Book review: You And Me, Always by Jill Mansell

10 Feb

You And Me, AlwaysOn the morning of Lily’s twenty-fifth birthday, it’s time to open the very last letter written to her by her beloved mother, who died when she was eight.

Learning more about the first and only real love of her mum’s life is a revelation. On the same day, Lily also meets Eddie Tessler, a man fleeing fame who just might have the ability to change her world in unimaginable ways. But her childhood friend Dan has his own reasons for not wanting Lily to get too carried away by Eddie’s attentions.

Before long, secrets begin to emerge and Lily’s friends and family become involved. In the beautiful Cotswold village of Stanton Langley, nothing will ever be the same again…

You And Me, Always is one of the most romantic, feelgood reads I’ve had the pleasure to enjoy in recent years. I absolutely loved this book so I make no apology for the gushing review to follow! I’ve been a fan of Jill Mansell’s books for a long time but as the cover quote says she just keeps getting better and better and I now have a new favourite of Jill’s novels!

One of the things I enjoyed most about this book was that there are characters in it that will appeal to many different readers. Although Lily is the main focus of the story, there are several key ‘stories’ in this book and Jill skillfully demonstrates that love can happen at any age! I enjoyed Lily’s love story but my favourite thread of the book was actually the one involving Lily’s adopted Mum, Coral.

Coral and her husband Nick took Lily in when her Mum died and raised her. As we meet Coral she is still trying to come to terms with her own recent loss and I loved the way Jill developed Coral’s character as the book progressed. Never has a supermarket scene been so funny or romantic as the one involving Coral in this book – you need to read it!

There’s a great feeling of community and family to this story which is upbeat and hopeful even in the poignant and sadder moments. Lily lives in the Cotswold village of Stanton Langley and has a close network to support her. In addition to Coral, her best friend Dan (a very handsome pilot) and his sister Patsy are Lily’s partners in crime and the warmth of their relationships leaps of the page.

As Lily opens the final letter from her Mum on her 25th birthday she finds details of the long lost love of her Mum’s life. At the same time Lily meets a film star in hiding and together these two events lead to a summer Lily will never forget.

There were twists and turns that I didn’t expect and some very funny moments. Jill is a great comedy writer but also provides buckets of  heart melting romance that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could to find out who would or wouldn’t end up together!

You And Me, Always would make a perfect film – I could picture it as I read and I really hope someone decides to turn it into one. I’d be first in the queue! If you’re looking for a book that will leave you with a big smile on your face, this is my recommendation to you :-)

5/5

You And Me, Always is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Headline.

Find out more about Jill and her books at: http://jillmansell.co.uk/

Author Interview: Adrian Tchaikovsky

9 Feb

I’m delighted to welcome Adrian Tchaikovsky as my guest today. Adrian is the author of the critically acclaimed Shadows of the Apt series and Children of Time. He works in law and is also a keen live role-player and amateur actor. Originally from Lincolnshire, he now lives in Leeds. Adrian kindly agreed to answer my questions about his new book, The Tiger and The Wolf which is out on Thursday (11th Febuary) from TOR. Welcome Adrian!

Adrian_Tchaikovsky_001Your new fantasy novel, The Tiger and the Wolf is released (as a gorgeous hardback!) on 11th February. Please could you tell us a little about it and what inspired you to write it?

The Tiger and the Wolf has been coming together as an idea since the end of my last big series, Shadows of the Apt. I’ve had a couple of stand-alone books out since then, but I’d always planned to move on to write a series in a new world with different fantasy elements. The main prompts for the series were partly to get away from a “fantasy Europe” kind of setting, but mostly to create a world where everyone could take on animal forms –not a curse, not a bloodline or via magical training, but absolutely everyone. That decision took the world’s people and their cultures off in some very different directions.

You have a passion for history; how did this play into your writing of The Tiger and the Wolf?

A lot of fantasy is rooted in history (or at least history as it’s popularly perceived). Guns of the Dawn was set in a world that drew heavily and explicitly from Regency England, while Shadows of the Apt’s world was a long way from anything real, but saw events that strongly echoed those from the real world (especially the first half of the 20th century) translated into the idiom of the insect-kinden. For Tiger I’ve stepped back from specific historical events (at least in the first book) but read around quite broadly to help me build the world. Because of the shapechanger angle, the setting was always going to deviate fairly sharply from baseline – the resources available to my characters are just too different – but it’s always good to expand your toolkit of “what people did and how they did it”, which can only lead to richer worldbuilding.

