Monday, 30 November 2015

Monthly round-up: November

I can't quite believe that the end of November is here and that tomorrow it is December... a.k.a a time when it is perfectly acceptable to be overly festive and stuff my face with mince pies everyday. 'Tis the season to be merry, after all.

November had absolutely zoomed past in comparison to what felt like a rather slow October. I've had a lovely month filled with family and friends. I love this time of year - cuddling up on the sofa with a film and a takeaway, bonfire night parties and just generally starting to wind-down as the end of the year approaches. As it's been a fairly quiet month socalising-wise, I've had plenty of time to read some fab books. (Click on the titles of the books I've read to read my reviews!)

Books I've received:
Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper, Debbie Johnson
It Started With a Snub, Bernadette Maycock
A Winter Wedding, Abby Clements 
The Boy Under the Mistletoe, Kate Beeden
Wish Upon a Christmas Cake, Darcie Boleyn

Books I've Won: 
Snowed in for Christmas, Claire Sandy
Gingerbread Cafe Christmas, Rebecca Raisin

Books I've Read:
Little Northern Soul

24 Hours, Claire Seeber (4.5/5)
Lost Girls, Angela Marsons (5/5)
Billy and Me, Giovanna Fletcher (3/5)
The Leftovers, Stella Newman (5/5)
Follow Me, Angela Clarke (4.5/5)
Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper, Debbie Johnson (4/5)
Conditional Love, Cathy Bramley (5/5)
The Girl With No Past, Kathryn Croft (3/5)

Conditional Love
November book of the month

As usual with my book of the month, it was really hard to make a decision. It's been a great month for reading, and some 
of the books, like Leftovers and Lost Girls, will really stick with me for some time as they were so brilliant. That's why I've decided it was a good idea to start a rating system for my round-up post. I don't use a rating in my reviews, as I think you can gauge from my review how much I liked the book. But for my round-up posts it's a quick and easy way for you to see how much I've enjoyed a book. So anyway, my book of the month for November has to go to Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley. I absolutely LOVED it - it's full of charm, hope and love. The definition of feel-good fiction. 

I also wrote a guest post for Lil'Novelist about my fave book covers of the year - you can read it here

I had loads of fun this month doing some more personal posts about me and my reading habits! There was the 11 Things You Didn't Know tag and  The Reading Habits tag. If you haven't already read them and are a nosy person (like I am!) then why not have a read :) 

So there you have it, my November round-up. I'm so excited for December.. I love the build-up to Christmas and getting all festive. I have loads of Christmas reading planned (I blogged my festive TBR pile here) and will be reviewing them in the run up to Christmas, so keep your eyes peeled! 

L xx

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Blog Tour: Wish Upon a Christmas Cake by Darcie Boleyn

"The most wonderful time of the year? Katie Warham has just one wish this year…to have the best Christmas ever! 

If only she could lock herself away in a cloud of flour and sugar at her cosy little tearoom, Crumbtious Cakes, instead of spending the festive season trapped with her judgemental mother, crazy Aunt Gina and loved-up celebrity brother Carl… But Katie never expected her ex-boyfriend, widower Sam – and his two adorable children – to turn up on her doorstep. She didn’t think that any man could tempt her under the mistletoe this year, but Sam might just prove the exception! 

And as the snow begins to fall and Katie puts the final touches to her famous Christmas cake, she begins to wonder, could her Christmas wish actually come true?"

Wish Upon a Christmas Cake is a perfect festive read. Filled with friendship, fun and food (oh, the food!) it is all you want when curling up on a winters evening with a good book. I was really taken by this story and enjoyed it a lot. This is Darcie's debut and is truly wonderful, she perfectly captures the essence of Christmas, family and love and creates an emotional, immersive read.  

The story is filled with emotional ups and downs as Katie is still coming to terms with the death of her Granny. She makes a wish to have the best Christmas ever and so, as you'd expect, there's plenty of spanners thrown into the works that challenge this wish.

