Sunday, 27 September 2015

Paperback Summer round-up

Hello there :) 

This is ALOT later than planned, but I've finally managed to edit and upload my Paperback Summer vlog. 

Featuring Jill Mansell, Cathy Bramley, Giovanna Fletcher and many more, I run through the books I read and enjoyed when taking part in the Paperback Summer challenge! 

Reviews of Paperback summer books: 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Book review: Time to Die by Caroline Mitchell

CNgbyWrVEAA44mc"He will predict your life… and your death.Don’t ever cross his palm with silver.
He will reveal your most shameful secrets.
He will predict your death.
He is hiding a secret.
He is hiding a monster.
And all his predictions come true.

Investigating a series of chilling murders, Detective Jennifer Knight finds herself tracking a mysterious tarot card reader known only as The Raven.

As the death toll rises, Jennifer and her team build a picture of a serial killer on the edge of sanity, driven by dark forces. But these are not random killings. And the method behind the madness could be the most terrifying thing of all …

Especially when it seems the death of one of their own is on the cards." 

Time to Die is the second book in the DC Knight series, and if you read my review of Don't Turn Around you'll know I'm a big fan of Caroline's writing and it's a series I really, really enjoy.  I was so happy that Time to Die is just as good as the first and was equally as thrilling and gripping. 

The book follows the same kind of plot and pace of Don't Turn Around, following DC Jennifer Knight as she investigates a series of unusual murders. I loved being able to catch up with Jennifer. Like before she is bristly and hard-working but you really warm to her as you can see why she is that way, and as a reader you start to see even more of a vulnerable side to her which makes her seem more human. I really enjoyed watching the relationship between her and her colleague, Will, develop further. Will is a great character, probably one of my favourites, as he is so kind and caring. He brings out a great side to Jennifer and I love the interaction between the two of them. 

As usual, the story is told from two view points - Jennifer and the murderer. I think this is such a clever way to see the crimes and mystery unfold first hand, as well as hearing the killer's thought processes. It gives the books a creepy, almost uncomfortable vibe when focusing on the killer and is a part that I really enjoy - it makes it so entertaining. 

Throughout the book Ravens play a key part to the mystery, following both the murderer and Jennifer around. They are eery and give a slight insight into future events - as soon as you see a raven you just know something bad is going to happen. 

Caroline keeps you on your toes throughout the whole story, even when things seem to make sense there's that part of you that still doesn't feel comfortable and it waiting for a twist. That's what I love most about Caroline's writing - the plots are well thought through, unpredictable and so entertaining, even if it is creepily so. There is a HUGE twist at the end of the story that I really didn't see coming and had me reading through the chapter as quickly as I could, I was so eager to find out what happened. The twist actually makes a lot of sense once you know about it, and it makes you think 'ahhhhhh why didn't I see that?!' but I didnt. I had no idea.

I'm so pleased that Time to Die lives up to expectation and is just as good as the first. Caroline's writing style is brilliant - descriptive, fast-paced and gripping and it is a book I thoroughly enjoyed. I'd strongly recommend this to anyone wanting a creepy, gripping crime thriller to sink their teeth into. 

*A huge thank you to the publishers, Bookouture, for providing me with an advance review copy of Time to Die, in exchange for an honest review. 


Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Blog Tour: Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt


The USA Today bestselling author presents a heartfelt novel about two sisters struggling toward new lives and loves.

"Welcome to Hartley-by-the-Sea in England’s beautiful Lake District, where two sisters who meet as strangers find small miracles tucked into the corners of every day....
When Lucy Bagshaw’s life in Boston falls apart, thanks to a scathing editorial written by her famous artist mother, she accepts her half sister Juliet’s invitation to stay with her in a charming seaside village in northern England. Lucy is expecting quaint cottages and cream teas, but instead finds that her sister is an aloof host, the weather is wet, windy, and cold, and her new boss, Alex Kincaid, is a disapproving widower who only hired her as a favour to Juliet.
Despite the invitation she offered, Juliet is startled by the way Lucy catapults into her orderly life. As Juliet faces her own struggles with both her distant mother and her desire for a child, her sister’s irrepressible optimism begins to take hold. With the help of quirky villagers, these hesitant rainy day sisters begin to forge a new understanding…and find in each other the love of family that makes all the difference."

The thing that struck me early on with Rainy Day Sisters is that it is the perfect read to welcome Autumn. Picture the scene; snuggled on the sofa, sipping on a cuppa, munching on a biscuit and divulging in an entertaining book set in the raining and cold Lake District. All the talk of fleeces and wet weather paired perfectly with the view from outside my window, but I was warm and snug reading (unlike the characters!) perfect, huh? Pretty much, and that's what I experienced when reading Rainy Day Sisters, a book I really enjoyed and absolutely flew through. 

At the start of the story we are introduced to Lucy, a fairly ditzy yet lovable character who is fleeing her problems in America and going to stay with her estranged older sister, Juliet, in the Lake District. When we meet Juliet it's pretty apparent that although she offered for Lucy to stay with her at a time in need, it isn't all welcome. Juliet is rather bristly and stern, in complete contrast to Lucy's quirky and bubbly personality. Although sisters, the two are very estranged and don't really know each other, which provides some awkward and difficult moments. 

