Archive | April, 2012

The Lucky One giveaway winner

30 Apr

The winner is …

Raine

Congratulations! I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Look out for another fab giveaway coming tomorrow!

 

Book news: The Pollyanna Plan by Talli Roland

30 Apr

Talli Roland’s latest newsletter included very exciting news about a new novel scheduled for release in November. The Pollyanna Plan sounds like another hit for Talli and I love the title and the cover.

Thirty-something Emma Beckett has always looked down on ‘the glass is half full’ optimists, believing it’s better to be realistic than delusional. But when she loses her high-powered job and fiancé in the same week, even Emma has difficulty keeping calm and carrying on.

With her world spinning out of control and bolstered by a challenge from her best friend, Emma makes a radical decision. For the next year, she’ll behave like Pollyanna: attempting to always see the upside, no matter how dire the situation.

Can adopting a positive attitude give Emma the courage to build a new life, or is finding the good in everything a very bad idea?

Thankfully we don’t have to wait until November for more from Talli. Her new novel, Construct a Couple, the sequel to the excellent Build a Man  is out as an ebook in June!

Find out more about Talli and her books at: http://talliroland.blogspot.co.uk

Book news: This is How it Ends by Kathleen MacMahon

27 Apr

Over the last couple of weeks this book has been creating quite a buzz in my Twitter stream so I looked it up and immediately fell in love with the gorgeous cover. The story sounds fascinating too and from what I’ve heard, will need to be read with a box of tissues at hand. This is How it Ends will be released on 24th May.

Ireland . . .

America . . .

Family secrets . . .

Laughter . . .

Tragedy . . .

Swimming . . .

Dogs . . .

Big beaches . . .

Loneliness . . .

A story of unexpected,

life-changing love

Author interview: Judith Kinghorn

26 Apr

In celebration of the paperback publication of her debut historical novel, The Last Summer, I’m very excited to welcome Judith Kinghorn to One More Page today. The Last Summer is my favourite of the books I’ve read so far this year – a beautiful and heartbreaking story of the First World War and its aftermath, telling the story of a lost generation. You can read my full review here. Welcome Judith!

I absolutely loved The Last Summer and felt it really captured the story of the survivors of the First World War. What drew you to the period and why did you decide to tell this particular story?

Thank you, Amanda. I’m delighted to hear that!

A few things came together to give me the idea for The Last Summer. Firstly, I’d recently reread Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca and decided that I’d like to write a first person narrative. Also, I’d been researching – and was immersed in – the years leading up to and including the First World War. And I knew I wanted to write a love story, because I believe all the greatest stories have that at their heart.  I realised that although there have been many books written about that time, and any number of novels set around the actual war – in the trenches, there are very few told from a single female perspective. So I decided that this book would offer a different perspective, and would tell the story of the war – and its effects – from very personal point of view, and from home.

This is your debut novel; how does it feel to finally see your words in print?

It feels great, but I haven’t had a lot of time to think about it yet, because I’ve been so busy working on my second novel. The most rewarding aspect of it all is hearing from readers. I’ve had messages and emails from all over the world, and that’s been wonderful.

I thought Clarissa was a wonderful character and really enjoyed watching her develop through the book. For readers who haven’t met her yet please could you describe her in one sentence.

Naive and vulnerable, a product of her background and time, Clarissa is tested when the world she knows collapses, and proves herself a survivor.

The descriptions of Clarissa’s childhood home, Deyning Park, are beautiful. Is it based on a real location?

No, Deyning Park is fictitious, but I know setting, the landscape, because it’s not far from where I live, and I very quickly saw the house and grounds in my mind’s eye. I think it’s an amalgamation of places I’ve visited or read about, or seen photographs of. And the more I thought about the place the more vividly it came to me.

At the heart of the last summer is a sweeping and heart-breaking romance; who are your favourite literary romantic figures?

Anna Karenina was one of the first great love stories that had an impact on me, along with Lady Chatterley’s Lover and The Great Gatsby. I also recently reread L P Harltey’s The Go-Between, which is a sublime read and chronicles the doomed love affair of Marian and Ted. And I’d have to include Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I think Mr Darcy remains pretty unbeatable as far as romantic heroes go.

Some of the events in The Last Summer are quite shocking and many of the social mores and cultural impacts of the war that are drawn out were a surprise to me; how did you go about your research and what was the most interesting part for you?

I’ve always read a lot of historical biographies and I returned to some of them during my research for The Last Summer. Whilst I was writing the book I limited my reading to biographies and novels specifically from that time. I also kept old postcards, images and photographs around me to act as visual prompts and reminders. I wanted the story to be seen as much as read, for the reader to be transported to that time. I wanted the book to be historically accurate without being too turgid or bogged down by detail, and for the voice to be authentic but at the same time not alienate the twenty-first century reader.

Almost everything I learned during the course of my research shocked me in one way or another, and often reduced me to tears. Over and over I was struck by the scale of loss, and grief, and the extraordinary bravery, not just of the men at the front, but of the mothers and families and those left at home. I have a teenage son, and so to read about boys as young as fourteen or fifteen who went off to fight was heart wrenching. And reading first hand accounts of mothers who lost not just one son, but – two, three, four – all of their sons, drove home the enormity of that loss, and of a nation crippled and brow-beaten by grief.

It’s a very emotional novel. Which character did you find hardest to write? 

Clarissa: because it is her story. And although at first I wasn’t sure if I liked her, she proved she could survive. Her journey was definitely the hardest, emotionally. When we first meet her she is very much a product of her background: naive and cosseted and destined to be married off. Three years later, her world and expectations have changed. She copes – the best way she can, in a time when women of her class were considered mere trophies, and whose main purpose in life was to produce an heir and a spare. In many ways, and according to the conventions and expectations of that time, she failed. Because she did not become the person she was destined and brought up to be.

For readers with a particular interest in the period which books and novels would you recommend as further reading?

Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain

The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson

The Great Silence by Juliet Nicolson

Ettie by Richard Davenport-Hines

The Duff Cooper Diaries edited by John Julius Norwich

The Edwardians by Roy Hattersley

Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Max Arthur

Lost Voices of the Edwardians by Max Arthur

Daisy: the Life and Loves of the Countess of Warwick by Sushila Anand

Born 1900 by Hunter Davies

And finally … what can we expect next from Judith Kinghorn?

Well, I can tell you that the next book is set in the same era, but this time a few years before the outbreak of World War One. It’s a story about memory, and duplicity, and obsessive love.

I’m already looking forward to it! Many thanks Judith and happy publication day.

You can find out more about Judith and her writing at: http://judithkinghorn.blogspot.com/

Book review: Outrageous Fortune by Lulu Taylor

25 Apr

Daisy Dangerfield has been brought up in the lap of luxury. Her father, Daddy Dangerfield, has given her the best of everything, she’s not known a moment’s doubt or worry. Until a shocking secret is revealed, and she is thrown out of the family with nothing but her dreams of revenge.

Meanwhile on a rough council estate in East London, Chanelle has wanted to be a dancer her whole life. Dancing is the one thing that takes her out of the grim reality of her life with her alcoholic mother and she is determined to use any means possible to become successful, no matter how underhand her methods.

Born on the same day Chanelle and Daisy’s lives could not be more different. Until everything changes, and they discover they have more in common than they could ever have imagined.

I read my first Lulu Taylor book last year (Beautiful Creatures) and I really enjoyed it, so I was very much looking forward to this new release. Having read it, all I can say is – wow!! Outrageous Fortune is a brilliant read that kept me up way past my bedtime and in my sleep-deprived state, it takes a lot to keep me up reading at the moment!

The story starts in 1985 with two very different births; at the exclusive Portland Hospital Daisy Dangerfield is born into luxury, doted upon by her father and destined for a wealthy, pampered future. In stark contrast on the other side of London, Chanelle Hughes is born addicted to heroin, to a drug and alcohol addicted mother and left to struggle for a chance for a better life. As they grow up, their lives are poles apart but some dramatic twists of fate find them both taking on new lives and having a lot more in common than they could ever have imagined! I love stories like this and Outrageous Fortune has everything you could wish for from a blockbuster novel; big bold dramatic story-lines, shocking twists, glamorous locations, very sexy men and two feisty and determined heroines.

The book is split into four parts and follows Daisy and Chanelle as they grow up and as their lives change dramatically. Just as the two girls’ fortunes change in the course of the novel, so did my opinion of them. I started off with a lot of sympathy for Chanelle and marveling at Daisy’s wonderful lifestyle. As Daisy grew up I thought she became quite spoiled and I found myself less taken by her character but as the big plot twist took place and Daisy’s world crashed down around her I was impressed by the way she picked herself up and moved on and she ended up being my favourite character in the novel. I also changed my opinion of Chanelle several times during the book and I love the way Lulu Taylor used the girls’ changing situations to bring out their full personalities. The mystery of the connections between Daisy and Chanelle makes Outrageous Fortune a real page turner and I was completely drawn into the story and their lives.

