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31 October 2013

Review: 'The Blackheath Seance Parlour' by Alan Williams (2013)

In 1842, two drunken sisters debate their future. Business at the family chocolate shop has ground to a halt, and change is needed. For once, domineering elder sister Maggie doesn't get her way, and a month later Judy, Maggie, and Netta Walters—a medium with big hair and a bigger secret—open their séance parlor. The locals are shocked, but soon the shop is crammed with people wanting to contact the dead. Despite their change in fortune, a rift grows between the sisters, as Judy gets her gothic novel published, finds a man, and proves to be more capable of contacting spirits than Maggie. Spurred on by jealousy, Maggie tries harder, and soon the Church decides they must be stopped.

Several weeks ago I was contacted by the lovely Laura from Laura’s Little Book Blog to write something for the Halloween feature on her blog. I had a good think and realised I haven’t actually read any Halloween related or scary books. I’m not a fan of horror stories, mainly because I’m a sucker for and simply love happy endings (which usually do not include scary killers, monstrous animals, and at least half of the characters finding an untimely death). Unfortunately, I couldn’t take part in Laura’s feature, but when I was contacted to review Alan Williams’ novel ‘The Blackheath Séance Parlour’, I straight away saw this as the perfect opportunity to not only finally take a sneak peek into the world of spooky stories, but also to at least celebrate Halloween on my blog in a small way by posting the review of this book on the 31st of October. 

‘The Blackheath Séance Parlour’ is set in the 1840’s and tells the story of two sisters, Maggie and Judy Cloak, who own a chocolate shop in Blackheath. Times are hard, though, and in order to keep themselves fed and supplied with enough alcohol to get through the day, they need to come up with a plan for a new business. Judy, who is also busy writing her first Gothic novel, wants to set up a séance parlour, but Maggie isn’t too sure about this. With the help of medium Netta Walters, who teaches the sisters how to read tea leaves and stare into crystal balls, the girls eventually decide to give it a shot. The shop exceeds everyone’s expectations and becomes an instant success, attracting visitors from all over the country. Maggie and Judy’s lives are turned upside down, but it doesn’t take long before the success starts to influence the sisterly bond between them in the worst way…

What a read! I honestly had no idea what to expect from this novel, but after a few pages I was hooked by the unusual and original storyline, the strong female characters, and the enthralling writing style of Alan Williams. I loved the fact that the book basically has two different storylines: one that focuses on Maggie and Judy, and one that tells the story of Judy’s novel (which focuses on a beautiful count and countess hiding a horrible dark secret). Both storylines were just as intriguing, and every time the book switched from one story to another, I didn’t want to put the novel down because I simply needed to know what would happen next.

The book is a mix of horror and historical fiction, with a definite Gothic touch to it that reminded me of dark Victorian novels like ‘Sherlock Holmes’ or Charles Dickens’ work. This is also linked to the descriptive scene setting, which is apparently very true to the real Blackheath, and I could easily imagine myself walking around the town with its pubs and shops. Overall, ‘The Blackheath Seance Parlour’ is an extremely enjoyable, unusual, and gripping novel and the ideal Halloween read. As soon as I opened this book I had no idea what to expect, but it undoubtedly surprised me with its originality and addictiveness and is like nothing I’ve read before. I will definitely recommend Alan Williams’ debut novel to others, and honestly can’t wait to see what he will come up next!

(Be sure to check out the brilliant website that was made for the novel, which includes facts about the book and some great background information: www.blackheathseanceparlour.com!) 

 Rating:9/10 

 

30 October 2013

November 2013 releases to look forward to!

Yes, the time has finally come to snuggle up on the couch with a blanket and a large cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream without feeling too bad about it, because November has arrived! This not only means the weather getting even colder, but also Christmas decorations taking over shop windows and perhaps even the first bit of snow... Who knows? One thing that's for certain, though, is that November has to be one of the most exciting months of 2013 when talking about book releases, because some amazing novels are coming your way! Be sure to have your wish-list ready, because after reading this post you will undoubtedly have some things to add to it!

Fiona Harper - Make My Wish Come True (1st of November 2013)
 
Family-orientated and Christmas-dinner cook extraordinaire Juliet is trying to keep it together in the wake of her marriage breakdown two Christmases ago, but the cracks are beginning to show.

Bright and vivacious Gemma was always the favourite daughter…So she has no qualms about leaving Christmas in her sister Juliet’s capable hands; and escaping the pressures of her glamorous job, and the festive madness by jetting off to somewhere warm.

When Gemma shirks responsibility once too many and announces she’s off to the Caribbean (again!); Juliet finally snaps. Gemma offers her sister the perfect solution - to swap Christmases: she’ll stay home and cook the turkey (how hard can it be?) and Juliet can fly off into the sun and have a restorative break.

Will the sisters abandon caution and make this a Christmas
swap to remember?


Kristina Riggle - 'The Whole Golden World' (5th of November 2013)

To the outside Diana and Joe have a perfect family-three lovely children, a beautiful home, and a café that's finally taking off. But their world is rocked when it's discovered that their oldest daughter, 17-year-old Morgan is having an affair with her married teacher, TJ Hill.

Their town rocks with the scandal. When the case goes to trial, the family is torn further apart when Morgan sides not with her parents-as a manipulated teenage girl; but with TJ himself-as a woman who loves a 30-year-old man.

Told from the perspectives of Morgan, Diana, and TJ's wife, Rain, this is an unforgettable story that fully explores the surprising, even shocking, events that change the lives of two families.

Cecelia Ahern - 'How to Fall in Love' (7th of November 2013)

She has just two weeks. Two weeks to teach him how to fall in love – with his own life.

Adam Basil and Christine Rose are thrown together late one night, when Christine is crossing the Halfpenny Bridge in Dublin. Adam is there, poised, threatening to jump. Adam is desperate – but Christine makes a crazy deal with him. His 35th birthday is looming and she bets him she can show him that life is worth living before then.

Despite her determination, Christine knows what a dangerous promise she’s made. Against the ticking of the clock, the two of them embark on wild escapades, grand romantic gestures and some unlikely late-night outings. Slowly, Christine thinks Adam is starting to fall back in love with his life.

But has she done enough to change his mind for good? And is that all that’s starting to happen?

Sue Moorcroft - 'Is This Love?' (7th of November 2013)

When Tamara Rix's sister Lyddie is involved in a hit-and-run accident that leaves her in need of constant care, Tamara resolves to remain in the village she grew up in. Tamara would do anything for her sister, even sacrifice a long-term relationship.

But when Lyddie's teenage sweetheart Jed Cassius returns to Middledip, he brings news that shakes the Rix family to their core. Jed's life is shrouded in mystery, particularly his job, but despite his strange background, Tamara can t help being intrigued by him.

Can Tamara find a balance between her love for Lyddie and growing feelings for Jed, or will she discover that some kinds of love just don't mix?

Jenny Colgan - 'Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop' (7th of November 2013)

Rosie Hopkins is looking forward to Christmas in the little Derbyshire village of Lipton, buried under a thick blanket of snow. Her sweetshop is festooned with striped candy canes, large tempting piles of Turkish Delight, crinkling selection boxes and happy, sticky children. She's going to be spending it with her boyfriend, Stephen, and her family, flying in from Australia. She can't wait.

But when a tragedy strikes at the heart of their little community, all of Rosie's plans for the future seem to be blown apart. Can she build a life in Lipton? And is what's best for the sweetshop also what's best for Rosie?

Ali McNamara - 'Step Back in Time' (7th of November 2013)

How many lifetimes would you travel to find a love that lasts for ever?

When single career girl Jo-Jo steps onto a zebra crossing and gets hit by a car, she awakes to find herself in 1964. The fashion, the music, her job, even her romantic life: everything is different. And then it happens three more times, and Jo-Jo finds herself living a completely new life in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The only people she can rely on are Harry and Ellie, two companions from 2013, and George, the owner of a second-hand record store.

If she's ever to return from her travels, Jo-Jo must work out why she's jumping through time like this. And if she does make it back, will her old life ever be the same again?

Trisha Ashley - 'Wish Upon a Star' (7th of November 2013)

The perfect gift isn’t always under the tree…

Single mum Cally’s life is all about her little girl Stella. She’s resigned to the fact that the only romance she’s going to get is from the rom-coms she watches, and with her busy job and her daughter, she doesn’t have time to even think about love.

But life gets very tough when Stella gets sick. Balancing her job as a recipe writer and looking after Stella is all consuming, so when Cally meets handsome baker Jago the last thing she wants to do is fall in love, especially when she’s been badly burned by a Prince Charming from her past. Can laid-back, charming Jago unlock Cally’s frozen heart and help her find true love and magic under the mistletoe?

Scarlett Bailey - 'Just for Christmas' (7th of November 2013)

When Alex Munro learns that the love of her life is getting married to another girl, all she wants is to be alone - and as far away from Edinburgh as possible.

Moving to a Cornish cottage, which comes complete with the world's scruffiest dog, Alex finds that her new neighbours are determined to involve her in their madcap Christmas festivities.

Then she meets her sexy neighbour Ruan - and somehow Alex doesn't want to be alone this Christmas after all. But having lost one fiance, Ruan has no intention of letting anyone get close to him again...

Dorothy Koomson - 'The Flavours of Love' (7th of November 2013)

'I'm looking for that perfect blend of flavours; the taste that used to be you. If I find it, I know you'll come back to me.'

It's been 18 months since my husband was murdered and I've decided to finish writing The Flavours of Love, the cookbook he started before he died. Everyone thinks I'm coping so well without him - they have no idea what I've been hiding or what I do away from prying eyes. But now that my 14-year-old daughter has confessed something so devastating it could destroy our family all over again, and my husband's killer has started to write to me claiming to be innocent, I know it's only a matter of time before the truth about me and what I've done is revealed to the world.


My name is Saffron Mackleroy and this is my story.

Karen Swan - 'Christmas at Claridge's' (7th of November 2013)

‘This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn’t blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn’t fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.’

Portobello – home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She’s the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything – her home, her job and even her adored brother’s love.

Portofino – a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour, and where a neglected villa has been bought by a handsome stranger. He wants Clem to restore it for him and it seems like the answer to all her problems – except that Clem has been there once before and vowed, for her own protection, never to return . . .

Tasmina Perry - The Proposal (7th of November 2013)

When Amy Carrell's wealthy boyfriend ends their relationship just before Christmas, she's left to nurse her broken heart alone. With nothing to lose, she replies to an advertisement requesting a companion for a mysterious 'Manhattan adventure'.

Whisked off to New York with eccentric British aristocrat Georgia Hamilton, Amy experiences a glamorous side of the city that she's never seen before. Along the way, Georgia initiates her protegee in the arts of old-school elegance.

But as Georgia shares her life lessons, Amy discovers a painful secret in her mentor's past. A secret that shattered her future. A story of love and betrayal that only Amy has the power to put right.


Clare Dowling - 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You' (7th of November 2013)

Clara's been away for too long. So, after ten great years in London, and with boyfriend Matthew in tow, she arrives home in small-town Castlemoy. The family welcomes her with open arms: her diet-shy mother, her closet-living sister and her actor brother who scratches a living doing voiceover ads for chicken. Not everyone is delighted to see her, though. Jason, her long-ago ex, seems to have old scores to settle. Soon Clara finds herself being watched, followed and manipulated from afar. How can she make him stop? And as Clara's dreams of happily-ever-after begin to shatter, will she be able to wrestle her life back?

Katherine Webb - 'The Misbegotten' (7th of November 2013)

Bath, England, 1821. Rachel Crofton escapes the binds of her unhappy employment as a governess by marrying a charming self-made businessman. She sees a chance to create the family and home she has so long been without, but her new life soon takes an unexpected turn.

Through her new husband's connections, Rachel is invited to become the companion of the reclusive Jonathan Alleyn, a man tortured by memories of the Peninsula War, and tormented by the disappearance of his childhood sweetheart, Alice.

Starling, foundling servant to the Alleyn family, is convinced that Alice, the woman she loved as a sister, was stolen from her. Did Alice run away? Or did something altogether more sinister occur? Starling is determined to uncover the truth. Others want only to forget, and will go to extreme lengths to do so.

Rachel's arrival has an unsettling effect on the whole Alleyn household, and suddenly it seems that the dark deeds of the past will no longer stay contained.Shattering truths lurk behind Bath's immaculate facades, but the courage Rachel and Starling need to bring these truths to light will come at a very high price.

Paige Toon - 'Johnny's Girl' (7th of November 2013)

Meg's life has taken a turn for the perfect. She is the envy of millions with her drop dead gorgeous husband, their two beautiful sons and her new mansion in Henley. Her celebrity PA days are over. But desperate to keep up with her rock star husband, Johnny Jefferson, she uproots her perfect family and moves back to LA.
Meg has to learn to live with her new celebrity status and the insecurities of her old life, which keep reappearing. Under the paparazzi flash of an A-List party, complete with red carpet, champagne and canapés, Johnny's rock star past catches up with him and Meg's worst nightmare becomes a reality…


Allison Winn Scotch - 'The Theory of Opposites' (12th of November 2013)

Willa Chandler-Golden's father changed the world with his self-help bestseller, Is It Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Life May Be Out of Your Control. Millions of devoted fans now find solace in his notion that everything happens for a reason. Though Willa isn’t entirely convinced of her father’s theories, she readily admits that the universe has delivered her a solid life: a reliable husband, a fast-paced career. Sure there are hiccups – negative pregnancy tests, embattled siblings - but this is what the universe has brought, and life, if she doesn’t think about it too much, is wonderful.

Then her (evidently not-so-reliable) husband proposes this: A two-month break. Two months to see if they can't live their lives without each other. And before Willa can sort out destiny and fate and what it all means, she’s axed from her job, her 12 year-old nephew Nicky moves in, her ex-boyfriend finds her on Facebook, and her best friend Vanessa lands a gig writing for Dare You!, the hottest new reality TV show. And then Vanessa lures Willa into dares of her own - dares that run counter to her father’s theories of fate, dares that might change everything…but only if Willa is brave enough to stop listening to the universe and instead aim for the stars.

Rowan Coleman - 'The Runaway Wife' (12th of November 2013)

Remembering the letter that says, “You are a remarkable woman and you deserve all the happiness, contentment, and love in the world. I, for one, know that I have never met anyone quite like you,” Rose Pritchard turns up on the doorstep of a B&B in England’s lake district. It is her last resort, as she and her seven-year-old daughter Maddie have left everything behind. They have come to the village of Millthwaite in search of the person who once offered Rose hope.

Almost immediately Rose wonders if she’s made a terrible mistake—if she’s chasing a dream—but she knows in her heart that she cannot go back. She’s been given a second chance—at life, and love—but will she have the courage to take it?

Lindsey Kelk - 'I Heart Christmas' (21st of November 2013)

Angela’s planning her very own fairytale of New York…

• Enormous Christmas tree
• Eggnog
• Eccentric British traditions
• Gorgeous man


But Santa’s throwing her a few curveballs – new job (as if it’s not mental enough already), new baby-craze from her best friend Jenny, and Alex determined they should grow up and settle down. Once friends start turning up uninvited on her doorstep (and leading her astray), can Angela really have a merry little Christmas? So much for happy holidays – something’s got to give…

Alison Lucy - 'The Runaways' (21st of November 2013)

It should be the perfect wedding... A blushing bride, an American hero. Rachel has the happy ending she always wanted. So what's holding her back from saying 'I do'?

Rachel ran away once before, just after her father died. This time she's washed up in sunny California and she's blissfully in love. But before she can marry Judd, there's a chapter of her past that she needs to resolve. A chapter that goes by the name of Seth.

Janey, Rachel's godmother, is a successful New York high-flyer but being single in her mid-thirties is starting to make her feel like a failure. When her goddaughter asks her to find an old friend called Seth and make sure he comes to her California wedding, she agrees to help her out.

Can a road trip with a stranger help steer Janey in the path to love? And will Rachel realise that when it comes to escape plans, is getting married ever a good idea?

Kirsty Greenwood - 'Yours Truly' (21st of November 2013)
 
Newly engaged Natalie Butterworth is an easy-going girl. She’ll do anything for a quiet life and if telling a few teensy white lies keeps her friends and family happy, then so what? It’s not like they’ll ever discover what she’s really thinking…
 
Until one night, thanks to a pub hypnotist, Natalie’s most private thoughts begin to bubble up and pop out of her mouth. Things get very messy indeed. Especially when some sticky home truths offend her fiancé.

Natalie must track down the hypnotist before the wedding is officially cancelled. So along with bad influence bestie Meg, Natalie finds herself in the Yorkshire Parish of Little Trooley - a small village bursting with big secrets, nosy old folk and intriguing Wellington-wearing men.

When the girls get stranded in the village with no means of escape and no way to break the hypnotist's spell, Natalie is forced to face the truths she has been avoiding her whole life...
 
 


29 October 2013

Review: 'Accused' by Lisa Scottoline (2013)

Mary DiNuzio has just been promoted to partner and is about to take on her most unusual case yet, brought to the firm by a thirteen-year-old genius with a penchant for beekeeping.  Allegra Gardner’s sister Fiona was murdered six years ago, and it seemed like an open-and-shut case: the accused, Lonnie Stall, was seen fleeing the scene; his blood was on Fiona and her blood was on him; most damningly, Lonnie Stall pleaded guilty.  But Allegra believes Lonnie is innocent and has been wrongly imprisoned. The Gardner family is one of the most powerful in the country and Allegra’s parents don’t believe in reopening the case, so taking it on is risky.  But the Rosato & Associates firm can never resist an underdog.  Was justice really served all those years ago?  It will take a team of unstoppable female lawyers, plus one thirteen-year-old genius, to find out.

Thanks to the lovely people at Sarah Hall Productions, I received a review copy of bestselling author Lisa Scottoline’s new novel, ‘Accused’, which will be released on the 29th of October. I hadn’t read anything by Lisa Scottoline before, but after a search on the Internet I discovered that she has written a very successful series of books about an all-female law firm called Rosato & Associates. The first part of the series was published in 1993, and 10 years later Lisa Scottoline is back with the 12th part, ‘Accused.’ I was not sure whether I needed to have read any of the other books to be able to understand what was going on, but what better way to find out then to just dive straight in?

‘Accused’ is the twelfth part of the successful book series that focuses on the all-female law firm Rosato & Associates. One of the female characters working at the law firm, Mary DiNunzio, has just been promoted to partner, and got engaged to her boyfriend Anthony. However, Mary does not have time to enjoy these personal celebrations, because a young girl needs the firm’s help. Thirteen-year-old Allegra Gardner is looking for a lawyer to help her free the innocent man who was put in jail for murdering her older sister Fiona several years ago. Mary and her colleague Judy decide to take on the case, but things aren’t looking too good when they find out Allegra’s partners do not support their daughter’s decision to seek legal help and state that Allegra is depressed and unbalanced. Even though everyone else says otherwise, Mary continues to believe Allegra, but where is the evidence to solve the case and, more importantly, how can she find it?

At first I was a bit afraid I wouldn’t be able to follow the storyline, since this is the twelfth part of a series of which I haven’t read any of the other books before. Thankfully, this didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem, even though I do think knowing all the characters’ backgrounds will definitely help while reading the novel. I can understand why the Rosato & Associates books are quite popular, because there’s a strong and fascinating all-female cast of characters at the centre of it consisting of Bennie Rosato, Mary DiNunzio, Judy Carrier and Anne Murphy. However, the story also benefits by the inclusion of other characters such as thirteen-year-old genius Allegra (I loved the bond that develops between her and Mary throughout the story), but also Mary’s amusing Italian family.

I was definitely intrigued by the murder case and finding out whether Allegra was right or not; did someone else kill her sister Fiona, and if so, who could be the killer? I couldn’t predict where the story was going to end, which made me want to read on and not put down the book until I had finished it. I also really liked the more personal touch to the story; the focus on Mary’s engagement and her friendship with Judy. Yet, I felt that perhaps the author could have focused a bit more on the law firm and Mary’s relationships with her colleagues, because I would have enjoyed reading about them, the female cast that turned this series into such a success. I definitely look forward to picking up the other parts of the series to hopefully learn more about these characters and their relationships.

‘Accused’ is a thrilling, realistic and well-plotted must-read that will keep you in its grip until the very last page; a novel that I’d recommend to anyone who loves a bit of suspense, but I’m sure all kinds of readers will be able to enjoy this novel and especially the great cast of women at its centre!

Rating:8,5/10  

28 October 2013

Review: 'Mutton' by India Knight (2013)

What's a woman to do when she wakes up one morning and finds an enormous freak-wrinkle bisecting her forehead? When she walks past the buildings site and nothing happens? When she catches the eye of a nice young man and is rewarded with a kind, patient, for-granny smile?
 
Clara Hutt, 46, feels herself to be in her absolute prime. She is chipper. Her sap is rising mightily, as it happens. But then her friend Gaby comes back from California and moves in with her. Gaby is no stranger to Los Angeles's more invasive cosmetic procedures. She may be pushing 50 but she looks 35. And Clara wonders: should she follow suit? A little Botox, a little filler, a little nip, a little tuck . . . but where to stop? And is nostril-waxing ever a good idea

Unexpectedly, I received a review copy of ‘Mutton’, written by India Knight, which immediately caught my eye with its colourful cover. I had heard of India Knight before, and knew she is quite well-known as a journalist and author in the UK, but I hadn’t read any of her work before. I was quite curious to read ‘Mutton’, especially after finding lots of mixed reviews online. It seems people either loved or hated it, and I wondered in which category I would eventually end up in.
 
‘Mutton’ is a novel told from the perspective of forty-something Clara Hutt, a woman in her prime who, at first, doesn’t seem to have any trouble with ageing. Until she notices that the builders around the corner aren’t whistling at her anymore. Until her childhood best friend Gaby comes to live with her, who has lived in LA, started her own very successful yoga business, and looks like she’s closer to thirty than fifty. Clara suddenly finds herself wondering whether she should perhaps start using botox, care more about her appearance, long to stay ‘forever young’ for as long as possible... Or is ageing perhaps not as bad as modern-day society manages to make it look?

Clara, who is apparently based on India Knight herself, is an honest and blunt forty-something, whose thoughts pave the main path in this novel. Clara speaks her mind, which results in both amusing and funny situations, but unfortunately also in long pieces of prose that seem to go on without any specific meaning to them. The plot is often taken over by these long monologues, which I personally thought was a waste, because I actually really liked the plot. I enjoyed reading about Clara and Gaby’s friendship, family events such as Clara’s daughter’s birthday party, and the relationship between Jack (Clara’s son) and his girlfriend Sky. ‘Mutton’ has a charming mix of characters at its core, and I wish I could have found out more about them, instead of simply Clara’s thoughts.
 
‘Mutton’ focuses on an important contemporary theme: the discussion of the importance of appearance and the influence other people and the modern-day society have on this. India Knight focuses on the message that we should all feel comfortable in our own skin and shouldn’t simply change because of others or what society might expect of people. At the end of the day, ageing is unavoidable, and it’s up to every single individual to deal with this in their own way. I think this is a fascinating topic, and one that speaks to all women. I’m a twenty-something, but didn’t really feel like there was too much of an age-gap between Clara and myself, because the novel deals with a topic that is on the minds of almost all modern-day women, I think.
 
‘Mutton’ is a contemporary, at times amusing, read with a great mix of characters and a distinctive voice at its core. All the mixed reviews I’ve read came from people who either loved or hated this novel. Well, if I’m honest, I think I’m somewhere in the middle: I didn’t love it, but because of some elements (a great mix of characters, a fascinating plotline hidden underneath it all), I definitely didn’t hate it either.
Rating:6,5/10


24 October 2013

Blog Tour & Giveaway: 'The Lie' by Ashley Fontainne (2013)

The Lie tour banner

Award-winning and international bestselling author Ashley Fontainne is taking her new suspense book, The Lie, on tour! Find out all about the new release, read guest blogs and interviews with Ashley, PLUS enter to win an eBook copy of The Lie, an audio copy of Accountable to None (from the hugely popular Eviserating the Snake Trilogy) and the chance to interview Ashley live on Blog Talk Radio!
   
'Karmen Moncrille's name has been known throughout the world since the age of sixteen when her first book shot to the top of the bestseller's list. Now everything she writes is an instant hit, and her legions of devoted fans eagerly await her next release. The mysterious Karmen always blamed debilitating panic attacks as the reason she avoided publicity and has become a recluse. Which is exactly what she wants the world to think. Only Karmen knows the truth behind her introverted nature. Terrified of being asked where her ideas come from, she fears being branded a raving lunatic. Now just a week before her twenty-third birthday, Karmen s world implodes. The madness that haunts her dreams spills over to her reality and she questions her sanity. Suddenly everything has changed and now the world will transform with her. Her last book will unleash the truth and alter mankind forever. Is Karmen's ability to write a gift or a curse? She's about to find out if her entire life is a lie. And why she was destined to write it.'
  

***What Would You Do If You Discovered Your Entire Life Had Been A Lie?***
(Guest Post by Ashley Fontainne)

What would you do if you discovered your entire life had been a lie?
That is the central theme of my latest release, The Lie. Let’s face it: there is not one single person alive on this planet who hasn’t told a lie in some form or another. Sometimes, little white lies slide off of our tongues with ease so as to not hurt the feelings of a friend or loved one. Really, are you supposed to tell your friend/loved one, “Yes, that does make your butt look big” or “I’m sorry, but your baby isn’t adorable at all, in fact, I’m going to run away screaming now.” Of course not! Most of us try to temper our words so that our loved ones won’t burst out in to tears.
Other times, little white lies are useful in everyday life. For example, if you are late to work because you simply couldn’t drag yourself out from under the warm covers on time, do you tell your boss that? Ummm, no, not if you want to keep your job. That’s when the “there was an accident” or “my car wouldn’t start” or “I’m really sick but I’ll take some medicine and be right in” or “my child/spouse/pet is sick” comes in handy. Nor harm, no foul, right?
We base our lives and the sense of self, our place in the world, upon not only our own concepts but the feedback from others. From an early age, every falsehood, whether said in good or bad faith, imprints inside our souls. We drink it in and it becomes part of us. Whether truthful or not, everything we hear about ourselves from others becomes the foundation that we stand on as adults.
So, what would happen if that foundation was yanked out from under your feet? How would you handle startling revelations that completely alter your perception of not only yourself, but others? These are some of the things I wanted to explore in The Lie.
   
af3e97_5064ca72519eb67d2cc0b6fa115f98e5.jpg_srz_268_398_75_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srzAuthor Bio:
Award-winning and International bestselling author Ashley Fontainne is an avid reader of mostly the classics. Ashley became a fan of the written word in her youth, starting with the Nancy Drew mystery series. Stories that immerse the reader deep into the human psyche and the monsters that lurk within us are her favorite reads.
   
         



***GIVEAWAYS***
Win the chance to interview Ashley Fontainne LIVE on Blog Talk Radio
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway closes on 9th November
   
Win 3 e-Copies of The Lie by Ashley Fontainne

Giveaway closes on 9th November
   
Win an audio version of Ashley's bestseller Accountable to None (Eviscerating the Snake Trilogy) via Audible.com
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway closes 9th November
 
Want more from Ashley?
Why not check out Ashley's other books, such as the bestselling Eviserating the Snake Trilogy and award-winning thriller Number Seventy-Five.

23 October 2013

Review: 'Take a Look at Me Now' by Miranda Dickinson (2013)

What a difference a day makes…

Nell Sullivan has always been known as ‘Miss Five-Year Plan’. But when she finds herself jobless and newly single on the same day, Nell decides it is time to stop planning and start taking chances.

Nell blows her redundancy cheque on a trip of lifetime to a place where anything is possible – San Francisco. There she meets a host of colourful characters, including the intriguing and gorgeous Max. Very soon the city begins to feel like Nell’s second home.

But when it’s time to return to London, will she leave the ‘new Nell’ behind? And can the magic of San Francisco continue to sparkle thousands of miles away?

Miranda Dickinson is, without a doubt, one of my favourite authors. The first novel I read of hers was ‘Welcome to My World’ and I was immediately taken in by her captivating writing style and amazing romantic stories. The past few years I’ve devoured her other works (‘When I Fall in Love’, ‘Fairytale of New York’ and ‘It Started with a Kiss’) and I’ve been looking forward to the release of her fifth novel ever since I heard she was busy writing it. I was lucky enough to be picked by the lovely people at Avon as one of the book bloggers to become a part of Miranda’s promotion team for this novel, Team Nell, which meant I received a review copy of ‘Take a Look at Me Now’ before it’s official release on the 24th of October! As soon as I found it in my mailbox, I put everything else aside and started reading, not being able to wait any longer to dive into Nell’s world!

To Nell Sullivan it seems like just any ordinary day at the office, but a simple post-it note stuck to her computer screen suddenly changes her entire life. Within just a couple of hours, she has lost her job and the chance of getting together with her ex-boyfriend Aiden. On a whim, she decides to use her redundancy cheque to book a flight to a destination far away from England, to get away from it all. Soon, Nell finds herself in San Francisco where she is staying with her cousin Lizzie for 8 weeks. Nell falls in love with the city and can’t imagine going home, back to the job hunt and her ex-boyfriend... But can Nell step back into her old life like that, or is it time to embrace the new Nell and the dreams that come with that?

I don’t even know where to start with this novel, except by stating the fact that Miranda Dickinson has done it again; what a brilliant and captivating read! I straight away fell in love with the heroine of this novel, Nell. I felt for her, because of how she unexpectedly loses her job and hopes to get back with her ex which then doesn’t happen, but I also admired her, for taking the plunge and booking that plane ticket to San Francisco, forgetting about everything else and simply doing what she wants. Throughout the novel, Nell experiences so many things and develops as a person, and I continued to root for her, secretly wishing I could be a bit more like her, taking control of my own life and following my dreams. Nell is such a loveable character, and I am sure lots of readers will adore and relate to her, just like I did.

The scene setting of the novel is fantastic. I discovered San Francisco when I read Niamh Greene’s ‘A Message to your Heart’ earlier this year, and Miranda Dickinson only managed to convince me even more that this is a city I definitely need to visit at least once in my life. The descriptions of all the different neighbourhoods, the tourist attractions, and the basic atmosphere of the entire city sparked of the page, making me feel like I was walking besides Nell, experiencing everything with her. I fell in love with everything about this novel, and I highly recommend it to any lover of romantic comedies or chick lit out there: you don’t want to miss this one! ‘Take a Look at Me Now’ is a fabulously enchanting and inspiring novel that will sweep you off your feet and convince you to not let go of your dreams, whatever might be thrown at you.

Rating:10/10 


22 October 2013

Review: 'Sense and Sensibility' by Joanna Trollope (2013)

From one of the most insightful chroniclers of family life working in fiction today comes a contemporary retelling of Jane Austen's classic novel of love, money, and two very different sisters.

John Dashwood promised his dying father that he would take care of his half sisters. But his wife, Fanny, has no desire to share their newly inherited estate with Belle Dashwood's daughters. When she descends upon Norland Park with her Romanian nanny and her mood boards, the three Dashwood girls-Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret-are suddenly faced with the cruelties of life without their father, their home, or their money.

As they come to terms with life without the status of their country house, the protection of the family name, or the comfort of an inheritance, Elinor and Marianne are confronted by the cold hard reality of a world where people's attitudes can change as drastically as their circumstances.

I like to think of myself as a true Janeite; a big fan of absolutely anything related to Jane Austen. I’ve been fascinated by her work since I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ when I was 15 years old, which eventually led to me writing two master theses at university about her work. I have a large collection of all kinds of Austen adaptations, which is why it’s no surprise I got really excited as soon as I heard about Harper Collins’ The Austen Project. For this particular project, six bestselling contemporary authors will rewrite one of Jane Austen’s works, giving their own unique twist to it. The first author to take on this challenge is Joanna Trollope, who wrote 17 bestselling novels, and the story she took on is Jane Austen’s second novel, ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ I was so excited when I managed to get a review copy of the novel, which will be released on the 24th of October (click here to pre-order it on Amazon), and I couldn’t wait to get back to this Austen classic and see what Joanna Trollope had done with it!

‘Sense and Sensibility’ tells the story of the three Dashwood sisters: Elinor, the oldest and most sensible sister who studies Architecture; Marianne, the emotional and slightly dramatic middle sister who adores music; and Margaret, the youngest Dashwood who is slowly turning into a typical modern-day teenager. Due to family circumstances, the Dashwood girls and their mother Belle can’t stay in their beloved house, Norland. Money is tight and they are forced to take on a generous offer from a relative, which means moving to a small cottage in Devonshire. The girls have to get used to their new home while life continues to go on around them, which includes incredibly curious and money-obsessed family members and a fair amount of romance trouble…

Reimaginings of classic tales such as this one usually have a divided audience: there are those people who think you should never touch a literary classic and those who are curious to see what an author decides to do with a novel they either loved or hated. I personally love the fact that Austen’s stories continue to live on in different shapes and sizes, and of course there are some retellings which I didn’t particularly like, but Joanna Trollope’s 'Sense and Sensibility’ is definitely not one of them. I really enjoyed how she managed to bring this classic novel into the modern day and age, changing certain elements to give it that modern touch, but at the same time also sticking to a slightly old-fashioned feel, reminding readers of the origin of the story. The topics of the book are still as relevant today (money, family, love), but perhaps in a different light. Yes,  Joanna Trollope could have made the story more modern than she decided to do, but I liked the mix of modern and old and appreciate how she decided to stay relatively close to the Austen original.

Joanna Trollope’s writing is amazing and it absorbed me completely; even though I haven’t read any of her other novels before, I can definitely understand why she’s a bestselling author. I really enjoyed what was done with the characters: I instantly warmed to Elinor and got slightly annoyed by Marianne (the same feelings I had when reading the original novel), and I specifically liked the character developments of Margaret and Bill Brandon, which really added another layer to the story for me. This version of ‘Sense and Sensibility’ is an engaging, timeless and delightful retelling of an Austen original, and Joanna Trollope has proven this classic is in very capable and safe hands. The fact that this is only the first Austen Project novel is getting me incredibly excited about what is still to come! 

Rating:9/10

21 October 2013

Review & Giveaway: 'So, You Think You're a Celebrity... Chef?' by Caroline James (2013)

Fiction Addiction Book Tours

Mix together…
A tough-cookie media agent who's clawed her way to the top, and a con-man who wants to open a cookery school. Add in a washed-up celebrity chef whose career needs re-building…

Flavour with…
An aging rock star fresh from rehab, and a Sloane Ranger food writer who gets her own TV show…

Bring to the boil…
At a Gourmet Food Festival, in Ireland, where anything goes!

When media agent Hilary Hargreaves travels to Ireland to look at a campaign for a new cookery school, she meets a blast from her past - the romantic but feckless chef Mickey Lloyd, who is hell-bent on resurrecting his flagging career. Her tough demeanour is rocked as it becomes apparent Mickey's intentions involve more than a stint behind a stove in his quest to pursue her. But as plans for the school gain momentum, she realises that she's developing more than a passing interest in reformed alcoholic Long Tom Hendry, who owns the crumbling old mansion where the school will be homed. Hilary has many ingredients to juggle with her demanding client list - which looks set to boil over if she doesn't keep control. From London's bustling Soho, to Southern Ireland and the sunny shores of the Caribbean, has Hilary got too much on her plate and is she really prepared to risk it all for love?

I'm delighted to be a part of the 'So, You Think You're a Celebrity... Chef?' blog tour this month, organised by Fiction Addiction Book Tours! It gave me the chance to review Caroline James' lovely new release, 'So, You Think You're a Celebrity... Chef?', which not only promised a unique read, but also a yummy one!

Hilary Hargreaves is a succesful media agent who runs her own business representing culinary stars. When she goes on a trip to Ireland to find out more about a new cookery school that will be set up, she unexpectedly bumps into Irish chef Mickey Lloyd, with whom she had a short but steamy relationship numerous years ago. Hilary wants to do everything she can to stay away from Mickey, but this proves to be a bit more difficult than she expected. Next to that, she suddenly starts developing feelings for Long Tom Hendry, a recovering alcoholic with a touch of mystery to him. Hilary already has several demanding clients to deal with, let alone make time to figure out her own love life, and within the world of celebrity chefs, nothing is what it seems...

What I immediately liked about this novel is the fact that it focuses on a topic I hadn't read a book about before: the world of celebrity chefs. It was fabulous to have a look into this glamorous and delicious world, which has a diverse and captivating mix of characters at its centre. I really liked Hilary (I loved the glance into the life of a busy media agent) and the other people working at the agency: spiritual Bob, dependent Heidi and colourful Lottie. Next to that, there are the various chefs, of which I particularly warmed to Zelda and her story, which takes on an important role in the book.

Caroline James' writing is fast-paced and entertaining, jumping from one scene to another, making sure there is never a dull moment in this novel. I haven't read any other book that deals with cooking and the world of celebrity chefs, which made it a unique read, an aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed. 'So, You Think You're a Celebrity... Chef?' is an entertaining, fun and tasty read which offers readers a chance to have a sneakpeak into the delicious and scandalous world of celebrity chefs!

Rating:7,5/10

Giveaway!

To promote her new novel, Caroline James is running a brilliant giveaway with several prizes for both UK and international readers. Be sure to give it a go by following the instructions in the Rafflecopter form below! :)

5 x Chocolate Brownies (UK only)
In the book, gorgeous Gary from Bon Appetite! makes sublime melt-in-your-mouth brownies. We’ve commissioned award winning Brownie Queen, Justine Forrest to supply her amazing brownies, individually boxed as a giveaway treat!  

5 x Bespoke Book Bags (UK and International)
The perfect little bag to pop your book or kindle in – don’t forget your glasses and a bar of chocolate! Individually designed for this tour by Leanda Peters Designs.

Signed Paperback copy of So You Think You’re a Celebrity … Chef?(UK)  

Kindle Gift Copy of So You Think You’re a Celebrity … Chef?(International)

17 October 2013

Review: 'The Love of a Lifetime' by Mary Fitzgerald (2013)

Can love survive the worst betrayal of all?

From the moment Elizabeth Nugent arrives to live on his family's farm in Shropshire, Richard Wilde is in love with her. And as they grow up, it seems like nothing can keep them apart. But as the Second World War rages, Richard is sent to fight in the jungles of Burma, leaving Elizabeth to deal with a terrible secret that could destroy his family. 

