Because of You by Helene Fermont

2.10.16




Hannah arrives in London from Sweden in the Seventies and experiences love - and heartbreak, when she meets womaniser Mark. However her affections are split when she encounters high-flying Ben. But heiress Vanessa will stop at nothing to claim Ben as her own and sets in motion a series of shocking events… 

Now the dark nights are closing in on us it’s time to add some books to your reading pile… First up, Because of You by Helene Fermont. 

I’m a big fan of psychological thrillers and this certainly didn’t disappoint. Completely gripping, I finished this in one sitting as I was desperate to know what would happen to all the characters. 

A fine debut from Helene Fermont - I can’t wait to read her next novel! 

*Book review* One for the Nordic Noir fans...

11.5.16


I'm not a fan of Nordic Noir books - it just isn't a genre I enjoy. But my friend Laura from the fab foodie blog, A Second Serving, does love it and raved about Kristina Ohlsson's, The Chosen so much that I asked her to review it for me. And she kindly obliged…  


On a cold winter's day, a pre-school teacher is shot to death in front of parents and children at the Jewish school in Stockholm. Just a few hours later, two boys go missing on their way to tennis practice. A heavy snowstorm hits the city and the traces of the perpetrator are few and far between. 
Fredrika Bergman and Alex Recht are faced with one of their toughest challenges ever as they hunt for a killer who is merciless as he is effective. The leads are diverse, but all point to the same place: Israel. And someone called the Paper Boy keeps popping up in the police investigation. But who is this mysterious figure? Could he possibly have resurfaced in Stockholm, now claiming new victims? 

Laura says: The Chosen is a Swedish no. 1 bestseller and I can see why as it's tense, dense and incredibly atmospheric. 

This is the fifth book in the Bergman and Recht series, something I didn't realise before starting! Although this is an entirely new story, it felt like there were a lot of characters which meant it could get a bit confusing – if I'd read from the start it might have made things easier. 

Despite that, The Chosen was an excellent read in the Nordic-crime genre. It's a complicated story about revenge and has a real labyrinthine of a plot with its roots in the past and also the present. Interestingly, you know the ending of the story from the very start as the novel jumps around in time but you're still kept guessing the whole way through. It has a great ending too, with a fabulous twist, one that left me with a lump in my throat. 

Despite being quite a complicated read I was thoroughly engaged by the story and would recommend to others who enjoy this type of crime fiction. 

Sound like your cup of tea? Buy it here… 

Books I loved in April… ❤️

8.5.16

I've read some great books this month. Here's my round-up… 


Shop Girl (A Memoir) by Mary Portas 

Young Mary Newton, born into a large Irish family in a small Watford semi, was always getting into trouble. When she wasn’t choking back fits of giggles at Holy Communion or eating Chappie dog food for a bet, she was accidentally setting fire to the local school. Mary was a trouble magnet. And, unlike her brothers, somehow she always got caught…
In Mary’s family, money was scarce. Clothes were hand-me-downs, holidays a church day out to Hastings and meals were variations on the potato. But these were also good times which revolved around the force of nature that was Theresa, Mary’s mum.
When tragedy unexpectedly blows this world apart, a new chapter in Mary’s life opens up. She takes to the camp and glamour of Harrods window dressing like a duck to water, and Mary, Queen of Shops is born…

I love Mary Portas. She's super sassy and sure knows her stuff. And after reading Shop Girl I admire her all the more as she's got where she is through sheer hard work and determination. 

A completely brilliant autobiography. 


The Woolworths Girls by Elaine Everest 

It's 1938 and as the threat of war hangs over the country, Sarah Caselton is preparing for her new job at Woolworths. Before long, she forms a tight bond with two of her colleagues: the glamorous Maisie and shy Freda. The trio couldn't be more different, but they immediately form a close-knit friendship, sharing their hopes and dreams for the future.
Sarah soon falls into the rhythm of her new position, enjoying the social events hosted by Woolies and her blossoming romance with young assistant manager, Alan. But with the threat of war clouding the horizon, the young men and women of Woolworths realize that there are bigger battles ahead. It's a dangerous time for the nation, and an even more perilous time to fall in love . . .
I have a real thing for books set around the Second World War era so when The Woolworths Girls landed on my desk I couldn't wait to get stuck in - and it didn't disappoint. 

