Monday, 26 June 2017

Book Review - The Apple Orchard by Veronica Henry - Book #66

Amazon UK
Title:  The Apple Orchard
Author: Veronica Henry
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 13th April 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

In the charming town of Peasebrook, there's a place for everyone. War vet Joe has made new friends and a new home for himself here, overlooking a beautiful apple orchard. But when tragedy strikes and Joe is left out in the cold, it will bring them all together in entirely unexpected ways . . .

A delightful but incredibly short story, set in Peasebrook. It is a small heart warming tale about a man's life who is a bit down on his luck and how the community feel about him. 

I loved even this short visit to Peasebrook, as it was the setting for the authors two most recent full length novels, and I loved seeing characters that I have met before in this. 

The Apple Orchard is the sort of book that is ideal as a quick read in a lunch fact I didn't even finish eating before I had hit the end of the story!  

Often short stories can feel rushed or you don't get too much sense of any depth on characters, but that is definitely not the case here. This a  rounded look at one person's life and feels like the perfect length for this piece of writing. 

Thank you to everyone that voted for Veronica Henry this week, it was a very close contest, and given how little I've been reading in the heatwave, it was a relief that you picked the nice quick book for me! However I wonder what will win this week! 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #67

Thank you everyone for your input last time. The results of the last vote were:

0 Votes - Amber Green Takes Manhattan by Rosie Nixon
3 Votes - Almost a Bride by Jo Watson
7 Votes - Practice Makes Perfect by Penny Parkes
7 Votes -  Breaking All The Rules by Rachael Richey
8 Votes - The Apple Orchard by Veronica Henry

This was one of the most interesting votes to watch pan out for ages, for most of the week I had no idea which book would win, but what did strike me was I was most likely going to either be reading the longest book of the selection or the shortest. Given the heatwave last week I'm very glad it was the short story that won, as that was about my level of concentration. 

Since we haven't done this for a few weeks this week its the turn of the fact I think I've only read one paperback all month which seems like not enough for someone trying to reduce the piles, so lets see what comes up this time. 

Below is my initial theory for this feature, and then a bit further, what you are all waiting for... This weeks's vote! Enjoy!

I am also awful at deciding what book to read next, as I often have about 10 titles or authors jumping into my brain at any time, shouting at me to read them, and I tend to worry I have made the wrong decision while reading a perfectly good book. I am hoping this will save me having to make at least 1 choice a week, while possibly providing a review to the site of a book you all either love or are curious about yourselves. 

So what I am proposing, is my lovely loyal readers of Rachel's Random Reads, select one book for me to read a week, and I will post the review the following week. 

This week's random numbers are...

And the books these numbers correspond to are...

So the 5 choices with my gut feeling responses are:

23 - The Waiting Game by Jessica Thompson - I've had this book for a while, and it definitely look like the sort of book I want to read. 
29 - The Bum Magnet by K L Brady -  I won this book and it looks and sounds like it could be really funny. 
44 - The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain - I've been looking forward to reading this book since I won it,  have a feeling it could be fascinating. 
51 - The Memory Box by Sarah Webb - This is the sequel to something I read years ago by the author. However since its been so long I have  a feeling it would be like a new book to me. 
61 - One Kiss in Rio... by Various - 3 Books in 1 from Mills and Boon, should be 3 hot and steamy romances with a Brazilian twist.  

This is an interesting selection this week, I won all of these books in giveaways, so on the whole don't know too much about them, but know I would quite like to read all 5 eventually. I will be very intrigued to see what you all pick! 

Pick your favourite or the one you most want me to review, or just the one you are curious about, and leave me a comment below, before midnight on Wednesday. 

I look forward to seeing what I will be reading over the weekend, courtesy of you all. 

And authors, if its your book up on this feature, feel free to take part, vote for yourself, or stir up excitement amongst your fans! 

The explanation if you haven't seen the feature before. 

How is this going to work?

Every Monday, I am going to have a post like this, which is going to have some choices on it. I am planning on using to select 7 random numbers, to coincide with my spreadsheet of unread books.  

