Friday, 30 October 2015

Book review: After You by Jojo Moyes


My edition: Hardcover, published on 24 September 2015 by Michael Joseph, 416 pages.

Description: Lou Clark has lots of questions. Like how it is she's ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places. Or why the flat she's owned for a year still doesn't feel like home. Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago. And will she ever get over the love of her life. What Lou does know for certain is that something has to change.

Then, one night, it does.

But does the stranger on her doorstep hold the answers Lou is searching for - or just more questions? Close the door and life continues: simple, ordered, safe. Open it and she risks everything. But Lou once made a promise to live. And if she's going to keep it, she has to invite them in...

Rating:

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Theatre review: Les Misérables at the Queens Theatre



I saw Les Misérables a few years ago and as a musical theatre lover I assumed that I would adore this classic, which had been running on the West End for decades already and didn't seem ready to leave any time soon. I was wrong. Knowing little about the story before entering the auditorium and sat in the previous to last row in the upper circle of the theatre with a non-stop talking French couple just behind us (who clearly didn't know the meaning of the death stare in an otherwise quiet theatre and the occasional 'ssshhhh' directed at them), it was hard to follow the story, keep the characters apart, and generally stay awake for its nearly three hour long duration.

There are other classic musicals I didn't enjoy (The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, for example) and I put Les Mis in that same category of 'just not for me'. Fast-forward a few years to 2012, and an all-star movie adaptation hits the big screen. I gave the story one last try and I instantly fell head over heels in love with everything; from the characters and incredible music to, yes, Aaron Tveit (hot damn, Enroljas!). I ended up seeing the film in cinema twice (once in Imax, which was insanely immersive) and more times than I can count at home. Needless to say I was super keen to watch the stage version again and I recently got that opportunity...

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Easy DIY Halloween Bunting Tutorial



Do you need last-minute ghoulish inspiration to Halloweenify your house/bed room/work desk? Then look no further than this super easy bunting tutorial, which in this case has been used for some spooky inspiration for All Hallows' Eve, but can of course quite easily be turned around to fit any other occasion; from Christmas to Autumn and birthdays to just generally wanting to brighten up your home.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Bloggeration Lifestyle and Craft Workshops



At The Big Blogger Conference in August I had the privilege to listen to an inspiring presentation by blogger Sarah from The Prosecco Diaries and when she mentioned that she would be holding a book blogging workshop soon herself, I of course requested to be kept up-to-date – as that is right up my street. It turned out the book blogging event was only one in a series of exciting workshops Sarah is organising this autumn and I signed up for the first one, which was focused on lifestyle blogging and craft. Kind of perfect as I am trying to expand my blogging currently to become more lifestyle focused and I've been itching to try my hand at some new crafty projects!

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Book review: A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson


My edition: Paperback, published on 24 September 2015 by Pan Macmillan, 501 pages.

Description: Anna Browne is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life. Her day job as a receptionist in bustling London isn't exactly her dream, yet she has everything she wants. But someone thinks Anna Browne deserves more...

When a parcel addressed to Anna Browne arrives, she has no idea who has sent it. Inside she finds a beautiful gift - one that is designed to be seen. And so begins a series of incredible deliveries, each one bringing Anna further out of the shadows and encouraging her to become the woman she was destined to be. As Anna grows in confidence, others begin to notice her - and her life starts to change.

But who is sending the mysterious gifts, and why?

Rating:

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Book review: Pippa's Cornish Dream by Debbie Johnson


My edition: Paperback, published on 2 July 2015 by HarperImpulse, 208 pages.

Description: Since Pippa Harte was forced to take over her parent’s farm, she’s barely had time to shave her legs let alone make time for love. Now she’s more likely to be getting down and dirty mucking out the pigs – and avoiding those of the human male variety.

When Ben Retallick walks out of her childhood and back into her present it seems that perhaps Pippa has more time than she thought. All Poldark smoulders and easy-going charm, Ben’s definitely worth whipping her wellies off for!

But Ben is a man with his own past and his own issues – and as much as she’s enjoying having him around, she’s got to get a grip. After all life isn’t always a beach … even if you are in Cornwall.

Rating:

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Book review: One by Sarah Crossan


My edition: Hardback, published on 27 August 2015 by Bloomsbury Children's Books, 428 pages.

Description: Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty.

Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart.

One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

Rating:

Monday, 19 October 2015

Theatre review: Close to You – Bacharach Reimagined



The cast of Close to You. ©Johan Persson

I don't often give 5 star reviews to theatre productions yet I have seen two shows in the past week that deserve the highest possible rating I can give them because they're so incredible: In the Heights and Close to You. Long-runner The 39 Steps couldn't have made way at the Criterion Theatre for a more beautiful and mesmerising production than the Bacharach Reimagined transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Theatre review: In the Heights at King's Cross Theatre



©Johan Persson

There are so many shows opening in London every month, that even though I usually go to the theatre several times a week I unfortunately still am not able to see every single new production gracing the boards on and off West End. This means I have to be very strict in what I book ahead and only go for theatre outings I am 90% sure I'll enjoy.

When In the Heights opened at Southwark Playhouse (Carrie, Grand Hotel) last year I wasn't so sure about it as I thought it would be all hip hop all the time, not my preferred music genre by any means. And when I finally realised that there was far more to this musical – and critics started raving about it too – it was of course completely sold out. To say I was gutted to miss what was arguably the most surprising hit of the season would be an understatement, but I was thrilled when it was announced that this well-received show was making a much-needed return to London, this time around to the King's Cross Theatre (home to The Railway Children) – I made sure not to miss it again.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Walker Books January–June 2016 Showcase



On Saturday I ventured over to Vauxhall to visit Walker Books headquarters for a Regency themed tea and a showcase of some of their exciting teen and middle grade titles set for release January–June 2016.

I've visited a wealth of publishing houses for events over the years, but had not been to Walker Books towers before and I am really grateful to Laura for the invite to be her plus one as we had a lovely morning. We were welcomed with tea in dainty little cups and pastries, before heading to the main room for the presentations.

The first part of the morning there was a reading from Alison Goodman (The Dark Days Club sounds like an interesting mix of an elegant regency setting and demonical fantasy elements, kind of a like a cool Buffy and Jane Eyre mash-up), we learned ALL about the ingenious pitching process from the Walker Books team when they were trying to buy Goldfish from Nat Luurtsema (it involved swimming caps, a goldfish and a whistle. Like I said, ingenious), followed by a stonkingly hilarious reading by Nat from her upcoming novel – it sounds SO good!

After tea and scones, author Richard Kurti took the stage to read from his new dystopian novel, Maladapted, which sounds terrifying and intriguing in equal measures. Then it was time for the Walker Books team to introduce some more upcoming novels, particular highlights included the paperback launch of Patrick Ness' The Rest of Us Just Live Here (I am desperate to read this!), a super funny presentation about Anthony Horowitz's The Diamond Brothers, which is getting a re-issue (I loved these books growing up), and Lindsey Eager's Hour of the Bees, which not only wins the prize for the most beautiful cover of the showcase (and there was a proof in the goodie bag, aaaaahhhh!) but the story sounds like a wondrously magical coming-of-age novel too and I absolutely cannot wait to dig in.

Finally, it was time for a mingle and chinwag with the Walker Books team, the authors present and fellow book lovers (while enjoying some tasty sandwiches to boot) before we sadly had to head home again – though not before leaving the building with a goodie bag filled to the brim with books and sweets (pictured below). Thanks so much to Walker Books team and their lovely authors for organising such an ace event blogger event!



Alison Goodman reads from The Dark Days Club


All about the pitch for Goldfish! Spot some of the accessories on the screen...


Nat Luurtsema reads from Goldfish


Richard Kurti reads from Maladapted


Goodie bag part 1: The Hour of the Bees, aaaahhh!


Goodie bag part 2: A STUNNING proof of The Dark Days Club


Goodie bag part 3: Twenty Questions for Gloria by Martin Bedford and Maladapted – other than Goldfish and The Rest of Us Just Live Here, the four titles we received were the ones I was most keen to check out! Well played, Walker Books, well played.


Monday, 12 October 2015

Book review: Cloud 9 by Alex Campbell


My edition: Paperback, published on 3 September 2015 by Hot Key Books, 325 pages.

Description: Life's short. Enjoy it.

This is the slogan of Leata, the wonder-drug that sixteen-year-old Hope has been taking since she was a child, just like the rest of her family. Well, the rest of the country really. For who would choose not to take it – a perfectly safe little pill that just helps 'take the edge off' life. Because everyone can do with a little help staying happy sometimes... Especially Hope, whose life is maybe not as perfect as she likes to make out on her blog.

Tom's never taken Leata. Why would he? His family are happy as they are. At least they were, until the sudden death of his journalist father. The police are unequivocal: his dad killed himself. But Tom just can't believe it. Consumed by grief, he obsessively begins to unravel the trail that leads to his dad's final news story.

And Hope is there to help. As a Leata-backed blogger, Hope wants to steer Tom into 'positive living'. Instead, her efforts take them down a path she could never have expected – into the murky underworld that lies beneath the surface of the 'happy' drug everyone wants to love... and the secrets it will kill to hide.

Rating:

Friday, 9 October 2015

Theatre review: The Great Gatsby at Greenwich Theatre



©Mark Holiday

Having previously lived in South East London, Greenwich Theatre holds a very special place in my heart as my former local (aka a 'short' 40 minute walk from my house). I've seen some great productions there over the years, from exceptional tours of Spring Awakening and Avenue Q to Sincerely Mr Toad and, most recently, Tommy. Because of my past with this theatre I am always very keen to check out new productions making an appearance there, the latest being a stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's much-acclaimed classic The Great Gatsby.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Blog tour: The editorial process of Lonely Girl by Josephine Cox



Claire Palmer and Josephine Cox (l-r)

Today I'm very excited to take part in the blog tour for Josephine Cox's latest book, Lonely Girl, on the paperback publication day! To celebrate the novel's release, editor Claire Palmer has written a guest post about the editorial process.

Claire said: "One of the very best parts of my job is being one of the first people to see Jo’s books once she has finished writing them – to get the manuscript hot off the word processer, as it were! When we get the book from Jo, the first think I do is to squirrel myself away into a quiet corner of the office. Jo’s stories always makes me laugh out loud, and inevitably makes me a bit tearful at times too, and I’m not sure anyone’s buying my excuse that it must be because somebody’s chopping onions in our office…!

"Once we have read it from start to finish, the book begins its journey through a stringent editorial process. It’s so important to us that every page is perfect and does justice to Jo’s brilliant storytelling, and there are a lot of people who work tirelessly behind-the-scenes to make sure that we live up to our own high standards. Copyeditors, typesetters, proofreaders all have their role to play, and we spend many weeks and months poring over every page of the book in the form of A4 print-outs that we call ‘page proofs’. Of course, Jo’s job is the most important one as she creates the characters and writes the story, but every person along the way brings a wealth of experience and expertise to make the book the best it can possibly be.

"One of the most exciting parts for the whole team is getting to see the cover, which our brilliant designer Charlotte will talk about elsewhere on this blog tour. But nothing beats the moment when I was lucky enough to go with Jo to visit the printers at Clays and watch her books coming off the printer. We had a wonderful day and were given a real VIP reception from the whole team there – and as you can imagine, Jo herself came away having made lifelong friends with everyone who had given her such a warm welcome!

"We were given a special tour to see the book production process at every stage, from creating the ‘plates’ that are then used to print the pages of the book on huge sheets of paper, which are then folded to make a sheaf of sixteen pages, which we call a folio. All the folios are brought together in the correct page order, bound together and popped into the hardback ‘case’, which is then wrapped in the dust jacket. In this final stage of the process, when the books are standing on their spines on the binding machine, the hardcover held slightly apart from the pages of the book, it looks rather like a bird flapping its wings, and I can’t think of a better way of describing what it’s like to see the book coming off the press – after all that hard work from Jo and the whole team, it’s finally a real book, and it’s ready to take flight!"

Thanks so much, Claire, for your fascinating insights into the editorial process! Readers, make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour as well:


Lonely Girl is published in paperback today and you can get your copy from Waterstones, Amazon or your own preferred retailer.


Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Beauty Blogger Awards – Workshops, Exhibition & Haul



In my previous life as the editor of a women's lifestyle website I used to go to the odd PR event or Christmas showcase, which was such fun, but sadly I haven't been able to go to any such events since taking on my new job in February as they're always during work hours, sniff.

I always found these showcases the perfect places to discover new brands and products offline and so I was thrilled when a little while ago I realised that the blogging community offered something similar in the form of conferences. After the FABULOUS Big Blogger Conference, I hit the Beauty Blogger Awards Workshops and Exhibition this weekend, which was held at London's Olympia conference hall.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Book event: Tea with author Leigh Russell and No Exit Press


Last month I was delighted to make a return to the lavish surroundings of Grosvenor House Hotel for an exciting book event: afternoon tea with author Leigh Russell and the team at No Exit Press. Rarely one to say no to an invite of the bookish variety, having the opportunity to not only meet a new author but also enjoy fizz and cakes at the same time truly is my idea of a perfect Sunday afternoon.

I met up with fellow book lover Laura before the afternoon tea outing for a visit to the Wallace Collection (which was extraordinarily beautiful – I will write a separate blog about this soon), before we strolled along Hyde Park to the venue.


While meeting the guest of honour, Leigh Russell, the lovely team at No Exit Press, fellow book lovers and fans of Leigh, we enjoyed some delicious champagne (it honestly was, I don't always like bubbles, but this was a very tasty variety!), which on my empty stomach made the conversation flow easily.


I admit I was very happy when the first course of our afternoon tea arrived, the above pictured fruit cocktail, as it meant I was able to get something in my stomach of the non-alcohol variety! The fruit was delicious, after which I spiked the juice with the remainder of my champagne – as you do.


While enjoying cakes, sandwiches and scones we spoke to Leigh about her work and writing, and although we didn't get to talk to her an awful lot (everyone wanted a chance to chat with her, of course!) we did sit right next to someone who'd been very helpful in the research of her book, which was particularly intriguing, even though he wasn't allowed to say much about it (ohhhh the mystery!).


We also played a bit of musical chairs (well, the people around me did – after all the champers I was feeling a bit too lazy to move), which meant we had the chance to chat to different people about mid-way through the afternoon, though pretty much all conversations were a variety on 'what is on your to-read pile?' and 'what is the best book you've recently read?' – ahh the joys of getting a bunch of book geeks in one place!


All in all, an ace afternoon with a lovely author and a bunch of great bookish people, not to mention a delicious spread of afternoon tea in a gorgeous setting. Thank you very much to Leigh Russell and the No Exit Press team for the invite!


Monday, 5 October 2015

Book review: Hello, Goodbye, And Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith


My edition: Paperback, published on 1 September 2015 by Headline, 248 pages.

Description: Of course Clare made a list. She creates lists for everything. That's just how she is.

But tonight is Clare and Aidan's last night before college and this list will decide their future, together or apart.

It takes them on a roller-coaster ride through their past – from the first hello in science class to the first conversation at a pizza joint, their first kiss at the beach and their first dance in a darkened gymnasium – all the way up to tonight.

A night of laughs, fresh hurts, last-minute kisses and an inevitable goodbye. But will it be goodbye forever or goodbye for now?

Rating:

Friday, 2 October 2015

Book review: The Dress by Kate Kerrigan


My edition: Paperback (proof), published on 10 September 2015 by Head of Zeus, 378 pages.

Description: Lily Fitzpatrick loves vintage clothes - made all the more precious because they were once owned and loved by another woman. Thousands follow her vintage fashion blog and her daily Instagram feed.

But this passion for the beautiful clothes of the past is about to have unforeseen consequences, when Lily stumbles upon the story of a 1950s New York beauty, who was not only everything Lily longs to be, but also shares Lily's surname.

Joy Fitzpatrick was a legend. But what was the famous dress which she once commissioned – said to be so original that nothing in couture would ever match it again? What happened to it – and why did Joy suddenly disappear from New York high society?

Rating:

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Book review: The Beachside Guest House by Vanessa Greene


My edition: Paperback, published on 10 September 2015 by Sphere, 336 pages.

Description: When Rosa and Bee get together in the run-up to Bee's wedding, they reminisce about the holiday they took together as teenagers to the beautiful Greek island of Paros. They remember the sandy coves, the guest house in the converted windmill where they stayed with their friend Iona, and the gorgeous local men.

As memories of that long-forgotten holiday resurface, they are forced to confront the turns their lives have taken - and the guilt they both feel about letting Iona slip away from them. When they learn that the windmill guest house is going bust they form a plan: why not go back to the island and take it over themselves?

And so begins a life-changing journey - because it turns out that opening a guest house and reliving their teenage dreams isn't that easy ...

Rating: