Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Great Christmas Knit Off - Alexandra Brown

"Heartbroken after being jilted at the altar, Sybil has been saved from despair by her knitting obsession and now her home is filled to bursting with tea cosies, bobble hats, and jumpers. But, after discovering that she may have perpetrated the cock-up of the century at work, Sybil decides to make a hasty exit and, just weeks before Christmas, runs away to the picturesque village of Tindledale.
There, Sybil discovers Hettie’s House of Haberdashery, an emporium dedicated to the world of knitting and needle craft. But Hettie, the outspoken octogenarian owner, is struggling and now the shop is due for closure. And when Hettie decides that Sybil’s wonderfully wacky Christmas jumpers are just the thing to add a bit of excitement to her window display, something miraculous starts to happen…"

OH I LOVE THIS BOOK! And I am super excited to discover its the first of a new series by Alex Brown - SO HAPPY! Despite it being June, and boiling hot outside, The Great Christmas Knit Off was a perfect read for me this week. I had a busy week at work, was getting ready for my tiny little baby girl to go to big school (She's nearly as tall as me and she's 11 BUT STILL!) and curling up in the evening with Sybs, Hettie and Dr Darcy was the perfect tonic. 

You can't help but fall in love with Tindledale and the hilarious characters that live there - Sybs had me in stitches in places, (no matter how awful my week was going, Sybs was considerably worse) and Dr Darcy is positively swoon-worthy. Laurence is an absolute delight - everybody should have someone like Laurence in their life, and I'm really hoping that he makes another appearance in the next book! Alex's vivid descriptions of the village make it easy to imagine and really help the characters come to life. 

The perfect pick- me-up for the end of a busy day, I can't wait for the next visit to Tindledale.

The Great Christmas Knit Off is out now and you can get it here:

Friday, 26 June 2015

You, Me and Other People - Fionnuala Kearney

But what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out?
For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning.
You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything.
And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?"

Wow - I loved this book. I couldn't put it down and devoured it in a day and a half. You, Me and Other People is almost like being given the door key to someone's house and being able to let yourself in and watch, completely unseen, what is going on in these people's lives. I LOVED Beth - I loved the way she started off all at sea and not knowing what to do with her life once the secrets started tumbling out, I loved the way she reacted to some of those secrets, and most of all I loved the way she grew as a character, while all this shit was being thrown at her. 
The secrets were also brilliant - just when I thought Adam couldn't possibly get any worse (and despite the fact that I thought he was a massive shit, and deserved all he got, I couldn't help but like him, and feel sorry for him in some way), another secret was revealed and the tension got ramped up another notch.
Probably not the best read for anyone who's going through a messy divorce, this is a brutal insight into what happens when people just can't be honest with each other, how painfully these things can turn out, and about how some times, there is a way to get through it all. 

You, Me and Other People is out now and you can get it here:

**My thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

The Silk Factory - Judith Allnatt

"Anyone who’s ever lost someone is haunted
Rosie Milford inherits a house in an old silk factory after her mother’s death and moves there with her young children. The discovery of a shocking truth about her own childhood, when she is already reeling from the breakup of her marriage, fills her with distrust and fearfulness. Then she starts seeing a strange child, wandering in the garden, who seems as lost as she is.
In 1812, silk master Septimus Fowler has grand plans to keep his factory in step with the industrial revolution: he will plant mulberry trees, rear silkworms and import new mechanized looms. Orphan Beulah Fiddement works as a bobbin winder and has secrets that the master would go to any lengths to get. Caught up in a dark adult world of illicit love, rebellion and revenge, Beulah must put away her childhood and draw on all her spirit to protect those she loves.
Beulah’s story of guilt and bravery will echo down two centuries and change Rosie’s life as she struggles to overcome the hand of her own past and find redemption."

This is a haunting, historical novel that I would recommend to anybody who is a fan of Barbara Erskine  or Pamela Hartshorne. Whilst not a time-slip novel EXACTLY, the two stories run alongside each other, with Rosie in the present day occasionally catching glimpses of Beulah in the past. 