Despite the distance between them, though, Richard and Elizabeth's love remains constant through war, tragedy and betrayal. But once the fighting is over, will the secrets and lies that Elizabeth has been hiding keep them apart forever?

A couple of weeks ago I unexpectedly received a review copy of this novel in the mail; ‘The Love of a Lifetime’ by Mary Fitzgerald. I had never heard of Mary Fitzgerald before, but I liked the cover of the book (reminds me of romantic wartime stories) and the blurb managed to grab my interest as well. After doing some research online, I discovered the book had already been published as an e-book in 2011, but under the title ‘Richard Wilde.’ I noticed straight away that the novel had received some great reviews, which got me even more curious and determined to find some time to read it!

‘The Love of a Lifetime’ tells the story of Richard Wilde, a 95-year-old man who is terminally ill and doesn’t have long to live anymore. Before he goes, he wants to write down his family’s story, both the good memories and the dark secrets he had been forced to hide over the years. Richard recounts his time growing up on the family farm in Shropshire, his relationship with his older brother Billy, his time in the army and the war which brought him to different places including India and Burma. But, at the centre of all these memories and events, is Richard’s love for Elizabeth Nugent, the girl who shows up to help out at his family’s farm one day. As the years pass, Richard’s love for Elizabeth only grows stronger, but it’s a continuous fight for them to be together, with a big secret at the core of it all...

It took me about 100 pages before I really got into this novel. There are a lot of wordy descriptions, setting the scene, but as soon as I felt I started to get to know the characters, and things started to happen, I really began to enjoy the book. Richard is a fascinating character who has experienced a lot, and I liked how the author decided to switch between past and present in the form of flashbacks. From the constant farm life in Shropshire to the war adventures in India and Burma, Mary Fitzgerald manages to create realistic situations with a mix of captivating characters. However, I personally found myself enjoying the love story between Richard and Elizabeth the most. I kept searching for those elements in the story, the hidden glances and secret moments together, constantly keeping my fingers crossed for a happy ending for both of them.

In his story, Richard mainly focuses on his family: his mother and father, his older brother Billy, and Elizabeth, who comes to help out at their farm. A close family with hidden secrets and feelings that no one talks about. Themes such as loss and betrayal are central to the story, and even though certain passages were a bit too long and too detailed in my eyes, I was captivated by Richard’s life story and even shed a few tears here and there. ‘The Love of a Lifetime’ is a sentimental and, at places, entrancing tale with a true love story at its core, which I’d recommend to any romance/historical fiction fan out there.

Rating:7,5/10


14 October 2013

Review: 'Kissing My Old Life Au Revoir' by Eliza Watson (2013)

Event planner Samantha Hunter is prepared for a few challenges when escorting a group of good ole boy beer distributors to Paris, the city of haute cuisine and fine wines. However, she doesn’t foresee being passed up for a promotion because she is too professional and doesn’t knock back beers with her clients.

Her focus soon switches from landing the well-deserved promotion to finding her free-spirited sister, who lives in Paris and has disappeared, leaving behind family secrets to be uncovered. A sexy puppeteer helps Samantha search for clues to her sister’s whereabouts and teaches her to embrace her inner child. And a funeral-crashing psychic demonstrates the importance of living life to the fullest. It takes Samantha’s life spiraling out of control for her to finally get a life.

When I was contacted by Eliza Watson with the question whether I wanted to review her novel, ‘Kissing My Old Life Au Revoir’, I didn’t really need to think twice. I instantly liked the title, and when I read the story was mainly set in Paris, I was definitely sold. What better place to set a romantic tale than in the city of love, right? I couldn’t wait to discover more about Samantha Hunter (I’ve always secretly wanted to be an event planner, it’s just one of those jobs that sound so glamorous and like so much fun) and her Parisian adventures!

Samantha Hunter seems to have everything going for her: she has a fabulous job as an event planner (and a big well-deserved promotion coming her way), a handsome boyfriend, and a few days to spend in the amazing city of Paris, partly working, partly visiting her younger sister Libby. However, when Samantha is unexpectedly confronted with not getting the promotion she had been working hard for, but also finding out her boyfriend actually knew about that decision and supporting it, and Libby being 8 months pregnant, without wanting to tell anyone who the father is... Her Paris trip is suddenly turned upside down. Soon, Samantha is running around the city of Paris, not only to try and help her sister, but also making some important decisions about her own life in the process.

I already enjoyed this novel from the first few pages, mainly because of its quick pace and the great main protagonist. The reader is immediately thrown into the story, and after a quick setting of the scene, we are taken along on Samantha’s journey. I loved how strong and independent Samantha is; she’s ambitious and with her fight for gender equality within the business world, a true example for female readers all over the world. However, she also shows her more emotional side, which comes to the surface in relation to her family, specifically her relationship with Libby. Of course, the setting of the novel, the city of Paris, also adds a charming, French touch to it all, which made me crave a croque monsieur and a trip to the Eiffel Tower!

Some elements in the novel slightly confused me, and I think at times certain parts of the plotline could have been left out without doing any damage to the main storyline. I felt a bit lost every now and again, trying to connect all the pieces, but sometimes that connection wasn’t that straightforward. Next to that, I also wasn’t particularly taken in by the romance tale at the centre of the novel. I don’t want to give too much away, but I would have liked to be thrown off my feet by a male character, which didn’t happen for me with this particular novel. However, overall, ‘Kissing My Old Life Au Revoir’ is a fun, engaging, fast-paced read with a great heroine at its centre, and a book that will certainly make you want to book a short trip to Paris yourself!

Rating:7,5/10