Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Summer House by the Sea Blog Tour

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on The Summer House by the Sea blog tour! Today I have author Jenny Oliver on the blog sharing a guest post on her top holiday reads.

My Top 5 Holiday Reads by Jenny Oliver

1.) My favourite pool-side read has to be Polo by Jilly Cooper. I remember when I was younger I’d take stacks of Sweet Valley High on holiday, then my mum told me there were these books called Mills & Boon which I then took stacks of away with me, then I saw my sister reading this giant book called Polo and, daunted by the size, I turned my nose up, only to discover it much later on and absolutely LOVED it! I am a huge Jilly Cooper fan – it’s the ultimate escapism.

2.) Last summer I read Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi and, while the story was completely different to what I was expecting, I couldn’t put it down. Hilarious, poignant, painful and brilliant.

3.) The People at Number Nine by Felicity Everett is the book I keep recommending at the moment. It shines a light on parenting, envy and middle-class snobbery in such a sharp, clever, insidious manner. I thought about it for ages afterwards. I think it would have me sizing up all the other people lounging by the pool.

4.) My favourite crime recently has been Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner. Intelligent and gripping with a great female detective.

5.) I’ve never met anyone disappointed with Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park – funny, touching and completely absorbing.

And of course, all the Jenny Oliver books you can cram into your suitcase! ;-)

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Summer at Conwenna Cove Blog Tour

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Summer at Conwenna Cove blog tour! Today I have a brilliant guest post from author Darcie Boleyn on why she writes romance.

Why I Write Romance by Darcie Boleyn 

Life can be pretty full on at times, and reading is one of my favourite ways to relax. I enjoy all genres but when I want something to make me smile, something that I can rely on to lift my mood and to transport me away to another time and place, I turn to romance novels.

A romance novel takes readers on a familiar journey. That’s why I always smile when a novel is described as being ‘predictable’, because yes, romance readers do want a happy ever after. Or at least, a happy for now. And as much as I enjoy reading romance novels, I enjoy writing them. I love creating the complex main characters with their baggage, their lost hopes and dreams, and bringing them together. They might not always like the other character at first, but by the end of the story, they will do. However, the journey they go on mustn't be easy; there must be plenty of conflict, both internal and external, and there will always be a black moment, when the conflict is at its highest and it seems as though there couldn’t possibly be a happy ending.

I love the dance that the two characters perform… the will-they, won’t-they build up as their relationship develops. I love to build the physical and emotional tension between them, to convey how the other character makes them feel just by being close. I love describing how they feel when it dawns on them that they are in love, even if at that point it still seems like they can’t possibly be together. Because when they eventually do admit their feelings, it will be all the sweeter.

Most films and TV series feature at least one love story. Take Ross and Rachel, Monica and Chandler, Jim and Pam, Glen and Maggie, Carrie and Big, Harry and Sally, the list goes on. Many of us enjoy watching characters we like and care about getting together and reading romances is no different. We become invested in the stories and in the characters’ lives and want them to be happy.

The point of a romance isn’t just that everyone has someone, but that everyone is fulfilled, and when I write romances, I want the characters to evolve to a state where they don’t need someone else but are finally ready to be with someone. They have to be strong enough and confident enough and developed enough to be in a fulfilling relationship.

I want the reader to feel satisfied when they finish reading one of my novels, to believe that the two main characters have overcome the obstacles I put in their way and that they deserve to be together. I want the reader to feel happy and hopeful, because life is tough enough, and a happy ending in a romance novel can be something for them to hold close when real life is not quite so perfect.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Review for Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder
Release: 18th May 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Proof copy received from Amazon Vine

"Mariko has always known that being a woman means she's not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden - the emperor's son - Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued... or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.

Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan's hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she's ever known."

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ahdieh’s previous YA fantasy offering The Wrath and the Dawn but I loved the sound of Flame in the Mist so decided to give it a go and I’m so glad I did! Sometimes giving an author a second chance really pays off.

The book follows Hattori Mariko a seventeen-year-old girl who is on her way to marry the Emperor’s son when she is ambushed by the disreputable bandits the Black Clan who have been hired to kill her. All her life Mariko has been a pawn in a world ruled by men but now believed to be dead she decides to carve her own path and escape the clutches of her father and the political marriage he has arranged for her. Disguised as a boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan so that she can discover who paid to have her murdered and to earn the clan’s trust so that when they least expect it she can get her revenge on those who would have killed her.

Flame in the Mist is a retelling of Mulan and I found it to be such a refreshing take on YA fantasy. A lot of the Japanese mythology used in this book was new to me and I loved exploring a different kind of fantasy world. The authors writing and descriptions were vivid and luscious making it so easy for me to get lost in the world around me.

Mariko was hands down my favourite aspect of this book. She’s a badass feminist heroine who questions the society she lives in and constantly uses her intelligence and ideas to prove herself equal to the men around her. There were so many quotes throughout this book from Mariko on feminism that I just loved.

My main issue with The Wrath and the Dawn was that I didn’t like the romance and felt that there was too much of it but in Flame in the Mist Renee Ahdieh gets it exactly right. There is a gorgeous slow burn between Mariko and her love interest and I appreciated how it played a smaller role and didn’t overshadow Mariko’s personal development or the adventure that she’s on.

With Flame in the Mist Renee Ahdieh has really upped her game as a writer and has created a lavish fantasy world with a dark mystery at its heart. This book really ticked all of the right boxes for me and I am already eagerly awaiting the next book in this series.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Review for The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's Daughter 
by Karen Dionne 
Publisher: Sphere
Release: 29th June 2017
Genre: Crime Fiction, Thriller
Source: Proof copy borrowed from the lovely Broadbean’s Books

" 'I was born two years into my mother's captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn't have adored my father.'

When notorious child abductor - known as the Marsh King - escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena's past: they don't know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve - or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don't know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone... except, perhaps his own daughter."

The Marsh King's Daughter was nothing like I expected it to be but in the best possible way! The book is narrated by Helena a woman born into captivity who spent the first twelve years of her life hidden away in the marshlands. Her whole world is made up solely of her teenage mother, her captor - who is also her father - and their daily struggle to survive in the wilderness.

Skip to the present day and Helena is a grown woman with her own husband and two young daughters who after her escape has severed all ties to her childhood in the marsh. But when her father escapes from prison she knows that he'll come after her and that it could be her daughters that he takes next.

In order to outsmart her father she has to become the daughter he raised - ruthless, feral, a skilled tracker and murderer so that she finds him before he can find her. But when it comes down to the love of a manipulative parent and the instinct to protect your children which would win?

Helena is far from your typical victim. Throughout the book we see her struggle with the side of her that is very much her father's daughter and her own complicated feelings towards him. It took me a while to really understand Helena as a character but once I did I found her fascinating to read about. I found it so interesting to read a book where the victim isn't scared of her kidnapper and instead struggles with feelings of adoration and love towards them despite knowing that she shouldn't feel that way. Helena's characterization and growth throughout the novel was the real highlight of this book for me.

The story is told in both the past and the present which kept the plot moving along at lightning speed. Although I loved the game of cat and mouse that Helena and her father played in the present day, it was the chapters set back when they lived together in the marsh that really held my attention. I loved learning about what Helena and her mother's lives were like and the cruelties that they'd experience, not only at the hands of their kidnapper, but also from the hard-living conditions of a life of solitude in the marsh.

Overall this is a story of our internal struggle between right and wrong and how that perception can become skewered for somebody who grew up idolizing and loving such a cruel parent. It's about survival and what it means to be a survivor. It's about the relationship we have with our parents and the thin line between love and hate, and it’s about the effect that our experiences as children have on our development. The Marsh King's Daughter is a phenomenal thriller and one that I'd recommend to fans of Room and anyone looking for something different and unexpected from the genre.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Night Visitor Blog Tour

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on The Night Visitor blog tour! Today I have an extract of the prologue to share with you to give a taste of what you can expect from this brilliant book. Enjoy!

The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of Surgeons, London 

Olivia huddled behind Arteries, Heart and Veins. Through the gaps between the tall specimen jars in the cabinet she could see the faces on the ground floor, looking up at Joy on the balcony. It was such a long way down.

The room was packed: all two hundred guests must have come. She couldn’t see their faces properly because the jars of hardened arteries and diseased heart tissue were acting as a screen and she didn’t want to look as if she was peering through them. She watched Joy’s animated profile instead. Joy was saying very kind things. Olivia felt sick.

‘Straight in at number two! That’s what we consider a triumph!’ Joy’s scarlet and gold earrings caught the light as she raised her champagne flute and cried, ‘A bestseller in its very first week. So, how about it? Shall we take it to number one?’ A cheer rang out through the museum; raucous voices lifted, echoed off the high ceilings and shivered through the glass display cabinets and medical oddities – faces torn by bullets and bombs, dissected limbs, diseased and malformed organs suspended in cloudy fluid. Bones, so gigantic that they must surely be from whales or mammoths, were displayed between the ground floor and this, the mezzanine. Under the clever, bleached lights they looked so curved and smooth-lined that they seemed more like sculptures than fragments of anatomy. ‘In case you missed it, there’s a table by the entrance where you can get the book for Olivia to sign,’ Joy said. ‘But that’s enough of a sales pitch from me. Let me hand you over to the woman of the hour, Britain’s favourite history professor, Olivia Sweetman!’ There was nowhere to put her glass so she held on to it as she stepped forwards. Joy squeezed her arm and moved out of the way. Olivia walked up to the Perspex-covered railings and looked down.

It really was too high – ridiculously so. What were the publicists thinking, putting her all the way up here for the speech? She would have been better off standing on the stairs or even on the ground floor with the guests gathered round her. But it was too late, all their faces were turned up, flushed with champagne and the energy of the night and this spectacle – her – standing alone in a yellow dress, glowing and supposedly triumphant. They were all waiting for her to speak.

She took a deep breath. She longed to unfurl wings and soar off this edge, over their heads and away to somewhere remote and hidden where none of them would ever find her, but she forced herself to speak. ‘Thank you so much, Joy, what a kind introduction. And thank you, all of you, for coming tonight to celebrate the launch of my book.’ Her voice came out clear and calm even though the glass in her hand was trembling. She rested that on the barrier too. She was used to public speaking, to facing a crowd and being listened to, but it was different to be looking down at friends, family, colleagues, journalists, TV people, bloggers and critics with this awful, sickening secret pressing in her gut like a tumour.

‘I hope you can all hear me? It’s an awfully long way down and as some of you will know I’m not that good with heights.’ There was a ripple of laughter, voices called up in encouragement. ‘We’ll catch you!’ someone – a man – yelled from the back. She wondered if the people directly below her could see up her full-skirted dress. She crossed her legs.

‘OK! Well, it’s amazing to be here with you tonight in this wonderful Hunterian Museum to celebrate the launch of Annabel.’ She noticed David standing at the front. His face was a mask of neutrality. Jess was at his side, her bobbed hair held back by a hairband. She was holding his hand. There was no sign of the boys. Olivia smiled directly down at her daughter but Jess didn’t react; perhaps she was more interested in the grisly objects in the cabinets that framed the balcony.

‘It seemed fitting to have the launch at the Royal College of Surgeons.’ She gestured at the cabinets. ‘Isn’t this an extraordinary museum?’ She knew she was stalling, unable to bring herself to talk about the book. She scanned the crowd for Dom and Paul but she couldn’t see either of them. She had to control this sick panic inside her – she had to sound relaxed. She’d prepared the speech about Annabel and they were all expecting it. She could, she would, deliver it.

Intrigued? Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Friday, 5 May 2017

Guest Post: My Guilty Little Secret by Cat Clarke

I've been a huge fan of Cat Clarke's books since her debut Entangled was released back in 2011 so I'm chuffed to bits to have her on the blog today to celebrate the release of her new novel Girlhood. Today Cat is telling us all about her guilty little secret and the role guilt has to play in her books.

My Guilty Little Secret by Cat Clarke 

I tend to write so-called ‘dark’ books, often dealing with subjects like death, grief and depression. But something I keep coming back to again and again is guilt. It features in almost everything I’ve written, most notably in Torn and A Kiss in the Dark. My guilty little secret is my obsession with guilt.

In my latest book, Girlhood, Harper feels guilty about the death of her twin sister, Jenna. Her guilt is so deeply felt that it’s completely intertwined with her grief; it threatens to drown her. The guilt isolates her from her parents, who are too busy grieving to even realize. It isolates her from her best friends, since she’s never talked to them about the circumstances surrounding her sister’s death. When the new girl arrives, Harper finally feels like she’s found someone she can confide in. Of course, this is a story written by me, so things don’t quite work out as planned.

Lots of people feel guilty following the death of someone we care about. We feel we should have treated them better, told them we loved them. In extreme situations, we might even blame ourselves for the death. It would never have happened if… If only I’d…

‘If only’ is a very powerful thought. A pointless, toxic thought, but one that we all have from time to time, because all of us feel guilty about something. I think it helps to talk about guilt. To confess, if you prefer to look at it that way. If you choose the right person to talk to, chances are they’ll reassure you and help put things in perspective. If you can’t face confiding in someone, then imagine your best friend, or someone you love, confiding in you. You’d reassure them, wouldn’t you? (Unless you’re an evil monster, in which case, what are you doing reading Jess’s lovely blog? Be gone, monster!) It never ceases to amaze me that we’re so much harder on ourselves than we are on other people. Humans are weird like that.

Of course, being an evil author, what interests me most is what happens when you confide in the wrong person… And you can read Girlhood if you fancy finding out.

Thanks for stopping by the blog today Cat! 
For more from Cat you can follow her on Twitter @cat_clarke 
Girlhood is available to buy now in all good bookshops

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Dreaming of Venice Blog Tour

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Dreaming of Venice Blog Tour. Today I have a guest post from author T.A. Williams on how much of him he writes into his books.

Me in My Books by T.A. Williams 

Well, they say you should write about what you know. And I suppose I should know lots about me. So it’s pretty inevitable that I’m going to transpose stuff from my life onto my characters. Let’s take a look at Dreaming of Venice, my second book for publishers Canelo. Where does Trevor Williams rear his bald and wrinkly head? For starters, like with my previous books, I didn’t make it easy for myself. I once again chose to write this one from the standpoint of the main character, Penny. Penny is a woman. I’m not. So not much chance of overlap there, I hear you say. Well, that’s not strictly correct.

You see, first of all, Penny falls in love with a black Labrador called Gilbert. My old Lab definitely slotted in straight after my wife and daughter in my affections (outstripping both of them on occasions, but don’t tell them I said that).

Second, Penny has dreamt all her life of going to Venice. Well, many, many years ago, I spent eight years living and working in Italy and, since then, I have returned to visit Venice on a number of occasions, most recently just before last Christmas.

Unsurprisingly, Penny shares my love of that wonderful city. I hope my description of it manages to do justice to somewhere that will always be very dear to me. If I wasn’t married to the only Italian in the world who prefers to live in England rather than in Italy, I would, without doubt, be writing this in a little house somewhere in Italy, hopefully not too far from La Serenissima, Venice.

So that’s the dog and the city. Now, what about the story? The main premise of the story is that Penny has to put her thespian hat on and act the part of reclusive billionaire, Olivia. Now, I’ve never done any acting, but I know only too well how hard it is to go to meetings and receptions, a smile permanently bolted on and a ready supply of small talk to hand. Poor Penny comes right up against it when she has to go to a cocktail party for the rich and famous and she feels like a fish out of water. I know the feeling.

Penny is an artist and I’m not, but my wife is. All the details of famous artists, painting with oils, compositions and exhibitions are gleaned from her. I’ve never lived in London, but my daughter does. So, when she gets round to reading Dreaming of Venice, she won’t be totally surprised to find some of the places being described strangely familiar. As for Penny’s love of Venice, that is definitely all me. I love the place.

In my previous book for Canelo, Chasing Shadows, the action takes place on the pilgrims’ way to Santiago de Compostela. I did that whole trip myself on a bike a few years ago and inserted any number of incidents that actually happened to me. In Dreaming of Venice, lots of events, like getting lost in the narrow alleys of the old city, actually happened to me. Penny loves champagne and Prosecco. Snap. Like me, she speaks Italian and is fascinated by history and the history of art. And we both like rabbit stew.

Above all, however, I would like to think that Penny is like me in the way she faces up to the problems that life throws at her. She doesn’t drop her head into her hands and spend a week or two sobbing. She takes a deep breath and gets on with it. It isn’t easy for her with her long-distance boyfriend, her struggle to break into the London art scene, or having to share her accommodation with a big, bold rat. But she manages. Penny, like so many of my heroines, is a very determined character. I suppose you could probably say that about me, too.

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

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