Tag Archives: New York

Book review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

12 Apr

all grown upAndrea is a single, childless 39-year-old woman who tries to navigate family, sexuality, friendships and a career she never wanted, but battles with thoughts and desires that few people would want to face up to.

Told in gut-wrenchingly honest language that shimmers with rage and intimacy, All Grown Up poses such questions as:
- What if I don’t want to hold your baby?
- Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce?
- What can I demand of my mother now that I am an adult?
- Is therapy pointless?
- At what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem?
- Why does everyone keep asking me why I am not married?

Powerfully intelligent and wickedly funny, All Grown Up delves into the psyche of a flawed but mesmerising character. Readers will recognise themselves in Jami Attenberg’s truthful account of what it means to be a 21st century woman, though they might not always want to admit it.

All Grown Up is an interesting and thought provoking read. For me, it wasn’t the most comfortable of reads at times but I did enjoy it. The novel tells the story of Andrea – a complex character if ever there was one. I felt like I’d been through the wringer after spending time in Andrea’s head and, a week after finishing reading, I’m still not sure what my feelings are for her! The readers reaction to Andrea is a key premise of the book. There are scenes that might shock, her language and narration of events is no holds barred blunt and she presents a version of the truth that begs for discussion and analysis.

My feelings for Angela veered from admiration to dislike and from empathy to pity. Andrea is happy on her own but through her narrative in All Grown Up  shows how she feels that society conspires to tell her that she’s taken a wrong path, that her choices aren’t right and that she should feel bad about them. For a large part of the story, Andrea does feel bad; about her relationships, her art, her family and friends. Even her apartment conspires against her! 

My initial reaction to Andrea was to be sympathetic – I could understand the pressures and frustrations that come with parents and friends thinking that you should be doing particular things with your life at certain points and I have strong feelings that a woman should be able to be single and childless if she wants. I found myself getting a little annoyed with Andrea because she didn’t seem to know what she wanted really and her choices seemed to be making her so unhappy.

The story is put together in chapters that jump around in time to slowly reveal the big picture of Andrea and those close to her. Two threads in this picture really interested me; Andrea’s relationship with her Mother and with her friend Imogen. Andrea’s mum was actually my favourite character – I thought she was strong, independent and willing to stand by her choices and fight for her family. 

But it was the relationship between Andrea and Imogen that intrigued me most. Not so long ago, I was on the Imogen side of this relationship having just had my first son and trying very hard to maintain a friendship with a friend who actively disliked children and had a very physical revulsion to motherhood in general. Andrea’s reaction to Imogen helped me to take another perspective on this particular friendship dilemma – I love how books can do that!

At the heart of All Grown Up is the big question ‘what makes us adults?’ and I think Andrea represents a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves as we try to be grown ups. Andrea doesn’t necessarily have the answers but in reading this book I’m sure many will recognise situations and mindsets that are familiar – a great novel to debate with friends.

4/5

All Grown Up is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Sepent’s Tail.

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

Author interview: Victoria Blake

31 Jan

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Victoria Blake to One More Page on the final stop of her Titan’s Boatman blog tour. Victoria was brought up in The Queen’s College, Oxford and went to university in the same city, studying history at Lady Margaret Hall. She has worked in law, publishing and book selling and is also the author of the Sam Falconer crime series. Welcome Victoria!

victoria blakeYour historical fiction novel, Titan’s Boatman has just been released; please could you tell us a little about it and your inspiration for it?

The trigger for the book was my love of Titian’s painting The Man with the Blue Sleeve. When I’m between books I tend to get a bit restless and I went for a wander in The National Gallery and stood in front of him for a long time and realized I always ended up in front of him when I was in a certain restless frame of mind. He’s such a sexy, sardonic rogue. Then I noticed how young Titian was when he painted him – about twenty. That was the start of the book for me.

What drew you to Renaissance Venice and Titian and how did you go about the historical parts of the research?