I loved watching the relationship with the two sisters pan out. As it is told from both their viewpoints, you really get to know both the sisters and see why they feel the way they do. Personally, I preferred Lucy as she was so loveable and bubbly, but as the story unfolds you understand why Juliet is as prickly as she is and actually begin to sympathise with her, and hope she manages to lighten up and enjoy herself. 

One of the main highlights of Rainy Day Sisters for me was the location. You all know by now that I'm a big fan of stories set in quaint English villages and so this book was immediately a winner in my eyes. The story unfolds in Hartley-by-the-Sea, a small village nestled in the Lake District. There's a tight-knit community feel to the place which at times proves a challenge to Lucy and Juliet, but as a reader I loved it. Another highlight was seeing Lucy in her new job, as a receptionist at the village school. It not only highlighted the community aspect of the story, but also introduced you to Alex, the stern yet handsome headmaster. He isn't all that impressed with Lucy at first and I enjoyed it as they got to know each other more. 

The plot being centred around a sibling relationship as apposed to romance (although that does play a part too) was a slightly different storyline to my usual reads and one I really liked. The characters are interesting and relatable, the location is brilliant and I loved watching the developing and changing relationships with the different characters in this story. 

So get yourself cosy and snug, out of the Autumnal weather, and get yourself settled with this book. It is a true delight - entertaining, light-hearted and fun it will make you smile - it certainly did me!


Kate Hewitt is the author of over 40 novels of women’s fiction and romance. She loves telling an emotional story in a variety of genres, and has been nominated for the Romance Writers of America RITA Award twice. An American ex-pat, she lives in the Cotswolds of England with her husband, five children, and an overly affectionate Golden Retriever. You can follow her adventures in village life on her blog,



Monday, 21 September 2015

Author Q&A: Ellen Faith

Today I'm absolutely delighted to welcome the wonderful Ellen Faith to my blog for an author interview! So grab a cuppa (and some biscuits), sit back, and enjoy!

Hi Ellen and welcome to Little Northern Soul! As my reviews of Learn to Love Again and Dear Darling show, I'm a big fan of yours. So my first question has to be - what's the plan now... are you working on another book? Can you tell us a little about it?

Hi Laura!! First of all thank you so much for having me on your wonderful blog, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. I am currently working on a new book, in fact, I’m working on 3 *covers face* We have more Lexi and Ryan coming next year, hopefully a little Lexi and Rosie treat but my next release will be Perfume & Promises. I’m quite excited about this as we have a splash of Hollywood, a brooding rock star, a true villain and a quaint little English village. That’s all I can tell you for now though ;)

Where do you get inspiration for your stories from? 
I get my inspiration from so many places. Travel tends to be a massive influence for me; sometimes I’ll go on holiday and can be doing something mundane like buying ice cream when an idea will smack me in the face and I have to write it down before I forget it haha I also get a lot of inspiration from my day to day life. Most of my books contain real life incidents too, and certainly Dear Darling was a book where I got to take a lot of my old work experiences and throw them out there with a little more drama. No Adam though, he was entirely fictional I’m afraid.

Do you have a favourite character out of all your books so far? 
This is such a hard question……I really love Rosie from The Story of Us and Home for The Holidays. Rosie is the kind of kick ass friend that I would love to have by my side, her character is so much fun to write. Ellie was a lot of fun too because I could take a lot of myself and throw it into her.

Your books are filled with such emotion, how do you get characters feelings to jump off the page and be so realistic? 
Ah thank you! I just try to put myself in their shoes. If I was in whatever situation, take Lillie from Learn To Love Again for example, if I had been in her shoes, the grief would have swallowed me whole and I would have blamed myself completely for my husbands death. I just try to make them as genuine as possible and I find that helps.

Is there any other genre of book you'd like to write? 
I’d love to write a suspense novel, something gritty to sink my teeth into. I adore writing chicklit, and romcoms are my fave, but sometimes it’s nice to think about flexing your writing muscles and showing what else you can do.

What does your average writing day look like? 
Well I look completely unpresentable for a start haha I’m quite a seat of my pants kind of author, it depends what mood I’m in. I’ll sometimes spend hours plotting in my little notepad, but sometimes I’ll dive straight in and start writing a scene if I know exactly what I need to get out. The day passes by so quickly though, when you’re consumed with your new friends and new world, coming up for air and food is actually an inconvenience. I try to make sure I have a few snacks handy so that I can sit and write without worrying about breaking off because once I do, I find I’m easily distracted with housework or Netflix. In fact, who am I kidding, it’s usually always Netflix!

Have you always wanted to be an author? 
I actually always wanted to be a vet, until I realised what grades I’d need in science, then I set my heart on becoming a performer. I’ve always been obsessed with the theatre and musicals, so I guess doing something creative has always been there at the back of my mind.

