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Books and the City Spring Blogger Evening!

10 Feb

spring blogger

Last week I was lucky to be invited to the Books and the City Spring Blogger Evening at publisher Simon and Schuster. These eveningsIMG_7258 are always brilliant  thanks to the lovely Sara-Jade Virtue and the rest of the team, and this one was no exception (check out the cakes!).

There were four author’s on the panel and another two authors joined them at the event. The super six were: Alice Peterson, Dani Atkins, Milly Johnson, Kate Furnivall, Juliet Ashton and Sarah Vaughan. It was lovely to hear them read from their laIMG_7256test books and to hear a little about them and how they go about writing the books that we love!

 

The evening ended with lots of book talk with fellow bloggers, a signing, more cake and a treat-packed goody bag!

Here are the fab books that you can look forward to this spring from Simon and Schuster.

song for tomorrowA Song for Tomorrow by Alice Peterson – out now!

This book is hot off the press as it was released yesterday! Alice’s books are always emotional and poignant reads and this one is no exception – based on a true story.

Tom fell in love with Alice the moment he saw her. He realises that being with her will not be easy, but she is a force of nature, a burst of sunlight in his otherwise ordinary world. 
 
Some people might look at Alice and think she has everything, but Alice knows she is not like other women. Her life is complicated, unpredictable, difficult. Alice does not like pity. All she wants to do, has ever wanted to do, is sing.

Alice has been told not to follow her dreams. So has Tom. But when fate has already dealt a tough hand, it’s time to stop listening to everyone else and only follow their hearts.

The Liberation by Kate Furnival – out nowthe liberation

Look out for Kate’s next novel, The Betrayal too which will be out in November!

The Liberation is set in Italy in 1945 as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated country and Italy’s population fights to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her father is dead, her mother has disappeared and her brother is being drawn towards danger. One morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, Caterina is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her own life and in doing so forges a future in which she must clear her father’s name. An Allied Army officer accuses him of treason and Caterina discovers a plot against her family. Who can she trust and who is the real enemy now? And will the secrets of the past be her downfall?

Orange Blosson Days by Patricia Scanlan – 9th March

I’m typing this in cold, grey, wet England – how I wish I could jump into this cover! Patricia’s beautifully titled new book will be out in hardback on 9th March.

orange blossomIn a beautiful southern Spanish town, where the sea sparkles and orange blossoms scent the air, the gates of a brand new apartment complex, La Joya deAndalucía, glide open to welcome the new owners.

Anna and Austen MacDonald, an Irish couple, are preparing to enjoy their retirement to the full. But the demands of family cause problems they have never foreseen and shake their marriage to the core.

Sally-Ann Connolly Cooper, a feisty Texan mother of two young teenagers, is reeling from her husband’s infidelity. La Joya becomes a place of solace for Sally-Ann, in more ways than one.

Eduardo Sanchez, a haughty Madrileño, has set out with single-minded determination to become El Presidente of the complex’s management committee. But pride comes before a fall.

Jutta Sauer Perez, a sophisticated German who aspires to own her very own apartment in La Joya, works hard to reach her goal. Then the unthinkable happens.

As their lives entwine and friendships and enmities develop, it becomes apparent that La Joya is not quite the haven they all expect it to be…

this loveThis Love by Dani Atkins – 23rd March

I loved Dani’s last novel, Our Song and I can’t wait to read This Love!

Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon – she’s a single, thirty-one year old translator who works from home in her one bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in happy endings a very long time ago, when she was fifteen years old and tragedy struck her family. Her grief has left her scared of commitment and completely risk averse, so she plays it safe and keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.

One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a random passer-by, Ben, luckily happens to spot and rescue her. Suddenly her cocoon is shattered – what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event?

woman at number 24The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton – 20th April

The cover for this book has just been revealed – isn’t it fab?

Welcome to number 24, a Georgian villa in west London that is home to five separate families and five very different lives.

Up in the eaves, Sarah finds that recovering from a nasty divorce is even more heartbreaking when your ex-husband lives one floor beneath you with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her. A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?

The Spring brings a new couple to number 24. Jane and Tom’s zest for life revives the flagging house, and Sarah can’t deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she’ll never act on it … but the air fizzes with potential.

The sunshine doesn’t reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She’s about to find out that she can’t hide forever.

Love, rivalry, secrets and murder – all under one seemingly ordinary roof ….

queen of wishfulThe Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson – 4th May

This sounds like another treat of a book from Milly – add it to your wish lists now!

When Lewis Harley has a health scare in his early forties, he takes it as a wake-up call. So he and his  wife Charlotte leave behind life in the fast lane and Lewis opens the antique shop he has dreamed of. Bonnie Brookland was brought up in the antiques trade and now works for the man who bought out her father’s business, but she isn’t happy there. So when she walks into Lew’s shop, she knows this is the place for her.

As Bonnie and Lew start to work together, they soon realise that there is more to their relationship than either thought. But Bonnie is trapped in an unhappy marriage, and Lew and Charlotte have more problems than they care to admit. Each has secrets in their past which are about to be uncovered. Can they find the happiness they both deserve?

last pieceThe Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon – 18th May

I’m a massive fan of Paige’s books and have read them all so I can’t wait to read this one!

Meet Bridget, a successful travel journalist with ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog into a novel. But, after numerous rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition: Nicole Dupre died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel, and the family need someone to finish it. Bridget is just thankful to have her foot in the publishing door. But as she gets to know Nicole’s grieving family, and the woman behind the writing, Bridget’s priorities begin to change …

Which of these are you looking forward to reading this spring? Find out more about the books featured here and lots of other lovely reads on the Books and the City site at: http://booksandthecity.co.uk/

Book review: The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey

12 Jan

stolen childSt Brigid’s is a remote island off the west coast of Ireland. It is a barren place and its small community is dwindling. But according to rumour it is a magical place, home to a healing well.

Two sisters, Rose and Emer, have resisted the call of the mainland. Rose is beautiful, blessed with love and many children. Emer is unlovely and, worse still, she is cursed by the strange currents that run through her fingers.

When a dazzling stranger alights on St Brigid’s, she is shunned. She has come in search of a miracle, and the islanders keep their secrets close. But gradually she insinuates her way into the sisters’ lives, and even Emer opens her heart.

Little do they realise that her quest will endanger the lives of all who remain on the island. Passion will endanger everything they hold dear.

Stories that blur the lines between worlds always intrigue me and I was initially drawn to read The Stolen Child by the elements of magic and mystery in it. This is a captivating story that moves seamlessly between the harsh realities of  life on a tiny island off the coast of Ireland and the legends, superstitions, customs and varied beliefs of its inhabitants. The two elements create a story that is equal parts fable, fairytale, mystery and romance and as soon as I started reading I was captivated.

The Stolen Child stands out as original, heartfelt and beautifully written. The story opens with a prologue set in May 1960 as the occupants of St Brigid’s Island are about to leave their homes for the final time to be evacuated to a bright new housing estate on the mainland. In this short prologue we are introduced to the history and geography of the island and to sisters Rose and Emer, a pair who contrast as only sisters can in both looks and temperament. The story then steps back to explain the events of the last year on the island that have led to the evacuation starting with the arrival of the island’s namesake, American, Brigid.

Brigid and Emer are the leads of the story and their relationship is the catalyst for the events that take place throughout the year. Both are fascinating characters and I enjoyed finding out about their individual histories, experiences and motivations as I read. Chapters in the novel’s present (1959) are interspersed by flash backs to both Brigid and Emer and Rose’s childhoods and I enjoyed how Lisa slowly revealed the events that had made them the women they are when they meet.

Entwined in their stories are legends, fables and stories told to them by their mothers and passed down through generations. Lisa Carey cleverly mixes the fact with the fable and superstition to create a story that is part dark fairytale, part history and part heartbreaking truth. I was struck by Lisa’s wonderful and honest words on motherhood and the bonds that mothers can have with their children. This is a book that examines all aspects of parenthood and particularly motherhood from those abundantly blessed to those who part with their children and those who desperately want a child and are unable. Brigid’s and Emer’s stories took me through the full cycle of emotions as I read.

And as individual stories play out there’s a bigger story taking form in the looming change to the islanders lives. Carey was inspired to write The Stolen Child by the story of the evacuation of the island Inishark and she beautifully captures the highs and lows of living in an inhospitable place where residents are at the mercy of the weather and have no means of communicating with the mainland – even in an emergency. Situations which come to life in beautiful shows of community and celebration but also stark horror during the story.

A magical, thoughtful and impactful read that introduced me to a wonderful new author. I’m looking forward to discovering Lisa Carey’s previous novels in future.

4/5

The Stolen Child is released today (12th January) in hardback and ebook formats published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

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

Find out more about Lisa and her writing at: http://www.lisacareybooks.com/

Five fab festive audiobooks (so you can ‘read’ whilst wrapping!)

15 Dec

2016 was the year that I got into audiobooks and now that I’ve discovered crochet my audiobooks are keeping me ‘reading’ while I work on my projects.

