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Book review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

13 Feb

hold back‘We’re going to be fine.’
He looks around, but there’s nothing out here: nothing but the bottomless black universe on their left, the Earth suspended in glorious technicolour to their right.

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen.
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the world they left behind. A world whose rules they couldn’t submit to, a place where they never really belonged; a home they’re determined to get back to because they’ve come too far to lose each other now.

Hold Back the Stars is a love story like no other.

I’ve been really lucky to read some amazing books in 2017 already and Hold Back the Stars is definitely one of those ‘wow’ books. I loved this futuristic love story for its combination of elements of two of my favourite genres (romance and sci-fi) and Katie Khan’s look forward to what our world might become, had me fascinated – this book is a ‘must read’ debut this year.

Hold Back the Stars is set on Earth but not quite as we know it (though given recent political events I found the future described here scarily believable). Max and Carys are citizens of Europia; the unified collection of countries that now exist as one whole with a new world order. In Europia the individual is everything and people are literally made to be self-sufficient and go out to establish themselves on their own from a young age. I found Katie’s take on what the future might look like, clever and unique with lovely little touches to the descriptive writing that meant I read this book over a weekend and didn’t want to put it down.

The story opens with Max and Carys in space. They’ve made a mistake and managed to get away from their ship without propellant to get themselves back and have only 90 minutes of air left. At times, reading this story as the air supply went down made me feel a little claustrophobic but as a story telling device it adds brilliantly to the plot and tension of the novel. The playing out of those last ninety minutes far above Earth is broken up by the story of how Max and Carys got to this point, starting with their first encounter and charting their relationship as it develops in exceptional circumstances.

At its heart Hold Back the Stars is a love story and one that will stay with me for a long time. Like many great literary couples, Carys and Max are forbidden by the ‘couples rule’ to be a couple at their young ages (they are in their twenties). I’m not going to go into all the details of the world that Katie has created – a big part of the pleasure of reading this book was discovering the world as it is in her future vision – but I will say that its believable and cleverly done and examines some interesting philosophical debates around self, love, family, happiness and democracy. I’d love to add this book to our book group reading list as I think it would spark some really interesting conversations.

If you’re looking for something a little different from your reading this month then look no further –  if you love a beautifully written story, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to see what Katie writes next!

5/5

Hold Back the Stars is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Katie and her writing at: http://katiekhan.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?

Author Interview: Kerry Wilkinson

13 May

The Renegade blog tour is stopping off at One More Page today with author Kerry Wilkinson in the hot seat to answer questions about the Silver Blackthorn Trilogy. Kerry is a number one Amazon bestseller for his Jessica Daniels crime series for adults. Renegade is the second  book in his young adult  sci-fi/fantasy trilogy and is a fantastic read (look out for my review later in the week!). You can find out more about Kerry and his books at: http://kerrywilkinson.com  Welcome Kerry!

Kerry_Wilkinson1-963x1024Renegade, the second novel in the Silver Blackthorn trilogy has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it?

It picks up an hour or so after Reckoning finishes. Silver and her friends have escaped the crazed clutches of the King – but what now? It’s a different kind of book to Reckoning in the sense that the first novel was largely set in the same place. It was supposed to the claustrophobic, about trying to get away. Renegade is more about consequences – and because Silver and co are out of the castle, there’s an entire country for them to explore.

How did you come up with the idea for the trilogy and did your ideas change as you wrote book two?

I started making notes for what turned out to be Reckoning while I was on holiday. I’ve got a minimal attention span, so sitting on a sunbed for more than about five minutes drives me bonkers. I never planned the series to be a trilogy. I wrote the first novel and realised that if I was going to take the story further, then it would end up being one very long book. Splitting it also allowed for the tonal change that happens between Reckoning and Renegade that I described above.

In the first novel, Silver takes the Reckoning and is designated a Member; which group do you think you’d be in if you took the test?

I’d probably be a tweener for Inter and Member. I’m not very establishment!

The series is set in an alternative future England with much of the action in book one situated in Windsor Castle; why did you choose this as a key location and how similar is Silver’s world to our own?

All the way back in my early notes, it was a teenage girl versus a mad king. If writing about a mad king in England, there needs to be a castle – and there’s none more famous than Windsor.

Silver’s world is a fair way removed from ours in the sense that travel and free movement is very difficult. People are hungry and democracy isn’t even a concept. There are still similarities, though. The characters are human, with emotions and feelings. Any story – whether set in the future or past – regardless of genre – has to be about people, not things. Silver’s world is a backdrop to her life and the lives of those around her – but that’s not really what Reckoning or Renegade is about. The novels are about her and the relationships she has with those around her.

Silver builds strong friendships during the book; do you have a favourite supporting character and if so why?

Faith took on a life of her own as I wrote Renegade. She’s one of my favourites in all my books – not just from the Silver trilogy.

I love Silver, she’s a great strong lead for the series but why did you choose to have a female lead and was it strange to write from a female perspective?

Writing from a female perspective has, for whatever reason, become my thing. I’ve got nine crime books – the Jessica Daniel series – with a lead female. I didn’t really plan it…it’s just what comes out…what feels right for the story. I have other novels with male leads, but they’re not out yet.

This is your first fantasy series but you also write crime novels; are there other genres you’d like to explore?renegade

Perhaps…but I don’t really think of it like that. I write about what interests me at the time. If that’s crime, it’s crime. If it’s fantasy, then I’ll work on that. If some other genre grabs me, then I’ll probably have a go at that. I never bother forcing things.

And finally… What can we expect next from Kerry Wilkinson? 

Childish tweets is pretty much a guarantee. After that, I have a crime hardback – Down Among The Dead Men – out in October, then another Jessica Daniel crime book in February 2016. Resurgence, the final part of Silver’s story, is out in May next year.

Thanks Kerry!

Renegade is out in paperback and ebook formats now.

Guest post: My Top 5 Superheroes by Stefan Mohamed

15 Apr

Today I’m super excited to welcome debut author Stefan Mohamed to the blog to share his top five superheros with us. Stefan is an author, poet and sometime journalist. He graduated from Kingston University in 2010 with a first class degree in creative writing and film studies and won the creative writing prize for his year.

He went on to win the unpublished writer’s category of the Dylan Thomas Prize for his coming of age superhero novel, Bitter Sixteen, which is out now. Stefan lives in Bristol, where he works as an editorial assistant, writing stories and performing poetry in his spare time. Welcome Stefan!

Stefan Mohamed

Stefan Mohamed

Superman

We might as well start with the most iconic superhero. People have their issues with Superman – he’s so powerful that it saps any drama from his stories, he’s a do-gooder which isn’t  very interesting, etceteras. The first of these I would agree with, to a point, although a good enough writer should be able to come up with a dramatic, involving story no matter how powerful the protagonist, but the second I entirely disagree with, because Superman’s essentially altruistic, benevolent nature is what makes him Superman. He’s the Platonic ideal of the superhero; not just because of his ludicrously overpowered nature (effectively invulnerable, super strength, super speed, able to fly, laser eyes, hurricane breath, X-ray vision, firing miniature versions of himself from his hands, although to be fair he doesn’t really do that any more) but because he is, at heart, good. He wants to help people, his moral compass remains true when all else are losing theirs, and, perhaps most importantly, this isn’t because of the basic goodness present in all humanity or some such nonsense. He ain’t human, after all. He has been brought up this way, he has chosen to follow this path.

Yes, you can play with darker versions of Superman. Sometimes they’re interesting – Mark Millar’s Red Son, in which baby Supes lands in Stalin’s Russia rather than Kansas, US, is one of the better examples. But ultimately, Superman is a good guy. He’s the good guy. And to him, a suicidal girl standing alone on a ledge is, at that moment, as important as any world-ending threat.

So leave him alone.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

She doesn’t wear a cape or tights. She wasn’t born in the pages of a funny book. But Buffy Summers is as much a superhero, and as much an influence on my writing, as any costumed crusader. Plucked from obscurity and given a destiny she did not ask for and frequently wishes she could shed, the trials that Buffy undergoes throughout the seven seasons of her show would break a lesser individual. At times they nearly do. But she endures. She keeps fighting the good fight, with a punch, a quip and a somersault. She makes mistakes along the way, of course, and some of them are pretty bad. At times she’s not even that likable. But, as her Watcher Rupert Giles says, “She’s a hero, you see. She’s not like us.”

Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)

The new Ms. Marvel hasn’t been around very long (she first appeared in 2013, inheriting the mantle from Carol Danvers, who is now Captain Marvel), but Kamala Khan is already resoundingly popular, with her first trade paperback No Normal one of the best selling comics of last year. And with good reason, because she’s awesome.

In wider cultural terms she’s a meaningful presence, because at a time when Muslim communities are routinely and shamefully demonised and ostracised, having a Muslim character headlining a high profile, relatively mainstream Marvel comic takes on real symbolic importance. But writer G. Willow Wilson never lets her political and cultural significance get in the way of telling a good story, and taken purely on her own terms she’s just a great character. Her powers are dynamic and visually exciting. She has a well-drawn supporting cast. And she represents every teenager who feels unsure of themselves, who feels left out or bullied for being different, who wishes they were someone else.

Bitter 16Batman

Is Batman a superhero? Maybe not. There’s nothing specifically supernatural in his background. But he is in peak physical condition, he’s a tactical genius, he’s a martial arts expert, a weapons expert. His superpower, effectively, is being the best that a human being can be – to the extent that he can stand shoulder to shoulder with titans like Superman and Wonder Woman.

More importantly, he’s the perfect, iconic illustration of the dark side of heroism (for the purposes of this, we’re defining heroism as “fighting bad guys”). For while Batman does have a strong moral code and sense of justice, he is also driven by grief and rage. Plenty of writers across the years have asked whether he’s good for Gotham City or merely a symptom of the disease that afflicts the place, or whether half the terrifying individuals in his rogue’s gallery – the best in comics, by the way – would actually be a problem if it weren’t for his presence. And the fact that Batman’s work is never done represents both the natural conclusion of superheroic obsession and a fairly bleak interpretation of existence – there is no final victory. There will always be bad guys, always be evil; it’s a fact of life. Bleak, yes, but potent, and ripe with storytelling potential.

Dr Manhattan

In the same way that Batman represents one possible (disturbing) conclusion of superheroism, so Dr Manhattan, from Alan Moore’s masterful Watchmen, represents one possible (and equally disturbing, in its way) conclusion of having superpowers. Like Superman, but more so, Dr Manhattan is so powerful that he’s effectively a god. He can manipulate matter at its most basic level, travel in time, pop to Mars and build a palace, whatever he fancies. But unlike Superman, he has entirely lost touch with humanity. He is disconnected from the world and from the concerns of mere mortals – to Dr Manhattan, we’re ants. Not ants he wants to crush, necessarily, but ants to whom he’s basically indifferent. He’s a fascinating character, and a thought-provoking exploration of what unlimited power could do to an individual if they lacked the grounding presence of friends, family and morality; I don’t think that any conversation about the consequences of superpowers is complete without him.

Thanks Stef – a great list!

Bitter Sixteen by Stefan Mohamed is out now in paperback and ebook formats, published by Salt.

Book news: Resistance is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan

12 Apr

I’m a big fan of Jenny Colgan’s books but  my interest really sparked when I saw the details of this new book that she’ll be releasing in May with Orbit books, writing as Jenny T. Colgan. I absolutely love the cover and my inner geek is incredibly excited by a book that promises Sci-Fi and romance!

Take the square root of a love story, multiply by an awkward mathematician, add on extra-terrestrial life forms and cringe-worthy close encounters, and what you’ll get is Resistance is Futile – a whirlwind adventure by Sunday Times bestselling author Jenny T . Colgan.

Connie thinks she’s never met anyone quite like Luke Beith before.

She has no idea how right she is.

As a high-ranking mathematician in a male-dominated field – with bright red hair – Connie’s used to being considered a little unusual.

But she’s nowhere near as peculiar as Luke, who is recruited to work alongside her on a top-secret code breaking project.

Just what is this bizarre sequence they’re studying? It isn’t a solution to the global energy crisis. It isn’t a new wavelength to sell microwave ovens. The numbers are trying to tell them something . . . and it seems only Luke knows what.

The truth is out there. Will Connie dare to find it?

Resistance is Futile will be released on 28th May.

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

New books – February 2015 Hot Picks

3 Feb

Hello and welcome to February! I’ve had quite a slow start to my reading year – we’re moving house soon and there’s been lots going on at work so my reading and blogging had to take a bit of a back seat but I’m hoping to pick up the pace again this month! With that in mind, here are the books that I’m hoping to read this month – what’s on your list for February?

ivy laneIvy Lane by Cathy Bramley (12th February, Corgi)

I read this book when it was published as a four-part serial last year. I loved it so much that I can’t wait to get my hands on a paperback of the complete story to add to my favourites shelf. I’ll publish a full review near publication date but I can’t recommend this book highly enough if you’re looking for a lovely story filled with romance and great characters. Look out for the first part of Cathy’s new serialisation Appleby Farm on 5th February too!

