Archive | February, 2013

Event news: Margaret Dickinson book tour

27 Feb

Author Margaret Dickinson is celebrating publishing her 20th title with Pan Macmillan in 20 years with a huge bookshop tour throughout Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire. Margaret’s latest novel, The Clippie Girls is out now and sounds like a great historical romance set in one of my favourite cities.

Peggy Sylvester, a beautiful young conductress on the Sheffield trams, has a close friendship with her affable tram driver Bob. But for Peggy there is no hint of romance even though Bob idolizes her. Unbeknown to either, Peggy’s younger sister, Rose, has fallen hopelessly in love with her sister’s beau. So Rose is distraught when Bob is injured in the Sheffield Blitz. Meanwhile, Peggy is rescued from her bomb-blasted tram by a young soldier. It is love at first sight. Peggy starts walking out with the soldier, but Rose is unable to hide her disgust of her sister’s treatment of Bob and the two sisters have a terrible falling out.

The Blitz has devastated their city and caused no end of problems for the Sylvester family, but nothing can prepare them for the shocking revelation that Peggy is pregnant – by the now absent solider. The household of women, headed by fierce grandmother, Grace Booth, and mother, Mary Sylvester, must face the shame that unplanned pregnancy brings. The family becomes divided leaving Peggy ostracized and forced to live a separate life. Resolutions finally crumble when Peggy gives birth to a beautiful baby boy and in the dark days of war the Sylvester family is able to cling onto the hope of a happier future.

If you’d like to meet Margaret, she’ll be at the following venues over the next month:

Friday 1st March

10.30 – 12.00           WHSmith, Grantham

1.00 – 3.00                Oldrids, Downtown, Grantham  

Saturday, 2nd March  

10.30 – 12.00           WHSmith, Grimsby

2.00 – 3.00                Waterstones, Grimsby      

Monday 4th March                    

11.00 – 1.00              WH Smiths, Sleaford

Wednesday, 6th March

11.00                          Butlins Skegness Yours Magazine Weekend (Writing workshop, talk and signing)

Thursday, 7th March         

10.00 – 11.30           Perkins, Horncastle          

1.00 – 2.30                Coningsby Bookshop      

Saturday, 9th March

10.30 – 12.30           WHSmith, Newark

14.30 – 16.00           Boyes, Lincoln

 

Wednesday 13th March

10.30 – 12.00           Waterstones Boston

12.30 – 2.00          Oldrids, Boston         

Friday, 15th March

10.30 – 12.00         Walkers Bookshop, Stamford                  

1.30 – 3.00                Walkers Oakham

Saturday, 16th March

11.00 – 1.00              WH Smith, Beverley

2.00 – 3.30                WH Smiths Prospect Centre (HULL)

 

Thursday, 21st March

12.00 – 2.00               WHSmith, Harrogate

Friday, 22nd March

11.00 – 1.00              WHSmith, Scarborough

Tuesday 26th March

2.00 – 4.00                Cleethorpes Library (Talk and signing)

Find out more about Margaret and her novels at: http://www.panmacmillan.com/author/margaretdickinson

 

Guest post: How 'Grace Grows' got its title by Shelle Sumners

26 Feb

Today the brilliant Grace Grows blog tour is stopping off at One More Page with a guest post from author Shelle Sumners. Grace Grows is Shelle’s debut novel and is a gorgeous love story which has a companion soundtrack of wonderful original songs that appear in the story, written and performed by her husband, singer-songwriter and Broadway actor Lee Morgan. Shelle lives and writes in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and I’m delighted to welcome her to One More Page today.

Hello, I’m glad to be here!

When it came time to give my novel a title, I brainstormed and made a list of several ideas that were cute, but seemed too slight for the scope of this story. Profound, life-changing things happen to my character Grace Barnum. I wanted the title to convey that. I wanted it to be more macro than micro.

So: Grace Grows.

The word grace does double duty. It is, of course, Grace’s name (which, coupled with the circus-tinged surname Barnum, hints at elegant chaos). “Wow. Grace grows,” Grace’s friend Peg observes, about three-quarters of the way through the story. And Grace, with a lot of stumbling along the way, has indeed changed and grown. But grace also refers to the intangible, life-enhancing thing that happens to us when we deeply connect with someone, as Grace does with Tyler Wilkie. There is grace in the compassionate understanding and forgiveness she develops for her flawed, gifted father, and her tough, tightly-wound mother. Through struggle and love, both Grace and grace grow.

