Sunday, 27 April 2014

Things We Never Say - Sheila O'Flanagan

I was sent a copy of this book by Frances Gough at Headline Review via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

About the book...

The irresistible new novel from No. 1 bestselling author Sheila O'Flanagan. Abbey Andersen is the last person to go looking for change. Yes, it's tough that she barely sees her mother these days - but in San Francisco she has great friends, a steady relationship and a job she enjoys. When Abbey is contacted by Irish lawyer Ryan Gilligan she learns in an instant everything she believed about her roots is a lie. She must travel to Dublin to find out more - but she's scarcely off the plane when she's plunged into a new crisis. One that will change everything not just for Abbey but for the family in Ireland who had no idea that she even existed. Now Abbey has to make a choice that will affect everyone she knows. How can she be sure she makes the right one? And can life ever be quite the same again?





About the author...

A Dubliner all my life. My parents owned a grocery shop in the Iveagh Markets, in the Liberties area of the city and I guess city blood runs through my veins. 

As a child I enjoyed reading and telling stories, and everyone thought that my future career would have something to do with books and literature. But though I applied for a job in the library all of the job offers I got were in commerce.

I turned down lots of them before my mother accepted one for me (I was on holiday at the time). It was in the Central Bank of Ireland and that’s how my career in financial services began. 

In my spare time I still loved reading, and I desperately wanted to write my own book. I guess I never quite got over the fact that I was never offered the library job! In my thirties I decided that it was now or never and I sat down, stuck Chapter 1 on a page, and started. I wrote the whole thing before sending it off to an Irish publishing company.

I was offered a publishing deal (with no advance) by them, but only if I wrote a different book! So it was back to the drawing board. I started again and wrote Dreaming of a Stranger. It was another two years before it was published. It wasn’t until I’d written a few books and was offered a contract (this time with an advance) from another publisher that I felt able to give up my trading job and write full time. So I eventually realised my dream of being a full-time writer.


Visit: Sheila O'Flanagans Website or follow on twitter @sheilaoflanagan

My thoughts...

I've always been a fan of chic lit using it as an antidote to my other favourite genre - psychological thrillers or reading at times when there's too much going on in my life and I'm looking for a comfort read.  Sheila O'Flanagan has always been included in what I call my 'comfort blanket' authors. I know whenever I pick up one of her novels I'm going to get a  nice, easy read that touches on real life issues but invariably turns out nice in the end - a real feel good book thats not all pink and fluffy.

This book was no exception, it is set in both Ireland and San Francisco where Abbey Anderson gets dragged into the world of the Fitzpatrick family after Fred the elderly father of the Fitzpatrick's develops a fixation with the Magdalene Laundries and sends an investigator to find Abbey's mother with the intention of bringing her to Ireland for him to make his piece and right a wrong. I liked the fact that the heart of this story was historically an unspeakable subject - many women suffered at the hands of the nuns in Ireland in the Magdalene laundries/asylums. 

This book is all about family dynamics, sibling rivalry along with honesty, trust and communication.  Abbey unwittingly finds herself at the centre of a family that is being held together by threads.  I think Sheila's descriptions are particularly vivid. I could see each of the family members as clearly as if she was describing people I know.  Although I would have liked some of them to have a little more depth. I did also really enjoy the chapters set in San Francisco and Dublin having visited both of these cities myself I could clearly visualise the settings which enhanced my reading. 

Although I didn't like all of the characters and in fact my opinion didn't alter throughout the whole book for some, I could see how their behaviour and attitude suited their role within the story.  Family dynamics are different in every family with pride and stubbornness playing a big part in this family. I didn't take to Donald in particular although I did feel his attitude was one of the most realistic. I could feel his passion and anger lifting from the page - honour and standing within the family was all too apparent, he really was blinkered both in the beginning and he really was no different at the end of the story either. He couldn't seem to see beyond his own situation -  greed and pride overpowering all other emotions.

This story demonstrates how we should take time to think beyond today and about the possible consequences of our actions.  Thinking with your head or heart is not enough, usually your gut instinct is the right one. As in this book time, quiet and space will usually allow for balanced decisions. 

I look forward to reading Sheila O'Flanagans next novel If You Were Me due out in July this year.

I gave this book 4/5 stars

Friday, 25 April 2014

The French for Always - Fiona Valpy

About the book...

One little hitch...
Leaving the grey skies of home behind to transform a crumbling French Château into a boutique wedding venue is a huge leap of faith for Sara. She and fiancé Gavin sink their life savings into the beautiful Château Bellevue – set under blue skies and surrounded by vineyards in the heart of Bordeaux.
After months of hard work, the dream starts to become a reality – until Gavin walks out halfway through their first season. Overnight, Sara is left very much alone with the prospect of losing everything.
With her own heart breaking, Sara has five weddings before the end of the season to turn the business around and rescue her dreams. With the help of the locals and a little courage can she save Château Bellevue before the summer is over?