Relationships form a huge part of Wish Upon a Christmas Cake and I loved watching them play out. There's Katie's controlling and (if I'm honest) fairly irritating, Mum Esther, who always makes her thoughts known. This is offset by her kind and caring Dad, who I loved. The main relationship I loved watching unfold was with her first love, Sam. She finds out he's recently widowed, and meets his two children who are truly adorable. It's obvious there's still a spark between the two of them and when they're reunited a wave of different emotions to come over Katie. I was really rooting for the two of them as Sam is a great character who's a perfect fit for Katie. 

The settings in Wish Upon a Christmas Cake are brilliant - the tearoom that Katie runs, Crumbitious, holds a special place in my heart - it sounds absolutely wonderful (and what a brilliant name for a tearoom!) I'm a sucker for a story with a tearoom and so this perfectly delivered. Then there's the manor house where they all spend Christmas... a gorgeous setting for the festive period, Darcie really brings it to life and transports you to this beautiful location, she has a brilliant way of describing situations and events that pull you into that world and engross you in this story. 

As the story centres around grief and loss it's expected that Wish Upon a Christmas Cake is an emotional rollercoaster, with loads of ups and downs. It really hit home for me and there were a couple of occasions where I found myself with a lump in my throat. 

Overall this is a fantastic story, perfect to read in the build-up to Christmas and had firmly put Darcie Boleyn on my radar, she is a talented author and I can't wait for more! 

Author Bio
Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.

Buy the book:

Author links:

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Little Northern Christmas: My festive reads!

Now that Christmas is less than a month away and December the 1st is drawing closer, I've made a start on my Christmas novels. I'm so excited and lucky to have some fantastic stories to read over the festive period - it really gets me in the christmas spirit! I thought I'd share with you guys the books I'll be reading over the next few weeks, in the build-up to Christmas. 

Christmas books
Paperbacks I'll be reading over Christmas 


I'm so excited to dive into these stories- they look perfect to curl on the sofa with, alongside a hot chocolate and mince pie with some Christmas songs playing in the background! I'll be reviewing them as I go, so keep your eyes peeled for the reviews... I have a feeling it's going to be a busy month! 

What festive stories are you guys reading? Let me know in the comments below :) 
L xxx

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Book review: The Girl With No Past, Kathryn Croft

Kathryn Croft

"Years spent running from your past. Today it catches up.

A gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

Leah Mills lives a life of a fugitive – kept on the run by one terrible day from her past. It is a lonely life, without a social life or friends until – longing for a connection – she meets Julian. For the first time she dares to believe she can live a normal life.

Then, on the fourteenth anniversary of that day, she receives a card. Someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the life Leah has created.

But is Leah all she seems? Or does she deserve everything she gets?

Everyone has secrets. But some are deadly."

The Girl With No Past follows Leah, who is harbouring a dark secret. She leads a very hidden and frankly boring life, not letting anyone in or forming any supportive relationships and keeping herself to herself. It's clear she's doing this to punish herself for whatever happened in the past as she doesn't feel she deserves to be happy. 

The story begins with a car accident in which all the passengers of the car are killed, but Leah (who's driving) survives. Now, the accident does tie in with the end of the story, but I must admit it confused me slightly. I thought Leah's secret revolved around the car crash and that is what she is punishing herself for. In a way I suppose it is (I won't say anymore as I don't want to ruin a twist!) but it isn't the centre of her troubles or the sole reason behind her personality. I know this means that the actual reason should be a shocking reveal, but I actually found it more confusing than the build up to a great twist. 

There are plenty of dark characters in the story and there aren't any that really provide any light relief from the constant troubles Leah faces. Leah herself is a difficult and tormented character - constantly on edge, not wanting to speak to or befriend anyone and conducting the same, stable routine day-in-day-out. I found it hard to sympathise or relate to Leah in anyway, but it did make me eager to find out what had led her to feeling the way she does and just why she is so guarded all the time. 

