Archive | October, 2011

Book review: Renovation, Renovation, Renovation by Nell Dixon

31 Oct

Overworked, over budget and just so not over him! Kate would like an engagement ring from Steve but instead he’s lumbered them with a thirteenth renovation project, and doing up Myrtle Cottage disturbs a ghost from the English Civil War who has romance troubles of her own.

Nell Dixon’s latest novel  which was released as an ebook earlier this month is a chick lit ghost story – perfect for featuring as my Halloween review! The book follows the fortunes of Kate and Steve who have recently split up from their long term relationship but still live together whilst they complete their thirteenth renovation project on the historic Myrtle Cottage. Tensions are high as the couple try to work together despite their differences and the drama escalates as Kate begins to experience spooky goings on at Myrtle Cottage.

Renovation, Renovation, Renovation mixes a more traditional modern day ‘relationship’ story with an historic relationship drama involving one of Myrtle Cottage’s previous occupants. I really liked the paranormal side to the story and the mystery of the ghostly girl (Mary Ann) that Kate encounters. The main narrative and Mary Ann’s parts of the story are both told in the first person and present tense which I thought made the story interesting as both women see each other as ‘ghostly spirits’  – an original take on the haunted house type story that I was expecting.

I loved the historical aspect of the book and as Kate joins a course on historic buildings, I enjoyed the historical building detail that Nell put into the story. I was a little disappointed that Mary Ann didn’t feature more; I felt like she had a fascinating story to tell and I found myself wanting to hurry through the modern day parts of the book to find out more about her fate, but she often only appeared for a short paragraph in a chapter!

In addition to Kate and Mary Ann’s relationship woes, there is a lot going on in this book as Kate’s mum and sister each have their own life-changing sub-plots and Kate’s ex Steve (ex-member of a popular boy band) is reunited with a fellow band member who wants to resurrect his career. Add in a romantic interest for Kate in the form of Mike, the tutor from her evening class and there was certainly plenty to keep me turning the pages.

There is also a lot of humor in the novel but it wasn’t quite as lighthearted as I was expecting and although I liked the ending, I felt like there were quite a few parts to the story that were left open and characters for which I wanted to know what happened next which shows what a good job Nell did of getting me attached to her characters!

Renovation, Renovation, Renovation is a quick read that kept me engrossed and I really enjoyed the originality of the ghostly element to it. The book had the perfect level of spookiness for me and is an ideal Halloween read for chick lit lovers!

3/5

Renovation, Renovation, Renovation is out now in ebook format and will be released on 5th March 2012 in paperback. I’d like to thank Nell for sending me a review copy.

You can find out more about Nell and her novels at: http://www.nelldixon.com/home.aspx


Book news: World Book Night 2012

29 Oct

The 25 titles for World Book Night 2012 were announced on Monday and there are some brilliant reads amongst them. The full list is below but I thought I’d highlight five of my favourites (synopses taken from Amazon)

Pride and Prejudice

My favourite Jane Austen novel – you can’t beat Elizabeth and Darcy as the ultimate romantic couple. One of the few books I’ve read more than once and I love it every time!

When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.

The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

I’m really pleased to see a chick lit novel on the list! I confessed that I’d never read a Sophie Kinsella novel last year but made up for it by running a Shopaholic challenge on the blog and have now read the entire series so far. Becky Bloomwood is such a fun character and the Shopaholic novels great escapist reads – needless to say, I’m a fan! You can read my review here.

Meet Rebecca Bloomwood.  She’s a journalist. She spends her working life telling others how to manage their money.
She spends her leisure time … shopping. Retail therapy is the answer to all her problems. She knows she should stop, but she can’t. She tries Cutting Back, she tries Making More Money. But neither seems to work. The stories she concocts become more and more fantastic as she tries to untangle her increasingly dire financial difficulties. Her only comfort is to buy herself something – just a little something…
Can Becky ever escape from this dream world, find true love, and regain the use of her Switch card? The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic … the perfect pick me up for when it’s all hanging in the (bank) balance.

Small Island by Andrea Levy

I’ve read all of Levy’s books but this is still my favourite and also one of my favourite historical fiction novels of recent years.

It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn’t know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all. What else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to fight against Hitler. Returning to England as a civilian he finds himself treated very differently. It’s desperation that makes him remember a wartime friendship with Queenie and knock at her door. Gilbert’s wife Hortense, too, had longed to leave Jamaica and start a better life in England. But when she joins him she is shocked to find London shabby, decrepit, and far from the golden city of her dreams. Even Gilbert is not the man she thought he was.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I loved this time-travelling paranormal romance. A beautiful and heartbreaking story that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future. In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

Another of my favourite authors. A really gripping and haunting tale of past and present colliding mixing historical fiction with modern day mystery and drama.

Esme was a woman edited out of her family’s history, and when, sixty years later, she is released from care, a young woman, Iris, discovers the great aunt she never knew she had. The mystery that unfolds is the heartbreaking tale of two sisters in colonial India and 1930s Edinburgh – of the loneliness that binds them together and the rivalries that drive them apart, and lead one of them to a shocking betrayal – but above all it is the story of Esme, a fiercely intelligent,  unconventional young woman, and of the terrible price she is made to pay for her family’s unhappiness …

The full list is below and there are a lot of books that I haven’t read so I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the selection. Will you be applying to be a ‘giver’ this year? Are your favourites on the list?

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Vintage)
The Player of Games by Iain M Banks (Little, Brown)
Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown)
Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson (Transworld)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Harper Collins)
The Take by Martina Cole (Headline)
Harlequin by Bernard Cornwell (Harper Collins)
Someone Like You by Roald Dahl (Penguin)
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (Penguin)
Room by Emma Donoghue (Pan Macmillan)
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (Little, Brown)
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)
Misery by Stephen King (Hodder)
The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (Transworld)
Small Island by Andrea Levy (Headline)
Let the Right One In by John Ajvde Lindqvist (Quercus)
The Road by Cormac McCarthy (Pan Macmillan)
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Vintage)
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell (Headline)
The Damned Utd by David Peace (Faber)
Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman (Transworld)
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Penguin)
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (Vintage)
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (Vintage)
The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (Transworld)

Book review: Wrapped up in You by Carole Matthews

28 Oct

A Christmas fling, or has Janie found the real thing?

Thirty-something hairdresser Janie Johnson’s single status is a constant source of gossip for her friends and clients. So after too many nights in with her cat, a blind date disaster and news that her ex is getting married, Janie realises it’s time to do something dramatic with her life.

It’s time for an adventure!

Leaving winter behind, Janie takes the plunge and books an exotic trip to Africa. Her friends think she’s mad and Janie thinks they may very well be right… but then she falls head over heels for her tour guide – and fully fledged Maasai Warrior – Dominic. But can Janie now face spending a snowy Christmas back home without him?

It’s no secret that I love Christmas and every year I make sure I have a collection of Christmas reads to see me through November and December. This year I’ve started my Christmas reading early with Wrapped up in You and what an excellent start it is!

I was drawn into the story immediately and within pages I was hooked. Carole Matthews has a very warm and easy to read writing style and I found this the perfect book to curl up and escape with. Even though my situation is very different to the one that lead character Janie finds herself in I identified with her straight away. She’s the same age as me so I think that helped and I loved her mindset; she made me laugh from the start with her thoughts and banter. The story is written in the first person from Janie’s point of view which makes her even more accessible as a character and by the end of the book I felt like I really knew her and I was really hoping for a happy ending to her story!

Janie finds herself in a situation which will be familiar to many; having come out of a long term relationship and wondering if she will ever find true love. Fed up with her life after a run in with her ex who informs her that he’s getting married and about to be a Dad, Janie books a spur of the moment holiday; an African Safari. The story steps up a gear as Janie sets foot on African turf; Carole Matthew’s descriptions are vivid and the safari setting is refreshingly different for a Christmas novel. I loved the depiction of the developing relationship between Janie and Maasai warrior Dominic – it was so romantic but also felt very believable. Wrapped up in You certainly wins the prize for the most original couple in a rom com this year and through Janie and Dominic’s relationship the book explores the notion that true love can strike anywhere.

As Janie does, I found Dominic fascinating and enjoyed reading about a different culture and character. Matthews has certainly done her research (see her guest post earlier this week for more on that) and she handles the clash of cultures with style. Dominic’s perceptions and experiences of British culture certainly made me think. There is a strong theme of friendship running through the book and a good cast of supporting characters. I particularly liked Janie’s neighbor Mike and I enjoyed the way their relationship developed through the book. I liked the fact that Matthews kept me guessing to the end as to who Janie would end up with (if anyone!).

Although the book is set in the winter months and partly at Christmas, it is more about the relationship between Janie, Dominic and the supporting charcters than the festive celebrations and I think would make a fantastic read whatever the time of year. This is a story of true love, faith in your feelings and belief in soul mates. Definitely one for the romantics our there, Wrapped Up in You is an absolute winner in the winter warmer stakes. This is Carole Matthews nineteenth novel and I’m wondering why it’s taken me so long to discover her. I’ll certainly be reading more and am already looking forward to her next book which is out in May 2012.

