Book review: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh

27 May

leopard at the doorStepping off the boat in Mombasa, eighteen-year-old Rachel Fullsmith stands on Kenyan soil for the first time in six years. She has come home.

But when Rachel reaches the family farm at the end of the dusty Rift Valley Road, she finds so much has changed. Her beloved father has moved his new partner and her son into the family home. She hears menacing rumours of Mau Mau violence, and witnesses cruel reprisals by British soldiers. Even Michael, the handsome Kikuyu boy from her childhood, has started to look at her differently.

Isolated and conflicted, Rachel fears for her future. But when home is no longer a place of safety and belonging, where do you go, and who do you turn to?

Leopard at the Door is Jennifer McVeigh’s second novel but the first that I’ve read. Her debut, The Fever Tree was chosen for the Richard and Judy book. I love discovering authors that are new to me and I’m so pleased to have been given the opportunity to read an early copy of this book – it is everything that I look for in an historical fiction read; beautifully described, evocative of another time and place, with a gripping storyline and a strong and interesting female lead.

McVeigh’s descriptions of place in Leopard at the Door are amazing; sights, smells, dress and people are all captured with such richness that I felt transported as I read. I’ve never been to Africa but the excellent scene setting in this novel meant that I didn’t have to work to imagine it and I particularly loved the vistas that McVeigh creates featuring wildlife.

Against this natural beauty, McVeigh sets a story of love, war and division that contrasts sharply. With her lead character Rachel we are given an observer’s insight into events and I loved the way that Rachel’s character was used to give perspective and also represented the divides in the story – it made for gripping reading. The story is shockingly violent in places yet there are also wonderful scenes of gentleness, compassion and love which makes it all the more heartbreaking to read.

As Rachel returns to her father’s farm in Kenya after a six year absence she is also trying to find her place in the world. Sent to England at just 12 following the death of her beloved mother, Rachel is just eighteen when she returns and is still trying to make sense of her fathers’ actions and find her place in the family. But the farm that she returns to is subtly changed from the idyll of her childhood memories and immediately there are tensions in the house.

Charting the violence and horrors of the early 1950s and British Imperialism in Kenya, McVeigh shines a spotlight on a part of history that I know little about making this book much more than just an excellent read. McVeigh brings history alive and I was completely swept up in this story; it’s a must read for fans of Dinah Jefferies and readers who love historical fiction coupled with dramatic settings and love against the odds.

5/5

Leopard at the Door is out now in ebook and audio formats from Penguin. It will be released in paperback on 13th July.

Find out more about Jennifer and her writing at: http://www.jennifermcveigh.com/

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

Exclusive Extract: Making Space by Sarah Tierney

26 May

It’s my stop on the Making Space blog tour today and I have an extract from the book to share with you. Making Space is Sarah Tierney’s debut novel. Sarah is a graduate of the MA in Novel Writing at Manchester University, and her short story, ‘Five Miles Out’, was made into a short film by the acclaimed director Andrew Haigh. Sarah has worked as a journalist, editor and copywriter. She lives in Derbyshire with her husband and daughter.

making spaceWhy do we hold onto things we don’t need? And let go of the things we do? Miriam is twenty-nine: temping, living with a flatmate who is no longer a friend, and still trying to find her place in life. She falls in love with Erik after he employs her to clear out his paper-packed home. They are worlds apart: he is forty-five, a successful photographer and artist and an obsessive hoarder still haunted by the end of his marriage. Miriam has an unsuccessful love life and has just got rid of most of her belongings. Somehow, they must find a way to reach each other.

Extract

There was a time when I wore t-shirts with band names on them and patterned dresses with big boots. At some point, though, this style had become no good. It was too teenage, too studenty so I’d replaced it with the Next jumpers and the boot cut jeans, and these work clothes; silk-lined suits, stiff ironed shirts, plain black trousers, which felt like a costume every time I put them on: Now I’m going to dress like someone with an office job. And thinking about it, so did the other two sections of my wardrobe. Now I’m going to dress like a girl desperate for attention. Now like a girl desperate to be ignored.

I put them all in the corner marked ‘charity’. Then I started on my books. I had a lot. They filled two bookcases and were stacked in piles against the wall. Some were from university. TV criticism, film scripts, biographies of directors and actors. Others dated back to my late teens Jane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Lolita, On the Road, and so on. Over the years, my tastes had become less literary. Many of my more recent purchases featured vampires. My DVDs followed a similar pattern. At uni I’d chosen films by director. Now I preferred to watch HBO box sets. You could wipe out an entire weekend with a twelve–episode series, emerging on Monday morning with no hangover, just a vague sense of dislocation in the world.

