Saturday 31 January 2015

Random Recommendations ~ Bernardine Kennedy

Random Recommendations is an occasional feature on the blog.

My recommendations may be a particular author, or a series of books.  I may recommend a particular publisher, or quite possibly, something is not book related at all.

I hope you enjoy these random recommendations.

I've been reading for as long as I can remember, but have only kept a record of the books that I've read since the beginning of 2001.  On my list there are some authors whose names pop up repeatedly, these are authors that I love, whose books I read as soon as they are released.

One of my all-time favourite authors is Bernardine Kennedy. I've read all of her books, and recommend them to everyone, but for some reason, she isn't as well known as she should be. She writes modern fiction with very strong female lead characters, the stories are gritty, realistic and often draw on her own life experiences.

Here's Bernardine's biography, taken from her website

" So, everyone asks……how did I start writing? What was it that set me on the road? It's difficult to say, but I'm sure it was because I spent huge chunks of my formative years abroad because my father worked first in Singapore and then in Nigeria. The constant travelling back and forth, changing schools and therefore changing friends, contributed. There were always friends that I really liked, that I wanted to stay in touch with and, in those days before long distance cheap phone calls and speedy e.mails, that only left the good old skill of letter writing.
This was always, as far back as I can remember, combined with a great love of reading. I started with Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton 'progressing over many years to my current favourites Harlan Coben and Cathy Reichs via the likes of Harold Robbins, Jean Plaidy, Jackie Collins and Jeffrey Archer, to mention but a few. I avidly read anything and everything that I could lay my hands on. In fact I still do and I firmly believe that reading is vital to becoming a writer.

Apart from the odd attempt at fiction that never even got finished let alone sent anywhere, that's how it stayed until, following three miscarriages and a lack of available information on the subject I thought, 'I know, I'll write the book'! (Naïve or what???) Anyway I set to it and spent months and months gathering all the information only to realise that, despite mountains of notes, cuttings and letters, I hadn't got a clue how to set it all out in a workable format.

When I saw an advert in 1989 for an Ad-Ed writing class off I went for the sole purpose of learning how to put a book together. However, as always, I got side-tracked en route! A published magazine feature and the accompanying cheque set me on a completely different road. General features and interviews progressed to travel features and, eventually, to THE NOVEL.

The years of writing features must have served me well because my very first book was quickly accepted by first an agent and then a publisher and here I am now. It's been a long and winding road with many a detour on the way but now I'm there! I'm an author.

From school girl letter writing to published author via, air-hostessing, teaching, social work and anything else that brought in the cash, not to mention marriage, children and divorce.

I've got there at last and I'm loving every minute of it. The non-fiction tome never made it out of the mountain of filing boxes but I keep them all as a souvenir! "

Bernardine has written seven novels. My favourites are Taken and My Sister's Keeper (not to be mixed up with the novel that was turned into a film, written by a very famous Canadian author, and in my opinion Bernardine's story is far superior!).

Everything Is Not Enough (September 2000):  When Louise Jermaine's adored father returns to Barbados, she grows up fast with little help from her selfish, depressive mother. Her best friend's home offers some sanctuary - until her step-father hurts her so deeply that she vows to escape from her past for ever. Just fifteen, she reinvents herself as Angie Kavanagh and begins a new life. Discovering a talent for journalism, she becomes a top celebrity interviewer. Years later, she is invited to examine the life of spoilt supermodel and It-girl Rebekah Alari. Angie sees that despite having all the advantages she lacked, Rebekah's life is not as glamorous as she pretends. She, too, hides some secret about her past. Angie seems at last to have found happiness, but her life is littered with emotional obstacles. She can't reveal her true self, even to her lover, and she finds it impossible to leave the past behind...

My Sister's Keeper (September 2001):  In 1975, Vietnamese orphan Cathy Carter arrives in England to begin a new life. Her childhood in the New Forest is idyllic, but when she is fifteen tragedy strikes. Her adoptive parents are killed in a fire, and she is left with her strange, uncommunicative adoptive twin sisters. Sad and lonely, Cathy joins a local theatre group, where she becomes besotted with one of the directors. Nico is forty, and very good-looking, but he preys on vulnerable young girls, and has set his sights on Cathy. She is petite and pretty, and she is due to inherit a fortune.  On her sixteenth birthday, Nico blackmails the twins into allowing Cathy to marry him. Their marriage soon turns sour, and after their daughter, Sammy-Jo, is born Cathy escapes with the child to Spain. But one day, Nico finds them...

Chain of Deception (January 2003):  Lucy Cooper seems to have it all - a smart, attractive PR consultant from a wealthy family, she thinks she has met her perfect match in Donovan, a fitness trainer with a body to die for. After a whirlwind romance, she and Donovan marry but it isn't long before Lucy realises that her new husband is nothing more than a self-obsessed fitness freak. Worse than that, beneath his tanned veneer there lies an ugly and increasingly violent temper.   Marriage to Donovan is turning Lucy into a nervous wreck, eating away at her confidence and putting her career, her health, even her sanity in jeopardy. Lucy knows that she has to make a break before he destroys her - and her loved ones - completely.    Hope comes in the form of Fergus Pearson, a Irish/Jamaican motorbike courier and aspiring actor. He's gentle, laid-back and kind - everything her husband isn't. They embark on an affair but a freak accident forces Lucy to make a discovery that will turn her whole world upside down...

Taken (January 2004):  At 36, Jessica Patterson thinks her life is happy and settled and that all is well in her marriage. She had met American Sheldon Patterson seven years previously when she was on holiday in the Caribbean and fallen for him instantly. Good looking and easy going as well as being financially secure, he was everything Jessie wanted in a husband.    For about eighteen months they lived in California where they had a son - Cameron James, nicknamed CJ - and it was the icing on the cake for them. They then moved back to the UK for Sheldon to try and expand the business. Jessie is besotted with her son and her life revolves around him, while Sheldon's work takes him overseas a lot. So when Sheldon announces one day that he is going to take CJ away for a few days to Disneyland in Paris - just the two of them, to 'bond' with his son - Jessie is persuaded to let them go. Her nightmare starts when they don't come back...

Old Scores (October 2005):  Maria Harman finds it hard to keep her intense and mixed-up emotions in check when it comes to her family. For things are anything but loving and harmonious in the Harman household. Her bullying and spiteful older brothers, Patrick and Joe, make her life as miserable as possible, encouraged by their mother, Finola, who believes her 'golden boys' can do no wrong. Maria is hardened to Finola's scorn and indifference but deep down craves her mother's love and can't understand why her mother chose to adopt her in the first place. Her only solace comes from her warm-hearted, slow-witted brother, Eddie, and browbeaten father Sam. But when the layers of deception that conceal Maria's true parentage are slowly broken away, the already dysfunctional family is thrown into chaos...

Past Chances (May 2007): Eleanor Rivington has always felt like an outsider. Abandoned by her mother and brought up in fear of her father, she's desperate to leave home and live like other girls in London in the seventies. When a barman from work invites her to share a flat with him and two of his friends, it is her chance to break free. But when Eleanor confronts her father the terrible tragedy that follows haunts her forever. And, despite the support of her new friends, Eleanor's life seems destined for further disappointment...

Shattered Lives (September 2008):  When they were orphaned at a young age, sisters Hannah and Julie had to learn to look after themselves. Years later and all grown up, Hannah, with her steady job and happy marriage, seems to have fallen on her feet. The same cant be said for Julie, however. First pregnant at fifteen, and now with three children from three different men and living with a serious drug addiction, she needs help. Its up to Hannah to step in, but in doing so she discovers, in the most devastating way, that her own life might not be so perfect after all

In 2012, Bernardine became Marie Maxwell, and has published three books under this new name. These books are regional sagas that follow the same characters through different eras. So, new name and new genre - but still compelling and excellent written stories. 

Ruby (June 2012): As a former evacuee, feisty Ruby is forced to fend for herself when she returns to her family in London.  Set in the aftermath of WW2, this gripping saga is richly evocative of the period and shows the true grit of our heroine Ruby. Home is where the heart is…    After having lived peacefully in Cambridgeshire as an evacuee, 15-year-old Ruby Blakeley is bought back to reality when her bully of a brother Ray comes to take her home to East London.      Far from being welcomed back with open arms, Ruby finds herself being treated as a skivvy by her widowed mother and subject to a tirade of taunts from her two brothers.       Things get worse when she becomes pregnant. Unable to tackle her family, Ruby runs away and makes a new start for herself in Southend. But she soon finds she can’t escape her past.

