Thursday, 12 October 2017

Blog Tour: Christmas at the Gin Shack by Catherine Miller



Today I am delighted to be on tour with Catherine Miller with her new novel Christmas at the Gin Shack. This follows on from The Gin Shack on the Beach, published in June this year.

The Blurb
Welcome in the festive season with love, laughter and the perfect G&T in Christmas at the Gin Shack – the most uplifting holiday read of 2017!

Gingle bells, gingle bells, gingle all the way…

Olive Turner might have lived through eighty-four Christmases, but she’ll never get bored of her favourite time of year. And this one’s set to be extra-special. It’s the Gin Shack’s first Christmas – and there’s a gin-themed weekend and a cocktail competition on the cards!

But, beneath the dazzle of fairy lights and the delicious scent of mince-pies, Olive smells a rat. From trespassers in her beloved beach hut to a very unfunny joke played on her friends, it seems that someone is missing a dose of good cheer.

Olive knows she’s getting on a bit – but is she really imagining that someone in the little seaside town is out to steal Christmas? More importantly, can she create the perfect gin cocktail before Christmas Eve – in time to save the day?

Where to buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo

My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ Digital for the chance to review the book, and to Rachel's Random Resources for signing me up to the tour.

Oh Olive, Olive, Olive. Please don't ever get old. I love the way you laugh in the face of adversity - and mobility scooters!

Yes, our intrepid octogenarian is back with a vengeance - and more fabulous gin recipes! This time she's getting ready for Christmas at the Gin Shack, including gin-themed weekends and a gin competition. But again there are obstacles; from the phantom bottom craft-itist (yes, you read that right), adversaries old and new, and old age itself.

It's heartwarming to see how the community of Westbrook Bay rallies around when there are problems. Also it is great to see how some characters from the first book have grown, proving that sometimes leopards can change their spots... or can they?

There are some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments, and Olive's unexpectedly colourful language makes me chuckle, but there are also some more serious moments, too. And nothing is more serious than gin! 

This works well as a standalone novel if you haven't read the first one, but why wouldn't you want to read it? It's shaping up to be a great series, and I sincerely hope we haven't seen the last of Olive.


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 HQDigital UK. There is a possibility she has aged remarkably in that time. Her debut novel, Waiting For You, came out in March 2016. She is now the author of four books and hopes there will be many more now her twins have started school. Either that, or she’ll conduct more gin research on Olive’s behalf. 


Social Media Links – 






Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig


The Blurb

'I am old. That is the first thing to tell you. The thing you are least likely to believe. If you saw me you would probably think I was about forty, but you would be very wrong.'

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. From Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, from New York to the South Seas, Tom has seen a lot, and now craves an ordinary life.

Always changing his identity to stay alive, Tom has the perfect cover - working as a history teacher at a London comprehensive. Here he can teach the kids about wars and witch hunts as if he'd never witnessed them first-hand. He can try to tame the past that is fast catching up with him. The only thing Tom must not do is fall in love.

How to Stop Time is a wild and bittersweet story about losing and finding yourself, about the certainty of change and about the lifetimes it can take to really learn how to live.

My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Canongate Books for the ARC. How to Stop Time was published in July 2017, and I apologise for being so late with my review.

I have heard this book is being made into a film, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role. He's going to be brilliant as Tom Hazard.

When I read this, I saw David Tennant as Tom - well, to be more accurate, Tennant's Doctor Who. Without the timelordy stuff, like travelling backwards and forwards. Poor Tom can only go forwards, in real time, which must make his life a real drag over the past nine and a half centuries, and at the heart of it, is him never getting over the loss of his love.

The narrative is interspersed with the here and now, and flashes back to earlier times. This could make the story slow down, but it doesn't - the pace is timely and constant.

I love the time Tom spends as a teacher, telling the kids stories  - not from history books but from his own perspective. How amazing would it be to hear of Shakespeare first hand? The depth of writing, the life Haig brings to the pages immersed me into Tom's world. 
  
This is a beautiful story.

About the Author

Matt Haig is a British author for children and adults. His memoir Reasons to Stay Alive was a number one bestseller, staying in the British top ten for 46 weeks. His children's book A Boy Called Christmas was a runaway hit and is translated in over 25 languages. It is being made into a film by Studio Canal and The Guardian called it an 'instant classic'. His novels for adults include the award-winning The Radleys and The Humans.