I will from that produce a list of hopefully 5 books, I reserve the right to veto any books, and will give reasons for them, if it occurs.

I will take screenshots and post them, of the chosen books, and also give you my instinctive reactions to the choices (without checking blurbs or any other info about them, which could be interesting as there are probably many forgotten about books on my spreadsheet!). 

Your task is to post a comment on this post, with the book you would like me to read this week. At midnight on Wednesday I will take a tally of the votes and the book with the most, I will read and review for the following Monday, where you will also get a new choice post. 

In the event of a tie, I will chose which one appeals most, for the Monday review, and possibly try and read and review the other to appear when I can. 

I am hoping this will provide some variety to the books appearing, and will let me potentially read or discover some great authors that I have wanted to read but not got around to yet.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Book Review - Meet Me at the Lighthouse by Mary Jayne Baker - Fab Firsts

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Although not the first book by Mary Jane Baker, this is the first one that I have read.

Amazon UK
Title: Meet Me at the Lighthouse
Author: Mary Jane Baker
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 30th June 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

The day I turned 28, I bought a lighthouse and met the love of my life’

Bobbie Hannigan’s life in a cottage by the sea with her dog and her twin sister is perfectly fine … until she decides the logical thing is to buy a lighthouse and open a music venue with Ross Mason, the first boy she ever kissed.

Bobbie tries to be professional with Ross, but the happily-ever-after they’re working toward is too good to resist. That is until someone from his past crawls back to cause trouble. Can Bobbie look past the secrets Ross has been keeping from her? Or will the boy, the lighthouse, and the dream all slip away?

Escape to the Yorkshire coast this summer with this laugh out loud romantic comedy from Mary Jayne Baker!

Well its not often that you start a book with an impulse purchase of a lighthouse! And its the small act of marginal madness that not only sets off a chain of events for Bobbie and old friend Ross, but also sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the book. 

For this is lovely light hearted story, with a lighthouse and some interlinked love stories at the heart of it. The lighthouse itself is the focal point, and Bobbie and Ross do have a master plan for it, which involves fundraising initially and then music.

There is just a fun and pleasant story that made me smile throughout it. It's the first book I have read by the author, and I loved her writing style, and general sense of humour. It is just such a quirky story and I loved everything to do with the Lighthouse itself.  

The book is easy to follow and there are a few small surprises along the way. What really helped make the book so great were some of the characters. There is Bobbie's mother who gives potential new boyfriends a Spanish Inquisition style grilling, there is an old thespian who is just OTT, there is a bar owner who does a great line in bad chat up lines, and bizarre dress sense, there is an ex wife that seemingly has her own agenda, and an ex boyfriend who I really didn't like at all, for reasons that will become apparent as you read the book. 

Meet Me at the Lighthouse is a lovely story to read on a relaxed and sunny weekend, or at any other time really, and was a great introduction for me to a new author who I definitely will be interested in reading more from. 

Thank you to Harper Impulse and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Kate Fitzroy

Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Today I'd like to welcome to Rachel's Random Reads, Kate Fitzroy.

1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

My first book was never published… understandably as the main protagonist fell down a rabbit hole and I was only eight at the time 

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

I think it’s a natural progression to move from loving to read to becoming a writer. My original inspiration was a monthly competition in a long-lost magazine called the Elizabethan. I won prize money twice and it was a most welcome addition to my spasmodic pocket money.

3) How long did it take you to write your first book?

I wrote Perfume of Provence in five months but then I lived in a remote corner of the Loire Valley and have a most understanding husband.

4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I am smugly content with my debut. Carina published my first two books and I enjoyed working with them, although I never liked their covers. I jumped from that platform into Indie publishing with KDP and Create Space. I enjoy the autonomy… and higher royalties.

5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

I am sure everyone has their own method of working to their best potential. I like to write from 6 am until 8 am nearly every day and it is a habit or maybe an addiction. I then have my day free for family and friends and, if I have time, I edit and prettify the text in the afternoons. 

