Tuesday 31 March 2015

Book of the Month: March

The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance
by Kirsty Greenwood

Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she's been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother.

Things aren't going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print, her mortgage repayments are staggering and her granddaughter wears neon Wonderbras.

When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads - by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.

The true test of their makeover will be to capture the heart of notorious London playboy Leo Frost and prove that Matilda's guides still work. It's going to take commitment, nerves of steel and one seriously pointy bra to pull this off . . .
*     *     *     *     *
I've been eagerly (read: impatiently) awaiting the publication of Kirsty Greenwood's new book, The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance, so I was so excited when I received an early review copy. I couldn't wait to get stuck in and I soon realised that the wait had been so worth it. Jessica Beam is such a wonderful, vivid character and I adored her story. Jess has her flaws (she isn't very organised and she drinks like a dehydrated fish) but they only made me love her more. Plus, she knows all the best swears (we all know swearing is cool, right?)

The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance is an hilarious read packed with laugh-out-loud moments. Kirsty Greenwood is an uber-talented writer and I will be eagerly (again read: impatiently) awaiting her next book!
My full review of The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance will be here on the blog on Thursday 9th April.
Click here to view all Books of the Month

Friday 27 March 2015

March #FreebieFriday - The Final Giveaway

Throughout March, I've been hosting giveaways every Friday on Twitter. The final giveaway will take place here on the blog and the prizes are:
A handcrafted 'Make A Wish' bookmark,
inspired by Everything Changes But You

A box of SweeTarts
(A Beginner's Guide's Ruth's favourite American sweets)

To enter, fill in the Rafflecopter form below.
The giveaway will end on Tuesday 7th April.
Rafflecopter will randomly select a winner, who will be notified by email before being announced here on the blog on Wednesday 8th April.
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Guest Post: Nadine Matheson

"I told you people only run away from bad relationships and debts and Lucinda’s running away from both."

The idea for my book ‘The Sisters’ came to me after watching ‘The Real Housewives of…’ honestly, fill in the blanks with any city you like). I would return home from my job as a criminal defence lawyer, just in time to watch the latest episode. Every time I watched an episode I would tell myself that I had a very challenging day and I could comfortably not use any of my brain cells for the next 60 minutes. Who was I kidding? It was my guilty pleasure. 

So, there I was watching an episode of Real Housewives when it dawned on me that one of the characters, we shall call her ‘Stella’, had no money. She was driving the flash car, had the Hermes bag dangling on the crook of her arm but beneath all of the glitter it was obvious that I probably had more money in the Quality Street jar under my desk than ‘Stella’ had in her bank account.

I thought that ‘Stella’ would be a good basis for a character. A woman trying to keep up appearances. A woman trying to keep up with the Joneses when in fact the Joneses had packed up and left the city.

Once the episode was finished and I stopped shouting at the telly ‘It’s a lovely bag but you have no money’, I started to plan my book ‘The Sisters’.  

Lucinda, Jessica and Beatrice are sisters who become Euterpe, one of the most successful British R’n”B bands of the 1990’s. At the height of their success, Lucinda makes the dramatic decision to leave the band and seek her own fame and fortune in New York City. Lucinda was living the life of a real housewife. She had the money, the cars and was part of the social elite until divorce and being a lady of leisure for far too long sends her down the path to near financial ruin. Lucinda has to make the decision to return back home to London her children and Louis Vuitton luggage in tow. Unfortunately, this is not a happy reunion. She returns to find that her father is ill and that her sister’s lives have changed. Her younger sister, Emma, suspects that there is more behind Lucinda’s return and Jessica would be happier if Lucinda took the next flight back to New York.

The Sisters is available on Amazon.Com and Amazon UK. You can find out more about me and I’m always happy to have a chat over at:


Facebook: www.facebook.com/nadinemathesonwriter

Twitter: @nadinematheson

If you would like to appear here on the blog via a guest post, email me at jenniferjoycewrites@gmail.com
More details here

Monday 23 March 2015

#AmWriting Draft Three

So I finished the second draft of Book 3 (aka the A Beginner's Guide To Salad sequel) and after pausing momentarily to celebrate (aka do the school run, cook, think about doing some housework - which totally counts, btw), I dived straight into Draft Three.
The second draft took a lot of work - I ended up cutting over 20,000 words from the first draft, which meant re-writing some scenes and writing new ones from scratch. Somehow I still ended up increasing my original word count by almost 8,000 words. Luckily the third draft shouldn't be quite so drastic (I hope).
I'm a lot happier with the second draft (let's be honest, the first was shit), so all the hard work was worth it. I've loved getting to know one of my new characters. She was supposed to be a quite minor character but she wasn't happy with that and has muscled her way into the whole book and has become one of the main characters - how cheeky is that?
I've also started thinking about the cover for this new book. As it's a sequel of A Beginner's Guide To Salad, I want the cover to reflect that, so I'm going to design something quite similar. I'm looking forward to getting stuck in as making the covers is something I enjoy doing - when they go right. If I can't quite manage to get what's in my head onto the screen, that's not so good!

Friday 20 March 2015

Blog Tour: His Other Life by Beth Thomas

Today I'm delighted to be part of the blog tour for His Other Life by Beth Thomas, with a review of the book.
To the outside world, Grace and Adam have the perfect marriage, with their lovely suburban house and cosy nights in. But Grace doesn't know very much about her husband prior to their meeting. He's secretive and doesn't seem to trust Grace at all.
But one ordinary night, Adam disappears and as Grace tries to track him down, she begins to piece together her husband's past and discovers who the man she married really is.
I was intrigued by the blurb of His Other Life and couldn't wait to get stuck into the book. I was immediately wary of Grace and Adam's so-called perfect marriage as Grace is already suspicious of her husband's activities (and who wouldn't be when their husband refuses to reveal anything but the very basic facts about themselves?). Grace has become quite obsessed with Adam's phone, itching to get her hands on it to have a snoop, so it is obvious that all is not well within their household.
I warmed to Grace immediately and thought she was a fantastic character. She's so warm and funny, despite the circumstances that she finds herself in and I couldn't help feeling sorry for her as the details of her marriage unfold. I could feel the hurt and disappointment she feels over her marriage and I was hoping that Adam would be found so that he would be forced to face up to what he has put Grace through.
As well as Grace, there are lots of brilliant character in the book, from her best friend and fellow costume shop employee Ginger to Ginger's policeman brother, Matt and Grace's parents. One of my favourite aspects of the book is the relationship Grace has with her siblings, Lauren and Robbie. As soon as she returns home, they seem to revert back to their old teenage selves, with name-calling between them, which I found hilarious.
For me, His Other Life was almost a cross between a psychological thriller and chick lit, with suspense, twists and turns as well as plenty of warmth and humour. It isn't as dark and intense as you would expect from a thriller to be but there was enough intrigue to keep me turning the pages. I really liked Beth Thomas' writing style and found myself devouring the pages. It's a witty but intriguing read and I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Guest Post: Claire Dyer

The writer’s life: raw material, nothing is ever wasted

I’m often asked about the research I do for my novels and, in trying to answer this I’ve come to realise that for me, at least, there are three main types of research: planned research, research I didn’t realise was research at the time and completely fortuitous research.

Obviously with my latest novel, The Perfect Affair, eyebrows have been raised amongst my nearest and dearest, but I have told them that although some of my research takes a very tangible form, some is, of necessity, left to the imagination! However, I have undertaken some very planned and deliberate research for the novels I’ve written which haven’t as yet been published as well as for those which have.

For example, I’ve done a pottery course (for The Moment), travelled to Athens just to get a taste of the place (for The Perfect Affair), drunk cocktails with a friend in various bars in London (now that was a hardship!), spent an evening with a fire crew and a day with a florist, walked around the streets of Newbury town centre to find just the right place to open a coffee shop and then passed a very enjoyable day with the lovely people in my local Costa learning how their Lisa 3 Espresso Machine worked; I’ve interviewed a doctor, a pharmacist, visited the Sea Life London Aquarium, been driven through the leafy lanes of Surrey with a notebook on my lap, asked my cousin a hundred questions about her sewing business and a local carpenter a hundred questions about wood, studied Opie’s Scrapbooks for references to the 50s and 60s and even sent my parents a questionnaire asking them what washing powder was used, how much a leg of lamb cost and what contraceptive methods they employed when they were young (a question which caused yet more raised eyebrows!).

However, I’ve also mined experiences and the memories of places which when I lived through them or visited them I did not know they would, in time, become useful or indeed, necessary, references for plot points or settings in my novels. For example, I stumbled down the steps at my local cinema after a showing of The Great Gatsby and was rescued from falling by a stranger (almost a year later this experience became the genesis for my short story, Falling for Gatsby) and I love watching murder mysteries on TV (as my family will attest I am almost always half-way through an episode of Morse, Lewis, DCI Banks, Poirot, etc.,), a love which transferred itself into my character Myles’s fictional detective, DCI Derek Pletheroe, in The Perfect Affair. However, there are other, more nebulous experiences and memories; there is childbirth and grief, the places I lived as a child, holidays I’ve had with my family in a wonderful former fishing village in Turkey, the smell of baking in my grandmother’s kitchen, the way salty air can sting my cheeks when I’m by the sea. All these can get put into the mix too.

And then there’s fortuitous research, when I realise that the thing I’m looking at, the place I am, the experience I’m having RIGHT NOW is just what I need for the next sentence I am going to write. So, the day I found myself on Newgale Sands in Pembrokeshire I knew I’d arrived at the place my character Eve needed to be at the end of The Perfect Affair and, when I was looking for a piece of music for another character to hear in her head at a very significant moment in her life, I clicked on Google and it just happened to be Debussy’s birthday and the very special people at Google had posted an animation of Clair de Lune as that day’s Google Doodle, music that proved the perfect choice for both me and her, and then finally, just the other day I was having a facial (it is very tough being a writer sometimes!) and when the beautician touched my temples I knew I’d found the lost memory of her mother my character was searching for and about which I needed to write the very next day.

So, for me the word ‘research’ is a very broad church but that’s what’s wonderful about the writer’s life: whether it be a word, or a sunset or being taken for a power boat ride by a handsome man in a tuxedo, nothing is ever wasted!

You can find out more about Claire and her books at www.clairedyer.com or on Twitter: @ClaireDyer1

If you would like to appear here on the blog via a guest post, email me at jenniferjoycewrites@gmail.com
More details here

Monday 16 March 2015

Book Crafts: Bookmark

Everybody needs a bookmark (unless you're one of those folding-down-the-corners kinds of readers. In which you need a bookmark more than anybody else *tsk*)
And what better way to recycle a book proof than to make one?
Making the bookmark was easy and all you need are a pair of scissors, double-sided tape or glue, card, a bit of ribbon, hole punch or pencil-and-blu-tack combo (highly recommended) as well as your book proof.
Cut out a strip from the page (I kept the page number at the bottom but you don't have to) and stick it onto your card. I used cream card, but you can use any colour you want!
Leaving a small border, cut around the strip.
Using a hole punch or pencil-and-blu-tack combo (place the blu-tack underneath the bookmark where you want your hole and push the pencil through the card), make a hole in the top of the bookmark for the ribbon. I didn't and simply pushed the end of my scissors through and caught my finger (which I knew I would). It hurt. Seriously, hole punch or pencil-and-blu-tack combo.
Fold your ribbon in half and then push unlooped ends through the hole (from the back of hole through to the front of the bookmark) and then pop them through the loop and pull until it's secure.
And you're done! You have a book-themed bookmark.
As an added extra, I drew a thin line of gold pen around the edge and put some dots on, but you could do whatever takes your fancy. Go wild! Or not. Entirely up to you.
If you do make a bookmark, I'd love to see the spin you put on it!
Click here to see all Book Crafts

Friday 13 March 2015

Everything Changes But You: The Quiz

If you've read Everything Changes But You, you can now take the quiz over on Goodreads (and if you haven't, it's available here *cheeky plug*)


The quiz has ten multiple choice questions to see how much you know Ally and co!

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?


Thursday 12 March 2015

The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah

Ivo is lying in a bed in a hospice with little to occupy his mind. So his carer Sheila suggests he plays a game of hers where he should compile an A-Z list of body parts and think of a story to fit each. Ivo begins with A for Adams Apple and from there, as he continues through the alphabet, we learn the story of Ivo and the girl he loves.
The A-Z of You and Me is James Hannah's debut novel, so I wasn't sure what to expect from this new writer, but I was looking forward to diving into the book. And dive I did, barely coming up for air. I was quickly drawn into Ivo's story and that of his friends and the love of his life. It's quite a bittersweet novel, with fun, laugh-out-loud parts (courtesy of some of the alphabetical body parts) as well as a highly emotional tale. I quickly read the whole book and by the end I was in need of a box of tissues and somebody to hold me.
James Hannah's writing style is quite quirky but I soon grew to love it and I found myself easing into the story almost immediately. It's the kind of book you pick up for a few minutes and before you know it half the day has flown by as well as a couple of hundred pages. I couldn't seem to stop reading (which was no hardship, really, despite the emotive subject) as I wanted to find out what had happened in Ivo's past to bring him to the hospice with nothing but a crocheted blanket from his obviously significant relationship. The writing drew me in, teasing with bits of information that kept me reading until I had the whole picture.
I couldn't help feeling for Ivo as his situation became clear, but Ivo doesn't seem to pity himself at all and came across as incredibly brave. Ivo is a flawed character, but he knows this and, particularly towards the ends, makes no excuses for his own mistakes. I didn't always agree with Ivo's actions, but I found his attitude refreshing and admirable. I also admired Ivo's carer, Sheila. Her job must have been pretty harrowing at times, yet she is always upbeat and friendly and I'm not sure Ivo would have coped nearly as well without her support.

The A-Z of You and Me is a touching and poignant read and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what James Hannah has to offer in the future.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Guest Post: Julie Shackman

Falling In Love With Your Hero!

H is for Handsome!

This is a must for any Hero. They might not be perfect (and let’s face it, who is?!) but they must appeal to not only the reader but also of course, the heroine in your story.

To me, the appeal of a hero is not only what they look like on the outside, it’s also about what they’re like on the inside too.

Having your readers fall in love with your hero is the biggest compliment imaginable!

E is for Enigmatic

Power, personality and an undeniable presence are a necessity for any hero. When I’m reading, I love being drawn to a hero with all these sorts of qualities. It’s a wonderful feeling reading about a hero who jumps straight off the page to seduce not only you, but also the protagonist (ooer!)

R is for Relatable

I sometimes find this is a difficult thing to achieve, but making your hero relatable (with flaws) makes him seem more realistic and alive.

I think the chiselled jawed, perfect character can come across as unobtainable. I always want the readers to feel that they would fall in love with him every bit as much as the heroine does.

O is for Original

I always think this is one of the trickiest things as a writer to achieve. Many people claim that every story-line has basically been done. It’s just a case of trying to put your own original voice into your story and characters.

Do that and you’ll have a story – and a hero – who your readers simply won’t be able to resist!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m just off to concentrate on my latest hero – it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it – and why not us?!

When single mum Chloe Jones wins a magazine competition to have TV heartthrob Ethan Blake live with her for a month, she thinks her dreams have come true. And the presence of the handsome star in her home and small Scottish town certainly causes a stir. But when Chloe begins to see his true colours, will she find the courage to face him, and admit where her heart truly lies?

Hero or Zero is available now
[Amazon UK       Amazon US]
Author Bio - I trained as a journalist but writing romance has always been a dream of mine. When I’ve not got my head in a book or drafting one, I write verses and captions for greetings card companies. Writing at home seems to be incredibly difficult for me – I usually require tea, music and noise.

My second romcom, "Hero or Zero" has just been released. “Rock My World” was my debut romcom and I'm currently writing my third.

I’m married, have two sons and live in Scotland.

You can find out more about Julie and her books on her blog, twitter and Facebook or on her publisher's website, Not So Noble Books

If you would like to appear here on the blog via a guest post, email me at jenniferjoycewrites@gmail.com
More details here

Monday 9 March 2015

Cover Stars: Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley

Celebrating gorgeous covers
Ivy Lane
by Cathy Bramley

Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.

But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organizing bake sales and planning seasonal parties.

As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people back into her life – and her heart?
*     *     *     *     *
I love the cover for Ivy Lane as it's so bright and cheery with the vibrant bunting and red-and-white spotted wellies. There are lots of little details, like the heart shape on the shed, the little bird in the tree and the sweet fence in the background. In real life, the leaves on the trees are embossed, which is perfect if you like to stroke books!
And let's not forget that Ivy Lane was originally part of a series, with the book broken down into four parts - one for each season. I liked how the same image of the shed was used, but the details changed to fit the season.
If there's a cover you're bursting to shout out about, let us know by joining in Cover Stars!
More details here

Friday 6 March 2015


Throughout March, I'll be hosting giveaways every Friday!
Weeks 1-3 will be over on Twitter (click to follow me), with the final giveaway taking place here on the blog.
The first twitter giveaway will be taking place soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

Thursday 5 March 2015

Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley

Tilly Parker has had a rotten couple of years, but she's starting afresh in Kingsfield with a new job and half a plot on the Ivy Lane allotment. Tilly's main motivation on taking on the plot is for peace and tranquillity, but the other members of Ivy Lane have other ideas for Tilly. Ivy Lane isn't just about planting - it's about coming together as a community. With seasonal parties and bake sales throughout the year, the last thing Tilly is going to get on the allotment is a quiet life. But Ivy Lane just may be the thing that finally manages to heave Tilly out of her slump and allow her to move on.
Ivy Lane was originally published in four parts (one for each season) and I've heard so many great things about it, so when the complete novel was published, I knew I had to read it. I absolutely loved the sense of community within Ivy Lane, with everybody willing to chip in and help the other members when needed, especially Tilly who is a complete beginner when it comes to growing her own vegetables. There is such an array of characters within Ivy Lane, from hunky fireman Charlie, to sweet widower Alf and bonkers beauty therapist Gemma. I didn't think I would get on all that well with Gemma to begin with as I thought her 'dot coms' would quickly become annoying, but I couldn't have been more wrong! Gemma is a fantastic character, full of warmth and vigour and she is the perfect companion for Tilly, who is in dire need of a friend and passion for life once again. We know that something terrible has happened to Tilly in the past, but Tilly keeps this information to herself for quite a while as she tries to adjust to her new life.
I liked the way the book was split into the four seasons, with lots of drama and revelations packed into each one. I'm glad I read the whole book at once otherwise I'd have been itching to know what happens next and the wait would have been agonising! Cathy Bramley's writing is such a joy to read. It's light, easy and full of warmth and I found myself engaging with Tilly immediately. I became immersed in her story, feeling for her as she revealed what had happened before she came to Ivy Lane. We go on a real journey with Tilly - not only with her learning how to grow plants but seeing how, with the help of her new-found friends, she comes to life again.
I thought the book was warm and witty and I'm now desperate to get digging myself!

Wednesday 4 March 2015


This evening I'll be taking part in the Novelicious Book Club over on Twitter, where we will be discussing Ivy Lane by Cathy Bramley.
If you've read the book, why not join in too? It's at 8pm and we'll be using #NoveliciousBookClub
You can find more details on the Novelicious page and if you're not already following Novelicious on twitter, you can do so here

Hope to see you there!

Monday 2 March 2015