Giveaway! Three Carole Matthews five-book bundles to be won!

17 Apr

In celebration of the release of Carole Matthews’ twenty-fourth novel; A Place to Call Home, Carole’s publisher, Sphere have generously given me three bundles of her earlier titles to give away to lucky readers!

Each bundle consists of the five titles listed below which have recently been re-released with the beautiful new covers shown here!

To enter this giveaway just leave a ‘pick me’ comment in the box below and I’ll draw three winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Friday 25th April.

Good luck!

Book review: A Place to Call Home by Carole Matthews

17 Apr

Today is my stop on Carole Matthews’ A Place to Call Home blog tour. I’ve got two posts as part of the tour; my review of the book and a fab giveaway to win bundles of some of Carole’s previous releases so without further ado here’s my review and please do stop by again later for the giveaway.

In the dead of night, Ayesha takes her daughter, Sabina, and slips quietly from her home, leaving behind a life of full of pain. Boarding a coach to London, all Ayesha wants is a fresh start.

Hayden, a former popstar, has kept himself hidden away for years. He’s only opened up his home to two people – Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold, and Joy, an ill-tempered retiree with a soft spot for waifs and strays.

When Crystal asks Hayden if Ayesha and Sabina can stay with them, he reluctantly agrees and, as different as they may be, they quickly form an unlikely bond. So when enemies threaten their peaceful home, they will do all they can to save it and each other.

Uplifting and emotional, this is a novel of new beginnings, of discovering love and of finding A Place to Call Home.

I almost missed my stop on the train when I started reading this book on a journey home a few weeks ago, so engrossed was I in Ayesha’s middle of the night flight from her abusive husband. In A Place to Call Home Carole has written a beautiful story of new beginnings, heartbreak, love and friendship and right from the first pages I was captivated by Ayesha’s story and her fight to regain her life.

Ayesha and her young daughter Sabina are fleeing from husband and father Suresh who has made their lives a misery both physically and mentally for many years. It was heartbreaking to read the early scenes of the book where Ayesha recounts her reasons for leaving and the horror of abuse so bad that it has rendered her daughter speechless. This is a story packed with emotion and brought a tear to my eye on more than one occasion.

As with all of Carole’s books that I’ve read, the characterization in A Place to Call Home is excellent and I felt like a knew Ayesha and Sabina straight away. The way that Carole describes Sabina’s emotions even though she doesn’t speak is brilliant and I took both of them to my heart immediately. As Ayesha seeks refuge she finds herself in the impressive home of former pop star Hayden with two other women, Joy and Crystal. Hayden, Joy and Crystal are all wonderful characters too and one of the things that I enjoyed most about this book was the variety that the different characters brought to the story.

Ayesha and Sabina’s arrival in the house brings change to all three members of the house and as they rally round the new arrivals it was lovely to see the relationships between them develop. Many of my favorite moments came from reading how Hayden helps Ayesha with her reading and despite the sadness of the situation they both find themselves in there are many funny moments in the story, particularly as they start to read Brigit Jones’ Diary!

With lots of short chapters and several strong sub plots based around the supporting characters, I found that I flew through the book and didn’t want to put it down. Although most of the book in written in the third person, Ayesha’s story is told in the first person and makes it feel even more personal. The episodes covering Suresh’s hunt for his wife and daughter are a stark contrast and made for difficult reading at times – he really is a despicable character! Hayden on the other hand is wonderful and I found the scenes between him and Sabina particularly touching.

I love how Carole has struck the balance between the darker side of life (domestic abuse, lap dancing clubs, organized crime) and the themes of family, romance and friendship that we’ve come to love and expect from her novels. A Place Called Home made me think about the women and children who live with abuse every day and I hope it raises awareness and encourages everyone who reads it to support those facing similar challenges.

This is the second book I’ve read in a few weeks that has made me think about what ‘home’ really means. A Place to Call Home has a beautiful message and was so sensitively written as to be believable yet still a little magical. Highly recommended!

