Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom (Blog Tour + Guest Post)

Alone Time by Stephanie Rosenbloom

 

33295222Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 14th June 2018

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

Number of pages: 288

Genre: Travel, Non – Fiction, Memoir

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

A wise, passionate account of the pleasures of travelling solo

In our increasingly frantic daily lives, many people are genuinely fearful of the prospect of solitude, but time alone can be both rich and restorative, especially when travelling. Through on-the-ground reporting and recounting the experiences of artists, writers, and innovators who cherished solitude, Stephanie Rosenbloom considers how being alone as a traveller–and even in one’s own city–is conducive to becoming acutely aware of the sensual details of the world–patterns, textures, colors, tastes, sounds–in ways that are difficult to do in the company of others.

Alone Time is divided into four parts, each set in a different city, in a different season, in a single year. The destinations–Paris, Istanbul, Florence, New York–are all pedestrian-friendly, allowing travelers to slow down and appreciate casual pleasures instead of hurtling through museums and posting photos to Instagram. Each section spotlights a different theme associated with the joys and benefits of time alone and how it can enable people to enrich their lives–facilitating creativity, learning, self-reliance, as well as the ability to experiment and change. Rosenbloom incorporates insights from psychologists and sociologists who have studied solitude and happiness, and explores such topics as dining alone, learning to savor, discovering interests and passions, and finding or creating silent spaces. Her engaging and elegant prose makes Alone Time as warmly intimate an account as the details of a trip shared by a beloved friend–and will have its many readers eager to set off on their own solo adventures.

Rating: four-stars

Stephanie Rosenbloom has done a thing that I’m dreaming about – she’s travelled alone to four different cities. I don’t actually have to travel around the world but being alone is high on my list of priorities. You know, I’m actually never alone, there is always someone around me, be it at work or at home, and a solitary minute is like a Utopia Island. I think I wouldn’t be afraid of travelling alone, I’d enjoy every single minute and use it in exactly the same way Stephanie Rosenbloom did. 

I usually don’t read books like “Alone Time”, which is a shame as I actually found this book informative and entertaining, interesting and refreshing. I absolutely admire how much research must have gone into the story, as it is full of facts and references – some of them I found amusing and interesting, and I’d do without the others but altogether it was something different and I truly learnt from this book. 

The author takes us on a journey through four cities – Paris, Istanbul, Florence and New York, during four seasons. There were incredibly vivid descriptions of food that made my mouth water, beautiful settings and descriptions of places and of course people the author has met during her travels. This all will give you solitude and courage to perhaps travel alone one day and enjoy your own company, to focus on things we usually take for granted instead of appreciating. It will show you that it is really worth to slow down and open your eyes and your tastes. And it will show you how great it is to make your own marks and memories. Full of tips and resources, it’s really worth reading, not only when you’re planning a solo excursion. It felt so relaxed, and it was also very well written . Stephanie Rosenbloom’s writing style is warm and inviting, insightful and it pulls you into the book. It is also full of depth but the author knows when to add a relaxed anecdote to make it even easier to follow and for us not to feel too overwhelmed with the facts.. I must also mention the gorgeous cover of this book – it’s simple but beautiful, and the blue colour is one of the most brilliant and friendly ones. It will be for sure standing out on the bookshelves.

Let’s stop in Florence for a moment – this stop was full of art. I loved the precise descriptions, the slow motion, the no – hurry, to see Florence through Stephanie Rosenbloom’s eyes like this. The one or two anecdotes or memories were an added bonus, of course, the secret place so worth mention. This destination was beautifully described, with so much heart and soul in every word, and the educational part was truly well balanced by humour and sharp observations.
Stephanie Rosenbloom has visited Florence in autumn and the descriptions of trees glowing yellow in the sunshine were so vivid, as well the descriptions of food and streets, and I really didn’t know there are streets like Death, Hell and The Way of the Discontented in Tuscany – but this book is so much more than a travel guide. Many great names are being mentioned in this chapter, just think about Michelangelo, Padre Pinocchio, The Birth of Venus, and I would really take someone’s arm off to see those things with my own eyes. There were brilliant, interesting facts mentioned that I would probably never hear about if I hadn’t read this book, and it was full of clever insights and observations. And now also check what 5 things you just have to see when in Florence:

 

Five Things Not to Miss in Florence Ex: Stephanie Rosenbloom

 FLORENCE

–The Uffizi is a must, as is the Vasari Corridor, the hidden passageway lined with some of the world’s best-known self-portraits— that is if you can get in. Still, even if you can’t, the Uffizi is unrivaled for Renaissance masterworks, including its leading lady: Botticelli’s Venus.