About the author...
Fiona Valpy lives in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007. She left behind a career in Marketing and Public Relations to explore new avenues and now teaches yoga and writes.
Having renovated an old rambling farmhouse with her husband, she has developed new-found skills in cement-mixing and interior decorating, although her preferred pastime by far is wine-tasting.

Read more about Fiona and her books at her Website or follow her on Twitter 
My thoughts...

I was offered a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review by Kim at Bookouture  in exchange for an honest review. Kim wasn't wrong when she suggested I might enjoy reading this book.

Sara and Gavin are engaged to be married, have sold up in the UK and ploughed all their savings into renovating and running a French Chateau as a wedding venue only for Gavin to jump ship part way through their first season.

Sara comes across as vulnerable but has a hidden strength of character that she wears like a mask - ensuring her troubles didn't affect her wedding parties.  I was rooting for Sara all the way.  

I just loved this book it was a beautiful read and Fiona just sold it to me.  Her descriptions of the Chateau and the local village were so vivid I could have been there, sitting on the terrace admiring the view whilst enjoying a glass of wine in the late evening sun. I could almost smell the dusty heat and taste the beautiful food. 

It is a book that will make you sigh with happiness over and over again. Whilst I read it I smiled a lot, laughed and it even brought a tear to my eye. Sara's attention to detail along with her cool, calm outlook is the perfect antidote to the high octane stress levels experienced in different ways by each of the wedding parties.  Nothing appears to be too much trouble and no problem unsolvable for Sara and her team of staff that became her backbone when Gavin jumped ship.  Sara bends over backwards to ensure that every wedding is perfect and memorable for all the right reasons putting her own problems to one side.

If I was getting married again I wouldn't hesitate I'd be on that plane booking into Chateau Bellevue  Anyone who hasn't visited France, eaten fresh bread and croissants bought first thing in the morning from a local boulangerie is missing something special. August would be my choice of month too - I have been fortunate to experience the Perseids meteor shower and this would be the perfect end to a magical day.

I highly recommend this feel good book that will bring a touch of France into your home along with happiness, sunshine and laughter whatever the weather is doing outside. 

I gave this book 5/5 stars 

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Judas Scar - Amanda Jennings

About the book...
Scars. We all carry them. Some are mere scratches. Others run deeper. 

At a school rife with bullying, Will and his best friend Luke are involved in a horrific incident that results in Luke leaving. 

Twenty-five years later their paths cross again and memories of Will's painful childhood come flooding back to haunt him. His wife, Harmony, who is struggling after a miscarriage that has hit her hard, wishes Will would open up about his experiences. But while Will withdraws further, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic stranger from her husband s past, and soon all three are caught in a tangled web of guilt, desire, betrayal.





About the author...
Amanda Jennings was born in London in 1973, and her family moved to a village in rural Berkshire when she was young. Unsure what career she wanted to pursue, she decided to follow in her architect mother’s footsteps and accepted a place to read architecture at Cambridge University, but it soon became clear it wasn’t for her and she changed course to History of Art – more writing, less physics! After university, she and a friend set up a company writing copy for small businesses, which paid just enough for rent and wine, but not quite enough for food. As fun as it was, a rethink was required when she fell pregnant. A few years later Amanda went to work at the BBC, but she missed looking after her daughter, and could no longer ignore her yearning to write. When she became pregnant with her second child, and encouraged by the success of a shortlisted sitcom script in a BBC writing competition, she took the opportunity to be at home with the children, grabbing every spare moment she could find to write. 



Sworn Secret, her first novel was published in the UK in August 2012 and in the US in February 2014. Her second book, The Judas Scar, will be published in May 2014.

Amanda lives just outside Henley-on-Thames with her husband, three daughters and a varied menagerie. She is writing her third book and is a regular guest on BBC Berkshire’s Culture Club. In a parallel fantasy life she is an ex-downhill skier, turned Blue Peter presenter, turned battery chicken liberator.

My thoughts...
I was offered a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review or not.... She did warn me it was a bit dark - but, who doesn't like a bit dark?

The story centres around Will and Harmony a couple on the surface at least, very much in love but each, in different ways struggling to come to terms with a miscarriage.  This appears to be the catalyst for a string of events that cause their life to implode. Then enter Luke an enigmatic stranger that Harmony meets at a party - at this point it's very obvious there's trouble to come but nothing prepared me for how deep that trouble had and would run. 