Audiobooks are great for keeping you company in the car or making repetitive tasks more interesting – I’m loving listening to Christmas stories while I wrap presents this year so here are my suggestions for a festive audio treat. I use Audible but other audiobooks are available.

christmas feastA Christmas Feast and other stories by Katie Fforde

Katie’s Christmas short stories are always favourites of mine so I was excited to see that they’d been brought together in a lovely festive collection and even happier that I can now listen to them!

A delicious Christmas feast of short stories from the Sunday Times number one best-selling author of A French Affair and The Perfect Match.

Add some extra sparkle to your Christmas by joining Katie Fforde for a perfect romantic Christmas feast of short stories. Collected together for the first time and including one brand-new story. Make your Christmas wishes come true….

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore Narrated by: Jeff Bridgesnight before

This is only short but its lovely and Jeff Bridges has the perfect voice for it! My sons both love this story/poem and we’ve been listening to it at bedtime in the run up to Christmas.

Academy Award Winner Jeff Bridges’ iconic voice brings the beloved holiday classic story “The Night Before Christmas” to life.

Celebrate the holiday season with the only audiobook of “The Night Before Christmas”, read by Jeff Bridges. No other narrator brings Santa and these merry scenes to life quite like Mr. Bridges – it’s an instant Christmas classic! Create a new family tradition as you add this audiobook to your holiday activities leading up to December 25th.

xmas factor audioThe Xmas Factor by Annie Sanders

This is my all time favourite Christmas book so it’s lovely to have an audio version too. You can read my review here: http://www.onemorepage.co.uk/?p=1872

Meet two women with two totally different approaches to the festive season. Beth: it’s only September and already she has performance anxiety. Not surprising when she has agreed to lay on the annual Christmas Eve village bash – the piece de resistance of her husband’s former wife – not to mention having to host Christmas for his difficult offspring. New to this frenzied build-up to the festivities, Beth begins to lose sight of what it all means. To her the Christmas lights are looking more like the headlamps of an oncoming train. Carol: glamorous magazine editor, who put her aspirational Christmas issue to bed sometime in July and is so involved in finding a scoop to save her ailing magazine that she fails to notice the impending festive rush. Panicked and wracked with guilt, she is determined to make it a picture perfect time for her little boy and, opting for convenience, books a lovely-sounding cottage in a quaint village. Even the best laid plans have a habit of unravelling – and no plan at all is a recipe for disaster. So when these two Christmases collide, it looks like it’s going to be anything but goodwill towards men…

christmas carolA Christmas Carol: An Audible Original Drama by Charles Dickens

This Christmas Classic narrated by a sparking star cast has just been released by Audible and if you’re a member it’s free to download at the moment!

Jenna Coleman, Miriam Margolyes, Derek Jacobi, Brendan Coyle and Roger Allam are amongst the celebrity voices coming together this Christmas in a brand new multi-cast dramatization of Charles Dickens’ ghostly Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol.

letters from fatherLetters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien Narrated by: Derek Jacobi

Another lovely listen for all ages with beautiful narration and music.

Can you imagine writing to Father Christmas and actually getting a reply?

 Every year, the children of J.R.R. Tolkien would write to Father Christmas, and the letters they received told wonderful stories of his adventures at the North Pole.

These humorous tales are brought to life by Derek Jacobi as Father Christmas, John Moffatt as Polar Bear, and Christian Rodska as Ilbereth the Elf, complete with specially composed music.

Do let me know what your favourite Christmas stories to listen to are – I’d love to add to my collection!

Happy listening!

 

Book review: Owl Song At Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney

6 Jul

9781785079672Maeve Maloney is a force to be reckoned with. Despite nearing eighty, she keeps Sea View Lodge just as her parents did during Morecambe’s 1950s heyday. But now only her employees and regular guests recognise the tenderness and heartbreak hidden beneath her spikiness.

Until, that is, Vincent shows up. Vincent is the last person Maeve wants to see. He is the only man alive to have known her twin sister, Edie. The nightingale to Maeve’s crow, the dawn to Maeve’s dusk, Edie would have set her sights on the stage all things being equal. But, from birth, things never were.

If only Maeve could confront the secret past she shares with Vincent, she might finally see what it means to love and be loved a lesson that her exuberant yet inexplicable twin may have been trying to teach her all along.

Owl Song At Dawn is a beautifully written, memorable novel that manages to be heartbreaking yet uplifting, sad and funny, shocking in the cruelties noted but surprising and hopeful too. I was initially drawn to this book by the beautiful cover and intrigued by the story that might lay within. Maeve’s story soon captured me and I was gripped as Maeve’s past and present and the story of her sister Edie, who had severe learning difficulties, played out.