5/5

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

Wrapped up in You is out now. You can find out more about Carole and her books at: http://www.carolematthews.com/

Wins the prize for the most original couple in a rom com.

Book news: Cover love! Until I Die by Amy Plum

26 Oct

I loved the cover for Amy Plum’s debut Die for Me and I like this one even better (sapphire blue is my favourite colour!).

Until I Die is released on 3rd May 2012. The synopsis hasn’t been released yet but check out Amy’s gorgeous blog for news as it is released: http://www.amyplumbooks.com/

Book review: Trade Winds by Christina Courtenay

25 Oct

Marriage of convenience or a love for life?

It’s 1732 in Gothenburg, Sweden, and strong-willed Jess van Sandt knows only too well that it s a man’s world. She believes she’s being swindled out of her inheritance by her stepfather and she’s determined to stop it.

When help appears in the unlikely form of handsome Scotsman Killian Kinross, himself disinherited by his grandfather, Jess finds herself both intrigued and infuriated by him. In an attempt to recover her fortune, she proposes a marriage of convenience. Then Killian is offered the chance of a lifetime with the Swedish East India Company’s Expedition and he’s determined that nothing will stand in his way, not even his new bride.

He sets sail on a daring voyage to the Far East, believing he’s put his feelings and past behind him. But the journey doesn’t quite work out as he expects….

Trade Winds was shortlisted for the RNA Pure Passion Awards ‘Best Historical Fiction’ 2011 and I’d heard lots of good things about it so when I spotted that it was free on Amazon for the Kindle, I downloaded a copy straight away. I have to admit that the reason I hadn’t got round to reading this book before was that I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy a story about trade and a voyage across oceans. I couldn’t have been more wrong; Trade Winds is wonderfully engrossing piece of historical fiction and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Killian and Jess are both great lead characters and the chemistry between them really jumps off the page. I’m always a fan of strong, independent women in the novels I read and I admired Jess for her determination to find out the truth about her inheritance and her absolute belief in herself and her worth, but it was her softer side coupled with her inexperience that made me love her as a character. Jess truly is a feisty heroine and a great match for Killian who is equally determined to do his own thing and assert his independence and comes across as a lovable rogue at the start of the novel. I really enjoyed the development of both characters as the book progressed and the circumstances they find themselves in bring about both personal transformations and act as a wonderful setting for their developing romance.

Trade Winds also stands out for the use of different locations. Starting in Edinburgh, the novel moves to Sweden and then on an exotic voyage culminating in China. I thought the location descriptions were fascinating and the level of detail certainly showed that Christina Courtenay has done her research. I really did feel transported to another time and place as I read. The settings, coupled with a pacey storyline involving elements of mystery and some thrilling action scenes all add up to create a read that had me gripped!

I’m so pleased that Christina decided to write a sequel to this book. Highland Storms is released on 1st November and continues the story of the Kinross family. I’ve just started reading it so look out for a review next week.

5/5

You can find out more about Christina Courtenay and her novels on the Choc Lit website at: http://www.choc-lit.com/html/christina_courtenay.html and on her own website at: http://christinacourtenay.com/


Guest post: Not All Research is Equal by Carole Matthews

24 Oct

Today I’m welcoming my first ever guest blogger to One More Page; the fabulous Carole Matthews, whose new book Wrapped Up in You is out this Thursday.  One More Page is Carole’s first stop on her Wrapped Up in You blog tour! Welcome Carole!

Readers often ask me how much research I do for a book and, I guess, the easy answer is that it largely depends on the book. For The Chocolate Lovers’ Club, I ate lots of chocolate and put on a stone in weight. I went paintballing and got shot in the back for The Chocolate Lovers’ Diet. I do, sometimes , suffer for my art! For Welcome To The Real World, I spent a year working with the Welsh National Opera and it’s fair to say that I never want to see Madame Butterfly ever again.

Sometimes the books are set close to home and others I try to set in more exotic locations to give a bit of variety. For my latest book, Wrapped Up In You, I wanted to show a contrast to a typically British Christmas and I thought that the landscape and heat of Africa would provide an excellent backdrop. It would also give me the opportunity to have a very different type of romantic hero  as  Dominic, is a fully-fledged Maasai warrior! From the comments I’ve had already from readers, it seems like everyone has fallen in love with Dominic just as my heroine, Janie, did.  I even had a phone call from my mum who was reading the book and was very worried about him. She couldn’t bear to wait until the end to see if it all turned out well for Dominic and Janie!