He won the TV Book Club 'book of the series', and has been shortlisted for a Specsavers National Book Award. The Humans was chosen as a World Book Night title. His children's novels have won the Smarties Gold Medal, the Blue Peter Book of the Year, been shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize and nominated for the Carnegie Medal three times. 

His books have received praise from Neil Gaiman, Stephen Fry, Jeanette Winterson, Joanne Harris, Patrick Ness, Ian Rankin and SJ Watson, among others. The Guardian summed up his writing as 'funny, clever and quite, quite lovely' by The Times and the New York Times called him 'a writer of great talent'.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Extract: My Girlfriend's Perfect Ex-Boyfriend by Peter Jones

Genre: Romantic Comedy 
Publication Date: 10th October 2017 

Adrian Turner, Mountaineer, Secret Agent, Fireman… Ade would dearly like to be any of these things, though he’d trade them all to win the heart of feisty Public Relations Executive, Paige. 

Instead, he’s a disillusioned school teacher, on suspension, after an unfortunate incident with a heavy piece of computer equipment. And somebody’s foot. And Paige? Despite being his girlfriend for the past eighteen months, she still seems to have one foot out of the door and hasn’t quite committed to leaving a toothbrush in the bathroom. 

​Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s working with her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian. A man who in almost every way imaginable is better, taller, wealthier, hairier, and infinitely more successful than Ade. 
​ 
Is Paige still in love with Sebastian? Why then did she suggest they get away for a few days? Some place romantic… 

But when Adrian finds himself in Slovenia - with Sebastian in the room down the hall - he realises there’s serious possibility that he’s in danger of losing his job, his mind, and the woman he loves… 

From best-selling author Peter Jones comes this hilarious romp about love, and the things people do to keep it from getting away. 

Purchase from Amazon UK. Here's a little extract to whet your appetite!

In this scene, Adrian Turner (burnt out, disillusioned computer science teacher… and our hero) has unintentionally found himself on a one-night stand…
I’d never had a one night stand before. Every woman I’d ever slept with – both of them – was in the confines of a ‘relationship’; by which I mean I met someone, asked them on a date, then we’d go on another date, and another, and eventually – when we’d reached a point where we (and everyone around us) could safely assume that we were ‘seeing each other’ – one of us would ask the other if they’d like to ‘stay the night’. After that the relationship would feel cemented somehow, more permanent, and sex would occur once a week, usually with such regularity that it pretty much took care of itself. In fact, eventually it would start to feel as if we didn’t even need to be there. Which probably explains why, in both relationships, I barely noticed when it eventually stopped happening.
I’ve often wondered whether that’s why those relationships fizzled out? Whether sex is a kind of ‘cement’ that glues people together, and without it we all just drift apart. Which is an elegant sounding theory but one that, on this particular night, was steadfastly refusing to apply to my current situation; I didn’t feel particularly ‘cemented’ to the woman I’d just had sex with, and I certainly didn’t feel like we were in any kind of relationship. In fact, if anything – standing there in the sparse ensuite bathroom of whoever’s bedsit apartment this was – I was pretty sure that usual ‘one-night-stand etiquette’ meant that I was supposed to be putting my clothes back on, thanking the lady in question for an entertaining evening, and then walking out of her life. But I didn’t want to.
I really, really didn’t want to.
“So, is this your apartment?” I said, stepping back into the bedroom and glancing at the small bedsit apartment in its semi-darkness. Aside from the kitchenette area it looked more like a hotel room, complete with off-the-shelf generic paintings and robust conservatively patterned furniture.
Paige was sat on the bed, still naked, her legs pulled up to her chest, one arm wrapped around them, the other resting on her knees as she chewed on a nail, and stared into the gloom. Her mobile phone on the sheets next to her chirped briefly, and for a moment it joined the moonlight coming in through the vertical blinds, and the light from the bathroom, as the only illumination in the room.
“What?” said Paige coming out of her trance. “No! Give me some credit. It’s the company’s flat. I have a key.”
“Right,” I said.
“You didn’t think to ask me that when we came in here?” she asked.
“Er, we were kind of busy. Doing other things?” I said. And then she smiled. She actually smiled. Not the crooked smile, but a warm, playful, sexy, knowing smile. And suddenly I was acutely aware that I was just stood there, naked – and oh how I wished I’d done something more with my monthly gym membership than carry a card in my wallet!
I switched off the bathroom light, perched on the edge of the bed, and as Paige went back to staring at nothing, I slowly reached across and lightly brushed her naked hip with my fingers.
“What are you doing!?” she barked, flinching and slapping my hand away in the same movement. “Don’t tickle me!”
“So… have you.. got.. a boyfriend?” I asked. Idly. Casually. Hoping – more than anything I’d ever hoped for in my life – that the answer wasn’t ‘yes’.
“Not any more,” she said eventually. “We broke up.”
“Oh,” I said. “Recently?”
Paige let out a single, humourless laugh.
“Yeah,” she said. “You could say that.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said,
“Don’t be. He was a jack-ass,” said Paige.
“Oh. Right.”
“Which I could kinda put up with whilst I thought it was all just temporary. You know what I mean?” she said, turning to face me.
“Er, well, not really,” I said.
“Sure you do,” said Paige, resuming her nail chewing. “Guy like that is always on the look out for something better. And it’s just a matter of time before he finds it. Or her. So you tell yourself, ‘this is just for today, because he might not be here tomorrow’. And you say the same thing the following day, and the day after that, and before you know it three years have flown by. And still, that’s just fine, because – you know – it’s temporary. It’s not like you were planning on spending the rest of your life with this jerk. Even if he is quite the cook. And has a nice house in the country.
“Then all of a sudden he mentions kids. And ‘wouldn’t it be great if the two of you started a family’, and you realise – it isn’t temporary! Least not for him.”
“Right,” I said. “That must have been… awkward?”
“Ha! You bet!”
“So what did… you… say?”
Paige shrugged. “I told him straight; I can’t have kids. Not without some sort of divine intervention. I might have child bearing hips but that’s all God gave me in the way of baby-making equipment. Things went kinda sour after that.” I opened my mouth to speak, then closed it again when I realised I didn’t have a clue what to say. Paige turned to face me again. “You know it’s at times like these that I really wish I smoked,” she said. “You smoke?”
I shook my head. “Sorry,” I said. Paige jumped off the bed, walked around it and into the bathroom, only to return a moment later with her handbag.
“Here,” she said, taking a small Tupperware container out of her bag and snapping off the lid, “have one of these.” I peered into the container at the deformed, cake-like things inside.
“What are they?” I asked taking one.
“Fritters,” said Paige.
“Banana fritters?” I asked, popping it whole into my mouth.
“God no! Can’t stand bananas! Disgusting, horrible things. These are corn fritters,” said Paige, sitting herself back on the bed. “I made them last night.”
“They’re really good,” I said.
“I know,” said Paige, taking a more ladylike bite out of one. “I like you, Adrian,” she said after a moment.
“Oh well – thanks,” I said, through a mouthful of food. “I like you too.”
“D’you wanna – you know – see me again?”
I swallowed.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes. Very much.”
And with that the one-night-stand wasn’t a one-night-stand. Sex had, once again, cemented me to another person. And I was in a relationship.
Or so it seemed. 

About the Author

Peter Jones started professional life as a particularly rubbish graphic designer, followed by a stint as a mediocre petrol pump attendant. After that he got embroiled in the murky world of credit card banking. Fun times. 

Nowadays, Peter spends his days writing, or talking about writing. He’s written three novels; a Rom-Com (Romantic Comedy), A Crim-Com (Crime Comedy), and a Rom-Com-Ding-Dong (a sort-of Romantic-ish Comedy, with attitude). He’s currently working on his fourth novel, which - if it’s a musical - he’ll no doubt describe as a Rom-Com-Sing-Song. (Spoiler: It isn’t). 

He is also the author of three and a half popular self-help books on the subjects of happiness, staying slim and dating. If you’re overweight, lonely, or unhappy – he’s your guy. 

Peter doesn’t own a large departmental store and probably isn’t the same guy you’ve seen on the TV show Dragons’ Den.

Follow Peter Jones 

Monday, 18 September 2017

Book Review: Dating an Alien Pop Star by Kendra L Saunders



The Blurb

To blend in among humans and win their favor, a couple of new-in-town extraterrestrials disguise themselves as English pop stars — and kidnap geeky Daisy to help them pull it off.

Twenty-nine-year-old Daisy Kirkwood has only just escaped her small-town life and run away to New York City, the land of last-minute secret gigs at famous musical venues, when she's kidnapped by aliens. Unfortunately, no one ever writes about how to handle alien abduction in those fancy NYC guidebooks.