The characters are well -written, and I found Rosie really easy to relate to. The thread that runs through both sides of the novel, both past and present, is family and how we do what we can to protect them. I was left with a few questions at the end of the book, particularly in relation to events that happened early in Rosie's life, but an aspect of the novel I did like was the way I was led to believe that something had happened to Beulah, when in actual fact, events turned out differently to how I believed they would. 

The writing is clear, and it is not difficult to imagine the conditions Beulah and her colleagues at the Silk Factory were living in. A excellent read, for anyone who likes a little bit of past in their present.

The Silk Factory is out now and you can get it here:

**Many thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

A Man called Ove / My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises - Fredrik Backman


"At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots - neighbours who can't reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d'etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents' Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.
But isn't it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so?
In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible…"

Oh, Ove. There are some books that you come to the end of and you just can't let the characters go. Ove is one of those characters. I don't want to go into too much detail regarding the storyline, and who Ove is and his relationships with the other characters, as I went into this novel blind, not knowing anything about it except what was written on the blurb. From the blurb, I thought it wasn't really going to be my thing, but I was SO wrong. I LOVE OVE. He is grumpy, hilarious and lovely. The novel make me laugh so hard I cried, and cry so hard everyone else in the room laughed. I defy you to read A Man Called Ove and not fall a tiny bit in love.

A Man Called Ove is out now and you can get it here:


"'Granny has been telling fairy tales for as long as Elsa can remember. In the beginning they were only to make Elsa go to sleep, and to get her to practise granny's secret language, and a little because granny is just about as nutty as a granny should be. But lately the stories have another dimension as well. Something Elsa can't quite put her finger on...'
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother's stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.
So when Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa's greatest adventure. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.'

So, after suffering the biggest book hangover ever after Ove, my only real option for reading another book was to jump straight into Fredrik Backman's second novel. If you have read (and loved) Ove, I am completely sure that you will love this one too - although the story unfolds more dramatically than it does in the previous novel, the style of writing is very similar, and I found characters popping up here and there that shared certain characteristics with Ove. This is not in any way a bad thing, and I found that I enjoyed those characteristics even more. Backman manages to make his characters come to life on the page, and I don't think there was a single character that I didn't love. A story that is woven through with fairy tales makes for fabulous reading - it's safe to say I am a huge Backman fan and am waiting for more!
My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is out now and you can get it here:
**Huge thanks to the publisher for my ARC's**

Monday, 22 June 2015

River of Souls - Kate Rhodes

"Jude Shelley, daughter of a prominent cabinet minister, had her whole life ahead of her until she was attacked and left to drown in the Thames. Miraculously, she survived. A year later, her family ask psychologist Alice Quentin to re-examine the case. 
But then an elderly priest is attacked in Battersea, his body washed up at Westminster Pier. An ancient glass bead is tied to his wrist. 
The river has always demanded sacrifices, and now it seems a killer believes it's calling out for more.
Alice is certain that Jude and her family are hiding something, but unless she can persuade them to share what they know, more victims will drown…"

I'm not too sure how Kate Rhodes has slipped through my bookish net until now, because this is really, really good. Book 4 in the Alice Quentin series, I read River of Souls not realising that it was part of a series, however, although there is some references to previous cases, it can easily be read as a standalone and the references that are made don't give away any spoilers.

I loved the setting for this novel - it's set in London, on various sites of the Thames, but there is nothing better than reading a novel with recognisable landmarks, and getting that, "I know that place!" feeling, it only enhanced the reading experience more for me. 

Alice Quentin is brilliant - she's a tough professional, and although there are a few issues going on in her life, there isn't the usual idea that all tough female characters have to be emotionally detached/man haters/completely screwed up or any of the other weird hangups that so often occur in books where the main character is an independent female. 

I did guess the killer in this case, but there were lots of lovely red herrings to throw the reader off the scent - and now I'm off to go back and read the previous three in the series, (is there anything better than finding out there are more in the series??!), I recommend you do too.

