Giveaway! Three copies of That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay to be won!

27 Jan

Earlier today I reviewed That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay and in celebration the paperback release of this lovely book Orion has given me three copies to give away to lucky readers!

THAT PART WAS TRUE JACKET (1)

When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food. As their letters criss-cross the ocean that lies between them, friendship and then romance blossoms despite Jackson’s colourful love life and Eve’s tense relationship with her soon-to-be-married daughter. Little by little, Eve and Jack begin to believe that they may have a chance to change their lives and possibly get a second chance at happiness. They just need to actually meet…

To enter this giveaway just leave a comment in the box below and I’ll draw three winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Sunday 1st February.

Good luck!

Book Review: That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

27 Jan

THAT PART WAS TRUE JACKET (1)When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food. As their letters criss-cross the ocean that lies between them, friendship and then romance blossoms despite Jackson’s colourful love life and Eve’s tense relationship with her soon-to-be-married daughter. Little by little, Eve and Jack begin to believe that they may have a chance to change their lives and possibly get a second chance at happiness. They just need to actually meet…

That Part Was True is a thoughtful and captivating story of friendship, family, love and loss. The story is set in the UK and US and I enjoyed reading about the very different lives of the lead characters, Eve and Jack. This is a novel that grew on me quickly as I read and although fairly slow paced, is an intriguing look at the lives of two people who make a connection through their love of food and cooking.

Narrated in the third person, this That Part Was True is really two separate stories linked by the letters and notes that the main characters send each other and I was carried along by the way that their relationship developed against the backdrop of all that was going on in their separate lives.

Author Jackson (Jack) Cooper  lives in The  Hamptons and is facing something of a mid-life crisis. His wife recently left him and he is questioning everything, including his career as a best-selling popular fiction author as a result. I loved the subtle glamour of Jack’s lifestyle and the contrast between his life and that of Eve Petworth, who is focussed on living a quiet life in the English countryside.

Eve writes to Jack to praise his latest novel and Jack responds. Little by little, their friendship develops through their correspondence. As this develops Deborah McKinlay begins to fill in the detail and history of their lives for the reader. From Eve’s domineering mother, her fraught relationship with her daughter and anxiety attacks to Jack’s attempts at romance and concerns over his career; what makes this book are the lead characters’ insecurities and the complexity of their emotions.

I’ll admit that I didn’t particularly warm to either as I started the book and actually disliked Jack in the beginning, but as their experiences come to the fore I began to see them as the fully rounded characters that they are and felt sympathy for Eve in particular and admired her bravery and determination to overcome her anxiety attacks.

The concept of romance developing through a series of letters is a lovely one and gives Eve and Jack’s relationship a timeless quality that marks this book as different. But That Part Was True is more than a love story; it’s also an inspiring novel about second chances, not just in love but in family relationships too as Eve helps her daughter plan her wedding and the pair try to negotiate their difficult relationship.

The ending to this book was a wonderful surprise and not what I’d expected but left me with a feeling of satisfaction; That Part Was True is a compelling read with honestly flawed characters who will find a place in your heart.

That Part Was True is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

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

Find out more about Deborah McKinlay and her writing at:http://www.deborahmckinlay.com/ 

Guest post: Things I learnt at (my child’s) school … by Deborah Disney

24 Jan

My guest today is debut Australian author, Deborah Disney. Deborah grew up in the regional city of Toowoomba and now lives in Brisbane with her husband and two school-aged daughters. Deborah has a BA/LLB from the University of Queensland and practised as a solicitor for a number of years prior to having children. She chose to specialise in litigation law as that seemed like the best preparation for what is now her looming battle – mothering her daughters through the teenage years. Deborah’s first novel, Up and In, is a satirical look at the interactions of school and sporting mums. Welcome Deborah!

Disney-19 2.3MB‘What Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally.’ And this is true even if Sally is a complete cow.

I posted this little oft-quoted phrase on my facebook page this week (not the cow part) because I think it is a perfect tie-in with my new book, Up and In, which is a humorous look at the often bewildering experience that comes with being a school mum.

What is it about becoming a school mum that seems to send otherwise accomplished and intelligent women back to the insecurities of our teenage years? What am I going to wear to drop-off today?  Why didn’t she invite my child to her child’s party? She didn’t wave at me this morning – did I say or do something wrong?