Maeve is a lovely character full of contradictions. Outwardly quite blunt and spiky, Maeve’s grumpy old lady  persona hides a lifetime of loss and sadness but you don’t have to look far beneath the surface to see that Maeve has a heart of gold. I had nothing but admiration for Maeve as I read. At almost eighty she’s still running the Sea View Lodge in Morcombe with a wonderfully quirky cast of characters to help her. Maeve’s guesthouse is a little different in that she specialises in accommodating guests that have learning difficulties or disabilities, in particular two of the key characters in the novel Steph and Len, both of whom have Down’s Syndrome.

The book is narrated by Maeve in the present with flashbacks to her earlier years that slowly build the story of hers and Edie’s past. The book is cleverly constructed to keep the reader guessing at a number of mysteries and also to provide stark contrasts between the post-war years and now in the treatment of individuals with learning difficulties. The chapters are studded with official correspondence, personal letters and medical reports about Edie and the treatment of disabled individuals in this period shocked me as Edie and Maeve’s parents fight to love and keep both their daughters in their care.

Love is a key theme in the story and Emma makes a subtle but important point about personal and society’s assumptions about romantic love and companionship and about sometimes not being able to see what’s right in front of our eyes. Similarly, parental love is a key theme with Steph and Len’s relationships with their parents providing sharp contrast to the trials of Edie and Maeve’s parents.

Owl Song At Dawn is an original and thought-provoking debut that is readable and engaging whilst packing a punch and making an important point about past regrets, love and living with differences whatever they might be. I will look forward to reading more from Emma Claire Sweeney.

5/5

Owl Song At Dawn is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Legend Press.

Find out more about Emma Claire Sweeney and her writing at: https://emmaclairesweeney.com/

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

 

 

April 2016 new releases – hot picks!

3 Apr

So, March was the month where we all took it in turns to be ill in our little family so I didn’t get as much reading or blogging done as I’d hoped. But with a sunny new month comes a fresh start and I’m very excited about the April new releases. Here are the ten books I’m hoping to read this month.

head over heelsHead Over Heels (Geek Girl Book 5) by Holly Smale (HarperCollins Children’s Books) April 7th

I’m such a big fan of Holly Smale’s Geek Girl Series I’m currently halfway through this book and think it’s the best yet!

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I will always be a geek.”

The fifth book in the bestselling, award-winning GEEK GIRL series.

Harriet Manners knows almost every fact there is.

She knows duck-billed platypuses don’t have stomachs.
She knows that fourteen squirrels were once detained as spies.
She knows that both chess and snakes and ladders were invented in the same country.

And for once, Harriet knows exactly how her life should go. She’s got it ALL planned out. So her friends seem less than happy, Harriet is determined to Make Things Happen!
If only everyone else would stick to the script…

But is following the rules going to break hearts for GEEK GIRL?

Who’s That Girl by Mhairi McFarlane (HarperCollins) 7th Aprilwho's that girl

Another fab read from the author of the bestselling You Had Me At Hello. The hardback has a beautiful pearly cover and this is a story that will make you giggle!

When Edie is caught in a compromising position at her colleagues’ wedding, all the blame falls on her – turns out that personal popularity in the office is not that different from your schooldays. Shamed online and ostracised by everyone she knows, Edie’s forced to take an extended sabbatical – ghostwriting an autobiography for hot new acting talent, Elliot Owen. Easy, right?

Wrong. Banished back to her home town of Nottingham, Edie is not only dealing with a man who probably hasn’t heard the word ‘no’ in a decade, but also suffering an excruciating regression to her teenage years as she moves back in with her widowed father and judgy, layabout sister.

When the world is asking who you are, it’s hard not to question yourself. Who’s that girl? Edie is ready to find out.

passengerPassenger by Alexandra Bracken (Quercus Children’s Books) 7th April. 

I’m so excited about getting my hands on this book having seen the great reviews from the US release. I love books with a travel theme and this one has the added bonus of another favourite theme of mine – time travel!

New York City, present day

In one night, Etta Spencer is wrenched from everything she knows and loves. Thrown into an unfamiliar world, she can be certain of only one thing: she has travelled not just miles, but years from home.

The Atlantic, 1776

Captain Nicholas Carter is tasked with delivering Etta to the dangerous Ironwood family. They are searching for something – a stolen object they believe only she can reclaim. But Nicholas is drawn to his mysterious passenger, and the closer he gets to her, the further he is from freedom.

The Edges of the World

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey
across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by a desperate thief. But as Etta plays deeper into the Ironwoods’ game, treacherous forces threaten to separate her not only from Nicholas, but from her path home – for ever.

