Archive | February, 2017

Book review: Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

27 Feb

wing jonesWith a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

I can’t look at the UK paperback of Wing Jones without smiling – it’s just soooo pretty. With packaging that good, it’s got to be an excellent read right? And it is – I never thought I’d enjoy a book about running so much but of course it’s about so much more than running!

Wing and her family live in Atlanta and her brother, Marcus, is the star quarterback for their school football team. While Marcus is top of the popularity list, Wing is somewhere at the bottom. Wing’s has a wonderful mix of Ghanian and Chinese heritage, personified in her two feisty grandmothers who I loved, but while the mix has worked in her brother’s favour, it has cast Wing on the outside.  Wing Jones shows that ‘different’ can have both highs and lows and the book addresses so many important themes around fitting in, being a teenager, love and acceptance (of yourself an d by others) and I’m sure many readers will identify with Wing in many ways.

I’m a massive fan of American football and I love the series Friday Night Lights; Wing Jones very much reminded me of it both in setting and in some of the storylines; it’s as much about the stories of the characters and families off the pitch or track as it is about the events taking place on it. It’s also a story about belonging and I liked the message that came across loud and clear that sometimes it takes time to find your niche.

Wing finds herself thrown into the spotlight by her brother’s actions and the effects are both positive and negative but ultimately Wing discovers that she can run. The descriptions of running in the book are brilliant – I felt like I was flying along with Wing as I read and I can absolutely see now how running is an escape and a release for her. As Wing’s family struggle she finds herself changing and rising to new challenges and I absolutely loved the way her character developed through the book.

Wing’s voice in the story is just brilliant –I sometimes find that YA authors miss the mark when pitching their protagonist’s voice (often sounding too young or too old) but Katherine Webber has got it absolutely spot on with Wing and I could have read about her all day. With a slow burning romantic element to the story, wing learns that she can fly out of her brother’s shadow. Wing Jones is a great, uplifting, positive read and a brilliant debut – a YA highlight for 2017.

5/5

Wing Jones is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Walker Books.

Find out more about Katherine Webber and her writing at: http://www.kwebberwrites.com/

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

 

Guest post: How the Idea of Me, You and Tiramisu came about by Charlotte Butterfield

24 Feb

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Charlotte Butterfield to One More Page on the first stop of her Me, You and Tiramisu blog tour. Charlotte joins us to tell us how the idea for her debut novel came about. Welcome Charlotte!

charlotte ButterfieldI’ve been a journalist for the last fifteen years, and a couple of years ago I was asked by a women’s lifestyle magazine to write a feature about couples where one of them was more attractive than the other one. Yep. True story.

The magazine actually wanted me to go out and find couples that would voluntarily be featured declaring that one of them was so much more beautiful than the other one. How would that even happen? Would I have to stop people on the street and say, “I’m writing an article and you two would be perfect for this!” Can you imagine? I turned the commission down in the end, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of how society views couples. Everything seems to hinge on appearance and woe betide a couple that don’t seem completely balanced in age, weight and looks that want to make a go of it.

I wondered whether things like shared interests, humour, hobbies and love are somehow being pushed further and further down the list of priorities and looks are now everything. The popularity of Tinder suggests that this might be the case, which baffles me, how can you decide whether or not to give someone the time of day based on one photo?

This idea started to grow, and then I began imagining what it would be like being in one of these couples where it’s not just people you know that are making judgements about you and your love interest, but complete strangers too. What if one of you was famous and suddenly everyone thought they had the right to comment on your relationship and what he/she sees in you? We’ve all seen phrases ‘punching above their weight’ or ‘they’ve done well for themselves’ in celeb gossip magazines and it always made me cringe. It was then that I realised that I may have found the perfect plot for my first novel and my gorgeous (in every sense of the word) characters Jayne and Will came to life.

You can find out more about Charlotte and her writing and follow her at:

Website: https://charlottebutterfield.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charliejayneb

It all started with a table for two…tiramisu

Life for self-confessed bookworm Jayne Brady couldn’t be better – she has a twin sister she adores, a cosy little flat above a deli and now she’s found love with her childhood crush, gorgeous chef Will.

But when Will becomes a Youtube sensation, thanks to his delicious cookery demos (both the food and his smile!), their life of contentment come crashing down around them. Can Jayne have her Tiramisu and eat it?

Me, You and Tiramisu is out now as an ebook and will be released in paperback on 9th March from HarperImpulse.

Please do check out the other stops on Charlotte’s blog tour over the next week!

Book review: Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows

21 Feb

ambulance girls bpbOn duty during London’s Blitz…

As death and destruction fall from the skies day after day in the London Blitz, Australian ambulance driver Lily Brennan confronts the horror with bravery, intelligence, common sense and humour.

Although she must rely upon her colleagues to carry out her dangerous duties, Lily begins to suspect that someone at her Ambulance Station may be giving assistance to the enemy by disclosing secret information. Then her best friend, Jewish ambulance attendant David Levy, disappears in suspicious circumstances. Aided – and sometimes hindered – by David’s school friend, a mysterious and attractive RAF pilot, Lily has to draw on all of her resources to find David, and negotiate the dangers that come from falling in love in a country far from home in a time of war…

Ambulance Girls is the first book in a new historical saga series from Deborah Burrows and will appeal to fans of wartime sagas such as Daisy Styles’ The Bomb Girls and Donna Douglas’ nursing series’. I do love a good historical saga and particularly those that shed a light on the important work done by women during war. Set in London in 1939, Ambulance Girls starts with a brave rescue and is an excellent tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line to rescue others during the second world war and particularly during the Blitz.

Deborah clearly knows her history and has done her research; I live and work in London and I was fascinated by the details that Deborah put into this story; it certainly made for thought provoking reading as I read about places and landmarks that I visit regularly and the devastation that the bombing raids wreaked.

We meet Lily Brennan who is fairly new to England and working as an ambulance driver. This novel stood out from other sagas to me for having an Australian female lead which gave a very different perspective on the war and I enjoyed seeing London through her eyes and also learning about the country that she called home. Having read several books about the nursing profession during the war, I enjoyed getting another perspective on the work that so many women volunteered to do.

Lily is an excellent lead; she’s bright, strong and has an innate sense of what is right that she is willing to fight to defend. I admired her bravery as she pushed herself to the limits to help others and her tenacity in fighting for what she believes is right. Lily’s partner in the ambulance is David; a handsome and educated Jewish man who Lily has formed a close bond with. I enjoyed their banter and I felt that their relationship was very well written.

I was also struck by the way that this novel quickly showed that David is considered an outsider. There’s a sad and sobering theme to Ambulance Girls that highlights clearly that anti-semitism wasn’t the preserve of Hitler and the Nazis but also prevalent in England during the war. I always find it fascinating to think about what people knew at the time, what attitudes were accepted and how this played out in day-to-day life in England. We hear a lot about the camaraderie and fighting spirit of the war years but in Ambulance Girls we also see the other side of the story with characters who take advantage of others’ misfortune and show prejudice to others.

As David goes missing, Lily teams up with an old school friend of his to try to find him. David’s RAF pilot friend, Jim was one of my favourite characters in the book and I loved reading as his relationship with Lily developed. Their story brings the romance element to the story but certainly not in a conventional way and I enjoyed how this story line kept me guessing.

I’m so pleased that there are going to be more books in this series. The next, Ambulance Girls Under Fire is due for release in October and will focus on Celia Ashwin, another ambulance driver that we meet in this book. I can’t wait to read more about the characters that Deborah has introduced here and find out what happens to them next.

4/5

Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows is published by Ebury Press, in paperback on 23rd February.

Find out more about Deborah and her writing at: http://deborahburrows.com.au/

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

Book review: Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies

20 Feb

before the rains cover1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself.

But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. . .

Dinah Jefferies’ ability to conjure up the sights, smells, tastes and atmosphere of a particular country at a particular time in her writing is second to none. Dinah’s books unite two of my favourite topics; history and travel and always provide a wonderful escape and as with her previous novels, Before the Rains is another vividly transporting story and I loved it.

For Before the Rains our destination is India in the 1930s. It is a time of great change for the country and in the wider world and lead character Eliza embodies this with her desire to strike out in her own right as a photographer and pursue a career as a photojournalist. Eliza is given the opportunity to visit one of the princely states to photograph the royal family as part of an archive by the British Government and this sets the scene for a story filled with colour, drama, secrets and mystery that examines the tensions between two cultures and provides a captivatingly emotional story of loss and love that really brought the characters to life for me.

