Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Book review: A Place To Call Home by Carole Matthews

My edition: paperback, published on 10 April 2014 by Sphere, 432 pages.

Description: In the dead of night, Ayesha takes her daughter, Sabina, and slips quietly from her home, leaving behind a life of full of pain. Boarding a coach to London, all Ayesha wants is a fresh start.

Hayden, a former popstar, has kept himself hidden away for years. He's only opened up his home to two people - Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold, and Joy, an ill-tempered retiree with a soft spot for waifs and strays.

When Crystal asks Hayden if Ayesha and Sabina can stay with them, he reluctantly agrees and, as different as they may be, they quickly form an unlikely bond. So when enemies threaten their peaceful home, they will do all they can to save it and each other.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blog Tour: Interview with Carole Matthews

Carole Matthews is one of my favourite authors, her amazing novels always make me feel warm and fuzzy inside and not just because they often cover two of my favourite things; chocolate and Christmas. I'm thrilled to be part of the blog tour for her latest book, A Place to Call Home.

Hi Carole, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions as part of the A Place to Call Home blog tour. I'm a huge fan of your beautiful and heart-warming stories and I loved your new novel!

CM: Thank you, Zarina! That's very kind. Thank you for letting me visit your blog!

What does an average writing day in the life of Carole Matthews look like? Do you have any special writing tools and/or rituals?

CM: I'm quite a disciplined person, so my writing day is very structured - and probably quite dull unless you're in my head! I work an eight-hour day, Monday - Friday. That's the only way I can manage to write two books a year. There's no lying around on a chaise longue waiting for the muse to arrive! I just switch on my computer and crack on.

The only special tools are lots of tea and the occasional bar of chocolate. That's enough to keep me going. It's all very unglamorous, I'm afraid!

Your novels cover a wide range of topics from a chippy make-over to a life-changing journey through Africa, where do you find the ideas you create your stories around?

CM: It tends to be either something I've seen in a newspaper or magazine, or a conversation I've had with someone. I like to look for something contemporary, a little issue that's bothering women. I also write a lot of books set where I live in the Costa del Keynes, so it's sometimes nice to go to somewhere a bit more exotic if the 'research' fun will allow.

I particularly liked writing Wrapped Up in You which was set in the Maasai Mara and also Calling Mrs Christmas which involved a trip to Lapland. I hope my love of the countries and the colour comes through in the stories.

Even though it's not anywhere near December, to me you are the Queen of Christmas. Is it difficult to get in the spirit and write a seasonal novel months before the holiday is in sight? And please tell me you have another one planned for this year?

CM: Thank you! I feel like the Queen of Christmas. Since doing a Christmas novel every year I have fully embraced the festive season and there doesn't seem to be a time when I'm not thinking about it. I’m probably one of the few people who craves mince pies in July. It's sometimes hard writing about cold and snow when it's sweltering outside!

There will, indeed, be another Christmas novel this year. It will be my 25th book, so quite a landmark. It's called The Christmas Party.

This is a bit of an evil question, but which of your characters is your favourite and why?

CM: I think Lucy Lombard from The Chocolate Lovers' Club and The Chocolate Lovers' Diet. She always tries to do the right thing and ends up making a terrible hash of everything. She's more like me than I care to admit. I haven't finished with the those ladies yet and am currently writing a third book in the series for Christmas 2015.

And finally, what is the absolute best thing about being a writer?

CM: Being able to work from home. I live in a three-story house and I'm lucky to have the top floor as offices. I used to commute into London every day and am so very, very glad that I don't have to do that anymore. All I have to do now is walk up a flight of ten stairs. Bliss.

Thank you!

Thank you very much to lovely Carole for stopping by my blog today! Her latest novel, A Place to Call Home, is published by Sphere and is out now. You can (and should) buy a copy from Waterstones,, or your own preferred retailer.

The Christmas Party will be published on 8 August in hardback and can be pre-ordered from Waterstones and The paperback will follow 23 October.

For more blog posts about A Place to Call Home make sure you visit the other stops in the tour over the next two weeks:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book review: Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff

My edition: paperback, published on 27 March 2014 by Harper, 361 pages.

Description: 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 Dutch woman, 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?


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday post #26

Sunday is when I sit back with a lovely cup of tea and write about all the wonderful new books I've received and purchased in the past week. This post participates in fab memes Showcase Sunday and Stacking the Shelves.

Call The Vet by Anna Birch (unsolicited review copy)
Carry You by Beth Thomas (won)
Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff (review copy)
Ivy Lane: #Spring by Cathy Bramley (ebook)
Return to Mandalay by Rosanna Ley (review copy)
Sugar and Spice by Angela Britnell (Choc Lit event)
The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene (review copy)

It's been a few weeks since my last Sunday post. At first there was a bit of a dry spell in new additions to my TBR pile (which was a good thing, it meant I could take a breather from review novels and read some books I've purchased in between as well), then I became incredibly busy at work due to ever continuing changes and more and more work piling onto my desk, with finally a family emergency consuming most of my time last weekend/this week (things are looking slightly better in this regards now, thankfully).

The books that had me most excited when they came in recently were Ghostwritten and Ivy Lane: Spring. The former wasn't on my radar until the author contacted me with the question if I'd be interested in receiving a copy of the novel for review (highlighting the Dutch aspect and appealing to my inner-patriot) which after reading the blurb I was only more than happy to agree to. And I am so glad I did as this was a beautiful novel that has enlightened me on a historical event I knew shamefully little about before (my full review will be up next week). I also got the opportunity to attend the book's launch which I've written about for Novelicious (find full report here).

The other novel I was very excited for was Ivy Lane: Spring by lovely author Cathy Bramley. I read her self-published debut novel last year (one of the few self-published novels I've read), which I adored - it was such a lovely and funny read (find full review here). So I was very pleased when I heard about her exciting deal to write a serialised digital novel for Transworld though I was also slightly gutted as it meant that I'd have to wait a while for the full novel to be published. Nonetheless, I told myself I could do it as I'm terrible with open endings/cliffhangers and so it'd be much better if I wait. But when Cathy's editor emailed me the first part out of the blue, my patience faltered completely as I put it on my Kindle straight away and what a lovely read it was!

I haven't been to a huge amount of book events lately, but I did go to the Choc Lit launch party last week where I had the opportunity to meet the team and some of their writers while enjoying wine, chocolate and a lot of chat with fellow bloggers. We also received a super cute goodie bag upon leaving containing one of their books (see above) and lots of chocolaty goodness. And to continue on with the chocolate theme, Friday I went to see one of my favourite authors, Carole Matthews, at the Chocolate Festival here in London. The festival wasn't great but Carole was, such a lovely lady and I'm thrilled I had the chance to meet her (full report to follow).

How have all you lovely people been? Link me to your Sunday posts below and I'll be sure to check them out!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

My edition: ebook, published on 10 April 2014 by Headline.

Description: Owen lives in the basement. Lucy lives on the 24th floor. But when the power goes out in the midst of a New York heatwave, they find themselves together for the first time: stuck in a lift between the 10th and 11th floors. As they await help, they start talking...

The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland they can't shake the memory of the time they shared. Postcards cross the globe when they themselves can't, as Owen and Lucy experience the joy - and pain - of first love.

And as they make their separate journeys in search of home, they discover that sometimes it is a person rather than a place that anchors you most in the world.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Book review: Arms Wide Open by Tom Winter

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 17 April 2014 by Corsair, 352 pages.

Description: Jack and Meredith are non-identical twins. Their father died before they were born and now they both have to watch as their mother sinks further in to the grip of early-onset dementia.

Jack's career has crashed and burned, all that remains is a Maserati and a nervous disposition. Meredith's world is also crumbling the decomposing yogurt in her fridge a symbol of her newly-expired marriage. Her children, Jemima and Luke, offer little support, too consumed with the world of online dating and amateur taxidermy.

One day, a throwaway comment starts Jack wondering if their father really died. As they begin to untangle the revelations, the twins are forced to ponder both the past and the future: their memories of their mother, their hopes for finding their father, and the fear of what's in their bloodline.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Book review: Beautiful Day by Kate Anthony

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 10 April 2014 by Penguin, 384 pages.

Description: Rachel is looking for her beautiful day. She's worried about everything: being a good mother, money and starting a new job.

Philip is a lost soul in the world and he could do with a friend.

They are just about to meet and when they do everything will change. Rachel and Philip don't know it yet, but they each have what the other needs. They can save one another, and not in the way you might expect.

This is a story about finding happiness and love in all their forms. And how sometimes you can find them in the most unlikely of places.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Book review: Truly, Madly, Deeply - 24 New Stories

My edition: Paperback, published on 21 February 2014 by Mills & Boon, 415 pages.

Description: 24 short stories about romance.

From wedding days to special anniversaries, steamy one-night encounters to everlasting loves. Truly, Madly, Deeply takes you on an unforgettable romantic adventure where love is really all you need.

This collection brings together all new specifically selected stories from star authors from the Romantic Novelists' Association including international bestsellers Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews, Adele Parks and Miranda Dickinson, and many, many more and is edited by Sue Moorcroft.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Penguin Blogger Night 2014

When lovely Laura from Laura's Little Book Blog invited me as her +1 to the Penguin Bloggers Night 2014 I was thrilled. Not only at the prospect of meeting some of the Penguin team and authors, but also for the chance to catch up with Laura in person, as so far we've chatted just on the Internet. Unfortunately she fell ill just before the outing and we didn't get to meet up after all, but we should be seeing each other at another literary event next month (fingers crossed).