I enjoyed the romance aspect to the book a lot too. Both Daisy and Chanelle have chances at love and romance and in both cases, their relationships bring out a softer side in them. Outrageous Fortune has a much lighter feel to it than Beautiful Creatures which tackled some quite dark themes and I thought it was great that both girls got to have some romantic fun in amongst all the drama! That’s not to say that their love lives run smoothly – both girls find their pasts catching up with them as they are forced to keep secrets from the men they love.

I always imagine Lulu has great fun researching the wealthy glamorous sides of her books and creating the worlds of her uber-rich characters. I know I certainly enjoy escaping there but as well as being highly entertaining, the detail is also believable and very well researched with Outrageous Fortune taking us on a journey that encompasses luxury hotel empires, country estates, the sink estates of London and an iron ore mine in Russia!

As the book reaches its conclusion, the twists and turns had me turning the pages as fast as I could and despite its size, this was a quick read. Outrageous Fortune is a riches to rags to riches  story that had me completely engrossed for all of its six hundred plus pages. Glamorous, sexy, fun and gripping, I can’t recommend it highly enough as a wonderfully escapist read and am already eagerly anticipating Lulu Taylor’s next novel.

5/5

You can find our more abot Lulu Taylor and her books at: http://www.lulutaylor.co.uk/

Outrageous Fortune is out now and I’d like to thank Amelia at Random House for sending me a review copy.

 

Book news: The Circle by Sara B Elfgren and Mats Strandberg

24 Apr

I heard about The Circle for the first time last week and it went straight on to my wish list. A Swedish bestseller, this is the first book in a new paranormal trilogy where seven teenage witches are hunted by an ancient evil. The Circle will be released on 7th June and I can’t wait!

One night, when a strange red moon fills the sky, six school girls find themselves in an abandoned theme park, drawn there by a mysterious force. A student has just been found dead. Everyone suspects suicide. Everyone – except them.

In that derelict fairground an ancient prophecy is revealed. They are The Chosen Ones, a group of witches, bound together by a power, one which could destroy them all. But they soon learn that despite their differences they need each other in order to master the forces that have been awakened within them.

High school is now a matter of life and death. Because the killing has only just begun.

Book review: Women of a Dangerous Age by Fanny Blake

23 Apr

Lou is married to a man who no longer loves her. It’s time to move on, to begin a new business venture and to start her life over.

To celebrate her new-found freedom, she travels to India, where, in front of the Taj Mahal, she befriends Ali after taking each other’s photographs on ‘that’ bench.

Ali is a serial mistress. But when she returns home, she discovers her latest lover is not the man she took him for. She too needs a new beginning.

As Lou and Ali put their pasts behind them, they start to discover new possibilities for life and for love, until the shocking realisation that they have far more in common than they thought.

Women of a Dangerous Age gets off to an excellent start, transporting us to India where lead charcters Lou and Ali are both escaping Christmas. For both the holiday marks a new start; Lou, having recently separated from her husband of thirty years, is looking forward to a new start on her own. For Ali, it’s the reverse as she looks forward to moving in with her boyfriend.

Lou and Ali two very different characters. Lou is colourful and comes across as larger than life; not always perfect but an open and warm person. There is a very funny airport scene where Lou has a bit of a luggage disaster and this and her reaction to it really endeared her to me! Ali on the other hand is very reserved and self contained, keeping herself apart from the group. I wanted to dislike Ali; she’s a serial mistress and her principles in relation to her relationships didn’t really sit comfortably with me. But despite wanting to, I couldn’t dislike her and as I got to know more about her background and character I actually found myself sympathising with her.

Blake has done an excellent job of creating two female lead characters with strength and humour and really brings out a depth of understanding of both throughout the novel through flashbacks and memories of their pasts which help to fill in their history and explain the people they have become in the present. I liked the way Ali and Lou’s friendship developed despite all the reasons that it shouldn’t. The situation they find themselves in leads to an easy, no holds barred honest friendship. Their banter flows on the page and Blake has created a lovely chemistry between them. I also enjoyed reading about their business ventures. Ali is a skilled jewelry maker and Lou, a talented dressmaker is launching a vintage and vintage-inspired clothing shop.

Fanny Blake’s writing is very accessible and I’m sure readers will readily identify with the situations and relationships she identifies. The spectrum and complexity of the relationships covered is great including a mother who abandoned her daughter and husband, a lost love, a serial mistress and a single mum. Lou’s relationship with her daughter fascinated me – as a mum to two boys I have a rosy image of how things might be if I had a daughter – Lou’s situation points out that no matter what you hope for in your relationships with your children you can’t necessarily predict the outcome once they are adults and it certainly made me think!