I’ve never visited India but it’s clear from her evocative writing that Dinah has and that she loves the country that she is writing about. I thought Dinah cleverly presented practices and customs and the different views on them on both sides of the story with understanding and allowed me as a reader to form my own judgments on this period of history. 

With Jay and Eliza, Dinah has created one of my favourite relationships in an historical fiction novel – I loved how their connection slowly developed and was heartbroken when it became clear that the expectations of Jay’s royal role would not allow them to be together. Dinah uses both Jay and Eliza and their relatives and friends in India and England to explore the notions of love, loss, family, fate and destiny and as you’ve probably gathered by now, I found Before the Rains an emotional and gripping read.

The story is in four parts and follows Eliza through a year in her life. I very much enjoyed reading about the changes that the diiferent seasons bought and the festivals and celebrations that went with them. As secrets are revealed and change cannot be avoided, Eliza has to decide whether to follow her head or her heart and Dinah kept me hooked right to the end of the story with excellent pace and fantastic locations that mirrored the drama of the story. I can’t wait to see where she will take me next!

5/5

Before the Rains is released in hardback and ebook formats by Viking on 23rd February.

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

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

BTRjustpreorder

Exclusive extract! The Devil in the Snow by Sarah Armstrong

16 Feb

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Sarah Armstrong’s new supernatural thriller, The Devil in the Snow. Sarah lives in Essex with her husband and four children.  Her short stories have been published in Mslexia, Litro and other magazines and anthologies.  Sarah teaches creative writing for the Open University. Her debut novel, The Insect Rosary, was published by Sandstone Press in 2015.

DevilInTheSnow_FRONT‘It was only girls who had to worry about the devil…’

All Shona wants is a simple life with her young son, and to get free of Maynard, the ex who’s still living in the house. When her teenage daughter goes missing, she’s certain Maynard is the culprit. Her mother, Greta, is no help as she’s too obsessed with the devil. Her Uncle Jimmy is fresh out of prison and has never been entirely straight with her. Then there’s the shaman living in her shed. Shona soon discovers that the secrets she buried are as dangerous as the family curse haunting her mother.

Extract

She collected Jude from the school office, thirty-five minutes late on the second day of his first full week. He looked quite happy, swinging himself around in the head teacher’s chair. The head wasn’t quite so contented and made it clear that she was only postponing a pep talk about time management or consistency for five-year-olds because she wanted to go home today. Jude was smiling and pleased to see her and Shona was happy to leave.

Shona carried Jude home on her back for a treat to celebrate not getting told off. She clasped her hands under his bum as a seat but he still held on a little too tightly. By the time they got back her windpipe felt bruised.

She opened the back door and remembered. Dominic was still asleep.

Jude sat by him, as Shona had done, watching him.

‘Who is he?’

‘I’m not sure. He’s called Dominic.’

‘Are we going to keep him?’

‘He’s just going to stay for a little while.’

Jude raised his eyebrows. ‘In our room?’

‘No.’

Jude frowned. ‘Cerys’ room?’

‘No, He’s just here for a couple of hours. We haven’t got any room, have we?’

Cerys had one bedroom while Shona and Jude shared the other and the walk-in office attached to it. The locked, little-used front room downstairs belonged to her husband, Maynard. The attic had a pull down ladder and a lot of dusty rubbish.

‘He’ll go soon,’ she said. She thought again that she should phone someone, but he’d said Meghan. She needed to hear the rest of that and, when he left, that would be her chance lost. She played it back in her mind, trying to convince herself that he had said something else, but it was always Meghan.

She heard the front door close as Cerys let herself in. Dominic stretched and sat up. Shona froze. What convinced Jude wasn’t going to work on her.

‘Mr Cartwright wants to see you last at Parents’ Evening,’ she shouted from the hall. ‘I wasn’t going to bother, but he asked. I wrote it on the sheet.’ Shona could hear the school bag drop to the floor. Cerys stopped in the doorway and stared.

She’d taken off her school tie, untucked the blouse and shaken her long brown hair free. Her skirt was rolled up at the waist, revealing thin legs with thick fist-like knees. Her nose, which seemed to have been growing out of sync with the rest of her face, was settling now, straight and pretty. Cerys still hated it.

‘Hi,’ she said. She wasn’t talking to Shona or Jude.

