The Beachside Sweet Shop by Karen Clarke

 

The Beachside Sweet Shop by Karen Clarke

51yy1qrnjslPublisher: Bookouture

Publishing Date: 2nd March 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 267

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

Synopsis:

Chocolate fudge, butterscotch and raspberry bonbons… treat yourself to some sugary treats, a big slice of friendship and a sprinkling of romance at The Beachside Sweet Shop.

When Marnie Appleton inherited a sweet shop from her grandfather she was determined to do his legacy proud. The shop has been a much-loved feature of the little seaside town of Shipley for years, but now Marnie needs to bring it up to date, and she’s recruited gorgeous new assistant Josh to help.

Marnie gets busy redecorating the shop and choosing delicious new sweets to stock, but things are never that simple: new neighbour Isobel, a fame-hungry blogger, is on a crusade against sugar, and she’ll go to any lengths to secure bad publicity for Marnie’s shop.

Marnie fights back with homemade sugar-free treats, but with her best friend Beth heavily pregnant, her grandmother Celia recovering from an operation, and her very recently ex-boyfriend Alex returning to Shipley with a new love, Marnie has a lot on her plate.

And then there’s Josh, with whom Marnie is struggling to keep her relationship strictly professional…Will both the sweet shop and love flourish?

A deliciously heartwarming read about family, friends and handmade coconut ice. Perfect for fans of Cressida McLaughlin, Debbie Johnson, and Tilly Tennant.

Rating: 4/5

As soon as I spotted “The Beachside Sweet Shop” on NetGalley I was immediately drawn to it – this cover is adorably gorgeous and even though I am more a chocolate girl myself only looking at this glass filled with candies makes my mouth water. Yes, I had some doubts before I started reading it as I was scared that it’s going to be the next in the popular formula of books set at the seaside and in a sweet shop with nothing more to offer, but no worries, guys – it turned out to be a hilarious, light – hearted, wonderfully enjoyable story that will allow you to put your mind to rest.

There is a lot going on in Marnie’s life, especially when the shop is considered. Winning the prize (because the shop has won a prize for the best local business!), instead of bringing joy, brings commotion and troubles, as one of the new neighbours, ex – model, starts a campaign against sweet shop and sugar in general. Then Marnie looks after her grandmother who has broken her leg, and this accident has actually made Marnie to break up with her boyfriend Alex, but our Marnie – of course – still has feelings to Alex. But did Alex move on in New York or is he still waiting for Marnie? Then there are troubles with the regular supplier of the sweets, and Marnie’s best friend Beth, who also helps at the shop is heavily pregnant so she is in a need for a substitute, and then suddenly the gorgeous Josh appears, and does Marnie feel attracted to him? You see what I mean, right? Not a single flat moment, and this all topped with brilliant one – liners and fantastic sense of humour.

The characters were larger than life and so colourful, and it was so easy to fell in love with them. Josh is not only a skateboarding sexy god but he also does magic, ha! There is also Doris Day, a wannabe detective, neighbour of Marnie’s grandmother and she is really the one that knows everything, but not in this bad, prying way. The weakest character was, I think, Isobel – the way she acted just didn’t sit with me, you couldn’t take her and her reasoning seriously. Marnie herself was not too bad. However, her best friend Beth was the most colourful, engaging character of all, I think. She was shining through the pages and I so want a book about Beth! Actually, those were the scenes with Beth that made me laugh out loud, especially the ones when she got into labour. Hilarious!

Now, guys. I would be myself if I haven’t had some issues, right? There were some things that didn’t sit with me about Marnie, as much as I loved her, her indecision made me feel so, so frustrated! I was thinking she’s only looking for excuses because if she was so desperate to leave Shipley then nothing would keep her, and the only thing she did was moaning how much she wants to leave and making a martyr of herself when staying because of her grandmother breaking a leg or nobody from the family wanting to take care of the shop. I also didn’t get the issue with Alex. Why did she tell him in the first place he should go to America? Again, to feel like a martyr? Then, the thing with Isobel and her campaign to close the sweet shop. I was like, what, closing one little sweet shop will solve all the problems? And who the hell did she think she is to decide she has the power to do what she wants? Because she’s a yummy – mummy?

The Beachside Sweet Shop itself reminded me of the old – school sweet shops, painted in pastels, with black and white photos on the walls and yellow awning. The novel was mostly set there and it’s only a pity that there was not more about its interior and that it took Marnie so long to change it. However, I liked that it had its own group of customers and that it had a history and that people appreciated it as much as the sweets themselves. I think the shop just reminded those people of their own childhood and Marnie did her best to stock all kind of candies possible. But not the willies (ha! Read for yourself! Hilarious!).

“The Beachside Sweet Shop” is the first book in the series and I am already looking forward to “The Beachside Flower Stall”. It was light – hearted and witty and it kept me entertained, and it was written in a way that kept me glued to the pages – I’ve finished this lovely novel about being unhappy in life but eventually changing it, taking control in your own hands in one day. It is not a story that is going to change lives but it is destined to make you feel happy and warm inside. Recommended!