Having said all of that, Grace Grows is the name that I came up with from my omniscient, birds-eye, authorly point of view. But this is Grace Barnum’s memoir, and she calls it:

HOW TYLER WILKIE WRECKED MY LIFE

 and what I thought I’d do about it

That works, too.

Thank you Shelle!

Grace Grows is published on 1st March by Allen & Unwin. Please stop by again later this week for my review of Grace Grows  and please check out the other stops on the tour (listed at the right of this page).

You can find out more about Grace Grows and Shelle Sumners at:

www.ShelleSumners.com

www.facebook.com/ShelleSumners

http://pinterest.com/shellesumners/my-novel-grace-grows/

http://pinterest.com/shellesumners/makes-me-think-of-grace-and-ty/

www.youtube.com/GraceGrowsNovel

Twitter: @ShelleSumners

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

25 Feb

It’s July 1976.  In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper.  He doesn’t come back.  The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children – two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce – back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone.  None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.

Set over just a handful of days in the scorching summer of  1976, Instructions for a Heatwave is the story of the Riordan family; Mother Gretta, Father Robert and their grown up children, Monica, Michael Francis and Aoife. The novel opens with a touching scene of domesticity; I loved the descriptions of Gretta and Robert as they start their day, which show a couple growing old together. But then Robert pops out to buy a newspaper and doesn’t return, setting off a chain of events that brings the family back together and ultimately reveals a number of deeply hidden family secrets.

I’ve been a fan of Maggie O’Farrell for a long time now and have read all of her novels. It sounds clichéd and simplistic to say that her writing just gets better and better but it’s true! Instructions for a Heatwave is a detailed depiction of an ordinary family made extraordinary and infinitely interesting by the way that their thoughts, feelings and actions past and present are depicted. I could happily read volumes about the Riordans and they are so believable that having finished reading the book I feel like I actually know them.

What I love most about Maggie O’Farrell’s books is that she really gets under the skin and inside the heads of all of her characters showing their strengths and failings and making them completely and believably human. In this novel, O’Farrell looks at the relationships between parents and their children, between partners and between siblings and shows just how complex they can be. I was absolutely fascinated as I learned about Monica, Michael-Francis and Aoife’s childhoods as the familiar sights, sounds and smells of home trigger memories with each flashback shedding light on the adult they have now become. Each of the Riordan children is facing a crossroads in terms of their romantic relationships and as the spotlight is pointed at Gretta and Robert’s relationship too, Instructions for a Heatwave is a gripping story of the sacrifices that we make for the people we love.

Aoife is without a doubt, my favourite character in the book; partly I think because she’s the underdog in the family, partly because of the secret she hides so well and the way she hides it so cleverly and in a large part because she has escaped to New York and I enjoyed the details of her life as a photographers assistant. Perhaps because of my fondness for Aoife, I didn’t particularly warm to her sister Monica but as the twists to the story revealed themselves, I did understand her actions. I’m terrible for wanting all the loose ends tied up and a definitive conclusion to the books I read but although Instructions for a Heatwave left me with a lot of questions, it also left me with a wonderful sense of hope, especially for Aoife and I found that I didn’t mind that the finale was open-ended.

While I was reading this book, I tweeted that Maggie O’Farrell makes every single word count. The way the words are put together is brilliantly clever yet wonderfully easy to read.  I dragged out my reading of Heatwave as long as I could because I didn’t want it to end! As you can see, I loved this book. If you haven’t read a Maggie O’Farrell novel yet, this is a great place to start and if you’re already a fan, then you know you’re in for a treat!

5/5

Instructions for a Heatwave is released in Hardback and ebook formats on 28th February.

I’d like to thank Georgina at Headline for sending me a review copy of this novel.

You can find out more about Maggie O’Farrell and her books at: http://www.maggieofarrell.com/

Book review: Could it Be I'm Falling in Love by Eleanor Prescott

21 Feb

This Valentine’s Day, Roxy Squires is waiting for the phone to ring…

Roxy is famous. At least, she used to be. She’s a good-time TV presenter, and OK, so things haven’t been going so well recently, but her big break is just around the corner. What she’s really looking for is someone to propel her back to the big time.