Shona looked at her. She hadn’t seen Cerys smile like that for years, open and happy. Dominic smiled back and Shona watched Cerys blush deep on her cheeks.

She hadn’t thought this through. She hadn’t thought what a boy like this would do to a fourteen-year-old. He was beautiful in a girlish boy band way, with large eyes and longish hair. How had she not noticed?

‘Dominic, I think I should call your parents now.’

‘There’s no need.’

‘They’ll be wondering where you are.’ Shona could sense Cerys fidgeting behind her.

‘I’m eighteen. I told them I’d be away for a while.’

‘Of course he should stay, Mum,’ said Cerys. ‘We’ve got room.’

‘Do we?’ Any minute now Dominic would start talking about instructions and Meghan, and then Cerys – what would Cerys do? Shona looked at her again. Cerys wouldn’t say a word. She was ready to jump whenever he told her.

Dominic stood and stretched again. ‘I slept on it. I’m going to stay in the shed.’

Shona thought about it, although it wasn’t a question. ‘And your parents?’

‘I’ll let them know.’

Cerys, still blushing, turned and went upstairs. Shona knew she’d be calling her friends, spreading the word. Shona knew this couldn’t really happen; she couldn’t let this boy sleep in the shed. But, to be honest, she didn’t need another fight with Cerys. She would be the one who would cause trouble over it and if it was fine with her… And Jude?

She didn’t think it would be more than a day or two, just long enough for him to tell her about Meghan. And, please God, he’d be gone before Maynard turned up.

——————————————————–

The Devil in the Snow is released today in paperback and ebook formats by Sandstone Press.

Find out more about Sarah and her books at: http://sandstonepress.com/authors/sarah-armstrong

Author interview: Judith Kinghorn

15 Feb

Today I’m delighted to welcome Judith Kinghorn back to One More Page to talk about her latest novel, The Echo of TwilightJudith is the author of three other novels; The Snow Globe, The Memory of Lost Senses, and The Last Summer. She was born in Northumberland, educated in the Lake District, and is a graduate in English and history of art. She lives in Hampshire, England. Welcome Judith!

judithYour new novel, The Echo of Twilight is out now – I love the title; how did you come up with it?

Thank you, I’m so pleased you love it! My working title for the novel was simply Pearl & Ottoline – and though I became very attached to it, my publishers didn’t like it as much as me and asked me to come up with another.

As you know, the novel opens with Pearl’s recollection of a fateful ‘golden evening in August’: a remembrance that echoes through the story as she tries to make sense of the events of that night. Drawing on that theme, and on images, I played around with words and came up with a few possible titles – including The Echo of Twilight, which everyone liked.

What inspired you to write this story?

I’d always wanted to set a novel in Northumberland, where I grew up, and early inspiration came from my grandmothers; one of whom had been employed as a lady’s maid in the 1920s; the other, whose love of the Scottish Highlands affected me as a child. Both of them are in the novel – here and there, infecting dialogue and character – along with a few others who, though long gone, I remember vividly from my childhood.

I was struck by the names of both people and places in The Echo of Twilight. How do you choose your character names (Ottoline, Pearl) and those of the great houses they inhabit (Birling, Delnasay)?

As you drive away from Warkworth, heading north towards Alnwick, you pass – for all of ten seconds – through Birling. A few minutes later, if you look west across the fields, you will see Shortridge Hall: this is the exact location of and my inspiration for ‘Birling Hall’ in The Echo of Twilight. As for Delnasay, it’s there too; nestling in a valley beneath Tomintoul. Even the whitewashed cottage – Ralph’s studio – exists. And I know this because I’ve stood where Pearl stands with Billy and watched the smoke rise up from its chimney.

As for my character’s names, I never think too hard on them and prefer to let them come instinctively. Having said that, many of them are borrowed or plucked from family and friends, or come from my research. I first came across the name Ottoline when I read about Ottoline Morrell; and Pearl was always and could never have been anything other than Pearl. However, her surname, Gibson, was my mother’s maiden name, the surname of my maternal grandmother; and Billy happens to be the name my paternal grandmother used for her son, my father William.

Location plays an important part in the story too and I enjoyed the descriptions of Northumberland and Scotland; how have your own experiences of these places fed into the novel?echo of twilight

In each of my novels I’ve written about places I know; and places I know well enough to be able to summon in my mind’s eye. I want my readers to be aware and confident of where they are, and for them to be so immersed in time and place that they see it all, too.

