Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Ones I Didn't Blog - What I've Read This Summer

It's been a crazily busy summer for me, with both my day job and writing/editing my first full length novel taking up a lot of my time and energy.  There's not been much time for reading, let alone reviewing, but I've been logging my reading history for so long that it feels strangely alien not to be doing it!

I'm not going to get the chance to fully review everything I've read recently, and I imagine this lack of time to blog will continue through Winter 2016/2017 as I write my second full length novel (due out next summer).  However, I do plan to keep writing reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, no matter how short they are, as I know firsthand how important reviews are to authors.  The long and short of it is this - I'm going to have to change the way I blog. 

There will be guest posts and cover reveals and (of course) I'll still be writing reviews, but I'm planning on a monthly 'what I've read' post being a staple feature.  I'll post the cover, blurb and a few short thoughts on each book I've read that month, linking to a full review if it's a book I'm particularly passionate about.

However, for today I'm making a list.  I know it's not an exciting read, but it is what it is and all I can do right now.

Recently I've read...

All Aboard - Cressida McLaughlin
Casting Off - Cressida McLaughlin
Picture Perfect - Holly Smale
First Class Murder - Robin Stevens
Kindred Spirits - Rainbow Rowell
Kiss Him, Not Me - Junko (vol 1,2)*
Hot Gimmick - Miki Aihara (vol 1,2,3)*
Paradise Residence - Kosuke Fujishima (vol 1)*
Nehigo - Ken Akamatsu *
Sailor Moon - Naoku Takeuchi (vol 1)*
Flowers and Bees - Moyoco Anno (vol 1)*
Agatha - The Real Life of Agatha Christie - Anne Martinetti*
Maid-sama! - Hiro Fujiwara (vol 1,2)*
Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert
Your Lie in April - Naoshi Arakawa (vol 1)*
If I Was Your Girl - Meredith Russo
Princess Jellyfish - Akiko Higashimura (vol 2)*
Playing the Player - Lisa Brown Roberts
Always with Love - Giovanna Fletcher
London Belongs to Us - Sarra Manning

And I do have a few other reads I plan to write full blog posts for over the next few weeks. 
Books with a * are manga/graphic novels.
Books in bold are ones I particularly loved.

 

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Songs About a Girl - Chris Russell



The Blurb

Heartbreak, romance, fame and pop music - for anyone who's ever dreamed of saying 'I'm with the band'.

Charlie Bloom never wanted to be 'with the band'. She's happiest out of the spotlight, behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. But when she's asked to take backstage photos for hot new boy band, Fire&Lights, she can't pass up the chance.

Catapulted into a world of paparazzi and backstage bickering, Charlie soon becomes caught between gorgeous but damaged frontman Gabriel West and his boy-next-door bandmate, Olly Samson. Then, as the boys' rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles upon a mindblowing secret, hidden in the lyrics of their songs ...

The Review

It's no secret that I'm a total fangirl.  Bands, especially boybands, are my thing, and I'm not ashamed of that.  I also adore YA books with a musical element so I'm delighted there's been a bit of a boom in 'Boyband Lit' during 2016.

Chris Russell's debut novel Songs About a Girl follows Charlie Bloom as she becomes a backstage photographer for Fire&Lights.  She knows they're ordinary lads in an extraordinary situation - she sort-of-knew band member Olly before he became famous as they went to the same school - but although Fire&Lights are the hottest group on the planet right now, Charlie has no desire to be a groupie.  All she wants is the opportunity to improve her photography skills.

As the novel progresses Charlie learns more about each band member, discovering both their flaws and strengths as she sees them in and out of the spotlight.  Yet it's only as secrets reveal themselves that she realises just how bound she is to Fire&Lights...

I loved the themes in this book - friendship, trust, finding youself - and thought Russell did a brilliant job of capturing the essence of what it means to be a fan.  As a musician himself, I'm sure he drew on his own experiences of being on stage and also watching live bands when writing the scenes where Fire&Lights perform - these are some of the strongest in the book, perfectly encapsulating the unique experience of gathering with likeminded people to enjoy the shared experience of a gig.

