Title

Laura Bambrey Books

It's all about the books... News. Reviews. Interviews

Monday, 22 August 2016

Blog Tour: The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

Today, I'm thrilled to be one of the blogs kicking off the tour for The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts. As my regular readers will know, I don't read a great deal of historical fiction, so I was really looking forward to reading this as something a bit different- and I can safely say that I've had my head turned by this book!

There is so much story packed in to The House in Quill Court that it's pretty hard to give you any kind of summary without any spoilers... but here I go...

It's 1813 and creative and artistic Venetia Lovell lives in a cottage by the sea in Kent, along with her Mama, her younger brother and, when he isn't travelling with his business, her Father. Hers is a happy existence, and her hopes and dreams lie in joining her father in business- despite the fact that she's a mere female. But one day Venetia's whole world crumbles around her when news arrives with the handsome and dour stranger, Major Chamberlain, forcing the Lovells to move to Quill Court in London. Here, every ounce of Venetia's skill, creativity and determination are tested to breaking point as she struggles against all odds to keep her family safe.

I read The House in Quill Court in one sitting. Curled up in my armchair for one entire wet and windy August Saturday, I found myself completely immersed in regency London. This is one of the joys of this novel- the depth of period detail that Betts weaves into the story, without it slowing down for a moment. I particularly liked the fact that we get to see the divide between the merchant classes in London- from Venetia's perspective- those living in poverty and squalor... and those that exist somewhere between the two- from following Kitty the maid's tale. 

The plotting is detailed and relentless- and makes for a really exciting read. There are some fantastic, unexpected villains as well as some heroes you'll thoroughly enjoy cheering on. Venetia is a strong heroine- and really grows through the course of the novel- though, the character that I think will remain with me the longest after reaching the end of the book is Kitty. But I can't tell you why- you'll just have to read it for yourself. 

Whether you're a fan of historical reads or not, I recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a fast-moving, exciting read. You'll find yourself plunged head-long into the dangers and delights of an intriguing period of history. With moments that made me gasp and spill my umpteenth cup of tea- The House in Quill Court was an unexpected delight- a five-star read for sure- and I'm looking forward to reading my way through everything else ever written by Charlotte Betts!

Paperback:                 Kindle:
    

The Blurb:
1813. Venetia Lovell lives by the sea in Kent with her pretty, frivolous mother and idle younger brother. Venetia's father, Theo, is an interior decorator to the rich and frequently travels away from home, leaving his sensible and artistic daughter to look after the family. Venetia designs paper hangings and she and her father often daydream about having an imaginary shop where they would display the highest quality furniture, fabrics and art to his clients.

When a handsome but antagonistic stranger, Jack Chamberlaine, arrives at the Lovell's cottage just before Christmas bringing terrible news, Venetia's world is turned upside-down and the family have no option but to move to London, to the House in Quill Court and begin a new life. Here, Venetia's courage and creativity are tested to breaking point, and she discovers a love far greater than she could have ever imagined...

About the Author:
Charlotte Betts began her working life as a fashion designer in London. A career followed in interior design, property management and lettings. Always a bookworm, Charlotte discovered her passion for writing after her three children and two step-children grew up. 

Her debut novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter, won the YouWriteOn Book of the Year Award in 2010 and the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers, was shortlisted for the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in 2011 and won the coveted Romantic Novelists' Association's Historical Romantic Novel RoNA award in 2013. Her second novel, The Painter’s Apprentice was also shortlisted for the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in 2012 and the RoNA award in 2014. The Spice Merchant’s Wife won the Festival of Romance's Best Historical Read award in 2013. 

Charlotte lives with her husband in a cottage in the woods on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.

www.charlottebetts.com | @CharlotteBetts1


Monday, 15 August 2016

Review: Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Urgh... morning book fiends. Monday morning, and I've got the worst case of itchy tired eyes from staying up too late (I sound like a 12 year old!) to finish reading a book. Luckily for me, I've got 2 weeks holiday from the day job - so reading too late and blogging too much is where it's at for me at the moment- hurrah!

So, to the book that kept me up with matchstick-eyes until 2 this morning. Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. Nevernight is the beginning of a new series featuring 16 year old Mia. Out for revenge for the brutal loss of her entire family when she was younger, Mia strives for entry into the Red Church- a school for assassins. Think Hogwarts, minus the cute, fun bits and with far more blood, guts, gore and death. Mia's dream is to become a Blade, one of just four elite assassins to graduate from the Red Church, so that she can destroy those who destroyed her family.