6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

I always, always have a notebook or use my mobile to capture any ideas that fly into my head at odd moments… or a snatch of a conversation… sometimes waking from a dream, I write in the dark on my bedside notepad!

Tell us about your first…

7) Book you bought

The first book I bought for myself, rather than those bought for me, was ‘Lorna Doone’. I spent my aforementioned prize money on a delicious turquoise leather-bound edition. It was the first in a special classic collection and I was determined to buy them all. The next was a jolly red leather edition of Father Brown’s Stories and then… I must have given up… or the series floundered… but I do still have them both and love them dearly.

8) Memory

Looking up at a pattern of apple leaves and branches outlined against a shimmering blue sky. I am told my pram used to be parked under a large apple tree so maybe I could have been a second Newton if only I had been mathematically minded. As it is, I love blue skies so much that I went to live on the Cote d’Azur when I was twenty-one

9) Person you fell in love with

I am not sure if it was love or infatuation but he was an assistant golf pro who looked like James Dean and rode a motor bike. Naturally, my parents forbade me to go anywhere with him off the golf course. So, I jumped on the back of his bike one evening and went to Southend-on-Sea. He turned out to be surprisingly gentlemanly and treated me to an ice cream and returned me home. It was some time before I realised he had only been after my high handicap for mixed foursome competitions!  

10)  Holiday you went on

My unusual parents decided to board a boat in Newcastle (I think) and cross the North Sea to Norway for a skiing holiday. It was an extraordinary trip and I learnt to go up mountains with reindeer skins strapped to my very long narrow skis and cross over vast frozen lakes. I don’t remember much downhill skiing, except once when I had lost my right ski in a ravine and was rescued by Olaf who put me on his shoulders and ski-ed back down to the village, ducking low beneath snow-laden branches in a pine forest.  I was seven. 

Thank you so much Kate for answering my questions. What a fabulous sounding first holiday, and love the story about your first love!

Author Bio

Kate Fitzroy has two lives. One in a flinty Victorian cottage in Newmarket, where she awakes to the clatter of horses' hooves as strings of racehorses pass early each morning. Kate's other life is played out in a Napoleonic manor set in a sleepy village amongst the vineyards of the Loire valley. 

Her life has not always been so blissful. Widowed at the age of twenty-one, already with two children to love and protect, she fought her way up as hard a path as any of her heroines. Now happily married and surrounded by a large, loving family, Kate enjoys every moment of every day... CARPE DIEM... TEMPUS FUGIT.... or should that be CARPE MOMENTUM?

Kate on Twitter
Kate on Amazon

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Back Catalogue Book - Q&A with Karen Aldous

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, going to aim to read books that have been out for at least 6 months, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

Hi Rachel,

Thank you so much for inviting me along to your new ‘Back Catalogue Books’ feature. What a wonderful idea. Just so that your readers know a bit about me, I’ll give a *wave*, I’m Karen Aldous, author of five contemporary romances with HQUK/HarperCollins, which are set in some of the most beautiful locations, and as well as containing lots of emotional family drama, my strong, independent heroine will always find her happy ending.

Please tell me about your first book, and what started you writing in the first place

The Vineyard is my first book and it’s inspiration came from my first visit to Provence several years ago. I fell in love with the ambience of Provence, the landscape, the hilltop villages, the vineyards, but my character Lizzie was too young to live so rural, she needed the cosmopolitan vibe of Cannes to live and run her business and so Provence became her dream. The story was born. It didn’t actually reach fruition until 2012 though. I wrote the first half of it whilst my mum was undergoing her chemo treatment. I finished it the following year and sent it to CarinaUK, now HQUK.

1) How many books have you written and what are they?

I’ve just completed my fifth novel but both The Vineyard and The Riviera, are, as I mention above, set in Cannes and Provence, and follow the story of Lizzie and her three-year-old son Thierry and Cal and his son who lives on the US island of Nantucket. After falling for bad-boy Anton, Thierry’s playboy father, Lizzie then falls for Cal, her mother’s toy boy. Lizzie has difficulty trusting any man since Anton, so even when discovers the truth, it takes an exceptional man to win her trust. 

