Archive | November, 2014

Book review: A Family Christmas by Katie Flynn

28 Nov

My fab guest reviewer (my Mum!) is back today with her thoughts on Katie Flynn’s Christmas novel:

a family christmasJimmy Trewin and his little sister are devastated by their mother’s death and horrified to find themselves entrusted to the far from tender care of a hated neighbour, Mrs Huxtable. They hope their father will rescue them when his ship comes into port but this does not happen and when Cyril Huxtable is seen by the children hiding “a wad of notes” away, a wad which subsequently disappears, they realise they are in deep trouble. Cyril accuses them of theft and threatens a terrible revenge so they decide to leave Liverpool and try to find their mother’s family in Wales.

Soon, they meet Miiss Trent, a school teacher who has been unfairly dismissed, and agree to join forces since Miss Trent also hopes to find relatives in Wales. But Cyril has promised to pursue them until they hand over his property, and soon they realise he has picked up their trail…

I’ve read several of Katie Flynn’s books now and I found  A Family Christmas to be another gripping story. This novel is filled with every emotion possible; you would have to have a swinging brick for a heart not to experience the pain, the fear and the love contained in this tale of Liverpool life set in the early thirties.

The story revolves around Jimmy aged twelve and his younger sister Mo – a six year old with amazing resourcefulness and self preservation. Today’s infants may be able to surf the net and master a mobile phone, but I pray that only a few will be faced with such trauma and anguish as found in the pages of this book.

Life with their guardian, cruel, heartless Mrs Huxtable is tough. The children are used to doing the tasks that she is being paid for, and but for the touching support of neighbours and friends they face a miserable Christmas ahead. However as Christmas approaches, Jimmy and Mo’s meagre existence dissolves into a fight for survival.

From this point on the reader is left with heart in mouth as to whether the children can survive both the treacherous weather and the daunting depths of the darkness that engulfs them physically and mentally. Always alert and looking out for one another the two children are offered shelter with the Salvation Army, but this is short lived as their devotion to each other’s safety sees six year old Mo, once again shifting amongst the shadows of the streets of Liverpool’s murky night.

In desperation to escape their hunter the children finally find refuge and caring with an out of work teacher named Glenys, whom herself has fallen on hard times. Together decisions are made to not only seek their grandparents, but to finally flee far enough to not have to face the black bearded gruesome face of Cyril Huxtable jumping out from every doorway. My heart was with Glenys at every daunting bend and twist of their journey and I was captured by the drive and determination she showed.

As I’ve come to expect from Katie’s books, she adds a number of twists into the story and all is not always as it seems. As soon as one hurdle is overcome another quickly appears but through all of the trials and tribulations the reader can feel the warmth of this story and a cleverly thought out finale to the tale left me sighing and smiling at the same time!


A Family Christmas is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Katie Flynn and her writing at:

With thanks to the publisher for sending a review copy of this novel.




Giveaway winners! Lost Souls by A. O. Esther

28 Nov



The winners are …

Zoe and Dorothia

Congratulations! I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Look out for more giveaways very soon!

Book review: The Night Falling by Katherine Webb

20 Nov

night fallingPuglia, 1921. Leandro Cardetta, born into poverty, emigrated to America to make his fortune and has returned home to southern Italy a rich man, accompanied by his glamorous wife, Marcie, an ex-showgirl fighting middle age. Now Leandro has money enough to hire renowned English architect, Boyd Kinsgley, to renovate a crumbling palazzo into an Art Deco statement of wealth, and host Boyd’s teenage son and his diffident young second wife, Clare, for one extraordinary summer.

Under the burning sky, beyond the luxury of Leandro’s home, tensions are high. Veterans of the Great War are desperate for work and food. Among these is Ettore, Leandro’s nephew. Gripped by grief at the loss of his fiance, Ettore has sworn to identify Livia’s killer, and take his revenge. He is too proud to go to his uncle for charity, but when he injures himself one day, he has no choice but to knock on Leandro’s door. Meeting Clare there will change everything – and in the most violent way.

During the fierce summer of 1921, all these lives converge. Exactly how did Leandro grow rich in America, and what is the strange hold he has over Boyd? What happened to the first Mrs Kingsley, and what secret haunts the outwardly exuberant Marcie Cardetta? Hearts will be broken, blood will be spilt and the hardest of life’s lessons will be learnt as shadows fall.

