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

FB header

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?

Reading round up – January 2016

31 Jan

With this post I’m very excited to announce that I’ve blogged every day in January!! And more excitingly, I enjoyed it! I’m so pleased to have rediscovered my blogging and reading mojo that I’m going to try to do it all again in February (I must be mad!)

I’ve sort of managed to stick with the other resolutions that I set at the start of January and have Tweeted, Facebooked and Instagramed much more in the last month than in the previous six months. I’m still finding juggling everything a little bit difficult at times when work/life/children throw me a curve ball but I keep reminding myself that I do this for fun and it doesn’t matter if I don’t update Facebook every day :-)

IMG_3974

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting back into reading this month and I’ve been lucky to have had many amazing books find their way to me. I read ten books in January and they were all 4 or 5 stars. I think I’ve finally started to get more of a balance to my reading  too – here are some of the stats

In January:

  • Half of the 10 books I read were paranormal or fantasy
  • 3 were young adult and 7 adult fiction
  • I read one short story collection
  • One historical fiction
  • I listened to one audiobook
  • I read four contemporary romance/dramas

My books of the month:

I was aiming to choose just one book but I can’t do it so the joint winners of my ‘books of the month for January’ are:

Image-1 (1)

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard and Our Song by Dani Atkins

Coming in February!

I’ve got some very exciting bo0ks on my ‘to read’ pile for February including Summer at Sea by Katie Fforde, Rosie Dixon’s debut, The Stylist and the gripping 13 Minutes from Sarah Pinborough. I’ll be taking part in several blog tours including Jill Mansell, Emily Hauser and Ilana Fox and I’ve got a great interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky that I can’t wait to share! Look out tomorrow for my February ‘Hot Picks’ for more news of the great books out in February!

Happy reading!

Book review: The Bomb Girls by Daisy Styles

30 Jan

bomb girls

On an ordinary day in 1941, a letter arrives on the doormats of five young women, a letter which will change everything.

Lillian is distraught. And whether she tears, hides or burns the letter the words remain the same – she must register for compulsory war work. Many miles away, Emily is also furious – her dream job as a chef will have to be put on hold, whilst studious Alice must abandon her plans of college.

Staring at an identical letter, Elsie feels a kindling of hope at the possibility of leaving behind her brutal father. And down in London, Agnes has her own reasons for packing her bags with a smile.

Brought together at a munitions factory in a Lancashire mill town, none of them knows what lies ahead. Sharing grief and joy, lost dreams and gained opportunities, the five new bomb girls will find friendship and strength that they never before thought possible as they unite to help the country they love survive.

I do love a good wartime historical drama so when The Bomb Girls dropped through my door recently, I couldn’t resist a peek at the first chapter. It was immediately a case of wishing I hadn’t because as soon as I started reading about Emily, Alice, Lilian, Agnes and Elsie, I was hooked! This is Daisy Styles debut novel and it’s a great read that I think will appeal to fans of wartime sagas and authors like Donna Douglas.

The story is set mainly in the small Lancashire town of Pendle where a bomb-making factory is set up in 1941. As female conscription is announced to support the war effort, five very different women find themselves lodging together in a converted cowshed on the outskirts of the town. The girls become known as The Bomb Girls and the book follows their story from 1941 to the end of the second world war.

Although I’d heard of land girls and was aware of the work women did in the war, this book sheds a wonderful light on the sacrifices made, the friendships built, hardships endured and fun had as the women supported each other through long shifts, separations from loved ones and family members and the ups and downs of wartime romances. I remember by nan telling me about her work in C0venty during the war (she worked in a factory making parts for aircraft engines) and the camaraderie and lifelong friendships formed. Daisy has perfectly captured this in The Bomb Girls and the story is an engaging read.

With five key characters to follow there is never a dull moment and the book has good pace and variety in its storylines. I liked all of the five main characters but Alice, Elsie and Agnes were my particular favourites. Londoner Agnes’s husband is missing in action and her young daughter Esther has been evacuated to Cumbria suffering from Polio. I couldn’t imagine being separated from my children and Agnes’s story brings home the heartbreak suffered by so many. I was willing her to have a happy ending.

Similarly, young Elsie from Newcastle who has suffered for years at the hands of her abusive father and sees the call for women workers as a chance to finally escape. I loved the romance of Elsie’s story and as a North Easterner myself, I loved her character. It is Alice’s story that had me particularly hooked though as she is selected to carry out an entirely different and even more dangerous type of war work.

From dances to disasters, encounters with handsome Yanks, rationing and relationships, The Bomb Girls has all the ingredients of an excellent wartime drama and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

4/5

The Bomb Girls is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Book news: The Nurses of Steeple Street by Donna Douglas

29 Jan

I’m a big fan of Donna Douglas’s Nightingales series and have been an avid reader of her books over the last few years so I was very excited to see that she’s starting a new nursing series based in Leeds. The Nurses of Steeple Street will be released on 21st April and I can’t wait!

steeple street

Welcome to the district nurses’ home on Steeple Street, where everyone has a secret…

Ambitious young nurse Agnes Sheridan had a promising future ahead of her until a tragic mistake brought all her dreams crashing down and cost her the love and respect of everyone around her. Now she has come to Leeds for a fresh start as a trainee district nurse. But Agnes finds herself facing unexpected challenges as she is assigned to Quarry Hill, one of the city’s most notorious slums. Before she can redeem herself in the eyes of her family, she must first win the trust and respect of her patients and fellow nurses.

Does Agnes have what it takes to stay the distance? Or will the tragedy of her past catch up with her?

Find out more about Donna and her writing at: http://donnadouglas.co.uk/

Book review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

28 Jan

dumplinDubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked …until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant-along with several other unlikely candidates-to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City-and maybe herself most of all.

I was sent a fab package by the publisher to go with this book including Dolly Parton’s greatest hits, a red heart-shaped lollipop and a beauty queen sash and tiara. As you can imagine – I was delighted and pretty intrigued to find out what the book was about after that! Having read Dumplin”, the items sent sum up the book perfectly; it’s the story of teenage Dolly Parton fan and self proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dixon. The lollipop represents Willow’s friend (and maybe something more), Bo who she works with and the tiara and sash represent the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet pageant that Willowdean decides to enter.

The hardback book is beautiful, with its little Dumplin’ on the front and the fab strapline ‘Go Big or Go Home’. As regular readers will know, I have a thing about books set in the American South and I love series like Friday Night Lights so the Texas setting for this story ticked all the right boxes too. Willowdean’s life is that of a fairly typical small-town teenager; she goes to school, hangs out with her best friend Ellen and works at a burger bar in the evenings. Willowdean is happy in her own skin and happy being the size that she is. I found it refreshing that Willowdean identifies herself as fat and is pretty much happy with her body image and I loved that this wasn’t a story of plus size teenager transforms and becomes beauty queen.

Willowdean is happy in her skin until she draws the attentions of handsome lollipop loving Bo. The developing attraction between Willowdean and Bo makes her begin to question herself, her looks and her personality and through the story there’s a lot of soul searching to be done. Although on the outside Willowdean appears happy and confident in her body, on the inside, she is battling with worries, insecurities and grief. Willowdean’s story struck a chord with me as I’m sure it will many readers as it explored how we present ourselves and how that can really differ from what we feel inside.

Although I found the story a little slow at the start and was surprised to see that the beauty contest part didn’t begin until almost halfway through the book I think this was needed so that as readers we could really get to know Willowdean, her friends and family. As Willowdean falls out with her best friend, struggles to come to terms with the death of her Aunt Lucy and tries to understand her relationship with her ex-beauty queen mother and not one but two handsome boys that want to date her, there are some wonderful moments and quotes in the book and it made me smile.

Interstingly, Willowdean wasn’t my favourite character in the book even though I think she’s fab. My personal favourites were Millie and Bo both for being so supportive of Willowdean even when she didn’t always recognise or accept it and for being true to themselves through the story. From secret kisses, best friend dramas and drag queen beauty lessons, there’s a whole lot of life in this story and a wonderful message that no matter what your shape, size, age, ability or disability we all have our insecurities and that’s OK.

4/5

Dumplin’ is released today in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about about Julie Murphy and her writing at: http://juliemurphywrites.com/

I’d like to thank Harper360 for providing a review copy of this book.

Cover reveal! The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig

27 Jan

I’m very excited to be taking part in the cover reveal for the second book in Francesca Haig’s Fire Sermon series, today. The Map of Bones will be released in Hardback and ebook formats on 7th April.

map of bones

 

The second book in Francesca Haig’s incredible Fire Sermon series.

The Omega resistance has been brutally attacked, its members dead or in hiding.

The Alpha Council’s plan for permanently containing the Omegas has begun.

But all is not entirely lost: the Council’s seer, The Confessor, is dead, killed by her twin’s sacrifice.

Cass is left haunted by visions of the past, while her brother Zach’s cruelty and obsession pushes her to the edge, and threatens to destroy everything she hopes for.

As the country moves closer to all-out civil war, Cass will learn that to change the future she will need to uncover the past. But nothing can prepare her for what she discovers: a deeply buried secret that raises the stakes higher than ever before.

Find out more about Francesca and her writing at: http://www.harpercollins.co.uk/cr-108655/francesca-haig