Archive | May, 2014

Author Interview: Matt Cain

31 May

My guest today is fabulous Matt Cain who kindly agreed to answer my questions about his excellent debut, Shot Through the Heart. Matt became Channel 4 News’ first ever Culture Editor in 2010. Since then he’s reported on everything from the Man Booker Prize and the Mercury Music Prize to the opening of the Spice Girls musical and the death of Whitney Houston.

As Producer/Director of The South Bank Show, his credits include films on Ian McKellen, Sam Taylor-Wood, Will Young and Carol Ann Duffy. He’s also written for The Times, presented the series What Makes a Masterpiece? for More4, and contributes a monthly column to Attitude magazine. He’s judged the South Bank Show Awards, the Stonewall Awards and will be on the panel for next year’s Costa Book Awards. Welcome Matt!

Matt cainYour debut novel Shot Through the Heart has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it.

Yes, Shot Through the Heart is a romantic comedy about a Hollywood actress whose nickname is the First Lady of Love because she’s famous for starring in a string of hit rom-coms. But in real life she’s desperately lonely and her love life’s a mess because every time she meets a nice new man the paparazzi trail them everywhere and scare him off! But then one day she comes face to face with a paparazzo who she can’t help finding herself attracted to. He takes a shot of her in a moment of weakness pigging out on junk food and says he’ll let her have the photos if she goes out on a date with him. So that was my starting point – I really wanted to explore a modern-day Romeo and Juliet scenario, where two sworn enemies meet and fall in love. And I wanted to set it in the film world as for years I made entertainment documentaries for ITV and then I was the arts correspondent for Channel 4 News – so I was lucky enough to get more than the odd glimpse behind the glamour and I wanted to share some of my experiences!

I love the title for the book; how did you choose it (are you a Bon Jovi fan?!)

Ha ha yes I am a Bon Jovi fan! I’m a sucker for all kinds of soft rock – I love listening to Magic FM and I have a CD of the best ever power ballads which is great to sing along to. But when I was choosing a title for the book I was looking for something that would play around with the idea of a paparazzo shooting an actress. I’ve never told anyone this before but when I started the book it was called Shooting Stars. But I thought that would just make people think of the TV show so I changed it to Snap. But that didn’t seem strong enough for me so eventually I settled on Shot Through the Heart. I hope you think I made the right choice!

Leading lady Mia Sinclair is famed for her rom-com roles; what are your three favourite romantic movies?

I absolutely love Titanic, even though some people are sniffy about it because it was such a big hit. But it still makes me cry even though I must have seen it about twenty times! I also love The Bodyguard and this was an inspiration to me when I was writing the book because it’s set in the same world and is about a celeb falling in love with a civilian. And then there’s Moulin Rouge which might be my favourite of all time because I first watched it at the pictures when I’d just started going out with my first boyfriend and was feeling particularly gushy and romantic!

Who would you cast as Mia, Leo and Billy in the film of the book?

It’s difficult this one. When I was writing the book people said to me I should picture in my head the actors I’d like to play my characters but the funny thing was I never managed to do it – and I’m still not really sure. Sorry, that’s a rubbish answer but maybe it’s a good thing for the book – just in case someone ever does want to make it into a film. Here’s hoping anyway!

The book is set in Los Angeles; please could you describe your ideal day in the city?

Oh it’d probably start with a trip to the gym because there are so many fit men in LA and they all have amazing bodies. Then after I’d ogled them for a bit I’d probably go down to the beach in Malibu – I’ll never forget being there once when I was filming a documentary for ITV and seeing dolphins jump through the waves. It felt like Heaven for a boy from Bolton! Once the sun went down I’d leave the beach and do some shopping, probably in the Beverly Center, which I used to go to all the time when I was on location in LA – and I even set a scene there in chapter 2 of my book. Then I’d grab something to eat in one of the brilliant delis or diners dotted around the city and then go out to Here or The Abbey, two of my favourite bars in West Hollywood. And hopefully while I’m there I’d meet my very own romantic hero!

If you had the choice of being a Hollywood superstar or top paparazzo for a day what would you do and where shot through the heartwould you go?