Amanda displays the hurt and childhood scars that have shaped Will and Luke in particular. Thus highlighting how our childhood provides the foundations for us to grow into adults.  Not everyone has a solid, safe, loving and caring upbringing.  Some have a shakier start and it is past events that eventually cause the foundations of this triangle to crumble.

Public schooling and bullying all too often, sadly, go hand in hand and this story tackles this issue head on.  Amanda spares no punches and during the course of this book we bear witness to some strong emotions - bitterness, hate, revenge and hurt go hand in hand with self loathing, guilt and remorse. Above all this story highlights how events in our childhood if not dealt with follow us into adulthood and can have a huge impact upon the adults we become.

I read this book in one sitting, it really was compulsive reading - based on the subject matter I'm not sure what that says about me or Amanda really. I formed opinions about what and why things were happening but nothing prepared me for the strong emotions that were so at odds. Two totally different sets of emotions were evoked in me, I didn't always like them as adults and felt anger and hate towards them yet as children I just wanted to cry for them, sit holding and protecting them feeling love and pity. 

I highly recommend this book, it is compulsive reading so be prepared once you've read the first page you won't put it down until you've read the last. It left me thinking of many cliches 'what goes around comes around' being one of them.  Trust and loyalty when lost can have catastrophic consequences in any relationship. When I finished the book I did feel numb I had to 'hide under the duvet' whilst I analysed my feelings and emotions - a book that stays with you long after the final page is a joy to find.

Before you Die - Samantha Hayes

It's a privilege to be part of the Blog Tour organised by Philippa Cotton at Random House. I loved Samantha's last book Until You're Mine and when I heard she was publishing another I knew I had to read it and would love it - I wasn't wrong it was brilliant.


About the book....
Oh God, please don't let me die.

It has taken nearly two years for the Warwickshire village of Radcote to put a spate of teenage suicides behind it.

Then a young man is killed in a freak motorbike accident, and a suicide note is found among his belongings. A second homeless boy takes his own life, this time on the railway tracks.

Is history about to repeat itself?

DI Lorraine Fisher has just arrived for a relaxing summer break with her sister. Soon she finds herself caught up in the resulting police enquiry. And when her nephew disappears she knows she must act quickly.

Are the recent deaths suicide - or murder?

And is the nightmare beginning again?

About the author...
I grew up in the Midlands with my parents and younger brother. I always wanted to be a writer and pestered for my first typewriter when I was ten. It wasn’t a clear-cut path to my dream career and it took several decades longer to get there than I’d anticipated. But along the way I had many experiences, met a host of intriguing people, lived in several continents, met my husband, and had my three beautiful children.
Over the years I’ve worked as a private investigator, bar maid, car cleaner, fruit picker, accounts clerk, nursery nurse, waitress…and I learnt to fly a plane before I could drive a car because for a while I wanted to be a pilot.
I travelled the world and spent an eye-opening time living on a kibbutz, where, having always written as a child and teenager, I was inspired to write longer fiction. After some more backpacking and a stint living in London, I moved to Australia for three years, got married, and had a glorious time in Brisbane and Melbourne.
Between 1991 and 1998 I had my children. We lived in the UK and the USA, where my youngest daughter was born. After Seattle, we returned to England, finally settling back in my home county of Warwickshire, where we’ve since renovated several old houses.
Throughout the years, I always strived to improve my writing. In 2003 I won a short story competition and subsequently had a novel published by a small independent press. It’s out of print now. Since 2007 I have had four novels published by Headline under the name Sam Hayes—BLOOD TIES, UNSPOKEN, TELL TALE and SOMEONE ELSE’S SON.
I am now represented by Oli Munson at A M Heath Ltd and my books are published by Century and Arrow. This is my second my first being UNTIL YOU’RE MINE (the first in a new detective series based in Birmingham) and written as Samantha Hayes was published in June 2013.

Find out more about Samantha Hayes and her books on her Website or on Twitter
My thoughts...
It is fair to say that this book started with a bang.  There isn't a nice gentle introduction to this book you're straight into the action before the prologue ends.  Two teenagers crash a motorbike - one dies, one escapes the crash scene and lives! This situation is compounded by a suicide note that is found at the scene of the crash - this coming just a year after a spate of suicides of young people in the town - is it starting again? Even before the book had really begun I was thinking WOW - with such start like that this is going to be good.

Samantha doesn't disappoint she tackled the serious issues of cyber bullying and homelessness with sensitivity and compassion alongside relationships between both family and friends. The main story revolves around Freddie and his relationships with his family and his peers.  Jo his mother doesn't really see what is under her nose, she's aware something is wrong with Freddie but puts most of the signs down to him being a moody teenager. His aunt is a policewoman and lives for her job, rarely taking time out to holiday but has, along with her daughter returned to her original home for a rare visit. It is she that tackles everything that is happening head on - as policewoman she is never off duty and becomes involved in the police investigation surrounding the suicides both current and historically.

There are lots of plot twists and sub plots that originally seem separate with no connections  that had me guessing at possible solutions only to find I was wrong each time.  Samantha intricately stitched up this story like a patchwork quilt - all of the pieces once put together giving us a gut wrenching, heart pounding emotional story. There were so many characters in this book that it was difficult at first to see their relevance to the story but when it all came together the fog lifts leaving a clear picture and each and everyone has their place.

Sadly, there are far too many aspects of this book that are all to believable and true to life - things that we've all read about or seen on the news came across as real and not works of fiction. Samantha has clearly researched thoroughly and deals with these situations with compassion and sensitivity whilst at the same time tackling the subject head on. All of the characters were well rounded and believable from Lorraine the policewoman - never off duty to Jo the mother who avoids confrontation with her son, going instead for the 'burying her head in the sand' option, hoping that things will improve without actually doing anything to help matters herself.  Lets face it, all mothers I know have at some point or other chosen to let things go, to not push ensuring we avoid 'another' confrontation with a surly teenager. It's also true that we sometimes don't see what's under our nose - or do we choose not to see?

It's difficult to say too much about what happens within this book without giving the plot away but suffice to say I loved it.  It's different to her last novel but equally as good. I felt many emotions whilst reading this book some parts were distressing and genuinely heart breaking, whilst others raised my heart rate somewhat.  I felt deep affection for Freddie and kept willing him to stand up to his tormentors and to tell somebody about his problems. I also loved his aunt Lorraine and her can't leave it alone attitude. At the same time I wanted to shake his mother Jo - in my opinion she was far too accepting and was letting her own relationships cloud her judgement.  A sign of a good book for me is when I find myself reading faster and faster not wanting to switch off the light - despite being taken up and down the wrong path as in this book. I solved the many crimes and situations so many times only to discover I so hadn't!

This novel is in no way predictable in fact I was so far off the mark repeatedly and Samantha Hayes delivered surprise after surprise right up to the final chapter, in fact right up to the final few pages. A brilliant book for all Crime fans, that will leave you guessing and thinking long after the final page has been read. 

I gave this book 5/5 stars

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Breakup Artist - Nichole Severn


 

Cover Reveal: The Breakup Artist – Nichole Severn CandleLit Cover Reveal Banner1

Hello and welcome to the cover reveal of The Breakup Artist by Nichole Severn! 
The novella, from Beyond The Page Publishing, is set to release on 23rd April 2014 but Nichole's giving readers a sneak peak of the fab cover and the book's blurb. Full details below . . .

The Breakup Artist_Cover

About the book...The Breakup Artist: 
'Demi Shepherd is going to jail.
As a professional heartbreaker, she’s been charged with the murder of one of her clients. She can’t explain how fifty thousand dollars ended up in her bank account, how her fingerprints were found on the murder weapon and who called in an anonymous tip labeling her as the murderer. Determined to clear her name and find out who uprooted her life, Demi goes on the run and turns to the least likely of allies: the man she believes set her up for murder.
Jack Austin is Demi’s only chance of clearing her name, but as an undercover organized crime agent, whose only goal is to bring down the organization laundering money through one of Vegas’ casinos, he’s not willing to risk his life or career for her. That is until Demi shows her innocence. With former clients and victims on her trail and unknown shooters finding her every step of the way, Demi fights for her life and her damaged heart, but will Jack protect either?'   
natty

About the author...Nichole Severn
Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada where she spent most days at her grandmother’s house watching X-Men, Married with Children and The Simpsons, Nichole Severn migrated to the Salt Lake City valley to live life as scandalous romance author. She graduated with a degree in psychology from Utah Valley University, which stemmed from her obsession with serial killers, and received her bachelors in English Literature from Nevada State. Over the years, she’s experimented with selling jewelry, insurance, and clothing, but now she just sells books. The serial killer obsession has toned down...a little. She resides with her very supportive and patient, husband in Utah, where she constantly injures herself running, rock climbing, and snowboarding. Nichole can be contacted through her website at www.nicholesevern.com, email at nichole@nicholesevern.com, Twitter at @nicholesevern or Facebook.

A Questionable Friendship - Samantha March

I've been involved in several blog tours for CLP Blog Tours so when I heard Samantha was touring her latest book I jumped at the chance to join in.

About the book...