Griffin and Dev are supermassively sexy aliens from a politically and environmentally troubled planet who arrive on Earth with very little knowledge about human ways other than what they learned from a wayward E! News signal. Their mission is to pretend to be the most influential people on the planet—English pop stars, of course!—and gain the help of a powerful secret society. Upon arriving, they abduct Daisy Kirkwood, a nerdy young woman who loves music but could seriously use a bit of help in the love-life department. Though Griffin and Daisy initially squabble, neither can deny the intergalactic sparks whenever they're too close to each other. Together, they must face murderous aliens, cultural misunderstandings, bad backup musicians, and the dark side of fame and the media, all set against a tight deadline… 

Part High Fidelity, part Bridget Jones' Diary, part Doctor Who, Dating an Alien Pop Star is a sexy romantic comedy.

My Review

If you want some light relief in the form of a funny, insane story involving sexy rock stars, then this is the book for you!

I do like a rock star, it has to be said, so when I found out who and what inspired the author to write this novel, I just had to read it.

I'm glad to say I wasn't disappointed. The two aliens who abduct the very human Daisy are utterly adorable. The very talented and Griffin is infuriatingly irresistible, as is fellow visitor, devoted Devon, who is lumbered with the responsibility of looking out for his wayward friend. 

The minor characters are not particularly fleshed out, but there is so much going on that it doesn't matter. The pace is fast and as crazy as Griffin's questionable dress sense, but it's anchored by the believable Daisy. She is the voice of reason, the antidote to the madness around her. Whisked away on a roller coaster ride of adventure, she manages to hold onto her sanity, even when she realises she is falling for this weird little alien prince. I loved her. And I loved Griffin. And Devon! 

It's a great observation on our celebrity-obsessed society.

Okay, so it's unlikely to win the Booker prize or thrill the literary luvvies, but I really enjoyed reading this book! It's a thoroughly entertaining read and I'll be reading the sequel, Engaged to an Alien Pop Star, very soon.

You can buy Dating an Alien Pop Star here, and follow the author @Kendrybird on Twitter. She's lovely.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Blog Tour: Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech


I'm delighted to be on the blog tour for Maria in the Moon, by Louise Beech, author of The Mountain in My Shoe. This new novel will be published by Orenda on September 30th, and you can buy it here

Thank you to the author and publisher for the advanced reading copy. This review is my unbiased opinion.

The Blurb

'Long ago my beloved Nanny Eve chose my name. Then one day she stopped calling me it. I try now to remember why, but I just can't.' 

Thirty-one-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can't remember everything. She can't remember her ninth year. She can't remember when her insomnia started. And she can't remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria. With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges ... and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide... 

My Review

I didn't find Catherine an easy character to like at first. She's abrasive, prickly and doesn't make friends easily. As a reader, I felt I, like character in the book, as if I was being held at arm's length. But as I got to know Catherine, the more I began to understand her.

She has an uneasy relationship with her family; her mother and father are both dead and she is left with a step-mother who, Catherine believes, only puts up with her out of a sense of duty to Catherine's late father. Mother's partner, Graham, is lovely, though his daughter is not quite as friendly. The one constant ally in her life is aunt 'Hairy' Mary.

Catherine's house is still being repaired after flood damage and she splits her time between working in a care home and volunteering. She starts volunteering for a flood helpline, and we learn how being a victim of flood damage can have a serious emotional impact on people as well as the loss of home and belongings. As a volunteer, she adopts a different name, and she is also told not to get attached to the callers, but she finds it impossible to disassociate herself from them. Catherine is not good at following rules.

No one can get to know the real Catherine, with her hiding behind these other names. She's not even sure herself who she is, as her memories of the year she turned nine have disappeared. Gradually these memories are coming back to her. She knows she needs to remember, but she is scared too.

I found the pace of the book quite slow, and a little hard to get into to start with, but as I got to know Catherine and her memories started to come back, I became more involved in her journey. It's dark and murky and by half-way, I was utterly submerged. 

About the Author

Louise Beech remembers sitting in her father's cross-legged lap while he tried to show her his guitar's chords. He's a musician. Her small fingers stumbled and gave up. She was three. His music sheets fascinated her - such strange language that translated into music. Her mother teaches languages, French and English, so her fluency with words fired Louise's interest. She knew from being small that she wanted to write, to create, to make magic.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism. Her debut novel was a Guardian Readers' pick for 2015. 

She is inspired by life, history, survival and love, and always has a story in her head. Her debut novel, How to be Brave, came from truth - when Louise's daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad's real life sea survival story. Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was be released in September 2016 and was inspired by her time working with children in the care system.

When she was fifteen Louise bet her mother ten pounds she'd be published by the time she was thirty. She missed this self-set deadline by two months. Her mother is still waiting for the money.

Link to website - http://louisebeech.co.uk/
Follow Louise on Twitter: @LouiseWriter

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Blog Tour: Dan Knew by F J Curlew






I'm delighted to take part in the Blog Tour for Dan Knew by F J Curlew. It was published on 5th June 2017 and you can buy it here.

The Blurb
A Ukrainian street dog is rescued from certain death by an expat family. As he travels to new countries with them a darkness grows and he finds himself narrating more than just his story. More than a dog story. Ultimately it's a story of escape and survival but maybe not his.
The world through Wee Dan's eyes is told in a voice that will stay with you long after you turn that last page.
The animals in this book are all real, as are their stories. The people's names have been changed to protect their privacy. Fact or fiction? Well, dogs can't talk, can they?
My Review

When Fiona contacted me to ask me if I was interested in reading her new book about a dog named Dan, she had me at 'dog'.

Anyone who knows me knows I love dogs, so this story about a little dog, rescued by a family, intrigued me.

The story is told entirely from Dan's point of view, which is refreshing, and also very funny at times. The author shows her knowledge of dogs, bringing our little canine to life within the pages. He knows 'Mum', but her husband is only ever known as 'Him', which is quite telling about his position in the family. Dan settles in with his new family, including other dogs, after being rescued from a harsh life on the streets in Ukraine. 

I found it a little hard keeping up with the family's ever-changing locations, but then I guess a dog wouldn't know places by names as we humans do, but Dan recognises familiar places by scent and sight. The author described the cold snowy winters very well, making me shiver even in our summer heat. 

Dan's devotion to his Mum is evident, and his confusion at some of the human behaviour is quite funny, but also heartbreaking. He shows how dogs are so empathetic with their owners, feeling sad when they are sad, and wanting to protect them. Dogs are more than family, and it was lovely reading this book as told from the littlest member of this dysfunctional family.

I want a dog.

About the Author

Fiona dropped out of school aged 15, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony!

As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher. After fifteen years of teaching, predominantly in Eastern Europe, she returned to the UK .

She now lives on the east coast of Scotland with two Scottish rescue dogs and a disgruntled Portuguese cat.

Fiona's first book was To Retribution – A love story/political thriller set in times of turmoil. You can buy it here.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Book Review: Final Girls by Riley Sager




Thanks to the publisher, Ebury, and Netgalley for the ARC. This review is my own unbiased opinion.

The Blurb

FIRST THERE WERE THREE

The media calls them the Final Girls – Quincy, Sam, Lisa – the infamous group that no one wants to be part of. The sole survivors of three separate killing sprees, they are linked by their shared trauma.

THEN THERE WERE TWO

But when Lisa dies in mysterious circumstances and Sam shows up unannounced on her doorstep, Quincy must admit that she doesn’t really know anything about the other Final Girls. Can she trust them? Or...

CAN THERE ONLY EVER BE ONE?

All Quincy knows is one thing: she is next.

My Review

Quincy is a member of a gang called Final Girls, but she is not interested in having any contact with the other members. She wants to forget about her ordeal - not that she can remember much of it anyway. She buries herself in baking instead, and forges a new life for herself away from the eyes of the media.

Quincy lives in a flat with her boyfriend, Jeff, and has the occasional visit with Coop, the cop who rescued her when her five friends were slaughtered at a cabin in the woods. He is now her 'protector', and he's always there to make her feel safe. There are cleverly written flashbacks, so the reader is driven mad with wanting to know what happened, whilst wanting to hide behind a cushion.

One of the other girls, Lisa, is reported as having committed suicide, and the other one, Sam, turns up on Quincy's doorstep, instilling chaos and fear into Quincy's carefully constructed life. 

Fast-paced, chilling and atmospheric, this book had me gripped, reading late into the night. The twists and turns kept me guessing, right until the end.

A breathless thriller.

You can buy Final Girls here.
Follow the author on Twitter @riley_sager

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Book Review: Big Sexy Love by Kirsty Greenwood


The Blurb

Olive Brewster is living a small, safe life. She’s happy enough with her job at the local market, it’s no big deal that doesn't have boyfriend, she even likes that she still lives in her childhood home. No drama and no fuss means no problems! And that's just how she likes it.