I’d definitely choose to be a star rather than a paparazzo because I’d use it to get an introduction to Hugh Jackman. I think he’s the fittest man ever and so charming and gentlemanly  I’d just love to meet him in real life – even if it was only for a few minutes!

And finally … what can we expect next from Matt Cain?

Well, I’ve just delivered the first draft of my second novel, Nothing but Trouble. It’s another romantic comedy, this time about a pop star living in London whose wild, self-destructive lifestyle lands her in a position where everything she’s worked so hard for could come crashing down around her. I’ve let my imagination run riot with this book and written a few sex scenes, which was really good fun. And I’ve totally gone to town with the thriller element and cranked up the tension. It’s not out till April 2015 but I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Thanks Matt  – the new book sounds fab!

Shot Through the Heart is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find our more about Matt and his writing at: http://www.mattcainwriter.com/

Author interview: Rachael English

30 May

Rachael English is visiting One More Page today on the final stop of her Going Back blog tour. Rachael is a presenter on Ireland’s most popular radio show, Morning Ireland. During more than twenty years as a journalist, she has worked on most of RTE Radio’s
leading current affairs programmes, covering a huge range  of national and international stories. Going Back is her first novel and was inspired by her own experiences of visiting Boston as a student in 1988. Welcome Rachael!

rachael englishThe paperback of your debut novel, Going Back has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it?

It begins in 1988 when five friends from Ireland go to Boston on temporary student visas. Ireland is mired in recession, and the United States promises money and opportunity. Four of them are in search of adventure, but as is often the way, it’s the quietest of the group – Elizabeth – who finds it. Back at home she has a steady boyfriend who everybody thinks is a great catch. On a night out, she meets a young carpenter called Danny. He’s a bit of a charmer, and Elizabeth surprises everybody by falling for him. Not all of her friends approve, and Danny’s cantankerous brother, Vincent, most certainly doesn’t.

More than twenty years later, we catch up with all of them again. They’re at a stage where they’re starting to question what they’ve done with their lives, and for several of them this means finally having to face the consequences of decisions they made back in 1988.

 

How does it feel to see your first novel in print and have your experiences as an author changed you as a reader?

This might sound strange but, to begin with, the sight of it on the shelves made me feel slightly unwell! When I was writing, I never really considered what anyone else would think about it; the book was my hobby, something I enjoyed playing around with. Seeing it out in the world was kind of scary. Gradually, I’ve got over this. In fact, I was signing copies in Dublin today and I didn’t feel even vaguely queasy! Apart from the writing itself the best part of the experience is meeting readers who want to talk about the book. Often, they make observations about the characters or the story that give me pause for thought, and that’s brilliant.

I think the entire process changes you as a reader. Since I’ve started writing regularly, I’m a more observant reader. I tend to be better at spotting little clues in the plot or noticing subtle changes in a character. Of course, it can also be pretty dispiriting when you’re reading a wonderful book and you worry that you will never be able to reach those heights.

 

The novel was inspired by your own experiences of visiting Boston as a student in 1988; what is your favourite memory from your time there?

It’s actually a very small memory that for some reason still resonates with me. It was mid-summer, a scorchingly hot day, and for once I was on my own in our apartment. I remember having a shower, then putting on a Fleetwood Mac cassette (this was the 1980s!) and drying my hair with the help of an electric fan. Afterwards, I went out for a walk, saw a ‘staff wanted’ ad in a café window, and got a second job – like Elizabeth my ‘day job’ was in an electrical store. Something about the light, the heat, the music and the sense of opportunity has remained with me long after other memories have flown.

 

Boston is somewhere that I’ve always wanted to visit; please could you describe your ideal day there?

I really hope you get there someday; it’s such a gorgeous city. Like Elizabeth, there was a gap of more than twenty years between my student experience of Boston and my next visit, so I’m by no means an expert, but I think I’d start with the Freedom Trail. It begins on Boston Common and brings you around some of the city’s most historic – and beautiful – sites. You can walk as much or as little of it as you like, but that’s one of the great things about Boston: it’s a very walkable city.

