Friday, 31 July 2015

Book review: The Great Village Show by Alexandra Brown


My edition: Paperback, published on 30 July 2015 by Harper, 371 pages.

Description: Tindledale is in a titter. The Village Show competition is coming around again and after last year’s spectacular failure, the villagers are determined to win. Meg, teacher at the local school, is keen to help and to impose some much-needed order.

After a terse encounter with a newcomer to the village, Meg discovers that it is celebrity chef and culinary bad boy, Dan Wright. Meg thinks he is arrogant and rude but rumour has it that Dan is opening a new restaurant in the village which could really put Tindledale on the map!

As things come together, villagers old and new all start to come out of the woodwork, including new arrival Jessie, who seems to have it all. But first impressions can be deceptive and Meg discovers that when it comes to Tindledale – and Dan – nothing is ever quite as it seems…

Rating:

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Cover reveal: The Day of Second Chances by Julie Cohen


Today I'm SUPER excited to be sharing the beautiful cover of Julie Cohen's new novel with you! It's not out until January, but let's all drool over the stunning design while we impatiently wait for publication date, shall we? 


Blurb: Can you imagine keeping a secret so devastating, you couldn’t even tell the people you love?

Honor’s secret threatens to rob her of the independence she’s guarded ferociously for eighty years.

Jo’s secret could smash apart the ‘normal’ family life she’s fought so hard to build.

Lydia’s secret could bring her love - or the loss of everything that matters to her.

One summer’s day, grandmother, mother and daughter’s secrets will collide in a single dramatic moment. Is it too late for second chances?


The Day of Second Chances will be published on 28th January 2016, so get your pre-order in now from Amazon or your own preferred retailer!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Theatre review: Songs for a New World at St. James Theatre



©Darren Bell

Acclaimed for musicals Parade, The Bridges of Madison County and The Last Five Years – the latter made its cinematic debut earlier this year with Broadway's Jeremy Jordan and screen musical darling Anna Kendrick – American playwright and composer Jason Robert Brown's first staged show, Songs for a New World, is more a revue than a traditional piece of musical theatre, but it has the same distinct lyrical voice which has made the aforementioned shows much-loved among theatre lovers.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Review of London-based theatre website SeatPlan



This post is a little bit different as it's neither a review of a theatre show or a stagey event, but it does tie into my tips for London theatre-goers, such as my post Cheap London: How to see West End theatre for less!

SeatPlan
is a theatre website that aims to provide a helpful service to those attending shows in and around London, similar to what Theatre Monkey has been doing for quite some years. SeatPlan joined the London theatre game a few years ago as a website where punters can leave their genuine reviews of seats they've sat in to inform fellow theatre-goers of which spots are good value for money and which are better to be avoided.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Book review: The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 30 July 2015 by Sphere, 387 pages.

Description: Poppy Carmichael, 30, certainly never intended to own a florist.

But when she inherits her grandmother's beloved flower shop on the beautiful Cornish coast, Poppy has no choice but to return to the pretty harbour town of St Felix where she spent much of her childhood.

Returning to St Felix brings back sad memories for Poppy. But when she makes new friends such as local flower grower Jake, a young widowed father of two teenagers, Poppy begins to overcome her fears, and discover for herself what's so special about this little flower shop by the sea.

Rating:

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Matt Haig in conversation with Cathy Rentzenbrink at Foyles



My bookish Twitter timeline, who have EXCELLENT taste in great reads by the way, have been showering Cathy Rentzenbrink and her memoir, The Last Act of Love, with nothing but love. Recounting her younger brother being hit by a car, the 8-year-long aftermath and how this devastating event affected both her parents and herself, the novel is understandably a tearjerker, yet many of the reviews I've read also point out that it is a surprisingly uplifting read – similar to Cathy's author event at Foyles Charing Cross Road last week, which was at times moving and at others very funny as she and fellow author Matt Haig, who moderated the Q&A, joked with one another.

Some insightful comments from their conversation:
  • The Last Act of Love is weirdly nourishing, strengthening and therapeutic, considering its subject matter, which is all due to how Cathy has written it, Matt Haig said. He also called it a "brave book".

  • Cathy normally processes things by reading books about it; after reading about something it makes sense in her head. As no-one has written a book about what her brother, parents and she have gone through she felt an obligation to write it herself.