For me, one of the strongest points of The Girl With No Past was the two different time frames it's set in. It is mainly set in the current day, but every few chapters it reverts back to Leah's teenage past, where you see her friendship with Imogen and Corey , as well as her budding relationship with new boy Alex. It's apparent from early on there's something not quite right with him, he is fixated on their teacher Miss Hollis, constantly saying how she's 'out to get him' and is a bitch because of it. The gang see that he starts to stalk her, wanting to freak her out and, in his words, teach her a lesson. Now, this might just be down to personality differences and me no longer being a teenager, but would you not want to remove yourself from that kind of situation asap?! Leah is fixated on Alex and ignores these weird habits, instead focusing on her love for him. I'm sorry, but no, get rid! It's obvious he has some problems and I found it infurating she's so quick to ignore them. Not only that, but Imogen and Corey agree with him and go along with whatever he says. Surely it's a bit too far? Fair enough have a moan, even call her names behind her back, but stalking her? Sitting outside her house? I found it difficult to not get frustrated by how easily led they all were and how not one of them stood up for themselves and told Alex what he was doing was wrong.

That leads me to the big secret Leah is hiding from her past. Now, don't get me wrong, it's bad. Really bad. and certainly I can see why she still feels guilty, years later because of it. However, I must admit it left me feeling a bit disappointed. The reason being that the horrible event isn't really Leah's fault at all. The others - Alex, Imogen and Corey are completely in the wrong and should be holding the same amount of guilt as Leah, but she didn't actually do anything that wrong. I don't want to say too much about what happens, but Leah is easily led and joins in because of peer pressure and her love for Alex, but as soon as she realises what is happening, she runs away. Granted, she should have called the police and again, I found myself annoyed at her inability to do anything, but she wasn't the one to blame. It becomes clear towards the end why she was being targeted by the emailer and not the others, but I didn't really buy it, it all seemed a bit far-fetched. However, I was surprised by the emailers identity, it really shocked me as I thought I'd figured out who it was, but I was completely wrong! That big twist was a great feature and one of my favourite parts of the story. 

So that's my honest thoughts on this book. I must say that although I've mentioned some of my reservations in my review, I did really enjoyed the story - it's fast-paced and absorbing and I raced through it, eager to see how it would end.  There's just a few things missing for me which meant I didn't enjoy it as much as some of the other thriller/mystery novels I've read this year. If you're a lover of the thriller genre I'd encourage you to read The Girl With No Past, it's an absorbing story with plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. 

*A big thank you to the publishers of Follow Me, Bookouture, for an advance review copy of the book via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book review: Conditional Love, Cathy Bramley

 cathy bramley author

What surprises might life have in store for you?

A takeaway, TV and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets for thirty-something Sophie Stone. Sophie’s life is safe and predictable, which is just the way she likes it, thank you very much.

But when a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is one big catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.

Saying ‘yes’ means the chance to build her own dream home, but she’ll also have to face the past and hear some uncomfortable truths…

With interference from an evil boss, warring parents, an unreliable boyfriend and an architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth, will Sophie be able to build a future on her own terms - and maybe even find love along the way?

book reviews

Conditional Love was Cathy Bramley's debut novel which she self-published in 2013. Since then she has secured a book deal and released her fantastic novels Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm. Now Transworld have re-published Conditional Love and given it a beautiful makeover (just look at that cover! I've finished the book now but don't want to move it off my bedside table it's so pretty!). As soon as it was published, I rushed out to buy a copy. Those of you who are regulars to the blog will know I was a huge fan of Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm (if you missed them you can read my reviews here & here) so I had no doubts I would love this too. I certainly wasn't disappointed, Conditional Love is a special, charming novel that I just can't stop thinking about. It's brilliant.

The story follows Sophie, who's normal, steady life is turned upside down by the sudden inheritance left to her by a great aunt who she never met. She will be the benefactor to a bungalow and a substantial amount of money but only if she meets a condition - she has to meet her estranged father who she has never met. The decision throws Sophie into an awkward position and I enjoyed seeing her journey unfold. 

Sophie is a brilliant main character, you can easily relate to her and, I think it'd be safe to say, she's a little lost. I think this actually adds to her charm though - she's dealing with family issues and a break-up all whilst trying to work out what she really wants to do with her life, which is not only realistic, but shows her personality and how she deals with difficult situations.

I did get frustrated by how blind-sided she could be at times though. It was obvious that her ex-boyfriend Marc only comes crawling back to her when he realises she has some inheritance and a property to her name. It's such a shady move and the fact she doesn't click on straight away infuriated me. To be fair, as their reunion progresses he does hide his intentions better and you can kind of see why she'd be quick to ignore the potential issues, but I really wished she'd have taken a stand much sooner and told him where to go. 

The setting of Conditional Love is wonderful. It's set in Nottingham, which is where I went to University so it felt comforting and familiar to read about the Christmas market in the town centre and other references to key landmarks of the city. The small village that Sophie's inherited bungalow is in, sounds delightful. A chocolate-box, white picket fence type of area that I would love to see in real life. Cathy Bramley's vivid and well detailed descriptions make the place come to life, and I had a clear idea in my head of what I imagined the village, and her bungalow, to be like. 

Relationships play a massive part in Conditional Love. Friendships, relationships & family dynamics are all dominating themes of the story and create some emotional and engaging situations that keep the story fast paced and you dying to find out what happens. I loved the friendship between Sophie and her flatmates, sisters Jess and Emma. They have a lovely way of getting on together and support each other continuously. Even when Emma is being a bit hard on Sophie, it's clearly because she's worried her relationship with Marc will end badly (again) and she'll be hurt (again).
The original cover-also pretty! 

Then there's the stand-out, slap-you-in-the-face-it's-so-obvious, brilliant chemistry between Sophie and her architect, Nick. After reading an article about Nick, she is taken by his passion for architecture and loves his ideas, so she asks if he will help with the bungalow. When they meet she is surprised that he's young and attractive - not the old, boring architect she had in mind. I really enjoyed watching them get to know each other and from the offset you know they'd be perfect for each other, they just need to see it for themselves! Nick is a great person who I was really rooting for. He's slightly awkward (not the outgoing yet egotistical type like Marc) but he's also kind, caring and passionate about his work. I was eager for Sophie to see what was obvious to the reader - get over Marc and get with Nick! Duh!

Family also plays a big, and mysterious, part in the story. To be eligible for her inheritance Sophie has to meet her father, then man she grew up without after he walked out on her and her mum. She never knew why he had as her mum refused to talk about him and whenever Sophie brings it up, she flies off the handle about it and gets very defensive. Again, I wished Sophie would have stood up for herself sooner - she has a right to know about her Dad and it's selfish of her mum to act the way she does, especially when she ignores Sophie when she finds out they've met up as part of the terms of the will. I enjoyed seeing the family dynamic unfold and how Sophie, and her dad, reacted at meeting each other. It was well-written and the emotions pulled you in, I was SO eager to find out what would happen and I was incredibly pleased with the outcome. 

As usual this is an absolutely delightful novel by Cathy Bramley, who is well and truly one of my favourite authors now. She has an amazing ability to create characters who jump off the page and feel like one of your friends, not a fictional character. Her books are full of charm, love and hope and they leave you with a big smile on your face... Cathy Bramley's books are the definition of feel good fiction and I love them! 


Friday, 20 November 2015

Blog tour: Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

Debbie Johnson

Today I'm delighted to welcome the wonderful Debbie Johnson to Little Northern Soul as part of the Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper blog tour! It's a wonderful Christmas story filled with family, festivity and a will-they-wont-they romance. Well written, light hearted and brimming with great characters, this is the perfect story to curl up with on a winter evening! 

 1. Hi Debbie and welcome to Little Northern Soul! First of all can you tell us about your new festive story, Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper?
Thank you for having me! Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper has it all – white weddings, snow storms, inflatable Santa's, a likeable heroine, a hot hunky man, and some awful festive knitwear!

It’s about Maggie, a lone parent who is coming to terms with her first Christmas alone – she’s spent all year making dresses for other women’s weddings despite being single herself, and is looking forward to a relaxing family Christmas at her home in picturesque Oxford. But when both her teenaged daughter and her father announce they’re going away for the holidays, everything changes – and Maggie gets a serious case of the Christmas blues.

The down mood is pretty effectively chased away by the arrival of Marco Cavelli, who literally crashes into her life – he’s the kind of man who would cheer all of us up: not exactly whacked with the ugly stick, a great sense of humour, and a strong but caring nature. Maggie is private, self-sufficient, and set in her solitary ways. Things haven’t always been easy for her, and she prefers the quiet life – until Marco messes all of that up in the most delicious way possible! The rest of the story is about how the two of them get to know each other, explore their personalities, get a little bit steamy, and most definitely make the best of Christmas!