Something else that’s really enjoyable is taking the ‘T’ (the local train) up to Harvard Square and just hanging out. We went for coffee in a bookshop across the street from the main campus and had fun watching all the geeky guys come and go. There’s every chance we saw the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg!  From there, you can do what Elizabeth and Danny do on the night of her twenty-first birthday, and take a walk down to the Charles River. It’s a great spot to sit and think.

Speaking of Danny, at the start of the book he lives with his mother in an old clapboard house. Like a lot of Europeans, I just love those houses. If you have similar taste and want to walk down a street that feels completely American, it’s worth visiting one of the city’s suburbs for a couple of hours. Honestly, you’ll feel like you’re in a movie.

 

Going Back examines the changes in one woman’s life as she revisits a life she once lived. If you could give yourgoing back twenty year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?

In the book, Elizabeth and her college friends have a reunion dinner during which they discuss this very subject, so I’m going to quote from that:

‘Wouldn’t you love to be young again?’ said Donal. ‘Twenty-one, say? With a bit of sense, but not too much.’

‘I would not,’ replied Peter. ‘Well, only if I knew that all the nonsense I was worried about wouldn’t matter in a few years’ time.’

‘What else would you say to yourself?’

‘Get a proper haircut.’

‘Orla, what would you say to your twenty-one-year-old self?’

‘Be as wild as you like. And then some.’

I think all of this sounds like good advice, except I would add, don’t worry so much about work.

 

If there was one time and place that you could go back to, where and when would you go?

Hmmm, that’s a hard one. Corny as it is to say this, I think I’ll pick my wedding day. It wasn’t a very big wedding which might explain why I was so relaxed both beforehand and on the day. I enjoyed every last minute of it, something that can be seen from the photos. Normally, I’m reluctant to display too many teeth when I smile (I don’t like my teeth), but in our wedding photos, I’m beaming like something let loose. Of course, if I went back to that day, I’d also be nine years younger which would be pretty good too.

 

 And finally … what can we expect next from Rachael English?

I’ve just finished the main edits on my next book which is called Each and Every One. It’s set in present-day Dublin, and tells the story of a wealthy family and how they all cope when life turns sour. Fingers crossed, it will be out in September.

 

Thank you for answering my questions Rachael – I’m already looking forward to your new book!

Going Back is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Rachael and her writing at: https://www.facebook.com/rachaelenglishwriter

 

Guest post: Holidaying with Children by Janey Fraser

29 May

My guest today is lovely Janey Fraser who is visiting One More Page on the latest stop of her After the Honeymoon blog tour. Janey has been a journalist for over 25 years and contributes regularly to national newspapers and magazines as well as appearing on television and radio. She will be guest-editing the June issue of Mslexia magazine. She has also published books under the pen name Sophie King. Welcome Janey!

janeyfraserWhen I look back at holidays with the children when they were small, I don’t know how we did it. For a start, there was all that stuff we had to take. Nappies, potties, comfort blankets, toys, clothes, pushchair…It makes me dizzy to think of it.

Then there was the safety inspection of our accommodation. What should we do about the slippery Spanish terracotta floors for the ‘baby’  who had learned to crawl since the original booking? How could we make sure the children didn’t wander through the villa doors and into the pool without us noticing? And as for that balcony in Greece, let’s not go there.

Then there was the twenty seven hour flight (non-stop) to Australia. In those days, I was working for the Times travel pages. My brief was to write an hour by hour account on whether it was possible to keep three under eleven year olds quiet during a long-distance flight. It wasn’t. The journey was so long that my poor daughter was sick for the last three hours. When a beaming official greeted us at passport control with the words ‘Welcome to Australia’, I handed him a sick bag. Honestly.

Fast forward to the teenage years, and things got even more out of hand.  My then husband and I had a one-alcoholic-drink- a -night rule for our three.  But we caught my daughter out when she declined to give me a sip of her ‘lemonade’ which turned out to be neat vodka.  The following day, my 13 year old son announced he’d kissed a 16 year old girl at the teen disco – after claiming he was really 17…..

So you can see why the kids soon organised their own holidays with friends as soon as they were old enough to afford it.