In setting The Echo of Twilight in Northumberland and Scotland – and even in London, in Fulham and Battersea – I was able to write about places I know. Imagining these places in a different era, a time not so long ago, meant I had to draw on a combination of imagination and research, and on old photographs and paintings.

J.M.W. Turner’s views of the Thames, his use of light and colour, remained at the forefront of my mind when I wrote about a golden evening in August. When I was writing about Northumberland – in the years during and after the First World War, I referred back to my father’s and grandmothers’ memories, and to old photographs. I was very much aware of the isolation of a far-flung county; of the uninterrupted peace and birdsong, and of empty, dusty roads. As the story moved on, ever further from the hustle and bustle of London and Turner’s Thames, and to Scotland, that sense of isolation and quietude became more pronounced.

A lot of this is drawn from my own experience. For so many years I’ve gone back to the Northumbrian coast, where the skies are unending and the wind roars in from a steel-grey sea and very little changes. Regardless of new arrivals, commuters or tourists, it seems to me now a strangely timeless place. Fortified by castles, huddled villages and dunes; by ancient churches and cemeteries and walls. Over time, I’ve both loved and hated the place –  but isn’t that always the case with ‘home’? We love and then sometimes hate it, depending on where we are in our trajectory.

For me, The Echo of Twilight allowed me to understand and love my home county once again.

Both Ottoline and Pearl are fascinating characters; did they behave as you expected them to when you sat down to write or did they take on a life of their own as you wrote and surprise you?!

My characters always and inevitably go off-piste and take on a life of their own. As their creator, I have a degree of control – at the start, anyway; but after that, they tend to lead me. And yes, Ottoline in particular surprised me – and right up until the end of the novel.

As a rule, I don’t plot too much in so far as character development is concerned. I place the obstacles and my characters find their own way round them. I want them to breathe, to have their own life and make their own decisions. I want their reactions and words to seem as real as yours and mine. And, even though I write historical fiction, even though the dialogue might contain a few old-fashioned or obsolete words, I want my characters to be as understandable as anyone today.

Finally … what can we expect next from Judith Kinghorn?

I’m not sure. The only thing I do know is that my next novel will be something quite different. In the meantime, I’m taking a break and about to head off to Australia with my daughter. So who knows… maybe I’ll write something contemporary – and set in the southern hemisphere.

Thanks Judith – enjoy your break and I’ll look forward to hearing about your next book.

The Echo of Twilight is out now in the UK in ebook format from Canello  and in the US in paperback and ebook formats from Berkley Books.

Find out more about Judith and her novels at: http://www.judithkinghornwriter.com/

Guest post: Meet the Chalet Girls by Lorraine Wilson

14 Feb

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with a lovely guest post from one of my favourite romance authors, Lorraine Wilson. Lorraine is the author of the Chalet Girl series if novellas and I’m delighted to say, has just released the first full length novel in the series, Chalet Girls. Today Lorraine joins me to introduce her chalet girls to you all. Welcome Lorraine!

 

chalet girls snow
Those of you who have been following the blog may already know I started the Chalet Girl series because I love Switzerland and I thought the seasonnaire scene would be rich with story possibilities. With the novel Chalet Girls some of the inspiration came from characters already created in previous novellas although this doesn’t stop Chalet Girls being read as a standalone novel.

 

Chalet Girls features the stories of three characters – Sophie, Lucy and Beth. Sophie’s story started in Secret Crush of a Chalet Girl but I felt there was more to tell and a full length novel gave me the space to dig deeper into what really happens after ‘happy ever after’. Those of you familiar with her character know that Valentine’s treasure hunts feature in her story and this novel is no exception, I couldn’t resist creating another one :-)

 

Lucy has been a secondary character in some of the novellas and the inspiration for her story started when I read the real life story of Jenny Jones – a chalet girl who became an Olympic medal winner: http://bbc.in/2kAttD5 From there my research lead me into the world of extreme skiing. Watching videos of pro snowboarder Xavier de le Rue being dropped by helicopter onto the ridge of an alpine mountain gave me the inspiration for the character of Seb. You can watch one of Xavier’s jaw dropping mountain descents here: https://youtu.be/VpBkI4etfQI
With Beth’s story the inspiration was more personal.  I like to write escapist, fun stories but I also try to tackle some of the hard, painful things a lot of us carry around but rarely talk about. In a way hers is a story of perseverance and hope. Maybe this theme is of especial importance to me because a neurosurgeon told me eight years ago, after a severe brain injury, that I’d never be able to write a book. This was following an accident that left me with lasting disabilities. Finishing my first novella (Confessions of a Chalet Girl -http://amzn.to/2kC7FH5 ) using speech to text technology felt like a real triumph but as ‘Chalet Girls’ is my first full length novel its publication is yet another milestone in my own story.