How did you find the publication process? Do you have any top tips for aspiring authors? 
Daunting. It can be so very daunting, but the satisfaction of having your book on Amazon or in print is like nothing else. It makes all the tears and tantrums and dark circles worthwhile. My advice would be never give up. Cliché, I know, but your dream is absolutely achievable if you’re determined! I’m lucky to have a great support network now, too, and without the support of bloggers and other authors, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

How did you celebrate your last release day? 
I was pretty boring really. It’s usually the same thing, a take away and a relaxing night watching a film because I’ve been so busy in the run up to release day and on release day itself that I just need to collapse in a heap.

When you're not busy writing, how do you like to relax? 
If I’m not binging on a new series on Netflix, I’m a serious book addict and holiday planner. I’m one of those big weirdos that likes to google places and research until I can’t focus on the screen anymore because I find planning holidays so much fun – even theoretical ones haha.

If you could invite any 5 people to a dinner party you were hosting, who would they be and why? 
Ooooo good question!! Well, Alice Clayton and Lindsey Kelk because they are both huge inspirations for me. Taylor Swift because I just freaking love her and I think she would be an amazing dinner guest. Hmmm, we should have some men there really too…..OOOOH Noah Mills because he’s the inspiration behind Adam in Dear Darling aaaaaaand Ed Sheeran. I love, love, love his music and he’s just such a cutie.

If I'm right in thinking this your a fellow Yorkshire resident too! What's your favourite thing about Yorkshire living? 
High five to the Yorkshire team! I certainly am a Yorkshire girl and I think sometimes it’s easy to forget just what a gorgeous county we live in. Sometimes I try take a step back and look at the country roads I drive on daily and it makes me realise we’re pretty lucky to live somewhere like this. Also, Yorkshire puddings! I mean, need I go on?

Finally what's in store for you in the near future? 
I have some law exams to take in January but after that, I’m hoping to publish many more novels, attend some author signings and travel much more.

Quick fire round:

Tea or coffee? Coffee
Summer or Winter? God, definitely Summer!
Book or film? Book
Cosy night in or big night out? Cosy night in
Harry Potter or Hunger Games? Argh…..Hunger Games
Paperback or kindle (E-reader)? Paperback
Sweet or savoury? Sweet

Thanks so much for coming on the blog Ellen, it's been an absolute pleasure and I can't wait to get my mitts on your next book! Good luck :) 

Thank you again for having me on your blog, I’ve had so much fun! xxxx


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Book review: The Love Shack by Jane Costello

"Life's great when you're 29 years old with a gorgeous girlfriend and fulfilling job. Until you have to move back in with your mum .

Dan and Gemma have found their dream first home, but the asking price is the stuff of nightmares. The only way they'll ever save enough for the deposit is by moving in, rent-free, with Dan's mum. 

It's a desperate solution, but it's only for six months. And Gemma's determined to make it work, no matter how bad things get. 

But between Dan's mum's kitchen karaoke, her constant innuendos, irrepressible argumentative streak and - worst of all - her ham and pineapple curries, life back at home would test the patience of two saints. Which Dan and Gemma most definitely are not. 

Then, as they're trying to convince themselves it will all be worth it, Gemma's past comes back to haunt her. And suddenly the foundations of their entire relationship are shaken to their core…"

I picked up The Love Shack when I was looking for a light-hearted, entertaining read that would take my mind off things. It was the perfect fit for this criteria, and is a book I thoroughly enjoyed.

The story centres around Gemma and Dan, a young couple who are buying their first house together. After a lot of searching they eventually find the perfect house, which they both love. The only problem? It's out of their price range. Deciding that with only a few extra months of saving they'd be able to afford it, the pair move out their rental flat and back home with Dan's mum, to save money while the contract goes through.

The plot was funny and easily relateable to, which I really liked. Having just bought my first house I fully understood the emotions and thought processes of the pair which made this a really realistic and funny story.

The story has a split viewpoint between Gemma and Dan, which I think is one of my favourite things about it. I loved having the mans take on things as well as Gemma's, as it explained some of the scenarios and situations really well. It also provided some funny moments - one chapter ends with Gemma hurting her arm, and is being told from Dans perspective. He explains how she isn't very good with pain and was being pretty dramatic during the whole ordeal. The next chapter is from Gemma's point of view and starts with her saying that it's a good job she can cope with pain well, or it could have been a lot worse. This had me in hysterics as it is just what every couple are like and its realness made me laugh.

Dan is a real sweetie and probably my favourite character in the story. You can really see how much he cares for Gemma and how he just wants to make her happy. He's the ideal boyfriend and I did develop a bit of a soft spot for him as the story unfolded - especially when you see things from his point of view and so can relate to him more. He's quite a sensitive soul which I also thought was good, as its slightly different for a man.

Belinda, his mum is mad as a hatter but very entertaining. She doesn't make things easy for Gemma and Dan living there - she has loud parties and makes very inappropriate comments about their... personal life. I can fully see why they felt uncomfortable about it, but as a reader it's a brilliant addition to the story and you never quite know what she'll do or say next.