–Never mind the Piazza Michelangelo. Cross the Oltrarno and climb the hills to the Basilica of San Miniato, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the old city and the Duomo. While you’re there, go behind the basilica to visit the beautiful old cemetery, where a mausoleum houses the remains of Carlo Collodi, the author of Pinocchio.

–In the evenings, the city is alive with music. But there’s no need for formalities. Take yourself to a small church for a casual concert, as special as any in a grand concert hall.

–After hours inside some of the world’s most ornate museums and churches, get outside and wander amid the sculptures, grottos, and fountains of the regal Boboli Gardens.

–Yes, everyone goes to see Michelangelo’s David— and with good reason. Don’t miss the Galleria dell’Accademia. It’s one thing to see photos of the David, but quite another experience (and a moving one at that), to stand beside it.

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The Scent of You by Maggie Alderson (Blog Tour)

Hi guys, hope you are all well. Today I am thrilled to have a wonderful guest post from Maggie Alderson for you. Maggie’s brand new novel “The Scent of You” is out tomorrow in paperback, published by Harper Collins, and this book has a) a brilliant, brilliant cover and b) a fantastic premise and I am dying to read it! In the meantime I have, as already above mentioned, a guest post from the author on “The Seven Mysteries of Writing a Novel” – out your feet high and enjoy!

 

The Seven Mysteries of Writing a Novel 510wwk9m1vl-_sx321_bo1204203200_

By Maggie Alderson

I can’t quite believe that The Scent of You is my tenth novel. And what I find particularly bewildering is that although I’ve done it so many times, I still make the same mistakes. Every time.

 I charge into a new book in a frenzy, never planning anything, never doing a time line, a map of where everyone lives, or a list of the relative ages in families, until I’m about 30,000 words in.

 That was interesting when the family in question was a modern jigsaw of numerous half and step siblings in Cents and Sensibility (my fourth one). I realised half way through writing the first draft, when I did finally do a timeline, that I was going to have to make my heroine ten years younger than I’d wanted her to be. Oops.

 So as I am about to start my eleventh book, I thought this was a good moment to ponder over what I’ve learned over all the years of writing in the hope it might help stop me making the same mistakes again – and hopefully give some insights to anyone else who might be thinking of embarking on their own fiction adventure.

 

  • Starting it

I remember very clearly when the first of my contemporaries wrote a novel – and got a publisher. I was in awe, dreaming of writing a book myself one day, but too scared to start in case I found I couldn’t do it.

‘How long did it take you to write it?’ I asked him.

‘Six months,’ he replied. ‘And thirty two years…’

That remark returns to me every time I’m writing a book and I’ve allowed myself to get hoity toity about how clever I am making all this stuff up….

Because one day I will have a blinding flash of revelation when I understand exactly what things in my own life have fed into what I’m writing. Even if it’s about rich beautiful people living lives I can only dream, the seed of it comes directly from things I have experienced.

So really, you’re starting a novel every moment of your life. I think of it as adding stuff to the stock pot in my brain, which will later come out as something that seems completely different, but is really that bit of onion I chucked in earlier.

To keep this stock pot topped up, between books I try and have lots of new experiences – visiting new cities, exhibitions, books and any kind of random experience I can have. Once I’m writing a book, I don’t do anything except write the book, so I have to cram it in while I can in between.

 

  • Making it up

This was one of the hardest things for me to do when I started my first novel, Pants on Fire. I’d been making my living as a journalist for about fifteen years by then and sticking to the facts and the quotes was part of my DNA.

In the end I signed up for a Fiction Writing evening course at Sydney University (it was while I was living in Australia) and although I only went to three of them it freed me up to let go and make it up… It was so exhilarating when I first allowed myself to trust it, like jumping onto a flume ride.

 

  • Finding the characters

They seem to find me. When I start a book I know who my heroine is, she’s my starting point. I have an idea what she looks like and I know what she does – that gives me the milieu for the book. Apart from that, I have no idea who else is in it until they stroll onto the page.

I always remember when I was writing my second book Mad About the Boy (not be confused with the more recent Helen Fielding of the same title). The doorbell rang (in the book, not my doorbell) and I had no idea who was going to be behind it until my heroine opened the door.