Brilliant characters and a lovely storyline, The Woolworths Girls is a brilliant debut from Elaine Everest. Can't wait to read more from her.  


Under Italian Skies by Nicky Pellegrino 

Stella has life under control - and that's the way she likes it. For twenty-five years, she's been trusted assistant to a legendary fashion designer, but after her boss dies suddenly, she's left with nothing to do apart from clear the studio.
It seems as though the life she wanted has vanished. She is lost - until one day she finds a house swap website and sees a beautiful old villa in a southern Italian village. Could she really exchange her poky London flat for that?
But what was intended as just a break becomes much more, as Stella finds herself trying on a stranger's life. As the villa begins to get under her skin, she can't help but imagine the owner from the clues around her. She meets his friends, cooks the local food he recommends and follows suggestions to go to his favourite places. But can an idea of someone ever match up to the reality?
As Stella wonders if she can let go of the safety of her past, perhaps there's a chance for her to find a way into her future...

As with My Map of You, I do love a book set in a pretty part of the world where if I closed my eyes, I could imagine I am there. As soon as I was finished with Under Italian Skies, I wanted to pack my bags and head to Italy for my own adventure! 

This book is just perfect for reading in the sun with a bottle of Prosecco. Salute! 


The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria 

Audrey Bailey will never forget the moment she met Ralph Templeton in the sweltering heat of a Bombay café. Her lonely life over, she was soon married with two small children. But things in the Templeton household were never quite what they seemed.
Now approaching 70, and increasingly a burden on the children she’s never felt close to, Audrey plans a once-in-a-lifetime cruise around the Greek isles. Forcing twins Lexi and John along for the ride, the Templetons set sail as a party of three – but only two will return.
On the night of her birthday, Audrey goes missing…hours after she breaks the news that the twins stand to inherit a fortune after her death. As the search of the ship widens, so does the list of suspects – and with dark clues emerging about Audrey’s early life, the twins begin to question if they can even trust one another…

I loved Annabel Kantaria's debut novel, Coming Home   - and The Disappearance was just as good. In fact it was completely gripping and as the plot unfolded I found myself really unable to put it down. 

With lots of twists and turns, this book has an ending you really won't have expected… 


The Chocolate Lovers Wedding by Carole Matthews 

The ladies of The Chocolate Lovers' Club should be gearing up for the wedding of the year but life keeps getting in the way . . .
Lucy is worried about her financial situation and it keeps distracting her. Should she accept an offer of help from an untrustworthy source? Nadia may have a real chance at finding love but other areas of her life aren't so rosy. Something needs to change - but what? Autumn can't wait to meet someone she hasn't seen in a very long time. She's full of hope for the future but then things don't exactly go to plan… And Chantal has been through so much and she's finally starting to feel settled. The last thing she needs is the kind of bad news that could change her life all over again.
Yet, despite all the ups and downs, the Chocolate Lovers' ladies know they can get through it all as long as they have each other. They're not going to let anything get in the way of their happy-ever-afters...

Oh I do love a good wedding story! Especially a 'will they, won't they?' wedding story… And no one writes them better than Carole Matthews. 

With brilliant characters and a great storyline, you will laugh out loud in places and get teary in others. A perfect summer read. 


The Followers by Rebecca Wait 

Judith has been visiting her mother, Stephanie, in prison once a month for the last eight years. But neither of them can bring themselves to talk about what brought them here - or about Nathaniel . . .
When Stephanie first meets him, she is a struggling single mother and Nathaniel is a charismatic outsider, unlike anyone she's ever known. In deciding to join the small religious cult he has founded high on the moors, Stephanie thinks she is doing the best for her daughter: a new home, a new life, a new purpose.
Judith has never trusted Nathaniel, but even she can't foresee the terrible things that lie ahead. From the moment they arrive, the delicate dynamic of Nathaniel's followers is disturbed. Judith's restlessness and questions unsettle the children who've never known life outside the cult - all except loyal Moses, who will do anything to be her friend. Meanwhile, as Stephanie slowly surrenders herself to Nathaniel's will, tensions deepen, faith and doubt collide, and a horrifying act of violence changes everything. In the shattering aftermath, no one seems safe, and for Judith and Moses the biggest leap of faith is still to come . . .
The Followers is an example of why you should never judge a book by its cover… I picked it up and wasn't sure I was going to like it. But just a chapter in and I was completely hooked. 
I find religious cults a completely fascinating topic and I really enjoyed how it was written - starting in the present day and then flipping back to 10 years ago. It's such an atmospheric read you can't help but be slightly terrified as you wonder how on earth it's all going to end… I can't recommend enough. 

