Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Blog Tour: Ideal Love by Alice Burnett



Today I welcome Alice Burnett onto the blog as part of her tour with her new novel, Ideal Love.

I have an extract from the book for you, so read and enjoy! Then buy the book here.


Chapter One
‘Cheek To Cheek’ by Irving Berlin
It was 25 September 1997, I was twenty-six and I had no idea the evening ahead of me would change my life.

‘Gilles – ’ Tim Woodward was whispering at my office door.

‘Ah thank God, let’s go.’

We exchanged nods with my principal and I steered Wood out of the building.

He was slightly less miserable than when I’d first suggested tonight’s party. We had a laugh about a keen fellow trainee on our way to the tube and I got a glimpse of the Wood of old. But whatever else happened that night, one mission had been accomplished – Wood was neither at his desk nor at home listening to Mozart’s Requiem.

He’d been single for a year, I’d only had six days of it, but I was the one who couldn’t sit still.

We went down the escalators and squeezed on to a carriage. He’d gone too far into the darkness.

I hadn’t expected my girlfriend to call it off either, I’d been upset. But the two of us were like travellers who’d teamed up only to realise we’d arrived, nothing was keeping us together. She’d just bothered to understand that and take action. And with enough notice for me to hear about this party, get Tim invited and coax him into showing up.

We stepped out of Covent Garden tube and I told him to prepare himself. It was going to be a beautiful night.

‘So it’s all over with Anna then?’ he asked bleakly.

‘Yup,’ I said, walking on.

‘Sorry to hear that.’

‘No, she did us both a favour.’

‘She seemed genuine to me.’

‘Yeh, she was, the spark just went out.’

Tim sighed. ‘Gilles, I hate to break this to you, but at some point you’ve got to stop thinking with your dick and grow up.’

A group of girls paraded past, like an erotic pat on the back. I could sense them with my eyes closed. 

‘Tim,’ I said as they walked away, ‘twenty quid says I leave with a woman and you don’t.’

Tim raised his eyes and went quiet. I didn’t speak.

‘All right, all right,’ he said as if I hadn’t stopped talking. ‘Done.’

We walked into the club entrance and down the stairs, pulled under by the waves of sound and body heat, until we reached a kind of massive volcanic cave which my friend’s sister’s twenty-first had filled beyond imagining. The DJ was charging it up with seventies funk – there must have been over a hundred women on the dance floor alone – not only that, the men were all at the bar, dutifully perpetuating that great English ritual of refusing to dance with the women. What was this if not the promised land?

It didn’t take long before I was mesmerised. I pointed out the blond woman with the incredible figure to Tim. Tim said she looked aloof, but that on the plus side, this would help her shake off lust-crazed French bastards like me. I brought his attention to a sweet-looking, dark-haired girl I thought he might like, but he wasn’t convinced. I finally got Tim to concede that the blond one was ‘superficially attractive yes, but nice, no’, and went over and bought her a drink.

Her face wasn’t quite so pretty close up, but then again I clearly hadn’t made her day. She wasn’t interested in conversation and when I asked her to dance she looked at me like I’d told her a bad joke.

Did I still smell of rejection? Surely not, it had been nearly a week.

Then I got lucky. She liked lawyers, especially city lawyers. She made a remark about my hair, and I said it was straight before I saw her. She laughed, and looked at me and carried on laughing, beyond the time allotted.

I went from trainee solicitor to cash-laden hotshot in five minutes. She became a stream of gazes, a sweetshop of breasts, waist and thighs, drinking with me, dancing with me, not objecting to the feel of my hands.

At least an hour must have gone by. One of her friends interrupted to complain about a girl they both knew. I went to get drinks and came back into focus.

I couldn’t see Tim anywhere and wondered if he’d left. He didn’t get it. You just had to throw yourself and see where you landed.

But waiting in the crush at the bar, I glanced over at the one I’d been with as she dished it out, her expression as cold and dismissive as when I’d first asked her to dance.

Nice no, I thought.

Back together, we found a quiet spot on the other side of the dance floor, and she was all hospitality, the sweetshop door open, the jars within reach.

We left the club. Cooling off on the pavement, I found myself asking her to dinner the following Thursday. Did people do that? But within a minute, she’d accepted, I’d hailed her a cab, kissed her goodnight and lost myself twenty quid.

I went back in to look for Tim. He couldn’t have needed 

me less. He was deep in conversation with a girl. Not the dark-haired one, another.

A guy I knew from law school blared into my ear like a trumpet. ‘Gilles you old tosser! I knew you’d be here!’

We had a drink and discussed rugby for ten minutes, which was educational but not what I’d come for.

I scanned the dance floor one last time. It had gone down a gear, mainly smooching couples and people too out of it to know what else to do.

I thanked my friend’s sister – I was going to Paris the next day – and went to the cloakroom to get my jacket. It was soundproofed and organised. I put my jacket back on, not half as pleased with myself as when I’d taken it off.

‘Hi Gilles.’ Tim was following me up the stairs, arm in arm with the girl he’d been talking to. She was pretty and sensitive-looking and I could see the pride in his face.

We chatted on the street. Her name was Elaine.

‘He’s a great guy,’ I said to Elaine, ‘I’ve known him for years, you couldn’t meet a nicer person, really fantastic guy – ’

‘Thanks Gilles.’ He was smiling like a light. ‘Elaine and I were actually at university together.’

‘Right,’ I realised I was slightly drunk and neither of them were at all. ‘Well then you already know,’ I smiled back.

Self-consciously, they wished me goodnight.

Wood had turned it around.

Give it a year or two, I thought, and me and the Trumpet would be handing out the orders of service at their wedding.