There are several good bits I want to talk about for this book, but there's also a healthy handful of things that I didn't like. Ever the pessimist, I'm going to get the bad bits out of the way first. Firstly, I found the beginning of the book difficult to get my teeth into. The first chapter flits between two sections- both from Mia's perspective, both happening on the same night. These are differentiated by the use of italics and plain text. I get it- not difficult to grasp (other than one scene being sexually explicit- a bit too much too fast for me- but it did set the tone quickly!) The problem came in the next chapter when there was the same use of italics for flashback scenes to when Mia was 10 years old. Confusing. But fine when you get your head around it.

The second thing I wasn't a fan of- and there's been an awful lot of mention of this in the reviews, either loving or hating them - the footnotes. Kristoff uses footnotes extensively (as in several per page)- adding sarcastic asides as well as massive chunks of history and world building that don't have much (if any) bearing on the plot as it unfolds. I  really didn't like these. World building is important, sure, but it should just colour what's going on in the plot- giving it depth and a reality to sit in. I found that they interrupted the flow of the story, and I hate to say it, they felt a bit like the author patting himself on the back for his own cleverness, unable to leave out all of this work and research he'd done to build his world. I have to admit that I did end up skipping many of them, and it was a relief when they all but disappeared in the final third of the book.

That makes it sound like I didn't enjoy the book- but, overall, I really did. It was packed full of unique characters who you get intimately acquainted with, and- despite being ruthless killers to a man- I found I truly cared for a lot of them, making the brutal nature of the entire plot pretty hard-hitting.

I loved Mia's dark side- strong and dangerous, especially with her skill in manipulating shadow. Mister Kindly, a cat made entirely of shadow, her constant companion and the physical presence of her untested powers, has to be my favourite character. Sarcastic, rude, dangerous and loveable, I have a feeling he's going to become something much more sinister in the later books in this series.

There's been a lot of talk about this book being a Young Adult read because of the age of the protagonist. Mia is 16 and most of the secondary characters are in their teens - but I would say that due to the extreme nature of the violence, graphic sex and overall tone of the book, this is very firmly in the category of epic fantasy for an adult audience.

Overall, a gripping read with some fantastic characters and a brilliant plot with that many twists and turns in the final third I just couldn't put it down. Told with an element of Pratchettesque humour, it has some great laugh-out-loud moments amongst the blood and gore. Just keep reading past the bitty beginning and ignore the copious footnotes and you'll find yourself in a rich seam of brilliant fantasy. I'll be watching with interest to see what book 2 in the series brings.

((P.S. If you're planing on reading this, I'd recommend a hardback over an ebook- it's worth the extra couple of ££ - this should make the footnotes easier to locate and read. I read an e-ARC and this was near impossible, which I don't think helped!))

Kindle:                      Hardback:

  

The Blurb:
Destined to destroy empires, Mia Corvere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and daemons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no ordinary school, but Mia is no ordinary student.
The shadows love her.
And they drink her fear.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

A Little Love Note...

Morning book-lovers!

Today I want to send out a little love-note to all of the publishers, editors, authors, book publicists and marketeers for your unending generosity in sending us bloggers so many lovely books. Seriously- I'm way behind in putting up pictures of all of my #bookpost - let alone reading them :)

Here's a little update picture of what's been arriving through my letterbox over the last week or so...

Aren't they gorgeous?! And this is just a tiny selection of the fantastic reads that I've been gifted as a blogger.

To my fellow bloggers and reviewers- I know that our ever-growing TBR piles can give us a little bit of a fright occasionally- I've had to take an occasional deep, steadying breath too- but just for a second, take yourselves back to how excited you were when you received your very first review copy in the post. Maybe it's time to remember that when your next incredible read arrives. And the next. And the next.

It's to easy to become dismissive of what a wonderful treat this is- to be a small part of the journeys of all of these books and their authors.

And to all you wonderful bookpost fairies - thank you so much. I'll do my best to blog and review up a storm in return for your lovely literary presents. Keep up the amazing work ;)

All my love
Laura x

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Review: The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish


I tend to be really nervous of hyped novels, and this book has a real buzz around it, so I was a tad wary. However, having read and really enjoyed The Sudden Departure of the Frasers last year, I couldn’t resist picking The Swimming Pool up.

Natalie Steel is a teacher right at the beginning of her long summer holiday, and she makes a pact with herself to live like a ‘civilian’ rather than a teacher for the summer.  But Natalie is restless and longing for something more. More than what she sees as her rather pedestrian life with her teenaged daughter and teacher husband.