I put a few in the corner named ‘sell’ and the rest in ‘charity’. Then I moved the sell ones to charity as well. I didn’t want them hanging around for months while I waited for someone to buy them off Amazon.

I worked my way through the whole room like that, sorting through my shoes, my make-up, my knick-knacks. There was a box under my bed full of old letters, birthday cards, and photographs. I pulled it out and took off the lid, then suddenly lost heart. I called my sister Susie then, to ask if she’d give me a lift to a charity shop tomorrow. Most of my belongings were in that corner, and the one labelled ‘bin’. Almost all, in fact.

By the time I’d finished, Jessica and Gareth had gone out. It was a Friday night. I ate a bowl of cold curry in the kitchen then got ready for bed.

I didn’t have any pyjamas to change into and taking them out of the bin bag felt wrong, like I’d broken a promise. I left them where they were and got under the covers naked. I never did that if I was on my own.

The next morning Susie arrived at just past nine, the only gap she had in her Saturday schedule. She had her phone in one hand, car keys in the other, but still managed to grab my arm when she saw all my stuff packed up in my room. ‘I thought you meant just a few bags. Are you finally moving out of this student flat?’

‘“Young professionals”. Neither of us are students.’

‘Sorry. “Young professionals”. So, where are you going?’

‘Nowhere. I’m having a clear-out.’

‘Of everything you own?’

I gave her a bin bag of clothes to take down to her car. Susie was three years older than me but it always felt like more. She had married Tom when she was nineteen. They’d had two children by the time she was twenty-four. She’d never been to uni and done the living with friends thing or the staying in bed till 1 pm on a Tuesday thing. As a result, she looked at my life like it was something quirky and strange and not quite serious. As if it was a fanciful project I was involved in, rather than an actual adult existence.

She once asked me why I hadn’t settled down with a decent man, as if decent men came along all the time and offered to set up home with me, and I was just giggling and batting them away. Both my sister and my mum veered between treating me like a child and getting annoyed that I wasn’t more grown-up. Today, for example, Susie would happily take over the whole charity shop operation, then later tell me to get my driver’s licence so I didn’t have to rely on her to help out. It was confusing to be mollycoddled one minute then told to sharpen up the next.

Making Space is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sandtone Press.

Guest post: Triplets in Pop Culture By Carla Caruso

25 May

I’m delighted to welcome author Carla Caruso back to One More Page today. Carla was born in Adelaide, Australia, and only ‘escaped’ for three years to work as a magazine journalist and stylist in Sydney. Previously, she was a gossip columnist and fashion editor at Adelaide’s daily newspaper, The Advertiser. She has since freelanced for titles including Woman’s Day and Shop Til You Drop. These days, she plays mum to twin lads Alessio and Sebastian with hubby James.Visit www.carlacaruso.com.au. to find out more about Carla and her writing.

Carla Caruso, author pic, HarperCollinsHi. My name’s Carla Caruso and I’m an Aussie author of several romance and rom-com novels. My latest one is Run for the Hills, out today in ebook with Harlequin Escape, yay!

The story revolves around a runaway bride who escapes to a small town and winds up working for triplet wedding photographers. Yup, triplets. Naturally, one in particular catches her eye…

Ever since I’ve had twin boys (now three years old!), I’ve had a penchant for including ‘multiple birth’ characters in my tales. Which got me pondering multiple-birth characters in pop culture. And while I can think of plenty famous twins (fictional or otherwise)—hello Bros, Sweet Valley’s Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, and The Simpsons’ Patty and Selma—I was scratching my head to think up many such triplets.

So I thought I’d do some digging and see what I could come up with. Here’s a bit of list, as below. While it may not be as exhaustive as it would be for well-known twins, it shows that sometimes three can be even better than two…!

  • In the Disney flick, Parent Trap 3, tricky teen triplets (played by Leanna, Monica and Joy Creel) try to match their father with an interior decorator (Hayley Mills) who has a twin. When I watched this movie in the eighties, I wanted to BE one of the gorgeous, curly-haired Creel triplets! Each of the characters has a distinct identity: ‘Lisa’ is the wild and fun one, ‘Jessie’ the quiet but sweet one, and ‘Megan’ the nice and truthful one.
  • Heard of Huey, Dewey and Louie Duck? Well, who really realised that the trio of animated ducks are identical triplets? The threesome reside with their famed uncle, Donald Duck, in the fictional city of Duckburg and can be a little wild and unruly. Rather than each being very different like the aforementioned Creel triplets, a running joke sees the ducklings finishing each other’s sentences as they’re so identical in appearance and personality. However, you can tell them apart by the colour of their outfits—Huey is known for dressing in red, Dewey in blue, and Louie in green.
  • In TV sitcom Friends, Phoebe agrees to be a surrogate for her bro and his wife who can’t conceive – and ends up carrying fraternal triplets. There are some funny lines when the trio arrive on the scene, such as, “I like the middle one best!” and “Don’t worry I won’t let the other two know.” After the labour, Phoebe has a heart-to-heart solo with her new nieces and nephew and says she wishes she could take them all home, but will settle for being their fave aunt. Then the four of them cry together. Pass the tissues!
  • Recall the 1988 movie, Twins, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito as a mismatched duo? Well, the pair are working on a sequel called—you guessed it—Triplets, and it’ll reportedly star Eddie Murphy as a third brother!

Enough triplet trivia for you? Well, I did mention my new ebook features triplet brothers, and you can read more about it here: www.escapepublishing.com.au/product/9781489241474  ;)

Thanks kindly for reading!

Thanks Carla!

Run for the Hills by Carla Caruso is released today in ebook formats from Escape Publishing.

RunForTheHills-C CarusoThe Belshaw brothers are back in Balkissoch…

Bridie Porter is wearing her Vera Wang gown and veil in the back of her wedding limo when she receives a compromising text about her hotelier groom. Panicked, she tells the driver to keep going and she flees from Melbourne to the small town of Balkissoch in the Adelaide Hills.

It’s the perfect pit-stop to hide from her ex and the press and to earn enough cash to stay out of sight. Unfortunately, the admin job she gets is for a wedding photography business and she’s had her fill of weddings lately. But it’s slim pickings on the work front in a town so teeny. And her new boss is strangely compelling…

After the rush and adrenaline of his job as an LA paparazzo, the last place Cody Belshaw wants to be is back in the small town where he grew up. But thanks to a clause in his father’s will that amounts to blackmail, Cody and his two brothers are stuck running a wedding business for at least a month. If there’s one thing that he’s learned in LA, however, it’s to keep business and pleasure very, very separate. Which makes his new admin employee the definition of temptation.

Bridie is desperate to stay anonymous. Cody seeks out secrets for a living. As they delve into the world of brides, boutonnières and dogs-as-best-men, both Cody and Bridie will have to decide if this is a fling…or forever

Book review: Spandex and the City by Jenny T Colgan

23 May

spandex and the cityLOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?

I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment with quirky, geeky romantic books, the latest of which Spandex and the City looks at what it might be like to date a superhero! Jenny T. Colgan will be very familiar to many readers as the author (minus the T.) of hits such as The Little Beach Street Bakery  and The Little Shop of Happily Ever After. Having read and enjoyed jenny’s other books I was so pleased to see that she is taking her writing in a fun new direction and I very much enjoyed this book which is witty, action packed, quirky and romantic.

Holly is a twenty-six year old publicist who works at the Mayor’s office. Whilst out drinking with a friend one night she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes the target for a villain who is targeting the city. Holly is rescued by ‘Ultimate Man’ and it’s the start of an intriguing relationship! Holly is a fun character with a penchant for sarcasm and she is a bit of a magnet for trouble! Colgan gets the mix of insecure twenty something, pop culture references and dating disasters just right and this makes for an engaging and surprising read.

I loved that I was wrong footed a number of times as I read and the pleasure Jenny T Colgan gets from the fantasy elements of her story just bounces off the page. There’s dastardly twists, implausible situations and excellent comic timing but underneath all of that there’s also a little bit of a message about our society and the way that technology is influencing our lives.

If you love rom-coms but would like to try something different; dream of having your very own superhero or if you’re just looking for a fun escapist read this summer then Spandex and the City could be just the book for you!

4/5

Spandex and the City is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Orbit

Find out more about Jenny and her writing at: https://www.jennycolgan.com/

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

Event news: Brilliant Quirk Books events 26th-29th May!

