Wednesday 30 September 2015

Book of The Month: September

The Silent Hours
by Cesca Major

An epic, sweeping tale set in wartime France, The Silent Hours follows three people whose lives are bound together, before war tears them apart:

 Adeline, a mute who takes refuge in a convent, haunted by memories of her past;

 Sebastien, a young Jewish banker whose love for the beautiful Isabelle will change the course of his life dramatically;

 Tristan, a nine-year-old boy, whose family moves from Paris to settle in a village that is seemingly untouched by war.

 Beautifully wrought, utterly compelling and with a shocking true story at its core, The Silent Hours is an unforgettable portrayal of love and loss.
*     *     *     *     *
I was immediately intrigued by Adeline's story when the story began; what had happened to her to make her lose her memories and her voice? And the intrigue remained throughout until the heartbreaking conclusion.
The Silent Hours is told from several perspectives and I liked how these seemingly unconnected people are drawn together, their stories and lives binding together to create a haunting yet touching tale of love and loss.
Beautifully written and portraying the true cost of war, The Silent Hours is one of those books that will stay with me long after the final page is turned.
You can see my full review of The Silent Hours here

Monday 28 September 2015

Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley

Freya Moorcroft is content with her life in Kingsfield; she has a job she loves and a boyfriend she can see a definite future with. But Freya has never been able to stick at anything for too long and she's starting to get itchy feet. Although she loves her job at the café in Kingsfield, it isn't particularly challenging.
When she receives a phone call from her aunt in Cumbria, Freya is offered the opportunity for a change of scenery. Her aunt and uncle's farm is in trouble with mounting debts so Freya agrees to help out. The charm of Appleby Farm soon grasps hold of Freya. She feels useful and invigorated and determined to save the farm. Leaving boyfriend Charlie behind is difficult, but it won't be forever.
I loved Cathy Bramley's previous novel, Ivy Lane so I was looking forward to getting stuck into Appleby Farm. Although the majority of the book takes place in Cumbria, it was nice to catch up with some of the Kingsfield characters, particularly Tilly, whose story we followed in Ivy Lane. I liked Freya immediately but I have to admit that I was a little dubious about Charlie as his behaviour in Ivy Lane wasn't always admirable. I was glad when this side of Charlie wasn't completely brushed under the carpet in Appleby Farm as his character remained true across both novels.
Freya hasn't had the happiest of childhoods but she is such a positive character and I loved her drive. She doesn't know much about farming but she is determined to help her aunt and uncle in any way that she can. I can see why Freya falls in love with Appleby Farm as it sounds so idyllic and is full of charm. I was interested to see how Freya would try to save the farm and enjoyed seeing how each new idea panned out and whether it would be successful or not.
One of my favourite characters in the book was Lizzie, Freya's new friend from the nearby village. She isn't afraid to speak her mind but she has a softer side too and I thought she provided fantastic support for Freya. I also loved Freya's Aunty Sue and Uncle Arthur. I wasn't sure how Freya's relationship with her parents would work out but I knew that she would always have the love, support and comfort of her aunt and uncle.
Appleby Farm was originally released in four parts and although I read the novel as a whole, I could see how the ending of each part would have you itching for more. Luckily I didn't have to wait and could plough (excuse the pun) straight on!

Friday 25 September 2015

The Silent Hours by Cesca Major

It's the early 1940s in France, when families are fleeing Paris as Nazi invasion is imminent. Tristan, a nine-year-old boy, is among those leaving behind their homes and possessions as he and his family travel to Oradour, a small village barely touched by the war.
Isabelle worries when her brother signs up for the war effort and goes off to fight for his country. The pair are close and try to keep in contact via letters but it isn't the same as having her brother close, especially when she falls in love for the first time.
Young Jewish banker Sebastien doesn't understand his father's worries for the family, but there is a hatred sweeping across the country that could put them all in danger.
In 1952, Adeline, a former resident of Oradour, has seeked refuge within a convent. Now mute and with a hazy memory of her past, Adeline must piece together the events that brought such horror that it would steal her voice.
I was immediately intrigued when I started reading The Silent Hours as we are introduced to Adeline. Who is she? And what secrets lay buried within her? The story takes place both within the war and several years after as Adeline struggles to come to terms with what has happened. I liked the shifting timeframe as it teased the information out, keeping me glued to the story.
I also liked the shifting perspectives within the book. The story is told from different viewpoints, mainly Adeline's, Isabelle's, Sebastien's and Tristan's. My favourite sections of the book focused on Tristan as I liked his childlike, often naïve, views on life. He doesn't fully grasp what is going on around him, which sometimes leads to some unsavoury situations, but he is just a child. Tristan provides some much-needed light relief within such a dark period of time.
The Silent Hours is based on true events but I didn't know anything at all about what happened beforehand. The book is beautifully written and obviously well researched. Sometimes with historical novels, it can feel a bit like reading a history textbook but the storytelling was so wonderful that the fact and fiction was woven seamlessly. There are several different threads within the book and I often wondered how they would all come together as the characters come from various backgrounds. But the lives did merge in a touching and at times horrific way.
The Silent Hours is a haunting yet touching tale, the kind where you need a good hug afterwards. I am sure the story will stay with me for a long time.