Natalie’s sense of discontent is amplified by the hot, sticky atmosphere of the novel, set against the backdrop of the newly renovated and re-opened Elm Hill Lido. The arrival of the glamorous Lara on the scene adds an unexpected level of excitement and intrigue to Natalie’s life as she is swept up in her lifestyle and  included in her group of intimate friends.

Molly, Natalie’s daughter is an extreme aquaphobic, and the appearance of the lido right at the heart of their community presents an immediate threat and mesmerising backdrop of fear and impending danger.

Louise Candlish is an incredibly clever writer. She is a master of creating an atmosphere of danger and tension stemming from the seemingly mundane. She weaves mistrust throughout the book and, as a reader, your growing suspicion alights on one character after the other, as each shows themselves to be untrustworthy or dislikable to some degree.

The culmination of the story is unexpected and awful, but I can’t exactly call this a satisfying read, as the thread of tension never quite breaks- and seems to extend beyond the final pages of the book.

This is a storyline that is full of threat – a dark undercurrent of the obsessive and the unknown lurking under the sticky familiarity of a long, hot summer holiday.

Kindle:                       Paperback:

    

The Blurb:
'I can't take my eyes off the water. Can you?'

It's summer when Elm Hill lido opens, having stood empty for years. For Natalie Steele - wife, mother, teacher - it offers freedom from the tightly controlled routines of work and family. Especially when it leads her to Lara Channing, a charismatic former actress with a lavish bohemian lifestyle, who seems all too happy to invite Natalie into her elite circle.

Soon Natalie is spending long days at the pool, socialising with new friends and basking in a popularity she didn't know she'd been missing. Real life, and the person she used to be, begins to feel very far away.

But is such a change in fortunes too good to be true? Why are dark memories of a summer long ago now threatening to surface? And, without realising, could Natalie have been swept dangerously out of her depth?

Monday, 8 August 2016

#SummerImpulse Review: One Last Summer at Hideaway Bay by Zoe Cook

I know, I know, the #SummerImpulse readathon technically ended yesterday... but as I finished this book late last night, I figure that I can stretch the rules a little bit and post my final review today...

First of all, thanks very much to Charlotte at Harper Impulse for posting me a paperback review copy in return for an honest review.

I'm going to put it straight out there- I really, really enjoyed this book. Lets start with our protagonist, Lucy. Hurrah for a seriously flawed and feisty female lead. Lucy is undergoing an epic meltdown as her London media job, her partying and her less-than-savoury coke habit begin to get the better of her. Then she receives an email from someone from her past- her ex-boyfriend Tom - and this threatens to tip Lucy over the edge as it opens the door to everything she has worked for 5 years to forget.

Lucy isn't always a likeable character, but she goes on a fantastic journey throughout the book, and I very quickly found myself firmly on her side, wishing the best for her... waiting for her to figure out what that was!

The way the story is set up, with current day chapters and flashback chapters throughout the first half worked beautifully as it allowed for the important elements of Lucy's back story with Tom, her family and also with Nina and Kristian to be told in a way that was gripping- it kept the suspense high, the pace of the story flowing and prevented too much exposition.

I loved the meeting of the four old friends, and the joys and sorrows this throws up as they all know each other so well, and yet have the successes and struggles of the five years since they last saw each other to deal with. Kristian and Nina are a great couple, and the details we learn about their relationship in the flashback chapters make their current day love even more special.

Zoe Cook has managed to create a plot which brilliantly captures the magic and the beauty of the Cornish coast - and how much it means to those who live there. This is heightened further with its juxtaposition against the seedier side of the media industry.

You will have probably seen other reviewers mention that this is a tearjerker- and I have to agree. By the end, I had soaked my pillow in tears and had the ever-attractive pink bug-eye-from-reading-beautiful-romance thing going on. Thank goodness I had a pack of Kleenex at hand (thanks Charlotte- you're a life-saver!) This was a tricky subject to tackle and could have easily gone either way- but boy, Zoe Cook got it spot on. Heartbreaking but, strangely, life-affirming.

A stunning debut by an author who could very easily become one of my favourites if she carries on like this!

Kindle:                         Paperback:
   

The Blurb:
Secrets lie waiting beneath the Cornish waves in this moving and unforgettable love story. Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, Kelly Rimmer and Jojo Moyes.

Lucy, hi. It’s Tom. How are you? It’s been a while. I’ve been meaning to get in touch but it’s hard to know how to after so much time. I hear you’re doing really well up there. I knew you would be.