21 May

As regular readers will know, I’m a huge fan of Quirk books (read my review of the brilliant Geekerella to see what I mean!) and I’m very excited to share with you that Quirk books have an action-packed set of events to entertain you this Bank Holiday weekend!

 MCM ComicCon

First of all, why don’t you stop off at MCM ComicCon London? One minute, get your photo taken with Archie from Riverdale or The Hulk, the next, head to Author Corner and listen to awesome women in publishing talk about comics, amazing women in history, and twisted fairytales.

http://www.mcmcomiccon.com/london/attractions/author-corner/

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Waterstones Piccadily

Then, head to the book heaven that is Waterstones Piccadilly on Monday, 29th May for an evening of book chat and wine, plus the chance to grab swag and win awesome prizes.

https://www.waterstones.com/events/bookpop-with-ashley-poston-hope-norton-and-sam-maggs/london-piccadilly

*Quirk Books will not accept responsibility for overstimulated minds and having too much fun in one go.

Book extract: Island of Secrets by Patricia Wilson

21 May

Today I’m very pleased to share an extract from Patricia Wilson’s new novel, Island of Secrets, with you. After running her own business for twenty years, Patricia took early retirement and moved to the Greek island of Crete. When she dug up a rusted machine gun in her garden, and the inhabitants of her remote mountain village came with local stories of tragedy and triumph, she knew she had to tell their account of what really happened in September 1943, which became Island of Secrets. Patricia now lives on the island of Rhodes where she is researching and writing her second novel.

Island of SecretsThe story started at dawn on the fourteenth of September, 1943 . . .’

All her life, London-born Angelika has been intrigued by her mother’s secret past. Now planning her wedding, she feels she must visit the remote Crete village her mother grew up in.

Angie’s estranged elderly grandmother, Maria, is dying. She welcomes Angie with open arms – it’s time to unburden herself, and tell the story she’ll otherwise take to her grave.

It’s the story of the Nazi occupation of Crete during the Second World War, of horror, of courage and of the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her children. And it’s the story of bitter secrets that broke a family apart, and of three enchanting women who come together to heal wounds that have damaged two generations.

Extract 

The village of Amiras stilled, like a theatre waiting for the curtain to rise. Heat shimmered from the cobbled streets. In front of the kafenion, empty chairs stood in haphazard groups between square tables. Outside the closed supermarket, hessian olive sacks hung over boxes of potatoes and vegetables, protecting them from the fierce Mediterranean light.

A herd of long-haired goats shifted into the shadow of the hilltop chapel. For a few seconds, the dull clatter of their bells broke the peace and quiet of siesta time.

In the lower village, a blue door squeaked open and a wide hipped, middle-aged housewife hurried up the narrow streets. From the shade of a vermillion bougainvillea, a skinny white cat sniffed the air, narrowed its eyes and watched the woman.

Inside one cottage, an elderly couple sat as still and silent as the stone walls. A crucifix hung over a garish icon of Saint George. The martyr seemed distracted from his dragon slaying by an object in the livingroom. A chocolate box overflowed with photographs, letters and mementoes in the centre of a low round table.

The old woman, Maria, reached for a faded picture of Poppy cradling her baby. She studied the image and recalled Poppy’s last words, still fresh in her ears, although decades had passed.

Forget me, Mama. Forget I ever existed.

A shaft of sunlight streamed through the window illuminating Maria’s scarred hands – an ugly reminder of the fire. It took so much time for those wounds to heal.

Her wizened face hardened with a decision.

‘I will write to them, Vassili,’ she said to her husband sitting by the fireplace. ‘Voula can help me.’ She replaced the picture and closed the box. ‘God’s getting impatient, and I’m tired of it all.’ She crossed herself three times and prayer locked her arthritic fingers.

Vassili nodded as though he understood, but passing years had eroded his grief. He dropped his amber worry beads and hobbled to her side.

‘Don’t waste your thoughts on what’s dead and gone, old woman.’ He kissed her forehead.

Despite his words, scenes from the past returned and filled Maria’s head.

‘I can’t forget,’ she whispered, staring at ghosts that crowded into the whitewashed room.

Vassili followed her gaze, unable to see those who haunted her.

Recognising his confusion, Maria wished the spores of old age would moulder her mind too. Regrets were useless now. The time had come for forgiveness and, before she died, Maria hoped to touch the cheek of Poppy’s child.