River of Souls is out now and you can get it here:

**Many thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Friday, 19 June 2015

Return to Bluebell Hill - Rebecca Pugh

"Home is where the heart is… 
Jessica McAdams has never belonged anywhere; never truly felt at home. Of course, what did she expect from parents who never made her feel welcome in her own house? Leaving her life in London to return home to the charming country village of Bluebell Hill is harder than she thought. Especially as she never considered she’d be returning under such heart wrenching circumstances… 
Clearing out the stunning and imposing Bluebell House after her parents’ death is difficult for Jessica—they never had the best relationship and now it’s too late. Yet spending time in the house that was never a home, having afternoon tea with dear old friend Esme—and sharing hot, sizzling kisses with delectable gardener Rueben!—opens Jessica’s eyes to the potential of Bluebell House… Could this big old, beautiful manor really be her forever home? Is Bluebell Hill where her heart is, has always been? 
Jessica soon dares to dream of her very own home with delicious Rueben by her side. But when a deep, dark secret of Bluebell House is unearthed, Jessica’s world is turned upside down… 
Will Jessica ever find where her heart truly lies?"

I feel very privileged to be part of the blog tour for Return to Bluebell Hill, knowing how hard Becca has worked on her debut novel. For a debut, this is really BLOODY good. A perfect summer read for chick lit fans everywhere, Return to Bluebell Hill  has reminded me, after a loooooooooong crime fic phase of why I love chick lit.

Becca's characters are pure gorgeous-ness! I loved Jess and Reuben is definitely a swoon-worthy hero (a swoon-worthy hero is always most definitely required!). The characters are all well-written, and all are what I would call "fleshed-out" - the reader doesn't need to struggle to picture the character, they all appear before your very eyes.

The secret of Bluebell Hill was something I was NOT expecting - and added to the plot-line immensely, and that's all I'm going to say - no spoilers! One character that I would like to see more of is Sarah, Jessica's best friend, I think she probably has a lot more to say…..maybe we can have another Bluebell Hill book later, Becca??!!

A beautifully sweet summer read - perfect to add a little bit of sugar to your summer holiday!

Return to Bluebell Hill is out now and you can get it here:

""Many thanks to the publisher for my ARC - I feel privileged!**

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Lie of the Land - Michael F. Russell

"For investigative journalist Carl Shewan, the Scottish coastal village of Inverlair is a picturesque cage. Imprisoned in this remote refuge by a technological catastrophe for which he feels partly responsible, Carl struggles to adapt to impending fatherhood and to a harsh new existence in an ancient landscape, until a childless gamekeeper offers him an alternative to guilt and alienation. Set in the near future, Lie of the Land examines the claustrophobia of small-town life and questions how far the state will go to preserve an orderly society, one in which ubiquitous surveillance has reduced human life to a virtual experience."

A terrifying story, set in the near future, I was completely unable to put down Lie of The Land. Although fairly slow to start, and it took me a while to get into the swing of the story, by a third of the way in I was hooked. Carl is not the most likeable character, and his treatment of other characters in the story leaves a little to be desired, however his attempts to engage with the community of Inverlair following the events that take place did redeem him a little in my eyes! 
A highly original story, with an ending that evokes plenty of emotion, I recommend Lie of The Land to any reader who is looking for something a little bit unusual, a little bit out of the ordinary, and who is prepared to recognise that this storyline could, one day, be possible (but fingers crossed it's not).

Lie of The Land is out on 16th June 2015 and you can get it here:

For other reviews head over to here (LoveReading) :

**Many thanks to the publisher and the gang for my ARC**

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Paradise Trees/The Cold, Cold Sea by Linda Huber

The Paradise Tree

"He had found exactly the right spot in the woods. A little clearing, green and dim, encircled by tall trees. A magical, mystery place. He would bring his lovely Helen here... This time it was going to be perfect.
When Alicia Bryson returns to her estranged father's home in a tiny Yorkshire village, she feels burdened by his illness. Her hometown brings back memories of a miserable and violent childhood, and Alicia worries that her young daughter Jenny's summer will be filled with a similar sense of unhappiness.
The town is exactly as she remembered it, the people, the buildings, even the woods. But Alicia's arrival has not gone unnoticed.
There is someone watching her every move. Someone who has a plan of his own. Someone who will not stop until the people he loves most can rest together, in paradise."

So, I had a big Uni exam last week, and instead of revising spent the entire evening prior to the exam reading this. Creepy and chilling, this was just what the doctor ordered to keep my mind off of things, (although, seeing as I'm doing an English Lit degree, this probably still counted as revision, right??!). Set in Scotland, this suckered me right in from the off - I didn't guess who was the culprit til the end, but through the entire novel there was an eerie feeling of suspense, that although the reader knows that there's a killer out there, is only heightened by this knowledge - particularly as the parts written from the killer's point of view are very enigmatic, given an impression that the culprit could be ANYBODY. 

The characters are all very well-written - I really liked Alicia, and was intrigued by her relationship with her father. 

The Cold, Cold Sea

"They stared at each other, and Maggie felt the tightness in her middle expand as it shifted, burning its way up - Painful sobs rose from her throat as Colin, his face expressionless now, reached for his mobile and dialled 999. When three-year-old Olivia disappears, her parents are overwhelmed with grief. Weeks go by and Olivia's mother refuses to leave the cottage, staring out at the turbulent sea and praying it didn't claim her precious daughter's life. Not far away, another mother watches proudly as her daughter starts school. Jennifer has loved Hailey for five years, but the child is suddenly moody and difficult, and there's a niggling worry of doubt that Jennifer cannot shake off. As she struggles to maintain control there are gaps in her story that even she can't explain. Time is running out for Maggie at the cottage, and also for Jennifer and Hailey. No-one can underestimate a mother's love for her child, and no-one can predict the lengths one will go to, to protect her family."

So, following on from the BIG EXAM DAY, I thought I would unwind with Linda's other novel - and I have to say I enjoyed it even more than The Paradise Trees. 

There is a very good plot running through the novel, and although what happens is fairly straightforward, and there are not really any shocking twists, the tension is built up well and it makes for a very enjoyable read. The characters are very easy to dislike - some are really quite horrid - but I found the book unexpectedly emotional. I found it  hard to grasp the relationships between Maggie and Olivia, and between Jennifer and Hayley, and I didn't think I was very emotionally invested in them, until the end, when I found myself bawling like a baby. 

A very good read, one that I would most definitely recommend. 

The Paradise Trees and The Cold, Cold Sea are both out now and you can get them here:

**My thanks to the author for sending me these lovely signed copies**

Monday, 15 June 2015

One Small Act of Kindness - Lucy Dillon

"Libby and her husband Jason have moved back to his hometown to turn the family B&B into a boutique hotel. They have left London behind and all the memories - good and bad - that went with it.
The injured woman Libby finds lying in the remote country road has lost her memory. She doesn't know why she came to be there, and no one seems to be looking for her. 
When Libby offers to take her in, this one small act of kindness sets in motion a chain of events that will change many people's lives . . ."

I lost my chick-lit reading mojo for the LONGEST time. but it's books like this that remind me why I DO love it - this is a perfect read, chick-lit, but with a bit of a twist. 

Libby and Jason have moved to Jason's parents' hotel after his father has passed away, to help Jason's mum with the hotel and give it a bit of a re-vamp, when Libby gets involved with a girl who has lost her memory. The characters are SO SO LOVELY in this novel - I loved Libby, I think it can be rare nowadays to find people like Libby in real-life - people who are completely lovely, genuine people. Although all of the characters have their faults, they are all likeable and easy to relate to, and I have to admit that certain characters did have me fooled about certain aspects. 

The story is well-written, and I loved all the descriptions of the hotel's transformation, it made it come to life for me. The relationships between the characters were also intriguing - and not always as straight forward as you would think.

A really lovely read, with some really lovely characters - perfect if you like your chick-lit with a bit of a difference.

One Small Act of Kindness is out now and you can get it here:

**Many thanks to the publisher for my ARC**

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

The Fix - Keith Nixon

"It's pre-crash 2007 and financial investment banker Josh Dedman's life is unravelling fast. He's fired after £20 million goes missing from the bank. His long-time girlfriend cheats on him, then dumps him. His only friends are a Russian tramp who claims to be ex-KGB and a really irritating bloke he's just met on the train. His waking hours are a nightmare and his dreams are haunted by a mystery blonde. And to cap it all, he lives in Margate. Just when Josh thinks things can't get any worse his sociopathic boss - Hershey Valentine - winds up murdered and he finds himself the number one suspect. As the net closes in Josh discovers that no one is quite what they seem, including him, and that sometimes help comes from the most unlikely sources... Part fiction, part lies (well, it is about banking) and excruciatingly funny, THE FIX pulls no punches when revealing the naked truth of a man living a life he loathes. This is a crime fiction novel with a difference…"

I have to liken reading this novel to being a smoker - it leaves a dirty taste in your mouth but you JUST CAN'T STOP. The Fix is a fantastic read - the characters are vile and hideous but I couldn't help liking them. They are ruthless and coarse, had me laughing out loud at some of the purely dreadful things they get up to, and they wouldn't look out of place in an Irvine Welsh novel - I LOVED IT. The behaviour carried out by some of the characters is down-right despicable and morals are extremely loose - this is not a book for the prudish among us, but if you like a down-to-earth, no-holds-barred, all-out grit-fest this is a must read. 
Konstantin, (Russian tramp, ex-KGB, excellent pick-pocket) is a brilliant character, and I have heard that Keith's latest novel, I'm Dead Again, features Konstantin, alongside other characters from The Fix -  this excites me, and I can't wait to read the next instalment of probably the most crude characters I have ever met!

The Fix is out now and you can get it here:

Amy Snow - Tracy Rees

"Abandoned on a bank of snow as a baby, Amy is taken in at nearby Hatville Court. But the masters and servants of the grand estate prove cold and unwelcoming. Amy's only friend and ally is the sparkling young heiress Aurelia Vennaway. So when Aurelia tragically dies young, Amy is devastated. But Aurelia leaves Amy one last gift. A bundle of letters with a coded key. A treasure hunt that only Amy can follow. A life-changing discovery awaits... if only she can unlock the secret."

I was looking forward to reading this, after judging it by it's very beautiful cover and I wasn't disappointed. A sweeping historical tale of love and friendship, I loved the relationship between Aurelia and Amy, even though it felt a little one-sided in places (and reasons for that became clear eventually!). The story handles the relationship not only between Amy and Aurelia, but also between Amy and the other people she comes across when Aurelia has passed on, and it was interesting to read how the difference between classes could mean the difference between acceptance in society, and quite frankly shocking treatment by others in society. 
A blogger friend, (Vicki - you can find her here: said to me before I started reading that she could completely imagine this novel as a historical drama for television and I have to agree - it would make a fabulous drama! Although Aurelia's secret is not one that is difficult to figure out, the way Amy is led on a treasure hunt to uncover the secret is very well-thought out and makes for a far more interesting read.

Amy Snow is out now and you can get it here:

**Thank you to the publisher for my ARC**

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Return to Bluebell Hill - COVER REVEAL

As sweet and satisfying as strawberries and cream! This British summertime, get out in the garden with Rebecca Pugh’s sparkling debut novel.

Home is where the heart is…

Jessica McAdams has never belonged anywhere; never truly felt at home. Of course, what did she expect from parents who never made her feel welcome in her own house? Leaving her life in London to return home to the charming country village of Bluebell Hill is harder than she thought. Especially as she never considered she’d be returning under such heart wrenching circumstances…

Clearing out the stunning and imposing Bluebell House after her parents’ death is difficult for Jessica—they never had the best relationship and now it’s too late. Yet spending time in the house that was never a home, having afternoon tea with dear old friend Esme—and sharing hot, sizzling kisses with delectable gardener Rueben!—opens Jessica’s eyes to the potential of Bluebell House… Could this big old, beautiful manor really be her forever home? Is Bluebell Hill where her heart is, has always been?

Jessica soon dares to dream of her very own home with delicious Rueben by her side. But when a deep, dark secret of Bluebell House is unearthed, Jessica’s world is turned upside down…

Will Jessica ever find where her heart truly lies?

An emotional tale of self-discovery, taking chances and romance! Rebecca’s unique British voice feels like coming home again and again.

ARE YOU READY…………………………….?!!

TAHHHH DAHHHHHH! I am BEYOND EXCITED to able to be part of Becca's cover reveal and I am SO looking forward to reading Return to Bluebell Hill! Such a beautiful cover, and what is inside is promising to be a fabulous summer read.

Author Biography
Rebecca Pugh grew up in the green county of Shropshire, with a mind full of fairy-tales and happy endings. Enchanted by true love and Disney Princesses, she decided that no matter what life threw her way, she’d continue to see the world through a child’s eyes. Through the pages of countless books, her adoration of reading blossomed, and it didn’t take long for her to fall under the spell of hundreds of authors’ words.
Now, Rebecca’s own story has taken a fairy-tale like turn, and at 22, her dream has come true. With her faithful companions: Bonnie the dog, her partner, and her gigantic family by her side, Rebecca is ready to share her stories with readers who enjoy falling in love and losing themselves within beautiful, fictional worlds.
Rebecca Pugh is the author of women’s fiction and romance, her all-time favourite genres. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a good swoon?
Her debut novel, Return to Bluebell Hill, is due to be published June 18th 2015 by Carina UK.

You can pre-order Return to Bluebell Hill here:

If You Go Away - Adele Parks

"1914. Vivian, a young, impassioned debutante is hurried into a pedestrian marriage to cover a scandal. War breaks out on her wedding day - domestically and across Europe. Quick to escape the disappointment of matrimony, her traditionalist husband immediately enlists and Vivian has no alternative than to take up the management and running of his estate - after all, everyone is required to do their bit. Even pretty, inadequately-educated young wives.
Howard, a brilliant young playwright rushes to the front to see for himself the best and the worst of humanity; he cannot imagine what the horror might be. In March 1916, when conscription becomes law, it is no longer enough for him to report on the War, it's a legal requirement that he joins the ranks. Howard refuses, becoming one of the most notorious conscientious objectors of the time. Disarmingly handsome, famous, articulate and informed, he's a threat to the government. Narrowly escaping a death sentence by agreeing to take essential work on Vivian's farm, it's only then Howard understands what is worth fighting for."

I feel a little bit like I've grown up with Adele Parks, from reading her first novel when I was expecting my first baby, right the way through til now - and her writing really reflects how she has grown from her first novel to this novel.
A different style of story from your usual chick-lit, Adele has created characters that you can relate to - whether you want to or not. I'll confess that I was not overly fond of Vivien in the beginning, but as she grows through the story, she changes with the things life throws at her, and by the end I really did like her. There are, of course, characters that you really don't like, and there were some that I still didn't like at the end, but there are other, properly delicious hero-types, that are completely swoon-worthy that I loved from start to finish. I loved the historical side to it, and there are little details dotted through out that show the reader that Adele has reeeeeeeeally done her research. Also, if you loved Spare Brides, Adele's previous historical novel, you should know that a certain character pops her head in here every now and again ;).

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the launch party for If You Go Away which was fantastic - Adele gave a talk on how she researched the novel, how the story grew, her writing regime and how her ideas come to her. It was a beautiful evening, in a fantastic location, to celebrate the work of probably one of the most lovely, genuine writers around.

 This is just a lovely, lovely read, complete with a 100% bona fide swoon-worthy hero - definitely one you won't want to miss.

If You Go Away is out now and you can get it (and Spare Brides) over here:

**Thank you to Adele, and lovely Georgina Moore at Headline for both my proof and my invite!**

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Too Many Cooks - Dana Bate

"Kelly Madigan seems to have it all: a fabulous boyfriend, a supportive - if eccentric - family, and a flourishing career as a cookbook ghostwriter. But after finding a letter from her recently-deceased mother, criticising her stable but unexciting life, Kelly knows she needs to make a change. When a mysterious new writing opportunity in London presents itself, she jumps at the chance to get away from it all. 
Enter Natasha Spencer - Oscar-winning actress and health nut, not to mention a total nightmare. She's working on a new cookbook and has asked for Kelly's help. What Kelly didn't factor in was meeting Natasha's dishy MP husband, Hugh Ballantine. 
Away from her family, friends, and the life she knows - will this fish out of water ever get back in the swim?"

I love books, and I love food. So for me a book that combines the two is always going to be a winner. This was an easy read that I whizzed through in a day - a good story line, with relatable characters, alongside some delicious recipes meant I really enjoyed it. I really liked Kelly, even when she was getting up to things she shouldn't have been, and I loved seeing how her relationships with various people developed throughout the novel. Natasha is a perfect portrayal of how I would imagine some Hollywood A-listers behave, but for me the best character was Kelly's best friend, Meg - she had me in stitches in places, ("..I just ran into him", "With your vagina?"). 
I actually really enjoyed the ending of the novel too - it was not the average happily-ever-after that I was expecting, but it was still Kelly's happily-ever-after and that was something that I did really like. The recipes at the end are an unexpected bonus too - and if I ever (as a Brit) figure out what Miracle Whip really is, I'll be all over that Spaghetti Salad. 