Gracie (April 2013): Can you ever escape your past?  Gracie McCabe is building a new life for herself in the Essex seaside town of Southend working alongside best friend Ruby; she’s put her past to rest and is planning her future.  All that is missing is a family of her own, Gracie desperately wants a baby so when boyfriend Sean proposes she accepts without hesitation.  But a chance meeting before the wedding gives her doubts and when old secrets come back to haunt her, it seems that Sean is not the rock of strength she expected him to be.  Will Gracie find her happy ever after or will she be betrayed and abandoned once again?

Maggie (January 2015):  1960s. Maggie Wheaton's life is almost perfect. Confident, bright and popular, she lives with her loving, wealthy parents in a close-knit Cambridgeshire village. But, just days after her sixteenth birthday, her world falls apart: an accident kills both her parents, and then she suffers the ultimate betrayal when she learns a life-changing family secret. Maggie has no choice but to go and live with her appointed guardian, Ruby Riordan, in the seaside town of Southend, where she sets out on a deliberate path of self-destruction. Will Ruby be able to save her from herself, or is it all too little too late?

Find out more about Bernardine, and Marie at her website

Find her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @BerniKennedy

I really hope that you've enjoyed my first Random Recommendation.  I highly recommend all of these books - go on, give them a try - and come back and let me know what you think.

Friday 30 January 2015

** BLOG TOUR ** Campari For Breakfast by Sara Crowe

In 1987, Sue Bowl's world changes for ever. Her mother dies, leaving her feeling like she’s lost a vital part of herself. And then her father shacks up with an awful man-eater called Ivana.
But Sue’s mother always told her to make the most of what she’s got – and what she’s got is a love of writing and some eccentric relatives. So Sue moves to her Aunt Coral’s crumbling ancestral home, where she fully intends to write a book and fall in love . . . and perhaps drink Campari for breakfast

Welcome to the Blog Tour for Campari for Breakfast by Sara Crowe.

Campari for Breakfast is published on 29 January 2015, in paperback, by Black Swan (Transworld), and is the author's debut novel.

Seventeen-year-old Sue Bowl has gone to live with her Aunt Coral at Green Place, the family's ancestral home. Sue's mother Buddleia died recently, her father has taken up with a new woman, Ivana and Sue hates her. Aunt Coral's invitation is perfect, she will make the best of what she has, just as her mother always urged her to.

Campari for Breakfast is told through Sue's diary entries, in her own slightly quirky, and often muddled words. Interspersed between Sue's words are extracts from Aunt Coral's Commonplace Back; a diary come scrapbook that Coral has been keeping for many years.

There are many things to love about Campari for Breakfast including Sue, her Aunt and the delightful cast of characters that surround them. Although at times they do verge on the stereotypical, there is no doubt that they are colourful bunch who keep the reader entertained throughout the story.

Sue is a writer and forms her own writing group made up of the most eclectic and eccentric of characters. She also starts work in a cafe, and experiences her first romance, and her first heartbreak.

Overall, this story is charming, and a little bit mad, although there are a couple of things that I had to question. Sue's story is set in the 1980s, and if I hadn't known the date, I would have placed it in the 1950s or, at a push the 60s.  There are none of the trappings of the 80s in the story, Sue doesn't act like a teenager of that era at all. The other issue that I had during the first chapter or so was what I thought were typos in the print. Sue muddles up her words and phrases, when she speaks and when she writes and these are replicated in her diary entries. Once the reader realises that these are not mistakes, then all is fine, it just takes a while to realise that these malapropisms are a huge part of Sue's character.

Sue is a hopeful, optimistic character who deals with everything that is flung at her with humour that is quite touching.

Campari for Breakfast is a book that is easily devoured within a couple of sittings. The characters are eccentric, original and endearing.

Sara Crowe is an actress who has worked on television, stage and film, including the iconic Four Weddings and a Funeral. She has won the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress, the Variety Club Best Actress Award and the London Critics Circle Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer. Sarah's West End appearances include Private Lives, Calendar Girls and Bedroom Farce. She has also toured with The Constant Wife and A Woman of No Importance, and appeared in The City Madam at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Sara lives in Surrey with her dog Nelly, working on theatre projects and dreaming up the world of Sue and Green Place, Campari for Breakfast is her first novel.

