Friday, 30 May 2014

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


My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 19 June 2014 by Penguin, 488 pages.

Description: Sally is an incredible singer but she sings only in her wardrobe where nobody can hear her. She'd rather join a nudist colony than sing in public.

That is until she ventures to New York where a wild and heady summer of love and loss changes her forever. No longer able to hide in the shadows, Sally must return home to London to fulfill a promise she cannot break - to share her voice.

But just as she's about to embark on her new life, a beautiful man turns up on Sally's doorstep bearing a sheepish smile and a mysterious hand-written message.

How did he find her? Why is he here? Does he hold the truth to what happened back in New York? And, with him back on the scene, will she still have the courage to step into the spotlight?

Rating:

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Book review: Apocalypse Next Tuesday by David Safier


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 30 May 2014 by Hesperus, 287 pages.

Description: When thirty-something Marie jilts her boring boyfriend at the altar she wonders if life can get any worse. So when a handsome carpenter comes round to work on the roof, she realises she has nothing to lose by asking him out. Even his bizarre assertions that he is Jesus aren't enough to put Marie off – her biological clock is ticking, and it's time to settle down.

Meanwhile, Satan (a dead ringer for George Clooney) is on the prowl, recruiting horsemen for next week's Armageddon, scheduled for Tuesday, and Archangel Gabriel has discovered the pleasures of the flesh and is off on a sex marathon. Things are looking grim. Fortunately, Marie is dating the son of God – maybe, just maybe, he can get things straightened out.

Rating:

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Head of Zeus Indie Party



Last week I went to the fab Head of Zeus Indie Party where not only I had the opportunity to meet some of their team, but also a few of their authors whose debuts will be published in the coming months. It was a fantastic evening and I am so grateful for the opportunity to mingle with all these lovely people.

While I was glad I wouldn't be going solo (Laura was invited too), it was so easy to talk to the publishers and authors that it didn't matter that we didn't know many people before we got there. The only other person besides Laura I did know was Becci from HoZ and it was brilliant to get to meet her in person and chat away about books after having communicated over email for so long.

Other highlights included a long and very funny conversation with Stefanie De Velasco, author of Tiger Milk, which is a coming of age novel set in Berlin. We talked about the (disgusting sounding) drink the novel is titled after, the original German edition, the Dutch translation and she mentioned that when writing it she wondered what it would be like if the O'Sullivan Twins from Enid Blyton's St. Clare's series were growing up in contemporary times, which has really piqued my interest and I cannot wait to read the novel.

We also spoke to Black Dog Summer-author Miranda Sherry, who was incredibly gracious as we were the first people to ask her to sign her book, which she mentioned was very special to her (it was to us too!). All four featured authors were given a few moments for speeches (they were very engaging to listen to) before there was time to mingle some more while enjoying a glass of wine and tasty canapés. We also left with a few of the books on display and a strikingly pink HoZ tote bags (I love bookish totes, so this was right up my alley).

To meet these incredibly talented and lovely people at the start of their careers as published authors was very special. Thank you very much Head of Zeus for organising such a wonderfully inspiring event!






Monday, 26 May 2014

Theatre review: Miss Saigon


About: Cameron Mackintosh's acclaimed new production has made its highly anticipated return to the West End, and is breaking box office records.

Since Miss Saigon's sensational record-breaking run at London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane 25 years ago it has played in 300 cities in 15 different languages, winning awards around the world.

This epic musical love story tells the tragic tale of young bar girl Kim, orphaned by war, who falls in love with an American GI called Chris – but their lives are torn apart by the fall of Saigon.




Rating:

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Sunday post #28



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.



1984 by George Orwell (free)
Apocalypse Next Tuesday by David Safier (review copy)
Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry (Head of Zeus party)
Dear Thing by Julie Cohen (won from Laura's Little Book Blog)
The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81 by J.B. Morrison (review copy)
The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (Head of Zeus party)
The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson (review copy)
Thirteen Weddings by Paige Toon (won from BookMinxSJV)
Tiger Milk by Stephanie de Velasco (Head of Zeus party)
Waiting For Doggo by Mark B. Mills (review copy)



I am so thrilled with this week's book haul! Each and every one of the titles above are ones I'm tremendously excited for - and those I've already read were real winners. Funnily enough 1984 was a free copy handed out with Time Out in celebration of the new theatre production of the story on the SAME DAY I saw the play on stage, such a strange coincidence (maybe Big Brother was watching me?). The play was incredibly intense and so good and it's made me want to re-read the novel, which I now can :)

I have also received some brilliant review books recently, all of which I've finished pretty much the same day I got them - they were THAT good! I particularly recommend Waiting For Doggo - an endearing tale of an unlikely friendship - and The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me - which was surprisingly brilliant considering I wasn't a fan of Lucy Robinsons' previous novel. Full reviews will be up soon!

