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Extract and giveaway: Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

18 Jun

Today is my stop on the Shattered Minds blog tour. Thanks to fab publisher Macmillan, I have an exclusive extract from the book and a copy of the beautiful hardback to give away! Please do check out the other stops on the tour too – there’s an extract each day so start at the beginning and read on from there!

Laura Lam’s Shattered Minds stars a female ‘Dexter’ with a drug problem and a conscience, in a terrifying near-future where technology rules our lives and haunts our dreams.

shattered mindsShe can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.

Extract

THREE

CARINA

The Zealscape, Green Star Lounge, Los Angeles,

California, Pacifica

Carina’s drug dreams always begin the same way.

She’s back in Greenview House. Her father bought it even though it was far too big for three people, outside Woodside, California, less than an hour by hovercar out of San Francisco. Nothing but trees surrounded that house that would become a crypt. She couldn’t wait to leave, and now, eight years later, she still can’t escape it.

Carina walks through the empty hallways, her footsteps echoing. Nothing exists outside of the house in the Zealscape, not really, and the windows only look out into a grey fog. All her dreams and nightmares take place in its various rooms. Even if the rooms can expand into streets or forests, no matter how vast, she can turn a corner and step back into those familiar corridors. She tried to change the Zealscape program to another setting, but in the end, her subconscious is too tied to Greenview House and everything that happened here.

She opens the door to the room where she last saw the young girl and the doctor she knows from earlier nightmares. They are nowhere to be seen.

‘Anyone here?’ she calls. ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’

Silence.

Carina turns away. Needing her fix, she creates her first victim, bringing him to life on a table before her, prepped just as she wishes. Half the fun is the hunt, but when she first plugs in, there’s never the patience for it. It’s an appetizer of violence before the more leisurely meal.

Carina has a very specific type, here in the Zealscape. She kills criminals, perpetrators of terrible, fictional crimes. They are usually men, middle-aged, cocky in their assurance that they are getting away with their wrongdoings. She has killed women, for a bit of variety, often ‘angel of death’ types. Never children or teenagers – which is why the vision of the girl was so damn jarring.

Where had that come from?

The Zealscape is where Carina lets it all out so that those people out in the real world, those strangers who seem as insubstantial as her dream creations, are safe from her. She has killed hundreds of figments within these walls over the last six months. Used almost every weapon. Killed quickly. And slowly. The one constant is that she never tires of it.

The man pushes against his bonds, the whites of his eyes showing. Carina has created him a serial killer, like her, but he preys on the innocent. He buries young boys beneath his house, like John Wayne Gacy. He’s not real, but he deserves death.

Her fingers itch and she moves closer. His chains rattle as his struggles grow more frantic. A desperate, delicious gurgling bubbles from his throat. Her fingers tingle in anticipation, and her heartbeat quickens.

Carina doesn’t speak to her victims. She did in the beginning, trying to make these fabrications of her imagination understand what she was about to do to them. It grew dull, unlike the act of killing.Carina sometimes finds her situation amusing, when she’s coherent enough for amusement. The government doles out unlimited Zeal to keep criminals off the streets, yet offers them an unlimited playground to hone their criminal skills. With chronic Zealot mortality rates as high as eighty per cent, however, the government doesn’t have much to fear.

Closing her eyes to concentrate, she opens them to a long, thin knife resting in her hands. There are some weapons she prefers – the knife is particularly instinctual, personal, whereas the gun is too distant, even if the kickback and the crack are satisfying.

Carina hefts the knife.

The man below her is in his physical prime, muscled as a wrestler. He’s strong, the chains binding him straining with each pull. Her usual type is older, paunchier. Though she still buzzes with the need to kill, she forces herself to slow down, at least a little. She runs the knife tip along his skin next to the bonds. A tear slides down his cheek. She wipes it away with her thumb, then brings her fingertip to her mouth, tasting the salt. It feels real. Real enough.

His pain and fear feeds her, as if she grows larger from it. Only here, when the blood runs onto the white floor, does she feel alive any more. Carina is not that wreck of a woman strapped to a Chair in the Zealot room, suffering from mouth sores and malnutrition. That woman is the ghost.