Fast forward another few years to Vietnam where my newly-married daughter and her husband were working.  Despite Skype, my heart ached to see them so my elder son and I flew over to see them.  ‘I’ll stay behind,’ said my understanding newish husband. ‘It’s important for you all to have time on your own.’

We had an amazing time, exploring the Mekong Delta and then hopping over to Thailand. But the biggest revelation was that we all really enjoyed each other’s company without any of the stresses that come with a young family. It was also nice for me to have one to one time with my children. When they’re little, you take this for granted. Nor did I have to coax them to go to bed early, like I did when they were little. Instead, it was the other way round.

‘Let’s do this every year,’ one of them said. So now it’s become a tradition. Of course, it’s not always possible to find a date that suitsPrint everyone. So we’ve agreed that at times, only some of us will go. This year, my daughter, her husband and I went to Marrakech for six days and climbed the Atlas Mountains.

It’s memories like that which will never fade. Next year, we’re hoping to have saved up enough to get to Vanuatu to visit a far-flung cousin. If not, it will be Istanbul. But you know what the best thing is (apart from that precious family time) ? They even carry your cases for you. It makes up for all that clobber we carried for them…

Thanks Janey – what wonderful memories!

After the Honeymoon is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Janey and her writing at: www.janeyfraser.co.uk

Please do visit the other stops on Janey’s blog tour.

 

Guest post: Growing Up In Malaya by Dinah Jefferies

28 May

I’m delighted to welcome Dinah Jefferies to One More Page today as part of her blog tour to celebrate the release of her debut novel, The Separation. Dinah was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine and today she shares her memories of growing up in Malaya and how her memories have influenced her writing. Welcome Dinah!

Dinah Jefferies April 2014As a child I thought guns piled up on the hall table was perfectly normal – and didn’t everybody’s dad go out to work each morning accompanied by two armed policemen? It was only later, after we’d moved back to England, that I realised my first nine years had been a little bit unusual.

I was born in August 1948 two months after three rubber planters (in three separate locations) had been shot dead by Chinese men arriving on bicycles. A state of Emergency was declared, and the wonderful tropical lifestyle my parents had envisaged when they went out to Malaya in 1946, had become a lot more hazardous. In fact my father’s car came under fire when he drove my mum to the nursing home to give birth to me.

Ambushes, further shootings, rubber plantations set on fire, and roads peppered with land mines became the norm. The war was between the Chinese communists hiding out in Typical Malayan house that we lived in.the jungles, and the British Administration, and it lasted twelve years in all. And yet, as a child, my life was one of colour and light, with heat that I loved, and monsoons that I loved equally, with rain that splashed a yard up in the air and fantastic tropical thunderstorms. I loved all of it and missed it when we came to live in England.

I went to a very culturally mixed school and had Chinese, Malay and Indian friends, as well as other European Children. It was a free childhood, lived to a great extent in flip flops and not much else. I was accustomed to visiting China Town and going to the amazing Chinese Circus, while our holidays were speUntitled-17 copynt on deserted tropical islands with sandy white beaches and turquoise seas.

I remember the exotic scents of Malaya, and the shrieks of the monkeys as they climbed in through our kitchen window to pinch some food. I remember the bright butterflies, plants with leaves the size of frying pans, and the gardener shinning up the palms in our garden to cut down coconuts  or pick a bunch of bananas, with us kids calling out which ones he should get.

It was idyllic and yet several friends of my parents had died – mainly rubber planters who were the ones most at risk, living, as they did, on isolated plantations. There were terrible atrocities and many people faced desperate situations.

It was this contrast that I wanted to somehow bring to my book The Separation, and I hope I managed to convey some of the incredible beauty alongside the horrors of war. I wanted the reader to see the magic of Malaya through a child’s eyes, but also understand the very real dangers through her mother’s. I think it’s clear how much my own memories (and my mother’s) influenced the writing, though the story, of course, is not my family’s story but is entirely fictional. A little bit of my heart went in to the book and revisiting my childhood memories, many of which I thought I’d forgotten, made all the difference.The Separation Cover Final - Front - Medium

Thank you Dinah.