In between worrying about whether or not our children will find friends, this strange sensation of whether or not we will find friends among the other school mums somehow starts to creep in. Once again there is that feeling of wanting to ‘find your tribe’. And while it is only natural to want to surround yourself with like-minded people, plaguing yourself about trivial ‘school gate politics’ might mean that the most likely place to find your like-minded people is in the loony bin!

Postcard 8I have been a school mum for eight years now, and these are a few of the things I have discovered:

1. Some of my best friends are women I have met at my children’s school. I connected with them because we laughed at each other’s jokes. Not because we were wearing the ‘right’ clothes. There is no way they would be caught dead in some of my clothes.

2. There is no rule that says you need to become ‘besties’ with the mother of your child’s ‘bestie’. My mother never, ever hung out with the parents of my childhood friends. Being pleasant is a must. But ‘hanging’ is entirely optional.

3. Even if you feel uncomfortable or shy, it never hurts to smile and say hello. Unless you have had recent dental surgery. Or you are dealing with a burgeoning cold sore.

4. While you might come from different backgrounds, or have different current circumstances, you all have one thing in common, which is that your children attend the same school. And there’s every chance that at some point or other you will all have to deal with nits.

5. Any women past the age of thirteen who refer to themselves as belonging to some sort of club like ‘the A team’ or any other such BS collective are to be avoided like the plague.

6. The best thing you can do to help your child make the ‘right’ friends is to set an example of always being yourself. The ‘right’ friends are alwaysPostcard 1 the ones who are right for the real you. Making friends on behalf of an orchestrated version of yourself is just downright exhausting.

7. Everyone has their own sh*t going on. If they didn’t respond to your cheery smile today, try again tomorrow. They may have just had dental surgery.

8. Finally, don’t buy in to bitching or gossiping about other mothers. Sally might well be a cow, but talking about that isn’t making her any more or less cow-like. It just spreads around bad cow energy and if you are a school mum you know – you need every ounce of energy you have for signing notes and making lunches and washing socks and supervising homework and … :-)

Up and In by Deborah Disney is available in ebook formats now. Find out more at: http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9781460704356/books/Up-Deborah-Disney/ 

Book review: Things We Couldn’t Explain by Betsy Tobin

23 Jan

things we couldnSome things just can t be explained. It s the summer of 79 and the small town of Jericho, Ohio is awash with mysteries. Anne-Marie is beautiful, blind, virginal and pregnant. Ethan is the boy next door who would do anything to win her heart. But when the Virgin Mary starts to appear in the sunset, the town is besieged by zealots, tourists and profiteers. Can love survive amidst the madness?

Things We Couldn’t Explain is written with warmth, humour and sensitivity and tells a story that will make you think, whatever your beliefs.

I almost passed this book by when I got the email asking me to review it; I’m a terrible one for judging books by their covers and I’m sorry to say, that this cover didn’t draw me in but then I clicked on the book trailer and I knew I had to read Things We Couldn’t Explain as soon as possible. Check it out here – it’s so cute and I love the music that goes with it.

The story is set in 1979 in the small American town of Jericho, Ohio.  Here we meet Anne-Marie and her next door neighbour Ethan. As characters go, these two are a perfect mix of wise and quirky and I took them both to my heart straight away. Anne-Marie is blind and her sightlessness makes her extra sensitive to other feelings and emotions. I loved her perceptiveness and her insights into people throughout the book and I thought Betsy Tobin rendered her experiences in a way that was completely believable.

Ethan and his family are the opposite of Anne-Marie and hers. Anne-Marie has a single mom, her aunt and her husband who is strictly protective and all of whom have strong religious beliefs. Ethan and his family don’t attend church but he will do anything to be with the girl he admires so much and soon adapts to fit into her life.

Against a backdrop of growing up, first love, friendship and teenage hopes and fears, the story of Anne-Marie’s mystery pregnancy plays out. I loved that this book took all of the questions that immediately sprung to my mind about how the situation could have occurred and throughout the course of the story, answered them.  This really is a novel that presents all sides of the story and absolutely did make me think about faith, science and the nature of the unexplained.

Things We Couldn’t Explain is a quirky, heartwarming and romantic read that will appeal to readers of all ages.