The Map of Bones (Fire Sermon Book 2) by Francesca Haig (Harper Voyager) April 7thmap of bones

Having loved The Fire Sermon, I’ve been eagerly anticipating book two in the series! Do check out the blog tour and look out for my stop on 9th April!

The second book in Francesca Haig’s critically acclaimed debut fantasy series.

The ashes of the past cannot hide the truth forever.

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.

these days of oursThese Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton (Simon and Schuster) April 7th

I heard Juliet read from this novel at the recent Simon and Schuster Spring Blogger event and I can’t wait to hear more!

A novel about love. Raw important love. Small, beautiful love. And what happens when the person you love cannot be yours… Perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman, Jane Green and David Nicholls.
 
Kate and Becca are cousins and best friends. They have grown up together and shared all the most important milestones in their lives: childhood birthday parties, eighteenth birthdays, and now a wedding day as they each marry their childhood sweethearts, Charlie and Julian.
 
Kate has always loved Charlie – they were meant to be. Then she discovers that life never turns out quite how you expect it to. And love doesn’t always follow the journey it should.
 
But best friends are forever, and true love will find a way, won’t it…?

The Keepers: Ethan by Rae Rivers (HarperImpulse) April 7thEthan Cover

Rae was one of the very first authors I read from HarperImpulse and I’ve been hooked on her Keepers Series ever since. It’s finally Ethan’s turn in the spotlight and it’s a sizzling read!

“Going to Ameera to find Hazel. Stealing the spell … You think you can pull it off?” he asked.
She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.
Just as she thought he’d kiss her, he reached for her jacket and said, “Then let’s go.”

A portal to another world has opened, unleashing dangerous creatures on earth. A dark witch is out for revenge. The stakes are high, a war inevitable.

One person can stop the madness. Jenna. She’s a Keeper to a powerful hybrid witch but she harbours a secret and if Jenna steps through the portal – seduced by the whispers of her hidden past – she may never return.

Fortunately, she has company… infamous Bennett brother and fiercely protective Keeper, Ethan. Their whip-cracking banter makes them perfect sparring partners in training, but how will they manage when their lives and everything they were born to defend are on the line?

When the battle lines are drawn, will Jenna and Ethan stand side by side – as friends, protectors, lovers … or as traitors?

the obsessionThe Obsession by Nora Roberts (Piatkus) April 14th

I do love Nora Roberts! I actually squealed when the proof of this book was delivered!

Naomi Carson is a survivor. As a child, her family was torn apart by a shocking crime. It could have destroyed her, but Naomi has grown up strong, with a passion for photography that has taken her all around the world.

Now, at last, she has decided to put down roots. The beautiful old house on Point Bluff needs work, but Naomi has new friends in town who are willing to help, including Xander Keaton – gorgeous, infuriating and determined to win her heart.

But as Naomi plans for the future, her past is catching up with her. Someone in town knows her terrifying secret – and won’t let her forget it. As her new home is rocked by violence, Naomi must discover her persecutor’s identity, before it’s too late.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Borough Press) April 21st eligible

A favourite author taking on one of my favourite books – I can’t wait to see how the two come together!

From the bestselling author of Prep, American Wife and Sisterland comes this brilliant retelling of Austen’s classic set in modern day Cincinnati.

The Bennet sisters have been summoned from New York City.

Liz and Jane are good daughters. They’ve come home to suburban Cincinnati to get their mother to stop feeding their father steak as he recovers from heart surgery, to tidy up the crumbling Tudor-style family home, and to wrench their three sisters from their various states of arrested development.

Once they are under the same roof, old patterns return fast. Soon enough they are being berated for their single status, their only respite the early morning runs they escape on together. For two successful women in their late thirties, it really is too much to bear. That is, until the Lucas family’s BBQ throws them in the way of some eligible single men . . .

Chip Bingley is not only a charming doctor, he’s a reality TV star too. But Chip’s friend, haughty neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy, can barely stomach Cincinnati or its inhabitants. Jane is entranced by Chip; Liz, sceptical of Darcy. As Liz is consumed by her father’s mounting medical bills, her wayward sisters and Cousin Willie trying to stick his tongue down her throat, it isn’t only the local chilli that will leave a bad aftertaste.

But where there are hearts that beat and mothers that push, the mysterious course of love will resolve itself in the most entertaining and unlikely of ways. And from the hand of Curtis Sittenfeld, Pride & Prejudice is catapulted into our modern world singing out with hilarity and truth.

steeple streetThe Nurses of Steeple Street by Donna Douglas (Arrow) April 21st

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Donna’s previous Nightingales nursing series so I’m really looking forward to this book which starts a completely new series. And it’s set in Yorkshire – yay!

