Archive | August, 2012

Book news: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell

30 Aug

Maggie O’Farrell is one of my favourite authors. I’ve read all of her books and loved them, particularly her last two so I was very excited when Headline announced that its newly formed Tinder Press imprint would be publishing Maggie’s next novel early in 2013. My excitement levels reached a new high yesterday when Tinder revealed the gorgeous cover for Instructions for a Heatwave. Isn’t it brilliant? This books has shot straight to the top of my most anticipated list for 2013 – thankfully we won’t have to wait too long into 2013 to get our hands on it!

When Gretta Riordan’s husband disappears with no explanation from their London home, Gretta’s grown-up children must return to help her solve the mystery. Each is at a turning point in their lives. Michael Francis is increasingly estranged from his wife by parenthood and his guilt over a brief affair; Monica’s performance as perfect stepmother in rural Gloucestershire is convincing no one; and Aoife, the family’s ‘black sheep’, is finding that even in New York she cannot hide from the secret that has set her apart since her childhood. When the siblings are reunited under one roof, tensions run high. But a journey to Connemara brings unexpected insights and revelations, and enables Aoife in particular to confront a fear that has for too long come between her and those she loves.

Yours Truly Giveaway Winners!

29 Aug

The winners are …

Katrin, Katie and Nathalie

Congratulations! I have sent you all an email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Look out for my next giveaway on Monday 4th September!

Book review: When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald

29 Aug

(From the Publisher’s website) Tales of love, loss, and betrayal are at the heart of When It Happens to You, the debut novel in stories from actress and author Molly Ringwald. A Hollywood icon, Ringwald defined the teenage experience in the eighties in such classic films as Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Ringwald brings the compelling candour she displayed in her film roles to the unforgettable characters she has created in this series of intertwined and linked stories about the particular challenges, joys and disappointments of adult relationships. Her characters grapple with infertility and infidelity, fame and familial discord in a magnificent debut that will resonate broadly, particularly with fans of Melissa Banks, Meg Wolitzer and Lorrie Moore.

Before I start with my review of Molly Ringwald’s debut I’d like to say what an elegant book the UK hardback edition is; it’s a beautifully packaged book and the cover image here does not do it justice! The short story format is perfect for a mum like me who doesn’t have long periods to sit and read.  Like many, I know Molly Ringwald the film star, not Molly Ringwald author and I was curious to find out what her writing was like. I was sent the first chapter of this novel by the publisher and read it as soon as I opened the email. I was hooked into the story straight away and had an impatient wait to get my hands on the full version!

The interesting thing about the book is that it is an interconnected series of short stories or snapshots that link together to build up a big picture. I loved the format and enjoyed working out the connections between the stories. This is a beautiful grown up read and I thought Ringwald really captured an amazing spectrum of emotions. Love between partners, parents and siblings, sadness and grief, uncertainty, anger, discord, happiness and pride are depicted with thoughtfulness and understanding as the characters grapple with relationships, betrayals, family, careers, growing up and growing old.

The characters are varied and interesting including an ex Children’s TV star, a single mother and a couple on the brink of divorce making this a novel that will appeal to a wide ranging audience both male and female and across age ranges. Ringwald depicts a realistic cast of Mothers, Fathers, lovers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and friends that have a wonderful depth to them. I could easily have read whole books focussing on my favourites; Marina and her son Oliver and elderly widow Betty and her young neighbour Charlotte.

Ringwald’s characters are beautifully written in a very readable style and show that people are human and do make mistakes. At its heart this is a book about the breakdown of relationships but the author shows that even seemingly clear cut situations are rarely black and white.  This is a very thoughtfully written book and I found myself wondering how I’d react in the situations that arise. Ringwald manages to hold an emotional central plot line together whilst exploring an impressive number of viewpoints and reactions which despite the more heartbreaking aspects of the novel left me with a hopeful feeling at the end. When it Happens to You is a short novel but a read that you will want to linger over and the stories within will keep you thinking long after you’ve finished it. Highly recommended.

5/5

I’d like to thank Ally at Simon and Schuster for sending me a review copy of this book.

You can find out more about Molly Ringwald and her writing and read an excerpt of When it Happens to You on her website at: http://www.iammollyringwald.com/

Book review: Vampire State of Mind by Jane Lovering

28 Aug

Jessica Grant knows vampires only too well. She runs the York Council tracker programme making sure that Otherworlders are all  where they should be, keeps the filing in order and drinks far too much coffee. To Jess, vampires are annoying and arrogant and far too sexy for their own good, particularly her ex-colleague Sil, who’s now in charge of Otherworld York.