The Chateau is set around the beautiful Swiss Riviera on Lake Geneva where Gina meets Ollie and is immediately disturbed by a figure on the lake. As more is revealed of Agnes-Francesia, an unrested spirit at the Chateau, the quest to settle the spirit becomes Gina and Ollie’s fascination. 

My fourth novel, One Moment at Sunrise is set on the path and beside the stunning Canal du Midi, also in the South of France. My main character Evie appears to have everything, the elegant villa, the rock-star boyfriend and his gorgeous little girl, Charlotte, but Evie is extremely unhappy. When she researches the building of the canal for film director Ben, she finds herself identifying with one of the characters and discovers more about herself and where her own life should be leading. 

My fifth and most recent title, will be released 14th June, is called ‘Under a Tuscan Sky’.

2) Which book are you most proud of writing?

This is so tricky to answer because each makes me proud. It’s been a journey on which I am still learning and so each one is a testament to learning something new from the last. I suppose, it’s like asking me to favour a child. I can’t!

3) Which book was your favourite to write?

The Chateau was inspired by a dream soon after my mum passed. It was an extremely vivid image of a woman being dunked in the deep waters outside a medieval dungeon. I woke up sweating and quickly wrote the scene. I felt her spirit needed to settle, and her story told. I think it was my favourite to write not just because it was so close, but because Gina, my character was on a quest to discover the relationship between the spirit Agnese-Francesia and what she needed to do to settle her. I enjoyed that mysterious side to it. 

4) Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?

Relative to the above. I really loved Agnes-Francesia in The Chateau because as a spirit she had to enter different eras to find the person who would help her settle that spirit, and find ways of engaging and communicating with them. Arriving in the twenty-first century from the seventeenth century, she is exposed to so many changes, not just the landscape but material and technological changes. So from a more primitive era of road tracks and horse and carts, she has to endure the staggering changes to roads, as well as the unfamiliar, the speed etc ., of cars, trains, aeroplanes, and then decipher what phones and tablets etc., are, and how to make them work for her. It was entertaining and a particularly absorbing task. Imaging how lost we’d feel leaping forward or back four hundred years!

5) If you could go back and change anything from any of your books, what would it be, and why?

Oh goodness, I wouldn’t change any of the stories per se, but I would love to go back and re-edit them in terms of their language; changing sentences, phrases, grammar etc. I’d like to think I’ve developed as a writer and I’m sure if I went back and re-read them, my editing pen would soon run out of ink!

6) Which of your covers is your favourite and why?

I love my covers. The team at HQ have a great sense of what stands out.  I think the cover of One Moment at Sunrise is one which has a spiritual significance for me. Maybe it’s the mystical figure of the woman on the front walking into the unknown. She is following the light. I was talking to an author at an awards evening recently and we spoke about our previous careers; seeking locations for clients. We both agreed that our best finds are discovered when we are completely lost. I think that is what the image evokes for me, and it’s that stepping into the unknown and discovering what is out there which ignites me.

7) Have you ever thought about changing genres, if so what else would you like to write?

Yes. Apart from a contemporary romance, I enjoy psychological thrillers and historical or dual-timelines. I am currently working on some ideas for a dual-timeline. It is quite a challenge to create two stories which somehow weave together, but I feel ready for the challenge. There are some excellent authors out there who create wonderful dual-timelines and I would love to be among them. As I state above, stepping into the unknown can be a great adventure.

8) Looking forward can you let us know what you are working on next?

Under A Tuscan sky is being edited and set for 14th June release, just after my daughter’s wedding there, but I’m also working on characters and ideas for my next novel which is also set in Italy. Like France and Switzerland, Italy has so many layers and beauty, I find it inspiring in all aspects; landscapes, history, art, culture, culinary delights, not to mention the wine, so I’ve planned a tour for the research, and hope to meet some new characters and discover their stories. Nothing is ever wasted. I will also continue building on my dual-timeline novels.

9) I dare not ask for a favourite author, but is there any author’s back catalogue you admire and why?