4/5

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

Find out more about Betsy and her writing at: http://www.betsytobin.co.uk/

Things We Couldn’t Explain is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

 

Guest post: What Did We Do Before Social Media? by Bree Darcy

22 Jan

Today I’m delighted to welcome debut author Bree Darcy to One More Page with a guest post on one of my favourite hobbies – social media! Bree Darcy is the pseudonym of Australian journalist Stephanie Pegler. She is the publisher of several popular websites for readers and authors, including Chicklit Club, Connect and We Heart Writing, and also runs the annual International Chick Lit Month event. She has worked as a newspaper sub-editor in Perth for the past twenty years, and is married with three children. Don’t Mention the Rock Star is her debut novel. Welcome Bree!

bree-darcy

If you are like me, mornings always start with a quick stretch. A stretch, that is, to reach my smartphone on my bedside table. And from the comfort of my warm bed, I can scroll through all the emails, Facebook updates and tweets that have come through overnight.

Before I’ve even set one foot on the ground, I already know all the news I need to know – because it’s right there at my fingertips. Instagram will show me pictures of the latest celebrity newborn with a crazy name; Twitter will inform me if anyone famous has died, and a Facebook update from a friend will let me know to skip my walk because a storm is brewing outside.

So what did we do before social media transformed our lives with its ability to inform us, entertain us and connect us like never before.

Let’s take a trip back to the early 1990s, where the story of Don’t Mention the Rock Star begins. Back then, if you wanted to get all the latest news from the comfort of your bed, you required a willing partner (or trained dog) to bring you the newspaper. Or you had to tune into the radio news on the hour or brazen the mind-numbing infomercials on breakfast television. Most people didn’t have cable, so news 24/7 was not readily available.

Phones were either that thing connected to a wall socket or clunky cells with aerials that could take out an eye. The sight of an answering machine with no reassuring red blinking light was the equivalent of receiving no comments or likes on a Facebook post. No one booted up their computer until it was time to start work and the information superhighway certainly wasn’t on the map. You got your news and entertainment from newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. Or over your backyard fence or at the water-cooler at work.

If you would like to re-experience this era of technological deprivation, I am currently offering a special Life Without Social Media Survival Course. It will show you how people shared information – back in the day – and explain how you can get those social moments without social media.

Facebook: Gather a group of friends, add copious amounts of food and drink, and viola – you will soon discover who’s got a new job, whose relationship has turned complicated and so on. You’ll even get to pretend to like all their Kodak moments when someone whips out their baby photos or holiday snaps.

Twitter: Seriously, before the arrival of this microblogging site, if anyone said they wanted to communicate in 140 characters or less, people would have looked at them as if they were #crazy. It would be like reverting back to the days of the telegram. STOP. But try it out at a pub, during a tribute to hair bands of the 90s. You will only be able to talk in short, shouted, bursts and chances are no one will be able to follow the conversation. Sounds exactly like Twitter, doesn’t it?

Instagram: Grab a Polaroid and take arty snaps of your chicken parmigiana and white chocolate mud cake. Leave them for people to find on bus seats, in the pages of a library book, on the pin-up board of your workplace. If you want to know if your friend is wearing that LBD to the party tonight, the one you both picked up for a song at the end-of-season sale – ring and ask. And if you want to admire amazing pictures of sunsets and other gifts of nature, treat yourself to a coffee table book.

Pinterest: You’ll need a cork noticeboard and a stack of magazines. Take a pair of scissors, cut out any photos that appeal – that divine pair of heels, the show home kitchen you covet, the model with the amazing physique, inspiring words of wisdom –  and attach them to the cork board with a pin. As an alternative, a scrapbook and glue works well too. For bonus points, plan to spend no more than an hour on the task – and end up whiling away half the day!

YouTube: Edit all those highlights recorded on your family’s camcorder on to one mastertape. Slot this homemade masterpiece into your VCR and watch all those embarrassing caught-on-tape moments unfold. Oh look, there’s your neighbour’s grumpy cat, your mad uncle doing some dodgy dancing at a wedding, someone walking smack-bang into a glass door and a snippet of a TV cartoon your younger brother accidentally recorded over footage of your sister singing in the car.

Which social media format couldn’t you live without and which do you wish was never invented?

You can find out more about Bree and her writing at: breedarcy.com 

Don’t Mention the Rock Star is out now in ebook formats.

rockstarphotocoverThey fell in love in an instant … so why have they spent a lifetime apart?

