Thursday, 30 June 2016

Following Evan Blog Tour: Top 5 Places to Write

Welcome to my stop on the Following Evan blog tour! Today I am sharing the top 5 places that author Elida May likes to write and find inspiration.

1) Grandma’s garden in Albania
This was a place I used to write and read in when I was young. I used to go to the end of the garden and hide between the flowers. I would forget myself for hours there and wouldn’t stir until my grandma, Nadira, called me from the kitchen window, reminding me to eat. Nadira lived in the countryside in a beautiful stone cottage surrounded by a large and beautiful garden. I liked to spend a lot of time there during the long summer holidays and I enjoyed the company of the chickens, rabbits and the cat, whom I named Lula. She was white with a big, brown patch on her head.

2) My bedroom
These days I live in London, which is a world away from Grandma’s garden, and there is always background noise. At home, therefore, the place to write is my bedroom. In the daylight I have the window open and can see the sky, while at night I find it inspiring to look out at the stars.

3) My favourite coffee shop
I often escape to Muss Café to indulge in a spot of people-watching. Because I spend too much time indoors reading and writing, I like the fact that this café is a 30-minute walk away from my home.

4) My kitchen
I like to sit in here at my big, wooden table with a cup of steaming coffee next to me.

5) The park
I live in a flat so I don’t have a garden, but luckily I have a park nearby that I like to spend time in. Sometimes, I’ll even visit when it’s raining because then I know that it’s likely to be just me and the trees.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Monday, 20 June 2016

Bookshop Blog Tour: Reviews for How to Find Love in a Bookshop & Astley Book Farm

Today I’ve teamed up with Orion and the Books are my Bag campaign to bring you a special post all about bookshops! I’m reviewing the new novel by Veronica Henry, How to Find Love in a Bookshop and am also featuring my own local independent bookshop Astley Book Farm for Independent Bookshop Week.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry 
Publisher: Orion
Release: 16th June 2016
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Nightingale Books, nestled on the high street in the idyllic Cotswold town of Peasebrook, is a dream come true for booklovers.

But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open. The temptation to sell up is proving enormous - but what about the promise she made to her father? Not to mention the loyalty she owes to her customers.

Sarah Basildon, owner of stately pile Peasebrook Manor, has used the book shop as an escape from all her problems in the past few years. But is there more to her visits than meets the eye?

Since messing up his marriage, Jackson asks Emilia for advice on books to read to the son he misses so much. But Jackson has a secret, and is not all he seems...

And there's Thomasina, painfully shy, who runs a pop-up restaurant from her tiny cottage. She has a huge crush on a man she met and then lost in the cookery section, somewhere between Auguste Escoffier and Marco Pierre White. Can she find the courage to admit her true feelings?

How to Find Love in a Book Shop is the delightful story of Emilia's fight to keep her book shop alive, the customers whose lives she has touched - and the books they all love."

I’m a sucker for books about books so I couldn’t resist How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry. This is my first book by the author and it won’t be my last! I loved this charming tale of a family owned bookshop set in a Cotswold town.

Julius Nightingale lives and breathes books, after the death of his young wife he’s a single father bringing up their baby daughter Emilia alone. He opens a bookshop ‘Nightingale Books’ and creates a happy home full of stories for his daughter. Julius’s warmth and passion for books soon draws in the bookish locals looking for some escapism and therapeutic advice from the kindly bookseller.

Thirty years later and Julius’s untimely death leaves a gaping hole in the local community. After inheriting the book shop, Emilia struggles financially to keep it open and running – but books have a special way of leaving a mark on our hearts and those Julius has touched over the years with his recommendations are determined that Nightingale Books isn’t going down with a fight. Can a community of book lovers save their beloved bookshop?

How to Find Love in a Bookshop follows a large cast of characters. As well as Julius’s chapters set in the past and Emilia’s chapters set in the present, we also follow the town’s locals whose lives Nightingale Books has touched in some way. I really enjoyed reading about how books bought these characters together and loved how their individual stories tied in with the main plot. Julius was by far my favourite character, he was such a sweetheart and I felt the impact of his death just as much as the characters in the book. He’s everything you want in both a bookseller and a friend.