It was the painting really that began it all. To be perfectly honest although I could have named Titian I knew next to nothing about him before beginning the book but our family had a strong emotional connection to Italy. My father, the historian Robert Blake had a great love of Italy. He had been a POW during the second world war in the south of Italy, had escaped and then been looked after by Italians before making his way through the mountains and back to the allied troops. I don’t think he ever forgot being looked after in that way. It was a very dangerous thing for Italians to do at the time. So when I was child we went to Italy for holidays and Venice was one of the first places I went abroad. It made an indelible impression on me. So there was this combination of factors that came together. For the research I read everything I could get my hands on. Particularly useful were the letters of Pietro Aretino. He was a poet, pornographer, blackmailer and great friends with Titian. He was absolutely clear that Titian was a genius and told everyone. His letters are hugely entertaining. He writes to friends thanking them for sending him salad. He writes to his gondolier advising him not to marry. He even writes letters on the dangers of eating mushrooms. He adored Venice and I loved his letters. I also read Sheila Hale’s fantastic biography of Titian. For research on courtesans I read Margaret Rosenthal’s book The Honest Courtesan about Veronica Franco and I also read Franco’s poetry.

During your research for the book what was the most surprising fact you uncovered?

I think that there was an actual term ‘muneghini’ that was used to describe those young male patricians who visited nuns for sex. The term means ‘frequenters of nuns.’ According to the Renaissance diaries of Marin Sanudo at any rate! That was extremely surprising. And also that there was an episode in 1514 when the nuns of the Convent of San Zacaria got together and stoned the authorities who wanted to interfere with the way their nunnery was run. I loved the idea of mutinous nuns!

Who was your favourite character to write?

I had a real fondness for Tullia, the courtesan. I loved her courage, her sense of humour and her essential good heartedness. I wanted her to not just survive but thrive as well. Apart from her the character I was most involved with was the boatman, Sebastiano. I heard his voice incredibly vividly in my head from the very beginning. I had a very strong visceral impression of him and he tops and tails the book.

If you could travel to any time or place in history where would you go and why?

Ask me that tomorrow and I’d come out with a different answer but today …  I’ve got a stone age axe head that my grandfather, who was a Norfolk farmer, picked up in his fields. I’d like to go back to the moment when the axe head had just been created and take a look at the man who had carved it and was holding it in his hands.

Do you have a favourite Titian painting and for those interested in learning more about him, which books would you titanrecommend?

Apart from The Man with the Blue Sleeve, I love the portrait he did of Aretino. It’s in Florence in the Galleria Palatina. Aretino wears this very splendid orange, velvet gown and has a magnificent beard. He looks like he’s going to jump out of the canvas at you and demand the most recent gossip. You get a real sense of his physical strength as well as his strength of character. For anyone wanting to read about Titian I recommend Sheila Hale’s biography and also Titian: The Last Days by Mark Hudson – that’s a fantastic, highly readable, fascinating book.

And finally … what can we expect next from Victoria Blake?

My next book is a novel about one of the first female war correspondents who goes and reports from the Spanish Civil War. I find female war correspondents fascinating and have watched with a huge amount of respect and admiration over the years fantastic women like Kate Adie, Lyse Doucet, Lindsay Hilsum and Orla Guerin. How do they go into those incredibly dangerous places, hold it all together, report back coherently and then come home without being destroyed by it all? I think they are remarkable people. It’s been interesting reading the obituaries of the war correspondent Clare Hollingworth who has just died at the age of 105. She reported the ‘scoop of the century’ –  that the Second World War had started.

Thank you Victoria.

Titan’s Boatman is out now in Hardback and ebook formats from Black and White Publishing.

Find out more about Victoria and her writing at: https://victoriablakewriter.wordpress.com/

 

Book review: Mistletoe on 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson

7 Nov

mistletoeOlivia has never experienced a snow-covered, ‘traditional’ Christmas before. Having grown up in a family that chose winter sun over decking the halls, she’s not sure what all the fuss is about. So when she and her colleagues are stranded in New York after a work trip, Olivia is perfectly happy spending the holiday season in the Big Apple.

Jon, Olivia’s friend, on the other hand is desperate to get home in time for his big family get-together. Nevertheless, determined to make the best out of the situation, he sets out to show Olivia how enchanting Christmas in New York can be. And when handsome New Yorker Elijah is added to the mix, could the magic of the season finally be working its charm on Olivia? As 25 December draws closer, Olivia suddenly finds herself with a decision to make: who does she really want to kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas?

If Mistletoe on 34th Street doesn’t put you in the mood for Christmas, I don’t know what will. Set between wintry New York and snowy London, Lisa Dickensen’s latest Christmas novel is a tinsel bright story filled with so much Christmas spirit you’ll be tipsy after reading it! The combination of my favourite city with my favourite time of the year is enough to have me swooning already but throw in one smart and sassy heroine, a little romance interests and a some truly cringeworthy but hilarious moments and you have the perfect recipe for a Christmas read that will leave you smiling.

