Thursday, 29 August 2013

Book review: Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach


My edition: Paperback, published on 29 August 2013 by Vintage, 387 pages.

Description: When retired actor Buffy decides to up sticks from London and move to rural Wales, he has no idea what he is letting himself in for.

In possession of a run-down B&B that leans more towards the shabby than the chic and is miles from nowhere, he realises he needs to fill the beds - and fast.

Enter a motley collection of guests: Harold, whose wife has run off with a younger woman; Amy, who's been unexpectedly dumped by her (not-so) weedy boyfriend and Andy, the hypochondriac postman whose girlfriend is much too much for him to handle.

But under Buffy's watchful eye, this disparate group of strangers find they have more in common than perhaps they first thought...

Rating:

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Author cover quotes: Love them or loathe them?



There are many innovative ways for book publishers to promote a newly released title and one I'm seeing more and more of nowadays is the author cover quote. But does it really achieve what it sets out to do, i.e. persuade potential readers to buy a book?

For me personally, it has not had the desired effect. I've never bought a book based on the cover quote and on a few occasions I've even put a prospective buy back on the shelf because the addition of the quote put me off. Most of the time though, I hardly notice them when I'm browsing books in the shops (as I'm much more focussed on the title, author and cover image) and only realise they are there when I already own a copy of the novel and am in the middle of reading it.

Some issues I have with the inclusion of quotes, particularly on the front cover:

I dislike the quoted author. While cover quotes are supposed to make people excited for the novel in their hands, on several occasions the exact opposite has happened to me. There are a few authors whose books and writing I am not a fan of but they are extremely popular and a top pick amongst their genres for providing quotes to fellow authors. However, since I don't think very highly of them, their positive opinion will actively put me off trying a prospective new author because I assume (probably wrongfully so) that the book I'm considering picking up will be similar to the ones from the author-I-really-do-not-like.

It's aesthetically displeasing. I like clean covers but the addition of quotes makes them unnecessarily cluttered and oftentimes even gives them a unprofessional look. I think a front cover should focus on the title and author, and possibly an image to reflect the story. Any additional text, other than perhaps a brief line about the author such as "Sunday Times bestselling author" or "From the author of [include most popular title here]", only distracts from the more important features.

Writers are overused. Even not paying any particular attention to cover quotes I can't help but notice them when I'm reading a novel and since I tend to read the same few genres it's become clear to me that the same authors within these genres pop up again and again to provide a cover quote. This not only becomes tiresome but it also takes away from the credibility, as it seems they'll just about provide anyone with a quote.

Incorrect or misleading use. Because there is so little space to spare on a front cover the quote has to be incredibly short and to the point, which means it's often taken out of context and sometimes even slightly altered to fit this small area. This can give an incorrect perception of the quoted person's opinion of the novel. To add to that, on several occasions I've noticed the same quote pop up on different books by the same author (often a series). The quote was initially included on the first book published and was consequently repeated without making it clear that it is actually referring to an old title, which is a very misleading way of promoting a book.

So while I'm sure it's encouraging and exciting for (newly published) authors to know that a fellow (perhaps more established) author has read the book and is willing to attach their name to it with a positive comment and recommendation, I'm not so certain it is quite as important or effective from a reader's point of view.

I have nothing against author quotes in principle and they can be perfectly suited on the back cover (if the blurb is short enough, so it doesn't look overcrowded) or on a dedicated page in the front of the book. They can also be a great tool in other marketing campaigns, such as magazine ads and railway posters, but I personally wish they wouldn't clutter up so many otherwise gorgeous front covers.

What do you guys think? Have you ever read a (memorable) cover quote that persuaded you to purchase a book? Or perhaps has it had the opposite effect and did you quickly put a book back on the shelf because an author you don't like recommended it? It'd be great to read your input, positive or negative!

This is my first discussion post so I'd love it if you'd leave your thoughts below and perhaps share this post/RT it. And please be nice, whatever your opinion :)

Monday, 19 August 2013

Book review: Another Way to Fall by Amanda Brooke


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 22 August 2013 by Harper, 416 pages.

Description: After battling a brain tumour twenty-nine year old Emma thinks she is in the clear, but her world comes crashing down around her when she is told her fight was in vain, and there is nothing more the doctors can do.

Realising that she won’t now have time to achieve the things she dreamed of, Emma decides to write her perfect life in a story. She imagines all the things she would have done, the places she would have seen, the husband she would have shared her life with and the family they would have raised. And, mysteriously, as she writes her story, she starts to notice that some of her dreams seem to be coming true.

Now with a real love in her life, and her fading hope burning brighter, reality and fiction start to become blurred. As she writes their life-long love story Emma dares to believe that anything is possible, but can she really change her fate?

Rating:

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Sunday post #7



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.