This is very much a book about relationships; with children, friends and partners. I loved the premise of that ‘dangerous age’ where you look at your life and decide if this is it or if you need to or are willing to make changes to get what you want and I thought Blake did an excellent job of exploring the topic through the book.   I often find that these types of books can become quite negative and almost depressing to read but Blake has done an excellent job of keeping the story upbeat but also very emotional. Her characters are written with warmth and an understanding that life is complicated and individuals actions are not always straightforward.  There is just the right amount of wit and humour in the story which for me made it an enjoyable and engrossing read.

As the story progresses there are a a number of excellent twists and although I had an inkling of the first, the second big twist really surprised me. Ali’s search for truth about her mum kept me gripped and again the outcome surprised me. Without giving away any spoilers, I thought the big reveal in relation to Ali and Lou’s friendship was excellent. Fanny Blake has definitely found her form with her second novel keeping me guessing to the end as to the outcome of Lou and Ali’s love lives. Women of a Dangerous Age is clever, funny, emotional and real. Highly recommended!

Women of a Dangerous Age is released on 26th April and I’d like to thank Amy at Harper Collins for sending me a review copy.

5/5

Author interview: Fanny Blake

23 Apr

Today I’m delighted to welcome Fanny Blake to One More Page. As well as being a novelist, Fanny is a journalist and the current books editor of Women and Home magazine. I enjoyed Fanny’s debut novel, What Women Want which was released last year and her fab second book, Women of a Dangerous Age is published this week. Welcome Fanny!

Your new novel Women of a Dangerous Age is published on 26th April; please tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it.

I always think that birthdays are a bit of a pause for thought. After my last one, I decided I wanted to write about that nasty moment when you’re brought up short by life and ask yourself, is this it? Have I achieved everything I want to achieve? Is there anything more that I really want to do? And, most important of all, I wanted to ask the question: Is it ever too late to change? And then, in came Lou and Ali …

Lou is married to a man she realises no longer loves her. Their children have left home, so she decides to make a fresh start on her own and to fulfil a lifelong dream of setting up her own business. Ali, on the other hand, is thrilled that, after a series of long-term lovers, she is about to settle down with the most recent of them. The two women meet on holiday in India where they become friends. But when they return home, of course it’s not all plain sailing – especially when some unexpected revelations threaten to rock the boat.

This is your second novel; did you find it easier or harder to write than the first?

Both easier and harder, if that makes sense. It was easier in some ways because I knew more of what to expect while writing the novel. For me, the initial chapters seem to fall into place quite easily, I despair in the middle when all the balls are in the air, and am exhilarated by the sprint to the end. So when I did reach that inevitable middle stage, I knew that I should keep going. But it was harder too, not because anything went wrong, but because of course I wanted it to be better than the first, and as good as I could possibly make it. I think one of the problems of having been an editor myself is that I’m very self-critical.

In the novel, lead characters Lou and Ali meet on an escape trip to India? What drew you to India as a location and if you could escape anywhere this summer where would it be?

I’ve been on holiday to India a couple of times, and loved so much of what I saw there.  I was amused by the idea of starting a novel about two women and their changing relationships with men on Diana’s bench at the Taj Mahal. Seemed very apt. If I could escape anywhere this summer, I think I’d go to an empty Cornish beach and stretch of cliff path and then, in September, to Bhutan – somewhere I’ve always longed to go.

Your novels focus on female friendships and I found both What Women Want and Women of a Dangerous Age funny and realistic portrayals of the relationships we have with our female friends. What do you think are the three key factors in true friendship?

Trust, loyalty and a good sense of humour.

Who was your favourite character to write and why?

I think it has to be Lou in Women of a Dangerous Age. She’s slightly larger than life, feisty, flamboyant, and has decided to shake things up a bit. She’s my kind of gal. I think we’d be friends.

Women of a Dangerous Age is an interesting title; how did you choose it?

I was chatting to a friend and said something about ‘women of a certain age’, and she joked, ‘Yes, women of a dangerous age.’ We immediately pounced on the phrase as a great title that was a perfect match for the novel I was writing.

The novel also examines the spectrum of romantic and family relationships with some surprising revelations; how do you go about your research?

Researching that spectrum of relationships is done by talking to friends, reading newspapers and just generally absorbing stories I hear about other people’s lives. But I did research the vintage fashion market (Lou’s passion) by going to lots of vintage fairs, reading up about it and interviewing several people in the business. Ali is a goldsmith so I picked the brains of a goldsmith, visiting her studio and talking to her about how she spends her day and how she works.

