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

20 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/5

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

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

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

Book review: The Forever House by Veronica Henry

19 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/5

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

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

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

Book review: Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

10 May

9780751565171Jess has decided it’s time to get out of her comfort zone and live a little. So when her best friend Bryony, a journalist on a gossip magazine, is sent to cover the Cannes Film Festival, Jess decides to seize the day and go along for the ride. Two weeks of sun, glamour and exclusive entry into celeb-filled parties is just the kind of adventure Jess needs.

Reality soon bites though when Jess and Bryony find they’re staying in a dingy hotel far away from all the action and Bryony’s expenses budget barely covers a glass of local wine. Undeterred, the two women are determined to live like the elite and enjoy one fancy night out to begin their holiday. So what if they have to tell a few white lies along the way? It’s just this once. No harm done . . . right?

Are you looking for a little escape? Well, I have the perfect escape right here for you – and you don’t even have to move to enjoy it! Lisa Dickenson’s sunny new novel, Catch Me If You Cannes has just been released in paperback format. The novel was originally released as a four part serial in ebook format and has now been packaged up with this fab summery cover, just in time for some holiday reading!

Last summer Lisa took us to Italy with You Had Me At Merlot and this year we’re heading to the South of France with Jess and Bryony for a fun and funny adventure at the Cannes Film Festival. With two fabulously funny leading ladies, a potential love interest (or two) and is buckets of quick wit and spur of the moment adventure this book is so much fun!

Lisa is great at creating characters that will make you laugh but also have more than just fun banter going on underneath and as I read this book and learned a little of each girl’s history, I took them both to my heart.  Jess runs a cafe in Cornwall and is taking the opportunity to escape some of the worries that have been preoccupying her lately by escaping for a holiday with her best friend.

Bryony is more than happy to have her friend along for the ride as she sets out to report on the film festival for the gossip mag that she works for whilst dreaming of the day that she’ll be taken seriously as a journalist. From horrible bosses, feeling stuck in a rut, dealing with failed romances and wondering what the future holds, Lisa hits on issues all readers will identify with whilst keeping the story light and making us laugh.

As the girls seize the chance to live a glamerous life of cocktails, parties and beautiful places and people for just a night or two they are forced to throw in a few little white lies. As the fibs build, Jess and Bryony find themselves caught in a number of tricky situations that I had no idea how the were going to get out of and kept me turning the pages as fast as I could.

The descriptions of Cannes and the surrounding areas made me wish I could go there and a visit to the playground of the rich and famous, Monaco also features. As a reader who loves travel and discovering new places, I really enjoyed the descriptions of beautiful new places. As Jess gets to know hunky love interest Leo, the exotic locations couldn’t provide a better backdrop and combined with a little mystery the story really sparkles and has some excellent twists.

Lisa certainly knows how to write a killer one-liner and Catch Me If You Cannes is full of them – I defy anyone to not smile while reading this book. I loved enjoying sunshine, smiles, glamour and romance with Jess and Bryony at the Cannes Film Festival and the ending of the book was the icing on the cake!

5/5

Catch Me If You Cannes is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Sphere.

Find out more about Lisa and her books at: http://www.lisadickenson.com/

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

Book review: The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick

9 May

returning tideTwo sisters and one betrayal that will carry across generations . . .

In wartime Cornwall, 1943, a story between two sisters begins – the story of Adele and Amelia, and the heart-breaking betrayal that will divide them forever. Decades later, the effects of one reckless act still echo – but how long will it be until their past returns?

The Returning Tide is something a little bit new for Liz Fenwick; her first departure into historical fiction. The novel is a time slip set partly in the present and partly during World War Two. It’s also set across two continents with characters from England and America which adds an extra dimension to the puzzle of how past and present are connected.

Liz’s trademark Cornish and coastal settings are of course breathtakingly present and add beautifully to the poignancy of the story with the natural beauty of England’s coast contrasting sharply with the wartime events of the story. I love wartime historical fiction and I was fascinated by the story that Liz uncovers in The Returning Tide having never given much consideration to coastal defences during the war. The story is all the more striking for being partly based on the recollections of one of Liz Fenwick’s relatives.

