Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Book Review - Puzzle Girl by Rachael Featherstone - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title: Puzzle Girl
Author: Rachael Featherstone
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Publisher supplied copy
Publisher: Accent Press
Publication Date: 16th March 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

Love is a riddle waiting to be solved…

Clued-up career girl Cassy Brookes has life under control until one disastrous morning changes everything.

When she finds herself stuck in a doctor’s surgery, a cryptic message left in a crossword magazine sends her on a search to find the mysterious ‘puzzle-man’ behind it.

Cassy is soon torn between tracking down her elusive dream guy, and outwitting her nightmare workmate, the devious Martin. 

Facing a puzzling love-life, will she ever be able to fit the pieces together and discover the truth behind this enigmatic man?

I was attracted to this book, the first moment I saw it on twitter, as I am a huge fan of puzzles. I thought the concept of using a puzzle book to convey messages to a random stranger was intriguing and I was very interested to see how it would all play out. 

What I don't think I fully realised was that the puzzle book in question was in a doctor's surgery, well more of a drop in centre, and that for Cassy to keep returning to the book to see if her puzzle boy has replied, would involve her conjuring up all sorts of excuses for visiting the surgery. 

While she is arguably making a fool of herself at the drop in centre, she is also trying her hardest to gain a promotion at work, and hates her rival with a passion. They have an interesting rivalry but yet are you see elements of arch enemy Martin, you have to wonder whether you are seeing a different person to the one that Cassy hates. 

There was a least one sub plot that I had guesses the outcome to a mile off, to the extent that I almost rolled my eye when it was revealed, but the actual identity of her mystery man, was concealed reasonably well for a good amount of the book at least.  My main issue was I just didn't really feel like the two puzzle fiends really had that much of a connection, so made the ending of the book for me not a fabulous as it could have been. 

A fair amount of this book seemed to take place on the DLR (for those not familiar with London, that is the Docklands Light Railway that features driverless trains), and as Cassy it thinking on her commute her thoughts are regularly interrupted by the next station announcements. This is a familiar enough occurrence, but whether it needed to be stated every single time she was on a DLR I'm unsure, unless the idea is to get the level of annoyance with the announcements that the average commuter probably feels. 

With those exceptions I thought that Puzzle Girl was a largely polished debut, that I really enjoyed reading, and following the life of Cassy as she tries to recover from her big break up, and all the ups and downs of her working life. There are definitely some laughs to be had and its generally an entertaining story. 

Thank you to Accent Press for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Author Bio:

Rachael Featherstone was born and raised in Woodford. After reading Mathematics at New College, Oxford university, Rachael went to work in research. When Rachael's mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2012, Rachael decided to take a chance, quit her job, and fulfil a life time ambition to write a novel. She went back to university and completed a Masters in English Literature and had several short stories published. Rachael now lives in Hampshire with her Husband, Tim. Puzzle Girl is Rachael's debut novel. 

Check out Rachael Featherstone on Facebook & Twitter

Puzzle Girl & Puzzle Boy are also on twitter!

Take a look at the other blogs also on the Puzzle Girl blog tour. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Guest Post - All About Bubbles by Malcolm Howard - Blog Tour

My ex-wife Della (affectionately known as Delilah) was working as a Governess for the sixth richest family in France and skyped me one day for story ideas. The precocious offspring had soaked up everything she ever knew, or could find in storybooks, and still they wanted more. It was Delilah’s fault – she is a great storyteller.

Delilah was working in this Chateau in the Alps and I was staying nearby in a place called ‘the funny house’ (to get upstairs you had to go out the front door and up an outdoor staircase). “Can you write me a story” she said. 

Looking out of my window I could see the old abandoned schoolhouse in the village. ‘Monday’ was the first story, which was followed by Tuesday, Wednesday Thursday and Friday over the next few weeks.

