Thursday 28 February 2013

With All My Love By Patricia Scanlan

Valerie and Tessa have always had a difficult relationship and have never got on, right from the moment that Jeff introduced his new girlfriend to his mother. Tessa would never admit it but Jeff, her youngest son, is her favourite and she only wants the very best for him, which includes studying hard for his exams to earn himself good grades and a career but her plans for Jeff are shattered when she learns of Valerie’s unplanned pregnancy.

Valerie loves Jeff with all her heart but she begins to doubt the strength of his feelings for her when she finds herself pregnant, especially when Tessa starts to interfere in their relationship. Tensions between Valerie and Tessa worsen when Briony is born. The birth of a baby should bring families closer but Jeff’s daughter only seems to drive the two women further apart as they clash over Jeff’s studies, christenings and unexpected visits.

Years later, Briony is a mother herself to four year old Katie. She hasn’t seen her grandparents, Tessa and Lorcan, since she was Katie’s age. Something happened when she was a child and they have refused to have any contact with her since. Briony has such happy memories of spending time with her grandparents when she was a little girl, being pushed on the swings, going down to the beach and trying on Tessa’s jewellery and shoes and then suddenly they were wrenched from her life. Briony was hurt and confused by their absence but over time she learned not to ask any questions about her father’s side of the family as it made her mother sad.

Briony is looking through an old family photo album when she stumbles across a letter addressed to her. It is a letter, written when she was a child, from her grandmother. Tessa is heartbroken that Valerie has cut off all contact and wants nothing more than to see Briony again. Realising her mother has lied to her all these years, Briony is furious that she has missed out on two loving grandparents. But Valerie had her reasons, reasons she must explain to Briony before history repeats itself and Valerie is cut out of her granddaughter’s life, just like she cut Tessa out of Briony’s life.

With All My Love is a story of the complications of love and family, between parent and child, man and woman and two women forced together through their love of Jeff. Jeff is caught in the middle, between his mother who can’t seem to let go and Valerie, his girlfriend who is desperate to have him all to herself. Both women act in an unforgivable way but there are reasons for their actions so it is difficult to take sides and I did sympathise with both Valerie and Tessa but it was Briony and Lorcan I felt for the most. Both were innocent parties and yet they both suffered. Briony lost out on a loving relationship with her grandparents and Lorcan missed out on his precious granddaughter growing up.

With All My Love will have you smiling one minute and crying the next. I found the friendship between Valerie and her best friend, Lizzie to be full of humour and their bond was warming in its strength. I loved watching them grow as they discovered boys, fell in love and became parents. Contrast to their easy friendship is the complex relationship between Valerie and Tessa as they battle over Jeff. Both are strong minded and unwilling to give in to the other and the consequences reverberate for another generation, the secrets and lies hidden but always on the surface, ready to explode.

With All My Love switches between the past and the present, the story of Valerie and Tessa’s fraught relationship unfurling as Valerie tries to keep hold of her bond with her daughter. The story is heartfelt and intriguing, throwing more secrets and revelations into the mix until the very end.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy to review

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Giveaway - Bad Mothers United by Kate Long

Before Yummy Mummies and Slummy Mummies, before the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, before we wondered How She Does It, there was The Bad Mother's Handbook.
Hundreds of thousands of readers lived a year in the life of Charlotte, Karen and Nan as they struggled with becoming mothers for the first time.
And now they are back. Certainly older, probably not wiser, and definitely as hilariously catastrophic as before. For all those who have asked How to Be a Woman, here is How To Be...A Bad Mother.
It's been quite some time since I read The Bad Mother's Handbook but I remember loving it so I was excited to see a sequel was being released. My review will be on the blog shortly but even better than that, Simon & Schuster have provided me with 5 copies to give away.
To enter, simply fill in the rafflecopter form below. There are a few options to add extra entries but none of these are mandatory (but hey, why not? You get extra entries, right?)
The giveaway will close on Tuesday 5th March and the winners will be announced on the blog on Wednesday 6th March
UK entries only
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday 25 February 2013

Book Of The Month - February

I've read some fantastic books since starting this blog and I'd like to give some of them a bit more recognition. So I've decided to add a new feature to the blog and give a special mention to one outstanding book each month. Feel free to add your thoughts of the chosen book in the comments below or even recommend an outstanding book of your own.

A few weeks after Kiki and Thom return from honeymoon, Kiki finds there's a noticeable absence. An extremely serious noticeable absence of something, it turns out, Kiki now realises she was pretty glad about. One pregnancy test later, Kiki's breaking the "good news" (Thom: Wow. We're so… Edwardian.) and rewriting all the plans she'd made before.