My Map of You by Isabelle Broom

1.5.16


Holly Wright has had a difficult few years. After her mother's death, she's become expert at keeping people at a distance - including her boyfriend, Rupert.
But when Holly receives an unexpected letter explaining that an aunt she never met has left her a house on the Greek island of Zakynthos, the walls she has built begin to crumble. Arriving on the island, Holly meets the handsome Aidan and slowly begins to uncover the truth about the secret which tore her family apart.
But is the island where Holly really belongs? Or will her real life catch up with her first?

Hurrah! The sun is out! Finally… It feels like it's been winter forever. I'm more than ready to ditch the tights and boots for bare legs and flip-flops. 
And when the sun does make that rare appearance it always makes me crave a holiday where the sun is guaranteed. And this year, thanks to Isabelle Broom, I can't get the idea of jetting off to Zakynthos out of my head… 
I read My Map of Year back in February and it gave me serious wanderlust. The reality was I was reading sat on my sofa, heating on, blanket covering my knees as the wind and rain battered against the window. But as I turned the pages I forgot about the cold, bad weather outside as I was completely transported to the sunny Greek island. Isabelle's writing is SO good it really does make you feel like you're there. 
As well as the wonderful setting, the characters are all super likeable too (apart from the very annoying Rupert…) and you can't help but cross your fingers and hope that after all she's been through, Holly gets a happy ever after… 
I can't rave about My Map of You enough. It's a superb debut novel and I urge you all to put it on your 'to-read' piles. But be warned - post reading you will be desperate to book a holiday… 
Because I am super nosy I like to know about the 'behind the scenes' bits of writing a book. And Isabelle kindly told me the four things she always has to have on her writer's desk - and the one thing she shouldn't… 

1) Tea! I can’t recall a single time I’ve sat down to write at my desk without a cuppa to hand. I’ve even got a special mug that I use. It was a gift from my amazing editor Kimberley Atkins, and she brought it back all the way from Disney World for me.

2) Laptop! Okay, so this one is obvious, but I wouldn’t get very far without the beautiful little beast. It was actually a gift from an ex-boyfriend who did a VERY BAD THING to me, so every time I use it I get a small sense of satisfaction that I’ve used it to be happy and make all my dreams come true.

3) Travel guides! These are an essential for me, because my novels are all set abroad. And while I do take trips overseas to research my locations and make pages of notes, I still like the books there as a reference. Plus, some of the place names in Prague, where my second book is set, are very tricky to spell correctly – even for a sub-editor!

4) Max! My lovely dog is the perfect writing companion. Not only does he keep my feet warm by sitting on them when it’s cold, he also listens very patiently when I read the same paragraph aloud twenty times over as I try to get it right. No human would ever put up with that nonsense! One of these days I’ll have to dedicate a book to him…

…And one thing I really shouldn’t


Oh, definitely my phone. Does everyone say the same thing? Sometimes the temptation to check Twitter becomes overwhelming, and there’s always the chance that it could ring and distract me. But I’m a needy soul, what can I say? One of these days I’ll drop it in my tea or the dog will eat it – that’ll teach me!




A brilliant crime novel...

12.4.16

A woman at home in Liverpool is disturbed by a persistent tapping at her back door. She's disturbed to discover the culprit is a raven, and tries to shoo it away. Which is when the killer strikes.

DS Nathan Cody, still bearing the scars of an undercover mission that went horrifyingly wrong, is put on the case. But the police have no leads, except the body of the bird - and the victim's missing eyes.
As flashbacks from his past begin to intrude, Cody realises he is battling not just a murderer, but his own inner demons too.
And then the killer strikes again, and Cody realises the threat isn't to the people of Liverpool after all - it's to the police...

I scare very easily. I am convinced that one day a zombie apocalypse could happen and I even get jumpy when watching Jurassic Park (seriously).  
With this in mind, I really shouldn’t have picked up and started reading A Tapping at My Door when my husband was on a night shift… This book needs to come with a serious warning – do not read when you’re home alone.