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?

The Assistants by Camille Perri (Corgi) April 21stthe assistants

I’m looking forward to discovering a new author with this debut. There’s a fab quote from  Paige Toon on the front cover –  an excellent endorsement!

Behind every successful man is a busy assistant and Tina’s boss is very successful.

But Tina is tired of being overworked and underpaid.
She’s bored of her damp flat and her mounting debts.
Then a blip in the expenses system sends Tina a cheque.
She’s a good person.
But she’s desperate.
This isn’t stealing.
It’s an administrative error.
Right?

What would you do if you thought you’d get away with it?

 


What are you looking forward to reading this month?

The One Where I Join A Book Club!

11 Mar

I’ve always wanted to be part of a real life book club so when a friend who lives round the corner suggested setting one up with some of the other mums from school, I jumped at the chance. Last night was the first meeting of the book (wine and cake) club and it was a resounding success! There are thirteen of us, so quite a big group and plenty of opportunity for discussion!

As last night was our first get together we hadn’t read a book in preparation but everyone had been tasked to bring one book suggestion with them. We all wrote the name and author on a piece of paper and put them in a hat. We drew them out to get an order and now have at least a year’s worth of reading to look forward to as we’re aiming to meet every 5-6 weeks.

I was really intrigued to see what our reading list would be and spent quite a while trying to decide on a title to throw into the hat! I’m really excited about the final list and of the 13 books on it I’ve only read two already! I’m looking forward to discovering new books and authors as the year goes on and getting to discuss them with friends. As we read the books below I’ll try to summarise the thoughts of the group!

Our reading list is:

  1. The Green Road by Anne Enright
  2. Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
  3. The Blue by Lucy Clarke
  4. The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
  5. The Stranger by Harlen Coben
  6. Us by David Nicholls
  7. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
  8. A Little Life by Hanya Yanaginera
  9. The Secret History by Donna Tart
  10. The Actual One by Isy Suttie
  11. The Tea Planter’s Wife by Dinah Jefferies
  12. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
  13. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Have you read any of these? Are you part of a book group and how does it work?

Book review: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell

3 Mar

madwomanThink you know Charlotte, Emily & Anne? Think again.

Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendant of the illustrious Brontë family, of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre fame. After losing her father, a brilliant author in his own right, it is up to Samantha to piece together the mysterious family inheritance lurking somewhere in her past – yet the only clues she has at her disposal are the Brontë’s own novels.

With the aid of her handsome but inscrutable Oxford tutor, Samantha must repurpose the tools of literature to unearth an untold family legacy, and in the process, finds herself face to face with what may be literature’s greatest secret.

The Madwoman Upstairs tells the story of Samantha Wipple, the last surviving relative of the Bronte family as she moves to Oxford to begin her studies at Old College. I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from this book; my own reading relationship with the Brontes is a little fraught.  I’m more of an Austen girl so I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book and how my interest in Anne, Charlotte and Emily was piqued. It’s certainly made me want to pick up their books again.

There’s a wonderfully gothic feeling of mystery to The Madwoman Upstairs; Samantha finds her self living in a dark tower, attending tutorials with her tall dark and rather handsome professor in his library. Having lived and worked in Oxford I thought Catherine Lowell perfectly captured the wonderful mix of traditional and modern, taking a tongue in cheek look at academia, literary criticism and the Bronte novels.

Lowell’s sense of humour is witty and her literary knowledge fascinating. This is a novel that sees her moving from debating the correct way to read a novel and how to decide the meaning of a book to her main character marveling at her tutors biceps within the space of a page. Samantha is a wonderful mix of wise and principled, naive and American. This mix provides for a lot of the clever humour in the book and I found myself smiling a lot as I read.

Sam has grown up with the world thinking that her family are the custodians of a secret wealth of hidden Bronte treasures. To this point in her life Sam has dismissed this as nonsense but then she starts to receive surprise parcels with a link to her dead father and together with her Tutor James she sets out to try to solve the mystery. I loved the dialogue between Samantha and James – their Tutorial conversations are brilliant and there’s a wonderful underlying romantic tension between them.

As Sam works to solve the puzzle she’s been set she also begins to uncover the details of her immediate family and to find out about her mysterious Father’s own past. With reflections on history, women writers, art and scholarship, the debates in this book kept me thinking. Romantic, mysterious and fun, The Madwoman Upstairs is a fab debut and a must read for literature lovers.

4/5

The Madwoman Upstairs is released today by Quercus and is available in hardback and ebook formats.

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

March 2016 new releases – hot picks!