The research was like a dream come true. My dearly-beloved, Lovely Kev, and I spent a week in the Maasai Mara in Kenya on safari. The deal is that I do all the note-taking and Lovely Kev takes all the photographs so that I can remember all the wonderful things we’ve seen when I’m back in my office in downtown Milton Keynes!

I always try to do as much as I can, while I’m there. Although I have a rough outline of my plot, I’m never entirely sure what I’m going to use and you can’t just pop back to somewhere like the Maasai Mara! We spent time in a Maasai village talking to the people and getting an insight into their way of life. They are such lovely people, warm with a quiet charm. Their life is so hard and sparse compared to ours that I thought it would be interesting to bring Dominic back to an English village to see the contrast.  We joined in with a Maasai traditional dancing and jumping ceremony which features in the book and bumped across the dusty plains in a truck as Janie does. I hope that it adds to the colour of the story and I try to be as accurate as I can. If a place is truly inspiring then I think it can really add to the plot and the flavour of the novel.

We did glamping – posh camping – but, at the end of the day there’s still just a bit of canvas between you and a startling variety of wild animals. There were a couple of hairy moments – we had a hippopotamus eating right outside our tent in the dead of the night, so close that you could hear its tummy rumbling and the roar of the lions coming closer and closer as they went out hunting was enough to set the heart racing!

Africa is such a vast and beautiful country. The Maasai Mara is just spectacular. If you can possibly get there, please put a trip to the Maasai Mara on your ‘to do’ list. In Wrapped Up In You, I hope I’ve given you a taste of its magic.

Thank you Carole. Wrapped up in You is out on 27th October. Please stop by on Thursday for my review and do check out the other stops on Carole’s blog tour!

You can find out more about Carole and her novels at: http://www.carolematthews.com/

The Best of Me Giveaway Winners!

23 Oct

The winners are …

Linda, Kayleigh, Hayley, Saffron and Sarah C

Congratulations! I have sent you all an email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Look out for more giveaways coming soon!

Book news: Build a Man by Talli Roland

20 Oct

Having really enjoyed Talli Roland’s September release Watching Willow Watts, I was very excited to see that she will be releasing another book in December! Build a Man, will be available as an e-book on December 7th, and in paperback in the New Year.

Slave to the rich, rude and deluded, cosmetic surgery receptionist Serenity Holland longs for the day she’s a high-flying tabloid reporter. Unfortunately, every pitch she sends out disappears like her clients’ liposuctioned fat, never to be seen again. Then she meets Jeremy Ritchie — the hang-dog man determined to be Britain’s Most Eligible Bachelor by making himself over from head to toe and everything in between — giving Serenity a story no editor could resist.

With London’s biggest tabloid on board and her very own column tracking Jeremy’s progress from dud to dude, Serenity is determined to be a success, even going undercover to gain intimate access to Jeremy’s life. But when Jeremy’s surgery goes drastically wrong and Serenity is ordered to cover all the car-crash goriness, she must decide how far she really will go for her dream job.

November hot picks – new releases on my wish list

19 Oct

I always love November for book releases as there are lots of lovely Christmas titles to choose from. I’ve narrowed the November releases down to five of my favourites that I’ll be adding to my shelves next month.

Highland Storms by Christina Courtenay
Released 1st November
Published by Choc Lit
Website:
http://christinacourtenay.com/

Highland Storms is the sequel to the excellent Trade Winds. Trade Winds was short-listed for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Pure Passion Award for Best Historical Fiction 2011 and I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens next to the Kinross family. You can read the first two chapters on the Choc Lit website.

Betrayed by his brother and his childhood love, Brice Kinross needs a fresh start. So he welcomes the opportunity to leave Sweden for the Scottish Highlands to take over the family estate.

But there’s trouble afoot at Rosyth in 1754 and Brice finds himself unwelcome. The estate’s  in ruin and money is disappearing.  He discovers an ally in Marsaili Buchanan, the beautiful redheaded housekeeper, but can he trust her?

Marsaili is determined to build a good life. She works hard at being housekeeper and harder still at avoiding men who want to take advantage of her.  But she’s irresistibly drawn to the new clan chief, even though he’s made it plain he doesn’t want to be shackled to anyone.

And the young laird has more than romance on his mind. His investigations are stirring up an enemy.  Someone who will stop at nothing to get what he wants – including Marsaili – even if that means destroying Brice’s life forever …

Any Dream Will Do by Maria Duffy
Released 3rd November
Published by
Hachette Books Ireland
Website: http://writenowmom.wordpress.com/

As a bit of a Twitter addict myself, I love the sound of the plot for Maria Duffy’s debut novel.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, except single Dubliner Jenny Breslin is feeling something a little closer to gloomy. Everything about her life – her boring job at the bank, the complete lack of romance – has been untouched by holiday magic, and she dreads the thought of spending yet another festive season with her larger-than-life mother and her new boyfriend.

