Archive | July, 2012

Guest book review: Cox by Kate Lace

31 Jul

Today I’m welcoming back the lovely Kirsty with her guest review of Cox by Kate Lace. Kirsty has caught the book blogging bug since doing some guest reviews for One More Page this summer and has now set up her own blog, I Heart Books! Please do stop by and say hi to her over there as well :) Welcome back Kirsty!

Meet the members of St George’s Boat Club: 

Dan - dark and brooding, he has to work day and night to achieve his dream of rowing in the London Olympics.

Rollo - rich and arrogant, when he’s not rowing he spends his time seducing women and spending money.

Amy - a brilliant cox who catches the eye of both Dan and Rollo.

In a boat Dan and Rollo row perfectly together, but on land they despise each other. So with the addition of Amy to the mix, sporting behaviour is the last thing on their mind.

May the best man win? Not a chance.

From Henley Regatta to the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, and finally to the biggest race of their lives, their determination to settle old scores threatens to capsize everyone’s plans.

I started reading this book not having any idea what coxing was and along the way I learned so much about the world of rowing and all the different races that we have for the sport.

The book mainly focused on the three characters mentioned above and their love triangle, although if you throw Tanya, who is Rollo’s fiancé into the mix, you get a twisted love square!

I thought Dan and Amy were great characters; they weren’t quite sure of their own skills and popularity amongst the others. As for Rollo, well, I despised him! He really is a character that you find yourself mentally screaming at and I will leave you guessing as to if you will learn any redeemable qualities about him.

I enjoyed the fact that even though the story focused mainly on these three characters there are other sub-stories that you learn about, for example Maddy and Seb and I can honestly say that at points it was waiting to learn what would happen with these two that kept me reading.

I read this book on my journey to and from work and when asked what I was reading I soon learned that it was easier to show the cover than say the name of the book! Perhaps it’s how I say COX with my accent, but I did get some funny looks at times!

This novel has has perfect timing with the Olympics now in full swing and I would recommend it as a hot summer read. The highs for me were when the rivalry really got underway; the dynamics of Rollo and Tanya’s relationship and Chuck, I think he was the one character that saw everyone for who they were.

We have had the Euros, Wimbledon and now we have the Olympics so add COX to your list and let the sporty summer continue!

4/5

Thanks Kirsty – this sounds like a great read for the beach :-)

Cox is out now and I’d like to thank Arrow for sending us a review copy.

You can find out more about Kate Lace and her books at: http://katelace.co.uk/

 

Book review: Before I Met You by Lisa Jewell

29 Jul

Having grown up on the quiet island of Guernsey, Betty Dean can’t wait to start her new life in London. On a mission to find Clara Pickle – the mysterious beneficiary in her grandmother’s will – she arrives in grungy, 1990s Soho, ready for whatever life has to throw at her. Or so she thinks…

In 1920s bohemian London, Arlette – Betty’s grandmother – is starting her new life in a time of post-war change. Beautiful and charismatic, Arlette is soon drawn into the hedonistic world of the Bright Young People. But less than two years later, tragedy strikes and she flees back to Guernsey for the rest of her life.

As Betty searches for Clara, she is taken on a journey through Arlette’s extraordinary time in London, uncovering a tale of love, loss and heartbreak. Will the secrets of Arlette’s past help Betty on her path to happiness?

Lisa Jewell has long been one of my favourite contemporary fiction authors and with Before I Met You she has added an excellent historical fiction string to her bow. Set in 1919 and 1995 in London, Before I Met You is the story of Arlette and Betty and is an intriguing and evocative tale with a gripping mystery at its heart and a heartbreaking romantic element too.

The story begins in Guernsey and the initial chapters of the book outline how Arlette and Betty meet as Betty’s family move to Arlette’s crumbling Guernsey home to look after her following a fall. The move soon becomes permanent and the ageing Arlette takes Betty under her wing introducing her to a wonderful world of vintage charm and glamour. On her death, Arlette leaves a large part of her estate to the unknown (and fabulously named) Clara Pickle and sets up an intriguing mystery for Betty to solve.