Have you guys read any of the above titles yet? And what are the best books you've read this month?

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Book review: The Travelling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones


My edition: Paperback, published on 22 May 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 316 pages.

Description: Laurie loves a challenge. Especially if it involves anything beautiful, baked and frosted. The brief is simple: With three other women, Laurie will board a London bus - kitted out as an English tea shop - on a deliciously different road trip of the USA.

Their mission: To bring home-grown classics like Battenberg, Victoria sponge and scones to the land of cupcakes, whoopie pies and gold-leafed chocolate sundaes.

And to show them how a real cup of tea is made. All of the women have their own secrets and heartaches to heal. As well as a grand appreciation of cupcakes, there's also the chance for romance... But will making whoopee lead to love?

Rating:

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

RelaxMel honey



Honey is a delicious natural treat, which can be enjoyed on its own straight from the jar (for the real die-hards), used in your cooking and baking experiments, and even to gently sweeten your cuppa - in which it's certainly a better alternative than several heaped teaspoons of sugar. But did you know that regular intake of honey can have health benefits as well?

LifeMel has created a range of naturally made health-promoting honeys, each of which is tailored to a specific health concern. Their products are made by bees that are fed on a diet of a specially prepared mixture of natural herbs to promote overall wellbeing and targeting health issues such as digestion and lack of energy.

Each product contains a potent compound of active ingredients from the specially made herb mixture that has been perfected over thirty years of research. Once digested by the bees during honey production, the herbs are presented in an enzyme compound, allowing for the honey to be more bioavailable and therefore more rapidly absorbed by the body.

For this review I tried RelaxMel, which as the name may give away aims to have relaxing qualities. The first thing I noticed when trying a spoonful of the dark, sticky liquid was that it was more fragrant than the honey I have used in the past. There was a strong herbal note and while I didn't recognise it as the passionflower, lavender hop and oats the bees had fed on while producing the honey, it was obvious from the start that there was something different about this product.

Despite the strong herbal scent, the honey was delicious and didn't have a medicinal aftertaste. There was certainly a hint of something extra, but it added to the rich flavour rather than detracting from it. The product's calming qualities should become evident within 30 to 60 minutes after use but unfortunately I didn't notice any difference myself. This may be because I tried it in the evening at home, after having left the stress of the day already well and truly behind at work.

As a lover of honey, I enjoyed my daily intake of RelaxMel, but £20 for 120g is quite a steep price to pay for a jar that doesn't even last a full month. If you're often very stressed and/or have difficulties falling asleep at night, then trying a natural product such as this certainly won't do any harm and may be the salvation you've been longing for. Personally though, I didn't notice a change upon trying it for a few weeks and I found the product too expensive to use on a daily basis instead of my regular, more mainstream honey.

Book review: The Book of You by Claire Kendal


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 24 April 2014 by HarperCollins, 361 pages.

Description: Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won't leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there.

Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can't be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand.

Realizing that she bears the burden of proof, Clarissa unravels the twisted, macabre fairytale that Rafe has spun around them – and discovers that the ending he envisions is more terrifying than she could have imagined.

But how do you protect yourself from an enemy no one else can see?

Rating:

Monday, 19 May 2014

Dinner at Bodo's Schloss



Named after Bodo's Cafezelt, the oldest tent at Munich's legendary Oktoberfest - and Schloss, the Austrian word for palace, Bodo's Schloss aims to offer an alpine escape without guests having to set foot outside of London.

As soon as you near the restaurant, which is modelled on an authentic Austrian farmhouse, you know you're in the right place. Charming fairy lights adorn the building's entrance and the rustic wooden interior and checked tablecloths wouldn't look out of place in a real Austrian alpine venue.


Before our visit, friend and I had checked out the menu online, which looked divine, and picked our favourites. However, when we arrived we were told that because of Fondue Wednesday they would only be serving a reduced menu which, incidentally, didn't list any of the dishes we'd been excited to try. This was disappointing, not to mention strange as many of the authentic Austrian options the restaurant advertises were missing as well.

To make matters worse, as I took a sip from my water I nearly cut myself as there was a big shard missing from the rim of the glass. I would've probably noticed this sooner had it not been so dark inside the establishment but either way, Bodo's Schloss and I were not off to a good start.