  • The art of memoir writing is that you have to simplify it, which means leaving people out. Despite omitting a lot of people, Cathy has had a lot of old friends and acquaintances get back in touch with her, which she found very nice.

  • A sad book should be short, Cathy said.

  • She was told frequently that time would heal, which is a myth. She feels that her life before and after the accident are in different universes.

  • Matt joked that The Last Act of Love is "one of the most emotional darts memoirs of the year" (spoiler alert: it is not about darts).

  • If the apocalypse happens (which Cathy has thought about) and she'd be left with nothing but pen and paper she still wouldn't have written her memoir; she first and foremost wrote it to communicate (and after an apocalypse there wouldn't be anyone left to communicate with).

  • Cathy's memories of her brother were tainted by the accident and the way he was after, however with the book she wrote herself towards how he used to be.
Summarising some memorable moments from the event really doesn't do the amazing conversation between Cathy and Matt justice; it was fascinating, moving, funny and most of all a beautiful evening.


I ♥ Foyles. Every time I visit – especially for author events – I really do feel like I'm with friends. Thanks for another fabulous bookish evening!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Book review: The Weightless World by Anthony Trevelyan


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 18 June 2015 by Galley Beggar Press, 260 pages.

Description: Steven Strauss is just where he doesn’t want to be: on a ‘business trip’ to India with his boss Raymond Ess, the charismatic and chaotic founder of Resolute Aviation. Lately the company has fallen on hard times – indeed Steven and his fellow employees have accepted that Resolute is dead and they’re all going to lose their jobs. But not Raymond Ess. Ess is determined to save his beloved company, and to this end he’s devised an audacious rescue plan. He claims that during his recent travels he has come across a man, a recluse of the Indian wilds, who is willing to sell his remarkable invention: an antigravity machine. Now, with Steven in tow, Ess has returned to India planning to buy the machine, to bring it to market and thereby right all wrongs, recover all losses, restore all reputations.

Steven knows it is madness. He knows antigravity machines don’t exist. He knows also that last year Raymond Ess had a spectacular mental breakdown. However in India, Steven will find there is much that he doesn’t know. Who is this reclusive inventor, this Tarik Kundra, and does he even exist? Who is this guide who will take them to find him in the country’s most remote wilderness, Asha Jarwal? And who is this bumbling, soft-spoken elderly American, Harry Altman, and why is he suddenly everywhere Ess and Steven go?

Rating:

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Book review: Frank Derrick's Holiday of a Lifetime by J.B. Morrison


My edition: Paperback, published on 4 June 2015 by Pan, 352 pages.

Description: Frank Derrick is eighty-two. And apparently that makes him old. But he just doesn't feel old. Sure, his limbs ache, he can't sleep more than a few hours a night and it takes him a while to get going in the morning. But he's still Frank. A dad, a granddad, a friend to Bill the cat.

So when he receives a phone call from Los Angelos with news that his grown-up daughter's life is falling apart, his natural instinct is to drop everything to be with her. Unfortunately for Frank, that means using his life savings and putting himself in danger of losing his home. But then, Frank's never been one for long-term plans. He can sort out where he and Bill the cat will live when he's back.

And so Frank gets on a plane for the first time in his life. He was never much good at helping his daughter through crises when she was growing up. He left all that to his wife Sheila, who died nearly ten years ago. Now it's time to step up to his role of father to Beth. Joining forces with his determined granddaughter Laura, they begin The Reunion Project in an attempt to bring some happiness back into Beth's life and to bring the family back together again for one happy family holiday.

Rating:

Monday, 20 July 2015

Book review: Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 16 July 2015 by Orion, 304 pages.

Description: Lois and Carly-May are just twelve years old when they’re abducted and imprisoned for two months.

That summer, under the watchful gaze of their kidnapper, they form a bond which will never be broken…

Decades later, both Lois and Carly-May have built new lives and identities for themselves.

Lois and Carly-May are drawn together again to face the truth of their beautiful, terrible story.



Rating:

Sunday, 19 July 2015

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award



The lovely Jody at Spoonful of Happy Endings has nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Awards, which is very exciting!

The rules are simple...

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site.
2. Put the Award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Nominate ten blogs (so scroll down to see if you're listed!).

Questions for me...

1. What are you currently reading?

I'm currently reading the scrumptious The Chocolate Apothecary by Jospehine Moon, which I'm reviewing for Novelicious.

2. If you could be any character in one of your favourite books who would it be and why? 

Hermione, because who hasn't waited for their Hogwarts acceptance letter?! Hermione is a character I was always able to identify with because she was bookish and awkward so as a kid I wanted to be her (and let's face it, I still do).

3. Choose a superpower and why you want that power?

Teleportation, without a doubt. I live in the UK, but my family is in the Netherlands and while it doesn't sound too far, the journey to the north of the country (where they are) is always very long and tiring - not to mention that visiting them takes up most of my holiday allocation, not leaving me much to use on an actual holiday away! And some of my best friends live all over the world and I'd love to be able to see them more frequently than once every few years.

4. Favourite setting for a book? 

A magical library.
 
5. Name five books you want to read but keep putting off.

I'm not putting off picking up these per se, but there are always more urgent books to read (for review) and so ones I bought or have been gifted always move to the bottom of my massive to-read pile :(
  • Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey 
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tart 
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton 
  • The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
6. What genre is your favourite and why?

Literary fiction. Books within this (very large) genre are incredibly diverse and interesting, they're well-written (I'm often envious of the beautiful way with words the authors have), provide a lot of food for thought and a wealth of opportunities for discussion.

7. What do you have planned for summer? 

Nothing too exciting, sadly. I started a new job this year and have less holiday days than if I'd worked there for a full year so I'm saving them up to go home for Christmas. It'll mostly be working, working, working, with the occasional weekend day-trip to get away from London. I'm going to Manchester in September and am hoping to book some journeys back to Brighton and somewhere new as well. Plus I recently moved house so I'm also using my weekends to explore the new area in North London. I purchased a bike so I'm ready to hit the local parks!

8. Favourite TV shows? 

Agent Carter, Chuck, Dawson's Creek, Galavant, Gilmore Girls, Graceland, Pushing Daisies, Revenge, The Big Bang Theory, The Flash, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, White Collar, and so many more *TV junkie*

9. What's your opinion on ebooks?

They're great when travelling because it means I will have actual space for clothes in my suitcase, but I still much prefer holding a book to read. And for reviewing purposes I can't read ebooks as it's difficult to quickly flip through them when looking for a name or quote when writing the review.

10. Snog, Marry, Avoid? Harry Potter, Neville Longbottom, Draco Malfoy.

Snog: Harry Potter. Marry: Neville Longbottom (because have you seen what he looks like nowadays?! *swoons*). Avoid: Draco Malfoy.

After finishing answering the questions I realised I copied the wrong ones across, oops! So sorry, Jody *blushes*


Questions for you...

01. How did you get into book blogging?
02. If you could invite three authors (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would you choose and why?
03. What is your favourite place to read? (Bonus points for a picture.)
04. Do you dog-ear the pages of your books? (The correct answer is: no.)
05. Which novel(s) did you wish you'd not struggled on with until the bitter end?
06. Favourite non-fiction book?
07. What book cover are you currently in love with?
08. Favourite fictional villain?
09. Which 5 classics have you never read even though you keep telling yourself that you should?
10. Favourite book of all time and why?

I tag...


Friday, 17 July 2015

Book review: The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop by Abby Clements


My edition: Paperback, published on 2 July 2015 by Simon & Schuster, 400 pages.

Description: Anna and her husband Matteo are preparing to embark on a delicious Italian adventure. After a year and a half running their ice cream shop on Brighton beach and raising their baby Isabella, Matteo is starting to miss Italy.

A shared passion for ices means it's easy to settle on a new business idea - they'll open a sorbet shop on the town's cobbled square, a short walk from the sparkling blue sea. For a while, life is sweet; but then Matteo's overbearing family get involved…

Anna's younger sister Imogen has settled in Brighton running Vivien's Ice Cream Shop with boyfriend Finn, and for the first time in her life, she's enjoying putting down some roots. But then, late in the summer, things start to change and her willpower is put to the test…

Rating:

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Theatre review: Constellations at Trafalgar Studios



©Helen Maybanks

The stars were aligned for Constellations to return to its inception home town. After opening at the Royal Court Theatre more than three years ago, the play continued on to take first the West End and then Broadway by storm, before finally making a welcome return to the capital via a nationwide tour. For a mere 70-minute long two-hander about quantum physics this is no mean feat, and has earned playwright Nick Payne rightfully so the Evening Standard Award for Best Play.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Book review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 2 July 2015 by Harper, 438 pages.