50 pages in I was convinced that I could hear someone knocking on my front door (it doesn’t help that I live in an apartment block with thin walls so I can always hear comings and goings…) and then when I finally did sleep, I dreamt that my balcony was full of birds all trying to get in and get me…

So basically, David Jackson’s A Tapping at My Door is completely unsettling but completely brilliant. It’s one of those books where you can never predict quite how it’s going to end. 

On a side note, I really enjoy books that are set in places I am familiar with. I was a student in Liverpool for four years and still visit a lot so a lot of the places and street names were places I’ve been too so I could really visualize the characters and what was happening in the plot even more – maybe that’s why it made it so much more scarier?!

I can’t believe I have never read any of David Jackson’s novels before. A Tapping on My Door is certainly one of the best crime fiction novels I have read in a while and I can't wait to read more of his work.


A romance novel you just have to read...

10.4.16



Kate and Becca are cousins and best friends. They have grown up together and shared all the most important milestones in their lives: childhood birthday parties, eighteenth birthdays, and now a wedding day as they each marry their childhood sweethearts, Charlie and Julian. 
Kate has always loved Charlie - they were meant to be. Then she discovers that life never turns out quite how you expect it to. And love doesn't always follow the journey it should. 
But best friends are forever, and true love will find a way, won't it…?

I'm a sucker for a pretty book cover. I'm also a sucker for, and I've said this many times, books where fate intervenes early on and sends the characters in the book on a completely different path to what you'd expect. These Days of Ours ticked both these boxes so I was hooked instantly. 

We meet Kate and Becca when they are just children and then are taken on a journey throughout their lives as they reach major milestones. 

These Days of Ours is such brilliant storytelling and you can't help but have strong feelings for the characters (I loved Kate but found her a bit of a wet lettuce at times and I thought Becca needed a good slap but I couldn't help find her hilarious too!) 

It's a completely original novel and I was so engrossed from the start that I actually sailed past my tube stop! Early on I knew what I wanted to happen but I had no idea if it would pan out that way… And I'm not going to say anymore than that…!  

A 'Will they? Won't they?' romance novel that is just brilliant. I urge you to read it.  

And the author Juliet Ashton told me the top five things she does to beat writer's block...

Does Writer's Block exist? I believe it's a name given to a whole raft of situations. Tiredness, boredom, distraction, anxiety - all these help to build that block at the front of your mind. When I find myself sitting at the computer, deleting more than I write, tugging at my hair, these are my favourite ways to deal with it.

1 Do something physical. 
Writers are soooo indolent. We don't have to get dressed to go to work; that messes with your brain. So if I'm stuck in the midst of a scene, putting dull dialogue into my characters' mouths, I go for a walk. There are two parks nearby, one that hugs the river, so I take the spaniels for a trot. If I replay the scene in my head, nine times out of ten, it comes together by the time I'm home again.

2 Read
This one can be tricky. Reading something too similar to the work in progress can result in a kind of impersonation, as if writing style is catching, but if I wander off and bury myself in a meaty biography or a crime series, I find it refreshes my mojo. (Not sure what a mojo is, exactly, but its refreshed.)

3 Talk
Chat saves lives. A coffee with my chum who lives around the corner (and is usually up for coffee as she works from home herself) perks me up and takes me out of myself. Hearing about her day reminds me that there is life beyond the keyboard!

4 Eat
A dangerous one, this. A natural grazer, I find myself buttering toast and ravishing the Rich Tea biscuits far too often. Actually cooking something from scratch, however, is genuinely therapeutic. The book is pushed to the side, but it doesn't entirely disappear; as I'm chopping onions or grating cheese, little plot niggles resolve themselves. Plus I have an epic lunch to eat (usually it's just more toast).

5 Push through
Sometimes it's just lack of energy, or a disinclination to work that gets in the way. I try not to give in; if you downed tools every time you felt a little bleurgh no books would get written. Push, push, push - and suddenly you're freewheeling down a (metaphorical) hill, the wind in your (metaphorical) hair. There's no feeling quite like it.

6 (I know there should only be 5, but this one's a goodie)

Keeping a writing diary is a life saver. I can flick back and see that all these problems have cropped up before, but I've got through them. Writer's block can be smashed!