The man whimpers again. Carina relishes the sound for a moment, then stands and thrusts the knife into his throat. Blood spurts from the punctured artery, painting her face red. She leans her head back, holding the hilt tighter, pressing down hard. All too soon the gurgles stop. She has not given this man a name, or imagined what life he might have lived outside his crimes. His eyes are wide, his mouth open in shock. She takes her hands away from the hilt. Her hands stop shaking. Carina sits next to the body, closing her eyes, breathing in the iron tang of blood.

She’s euphoric after the kill, and these brief moments before the craving returns are the only times she feels even remotely like her pre-Zeal self. Guilt bleeds in around the edges, even if she can’t regret that glee of the kill.

A few years ago, Carina had this under control. An occasional impulse she could push back and ignore. Nothing bubbled to the surface; it hadn’t since she was a teenager. She’d seemed like a perfectly functioning member of society. A great career, a promising future. And then, slowly but surely, it had all unravelled. A Zeal trip here or there. Once a month. Then twice a month. Weekly. By the time she’d left Sudice, it’d been every other day.

Now, she rarely leaves. She doesn’t trust herself out there. A wolf among sheep who’d never see her coming.

When she opens her eyes, the body is gone. A benefit of dream worlds: no clean up. No fear of being discovered dumping the body. No fear of discovery at all.

Dealing with the orderly’s accusing eyes is the only judgement she faces, and one she never fears.

She holds onto her sense of self, staying calm and collected. Replete. The mind of the scientist is back. She wanders the imaginary halls of her childhood home, peeking through the doors: the old home gym, her mother’s bedroom, preserved just as it was the last time she left it and never returned. Her teenage room, with its holographic band posters and unmade bed, reeking of a desperate attempt at normalcy.

All too soon, that buzz returns. Her fingers twitch. That delicious expectation of following her victim and their moves: where they’ll be, how she’ll take them and make them hers. Her thoughts turn only to blood and flayed muscles. Of taking out organs and hefting them in her hands, arranging them just so.

Here in the Zealscape, she can lose herself in the hunt as much as she wants. Here, she hurts only herself, as more and more of her body wastes away, strapped in the Chair in the Zeal lounge. Her body warms, thrums with excitement. She whispers Zeal’s newest catchphrase to herself: ‘More real than reality.’

Carina enters another room. In the real Greenview House, it was a guest bedroom and study, but now it is her planning room. One wall is blank, and she can visualize and design her next victim. She decides to go back to her roots: a distorted echo of her first target. Carina builds the man from scratch. Early fifties, a beer gut, hair and beard of greying brown. Hard eyes, an unhappy slash of a mouth. Large hands that make blocky fists. He is different enough that the sight of his face doesn’t make her shudder. She feels awareness sharpening. She’s growing closer. Her fingers twitch.

After creating him, she sends him away. She spends a few minutes programming his background – his job, his friends, sketches of his wife and family. This criminal has a penchant for child porn. She can again pretend it’s vengeance, not pure, selfish pleasure. Most Zealots don’t have such control over their drug-fuelled dreams. Then again, most people don’t have PhDs in neuroprogramming.

She can’t wait any more. Her skin is hot with need.

Carina walks through a door on the far side of the room and steps into a hallway that transitions seamlessly into a street. She follows her prey at a distance, watching the greying head bob as he walks. Her jaw is clenched tight. She barely blinks. The other people on the street are only vaguely human- shaped, with blurred ovals for faces. Nightmares for anyone else, but for her, just stand-ins.

Carina grasps a Stunner she conjured in her pocket. Sometimes she’ll stretch out the hunt – stalk them for longer, make their lives more detailed, lose herself in the fantasy – but she can’t today. Her breath catches in her throat. Her eyes in the Chair, back in reality, dilate behind closed eyelids. Almost time. Almost time to feel alive again, for a little while.

She’s just taken out the Stunner in a quivering hand when it happens.

The street disappears, along with her quarry. Just gone, as if someone has hit a switch. The whole room turns black. No, darker – that blackness of the space between stars. There have been glitches in the system before, but Carina knows, with a deep certainty, that this is something more.

She’s lost the sense that she has a body. Her mind seems to float in the darker-than-darkness. Then light explodes back into her world.