As a teenager Kellie dated an American boy but circumstances meant they went their separate ways. Now he’s back and she’s so tempted to see him again. But two decades have passed and they are both married with children.

And the last thing a celebrity reporter like her needs is the world finding out about her past relationship with a rock star. Especially as Kellie’s husband doesn’t even know she once dated AJ Dangerfield, lead singer of legendary band Danger Game. And she has no intention of him finding out. EVER.

As Kellie deals with a demanding boss, a bullied son, an infuriating mother-in-law and a best friend who won’t act her age, she finds herself playing a dangerous game. What will happen if her two worlds collide? And is it possible that first love never fades?

 

Author interview: Ciara Geraghty

21 Jan

My guest today on One More Page is the lovely Ciara Geraghty. I’m delighted to be hosting the final stop on Ciara’s Now That I’ve Found You blog tour. Ciara is the author of four excellent previous novels, Saving Grace, Becoming Scarlett, Finding Mr Flood and Lifesaving for Beginners and I love the way she writes realistic, funny and quirky characters and stories with so much heart.  She lives in Dublin with her husband, three children and a dog. Welcome Ciara!

Ciara Geraghty ©Doreen Kilfeather

©Doreen Kilfeather

Your new novel, Now That I’ve Found You has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

This book is all about family. Parenthood mostly. Different types of parenthood. Parenting children. And still being a parent when your children are all grown up and your job is done but you just can’t let them go. The main character is Vinnie Boland, a single father who is struggling to raise his teenage daughter and his young son on his own – with insistent help from his elderly mother. He is doing the best he can but remains convinced he’s falling short. Vinnie’s wife – his childhood sweetheart – left the family over a year before the story begins and some part of Vinnie wishes she would come back, if only so he won’t be the only one his children can blame when they get older and realise what a mess he’s made of things. Then he meets Ellen, a reclusive woman who used to be a doctor, who used to have a life and a burgeoning family of her own. One day, Vinnie has a panic attack while he’s driving Ellen to one of her weekly physiotherapy sessions in his taxi and she gets into the driver’s seat and takes him to hospital. It’s the first time Ellen has driven a car since she was involved in a horrific car accident over a year before. This simple act, getting behind the wheel again, releases something in Ellen. The panic attack – its causes and its consequences – forces Vinnie to stop and think about his life. The pair embark on a cautious friendship.

The story is about life and how it throws things at you when you think that it should have stopped that carry on. It’s about second chances, and all the chances after that. It’s about how you should grab them. Expect the worst. And hope for the best.

Vinnie is a taxi driver and meets Ellen as he takes her to her weekly appointments; what’s the most unusual or entertaining taxi ride that you’ve taken?

Possibly the taxi I took to my wedding. Due to an unfortunate series of events, I had to ring a cab company about twenty minutes before the wedding and ask them to come and pick me up from my apartment.

Me: It’s kind of an emergency.

Taxi person: What sort of an emergency?

Me: I’m late for a wedding.

Taxi Person: I’m not sure you could classify that as an emergency, strictly speaking.

Me: Well….it’s my wedding.

Taxi person: Oh.

I was late but only a little…

Little Finn was one of my favourite characters in the book; did you have a favourite to write and if so, why?

I may have a favourite character but it would be like having a favourite child; you could never tell!

Family and parenting is an important theme in the novel; what are your top three parenting tips?

  • If you buy biscuits that you like (eg. ones with chocolate on them) and want to eat at least one of them at some unspecified date in the – near – future – DO NOT store them in an obvious place, eg. the biscuit tin. Hide them. Somewhere obscure, like the bottom of the coal scuttle.
  • I’m afraid it’s true; we all end up saying the things our mothers said to us when we were kids (‘You treat this place like a hotel.’ Sound familiar?) Push aside your initial horror and just go with it, it’s like a parental rite-of-passage. After a while, you won’t even notice…
  • Let your children know how much you love them. Every day. Even the days when they annoy the living daylights out of you. Take a leaf out of Aibileen Clark’s book when she tells little Mae Mobley, in ‘The Help’: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”

What would you like readers to take away fromNow That I’ve Found You?now that vive found you

My mantra when I’m writing is, ‘A good story, well told.’ So I want my readers to feel that they have been told a good tale. I want them to feel satisfied, like the feeling you get when you’ve eaten a decent meal; you’re nicely full but NOT stuffed. You feel warm inside and have had just the right amount of red wine (enough to give you that lovely fizzy feeling but not so much that you’ll hurt in the morning).

