Blog Tour: Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

Virago, December 2016

Virago, December 2016

Paragon Studios, Warner Bros. Television and Netflix.

Paragon Studios, Warner Bros. Television and Netflix.

My favourite Lorelai moment and WIN a copy of Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham. 

This blog tour is to celebrate the release of A Year in the Life (four new episodes of the Gilmore Girls)  but also the imminent release of Lauren Graham’s new book, Talking as Fast As I Can: Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between which is available from 6th December 2016 (from Virago.) I am so excited to be a part of this tour. I have a copy of Lauren’s new book to give away (details further down,) but first, my favourite Lorelai moment.

I am very new to The Gilmore Girls. I am not sure how this brilliant TV show passed me by but all I can say is thank goodness for Netflix.

I have been pretty much binge watching this for the last few weeks; sneaking in an episode whenever I can. I am a little torn actually. I want to get to A Year in the Life as I don’t want any spoilers to ruin it (curse the internet,) but at the same time, I don’t want to get through it too quickly as I want my viewing of Gilmore Girls to last as long as it can. I want to go and live in Stars Hollow (or Rosewood for Pretty Little Liars fans.) Can I go and live with Lorelai and Rory?

There is something magical about this series. It’s funny and warm.

I have been asked to talk about my favourite Lorelai moment. How do I pick? There have been many scenes where I have laughed and felt sad for the characters. I want to go and be a part of those town meetings. They look so much fun.

There have been many episodes that I could have picked and I am nowhere near the end. For example, the many exchanges between Lorelai and Emily are just brilliant.

However, there was one scene that has seemed to stand out for me.

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My Writing Ramblings: Reflecting on NaNoWriMo 2016

rp_Laura-Book-300x2251-300x2251-300x225-300x225-1-300x225.jpgNational Novel Writing Month 2016 is over. It’s unbelievable how quickly November passed. Saying that, I am looking forward to the moment where I can say so long to 2016. It’s been a strange year right?

On a personal level, November was a hard month for me as it would have been my Mum’s birthday on the 5th November. The first one without her was always going to be hard. NaNoWriMo was a good distraction.

It was nice to have a fictional world to disappear into for a while. The challenge of 50,000 words is good therapy.

This year, in terms of reaching a daily word count, it was one of my most successful years. I managed to do between 1,700 and 1,800 words per day every day. I got to the overall goal on 28th November so there was no rushing it at the last-minute.

The story I created was a mess. This time around, it was an opportunity to write through my grief. This story will probably never see the light of day again but I am still proud of myself. All things considered, I am very pleased.

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December’s Novel Kicks Book Club: Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle

let It Snow

Penguin, September 2013

Welcome to the Novel Kicks Online Book Club.

We love books and we love chatting about them even more. Every month, we pick a new book for discussion. We will post a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about our book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

For December, we’re getting in the mood for Christmas with Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle.

This book is a collection of three holiday romances and has a beautiful cover.

An ill-timed storm on Christmas Eve buries the residents of Gracetown under multiple feet of snow and causes quite a bit of chaos. One brave soul ventures out into the storm from her stranded train and sets off a chain of events that will change quite a few lives. Over the next three days one girl takes a risky shortcut with an adorable stranger, three friends set out to win a race to the Waffle House (and the hash brown spoils), and the fate of a teacup pig falls into the hands of a lovesick barista.

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Matthew Redford Talks About His Approach To Writing Short Stories

who-killed-the-mince-spyI’m pleased to welcome Matthew Redford to Novel Kicks today. His festive food related crime investigation short story is due for release by Clink Street Publishing in paperback and electronically own 6th December.

Tenacious carrot, detective inspector Willie Wortell is back to reveal the deviously delicious mind behind the crime of the festive season in this hugely entertaining, and utterly unconventional, short story.

When Mitchell the Mince Spy is horrifically murdered by being over baked in a fan oven, it falls to the Food Related Crime team to investigate this heinous act. Why was Mitchell killed? Who is the mysterious man with a long white beard and why does he carry a syringe? Why is it that the death of a mince spy smells so good?

Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, the best food sapiens police officer, once again leads his team into a series of crazy escapades. Supported by his able homo sapiens sergeant Dorothy Knox and his less able fruit officers Oranges and Lemons, they encounter

Snow White and the seven dwarf cabbages as well as having a run in with the food sapiens secret service, MI GasMark5.
With a thigh slap here, and a thigh slap there, the team know Christmas is coming as the upper classes are acting strangely – why else would there be lords a leaping, ladies dancing and maids a milking?

And if that wasn’t enough, the Government Minister for the Department of Fisheries, Agriculture and Rural Trade (DAFaRT) has only gone and given the turkeys a vote on whether they are for or against Christmas.