Numbers, sounds, flashes of brightness, the feel of fingernails against her skin, of bubbles on her tongue. All her senses fragment and blur. Between the overloads is a snapshot of cohesive thought.

I’m dying. This is what dying must feel like.

The noise and the chaos begins to crystallize. Five images, over and over: A bee, buzzing, its wings flapping frantically, its antennae twitching. A rose, in full bloom; brilliantly, impossibly red, a drop of dew on one petal. A thorn, from the rose, its point curved and wicked. A drop of blood, welling on a fingertip. And eyes, staring right at her, wide and fathomless. Heterochromic – one green, one blue. They play, over and over and over again, telling a narrative she cannot hope to understand.

And then they stop, though she can still sense them, as though the images are flashing just out of sight.

The last image, the mismatched eyes, takes over her entire vision. It zooms out, until Carina sees the rest of the face, and then a body on a Chair in that lab she recognizes all too well. The last vision had been through the girl’s viewpoint, but Carina is sure this is her. She’s young – fifteen, sixteen at a push. She’s all doe-eyed innocence, spindly, coltish legs, her hair half an inch long. She reminds Carina a little too much of herself as a teenager. The girl is dead.

Part of her short hair has been shaved away. Dr Roz Elliot has opened up her skull, poked about in the contents, and sewn it back up, yet dead flesh does not knit. Her tanned skin is pale and chalky, legs akimbo.

‘What did you do, Roz?’ Carina asks the darkness.

The dead girl does not answer. Her eyes are open and staring. One blue, one green.

As if Carina blinks, the image is gone, and all is darker than black once again.

Giveaway!

I have one hardback copy of Shattered Minds to give away.

To enter this giveaway,  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick a winner using Random.org after the closing date.

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

Good Luck!

 

Blog Tour: Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

5 Dec

I’m a huge fan of Gilmore Girls so you can imagine my excitement when I was invited to be part of this blog tour for Lauren Graham’s book about her life from Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and everything in between! For those who haven’t seen the series (why not?!) Lauren plays one of the leading Gilmore girls – Lorelai Gilmore. For this tour I was asked to share my favourite Lorelai Gilmore moments with you, so here are my top three!

lorelai snow1. The one with the snow!

In season one of Gilmore Girls Lorelai opens one of the windows of her house and sniffs the air, declaring that snow is on its way. Later in the episode she explains to Luke why she loves snow so much and how magical it is.

It’s rare that we see much snow here in the UK but when we do I get so excited and Lorelai’s love of snow is one of my favourite things about her! I love that the opening for the new episodes treated us to a new ‘snow’ moment too!

2. The Lorelais go to Yale

lorelai yale

This was actually the first episode of Gilmore Girls that I saw – I was channel hopping one day and got caught up in the story of a mum (Lorelai) taking her daughter (Rory) to university.

In true Lorelai fashion she makes Rory’s first night at Yale special and I think this moment really sums up all that is great about the two Gilmore Girls and their relationship.

lorelai kiss3. Lorelai’s first kiss with Luke

The kiss finally takes place in the season 4 finale and is one of my absolute favourite Lorelai moments especially when she asks him what he’s doing!

This is a relationship that had been building for sooooo long and I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen! A perfect TV moment!

There are so many more Lorelai moments – the show is full of them. What is your favourite?

Talking As Fast As I Can by Laauren Graham is released on 6th December in Harback, Ebook and Audio formats by Virago

Talking_As_Fast_As_I_Can[1]In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood-along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge onProject Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and-of course-talking as fast as you can.

 

Book review: Song of the Skylark by Erica James

28 Mar

song-of-the-skylark-326Lizzie has always had an unfortunate knack of attracting bad luck, but this time she’s hit the jackpot. Losing her heart to her boss leads to her losing her job, and with no money in the bank, Lizzie finds herself forced to move back home with her parents. When she reluctantly takes another job, she meets Mrs Dallimore, a seemingly ordinary elderly woman with an astonishing past . . .

Now in her nineties, Mrs Dallimore is also coming to terms with her situation. Old age is finally catching up with her. As she and Lizzie form the bond of unexpected friendship, Mrs Dallimore tells the story of a young girl who left America before the outbreak of World War Two and, in crossing an ocean, found herself embarking on a new life she couldn’t have imagined.

