I'm falling behind with my reviews at the moment, mainly because I'm pretty busy at the moment with my own books! Most of you probably know the first three stories in my Meet Cute series have been released in the last month, and with the fourth instalment due out on December 17th there's been little let up! You can find out more about my writing exploits at my author blog.
Rather than miss a huge chunk of my reading off the blog, I thought I'd do a quick round up of recent reads.
I borrowed All my Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman from a work colleague. She didn't exactly sell it to me, saying she hadn't been a big fan, but I wanted to give it a go because I'd heard Carrie Hope Fletcher talking about how much she loved it. It'd be fair to say I fell somewhere in the middle. Whilst I thought it was a really clever concept, using attributes to name characters such as 'the Perfectionist', 'the Hypnotist' and 'the Broken Heart', I found it quite difficult to engage with and at times found it bordered on the pretentious. There were, however, some really sweet lines which kept me reading, and as it was only a short read (around 100 pages) I'm glad I persevered. Fans of quirky fiction will no doubt love it, but for me it fell a bit short.
Dream a Little Dream by Giovanna Fletcher had been on my wishlist for a while, but I finally started reading it this month. I've enjoyed Giovanna's other books and this one was no exception. When Sarah starts dreaming about old friend Brett, she doesn't expect him to turn up as the new member of staff at the company she works for! The Brett of her dreams isn't the same as real-life Brett, but as he and Sarah work together to plan an innovative TV show, their relationship blossoms. With a fabulous supporting cast of friends, this is a fast-paced book with lots of laughs. There were heart felt moments and realistic portrayals of friendship through the ups and downs of life and Fletcher's writing style is highly readable reminding me of one of my other favourite contemporary novelists, Erin Lawless. I enjoyed it so much that I went straight on to the companion novella!
Dream a Little Christmas Dream is the follow-up novella to Dream a little Dream and tells the story of Sarah and Brett's Christmas. With the same supporting characters and the familiar pub quiz backdrop, this was an enjoyable short read. There were times in this one where Sarah seemed blind to what I felt was obvious, but overall it was a sweet and romantic follow up with a sprinkling of humour. I'm looking forward to seeing what Giovanna Fletcher comes up with next!
The Art of Being Normal has been one of the big hitting YA reads of the year. Nominated for awards left, right and centre, it follows David Piper, a girl born in a boy's body. In many ways this can be classed as a coming of age novel, a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance. But Lisa Williamson has made David so utterly relatable, and in giving him Leo as a friend has created a unique bond which leaps off the page and into the reader's heart. There is wonderful imagery throughout, particularly during the seaside scenes, and this touching novel deserved every ounce of the acclaim it's receiving. I know I'll be coming back to it again, and my copy is proudly stood on the shelf of 'keepers' - books I want to reread and recommend and lend to anyone who'll listen. Brilliant.
I'm hoping to do one more round up post before the end of the month to catch up!
Wednesday, 25 November 2015
Tuesday, 24 November 2015
A Wicked Old Woman by Ravinder Randhawa
A Wicked Old Woman was my first novel, and like many first novels, it came out as a richly packed, multi-layered cake, full of the shifting glitter of emotions, hopes and feelings, and the turbulent mix of family, cultures and conflicts.
The beauty and pleasure of books is their infinite variety. Some are about one overarching idea whilst others are like slices of life, but all are infused, filtered and imbued by that strange thing we call imagination. A Wicked Old Woman has several themes but is strongly about women trying to define their lives, about families trying to find their feet in a new country and culture, and about the history and secrets we all carry.
The main character is Kulwant, at a crossroads in her life, who decides to subvert everything and initiates a masquerade, which turns out to be more catalyst than disguise, more dynamic than passive, more transformative than defensive. Sparking fireworks among the diverse people who collide and converge, and who ultimately come together to help a young Asian woman, who’s killed a man...
The recent, tragic events in Paris, Beirut and Bagdad, which make us shiver with horror and sympathy, were perpetrated by people who think violence and bloodshed are justifiable. I was reminded of a section in A Wicked Old Woman, not because it’s about violence, but because it’s about a real group of women who worked for peace, The Greenham Women. In the novel, Ammi, one of the characters, keeps having nightmares about people exploding – meaning people being bombed. The thing about Ammi’s nightmares is they won’t go away until something’s been done about them. So a campaign is launched to do something to support the women at the Greenham Peace Camp, which includes a rather amusing samosa making session.
The Greenham Women’s Peace Camp, which lasted for 19 years, was one of the longest lasting peace camps in the world, its members enduring great hardship and tough conditions. It was set up to challenge by debate, the storing of 96 Cruise nuclear missiles at Greenham Common. When the women first arrived at the Common they delivered a letter to the base commander, putting forward their demands and said: ‘We fear for the future of all our children and for the future of the living world which is the basis of all life’.
What impresses me most about the Greenham Women is that they only used peaceful means, they challenged by words, by talk, by debate, and they were concerned about the future of the whole world. I think it’s time to start thinking globally, to tell our governments and politicians we want them to start developing peaceful means of resolving conflicts. It’ll be a long, hard and rocky road, but just look at this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners, The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. They don’t have the word Dialogue in their name for nothing.
I’ve been surprised at how many current issues and topics are echoed in A Wicked Old Woman: from young women growing up in different cultures and trying to make sense of it all, to feminism and what that might mean, to the heartbreak of becoming a refugee. As well as the eternal stuff we all have to grapple with: love, loss, and dilemmas.
I hope you’ll enjoy reading A Wicked Old Woman, as much as I loved writing it.
Drama. Masquerade. Mischief.
A sharply observed, witty and confident novel. Linguistically playful, entertaining and provoking.
In a bustling British city, Kulwant mischievously masquerades as a much older woman, using her walking stick like a Greek chorus, ‘…stick-leg-shuffle-leg-shuffle…’ encountering new adventures and getting bruised by the jagged edges of her life. There’s the Punjabi punk who rescues her after a carefully calculated fall; Caroline, her gregarious friend from school days, who watched over her dizzy romance with ‘Michael the Archangel’, Maya the myopic who can’t see beyond her broken heart and Rani/Rosalind, who’s just killed a man …
Vividly bringing to life a bit of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
Information about the book
Title: A Wicked Old Woman
Author: Ravinder Randhawa
Format: Paperback & Ebook
Published: October 24th 2015 (republished)
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26856759-a-wicked-old-woman
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1784624586/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738
Ravinder Randhawa is the acclaimed author of the novels Beauty and the Beast (YA), A Wicked Old Woman, The Tiger’s Smile and the short story collection Dynamite. She’s currently working on a trilogy: The Fire-Magician. Ravinder was a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Toynbee Hall, Queen Mary’s University, the University of London, and founded the Asian Women Writer’s Collective.
Ravinder was born in India, grew up in leafy Warwickshire, now lives in London and agrees with Samuel Johnson’s saying (though of course, in a gender non-specific way) ‘…if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.’ Loves good coffee and really good thrillers.
Monday 23rd November
Tuesday 24th November
Wednesday 25th November
Thursday 26th November
Friday 27th November
Saturday 28th November
Sunday 29th November
Monday 30th November
Tuesday 1st December
Wednesday 2nd December
Thursday 3rd December
Friday 4th December
Saturday 5th December
Sunday 6th December
Monday, 23 November 2015
Della's over the moon when she kisses her long-standing crush at a party - but then she discovers her diary has disappeared...
When scans of embarrassing pages are sent to her mobile and appear on Facebook, Della's distraught - how can she enjoy her first proper romance when someone, somewhere, knows all her deepest, darkest secrets?
I'm a bit late to the Keris Stainton love-in, but I'm making up for a slow start by binge-reading all her books now!
