Tuesday 30 September 2014

Book of the Month: September

Songs of Willow Frost
Jamie Ford
William Eng, a Chinese American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage for five long years. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other children are taken to see a movie and he glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. William is convinced that the movie star is his mother. When William sets out to find Willow he discovers that her story is far more complicated than any Hollywood fantasy.
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Songs of Willow Frost is an emotional tale of love and forgiveness. Twelve-year-old William has vague memories of his mother before he was taken in by the orphanage but assumes she is dead. So he is shocked when he sees Willow Frost, a glamorous actress who bears a striking resemblance of the mother William hasn't seen since he was a young boy. What follows is the poignant story of Liu Song, a young woman who is stuck in a miserable, controlled existence.
The story is set in Seattle during the 1920s and 30s, contrasting the glamorous rise of cinema with the poverty of Liu Song's Chinatown and the Depression. I quickly became immersed in the stories of William and Liu Song and while it isn't the most cheerful of storylines, I did enjoy the book immensely.
My full review of Songs of Willow Frost will be on Novelicious soon

Click here to see all Books of the Month

Monday 29 September 2014

Everything Changes But You: Introducing Ally

Ally Richmond is a soon-to-be thirty-year-old woman who works as an HR Assistant for a coach hire company. She has been with husband Gavin since they were 15 but their views on how their marriage should progress are starting to differ. Gavin wants to start a family, but the thought terrifies Ally. She wants to live a little before they give up their freedom to raise children and feels that time is running out.

Ally works with Kelly and Jason, who she has a teeny tiny little work crush on. She would never actually cheat on Gavin, but it helps to pass the time. She doesn’t get on with Kelly at all and the pair take every opportunity presented to snipe at one another. Ally says she doesn’t like Kelly, but the truth is Ally is jealous of the life Kelly has. Kelly is still young and free to have wild nights out (which she frequently boasts about at the office) and isn’t being pressured to fill her womb with babies.

Ally has a close relationship with her family, especially with her (very slightly) younger sister, Freya. They spend their Tuesday nights in the local pub for karaoke and a glass of wine or two. And this is the extent of Ally’s social life. There are no crazy nights in clubs, no falling out of taxis at the end of the night or dancing until her feet beg for mercy. She has no stories to regale her colleagues with on a Monday morning. Or any other morning.

Ally feels like she’s stuck in a rut, but when she makes a birthday wish that comes true, her life is given a major shake-up and she is finally given the life she covets. But will this equate to a happily ever after?

'I just need a bit more excitement in my life. I don’t want to end up like Francine, tied down to the kids. She has one night out a week, you know. One lousy night.’

‘It’s better than nothing,’ Gavin pointed out but it only fuelled Ally’s argument.

‘Exactly! I don’t want to settle for “better than nothing”. I want to be free to live.’


Be careful what you wish for...

Ally Richmond is dreading turning thirty and bidding farewell to her youth. And when her husband says he wants to start a family, she begins to panic.

Is this all that life has to offer from now on? Popping out babies and growing old gracefully? She wants a life crammed with glamour and spontaneous adventure, not one full of dirty nappies and night feeds.

When Ally makes a silly birthday wish for a new, exciting life, her wish is granted.

But when Ally is presented with the freedom and opportunities she craves, she soon realises this new life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that there really is no place like home. But can she find her way back - or is she stuck in this new reality forever?

Friday 26 September 2014

#AmWriting Lots

I've got quite a few writing tasks going on at the moment so I thought I would start a new feature: #AmWriting!
I've just published my second book, Everything Changes But You and a day later finished the first draft of Book 3. I didn't write it super-duper quick (imagine if I could write that fast) but I've been working on it for the past few months when Everything Changes was with an editor and between proofreads.
I've now put that draft away (I like to leave some time between draft one and two so I can go back to it with fresh eyes. It also gives me a bit of thinking time away from it to spot any major flaws and things to work on). I'm now planning Book 4 (which is nowhere near close to having a title yet) and also working on my Halloween short story (which does have a title and will be posted here on the blog next month).
As well as those two projects, I'm also thinking about my festive short story for this year. It's a bit difficult to plan yet though as I'm going to write a festive sequel to a previous short story and have left the decision up to my blog readers (you can vote here until 31st October).
I now need a lie down. Writing about all that writing is exhausting!

Thursday 25 September 2014

Giveaway Winner: A Night In With A Film

Thank you to everyone who entered my giveaway of a 'Night In With A Film' pack or spread the word on Twitter and Facebook.
Rafflecopter has picked a winner at random:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Well done, Sharon. I hope you enjoy your prizes!

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Written In The Stars by Ali Harris

Bea Bishop is about to marry the man she loves but as she prepares to walk down the aisle, she starts to have doubts. She loves Adam but is marrying him the right thing to do? She has a painful past she has never dealt with properly and she isn't even sure who she is as a person. Swallowing her niggles, Bea begins to walk down the aisle but on her way to Adam, she slips and is knocked unconscious. Bea's world is split into two and she gets to live out both decisions of what she should do that day. Waking, the first Bea composes herself and continues to walk down the aisle to marry Adam while the other flees from the church.
While Bea is unaware that her world has been divided, we get to see what would have happened with each decision she made, whether she stayed and married Adam or changed her mind and fled. The basic premise is very much like the film Sliding Doors and I wondered how that would translate on paper. Would it be difficult to keep with each Bea and follow her individual storyline? The answer is not at all! I quickly got to grips with each Bea (married-Adam and didn't-marry-Adam) and what followed was an interesting story of what I'm sure most of us wonder from time to time - what if...? I liked that we got to see how that one decision would effect Bea's future, the consequences of choosing each path. The two alternative lives are cleverly woven together and I liked how parts from each life started to cross, as though fate was intervening.
Bea has a painful past that she has never dealt with. Instead, she has tried to push her thoughts and feelings away but they are still there, preventing Bea from moving on. As the book moves along, we start to dig away at Bea's past and learn what happened to her. I found it quite sad at times (and not just the tragic aspects of the book) and hoped that she would get a better resolution at times, but life isn't perfect and it made me feel for Bea even more.
One of my favourite aspects of the book was the flowers, which form an important role throughout the book. Bea has always dreamed of being a garden designer but dropped out of her course for personal reasons and never picked it back up again. Flowers and gardening feature heavily in the book and I found both the descriptions and meaning of the flowers, as well as the garden design, interesting and it helped to bring Bea's lives together.
Written In The Stars is a beautifully written book that deals with some serious issues without feeling too heavy. I enjoyed the mix of characters and thought the concept made a fascinating read.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Who Are You? by Elizabeth Forbes

Alex has been away in the army while his wife Juliet has been at home taking care of their young son, Ben and creating the perfect home for them. Juliet has been waiting years for her Alex to come home for good so that they can really begin their life as a family, but it is soon obvious that Alex isn't quite the same man he was when he left to fight in Afghanistan. Juliet suspects that Alex is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and wants Alex to get help but Alex refuses to admit that anything is wrong. Living with Alex becomes unbearable but will Juliet and Ben be able to escape and start a new, more secure life without him?
Who Are You? isn't an easy read. It's quite dark in places and some of the descriptions are quite vivid, but I found the book compelling. To begin with, I wasn't entirely sure what was going on as some of Juliet's actions are questionable, but it is clear that Alex is suffering from the effects of surviving in a brutal war zone for so long. Alex's actions make quite an uncomfortable read at times and the book wasn't quite what I was expecting after reading Elizabeth Forbe's previous novel, The Nearest Thing To Crazy but I didn't want to put the book down as I wanted to see how it would all turn out for both Juliet and Alex. I liked how we got to see both sides of the story as the narrative is split into both Juliet's and Alex's perspectives. It gave a more rounded view and I was able to feel some sympathy for Alex, despite his actions. He is a very damaged man after his harrowing experiences in the armed forces which, for me, made him an interesting villain.
The subject of PTSD is a relevant one that I haven't explored through reading until now. Who Are You? highlights the effects of both the victim and those surrounding them. The book is full of suspense, particularly towards the end of the book. I would have liked the ending to have been explored a bit more as there is such a huge build up and then the ending is over quite quickly.
Overall, I thought Who Are You? was an excellent read, full of dark twists and suspense. The writing was fantastic, drawing the reader into the lives of Juliet and Alex.

Monday 8 September 2014

Cover Stars: It Had To Be You by Ellie Adams

Every month I choose my favourite cover from my TBR pile. Feel free to comment or add your own suggestions for ‘Cover Stars’.

The worst break-up ever . . . Could be the best thing that has ever happened to her

Lizzy Spellman has been dumped. At a party.While wearing a Henry VIII costume. By the man she thought was The One. Someone even filmed it, so now she's a massive YouTube hit sensation too.

Just when she thinks things can't get any worse, she meets the rudest, most cynical man in the world, and gets a new mission in life. To prove him wrong.

Love does exist, and she's going to find it . . .
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I love the bright yellow of this book cover as it's really eye-catching, especially when it is coupled with the pop of red from the female figure's dress. It's quite a simple cover, with the two silhouette figures and a few items in the background, but it's so effective and is definitely the kind of cover that draws me in and has me reaching for it on the shelf!
Click here to see all 'Cover Stars' 

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Vote: Short Story Sequel

First of all, I'd like to apologise for starting a Christmas-themed blog post in September - and during the first week of September too. But I need your help!

I'm planning to start writing a short story for Christmas soon and I thought that it would be fun to write a sequel for a previous short story this year. And you get to choose which story!

I've had a look at the page views of my short stories and the five most popular are:

You can click each title to view. I've set up a voting form and the story with the most votes by 31st October will have a festive sequel written and posted here on the blog in December.

To be fair to the other short stories, you can view them all here

Monday 1 September 2014

Summer 2014

We've had a sort-of summer in 2014. It started off well, at least. And then by mid-August, autumn made an early appearance. Still, we've had some fun this summer (even if some of it had to be indoors).
At the beginning of August - before the over-eager autumn arrived - we had a trip to Chester Zoo. It did rain a little bit but we had a brilliant time.

We also sent off for some caterpillars to watch them transform into butterflies
and grew some sunflowers (although this is the only one that has opened so far. The others ARE on their way though).
We did some crafts:

And the kids took part in the library's summer reading challenge:
But mostly, summer 2014 in this house has been all about loom bands and the Frozen soundtrack. Yep, while the sun has (supposedly) been shining, my kids have been singing about building a snowman.
I hope you've all had a good summer (weather aside). I'm now looking forward to giving autumn a proper welcome (it's my favourite season) and once the kids are back in school (tomorrow and Wednesday), I'll be getting back into my writing routine!