 The novel features a society of shape shifters; for those who aren’t familiar, what are the characteristics of a shape shifter and if you were one, what would your animal form be?

Shapeshifting is approached in a number of different ways in fiction and myth – sometimes the transformation is laborious or limited to certain times; sometimes it’s governed by a garment that can be lost. One of the big decisions I made with Shadows of the Apt was that the Art – basically magic that gives people insect powers – was ubiquitous and unremarkable to the kinden, not seen as magic at all. In the same way in T&W the shapeshifting is as swift and painless as possible and, because everyone can do it, it’s an integral part of life and death. I’ve got a wide range of different animal shapes in play, in the book, but out of those in the first volume I’d probably be a bear, mostly because they’re generally characterised as clumsy and antisocial.

Tell us a little about Maniye? Why did you choose a female lead for the story?tiger and wolf

The Tiger and the Wolf is a coming of age story for Maniye. She starts off virtually a prisoner of her father, who has plans for her that he isn’t sharing. She’s a Wolf’s daughter, but now she’s begun shifting she can take the shape of a tiger as well, the Tiger being the other major power in the area, who lost out to the Wolf in recent memory. As for why a daughter rather than a son, it just felt as though it would make for a more interesting story. There are lots of father-son stories, fewer father-daughter ones. Also, for whatever reason, I just seem more comfortable with a female lead a lot of the time – see Che Maker and Emily Marshwic.

 If you could time travel to any time and place (past, present or future); where and when would you go?

If we’re talking time-travel (with, one hopes, appropriate safeguards), then I will put my science hat on, start from the Precambrian and work up. A childhood love of dinosaurs has become an adult fascination with palaeontology and evolution. The opportunity to see long-extinct animals with my own eyes would surpass anything from human history (and this is relevant to the book, because there are some oddities amongst the animal shapes that people take). If you were to restrict me to, say, the last 15,000 years, there are some ancient cultures out there which we know almost nothing of. I’d love to be a fly on the wall of Gobekli Tepe, which is a fantastically advanced stone age temple complex in modern-day Turkey – or perhaps look in on the Indus Valley cultures at Harappa. For me the joy of time travel would be not the chance to witness a specific event, but to explore the unknown.

You write Sci-Fi as well as Fantasy; do you plan to or would you like to write in any other genres?

I’ve had some success with Children of Time, which is a moderately hard piece of SF that I thought was going to be utterly unapproachable but instead got a very pleasant critical reception. I’d certainly like to return to science fiction soon, perhaps something set closer to home – I’ve had a few ideas already, and written some shorter pieces that I might flesh out. A lot of my interests translate from fantasy to SF – the development of civilizations and cultures and encounters with non-human intelligence all straddle that boundary easily.

Fantasy is getting more and more popular as a genre but for readers who might not have tried a fantasy book yet, what would you say to encourage them to pick one up?

Assuming I can’t just shamelessly plug my own work, some of the best and most approachable heroic fantasy around today includes Jen Williams’ The Copper Promise, John Gwynne’s Malice or Peter Newman’s The Vagrant.

And finally … what can we expect next from Adrian Tchaikovsky

As for what’s next, the series “Echoes of the Fall”, of which Tiger & Wolf is book 1, is going to be taking my attention for the immediate future. Book 2 is semi-complete and I’ve barely started planning book 3. I do have a separate novel coming out from tor.com titled “Spiderlight” which is a deconstructionist heroic fantasy in which a band of D&D-style adventurers have to recruit a giant spider to fulfil the terms of a prophecy, told mostly from the spider’s POV. I have plenty of other ideas I’m juggling, both fantasy and SF, but it’s hard to say which one might get an airing next.
Thanks Adrian!

The Tiger and the Wolf, is released in Hardback and ebook formats on 11th February from TOR.

Find out more about Adrian and his writing at: www.shadowsoftheapt.com

Follow Adrian on Twitter @aptshadow

Audio book review: Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

8 Feb

northern lightsSet in a parallel world very similar to our own, Northern Lights tells the compelling story of 12-year-old Lyra’s quest to rescue her friend and find her father, aided by her daemon, an armoured bear, and a witch-queen. This prize-winning tale is narrated with vigour and dynamism by the author and a full cast. Written and read by Philip Pullman.

His Dark Materials is one of those trilogies that I’ve meant to read for a very long time. With the announcement that the BBC will be making a feature series of the books, I saw a promotion for the audiobooks of the trilogy via audible.com and given my newfound love of audiobooks I decided to give Northern Lights a go.