The Night Falling is a vivid and dramatic historical novel from international bestseller Katherine Webb. Set in Italy in 1921 it follows the fortunes of two families during a single summer as Clare Kingsley travels to Puglia to spend time with her architect husband at the wealthy estate of Leandro Cardetta and finds herself surrounded by tension and secrets.

This is a well written novel and Katherine shows wonderful attention to detail particularly when evoking the poverty stricken lives of families trying to make ends meet in the aftermath of the First World War. I thought both surroundings and emotions were captured brilliantly as we meet Leandro’s nephew Ettore and his starving family and the reader is shown the hardships faced by young and old in shocking detail which makes the contrast with the wealth of Leandro and his wife even more stark.

Broken into several parts and narrated alternately from Clare and Ettore’s viewpoints, the air of tension is set from the novel’s opening which begins ‘Afterwards’ and sees Clare reflecting on her future and then steps back to her arrival in Italy. It soon becomes clear that the tensions are not simply a case of rich versus poor as the reader is slowly made aware of a host of resentments and mysteries bubbling under both Clare and Ettore’s lives.

I enjoyed the way that Katherine gave small hints that underneath the glossy, wealthy surface, all is not well in the Cardetta household nor with Clare and Boyd’s marriage but I did find the pace of the opening a little slow at times. Mysteries abound as Clare, who is Boyd’s second wife tries to find out what happened to the first Mrs Kingsley and finds that Leandro Cardetta has a frightening hold over her husband. On Ettore’s side of the story, there is the question of who is responsible for the death of his beloved fiance. As the summer heat builds, more secrets surface and as Ettore and Clare’s stories collide the scene is set for an explosive set of reveals set against a backdrop of political unrest.

Unusually for me, I found that I wasn’t particularly drawn to any of the characters in the novel but I was fascinated by their flaws and the changes that Clare, her stepson Pip and Ettore undergo as the story plays out. Katherine Webb is a talented author and has clearly done her research and isn’t afraid to show the violence of the period – there were a number of scenes in the book that I will not forget easily!

This is the first of Katherine’s books that I’ve read and I’ll definitely read more from her in future – I already have a copy of The Misbegotten waiting on my to read pile!


The Night Falling is released today in Hardback and ebook formats.

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

Book news: Things We Couldn't Explain by Betsy Tobin

19 Nov

I love the sound of this quirky romance from award winning author Betsy Tobin – the trailer for this book is very cute with a lovely soundtrack so I thought I’d share it!

things we couldnt


Some things just can t be explained. It s the summer of 79 and the small town of Jericho, Ohio is awash with mysteries. Anne-Marie is beautiful, blind, virginal and pregnant. Ethan is the boy next door who would do anything to win her heart. But when the Virgin Mary starts to appear in the sunset, the town is besieged by zealots, tourists and profiteers. Can love survive amidst the madness? A comic tale of young love, thwarted desire and the slippery nature of faith…

Things We Couldn’t Explain is out now in ebook formats and is released in paperback on 20th November.

Find out more about Betsy and her writing at:



Author interview: Dana Bate

17 Nov

Today I’m delighted to be the first stop on Dana Bate’s mega UK blog tour for The Stall of Second Chances. Dana graduated from Yale University with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry, she then became a broadcast journalist for the PBS Nightly Business Report, where she won the Gerald Loeb Award. Her writings have appeared in numerous places, including McSweeney’s, Culinate and Dana gave it all up to write romantic comedies in 2009, beginning with The Secret Supper Club. The Stall of Second Chances is her second novel and today she’s answering my questions on the book, blogging and more! Welcome Dana.

Bate, DanaYour new novel, The Stall of Second Chances is released in the UK this week; please could you tell us about it?

The story centers on Sydney Strauss, a 26-year-old wannabe food writer whose life, for various reasons, has gotten off track. Instead of writing about pastries and organic farming, she is working for a crazy news correspondent and spends most of her time cleaning up his messes. And instead of planning a wedding with her high school sweetheart, she is single and hasn’t had a date in years. Then, through a few serendipitous turns, she gets a shot at the food-writing career she’s always wanted. But the opportunity comes at a price, and she finds herself chasing a story that could either make her career or ruin it – along with her relationship and reputation.