I still decided to attend the Penguin event (though I felt a bit awkward at first as I was by myself) and I am very glad I did as it was a wonderful evening where I got to meet some of the Penguin team (hi Francesca and Lija!), their authors and fellow bloggers. Also, there was wine, which is always a good thing. I've been to various author Q&As at Foyles on Charing Road Cross before and have nothing but praise for them; they're super well organised and the authors I've met there have always been very approachable and interesting to talk to.

As soon as I walked into the Gallery (the special space the store reserves for these kind of bookish events) I was given a sticker to put my name and blog on, which was a clever ideas as it made meeting new people much easier (even though in the first instance eyes wandered to the chest area of another person - where the sticker was - before introducing ourselves).

I was also shown two big tables stacked high with new and upcoming Penguin releases and a pile of tote bags and was told to make my own goodie bag. Eh... it's probably not a wise idea to let a book lover addict lose on so many gorgeous new novels. I tried to be super strict with myself and imagine my out-of-control TBR pile at home (I say pile, but it has now grown to multiple bookshelves as it will no longer stack in a single pile) while I was choosing which TWO books I'd take home, but as you can see from the picture below that really didn't work. At all.

I did start off with just choosing three books, but then I talked to some fellow bloggers (mostly Clare from 50 a Year and Kinga from The Book Snob, hi girls!) and we were drawn to different titles which made me pick up even more. And then when my bag was definitely completely full I spoke to lovely author Elizabeth Fremantle, so OF COURSE I had to grab a copy of her novel too. And so then there were seven.

After some more exciting book chat (I get very enthusiastic where books are involved) it was time for readings from some of the Penguin authors. Obviously this would be the highlight for most people who were attending, but sadly this was also the time I had to leave as I had theatre tickets booked for that night long before I was invited to the event. Even though I normally love my theatre outings I was disappointed this meant I couldn't stay to the end of the Penguin Blogger Night and so prolonged my leaving until the last possible second (I ended up having less than 10 minutes to run from Foyles to the Theatre on St. Martin's Lane and take my seat there), but I still I only caught a bit of the first reading.

Fun to note though is that each author was introduced with a personally picked tune on the piano by a lovely pianist I also got to talk to earlier on the night. Apparently one of the intros was a Beyonce song, which sounds equal measures totally random and completely awesome.

This is actually the back of the tote (the front shows a John le Carré title) but I love the Penguin logo

Many thanks to the wonderful Penguin team for organising such a fab event (sorry I couldn't stay longer - it was me, not you) and to Laura for inviting me (even if you couldn't make it yourself this time around), it really was a great bookish evening.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book review: Bad Brides by Rebecca Chance

My edition: ebook (proof), to be published on 27 March 2014 by Simon & Schuster.

Description: Milly Gamble is an up-and-coming actress, and the perfect English flower child. At 23, she's always been cast as the innocent heroine. But looks can deceive. Calculating and fiercely ambitious, Milly is determined to be the most famous star in England. And how better to achieve her goal than by dating Tarquin Ormond, lead singer of the biggest folk band of the moment? Tarquin is madly in love with Milly; Milly is only in love with herself.

Brianna Jade is an all-American pageant girl. The daughter of Tamra Maloney, a stunning billionairess, Brianna is a sweet, pretty girl who is more than happy to go along with her mother's ambitious plans for her. Now Tamra's brought her to the UK and hooked her up with an Earl. He has a crumbling stately home and needs a rich wife to help restore it to its former glory. Tamra is as ambitious and determined as Brianna is sweet and innocent - is this more a case of mother-in-law-zilla than bridezilla?

Both Milly and Brianna's upcoming weddings will be huge, lavish events that garner national press. But with the cover of the biggest magazine in the country to be won, things are about to get very dirty…


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday post #25

Sunday is when I sit back with a lovely cup of tea and write about all the wonderful new books I've received and purchased in the past week. This post participates in fab memes Showcase Sunday and Stacking the Shelves.

A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews (review copy)
Coal Creek by Alex Miller (review copy)
Chop Chop by Simon Wroe (Penguin)
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (Penguin)
Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto (Penguin)
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe (Penguin)
Sisters of Treason by Elizabeth Fremantle (Penguin)
The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter (Penguin)
Things I Don't Want to Know by Deborah Levy (Penguin

Thanks everyone for your advice last week on how to showcase unsolicited review copies I may not have time to read an/or I'm not interested in! I particularly liked the idea to mention them on social media (I'll have to do regular book post Tweets) and putting a widget on my blog.

This week nearly all my new books are from Penguin and their brilliant Blogger Night 2014 at Foyles on Wednesday. It was a lovely evening consistent of book chat with some of the Penguin team, authors and fellow bloggers and a massive goodie bag to take home (aren't they a gorgeous bunch?). I'll make a proper post about the event in the next few days.

Out of the two review books I received this week I am most excited (read: ecstatic) to pick up the new Carole Matthews title, A Place to Call Home. Her charming and heart-warming books rank amongst my absolute favourites and I'm thrilled to both have the opportunity to read this novel early and to be a part of the blog tour for it.

Hope you guys had a brilliant bookish week as well!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book review: A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke

My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 27th March 2014 by Harper, 416 pages.

Description: The deeper the water, the darker the secrets.

There were so many times I thought about telling you the truth, Eva. What stopped me was always the same thing...

When Eva's husband Jackson tragically drowns, she longs to meet his estranged family. The journey takes her to Jackson’s brother's doorstep on a remote Tasmanian island. As strange details about her husband's past begin to emerge, memories of the man she married start slipping through her fingers like sand, as everything she ever knew and loved about him is thrown into question.

Now she's no longer sure whether it was Jackson she fell in love with – or someone else entirely...

The truth is, it was all a lie.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Theatre review: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Synopsis: When Charlie wins a golden ticket to the weird and wonderful Wonka Chocolate Factory, it's the chance of a lifetime to feast on the sweets he's always dreamed of. But beyond the gates astonishment awaits, as down the sugary corridors and amongst the incredible edible delights, the five lucky winners discover not everything is as sweet as it seems.

Roal Dahl's deliciously dark tale of young Charlie Bucket and the mysterious confectioner Willy Wonka comes to life in a brand new West End musical directed by Academy Award winner Sam Mendes.

Featuring ingenious stagecraft, the wonder of the original story that has captivated the world for almost 50 years is brought to life with music by Marc Shaiman, and lyrics by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman (Grammy winners for Hairspray; Smash) and a book by award-winning playwright and adaptor David Greig (The Bacchae; Tintin In Tibet).


Monday, March 17, 2014

Book review: A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall

My edition: Paperback, published on 13 March 2014 by Headline, 400 pages.

Description: For Hadley Dunn, life so far has been uneventful - no great loves, no searing losses. But that's before she decides to spend a year studying in the glittering Swiss city of Lausanne, a place that feels alive with promise. Here Hadley meets Kristina, a beautiful but elusive Danish girl, and the two quickly form the strongest of bonds. Yet one November night, as the first snows of winter arrive, tragedy strikes.

Hadley, left reeling and guilt-stricken, beings to lean on the only other person to whom she feels close, her American Literature professor Joel Wilson. But as the pair try to uncover the truth of what happened that night, their tentative friendship heads into forbidden territory. And before long a line is irrevocably crossed, everything changes, and two already complicated lives take an even more dangerous course...


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday post #24

Sunday is when I sit back with a lovely cup of tea and write about all the wonderful new books I've received and purchased in the past week. This post participates in fab memes Showcase Sunday and Stacking the Shelves.

A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall (review copy)
Beautiful Day by Kate Anthony (review copy)
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman (review copy)
Me and My Sisters by Sinéad Moriarty (won)
The Vacationers by Emma Straub (review copy)
Truly, Madly, Deeply by various authors (review copy)

Three of the review novels listed above arrived completely unexpectedly. I've had the occasional unsolicited book in the past but this is becoming more frequent nowadays because I have also started to receive them for one of the sites I work on for my day job, Woman's World. On the one hand I love surprises in the post, on the other... with the amount of books that have arrived lately it's becoming harder and harder to review them all, something I always used to do, and not everything I get for review is to my taste either. So while I appreciate the books I feel really guilty for maybe not having the chance to read and review them swiftly (if at all).

What do you guys do when you receive unexpected books you don't have time for and/or you think you don't like? Is there a way to still give them some exposure? I feel a sense of responsibility when kindly given an advance copy of a novel, and would look to help spread the word - even if I don't have time to read and review the book.

I've read some absolutely AMAZING books in the last two weeks by the way (reviews will be up soon). I particularly loved A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall and A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke, both authors who had debuts out just a few years ago that were already excellent and have now surpassed themselves with their second novels. The authors balance beautifully lush travel writing with intriguing and poignant stories - making for very satisfying reads.

What are some of the best books you've read recently? I'm looking for recs of novels that either combine travel writing with a fiction story, such as the titles mentioned above, or literary fiction along the lines of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick or Last Bus to Coffeeville by J. Paul Henderson. Thanks, guys!