Thursday 30 August 2012

The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson

Tamia and Scott shouldn't have ended up together; she was studious and from a respectable family while he was part of the infamous Challey clan. Everyone knew the family was bad news but Tamia saw something different in Scott. They became friends, fell in love and married, living happily ever after with their beautiful daughters.
Until one day the police knock at the front door and Scott is arrested, accused of serious sexual assault. Worse, the accuser is one of Tamia's closest friends.
Tamia is thrown into turmoil, the illusion of her life shattered. Someone is lying - either her husband or her best friend and she can't be sure who. Scott would never do such a thing, would never risk losing Tamia and their girls but why would her friend, someone so close to Tamia and her daughters, try to destroy her life?
As the police investigate the case, Tamia unearths well hidden secrets that neither her husband or her best friend want her to know. The illusion of her marriage and friendship is further shattered and Tamia isn't sure she'll ever be able to put them back together again. And when one of them ends up dead - murdered in their own home - Tamia's life as she knows it can never be recovered.
I'm a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson and, despite only discovering her wonderful books last year, she is one of my favourite authors and The Rose Petal Beach is another example of why. Dorothy Koomson's writing is exquisite, seemingly simple and flowing yet powerful, bringing the reader into the very centre of her characters' lives. I always feel as though I am there, feeling every emotion they are going through. Her characters are complex - nobody is perfect or bad to the core - but that only makes them more believable, more real.
Tamia is at the centre of the story, pulling everybody together. I really felt for her as her life crumbled around her as yet more secrets came to light. Whether the assault actually happened or whether it was revenge for a rejected advance, Tamia's life will change. She is caught in the middle and, through no fault of her own, she will lose someone important to her. Though she may not have always felt like one, Tamia is an extremely strong woman. She showed great strength and restraint as she dealt with the horrific turn her life was taking and had an amazing amount of compassion for those around her, whether they deserved her kindness or not.
Dorothy Koomson's writing and storytelling is as beautiful and full of raw emotion as ever but as well as being an emotional tale, The Rose Petal Beach is a gripping thriller that keeps you guessing with each new event and revelation. Who had it in them to kill and why? I absolutely loved The Rose Petal Beach and it took great effort to put it down as I was desperate to know who the murderer was and what would become of Tamia.
The Rose Petal Beach is published today.
Thank you to Quercus for sending me a copy to review.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Book 2 - Final Read Through

I finished the third draft of Book 2 on Friday so now I'm having a final read through before I start (eek) submitting to agents. It's amazing, after three previous drafts, that I can still find mistakes and huge glaring ones like a character changing her name part way through. She's only a very minor character but you would have thought I'd have picked up on it sooner. There are a few little mistakes, like spelling errors (but aren't picked up in spell chacker because they are a word - just the wrong one) and I still find myself cutting bits here and there.

Reaching the end will be fab but also a bit scary as it means my writing will have to be let out for others to see.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

My 50th Book Of The Year

At the moment I'm reading The Au Pair by Janey Fraser, which is my 50th book this year. I've already thrashed the amount I read last year!

I've read some fab book so far this year so thought I would recommend a few that have been particularly great.





What are you reading at the moment? And what would you recommend?

Monday 27 August 2012

It Happened In Venice by Molly Hopkins


Evie and Rob split up after he was unfaithful but, after two miserable months apart, they are back together. Evie has promised to put the past behind them and not throw Rob's infedility in his face but it is proving to be more difficult than she imagined.

Still, Evie has no choice but to move on as she loves Rob and can't face the thought of not having him in her life. She agrees to start their relationship afresh with no more secrets between them. Rob asks Evie to move in with him and although she wants nothing more than to live with him, she can't bring herself to break the news to her best friend and flatmate, Lulu.

As well as moving in together, Rob wants Evie to give up her jobs, both waitressing and being a tour guide, a job Evie adores.  Evie isn't sure she wants to give up the freedom of earning her own money and travelling through Europe for her work.

But there are more problems ahead than Evie's loss of independance when Evie and Rob's 'no more secrets' pact begins to unravel.

It Happened In Venice is a great read with fun, quirky characters. Evie kept me amused as she told her story and there were plenty of laugh out loud moments. I loved the relationship - or lack of - between Rob and Evie's best friend, Lulu. They didn't get along at all, which is hardly surprising under the circumstances. Rob had already hurt her friend once and didn't want it to happen again. Evie was stuck in the middle as Rob and Lulu constantly sniped at one another and while I felt a bit sorry for Evie, I found the jibes very funny.