This book is a mustread for any fangirl and is one of my books of the summer.  I'm already bursting for the next book in the series to be released to find out what's in store for Charlie and the boys!

Songs About a Girl is out now in both ebook and paperback.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a galley copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

One Last Summer at Hideaway Bay - Zoe Cook

The Blurb

Secrets lie waiting beneath the Cornish waves in this moving and unforgettable love story. Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, Kelly Rimmer and Jojo Moyes.

Lucy, hi. It’s Tom. How are you? It’s been a while. I’ve been meaning to get in touch but it’s hard to know how to after so much time. I hear you’re doing really well up there. I knew you would be.
You should come here, you know, back to Hideaway bay. Come and see everyone, see how little it’s all changed. Feel the sand between your toes, the Cornish sea breeze on your face. When the sun hits the surf in that way it does, it’s as magical as ever.

That’s why I’m writing to you, actually. I want to get the gang back together again, one last time before…well…just one last time. You should come too. The four of us, a summer on the beach, like old times. We all want you here for it. I want you here for it. It’s been so long since I saw you.

I still think about you.

Tom

The Review

I read this book as part of the Harper Impulse #SummerImpulse readathon and was very keen to get stuck in.  Bloggers and reviewers have been speaking highly of this debut novel from Zoe Cook and I was excited to see if it lived up to the hype.

The story starts with Lucy living the high life in London.  Outwardly, it looks like she's got the lot - a glamorous job, a party lifestyle, and a group of friends who share her recreational drug use habit - but as she reflects on life following contact from her childhood sweetheart Tom, she realises that maybe it's all a façade.  As Lucy heads home to Cornwall's Hideaway Bay, she's unprepared for the life-changing summer that lies ahead...

The first section of the novel set the scene and gave an overview of Lucy's chaotic London lifestyle, which contrasted well with the quieter pace of Cornwall life depicted later in the book.  Personally, I felt the London section could have been slightly shorter and still amply given the juxtaposition between the two settings. I think I was ready to be whisked to Cornwall earlier in the story given the summery cover and blurb.

Lucy is not always a likeable protagonist, but that didn't detract from the empathy I felt towards her. If anything it made her seem a rounded, 'human' character and more believable.  Tom was definitely the easier to warm to of the two main characters.  I liked the periphery characters too, and would love to find out more about their backstories in sister novels.

I'd heard other readers say they'd sobbed at the ending and I'd prepared myself to crumble as I reached the final pages, but although moved by the end of the book, I didn't actually shed a tear.  I think maybe I'd prepared myself for a devastating tear-jerker ending and had steeled myself up before reaching the end!

This book may appeal to fans of David Nicholls and Jojo Moyes and is a well-crafted debut novel from Zoe Cook.

With thanks to Harper Impulse for providing me with a galley copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Paola Pica talking Italian culture and society


 
I love everything about  Italian Culture  and almost everything about  Italian Society, even if the two of them are strictly linked to each other, of course.  In fact, being Italian, I can say that the Society I belong to doesn’t live up to its simply fabulous Culture. 

Let’s take, for example, the enormous amount of historical remains scattered all over the country, small villages included, and let’s see how underestimated the most part of them is. Both Politicians and citizens seem to take all that beauty and value for granted and don’t do enough to protect and (why not?) make the right profit from them.  Someone might object that there simply are too many and it would be impossible to give each of them the due consideration.  That is actually what I am trying to say, that is, our Culture is not profit oriented enough, in this respect.  Why shouldn’t we get money from one of the greatest resources that we have?  It seems to me that the Italian Society is not talented for making money in the easiest way.   Everything must be a little difficult…to make Italians appreciate it.

And here I come to a second feature in my Culture, that is its attitude to money.  Italians sometimes think that “pecunia olet” (money stinks), according to a honor code which dates back to a far past, when people had to show more interest in the cultural aspects of things and places than in their money value.   On the contrary, I appreciate what I see in Northern Europe, where each single historical remain, even the smallest stone from a Roman “castra” or a piece from a Viking weapon, is encircled by a fence or encased in a glass box, for paying visitors to look at.

