Thursday 30 April 2015

Book of the Month: April

That Girl From Nowhere
by Dorothy Koomson

Clemency Smittson was adopted as a baby and the only connection she has to her birth mother is a cardboard box hand-decorated with butterflies. Now an adult, Clem decides to make a drastic life change and move to Brighton, where she was born. Clem has no idea that while there she'll meet someone who knows all about her butterfly box and what happened to her birth parents.

As the tangled truths about her adoption and childhood start to unravel, a series of shocking events cause Clem to reassess whether the price of having contact with her birth family could be too high to pay...
*     *     *     *     *
I'm a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson, so I've been eagerly awaiting the release of her latest novel, That Girl From Nowhere. I'm always quickly drawn into Dorothy Koomson's books and That Girl From Nowhere was no exception. I warmed to Clemency - or Smitty as she is known - immediately and was intrigued by her past and what her future would hold as she finds herself entwined in the lives of her birth family.
There are lots of relationships explored within the book, but my favourite was between Smitty and her adoptive father. It was such a warm and loving relationship and I was glad that Smitty had someone like him in her life.
As always, Dorothy Koomson has delivered a powerful and intriguing read and I loved it.
You can see my full review of That Girl From Nowhere or click here to view all Books of the Month

Monday 27 April 2015

Guest Post: Tori de Clare

New release: The Darkness Visible #2 in The Midnight Saga

Sequel to: Either Side of Midnight #1 by Tori de Clare.
I’m a northern lass from the UK. I grew up in a cluttered town seven miles from Manchester and moved to a much quieter place in East Yorkshire 17 years ago. I’m happy where I am, but I still have family in Manchester and visit regularly. My books mark a return to my roots. They’re set in Manchester.

The Darkness Visible, #2 in The Midnight Saga, was released on 7th April 2015, which happens to be my birthday. Either Side of Midnight is a romantic suspense/thriller written for women and young women. There are loads of gritty crime books for men. My books are non-graphic thrillers with a sprinkling of romance, predominantly for women. I’m always surprised when men enjoy them.

Book #1 opens with a young bride being abducted on her wedding night in the grounds of the hotel where she’s staying. She should have flown to the Caribbean hours later. Instead, she’s taken by a masked man to a cottage in the middle of nowhere. She doesn’t know where she is, who has taken her, what he wants or how or if she’ll ever escape. And his voice is chillingly familiar.

I wrote Either Side of Midnight during a time of waiting. My first book had been requested by 3 London literary agencies in succession, to be read in full. The total waiting time for all three was nine long months. During this time, my subconscious mind threw up the plot for Either Side of Midnight. My future was in the hands of someone else. All I could do was wait and hope and pray. This is how my protagonist feels throughout her ordeal at the cottage as she tries to plot her escape from a psychopath with her future in the balance.
Ultimately, all three agencies rejected my book, which is still sitting on my laptop. Either Side of Midnight did have a future, however, because I decided to self-publish it. The reviews have been so good that I was persuaded to write a sequel and I’m currently planning to write the finale to the trilogy.

Did my protagonist escape unharmed? Did she discover why she’d been abducted and what he wanted and how she knows him? What happens after that? All answers to be found in the first two books, and still many questions for me to attend to. EITHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT currently has 235 five* reviews across Amazon with a rating of 4.6/5 in the UK and 4.5/5 in the US.


What if the best day of your life became your worst nightmare?

Available from Amazon here


What if your worst nightmare was only the beginning?