As Lizzie listens to Mrs Dallimore, she begins to realise that she’s not the only person to attract bad luck, and that sometimes life has a way of surprising you . . .

Song of the Skylark has found it’s way straight into my favourite books of 2016 list! Having enjoyed Erica’s last novel, The Dandelion Years which I also reviewed earlier today as part of Erica’s 20th book birthday blog tour, I was pleased to see that Erica was returning to the war years with her latest novel. As in The Dandelion Years, Song of the Skylark is a dual narrative story set partly in the present and partly in the past.

In the present we meet Lizzie Moran. Lizzie has just moved back in with her parents following a disastrous work romance that resulted in her losing her job. I must admit, I really didn’t have a lot of sympathy for Lizzie at the start of the book. She comes across as immature, thoughtless and selfish and I did find myself wondering if I was going to be able to get through a whole book about a character that I didn’t like very much!

Erica James is a clever author though and adeptly put all of my thoughts about Lizzie onto the pages in the views of Lizzie’s family members. Her poor despairing mother, her lovely Dad and her far more sensible twin brother all weigh in on the turn Lizzie’s life has taken and it becomes clear that she’s always had a knack of putting her foot in it! Seeing Lizzie from their different perspectives and how, despite her faults they all love her dearly and only want her to be happy had the affect of tempering some of my own annoyance with her and when Lizzie begins to volunteer at a local home for the elderly the story took off and I couldn’t put it down.

At Woodside, Lizze meets an amazing lady called Clarissa Dallimore. Ninety-five year old Clarissa knows her life is coming to its end but feels she still has something to do. As she meets Lizze and begins to recount her life, the story slips back to 1939 and I was completely swept up in Clarissa’s adventures. Starting as Clarissa leaves America to sail to England to try to trace her estranged family, I loved the opening chapters of Clarissa’s story set aboard the glamorous ocean liner the SS Belle Etoiloe.

What made Song of the Skylark stand out for me were the wonderful friendships, struck up on the SS Belle Etolile that carry Clarissa through her life. In stark contrast to Lizzie in the present, the young Clarissa is brave, determined and caring; often shunning convention to do what she thinks it right. I loved the details of Clarissa’s life during the years of the Second World War and despite loss and heartbreak this is an overwhelmingly positive book that left me with a smile on my face.

To end my review, I’d like to give particular mention to the audio book version of this novel. I started reading the review copy kindly sent to me by Orion but came down with flu and really didn’t feel like reading so I downloaded the audio version to listen to and what an absolute treat it is. The narrator brings Erica’s characters to life brilliantly and I loved all of the accents that she did. For me a good narrator can make or break an audio book and I could have listened to this one all day as she brought out the drama and emotion of the story. A wonderful production and my favourite Erica James book yet!

5/5

Song of the Skylark is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats.

Find out more about Erica and her writing at:  http://ericajames.co.uk/

 

Truthwitch Pen Pal blog tour 2016 – New Year Resolutions!

5 Jan

Truthwitch pen pal blog tour

9781234567890

UK Cover

I’m very lucky and oh so excited today to be kicking off the very special pen pal blog tour to celebrate the publication of Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. This is a transatlantic blog tour where UK bloggers have been teamed up with US bloggers to discuss and review the book and ask Susan a joint question! I was delighted to be paired with Jaime from The Perpetual Page Turner which is one of my favourite US book blogs – you must check out Jaime’s blog if you haven’t already!

As it’s the start of an exciting new bookish year, we decided to ask Susan about New Year Resolutions. Our question was:

In honor of the start of 2016, what is your New Year Resolution for the year? And (let’s pretend try live in a world where NY resolutions happen) what would be the resolutions of the main characters be?

And here is Susan’s answer:

View More: http://emilyraephotography.pass.us/susan” My main resolution this year is to work on self-compassion. I’m so hard on myself, and it really hasn’t been working for me! I mean, most people don’t thrive with a abuse-based motivation, so my constant self-criticism really isn’t helping me work better. I’m hoping that taking a more self-compassionate approach will improve not only my writing, but my overall happiness.