But when a demon turns up and threatens not just Jess but the whole world order, she and Sil are forced to work together, and when Jess turns out to be the key to saving the world it puts a very different slant on their relationship. The stakes are high. They are also very, very pointy and Jess isn’t afraid to use them, even on the vampire that she’s rather afraid she’s falling in love with …

Vampire State of Mind marks a new direction for author Jane Lovering with her first paranormal romance/urban fantasy novel and what a fab move it is! I thoroughly enjoyed this book; it is full of tongue in cheek humour, intriguing characters, action and drama and it was lovely to read an adult urban fantasy and paranormal romance with a British setting and heroine. The fact that the book is not just British but also set in the north (the lovely city of York to be precise) made my day!

Jessica is basically a civil servant responsible for keeping tabs on the Otherworlders that live in York. She works in a shabby office and apart from bringing down the odd rogue Otherworlder, leads a fairly unassuming life. I loved the world that Jane created and the mix of the ordinary with fantasy elements. The mythology that Jane Lovering has created is fun and I thought the back story of how the Otherworlders came to be in England was well thought out. Although the title focuses on Vampires, this shouldn’t be dismissed as just another vampire book – Lovering has created a whole cast of paranormal characters, some of which I’d never heard of but which give the novel a really interesting edge.

With the appearance of the mysterious Malfaire,  Jess is thrust into a deadly series of events which find her questioning everything she has known as true. We are taken along with Jess as her day job becomes far from boring and she finds herself in a series of increasingly dangerous situations, uncovering some shocking revelations along the way. Aside from the main ‘saving the world’ story there are a number of good sub-plots, not least, the relationship between Jess and Sil, her hunky vampire ex-colleague. Although Sil isn’t my favourite fictional vampire, he’s certainly an intriguing character and there is great chemistry between him and Jess.

I enjoyed both the paranormal romance and urban fantasy elements of this novel and I thought it was great that the story had a strong female lead and focussed on her development independent of the romance angle. Jess’s anti-vampire stance made for some very funny moments and I’d highly recommend Vampire State of Mind as a refreshing and original read. I saw on the fab Book Chick City blog that this book is the first in a series, although that fact doesn’t seem to be mentioned anywhere in the novel itself but I really hope that there is more to come as there is so much potential in the world that Jane has created!

4/5

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

You can find out more about Jane Lovering and her writing at: http://www.janelovering.co.uk/

You can read the prologue and first two chapters of this book at: http://www.choc-lit.co.uk/html/vampire_state_of_mind.html

 

 

Guest post: Researching 'Eden's Garden' by Juliet Greenwood

27 Aug

I’m delighted to welcome Juliet Greenwood to One More Page today with a guest post about her research for her latest novel, Eden’s Garden. Eden’s Garden is an historical time-slip with a mystery at its heart, set partly now and partly in the Victorian era and based in London, Wales and Cornwall. It was the Welsh Books Council’s ‘Welsh Book of the Month’ in May and I’m very much looking forward to reading it. Welcome Juliet!

I loved doing my research for ‘Eden’s Garden’. It combined my passion for gardens and for women’s history. Oh, and with an absolute necessity to take myself off in a camper van and explore the coastline of Cornwall once more!

‘Eden’s Garden’ is a time-slip, set partly now and partly in Victorian times. At the heart of the novel is a forgotten Victorian garden, so much of my research meant visiting gardens that dated from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The original inspiration actually came from a garden I had been driving past regularly for most of my life, but only discovered a few years ago.

Juliet in Brondanw

Brondanw Gardens, in Southern Snowdonia, was the family home of Clough Williams Ellis who created nearbyPortmeirion. It lies halfway between my home in North Wales and where my family live. It’s small, but with Portmeirion’s quirkiness, and a real atmosphere, especially the wilderness gardens which have a slightly lost and forlorn feeling about them. I visited many other gardens –  such as Erddig near Wrexham and Bodnant gardens in the Conwy Valley  – for ideas, but Brondanw was the one I came back to.

The garden in Plas Eden in the book is one that has been created out of love. In Brondanw there is a real sense of someone with a deep love of plants, of people, of the dramatic mountain landscape, and of a sheer joy in life itself. It’s the feeling you get in Portmeirion, but on a much more intimate scale. That’s what I wanted to capture for Plas Eden; not so much the physicality as the atmosphere.  I still love going back to visit Brondanw in all its seasons. In a funny sort of way it now feels as if it has become part of me.