I’m so glad I did – the audiobook version is narrated by author Phillip Pullman together with a wonderful cast of actors which makes the listening experience all the richer. Pullman has a wonderful voice and it is lovely to hear him perform his work.

For those who haven’t encountered the series. This is the story of Lyra, a young girl living at Jordan College, Oxford. The world of the novels is a parallel world based upon recognisable locations but with elements of fantasy alongside and having lived in Oxford for a while I loved Lyra’s descriptions of her home town.

In Lyra’s world every child has their very own daemon, an animal familiar who protects and comforts them. I loved Lyra’s daemon Pantalaimon (such a fantastic name) and the way that he could take on the shape of any animal that he wanted. The bond between Lyra and her familiar is wonderfully expressed and an integral part of the story which has everything a fantasy novel should have; magic, adventure, danger and wonder.

I’m sure it’s been said thousands of times before but the world that Philip Pulman has created really is magical. This book has a timeless quality to it which is no doubt why it is and continues to be so popular with readers young and old. I can’t wait to introduce my son to Lyra and Panteleimon and their adventures.

The adventure takes us from the hallowed halls of Jordan College in Oxford, through the crowded streets of London to the waterways of East Anglia and the snowy wilds of the far north, with the beautiful Northern lights of the title; this is a book that will sweep you up and away but it’s also a book with a strong underlying plot of politics, religion, war and mystery that gives it a rich complexity.

Lyra’s uncle, the formidable Lord Asriel is investigating the possibility that other worlds exist in parallel to ours.  Lyra is a slightly wild, opinionated little girl but clever and soon finds herself embroiled in a quest to save her uncle and her best friend. There are numerous twists, shocks and unexpected events in Northern Lights;  from characters who aren’t what they initially seem to mysterious objects and encounters with all manner of magical beasts.

I loved Lyra and her courage against all odds but my favourite character in this book was John Faa – a wise and worldly Gyptian who helps Lyra in her quest. There were parts of the story that were horrifying, parts upsetting and parts of joy and wonder – the audiobook magnifies these emotions and with the addition of music and sound effects, I found myself fully immersed in Lyras world. I’m now looking forward to listening to book to of the trilogy; The Subtle Knife.

5/5

Northern Lights and the rest of the His Dark Materials trilogy are available now from www.audible.com

Find out more about Philip Pullman and his writing at: http://www.philip-pullman.com/

 

 

Superbowl Sunday! 5 books to celebrate (American) Football!

7 Feb

If you’ve read my ‘about me’ page you’ll know that I’m a fan of American Football (or just plain old Football if you live in the US). I’ve been a fan ever since my Dad introduced me to the sport in the 1980’s  – I even broke a finger once trying to catch the ball! So as it’s Superbowl Sunday I thought I’d combine my love of football with my love of reading and share five books that celebrate and feature football!

Ms QuarterbackMs Quarterback by Francine Pascal (Sweet Valley High #70)

The Sweet Valley High books hold a special place in my heart and this was one of my favourites! I still have my copy but it’s packed away so I couldn’t get to it to take a picture. Retro romance on the football field!

Ken Matthews has regained his sight, only to face another battle. Now that he’s recovered, everyone assumes that Ken is sure to win back his old position as quarterback for the Gladiators. But Sweet Valley High is stunned when Ken’s toughest competition comes from the shy new junior – Claire Middleton!

Terri Adams, Ken Matthew’s girlfriend, sees Claire not only as threat to Ken’s football career, but also to her own relationship with Ken. Can Terri find a way to get Claire off the field so that Ken can resume his rightful place on the team?

Friday Night Lights: A Town, A Team, A Dream by H G Bissinger friday night lights

This book inspired a film and a TV Series, the latter of which currently has me hooked! I’ve bought a copy of the book to see where it all started and will be looking forward to reading it soon!

The town of Odessa seethes in the merciless heat of the West Texas desert. Socially and radically divided, its fragile economy follows the boom-to-bust path of the oil business. In bad times its unemployment rate increases – in good times, its murder rate increases. But every Friday night from September until December, when the Permian High School Panthers play football, all troubles seem to vanish. During the season, the Panthers – the most successful high school football team in Texan history – attains heights of exhilaration. In this book, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist H.G. Bissinger chronicles the Panther’s dramatic 1988 season, and shows how single-minded devotion to the team shapes the community and inspires or shatters the teenagers who wear the Panther uniforms.

better than perfectBetter than Perfect: A Wild Cards Novel by Simone Elkeles

Although you’d never know it from the blurb below, leading lady Ashtyn is a very talented kicker for her school football team in this novel and there’s plenty of football in with the romance!

