Friday 28 February 2014

Book of the Month: February

The Sum of All Kisses by
Julia Quinn
Hugh Prentice has never had patience for dramatic females, and if Lady Sarah Pleinsworth has ever been acquainted with the words shy or retiring, she's long since tossed them out the window. Besides, a reckless duel has left this brilliant mathematician with a ruined leg, and now he could never court a woman like Sarah, much less dream of marrying her.

Sarah has never forgiven Hugh for the duel he fought that nearly destroyed her family. But even if she could find a way to forgive him, it wouldn't matter. She doesn't care that his leg is less than perfect, it's his personality she can't abide. But forced to spend a week in close company they discover that first impressions are not always reliable. And when one kiss leads to two, three, and four, the mathematician may lose count, and the lady may, for the first time, find herself speechless...

*      *      *      *      *
I'd never read a Julia Quinn novel before, so I didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by this humorous historical romance and thoroughly enjoyed the book. My review of The Sum of All Kisses will be up on Novelicious soon.

Click here to see all Books of the Month

Thursday 27 February 2014

Writing Book 2 - Part 2

The Second Draft

Last month, I blogged about the first draft of my second book (click here to see the post) and this month I am tackling the second draft. It's quite daunting to be faced with your book again - is it going to be utter crap? Will any of it be salvageable? Will I be able to make an actual novel out of it?

I always fear the worst, but I have to say I've quite enjoyed the second draft so far. That isn't to say it's been a doddle. It's been hard work, with lots of cutting and shifting scenes and writing new parts, but I feel like I'm really getting to know my characters now. This usually happens a lot sooner, but the first draft was written over a long period of time with other projects in between, so poor Ally was neglected. But not anymore!

I'm about 80% through the second draft. This last part requires the most shifting around of scenes, which is a bit brain-melty, but I'm hoping it'll make the book a lot stronger. I know there is at least another draft to be done before I even think of sending it off to be edited, but this time the task doesn't seem so daunting as I know the manuscript I have now is far better than the one I had a month ago.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Guest Post: Christine Elise McCarthy

I have been a professional actress for 25 years - but I always had aspirations to write. A wrote a few episodes of the original 90210, but that didn't satisfy my fantasy of being an author. Then, a few years ago, a friend challenged me to write a short essay & submit it to a Los Angeles comedy show called Four Stories & a Cover. It was a live show at the United Citizens Brigade Theater in Hollywood where writers read true, comic stories about themselves. She said she would do it if I did. Well, I did – and she didn’t. I was accepted & the night I was to read it on stage, they asked me for a title. Caught off guard, I quickly said, “Uhm – Bathing & the Single Girl?”

They said OK & my journey began. I read the piece that night and it was really well received. A friend who saw me do it said, “You should have recorded that! It was hilarious! Your agent could use that to show casting directors that you can be funny!”

So – I read it again at another theater – Naked Angels. A friend videotaped it and I posted that video on Facebook.

A few days later, a friend who happens to be an A-list commercial cinematographer wrote me and suggested I turn it into a short film. He said, “The piece is so funny but that video is so ugly. Make a movie! Make it pretty!”

So – I did. That ten minute short film of the same name went on to screen at over 100 film festivals and won 20 awards. It was at this point that yet another person made yet another fateful suggestion.

“Say, Christine! You should expand that movie into novel form!”

So I did! I wrote the book in a few short months. I shopped it around and got an agent and she shopped it around and I rewrote it a few times and about two years later - Bathing & the Single Girl – The Novel – was released! It is not the great American novel. It is intended as pure comedy. It is Fifty Shades of Grey – if Larry David had written it. It is HBO’s Girls – 15 years & no personal successes later. It is a book of awkward sex and embarrassing, personal defeats. It is a book of always trying and never succeeding. 

It is raunchy and raw and, I hope, it is the funniest book you will ever read.