It turned out to be Uncle Percy, who remains one of my very favourites of all my characters.

Another way I find them is by pulling pictures of people out of magazines and seeing which ones ‘speak’ to me – a technique I discovered after I stuck a picture of a hot guy on the wall over my desk just to gaze at and he walked into the book.

 

  • Staying seated

Sometimes it takes every bit of willpower I can summon to keep my bum stuck to my chair. Music helps me, tea helps me, biscuits help me – then carrot sticks, after I’ve put on half a stone – looking at my phone does not help me. I don’t have wifi on the laptop I write on and put my phone on the other side of the room.

Conversely, sometimes going out for a walk, or a look at the shops helps me stay seated later. I get the urge to flee out of my system by fleeing and then when I come back staying seated doesn’t seem so hard.

 

  • Finishing it

See point 4. It’s the only way. Stay seated, or at least stay in the room – some people write standing up, Hemingway did – and keep going.

 

  • Getting over writer’s block

There are always sticking points when writing a book, when it feels like someone has turned the tap off. That’s when I run to my books about writing.

The first one I reach for is Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It’s a masterpiece. It was originally an article in Esquire (you can Google it), but I have a little hardback book of it which takes about 20 minutes to read. It always makes me roar with laughter and usually eager to get back to the fray.

Leonard’s first sentence is: ‘Never open a book with the weather.’

My all-time favourite is Stephen King’s On Writing (which David Walliams also cites as a great influence), which is a work of pure genius.

I have another one called Dear Writer, by Carmel Bird, which I find very useful for practical tips on the craft of writing – tense, point of view etc.

My other stalwart is David Lodge’s The Art of Fiction, which is so beautifully written and has a wonderfully varied collection of passages in it, one to illustrate each point.

The section from Catcher In the Rye to discuss skat dialogue entirely created the character of the outrageously dreadful – but actually very vulnerable – daughter Theo, in my book Shall We Dance?

 

  • Surviving editing

Or as I like to call it – re-eating your own vomit. That’s about how enjoyable I find that part of the process. It’s entirely my own fault. If I planned my books more carefully and didn’t write them at high speed as though I am trying to beat Jack Kerouac to the world record, editing wouldn’t be such a trial.

But while I always suffer great editing agonies, it’s always worth it for the feeling of utter elation that comes when I finish. And the book is always exponentially better for it.

I can’t wait to get started on the next one.

 

Love Among the Treetops by Catherine Ferguson / #BlogTour + Guest Post

Hi amigos, hope you’re doing great – it’s Friyay!  And Easter is coming! To put you in a right mood, and as it’s my turn on the Catherine Ferguson’s blog tour – we are celebrating the reelase of her new novel, “Love Among the Treetops” – I have a brilliant guest post from the lovely author herself. Put your feet high, pour yourself a glass of something bubbly and enjoy!

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Catherine Ferguson

 

 

Five Things I’ve Learned . . .

 

When you’re starting out on your writing journey, it’s very much a case of trying things out and seeing what works for you and what doesn’t. I’ve been writing for HarperCollins Avon for three years now, and during that time, I’ve learned a lot about the process of creating a book – and a lot about what works best for me:

           

I write all my notes in a notebook now.

I used to scribble ideas on scrap paper, but I found that as I’m not the most organised/tidy person in the world, when it came to finding the particular note I needed, it was frequently lost or buried in a pile of other ‘important notes to self’! So now, when I’m starting a new book, I buy a big notebook with a cheery/inspiring cover, and I make sure I write every idea in this book. That way, I can be sure I won’t lose anything vital.

 

First thing in the morning is my best time to be productive

I love early mornings, so maybe that’s why I seem to do my best work then. All I know is that if I have a looming deadline and need to be at my most productive, a sure fire way of making sure I get the required daily number of words under my belt is to make a cup of tea and write the first five hundred words as soon as I wake up (usually propped up against pillows in bed!) Achieving this before breakfast also gives me a huge psychological boost that can carry me on to even greater productivity that day.

 

A daily walk is essential

I’d suspected for a long time that taking a walk during the day did me good, but it’s only recently that I’ve realised it’s not only A Good Thing, it’s actually a no-brainer if I want to write well and think up great characters and plot twists! There’s something incredibly meditative about walking, and for me, it’s the best way to get the ideas flowing freely. So now I incorporate a walk into my writing day as an essential part of it.