I would have liked to have seen the men in Evie's life to be a bit less aggressive as they all seemed to have extremely short tempers and bossed her around an awful lot, which isn't very attractive in a hero and meant I found it difficult to warm to them. Even still, Evie more than made up for it. I loved her character and really enjoyed It Happened In Venice, both for its humour and for the mystery of who Evie would end up with.

It Happened In Venice is published on Thursday (30th August)

Thank you to Sphere for sending me a copy to review

Friday 24 August 2012

The End... For The Third Time

I've done it! The third draft is complete and now has a word count of 84,488, which is pretty close to my 85,000 aim. I managed to cut 9,604 words and it was much easier than I imagined. I'm hoping it's a better draft after losing all the pap.

The final sigh count was 12, with 9 eye rolls. Must do better next time.

I'm going to have a final read through, starting on Monday and then, if all is well, it'll be time to write the dreaded synopsis. And then the even more dreaded submission process. I've bought Nicola Morgan's Dear Agent so I'll be reading through that for some tips.

But for now, *phew* *collapses*

Saved By Cake Challenge - August

I have decided to challenge myself to bake a different cake/biscuit from Marian Keyes' book, Saved By Cake, each month, between March and December. I am a beginner at baking and use the same recipes over and over again so it'll be nice to try something new. I will take photos and post them on here each month - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Blondie Cupcakes

I think I must have been living under a rock because I'd never heard of a blondie before I opened Saved By Cake. For other rock dwellers, a blondie is like a brownie but made with white chocolate.
Waiting to go in the
Like all the other recipes I've attempted in Saved By Cake, it was very straight forward and easy to understand. I was a bit wary of melting the chocolate as it warned that white chocolate burns at the drop of a hat (and I'd burned the caramel to smithereens while attempting the Millionaire's Shortbread) but it turned out absolutely fine - woo!

As I mentioned last month, I'm not a huge fan of nuts so I only used about half and they came out lovely with a nice flavour of nut and a bit of a crunch but not too overpowering for an anti-nut person like me.

The Blondie Cupcakes were really quick and easy to make but they've been a big hit in the Mama J family so I think I will be making them again in the future.

For more Saved by Cake Challenges click here

Thursday 23 August 2012

The Ice Cream Girls TV Adaptation

I loved The Ice Cream Girls and this afternoon Dorothy Koomson announced on Twitter that ITV are making it into a three parter in 2013. I can't wait! The book is fantastic so I'm really really hoping they do it justice.

There are more details on Dorothy Koomson's website.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Draft Three - 81%

Draft Three is still going well and hasn't been nearly as painful as I thought it was going to be. Reducing the word count has been good as it's made me question what is relevent and what isn't to the story so hopefully it'll be a much better draft once it's finished.

I wanted to cut around 10,000 words to bring the word count nearer to 85,000 words and so far I've cut 7,713 so I'm well on my way.

This week the Sigh Count has rocketed to 12 with only 7 eye rolls. There will be much less in my next book so another lesson learned!

Sunday 19 August 2012

A Chat With Amanda Jennings

Sworn Secret tells the story of a family torn apart when 16 year old Anna tragically dies after falling from the school roof. A year on and her family begin to discover what really happened the night she died and begin to question whether her death was an accident at all.

I thought Sworn Secret was brilliant and you can see my review here. Amanda Jennings has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

When did you realise you wanted to become a writer?
As a child I was always writing stories and sticking the pages together to make books, but I never thought about being a writer whilst at school. Towards the end of my last year at university though, I began to write short stories for myself and fell in love – hook, line and sinker – with writing fiction. I had plenty of ideas, but in those early days never seemed to get past the first chapter. My father referred to me as ‘the world’s most prolific writer of first chapters’ in his wedding speech!

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?
My story isn’t unusual, there weren’t any headline-grabbing six figure sums or desperate editors fighting for me at auction, but there were a number of long, sometimes lonely, years bringing up my babies and writing whenever they fell asleep or got the Lego out. There was a first book, and quickly a second, and then the famous trawl through the Writers’ Yearbook in search of suitable (read ‘any’) agents to send my first three chapters to. The rejection letters began to fall like confetti on the mat, but amidst them two agents asked to see the whole manuscript. Six weeks later their rejections came within days of each other. That was quite tough but there was a chink of hope. One of them said if I happened to do any work on the book she’d be happy to look at it again. So I did what any loving, committed mother slash desperate author would do, I ignored the children for six months and rewrote it. I then plucked up the courage to recontact her and explained I’d fed my three girls nothing but bananas – quick, nutritious, and filling – for half a year, and said I was pleased with the result (of the rewrite as opposed to the neglected off-spring). Two weeks later an email appeared to say the banana diet had been worth it. It was Champagne time! We signed a contract shortly after. Three years and a third book later I signed a deal with Constable and Robinson.