The book is filled with delicious descriptions of food; where does your inspiration come from?

Everywhere! I love food – eating it, cooking it, talking and writing about it – so I am constantly being inspired by new dishes I try and new recipes I see. The characters and the story drive the types of recipes I include, but I often draw upon my own experience to bring the food descriptions to life. For example, the baker in The Stall of Second Chances sells delicious almond poppy seed muffins, which fits with his character, but the recipe is based on one my mother made when I was a child. So I’ve taken a beloved recipe out of context and repurposed it in the story. Other times, I’ll remember a recipe I once saw in a magazine that made my mouth water, and I’ll think, “Oooh, that would fit perfectly here!”

Leading lady Sydney is an aspiring food reporter; what would her Twitter bio say?

“On a quest for the perfect brownie.

The novel looks at love and second chances in an online world; how has social media impacted you as an author?

It’s like my virtual office! Being a writer can be extremely isolating. Often it’s just me and my computer screen and the characters in my head. So having an outlet where I can interact with readers and other writers has been great. Sometimes it’s a distraction (like when I should be revising my manuscript, but, oooh, did you see that hilarious link so-and-so just posted…), but I try very hard not to get sucked into the social media vortex.

 Sydney has a blog in the book: what would her top three tips for fellow bloggers be?stall of second

  1. Find your voice.
  2. Write about the things that interest you.
  3. Do not, under any circumstances, engage with crazy commenters.

This is your second book with a delicious foodie theme; with Christmas approaching, what is your ideal dinner menu?

Oooh, let’s see… I’d start with either a soup (maybe butternut squash or mushroom) or a green salad – something seasonal, with apples or pears and maybe candied nuts. Then a slow-roasted beef tenderloin as the main, with a side of Brussels sprouts (maybe with bacon or pancetta) and this celery root puree, which appears in my first book. And for dessert, either something rich and creamy like a chocolate cream pie or chocolate mousse, or a vanilla bean soufflé with salted caramel sauce.

And finally … what can we expect next from Dana Bate?

My third book, TOO MANY COOKS, comes out in June, and I think it’s my best yet! It’s about an American cookbook ghostwriter who moves to London to work on a cookbook for a famous actress, only to find the opportunity isn’t all it seems…

Thanks Dana!

The Stall of Second Chances is released in paperback and ebook formats on 20th November.

Find out more about Dana at: or follow her on Twitter @danabate

Please do check out the rest of the stops on Dana’s blog tour!

Book review: The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene

16 Nov

seafront tea roomsThe Seafront Tea Rooms is a peaceful hideaway, away from the bustle of the seaside, and in this quiet place a group of women find exactly what they’ve been searching for.

Charismatic journalist Charlotte is on a mission to scope out Britain’s best tea rooms. She knows she’s found something special in the Seafront Tea Rooms but is it a secret she should share? Kathryn, a single mother whose only sanctuary is the ‘Seafront’, convinces Charlie to keep the place out of her article by agreeing to join her on her search. Together with another regular, Seraphine, a culture-shocked French au pair with a passion for pastry-making, they travel around the country discovering quaint hideaways and hidden gems. But what none of them expect is for their journey to surprise them with discoveries of a different kind . . .

Full of romance, tea and cake, The Seafront Tea Rooms is a heart-warming tale about the strength found in true friendship.

I loved Vanessa Greene’s first novel The Vintage Teacup Club (it was one of my books of the year for 2012!) and the subsequent follow up short story. So I was highly anticipating this new book and I wasn’t disappointed – The Seafront Tea Rooms is again one of my favourite books of the year and with it’s heartwarming story of friendship, tea and cake is the perfect read to curl up with this winter.

Vanessa has a knack for creating characters that you want to be friends with and I took to Charlie, Kat and Seraphine straight away. Being a mum, Kat and her son Leo’s story resonated with me a lot – one of my boys is about the same age as Leo and I thought he was very well written. Vanessa cleverly captures the little things that children do and say and I could just imagine Leo on the sands in Scarborough.