Actually, Iseult could really benefit from some self-compassion! Not that she realizes that. ;) I think, if she had to pick a New Years Resolution, she’d probably say something like, “Stop wishing for things that can’t be.”

She so badly wants to fit in, you know? But with her Nomatsi heritage…Well, it probably won’t ever happen.

As for Safi, I think she’d probably say something along the lines of, “Stop getting into trouble!” Because…well, she gets into trouble a lot. And her trouble tends to rope in Iseult—something Safi isn’t too proud of. ;)”

As you can probably tell from the above, the story focuses on the friendship between Isult and Safi; two very different characters in an amazing new world. I absolutely loved this book which is a sweeping and high octane adventure packed with action and surprises. Look out for my full review later this week!

Truthwitch

US cover

In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she’s a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden – lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult’s true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls’ heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

Truthwitch is published by TOR and is released today (5th January) in the US in hardback and ebook formats.

Truthwitch will be published in hardback and ebook formats in the UK on 14th January.

Find out more about Susan Dennard and her writing at: http://susandennard.com/

Book extract! Spark by Brigid Kemmerer

29 Apr

Today I’m honoured to be the final stop on the UK blog tour for Storm, the first book in the Elemental’s series by Brigid Kemmerer. Storm was published earlier this month and the second book in the series, Spark will be released in August but you can have a sneak peek at opening right now thank’s to Brigid’s lovely UK publisher!

If you haven’t discovered this brilliant paranormal romance series yet you’re missing out! Look out for my review of Storm later in the week.

 The fuse is lit 

Gabriel Merrick plays with fire. Literally. Sometimes he can even control it. And sometimes he can’t. Gabriel has always had his brothers to rely on, especially his twin, Nick. But when an arsonist starts wreaking havoc on their town, all the signs point to Gabriel. Only he’s not doing it. And no one seems to believe him. Except a shy sophomore named Layne, a brainiac who dresses in turtlenecks and jeans and keeps him totally off balance. Because Layne has a few secrets of her own…

Click here to read the opening of Spark

(pdf opens in a new window)

Spark will be released on 21st August in ebook and paperback formats

Storm is out now in ebook an paperback formats

Find out more about Brigid Kermerer and her writing at: http://www.brigidkemmerer.com/

Do check out the other stops on the Storm tour:

 

Book review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

23 Apr

I’m delighted to be taking part in the fantastic transatlantic blog tour for Jennifer E Smith’s new novel, The Geography of You and Me. In the novel Owen and Lucy exchange postcards across the ocean so this week on the blog tour, we are exchanging reviews! You’ll find Katie from Mundie Moms review below and my review will be over on the Mundie Moms blog today!

Lucy lives on the twenty-fourth floor. Owen lives in the basement. It’s fitting, then, that they meet in the middle — stuck between two floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, Lucy and Owen spend the night wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is back, so is reality. Lucy soon moves abroad with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and to San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland, Lucy and Owen stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and phone calls. But can they — despite the odds — find a way to reunite?

What’s not to love about a love story that starts out with two complete strangers meeting in a darkened, stuck elevator/lift in the middle of a power outage in New York City. This was only the beginning of Lucy and Owen’s relationship that spans various states, a few countries, and countless post cards and emails. This is one sweet, highly addictive love story I absolutely enjoyed reading. Not only is the relationship Lucy and Owen a realistic one, but the characters themselves felt real.

I love it when an author introduces me to their imperfect characters. Not only does this make me root for them, it makes the characters relatable on some level. Lucy and Owen were easy for me to love. Their first meeting could have easily turned into a disaster. I mean imagine yourself stuff in a life/elevator with a cute, complete stranger. Not only are you dangling in a stuck life/elevator, it’s pitch black and hot in there. I would like to think I would have stayed as calm and collective as Lucy and Owen did. Instead of freaking out, these two talked. Once out of their predicament, instead of going their separate ways, these two shared a memorable night on the roof of their apartment building talking, and forming a bound that span months, and countless miles.

Both Lucy and Owen have family struggles, and issues that they each cope with and try and work through as the story goes on. Lucy is sixteen year old who has a heart of gold, and huge dreams to travel over seas, like her parents. Often left alone in the swanky NYC apartment she used to share with her now college bound brothers, she’s now by herself when her parents are jet setting around Europe. I really connected with Lucy on an emotional level. She’s this fearless, brave girl who won’t let anything stand in the way of her dreams. She doesn’t let her loneliness consume her, though my heart did break for her.

