl. The next morning they see her running through the forest and discover a gift of a dead snowshoe hare on their doorstep. Can a child embodying the fragility and brutality of Alaska’s wilderness be the answer to their great sadness? Does happiness come through wishes fulfilled, or through the hard work of everyday life?

So.  Sure I’ll take a look at the first hundred pages or so.  Can she send them over?

Of course, she said, and we shook hands and talked a bit more and she left.

Only later did I learn what consternation I’d caused: the file was on her computer, six hours away.  Her husband couldn’t get the file.  She couldn’t email it.  Smoke signals were not an option.  Finally, somehow, she sent it late that night.

If you’ve never been to Alaska, here’s a thing to remember: there is no such thing as “late that night” in June in Alaska.  The sun never quite goes down.  So, despite thick shades, light leaked in around the edges of the window-frame and I was having trouble sleeping.  The published book I was reading – one of those oh-so-brilliant literary novels that all my friends were telling me that I needed to read – bored me to distraction, but I wasn’t sleepy. 

I checked my email.  Eowyn’s manuscript was there.

The next morning I had to give a talk to all the conference attendees – a hundred or so eager writers packed into a slightly-too-small hotel conference room.  I rambled on, scanning the crowd anxiously.  No Eowyn.  Had she left, driven back to Palmer, Alaska?  Had her car broken down?  Had she gotten bored, disgusted?  Had I been tactless and rude, scared her away (my wife is always accusing me of this, and she’s usually right)?

Finally she came in – late, but she was there.

So.  Keep in mind that I was the only agent at the conference.  There was no way that another agent could have swooped in and captured her.  It wasn’t a possibility.  But what if …?  What if she’d already sent the pages to a friend, and the friend forwarded them to another agent, or to a publisher?  What if she’d just won a huge literary prize and all my colleagues were beating down her door?  Yeah, these were ridiculously remote possibilities, but you know how it is when you fall head-over-heels in love and you’re sure it can’t last, you’re positive that something will go wrong?

The moment I was done speaking, I was off the podium making a bee-line for her.  Writers with questions and manuscripts loomed in but I dodged them.  Caught up with Eowyn right outside the hall.

Handed her the retainer agreement that I’d printed out, begged her to sign it.

Reality check: agents very rarely sign up authors at writers conferences.  Handing a writer a retainer agreement, in the middle of the conference, is something out of Hollywood that just doesn’t happen in the real world.  Especially not for an incomplete manuscript.  It was my big Hollywood moment, though.

When I handed Eowyn the retainer, she asked to sit down.  She was afraid she was going to faint.  And then she signed the document.

Wow, was that a good day."

You can buy The Snow Child in paperback format right now!

27 August 2012

Book Review: The Boot Camp by Kate Harrison

"SIX...days of dawn runs, blistered feet and non-stop sit-ups...

FIVE...meals a day - if half an apple or an oatcake counts as a meal...

FOUR... poster beds not included - but sleep won't be a problem after a ten hour workout...

THREE... women with a battalion's worth of baggage between them...

TWO... hardcore ex-forces trainers with testosterone to spare...

ONE GOAL: To feel like a million dollars, for the first time in your life.

Leave your Mars Bars and Marlboros at the door... this is Boot Camp!"

Rating: 4/5

I'm a big fan of Kate Harrison's 'Secret Shopper' series, so when I found out she was going to be releasing a stand-alone novel this year, I was quite excited to read it and thought it'd make a nice change to meet some new characters from Kate! I really liked the book cover, with the gold and pink being a nice contrast and it's quite different to a lot of things out there, so it sort of stands out from everything on the bookshelves at home at the moment. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy, so eagerly got stuck in, and was soon engrossed in the book and couldn't put it down!

The Boot Camp tells the story of a group of women who all decide to go to a boot camp in the middle of nowhere to desperately lose weight! They are under the strict instruction of the ex-army leaders Staff Pepper and Staff Ryan, one mean and one friendly, and the men really do put the ladies through their paces. There is Steph, who has gone to the camp to lose weight and prove to her ex-boyfriend Steve that she really is worthy of his love; Vicki who won the space in camp in a competition but wasn't quite prepared for the lack of luxury she was expecting... then tthere's a television presenter, bride to be and her mother, and some hardcore camp go-ers thrown in as well... it's going to be a week of pain, but will it be worth it?