What was your inspiration for Sworn Secret?
I wanted to write a story about sisters. I have a sister and three daughters, so the concept of sisters is close to my heart. As I thought about my sister I wondered how I’d cope if she died. As I jotted down some ideas I found myself thinking about my own girls, and became caught up in imagining how I would feel if something terrible happened to one of them. I found myself crying as I wrote and knew then it was a story I wanted to explore.
Who was your favourite character to write?
Lizzie, without doubt! In fact, she’s my favourite character I’ve ever written. I loved becoming a teenager again, reliving that first kiss, that first rush of love, allowing her to grow up. I enjoyed the way she began to stand up to her parents having been a quiet, biddable child. An arguing teenager is great fun to write!
If you were stranded on a desert island and had only one book, what would you like it to be?
This is so hard! I could read my favourite childhood book The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper again and again, and likewise Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, which was given to me by a friend who was shocked I hadn’t read it, and is everything I love about fiction, evocative, thought provoking and heartbreaking. But maybe this is the perfect opportunity to finally tackle War and Peace? Then again, I’m on a desert island with nothing to eat but small stripy fish for months on end, so I’m actually going to take Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. I love reading recipe books and his writing, the way he imbues it with his passion for food, is stunning. He’ll help me imagine my burnt Angel Fish on a Stick is actually Grilled Monkfish with Rosemary served with a pile of buttery garlic mash.
Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
My next book tells the story of a married couple whose relationship is put under strain when a man from the husband’s past reappears, bringing with him the memories of a horrific childhood incident. The attraction this man has for the wife adds further complications and turns it into a dangerous love triangle. It’s a story of loyalty, covetousness, and a look at what constitutes an outwardly ‘perfect life’.

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Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Amanda.

Sworn Secret is out now.

Friday 17 August 2012

Guest Post: Kyra Lennon

Today I have my very first guest post. Kyra Lennon is the author of Game On, which is out now.

After swapping her small town life to work for one of the top soccerteams in the U.S, Leah Walker thought she could finally leave the ghosts of herpast behind. However, when she meets serial womanizer, Radleigh McCoy, thememories of her old life come swarming back, and she is forced to ask herselfwhether she has really changed at all.

This guest post comes from Freya Phillips. Freya is the best friend of Game On’s main character, Leah Walker.

A while ago, you may have seen my post about a terrible first date I went on. I’ve never been very lucky with men. I don’t know why, because I’m pretty confident in who I am, and that’s half the battle, right? But dates always seem to end with a promise about how they’ll call, and they rarely do. The ones who actually pick up the phone are usually the ones I wasn’t that interested in, so clearly, I am doing something wrong.
I definitely don’t come on too strong. I’m pretty shy on dates, so maybe I’m coming across as if I’m not interested. If my quietness seems stand-offish, it probably puts guys off.
My last boyfriend was a couple years ago. We’d been together since college, and I really thought he was the one. But when I got my job with the Warriors, things started to fall apart. Suddenly, he assumed I was sleeping with half the guys on the team. He got real paranoid about it, and we argued a lot. The stupid thing was, I never talked about the team. I think he assumed that I was hiding something, and it was a huge slap in the face to think that, after nine years together, he thought I was capable of cheating on him.
Nine years is a long time to be with someone, only to have it end over something that wasn’t even true. The only good thing to come out of the break-up was that I became really good friends with Will. Will really took care of me, and knew to say sweet stuff about how my ex was probably just intimidated by my new job. Of course, he was only trying to make me feel better, but it was nice of him to make the effort.
Because I got dumped, I got a new best friend. But it’s not the same as having someone to come home to at the end of the day. I hope there’s someone out there for me somewhere.

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Thank you to Kyra (and Freya). Game On is available from:
And you can find Kyra's blog here

Thursday 16 August 2012

The Wedding Diaries by Sam Binnie

Kiki Carlow is expecting her long-term boyfriend to dump her as he has been acting strange towards her for the past few weeks so she is shocked but delighted when Thom proposes. After telling their friends and families the good news, Kiki sets about planning her wedding.

Kiki works at a small publishers and is given the job of handling soap star Jackie Jones' wedding book, detailing her own wedding along with tips on planning your own dream wedding. The job couldn't have come at a better time and Kiki is swept along with the (sometimes) galmourous preparations of a celebrity wedding, picking up ideas along the way.