‘Angelika has a right to know the truth, old man, she’s our granddaughter.’

‘Mama, Papa, your dinner’s here.’ Voula crashed through the doorway, the multi-coloured fly curtain whipping around her faded black dress. She gripped a casserole pot against her belly and grinned, her face a friendly gargoyle.

‘No need to shout, Voula, we’re not deaf,’ Maria said.

Vassili cupped a hand behind his ear. ‘Eh, what’s that? Ah, the food. No chance of any meat I suppose? I’ll be glad when Lent’s over. I can smell the lamb already.’ He shuffled to the kitchen table.

‘Only a few more days until Easter, Papa. I’ve made stuffed peppers. Will you have a glass of Demitri’s wine?’ Voula clattered the dishes and then helped Maria out of the armchair. ‘Anything else?’ she asked, pouring cloudy red krasí into tumblers before serving their meals.

Maria cut open a green pepper, hunched over her plate and sniffed the food.

Voula stopped bustling and watched Maria taste the rice stuffing flavoured with herbs, currants, and pine nuts. When she approved with a nod, Voula took a breath and smiled.

‘I want to write to Poppy and Angelika,’ Maria said flatly.

Voula’s eyes widened. She glanced around the table top and then at Vassili who guzzled his food. ‘Are you sure, Mama?’ She lowered her voice to a whisper. ‘What if it starts up again, the trouble, after all these years? Isn’t it better to forget? We can’t bring back the dead.’

‘No,’ Maria said, her face drawn and thin above the mound of colourful vegetables. ‘I’ve decided.’

***

The next day, Voula asked, ‘How do you want to start the letter, Mama?’ Her pencil poised over a child’s exercise book.

Maria grunted. ‘I’ve thought about it for hours. The beginning is the most difficult part. If it’s not perfect, they’ll screw it up and throw it away. We’ve got one chance at this, Voula. We should address the envelope to Angelika and put both letters in it. Otherwise, I fear her mother might tear it up unopened. Now, let’s see, how shall we begin?’

‘I know, what about: Dear Angelika?’

Maria rolled her eyes. She wondered if her daughter-in-law had lost more of her marbles in sixty-five years than Maria had in ninety. ‘Yes, very good, Voula,’ she snorted. ‘And then?’

Voula lifted and dropped her shoulders, which made her breasts quiver against her belly.

‘Write this then,’ Maria said. ‘I have wanted to send you a letter for a long time. I hoped to see you before I die, but I realise our meeting is unlikely.’

‘Mama!’

‘Oh, face the facts, Voula; I’m on my way out. Let’s get on with the letter before the Angel Gabriel replaces you as my personal assistant.’

Voula scratched her lip and nodded.

‘Now, write this, Voula: Angelika, please tell your mother I have never stopped loving her. Put your arms around her and kiss her from me. Poppy is in my heart. Say that I am sorry. Truly sorry. If I could have changed things, I would.’

‘Mama, how do we know Angelika reads Greek?’

‘We have to trust Poppy will have taught her. Anyway, we can ask Demitri to translate for us. What shall we write next? Perhaps something about Angelika’s father.’ Maria tilted her head to one side. ‘Yeorgo,’ she sighed. ‘Wasn’t he a beautiful man, Voula?’ Silent for a moment, Maria’s eyes glazed. ‘That’s another difficult part. I wonder if Angelika knows.’

Island of Secrets is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Patricia and her writing at: www.pmwilson.net

Book review: I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland

20 May

eat when imRAGE Fashion Book is the world’s most dynamic, ambitious magazine.
Its editors ­- like Cat Ono – have the power to change minds and the market.
They’re savvy, sisterly and polished to perfection. Even the one found dead in her office.

Everyone thinks Hillary starved to death – but Cat knows her friend’s dieting wasn’t a capital P problem. If beauty kills, it’d take more than that. Hot-headed and fiercely feminist, Cat’s sure she can match the investigating skills of Detective Mark Hutton, solve the case, and achieve sartorial fulfillment.

But going undercover, Cat’s in over her head, and soon becomes snared in a very stylish web of drugs, sex, lies and moisturizer that will change her look – and outlook – forever.

Cat’s about to find out what it really means to be a fashion victim.

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is Barbara Bourland’s debut novel; a no-holds barred satirical look at the fashion and magazine industry, set in New York. The book has been described as “The Devil Wears Prada meets American Psyco” and I was so intrigued I went against my normal tendency to steer away from anything involving crime or murder to give this book a try.