With an ever-expanding waistline, her nightmare childhood "friend" Annie pregnant too, all the problem authors at Polka Dot Books she could (not) wish for and an army of NW London's Smug Mothers to deal with, these nine months might not be the nine months of blooming relaxation she'd been promised…

I've read a few fantastic books this month and would like to mention a couple of contenders for Book Of The Month - The Midwife of Hope River and One Good Earl Deserves a Lover. I really enjoyed these historical novels but decided on The Baby Diaries for February's Book Of The Month as I've been looking forward to reading it since last year and it was well worth the wait.

You can see my review of The Baby Diaries here and you can

click here to see all 'Books Of The Month'.

Friday 22 February 2013

Guest Post: Kate Spencer

It’s strange to think that as I am going about my daily life people are reading my book! I wonder if all authors feel this way or if its just because I am a newbie? While I am on the school run or food shopping people all around the world are absorbed in the life of the character that I created, and they are contacting me to say that they relate to her and they love the story...its a great feeling to know that something that once started as an idea in your head is now connecting with many. I have been blown away by the lovely comments that are coming my way for 12 Lessons, within 2 weeks of release I had received 40 x 5 star reviews on Amazon.

I have always been a keen reader and read a mixture of women's literature and also non fiction books about personal development and spirituality. I opened up as a psychic myself 8 years ago and left my job in the pharmaceutical industry to work in the healing arts with energy therapies and readings for people. It was partly this that led me to write 12 Lessons.

I wanted to create a touching, gritty and contemporary story of one woman's life that we could all relate to, but include some of the life lessons and spiritual lessons that I have learned myself.

The lessons in the book are woven into the story and do not detract from the characters or storyline, in fact they enhance it and give it an unexpected twist.

This book is likely to be different from anything else that you have ever read, its got all of the ingredients of a great novel such as love, heartbreak, betrayal, and a smattering of smut, but it goes far, far deeper than that. The lessons in this book take you on a personal journey as you read it and without perhaps realising you will start to look at your own life in a different way.

Its not just a book, its an experience, and one that I am being told is changing lives in positive ways all over the world.

Hope you love reading 12 Lessons by Kate Spencer.

Love Kate x

Readers comments & Links:

"What these other reviewers have said is absolutely true, I can't put this book down either. I have matchsticks holding my eyes open this morning as I was up late into the night reading just another chapter etc.

The tears were rolling down my face at one point I was so sad for Stephanie. It's a long time since a book affected me like that. Its so well written and Kate paints a very realistic picture of Stephanie's life.
There are some hilarious bits in the book and some sadness and a great deal of love. The description of the main characters is fantastic and for once I am not tempted to check the back of the book to see how it ends,
I don't want it to end!
Is there another book by Kate Spencer please .... soon?"

12 Lessons on

The-Lightworkers-Academy Facebook Page

Thursday 21 February 2013

The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran

Olivia and Sally had always had a troubled friendship. Meeting at university, they moved into their own flat for their second year and were so close, Olivia would have done anything for Sally. But the friendship could be poisonous at times. Olivia basked under Sally’s light but Sally’s moods could shift in an instant and Olivia would be left in the dark, observing Sally like an outsider as men or other friendships took her place. Sally ruled over the friendship until a major fight separated the pair and they have barely spoken to each other since.

Years later, Olivia receives the shocking news that her former best friend has been involved in a car accident. Sally is dead, leaving behind a devoted husband and a young daughter. Olivia meets Sally’s husband and daughter, William and Madeline, at the funeral and is put on the spot when William asks to see her again to talk about her friendship with Sally. Olivia doesn’t want to taint William’s memories of his wife with her own recollections of her turbulent friendship with Sally but she agrees to meet up with him. But when she does, she finds the Sally that William knew and loved is in contrast with the Sally she knew and things don’t add up. Olivia finds herself digging up the past, unearthing Sally’s secrets, secrets that could turn the life William had with Sally upside down.

The Last Time I Saw You is an intriguing tale of friendship as Olivia delves into her past with Sally, feeding the reader with information bit by bit, creating a full picture of what life was like with Sally around. The friendship was toxic and draining almost from the start but the reader is left wondering what happened to drive the pair apart as Olivia was so attached to Sally, desperate to be her ‘chosen’ friend as Sally fed her with love one minute and the cold shoulder the next before reeling her back in. I wanted Olivia to be stronger, to break the attachment she had with Sally as it was clear Sally was troubled and was never going to be the kind of friend Olivia craved but Olivia was almost smitten with Sally and there was no way she could walk away, no matter how erratic her behaviour became.