Brynne Ropert and Portland Dolish have been best friends since being paired as roommates in college. Seven years later they are now twenty-five, married, and living in Maine–– but the two women couldn’t be more different. Brynne finds fulfillment in her life as a wife, mother and owner of a small café and bookshop, but is struggling to expand her family. Portland is still coping with her mother’s death during her childhood, and her marriage is unraveling before her eyes. Portland envies her friend’s seemingly stable and easy life while Brynne doesn’t understand the growing distance between them and cannot begin to guess what secret Portland is hiding about her husband and crumbling marriage. While one woman feels shut out, the other enters into a web of lies to protect herself. 
A Questionable Friendship explores what really makes someone a true friend, a support system, a sister. How much trust goes into a friendship and when is being a friend not enough? Brynne and Portland’s story will attempt to answer those questions, and show that happily ever after isn’t in the cards for everyone.

Buy the Book! Amazon / Barnes & Noble – eBook / Kobo – eBook

About the author...
Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and celebrity related. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and has three published novels – Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket and A Questionable Friendship. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.

My thoughts...
This book revolves around the close friendship of Brynne and Portland and their respective husbands. The girls became friends at college with Brynne dropping out of college to marry her college sweetheart and Portland leaving college and moving to the same area to be close to Brynne.

They work together in Brynne's business EJ's Bookstore and coffee shop and spend all their spare time together.  You'd think that they would know and tell each other absolutely everything about themselves and what was happening in their lives but it turns out not to be the case.  Both have their own problems and try to deal with them alone putting a 'face on' for their friends.

It's funny how close the two girls were and yet how guarded they both were with what was happening in their own lives - both feeling the need to hold back, not wanting to shatter the others illusion of their 'perfect' marriage.  Both thinking their marriage was the lesser and the other having a more perfect relationship.

This book demonstrates how friendships and relationships no matter how strong can be quite superficial. How many times have we all smiled and said 'I'm alright' when we're peddling like mad below the surface. Not wanting to share our problems either for fear of upsetting the friend or having an opinion of ourselves altered. I think it is built into us to cope alone and often we only confide in a friend once we know what path we are taking and have worked out a solution for ourselves. The problem is when we are smiling and saying everything is fine - those close to us know the truth and can read it in our face.

I had to keep reminding myself that both girls were only 25 in this novel, fairly young to be dealing with the issues that they had faced and were facing now - both came across as well developed strong characters that were likeable from the start.  I liked the fact that Portlands dad and girlfriend came into the story, completing her picture for me but I would have liked a bit more about Brynne and feel there is still a story to be told there.  So many times I thought there was a sub plot emerging and 'something' was going to happen for it to just move on.

I reached the end of the book and was a little disappointed - 'what, how can it just end like that?' Then Samantha pulled a genius ball out of the bag with the epilogue.  All in all this was an enjoyable read that I only put down when I had to and I thought it was a very insightful look into friendships, trust and the image we portray - so very true to life.  It highlights insecurities and shows that if we can scratch the surface the picture underneath is not always the same. I defy anyone reading this book not to see a little bit of themselves in the way they are a friend or the friends they have.

I gave this book 4/5 stars
Guest Post - My Juggling Act

I wear a lot of hats. Like, a lot. Let me count them: in my personal life I’m of course a friend, daughter, sister, aunt and cousin, as well as wife and mom to a six month old puppy. In my professional life, I am book blogger with Chick Lit Plus, blog tour coordinator with CLP Blog Tours, published author of three novels, owner of the independent publishing company Marching Ink, a freelance editor and book marketer, and am a book marketing manager with BookTrope Publishing. Oh yes – and I work a full-time job for a hospital. Some days I wear all the hats throughout the hours. Some days I only wear two or three.

I get asked a lot how I juggle my schedule. The honest answer – it’s easy for me because I’m doing what I love. Books are my thing, plain and simple. I don’t feel like I’m working when I’m coordinating a tour or plotting my next book. I don’t find it tedious to write 5,000 words in a day or have a phone chat with an author that I’m working on a marketing plan with. I choose to work with books, so I wouldn’t make that decision if I didn’t like what I was doing.

While I love what I do, it does take a lot of planning and self-motivation to get my work done in the allotted hours that I have. I make a to-do list every week day, and let myself have a bit looser schedule on the weekends, so I don’t get burned out or frustrated with my schedule. I work a lot of nights because of my day job, and I luckily have an amazingly supportive husband who cooks dinner and plays with the pup when I have to be in the office all night. I’m busy, but I’m busy doing what I want to do, and that is worth the long nights and hectic days. I think many people are always searching for their “thing,” for what makes them happy in life, and I’m happy and proud to say that I have found it.
Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up to date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and celebrity related. In 2011 she launched her independent publishing company Marching Ink and has three published novels – Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket and A Questionable Friendship. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.

An Interview with Samantha March
You don many hats - author, editor, publisher & blogger.  Where did it all begin and which of your many roles do you enjoy the most?

It all began as a simple book blog. I wanted to do more with my love of reading, and a blog sounded like a good idea. I could have never guessed it would lead to so many different things, and really change my life! It’s hard to pick which I enjoy most, because I love all of it! It helps to have a lot going on, because that when I feel burned out on writing or reading, I can focus on something else to help keep my stress levels down :)
Some authors carry their characters through each of their novels. A Questionable Friendship is your third novel.  Is it a stand alone book or are there any links/characters that cross over between all three?
My first two books are set in the same town as one another and a few locations from the first book are mentioned in the second, but A Questionable Friendship is all on its own. Though in my fourth book, a few characters from AQF are mentioned again :)
Where did you get your inspiration for this story line - is it part fact or all complete fiction?
It’s really all fiction. I actually got into a teeny tiny fight with a girlfriend about six months before writing the book, and as I left her house upset, my writer mind went into overdrive, thinking a lot of “What If” questions about her and us. That created the story, and I had a great time creating the characters to go with it! (Side note – we are no longer fighting!)
Do you have a sister? Where would your loyalties lie - with your sister or with your best friend?
I do have an older sister. I think loyalties would lie with my family first, even though I’m not super close with my sister (we are eight years and two thousand miles apart). Family is special. They always (fingers crossed!) have your back.
What do you hope for when your readers have finished reading your novels?
I hope they leave thinking about something – their own life and their decisions, playing “what if” with themselves over a circumstance in the book, but most of all – I hope they leave feeling something – anything. Happiness, comfort, frustration, disgust – I want to bring out an emotion in my readers.
Describe a typical day for you ‘juggling all the balls’.
Oh boy! I get up around 6 and work for about two hours on emails and posting links on social media for CLP Blog Tours and Chick Lit Plus. I login to my full time job at eight and when I take my first break I hop back onto social media and check email. I work through my lunch, typically either editing or writing or reading query letters, whatever is on my plate at the moment. On my next and final break from my full time job I’m back on social media and checking email. Once I’m done working for the day (for one job!) I work on all my BookTrope Publishing tasks – reading books, online chatting with authors, creating marketing plans, pitching books, etc. I try to always eat dinner with my husband, and after that I workout – either a Yoga class, on the treadmill, or pop in a workout DVD. From there, it’s making sure my to-do list is done for the day – I have my required reading done, all posts for all my websites are scheduled, emails are caught up to a suitable amount, no one from BookTrope is left hanging, etc. I try to get to bed around midnight, though sometimes it’s later! 
Do all of your friends expect free copies of your books?
A lot do. I don’t think everyone understands what they are asking for when they ask for a copy. They don’t understand all the time and effort and money that went into writing and creating your book, and I don’t think people understand that it’s not a “free” copy – I have to pay someone to print that book and ship it to me. And what is $5-10 when it comes to supporting someone you love? 
Do you read and write in the same genre and who is your favourite author?
I tend to focus on the same core group of genres – chick lit, women’s fiction, new adult. Romance and mysteries are also high on my list.  My favourite author is so hard to choose, because I meet and connect with so many fabulous authors on truly a daily basis!
If you were to be granted one writing wish what would that be?
That I could do it full time. 
What do you do to relax?
LOL. I don’t have too much time for relaxing, but I like to workout, and playing with my puppy is always fun! 
Thank you so much for visiting my blog and answering my questions.
Thanks so much for having me Dawn! 


Connect with Samantha!


Enter the fantastic giveaway below:-

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Precious Thing - Colette McBeth

About the book...
Remember the person you sat next to on your first day at school? Still your best friend? Or disappeared from your life for good?

Some friendships fizzle out. Rachel and Clara promised theirs would last for ever. 

They met when Rachel was the new girl in class and Clara was the friend everyone wanted. Now in their late twenties Rachel has everything while Clara's life is spiralling further out of control. Then Clara vanishes. 

Imagine discovering something about your oldest friend that forces you to question everything you've shared together. The truth is always there. But only if you choose to see it.




About the author...
Colette started her career as a trainee reporter at The Journal in Newcastle before moving to the BBC where she was a news correspondent for 10 years.

She has reported on the One, Six and Ten O’Clock News and her record for talking live on air is 45 minutes non-stop. Throughout that time she promised herself she would write the story that had been swimming around in her head since she left university. In January 2011 she enrolled on the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course and began writing Precious Thing, finishing it on maternity leave with her third child.

Colette lives in West London with her husband and children and is currently writing her second novel. whilst she dreams of being beside the seaside


My thoughts...
I received a copy of this book from Headline via Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.  

I read this book in just three sittings, the latter making me almost late for work. I read most of it the night before and got up early the next day as I just had to finish the last 70 pages before I left for work.