I’m pleased I did because although this book does have a deadly murder mystery within, it is so much more and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it did remind me of The Devil Wears Prada and there were parts that made me think of Candace Bushnell’s novels, I’ll Eat When I’m Dead put me most in mind of the classic Valley of the Dolls which I read for the first time last year. Fans of all of these should give this book a try – it’s one of those books that doesn’t easily fit into a single genre and I liked it all the more for that.

The novel opens with the death of thirty-seven year old Hillary Whitney. Hillary was a fashion editor at fashion magazine RAGE – a publication with worldwide domination in the fashion magazine industry. The employees of RAGE are the most fashionable women in New York and Hillary’s cause of death -cardiac arrest due to persistent starvation – is both surprising and not to the occupants of an industry where the pressure to look perfect is constant. But as we soon find out, thanks to the interest on Detective Mark Hutton, there may be more to Hillary’s death than the NYPD intiially thought.

And so the mystery part of the novel is set. As Mark investigates the increasingly crazy world of RAGE and its staff, we are introduced to Hillary’s friends and colleagues, associate editor, Bess Bonner and Editor Catherine “Cat” Ono. Bess and Cat are very different characters and I enjoyed getting to know them both and following as their stories developed. I also liked that Bourland gave Mark an interesting back story and I thought the sub-plot involving him and his on/off girlfriend Callie added and interesting mix.

Set over three months, the story moves swiftly and is packed with insider detail of the fashion industry with commentary on everything from digital start ups, 24/7 social media, the cult of celebrity, eating disorders, drug addiction and ethical production and of course the unbelievable lengths people will go to to remain young and beautiful. This book really does give a whole new meaning to the phrase “fashion victim” and it makes for addictive reading.

Bourland clearly knows her stuff and digs deep into the contradictory world of fashion using Cat to show the other side of the story. The scenarios created are in places so far-fetched that they could only be true and I found myself switching between envy and shock frequently as I read. I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is both darkly humorous and deadly disparaging whilst paying homage to the industry that its author loves. A gripping debut!

4/5

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Riverrun.

Find out more about Barbara and her writing at: http://www.barbarabourland.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Book review: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

19 May

forever coverWould you know your forever house if you found it?

Hunter’s Moon is the ultimate ‘forever’ house. Nestled by a river in the Peasebrook valley, it has been the Willoughbys’ home for over fifty years, and now estate agent Belinda Baxter is determined to find the perfect family to live there. But the sale of the house unlocks decades of family secrets – and brings Belinda face to face with her own troubled past.

The Forever House is another absolute treat from Veronica Henry. Whether set by the sea or in the beautiful Cotswold countryside as this book is, Veronica’s books always offer a perfect reading escape. In this book we get to visit the charming village of Peasebrook and a beautiful house called Hunter’s Moon, the home of the Willoughby family. Hunter’s Moon is so beautifully described and I loved how Veronica wove the history of the house into the history of the family giving their home its own character.

The story moves between the present where estate agent Belinda Baxter has been commissioned to sell the Willoughby’s beloved home and the late 1960’s when a young girl called Sally visits Hunter’s Moon for the first time and becomes housekeeper for the family. I loved the dual timeline storylines for this book as difficult events in the present force the sale of the house and prompt its residents to reflect on the past and how the house became the home it is today.

Veronica evokes a wonderfully glamerous and spontaneous history for Hunter’s Moon with the eccentric bestselling romance author Margot Willoughby, her daughter Phoebe who creates fabulous fashion designs from the dining table and handsome son Alexander who is very much the dashing man about town. These parts of the story had a brilliant ‘Mad Men’ feel to them and I loved the contrast between the chaotic Willoghbys and Sally who just wants to put everything in order and create a homely atmosphere following the heartbreaks of her own past.

In the present Belinda is also coming to terms with past events that have left her heart bruised. I loved her dedication to her career and the boutique business that she has built from scratch and I was in heaven with all of the wonderful decor and design details of the houses that Belinda sells and her attention to detail – I only wish she was real and could find me my dream home!

Veronica Henry builds this story beautifully with events in the past and present bringing dramatic surprises and keeping me as a reader on my toes! Both parts of the story have excellent pace and plenty of to keep the reader thinking and each time the narrative moved between past and present I was left eager to find out what happened next so I flew through this book – I didn’t want it to end but I couldn’t put it down!