Let the madness begin!

Matthew has joined me today to talk about his approach to writing short stories…

When I was asked to draft an article on my approach to writing a short story, I thought this would be a doddle. I mean, after all, I have written a short story – Who Killed the Mince Spy? – which is coming out in December 2016. Well, how wrong I was.

How do I approach writing a short story? Well, that is a really interesting question and it is not one which I have thought about before and I don’t recall having been asked the question before either. And when I sat down with the iPad in front of me ready to write my answer, I realised I didn’t know where to start!

So let’s go back to basics. How do I come up with my ideas? Well, I write about food sapiens, those walking, talking food items which live and work along us all. There are some famous food sapiens such as the musicians Polenta Faith and Fizzy Pop Gillespie. And with that in mind, I think about all of the different food items and try to come up with story titles which I think are either topical, interesting or, hopefully, both.

Let’s take Christmas. Mince pies are a staple Christmas food item. Simply switch the word, pie to spy and you’ve a living, breathing food sapiens creature which you can take on a creative journey. Or in my case, straight into a fan oven where the poor little blighter is horrifically murdered.

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Phillipa Ashley Shares Her Favourite Christmas Scenes

Phillipa AshleyI am delighted to be welcoming Phillipa Ashley back to Novel Kicks today. Phillipa’s latest book is very much festive themed and is called Christmas at The Cornish Café. It’s the second novel in the Cornish Café series and was released by Maze.

Christmas will be slightly less turbulent than summer, won’t it? Demi certainly hopes so.

She and Cal are keeping their fledgling relationship under wraps for now. But then Kit Bannen, a hunky, blond – and somewhat mysterious – writer arrives at Kilhallon Resort, and not everyone is charmed. Cal is sure that Kit is hiding something. But is he the only one guarding a secret?

Demi is busy baking festive treats for the newly opened Demelza’s cafe, but when Cal’s ex Isla arrives to shoot scenes Christmas at the Cornish Cafefor her new drama, Demi can’t help but worry that things aren’t quite over between them. Kit flirts with both women, fuelling Cal’s suspicions that Kit has hidden motives for staying on at Kilhallon. Then Cal has to go to London, leaving Demi and Kit to decorate the cafe for Christmas . . . all by themselves.

A storm is brewing in more ways than one. As surprises unfold and truths are uncovered, can Demi and Cal finally open up to each other about their feelings?

 

As it is nearly Christmas, Phillipa has shared some of her favourite Christmas scenes. Over to you, Phillipa…

Believe it or not, after 16 books and over a decade of writing, Christmas at the Cornish Café is my first ‘Christmas’ novel. Even though my debut novel, Decent Exposure, was made into the Lifetime movie, 12 Men of Christmas, it was never written as a Christmas book.

It was important to me that Christmas at the Cornish Café truly reflected the challenges my characters and the community might face in a small Cornish fishing village – and how people might pull together to help each other against all the odds. I hope you enjoy reading it. Now, here are some of my favourite scenes from seasonal books, films and TV.

 

The Carrs’ Christmas Box – What Katy Did at School

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Blog Tour: Amanda Brooke Talks About Her New Novel, The Affair

amanda-brooke-credit-mark-mcnulty-use2011Today, I am welcoming Amanda Brooke and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Affair which was released by Harper on 10th November in electronic form with the paperback release due for 12th January. 

A shocking story about a fifteen-year-old girl and the man who took advantage of her

“You might as well know from the start, I’m not going to tell on him and I don’t care how much trouble I get in. It’s not like it could get any worse than it already is.

I can’t. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t.”

When Nina finds out that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is pregnant, her world falls apart. Because Scarlet won’t tell anyone who the father is. And Nina is scared that the answer will destroy everything.

As the suspects mount – from Scarlett’s teacher to Nina’s new husband of less than a year – Nina searches for the truth: no matter what the cost.

 

Hello Amanda. Thank you so much for joining me on Novel Kicks today. Your new book is called The Affair. Can you tell me a little about it and how the idea originated?

Thank you for inviting me on to Novel Kicks, it’s lovely to be here again! The Affair begins with the news that fifteen year old Scarlett is pregnant to a married man. She won’t say who it is, but the two likely candidates are her stepfather and her teacher. The story is told from the point of view of the men’s wives; Scarlett’s mum, Nina and teacher’s wife, Vikki. I also introduce Scarlett’s voice as a narrator, and she describes the early days of her relationship and how she feels when the accusations start to fly. I’m not sure how much I can say about how the idea originated without giving too much away. I had a scene in my head of a schoolgirl watching from the periphery while other people’s lives fell apart. She wasn’t meant to be the focal point of the book, other than perhaps a final reveal, but after long chats with my editor, the premise of the story morphed into something quite different, and it was both a pleasure and a challenge to write.

 

Can you describe what your typical writing day is like? Any rituals like needing tea or writing in silence?

You’ve asked that question at a very exciting time, because I gave up work this month to write full-time. I’ve spent thirty-one years in local government and for the last five I’ve been juggling two careers, fitting in my writing around the day job. I can tell you what I plan to do, which is to concentrate on my writing in the morning, which allows me to spend the rest of the day thinking about what I’ve written and where I need to take the story next. I’m conscious that working from home will be quite sedentary, so I’ve had my treadmill adapted, with a small desk that fits on top of the handlebars. My first hour of writing will be spent walking and typing so I can wake up my body and brain at the same time. As I’ve said, that’s only the plan so you might need to ask me again in a year’s time to see if I’ve kept to it.

 

the-affair-pbHow do you approach writing your novels? Are you much of a planner and need to know your characters well and plot inside out? Do you edit as you go?

When I have an idea for a story, I like to mull it over in my head for a while before I commit to paper. The starting point is a two page synopsis, which doesn’t necessarily cover sub-plots or minor characters but should be enough to capture the essence of the story. My next task is to cut up the synopsis into about twelve sections, which in theory will be the chapters and, if nothing else, it gives me some reassurance that I have enough of a story for a full length manuscript. When I’m ready to start writing, I tend to have a very clear idea of the opening and final scenes, but the rest of the book remains relatively fluid. I enjoy getting to know my characters and they’re the ones who fuel my imagination as I go along, creating situations and conflict I never could have imagined from the start. In terms of editing, I see that first draft almost as a test run, it’s only during the subsequent rewrites that I really get to know the story.

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Playing FTSE Author, Penelope Jacobs Talks About Balancing Work and Family

penelopejacobsPlaying FTSE by Penelope Jacobs was released by Ipso Books in digital format yesterday (24th November)

When Melanie Collins joins an investment bank as a young graduate, she quickly discovers that femininity is an invaluable asset. But it must not be abused.

She witnesses other women falling victim to office affairs and is determined to be taken seriously. In an industry where abilities are rewarded handsomely, she rises rapidly through the ranks. But her increased profile attracts the attention of a senior colleague and she is ill-equipped to handle his advances.

Balancing a demanding job with a confusing personal life proves difficult and soon their relationship threatens to jeopardise her career. As events move beyond control, her glamorous world becomes tainted by betrayal and bitterness.

One of the themes in the book explores the issues the main character Melanie has with balancing her personal life with her professional one.

The author of Playing FTSE, Penelope Jacobs is joining me today to talk about her thoughts on balancing work and family and why we can’t have it all. Over to you, Penelope.

Achieving a work-life balance is not always possible and certainly requires sacrifices.
Marriage and, more specifically, babies seem to be the tipping point, when life can sometimes spiral out of control. As noted by the National Health Interview Survey, 30-44 year olds report the largest “work-lifestyle imbalance”. During this period, many high-powered career women have simply piled far too much onto their plates. On top of a highly pressurised job, they suddenly have to cope with the demands of small children, a husband and running a household. Not to mention find a little time for themselves.

The Mental Health Foundation states that “the pressure of an increasingly demanding work culture in the UK is perhaps the biggest and most pressing challenge to the mental health of the general population.” In addition, “many more women report unhappiness than men (42% of women compared with 29% of men), which is probably a consequence of competing life roles and more pressure to ‘juggle’.”

Why are we accepting this burden from society? In my opinion, it is not possible to “have it all” and at the same time seamlessly achieve a wonderful work-life balance.
Every woman I know has made some type of sacrifice which, by definition, means they do not have it all. At one extreme, some high-powered women consciously choose not to have children and, at the other, an enormous number leave their brilliant careers permanently to raise a family. In both cases, the costs are high.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: The Call

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt: The Call. 

You are trying to get to sleep. Your phone rings. It’s from an unknown number but because you’re half asleep, you answer it when you normally wouldn’t.

You answer and say ‘hello.’

There is a pause.

‘We need you,’ is the response before the caller hangs up and you are left with a dial tone.

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My Writing Ramblings: On Track For 50,000 Words

rp_Laura-Book-300x2251-300x2251-300x225-300x225-1-300x225.jpgWow, we are already halfway through National Novel Writing Month. That is slightly hard to believe.

This month seems to be moving at an incredible pace.

Despite a few personal things I’ve had to deal with this month, so far, I am on track as far as the writing is concerned. In fact, I am slightly ahead of where I’d expect to be at this point in the month. As of yesterday, I’d passed the 30,000 word mark. I am very pleased.

My approach this month has been slightly different to previous years. At this point in the past, I have seen myself in various states. One year, I was already finished by now whereas the year before last, I finished on 30th November with two minutes to spare praying that my internet connection would hold long enough for me to be able to verify my win (which it did thank goodness!)

Where NaNoWriMo is concerned, I am very much a pantster. I tend not to plan much. I have a vague idea and tend to just go with it. With this writing challenge, I tend to like to see where the story will take me. (This month, the non planning was more that November jumped out at me slightly and I ran out of time.)

This year, I have been taking it slow and steady roughly writing 1800 words a day. I have to say, I am liking this pace. If I finish too early, then I don’t know what to do with myself.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Interrogation Room

Novel Kicks Fiction FridayFiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt. The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can. Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt: Interrogation. 

You are in a police interrogation room. You can decide whether you want to write from the point of view of the accused or the accuser.

Decide what the crime has been. Serious or petty?

Write a conversation between the accused and accuser but try not to disclose what crime has been committed.

 

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Blog Tour: Christmas Cheer (Willow Cottage) by Bella Osborne – Extract and Review

Bella OsborneOK, I admit it, I already have the Christmas songs playing and if I could get away with it, I would already have my tree up. I adore this time of year. I love the songs, the lights and any excuse to dig out the Christmas films whilst eating mince pies.

One of the things I love the most are the Christmas themed novels. I am very excited to say that Bella Osborne is with Novel Kicks today (welcome back, Bella,) with the blog tour for her latest Christmas themed novel, Christmas Cheer which is the second book in the Willow Cottage series.

Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a safe place for little Leo.

When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric!

A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage.

Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…

Thanks to Bella and Avon, we have an extract from Christmas Cheer. Enjoy…

‘Carly!’ said Beth, her voice sharp.

Carly spun in Beth’s direction with an exaggerated movement. With slow blinks she looked at Beth until something registered.

‘Beth! This is … um … what was your name again?’ She swung precariously back towards Jack who stopped her falling on him with one hand whilst holding the pub table steady with the other.

‘I know who it is.’ Beth was trying to suppress the annoyance that was rapidly developing within her.

‘He’s lov-erly,’ cooed Carly whilst she stroked his arm in a deliberate action.

‘I’d like to know what he’s planning on doing with my drunk friend?’ Beth retorted. Jack let go of

Carly as if she were a lit firework.

As the accusation slowly registered, Carly looked hurt. ‘I’m not dunk!’ she protested as she slowly slid towards the floor.

Jack was looking blindly from one woman to the other as if he’d just been teleported there. ‘I was just …’

‘For someone that wasn’t looking for a relationship a few hours ago you’ve sure as hell come round to the idea quick!’ Beth stepped forward and grabbed Carly by one arm and hauled her into a standing position. ‘Come on! We’re leaving now.’

Carly wobbled on unsteady legs, grinned inanely at Jack and was towed away.

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November’s Novel Kicks Book Club: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

lovely-bones

Picador, June 2003

Welcome to the Novel Kicks Online Book Club.

We love books and we love chatting about them even more. Every month, we pick a new book for discussion. We will post a question to kick things off in the comments box below. A good thing about our book club is that everyone is welcome to take part. It’s open to all. You can read the book at any point in the month or if you’ve already read it, tell us what you think.

The best part… it’s all from the comfort of your armchair/sofa/bed/comfy place.

For November, we’re reading The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer.

This is Susie Salmon. Watching from heaven, Susie sees her happy, suburban family devastated by her death, isolated even from one another as they each try to cope with their terrible loss alone.

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Blog Tour: Lesley Downer Talks About Writing Her Novel, The Shogun’s Queen

Lesley in Japan with a maiko (trainee geisha)

Me in Japan with a maiko (trainee geisha)

A big welcome today to Lesley Downer and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Shogun’s Queen which was released by Bantam Press on 3rd November.

Japan, and the year is 1853. Growing up among the samurai of the Satsuma Clan, in Japan’s deep south, the fiery, beautiful and headstrong Okatsu has – like all the clan’s women – been encouraged to be bold, taught to wield the halberd, and to ride a horse.
But when she is just seventeen, four black ships appear. Bristling with cannon and manned by strangers who to the Japanese eyes are barbarians, their appearance threatens Japan’s very existence. And turns Okatsu’s world upside down.

Today, on the last day of the tour, Lesley has joined me to talk about writing The Shogun’s Queen. Over to you, Lesley…

shoguns-queenHello, Laura. Thank you for allowing me to post on your blog today! I greatly appreciate it.

I’ve had a love affair with Japan all my life, and when I decided to move from non-fiction to fiction ten years ago, it was obvious that was where my stories would be set. I’m also mad about research. I love any excuse to go to Japan and I also love scouring old books written by Victorian travellers who were there in the nineteenth century. If I could live my life again it would be in old Japan, the Japan of the great woodblock print artists Hokusai and Hiroshige – and a reasonable second best is reading about it and being there in my mind and taking my readers there as I write about it.

Somehow – I forget how – I came across the Women’s Palace, a sort of harem where three thousand women lived and only one man, the shogun (the military ruler of Japan), could enter. To me the most surprising thing was that I’d spent so long in Japan and read so much about it yet in all those years hadn’t come across the Women’s Palace before. I decided to set my first novel there and so The Last Concubine was born. There was literally nothing in English about the palace. I had to struggle through a book written in Victorian-era Japanese with the help of a Japanese friend. My story took place at the very end of the era of the shoguns and my heroine fled the palace early on in the book.

I went on to write two more novels following on in time after the events of The Last Concubine.
Somewhere along the way I heard of Atsu’s heart-rending story and couldn’t get it out of my mind. It haunted me. Telling her story would mean going back to the Women’s Palace and I’d been feeling for a long time that I hadn’t finished with it – or rather it hadn’t finished with me.

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Blog Tour: Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern – Review

lyrebird-jacketWelcome to Cecelia Ahern and her blog tour for her new novel, Lyrebird which was released on 3rd November by Harper Collins. 

Solomon is part of a documentary crew. He, along with his girlfriend, Bo and their colleague Rachel, return to the farm of a set of twins (that have previously been subjects for one of their documentaries) for a funeral. 

When exploring the area around the edge of the farm, Solomon finds Laura hiding in the woods. Laura has been living a solitary life. She’s such a secret no one knows she exists. They discover that Laura processes an extraordinary gift and soon, they have taken her back to Dublin. 

Can Laura adjust to life in a big, loud city or will she feel even more trapped? 

First of all could I just take a moment to gush about the cover of this book. It is beautiful. I loved the fact that when this book arrived, it came with very pretty feathers. Now I’ve read it the feathers make more sense but they were pretty all the same.

This book was so easy to fall into. It didn’t take me long to read as I couldn’t stop reading. There is something about Cecelia’s writing that just draws me in. There’s such a magic to it. Where Rainbows End still remains one of my favourite novels.

The plot is interesting and explores themes like the pitfalls of fame and reality TV, love and trying to discover who you are.

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Selection of New Book Releases

ian-rankin Hello everyone. I hope you’re all enjoying your Thursday so far. The temperature has certainly dropped today hasn’t it.

Summer has gone and we say hi to dark mornings, cold hands and scraping of the windscreen on cars.
The one thing I do love about this time of year is that when I do make it home after work or whatever, I can curl up in the chair with a blanket and a lovely mug of hot chocolate and read into the night.

As it’s Thursday, there is a new batch of book releases too. Here are four of the books released today that I am looking forward to reading.

Rather Be The Devil sees the return of Rebus and is the latest novel by Ian Rankin. It’s released today by Orion. I can remember seeing a documentary on the BBC about Ian Rankin and his writing process. It was so interesting. It was also very encouraging for a new writer like me as I got to see someone as fantastic as this author have the same insecurities as me when writing his books and he just sits down and gets on with it. I hope it does someday get repeated.

This book is the twenty first novel in the Rebus series. The general gist is that it has been forty years but for John Rebus, the death of Maria Turquand still prays on his mind. She was murdered in a hotel on the same evening a famous singer and his entourage were staying. Maria’s body has never been found.
the-awardMeanwhile, young pretender Darryl Christie is left weakened and vulnerable after a vicious attack and an enquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position.

Danielle Steel also has a new novel out today. The Award has just been released by Bantam Press.
Gaelle is sixteen when the German army occupies France in 1940. Her father and brother are killed in a matter of months and her mother descends into madness.
Gaelle becomes a member of the resistance. She fearlessly delivers Jewish children to safety underneath the eyes of the Gestapo.
Toward the end of the war, she tries to help save France’s art treasures but when the war draws to a close, she is accused of collaboration. She flees to Paris and then to New York to start a new life as a model, a wife and a mother.
The ghosts of her past however are always near.

The third book out today is Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern. This has been released by Harper Collins. I have actually read this book already (I will be reviewing it as part of the Lyrebird blog tour on 8th November so watch this space.)

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