Owen himself is a character who’s dwelt with his own share of unfairness in life. With dreams of his own to make it to college, Owen finds himself uprooted and caring for a father who’s still grieving over the loss of Owen’s mom. Not only does this take a toll on the relationship Owen has with his father, it starts to take a toll on him. Owen is just a strong, and resistant seventeen year old. It was incredibly easy for me to fall in love with his character.

Smith had me rooting for him and Lucy both individually and together. I loved how Lucy and Owen’s relationships played out. Each has their own struggles, both of them move, Owen within the states, and Lucy over seas, and then there’s that complicated thing with are they in a relationship, or aren’t they. It’s during this journey that Smith really hooks me with her story. Owen and Lucy’s story was addicting. I loved reading about them, and their learning to navigate their own ways through life, and accept things for what they were. They learned to love, move on from it, accept it for what it was, and fight for that love. All the while doing this, they learn and grow so much individually, and within their family structures. Their relationship is one that plays out in post cards, and emails from NYC, to Chicago, San Fransisco, Seattle, London, Edinburgh, and back to NYC.

I adore Jennifer E. Smith and her writing style. Her YA contemporary love stories are some of my favorites. Her characters and stories are written in a realistic way, and I love how real they each feel. This story is just as lovely as This is What Happy Looks Like and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. If you haven’t yet picked up one of these books, I highly recommend that you do.

Thanks Katie! You can read more of Katie’s reviews at: http://mundiemoms.blogspot.co.uk/ and follow her on Twitter @MundieMoms

 Please do check out the other stops on the tour and join in using the hashtag #YouAndMe on Twitter!

 

Book review: A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews

17 Apr

Today is my stop on Carole Matthews’ A Place to Call Home blog tour. I’ve got two posts as part of the tour; my review of the book and a fab giveaway to win bundles of some of Carole’s previous releases so without further ado here’s my review and please do stop by again later for the giveaway.

In the dead of night, Ayesha takes her daughter, Sabina, and slips quietly from her home, leaving behind a life of full of pain. Boarding a coach to London, all Ayesha wants is a fresh start.

Hayden, a former popstar, has kept himself hidden away for years. He’s only opened up his home to two people – Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold, and Joy, an ill-tempered retiree with a soft spot for waifs and strays.

When Crystal asks Hayden if Ayesha and Sabina can stay with them, he reluctantly agrees and, as different as they may be, they quickly form an unlikely bond. So when enemies threaten their peaceful home, they will do all they can to save it and each other.

Uplifting and emotional, this is a novel of new beginnings, of discovering love and of finding A Place to Call Home.

I almost missed my stop on the train when I started reading this book on a journey home a few weeks ago, so engrossed was I in Ayesha’s middle of the night flight from her abusive husband. In A Place to Call Home Carole has written a beautiful story of new beginnings, heartbreak, love and friendship and right from the first pages I was captivated by Ayesha’s story and her fight to regain her life.

Ayesha and her young daughter Sabina are fleeing from husband and father Suresh who has made their lives a misery both physically and mentally for many years. It was heartbreaking to read the early scenes of the book where Ayesha recounts her reasons for leaving and the horror of abuse so bad that it has rendered her daughter speechless. This is a story packed with emotion and brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion.

As with all of Carole’s books that I’ve read, the characterization in A Place to Call Home is excellent and I felt like a knew Ayesha and Sabina straight away. The way that Carole describes Sabina’s emotions even though she doesn’t speak is brilliant and I took both of them to my heart immediately. As Ayesha seeks refuge she finds herself in the impressive home of former pop star Hayden with two other women, Joy and Crystal. Hayden, Joy and Crystal are all wonderful characters too and one of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the variety that the different characters brought to the story.

Ayesha and Sabina’s arrival in the house brings change to all three members of the house and as they rally round the new arrivals it was lovely to see the relationships between them develop. Many of my favorite moments came from reading how Hayden helps Ayesha with her reading and despite the sadness of the situation they both find themselves in there are many funny moments in the story, particularly as they start to read Brigit Jones’ Diary!