Enter Woody, one-time pop star and Roxy’s ultimate dream date, now working as her window cleaner. He’s the answer to her prayers – but for some reason, he doesn’t want to be famous.

And it turns out they’re not the only celebs in the village. Roxy’s living amongst a motley crew of former stars and fame survivors, who meet weekly to discuss their new lives. Is this the reality check Roxy needs? Or maybe it’s a chance to do the unthinkable and fall in love…?

When this book arrived in the post my attention was immediately captured by the lovely bright red cover and it sounded like a fun romantic read in the lead up to Valentine’s day. I read a few pages and from that point I didn’t want to put it down!Could it Be I’m Falling in Love is one of the funniest and most endearing books that I’ve read for a while and I just couldn’t get enough of the wonderful group of misfit ex-celebrities that Eleanor Prescott has created.

The story’s leading lady is Roxy Squires who rose to notoriety as a TV presenter and ‘ladette’ in the 90s and is fiercely clinging to her celebrity status. Poor Roxy is doing her absolute best to put herself in the spotlight and court the fame that she so desperately seeks but it’s obvious right from the start that her star has fallen. The Roxy that we meet at the start of the story is quite shallow on the surface but as the novel develops we get to see more of the ‘real’ Roxy and I thought she was brilliant. Her chapters of the book are peppered with #Roxysays tweets and I loved her good intentioned meddling in everyone’s lives.

Following an unexpected encounter with her window cleaner who turns out to be ex-pop star (and Roxy’s teenage crush) Woody Jensen, Roxy discovers that the village she lives in, Lavender Heath is actually a haven for the once famous, infamous and nearly famous! Woody invites Roxy to his weekly ‘survivors’ group where she meets her fellow (ex)stars. There’s a typecast soap star villain who just wants to make rom-coms, a failed weather man, an ex-MP,  a one time model who found herself at the centre of a love scandal and of course a WAG! I loved the way Eleanor Prescott has taken media stereotypes that we’re all familiar with and given them character and personalities together with believable stories in the present as they struggle to come to terms with the impact fame had on them or the loss of their celebrity status.

Despite being over five hundred pages in length, I found this novel a quick read with lots to hold my interest. With short chapters that focus on each of the different characters, the story has great pace but my favourite bits were the emails that Roxy receives in reply to her pitches, requests and ideas. Could it Be I’m Falling in Love is spot on in walking the line between ‘where are they now’ comedy and the real impact of fame or infamy and what happens when the spotlight goes and the more I read about the characters and their stories, the more I liked them all. Roxy is determined that fame can be theirs again and I enjoyed her haphazard attempts to relaunch careers. Add a ‘retired’ Hollywood heart-throb into the mix together with Woody who is determined to shun fame at all costs and Roxy certainly has her work cut out!

I thought the ending to the story was perfect and I was so pleased that Eleanor Prescott included a ‘what happened next’ update on each of her stars. Although it is set in the run up to Valentine’s Day, Could it Be I’m Falling in Love is a brilliantly funny and romantic read to enjoy at any time of the year and I can’t wait to read more from Eleanor Prescott.

5/5

I’d like to thank Margot at Quercus for sending me a review copy of this novel.

You can find out more about Eleanor and her books at: http://www.eleanorprescott.com/

You can follow Roxy Squires on Twitter @foxyroxysquires

 

 

Book news: Melting the Snow on Hester Street by Daisy Waugh

19 Feb

The 1920s and 30s are my favourite historical fiction eras so Daisy Waugh’s new release immediately caught my eye. It sounds like a fabulous and dramatic read with plenty of 1920s glamour. Melting the Snow on Hester Street is released on 28th March in hardback and ebook formats and I’ll definitely be adding it to my ‘to read’ pile!

 

Rich. Beautiful. Damned.

It is the blistering summer of 1929 and Hollywood’s glamorous set appear to have it all. Everybody everywhere is living the Hollywood dream, including the elegant and charming, high-society couple, actor and actress Maximilian and Eleanor Beecham. But beneath the sophistication and glamour their insecure and unhappy marriage is on the brink of divorce and their finances are teetering on a knife’s edge after a series of failed films.