Olivia is an up and coming member of the team at Girls of the World. When her boss has an accident, Olivia gets the opportunity to lead the team at the annual winter conference in New York City. When I wasn’t envying Olivia’s very cool job, I was marvelling at Lisa’s comic timing and ability to create humour out of almost any situation. I’ve read all of Lisa’s books to date and I’m consistently impressed by the way that her characters are relatable, funny and likeable but also able to get a lot of very important messages across to readers. I think Mistletoe on 34thStreet is her best book yet and I love how Lisa has given her unique take on the Christmas novel with an uplifting and empowering dose of feminism!

Olivia’s family don’t really do the traditional Christmas; they usually head for the sun so she hasn’t grown up with the British family Christmas traditions that many of us know and love. I liked that Liv wasn’t a scrooge character but just wasn’t really that into Christmas – it made a nice change and I really enjoyed reading as New York and Chrostmas got under Olivia’s skin!

In three parts and following a diary-style format, the novel counts down to the big day from 5th December as we follow Olivia and the team before during  and after the big conference. Olivia’s colleagues are a lovely mixed bunch of characters and I liked that Lisa gave them each their own little quirks and that they all had their own little surprises to bring to the story.

This novel feels very current with lots of references to Christmassy songs and films and to tv and films set in New York. I enjoyed picking out the little mentions and now have a nice little list of ‘must watch’ films. I also have another little list of places I must visit if I ever get to go to New York at Christmas!

As events conspire to keep Olivia and her team in the city that never sleeps, Lisa Dickenson turns up the wow factor and creates a winter wonderland full of perfect New York moments that had me longing to visit again. Grab a box of quality street and a cup of eggnog, sit back and enjoy the magic!

5/5

Mistletoe on 34th Street 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 Lisa and her writing at: http://www.lisadickenson.com/

Book review: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

31 Oct

witches of new yorkThe year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student and gardien de sorts(keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment.

Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

It’s no secret that I love books about witches so when I saw The Witches of New York I jumped at the chance to review it. I’d heard very good things about Ami McKay’s earlier novels (bestsellers The Birth House and The Virgin Cure) so between that and the intriguing cover with its wonderful tagline, ‘Those averse to magic need not apply’, I couldn’t wait to get reading!

At over five hundred pages The Witches of New York is a weighty novel but I flew through it and unusually for a book of this length, my attention didn’t wander at all – I was absolutely gripped by Ami’s descriptions of New York in 1880 and the beautifully described story of three very different women finding their place in a rapidly changing society had me captivated.

The UK paperback edition from Orion I is just wonderful and I loved the illustrations, stories and ephemera included in it. Adelaide, Eleanor and Beatrice’s story is accompanied by news articles, advertisements, letters, extracts from Eleanor’s Grimoire and more. The inclusion of snippets from the time made the story feel very real and I also enjoyed the stories within the story that are included – especially the legends and fairytale The Princess Who Wished to Be a Witch.

I’m publishing this review on Halloween because what better day to be talking about witches? But I want to stress that this book is not just for Halloween! McKay cleverly weaves social history, medicine, religion, folklore and mystery to create a story that is as much about women’s rights and the prejudices of society as it is about magic and ghosts. By setting her story against the backdrop of the erection of Cleopatra’s Needle in Central Park, Ami highlights the fascination of society at the time with magic and the occult. Through her characters she shows the many variations on the theme and highlights the often shocking treatment of women just because of their gender.

From a Gentleman’s society taking a philosophical and scientific approach to communicating with the spirit world to the female inmates of the local asylum via disabled veterans and prostitutes, urchins, suffragists and church preachers; Ami McKay centers her characters in a vivid and complex world. My favourite parts of the book were those set at the wonderfully named teashop that Eleanor and Adelaide run – Tea and Sympathy and I enjoyed reading about the different types of ‘magic’ worked there be it comfort to the heartbroken, courage or hope or just good company.

With history, mysteries, murder, love, romance and magic; this book has something to offer so many readers and I cannot recommend it highly enough as the perfect read to curl up with this autumn.

5/5

The Witches of New York is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Orion.

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

Find out more about Ami Mckay and her writing at: http://amimckay.com/

 

Book news: The Witches of New York by Ami McKay

3 Oct

You might notice a bit of a theme developing in my posts this month – for me October is all about magic and mystery. I plan to share many magical books with you this month so when I saw this book earlier today I added it straight to my wish list. It covers two of my favourite reading subjects (witches and New York) just in the title so it’s got to be a winner right?!