Any book lover will enjoy spending time in Nightingale Books, the independent bookshop that is the beating heart of this story. It’s everything you envision a good bookshop to be. I wanted to crawl inside of the book and spend hours exploring this little shop.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop is a wonderful story that shares a special message with its reader about how books have the power to bring people together. It’s a celebration of reading, bookshops and booksellers demonstrating how it only takes one story to change your life forever.

Follow the rest of the blog tour!

Astley Book Farm 
A Playground for the Bookish 

I am lucky enough to live a ten minute drive away from Astley Book Farm – the largest second hand bookshop in the Midlands and home to 75,000 books. Situated in the beautiful Warwickshire countryside it’s the perfect place for book lovers to escape the hustle and bustle of city life in favour of a day amongst books.

The bookshop itself is far bigger than one might expect, you can easily lose an entire day getting lost in a maze of books as you wander the shops corridors. The bookcases are crammed with books new and old, ranging from popular bestsellers to out of print rarities. The décor is homely and rustic with old books propped along the ceiling beams, funny and inspirational decorative quotes hang on the walls and a squishy armchair can be found around every corner to tempt customers to snuggle up and read for a while.

Once you’ve finished perusing the main shop floor, there is a separate Children’s Hayloft where young readers can discover the joys of a good bookshop for the very first time. Back outside there’s the Ten Bob Barn, a treasure trove of mismatched books selling for a mere fifty pence each. It’s the perfect place to get lost for anyone who loves a good rummage around looking for hidden gems.

Every book lover knows that book shopping is hard work and the onsite coffee shop is the perfect place to sit down and read with a nice cup of tea and a doorstop slice of one of their delicious fresh cakes. The coffee shop also extends out into the garden so that customers can enjoy a light lunch in the sunshine during warmer seasons.

With friendly, knowledgeable staff and enough books to last even the most avid reader a lifetime, Astley Book Farm is a truly special bookshop with a huge amount of personality. Whether you’re visiting on a daytrip with friends or just stopping by to find your next great read Astley Book Farm is a playground for the bookish with something to offer every reader.

Check out Astley Book Farm's website here for more information
Follow them on Twitter and Facebook

Monday, 13 June 2016

Blog Tour: The Fire Child by S. K. Tremayne

Welcome to my stop on The Fire Child blog tour! I absolutely loved S.K. Tremayne's book The Ice Twins and can't wait to read The Fire Child. If like me you can't wait to read this book then you're in luck! Today I'm sharing with you a teaser extract to whet your appetite just in time for the books release on the 16th June.

The name stings a little, though I hide it.

Nina Kerthen, née Valéry. David’s first wife. I don’t know much about her: I’ve seen a couple of photos, I know she was beautiful, Parisienne, young, posh, blonde. I know that she died in an accident at Morvellan Mine, eighteen months ago. I know that her husband and in particular her son – my brand-new, eight-year-old stepson Jamie – must still be grieving, even if they try not to show it. 

And I know, very very clearly, that one of my jobs here in Carnhallow is to rescue things: to be the best stepmother in the world to this sad and lovely little boy.

‘I’ll have a look,’ I say brightly. ‘At the books. Maybe get some ideas. Go and catch your plane.’

He turns for a final kiss, I step back.

‘No – go! Kiss me again we’ll end up in the fourteenth bedroom, and then it will be six o’clock.’

I’m not lying. David’s laugh is dark and sexy.

‘I’ll Skype you tonight, and see you Friday.’

With that, he departs. I hear doors slam down long hallways, then the growl of his Mercedes. Then comes the silence: the special summery silence of Carnhallow, soundtracked by the whisper of the distant sea.

Picking up my phone, I open my notebook app.

Continuing Nina’s restoration of this huge house is not going to be easy. I do have some artistic talent to help: I have a degree in photography from Goldsmiths College. A degree which turned out to be utterly pointless, as I basically graduated the same afternoon that photography collapsed as a paying career, and so I ended up teaching photography to kids who would never themselves become photographers.

This was, I suppose, another reason I was happy to give up London life: the meaninglessness was getting to me. I wasn’t even taking photos any more. Just taking buses through the rain to my cramped and shared Shoreditch flat. Which I couldn’t actually afford.

But now that I have no real job, I can, ironically, apply these artistic gifts. Such as they are.

Armed with my phone I begin my explorations: trying to get a proper mental map of Carnhallow. I’ve been here one week, but we’ve spent most of that week in the bedroom, the kitchen, or on the beaches, enjoying the blissful summer weather. Much of my stuff from London is still in boxes. There’s even a suitcase left to unpack from our honeymoon: our gloriously hedonistic, sensuously expensive trip to Venice, where David bought me his favourite martini, in Harry’s Bar, by St Mark’s Square: the gin in a shot glass, chilled nearly to ice ‘and faintly poisoned with vermouth’, as David put it. I love the way David puts things.

But that is already the past, and this is my future. Carnhallow.

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Review for Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard

Distress Signals by 
Catherine Ryan Howard 
Publisher: Corvus
Release: 5th May 2016
Genre: Thriller, Crime
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"The day Adam Dunne's girlfriend, Sarah, fails to return from a Barcelona business trip, his perfect life begins to fall apart. Days later, the arrival of her passport and a note that reads 'I'm sorry - S' sets off real alarm bells. He vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Adam is puzzled when he connects Sarah to a cruise ship called the Celebrate - and to a woman, Estelle, who disappeared from the same ship in eerily similar circumstances almost exactly a year before.

To get the answers, Adam must confront some difficult truths about his relationship with Sarah. He must do things of which he never thought himself capable. And he must try to outwit a predator who seems to have found the perfect hunting ground..."

Distress Signals is a stunner of a crime debut! I was sucked into this book from the opening chapter and it had me absolutely transfixed throughout.

The book follows Adam Dunne a struggling artist who dreams of a career in screenwriting. The last few years have been hard for Adam but his long-term girlfriend Sarah has stood by his side and supported him throughout. Finally, Adam is given his big break in America and he’s looking forward to a fresh start.

However Adam’s happiness is short-lived when Sarah doesn’t return home after a brief business trip abroad. It turns out that Sarah has been having an affair and leading a double life and all signs suggest that she has left him to be with her lover which Adam struggles to believe – it just doesn’t sound like the Sarah he knows.

When Adam is sent Sarah’s passport and a note that reads “I’m Sorry - S” in Sarah’s handwriting he goes on a mission to find her. Adam’s search leads him to a cruise ship called the Celebrate and to a mystery surrounding a woman who went missing in eerily similar circumstances a year before. Did Sarah leave or was she taken? As Adam boards the Celebrate he begins a dangerous journey to find out.

What fascinated me about Distress Signals was the unique cruise ship setting. You imagine a cruise ship as being a place of fun and relaxation but add in a disappearance and it suddenly feels very claustrophobic and scary. The Celebrate sounded incredibly corrupt and like the perfect place to commit a crime and get away with it. Distress Signals is a perfect read for the summer but it’s definitely not one to take on a cruise- this book has put me off them for life!

This books pacing is excellent with so many twists and turns that change the course of the story and in turn keeps you turning the pages effortlessly - I read this book at breakneck speed! I did unfortunately guess some of the revelations towards the end of the book but that’s quite common for me and there were a lot of surprises that I didn’t see coming at all.

Overall Distress Signals is unique, clever and incredibly well written. It’s definitely one of the standout thrillers of 2016. Catherine Ryan Howard is a major new crime fiction talent and breathes new life into an overcrowded genre.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Review for My Map of You by Isabelle Broom

My Map of You by Isabelle Broom 
Publisher: Penguin
Release: 21st April 2016
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Holly Wright has had a difficult few years. After her mother's death, she's become expert at keeping people at a distance - including her boyfriend, Rupert.

But when Holly receives an unexpected letter explaining that an aunt she never met has left her a house on the Greek island of Zakynthos, the walls she has built begin to crumble. Arriving on the island, Holly meets the handsome Aidan and slowly begins to uncover the truth about the secret which tore her family apart.

But is the island where Holly really belongs? Or will her real life catch up with her first?"

I wanted to read My Map of You as soon as I set eyes on that gorgeous cover! What is inside this book is just as beautiful as a story of family, heartbreak, grief and secrets unfolds on the Greek island of Zakynthos.

After a difficult upbringing full of heartache life has finally settled down for Holly Wright. Now she works and lives in London and has a devoted boyfriend. Holly’s done a good job of putting her past behind her but that all changes when she receives a letter from a late aunt she never even knew existed who has left her her house in Zakynthos. Holly flies out to Greece to get her aunt’s affairs in order and the house ready to sell but her family has deep roots on the island and there is a secret family history that Holly knows nothing about. As Holly falls in love with Zakynthos and learns more about her family old wounds begin to reopen. Can Holly find the strength to forgive and forget in the place where it all began?

I’ve never been to Greece but it feels like I have after reading My Map of You. Isabelle Broom’s descriptions of the island are so evocative that I closed the book feeling like I’d been on holiday. I fell in love with everything about Zakynthos from the white sand beaches, to the sea turtles, to the fresh food and the friendly locals. It sounds like a lovely relaxed way of life and a trip to the island has now made it on to my bucket list! This book should come with a warning that it’ll give you a major case of wanderlust.

In the book, Holly follows a map of all the places that were special to her mother and aunt on the island. I thought the idea behind this was lovely and made Zakynthos seem even more special and more of a home for Holly’s family than a holiday destination. I loved how this book shows that a place can change you and leave a permanent mark on your heart like a passport stamp on your identity.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, they weren’t always the most likeable – especially Holly and her mother – but their flaws only made them feel more real and tied into the themes of mistakes, regret and forgiveness. Holly especially goes on a real journey of self-discovery which makes her grow as a character throughout the book.

Overall I thought that My Map of You was a stunning and accomplished debut with a slow burning mystery at its heart. Isabelle Broom is a new talent to watch and I’m already looking forward to seeing where her next book will sweep me away to.

Friday, 3 June 2016

May Round Up and Book of the Month

Hi everyone, I just wanted to apologise for the lack of posts in May. It was a pretty bad month for me personally as I went through a health scare, after a hospital appointment and waiting for test results I have finally been given the all clear and I'm looking forward to getting caught up on some blogging! Despite some personal problems May wasn't all bad and I read some pretty amazing books which I'm excited to share with you today!

May's Book of the Month is Under Rose-Tainted Skies 
by Louise Gornall

If you follow me on Twitter then you'll probably have already seen me gushing about this book as I certainly haven't kept my love for it quiet! Everyone knows that I love a good book about mental health and this book puts every little thought or feeling I've had about my own anxiety down on to paper in the most magical way. It's an absolute must read for anyone living with mental health (which means all of us, right?) and I suspect that it's going to be incredibly well received when it's released next month. It's one of my favourites of 2016 for sure!

Read in May
55.) How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry (4*)
56.) Lumberjanes V3 by Noelle Stevenson (3.5*)
57.) How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne (4.5*)
58.) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (4*)
59.) Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall (5*)
60.) With Malice by Eileen Cook (3.5*)
61.) My Map of You by Isabelle Broom (4.5*)
62.) Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard (4.5*)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
Best Writing: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne
Best Cover: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Best Characters: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne
Best Ending: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
Best Romance: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Best Friendship: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne
Most un-put-down-able: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard
Most Memorable: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
Best Moral: Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Distress Signals, How Hard Can Love Be? 

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in June
The Fire Child by S. K. Tremayne
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan
Baby Doll by Hollie Overton
Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage by Milly Johnson
Always With Love by Giovanna Fletcher
Time After Time by Hannah McKinnon
The Secret of Orchard Cottage by Alexandra Brown
The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning
Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

 What was your favourite book of May? 
 And what are you looking forward to reading in June?
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