Ashtyn’s life just got complicated. Her boyfriend is being distant and her sister’s back at home after ten years – with a stepson in tow!

Derek has a perfect body, THE sexiest smile and a car – Ashtyn’s only way to escape from her crazy life. But Derek likes to play by his own rules and is keen to take Ashtyn on a ride she’ll never forget. As they spend more and more time alone together, will Derek’s flirty games drive Ashtyn wild?

All Lined Up by Cora Carmack all lined up

I loved Cora’s Losing It series so was delighted when she turned her talents to write a series about Rusk University  – definitely one for fans of the FNL series!

Dallas Cole loathes football. That’s what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.

But life doesn’t always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football-star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a phenom in Texas’s world of high school coaching, has decided to make the jump to college ball . . . as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting lineup. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redheadliterally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It’s obliterated.

Dallas doesn’t know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn’t know that Dallas is his new coach’s daughter.

And neither of them knows how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

until friday nightUntil Friday Night by Abbi Glines

I only discovered this book today but I’ve heard great things about Abbi’s books so I’ll definitely be adding it to my ‘to read’ pile soon :-)

To everyone who knows him, West Ashby has always been that guy: the cocky, popular, too-handsome-for-his-own-good football god. But on the inside he’s grief-stricken – his father is dying and he hasn’t told anyone because he can’t face the truth.

Now, as his pain grows unbearable, West finally decides he needs to talk to someone about his dad. So in the dark shadows of a party, he tells the one girl who doesn’t speak everything he can’t tell anyone else. West expected to feel relief, a flood of emotions – but what he didn’t expect was for Maggie Carleton to reply. For her to reveal a pain even deeper than his own. And, for them to form a connection so strong that he couldn’t ever let her go.

Do let me know if you have any more recommendations for me!

Book news: How to Find Love in a Book Shop by Veronica Henry

6 Feb

I’m a big fan of Veronica Henry’s books so I was delighted to see news of a new summer release from her later in the year and what a fab title it is! Next to books set by the sea, my favourite books are ones about book shops so I can’t wait to read How To Find Love in a Book Shop. The book will be released on 16th June – add it to your wish lists now!

love in a bookshop

Nightingale Books, nestled on the high street in the idyllic Cotswold town of Peasebrook, is a dream come true for booklovers.

But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous – but what about the promise she made to her father? Not to mention the loyalty she owes to her customers.
Sarah Basildon, owner of stately pile Peasebrook Manor, has used the bookshop as an escape from all her problems in the past few years. But is there more to her visits than meets the eye?

Since messing up his marriage, Jackson asks Emilia for advice on books to read to the son he misses so much. But Jackson has a secret, and is not all he seems…

And there’s Thomasina, painfully shy, who runs a pop-up restaurant from her tiny cottage. She has a huge crush on a man she met and then lost in the cookery section, somewhere between Auguste Escoffier and Marco Pierre White. Can she find the courage to admit her true feelings?

How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia’s fight to keep her bookshop alive, the customers whose lives she has touched – and the books they all love.

Find out more about Veronica and her writing at: http://www.veronicahenry.co.uk/

Short story Spotlight: Quick Reads 2016

5 Feb

quick reads

Each year, The Reading Agency releases a set of Quick Reads books. These are short books that cost £1 or less and are designed to encourage people to read more or to get back into reading after a break. I can’t praise these books enough -they are they excellent standalone stories from some of the top authors writing today and are brilliant for trying new authors and squeezing in reading when you’re busy!

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Quick Reads and the new releases which were launched yesterday are all excellent. There’s something for everyone in the line up and I was delighted to see two books that particularly appeal to me:

baby beachThe first is Baby at the Beach Cafe by Lucy Diamond. I’m a big fan of Lucy and her novel, Summer at the Beach Cafe is one of my favourite summer reads ever. Lucy has already released two follow up ebook short stories and I was delighted to see that Baby at the Beach Cafe is not just a quick read but also one of the World Book Night books this year.

