Monday, May 25, 2015

Theatre review: McQueen at St James Theatre


The opening to sort-of-biopic McQueen is like one of the designer's fashion shows; fantastical. Mannequins set the stage with almost ethereal movements until it's near impossible to distinguish between the plastic figures and those portrayed by actors. When they have found their places in the designer's workspace, a fragile, almost bird-like girl enters, Dahlia (Dianna Agron). When Alexander 'Lee' McQueen (Stephen Wight) finds the intruder he thinks she's just a fan, but somehow she manages to convince him to make her a dress and as they spend the night together he realises they have more in common than he initially thought.

I'm always fascinated by stories - whether in novels, on screen or on stage - that recount a piece of history that I am not very familiar with before watching (or reading) it unfold as it doesn't only mean that I get to explore an engaging story, but also learn something fascinating in the process. A recent example is the cleverly crafted The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby, which through an unexpected focus on a suit (so with a similar fashion theme to McQueen) recounted the assassination of JFK.

As I'm not a fashionista by any means I knew little of the life of McQueen before going to St James Theatre for the play and so I was looking forward not only to be compelled by the production, but also to discover more about this tortured soul who made such an impact on the fashion industry yet was so deconstructive to his own person that he died aged just 40.

It was certainly an intriguing backdrop, though perhaps Dahlia's role in his life was fictional, the play still had the potential to provide an engaging insight into the twisted mind of McQueen, who was portrayed equal parts brilliance and torment by Wight. It's a shame then that the story and other performances fell somewhat flat. Agron (mostly known for TV's Glee) was monotone in voice and acting skills, which distracted from Wight's heartfelt performance. And while the exploration of the designer's mind was a fascinating concept to begin with, some elements woven throughout only added unnecessary distraction rather than enhancing the play as a whole. 

Like McQueen's fashion shows the production certainly looked stunning and had an otherworldly quality to it thanks to the outstanding choreography by Christopher Marney, which was performed so beautifully by the talented ensemble members. Unfortunately it is very much a case of style over substance at times and the stunning choreography and commendable performance by Wight weren't enough to save a play that, simply put, doesn't focus on the engaging story it could've told.


McQueen is running at St James Theatre in London (near Victoria Station) until 27 June 2015. You can buy tickets here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Theatre review: Avenue Q (UK tour)

©Matt Martin Photography

Almost a year ago to the day I had the profound pleasure of discovering the joy that is Avenue Q when I reviewed it for Woman's World. I saw the show on press night in Greenwich and loved it so much that when it returned to London, Wimbledon this time around, I booked myself a ticket to see it again. So you can imagine how excited I was when I first heard the news that the tour would come back this year, and would once more play my favourite London fringe venue; Greenwich Theatre.

Admittedly when I initially saw that there would be cast changes for the tour I felt disappointed as the two leads that left, Lucie-Mae Sumner (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut) and Tom Steedon (protagonist Princeton/Rod), made my previous viewings of this show so very special. Thankfully my other favourite, Stephen Arden (Nicky/Trekkie), was still a firm part of the musical and newcomers Sarah Harlington and Richard Lowe brought a breath of fresh air to it.

I was particularly stoked to see Richard in one of the leads as I loved his performance in the West End run of Loserville and while I have also caught him in The Light Princess at the National Theatre, it was brilliant to see him, deservingly, take centre-stage once more. He was already fantastic in his West End debut several years ago and he has only become even more impressive since. 

The Tony Award-winning show tells the story of recent graduate Princeton (Lowe) who feels a little disillusioned as he tries to find his purpose in life. With a degree in his pocket but no job to go with it, he can only afford to rent a place all the way down Avenue Q and that is where he meets our merry band of characters. A mixture of puppets and humans creates an ingenious and fun display and one that could almost be mistaken for the cheery innocence of Sesame Street, were it not for the fact that the musical is filled with profanity, adult themes and a character obsessed with porn.