With lots of short chapters and several strong sub plots based around the supporting characters, I found that I flew through the book and didn’t want to put it down. Although most of the book in written in the third person, Ayesha’s story is told in the first person and makes it feel even more personal. The episodes covering Suresh’s hunt for his wife and daughter are a stark contrast and made for difficult reading at times – he really is a despicable character! Hayden on the other hand is wonderful and I found the scenes between him and Sabina particularly touching.

I love how Carole has struck the balance between the darker side of life (domestic abuse, lap dancing clubs, organized crime) and the themes of family, romance and friendship that we’ve come to love and expect from her novels. A Place Called Home made me think about the women and children who live with abuse every day and I hope it raises awareness and encourages everyone who reads it to support those facing similar challenges.

This is the second book I’ve read in a few weeks that has made me think about what ‘home’ really means. A Place to Call Home has a beautiful message and was so sensitively written as to be believable yet still a little magical. Highly recommended!

4/5

A Place to Call Home is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

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

Find out more about Carole and her writing at: http://www.carolematthews.com/

Please do stop by again later for details of a fab Carole Matthews giveaway and please do check out the other stops on the blog tour.

Book extract and giveaway! A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke

4 Apr

I’m a huge fan of Lucy Clarke’s books. Her new novel A Single Breath is my favourite book of the year so far, so I’m very excited to be the final stop on Lucy’s blog tour today with an extract from the novel and a brilliant giveaway!

Photo credit James Bowden

Lucy has a first class degree in English Literature, and is a passionate traveller and diarist. She has worked as a presenter of social enterprise events and a creative writing workshop leader. Lucy is now a full-time novelist. Her debut novel, The Sea Sisters (UK), was a Richard and Judy Summer 2013 Book Club choice, and was published in ten countries. Lucy is married to James Cox, a professional windsurfer, and together they spend their winters travelling and their summers at their home on the south coast of England. Find out more about Lucy and her books at: http://www.lucy-clarke.com/

 

Extract: Read the Prologue of A Single Breath (PDF – opens in new window)

The deeper the water, the darker the secrets

There were so many times I thought about telling you the truth, Eva. What stopped me was always the same thing…

When Eva’s husband Jackson tragically drowns, she longs to meet his estranged family. The journey takes her to Jackson’s brother’s doorstep on a remote Tasmanian island. As strange details about her husband’s past begin to emerge, memories of the man she married start slipping through her fingers like sand, as everything she ever knew and loved about him is thrown into question. Now she’s no longer sure whether it was Jackson she fell in love with – or someone else entirely…

The truth is, it was all a lie . . .

Giveaway! Three copies of A Single Breath to be won!

HarperCollins are very generously providing three paperback copies of this brilliant novel as giveaway.

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

This giveaway is open to UK/EU residents only and will close at midnight on Thursday 10th April.

Good luck!

 

Guest post: The Book You're Reading is Really A Movie in My Head by Nic Tatano

19 Feb

Today is my stop on the Boss Girl blog tour celebrating the release of Nic Tatno’s second novel for HarperImpulse. Nic spent fifteen years as a television news reporter and anchor. His work has taken me from the floors of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions to Ground Zero in New York to Jay Leno’s backyard. His stories have been seen on NBC, ABC and CNN. 

Nic grew up in the New York City metropolitan area and now lives on the Gulf Coast where he will never shovel snow again! He’s happily married to a maths teacher and they share their home with our tortoiseshell tabby cat, Gypsy. Welcome Nic!

I sit back with my popcorn and soda, the lights dim, and the credits start to roll with some upbeat music under the video. The names of the stars flash across the screen, and the actors look suspiciously like the characters in my book.

That’s because the movie is based on my book. Or, in this case, my book is based on the movie. If that sounds confusing, it’s because the movie is playing in my head, and my muse is the projectionist.

Some writers storyboard their scenes. Some outline. Some have corkboards with index cards. I can’t be that organized. I have to wing it. I simply watch the scene in my head and then write down what I’ve seen. Sometimes I “watch” the scene several times before writing it, so that I become as familiar with it as I am with an episode of original Star Trek.