 

On a lighter note, animal-loving readers might like to know that the dog called Pip featured both in the book and on the book cover is actually one of my own rescue dogs. He has his own story of perseverance and you can read about how he made his way from my lap into the book on the Harper Impulse blog – http://bit.ly/2kAnY7k

 

Chalet Girls is out now in paperback and ebook formats from HarperImpulse.

image1What happens when life in Verbier suddenly goes off-piste?

Lucy’s been bowled over by the sexy extreme skier who’s hurtled into her life. But can she accept Seb’s commitment to his adrenaline-filled career?

Trusting any man is out of the question after what’s happened to Beth. So why is she so drawn to twinkly-eyed Dan when he’s leaving at the end of the season?

Sophie’s madly in love with her gorgeous fiancé, Luc. Only instead of gleefully planning the winter wedding of her dreams, all she wants is to run and hide…

Three Chalet Girls are about to strap on their skis and find out!

Book review: Hold Back the Stars by Katie Khan

13 Feb

hold back‘We’re going to be fine.’
He looks around, but there’s nothing out here: nothing but the bottomless black universe on their left, the Earth suspended in glorious technicolour to their right.

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left. None of this was supposed to happen.
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the world they left behind. A world whose rules they couldn’t submit to, a place where they never really belonged; a home they’re determined to get back to because they’ve come too far to lose each other now.

Hold Back the Stars is a love story like no other.

I’ve been really lucky to read some amazing books in 2017 already and Hold Back the Stars is definitely one of those ‘wow’ books. I loved this futuristic love story for its combination of elements of two of my favourite genres (romance and sci-fi) and Katie Khan’s look forward to what our world might become, had me fascinated – this book is a ‘must read’ debut this year.

Hold Back the Stars is set on Earth but not quite as we know it (though given recent political events I found the future described here scarily believable). Max and Carys are citizens of Europia; the unified collection of countries that now exist as one whole with a new world order. In Europia the individual is everything and people are literally made to be self-sufficient and go out to establish themselves on their own from a young age. I found Katie’s take on what the future might look like, clever and unique with lovely little touches to the descriptive writing that meant I read this book over a weekend and didn’t want to put it down.

The story opens with Max and Carys in space. They’ve made a mistake and managed to get away from their ship without propellant to get themselves back and have only 90 minutes of air left. At times, reading this story as the air supply went down made me feel a little claustrophobic but as a story telling device it adds brilliantly to the plot and tension of the novel. The playing out of those last ninety minutes far above Earth is broken up by the story of how Max and Carys got to this point, starting with their first encounter and charting their relationship as it develops in exceptional circumstances.

At its heart Hold Back the Stars is a love story and one that will stay with me for a long time. Like many great literary couples, Carys and Max are forbidden by the ‘couples rule’ to be a couple at their young ages (they are in their twenties). I’m not going to go into all the details of the world that Katie has created – a big part of the pleasure of reading this book was discovering the world as it is in her future vision – but I will say that its believable and cleverly done and examines some interesting philosophical debates around self, love, family, happiness and democracy. I’d love to add this book to our book group reading list as I think it would spark some really interesting conversations.

If you’re looking for something a little different from your reading this month then look no further –  if you love a beautifully written story, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to see what Katie writes next!

5/5

Hold Back the Stars is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Katie and her writing at: http://katiekhan.com/

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

Books and the City Spring Blogger Evening!

10 Feb

spring blogger

Last week I was lucky to be invited to the Books and the City Spring Blogger Evening at publisher Simon and Schuster. These eveningsIMG_7258 are always brilliant  thanks to the lovely Sara-Jade Virtue and the rest of the team, and this one was no exception (check out the cakes!).