Except … Olive's best friend in the world​, Birdie, is dying.

Birdie has one final wish. She wants to track down her first love, her epic once in a lifetime love, her "Big Sexy Love", Chuck. And because she's stuck in the hospital she needs Olive's help to do it. But there’s a teeny problem: Chuck is somewhere in New York and Olive has never even left her home town, let alone roamed the crazy streets of Manhattan!

As if the big city isn't scary enough, Olive has to contend with Seth, a cocky comedy TV writer who thinks she’s a joke; Anders, a bored socialite who’s taken a shine to her; and the fact that no matter how hard she tries to track down Chuck, he does not seem to want to be found.

Can Olive learn to overcome her fears, abandon her old safe routine and fulfil her best friend’s dying wish? It's going to take extra bravery, one badass attitude and a whole lot of Big Sexy Love to make it happen …

My Review

Well, what can I say about Big Sexy Love? It's an outrageous tale, about an ordinary woman who gets into the most outrageous and extraordinary predicaments. How anyone could end up in so much trouble is beyond belief. It's totally over the top.

But it is also just about the funniest book I have ever read.

Olive has lived her life as safe as possible. She doesn't like change. But then her friend, Birdie, has a dying wish that only Olive can fulfill; Olive doesn't really get a choice in the matter.

So off she goes, to New York, and her troubles start when she bumps into the most arrogant man ever, the irritatingly very handsome Seth. She also meets other larger than life characters; the mysterious and very strange Anders, and outspoken elderly neighbour, Mrs Ramiriz.

Yes it's bonkers, mad, a helter-skelter riot of a read, and as I said, Olive's adventures are utterly outrageous. 

I loved it! 

Think I've found another favourite author...

Buy it here and read it now!

About the Author

Kirsty Greenwood is the author of three fast-paced, funny and fearless romantic comedies. She is also the founder and editor in chief of Novelicious.com.

Kirsty sends out a really cool letter each month with wonderful giveaways, bookish updates and general good stuff. You can sign up to get the letters here.

Kirsty Tweets at @KirstyBooks, Instagrams at @kirsty_greenwood and can be found on Facebook at KirstyGreenwoodBooks. Her favourite thing is when readers get in touch to say hello!

Book Review: The Break by Marian Keyes

The Blurb
Amy's husband Hugh has run away to 'find himself'. But will he ever come back?
'Myself and Hugh . . . We're taking a break.'
'A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?'
If only.
Amy's husband Hugh says he isn't leaving her.
He still loves her, he's just taking a break - from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it.
Yes, it's a mid-life crisis, but let's be clear: a break isn't a break up - yet . . .
However, for Amy it's enough to send her - along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers - teetering over the edge.
For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? Will Amy be the same woman?
Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then so is she . . .
The Break is a story about the choices we make and how those choices help to make us. It is Marian Keyes at her funniest, wisest and brilliant best.
My Review

How was excited was I to receive an ARC via Netgalley and the publisher, Penguin, for Marian's latest book? Oh, very!

I love Marian's books, and this one does not disappoint. The Queen of Women's Fiction is Back!

Poor Amy, abandoned by her husband, Hugh, who wants to go off and 'find himself' in Thailand. When he says he wants a break, he means a total break from the marriage; he wants carte blanche to sleep with other women and forget he has a wife back home.

Amy doesn't get any choice in the matter. Everyone around her tuts and frets about his betrayal, some jumping joyfully on the gossip wagon with a sense of schadenfreude, others telling her what she should and shouldn't be feeling.

Marian writes with a sparkly warmth and wit, lending depth to her characters. I was drawn in straight away into this tale of family, guilt and uncertainty. Amy struggles to accept her husband's decision, as I think anyone would. There was no real sign beforehand that their marriage was in trouble... or was there? Hugh had been depressed after losing two people close to him, but everyone is still shocked. Amy veers between anger at Hugh and guilt at her own behaviour. 

Then there's the other characters in Amy's chaotic life, spiky daughter Neeve, from her first marriage to footballer Richie, 16 year old Kiara, Amy's daughter with Hugh, and the delicate Sofie, their niece. They all struggle with the fall-out from Hugh's departure. 

Amy has struggles all too common in real life, realising that supporting your friends isn't always a two-way street. Sister Derry wouldn't know commitment if it slapped her round the face, friend Steevie is a man-hater, and Posh Petra has enough on her plate with The Kid from Hell. They, and others, are all glorious characters who are wholly believable.

