Monday, July 28, 2014

Book review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell


My edition: paperback (proof), published on 18 June 2014 by Orion, 354 pages.

Description: Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it's been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they're supposed to visit Neal's family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can't go. She's a TV writer, and something's come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she's finally done it. If she's ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It's not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she's been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Rating:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Blog tour: Hot Chocolate and Teacakes by Amanda Prowse (part 9)



Today I'm thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for Amanda Prowse's new novel, Will You Remember Me?, in which over the course of ten days ten blogs each post a part of her short story Hot Chocolate and Teacakes.

Below is the 9th part of the story. Part 8 can be found here and and the final installment will be published here tomorrow. Enjoy!

* * * * *

DAY 9

‘Who’d want a dad like that?’ Dorothea asked before continuing, ‘and it’s true some dad’s are great and they make you feel safe and warm and special.’

Poppy nodded, this was the kind of dad she would like.

‘Did your dad make you feel like that then?’ Poppy had never met Grandad Reg, her mum’s grandad.

‘Sometimes.’ Dorothea nodded and for a second looked far away. ‘But the fact is all you need in your life is someone that makes you feel safe and warm and special and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a dad or a mum or a nan or a friend. So when writing your essay, all you have to do is think about feeling like that and who that person is and just right the word ‘dad.’ Miss West won’t mind. It’s only an essay after all…’ Dorothea reached over and ran her hand through her grand daughter’s hair.

‘I really love you Poppy Day.’

Poppy smiled.

* * * * *

Will You Remember Me is published by Head of Zeus and is out now! Get your copy from Amazon, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.


How do you say goodbye to your family for the last time?

Poppy Day is looking forward to her best year yet. She's thirty-two, married to her childhood sweetheart, and a full-time mum of two gorgeous children. She loves her clean little house in the countryside - a far cry from the London estate where she grew up. Her husband Mart, a soldier, has just returned safe and sound from his latest tour.

But Poppy is so busy caring for others, she hasn't noticed the fatigue in her body, or the menacing lump growing on her breast. If there's anyone strong and deserving enough to defeat cancer it's Poppy. After all, she's fought harder battles than this. But does life really work like that?


Monday, July 21, 2014

Book review: Written in the Stars by Ali Harris


My edition: Paperback, published on 5th June 2014 by Simon & Schuster, 450 pages.

Description: Bea Bishop is horrible at making decisions. Forget big life ones, even everyday choices seem to paralyse her. She's learned to live with this because experience has taught her that it doesn't matter what you do, no one has the power to control destiny. Anyone who believes they can is a fool.

But as her wedding day approaches, her years of indecision are weighing heavily on her, and she can't help but wonder, 'What if, what if, what if….'

What if she hadn't upped sticks and moved to London? What if she hadn't grabbed the first job that came along and settled down with the first guy who showed an interest? But all of her questions are silenced when she slips while walking down the aisle and is knocked unconscious.

In this split second her life splits into two: in one existence, Bea flees back down the aisle and out of the church. In the other she glides blissfully towards her intended. But which story will lead to her happily ever after?

Rating:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Book review: The Vacationers by Emma Straub


My edition: Paperback, published on 5th June 2014 by Picador, 293 pages.

Description: For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school.

The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.


Rating:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book review: Seeing Other People by Mike Gayle


My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 28th August 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 362 pages.

Description: Father of two Joe Clarke, is about seventy-eight per cent sure he's just had an affair. After all that is the hopelessly attractive office intern in bed next to him, isn't it? But then again if he did have an affair why can't he remember anything at all about the night in question?

Mortified by his mistake, Joe vows to be a better man. But when his adored wife Penny puts two and two together and leaves him, things start to take a turn for the decidedly strange.

Joe is told for a fact that he DIDN'T have an affair after all. He just thinks he did.

Which is great news . . . or at least it would be if the person who'd just delivered it wasn't the crisp-eating, overly perfumed and mean-spirited GHOST of his least favourite ex-girlfriend . . .

Rating:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Theatre review: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels [digital press night]


About: Based on the classic comedy film starring Sir Michael Caine and Steve Martin, be transported to the French Riviera and its decadent underworld, as two seasoned swindlers attempt to hoodwink a millionaire heiress. As the pair compete in the true art of the con, they discover there is only room for one of them.