From spring to summer, autumn to winter, a lot can happen in a single year . . .

Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.

But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organizing bake sales and planning seasonal parties.

As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people back into her life – and her heart?

The May Bride by Suzannah Dunn (12th February, Abacus)the may bride

I really enjoyed this historical novel, written in the first person from the point of view of the young Jane Seymour. Tudor history fans will love the new perspective on Jane’s life.

When Edward Seymour brings Katherine Filliol home to Wolf Hall, his sister Jane is captivated by his new bride. Over the course of a long, hot country summer, the two become close friends and allies, while Edward is busy advancing his career at court.

Two years later, the family is torn apart by a dreadful allegation made by Edward against his wife. The repercussions for all the Seymours are incalculable, not least for Katherine herself. When Jane is sent away, to serve Katharine of Aragon, she is forced to witness another wife being put aside, with terrible consequences. Changed forever by what happened to Katherine Filliol, Jane comes to understand that in a world where power is held entirely by men, there is a way in which she can still hold true to herself.

hurricane sistersThe Hurricane Sisters by Dorothea Benton Frank (12th February, Simon and Schuster)

I’m reading this book now and can’t believe I haven’t read a book by Dorothea Benton Frank before – great setting and lots of sassy characters!

Hurricane season begins early and rumbles all summer long – for three generations of one family, drama is headed in their direction too. At eighty, determined matriarch Maisie Pringle is a force to be reckoned with. She will have the final word on everything, especially when she’s dead wrong. Her daughter, Liz, is caught up in the classic maelstrom of being middle-age and in an emotionally demanding career that will eventually open all their eyes to a terrible truth. And Liz’s beautiful twenty-something daughter, Ashley, dreams of a future that keeps them all at odds. This storm season, Maisie, Liz, and Ashley will deal with challenges that demand they face the truth about themselves. Can they establish a new order for the future of the family? This is the often hilarious, sometimes sobering but always entertaining story of how these unforgettable women became The Hurricane Sisters.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (12th February, Orion)red queen

I’ve heard lots of good things about this debut fantasy and am looking forward to finding out more.

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart . . .

vintage weddingA Vintage Wedding by Katie Fforde (12th February, Century)

A new Katie Fforde book is always a treat and this one sounds like a fab spring read.

In a small Cotswold country town, Beth, Lindy and Rachel are looking for new beginnings.

So they set up in business, organising stylish and perfectly affordable vintage weddings.

Soon they are busy arranging other people’s Big Days.

What none of them know is that their own romances lie waiting, just around the corner …

finn fancyFinn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson (13th February, Titan Books)

Randy Henderson’s debut has been likened to Ready Player One by Ernest Cline which I absolutely loved. Randy won the 2014 Writers of the Future Award so I’m looking forward to reading this one.

Found guilty of a terrible crime he didn’t commit in 1986, 15-year-old necromancer Finn Gramaraye was exiled to the Other Realm for 25 years. But now he s back in the mortal world and is disappointed to discover that he s middle-aged, DeLoreans can’t fly, and he s been framed for using dark magic, again. All Finn wants is to pick up the pieces of his life and patch things up with his family: his mad scientist father, the ghost of his mother, a sister who is allergic to magic, a younger brother who thinks he s a werewolf and an older brother who is most unhappy to see him. But with just three days to clear his name before he is sent back into exile forever, Finn will need all the help he can get to figure out who wants him gone, and why.

fire sermonThe Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig (26th February, Harper Voyager). 

I recently attended a launch event for this brilliant book and heard Francesca talk about her inspiration for it. Set to be a big hit!

When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. The complete set. They would have been disbelieving – nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega.

Nobody.

Born as twins. Raised as enemies.

One strong Alpha twin and one mutated Omega; the only thing they share is the moment of their death.

The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families as soon as their mutation becomes clear. Forced to live apart, they are ruthlessly oppressed by their Alpha counterparts.

The Alphas are the elite. Once their weaker twin has been cast aside, they’re free to live in privilege and safety, their Omega twin far from their thoughts.

Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.

The potential to change the world lies in both their hands. One will have to defeat the other to see their vision of the future come to pass, but if they’re not careful both will die in the struggle for power.

The Dandelion Years by Erica James (26th February, Orion)dandelion years

I’ve not read any of Erica James’s novels before but I love discovering new authors and this story promises three of my favourite topics; books, history and romance!

Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible – and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own – Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love…

summer at beach streetSummer at the Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (26th February, Sphere)

I’m really looking forward to another seaside-set read from Jenny. This book sounds delicious!

Summer has arrived in the Cornish town of Mount Polbearne and Polly Waterford couldn’t be happier. Because Polly is in love: she’s in love with the beautiful seaside town she calls home, she’s in love with running the bakery on Beach Street, and she’s in love with her boyfriend, Huckle.

And yet there’s something unsettling about the gentle summer breeze that’s floating through town. Selina, recently widowed, hopes that moving to Mount Polbearne will ease her grief, but Polly has a secret that could destroy her friend’s fragile recovery. Responsibilities that Huckle thought he’d left behind are back and Polly finds it hard to cope with his increasingly long periods of absence.

Polly sifts flour, kneads dough and bakes bread, but nothing can calm the storm she knows is coming: is Polly about to lose everything she loves?

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson (26th February, Tor) rithmatist

As you may have gathered, I’m aiming to read a lot more fantasy this year and this crossover novel from Brandon Sanderson sounds right up my street!

Joel is fascinated by the magic of Rithmatics, but few have the gift and he is not one of them. Undaunted, he persuades Professor Fitch to teach him magical theory. Joel can’t infuse his protective lines and circles with power, or bring his chalk-drawn creatures to life, but he’s quick to master the underlying geometric principles. His unique skills will soon face an extraordinary test when top Rithmatist students are kidnapped from his Academy.

Since he’s not a magic user, Joel appears to be safe – but he’s desperate to investigate and prove himself. Then people start dying. However, can Joel really stop a killer alone? As even more students disappear, he realizes he’ll need the help of Rithmatist apprentice Melody. Together, they must race to find clues before the killer notices them – and takes them out too.

darker shade magicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (27th February, Titan)

There’s been quite a buzz about this book on Twitter already and one of my favourite authors, Deborah Harkness described it as ‘wonderful’ which makes me very excited to read it!!

Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There is Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There is Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…

 

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?

 

Event news: Free virtual sci-fi festival – 15th & 16th November 2014

9 Nov

bfivoygerPublisher HarperCollins and the British Film Institute have  announced an exciting collaboration – a Virtual Sci-Fi festival on 15th & 16th November.

The festival takes place as part of the BFI’s major three month celebration of Sci-Fi,Days of Fear and Wonder presented together with O2, which takes place at BFI Southbank and venues across the UK until December. http://www.bfi.org.uk/sci-fi-days-fear-wonder

The aim of the BFIVoyager Sci-Fi festival is to explore the link between science fiction literature and film. The festival will offer a program of events on Twitter, Facebook, Google + and other platforms.

The festival program is based around three themes:

Tomorrow’s World – from post-apocalyptic wastelands to megacities to far-flung dystopia

Altered States – the science fiction of ‘inner space’ mad scientists, mutants, man-machines and mind-bending trips

Contact! – time to explore life from all corners of the universe and across multiple dimensions.

The festival will focus on story-telling and the impact of literature on film and television. Anticipate some friendly rivalry between book versus film as well as conversations such as how science fiction may have changed our future, what’s so appealing about a dystopian world and some of science fictions biggest names discussing their opinions on what comes next.

Charlie Redmayne, CEO of HarperCollins UK, said, ‘I am thrilled that HarperCollins is collaborating with the British Film Institute on the BFIVoyager virtual sci-fi festival. It is very exciting to be working with such a prestigious organisation.

Heather Stewart, Creative Director of the BFI said: “‘Sci-Fi is all about big ideas – it all begins with the writers, and it’s notable that there are many great women writers working in this genre. We’re pleased to work with HarperCollins to bring the worlds of literature and film into perfect collision in November, opening up the very best of this spectacular genre to online audiences everywhere.

The festival is free to ‘attend and attendees will also be sent two free HarperVoyager ebooks at the end of the festival!

Register now at: http://bit.ly/BFIVoyager