1 Mar

Here are my ten books to look out for this month:

Plumberry-Part-1-430x669The Plumberry School of Comfort Food Part One: Food, Glorious Food by Cathy Bramley (Transworld March 3rd)

I can’t wait for this to download onto my e-reader on Thursday – guaranteed to be another delicious read from Cathy!

Verity Bloom hasn’t been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend is about to land her right back in the heart of the kitchen! The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks’ time and has rather gone off the boil. It needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up . . .

But as Verity tries to balance stirring up publicity, keeping their top chef sweet and soothing her aching heart, will her move to Plumberry prove to be a sheer delight . . . or a recipe for disaster?

Vigilante by Shelley Harris (W&N March 3rd )vigilante

I love the sound of this book – perfect reading for Mother’s Day on Sunday :-)

For Jenny Pepper, housewife, charity bookshop worker and mum to a stroppy teen, life has become a little boring. She was once an actress, but now spends every day tidying up after other people.

Then, on her way to a party one night, Jenny bravely steps in to save a woman in trouble. Suddenly her world is exciting again – and she’s a hero. As she starts patrolling the streets of her small town, she feels more alive than she has in years. But when a real villain appears, Jenny’s daughter is in danger. Will she tell the police what she knows or go it alone and risk losing everything?

VIGILANTE is about an ordinary woman stuck in a rut – and the extraordinary lengths she’ll go to recapture her life.

madwomanThe Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell (Quercus, March 3rd)

A must read for fans of books, literature and of course, the Bronte sisters – look out for my review on publication day!

Think you know Charlotte, Emily & Anne? Think again. Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendent of the illustrious Brontë family, of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre fame. After losing her father, a brilliant author in his own right, it is up to Samantha to piece together the mysterious family inheritance lurking somewhere in her past – yet the only clues she has at her disposal are the Brontë’s own novels. With the aid of her handsome but inscrutable Oxford tutor, Samantha must repurpose the tools of literature to unearth an untold family legacy, and in the process, finds herself face to face with what may be literature’s greatest secret.

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (Macmillan Children’s Books, March 10th)the thing about jellyfish

This sounds like a wonderfully quirky and poignant read and what a beautiful cover.

It’s peculiar how no-words can be better than words. How silence can say more than noise, or a person’s absence can occupy even more space than their presence did.

Suzy is 12 when her best friend, Franny, drowns one summer at the beach. It takes two days for the news to reach Suzy, and it’s not something that she can accept: Franny has always been a strong swimmer, from the day they met in swim class when they were just 5. How can someone all of a sudden, just no longer be there?

Suzy realizes that they must have got it wrong: Franny didn’t just drown – she was stung by a poisonous jellyfish. This makes a lot more sense to Suzy’s logical mind than a random drowning – cause: a jellyfish sting; effect: death.

Suzy’s journey to acceptance is quiet – she resolves to either say something important, or say nothing at all. But it’s also bursting with bittersweet humour, heart-breaking honesty, big ideas and small details.

song-of-the-skylark-326Song of the Skylark by Erica James (Orion, 10th March)

This is Erica’s twentieth novel – look out for my stop on her special celebratory blog tour later in the month.

Lizzie has always had an unfortunate knack of attracting bad luck, but this time she’s hit the jackpot. Losing her heart to her boss leads to her losing her job, and with no money in the bank, Lizzie finds herself forced to move back home with her parents. When she reluctantly takes another job, she meets Mrs Dallimore, a seemingly ordinary elderly woman with an astonishing past . . .

Now in her nineties, Mrs Dallimore is also coming to terms with her situation. Old age is finally catching up with her. As she and Lizzie form the bond of unexpected friendship, Mrs Dallimore tells the story of a young girl who left America before the outbreak of World War Two and, in crossing an ocean, found herself embarking on a new life she couldn’t have imagined.

As Lizzie listens to Mrs Dallimore, she begins to realise that she’s not the only person to attract bad luck, and that sometimes life has a way of surprising you .

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell (W&N 10th March)the ship

I love the paperback cover for this book – it’s so striking and the premise has me very intrigued!

Welcome to London, but not as you know it. Oxford Street burned for three weeks; Regent’s Park has been bombed; the British Museum is occupied by those with nowhere else to go.

Lalla has grown up sheltered from the chaos, but now she’s sixteen, her father decides it’s time to use their escape route – a ship big enough to save five hundred people. Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla’s unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want? What is the price of salvation?

bucket listThe Bucket List To Mend A Broken Heart by Anna Bell (Zaffre Publishing, 10th March)

This sounds like such a fun romantic comedy read.

