Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas Q&A with Caroline Roberts!


I'm delighted to welcome Caroline Roberts to the blog today for a Q&A session. 
Hello Kate, thanks so much for featuring me and The Cosy Christmas Teashop on your blog!
The Cosy Christmas Teashop is a follow up to your previous novel The Cosy Teashop in the Castle. Did the fact that it's a sequel make a difference to your writing process? How long did it take to write?

In a way, it was easier to write as I already had the main characters and setting in mind. But I also wanted to freshen it all up, so I added some new characters and situations. I had fun with it, as well as exploring the more difficult times they had to face. I felt I knew everyone so well by the end, like the castle team had really become firm friends.
It took me four months to write The Cosy Christmas Teashop. A bit of a miracle as the first book took over a year. But I had a deadline to meet, so got my head down and kept going. It was hard work, but also fun.



2) This is your first festive novel. Do you envisage writing another in the future?

Yes, I enjoyed writing about Christmas and all the lovely festive build up to that – Christmas markets, craft fairs, snow, tinsel, Christmas trees, Christmas cupcakes, mince pies and more. I’d happily write another Christmas-themed novel. In fact, I might be working on that right now!

3) What are your favourite Christmassy reads?
I loved Debbie Johnson’s romantic comedy “Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper”.  It was a warm and funny story, unique and rather sexy.
And, on Christmas Eve, I always used to read to my children “Twas the Night Before Christmas” in a fabulous pop-up version, and we also loved The Jolly Christmas Postman.

4) What are your own plans for Christmas? Do you have any special family traditions?
I love the tradition of Christmas stockings, hanging them up by the fire, and then them “magically” being filled – I still have them for my grown-up children even now! And we always have a real tree, it looks so pretty all decorated and twinkly, and you get that gorgeous smell of pine.


On Christmas day, we have a glass of champagne around ten am (mid-parcel opening) with cheese and ham croissants, a fresh fruit platter, or chocolate if you fancy, after all, anything goes - it’s Christmas! Then there’s the traditional Turkey Roast. I’m chef as I enjoy cooking, though I have to be well prepared as after a couple of champagnes and a G&T, it can all get a bit out of sync!

For me, Christmas is all about family and friends and having a lovely, sociable time with some fabulous food and drink.


5) What can your readers look forward to next?


I have a summer book coming out around April/May time. A gorgeous and poignant love story  about hurt and healing and making the most of those simple special moments in life. It’s set on beautiful Bamburgh beach in my home county of Northumberland (one of my favourite places to walk the dog). In fact, the family might have a wander down on the beach there on Boxing Day!
And by this time next year, there may well be another Cosy Christmas novel! Watch this space…

Have a really lovely Christmas everyone!

The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Talking As Fast As I Can - Lauren Graham blog tour

 
As a recent convert to Gilmore Girls (how on earth did I miss it for so long?!) I'm very excited to be part of the blog tour for Lauren Graham's Talking As Fast As I Can.

I'm one of many women out there who can relate to Lorelai Gilmore and how she says whatever's on her mind without really thinking it through.  That's part of her charm.

Picking a favourite Lorelai moment for the blog tour was tricky.  I could have gone for a mother/daughter moment (Lorelai's graduation left me with a lump in my throat) or her epic fangirling with Sookie at The Bangles gig despite being at the back of the venue, but I'm going with the one liner that makes me giggle every time I think of it, when Lorelai says to Rory - "Hey, maybe instead of going to college, you should drop out and I could quit my job and we can form an all-girl band with Lane, you know, like Bananarama. We could call it Tangerinarama or Banana-fana-fo-fana-rama…or something." 

Why does that tickle me so much?  Mostly because that sounds like a band I'd really like to be part of. 

The Blurb
In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood-along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, "Did you, um, make it?" She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood ("Strangers were worried about me; that's how long I was single!"), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge onProject Runway ("It's like I had a fashion-induced blackout").

In "What It Was Like, Part One," Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay "What It Was Like, Part Two" reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she's aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls ("If you're meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you've already set the bar too high"), and she's a card-carrying REI shopper ("My bungee cords now earn points!").

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and-of course-talking as fast as you can.

Talking As Fast As I Can is released on December 6th in hardback and ebook formats, and available for preorder now.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

SeQuence - Lorraine M.L.M Publication Day

Happy publication day to Lorraine M.L.M!  SeQuence, the first book in her new fantasy young adult series 'The Heart of the Ocean' is out now!
 

The Blurb

From chaotic voices on Earth…

Haunted by voices inside her head, seventeen-year-old Alessia Appleton is incarcerated in a mental asylum. In her flight to sanctuary, she’s transported to Zeneshia, a breathtaking world under the sea filled with colourful forests and gigantic glowing moons. Here, she discovers the unique power of her mind—and how an entire kingdom’s survival is dependent on it. As she finds her true self, she falls irrevocably in love with Dante Erajion.

To the tranquillity of the Kingdom under the Moons…

Determined to avenge his mother’s murder, Dante isn’t looking for love until he meets Alessia. Together they unravel the past, inevitably kindling the Foretold Sequence of Hearts. In a world where Sequence takes precedence over chance, powerful forces manipulate the future and redesign Sequences, using Alessia as an unwitting cat’s paw in the Four Kingdoms’ Game of Sequence.

Love might not be enough to save them…

With Alessia and Dante’s destinies intertwined, their love is under threat…and so is the future of their people. As players of the Game make their first move, can young love survive the ordeals of a shifting Sequence to Life, Love, and Death?

SeQuence is AVAILABLE NOW in paperback and E-book from all AMAZON stores

Paperback


E-book





 
Youtube SeQuence Book Trailer


And the cover for the second book in the series is also being revealed today - SeQuence Aligned is coming soon.
 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Searching for a Silver Lining - Miranda Dickinson



The Blurb
It began with a promise . . .

Matilda Bell is left heartbroken when she falls out with her beloved grandfather just before he dies. Haunted by regret, she makes a promise that will soon change everything . . .

When spirited former singing star Reenie Silver enters her life, Mattie seizes the opportunity to make amends. Together, Mattie and Reenie embark on an incredible journey that will find lost friends, uncover secrets from the glamorous 1950s and put right a sixty-year wrong.

Touchingly funny, warm and life-affirming, this is a sparkling story of second chances. Perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern, Searching for a Silver Lining will take you on a trip you'll never forget.

The Review
As a huge fan of Miranda Dickinson's writing, I was delighted to be sent an early copy of Searching for a Silver Lining to review.  I always love how Miranda is able to create warm characters that I root for from the off, and Mattie Bell is yet another wonderful protagonist - I immediately took her to my heart.

Mattie is grieving for her grandfather.  She throws herself headfirst into an adventure when she meets the wonderful livewire octogenarian Reenie Silver, a former starlet and performer with popular 50s band The Silver Five who were also a favourite of her grandfather 'back in the day'.  What follows is a crazy quest for one last hoorah which involves amongst other things a campervan, a memorable performance of Wheatus' Teenage Dirtbag and the rather lovely club owner Gil...

This book is a reminder that age is irrelevant when there's a bond between two people, and as positive friendships/relationships across the generations is something which is still relatively unexplored in fiction it was lovely to see this portrayed so well.  Reenie and Mattie were a perfect and believable duo and I was willing them on to their own happy endings.  Reenie's stories were an absolute highlight of this book, she was like Tom Jones on an episode of The Voice with her continual name dropping!

I also loved how each chapter was given a 'soundtrack', a song from the 1950s that linked into the themes explored in that section of the book.  It brings another element to the story and introduced me to some new tunes along the way.

Most of all Searching for a Silver Lining is heart-warming and charming and oozing with everything that makes friendship such a beautiful, beautiful gift. 