 

I start with a basic idea and see where it takes me.

I tried, once, to plan out a book in detail before I started writing. I made a big wall chart and wrote down all the plot advances in little boxes. It looked very impressive. The trouble was, the end result bore very little resemblance to my carefully planned plot! So I’ve learned that the best way for me is to start with a skeleton of an idea, and then just start writing and see where the characters take me. Going with the flow works for me!

 

Most people write bad first drafts

I never realised that most first drafts are rubbish. I honestly thought it was just me. And at first, it used to really scare me, the jumbled mess that used to emerge. But I’ve learned to relax now about the rubbish first draft, because in every case (after a lot of editing) that jumbled mess has been transformed into a book I’m proud of. I used to waste so much time, labouring over my first draft, trying to get it right. I don’t any more!

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A House Full of Secrets by Zoë Miller / #BlogTour + Guest Post

Hi guys, and happy Friday! It’s almost weekend, yuppi! Today I am especially thrilled to welcome Zoë Miller to my blog – Zoë has been my guest in the past already and it is always a real pleasure to have her stopping by. Today, to celebrate the new release “A House Full of Secrets” – which, btw, sounds SO brilliant and I can’t wait to read it – I have a fantastic guest post about location for the story. Enjoy!

 

A HOUSE FULL OF SECRETS:  ON LOCATION

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I’d like to say a big thank you to Agi for hosting me on her wonderful blog, On My Bookshelf.  I’m delighted to be featured here today. This post on the blog tour is all about the magical location for A House Full of Secrets. I hope you enjoy it, Zoë x

In A House Full of Secrets, Vikki accepts an invitation from her good friend Niall to accompany him to his family weekend reunion in Lynes Glen, his childhood home in a remote part of Ireland.  The county of Mayo, where Lynes Glen is located, is part of the Wild Atlantic Way, one the world’s longest defined coastal touring route that encompasses the breath-taking wilderness of the west coast of Ireland.

I’m fortunate to have been there; I’ve strolled along golden, secluded beaches and breathed the invigorating air, feeling as though I was walking along the edge of the world. I’ve marvelled at the savage beauty of majestic mountains, the lush, swooping valleys, the heather-coated hills. It is a landscape dotted with stone bridges arching over crystal mountain streams, and narrow, solitary roads that twist and wind into infinity around the never-ending folds and curves in the landscape. Then when I was reading a magazine article about the magic of county Mayo, the wonder of it all came back to me, and even before I got to the part where the article saidthat wifi could be a problem in certain spots, the seeds of the story were planted in my heart.

Drop an estranged family who are forced to spend time together in the sheer remoteness of it all for a long weekend, together with little or no connectivity to the outside world, and you have all sorts of story possibilities.

The beautiful and remote location is a character in itself and supports the plot. It is a soulful landscape that helped to forge the character of Leo, the patriarch of the family, it brings him peace and inspiration, and it forms the backdrop to his love affair with the dazzling Gabrielle.

On a sunny Friday afternoon, Vikki flies from London into Knock airport, hoping the weekend with Niall will help move their friendship up to the next level. She’d always sensed something different about him, compared to her London mates, but as soon as they begin the drive to Lynes Glen, she realises that, growing up in this remote and beautiful place, Niall’s background is totally at odds with hers, and before she even reaches Lynes Glen andmeets Niall’s enigmatic sister, Lainey and his estranged brother Alex, she feels uneasy at the difference between them. It is a gulf that only widens as the weekend progresses and they spend time revisiting the haunts of Niall’s childhood against a stunning landscapesoaked in memories and teeming with secrets and shadows.

The brooding mountain summit that the house backs on to, the trail though the forest, the lough that’s out of bounds, barricaded with fallen tree trunks, old gates, encroaching nature,and a crumbling ‘Danger: Keep out’ sign,  all provide a sense of mystery and support a haunting atmosphere. It is an atmosphere in which the showing up of a ghost and a mysterious woman by the lough don’t seem inconceivable at all.

But when an Atlantic storm begins to rage, marooning the family in a world of their own, Vikki swiftly discovers that a Lynes Glen glazed in lemony-coloured sunshine is a very different proposition to a remote house battered with howling gale force winds, and surrounded by murky veils of cloud and rain, where strange incidents are taking place.

And that’s even before the family begin to realise that one of them is lying and someone is hell benton exacting revenge for past hurts…

© 2018 Zoë Miller

About the book:
 
Title: A House Full of Secrets by Zoë Miller
Published: February 1st 2018 by Hachette Ireland
Synopsis:
 All she sees is the perfect man – but what is he hiding?
An invitation to visit Niall’s childhood home is too good an opportunity for Vikki to pass up. This is the chance she’s been waiting for to get closer to her friend, and to meet the family he’s always been so cryptic about.
But when Vikki arrives at the beautiful but remote Lynes Glen on Ireland’s west coast, and finally meets Niall’s estranged brother Alex and his overbearing sister Lainey, she realises that this reunion will be far from heart-warming.
As Vikki fails to convince any of them that she saw a mysterious woman at the lake – off-limits since a tragic accident – strange and sinister incidents begin to happen at the Blake family home. What secrets are they keeping? And why exactly did Niall ask Vikki to join him for the weekend?

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The Intruder by P.S. Hogan – #BlogTour

Hi guys – today is the last day of January – did you also have the feeling that it is the longest month ever? Awfully long. It’s great that we have some great books to read at least.

And of of such great books is for sure “The Intruder” by P.S. Hogan. I am deep into the story and guys, really, it’s so creepy and so unputdownable, keep your eyes peeled for my review in the next days. Today I have a post about the inspiration for the book. I always worry that the inspiration – question is the most cliched one but I am also always incredibly curious what has driven the authors to write the stories. So here it is – enjoy!

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The Inspiration for THE INTRUDER

 

It’s hard to pin down the moment that William Heming sprang into being. You could say he coalesced rather than sprang, though there must have been a point in the thinking process when he started to seem knowable; a point where you might predict what he would do next. Like most fictional characters, Heming is a product as much of accident as design, knocked and pulled together by other elements of a book in its endless early making and unmaking – its still-shaky structure, unsettled foundations, and other unformed characters all bumping about trying to get noticed.

One of the illusions of having completed your book is to persuade yourself that the characters you created were there all along; that you just had to make them talk and maybe kill or have sex with one another. The truth is that for much of the time you’re closing your eyes and ears and hoping for the best. Unless that’s just me. I won’t pretend that a lot of the process didn’t involve spiking the drinks of my friends, dragging them to a dark cell (or corner of a pub) and forcing them to help me out of some inescapable narrative hole I had dug for myself.

My wife once told me about a cousin or aunt or sister-in-law who’d had a ceramic artwork stolen from her house. The house had been up for sale and the culprit, it turned out much later, was a man showing buyers around the place on behalf of the estate agent. It turned out too (perhaps he had appeared in court – I don’t know) that the man was a retired policeman. Apparently, it is not uncommon for agents to retain trusted, personable individuals to open up properties on an ad hoc basis.

Our man seemed interesting. The ceramic artwork had not been worth much – but then perhaps nothing he had stolen was worth much (I assumed the thieving had become a habit). I started to wonder what deep-lying psychological impulse was behind his behaviour. Maybe he had been drummed out of the force unfairly and wanted some sort of twisted revenge – certainly that was a way into a novel. Perhaps he had it in his mind to commit crimes, and then – yes! – solve them, to the astonishment of his slow-witted former colleagues, perhaps with the finger of blame left pointing at some real corrupt officer of the law. I really didn’t want to write about a policeman, though.

I wanted to write about someone ordinary, or rather someone who looked ordinary but wasn’t. And, given that, wouldn’t it be simpler, I thought, just to make a thief out of an estate agent himself – a person who had access to other people’s houses all the time? Thievery was not enough though. Other acts of mischief came to mind. I dwelt for some time on that notion of revenge – or, more attractive, that spirit of the citizen vigilante whereby one man might utterly destroy another man’s morale and life as punishment for crimes against good manners. (Some of that spirit remains, of course.)

For a long time, too, I envisaged Heming as a conventionally weird villain, but this unhelpfully kept suggesting a focus on the detective trying to track him down – the dogged pursuer finally kicking down the door of Heming’s secret lair to reveal his gleaming, obsessive secrets. Eventually I realized the boot was on the wrong foot. It was Heming who needed to tell the story. It was he who needed to do the revealing. And the questions would be more fundamental. What was his story? Where had he come from? What was his problem? And – what consistency could I bring to his character as a result of finding out these things?