It sounds mental, particularly when you add in wacky though oh so catchy tunes by the hand of Jeff Marx and Bobby Lopez (Frozen, Book of Mormon), which have titles such as If You Were Gay (That'd Be Okay), You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love) and Everyone's a Little Bit Racist. But the charmingly honest and surprisingly realistic (considering half the cast are puppets) book by Jeff Whitty makes it work, aided by a fantastic direction from Cressida Carre and a delightful set design by Richard Evans (slightly updated from last year's tour).

I've been a massive fan of Sell a Door ever since I caught their beautiful and haunting production of Spring Awakening (also at Greenwich Theatre) and with both Avenue Q tours they have shown once more what a fantastic and inspiring company they are. This year they're also touring The History Boys and bringing American Idiot to the West End, so there's a lot of exciting theatre to look forward to from Sell a Door in 2015. I, for one, will be penning the dates into my diary as soon as I have hit 'publish' on this review.

Avenue Q is running at Greenwich Theatre until 24 May 2015. You can buy tickets here. After that it will be touring the UK again, including a return to New Wimbledon Theatre next year.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Avon Book Blogger Evening

HarperCollins only moved into their new offices on London Bridge Road (opposite the famous Shard) recently – yet I've already been there three times now (I think this warrants me getting my own entrance pass), and I continue to be impressed by the amazing view over London from it!

Most recently I had the pleasure to make a visit thanks to an invite from (the aptly named) Fabulous Book Fiend to join her for Avon's Book Blogger Evening last week. Obviously it would've been rude to say 'no' ;)

I loved that it was quite a small gathering of bloggers as it meant that we had plenty of time to chat to the wonderful Avon people and authors present, including Claudia Carroll, Fiona Gibson, Michele Gorman, Amy Lynch, Gil Paul and C.L. Taylor.

With Claudia Carroll

We spend a particularly long time chatting to Claudia and Amy and they were such incredibly lovely and interesting people – I could've easily spoken to them all night, but sadly, towards the end, we almost had to be kicked out (yes, I really didn't want to leave!).

With Amy Lynch

Thanks so much to the Avon team for hosting the such a wonderful opportunity and giving us the chance to meet your authors. I also loved the goodie bag we received as we left as I do adore my bookish totes and I didn't have one yet branding the Avon logo (I'm slowly collecting bags from all my favourite UK publishers!).

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book review: Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

My edition: Paperback (proof), the four parts will be released throughout May 2015 by Little, Brown, 256 pages.

Description: Jess has decided it's time to get out of her comfort zone and live a little. So when her best friend Bryony, a journalist on a gossip magazine, is sent to cover the Cannes Film Festival, Jess decides to seize the day and go along for the ride. Two weeks of glitz, glamour and exclusive entry into celeb-filled parties is just the kind of adventure Jess needs.

Reality soon bites though when Jess and Bryony find they're staying in a dingy hotel far away from all the action and Bryony's expenses budget barely covers a glass of local wine. Undeterred, the two women are determined to live like the elite and enjoy one fancy night out to begin their holiday. So what if they have to tell a few white lies along the way? It's just this once. No harm done . . . right?


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book review: The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby

My edition: Paperback, published on 23 April 2015 by Virago Press, 306 pages.

Description: On November 22, 1963, the First Lady accompanied her husband to Dallas, Texas dressed in a pink Chanel-style suit that was his favorite. Much of her wardrobe, including the pink suit, came from the New York boutique Chez Ninon where a young seamstress, an Irish immigrant named Kate, worked behind the scenes to meticulously craft the memorable outfits.

While the two never met, Kate knew every tuck and pleat needed to create the illusion of the First Lady's perfection. When the pink suit became emblematic, Kate's already fragile world--divided between the excess and artistry of Chez Ninon and the traditional values of her insular neighborhood--threatened to rip apart.


