Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas Tag

Happy belated Christmas everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful day! I've been a bit absent lately, and so as the lull between Christmas and New Year begins it's time to finally have a catch up!

I came across this tag over on Jillian's Books and thought it might be fun to have a go!

How much do you love snow?
Easy question, A LOT. Waking up and opening your curtains to find the world covered with snow is one of the most magical feelings in the world. And I actually had that feeling this morning! It was only a light dusting but it made my day!

How do you eat your gingerbread men? Head first or feet first?
I have to eat the head first and get it out of the way. I'm one of those people who feels bad eating things shaped like people/animals. Jelly babies, chocolate rabbits, you name it and I have to eat the head first. Silly but true.

Do you like seasonal reading? Do you specifically seek out books set around winter during winter?
I do but I hardly ever get them all read haha! I always trawl Amazon for free Christmas themed kindle books and short stories. This year I must have found at least ten and only had time to read one! I guess they'll have to wait until next year now!

Have you ever been caroling? Would you go?
Yes and yes. A few of us from our local church used to go around our village carol singing, lanterns and all, but this was years ago. I'd love to revive the tradition one day.

Favourite Christmas Song
I'm a traditionalist at heart, and so my favourite song is Sussex Carol (or On Christmas Night All Christians Sing), but I love O Holy Night too.

Favourite Christmas Tradition?
It's got to be the food surely? We always go all out; turkey with all the trimmings (especially pigs in blankets) and enough desserts to see us right up until New Years Day! We also name our Christmas tree, if that counts as a tradition? We get a real one and they have a different name every year.

Do you eat Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve?

Christmas Day, always. Usually mid afternoon by the time everything is ready!

And when do you open your presents?
Christmas morning. We live on a farm so we get up early to make sure all the animals are fed, before changing into our Christmas jumpers, gathering around the roaring log fire and opening our presents together. Old fashioned perhaps but I wouldn't have it any other way.

What book boyfriend/girlfriend would you want under your tree?
My answer to this changes with literally every book I read. My current favourite is Jamie Fraser from the Outlander series of books. Must be the kilt.

I'm tagging anyone and everyone who reads this! Hope you're all enjoying the festive season!



Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I've Read this Year!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.


This past year has flown by - I've just realised that I actually missed my first blogiversary two days ago! I've read many great books this year, but I actually found this list relatively easy to compile, you know a good book when you read one! So without further ado, here are my top picks that I've read this year:

There are two books I read this year that went straight onto the all-time favourites list, and interestingly they are very similar in theme, Full of 'magic', mystery and illusion, thy transport you completely into another world. The Illusionists has a plot that will grip you from the very first page, whilst the feats of imagination described in The Night Circus are just stunning. I can't recommend them enough.


I won The Secret Place in a Goodreads giveaway, and admittedly it isn't to my usual taste, but I found myself  hooked! Gripping, tense, and brilliantly written. 


Season of Light was a complete surprise for me; think Jane Austen meets the French Revolution. I couldn't put it down!


These next two choices are also successful films in their own right, but on both occasions I prefer the original book. Water for Elephants is a tense roller-coaster of a novel and The Time Traveler's Wife is a moving modern fairytale.


I've cut-down on chick-lit a bit this year, but these two really were stand out for me. The Vintage Girl takes place in a crumbly stately home in Scotland, whilst The Oyster Catcher is set on the windswept coast of Ireland. It is these settings that make them special.


As far as Austen re-tellings go Val McDermid's Northanger Abbey is the best I've come across. Moving the action to Edinburgh, my favourite city, was a genius move and the story just translates perfectly to today.


This is my final choice, and I'll admit I'm slightly biased as the male protagonist of this story hails from my home-town, but Spare Brides is a wonderful story of love, loss, and changing times in the aftermath of war.


So there we have it, my top ten books that I've read this year! I've enjoyed making this list - reading back over my reviews and notes to pick out my favourites - and I'm really interested to see what you've picked!

***I'll be away in Edinburgh when this post goes live (going up to see Wicked with my little sister - SO excited!) so any visits/comments will be duly returned when I get back. Please do leave links to your lists, I'd love to see your choices!***

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Blog Tour / Giveaway: The Twelfth Night Wager by Regan Walker

Now that December is here I can finally break out the Christmas themed books. I've had to restrain myself until now and have quite a list to get through this month, so watch this space!
Today I'm excited to be hosting the blog tour for The Twelfth Night Wager by Regan 
Walker. I really loved this book, and now can't wait to read the rest of Regan's work!
Read on for a synopsis, review and a giveaway to win a Twelve 
Days of Christmas Bracelet. I know I'll be entering!


01_The Twelfth Night Wager CoverSynopsis
THE REDHEADED RAKE
It was a dull day at White’s, the day he agreed to the wager: seduce bed and walk away from the lovely Lady Leisterfield, all by Twelfth Night. This holiday season, Christopher St. Ives, Viscount Eustace, planned to give himself a gift.

THE INNOCENT WIDOW
She was too proper by half—or so was the accusation of her friends, which was why her father had to find her a husband. But Lord Leisterfield was now gone a year, and Grace was at last shedding the drab colors of mourning. The house felt empty, more so during the coming Christmastide, and so tonight her coming out would begin with a scandalous piece of theater. The play would attract rogues, or so promised her friend the dowager countess. It would indeed. The night would bring about the greatest danger—and the greatest happiness—that Grace had ever known.

Add to GR ButtonBuy the eBook  Amazon



Review
First of all I have to say that I really love the cover! It fits the story and its seasonal setting perfectly.

The central couple, Christopher and Grace are a perfect match, and you can't help but will them to get together. Grace, like me, is an observer, and I really wanted her to let herself go a bit more and have fun after what she'd been through. I also want a Christopher of my own! He is a reformed rake, but a perfect gentleman - and a gorgeous one at that!

All of the secondary characters each have their own interesting personalities. I particularly liked Lord and Lady Ormond, and so was very happy to discover that they have a novel of their own! However my favourite supporting character has to be Lady Claremont; the matchmaking dowager who doesn't miss a thing. She is shrewd yet surprisingly modern in her thinking and her matchmaking methods, and well respected by all who know her.

One of the things that I love the most about historical romances is the setting, and this one doesn't disappoint. A world of balls, operas, lavish costumes and country estates is exactly the kind of escapism that I love. The plot of this novel is nothing new, give or take a twist or two, but this is by no means a criticism. You know exactly what you're going to get, so sit back and enjoy. There were also subtle hints in the plot to the exciting life of Grace's friend Lady Mary Ormond, prior to her marriage - dressing like a boy and riding astride. Scandalous! These hints were just enough to entice you into wanting to read the other books in the series - and they worked! I can't wait to find out more!

5/5 stars: With a wonderful cast of characters and a couple that you will really root for, The Twelfth Night Wager is a tale told with humour and heart; the perfect read for a cold winter's night.