I’m sure this comes from my years working in television news, which is a visual medium. TV is basically show and tell, accent on the “show.” When you get an assignment, the first thing that goes through your mind is, “What video will I have for this story?” A reporter envisions a basic version of the story and organizes the possible video before he sets one foot out the newsroom door.

Same deal with my fiction. “What does this scene look like and what elements will it have?” And I’m not just talking about setting. That’s why I base a character’s physical traits on an actor, so I can see that character play out the scene in my head. In my new book “Boss Girl” the opening chapter features a scene in a bar between Scott and Sydney, or, in my case, Matt Bomer and Kate Walsh. I see the two actors working through the scene in my head, figure out how it works visually, hear their dialogue, then write it down. When Sydney comes on to Scott, it’s the tall redhead from Grey’s Anatomy seducing the dashing con man from White Collar. When a little guy comes into the picture, it’s Josh Hutcherson from The Hunger Games. Since I’m familiar with the actors, it’s easy to see them act out my plot. They’re doing improv in my head and I’m winging it on the laptop.

I think one of the reasons I enjoy writing RomComs is because I love watching them in the theater. People have often said my books read like movies, or would make good movies. And now you know the reason for that.

As for the answer to the age old question, “Is the book better than the movie?” the answer is, in my case, they’re the same.

Boss Girl is released in ebook formats tomorrow (20th February). To find out more and pre-order, click the image below:

Visit

 

Find out more about Nic and his writing at: http://thechannelingauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Please do check out the other stops on the Boss Girl blog tour!

 

Guest post: My three favourite author memories by Rowan Coleman

7 Feb

Today I’m welcoming the very lovely Rowan Coleman to One More Page on the final stop of her blog tour for her beautiful new novel, The Memory Book. Rowan lives with her husband, and five children in a very full house in Hertfordshire. The Memory Book is Rowan’s eleventh novel. Others include The Accidental Mother, Lessons in Laughing Out Loud and the award-winning Dearest Rose, a novel which lead Rowan to become an active supporter of domestic abuse charity Refuge, donating 100% of royalties from the ebook publication of her novella, Woman Walks Into a Bar, to the charity. Today Rowan is sharing her three favourite author memories with us. Welcome Rowan!

Rowan has very kindly filmed a video just for readers of One More Page to tell you about the book!

My three favourite memories as an author

1) The moment I heard I had my first book deal. Picture the scene, it was 2001, I was working in my office-slash-cupboard in putting information into a data base, when my agent Lizzy Kremer called to tell me that I had been offered a two book deal, for my very first novel ‘Growing Up Twice’. The dream I’d had for most of my life had just come true, and it took a long time for it to sink in and seem real. I don’t think I stopped smiling for a year, including in my sleep. And that thrill of seeing the finished copy of your book in your hands never goes away, its always just as exciting at the first time.

2) Winning the RoNA award for Epic Romance Novel of the year for ‘Dearest Rose,’ last year. I had written that book during an intensely difficult time in both my personal life and my career. It was the first time in a decade of writing that I had thought about giving up. But something about telling that story made me determined to keep going. Its the book that made me a stronger person and, I hope, a better writer. The award was a great moment of happiness, the proved to me that you should never give up on what you believe in, no matter how hard it might seem. And also I finally got to use my generic award acceptance speech that I had been practising since I was nine.

3) My first reader feedback of ‘The Memory Book.’ When you are working on a novel you can only hope that it is going to work out the way that you envision it. I’d had the idea for ‘The Memory Book’ almost two years before I was able to start writing it, and it was an idea that I held very close to my heart. But a lot of things changed during that two years, perhaps most dramatically the arrival of my twin boys, and I was writing it when they were very tiny, only 12 weeks old! It was a constantly evolving process, and a difficult one to navigate my way through. When the first reader feedback started to come through, and was very positive – I felt an enormous sense of relief. As a writer you can’t ever hope to please all the people, all the time. But to know you’ve pleased some of them, especially when a book matters so much to you, well that’s pretty special.

Wonderful memories – thank you Rowan.
The Memory Book is out in hardback and ebook formats now. Find out more about Rowan and her writing at: http://www.rowancoleman.co.uk/
Do check out the other stops on Rowan’s blog tour!