One of my favourite books when I was young was “Angelique and the King” so I picked the name for my schoolteacher. I suppose she was based on Delilah. The long legs and long arms were necessary to reach the bubbles on the high shelf, which was out of the reach of children, and the enormous spectacles enabled her to be ‘all seeing’.

The story exists in three different dimensions. Reality is the parents bringing the children to school and collecting them. The presence of the ‘fabulous’ creatures within the schoolroom is insulated from the reality of the outside world by the bubbles. The bubbles are also the gateway to the third dimension; the adventures in dreamland, where Mrs Buttercup is Angelique’s alter ego in looking after the children. 

The fun with the bubbles is in the combination of names given to the bubbles depending on their effect, and also the effect of a cocktail of different bubbles. The bubbles provide this ‘portal’ between different dimensions of the story. The current book is very much a pilot project and the effect and significance of the bubbles will be expanded in future tales.

The one guideline Delilah gave me was that every good story should have a ‘moral’. I like to think that has been followed but not at the expense of fun and adventure. I also like to think that the safety and wellbeing of children, in this day and age, is seen to be protected.

In case you’re wondering; Delilah and I would be celebrating our 40th ‘Divorce Anniversary this year. Unfortunately I haven’t a clue on which date the decree absolute came through! 

We are now the best of friends. We have two sons, Don and Jim aged 47 and 45 and a 17-year old Grandson, who is half French.

Angelique has long thin legs, long thin arms and a turned-up nose on which sits an enormous pair of spectacles. Her spectacles are so big that they look like magnifying glasses and make her eyes look very large. She normally wears black shoes, a blue dress and a red scarf, and she had just been awarded all her Certificates and Diplomas to become a teacher. But she needs a job. Returning to her home village at the foothills of the French Alps, Angelique finds her childhood school has closed! All she needs is determination, enthusiasm and ten pupils to re-open the school and realise her dreams. But Angelique soon realises that her daily adventures have only just begun.

About the author: 

Now retired Malcolm Howard lives in Walton-On-Thames Surrey. Malcolm has enjoyed a varied career from being a part of the Queens Surrey Regiment, to moving to the French Alps where he set up a Ski High School, now part of the British Ski Academy, before returning to Surrey to work for the probation service. In his spare time he continues to lend a hand at the local Council as well as visit the mountains in France where his son still lives.

Please follow along with the rest of the Bubbles Blog Tour:

Book Review - The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

Amazon UK
Title:  The Idea of You
Author: Amanda Prowse
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: 21st March 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…

Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?

Having just finished this this wonderful book, I have a lump in my throat and tears are just pricking at my eyelids. It is another masterpiece from the incredibly talented Amanda Prowse, and this time the theme of the book is parenthood and family. 

The writing is beautiful and draws you into the story right from the start. It was the perfect way for me to spend a Sunday afternoon, utterly absorbed in Lucy Carpenter's story with new husband Jonah and step daughter Camille. 

There are some incredibly emotional topics surrounding parenthood, including the desperate need to have a baby, and what happens when things go slightly wrong. There were certainly some surprises along the way in the book which just added to the unputdownability for me. 

Interspersed with the chapters which are all from Lucy's point of view, there are little letters are so filled with emotion, but you aren't fully sure initially just who they are to. I loved finding out the reasoning behind them, while really feeling for the writer of the letters. 

I was hooked on Lucy's journey in The Idea of You, feeling very closely both her ups and her downs. There are some light hearted moments in the book, to balance out all of the emotion. There are also blazing rows as tempers are high. It really is a roller coaster of feelings for all characters in this book. 

The topics discussed in this book are ones that the majority of people will be able to easily identify with, or know people that have gone through the same things. However  it was just hard for me to fully feel for the characters never having had children myself, but even with that drawback, I was still engrossed in the book, and enjoyed it thoroughly. 

I may have said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again but I am so glad that I discovered Amanda Prowse as an author a few years ago. Since then I have read a multitude of amazing books by her, and although this may not be my favourite, it is no less brilliant. I would eagerly recommend this book to anyone that wants to read a book with a lot of heart, that is well written and that will have you thinking afterwards. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Book Review - The Jackdaw by Luke Delaney - Rachel Reads Randomly Book #57

Amazon UK
Title: The Jackdaw
Author: Luke Delaney
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Competition Win
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: 12th March 2015
Rating: 4.5 Stars

The fourth novel in the DI Sean Corrigan series – authentic and terrifying crime fiction with a psychological edge, by an ex-Met detective. Perfect for fans of Mark Billingham, Peter James and Stuart MacBride.

Guilty or not guilty?

A lone vigilante is abducting wealthy Londoners and putting their fate in the hands of the public. Within hours of disappearing, the victims appear on the internet, bound to a chair in a white room.

Revenge or mercy?

Their crimes of greed and incompetence are broadcast to the watching thousands who make up the jury. Once the verdict is cast, the man who calls himself ‘The Jackdaw’ will be judge and executioner.

Live or die?

DI Sean Corrigan and his Special Investigations Unit are under pressure to solve this case fast. But as The Jackdaw’s popularity grows, Corrigan realizes he’s hunting a dangerously clever and elusive adversary – one who won’t stop until his mission is complete.

Impressive fourth book in the DI Sean Corrigan series, which could easily work as a standalone, although to really feel like you know Sean and his team, it could be recommended to have read previous books. 

I have to give great kudos to Luke Delaney in creating perhaps one of the most complex villains I've read about ever. The Jackdaw as he becomes known has seemingly plotted and predicted everything , while at the same time is eager to show what he is doing off to a large audience. 

I suspect that only the most devoted of thriller fans will be able to work out who The Jackdaw is before the finale, I will admit I didn't have even the slightest clue in any direction, but was sitting there with awe at how police detectives were going about solving this incredibly complex case. 

The last 100 pages or so were pretty much unputdownable, and before that I was very gripped by the story, and what was going on with DI Corrigan and his team. There are plenty of characters who popped up intermittently presumable just to show how the public's reaction to the Jackdaw was changing over time, and these are people from all walks of life. 

Similarly it makes a change that the victims I didn't immediately have sympathy for, although that may just be because I didn't feel as though I got to know them that well. 

The Jackdaw is another very strong entry into this series that keeps delighting me every time I read one. I am really hoping this isn't the last we have seen of DI Sean Corrigan,  as I love the department he heads up and it really does show how twisted some people's minds are. 

Thank you to those of you that voted for The Jackdaw. This is  a series that I started on holiday a year or so ago, and have finally caught up to where it is. I  love the depth of these crimes and the ability to try to look into the criminal's psyche. Really looking forward to seeing what will win this week. 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #58

Thank you everyone for your input last time. The results of the last vote were:

1 Votes - Pendulum by Adam Handy
2 Votes -  Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
2 Votes - Friends, Lies and Alibis by Debby Holt
3 Votes -   Dog Soldiers by Isabel George
4 Votes - The Jackdaw by Luke Delaney

Thank you so much everyone for your votes last week. I'm getting the impression they weren't the most known books in my collection, but always good to hear about new books. I loved The Jackdaw which has one of the best villains I've read about for ages! 

This week I've decided we are going to randomise from books published in 2017, I figure if I can slowly keep on top of what I've been buying this year, it would be good.

Below is my initial theory for this feature, and then a bit further, what you are all waiting for... This weeks's vote! Enjoy!

I am also awful at deciding what book to read next, as I often have about 10 titles or authors jumping into my brain at any time, shouting at me to read them, and I tend to worry I have made the wrong decision while reading a perfectly good book. I am hoping this will save me having to make at least 1 choice a week, while possibly providing a review to the site of a book you all either love or are curious about yourselves. 

So what I am proposing, is my lovely loyal readers of Rachel's Random Reads, select one book for me to read a week, and I will post the review the following week. 

This week's random numbers are...

And the books these numbers correspond to are...