4/5

A Place to Call Home is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Carole and her writing at: http://www.carolematthews.com/

Please do stop by again later for details of a fab Carole Matthews giveaway and please do check out the other stops on the blog tour.

Event news: Rainbow Rowell to visit UK on tour in July!

16 Apr

I was very excited to see that Rainbow Rowell has announced that she will visit the UK on a book tour in July. Rainbow will visit Scotland, England and Wales during a five-day promotional tour.

The trip will include an appearance at YALC the first YA Lit Con at London Film and Comic Con, curated by Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman. The full details of all of the events can be found below:

 

Thursday 10th July – 6.30pm
Ticketed author talk and book signing
Waterstones
153-157 Sauchiehall Street
Glasgow
G2 3EW
T: 0141 332 9105
Tickets are available from the shop at £3/£2 Waterstones Cardholders

Friday 11th July – 6:30pm
Ticketed author talk and book signing
Waterstones
12 College Lane
Liverpool
L1 3DL
T. 0151 709 9820
Tickets are available from the shop at £3/£2 Waterstones Cardholders

Saturday 12th July – from 12noon
Author panel event and book signing
YA Lit Con at London Film & Comic Con
Earls Court 2,
Earls Court Exhibition Centre,
Warwick Road,
London
SW5 9TA
For tickets and further information visit: http://www.londonfilmandcomiccon.com/

Sunday 13th July – 2pm
Book signing
Waterstones
2a The Hayes
Cardiff
CF10 1WB
T: 029 2066 5606
This signing will not be ticketed. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Monday 14th July – 6:30pm
Ticketed author talk and book signing
Waterstones
203/206 Piccadilly
London
W1J 9HD
Tickets available from: Waterstones.com/tickets £5/£3 Waterstones Cardholders (includes
refreshments)

Giveaway winners! A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke

16 Apr

 

The winners are …

Jo, Cheryl and Sue

Congratulations! I have sent you an email. Thanks to everyone who entered. Look out for more giveaways very soon!

Guest post: Romance for the Vampire by Berni Stevens

15 Apr

Please welcome Berni Stevens to One More Page today with a guest post about her love of Vampires in celebration of her Choc Lit UK debut, Dance Until Dawn. Berni lives in a 400-year-old cottage with her husband, black cat, two goldfish who think they’re piranha, and occasionally her son when he comes back for some TLC. She trained in graphic design, and has worked as a book cover designer for over twenty years.

Her love of paranormal fiction began at school when she first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and she’s been a fan of the fanged ever since. She is on the committee and the book panel of The Dracula Society – a literary society for fans of gothic literature and film. Welcome Berni!

When I first read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it fired my imagination more than any other book ever had before. I was only fourteen and I truly, had never read anything like it. I’d read Wuthering Heights at school of course, loved Heathcliff – hated Cathy – but Dracula really was something else. From that moment on, I read anything I could find with vampires in. From Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla, and Polidori’s The Vampyre, I then graduated to Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and I loved Lestat of course. (Not Tom Cruise’s version!)

But Stoker’s infamous Count has always held me in his thrall. There really is no other vampire quite like him. He’s cold, ruthless, and incredibly intelligent, yet he manages to convey a certain melancholy sadness. Eternity is a long time to be around without the right company. The three vampire sisters in Dracula accuse him of being unable to love, to which he replies that they themselves are actually the proof that he could, and did, love. In a way, this was the starting point for my own vampire novel. I thought about the decades stretching ahead – the centuries of utter loneliness. At some point it would surely become unbearable?

I thought of someone existing for more than three hundred years, a lot of that time alone, without love or affection. The desire to find the perfect companion would turn to obsession, but would he ever find true love? Of course, I was writing a romance, so the chances are he would! Then I started to imagine the difficulties in such a relationship. When I wrote down the initial plot, I envisaged the story to be a vampire chick lit romance. Then the heroine annoyed me. She needed to be more 21st Century and a lot more feisty, and gradually everything became darker and a little bit scarier.