Belinda’s story runs perfectly alongside the story of Hunter’s Moon and Sally’s story in the past and I loved how the two stories came together as the book concluded. The characters are believable and interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them, especially Belinda and Sally. The Forever House is an entertaining, heartening read about family and the special places that we call home and I highly recommend adding it to your bookshelves!

5/5

The Forever House is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Orion.

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

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

A cup of tea with: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

17 May

Today I’m launching something new! I was contacted by the lovely people at Adagio Teas and they proposed a rather fab idea; that I pair some of the books I read with their teas! Who doesn’t love a good cuppa when they curl up with a book so of course I jumped at the chance and my new feature ‘A Cup of Tea With…’ is born!

I must admit, to this point I’ve not been very adventurous when it comes to tea – its usually a good strong cup of the Yorkshire variety and the occasional foray into green or herbal teas so when I opened the box of samples that Adagio sent me, it was like stepping into a whole new world and I’m loving it and so are my tastebuds!

The Tea: Earl Grey Moonlight 

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For this review I’ve paired Ashley Poston’s Geekerella with Adagio’s Earl Grey Moonlight.  This tea smells and looks amazing and I’m pleased to say it tastes just as good! It’s got a wonderfully creamy vanilla scent and was lovely to drink – I truly am converted! I chose to pair it with Geekerella partly because of the name – Moonlight fits perfectly both with the Cinderella and sci-fi fandom theme of the book and also  because this is such a clever surprising story and I felt the same about this tea :-)

The Book: Geekerella by Ashley Postongeekerella

Geekerella is one of my favourite books of the year so far. It’s quirky, funny, romantic and original and I fell in love with the two lead characters. This is a very clever retelling of the fairytale Cinderella – it stays true to the original story but is different enough to keep the reader guessing and I loved that it had a story within a story with the world of Starfleet and the story of Prince Carmindor.

Ashley Posten has created a new sci-fi fandom for this book; the Starfleet fans are as passionate, committed and loyal as any other fandoms and Starfleet with it’s ‘Look to the Stars. Aim. Ignite’ call to action sits believably amongst the scifi series’ like Starwars and Startrek that we know so well already. Ashley has crafted a fabulous and uplifting love letter to fans everywhere and I was enchanted by the story.

Seventeen year old Elle grew up on Starfleet. Her parents were superfans – her Dad even started his own Con dedicated to his passion. Having sadly lost both parents too young, we meet Elle as she is living with her stepmom and twin stepsisters in a miserable existence (you know the story).  Elle has a secret passion and is one of the leading Starfleet bloggers with her blog Rebelgunner read by thousands. When a big screen reboot of the series is commissioned and teen heart throb Darien Freeman is chosen to play the male lead Prince Carmindor Elle writes a scathing blog post in reaction sharing many fans’ thoughts that the producers have gone for heartthrob over a true believer.

Darien has his own set of problems. He’s recently found fame in TV series Sunset Cove but wants to break onto the big screen and Starfleet is the perfect way for him to do that but can he live up to the fans and his own expectations? Darien also has a secret; he’s a massive Starfleet fan; this is the role of his dreams but will his controlling father and the fickle movie industry let him be who he wants to be?

Narrated in turn by Elle and Darien, the story had me gripped and I so wanted them to both find their happy ever after! As the Cosplay contest approaches both will get a lot more than they bargained for! There are a lot of wonderful heartfelt truths in this book and it’s also a brilliantly diverse read with more than a few surprises up its sleeve as Elle enlists her Magic Pumpkin co worker (the brilliantly named Sage) to help her.

If you’re looking for a book that is sweet, geeky, romantic and clever, this is the one that you should be reading this summer!

5/5

Geekerella is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Quirk books.

Find out more about Ashley and her writing at: http://www.ashposton.com/

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

I’d also like to thank Danielle at Adagio Teas for providing the tea that accompanied this review! Do check out the ‘Fandoms’ section of the Adagio website for some brilliantly fandom inspired teas: http://www.adagiotea.co.uk/signature_blend/fandoms.html

 

Event write up: #OrionBlogFest

15 May

IMG_7955At the end of April I attended the #OrionBlogFest. I felt very lucky to be among the bloggers and booksellers in attendance and it was brilliant to hear first-hand from the teams at Orion, Gollancz and W&N about the exciting new fantasy and sci-fi books that are coming out in the next six months. The teams’ enthusiasm for their authors and books was impressive and infectious and as a result my wish list has grown massively!IMG_7963

The event started with fab Stranger Things themed food and cakes – look at the cakes!!Then it was into one minute pitches for upcoming releases. These were so much fun and the addition of a timer and buzzer kept everyone on their toes.