Betty is a lovely character and I admired her love and dedication to Arlette but also her drive and determination to follow her dreams and make her own life. I was impressed with how Betty just got on with things. The story is told in alternately by Betty and Arlette  as we follow Betty to Soho in 1995 and Arlette to Kensington in escaping a war-torn Guernsey in 1919. I enjoyed both elements of the story equally and I loved that Betty and the young Arlette discovered London together as their stories were told.

As the details of Arlette’s early life slowly unravel I was completely drawn in to the sparkling and avant garde world that Jewell has created for her. To say that Arlette was a dark horse is a bit of an understatement and I couldn’t get enough of the descriptions of 1920’s London, Jazz clubs and fashions. Lisa Jewell certainly seems to have done her historical research and Before I Met You is a very believable read.

I loved the way the stories mirrored each other as Arlette and Betty both find themselves starting out in London. Both with a couple of interesting love options to keep readers guessing. The 90’s references made me nostalgic for the time when I’d just moved to London and Lisa really captures the feeling of adventure mixed with fear of taking your life in your own hands and wondering what the future might bring.

The romantic element to the story is very well done and both Betty and Arlette’s relationships surprised me with their twists and turns.  I really enjoyed the larger than life yet touchingly human male characters that Jewell created for this book and I loved that she managed to keep me guessing right to the end about how Betty’s love life would work out. Despite already knowing the ending to Arlette’s story,  the same sense of mystery surrounds her romantic life and I was frantically trying to guess what would happen and how the elusive Clara Pickle fitted into the picture for most of the novel which made it a real page turner for me. When the truth finally came out, it wasn’t at all what I expected but I thought the ending to Arlette’s and Betty’s stories was excellent.

Lisa Jewell just goes from strength to strength – another brilliant read – probably my new favourite of hers! I’ve been spoiled in the last few months with two of Lisa’s books, so now I’ll try to wait patiently for the next one and I only hope she writes more from an historical perspective at some point.

5/5

Before I Met You is out now in paperback and ebook. I’d like to thank Najma at Random House for sending me a review copy.

You can find out more about Lisa Jewell and her books at: http://www.lisa-jewell.co.uk/

 

Book news: Write your own ending to It Happened At Boot Camp by Molly Hopkins!

24 Jul

I featured Molly Hopkins’ new ebook novella It Happened at Boot Camp in my Short Story Spotlight a couple of weeks ago. One of many things I enjoyed about the story was the fact that you get to choose your own ending. Now publisher, Little Brown has taken the fun a step further and is running a competition for readers to write their own ending to the story!

The competition is open worldwide and to enter you just need to write a 500 word alternative ending featuring the characters from It Happened at Boot Camp. The full details of how to enter can be found here on the Little Brown website.

The winning entrant will receive a copy of both books in the It Happened series (It Happened in Paris and It Happened in Venice, which is published on 30th August), and the winning entry will be posted on Little, Brown Books.net plus Molly Hopkins’ website http://www.mollyhopkins.co.uk/.

The deadline for entries is midnight on Thursday 2nd August – sounds like a perfect opportunity for budding chick lit authors! Good luck!

Book review: The Silent Touch of Shadows by Christina Courtenay

23 Jul

What will it take to put the past to rest?

Professional genealogist Melissa Grantham receives an invitation to visit her family’s ancestral home, Ashleigh Manor. From the moment she arrives, life-like dreams and visions haunt her. The spiritual connection to a medieval young woman and her forbidden lover have her questioning her sanity, but Melissa is determined to solve the mystery.

Jake Precy, owner of a nearby cottage, has disturbing dreams too, but it’s not until he meets Melissa that they begin to make sense. He hires her to research his family’s history, unaware their lives are already entwined. Is the mutual attraction real or the result of ghostly interference?

A haunting love story set partly in the present and partly in fifteenth century Kent.