Also, when I read a good book, I get sort of ‘flashbacks’ every now and again, sometimes even years later, when I’ll remember one of the characters, something funny or poignant they said or thought, or a particular scene that uprooted me and pulled me into their world. I’d love that to happen to my readers after reading one of my books (although not while they’re operating heavy machinery, obviously!

And finally … what can we expect next from Ciara Geraghty?

I’m working on a new novel. The ‘working title’ is ‘This is Now’ and it centres on the lives of five seemingly unrelated characters. There is [what I hope will be] an ‘explosive’ prologue that involves all the characters (one of them dies!!) and then we go back, to particular incidents in each of the characters’ lives that form them, that make them the people they become. I suppose it’s about how events in your life inform on the person that you eventually become. I’ve always wanted to write a novel like this – different characters, interwoven in some way, to produce a story. Hopefully, this is it!!

Thank you for answering my questions Ciara – the new book sounds brilliant!

Ciara Geraghty’s new novel Now That I’ve Found You is out now published by Hodder & Stoughton, £6.99. Visit Ciara’s website www.ciarageraghty.com or follow her on twitter @ciarageraghty

Giveaway! Three copies of Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye to be won!

15 Jan

Earlier today, I interviewed Vanessa Lafaye about her debut novel, SummertimeTo celebrate the release of this brilliant new book Vanessa’s lovely publisher Orion has given me three hardback copies of the book to give away to lucky readers!

Summertime

Florida, 1935. Heron Key is a small town where the relationships are as tangled as the mangrove roots in the swamp. Everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue, unaware that their world is about to change for ever. Missy, the Kincaid family’s maid and nanny, feels that she has wasted her life pining for Henry, whom she has not seen since he went to fight on the battlefields of France in WWI. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans on a government works project, unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.

When a white woman is found beaten nearly to death in the early hours, suspicion falls on Henry. Old grievances and prejudices threaten to derail the investigation. As the tensions rise, the barometer starts to plummet. The residents think they’re ready, and so do the soldiers. They are wrong. Nothing in their experience could prepare them for what is coming. For far out over the Atlantic, the greatest storm ever to strike North America is heading their way…

 

To enter this giveaway just leave a comment in the box below and I’ll draw three winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Tuesday 20th January.

Good luck!

Author interview: Vanessa Lafaye

15 Jan

I’m very pleased to welcome Vanessa Lafaye to One More Page today and to be celebrating publication day for her debut novel, Summertime – a must read for historical fiction fans! Vanessa was born in Tallahassee and raised in Tampa, Florida, where there were hurricanes most years. She first came to the UK in 1987 looking for adventure, and found it. After spells of living in Paris and Oxford, she now lives in Marlborough, Wiltshire, with her husband and three furry children.  Vanessa leads the local community choir, and music and writing are big parts of her life. Welcome Vanessa!

SummertimeYour debut historical novel, Summertime is released today and covers a little known episode of American history. How did you discover the story and what inspired you to use is as the basis for a novel?

I had not written anything for quite a while, for two reasons: I was discouraged by previous lack of success with other books, and debilitated by cancer treatment.  All this changed on a visit to my family in FL in 2010.  I opened the morning paper to find a long feature article about a horrific lynching in 1935. I thought it was outrageous that no one has ever been prosecuted.  I was taken by the idea of fictionalizing this, although I had never written historical fiction before. When I got back to the UK and started my research, it led by accident to the story of the hurricane and the veterans.  I felt the same sense of outrage but more so.  Although I grew up in FL, I was ignorant of the events, but once I learned about them, I became compelled to dramatise them. I thought it was wrong that so few people knew the story. So really it was all a series of coincidences and random chances, nothing planned about it.  Sort of like the rest of life!

Summertime is based on real events in 1935 and is set in the Florida Keys; how did you go about your location research for the book and what was the most unusual fact that you discovered? 

I relied on my memories of growing up in the 1960s there for a lot of it. Writing it was like taking a trip back to my childhood, except without the domestic comforts.  For the facts of the events and the period, I relied heavily on some excellent non-fiction accounts (referenced in the book), and a lot of good history sites.  I also am privileged to know a great amateur social historian who was a child in rural FL in the 1950s.  He was an amazing source of lore about the food, farming, and culture of the Keys in the 30s. He gave me the recipe for swamp cabbage. I’ve yet to try that out. The most unusual fact was that Florida was the lynching capital of the South in 1935.  I always associated that with states like Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.  I was shocked to find this out about my home state.