When the creditors come in to take possession of the house, it seems all is lost and they have nowhere to turn but into the arms of their waiting lovers.

But when they receive an invitation to one of the legendary weekend house parties at Hearst Castle – which they know will be filled every Hollywood big-shot around – they cannot resist one last shot of making it in the film industry. With gossip, glamour, scandal and decadence the party is the epitome of the Golden Era, but for Maximilian and Eleanor the time has come to make a decision that will change their future.

Will they sacrifice everything for fame and fortune or can Eleanor and Maximilian learn to love each other again?

Book review: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

18 Feb

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Imagine if she hadn’t fogotten the book. Or if there hadn’t been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn’t fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she’d run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else – the weather over the atlantic or a fault with the plane? 

Hadley isn’t sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it’s the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver…

Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2013 was to support my local library by borrowing more books! To this end I’m planning to read and review at least one library book each month. My January choice was The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight (SPOLAFS from this point on!) This is a book that I’ve had on my wish list for a long time so when I saw it right at the centre of a lovely display of young adult books in my local library I took it as a sign!

SPOLAFS is a clever book told in a period of just twenty-four hours. Each chapter starts with the time in two time zones; Eastern Standard Time and Greenwich Mean Time representing New York and London as Hadley sets out across the Atlantic for a truly life-changing trip. Hadley had my sympathy straight away as she misses her flight by just four minutes and describes her feelings about airports and flying – I have many of the same feelings about airports and flying myself! Details of Hadley’s trip and her life come fast as she calls her Dad to let him know she’s delayed and facing the possibility that she might miss his wedding (a wedding she really doesn’t want to attend anyway) and Hadley meets Oliver who is also waiting for his flight.

In a truly romantic twist of fate, Oliver and Hadley are thrown together with Hadley’s re-booked seat just one away from Oliver’s. I’m a firm believer in fate and serendipity and I absolutely loved how SPOLAFS played out as Hadley and Oliver spark a connection only to be separated on reaching London. The story did not go as I expected it to and I loved that Jennifer E Smith kept the twists and surprises coming.

SPOLAFS isn’t just a gorgeously romantic love story though and delves deeply into the complex relationships that we have with our parents and families. Both Hadley and Oliver are heading to London for family events and both have difficult relationships with their fathers. I thought both relationships were very well written and honest and I thought Hadley’s interactions with her Dad were very believable. I loved the way that Smith really examined Hadley’s emotions throughout the book and captured the sense of confusion and mix of emotions involved in reuniting with her Dad. I also loved the importance of books in this novel; Hadley and her Dad share a love of reading and throughout her life he has gifted her classic novels.

Despite only being set over the course of twenty-four hours, there is a lot of story packed into SPOLAFS, both in the present and through flashbacks to Hadley and her family’s past making it a quick and engrossing read for me. I loved Hadley and the way that Jennifer E. Smith writes relationships and the non-saccharine romance of this book. I’ll definitely be looking out for her next release!

4/5

You can find out more about Jennifer E. Smith and her novels at: http://www.jenniferesmith.com/

Author interview: Kim Fay

14 Feb

Kim Fay’s debut novel, The Map of Lost Memories is released today and Kim kindly agreed to stop by One More Page to answer my questions on the new book. Welcome Kim and congratulations on your new release!

Your debut historical novel, The Map of Lost Memories is published in paperback today (14th February), please could you tell me a little about it?

This is a hard question to answer without rambling on or without sounding like jacket copy. For me, The Map of Lost Memories is the story of a woman’s obsession … with finding precious artefacts (ten lost scrolls) and solving a mystery (the history of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer). I’ve always been fascinated by people who are so obsessed with achieving something that they can’t see clearly—that is certainly the case with my main character, Irene Blum. In her quest for the scrolls, which are also essential to restoring her damaged reputation in the world of art, she bulldozes her way toward her goal, committing crimes and discounting the people she thinks she is helping: the Khmer. Because of this she is not always likeable, but I think it makes her real, because it is human nature to be blinded by our wants … of course, Irene’s wants are less common than most!

Lead character Irene Blum – unofficial treasure hunter and aspiring museum curator – sounds like fascinating lady, please could you describe her in five words?

Curious, single-minded, reserved, sad and (even to me, her creator!) enigmatic.

The novel is set in Shanghai and Cambodia; what drew you to these locations and how did you go about your research for the book?