The Silent Touch of Shadows is a little different to Christina Courtenay’s previous purely historical novels as it is set partly in the present and partly in the past. Having loved all of Christina’s historical fiction I was intrigued to see how she would deal with a contemporary element and I’m pleased to say that her gift for weaving a gripping story and creating wonderful chemistry between her leading men and women is just as good in a contemporary setting as it is in an historical one!

Melissa is very much the leading lady of the novel, and although the historical strand to the story has a strong lead in the character of Sibell, our knowledge of her stems from Melissa’s dreams, experiences and research and I felt like I knew Melissa best as I read. I loved that she is a genealogist and found the details of her work fascinating. Melissa has a young daughter and I thought their relationship was well written and believable. As the novel begins, we see Melissa, who has recently divorced, travelling to Ashleigh Manor in Kent to meet with a long lost relative and find out more about her own family history.

Melissa’s visit is the trigger for a whole series of life changing events as she begins to experience dreams and visions relating to a medieval maiden and a handsome knight! Courtenay cleverly twists the past and present strands of the story together and slowly reveals more detail of Sibell and Sir Roger’s story in the past, whilst maintaining the mystery in the present until the final chapters, making this a gripping and very enjoyable read.

I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of ghost stories but A Silent Touch of Shadows has made me think again. I really enjoyed both the historical and modern romance elements to the story and I loved how they came together in the end. I also love that Christina Courtenay created such a handsome ghost to haunt Melissa as well as a lovely leading man in the present in vet, Jake Precy. There is a darker, heartbreaking side to the story but overall this is another lovely romance from Christina and I’d highly recommend it to historical and contemporary romance fans alike.

4/5

The Silent Touch of Shadows is out now and I’d like to thank the publisher Choc Lit for sending me a review copy of this book.

You can find out more about The Silent Touch of Shadows and read the prologue and first two chapters at: http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/the_silent_touch_of_shadows.html

You can find out more about Christina Courtenay and her novels at: http://christinacourtenay.com/

Book news: Shadow of Night UK Book Tour Dates!

20 Jul

I’m very excited to see that Deborah Harkness is coming to the UK in September! Grab a ticket now :-) Click the date links to go directly to the booking pages where available.

Tuesday 11th September – 6.30 to 8.30pm 
Discovery of Shadows with Deborah Harkness and Christopher Fowler

The Gallery
Foyles
113 – 119 Charing Cross Road
London
WC2H 0EB

This is a free event but you must request tickets in advance by emailing events@foyles.co.uk or by going to the website here:www.foyles.co.uk/events-at-foyles

Wednesday 12th September

Talk and signing at Waterstones, Nottingham 7pm

Tickets £5 in advance or £3 with a Waterstones loyalty card

Waterstones
1/5 Bridlesmith gate
Nottingham
NG1 2GR

Tel: 08432908525 for more information or to reserve a signed copy

Thursday 13th September

Talk and signing at Waterstones, New St, Birmingham 7pm

Tickets £3 in advance redeemable against the cost of the book on the night

Waterstones
128 New St
Birmingham
B2 4DB

Tel: 08432908151 for more information or to reserve a signed copy

Book news: Looking for Fireworks by Holly Cavendish

20 Jul

How gorgeous is this cover? And what a lovely title! Looking for Fireworks will be released on 11th October by Pan and sounds just perfect for some cosy bonfire night reading :-) If you needed any more encouragement to give this a try, Holly Cavendish is the pen name of Ruth Saberton whose fab chick lit books always make me smile.

 

When her father becomes ill, single city girl Laney Barwell moves to the Cotswolds to look after him. She’s been looking for fireworks in her love life ever since she broke up with her predictable ex-boyfriend Giles, but she has no thoughts of kindling the spark she’s looking for here. If she can’t find love in a big city like London – with all its internet dating, singles nights, and socials – how can she ever hope to meet the man of her dreams in the tiny village of St Pontian? But there are two prospects when she gets there: Martin who can always be depended on for a kind word of advice. And Toby, who is distant, but who sets her heart ablaze. When it comes to love, should Laney trust the logic of her head or the racing of her heart?