Available from Amazon here

You can contact Tori at: or find out more about Tori and her books on




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Thursday 23 April 2015

Letters To The Lost by Iona Grey

Jess is running away from her toxic relationship when she finds herself hiding away in an abandoned house. She feels bad about breaking and entering, but with little choice she slips inside, only planning to stay until she is safe. But when she opens a letter from America, Jess finds herself caught up in a love story that began sixty years ago. The letter is addressed to a Stella Thorne and Jess is determined to track her down so she can pass on the letter of her lost love, Dan Rosinski.
Letters to the Lost spans the decades, from the war-weary 1940s to 2011. Stella and American soldier Dan meet by chance, falling in love despite their circumstances. Their love is fierce but somehow doesn't survive, as evidenced by Dan's letter in 2011. As Jess delves into Stella and Dan's past, she discovers their heartbreaking story and vows to bring the pair together once again.
I really liked Jess from the start. She hasn't had an easy time of it and she clings to the letters from Dan, as though the lives of the unknown Stella and Dan can provide a distraction from her own life. While Jess shows great strength and independence, there is something vulnerable about her, which made me warm to her easily. She is young and doesn't have anybody to turn to so I not only wanted her to find Stella to pass on the letter intended for her, I wanted Jess to find some sort of happy ending for herself. When her path crosses with heir hunter Will, I was hoping she would allow her defences to fall just enough to let him in as I really liked Will. Although he is kind and sweet, Will isn't your typical hero as he is riddled with his own insecurities, which only made me like him more. Both Jess and Will are a little lost, so I thought they would be good for each and make a great pairing.
And then there is the story of Stella and Dan. I knew their story wouldn't be a simple, happily ever after sort as we know from the start that they have been parted for decades, with Dan back in America. It was so poignant learning about their past and watching them fall in love as we know the future doesn't bode well for the pair. I found myself totally caught up in their story and could understand why Jess would take on the seemingly impossible task of reuniting them.
Stella's story is so overwhelmingly sad as we watch her marry a man who isn't right for her, just so that she can have the kind of life she has always wanted. Stella doesn't want much from life but a safe, happy home, which she thinks she can have with Reverend Charles Thorne. But Charles has his own struggles and while I tried hard to like him and wanted to sympathise, I found myself hating the man more and more. By the end, he didn't have one redeeming feature, which made his marriage to Stella all the more tragic. While Stella sees hope when she meets Dan, we know that something will keep them apart, no matter how powerful their love is.
Letters to the Lost is the kind of book you can really lose yourself in. You are there with Stella at the village fete, you feel Jess' frustration as her searches come to a dead end and you fear that time is running out for Dan and Stella. Iona Grey's writing has an ease to it but it is also packed with warmth and emotion. Tender and all-consuming, Stella and Dan's relationship will stay with me for a long time.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

The Lie by C L Taylor

Jane Hughes is quite content with her life. She has a job she loves working at an animal shelter and she's enjoying spending time with her new boyfriend, Will. But Jane's life is based on a lie. Her name isn't even Jane and she has a past she doesn't ever want to resurface. Five years ago, Jane and her three friends went on a trip of a lifetime to Nepal - but the trip soon turned into a nightmare that would change the four women and their lives irrevocably. Jane has built a new life for herself and she is finally at peace, until a letter arrives letting Jane know that the sender knows her real identity. Someone knows the truth about Jane and that ill-fated trip and they are determined to destroy the happiness Jane has worked so hard for.
I read C L Taylor's debut psychological thriller, The Accident last year and really enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to reading The Lie. I was instantly hooked, wanting to know both what happened during the trip and who was sending the notes and hints about Jane's past. The writing cleverly creates suspicion immediately and there were a few people that I mistrusted along the way. I was kept guessing throughout, which made for an interesting and intriguing read. The book switches from the present to Jane's past, which increased the tension and intrigue further. Usually I am swayed by one time period in these situations, wanting to read one more than the other (usually the past), but with The Lie I was equally fascinated by Jane's past and present, eager to find out what would or did happen next.
I liked the exploration of friendship within the novel and how individuals can find themselves placed within a group of friends. Jane is best friends with Daisy and knows the others through her, so her loyalty lies mostly with Daisy, but the dynamics of the group shift and change throughout the novel. My opinion of the women involved also changed as the novel progressed. It was quite startling how quickly the group of supposedly close friends could find itself dismantling and turning into something ugly and dangerous.
The Lie is a tense and at times very dark story and I could feel Jane's loss of control. Delving into Jane's past, we find a disturbing and horrific series of events and although we know Jane makes it back home, I couldn't help fearing for her safety at numerous times. The writing is so evocative that I became totally immersed and didn't want to put the book down. I was completely gripped, itching to know what would happen next.

Monday 20 April 2015

#Amwriting A Book I'm Now Proud Of

Last month, I told you about finishing Draft 2 of Book 3 (aka the A Beginner's Guide To Salad sequel) and starting Draft 3. And this month I can tell you that Draft 3 is now complete - woo! - and I'm diving straight back in.

This isn't really a 4th draft as I don't plan (fingers crossed) on making any major changes. I want to have one last read-through before I send it off to my editor, to make sure it's as polished as I can make it before I send it on its way for the next stage.

It'll be quite strange sending it away. I've had so much fun writing the book, particularly the 2nd and 3rd drafts and I'm quite proud of the transformation from the pile of crap I ended up with after the 1st draft.

I was quite daunted when I first went into the 2nd draft and, if I'm honest, I'd seriously considered scrapping the whole thing. I felt that bad about it. Although I'd stuck to my plans and wrote what I set out to, it just didn't feel right by the end. It wasn't the story I wanted to tell and I felt like I was letting Ruth down. I loved writing A Beginner's Guide To Salad but its sequel was crap. Pure crap.

After I'd finished the 1st draft, I wrote a festive novella and I was so happy with it. It was fun, which Book 3 seemed to be severely lacking. So I had a good think about how I could turn Book 3 around. I knew I would have to cut a third of it at the very least, taking out one of the POVs and replacing it with another. The rest would need some serious work too, so the whole project seemed overwhelming.

But I got on with. I cut out the crappy bits and rewrote whole scenes. My new character and POV started to shine and I found that I loved discovering her story and it gave me the motivation I needed to get to The End. Luckily a lot of the structure of the novel remained and I worked around that frame to create a book I actually liked and looked forward to working on.

And now this stage of the book is almost at an end. Soon it will be leave my laptop to be edited but I know it will be ready this time. It isn't the pile of poop it once was and is now a book I'd want to read.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Cover Stars: His Other Life by Beth Thomas

Beauty lies in the eyes of the book-holder
His Other Life
by Beth Thomas

He was hiding a terrible secret . . .

Grace’s new husband Adam seems like the perfect package. Good looking, great job, completely charming – almost too good to be true . . .

So when Adam suddenly disappears from Grace’s life, she is left bewildered and heartbroken. And with a lot of unanswered questions.

As she tries desperately to find him, Grace opens a Pandora’s Box of secrets and lies – and starts to learn that Adam wasn’t so perfect after all.

What shameful secrets was her husband hiding? Is Grace in danger? And can she survive the truth? However terrible it may be . . .
*      *      *      *      *
This is one of those books where you need to see it in the flesh (so to speak) to truly appreciate its gorgeousness. In real life, the pink tones really pop out against the stark black, which I love. The opened box seems to sparkle and leaves me wondering what exactly is in there and how will it impact Grace and her marriage? It makes me want to dive right in and discover Adam's secrets along with her. The cover is both gorgeous and intriguing, which is a pretty good combination in my (ahem) books!
You can see my review of His Other Life here or click here to see all 'Cover Stars'
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Monday 13 April 2015

My Trip To London For Kirsty Greenwood's Book Launch

Last Thursday (9th April), I put on my brave hat and caught the train to London - all by myself. I know, pretty heroic, huh? Actually, in my little world where I barely venture beyond my town centre, going to Big Bad London solo was a big deal.

I won't lie to you; I was pretty nervous, scared that I was going to get lost (I have the sense of direction of a banana). But I really wanted to go to Kirsty's book launch so I was determined to man up and get on with it. Sort of.
But, brave hat in place (and a set of printed-out directions from Google Maps), off I went and boarded the train.
I had my Kindle with me to keep me company, along with essential train snackage. I had just under two hours left of The Lie by C L Taylor to read, which was perfect as the train journey was just over two hours, giving me just enough time to finish the book before we arrived. I couldn't have planned it better!
Once I got to Euston, I had to find my way to King's Cross. Hmm, not so easy that one. As we've established, my geography is dangerously bad, so trying to work out which train to catch using the spaghetti-like maps wasn't easy. In fact, it was impossible, so I asked a bloke with a walkie talkie by the barriers. He was very kind and told me which line I needed and the platform - phew!
So I made it to King's Cross - yay! I was staying over in London and had booked a hotel as close to the station and venue as possible to avoid any mishaps. Pretty sensible.
Except I failed and got a teensy bit lost anyway. I ended up turning the wrong way out of the station and taking the scenic route (aka going in a great big sodding circle). Once it dawned on me that I'd gone the wrong way (I found a map. The street I was looking for was behind me. Whoops), I made my way back to the station. From there, if I'd have swivelled my head the other way, I would have seen the sign for the hotel. I'm not joking. I'm that much of an idiot.
So I found the hotel and I booked myself in and lugged my suitcase up three flights of stairs (it nearly KILLED me. My small suitcase grew with each step, I swear). Once I'd got my breath back and unpacked, I decided to go for a little walk. It was a gorgeous day, plus I wanted to see if I could find the venue of the book launch to avoid any more knobhead geography decisions that evening.
And I found it! Hurrah! I was all set!
The uber-talented Kirsty Greenwood.
Photo taken by Tamsyn Murray
Kirsty's party was a lot of fun. There were delicious cocktails and cake and a room full of book-loving people. After joining Team Novelicious almost three years ago, I finally got to meet its founder, Ms Greenwood, as well as some of the other team, which was lovely. I also got to chat to Cally Taylor (author of The Lie, which I had just finished reading on the train - fab book, FYI) and Lisa Dickenson, who is just as much fun as her books. We were talking about her new set of books (Catch Me If You Cannes, out next month) and when I returned home, I'd received the proof to review in the post!
There were loads of bloggers and authors and people from the publishing industry and even though I didn't get to chat to all of them, I did recognise a lot of people from Twitter, which was a bit surreal and made me feel like a stalker (hey, I know you! I know what you had for dinner yesterday...)
Kirsty made a lovely speech that was both touching and very funny. Seriously, everybody has been talking about it on Twitter because it was THAT GOOD. Kirsty is so warm and friendly and deserves every bit of success that I am certain she is going to have.
Kirsty's book, The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance is out now. I loved it and would highly recommend it. You can see my review here
Now, does anybody know where I can get a 'I Braved Big Bad London' badge from?

Friday 10 April 2015

That Girl From Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson

Clemency Smittson - Smitty to her friends - was adopted when she was a baby. She doesn't remember her birth family and the only thing she has to tie herself to them is the box decorated with butterflies that she was given away in. Smitty was born in Brighton, but grew up in Yorkshire with her adoptive parents.
Now thirty-seven, Smitty is moving back to Brighton to start again after the breakdown of her relationship. Through her work, Smitty comes into contact with someone who knows about her past - and the family who gave her away. As Smitty begins to piece together her past, the truth of what happened to her birth family starts to surface and events begin to spiral out of her control. Smitty questions whether she should have sought the answers of where she is from, but it is far too late to stop and there is no way of going back.
As a massive fan of Dorothy Koomson, I've been itching to read That Girl From Nowhere. I know that once I sit down with a Dorothy Koomson book, I'm going to be quickly drawn into the characters' world, hooked by the beautiful writing steeped with emotion and intrigue. And That Girl From Nowhere was definitely no exception. I was immediately pulled into Smitty's world and felt her struggle with the world she only felt a tiny part of and the one she had been rejected from as a baby. There are so many complex relationships within the book; friendships, lovers, parent and child and siblings, and Dorothy Koomson manages to explore each of them in such a compelling way that you find yourself fully immersed in them, experiencing the array of emotions involved.
At times I was angry with certain characters, only to later find myself thawing towards them as we learn more about them and why they behave as they do. Although the book is mainly told through the perspective of Smitty, I did feel that I had a pretty rounded view of all involved. For me, one of the most interesting relationships was between Smitty and her adopted mother, Heather. Heather can be so overwhelming in her need to control Smitty, almost treating her like a child at times, but I could understand her fears for her future with her daughter, especially as I delved further into the book. Heather is quite an unlikable character at times, but it isn't simply a case of her being a bad person - life and people are far more complex than that and Dorothy Koomson has a knack for capturing this perfectly.
Of all the relationships within the book, my favourite was between Smitty and her adoptive father. While Heather could be quite strict and didn't always 'get' Smitty, her father simply accepts his daughter for who she is, supporting her no matter what and I adored their bond.
Smitty likes to take polaroid photos, which she displays on her wall, creating a map of her life, and this was one of my favourite parts of the book as it allows the reader to dip in and out of Smitty's past. I also loved Smitty's job of changing old, once-loved jewellery items into more wearable pieces to suit the client's current needs. I found it quite symbolic that Smitty would take something abandoned and unwanted and re-shape it into something beautiful for the wearer to love once again.
That Girl From Nowhere is a beautifully written book full of suspense and intrigue that kept me turning the pages. I was desperate to find out what would happen to Smitty and her families, but I also didn't want the book to end! The emotions poured from the pages as secrets are revealed and truths - welcomed or otherwise - are told. As always, Dorothy Koomson has delivered a powerful story that I would highly recommend.

Thursday 9 April 2015

The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood

Jessica Beam is a fun-loving, no-strings-attached kind of girl. Partying, pear cider and fantastic sex are her favourite pastimes, but her reckless behaviour lands her in trouble and she finds herself homeless and jobless. With no family to fall back on, Jessica tracks down her long-lost grandmother, Matilda.
Matilda Beam isn't quite sure what to make of her granddaughter. With her old-fashioned values, Matilda is shocked by Jessica's loose morals. Matilda was a once-famous author of numerous Good Woman guides back in the 1950s and the pair decide to revive these guides to see if the traditional rules can transform Jessica into a modest, virtuous young lady.
After loving Kirtsy Greenwood's debut novel Yours Truly, I was eagerly awaiting the publication of The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance and it was well worth the wait. The book is such a fun, laugh-out loud read that is full of energy and warmth and the odd bit of cheekiness. Jessica is a brilliant character and I warmed to her immediately. She is in no way perfect, but her flaws only made me like her more. Jess drinks too much and can't commit to anything other than her cat, but she is such a vibrant character that I could forgive her anything (even showing up in a onesie in public). Her outlook on life is hilarious and the girl can swear like a trooper (a good trait, in my opinion).
But the book isn't just about Jess. Let's not forget Matilda, Jess's sweet but super-ambitious grandmother, Jess's new BFF Peach and the uber-bitch Summer. A good book needs someone you can really root for (Jess, in this case), but a villain is also a welcome touch, someone you can root against just as strongly and Summer fit the bill perfectly. Then, as all good books should have, there is the love interest and The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance has two on offer!
The Vintage Guide To Love and Romance is full to the brim with wit and swears and pear cider and I absolutely loved it. Seriously. It's a good, old-fashioned (quite apt when you think about it) romantic comedy that is both hilarious and touching. It's only the very beginning of April but I can already see the book being firmly in my top ten reads of 2015. I really can't recommend the book enough and I'm itching to find out what Kirsty Greenwood has in store for us next.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Giveaway Winner: March #FreebieFriday

Thank you to everyone who took part in or helped to spread the word about my March #FreebieFriday giveaways!
The final giveaway has now ended and Rafflecopter has selected a winner at random.
And the winner is...
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations, Elizabeth. I hope you enjoy your prizes!

Thursday 2 April 2015

Book Crafts: Bunny Gift Bag

Bunny Gift Bag
As it's coming up for to Easter, I thought I would do an Easter-themed Book Crafts this month. And what says Easter more than bunnies? (Chocolate, I hear you cry. Well, yes, there is that, but I can't make chocolate out of paper, unfortunately *dreams of turning paper into chocolate*)
My daughters were making bunny bags ready for Easter egg hunting, so I thought I would make a similar one. While they made theirs out of patterned scrapbook paper, I made mine out of the book proof pages, cutting out basic bunny shapes (bunny face with ears and two circles for cheeks).
I stuck them onto orange card to define the sections (you can use any coloured card but I'd already chosen an orange button for its nose).
Once I had all my pieces, I stuck them onto a brown paper lunch bag, adding googly eyes (a craft box essential, imo. Love them), a button nose and a mouth and whiskers using a black marker.
And that's it - done! It's perfect for small gifts (especially books!)
You could always adapt the design for a non-Easter theme (a different animal, a simple love heart etc). If you have a go, I'd love to see what you come up with!
Click here to see all Book Crafts