Ami McKay is the bestselling author of The Birth House and The Virgin Cure. I absolutely love the sound of this novel and isn’t the cover fab? The Witches of New York is released on October 27th by Orion.

witches of new york

The year is 1880. Two hundred years after the trials in Salem, Adelaide Thom (Moth from The Virgin Cure) has left her life in the sideshow to open a tea shop with another young woman who feels it’s finally safe enough to describe herself as a witch: a former medical student andgardien de sorts (keeper of spells), Eleanor St. Clair. Together they cater to Manhattan’s high society ladies, specializing in cures, palmistry and potions–and in guarding the secrets of their clients. All is well until one bright September afternoon, when an enchanting young woman named Beatrice Dunn arrives at their door seeking employment.

Beatrice soon becomes indispensable as Eleanor’s apprentice, but her new life with the witches is marred by strange occurrences. She sees things no one else can see. She hears voices no one else can hear. Objects appear out of thin air, as if gifts from the dead. Has she been touched by magic or is she simply losing her mind? Eleanor wants to tread lightly and respect the magic manifest in the girl, but Adelaide sees a business opportunity. Working with Dr. Quinn Brody, a talented alienist, she submits Beatrice to a series of tests to see if she truly can talk to spirits. Amidst the witches’ tug-of-war over what’s best for her, Beatrice disappears, leaving them to wonder whether it was by choice or by force.

As Adelaide and Eleanor begin the desperate search for Beatrice, they’re confronted by accusations and spectres from their own pasts. In a time when women were corseted, confined and committed for merely speaking their minds, were any of them safe?

Find out more about Ami McKay and her writing at: http://amimckay.com/

Book review: Family Tree by Susan Wiggs

2 Aug

family treeAnnie Rush seems to have it all, a handsome husband and their fabulous life in Manhattan. But all of that is snatched away when she is involved is a life-changing accident. Awakening from a coma a year later, Annie finds that the life she knew has crumbled away.

In the throes of grief, Annie grasps her new reality – she has to start over from scratch, which means heading home. Annie couldn’t wait to escape the small town where she grew up, but now she finds herself warming to the close-knit community and its homespun values.

There’s also a face from the distant past − Fletcher Wyndham − and all the reasons she’s never quite forgotten him come flooding back. Annie expects to pull herself together and return to the city, but fate has other plans …

A few years ago I started reading Susan Wiggs’ Lakeshore Chronicles series and really enjoyed it so when the chance to review her new novel came up I couldn’t resist. Family Tree is such a lovely an addictive story; I couldn’t put it down once I started reading and I know it will be one of my favourite books of the year. I enjoyed it so much that I’m planning to read many more from Susan’s extensive back catalogue as soon as possible!

FamilyTree is the story of Annie Rush. As we meet her she’s a very successful cooking show producer, working with her husband on a hit show The Key Ingredient. I was drawn to Annie as a character straight away; she’s bright, intelligent and successful. She came across as a happy person – the type of woman I’d like to have as a friend and I thought Susan told her initial back story in a very clever way. I was already gripped by the story but as Annie makes a series of discoveries and then falls victim to a shocking accident, I was completely hooked. Tantalisingly, the story flashes back to Annie’s past at this point and left me desperate to know what had happened to her!

The book is broken into sections set ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ and this makes the story a real page turner as Susan leaves each narrative on a cliff-hanger more than once to switch to the past or present. I often find in dual time narratives that I have a preference for one part or the other but in this story I was just as involved with and wanted to know what happened next with both parts of the story. As the picture of Annie’s teenage years and home and school life in Switchback, Vermont built, it all added up to make me feel like I knew her in depth.

Ironically, as Annie begins to recover from her accident, the reader is in a position to know more about her past than she does and this was a very intriguing premise to the book. And then there’s the wonderful romance angle to the story. From her past books I remembered that this is something Susan does well but the feeling and emotions in Family Tree really got me!

Susan captures the excitement of first love just perfectly and the story of Annie and Fletcher is so bittersweet as life and choices get in the way. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Annie as she returned to Switchback to recover at her family home. As well as the romance aspect of the story Wiggs creates a wonderful feeling of family and Annie’s relationship with her beloved Gran is magical, again making this feel like a very well rounded novel.