Camping above St Ives

And Cornwall? That was wonderful. A real adventure. I took off in an ancient mini-campervan, just me and my dog and the SatNav exploring the southern Cornish coastline from St Austell to St Ives, and then up the north Cornish Coast to Devon and Ilfracombe.

For the Victorian strand of the book, I had been researching the lives of women from a time when we had few rights and very little freedom: a time when you were the property of your father, then your husband, with no legal existence of your own. Finding the Cornish locations for my Victorian heroine made me appreciate my own life as never before. For those two weeks I was utterly self-reliant and in control. Even the SatNav had to obey me (eventually) when I chose the picturesque rather than the practical route!

Emily the Camper Van

When I was planning the trip, I never thought that wandering down to Coverack on the Lizard for fish and chips, or simply sitting in my van above St Ives watching the sun set, would be a part of my research. But it was. It made me realise that it’s so easy to take freedom for granted. Just the simple ability to decide where you are going the next day, let alone the entire direction of your life. Tha

 

nks to all my research for ‘Eden’s Garden’, I will never, ever take that freedom for granted again.

Thank you Juliet for a lovely post and beautiful pictures.


Eden’s Garden is out now in paperback and Kindle format ( bargain hunters – the Kindle copy is just 99p/$1.55 at the moment!)

You can find out more about Juliet and Eden’s Garden at: http://www.julietgreenwood.co.uk/ and on her blog at: http://julietgreenwoodauthor.wordpress.com/

Book review: I Heart Vegas by Lindsey Kelk

24 Aug

Angela Clark loves her life in New York. She a Brit who’s conquered the Big Apple. Unfortunately, she’s also a Brit who’s lost her job. And when, just a couple of weeks before Christmas, the immigration department gets wind of this, Angela needs to find a new job urgently. Or a husband. And she doesn’t think her boyfriend Alex will be keen.

A girls’ weekend in Vegas with her best friend Jenny seems the perfect way to forget her troubles. From the minute they arrive Angela is swept up in a whirl of cocktails, outrageous outfits, late nights and brushes with the chapel of love. But rather than escaping trouble, Angela is up to her neck in it….

But what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas – right?

Vegas is topical at the moment thanks to Prince Harry so I thought I’d pop up a quick review of the fab I Heart Vegas by Lindsey Kelk. I Heart Vegas is book number four in the I Heart … series and continues the adventures of  one of my favourite chick lit heroines; Angela Clarke. It’s difficult to review the fourth book in a series without giving spoilers but I’ll keep this short and try not to give anything away!

Our favourite characters are all back for I Heart Vegas, particularly Angela’s crazy best friend Jenny and hot boy-in-a-band boyfriend, Alex :-) As the book opens, things are looking good for Angela but as we’ve come to expect, that doesn’t last for long! Threatened with the possibility that she might have to leave New York if she can’t find a job soon, Angela reacts in true form by burying her head in the sand, not explaining herself properly and running away from the problem … for a girls’ weekend in Vegas.

I’ve said before that I think Angela is the luckiest girl on earth in that things always work out for her but I have to admit that Lindsey Kelk gave me pause for thought during this book and really did keep me guessing with some brilliant plot twists! I’ve loved Alex and Angela’s romance from the start and it’s certainly had its ups and downs but Angela’s possible deportation really brings their relationship into focus and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what the outcome would be.

One of the reasons I love this series is that I get to travel vicariously through Angela and I really enjoyed reading the descriptions of Sin City with its out of this world hotels, casinos and of course the wedding chapels … The fact that the story is set at Christmas was the icing on the cake for me, although the story isn’t overtly Christmassy I found myself getting excited for winter in the middle of July!

Lindsey Kelk’s books are wonderful escapist chick lit and among the novels I always turn to when I need cheering up. I’ve had I Heart Vegas on my bookshelf for quite a while and it was the first book I turned to when I was feeling fed up with all the rainy weather we had last month. I read it in a weekend and couldn’t put it down and I can’t wait to read I Heart London next!

5/5

You can find out more about Lindsey Kelk and her writing at: http://lindseykelk.wordpress.com/

You can find out more about the I Heart Vegas and the rest of the series at: http://www.iheartvegas.co.uk/

 

Competition news: Your chance to feature in Ali Harris' next novel

23 Aug

Ali Harris, author of the brilliant Miracle on Regent Street has launched an exciting new competition to win the chance to feature in her next book! Just Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AliHarrisWriter) or tweet (@aliharriswriter) Ali your best Kiss story for a chance of it featuring in her forthcoming novel, The First Last Kiss which is out in January!