I spent the hour before I picked my sons up from school this afternoon happily enjoying this Quick Read and I finished it off this evening – it’s the perfect length to enjoy in an evening or during breaks from work and I loved being back in Cornwall with Evie and her lovely cafe. If you haven’t read any of Lucy’s books yet, this is a perfect introduction to her writing and as Evie prepares to bring a new arrival into the world there’s lots in this book that new and expectant mums will identify with!

The second Quick Read that caught my eye is The Anniversary, a collection of shortanniversary stories edited by another of my favourite authors, Veronica Henry. I’m a big fan of short stories – as a busy mum, I haven’t always had the time or energy to get involved in reading a long novel so I turned to short stories and serialised novels as a way to get my reading fix quickly! This is a lovely collection and features ten fab authors. There’s a story each from ten top authors; Fanny Blake, Elizabeth Buchan, Rowan Coleman, Jenny Colgan, Philippa Gregory, Matt Haig, Veronica Henry, Andy McNab, Richard Madeley, John O’Farrell and The Hairy Bikers!

I really enjoyed this collection and was pleased to see historical fiction short stories from Elizabeth Buchan and Philippa Gregory alongside contemporary fiction. I loved Fanny Blake’s story and found Richard Madeley’s very poignant – I’ve not read any of his books but this has made me want to read more and the final set of recipes from The Hairy Bikers is a great treat – they sound delicious and I might even have a go at making them!

Do check out these and past Quick Reads releases!

You can find out more about Quick Reads on the Reading Agency website or follow @quick_reads on Twitter.

Guest post: ‘Coming Out’ – My First Book Deal, by Lorelei Mathias

4 Feb

Today I’m delighted to welcome Lorelei Mathias to One More Page to celebrate the publication of her new novel, Reader, I Dumped Him. Lorelei’s latest book was inspired by her experiences in an accidental break-up club of her own… which taught her that a break up shared, is a break up halved. One day she’d like to set up an official refuge for the broken-hearted, so that no one should ever have to go through one alone.

When she’s not writing, she enjoys making comedy sketches and short films, running a fictional bakery called NicheQuiche.com, and asking people where the nearest lido is. She is also named after a mythical German mermaid, which might explain the obsession with outdoor swimming. Welcome Lorelei!

loreleiI was working in the marketing department of Random House publishers for over two years when the idea first popped into my head. I’d never dared to dream of being an author – instead, my dream job was to be a copywriter in an ad agency. I was almost there – it was my job to write shout-lines – ‘in-house’, as they say, rather than agency side. Part of that job involved reading a lot of manuscripts for new commercial fiction, which was a lovely perk!

Gradually, the women’s fiction manuscripts I read, the more I started wondering whether I could write something in that genre. Didn’t we all? I’d never really taken my writing that seriously or been on a creative writing course, but I did have a scrappy notebook full of drivel which I’d begun as a kind of joke between friends in a hammock in South-east Asia in my ‘gap-year’, and had since buried deep in a drawer. Set in advertising, it was 97% clichés and had no idea in it, but then that’s mostly all you need when it comes to writing. A starting point!

Then one day a good friend and colleague started telling me about this crazy little thing called speed-dating. I couldn’t believe it was a thing! She’d recently been and was full of horror stories about it.

Anyway, I then realised early draft – though drivel – would be the perfect setting. There is an uncanny parallel between dating and advertising – the way the speed-date reduces people to products, USPs and 3-minute pitches. So I set about completely re-writing that, with this new idea in mind, and began a series of cringe-some speed-dating evenings by way of research with some un-lucky-in-love colleagues. My writing then became motivated by two things. A journalistic fascination with the horrors of speed-dating, and the panic that if I didn’t write a book about it first, someone would!

Some weeks later I got an email from the head of women’s fiction at Arrow, saying that they’d been brainstorming for newnovel-ridh-lrg women’s fiction concepts and could I help come up with names and shout-lines for them? Without thinking, I said I’d love to – and I actually had a book idea, too. I pitched it; she said it could be huge. Then she said, but who would we get to write it?

We threw around a few big author names, before I eventually plucked up the courage. Flushing very red, I shyly confessed to her that maybe I could have a go? ‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘you must get offers like this all the time from people who work here and think they can write’. She laughed and said I was the first, actually. So then I showed her what I’d written. I was terrified that she’d laugh me out the room and have me publicly shamed. You have to understand the context. Admitting to your colleagues in publishing that you like to dabble yourself is nerve-wracking; a bit like coming out, I imagine. But instead, the publisher was most encouraging, told me I could write, and helped me by editing the first 40 pages. Her main bit of advice I remember was ‘never have an unsympathetic heroine…’ which I still use today!

After her advice, I had to make Amelie (my main character in SOIC) much less unlikeable (she’s still a bit catty at times…but she was much less likeable before KE’s advice! Then she helped me find an agent, who got me to write the first half and a continuation synopsis for the rest. Bingo, the book was submitted to the top ten big publishing houses. The book was snapped up by Headline in a two-book deal, to be on the launch list of a brand new chick lit imprint, Little Black Dress. If I’m honest, I never thought for a moment that my little book idea would ever make it into print. When the book deal came through, I was like, ‘what? They want me to write the whole second half in two months?’ I didn’t even know I had it in me!

Weirdly, ten years on, that same friend that I went speed-dating with – having moved on to a different publishing house – was partly responsible for the new book deal I got for Reader, I Dumped Him… And who should the publishing director be in my new publishing home? That same lovely woman who I first ‘came out’ to! But then to say publishing is a small world is to state the obvious…

Reader, I Dumped Him is released today in ebook formats.

Find out more about Lorelei and her writing at: http://www.loreleimathias.com

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eBook news: Valentine’s Day At The Star and Sixpence by Holly Hepburn

3 Feb

I’m fast becoming a big fan of Holly Hepburn’s writing. I loved her short story Cupidity and am now enjoying her new Star and Sixpence series. Today I spotted that Holly is releasing a Star and Sixpence short story ready for Valentine’s day and as I write it’s absolutely FREE to pre-order! All the links to pre-order are here: http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/Valentines-Day-at-the-Star-and-Sixpence-(short-story)/Holly-Hepburn/9781471150043 and isn’t the cover just gorgeous?

valentines

 

Fall in love at the Star and Sixpence this Valentine’s Day….
 
Love is in the air as sisters Nessie and Sam prepare for Valentine’s Day at their newly renovated pub, The Star and Sixpence. They have a star chef winging her way from London to cook a very special Valentine’s Day dinner, for all the couples in the village. 
 
But as sparks fly in the kitchen, will love bloom in The Star and Sixpence? A romantic short story, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Scarlett Bailey. 

Find out more about Holly and her writing at: http://hollyhepburn.com/

Book review: For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

2 Feb

most beautifulThree thousand years ago, a war took place that gave birth to legends – to Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, and Hector, Prince of Troy. It was a war that shook the very foundations of the world. But what if there was more to this epic conflict? What if there was another, hidden tale of the Trojan War?

Now is the time for the women of Troy to tell their story.

Thrillingly imagined and startlingly original, For The Most Beautiful reveals the true story of Troy for the first time. Krisayis, daughter of the Trojans’ high priest, and Briseis, princess of Pedasus, fight to determine the fate of a city and its people in this ancient time of mischievous gods and mythic heroes.

In this novel full of passion and revenge, loyalty and betrayal, bravery and sacrifice, Emily Hauser breathes exhilarating new life into one of the greatest legends of all – in a tale that has waited millennia to be told.

From the beautiful cover with its gleaming golden apple to the richly detailed descriptions of an ancient world and the wonderfully imagined meddling ways of the gods, For the Most Beautiful is a fabulously original take on the story of the Iliad. Emily Hauser takes the women of Troy; women who are mentioned briefly or as background characters in the original text and breathes life into them, weaving a tale of love, loss, war and bravery that I thoroughly enjoyed.

For the Most Beautiful is the story of teenage Krisayis, daughter of the High Priest of Troy whose father has a very different plan for her future than the one she imagines for herself. It’s also the story of Briseis, a princess who has her own fight against a deadly prophecy.

Emily Hauser has created two headstrong and engaging female leads for her story and given them clear voices to tell their sides of the story. This is the first time I’ve been truly caught up in a work of fiction that examines the Trojan war and with this book, I think Emily will open up this area of history and legend to a whole new audience.

The descriptions are rich and sumptuous and as someone who has studied a tiny bit of Mycenaean archaeology and has always been fascinated by Greek legends the story, despite its mythology and elements of fantasy felt believable to me! The colours and descriptions of clothing, treasures and locations are vivid; feelings are intense and the Gods are in turn, playful, humorous and downright dangerous!

The story is narrated in turns by Krisayis and Briseis and I was completely caught up in both their plights. From joy and romance, adventure and secrets to their capture and the losses of war, I felt intensely along with them both and the story is written in a very accessible and easily readable way.