There are two other themes that deserve mention; food and locations. Annie’s home town is just picture perfect. In fact I could easily see this book as a movie. The food descriptions are mouth-wateringly delicious and it’s clear that Susan did her research on cooking, TV production and maple syrup farming for this book. I also liked the way that she drew in very current aspects like social media whilst giving the story a timeless romantic feeling.

Family Tree considers the conundrum of doing what you love versus being with the person you love and I thoroughly enjoyed following the ups and downs of Annie’s and her family’s lives. This is a story that will leave you with a wonderful warm glow and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

5/5

Family Tree is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

 

Author interview: Beatriz Williams

28 Jul

Today I’m delighted to be heading back to Jazz Age New York with Beatriz Williams on the latest stop on her blog tour for her new novel, A Certain Age. A graduate of Stanford University with an MBA from Columbia, Beatriz spent several years in New York and London hiding her early attempts at fiction, first on company laptops as a corporate and communications strategy consultant, and then as an at-home producer of small persons. She now lives with her husband and four children near the Connecticut shore, where she divides her time between writing and laundry. Welcome Beatriz!

Beatriz Williams author photo_credit Marilyn Roos

Photo credit Marilyn Roos

The 1920s is one of my favourite periods of history and I love the glamour and glitz associated with this period in New York; what drew you to write about this particular time and place in A Certain Age?

I think I’ve always wanted to set a book in this era; my other novels have referenced the 1920s, but I wanted to find just the right idea to tell the story of this extraordinary decade. So much change was taking place—in art, in society, in science and technology, in transportation and media and relations between genders and races—and layered on top of all of that you have the rise of youth culture, which still dominates our lives today in so many ways. So it’s ripe as a setting, because narratives thrives on conflict, and when I thought about Richard Strauss’s opera Der Rosenkavalier, which features an aristocrat and her young lover, and the ingénue who steals his affections, I thought how well that story and those themes translate into the zeitgeist of the Jazz Age.

How did you go about your research for the book and did anything that you found surprise you?

I tend to focus on primary sources – books and materials that were written around the time in which I’m writing. So I read some Fitzgerald and Hemingway and others, and watched old movies and listened to old recordings, and I stumbled across this wonderful book called Only Yesterday, which is an account of the 1920s written in 1931. I thought it would be deadly boring and focused on all the usual historical facts in a dry, passive voice, but instead it was an incredibly engaging reflection on all the social changes taking place. The author spoke of how sex had taken over as a topic of conversation, and how women had entered the workforce with such determination that those who didn’t work found themselves having to defend that choice. So it really illuminated the vast social revolution that took place in the years after the First World War, which we tend to forget. The Sixties were only picking up where the Twenties left off!

If you could spend a day as one of your characters from A Certain Age who would you choose and what would you do?

Oh gosh! That’s a difficult question. My first instinct is to say Theresa Marshall, because she’s such a vibrant character, but she’s led such a terribly lonely, grief-stricken life and I don’t know whether I’d enjoy being in her skin. So I might choose Octavian instead and go flying over Manhattan in an airplane, or else visit Belmont Park and watch Man o’War race!

The book is set during the Jazz Age – which music or pieces would be on the soundtrack for A Certain Age?

Well, as I learned in my research, so many of the familiar jazz standards were actually composed after the years in which the book was set! But I did put together a playlist for my publisher, to which you can now listen on Spotify. Just click here.

Which classic novels or factual accounts would you recommend to readers interested in this period?

Definitely Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen for a factual account. Most people have read The Great Gatsby, but Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise also gives you a wonderful picture of young people in the years before and after the First World War. And there have been a number of nonfiction books written about the period recently, including Bill Bryson’s 1927 and David Pietrusza’s 1920.

What are the books that inspired your love of stories and reading?  A certain age final

When I was a child, I loved the Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables books, and I think the way girls took centre stage and did fearless, remarkable things has always informed my creation of strong female characters at the heart of my books. In terms of adult fiction, the list is long and runs from Trollope (whose creation of a fictional universe, populated by characters who appear in other books, inspired the way I built my own world) and Patrick O’Brian (who had an amazing ability to effortlessly immerse the reader in a historical setting) to Vera Brittain.

And finally … what can we expect next from Beatriz Williams

My next book, The Wicked City, comes out in January, and it’s about a straight-arrow Prohibition agent who recruits a flapper to help him break a New York City bootlegging ring with roots in Appalachia. And then I pick up the story of Virginia, Sophie’s sister in A Certain Age, who’s run down to Florida at the end of the book in order to find her missing husband. So I’ll be living and breathing the 1920s for a few more books to come!

Thank you Beatriz – I’m already looking forward to The Wicked City.

A Certain Age is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats.

Book review and extract: Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox

13 Jul

Join me today as I stop off at the Starlight Diner in New York as part of Helen Cox’s blog tour for her debut novel, Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner. Read on for my review and a little taste of the book!

milkshakes and heartbreaksEsther Knight is sharp, sarcastic – and hiding something. She waitresses at The Starlight Diner: a retroeatery where Fifties tunes stream out of the jukebox long into the night, and the tastiest milkshakes in New York are served.

Nobody at the diner knows why Esther left London for America – or why she repeatedly resists the charms of their newest regular, actor Jack Faber.

Esther is desperate to start a new life in the land of the free, but despite the warm welcome from the close-knit diner crowd, something from her past is holding her back. Can she ever learn to love and live again?

As soon as I saw the cover for this book, I knew I needed to read it. I love retro diners and New York so Helen Cox hit upon a pretty much irresistible combination for me! Helen and HarperCollins also put together a brilliant pre-launch campaign for this book with three free short stories, a spotify playlist that I’ve had on repeat and a whole host of extras over on Helen’s website: https://helencoxauthor.wordpress.com/the-starlight-diner/

The novel has many of the aspects that I’d expected when I chose it to read; there’s delicious sounding food, quirky regulars, wise New York waitresses, a fabulous 50s retro diner and even a retro hop! But the story also has a side that I didn’t expect and set against the brightness of the Starlight Diner, Esther’s history and the secret that she’s hiding are a stark and shocking contrast.

This is a novel of light and dark and I thought it had a brilliant and hopeful message for it’s readers. As Esther meets actor Jack, the possibility of romance and a new start really begin to open up for her but she has to come to terms with her past before she can move on. Secrets are a key theme of the book and Esther isn’t the only one with a past that they’d like to forget about. As the story developed I was reading as fast as I could to find out what had happened to Esther and Jack and how they would both move on.

The diner itself is a brilliant character in the book and I loved the cast of characters that Helen brought together there. My personal favourites were Mona and her husband Alan. Mona is a proper New York waitress as I imagine them to be; full of gossip, quick to laugh and even quicker to know what’s going on but full of wise advice too – in my head she looks like the waitress that advises Frenchy in the Grease movie! Alan, Mona’s husband is a New York cop with a heart of gold and I loved the scenes set at their apartment which has a wonderful sense of family.

Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner is just the first in a series of books based around the diner. Secrets and Fries at the Starlight Diner will be released in December and this book has an epilogue that leads into the next story and has me nicely intrigued!

4/5

Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner is out now in ebook formats.

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

Extract

Prologue

Next time you’re in New York, take a turn off Broadway onto East Houston. Walk on past 2nd Avenue subway station. Past Russ & Daughters fish shop and Katz’s Delicatessen. Beyond these local landmarks of the East Village, just a skip from where East Houston meets Clinton Street, you’ll see it: The Starlight Diner. A fifties throwback joint serving burgers and breakfast foods long into the night.

There’s no missing the blare of its blue neon sign. Even from a block away, you can hear the songs of Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran and, house favourites, Marvin and the Starlighters spewing out of the jukebox. Step closer, and you’ll note the modest claim inscribed just above its glass frontage: Best Diner In Town.

Press your hands against the window. Peer in at the long procession of red leather booths, at the aging signs, hanging all around, for vintage sodas, malts and ice-cream floats. There’s a refrigerator stacked with vanilla cheesecake and blueberry pie, and the waitresses wear candy pink uniforms with black kitten heels.

Bernie Castillo was just twenty-two when he opened The Starlight Diner. A business decision he made about a week after John Kennedy was shot. Like many others he knew, he wanted nothing more than to return to a time before anyone understood what it meant to see a president gunned down. To a time in which rock ’n’ roll reigned supreme and gas-guzzling Cadillacs clogged up the highways. A time when America ‘stood at the summit of the world’. So, the 1950s is still in full swing at The Starlight Diner, and they serve the tastiest milkshakes in the five boroughs.