And finally … what can we expect next from Fanny Blake?

I’m working on my third novel now, which is about the complexity of marriage, one’s own and other people’s. It’s called Other Women’s Husbands.

Thank you Fanny.

Women of a Dangerous Age is released on 26th April – please stop by later today for my review!

Book news and giveaway: The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

21 Apr

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks has been re-released with a new cover to coincide with the release of the film version starring Zac Efron (out on 2nd May).

In more exciting news for UK based fans, it was announced yesterday that Nicholas Sparks will be appearing at Foyles, Charing Cross Road for a discussion of The Lucky One  and signing on 28th April. This is his first UK event for seven years and you can find out more on the Little Brown website and purchase tickets on the Foyles Website.

Is there really such a thing as a good luck charm? Ex-soldier Logan thinks he just might have found one. Haunted by memories of the friends he lost in Iraq, Logan knows how fortunate he is to be home. He believes that a photograph he carried with him, a picture of a smiling woman he’s never met, kept him safe. Even though he knows nothing about this woman, he hopes she might hold the key to his destiny.

Resolving to find her, Logan embarks on a journey of startling discovery. Beth, the woman whose picture he holds, is struggling with problems of her own: her volatile ex-husband won’t accept their relationship is over and threatens anyone who gets too close to her. And, despite a growing attraction between them, Logan has kept one explosive secret from Beth: how he came across her photograph in the first place . . .

Giveaway!

To celebrate the release I have one copy of the book to give away. To enter just leave a ‘pick me’ comment below and I’ll draw a winner using random.org after the closing date. This giveaway is open until midnight on Tuesday 24th April. UK entries only please. Good luck and look out for my review coming soon!

 

Book review: The ultimate baby and toddler q&a with Hollie Smith and Netmums

20 Apr

(From the back cover) How do I pick him up? Is it OK to bring her into bed with me? Is it OK to give him a dummy? When will she sleep through? When should I start weaning? When will she start crawling? How do I make a start on solids? When will he start talking? When should I start potty training? So many questions for mothers of babies and toddlers – but all the answers are in THE ULTIMATE BABY & TODDLER Q&A, a comprehensive and accessible handbook from Netmums, the fastest-growing online parents’ organisation in the UK. This indispensable guide includes hundreds of top tips and suggestions from other mums – it’s real advice that really works from real mums who have experienced what you’re going through.

Something a little bit different for today’s review with a non-fiction book! I think I’m probably not the only mum who has found herself randomly Googling things like ‘my baby is sleeping/not sleeping a lot – is this normal?!’ and ‘teething remedies’ and more often than not, my searches have led me to the Netmums message boards where I’ve found lots of mums going through the same thing and have been completely reassured that my little ones are normal and I’m not the only one stressing about the ups and downs of parenthood! Now Netmums has put the answers to fifty of the most commonly asked baby and toddler-related questions in their new book The ultimate baby and toddler Q&A.

I really wish I’d had this book when I was a new mum; it’s a very reassuring read with an excellent balance of ‘expert’ advice and quotes from Netmums members which comes across as helpful rather than preachy. Having recently had my second baby, I was amazed at how different children can be and the quotes from real mums give a good indication of this and the different approaches parents can take proving that there isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ answer as much as we might want one!

The book is divided into five parts, each covering ten key questions on Newborns, 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-12 months and 12 months plus and covers everything from ‘Is she supposed to sleep this much’ and ‘Should his poo look like this’ to ‘Do other mums feel this bored’ and ‘What’s with the tantrums?’ Each chapter starts with a general introduction followed by a ‘What the experts say’ section and ending with a section titled ‘What the Netmums Say’. I thought this worked really well and the questions and advice are easy to dip in and out of. There’s also a keyword index at the back to help you find the topics you need.

The experts include a nurse, a paediatrician, a health visitor and a psychotheraputic counsellor all with a wealth of experience with babies and toddlers and the book ends with a ‘Useful addresses’ section at the back with lots of helpful telephone numbers and websites on topics such as breastfeeding, multiple births, weaning and postnatal depression. No book is ever going to be able to answer all of the questions that come up with babies and toddlers but this one makes an excellent start and I think it would make a great addition to any new mum’s bookshelf.

The ultimate baby and toddler Q&A is released on 26th April and I’d like to thank Emily at headline for sending me a review copy.

You can find out more about Netmums at: www.netmums.com