Which brings me nicely onto the setting for this book. I grew up not far up the coast from Scarborough and I’ve spent many a sunny and even wintry day out at the seaside resort. It was so lovely to see this familiar territory in a book! The northern seaside is often overlooked in favour of Devon or Cornwall so this was a book that I immediately took to my heart.

In addition to my love for its location, The Seafront Tea Rooms has a cast of interesting and believable characters with well developed back stories. Kat is a single mum, trying to make ends meet and to give her son the best. Seraphine is a French au pair trying to work out who she is and how that fits with her family’s ideals. Finally Charlie is a high flying food journalist whose sister is having her own family issues and who finds herself in Scarborough trying to help.

I loved the way Vanessa brought the three women together through their love of a good afternoon tea. The uniting factor for the three women is The Seafront Tea Rooms run by the lovely Letty who reminded me of my gran and is such a warm and caring character. Be warned! This is a novel that will make you long for a cup of tea and a big slice of cake! As Kat, Charlie and Seraphine visit a series of wonderfully described tea rooms to help Charlie with an article she is writing, Vanessa gives her characters plenty to form their new friendship around with romance, drama and secrets in the mix.

I also found it refreshing to find a book where the male leads were on the whole written in a positive light. This is a very romantic story and relationship issues in each woman’s life were sensitively handled and realistic. I was rooting for them all to find a happy ending and as the story came to an end I felt like I’d made new friends and didn’t want to leave them.

Another delicious hit for Vanessa Greene – I highly recommend a visit to The Seafront Tea Rooms as soon as possible!


The Seafront Tea Rooms is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

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

Find out more about Vanessa and her writing at:

Giveaway! Two copies of Lost Souls by A. O. Esther to be won!

15 Nov

Last week I posted an extract from A.O Esther’s UK fantasy debut, Lost Souls and today I’m excited to announce the chance to win a paperback copy of the book!



When angel Sophiel is instructed to head down from Heaven to save the souls of the dead on Earth, she finds herself at the centre of a war with the dark angels. Stripped of her celestial form and mortally wounded Sophiel comes face to face with Elijah, the angel of fire, and is in grave danger … until Elijah saves her. Carrying her to safety and away from his army of mercenaries, Elijah and Sophiel find themselves drawn to one another. Can they face the evil Magus together? Amongst his soldiers and courtesans, how much will Elijah risk to keep Sophiel alive? Torn from The Forest and Sky dwellers who call themselves her kin, and held in a human body driven by desires she doesn’t understand, can Sophiel trust the Dark Angel at the centre of everything she has been sent so far to stop?

To enter this giveaway just leave a ‘pick me’ comment in the box below and I’ll draw two winners using after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Saturday 23rd November.

Good luck!

Author interview: Lissa Evans

13 Nov

I’m delighted to welcome Lissa Evans to One More Page today on the latest stop of the Crooked Heart blog tour. Lissa has written books for both adults and children, including Their Finest Hour and a Half, longlisted for the Orange Prize and Small Change for Stuart, shortlisted for many awards including the Carnegie Medal and the Costa Book Awards.

crooked heartCrooked Heart tells the story of a young boy and the woman he is evacuated to during World War Two; this is your second novel set during the period – what draws you to this particular time?

When I was a teenager, I read a book called ‘How We Lived Then’ by Norman Longmate.  It’s about the home front during the Second World War, and uses the diaries and recollections of civilians to build up a detailed picture of the era.  I re-read it many times.   What fired my imagination was  the idea of ordinary people, trying to live ordinary lives in extraordinary times.   Life was tiring, tough, and makeshift, and people had to adapt to the most enormous changes, almost on a day-to-day basis.  The era still fascinates me.

How did you go about your research for the book and what was the most surprising fact that you uncovered whilst writing?

I’ve written two books set during the Blitz.  The first, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’ is about the making of a feature film, and follows the story of a young woman writer, a washed-up old actor, and a seamstress from Madam Tussauds.   I was able to research the background by ferreting around in various libraries –  including the British Film Institute and the Imperial War Museum – and by talking to veterans of the industry.  There were loads of sources and masses to read, and I was really able to immerse myself in the subject.