The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan

The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan

 

34267172Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 9th February 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Flora is forced to move back to the tiny island of Mure from the bright lights of London.
It’s tough: even the beautiful landscapes and bright blue sea can’t lift her spirits – she’s too busy looking after her dad and her feckless brothers. Then she chances upon her mum’s collection of recipes and begins to cook her way through it. As she she reconnects with her family, and the place she was born- might she also find herself?

Rating: 4/5

Ah yes, there is nothing better than a new Jenny Colgan’s book, right? When starting her novels I know that I am for some really delicious recipes, mouth – watering descriptions of food, brilliant, warm characters and this special writing style that is already becoming Ms Colgan’s hallmark – nobody writes like she does, I think you must agree with it. Her stories always make me smile and make me feel warm, they are uplifting and even if they are full of obstacles and troubles, the sun is always shining at the end. And it was the same with “The Summer Seaside Kitchen”!

The whole bunch of the characters in this novel is perfect. They are so different to each other, they represent different views and ideas, they have different life goals and this all makes the reading so much more interesting and different. Next to the down to earth villagers we have a controversial millionaire, then we have the issue of being a homosexual in such a small and traditional community – but a community that can take you by surprise more than once, as they are people who are more open than we can expect and more clever than we suspect! It is incredible how well Jenny Colgan can capture all the differences and how well she can get into the characters’ heads and make them so realistic and genuine – they are all so well drawn, so honest in the way they are and talk.
I loved the two sides to Flora. The one who wanted to live in London, lead the life just like many other young people, go to the cinema or the bar. Then the other one, who she wanted to forget about, but that was so strongly rooted in her – that she comes from a remote island where everyone knows everyone, where there is no anonymity of London. They were so brilliantly captured by the author, you could feel Flora’s indecision and I really wanted to see which way she’s going to go. She feared so much to come back to Mure, to see her family but you can take a girl out of the village but you can’t take the village out of the girl, right? I loved Flora, she was sensitive and she had heart in the right place. She was funny and sharp and clever and all her feelings and emotions were brought to us in such a genuine, honest way that I had a feeling I’m just sitting in her head, so well I could understand her.
The interactions in Flora’s family were so brilliantly captured! The troubles, the misunderstandings, the typical banter between the siblings, it just felt so natural and so true. You can’t help but fall for all of them, even with their harshness but you just can’t not like them and wish them all best. I would love to catch up with Flora, her brothers, little niece and to see how her relationship is going on!

This story is set on a Scottish Island, and Jenny Colgan couldn’t have think of a better setting. The descriptions of the fierceness of the island, of it being so natural were so vivid and so beautiful, and you know what, I could fully understand the reluctance to the wind farm, as lately there are five such monstrosities standing almost at my doorstep, and I always thought that oh well, a windmill here or there, it’s just there, but that’s not true – I can’t get used to them and they are spoiling my beautiful views, so I really just could imagine how they would look like on this remote island. Jenny Colgan has a real talent to capture the beauty of the landscape, of nature, and also she must be the queen of capturing the essence of people living on Mure, their solitude, their way of thinking, them being so proud of their background, parentage. This all has just made reading this much more special. The way Jenny Colgan writes about the island just brings it to life, the descriptions of the sea, of seals popping their heads above the water, about the weather that can change in one second, the landscape are so brilliantly vivid and I loved them.

But guys. As much as I love Jenny Colgan and loved “The Summer Seaside Kitchen” I can’t help thinking that it’s slowly time for a change. I mean, this author follows one formula and even if it’s OK because it’s working wonders and I also fell for it, sometimes there comes this niggling feeling that I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, that it feels like reading a copy of a copy of a copy of a book. I would love to see something a little different, something that doesn’t feel exactly like the previous book. But apart of this – the story was really well plotted and constructed and I enjoyed the various subplots – it was not only about Flora but also about her bothers, about the island, about the outdoor – experience guides, about local businesses, about family bonds. There is also this little bit of romance and Flora has really predispositions to complicate her love life, and to be honest this time I personally didn’t know which one of the guys would be better for her, and also it wasn’t clear till the end, and I enjoyed that this aspect of the story was not so predictable.

“The Summer Seaside Kitchen” is really a wonderful, welcoming read and it is so easy to get wrapped up in this story. The characters got under your skin and you fell for them so very quickly. It is impossible not to love the setting, and all the pagan mythology elements that Jenny describes were brilliant, as well as the names of the characters – it just made the reading so much more authentic, keeping up with the traditions, feeling the atmosphere and community spirit. A lovely read and I will be getting back to this book for sure! Highly recommended!

 

If Ever I Fall by S.D. Robertson

Hi guys, it’s Friday! FINALLY. It was such a long week, and having an awful cold didn’t help at all. Today I am very thrilled to be a part of S.D. Robertson’s blog tour for his new release “If Ever I Fall” and to share a guest post from the author on writing from different point of views. Enjoy, and have a great weekend, you lovely folks!

Writing from different points of view

by S.D. Robertson

I write from different points of view in my latest novel, If Ever I Fall. There are three distinct sections running through the book and each has its own voice.

First there’s Jack, who wakes up on a deserted clifftop with no memory of who he is or how if-i-ever-fallhe got there.

Next we have Maria, who is drowning in grief. She spends her time writing letters that will never be answered, while fighting to escape the pain of terrible memories.