The only problem is Jackie Jones doesn't have to worry about money. But then neither does Kiki as she ploughs ahead with her plans and leaves fiance Thom to worry about the payments. Kiki knows what she wants from her wedding but it seems her dream day will come at a price as she falls out with her mum, sister, friends and even the groom.

I couldn't wait to read The Wedding Diaries as soon as I saw the cover. It's so shiny and pretty and tied up with a bow and the inside of the book was just as brilliant as the outside. Told through diary form with anecdotes, lists and dialogue, The Wedding Diaries follows Kiki as she plans her own wedding, attending old and new friends' weddings along the way. From disastrous hen nights to sourcing the perfect cake, The Wedding Diaries is a fun, often laugh-out-loud read. I found the diary entries very easy to read, with whole months flowing by, and was immediately drawn right into Kiki's mindset. Her relationship with her sister was wondeful with its quirky ups and downs and I loved her easy-going relationship with Thom (who may just be the most perfect husband to be. Ever).

My favourite parts of the book were the To Do lists at the end of most of the diary entries. They were a tiny snapshot of what was going through Kiki's mind as she flitted from one idea to the next or changed her mind completely and I found them very entertaining.

At the back of the book, there is a section offering tips about planning a wedding, from food and drink (with recipes) to music and honeymoon destinations. There is also a sneak preview of the next installment in Kiki and Thom's life, The Baby Diaries, which is due out in spring 2013. The Wedding Diaries was so good, I can't wait to see what happens next.

Thank you to Avon for sending me a copy to review

Wednesday 15 August 2012

Book 2 Progress & Help With Agents

The third draft has been going well and isn't taking me as long as I thought it would. I'm 55% through it and, as of yesterday, I have cut 5,172 words of my 10,000 word aim.

As well as words, I've been cutting those pesky sighs and eye rolls that I usually litter my books with. So far I've counted 10 sighs and 6 eye rolls, which isn't nearly as many as I thought there would be. Perhaps I am slowly learning...

On Friday I bought Dear Agent by Nicola Morgan, which will hopefully come in handy when I've finished Book 2 and am ready to start submitting it to agents.

Cally Taylor, author of the fabulous Heaven Can Wait and Home For Christmas, will be interviewing her agent soon and has invited people to submit questions. So if there is anything you've ever wanted to ask an agent, head over to Cally's blog and post it in the comments.

Monday 13 August 2012

Sworn Secret by Amanda Jennings

Anna Thorne was a happy fifteen year old girl who loved life. She was adored by her parents and idolised by her younger sister. But one fateful night there was an accident and Anna's short life was snatched away after she stumbled from the school roof.

A year later and the loved ones Anna left behind are struggling, the family barely holding itself together by a thread. Kate is consumed by the grief of losing her beautiful daughter and her only way of coping is to close herself off from the world and paint endless paintings of Anna.

Jon is also trying to come to terms with losing his daughter but at the same time he is conscious of his wife slipping away from him, pushing him and their other daughter away. He's already lost Anna - he couldn't bear to lose Kate too.

Lizzie had always been in her vivacious sister's shadow but that didn't stop her worshipping Anna. She's lost the person she was closest to, the one she looked up to but she doesn't feel like she can talk about Anna for fear of upsetting her mother and pushing her over the edge.

It's been a year since Anna's tragic accident but the wounds her death caused her family are far from healed and will be torn deeper as secrets about Anna begin to surface. What really happened the night Anna died? Did she fall or was the so-called accident more sinister? Did she jump or was she pushed?

Anna's family are shocked to learn of the events leading up to her death and they begin to question whether they really knew her at all.

Sworn Secret is an emotional read, dealing with the devastation such a loss brings to a family as it is brought to its knees and struggles to rise again. I felt for Lizzie, who not only lost the sister she had such a close bond with but also her mother too. Kate is too engulfed in her grief to reach out to Lizzie, to show that she still loves her. Jon is stuck in the middle, seeing the effect Kate's separation from the family is having on Lizzie but being unable to reach his wife through her despair.

The book was gripping, urging me to keep reading, not only to find out if the Thorne family could pull together once more but also to discover what really happened to Anna. When her shocking secrets began to surface, I wasn't sure whether they would unite the family as they battled to uncover the truth or whether they would deliver the final blow to crush them completely.

Sworn Secret is a brilliant, well-written and thrilling debut from Amanda Jennings and I can't wait to see what she writes next.

I will be chatting with Amanda Jennings on Sunday 19th August.

Thank you to Constable & Robinson for sending me a copy to review.

Friday 10 August 2012

Change of Address

To go with its mini makeover, my blog now has a new address. Anyone who follows me through blogger should still be able to find me as usual.

I've had to adjust my header picture as it turns out part of the letters were being cut off on some computers (but not mine, annoyingly so I didn't have a clue). I'm hoping it's fixed now (even if it does look like my pen was running out after I'd resized it). If it's still cutting off bits for you, please let me know so I can weep with frustration. And then try and fix it.

As well as the header, I've added a review page to list all the reviews I've posted and I'm going to work through them and add them onto Amazon too because I always forget to do that.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Mini Makeover

I've given my blog a little mini makeover. I wanted to personalise it a bit more with an image at the top but couldn't find anything I wanted so I made my own. While I was mucking about with post-it notes (which now have another use - yay), my notice board and my camera, I thought I'd make some images for my tabs too.

Book 2 - Starting Draft 3

I started the third draft on Monday and am aiming to cut the book down to around 85,000 words. Over the past two days I have cut out the grand total of... drumroll please... 136 words. Woo! Yay! Well done!

Wait a minute. 136 words?

Yep, you read right. 136 words. But I knew I wouldn't be cutting much from the beginning and have been tidying up and zapping the sighs and rolling of eyes (which my pesky characters have an annoying habit of doing). So far there has only been one sigh and two eye rolls but there will plenty more in there.

The middle will be the worst culprit for unnecessary waffle so I'll get that 10,000 words. I will.

Monday 6 August 2012

Draft Three - Ready... Steady... Type!

I miscalculated my dates and thought I'd intended to start Draft Three today but it turns out I'm a week earlier than planned. Oh well, I've already psyched myself up so I'm diving in right now. I hope it isn't as difficult as I've told myself it's going to be over the past three weeks!

With this draft I'm hoping to cut down to around 85,000 words, cutting out any unnecessary scenes and tightening everything up.

Easy peasy, right?

Misfortune Cookie by Michele Gorman

Hannah and Sam have been friends and colleagues for a year but had only been a couple for a few months when Sam landed his dream job in Hong Kong. Still very much in the honeymoon period of their relationship, Hannah is reluctant to say goodbye to their romance. Sam, it seems, doesn't want their relationship to end either and suggests Hannah move with him. Hannah is in love with Sam so, going against her mother's wishes, she packs her belongings and flies away to join Sam on an adventure of a lifetime.

But soon after arriving in Hong Kong, Hannah realises her romantic move isn't what it first appeared. While Sam wants her to move to Hong Kong with him, he doesn't want them to live together once there. And, while she's suffering from a bout of food poisoning, Sam drops the bombshell that he won't even be in the same country as Hannah for the first few weeks due to work commitments elsewhere. Leaving Hannah behind in a strange new city, Sam flies to Vietnam to begin his new career, leaving Hannah alone to search for an apartment and a job of her own.

From the beginning, Misfortune Cookie is a humorous read that had me giggling out loud on the bus. Told from Hannah's point of view, the book is full of funny anecdotes and Hannah's unique outlook on life.

I felt both sorry for and frustrated with Hannah every time Sam visited for a weekend and moved the goalposts of his return. Her friends and family could see Hannah deserved more than Sam was giving but love had made Hannah blind to her own needs. She loves Sam so it didn't matter that he'd asked her to move so far away before abandoning her within days. I willed her to be strong and tell Sam what she needed from the relationship but I can understand why she couldn't at that time.

I've never been to Hong Kong but Michele Gorman brought it to life with her descriptions, from the food and culture to the stifling heat set against the beauty of the country.

Thank you to Michele Gorman for providing me with a copy to review.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group - August

The idea of the Insecure Writers Support Group is for writers to blog on the first Wednesday of the month about their fears, struggles and triumphs they have experienced with their writing.

How can it be August? July - and the rest of the year, come to think about it - has flown by and it's (supposedly) summer already. Anyway, the beginning of August means another chance have a moan, wobble or moment of pure triumph during the Insecure Writer's Support Group.
This month I'm wondering how on earth I am meant to cut my book down by 10,000 wordsish. I wrote far too much and now I've got to reign it in. I've been having a think about it while the book is 'resting' and I know a few scenes/minor plotlines that can go but 10,000 words worth???
I guess I won't know if I can pull it off until I get on with it but at the moment I'm shaking my head in wonderment as I imagine myself snipping at my book rather than gouging chunks out.
I must be brave and find 10,000 words of crap or unimportance. If it doesn't add any real value to the story or move the plot along, it must go.
I should write that on a post-it note...