If there’s one thing Bernie’s learned in his time managing a diner, it’s that you never can tell just who’s going to walk through the doorway. But no matter who they are, no matter where they come from – whether they’re a tourist with a tripod or a local who’s ordered the same breakfast there for twenty years – they’ve all got one thing in common.

All of them, every last one, has a story to tell.

Book news: Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner by Helen Cox

12 May

I absolutely love the sound of this novel set in 1990’s New York. Isn’t the cover fab too?  It’s out on 4th July but you can pre-order the ebook of Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner for just 99p at the moment so get clicking! Helen has also released two short stories to introduce the book which are available free – head to Helen’s blog: https://helencoxauthor.wordpress.com to read them.

Milkshakes

 

Next time you’re in New York, take a turn off Broadway onto East Houston Street.

There, you’ll see it: The Starlight Diner. A retro eatery curious enough to delight tourists and locals alike. Fifties tunes stream out of the jukebox long into the night, and it serves the tastiest milkshakes in the five boroughs.

Esther Knight waitresses at The Starlight Diner. She’s sharp, sarcastic, and she’s hiding something. Nobody at the diner knows why she left London for New York – or why she repeatedly resists the charms of their newest regular, actor Jack Faber.

Esther is desperate to start a new life in the land of the free, but despite the warm welcome from the close-knit diner crowd, something from her past is holding her back. Can she ever learn to love and live again?

You can follow Helen on Twitter @Helenography

You can also follow the Starlight Diner on Twitter @MilkshakesNYC

Book review: Holding Out For A Hero by Victoria Van Tiem

16 Jan

9781447269748The problem with first love is that it never truly dies . . .

Libby London fell in love with the eighties, came of age in the nineties, and now the twenty-first century is baffling her. Her New-York-City style is more, erm, vintage tragedy than retro babe and her penchant for All Things Eighties might just be what’s holding her back in matters of life and love . . .

At least that’s what her well-meaning friends think. They’ve staged a #80sIntervention in an effort to bring Libby bang up to date. What with her dreaded birthday party, friends’ madcap ambush, and being forced to relocate her vintage shop, Libby’s nearing breaking point!

Will she ever be able to move on when the one she loves keeps her in the past?

Holding Out for A Hero is Victoria Van Tiem’s second novel, following on from the fun rom-com, Love Like the Movies that was published last year. When I saw the cover and title for this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. I can’t look at this book without Bonnie Tyler singing in my head so I knew I was in for a fun read from the start. And this is a fun and funny book packed with retro charm and a brilliant hit list of chapter titles. But the story also has a serious side; it has been described as a ‘romantic dramedy’ as leading lady Libby London tries to come to terms with the events of her past.

Libby is addicted to the 1980s. She owns a retro shop called Pretty in Pink and dresses to match her obsession! As the story begins Libby’s friends have decided to take it upon themselves to stage an intervention. They want Libby to update her look and to find a man so they stage an 80s intervention and theming their dates around the classic 80s movie, The Breakfast Club declare that Libby has to date an athlete, a criminal, a nerd and a princess. I loved the idea of the themed dates but felt quite sorry for Libby as she went on them as they veered from outright disaster to just bizarre! You’ll have to read the book to find out why but some of them will definitely make you smile!

Despite her friends best efforts Libby can’t seem to move on from her ideal of first love and with her birthday coming up and then the bad news that she needs to find a new location for her shop, Libby has some real soul searching to do. I found it interesting how the crazy adventures that Libby’s friends sent her on contrasted with the sadness Libby feels but strangely, the story gels together well and manages to be both light-hearted and serious at the same time.

My favourite character in Holding Out for a Hero is Libby’s colleague Jasper; he’s the 90s grunge rocker to her 80s pop princess and together they make a fab team running Pretty in Pink. He’s such a lovely character and at the times when I wondered if Libby’s friends really did have her best intentions at heart, Jasper was always there for her.

Holding Out For a Hero is a bittersweet retro-flavoured romance with a fantastic feel-good ending. I enjoyed travelling back to the 80s with Libby and I’ll look forward to seeing where Victoria Van Tiem takes us next.

4/5

Holding Out For A Hero 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 Victoria and her writing at:

Twitter: @VVanTiem_author
FB:
www.facebook.com/victoriavantiem.author
Web: 
www.victoriavantiem.com

LET’S HEAR IT FOR THE BOY- a FREE Prequel Short to HOLDING OUT FOR A HERO is available now on Wattpad (it’s FREE!):www.wattpad.com/user/VictoriaVanTiem

HERO (1)