The other highlight for me was the attention to detail when it came to Dan's job. He works at a homeless charity, and you can tell Jane has gone to great lengths to ensure she gets the facts about his role correct, and that shines through. Working in the charity and homelessness sector myself, I know the kind of work that happens on a day to day, and the kind of clients that people like Dan would work with. The research had paid off, as it was very true to life and accurately portrayed how his job would be.

Overall, The Love Shack is a brilliant read and I genuinely don't have any niggles or bad points to pick up on. The plot is a bit different and well thought through and Jane (as usual) has a humorous writing style that is funny and engaging. This book is a great form of escapism - it's a light-hearted and fun read that transports you into the world of the characters and allows you to forget real life while you get absorbed into it. Jane's writing talent shines through with this story- a brilliant, funny read that I absolutely loved.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Book review: Please Retweet by Emily Benet

"Social media whizz kid, May Sparks has landed her dream job. Well, not quite, but the salary is great and all May has to do is handle the online profiles of Z – list celebrities who have the tendency to say inappropriate things. Easy, right? #wrong
May’s clients include an ex big brother star (who she's definitely not going to sleep with #neversaynever), a disgraced TV presenter (who wants May to sort out his marriage as well as his Twitter account), and a woman who once flashed her boobs on X-factor. They're all relying on her to turn them into stars. But they're not going to make her job easy.
As May is sucked further and further into her job she begins to lose her grip on real life. Her friends don’t ‘like’ her Facebook posts anymore and even her gorgeous neighbour, who once seemed to be on the same wavelength, criticises her career choice. Worse, May’s clients start getting trolled by an annoying tweep, who May happens to agree with.
Then May’s secret online identity is leaked, causing her to start trending on Twitter. It looks like the status update is over. Unless May can leave the superficial social media word behind and find her own voice again…"

When I found out Emily was releasing a new book, I was so excited. If you read my review of The Temp, you'll know I well and truly fell for Emily's witty writing style and unique ideas. Before I'd even started reading the book, I knew she wouldn't disappoint on the latter. The story revolves around May Sparks, who has a demanding job managing social media accounts for minor celebrities. The concept of the book stood out to me- it's modern, different and would no doubt provide some brilliant scenarios.... and boy does it!

As May embarks on her new career, she begins to feel the pressure. Social media is a 24 hour business, and she doesn't feel like she can ever take a break. She is always scouring for favourites, re-tweets and witty tweets to make her clients accounts shine. With the promise of a bumper pay-rise and a successful career, she works hard to impress her boss and her clients. However, this work-a-holic attitude doesn't impress her friends or her family, and also doesn't really impress her clients... she's very much taken for granted.

At times, I found May's attitude to work frustrating as it was so full-on. Sure, I'm all for working hard, but the job eats into May's whole life. She doesn't ever seem to stop, and I wanted to shout at her to switch off all her electronic devices, grab a drink and chill out, on an evening at least. The world will still spin if a Z list celebrity doesn't tweet for an evening. But this adds to the story - it shows what a dedicated and hardworking person May is, while also ringing true to life, and showing what a big impact Social Media is having on everyones lives - we've become obsessed with liking pictures of peoples dinner or watching the latest viral video. It's absorbing and I think it's easy to not quite realise how much time is spent in a virtual world. (Pretty deep stuff for me, heh?)

When May started loosing friends over her dedication to work and neglectful attitude to them, I began to become infuriated. I wanted to reach into my kindle, grab her by the shoulders and give her a good shake. I won't say this is a negative aspect to the story as it just accentuates how lost May is, but it certainly will draw emotions from you.

As usual with Emily's stories, theres loads of varied characters with a wide range of personalities, which really showcases Emily's skill at creating characters that bring out a range of emotions. Theres funny characters, annoying characters, swoon-worthy characters and even more, which immerses you into the story and has you hooked. I loved seeing how all these different characters engaged with May and how they prised a different reaction from her.

Overall Please Retweet is an interesting, unique plot that is completely different to anything I've ever read before. I really enjoyed it. It isn't quite as laugh-out-loud-funny as The Temp, but I think that's due to it being such a different plot, which is brilliant. Emily's writing just gets better and better and I love the way she brings characters to life and has a knack of stringing together witty, well thought-through sentences. If you haven't already, add Please Retweet to your reading list, it's a corker. #Iheartemilybenet #gobuythisbook #seriouslygogetit (sorry... couldn't resist!)

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Author Interview: Ann Troup

Today I'm delighted to welcome the wonderful Ann Troup back to Little Northern Soul to talk about books, writing and reading! So without any more delay, here we go! :

Hi Ann! Welcome to Little Northern Soul. Last time you were here we spoke about your fabulous book, The Lost Child which was a fantastic read! So what are you up to now?

Hi Laura, thanks so much for having me back, and thank you for the compliment! At the moment I am finishing up my second book and getting ready to work on a third. It feels like a bid for book world domination at the moment ;)

Can you tell us a bit about your next book?

I’d love to be able to give you a title, but we haven’t chosen one yet. This one is a mite darker than The Lost Child and involves a serial killer, a wrongful conviction, some seriously twisted people and a whole bunch of marmite characters. The story revolves around a search for the truth and how sometimes we should be careful what we wish for. In The Lost Child I revealed big element of the mystery quite early on, in this one you will have to wait right until the very end to find out what happened, though there’s lots to keep you interested along the way.