So the 5 choices with my gut feeling responses are:

10 - Rosie's Little Cafe on the Riviera by Jennifer Bohnet - This is a title that keep tormenting me on my TBR, it sounds as though it should be fab and I love books featuring cafes and also the French Riviera. 
15 - Mystery at Maplemead Castle by Kitty French - I absolutely loved the first book on The Chapelwick Mysteries series, and I'm just trying to find time to read this second book. 
17 - Prime Justice by Mel Comley - Can't believe this is book 14 already on a series that I have been loving since book 1. I can't wait to read the next installment of DI Lorne Warner
20 - Playing by the Rules by Rosa Temple - I've really enjoyed the previous two books I have read by this author, and looking forward to the time to start this one
22 - Sins of the Father by Sheryl Browne - I love Sheryl Browne's books and this is another book that I'm really looking forward to reading. I need to know what happens next to DI Matthew Adams. 

Wow this for me has to be the most exciting selection that has popped up for a few weeks. I would be so happy with any of these books winning, however equally I fear this ending up as a tie, as I just wouldn't be able to pick between them.. which could lead to a lot of weekend reading for me!  All I can say if please do take part, have a say, it doesn't matter if you have read it yourself or not, just if you have anything drawing you to one book or another, please have a comment..its only fun and I never blame you all if I don't like the book! 

Pick your favourite or the one you most want me to review, or just the one you are curious about, and leave me a comment below, before midnight on Wednesday. 

I look forward to seeing what I will be reading over the weekend, courtesy of you all.

The explanation if you haven't seen the feature before. 

How is this going to work?

Every Monday, I am going to have a post like this, which is going to have some choices on it. I am planning on using to select 7 random numbers, to coincide with my spreadsheet of unread books.  

I will from that produce a list of hopefully 5 books, I reserve the right to veto any books, and will give reasons for them, if it occurs.

I will take screenshots and post them, of the chosen books, and also give you my instinctive reactions to the choices (without checking blurbs or any other info about them, which could be interesting as there are probably many forgotten about books on my spreadsheet!). 

Your task is to post a comment on this post, with the book you would like me to read this week. At midnight on Wednesday I will take a tally of the votes and the book with the most, I will read and review for the following Monday, where you will also get a new choice post. 

In the event of a tie, I will chose which one appeals most, for the Monday review, and possibly try and read and review the other to appear when I can. 

I am hoping this will provide some variety to the books appearing, and will let me potentially read or discover some great authors that I have wanted to read but not got around to yet.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Cover Reveal - Just For The Holidays by Sue Moorcroft

I am a huge fan of Sue Moorcroft and absolutely loved her Christmas book last year The Christmas Promise,so imagine how excited I must be feeling right about now, knowing that I'm about to share with you the cover of her latest book!


The #1 bestselling author returns for summer! Grab your sun hat, a cool glass of wine, and the only book you need on holiday…

In theory, nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. That is, until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple, and a very unexpected pregnancy.

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the relaxing holiday Leah Beaumont was hoping for – but it’s the one she’s got. With her sister Michele’s family falling apart at the seams, it’s up to Leah to pick up the pieces and try to hold them all together.

But with a handsome helicopter pilot staying next door, Leah can’t help but think she might have a few distractions of her own to deal with…

A glorious summer read, for you to devour in one sitting - perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Available for Pre-Order on Amazon UK

I absolutely love the look of this cover, and think it feels very summery. Really loving the sound of this book, and we all know I enjoy stories set abroad, so think this may be a winner for me. Rest assured this won't be the last you will see of this book on Rachel's Random Reads!

Book Review - The Second Chance Tea Shop by Fay Keenan - Fab Firsts

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

This is the debut novel by Fay Keenan, and I suspect what could be the first of many set in Little Somerby. 
Amazon UK
Title: The Second Chance Tea Shop
Author: Fay Keenan
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Aria
Publication Date: 10th March 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

Following the tragic death of her beloved husband, Anna Hemingway decides it's time for a fresh start. So Anna and her three-year-old daughter Ellie move to a picture-perfect cottage in the beautiful village of Little Somerby, and when she takes over the running of the village tea shop, Ellie and Anna start to find happiness again.

But things get complicated when Matthew Carter, the owner of the local cider farm, enters their lives. Throughout a whirlwind year of village fetes and ancient wassails, love, laughter, apple pie and new memories, life slowly blossoms again. But when tragedy strikes and history seems to be repeating itself, Anna must find the strength to hold onto the new life she has built.

This beautiful, life-affirming debut novel marks the beginning of the Little Somerby series, and promises to make you smile, cry, reach for a cream tea, and long for a life in the perfect English countryside.

Well this is a story that started off reasonably well, not spectacularly but was enjoyable enough, and then as it progressed and especially for the second half, it became more and more enthralling and I found myself thoroughly enjoying what was happening. 

As much though as I liked Anna and Matthew and was willing them together, to me the stars of the book were Ellie and Merry. Ellie is Anna's 3 year old daughter, and she comes out with some absolute classic lines. I love the innoncece of young children, and Ellie was just entertaining on all levels. 

Merry is Matthews teenage daughter, and she takes an instant liking to Anna, and is determined to matchmake the adults. She is wonderful with Ellie and has her own challenges to face later in the book. 

Despite them both having children, they are both single parents. Anna was widowed two years ago, and Matthew is divorced with his ex living in America. Anna has moved to Little Somerby where she grew up, to try to move on with her life, and has taken over the tea shop in town. 

Despite the tea shop being a hub of the community, I disappointingly didn't really feel that enamoured with what was being sold. Having read many books set in tea shops in the past few months, the one thing the usually all have is the ability to make me drool for some sort of food, but it didn't really happen in this book, which I found a bit surprising. 

However I did love the locals that came into the shop, and Anna slowly builds a great support network, and falls into a good routine of life, and getting to know her regulars. 

Although I found this book quite easy to read, I couldn't help but feel at times especially at the beginning that it felt a bit on the long side. It may just be that I hadn't really got into the swing of the book, but I felt the percentage meter just wasn't going up as fast as I was expecting, for how much I had read. As the book progressed it bothered me less and less, but to me it seems like the biggest indicator that for me the book was a slow starter. 

Despite my niggles, I did really enjoy The Second Chance Tea Shop, and I think this author has a lot of promise. I am definitely interested to see if there will be another book set in Little Somerby and to return to this village and some of the characters. 

Thank you to Aria and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Catherine Hokin

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

My name is Catherine Hokin. My debut historical fiction novel Blood and Roses came out in January 2016 and I also write contemporary short stories, a couple of which have won prizes and been published. I live in Glasgow, am married to an American and have 2 children who are a lot taller than me.

1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

My novel Blood and Roses retells the story of Margaret of Anjou, wife of King Henry VI, and her pivotal role in the fifteenth century Wars of the Roses. It is intended as a revision of a woman usually depicted as the ‘witch’ demonised by Shakespeare. Against a court which could be described as a medieval House of Cards, the novel examines Margaret as a French Queen in a hostile country, as a wife trapped in marriage to a man born to be a saint and as a mother whose son meets a terrible fate she has set in motion. The book is partly told through memoir: as Margaret desperately tries to stave off the judgement of history by writing her own truth—a desire she knows is almost certainly doomed – she unfolds a web of intrigue, shifting alliances and secrets and reveals herself as a woman forced to play the highest stakes to pull a throne from the spoils of the battlefield.

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I have wanted to be a writer for a long time and have been scribbling for years but life got in the way. About 4 years ago I was able to take a day a week to write and that is when I really got started – writing needs time and headspace. As for Margaret – I have been fascinated with her, and the demonization of her, since I was a child. My father was a member of the Richard III society and Margaret drove him mad – my interest began!

3) How long did it take you to write your first book?

Almost three years including the research which took almost as long as the writing. The problem was time, not inclination. I could only give it a day a week plus the odd hour I could claw at weekends - I’m not an evening worker, my brain gets fried! Now that I am writing full time and the youngest is at university, the process has got a whole lot quicker.

4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I think it needs a bit more sense of place – a couple of reviews have said that and I tend to agree, it can be hard to get the balance quite right. I have also learnt far more about planning during my mentorship for the second novel and that has made the writing of it far quicker. The other quibbles are to do with the format and publishing niggles over which I had no control. All writers will want to unpick their work and I could find any number of flaws but I don’t want to go down that road - I’m very proud of it, it’s sold steadily and reception has generally been incredibly positive, even among readers I don’t know!

5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

It was traditionally published and I went through the usual submissions/rejections lark on the way. I think it’s sad that there seems to be a sense of competition between the two routes – there’s equal amounts of good and bad in both camps from what I can see. I went down the traditional route out of personal choice and it has opened a lot of doors including getting a mentorship with the Scottish Book Trust, being able to join the Historical Writers Association which has been a big network for me and getting an agent. I’ve still done most of the marketing but that’s the deal nowadays no matter who you publish with.

6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

Learn the craft and I don’t just mean writing. I was hopelessly naïve about the publishing process and have suffered for that – there are proof-reading issues in my book that still make me want to scream and that comes down to my publisher not being able to do their job and me not having the right knowledge to pull them up with. I also didn’t understand just how small a small publisher’s reach is. Get really comfortable with social media: it’s fun and it’s where your main marketing will come from, but do not ‘sell’ – be interesting. And enjoy the whole daft rollercoaster – getting published, seeing my book in a bookstore (actually in three, awesome) and being asked to do events and interviews is a dream come true. I get to say I’m a writer – I feel very lucky and I am loving it.

Tell us about your first…

1) Book you bought

It was about a girl called Perdita and had time-slips to Tudor England and something about Samarkand in it. If anyone knows what on earth it was, help – I’ve been trying to find it for years!

2) Memory

A Christmas party in a hotel my dad worked in when I was about 3 – they had miniature jars of jam and I was enamoured of them, still am. I thought they belonged to fairies.

3) Person you fell in love with

Marc Bolan – anyone else is a secret

4) Holiday you went on

My parents moved from Liverpool to the Lake District before I was born so I did holidays backwards and went to Liverpool, loved it and became an eternal urbanite. My first ‘holiday’ was in a caravan in North Wales with my aunt and uncle. Luckily it was close to Liverpool.

5) Prize you won

The History Prize at school. I was a geek.

6) Album you purchased

I’d like it to be something cool but I think it was Once Upon a Star by the Bay City Rollers. Things have improved since.

7) Sport you enjoyed participating in

Absolutely none! A situation which has never changed despite being a mean (in all senses) hockey player throughout school.

8) Embarrassing moment you can remember

I was embarrassed by everything, now I’m embarrassed by nothing – there are people who would prefer the original state of affairs to be re-instated, particularly when there’s red wine involved.

Thank you Catherine for agreeing to answer these questions.

Catherine Hokin Bio
Catherine is a Glasgow-based author whose fascination with the medieval period began during a History degree which included studies into witchcraft, women and the role of political propaganda. This sparked an interest in hidden female voices resulting in her debut novel, Blood and Roses which brings a new perspective to the story of Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482, wife of Henry VI) and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses.  Catherine also writes short stories - she was a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition  and has been published by iScot magazine - and blogs monthly for The History Girls. She is represented by Tina Betts of the Andrew Mann Literary Agency.

Purchase Links:

Social media links:

Twitter @cathokin

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Book Review - His Sicilian Cinderella by Carol Marinelli - Back Catalogue Books

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

When I spotted on twitter recently that Carol Marinelli was about to have her 100th book for Harlequin published, it reminded me that I had one of her books floating about the place, and then couldn't resist reading it! 
Amazon UK
Title: His Sicilian Cinderella
Author: Carol Marinelli
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Goody Bag
Publisher: Mills & Boon
Publication Date: 1st August 2015
Rating: 4 Stars

His Until Midnight… ?

When millionaire Matteo Santini bought one night with Bella Gatti it was to protect her innocence from the dangerous game she was caught up in. He never expected to be so undone by their fierce attraction – nor by her disappearance the next day.

Chambermaid Bella has escaped her shameful past, but memories of that night with Matteo still burn. Forced to attend Sicily’s most exclusive wedding with him, Bella knows the dark-hearted tycoon will want a reckoning. And as the clock strikes twelve it’s clear the only way Bella will be leaving the party is with Matteo – via his bed!

Well it has been many years since I read a pure Mills & Boon book, and it turns out my enjoyment of them is still there. I devoured His Sicilian Cinderella in 2 short hours, and really enjoyed reading it. 

I loved hearing about all the events five years ago in Sicily which lead to Bella and Matteo's first night together. It was interesting to hear about how life in one small village in Sicily could be affected and ruled, by one powerful man, although perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised given the island's mob connections. 

There is definitely a pull between Bella and Matteo five years later no matter what they both say, but you have to keep guessing as to whether you when you will get the hoped for ending. 

I really enjoyed my couple of hours of pure escapism, in this easy to read romance, that hit the spot of what I wanted at the time of reading! 

Back Catalogue Books - Q&A with AJ Waines

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

Today I'm interviewing AJ Waines, the author of five books, including the confusingly titled Girl on a Train!

1) Please tell me about your first book, and what started you writing in the first place

I’d been working as a psychotherapist for 15 years and by 2008, I’d reached a point of burnout and was looking for something else to throw myself into. I’ve always loved words, images and metaphors; they are the means by which we navigate our inner emotional worlds and as a therapist, I paid a lot of attention to how people explored and expressed what they felt. 

I always thought novelists were superhuman; I could never imagine being able to sustain a storyline for 300 pages or more;  it seemed such a daunting task. Then, later that year, I read Stephen King’s book, ‘On Writing’ where he suggests starting with ‘an incident’ and seeing where it leads. The idea of allowing the story to unfold, without knowing anything about the plot seemed absurd, but also exciting and freeing. The notion that the characters could create their own story, with twists and turns as they went along, had never occurred to me! Once I started my first novel (with an incident!) I couldn’t stop. That first book got me an agent in 2010 (and I actually turned down a small publisher in UK on their advice), but on reflection, the plot didn’t really hang together. I now plot my novels in advance; it’s safer – but Stephen King’s approach got me started.

2) How many books have you written and what are they?

I’ve written five (published), so far, with more in production. The first four are standalones and can be read in any order:

The Evil Beneath

Girl on a Train
Dark Place to Hide
No Longer Safe
Inside the Whispers (first in the Sam Willerby series)

3) Which book are you most proud of writing?

That’s really hard, because they all feel like huge achievements. For me, writing is like taking a big breath, holding my nose and diving underwater for a very long time and with each new book it doesn’t get any easier. I think, on balance I’d have to choose The Evil Beneath, because I loved the ‘hook’ (the idea of finding a body in the water and realising that the victim is wearing your own clothes) and the way the story takes the reader to a number of well-known bridges along The Thames, in London. I’d just moved out of London at the time (a massive wrench) and it was a nostalgic way of getting to revisit the city in my mind. I’m delighted to say, even though it was first launched in 2013, I’ve just acquired a publisher in Norway for it.

4) Which book was your favourite to write?

No Longer Safe. It is set in a remote spot in the Highlands of Scotland and I loved writing atmospherically about the snow and using all kinds of images to reflect the fact that snow ‘reveals‘ aspects (eg footprints), but it also ‘covers things up’… Very useful, but also dangerous for the characters in this book, especially when there’s  thaw on the way. I also got thoroughly embroiled in the dynamics of the group (four ‘friends’ reuniting for a holiday in a ramshackled cottage where the relationships turn toxic very quickly.) It was fun to write and the ending has probably got the biggest twist of all my novels so far, given the stunned response I’ve had from readers!

5) Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?

Inside the Whispers (my latest) is the first in a series and introduces Dr Samantha Willerby, a clinical psychologist, who will appear in the next two books at least. I really like writing about her, partly because she extends beyond one book, so I can show how she changes and the impact events have on her, over time. She has a prickly relationship with her (schizophrenic) sister and I love writing about the challenges and shifts that take place during their turbulent relationship. Sam is devoted to her work with traumatised patients, tries really hard (sometimes too hard), is loyal and stands up for her beliefs, but falls for the wrong kind of men. Will she ever learn? We’ll have to see…

6) If you could go back and change anything from any of your books, what would it be, and why?

That’s a really interesting question and I think on balance, I’d have to say no. Probably the biggest standout issue with my books has been the title of ‘Girl on a Train’, which has been mixed up with Paula Hawkin’s book, ‘The Girl in the Train’. A number of people have suggested I jumped on a bandwagon, but anyone who checks will see that my book originally came out about a year earlier! In 2013, it was originally going to be called ‘Dead in her Tracks’, but my agent at the time suggested the new title. The result has been bittersweet, in that a number of readers have blamed me for the fact they bought the ‘wrong’ book, but on the other hand I wouldn’t change a thing, because amidst the furore, my book got noticed and has done amazingly well.

7) Which of your covers is your favourite and why?

It’s probably Dark Place to Hide, because I love the creepy image of the dank steps leading into darkness with the single innocent shoe left behind. You know straight away that the shoe belongs to a child and that she shouldn’t be hiding in that kind of place, so it links to the title and sets up the story beautifully. All my covers are made by a fantastic designer, Paper & Sage, in US, and I work very closely with them so that the initial images I have inside my head end up depicting the book in the most dramatic way.  

8) Have you ever thought about changing genres, if so what else would you like to write?

With a background in psychotherapy (and having always read mysteries since I was little), the genre of ‘psychological thriller’ feels like ‘home’ to me. I’ve never been interested in historical, supernatural, erotic or sci-fi novels and I can’t imagine writing a novel that doesn’t have some kind of dark suspense at its core.

9) Looking forward can you let us know what you are working on next?

My next novel, Lost in the Lake, is due out in September 2017. It’s the second in the Samantha Willerby series and is about a woman, Rosie, who comes to Sam for memory retrieval following an accident. If Sam had known the truth about the apparently naïve and innocent Rosie, she would never have invited her into her own home for therapy. But by then, it’s too late…

10) I dare not ask for a favourite author, but is there any author’s back catalogue you admire and why?

Oh, without hesitation it would be Nicci French and there are so many books to choose from by that writing duo! I loved the earliest thrillers as a reader - and as a writer, they are truly inspirational. Novels such as The Memory Game, Killing Me Softly and Secret Smile were the beginnings of domestic noir in psych thrillers and I always come back to them for a masterclass in technique!

11) Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your back catalogue of books?

Only to say that if anyone has read one of my recent books and would like the chance to win one of my back catalogue as a Giveaway, they just need to follow me on Twitter and post a tweet including @ajwaines , with the title they’ve read and the one they’d like, within a week of this post and I’ll pick a winner! 

Thank you AJ Waines, for coming and sharing with us about your Back Catalogue.

About AJ Waines

AJ Waines has sold over ¼ of a million books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. She was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, gaining a rare insight into criminal and abnormal psychology. AJ Waines is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany (Random House), Norway and USA (audiobooks).

Her fourth novel, No Longer Safe, sold over 30,000 copies in the first month, in thirteen countries. She has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and in 2016 was ranked in the Top 10 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

AJ Waines lives in Hampshire, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.  
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