The show stars three time Olivier and Tony Award winner Robert Lindsay, comedy legend Rufus Hound, Olivier Award nominee Katherine Kingsley and stage and screen icon Samantha Bond.

With direction and choregraphy by multi award-winning Jerry Mitchell, the book is written by Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Jeffrey Lane and has music and lyrics by Drama Desk Award winner David Yazbek.


Rating:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Book review: The Art of Baking Blind by Sarah Vaughan


My edition: Hardcover, published on 3rd July 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 406 pages.

Description: In 1966, Kathleen Eaden, cookery writer and wife of a supermarket magnate, published The Art of Baking, her guide to nurturing a family by creating the most exquisite pastries, biscuits and cakes.

Now, five amateur bakers are competing to become the New Mrs Eaden. There's Jenny, facing an empty nest now her family has flown; Claire, who has sacrificed her dreams for her daughter; Mike, trying to parent his two kids after his wife's death; Vicki, who has dropped everything to be at home with her baby boy; and Karen, perfect Karen, who knows what it's like to have nothing and is determined her fa├žade shouldn't slip.

As unlikely alliances are forged and secrets rise to the surface, making the choicest choux bun seems the least of the contestants' problems. For they will learn - as Mrs Eaden did before them - that while perfection is possible in the kitchen, it's very much harder in life.

Rating:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book launch: The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson



The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me is the laugh-out-loud funny and sob-equally-loudly brand-spanking new book from fabulous women's fiction author Lucy Robinson. The novel was published yesterday, which was the perfect excuse for a celebration in central London with a bunch of fellow book geeks while enjoying a glass of wine (I say 'a', but we all know there is no such thing as a single glass of wine...).

I read the novel a few weeks ago and fell head over heels in love with Lucy's witty writing and loveable main-character Sally. After finishing the book I was gushing about it all over the Internet, as you do, and Lucy was so grateful for my incoherent ramblings that she invited me to her launch party with the promise of wine. I never say 'no' to an offer of wine anyway, but having the chance to attend the launch for a book that I absolutely adored and meet its talented author in the process? Yes, please!


The brilliant evening was a who's who of wonderful people, with publishers and book bloggers in attendance alongside an abundance of fantastic authors, such as Victoria Fox, Hannah Beckerman, Ali Harris, Paige Toon, Matt Dunn, Rowan Coleman and Novelicious funny-lady, Rosie Blake! Lucy was the star of the evening, of course, and she even sparkled like one in her stunning dress as she gave a heartfelt thank you speech.

Befitting the book's operatic theme there were also two breathtakingly beautiful performances by some very talented people. I had absolutely no idea what they were singing as it was sung in a foreign language, but their emotional performances were an awe-inspiring experience. I was already interested in watching an opera in the theatre after reading The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me and after witnessing these mesmerising performances I am especially keen.


Other highlights of the evening included meeting the ever so lovely lady of the hour herself, Lucy was such a sweetheart and I'm glad I wasn't the only one actively encouraging group hugs on the night; plotting the perfect murder with the glamorous Victoria Fox; and walking up to Ali Harris just to give her a hug and tell her how much I love her books. This is what a few drinks on a nearly empty stomach does to me. I am so very sorry, Ali!

Despite my over eagerness to hug authors it was a truly ace night. Thank you very much to Lucy for the invite.


This post first appeared HERE on Novelicious.com

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book review: Waiting for Doggo by Mark B. Mills


My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 20 November 2014 by Headline Review, 207 pages.

Description: No-one ever called Dan a pushover. But then no-one ever called him fast-track either. He likes driving slowly, playing Sudoku on his iPhone, swapping one scruffy jumper for another. He's been with Clara for four years and he's been perfectly happy; but now she's left him, leaving nothing but a long letter filled with incriminations and a small, white, almost hairless dog, named Doggo.

So now Dan is single, a man without any kind of partner whether working or in love. He's just one reluctant dog owner. Find a new home for him, that's the plan. Come on...everyone knows the old adage about the best laid plans and besides, Doggo is one special kind of a four legged friend...and an inspiration.

Rating:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book launch: Say Her Name by James Dawson



Last week was the book launch for British author James Dawson's new novel, Say Her Name, at Waterstones in Islington. I absolutely loved his latest creepy offering (find my review here) and his previous novel too (read review here), so I of course jumped at the chance to attend the book's launch party. As I already knew that Vicky was going as well, so we met up slightly before and made our way over together.