Anyway, that was the beginning. That’s when Heming moved in, hollowing out a space in my head – the dusty attic of my idling thoughts – creating doubt and havoc, fiddling with the lights, making a nonsense of my great ideas when I was asleep or making me forget things at the supermarket. That was him as he turned out: insidious, discreet– and so quiet, of course, you wouldn’t have known he was there at all.

 P. S. Hogan

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The Girl Before by JP Delaney / #BlogTour + Guest Post

Hi guys, and happy Saturday. I was supposed to post my entry yesterday and I am so, so sorry for not doing it but I’ve spent unexpected three hours at the doctor with my daughter and I wasn’t able to think about anything other. APOLOGIES! It doesn’t usually happen and I feel really, really bad.

“The Girl Before” by JP Delaney was published in hardcover last year and this year sees the publication of the paperback. I read this book last year and let me tell you this, guys, it was one of the best books – absolutely unique, intriguing and captivating. Today I also have something very special for you – have you ever wondered how the application form to test your suitability look like? Ha, I thought so – me too! Scroll down for the guest post!

The Girl Before by JP Delaney

 

 

untitledPublisher: Quercus

Publishing Date: 25th January 2018

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

Number of pages: 448

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?

For all fans of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl comes this spellbinding Hitchcockian thriller which takes psychological suspense to the next level

Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

Following in the footsteps of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, The Girl Before is being brought to the big screen. The film is set to be directed by Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard.

Rating: five-stars

When choosing a book to read I often follow my gut feeling, especially when it comes to the authors that I don’t know – although JP Delaney is a pen name for a best – selling author, and when reading “The Girl Before” I was looking for any hallmarks but I didn’t guess the real name – and when spotting this book I just had a feeling that this could be THE read. And well, yes, it turned out that I should trust my gut feeling as the book was totally engrossing and kept me glued to the pages. “The Girl Before” was a provocative, incredibly smart story about controlling and manipulations, making reader to ask who is reliable there and whom shall we trust.

Now. “The Girl Before”. We can start debating who the hell would go and live voluntarily in a house with 200 stipulations including no pets (no way), no children, no cushions, no curtains, no personal things on the floor, no books (hello?). And yet they signed on the dotted line. The house itself is an example of minimalism and the latest and best home technology, adjusting itself to the weather, temperature and probably the mood of the inhabitants. Originally designed by Edward Monkton as his family home but there was an accident on the site when his wife and his young son died. Also, he is the one who, after interviewing the prospective renters, is to decide if they’re going to live there or not. Weird, no? Who in their right mind would go for something like this? I wouldn’t, and I don’t want to go into this debate, but I thought that it is a brilliant and unique idea and premise for a book. For me the book sounded unique, not like others books that I read, and the only thing that didn’t work so good for me was the end, that sounded too Disney-like and somehow didn’t sit with the book. However, this is probably the only thing that I’m going to criticise. There were maybe some things that made me feel uncomfortable, just like building the house on the grave or some scenes with abuse – both human and animal – but nothing that would make me cringe.

The story alternates between Emma (Then) and Jane (Now), and the chapters were short and dynamic and it also made the story flow and reading much quicker. It was also the writing that makes this book so outstanding. It is sparse, but it is incredibly hooking and just beautiful – we can say just like the house! It just feels like the house, to be honest, white and with no barriers or unnecessary things and beautiful in its frugality. The way the stories of Emma and Jane mirrored made me feel a little claustrophobic and insecure, to be honest, it brought a lot of tension and changed my perspective more than once.
I loved how the story was divided between the two points of view. Both of them were in the first person but I’ve never had a problem to see who’s speaking. Duh, the chapters did have titles with the name of the characters! I also liked the way both stories were interwoven and how quickly and effortlessly they picked up when the other has just finished. Really, as the chapters flip back and forth the similarities between the women and their lives started to feel suspicious and somehow creepy, and it was obvious that eventually I’ll start to suspect Edward as well.

I think the characters there are not created to be liked by the readers. Their decisions didn’t help to warm to them, and it is not that I had problems with the characters but I did think that both the women, Emma and Jane, were incredibly naive. There were thousands of warning bells that they chose to ignore and the way they meekly agreed to be controlled by both house and Edward was remarkable and odd. I mean, allowing a man to control your diet and exercise? No, thank you. It was even more surprising that they were like lambs because they were both relatively troubled women and they should know better.
The house on One Folgate was like a living and breathing character itself, to be honest. I really started to believe that the house is trying to destroy the ones it doesn’t approve of, that it controls the lives. It was truly extraordinary how the author managed to create this special, claustrophobic atmosphere of this place.