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Tuesday 25 February 2014

Millie and The American Proposal by Annabel Scott

Millie is fed up with her relationship. She's been with James for four years and loves him, but his job is causing problems. James has been working in Zurich for months, with Millie visiting when she can at the weekends. The fancy hotels and restaurants were fun to begin with, but spending so much apart is taking its toll. So Millie is relieved when the Zurich project ends and James can return home. Until James drops the bombshell that he's been offered a promotion that will mean having to live in Singapore for a year - and he's already accepted.
Millie can't cope with another separation, especially as she can't hop on a plane for a weekend visit this time, so she ends the relationship. Millie is devastated, but knows she has made the right decision. When she's offered a three month placement at her work's New York office, she jumps at the chance. A new city and the chance to catch up with her American friends, Kristen and Tara, will help her get over James.
But Kristen and Tara aren't the only familiar faces in New York. Her ex-boyfriend and first love, Rob is there too.
Millie and The American Proposal is the third book in the 'Millie' series and I was looking forward to catching up with Millie and her friends. Plus, the fact that the book is set mainly in New York was an added bonus! I really like the character of Millie. She's so down to earth and likeable and I could understand why she ended her relationship with James and could feel her disappointment when he announced he was moving to Singapore. After enduring his time away in Zurich, Millie is looking forward to having him home again. She wants to settle down and get married while James wants to concentrate of furthering his career. James isn't a bad person, but he does seem to put his job before Millie quite a lot.
Millie has some pretty wild friends, who return in this book, but there are some new characters to get to know too. I loved the scenes where Millie goes out with her friends, especially the karaoke bar scene.
Although Millie and The American Proposal is the third instalment, there are no gaps as all the relevant information is contained within the book. I thought Mille and The American Proposal is a fun, romantic book full of humour and great characters.

Monday 24 February 2014

A Beginner's Guide To... Jared

Jared is new to H. Woods Vehicles, a bus and coach manufacturers where Ruth works. He meets Ruth in the tiny staff kitchen and they strike up a friendship. Jared has had a troubled past, though he is trying to put it all behind him and move on.
When Ruth needs help with her weight-loss, Jared is happy to help.

Jared comes from quite a large family, being the oldest of four. His mum and sisters are always trying to coax him into dating women they know (however vaguely) but he isn’t interested.

Here are a few quick facts about Jared

·         Full Name: Jared Williams

·         Age: 33

·         Job: Purchasing Manager

·         Hair colour: Blond

·         Eye colour: Blue

·         Favourite colour: Blue

·         Favourite film: Die Hard

·         Favourite food: Steak

·         Hobbies: Working out

·       Party trick: Can pull a coin out from behind your ear. Lame, but kids love it.

Ruth loves nothing more than curling up in front of the telly with a family-sized bar of chocolate. She doesn’t do diets and she certainly doesn’t do exercise. But all that changes when she’s invited to her school reunion.

Bullied at school for being overweight, Ruth’s first reaction is to rip the invitation into a million pieces. But then Ruth hatches a plan. She’ll lose the weight and arrive at the reunion looking gorgeous and glamorous, leaving her old classmates in awe. Especially her former crush, Zack O’Connell.

With the help of her friends and a new, unbelievably hot colleague, Ruth begins her transformation. With six months until the reunion, losing weight will be a piece of cake, right?

Friday 21 February 2014

Cover Reveal: A Girl Called Summer by Lucy Lord

Island life is just one step away…

A new start…

Bella and Andy have escaped the rat race for the sun-drenched, relaxed lifestyle on the island of Ibiza. But with a run-down house to make habitable and a distractingly gorgeous neighbour, is their island idyll all that it seems?

A holiday adventure…

Tamara Gold has been Hollywood’s most notorious car crash since she was a child star. Now clean and sober, and engaged to Tinseltown’s hottest leading man, it seems like she’s finally conquered her addictions, if not her bratty behaviour. But a summer in Europe with all the hedonistic lures of Ibiza beckons…

A girl called Summer…

Summer Larsson has always known Ibiza as home: a haven of hippies, yoga and healthy eating – and loneliness. But in Bella, she’s found the friend she always needed, and when Bella’s glamorous Hollywood friends come to visit, it looks like she might have found true love as well…

This could be the summer that everything changes…

You can pre-order A Girl Called Summer from Amazon here and you can find out more about the author at