I really enjoyed the premise of this book, and found out after reading it that Kate actually attended a boot camp herself before writing the book to give it an authentic feel for the readers, and so she could actually know what she was writing about! A boot camp isn't something that I could see myself doing if I'm honest, too much like hard work lol but I was curious to read a book set at one, just to see if it is as bad as I was imagining! Kate tells the story through the multiple narratives of several of the characters, but my favourite by far was Steph, the lady doing it to try and win back her (pig of an) ex boyfriend, and prove she isn't just a fat chef even though she isn't actually sure that she is. After a few days, Steph starts to wonder if she's worth more than Steve, but can't bring herself to see that she is special. The other females each have their own insecurities, and these too are very well written, I myself felt the same things as many of them did!

The male characters in the book, Staff Pepper and Staff Ryan are fantastic, both hard army men who want the best for the women but are both very different in their approaches. You could tell from reading that Harrison had done her research, from the exercises involved and described within the book, to the small snippets of facts throughout as well, that made it entertaining to read. I felt really sorry for most of the female characters who were struggling with the pace, I know I would and their pain felt realistic enough to put me off ever going through a boot camp myself! I also liked the setting and the way the boot camp seems to go to pot as the book goes on, there are definite laughs in here, and I felt so sorry for Edie who ran the camo, ditzy but a kind heart!

Overall, this was a really enjoyable stand alone novel from Kate Harrison that I really enjoyed reading, and would recommend to those who have enjoyed reading her other books in the past. With a cast of likeable characters, including a few you'll love to hate as well, there is certainly something in there for everyone and I found it an easy book to pick up and put down every ight, and be able to carry on with the story. I finished the book in a couple of days and really enjoyed every page. From Steph to Vicki to Staff Ryan, I felt for all the characters who all have their own issues, and are using boot camp to work through them in different ways. It's a really great book, and a fun one to take on your summer holidays as you're sitting there sipping cocktails by the pool being lazy!

You can buy The Boot Camp as a paperback or an eBook now!

Book News: Bad Angels by Rebecca Chance

I've just read and loved Rebecca Chance's latest release Killer Heels, so I was thrilled to see she is back in just a few months with another brand new book, just in time for Christmas! Bad Angels, complete with sparkly cover is due out on November 8th, and sounds like it's going to be another bonkbuster of a read!

"Step into Limehouse Wharf, the new, uber-luxury apartment building in Canary Wharf where celebrities who have had 'work' done can hole up until they have healed and which is about to see its most glamorous and scandalous Christmas yet. Staying there over the festive period is Melody Down, an actress whose career is in tatters after too much plastic surgery and who has fled LA to get her body and her boyfriend back. But is a 'well-meaning' friend about to sabotage all of Melody's Christmas wishes? Meanwhile, Aniela Fatyga, the nurse in residence, finds herself falling for the unlikely Jon Jordan, an assassin for hire who is also convalescing there. Will her feelings be reciprocated or will their sizzling relationship remain purely physical? And who is he on the run from? And then there's oligarch Grigor Khalofsky, the owner of Kensington football team, whose legendary Christmas party is about to get a whole lot more exciting when murder, blackmail and scandalous revelations decide to pay a visit along with Santa."
You can pre-order Bad Angels as a paperback or an eBook now.

9 August 2012

Book Review: This Child of Mine by Sinead Moriarty

"Sophie and Mandy, Anna and Laura - two daughters and two mothers and a story about the bond of motherly love.

Sophie is a happy 18-year-old living in London with Anna, her Irish mother. Anna has devoted her life to Sophie. It may be just the two of them - no father nor grandparents, no uncles nor aunts - but Anna has more than enough love to give. Sophie has everything she could ever need.

Laura is a not-so-happy artist. She too has a daughter, Mandy. But Laura is haunted by the loss of her first child, Jody. Happy-go-lucky as she is, Mandy lives in Jody's shadow and wonders why her mother can never let go.

Both mothers carry secrets in their hearts and cannot forget the day their paths crossed. But a chance discovery is about to bring everything into the open and mothers and daughters, love and lies, past and future, will spectacularly collide . . ."