When I was a child, my grandpa would tell my sister and me stories about his life as a sailor in Asia in the early 1930s. He loved that part of the world, and we would pore over his photos from that time, most of which were of Shanghai and captured images of rickshaws and sampans against a backdrop of imposing European buildings. Because of this I was fascinated with that part of the world, and I made my first trip to Asia not long after I graduated from university. I continued to travel to the region until, in 1995, I moved to Vietnam to teach English. I ended up living there for four years, and I have spent the past eighteen years writing about it in articles, guidebooks and a food memoir. As a fiction writer, it felt natural for me to set a novel in the region.

As for my choice of Cambodia, while I knew a bit about the Khmer temples when I moved to Vietnam, most notably Angkor Wat, my real interest came when a friend gave me Silk Roads, a non-fiction book about Andre and Clara Malraux. In 1923, this young French couple lost their small fortune, and in what can only be called a moment of sheer audacity, decided to loot a Cambodian temple and live off the sale of a few choice artefacts. The deeper I dug, the more fascinating the Malraux’s became. I read Clara’s memoirs and Andre’s The Royal Way, a novel about an expedition to find a hidden temple in Cambodia. In the end, the Malrauxs inspired my characters Roger and Simone Merlin, and their experience sparked The Map of Lost Memories, as well as my own interest in Cambodian history.

In regard to research, for nearly every scene in my book, I visited the setting. My four years in Vietnam gave me a strong sense of the book’s physical atmosphere, especially since, when I lived there, Saigon still contained many notable remnants of the French colonial world that once inhabited it. I could walk the city’s streets, as well as those of Shanghai and Phnom Penh, and imagine myself back into an earlier time period. I also visited Angkor Wat and the surrounding Khmer temples, which have remained essentially unchanged over time. Added to my personal experiences were hundreds of hours spent with old travel books, history books and websites. I love research, so for me, this part was just as much fun as the actual writing of the book.

I love the quote on the back of the book, “The one thing to remember about an adventure is that if it turns out the way you expect it to, it has not been an adventure at all . . .” What was the most memorable adventure for you whilst writing or researching the book?

I don’t think I can say that I had adventures in the sense that my characters had adventures—I’m incredibly afraid of the jungle because of snakes. I did venture in here and there for various aspects of my research, but for that section of the novel I relied mainly on a friend who is a temple hunter. While every day of writing is an adventure for me, simply because a good day always yields something wonderfully unexpected, my biggest adventure was on the publishing end. Frustrated with the novel, uncertain of what direction to take with it, I had put it aside when I read an article online in The New York Times about Amazon’s first Breakthrough Novel competition. On a whim, I entered my book, which was technically complete but certainly not finished—the characters were undeveloped, and the ending at this point was beyond ridiculous. Still, my novel made into the top 800, and then the top 100. Soon after, I received an email from a literary agent, Alexandra Machinist, who was interested in the sample chapter online and asked to see the whole book. I sent it to her, and she saw its potential and signed me within a week. This thrill was matched only by Alexandra’s prowess when it came time to sell the book, which was bought in a heated two-day auction.

The Map of Lost Memories is an historical adventure set in the 1920s – a period which fascinates me! If you could time travel to any time and place, where and when would you go?

Although I’d love to visit Shanghai, Saigon and Cambodia in the 1920s, if I had to pick just one place and time period, it would be Saigon in the mid to late 1950s. This was a time of transition and great hope for the country, and I would like to have experienced Vietnam on the cusp of what it might have been if the war had not done its damage. While there—before the time travel machine returns me to present day—I would take a jaunt over to Cambodia, because the same holds true for that country. It would mean a great deal to me to see Cambodia as a place of hope rather than the history of brutality for which it has become known.

For readers with a particular interest in South East Asia of the 1920s which books and novels would you recommend as further reading?