Description: Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama.

Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette's desire to escape the shadow of her ballet star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

Rating:

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Book review: How to Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski


My edition: Paperback, published on 4 June 2015 by Hot Key Books, 325 pages.

Description: Jesse, Vicks and Mel couldn't be more different. Jesse, a righteous Southern gal who's as thoughtful as she is uptight, is keeping a secret that she knows will change her life forever. Vicks is a wild child: seemingly cool, calm and collected on the outside, but inside she's furious at herself for being so anxious about her neglectful boyfriend. And Mel is the new girl in town. She's already been dismissed as just another rich kid, but all she wants is to get over some of her fears and find some true friends.

But for all their differences, the girls discover they've got one thing in common - they're desperate to escape. Desperate to get the heck out of Niceville and discover their true 'badass' selves! Even if it's just for the weekend ... One 'borrowed' car later, it's time to hit the road and head for Miami. Hearts will be broken, friendships will be tested, and a ridiculously hot stranger could change the course of everything.

Rating:

Monday, 13 July 2015

Skin book party at Hodder towers



I may often write about fab book events but it rarely happens I get a much coveted invite to a party thrown by a publisher (usually I am a +1 or it's an event I was able to buy tickets to), so when the invite to the Skin book party arrived, I felt very excited even though I didn't know anything about the novel yet!

I did my research online (aka Googled the book), but wasn't much wiser after that, however Laura (who I invited along) was very excited for the novel plus I'm not one to decline the offer of mingling with fellow book lover and fabulous publishing people, so it really didn't take long for me to make up my mind and decide to go (actual time between reading the email and RSVP-ing? Less than a minute).

And boy am I glad I did.

 
 
First of all, Hodder towers is in Carmelite House and they have an actual roof garden terrace. Laura and I were fashionably early so had some time to enjoy the gorgeous view over the Thames and see the London skyline at its very best. 


When the party got started we were first shown a brilliant video by author Ilka Tampke, which single-handedly sold her book to me (as in: I need to read it RIGHT NOW!). She was brilliant to listen to and it only made it more disappointing that she lives all the way in Australia and so couldn't be there herself.

A video was definitely the next best thing though, and the lovely Hodder people have uploaded an abridged version online, which you obviously need to watch asap and then go out and pre-order your copy of Skin!


After the video, many attendees went on to discuss the novel in a spontaneous book group setting, however as Laura and I hadn't read it yet and didn't want to be spoiled we instead chatted to some of the lovely publishers in attendance, such as Lucy (who funnily enough I had met several times when she was still with another publishing company) and Emily. There really is very little as fun as talking to like-minded, passionate book advocates about the novels we love so much.

At the end of the evening we got some great goodie bags as well, which included a beautiful foil-covered hardback copy of Skin. If I wasn't in the middle of another read at the time, I would've started reading it straight away on the train home, it was that tempting!


Thanks so much to Emma for the invite to the party, and everyone at Hodder for making it such a fabulous evening.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Book review: Resistance is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 4 June 2015 by Orbit, 340 pages.

Description: Connie thinks she's never met anyone quite like Luke Beith before.

She has no idea how right she is.

As a high-ranking mathematician in a male-dominated field - with bright red hair - Connie's used to being considered a little unusual.

But she's nowhere near as peculiar as Luke, who is recruited to work alongside her on a top-secret code breaking project.

Just what is this bizarre sequence they're studying? It isn't a solution to the global energy crisis. It isn't a new wavelength to sell microwave ovens. The numbers are trying to tell them something . . . and it seems only Luke knows what.

The truth is out there. Will Connie dare to find it?

Rating:

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Book review: Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer


My edition: Hardcover, published on 27 February 2014 by Fourth Estate, 195 pages.

Description: For thirty years, Area X has remained mysterious, remote, and concealed by the government as an environmental disaster zone even though it is to all appearances pristine wilderness. For thirty years, too, the secret agency known as the Southern Reach has monitored Area X and sent in expeditions to try to discover the truth. Some expeditions have suffered terrible consequences. Others have reported nothing out of the ordinary. Now, as Area X seems to be changing and perhaps expanding, the next expedition will attempt to succeed where all others have failed. What is happening in Area X? What is the true nature of the invisible border that surrounds it?