I can't recommend this book highly enough.  It's Miranda Dickinson's best yet.

Searching for a Silver Lining is out now in ebook and paperback format.

With thanks to Pan for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Recently I've Read - September 2016

I'm incredibly late posting this monthly round up and that's mainly because September was a pretty fruitful month when it came to reading.  It's fair to say I was looking for love in my September reads, with lots of commercial romantic fiction, but I also enjoyed a fair amount of manga too, which I'll wrote about in a separate post. 

Step Back in Time - Ali McNamara
 
 
The Blurb
How many lifetimes would you travel to find a love that lasts for ever?
When single career girl Jo-Jo steps onto a zebra crossing and gets hit by a car, she awakes to find herself in 1963. The fashion, the music, her job, even her romantic life: everything is different. And then it happens three more times, and Jo-Jo finds herself living a completely new life in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. The only people she can rely on are Harry and Ellie, two companions from 2013, and George, the owner of a second-hand record store.
If she's ever to return from her travels, Jo-Jo must work out why she's jumping through time like this. And if she does make it back, will her old life ever be the same again?

My Thoughts
A great read with romance, time travel and a whole lot of Beatles references! 
This was a fun and original story which had me chuckling along as protagonist Jo-Jo found herself leaping between the decades.  The attention to detail in each era made this perfect for book for anyone with a nostalgic bone in their body, and I absolutely adored record shop owner George.
My first Ali McNamara book, but certainly not my last!

Read Me Like a Book - Liz Kessler
 


The Blurb
The first YA novel from bestselling author Liz Kessler, Read Me Like A Book is a brave, honest and vital coming-out story that follows one girl's exploration of love, identity and sexuality.
Ashleigh Walker is having a difficult year. She's struggling at school, and coming home to parents who are on the verge of divorce. She knows she should be happy spending time with her boyfriend - but, for some reason, being around him just makes her worry more. It's only in her English teacher, Miss Murray, that she feels she's found a kindred spirit. Miss Murray helps Ashleigh develop her writing skills and her confidence - but what happens when boundaries begin to blur? What will the repercussions be for Ashleigh? And how will she navigate her own sexuality?

My Thoughts
An engaging and relevant coming of age story which will appeal to both YA and adult readership. This was an extremely readable tale and I rooted for Ashleigh as she explored her own sexuality.  There have been more LGBT+ books published again lately, and if they are all of this quality then I'm sure they'll be a welcome addition to bookshelves everywhere.

Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner - Helen Cox
 
 
 
The Blurb
Esther Knight is sharp, sarcastic – and hiding something. She waitresses at The Starlight Diner: a retro eatery where Fifties tunes stream out of the jukebox long into the night, and the tastiest milkshakes in New York are served.
Nobody at the diner knows why Esther left London for America – or why she repeatedly resists the charms of their newest regular, actor Jack Faber.
Esther is desperate to start a new life in the land of the free, but despite the warm welcome from the close-knit diner crowd, something from her past is holding her back. Can she ever learn to love and live again?
Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner is a witty, romantic, New York-inspired novel.
 
My Thoughts
I really enjoyed Milkshakes and Heartbreaks at the Starlight Diner.  The cover and the blurb and mainly cheery and uplifting, but don't be fooled, this isn't all ice cream sundaes and eggs sunny side up.  Esther is a far more enigmatic character than that.
I loved how this book tackled some darker plot lines whilst still having a warm humour to add a delightful balance to the novel.
This is the first book in a series and I'm very much looking forward to the next.  Service please!
 