Monday, May 11, 2015

Theatre review: Carrie at Southwark Playhouse

©Photo Claire Bilyard

For someone who is such a big scaredy-cat that she has never actually seen a Stephen King movie, attending Carrie at the Southwark Playhouse may have been a peculiar choice, but tack the word "musical" onto anything and I'll be intrigued enough to check it out. This method doesn't always work out, mind, as I have seen some dire shows in my time, but in this instance I discovered a fantastic new production that is going straight into my list of favourite musical experiences.

Carrie was Stephen King's first published novel back in the 1970s, but it is relevant now as it was all those decades ago. The clothes, tech and background music have been updated in this production to give it a contemporary feel, but the story itself is very 21st century as it focuses on an awkward high school girl with a fanatically religious mother who gets relentlessly bullied until all the teasing and nagging comes to an explosive and devastating finale.

With a book by Lawrence D. Cohen, lyrics by Dean Pitchford and music by Michael Gore (the men behind the classic music of 80s hit films Fame and Footloose), the musical made its ill-fated debut in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 1988 and transferred to Broadway that same year before closing after just 21 performances. Nonetheless the show received an Off-Broadway revival in 2012 and now it has returned to England, London no less, bringing its journey full circle. And what a return it is. 

From the opening notes of the toe-tappingly catchy "In" I was enthralled by this production of Carrie. The pop-rock songs gave the show a fun and cheerful feel, not unlike the other high school musical about being different that recently received an Off-West End revival, Loserville, but there was a sinister undertone that became more and more evident as we got to know Carrie (a sincere and captivating performance by Evelyn Hoskins) more intimately, and her newly discovered telekinetic powers were slowly turning her into Matilda's evil twin. 

The entire cast for this production was incredibly strong and their performances were most spine-tingling in the larger group numbers. Even though I didn't know any of the songs before seeing this production, the stand-outs were so catchy and memorable that I'm still humming them days after watching the musical, particularly "The World According to Chris", which lets Gabriella Williams shine in her professional debut, and "A Night We'll Never Forget", which was an equally strong opener to the second act as the previously mentioned "In" was to the first.

Moving from heart-wretching and poignant to intense and terrifying, this is a powerful and thought-provoking production of Carrie the Musical and one that will undoubtedly change the perception of the show from an ill-conceived idea to a surprise hit deserving of a West End transfer.

Carrie is running at the Southwark Playhouse until 30 May 2015. You can buy tickets here.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Beauty review: Rapid Moisture Spray Lotion

If you follow my beauty reviews, you will know by now that I'm always on the look out for great body creams and lotions that really nourish dry skin and preferably last all day long. I've trialled some wonderful products over the years (I was particularly pleased with Eve of St. Agnes Hydrating Body Cream and Bronnley's Citrus Collection), but most of these were thick, rich creams that required a little effort to apply as they (understandably) didn't absorb as soon as they touched my skin.

I've mostly steered clear from thinner lotions because while they can be efficient for people who just want to give their skin a moisturising boost, it wouldn't actually work for a very dry skin such as mine and more often than not they are quite runny too and so rushed application before work in the morning would result is a bit of a mess as well.

So when I was offered to trial the Rapid Moisture Spray Lotion, I was instantly intrigued by the 'spray' part of the product's name. I didn't think that the lotion would work wonders as a moisturiser, but I was keen to try how this different form of application would work for me.

So what was my experience of using the Rapid Moisture Spray Lotion?

The first thing I noticed when I received the product in the post was that it doesn't come in a particularly appealing package. The metal can looks and feels similar to that of a can of hairspray or shaving foam, rather than the delicately designed pots and jars I've come to love from the more luxurious body creams I regularly use.

As it requires a spray function this was never going to be an eqsuisitaly shaped jar of cream though to be more eye-catching on the shelves perhaps the design on the outside could've been more delicate and colourful. Yes, the brown swirls reflect the cocoa and coconut shell that give the lotion its tropical fragrance, but solid browns simply aren't very appealing on the packaging of a skincare product - and it's the outside, not the effective product hidden within, that gives potential users a first impression.

But, just like you shouldn't judge a book by its cover (which, admittedly, I totally do) in this instance you shouldn't judge the skincare product by its packaging either - as it's the lotion within that counts and that worked very effectively indeed.

Holding down the nuzzle a perfectly-sized amount of the product was evenly distributed over my legs. As expected it was quite runny, but because it was such a small amount that was released there was plenty of time for me to spread it out and let it absorb without creating any mess. And while doing so the strong scent of coconut and cocoa punched the air, instantly transporting me to a much more tropical location. The fragrance was quite strong and lingered for a while, perfect to get you in the summer mood - or to pretend you're wandering a candy shop in Disneyland.

And despite being on the thin side compared to the more rich body butters I use, it moisturises very well and lasts for ages. Most of all though, this product stands out because it is incredibly easy and convenient to use. The spray works very well and is perfect for rushed mornings, so I will no longer occassionally skip my morning moisturising routine in favour of catching my train. Plus I smell like the tropics straight after use too, win/win!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Theatre review: Billy Elliot the Musical

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in London's West End this year, the musical about the boy who falls in love with ballet dancing against the backdrop of the 1980s miners' strike still feels very relevant. Margaret Thatcher may no longer be pulling the political ropes in Britain, but with the general election dominating headlines the conflicting agendas and social divides remains evident, not to mention that the show's underlying message about "being who you want to be" is one that unfortunately still needs to repeating today.

Based on the 2000 Lee Hall film and with additional music by the legendary Elton John, this is one of the rare occasions where an adaptation has translated very well onto the stage. The show remains true to its story while at the same time being infused by spectacular choreography and a whole range of catchy tunes. My personal favourite from the score has always been the powerful Solidarity, which both in lyrics and in music manages to convey the immense struggle and suffering of the miners.

It's as good, if not better, on stage but with the addition of the impressive choreography and great performances each and every one of the songs is a stand out; Star Shines Down provides an emotionally compelling intro to the story; Angry Song lets Billy really show off his fantastic dancing chops, Born to Boogie adds a touch of lightheartedness while staying true to the show's emotional core; Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher is incredibly catchy (point in case: a week later it is STILL stuck in my head); and The Letter is deeply moving.

I can't remember any other musical (and I have seen a lot of them) where the music is so good across the board and I can't single out a song I like just a tad less than the others. Lee Hall and Elton John have created some real magic and it is performed beautifully at the Victoria Palace Theatre. The entire cast was on top form when we saw the show last Wednesday. The scenes where the masculine miners and the swirls of pink in the form of little girls in tutus collided created particularly poignant moments, but it is Brodie Donougher as titular character Billy Elliot who steals the show with his sincere performance and phenomenal dancing skills.

At three hours in length Billy Elliot isn't a short musical yet everyone in the audience – children and adults alike – was completely enthralled from start to finish. As soon as the lights dimmed and the first spine-tingling tones of the male chorus penetrated through the auditorium a silence hushed through the theatre as we were treated to an exciting and touching show. A silence which was only broken by rounds of well-deserved applause during the most spectacular moments.

This is a beautiful piece of theatre that is filled to the brim with a fantastic score, deeply moving performances and a lot of heart. Solidarity forever, indeed. 


Billy Elliot the Musical is playing at the Victoria Palace Theare and is currently taking bookings until 19 December 2015. Buy your tickets here.

Thank you very much to the fabulous Official Theatre for the ticket in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Book review: Day Four by Sara Lotz

My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 21 May 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton, 340 pages.

Description: Four days into a five day singles cruise on the Gulf of Mexico, the ageing ship Beautiful Dreamer stops dead in the water.

With no electricity and no cellular signals, the passengers and crew have no way to call for help. But everyone is certain that rescue teams will come looking for them soon. All they have to do is wait.

That is, until the toilets stop working and the food begins to run out. When the body of a woman is discovered in her cabin the passengers start to panic.

There's a murderer on board the Beautiful Dreamer... and maybe something worse.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book review: One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon

My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 23 April 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton, 432 pages.

Description: What can you do to make the world a better place?

Libby helps a stranger, and transforms her life in the process.

Libby and her husband Jason have moved back to his hometown to turn the family B&B into a boutique hotel. They have left London behind and all the memories - good and bad - that went with it.

The injured woman Libby finds lying in the remote country road has lost her memory. She doesn't know why she came to be there, and no one seems to be looking for her.

When Libby offers to take her in, this one small act of kindness sets in motion a chain of events that will change many people's lives . . .


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cover review: Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley

You all know I love the novels from Cathy Bramley, who I have supported since she self-published the wonderful Conditional Love in 2013. I was thrilled when she got a book deal with Transworld who have started the exciting trend to publish her novels in four bite-sized digital parts first, before tempting all us fans once more with a gorgeous paperback.

The first book to be released this way was the heartwarming Ivy Lane and now it's the turn of her latest series, Appleby Farm, to get its own beautiful paperback and full kindle version – on 13 August 2015.

Without further ado, here's the stunning cover of the paperback!

Appleby Farm is a charming, funny and romantic story for anyone looking for a feel-good, light-hearted read, from the author of bestselling Ivy Lane.

Freya Moorcroft has wild red hair, mischievous green eyes, a warm smile and a heart of gold. She’s been happy working at the café round the corner from Ivy Lane allotments and her romance with her new boyfriend is going well, she thinks, but a part of her still misses the beautiful rolling hills of her Cumbrian childhood home: Appleby Farm.

Then a phone call out of the blue and a desperate plea for help change everything…

The farm is in financial trouble, and it’s taking its toll on the aunt and uncle who raised Freya. Heading home to lend a hand, Freya quickly learns that things are worse than she first thought. As she summons up all her creativity and determination to turn things around, Freya is surprised as her own dreams for the future begin to take shape.

Love makes the world go round, according to Freya. Not money. But will saving Appleby Farm and following her heart come at a price?

You can pre-order your copy of the full novel from Waterstones, Amazon, or your own preferred retailer now!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Edible garden for Carole Matthews' The Cake Shop in the Garden

Everyone who reads my blog will know I am a big fan of Carole Matthews. And Cake. I have reviewed several of Carole's fabulous novels in the past and even got to meet her at the Chocolate Festival (another word starting with a 'c' I adore) last year, interviewed her on my blog and have dubbed her 'The Queen' of Christmas' (more c's!) because of her wonderfully festive Christmas titles that I look forward to each year.

So when I read that her publishers were creating an edible cake garden in London to celebrate Carole's latest novel, The Cake Shop in the Garden, I knew I had to visit – no matter the cost. It was taking place last Thursday, the publication day for the novel, between 12 and 2pm. The perfect time to pop by during my lunch break, right? Except, from my offices in Victoria it took me 25 minutes and two tube journeys each way to get to the cake garden in Russell Square. And since I only get a 1 hour lunch break that meant I had just 10 very rushed minutes at the cake garden itself.

I made the most of it though! I got to say 'hi' to Carole who was looking absolutely gorgeous and she even took the time to sign my absolute favourite book of hers, With Love at Christmas, which I'd taken along; I got to very briefly see some bookish friends who'd also made the trek to the garden; I devoured the most moist and delicious vanilla cupcake, which had an edible version of the book on top; and I spend a good five minutes taking photos of all the stunning cake displays and edible details in the garden, such as an amazingly beautiful potted plant made out of cake, a bird bath, a biscuit and fruit loaf wall, and a delicate rose cupcake.

Running around the underground to catch my trains back and forth from work and skipping lunch in the process (I only had the cupcake)? Totally worth it. Thanks Carole and Little, Brown for creating such a fabulous publication day treat. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Book review: A Fête to Remember by Julia Stagg

My edition: Paperback, published on 3 July 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 369 pages.

Description: It's summertime in the French Pyrenees and the mountain commune of Fogas is en fête. But Christian Dupuy has no time for the frivolity of les vacances. For a start, he's just been struck by the arrows of l'amour and doesn't have a clue how to approach the woman who's stolen his heart.

Then there is the not-so-small matter of local politics. With moves afoot to wipe his community from the map, Christian has to enter the fray once more to save the place that he cherishes.

In the midst of a sweltering heatwave and with the residents of Fogas at each other's throats over their future, the lovesick and embattled deputy mayor must decide if all really is fair in love and war.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Top picks from Hot Key Books' 2015 releases

After going to Hot Key Books' fantastic blogger brunch and having the opportunity to hear about the wide range of exciting books they're publishing this year, I decided to create a blog post with my top picks from their 2015 catalogue.

Because there are many brilliantly sounding titles coming out from this unique YA publisher that I want everyone to know about ahead of publication, so we can all count down the days to release and run to the shops (or the Hot Key Books website, I've hyperlinked all titles to their page on where possible for convenience) on the day of release!

Fish Out of Water by Natalie Whipple (5 February) – I already reviewed this novel back in February and up until today it's still my fav YA book I've read this year. It's the perfect treat for fans of the sweet romance novels from Jennifer E. Smith, with the added quirkiness of Rainbow Rowell and the emotional punch of John Green – so basically a triple whammy of all that is brilliant in YA fiction right now.

Liberty's Fire by Lydia Syson (7 May) – At the book brunch the author described her novel as "Les Mis 40 years on", which is enough said, really. There's action, music, protests and romance all against the backdrop of the civil revolution in Paris.

How To Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski (4 June) – E. Lockhart is one of HKB's most exciting authors and I absolutely adored The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks when I reviewed it last year. How To Be Bad is written with two other authors, they each take on the perspective of one of the three leads, and is a road trip story which sounds perfect for summer.

Only We Know by Simon Packham (4 June) – Admittedly it's the mock-up cover that first caught my attention for this one on the hand-outs we received, but the story sounds really interesting too as it focuses on a girl who tries to reinvent herself at a new school but suddenly starts to receive mysterious packages hinting at a big secret from her past coming back to haunt her.

Birdy by Jess Vallance (2 July) – An unlikely friendship that sounds too good to be true? I'm intrigued!

Lorali by Laura Dockrill (2 July) – This books sounds bonkers, but my god Laura's reading was absolutely hilarious! Filled with teenage drama, celebrating 'the odd one out', mermaids, fit pirates and trampy sirens, this is one not to miss.

Paperweight by Meg Haston (2 July) – While the HKB team didn't want to call it an 'issues book', it does get straight to the point. Stevie is packed off to a mental health clinic against her will, but what she finds along the way might surprise her. It's sounds gritty and a bit John Green, definitely a YA read to watch out for.

The Good Girls by Sara Shepard (2 July) – I am completely hooked on Sara Shephard's mystery novels (I continue reading the Pretty Little Liars series even though they've long run their course) and The Perfectionists is the latest series. I loved the first book and can't wait to dig into the sequel!

The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew (27 August) – A highly imaginative concept set in contemporary Nazi England, this novel delves into the beliefs and actions of children within a Nazi regime. It sounds like a thought-provoking read that will sprout many discussions about the perception of right and wrong.

All of the Above by James Dawson (3 September) – I am a big fan of James, having reviewed Cruel Summer, Say Her Name and Under My Skin in the past. But while those were all teen horror type novels, All of the Above is a completely fresh concept for the author. A coming-of-age novel without any supernatural elements, but instead with a touch of poetry woven throughout. The extract he read sounded truly amazing and I can't wait to hear more about it.

Cloud 9 by Alex Campbell (3 September) – A futuristic, political conspiracy thriller with a blogger at the heart of the action. It sounds amazing and the cover is incredibly eye-catching and stunning too.

Anything That Isn't This by Chris Priestley (1 October) – If I had to pick just one book of all the 2015 Hot Key Books titles listed here that I am most excited for then it's this one. 1984 with a YA twist, yes please!

That is a LOT of amazing new books from Hot Key Books this year! Which one(s) are you most excited for?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hot Key Books and Piccadilly Press blogger brunch

It has been an ace few weeks for book blogging events and I was thrilled when I received an invite from my favourite young adult publisher, Hot Key Books, for a blogger brunch at which they would present their upcoming 2015 titles and give bloggers to opportunity to mingle with the team and meet some of their amazing authors.

I met up with Laura at nearby Farringdon station and had a map with the route to the HKB offices ready on my phone yet I still managed to get us lost, oops. Thankfully we'd arrived into London early and still made it to the event in plenty of time. Before the presentation there was time to mingle with the lovely HKB team, fellow bloggers and author James Dawson (who had to shoot off early on in the afternoon) all while enjoying tasty breakfast food such as pastries and fruit. Yum! At 12 we made our way into the boardroom, admiring the gorgeous titles on display before sitting down for the presentations.

First up was James (who is not tiny by the way, but was sitting down!) who was full of love for bloggers, commenting on a recent series of Tweets by another author not quite so appreciative of the online book blogging community. James responded by saying that a collective is always going to be louder than an individual and authors should not bite the hand that feeds them. And to the bloggers he said: "Don't let people tell you that what you do isn't useful". Thanks, James!

He also spoke about his exciting new book, coming out later this year, which is completely different from his teen horror titles because, he said, "I wouldn't want to write the same book 17 times". All Of The Above is a coming-of-age novel without any supernatural elements, but instead with a touch of poetry woven throughout. The extract he read was truly amazing and I can't wait to hear more about it.

After James left, the HKB team took turns talking about all the exciting new books coming out this year (more about my favourites in a separate blog post tomorrow) before, one by one, some of their other authors took the stage to talk about their upcoming books.

First was Lydia Syson (pictured above) who described her novel, Liberty's Fire, as "Les Mis 40 years on". She could've stopped right there as I'm pretty sure she sold it to the room with those five words! She did add that the novel is also filled with action, music, protests and romance, all against the backdrop of the civil revolution in Paris.

Jess Vallance's novel Birdy focuses on an unlikely friendship that sounds too good to be true. It came across as a dark and very intriguing novel and the cover is absolutely amazing!

Hayley Long has two books coming out this year: Sophie Someone, for which she invented her own language, and non-fiction title Being a Girl. The latter sounded so funny! She talked about "the crimson wave collection" (what period stuff in the shops should be called) and what teens really thought of other girls "why are girls such bitches?" The HKB team pitched in that even as adults they learned a lot from the book!

Julie Mayhew was so lovely and her book, The Big Lie, sounds truly inspired. Set in contemporary Nazi England it delves into the beliefs and actions of children within a Nazi regime. It sounds like a thought-provoking read that will sprout many discussions about the perception of right and wrong.

Admittedly a book about mermaids didn't really sound like my kind of thing, but author Laura Dockrill absolutely sold Lorali to me with her fantastic presentation! She spoke about fit pirates and trampy sirens, and the extract she read from the book about a teenager wanting to turn into a mermaid and the steps she believed she had to take to achieve this was laugh-out-loud funny. She had the whole room of bloggers in stitches with that!

After the presentation it was time to mingle with the authors, get our books signed and have more tasty food (I had chocolate cake, raspberries and Prosecco. Best. Brunch. Ever!). It was such a brilliant afternoon and I loved chatting to the authors, HKB team and bloggers. They probably would've had to kick me out had I not already made another appointment I had to rush to!

As we left we also got AMAZING Hot Key Books tote bags filled with book proofs in addition to the ones I already picked up from the displays in the boardroom. I'm supposed to be rationing my new books as I have to move house soon and this means I have even more books to pack, but there were so many tempting titles that I ended up lugging ten new books on the train home. Worth it!

Thanks so much to team Hot Key Books for the invite and for organising such a fab event! I'll also be publishing my Top picks from Hot Key Books' 2015 releases blog post tomorrow.