Friday, 29 July 2016

Guest Post: Online Relationships – the Pros and the Cons by Lucy Sutcliffe

Today I have the lovely Lucy Sutcliffe on the blog sharing her experience with online relationships to celebrate the release of her book Girl Hearts Girl.

Online Relationships – the Pros and the Cons

I first met Kaelyn on Tumblr way back in 2010. It was a blisteringly hot day in June – the kind where you sleep on top of the duvet with the windows open all night – and the sunset that evening was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. I'd been scrolling through Tumblr listlessly all night, unable to sleep, until a post from a girl whose blog I followed suddenly caught my eye.

“I’m thinking of coming out to my parents soon. A few of my friends know. I’m 22 and getting ready to leave the country for the next four years for veterinary school. I think I should come out to them before I leave. But I’m terrified.”

My heart stopped. I, too, had been struggling with my sexuality for as long as I could remember. 'This is fate,' I remember thinking. 'I have to reach out to her.' I sent her a quick email, and, well... the rest is history. 

The rush of meeting someone so utterly perfect for me was quickly met with the crushing realisation that she was 4,000 miles away on a different continent. There's no way to sugar coat it – it was tough. Really tough. We spent over a year messaging back and forth, Skyping each other multiple times a day and posting each other little letters and packages every now and then. After thirteen months, we finally, finally got to meet in real life.

Meeting each other for the first time was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced. We spent five glorious days together, roaming along beaches, eating at fancy restaurants, going on movie dates – the things that most couples take for granted. I think that's what made saying goodbye at the end of the trip that little bit more painful. I'd become so used to having her by my side that the thought of having to say goodbye again was something I couldn't bear thinking about. When the time came for her to drop me off at the airport, we didn't want to let each other go. 'Just a couple more months, and we'll see each other again,' I remember her whispering. 'We can do this.'

We went back and forth between continents for just over four years. Saying goodbye never, ever got easier – but we did learn to cope. And, believe it or not, long distance does have its perks. Without face-to-face interaction, you're forced to come up with new ways to communicate, and new ways to express love. We sent each other dozens of love letters. We made each other videos and wrote endless, heartfelt emails. We mailed each other surprise packages and gifts. And most of all, we talked. We talked for hours. And when all you want to do is hold someone's hand but you can't, the next best thing is being able pour your heart out to them. 

Of course, sometimes, all you want is to fall asleep cuddled up next to the person you love. Sometimes, all you want is to walk down the street arm in arm, or share a pizza on the sofa in your pyjamas. But when there's a distance between you and you can't do anything about it – make the best of it. Use it as an opportunity to try harder, be better, be stronger. While online relationships are difficult to say the least, they are most certainly not impossible.

Being able to finally move in together and close the distance between us for good was the most triumphant day of my life. And you know what? I wouldn't have changed it for the world. The struggles we went through made us stronger in the long run. We never stopped fighting for each other, and because of that, we had no choice but to keep going. That's the best thing about love – once you've got a hold of it, it's impossible to let go.

Thanks for stopping by the blog today Lucy! 
For more from Lucy follow her on Twitter @LucyLiz 
Check out Kaelyn and Lucy's website here

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Review for The Plumberry School of Comfort Food by Cathy Bramley

The Plumberry School of Comfort Food by Cathy Bramley 
Publisher: Corgi
Release: 30th June 2016
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Verity Bloom hasn't been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend lands her right back in the heart of the kitchen. The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks' time and needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up. And with new friendships bubbling and a sprinkling of romance in the mix, Verity finally begins to feel like she's home.

But when tragedy strikes at the very heart of the cookery school, can Verity find the magic ingredient for Plumberry while still writing her own recipe for happiness?"

The Plumberry School of Comfort Food was a sweet, moreish and warm story that was an absolute delight to read. This was my first taste of Cathy Bramley’s writing and it certainly won’t be my last!

The book follows Verity Bloom whose passion for cooking burnt out after the untimely death of her best friend Mimi two years ago. Verity and Mimi were always whipping up comfort food in the kitchen for their Youtube channel, adding love and laughter as the magic ingredient to their recipes. But since Mimi’s death, Verity has existed on microwave meals and fish finger sandwiches, cooking just isn’t the same without her partner in crime.