Annihilation tells the story of the twelfth expedition through the narration of a nameless biologist attached to the mission. A reticent, solitary woman, the biologist brings her own personal secrets with her. She is accompanied by a psychologist, anthropologist, and surveyor, their stated mission to chart the wilderness, take samples, and expand the Southern Reach’s understanding of Area X.

But they soon find out that the information given to them about Area X is incomplete or inaccurate, and that they are being manipulated by forces both strange and all too familiar. The old abandoned lighthouse on the coast is more than it seems. A moaning in the distance at dusk appears to have no natural cause. A tunnel plunging into the ground isn’t on any map.

In Area X, they will all find out what it truly means to face the unknown. Adapt or die.

Rating:

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Book review: Way Down Dark (The Australia Trilogy #1) by James Smythe


My edition: Paperback, published on 2 July 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton, 288 pages.

Description: There's one truth on Australia: You fight or you die. Usually both.

Seventeen-year-old Chan's ancestors left a dying Earth hundreds of years ago, in search of a new home. They never found one.

The only life that Chan's ever known is one of violence, of fighting. Of trying to survive.

But there might be a way to escape. In order to find it, Chan must head way down into the darkness - a place of buried secrets, long-forgotten lies, and the abandoned bodies of the dead.


Rating:

Monday, 6 July 2015

Star for a Day: Matilda Itinerary



Hotel Direct is currently running a fantastic competition where bloggers have the opportunity to win a brilliant day in London by planning the perfect time out for a current West End character. As an avid reader with somewhat of a sweet tooth, the logical character for me was... Roald Dahl's Matilda!

The day out I have planned for her includes a macaroon making class (day time activity), Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea (pre-show activity), a visit to Matilda the Musical, and finally a trip into wonderland at Alice's Adventure's Underground (post-show activity).

About the itinerary:

Matilda is a sweet little girl, but her parents have mistreated her since the day she was born. So when she meets the lovely Miss Honey at her new school, the young teacher immediately wants to do something nice for her amazingly clever student; she plans a fun Saturday out for the two of them in London!

They start out with a macaroon making class at L'Atelier des Chefs in the morning, which suits both their sweet tooths and is a great way of bonding as they work together to create the beautiful colourful treats.

Having worked up an appetite but wanting to save their scrumptious creations until Monday, to share with the rest of the class, the two head for the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea at Sanderson London, because Miss Honey knows that Alice in Wonderland is Matilda's very favourite novel (she has read it at least 17 times).


Matilda and Miss Honey enjoying some afternoon tea...

After they have filled their tummies with tea and cake, the two head off to the matinee performance of Matilda the Musical at the Cambridge Theatre to watch all their friends sing the amazingly clever songs by Tim Minchin and cheer when they defeat the evil Miss Trunchbull. 

They finish their wonderful day by a tumble into the fantastical Alice's Adventures Underground. It's located in the vaults underneath Waterloo Station, and after the Mad Hatter's Afternoon Tea it is the perfect bookish ending to their magical day in London.

Book review: The Good Girls by Sara Shepard


My edition: Paperback, published on 2 July 2015 by Hot Key Books, 288 pages.

Description: Mackenzie, Ava, Caitlin, Julie, and Parker have done some not-so-perfect things.

Even though they all talked about killing rich bully Nolan Hotchkiss, they didn't actually go through with it. It's just a coincidence that Nolan died in exactly the way they planned . . . right?

Except Nolan wasn't the only one they fantasized about killing. When someone else they named dies, the girls wonder if they're being framed.

Or are they about to become the killer's next targets?

Rating:

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Book review: Paperweight by Meg Haston


My edition: Paperback, to be published on 2 July 2015 by Hot Key Books, 285 pages.

Description: Struggling to deal with her brother's death and a past she refuses to confront, Stevie knows she has problems. But she's still furious about the fact that she's been packed off to a health clinic, in the middle of nowhere, where mobile phones are banned and communication with the outside world is strictly by permission only.

The regimented and obtrusive nature of the clinic and its staff is torture to the deeply private, obstinate Stevie - and don't even get her started on the other 'inmates'. All she wants is to be left alone...

But as Stevie is about to find out, life is full of surprises. And she will prove herself stronger than she knows - even when her past finally catches her up in the most shocking and brutal way possible.

Rating: