15 April 2014

Blog Tour: If I Could Turn Back Time by Nicola Doherty

Today, I am thrilled to be part of Nicola Doherty's blog tour for her brand new book If I Could Turn Back Time, thanks to Bookbridgr! Nicola was kind enough to write me a piece about if she could turn back time, and it makes for a great read!

Thanks to Frances, Bookbridgr and Nicola for letting me be a part of the blog tour.

You can buy If I Could Turn Back Time as a paperback or an eBook.

If I Could Turn Back Time …

1. I would not wear a short black dress from Oasis to a summery wedding in Cornwall where everyone else was wearing pastel flowery numbers. I thought it was very slinky but it looked awful and probably ruined all the photos I was in.

2. I would not buy, or wear, a mid-calf bottle-green corduroy skirt, which I wore for lots of my last year in college. I thought at the time that it was very Prada but I looked like Miss Geist from Clueless.

3. I would not get my eyebrows dyed by a very nervous (male) beautician off Oxford Street. He turned them black, I tried to trim them back to their original yellow and I ended up with tiger-striped eyebrows. Just as I was starting a new job. I had to get my photo taken for my work pass and so my stripy eyebrows followed me around for the whole 5 years I worked there.

4. Speaking of jobs: I would man up in my first job and not spend so much time crying in the loo because I couldn’t figure out the petty cash.

5. I would date with a handsome guy called Joe who I met at a party in Boston when I was twenty and working there for the summer. He was interested and I don’t know why I brushed him off. Not that I’m not very happy with my husband, but I would have had a boyfriend for the summer and, crucially, he could drive (which I couldn’t at the time).

6. I would not date an awful guy who kept calling me ‘Nicole’ and kept the change when he went to the bar with my tenner.

7. I would go with my friends to Vegas for New Year’s Eve and see The Killers in concert, which I didn’t do in 2005 because I was too broke.

There are also some more serious things – arguments with friends that I could have avoided, hassles at work that I should have seen coming. But aside from that? I can’t think of too much that I would really change. It’s not that everything I’ve done has worked out perfectly – far from it. But the things that go wrong end up making the best stories. They also lead you to where you are today. If I hadn’t dated awful men in my twenties, I might not be married to my husband now. If I had ‘got on the property’ ladder when I wanted to, and bought a flat right after the crash, then I might have stayed in my full-time job and not had time to start writing. Having said that, if I did find myself catapulted back six months in time like Zoe, I’d certainly make the best of it …

Thanks so much, Nicola!

14 April 2014

Book Review: Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff

"A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a ‘ghost’: she writes the lives of other people. It’s a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara’s help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy Ghostwritten as a paperback or an eBook now.

Every so often, a book comes along that really moves and touches you, that you know you won't forget for a long time once you have turned the final page. These books tend to cover very emotional issues, something you can relate to or just a story that is so moving, you don't want to stop reading and being absorbed by it. Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff is the latest book to be inducted into my hall of fame, books I know I will definitely want to read again at some point because it was so beautiful, so poignant that it made for perfect reading. It's a must-read from me, and here's why.

Jenni's a ghostwriter and she loves her job. She writes books from all genres, and when she stumbles across a new project that intrigues her, she knows it means she might have to face some of her own demons too. Jenni had something happen in her childhood that has shaped the adult she has become, but she knows now might be the time to face up to it once and for all. She gets to know Klara, the woman whose life story she is ghostwriting for now, and her tales of life on the island of Java during the Japanese occupation in the Second World War are shocking and unbelievable. Jenni is surprised by what she hears, and sets about writing Klara's story, and starts to lay the ghosts of both women's pasts to rest once and for all.

I'll be honest and say that I didn't know anything of the Japanese occupation of Java during the Second World War, so I was definitely interested to learn more about the topic. The book has 2 story threads running through it. There's the story in the present day of Jenni meeting Klara, and hearing her story, as well as Jenni's personal life problems too. There's something in Jenni's past we have hinted to us throughout the book, and as it is slowly revealed, it's quite shocking but very well handled. I felt Wolff writes Jenni perfectly - she's a sympathetic character, you certainly feel sorry for what she has been through, but I also wanted her to face up to her demons and be able to move past it.

The introduction of Klara's story breaks up the narrative somewhat, and this was definitely my favourite part of the book. Klara is a Dutch woman, who wants to tell the story of her childhood that she has never been able to speak of before. Jenni coaxes the horrifying tales out of her, and they are so brilliantly written, you really do feel like you're on Java with Klara and her family. The things the people there went through were horrific, Wolff doesn't shy away from the graphic details of what the people had to suffer at the hands of Japanese, it doesn't always make for easy reading, but it's certainly compulsive - I didn't want to put the book down when Klara was narrating. It's horrifying and upsetting to think of what the people had to suffer, and Wolff writes it so well, from the emotion to the descriptions of what went on and the places where they were forced to live.