I found the book quite difficult to really get into to begin with as it was a little slow for me but it did pick up as Sally’s secrets began to tumble out and I found the pace much better and it kept me reading on to find out what had happened prior to her death. Though Sally dies at the beginning of the book, we get to know her through Olivia’s flashbacks. Sally was extremely controlling and manipulative within her relationships but she could also show flashes of vulnerability too. Her friendship with Olivia was an intense one, the pressure building until it finally exploded and there was no going back. Although I wouldn’t want a friend like Sally, she did make a fantastic, complex character.

Thank you to Quercus for sending me a copy to review

Monday 18 February 2013

The Baby Diaries by Sam Binnie

Last year, we met Kiki Carlow as she began planning her wedding to Thom, recording all the highs, lows and To Do lists in her diary. The Wedding Diaries was one of my Top Ten Chick Lit Books of 2012 so I couldn't wait to read the next instalment of Kiki's tale.

Kiki and Thom have only been married a couple of months when they discover they are about to become parents. The pregnancy wasn't exactly planned so the news comes as a bit of a shock. The timing isn't perfect; Kiki and Thom haven't had much time to enjoy their new married life and Kiki has just been promoted at work. But it has happened and the pair must get on with it, learning as they go along. As with The Wedding Diaries, Kiki records everything in her diary, from debilitating morning sickness, antenatal groups and the difficulty of squeezing all the paraphernalia that comes with a tiny baby into their one bedroom flat. After the birth, Kiki has to deal with lack of sleep, adopting the new identity of 'mum' and a stalker ex best friend.

The Baby Diaries follows the same format as The Wedding Diaries with diary entries, dialogue and To Do lists. Each new chapter begins with an exert about babies from classic literature and there are extra baby-related features at the back, from recipes, children's books and playlists for baby showers.

I was really looking forward to reading The Baby Diaries and I wasn't disappointed. In fact, I enjoyed reading The Baby Diaries even more than The Wedding Diaries and was sad to finish it. The Baby Diaries is packed with humour and witty observations. There are no rose-tinted glasses when it comes to pregnancy, labour and coping with a newborn.

It was great to catch up with some of the old characters from The Wedding Diaries, such as Jacki Jones, celebrity turned writer, Kiki's best friend, Eve and the staff at Polka Dots, the publishers where Kiki works. Kiki's parents and sister are back and it was great to see the interaction between Kiki and Suse again as I find their sisterly relationship hilarious. But as well as the familiar characters, Kiki's pregnancy introduces us to new characters, from the women she meets at her antenatal class to well meaning but useless health visitors.

The Baby Diaries is a fun book that I absolutely loved. Kiki is such a fantastic character - funny, clueless at times and endearing. I hope one day we'll get to see the insights of Kiki Carlow again.

Thank you to Avon for sending me a copy to review.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Birthdays & Baking

I don't quite know how it happened but my oldest turned ten on Monday. I can't quite believe it and writing it down it down doesn't make it feel any more real but she is ten *whimpers*

To celebrate, the four of us went bowling last weekend and then onto Frankie and Benny's (our usual restaurant of choice for all occasions). I cannot describe to you just how bad I was at bowling. It's been a while since we've been but there really isn't any excuse for the way I played last Saturday. But it was fun and that's why we were there (she says through gritted teeth. I'm a really bad loser).

While my daughter was at school, I spent most of Monday baking her a cake. I was pretty damn proud of it and she loved it.

But my baking was not over for the week. Oh no! On Tuesday evening, I was handed a letter from the 10 year old (nope, still doesn't feel real typing that number). Her school was having a bake sale on Thursday (she couldn't remember how long she'd had the letter for) so I didn't have long to come up with some baked goods.

I'd seen some ice cream style cupcakes on a baking program before Christmas and have been wanting to give them a go so on went my apron and I made these:

I was quite proud of these too and the sponge inside was lovely and they were probably the best cupcakes I've made. I wasn't sure if the cones would 'go' with cake but they did.

And if I wasn't feeling ancient enough having a ten year old child, it's my great niece's first birthday party today. Bring on the zimmer frame!