As soon as we arrived we were greeted by James himself - who even remembered our names (I assume as we'd both been Tweeting about going earlier that day). Despite meeting authors regularly, every once in a while I do feel a little starstruck and having just finished the AMAZING Say her Name, this was one of those occasions. We did shake hands and I'm pretty sure I muttered a 'Nice to meet you'.

There were drinks and cupcakes (James joked there were only 12 cupcakes and since we - and the other people there - were the first 12 people arriving, we'd better be quick), which of course we'd happily devoured. That was dinner sorted.

Funnily enough, Vicky and myself both opted for a different style cupcake which ended up matching the book each of us brought to get signed! And yes, we got them signed by James, who was incredibly nice and generous with his time despite Waterstones quickly filling up with lots and lots of people celebrating the book launch with him.


It soon was time for a speech and none other than Bloody Mary (the character referred to in the book's title and pictured on the cover) showed up! Oh dear, I guess James said her name five time in front of a mirror at midnight resulting in her taking his place...

The speech that followed was really inspiring and I particularly loved how he compared the journey of writing a book to the struggle of a newly hatched baby turtle:

"Sometimes publishing can feel like a bit of a fight. I was thinking the other day that it was a bit like those BBC nature programmes where the tiny little baby turtles are hatched out of their eggs quite high up the beach and then they sort of  have to flipper their way down to the sea before the giant seagull can eat them. And it only feels like every 1 in a 100 books is a little turtle that makes it to the sea and so it feels like you're the little baby turtle desperately trying to make it there." 

In all it was a fantastic evening with lovely people and cake (can't go wrong when there is cake), thank you very much to James for making the book launch a public event so we could be a part of it!

Kudos to the person who baked this gruesome creation

This was right before 'Mary' cut the cake Psycho style

Vicky and I with the one and only Bloody Mary

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book review: Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 22 May 2014 by Simon & Schuster, 448 pages.

Description: Last year, Bronte left Sydney for a wedding in England, where she met newly single Alex. After a night of passion they parted ways, and Bronte returned to Australia.

Now working on a picture desk for a magazine in London, Bronte is about to meet her new colleague, who turns out to be all too familiar. Although awkward at first, as Alex is now engaged to the girl he was on a break from when they met, they soon become friends.

But as the two get closer, and the wedding day looms, it is clear that Alex and Bronte have unfinished business


Rating:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book review: Say Her Name by James Dawson


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 5 June 2014 by Hot Keys Books, 240 pages.

Description: Roberta 'Bobbie' Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of 'Bloody Mary': say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear... But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it?

Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror... five days... but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before...

Rating:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gingling with London theatre bloggers


Mid-May I received an email from Rebecca, editor of OfficialTheatre.com, with the question if I would be interested in a meet-up with fellow theatre bloggers. My first thought was "Yes, please!", quickly followed by "How did she find my blog?!?" Rebecca's mad blog-searching skills aside, I thought it was a brilliant idea to bring together the bloggers and reviewers of the London theatre scene. And when the official "Ginvite" came through closer to the meet-up on June 2, detailing not only a fun evening of theatre chat at London cocktail bar Central and Co but also a gin-tasting session with Martin Miller's Gin, I was definitely sold. (Yes, you can basically ply me with the promise of alcohol.)

The evening was everything I could've hoped for and then some. Rebecca was incredibly lovely and a fantastic host, not to mention that she had some great ideas to unite the blogging community and spread the theatre love. Attendees varied from people running little-known blogs like my own to more established theatre sites such as The Public Reviews, Views From the Gods and West End Wilma. It was a really nice mixture and I enjoyed getting the chance to gingle with so many different people who, at the end of the day, were all just as passionate about theatre as I am.

There was also a cocktail making session and as soon as Rebecca said that we'd be naming the drinks ourselves I thought of the "Ginterval", as that would nicely fit with the theatrical theme of the night. Our team eventually settled on "Let the Right One Gin", which we all felt to be superior, so imagine my surprise when another team came up with the Ginterval... and won! I'm not a sour loser (ahum) but just as an aside, our delectable concoction was the only one completely finished after the judges had a taste of all the entries ;)

Alcohol makes the stomach growl, so I got very excited when big platters of food arrived for us to tuck into; pieces of rustic bread with olives and soft butter, gooey cheeses with oat cakes, grapes and onion chutney - yum! It was a gin-tastic evening combining pretty much all of my favourite things (theatre, cheese, alcohol, blogging and did I mention cheese?) and I cannot thank Rebecca enough for the Ginvite and for making it such a successful night.

If you want to follow what us London theatre bloggers get up to besides drinking gin and eating cheese, check the #LDNtheatrebloggers tag on Twitter.


Let The Right One Win, eh... Gin!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Book review: The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 by J.B. Morrison


My edition: Paperback, published on 5 June 2014 by Pan Macmillan, 274 pages.

Description: Frank Derrick is eighty-one. And he's just been run over by a milk float. It was tough enough to fill the hours of the day when he was active. But now he's broken his arm and fractured his foot, it looks set to be a very long few weeks ahead.

Frank lives with his cat Bill (which made more sense before Ben died) in the typically British town of Fullwind-on-Sea. He watches DVDs, spends his money frivolously at the local charity shop and desperately tries to avoid the cold callers continuously knocking on his door. Emailing his daughter in America on the library computer and visiting his friend Smelly John used to be the highlights of his week. Now he can't even do that.

Then a breath of fresh air comes into his life in the form of Kelly Christmas, home help. With her little blue car and appalling parking, her cheerful resilience and ability to laugh at his jokes, Kelly changes Frank's life. She reminds him that there is a big wide-world beyond the four walls of his flat and that adventures, however small, come to people of all ages.

Rating:


I'm thrilled to be part of the blog tour for this wonderfully funny yet also poignant novel today and to be able to share the below Q&A with author, J.B. Morrison.


Why did you decide to make your protagonist 81 years old?

JB: I was spending a lot of time with my mother, who was 81 at the time. Like Frank, she lived on her own in a first-floor flat in a small Sussex village. People were always telling her to get her roof fixed even though there was nothing noticeably wrong with it. She was getting a lot of junk mail too and annoying telephone cold calls. I wanted to write about that in some way.

Who is the inspiration for Kelly Christmas?

JB: She's entirely fictional, although because Kelly is the same age as my daughter, that hopefully helped me not make her completely unbelievable.

How did you become an author?

JB: It was an accident. I had a fairly long career in pop music and wrote an autobiographical account of that. Having the book published was such a genuine thrill that I wanted to write more. I've been very lucky being able to somehow follow one pretty dream occupation with another.

What do you enjoy most about being an author?

JB: When I really get into a writing flow and I can't get things down quick enough. With my way of writing it doesn't happen too often. It will usually be in a long section of dialogue when the conversation between two characters just takes over and it's like they’re actually having a real conversation and I'm just writing down what they say. I also love it when I think of something that in a moment makes the whole story suddenly make sense.

Describe a typical day in your life.

JB: I'm terrible at the whole getting up at five a.m., taking the dog for a walk, dropping the kids off at school, grinding my own coffee beans and then writing a thousand words before lunch thing. I haven't got a dog and my daughter is twenty-seven, so that doesn't help of course. I really have no discipline or routine other than getting up whenever I wake up, watching BBC Breakfast news roll over and over again and then going on Twitter. As an example, while I'm supposed to be writing this I'm on Twitter pretending I'm at the Q Awards. I do go swimming on Tuesday mornings. In the water I tend to come up with my best writing ideas, which is a bit inconvenient.

Many thanks J.B. for answering these questions! Please find my review for his delightful novel below.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book review: The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera


My edition: paperback (proof), to be published on 5 June 2014 by Abacus, 314 pages.

Description: Prudencia Prim is a young woman of high ideals, intelligence and achievement, with an extensive knowledge of literature and several letters after her name. But when she accepts the post of private librarian to a wealthy bibliophile in the secluded village of San Ireneo de Arnois, she is unprepared for what she will encounter there.

Her employer, a philosopher and intellectual, is dashing yet contrarian, always ready with a stinging critique of her beloved Austen and Alcott. And the neighbours are also capable of charm and eccentricity in equal measure, determined as they are to preserve their singular little community from the outside world.

Thoughtful, gentle Prudencia might have hoped for friendship in San Ireneo but she didn't expect to find romance - nor did she expect the course of her new life to run quite so rocky, to offer challenge and heartache as well as discovery, joy and delicious regional pastries.

Rating: