Book Review: The Friend by Dorothy Koomson @DorothyKoomson @penguinrandom

Links: Goodreads | Amazon UK
Format: Hardback, from publisher
Blurb: What secrets would you kill to keep?

After her husband’s big promotion, Cece Solarin arrives in Brighton with their three children, ready to start afresh. But their new neighbourhood has a deadly secret.

Three weeks earlier, Yvonne, a very popular parent, was almost murdered in the grounds of the local school – the same school where Cece has unwittingly enrolled her children.

Already anxious about making friends when the parents seem so cliquey, Cece is now also worried about her children’s safety. By chance she meets Maxie, Anaya and Hazel, three very different school mothers who make her feel welcome and reassure her about her new life.

That is until Cece discovers the police believe one of her new friends tried to kill Yvonne. Reluctant to spy on her friends but determined to discover the truth, Cece must uncover the potential murderer before they strike again… Continue reading

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Book Review: Alice and the Fly by James Rice

Format: Paperback, won in a giveaway
Links: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Goodreads
Blurb: This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It’s about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it’s about love. Finding love – in any of its forms – and nurturing it.

Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition’s caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I’ll flood out all these tears and it’ll all be ok and I won’t be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can’t think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories – Herb’s death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah – but none of these are what caused the phobia. I’ve always had it. It’s Them. I’m just scared of Them. It’s that simple.


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Some things I would like to see in Fiction

A good while ago now, I wrote a post on ‘trends I would like to see more and less of in the book world’ and this covered a whole bunch of different elements and genres. Today, I want to talk about things I would like to see more specifically, in Fiction. You know what I mean, the huge, mainstream, popular books which are on the shelves in all Tesco’s around the country and in the windows of all the Waterstones chains from the biggest and the best of publishers.

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Book Review: Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

Format: Paperback, ARC
Links: Amazon UK | Goodreads
Blurb: In her guise as ‘Dear Amy’, agony aunt for a local newspaper, Margot Lewis has dealt with all sorts of letters – but never one like this…

Dear Amy,
I’ve been kidnapped by a strange man.
I don’t know where I am.
Please help me,
Bethan Avery

This must be a cruel hoax. Because Bethan Avery has been missing for nearly two decades.

But as the present-day search intensifies for another missing schoolgirl, Margot is unnerved enough to take the letter to the police, hoping they will dismiss it as a sick joke.

Instead, they let Margot in on a little secret. One that confirms her darkest fears and tangles her up in the search for the sender, which could save one young girl’s life and cost Margot her own…


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Book Review: The Darling Girls by Emma Burstall

20809458What it’s about

Three women in love with the same man meet for the first time at his funeral.

When world-famous conductor Leo Bruck suddenly dies, the three women who loved him meet for the first time at his graveside.

Victoria, Leo’s partner of twenty years, regards herself as the only rightful keeper of his legacy. Maddy, the mother of Leo’s daughter Phoebe, finds her carefully constructed world is rocked to the core by his death. Cat is shattered with grief for her first great love, a man she barely had the chance to know.

All are Leo’s ‘darling girls’: three very different women whose lives are about to become inextricably bound in a moving story of love, loss, and the prevailing power of female friendship. Continue reading

Book Review: Wedlocked by Bonnie Trachtenberg

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What it’s about:

On what should be the happiest day of her life, Rebecca Ross is panic-stricken. Rebecca has just wed Craig Jacobs, but she realizes she put more thought into choosing her florist than she did in choosing the man she’s just pledged to love for the rest of her life.

Before Craig, Rebecca, a talented Long Island girl, dreamed of following in her grandmother’s footsteps with an acting career. Unfortunately, she was cut down to size by years of disappointment, and by her first love-a Hollywood director. She returned to Long Island a lost and broken woman, and ended up in the last place she ever wanted to be: her old bedroom at her parents’ house.

But Rebecca’s mother, an overzealous convert to Judaism, has a long-held dream, too: marry off her three daughters to Jewish men. No one is more thrilled when Rebecca meets and marries bon vivant Craig Jacobs, the man who has won over the whole family. Too bad they’re all about to discover that underneath his charismatic shell, this Prince Charming is anything but!

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Review:

This is my March read for Loveahappyending magazine and I am new to Bonnie’s work so was looking forward to this and I’d just like to add before I start how much I love the cover of this book! It sums up the entire story in one picture. Wedlocked follows the story of Rebecca, a level-headed, ‘knows what she wants and nothing is going to stop her’ kinda gal and her hilarious account of possessive Jewish mothers, an acting career that isn’t going to plan and her dream marriage turning into a complete nightmare. I did question where this story was going to go at the beginning, we open with a chapter set on Becky’s wedding day, she’s stained her shoes, a baby has made a footprint in her cake and the caterers are serving food which she specifically told them not to. Everything’s going a bit wrong, it’s not the perfect day she had planned and she mutters the statement every bride dreads, ‘I think I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life’. At this point we don’t know the story behind her and her husband but drunk relatives are spilling secrets about him and it’s obvious we have a lot to learn. The story unfolds and after a series of let downs, we’re left with the perfect but unexpected conclusion.

The structure and order of the book threw me a bit at first because after that initial chapter we’re taken right back to when Becky was a child as she explains her family life, love for acting and past relationships. I always say in my reviews that I don’t enjoy it when it feels like the narrative is telling us the story instead of letting us live it for ourselves but this book felt like Becky was sitting right in front of me – telling me her story and it 100% worked and I very much enjoyed being taken back in time to re-live her story with her and find out how she go into this dreadful mess. The first chunk of the story which focuses on her early adult years and trying to find herself as an actress I did feel were a bit slow but once Craig came into the picture – although a great raving lunatic – it definitely picked up pace. I really sympathised with Rebecca. At the beginning she was constantly under her mothers glare and trying to please everyone then once she broke free she had to deal with Craig – her angry, psychotic, lunatic of a husband. She constantly drew the short straw and her life really is like a soap opera. Craig is the complete opposite of your regular Prince Charming and I loved how much of a complete idiot he is. Michael, her sister’s boyfriend, also plays a big part near the end of the story and I absolutely adored his character. You can sense the growing attraction and similarities between Rebecca and him and I very much enjoyed the chapters they spent together. He’s so likeable and officially my new book boyfriend!

This was far from your conventional love story and I loved it. You know I’m not one for hard-core romance and this was the complete opposite. Who needs romance when you’ve got a lying, sneaky husband who punches police officers on your honeymoon? Although it was enjoyable and readable, it did take me quite a while to read considering it wasn’t even 300 pages long. The narrative could have flown a little better in the early chapters and I think some parts were a bit longer than necessary and could have been compressed down into fewer pages but all-in-all Bonnie is an extremely talented writer and Wedlocked really does showcase that talent. It’s witty, funny, unconventional and the perfect change of pace from your typical ‘boy meets girl’ story.

You can find Bonnie and Wedlocked on the following links:

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Goodreads | Twitter

Book Review: The Lie of You by Jane Lythell & author interview

untitled (3)What it’s about:

To the outside world, Kathy is the very picture of a happy and fulfilled modern woman. She has a beautiful baby boy, a clever, handsome husband and a glamorous, high-powered job.

But not everybody is fooled. Her employee, Heja, knows the truth: the cracks in Kathy’s marriage, her self-doubt, her fear of failure at work. Heja is perfectly placed to destroy Kathy’s life. And if she succeeds, she can claim the one thing she wants most…

This is a chilling psychological thriller about obsession, jealousy, and lying to those you love.

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Review:

Firstly, I’d like to thank Becci Sharpe from Head of Zeus for sending me a lovely and unexpected copy of this book. It’s set to be published in paperback on 16th January 2014 but is already out in Kindle format under the title ‘I Will Have What Is Mine’. This book is based around the lives of two very different women – Kathy and Heja. To the outside world, Kathy looks like she has the perfect life. She is the editor of a very successful architectural magazine, has a beautiful baby boy and a handsome husband but colleague, Heja, can see through the cracks in Kathy’s otherwise perfect façade and begins to sneakily medal in Kathy’s life. Lies begin to surface and Heja’s very private past starts to catch up with them because Kathy has the one thing that Heja wants the most and she will do everything in her power to get it. This gripping, psychological thriller that covers jealousy and obsession, rivalry and deceit and how women pit themselves against one another.

The first thing I noticed about this book was that the chapters are very short and I’m not a huge fan of long chapters so that sat very well with me. I tend to get through books a lot quicker if their chapters are short and sweet. This book is written is 1st person with 2 points of view – Kathy and Heja and you can tell the difference between the two women in the narrative. I very much enjoy books which are from multiple view points but I do find all the points of view are written very similarly – even though they are from entirely different characters however this wasn’t the case at all with this book. From the very first chapter I didn’t get a very good vibe from Heja, just from the way she is putting herself across to the readers. It is a massive contrast to Kathy’s chapters and on the authors behalf, I think that is a very talented thing to be able to do. I felt this book was well paced. About halfway through it did start to slow slightly but then all of a sudden, without any warning, the secret that the story revolves around (which I won’t disclose) comes to surface in Kathy’s life and the pace is instantly picked up again. From that page on, events from the past kept unravelling and you begin to get a more clearer image of what actually went on.

This book was very well written and in touches on some subjects I feel a large majority of women will be able to relate to. Being 21, some aspects of the book were quite mature for me and I also found that there were no younger characters I could really relate to. The other characters are all very well developed and the story delves into their past experiences which is essential considering the nature of the book but they were all extremely mature and knowledgeable and they find pleasure in things such as architecture, art and gourmet food which I know absolutely squat about so that element of the story did go over the top of my head a bit! However, that doesn’t take away the fact that this was an exceptionally gripping, chilling and page-turning read which I think will appeal to a very wide audience.

A well-deserved 4 cupcakes

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CharlooDividerInterview:

1. Hi Jane – thank you for answering some questions today. Firstly, can you tell us what The Lie of You is about?

THE LIE OF YOU examines the question: can you have sympathy for a woman who is trying to destroy another woman?  I wanted to see how far I could push it in creating a character who does horrible things and yet somehow you end up having sympathy for her.

2. The Lie of You was a pretty ambitious debut novel and delves into some quite dark territory. How did you come up with the idea and were any characters/events based on real life?

I once had a horrible experience at work where a woman colleague was trying to undermine me. It made me realise how miserable this can make you feel and that maybe this would make a good subject for a novel. And I extended the idea to include Kathy’s personal life too.

3. What was your journey to getting traditionally published like? Was it easier or harder than you thought it would be?

When I finally had the time to focus full time on writing it was a quicker and easier process than I expected. But I think I’ve been very lucky.  I found a literary agent who loved the early draft of THE LIE OF YOU.  This is the key – you need to find an agent who loves your work and who will fight for it. My brilliant agent, from Sheil Land,  approached a number of publishers and Head of Zeus were quick to say they wanted to publish it. They are a terrific publisher for a debut writer like me.  So supportive.

4. Have you always wanted to be an author/writer?

Yes! I wrote my first story when I was eight.  My heroine was called Sally Dumpling.  She was a plump fairy who lived in a yellow rose and her best friend was a robin. But to write you need empty time. I had a daughter and a hefty mortgage and  I worked full time until May 2011. I was then in a position to write full time for the first time. It was wonderful.

5. Do you think you will always stick with psychological thrillers or venture off and experiment with other genres?

I am very interested in what makes people tick. I love to explore the psychology of my characters.  But I like other genres too and think I will try them out while retaining the focus on psychological disturbance.

6. As I mentioned in my review, the characters are quite keyed up on topics such as architecture and art. Are these subjects you personally know a lot about or was there research involved?

There was research involved. I’m interested in architecture but a complete amateur.  I had to research the World Heritage Sites.  I also researched the favourite dishes in Finland and Portugal as you will have noticed the emphasis on food in the novel!

7. Parts of the book are also set in different countries – have you travelled to any of these places? For research purposes or pleasure?

I worked at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for seven years, until 2006. My job entailed a lot of travel and I became interested in the cultural differences between North and South Europeans.

8. Which 4 famous people would you invite to your dream dinner party? (Dead or alive)

Two writers I love: J. R. R. Tolkien and Stephen King because I’d love to hear their discussion on Lord of the Rings versus The Stand. Also Bruce Springsteen because I think he’s a great singer and sexy and Bette Davis because she’s quite a dame. Who can ever forget her performances in All About Eve and Jezebel.

9. Which piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers out there?

Focus on your characters. We love to read and learn about other people.  Let the plot come out of the characters’ personalities – how they would react in a particular situation,  rather than letting the plot dominate as something that happens to them externally.

10. Lastly, what can we expect from you in the future? Are you working on anything new that you’re able to tell us anything about?

Head of Zeus gave me a two book deal and I’m well into my second novel.  It’s different from THE LIE OF YOU in that it’s more of an adventure thriller but it still has a strong psychological angle. I’ll be sending Head of Zeus the completed manuscript in early 2014.

CharlooDivideruntitled (4)About Jane Lythell

Jane Lythell worked as a television producer and commissioning editor before becoming Deputy Director of the BFI and Chief Executive of BAFTA. She now writes full time.

You can find Jane on Twitter

Follow Jane’s fiction blog

Or purchase The Lie if You in eBook format (I Will Have What Is Mine) on Amazon

Book Review: The Gift by Cecelia Ahern

4279056What it’s about:

If you could wish for one gift this Christmas, what would it be?

Lou Suffern wishes he could be in two places at once. His constant battle with the clock is a sensitive issue with his wife and family.

Gabe wishes he was somewhere warm. When Lou invites Gabe, a homeless man who sits outside his office, into the building and into his life, Lou’s world is changed beyond all measure…

An enchanting and thoughtful Christmas story that speaks to all of us about the value or time and what is truly important in life.

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Review:

I had no doubts when starting this book because in my opinion, Cecelia Ahern is one of the most wonderful and unique female writers around at the moment – all her novels are so insightful and heart-warming. She’s so young but writes like someone who is wise beyond her years as every single one of her novels includes important messages about value, love, life and the magic in the world that we sometimes forget exists. The Gift is set in modern day Ireland and is about our main character Lou, a extremely successful, driven, over-achieving business man. He spends his entire life letting his family down due to his obsessive need to do everything, be everywhere and be in two places at once. He then meets Gabe, a homeless man who resides in a doorway outside his building. Although Lou doesn’t realise it at first, Gabe changes Lou’s life and shows him the meaning and importance of time before it’s too late.

Myself and Clare at AbookandTea was going to do a read along with this book but she very rudely finished it in 2 days and didn’t give me a chance to catch up but here I am 3 weeks later – finally finished! Like all her books, I found this an extremely easy read. It wasn’t hard going and the dialogue flowed very well and I managed to finish in just a few days. It was a good length and a nicely well-rounded story. Our main character, Lou, wasn’t a particularly likeable character. But what I’ve noticed with all her books is that the main characters never are – they’re never perfect but they manage to grow, develop and change throughout – which is was Lou did. Gabe was an interesting character as well and I completely agree with Clare when I say I think he was Lou’s conscience all along.

I always feel so connected to Cecelia Ahern’s books – like I’m the only person in the entire world who has read that story and her writing manages to keep you connected throughout the whole thing. The fast-paced chapters you find yourself reading really fast just to keep up, the shocking moments you end up reading over and over again and the emotional scenes that leave you welling up. This book was no different. Another quite specific thing I love about Ahern’s writing is her descriptions and comparisons e.g. in this book she compares the sea to a stage actor and says, ‘There was a magic about the sea. People were drawn to it. People wanted to live by it, swim in it, play in it, look at it. It was a living thing that was as unpredictable as a great stage actor: it could be calm and welcoming, opening its arms to embrace its audience one moment, but then could explode with its stormy tempers, flinging people around, wanting them out, attacking coastlines, breaking down islands. It had its playful side too, as it enjoyed the crowd, tossed children about, knocked lilos over, tipped over windsurfers, occasionally gave sailors helping hands; all done with a secret chuckle’. The language she uses is beautiful and that’s why I never hesitate picking up one of her books.

CharlooDividerAbout Cecelia Ahern:

Before embarking on her writing career, Cecelia Ahern completed a degree in journalism and media studies. Her first novel, PS, I Love You was one of the biggest-selling debut novels of 2004 and a number one bestseller. Her successive bestselling novels are Where Rainbows End, If You Could See Me Now, A Place Called Here, Thanks for the Memories, The Gift and The Book of Tomorrow. PS, I Love You became an International box office success, starring Hilary Swank, was a box office hit. Cecelia has also co-created the hit American television comedy series Samantha Who? In 2008 Cecelia won the award for Best New Writer at the Glamour Women of the Year Awards. Cecelia lives in County Dublin.

You can find her books on Amazon

Follow her on Twitter

Like her Facebook page

Or visit her official website

Book Review: Voodoo Wedding by Janice Horton

untitled (2)What it’s about:

Loved up fashion model Nola and her handsome Haitian fiancé Louis have finally set the date for their wedding. All they need now is a venue and a guest list, but before Nola can have the wedding of her dreams, she has to deal with something old, something new, something borrowed… and something voodoo!

CharlooDividerReview:

This is the second book in the How Do You Voodoo trilogy and again, it was a very short book but it followed on perfectly from the first instalment. Nola and Louis got together at the end of the previous book and in this one it’s time to plan their wedding. Nola has to make a brave decision whether to leave her modelling career behind and Louis is in his final year of becoming a doctor so planning their wedding hasn’t been easy however, it gets even harder when the press get involved, Nola gets betrayed by a close friend and Louis’ American and Haitian relatives start performing rituals which will summon the spirits of their dead ancestors so they too can join the wedding. The voodoo isn’t over for Nola!

I’ve grown quite fond of these characters which I’ve followed through two books and it’s nice to see that they’ve changed, especially Nola who is now compassionate and caring compared to the first book where she was stuck-up and self-obsessed. Janice really shows how much Nola has grown up over the space of the two books. I found this book slightly different to the first. It was a bit more slow paced and took a fair while for anything ‘Voodoo’ to happen (compared to How Do You Voodoo when it all happened within the first few chapters). However as certain events happen along the way you know that something is coming and I wasn’t expecting it when it did arrive! I like how their wedding plans are all going fairly well and you think everything is going to go to plan but then all of a sudden ‘Voodoo’ comes and slaps them around the face again.

Janice’s writing style is consistent and well established and extremely easy to read and get lost in. Just like the first book, this one proved to be different, fresh and enjoyable. She keeps all the aspects of the book in balance and doesn’t over do it with the romance or the drama. She also keeps to the theme of the books which is crucial considering the title and the way the first one panned out. The third and final part of Nola and Louis’ story,’ Voodoo Child’ will be out in October this year and I can’t wait to see what Janice has in store for them.

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Janice Horton writes fiction with humour and heart. Look out for her Amazon Kindle bestselling eBooks ‘Bagpipes & Bullshot’ and ‘Reaching for the Stars’ and her magically romantic Voodoo Romance novellas ‘How Do You Voodoo? and ‘Voodoo Wedding’. Her latest title is a nonfiction guide ‘How To Party Online’. Janice is a regular blogger and you’ll also find her partying on Facebook and Twitter. She is a Featured Author and Associate Editor at Loveahappyending.com.

Link to Janice’s books and Amazon Author Page
Featured Author & Associate Editor at: Loveahappyending.com
Follow Janice’s Blog
Twitter: @JaniceHorton