There were four author’s on the panel and another two authors joined them at the event. The super six were: Alice Peterson, Dani Atkins, Milly Johnson, Kate Furnivall, Juliet Ashton and Sarah Vaughan. It was lovely to hear them read from their laIMG_7256test books and to hear a little about them and how they go about writing the books that we love!

 

The evening ended with lots of book talk with fellow bloggers, a signing, more cake and a treat-packed goody bag!

Here are the fab books that you can look forward to this spring from Simon and Schuster.

song for tomorrowA Song for Tomorrow by Alice Peterson – out now!

This book is hot off the press as it was released yesterday! Alice’s books are always emotional and poignant reads and this one is no exception – based on a true story.

Tom fell in love with Alice the moment he saw her. He realises that being with her will not be easy, but she is a force of nature, a burst of sunlight in his otherwise ordinary world. 
 
Some people might look at Alice and think she has everything, but Alice knows she is not like other women. Her life is complicated, unpredictable, difficult. Alice does not like pity. All she wants to do, has ever wanted to do, is sing.

Alice has been told not to follow her dreams. So has Tom. But when fate has already dealt a tough hand, it’s time to stop listening to everyone else and only follow their hearts.

The Liberation by Kate Furnival – out nowthe liberation

Look out for Kate’s next novel, The Betrayal too which will be out in November!

The Liberation is set in Italy in 1945 as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated country and Italy’s population fights to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her father is dead, her mother has disappeared and her brother is being drawn towards danger. One morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, Caterina is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her own life and in doing so forges a future in which she must clear her father’s name. An Allied Army officer accuses him of treason and Caterina discovers a plot against her family. Who can she trust and who is the real enemy now? And will the secrets of the past be her downfall?

Orange Blosson Days by Patricia Scanlan – 9th March

I’m typing this in cold, grey, wet England – how I wish I could jump into this cover! Patricia’s beautifully titled new book will be out in hardback on 9th March.

orange blossomIn a beautiful southern Spanish town, where the sea sparkles and orange blossoms scent the air, the gates of a brand new apartment complex, La Joya deAndalucía, glide open to welcome the new owners.

Anna and Austen MacDonald, an Irish couple, are preparing to enjoy their retirement to the full. But the demands of family cause problems they have never foreseen and shake their marriage to the core.

Sally-Ann Connolly Cooper, a feisty Texan mother of two young teenagers, is reeling from her husband’s infidelity. La Joya becomes a place of solace for Sally-Ann, in more ways than one.

Eduardo Sanchez, a haughty Madrileño, has set out with single-minded determination to become El Presidente of the complex’s management committee. But pride comes before a fall.

Jutta Sauer Perez, a sophisticated German who aspires to own her very own apartment in La Joya, works hard to reach her goal. Then the unthinkable happens.

As their lives entwine and friendships and enmities develop, it becomes apparent that La Joya is not quite the haven they all expect it to be…

this loveThis Love by Dani Atkins – 23rd March

I loved Dani’s last novel, Our Song and I can’t wait to read This Love!

Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon – she’s a single, thirty-one year old translator who works from home in her one bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in happy endings a very long time ago, when she was fifteen years old and tragedy struck her family. Her grief has left her scared of commitment and completely risk averse, so she plays it safe and keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.

One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a random passer-by, Ben, luckily happens to spot and rescue her. Suddenly her cocoon is shattered – what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event?

woman at number 24The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton – 20th April

The cover for this book has just been revealed – isn’t it fab?

Welcome to number 24, a Georgian villa in west London that is home to five separate families and five very different lives.

Up in the eaves, Sarah finds that recovering from a nasty divorce is even more heartbreaking when your ex-husband lives one floor beneath you with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her. A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?

The Spring brings a new couple to number 24. Jane and Tom’s zest for life revives the flagging house, and Sarah can’t deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she’ll never act on it … but the air fizzes with potential.

The sunshine doesn’t reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She’s about to find out that she can’t hide forever.

Love, rivalry, secrets and murder – all under one seemingly ordinary roof ….

queen of wishfulThe Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson – 4th May

This sounds like another treat of a book from Milly – add it to your wish lists now!