Oh, there’s so many. Erica James is one of my favourite and among her back catalogue are dual-timelines. I like to read and learn from these experts; what strategies or vehicles authors use to create their different eras. I’ve been reading, Lucinda Riley, Santa Montefiore, Kate Moreton, Rosanna Ley, Kath McGurl, Iona Grey, and a new discovery recommended by a wonderful book-blogger, Katherine Webb. There’s probably more. I just love both the reading of the stories ,and working out how they’re all pieced together.

10)Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your back catalogue of books?

As a writer, I want nothing more to inspire my readers and allow them to escape to another world so they can submerge themselves into the character’s mind. I ask only that your readers will try one or two of my back catalogue of books and if they enjoy them, to keep coming back for more, and recommend them to their friends.

Thank you so much Karen for answering my questions. I love your books and I'm looking forward to starting Under a Tuscan Sky when I get a spare moment.

Author Bio

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Much of Karen's inspiration comes from her travels and meeting people. The UK, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and parts of the USA and Asia are just some you will experience in her books to date. However, wherever she goes, new characters emerge in 'Karen's World' screaming at her to tell their stories; past or present. She loves to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!

Karen’s books published by HQUK/Harper Collins are available at most ebook retailers.

Here are the links to AmazonUK:

You can also follow Karen:
Twitter: KarenAldous_

Under A Tuscan Sky was published 10 days ago

Amazon UK
A summer she’ll never forget…
When Olivia Montague’s grandmother passes away, she decides it’s finally time to make some changes in her own life. So she breaks up with her ‘going nowhere’ boyfriend and embarks on a journey to her Nonna’s home in Tuscany.

Until now, Olivia has always believed that she’s incapable of love, after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. But with each day spent at the gorgeous villa nestled in the rolling Italian hills, she feels her heart begin to flutter…

And when handsome antiques dealer Hugh St. James arrives on the scene, she realises things might be about to change forever!

Book Review - Prime Justice by M.A. Comley - Back Catalogue Books

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, going to aim to read books that have been out for at least 6 months, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

This is book 14 of the Justice series, from an incredibly prolific and talented author.

Amazon UK
Title:  Prime Justice
Author: M.A. Comley
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Jeamel Publishing Limited
Publication Date: 31st January 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

A killer, an abductor, and a villain intent on revenge - just a normal week in the life of DI Lorne Warner.

When a wealthy woman is found murdered in a country lane, close to her home, it's up to Lorne to find the evidence to track down the rural killer.

When another resident in the same vicinity is abducted, the evidence points Lorne to believe both cases are connected.

However, Lorne's focus on the puzzling case is in jeopardy, when a criminal awaiting trial threatens her career in the force.

Can Lorne restore the tranquility in the once sleepy community? And will she still be a serving police officer in the Met by the end of the investigation?

I absolutely love the Justice series by M.A.Comley and Prime Justice is another excellent addition to it. For those that have never read any in the series, then this could be read as a standalone, but if you are like me a a dedicated follower of it, then it is absolutely fantastic to catch up with my old friends again. 

I love DI Lorne Wanneer, and how she goes about investigating her cases, and her husband Tony is fabulous too. No matter how sceptical you are, there is something so believable about the hints that her good friend Carol comes up with. 

There is one main storyline this time, and the criminal in question is definitely dastardly. I didn't really guess who it was, and even when revealed I was semi shocked, but also knew instantly that it made a degree of sense. 

I managed to read Prime Justice in about two and a half hours, reasonably late a night, unable to put it down for a second, while I saw the outcome.   The more books I read of this series the more I enjoy them, and if you are new to the series, then this may not be the best starting point, as others are better, it just depends how many books you want to read  to catch up, although I'd recommend starting at the beginning and enjoying all of them!  

Friday, 23 June 2017

Book Review - The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

Amazon UK
Title: The Summer of Impossible Things
Author: Rowan Coleman
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: 29th June 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

How far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother's life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.

Easily the most accomplished and impressive book that Rowan Coleman has ever written. 

