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.