In the present we meet Lara who journeys to Cornwall from Cape Cod following the death of her beloved grandfather to find out more about her English family connection and solve the mystery of his final word the name ‘Adele’. In Cornwall Peta is preparing for her wedding which will take place in the family home: Windward. As the preparations play out, her grandmother recalls an earlier wedding and the heartbreak it caused her. As she dwells on the events of the past we go back with her to relive them and I was completely swept up in this story which has romance, adventure and drama. Love, heartbreak and family mysteries woven into it. 

Liz has created a complex and varied plot that kept me guessing as to exactly what had happened between twins Adele and Amelia. Told partly in letters between the two, Liz writes with emotion and I felt like I really was reading history. I part read and part listened to the audio version of this book and it is as beautifully narrated in the audio version as it is written. I do hope Liz decides to write more historical fiction as these were my favourite parts of the book. As past and present come together there is both regret and hope in this bittersweet story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading as the actions of the past and the full truth were finally revealed.

4/5

The Returning Tide is out now in paperback, audio and ebook formats from Orion.

Find out more about Liz and her writing at: http://lizfenwick.com/

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

 

 

Author interview: Fiona Harper

7 May

I’m delighted to welcome Fiona Harper to One More Page today to talk about the inspiration for her latest novel, The Other Us. Fiona’s first book was published in 2006 and The Other Us is her twenty-fifth novel. She started her career writing heartfelt but humorous romances for Mills & Boon, but now writes romantic comedies and feel-good women’s fiction for Harper Collins, as part of their HQ imprint.

She is a previous winner of the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Scheme Award, has had five books shortlisted for an RNA Award and won the ‘Best Short Romance’ at the Festival of Romance three years’ running. Fiona lives in London with her husband and two teenage daughters. Welcome Fiona!

Fiona HarperWhat was your inspiration for writing The Other Us?

I first had the idea for this book more than a decade ago – a seedling of an idea about following one woman through different possible futures to see if the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence. It rumbled around in my head for all that time until finally I just had to write it! It was so long ago, I can’t remember exactly what sparked it, but maybe a moment of personal reflection when I was wondering what my life would be like if I’d made different choices.

This is your 25th book, does it become easier or harder to think of plots?

Funnily enough, I think it’s easier now than it used to be. I think I’ve trained myself not only to have my story radar switched on, searching for little interesting nuggets to store away for later use. (That makes me sound a bit like a story ‘squirrel’ and I suppose I am!) Also, I have learned to write these snippets of ideas down. I always think I’ll remember them, but I discovered that they can easily flit away and be forgotten – a bit like a dream that was clear just after waking but fades throughout the day.

How did the idea for this book develop?

Initially, I had decided to just watch Maggie, my main character, in three different lives with three different men and see how each turned out, but I felt that maybe three realities would get confusing, so I whittled it down to two. As I was developing it to show my editor, I decided it might be interesting to send forty-something Maggie back in time, and then I thought it would be a funny opening scene if, when that happened, she thought she’d died and gone to heaven. Somehow, from that I arrived at the idea of letting her be fully conscious of her hopping between the two lives, rather than just seeing how the two realities would have played out.

What have you learnt from writing 25 books?

I’ve learnt loads, but these are the top three important things:

  1. That I need to write even when I don’t feel like it, and that the first ten minutes of making myself sit in the chair and type will be like wading through porridge, but if I keep going suddenly the creative urge will kick in and the words will start to flow.
  2. That about 25% of the way through I will get stuck and that when I reach the halfway point I will think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever written and that I should flush it down the toilet. However, I know now I hit these stumbling blocks in every single book and that I should ignore those thoughts and just keep writing.
  3. That each book is different and that I learn something new about writing with each one – wish I’d kept a note of exactly what, though, because sometimes that would come in really handy!

Thank you Fiona!

The Other Us is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

The Other UsIf you could turn back time, would you choose a different life?

Forty-something Maggie is struggling to come to terms with her only child flying the nest. Without her daughter in the house, she’s beginning to realise that her life, and her marriage to her husband Dan is more than a little stale.

When she sees a post on Facebook about a university reunion, her mind wanders back to Jude Hanson – a brief university fling. The same night that Dan proposed, Jude asked Maggie to run away with him. How different might her life have been if she had broken Dan’s heart and taken Jude up on his offer?

One morning, the fantasy turns into a reality and Maggie wakes up in 1992, aged twenty-one and given the chance to make all those decisions again. 

Is Maggie brave enough to choose the future she really wants, and if she is, will the grass be any greener on the other side of the fence?

Two men and two very different possible futures. But does Maggie only have one chance at happiness?

Find out more about Fiona and her writing at: http://www.fionaharper.com/home

Follow Fiona on Twitter @FiHarper_Author

Book review: The Hourglass by Tracy Rees

5 May

hourglass2014. Nora has always taken success for granted, until suddenly her life begins to fall apart. Troubled by anxiety and nightmares, she finds herself drawn to the sweeping beaches of Tenby, a place she’s only been once before. Together with a local girl she rents a beautiful townhouse and slowly begins to settle in to her new life. But Tenby hides a secret, and Nora will soon discover that this little town by the sea has the power to heal even the most painful memories.

1950. Chloe visits Tenby every summer. She stays with relatives, and spends the long, idyllic days on the beach. Every year is the same, until she meets a glamorous older boy and is instantly smitten. But on the night of their first date, Chloe comes to a realisation, the aftermath of which could haunt her forever.

The Hourglass is a moving novel about finding love even after it seems too late and the healing power of a magical place by the sea.

I read my first Tracy Rees book, Florence Gracelast year and absolutely loved it so I was very excited to be sent a copy of Tracy’s new novel, The Hourglass. Tracy’s two previous books have both been historical novels so The Hourglass is a little bit of a new direction as it’s set partly in the present (2014) and partly in the 1950s. I wondered how Tracy’s writing would move to the timeslip format and I have to say she’s aced it!

Tracy has a wonderful way of making you feel that you’re ‘there’ in her writing, whether ‘there’ is a desolate moor in the 1700s or a sunny beach in 1950s and I was completely swept up in her descriptions of Tenby in the 1950s and today. The Hourglass follows the stories of Chloe and Nora. Chloe is Welsh a teenager who visits her Auntie Susan in Tenby for three weeks every summer starting when she’s ten.

Rees perfectly captures the excitement of a summer seaside holiday from a bygone era and I loved following each summer Chloe as she grew up, went to the much coveted ‘Tenby Teens’ dances and spent long happy days exploring with her best friend Llew. Tracey evokes an era of Famous Five style adventures and I couldn’t get enough of these parts of the book.

In contrast, Nora as we meet her is very unhappy. She’s just about to turn 40 and is very successful at her job as an administrator for the history department of a big London University, has recently dumped her boyfriend and is suffering from severe anxiety attacks. Her free-spirited mother Jasmine thinks she’s having some sort of mid-life crisis and for the first time their close relationship begins to falter. Nora finds herself wishing for open beaches and space and finds herself drawn to Tenby, a place that she visited once as a child.

I could identify so much with Nora; for me, turning forty earlier in the year has made me evaluate where I am in life and where I’m going! My life is very different to Nora’s but I loved that Tracy captured that sense of a turning point in a book and coincidentally captured my own desire to live by the sea (which has been stronger than every this year) rather than to remain in London forever!

As regular readers will know, I love books set by the sea and especially the British seaside so the setting for this book ticked all the boxes for me and I enjoyed how Tracy captured the wonderful sense of calm that can come with being at the coast. As Nora begins her own adventure in Tenby, the story moves back and forth between her story and Chloe’s and links begin to emerge. The Hourglass is very cleverly written to drip feed clues to the linkages between the stories as the novel progresses and I was absolutely hooked!

As with all good books, on the one hand I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Chloe all those years ago and what would happen to Nora in the present but I also didn’t want the story to end! I said in my review of Florence Grace that the book had a philosophical air to it and was peppered with timeless and insightful advice and the same is true of The Hourglass.

The Hourglass has gone straight onto my list of favourite books of 2017 and I can’t wait for more from Tracy!

5/5

The Hourglass is out now in  paperback, ebook and audio formats from Quercus.

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

Book review: The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey

3 May

9781848548343Liddy James is forty-four, fit, and fabulous. A top divorce attorney, a bestselling author, and a mother of two, she glides effortlessly through the courtrooms and salons of Manhattan. Despite her own devastating divorce from her first love Peter, Liddy has formed a modern family with him and his new partner, Rose, to raise a truculent teen and Liddy’s adorable, if fatherless, six-year-old. With her impoverished childhood far behind her, to the outside world Liddy’s life is perfect.

Until it isn’t.

When a series of domestic and professional glitches send her carefully-tended world spinning towards meltdown, Liddy decides it’s time she and the boys retrace her family’s history and take some time off in Ireland. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things still aren’t what they seem, and Liddy will have to negotiate some surprising turns in the road before she’s willing to admit that even she might have forgotten just how to be The Real Liddy James.

The Real Liddy James is such a good read! As regular readers of my reviews will know, I love New York and I’m always fascinated and intrigued by the lifestyles of rich New Yorkers. The Real Liddy James gives us a fly on the wall look at Liddy and her life. If you’re a fan of Lauren Weisberger, Candace Bushnell and Allison Pearson’s  I Don’t Know How She Does It then you’ll love this book!

Liddy is a top divorce lawyer; a partner in a boutique firm specializing in making sure marriages and their break ups are legally sound. This is a world of muliti-million dollar deals, second and third houses and Liddy is a celebrity in her own right with a ‘ superwoman’ brand, a book and television appearances.

I found Liddy as a character fascinating and was surprised how my feelings for her changed as the book went on. Liddy is divorced and mother to two sons; the teen Matty and six year old Cal. Liddy’s is a complex life and the charm of this book is that we get to delve into all of her secrets and thoughts. As she tries to maintain her perfect façade there are many poignant and reflective moments as well as a lot that are just funny – I loved the dark humour in this story and the fact that Liddy isn’t afraid to laugh at herself.

Liddy maintains her life with an impressive list of lifestyle coaches, town cars, personal shoppers, housekeepers, a Manny and on top of this manages to maintain a good relationship with her ex husband and his new partner Rose. I thought Rose was a great character too, initially showing a much softer and nurturing side in stark contract to Liddy but as the story progressed, like Liddy, developing into a much fuller and complex character. I enjoyed both characters because there was a lot that I could empathise with in their experiences of relationships and motherhood despite our very different lifestyles!

As a series of events conspires to tip the balance of Liddy’s existence into the not quite so calm and controlled zone, Liddy begins to take a long look at herself and who she has become. Told in sections that take a past, present and into the future look at Liddy’s life, we begin to get an insight into what makes her tick and how she came to be the women she is today. What I found interesting was that my initial assumptions about all of the characters were challenged as the story played out and it wasn’t only Liddy who got to review who she really was.

Between Rose and Liddy, Anne- Marie Casey makes observations that felt spot on and perceptive about love, motherhood, relationships and work and how to juggle them all. A thought provoking, funny and entertaining read.

4/5

The Real Liddy James is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Hodder.

Find out more about Anne-Marie Casey at: http://www.annemariecasey.com/

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

Book review: Not the Only Sky by Alyssa Warren

27 Apr

not only the sky‘Wait. Patient. Now. Not long. Good girl. Wait here. Brave girl. Think of it as a vacation.’ ‘Back in a jiffy.’

Big Bend, population 500, South Dakota, 1988. Eight-year-old Tiny Mite lives in a ramshackle farmhouse next to her grandfather’s crashed airplane and the pine tree where she trains as a spy. Goddamn is her favourite word. Taking pictures with her camera made of aluminium foil and a tin can is her new big thing. She lives with Bee, her apocalypse-obsessed grandmother and Luvie, her hard-drinking great-aunt. And then there’s her mother Velvet, beautiful and desperate, still in love with her high school boyfriend who she left to have a brief fling with Tiny Mite’s absent father.

One night, Tiny Mite hears a cry, but it’s not what she imagines. And nothing will ever be the same. Six years later, Clea won’t let anyone call her Tiny Mite anymore. Luvie has fallen in love with a pastor, and Bee’s health is failing. Velvet is gone, and nobody except Bee, who can’t bring herself to turn her back on her daughter, will even mention her name.

Containing a wonderfully engaging and eccentric cast of characters who live long in the memory, this is the story of mothers and daughters, people bound by blood and geography, moments captured and lifetimes lost, and things never quite turning out as expected.