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Thursday 29 January 2015

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

August, 1793. On the hot, humid coast of North Carolina nine-year-old Tabitha fills her pockets with fish bones and shells, to bring the ocean back to her room. The act, perhaps, of a child conceived at sea.
At night young Tab sits with her father by the shore to hear stories of her mother Helen, the pull of the ocean born into them both. John longs to sail the sea as he did before the war, but knows he must stay on steady land for his daughter. But when Tab catches yellow fever John turns to what he knows, and steals her onto a boat bound for Bermuda in the hope the sea air will cure, as Tab’s precious life hangs in the balance.
The same coast twenty years earlier, and Helen is given a slave girl for her tenth birthday. Moll’s arrival is intended to teach Helen discipline but soon the girls are confidantes, an unlikely alliance. It’s an enduring friendship until the arrival of John, a pirate turned soldier. And as the town is threatened in the dying embers of the Revolution, Helen must decide between a life of security on the family plantation and a sea adventure with the man she loves.

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith is published today (29 January 2015), by Borough Press (Harper Collins).

I hold my hands up and start by stating that historical fiction is not my favourite genre, but every now and again I'm attracted by a particular story, and The Story of Land and Sea's blurb really did appeal to me. Also, being something of a 'book magpie', that magnificent cover really did add to my interest, just take a look at it - isn't it just fabulous?

The story takes place in North Carolina during the Revolution and the reader is quickly enveloped into the lives of ordinary people that inhabit the place and time.  The author tells her story in three parts, starting with Tabitha, her father John and her grandfather Asa.  Tabitha's mother Helen died in childbirth, and their whole lives are consumed by memories of her. John's decision to take Tabitha out to sea in the hope that this will cure her yellow fever leads to events that are tragic and quite overwhelming.

The reader is then taken back to the time when Helen and John meet, and explores their relationship and the effect it has on Helen's father, and how they come to live on the sea. We are also introduced to Moll, the slave-girl given to Helen as a birthday present. The relationship that develops between Helen and Moll is wonderfully portrayed and presents Helen with some life-defining decisions.

The final part of the story takes up where the first part ended, with John and Asa still battling to cope with their losses, their disagreements and their life. We also see how Moll has grown in character and depth, dealing with life as a slave, yet desperate to find freedom for herself and her family.

The Story of Land and Sea is beautifully written, with characters who are colourful and so well crafted. Don't expect a fast-mover, or pages of excitement, but do be prepared for a gentle, yet insightful story that explores relationships and losses.

My thanks to Cassie from Borough Press who sent my copy for review.

At just 28, Katy Simpson Smith is an incredible talent whose writing is mature, composed and compelling.
She attended Mount Holyoke College and received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars.
She has been working as an adjunct professor at Tulane University and has published a study of early-American motherhood, We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835.

For more information about Katy Simpson Smith, please take a look at her website

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Monday 26 January 2015

What If by Rebecca Donovan

What if you had a second chance to meet someone for the first time?
Cal Logan is shocked to see Nicole Bentley sitting across from him at a coffee shop thousands of miles from their hometown. After all, no one has seen or heard from her since they graduated over a year ago.
Except this girl isn't Nicole.
She looks exactly like Cal's shy childhood crush, but her name is Nyelle Preston and she has no idea who he is. This girl is impulsive and daring, her passion for life infectious. The complete opposite of Nicole. Cal finds himself utterly fascinated-and falling hard. But Nyelle is also extremely secretive. And the closer he comes to finding out what she's hiding, the less he wants to know.
When the secrets from the past and present collide, one thing becomes clear: Nothing is what it seems.

What If by Rebecca Donovan is a new standalone novel by the bestselling new adult author of the Breathing series, and was published by Penguin in paperback on 22 January 2015.

What If is the story of Cal, an American college student who has re-invented himself. No longer a geek, and the subject of taunts from the 'in crowd', he has grown out his hair and broken quite a few hearts.

Fleeing from yet another relationship, he bumps into Nyelle Preston, and although she's dressed as a Ninja (it's Halloween), Cal recognises those eyes. He would know those eyes anywhere, they are the eyes that captivated him years ago, the eyes that he has dreamt about for so long. Cal is convinced that the Ninja girl is Nicole Bentley, yet she swears that her name is Nyelle Preston and has never met him before.

Cal is confused. Nyelle is mysterious, she gives very little away about her past, or what she is doing now. Nyelle is the complete opposite to Nicole, yet Cal is still convinced that they are the same person.

I am not the target audience for this novel, it is firmly aimed at the young/new adult market, I'd guess that teenage readers will love this story - there is plenty in it for them to relate to.

Saying that, I did enjoy the story. Rebecca Donovan is a successful and established author, and it shows in her writing and her skilful plot creation. Despite having nothing in common with the characters, I was intrigued by the mystery, and had no idea where the story was going. The end reveal was surprising and the lead up to it deals with some serious issues.

When I read a story like What If, I look back at my own teenage reading and really envy young people nowadays who are able to access fiction that is realistic and relevant, that deals with issues that they can relate to.

My thanks to Jessica from Penguin who sent my copy for review.

Rebecca Donovan is the USA Today bestselling author of the highly-acclaimed New Adult trilogy, The Breathing Series. Her novels include: Reason to Breathe, Barely Breathing, and Out of Breath.

Rebecca is a graduate of the University of Missouri -Columbia and lives in a quiet town in Massachusetts with her son. Excited by all that makes life possible, she is a music enthusiast and is willing to try just about anything once.

For more information about Rebecca Donovan, check out her Facebook Author page

Visit her website

Follow her on Twitter @BeccaDonovan

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Saturday 24 January 2015

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell ** Curtis Brown Book Group **

Oxford Street burned for three weeks. The British Museum is occupied by ragtag survivors. The Regent's Park camps have been bombed. The Nazareth Act has come into force. If you can't produce your identity card, you don't exist.
Lalla, sixteen, has grown up sheltered from the new reality by her visionary father, Michael Paul. But now the chaos has reached their doorstep. Michael has promised to save them. His escape route is a ship big enough to save five hundred people. But only the worthy will be chosen.
Once on board, as day follows identical day, Lalla's unease grows. Where are they going? What does her father really want?

The Ship by Antonia Honeywell is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson (Orion Publishing) on 19 February 2015, and is the author's debut novel.

At the end of last year I was delighted to be invited to join the Curtis Brown Book Group. The Ship was chosen as the first book for members to read, we will have the chance to ask the author some questions about The Ship at the first online discussion next week.

Here's some more information about Curtis Brown and the Book Group:

Curtis Brown Literary Agency is a literary and talent agency, founded in 1899 by Albert Curtis Brown.An American journalist who was the London correspondent for The New York Press, Albert was instrumental in establishing the reputations of  British and American writers, including John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Lawrence Durrell, AA Milne and Kingsley Amis. These days we represent authors such as Margaret Atwood, Rosamund Lupton, Malala Yousafzai, Jojo Moyes, Winston Churchill, Marian Keyes, John le Carré, David Mitchell and David Nicholls, to name but a few. In March 2013 we joined with leading literary agency, Conville & Walsh.Together we have always been committed to finding the very best new literary talent, and this is where the Curtis Brown Book Group comes in. Every month our  readers will be sent a selection of our new books to review, and will be invited to take part in an exclusive online book group session with the author. 

Our planet is over-crowded and under-resourced. Parts of London have burnt, parts are under water. Whilst the inhabitants of London may exist in body, the most important thing in  their lives is their card - without it, they are nobody, and have nothing.

People are homeless and hungry. People live in tents in city parks, or sleep in the Museum. Occasionally, those in charge carry out a cull of the population. London is full of desperate and dispossessed people, food is scarce, and usually comes in tins.

Lalage, or Lalla as she is known as has led a fairly comfortable life in comparison to most. Her father, Michael is an important man, rarely at home and has good links with the rulers, and her mother has ensured that she has food and clean water. The family have been able to keep their comfortable flat in central London, Lalla has a bed, and clothes.  However, Lalla has no friends, she only has conversations with her parents. She and her mother visit the British Museum daily, she watches as the exhibits gradually disappear, she and her mother try their best to listen to and help the homeless who have set up camp in the Museum.

For a very long time, Lalla has listened to her father talk of his plans for a Ship. His Ship will take his family, and five hundred other carefully chosen people away to a better place. Finally, the time has come to board the Ship. Shocking events just before their planned departure changes everything for Lalla, she starts the journey in despair, struggling to come to terms with her loss, and yet hoping against hope that there really will be somewhere better over the horizon.

Lalla is vulnerable, innocent and confused. As a character, she is multi-layered, she feels alone despite being surrounded by five hundred other people, all with the same dream. Lalla becomes increasingly concerned. Why does nobody answer her questions?  Why does she seem to be the only person on board who has any questions? Where is the Ship heading to?

Antonia Honeywell takes her readers upon the Ship's voyage, accompanying Lalla through one hundred and fifty days on board. I'm not going to talk any more about the plot here as that would just spoil the reading experience for everyone else, and I'd really urge people to read this one.

The Ship is set in the future, I'm not sure when it is, but there are definitely elements of that future world that are already with us. This story made me think deeply about what is happening on our beautiful earth, about human beings and their behaviour and about myself. I'd like to think that I know what choices I would make if I were in Lalla's place, but lets face it, who really knows what they would do?

Despite Lalla's weaknesses, and yes she's very irritating at times, I was behind her all of the way. Her young, enquiring mind made her character both believable and likeable. Her gradual realisation about those closest to her, and their true motives was carefully written and at times, quite emotionally charged.

Antonia Honeywell is an exciting new talent. The Ship is original and quite brilliant. It is terrifying at times, the reality, the possibility, the way that it makes you think. The author explores many themes during the story, not least the question of how far we would go to survive.

Antonia Honeywell studied English at Manchester University and worked at the Natural History and Victoria and Albert Museums in London, running creative writing workshops and education programmes for children, before training as a teacher.

During her ten years teaching English, drama and film studies, she wrote a musical, and a play which was performed at the Edinburgh Festival.

Antonia was one of the stars of Curtis Brown's inaugural creative writing course. She has four young children and lives in Buckinghamshire.  The Ship is her first novel.

For more information about the author, visit her website

Follow her on Twitter @antonia_writes

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Thursday 22 January 2015

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

In many ways, my life has been rather like a record of the lost and found. Perhaps all lives are like that.
It’s when life started in earnest
The paths of Tom and Alice collide against a haze of youthful, carefree exuberance. And so begins a love story that finds its feet by a lake one silvery moonlit evening . . .
It’s when there were no happy endings
PARIS, 1939
Alice is living in the City of Light, but the pain of the last decade has already left its mark. There’s a shadow creeping across Europe when she and Thomas Stafford – now a world famous artist – find each other once more . . .

It’s when the story begins
LONDON, 1986
Bequeathed an old portrait from her grandmother, Kate Darling uncovers a legacy that takes her to Corsica, Paris and beyond. And as the secrets of time fall away, a love story as epic as it is life-changing slowly reveals itself . . .

The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley was published in hardback by Harper Collins on 15 January 2015 and is the author's debut novel. The paperback will be released in July 2015.

Corsica, Paris, New York, the 1920s, World War Two heroics and a multi-time narrative - these are a few of my favourite things!

This novel has at its heart, a love story. It is a love story that doesn't run smoothly, that spans decades and continents and is convincing and quite beautifully told.

Alice and Tom met as small children. Tom was intrigued by Alice, she was smart and sassy with her wild hair and sense of daring, he was in awe of her and her family. Tom was decidedly middle-class, whilst Alice came from an aristocratic family.  They meet again in 1928, and it is then that their relationship progresses.

Throughout the book, the modern-day story of Kate is gently unfolding too. The author knits together the various threads, and time frames very well, although there were a couple of times that I felt the story suffered just a tiny bit from this narrative.  Kate's mother, the world-famous ballet dancer June Darling died recently. Kate misses her dreadfully and when her somewhat cold and aloof grandmother confesses a long-kept secret just a couple of days before she dies, Kate decides that she must find out more. She is determined to uncover the secrets, to find out who the mysterious Celia is, and how she is connected to her family.

I am really excited by Lucy Foley's writing, this is her debut novel and she has more than proved that she is an excellent author. She writes with style, her characters are warm and realistic and the sense of place from the various locations is tangible. The choice of structure, set as it is, over three time periods, was a risk, but I think she has succeeded very well.

There is a lot packed into this story, and I did feel that at times, it was just a tiny bit too busy, There were a couple of decisions made by lead characters that made me want to shout, but that's not a criticism in any way, in fact it shows how involved I felt with the characters.

My thanks to the publisher Harper Collins who sent my copy for review.

Check out my friend Anne's review on her blog Being Anne

Lucy Foley studied English Literature at Durham and UCL universities. She then worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry - during which time she also wrote The Book of Lost and Found. Lucy now writes full-time, and is busy travelling (for research, naturally!) and working on her next novel.

Visit her Facebook page at

Follow her on Twitter @LucyFoleyTweets  

Find her on Goodreads at

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Wednesday 21 January 2015

Writing Romance with Adele Parks ~ Event 12 February 2015

Celebrate Valentine’s Day in 2015 with bestselling author Adele Parks and take part in an intensive evening masterclass with Writers & Artists, where she’ll guide you through the ups and downs of writing compelling, exciting romantic fiction.

As the author of thirteen top ten bestselling novels, Adele Parks is an expert on writing romance. In an evening of inspiring discussion, practical advice and writing exercises, she’ll use her experience to guide you through the challenges of writing romance – covering everything from creating two lead characters your readers will root for from their first meeting, to avoiding the clichés and developing your own unique style.

Adele will give you the advice you need to know to make sure your writing is emotionally engaging, sexy and original – and, most importantly, she’ll help you to make sure readers fall in love with your work, not just your leading protagonist. 

The event will be held at Bloomsbury Publishing, 50 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DP. 
Doors will open at 6pm, with drinks provided upon arrival. Tickets cost £35. 
For more information and to book your tickets, click here or contact

Spare Brides by Adele ParksAdele Parks has published thirteen previous novels, all of which have been top ten bestsellers. 
Adele has spent her adult life in Italy, Botswana and London until 2005 when she moved to Guildford, where she now lives with her husband and son. 
Since 2006, Adele has been heavily involved with The Reading Agency and is an Ambassador for their ‘Six Book Challenge as she believes literacy is a basic human right and a huge pleasure. 
In 2008, Adele wrote a Quick Read, Happy Families, as part of the celebrations of World Book Day, which went on to win Quick Read Learners’ Favourite Award, as voted for by the public. 
Adele was one of the Costa Book Awards judges for 2011. 
She writes regularly for newspapers and magazines and often appears on radio and TV to discuss her writing and related issues. 
Whatever It Takes was selected for the 2014 World Book Night list and Adele is on the committee to select titles for World Book Night 2015. 
She will be a spokesperson for Books Are My Bag.

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Tuesday 20 January 2015

Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

Hallie has a secret. She's in love. He's perfect for her in every way, but he's seriously out of bounds. And her friends aren't going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie doesn't have long to live. Time is running out...
Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won't be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends - let alone anything more.
Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she's afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.
THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU begins as Hallie goes on a journey. A donor has been found and she's about to be given new lungs. But whose?

Three Amazing Things About You was published in hardback by Headline Review on 15 January 2015, the paperback release will follow on 18 June 2015.

Jill Mansell has been writing novels since 1991, Three Amazing Things About You is book number twenty-six!  I've read all of her books, she's an author who never fails to deliver. I reviewed her last two books here on Random Things; Don't Want To Miss A Thing (February 2013) and The Unpredictable Consequences of Love (June 2014).

Hallie is living with Cystic Fibrosis. Living is not easy, she struggles to breathe, she needs a wheelchair and a constant supply of oxygen, she often has to bail out of socialising with friends and she knows that if she doesn't get a new pair of lungs soon that she probably won't be around for much longer.

Despite this, Hallie is an upbeat sort of girl. She dishes out advice via her website where she always asks people to let her know 'three amazing things about you'.  The story opens as Hallie is travelling to hospital. She's about to receive new lungs, she's scared but excited.

The story skips back a little and the reader is introduced to the two other women who lead this story alongside Hallie.  There's Flo; the bi-lingual graduate who works in a residential home, not because she can't find a job that she's qualified to do, but because she loves it there. Flo is the guardian of Jeremy the cat, much to the disgust of Lena who would like nothing better than for Jeremy to disappear. Lena is not impressed at all when her younger brother Zander and Flo start to get closer.