A separate narrative following the actions of the Gods is slipped into the story and acts as an excellent device to explain and give different perspectives but also to highlight that the players on the ground are subject to more than their own rivalries, desires and whims. I loved Hauser’s depictions of Gods like Zeus, Aphrodite, Apollo and Poseidon  and the drama of their interactions with each other.

This is one of those books that spans readerships. It’s appropriate for adult and young adult readers, it will appeal to fans of historical fiction, romance, paranormal and fantasy (which is probably why I loved it so much.) For the Most Beautiful is an accomplished debut and I was delighted to read that this is just the first book in the Golden Apple trilogy. I can’t wait to read Emily’s next book!

5/5

For the Most Beautiful is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Emily Hauser and her writing at: http://www.emilyhauser.com/ 

February 2016 new releases – hot picks!

1 Feb

It’s a while since I’ve done a monthly hot picks but now I’m back in the blogging habit I’m going to try to post my top picks from the new releases each month. There are some crackers on my ‘to read’ pile this month. Look out for these lovely books!

SwylerE-BookOfSpeculationUKThe Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler (Atlantic Books February 4th )

I read this when it was released as an ebook last year and absolutely loved it. Magic, mystery, love, romance, tarot and a family curse – it will have you hooked! And the lead character is a librarian!

Simon Watson lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, works for a travelling carnival and seldom calls. On a day in late June, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother. The book tells the story of two doomed lovers who were part of a travelling circus more than two hundred years ago. The paper crackles with age as Simon turns the yellowed pages filled with notes and sketches. He is fascinated, yet as he reads Simon becomes increasingly unnerved. Why do so many women in his family drown on 24th July? And could Enola, who has suddenly turned up at home for the first time in years, risk the same terrible fate? As 24th July draws ever closer, Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before it’s too late.

The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky (TOR 11th February) tiger and wolf

This is such a beautiful book with its black and gold foil cover – look out for my interview with Adrian next week.

In the bleak northern crown of the world, war is coming

Maniye’s father is the Wolf clan’s chieftain, but she’s an outcast. Her mother was queen of the Tiger and these tribes have been enemies for generations. Maniye also hides a deadly secret. All can shift into their clan’s animal form, but Maniye can take on tiger and wolf shapes. She refuses to disown half her soul, so escapes, rescuing a prisoner of the Wolf clan in the process. The killer Broken Axe is set on their trail, to drag them back for retribution.

Maniye’s father plots to rule the north and controlling his daughter is crucial to his schemes. However, other tribes also prepare for strife. Strangers from the far south appear too, seeking allies in their own conflict. It’s a season for omens as priests foresee danger, and a darkness falling across the land. Some say a great war is coming, overshadowing even Wolf ambitions. A time of testing and broken laws is near, but what spark will set the world ablaze?

the stylistThe Stylist by Rosie Nixon (MIRA 11th February)

Hello! editor Rosie Nixon uses her insider celebrity knowledge to write a sparkling debut novel about fashion, celebrities and the red carpet.

When fashion boutique worker Amber Green is mistakenly offered a job as assistant to infamous, jet-setting ‘stylist to the stars’ Mona Armstrong, she hits the ground running, helping to style some of Hollywood’s hottest (and craziest) starlets.  Over the next few weeks, awards season spins into action with The Golden Globes, BAFTAs and the big one, The Oscars.  Mona is in hot demand and Amber’s life turned upside down as dazzling designer gowns are paraded on red carpets in Los Angeles, London and back.  Romance, red carpet crises, and crushing hangovers on both sides of the Atlantic ensues.  Meanwhile Mona is unravelling faster than a hemline.  What is Mona’s secret?  How will Amber keep her head?  And what the hell will everyone wear? 

 

When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid (Atom 11th wefltmFebruary)

This book has already won or been shortlisted for several awards – I can’t wait to read it.

Everyone wanted to break me. But stars aren’t broken, they explode. And I was the ultimate supernova.

My name was Jude. They called me Judy. I was beautiful either way.

School was basically a movie set. We were all just playing our parts. The Crew, the Extras, the Movie Stars. No one was ever real . . . especially me. I didn’t fit any category.

All the girls watched me – I could walk so much better than them in heels, and my make-up was alwaysflawless.

All the boys wanted to, well, you know . . . even if they didn’t admit it.

They loved me, they hated me, but they could never ignore me.

I only had eyes for Luke. A red carpet rolled out from my heart towards him and this year, on Valentine’sDay, I was going to walk that carpet and find my mark next to him. It would be like a dream.