Della says OMG! was Keris' debut novel and was first released in 2010, and that does show in some of the pop culture references (although as a McFly fan, I don't know how ANYONE could think having It's All About You as a ringtone would be embarrassing!). I loved the plot - as a diarist during my teen years I'd have been mortified at the thought of someone taking my diary - and with the continual rise in the use of (and bullying over) social media, the themes are powerful and believable.
Della's relationship with her friend Maddy and love-interest Dan were the highlights of this book for me, and Stainton conveys the intense emotions of teen relationships perfectly and the sexual energy as Della and Dan's relationship progresses was both highly charged and realistic for the target audience.
I devoured this book and although I preferred Keris Stainton's latest YA release Counting Stars, Della says OMG! is a young adult novel with plenty of oomph. It's got romance, mystery and a wonderful cast of characters (Della's parents - fabulous!) and I can see why this book is still gaining new readers almost six years after first hitting the shelves.
I'd love to know what happened next for these characters, especially the likeable Della!
Della says OMG! is out now, published by Orchard Books.
Thursday, 19 November 2015
It’s autumn and Primrose Terrace has never looked lovelier. But things are far from rosy for the Barker’s at No.6. Cat’s been walking their pair of gorgeous Golden Retrievers and she’s noticed that things are distinctly chilly between owners Juliette and Will. For Cat, things are coming to a head with Mark, but is he the right man for her? Especially as she is getting closer to flatmate Joe. Cat thinks she must be able to do something to stop autumn falling on the Barker’s marriage, but is there anything she can do to resolve her feelings about Mark?
Raincoats and Retrievers is the third part of a serialized novel told in four parts – all set in Primrose Terrace.
Regular readers of Books with Bunny will know I'm a big fan of the Primrose Terrace series. So, what is it I love about these novellas? Well, firstly they've got a wonderful balance of romance, plot, characters you'll care about and, of course, plenty of gorgeous dogs. That's a winning combination to start with. But when you add in Cressida McLaughlin's warm writing style, it makes these books utterly irresistible.
You'll definitely need to have read the first two parts in the series to fully understand the plot (or else grab A Christmas Tail, the complete Primrose Terrace collection in one novel), but I am loving how Raincoats and Retrievers moved everything on - my views on Mark (which were previously 'Urgh! What the **** does Cat see in him?!') changed slightly and although I'm still 100% Team Joe I felt a shift where I didn't actually cringe every time Mark was mentioned. I was less interested in Juliette and Will's story, but it was typical that Cat would get involved in someone else's business - after all, she's a bit of a meddler, in the nicest possible way.
The romance, angst and quiet tension throughout is offset by the stunningly gorgeous seaside location and a community spirit that brings a smile to my face. The only thing I'd have liked more of is Joe, but then I do seem to have developed a bit of a bookish crush on him...
For fans of serialised novels, romance or just anyone looking for a darn good read, this is an absolute must.
Raincoats and Retrievers (and the complete collection of Primrose Terrace books A Christmas Tail) is out now, published by Harper Collins.
With thanks to the publisher who provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.
Tuesday, 17 November 2015
Today I'm delighted to welcome to the wonderful Nik Perring to Books with Bunny. For any of you not yet familiar with Nik and his work, he writes incredibly moving short stories/flash fiction. As a short story writer myself, I'm in awe of his ability and as a reader I admire his capacity to show the beauty and pain in everyday situations. Nik's most recent book Beautiful Trees is out now, published by RoastBooks.
Welcome Nik, and thank you for visiting Books with Bunny. I wondered, how much of your writing comes from your own experience?
I think most writing comes, in some way, from our own experiences. What probably differs is how well we hide it, or how aware of it we are. I’ve never ever tried to write directly about an experience that’s happened to me, or that I’ve seen – I prefer to write stories based on feeling I’ve had, emotions I’ve felt, or based, very loosely, on other things. Mostly, because that’s more fun – there’s plenty more scope to run with ideas and make stuff up than if I was writing about something that had actually happened.
But, in Not So Perfect, I could have been the person who gave his heart away too easily (though I didn’t put mine in a box), and in Freaks! I could have been the sixteen year old girl going on a first date to the cinema, and in Beautiful Trees and Beautiful Words, maybe I was that person who loved the word ‘lisp’ (actually, I definitely do), or the one who admires a tree for its heart shaped leaves...
What inspired you to write Beautiful Trees? Which piece did you write first?
Beautiful Trees was a direct result of writing Beautiful Words. I’d written (or half written) a draft of Words and was talking my publisher (the brilliant RoastBooks) about how we could make it work and the idea of a series cropped up really early on in the conversation. And I think the conversation most likely went something like...
‘How about we make it into a series?’
‘Ooh, that could work. Err, what else could be beautiful? And interesting? And story worthy?’
‘Well, I’ve always liked trees...’
But I guess the real inspiration was an extension of me wanting to share and celebrate beautiful things. Trees certainly are that. Have you seen the blossom in Graves’ Park when everything’s blooming?
And which piece did I write first? Now you’re asking...
I want to say the cherry tree entry, because that’s how Alexander and Lily’s story begins – she works at a garden centre and he buys one as an excuse to talk to her. But with a book like that, that’s not always told in the right order (and with my memory!) it could have been any.
What I do remember, really clearly, is writing both the willow story and the hazel part. I’ve always loved willows – they remind me of people, for some reason. They seem very female. And very beautiful and they seem to have fragile beauty and a sadness that’s glorious and watery and fluid. (I’m not saying those are linked, I should add!)
Graves Park is one of my favourite places in Sheffield and I love watching the trees change appearance with the seasons. Do you think word selection is more important in shorter pieces of writing than in novels?
Absolutely not. I think words, and their selection and their weight, are just as important no matter what length of story they appear in. And I know that they’re more likely to stand out more in a shorter piece, simply because there are less of them (bit like sitting on the front row of desks at school) but every word is as important as the next. If they’re not then the writing gets baggy and soggy.
What's your favourite word?
Your work is extremely emotive to read. Do you get emotional whilst you write?
Less than I did! And thank you. It’s a weird balance, writing (as you’ll know!). I think you absolutely have to feel something of what you’re writing – that’s where the heart is in stories, that’s what makes them glow and that’s what makes readers identify and empathise and feel. But I also think that sometimes the stories we write are because of what or how we feel about things. And I think that’s what we should strive for as writers – converting an emotion or translating a feeling into something different for others, hopefully, to enjoy. (And yes, I know I sound all ponsey and like I’m trying to be clever, but I’m not (clever or ponsey!). I just think that emotions are such powerful things they deserve to be shared. And people understand them: we all know what it’s like to be sad or happy, lonely or pining.)
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Nik, it's been a pleasure. Beautiful Trees which will be reviewed on Books with Bunny shortly.
Author Bio -
Nik Perring is a short story writer and the author of five books. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They've won competitions, been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and broadcast on radio.
Nik's short stories have been collected in two books: Not So Perfect (Roastbooks, 2010) and, with Caroline Smailes, Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012).
He's also the author of A Book of Beautiful Words (Roastbooks, 2014), and the second in the series, Beautiful Trees, is out now.
His online home is www.nikperring.com and he's on Twitter as @nikperring
Tuesday, 10 November 2015
It's cover reveal time! The Revenge, the new book by Holly Martin is the third book in The Sentinel Series.
Here’s the blurb...
He was created to be her back up and now he's out to take her place
After the Oraculum orders Eve’s execution, she has to flee her home in the fort as those that have been guarding over her are forced to turn against her. Amongst the chaos, a new Sentinel is named. Adam, Eve’s half-brother.
