Cupid’s Way

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When Evie Stone’s grandparents enlist her help to save their home in Cupid’s Way, Evie is happy to oblige. On the cusp of her thirties, and still disappointingly single, Evie’s so-called dream job with a firm of architects has been driving her crazy for months. What she needs, even more than a new man, is a challenge.

But saving Cupid’s Way won’t be easy. A perfectly preserved Victorian terrace, surrounded by modern estates and retail parks, the street is a proud oasis of quirky characters, cobbled pathways and communal gardens. Unfortunately, it also sits on prime development land worth millions.

Dynamite Construction have the deal in the bag, and soon the residents of Cupid’s Way will be forced to sell up and ship out – CEO Michael Andrews, charismatic and super-successful, has certainly never let sentimentality get in the way of business. At least, he hadn’t until he met Evie Stone.

My opinion: When Joanne emailed me to offer me a copy of the book for review, I read the blurb and jumped at the chance. Excuse the pun, but Cupid’s Way sounded just up my street.

The book starts off with a disastrous trip to Cardiff where Evie is due to speak at an environmental conference. Bad weather means that she is unable to make the trip to see her grandparents in Bristol and help them to save their beloved street, Cupid’s Way. A big shot developer is trying to buy the street to make way for a new health centre, and Evie has the shock of her life when she finds out who the CEO of the company is. Evie won’t let go with out a fight though and rallies the residents to try and save Cupid’s Way.

This book grabbed me right from the start. When I started reading it, I was sat in my sunny back garden in Cardiff, the day after speaking at an environmental conference (although mine was in London). You can see why I felt like I connected with the book straight away. Apart from the links to my own life, the characters were colourful and the writing just dragged me straight in to Cupid’s Way. I felt like I knew each and every one of the residents by the end of the book, which I finished really quickly. I just couldn’t put it down as I wanted to know what happened next.

There were a few little twists in the story and although I had an inkling about how it might end, I couldn’t be certain that I would be right. Some parts of the story made me laugh, and others were heartbreakingly sad, but all through are lots of little love stories, helped along by Cupid’s Way.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more from Joanne in the future. I’d definitely recommend it as a great holiday read – and come back next week when Joanne will be taking part in an author interview!

My rating: A fabulous four stars

I received an advance copy of this book for review from the author in exchange for an honest review

 

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Paper Aeroplanes

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It’s the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn’t be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo’s jealous ex-best friend and Renée’s growing infatuation with Flo’s brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship.

My opinion: As soon as I heard that Dawn O’Porter had written a book, I just knew I had to read it! Unfortunately it has been sat on my Kindle for a while, but I finally got round to it a few weeks ago.

Paper Aeroplanes is set on the small isle of Guernsey and we get to know unlikely teenage friends, Renee and Flo. They come from different, but equally dysfunctional families and are trying to find their way through all of the trials which teenage years bring. These include school, families, and most definitely boys.

I was hooked by this story straight away and it was a bit like being told a story by an old friend. Dawn’s writing style is relaxed and draws you in, but believe me, there is no stone left unturned in the life of these teenagers! I found Renee and Flo easy to relate to, but they both made me wonder whether I had a sheltered time as a teenage girl as I never got in half the trouble they do, particularly with boys! I thought the character of Sally was quite genius too, as this sort of “friend” is very rarely depicted in either books or tv programmes, but most certainly exists in real life.

I think this book could become a cult sort of novel and should definitely be read by all women, both teenage and older to get a glimpse into these girls lives in all its gory glory! I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series.

My rating: Four stars

The Teashop on the Corner

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At her beloved husband’s funeral, Carla Pride discovers that Martin never divorced his first wife and has been living a double life with her. And his other wife, Julie Pride, is determined to take everything from Carla – her home, her money, and her memories.

When Will Linton’s business goes bust he at least thinks that with the support of his trophy wife Nicole he will rise to the top again. But Nicole isn’t going to stick around with ‘a loser’ and Will finds himself at rock bottom.

Molly Jones is being bullied into going into a retirement home by her ‘concerned’ daughter-in-law Sherry and son Gram. Then the love of Molly’s life walks in through her door – a man who broke Molly’s heart into little pieces many years ago. But he says he is dying and wants to spend the time he has left with her.

All people in need of a little love and compassion which they find by chance in the stationery and teashop on the corner run by the ever-cheerful Leni, a woman that site developer Shaun McCarthy finds annoying beyond annoying for her ability to remain unrealistically upbeat about everything.

But is the world of Leni Merryman as full of rainbows and sparkles as everyone thinks? Or is her smile papering over many cracks in her heart that will soon be shattered unwittingly by her new friends?

My opinion: Milly Johnson super fan alert…. I LOVED this book!

Carla is at her husband’s funeral when she discovers, in a scene worthy of any British soap, that another woman is legally his wife and he has been living a double life with her behind Carla’s back. Martin never divorced first wife Julie and when they met up again many years later, they got back together. He just forgot to tell Carla this, amongst many other things. Molly lives next door to her twin sister and brother in law and lives a perfectly fine life. Apart from her horrible son and daughter in law who are trying to put her into a home and sell off her house, and a few skeletons in her closet. Will loses his business, his home and his shallow wife who doesn’t seem to remember the “for poorer” part of her wedding vows. Each person’s life gets intertwined with one anothers following the opening of Leni’s teashop, where they meet each other, make new friends and have lots of tea and cake!

As soon as I started reading this book I was hooked yet again. I love Milly’s style of writing, and although I have only recently discovered her book, what a discovery that was!! I really liked and felt attached to each of the main characters, but felt especially drawn to Carla as she rebuilt her life on her own and moved on from finding out that her life had been a lie. I also loved Molly and her story. Each of the characters had so much depth and there were some real shockers lurking in the back of closets. These storylines were sensitively handled without feeling as though the author was afraid of the topics, and worked so well to really turn the characters into real people.

I loved the detail that went into this book, partiularly about all of the literary gifts in Leni’s cafe. The only thing I love more that bookish gifts are books about books! I had a bit of a book geek moment with this book and may have bought myself some book themed gifts when I finished! Another fabulous book from Milly Johnson. I can’t wait for the next book, but feel lucky that I still have to acquaint myself with her back catalogue – very much something to look forward to!

My rating: Five fabulous stars

I received an advance copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review

Guest Post: Is it time to leave the day job?

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Today’s guest post is from Amita Murray, author of Confessions of a Reluctant Embalmer

Is it Time to Leave the Day Job?

This is an excellent question, and one that most writers and artists who love doing what they do will ask at some point. I asked myself this question repeatedly (some might say, obsessively) for over a year before I left my full-time job about three years ago, went part-time/freelance, and decided to spend more time and energy writing fiction. By this time, I’d written (not published, just written) about three-and-a-half novels, and a handful of short stories.

In the last three years, I’ve told myself there were many reasons for this move, but when it comes down to it there was just one. Writing novels felt natural to me – having a full-time job that I wasn’t happy in felt depressing. It was like not only my mind but my body was reacting against the situation I was in, like I was physically fighting a war – a war between doing what I craved and staying in a job that just wasn’t working for me.

About a year ago, a top London agent took on my novel The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress. At that time, leaving a full-time job felt like the best decision I’d ever made. It was complete vindication. But then publishers turned it down, saying they loved it, it was compelling and beautifully written, but it didn’t fit a clear market. At that time, leaving a full-time job seemed like a very, very bad decision.

So, is it the right thing to do? Here are some of the things you need to think about.

What is your financial situation?

When I left my job, there were a few things working in my favour. I’d anticipated this move, so I had some savings (not loads, just some.) I had some part-time and freelance work on offer.

So, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do you have any savings?
  • Do you have any part-time/freelance opportunities?
  • Might you need a mortgage in the next few years? (Sad though it is, it is harder to get a mortgage if you are freelance than if you are on a salary, even a part-time salary.)
  • Are you likely to need maternity-leave in the next few years? (Remember, no salary, no maternity leave. Only a maternity allowance, which you will have to do a fair bit of paperwork to get.)
  • Do you have a partner with a more stable job than yours? (Not crucial, but it can help.)
  • Are you likely to need further training in doing the thing you love?

While you’re asking yourself these questions, think about this. Why do you want to leave your job? Is it to get more time to focus on the thing you want to do? To have more energy? Because it’s more satisfying doing what you love? Or just because you don’t like the job you’re in? None of these are bad reasons. But it takes a while to make it as an artist in any discipline. If you can find the time and energy to do what you love, while working part-time, then that’s a pretty good middle ground.

One more question – are you actually good at the thing you love doing? Are you getting really good feedback from people who know what they’re talking about? Or is it only your mum that reads your work? If so, then you may need more training. For which, you may need more money! And, therefore, some sort of salary.

Is your creative side going nudge-nudge and is it starting to hurt?

Okay, so, leaving a full-time job is not so great for your finances. But what about your creative side? I have to say that even though I’ve been a little sad (read, in a death-wish inducing panic) about my finances at various times since leaving full-time employment, I’ve worked on some fantastic freelance projects. These have had variety, really cool people to work with, had me thinking on my feet, and made me resourceful. Meaning, even the work I have taken up that was not related to writing novels was fulfilling and meaningful.

So, in terms of your creative side, leaving a job that is not working for you will definitely free up energy and time, give you more time with family and friends, and make you resourceful. But it can be very tough on your finances, and that can unhinge you, given enough time spent on decisions about whether or not to buy eight-pound pantyhose.

Remember one more thing. Leaving your full-time job may not be a permanent decision. You can rethink it as you go. In some cases, especially depending on what you’re doing part-time, you may have the option to easily go back to full-time work. In other cases, it may be harder.

Check out my romantic-comedy Confessions of a Reluctant Embalmer – think Six Feet Under, but more slapstick, with a dash of The Royal Tenenbaums – on Amazon. Publishers Weekly says the book is randy, fascinating, and very funny. And get in touch! I’d love to hear from you. Get this book for 99p on a Kindle Countdown deal on Amazon, from June 16-22, 2014.

Get in touch @AmitaMurray and amitamurray.com. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Thirteen Weddings

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Last year, Bronte left Sydney for a wedding in England, where she met newly single Alex. After a night of passion they parted ways, and Bronte returned to Australia. Now working on a picture desk for a magazine in London, Bronte is about to meet her new colleague, who turns out to be all too familiar. Although awkward at first, as Alex is now engaged to the girl he was on a break from when they met, they soon become friends. But as the two get closer, and the wedding day looms, it is clear that Alex and Bronte have unfinished business…

My opinion: This was the first Paige Toon book I have read, despite having a couple on my Kindle for some time. I don’t know why I have put it off so long and know I want to read more soon!

Australian Bronte is at her friend’s hen party in London when she meets Alex. Alex has just split up from his girlfriend and he and Bronte are instantly drawn to one another. He ends up back at her hotel room and one thing leads to another. But in the cold light of day he receives a text from the girlfriend he has just broken up with and he heads back to her while Bronte goes back home to Australia. A year later, Bronte is back in England working for a magazine and on her first day bumps into someone she never thought she would see again. That’s right. Alex also works at the magazine.

I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of this book after requesting it on Netgalley, so I want to say thank you to Simon and Schuster for that. I have seen so many great reviews of this book and just had to try it for myself, and boy was I in for a treat! I wasn’t quite sure if I liked Bronte at first, but really warmed to her when she moved to the UK. I also liked reading about her circle of friends in London, which was big enough to give a feel of a group, but not so big that I lost track of the characters. I thought I could see where the story was going, but it really kept me guessing as it kept twisting. I wasn’t expecting lots of the things to happen, and I’m so glad that they did as they were totally the right things.

A great thing about this book is that it has got facets to the story that you just don’t expect if you take it at face value. I totally devoured this book and only wish there was more of it! I hope we see more of Bronte at some point in the future, and in the mean time I need to catch up with those Paige Toon books that are sat on my Kindle!

My rating: Five stars

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Cherringham: Murder on Thames

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Cherringham is a quiet and peaceful town in the Cotswolds. Time moves slowly here, and nothing out of the ordinary ever happens, until one morning a woman’s body is discovered in the river. Sarah Edwards has just returned to Cherringham with her two children following the breakdown of her marriage. Sarah had been friends with Sammi Jackson – the woman in the river –before they both moved to London and she’s certain there is more to her death than meets the eye. But juggling the school run and her job as a web designer doesn’t leave much time to solve murder mysteries.

After the death of his wife, former NYPD homicide detective Jack Brennan has retired to Cherringham hoping for a quiet life. He soon realises “peace and quiet” isn’t really him and, despite his misgivings, he’s persuaded by Sarah to help her look into Sammi’s death. It quickly becomes clear that the case isn’t as simple as the police hope. From her violent ex-boyfriend to her alcoholic father, it seems everyone has something to hide. Sarah and Jack will need to use all their wits to get to the bottom of this case.

“Cherringham – A Cozy Crime Series” is a series of twelve self-contained episodes. A new case for Jack and Sarah is released each month.

My opinion: Now I love a cosy mystery. My greatest pleasures in life include Midsomer Murders and Agatha Raisin mysteries. So, when I saw this book on Netgalley, I  was very intrigued and just knew I had to give it a try.

Cherringham is a sleepy and fairly boring town in the Cotswolds where nothing out of the ordinary seems to happen. Until a body is discovered in the river, and despite the best efforts of the police to make it look like an accident, the facts just don’t seem to be adding up. Enter Sarah, former friend of the woman found in the river and local business woman. Sarah has recently returned to Cherringham from the bright lights of London following the break up of her marriage. She crosses paths with Jack, former NYPD detective, and together they start to put the pieces together to find out what really happened to the woman in the river.

I’m going to be honest and say that I was a little dubious about this book. Although I love cosy mysteries and was intrigued by this one, I have generally found that a lot of books let me down by being too fluffy or farcical. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It grabbed my attention, had a good story and amount of detail without being too gory, and as it was a short story I devoured it in one sitting out in my sunny back garden!

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Agatha Raisin and Midsomer, and will certainly keep an eye out for more in the series. A great quick read that still has some substance without the blood and guts!

My rating: Four stars

I was provided with a review copy of the book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

The Best Thing That Never Happened to Me

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Holly has learnt that life isn’t about seizing the moment. She might have harboured dreams about travelling the world as a teenager, but she let go of those – just as she let go of Alex.

But what if the feelings never really went away?

Alex wants to make every moment of his new job count. It’s a fresh start in a new city, and he knows that moving to London has nothing to do with Holly. Well, probably.

How do you know if it was meant to be. or never meant to happen at all?

A brilliantly funny, feel-good story of first love, second chances and everything inbetween, perfect for fans of romantic comedies like Love Actually, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones.

My opinion: As soon as I saw the cover of this book I knew I had to read it. I know, I know, my pretty book shallowness has hit again. But it’s brought me to some great books recently, and this one is no exception.

Holly and Alex were best friends as teenagers in the nineties.They had told each other everything, apart from the fac that they had feelings for one another. They manage to fall out just before going to uni and never see each other again. Spring forward to 2010, in their late twenties Holly and Alex’s paths cross once again. Only this time Alex has followed his dream to London to teach in a London Borough and Holly is a PA with a boyfriend she adores and sees a future with.

The book not only tells the story at two different points in time, but also from two different points of view. Laura Tait writes Holly’s story and Jimmy Rice writes about Alex. This is such a clever concept and I was really looking forward to see how this would work. I was very pleased that it worked as well as it does and it felt pretty seamless to read. I think the best thing about this approach was getting the male characters thoughts from a male point of view, whilst still keeping a clear female feel for Holly.

I immediately liked both Alex and Holly and was rooting for them both. Although at times it was shaky, I felt emotinally attached to both of them. I felt that the book was well paced and although I had an inkling how it would end up, I didn’t know how it would get there. I really enjoyed reading about Holly and Alex getting to know each other again and becoming best friends once more. I could relate to a lot of the book as my best friend through high school was male – although we were never in love with each other as far as I know! It made me reminisce about all of the good times we had before he met his now wife and was no longer allowed to speak to me (deep breaths, don’t get me started!!).

I’d definitely recommend this book and really enjoyed reading it. I hope that Laura and Jimmy write together again as it worked so well with this book and I think it’s a great concept. I will certainly be keeping an eye out for more from them!

My rating: Four stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review