Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Second Time I Saw You- Pippa Croft *Blog Blitz*




Publishing 22nd May 2014 Penguin

It's the beginning of a new term at Wyckham College, Oxford, and a fresh start for Lauren Cusack. Her fingers were badly burnt when a whirlwind romance with gorgeous English aristocrat, Alexander Hunt, became too hot to handle - and now she's determined to keep her distance.

Her resolve is shaken when Alexander appears on her doorstep - he's been completely torn apart by some devastating news. Lauren knows that she should stay away, but their chemistry is undeniable and she soon finds herself back in Alexander's arms.

Can Lauren handle the drama that comes with Alexander Hunt? Or will she have to sacrifice the most exhilarating passion she's ever known . . .

(The Second Time I saw you is the 2nd book in the Oxford Blue Series.)
 

 

About the Author

 



Pippa Croft is the pen name of an award-winning romantic novelist. After studying English at Oxford, she worked as a copywriter and journalist before writing her debut novel, which won the RNA's New Writers' award and was later made into a TV movie. She lives in a village in the heart of England with her husband and daughter.

 

Author Links

 




 

 



The First Time We Met is the first novel in the sizzling new Oxford Blue romance series from Pippa Croft.

When US Senator’s daughter Lauren Cusack arrives at the enchanting Wyckham College of Oxford University, she hopes to mend her broken heart by throwing herself into her studies.

But then English aristocrat Alexander Hunt walks into her life and everything changes. Handsome, brooding, and with his own dark past to escape, Alexander is exactly what Lauren doesn’t need – but she finds herself helplessly drawn towards him.

Both Alexander and Lauren know that they should stay away from each other . . . but sometimes desire is so powerful that it conquers all else.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Spotlight by Krista Richmond *BLOG TOUR* Review and Author Feature!

Spotlight 
by 
Krista Richmond


“He’s Hollywood premieres, and I’m small-town newspaper. Where can this possibly go?”

Release Date: 22nd May 2014
Genre: Fiction/ Contemporary Romance
Published by: The Writers Coffee Shop
Available from: AmazonKoboBarnes and Noble, and TWCS PH

Summary:

As both a fan and a journalist, Lily Richards often wonders what role the media plays in creating the phenomenon that is actor Daniel Brighton. Personally, she prefers to report her favorite celebrity’s latest role rather than his latest dining companion—but she knows others in her profession don’t always agree.

A chance encounter with Daniel at a press junket gives Lily the opportunity to prove she’s not like other journalists. But Nate Brennan—Daniel’s publicist—isn’t convinced of Lily’s altruistic nature. He’s baffled by his client’s sudden preference for the no-name columnist, and when they are forced to work together, their professional battles soon lead to personal sparks.
As Lily becomes more involved in the world of entertainment media, she must balance what she feels is appropriate celebrity coverage with the personal relationships she now holds dear.
 
How much is too much when you’re standing near the glare of the Spotlight?
 
The Review
I was very excited to read Spotlight as it sounded right up my street. I love books about celebrity and the entertainment business and could relate to how starstruck Lily was at meeting Daniel- I am definitely a fangirl myself!  I thought the scenes where Lily waited to meet him at the stage door were very realistic, I loved how the obsessive fans were portrayed.
 
The first half of the book had me spellbound, I literally couldn't put it down.  The characters were easy to relate to, even Daniel who is an A list star, and I admit I fell a little bit in love with him-he is top notch book boyfriend material.  In my mind he was a bit like Daniel Craig (again, I wouldn't say no...)
 
The second half had a slower pace, and centred more around Lily's work and relationship rather than the glitz and excitement.  I still enjoyed it, but I wasn't as hooked as I was by the first half, and the ending was a bit too clich├ęd for my liking. 
 
Overall I thought this was a fun novel and an opportunity to glimpse into how the life of a celebrity might be.  Krista Richmond has a fresh voice and I would definitely look out for more books by her!  In fact, I'd love some more Daniel....please Krista?!
 

Author Bio: 


Krista Richmond is a journalist, pop culture enthusiast and a true Southern girl at heart. When she isn’t writing, she’s often in her kitchen, attempting to recreate recipes created by her favorite Food Network personalities, or at her local theater, catching the latest blockbuster (or indie flick).
A graduate of Tennessee Tech University and the University of Tennessee with degrees in communications, she worked in print journalism for several years. Now, she works in marketing in southern Louisiana.