2. You always have such a wide range of different characters in your stories, all with stand-out personalities and realistic qualities. Do you base characters on real people or celebrities or do you imagine them?

Oh thank you – that’s very, very kind of you, one of the nicest things a writer can hear! I am lucky enough to have a wide range of friends, an interesting family, and to have worked in a fascinating job in a never-boring city (as a journalist in Liverpool!). I suppose that – mixed in with the crazy whirlpool that is my imagination – allows me to come up with distinct characters each time. I steal little aspects from people I know, things I overhear – I’m like a magpie, and often write down classic quotes in a little notebook! Those will be sparks that set me off – one of my very favourite things is imagining up a new character – that always comes before plot for me. The plot builds around the person, not the other way round. Maggie is very different from previous heroines, she’s quieter and a little on the shy side, which initially I had to work hard with – I had to get to know her myself, in the same way that Marco got to know her, which was a really interesting experience. To be honest she felt totally real by the end of it!

I hope all my characters do have realistic qualities – even if you’re reading a fantasy novel, or a crime thriller, or a fluffy romance, you need to be able to identify with your heroes and heroines – if you can’t, you won’t care what happens to them! Just because the circumstances are outrageously larger than life, it doesn’t mean your characters can’t have their flaws and challenges and quirks, just like we all have! It’s also essential to me to have humour in my characters, and particularly in their dialogue – it’s the amsuing banter between hero and heroine, mother and daughter, between friends and family, that makes this book come to life. There is always room for a bit of laughter!

In terms of celebs, I must confess I sometimes do have a celeb in mind when I’m describing a character, especially my heroes – my next book, The Birthday That Changed Everything, has a male lead called James Carver who is (physically at least) very much based on a celeb – you’ll have to read it and see if you can guess who!

3. You write in a lot of different genres for different publishers – how do you balance a busy work load and keep organised?

My main focus right now is on the romantic comedies, with both HarperImpulse and HarperCollins, which makes it a little easier! At one stage, I had three books out in a year – Dark Vision, the follow up to my urban fantasy Dark Touch (with Del Rey); Fear No Evil, a supernatural crime thriller (with Maze, part of Avon), and Cold Feet At Christmas , a romance with HarperImpulse. That was crazy! I’ve never been very good at limiting myself – I love all three genres, and still always have ideas about all three, which I store away for future use. The sheer demand on my time means that at least for the next few months, I’ll be concentrating on the women’s fiction, but I do have some killer crime ideas bubbling under as well...

In terms of workload, the words ‘balanced’ and ‘organised’ rarely have any relevance to what I do, I’m afraid! I live in chaos – three kids, two dogs, writing away like a mad person between school runs! I do make a lot of lists, just to keep myself vaguely on target! I end up with lists of lists...

4. Can you tell us about your journey to publication?

I’d always wanted to write fiction, but I’d been one of those people who talks about it, and never does it. Partly that was because I was busy being pregnant (for what felt like a very long time over the course of three kids...) and raising small kids and having the associated nervous breakdowns, but partly it was because I was working as a journalist and that writing style is very different. I had a crazy year where my dad died, I had a baby, and I took voluntary redundancy from my job – it was bonkers, now I look back! But it allowed me to start writing on a freelance basis, doing some journalism and some PR and marketing, and to fit in work around my family (there was another baby two years later, and a house move, and another bereavement, just to make it all feel extra insane!). It was only after I’d found a balance with all of that – in fact when I was 40 – that I really sat down and thought ‘come on now, no more excuses, just write!’. I entered a contest called the Harry Bowling Prize for New Writing in 2010 – and I won! It was judged by agents and publishers, and the ‘do’ was at the Romantic Novelists’ Association annual awards in London – it was all very glam, and it gave me the confidence I needed to continue.