Not the Only Sky was a wonderful surprise to read; I’d expected a quirky read, something a little different, but what I found was not just quirky, but beautiful and heartfelt with characters that jumped off the page and will stay with me. Together with the thread of mystery that runs through the story, this all added up to a really excellent read.

Starting in 1988 and told in three parts over a decade, Not the Only Sky is the story of Tiny Mite/Clea and her family. In the first part of the novel we meet Tiny Mite and her family.  Tiny lives with her Mum, Velvet, her grandmother Bee and Her great aunt Luvvie in an old farmhouse deep in rural South Dakota. The town she lives in is small in a huge state and Big Bend is very much a forgotten corner of the world with run down shops, a dwindling population and a fair amount of poverty.

I love stories like this that tell of small town life and are populated by quirky but usually lovable and strong female characters. Tiny and the women that surround her certainly fit the bill; all are eccentric in different ways, slightly broken but still fighting and finding a way forward. Eight year old Tiny’s inner dialogue is just brilliant – I could have read her thoughts all day and in the tradition of Scout Finch and Swan Lake, Tiny has a a wonderfully unique take on the world.

So too does Tiny’s grandma Bee; deeply religious with a basement full of food stored for the apocalypse and a conspiracy theory for everything, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her character. Bee in particular has a complex line to tread, trying to keep her family together despite their individual difficulties. Not the Only Sky is very much a novel about the complexities of human relationships, particularly those of mothers and daughters and Alyssa Warren does a brilliant job of showing that there is often disparity between our thoughts and feelings and our actions and this gave me a lot of empathy for all of the charcters.

The story pivots around a day in 1988 that brings about huge change in the life of the family and is constructed in a very clever way so as to keep the reader guessing what happened to Tiny and Velvet that day. As the narrative jumps to 1994 then 1998 and moves between Velvet’s and Tiny’s (now known as Clea) stories, I was gripped!

I’m a big fan of books that follow a character through a number of years of their lives and I loved reading as Clea grew up and wishing wholeheartedly for a good outcome for her. With a timeless mix of old and new, heartbreak and hope, family ties and new beginnings, wise words and eccentric philosophies, Not the Only Sky is an excellent debut from Alyssa Warren and I’m very pleased to have discovered a wonderful new author.

5/5

Not the Only Sky is released today in paperback and ebook formats by Black and White Publishing.

Find out more about Alyssa Warren and her writing at: http://www.alyssa-warren.com/book/

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

Book review: Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

18 Apr

paper hearts cover

Christie Chapman is a single working mother who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn.

It can be tough just getting through the day but Christie has always found comfort in her love of crafting and any spare time she has is spent in her parents’ summerhouse working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed birthday cards to personalised gifts, Christie’s flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it’s not long before opportunity comes knocking. 

All of a sudden Christie sees a different future for her and Finn – one full of hope and possibility, and if the handsome Max Alexander is to be believed, one full of love too. It’s all there for the taking.
And then, all of sudden, Christie’s world is turned upside down.

Christie knows that something has to give, but what will she choose? Will she give up her dreams and the chance of real love? What price will she pay for doing the right thing? Can Christie find her happy ending in . . . Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I’ve read a number of Carole Matthews’ books over the years and they are always lovely, heartwarming reads but Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is, for me, Carole’s best book yet. It has all the characteristics that I love in a good story; realistic characters that I could root for, a leading lady that I could identify with, lovely family relationships, emotional ups and downs and of course, a little romance. Not to mention the crafting – I loved learning about paper craft from Christie’s story and crafting fans will definitely enjoy this book.

Christie endeared herself to me straight away and I liked her more the more I read. She’s a single mum to fifteen year old Finn and the pair have a very close bond which was a joy to read. I loved that Christie is around the same age as me and as she did the dreaded commute into London each day, there was a lot that I could identify with. Christie has a great sense of humour as she tries to keep on top of holding down a full time job at a city law firm and caring for Finn who has been having some health problems and I admired her determination. Carole has based the character on her real life friend ‘Christine’ and her love and admiration for her and her son shines through on the pages.