Guest book review: Charlotte Street by Danny Wallace

18 Jul

I’m very excited to welcome a very special guest reviewer to my blog today – my husband Dave. He won’t mind me telling you (I’ve checked) that he isn’t really a book person – in fact our reading habits are just about polar opposites. Dave is as addicted to gaming as I am to reading and you can usually find him reviewing over at Xboxer360, but when a copy of Danny Wallace’s new book Charlotte Street dropped through our door recently it had barely touched the mat and Dave had started reading it. I cheekily told him he had to review it if he read it and I’m chuffed to say he has! 

It all starts with a girl… (because yes, there’s always a girl…)

Jason Priestley (not that one) has just seen her. They shared an incredible, brief, fleeting moment of deep possibility, somewhere halfway down Charlotte Street.

And then, just like that, she was gone – accidentally leaving him holding her old-fashioned, disposable camera, chock full of undeveloped photos…

And now Jason – ex-teacher, ex-boyfriend, part-time writer and reluctant hero – faces a dilemma. Should he try and track The Girl down? What if she’s The One? But that would mean using the only clues he has, which lie untouched in this tatty disposable…

It’s funny how things can develop…

I’m a huge fan of Danny Wallace and all of his non-fiction books so far have managed to raise a smile so I was dying to get my hands on his first fiction book. Charlotte Street was no different. Danny’s writing style has always been easy to get into; if you have watched Scrubs it is a bit like JD narrating his own life.

Leading man Jason is your typical bloke; things were going wrong for him, he has lost his girlfriend who was clearly moving on, and his plans to become a journalist after leaving his good job as a head of year at a North London school haven’t quite come together yet. Rather than deal with the situation, he mopes about and doesn’t do too much to help himself until one fateful night on Charlotte Street. What follows is a brilliant story which sees Jason having to deal with his ex, try to resurrect his career and find the woman in the photos.

I liked Jason, I imagine him being the sort of bloke I could sit down at the pub with for hours on end talking about everything and nothing. As he began his search for the mystery lady I found myself desperate to find out who she was. From the beautiful seaside setting of Whitby to the darkest depths of South-East London each location had me saying “I know there!” or made me want to visit to get an even better feel for Jason’s journey. The story always made me feel like this mystery girl was never going to be found when suddenly fate would bring Jason another clue. There are some interesting twists and turns and it always kept me reading an extra chapter when I should have been doing something else.

I liked all of the characters but some more than others. I found myself laughing at Clem, Jason’s office co-worker (the one who was convinced he was going to be a top stand-up comedian) rather than his jokes. Dev, Jason’s best mate, who is obsessed with computer games and a Polish waitress, was always there encouraging Jason to finish the journey and I particularly liked Abbey who gave Jason a completely different perspective on things and also got Jason into more trouble than he would have liked.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the book and I enjoyed learning more about Mr Priestly as the story moved along and he tries to come to terms with being an ex-boyfriend and get his career back on track, all at the same time as trying to find the random lady that could change his life.

I’m not surprised to see that the book will be made into a film; it could be on par with films like Notting Hill and About a Boy. Charlotte Street is essentially a rom-com but thanks to Danny’s humour and writing style blokes will enjoy this book. It’s rare that I get through a book so quickly which must mean it was pretty good!

5/5

Thanks Dave! I think this one sounds like a great read and I’ll be reading it myself soon.

Thanks to publisher Ebury for sending us a review copy.

You can find out more about Danny Wallace and his writing at: http://dannywallace.com/

 

Book news: The Housemaid's Daughter by Barbara Mutch

17 Jul

I’ve read some brilliant historical fiction débuts so far this year and I have a feeling I’ll be adding Barbara Mutch to the list soon. I love the striking cover for this book, especially the musical notes in the background and I think the story sounds gripping.