Follow her adventures on Twitter at @KristaRichmond.
Connect with Krista Richmond on: 

Praise:
Ms. Richmond has a very conservative writing style but overlooking the formality came a great storyline complete with great character development, There were surprising little twists and plot shifts that made this book stand out from all the others.
                                                        -Talk Books To Me
I was really looking forward to reading this book. I don't know why but I really like reading about writers, and part of what I really liked about the book and the writing was how the author made the character of Lily a very ethical writer, and in this day in age when tabloid journalism is so rampant, it was kind of refreshing really Lily's point of view on how covering the entertainment industry should be done. 
                                                     -Home. Love. Books
Lily Richards has the kind of fairytale life that 20 years ago I wished I had. Her work - and a little stalking - has resulted in a friendship with the hottest actor on the planet, but it's his publicist she can't stop thinking about. I'm so glad Richmond took Lily in this direction, because having her fall for the actor would have been too much of a Mary Sue move. Nate is great, and I loved their e-mail exchanges. A lovely debut novel.  -Goodreads (Andrea)

I am delighted to welcome Krista onto my blog today, where she mulls over a question related to the subject of Spotlight-  Do you think society is becoming more and more obsessed with celebrities and the celebrity life? If so, why? Do you think the notion of being a celebrity will change in the future, in regards to celebrities have no privacy anymore?

In some ways, I think we are becoming more and more obsessed with celebrity culture. But I think that’s because we’re inundated with it. From paparazzi photos to reality TV to social media, we now have access to (practically!) every part of a celebrity’s life. And, to me, the question is … should we?

It’s an interesting conundrum. Tools such as social media aren’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s all in how they’re used. Using them to share a celebrity’s hotel information or photos of them walking through an airport terminal seems a little much to me. But fans also use these tools, for example, to share signs to hold up at their favorite band’s concert. Social media has brought a unique twist to the idea of “fandoms.” The same tools that are used to track their celebrity’s every move are the same tools used to develop lasting friendships.

I think in the future we may see a return to Old Hollywood standards, where information about celebrities is more carefully controlled and monitored. In those days, everything fans read about celebrities came from official sources, and fans had to wait on it. But, it’s really a case-by-case (or, celebrity-by-celebrity) basis. Some celebrities are willing to jump on Oprah’s couch and answer endless questions about their love life. Others aren’t. And that’s okay. What Lily learns in Spotlight – and what I really wanted to covey – is that media outlets should take the time to really consider what they’re publishing.

 
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Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The First Time We Met- Pippa Croft

 
The Blurb
The First Time We Met is the first novel in the sizzling new Oxford Blue romance series from Pippa Croft.

Senator's daughter Lauren Cusack is leaving Washington behind for the dreaming spires of Oxford University - and she's ready for a challenge. Now a fully-fledged Master's student, Lauren is determined to make the most of every single minute.

But then she meets Alexander Hunt, and everything changes.

A devastatingly handsome English aristocrat, Alexander is as brooding and enigmatic as they come. Lauren tries to resist his advances, but he has his sights clearly set on the young American, and what Alexander wants, he gets.

Caution soon gives way to mind-blowing passion and Lauren is drawn into Alexander's privileged world of glamour and status. But all that glitters is not gold - for Alexander is a man with a dark past, and desire may not be enough to conquer all else ...


The Review
I'd heard so many fantastic things about this book that I couldn't put off reading it any longer.  And once I started it I was engrossed.  Totally and utterly engrossed.  Here's what I loved about this book.

This is an unapologetic sizzling romance full of lust and desire.  I love a good steamy passion-fest and this was perfect.  Lauren Cusack is the stereotypical well-to-do American abroad, studying for a Masters in art at Wyndham College, Oxford.  However, studying isn't all she is doing in Oxford- Lauren is charmed by Alexander Hunt, the future Marquess of Falconbury, and he proves to be a major distraction...  To be honest, I can't blame her for falling for his charms.  He's all enigma and testosterone, completely masculine.  Yum.  There is so much sexual tension in this book.  Pippa Croft captures the overwhelming physical attraction between Lauren and Alexander and my kindle was steaming up when the inevitable finally happened.  It was hot.  REALLY hot.

However, The First Time We Met is not just out and out smut (not that there is anything wrong with that, I just like a bit of story with my sex scenes).  The rest of the Oxford set, Lauren's best friend Immy, arrogant posh toffs Rupert, Gideon and Piers, bitchy Valentina and a pervy professor are interesting characters who add depth to the story.  I also loved the university setting with the famous dreaming spires and Lauren's charming attic bedroom.  When we are later thrown into life at Falconbury, old money and prestige reign.  It is a competitive world, full of male bravado and opinionated women waiting to made snide remarks.  If you can imagine Made in Chelsea in a novel, you won't be far off The First Time We Met.  Sex, drama, elitism, but above all else, completely addictive.  I loved it and moved straight onto the second book in the series, something I rarely do! 

It's fair to say Lauren and Alexander had me begging for more...

The First Time We Met is out now, published by Penguin.

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




Tuesday, 27 May 2014

You're The One That I Want- Giovanna Fletcher

 
I read Giovanna Fletcher's debut novel Billy and Me earlier this year (you can read my review here) and knew that I'd be in amongst the crowds clamouring to get my hands on her summer 2014 release You're The One That I Want.  Part angst-ridden love triangle, part friendship beyond measure, this is an emotional read which left me with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.
 
I read this book in a day whilst travelling to and from Niall Horan's charity football match.  I was totally sucked into the story and would have carried on reading it at the ground, but was distracted when Liam Payne's thighs came into the picture (sorry Gi, you're storytelling is hugely entertaining but still can't compete with the Payno).  However, I was straight back into it on the coach home, desperate to find out how the story would pan out.

 
Maddy, Rob, Ben- this trio of friends have grown up together.  Climbing trees, dancing to Hanson, sexual awakening, going to university...seventeen years of friendship are chronicled in You're The One That I Want.  The friends are a tripod, reliant on each other to remain standing firm.  But is one person always left out when you are part of a three?

It's obvious that You're The One That I Want is a story of friendship and love, but its message runs deeper than that.  It demonstrates how certain people become so engrained in your life that you can't imagine you could ever live without them.  People who you compromise yourself for.  People who you truly want to be happy.  Maddy, Rob and Ben have the tightest of friendships and that is what stood out most about this book to me.  There were times I wanted to scream at them to realise how lucky they were to have each other, because as a reader looking in I could see just how much they all relied on each other.

Of course, over a seventeen year period they inevitably hit a few bumps in the road.  This is where my heartstrings were tugged and I was torn in two- team Ben or team Rob?  I wanted happiness for all of them, but ultimately it was Ben that I related to the most throughout the book.

I absolutely loved the nostalgic element, being transported back to school trips to France (and it seems they always leave at stupid O'clock in the morning, even in fiction), Cotton Eye Joe (Ok, I could have done without reliving that) and exam results day.  I felt like I was stepping back to these points in my own life, and although not always happy moments there is much in You're The One That I Want that I found relatable.

As in Billy and Me I did find there were a lot of unnecessary exclamation marks, but that was only a minor irritation in what was a cute and engaging story.  Other than that, I loved it.

You're The One That I Want could be viewed as 'just another chick lit book', froth and candyfloss to read on the beach.  Don't dismiss it as that.  It's a charming and touching novel which touched my heart, and, in the words of Giovanna's lovely husband Tom...
 
With thanks to Penguin for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review. 
You're The One That I Want is out now. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Romance Festival 2014

Love a bit of romance?  Then you need to sign up for the Romance Festival 2014!  Find out more below!

The Red House- Mark Haddon



Before I start I must admit to not being a huge fan of Haddon's highly acclaimed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. I could appreciate it as well written,  insightful and empathetic, yet I just didn't really enjoy it. 

When The Red House was selected as the May read for my book group I wasn't sure it'd be my cup of tea.  The cover was gloomy and foreboding for starters, and my headspace hasn't been all that fantastic in recent months.  I didn't think I was up to coping with a depressing read (a Google search suggests that other editions of the book have a lighter cover- I wonder if owning one of those instead might have changed my perception of the book and therefore what I expected from it?).

However, The Red House isn't actually a depressing read.  Set around the Wales/England border (my old stomping ground!) it follows one week of a holiday.  It is an intense snapshot into family life where characters young and old wrestle with  the challenges of living- bereavement, marriage, sexuality, faith...Haddon certainly doesn't shy away from issues which other authors might be afraid to tackle for fear of offending.  But this is one of his greatest skills as a writer, his ability to explore and probe without preaching. 

There was no main character, and personally I didn't like that.  I wanted to be able to get my teeth into them (not literally, I'm not a cannibal) and felt that wasn't possible.  Daisy in particular, a teenager discovering Christianity alongside her burgeoning attraction to another female, interested me.  In some ways I felt short changed as she would have made a brilliant lead character-I want a follow up with just her story to see what happens to her next! (As an aside, you can read the letter I wrote to Daisy here ).

In some ways not much happens in The Red House.  There is no concrete ending, no happily ever after-this is not a spoiler, any book which follows just one week will naturally end before the story does.  Being honest, I can't say I enjoyed it.  It is well written and experimental without being out and out irritating (thinking of other experimental writers here who have used techniques that as a reader I found unbearable- Ali Smith's 'start in the middle of a sentence' in The Accidental for one), and I cared enough about a few of the characters to want to read on.  I also found it interesting to see how the relationships between the characters developed over the course of the week, and how some days were eventful; others more mundane.

This book walks the fine line between despair and hope.  And the hope was what kept me reading.  We can all benefit from a bit more of that in our lives.

The Red House is out now, published by Vintage.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Letter Writing Challenge linked to Jenny in Neverland blog- A Letter to a Book Character

My wonderful friend Jenny from the Jenny in Neverland blog came up with the idea of writing a series of letters.  These could be to all manner of people- your children, former teachers, your younger self...and I am taking part in her letter writing exploits too! 

This challenge was entitled 'A letter to a book character'.  I knew straight away who I needed to write to.  My book group read The Red House by Mark Haddon this month and although I could relate to aspects of many of the characters in the book, one touched my soul so deeply.  That was Daisy.  Daisy is a teen struggling with her identity, reaching out into the Christian faith and adjusting to the idea that she is a lesbian.  I am a Christian myself, and identify as bisexual.  There are times when I have felt saturated with guilt, feeling like these sides to my personality are a terrible clash.  I wanted to write to Daisy to give her hope, and to encourage her to be true to herself.  It took me far too long to reach that point, and I would love to be able to help her avoid the anguish I experienced.

Dear Daisy,

This isn't going to be a long letter, but is one I felt compelled to write.  I know that right now you are probably overwhelmed with emotions. It is incredibly hard to feel that you know who you are but that elements of your true self may not fit together neatly like two neighbouring jigsaw pieces, at least in the eyes of society.

But being gay and being a Christian are not mutually exclusive, especially in modern culture.  Of course, you will come up against people who don't understand your sexuality, or your faith, or both.  But there are other people out there just like you, there are churches which will welcome you and support you on all aspects of your journey and they will love you for who you are.  Jesus said many wise things, but when I contemplate my faith and sexuality the one I always come back to is 'Love one another as I have loved you'.  That is pretty self explanatory. Jesus used to hang around with an eclectic crowd.  People like Thomas, and Simon Peter who had faith which waivered and that they denied.  People like Mary, Martha and Lazarus- ordinary families with issues.  People like the lady at the well and the woman who poured oil on him, lepers, outcasts.  Jesus openly loved everyone.  Jesus openly loves YOU.  God the Father too- he is 'Abba', Daddy- the loving father, wanting happiness for his children.  INCLUDING YOU.

There will be times where you want to scream, times where you feel people are being self righteous pricks and only seeing the parts of you they want to see.  People mock what they don't understand.  They are afraid of difference.  It is only through honesty that these barriers can be broken down, so with the strength of the Holy Spirit go forward being true to others, but more importantly, being true to yourself. 

God bless you Daisy,

Katey x

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Before You Die- Samantha Hayes

 
The Blurb

It has taken nearly two years for the Warwickshire village of Radcote to put a spate of teenage suicides behind it.

Then a young man is killed in a freak motorbike accident, and a suicide note is found among his belongings. A second homeless boy takes his own life, this time on the railway tracks.

Is history about to repeat itself?

DI Lorraine Fisher has just arrived for a relaxing summer break with her sister. Soon she finds herself caught up in the resulting police enquiry. And when her nephew disappears she knows she must act quickly.

Are the recent deaths suicide - or murder?

And is the nightmare beginning again?
      
The Review
 
I read Samantha Hayes acclaimed bestseller Until You're Mine last year and really enjoyed the gripping, psychological nature of it.  Her latest offering Before You Die is in very much the same vein, a dark, thought provoking story of country life and community where you are never quite sure what to believe.

At times I felt the plot moved a bit too slowly for my liking and I wanted more drama, although I am aware that any psychological thriller worth its salt needs to pace itself.  The characters, and there were quite a few main players, all had interesting qualities which enriched the parts of the book where there was less plot development.  I particularly enjoyed learning more about DI Lorraine Fisher, one of the characters from Hayes' previous book, and hope there will be more of her to come. 

I had guessed the twist prior to the end, but probably not until 2/3rds of the way through, and even having a hunch about how things would pan out didn't spoil my enjoyment.  Hayes write in a manner that causes you to second guess yourself all the time, suspecting everyone!  When a plot is well woven, it doesn't always need to surprise you to take your breath away. 

Before You Die isn't always an easy read, and at times explicitly gruesome.  If you enjoyed TV dramas Broadchurch and Prey, or books such as Elizabeth Haynes' bestsellers, I'm sure you'll be enraptured by Before You Die.  High quality suspense which made my heart pound and my mouth go dry.

Before You Die is out now.

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

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Who is Tom Ditto? -Danny Wallace

 
I've read and enjoyed all Danny Wallace's non-fiction books, but this is the first of his fictional works that I've tried.  I'll be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect, even after reading the blurb... 

The Blurb
We join the action just as our 'hero' Tom, (early thirties, reads the 'news' on the radio) finds out that his girlfriend has NOT left him.

Tom,

I have not left you. But I am gone.

Please carry on as normal.

Love always,

Hayley



Has Hayley gone or hasn't she? Is she coming back? If she has gone, but is coming back, when is she coming back? And what is he supposed to bloody do in the meantime?

And what if she's never coming back??

Trying to work out what's happening to his confusing life, Tom tries to track Hayley down. In doing so, he stumbles across a strange and eccentric group of people with an irregular and highly-addictive hobby.

Next, he's being followed, but he's not sure by whom. And then he also almost loses his job at the radio station in the now infamous 'Jam Nazi' episode, which of course, you know about.

Above all, Tom is trying to work out who everyone is.

Because who is Hayley? Who is this new girl following him around the supermarket?

And who, for that matter, is TOM DITTO?

The Review
It's fair to say I was intrigued enough by the haphazard nature of the blurb to want to read Who is Tom Ditto? It sounded like a fun, quirky read and I'm always on the look out for something a little bit different to the norm. 

The whole 'following' thing was slightly freaky-I have actually found myself looking over my shoulder as I walk around Morrison's, for fear that someone is going to buy the same teabags and own brand Custard Creams as me- but made for an interesting and unusual plot.  The whole premise of CC was uncomfortable and yet strangely alluring.  I guess we all have that nosiness deep within us where we model ourselves on ours choices and actions.

Who is Tom Ditto? reads very much like Danny Wallace's other books-fluid in style, conversational text, observational humour and quick quips.  It is a very accessible book, and I can imagine it appealing to those who don't read a lot as well as avid readers.  The characters, especially Pia, had me longing to know more, infact I think Pia deserves another book all of her own-she is fantastically barmy.  I think I actually want to be her.

I really love the whole 'Britishness' of this book, I can't see that it would work if it were set anywhere else.  There are eccentricities which add depth to the story, along with a serious issue of relationship break ups (or not), yet overwhelmingly this is a story of humour in the midst of despair.

This is a fresh, well written novel with hidden depths.  Ideal for fans of Mike Gayle and William Boyd.

Who is Tom Ditto? is out now.

7/10

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


Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Roomies- Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

 
Roomies is a YA book exploring the transitional period between leaving school and going to University.  Elizabeth and Lauren are two very different people who are allocated a room share.  They wonder if they will get on at all, but over a summer of emails they begin to open up, talking about their hopes and fears.  I loved how the power of the internet and the opportunities it offers for developing friendships before meeting in person is explored in this book.

Roomies captures the teen angst perfectly, the self doubt, the worries about relationships, the uniqueness of this time where you are no longer a child but not quite an adult.  Roomies tugged on my heart strings and took me back to that time in my own life.  It would be a great read for anyone who is preparing to go to University this Autumn. 

The strength for me lies in the depth of Lauren and Elizabeth's personalities.  They are very much temperamental teens-not always the most likeable, yet always relatable.  Because Roomies is written partly in emails and partly in insightful prose, the reader really gets to know the girls, and as they the book progresses I felt more and more empathy towards each of the girls and their insecurities.