How did you choose the title for the novel? Is it based on the song from the same era? 

Yes it is. ‘Summertime’, composed in 1935, is one of my favourite songs.  I wanted the cultural reference to ‘Porgy & Bess’ as well, because it relates so well to the book. The plot loosely follows the song’s lyrics.  I got the idea for Missy’s fate partly from the song.  I also wanted a title which was understated yet evocative, which actively didn’t refer to any of the storm-related drama. Music is a huge part of my life.  I sing in an acapella sextet www.mothersjam.org and am the leader of www.marlboroughcommunitychoir.org, so it was natural to weave some of it into the book.

Nature plays an important part in the story and particularly the immense storm that struck the Keys in July 1935; did you find those scenes difficult to write? 

Yes they were extremely difficult to write.  They took a physical toll on me.  I had to keep stopping to get up, go outside, and breathe towards the end.  However hard it was on me, it was nothing compared to the experience of the people of the time.  I wanted the reader to feel like they had been through the spin cycle on a washing machine, and that’s what the writing did to me too. Cue utter emotional exhaustion.

What drew you to historical fiction as a genre? 

I wasn’t drawn to the genre as such, but to the story.  However, once I began to write, I fell in love with the process of populating a real framework of events with my fictional characters.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but I found it liberating to write around the immovable objects from the historical record.  It also heads off criticism that my story is implausible, if I can prove that the events depicted in the book really happened!

For readers interested in this particular period and story, what further reading would you recommend? 

‘Storm of the Century’ (Willie Drye, National Geographic, Washington, D.C. 2002) is a meticulously researched description of the storm and the investigation which followed.  The author concludes that the veterans were failed by every level of government with responsibility for their wellbeing.  Even if you do not agree with the author’s conclusion, his book is a factual account which reads like a thriller. For a first-hand narrative of what it was like to live in the isolated, rural Keys of the 1930s, you can read hurricane survivor Charlotte Arpin Niedhauk’s ‘Charlotte’s Story’ (Laurel & Herbert , Sugarloaf Key, FL 1973) which depicts every aspect of life during an extraordinary year.   And for a study of violence in the period, see ‘Lynchings: Extralegal Violence in Florida in the 1930s’ (W. Howard, iUniverse 2005).  Finally, everyone interested in this period of Southern history must read Zora Neal Hurston’s ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God’ (Harper Perennial Classics, 2006), which includes a stunning depiction of what it feels like to experience a hurricane.

And finally … what can we expect next from Vanessa Lafaye? 

I’m working on the idea of a prequel, because the back stories of the characters would fill a book in themselves.  But I didn’t write ‘Summertime’ with the intention of doing a prequel, so it’s kind of like driving backwards without mirrors.

Thanks Vanessa and very happy publication day wishes!

Summertime is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Orion.

For more information on Vanessa and her writing visit her website at: https://vanessalafaye.wordpress.com/

Please do stop by again later today when I’ll be launching a fab giveaway to win copies of Summertime.

 

 

Book review: The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

8 Jan

Miss PrimPrudencia Prim is a young woman of intelligence and achievement, with a deep knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she encounters there. Her employer, a book-loving intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a critique of her cherished Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The neighbours, too, are capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the modern world outside.

Prudencia hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn’t suspect that she might find love – nor that the course of her new life would run quite so rocky, would offer challenge and heartache as well as joy, discovery and fireside debate. The Awakening of Miss Prim is a distinctive and delightfully entertaining tale of literature, philosophy and the search for happiness.

I read Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera’s lovely debut during my recent holiday and found it a gentle yet thought provoking read to curl up and escape with. Natalia tells the story of Miss Prim (Prudencia) as she moves to the village of San Ireneo de Arnois to become a librarian to the intriguingly named ‘Man in the Wingchair’. Prudencia’s encounter with ‘the man’ is just the first in a series of entertaining and amusing encounters with the residents of this unique village and I was soon as swept up in the ups and downs of the community and their lives.