*Book Review and Author Chat* The Second Love of my Life by Victoria Walters

8.4.16




In the Cornish town of Talting, everyone is famous for something.
Until recently Rose was known for many things: her infectious positivity; her unique artistic talent; and her devotion to childhood sweetheart Lucas.
But two years ago that changed in one unthinkable moment. Now, Rose is known for being the young woman who became a widow aged just twenty-four.
Though Rose knows that life must go on, the thought of carving out a new future for herself is one she can barely entertain. Until a newcomer, Robert, arrives in Talting for the summer...

Can Rose allow herself the chance to love again?

I loved The Second Love of my Life immediately. The characters. The setting. And of course the story itself.
Whilist incredibly sad in places (have a box of tissues to hand), the book is also full of hope too and you’ll end with a smile on your face.  
A really impressive debut novel, I can’t to see what Victoria Walters has next up her sleeve! 
 
And on that note… Victoria spills the beans on writing The Second Love of my Life… 
Victoria with her co-author, her cat Harry!
The four things I have on my writers desk - and the one thing I shouldn't… 

I actually don’t have a desk, which I probably should get! But when I write I have my laptop and phone, a mug of tea and usually have a blanket draped over me as I get really cold writing!
What I shouldn’t have is my cat Harry who is always trying to distract me as I write!

The five things that inspired me to write this book…

This is a hard question!!! Just wanted to state that for the record! It wasn’t really things as such, more general life questions about grief and love but certain parts of the story were inspired these …

1. The town the book is set in: The Gilmore Girls
2. The main character’s art: Starry Night by Vincent Van Gough
3. The town the book is set in: Cornwall
4. The music the main character listens to and mentions: see soundtrack question
5. The cat Taylor – my own cat Harry!

The five things I learnt when writing this book… 

1. That I had been using ‘brought’ instead of ‘bought’!
2. How to re-read my writing again and again and not go crazy
3. My writing makes people cry
4. Editing notes are not about what is wrong with your book but how it could be made even better
5. That I can write a 90,000 word novel! There were moments when I wasn’t quite sure I’d make it.


My soundtrack to writing this book… 

I created a playlist for the book, which you can listen to on Spotify – here’s a sample of it:

1. Famous In A Small Town – Miranda Lambert
2. See You Again – Carrie Underwood
3. Some People – LeAnn Rimes
4. Better Place – Rachel Platten
5. Ready To Love Again – Lady Antebellum

The five things I couldn't have done without when writing this book… 

1. Twitter – talking to people helps me get through the tough writing days!
2. My cat Harry for making me laugh and for cuddles
3. Laptop obviously
4. Music – I have to listen to music when I write
5. Cake (self explanatory)

Perfect for the weekend, get your copy here...

Flying High…

6.4.16

When the The Infinite Air by Fiona Kidman landed on my desk, I knew it was a read that my dear friend Kim would love - and I was right! *smug face* 

So what's it about? 
Jean Batten became an international icon in 1930s. A brave, beautiful woman, she made a number of heroic solo flights across the world. The newspapers couldn't get enough of her. 
In 1934, she broke Amy Johnson's flight time between England and Australia by six days. The following year, she was the first woman to make the return flight. In 1936, she made the first ever direct flight between England and New Zealand and then the fastest ever trans-Tasman flight. Jean Batten stood for adventure, daring, exploration and glamour. The Second World War ended Jean's flying adventures. She suddenly slipped out of view, disappearing to the Caribbean with her mother and eventually dying in Majorca, buried in a pauper's grave. 
Fiona Kidman's enthralling novel delves into the life of this enigmatic woman. It is a fascinating exploration of early aviation, of fame, and of secrecy...

And here's what Kim had to say… 

Throughout history, daring men and women have boldly gone where no one has been before, conquering land, sea and sky. Just 100 years ago, aviation was new and thrilling. Imagine crossing continents by air! We all take it for granted these days that we can fly to <insert cheap sunshine break here> on our holibobs, but once upon a time not that long ago, we didn’t know how to fly. 

Indeed, the first pilots to attempt long distance travel did so at their peril. Many died. The first man to successfully fly from England to Australia did so in a tiny biplane, the journey taking him 15 days. Think about that next time you settle in for what we have now come to think of a ‘long haul’ flight.