And then there’s Dan, whose life has fallen apart at the seams. He’s lost his house, his job is on the line and now he fears losing his family too.

Taking on different voices was a new experience for me, since my first novel, Time to Say Goodbye, was written from just one perspective. Initially, it felt a bit daunting: particularly writing as a woman, which wasn’t something I’d ever attempted before.

So how did I approach it? Well, the first thing I did was to frame each of the voices differently. So the Maria sections are all written through the medium of personal letters, giving them a very confessional feel. Meanwhile, the Dan sections are written in third person past tense, while the Jack sections are first person present tense.

Doing this really helped me to keep on top of which character I was channelling at each stage of writing the book. I think it also helps readers in the same way.

Other than that, I suppose it was a bit like being an actor and trying to get under the skin of each of them, imagining what they, rather than me, would say and do in each particular situation. It’s not actually as tricky as it sounds, because as an author there’s a part of you – sometimes big, sometimes small – in every character you create. So it’s really just a case of tuning into that and building it up from there.

Before I wrote a word of the manuscript, I created character profiles for everyone in the story; those of Jack, Maria and Dan were particularly detailed. I referred back to them constantly at the start, adding bits and pieces along the way, but as the book progressed and each of them took firm shape in my mind, this became less necessary.

It’s like when you have family or friends that you’ve known for a long time. You know their mannerisms and habits. You have a good idea of what they love and what they hate. You get so you can predict fairly accurately how they will react in different scenarios. You know the sort of thing they are likely to say.

There were, of course, moments when I wasn’t sure about certain things, particularly when it came to writing from a woman’s perspective as Maria. It was at these times that I turned to my female family members and friends for advice.

That’s how it works when you write fiction. Your own experience is enough for certain things, and for others you do research, preferably by speaking to those with first-hand knowledge of whatever it is you need to know.

I must say that I really enjoyed writing from more than one perspective in If Ever I Fall. I think it’s a great tool to use as an author, which allows you to take your readers deeper into the world you’ve created. It’s certainly a technique I intend to employ again in future novels.

*Former journalist S.D. Robertson quit his job as a local newspaper editor to pursue a xsdrobertson_jpg_pagespeed_ic_vytby7lz48lifelong ambition of becoming an author and to spend more time with his wife and daughter. If Ever I Fall (Avon HarperCollins, £7.99) is his second novel. A heart-rending story of family tragedy, it is published on 9 February 2017.

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The Ambulance Girls by Deborah Burrows / Blog Tour + Extra

I seem to be reading only historical novels lately, guys, but I also have this luck that the books are really great representatives of the genre. Today “The ambulance Girls” by Deborah Burrows blog tour stops with me and I have an extract for you – it’s just a foretaste, sounding so very promising and I am sure you’re going to enjoy the book whole – heartedly!

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CHAPTER SIX

I woke to a cold morning. Damp white mist swirled around the gardens and the sun was like a great orange ball. It was nearly winter, I realised disconsolately. It would be my second winter in England, and I was not looking forward to it at all. It was the darkness that had affected me the most last year. I expected that I would find it as miserable this year also, with the added bonus of nightly air raids. I couldn’t help sighing. It was springtime in Perth now and my mother’s roses would be in full bloom in our small garden.

On the table in the lobby, next to the cubicle that housed the building’s telephone, were the letters that had been delivered for the occupants of St Andrew’s in yesterday’s second post. There were three letters for me, all from Australia. The flimsy aerograms were creased and a little grubby after their long journey. One was my mother’s weekly epistle. I recognised Uncle Charles’s scrawl on the second, and when I turned the third letter over, it was from a school friend. I was delighted at this tangible connection to home, but I sighed as I tucked the letters carefully into the pocket of my jacket; I would read them once I had breakfasted.

I had been away from Australia now for nearly three years, and I missed my family terribly. After so many letters, I knew what my mother’s would contain: she would tell me that my father and my brother Ben were well, give me a small anecdote about each, and then concentrate on her ‘war work’. Mum had formed a local Red Cross branch as soon as war was declared and now spent most of her time rolling bandages, packing parcels for Australian prisoners of war and helping to run funding drives for Blitz victims, in between knitting scarves and jumpers for servicemen. From her letters, it seemed my mother was the same tiny ball of energy as she had been when she waved goodbye to me at Fremantle Dock on that hot January morning in 1938.

My father hated writing letters, but I knew he would have scrawled a message of love at the bottom of my mother’s epistle, telling me that he missed me and longed to see my beautiful smiling face. He always wrote the same message, and it always made me cry. If I were lucky, my brother Ben, now fifteen and about as fond of letter writing as Dad was, would also have written me a short note.

I was well aware that my parents were desperate for me to return home, but they never pushed. Sometimes I wished I could leave London and sail back to Australia, but I knew the work I did in London was worthwhile and essential, and I had made up my mind not to leave until the war was over, no matter how many cold, dark winters I had to endure.

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The English Agent by Clare Harvey /Blog Tour + Guest Post

I am thrilled to be a part of Clare Harvey’s blog tour today! The author’s new release, “The English Agent” is out in paperback now and to celebrate this fact I have a lovely guest post from Clare herself! Enjoy!

The glamorous life? Five secrets about Clare’s life as an author that she probably 97814711505792b252812529shouldn’t tell you…

 

When I got published I think people expected me to sling on my stilettoes, hop in a convertible and head off for the glamorous life. Some of the school run mums might even have raised a quizzical eyebrow at the sight of me still trudging round Tesco in my mud-spattered dog walking boots and then driving off in my unwashed Vauxhall Corsa. But whilst earning a living as a writer definitely counts as ‘living the dream’, glamorous it ain’t. Here are five secrets about my life as an author that debunk the glamour myth (and that I probably shouldn’t be sharing!)

Talking to myself: Yes, I talk to myself. Whilst I was writing my debut novel The Gunner clares-furry-paGirl, I even found myself having conversations (‘D’you fancy a cuppa, Clare?’ ‘Oooh, yes, thank you, Clare, a cup of coffee would be lovely!’ etc.) Writing is a largely hermit-like existence, so I suppose talking to myself became inevitable. Eventually we got a dog, and I now talk to him instead (which is not mad at all, ask any dog lover). Oh, and I talk to my characters, too, especially when I want to discover their back stories – I interview them and get them to tell me all about themselves (I’m not sure if other writers do this, too – it would be interesting to find out). So that’s number one: talking to myself and/or my dog – not glamorous at all, as I’m sure you’d agree.

Family meals consisting of chips and chocolate biscuits: When I’m pushing myself to hit a deadline I do not have time to be a domestic drudge, let alone a domestic goddess. I resent the time it takes to go to the supermarket (or even do an online shop) or plan and cook a nutritious family meal, when I have those final few scenes to do before the weekend. I tell the kids to make sure they take full advantage of their school dinner that day because ‘…it will only be a snack supper tonight’ – which roughly translates as ‘….you can forget Nigella Lawson; the only woman in my kitchen today is Mother Hubbard, so deal with it, guys.’ Number two, then: chips and choccy bics for supper – glamorous? I think not.

Wearing a coat, hat and scarf at work: It seems an outrageous extravagance to put the central heating on if it’s just me at home. Sometimes I have vague thoughts about lighting the log burner, but it’s a bit of a pfaff, and I really just want to get on with writing, usually (the log burner is a good idea if I’m feeling the need to procrastinate, though). Being a southerner, I’m a bit of a wuss in the cold weather, too. So I often work in my coat, hat and scarf (in fact, as I write this I’m wearing a scarf and a woolly hat – no coat today as the weather is ‘unseasonably mild’, according to the weatherman). Number three on the list of unglamorous author things: freezing at your desk in your entire outdoor wardrobe.

Working’ in bed: Sometimes I work in bed because I’m cold (I take my coat off first – but I often leave the hat and scarf on). And if it’s a freezing winter day and I have some research books to read, why not read in bed? But I also find writing comes easier in bed, perhaps because I have left my ‘internal editor’ behind with the laptop at the desk downstairs (I always write longhand in the first instance). But sometimes I like to prepare a scene and then take a little power nap before writing it, because I find that writing flows so much better if you’ve just woken up. It’s just getting a tad embarrassing that the window cleaners always seem to come when I’m working in bed, and I’m so worried they think I’m a slacker that at the first rattle of ladders I leap up and run down to the desk again. Which isn’t exactly glamorous, either.

Sleeping in my clothes: I have only done this once. Oh, all right, twice. Here’s why: I was desperate to get the final draft of my work-in-progress finished by the school holidays, so I’d been up really late getting through it. By the time I’d cleaned my teeth, etc. it was already past one in the morning, and really cold. I remember thinking that I would have to take all my clothes off, get into my pyjamas and probably a jumper, too (my husband works away during the week, so I do tend to pile on the nightclothes without him next to me to keep me warm) and bed socks, and all the while the clock was ticking on, and I knew that I’d have to be up in a few hours to walk the kids to the tram stop in the freezing cold and…Yes, I went to bed fully clothed, and wore the same clothes the following morning. But it was only the once (well, twice, if I’m strictly honest). So there’s my final secret – I have slept in my clothes. Now, do you think I lead a glamorous life? No, me neither. But don’t breathe a word!

 

My new book The English Agent is out now in hardback, paperback and e-book. You can catch up with me and find out more here:

Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth

Facebook: ClareHarvey13

Web: http://clareharvey.net

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The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff / Blog Tour + Guest Post

Today I am incredibly honoured to be a part of Pam Jenoff’s blog tour for her newest release “The Orphan’s Tale”. This book is a very exceptional read, story that is for sure going to get under your skin and make you think some things over and over again. Next to my review I also have a wonderful guest post about the covers from the Author herself, so please just put your feet high and enjoy!

The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

29239940Publisher: Mira / HQ

Publishing Date: 23rd February 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A powerful novel of friendship set in a traveling circus during World War II, The Orphan’s Tale introduces two extraordinary women and their harrowing stories of sacrifice and survival .

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby. She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep… When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her. And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.

Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid. At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond. But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another—or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

Rating: 4/5

So now. This book. “The Orphan’s Tale”. I’ve read it in one day. Even though the subject is not the easier one, it is full of difficult decisions and choices to be made, of situations the characters couldn’t decide themselves, of things they couldn’t influence, it was just flowing and it was told in a way that made me glued to the pages. I must admit – I was not so sure about this novel at the beginning – probably you must be in a right mood for such a story – it was hard for me to get into this book and the scene with the babies in the carriage was so incredibly sad that I was so short of putting it away. However, I kept reading and I am incredibly glad that I continued, as the story was beautiful, sad and engaging.

There is a group of main characters in this book and they were all really well developed, although I had some problems with Luc – for me he seemed to enter the scenes too rapidly and settled down on the pages too quickly, it somehow didn’t sit with me. I had a feeling that the author herself isn’t sure what to do with him, how to interweave his role into the story. However, all the other characters were incredibly believable, their feelings were palpable through the pages and it was really easy to get the sense of their hurt, fear, pain, uncertainty. The story was told from Noa and Astrid’s points of view mainly, but the other characters had also got a fair number of scenes – enough to root for them, worry about them. Yes, I admit, I had some problems with the character of Noa. There were moments that I couldn’t stop thinking that she’s too immature, that she voluntarily looks for danger, that she’s naive but in the end I changed my mind – she was only seventeen, for God’s sake, and she has actually proven that she’s the most non – egotistical soul in the world, that she’s willing to take a risk to save others. And – Noa developed so much in this story, she learnt. She was determined and she really wasn’t afraid to risk everything to help and save others. Her dedication, capability to sacrifice so much was truly heart – breaking and convincing. She was much more mature than her age signalized – but I think it was the case with many people during the war times, they just had to grow up faster.

I myself am not a fan of circuses but I always enjoyed reading about the wings, about the artists, and I truly enjoyed this aspect of this story, especially as it was set in such difficult times when – you could think – people had other things to think and worry about. However, the author explained and showed that people just needed this little piece of normality in their lives. She also showed how seriously the circus people took their role to entertain, how honourable they were and that their words were what counted. She has also very well captured how the lives of the artists really looked like and how much hard work it was to entertain the audience for those few minutes in the limelight. There were many troubles, struggles and hardships the performers endured – especially during the war. But no matter if in war or not, it was amazing to see how protective they were about each other, and the – yes! – families they bonded and created. It was all incredibly well researched. The knowledge shines out of the pages. We know lots about people hiding and protecting Jews during the war but Pam Jenoff has revealed many less known facts and created an emotional, heart – breaking historical novel.

“The Orphan’s Tale” is my first book by Pam Jenoff and what intrigued me about this novel was the blurb itself. Then it was told to me that the story is based on facts that the author learnt during her researches, which only made the reading more interesting. Also for certain it is not going to be the last book by this author, I can’t wait to look into her backlist titles, as this novel, this story of survival, of adapting but also of bravery and resilience was incredibly beautiful. It is a book about good and evil people, a story that tug at my heartstrings. Story about taking incredible risk and being able to risk your own life to save others. This is a poignant tale of perseverance and friendship, showing that a true family is not only who you are related to but that you can earn a true family when finding the right people, people that you can trust in the hardest, harshest of times. Recommended!

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Author Confidential:  On Book Covers and Titles

“I love your book cover!”  Although thrilled when someone says this, I’m never sure of the appropriate response.  “Thank you,” seems to suggest that I can take some credit for the work of art, which is the farthest thing from the truth.  “I agree,” sounds very smug.  The reality is that book covers are a complicated thing and I wind up with some mumble-mumble answer that is way more than the person who commented on the cover even wanted. The same can be said of titles.

So here are the things I would really like to say about book covers and titles.

I have no say (sort of.)  The truth is, I have very little to do with the creation of a book cover.  At some point I am asked for some key images or concepts from the story.  (This usually happens well before I have finished writing the book, which is really, really scary.)  I give my ideas and then many months later I am shown a cover concept.  By the time I have seen the concept, it has already been reviewed my many folks at my publisher and is pretty far along.  So while I get to give feedback, it is limited and late.

Titles are a little different.  I always have a working title, but it almost always gets changed.  Read on…

I never get attached to the original.  My books always start with the working title I create.  At some point though, my publisher decides this may not be the best title.  I am often asked for suggestions for alternative titles. I come up with some, they come up with some.  (But not always: I was once breastfeeding twins when my phone rang and a big editor – not from my current publisher — called and said, “We’ve changed the title to XYZ” and just hung up.)  A title may change two or three times in the course of producing a book.

Similarly, the first cover concept I am shown is almost never the final.   They almost always change.  And as you will see below, that can be a good thing.

I trust in the power of market correction.  There are times, I must confess, when an early cover concept is, well, just not right for the book.  I used to freak out about this, imagining revulsion and shame at seeing it on the shelves.  But I have since learned that covers go through many stages before approval.  If I think it is wrong, chances are someone else will also.  It may be marketing or the sales force.  Other times covers are shown to accounts (think bookstore chains and retailers) and they say it is not right.  We always get to something better.

I have also had the market correct titles.  A bookstore executive once said, “Love the book, hate the title.”  If it is a major retailer and it is the difference between the retailer taking a big order of books or not, a publisher will consider the change.

I understand that different covers work in different markets. My books also most always have different covers in the U.S. and U.K.  Sometimes they even have different titles. (Though this is not my favorite because with people reading across borders in the digital age, readers can be confused if it is the same book or different.)  Readerships are different in various countries and what may work in one market may not work in another.

All of this uncertainty and change in covers and titles can be overwhelming.  Ultimately, I just remember that I am part of a team and that we all want the same thing: to get the best possible package to you, the reader.

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The Vets at Hope Green: Follow your Heart by Sheila Norton

The Vets at Hope Green: Follow Your Heart by Sheila Norton

 

32880546Publisher: Ebury Digital

Publishing Date: 16th February 2016

Series: The Vets at Hope Green (read my review of part 1 here)

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 61

Genre: Romance,  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

PART TWO of a heartwarming and inspiring story about living the simple life and the joy of animals. Perfect for fans of Appleby Farm, Ivy Lane and Alfie the Doorstep Cat

Working as the receptionist at her local London vets, Sam dreams of escaping to a quieter life in the country. Spending time with her Nana and her lovely but elderly dog Rufus has sparked something within Sam, and all she wants is to start afresh. But her boyfriend Adam is in London, and something tells her that it won’t be an easy conversation.

But then something happens that makes her going-nowhere receptionist job seem much more appealing: a little stray cat called Ebony, in need of love and nurturing back to health. Faced with a dilemma, she must choose between her heart’s desire and the little ball of fluff who’s desire is to worm her way into her heart…

Is it possible to have it all?

Rating: 4/5

“Follow your Heart” is a nice continuation of the series, and I enjoyed it even more than the first part. It was not so wishy – washy, even though the first part was also very nice, but this one was in my opinion more down to earth and believable, yet still cute and light – hearted.

The story starts exactly where we left. Sam tells Adam she’s pregnant and the way he reacted didn’t surprise me at all. It doesn’t take long for Sam to decide that she wants to leave London and where is better than at her Nana Peggy’s who’s feeling so lonely. There is also a small black cat in a need of a good home involved and the story also brings us back to the lovely people from Nana’s village and one very complicated vet as well.

It’s a very easy, straight – forward read without twists and turns, yet its steady level somehow works and it’s a real pleasure to read it. And this time it is also full of decisions to be made, of new beginnings, new and old friends. The last scene ended – of course – with a cliff hanger that is not a cliff hanger for me any more as – my mistake! My mistake! I shouldn’t have but have done it (well, it was at the end of the book, so there) – I’ve read what is to be expected in the next two parts. However, I am really looking forward to reading the next parts as I incredibly want to see why Joe is as he is and I am sure that Sam is jumping to conclusion about one situation, and I want to see it explained. There is great warmth to the writing style and I just want it to envelop me in its warmth again. Easy, light and quick read and lovely continuation to the series. Really recommended, though you have to make sure to read it in the right order!

 

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella

 

30821597Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 9th February 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Romance,  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 13.07.2017)

 

Synopsis:

Cat Brenner is living the dream – she has a flat in London, a job in creative branding, and her Instagram feed is full of all the amazing things London has to offer: delicious food and beautiful sights and lots of fun. Ok, so the crappy truth is that she rents a tiny room in Catford with no space for a wardrobe, spends most of her days engaged in tedious admin on the other side of the city, and posts photos of food she could never ever afford to eat. But it’s all just about worth it.

Until her bright and shiny life comes crashing down: her demanding boss Demeter gives her sack, and with no means to live in London any more, Cat has to move home to Somerset. Now she’s plain old Katie Brenner again, helping out her dad and her stepmum as they attempt to launch a glamping business on their farm. (They think she’s on sabbatical from her job, and she can’t quite bear to tell them the truth…)

With Katie’s creative branding experience, the glamping is soon a big success. So much so that Demeter and her family book in on holiday – and Katie sees her chance to get revenge on the woman who ruined her dream. So long as Demeter doesn’t see beyond her disguise and give the game away to her parents, of course.

It’s time to see who’s the boss…

Rating: 4/5

Ah, the new Sophie Kinsella’s stand – alone novel! With absolutely brilliant title and incredibly promising synopsis – yes, I fell in love with the main character already after reading the blurb. I truly adored this book, guys, and with it Sophie Kinsella has proved that her place as the Queen of chick – lit is really not in danger – but she’s also shown that she can write characters that feel more mature and developed without losing their trademarked sense of humour. So really, this book was the best example of Sophie Kinsella’s brilliant writing, effortless story – telling and wittiness. It was funny, in this typical Kinsella’s style that is inimitable, the humour comes so natural to this author. A great romantic comedy, just what I expected from this author, and it is just great to know that when you reach for Sophie Kinsella’s book you know what you can expect and you get this delivered.

“My Not So Perfect Life” was really funny, fresh and uplifting and so up – to – date with all its references and also with it showing two versions of everything. While we think that our friends or other people may live the perfect life, much better than ours, those people can think exactly the same about us – and it is the same with Katie. She thought her boss’ Demeter’s life is perfect – even though Demeter herself seemed to be forgetful, flaky and running the office with an iron fist – but still, she was in awe of her. Things turn out to be a little bit different when Demeter comes glamping with her family – is her life truly as wonderful as Katie thinks?