Alice Brown's Lessons in the Curious Art of Dating by Eleanor Prescott (purchase)
An Enormously English Monsoon Wedding by Christina Jones (purchase)
Ten Years On by Alice Peterson (purchase)
The Chocolate Lovers' Diet by Carole Matthews (purchase)
The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating by Carole Radziwill (review book)
Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams by Jenny Colgan (purchase)
Yesterday's Sun by Amanda Brooke (purchase)



Having just read and adored Another Way to Fall by Amanda Brooke I of course had to get her first novel as well. It's my next read and I cannot wait to start it. Alice Peterson, Carole Matthews and Jenny Colgan are amongst my favourite authors and these were books still missing from my respective collections so I quickly snapped them up when I saw them on offer in the shops. The other two books I purchased simply because both the titles sound fun and the covers looked pretty (I'm so superficial!).

The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating was an unsolicited review copy and while it initially screamed more 50 Shades to me than the type of fiction I generally enjoy the blurb makes it sound like a chick-lit so I'm willing to give it a try.

Have you guys read any of the books listed above yet? If so, what did you think

Friday, 16 August 2013

Book review: Ostrich by Matt Greene


My edition: Hardcover, to be published on 5 September 2013 by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 292 pages.

Description: Alex has a story to tell. He just doesn't know what kind it is yet. He's got a lot of the same concerns most of us do growing up (exams, puberty and, in his case, a punctuation obsession plus a little quantum mechanics) but lately, ever since his brain surgery, everyone in his life is behaving more than a little mysteriously. Maybe it's adjusting to life after epilepsy or maybe it's the pressure of his pending scholarship application, but Alex is starting to see the world through different eyes. He's certain there's something rotten at the heart of his parents' marriage, and when his beloved hamster Jaws 2 starts acting up as well he decides it's time to investigate.

So begins the journey that takes him to the limits of his understanding, the edge of his endurance, the threshold of manhood, and the country music aisle in Virgin Megastore. And eventually, on the eve of his English Composition exam, to the door of his mother's home-made dark room. But will Alex have the courage to expose the terrible secret that lies beyond? Or would it be better for everyone if he buried his head in the sand?

Rating:

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Book review: Playing Grace by Hazel Osmond


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 15 August 2013 by Quercus, 535 pages.

Description: Grace Surtees has everything carefully under control – her work life, her home life and her love life – especially her love life.

But then her boss hires Tate Saunders, a brash American, to spice up the gallery tours his company provides. Messy and fond of breaking rules, Tate explodes into her tidy existence like a paintball, and Grace hates everything about him...

...doesn't she?

Because, for Grace, the alternative would be simply too terrifying to contemplate: to love Tate rather than hate him would mean leaping out of her comfort zone, and Grace's devotion to order hides some long-kept secrets... secrets she's sure someone like Tate Saunders could never accept or understand.

Rating:

Monday, 12 August 2013

Win one of two copies of Lost & Found by Tom Winter


*** GIVEAWAY ***


Publishers Constable and Robinson have given me two copies of Lost & Found by Tom Winter to give away to celebrate the paperback release of the novel on August 15!

I had a chance to review a hardcover copy earlier this year and I found this debut a poignant read about two ordinary people whose stories become extraordinary as the excellent writing draws the reader in. The characters are quirky and memorable and I'm sure you'll quickly fall in love with them like I did. If you'd like to know more about the novel, you can read my full review here.

For your chance to win one of two paperback copies of the book, just fill in the Rafflecopter below! The competition will run for 1 week, after which the winners will be announced on here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway open to UK residents only. Winners selected at random and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway has closed. Prizes will be sent directly by the publisher.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Sunday post #6



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.




40 (free book in celebration of Canongate's 40th anniversary, order a copy here)
Another Way to Fall by Amanda Brooke (review book)
Going Back by Rachel English (competition win)
My Husband Next Door by Catherine Alliott (competition win)
The First Lie by Diane Chamberlain (competition win)



I have already finished Another Way to Fall by Amanda Brooke which, as expected, was an absolute tearjerker. Don't get me wrong, it was a beautiful and magic novel as well but I did spent the last few chapters crying big fat ugly tears.

I've not had a chance yet to pick up the other books but I look forward to reading them! Especially Diane Chamberlain's The First Lie as it is a prequel to her latest release, Necessary Lies, which I thought was a poignant and powerful read.

Have you guys read any of the books showcased above yet? If so, what did you think?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Shea Mooti Mama's Everything Body Balm & Mama's Sooting Leg and Foot Cream



Shea Mooti has designed a natural and ethical skincare range especially for mums, mums-to-be, babies and anyone with delicate skin. The products are formulated to soothe, moisturise and pamper delicate skin using pure, natural botanical oils and butters and are free from parabens, EDTA, mineral oils, synthetic colours and fragrances, silicones and phthalates.

I had the pleasure to try two products from the range, Mama's Everything Body Balm and Mama's Sooting Leg and Foot Cream.