Christie’s support network is wonderful and she has a brilliant relationship with her parents who live nearby. It was so lovely to read a story with such a positive emphasis on family – I wanted to move in with Christie’s Mum and Dad as I read! As Christie gets the opportunity to take her craft hobby to the next level by working with an American company, her family and friends rally round to support her – her law firm boss Robyn is another brilliantly written character who got a big thumbs up from me.

But just as things begin to look up, there’s more bad news on the way and this book certainly played with my emotions – it was only too easy to put myself in Christie’s shoes and to think how I’d feel if one of my sons was in Finn’s situation. I was on the edge of my seat rooting for both Finn and Christie to have the happy ending they deserved.

In addition to the family drama, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses has a wonderful romantic thread to it too as Christie meets handsome American CEO Max and her fellow commuter Henry and they both show an interest in her. I loved Christie for staying true to herself as both men vied for her attention and Carole conjures up some seriously romantic ‘dates’ in very glamorous locations whilst keeping the reader guessing!

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is a fab and inspiring read about weathering the many ups and downs that life can throw at us – a lovely uplifting read that left me with a smile on my face.

5/5

Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Sphere.

Check out Carole’s fab website for more information on her books and the background to this story: http://www.carolematthews.com/

Please do check out the other stops on the blog tour and stop by here again later today for the chance to win a copy of this lovely book!

Book review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

12 Apr

all grown upAndrea is a single, childless 39-year-old woman who tries to navigate family, sexuality, friendships and a career she never wanted, but battles with thoughts and desires that few people would want to face up to.

Told in gut-wrenchingly honest language that shimmers with rage and intimacy, All Grown Up poses such questions as:
- What if I don’t want to hold your baby?
- Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce?
- What can I demand of my mother now that I am an adult?
- Is therapy pointless?
- At what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem?
- Why does everyone keep asking me why I am not married?

Powerfully intelligent and wickedly funny, All Grown Up delves into the psyche of a flawed but mesmerising character. Readers will recognise themselves in Jami Attenberg’s truthful account of what it means to be a 21st century woman, though they might not always want to admit it.

All Grown Up is an interesting and thought provoking read. For me, it wasn’t the most comfortable of reads at times but I did enjoy it. The novel tells the story of Andrea – a complex character if ever there was one. I felt like I’d been through the wringer after spending time in Andrea’s head and, a week after finishing reading, I’m still not sure what my feelings are for her! The readers reaction to Andrea is a key premise of the book. There are scenes that might shock, her language and narration of events is no holds barred blunt and she presents a version of the truth that begs for discussion and analysis.

My feelings for Angela veered from admiration to dislike and from empathy to pity. Andrea is happy on her own but through her narrative in All Grown Up  shows how she feels that society conspires to tell her that she’s taken a wrong path, that her choices aren’t right and that she should feel bad about them. For a large part of the story, Andrea does feel bad; about her relationships, her art, her family and friends. Even her apartment conspires against her! 

My initial reaction to Andrea was to be sympathetic – I could understand the pressures and frustrations that come with parents and friends thinking that you should be doing particular things with your life at certain points and I have strong feelings that a woman should be able to be single and childless if she wants. I found myself getting a little annoyed with Andrea because she didn’t seem to know what she wanted really and her choices seemed to be making her so unhappy.

The story is put together in chapters that jump around in time to slowly reveal the big picture of Andrea and those close to her. Two threads in this picture really interested me; Andrea’s relationship with her Mother and with her friend Imogen. Andrea’s mum was actually my favourite character – I thought she was strong, independent and willing to stand by her choices and fight for her family. 

But it was the relationship between Andrea and Imogen that intrigued me most. Not so long ago, I was on the Imogen side of this relationship having just had my first son and trying very hard to maintain a friendship with a friend who actively disliked children and had a very physical revulsion to motherhood in general. Andrea’s reaction to Imogen helped me to take another perspective on this particular friendship dilemma – I love how books can do that!

At the heart of All Grown Up is the big question ‘what makes us adults?’ and I think Andrea represents a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves as we try to be grown ups. Andrea doesn’t necessarily have the answers but in reading this book I’m sure many will recognise situations and mindsets that are familiar – a great novel to debate with friends.

4/5

All Grown Up is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Sepent’s Tail.

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