When Lewis Harley has a health scare in his early forties, he takes it as a wake-up call. So he and his  wife Charlotte leave behind life in the fast lane and Lewis opens the antique shop he has dreamed of. Bonnie Brookland was brought up in the antiques trade and now works for the man who bought out her father’s business, but she isn’t happy there. So when she walks into Lew’s shop, she knows this is the place for her.

As Bonnie and Lew start to work together, they soon realise that there is more to their relationship than either thought. But Bonnie is trapped in an unhappy marriage, and Lew and Charlotte have more problems than they care to admit. Each has secrets in their past which are about to be uncovered. Can they find the happiness they both deserve?

last pieceThe Last Piece of My Heart by Paige Toon – 18th May

I’m a massive fan of Paige’s books and have read them all so I can’t wait to read this one!

Meet Bridget, a successful travel journalist with ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog into a novel. But, after numerous rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition: Nicole Dupre died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel, and the family need someone to finish it. Bridget is just thankful to have her foot in the publishing door. But as she gets to know Nicole’s grieving family, and the woman behind the writing, Bridget’s priorities begin to change …

Which of these are you looking forward to reading this spring? Find out more about the books featured here and lots of other lovely reads on the Books and the City site at: http://booksandthecity.co.uk/

Book review: The House at Bishopsgate by Katie Hickman

9 Feb

house at bishopsgate1611. Celia Lamprey looks out across the rooftops of Aleppo for the last time. After ten years living in the Orient, she and her husband, Paul Pindar, are setting sail for England – taking with them the legendary diamond, the Sultan’s Blue, despite the curse that surrounds it.

They arrive to find a country much changed; Bishopsgate, once surrounded by fields, is now a muddy thoroughfare choked with carriages – from which carpenters, gardeners and footmen descend, summoned to restore Pindar’s great house to its former splendour. But all is not as it seems. Celia is frail, and the marriage childless. Between the couple lies a great, unspoken darkness. Now, as they await the arrival of Celia’s friend Annetta from Venice, another woman, the alluring widow Frances Sydenham, becomes increasingly indispensable to the running of the household – and the happiness of its inhabitants.

But who is this strange woman, and what are her real motives?

The House at Bishopsgate is a gripping and intriguing historical fiction novel set mainly in London in 1611. This is a period of history that I’m not very familiar with, so I was very much looking forward to reading this book and learning about a new time period for me. I wasn’t disappointed; it’s clear from the very first page that Kate Hickman knows her stuff and I loved the wonderful level of detail that she put into this book. Katie’s descriptions of place, furniture and clothing are excellent and I was easily able to visualise London in the 1600s and found it fascinating to learn more about the history of the city that I live in and as familiar place names popped up I loved imagining London of the past.

In this story we meet Paul Pindar and his wife Celia. Paul is a wealthy merchant and as the story opens is preparing to return to England after many years away. Although only a very short part of the story, the descriptions of Paul and Celia’s home and life in Aleppo were among my favourite parts of the book. When I picked up The House At Bishopsgate, I hadn’t realised that it’s actually the third of Katie’s novels to feature Paul Pindar and I’ve now added The Pindar Diamond and The Aviary Gate to my reading list for the future as I would love to know more about the back story of the characters in this book even though it stands perfectly well on its own.

Katie’s storytelling is packed with historical detail and feels very true to the period but is also pacey, readable and current as political intrigue and family dramas play out. I found the characters in this book fascinating and was quickly drawn into the complexities of their stories. Paul and his wife Celia are on the surface rich and exotic with the magnificent house of the title a testament to Paul’s mercantile success and a showcase for the treasures that he has collected. But underneath all of this the couple are battling the impacts of Celia’s past. As they return to England they are joined on their voyage by widow Frances Sydenham who soon makes herself an indispensable part of the household. Frances was one of the characters I liked least but as the story progressed I couldn’t wait to find out what her machinations would lead to and I thought she was cleverly used to bring a psychological thriller element to the story.

Chapters from the perspectives of different characters bring further mystery to the story and these are interspersed with letters from Paul’s brother Ralph to Paul. Ralph is one of the most horrid characters I’ve come across in a book recently and his attitude to those around him is immediately obvious. But Paul isn’t the only target of Ralph’s bullying tactics and there’s an excellent subplot to the story that unfolds as Paul and Celia’s return to England plays out to a dramatic ending.

4/5

The House of Bishopsgate is out now in hardback and ebook formats by Bloomsbury.

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