Debbie Johnson author
That said, it wasn’t exactly an easy road from that point onwards. I got an agent – Laura Longrigg at MBA – and I finished two books; one was Fear No Evil, and one was a women’s fiction novel about a newly-single mum who copes with devastation in her life by going on a holiday that transforms her entire existence. That eventually became The Birthday That Changed Everything, which is being released by HarperCollins in January next year – so it took six years! In between, I got a deal with Del Rey for the Lily McCain books – urban fantasies about a Liverpool pop writer who gets sucked into a world of Gods and Goddesses and vampires and witches, but all set in modern day Scouseland. The first one of those – Dark Touch – came out in March 2013, and was the first book I had published.

The point of that long and tangled tale is this: there was no overnight success, it took years – and along the way I got rejected by pretty much every major (and some minor!) publishing houses in the UK! Seriously, I still have all my rejection emails – I could write a book just using those! You need a thick skin, and it’s still hard work – the JK Rowlings are few and far between, and anyone interested in writing should expect to slog their guts out for relatively little financial gain! You have to take solace in the other benefits as well!

5. What’s your favourite thing about being a published author?

I love losing myself in a character – there is always a moment, when you’re writing, when you just hit an absolute golden spot: where you come up with something so right, so lovely, that it makes you want to jump for joy! Creating strong female characters like Pippa in Pippa’s Cornish Dream, Leah from Cold Feet at Christmas, Maggie from Christmas Jumper, Jayne McCartney, my private eye in Fear No Evil, and my fantasy queen Lily – it’s an absolute pleasure. These are all women you’d like if you met them – and bringing them into existence has been a privilege! Also, hearing from people who have read your books can be very uplifting – you have to put up with terrible reviews, or nasty comments on Amazon, and just live with it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if it makes you cry! But when people tell you how much they liked a character, or how much they enjoyed a book, it all feels worth it – knowing you’ve given somebody a little pleasure, a little escapism, maybe distracted them from a difficult situation, or just allowed them a little respite from real life – that is awesome!

6. Any top tips for aspiring authors?
Expect to work hard, and don’t expect glory – if it was easy everyone would be doing it! I’d also pass on a few tips that I was given myself that have helped me in practical terms. Firstly, always question the motivations of your characters – if something they say or do feels ‘off’, or contrived to fit a plot device, readers will notice. Their motivations have to feel real, and not just be convenient! Secondly, when you’ve finished, put your book away and leave it for a while – then go back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. What looked like a work of genius the week before might make you cringe, and before you show that book to anyone else, you want it to be the very best it can be!

7. What does your average writing day look like?
I get home from the school run at about 9am, and have my first cup of coffee. Then I have until about 2.30 to write until my keyboard is on fire before I go and pick them up again! My oldest is 18, so he sorts himself out, but the younger ones are still in Primary school, so very little in the way of creative genius gets achieved while they are around – although I am often found at least attempting to write while they watch Minecraft videas in the background! I also have other work to do – journalism, PR, copywriting etc. So I can have quite confusing days – writing romance one minute, and web copy about training courses the next! Hope I never get them mixed up and send my copywriting clients a steamy sex scene! You never know – they might pay me more!

8. This is your second Christmas story – Cold Feet at Christmas was published last year. What do you love about writing a festive-based story and how does it differ to writing a general romance story?
Debbie JohnsonI think Christmas is a time of year when our emotions are very much heightened – there’s a reason all those emotional TV ads get us tearing up! Depending on your state of mind, or your circumstances, Christmas can be extra-wonderful, extra-sad, extra-exciting or extra-depressing...hopefully one of the nicer ones I’ve listed! But it is like no other time of year, and for a fiction writer, that’s an exciting thing to explore. Christmas makes you do things you’d never normally do – whether that’s spend a fortune on an extravagant gift, snog someone at a Christmas party, or drink yourself into a stupor! In Cold Feet, Leah and Rob might not have acted the way they did if they hadn’t ended up snowed in together at Christmas. And in Christmas Jumper, the fact that Marco essentially saves Maggie’s Christmas is one of the most beautiful things about it – she welcomes him into her home and her life at this very special time of year, which makes it even more significant. Plus, on the shallow side, you get to have lots of fun describing snow storms and Christmas trees and getting your characters dancing to Christmas songs!

9. How do you get yourself into the festive spirit to write a Christmassy story?
Songs! Listening to Christmas songs is definitely the way to do it – I’d say watching films as well, but I don’t have the time while I’m writing!

10. In January your new full-length novel, The Birthday That Changed Everything, is being released by Harper Impulse. Can you tell us a little about that?

Debbie Johnson
You know, I love this book – partly because it’s the first one I ever finished! I identified with Sally, the lead character, so much. She’s about to hit 40; she has two teenaged kids who see her at best as an amusing irrelevance and at worst as the enemy, and her husband ups and leaves her for a woman half her age. She’s a mess – physically, emotionally – an absolute mess. But we meet her at one of those ‘the only way is up’ moments, and join her as she tries to rebuild her life with a family holiday to Turkey. She makes wonderful friends there, and goes back to the same resort at the same time for several years – with the same friends, the same more-than-friends, and the same hopes and dreams. It’s about what happens to all of them during those next few years – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the downright hilarious! I think a lot of women will ‘get’ Sally – she’s put so much into being a mum, being a wife, that she’s kind of lost sight of who she is as a person – the story is as much about Sally having a romance with herself as James, the man she meets in Turkey!

Seen as how we’re celebrating your festive story I thought it only right to end with some quick-fire Christmas questions!

Any festive traditions? Buying the tree together on Dec 1, and each of the kids chosing a new decoration – this results in a very uncoordinated tree!
Best part of a Christmas Dinner? Stuffing and roasties!
Favourite Christmas Song: Last Christmas by Wham!
Favourite Christmas book: Bridget Jones’s Diary
Favourite Christmas film: Bad Santa
How do you celebrate Christmas? We go to church on Christmas Eve, and spend Christmas afternoon with my in-laws, eating, drinking and generally being merry.
Organised shopper or Last minute frantic buyer? Very organised – I’m excellent at spending money, it’s one of my best skills!
Do you prefer being home or away for Christmas? At home or with family near home.
Most memorable present received? I can’t think of one...which must mean there haven’t been any that were memorable enough!
Any new year’s resolutions? I have the same resolutions every night when I go to bed, whether it’s New Year or not: to try and be more thankful, to try and worry less, and to treat my own body with a little more respect!

Thanks very much for talking to me Debbie, it’s been great :) 


Wednesday, 18 November 2015

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesday's is a meme hosted by Sam over on her blog, Taking on a World of Words. It's a really fun way to share what you've been reading and what you plan to read, so I thought I'd give it a go! 

1. What are you currently reading?

Conditional Love by Cathy Bramley

I'm really, really enjoying this so far. It has all the magic and intrigue of a typical Cathy Bramley story. I love her writing style and engaging characters and can't wait to see how the story unfolds (I'm about half way through). Keep an eye out for a review once I'm finished! 

What surprises might life have in store for you?

A takeaway, TV and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets for thirty-something Sophie Stone. Sophie’s life is safe and predictable, which is just the way she likes it, thank you very much.

But when a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is one big catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.

Saying ‘yes’ means the chance to build her own dream home, but she’ll also have to face the past and hear some uncomfortable truths…

With interference from an evil boss, warring parents, an unreliable boyfriend and an architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth, will Sophie be able to build a future on her own terms - and maybe even find love along the way?

2. What did you recently finish reading?

Follow Me by Angela Clark 

I absolutely LOVED this book - a gripping, twisty thriller with a dynamic edge. Read my full review here 



The ‘Hashtag Murderer’ posts chilling cryptic clues online, pointing to their next target. Taunting the police. Enthralling the press. Capturing the public’s imagination.

But this is no virtual threat.

As the number of his followers rises, so does the body count.

Eight years ago two young girls did something unforgivable. Now ambitious police officer Nasreen and investigative journalist Freddie are thrown together again in a desperate struggle to catch this cunning, fame-crazed killer. But can they stay one step ahead of him? And can they escape their own past?

Time's running out. Everyone is following the #Murderer. But what if he is following you?