I really enjoyed Roomies, a modern take on the classic coming of age genre.  It has a large dose of friendship, a smattering of relationships, a sprinkling of sex and a whole load of family drama.  Overall, a touching and tender read.

Roomies is out now, published by Hodder and Stoughton.

8.5/10

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

Monday, 12 May 2014

Mental Health Awareness Week

This isn't entirely a book post.  This is a post about mental health.  It is Mental Health Awareness Week this week, and as someone who has tried to be as open and honest about my own mental health issues I feel my blog is a place I can share my own experiences.  Hopefully they can offer a glimmer of hope that things can and will get better.

So, here's my story.

Looking at photos from my childhood I often look awkward.  I was a shy, sensitive child and would much rather sit at home reading books than do anything else.  I did have friends, but I was shy and preferred the company of my fictional friends. One of my best friends growing up was my cousin Lola, she was like an additional sister to me.  It is only as I look back now, after counselling and therapy, that I think maybe part of my reluctance to make friends was because my Dad had died when I was young.  There weren't as many child bereavement charities back then in the mid 1980s and those there were weren't as widely known-remember this was pre internet!  Now there are lots of fabulous bereavement charities that work with children- Winston's Wish is the one I support. I didn't know anyone else who had lost a parent.  I think it is fair to say that some of my mental health issues stem from this- my neediness, my fear of losing people, my lack of confidence.  It has taken me a long time to get past the anger deep within me at growing up with just one parent.  There are so many things I wish my Dad could have seen- my graduation, my wedding day, meeting his grandson...plus all the minor things too.  He was a book fiend as well, I would love to be able to talk about them with him. 

School was hard for me.  I was a bit of a geek, plus I was different (one parent family, remember- and they weren't common then, in any guise).  I was also overweight.  I was bullied, verbally and emotionally, and my already low confidence became worse.   I also admitted to a few friends that I was attracted to girls as well as boys, and when they treated me like I was a freak my sense of self was utterly lost.  I didn't mention that I would identify as bi-sexual again until I was in my 30s.  When I was in Year 10 I moved schools.  It had reached the point where I wasn't eating properly (I'd eat raisins as snacks and half a tin of tinned spaghetti for tea) and I thought I was huge.  Looking at photos now I know I wasn't at all, but at the time I felt like a blimp and the comments people made only served to reinforce that.  I was happier at my new school, but still ate erratically.  With hindsight I can see that I had issues with food, probably related to my mental health and because I felt I couldn't be honest about who I was.

I left for University when I was 18 and had my first round of therapy.  I struggled terribly being away from my Mum and used to ring her in tears from the phone on the corridor in my halls of residence, begging to go home.  Somehow I made it through University, and I can tell you now that it wasn't down to the therapy, which was useless.  It was probably down to paracetamol, which I was pretty much addicted to for the three years (I'd take them every day, normally 3-4 times a day) and sleeping tablets which the doctor had prescribed.  I really should have been on antidepressants then too, but again, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Then there were two events which hit me for six.  My Gran died, and I was mugged.  Both of these made me want to be reclusive, and the mugging in particular left me closest to the brink.  I had anxiety attacks, was scared of leaving the house and in particular waiting for buses, I was scared of being in crowds.  When I look back to that time I can still feel the sensation of every nerve ending in my body twitching, almost like pinpricks on my skin.  Urgh, just typing that has made me feel the sensation and it makes me feel sick.  Still I didn't seek help.

It was only after my son was born in 2007 that I finally sought medical help.  He was born neutropaenic, which meant he had less white blood cells than he needed, leaving him open to infection.  There were concerns as it could be linked to leukaemia.  He had blood test after blood test, ending in genetic testing and a bone marrow aspirate when he was eight months old.  I was given fluoxetine to take and life became more manageable.  Not perfect, but more manageable.

Since then I have been on and off antidepressants and anti anxiety drugs (I currently take 100mg a day of Sertraline).  I have had some amazing counselling.  I made a promise to myself that I would be more open and honest about my mental health, and that regardless of what others think I will always be true to myself.  'Learn to love yourself' has become my mantra.  Some days it is really hard to do that, but I try.  I am also fortunate to have a strong faith, without which I really wonder whether I would have survived.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that there is help out there.  Sometimes it is hard to admit you need it, but IT ISN'T A WEAKNESS.  If you had a broken arm, you would go to a doctor.  There are people there to give you advice, to counsel you, to medicate you (if that is what you want).  There are online forums, and if you can be brave enough to tell people what you are going through you'll realise there are lots of other people going through similar things. 