Rating: 5/5

I am a huge Sinead Moriarty fan and have been reading her books for years. There is something about her writing that completely draws you in , and absorbs you into her books from the minute you start to the second you turn that final page. I was absolutely over the moon to receive a review of her latest book This Child of Mine complete with gorgeous glittery cover, and I had to start it as soon as I could, I just knew it was going to be a great read. Luckily for me, Sinead hasn't let me down, and this is quite possibly one of my favourite books of hers to date - with a slightly controversial theme that had me shocked and surprised all the way along... I loved it!

Irish school headteacher Anna lives with her daughter Sophie, who at 18 is getting ready to move on with her life and is getting ready for art college. Anna's single, and enjoys being that way - she focuses all of her attention on her job and her daughter, and likes it that way. On the opposite end, there's Laura, an artist who lives with her daughter Mandy, but is constantly grieving the loss of her first born daughter Jody, who died when she was a toddler. Laura lives with the guilt every day, and the subsequent demise of her relationship with her mother also. Neither woman really knows about each other, but their lives are about to take a huge turn and shock both of the women to their very cores. What exactly is going on with Anna and Laura, and will their lives ever be the same after the dramatic news?

This book is going to be a bit of a difficult one to review because I really don't want to give away a lot of the story as it's vital you find things out exactly as Moriarty wants you to, and I think that is why the blurb of the book is intentionally vague. As the book began with a mysterious prologue that has you shocked and desperately wanting to know more, I started to put ideas together in my head and sort of realised what was going on, but that didn't spoil it when the surprise is actually revealed - in fact I was actually shocked that I was right because I didn't think Moriarty would choose a storyline like this, it seems so much more controversial and surprising than anything else she's written so far. It's apparent from that that the rest of the book isn't going to be an easy read, and I was right - it was emotional, sad, heart-breaking and a very thought-provoking book that you will make you wonder about the morals and rights and wrongs of the situations in the book.

Moriarty manages to juggle many different threads in this book, and does so with apparent ease. We have chapters following Laura, Sophie and Anna individually in the present day, when all of the drama is occuring, but then we also delve into the past's of Anna and Laura which sets up the reason for the things that happen. I really loved Anna, she was someone I saw a lot of myself in, and found her such an easy character to like, even after things are revealed. She clearly dotes on her daughter, and it makes the rest of what happens even harder to read about. Laura, on the other hand, was a character I disliked immensely, even as an adult when she's apparently changed her life around and is trying her best. Mandy, her daughter, suffers because Laura cannot leave the memory of Jody behind, and I felt very sorry for the lost, young teenage girl.

I found so many aspects of the book to be intriguing. Firstly, the condition 'synesthesia' which is mentioned throughout the book relating to several characters was something I had never heard of before, and I'm now curious to find out more about it, the idea of seeing feelings and emotions through colour. Moriarty has clearly done her research about it, and writes convincingly on the topic, so much so that the reader is able to get a good grasp of what it is, and how it affects the characters in the book individually. The actions of the characters in the books are equally shocking and unexpected, and  I couldn't in my mind decide whether or not I supported what the women in the book did. I was left very confused, wondering who I supported, and even now, days after finishing the book, I'm still struggling to put it out of my mind and wondering who, if anyone, was right. This is a wonderful read, and as I said, one of my favourite Sinead Moriarty books of all times. She has a great grasp of all of her characters, juggles the multiple narratives easily and takes the reader on a real emotional rollercoaster of a ride. I absolutely loved every page, and this book is most certainly going to my "books to keep" shelf, where it rightfully belongs. A brilliant book, you're missing out if you don't read this book.

You can buy This Child of Mine as a paperback or an eBook now.

eBook News: Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes' new book The Mystery of Mercy Close isn't due out until the end of the next month, but in the mean time, she has a brand new eBook short story to keep you going... Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family! It sounds like a great book to reintroduce us all to the Walsh family as it's been a while, and I'll definitely be taking a look at it!

"For all fans eagerly awaiting Marian Keyes' new novel The Mystery of Mercy Close - featuring Helen Walsh and out in September - here is a laugh-out-loud ebook-only short guide to everyone's favourite dysfunctional Irish family, Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walshes.

It does exactly what it says on the tin but here's a brief word from its author, Mammy Walsh herself:

'There's this woman I know from bridge, Mona Hopkins, a lovely woman she is, even if I must admit I'm not that keen on her myself, and she said a great thing the other day. I was expecting her to say "Two no trumps," but instead she comes out with a saying about her children. She says, "Boys wreck your house and girls wreck your head." Isn't that a marvellous bit of wisdom - "Boys wreck your house and girls wreck your head!" And God knows it's the truest thing I've heard in a long time. I should know. I have five girls. Five daughters. And let me tell you, my head is wrecked from them.

Although, now that I think of it, so is my house . . .'

It's the perfect re-introduction to the Walsh family and Marian's new novel, The Mystery of Mercy Close."

You can pre-order Mammy Walsh's A-Z of the Walsh Family as an eBook now!

8 August 2012

Book Review: Better Together by Sheila O'Flanagan

"When high-flying journalist Sheridan Gray loses her job, her boyfriend and her flat, she knows she must pick herself up and make a new start. But how will she adjust to small-town living and local reporting? Meanwhile, home-loving Nina Fallon's life is shattered when the exploits of her actor husband become national news. Now she's avoiding friends as she runs Ardbawn's guesthouse on her own. When Sheridan moves into Ardbawn, she realises Nina holds the key to a story that will make her name as a reporter again. But as she gets closer to the truth, Sheridan risks jeopardising her relationship with the man she has come to love. Is she better off going it alone? Or is love the greatest prize of all?"

Rating: 4/5

Sheila O'Flanagan has written a whopping 17 books in her excellent career, and I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of her latest book Better Together to review. I have to say that I'm not entirely sold on the cover, it's a little bland and generic for my liking, and I do think O'Flanagan's books deserve a lot better, but then again they must suit the main market for her books, as she continually sells well, and this book is already doing well. I do like the colours of it, but it isn't a stand out cover for me. I really liked the idea of a book being based around a woman who knows and loves her sports, that isn't something we read a lot about in women's fiction, and I was curious to see where O'Flanagan was going to take her characters in this one!

Sheridan Grey was proud of her career as a sports journalist at a well known paper, even though her parents seemed to value her two brothers' sporting achievements over anything she did. But when her boyfriend dumps her, she becomes homeless and loses her job, Sheridan starts to wonder where she's gone wrong. She moves to Ardbawn, and starts to live in the guesthouse run by Nina Fallon and her husband Sean. However, behind closed doors, all is not well with their marriage after Nina discovers some shocking secrets actor hubby Sean has been hiding from her, and she doesn't know which decision is to make for the better. Will Sheridan and Nina find happiness again, or will the two women let their broken pasts ruin their futures?

As usual, O'Flanagan has produced a very realistic, easy to read story that draws you in and makes you care about the people involved in the trials and tribulations of the book. Sheridan is a very easy to love main character, easy going, hard-working and just wants to succeed. I felt very sorry for her regarding the relationship she has with her parents, to feel you are always second best isn't nice and O'Flanagan puts across Sheridan's feelings very well. Nina was more difficult to warm to - she's clearly struggling with what to do about her marriage, and I thought she seemed to be a bit of a doormat to Sean, always letting him take charge when things should have been made her decision. In this respect, she's the very opposite of Sheridan and I think that's why these leading ladies worked so well together in the book, and their friendship soon blossomed.

I really enjoyed the mystery element to the book regarding a story Sheridan is chasing about the owner of the small town newspaper she now works for. We have no idea what is going on for the most of it, and I liked that O'Flanagan managed to keep that mystery element going on throughout the book, bringing in various characters to add different elements to it, and it made it an enjoyable read. I also like how she struggled with whether to write about Nina's story or not, it added a human side to the journalist in Sheridan, and it made her all the more likeable! O'Flanagan writes the small town of Ardbawn very well, and it's easy to imagine the lovely guesthouse Nina owns, the few shops in town where Sheridan goes, and the other locations mentioned in the book. O'Flanagan always writes passionately about Ireland, and this comes across so well on the pages of the book.

Overall, this was another great reader from Sheila O'Flanagan, and people who love her books will definitely love this one. I found the ending happened really quickly for me, things got wrapped up quite quickly and I was surprised by the speed at which O'Flanagan brought it all to an end. O'Flanagan copes well with the emotional problems of both women in the book, dealing with Nina's grief and despair with sensitivity, yet also showing the reader exactly how she is feeling, and also putting across Sheridan's exasperation and need to better herself all the time. I really enjoyed the book, and it was an easy read that I could lose myself in for a couple of days and finished it smiling. A lovely, well written and enjoyable read from one of Ireland's best authors. Recommended!

You can buy Better Together as a hardback or as an eBook now!

Book News: Winter Wonderland by Belinda Jones

The cover for Belinda Jones' seasonal new release Winter Wonderland has been revealed, and isn't it lovely?! Considering Jones' books are usually set in tropical and hot locations, I can't wait to read this one and find out what delights are in store for us! It's out on 8th November.

"Imagine waking up in a snow globe...

That’s how travel journalist Krista feels when she arrives in magical Quebec to report on Canada's glittering Winter Carnival.

Over ten sub-zero days Krista's formerly frozen heart begins to melt as she discovers an enchanting world of ice palaces, husky dog-sledding and maple-syrup treats galore. And then she meets Jacques, a man as handsome and rugged as he is mysterious…

The two share a secret that could bond them forever, but can they find a way to break through the protective layers around their hearts to warm up this winter wonderland?"

You can pre-order Winter Wonderland as a paperback or an eBook now!

7 August 2012

Book News and Deals: The Round-Up

Here are a few snippets of book deals and news that have caught my eye lately! I'm really chuffed for Alice Peterson doing so well with her book Monday to Friday Man, and for all the new book deals that have been agreed!

Choc Lit Set To Publish Doctor Who-inspired Debut

Award-winning, independent publisher Choc Lit have bought world rights for a quirky romantic comedy. A Stitch in Time is written by Amanda James and is set for release in April 2013. The debut novel has a time travel theme and was inspired by television programmes such as- Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, Ashes to Ashes and The Time Traveller's Wife as well as Amanda James's own teaching experience.

'We are delighted to add Amanda to our pool of talented authors. A Stitch in Time is a fun novel with insightful flashbacks in our history - the Sheffield Blitz, the Suffragette movement in London to the Old American West. Readers are in for a real treat as well as a quirky history lesson. ' Stated Lyn Vernham, Director Choc Lit.

Previously, Amanda has written short stories that have appeared in the anthologies Hipp-O-Dee-Doo-Dah for Children's Hospices UK and 100 Stories for Queensland (an anthology published to raise funds for The Queensland Flood Appeal).

(Taken from booktrade.info)

Arrow snaps up six Sweet Valley e-book novellas

Arrow has acquired six novellas that follow on from Francine Pascal's adult novel, Sweet Valley Confidential, and will be publishing them as e-book originals.

Editor Gillian Holmes bought UK Commonwealth, excluding ANZ, rights from Angharad Kowal at Writers House, with Cornerstone Digital to publish all six novellas as e-books on 12th August 2012.

Holmes said the novellas open three years after Sweet Valley Confidential ended, and said: "In The Sweet Life, Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield are now 30, and there are some pretty huge surprises in store both for them and the millions of Sweet Valley fans. Each 'episode' ends on a cliffhanger so it's impossible to stop reading them. Direct to digital e-books are the perfect format for Sweet Valley fans, and it's a new and exciting venture for us."

Michael Joseph acquires two from Moyes

Michael Joseph has acquired two new novels, as yet untitled, by Me Before You author Jojo Moyes.
Managing director Louise Moore signed a two-book deal with Sheila Crowley of Curtis Brown for British Commonwealth rights excluding Canada, with the first to be published in 2013.

Moore said: "Me Before You is proof that commercial women's fiction is alive and flourishing. Jojo gave us the right book and the result speaks for itself. We have loved working with Jojo at Penguin, and to publish into this genre in an entirely new and exciting way."

Twenty pence e-book cracks Kindle top three

An e-book being offered on the Kindle store for 20p has broken the top-three monopoly of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy after weeks of dominance.

Alice Peterson's Monday to Friday Man (Quercus) has risen to number three in the paid-for Kindle chart, as E L James' Fifty Shades of Grey (Arrow) drops to the number four slot, after spending 142 days in the top hundred.

The top two spots are still taken by the Fifty Shades follow-ups, Fifty Shades Freed and Fifty Shades Darker.

Monday to Friday Man was first released in July 2011, and has spent 75 days in the top hundred Kindle bestsellers.

Its success has grown while it has been offered for 20p, as Amazon matches the price of books offered in a promotion on the Sony Reader Store.

(Above three articles taken from The Bookseller)

6 August 2012

Book Review: Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

"Having grown up on the quiet island of Guernsey, Betty Dean can't wait to start her new life in London. On a mission to find Clara Pickle - the mysterious beneficiary in her grandmother's will - she arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks...

In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette - Betty's grandmother - is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But less than two years later, tragedy strikes and she flees back to Guernsey for the rest of her life.

As Betty searches for Clara, she is taken on a journey through Arlette's extraordinary time in London, uncovering a tale of love, loss and heartbreak. Will the secrets of Arlette's past help Betty on her path to happiness?"

Rating: 5/5

While I've always been a fan of Lisa Jewell, I feel like I have still a lot of her back catalogue of books to read, and not enough time to read them in! I really enjoyed her last release, The Making of Us which was a fantastic book about adoption amongst other various things, and I felt like Jewell was trying to do something different with her fiction, and make up sit up and realise what a great author she is. Well, when I saw the cover for her 2012 book Before I Met You, I knew more than ever that Jewell was going in a totally new direction and I was right. This book is a dual-narrative, dual-time period novel, something Jewell hasn't attempted before and feels like a total breakaway from her previous books. Did it work? Oh, did it ever.

The book tells the story of two women living in very different times, going through two totally different life experiences. First of all there's Betty, who is living in Soho in London in the mid 1990's. She's come there with a purpose - to find who the beneficiary of her grandmother's will is, just a mystery name 'Clara Pickle' and nothing more to go on. Betty is sure living in London will be glamorous and she'll find the mystery Clara, but when she settles there, she realises life in London isn't necessarily all it's cracked up to be. Then there's her grandmother Arlette, recently passed away but we're taken back to her life in the 1920's as a young girl, starting out on her own in London, and finding her feet in the big wide world. When she meets jazz singer Geoffrey and painter Gideon, she doesn't count on going on the biggest and most shocking adventure of her life, but what tragedy forces her back home to Guernsey once more, never to return to London again?

I have to confess that I did find the start of the book a bit slow, and did wonder where it was going at first. We join a young Betty along with her mother and step-dad moving from their home over to Guernsey to take care of Arlette who has been taken ill. Things quickly catch up to a more modern time, to Arlette's passing and this is when the action takes hold, and we start having the dual stories of Betty and Arlette alongside each other. Jewell manages both narratives very well, and I found it easy to switch between the two, and managing two sets of characters easily too. They're both written in the third person, allowing us to fully see all of the action, but still following Arlette and Betty respectively closely. They aren't exactly one chapter each, but it doesn't matter, and switches at an appropriate time, and as I said it was very easy to read. I looked forward to both of the stories equally which was also great, as sometimes I can find one too dull, but Jewell really kept up the pace of both of the women's lives.

I have to say Jewell writes so convincingly about each time period too, and has clearly done her research. The 1990's was probably the easiest to write about, the music, the clothes and things being much more recent and in people's memories far more. However, the 1920's part of the story in a way was more captivating, I really was taken back almost 100 years ago and discovering the world with a nervous Arlette, unsure of how to act, how to behave and what to do with her life. I was hoping that she'd make the right choices, and it's fair to say her life wasn't smooth sailing, and I felt incredibly sorry for Arlette, especially as she felt she was making the right moral choices, even if they weren't necessarily the right ones for her. I admired Betty a lot as she was determined to the right thing by her aunt, and find the will's beneficiary, and I liked how she had the guts to keep going even when she was really fed up.

Jewell's writing is really taken to another level in this book, and was an utter joy to read from beginning to end. As I've said the dual narrative story works so well, and you will find yourself wanting more hours in the day to read on and find out what happens with Arlette and Betty in the end. I really loved this book, from the likeable characters, and that includes the more minor characters too, including Gideon, Geoffrey, Dom Jones, and John Brightly too, they were all so well written and believable characters. I loved how it's the story of two women from one family (well, sort of!) getting used to their new lives in London in different times, and how things have changed between the generations. Jewell effortlessly writes in both times, and makes us really care about Arlette and Betty, and what shapes these women as people - 2 "coming of age" stories in one really. An emotional, wonderful novel, one that you'll devour from cover to cover.

You can buy Before I Met You as a paperback or an eBook now!