3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I'm going to start reading my festive christmassy books next. I'm going to be doing a 'festive reads' blog post, outlining all the books I'll be reading in the build up to Christmas and over the festive period. I can't wait as I have loads of beautiful looking and brilliant sounding stories to dive into, but I think I'll start with The Winter Wedding by Abby Clements, which I was kindly sent recently by the publishers of the book, Simon & Schuster. 

"Hazel never set out to be a wedding planner. She was just helping her stressed sister Lila with cakes and d├ęcor for her big day. But when Lila and Ollie's summer ceremony is a runaway success, with guests raving about the food and styling at the pretty venue, word about Hazel's expertise soon spreads.

But Hazel's clients expect the very best - she's promised lawyers Gemma and Eliot a snow-covered castle in the Scottish Highlands, and laidback couple Josh and Sarah a bohemian beach wedding in a Caribbean paradise. But as weather, in-laws and wilful brides conspire against her, can Hazel get two very different couples to walk up two very different aisles to say 'I do'? And will she find her own happy ending if she does?"

I hope you enjoyed this post, I'd love to hear what you're reading - let me know in the comments below! Also if you have any recommendations, feel free to share! :) 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Book review: Follow Me by Angela Clarke

Angela Clarke

The ‘Hashtag Murderer’ posts chilling cryptic clues online, pointing to their next target. Taunting the police. Enthralling the press. Capturing the public’s imagination.

But this is no virtual threat.

As the number of his followers rises, so does the body count.

Eight years ago two young girls did something unforgivable. Now ambitious police officer Nasreen and investigative journalist Freddie are thrown together again in a desperate struggle to catch this cunning, fame-crazed killer. But can they stay one step ahead of him? And can they escape their own past?

Time's running out. Everyone is following the #Murderer. But what if he is following you?


Book reviews

The minute the book cover reveal took place for Follow Me by Angela Clarke, I knew I just had to get my mitts on a copy. It sounded absolutely brilliant and I'm so pleased that I wasn't disappointed - it's a fast paced crime mystery novel that had me absorbed from the beginning.

The story follows Freddie- a chaotic, fairly lost woman who dreams of being a journalist but instead is serving coffee to rude customers, scraping enough pennies together to live on a sofabed in a tiny flat. She bumps into an old school friend, Nas, who is now a police officer and is rushing off to a crime scene. Sniffing out a story that could fulfill her journalist dreams, Freddie follows Nas and sneaks her way into the crime scene - a gory murder. Before she knows it, she's thrust onto the case, using her social media skills to help try and find the killer - Apollyon, who uses Twitter to broadcast his kills and give clues as to who is next. 

This was a gripping story and I particularly loved the social media focus. Follow Me highlighted the dangers that there can be surrounding online activity and was a different and exciting way to portray crimes. It was well thought through and kept you on your toes constantly... would they find the person behind Apollyon...the 'hashtag murderer?'

Freddie is a brash character who lacks any sense of direction and ability to take things seriously. She is coasting through life, trying to make it as a journalist but not really succeeding. I enjoyed her being thrust into a whole new working environment and her trying to help solve the crime. At time she was, understandably, overwhelmed - particularly with the gory murder scenes. But, she used her skills and experiences to try and create leads and really got into the investigation. She is a complete contrast to Nas, who is a determined perfectionist, working incredibly hard to achieve a promotion within the force. I did feel that at times her character was a bit flat... there wasn't much going on with her apart from wanting to succeed. She's still likable though and you can really understand her frustrations with Freddie. 

It's clear there's a secret that Nas and Freddie are keeping, which is the reason why they stopped being friends when they were younger. It's hinted at from early on in the story, but I never quite guessed what it would be. Once you find out you can see why they kept it to themselves, particular Nas, and it also explains their personalities and outlook on life. 

I'll admit I had no bloomin' idea who the killer would be. When they find a lead and a potential killer, I was on the edge of my seat wondering if that would be it. I won't spoil anything, but just be warned that Follow Me certainly keeps you on edge right up until the very end - the plot twists and turns and throws many surprises your way. 

A thoroughly enjoyable, gripping crime thriller with a dynamic edge. I really, really enjoyed it. 

*A big thank you to the publishers of Follow Me, Avon, for an advance review copy of the book via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.