Thursday 24 September 2015

Novelicious Book Club: Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley

Today I'll be taking part in the Novelicious Book Club, where we'll be discussing Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley. If you've read the book, why not join us? We'll be on Twitter and Facebook at 8pm for an hour-long bookish chat, using the #NoveliciousBookClub hashtag. 
More details are here on the Novelicious site 
Appleby Farm
Cathy Bramley
Freya Moorcroft has wild red hair, mischievous green eyes, a warm smile and a heart of gold. She’s been happy working at the café round the corner from Ivy Lane allotments and her romance with her new boyfriend is going well, she thinks, but a part of her still misses the beautiful rolling hills of her Cumbrian childhood home: Appleby Farm.

Then a phone call out of the blue and a desperate plea for help change everything…

The farm is in financial trouble, and it’s taking its toll on the aunt and uncle who raised Freya. Heading home to lend a hand, Freya quickly learns that things are worse than she first thought. As she summons up all her creativity and determination to turn things around, Freya is surprised as her own dreams for the future begin to take shape.

Love makes the world go round, according to Freya. Not money. But will saving Appleby Farm and following her heart come at a price?

Monday 21 September 2015

#AmWriting: New Book & Short Story

The last time I wrote my #AmWriting post, I was around half-way through the second draft of my 'Delilah' book. After finishing the draft, I was happy enough to send it off to my editor. I'll share any news of release dates etc when I have them.

So it's time to start a whole new book! I've been plotting and planning (aided by my old faithful baby names book) and now it's time for me to jump into the first draft. This is always a scary yet exciting time for me; exciting because I get to meet new characters and build new stories but scary because what if what is in my head doesn't translate onto the page as I hope?

There isn't much I can do but get on with it and start to write. If the first draft doesn't work out quite right, that is what second drafts are for. And third drafts and fourth drafts...

I'm also working on a Halloween short story. This is just for fun and will be posted here on the blog next month (you can see my other short stories here or view them on Wattpad). I love Halloween - but only the fun aspects. I'm not made for the scary stuff. Pumpkins, trick-or-treating and crafting is as far as I go. And my Halloween short stories reflect this. There will be no creepy shit happening in my stories!
So that's it for now on the writing front. Wish me luck for that first draft!

Friday 18 September 2015

The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly

Physiotherapist Roz Toovey is in financial trouble. Her ex husband has left her in debt and isn't paying a penny to help raise their nine-year-old son George. When the bailiffs arrive and take most of their possessions and Roz is threatened with eviction due to her rent arrears, Roz begins to panic. But then Scott Elias enters her life. Charming and wealthy Scott is married to a friend of Roz's sister and offers Roz a way out of all her problems; spend the night with him and he will pay her a substantial amount of money.
Fearing she has no other way out, Roz agrees to the deal and at first it seems like the ideal solution. Roz begins to pay off her debts but then events start to spiral out of her control and Roz can't seem to veer off the path she has set off on, which could have dire consequences for all involved.
I've enjoyed Paula Daly's previous novels, Just What Kind of Mother Are You? and Keep Your Friends Closer so I was eager to start reading The Mistake I Made. As with Daly's previous novels, I quickly found myself immersed in the book. The plot for this book is a lot slower as Roz's struggles are revealed to the reader. I think Roz's situation needed to be covered so in depth so we understand why she takes such drastic measures to earn some money. She really is broke and is set to lose the home she shares with her son. Her ex-husband is infuriatingly feckless and Roz has already borrowed money from her family and doesn't feel she can ask again so Scott's solution seems like her only viable option.
Although I understood why Roz takes the course she does, there were times when I was willing her to put a stop to the increasingly dangerous situation before it got any worse - although this wouldn't have made as big an impact for the book obviously! I was intrigued throughout the novel, always eager to find out what was going to happen next and how Roz would deal with the fallout, which I was sure was on the horizon.
I thought Roz was a realistic, believable character. She's a single mum struggling to make ends meet, battling debt as well as a responsibility-dodging ex-husband. I liked her relationship with her son George and couldn't help feeling for them both as their financial situation worsens. While I didn't find The Mistake I Made quite as gripping as Daly's previous novels, I did think it was a great, well-written read with engaging characters and an intriguing plot.

Tuesday 15 September 2015

The Autumn Bookmark Exchange

Just over a week ago, I decided it was time for a new bookmark; an autumn-themed one to match the upcoming season (which happens to be my favourite season). So I got my crafty bits together to make one.

Over on Twitter, my Twitter friend, Pat Elliott suggested a bookmark exchange - we would both make an autumn-themed bookmark and send it to the other. I thought it was a great idea!

I decided to make my bookmark out of felt using autumn colours. Autumn to me means falling leaves in gorgeous reds, orange and green tones. It also means wrapping up warm, so I made a pair of mittens bound together with string and forming a heart in the middle.

Neither of us knew what the other would come up with, only that it would be a autumn-themed so it was a lovely surprise when my bookmark arrived. Pat is a painter and she painted a gorgeous owl in autumn colours - isn't he beautiful? I love it!

The bookmark exchange was a fantastic idea and I liked how we both came up with completely different ideas within the autumn theme.
You can find out more about Pat Elliott and her gorgeous paintings on her website here 

Monday 14 September 2015

Book Crafts: Mini Sweet Cones

Mini Sweet Cones
Perfect for a little gift or you could change the theme and use as party favours or stocking fillers
To make the mini sweet cones you will need:
Book proof pages
Patterned scrapbook pages
Double-sided tape
Cut out a rectangle of book page (I trimmed a book page so that there was no plain border and then cut it in half)
Back the page with a sheet of patterned scrapbook page. This gives a bit of colour when you open the packs and also strengthens the book page. Trim to the size of your book page
Create a cone, securing with double-sided tape. Flatten it slightly and fold down the flap at the top
Open the flap and put the sweets inside, being careful not to fill it too much as this will make closing the pack difficult
Fold down the flap again and secure with double-sided tape
Create a tag by cutting out a small rectangle of paper (I used a blank part of book proof page to match) and snipping one end to create a point. Write the name the name of the recipient or a short message on the paper, leaving a space at the non-snipped end. Back in the same scrapbook paper as your cone and trim
Attach to the folded-down flap and add a button to finish
And that's it - you have your mini sweet cones!
Click here to see all Book Crafts

Tuesday 8 September 2015

The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

It's late November and Yasmin and her daughter have arrived at an Alaskan airport where they are supposed to be meeting Yasmin's husband, Matt. Matt is a wildlife filmmaker and has been living in a remote Alaskan village for the past few months. Yasmin and daughter Ruby were planning to visit at Christmas but after a phone call a few days previously where Matt admitted to kissing another woman - a local in the village - Yasmin brought their trip forward to confront him.
But Yasmin and Ruby aren't met by Matt. Instead, Yasmin is told the devastating news that the village Matt has been living in has burned down in a tragic accident, killing all the residents. Including Matt.
But Yasmin doesn't believe her husband is dead. When the police are reluctant to help, Yasmin feels she has no choice but to take Ruby with her to search in the arctic conditions for her husband herself. Danger lurks as they set off on their journey - and not just because of the freezing conditions. Someone is watching Yasmin and her daughter. Someone who doesn't want her to reach the village and discover its secrets.
I've been waiting to read the third book by Rosamund Lupton for SO LONG. I devoured the previous books, Sister and Afterwards and while I found The Quality of Silence to be quite different from these, I gobbled it up just as quickly. Lupton has a way of drawing me into the worlds of her characters, teasing out the information and leaving me desperate to read on and discover the thrilling story contained within the pages.
The story is told from different perspectives, mainly Yasmin and her daughter Ruby's and I immediately felt drawn towards Ruby. I loved her childlike thoughts and her brilliant humour. Ruby is deaf, which brings with it quite a few difficulties, particularly at school and I couldn't help feeling for her as she describes her troubles with the other children.
Ruby also has some struggles with her mother Yasmin, who is eager for Ruby to speak with her mouth rather than relying on sign language all the time. I could understand Yasmin's need for her daughter to fit in more with society, but I also felt for Ruby and her own needs. Yasmin only wants the best for her daughter but Ruby doesn't want to give in to her mother's expectations and wants to be herself. Their difference of opinion creates a definite barrier between them and as such Ruby feels closer to her father Matt than Yasmin and I was hoping their time together would somehow balance the bond between Ruby and her parents more evenly.
I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading the book as the blurb isn't overly descriptive but I enjoyed the writing and was soon hooked. I didn't have the faintest clue where the book was heading for a long time but I was enjoying the journey so much that I didn't mind at all. It did soon become apparent that all was not what it seemed with regards to the village fire and I was intrigued to find out what was going on.
There is somebody watching Yasmin and Ruby as they make their way across Alaska, creating tension and I thought there was just the right amount of menace throughout, starting off in the background before slowly mounting to a fantastic finale. I was surprised at the abrupt ending - so much so that I went back to see if I'd missed anything - but on the whole I loved the book and didn't want to put it down, reading the whole thing in a frenzy over a couple of days.

Friday 4 September 2015

A Chat With... Liz Tipping

Can you tell us about your book?

Fiona Delaney is stuck in a bit of a rut. She's convinced she is on a fast track to fully fledged mad cat lady like Doris at work. Her boyfriend is being a bit of a useless oaf as well. Then, Regional manager Juliet aka Wicked Witch of The West Midlands arrives on the scene at work making Fiona's life hell. Fiona really needs a break so when an opportunity arises to spend a weekend glamping with her friends, she agrees. But it’s not quite the luxurious experience she was hoping for…

What was your inspiration for Five Go Glamping?

The idea came for when I saw a competition asking writers to submit the first 5000 words of a novel. I didn’t think I could ever write a novel, I hadn’t written any fiction since school, but 5000 words seemed just about doable. I wanted something I would love to read myself and would appeal to lots of people. I wanted combine the sense of adventure in the books I read as a child and put that in a chick lit setting and I thought lots of people would like that and the title Five Go Glamping just kind of popped into my head.

What has been your greatest experience of being a published writer so far?

The most exciting part so far was seeing the cover. It was incredible. I thought it was so beautiful and I could not stop looking at it. For me, it represented the point when what had previously been thoughts in my head, became something just that little bit more tangible. I finally realised I had written a book and it was going to be published.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I would say, whatever stage you are at, keep going. Do at least one task a week which will help you get closer to your goal, whether that be writing a 1000 words of your novel, editing a chapter, sending out a submission or researching how to format your novel to publish it yourself. Just keep going.

What was the first book you ever bought yourself?

I used to spend all my pocket on Enid Blyton books and I loved the Puffin book club at school, but I can’t really remember the very first. I do have a memory of buying Gobbolino the Witches Cat from a second hand bookshop on holiday. I can’t remember the rest of the holiday - I must have been too engrossed in the book.

What was the last book you read?

I read Joey Essex from TOWIE’s biography, “Being Reem”. It’s hysterically funny which I was expecting but also it’s really, really sad as he talks about losing his mother at an early age. It’s quite the sobfest.

Finally, what are you working on at the moment?

My second book is almost done and it’s inspired by some of my favourite films. And these films are LOTS of other people’s favourite films too, so I’m pretty excited about it and can’t wait to share more.

Thanks for having me on your blog, Jennifer!

Liz Tipping writes romantic comedy.
As well as reading and writing novels, Liz enjoys John Hughes films, science fiction box sets, reality television, Irish sausages and ginger beer.

Her debut novel Five Go Glamping is published by Carina and she is represented by Juliet Mushens.


Twitter: @LizTipping



Glamping Check list

Festival tickets
Double check best Instagram filter
Avoid thinking about work/Connor/five year plan!!

A four day break from her hectic life to relax in the countryside and hang out at a local festival (for free!) is just what Fiona Delaney needs. With her best friends, great tunes and a cool looking hat her Instagram shots are going to look A-Mazing!

Until suddenly glamping starts to feel a lot more like camping and Fiona’s in desperate search of a comfy chair, wi-fi and a chilled glass of wine. But when she finally makes it to the local pub she discovers this trip could be more than just a holiday, it might just change her life forever…

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Back To School!

Six weeks have passed and the school summer holidays are now OVER. If you'd listened carefully, you'd have heard a collective sigh of relief at 8.55 this morning as parents waved goodbye to their little darlings.
In some ways, the summer holidays have felt like a long, LONG stretch (these times are usually when I'm breaking up a squabble before breakfast) but in other ways it's flown by. I've enjoyed a week away in Bulgaria and worked my way through the fabulous selection of books on my summer reading list while squeezing in writing time to work on the revisions of my Christmas novella plus the second draft of my next book.
But there will be no more squeezing as the end of the school holidays signals the return of my dedicated writing time. I'm now free to spend my days in the fictional worlds of my characters (with the odd wander over to Twitter and Facebook, obviously). After a celebratory Back-To-School pastry and cup of tea (any excuse), I'm now sitting at my desk with Spotify for company, ready to re-join Delilah and her pals.