With every will in the world I was wasn't expecting to even like the book, and it was only due to it being written by an author that I greatly admire that I was willing to give it a go. 

Let me explain, I like my fiction incredibly contemporary and always worry if I know in advance there is any history in the book, I am also very skeptical and knowing that there was a time travel element in the book worried me too. However I did know that if it was all dealt with in a way that didn't wrankle me that I would be fine. And somehow having now read The Summer of Impossible Things, and despite the story not fully being realistically believable in a real world sense, I don't think the book would have worked any other way. 

In fact the main character Luna, does everything in her power to try and explain away what is happening to her, before fully embracing it, and instead of the book being confusing, I found it made complete and utter sense. I had the timelines straight in my mind, and ever what should have been a huge outlandish thing, was understated in a way that I can't fully explain. 

This is a story that is far more than those first elements that I was obsessing over. It is a story about love, possibly the purest form of love, from a daughter to her mother and sister.  The tale is beautifully written and drew me in completely, to the extent that I read the book in two sittings. 

Even when I wasn't reading the book, the characters and what was happening was playing on my mind, in fact I dread to start another book at the moment, as nothing will be able to compete.  I really can't explain the story, as I'm not talented enough to do is justice, for it really is a work of art. 

From the start you are aware that Luna is a scientist and that the author must have put a fair amount of research, so that she could explain things about space/time and just how they work. Although I'm not sure how much understanding I have of it, even now it certainly led an air of intellect to the book. 

Ultimately The Summer of Impossible Things is just that, it takes place in the summer, in New York,  where Luna experiences the impossible, and aims to make a believer out of the reader. It is an absolutely brilliant book and I would suggest you put your own beliefs on hold, and give it a go, or miss out on something really special. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Ebury Press for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Book Review - The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French

Amazon UK
Title:  The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach
Author: Kat French
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 22nd June 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

A Greek island solves all life’s problems…doesn’t it?

Winnie, Stella and Frankie have been best friends forever.

When their lives unexpectedly unravel, they spontaneously decide to buy a gorgeous B&B on a remote Greek island. Drenched in hot sun, Villa Valentina is the perfect escape from reality. But when Winnie meets Jesse, their brooding neighbour, she finds that Greece is full of its own complications – not least how attractive he is…

Meanwhile, Frankie and Stella are discovering that Villa Valentina has its own secrets – starting with the large supply of gin in the cellar and the arrival of a famous rock band. A band with one very good-looking member who just might distract Frankie from thoughts of her husband…

I fell in love with the island of Skelidos and all of its inhabitants in this gorgeous summery story.  

Nested just between the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos is Skelidos, a fictional Greek island, that is unspoilt by mass tourism. And it is on that island that three ladies went for a weekend, after all enduring massive changes in their lives. On their return, their bank balances are significantly emptier. 

Don't worry, there was no con-men or theft involved, the ladies somehow managed to buy a pink B&B on the beach! Within a couple of weeks they were back out in Skelidos to try to make the best of their new business venture, learn some Greek and see just how their new lives would turn out. 

It soon becomes apparent that Villa Valentina contains more hidden features than first encountered when they bought it. I won't let you in on them, but they are quite integral to the story. 

Winnie, Stella and Frankie all have their own reasons for wanting this venture in Skelidos to work out, from failed marriages to recently being made redundant. Yet as you may have guessed things don't necessarily pan out as planned, and I loved every second of seeing just what journey Winnie, Stella and Frankie would take. 

There is a gorgeous nearby neighbour, there is plenty of Gin and Tonics to be made and drunk, there are irritable Greek men, a set of famous guests, some lovely locals, a great location and romance is in the air... all this and more in an amusing summery story that I couldn't stop thinking about. It is easy and quick to read, and I was so enamored by Skelidos that I had to google to check if it was real or not! 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Avon for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Guest Post - Writing The Truth About Gemma Grey by Sophie Ranald - Blog Tour

When I look back over the past 18 months, it seems incredible to me that my first novel, It Would Be Wrong to Steal my Sister’s Boyfriend (Wouldn’t It?) took just 12 weeks to write. The process of getting Gemma from glimmer of an idea to finished novel has been somewhat different!

When I first pitched the idea to my agent at LAW, then the lovely Peta Nightingale, the concept was around a blogger who wrote posts describing a life far more glamorous and interesting than the one she was actually living. Peta liked the idea, but she said, “Of course, you must make her a vlogger, not a blogger, because this is 2016, LDO.”

Now I hadn’t been living under a rock, so I knew that vloggers – YouTubers – were a Thing. But that was pretty much all I knew. My education into the world of vlogging had to start pretty much from scratch, and that meant watching Zoella videos. A lot of Zoella videos. It got so my partner would come downstairs and find me gazing vacantly at my screen and say, “You’re watching that Zoella again, aren’t you?”

The more I watched, the more I realised that first, Peta was right and second, my initial idea was going to have to change somewhat. YouTubers live their entire lives in the public eye, and it would be immensely difficult for Gemma, if she were one of them, to pull off a double life. So I had to go back to the drawing board and rethink things.

The other thing I wrestled with, watching make-up tutorial after make-up tutorial, was what motivates their creators. Money? Certainly, the likes of Zoella have built hugely successful businesses from humble beginnings and made a fortune in the process. But (like authors!) only a lucky few achieve anything like this degree of success. So I had to give Gemma a motive other than money or fame… Enter Jack and Olivia.

My next challenge was to give Gemma a cause to care about. Many YouTubers do this, embracing politics, mental health, HIV education and so on, and using the audiences they have built up to spread the word about something that matters to them. This was something I’d decided on quite early in the process, and I was greatly looking forward to writing it. Unfortunately, Life intervened at this point.

My partner and I moved house. The place we bought thinking it would need minor cosmetic work turned out to need major structural work, and I spent the next few months mired in architects’ drawings, helical screws and builder’s crack stitching kits (yes, really). By the time I returned to  Gemma, the world had moved on to the point where my wonderful plot point was no longer relevant, and I had to bin and rewrite about 20,000 words. Gutting doesn’t even cover it.

So, what with one thing and another, the process of writing this novel was anything but smooth. At 110,000 words, it’s longer than my previous novels, too. Nonetheless, I’m really excited to have released it at last. Even though writing it was tough, there were still many of those moments every author longs for, when the words flow easily, the characters take on a life of their own, and before you know it you’ve spent hours immersed in their world and the cat is complaining that she’s about to lapse into a hypoglycaemic coma (or is that just Purrs?).

Thanks to Rachel for hosting this post and being part of the Gemma Grey release tour, and thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy the novel – please get in touch and let me know what you think.  

Thank you so much Sophie for sharing your story behind your new book. I look forward to reading it at some point in the future, The Truth About Gemma Grey sounds great. 

Genre: Chick lit/romantic comedy
Release Date: 19 June 2017
Life isn’t working out quite as Gemma had planned. Her breakthrough job turns out to involve writing clickbait articles about cats. Her boyfriend Jack is off travelling the world with his glamorous BFF and her mum’s social life puts Gemma’s own to shame.
Then, after a late-night online rant, Gemma’s YouTube channel goes viral and everything changes.
Suddenly, she’s living the dream – only it’s not turning out entirely as she imagined.
Gemma realises she’ll have to choose between fame, real love and being true to herself – because she can’t have it all. Or can she?

Sophie Ranald is the youngest of five sisters. She was born in Zimbabwe and lived in South Africa until an acute case of itchy feet brought her to London in her mid-20s. As an editor for a customer publishing agency, Sophie developed her fiction-writing skills describing holidays to places she'd never visited. In 2011, she decided to disregard all the good advice given to aspiring novelists and attempt to write full-time. After one false start, It Would Be Wrong to Steal My Sister's Boyfriend (Wouldn't It?) seemed to write itself. Her second, third and fourth novels followed, and a fifth is due for release in Spring 2017. Sophie also writes for magazines and online about food, fashion and running. She lives in south-east London with her amazing partner Hopi and Purrs, their adorable little cat. 
Twitter: @sophieranald

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