Of course, as each medal does, the Italian attitude to money has the opposite cultural side, which is our generosity and that I like very much.  I’m not speaking of large cities, like Rome or Milan, where people don’t live according to their traditional lifestyles any longer.  That’s an aspect of globalization and it is all another story.  Let’s go into the countryside or to a small town and ask people in the street for an information or some help; or let’s simply watch what happens if you are clearly in need for it. People are ready to help and don’t expect anything in return.

Something else that I don’t like in Italian Society is the way our Politics works and how distant it keeps from us citizens and the enormous bureaucracy we have to put up with.  Once again, all this dates back to our historical past, which has shaped our Society and Culture.  When Italy didn’t exist yet and its territory was divided into several small different “states” and Ambassadors were the only means of communication  among them, all had to be bureaucratically worked out and taxes and duties had to be paid just for travelling across territories.  This part of Italian Society should be deleted completely and as soon as possible, in order to make Italians’ lives easier.

One more thing that I like in Italian Culture and Society (I couldn’t separate the two in this respect) is the conviviality and good cooking.  The worldwide reputation of the latter doesn’t need any explanation; but I like to say some words about how nice and simple Italians find to enjoy the “pleasures of the table”. Even the simplest plate of “penne all’arrabbiata” (a typical kind of pasta enriched with very spicy tomato sauce), together with the less expensive glass of local (actually from any place) wine will be turned into a banquet, when friends get together and share the end of a Winter or Summer day.

What else, could I say about my everyday surroundings and environment?  I can add that, as Arts are part of our life, even the simplest and less wealthy people know how to match colours in their clothes and like to be surrounded by nice things at home.  Even the smallest places are decorated with items from our handicraft, which is so much varied from the North to the South of Italy, due to the historical fragmentation at which I hinted above.  Even the smallest window in the smallest village has its handmade lace curtain and its pot of geranium.  And that lace is usually blown up on a sea background or a mountain one.  This is my Italy, the one I really love, made up with Culture and Society strictly linked together.    
 

Paola Pica's novel Errors of Evaluation is published on 26th July 2016 and available to preorder now.

Blurb
Francesca's presence pervades the lives of those she meets. She leaves an indelible mark, the true nature of her personality revealed through other people's encounters with her. Her boldness as a spoilt child. Her temporary (and just) suffering as the victim of a shrink - an ambiguous and even more unscrupulous person than her in grasping anything graspable. And the more than explicit revelation of her blind egocentrism, because of which she ignores the one person who has tried tirelessly to help her. Three very different characters tell the same story about the enigmatic woman who has entered the lives, each one illuminating who Francesca really is, from their own point of view. Each character has made an error of evaluation which they realise has prejudiced their lives and their relationships. An omniscient narrator will have the final say. This is the first version in English of Errors of Evaluation by the Italian writer Paola Pica.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

How to Keep Writing Romance When Your Life is Far From Romantic - Guest Post from Sarah Harvey

Sarah Harvey - welcome to Books with Bunny!  It's a pleasure to have a guest post about writing romance ahead of publication of Sarah's novel 'How to Hook a Husband'. 
 
 
 
Men.  A word that can be said with so many different tones and vocal inflections.  Love them? Hate them? Couldn’t eat a whole one? What would our life be without them?  Well actually the phrase “a whole lot easier” springs to mind straight away, which shows you the state of my love life at the moment, “state” being the operative word, even more so when paired with and following the word “right”.  Recently divorced, slightly acrimoniously, it wasn’t difficult to see where my marriage had gone wrong.  I wanted a partnership, he wanted a dictatorship, I wanted Prince Charming he wanted Cinderella, but still covered in ashes and shackled to the kitchen sink.  Our dreams and desires were so different they just couldn’t coexist.  I wanted children, he didn’t, I wanted to travel, he didn’t, I fell madly in love with a seriously sexy younger German man, oddly enough he wasn’t terribly keen on that idea either.  Unfortunately neither would it seem was the German.  So now here I am, single very, disillusioned very.  I aimed for the fairytale and actually ended up turning into the pumpkin.  And yet my whole working life, my calling I suppose, is dependent on having a serious affinity with love and a firm belief in “happy ever after”.  So how do you do it?  When you just want to spend your days weeping into the warm furry shoulder of your long suffering and constantly damp pet dog, when the sight of happy couples skipping down the street hand in hand, makes you want to pull out a large anti tank gun and blast them into an emotion free oblivion, when picture perfect happy families strolling in the park, make you mutter “bah humbug” like a miserable Scrooge of romance who’s allergic to love instead of Christmas.  When your heart is actually really rather broken?  How on earth do you write about romance?

Well I think to be a romance novelist, you have at heart to be a romantic, and there is something in us romantics that never seems to be completely lost, no matter how lost we feel ourselves.  Even when your own love life is a disaster, there is actually something rather wonderful and cathartic in writing a beautiful love story, with a perfect happy outcome for your hero and heroine, because it reminds of you the something that still remains.  You see whilst there is still blood in your veins, and your old romantic heart is still beating, even though its as limp as a week old stick of celery, whilst you are writing story where love conquers all, it gives you hope, hope that your own story will turn out just as well, that you can write your own life in a way that will be just as wonderful.  So how can you write when your is broken?  Well when that same heart is still full of hope, anything is possible.


 
How to Hook a Husband is published in ebook by Manilla on July 28th, priced £4.99.
 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Sara Mendes de Costa guest post *Peanuts and Eggcups Blog Tour*

  I'm welcoming Sara Mendes de Costa to Books with Bunny today as part of the tour for her new release Peanuts and Eggcups.  Sara's talking dating today...
 
 
I’ve never really been a dater. My general reaction is…dating? Yeeeech! Scary! OK, I guess what I mean is, I’ve never been into regularly dating lots of guys to see how things pan out – great if you can do it, good on you! Might as well keep going until that guy or gal who’s fabulous comes along, I’m just not very good at it! – or rather, I use up so much energy and adrenaline, and come back in a heap! All that small talk and nerves!
For me, in the past, I’ve generally either got to know someone so that by the time we went out it was likely to be a sure thing, or I’ve had that ‘love’ at first sight experience. So a first date was exciting and led to a relationship.
I remember agreeing to go out on a date when I was a lot younger. I don’t know what made me say yes; I guess I was quite chuffed he’d shown an interest, but when it came to it I couldn’t go through with it! I was really anxious and didn’t actually fancy him at all. My mum had to go out and tell him I wasn’t well and lie on my behalf – she wasn’t best pleased I can tell you! In the end my friend and I had a double date with him and his friend – safety in numbers and all that - but when he turned round from the car’s passenger seat to talk to us sitting in the back, he had the most AWFUL bad breath! I mean seriously bad!! My friend and I were helpless in fits of (trying to be silent) giggles in the back seat as we’d both caught a whiff and spent the rest of the journey holding our noses!
There was another guy some years later who was seriously gorgeous!!! (and he knew it) However, after a few dates, one night when things were getting pretty eh hem – shall we say – intimate, he walked naked into the room I was in and, in the darkness, managed to bang his head on the door frame! I laughed so hard – I couldn’t help myself! Oops! Apparently it really hurt! He wasn’t very happy with my reaction. But I couldn’t stop laughing cos all I could see was a rather graphic silhouette in the doorway clutching his head. Things didn’t last too long after that…
There have been some good experiences too though
Going back just a few years, I was single and so was my best friend Annie so we decided to go out, um, looking around (if you see what I mean) She fancied a cocktail so, off we went to a nearby place and outside there was a guy who I later found out was called Michael (I won’t tell you the comments Annie and I made when we saw him, it’s far too naughty for here!) Anyhow I fell for him on the spot.
Having sat on a table right by him (and eaves-dropped on all his conversations) Annie decided to go to the loo which meant going past Michael’s table…and right past Michael. However, on her way, her big handbag knocked his pint all over the table and on to his lap! Poor guy! But he was really sweet about it. And then – AND THEN - she proceeded to say, without thinking, (and it’s not the sort of thing she’d say)
‘I think my friend would rather like to lick that off you’ !!!!!
Oh my god! Seriously?? Cheers mate!! But, hey, it worked, so who am I to complain? That was the start of a beautiful friendship. After that Michael and I kept bumping into each other on the way to the loo and in the end he plucked up the courage to come over and ask me out on a date.
That was seven years ago and we haven’t looked back. Thankfully, I won’t have to do any dating anytime soon I’m not so sure I’m cut out for it!