Friday 15 February 2013

Bella Summer Takes a Chance by Michele Gorman

Bella - or B as she's always been known - has always had aspirations of following in her mother's footsteps and making it as a singer. Unfortunately her career has never really taken off, with B performing irregularly at business conferences and the odd club. As B approaches 40, she realises she can no longer afford to mess around - either she wants to make it as a singer or she doesn't. And if she does, she'd better act quickly instead of allowing her singing to take a back seat.
B has been with her boyfriend Mattias for ten years but although she loves him, she isn't in love with him and never has been. B realises they are more like friends and while this is enough for Mattias, B. needs more from a relationship. Like her music career, B's love life needs a kick start and she makes the difficult decision to end her relationship with Mattias in the hope of falling head over heels in love with someone else. The task isn't as easy as anticipated and B finds herself on disastrous date after disastrous date. Still maintaining a close friendship with Mattias, B begins to wonder whether what they'd had was enough after all.
Bella Summer Takes a Chance follows B as she tries to make sense of her life. She feels there should be more to a relationship than a cosy friendship, that there should be a spark and passion, something she has never had with Mattias. She begins to date again but the dates don't always turn out quite as successfully as B would have liked.
As well as following B's progress in both love and music, we get to know her friends. Kat is a stay at home mum of two who is happily married to James. But her marriage isn't quite as perfect as it appears and Kat is forced to make some major decisions of her own.
Faith, an investigative journalist, is a serial dater, finding the tiniest fault in the men she dates and using them as a reason to stop seeing them. And then there is Clare, caught in a casual fling with a man she once wanted a lot more from but now she isn't so sure she wants him at all anymore.
One of my favourite characters in Bella Summer Takes a Chance was Marjorie, a lady B volunteers to visit in a nursing home. Marjorie has suffered more than her fair share of tragedy during her life but she doesn't let that alter her positive outlook on life.
Bella Summer Takes a Chance is a light, often humorous, tale of finding love and reaching for your dreams.

Thank you to Michele Gorman for providing me with a copy to review. I will be chatting to Michele on Tuesday.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Guest Post: Judith Natelli McLaughlin

I Love Love!!

I love love. I love being in love (which isn’t always easy with a couple of kids, a couple of pets and a couple of pounds later). I love reading about love. I love writing about love. There are so many great love stories out there; too many to mention in one post (just check out the goodreads Best Love Story List for some 1500 plus books!).

Perhaps my favorite, and the first love story I was ever completely and totally passionate about, is Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND. I was a young teen when I first read it—easily the longest book I had tackled to date—and yet, when it ended, I wasn’t ready. I wanted more. More of Scarlett and Rhett. I did (and still do) want them to end up together, blissfully unaware of the outside world. They were perfect for each other, and darn it, Scarlett, who was always pining for Ashley Wilkes, didn’t see it until it was too late. But with love, is it ever too late?

How about Oliver Barrett IV and Jenny Cavalleri from Erich Segal’s LOVE STORY? I read this brief book as a sophomore in high school, in one sitting, and cried my eyes out. (It was the first time I ever cried at a book—but certainly not the last). Like Scarlett and Rhett, Oliver and Jenny were not meant to be together. He was rich with old money. She was poor. But none of that mattered, at least to them. Their inability to stay together was not of their own doing, but rather because of the hand they were dealt, Jenny’s incurable disease. Spoiler alert: she dies in his arms. Love hurts.

Finally, perhaps the most star-crossed lovers of all time remain Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet from his play ROMEO AND JULIET. They were young and in love but their feuding families, the Capulets and Montagues did not approve. These young lovers died for love, and not until their deaths did their families make peace.

Love isn’t always easy. Love doesn’t always make things right. Love can be complicated. But love is real, passionate and worth it! Happy Valentines Day!

My first novel, a nod to the tragic love story, is THIS MOMENT. If you, like me, enjoy a love story that isn’t neat and tidy, but real and passionate, check it out. Odds are, you will cry.

A captivating love story about a normal love affair in an abnormal world. This Moment strings together the ordinary and extraordinary moments in the lives of Ryan McGuire and Lydia Errico, moving the couple from dating to marriage to family, leaving us forever filled with equal parts inspiration and devastation…Ryan McGuire spends nearly his entire life on the up-end of a lucky streak, a concept he is okay with, until he meets Lydia Errico and is intrigued by her passion, candor and sexy ankles. Lydia challenges Ryan, for the first time in his life, to question the value of luck. While not sold on the concept, Ryan is sold on Lydia. Along with their respective families and oldest friends, Lydia and Ryan navigate the ups and downs of life providing us with a glimpse into a love so deep, so strong, it has the power to sustain unimaginable heartbreak. While the book ultimately ends, Ryan and Lydia and their unique love will linger in our souls forever.

This Moment is available for £1.94 on Amazon UK and $2.99 on Amazon US

and you can visit This Moment's Facebook  page here

Short Story: The Night Before Valentine's Day

The house was eerily quiet without Ethan. The rooms seemed bare, sapped of life and energy, the kitchen in particular. Jade wandered into the cool room, squinting as the harsh strip light illuminated the space devoid of Ethan and the piles of dishes that usually cluttered the worktops. Jade hadn’t been able to sleep earlier and had resorted to scrubbing every last dish and the worktops now gleamed after the thorough going over she’d treated them to. Her best friend had caught Jade with her head in the fridge, cleaning the inside to within an inch of its life. She’d made Jade a mug of hot chocolate and sent her up to bed. Nicola had gone up herself and was now tucked up in the spare room, sleeping soundly in her zebra-print pyjamas. Lucky cow. Jade still couldn’t sleep, despite the hot chocolate and the supposedly soothing sounds of whales wafting from the stereo. She was back in the kitchen but there was nothing left to clean. Unless you counted the oven, which Jade did not. She’d never been that desperate for a distraction and besides, chiselling away at the oven would ruin her nails, if the fridge hadn’t already.
                Jade held her hands out in front of her face to examine them and was relieved to see her nails were still perfect; gleaming pink with white tips and a single butterfly shaped diamante, tiny and silver, sitting upon her ring finger. Her engagement ring glistened from that very finger, bringing with it the memory of Ethan on bended knee in the sitting room, his hopeful features glowing pink and blue as the fairy lights from their first shared Christmas tree shone down on him.
                She’d said yes immediately, not even needing a nanosecond to consider the question. Ethan was everything to Jade and though they’d only lived together for a couple of months, it was already impossible to imagine him not being there when she went to sleep or there when she woke again.
                But he wasn’t there now. And he wouldn’t be there in the morning.
                “Still can’t sleep?”
                Jade jumped at the sound of the unexpected voice behind her. She hadn’t heard Nicola stir or her footsteps on the stairs. Had her best friend been training as some sort of ninja on the sly?
                “No and I don’t think I’ll sleep at all tonight.” The bed was too vast without Ethan, the sheets too cold.
                “Nervous about tomorrow?”
                Jade’s chest rumbled with laughter but nothing but a squeak left her lips. “Nervous? I’m way beyond nervous. Look.” She thrust a manicured hand towards Nicola, which trembled beneath her nose. “It’s all happening so fast, Nic. One minute Ethan’s proposing, the next I’m less than twelve hours from walking down the aisle.” She lowered her voice, dropping her gaze to Nicola’s black and white striped pyjama bottoms. “I don’t think I can do it.”
                “You’ve been engaged for over two years. Your engagement couldn’t have gone any slower.” Nicola smiled but her mouth sagged when the gesture wasn’t returned. “Are you seriously getting cold feet?”
                “Not cold feet exactly. More like cool feet.” Jade closed her eyes as she struggled to put into words the strange mix of emotions whirlpooling around her body. “I know I love Ethan. I can’t imagine not being with him. But I’m not sure I’m ready for marriage. It’s so grown up, isn’t it?”
                Nicola placed a hand on her friend’s shoulder and attempted to eradicate all traces of mirth from her voice. “I hate to break this to you, honey, but you’re thirty two. You are a grown up.”
                Jade managed to crack a brief smile. “Says who? Nobody told me.” The smile disappeared as she groaned, slumping against the shiny worktop. “But marriage though, Nic? Marriage? It’s forever.”
                “It’s Ethan forever.” Nicola assumed the reminder would perk Jade up. It didn’t. “What’s wrong with Ethan? You love Ethan.”
                “I know. I do. I really do.”
                “But it’s the little things.”
                “Like?” Nicola knew Ethan almost as well as Jade did. They’d all grown up together, although there had been no romance until a drunken confession of lust four years ago. To Nicola, Ethan seemed like the perfect boyfriend and husband-to-be. Although, to be fair, Nicola had a habit of attracting losers, ego maniacs and thieves so as long as a man could hold down a job, unglue themselves from their bathroom mirror and didn’t steal her dead grandmother’s ruby ring, he’d score highly in Nicola’s opinion.
                Jade considered the question. It was difficult to put her finger on her fears when put on the spot. “He snores.” There, she’d said it. Jade breathed a sigh of relief.          
                Nicola gave a hoot. An actual hoot as her eyes and mouth widened. “You snore too! Do you remember our first sleepover? We were nine. We didn’t have another until we were fourteen because I refused to sleep within a five mile radius of you again.”
                Jade batted away Nicola’s point with her hand. “We lived three streets away so you didn’t even sleep a mile away from me.”
                Nicola crossed the kitchen and pulled out a chair, plonking herself down and resting her elbows on the table. “So that’s it then? Ethan snores?”
                Jade pulled herself up from her slouched position on the worktop, straightening and tugging her shoulders back. “No, of course it isn’t just that. I’m not completely insane.”
                Nicola could have quite happily debated that point but thought better of it. As best friend and maid of honour, it was Nicola’s job to soothe and iron out any worries her friend – insane or otherwise – may be experiencing.
                “So what else is it?”
                Jade joined Nicola at the table, dropping into the chair as though all the stuffing had been knocked out of her.
                “He’s obsessed with football. Playing and watching.”
                “But that’s great.”
                Jade eyed her friend from across the table. “How, exactly?” Coming second to a bunch of blokes and a ball wasn’t what Jade would class as ‘great’.
                “Think of all the shopping we can do while he’s out playing football.” Jade raised her shoulders in a half arsed attempt at a shrug. “And he looks hot in a pair of shorts.”
                The corners of Jade’s mouth twitched into a reluctant smile. “Ethan does have fantastic legs.” Her smile blossomed as she pictured her fiancĂ© in a pair of shorts but it soon drooped again. “But he reads The Sun. The Sun.”
                “But you like the free tv guide that you get at the weekend.”
                Jade nodded. “That’s true, I suppose. I do like to know what’s coming up in the soaps.”
                “There you go.” Nicola reached across the table to give Jade’s hand a squeeze. “Is there anything else?”
                Jade gave a slow shrug of her shoulders. There must be more to her wobble than snoring, football and shite newspapers. She glanced around the kitchen for inspiration and it hit her full force in the gut. She gave a whimper, her Bambi-like eyes returning to Nicola’s.
                “He can’t wash up properly. He does everything in the wrong order and he rushes, too bloody eager to watch football or something so there’s always crusty bits of food left and I end up washing it all again.”
                Ok, this one was more difficult but not impossible. Ethan was pretty damn perfect so all Nicola had to do was counter his lack of dish washing skills with something he was wonderful at.
                “But he can cook.” And he did, almost every day. Willingly. Nicola’s eyes narrowed. Was Jade really unaware of what a lucky cow she was?
                “He has terrible taste in films!” Jade threw it out there, a last-ditch attempt to convince them both that she shouldn’t go through with the wedding.              
                “That’s true. Ethan’s taste in films is rubbish.” Nicola held up a finger, silencing Jade before she could make the order to call of the wedding. “But you’ll have a lifetime to teach him to love You’ve Got Mail just as much as you do.” Nicola could tell her friend was still teetering on the edge so she slammed her palm down on the table top and adopted her most stern voice. “You know this is all superficial stuff, right? Ethan is a good bloke. He’ll be a good husband. The best. You seem to be forgetting his good points. Tell them to me. Right now.”
                The last order was said so sharply, Jade’s eyes widened in fear and she began rattling off Ethan’s finer points without pausing for breath.
                “He’s great with his sister’s kids. Really great. I don’t have a clue what to do with them but Ethan’s a natural. He gets stuck in with them, teaching them football and playing with Barbies. He even changes nappies.” Nicola raised an eyebrow but kept quiet. It seemed Jade was on a roll. “He’s really nice to my mum and he doesn’t mind when she phones us three or four times a week to come and fix something at the house. He doesn’t complain. He just goes and fixes it. And he pretends to like her rank jam roly-poly .” Jade and Nicola both shuddered. “He never forgets to put the bins out and he brings me breakfast in bed before he leaves for every football match.”
                “He does?” Nicola had never wanted to slap someone across the chops more. Lucky cow didn’t even cover begin to cover it.
                Jade nodded and continued unprompted, definitely on a roll now. “He has a great career with brilliant prospects. He doesn’t bat an eyelid when we take over the sitting room for a girlie night in and he can recite every word from every episode of Friends.” The fear in Jade’s eyes was replaced with pride at this last admission. “He wasn’t even a fan until we moved in together.”
                “See? He’s brilliant.”
                Jade grinned. “He is, isn’t he?”
                “So brilliant I’m insanely jealous.”
                “And he loves me.”
                “He adores you, Jade.”
                “And I adore him, I really do. I’m being an idiot, aren’t I?”
                “The biggest idiot.”
                “Thanks for talking me round.”
                Nicola gave a shrug. “It’s my job.”
                Jade yawned suddenly, wide and loud, taking them both by surprise. “I’d better get to bed. I’ve got an important and busy day ahead of me tomorrow. Goodnight, Nic.”
                "Goodnight, Jade. No more wobbles, ok?"
                "No more wobbles. I promise."
                The two girls dragged their weary bodies up the stairs, climbed into bed and the house was quiet once more, preparing itself for the chaos that only the morning of a wedding could bring.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Top Ten Romantic Comedies

As it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, I thought I'd compile a top ten list of my favourite romantic comedies. Now I want to watch them all...

What are your favourite romantic comedies?

Tuesday 12 February 2013

The Valentine's Card by Juliet Ashton

Primary school teacher Orla and actor Sim have been together for three years but have spent the last few months conducting a long-term relationship. Sim has finally made the big break onto television, landing a major role in The Courtesan, the BBC’s latest costume drama. Filming takes place in London so Sim has made the temporary move while Orla remains in Ireland.

Orla and Sim have discussed the future and Sim has always maintained that once he’d ‘made it’, he and Orla would marry. So when Valentine’s Day arrives, along with a pink enveloped card from Sim, Orla is expecting a proposal. Sim has always been very good at writing cards, putting his heart into every message rather than a quick, scribbled note. Orla suspects Sim has proposed to her within the card but before she has the chance to open it, she receives some terrible news. Sim died very suddenly that morning while his card was on its way to her.

Orla’s world shatters around her. She has lost the man she loves, the man who is supposed to be her fiancĂ©, and she can’t even say goodbye properly as Sim’s mother takes over, pushing Orla out. The only task Sim’s mother reluctantly allows Orla to carry out is the clearing of Sim’s London flat.

In his final months, Sim had lived in a tiny flat above a bookshop owned by an elderly lady, Maude. Maude takes a grieving Orla under her wing as she clears out the flat and searches for Sim’s journal. Sim regularly wrote in his journal but would never permit Orla to read it so she is determined to find it and read Sim’s documentation of their life together. But locating the journal isn’t easy and Orla finds her stay in London is extended. She has taken the still unopened Valentine’s card, not quite ready to read Sim’s final words to her yet. She will read the journal and then she will open the card. If only she knew the whereabouts of the journal.

The Valentine’s Card is a story about grief and moving on. Orla can’t move on until she locates Sim’s journal, which takes on a deeper significance and becomes an obsession for Orla. Against the advice of those around her, Orla clings onto the Valentine’s card, carrying it around with her and even talking to it as she battles with her grief.

The book is enveloped by grief but I didn’t find it depressing as it is written in a humorous style, which I enjoyed. Orla is surrounded by some fantastic characters, from her mother and her best friend, Juno to Maude and Bogna, the new friendships she forms while in London. I loved the bond between Orla and her new landlady. Maude became a mother figure, friend and confidant rolled into one. Orla and Maude take care of each other and it was such a pleasure to watch their friendship develop.

Although Sim dies at the very beginning of the book, we do get to know him through his journal entries and Orla’s memories of their relationship and his personality shines through. Orla becomes very attached to Sim’s Valentine’s card, although she refuses to open it, and I was intrigued about the message it contained, especially after reading some of Sim’s more recent journal entries. I felt for Orla as she struggled to come to terms with losing Sim but the book is far from maudlin. I found it be a witty and enjoyable read and look forward to reading more from Juliet Ashton.

Thank you to Sphere for sending me a copy to review.

Monday 11 February 2013

Valentine's Day Massacre


Peek into the love lives of your favorite chick lit writers

Ever wondered whether writers actually live the romantic lives that they write about? Here’s your chance to play voyeur, all during Valentine’s Week, when 15 of your favourite writers confess their worst dating stories and most horrendous crushes (with a little bit of romance mixed in, of course).

They’ll answer a question a day starting on February 11th and would love to swap war stories with readers!

So join Lindsey Kelk, Dina Silver, Talli Roland, Juliette Sobanet, Michele Gorman, Julia Williams, Belinda Jones, Rowan Coleman, Miranda Dickinson, Nicola May, Karen Swan, Alexandra Brown, Tamsyn Murray, Kitty Charles and Ellie Campbell for a Valentine’s date you won’t soon forget.

The Valentine’s Day Massacre begins here today.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Guest Post: Laurey Buckland

For daydreamer Maddie, obsessive compulsive Clare, over dramatic Isobel and happy-go-lucky Sophie, life is more a world of tragic than magic. For Maddie it’s a constant battle against the monotony of a job she hates while her heart aches to be somewhere else, for Clare it’s a perpetual struggle to vanquish her teenage insecurities and to see herself for the woman she really is, for Isobel it’s a refusal to reveal her true self for fear it’s not what everyone imagined her to be and for Sophie it’s a willingness to believe in a rumour that threatens to poison her perfect relationship.

But with the love and support of their friends and a little bit of luck, the girls soon realise that happy ever afters are not just reserved for fairy tale fiction – as long as they start believing in them.

The one piece of advice that resonated through my thoughts when I was toying with the idea of writing a novel was ‘write what you know’. How this works for fantasy fiction, horror and sci-fi writers, I don’t know.

I don’t know any sexually frustrated vampires, teen werewolves or people flying off to distant worlds – so I felt that sticking with what I knew, was the way forward for A Girl’s Guide to Fairy Tales.

Fairy tales are a theme throughout the story, whether that be dreaming of a better life, minds being poisoned by rumours, not believing the beauty within is visible on the outside or not realising the man you hate could actually be the man you love. There is no magic, no Fairy Godmothers and no knights in shining armour. My characters have to fix their own problems.

I wanted readers to be able to find something in the story they could relate to, whether they have been in those situation themselves or know someone who has. 

A lot of the anecdotes are also based on real life situations and conversations, which are often better than anything I could make-up. Below is one such excerpt. My girlfriends and I were on a night out and we got talking about things we didn’t understand very well, such as Twitter and men. The latter may not ever be fully understood – but this is how I retold that conversation (with a few bits made up of course).

Each chapter is told from one of my four characters’ perspectives; Maddie, Clare, Isobel and Sophie. This is how Sophie retells the conversation.

Maddie stared at the abstract painting on the wall as if trying to interpret its blocks of colour and random lines. I joined her but I failed to find any meaning in it. To me, it simply appeared like a random series of shapes, which the artist had no plans for. It was only then I noticed the plaque beneath it entitled Life.

 ‘You know, I thought I missed Jason until that second he told me he was engaged. It was only then I truly knew I had made the right decision. I don’t miss him at all. I miss the idea of him.’

‘You miss the companionship,’ I whispered, talking to myself.

‘Yeah I do. But I tell you what I don’t miss,’ Maddie smiled leaning forwards. ‘I don’t miss his need to use the Sat Nav on every journey we took together – even when we knew where we were going. In fact he listened to that bloody woman more than he did me. If she said “turn right” then he did it without any fuss. If I said “pick up your socks and pants” then they would remain on my floor for at least four days, meaning by the time I picked them up they had rigor mortis!’

‘Oh Maddie, you do make me laugh,’ I sighed, my eyes watering.

‘My pleasure.’ She slurped the rest of her drink. ‘Your turn, what don’t you miss?’

I thought hard, pleading for my brain to recall some annoying habit. ‘Aha, yes,’ I gloated sitting upright for the big announcement. ‘He always left his tea bags on the draining board.’

Maddie started at me like I was the abstract painting. ‘Is that it? Really?’

‘Clare!’ I shouted with delight as she successfully coordinated three drinks back to the table. ‘We’re just having a good old moan. What’s getting your goat at the moment?’

She paused thoughtfully. ‘The fact that I haven’t got a clue what stuff means.’

‘Like what?’ I laughed.

‘Like hashtag. I’ve heard you talk about it Soph but what the hell is it? Is it some sort of new drug?’

I tried to keep a straight face. ‘Do I really look the drug type?’

Clare shrugged.

‘Lol, it’s something mainly used on Twitter to mean what topic is trending.’

Clare still looked non-plus.

‘It means what topics are popular,’ I added. ‘Such as hasthag-are-you-sure-you-can’t-see-my-muffin-top and hashtag-my-boyfriend-is a prick.’

‘I bet those are popular,’ Maddie sniggered.

Clare rolled her eyes. ‘Well what about this diem I keep hearing  people mention? Diem me now? Diem me later? Is it as in Carpe Diem or is it rude?’

‘Lol, no! It’s the initials DM that stand for direct message. Like emails for Twitter,’ I explained.

‘As I said, I hate it. Why can’t people just ring people or text like normal?’

‘But you rarely text Clare,’ Maddie said.

‘Unless you want “cock” for the fire?’ I suggested. ‘Gotta love predictive text. But it isn’t a bad idea actually – men used to burn women as witches. Now it’s their turn for being spineless cheating arseholes.’

‘I don’t believe there is a male equivalent for a misogynist but if there was Soph, you wouldn’t be far off,’ Clare said with a small grin. ‘Anyway, I thought it was my turn to rant?’ she asked.

‘Defo,’ I laughed. ‘Go for it.’

‘Another thing that’s peeing me off is Facebook. The last time I logged on, the page was polluted with people talking about their little monsters who are no longer sleeping through the night, or who are sick, or their future husbands, or the fact they are expecting yet again.’      

‘Why who’s pregnant?’ I asked excitedly.

‘Jennie, my step-sister. This is her fourth and she’s only thirty-three?’

‘Impressive,’ I nodded.

‘But now there’s loads of pressure on me to match that. My mother is constantly bringing it up. Jennie this, Jennie that. She’s the golden girl,’ Clare sulked.

‘She doesn’t exactly spawn the prettiest-looking things though does she?’ I pointed out.

‘You wouldn’t look so hot either if that woman’s labia had brushed your face,’ Madeline said matter-of-factly, even making Clare laugh.
A Girl’s Guide to Fairy Tales is £1.49 on Amazon UK or $2.99 on Amazon US.
You can find out more about Laurey Buckland and her novel, A Girl's Guide to Fairy Tales on
Twitter: @LaureyBuckland

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