For a fascinating factual account of Shanghai that encompasses the 1920s, my top choice would be Harriet Sergeant’s Shanghai. On the fiction front, I enjoyed Bo Caldwell’s The Distant Land of My Father, which is meticulously researched and contains a wealth of interesting tidbits woven into its story. Sadly, not much has been written about Vietnam or Cambodia at that time—at least, in English. If only I could read French! There is, of course, Marguerite Duras’s The Lover, although that takes place a bit later. Most of the books about Vietnam in the 1920s that I have read are crude translations of Vietnamese classics. My favourite is Impasse, by Nguyen Cong Hoan. The story of a peasant enduring the hardships of French rule, it shows the dark back side of colonialism, which is often romanticized by Western writers. For Cambodia in the 1920s, I would recommend Axel Madsen’s Silk Roads, about Andre and Clara Malraux, as well as Clara’s memoirs.

And finally … what can we expect next from Kim Fay?

I do intend to write a sequel to The Map of Lost Memories. And while it will use the final chapter’s hidden treasure as a jumping off point, it will surprise readers, I think, by following an unexpected path, especially since it will take place in Cambodia in the late 1950s and early 1960s, more than three decades after The Map of Lost Memories ends. It is going to take me a while to plot this book, so in the meantime, I am working on another novel close to my heart.

I am the author of a food memoir, Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, and my love of Vietnamese cuisine will be incorporated into my next book, an untitled novel about an American woman who is born in Vietnam in 1937. Her parents are sociologists, and as an adult she becomes a culinary anthropologist. Along with studying Vietnam’s imperial cuisine, she also feeds homesick U.S. soldiers. I want to explore the domestic side of pre-1975 Vietnam, but at the same time, this facet will be the backdrop for a suspense storyline, based on the murder of the American woman’s best Vietnamese friend. As in The Map of Lost Memories, this new novel will twine all of the characters’ together, and there will be plenty of secrets unveiled along the way.

I can’t wait – thank you Kim!

The Map of Lost Memories is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

You can find out more about Kim and her writing at: http://www.kimfay.net/

Event news: Love on the Underground

12 Feb

 

I recently discovered Books on the Underground, an initiative set up by a group of book lovers in London to share their love of reading by turning the London Underground into a mobile library. These lovely people leave books in tube trains for passengers to pick up and read – all they ask is that when you’ve finished with the book you send it off on another journey so that someone else can enjoy it. There’s a Twitter feed and Facebook site too so people can track the journey of their book – brilliant eh?!

And for Valentine’s Day, the gang at Books on the Underground have teamed up with Mills and Boon to launch Love on the Underground.  From the 7th –  17th February, romantic books will be left on major underground lines around London. Travellers who pick them up can tweet where they’ve seen them and leave reviews.  Mills & Boon has donated 100 novels for the Love on the Underground campaign, to be distributed on the busiest lines including the Central, Piccadilly and the Northern lines, to get hearts racing!

To find Love on the Underground and be kept up-to-date with who’s reading and reviewing them, follow @MillsandBoon and @BooksUnderground on Twitter and be sure to tweet a picture of any book you borrow with the hashtag ‘#loveontheunderground’ from 7th until 17th February.

You can also find out more at: http://booksontheunderground.tumblr.com and facebook.com/MillsandBoon

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Book review: The Case of the Missing Boyfriend by Nick Alexander

11 Feb

CC is nearly forty, and apart from her real name (which she hates with a passion usually reserved for men with beards), everything in her life seems wonderful. She’s got a high-powered job in advertising, a beautiful flat in Primrose Hill and a wild bunch of gay friends to spend the weekends with. And yet she feels like the Titanic – slowly, inexorably, and against all expectation, sinking. The truth is, CC would rather be digging turnips on a remote farm than convincing the masses to buy a life-changing pair of double-zippered jeans – rather be snuggling at home with the Missing Boyfriend than playing star fag-hag in London’s latest coke-spots. But sightings of straight men that don’t have weird fetishes or secret wives are rarer than an original metaphor, and CC fears that pursuing the Good Life alone will just leave her feeling even more isolated. Could her best friend’s pop-psychology be right? Are the horrors of CC’s past preventing her from moving on? And if CC finally does confront her demons, will she find the Missing Boyfriend? Or is it already too late?

On the surface, The Case of The Missing Boyfriend appears to be a classic ‘chick lit’ tale of a thirty-something woman looking for love but it’s actually an in depth look at lead character CC’s life over the course of a year as she copes with the ups and downs thrown at her. As the novel started, CC reminded me very much of a cross between Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw; she lives and parties in London, has a successful and glamorous career in advertising, owns her own flat and has a fabulous gang of gay male friends to keep her entertained and a couple of close female friends to put things in perspective.

On paper her life is perfect but in her heart she’s not happy; her dream is a farm in the country complete with partner and child. At the age of 39 and with some bad relationships behind her, she’s beginning to question if she’ll ever find the right man or have her dream. It’s a question most of us have asked at one time or another and I found it quite refreshing that CC was entirely honest with herself about her desire to find a partner and have children. What surprised me though as I read was that this isn’t really a novel about CC finding her ideal man but actually about her taking an in-depth look at herself and trying to figure out what will make her happy.

I liked the layout of the book and with snappy titles, each chapter was like a little short story of its own which built up in the first part of the book to give a  detailed picture of CC and her life. There are some very funny moments, particularly in part one as CC finds herself in Nice with an rich and intriguing business man and tries her hand at speed dating but despite the comedy there is little real romance for poor CC and the second part of the novel is altogether darker as recession hits and we find out more about CC’s family and her previous relationships. This is a novel that isn’t afraid to tackle difficult topics head on including depression, loneliness and suicide.

CC goes on quite  a journey through the course of this novel and her story certainly made me think about what makes us happy and the terms in which we view success. With a surprise twist at the end, this is a story that will keep you guessing right until the very last page and I found it an original and ultimately uplifting take on the search for a happy ending.

4/5

The Case of The Missing Boyfriend is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank Alison at Corvus for sending me a review copy of this novel.

Find out more about Nick Alexander and his books at: http://www.nick-alexander.com/

 

Book review: The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

8 Feb

(From the back cover)

I turned to Luke and reached for him. My blood felt as though it had seized up in my veins.

“Lanny, what is it?” Luke asked.

I clutched his lapel desperately

“It’s Adair. He’s free.”

FOR 200 YEARS SHE’S BEEN HIDING

He gave her immortality.

She tried to destroy him.

Now he is searching for her.

They must not meet.

Or there will be a RECKONING

The Reckoning is the second book in Alma Katsu’s Immortal Trilogy and continues the story just three months after the end of The Taker. I liked that the story picked straight back up and I loved that the action started straight away as Adair, the man who is responsible for Lanny’s immortal status and who she imprisoned two hundred years ago, is freed. Lanny immediately feels his influence again and knows that he’s coming for her. As beginnings to books go, it doesn’t get much more dramatic than this!

Whilst The Taker was for me very much an historical paranormal novel, The Reckoning is set predominantly in the present and offers an absorbing view on the contemporary as Adair flees his prison and seeks to resume his life after two hundred years. He effectively has to learn to live again and Katsu’s descriptions of modern life through Adair’s time-weary eyes had me fascinated as the smallest thing like a clothes shopping trip becomes a steep learning curve. Despite my dislike of Adair I found myself with (a small) amount of sympathy for him as he struggled to process the sheer amount of information available to him and the speed at which transactions take place.

The novel is split into two parts with chapters that alternate between Lanny’s search for Adair’s other ‘companions’ in her bid to find a way to protect herself or stop him once and for all and Adair’s re-integration into life and his search for Lanny. As a reader I enjoyed watching the two sides of the story evolve and by the end of the book I felt like I knew both Adair and Lanny better – particularly Lanny, whose story is told in the first person. Through flashbacks that visit destinations as far flung as Morocco, Venice and Romania we learn what happened to Lanny during the two-hundred years of Adair’s imprisonment and in the present we meet characters that Lanny hasn’t seen for the same period in new guises which gives the plot excellent variety and pace.

The Reckoning is as dark, if not darker than The Taker and certainly pushed my limit for horror toleration at a couple of points (it’s probably worth noting that my limits aren’t very high!)  and Adair’s actions in particular continued to have the shock factor which made the twist in the tale at the end of part one all the more intriguing! Part two is fast paced and includes some very clever and surprising twists as the net closes and an encounter between Adair and Lanny becomes inevitable. I loved the way the tension built and although I was expecting the worst, I was shocked when it actually happened and again surprised by the direction that the final chapters took. With a hint of another story, yet to be told, the scene is set for a fantastic finale to the trilogy and I can’t wait!

5/5

Find out about Alma and her books and read sample chapters and more at: http://www.almakatsu.com/

I’d like to thank Philippa at Random House for sending me a review copy of this novel.