Prudencia is certainly a character I won’t forget and as the story progressed and her beliefs, philosophies and practices are challenged on every level, I loved the way that she developed as a character. Miss Prim as her name suggests has a strict moral and social code that she expects herself and others to adhere to and right from the start of the novel confesses that she often feels that she was born out of time, yearning for a gentler pace of life and an escape from the ‘noise’ of modern life.

Which makes her ideally suited to her new role and the village and community that she becomes part of. The author does a brilliant job of creating a village that itself is set apart from the modern world. In San Ireno, the education of children is communal, services and goods are exchanged in harmony and as far as possible residents look after and support each other. I loved the idea of it and found myself wishing I could move there more than once as I read!

My favourite parts of the book were those involving the San Ireneo Feminist League which for many would challenge the definition of a feminist and were entertainingly horrifying to their newest member in their quest to find her a husband! As with many of the scenes in this novel, assumptions are challenged, debate encouraged and the reader left to draw their own conclusions all against a backdrop of civilised tea and cake.

Books and literature form an important part of the novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the debate on the merits of reading Louise May Alcott and Pride and Prejudice. The Man in the Wingchair makes a dashing and challenging male lead and although the romance of the story is subtle throughout, it builds to an unexpected but apt ending. The Awakening of Miss Prim was a lovely start to my new reading year.

The Awakening of Miss Prim is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Abacus.

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

 

New books – January 2015 Hot Picks

4 Jan

Happy New Year! And welcome to a fabulous new reading year. There are lots of excellent new books out to start the year so if you’re holding on to your Christmas book tokens then here’s my ten hot picks for this month to tempt you …

lucy-diamond-untitled-1-978144725778301The Year Of Taking Chances by Lucy Diamond (1st January, Pan Macmillan)

I love Lucy’s books so this is the perfect way to start the year!

Because love is always worth the risk…

It’s New Year’s Eve, and Gemma and Spencer Bailey are throwing a house party. There’s music, dancing, champagne and all their best friends under one roof. It’s going to be a night to remember.

Also at the party is Caitlin, who has returned to the village to pack up her much-missed mum’s house and to figure out what to do with her life; and Saffron, a PR executive who’s keeping a secret which no amount of spin can change. The three women bond over Gemma’s dodgy cocktails and fortune cookies, and vow to make this year their best one yet.

But as the months unfold, Gemma, Saffron and Caitlin find themselves tested to their limits by shocking new developments. Family, love, work, home – all the things they’ve taken for granted are thrown into disarray. Under pressure, they are each forced to rethink their lives and start over. But dare they take a chance on something new?

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin (1st January, Black Swan)rabbit hayes

I’m reading this one now and it’s brilliant, heartbreaking and funny. It’s also just been picked as one of the Richard and Judy Book Club Spring Reads!

Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end …

Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it. She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye. But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen.

Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment.

Miss PrimThe Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (6th January, Abacus)

I read this book over Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it! Look out for my full review later this week.

Prudencia Prim is a young woman of intelligence and achievement, with a deep knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian in the village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she encounters there. Her employer, a book-loving intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a critique of her cherished Jan
e Austen and Louisa May Alcott. The neighbours, too, are capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the modern world outside.

Prudencia hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn’t suspect that she might find love – nor that the course of her new life would run quite so rocky, would offer challenge and heartache as well as joy, discovery and fireside debate. The Awakening of Miss Prim is a distinctive and delightfully entertaining tale of literature, philosophy and the search for happiness.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (15th January, Tor)the-invisible-library-book-one-978144725623601

A fantastic debut filled with books, magic and action packed adventure – highly recommended!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently.

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

SummertimeSummertime by Vanessa Lafaye (15th January, Orion)

If historical fiction is your thing then you’ll definitely want to add Vanessa Lafaye’s debut to your reading list!

Florida, 1935. Heron Key is a small town where the relationships are as tangled as the mangrove roots in the swamp. Everyone is preparing for the 4th of July barbecue, unaware that their world is about to change for ever. Missy, the Kincaid family’s maid and nanny, feels that she has wasted her life pining for Henry, whom she has not seen since he went to fight on the battlefields of France in WWI. Now he has returned with a group of other desperate, destitute veterans on a government works project, unsure of his future, ashamed of his past.