Duty and love collide on the arid plains of central South Africa.

Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland in 1919 to travel to South Africa and marry the fiance she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a harsh landscape, she finds solace in her diary and the friendship of her housemaid’s daughter, Ada. Cathleen recognises in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own husband and daughter. Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist, and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide.

When Ada is compromised and finds she is expecting a mixed-race child, she flees her home, determined to spare Cathleen the knowledge of her betrayal, and the disgrace that would descend upon the family. Scorned within her own community, Ada is forced to carve a life for herself, her child, and her music. But Cathleen still believes in Ada, and risks the constraints of apartheid to search for her and persuade her to return with her daughter. Beyond the cruelty, there is love, hope – and redemption.

The Housemaid’s Daughter will be published in hardback and as an ebook by Headline on 2nd August. Look out for my review soon!

You can find out more about Barbara and The Housemaid’s Daughter at: http://barbaramutch.com/

Book review: Ramshackle by Elizabeth Reeder

16 Jul

Roe is like any other fifteen year old suburban Chicago teenager. Her only worries are schoolwork, keeping up with her wayward best friend, and whether or not she should sleep with her boyfriend. Then her adoptive father, a locksmith, disappears one winter’s day without explanation.

As Roe tries to find out where he is and why he left, her past unravels, revealing secrets and lies that will change her future forever. 

One of my favourite things about reading is discovering new and exciting authors and Elizabeth Reeder definitely ticks both of those boxes. Elizabeth’s debut, Ramshackle is a beautifully written story of family, loss and belonging. Set over just eleven days, the novel tells the story of fifteen year old Roe whose dad suddenly goes missing. It’s an emotional read and very well told as a wealth of underlying threads and questions come to light as Roe tries to understand her dad’s actions.

Each chapter covers one day, starting with the Friday before the disappearance. The story is told in the first person by Roe and I was immediately drawn into her life. The opening scene between Roe and her locksmith dad is lovely and really shows their bond, however, as Roe wakes the next morning, she discovers that her dad is absent and as the day goes on she naturally becomes increasingly worried. Reeder has captured all of the emotions of a fifteen year old girl amazingly well which at times made for hard reading –  I wanted to pick Roe up, protect her and help her. As the story progresses we learn more about the complex relationship between adoptive father and daughter as Roe tries to make sense of what is happening to her and why her Dad might have left.

Reeder’s writing is fresh and real and I thought she captured Roe’s conflicting thoughts and emotions brilliantly, taking her through anger and rebellion to action, decisiveness and finally towards acceptance. The author certainly has a way with words and at times the writing is almost poetic but cleverly remains readable and not at all overdone. I particularly liked Roe’s conversations with her aunt Linden which felt realistic and surprisingly brought humour to the story as well as warmth and conflict as Roe grasps for someone to provide her with security.

Despite the short timespan and reflective nature of the story, this is a novel with great pace and I was hooked as a  series of mysteries and complex relationships was revealed in addition to the main disappearance story which had me wondering who Roe’s mother was and where she went, what was the significance of the relationship between Roe’s father and their elderly neighbour Mrs Morse and what else was there to be revealed about Peter’s (Roe’s dad) past. In addition, Roe’s own relationships, particularly with her boyfriend Quiz and best friend Jess,  add interesting and surprising twists to the plot.

The imagery in Ramshackle is also excellent, from the descriptions of the harsh climate to the detail of the locks that Roe’s dad makes with so much care. This would make a brilliant novel for reading groups as there are so many thought provoking areas for discussion. At less than 200 pages, Ramshackle is a short novel but it certainly packs a punch. I found the story sad and at the same time full of hope and I can’t wait to read more from Elizabeth Reeder.

5/5

With thanks to publisher, Freight Books for sending me a review copy.

You can find out more about Elizabeth and her writing at: http://ekreeder.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest post: Libraries and the Men by Suzanne Joinson

13 Jul

I’m welcoming author Suzanne Joinson to One More Page today, on the latest stop of her blog tour to celebrate the release of A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar. Suzanne works in the literature department of the British Council, and regularly travels widely across the Middle East, North Africa, China and Europe. In 2007 she won the New Writing Ventures award for Creative Non-Fiction for ‘Laila Ahmed’. A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar is her debut novel and has been nominated for the Anobii First Book Award. Read on to find out more about Suzanne’s relationship with her local library and finding a place to write. 

I have a love-hate relationship with libraries. On the whole, libraries, I love you: I really do. Sometimes, though, I find you a little difficult. I’ll tell you why:

I spend a lot of time in my local library. I am often found causing a riot in the children’s section with my kids, looking for books about guinea pigs, seashells and pirates. We even go to baby sing-a-long even though technically we’re all a bit old and the other mums stare at my eldest son when he sings ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’ too loudly, in a weird robotic voice.

And I work (by which I mean write) a lot in the reference section of the library. It is perfect for the writer: free, warm, with desks and a plug point. I’m afraid to confess that I regularly smuggle green tea in from the cafe across the road and often munch on illicit chocolate under the desk. All I can say in my defence is I don’t ever get any on books and hey, you try writing a novel without tea and chocolate!

On a good day I bag the best seat near the window, plug in my iphone, listen to something French and wafty like Ann Sylvestre and off I go: Chapter Seven shall be written.

Only it won’t, because, as anyone who spends anytime in public libraries knows, the reference departments are repositories for broken-hearted men. It’s always men, and perhaps it’s not so much broken-hearted as simply broken. I don’t know where the broken women go, but it isn’t to libraries. To my left is the crying man. He has his ‘History of Watches’ open on the desk in front of him but he isn’t reading it. No, he’s gently crying, big tears dripping and dripping. He harms no one, you wouldn’t particularly notice him unless you were sitting in my seat, but there he is: crying.

Across the way is the knee-tapper. His leg never stops vibrating and under his desk he’s trying to hide his rucksack which looks as though it contains all of his worldly possessions. It’s also likely that these possessions haven’t been washed in a while. He has a huge book open, too, a genealogical record of some such and he sits, trying to be invisible, despite his tapping leg. He goes into the upward-seating semi-sleep trance that exhausted men with nowhere to go seem to be able to do.

I try to ignore them. I’m busy on a particular scene but when I look up again I notice another man: Asian, quite short, sitting perfectly still on the other side of the library, again with his possessions bundled next to his feet. He checks the clock regularly; otherwise he just stares into space. They are all watching the clock, I realise, and time is going slowly for them. Where do they go when the library shuts? I have no idea. Occasionally they stand up and go to the loo, but they never stay in there too long. They return, they sit and they wait.

The sound of the clock and the vibrating leg and the sniffs from the crying man grow louder than the music I am listening too. It is hard to concentrate: I am writing a book, a story I feel like telling and hopefully caught in its sense, somewhere, is something about what it is like to be alive, human, but there is too much humanity in the reference section of the library, and so I pack up. I go to a cafe where everyone can afford a £5 coffee, the art on the wall is pretty bad but has been optimistically prices at £150 a pop and there is free wifi.

The next time I go back to the reference library I look round for them and am thankful that it is all clear. I don’t have to feel guilty about the men. Or somehow as if I have collaborated in their downfall. I don’t have to start wondering what they are going to eat tonight. I get out my laptop, plug in and off I go again: Chapter Eight will be written.

Only, next to me, at the next desk along, I hear a noise. I look round. It’s a sniff from the crying man. I see the tears roll down and I can’t help myself, I watch them land drip drip drip and note that they are splashing on page 304 of an Encyclopaedia of Doves and Pigeons.

Thanks Suzanne and congratulations on the release of your debut novel.

Don’t forget to drop in on the other stops on Suzanne’s blog tour.

You can find out more about the novel at: http://www.ladycyclistsguide.com/

You can find out more about Suzanne Joinson on her website at: http://www.suzannejoinson.com/