Adam has spent his life incarcerated by the Oraculum while Eve was allowed to grow up with a family and friends. Now he is hell bent on revenge. He rules over his Guardians and his new kingdom with arrogance and a cold heart, but his one ambition is to make Eve’s life a living hell. Nowhere is safe from him, not even her dreams.
With the threat from the Putarians moving closer, her own Guardians betraying her, the survival of the world hinges in the balance.
Above all else, Adam must be stopped. But when Eve has a prophecy of her and Adam saving the world together, she quickly realizes she needs to work with him not against him.
But can Eve get through to Adam before it’s too late? Or will Adam’s evil heart result in the destruction of all?
Praise for The Sentinel (Book 1 in The Sentinel Series)
It’s a book you HAVE to read, because it’s incredible. An outstanding book that has left me bereft its finished. I wished I’d savoured it for longer. This book was one of those that once you started it was impossible to come away from. It was fast paced, exciting, full of suspense and action that had me gasping in shock at twists I never imagined could happen. It’s a story of courage and adventure. And no matter how dark it gets, there’s always love and hope. – Victoria Loves Books Blog
It's really hard to find the words to describe how amazing this book is.
This is definitely the best debut I've read this year! I just love this book, I want you all to read this book, in fact you all need to read this book! - Love of a Good Book Blog
If you want to pre-order this book so it pops straight onto your kindle on December 1st then pop over here. Its only 99p/99c
And if you haven’t read the first two books in the series yet, then pop over here and get your copy, all three books are 99p/99c at the moment
Monday, 9 November 2015
I Call Myself a Feminist - ed. Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Alice Stride and Martha Mosse
Is feminism still a dirty word? We asked twenty-five of the brightest, funniest, bravest young women what being a feminist in 2015 means to them.
We hear from Laura Bates (of the Everyday Sexism Project), Reni Eddo-Lodge (award-winning journalist and author), Yas Necati (an eighteen-year-old activist), Laura Pankhurst, great-great granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and an activist in her own right, comedian Sofie Hagen, engineer Naomi Mitchison and Louise O'Neill, author of the award-winning feminist Young Adult novel Only Ever Yours. Writing about a huge variety of subjects, we have Martha Mosse and Alice Stride on how they became feminists, Amy Annette addressing the body politic, Samira Shackle on having her eyes opened in a hostel for survivors of acid attacks in Islamabad, while Maysa Haque thinks about the way Islam has informed her feminism and Isabel Adomakoh Young insists that women don't have to be perfect. There are twelve other performers, politicians and writers who include Jade Anouka, Emily Benn, Abigail Matson-Phippard, Hajar Wright and Jinan Younis.
Is the word feminist still to be shunned? Is feminism still thought of as anti-men rather than pro-human? Is this generation of feminists - outspoken, funny and focused - the best we've had for long while? Has the internet given them a voice and power previously unknown?
I was incredibly excited when I was approached to take part in the blog tour for I Call Myself a Feminist. Although it's only over the past few months that I've actively started reading feminist non-fiction, I have to say that this collection particularly interested me, partly because the essays were written by such a diverse selection of young women. Although there have been some mainstream feminist books which have hit the bestseller lists (Caitlin Moran and Amy Poehler's for example), I Call Myself a Feminist appealed because the essays were by women from all walks of life. I have to say, I wasn't disappointed.
The issues covered were equally as diverse - female genital mutilation, rape, sexual consent, women and careers, motherhood to name just a few - and every viewpoint gave me something different to mull over. It's an inspirational book which is sadly still necessary in the twenty-first century, but one which examines what it means to be a feminist today. It proves that feminists do not fit one stereotype. It proves that feminism means something different to each individual. Personally, I think this is a major contributing factor to the rise in people identifying as a feminist - it's certainly enabled me to feel more comfortable using the term in relation to myself.
Powerful, relevant and extremely accessible, I Call Myself a Feminist should be essential reading. It's empowering. It's enlightening. It's thought provoking. It's downright brilliant.