The Separation is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Dinah and her writing at: http://www.dinahjefferies.com/

Please do check out the other stops on The Separation blog tour

 

Book review: Dead Girls Walking by Suzy Cox

25 May

dead girls walkingLorna has been dead long enough to know the Rules. But that doesn’t stop her showing up at her little sister’s high school production of Hipster Hamlet. But when she arrives, a lighting rig comes crashing down on the lead cast member mid-performance. All fingers point to Lorna’s little sister, Emma, and it’s up to The Dead Girls Detective Agency to find the real culprit. Unless Em’s not as innocent as she looks?

Charlotte wants to help Lorna prove her sister’s innocence, but she’s completely distracted. Not only is her ghostly-self suspended in this New York-limbo-hotel, she is having to deal with the fact that the very alive love of her life has moved on. And then there’s the cute dead boy Edison, who seems to be acting nice all of a sudden. But is Charlotte ready for a new boyfriend, and one with such a murky past?

I recently discovered and enjoyed Suzy Cox’s debut novel, The Dead Girls Detective Agency and was excited to see that the second book in the series was due to be released this month. The excitement level shot up a notch when I was invited to review the new book as part of Suzy’s blog tour. I’m the final stop so please do check out the other blogs on the tour and all of the fab Dead Girls Walking content!

The novels are modern mysteries with a serious amount of sass and a fab paranormal twist. The detectives of the title are all teenage girls who live in New York and have been murdered. They find themselves at the Attesa Hotel where they are destined to remain in limbo until they can solve the mysteries of their deaths and find the key to the door to the next stage of the afterlife. The focus of the series is light; more on fashion, wisecracks and flirting than anything gruesome and I loved the quick wit and tongue in cheek way that the girls address their ghostly status.

Dead Girls Walking is book two in the series and it is possible to start reading at this point as most of the history is neatly recapped but for maximum enjoyment I’d recommend reading book one first. Lorna, Charlotte, Nancy and their fellow ghosts are probably the most glam and fashionable ghosts you’re ever likely to meet. The book is peppered with references to TV, fashion designers, celebrities and film and music that make it feel very contemporary.

In this book, the focus is on a new character named Mercy who is killed when a lighting rig falls on her during the school performance of Hipster Hamlet. It’s soon clear that Mercy’s death is no accident and  I enjoyed the way that the mystery of Mercy’s murder was woven into the wider plot of Charlotte trying to find her way through the big red door and onto the next stage of her afterlife.

Fans of Gossip Girl, Sweet Valley High and books like the Blue Bloods series or Tamsyn Murray’s My So Called Afterlife will enjoy this series and I loved the New York setting. There’s a hint of romance from ghost boy Edison and human Detective Lee provides eye candy for the girls too!

It’s always hard to review the second book in a series without giving spoilers for the first so I’ll keep my review short but I will say that if you enjoyed book one, you will love book two and the cliffhanger ending of Dead Girls Walking will have you clambering for the next book!

4/5

Dead Girls Walking is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

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

Book review: Reckoning by Kerry Wilkinson

22 May

reckoningOne girl. One reckoning. One destiny.

In the village of Martindale, hundreds of miles north of the new English capital of Windsor, sixteen-year-old Silver Blackthorn takes the Reckoning. This coming-of-age test not only decides her place in society – Elite, Member, Inter or Trog – but also determines that Silver is to become an Offering for King Victor.

But these are uncertain times and no-one really knows what happens to the teenagers who disappear into Windsor Castle. Is being an Offering the privilege everyone assumes it to be, or do the walls of the castle have something to hide?

Trapped in a maze of ancient corridors, Silver finds herself in a warped world of suspicion where it is difficult to know who to trust and who to fear. The one thing Silver does know is that she must find a way out . . .

I was attracted to this book straight away by the cover and I love the depiction of leading lady Silver Blackthorn on it. Another good sign of the cover appeal is that my husband picked it up when it came through the door and said ‘this looks good! Reckoning is Kerry’s debut young adult novel and what a debut. The story ticked all the boxes for me; strong female lead, well thought out and believable future world and a UK setting with lots of action and adventure in a fast-moving plot.

I loved the flash forward that Reckoning gives. Set in a future England that now operates as a land divided into four realms (North, East, South and West),  Silver’s world is futuristic yet almost medieval in appearance as the country has been decimated by a long and bitter civil war. Now ruled by the King, Windsor Castle is the centre of power and I loved the descriptions of the castle where past and future collide.

Technology has advanced in Silver’s world and all citizens wear a thinkwatch that allows them to communicate with each other, tells them where to be and what to do at certain times of the day and even denotes their place in society.  Each year, every sixteen year old citizen is subject to the reckoning and placed into one of four groups in society; Elite, Member, Inter or Trog. On top of his a number of ‘offerings’ are chosen from each group and area to serve the King Directly. Kerry has created a well thought out, detailed and believable future world and I loved the references throughout to the past and our world as we know it. Reading Reckoning really felt like a look at a plausible (and frightening) future!

Reckoning examines the nature of power and collective conscience in an intelligent and engaging way; it certainly made me think about the images and messages that we see and how often we accept what we’re told without challenge. As Silver and her fellow offerings enter Windsor Castle, the truth about the King and his rule begins to come to light. I thought the pace of the story was excellent and there were plenty of shocks, twists and turns to keep me guessing as I read and turning the pages long past my bedtime!

Silver is everything you could want from a leading lady; she’s strong, intelligent and determined  and I was rooting for her from the start. I liked the relationships with her family and best friend Opie that were set up at the start and hope that we see more of these characters in the second and third books of the trilogy.

There’s a hint of romance as the novel progresses and Kerry has set up some excellent questions that need to be answered. I read this book in 24 hours and can’t wait to find out what happens next. Thankfully, book two, Renegade is out later in the year. Highly recommended!

5/5

Reckoning is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Kerry Wilkinson and his writing at:

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

 

Guest post: My Favourite Fantasy Novels by Kerry Wilkinson

22 May

Today I’m very excited to welcome Kerry Wilkinson to One More Page as part of his Reckoning blog tour. Kerry is a number one Amazon bestseller for his Jessica Daniels crime series for adults. Reckoning is the first book in a new young adult  sci-fi/fantasy trilogy and is a fantastic read (look out for my review later today). You can find out more about Kerry and his books at: http://kerrywilkinson.com/

My Favourite Fantasy Novels 

The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum

The film of this is perhaps its most famous version and it’s only a matter of time before it gets remade – but the novel came out more than 100 years ago and so many of the core concepts from the genre are there. Dorothy is a young person who finds herself in an alien place (Oz), with a designated bad guy (The Wicked Witch); a quest (to follow the yellow-brick road to the Emerald City); people she meets on the way (Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion), adventure, terror and a cracking twist at the end.

It’s so easy to say that one book, film or whatever shares plot elements in common with other things – but, if that’s the case, everything is trailing in the wake of this from 1900. I read the book after watching the film as a kid and loved it. I wish I still had my tatty old hardback copy and have no idea what happened to it. My mum probably sold it at a car-booter for 50p and it’s now worth ten grand.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I read the series of books before I knew it originated as a radio play and a long time ahead of the 2005 movie. It is a ‘trilogy’ written by Douglas Adams, which actually contains five books. Arthur Dent is a very normal English man whose house is being demolished to make room for a bypass. Very shortly after, his problems get significantly larger when a race of aliens named the Vogons show up, ready to demolish Earth itself to make way for a Hyperspace Bypass. From there, Arthur is off on a journey around the universe.

The plot beyond that is hard to describe, partly because I wouldn’t want to spoil it, but largely because it’s not the point. What really makes the series brilliant is the humour, the concepts and the quality of Douglas Adams’s writing. Reading the novels is an absolute pleasure.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I came across this very recently but it’s easily one of the best books I’ve ever read. I particularly love the audiobook version, read by the wonderful Jason Isaacs. Conor is a young man facing the very real prospect that his mother, who has terminal cancer, might not live for much longer. In the meantime, he is haunted at night by the monster disguising itself as a tree at the bottom of his garden.