 
Keeping Her Secret - Sarah Nicholas
 
 
The Blurb
The last person Riya Johnson expected to run into at her new summer camp is Courtney Chastain—her childhood best friend and the girl who broke her heart after a secret, mind-blowing, life-altering kiss. She definitely didn’t expect to be sharing a bunk bed with her for four long weeks.
Courtney has what every girl wants—she’s beautiful, rich, and the object of every boy’s desire at Camp Pine Ridge. Too bad none of them make her feel an iota of what Riya’s kiss did all those years ago. But Courtney needs to uphold appearances at all costs—even if it means instigating an all-out prank war with Riya as her main target.
Neither girl can stop thinking about the other…but that doesn’t mean they can give up past hurts and take a chance on a future together.
 
My Thoughts
Riya and Courtney used to be friends. Then they kissed and everything changed. Now their paths have crossed at camp and it's time to assess if they are friends or if there's something more between them...
Full of angst, camp pranks and f/f romance, this is a cute book from Entangled, but I'd have liked more of the romance and 'aww' of the later sections earlier on.
                   


Miss You - Kate Eberlen
 
 
 
The Blurb
Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven't met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .
Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can't get it out of her head, even though she's in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever - but not in the way she expects.
Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.
For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.
Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there's no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?

My Thoughts
I adored this book!  The near-misses of Tess and Gus had me hooked from the very first page.  Kate Eberlen has created two characters that I genuinely cared about, with a supporting cast of interesting periphery characters to back them up.  None of them were two dimensional, they were real and flawed and utterly believable.
As well as wonderfully rich characters, this book had me longing to be back in the beautiful city of Florence, encapsulating the magic of place perfectly.
I've recommended this book to everyone I know - if you love a love story (and I absolutely do) then you really must read Miss You.  One of my favourite books of 2016, hands down.

 
The Honey Trap - Mary Jayne Baker
 
 
 
The Blurb
The trap is set – but which one of them is the bait?
Journalist Angel Blackthorne is looking for her next big scoop. When her sleazy editor asks her to use her charms on super successful – and married – film director Sebastian Wilchester for a juicy exposé, Angel thinks what the hell? There’s a staff job on the horizon, and, let’s be honest, no one can make a cheater cheat if they don’t want to, right?
After the scandal breaks, Angel tries to put the story – and Seb – behind her, but fate seems to have other ideas. A near miss at a premiere after-party and a shared love of vintage film brings the honey closer to the trap.
But what happens when pretence leads to passion, and a ‘kiss and tell’ becomes something real?
 
My Thoughts
Fun, flirty and at points downright filthy, The Honey Trap is the story of Angel, who works for a tabloid newspaper, and big name film producer Seb. When Angel's boss asks her to act as a 'honey trap' in order to get compromising photos and a sensationalist headline, sparks begin to fly between the two of them...
What I loved most about this was the balance between humour and sexiness - it was a red hot read in places! There were also tender moments and little twists which made me eager to keep reading. Although to be honest I fell a little bit in love with Seb along the way too, and once I love a hero I'm always hooked. If this book is anything to go by Mary Jayne Baker definitely knows how to write a delicious male lead! I'm looking forward to what's to come next from this debut author.
If you've loved the balance of wit and sex in Debbie Johnson's books, you'll adore this one.
 
The One with the Wedding Dress - Erin Lawless
 
 
 
The Blurb
For fans of romantic comedies like Bridesmaids and Four Weddings & a Funeral, and bestselling authors Mhairi McFarlane and Jenny Oliver, this is a hilarious new romantic comedy series about one bride and her four best friends.
 
My thoughts
Following on from The One with the Engagement Party, The One with the Wedding Dress reintroduces bride to be Nora and her flock of bridesmaids as they head to the Cotswolds in search of the perfect wedding day attire. Of course, in true romcom fashion there are hitches along the way and that combined with the wit and pun-tastic humour I've come to expect from Erin Lawless makes for a fun second instalment of the Bridesmaids series.
I love books that are centred around a group of friends and these girls have totally captured my heart - I can't help noticing flickers of my own pals in their character traits and I'm wondering which of the wedding party I myself have most in common with!
I'm loving watching these characters develop and can't wait to find out what happens in part three!
  