When it came to ‘Crooked Heart’, however, I was writing about the sort of people who don’t publish diaries, or have their recollections anthologised:  petty crooks and people scrabbling on the breadline,  the marginalised and the anonymous.   My most helpful sources of information were local newspapers,  which revealed snippets from the whole of society.   I spent weeks trawling through the papers, reading about crimes and accidents and celebrations.  The most surprising fact was one that became a key-stone of the book:  large numbers of children from North London were evacuated only as far as St Albans, just twenty-five miles from the centre of the city…

Your main character Noel is ten years old; how did you get into the mindset of a ten year old boy and did you find his character easier or harder to write than Vera’s?

When I was ten years old,  my family moved house, and I had to start again in a new school in a new town in a new region of the country. As a result, I’ve retained a pin-sharp snap-shot of what it was like to be that age – the memory is far clearer to me than that of my subsequent teenage years.  I was a very bookish child,  with a rather elderly outlook and an unwieldy vocabulary, and all these elements meant that Noel was fairly easy for me to write.   Vee, on the other hand, came to me fully-formed, as if she was just waiting for me to get started…

What would you like readers to take away from The Crooked Heart?

I’d like Vee and Noel to stay in the reader’s head, as characters with a life,  and a future.

Although she’s only in the book for a little while I loved Noel’s aunt Mattie who was a suffragette and represents another fab era of history. If you could visit any time or place in history where and when would you go?

Just seeing one particular event or place wouldn’t be enough;   I’d like to take a long journey (on a horse, I think) through pre-industrial Britain – about 1770 would do.

And finally, what can we expect next from Lissa Evans?

A sequel to Crooked Heart!  It’s set about three years after the first book, and I’ve already started researching it….

Thanks Lissa! 

Crooked Heart is out now in Hardback and ebook formats from Transworld.

Please do check out the other stops on the Crooked Heart blog tour:

Crooked heart blog tour poster

Book review: Coming Home for Christmas by Julia Williams

12 Nov

image004 (1)Cat needs to get off the ‘has-been’ heap and rescue her flagging TV career but the demands of her extended family are reaching fever pitch and she barely has time to breathe. Meanwhile, Pippa has got too many balls to juggle as a struggling single mum trying to hang on to her family farm. And Marianne’s marriage is looking distinctly rocky now her beloved husband’s ex is back on the scene.Happy Christmas? Forget it.But Christmas is a time for miracles, and when the villagers learn they must fight for what they love, it becomes clear that there is festive magic in the air.Suddenly for Cat, Pippa and Marianne, it’s looking like it might just be a Christmas to remember …

I think publishers have surpassed themselves with their Christmas covers this year and Coming Home For Christmas is another great example – I just couldn’t say no and was pleased to find a heart warming and engaging story about the residents of the fabulously named village of Hope Christmas inside.

This is the third Christmassy novel that Julia Williams has set in Hope Christmas but don’t let that put you off if you haven’t read the others. I haven’t read any of the others and I enjoyed this one well as a standalone. For fans of the series, I can see that it will be a treat to catch up with familiar characters and the new developments in their lives.

I must admit that I was a little surprised though when the story wizzed past Christmas Day within the first few chapters! Coming Home for Christmas runs through a year in the lives of Pippa, Marianne and Cat and their families and there are little Christmas flashes  through the story so although this novel isn’t as overtly Christmassy as I’d imagined it would be, the theme is still there. I loved that many of the characters had festive names, for example Noel and Gabriel.

The story centres around three main characters and their families and has a huge cast of characters. As I read I really did feel like I was part of the community and I was as horrified as most of the residents when the proposal to build a luxury resort in the middle of the town’s farms was mooted.

There is lots for readers to identify with in the individuals whose lives are detailed; Pippa is struggling with the break up of her marriage and moving on to a new life and possible new love; Cat is juggling her job and a myriad of childcare responsibilities as well as an upset Mother in Law and Marrianne struggles as her husband’s past collides with the present in the form of his ex wife Eve.

Julia does an excellent job of bringing out the emotion and humor in everyone’s stories and I thought she got the balance just right between the two. There’s a lot to talk about in this book and Julia isn’t afraid to touch on some hard-hitting topics such as teenage parents, mental illness and the effects of ageing on careers and relationships. While all of the stories held my interest it was Pippa and Dan’s that stood out and really captured my attention. Dan’s diary entries to himself stood out to me and were particularly poignant.