I started walking towards Soho Square. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I wanted it, whatever it was. Police sirens came and went, beer cans and cocaine packets flowered in the bushes – the place was like a dark mouth, salivating over every human urge. I thought about another me being reincarnated as a prostitute. She’d be good at it. And then I-me could meet this charming woman-me who’d know exactly what I wanted.

It was eleven thirty. The plane left at nine the next morning. Get up when, six?

I had to accept that I hadn’t got into the cab with the blond woman, and that this was for the best given I was going away the next day. I headed to Leicester Square tube.

Women weren’t ice cream, I told myself, they could wait and melt later. Sometimes it was better to get some distance and re-evaluate.

I strolled down the escalator and caught up with a couple standing side by side. They stayed put until the last moment, let themselves be delivered by the bottom stair and walked off giggling.

I followed signs to the Piccadilly Line, passing an angled mirror in a blind corner of the passageway – a relic, surely, from the days when Victorian lawyers roller-skated through the station. God was I slick. Billowing cape for attracting attention, untouched Victorian women gasping, sweating at my exceptional roller-skating skill. Careful, shy eyes. Beating breasts. And though my feet are strangely shod, my mode of expression oddly modern, they can see that I am strong and tall, passionate yet practical, wild yet sensitive –

A train rattled off into the dark.

In its wake I heard someone singing. Someone who knew what they were doing. A woman, mellow-voiced, light.

It went away.

I needed a cab for 6.30. I had to take a second shirt for the evening. Two ties. Business cards. Pick up some cash at the airport.

I heard the voice again. Faint but not weak.

… I could take the red tie. Or no… dark red, less showy.

You didn’t often hear a voice like that on the tube. Or a woman on her own, which took courage. I locked my ears onto it as it faded.

I walked along the passageway, listening out for the voice, wondering if I was getting warmer or colder, until it stopped being a game and listening was all I was doing. Had I heard it? I thought I had, I was almost certain of it – I was taking off, separating from myself, listening with every cell. And although I realised I hadn’t, I felt that time had slowed down, that it was only me listening that made the link from one moment to the next.

Then the voice came in from nowhere and I was set back on the ground, the music so tender with sadness that at first I could hardly bear to listen. I hadn’t known how much I’d needed to hear it. I’d had no idea.

As I stood there, the sense grew in me that I’d been an invalid, on the way out – for months, years – that I’d been given the right medicine in the nick of time, a shot of emotion calibrated precisely for the way I was feeling, combining inside me, making me cry in my head, making the night fall away like nothing.

The song was an aria, I wasn’t sure which, and normally I couldn’t stand opera, but there was nothing operatic in it, her feelings were real. A voice as light as sun on the water, barely caught in the physical, and yet this close, this full of love.

It was ending, but there was another.

I laughed in delight. ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’. Oh perfect choice. I had its pattern in my head, I couldn’t have heard it better.

I felt my ears drink in the sound. How wonderful that I was here, that I hadn’t got into the taxi, for one moment of this – a woman’s voice, simple, smooth, entirely on the note, no tricks, no catches, relaxed, effortless, but with the greatest depth of emotion.

And while I listened, I let something happen to me without me realising it. Something I couldn’t explain and for a long time kept to myself, because this feeling didn’t usually happen to me, I made it happen. The person singing was you, the passion, the honesty in your voice were yours, and I was falling for you, distantly as if I’d separated from myself again, and the me that was there listening was too ecstatic to know it.

‘Heaven,’ you sang, ‘I’m in heaven.’

I rounded the bend and caught sight of you, standing where the passageway met the stairs. The beauty of your face, the ease of your expression, the grace in your bearing – I took it all in, but it made sense and didn’t surprise me. It was dream-like. I could feel and see and hear, but not act. And you were still singing, and I was still listening.

I noticed I wasn’t the only one. Other people, women and men, young and old, they stopped. Like me, they walked on eventually, shy of how they felt. Perhaps like me they listened for a while on the platform. ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ – Piccadilly to Uxbridge. ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ – Heathrow Airport. ‘Sophisticated Lady’ – Rayners Lane. Then, like me, their feet took them on to a train.

Sitting in the carriage, it occurred to me that I could have spoken to you. I could get out at the next stop, go back, find you. Of course, I thought, I must, why not?

But I told myself it would be awkward, an interruption to you, an embarrassment to me. Later that night, alone in my room, having gone over my failure to act as if I could have worn it away, I swore I’d never litter my life with excuses like that again. I’d make up for it.

I’d search everywhere, somehow find you. And once I’d found you, I thought as I lay awake, anything was possible. We’d fall in love. For myself, I knew it. For you, I’d do all I could to convince you.

It wasn’t that I was totally deluded. I knew I wasn’t much. But time seemed suddenly shortened, with an end as well as a beginning, and highs and lows that might never come again. That night in the tube station, I’d been to heaven. I wanted to go back. And if nothing short of insane optimism would get me there, what was the point in being realistic? This was love. And love was all there was, I knew it for sure. And pity the old me – pity anyone who didn’t.



Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Blog Tour: If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton


The Blurb
‘One of the funniest books I've ever read. It made me cry with laughter. I highly, highly recommend it to anyone looking for a complete gigglefest of a read!’ Kirsty Greenwood.
Izzy Harris should have it all – but her boyfriend has been ignoring her for months, she’s been overlooked for a promotion, and the owner of her local coffee shop pervs on her every time she has a craving for a salted caramel muffin.
Then her life is unexpectedly turned upside down.
Izzy dumps her oblivious boyfriend, and leaps on the chance to win a big pitch at work. Needing to work closely with gorgeous colleague Alex is an added perk…
But then her best friend has her heart broken, the pitch is way more complicated than expected, and Alex is keeping secrets. Does Izzy have what it takes to help her friend, save her career and get the guy?
A funny, feel-good read about finding yourself – and love – when you least expect it, for fans of Joanna Bolouri, Cate Woods, and Lindsey Kelk.
My Review

Thank you to Bookouture, Netgalley and the author for the ARC. I'm delighted to be involved in the Blog Tour for this hilarious book.