It is not a book that is destined to make you scared or look over your shoulder. It is a book that is destined to make you feel tension and suspense, keep you in the dark and play with your mind. It is a slow burner, this novel, but with this kind of book it shouldn’t be different – well, you can’t expect the biggest twist to be explained on the first pages, right. No, you’re expecting it to grow slowly in tension, to change tracks, to pull wool over your eyes, and “The Girl Before” just does it. However, as the circle of suspects was very limited in the novel, the end didn’t come as such a BIG surprise, although the last quarter of the story truly meddled with my mind and made me change my opinion about some characters.

Because of the slow pace it takes some time for the book to really pick up, and it happens when Jane discovers that someone died in the house before, and it also takes time for Emma to start to feel afraid. However, even with it taking time, for me it was engaging, interesting and unusual read. The way the story developed was very masterfully and skilfully plotted and organized and I absolutely admired this feeling of dread that the author smuggled onto the pages.

This is a story about secrets, lies and appearances that can often be deceiving. It is one huge rollercoaster ride full of ups and downs and there was something very special in it and I didn’t want to put it down. It is an engrossing mystery, even if the characters are not too likeable – but they don’t have to be in this kind of story. It is good enough that they are multi – layered, they are very complex and I think that no matter what, we never know if they’re telling the truth or if they’re hiding something. It was a thought – provoking, addictive and a clever read, multi – layered with many surprises and I highly recommend “The Girl Before” to you.

GUEST POST

On applying to live at One Folgate Street:

The Girl Before is a book about a house, One Folgate Street. I’ve always loved books with houses at their core, from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca to Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day. This particular house is unusual because it’s been built by a minimalist architect, and in order to rent it you have to sign up to over 200 rules – everything from ‘no curtains’ to ‘no pets’ – and complete a questionnaire designed to test your suitability.

The first question in the application is ‘Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life’, which may be fair enough for a minimalist house.But as the questions go on they get more and more unusual and penetrating – things like: “Would you sacrifice yourself to save ten innocent strangers?’ and ‘What about a thousand innocent strangers?’

Many of the questions are drawn from clinical tools designed to measure things like obsessive perfectionism and moral relativism. You can take the questionnaire yourself, and see how your answers compare with other readers’ – go to

http://www.thegirlbeforebook.com/

and click on ‘Continue Application’ (you’ll need to enter an email address.)

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It Started with a Tweet by Anna Bell – #BlogTour + Guest Post

Hi guys! Hope you’re having a great Monday and if not it’s going to be bettwe right now because I have a brilliant guest post from Anna Bell! Her brand new and shiny “It Started with a Tweet” has just been released as an ebook and will be available in paperback on 28th December, and what can I say guys, it’s a brilliant, humorous book and I loved every single minute of it!

It Started with a Tweet by Anna Bell

 

35091775Publisher: Zaffre

Publishing Date: 7th December 2017

Source:  Received from publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback (out on 28.12.2017)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Can Daisy Hobson log off for love…?

Could you survive a digital detox? This hilarious new romantic comedy from the author of The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart is perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Sophie Kinsella.

Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. A marketing manager by day, she tweets her friends, instagrams every meal and arranges (frankly, appalling) dates on Tinder. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall . . .

Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy’s problems – a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria, that she just happens to need help doing up. Soon, too, Daisy finds herself with two welcome distractions: sexy French exchange-help Alexis, and Jack, the brusque and rugged man-next-door, who keeps accidentally rescuing her.

But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village? And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone?

Rating: five-stars

Anna Bell belongs to my auto – buy authors, guys, and I really don’t need to read the blurb to her new book because I know it’s going to be brilliant and just my cup of tea. I fell in love with her writing style, and her stories are not only incredibly hilarious but also close to life and full of wonderful, livid characters, and I am always waiting impatiently for her new release.

The heroine, Daisy, was such a typical Anna Bell’s character – bubbly and quirky, full of life, always getting in troubles but in the end always learning her lesson, and I bloody loved her. You couldn’t not like her, even though you sometimes wanted to throttle her and feel desperate with her, but mostly she was really a brilliant person. She was honest and straightforward and felt so realistic and when she got herself into this huge trouble I couldn’t help but fell and feel for her, even though it happened of her own making.
Meet Jack. So grumpy and so introverted but oh my word, so gorgeous, so funny and he very quickly became one of my favourite characters in this book. The blossoming relationship between him and Daisy was simply the best, so awkward and so genuine and one of the greatest moments in the story were the letters (yes! Letters! Don’t forget about Daisy being on a detox, and the fact that there was never reception didn’t help as well) that Daisy and Jake sent to each other – oh boy, they were so honest and so funny! It was so heart – warming, and so sweet and I so wanted to bang their heads together sometimes, as – of course! OF COURSE! – nothing is straightforward in life in fiction, right, and there are few bumps and turns on the (muddy) road to their happiness. One of them is the sexy Frenchman Alexis – oh, he’s going to stir up troubles!

Even though I spent endless hours on social networks I hope I’m not as extreme as Daisy, though the story really made me think and I promised myself to cut those hours spent scrolling down on Twitter or Facebook. However, I can go without my phone. Really. Lately I even once forgot to take it with me to work. Yes, I felt funny and insecure but I survived. But maybe it wouldn’t be too bad to go on a digital detox myself? To start see things again? To pay more attention to the outside world? This book is a real eye – opener, guys.

Anna Bell’s writing style is so light and easy. It is chatty and I had a feeling as if someone was recounting me the story and not as if I was reading it. She can so easily engage with her readers, both thanks to the topics she chooses and to her writing style, and it is so easy to connect to her characters and everything she writes about, especially as the social media stuff is such a hot topic nowadays. I think all of us can relate to Daisy, in this way or the other, with her need to stay up to date with all the news on Facebook or Twitter.

“It Started with a Tweet” was such a light, funny and entertaining read but it also touched on some more important and serious issues, and I loved how well Anna Bell interwoven them into the story, how she mixed the light – hearted and heavier stuff together and delivered a brilliant and up – to – date and close to reality story that rings the bell oh so much and that we can relate to. It was full of laugh – out – loud moments and I was all the time smiling when reading it. Full of embarrassing moment and surprises and I couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what’s going to happen next. Another cracker from the lovely Anna Bell – highly recommended!

GUEST POST

How ideas evolve

Every novel has a starting point. A small kernel of an idea that sparks off the project. For It Started With A Tweet it was the idea that the two main characters would fall in love with each other by writing letters. It was a simple idea with a huge question to solve: why would they write letters? Why wouldn’t they speak in person? Why would they not text or use a messaging app? And so the process began . . .

At first I thought I’d set my novel in rural France where I live. Lots of British people move over to France and buy run down properties that they renovate. There are also a lot of people that choose to live off grid and don’t have mobile phones (we often can’t get reception) and don’t have TVs etc. It seemed at first like it would make the perfect setting, but when I started to plan the novel I realised it presented a lot of problems. The villagers would have to be french, would my main character be able to speak the language? The location seemed to create as many problems as it seemed to solve and that’s when I decided to set it in Cumbria.

Cumbria was a great setting as it’s remote enough to suffer from mobile phone black spots and old derelict farmhouses are relatively cheap to buy (compared to other areas in the UK). It was the perfect place and to create an easily believable scenario where my main character could be easily away from having phone and internet. Only something was still niggling at me. Why couldn’t the main character walk into the village and use a phone box? And surely they’d be able to get signal somewhere for her to text. I needed more of an incentive to keep her offline and that’s when the digital detox was born.

The digital detox idea seemed perfect. It gave the book a real focus (and a plot) as the book became about Daisy’s digital addiction and what happened when her sister Rosie forced her offline. The first draft saw Daisy fired from her job because she’d forgotten to send important emails – she was too distracted all the time by her mobile. When I sent it to my editors they loved her digital detox but they felt her reason for going wasn’t strong enough. They suggested that Daisy make a digital faux pas. It was a great idea and I knew almost immediately how it could happen. There’s a scene near the beginning where Daisy goes on the Tinder date from hell and it lent itself beautifully for her to tweet something about the date accidentally from her work account rather than her personal one. It tied the whole novel together instantly and it even lent itself to the title of the book.

It takes roughly eighteen months between the initial idea and the moment I see the finished book on the shelf and the end product is usually unrecognisable. With each draft the ideas evolve and change. I think that’s why I love writing so much – you never know where your ideas are going to take you!

 

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