Review of The Wedding Speech by Isabelle Broom

Isabelle Broom

Published: 28th August 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Blurb:

When Billy asked his best mate Ed to be his best man, Ed knew he would have to make a speech and he was dreading it. But he also knew how important it was to Billy – and to his soul mate and wife-to-be, Amelia. So Ed is determined to do them proud. But little does he know that it will be the most important speech he will ever make, and his toast – ‘To Billy and Amelia – together forever’ – will mean more than he ever thought.

Review:

Billy and Amelia are madly in love with one another and now, the Best Man Ed is about to give his speech. The entire short story is based around the speech yet it has the ability to carry the readers to a nightclub, the woods, school and even Thailand. It’s very clear that the Groom and the Best Man are the very best of friends, despite us only hearing from Ed. However, we also hear from members of the wedding party through Ed’s thoughts – the vicar, the parents and the Maid of Honour.

I was really enjoying this short story and when I thought it couldn’t get any better, it did. A highly unexpected twist happens towards the end of the speech and for a moment, I had to flick back on my Kindle and reread. I couldn’t believe it. It’s not the typical wedding speech but it’s the most powerful one I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Isabelle’s writing style is extremely beautiful and transports the readers to different places. I really enjoyed this short story and I would most definitely read Isabelle’s work again.

Twitter: @Isabelle_Broom

Scarlett Bailey Talks Books

Scarlett Bailey has been on the author scene since 2011 with her wonderfully captivating Christmas novels. When I started reading her books, I found myself being taken into a whole new world, surrounded by brilliantly thought out characters and a plot which had me reading non-stop. Scarlett’s new Christmas novella, Secret Santa is set to be published on 6th November… For those who don’t own a Kindle or eBook reading device, look away now as it’s only available to read electronically. I sat down with the author of my favourite Christmas book to have a little chat…

Q. Secret Santa is your new novella, coming in two months. I had a little nosy on Amazon and there was no blurb. For readers (and me), can you tell us what the book is about?
A. Well, if you’ve read Just For Christmas and Two Weddings and a Baby, you’ll be glad to know that ‘Secret Santa’ is also set in the Cornish town of Poldore, all our favourite characters are there, including Buoy, Alex, Ruan, Tamsyn and Jed, and this time the story centres around Sue.

Q. You’ve been writing Christmas books for quite a while now, what is it about the festive season that makes you enjoy writing it so much?
A. I think I love that with a Christmas book you can sprinkle a pretty healthy does of magic and sparkle over the story, and allow in just touch of whimsy and fantasy.

Q. You’ve just been nominated for an award, congratulations! When you win, how will you celebrate?
A. I really don’t expect to win, there are loads of brilliant writers also nominated, but IF I won, I’d drink a bottle of champagne and eat a bag of chips.

Q. Secret Santa is a novella. Why did you choose to write a novella instead of a novel? For those who aren’t sure of the difference, could you please explain for them?
A. A novella is a short novel, so about 35,000 words as opposed to 100,000. I have already written a full length novel this year, in Two Weddings and a Baby which is set in summer, but I can’t leave Christmas alone, I just love it so much, so I put together a little Christmas treat.

Q. What is your favourite line from Secret Santa?
A. ‘This year,’ Nick assured her. ‘It will snow. I have it on good authority. The Elves shipping and sleigh forecast is astonishingly accurate.’

Now for the quick fire round… It’s Christmas themed (obviously…)

Q. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? No Googling!
A. Um, Rudolf, Fred, Ginger, Mike, Ethel, Martin, Geof and Lola.

Q. When do you start your Christmas shopping?
A. December 24th

Q. What’s the best thing about Christmas?
A. Food.

Q. Favourite present of all time?
A. A dollhouse my dad made me.

Q. Favourite Christmas song?
A. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Q. If you could write a Christmas book with another author, who would it be and why?
A. Oh blimey. Um….. Lindsey Kelk because I think we would laugh a lot and be very silly.

Twitter: @ScarlettBailey

Review of One Step Closer To You by Alice Peterson

Published: 25th September 2014
Publisher: Quercus
Pages: 384

Blurb:

After Polly ends her relationship with the father of her young son, Louis, she is determined to move on. All she wants is to focus on her job, her friends and to be a good mum. No more looking over her shoulder. No more complications… Then Polly meets Ben. Ben is guardian of his niece, Emily. They become close, with Polly teaching Ben how to plait Emily’s hair, and Ben playing football with Louis. Their friendship is unexpected. Polly’s never been happier. But when Louis’s dad reappears in their life, all Polly’s mistakes come back to haunt her and her resolve weakens when he swears he has changed. Will she give herself a second chance to love?

Review:

Thank you to Quercus for kindly sending me a review copy.

The book opens in 2010 during a therapy session when Polly recalls the last time she was truly happy. Throughout the entire narrative, the book goes back and forth during her childhood and her adulthood – I really enjoyed this aspect as it allowed us to see how Polly’s problems sprouted from a young age. Polly’s family are a real mixture. You’ve got drunk Grandad trying to spill secrets, parents controlling every move and an Aunt who won’t have fun. As the past events occur in the narrative, the secrets are continually kept hush hush.

It’s not all about the family secrets though. Polly has a connection with Ben, but just as things are really beginning between them, Alice throws in a plot twist and brings in a demon from the past. I really enjoyed One Step Closer To You as Alice has a very calm writing style and you can’t help but be drawn into the narrative.

Twitter: @AlicePeterson1
Website: www.alicepeterson.co.uk

Alice Peterson Talks One Step Closer To You

When Emma asked me to contribute to her blog, giving her 5 people I’d like to be one step closer to, given the title of my book I thought it was such a good idea and couldn’t resist. So I started to make a list in my head before realising it’s quite hard to pin it down to just 5. I am fortunate enough to be exceptionally close to my parents, to my family, to my friends… so my list comprises of a real contrast of people that I’d love to have a coffee with, a chance encounter with, sit next to at a dinner, flirt with, have a friendship with; maybe I’d like to just meet them to say a thank you. So here goes:

1.) The band Kodaline.
My sister introduced me to this group and when I watched their video of ‘All I Want’ Part One and Two, immediately I thought I’d give anything to meet them. Their lyrics and videos are about love, loss and hope. They are moving and funny and celebrate the underdog and those who are different. Plus their films feature dogs! I’d love them to produce a song and video for one of my books. They seem to get life and come across so honest and lovely. Love them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtf7hC17IBM

Writer Alice Peterson.

2.) Sir Ravinder Nath Maini – Rheumatology Professor.
He pioneered the treatment I take for my rheumatoid arthritis, my magic drug that has kept me well, happy and independent for the past 10 years. I have met him once and it was such a privilege, but it was only a very quick encounter. I’d love to see him again to let him know how much he has done for 1000s of people like me. Really, I’d like to thank him for giving me my life back.

3.) Brendan Cole, Strictly Come Dancing.
I love SCD, and have always had a soft spot for Brendan. I love the mischief in his eyes and how he’s a rule breaker. It would be a real challenge for Brendan to teach me how to dance, but I’m sure he loves challenges.
Update: Brendan has tweeted both Alice and Emma – he’s read the post! Eeek.

48790_One Step Closer To You_PB.indd

4.) Sarah Lancashire, Actress.
After watching Happy Valley, I have a girly crush on her. I think she is the most amazing actress. I’d love to find myself sitting next to her on a long train journey. Like Judy Dench she completely inhabits the characters she plays. If there were a film made of One Step Closer To You I’d want her to play Aunt Vivienne.

5.) David Nicholls, author of One Day and Us.
I’m a big fan of his writing, I could not put One Day down and I know I’ll be rushing out to buy the hard copy of Us published this month. His writing is so perceptive and warm, funny and engaging. I also think he comes from the Winchester area, which is where I was brought up. So David, if you’re reading this…

Twitter: @AlicePeterson1
Website: www.alicepeterson.co.uk

Review of Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Published: 9th October 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 272

Blurb:

I was sent here because of a boy. His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died, and almost a year passed and no one knew what to do with me. A group of emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers gather at a therapeutic boarding school where they are mysteriously picked for ‘Special Topics in English’. Here, they are tasked with studying Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar and keeping a journal.

Review:

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the review copy during my work experience in August. I have purposely left the last two lines out of the blurb for the simple reason that it tells you what Belzhar is. I read this book having no idea what Belzhar is and in my opinion, it makes the book a lot more enjoyable. If you do wish to know what it is before you read it, just head over to Amazon.

Jam is at The Wooden House, a boarding school for children with emotional issues. Her Special English class is rather unique: they’re all studying Sylvia Plath and have been doing ever since the very first semester of the class. As the chapters of Belzhar melt into one another, I quickly became transfixed with Jam, her flashback to days with Reeve and her journey to becoming better. The stereotypical “boy meets girl and they fall in love” storyline is there but it’s very different. Reeve is no longer around, but for me, the lack of explaining his death wasn’t explained very well at all. I still don’t know how he died…

“Without Reeve, I’m hardly even a person.”

It’s not just Jam who is important in this narrative, the four other Special English students have their own stories to tell, their own problems and goals. Chapter 5 is when Belzhar really comes into play. At first, I wasn’t sure whether it was a place, a feeling or a drug, but never the less, it grabbed my attention. When it does become clear, I thought it was a genius idea in an eerie sense. Not only that, but it allowed Jam and the other Special English students to come together and to support one another.

Overall, I thought the book was really something special and unpredictable. It was remarkable of how Belzhar and a certain Sylvia Plath novel linked together and I finished the book with all the dots together.

Twitter: @MegWolitzer
Website: www.megwolitzer.com

Leah Fleming Talks Books

Leah Fleming is a born storyteller. Since 2009, she has brought the world Historical Romance stories after another and her latest, The Postcard is a best seller on Amazon. I sat down with Leah to discuss her writing life…

Q. Your new book, The Postcard, has been a hit. It’s been called compelling, fascinating, captivating and people have even put you in the same box as Rachel Hore. How does it feel when you receive yet another five star review?
A. Receiving 5* reviews is always a relief but to be honest I don’t read many of my online reviews. We, authors are a nervy bunch and getting hooked on review ratings can just sink confidence especially when some reviewers can be so negative. ( Why are those the ones we always remember)

Q. While we’re talking about your new book, what is it about for those (like myself) who have yet to read it?
A. There are two important postcards in The Postcard: one goes missing in the war and changes the lives of three generations of a family. The other is found in a shoe box in Australia and sends a girl to the UK on a quest to find her ancestry. How are these two cards are linked ? Read and find out…

2014-07-24 18.47.21

Q. In order to write Historical Romance, experts say that you must read a lot of books within the field that you’re writing about. Which Historical Romance authors do you love?
A. Whatever genre you write, it is good to be a voracious reader of any good writing and storytelling. For Historical authenticity you go to biographies and diaries etc. Romantic fiction is a broad church and deals with the most universal emotional themes and passions. For my own pleasure I read Tracy Chevalier, Helen Dunmore, Judith Lennox, Rachel Hore, Daphne Du Maurier etc. but NEVER when busy writing in that genre myself. Then I turn to crime…

Q. Out of all of your books, if one could be adapted into a film, which would it be and why?
A. I am told all my novels have a filmic quality but if I could have the budget and Spielberg, I would choose The Girl Under The Olive Tree. It is set in war time Crete, based on a true story. There would be a fabulous location, heroes, villains galore, big action scenes and lots of poignant drama.

Q. Book bloggers play a big part in promoting a book. How have they changed your writing career?
A. The art of Book Blogging is new to me but greatly appreciated for it brings books to a wider online audience who may take a chance on one of my novels. I have loved being involved in these blog tours. What author doesn’t want to talk about themselves? Thank you for asking this question.

Q. You volunteer to drive mobile libraries, what allowed you to get involved with that?
A. I got involved with our local Home Library deliveries because I live in a rural area and all the mobile libraries were cut due to budget cuts. This meant elderly and infirm villagers were dependent on others bringing books. This way they can choose what they want to read and it’s brought to the door. (In one case left in a bucket in a covered box by the foot of the remote farm track).


Q. On your website, you give 10 top tips for writing a better chapter. What’s the best writing tip that you’ve ever been given?
A. The best writing tip I ever read was one by Stephen King: Write your first draft with the door closed and the second with the door open ie. That first “ dirty “ draft is for your eyes only. Giving bits to be read by others too early can stifle the freedom to experiment and freeze creativity.

Q. If you could send a postcard to any author in the world, who would it be and what would you write on it?
A. My postcard to a living author would be to Barbara Kingsolver in America: Dear Barbara. Thanks for your recent book: Flight Behaviour. It opened the world of butterfly research to me. I wish I could see the Monarchs for myself. But the compassion and humanity you showed to the Southern community in which you set this story made me laugh and cry. You are an inspiration. Leah

Twitter: @LeahleFleming
Website: http://www.leahfleming.co.uk

Review of The Best Of Me by Nicholas Sparks

thebestofme

Published: 13th October 2011
Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 336

Blurb:

They were teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks – with a passion that would change their lives for ever. But life would force them apart.

Years later, the lines they had drawn between past and present are about to slip… Called back to their hometown for the funeral of the mentor who once gave them shelter when they needed it most, they are faced with each other once again, and forced to confront the paths they chose. Can true love ever rewrite the past?

Film News: 

On the 26th July 2013, fans were excited when Nicholas announced the news of the adaptation on his website: “We’re excited to announce that Nicholas is teaming-up again with Relativity Media for a movie version of The Best of Me‬. That’s right, the same team that successfully brought both Safe Haven and Dear John to the big screen is back together again!”