Abi’s barely left her bed since Joseph, the love of her life, dumped her, saying they were incompatible. When Joseph leaves a box of her possessions on her doorstep, she finds a bucket list of ten things she never knew he wanted to do. What better way to win him back than by completing the list, and proving they’re a perfect match? But there’s just one problem – or rather, ten. Abi’s not exactly the outdoorsy type, and she’s absolutely terrified of heights – not ideal for a list that includes climbing a mountain, cycling around the Isle of Wight and, last but not least, abseiling down the tallest building in town …Completing the list is going to need all Abi’s courage – and a lot of help from her friends. But as she heals her broken heart one task at a time, the newly confident Abi might just have a surprise in store …

A Girl’s Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber (Arrow, 10th March)moving on

A new Debbie Macomber book is always a treat and I’m looking forward to reading this one!

How do you move on after your life has fallen apart?

When Leanne and her daughter-in-law Nichole went through divorces at the same time, they compiled a list to help them move on from the heartbreak. Now, two years on, these unlikely best friends have managed to pick up the pieces, and love is on the cards for both of them.

Leanne’s friendship with Nikolai, one of her language students, has deepened into something more meaningful. And Nichole has finally allowed herself to trust a man again. Rocco is the complete opposite of her ex-husband, and though he’s a little rough around the edges, he has a heart of gold.

But just when it seems they’ve figured it all out, life throws up more challenges, putting their hard-won contentment at risk…

Summer Nights at the Moonlight Hotel by Jane Costello (Simon and Schuster, 24th March)

Dancing and moonlight and love and romance – I’m so looking forward to reading this book!

Learn to dance at The Moonlight Hotel, in the most romantic place in Britain…Beginners and singles welcome.

The Moonlight Hotel sits on the shore of England’s best-loved lake, Windermere, exuding vintage glamour. And in its ballroom weekly dance classes promise evenings filled with music, friends and fancy(ish) footwork.

When Lauren agrees to sign up, it’s because she loves the building so much; it holds the key to her most precious childhood memories and she always dreamed of dancing the night away under its roof. Even her newly single friends Cate and Emily aren’t going for the men, they’re going for the fun – although a little romance wouldn’t hurt …

Then comes the news that the hotel has been sold to a faceless budget chain, which has devastating plans in store. And the revelation that marks the start of a chain of events – both on and off the dance floor – that puts the strength of their friendship to the ultimate test …

The Last Queen of India by Michelle Moran (Quercus, 24th March)last queen

This sounds like just my sort of historical fiction!

1857, India.

At nineteen years old, Sita is the shining star of Queen Lakshmi of India’s imperial guard, having pledged herself to a life of celibacy in the name of protecting the young ruler.

When Sita agrees to train Lakshmi in the art of military combat, a close friendship develops between the two women. But trouble soon threatens – Lakshmi’s court is dangerously divided and rumours are rife that the country is at risk. Meanwhile, in London, advisors to Queen Victoria are looking to extend the power of the Commonwealth, and India is coveted as the next jewel in the imperial crown.

In the ensuing battle, will the bond between Lakshmi and Sita be broken for ever?

 

Reading Round Up – February

29 Feb

With this post I’ve blogged every day for two whole months!! Including this post, I’ve written and published 61 blog posts since the start of the year and I’ve really enjoyed getting back into blogging.

February has been much tougher than January to keep the momentum of posting up, especially when I came down with a nasty cold this weekend and could barely think straight let alone write reviews!

But I managed to blog something and here I am on the last day of the month wondering if I can keep it going. Lets just see … March is a really busy month in my day job and I’ve got loads of family stuff going on too so just watch this space!

So, onto the books. My Goodreads challenge is telling me I read twelve books this month. I should admit that three of these were shorter reads – two from the new Quick Reads releases and I discovered part one of Cressida McLaughlin’s lovely new serialised novel, The Canal Boat Cafe.

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In February I read:

  • two books with magical or fantasy elements
  • 1 young adult and 11 adult fiction
  • one short story collection, one short story and one part of a serialisation.
  • two historical fiction
  • 5  contemporary romance/dramas
  • one thriller

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I also did a little bit of book shopping …

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My book of the month for February is:

You And Me, Always

You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell

Coming in March

My ‘to read’ pile for March is full of treats again and I’m looking forward to reading new novels from Debbie Macomber, Jane Costello, Rae Rivers and the start of a new serialised novel from Cathy Bramley. I’ve got an exciting blogger event to attend mid-month and I’m taking part in some exciting blog tours including one to celebrate Erica James’s 20th novel! Look out for my March ‘hot picks’ tomorrow for more books to look out for next month.

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?