It's a poignant story, dealing with some serious issues such as abortion in Ireland, injected with Marian's usual sharp humour. Amy's Mam's new-found fame is hilarious, adding some lighthearted relief. The pace is gentle, which works perfectly. I still didn't want to put the book down, yet I didn't want it to end.

Another great read from Marian Keyes. 

You can buy The Break here.

About the Author

Marian Keyes' international bestselling novels include Rachel's Holiday, Last Chance Saloon, Sushi for Beginners, Angels, The Other Side of the Story, Anybody Out There, This Charming Man and The Woman Who Stole My Life. Three collections of her journalism, Under the Duvet, Further Under the Duvet and Making It Up as I Go Along, are also available from Penguin. Marian lives in Dublin with her husband.

Follow Marian on Twitter - she is hilarious!

Friday, 18 August 2017

Book Review: The People at Number Nine by Felicity Everett



The Blurb
Meet the new neighbours. Whose side are you on?
Have you met the People at Number 9?
Sara and Neil have new neighbours in their street. Glamorous and chaotic, Gav and Lou make Sara’s life seem dull. As the two couples become friends, sharing suppers, red wine and childcare, it seems a perfect couples-match. But the more Sara sees of Gav and Lou, the more she longs to change her own life. But those changes will come at a price.

My Review

Thank you to the publisher, HQ, for the review copy.

Sex, lust, envy, secrets and lies - this book has it all. 

Go on, admit it. When someone new moves in close by, you're curious, aren't you? What kind of people are they? Are they my kind of people? Am I their kind of people? Do I want to be their kind of people...?

It's quite possible we've encountered people like Gav and Lou ourselves. Families who seem perfect on the outside; but at odds with society, slightly bohemian in the way they don't give a fig about how they should behave. You might envy them, like Sara and Neil.

Sara is bored with life in the suburbs, then excited beyond belief when she befriends her new neighbours, eschewing regular friendships in favour of wanting to be their new best friend. Even husband Neil finds himself drawn into their lives.

It's a satirical look at society, marriage and friendships going askew. I found it hard to find much sympathy with any of the characters, apart from perhaps the long-suffering children. Sara is shallow and sycophantic; Lou and Gav love themselves far too much and even Neil grates after a while. As for being on anyone's 'side' - I disliked them all! 

Why would Lou and Gav be so anxious to be friends with Sara and Neil? They're wittier, more attractive (apparently) than them, so is it some kind of power play? It certainly seems that way.

This book got under my skin, in a rather uncomfortable way as opposed to winning me over. There's not much in the way of redemption. It's more of a snapshot, like a peeping Tom, peering through the window at suburban life. I can't say I particularly enjoyed the book, it was more of a tawdry compulsion.

You can buy The People at Number Nine here

Book review: Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar

The Blurb

Set in the near-distant future, Spaceman follows a Czech astronaut as he launches into space to investigate a mysterious dust cloud covering Venus, a suicide mission sponsored by a proud nation. Suddenly a world celebrity, Jakub's marriage starts to fail as the weeks go by, and his sanity comes into question. After his mission is derailed he must make a violent decision that will force him to come to terms with his family's dark political past.
An extraordinary vision of the endless human capacity to persist-and risk everything-in the name of love and home, by a startlingly talented young debut novelist.

My Review

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, Sceptre, for the ARC, in exchange for an honest review.

Wow, this really is an extraordinary book. If you enjoyed reading The Martian, then this will blow your space boots off! Life affirming, amazing, what it's like to be human, thought provoking.

Not as technical as The Martian, it is a surprisingly easy read for a book which is so philosophical and steeped in history and politics. Don't let that all put you off - seriously, I can't be doing with books which are too serious usually, but this is awesome. 

It's a magical story of one man, sent into space, with no one but his own mind for company. Until Hanus comes along, that is. Hanus challenges Jakub to reconsider his own existence, and to come to terms with the truth about his father's political past. It's thought-provoking, and shows what it means to be human. I found it life affirming.

It's also a very descriptive book, and the author takes us around the darker side of the city of Prague (yes I know it's supposed to be in space, but that's just part of the story!). 

I found this book to be an absolute gem, and I am so pleased to have read it. I've read some cracking books this year, but this has got to be one of the best.

You can buy Spaceman of Bohemia here.