After some deliberation we chose the seasonal soup to start our meal with, which was a sweet potato one when we visited. We were presented with huge bowls of steaming hot thick soup that could've easily passed for a main course. I enjoyed it, particularly the crunchy pumpkin seeds it was served with as it gave the dish some much-needed texture, but my fiend found it too bland and thought that having a soup made of just sweet potatoes and no other (root) vegetables didn't work.


For my main I opted for the only authentic Austrian dish available on the reduced menu: the Schloss Wiener Schnitzel. I love a good chicken schnitzel and as Austria's unofficial national dish I of course had to give it a try. The meat was properly thin and came with a deliciously crispy crust. It was served with cranberry sauce, which was a good choice as it made what could've been a very dry meal, nice and moist.

The side of a cold potato salad with a few slices of cucumber was adequate, but I did miss some vegetables with the dish. Unfortunately the reduced menu didn't offer any sides at all so I wasn't able to order anything else with the meal. I also wasn't a big fan of how the schnitzel was presented, in the pan it was cooked in, as it made it awkward to cut pieces from it.

My friend's hearty lamb goulash was a bigger success than her starter had been. The pieces of meat were succulent and plenty and the dish was complimented well by the side of crispy spaetzle (an Austrian egg noodle) and crunchy toasted hazelnuts. It was a side I'd never tried before but I had a taste as well and it was delightful.


For dessert my friend chose the apple strudel with custard which didn't do much for her. An excess of raisins made it hard to find the 'apple' and the custard it was served with wasn't very tasty nor did it come with a pouring jug, making it difficult to eat.

While I hadn't been in the mood for the cheese fondue as a main, I did get a taste of the Wednesday specials with my dessert as I chose the chocolate fondue. It came with generous helpings of assorted dippers - from strawberries to marshmallows and Amaretti biscuits to coconut flakes - and I was even told that if I wanted a top up, all I had to do was ask.

This wasn't necessary as there was more than enough for me (my friend even discarded her apple strudel in favour of the fondue and tried some of the dippers as well - there was that much) and I loved every bit of it. Dipping the various fruits and candy bits in the scrumptious hot chocolate was fun (albeit slightly messy as the strawberries kept falling into it) and tasty, making the fondue the undisputed highlight of my meal.


While Fondue Wednesdays are a fun idea we were disappointed that this unfortunately meant that the rest of the menu was considerably reduced and barely catered to. This wasn't made clear on the restaurant's website at all, so it took us by surprise after we'd already been seated and been presented with the small alternative menu.

The dishes we did order, were mostly fine but as they weren't the ones we'd had our heart set on, they were never going to be able to live up to our expectations. Thankfully the chocolate fondue was delicious and managed to lift an otherwise rather disappointing evening considerably. My friend wholeheartedly agreed and as she dipped her final slice of pineapple first in the hot and gooey chocolate and then in the popping candy, she commented it felt and tasted like a party in her mouth.

Bodo's Schloss, 2a Kensington High St, London W8 4PT.

Theatre review: The Pajama Game


About: The Pajama Game is a buoyantly blissful blend of romance and comedy, based on the novel 7 1/2 Cents by Richard Blissell, with music and lyrics by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross and book by George Abbott and Richard Blissell,

First staged in 1954, the original Broadway production won three Tony Awards including the Tony for Best Musical, and later picked up another Tony for Best Revival of a Musical for its 2006 Broadway revival.

In 1957 a musical film based on the stage musical was released. The principal cast of the Broadway musical repeated their roles for the movie, with the exception of Babe, who was played by Doris Day.



Rating:

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Book review: Return to Mandalay by Rosanna Ley


My edition: paperback (proof), to be published on 22 May 2014 by Quercus, 563 pages.

Description: Eva Gatsby has often wondered about her grandfather Lawrence's past, and exactly what happened to him in Burma during the Second World War. But it is only when Eva's job as an antiques dealer suddenly requires a trip to Mandalay that Lawrence finally breaks his silence and asks her to return a mysterious artefact of his own - a chinthe - to its rightful owner.

As Eva arrives in Burma her mission soon proves dangerously complicated, and the treasure she is guarding becomes the centre of a scandal that will have far-reaching consequences. Caught between loyalty and integrity, Eva is determined to find the truth about her grandfather's past, of her own family origins, and of the red-eyed chinthe itself - enigmatic symbol of the riches of Mandalay.