Tasha, or 'Bin Girl' as she becomes affectionately known as, and her new boyfriend Rory are head over heels in love. They are as different as chalk and cheese, with Rory climbing mountains and jumping out of planes whilst Tasha worries constantly about him.

Jill Mansell slowly unfurls the lives of these three women, she's created three adorable characters who are individual, warm and incredibly realistic. Alongside our main players, there is a cast of supporting characters who add depth and warmth to the story. I was especially taken by Rory's best friend Joe and one of Flo's 'old ladies', Margot.

Gradually, the lives of Hallie, Flo and Tasha will collide, and although it's clear to the reader that this will happen, the way that it does happen is unexpected, quite heart-breaking, but also pretty uplifting.

Three Amazing Things About You is three stories in one and although Hallie is desperately sick, this novel is in no way depressing or dark. Jill Mansell writes compassionately, with humour and warmth. Her characters are fabulous, the village setting is wonderful and the story, whilst dealing with a serious subject, is sure to delight her many fans.

For me, Jill Mansell's books are my literary version of cheese on toast, my go-to stories that never let me down - just like that oozy, delicious cheesy toast that always makes me feel better.

Huge thanks to Headline and Bookbridgr who sent my copy for review.

Jill Mansell lives with her family in Bristol. She used to work in the field of Clinical Neurophysiology but now writes full time. She watches far too much TV and would love to be one of those super-sporty types but basically can't be bothered. Nor can she cook - having once attempted to bake a cake fro the hospital's Christmas Fair, she was forced to watch while her co-workers played frisbee with it.

But she's good at Twitter!

Find out more about Jill Mansell and her writing at her website
Check out her official Facebook page
Follow her on Twitter @JillMansell

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Monday 19 January 2015

BLOG TOUR ~ The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.
Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.
Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins was published by Doubleday (Transworld)  on 15 January 2015.

There has been an astonishing buzz about this book on social media over the last few months, it's probably one of the most anticipated and talked about novels in recent years. I'm delighted to be the host on the blog tour today.

There are countless reviews of The Girl on the Train out there already, be sure to check out the other bloggers who are taking part in the tour to read their thoughts too.

I'm not going to go over the synopsis and plot of this novel, the blurb is at the top of this post, it's tempting and intriguing. The whole concept of the story is original and quite quirky.

The dark psychological thriller is certainly the genre of the moment, and I've discovered some outstanding novels from some excellent authors over the last year. I love this genre, I love the unexpected, the flawed characters and the thrills.

It took me a long time to read The Girl on the Train, and to be honest, at about the half-way point I was beginning to wonder if I'd missed something. Whilst I was entranced by the characters, as despicable as they are, I wasn't getting that 'thrill factor' that I'd found in other novels quite recently. I began to wonder if this one had been hyped too much, had my expectations been too high? The only thing that I could do was to completely dismiss any preconceptions of what I thought this book was, and realign my brain a little. So, for the second half of the novel, I approached it with a different view, and you know what? It worked.  I soon become caught up in a story that centred on relationships, how they work, how they fail and how that can impact on a life.

Rachel, the lead character is not particularly likeable. She's so damaged that it can be really difficult to understand her thought processes and her actions, but as the reader learns more and more, her true character emerges. She's been hidden, repressed by her experiences and she believes that she is worthless and unlovable. Rachel's obsession with the house that she watches from the train window appears at first to be nothing more than a fantasy that she has created to pass the time during her journey, when the reader discovers the truth, the story takes on another dimension.

The Girl on the Train is a fascinating story, and although the thriller element didn't quite work for me (I'd worked out who it was well before the end), I was impressed by the way the characters are drawn and develop. This is most certainly a female-driven story, the male characters, whilst very important, do not have the same impact as the three main females.

The writing is excellent, the depiction of addiction is frighteningly accurate, and pretty raw at times. For me, the beauty of this story is the detail of the relationships and how so many people can be affected by the actions of just one or two people. It's a clever novel, the author is very talented.

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction. 

Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.

For more information about the author, visit her website

Visit her Facebook page

Follow her on Twitter @PaulaHWrites

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