Thursday, 30 April 2015

Book review: Day Four by Sarah 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.

Rating:

Wednesday, 29 April 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 . . .

Rating:

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Cover reveal: 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, 27 April 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, 23 April 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.

Rating:

Wednesday, 22 April 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 hotkeybooks.com 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, 21 April 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.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Theatre review: A Level Playing Field at Jermyn Street Theatre



©Photo Chris Coulson

I had the pleasure of watching Jonathan Lewis' excellent Our Boys in the West End last year and so was keen to check out the latest play by his hand. A Level Playing Field is part of his Education, Education, Education trilogy, which provides an insight into the educational system. Where the first play is told from the students' perspective, the other two will shine a light on schooling through the eyes of the parents and teachers. It's a fascinating concept and if either of the other plays are half as provocative as A Level Playing Field, we'll be in for a treat.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Beauty review: Botanicals Foot Softening Balm



Earlier this year I trialled Botanicals' lavender and tea tree calming body lotion, which was a product I thoroughly enjoyed using, so when I was offered the opportunity to try another one from the 100% natural and organic Botanicals range I was very keen to do so.

Just like with the body lotion, a punch of scent was the first thing that hit me when I opened the tub of foot balm. And while I'm normally not a huge fan of the strong fragrance of mint – it reminds me too much of toothpaste – the combination with tea tree balanced out the mint, creating a wonderful bouquet of fragrances scenting the air, and my feet, with the smell of relaxation.

The balm aims to soften dry and hard skin, which is a-plenty on the average foot, and it definitely does that. It's very concentrated, so a tiny pea-sized sample of the foot balm was enough to massage the surface of one foot, which means the entire tub of 50g (which retails for £15.95) will last for yonks, especially as you don't have to use this daily, but can keep the balm as a special treat for your feet when they need a boost.

Fair word of warning, the product is quite oily when used and it leaves a greasy filter for about fifteen minutes after application. This means it's not ideal to use when rushing in the morning and your feet will be enclosed by socks and shoes, too slippery, so make sure you add it to your evening regime instead. I personally loved using it after a hot shower, or long soak in the bath as it was the perfect soothing treat for my tired feet before going to bed.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Book review: Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey


My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 23 April 2015 by Simon & Schuster, 549 pages.

Description: 1943, in the ruins of Blitzed London…

Stella Thorne and Dan Rosinski meet by chance and fall in love by accident. Theirs is a reluctant, unstoppable affair in which all the odds are stacked against them: she is newly married, and he is an American bomber pilot whose chance of survival is just one in five.

… He promised to love her forever

Seventy years later Dan makes one final attempt to find the girl he has never forgotten, and sends a letter to the house where they shared a brief yet perfect happiness. But Stella has gone, and the letter is opened by Jess, a young girl hiding from problems of her own. And as Jess reads Dan's words, she is captivated by the story of a love affair that burned so bright and dimmed too soon. Can she help Dan find Stella before it is too late?

Now forever is finally running out.

Rating:

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Lunch at The Fritton Arms in Norfolk



After our wonderful visit to Somerleyton Hall and Gardens, we made the short journey to one of two country pubs on the same estate; The Fritton Arms. We had chosen the location for its vicinity to Fritton Lake and the park and it proved to be an excellent choice as we had a terrific lunch and wander along the lake after.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Somerleyton Hall and Gardens in Suffolk



On a beautiful leafy estate on the border of Suffolk and Norfolk, lays the serene Somerleyton Hall and Gardens. I love exploring the UK and the impressive stately homes and historical buildings it has on offer on a Bank Holiday weekend and while I have been to many stunning and interesting heritage places in recent years, none was quite so splendid as our trip to Somerleyton over Easter.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Launch party for The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood



Back in February I said that Pan Macmillan Women’s Fiction Evening was the bookish event of the year, but after last week I have to say that the launch party for The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by the fabulous Kirsty Greenwood takes the literary crown for being the actual best.

As soon as the invite landed in my digital mailbox, a squee of delight may have escaped from me as not only did this mean I would have the chance to celebrate this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy novel with its amazing author, but Kirsty was holding her launch party as the in bookish circles very well known Drink, Shop and Do near King’s Cross in London, which was such a treat.


I think we’re in the right place…

With a host of fun events ranging from monthly ‘Speakeasy’ bookish reads to building-structures-out-of-toast competitions, this venue had been on my radar for a while and I was excited to finally get the opportunity to visit. And while it was a great place, I admit that as soon as I arrived I got distracted by hugging Kirsty and congratulating her on her pub day, followed by getting pulled into the most amazing gathering of authors, publishing people and fellow book lovers (shout out to the lovely book bloggers and reviewers I met on the night!), and I completely forgot to actually scout the rest of the venue, oops.

A particular highlight, besides, you know, basking in Kirsty’s amazingness, was finally meeting the super funny Lisa Dickenson, whose novels You Had Me At Merlot and The Twelve Dates of Christmas had me in actual stitches. She made good on her Twitter promise/threat that she would hug and smooch me and she was just so sweet. She also wore the most amazing heels (this is how I was told I could spot her) and she was as funny in real life as you’d imagine from reading her hilarious novels. Another author I really admire and had the chance to meet and have an actual conversation with (we even went on a cake run together!) was the super lovely Ali McNamara of Step Back in Time and From Notting Hill With Four Weddings... Actually -fame. So much awesomeness in one room, you guys.


Scrumptious cakes at the party with beautiful vintage plates

I also got to meet some fellow members of team Novelicious I hadn’t met in person before, which was utterly amazing. I fawned over Helen’s amazing photos of cake and chickens on Instagram and had such a great time chatting to the wonderful Cress as well, who from the end of this month will be a published author! Her books look absolutely amazing, so be sure to check them out here. I also got to meet Jennifer and see the gorgeous Cesca again, as Kirsty said in her lovely speech (in which I got a mention too, how cool is that?!): “Team Novelicious forever!”


Books, books, so many books!

Speaking of speeches, Kirsty’s editor Caroline Hogg gave a wonderfully moving one and it was brilliant to have the chance to hear it “IRL” and see that there was barely a dry eye left in the house after. Caroline mentioned how Kirsty is such a brilliant and creative person and she has made a real difference in the women’s fiction industry, not only with her own novels but also with Novelicious, and she is basically bookish magic. True that.


Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Book review: The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood


My edition: paperback (proof), published on 9 April 2015 by Pan Macmillan, 400 pages.

Description: Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she's been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother.

Things aren't going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print, her mortgage repayments are staggering and her granddaughter wears neon Wonderbras!

When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads – by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.

The true test of their make-over will be to capture the heart of notorious London playboy Leo Frost and prove that Matilda’s guides still work. It's going to take commitment, nerves of steel and one seriously pointy bra to pull this off...

Rating:

Friday, 3 April 2015

Book review: The Dandelion Years by Erica James


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 26 February 2015 by Orion Books, 539 pages.

Description: Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible - and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own - Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love...

Rating:

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Book review: The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble


My edition: Paperback, published on 15 March 2015 by Alma Books, 288 pages.

Description: When twenty-year-old Jonathan Maguire wakes up in a pool of blood and with a dead body beside him, his shock and grief quickly turn to panic.

Being arrested for murder will prevent him from fulfilling the promise he made to his parents - that after their death he would take care of Roger, his mentally handicapped older brother. Roger lives in a strange and complex world of his own creation - populated by millions of tiny insects - his insect farm.

As the police move in, it emerges that Roger may know far more than he has revealed, and the action hurtles towards a stunning conclusion.

Rating: