28 June 2013

Author Interview: Sophie Hart

I recently read a debut novel that I absolutely loved, and I reviewed it a while ago - that book was Sophie Hart's debut book, The Naughty Girls' Book Club. I loved the book, and Sophie was kind enough to answer some of my questions! My thanks go to Sophie for answering them, I hope you enjoy the interview :)

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'The Naughty Girl's Book Club'.

Hi Chloe, thanks for having me on the blog! The main character in The Naughty Girls Book Club is single mum Estelle, who runs a struggling cafe in the suburbs of Bristol. As a way to try and bring more custom into Cafe Crumb, she starts a book club, which attracts a wide mix of people – from recently retired Sue to feminist librarian Gracie. The original plan is for the group to read the classics, but after the first meeting falls flat, they decide to focus on erotica instead...

Q2. Erotica has become hugely popular in the last year or so thanks to the phenomenon of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' - is the success of this book what gave you the idea for your book?

Yes! I have to admit that it wasn’t a coincidence! But hopefully this is a different way of looking at the phenomenon. Rather than being just another erotic novel, with a rich, powerful man deflowering a virgin, along with a heavy dose of S&M, this was a way of seeing the effect that reading those books has on ordinary women (and men). All of the characters in The Naughty Girls Book Club are missing something in their own lives, and a combination of the books they read and the friendships they form help them gain the confidence to go for what they want.

Q3. I've seen a lot of tweets on Twitter with people saying the book isn't as rude as they thought it would be - did you ever intend for the book to be more 'sexy' or was it more the effect of erotica on readers that you were trying to write about?

It was definitely the effects of erotica that were the main aim, but I wanted some naughtiness in there too. In fact, the final draft was naughtier than the original, as my editor wanted more raunchiness! We were very aware that people would be buying it because of the Fifty Shades phenomenon, and didn’t want them to be disappointed if it was too tame. Similarly, with the cover, the publishers wanted to reflect the familiar erotica covers, but for the overall effect to be toned down and more relatable – hence the pink and the coffee cup!

Q4. Where did you get your inspiration for the characters in your book from? I especially loved teacher Rebecca, and cafe owner Estelle!

Thank you! It’s been really interesting to get people’s reactions to the different characters now that the book is published – everyone has a different favourite! I knew that the characters had to be quite varied – in age and in personality – but also to be very recognisable ‘everywoman’ types. So you have the young, feisty woman; the newlywed; the middle-aged divorcee; and the recent retiree. And for another, very different, point of view, there’s the only male member of the group, the sweet and shy Reggie.

Q5. You included a wide variety of erotica in your novel - I assume you had to read them all in order to write about them - was it interesting to see how the idea of erotica has changed, and did you have a favourite amongst the books you had to read?!

I did read all of them – although I have to confess I may have only skim-read Justine by the Marquis de Sade... It’s quite heavy going, as it’s written in old-fashioned language, and is also incredibly brutal.
As the characters in the book observe, Lady Chatterley’s Lover really isn’t that shocking any more, and it’s amazing to think that a couple of generations ago it was banned in the UK, whereas you can now buy Fifty Shades in your local supermarket!

In terms of my favourite, I do love the classic bonkbusters, so Lace by Shirley Conran would have to be my top pick, with Riders by Jilly Cooper a very close second.

Q6. Who are some of your favourite authors to read, and do you enjoy reading the chick lit genre?

I love reading chick lit – I think it must be very hard to write it if you don’t read it – and some of my all-time favourite authors are in that genre, such as Sophie Kinsella, Helen Fielding and Tasmina Perry. I also enjoy more literary novels, by writers such Kate Atkinson and Curtis Sittenfeld, and historical fiction like Philippa Gregory’s books. As you can tell, I’m a big fan of female writers!

Q7. 'The Naughty Girl's Book Club' is your debut novel - how did it feel to get your book deal with Avon, and then to get a proper copy of your new book in your hands?!

Exactly as you’d expect – amazing! I’d been trying for a good few years to have a novel published, so when it finally happened it felt incredible, and I was so lucky that it was with such a big publisher like HarperCollins. My agent, Madeleine Milburn, is wonderful! Seeing the actual copy of the book was quite surreal – it was much thicker than I expected – and Avon managed to secure some really good retail support so I’ve been seeing Naughty Girls in loads of shops and supermarkets. It’s crazy to see it on the shelves next to famous authors and writers I’ve been a fan of for years.

Q8. You're active on Twitter - do you think social networking is a good tool for author's to use to connect with their readers?

Yes, I think it’s brilliant! From what I understand, the publishing industry has changed a lot in the last few years, and writers are expected to do much more in terms of self-promotion. It’s actually a good thing, as I think otherwise you could sit at home and feel very disconnected from the whole process, but with social networking you get an instant response and really feel like you’re making a difference to the success of your novel.

One of the most fun things has been running an online naughty book club on Twitter, to complement the book. I’ve discovered some great novels through it (like Bared to You by Sylvia Day, and Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire), and met some really lovely, friendly, supportive people. Anyone is welcome to join in @Cafe_Crumb

Q9. What is next for you?

I’m working on my next book, although it’s in the very early stages at the moment. But I’ve written a short story for an ebook-only compilation which is out at the end of June. The book is called The Perfect Escape, and features a whole host of Avon writers like Miranda Dickinson, Julia Williams and Laura Ziepe. And it’s completely free to download – perfect for your summer hols!

25 June 2013

Book News: Just For Christmas by Scarlett Bailey

I do love a Christmas book! It's my favourite time of year, and nothing sets me up better than reading a huge load of festive themed novels. Over the past few years, we have been treated to some amazing ones, and already they're piling up for this year! One of my favourite festive authors Scarlett Bailey is back this year with a brand new book called Just For Christmas and I am in love with the cover! It's due out on 7th November, so we still have a bit of a wait, but I know it'll be worth it!

You can pre-order Just For Christmas as a paperback now.

"Her best friend's wedding...

When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants is to be alone - and as far away from Edinburgh as possible.

Moving to a Cornish cottage, which comes complete with the world's scruffiest dog, Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities.

Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan - and somehow Alex doesn't want to be alone this Christmas after all.

But having lost one fiancé, Ruan has no intention of letting anyone get close to him again..."

24 June 2013

eBook Review: Waking Up In Vegas by Romy Sommer

"What happens in Vegas…

Waking up to the bright lights of Vegas in an unfamiliar penthouse suite, cocktail waitress Phoenix Montgomery finds she’s covered from head to foot in gold glitter and not alone – aside from the empty bottle of champagne, there’s a mystery man in the shower and a huge sparkly ring on her finger!

Stays in Vegas?

There’s no denying Max Waldburg’s demi-god sex appeal but commitment-phobic Phoenix doesn’t do relationships. Only it seems her new husband (agh!) has other ideas…he’s trying to keep that ring on her finger and his wife firmly back in his bed. The only question on her lips is – why? Or maybe, why not?"

Rating: 4.5/5

You can buy Waking Up In Vegas as an eBook now.

I find it funny sometimes that I can go forever without reading a book on a certain topic, and then suddenly I end up reading almost 2 in a row about the very same thing. It happened a short while ago when I first read Jodi Picoult's 'The Storyteller' followed by Kristin Harmel's 'The Sweetness of Forgetting', both books about women finding out about their past family who were involved in the holocaust. Now it's happened again. Last week I read Hester Browne's brilliant book 'The Runaway Princess', a book about a woman who falls in love with a prince (without knowing he's a prince), then I read this eBook short story which appeared to be based on the same thing, although I didn't know that at the time! This was just as enjoyable as a story, and it's part of a new range of eBook stories by HarperImpulse, so I'll be looking out for more!

I really loved the way this book opened, with Phoenix waking up in Vegas (as per the title!), not knowing exactly what had happened the night before, and then discovering a handsome man in her hotel suite. As the story quickly went on, we find out that the pair married in a chapel, and her new husband Max is determined that they won't get a divorce, despite Phoenix's insistence that they certainly will. I really liked Phoenix straight away, she's a very independent young woman, getting over the recent death of her father, but loving travelling the world and working as a waitress to earn some cash. Marriage and settling down is her worst nightmare, so it's quite fun to read how she deals with this awkward situation.

As things progress, we find out more and more about Max, and his real vocation in life - a Prince of a small country, a fact Phoenix is sure he's omitted on purpose. I loved reading about Max's life when he returned to his home town, and how he is insistent that he will do as he pleases despite his position and what his security services think of his new wife (although they don't know he's newly married of course!). Max and Phoenix seem to be a couple not made in heaven, except in certain departments, but you can't help but hope that they will have a happy ever after ending, they deserve it after the things they have both gone through in their lives.

I found Sommer's writing to be brilliant to read, and a real joy too. She brings the story alive with her words, and descriptions of both America and Vegas, and also of Max's kingdom too, it sounds lovely and very old-world! She writes with real humour and I did find myself smiling along as I was reading, wondering what huge faux pas Phoenix would make next, and if indeed Max would persuade her that they could be happy together forever if only she'd let her guard down! There's a few twists and turns along the way, and despite the fact it was a slightly predictable ending (of which I was pleased actually), it was a super short story, and it certainly makes me want to read more by Romy Sommer. It's perfect for picking up and putting down when you have the time, and has a good pair of character you will want to care about, and a fairy-tale romance to warm even the coldest of hearts. A super eBook that I can highly recommend!

21 June 2013

Giveaway: Win one of three copies of Kathleen MacMahon's 'This Is How It Ends'!

Thanks to the lovely people at Sphere books, I have 3 copies of Kathleen MacMahon's great debut novel This Is How It Ends to giveaway! The giveaway is open to UK and Ireland residents only, with only one entry per household permitted. You will be contacted on the email address you have entered in the form if you're a winner, so please make sure you enter it correctly!

The giveaway is open until Friday 28th June 2013 at midnight, so good luck and thank you for entering!

20 June 2013

Book News: A Gift to Remember by Melissa Hill

One of my favourite authors is releasing a second novel for 2013, and I am so excited about this one! Melissa Hill's new novel is called A Gift to Remember, and how gorgeous is that cover?! It's just stunning and I bet it'll look perfect when the finished copies come out. It's out on October 24th, and already I can't wait to read it!

You can pre-order A Gift to Remember as a paperback or an eBook now!

"Darcy Archer works in a small bookstore on Manhattan's Upper West Side. A dreamer who secretly wishes for true love similar to that in her beloved novels, Darcy refuses to settle for anything less than being swept off her feet by the perfect man.

One day, when cycling to work, Darcy accidentally crashes into a sharply dressed man walking his dog. He is knocked unconscious and rushed to the hospital, but his dog gets left behind. Wracked with guilt over the accident, Darcy resolves to care for the dog and reunite him with his owner. But the dog is not the only thing that's been left behind and when she finds a small beautifully wrapped package - suspiciously shaped like a book - she becomes curious. She decides to try and figure out all she can about this man, and make the delivery herself. Darcy gradually becomes drawn into his life; one that she soon discovers is filled with books, travel, adventure and all the wonderful things she's ever dreamt about. It doesn't take long before Darcy builds up a picture of this man's lovely life, and feeling an immediate kinship towards him, tries to make things right.

It might be a challenge but doesn't she owe it to him to try? But does fantasy match reality? And what happens when he finally wakes up?"

19 June 2013

Book Review: The Runaway Princess by Hester Browne

"Amy Wilde is tired of the idiots her glamorous flatmate Jo tries to set her up with - she'd much rather be landscaping a garden with her dog Badger at her side than trying to find the man of her dreams. That is, until she meets Leo Wolfsburg. Handsome, polite, funny, intriguing - Leo is everything Amy could want in a man. Best of all, the attraction seems mutual.

But Leo's lifestyle is a world away from her own. Private planes, charity balls, exclusive members' clubs - Amy begins to realise that her simple existence has been turned upside down. And just where is Leo's home country of Nirona, anyway? Is this all too good to be true?"

Rating: 4.5/5

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

I was really excited to see that Hester Browne is with a new publisher, Quercus, and a new look for her books too. Hester's new book, The Runaway Princess, has a gorgeous floral cover that is certainly eye-catching and stands out from any other book on the shelf that I have seen before. I liked the idea of the story as well - ordinary girl meets a handsome prince and the pair fall madly in love despite their different lifestyles. The story reminded me of Sophie Page's 2011 book 'To Marry A Prince' which was released to coincide with the Royal Wedding. However, I liked the strong female lead character in this book, and despite it being quite long at just over 500 pages, it was a really enjoyable read.

Amy Wilde is a gardener, and she really loves her job. She lives with her mad flatmate Jo, a woman of wealthy means, whereas Amy scrapes by with her business together with Toby. When they throw a party at their London flat one night, Amy gets talking to a handsome stranger, and the two click together easily. Jo finally reveals to Amy that her handsome stranger is in fact a handsome prince... Prince Leo Wolfsburg of Nirona to be precise. The pair begin to date, but Amy soon realises that their lives are worlds apart, and she struggles to cope with the demands of Leo's high profile life and everything it entails. Will Amy be able to overcome her fears of Leo's life, or will spend the end of their happy ever after?

I will be honest and say at the start, I found it to be a little slow and I was struggling to get into it. I decided to carry on reading because I had heard such good things about it, so I was hoping it would pick up and draw me in like I hoped it would. Luckily, my perseverance paid off, and soon I began to get involved in Amy's story, and started to warm to the other characters too. Amy is the lead character, the one we follow throughout the book, and the one the whole story hinges on really. I really liked her, she's a hard-worker, determined to make it on her own, and is a little bit naive about her relationship with Leo until quite a way in, which I found quite sweet. She just wanted to be a woman in love with a man, ignoring all the other circumstances, and I liked how hard she tried to make that happen.

Prince Leo himself was a wonderful character, treated Amy like a real princess, and was the perfect male hero! You could see he did his best by her despite how different their lives were, and I liked that he was willing to stand up to his family for the sake of his girlfriend. Browne writes them as almost the perfect couple, so you can't help but will them through to the end. Jo, Amy's flatmate added some real humour into the story, and I loved the scenes with her in, she sounded like a great, fun person to live with! I loved the descriptions in the book too, for me they made it come alive and everything from their flat to Amy's gardens and plants that she deals with were vivid in my mind as I was reading. The way Browne writes about London makes it sound so amazing, and the island of Nirona was so beautifully described, I wished it were real! Even the castle building sounded wonderful and opulent, Browne certainly has a knack for making things seem amazing!

Although the main story was the one involving Leo and Amy's romance, and the madness that is Prince Leo's life, there was also a bit of a mystery running right through the book. It was involving Amy's family and their past, but we aren't told for a long while exactly what happened. It's hinted at throughout the book, the effect on Amy and her parents is quite blatant, especially her poor mother, and I have to admit it really did have me curious because I was desperate to know what the secret was and why it had affected the Wilde's so much. I loved that Browne was able to keep it a mystery, and how it all came out in the end was great to read and very enjoyable. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I loved the cast of characters. It's really an proper love story, about love overcoming the odds, and Amy and Leo are one couple you really end up rooting for. Browne's writing was easy to read, and really got me into the story, especially with her descriptions of Nirona, London and Amy's wonderful gardens. It's a joy to read, and I'd definitely recommend it.

18 June 2013

Author Interview: Helen Chandler

Helen Chandler's debut novel Two For Joy was a fantastic read that I thoroughly enjoyed, so I hope you've all picked it up and had a chance to love it like I did! Helen was kind enough to answer some of my burning questions about her book and another things, so here is the interview! My thanks go to Helen for answering my questions!

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'Two For Joy'.

Two for Joy tells the story of Toby and Julia, who, although they have been friends for years, don't realise that they're madly in love and completely perfect for each other until life has become so complicated that it's driven them apart.

Q2. Julia and Toby are best friends that turn to lovers - where did you get the inspiration for their story? Is it something that happened to you?!

Toby is a really decent bloke, and that's integral to the story - I wanted to find a way in which he ends up being torn between two women without compromising that decency, and that gave me the idea of a longstanding friendship with Julia, contrasted with a brief but intense relationship with Ruby. I've never experienced the friends to lovers thing myself, but, like Toby and Julia, I met my now husband in Fresher's Week at uni. Unlike Toby and Julia it was love at first sight for us, but in creating Toby and Julia I did imagine what my husband and I might have been like, aged 30, if we'd missed the boat of initial attraction and stayed friends instead.

Q3. Toby's pregnant girlfriend Ruby really struggles with the idea of pregnancy and motherhood - what sort of research went into her story, and was it difficult to write?

I haven't done any specific research, but I had my own daughter four years ago, and that brought a much greater awareness of the difficulties of pregnancy and motherhood. I was lucky that I was having a planned and much-wanted baby with a loving partner, but there were still moments when it all felt overwhelming. I imagined how it must feel if the pregnancy was a shock, and you're really not ready to be a mother.

Q4. 'Two For Joy' is your debut novel - how did you get your book deal, and how did it feel when you finally got a finished copy of your new book for the first time?!

I was pretty lucky - Hodder was amongst the first 'top ten' publishers my agent initially approached, and they came back with an offer. It was the most amazing day - absolutely up there with my daughter's birth and my wedding day! Getting the first book was also very special - albeit a bit chaotic. The courier arrived as I was trying to make macaroni cheese for my daughter's tea whilst responding to her endless questions and attempting to wrap a christening present. Two minutes after the courier, before I'd had time to really take it in, my friend arrived with her two small children, and the house descended into complete chaos! However, I then stuck a DVD on for the children, and got a big celebratory hug from my friend as I stood lovingly stroking the front cover, and had a real wow moment.

Q5. The cover is exquisite - I love the colours and the design. Did you have any input into it, and what were your initial thoughts on it?

I absolutely love it too! I had a bit of input at the beginning - my editor showed me some different covers, and asked what kind of thing I had in mind, and then fed that into her brief to the designer. When I saw the draft of it I was thrilled, it's genuinely one of the nicest book covers I've seen.

Q6. Who are some of your own favourite authors to read? Do you enjoy 'chick lit' as a genre, and what do you think of the constant media-bashing it takes in the press and online?

I am a HUGE fan of the chick-li genre! Some of my favourite authors to read are Lisa Jewell, Milly Johnson, Adele Parks, Katie Fforde, Erica James, Elizabeth Noble, Jennifer Weiner and Jane Green. I've also just finished 'You Had Me at Hello' by Mhairi McFarlane, which I thought was a stunning debut. I don't really get the fuss about 'chick lit' - as far as I'm concerned, the authors I've mentioned, and many others, are writing about big, meaty, serious subjects - everything from adultery to infertility to bereavement, but they're doing so in an entertaining and accessible way, and I think that should be celebrated, not denigrated.

Q7. What's your writing day like? How long did it take you to write 'Two For Joy' from start to finish?

Because I balance writing with looking after my little girl, I wrote most of Two for Joy while my mother-in-law looked after her on Thursday afternoons, and then the odd weekend when my husband took her out for the day. Working like this it took me a year to finish the first draft, then another six months to polish it.

Q8. If there were one book in the world you wish you'd written, what would it be?

Tricky! The obvious (and true) answer is anything by Jane Austen. However, for sparkling wit and dialogue I also love Nancy Mitford's 'Pursuit of Love' quartet, and wish I'd written those.

Q9. What are you working on at the moment?

I'm working on my second novel, which is provisionally called To Have and to Hold and follows the stories of three very different couples, whose marriages seem to be falling apart, and whose lives become entwined in unexpected ways. I'm also really enjoying writing my blog, A Life More Ordinary, which is on my website www.helenchandler.co.uk.

Book News: Wish Upon A Star by Trisha Ashley

Christmas novels are some of my favourite books ever, not least because of their gorgeous covers! Trisha Ashley's festive offering this year, Wish Upon A Star, isn't due out until 7th November, but luckily for us the cover has been released already! It's absolutely gorgeous, so festive and makes me long for cosy winter Christmas nights already! Are you excited about this book as much as I am!?

You can pre-order Wish Upon A Star as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Single mum Cally’s life is all about her little girl Stella. She’s resigned to the fact that the only romance she’s going to get is from the rom-coms she watches and with her busy job and her daughter; she doesn’t have time to even think about love.

But when Stella gets sick, and Cally is forced to move in with her mother in the remote village of Sticklepond, to save money for Stella’s operation, Cally realizes how tough it can be to go it alone. Still, the last thing Cally wants to do is fall in love. All she wants is a Christmas miracle to save Stella. Can laid-back, charming Jago unlock Cally’s frozen heart and show her that the best gifts aren’t always found under the tree?"

17 June 2013

Book Review: Me and Mr Jones by Lucy Diamond

"Meet the women in love with three very different brothers . . . Izzy’s determined to escape her troubled past with a new start by the sea – but flirtatious Charlie Jones is causing complications. Alicia’s been happily married to loyal Hugh for years but secretly craves excitement. Maybe it’s time to spice things up? Emma’s relationship with David was once fun and romantic but trying for a baby has taken its toll. Then temptation comes along . . . As the future of the family’s B&B becomes uncertain, Izzy, Alicia and Emma are thrown together unexpectedly. It seems that keeping up with the Joneses is harder than anyone thought..."

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Me and Mr Jones as a paperback or an eBook now.

I am a big fan of Lucy Diamond's books, and the release of her new book usually means summer is around the corner! The cover of her new book Me and Mr Jones looks so bright and colourful, it certainly shouts out that it's a summer read, and I was really looking forward to getting stuck in and reading the book. Luckily for me, Lucy didn't disappoint and I have to say I really did enjoy reading every page of this book. It's also a book that I think can span a broad readership - there's something in here for anyone to enjoy, and to me that's the sign of a pretty perfect book.

The Jones' brothers are all very different men, but so are the women in their lives. There's eldest brother Hugh, married to Alicia who is about to turn forty and is determined to change her life for the better when she hits that milestone. How will she shake up her life and her marriage? Middle son David is married to Emma, but the fact they are struggling to conceive is gnawing away at their happiness every day. When David has to go away for a while, will Emma be tempted elsewhere through desperation? Finally, the youngest son Charlie isn't with anyone but has his eyes on dance teacher Izzy. But she and her daughters are hiding a secret past they want to put behind them - will it jeopardise Charlie's chances of a happy ever after? Then there's the Jones' parents, living and working hard in their B&B but for how much longer...?

The book focuses on the one family, and I loved this because it meant a small and focused cast of characters, and I wasn't left trying to remember far too many names and different stories. Instead, we're introduced to them all one son at a time, and as well as that we meet their lovely parents who run Mulberry House, a quaint B&B. They're struggling though, and it's clear Eddie, their dad, has more problems that anyone will let on. I loved how close the family was as I was reading actually, the sons would do anything for their parents, and it was nice to see how they all pull together as things chop and change throughout the book. I really loved the idea of the B&B, it sounded perfect and Diamond wrote it so beautifully, you can picture it and its setting so easily. I didn't like Lilian, the Jones' boy mum and owner of the B&B at first, she came across as harsh and a bit uncaring but as the book went on, I did warm to her.

The Jones' men were fantastic to read about, and each very different. Their wives though, are the focus of the book and I loved reading their different stories and how they tolerated each other and the family dynamic that was going on. Alicia was probably my favourite, a put-upon mum trying to make her life a bit more exciting but nothing really goes to plan... I'm sure a lot of mums will sympathise with that one! She's very likeable, and I was hoping she'd get her happiness in the end. Emma, too, was good to read about - it was hard reading how desperate she was to have a baby and how it wasn't happening for her, and you're left wondering if she's going to do something very silly, and I found myself whizzing through the book to see what she is going to do next, I was really hooked! Finally, there's Izzy, and her story was a bit of a mystery for a while but as things come together, it's quite a shocking storyline and had me surprised as it exploded in the book. It was brilliantly handled by Diamond though, she has a talent for making you feel like you're right in the middle of the action, feeling everything along with these characters.

One thing I really enjoyed about the book was how realistic it all was. There was nothing too out of the ordinary or too dramatic that happened that took it that step further, instead it was a believable story with a cast of realistic people going through realistic things - and I loved it. I loved the drama that was created just through the people in it, up against the odds, handling tough situations - it also highlights the importance of family and pulling together when times are tough. I find Diamond's writing is a joy to read - it flows so well and the pages fly by, because you're left wanting more every time you tell yourself "just one more chapter!". For me, this is probably one of my favourite books by Lucy Diamond, up there with her last release 'Summer With My Sister' which was also a superb book. I can honestly say I really loved this book, and it simply MUST make it onto your summer reading list this year! Brilliant.

14 June 2013

Book Review: Revenge Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger

"Everything’s in place for the season’s hottest launch:

Tall latte (with two raw sugars)? Check.

Gucci trench (draped over desk)? Check.

Outrageous, unreasonable demands? Check.

Andy has just turned thirty and is an incredibly successful magazine editor, working closely with her best friend Emily, another Runway survivor. She’s about to get married – life’s on track and she’s been careful to stay clear of Miranda Priestly, her dreadful first boss. But Andy’s luck is running out. Miranda Priestly isn’t the kind of woman who hides in the background.

She’s back… and more devilish than ever."

Rating: 3.5/5

You can pre-order Revenge Wears Prada as a paperback or an eBook now.

I read The Devil Wears Prada a good few years ago now, and I really enjoyed it. However, I have to confess that I did enjoy the hit movie starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway a little bit more than I did the book, and to this day can't think of Miranda Priestly, the horrible Devil magazine editor from the book, without picturing Meryl in the role. When I heard Lauren Weisberger was bringing back the characters for a second novel, I was slightly worried that it might taint the brilliance of the first story, but I was also looking forward to having these characters back again, especially Andy who I loved reading about last time. I was so disappointed with the new cover, it's very bland and not my cup of tea, but of course I couldn't resist getting stuck in the moment it arrived through my letterbox!

At the end of the last book The Devil Wears Prada, Andy had screamed obscenities at her boss Miranda Priestly in Paris, and consequently cost herself her job. This book picks up Andy's story 10 years after leaving Runway magazine, and she's certainly made a success of herself. Together with her former Runway colleague Emily, the pair have created and now run their own weddings magazine, The Plunge. Couple that with the fact she's about to marry one of the shareholders and her own Mr Right in Max, it seems everything is going right for Andy. But just as she thinks life is perfect, it seems her past has come back to haunt her. Miranda is back, and Andy is determined that she won't let that woman back into her life again. But she's up against the odds - how will Miranda aka The Devil destroy her life this time, and will Andy come through it a better woman?

I was so excited to see more of the Miranda vs Andy clashes, but if you're expecting a lot of that in this book, I'm afraid you're going to be sorely disappointed. In fact, I was left disappointed with how little of Miranda was in the book as a whole. She doesn't appear in any big scenes, at first it's just glimpses of her, but even by the end, there haven't been any major "Miranda incidents" as there are throughout the first book, so it kind of makes the title a bit of a mystery too. Yes, Miranda is back, but, well, not really. She isn't nice, she's still ruthless but we do get to see a different side to her, and it just seemed very odd to me. I was constantly awaiting something huge to happen, but it never materialises, and while I enjoyed the story as a whole and reading about Andy again, the lack of Miranda and her "revenge" was a huge let down.

Andy is the book has certainly grown up in the book, is ready to get married to Max and is a successful magazine editor in her own right, but I have to say I did want her to grow a bit more of a backbone in the book! She was far too nice for my liking, not willing to put her own point of view above anyone else's, especially Emily's, and it did start to grate on my nerves after a while. I enjoyed reading the development of her marriage to Max and the other developments that happen to her, and the celebrities and scenarios she finds herself in through her job are fun to read about. I also liked the mentions of designers and clothes, which were frequent throughout the book but didn't seem too over-the-top which was good, and of course Andy and Emily had an appearance to uphold!

For me, this book was far more about Andy and her journey at this point in her life than about anything to do with Miranda. Yes, the devil does come back, but not in the way a lot of readers will be hoping for, and I have to confess I was left surprised by the final few chapters and what occurs there. I can't imagine this book turning into a big Hollywood movie as the first one did, simply because people would demand more of Miranda than is included in it. Weisberger is a good writer that can draw you into a story and make you care about her characters, but I have to question the title and lack of Miranda Priestly - let's be honest, she is going to be the reason most people will want to read this, and to find out what her revenge is going to be. I enjoyed it for what it was; an enjoyable read about a woman moving on with her life in New York despite a few wobbles, but for those hoping for The Devil Wears Prada part 2, I'm afraid you might be left disappointed.

Book News: Killer Queens by Rebecca Chance

Once of my favourite authors, Rebecca Chance, is back this summer with another brilliant new book, and I for one can't wait to read it! Killer Queens has a typically gorgeous cover, but the synopsis sounds amazing, I am really looking forward to read it when it's released on 1st August!

You can pre-order Killer Queens as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Every little girl grows up dreaming of finding a prince - but what is the fairy tale turns into a right royal nightmare?

Lori is a beautiful, blonde, all-American athlete. When the charismatic ruler of a small, filthy rich European state asks for her hand, she thinks she's snagged Prince Charming. But she soon realizes that all that glitters is not gold...

Belinda was once the most recognized and loved princess in the world. Forced to stage her own death, she lives incognito abroad with her adoring royal lover. Now, she is determined to return to England to see her son Hugo wed, even if it means risking her own life.

Chloe, Prince Hugo's fiancée, is the archetypical English rose. But it's a long road to becoming a princess, even when you're dating the heir to the throne. Perhaps the fairy-tale ending isn't all it was cracked up to be...

Killer queens, scheming kings, murder plots and lashings of steamy sex - find out what REALLY goes on behind closed palace doors."

13 June 2013

Author Interview: Abby Clements

Today I am really pleased to be welcoming the lovely Abby Clements to my blog for an author interview! I reviewed Abby's latest book Vivien's Heavenly Ice Cream Shop a few weeks ago on the site, and it was a fantastic summer read, packed full of a great story, and lots of yummy ice-cream too! Abby was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so here it is!

My thanks go to Abby for answering the questions, and to Alice at Quercus for organising the interview :)

Q1. Please tell me about your new book 'Vivien's Heavenly Ice-Cream Shop'.

Vivien’s is a feel-good, summery novel about two sisters who take over a run-down ice cream shop in Brighton. The women are at different stages in their lives – elder sister Anna has just bought her first flat and is moving in with her boyfriend Jon, with a spare room for his young son Alfie, while carefree younger sister Imogen is travelling in Thailand, indulging her twin passions for diving and photography. When their beloved grandma Vivien dies, they are both forced to make some tough decisions about their future – and so starts a summer of ice cream (and romantic) adventures.

Q2. Your debut novel was about christmas, now this is a fab summer novel. Do you enjoy reading seasonal novels yourself (I do!), and are you planning another festive book?!

Glad to hear you enjoy a seasonal read -- I certainly do. One of my favourite parts of researching my Christmas book, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, was curling up on the sofa reading lots of other authors’ Christmassy novels and watching films for inspiration. The only odd thing was that with publishing schedules as they are, it was in the middle of spring! So when I’m writing there’s often a kind of seasonal jet-lag, and some of Vivien’s was written while I was wrapped up in woolly jumpers. A novelist should be able to transport the reader, though – and in the same way writing both books transported me to a different part of the year.

In terms of future books – my next book is a cosy, autumnal read – Christmas features in it, but it’s not quite as Christmassy as Mistletoe. I wanted to capture that snug time of year leading up to the festive period, walks through the park kicking up golden leaves and time with friends toasting chestnuts by an open fire.

Q3. The sisters in this book, Anna and Imogen, are united over the love of their grandmother and her shop. Where did you get the inspiration for the ice cream shop, and the idea of the story?

In the last couple of years, gourmet ice cream shops have sprung up across London (where I live) and also Brighton (which I love to visit), accompanied by ice cream festivals, stalls and mobile vans. I liked that it didn’t seem to take much to get started – just a passion for food, and a spirit of experimentation and culinary adventure!

The traditional British ice creams – like 99s – may not have been so sophisticated, but all the same they’re absolutely part of our culture. Buying one is a sign that summer has started, and there’s nothing like hearing the tune of an ice cream van to trigger those happy childhood memories. So I liked the idea of the two worlds, past and present, coming together – Grandma Vivien came from the old school of ice cream selling, but has been losing customers fast. So Imogen and Anna have the challenge of updating the shop to include more exciting flavours, but they also want to keep up the community spirit Vivien’s shop has always had.

Q4. Imogen is a big traveller, and loves living in Thailand. Is that something you've done yourself, and if not, does that lifestyle appeal to you?

I’m quite fond of Imogen and I think that, yes, that’s probably because I’ve spent some time being a beach bum myself! I travelled to Thailand in my twenties and visited the island, Koh Tao, that Imogen learns to dive on. The fish, coral and sharks were so beautiful and really stayed in my mind. I used to love nothing more than throwing some things in a rucksack and travelling – but, like Imogen, there came a point where I started to realise there was a lot to stay home for, too. I’m much more of a homebody these days, and you can’t knock it.

Q5. The ice cream ideas in this book sound amazing - where did you get the ideas for them all, and did you try any of them?! I've never made ice-cream before but this book made me tempted to try...

I’m pleased you like the sound of the recipes and are tempted to try making them – it’s a lot easier than it seems, I promise! I did a day-long course in ice cream making and tried quite a few of the flavours then. My favourite was a very fresh pear and ginger sorbet.

Q6. I'm sure you've heard this many times, but the cover is simply GORGEOUS. How important do you think a good book cover these days in the age of eBooks and Kindles?

Ah, thank you! I feel very lucky with how cover turned out, as it was exactly what I’d pictured as I was writing. I think the design team at Quercus are great, and take the time to get covers just right. It’s an interesting question you ask about eBooks – it’s true of course that when its reduced down to a thumbnail a cover can have much less impact. I think it’s still important – as the cover still needs to stand out to readers online - but different things work at that size. A bold, iconic design (like One Day, for example) can often be more effective  than the softer, illustrative covers that might work in a shop. At the moment quite a few of my books sell in their print versions from stores, so I definitely think that the detailing and finishes (foil, glitter etc) make a huge difference. Finding a cover that works well in both formats is the challenge now, I guess, and I think we’re seeing some really interesting designs as a result.

Q7. Your two books have been released within a year of each other - does it take you long to write a book, and what is your typical writing day like?

I love writing – so having it as my full-time job has been a dream come true for me. That’s a cliché  I know! But I do have to pinch myself sometimes.

All the same, it is a job, and I have to be quite disciplined in order to get the work done. I take around three months to write a first draft, and then another month to revise it by myself, and then with feedback from my editor and agent. I normally find that revision stage more challenging than getting the first draft finished – but it’s so important and always moves the book on a lot.

I work Monday to Friday, and tend to do most of my writing in the mornings, when I have most energy. A cup of coffee and I’m off - my target word count is usually around 2000 words a day. I write uncritically until I have the first draft down, and then the red pen comes out. The afternoons I spend on publicity, admin, or things like cover copy, and social networking.

Q8. What's next for you?

I’ve just finished my third book, a cosy, autumnal read which will come out this September. It’s called Amelia Grey’s Fireside Dream, and it’s about a couple, Amelia and Jack, who move from their small flat in Hackney to do up a wreck of a cottage in Kent – Amelia’s always dreamed of living in the country with a real log fire. Room by room, they renovate and decorate, and Amelia uncovers some of the secrets of the woman who lived there before her. But financial pressures, interfering relatives and an attractive local man all put Jack and Amelia’s marriage to the test. It’s been great fun to write, although the stories I heard from friends about their own home-renovation disasters have put me off for life!

12 June 2013

Book Review: The Affair by Gill Paul

"A passionate, tender and captivating story of glamour, infidelity and love, behind the scenes of the most iconic Hollywood movie ever made

Rome 1961. The cameras roll on the film set of Cleopatra and the explosive Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton love affair is about to capture the world’s attention.

When Diana Bailey begins work as a historical advisor, tensions are running high. The film is in financial crisis and a media storm is brewing over the Taylor-Burton relationship.

Diana adjusts to a new life away from her troubled marriage, and strikes up a close friendship with Helen, a young make-up artist, as well as seeking solace in Ernesto, a charismatic member of the film crew. But Helen is harbouring a dark secret - one that will affect Diana in more ways than she could ever imagine…

An enthralling story of love and passion, set against the stunning backdrop of one of the most iconic Hollywood movies ever made."

Rating: 4/5

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

Now, you've probably guessed this isn't the sort of thing I usually read. It's historical, and I tend to stay away from historical fiction as it isn't usually my cup of tea. However, after recently reading Kathleen Tessaro's brilliant novel The Perfume Collector which is an historical novel, I decided I would give this book a go because I have to admit I was curious about it. Before I read the book, I had no idea about the movie Cleopatra, I've not seen it, nor do I really know anything at all about Elizabeth Taylor or her life, so I did worry if this would hinder me in any way. Luckily for me, Gill Paul gives you enough information to understand the film and its story, and also perceptions of Liz Taylor at that time, so you can go into it knowing nothing, much like I did, and still be able to fully access and enjoy this story.

Diana Bailey is offered a dream job as a researcher on the new film Cleopatra, starring one of Hollywood's biggest names, Elizabeth Taylor. Her husband isn't keen on the idea, preferring his wife to stay at home and fulfill her homely duties, but Diana knows she just can't down the amazing opportunity that's been offered to her. She jets off, alone, to the film set in Rome, and starts work, making new friends alone the way. She befriends a young English make up artist, and the pair soon enjoy spending time together. When she's not with Helen, Diana is newly friends with Ernesto, another man working on the film, but Diana isn't sure how to handle it when she starts to have more than friendly feelings towards him, especially knowing her husband is unhappy being left behind in England. Will Diana enjoy her time on one of the most famous movie sets of all time, or is it all destined to go wrong for her?

What I really enjoyed about this book was how quickly I got absorbed into the story-telling, and Diana's new life over in Rome. Yes, it was just a working holiday for her but she seems to enjoy it so much, you forget she has a life back in England and it's fun reading about a film set through a novice's eyes too - Diana is excited about all of the things she sees, and doesn't know how to react when she sees one of the many celebrities on set, especially Elizabeth Taylor. I found Liz Taylor to be a curious character actually - its always interesting reading a fictional book based on real life events, and a real person, but since I didn't know much about her, I took it pretty much at face value! Taylor didn't seem an especially awful person, but was determined to get what she wanted whatever the cost, especially regarding the many men in her life. Taylor is in a few scenes not just as an actress in the book, and I liked reading about these interactions. It actually almost portrays Taylor in a sympathetic light, a victim of her fame and circumstance, and I was wondering what she was really like behind the glamourous facade she put on.

The book is set in 1961 when the movie was being shot, and I felt Paul did a good job in making it seem authentic as you were reading, and the way she wrote about the film set sounded brilliant. She's clearly done in-depth research about the movie, the shooting of it and other things that happened as there are many things referenced throughout the book. I loved reading about all the costumes, the sets, the other film related things, and how Diana didn't seem to understand much either! Her friendship with Ernesto wasn't one I particularly enjoyed, I had a feeling he was a bad apple from the start and I thought Diana may be heading for trouble, but I had to keep reading to find out what else was going to happen for her! Helen, the young make up artist Diana befriends was a nice girl, and her story takes a few twists and turns along the way too, which really kept me interested. Diana herself is likeable, a bit naive in certain things, but overly quite a nice person, just very young and feeling like her life is getting too boring for her. She's brave in going out to Rome alone, something very uncommon for its time, especially against her husband's wishes but I liked that the main character stepped out of type for a bit in this book.

Considering this was a historical novel, something I tend to stay away from, I really did enjoy this book and having something different to read for a change. There were a few shocks in the book which really did take me by surprise, and I totally did not expect them, so it was fantastic to read something a bit different and be surprised at the same time. Paul keeps you guessing as you read, you're never sure what is going to happen next and I really couldn't guess at how it would end for Diana. It's believable in its time period, I enjoyed reading about the fashion, the socialising, and the extra little story line thrown in involving an American journalist and the Italian mafia certainly added a little something exciting as I was really scared for him, and I was constantly wondering how it would tie in with the main story involving Diana. For me, this was a great read that I enjoyed from start to finish, and would recommend to everyone, whether or not you think you like historical fiction! A really fun read.

10 June 2013

'The Summer of Love' Giveaway!

Fans of British chick lit & romantic comedy: Win a haul of books just in time for your summer holidays from some of the UK’s best-loved and best-selling authors!

5 winners + 25 books = a Summer of Love

To celebrate the launch of Notting Hill Press, five lucky winners will each choose five personally inscribed and signed eBooks from the Notting Hill Press authors – there are 50 best-selling and award-winning books to choose from. To enter, go to Amazon (the giveaway is open to US or UK residents)1 and:
  • Kick off your summer reading by buying any TWO eBooks listed below between now and June 13th.
  • Click the “Share This Item” button on the Amazon Thank You page after purchase to tweet/facebook about each book (if you use Facebook and/or twitter).
  • Enter to win by posting a comment over on the Notting Hill Press Facebook page telling us which two eBooks you bought. If you don’t use Facebook, you can enter the competition by adding your comment at the bottom of this post instead. Winners will be chosen randomly from all the comments (here and on Facebook) on June 14th.
  • “Like” the Notting Hill Press Facebook page to get freebies, discounts and sneak peeks at the authors’ books before they’re published! And if you’re on twitter, follow @nottinghillPR
Choose any two of the eBooks below for your chance to win, and don’t forget to check back here or on Facebook on June 14th to see if you’ve won!

All links go to Amazon.co.uk. All of these books are also available on Amazon.com.
Scarlett Bailey
Alter-ego of Rowan Coleman, winner of RNA Epic Romantic Novel 2013
“A light, fun and fast-paced chunk of chortlesome chick-lit” – Heat

12284953 15712545 Santa-Maybe
Victoria Connelly
Best-selling author of nine novels, shortlisted for the RNA’s Romantic Comedy of the Year 2013
“Sunshine on a rainy day. A charmingly written slice of warm-hearted escapism.” Lisa Jewell

Matt Dunn
#1 best-seller in Humour, shortlisted for the Romantic Novel Of The Year award and the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance
One office, five lives, on the most romantic day of the year

Michele Gorman
#1 best-seller in Humour, #6 in Women’s Fiction
Sometimes the life you walk away from doesn’t let you walk away

Belinda Jones
Sunday Times Top 10 best-selling author
How far will she go to win her Romeo?

Chrissie Manby
Sunday Times best-selling author, nominated for the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance
“Nothing short of brilliant.” Marie Claire

Nicola May
2012 Festival of Romance winner, Amazon Top 20 best-selling author
“Heartwarming, Unpredictable… loved it!” Woman Magazine

Lucy Robinson
Top 3 Women’s Fiction Debuts of 2012 and #1 eBook best-seller
Romantic and laugh-out-loud hilarious” – Cosmopolitan

Talli Roland
Twice shortlisted for the UK’s Festival of Romance
Is finding true love as easy as an attitude change?

Nick Spalding
One of Amazon UK’s Top 10 best-selling authors of 2012
Nick Spalding tried to write a book in 24 hours. Turns out that’s impossible… it took 30!

Sue Welfare
Sunday Times best-selling author, shortlisted for the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance
Romance, recipes and the chance to start over is all a girl needs