I can honestly say I started to read this book and put it down once so I could cook and eat dinner, and then one more time when I went upstairs to bed - I finished reading it that same evening. I kept getting funny looks from my family - I actually laughed out loud several times throughout the book.

The story starts off well enough; the lazy-arsed boyfriend; the hot best friend who gets all the guys; Izzy's life is mundane to say the least. I warmed to Izzy right away, her character is instantly relatable. I loved the narrative, which is first person, and very sweary and very funny. 

Then there is this... er.. thing that happens. I'm not going to spoil it, but it is brilliant. There was one point where I found myself think 'But how come...', then it was answered in the next paragraph.

The other characters are brilliant too. I have to admit to falling for Alex, the hot intern; and I think we have all had a friend like Tash, who attracts all the men and who cannot understand how Izzy is not bothered by sex. I found the dialogue was natural, and the swearing didn't bother me - to me, swearing comes naturally so I am quite happy to read it. After all, it has been proven that people who swear are quite intelligent...

Izzy uses her predicament to her advantage and it is lovely to see how it makes her realise how she can turn her life around. Also it makes for some great scenes - imagining the sex scenes, whilst hot, did make me giggle!

If You Could See Me Now is a great, fun read and I look forward to reading more of Keris Stainton's work.

Here's the link to buy it.
About the Author

Keris lives in Lancashire with her husband and two sons. She’s written a bunch of books for young adults and children, and is obsessed with Twitter, tea, and 1D.

Twitter: @Keris



Friday, 28 July 2017

Book Review: The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman



The Blurb
If you could change the past, would you?
****This summer, get ready to believe in Impossible Things with the brand new book from international bestseller, Rowan Coleman. ****
How far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother's life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.
My Review

Thank you to the publisher, Ebury Press, and Netgalley for the ARC. I apologise now for the lateness of this review - I did read the book before it was published on 29th June, but then I got distracted by life. Bad book blogger!

The Summer of Impossible Things is a beautiful story about a strong, determined young woman trying to right the wrongs of the past. Not her past, but that of her mother's.

Luna and her sister have lost their mother to depression. They travel to the place she grew up in Brooklyn, NYC, and Luna discovers a way she can maybe save her. Time travel may be impossible, but the author writes with such sensitivity and depth that suspends all disbelief, and she draws you into Luna's life. From the way Luna's transitions through time are described, to the heat of the summer; the atmosphere and the smell of the old properties; the story is brought to life in the reader's mind. 

The theme of depression is handled well, and it shows how those around the sufferer suffer too. There is also an element of whodunnit, which I got totally wrong (I don't like it when I do get it right as that would mean it is far too obvious!). The story is heart-breaking in parts, but ultimately uplifting. 

You can buy the book here, or from other good bookshops. It's available as an ebook, of course, but the hardback edition is beautiful.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Book Review: Single for the Summer by Mandy Baggot


The Blurb

Tess Parks is on the rise. A high-flying marketer before her thirtieth birthday, she puts work before life, content with flings and dates – and once a relationship survives six weeks, she ends it. Tess has made up her mind: love isn’t for her.
 So when her heartbroken best friend Sonya invites her to Corfu for a girls’ holiday, Tess is happy to throw herself into sampling the local delights – except Sonya makes her promise to stay single for the summer. It starts to look like a really bad decision when she meets sizzling, divorced restauranteur Andras.
To keep his overbearing mother off his back, Tess agrees to pretend to date Andras, but as the two spend time together, Tess begins to realise that this fake relationship is starting to feel like the best one she’s ever had…
Single for the Summer is a feel-good escapist beach read full of family drama, dating disasters, real-life issues and a heart-warming romance, all set against a beautiful Greek island backdrop.

 My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Ebury, for the ARC. This review is my honest opinion and I was not paid for it. No money or baklava exchanged hands.

Mandy has done it again. She's written another sun-soaked Greek tale of mythical proportions which had me howling for my Retsina. The sights, sounds and smells of the Greek Island of Corfu are brought to life in this hilarious tale of one woman and her fear of commitment.

It's normally the guys who are the commitment-phobes in most books; it's refreshing to meet Tess, who loves romance, sex, hot guys... just as long as it doesn't progress into a relationship. Cos Tess doesn't do relationships - she simply can't.

When Andras blurts out to his mother that Tess is his girlfriend, for some mad reason Tess goes along with it. It's just a bit of fun, after all - and Andras is hot! Not that she's looking, of course - she promised Sonya she would stay away from men. She is there for Sonya, after all.

The physical attraction between Tess and Andras is obvious to them, but they know it cannot go any further. To watch - sorry, read - as they do everything they can to avoid falling for each other is hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud in several parts of the book.

The characters of Andras's bossy mother and sister are brilliant; endlessly conniving to pair Andras off with his pretty cousin, and treating Tess, a non-Greek girl, with disdain and distrust. If only they knew... 

Mandy writes with a down-to-earth humour that just makes you feel good reading her books. You'll also want to book a Greek holiday after reading this. 

Single for the Summer is available here for pre-order - it is published on 27th July.

About the Author

Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer represented by The Kate Nash Literary Agency. In 2017 she was signed by Ebury Publishing (Penguin Random House).

The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016.

Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1's Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor.

Mandy is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.

Visit Mandy’s website at http://www.mandybaggot.com/. Follow her on Twitter: @MandyBaggot





Friday, 30 June 2017

Book Review: Trust Me by Angela Clarke


The Blurb

YOU SAW IT HAPPEN. DIDN’T YOU?
What do you do if you witness a crime…but no-one believes you?
When Kate sees a horrific attack streamed live on her laptop, she calls the police in a state of shock. But when they arrive, the video has disappeared – and she can’t prove anything. Desperate to be believed, Kate tries to find out who the girl in the video could be – and who attacked her.
Freddie and Nas are working on a missing persons case, but the trail has gone cold. When Kate contacts them, they are the only ones to listen and they start to wonder – are the two cases connected?
Dark, gripping, and flawlessly paced, Trust Me is the brilliant third novel in the hugely popular social media murderer series.

My Review

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, Avon and author Angela Clarke for the ARC. Trust Me was published on 15th June, so I apologise for only posting my review now. Life gets in the way.

Trust Me is the third novel in Angela's Social Media Murders series, the first two being Follow Me and Watch Me.

Angela is proving to be a great crime writer. This book, along with her others, keeps you guessing all the way through, and it is wonderful to see how her writing has developed along with the recurring characters. She definitely knows how to scare me to death!

Crime-fighting friends Freddie and Nas are back, and still struggling to be accepted by their male colleagues. There's a hint of romance in the story too for both women, adding an extra layer of drama to an already adrenalin-filled read.

This time live-streamed video is used to scare us to death. Those who see it aren't quite sure if it's real, but Kate, a teacher with a sad past, believes she has seen a girl brutally murdered and refuses to be ignored.

We're dragged along at full-speed in another race against time with Freddie and Nas, fraught with peril and danger that had me holding my breath and gripping onto my Kindle for dear life.

Gritty and hard-hitting, sometimes it's a little bit too real for comfort, but then no one expects a crime novel to be warm and fluffy.

I cannot wait for the day I watch this series on TV from behind my cushion!

Be warned, after reading this you might find yourself thinking back wistfully to the days before social media ruled our lives...

Buy Trust Me here!


About the Author

Angela is an author, playwright, columnist and professional speaker. 

Her debut crime thriller Follow Me (Avon, HarperCollins) was named Amazon’s Rising Star Debut of the Month January 2016, long listed for the Crime Writer’s Association Dagger in the Library 2016, and short listed for the Good Reader Page Turner Award 2016. Follow Me has now been optioned by a TV production company. 

The second instalment in the Social Media Murder Series Watch Me (Avon, HarperCollins) was published January 2017. And the third Trust Me (Avon, HarperCollins) is out June 2017. 

Angela’s humorous memoir Confessions of a Fashionista (Ebury, Penguin Random House) is an Amazon Fashion Chart bestseller. 

Her play, The Legacy, enjoyed its first run at The Hope Theatre in June 2015. 

An experienced and entertaining speaker, Angela has given talks, hosted events, and masterclasses for many, including Noirwich Crime Writing Festival, Camp Bestival, Panic! (in partnership with Create, the Barbican, Goldsmiths University and The Guardian), Meet a Mentor (in partnership with the Royal Society of Arts), Northwich Lit Fest, St Albans Lit Fest, BeaconLit, and the London College of Fashion. She also hosted the current affairs radio show Outspoken on Radio Verulam in 2015, and has appeared regularly as a panel guest on BBC 3 Counties, BBC Radio 4, and the BBC World Service, among others.

In 2015 Angela was awarded the Young Stationers' Prize for achievement and promise in writing and publishing. She also works for The Literary Consultancy critiquing manuscripts and mentoring. Angela, a sufferer of the debilitating chronic condition Ehlers Danlos III, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, volunteers with Womentoring, Meet a Mentor and at HM Prisons. She is passionate about bringing marginalised voices into the industry. You can find out more about her at www.AngelaClarke.co.uk.

Twitter: Angela Clarke

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Book Review: Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea by Liz Eeles


The Blurb

When twenty-nine-year-old Annie Trebarwith receives an unexpected letter from a great-aunt she’s never known, she leaves her shoebox-sized flat in London and catches a train to the rugged Cornish coast.
Salt Bay is beautiful and Annie begins to kindle a bond with her great-aunt Alice. Even though there is zero phone signal and the locals – including the gorgeous but brooding Josh Pasco – can be decidedly grumpy at times, Annie starts to feel at home in Salt Bay.
Soon Annie’s love of music leads her to relaunch the Salt Bay Choral Society, and she’s surprised to see how just much the choir means to the community – and she even starts to break through Josh’s surly exterior…
But London is calling Annie back, and she has to make a decision. Give up her old life completely, or leave Salt Bay, her new-found family – and the choir – behind?
Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea is a heart-warming story about family, belonging and the healing power of music, perfect for fans of Jo Thomas, Holly Martin and Carole Matthews.

My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher, Bookouture for the ARC. Apologies to them and the author for being late with my review - unfortunately real life sometimes gets in the way!

Oh what a lovely heartwarming story this is! I really, really enjoyed this book - oh God, here she goes again, loving all the books she's reading - well, I'm sorry, but it's true. It's not my fault I keep picking the most excellent books to review!

I have to confess I wasn't sure this book would be anything special. There are after all, many books set 'by the Sea', and choirs aren't particularly my thing. But I'm so happy I was wrong.

Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea is a wonderful stories of family, secrets and community. Oh, and romance, of course. Not that Annie is looking for it - she's only come to meet Alice, the great aunt she had never met. Alice reminded me so much of my own great aunt Rene; now sadly in a better place. Reading about Alice was like getting a hug from Rene! Instead Annie finds a real sense of belonging, and makes some great friends.

The plot is expertly drawn and there are many elements to Annie's story. The characters are well written and believable, the narrative fresh and humorous and the descriptions of Salt Bay so good I want to go and live there myself. I'd even sign up for the choir!

It's a great summer (or whenever) read and I genuinely enjoyed it immensely. I cannot wait to visit Salt Bay again!

You can buy Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea here.

About the Author

Liz began her writing career as a journalist and press officer before deciding that she’d rather have the freedom of making things up as a novelist. 

Being short-listed in the Corvus ‘Love at First Write’ competition and the Novelicious search for a new women's fiction star gave Liz the push she needed to keep putting pen to paper …. and ‘Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea’ (her first published novel) is the result. 

Liz lives on the South Coast with her family and, when she’s not writing, likes to spend time walking by the sea, and trying to meditate. Her ambition is to be serene one day …. she’s still got a long way to go.

You can contact Liz on Twitter: @lizeelesauthor, Facebook: www.facebook.com/lizeelesauthor or Instagram: lizeelesauthor


Book Review: Me, Myself and Them by Dan Mooney


The Blurb

Struggling to cope with a tragic loss, Denis Murphy has learned to live a bit differently. Both his friends are used to it - the only problem is his monstrous housemates.
When his enigmatic ex-girlfriend comes back into his life, she threatens to shatter the finely crafted world around him.
As Denis begins to re-emerge from his sheltered existence and rediscover the person he used to be, things turn nasty, and he is forced to confront the demons that share not only his house, but also his head.

My Review

Many thanks to the publisher, Legend Press, for the proof copy. This review is my honest opinion.

My God but there are some good books out there this year. So far most of those I have read I have given  a rating of either 4 or 5 out of 5. I keep thinking I'm giving too many 5 stars, but they really are that good. And Me, Myself and Them is no exception.

Actually, it is an exception. It is an exceptional book; dealing with mental health issues that few people like to discuss, even in these enlightened days of 'It's ok not to be ok' and #MentalHealthMatters. Dan Mooney deals with these issues with sensitivity and humour, and understanding. Yes, it can be an uncomfortable read at times, but it is utterly compelling.

It becomes obvious as the book goes on that a past tragedy has left the 'old' Denis behind, and this new, shy, obsessive Denis in his place. This Denis has developed his own coping strategies - or are they avoidance techniques. Most people think he's weird and avoid him, but Denis has some very good friends who stand by him. Unfortunately there are also some not quite as benevolent who are determined not to let him go.

It is an outstanding, heartbreaking story which resonated in my very core. I found him to be a desperately sad character, with his OCD ways and habits, but immensely likeable. He is still able to show his sense of humour, even taking the mickey out of himself and his 'ways' at times.

This book shows how events in our lives can shake us to the core, and the huge impact they can have on our lives. Some lucky people go through life without experiencing anything truly awful, and I think these people would have trouble understanding how someone so 'normal' before could be so broken. What we need when we are in trouble is people around us who care, even if they find it hard to know how to help; just being there helps, as Denis finds with his two closest friends. 

When Rebecca, Denis's ex turns up, Denis is torn. She wants the old Denis back, but he thinks he is gone forever. Rebecca is a lovely character, treading very carefully in how far she can push him. She shows a rare patience with him, and tries to help him.

The ending of the book is so very good. I was in tears and it has me thinking about it for a long while afterwards. Me, Myself and Them is truly unforgettable and Dan Mooney is a more than worthy winner of the Luke Bitmead Bursary.

You can buy the book here or from other retailers.









Thursday, 22 June 2017

Blog Tour: Skin Deep by Laura Wilkinson


The Blurb
It’s what’s inside that counts…
Art student and former model Diana has always been admired for her beauty but what use are good looks when you want to shine for your talent? Insecure and desperate for inspiration, Diana needs a muse.
Facially disfigured four-year-old Cal lives a life largely hidden from the world. But he was born to be looked at and he needs love too. A chance encounter changes everything; Cal becomes Diana’s muse. But as Diana’s reputation develops and Cal grows up, their relationship implodes.
Both struggle to be accepted for what lies within. 
Is it possible to find acceptance in a society where what's on the outside counts for so much?
My Review

Appearance and acceptance are themes within this book, when we delve into the psyche of Diana. Classically beautiful, she hates that her looks earned her - or rather, her mother - money when she was entered into beauty pageants. She hated the feeling of being used.

Heartbreaking circumstances lead to Diana adopting four year old Cal, whose face initially terrifies her, rescuing him from a lifetime of being hidden away. She puts him on a pedestal, both literally and metaphorically, when Cal inspires her to produce provocative pieces of art, making her name.

There is no doubting Diana's love for Cal and she truly believes she is helping him, but there's a fine line, and Diana is danger of crossing it. Is she so different from her mother?

The writing is exceptional - the descriptions of student life in a seedy part of Manchester bring the setting alive. It's emotional without being over-dramatic, and is a gripping read. Seeing how the two main characters develop, along with their relationships both with each other and others around them is intriguing. It certainly reminds you that appearances can be deceptive, and how even though we know beauty is only skin deep, we still judge by appearance.

You can buy Skin Deep from Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith and other retailers now.

About the Author

Liverpool born, Laura is a taff at heart. She has published six novels for adults (two under a pseudonym) and numerous short stories, some of which have made the short lists of international competitions. Public Battles, Private Wars, was a Welsh Books Council Book of the month; Redemption Song was a Kindle top twenty. The Family Line is a family drama set in the near future, looking at identity and parenting. Her latest is Skin Deep. Alongside writing, Laura works as an editor & mentor for literary consultancies and runs workshops on aspects of craft. She’s spoken at festivals and events nationwide, including the Frome Festival, Gladfest, University of Kingston, The Women’s Library and Museum in Docklands. She lives in Brighton with her husband and sons.

Contact Laura: www.laura-wilkinson.co.uk Twitter @ScorpioScribble Facebook: Laura Wilkinson Author Instagram: laura_wilkinsonwriter Pinterest: laura1765 Goodreads: Laura_ Wilkinson



Sunday, 18 June 2017

Blog Tour: The Accidental Honeymoon by Portia MacIntosh


Woohoo! I'm on the blog tour for Portia MacIntosh's new book, The Accident Honeymoon! Having loved Portia's previous books, including Truth or Date (see my review here), I just know I'm going to be snorting inelegantly with laughter again.

The Blurb:

What happens in Vegas…When Georgie discovers that her fiancé has been cheating on her, only a few days before her cousin’s wedding, her whole world explodes. Facing a romantic trip to Vegas alone, she decides to go out and have some fun…
…but Georgie never expected to wake up wed! And even worse, she can’t remember who to. So when gorgeous Jack reveals himself as her husband, she can’t believe her luck – he’ll act as the perfect wedding date!
Even if it is their very accidental honeymoon, surely the newlyweds can keep their emotions in check for just a few days more?
Don’t miss the laugh-out-loud romantic comedy from Portia MacIntosh, author of It’s Not You, It’s Them. Perfect for fans of Rosie Blake, Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk.

Excerpt

‘What have you got in here, a body?’ the hotel porter asks as he places my suitcase on the floor. 

‘Ha, ha, ha,’ I laugh politely, but the worried look on his face suggests he would actually like an explanation. 

‘I did a bit of last-minute holiday shopping on my way here,’ I tell him. Well, what I actually did was buy myself the best part of a whole new wardrobe. In an inexplicable moment of madness I bought everything I could get my hands on that was distinctly ‘not me’. I left home for my trip without the suitcase I’d already packed with my usual, demure, conservative clothing. Instead, I bought a new one and overstuffed it with short, low, brightly coloured, cheaply made alternatives. 

‘Good for you,’ he replies. ‘I thought maybe your fiancé was in there.’ 

‘Ha, ha, ha,’ I laugh again, this time a little more genuinely as I fantasise about John being stuffed in a suitcase. 

‘So, let me show you around the room.’ 

I glance around my corner suite at the Black Diamond Hotel. It’s still daylight, but even so, the view is amazing. The first thing I do is head towards the window to take it all in. 

‘First time in Vegas?’ the porter asks. 

I nod my head. 

‘I figured so when I heard your accent. Well, you’re in for a treat when it gets dark. This is one of our best rooms for admiring the view. This over here is your bathroom.’ 

The porter gestures towards a door. I pop my head inside. Both the floor and wall tiles are black, flecked with colourful sparkles that twinkle the second he flicks the light on. There’s a huge rainfall shower and an even bigger bath. Even the toilet is fancy with its silver mosaic finish, resembling a disco ball. 

‘It’s very nice,’ I tell him. 

‘And back in the bedroom, the mini bar and safe are down here.’ He gestures to a cupboard. ‘And the TV is inside this cabinet.’ 

‘Awesome,’ I reply, struggling to hide my indifference. 

‘And here is your bed, obviously. It’s a super king, with Egyptian cotton sheets. The rose petals were a request by your fiancé – you’re a very lucky lady.’ 

I smile as I reach for my purse to tip the porter. 

‘Thank you for all your help,’ I tell him, handing him some money. 

The porter takes it and thanks me, but he doesn’t leave the room. Instead, he hovers in the doorway. 

‘Is everything OK with your room, Miss… er…?’ he asks. 

‘Georgie,’ I reply. ‘And it’s great. Thank you.’ 

Still, the porter lingers. 

‘It’s just… you don’t seem very happy with it,’ he persists. 

‘Honestly, the room is perfect.’ 

He furrows his brow, unconvinced. 

‘Well, OK then.’ 

‘OK then,’ I echo. 

I force a smile, holding it only as long as it takes the porter to close the door behind him. Finally alone, I crouch down on the floor next to the inviting-looking bed and start picking up the pink and red rose petals that have been scattered around the room. I place the ones from the floor on top of the bed before scooping them all up together. I glance around for a wastepaper bin, but it turns out that’s the only thing this room doesn’t seem to have. There isn’t a bin in the fancy bathroom either. I just need these rose petals out of here. The sparkly toilet literally catches my eye, so I dump the petals inside and flush. I’m walking out of the bathroom when the sound of the toilet spluttering catches my ear. I glance back at it and realise I’ve blocked it, the water having risen all the way to the top. Brilliant, wonderful, marvellous. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse. 

I massage my temples for a moment, wracking my brains for a solution. I am a strong, independent woman who doesn’t need a man. Glancing into the toilet, full to the seat with water, completely out of my depth, I realise I might not need a man, but I definitely need a plumber, and it could well be a bloke. First, though, I need a drink. 

Seeing as I’ll be spending the entire evening in here alone, I may as well pillage the mini bar. I grab all of the tiny bottles of booze and line them up on the desk in front of me. 

I tap a finger on the bottles one at a time, trying to figure out which one to have first. I land on a miniature bottle of gin, remove the lid and toss the contents down the hatch. ‘Argh!’ I say out loud. I’m not usually one for drinking spirits neat. 