 

Book review: The Housemaid's Daughter by Barbara Mutch

21 Aug

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 is a captivating story on many levels. Starting in 1919 and spanning the lifetime of Ada (the Housemaid’s daughter of the title), the book is an absorbing story of love and friendship across boundaries. It’s also a gripping and often shocking depiction of the history of a country and culture that I knew little about as I started reading.

Ada is the narrator, telling her own story and as readers we grow and learn with her. Ada has a very striking voice which is innocent yet insightful and I found it hard to put her story down once I’d started reading. Through Ada we are able to see into two very different worlds; that of the wealthy Harrington family, Ada’s employers and that of Ada’s own community and the townships they live in. Thanks to the close relationship that Ada develops with lady of the house, Cathleen Harrison she finds herself in a privileged position; taught to read, write and play the piano and at times treated almost as one of the family. But with the privileges come heartbreak as the outside world begins to divide itself into black and white and Ada’s trust ultimately leads to her having to leave the home she loves, pregnant with a mixed-race child.

The contrast between Ada’s life at Cradock house and her life in the township is stark and I was full of admiration as I read for Ada’s courage and drive to create a life for herself and her child. Mutch’s descriptions of the Karoo, the town of Cradock and the surrounding townships are vivid and detailed and combined with the use of music, make this a very sensory book. I thought the use of music was excellent; Mutch’s descriptions of both Ada and Cathleen’s piano playing are beautiful and really do provide a soundtrack to the story, mirroring the ups and downs of events and the emotions felt by the characters. I loved Ada’s descriptions of the ‘music’ of the township too and the effects that her music had on the children there.

Ada’s dedication to her mistress was touching and at times heartbreaking. As the story twists and turns through Ada’s own turmoil against the backdrop of political unrest and increasing violence, the introduction of apartheid and the dawn of a new generation of South Africans, Mutch keeps the story on a very personal level which makes the impact even more intense. The extracts that Ada reads from Cathleen’s diaries which are spread throughout the book, provide not just the history of Cathleen’s  journey to a whole new world but allow her own voice to come through and as much as this is Ada’s story, The Housemaid’s Daughter is the story of the Harrington family too and the secrets that can unite and destroy. I thought the diary entries added depth to the wonderful relationship that Cathleen shares with Ada and were a nice touch.

I like stories that follow a character through their lives and The Housemaid’s Daughter does this very well. The historical elements are clearly well-researched and the story plays out against a series of significant world events but the book didn’t feel like a history lesson as I read and I thought the ending was excellent.  Originally published as ‘Karoo Plainsong’, the novel has been fully revised as Barbara Mutch’s debut novel and I look forward to reading more from her in future.

5/5

You can find out more about Barbara Mutch and The Housemaid’s Daughter on her website at: http://www.barbaramutch.com/index.htm and on the Headline website at: http://www.headline.co.uk/Books/detail.page?isbn=9780755392094

The Housemaid’s Daughter is out now in hardback and ebook formats and will be released as a paperback in January 2013.

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

Deborah Harkness London launch giveaway winner!

21 Aug

The winner is …

Sarah Mayne

Congratulations! I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Please check out my latest giveaway for more fab book goodies!

Book news: Who needs Mr Darcy? by Jean Burnett

20 Aug

As regular readers will know, I’m a big Jane Austen fan and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite books ever so Jean Burnett’s debut which is coming out next month, certainly caught my eye! Who needs Mr Darcy? takes up the story of Lydia Bennett after Pride and Prejudice and sounds like a fun read. I love the cover too!

Mr Wickham turned out to be a disappointing husband in many ways, the most notable being his early demise on the battlefields of Waterloo. And so Lydia Wickham, nee Bennet, still not twenty and ever-full of an enterprising spirit, must make her fortune independently.

A lesser woman, without Lydia’s natural ability to flirt uproariously on the dancefloor and cheat seamlessly at the card table, would swoon in the wake of a dashing highwayman, a corrupt banker and even an amorous Royal or two. But on the hunt for a marriage that will make her rich, there’s nothing that Lydia won’t turn her hand to . . .

Taking in London, Paris and Brighton, Who Needs Mr Darcy? details the charming, lively and somewhat dastardly further exploits of the youngest Bennet sister. Pride and Prejudice this isn’t and Mr Darcy certainly won’t be rescuing her this time.

Who needs Mr Darcy? is released on 27th September and you can find out more about Jean Burnett and read an extract from the book on her website at: http://www.jeanburnett.co.uk/