As the family dramas play out against the threat of the new development the story keeps up a good  pace and throws up more than one surprise! If you’re a fan of Cathy Woodman’s books and Cathy Bramley’s new Ivy Lane series, I think you’ll enjoy Coming Home for Christmas too!


Coming Home for Christmas is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Julia Williams and her books at:

I’d like to thank LightBrigade PR for providing a review copy of this book.


Author interview: Chrissie Manby

9 Nov

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Chrissie Manby to One More Page to tell us about her new Christmas novel, A Proper Family Christmas. Chrissie is the bestselling author of seventeen romantic comedy novels including Kate’s Wedding and What I Did on my Holidays, and a guide for aspiring chick lit writers, Writing for Love. She was nominated for the Melissa Nathan Award for Comedy Romance for Getting Over Mr Right. Raised in Gloucester, Chrissie now lives in London. Welcome Chrissie!

Chrissie Manby copyright  Michael PilkingtonYour new novel, A Proper Family Christmas has just been released. Please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

A Proper Family Christmas follows the further adventures of the Benson family, picking up the story just as they get back to Coventry from Lanzarote. SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t reading A Proper Family Holiday. The long-lost daughter whose existence Jacqui admitted in the first book is back. Born Daisy Benson, her name is now Annabel Buchanan and she’s grown up in a very different world to her sisters, full of money and privilege. Jacqui is thrilled that Annabel, her ‘Daisy’, is back on the scene but Annabel’s motives for meeting the Bensons, her birth family, are complicated. Annabel’s own daughter Izzy is in desperate need to a kidney transplant and she is hopeful that one of the Bensons will help out. Expect some serious sibling rivalry.

The Benson and the Buchanan families are very different; who was your favourite character to write and why?

The Bensons and the Buchanans are indeed very different. The Bensons are salt-of-the-earth working class and Annabel is, well, a bit of a snob. But I loved writing them all. And, if I’m honest, there’s a lot of me in Annabel. I was given up for adoption as a baby and through Annabel I found a voice to say an awful lot of things I haven’t dared say before. That was cathartic. If I had to pick one character though, it would definitely be Jack. Writing scenes for Jack, the six year old, always puts a smile on my face. He’s loosely based on my two nephews, who are always making me laugh with the funny things they say.

What are your top three tips for surviving the Christmas season?

Gin. Champagne. And staying out of the kitchen.

There are lots of laugh out loud moments in the book; please could you share your favourite Christmas cracker joke with us?

What’s brown and sticky? A stick.

If your main characters were putting on a Christmas Panto which roles would they take?A Proper Family Christmas

There are so many characters it’s hard to know where to start. The obvious answer is Cinderella, with poor put-upon Chelsea in the title role with her two big sisters as the uglies. But that’s a bit harsh. I hope all three of the Benson girls have their redeeming features. Perhaps they would put on Hansel and Gretel, instead, with Jack and Lily in the title roles.

Which three Christmas songs would you put on the soundtrack for A Proper Family Holiday?

The Coventry Carol, which is my favourite Christmas song of all time, for the sad bits.

Wham’s Last Christmas for lovelorn Chelsea.

And Slade’s Merry Christmas Everybody, for the knees-up at Ronnie’s house.

And finally … what can we expect next from Chrissie Manby?

I’ve just starting writing another novel featuring the Bensons. It’s a summer release and they’re back on holiday but this time they’re going on a cruise. Expect more family drama and lots of laughter, especially from Granddad Bill and Jack. I’m really looking forward to taking the Bensons on another adventure. Having such a wide range of characters to play with is great fun. The possibilities are endless. And this time, I’m going to be able to do some fantastic research too. As I write these answers, I’m looking forward to going on my first ever cruise on Princess Cruises’ new ship The Regal Princess out of Fort Lauderdale in Florida. I can’t tell you how excited I am. At last, an excuse to wear all my stripy t-shirts!

Follow Chrissie on Twitter @chrissiemanby, or visit her website to find out more about her writing.

A Proper Family Christmas is out now in paperback and eBook, published by Hodder.