A clear ten days after finishing this novel and having moved on and read a further two books I'm still talking about this one.  It has left a lasting impression. I was totally engaged with all the characters and felt quite numb when it ended.  There are plenty of twists, turns and surprises.  One sign of a good book is when I internally bargain with myself 'I'll just read till the end of this chapter then turn off the light' - oops I've started another and so the internal bargaining goes on! I turned the pages at a rate of knots and only put it down with 70 pages to go because I was home alone and had work the next morning, it was 2am! 

At school I'm sure most of us had a best friend who we'd share secrets with knowing they'd never reveal them and let us down - right?  Rachel and Clara are just the same, Clara takes new girl Rachel under her wing, they bond, sharing everything, promising always to be friends.  Life alters for both of them and twenty years later Rachel appears the stronger of the two with a good career and relationship on the go whilst Clara has had problems and seems more than a little unreliable and flaky and then out of the blue disappears.

This book is about friendships and relationships, both good and bad, insecurities both real and imagined.  So many pages turned and I was inwardly hoping and expecting a particular outcome and author Colette McBeth delivered another twist.  This book doesn't end three chapters from the end but leaves you guessing right up until the final page. Some things when revealed seem like they should have been obvious but others were like a bolt from the blue. This book was a thrilling read, with many heart racing moments. It was so cleverly written, purposefully putting the reader on the wrong foot thinking one thing only for the outcome to be something totally different. It does beg the questions 'who can you trust?' 'Do we ever really KNOW someone?' 

When I read the final page I closed the book and just sat staring ahead muttering WOW! 

I'll say no more but this is one book I'd highly recommend and have recommended already.

I gave this book 5/5 stars

Monday, 14 April 2014

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love - Jill Mansell

About the book...
When Josh Strachan, newly returned to his home in north Cornwall from sunny California, first meets Sophie Wells, he's immediately smitten. Sophie's pretty, she's funny, she has lots of friends and she clearly loves her job as a photographer, despite the sometimes tricky clients. There's just one problem: Sophie has very firmly turned her back on love. It's nothing personal, she tells Josh, but she just doesn't do dates. And no one - even Sophie's scatty best friend Tula - will tell him why. Josh is sure Sophie likes him, though, and he's just got to find out what's put her off romance. And then put things right

About the author...
Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually that’s not true; she watches TV, eats fruit gums, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet marvelling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she’s completely run out of displacement activities does she write.

Jill Mansell's books have sold over three million copies and her titles include: Making your Mind up, Fast Friends, Good at Games, Sheer Mischief and Solo, among many others. 

Follow Jill Mansell on twitter @jillMansell or visit her website Jillmansell.co.uk 

My thoughts...

I received an e copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Headline through Netgalley which I am more than happy to give.

I've always loved books by Jill Mansell - she's one of a stock few authors that I can rely on to give me a book that hits the spot every time.  A feel good book that's not all hearts and flowers, there is always a deeper story to discover and in this case I got several rolled into one!

The impression you get is that this book is going to be all about Sophie a single, photographer who spurns all romantic advances and Josh the handsome grandson and co-owner of The Mariscombe House Hotel who has just returned to live and work in Cornwall from LA.

Sophie and Josh are intertwined with various family and friends and as a result Jill treats us to several parallel stories woven around them all.  The novel is set in beautiful Cornwall and I could very well have been sat on the beaches myself watching the action first hand as the descriptions were so vivid I could smell the sea and taste the ice-cream.

I truly loved this book.  I spent most of the time I was reading it smiling and laughing at all of the antics but there are sad bits and awww bits too.  None of the characters are superficial all have depth and all have their own reasons for presenting a 'face' to the outside world that in some cases is so good I was totally surprised when it was removed.  I loved the fact that the story didn't just revolve around the younger relationships but those of the older ones too.

With so many characters and relationships in this book it could have very easily felt bitty with not enough time to explore each fully but Jill stitched them together beautifully and in enough detail too - counter balancing the more serious sad parts with humour and wit. Once again I finished a Jill Mansell book with a satisfied sigh, glad that everyone seemed to get their happy ending.

All in all this is a compelling read, for anybody who loves contemporary, romantic comedy.  It's gentle enough for a quiet Saturday afternoon but with enough plot twists and surprises to keep the pages turning, you'll want to get to the bottom of the many inter woven stories. 

I gave this book 5/5 stars

Friday, 11 April 2014

Belinda Jones Travel Club - Sunlounger 2

DO YOU DREAM OF BEING A PUBLISHED AUTHOR? 

How would you like to see your words appear alongside stories from Milly Johnson, Alexandra Potter, Tracy Bloom, Rosie Blake, Julia Williams, Chrissie Mansby and Roisin Meaney. 

Enter the Sunlounger 2 short story competition and the dream could become a reality. Last years winner Holly Martin has since soared to #5 in the Amazon Kindle chart, with her debut women's fiction novel and is now signed with the Madeline Milburn agency along with other SUNLOUNGER authors Belinda Jones, Talli Roland, Carrie Duffy and Anna-Lou Weatherley! 

Drop an email to sunloungerstories@gmail.com and the Belinda Jones Travel Club will send you a set of guidelines so you can get going along with your mini masterpiece. 

WORD COUNT: 1000-3000 words DEADLINE: May 7th 2014 

SETTING: Somewhere summery (not UK) 



THE WINNING STORY WILL APPEAR IN SUNLOUNGER 2 - out June 21st 2014 --


Surrounded by Water - Stephanie Butland

I'm delighted to be part of this blog tour for Stephanie Butlands novel Surrounded by Water. Many thanks to Patsy Irwin, Publicity Director at Transworld for organising this Blog Tour and many thanks to Stephanie for the signed copy of Surrounded by Water which you could win in the giveaway at the end of this post.

About the book...


Elizabeth's world is turned upside down when her husband dies in a tragic drowning accident.

How typical of her kind, generous husband - a respected police officer - to sacrifice his own life saving a complete stranger's.
Or so she thinks.
What exactly was her husband doing at the lake that night? And what if his death isn't the most difficult thing she will have to deal with?
Elizabeth must face the consequences of her husband's actions. As she does so, it seems that the end of Mike's life is only the beginning of his wife truly getting to know him.




About the author...
I’m a writer, and I’m thriving after breast cancer. (I used to say I was a survivor, but that was a bit lacking in joie de vivre.)
Although I’d never have chosen it, my dance with cancer has changed my life in many positive ways. Now I am happier, healthier, and more careful with my precious life and the precious people and things in it.
I’ve written two books about my dance with breast cancer, and I’m working on my third novel at the moment.

Aside from writing, I work as a speaker and trainer, and I work with charities to help raise awareness and money in the hope that cancer will soon be about as scary as a wart.



My thoughts...
This book was the subject of much discussion on Twitter and I thought it would be right up my street - I knew I just had to read it and was sent a copy in exchange for an honest review by Stephanie's publisher at Transworld. My gut instincts weren't wrong - it was outstanding.  This is Stephanie's first novel and all I can say is WOW! How can you top this?

The story begins with the sudden death of Michael, Elizabeths husband who drowns whilst out walking the dog late one evening.

It's fair to say Elizabeth literally falls apart and is supported by her sister, mother in law and Michaels two best friends.  Michael was her soul mate and they had a perfect life, it is only as the story unfolds do we find out it had tiny, little fractures - not visible until you look closely.


Stephanie's descriptions of each of the characters was beautiful and clear.  I could visualise  every person and each seemed just perfect - I could have been reading about an incident in my village and about people I knew.


I loved the way that as the book moved forward the author also took us back allowing a glimpse into Michael and Elizabeths relationship from their first meeting, including   highlighting past events that shaped the couple into the people they had become. I was also deeply moved by the letters that Elizabeth wrote to Michael after his death - a very important part of her grieving process.


Grief is an emotion that affects everybody differently and Stephanie took me on a journey with Elizabeth that was quite exhausting - she was literally poleaxed when Michael died, barely able or willing to function.  She really was at rock bottom, shock and denial playing a big part - for every step forward another revelation would appear and Elizabeth would once again plunge into a despairing, depressed world and Stephanie cleverly took me with her.


I must have felt every emotion possible reading this book, from helplessness and sadness to happiness and elation. Sometimes life throws us a curve ball and how we react depends upon the people and characters we are to begin with.  Both Elizabeth and Michaels mother were suffering grief for the death of the same person but reacted in totally different ways - that doesn't mean either was suffering less.  I kept having to close the book and take stock as I was so immersed in the story I felt physically drained at times - feeling the sadness as vividly and deeply as if Elizabeth was my friend or sister.


Just like real life things are not always what we see on the surface so just when I thought I had it all worked out Stephanie added another twist and had me guessing again.  I have to say it got to the point where I thought 'how much more can one person take?' Enough, please!! It was quite harrowing and heart breaking to read. This story is full of secrets that required lies to hold it all together and little bits are gradually revealed throughout the book. 


It does beg the question though - do we ever really know the people we are close to? How many times have we lied by omission and not communicated how we really feel? I for one shall take stock and thank my lucky stars for the loving relationships felt by my family and hope that they are as real and true as I believe they are.


I highly recommend this novel and truly loved every page - an emotional journey that left me sitting, silently, contemplating every aspect of the story long after it had ended.


I gave this novel 5/5 stars