The main character was brilliant, period. Katie is such a typical Kinsella’s character – young, with overactive imagination, with big ideas that not always are possible to be realised, not always telling the truth and yet she was likeable and realistic. A lovely girl and I much preferred the Katie version to the Cat one – Katie was much funnier and not so uptight and looked much better with her wild, curly hair, even with the blue version of them, and she has a Somerset accent, while Cat is the London – “better” – version of Katie, with straight hair and glasses that she doesn’t need. I really loved Katie and her spirit when after losing her job and initial grieving period she found a courage to do something totally different. She was creative and had a great sense of humour and really I wanted to applaud her when reading about her crazy ideas of revenge – they were brilliant, like a breath of fresh air! What I also so adored in this character was the fact that she was so very honest with the readers about her life – she might have kept some secrets from her friends and family but we were able to get to know every aspect of her (not so) perfect life. It was in fact a great author’s move as we really got to know Katie, got to understand why she was feeling like this and what was it that made her tick like this.
And of course all the other characters – brilliantly written, well drawn, thoroughly developed with all their ups and downs, all the flaws and problems but also sounding incredibly realistic – I mean, who of us has never lied about their lives, hm?

The setting of this story couldn’t be better and more different, as we are taken from London to a Somerset farm. Sophie Kinsella has brilliantly captured the difference between those places and when she was writing about commuting in London I had a feeling that I am on this train, squeezed between thousands of people, and when she was writing about the farm I had no problems to visualize this gorgeous place and right now there is nothing more that I want than spent my holidays glamping with Farmer Mick. And those two different places also perfectly symbolized Katie’s life.

As usual, there was a romance aspect in this story and it was great. It was just the right amount of romance, and it felt so genuine, guys – not too forced, not too pushed, a little awkward, with characters’ jumping to conclusions, but also not at all predictable and it could go many ways. It wasn’t overdone, it didn’t monopolise the story – simply, there was just the right amount of love in the air.

I really appreciated the little “mystery” that the author embroiled into the plot, even though I really quickly guessed who and why was it. But it made the story even more hooking, to be honest. I also adored Kate’s relationship with her father and her step – mother Biddy! Those two were so great and oh my word, they tried so much when it came to London and Katie, and it just showed how much they loved this girl. Katie’s father Mick was hilarious with his business’ ideas. And the writing was warm, inviting and incredibly vivid.

But the story was of course not as straight – forward as we at first can think! It changes tracks and offers us many twists and turns and Katie often discovers that things are not as simple as they at first appear. And I loved those changes! They took the book to a totally different level, made the story unpredictable and – to my delight – hilarious, and reading about the chaos Katie left behind, about the revenge made me laugh so much. The way the author started to show us the other side to the story was done perfectly and it was a real, great surprise to see all those twists.

“My Not So perfect Life” was a great story about finding what you really want to do with your life, about finding yourself, finding your identity, becoming an adult, taking responsibility, about communication and appearances, teaching us a lesson that it doesn’t always look like it really is and that not always other people have better lives. It was finally a book with difference, which made reading this little bit more delightful – while I do love some good recipes and descriptions of the food there was nothing of this sort in this story and guys, believe me, it made such a big difference, and I enjoyed this fact so, so much! It was relaxing, easy read – maybe a little more serious in tone in comparison to the other Kinsella’s books but still full of her trademark humour and lovely characters that we root for. Highly recommended!

The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even by Anna Bell

The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even by Anna Bell

 

33784968Publisher: Zaffre

Publishing Date: 26th January 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 432

Genre: Romance,  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

‘Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella’. Another hilarious and heart-warming romantic comedy from bestselling author Anna Bell

When Lexi’s sport-mad boyfriend Will skips her friend’s wedding to watch football – after pretending to have food poisoning – it might just be the final whistle for their relationship.

But fed up of just getting mad, Lexi decides to even the score. And, when a couple of lost tickets and an ‘accidentally’ broken television lead to them spending extra time together, she’s delighted to realise that revenge might be the best thing that’s happened to their relationship.

And if her clever acts of sabotage prove to be a popular subject for her blog, what harm can that do? It’s not as if he’ll ever find out . . .

Rating: 5/5

“The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even” is one of the best titles ever, and when you read out loud it sounds even better – just try it! I love this alliteration – at least I think it is the name of the thing when every word starts with the same letter? Whatever, alliteration or not, if the book was written by someone else and had the same title, I’d buy it quick as a flash. That the author is Anna Bell is just a very, very nice bonus – with every new release her books are getting better and better and soon I will have to stretch out my rating to 10 stars because five are really not enough!

This book is a pure entertainment and every page has made me smile. I immediately warmed to our main character, Lexi. I loved her ideas of revenge, they were refreshing, unusual and totally entertaining, and if I weren’t so annoyed with Will I’d feel sorry for him, as he was so unsuspecting, and really, seeing how he’s wandering into the little web that Lexi has planned, just like an innocent lamb into a lions den, well… It made me really anxious to see what’s going to happen and what the outcome would be. Although I personally am not sure if I could live with such a boyfriend as Will was. There is being a sport fan and being a sport fan. I mean, I love many things in my life but I don’t just conveniently forget about everything or fake sickness to entertain myself. Although when reading reviews for this book I came across a few of them where their authors say that they know/live with such sport – obsessed Wills themselves, so as much as it was almost unbelievable for me, maybe it really happens in real life.

But I enjoyed every single second of this novel. Really. Following Lexi and Will around London and then Barbados was brilliant. I admired Lexi’s patience at fitting her life around Will’s game of darts (darts! I mean DARTS! I can understand football, and even cricket, especially when it is played on Barbados, but darts??? It is for me equally with cycling and bobsleigh on the boring – scale), and I really admired the fact that it took her so long to try and plot a revenge for her sport – obsessed boyfriend.

This book is written with such a natural way, with tons of natural humour, and it was flowing so effortlessly. There was such a great, positive vibe to this book and the feel – good factor, and I finished it grinning and feeling so warm inside. I love Anna Bell’s writing style so much, it’s warm, descriptive, vivid, bubbly and the way she tells the story is absolutely hooking. She has made out of this story an exceptionally good one. For me it was also not so predictable. I could never tell which way it’s going to go, what’s going to happen, what Lexi is going to plan, how far she’s going to go and if Will will eventually either spot something or go even further with his obsession. It was full of confusions and unexpected embarrassing situations and I loved it! This book, light, heart – warming rom – com, has really had it all: humour, romance, a little drama at the end, brilliantly developed characters and a storyline in which the main character starts to realise that no matter how much she loves her boyfriend, they must change something. Highly recommended!
And lovely Anna, thank you so much for the special “thank yous” in your Acknowledgements! Means TONS!

The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts by Jennifer Joyce

The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts by Jennifer Joyce

 

33021538Publisher: HQ Digital

Publishing Date: 8th February 2016

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 238

Genre: Romance,  Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle

 

Synopsis:

A deliciously charming romance, perfect for fans of Caroline Roberts, Jane Linfoot and Debbie Johnson.

From fairy cakes to first dates!

Maddie Lamington’s dreams are crumbling around her. If she doesn’t come up with a plan to save her little teashop on Sweet Street soon, it might be too late…

So when she sees how the perfect apple crumble brings together her lonely father and faithful customer Birdie, inspiration strikes: she’ll set up a dating night involving all her sweetest bakes.

Luckily, seriously gorgeous Caleb is on hand to help sprinkle a little magic – and a lot of sugar! Could one night of scrumptious first dates fix Maddie’s heartbreak and save her beloved teashop, too?

Rating: 3/5

The first moment I spotted this book at NetGalley I thought, what? The same title? Of course not, only a very similar one to the one and only “The Lonely Bookshop of Lonely Hearts” by Annie Darling. I think, as much as I love chick – lit and books set in bookshops, teashops and cafes, that the idea is slowly being over – used. Do the authors continue write such books because the formula proved to be very popular? I, of course, don’t mean this particular novel – because if I were tired of such themed books I wouldn’t request them – I am only talking in general. I requested “The Little Teashop of Broken Hearts” because a) I love Jennifer Joyce’s writing, b) the synopsis was really promising and c) just have a looked at this gorgeous cover. I know. I KNOW.

Even though the book sticks wholly to the trend of making the heroine of the story an owner of a coffee shop/cafe/bookshop etc it was a lovely read ticking all the boxes for your normal chick – lit novel. Maddie Lamington has finally fulfilled her dream of owning a little cafe. The only problem is that it is tucked somewhere down a little street and nobody, except for a few regulars, has heard about Sweet Street Cafe. So Maddie has to think of something to let her keep on her dream – and fast! So what do you get when you combine speed dating and cakes, hmmm? A truly interesting idea, don’t you think? However, right after finishing this book I can’t stop feeling that the whole story was built around this idea that was then not developed. We hear tons about organizing the event, collecting the forms but where are the dates? And what was their outcome?
And till the end of this book I didn’t know who is who. There were so many supporting characters and I often felt confused. When I had to put this book away and started reading again and some name was mentioned, it often happened that I was thinking it is a new character that was never mentioned before. I just couldn’t grasp in what relationship they all stand to each other and what was the point of for example Rehana and George?

I really liked the romances in this story. The relationships between Mags and Owen and Maddie and Caleb took their time, had their ups and downs, didn’t feel rushed and of course they could go two ways. There was not a sign of this over – used will they/won’t they game and still the author has created two very realistic, heart – warming, blossoming romances. What was also great was the fact that the characters didn’t fell in love after five minutes with love conquering everything.

Of course there were many things that happened very conveniently, just like this with the magazine feature or the TV crew. Also, there were moments that the story dragged too much for my liking and I had a feeling that we’re staying in one place, that nothing’s changing. But basically, there was nothing wrong with this book but also nothing that made it outstanding, and I think Jennifer Joyce has already proved with her previous books that she can do better. But of course I enjoyed it. Maddie’s character was larger than life, lovely and inviting.

So as already mentioned, the book has it all: many lovely characters, a little romance or two, or even three, it’s light – hearted with some twists and many mouth – watering descriptions of cakes. Light, predictable and easy read that makes you crave for a cupcake. Or two. Or apple pie. Charming, sweet, without adding unnecessary drama and altogether I enjoyed it.