Thursday 20 February 2014

How To Get A (Love) Life by Rosie Blake

Nicola Brown thinks her life is fine, no matter what those around her think. Her workmate and friend, Caroline is determined to push Nicola into dating. She wants Nicola to get out more, to be adventurous and maybe find love. Nicola doesn't see anything wrong with the fact she hasn't really dated in seven years and that she lives alone.
Nicola isn't lonely.
Or is she?
When Caroline sets Nicola the challenge of finding a date for Valentine's Day, she finds herself accepting. Nicola has been out of the dating game for a long time, but she's determined to find her perfect man.
How To Get A (Love) Life has everything I look for in chick lit; a good story with strong leading characters and a light, witty voice. The book is the perfect escape, a chance to immerse yourself in Nicola's life as she attempts to shed her old, boring life and create a much more vibrant one, hopefully with a dream boyfriend by her side. It was a lot of fun to witness some of the situations Nicola finds herself in as she ventures back into the world of dating.
I loved the setting of the agency Nicola works in with Caroline and their boss, James. The three have a brilliant rapport going, with a strong friendship as well as a working relationship. Another aspect of the book I enjoyed was Nicola's bond with her bat-loving brother, Mark. They tease each other but you can tell they're close and care about the other's happiness.
I really enjoyed reading How To Get A (Love) Life and thought it was a fun, humorous read.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Guest Post: Julie Shackman

Music To My Ears

By Julie Shackman
I’ve read recently about the growing trend for authors to come up with a “soundtrack” to their novel – songs which are suited to the story or characters in some way, or which help inspire the writer.

Seeing as music is one of my great passions (apart from reading, writing, handbags and pretty stationery) I think this is a great idea. Anything to help get those creative juices flowing, eh?

Music plays a large part in my debut contemp romance (with a paranormal twist) “Rock My World” and it must be about a year ago now, when I first heard the wonderful Thea Gilmore song, “Love Came Looking For Me.”

I was up to my elbows writing my novel but as soon as I heard the lyrics, I immediately realised this would be THE song for my protagonist, Ruby Cameron. The message of being cynical and virtually closed off over the affairs of the heart, to suddenly have someone special appear as if out of nowhere and knock you sideways, was exactly what I envisaged Ruby going through.

On the occasions I felt like I needed inspiration, I’d play this song and it definitely helped me re-connect with Ruby all over again.

As for my hero, Matt Jardine, it was a song from the late 1980s, “The World Is Lit By Lightning” by Deacon Blue, which I imagined him really relating to. Matt is handsome, a talented journalist and undeniably sexy. He also comes from a privileged background and at the beginning, gives the impression that he truly believes he’s a “cut above.”

The lyrics to this fantastic song, summed up the turmoil Matt was going through after meeting Ruby –he has never met anyone like her before and he doesn’t feel in control. To him, it really is as if his very comfortable, well-connected world has been hit by a lightning bolt.

Stevie Vee, my ghostly local rock singer, reached out to me whenever I played “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi. Stevie is an individual; creative and a bit of a rebel. He’s determined to squeeze every last minute out of life, but when that life is snatched from him at the age of 29, he understandably feels cheated.

Whenever and wherever I’m writing, I have to have the warm, comforting waves of music in the background. It certainly seems to help me focus on what I’m doing and give my imagination a kick-start whenever I’m struggling to get the “writing motor” into first gear!

Whatever you write and whatever inspires you – please keep reading, please keep writing and never give up.

Julie Shackman.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Blog Tour: Between A Rockstar and a Hard Place

Today I'm pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Portia Mcintosh's Between A Rockstar and Hard Place.

Going from a self published author to a traditionally published author

Let me start by saying that I never set out to be a writer.

By day I work in the music industry, and have spent the last ten years hanging around with rockstars. I have a lot of weird and wonderful stories that I want to tell, but I can’t. When you’re in the inner circle you only get one chance to break the trust of your friends and then you’re out. There’s no way I’d ever go to a newspaper and sell a story, partly because it would affect my job and my social life, but mostly because I would lose my friends. Still, it seemed a shame for these stories to go to waste.

I don’t even remember when I decided to start writing, but the idea was to pen a novel using my real experiences with musicians to create something as realistic as possible. My insight into the biz is oddly unique. I started out being friends with these people, and only found myself a job in the industry as a way to keep up the lifestyle I had come to know and love. I didn’t work for the bands and I wasn’t some journalist trying to get dirt on them. They knew that they could trust me, and that gave me a kind of access to some of the world’s favourite stars that many people just don’t get.

So I started writing in between tours and eventually I had these books. Self-publishing made sense, and doing so with Amazon is actually quite easy. The reviews started coming in and they were really encouraging – that’s why I decided I might be able to do something more with my books and I started sending them around.

I was delighted when Carina UK offered me a book deal. I don’t know if it helped, but I don’t suppose it hurt that I had already received a lot of great reviews and shifted several copies of my books by the time I submitted to them.

There are pros and cons for both traditional and self-publishing. When you go it alone you have more control over what you’re doing and any money you make goes straight into your pocket. However, with a publisher behind you, you get support. Having an editor going over your book and telling you how you can make it better is fantastic, and nothing beats the excitement of seeing your book covers for the first time. I am also finding that reviewers and bloggers are much more obliging when you are published.

I’m really glad I have been able to sample both, but for me the support of a publisher is invaluable. Having a publisher makes it feel more real, and less like a time consuming, anti-social hobby. I have three more books coming out with Carina UK this year, and I couldn’t be more excited.

Portia MacIntosh’s Between a Rockstar and a Hard Place is out (via Carina UK, Harlequin) on 12th February. For more information visit

Monday 17 February 2014

My Writing Process - Blog Tour

Thank you to Georgina Troy for nominating me, along with two other writers, to take part in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Georgina is the author of A Jersey Kiss and the forthcoming A Jersey Affair. You can find out more about Georgina on her blog here.

As part of the tour, I'll answer the following questions and then nominate three other writers to take part.

1) What am I working on?

I'm working on my second novel, which is a romantic comedy with a bit of a magical twist. I'm at the second draft stage, so there is plenty of cutting and rearranging going on at the moment, as well as writing new scenes.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

In A Beginner's Guide To Salad, the heroine is overweight and wants to go through an ugly-duckling-to-swan transformation to impress her old classmates. There are loads of makeover stories out there, but I wanted to focus more of what is on the inside of Ruth rather than the outside.

With my new book, it's a romantic comedy but with an element of magic. Ally, the main character, makes a wish that comes true and turns her life upside down.

3) Why do I write what I do?
I write romantic comedies - or chick lit - because they're the kinds of books I like to read. I love fun characters and storylines with lots of humour thrown in. I also write what I do because the voices in my head would never shut up if I didn't tell their story.

4) How does my writing process work?

I'm a massive planner, so that comes first. I plan everything, from the characters and their individual storylines before moving onto planning each chapter. It does take quite a while - around a month - but I've found this is what works for me.

Once the plans are in place, I write my first draft and then put it away (for around a month) before diving back in for the second draft. I have another read through and make any changes, repeating until I'm happy with the manuscript. I then send it away to an editor and then make the necessary changes. I then read through it (about a million times) until I feel it's ready to be proofread and published.

Now it's time to nominate three other writers:

Jaimie Admans

Jaimie is a 29-year-old English-sounding Welsh girl with an awkward-to-spell name. She lives in South Wales and enjoys writing, gardening, drinking tea and watching horror movies. She hates spiders and cheese & onion crisps.

She has been writing for years, but has never before plucked up the courage to tell people.

She is the author of chick-lit romantic comedy Kismetology and YA romantic comedies Afterlife Academy, Not Pretty Enough, and North Pole Reform School.

You can find out more about Jaimie at her website

Kyra Lennon

Kyra is a self-confessed book-a-holic, and has been since she first learned to read. When she's not reading, you'll usually find her hanging out in coffee shops with her trusty laptop and/or her friends, or girling it up at the nearest shopping mall.

Kyra grew up on the South Coast of England and refuses to move away from the seaside which provides massive inspiration for her novels. Her debut novel, Game On (New Adult Contemporary Romance), was released in July 2012, and she scored her first Amazon Top 20 listing with her New Adult novella, If I Let You Go in November 2012.



Elle Field

Elle Field is a twenty-something chick lit author who lives in London with her boyfriend. She enjoys exploring and photographing Blighty's capital, seeing far too many musicals, and eating her way around London's culinary delights. Her debut novel Kept was released last year, followed by Geli Voyante's Hot or Not. Look out for Lost, Kept's sequel, in 2014, as well as The Dirtification of Tabitha-Rose.

Friday 14 February 2014

Short Story - Poppy & Bruce: A Tale of Love at First Sight

The sun was bright yet ineffective as Fran crunched along the park’s gravelly path, Poppy straining against her lead in her eagerness to run free. It was a daily ritual and Poppy knew that in just a few minutes she would be released onto the huge expanse of grass, where she could stretch her muscles and feel the air rushing towards her furry face. It was her favourite part of the day, closely followed by yapping at the postman and attempting to bite him through the letterbox.

It was also Fran’s favourite part of the day on days such as these, when the sun was shining and she could fill her lungs with fresh, sharp air, forgetting her rotten love life for half an hour or so. She wasn’t so keen on walking Poppy when she was thigh-high in snow or flailing about on the frozen pavements. But the bad days only enhanced her enjoyment of the glorious ones.

And today was a glorious day. The weather was cool yet dry and cheery and Poppy hadn’t even attempted to nip the coffee vendor’s ankle.

“Here you go, girl. Off you go.” Fran crouched to unclasp the lead and scratched behind Poppy’s ear before the dog tore off into the distance. Fran removed the plastic lid from her coffee cup and tossed it into a nearby bin. The coffee was satisfying both in its heat and the instant hit of caffeine to Fran’s sluggish system. She’d had a bad night’s sleep again, thinking about him. She’d been quite good lately, only wallowing once or twice a day, but last night had been a tough one.

Grasping hold of the rubber ball in her pocket, Fran whistled to catch Poppy’s attention. The dog bounded towards her, knowing it was time to play. Fran threw the ball as far as she could, holding her breath as it thudded to the ground and another dog bounced towards it. Poppy was not the most sociable of animals and it had taken months of trial and error to pinpoint the quiet times at the park and even then Fran always ensured there were no other dog walkers before removing the lead.

“Poppy! Come here, girl.” Fran hid the lead behind her back, knowing the dog would never return if she sussed she was about to be restrained so soon. She drained her coffee and tossed the empty cup in the bin, preparing for battle. “Poppy! Come here girl.” She tried to keep the panic from her voice as the other dog clamped its jaw around the ball. “Poppy! I said come here!”

But instead of snarling and snapping, Poppy tore after the dog and a friendly chase ensued and the only yapping to be heard was of the happy variety.

Fran was gobsmacked. Poppy had never played with a fellow dog before and Fran hadn’t thought it possible. Poppy had always been a grumpy old goat when it came to other dogs. And human beings other than herself. Her ex-boyfriend had branded Poppy "the devil in fur". She should have known the relationship was doomed from that point.

“Looks like Bruce has found himself a friend.”

Fran held her breath once more but not through fear of a doggy scuffle. The other dog’s owner was tall and slender yet masculine with a mop of thick, black hair and dark stubble. And he was striding towards her!

“Looks like it. It’s very unusual for Poppy to be so pleasant. She’s usually a bit of a miserable old girl. Not very sociable at all. I’ve never seen her play with another dog.”

She was babbling. And sweating, despite the chill in the air.

“Bruce is very good at winning over the ladies.” He grinned at Fran and she simpered beneath the glare of his perfect white teeth.

“So it appears.” Bruce was currently sniffing at Poppy’s behind – and she was letting him. Hussy!

“I do apologise for Bruce’s behaviour. He isn’t much of a gentleman.” He flashed another grin and Fran’s cheeks glowed. It was definite. Fran fancied him. She fancied a man who wasn’t her ex. Was that even possible? She hadn’t thought so five minutes earlier.

“That’s okay. Poppy isn’t much of a lady.” Which she demonstrated rather aptly by having a sniff of her own. Fortunately nothing untoward occurred and the pair tore off, taking it in turns to dodge one another.

“I’m Oliver.”

“Fran.” She shook his outstretched hand, feeling its warmth through her thick gloves. Their hands remained in contact and Fran felt her cheeks warm once again. She dropped her hand by her side and turned her attention back to the dogs. Poppy and Bruce zoomed across the field, stopping periodically for a sniff before resuming the chase. Their tongues were lolling and little clouds puffed out of their mouths and into the cool air by the time Fran and Oliver called them back.

“I suppose we should meet up again.” The pair had managed to grab the dogs and secure them to their leads. “So Bruce and Poppy can play together again. It looks like they had fun.”

“I think Poppy would like that.” And so would Fran. Though they had only just met, she could sense something, a warm jittery feeling in the pit of her stomach that she knew would grow into butterflies. She liked Oliver, for his easy nature and his ability to swerve her mind away from her ex for more than five minutes.

“Tomorrow then? Same time?” Oliver asked as he scratched behind Bruce’s shaggy ear.