Peanuts and Eggcups
For Maggie Parsons there’s only ever been one man: the stunningly delicious Luke Henderson.
Unfortunately, he left her, without explanation, after their ‘first night’ together …breaking her heart
in the process.
 
Now ten years on, without any contact, he’s back and going to her school reunion. Great! And, to
confuse matters…so is his suave, sexy, brother Tony who makes a major play for Maggie, then
turns up with his insufferable - supposedly ex – fiancée!
 
Via the reunion, a black eye, getting the sack (as a result) a madcap girlie holiday and juggling
her confused emotions around the two alluring brothers…Maggie starts to build a picture of what
she really wants in life.
 
Trouble is, Maggie’s a pawn in a game she doesn’t even know she’s playing …and things are
about to get a whole lot more complicated.
 
Available from Amazon UK

 
 
About Sara Mendes da Costa
 
Sara Mendes da Costa is the voice of the BT Speaking Clock; the fourth person to hold this
prestigious title since 1936.
 
A successful, world-renowned voiceover artist, her dulcet tones are easily recognisable on television,
radio, film and across countless media.
 
Never far from the press, she’s known for her appearances on BBC Breakfast, ITV This Morning,
Children in Need, Wake up to Wogan and The Today Programme, and balances her prolific voiceover career with her passion and commitment as a novelist.
 
Peanuts & Eggcups, her debut novel - hotly anticipated by the industry - is “The perfect & highly
addictive reading companion for women’s fiction fans”.
 
A lover of laughter, creativity, great storytelling and a wee dram, Sara adores writing novels and seeks to entertain, uplift and inspire.
 
Her upcoming novels: Time & Time Again & Maggie Ever After, are expected in 2017.
 
Visit: www.saramendesdacosta.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/speakingclock.saramendesdacosta
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BTSpeakingClock

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Museum of You - Carys Bray


Last week Carys Bray visited Books with Bunny as part of her blog tour for The Museum of You and told us about one of her own favourite museums.  I'm very fortunate to have a second date on the blog tour too, which gives me an opportunity to talk about this wonderful book!

The blurb says -

Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.

Darren has done his best. He's studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want - everything he can think of, at least - to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother's belongings. Volume isn't important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you're searching for.

My Thoughts
 
I've not read anything by Carys Bray before, but The Museum of You was an absolute treat.  The exquisite writing immediately draws you into Clover and Darren's world, the evocative descriptions pulling you in and the observational humour gave me many a wry smile - you'll see flashes of people you know in the quirky cast of characters.  The writing is absolutely beautiful - think of Seamus Heaney's talent for conveying the senses and you'll be along the right lines - and although the pace is slow that added to rather than detracted from this book's charm.
 
The plot itself follows Clover's desire to find out more about her mother through the belongings her dad has shut away in the spare room.  Taking it upon herself to be the curator of the 'museum', studying anything which may give her a glimmer of insight into the woman her mother was, Clover digs up the past.  It is a heart-achingly touching subject matter which Bray conveys perfectly through gorgeous, glorious glimpses into Clover's life and thoughts.  As someone who lost a parent at a young age, I certainly related to the way Clover felt a need to connect with her mum and that she didn't know how to do it other than through the items stored in the bedroom.  Although I loved Clover, without Darren's contrasting view this book wouldn't have worked as well.  The juxtaposition of daughter/father, younger/older, innocence/knowledge is what made it.
 
The Museum of You would make an excellent reading group read and will appeal to anyone who likes their books uplifting and life-affirming.  Clover Quinn - you gorgeous girl.  You're a character who'll stay with me for a very long time.  And Carys Bray - thank you for writing a book which spoke to me more than you'll ever know.
 
Out now in ebook and hardback, published by Hutchinson.
With thanks to the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book.