Friday 29 January 2016

A Home For Broken Hearts by Rowan Coleman

It's been almost a year since Ellen Woods' husband was killed in a car accident, leaving her with their son, Charlie and debts that need to be paid off. When it becomes clear that there is a real possibility of Ellen and Charlie losing their home, Ellen is forced to rent out the spare rooms and welcome new lodgers into their lives.

Each lodger has their own lives and problems but can they pull together and help each other through these difficult periods? And can Ellen learn to live without her beloved Nick and the security her brought her?

I loved the idea of A Home For Broken Hearts, with a set of complete strangers being brought together and possibly forging friendships that would help them through their problems and I wasn't disappointed. The writing immediately drew me towards Ellen and I found myself fully immersed in her life. Ellen is completely smothered by her grief and I felt for her as she struggled to live without her husband, Nick.When Ellen opens her house up to Sabine, Allegra and Matt, she doesn't expect to make friends at all. Her only goal is to meet the mortgage payments so she can keep the family home - and some sort of stability - for her son. But slowly, Ellen begins to let these new people into her life and I liked seeing Ellen come back to life. I didn't expect to like all of the lodgers as they don't all give a great first impression but I'd warmed to them all by the end, especially Matt.

Ellen is a freelance copy-editor, working on romance novels and I loved this aspect of the book as we get to see one of the books she is working on evolving. I found myself almost as equally enthralled by Eliza, the heroine of the romance, as I was by Ellen and her lodgers. It was a nice touch to add to the main story without causing a distraction and I found the snippets entertaining.

The characters in A Home For Broken Hearts are all strong and entertaining in their own ways and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know all the lodgers in Ellen's home. While Ellen's story is quite a difficult one, Rowan  has created a light and fun read that I found both entertaining and uplifting. There were quite a few times when I had a giggle to myself and I didn't want to put the book down as I was eager to find out what would happen to Ellen and her newly extended household.

Friday 22 January 2016

Follow Me by Angela Clarke

Journalist Freddie Venton is looking for her big break, the story that will catapult her from the non-paying online articles to the front pages of national newspapers. So when she discovers there has been a grisly murder, she blags her way onto the scene.

Police officer Nasreen Cudmore is shocked to find her former best friend on the murder scene she is investigating. Nas hasn't seen Freddie since they were teenagers and she isn't ready to delve back into their past to dredge up the mistakes they made. She isn't happy when Freddie becomes part of the investigative team but when it becomes clear they are dealing with a potential serial killer, she must put her feelings aside and concentrate on tracking them down before they kill again.

I was looking forward to diving into Follow Me after hearing about the book a few weeks ago. The killer in the book - dubbed the hashtag murderer - posts clues about his latest - or next - victim on Twitter and, as I use Twitter and other social media a lot, I was interested in this angle of the book. I was also intrigued by Freddie and Nasreen's past and what it was that forced such a wedge between their friendship. Although I enjoyed the investigation into the hashtag murderer, I did think Freddie's and Nasreen's past could have been explored further. There are the odd hints that something happened and I expected the reveal to be quite explosive but it didn't quite live up to my hopes and was pretty much brushed under the carpet afterwards.

It took me a little while to really get hooked into the book but once the investigation started to really get going, I was pulled into story and didn't want to put it down. I wasn't entirely convinced that a police force wouldn't have anyone on the team who knew how Twitter worked and therefore needed Freddie on board, but I pushed that niggle aside so I could enjoy the book, which I really did. Freddie isn't always a likeable character; she's bad-tempered, uncouth and doesn't always know when she should keep out of things for her own good - and those around her - but I did like her by the end. She could be frustrating but she could also be feisty when she needed to be as well loyal. Although Nas is a much more restrained character and easier to warm to, I did feel a stronger connection to Freddie as I felt I knew her a lot better than her former friend.

As the investigation moves along, the tension begins to rise, especially as it reaches its conclusion and we find out who the hashtag killer is. The book can be quite chilling at times but there was also a sprinkling of humour, which I think helped lighten what could have been a very dark book. I liked the pace of the book as it is quite fast-paced without feeling rushed, apart from towards the end but this only adds to the tension of the situation of hunting down a killer.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Cover Reveal: The Teacher by Katerina Diamond

You think you know who to trust?

 You think you know the difference between good and evil?

 You’re wrong …


 The body of the head teacher of an exclusive Devon school is found hanging from the rafters in the assembly hall.

 Hours earlier he’d received a package, and only he could understand the silent message it conveyed. It meant the end.

 As Exeter suffers a rising count of gruesome deaths, troubled DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles must solve the case and make their city safe again.

 But as they’re drawn into a network of corruption, lies and exploitation, every step brings them closer to grim secrets hidden at the heart of their community.

 And once they learn what’s motivating this killer, will they truly want to stop him?


 This is a psychological crime thriller in a class of its own.

 Warning: Most definitely *not* for the faint-hearted!

Friday 15 January 2016

#AmWriting: Aiming For 50,000

The Mince Pie Mix-Up has been published and I've finished writing my next book for Carina (I'll share more news on the title, cover and publication dates when I can) so I'm busy writing my next book.

My writing was a little slow over Christmas but I'm getting back into my routine again and building up the words. I'm aiming to have the first draft completed by half-term (12th Feb) and so far I'm on track.

By the end of today I should have 50,000 words under my belt (that's the plan, anyway), which is a good amount for me as I'll know I'm more than halfway through. This book is revisiting some characters that I love - and also some brand new ones that I'm enjoying getting to know, especially Sinead, Franz and Granny Mac. I hope you'll like them too when you meet them!

So that's my (quick) update for now. I'd better get back to writing - those 50,000 words won't clock up themselves...

Monday 11 January 2016

Spectacles by Sue Perkins

I adore Mel and Sue, right back from watching Light Lunch in the school holidays when I was a teenager, so when Sue Perkins released her memoir I had to read it. Sue never fails to make me laugh whenever I see her on TV and her book was just the same. The book is jam-packed with fun snippets from Sue's life, told in her unique style that had me giggling to myself at some points, cringing at others and full-on laughing out loud at the hilarious anecdotes.

But the book isn't just a funny look at Sue's life. It delves far deeper, revealing some of the more difficult points. While the book offers a lot of giggles, it also gives the old heartstrings a thorough workout. I don't want to spoil anything from the book but here's a little tip: when you get to the letter Sue wrote to her dog, make sure you have tissues to hand. Lots and lots of tissues.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was finding out more about Sue's friendship with Mel, from how they met and began working together. The strong bond they have is evident from the pages of Spectacles - as well as the fun they have together and the book only made me love them more. I also enjoyed the relationships between Sue and her family and another highlight of the book for me was Sue's recollection of coming out to her mum. Again, I really, really don't want to spoil anything but Ann Perkins, you rock.

There are so many great aspects of this book (Sue's brief encounter with Esther Rantzen, for example) that I didn't want it to end. Full of laughs, love and the highs and lows of life, Spectacles is a fantastic insight into the world of a very funny lady.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

Christmas Wish Come True (anthology)

Christmas Wish Come True is an anthology of three festive novellas: All I Want For Christmas by Gina Rochelle, Dreaming of a White Wedding by Misty Shaw and Christmas Every Day by Jaimie Admans.

All I Want For Christmas tells the story of Isabella, a substitute teacher who is starting a new position at a school in Colorado. The story begins the day before Thanksgiving, which should have been the eve of her wedding to pilot Philip. But Philip broke off their engagement and now Isabella is facing a lonely Thanksgiving in a hotel room.

On her first day, Isabella meets one of her young students, Tyler and his rather abrupt uncle, Jordan. Tyler seems like a troubled little boy so Isabella tries to cheer him up by encouraging him to write to Santa with his wishes for Christmas. Isabella pens her own letter and as she finds herself meeting the man who may mend her heart after Philip, it seems her Christmas wish may just come true.

All I Want For Christmas is a festive romance set in a snow-filled Colorado, making it perfect for curling up with a hot chocolate. I liked the character of Isabella and immediately warmed to her. She can be quite feisty but she also has a vulnerable side too after her recent heartbreak. She's a very caring person and I liked the way she takes Tyler under her wing and tries to give him as perfect a Christmas as she can. It's pretty obvious who she's going to end up with right from the start but that didn't make the romantic journey any less enjoyable.

Dreaming of a White Wedding tells the story of twins Scarlet and Cressida and Scarlet's ex, Terry. Scarlet and Terry were supposed to be getting married but they broke up two years ago and Scarlet hasn't been able to properly move on since. When her party-planner sister Cressida finds herself double-booked, she asks Scarlet to step in and help make sure one of the parties runs smoothly while she travels to York to take care of the other. Scarlet agrees, not knowing doing so will bring her face-to-face with Terry once again.

Dreaming of a White Wedding is told from the perspectives of Scarlet, Cressida and Terry and I liked this aspect as it gives the reader a full insight into what is going on, from Cressida's plot to bring her sister and her ex back together to what exactly happened in the past between the pair. I also liked that Cressida had her own story, giving us two romances for the price of one.

Christmas Every Day tells the story of Emma, a supermarket checkout girl who accidentally injures her secret crush and causes him to end up in a coma. Emma doesn't even know the crush's name and usually refers to him as Gorgeous Dog Walker but with Gorgeous Dog Walker out of action, Emma temporarily takes over his job and finds out the shocking truth about her mystery man.

I loved this story! It was fun and magical and had so many laugh-out-loud moments, usually caused by a disgruntled elf. The writing has such an easy flow, making it impossible not to sit and allow the pages to fly by as Emma's story unfolds. It's cute and magical and jam-packed with humour. I particularly enjoyed the lists at the beginning of each chapter, which give a little hint about what is about to happen next.

I really enjoyed this collection and thought they made a perfect read for Christmas. I usually read and review the festive books on my TBR pile before Christmas but I saved Christmas Wish Come True to read over the few days leading up to and over Christmas. As the collection is made up of novellas, it was perfect for dipping in and out of during the busy festive period. Each story felt whole and I enjoyed the mix of stories, from heartfelt to humorous.

Monday 4 January 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, bookish folk! I hope you've all had a brilliant Christmas and a good start to the new year. 2015 was a fantastic year for me as I signed a very special piece of paper - my book contract with Carina UK. I also visited (and got lost in) London twice, enjoyed a family holiday in Bulgaria and celebrated the publication of my festive book, The Mince Pie Mix-Up!

Here's my year in pictures:

Let's hope 2016 is just as good! I'm already looking forward to the publication of my second Carina book in March and who knows what else 2016 has to offer?

Do you have any exciting plans for 2016?