Patrick Ness’s writing is superb. It is what he doesn’t put on the page that truly shines – perhaps a strange thing to say about a writer. Certainly when it comes to Conor’s mother’s illness, a lot is left to the reader to see between the lines; plus decide whether the monster is real or imagined and, ultimately, heartbreakingly, whether it actually matters. It’s a perfect story.

 The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee

Superheroes are ‘in’ at the moment and there’s barely a week that passes without something new coming out at the cinema. I’ve loved Spider-Man for a long time but, if I’m honest, it’s not Spidey I love – it’s Peter Parker. For me, he’s the ultimate young adult character. First there are his superpowers. He’s sixteen when a spider first bites him, giving him superhuman strength and speed. By showing off those powers, it leads to his Uncle Ben dying.

He has absent, presumed dead, parents; a sickly aunt; a job at the Daily Planet to keep; a love life that includes Betty Brant, Gwen Stacy and ultimately Mary-Jane Watson – and that’s before any of his villains get a look in. Worse than that, he has schoolwork too!

The run of comics from the 1960s originals through to the trauma of issues 121-122 (I won’t spoil it) and the aftermath is some of my favourite-ever storytelling. Poor, ol’ Peter Parker…

The Harry Potter books by JK Rowling

In some quarters – especially among writers and the publishing community – it’s trendy to knock JK Rowling but I’ve enjoyed them all since the time my then girlfriend gave me the American edition of The Sorcerer’s Stone and told me it was good. The genius of the concept is that everything that happens mirrors the real world. There’s no need for a fantastical future, or a massive rewrite of history because the magical universe sits alongside our real one. The earlier novels set around Hogwarts are essentially mystery stories wrapped up in the wider concept of the magical kingdom – and the hooks always kept me interested.

Thanks Kelly – a great list!

Reckoning (Silver Blackthorn Trilogy 1) is out today in paperback and ebook formats. 

Follow Kerry on Twitter @kerrywk

Follow Silver Blackthorn on Facebook 

Book review: The A-List Family by Christina Hopkinson

19 May

Imagine a world where your bikini body has to last all year.

Where paparazzi turn up for the school run.

Where EVERYBODY knows your name, and your eight-year-old daughter’s.

Welcome to everyday life in an A-List Family.

Newly employed to look after the daughter of a super-rich and famous power couple, Anna is about to find out what life is really like behind the closed doors of celebrity. And soon she starts to wonder: once you’re in, can you get out?

The A-List Family is a must read for celebrity gossip fans. Who doesn’t secretly love reading about the ups and downs of the rich and famous? I’m sure many of us have wondered what goes on behind closed doors and what the true celebrity lifestyle is really like. As Cambridge graduate Anna is employed as live in tutor/companion to eight year old Antigone, we are given the chance to see behind the carefully orchestrated perfection.

This novel will certainly make you think about the perception and the reality; the fame ‘industry’ and the impact of a parent or parent’s fame on their children. In turns humorous, insightful and frightening, The A-List Family is much more than the inside story on a famous family; it’s a fascinating and thought provoking look at the nature of ‘celebrity’, how a person can become a brand and the ‘business’ of fame.

Anna enters a world where the lines between employee and ‘friend’ blur; where ‘parent’, ‘nanny’ and ‘housekeeper’ are interchangeable and although trust and security are paramount, she can trust no-one and often feels less than secure. I loved the tensions between the staff in the house and the many undercurrents to this story. There are some soap-opera worthy plot twists and revelations throughout the book which gave it a good pace and kept me engrossed.

This is very much Antigone’s story and from the start I was fascinated by her character. Antigone is highly intelligent but struggles with social and personal interactions and is very much a victim of her parents fame. As Anna is employed to stretch and develop Antigone both mentally and physically, the reader is given a first hand view of the pressures of growing up in a world where everyone knows who you are (or thinks they do) before you do. It’s a fascinating story and I loved the way Antigone’s part in in played out.

Anna took a little while to grow on me and in may ways she is similar to Antigone; highly intelligent but socially awkward. Anna’s development through the book is interesting as she compares the reality she experiences in her job to the reported life of her employers. Despite her attempts not to be, Anna is drawn into the secret world behind the scenes and influenced by the lifestyle she sees. As a consequence, Anna’s developing friendship with photographer Jack showed a side to her character that I wasn’t very keen on.