Book News: The Vintage Teacup Club by Vanessa Greene

Here's a debut novel I'm really looking forward to reading, and I'm lucky enough to already have a proof copy of it, so hopefully will get around to it soon! Vanessa Greene's debut novel The Vintage Teacup Club is due out on 11th October, and I think the cover is so pretty! I can't wait to read it, it sounds fab.

"At a car boot sale in Sussex, three very different women meet and fall for the same vintage teaset. They decide to share it - and form a friendship that changes their lives . . . 

Jenny can't wait to marry Dan. Then, after years of silence, she hears from the woman who could shatter her dreams. 

Maggie has put her broken heart behind her and is gearing up for the biggest event of her career - until she's forced to confront the past once more. 

Alison seems to have it all: married to her childhood sweetheart, with two gorgeous daughters. But as tensions mount, she is pushed to breaking point. 

Dealing with friendship and families, relationships and careers, highs and lows, The Vintage Teacup Club is heart-warming storytelling at its very best."

You can pre-order The Vintage Teacup Club as a paperback or an eBook now.

3 August 2012

Book News: What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? by Claire Allan

Irish author Claire Allan is back again this August, with her brand new book What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?, and I am loving the gorgeous new purple cover too. The book is due out on August 29th, and I can't wait to read it. I've read and loved lots of Claire's books in the past and hope this one will be just as good as the rest!

"Kitty Shanahan, proprietor of The Dressing Room, is very much in love with love. But a routine phone-call turns her seemingly perfect life on its head and she is left trying to figure how just how her marriage could have gone so wrong. It's not easy to help hopeful brides choose their dream dresses when your heart is in pieces. And it's hard to know who to trust when the man you trusted with your entire life has mysteriously disappeared. 

Journalist Erin Brannigan knows exactly where the love of her life is. Paddy has turned into a 'Groomzilla' - planning their forthcoming wedding to the very last detail. And Erin can't quite bring herself to tell him that even though she loves him more than she has loved anyone in her entire life, she is scared witless at the thought of getting married. And it isn't just because Paddy is battling cancer. Her heart was broken in the past and she is afraid it could be broken all over again. When she is challenged by her bosses to write about her forthcoming wedding, Paddy's cancer battle and the man who first broke her heart, she finds herself caught up in a whirlwind which spins far out of her control.

Thrown together in the elegant surroundings of of 'The Dressing Room' Kitty and Erin find themselves caught up in each other's lives while they try to find the way forward in their own.

Told with Claire Allan's trademark warmth, humour and emotion, 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?' asks if change is always a bad thing and if hearts which have been broken can ever truly be mended?"

You can pre-order What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? as a paperback now.

2 August 2012

Book Review: The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen

"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 one daughter, a lovely home and though your husband travels a lot, you still love each other passionately.

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. 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 lays bare the raw emotions"

Rating: 5/5

Selina thinks her marriage to husband Simon, whilst not perfect by any means, is pretty good. They're financially comfortable, have 3 older children who are doing well with their lives, a lovely holiday home in Tuscany, and a pretty happy lifestyle. Sure, Simon spends a lot of time away on business, but she's used to that, and it quite suits her having some time to herself. Then there's Lottie, happily married to husband Simon for 17 years with a daughter, and the three live in a small flat in London after recently returning from living in Dubai. Even after so long together, Lottie is still madly in love with her husband, and he with her, but things are about to fall apart when both of Simon's wives find out each other exists at Simon's funeral after his sudden and unexpected death. Soon enough, a war between the wives ensues as to who actually is Simon's legal wife, and which wife gave him the better life...this is a war that is going to run and run...

Cohen's debut novel The Mistresses Revenge was a book that had a pretty controversial topic, and I enjoyed the book because it was so unusual, and almost made me feel sympathy towards the mistress, even though I knew what she was doing was wrong. Luckily, Cohen has again picked another controversial topic, this time the idea of bigamy, where a man is married to more than one wife without her knowing about it. Straight away, I knew it was going to be a great read and I couldn't wait to see how the story would unfold, and what exactly would happen between the warring wives! I have to mention the cover as well, and with it's shades of emerald green, it's quite eye-catching and really pretty too - simple but effective and I love it!

The story is told through the alternating narratives of the two wives - Selina and Lottie. Immediately, I felt that I liked Lottie a lot more than Selina, she seemed much more down to earth and "normal", and I liked that she didn't care where she was living, she just wanted to be with Simon and their daughter. Selina however, gives the impression of needing the money and well-to-do lifestyle that Simon's job provides, and it doesn't seem that the pair are hugely in love and need that affection like Lottie does. The two narratives really allows you to get into the heads of the women and try and understand how they are feeling, and why they act how they do. Both narratives are written in the first person, so it manages to keep things secret until Cohen wants them revealed, and leaves us in suspense too!

I felt so sorry for both the women when Simon's duplicity is revealed, but the mystery surrounding his death is one that continues throughout the book. Both Selina and Lottie are in the dark about how and why Simon has died, as they are about his other marriage, and Selina in particular is desperate to find out what her husband was up to, especially when she starts realising she might well lose her home to Lottie if the police think Simon commited suicide. Selina did seem the stronger of the women during the book, and as it went on I warmed to her more but there was just something more likeable about Lottie, even if she does really fall apart when she learns of her husband's betrayal, as I'm sure most women would! As the book so heavily relates to these characters, there aren't too many more in there other than the children of both women, a couple of friends and family members, and that's about it, and it worked well this way.

I found that it was a gripping book, and I loved how it wasn't at all predictable and kept me on the edge of my seat as I was reading. There was a great cast of characters, and the way that both of the wives had such different lifestyles and marriages to the same man made it even better, as you still can't really understand why Simon does what he does in the book! I wasn't able to work out how Simon died and for what reasons until Cohen really wanted us to at the end, and it was a bit of a shocker, I'll give you that! The book's main focus is of course the wives and the struggle they go through with coming to terms with their husband's deceit, but I enjoyed the other small stories involving the children too, there was always something going on in the background, and I found some particular scenes involving Selina and their family dog very emotional to read as I related to it all too well :( Overall, though, a fantastic second novel from Cohen, and she cements herself as a brilliant new voice in a darker brand of women's fiction, simply excellent!

You can buy The War of the Wives as a hardback or an eBook now.

Book News: Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman

Rowan Coleman's 2011 book Lessons in Laughing Out Loud was one of my favourite reads of last year, so I've been hugely looking forward to her book for this year, Dearest Rose. I have to say I really like the cover, it's simple and elegant looking, and the story sounds like one I'm going to enjoy reading! It's out on 27th September.

"'You are a remarkable woman and you deserve all the happiness, contentment and love in the world. I, for one, know that I have never met anyone quite like you.'

When Rose Pritchard turns up on the doorstep of a Cumbrian B&B it is her last resort. She and her seven-year-old daughter Maddie have left everything behind. And they have come to the village of Millthwaite in search of the person who once offered Rose hope.

Almost immediately Rose wonders if she's made a terrible mistake - if she's chasing a dream - but she knows in her heart that she cannot go back. She's been given a second chance - at life, and love - but will she have the courage to take it?"

1 August 2012

Picture This, Picture That: Unsticky by Sarra Manning

Sarra Manning's 2009 book Unsticky has been a cover makeover for it's re-release next month, and I have to say I am loving the updated look! The old cover (left) is still quite unusual, but I have to say although I have a copy of this book, it hasn't drawn me into reading it. The new cover, however, is quite striking in its own way and I love the new fonts, particularly on the book titles, and the colour theme going on too. I'd certainly pick it up in a shop. So... which cover for Unsticky do you prefer? Vote on the poll below and let's see which is more popular!

online polls

Book News: Friends and Rivals by Tilly Bagshawe

One of my favourite authors Tilly Bagshawe is back this autumn with a brand new novel, and a new cover look too! Friends and Rivals is out on September 27th, and sounds like another fantastic read. I'm not entirely sold on the cover if I'm convinced but I know the story will be as great as ever!

"Old friends can become the worst of enemies...

Kat fears she is past her prime. Her philandering husband, Ivan, who she still loves passionately after twenty years of marriage, leaves her for a younger woman. Devastated, there is only one person left who Kat trusts.

Kendall is sure she has it all. But underneath her tough exterior she hides a vulnerability – she is helplessly struggling with an unrequited love. But when Kendall’s need for success consumes her, she won’t let anyone stand in her way.

Ava is an innocent, plucked from obscurity and thrown into the deep-end of the glamorous world of fame. When she is pitted against Kendall, the world watches closely, wondering who will survive.

As these three women try to navigate a backstabbing world of infamy, desire and fortune, will they be tempted to betray the people they hold dearest?"