Over the last fifteen years or so, there have been a lot of vampire romances where  one of the couple is still human. I really wanted to avoid that. There is always the old cliché about whether the vampire will turn the human before the end of the book. A fair point, because if the human remains human, they will age, and then eventually die. So I decided my heroine should start off dead – well – undead. There were also a lot of ‘what if’s’ – what if Ellie, the heroine was scared of the dark? Why would that be? Supposing she refused to drink blood? How would she survive?

I think the vampire should always be a bit of a tortured soul. Shunning direct sunlight (for obvious reasons), keeping to the shadows, and forced  to prey on humans for sustenance. Yes, I know Louis from Interview With the Vampire and Angel from Buffy both survived for a while by feeding on rats’ blood, and the Cullens hunted deer, but I have always preferred my vampires to ‘play’ it by the book. Mitchell from Being Human was more resourceful and got a job in a hospital! Plenty of blood there.

So my hero, appears to have it all. He’s drop-dead gorgeous, more than used to women falling over themselves to get noticed by him, and he’s a billionaire to boot. I have always felt that an immortal being, if they had any intelligence whatsoever, should be able to make money in the modern world. Some contemporary vampire books have had the vampire still living in a dark crypt somewhere like a giant leech, as the modern world carries on above. Whilst I can see the point of maintaining the Gothic feel of the legend, I wanted my own vampire to have a better life, albeit a  secret life.

 

Money can buy most things, as Will tells Ellie quite early on in the book, but it can’t buy happiness – or love. He has watched her from afar for a long time and fallen deeply in love with a young modern woman he has never properly met. The women from his own era were groomed for marriage and not much else, and he has no idea how to relate to Ellie at first. She, of course, gives him a few pointers.

Do they make it? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Thanks Berni – I can’t wait to read it!

Dance Until Dawnis out now in ebook and paperback formats.

Find out more about Berni and her writing at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/berni.stevens.5

Twitter: @circleoflebanon

Blog: http://bernistevens.blogspot.co.uk

Follow Will on Twitter: @austen_will

Book review: The Quick by Lauren Owen

14 Apr

You are about to discover the secrets of The Quick -

But first you must travel to Victorian Yorkshire, and there, on a remote country estate, meet a brother and sister alone in the world and bound by tragedy. In time, you will enter the rooms of London’s mysterious Aegolius Club – a society of some of the richest, most powerful men in fin-de-siecle England. And at some point – we cannot say when – these worlds will collide.

It is then, and only then, that a new world emerges, one of romance, adventure and the most delicious of horrors – and the secrets of The Quick are revealed.

Before I start on my review of the content of this book I want to take a moment to say what a gorgeous volume The Quick is in hardback format – I love the beautiful owl print end papers and the cover conveys the sense of mystery surrounding the story perfectly.

The Quick is a difficult book to review because it’s key feature and twist in the tale have been kept secret and I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone. The mysterious Aegolius Club even has it’s own Twitter account which is shrouded in secrecy just like the club itself. I love the idea of readers discovering the truth about the club through the book and it certainly built the tension and made me want to find out more!

So I was surprised that the big reveal came so early in the story but secretly pleased to find out what the topic of the book really is as I love stories in this genre. The Quick is Gothic, suspenseful, intriguing, darkly romantic and horrific in equal measures and I was glad that I stuck with it as after a slow start I flew through the story.

This is a book that feels like many books in one as different narrators take the stage in different parts. Initially we meet siblings Charlotte and James who are children growing up in a once fine but now neglected rambling country home. We follow James’s life as he goes off to Oxford and then attempts to become a poet in London. As James meets aristocratic Christopher, the story twists and turns and we follow James as he learns the secrets of the Aegolius Club and The Quick.  I enjoyed the varied narration and liked the different writing styles including the diaries of Augustus Mould which were one of the highlights of the book for me.

The Quick felt very authentic as a Victorian Gothic novel so its not surprising to learn that author Lauren Owen has and MA in Victorian Literature and is completing a PhD on Gothic writing. A well written and impressive debut.

3/5

The Quick is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this novel.

Book review: The Crimson Ribbon by Katherine Clements

13 Apr

Based on the real figure of the fascinating Elizabeth Poole, The Crimson Ribbon is the mesmerising story of two women’s obsession, superstition and hope.