I cast an eye over the snacks in the mini bar, umming and aahing over whether to eat the honey-roasted nuts, the vegetables chips or one of the many bars of chocolate. I shrug my shoulders, grab them all and dump them down on the bed, but as I go back for the tiny bottles of booze, I notice something else in the mini bar. I take the can from the inside door and examine it. It’s some energy drink-looking thing called Ecstasy. I hate energy drinks, so I quickly return it, except, as I place it back down, I hear the contents rattle. What could it be? Not drugs, surely. This is a beautiful hotel, and they couldn’t guarantee their guests would keep quiet about such a thing. I cock my head with curiosity, taking the can back out. It’s black, with fancy red writing on it, and not a whole lot of other information. Curiouser and curiouser, I pop the top off and peep into the rabbit hole. Unable to make anything out, I pour the contents into my hand, only to cause them to spill out all over the desk. It all happens so quickly, but as the silver bullet inside bounces on the desk a couple of times, it activates the power and causes it to vibrate. The bullet pauses on the edge of the desk, but only for a second before the powerful vibrations send it flying off behind the furniture. As I take stock of the other items – a condom, a small tube of lubricant and a blindfold – I realise this is some sort of sex kit, and that the vibrator that came with it (no pun intended) is currently lodged behind this big, heavy desk, vibrating loudly against the wood. 

I move quickly, but it’s no use. I can’t reach it. Damn this stupid bodycon dress I bought today, that I can’t bloody move in. Thinking fast, I slip the dress off, allowing me my usual full range of body movements, and lean over the desk, reaching behind it to try and grab the offending vibrator. 

There’s a knock on the door. 

‘Just a sec,’ I call back. I can feel the vibrator with the tips of my fingers, but I just can’t get a hold of it. Just one big stretch and… oh God, my hand is stuck. My bangle is caught on the back of the desk. When I took off my clothes to try and reach, I never even thought about my tacky new accessories. 

Whoever is at my door knocks again. 

‘Coming,’ I snap loudly, in case they didn’t hear me the first time. 

If I can just wiggle my hand free and turn this thing off… 

‘Hello? Miss… Georgie?’ I hear the porter call as he opens the room door. 

‘Oh my God, what are you doing in here?’ I call back. 

‘You said “come in”,’ he replies. ‘I…’ 

He falls silent the second he lays eyes on me. 

‘I said “coming”,’ I say softly, attempting to bury my probably very red face in the desk. 

‘What’s… er…’ 

The porter is clearly lost for words. 

‘I’m stuck,’ I tell him simply. 

He rushes over and pulls the desk out from in front of the wall. I free my hand before snatching the vibrator, turning it off and quickly grabbing the bed sheets to save me any further embarrassment – as though that might be possible. 

‘“Come in”, “coming” – I guess it’s the accent,’ he says awkwardly. He glances around the room, taking stock of all the alcohol, junk food and sex aids scattered around. Having just seen me bent over the desk in my underwear, trying to retrieve a loudly buzzing vibrator, I can only imagine what he’s thinking. ‘Erm, anyway, I have some good news. I know you said everything with the room was fine. Anyway, I don’t know if that’s good old English manners or what, but I told the manager something wasn’t right and he asked me to give you this voucher for a fully comped three-course meal in our restaurant tonight, for you and your fiancé – and a bottle of champagne for now.’ 

He smiles widely and theatrically. 

‘Thank you so much,’ I reply, touched by his gesture. I tighten the bed sheets around my body – lest he see me in my underwear again – before taking the vouchers in one hand and the champagne in the other. I place them down on the desk before wrapping my arms around my body self-consciously. 

‘And here are some chips – on the house. We wish you and your fiancé the best of luck in our casino.’ 

I take the chips from him. As I glance down at the numbers, I realise I’m holding $1,000 worth of chips. 

‘Thank you.’ 

‘Are you having your champagne now, or are you waiting until your fiancé gets here?’ he asks. 

‘Oh, now,’ I reply, a little quicker and more keenly than I probably should have. 

‘Would you like me to pour it for you?’ he asks, although I can tell he wants to get out of this room just as much as I want him to. 

‘It’s fine, thank you. I can handle things from here,’ I reply. 

‘I’m sure you can,’ he replies – probably sarcastically. ‘Well, I promise not to bother you again in another ten minutes.’ Bloody hell, is that all it was?! ‘Is there anything else I can help you with?’ 

‘No, thank you,’ I reply. ‘Actually, yes, wait…’ I call after him. ‘I blocked my toilet.’ 


So there you go, readers! Go buy the book to read the rest of it - you know you want to!

Book Links: Amazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Google Play | Goodreads

About the Author:

Portia MacIntosh has been 'making stuff up' for as long as she can remember - or so she says. Whether it was blaming her siblings for that broken vase when she was growing up, blagging her way backstage during her rock chick phase or, most recently, whatever justification she can fabricate to explain away those lunchtime cocktails, Portia just loves telling tales. After years working as a music journalist, Portia decided it was time to use her powers for good and started writing novels. Taking inspiration from her experiences on tour with bands, the real struggle of dating in your twenties and just trying to survive as an adult human female generally, Portia writes about what it's really like for women who don't find this life stuff as easy as it seems.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads




Monday, 12 June 2017

Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The Blurb
Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?
 My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC of this utterly fabulous book. This is my honest review and I confirm I do not get paid for reviewing this or any other book.

Eleanor Oliphant is an extraordinary character. I absolutely loved her. I felt an immediate affinity as she prepares herself to meet a sexy rock star. There is no question that once he meets her, they will be together as a couple.

Of course to her, it is everyone else who is odd. Their reactions to her are as joyful to read as Eleanor's reactions to situations mundane to others. Her experience in the beauty salon had me in stitches. I love the way Eleanor makes us see how strange 'normal' people can behave. 

At first I presumed Eleanor had always been this quirky, but heartbreakingly it becomes evident that something happened in her childhood. But her blossoming friendship with Raymond has her emerging like a butterfly, even if she is reluctant to leave the safety of her cocoon. 

Raymond is a wonderful character, showing endless patience towards the woman everyone else just dismisses as weird. Slowly he shows Eleanor that not everything is black and white and that the world is a beautiful colourful place. It touched my heart in many ways.

I do love this book so much. It is such a warm, refreshing read - perfectly constructed. I highly recommend it!

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is published by HarperCollins and can be bought here.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Blog Tour: The Gin Shack on the Beach by Catherine Miller


Being a fan of Catherine Miller's previous books, Waiting for You and All That is Left of Me, I was thrilled to be invited by Catherine herself to take part in the Blog Tour for her newest novel, The Gin Shack on the Beach. Her third novel was published by HQ Digital on 5th June 2017.

The Blurb
When octogenarian Olive Turner is persuaded by her son to move into a retirement home, she congratulates herself on finding the secret to an easy life: no washing up, cooking or cleaning. But Olive isn’t one for mindless bingo with her fellow residents, and before the first day is over she's already hatching a plan to escape back to her beloved beach hut and indulge in her secret passion for a very good gin & tonic.
Before long Olive’s secret is out and turning into something wonderful and new. Only a select few are invited, but word spreads quickly about the weekly meetings of The Gin Shack Club. Soon everybody on the beach wants to become a gin connoisseur and join Olive on her journey to never being forced to grow older than you feel.
A journey of friendship, defiance and a quest for the perfect G&T.
My Review

Ah, Gin & Tonic. That most refreshing of alcoholic drinks, with hidden depths and mysterious ingredients, each different make of gin having its own character. Just like this book!

I want to be like Olive when I grow up (if that ever happens!). This feisty eighty year old lets no one boss her around. She is fiercely independent, and likes her own space. After a fall, she agrees to go into a retirement home - not a care home - but is devastated when her son says he is selling her beloved beach hut. 

She soon finds new allies in her quest for the perfect gin in fellow residents Veronica and Randy, and the Three Amigos get up to some hilarious antics quite unexpected for people of a certain age. They certainly bemuse the local police. The theme of friendship and community is strong in the book, with Olive's beach hut neighbours rallying around her. 

There's mystery involving the despicable Matron, a woman full of her own self-importance. Can the Three Amigos bring an end to her regime?

There are poignant moments, such as between Olive and her son Richard, who appears not to care what his mother actually wants. The relationship is obviously strained, the reasons for which become evident later on.

It's a wonderful, heart-warming story showing that age should have no boundaries. 

I hope Catherine had as much fun researching her novel as I did reading it - I know I would have!

Cheers!

You can buy The Gin Shack on the Beach here. Alcoholic beverage optional.

About the Author

When Catherine Miller became a mum to twins, she decided her hands weren't full enough so wrote a novel with every spare moment she managed to find. By the time the twins were two, Catherine had a two-book deal with Carina UK. There is a possibility she has aged remarkably in that time. Her debut novel, Waiting For You, came out in March 2016, and her latest, All That is Left of Us, is out now.

Catherine was a NHS physiotherapist, but for health reasons (Uveitis and Sarcoidosis) she retired early from this career. As she loved her physiotherapy job, she decided if she couldn't do that she would pursue her writing dream. It took a few years and a couple of babies, but in 2015 she won the Katie Fforde bursary, was a finalist in the London Book Fair Write Stuff Competition and highly commended in Woman magazine's writing competition. Soon afterwards she signed with Carina. Soon after that, she collapsed in a heap and was eventually revived by chocolate.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Book Review: Obsession by Amanda Robson


One evening, a wife asks her husband a question: who else would you go for, if you could?
It is a simple question – a little game – that will destroy her life.
Carly and Rob are a perfect couple. They share happy lives with their children and their close friends Craig and Jenny. They’re lucky. But beneath the surface, no relationship is simple: can another woman’s husband and another man’s wife ever just be good friends?
Little by little, Carly’s question sends her life spiralling out of control, as she begins to doubt everything she thought was true. Who can she trust? The man she has promised to stick by forever, or the best friend she has known for years? And is Carly being entirely honest with either of them?
Obsession is a dark, twisting thriller about how quickly our lives can fall apart when we act on our desires.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Avon, for the ARC.

I read a lot of books - too many perhaps, when I should be writing my own. I've been lucky this year so far; most have been great, the occasional one was not, and then last night, one absolutely blew my socks off.

Obsession is compelling, horrifying, disturbing, gripping...

The story is told in turns by each of the four main characters, husband and wife Rob and Carly, and the other couple Jenni and Craig. Each of them is narrating the tale to one of the others, and it is thoroughly enthralling. 

I don't want to give any more of the plot away; because I think each reader should be as shocked as I was. Never before have I been so betrayed by characters in a book. They play with my emotions - at first I detested the seemingly brash, selfish Carly, but later found myself wavering between sympathy and revulsion, an unsettling mixture felt for each of the characters as they seek to disarm and deceive us. I simply did not know who to trust.

The story gets bigger and more terrifying, the characters becoming more and more awful and their actions even worse. Honestly, this book wrong-footed me so many times, I had to read it in almost one sitting (I had to stop at 2am then carried on again at 8am!).

I've heard it said that for a book to be successful, you have to fall in love with at least one of the characters. Well, Obsession smashes the mould.

Obsession is published on Kindle on 4th May and in paperback on 1st June by Avon and you can pre-order either from Amazon or other retailers.