What's your average writing day like?

Haha, it varies. Usually I start off by ‘catching up with correspondence’ i.e., faffing about on social media. After several cups of coffee and a good catch up I usually write for a couple of hours, take a break to clean the house then go back and do another couple of hours. If I’m really on a roll nothing else gets done and the family get grossly neglected. If my day has been bitty I quite like writing in the middle of the night when there are no distractions, it’s surprising how much I can produce in the small hours.

Is there a particular place you love to write?

I am definitely not a fan of writing in public, i.e. in coffee shops or the library. Not only am I too nosy and easily distracted, I also have a habit of acting out certain things - like facial expressions and physical predicaments so that I can describe them accurately. I’m pretty sure people would not be too impressed to see me pulling faces or writhing about to test whether it is possible to do something with your hands tied behind your back. So, on the whole I write in my office which is fondly known as the empty nest as it was my daughters bedroom before she left home. It’s lovely sunny space, and I am surrounded by all my junk and piles of books. I find it very relaxing in there.

Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

I honestly don’t know! I suppose they usually start with a ‘what if?’ situation to which I add certain characters. Quite often I will borrow a real situation that someone has experienced and mix it up with different reactions to produce different outcomes. It’s hard to pin down exactly where the ideas come from but after nearly fifty years on the planet and having met some very intriguing people the ideas pot is never empty. That, and I have a very twisted imagination…

Do you ever get writers block? If so, how do you push through and carry on?

I rarely do to be honest. I go by the principle that you cant edit a blank page, so even if the ideas and words aren’t flowing freely I will usually press on and get something down. I can always fix it later - or press delete. I do think it’s important to step away sometimes too and if I’m feeling particularly uninspired I will go off and do something else until the way forward springs to mind. If I do hit a block, it’s usually because I have written myself into a corner and put a character in an impossible situation. It can be a challenge to find a way forward, but it does stimulate some creative thinking.

Do you enjoy the editing process?

Sometimes…I don’t really enjoy self editing very much, realising just how bad the writing is in a first draft can be painful, but once I’ve fixed it I always feel much happier. I’m probably a bit odd in quite liking structural edits - it’s always really interesting to see how an editor interprets things, and they invariably do a good job of making a story stronger. I do argue though and sometimes it can feel as though they didn’t like the book at all. I sometimes sit there looking at the revisions asking myself what they did like - was it my clever use of a semi colon on page 42, or was it the name of minor character number two’s hamster? Copy edits are great, they really bring out my ire. I love that all my typos and dodgy punctuation get put right, but when the copyeditor weakens a sentence by replacing one of my carefully chosen words, grrrrrrr. Having said that, the job that they do is immense - copy editors are unsung heroes who stop writers from making absolute fools of themselves.

Do you love to read as much as write? Who's your favourite author?

I do love to read and always have. I rarely read much when I’m writing as I find someone else’s voice will often start to leak in. For instance, I had the Pride and Prejudice film on in the background yesterday while I was writing - when I looked at what I’d written it had the distinct flavour of Miss Austen. I’m not sure she mixes well with serial killers. As for favourites, I really can’t say purely because there are so many from many different genres. If you held a gun to my head and asked me to choose just one I’d say John Steinbeck. If his estate chose to publish his shopping lists, I’d buy them.

Picture this: you can only read the 3 same books for the rest of your life. Which three books would you choose?

That’s a cruel, cruel question! If we count the Encyclopaedia Brittanica as one book, I’ll take that. And the extended Oxford English dictionary, plus the complete works of Shakespeare. I know that’s cheating, but with those, I can write new stories for myself until the end of time.

Is there any other genre of book you'd like to write?

I’d like to write a children's book because I have such fond memories of discovering new books as a child. My own books are such a mixed bag I often feel there are elements of all sorts already. I might have a go at a rom com at some point, but being a rather cynical old boot it may not work out too well.

Have you always wanted to be an author?

This is going to sound madly pretentious, and I don’t mean it that way, but I always have been - just a previously unpublished one. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write stories. It took me a long time to have the confidence to let other people read them, but it’s something I’ve always done, and probably always will.

How does you feel to have your book out there in the public domain, for anyone to read?

Exhilarating and absolutely terrifying in equal measures. I absolutely love hearing that people have enjoyed my book, and always feel really apologetic when they don’t. Fortunately, so far it has been pretty well received and that’s great. It wont please everyone, but there are always other books.

Finally, what's in store for you in the near future?

A little break I think. Writing the second book has been very full on, once you have a contract, you have deadlines and writing ceases to become the leisurely activity it was. It’s still a fantastic thing to do, but it really does become a job, albeit one that I love. Now that book two is more or less finished I will be planning out the next one, waiting for revisions and generally taking it easy for a while.

Thanks for having me Laura, it’s been great.

You're more than welcome Ann, it's been a pleasure to have you back on Little Northern Soul and can't wait for you next book! 