Too Many Cooks is out now and you can get it here:

**Thank you to the publisher for my ARC**

Half The World Away - Cath Staincliff

Newly graduated photography student Lori Maddox spends the year after university travelling and visits China where she finds work as a private English tutor. Back in Manchester, her parents Jo and Tom, who separated when Lori was a toddler, follow her adventures on her blog, 'Lori In The Orient'. 
Suddenly communication stops and when the silence persists a frantic Jo and Tom report her missing. It is impossible to find out anything from 5,000 miles away so they travel out to Chengdu, a city in the south-western province of Sichuan, to search for their daughter. 
Landing in a totally unfamiliar country, with no knowledge of the customs or language, and receiving scant help from the local authorities, Jo and Tom are forced to turn detective, following in their daughter's footsteps, tracing the people she mentioned in her posts, interviewing her friends, colleagues and students. It's an unbearably difficult challenge and, as the days pass, the fear that Lori is lost for good grows ever larger.

Oh gosh. This novel just about broke my heart into a million pieces, even more so than Letters to my Daughters Killer, and I really didn't think that was possible. This novel is every parent's worst nightmare. An exhausting roller-coaster ride of emotions, I was left drained by Jo and Tom's attempts to find out what has happened to their daughter Lori, after she goes missing from her life in China. 

The writing in this novel, and the way each step of the story, from Lori going missing to the subsequent investigation, is fantastic - the characters are believable and it is made almost too easy to imagine their pain and despair. I can't say a lot more, without revealing some epic spoilers, so all I will say is READ IT. And tonight I'll be squeezing my babies a little bit tighter. 

Half The World Away is out on 4th June and you can get it here:

A Q&A with Cath Staincliffe

In Half the World Away did you see any of the characters taking a different direction at any point?

·      Not really –I wasn’t sure exactly where they were going, how they would react to the situation, when I started writing. So I had no particular directions mapped out for them. Most of that I discovered in the process of writing the story.

·      The majority of the book is set in China – do you like to travel and what made you set the book in China?

·      I haven’t travelled much – mainly for beach holidays on the Greek Islands – and it’s something I would like to do more of. I set the book in China because my eldest son lives there and it seemed to be a perfect location for the story because it is so very different from here and because the distance and the language barrier and cultural differences would make the quest to find Lori so much harder. I stayed with my son to research the novel.

·      What are you reading right now?

·      Just finished Perfect Baby by Mary Kubica and next on my pile are A Lovely Way To Burn by Louise Welsh and Sandrine by Thomas H. Cook.

·      Do you read the reviews left for your novels?

·      Very rarely. I’m one of those feeble writers who finds adverse criticism really hard to take – it cuts me to the quick. My publicist is used to passing on press reviews once she’s vetted them, so I only see the favourable ones. Pathetic, I know!

·      Does feedback through reviews help with future works?

·      See above. However I go to a writers’ group and the feedback I get there for work in progress is invaluable.

·      Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

·      Get on with it. Finish it. Make it better. Send it out. Start another. Enter competitions. Keep trying.

·      Which authors or novels have inspired you the most?

·      There are dozens of them. Great storytellers like Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood and William Golding and Philip K. Dick. Whenever I read a really good book it inspires me. It happens on a regular basis.

·      If Half the World Away was made into a movie, who would you cast for the main characters?

·      Lovely daydreaming! Jonny Depp or Cillian Murphy or Matthew Goode or Jude Law or Paddy Considine for Tom (some of them are a little bit young though). And for Jo: Anna Maxwell-Martin, Maxine Peake, Keeley Hawes or Nicola Walker (ditto re their ages).

·      Can you tell us anything about what might be coming up next book-wise?

·      It’s another stand-alone with several different voices but that’s about all I can say right at the moment.

**Thanks to the publisher for my ARC**