Book Review: The Cosy Canal Boat Dream by Christie Barlow



The Blurb
Welcome to the Little Rock marina – where hearts are healed and dreams are made…
For the last two years Nell Andrews has been struggling to stay afloat. As her life tumbled down around her, the only safety net has been her cosy canal boat, The Nollie. Tucked away inside, Nell has found a place to heal her broken heart. And now she’s ready to move on and follow her dream…
Gorgeous Guy Cornish, with his easy Irish charm, makes him an instant hit with everyone at the marina, and the perfect person to help Nell with her project. But Guy has his own reasons for being at the marina, and a past that threatens to sink Nell’s dream…
My Review
Thank you to the author for the advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Cosy Canal Boat Dream is a lovely feel-good story about a woman learning to live again after mourning the death of her husband. 

Nell's enviable home is on The Nollie, a pretty narrow-boat, and she works at the nearby cafe run by her best friend Bea, in Little Rock Marina. Nell has lots of support from Bea and family, and her own mother, Gilly, but when Nell sets her sights on buying an old building in memory of her husband, Gilly is surprisingly against the idea, and Nell cannot work out why.

Then Guy turns up with his gorgeous clever dog and Nell's life is filled with possibilities - until secrets come out which threaten everything.

This book is full of humour and warmth - the writing flows beautifully, the characters are well-drawn, and the love-interest is absolutely gorgeous! If I wasn't married, and he wasn't fictional... There's intrigue too, which I'm not going to say too much about because of spoilers, but the little twists make sure there are plenty of surprises, adding depth to this cosy story. I found myself eager to read on and on, until I realised it was two o'clock in the morning!

It's the perfect read for an afternoon lounging on the beach, or in the garden, or (more likely) wrapped up indoors while it pours with rain. I love Christie's books!

A Cosy Canal Boat Dream is published by Harper Collins on 22 August 2017, and you can get your copy here.

Follow Christie on Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow; and Facebook ChristieJBarlow



Book Review: Practice Makes Perfect by Penny Parkes


The Blurb
The Practice at Larkford has suddenly been thrust under the spotlight – and its nomination as a ‘NHS Model Surgery’ is causing the team major headaches. Dr Holly Graham should be basking in the glow of her new romance with fellow doctor, Taffy – but she is worried that the team is prioritising plaudits over patients, and her favourite resident, the irreverent and entertaining Elsie, is facing a difficult diagnosis. Add to that the chaos of family life and the strain is starting to show.
Dr Dishy Dan Carter’s obsession with work is masking unhappiness elsewhere – he can’t persuade girlfriend Julia to settle down. It’s only as Julia’s mother comes to stay that he realizes what she has been hiding for so long. Alice Walker joins the team like a breath of fresh air and her assistance dog Coco quickly wins everyone round – which is just as well, because Coco and Alice will soon need some help of their own. Can they pull together and become the Dream Team that the NHS obviously thinks they are?
Out of Practice won the Romantic Comedy of the Year category of the RNA Awards.
My Review

My thanks to Simon & Schuster and the author for my review copy of this book.

What a delight it was to return to Larkford and to catch up with Holly, Taffy and the inhabitants of this cosy Cotswold village. Practice Makes Perfect is the second in the trilogy, with Out of Practice being the first - you can read my review here and then buy it here. You don't have to have read it before you read this one, but you'll probably find you want to read it anyway so you can find out everyone's back-story!

Life is going well for Holly and the other GPs at the local surgery, working together with no senior GP. Until, that is, someone on high decides its a good idea to put the spotlight on them as a model for the NHS, AND put a TV crew filming their every move... 

Penny Parkes writes with a true understanding of the chaos of family life. All the characters are written with love and care, making the reader feel as if they know them. There's lots going on for them: Glamorous octogenarian Elsie returns early from a cruise, causing concern, though she's still able to spout out her little gems of wisdom; there's a bet on to see if anyone can get the Major to go to the Surgery; and be prepared to feel sympathy for the frosty Julia, when we meet her mother. 

Then of course there is Holly and Taffy, now working and living together. But Taffy keeps mentioning the 'M' word, and Holly is still dealing with the fallout from her marriage to Milo.

The real highlight of the book for me was the introduction of new GP Alice and her assistance dog, Coco, who prove themselves to be quite an addition to the team. Alice is lovely, and her dog is a really very clever little thing.

Practice Makes Perfect is a joyful, lighthearted read; it's perfect escapism.

The book was published on 29th June 2017 by Simon & Schuster, and you can get your copy here.

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.