The body balm is infused with Cocoa Butter and nourishing Omega enriched oils and smells strongly of lavender, which is a fragrance I absolutely love. It can be used all over the body but is particularly intended for very dry and sensitive areas that benefit from extra moisture, such as a baby's bottom.

The waxy consistency did exactly what it said on the label and swiftly smoothened my skin. It unfortunately also left an oily filter long after I applied it, which made it quite unpleasant to put on clothes over the areas I had used it on. I mostly enjoyed massaging the balm on my elbows as I noticed a significant difference after use.

The cream with Aloe Vera and Niaouli Oil worked absolute wonders on my legs and aching feet after a long and tiring day. It is really rich in texture and a small amount goes a long way. The pleasantly smelling lotion was easily massaged in and was instantly absorbed, leaving my skin feeling smooth and my legs and feet relieved soon after I'd applied it.

The lovely fragrance continued to linger faintly for quite a while after use, which added to the uplifting quality of the cream - it really did feel like a super quick and easy pampering session!

Book review: Cruel Summer by James Dawson


My edition: Paperback, published on 1 August 2013 by Indigo, 234 pages.

Description: A year after Janey's suicide, her friends reunite at a remote Spanish villa, desperate to put the past behind them.

However, an unwelcome guest arrives claiming to have evidence that Jane was murdered. When she is found floating in the pool, it becomes clear one of them is a killer.

Only one thing is for certain, surviving this holiday is going to be murder…

A compelling and psychological thriller - with a dash of romance.



Rating:

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Romance writers: Win a three-book contract with HarperImpulse



The lovely people at Hamper Impulse, the romance imprint of HarperCollins, have announced a Christmas themed competition for budding writers with the amazing prize being a three-book contract with HarperImpulse and afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason in London!

So dust off your Christmas playlist, make yourself a nice cup of hot cocoa and imagine yourself in a magical winter wonderland as you write down your best seasonal story to submit for the following competition:


Hello!

The sun may be shining outside but here at Harper Impulse we’re thinking about Christmas time... and launching our wonderful WINTER WONDERLAND competition.

We're looking for novels of any length, which have a Christmas, Hanukkah or New Year theme in them (and, of course, some kind of romance!). We’re open to all kinds of stories from people of all backgrounds anywhere around the world - if you’re not sure if your plot fits the competition, please get in touch on Twitter or Facebook.

The prize is a three-book contract with HarperImpulse and afternoon tea at Fortnum and Mason in London. If you are unable to make the afternoon tea (we know that a lot of our readers and writers are overseas!), a hamper of wonderful Fortnum and Mason treats will be sent to you, wherever you are in the world.

The closing date for entries is 16th October 2013. Please send all entries to romance@harpercollins.co.uk and add 'Christmas submission' to the e-mail subject header.

You can submit more than one story and submit more than once. Please also include a brief covering note about yourself and the submission.

Submission guidelines and other FAQ, including information about royalties and formats can be found here.

We can't wait to read your stories! Good luck!


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Book review: Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews


My edition: Hardcover, published on 1 August 2013 by Sphere, 452 pages.

Description: Cassie Smith has been out of work for a while but she has an idea. Drawing on her love of Christmas, she begins charging for small things: wrapping presents; writing cards; tree-decorating. She's soon in huge demand and Cassie's business, Calling Mrs Christmas, is born.

Carter Randall wants to make Christmas special for his children, so he enlists Cassie's help, and his lavish requests start taking up all her time. Thank goodness she can rely on her loving partner Jim to handle the rest of her clients.

When millionaire Carter asks Cassie to join his family on a trip to Lapland, she knows she shouldn't go . . . Suddenly Cassie finds herself facing a heart-breaking choice that could change her entire life.

Rating:

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Sunday post #5



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.




Review books:

Calling Mrs Christmas by Carole Matthews
Cruel Summer by James Dawson
Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood



I have no idea why Calling Mrs Christmas was already released in hardback and ebook on the 1st of August as it is a VERY seasonal read (which the title may give away), but I am not complaining. I love the holiday and while we're currently experiencing this rare phenomenon in the UK called a heat wave I still thoroughly enjoyed reading the novel and feeling all Chrismassy while doing so. I also loved the letter by author Carole Matthews included with the review copy! Full review up soon.

Very exciting (for me at least) is that I am now also a book reviewer for lifestyle and entertainment website handbag.com! The first two titles I've selected for review have just come in the post and I've already finished one of them, Cruel Summer, which I thought was a more mature version of the Point Horror novels I loved in my early teens. It was a good read it and it definitely made me want to pick up Dawson's first novel, Hollow Pike.

Yours Truly isn't out until November so while the cover's stunning and the story sounds right up my alley it isn't as much of a priority as some of the other titles currently waiting on my TBR pile (which is ridiculously high and at risk of toppling over...).

Have you guys read any of the books showcased above yet? If so, what did you think?