About the Author
03_Regan WalkerBestselling author Regan Walker loved to write stories as a child, particularly those about adventure-loving girls, but by the time she got to college more serious pursuits took priority. One of her professors encouraged her to pursue the profession of law, which she did. Years of serving clients in private practice and several stints in high levels of government gave her a love of international travel and a feel for the demands of the “Crown” on its subjects. Hence her romance novels often involve a demanding sovereign who taps his subjects for “special assignments.” And in each of her novels, there is always real history and real historic figures. Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link, whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses. For more information please visit Regan Walker’s website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Giveaway
To enter to win a Twelve Days of Christmas Charm Bracelet, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below.

Rules
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on December 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to residents of the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner have 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Monday, 1 December 2014

Review: How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran


Meet Johanna Morrigan, an embarrassment unto herself and her family. It's time for Johanna to die. Not literally of course. She must die so a that new girl can be built, rising from the ashes of her former self.

Meet Dolly Wilde, a wild child music critic renowned for her devil-may-care attitude, her scathing reviews, and her trademark top hat. At sixteen years old she is a smoking, drinking 'Lady Sex Adventurer', determined to save her family from financial ruin and make a name for herself in the process. But as her exploits gets wilder and her reputation gets worse, Dolly starts to doubt herself. Is this really the kind of girl that she wants to be? Or is it time to tear herself down and start again?

I was lucky enough to see Caitlin Moran at Cheltenham Literature Festival this year (free front row tickets - being a volunteer certainly has its perks!) and she was just hilarious. Since then I have been desperate to get my hands on her debut novel, and I wasn't disappointed.

I'll start  by saying that this isn't a book for the faint hearted. There's lots of swearing, explicit yet hilarious descriptions of sex, and a scene of self harm. But please don't let that put you off - I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Moran is a brilliant writer. For a first novel I was very impressed, and I just loved her writing style - it's almost poetic in places - and this is what sold the story to me.

Johanna/Dolly is a fantastic character, and I would love one day to find out what happens in the next chapter of her life. I could relate to her - I, too, learnt almost everything I know from books - and although my goth phase was never quite that extreme I still saw parallels between her story and my own teenage years. Aside from Johanna, her elder brother Krissi was my favourite character, and I like to think that he stayed in London permanently with Johanna after the story ended and that they took on the world together.

Caitlin demonstrates an incredibly well observed insight into the teenage mindset - with all the turbulence, uncertainly and raging hormones. The point is stressed that the novel is entirely fictional, but given the parallels with Moran's own background I can't help but wonder if there is an element of autobiography to it - it's easy to write about what you know well. It's an easy read, and I raced through it in a couple of days.

4/5 stars: Described as 'The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease,How to Build a Girl is rude, daring, and laugh out loud funny. Highly recommended.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Review: Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

I, along with I suspect the majority of all English Literature graduates, am well versed in all things Jane Austen. Admittedly I'm not her biggest fan (some of her books I love, others not so much), but when I heard about The Austen Project - the idea of popular authors updating her work and setting it in the 21st century - I was intrigued. I enjoyed Val McDermid's interpretation of Northanger Abbey (my review of which can be found here), and so I was eager to see what the next installment in the series would bring. Sense and Sensibility isn't one of my favourite Austen novels, but I did see an excellent stage adaptation of it this summer by Chapterhouse Theatre Company which reignited my interest in it. Despite her impressive back catalogue, I hadn't read any of Trollope's work before, so I had no preconceptions of what to expect from her.

Of course I knew exactly what to expect from the plot, which made it very easy to follow, almost too easy. The county estates, the huge houses and the awkward dinner parties were all the same. Minus the cars, converse and mobile phones and I might as well have been reading the original novel - and I had to keep reminding myself to picture it in today's setting.

That said, the story is well written, as are the characters. I especially liked Bill Brandon, but I'm afraid I have the same issues with the male suitors in this novel as I had in the original. Brandon -however lovely he may be - is too old for Marianne, and I can't help but find his obsession with her a little creepy. Edward, in short, has no backbone, and I don't think he is actually worthy of Ellie. He is honour bound to his adolescent promise to marry Lucy Steele, and rather than telling her the truth about his feelings for Ellie he is actually prepared to go through with the wedding. I mean, seriously!? Then turning up and finally declaring your love to Eleanor only because Lucy decided to marry your brother instead. If I were Ellie I'd certainly have made him stew for a while instead of jumping straight into his arms that's for sure! As for Willoughby, I didn't like his treatment of Marianne one bit. I know I'm not supposed to, but as a hopeless romantic like Marianne myself I actually had some pity for him in the original, and I believe that he sincerely loved her. I can't help but feel that his seduction of Marianne was taken a little too far in this version - there's a big jump between giving a man a lock of your hair and giving him your virginity!

Of course, being faithful to the plot means that Trollope had no say in her character's fates or flaws, so this criticism is by no means directed at her, it's more just me being cynical!

My favourite character, and the one who translated best was easily Margaret-the stroppy socially conscious teenager forever plugged into her iPod just works brilliantly - and I want her treehouse!

Trollope says in an author interview included in my edition of the book that 'Jane Austen's pre-occupations - romance, money and class - are timeless' and this is definitely true. However she also says that the characters and narrative translate 'seamlessly' to 2013, and on this point I have to disagree. Societies principles may have stayed the same, but their outlook on life has changed. Women are a lot more empowered (demonstrated to a degree by Ellie in this novel), and people are a lot more open on their thoughts and feelings. In the end though, as Trollope concludes 'the desire to be loveable, and popular, and fancied is as old and enduring as humanity is itself.'

I am now eagerly awaiting the chance to read Alexander McCall Smith's update of Emma. Again I only know a little of his work, and Emma is possibly my favourite Austen novel next to the mighty Pride and Prejudice, so I can't wait to see his take on it!

3/5 stars: A well written and enjoyable addition to The Austen Project, but although the characters translate well to the 21st century, the plot just doesn't work for me.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Review: The Chestnut Tree by Jo Thomas

When Ellie Russet leaves home and her restaurant in the wake of disaster to housesit in the Kent countryside, the last thing she wants to do is cook for a living - ever again.

Ellie's new neighbour, Daniel Fender, is struggling to make ends meet as a furniture maker. Could the answer to his problems lie in the chestnut orchard at the bottom of the garden?

Only Ellie can help Daniel unlock the delicious secret that will bring them the fresh starts they need. And as autumn approaches, romance will blossom amid the glowing embers of the chestnut fire...

I started this story as soon as I finished The Oyster Catcher, also by Jo Thomas. The themes in both are very similar: outsider girl meets outsider boy and they try to integrate into the local community. Being from a tiny village myself I can completely relate- we too have a few 'blow-ins' from towns and cities; some happily throw themselves into village life whilst others we barely see! Suspicion of newcomers is therefore entirely natural in small knit communities, an idea apparent in both of Thomas's stories.

The Chestnut Tree is a cute short story, a perfect read for a chilly autumn day. It is wonderfully descriptive, and you can see and hear the crisp autumn leaves as if you are walking through the chestnut woods yourself. Ellie is sweet, Daniel is adorable, and yet again Jo's use of animals as characters really made me smile.

5/5 stars: I will definitely be on the lookout for more from Jo Thomas in the future!

*It was a lovely surprise to receive a copy of this book alongside my review copy of The Oyster Catcher, cheers bookbridgr!*

Review: The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas

Dooleybridge, County Galway. Population: 482 (or thereabouts). The last place Fiona Clutterbuck expects to end up, alone, on her wedding night.
But after the words 'I do' have barely left her mouth, that's exactly where she is - with only her sequined shoes and a crashed camper van for company.
One thing is certain: Fi can't go back. So when the opportunity arises to work for Sean Thornton, the local oyster farmer, she jumps at the chance. Now Fi must navigate suspicious locals, jealous rivals and a wild, unpredictable boss if she's to find a new life, and love, on the Irish coast. And nothing - not even a chronic fear of water - is going to hold her back.
Join Fi on her romantic, unpredictable adventure as she learns the rules of the ocean - and picks up a few pearls of Irish wisdom along the way...


As I have mentioned in previous posts I had got myself into a bit of a rut with chick-lit; I'd read so many that even the not so predictable ones had become predictable. However I had heard so many good things about The Oyster Catcher that I just couldn't resist.

What makes this novel different is its setting. Galway sounds absolutely stunning, and the weather is so well described that you can feel the wind and the rain as Fi and Sean battle the elements.

The Irish small-town community theme reminded me very much of the film Leap Year, which is by no means a bad thing. Indeed, comparisons can also be drawn between the film's lead male, the gruff but gorgeous Declan O'Callaghan and Sean Thornton, the novel's infuriating but loveable male protagonist. Both are struggling to pay the bills and keep their businesses above water, and both unexpectedly find their lives invaded by strong willed women who change them for the better.

I live in a small village myself - one so small it makes Dooleybridge sound like a city! It has one pub and one church, and so I could completely relate to Fi's fear of the local gossip - nothing stays secret for long in places like this! All of the local characters each had their own quirky personality and all brought something to the plot. No matter how reluctant they were to help Fi at first, you got a sense that they really loved their home town and the sense of community spirit had been rebuilt by the novel's end. Fi herself was a brilliant character too, she was brave and determined, and inspiring in her ability to make the most of a bad situation and build a new life for herself. She had her fair share of cringey moments - as do all chick-lit heroines - and her first misunderstanding with Sean about his 'hooker' I found a tad unbelievable, but maybe I'm just more well versed in boat terminology than I thought!

Nancy, the villain of the piece, was detestable from the start, and I was practically yelling at Sean to get rid of her by the end. The novel's 'baddies' may be a bit stereotypical - creepy loan shark and ruthless businesswoman - but this only makes you side completely with the townsfolk and will them to succeed.

Another lovely touch to the book was the animals, who were characters in themselves. Grace the Great Dane and Freddie and Mercury the mischievous donkeys to name but a few all made me smile every time they were mentioned, and made Sean all the more fanciable in my eyes- everyone loves an animal lover.

5/5 stars: I can completely see why this novel took off like it did. A beautiful setting and a gorgeous hero. A novel full of humour and heart. I look forward to reading more from Jo Thomas in the future!

*I received a review copy of this book from bookbridgr in exchange for a review*

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Review: The Proposal by Tasmina Perry

A magnificent, moving epic with a haunting secret love story at its heart, which will sweep you from present-day Manhattan to London in 1958 - the year of the last debutantes. 1958. At eighteen, Georgia Hamilton is sent to London for the Debutante Season. Independent, and with secret dreams to be a writer, she has no wish to join the other debs competing for a husband. But when tragedy strikes, her fate appears to have been sealed. 2012. Hurrying to meet her lover, Amy Carrell hopes tonight will change her destiny. And it does - but not in the way she imagined. Desolate and desperate to get out of London, she accepts a position as companion to a mysterious stranger, bound for Manhattan - little knowing she is about to unlock a love story that has waited fifty years to be told. And a heart waiting to come back to life...


I had never read any of Tasmina Perry's other books prior to starting The Proposal, so I had no idea what to expect! The book was very well written with great characters; I only wish we had seen more of Annie, I loved her! The dual narrative structure worked well, though I found myself enjoying Georgia's story of her debutante season a lot more than Amy's modern day romantic troubles.The story dragged a little in the middle up until the completely unexpected reveal about why Georgia is estranged from her family-I certainly didn't see that plot twist coming! For the most part I liked Amy- aside from one stupid decision she made that made me want to shout at her for being so naive and forgiving. New York at Christmas is portrayed in film and literature as one of the most magical places on earth, and this novel is no exception. I'll make it there one day.

I have no criticisms on writing or characterisation in this novel, but I just wasn't that keen on the plot. The ending also felt a bit abrupt and I would've liked to read more about what happened to Amy. Times may change, but the enduring themes of love and heartbreak stay the same. 3/5 stars.

*Thanks to bookbridgr and Headline for sending me a copy of this book to review!*

Friday, 24 October 2014

Blog Tour: Third Time Lucky by Pippa Croft

  
 Today I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for Third Time Lucky by Pippa Croft!
I've really enjoyed reading this series!

Third Time Lucky – #3 in the Oxford Blue Series by Pippa Croft
Published by Penguin (October 9, 2014)
Each book in the series can also be read as a standalone
Previous novels are available on NetGalley

Blurb
'It's Sister Dixon from the Royal Infirmary here. I'm sorry to tell you that Captain Hunt has been involved a serious incident.'
Lauren Cusack should be on her way home for an holiday in Washington before her final term at Wyckham College, Oxford. But this call changes everything. Her relationship with impossibly handsome aristocrat Alexander Hunt has been turbulent and Lauren knows she needs to walk away. Yet now as she rushes to his side she knows she will be inevitably sucked back into his world. And sure enough, Alexander - even a seriously injured Alexander - is an intoxicating cocktail Lauren cannot resist and despite everything that is sent to thwart them - and with Alexander there is drama at every turn - she finds herself happier than she's ever been. But as her final term races by, and she is offered the perfect job back in Washington, the impossibility of their romance hits home. Can there be a future for Alexander and Lauren? The love trials of Lauren and Alexander continue in the third book in Pippa Croft's brilliant new Oxford Blue romance series.

Fans of E L James, Tammara Webber and Samantha Young won't be able to get enough of Pippa Croft's Oxford Blue romance series. Lauren and Alexander's journey begins in The First Time We Met, and follows on in the brilliant sequel, The Second Time I Saw You, which are both available as Penguin ebooks.

Review
I had begun to get a little tired of the romantic trilogy fad that Fifty Shades seems to have started, but this series of books bucked the trend! Each book can be read as a standalone, which makes a nice change,and it's great to have a series in this genre set in England too. Lauren and Alexander are both brilliant characters, Lauren is feisty whilst Alexander is, as expected, brooding and handsome. In the final book you also see a side to Alex that hadn't really surfaced in the first two installments, making him seem more human. The books are fun and addictive, and I raced through each one, eager to see how they ended. Gorgeous setting, detestable villains, a passionate love story and a hot hero, what more could you ask for!?

About the Author
Pippa Croft is the pen name of an award-winning romantic novelist. After studying English at Oxford, she worked as a copywriter and journalist before writing her debut novel, which won the RNA's New Writers' award and was later made into a TV movie. She lives in a village in the heart of England with her husband and daughter.