When Mimi’s mother Gloria asks for Verity’s help opening her new cookery school, Verity is thrown back into the world of cakes and pastries, dinners and desserts, and slowly begins to let cooking back into her heart. As Verity whips, stirs and bakes The Plumberry School of Comfort Food into life, it begins to become a foodie destination known for its food with heart. However, the cookery school’s Michelin starred chef Tom has different ideas about what good food consists of with his career being built off of hard work and a serious, professional approach to cooking. As the heat rises in and out of the kitchen, will Verity and Tom be able to put their differences aside and make The Plumberry School of Comfort Food a success? Or will their clashing personalities make a recipe for disaster?

Reading this book was like being wrapped in a warm comforting hug. I liked Verity straight away and quickly lost myself in her world. The entire cast of characters were lovely and each of them felt very real with their own backstories, passions, and dreams. My favourite character has to be Mags who really made me smile. I also loved the slow burning romance between Verity and Tom, who despite their differences had real chemistry between them.

The cookery school was a very original idea putting a new spin on the ever popular foodie chick-lit genre. I loved the way it bought the people of Plumberry together with its bake off style competitions and delicious food – some of the descriptions really made my mouth water! There was a sweet message at the heart of this story about showing our love for others through the act of making them food that I thought was really lovely.

The Plumberry School of Comfort Food was the perfect feel good read that put a big smile on my face. Cathy Bramley has become a new favourite author of mine and I’m now happily going to make my way through her backlist. If they’re half as good as Plumberry then I’m in for a real treat!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Watching Edie Blog Tour: Teaser Extract

Hello everyone, today I'm delighted to be kicking off the Watching Edie blog tour with an intriguing teaser extract!

Outside my kitchen window the long afternoon empties of light. I look at London stretched out far below, my dripping hands held poised above the sink. The doorbell rings, one long high peal; the broken intercom vibrates. The view from up here, it’s incredible, like you’re flying. Deptford and Greenwich, New Cross and Erith, then the river, and beyond that there’s the Gherkin, over there’s the Shard. From my top-floor flat here on Telegraph Hill you can see forever and as usual it calms me, soothes me: how big it is, how small I am, how far from where I used to be.
The doorbell rings more urgently – whoever it is putting their finger on the buzzer and holding it there. The night hovers.
At first I used to see Heather everywhere. Connor too, of course. From the corner of my eye I’d catch a glimpse of one or the other of them, and there’d be that sharp, cold lurch that would leave me sick and shaken long after I’d realized that it had been an illusion; just a stranger with similar hair or the same way of walking. Whenever it happened I’d go somewhere busy and lose myself amongst the crowds, roaming the south-east London streets until I’d reassured myself that all that was very far away and long ago. A small West Midlands town a million miles from here. And the doorbell rings and rings as I’d always known it would one day.
I live on the top floor of a large, ugly Victorian building, and there are lots of us squashed in here side by side, in our small, draughty little flats. Housing Association, most of us. And when I wedge my door open with a shoe and go down to answer the bell, past four floors of white doors marked with brass letters, the early evening sounds seep from beneath each one: a baby crying, a telly’s laughter, a couple arguing; the lives of strangers.
I’m entirely unprepared for what’s waiting for me beyond the heavy wide front door and when I open it the world seems to tilt and I have to grip the door frame to stop myself from falling. Because there she is, standing on my doorstep staring back at me. There, after all this time, is Heather.
And I have imagined this, dreamed of this, dreaded this, so many hundreds of times for so many years that the reality is both entirely surreal and anticlimactic. I see and hear life continuing on this ordinary London street on this ordinary afternoon – cars and people passing, children playing down the street, a dog barking – as if from far away, and as I stare into her face the sour taste of fear creeps around the back of my tongue. I open my mouth but no words come and we stand in silence for a while, two thirty-three-year-old versions of the girls we’d once been.
It’s she who speaks first. ‘Hello, Edie,’ she says.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Follow author Camilla Way on Twitter @CamillaLWay 
Watching Edie is available to buy in all good bookshops as of the 28th July

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Girl Hearts Girl Blog Tour: Top 5 Reasons I Can't Wait to Read Girl Hearts Girl and Giveaway!

Hi everyone and welcome to my stop on the Girl Hearts Girl blog tour! Today I'm sharing with you the top 5 reasons I can't wait to read Girl Hearts Girl (and why I think it should be on your summer TBR's too!) I'm also giving you the chance to win 1 of 3 copies in this tour wide giveaway so don't miss your chance to enter.

Top 5 Reasons I Can't Wait To Read Girl Hearts Girl
1.) It's a Memoir 
I think we're getting better at publishing LGBT YA Fiction but there is definitely a lack of YA memoirs on the market. Fictional coming out stories are great and so important but for me personally nothing is more powerful than hearing about the very real highs and lows of life as a young LGBT person from somebody who has been through these things directly. There is something very inspiring about reading true coming out accounts and I think they make young LGBT people struggling with their sexuality feel less alone. 

2.) That Cover 
The first thing that drew me to Girl Hearts Girl is definitely the cover. It's colorful, striking and proud making it unmissable to anyone searching for an LGBT read in their bookshop or library. 

3.) Online Relationships 
I have met all of my closest friends via the internet so I'm very intrigued to read about Lucy's experience with online relationships. I think there are many pros and cons to getting to know someone online first (and then maintaining a long distance relationship) and I think that it's something a lot of teens are experiencing on social media in 2016 whether with romantic relationships or friendships. 

4.) Honesty 
I've heard from my blogger friends that Girl Hearts Girl is a very honest read. I think that LGBT stories have a tendency to either be very bleak and upsetting or very hopeful and uplifting when really life is a mixture of both. I'm hoping that Girl Hearts Girl captures both the highs and lows of LGBT life and presents them to the reader honestly. 

5.) Friendship 
I love books about friendship and from reviews I've read this is a topic that Lucy really explores in her memoir. I think the relationships you have with your friends are some of the most important relationships you will ever have in your life and so I love to see friendship being talked about more in YA. 

3 copies of Girl Hearts Girl for 3 lucky winners! 
Participants must live in UK or IRL

About the Author

Co-star of the popular YouTube channel Kaelyn and Lucy which documented the long distance relationship she had with Kaelyn Petras. She and Kaelyn finally came together in August of 2014, ending the long distance element of their relationship. 

She graduated from Plymouth College of Art and Design in 2014 with a degree in Film Arts 

She works as a freelance film editor and author. She and Kaelyn's channel mainly focuses on advice videos for LGBT youth. 

She was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire to parents Sharon and Roger Sutcliffe. 

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Girl Hearts Girl is available to buy in all good bookshops as of 24th June 

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Lying in Wait Blog Tour: Liz Nugent's Top Tips on How to Write a Gripping Thriller

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Lying in Wait blog tour! Today I have Liz Nugent's top tips on how to write a gripping thriller to share with you. It's an absolute must read for anyone in the process of writing a thriller or who wants to know how to build suspense in their writing!

I’m afraid I cannot speak for all writers, but these are the things that have worked for me. Every writer is different though. I reckon that if there is a book in you, it will come out of you.

1. The first thing I would suggest is to read lots of books, of all genres and none at all. They will all add to your experience when you go to write. You might find that you set out to write a thriller but ended up writing a comedy caper. Do not despair. You can only write what you can write. It’s fine!

2. I like to start a novel in the middle of a dramatic incident or its immediate aftermath. Something huge has just happened. What is our protagonist going to do about it? I learned this from Shakespeare. The opening scene of Macbeth happens immediately after a bloody battle in which Macbeth has been victorious. The three witches are discussing his fate. You can’t really improve on that!

3. Know your characters really well. You don’t have to put all this in the book, but you should know what they want in life, what scares them, what is their weak point, what would they do when they are at home on their own on a Wednesday afternoon? You really need to know them inside out to be able to draw on those fears, strengths and vulnerabilities when you need to.

4. Give your characters choices, but have them make the wrong decision. Therein lies the drama! When you know your characters well enough, this will be easy.

5. Defy expectations. Don’t take the next logical step in the story. Find a reason for that not to be possible.

6. End each chapter with a hook that will make the reader want to turn the page. ‘…and then they went to sleep’ does not make me want to turn the page unless I know that there’s an axe-murderer behind the bedroom door.

7. If you are featuring a murderer, the reader will want to know why he/she is a murderer. It’s easy to write about a murderer who goes about killing young men on their 25th birthdays, but we want to know why. What is the significance of the pattern? Have that worked out before you start to write the character.

8. Pace. I can’t underestimate how important this is. You must always be building towards a big revelation of some kind. There may be several times when the bady guy/gal is going to be caught, but something gets in the way. Make this as unexpected as possible. Your story is a pressure cooker. It’s ok to let some steam off now and then, but we need an explosion at the end. The best part of a game of Jenga is when all the bricks you have carefully constructed come crashing down.

9. Don’t try to write another Gone Girl or to write like another writer. Find your own unique voice. You really don’t want to sound like anyone else. They already exist.

10. Keep the kettle on. This requires gallons of tea.

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

For more from Liz follow her on Twitter @lizzienugent 
Lying in Wait is available to buy in all good bookshops as of the 14th July

Monday, 11 July 2016

Review for Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage by Milly Johnson

Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage 
by Milly Johnson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release: 16th June 2016
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

" Viv doesn't like animals. And the feeling is mutual: animals seem to hate Viv too. So when she applies for a job at Wildflower Cottage, a tumbledown animal sanctuary which caters for a variety of unloved animals, she is not sure she will fit in. But then she catches sight of Heath, the owner, and things start looking up...

Geraldine runs the Wildflower Cottage sanctuary. She's a woman who has a secret in her past and who was drawn to the sanctuary just as Viv was. But her sanctuary is about to come under threat. Can she keep her past a secret and her future safe?

Back home, Viv's mother Stel thinks she might have found a man who will treat her right for once. Ian is kind, considerate, and clearly head over heels for her. That's what she has wanted all along, isn't it...?"

I’m a big fan of Milly Johnson, I look forward to the arrival of a new book from her every year and she never lets me down! Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage is an absolute pleasure to read, as always Milly’s writing is full of warmth, love and humour and sweeps you away to a place that you never want to leave.

The book follows a young woman called Viv who takes on an admin job at Wildflower Cottage – a home for mistreated animals and birds of prey. Despite the beautiful animals and gorgeous countryside setting, Viv is here for more than just a new job. As kindly Geraldine and grumpy vet Heath take Viv into their hearts as well as their home, can Viv bare to tell them the real reason as to why she’s here?

Back at home, Viv’s mum Stel is missing her daughter terribly but manages to get by with the support of her friends the Old Spice Girls who meet every week to put the world to rights. When Stel gets together with a guy from her work she quickly finds herself in a whirlwind relationship but is Ian all he seems to be?

One of my favourite things about Milly Johnson’s books is that her characters feel like the women that I know and love in my own life making them so easy to root for. We meet and hear from lots of different characters in this book and each of them has their own unique story. I’m always in awe of how Milly ties each characters story into the overall plot so that by the end of the book all of the little jigsaw pieces fall into place nicely creating a bigger picture.

Stel’s chapters were my favourite to read. They’re so cleverly written and show how misleading appearances can be. I also loved the Old Spice Girls and their weekly meetings, their friendship and support of one another was so lovely to read.

Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage is without doubt one of Milly Johnson’s best books to date. It’s a beautiful story of strength, new beginnings and friendship with an unexpected sprinkling of magic and mystery. Milly Johnson manages to make the world a little bit sunnier with her books and I’d recommend this to any reader looking for a heart-warming summer read.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Under Rose-Tainted Skies Blog Tour: Louise's Top 5 Books About Teens and Mental Health

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Under Rose-Tainted Skies blog tour! Today I have the wonderful Louise Gornall as a guest sharing her top five books about teens and mental health.

Hi there.

Massive thanks to Jess Hearts Books for having me over to celebrate the release of my new book, Under Rose-Tainted Skies. So, seen as mental health is a prominent theme in my life, I thought I'd throw out some of my favourite YA books, featuring mental health. Not necessarily in order of my favourite, there isn't one of these books that I couldn't, at some point, relate to. It would be totes in apropos to include my own book on this list though, right? Right. Just checking… ;)

1. Am I Normal Yet? By Holly Bourne -- this book should be on every MH reading list. It’s superb.
2. It’s Kind of A Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. This book is wonderful. Real. Heartbreaking. Warm. It’s definitely one to read.
3. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson -- a tough read, but one of the best, most honest books I’ve read about eating disorders.
4. All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven -- I saw some criticism of this book recently, from people who said it was a false portrayal of depression. I beg to differ. It felt very real to me. A tragic story with some beautifully written moments that rang so true.
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I was very unprepared for this book. I think maybe I was expecting cutesy coming-of-age and instead was crushed by Charlie and his internal struggles. A devastatingly poignant read.

Thanks for stopping by Louise! I totally agree with this list (especially my personal favourite Am I Normal Yet?)

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

For more from Louise follow her on Twitter @Rock_andor_roll 

 Under Rose-Tainted Skies is available to buy in all good bookshops across the UK from the 7th July 

For more of my thoughts on this incredible book check out my 5 star review here

Monday, 4 July 2016

Review for Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted Skies 
by Louise Gornall
Publisher: Chicken House
Release: 7th July 2016
Genre: Contemporary, YA
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother. For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …"

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a book that I was completely taken aback by, it puts every little thought or feeling that I’ve ever had since living with anxiety down on to paper in the most magical way. It’s a book that I have a strong, personal connection with and it has found a special place in my heart.

The book follows a girl called Norah who is housebound due to agoraphobia and severe anxieties. Louise Gornall captures those feelings of panic and fear perfectly, describing Norah’s mental health problems so eloquently to the reader but what made this book stand out to me was that not only is the anxiety and agoraphobia depiction spot on, but the author goes one step further and shares Norah’s personal thoughts and feelings towards her mental illnesses with such honesty.

Norah worries about being judged and how other people see her, she struggles with feelings of being different and weird, there is frustration there and sadness at missing out on life and also concern about her loved ones worrying about her. Under Rose-Tainted Skies not only seamlessly captures the symptoms of Norah’s mental illnesses but also what it means to actually live with them and how it affects your sense of identity – especially as a young person trying to figure out who you are and your place in the world.

I loved how Under Rose-Tainted Skies showed how having a mental illness can impact so many different aspects of your life. Norah really struggles with relationships and letting people in and I was happy to see that didn’t change and that her mental illnesses didn’t suddenly vanish as soon as she met her love interest Luke. Instead this book took a realistic approach showing how Norah struggled to maintain their relationship. Norah never did anything she wasn’t ready to and Luke respected the boundaries put in place by her illness, only ever gently encouraging her progress. I really appreciated the honest representation of their relationship, it was never smooth sailing and neither was Norah’s recovery process. As she moves forward there are still bumps in the road and setbacks to overcome yet she continues to dust herself down and try again.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an incredibly special and important book that I’m sure I’ll be raving about for the rest of the year. Unflinching, honest and quietly hopeful it’s an absolute must read for anyone living with, or who is affected by, mental health (which means all of us, right?)

Friday, 1 July 2016

June Round Up and Book of the Month

June's Book of the Month is The Graces by Laure Eve

Choosing June's book of the month was really difficult because out of the seven books I read last month, four of them were 5 star reads and are some of my favourite books of the year so far. Out of those four brilliant books I finally settled on The Graces simply because this book is so unique and like nothing else out there on the YA market right now. It's dark and gothic and beautifully written. I'll be sharing my review for this closer to publication date and can't wait for everyone to discover it when it's released in September. If you love the movie The Craft this is one book you wont want to miss!

Read in June 
63.) The Graces by Laure Eve (5*)
64.) The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena (3.5*)
65.) Sunshine Over Wildflower Cottage by Milly Johnson (4.5*)
66.) What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne (5*)
67.) You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour (5*)
68.) The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne (3.5*)
69.) Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield (5*)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: The Graces by Laure Eve
Best Writing: You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour
Best Cover: The Graces by Laure Eve
Best Characters: What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne
Best Ending: Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
Best Romance: Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
Best Friendship: What's a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne
Most un-put-down-able: The Graces by Laure Eve
Most Memorable: Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
Best Moral: You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: The Graces, Paper Butterflies, What's a Girl Gotta Do? AND You Know Me Well because I can't choose between these four amazing books anymore.

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in July
Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell
Saga Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
I Found You by Lisa Jewell
Watching Edie by Camilla Way
I See You by Clare MacKintosh
Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy

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