Never one for learning as a child, I now have an insatiable appetite for knowledge. Making up for lost time I guess. That, coupled with the fact my Grandma flew spitfires in the war and it’s too late to ask her everything I wish I had asked her, is why I loved this book. 

The Infinite Air charts one woman’s journey from childhood to aviation pioneer, to old age. I loved the insight into the pivotal moments in Jean Batten’s childhood, the moments that formed the brave and tenacious woman she was to become. Every record breaker has a backstory and it’s fascinating to be privy to it. To see inside their mind and their world and witness the legend being created. 

I was still talking about Jean Batten weeks after I finished the book. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much life has changed for women in less than 100 years. The feminist in me, she likes fair play. She spikes at any suggestion a woman can’t do anything a man can. You should have seen the punch I almost threw at the fella who insisted on calling our games room the ‘Boys Room’ where boys go to do sport. 

That’s about as much sexism as I face. But Jean Batten was laughed off the runway when she told people she wanted to fly. Getting married and having babies was all women were good for back then. Reading about Jean’s early years had me incredulously turning the pages, scanning for more evidence of just how shit it was to be a woman back then. A man told Jean she’d make a good secretary. Jean told the man women might require secretaries too one day. The man highly doubted it. Jean’s own father told her: ‘Girls don’t fly.’ Ouch.

Women like Jean paved the way for our generation to do not just anything a man can, but also whatever we damn well please. People told Jean to stop dreaming and be a good young lady, marry and stifle her big ideas. The were just stoking Jean’s fire - she was determined to be somebody. Not just a good female pilot, but a great pilot. Full bloody stop.

The book made me happy and sad. Happy that women like Batten existed then and now. Happy that a woman’s place in the world has changed so much. But sad for Jean. Batten was courageous and determined, yet tortured and lonely. It made me question the true cost of fulfilling such extreme ambition. Because with great achievement must come great sacrifice.

I doff my cap to our foremothers. Each and every woman like Jean, every suffragette, every pioneer feminist who defied, questioned and ignored the low and dull expectations society had for women. We owe those legends the lifestyle we take for given today.
Fab words from this lovely face!

Read all about Kim's legendary Grandma here

Kim's Grandma had WINGS!

**NEW crime book review** The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent

4.4.16


There are SO many brilliant books being released in April. And I am kicking the month off with The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent… 
Can you ever truly know the one you love?
Fran Hall and her husband Nathan live in a farmhouse on the edge of the Fens with their two children. One February night, when Fran is woken by her baby, she finds the bed empty beside her and Nathan gone. Searching the house for him she makes a devastating discovery.
As Fran finds herself under intense police scrutiny, she and her two small children become more isolated as she starts to doubt whether or not she really knew Nathan. Was he really the loving husband that Fran had trusted him to be?
As police suspicion grows the questions for Fran begin to mount. Is there something that she is hiding from them - something that she has kept hidden from everyone, including her husband?

I do love a good thriller especially ones where a major event happens within the first few pages and then you try and spend the rest of the book guessing and second guessing what the hell the outcome is going to be.
So I was very excited to get my hands on The Loving Husband as I knew from the synopsis it was going to be a rollercoaster read – and it really was…
Completely compelling, this novel ticked all the crime boxes for me: dark, addictive, with an explosive end.
I haven’t read anything by Christobel Kent before but The Crooked House is now on my TBR list as its received outstanding reviews and I loved her writing style. 
If you’re a fan of Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, then The Loving Husband is certainly for you.

Other brilliant books I read in March…

31.3.16

Seriously though… How are we at the end of March already?! 


And I've also loved…. 

Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez 


Sunny, former proprietor of the Little Coffee Shop and new owner of the Screaming Peacock vineyard. Can she handle the challenges of life on her own?
Yasmina, the young mother who now runs the cafe, until a terrifying event strikes at the heart of her family and business...
Layla and Kat, Afghan teenagers in America, struggling to make sense of their place in the world...

Zara, about to be forced into a marriage which will have devastating consequences
These women are about to learn what Halajan, Yazmina's rebellious mother-in-law, has known all along: when the world as you know it disappears, you find a new way to live...
I loved The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul so I was very excited to get my hands on this brilliant sequel.
A great insight into the lives of women in Kabul. An emotional eye-opener and a must read. 
The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart by Anna Bell

Abi's barely left her bed since Joseph, the love of her life, dumped her, saying they were incompatible.