The finale to the story is certainly dramatic; wonderfully far-fetched yet actually believable and I enjoyed the way that the book concluded. Christina’s sharp and witty observations make The A-List Family an escapist read with an edge and I’m now keen to read Christina’s previous novels, particularly The Pile of Stuff at the Bottom of the Stairs.

4/5

The A-List Family is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

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

Find out more about Christina Hopkinson and her writing at: http://www.christinahopkinson.com/

 

 

Book news: Love Like The Movies by Victoria Van Tiem

17 May

I spotted this novel earlier in the year when it was released in the US so I was delighted to see that it has been picked up by Pan Macmillan and will be published here in the UK next month!

The cover was revealed earlier this week  – isn’t it fab? With references to many of y favourite rom-coms this sounds like just my sort of book and has gone straight on to my wish list! Love Like The Movies is released on 19th June. Find out more at: http://victoriavantiem.com/

 

When it comes to finding her leading man, will it be Love, Actually or a Runaway Bride?

Kenzi Shaw has her life scripted out down to the last line – the career she’s building as an up-and-coming marketing exec, the gorgeous fiancé (Bradley) she’ll marry in a fairytale wedding, the children they’ll raise in her dream home. But when heart-breaking ex Shane comes back into her life, life starts going off the script . . .

Shane tries to win Kenzi over by re-enacting all the rom com movies they used to watch together – Sleepless in Seattle, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing to name a few. He’s just a guy, standing in front of a girl, asking her to trust him again. But has he really changed? Not only is her head in a spin over Shane, but now her job is on the line. And with her perfect sister in law showing up every tiny thing Kenzi does wrong, she feels like she’s permanently in the corner.

Should she risk her sensible life for the chance of a Happy Ever After? One thing’s for sure, when Shane meets Kenzi (again), she’s suddenly not so sure just who her leading man is . . .

 

Book review: No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday by Tracy Bloom

17 May

Childhood sweethearts Matthew and Katy agree they must never see each other again following a school reunion.

So all is forgotten … until eight months later when a shock meeting at an antenatal class forces them to confront the fact that Matthew could be the father of Katy’s baby.

Love and life are messy, but Katy and Matthew take things to a whole new level as deep emotions begin to resurface and hormones run riot.

Never has a one-night-stand led to such chaos!

If you are looking for a book to make you giggle, this might just be it. Tracy Bloom’s debut is laugh out loud funny, romantic and honest and I found it a fun quick read. The book has already been an ebook best seller and as a consequence landed Tracy a four book publishing deal with Arrow and it’s easy to see why No-One Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday is such a hit.

The novel is populated with characters that will in some way be familiar to many. The story centers around Katy, the 36 year old high flyer, her (quite a bit) younger teacher boyfriend Ben, her childhood sweetheart Matthew and his hyper organised controlling wife Alison. Throw in a one night stand, a fabulous gay best friend and a couple of pregnancies and you have the perfect mix for a modern comedy of errors.

What I liked about this book though (apart from the fact that it really did make me giggle) was that my assumptions based on the character types were regularly challenged. I found Ben immature, laddish and a little annoying to begin with but by the end of the book my opinion of him had been completely reversed. Similarly, Alison who came off as picky, snobbish and aloof to begin with, ended up being the character that I had the most sympathy for as the story played out.

Katy took a little while to grow on me and I didn’t necessarily agree with all of her actions in the book but she won me over in the end. Matthew on the other hand did not have any redeeming features! Tracy Bloom is skilled at bringing out the funny side of the most serious and even mundane events and truly has a gift for comic timing.

Although this is a lighthearted and fun read, it is also ultimately romantic and heartwarming. I’m already looking forward to reading more from Tracy and am very intrigued by her Christmas title, I Will Marry George Clooney (By Christmas) which will be out later in the year.

4/5

No-One Ever Has Sex On A Tuesday is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank Rose at Arrow for sending me a review coy of this book.

Find out more about Tracy and her writing at:  http://tracybloom.com/