The book reminded me slightly of Jodi Picoult's wonderfully emotive tale The Storyteller, due to the flashback narrative and recounting of a very different time period in history. Wolff's writing was a joy to read, her descriptions of events so evocative of the time, you feel immersed in the story, as if you're standing next to Klara as she is describing the horrors and heartache around her. The way Wolff links her tale with Jenni's own personal sadness is very clever, bringing the two tales together and allowing both women to exorcise their own demons in different ways. Both women were likeable, strong and independent, despite the things they have gone through, and by the end, I was sad to leave them behind. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, I loved every page, and Klara's devastating yet hopeful story will not fail to touch your heart. Simply brilliant.

Blog Tour: A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews

Welcome to my blog tour stop for Carole Matthews' A Place To Call Home blog tour! Carole's latest book looks like a brilliant read, I've thoroughly enjoyed many of her previous books so I can't wait to get stuck into this one. Carole's article for me is about the place that she calls home, and is a fab read, I hope you enjoy it!

My thanks go to Carole for taking the time to write this for my blog tour stop!

You can buy A Place To Call Home as a paperback or an eBook now.

The Place That I Call Home

I can pin point exactly when my desire for a tidy, minimalist home started and I can lay the blame squarely at the blue and yellow feet of IKEA. It doesn’t help that I now live approximately three minutes from my closest store - which is waaaay too handy.

When my partner, Lovely Kev, and I first moved to the Costa del Keynes we painted the house white from top to toe. All our furniture was cream or white, every appliance and accessory was stainless steel. They had all been bought from IKEA and were called PLOP, TWERP, FLANGE or similar. Our home was affectionately known as The Morgue.

I don’t like ornaments. Not really. Though I have tried. We’ve travelled the world and, once upon a time, I used to bring back souvenirs. Coloured batik wall hangings or ethnic prints. Invariably, I’d get them home to the Costa del Keynes and wonder what on earth I was going to do with them. What looks good hanging on a wall in deepest, darkest Peru, rarely translates to the Home Counties.

Now I buy nothing. Virtually, every ornament we posses - and there are very few of them - have been bought for us by someone else. The hand-carved goose called Kevin bought for us by my mother-in-law last Christmas is slowly but surely inching its way towards the charity box.

In our current home, Matthews’ Towers, it’s no different. It is still a shrine to all things Swedish and flat-packed. We also have the same wooden flooring throughout, the same colour of paint in every room - Dulux Almond White. I try to tell myself that it cuts down on those tricky colour scheme decisions.

I love going to other people’s homes who manage to blend patterns and colours, mixing and matching them so perfectly, yet it’s a skill I’ve never quite acquired. You really can’t go wrong when everything is pretty much cream or white. I also love bright colours - again in other people’s homes. When we moved into this house every room was a garish, migraine-inducing shade. Our bedroom was lime green, hand-painted with daisies the size of dinner plates in pink, orange and yellow. Even the previous owner admitted it had been an experiment too far. The spare room was lilac with sheep stencilled as a border. It took the decorator five coats of white paint to obliterate them.

Despite, my need for extreme tidiness, I like my home to be a welcoming place and I love to have friends over. Because we have a large conservatory, mine is generally the party house for our closest mates. I don’t actually care if my visitors are untidy or if they spill things. I just want them to be here.

What makes a home is not the colour you paint it or the stuff you fill it with but the fun and love inside. And you can’t buy that from IKEA.

Footnote: Carole Matthews is not sponsored by IKEA but, quite frankly, she really should be.

Thanks so much, Carole!

10 April 2014

Blog Tour: Giveaway! Win 1 of 3 copies of 'The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me' by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice

As part of the blog tour for Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice's new book The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me, I am thrilled to offer 3 proof copies to my blog readers for a giveaway! These are uncorrected proof copies, so pretty special and rare books that you'll want to hang on to! Just enter using the Rafflecopter form below, good luck!

UK entrants only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

8 April 2014

Book News: The Beach Hut Next Door by Veronica Henry

I was so excited to see that Veronica Henry has written a sequel to her fantastic 2012 release The Beach Hut, entitled The Beach Hut Next Door. I loved the first book, so I can't wait to read this one, and get back to the beach huts once more! It's due out on 3rd July, so I've got a while to wait, but I know it'll be worth it!

You can pre-order The Beach Hut Next Door as a paperback or an eBook now.

"The sun is out and the beach huts at Everdene Sands are filling up once again.

Jemima is artist in residence for the summer, capturing the antics of the holidaymakers on canvas. But it's not long before she becomes embroiled in their tangled lives.

Vince and Murphy are best mates, and misspent their youths in the waves and bars of Everdene. Now they are making plans for the Lobster Shack, eager to make their fortune. But Vince's life has been touched by tragedy, and he's finding it hard to move on.

Sidonie Lewis has returned to Everdene hoping to bury the past. The memory of her wedding day there is a painful one. Now she is ready to marry again, but she needs to make one final reconciliation first - and it's the hardest one of all.

Tom and Rachel divided everything straight down the middle when they divorced - everything except their beach hut. But sharing it is proving more difficult than they thought.

It's going to be a summer to remember . ."

7 April 2014

Book Review: Skeletons by Jane Fallon

"Jen has discovered a secret.

It's not hers to share, but is it hers to keep?

If she tells her husband Jason, he might get over the shock but will he forgive her for telling the truth? She might drive a wedge through their marriage.

If she tells someone else in Jason's family - the family she's come to love more than her own - she'd not only tear them apart but could also find herself on the outside: she's never really been one of them, after all.

But if she keeps this dirty little secret to herself, how long can she pretend nothing is wrong? How long can she live a lie?

Jen knows the truth - but is she ready for the consequences?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy Skeletons as a paperback or an eBook now!

I have read all of Jane Fallon's previous 4 novels, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. They're well written, enjoyable stories and it's been a while since we've had a new book from Jane When I read that her new book Skeletons was to be published in March of this year, I was thrilled to see she has been writing again. I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of the book to review, and was part of Jane's blog tour too, with Jane revealing her 'Desert Island Reads' on my blog tour stop. But... back to Skeletons... what a good novel it is, and here's why you should read it.

Jen has been married into the Masterson family for a long time now, and she loves it - she loves the stability the family gives her, and how they include as if she's always been there. It's a vast difference from her own upbringing, and one she tries hard to forget. But when Jen discovers a secret about the Masterson's that threatens to ruin the family setup as she knows it, she doesn't know what to do. She can't tell her husband and destroy his family, but how long can she keep the secret to herself without it affecting her opinion of the family, outwardly too?

As you can see, this is a book about skeletons in the closet, and whether they should stay there to fester or be released upon the world to wreak their havoc. Jen's secret is related to her family, probably one of the worst kinds of secrets you can find out, and being about someone that she loves is even worse. Jen starts to treat this person differently, without even meaning to, and we all know how easily we can show displeasure towards someone without properly meaning to! I did feel sorry for Jen, she really had no one to turn to and was left all by herself with this secret eating her up from the inside.

The relationship portrayed between Jen and her family-through-marriage the Masterson's was great to read. She is genuinely close to her husband Jason's parents, and even his sisters, one of which is her best friend too. Jen's own relationship with her mother left a lot to be desired, and she seemed to seek solace in the Masterson's rather than fix the broken relationship with her own mother. It's an emotional book, showing us that the people we love the most can let us down and shatter our expectations, and I felt sorry for Jen as she struggled to do the right thing for everyone. I didn't like the last quarter of the book, with Jen getting very unfairly treated (I felt, anyway), and it totally changed my opinion of a lot of the other characters in the book. I didn't see a few of the twists and turns coming which was great, and by the end, I felt satisfied with the outcome, even if it wasn't what I had initially hoped the ending would be.

For me, this was a really enjoyable read. No, it's not an easy read, some sweet love story you can lose yourself in, but it is a gripping and though-provoking read. I honestly don't know what I would have done had I been in Jen's position - either way, I felt she was getting a rough deal, and I felt so awful for her because it would have meant losing the family she loved dearly either way. Fallon weaves a wonderful tale, her writing drawing all sorts of emotions out of you - pity, anger, frustration and many more besides. If you've enjoyed Jane's other books then you'll certainly want to pick up a copy of Skeletons, the family dynamic is really interesting, and the story leaves you wondering what will be happening next! Definitely recommended.

Book News: The Summer Without You by Karen Swan

Karen Swan is back, but this time with something different - a summer read! For the past few years, Swan has brought us a Christmas novel, but now we're finally seeing a beach read from her, and I can't wait to read it. I love the cover too, it's gorgeous and so summery! It's out on 22nd May.

You can pre-order The Summer Without You as a paperback or an eBook now.

"Rowena Tipton isn’t looking for a new life, just a new adventure, something to while away the months as her long-term boyfriend presses pause on their relationship before they become engaged. But when a chance encounter at a New York wedding leads to an audition for a coveted houseshare in The Hamptons – Manhattan’s elite beach scene – suddenly a new life is exactly what she’s got.

Stretching before her is a summer with three eclectic housemates, long days on white sand ocean beaches and parties on gilded tennis courts. But high rewards bring high stakes and Rowena soon finds herself caught in the crossfire of a vicious intimidation campaign. Alone for the first time in her adult life, she has no-one to turn to but a stranger who is everything she doesn’t want - but possibly everything she needs."