When Joseph leaves a box of her possessions on her doorstep, she finds a bucket list of ten things she never knew he wanted to do. What better way to win him back than by completing the list, and proving they're a perfect match?

 But there's just one problem - or rather, ten. Abi's not exactly the outdoorsy type, and she's absolutely terrified of heights - not ideal for a list that includes climbing a mountain, cycling around the Isle of Wight and, last but not least, abseiling down the tallest building in town

Completing the list is going to need all Abi's courage - and a lot of help from her friends. 
But as she heals her broken heart one task at a time, the newly confident Abi might just have a surprise in store...

I love Anna Bell's warm writing style and you can easily get lost in this. It's laugh out loud in places and a perfect rainy day read. 

Hester and Harriet by Hilary Spiers 


Sisters Hester and Harriet are reluctantly driving to visit relatives when they come across a young woman hiding with her baby in a bus shelter. Seeing the perfect excuse for returning to their own warm hearth, the pair insist on bringing Daria and Milo home with them. 

But with the arrival of a sinister stranger looking for a girl with a baby, followed quickly by their cousins' churlish fifteen-year-old son, Ben, who also appears to be seeking sanctuary, Hester and Harriet's carefully crafted peace and quiet quickly begins to fall apart. And, perhaps, that's exactly what they need...


Hester and Harriet are such brilliant characters that you won't be able to help but love.

This books deals with serious issues but without getting too heavy. It's very witty and a real pleasure of a read. 

*NEW BOOK REVIEW* The Way We Were by Sinéad Moriarty

30.3.16


What would happen if your husband disappeared? You think he’s dead - but in fact he isn’t…
When Alice's husband Ben dies suddenly, her world falls apart. A life without him is unimaginable.
The only thing that keeps her going are her daughters Jools, 15 and Alice, 11. 
Somehow all three of them come through the dark days. In time, it's even possible for Alice to consider marrying again, with the girls' blessing. So when Ben turns up after three years, her world is again turned upside-down. The girls assume that their family can go back to the way they were. Alice is not so sure.
Once more Alice has to find the strength to be the mother her daughters need her to be. But this time what that means is far from clear...
I have SO much love for this book. I loved the characters, I loved the storyline. 
You'd be forgiven for thinking this was going to be 'just another romance story' but it's so much more than that. You have no idea how the story will pan out, right until the end. It's such a clever and interesting plot. 
I'm a huge fan of Sinéad Moriarty's - and this is her best novel yet. 

And Sinéad kindly told me what inspired her to to write The Way We Were

Back in the late 1980s Brian Keenan and John McCarthy, among others, were kidnapped and taken hostage in Beirut. They remained in captivity for over four years and when they were finally released the two men talked about this incredible friendship that had kept them sane. You could see the deep connection and love between them. To this day they are best friends and the bond between them remains. I was always fascinated by this.
John McCarthy and Jill Morrell’s love story also inspired me.  John McCarthy’s girlfriend, Jill,  campaigned tirelessly to get him released and then when he was released everyone presumed they’d end up together… But in fact they broke up and he married someone else.

I wanted to somehow write a book with the themes of friendship and lost love worked into the storyline and I wanted to explore the power of memory. I also wanted to look at how people change. What happens when the person you know so well is altered by life? When something happens to turn your life upside down and you have to change to survive, can you get back the way you were or are you permanently altered? Is a happy ending possible for these two characters…?
Sinéad with her brilliant 11th novel

What does an author keep on their desk….?

28.3.16



When a Lesley Kinnock buys a lottery ticket on a whim, it changes her life more than she could have imagined…
Lesley and her husband Mack are the sudden winners of a 15 million EuroMillions jackpot. They move with their 15-year-old daughter Rosie to an exclusive gated estate in Buckinghamshire, leaving behind their ordinary lives - and friends - as they are catapulted into wealth beyond their wildest dreams. 
But it soon turns into their darkest nightmare when, one beautiful spring afternoon, Lesley returns to their house to find it empty: their daughter Rosie is gone.
DC Maggie Neville is assigned to be Family Liaison Officer to Lesley and Mack, supporting them while quietly trying to investigate the family. And she has a crisis threatening her own life - a secret from the past that could shatter everything she's worked so hard to build. 
As Lesley and Maggie desperately try to find Rosie, their fates hurtle together on a collision course that threatens to end in tragedy. Money can't buy you happiness. The truth could hurt more than a lie. One moment really can change your life forever…

What. A. Thriller. Full of plot twists, Gone Astray really made me question whether winning the Lotto would actually be a good thing… 

It's a page-turning debut from Michelle Davies, full of secrets, revelations and mystery. Utterly brilliant. I can't wait for her next novel!  

And have you ever wondered what an author has on their desk when writing - and what they shouldn't? Michelle spills the beans… 

Michelle at her book launch in Waterstones, Covent Garden 

1. A wireless keyboard – I developed serious neck ache after writing Gone Astray hunched over my laptop, so for my second novel (Wrong Place, out in February 2017) I went old school with a big clunky keyboard. Now I can't write without it.

2. Nigel Clough - the little plastic figurine of former Nottingham Forest player Nigel Clough was given to me for by my first boyfriend while we were training to be journalists. It was meant to be a jokey good luck present but Nige has sat on my desk at every place I've ever worked, even at super-stylish Grazia! I'd be lost without him.

3. Glossy magazines – when I'm not writing books I freelance for women's magazines as a journalist, so invariably my desk is littered with latest issues. I've always been a magazine junkie, right back to when I was a child and my mum bought me Twinkle and Bunty. My daughter, who's six, now reads the CBeebies one - I'm very proud to be passing the baton!

4. My Kindle - every time I write a chapter or edit a section of my novels I download the Word document to my Kindle. I find that reading it back in proper book format makes it easier to spot what sentences jar. But when it comes to the final draft I still print the entire thing out on paper – I need to be able to flick through pages one last time before I'm satisfied it's done.

And the one thing I shouldn't have on my desk...

Cat litter! Right now I'm sharing my office with our new kitten, Lolly Longwhiskers, because we have an older cat, Woody, as well and the two of them need to have their own private space to escape to while they get used to each other (his domain is the kitchen, wise boy). Lolly's litter tray is in a corner of the office, on the floor, far away from my desk, yet somehow she still manages to sending bits of grit flying in my direction. I'm counting the days until she can take her ablutions out into the garden!

Michelle's desk - where the magic happens!


*NEW BOOK REVIEW* Maestra by L.S.Hilton

26.3.16



Judith Rashleigh works as an assistant in a prestigious London auction house, but her dreams of breaking into the art world have been gradually dulled by the blunt forces of snobbery and corruption. To make ends meet she moonlights as a hostess in one of the West End's less salubrious bars - although her work there pales against her activities on nights off.
When Judith stumbles across a conspiracy at her auction house, she is fired before she can expose the fraud. In desperation, she accepts an offer from one of the bar's clients to accompany him to the French Riviera. But when an ill-advised attempt to slip him sedatives has momentous consequences, Judith finds herself fleeing for her life. 
Now alone and in danger, all Judith has to rely on is her consummate ability to fake it amongst the rich and famous - and the inside track on the hugely lucrative art fraud that triggered her dismissal...
Where do you go when you've gone too far?

I'm a bit funny about books that come with a lot of hype surrounding them. Not in a snobbish way. More in a I read them and feel let down kinda way (I think I may be one of the only people not to have enjoyed Girl on The Train...)

So when Maestra landed on my desk with its 'the most shocking thriller you'll read this year' claims and movie rights already being signed up, I have to admit I put it to one side and marked it as 'not one for me.' 

But then I started reading reviews and began to get FOMO. And I felt that if I was really going to be able to say 'it wasn't for me' then I had to least read a few pages. 

So I took it home - and five hours later I'd finished it. Yep. I went from not thinking I'd enjoy it to not wanting to put it down. Gripped from the very first 'c' bomb dropped on page two.  

Packed full of action I think i gave myself RSI from turning the pages so quickly. 

I had been warned it was slightly filthy - and it was (I won't be passing it on to my mum that's for sure.) But it's not filth in a 'we have to put a sex scene on every single page' way that some books (which shall not be named) do, which becomes incredibly tedious, very quickly. 

Judith is a sassy, smart and very dangerous heroine and I couldn't help but really like her. 

So read it before everyone else does because I do think it will be the most talked abut book this year - and with reason. 

My only complaint? That the second instalment isn't coming quick enough…