You can read my previous interview with Ann here

Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Riviera blog tour: guest post by Karen Aldous

Today I'm delighted to have a guest post from the wonderful Karen Aldous on Little Northern Soul, as part of The Riviera blog tour! So without further ado, I give you Karen... 

Discovery through writing

Having now completed my third novel, I thought about how far I had come in less than three years. I still have to pinch myself. If, like me, you long to write a romance novel and get it published, there are some discoveries that I would like to share. When I was younger, I loved reading and writing, and was always fascinated with who authors were, and how they managed to bring these characters to life. Author bio’s and a few magazine articles were all we readers had access to then, unlike all the books and blogs available now. Over the years, more material became available, writing magazines and ‘How to’ books authors such as Stephen King, Sue Moorcroft, Kate Walker to name but a few wrote about the craft. Since I set out on my mission to get my first novel, ‘The Vineyard’ from my head to the publisher, in January 2012, I have found there is so much help available now which I’d recommend to new writers.

The first discovery was the Romantic Novelists’ Association and their New Writers scheme. I’d read about it a few years before but timing was never right! Joining this scheme set my mind and fingers in motion to get my novel written. Why? Because a professional reader or writer will read your manuscript and, critique it for the market you’re aiming it at. It is excellent feedback for your first work. From enrolling, I had eight months until the deadline, and boy, was that motivating. It’s a route I’d heartily recommend. But, even if you don’t get on the scheme, the important thing is to finish your novel. Once you have that first draft, leave it for a few weeks, edit and send it out. No editor or agent can read a blank page.

The next thing which I discovered was the events I could attend as an associate member of the RNA. I was like, and still am, a kiddy in a candy shop. Lots of authors I’d read, happy to welcome me and offer advice and support. I’d suggest noting down any questions you may have before an event, especially if you get star-struck like me, and, I wish I had asked more. But someone will be happy to answer on any aspect of writing if they can. The point is, even though I wasn’t published, I began to believe in myself as a writer and was given the opportunity to meet publishers and agents at various events. I can assure you, the writing community are very friendly. In addition, the workshops, talks, and conference are all geared to offer writing expertise from successful authors. Luckily I am close to London, but there are chapters and members’ groups all around the country.

One final discovery which I throroughly recommend is getting to a local creative writing class. I still regularly attend The Write Place, in Kent, local to me, which has been of huge benefit to my writing; from creating a gripping opening chapter to giving your characters depth, discussions on markets for your work etc., etc., to all the much needed and lovely support it offers. I’ve still tonnes to learn but, the steps I climbed above were the first and, as I discover more, I will share at a later stage.

Good luck with your writing and I hope to one day meet you at the RNA and even better, read your book.


About the author

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! Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and Lake Tahoe in US would be her favourites. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. She likes 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!

Links:  Facebook | Twitter | Website | Blog


The journey is only as good as its end…

It’s been a hard journey, but Lizzie Lambert’s life is a Provençal dream come true. Her business is wildly successful, and with her little boy and the love of her life, Cal, she is making a beautiful home on the vineyard for their blended family.

But when Cal goes to America to support his son through a teenage crisis, it becomes clear the kid’s not the only one with some growing up to do: Cal’s glamorous ex-wife wants to get her claws in him again. As Cal spends longer and longer away, Lizzie wonders, was it all too good to be true?

Escape to Provence with Karen Aldous’ The Riviera, the perfect read for an idyllic summer.

LINKS: The Riviera | AmazonUK | AmazonUS | KOBOGoodreads

Giveaway for the below prizes:

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Book review: Disclaimer by Renee Knight

"What if you realised the book you were reading was all about you? 

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine’s bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read.

But as she turns the pages she is sickened to realize the story will reveal her darkest secret. 

A secret she thought no one else knew…"

To be honest, I found this review quite difficult to write because overall I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. There has been a lot of hype surrounding Disclaimer, and I can see why. It is an unusual, brilliant plot that is gripping and intriguing. However, I slightly struggled with the overall concept and I think that's where I become conflicted. 

Let me explain. 

The story follows  Catherine, who has just moved house and realised during the move she's acquired a book she didn't realise she owned. The book, however, contains details about her past. It is aimed solely at her and from the offset she realises this person knows all about her. As you can expect, this freaks her out and so she spends time trying to keep the book out of her family's grasp, as well as find out who wrote and sent it to her. 

As I said, I think the plot is excellent. It's a really unusual idea and is actually pulled off brilliantly - the book does hook you in and make you eager to find out what happens. I think the bit I struggled with was the initial pace, which was lacking and drawn out and also that the premise of the story could seem a bit over the top. 

I know sometimes with death, especially when it is an accident, people look for someone to blame. They can't accept it's a matter of wrong place, wrong time, so go out of their way to make it something else.  That's exactly what Nancy is doing with this following the death of her son - she blames Catherine, who was linked to her son prior to his death and was even there when he died, so she blames her. Nancy writes a story that fully puts the blame on her for his passing.  I kind of understand as the reason her son died was because he ran into the sea to save Catherine's son, who was at risk of drowning. A terrible accident and major sacrifice, but I struggled to relate to her pain in the fact that it wasn't like Catherine had murdered him - it was an accident gone wrong. She doesn't even know exactly what happened between Catherine and her son (which is made clear later in the story) and she doesn't know the lead up to his death. I found her furious hatred for Catherine a little much - to go to the extreme of writing this story about her and blaming her for her death seemed a little unrealistic to me. 

However, I suppose Nancy actually keeps the book to herself, it's more of a diary than an actual novel she wanted to be published. It's like she uses it as a way of coping and getting her emotions out. Sure, I still think it's a bit much, but she doesn't actually use it to torment Catherine- her husband does. He's the one that, following his wife's death, re-writes it, prints it and sends it to Catherine. Again, this is where I become a bit conflicted with the whole concept of Disclaimer. I know that he is now grieving not only for his son, but his wife also but it all seems a bit extreme. He re-writes Nancy's words as a way to keep her memory close to him, like she's still alive. He proceeds to torment Catherine with the book, firmly believing that it's what Nancy would have wanted... but clearly she didn't as she didn't do it herself, so why would she want him to? 

I guess that is the nature of complex characters and Disclaimer certainly has those in abundance. Some of the actions of the characters confused me, others made sense when you took into account the stressful or emotional situations they were in. Personally though, I found it a bit much and that it just didn't all add up and hit the mark. It could be my lack of empathy with the situation (with not being a parent myself) but the whole concept just seemed quite far-fetched for what is quite clearly an accident. I found most of the characters difficult to engage with and root for, which made it quite difficult to commit to the story. I always like to relate to or really like at least one character in a story as it gives you a focus, and this didn't happen with Disclaimer. 

Now, on to the positives. As I've already said this story certainly is gripping, mysterious and absolutely unique. Despite my reservations above, I didn't struggle to get to the end of the book, I kept going right through to the end and, at times, really enjoyed reading it, eager to find out what happens - but it is quite a demanding read. 

The ending was a brilliant surprise and I guess for me helped pick up the book some what. It is a really big twist that I didn't see coming at all, which kind of explains Catherine's complex personality and feelings towards her family more. It made some of her actions make sense, so I was pleased it tied up the overall story. The writing style is very descriptive and imaginative which I liked, particularly with very differing and distinct characters who are all explained really well, I just struggled to become invested in the journey they were going on. 

This is a hard-hitting, quite uneasy novel.  I wouldn't say this is a relaxing read, but it is entertaining - gripping and mysterious right up until the very end. As you can tell from my review, I've been pretty honest... so my honest opinion would be that I wouldn't not recommend this book, as there are some strong positives to it, particularly Renee's writing style. However, I won't be rushing out and telling everyone I know to buy it, either. I'm pretty torn with this one as I don't think it quite lived up to the hype. 

Have you read Disclaimer? What were your thoughts? 

Monday, 7 September 2015

Blog Tour: Five Go Glamping by Liz Tipping

"Glamping Check List:

Festival tickets
Double check best Instagram filter
Avoid thinking about work/Connor/five year plan!!
A four day break from her hectic life to relax in the countryside and hang out at a local festival (for free!) is just what Fiona Delaney needs. With her best friends, great tunes and a cool looking hat her Instagram shots are going to look A-Mazing!

Until suddenly glamping starts to feel a lot more like camping and Fiona’s in desperate search of a comfy chair, wi-fi and a chilled glass of wine. But when she finally makes it to the local pub she discovers this trip could be more than just a holiday, it might just change her life forever…"

The blurb of this story really appealed to me, as did the b-e-a-utiful cover, so when I was asked if I wanted to take part in the blog tour for his book, I didn't have to think twice. Yes please! As soon as I started reading this story, I was drawn in - the characters are engaging and the plot entertaining. Five Go Glamping really is a cracking read. 

The story introduces you to Fiona, a woman with a very detailed 'five year plan' that isn't quite going her way. She might be sticking to her plan to save up for a house, but she's also risking becoming a 'crazy cat lady', thanks to her limited social life, uncaring boyfriend Conner and dead-end job. 

I really related to Fiona. Part of me wanted to give her a good shake and tell her she could do better than Conner (who really wound me up) and needed to get out of her stale, steady job and challenge herself - preferably using her wonderful cooking skills. However, I understood why she didn't do this, she was determined to save up for her own place and you can see first hand the internal struggle she has - save up for a house with a boyfriend she's not sure about, or live life a little? 

Eventually, her friends Sinead and Stella persuade Fiona to 'live a little' and go to a festival with them. They were both great characters - they have very different personalities but the three of them together make a great gang and I loved reading about their escapades - especially the glamping! 

When they arrive at the festival it isn't quite what they pictured - it's very 'hippy-esque' and the glamping isn't as glamorous as they thought. I loved watching this unfold, how the gang all reacted differently to their 'holiday', some of them enjoying it and others hating it. The festival is also where Fiona meets Sam, a local bartender. I really warmed to Sam, he was a mysterious yet lovely character and when you compared him to Conner, really did highlight just how careless and difficult Fiona's boyfriend was. 