May Day 1646. The Civil War is raging and what should be a rare moment of blessing for the town of Ely takes a brutal turn. Ruth Flowers is left with little choice but to flee the household of Oliver Cromwell, the only home she has ever known. On the road to London, Ruth sparks an uneasy alliance with a soldier, the battle-scarred and troubled Joseph. But when she reaches the city, it’s in the Poole household that she finds refuge.

Lizzie Poole, beautiful and charismatic, enthrals the vulnerable Ruth, who binds herself inextricably to Lizzie’s world. But in these troubled times, Ruth is haunted by fears of her past catching up with her. And as Lizzie’s radical ideas escalate, Ruth finds herself carried to the heart of the country’s conflict, to the trial of a king.

The Crimson Ribbon is a fab historical fiction debut from Katherine Clements. Set in England against the backdrop of witch hunts and civil war, the story is a dramatic and fast-paced adventure that sees heroine Ruth Flowers orphaned and cast out from the place that she has always called home and left to make her way alone to London to seek sanctuary. The opening chapter of this novel actually made me gasp out loud as Clements recounts the chilling set of events that leave Ruth alone in the world at such a young age.

Throughout the book I loved Ruth’s strength and determination which is illustrated perfectly in her first meeting with ex-soldier Joseph Oakes who leaps to Ruth’s rescue as she makes her way from Ely to London but is soon put in his place! Women’s rights are a key theme in the novel and I enjoyed how it soon became clear which character was really the one in need of rescue!

On arrival in London, Ruth is magnetised by the beautiful and charismatic Lizzie Poole, daughter of the man she has been sent to to seek sanctuary. The evangelical Lizzie is an intriguingly complex character and I was fascinated to watch Ruth’s relationship with her develop. Although I didn’t like her actions and was suspicious of her for most of the book I thought she was a beautifully written character who was the perfect catalyst for so many of the defining moments of this novel and I was even more intrigued by the fact that Lizzie Poole actually lived and that some of the events in the book are based around the historical records of her life.

Through Ruth, Lizzie and Joseph, Katherine Clements gives a vivid street-level view of London and society in Civil War England. From the establishment of underground printing presses to religious extremism and witchcraft, Clements’ characters show both the tensions and new-found freedoms of the time. This is an accessible and entertaining historical story that isn’t bogged down in details of battles and politics, but focusses on the social and personal impacts of events on those living through the period.

With plenty of mystery and romance I enjoyed that Katherine kept me guessing to the end what the outcome for the Lizzie, Ruth and Joseph would be. I also enjoyed the elements of magic to the novel and I would have liked more of this in the story. Joseph and his friends were my favourite characters in the book and I did find myself feeling quite sorry for him for the way he was treated by Ruth on several occasions. I’d love to read a sequel to this book as although all of the ends were sewn up neatly, I’d love to know what happens next!

The Crimson Ribbon is a lively, imaginative and very readable historical fiction debut and I’ll look forward to reading more from Katherine Clements in future.

4/5

The Crimson Ribbon is out now in hardback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank Caitlin at Headline for sending me a review copy of this book.

Author interview: Isabel Wolff

11 Apr

I’m very excited to welcome Isabel Wolff as my guest on One More Page today. I’ve been a fan of Isabel’s books for many years, so was delighted when she agreed to answer my questions about her latest novel, Ghostwritten. 

Isabel was born in Warwickshire and read English at Cambridge. She worked for the BBC world service and wrote feature articles for many newspapers and magazines including The Spectator, The Evening Standard and the Daily Telegraph. Ghostwritten is her tenth novel. She lives in London with her family.

Isabel, your tenth novel, Ghostwritten has just been published.  Could you tell us a bit about it?

Ghostwritten is about a young ghost writer, Jenni, and an elderly Dutchwoman, Klara.  Klara lives on a coastal farm in Cornwall, but grew up in Java, on a rubber plantation.  Her idyllic childhood ended abruptly when the Japanese invaded Java in 1942.  Interned in a brutal prison camp with her mother and little brother, Klara has never talked about what she went through, but now, at 80, she feels that the time has come to revisit her past. So she approaches Jenni to ‘ghost’ her memoirs.  Jenni is at first excited about this, but when she learns that Klara lives in Polvarth, near the very beach that holds devastating memories for her of a childhood tragedy, she panics and nearly pulls out.  But Jenni decides to face down her fears and go, not just to tell Klara’s extraordinary story of survival, but to lay to rest the ghosts of her own past.  Ghostwritten is a story of love and forgiveness, of memory and hope.

Ghostwritten focuses on the experiences of women and children interned in a camp on Java during the Second World War.  What drew you to this particular period and place?

I was drawn to the idea of a main character who was shy and self-concealing, hiding in the shadows:  being a ghost writer seemed to go with this.  I then had to determine what the story that she ghost writes was going to be. I decided that it would be wartime memoir – not of the war in Europe which has been written about so much, but of the War in the East instead.  As a teenager I’d read A Town Like Alice, about a group of women struggling to survive in Japan-occupied Malaya; it’s a novel that has stayed with me all my life.  In the early 80s I used to watch, avidly, the popular TV series, Tenko, about a group of women imprisoned in a camp on Sumatra, struggling with starvation, cruelty and neglect.  I remember being fascinated by their grit and strength.  With these influences in mind I decided that Klara’s memoir would be a memoir of civilian internment in the Far East.

How did you go about doing the research needed for the book?

The main part of the research was historical and involved reading books and memoirs, translated from the Dutch, about this largely unknown part of World War 2.  I also interviewed two women who had been interned as children, and whose memories were still strong, seventy years on. I visited websites that are devoted to the camps in the East Indies and read the very moving posts left there by survivors.  I also went to Java, to see the beautiful landscape that Klara saw, and to see the rubber trees being tapped, and to hear the sounds of the tropics.  The most moving thing I did was to go to the military cemetery – Evereld Pandu.  This contains the Dutch ‘Field of Honour’ where all the Dutch people who died on Java during World War 2 are buried.  Standing there brought home the scale of the atrocities committed against them.   Thousands of white crosses, in perfectly straight rows, stretch as far as the eye can see.  Many simply said ‘Onbekend’ – unknown.

The novel focuses on ghost writer Jenni, and Klara, who as a child was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation. Their life experiences are so different – did you have a favourite character, and how did your approach to creating and writing them differ?

I didn’t have a favourite – I liked Klara and Jenni equally and felt for them, because both have been prisoners, but in different ways. Klara was imprisoned by the Japanese; but Jenni is a captive of her own conscience, unable to break free from her unending remorse.  Of the two women, Klara was easier to write because her story was a clear and vivid one of growing up in an ‘earthly paradise’ that became a living hell.  But Jenni’s story is shrouded in mystery: she is reticent, and hard to know.  So I had to make her sympathetic in other ways, notably in the sense the reader gets that she does love children but feels that she doesn’t deserve them because of what happened on the beach that fateful August day.

The friendship between the two women is key to both of them moving on in the story; what do you think the three elements of good friendship are.

You have to have a lot in common, and you have to be loyal to each other.  Also, a truly good friend is not just sympathetic when times are bad: they are thrilled when things are going well.   I also think that good friendships survive with a watering of tact.

You’ve written three novels with an historical element (A Vintage Affair, The Very Picture of You and Ghostwritten).  If you could travel to any time and place, where and when would you go?

I’d like to go to Lahore, in the 1930s, where my mother was born and brought up – her father was on the North West railways.   I grew up on her stories of life in India – the mango and lychee trees in their garden, her much loved ayah, the Gymkhana club and their journey up to Simla when the weather was hot.  I would love to be able to see my mother as a little girl, in that world.

And finally, what can we expect next from Isabel Wolff?

Well, funnily enough, I’m thinking that my next novel will be set in India, in the 1930s…

Thank you Isabel.

Ghostwritten is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Find out more about Isabel and her writing at: http://www.isabelwolff.com/

Event write-up: Literati with Santa Montefiore

9 Apr

After a dreary day of meetings in Bristol on Tuesday, I hopped back on the train to London to head to the beautiful Grosvenor House hotel for the latest of their Literati events.

And what a fabulous evening it was! Star of the show Santa Montefiore instantly found a place high on my ‘lovely authors I have met’ list by sitting down and chatting to me and fellow blogger Cat like she’d know us for years and sharing my love for the musical Wicked!

As we sipped glasses of delicious bubbles, Santa took the floor with a thoroughly entertaining talk on her books and writing covering everything from her writing room (which sounds heavenly) and the music she listens to while she writes; her love of ruined castles, the ups and downs of working alongside her historian and author husband to taking revenge by making an ex a character in a book and  juggling a writing career with being a mum.

Santa’s enthusiasm and joy for her writing really came across as she spoke and I can’t wait to read my copy of her latest novel Secrets of the Lighthouse which is released in paperback at the end of the month. We were also treated to a sneak peek at her forthcoming book, The Beekeeper’s Daughter which is out in July and sounds like another excellent read.

The event ended with a signing and more catching up with bloggers! A brilliant evening and I’d like to say a big thank you to Simon and Schuster for inviting me along!

Secrets of the Lighthouse is released in paperback on 24th April

The Beekeeper’s Daughter is released in hardback and ebook formats on 17th July

Find out more about Santa Montifiore and her writing at: http://www.santamontefiore.co.uk

Book review: That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

7 Apr

When Eve Petworth writes to Jackson Cooper to praise a scene in one of his books, they discover a mutual love of cookery and food. As their letters criss-cross the ocean that lies between them, friendship and then romance blossom despite Jackson’s colourful love life and Eve’s tense relationship with her soon-to-be-married daughter.

Little by little, Eve and Jack begin to believe that they may have a chance to change their lives and possibly get a second chance at happiness. They just need to actually meet…

That Part Was True is a thoughtful and captivating story of friendship, family, love and loss. The story is set in the UK and US and I enjoyed reading about the very different lives of the lead characters, Eve and Jack. This is a novel that grew on me quickly as I read and although fairly slow paced, is an intriguing look at the lives of two people who make a connection through their love of food and cooking.

Narrated in the third person, this novel is really two separate stories linked by the letters and notes that the main characters send each other and I was carried along by the way that their relationship developed against the backdrop of all that was going on in their separate lives.

Author Jackson (Jack) Cooper  lives in The  Hamptons and is facing something of a mid-life crisis. His wife recently left him and he is questioning everything, including his career as a best-selling popular fiction author as a result. I loved the subtle glamour of Jack’s lifestyle and the contrast between his life and that of Eve Petworth, who is focussed on living a quiet life in the English countryside.

Eve writes to Jack to praise his latest novel and Jack responds. Little by little, their friendship develops through their correspondence. As this develops Deborah McKinlay begins to fill in the detail and history of their lives for the reader. From Eve’s domineering mother, her fraught relationship with her daughter and anxiety attacks to Jack’s attempts at romance and concerns over his career; what makes this book are the lead characters’ insecurities and the complexity of their emotions.

I’ll admit that I didn’t particularly warm to either as I started the book and actually disliked Jack in the beginning, but as their experiences come to the fore I began to see them as the fully rounded characters that they are and felt sympathy for Eve in particular and admired her bravery and determination to overcome her anxiety attacks.

The concept of romance developing through a series of letters is a lovely one and gives Eve and Jack’s relationship a timeless quality that marks this book as different. But That Part Was True is more than a love story; it’s also an inspiring novel about second chances, not just in love but in family relationships too as Eve helps her daughter plan her wedding and the pair try to negotiate their difficult relationship.

The ending to this book was a wonderful surprise and not what I’d expected but left me with a feeling of satisfaction; That Part Was True is a compelling read with honestly flawed characters who will find a place in your heart.

4/5

That Part Was True is out now in Hardback and ebook formats.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Find out more about Deborah McKinlay and her writing at: http://www.deborahmckinlay.com/