But my dream was going to turn into a nightmare.

This is my story.

#WEFLTM

glittering art of falling apartThe Glittering Art of Falling Apart (Orion, 11th February)

I love the title for this book – sounds like a great time slip novel!

1980s Soho. Parties, love affairs and secrets . . .

1980s Soho is electric. For Eliza, the heady pull of its nightclubs and free-spirited people leads her into the life she has craved – all glamour, late nights and excitement. But it comes at a heavy cost.

Cassie is fascinated by her family’s history and the abandoned Beaufont Hall. Why won’t her mother talk about it? Offered the chance to restore Beaufont to its former glory, Cassie jumps at the opportunity to learn more about her past.

Separated by a generation, but linked by a forgotten diary, these two women have more in common than they know . . .

 

The Double Life of Mistress Kit Kavanagh by Marina Fiorato (Hodder, 11th February)kit

This sounds like a great historical romance read.

Dublin 1702. Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh has everything she could want in life. Newly married, she runs a successful alehouse with her beloved husband Richard. The wars that rage in Europe over the Spanish throne seem a world away.

But everything changes on the night that Richard simply disappears. Finding the Queen’s shilling at the bottom of Richard’s tankard, Kit realizes that her husband has been taken for a soldier.

Kit follows Richard’s trail across the battlefields of Italy in the Duke of Marlborough’s regiment. Living as a man, risking her life in battle, she forms a close bond with her wry and handsome commanding officer Captain Ross.

When she is forced to flee the regiment following a duel, she evades capture by dressing once more as a woman. But the war is not over for Kit. Her beauty catches the eye of the scheming Duke of Ormonde, who recruits her to spy upon the French. In her finery she meets Captain Ross once again, who seems just as drawn to the woman as he was to the soldier.

Torn between Captain Ross and her loyalty to her husband, and under the orders of the English Crown, Kit finds that her life is in more danger now than on the battlefield.

just havent met you yetJust Haven’t Met You Yet by Cate Woods (Quercus, 11th February)

I saw Paige Toon recommending this earlier today – it sounds like a great debut from Cate Woods.

Percy James has everything a girl could want: a comfy flat, a steady relationship and a truly lovely group of friends. Then she is approached by Eros Tech. Eros is ‘the future of love’ – an agency that brings together soulmates using phone data. Percy has been identified as a match for one of Eros’s super wealthy clients. The only problem is she already has a boyfriend . . . but what if this is *destiny*? Would you – could you – pass up a chance to meet your one true love?

 

A Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde (Century, 11th February)A summer at sea

I’m a big fan of Katie’s books and this is my favourite cover of hers yet!

Emily is happy with her life just as it is.

She has a career as a midwife that she loves . She enjoys living on her own as a single woman. But she’s also feels it’s time for a change and a spot of some sea air.

So when her best friend Rebecca asks whether she’d like to spend the summer cooking on a ‘puffer’ boat just off the Scottish coast, she jumps at the chance.

But she barely has time to get to grips with the galley before she finds herself with a lot on her plate.

Rebecca is heavily pregnant and is thrilled to have her friend on board doing most of the work. Then there’s Emily’s competitive and jealous kitchen assistant who thinks she should be head-cook, not Emily.

And there’s Alasdair, the handsome local doctor who Emily is desperately trying not to notice.

Because if she falls in love with him, as he appears to be falling for her, will she ever want her old life back again?

13 minutes13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz, 18 February)

I’ve already read the first couple of chapters of this and I don’t want to stop – gripping stuff!

I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter by Dinah Jefferies (Viking, 25th February)silk merchant

Number one best-selling author Dinah Jefferies is back with a new novel set in Vietnam and it sounds brilliant!

1952, French Indochina. Since her mother’s death, eighteen-year-old half-French, half-Vietnamese Nicole has been living in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Sylvie. When Sylvie is handed control of the family silk business, Nicole is given an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter of Hanoi. But the area is teeming with militant rebels who want to end French rule, by any means possible. For the first time, Nicole is awakened to the corruption of colonial rule – and her own family’s involvement shocks her to the core…

Tran, a notorious Vietnamese insurgent, seems to offer the perfect escape from her troubles, while Mark, a charming American trader, is the man she’s always dreamed of. But who can she trust in this world where no one is what they seem?

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is a captivating tale of dark secrets, sisterly rivalry and love against the odds, enchantingly set in colonial era Vietnam.

What are you looking forward to reading this month?