Here are my hot picks from those pitched:

IMG_7957The House of Shattered Wings series by Aliette de Bodard (out now)

The second book in this magical urban fantasy series The House of Binding Thorns has just been released and both books sound excellent!

Paris in the aftermath of the Great Magicians War. Its streets are lined with haunted ruins, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine runs black, thick with ashes and rubble. Yet life continues among the wreckage. The citizens retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital. House Silverspires, previously the leader of those power games, now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls. Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen, an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction, and a resentful young man wielding spells from the Far East. They may be Silverspires’ salvation; or the architects of its last, irreversible fall . . .

The Switch by Justina Robson (18th May) IMG_7958

Science, magic and politics come together in the pursuit of a perfect ‘model’ society. I can’t wait to read this one!

In Harmony, only model citizens are welcome.

A perfect society must be maintained. The defective must be eradicated. For orphans like Nico and Twostar, this means a life that’s brutal, regulated and short.

But Nico and Twostar are survivors, and when they’re offered a way out of the slums, they take it.

Unfortunately, no one told Nico the deal included being sentenced to death for the murder of one of Harmony’s most notorious gang leaders.

Or that to gain his freedom, first he must lose his mind.

IMG_7959The Falcolner trilogy by Elizabeth May

I can’t believe this was the first I’d heard of this series – it sounds right up my street! The final book, The Fallen Kingdon will be out in June so I grabbed a copy of book one (pictured) and I’m looking forward to starting it soon.

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (10 August 2017)crosstalk

Described as Sliding Doors meets Rainbow Rowell, this one went straight onto my wish list!

Briddey is about to get exactly what she thinks she wants . . .

Briddey is a high-powered exec in the mobile phone industry, overseeing new products from concept (‘anything to beat the new apple phone’) to delivery. And she works with her wonderful partner, Trent. They’ve been together for six magical weeks, in a whirlwind of flowers, dinners, laughter and now comes the icing on the cake: not a weekend away or a proposal but something even better. An EDD. A procedure which will let them sense each other’s feelings. Trent doesn’t just want to tell her how much he loves her – he wants her to feel it.

Everything is perfect.

The trouble is, Briddey can’t breathe a word of it to anyone (difficult, when the whole office is guessing) until she’s had two minutes to call her family. And they’re hounding her about the latest family drama, but when they find out about the EDD – which they will – they’ll drop everything to interrogate her. And it might just be easier to have the procedure now and explain later.

The race is on: not just for new, cutting-edge technology, but also for a shred of privacy in a public world and – for Briddey – a chance for love at the heart of it all.

IMG_7961Three other books to look out for coming later in the year are: Sweet Dreams are Made of this by Tricia Sullivan, a book about Dreamhacking – the ability to enter someone’s dreams and influence them, which is out in September;  Mirror Mirror by Clara Delevinge  and The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (proof pictured), both out in October. I’m so excited for Autumn reading already!

We then got to hear from three authors about their exciting new releases;  Joanne M Harris, Dan Vyletta and Ed McDonald made up a fabulous panel and it was so interesting to hear them speak about their books and their writing.

Following a book grab, pizza and signing break we were treated to a skype interview with  Kristen Ciccarelli whose gorgeous proof (above) was one of the highlights of the evening for me and was exclusively revealed to us at the event.

As a child, Asha’s mother told her ancient, forbidden stories to drive away her nightmares – and the telling of them killed her. And when Asha repeated those stories, they summoned an ancient dragon which almost destroyed her city, and left Asha horribly scarred. Ever since, she has protected her city and people (and tried to make amends) by dragon-slaying. And now she may have a way to both atone for the deaths she caused and to escape an arranged marriage: her father will free her, in exchange for the head of Kovu, the ancient dragon. And the only obstacle in her path is a defiant slave-boy . .

The night ended with a bookish quiz and I went home one very happy blogger. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Stevie and the team at Orion for putting on such a fab event. Look out for more details of #GollanczFest coming soon and do share which books you’re looking forward to in the comments below!

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