It hits UK cinemas on Wednesday 15th October 2014. Check on IMDB for the date in your country.

Review:

When Poppy at Little Brown asked me whether I’d read any Nicholas Sparks books, I practically screamed YES in her face. In actual fact, I’ve read them all as well as watched all the films. She told me that Little Brown were releasing The Best Of Me again, but this time with a film cover and whether I’d like to take part in the blog tour. I, of course, said yes and dug out my beautiful copy from 2011 and began to reread for what seemed like the first time…

Dawson Cole is an average 42 year old man. He lives alone, keeps his life simple and hasn’t dated since his teenage years. His dear friend and father figure, Tuck has sadly passed away, so Dawson is on his way back to his home city in preparation to say goodbye. Readers quickly learn within the first chapter that the Cole family aren’t one to be messed with, but not Dawson, he’s the expectation. Amanda Collier is the complete opposite – she comes from a high class, wealthy family, the kind who have a lot of power and aren’t afraid to boast about it. She was the popular girl at school and nobody thought she’d give Dawson a second glance back in the day.

The narrative flickers back and forth between the past and the present. This allows the reader to be fully aware of the relationship between Dawson, Amanda and Tuck. With Nicholas, he has the beauty to bring people together through simple ways whether it’s with an animal, an item, a subject or other people. It’s never a complicated story. It’s simple, straight to the point yet highly effective and that’s why he’s the King of Love Stories. The set-up with Dawson and Amanda is rather similar to Allie and Noah in The Notebook – rich and poor, how will they match? Despite this similarity, The Best Of Me takes a much deeper twist.

“…Somehow she’d lost sight of the person she’d once meant to be.”

In regards to the characters, they have deep, sometimes unforgettable problems. They’re realistic in order for the reader to connect, sympathise, relate but more importantly, to give hope towards the characters. As the narrative continues, Dawson’s past haunts him as Amanda has to face the reality back at home. The ending was highly unexpected, but that’s why I love about Nicholas’ books – expect nothing and in return, he’ll make you fall madly in love with the characters, the beautiful setting and the fantastic plot.

What can I say? It’s utterly perfect which comes to no surprise because I know that Nicholas Sparks will never disappoint me. If you want a romance story at it’s best, this is one for you! Make sure you grab yourself a copy before the film hits cinemas!

Twitter: @NicholasSparks
Website: www.nicholassparks.com

 

 

Review of Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Ugly Love

Published: 5th August 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 352

Blurb:

When Tate Collins finds airline pilot Miles Archer passed out in front of her apartment door, it is definitely not love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. But what they do have is an undeniable mutual attraction. He doesn’t want love and she doesn’t have time for a relationship, but their chemistry cannot be ignored. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up, as long as Tate can stick to two rules: Never ask about the past and don’t expect a future. Tate is determined that she can handle it, but when she realises that she can’t, will she be able to say no to her sexy pilot when he lives just next door!

Review:

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the review copy – I actually picked this up whilst I was there for my internship. I’ve never read any of Colleen’s books before but I’ve heard nothing but praise from fellow book bloggers.

23 year old Tate has moved to San Francisco to complete her Masters in Nursing. Her brother, Corbin has given up his spare room for her, but on moving day, she has an odd meet-cute with Miles aka. the gorgeous pilot. Their friendship (although they deny having one) quickly heats up and the chemistry becomes unbearable for the both of them. I liked how Colleen allowed Tate to have really cute, exciting thoughts – “our knees were touching.” It reminds readers of how exciting it is to find someone new.

Tate’s point of view was in the present and we read how her life revolves around home, family, school and her situation from Miles. For me, there was one thing missing – friends! She only had the elevator man, but I wanted her to gossip with some female friends about Miles, but sadly, there was none of that. We hear from Miles as well, but in the past, six years ago to be precise. The story of him falling in love in high school and the drama he faces relates deeply to how he acts in the present day. In my opinion, it was a fantastic subplot and I absolutely loved reading about Miles in a different light. That storyline heated up very quickly and it was very shocking!

Miles and Tate have quickly become one of my favourite couples within a book. It would make an incredible film and I urge people to treat themselves to a copy because it’s one of the most courageous, life-changing, romantic books I’ve ever read. If you enjoy reading Nicholas Sparks, this is one for you.

Twitter: @colleenhoover
Website: www.colleenhoover.com

Mike Gayle Talks Books

Mike Gayle has been on the literary scene since 2000 with Mr Commitment, since then he has written fourteen books. His new one being Seeing Other People. His writing style is unique, captivating and I simply can’t get enough of his excellent characters. I sat down with Mike to discuss his writing life and of course, there were a few fun questions thrown in…

Q. When did you first realise that you wanted to write for a living?
A.
Even though I haven’t actually done anything but write for a living since leaving university I don’t think I ever sat down and thought I want to make a living out of this. Mostly, I think, I just wanted to write as much and as frequently as possible and wasn’t particularly bothered about making money from it. I don’t know, maybe it was just the naïveté of youth but that thought just didn’t occur to me. I think if you want to write you should write and worry about the practical stuff later.

Q. Your new book, Seeing Other People, hit shelves in late August, for those who haven’t read the book yet, could you tell them a little bit about it?
A.
It’s about a guy whose life implodes when he confesses to his wife that he’s had an affair only to later discover that he hasn’t and is actually instead being tortured by the ghost of his least favourite ex-girlfriend! It’s a comedy really with a serious message about how easy it is to do the wrong thing and how hard it is to make it right again.

Q. In Seeing Other People, there are two children who belong to the main character, Joe. Is there any difference between writing adults and children?
A.
I don’t think so. I think whether your characters are old or young they have to ring true. I’ve got two kids in my house so I think that’s probably more than enough research to last me a lifetime!

Q. Out of all of your books, if one could be adapted in a film, which would it be and why?
A.
Good question! I think it would be Brand New Friend because it’s a romantic comedy without being a romantic comedy. Essentially it’s a story about a guy with a girlfriend becoming friends with a person who just happens to be a woman and I haven’t seen a rom com like that.

Q. You have over 4,000 followers on Twitter and quite a lot of those are book bloggers. How has social media and book bloggers in particular helped with your writing career?
A.
I think the main thing book bloggers do is create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm around commercial fiction. Their love of books and authors is infectious which is exactly what the industry needs.

Q. How does it feel when someone, such as myself, tweets you with admiration about one of your books?
A.
When you spend all day everyday chained to your iMac like I do the fact that ANYONE AT ALL likes what you do can literally make your day. When that person happens to be someone who receives dozens of books a month and has a keen sense of what’s going on in the world of books that can literally make your week.

You’re a maker of lists, so I thought we could have a little bit of fun…

Top 5 Books:
The Wheels of Chance by HG Wells
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
The Essence of the Thing by Madeline St John
Just William by Richmal Crompton
Love and Nausea by David Wilson

Top 5 Films:
Manhattan
Annie Hall
The Station Agent
Leon
Heat

Top 5 Holiday Destinations:
Malta
Mauritius
USA
Portugal
China

Top 5 Female Authors:
Jenny Colgan
Chris Manby
Lisa Jewell
Gillian Flynn
JoJo Moyes

Top 5 Male Authors:
Douglas Coupland
Matt Dunn
Danny Wallace
Dan Rhodes
Jon Ronson

Top 5 Foods:
Cake
Biscuits
Bacon
Fried Eggs
Waitrose green tea smoked salmon

Top 5 Chocolate Bars:
Dairy Milk
Topic
Crunchie
Twix
Lion Bar

Twitter: @mikegayle
Website: www.mikegayle.co.uk

Review of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Published: 10th September 2014
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 384

Blurb:

Moving backwards and forwards in time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan – warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet’.

Review:

Thank you to Picador for kindly sending me a copy. Sam Eades has been non-stop about this book for the past couple of months. Near enough every single day, she’d write a tweet about it and quickly, a craze began. I was very intrigued about the book as it’s spoken about a lot but also, I’ve never read anything by the author before so for me, it was entering a whole new world and that’s exactly what the book felt like.

The narrative opens in a theatre. In true acting form, it’s very dramatic especially when something happens to Arthur Leander. Jeevan, a paramedic in training comes to his rescue and soon enough, the incident is all over the news. But that’s not the only topic of discussion for that evening. A deadly flu is floating around America and before it’s too late, people have got to leave the city and save themselves. I was drawn into the plot very quickly and it reminded me a lot of The Road by Cormac McCarthy – a book which I absolutely adored during my Film Studies degree.

As well as Arthur and Jeevan, we hear from four other characters and within chapters, we learn of their lives and how time has changed between the night at the theatre and the year of no electricity. Emily has cleverly wrapped each character together – there is an event or another person who brings them together and I really liked that aspect.

In my honest opinion, this is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. It ought to win an Book Oscar, if those exist. It’s the kind of book which you have to read for yourself to understand how powerful and highly descriptive it is. I now fully understand why Sam Eades has been going absolutely mental for this book.

Twitter: @EmilyMandel
Website: www.emilymandel.com