When a white woman is found beaten nearly to death in the early hours, suspicion falls on Henry. Old grievances and prejudices threaten to derail the investigation. As the tensions rise, the barometer starts to plummet. The residents think they’re ready, and so do the soldiers. They are wrong. Nothing in their experience could prepare them for what is coming. For far out over the Atlantic, the greatest storm ever to strike North America is heading their way…

Mobile Library by David Whitehouse (15th January, Picador)mobile library

I love books about books so this one is a must read for me!

Twelve-year-old Bobby Nusku is an archivist of his mother. He catalogues traces of her life and waits for her to return home.

Bobby thinks that he’s been left to face the world alone until he meets lonely single mother Val and her daughter Rosa. They spend a magical summer together, discovering the books in the mobile library where Val works as a cleaner. But as the summer draws to a close, Bobby finds himself in trouble and Val is in danger of losing her job. There’s only one thing to do — and so they take to the road in the mobile library…

Quirky, dark, magical and full of heart, Mobile Library is both a tragicomic road trip and a celebration of the adventures that books can take us on. It’s a love-letter to unlikely families and the stories that shaped us.

now that vive found youNow That I’ve Found You by Ciara Geraghty (15th January, Hodder)

I’m a big fan of Ciara’s books and this new one is no exception! Look out for my stop on her blog tour later this month.

Vinnie is an ordinary man. Ellen is an ordinary woman.

Ellen is unable to move on after a terrible accident that left her mentally and physically scarred.

Taxi driver Vinnie is struggling to cope with bringing up two children on his own.

Everyone deserves to find that one person who’s meant for them, don’t they?

Fall in love with the story of Vinnie and Ellen. Because ordinary lives can be extraordinary.

Frostfire by Amanda Hocking (15th January, Tor) Frostfire-by-Amanda-Hocking-393x600

I enjoyed Amanda Hocking’s Trylle trilogy so I’m excited to read this new series set in the same world.

Will she give up her dream to follow her heart?

Bryn Aven is determined to gain status amongst the Kanin, the most powerful of the hidden tribes. But as a half-blood, winning respect is a huge challenge. Bryn’s almost-human community distrusts people, and those from other tribes are almost as suspect.

She has just one goal to get ahead: to join the elite guard protecting the Kanin royal family. And Bryn’s vowed that nothing will stand in her way, not even a forbidden romance with her boss, Ridley Dresden.

But her plans are put on hold when fallen hero Konstantin starts acting dangerously. Bryn loved him once, but now he’s kidnapping Kanin children – stealing them from hidden placements within human families. She’s sent to help stop him, but will she lose her heart in the process?

first frostFirst Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (29th Janury, Hodder)

I’m such a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen’s books and so excited that she’s written a sequel to Garden Spells – if you haven’t read it yet, there’s still plenty of time to read or re-read before First Frost s published at the end of the month!

Autumn has finally arrived in the small town of Bascom, North Carolina, heralded by a strange old man appearing with a beaten-up suitcase. He has stories to tell, stories that could change the lives of the Waverley women forever. But the Waverleys have enough trouble on their hands. Quiet Claire Waverley has started a successful new venture, Waverley’s Candies, but it’s nothing like she thought it would be, and it’s slowly taking over her life. Claire’s wild sister Sydney, still trying to leave her past behind, is about to combust with her desire for another new beginning. And Sydney’s fifteen-year-old daughter Bay has given her heart away to the wrong boy and can’t get it back.

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith (29th January, The Borough Press)landa and sea

I’m always attracted to books about the sea so couldn’t resist adding this to my list.

August, 1793. On the hot, humid coast of North Carolina nine-year-old Tabitha fills her pockets with fish bones and shells, to bring the ocean back to her room. The act, perhaps, of a child conceived at sea.

At night young Tab sits with her father by the shore to hear stories of her mother Helen, the pull of the ocean born into them both. John longs to sail the sea as he did before the war, but knows he must stay on steady land for his daughter. But when Tab catches yellow fever John turns to what he knows, and steals her onto a boat bound for Bermuda in the hope the sea air will cure, as Tab’s precious life hangs in the balance.

The same coast twenty years earlier, and Helen is given a slave girl for her tenth birthday. Moll’s arrival is intended to teach Helen discipline but soon the girls are confidantes, an unlikely alliance. It’s an enduring friendship until the arrival of John, a pirate turned soldier. And as the town is threatened in the dying embers of the Revolution, Helen must decide between a life of security on the family plantation and a sea adventure with the man she loves.

 

So there you have it – my first hot picks for the year. What’s on your must read list for January?