It is time to talk.  You can visit http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/ .  Never feel alone xx

These songs are two of the songs that helped me during my lowest points.


 



Sunday, 11 May 2014

Bird- Crystal Chan



Jewel has always lived in the shadow of her brother.  John, who earned the nickname Bird through his penchant for jumping off anything and everything, has a hold over the whole family.  But Bird died.  He tried to fly off a cliff on the day that Jewel was born, and the family are now living a dysfunctional existence. 

Bird is the story of a family struggling with the tight grip of grief.

I've thought long and hard about how to describe Bird.  I cant compare it to other books as it is so original, and although there are words and emotions that I can link to it (magical, enchanting, unique, gut wrenching, painful, wistful) I want to be able to wrap that up into one neat paragraph about why you should read Bird.  I'm not sure I'm going to be very eloquent or succinct, but here goes. Here is why you should read Bird.

You should read Bird because it is a book which transcends genres.  It reads almost like a fairy tale, and has spiritual undertones which left my arms studded with goosepimples.  It is a family saga.  It is a story of friendship, and place within community.  It is a story of loss, bereavement and self worth.  It is a coming of age tale, a voyage of self discovery.  It feels part fantastical, with elements of mystery.  But most of all it is brimming with hope.

You should read Bird if you have ever lost someone close to you.  It captures the anguish, the pain, the desperation for answers perfectly.  And if you haven't been bereaved yourself, you should read Bird because it will help you be more empathetic to how those left behind carry the weight of bereavement with them at all times.

You should read Bird if you have ever felt like an outsider.  Jewel is lonely, misunderstood and is a protagonist that I desperately wanted to protect and befriend.  And if you have never felt like an outsider you should read Bird because it will give you an insight into how life is for many people who are feeling their way through life, grasping for understanding and acceptance.

You should read Bird.  Really, you should. 

Although prepare yourself for the blubfest at the end.  I could hardly breathe with the deepset pain in my chest and I had snot bubbles coming out of my nose as I couldn't control myself.

Poignant.  Perfect.

Bird is out now, published by Random House Kids UK.  Aimed at 10+, Bird undoubtedly has the potential to cross over into the adult market. 

9/10

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

Friday, 9 May 2014

How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates -Jane Linfoot



The Blurb

The 10 Date Challenge
Day 1: Take one loaded commitment-phobe explosives expert, embarking on the impossible–a challenge to have ten dates with one woman.

Day 5: Add in a fiercely independent and feisty burlesque teacher who has sworn off men.

Day 10: She’s so not his type and he’s so not in her life-plan. But the heat is sizzling and the attraction is explosive. And they’re fighting it all the way….
The Review

Jane Linfoot is entertaining. That's all I can say.  Her writing style is straightforward, easy to read and full of heartwrenching moments and hilarious humour. 

There is a wealthy, hot, testosterone filled male lead in Ed, and a strong, attractive, feisty female love interest in Millie.  Watching their feelings for each other unfurl as they are determined to resist each other makes for a compelling read, one which as a reader I found a little bit emotional!  They always say that writers should take their characters on a journey, and Jane Linfoot certainly does that.

There are hidden secrets, steamy passion and moments where I wanted to grab both Ed and Millie and shake them!  But I'm not ashamed to say my favourite part of the book were the last few scenes which left me with a bit of a lump in my throat.

How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates is a typical Harper Impulse read- full on romance, a bit of raunch and a well woven tale. It'd be a great summer holiday read.

How to Win a Guy in 10 Dates is out now in both ebook and paperback format, published by Harper Impulse.

8/10

With thanks to the publisher for giving me a review copy of this book in return for my honest opinion.

About the author- I write fun, flirty fiction, with feisty heroines, and lots of heat.
Writing romance is cool, because I get to wear pretty shoes instead of wellies. I live in a mountain kingdom in Derbyshire, where my family and pets are kind enough to ignore the domestic chaos. Happily, we're in walking distance of a supermarket. I love hearts, flowers, happy endings, all things vintage, most things french. When I'm not on facebook, and can't find an excuse for shopping, I'll be walking, or gardening. On days when I want to be really scared, I ride a tandem.