Amazon buy links:   


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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Blog Tour: The Secrets of Casanova by Greg Michaels


 Today I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for the Secrets of Casanova by Greg Michaels!


02_The Secrets of CasanovaPublication Date: October 21, 2013 | Booktrope Editions | Formats: eBook Paperback; 334p
Genre: Historical Fiction

Add to GR Button
2014 Nancy Pearl Award Winner for Fiction.

Loosely based on the life of Jacques Casanova, The Secrets of Casanova is a rich, lush novel of love, sex, family, ambition, intrigue, and adventure. Set in Paris of 1755, Casanova's luck is fading and his past is shoving up against his present with potentially disastrous consequences. What price must he pay to uncover a treasure of inestimable value? What hearts must he break along the way? Casanova's will and destiny collide again and again in this riveting historical fiction that brings to light a man of great passion and not a few secrets.

Praise for The Secrets of Casanova
“A Shakespearean actor with a flair for the dramatic and a superb ear for dialogue, Michaels's debut novel puts a brilliantly original spin on an historical figure whose very name is a cliché. This Casanova must wrestle not only with falling hopelessly and passionately in love, but embarking on a mysterious quest that is as much a spiritual awakening as a swashbuckling adventure. The Secrets of Casanova is so erotic and so sensitively written, I found it difficult to believe its author was a man.” -Robin Maxwell, national best-selling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn

Review
I have always been intrigued by the man that is Casanova both in fact and fiction, so I jumped at the chance to read and review this book! Jacques Casanova is, to put it mildly, a bit of a rogue. We all know the tales of his bed-hopping and authority-dodging ways, and this is exactly how we find him at the beginning of the novel. He is a character that we ought to hate but just can't. There was definite character development with him throughout the novel that made him more than the stereotypical bounder, and I couldn't help but will him to succeed in his quest. The theatrical background of the author shines through his prose; his characterisation is spot on and I found myself transported into Casanova's world. Full of intrigue and adventure, The Secrets of Casanova is a well-written tale that brings the legend to life, and makes him so much more than the lady-loving cliché.

Buy the Book
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About the Author
03_Greg MichaelsAfter receiving his B.A. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, a chance experience thrust Greg into a career as a professional actor and fight director. To date he's acted in over fifty theater productions, more than forty television shows, and choreographed dozens of swordfights for stage and screen. In THE SECRETS OF CASANOVA, Greg again proves his skill at telling a theatrical story. He lives with his wife, two sons, and Andy the hamster.

For more information please visit Greg Michaels's website. Like The Secrets of Casanova Facebook Page. Follow Greg Michaels on Twitter.


Monday, 29 September 2014

Cheltenham Literature Festival

I'm very excited to announce that I'm part of the volunteer team at Cheltenham Literature Festival this year! I stumbled upon it quite by accident last year (I just happened to be in the city visting my boyfriend when it was on) and fell instantly in love with it. I think this was primarily to do with the fact that Emma Thomspon was in town! I jumped at the chance to volunteer this year and now here I am, sat next to my suitcase preparing to travel down there tomorrow- it's a hefty five hour train journey from my home on the North Yorkshire Moors!

Celebrity highlights at the festival this year include Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral / Notting Hill), Dame Judi Dench, Brian Blessed, and Damian Lewis of Homeland fame (although I know him best as Soames from the Forsyte Saga). On the more traditional side of things there's talks with Ian McEwan (Atonement), David Nicholls (One Day), Hilary Mantel (Wolf Hall), Nick Hornby (About a Boy) and Sarah Waters (Fingersmith) to name but a few, alongside performances from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Safe to say that I'm in for an exciting few weeks!

This does all mean however that I might be absent from blogging for a while. I'll try and do a few posts telling you what I've been up to, but with no laptop or WiFi where I'm staying, quick updates from my phone in Starbucks may have to suffice! There'll be more frequent posts over on my Twitter @VictoriaWardman, so feel free to follow me there!

Have you ever been to Cheltenham Literature Festival, or any other Lit Fest for that matter? I'd love to know about your experiences! And if you're going to Cheltenham this year let me know so I can keep an eye out for you! :)

Review: The Secret Place by Tana French

'I know who killed him.'

Could these few words, posted on a notice board in an exclusive girls' boarding school, be Detective Stephen Moran's passport to the Murder Squad?

Moran is about to be plunged into the single most intense and nerve-shredding day of this life, investigating the story of a boy whose murder has remained unsolved for a year, and a group of girls on the verge of womanhood, who all seem to have something to hide.

Comtemporary crime fiction isn't usually my thing; the glamorous world of the 1930s and Agatha Christie are about my level when it comes to mystery and murder. But the premise of this story lured me in.The boarding school setting appealed instantly to me. It's strange how in children's literature boarding schools such as St Trinian's and Hogwarts are places of mayhem and cameraderie, but they become altogether more sinister and somewhat sordid in adult fiction.

The writing style drew me in from the very first page; it's incredibly well written and full of suspense. The narrative switches between the re-opened investigation one year after the murder, and the lives of the students in the months leading up to it. In this structure the novel builds slowly towards two climaxes: Chris's murder, and the revelation of who killed him. There is no Poirot-esque keeping of ideas from the reader for the big reveal - we are in on all of the detectives' thinking as they try to make sense of it all. This makes for such a detailed narrative that you really have to concentrate. It is a slow burner of a book, and one that is definitely worth taking your time over.

One thing worth noting about this novel is that it is very dialogue driven. The majority of the novel takes place during a single day, the action barely leaves the school grounds, and there are entire chapters dedicated to the interviews with the pupils. Yet is still compelling. These detailed interviews are told from the perspective of Detective Moran as we solve the case with him. Another thing that I liked about this novel is how it portrayed the teenage characters in a realistic light. I've read far too many books full of stereotyped girls that I was worried but French has it spot on. There is a ruthless hierarchy among the students. They are fiercely protective of their closest friends, just as teenage girls are.

This was my first time reading Tana French so I had no idea what to expect. I was pleased to find that there was no blood and gore in this book as that is what puts me off modern crime! It was chilling at times and I was absolutely gripped- I took it everywhere with me! It is unlike anything I've ever read before, it broadened my horizons, and I can't wait to read French's other books now!

The Secret Place is beautifully written; the language flows conveying an almost haunting image of the depth of human nature, and just how far some people are prepared to go to protect the people they love. It demonstrates a profound understanding of the mindset of teenage girls -your friends are your world- and for a book with so little action it draws you in remarkably well, keeping you well and truly hooked until the very last page. French is a master of her craft. 

5/5 stars: Gripping from the first page to the last, The Secret Place is a thrilling, chilling account of the lengths people will go to to protect the ones they love.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Review: The Out of Office Girl by Nicola Doherty

Through a massive stroke of luck, editorial assistant Alice Roberts finds herself on a plane to Sicily to work on the autobiography of Hollywood mega-star and bad boy Luther Carson. This is the opportunity of a lifetime and no-one is going to stand in her way, least of all Luther's bitchy co-star  Annabel or his arrogant agent Sam. But in such a beautiful location with such beautiful people, Alice can't help but feel out of place. With Luther off gallevanting and reluctant to spill his life-story, Alice needs to step up to the challenge and make this summer one to remember!

After spending some time in Italy this summer, I'm finding myself drawn to books set there. Call it a remedy for the post holiday blues; reading about it means I can pretend I'm still there! I got myself into a bit of a rut with chick-lit so I decided to avoid it for a while, but when I read the blurb for this novel I knew that I had to give it a go! I'm so glad that I did. Once I got into it I raced through it in a couple of days. Alice Roberts is very likeable, and I found myself rooting for her to get a happy ending in both her work life and her love life. She is an ordinary girl thrust into the world of the extraordinary. The plot is pretty predictable, but this is no bad thing - it's nice to read a book once in a while where you know what direction things are heading. I've known books in this genre to ramble on for way too long and I quickly lose interest, but this one is paced just right.  It was also nice to have an epilogue at the end of the novel, far too many of my reviews have featured me complaining that we don't find out how the relationships work out!

All of the supporting characters are well-defined - for the physically perfect celebrities and Italians Alice meets at the villa, right down to her flatmate Martin who appears for little more than a few sentences. Neither Sam nor Luther are my book-boyfriend type but they were both great characters, and each loveable in their own way. The Idyllic setting of Sicily is so well described you can picture it vividly - it is a character in itself and I so wish I was there!

Through Alice's work, the novel gives an interesting insight into the publishing industry; it seems so ruthless! Similarly, through Luther's dictation of his autobiography to Alice we see a side of celebrity culture that is far from rosy. One thing that particularly struck me was his candid talk on the 'selfie' phenomenon: 'I miss autographs... when they just take a snap of you on their phone, and they don't even speak to you- it's like they're at the zoo and you're the monkey.' This is so true in today's society, and I've never thought of it quite that way before!

5/5 stars: Escape to Italy with this smart and funny novel. The Out of Office Girl is the perfect summer read that you won't be able to put down!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Blog Tour: Ravensdale by Lucinda Elliot

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02_RavensdalePublication Date: April 18, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback; 260p
Genre: Historical Regency/Comedy-Spoof

Synopsis
When the group of highwaymen headed by the disgraced Earl of Little Dean, Reynaud Ravensdale hold up the hoydenish Isabella Murray’s coach, she knocks one of them down and lectures them all on following Robin Hood’s example.
The rascally Reynaud Ravensdale – otherwise known as the dashing highwayman Mr Fox – is fascinated by her spirit.
He escaped abroad three years back following his supposedly shooting a friend dead after a quarrel. Rumour has it that his far more respectable cousin was involved. Now, having come back during his father’s last illness, the young Earl is seeking to clear his name.
Isabella’s ambitious parents are eager to marry her off to Reynaud Ravensdale’s cousin, the next in line to his title. The totally unromantic Isabella is even ready to elope with her outlaw admirer to escape this fate – on condition that he teaches her how to be a highwaywoman herself.
This hilarious spoof uses vivid characters and lively comedy to bring new life to a theme traditionally favoured by historical novelists – that of the wild young Earl, who, falsely accused of murder by the machinations of a conniving cousin and prejudged by his reputation, lives as an outlaw whilst seeking to clear his name.
‘Ravensdale’ is a fast paced, funny and romantic read from the writer of ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’, following the adventures of his equally roguish cousin and set in 1792, just prior to the French Revolution, two years before 'That Scoundrel Émile Dubois'.
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Review
I deciced to give this book a go as it sounded really fun! A blatant spoof of the historical romance genre, it follows disgraced heir turned outlaw Reynaud Ravensdale in his quest to clear his name and get the girl. However Isabella is no simpering heroine, and so, unconventionally, it is down to Ravensdale to be the lovestruck one. What makes this book special is that although it pokes fun at the clichés of historical romantic fiction it still makes you root for the characters and hope that they get a happy ending together. A brilliant plot written with lots of humour and heart, Ravensdale is a love-letter to the clichés of historical romance that we all know and love.

Praise for Ravensdale
“This was a good book. Well written and funny. As far as historical romances go, this one is quite a page turner. She turned a historical romance into something fun and different with comedy added in.” - Brenny’s Book Obsession (Amazon.com)

“I liked how Elliot poked fun at the clichés of historical romances. The chapter titles made me laugh. They were these little parody’s which gave just enough lightness to the story without turning it into a joke.” - Lauryn April (Amazon.com)

“And despite all the satire there is still an enjoyable story taking place in this book. Elliot does a fine job of allowing the reader to not only laugh at some of the absurdities in this tale but also root for the players to find their happy ending. There is plenty of emotion and heart in this book as both Isabella and Reynaud are characters of admirable quality and depth. ..I applaud Elliot for making the poetic regency romances we hold dear to our heart into something fun and different. She never insults or tarnishes what we love about the genre but allows it to blossom with comedy making it something I particularly loved even more.” - JC @ All is Read (Amazon.com)

“This was a cleverly written story, similar to a tongue in cheek Jane Austen classic.” - Gidgeemamma (Amazon.com)

“Ravensdale achieves everything it sets out to do, playing with formulas and stereotypes of older romance novels with abandon.The writer manages to pay tribute to the genre while having fun at the same time. In one paragraph, the sturdy no-nonsense heroine muses on the cliches of the plot she finds herself in, capitalizing all the character types such as the Wild Young Buck, the Villain of the Piece, and the Sweet Young Maiden. You can see her eyes rolling as she teases. But then the novel transforms, as the stereotypes become real people under the clever typing fingers of Lucinda Elliot.” - Jo (Amazon.com)

“If you enjoy Georgette Heyer-style period romances, you’ll probably enjoy "Ravensdale". However – and this is what is so clever about this novel – if you don’t, then there’s a good chance that you’ll enjoy "Ravensdale" anyway. It provides you with both characters that you can genuinely like and care about, an interesting story, and a parody that is at times hilarious.” - Mari Biella (Amazon.com)

“I didn’t want it to end. Ravensdale is a thoroughly enjoyable read.” - Anne Carlisle PhD (Amazon.com)

“I was so engrossed that I couldn’t stop reading and ended up with a terrible headache, but it was worth it. What an amazing bunch of characters! First of all, there’s Lord Reynaud Ravensdale, the Disgraced Outlaw and Earl: this is a character to really fall in love with. He’s intelligent, quick, wild, impetuous, an amazing shot, and absolutely bursting with honor. ..Isabella is an amazing kick ass woman, and a true, perfect match for the larger than life Ravensdale.” - Ral in the West (Amazon.com)

Character Interview with Reynaud Ravensdale.

Watch the Book Trailer


Buy the Book
Amazon US
Amazon UK

About the Author
Lucinda Elliot loves writing Gothic style stories, which isn't surprising because she was brought up in a series of big old isolated houses which her parents were refurbishing (it wasn't so fashionable back then). After that, she lived, studied and worked in London for many years and now lives in Mid Wales with her family.
She loves writing about strong women to complement gung ho males.
Her interests do include weight training and body shaping,and she was once a champion Sports fighter, but apart from that her interests are quite geeky. Reading classic novels, conservation, gardening, and even names and their meanings (bring on the carrot juice). She loves a laugh above anything.
For more information please visit Lucinda's website. You can also connect with her on Goodreads.

Blog Tour: The Unexpected Earl by Philippa Jane Keyworth

Today I'm excited to be a part of the blog tour for The Unexpected Earl by Philippa Jane Keyworth.
I really enjoyed this book, and you can can check out my review of it below!
02_The Unexpected Earl 
Publication Date: September 20, 2014 | Madison Street Publishing Formats: eBook, Paperback
Genre: Historical Fiction/Regency/Romance

Synopsis
From the author of the widely acclaimed The Widow's Redeemer, comes a new Regency romance from Philippa Jane Keyworth. Six years after being jilted without a word of explanation, Julia Rotherham finds Lucius Wolversley standing before her once again–unexpected, unannounced, unwelcome. With her heart still hurting and, more importantly, her pride, Julia must chaperone her younger sister, fend off fortune hunters, orchestrate a fake engagement, and halt an elopement–all whilst keeping the man who jilted her at arm’s length. But what Julia doesn’t know is that this time, the Earl has no intention of disappearing, and this time, he has more than an explanation to offer…


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Review
I love to indulge in a bit of historical romance from time to time, and this novel fitted the bill nicely! Wolversley was, as you'd expect, swoonworthy, and Julia was great too - it makes a change to read about a female lead of this era who isn't afraid to speak her mind and act on impulse! The pair of them sparked off each other brilliantly, although I did want to bash their heads together at times and tell them to stop being so down on themselves and start being honest with each other! The supporting characters all contribute something to the story. Julia's parents are reminiscient of Mr and Mrs Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, whilst her best friend Highsmith is a sweetheart. I would love to find out whether or not he got a happy ending too! The novel has all the ingredients for a classic historical romance: the strong silent hero, the sensible heroine, her naive little sister and a rakish cad. Pretty predictable stuff, but a brilliant read nontheless. With a wonderful cast of characters and a plot that'll keep you hooked, The Unexpected Earl is a tale of love, life and second chances.

About the Author
03_Philippa Jane KeyworthPhilippa Jane Keyworth, known to her friends as Pip, has been writing since she was twelve in every notebook she could find. Originally trained as a horse-riding instructor, Philippa went on to become a copywriter before beginning a degree in History. A born again Christian, Philippa lives in the south of England with her handsome husband. Philippa has always written stories and believes that, since it is one of her loves and passions, she always will. In her early writing career, she dabbled in a variety of genres, but it was the encouragement of a friend to watch a film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that began her love affair with the British Regency. Since then, she has watched every Regency film and TV series she could get her hands on and become well acquainted with Georgette Heyer’s novels which gave her the inspiration to write her own. Both as a reader and a writer, Philippa believes it is important to escape into a world you yourself would want to live in. This is why she writes stories that will draw you into the characters’ joys and heartaches in a world apart from our own. Her debut novel, The Widow’s Redeemer (Madison Street Publishing, 2012), is a traditional Regency romance bringing to life the romance between a young widow with an indomitable spirit and a wealthy viscount with an unsavory reputation. The novel has been received well by readers and reviewers who have praised the heartfelt story and admirable characters. Her second novel, The Unexpected Earl (Madison Street Publishing, 2014), explores another romance in the Regency era when an impetuous young woman has her life turned upside down by the reappearance of the earl who jilted her six years ago. So, what are you waiting for? Get swept away into another time with characters you will learn to love, and experience the British Regency like never before. For more information please visit Philippa Jane Keyworth's website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Also by Philippa Jane Keyworth: The Widow's Redeemer

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

September Library Haul

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

The cover for this one is just stunning, and when I looked it up on Goodreads I came across many favourable reviews from people that I follow on there. Can't wait to read this one!

The Out of Office Girl - Nicola Doherty
Alice Roberts is having a rubbish summer. She's terrified of her boss, her career is stalling, and she's just been dumped - by text message. Things couldn't really get much worse. But things are about to change...  When her boss is taken ill, Alice is sent on the work trip of a lifetime: to a villa in Sicily, to edit the autobiography of Hollywood bad boy Luther Carson. But it's not all yachts, nightclubs and Camparis. Luther's arrogant agent Sam wants to ditch the book entirely. Luther himself is gorgeous and charming but impossible to read. There only seems to be one way to get his attention, and it's not one her boss would approve of. Alice is out of the office, and into a whole lot of trouble.
 
Again, I love the cover, and this looks like a fun read. Set in one of my favourite countries too!




Lord of Fire - Gaelen Foley
After years of preparation, Lord Lucien has baited his trap well, luring the depraved members of London Society into his devil's playground so he can earn their trust and uncover their secrets. Yet no one suspects that he is England's most cunning spy, an officer who has sacrificed his soul for his country. Now an unexpected intruder has invaded his fortress of sin, jeopardising his carefully laid plans and igniting his deepest desires. Beautiful, innocent, Alice Montague finds herself at the mercy of scandalous Lord Lucien. But as he begins his slow seduction to corrupt her virtue, Alice glimpses a man tormented by his own choices, a man who promises her nothing except his undeniable passion...

I love to indulge in a bit of historcal romance from time to time, and this one fits the bill nicely.

What's new on your shelves this week?


Monday, 15 September 2014

Personality Test: Which fictional characters are you most like?

So I came across this idea on tumblr, and thought it might be fun to do it over here.

The rules are simple: take the personality test here, then find out which characters share the same personality traits as you here. List the characters that you find relevant and tag a bunch of bloggers to do the same!

So, according to the test, my personality is INFP:
"You are one of the Diplomats - an empathic and idealistic individual who enjoys exploring interesting ideas and prizes morality. You are known for your poetic nature, intuitive skills and pure, childlike enthusiasm. "

These are just a few of the characters listed that matched my personality type:

Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia
Frances "Baby" Houseman from Dirty Dancing
Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby
Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon
Marius from Les Misérables
Christian from Moulin Rouge!
Jane Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
Romeo from Romeo and Juliet
Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility
The eponymous main character of WALLE

Thinking about it, I can relate to most of these characters. Romeo, Christian, Marius and Marianne are all hopeless romantics, and as much as Marianne infuriates me I have always seen something of myself in her. I had always thought of myself as more of an Elizabeth Bennett than Jane, and was very surprised to see Jay Gatsby on the list, but then he is the epitome of idealism. Pretty handy to know that I'd make a good dragon trainer too!

As for the nominations, I tag anyone and everyone who reads this post - I'm really interested to see who you all get!


Friday, 12 September 2014

The Book Reading Habits Tag

So a few weeks back the lovely Girl with her Head in a Book nominated me for the Book Reading Habits Tag. I'm not brave enough to booktube - that and it's difficult to get a quiet moment here with family lurking around - so for now written answers will have to suffice!

#1 - Do you have a certain place for reading at home?
Most of my reading is done in bed, although when I have a particularly gripping book on the go I have been known to carry it with me around the house and read it anywhere I get the chance to!

#2 - Do you use a bookmark or a random piece of paper?
I have loads of bookmarks but they always seem to just disappear when I need them! I use tickets, old lists, basically anything that I have to hand when I need one. If I manage to actually find a bookmark even better.