Fran nodded, hoping he wouldn’t notice her flush.

Parting ways, the dogs stared longingly back at one another. Fran knew exactly how Poppy was feeling but there was a definite skip to her step during the walk home. Come rain, shine or heavy snow, Fran couldn’t wait for their walk the following day.

If you enjoyed Poppy & Bruce, why not try one of my full-length novels? Find them here

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Weightless - a short story by Michele Gorman

Annabel was a bit of a nobody at school, subjected to taunts from the cooler kids because of her weight. Ten years have passed and while Annabel has shed the weight, she's still nervous as she attends her school reunion, especially when her former crush, Jack Winslow, starts chatting to her. But when Jack mistakes Annabel for Christy Blake, once the most popular girl at school, Annabel plays along. The pair hit it off and start to date. Annabel knows she must tell Jack her true identity, but she doesn't want to lose him.

At around 40 pages, Weightless is a quick read you can read in one or two chunks, or pick up whenever you have a spare moment. Despite being a short story, I felt I really got to know Annabel and her struggles throughout her teenage years. She doesn't set out to deceive Jack, but once the mistake is out there and Annabel fails to correct it, it becomes increasingly harder for her to tell the truth. She likes Jack and wants them to have a future but she's afraid she'll lose him when he realises who she really is.

Since leaving school, Annabel has become a dietician. One of her clients is fifteen-year-old Kate, who I thought was a brilliant character. We only see flashes of Kate, but she really stood out for me.

If you're looking for a quick, fun read, Weightless could be the book for you.

Weightless is available from

Amazon UK:
Amazon US:
Barnes and Noble:

and until 14th February 2014, you can download Weightless for free by going to Click buy and enter the code ZH34Q

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Blog Tour: How To Get A (Love) Life

Today I'm thrilled to be taking part in Rosie Blake's How To Get A (Love) Life blog tour with a guest post. Take it away, Rosie!

Chick Lit is Good for Your Health by Rosie Blake

Chick lit makes your brain go soft! Chick lit is bad for your health! Chick lit is the scourge of the devil! And so on and so forth. Chick lit is constantly getting a bad rep. To anyone giving it a bad rep, I say: NONSENSE and TOSH. Let's just look at what a positive force for good it can be, shall we?

Chick lit or rom coms – or comic commercial fiction as I like to call it – is simply trying to make a generation of women LOL and ROFL all over the place.

The fact of the matter is, chick lit is pure escapist fun. As anyone who knows anything about mental health can tell you, putting life into perspective and appreciating the little things can go a long way to tackling depression. When you're snorting on the tube because your heroine has just done something suitably idiotic you're not mulling over the minutiae of your day or worrying about the big things. It's relaxing and, frankly, we don't do enough of it.

We all have similar concerns in life; relationships that wobble or end and jobs that we can't see the end of, for example.These books emphasise how normal it is for people to face these challenges. Chick lit at its silliest doesn't want people to mull over the boring stuff. It doesn't want people to get bogged down in emotional baggage. It wants to bring people out of themselves. It doesn't take itself seriously and it doesn't expect its reader to take it seriously either.

But what about those books that tackle tougher subjects, you cry? Like Jojo Moyes’ wonderful Me Before You? A lot of this comes down to how we market books by women and I fear that is a whole other article waiting in the wings. What I'm talking about are the simple, belly-laughing books that promise a few hours of unashamed delight as you romp through the heroine's world and share in her journey. Call it what you like – chick lit, rom com, commercial fiction, but as long as it makes you chuckle, I think it is the perfect prescription for any ill.

And I suppose that is what I have wanted to achieve with How to Get A (Love) Life. I wanted the reader to simply have pure, escapist FUN. I wanted them chuckling and rooting for the good guy and, at its very core, I wanted to make sure they enjoyed the laughs. I hope you do, too.

This has been Rosie Blake, over and out!

*climbs down from soapbox*

How To Get A (Love) Life is available from Amazon here


Monday 10 February 2014

The Cupid Effect by Dorothy Koomson

Dissatisfied with her life, London journalist Ceri D'Altroy decides to resign from her job, rent out her flat and move down to Leeds to carve out a new career for herself. Ceri once studied psychology in Leeds and accepts a teaching position at a college, which enables her to carry out her own research. Moving into a house share, Ceri begins her new life. But will a different city mean a different life?
Since discovering Dorothy Koomson a couple of years ago, I've been slowly working my way through her backlist of books. As Valentine's Day is approaching, I decided The Cupid Effect would be next on my list.
The Cupid Effect is quite different from Dorothy's later novels, both in style and content. It's a much lighter read and full of witty observations, which I enjoyed. Ceri is a very likable character and although she often has very sarcastic comments, she usually keeps them to herself. Ceri felt like she was suffocating from the drama of other people's lives while in London, always finding herself caught up in their problems as everyone seemed to gravitate towards her. And this doesn't seem to change when she packs up and moves to Leeds.
Ceri moves into a house with two students, Jake and Ed, and I loved the instant bond between them, particularly with Jake. I can imagine them continuing to live together beyond the novel and getting up to all sorts of adventures. I also enjoyed the friendship between Ceri and her former tutor, Jess. They're obviously comfortable in each other's company and had no problem being open and honest with each other.
I thoroughly enjoyed this lighter side of Dorothy's writing and The Cupid Effect had my favourite ending to any book I've read.

Friday 7 February 2014

Cover Stars: February


Every month I choose my favourite cover from my TBR pile. This month I have chosen The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Feel free to comment or add your own suggestions for ‘Cover Stars’.

'Today is my death anniversary. A year ago today I was still alive.'

Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life - until the night Rachel's heart stopped beating.

Now Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel, and just as her family can't forget her, Rachel can't quite let go of them either. Caught in a place between worlds, Rachel watches helplessly as she begins to fade from their lives. And when Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, Rachel starts to understand that dying was just the beginning of her problems.

As Rachel grieves for the life she's lost and the life she'll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for.

*     *     *

The Dead Wife's Handbook has quite a simple cover, but I love the vivid colours, especially as they pop against the pale grey background. It has the silhouette figure that I hone in on when browsing books, but with a twist with the colourful hair containing the flowers and bird images. I can't wait to read it!

Click here to see all Cover Stars

Thursday 6 February 2014

Wake by Anna Hope

It is November 1920 and Britain is awaiting the arrival of The Unknown Warrior from France.
Hettie dances with men for sixpence at a local dance hall but she wants more from life. Living with her mother and her brother, who hasn't been the same since the war, Hettie has to give half of her earnings to her mother, leaving very little money for herself. While her best friend Diana goes on dates and is lavished with expensive gifts, Hettie has little choice but to stay home and can't even afford to buy herself a new dress for work. Hettie craves Diana's lifestyle but it doesn't seem possible for a girl like her.
Evelyn works at the pensions office, dealing with the aftermath of war on a daily basis. She's been hardened by the war and loss and can't see a way to move on.
Ada sees visions of the son she lost during the war. Her grief is driving a wedge between her and her husband, Jack but she can't let go of Michael. One day, a young man arrives at her door, bringing with him a secret he has been keeping since the war. Hettie, Evelyn and Ada don't know each other but this secret will bind them.
Told over five days, Wake is a beautiful debut novel about the effects of war, for both those sent away to fight in a foreign country and those left behind to deal with the consequences. Hettie, Evelyn and Ada have never met but their lives have all been scarred by the war. I enjoyed all three women's stories but I was particularly drawn to Ada. Her grief is still so raw and overwhelming that it seeped from the pages of the book. Ada knows she is pushing Jack away but he can't understand her inability to let go and try to move forward. The loss of a child is such an emotional subject and my heart went out to Ada and her struggles.
I thought that Wake was a wonderful book, told simply but powerfully. I read the whole book in a day as I didn't want to put it down, eager to discover more of Hettie, Evelyn and Ada's stories.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Guest Post: Pat Elliott

Books are wonderful!

When I was growing up in a very unhappy home, the local library was a godsend to me. Books were my friends, they kept me entertained and showed me worlds where not every person was mean, or petty, or cruel. It was possible to be different and not be laughed at.

When my husband injured his back and was looking at life in a wheelchair, it was a book that changed our lives. I used to work in a publishing company and one of the editors let me loose in her stock cupboard to find any books relating to back injuries. There I found Joseph Corvo's Backache Cure. This book enabled me to help my husband get better – and it led me to a new career in Reflexology.

Once in practice as a self employed reflexologist, I had time to indulge my love of books, which I did. Even more so when one person gave me the gift of an e-reader. Suddenly, I was devouring books on a greater scale than ever I did at the library.

It was also a sad fact of life, that when someone is first diagnosed with a long term illness, followed by clinical depression, friends and family could (and did) fall by the wayside. From hubby's first diagnosis, it was two years before the medical profession gave up on him. It took another three before he was well enough to ride a motorbike and work again. In all that time, books were once again my friends., showing me worlds where I could lose myself from the heartbreaking situation. 

One year, I was browsing the local adult education (another marvellous life-saving idea, along with libraries) when I saw a class on creative writing. It was a short course, designed for short story writers. I enrolled, thoroughly enjoyed it, enrolled on the novel writing course having had my imagination fired up. I made friends at those courses too, new ones, who shared my love of books. With the encouragement of the course tutor and my new friends, I put my thoughts and feelings into my very first novel, 'All in the Leaves.' I wrote a hopeful novel, one full of possibilities.

When writers write, they are always advised “write what you know”. Quite honestly, I know about depression, injury and illness. I also know that the books which helped me the most were the ones that took me away from that and gave me hope. So that's the type of book that I've written. One where someone saw no hope, was given some hope - and went on to have a wonderful life!

Sometimes, you really do need to escape reality. I hope my book fulfils that need.

Pat Elliott. 

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Writing Book 2: Part 1

Stopping and Starting. And Stopping Again.

Once upon a time, back in January 2013, I started planning what I fondly name 'Poor Book 2' while Book 1 - A Beginner's Guide To Salad - was on hold between drafts. I finished A Beginner's Guide To Salad in April and started submitting it to agents while diving into the first draft of Book 2.

Not long after, I received some feedback from one of the agents I'd submitted to and decided to do a bit of tweaking to A Beginner's Guide, which meant putting Book 2 on hold. Tweaking over, I resumed writing Book 2 until, at just over half way in, I decided to self-publish A Beginner's Guide (as explained here).

I found an editor for A Beginner's Guide and was about 80% into Book 2 when I received the edits back and began working on them. This meant that Poor Book 2 had to go on hold again - you can see why I feel a bit sorry for it by now. Even though I was almost done, I knew I had to get my skates on with A Beginner's Guide as I wanted to release a festive short story, A Beginner's Guide To Christmas, first.

So Poor Book 2 was neglected once again and I didn't pick it up again until November. Luckily for me, I'm a massive planner (ridiculously so), which meant I was able to see exactly where I was up to and where I was heading next at a glance.

I must admit it was a little strange dipping into the book again and it took a while to feel like I was back into the story so I wouldn't recommend the stop-start approach, but I somehow got there and the first draft was completed in December. The book is on hold - again - but this is normal for me as I like to leave a few weeks between drafts. I've just picked it back up again and while I know I have a lot of work to do on it, I'm strangely looking forward to the challenge.

Monday 3 February 2014

A Beginner's Guide To... Billy

Billy has known Ruth forever. They grew up living next door to each other and Billy is best friends with Ruth’s older brother, Stephen. Ruth and Billy, along with Billy’s workmate Theo, share a house. Every Thursday evening, Billy and Ruth sit down together to watch their favourite sitcom while sharing some sort of family-sized confectionery.

Billy has always been into computers and now works in IT. Despite working with computers all day, he is quite happy to sit in front of a computer at home in the evenings too. Billy doesn’t have much luck with the ladies. His last relationship ended almost two years ago.

Here are a few quick facts about Billy:

· Full Name: William Worth

· Age: 30

· Job: IT Technician

· Hair colour: Brown

· Eye colour: Brown

· Favourite colour: Green

· Favourite film: Weird Science

· Favourite food: Pizza

· Hobbies: Playing on his computer/Playstation

· Party trick: Can juggle three objects

Ruth loves nothing more than curling up in front of the telly with a family-sized bar of chocolate. She doesn’t do diets and she certainly doesn’t do exercise. But all that changes when she’s invited to her school reunion.

Bullied at school for being overweight, Ruth’s first reaction is to rip the invitation into a million pieces. But then Ruth hatches a plan. She’ll lose the weight and arrive at the reunion looking gorgeous and glamorous, leaving her old classmates in awe. Especially her former crush, Zack O’Connell.

With the help of her friends and a new, unbelievably hot colleague, Ruth begins her transformation. With six months until the reunion, losing weight will be a piece of cake, right?