 

Saturday, 8 October 2016

My Month in Manga - September 2016

Ooops.  This post is rather late this month...so without further ado, here's a quick look at the manga I read during September.
 
Fall in Love Like a Comic vol.1 - Chitose Yagami
 
The Blurb
Rena Sakura is a high school student with a secret: she's a professional mangaka. And although she's never been on a date, that doesn't stop her from drawing steamy shojo scenes for Chami magazine. But when the gorgeous Tomoya Okita finds out her secret, she finds herself asking him out to get some real-life experience in love!

Rena asks Tomoya to be her boyfriend, hoping that gaining some experience in dating will help her improve her manga. Rena is positive that Tomoya is only dating her to help her out, but that doesn't stop her from falling in love...
 
My Thoughts
This was a fun shojo manga following the well-used manga theme of a mangaka living out her life through her art. This was an easy read and I enjoyed it for what it was, but I'm not in a hurry to find out what happens next so don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series any time soon.
 
Citrus vol. 1 - Saburo Uta
 
 
The Blurb
Yuzuko Aihara, a high school girl whose main interests are fashion, friends and having fun, is about to get a reality check. Due to her mom's remarriage, Yuzu has transferred to a new, all-girls school that is extremely strict. Her real education is about to begin. From Day One, happy-go-lucky Yuzu makes enemies, namely the beautiful yet stern Student Council President Mei. So what happens when a dejected Yuzu returns home and discovers the shock of her life: that Mei is actually her new step-sister who has come to live with her? Even more surprising, when Mei catches Yuzu off-guard and kisses her out of the blue, what does it all mean?
 
My Thoughts
Two girls who find themselves as step-sisters are unsure of their relationship.  That's pretty much the whole plot.  The art in this book is exquisite, and the quality of the book itself was excellent and included some glossy colour pages at the front.  It's just a shame the story let this one down for me - I'm not sure whether or not I'll read volume 2.

 
We Were There - Yuuki Obata
 
 
 
The Blurb
Nanami Takahashi falls for Motoharu Yano, the most popular, carefree boy in class. For Nanami, it's first love, but Yano is still grieving the death of his girlfriend who died the year before.
Nanami starts high school with high hopes of making lots of friends. She develops a crush on the enigmatic Yano, but he may have too many secrets for her to handle.

Nanami Takahashi falls for Motoharu Yano, the most popular, carefree boy in class. For Nanami, it's first love, but Yano is still grieving the death of his girlfriend who died the year before.
 
My Thoughts
There was a bit at the beginning of this book where I thought I'd be putting it down and not picking it back up (when Nanami is grabbed by the throat - I found this incredibly disturbing).  That said, for an angsty will they/won't they romance it held my attention, and I found the art visually appealing.  This is an old manga now, and I was given this by a friend who found it in a charity shop, but I'll probably try to get hold of the next instalment to find out what happens next.

 


Sunday, 4 September 2016

My Month in Manga - August

I've not been reading as much manga lately, but I've been introduced to some new mangaka.

Idol Dreams #1

 
I read part 1 of Idol Dreams, a manga with echoes of Big where 31 year old virgin Chikage wishes she could go back to her teens.  When her wish comes true, she finds herself thrust into a world of fame and sharing her first kiss with a teen idol. 

I liked Tanemura's art style and found this an easy, entertaining read - I'll definitely be continuing this series.

Kisses, Sighs and Cherry Blossom Pink
 


This f/f manga collection is set at Sakuraki High, an all girls' school and follows the relationships of the pupils and staff based there.  Nana and Hitomi's relationship is the main focus of the collection, and in many ways I felt the other couples were surplus to requirements.  I loved the bond between the two girls and especially that it had the ups and downs of any partnership.  Full of angst, romance and emotional turmoil, I couldn't read this book fast enough! 

Milk Morinaga's art is absolutely beautiful and exactly the style I find most visually appealing.  I will definitely be looking out for more of her manga.