Rating:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Sunday post #27



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.


Five by Ursula P. Archer (won)
Payback by Kimberley Chambers (???)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (unexpected surprise)
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson (won)
The Travelling Tea Shop by Belinda Jones (review copy)



It's been a while again, but I hope you've all treated yourselves to some fantastic new reads recently. I am super excited to start reading my new books, for various reasons. I already read (and loved) The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, which shows a fascinating and different approach to fiction. I haven't read the author's first novel (The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared) yet, but I'm keen to check it out now. The Girl Who... reminded me also of Last Bus Coffeeville, which is a book I recently fell in love with and I hope this will spark the imaginations of other writers to pen novels along a similar style.

Five came into my possession by way of a brilliant scavenger hunt organised by @DeadGoodBooks in London. They left clues on their Twitter page and with one being near my office I ventured out into the rain during lunch and victory was mine (no killing necessary). Finding one of the five copies of eh... Five also puts me in the chance of winning a meal at a restaurant which serves surprise menus in the dark - which sounds really cool! I think a few of the books are still in the wild, so check the #findfive hashtag on Twitter and you may be able to find an advance copy of the novel too.

Station Eleven was a lovely unexpected gift from Sam at Pan Macmillan who sent a copy my way after I was shamelessly gushing over the cover. It's even more stunning in person (Picador have really outdone themselves) and the blurb sounds super intriguing too, so I cannot wait to read it. I have no idea where Paycheck came from, but The Travelling Tea Shop is the first novel I've received specifically for review for Novelicious.com, which I am stupidly excited about (so much so that even though I just received the novel, I've already nearly finished it and it's so cute!).

What new books have you guys bought/received recently? Have you read any of the above yet?

Friday, 9 May 2014

Dinner at Rub Diner & Milk Bar



If you have a craving for some deliciousness of the speedy variety, but don't necessarily want to visit one of the fast food chains dotted around the capital, then Rub Diner & Milk Bar might be just the thing for you. The restaurant is based in North London and claims to specialise in slow cooked food delivered fast.

The eatery opened its doors last summer and is currently undergoing a major refurbishment, which is to transform the intimate dining space into a more comfortable eating area. When we visited they were in the middle of the refurb and so the atmosphere was a bit lacking, but we hope that once finished the home-from-home look and feel the diner is aiming for will be that of a comfy and classy home, rather than a shabby one.

The restaurant serves an array of American diner style food - from spicy buffalo wings served with creamy blue cheese dip to sticky brioche with pulled pork - and so we couldn't start the meal with anything but a proper shake. Faced with the choice between chocolate and double chocolate (amongst others), friend went with the latter while I opted for the slightly safer former variety. The drink was thick and creamy and tasted just like a good ice cream, making it the perfect start to what would be an indulgent meal.


From the food menu we chose two types of burgers with a side order of onion rings, fries and sweet potato fries, though when the plates with mountain-like burgers arrived we realised that perhaps we'd ordered slightly too much for just two people.

Rub Diner being known for their slow cooked food, I tried the Piggy Back Burger, which is their basic burger with an added generous helping of perfectly succulent 10-hour cooked pulled pork. It made a tasty and hearty combination with the thick, juicy burger patty, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, cheese and gorgeous homemade burger sauce. The burger was stacked high though, which not only made it impossible to eat it in a dignified manner, but try as I might I also couldn't finish it.

My friend chose the even bigger Smoke Stack, which was all of the above with added smoked sausage and smoked bacon. Needless to say, despite her applaud-worthy efforts, her plate didn't get polished off either. We did finish both side orders of fries and our favourite was hands-down the sweet potato variety; perfectly crispy and with a delicious bite we would've happily devoured another portion (if we hadn't been so full already). The onion rings were unfortunately not as successful as they were flavourless and greasy, but with the wealth of other food on the table this wasn't a huge miss.


What the restaurant lacked in atmosphere and personality during the refurb was more than made up for by the helpful and friendly staff serving us on the night. And with generous portions of swiftly served feel-good food, this diner is on the road to becoming a comfy home-from-home.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Carole Matthews at The Chocolate Festival in London



Carole Matthews is probably best known for her Chocolate Lovers' Club books, so what could be more apt than for her to make a special appearance at a festival that is all about the delicious melt-in-the-mouth sweet? As I am addicted to both the cocoa treat and Carole's delightful books, this sounded like a winning combination to me.