Thank God for Twitter, a place where there are always people ready and waiting to have a chat. She’s even managed to make a couple of genuine friends there, even though she’s never met them IRL (that’s ‘In Real Life’ by the way).

‘So who’s on for a few days in Dublin? Would love to meet you all in person. I have a spare room in my house’ – this drunken tweet to her Twitter pals changes Jenny’s life forever. Before she knows it, she’s counting down to a Christmas visit from London-native Zahra Burns, make-up artist to the stars; Fiona Lee, a stay-at-home mum from Galway, and nurse Kerry (the Twitter buddy Jenny feels closest to).

Suddenly, Jenny becomes aware of how her life will appear to these strangers. In a word: Boring. It’s easy enough to pretend that you’re an exciting and sophisticated person when nobody can see you, but now Jenny’s worried about being caught out in the occasional lies that she’s told. All the more incentive to change her life for the better! But once her pals arrive, Jenny finds herself pining for the past and wondering if people are ever who they claim to be.

It Started With a Kiss by Miranda Dickinson
Released 10th November
Published by Avon
Website:
http://www.miranda-dickinson.com/

This is the final book from my ‘Top Five Most Anticipated Chick Lit Books of 2011‘ I’m so excited that the wait is almost over and can’t wait to read it!

As the singer in a wedding band, Romily Parker has seen her fair share of happy endings, even though her own love life isn’t quite as simple.

On the last Saturday before Christmas, (shortly after disastrously declaring her love for best friend Charlie), Romily has a brief encounter with a handsome stranger whose heart-stopping kiss changes everything.

Determined to find him again, Romily embarks on a yearlong quest, helped (and sometimes hindered) by enthusiastic Uncle Dudley, cake-making Auntie Mags and flamboyant Wren. Will she find the man of her dreams? Or could true love be closer than she thinks?

Breakfast at Darcy’s by Ali McNamara
Released 24th November
Published by Sphere
Website:
http://www.alimcnamara.co.uk/

I’m a big fan of Ali’s debut From Notting Hill with Love … Actually so this is another book that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time!

When Darcy McCall loses her beloved Aunt Molly, she doesn’t expect any sort of inheritance – let alone a small island! Located off the west coast of Ireland, Tara hasn’t been lived on for years, but according to Molly’s will Darcy must stay there for twelve months in order to fully inherit. It’s a big shock. And she’s even more shocked to hear she needs to persuade a village full of people to settle there, too. Darcy must leave behind her independent city life and swap stylish heels for muddy wellies. Between sorting everything from the plumbing to the pub, she meets confident, charming Conor and sensible, stubborn Dermot – but who will make her feel really at home?

One Minute to Midnight by Amy Silver
Released 24th November
Published by Arrow
Website:
http://www.rbooks.co.uk/author.aspx?id=64028

Another gorgeous cover and fab sounding plot!

Nicole Blake’s New Year Resolutions, 1990: 1 Start keeping a journal; 2. Lose half a stone; 3. Kiss Julian Symonds. If there are two things Nicole can guarantee about New Years Eve it’s that there are always fireworks and Julian Symonds is always there. Since she was thirteen, no New Year has been complete without Jules. Through school, university and beyond, as friends come and go, Nic and Jules are at the centre of every party. Until one year everything changes…

Now, as another New Year approaches, Nicole has ghosts to lay and bridges to build – with her husband Dom, with her best friend Alex, and with Aidan, the man who broke her heart. Life is about to change again for Nicole, and once the fireworks are over and the dust has settled, this time she is determined it will be for the better.

What are you looking forward to reading next month?

Book news: Magnolia House by Pauline Barclay

18 Oct

I reviewed Pauline Barclay’s fab  third novel Sometimes it Happens in the summer and I noticed the other day that a re-edited version of her first novel Magnolia House was re-released earlier this month with a gorgeous new cover:

When Jane Leonard gave half of her house to her only son, little did she realise that within twelve months, she would be forced to sell the home she had lived in for nearly five decades.

The choice for this action was not hers, but the events that led up to her handing over fifty percent of Magnolia House paled by comparison to what happened after the ink had dried on the documents that named the new owners.

As Magnolia House is put on the market for sale, love and betrayal, hopes and dreams and ultimately family loyalty will affect the lives of all of those who become involved

Pauline is also the first author I’ve heard of to be able to electronically sign her books using Kindlegraph. You can find out more at: http://kindlegraph.com/authors/paulinembarclay