Friday, 6 November 2015
Today I'm joined by Nicola Cornick, author of House of Shadows (published yesterday by Mira), talking about writing a time-slip novel.
I vividly remember the comments I received from other authors when I told them that I was writing a time-slip novel and asked for their advice. Most of it could be summed up in one word. “Don’t.” Complex and challenging were amongst the phrases used when we discussed how to structure the parallel narratives. There was pity in their eyes as they contemplated what I had let myself in for.
Naturally I ignored the warnings. Time-slip has been a favourite genre of mine to read for years, ever since I picked up a copy of Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine when I was in my teens. I’d wanted to write House of Shadows for a long time.
Writing parallel narratives allows you to use one strand of the story to illuminate the others. It adds so much depth and richness. Initially I planned to write each strand separately so that I could follow the story of the characters through in each different time period and then weave them together after they were written. I started with the 17th century story of Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, because it was with Elizabeth that the idea for the book had started. I was intending to tell all her story, then write Lavinia’s tale, set in the 19th century and finally Holly’s in the present. However I just couldn’t get the story to work like that. There were too many connections between the characters that I needed to feed in in the right place. So I started again, threading the three different story strands together as I went along.
Keeping the characters’ voices separate and distinct was really important. It was also essential to create stories of equal richness so that a reader would become emotionally invested in all the parallel strands. The research had to be as accurate as for any historical novel but I actually found the contemporary thread the most difficult because I’d never written contemporary fiction before.
Writing House of Shadows was complex and challenging but it was also worth every moment. I learned so much in the process and exploring the mystery of the life of Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, was a wonderful adventure.
Thursday, 5 November 2015
Author Linn B Halton is celebrating with a competition running from 5th November - 5 December, 2015!
In the UK, Falling: Angels Among Us The complete series (published by Harper Impulse) will be on the shelves in some of the WHSmith stores for a four-week promotion. The star of Falling, Ceri, is sprinkling a little 'festive' love ...
Launching the Rafflecopter #FallingComp
1st prize - one lucky winner can choose a gift of their choice, valued at £100/$150* (International) 2nd prize - two lucky winners will each receive one signed paperback of A Cottage in the Country - released 23 Sept 2015 (UK only; non-UK ecopy) 3rd prize - six lucky winners will each receive an ebook of their choice from any of Linn's titles (International)
*(gift to be chosen from across the Amazon stores, or full cash prize via Paypal if you prefer to shop locally)
Take part below - there are lots of different ways to join in the fun and get your chance to be a winner!
What would YOU choose?
A special something just for YOU?
Or use the CASH to pamper yourself - or even to help out with those holiday expenses!
Ceri thinks she sees angels … everywhere. She struggles to keep separate what feels like two very different sides to her life. As a manager in an advertising company she’s been working with the gorgeous Alex for two years. The have a friendship based upon the image she portrays whilst she’s at work and it helps to keep her sane. One mad, crazy night spent sharing their secrets and a lot of wine result in them ending up in bed together, and their relationship changes. When Alex explains that the reason he doesn’t date is because someone broke his heart, how can Ceri admit that she feels a deep connection to him?
Ceri knows she’s different. What she doesn’t fully appreciate, is that her task in life is to correct a series of incidents that affect some of the people’s lives with whom she comes into contact. She’s simply putting right little errors that could ripple outwards and change the course of their destiny. When she finds herself getting pulled into things that happen around her, how can she prove that she really has made a difference? Is it all in her head?
She’s alone for a reason; she’s not meant to fall in love in her earthly life. Alex is supposed to cross paths with her and help Ceri, during a phase where she begins to question the signs she’s being given. It’s meant to be a turning point for them both—but in opposite directions. They are destined to travel very different paths … but Ceri doesn’t know that and neither does Alex …
Falling: Angels Among Us the series is published by Harper Impulse.