Unfortunately the festival was more of a lonely cocoa bean rather than Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and the organisation left a lot to be desired. For the first few minutes us book lovers were huddled in a corridor for the reading, but could barely hear over the sound of a singer whose piercing voice, as Carole fittingly put it, could probably hit notes only dogs could hear. Thankfully we soon moved to a private room where were treated to an intimate reading, a Q&A with the guest of honour and even some fun facts about chocolate. Massive kudos to the incredibly lovely Carole for singlehandedly making it such a wonderful afternoon despite the odds not being in her favour (oops, wrong franchise).

Carole is an avid reader herself so we easily started talking about all things books. She mentioned that she cannot cope without a book on the go, which is what got her into writing in the first place. Her passion lies with historical novels and she's a particular fan of Philippa Gregory. The reason she doesn't write historical fiction herself, she revealed, is that she is better at the kind of research that involves chocolate, wine and gossip. She also enjoys grisly crime (reading it, that is), though really she'll read anything and everything.


Asked how she decides the topics for her novels, Carole tells a story about a book she wrote which featured opera heavily and for which she ended up seeing three operas a week. Needless to say, by the end of it she never wanted to see an opera ever again. Nowadays, she picks a topic that she won't mind studying for six months. She jokes that she's considered writing a novel titled The Secret Cake Eaters Society, but that the research probably wouldn't be very healthy for her.

The chocolate idea actually came about when she was having dessert with her editor and talking about a novel she was working on at the time. He said: "Darling, a book about chocolate would sell ten times more". She wanted to feature a group of women in it, like in Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives, and so The Chocolate Lovers' Club was born. She is currently working on the third book in the hugely popular series, titled The Chocolate Lovers' Christmas. Fans will have to be patient though as it's not out until August. Thankfully, she is releasing a Christmas novel this year and another summer title next year to tide us over in the mean time.

Something funny to note is that Carole’s Christmas books get their first release when it's still summer. This is because her novels receive a soft launch as a hardback first – aimed at libraries, export and hardcore fans – followed by a paperback release a few months later, which gets the full publicity campaign. As she has a new seasonal read out each year she is always editing or writing one and glitter starts moving into the house from March onwards! Christmas cannot come early enough for me, so Carole's house doused in glitter and having lots of chocolate dotted around for research sounds pretty amazing to me.


Some of Carole's research for her cocoa-centric books sounded amazing, such as visits to Cadbury World and a tour across America, and had me seriously considering writing a book about chocolate myself. Other anecdotes, meanwhile, made me shudder at the mere thought and wonder why anyone would ruin a good piece of chocolate like that. She has, for instance, eaten chocolate ants and chocolate made from beans that have passed through the digestive system of a weasel. Weasel poop aside, all this research into the sweet treat has turned Carole into a self-confessed chocolate anorak.

Not only did we listen to Carole's hilarious readings and hear all about her writing process, but she also treated us to some chocolate fun facts throughout the event. Here are a few that are too good not to share:

• The Aztecs considered chocolate such an aphrodisiac that women weren't allowed to touch it.
• Chocolate stimulates the release of endorphins in your body, making you feel happy (This is true. We were surrounded by chocolate and giggling like mad, I'm definitely blaming the sweet treat for that and not my mental state).
• The blood in the famous shower scene in the movie Psycho was actually, you guessed it, chocolate.
• Fifty per cent of woman prefer chocolate over sex (Carole commented that this couldn't possibly be correct and must be a much higher percentage).

Thanks Carole for a wonderful and educational chocaholic afternoon! Her latest novel, A Place to Call Home, was published on 10 April.


This post first appeared HERE on Novelicious.com

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Book launch: Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff



One of the most exciting perks to being a book reviewer, besides reading lots and lots of amazing new novels, is being invited to all sorts of inspiring literary events. Often this means getting the chance to meet the author and publishing team, and sometimes even rubbing shoulders with a celebrity who looks oh so familiar – even if you can't quite figure out who they are.

In March I attended the launch for Isabel Wolff's mesmerising new novel Ghostwritten (find my full review here), which delves into the harrowing story of a Dutch woman who lived in Java during the Japanese Empire's occupation in the 1940s. The launch was at the Free Word Centre in London and despite having worked around the corner for years and the building having a colour-popping Kermit the Frog green exterior, I never even realised it was there. As a centre for literature, literacy and free expression it was a very fitting venue for the event though and one I'll now certainly be keeping a closer eye on.

Lots of gorgeous copies of Ghostwritten, ready to be signed

Some people are fashionably late; I'm usually unfashionably early. Being one of the first ones to arrive did mean Laura and I bagged some comfy seats on the couch and had the chance to chat to the guest of honour before she was swept away by other invitees congratulating her on the publication of her novel. Isabel was absolutely lovely and a delight to talk to as we asked her about the story behind Ghostwritten. And, the proper book geeks that we are, we even got our photo taken with her.

While enjoying a nice glass of red wine (okay, two glasses) we met Jaime Frost, a publicist at HarperCollins who we may have slightly interrogated about her fab job. She was lovely about it though and happily answered our many questions. Jaime also spoke about some of the exciting novels she's currently working on and from the sound of it there are some great things in the works for HarperCollins.

Ghostwritten author Isabel Wolff and I

Midway through the evening Isabel held a speech thanking some of the people who had been of great help during the process of writing her latest novel. She also read an intriguing passage from the story and even though I was already interested in the book before I attended the launch, her gripping reading ensured it went straight to the top of my to-read list.

During the reading I was standing behind a glamorous woman who looked incredibly familiar, but even though friend and I racked our brains to figure out who the mysterious blonde was, we both clearly failed at celeb spotting. Thankfully Jaime messaged the next day, preventing many sleepless nights I'm sure, and revealed it was none other than Helen Lederer of Absolutely Fabulous fame – very befitting for what was a fabulous evening!

We had an absolutely lovely time at the launch, many thanks to Isabel for the kind invite!


This post first appeared HERE on Novelicious.com.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

One Big Book Launch



I was delighted when Sarah from CompletelyNovel contacted me to invite me to their new initiative called "One Big Book Launch". She found my details through my review of Last Bus to Coffeeville by J. Paul Henderson (a brilliant book by the way which you should all check out, find my full review here) and while I did primarily attend for the opportunity to meet the author, I was pleasantly surprised by how many other brilliant novels I fell in love with on the night.

First of all, I have to congratulate CompletelyNovel and Literally PR for organising such a fantastic and well-executed event. One Big Book Launch was born out of the idea that when authors have a book launch usually only friends, family and those who are in a way connected to the book or author attend, however if you combine the book launches of 10 different authors and all those friends and family members attend they'll be exposed not only to the book of the person they know, but also to those of nine other authors - expanding their horizons and providing a great form of publicity for each of the chosen titles.


Each author was given five minutes to present themselves on stage, there was a strict deadline enforced with the help of party poppers, and each one of them did so brilliantly and in their own unique way.

Particular highlights for me were Sabrina Mahfouz, who got completely into character during her reading, bringing the pages alive in front of our eyes with her different voices and accents, and Simon Fairbanks, who mentioned that he wrote his debut novel The Sheriff during NaNoWriMo - which means in just 30 days!

All authors were inspiring and engaging and if I didn't already have a towering to-read pile waiting for me at home I would've bought all their books on the night.

 
And of course I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Coffeeville author J. Paul Henderson. He was lovely as we spoke about his inspiration for the novel (he lived in Mississippi for a while and he knew he wanted to feature the place in his story and combine it with his own experience of a parent suffering from Alzheimer's), the real Coffeeville (I had no idea it actually existed) and what he's working on now (his third novel, the second one is already being scrutinised by his publishers).

He was also kind enough to sign my copy of his book and since I was the first (or one of the first) people to ask this, he asked what I'd like it to say (bless him) and I said whatever he felt comfortable with. So he signed it with just his first name and said that makes us friends now *beams*


I also had a chance to chat to lovely Frances and Amy from No Exit Press (Paul's publisher - see me just using his first name now), which was such a nice unexpected surprise (I've been following Frances on Twitter for a while, but didn't realise she'd be there until just before the event).

In all, it was a great evening filled with bookish fun, mingling with like-minded people and most of all celebrating new authors and novels. Many thanks Sarah for the invite and I hope you guys will organise another one of these wonderful events in the not too distant future!


Friday, 2 May 2014

Theatre review: Avenue Q (UK tour)


Synopsis: Avenue Q is a laugh-out-loud musical that tells the story of a recent college graduate named Princeton who moves into a shabby New York apartment all the way out on Avenue Q.

There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the internet sexpert), Lucy the Slut and other colorful types who help Pprinceton finally discover his true purpose in life.

From the producers of Seussical (West End), Spring Awakening (Debut UK Tour) and Lord of the Flies (UK Tour) Sell a Door Theatre Company revive this critically acclaimed musical at their London home the Greenwich Theatre before embarking on a 12 Week UK Tour.


Rating: