Book Reviews

NK Chats To… Susan Lewis

Hello Susan. Thank you for joining me today. What inspired One Minute Later?

It was meeting twenty-one-year-old Jim Lynskey who is waiting for a new heart.

 

How has your approach to the writing process changed since your first novel? 

I think it’s more or less the same. I explore ideas, let my gut instinct decide which is the right one to go with and then I devise the characters I think will be best to tell the story.

 

Is there a particular place you like to write? Do you need coffee to write? Music? 

I always write in my study at home – I can’t seem to do it anywhere else – I tend to drink tea more than coffee, and I work in silence apart from the comforting snores of my little dogs. I also have a lovely view of the countryside through the French windows which can be very nourishing.

 

Which three characters from fiction would you invite to dinner and why? 

I’d invite Thorfinn from King Hereafter because he could tell us the true story of Macbeth. Any hero from Georgette Heyer because they’re so dashing and romantic and probably Elizabeth Bennett because she’s so sharp and witty.

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Blog Tour: The Shape of Lies by Rachel Abbott

Black Dot Publishing, February 2019

Hello today to Rachel Abbott and the blog tour for her latest novel, The Shape of Lies. Are you ready to play The Shape of Truth and Lies game and potentially win a signed copy of the novel? 

This is Rachel’s ninth novel and it follows respectable mother, wife and head teacher, Anna Franklyn, who is driving to work when a voice on her favourite radio phone-in programme shatters every hope that she has escaped her dark past. The caller on ‘The One That Got Away’ claims to be her ex-lover, Scott, and in less than a week, he will expose her truth on air. But how is that possible when Scott is dead?

Meanwhile, Abbott’s much-loved detective, Tom Douglas, needs to find the killer responsible for two brutal murders and unravel Anna’s web of lies to discover what connects her to both bodies.

 

The Shape of Truth and Lies Game

To celebrate the publication of The Shape of Lies we are playing a game of truth and lies. Play along, follow the blog tour to collect all the truths and you could be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of The Shape of Lies.

 

How to play:

Rachel Abbott has come up with two big lies and one absolute truth about her life. Can you channel her beloved detective, Tom Douglas, and detect the one truth? Pick carefully, then follow the blog tour to collect all the truths and enter the prize draw. Once you have all seven truths email your answers to rachelabbottcomps@gmail.com.

Full T&Cs can be found here. The next round of The Shape of Truth or Lies continues over on www.noveldeelights.com tomorrow.

Now, read on to play The Shape of Truth and Lies game and be in with a chance of winning your very own signed copy.

 

Health

  1. I suffer from sleep apnoea – which means I stop breathing in the night. My husband shakes me to make me breathe again
  2. I suffer from somnambulism – sleep walking. I once woke up trying to get into my brother-in-law’s bed (I was honestly asleep).
  3. I have visions when I sleep – vivid images of things that are about to happen. When I wake up, I take a moment to review them for premonitions of deaths. If there are none, I get on with my day.

 

Which one is truth? A, B or C? Keep your answer safe, collect all seven truths and send to: rachelabbottcomps@gmail.com (see the blog tour banner below for details of the blogs taking part in the game.)

Remember to head to www.noveldeelights.com tomorrow for the next stop of The Shape of Lies blog tour and the next game of The Shape of Truth or Lies.

 

 

 

My verdict on The Shape of Lies:

Anna has secrets and a past; things her husband Dominic knows nothing about. Secrets she wants kept hidden.

When her past threatens to ruin her present, Anna can feel it all beginning to fall apart. She is not sure what to do to stop it.

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Book Review: Written From The Heart by Trisha Ashley

Tina Devino makes more money teaching people to write than writing herself. A middling romance novelist who dreams of penning a bestseller, she’s increasingly forced to compete with younger, blonder debut authors for her publisher and agent’s attention.

Feeling forgotten, Tina realises the only way up is to take her career and destiny in hand and build her own happy ending; which is perfect because, for a romance writer, Tina isn’t the most traditional of women… Although she does see her long-term partner lover friend, Sergei, once a week which is ‘quite enough, thank you very much’. But her uncomplicated love life might soon need some unravelling when a mysterious Tube Man, unwelcome ex-husband and a shadowy figure in a butterfly mask waltz into the picture.

Only Tina can work through the drama and claim the life she’s always wanted… but will she succeed?

 

Previously released and long out of print, as ‘Happy Endings’, this is nevertheless a very well told story. As an example of a best-selling author’s evolving style and confidence, it is invaluable.

The characterisation is wonderful, with Tina (IMHO) a terrific amalgam of a lot of Romance Writers I know, which make it a very personal read (for me at least).

I would give the writing a Five Star, though I would have to agree with a couple of the other reviews in that the abrupt ending is well, abrupt and you do find yourself wondering about a few loose threads not being tied up.

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Book Extract: The Secret To Falling in Love by Victoria Cooke

Hello to Victoria Cooke and the birthday blog blitz for her novel, The Secret to Falling in Love. Happy Book Birthday Victoria. 

Lifestyle journalist and thirty-something singleton Melissa hashtags, insta’s and snapchats her supposedly fabulous life on every social media platform there is.
That is until she wakes up on her birthday, another year older and still alone, wondering if for all her internet dates, love really can be found online? The challenge: go technology free for a whole month!

Forced to confront the reality of her life without its perfect filters, Melissa knows she needs to make some changes. But when she bumps into not one, but two gorgeous men, without the use of an app, she believes there could be hope for love offline.
If only there was a way to choose the right guy for her…

 

I have reviewed the book below but first, Victoria has shared an extract from the novel. I hope yo enjoy.

 

***** beginning of extract*****

Here, main character, Mel, is reflecting on her grandmother’s romantic encounter with her grandad. This memory helps plant the idea of a technology detox in Mel’s mind.

I stumbled across a picture of me and my grandma. My throat ached as a lump formed. She’d died just two months ago, and I’d missed her ever since. She was my rock who I could talk to about anything; she knew me better than anyone else on the planet. I lifted my glass.

‘To you, Gran – I hope you’re raising hell up there.’ The last time I’d spoken to her, she’d told me to stop worrying about finding a man.

‘You’re not going to find anyone in there,’ she’d scolded, pointing to my laptop. ‘Do you think that’s how I met Grandad?’

I didn’t reply. Gran’s questions were usually rhetorical, which you discovered if you tried to answer.

‘No, I put on my make-up; made sure my best dress was darned, washed and pressed; and I went out and smiled at boys. It was easy to catch an eye or two.’ I’d chuckled at the time. Of course, things were different these days, but I enjoyed her stories so played along. ‘Grandad asked me if I wanted a drink. But I said a firm no.’

‘No?’ I’d queried, wondering if she’d not been attracted to him at first, if she was trying to tell me to just settle for someone.

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NK Chats To… Amanda Brooke

Hi Amanda, thank you so much for joining me today. I am very happy to be part of the blog tour for your book,  Don’t Turn Around. Can you tell me about it?

My latest book is set ten years after the death of seventeen year-old Megan McCoy and is told from the perspectives of Meg’s mum, Ruth and her cousin, Jen who was also her best friend. Meg died from suicide and her parents have established a helpline in her memory to reach out to young people in crisis who need someone to talk to.

The family are trying to rebuild their lives but there are questions that haunt them. What hold did her boyfriend have over her and why did she protect him to the very end? Was the brief note she left meant to be a cryptic message or did someone destroy part of the note before her father found her body?

The family think they have accepted there will be no answers until a young woman phones the helpline and reveals things that only Meg could know. Is she suffering as Meg had suffered and can they save her?

 

What’s your writing day like, where do you like to write, do you prefer silence and what keeps you motivated throughout your writing time?

I gave up a career in local government two years ago to become a fulltime writer and it’s so much easier having a set routine rather than fitting writing in around the day job.

My writing room was my son’s bedroom but working from home can be quite sedentary and I adapted my treadmill so I could walk and type on my laptop for the first hour or two each day. It was a great plan but as you know, it was a very hot summer last year, and my treadmill started billowing smoke! Unsurprisingly, I haven’t used it since but I have a dog now and we go out for long walks once I’ve met my daily word count. She’s the incentive I need to keep the words flowing so that we can escape together.

 

What elements do you believe make a good suspense novel? What are the common mistakes made if you’re writing one for the first time?

The best compliment you can give a writer is that their book was a page turner and that’s particularly important when it comes to suspense novels. Making the reader want to read on is an art and to get it right you have to consider the pace and structure of your story.

Each chapter should give the reader something but also leave them wanting to know more.

The characters are also key as the reader has to be invested in them. Protagonists should be relatable and that means giving them flaws as well as strengths, whilst the reverse is true of antagonists who can benefit from having something about them that makes them human.

 

What is your favourite word and why?

Having a favourite word can be problematic if it sticks in your mind and you find it appearing in one page after another. Hopefully, the repetitions are picked up during editing but often it’s a surprise to see how many times your copyeditor has to flag up overused words.

One word that I fell in love with at the start of my writing journey was ‘unfettered.’ It described perfectly the decision one of my characters had to make in my first novel, Yesterday’s Sun. She was to sacrifice her life for that of her child and her decision needed to be unfettered by other influences, such as the love for her husband or the dreams she had beyond becoming a mother.

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Book Review: The Talisman – Molly’s Story by Eliza J. Scott

Molly’s dream of taking over her childhood home at Withrin Hill Farm with husband Pip and their three children has finally come true.

And, as they settle into the stunning Georgian farmhouse, with their plans to diversify into glamping nicely taking shape, the family couldn’t be happier.
But tragedy suddenly strikes, and Molly’s world is turned upside down.

Heartbroken and devastated, she struggles to face each day. True to form, her fiercely loyal best friends, Kitty and Violet, rally round offering love and support, but Molly doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to smile again. Until the day a tall, dark stranger with twinkly eyes arrives…

Follow Molly’s story in book 2 of the Life on the Moors Series set in Lytell Stangdale, a picture-perfect village in the heart of the North Yorkshire Moors, where life is anything but quiet.

The Talisman, Molly’s Story is book two in the Life on the Moors series.

Picking up a few months from where Kitty’s story left off, The Talisman focuses on Molly and Pip.

They have a dream to convert part of their farm into a glamping business. With everything looking as though it is slipping into place, Molly has never been happier, and she counts her blessings.

When tragedy strikes, Molly’s life feels like it is crumpling around her and nothing is going to fix it…

I am excited to be part of the blog tour for this novel especially on publication day.

I very much enjoyed Kitty’s story and was so happy to be back in Lytell Stangdale with Molly, Pip, Ollie, Kitty, Vi and the hilarious Jimby.

Reading the first novel will give you insight but you can very much read this as a standalone if you wanted to begin with this one.

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NK Chats To… Hanna Jameson

Hanna Jameson is the author of The Last, published by Viking, 31st January.

Hi Hanna, thank you so much for joining me today. Your book is called The Last and it’s been released today. Can you tell me a little about it and what inspired it?

The Last is a murder mystery narrated by an American academic, stranded in a remote hotel in Switzerland following the outbreak of nuclear war. It was inspired by me needing to write something else before I ran out of money, and also our political landscape. I started writing it almost immediately after the 2016 US presidential election, an event that I think many still haven’t recovered from. I tried to channel that sadness and anger, and also the ever-looming dread and grief about the impending climate apocalypse, into something constructive. Otherwise I’d just be yelling on Twitter.

 

Which author has inspired you the most and why?

This is a tough one, but taking someone’s work as a whole, probably J.G. Ballard. His work affected me profoundly when I was a teenager and it dictated a lot of my future taste. People describe The Last by referencing Agatha Christie but I’ve never read Agatha Christie. The influence I was drawing from was actually Ballardian; novels like Concrete Island and High-Rise, which create this atmosphere of extreme claustrophobia in an intimidating – almost devastating – amount of abandoned space. I was obsessed with his particular brand of near-future dystopia and I think he is still unparalleled.

 

What’s your typical writing day like, where do you like to write and do you prefer to write in silence?

I either write at home with headphones on, or at a coffee shop with headphones on. The latter gets expensive so I only do it when I need to get words out quickly, or when I’ve been struggling to focus. I like coffee shops because, even though I put my headphones on to lock down my emotional space with my own playlists or even a TV show in the background, I can still see and hear activity, which is very motivating and distracts the part of my brain that likes the distract me. I only work in silence when reading my work out-loud, which I always do when editing.

 

What is your route to publication?

Same as everyone else’s. A lot of hard work and perseverance, deluded levels of self-belief, that only amounted to anything due to luck.

 

What elements do you feel make a good novel?

Character, character, character. I could not give less of a shit about your plot or how good it is if I don’t care about your characters. If I realise I don’t care, I shut the book. In terms of creating good characters, there are many ways to do that. It mostly involves being honest, aware of how your limited perspective could cause you to rely on harmful stereotypes instead of empathy and genuine attempts at research and emotional interpretation.

 

What is your favourite word and why?

It changes all the time according to mood, but I love the word ‘epicaricacy,’ which is the English word for ‘schadenfreude.’

 

Are you able to tell me a little about your current work in progress?

I’m working on two projects currently. One is a TV show, a historical drama. The other is my fifth novel, which – like The Last – is also a near-future dystopian thriller.

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Book Review: An Unconventional Affair Book 2, A Risk Worth Sharing by Mollie Blake

Black Opal Books, Jan 2019

This second part of An Unconventional Affair finds Barrington Stone working in Australia for a year. Tranquility “Tee” Hammond, fifteen years his senior, has ended their affair, but for Barrington it was never over. He can’t wait for the year to pass to go back to her. However, after a drunken encounter, with a woman he later discovers is a sex worker, his life is changed forever. How can he possibly leave Australia, now that he has a daughter?

After accepting that Barrington won’t be coming back to the UK, Tee rekindles her relationship with the charming-yet-unconventional Sebastian Chandler, owner of a motorsports racetrack. Although living with Sebastian is “complicated” and life for the couple isn’t perfect, they are settled and Tee is happy.

But everything changes when Barrington returns. Tee’s heart is in turmoil, and Sebastian is afraid he will lose the woman he loves. As the plot thickens and twists unravel, Barrington must decide if there is one risk worth sharing.

An Unconventional Affair Book Two, A Risk Worth Sharing is the latest novel in the Cheshire Love Stories series.

Tranquility ‘Tee’ Hammond has ended her relationship with Barrington Stone. Heartbroken, Barrington focuses on his new temporary job in Australia as he tries to forget the love of his life.

Then he finds out something that will keep him in Australia longer than a year; something that will change his life forever.

Tee, also brokenhearted finds comfort in the arms of an old friend, Sebastian.

Years later, when Barrington returns to the UK, Tee doesn’t know how to handle it.

Sebastian also senses the threat.

Can Tee and Barrington be together again?

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Book Review: Black Matter by GD Parker

The future is now… it’s terrifying!!!

Humanity locks jaws with the ever-increasing human desires towards highly advanced technological innovations making the world a dangerous place.

Unanticipated horrific consequences unfold for Tommy McGregor when he partakes in a new high-tech innovation to enhance his health and wellbeing.

He thought it would make him healthier, better looking and live forever…DI Valentina is out of her comfort zone when she’s tasked to track down a killer, unknown to her, hidden behind a digital mask.

The future has already fallen upon humanity as she soon discovers, nothing is as it seems anymore as society embarks in technology that’s already here.

A terrifying mystery, it feeds your imaginative mind’s eye – a fast-paced “whoisit” thrilling crime, novel that will leave you guessing until the end, (or will it?) As it leaves the hairs on your arms stand on end as you uncontrollably turn each page in this 3 part series.

Black Matter is the debut novel from British born author Gareth Parker.

It is a glimpse into a very near future where technology is deeply ingrained, in some cases physically, into our lives.

The story follows Tommy, a young man in his early thirties who makes the decision to have a medical implant placed in his brain which will allow him to monitor his health more accurately.

Little does he know that this is slightly more sinister than advertised.

A pretty good read. It takes a few pages to find its feet. For me, it did feel like a debut novel to begin with.

However, as it progresses and it gets into the rhythm it starts to flow nicely.

The characters are, on the whole, pretty believable and I felt that I had a good feel for the main ones by the time I was about a quarter of the way through.

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Book Review: A Gift From Woolworths by Elaine Everest

As the war moves into 1945 the lives of the women of Woolworths continue.

When store manager, Betty Billington, announces she is expecting Douglas’s baby her future life is about to change more than she expects.

Freda has fallen in love with the handsome Scottish engineer but will it end happily?

Maisie loves being a mother and also caring for her two nieces although she still has her own dreams. When her brother appears on the scene he brings unexpected danger to the family.

Meanwhile Sarah dreams of her husband’s return and a cottage with roses around the door but Woolworths beckons.

Will our girls sail into times of peace, or will they experience more heartache and sorrow? With a wedding on the horizon, surely only happiness lies ahead – or does it?

A Gift from Woolworths is a gift from the wonderful Elaine Everest.

As the 5th and (so far?) last of the Woolworth novels from this author, we are left with a fitting final chapter to the story of Betty, Freda, Maisie, Sarah and all the ensemble cast. Though possible to read as a stand alone, it’s no less enjoyable for that, this is a series that asks to be read in order.

This Wonder of Woolies (yes, I had to get that in here somewhere) is a book that’s full of wonderful characters, searingly tense situations and scenes that will have you crying. Showing the skill of an author who will be long-followed, this is a book that should be devoured with relish, or a bar of your favourite chocolate.

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Book Extract: Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

A big welcome to Emma Healey and the blog tour for her latest novel, Whistle in the Dark which was released by Viking on 10th January. 

Jen has finally got her daughter home.

But why does fifteen-year-old Lana still feel lost?

When Lana goes missing for four desperate days and returns refusing to speak of what happened, Jen fears the very worst. She thinks she’s failed as a mother, that her daughter is beyond reach and that she must do something – anything – to bring her back.

The family returns to London where everyone but Jen seems happy to carry on as normal. Jen’s husband Hugh thinks she’s going crazy – and their eldest daughter Meg is tired of Lana getting all the attention. But Jen knows Lana has changed, and can’t understand why.

Does the answer lie in those four missing days?

And how can Jen find out?

 

I have reviewed the novel below but first, here is an extract. I hope you enjoy. 

 

***** beginning of extract.*****

 

‘This has been the worst week of my life,’ Jen said. Not what she had planned to say to her fifteen-year-old daughter after an ordeal that had actually covered four days.

‘Hi, Mum.’ Lana’s voice emerged from blue-tinged lips.
Jen could only snatch a hug, a press of her cheek against Lana’s ‒ soft and pale as a mushroom ‒ while the paramedics slammed the ambulance doors and wheeled Lana into the hospital. There was a gash on the ashen head, a scrape on the tender jaw, she was thin and cold and wrapped in tin foil, she smelled soggy and earthy and unclean, but it was okay: she was here, she was safe, she was alive. Nothing else mattered.

Cigarette smoke drifted over from the collection of dressing-gowned, IV‑attached witnesses huddled under the covered entrance, and a man’s voice came with it.

‘What’s going off? Is that the lass from London?’

‘Turned up, then,’ another voice answered. ‘Heard it said on the news.’

So the press had been told already. Jen supposed that was a good thing: they could cancel the search, stop asking the public to keep their eyes open, to report possible sightings, to contact the police if they had information. It was a happy ending to the story. Not the ending anyone had been expecting.
The call had come less than an hour ago, Hugh, wrapped in a hotel towel, just out of the shower (because it was important to keep going), Jen not dressed and unshowered (because she wasn’t convinced by Hugh’s argument). They had never given up hope, that’s what she would say in the weeks to come, talking to friends and relatives, but really her hope, that flimsy Meccano construction, had shaken its bolts loose and collapsed within minutes of finding Lana missing.

Even driving to the hospital, Jen had been full of doubt, assuming there’d been a mistake, imagining a different girl would meet them there, or a lifeless body. The liaison officer had tried to calm her with details: a farmer had spotted a teenager on sheep-grazing land, he’d identified her from the news and called the police, she was wearing the clothes Jen had guessed she’d be wearing, she’d been well enough to drink a cup of hot, sweet tea, well enough to speak, and had definitely answered to the name Lana.

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NK Chats To: Jenni Keer

Hi Jenni, thank you for joining me today. Your novel is called The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker. Can you tell me about it and what inspired the story?

You are very welcome – it’s lovely to be here. Your virtual sofa is very comfy!

Hmm… how to sum up my book. I guess The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is a heart-warming story with a variety of themes. I set out to write a romance but the book became so much more and, in a way, is two love stories; Lucy and George, but also Lucy and Brenda. It was the powerful intergenerational friendship between these two women and how they deal very differently with Brenda’s dementia diagnosis, that became the central theme. For the romance, I was initially inspired by a locket of my mother’s and my working title was Lucy’s Locket until it was picked up by the publisher. This mysterious piece of jewellery leads to lots of mishaps and comedy moments for Lucy but also makes her reassess her romantic options in life. It was a fun book to write.

 

What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need coffee? Silence?

I weave my writing around part-time work, care for my mum and the hectic taxi service I appear to be running for my four teenage sons. My most productive times are during the school day – when the house is silent, and evenings – when it is not. I also work at the weekends when I can. I’ve developed a cunning strategy that involves wearing enormous headphones as a signal that I’m writing. If there is a lot of noise, I play music (I have a playlist of familiar songs so I’m not distracted by them) but I also cheat and pretend I’ve got music on so the boys leave me alone. It’s coffee during the day, and wine or tonic water at night – although the wine is only for weekends. Interestingly, some of the best comedy scenes have been wine-fuelled.

The other thing I do, to combat the isolation and to spur me on, is to meet up with my writing buddy, Clare Marchant, in our “virtual” office. It means we check in throughout the day with wordcounts and this accountability helps us both to focus. I do hate it when she leaves the virtual biscuit tin empty though…

 

Do you have a certain place you like to write?

I have an office – which is actually a desk in the corridor between the living room and the downstairs loo. I’m lucky to have this permanent space as a lot of writers work on the kitchen table or on their laps. It’s a total mess, like Lucy’s desk, but it’s mine. I have two screens set up (invaluable for editing) so it’s tricky for me to move. Research and planning I can do anywhere.

 

What’s your writing process like from planning to editing?

Planning – ha ha ha. You are funny. I am such a pantser and every time I begin a new novel I’m determined to plan. My second book for Avon (out next summer) was the first time I’d had to write a synopsis before writing the book and boy was that hard – but I did it. I’d like to get better at planning, but my brain doesn’t work that way and I’m what I like to call “an onion writer” – I write in layers. I get a rough first draft down and then I go over and over and over it, perfecting, editing, adding description etc. until I’m happy. Luckily, I love editing and always see it as an opportunity to make the story even better. Some of my best ideas come right at the end of the process and then I have to go back and weave it all in. I honestly don’t know how people plan.

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Book Extract: When Polly Met Olly by Zoe May

I am happy to be welcoming Zoe May to Novel Kicks today and the blog tour for her novel, When Polly Met Olly.

Polly might spend her days searching for eligible matches for her elite list of clients at her New York dating agency, but her own love life is starting to go up in smoke.

Even worse, she can’t stop thinking about the very person she’s meant to be setting her latest client up with… surely it can’t get any worse!

But then Polly bumps into oh-so-handsome Olly, who heads up a rival agency, and realizes that perhaps all really is fair in love and dating war…

 

I have reviewed the book below but first, Zoe and HQ have shared an extract today. 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Chapter One

Surely, I’m not qualified to be a matchmaker?!

You’d think getting a job at a dating agency might actually require you to have found love, or at least be good at dating, but apparently not. I’ve been single for three years and I haven’t had a date for six months, yet I’m pretty sure I’m nailing this interview.

‘So, what kind of message would you send Erica?’ Derek asks, handing me a print-out showing a dating profile of a pretty, tanned brunette. Derek is the boss of To the Moon & Back dating agency, although with his nicotine-stained teeth, lurid purple shirt stretching over his giant pot belly and cramped city office, he’s not exactly what I imagine when I think of Cupid.

What kind of message would I sent Erica? When Derek says ‘you’, he doesn’t mean me, as in Polly Wood. He means me pretending to be 34-year-old bachelor Andy Graham, because that’s what my job as a matchmaker would involve. While Andy, and the rest of the busy singletons on the agency’s books, are out earning the big bucks, too busy to trawl internet dating sites looking for love, I’ll be sitting here with Derek, firing off messages on their behalf in the hope of clinching dates. It’s a little morally questionable I suppose, since the women will be chatting to me beforehand, and will no doubt become enamoured with my witty repartee and effortless charm, but to be honest, I haven’t really given the moral side of it much thought. According to Derek, it’s what all dating agencies do, and anyway, ethics somehow stop being so important when you really need cash.

 I try to put myself in the mindset of Andy, while thinking up a message for Erica. I only know about him from reading a form he’s supposedly filled in, which Derek gave me to study five minutes earlier. According to the form, Andy is an ex-army officer turned property surveyor. He grew up in a small town in Ohio where his family still reside. His younger brother, aged 31, has already settled down with a wife and three kids, and reading in between the lines, I get the impression that Andy feels he’s beginning to lag behind. He works long hours, reads Second World War history books in his spare time, enjoys visiting aviation museums and likes to play tennis at the weekends. Oh, and he has a penchant for Thai food.

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Book Review: The Ember Blade by Chris Wooding

A land under occupation. A legendary sword. A young man’s journey to find his destiny.

Aren has lived by the rules all his life. He’s never questioned it; that’s just the way things are. But then his father is executed for treason, and he and his best friend Cade are thrown into a prison mine, doomed to work until they drop. Unless they can somehow break free . . .

But what lies beyond the prison walls is more terrifying still. Rescued by a man who hates him yet is oath-bound to protect him, pursued by inhuman forces, Aren slowly accepts that everything he knew about his world was a lie. The rules are not there to protect him, or his people, but to enslave them. A revolution is brewing, and Aren is being drawn into it, whether he likes it or not.

The key to the revolution is the Ember Blade. The sword of kings, the Excalibur of his people. Only with the Ember Blade in hand can their people be inspired to rise up . . . but it’s locked in an impenetrable vault in the most heavily guarded fortress in the land.

All they have to do now is steal it . . .

 

Set in fantasy world with echoes of our own, The Ember Blade is part of the Darkwater Legacy and is one of the most enjoyable pieces of fantasy writing I have had the pleasure to read in some time. The story centres around Aren, a young man living in a country under occupation.

Raised to believe that the occupiers, the Krodans, are superior and that he should emulate them, he is in for a rude awakening when his Father’s past catches up with him.

He finds himself with a band of rebels seeking to regain control of their country’s most sacred relic; The Ember Blade.

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Book Review: Christmas At The Chocolate Pot Café by Jessica Redland

A few minutes of courage might change your life…

Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company.

Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever.

When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that.

Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure?

Tara runs a successful café and has done for the last fourteen years. However, she lives quite an isolated existence preferring to spend time alone with her house bunny, Hercules rather than socialising. She also has a complicated history surrounding her family and secrets she has preferred to keep hidden from people, even those she would call her friends.

These past events have caused her to be guarded but can she find the courage she needs to move on?

First… oh my, this book cover. I am totally in love. Immediately, before I’ve even started to read, I am in this Yorkshire town surrounded by snow and Christmas. With my husband being from Yorkshire, it brings back some lovely memories.

Tara is a wonderfully complex main character but she felt very real to me. I found her extremely relatable.

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Novel Kicks is a blog for story tellers and book lovers.

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