Overall this is a great, entertaining story that I really enjoyed. Liz has a fab writing style that hooks you in from the offset and portrays brilliant, likeable characters that you really root for. Carina UK just seem to constantly get it right with the books they publish - they are all brilliant! Five Go Glamping is a must-read story full of friendship, romance and self-discovery.... I loved it! 

*Thank you to the publishers for an advance copy of the story in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

I'm back!

Hi everyone, 

For those of you that read my moment of reflection post, you'll know its been a fairly rough few weeks which has seen me focus on family rather than reading and the blog.
On Friday we said an official goodbye to my Grandma in a lovely, personal service. The room was filled with people that loved her, the service led by her good friend Val, who made it a meaningful and heartfelt service, which made a massive difference. My sister stood up and spoke - reading from an emotional piece she'd written about her memories of Grandma and thoughts about grief. I was absolutely amazed at how well she did, not only to stand up and speak in front of everyone, but at the words she'd written. I think she should become an author! My Dad was really pleased with how the day went, which was a massive relief. 

I've spent the weekend with the family afterwards, as it has now started to all feel very real and hit us that Grandma is gone. Part of me feels like it isn't happening, that at some point we'll all jump in the car and head over to spend and afternoon with her, but we won't. The other part of me has realised that won't be happening and I struggle to deal with that. My heart feels heavy. 

Still, these past few days have made me realise what a loving, caring bunch of people I'm surrounded by, and I'm so lucky. A special shout-out too to those bloggers and readers of Little Northern Soul who sent on their well-wishes, it meant such a lot during a really difficult time. 

Although we're still coming to terms with the loss and I'm sure their will be times when I find it hard, I need to get back to normal. Into my old routine. That includes reading and blogging. I'm going to get back into my usual routine of blogging a few times each week and try to get through my ever-growing TBR pile... I haven't read much over the past few weeks so the pile has risen somewhat! In the next few weeks I have some author interviews, blog tours and my Paperback Summer round-up coming your way. 

Thanks for listening... it's good to be back :) 

L xx

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

August round-up

Hi there!

I can't quite believe it's September already! Where has the year gone?!

If you read my latest 'A moment of reflection' post, you'll be aware August has been a pretty tough month for me and my family, which has led to me taking some time off from the blog to focus on my loved ones. I'm pleased to say that I'll be back to normal next week, with regular reviews, blog tour stops and other posts coming your way. Also I wanted to say a big thank you to those who have messaged me - I was overwhelmed and touched by the kind words, it really meant a lot. 

So, lets start with what I've been up to in August. As mentioned above, it's really been a pretty quiet month for family reasons, but I did spend a weekend in Belgium at the F1 which was loads of fun! I blogged about it here

 I've actually spent more time watching TV this month than I have reading (shocking I know!) It's been a great way to completely relax and unwind and, for me, takes less concentration that reading which is just what I needed. Here's what I've been enjoying: 

Great British Bake Off - I swear I'm constantly on a count down until Wednesday evenings, I can't get enough of this programme. Mel and Sue just make it!

Made in Chelsea LA - A guilty pleasure. I really want to dislike this programme, but I just can't not watch it. It's perfect easy-watching that requires no concentration whatsoever. 

Location, Location, Location - I love property programmes (mainly as I love nosing at peoples houses) and this is my favourite one, mainly due to Phil and Kirsty. A cuppa, biscuit and this on the TV makes me happy. 

Very British Problems - I follow VBP on Twitter and it is absolutely brilliant, so when I saw the programme advertised I knew I had to watch it. It didn't disappoint - celebrities talking about British Problems had me laughing out loud, mainly in agreement. 

Films - I've watched Amazing Spider-man, Inside Out and the Minion movie this month and really enjoyed them all. I think Minions was my favourite, it was so funny. 

So I'd best get on to what you want to hear about.... books!

Books I've received:
The Art of Baking Blind, Sarah Vaughan
Appleby Farm, Cathy Bramley

NetGalley approvals:
Please Retweet, Emily Benet
Rainy Day Sisters, Katie Hewitt
5 Go Glamping, Liz Tipping
The Misadventures of a Playground Mother, Christie Barlow
Time to Die, Caroline Mitchell

Books I've Bought:
Appleby Farm, Cathy Bramley
A Whiff of Scandal,  Carole Matthews
A Cottage by the Sea, Carole Matthews
Perfect Timing, Jill Mansell

Books I've Borrowed:
Summer Secrets, Jane Green
You Had Me At Hello, Mhairi McFarlane

Books I've Read:

The Heavenly Italian Ice Cream Shop, Abby Clements
Here's Looking at You, Mhairi McFarlane
Summer Secrets, Jane Green
Pleasure Island, Anna Lou Weatherley
Appleby Farm, Cathy Bramley
Please Retweet, Emily Benet

I enjoyed all of the books I read this month but for once, picking a book of the month was a fairly easy choice. My August book of the month goes to Appleby Farm by Cathy Bramley. I absolutely loved it, it was a comforting, gripping and beautiful read that I can't stop raving about. 

How was your August - what have you enjoyed doing? Let me know in the comments below :)