#3 - Can you just stop reading or does it need to be at the end of a chapter or a certain number of pages?
The end of a chapter, always. Unless of course I fall asleep mid sentence, which I very often do!

#4 - Do you eat or drink while reading?
Very rarely, it just never crosses my mind. I suppose seeing as I do most of my reading at night I'm done with eating for the day. 

#5 - Do you read one book at a time or several at once?
Several at once, definitely. I usually have at least one light-hearted book on the go for when I need something easy to read, alongside a heavier going book. I've been known to have four or five on the go at once, but at the minute I just have two.

#6 - Do you read out loud or silently in your head?
I don't think I've ever read out loud outside of English classes at school. Though I do think reading plays and poetry out loud makes an enormous difference in understanding them. 

#7 - Do you ever read ahead or skip pages?
I always try to avoid reading the end of a book before I actually get to it, although I do skip ahead a few pages/chapters sometimes just to make sure my favourite characters are ok, particularly if something bad is about to happen.

#8 - Breaking the spine or keeping it new?
The books I buy new I try and keep as pristine as possible. Though there is something charming about a book looking well-loved.

#9 - Do you write in your books?
The only books I've ever written in were the ones I studied at school/university. My £2 basic school copy of Gatsby is crammed with notes, most of which are barely legible. 

#10 - What are you currently reading?
Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope and Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman.

My nominations are Jirrine Reads, Keeley Reads and Obsessive Compulsive Reader. Over to you guys :)
     

Review: Ice Creams at Carrington's by Alexandra Brown


Georgie Hart seems to have her life on track. The perfect job, the perfect boyfriend, the perfect life. Then she is given the challenge of
organising the first summer regatta for Mulberry-on-Sea, sponsored by Carrington's Department store! With the regatta looming, her father loose on the continent in a camper van and an opportunity state-side that is just too good to miss, Georgie finds herself pulled in all directions. This is the summer when Georgie will discover what she truly wants out of life.

I reviewed the previous book in the series, Christmas at Carringtons, here, in fact it was my first ever review on this blog! It's not necessary to read the Carrington's books in order -I haven't read the first one yet - but personally I enjoyed this story a lot more than the previous one.

As in the previous book, the slang annoyed me a bit; I've had enough of 'emosh' and 'amazeballs' to last a lifetime as it is so I don't want them in my books too (plus I don't know anyone in real life who actually uses them...). The one thing that this book lacked in comparison to its predecessor is it's focus being on the family run department store. The whole New York trip thing has been done so many times before in other chick-lit novels that I'm getting a little tired of it - I didn't even like Sex and the City!

The novel features stereotypical characters and a relatively predictable storyline, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It is easy to follow and easy to read, which in my mind makes it a perfect book to spend a lazy summer afternoon with. I can relate to Georgie in the sense that I'm torn between home comforts and the excitement of new places. She must be loaded though!

3.5/5 Light-hearted escapism for a summer's day, with ice cream of course!

Review: Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

Edinburgh, 'a city of infinite promise.'

For those of you unaware of the plot of the original Northanger Abbey, written by the great Jane Austen, it is a Gothic parody novel depicting the adventures of Catherine Morland, a young girl with an over-active imagination, and her relationship with a certain Mr Henry Tilney. In her re-imagining of the classic story, Val McDermid moves the action to modern-day Edinburgh during its world famous book festival, a literature lover's dream.

I went into this novel with high expectations, and to be perfectly honest the writing didn't grab me instantly. I found the narrative a little patronising towards Cat, but in hindsight perhaps this is intentional to highlight her naivety. It is more a retelling than a re-imagining as other reviewers have pointed out, with perhaps too much effort made to stick closely to the original plot instead of telling its own story.

That said, moving the setting from Bath to Edinburgh was a genius idea! The characters are all believable, and to an extent relatable - I've never been one for paranormal fiction but I'm frequently told that I have my head in the clouds! The phone text sections annoyed me a bit, but I'm just pedantic about text speak - just ask anyone who doesn't text me in proper English and they'll tell you how annoyed I get. As an avid reader I suppose I expected Cat to be the same way inclined (although I do dog walk for a primary school English teacher and her texts are indecipherable sometimes!)

I liked Henry, hated Johnny and was dubious of Bella; it's made pretty obvious how you're supposed to feel about the characters. Making Cat part of the 'Twihard'  fan base was a very clever move; and I suspect that the recent resurgence of interest in Gothic fiction made this retelling a lot easier than it might otherwise have been. Speaking of characters, I do feel that Edinburgh was vastly underused; the festival was well described but the city has so much more to offer than that, especially to a Gothic fanatic like Cat.

Knowing what to expect took something away from the story, but then that is what you get when you read a retelling, and I purposely didn't refresh my memory of the original plot so that I wasn't constantly comparing, and to leave room for a few surprises.

After a shaky start I found that I enjoyed this book in the end, even if the reasoning for Cat being thrown out of the Abbey - and Henry's believing it - was ridiculous.

4/5 stars: Not quite what I was expecting, but nevertheless an inspired re-imagining of the Austen Gothic parody.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Blog Update: Kitten Shenanigans

After an unexpected mini-hiatus from blogging, I'm back! The reason for my absence can largely be
explained by this little fellow. His name is Walter and I found him out in a barn abandoned by his mother, stone cold and barely breathing. A week and a half of hot water bottles and cuddles later and he's toddling around the house biting everyone's toes. So cute! So now that he doesn't require quite as much constant attention it's time for a catch up - and I'm sure my laptop will provide a cosy place for him nap on too! I've a huge backlog of posts to write up, so expect to see a lot from me over the next few days!


Thursday, 28 August 2014

August Library Haul #2

Yesterday brought my second library trip this month. It's always such a great feeling when you walk through the doors and not just one but TWO of the books at the top of your tbr list are sat on the 'just in' shelf waiting for you. Can't wait to get stuck in!


Petite Mort - Beatrice Hitchman
A silent film, destroyed in a fire in 1913 at the Pathé studio, before it was seen even by its director. A lowly seamstress, who makes the costumes she should be wearing, but believes her talent - and the secret she keeps too - will soon get her a dressing room of her own. A beautiful house in Paris, with a curving staircase, a lake, and locked rooms. A famous - and dashing - creator of spectacular cinematic illusions, husband to a beautiful, volatile actress, the most adored icon of the Parisian studios. All fit together, like scenes in a movie. And as you will see, this plot has a twist we beg you not to disclose...






India Black and the Gentleman Thief - Carol K Carr
India Black’s double life operating a high-class brothel and running high-stakes espionage for Her Majesty’s government can take its toll. But there’s no rest for the weary—particularly when an international conspiracy comes knocking…
 India Black is one of Victorian London’s most respected madams—not a bloody postmistress. So when Colonel Francis Mayhew forwards a seemingly innocuous shipping bill to her address, she’s puzzled. And when three thugs bust down her door, steal the envelope, and rough up both her and fellow agent French…well, that’s enough to make India Black see red.
 The veteran spies soon discover that Mayhew has been butchered in his own bedroom. An impromptu investigation leads them to London’s docks, where India makes a startling discovery she can’t bear to tell the rakish French—she has a history with their chief suspect, the gentleman thief who once stole her heart…

What's new on your shelves this week?

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Review: Summer in Sorrento by Melissa Hill

Maia and her husband Jim, in a moment of spontaneity, bought an old farmhouse in Sorrento and moved their from their native Ireland for a change of pace once they hit their forties. A few years later and Maia is alone, mourning her husband and struggling to make ends meet. Along with her friend and house helper Camilla, Maia opens up her home as a Bed and Breakfast, and is surprised not only at the popularity of her home, but also by how much she enjoys being hostess. Each of her guests have their own stories to tell and problems to solve, and Maia finds herself loving every minute of it.

Having spent a few days in Sorrento myself this summer I couldn't help but be excited when I heard about this book. It  is one of the most magical and beautiful places I have ever visited and I would return there in a heartbeat. It is therefore not hard for me to believe Maia's story of her and Jim falling in love with the place and deciding to move there. Maia is a very likeable character, and there's plenty of scope to do more short stories with different guests, maybe even a full length novel, and so I really hope that Melissa writes more!

4/5 stars: A charming tale of love and loss set in one of the world's most breathtaking places, I just wish it was longer!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Release Day / Giveaway: Reluctantly Royal by Nichole Chase

Today I'm excited to be part of the release day launch for Reluctantly Royal by Nichole Chase.
This book sounds right up my street and I can't wait to read it! LOVE the cover too!
Read on for a synopsis and excerpt, and don't forget to enter the giveaway.
There's some brilliant prizes to be won: a signed set of the Royal
trilogy, a gorgeous crown necklace and a $25 gift card!
 I know I'll be entering!

Synopsis
Maxwell Jameson Trevor, prince of Lilaria, hates his royal role. Despising the limelight, he takes solace in his art studio and steers clear of any drama. But when one of the newly discovered royals passes away, Maxwell's brother Alex asks him to break the news to the old man's granddaughter. Though he hates to be the bearer of doom and gloom, he doesn't want the poor girl to find out from the tabloids. For Maxwell knows all too well how devastating that could be.

Coming from a broken home and modest background, newly ordained Lady Meredith Thysmer has seized her chance to make a better life for herself and her son. She's not afraid to use her best assets to get what she wants. But when the unpretentious yet devastatingly handsome Max delivers his news, her plans for the future come crashing to a halt. In the challenging days ahead, Max's compassion, humor, and steadfast loyalty to Meredith and her son win her over. She quickly finds herself doing something she swore would never happen again: falling in love. And yet Maxwell still refuses to completely drop his guard. Somehow Meredith's got to find a way to seduce this reluctant royal.
Goodreads    Amazon    B&N    iTunes    Indiebound    Kobo

Excerpt
As I turned to leave the room, my eyes fell on a sketch pad and I couldn’t help myself. Sitting back down in the chair I flipped it open and smiled at the drawings inside. Marty had promise for such a young kid. Turning to a blank page, I glanced around and searched for a pencil. Charcoal would be best, but pencil would do.
I started with the lines of his forehead, the curve of his impish nose, the roundness of his cheeks. I was lost in the sketch, enjoying the shadows, the tenderness in his expression, working to capture that moment of utter innocence.
“That’s beautiful.” Her voice was soft.
I looked up from what I was doing, not surprised that she had snuck up on me. When I’m lost in a project, the world disappears; the only thing I’m aware of are the layers of the project I’m working on.
“He’s a good subject.” I turned back to the paper and finished up the shading of the blanket.
“Only because he’s asleep and not moving.” Her quiet laugh sent shivers over my body.
“That does help.” I smiled up at her. “But it’s the contrast. The contrast of him awake versus him asleep. He looks so young right now, so innocent.”
“What do you mean?” She leaned closer to look at the picture.
“He’s so mature, quick-witted.” I whispered the words. “But here he is, looking like the child he is.”
“His teachers say that,” she said. “That he’s quick to pick things up.”
“I’d say so.” I turned and handed her the sketch pad. “I hope you don’t mind that I drew him. The light and shadows were too perfect to resist.” Sort of like her right now. The way the moonlight glinted in her eyes and shone along her hair. Her perfect features would make any artist ache to draw them. Her pixie nose, the heavy eyelashes, the curve of her body hinted at by the oversized sweater she had wrapped around herself. It made my palms itch. Partly because I just wanted to touch her, to see if she would taste as sweet as she looked in that moment.
“Thank you for keeping him entertained.” She stood up. “Can I keep this?”
“Of course.” I stood up and stretched. Her eyes swept over my chest and then back up to my face. Maybe I wasn’t the only one tempted to touch. I hated to admit it, but I had a flare of pride. “I enjoyed hanging out with him.”
I was surprised to realize I meant it. I never would have thought spending time with a six-year-old would have been enjoyable.
“Looks like he did too.” She moved away from the door and I followed her into the hallway.
“Did you get everything settled?”
“I think so.” She frowned.
“What’s wrong?” Her expression worried me.
“Granddad would have hated a large ceremony.” She sighed and headed for the stairs. “But I guess that as a duke there are some things that have to happen.”
“I don’t blame your grandfather.” I followed behind her. “I would want a small ceremony, not to be made into a production.”
“I’m starting to think you don’t like any type of production.” She looked at me over shoulder.
“Not really, no.” I wasn’t going to lie. “I don’t like being the focus, being the center of attention. It makes me uncomfortable.” I wasn’t going to lie, but I hadn’t intended to tell her so much about me.
“And yet you agreed to help me with my grandfather’s funeral.” She turned to me at the bottom of the stairs and set the sketch pad on a table. “Why?”
I stared at her for a minute, enjoying the way her eyes looked up at me, the tilt of her chin, the way her hair cascaded around her shoulders. “I don’t know.”
Unable to help myself, I reached out and touched her cheek with my fingers. Her pupils dilated and she inhaled softly. With one thumb I traced the dip under her plump bottom lip. Her hand reached up to trace my jaw and she took a step closer to me.
“You should be running from me as fast as you can.” She whispered the words. “I’m everything you don’t want.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“I live for the spotlight, it’s my food.” Her eyes were half lidded as she edged closer to my mouth. “And you’ve seen my family. I’m trouble, Max.”
Did I care? I wasn’t sure I was capable of making a real decision as her smell wrapped around my senses. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to taste her, to touch her, to press her against my body. To hear her say my name again.
Dipping my head, I grazed her lips with mine and I was lost. On a sigh, she leaned into me and wrapped her hands around my neck. Tilting her head back, I brought my mouth to hers carefully, softly, tasting. I wanted to deepen the kiss, to hear her moan, to feel the way her body could wrap around mine, but I kept it soft, sweet, and simple. She was in such a hard place, she needed to be protected, treasured by someone.
And right now, I was that person.


About the Author
Nichole Chase is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Suddenly Royal, Flukes, The Dark Betrayal Trilogy, and several short stories. She is also the instructor of Say What? a dialogue class at
the Romance Academy.

Nichole lives in Georgia with her husband, energetic daughter, superhero dog, Sulcata tortoise, and two cats. When not writing, you may find her reading, painting, crafting, or chasing her daughter around the house while making monster noises.
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