You should come here, you know, back to Hideaway bay. Come and see everyone, see how little it’s all changed. Feel the sand between your toes, the Cornish sea breeze on your face. When the sun hits the surf in that way it does, it’s as magical as ever.

That’s why I’m writing to you, actually. I want to get the gang back together again, one last time before…well…just one last time. You should come too. The four of us, a summer on the beach, like old times. We all want you here for it. I want you here for it. It’s been so long since I saw you.

I still think about you.

Tom

Sunday, 7 August 2016

#SummerImpulse Review: Put it Out There by D. R. Graham

Welcome to day 7 of the #SummerImpulse Readathon. Thanks to the magic that is weekends, I've finished my third book and have already hopped onto book four- thought I doubt somehow that I'll manage to finish that off today!

So - book three... Put it Out There by D. R. Graham is the first of the brand new Britannia Beach series, and something a bit different to my normal reading habits. With a cast of teenage characters, I'm guessing that this series could be classed as both Young Adult and, with the older characters preparing for jobs and college, New Adult. I wasn't sure whether this would be my kind of book at all, but I absolutely loved it.

Our main character, Derian, has just come out of an extremely tough year having lost her father in an accident and being pulled away from her hometown of Britannia Beach to live with her mother in Vancouver. She's now back and living with her granddad at the Inn where she grew up. Derian has enough on her plate with her granddad potentially having to sell the Inn and her fears of losing her precious childhood memories, dealing with her grief and fitting back into her old life, without the appearance on the scene from not just one, but three hot guys vying for her affections. Question is, which one will you be cheering on? Personally, I was team Trevor all the way. And then there's the fact that Derian has to contend with intuitive visions of accidents that will happen in the future...

I loved spending time in the Britannia Beach surroundings- so different to our own gentle British countryside. The characters and their struggles were very real- and this made the paranormal side to the story completely believable- I just accepted it as a part of who Derian is. D. R. Graham's writing is fresh and fluent, she nailed the high-school setting and the story really rattles along. I found myself unable to put the bloomin' kindle down and I flew through the second half of the book in one sitting.

I have to mention how refreshing it was to have a book that was inclusive- there are unusual family units and characters of different ethnicities and abilities - one of the key secondary characters, Kaylin, has Down Syndrome. I work for a charity for learning disabled youngsters, and it's always great to see them represented in popular culture - and Graham has done this naturally and realistically without an ounce of sentimentality. Kaylin is a feisty, fully rounded character and I'm looking forward to reading more of her story in the next instalment.

Normally, I'm not a fan of a cliff-hanger ending. If I'm reading a story, even if it's part of a series, I want most of it tied up in a neat little package. But for some reason, it didn't bother me in the slightest in this instance that this was left wide-open. I think that's because I knew from very early on in the book that I'd be reading the whole series, no matter what.

A brilliant read that is fast-paced, fresh and something a bit different.


The Blurb:
Returning home to Britannia Beach a year after her life was shattered is bittersweet for Derian Lafleur. Although some things settle back into place, others don’t click like they used to…especially her friendship with Trevor Maverty.
Derian suddenly wishes the boy next door would see her as more than just a kid sister type. She tries to be everything she thinks he’s looking for— bolder, more experienced – but is that who she wants to be?
With the fate of her family’s historic inn on the line and Trevor making life more complicated by the day, Derian struggles to manage her unexpected feelings, and deal with a past she’s not quite ready to leave behind.

Friday, 5 August 2016

#SummerImpulse Review: Stable Mates by Zara Stoneley

Goodness me, where on earth has this week gone? For me - it's disappeared in a haze of reading :) I've just finished book 2 of my #SummerImpulse reading list, and boy, it was a really good one!

Now, I'm a fan of a good bonkbuster- and as a teen living in deepest, darkest West Wales, I devoured Jilly Cooper novels, so I was really keen to see if Zara Stoneley's novels lived up to the comparison.

Zara's writing struck me as a lovely cross between Jilly Cooper and H. E. Bates' The Darling Buds of May. It has all of the sex, horses and glamour of the equestrian world that echo JC's novels- that clash of new and old money, outsiders and those who appeared to have been born in the saddle. But, for me, the writing also belied the pure love and real pleasure that Zara herself seems to have for her subject- the descriptions of the surroundings and the characters have a knowing warmth to them, that made me think that they'd been drawn from life...

Since those long distant teen years of sneaking off to read in the fields, I've moved down to Devon, and have had the pleasure of living in a very (VERY!) horse-mad area. My other half is an equine photographer amongst other talents- so you could say I've been to a few horse events! I have to say that reading Stable Mates has been a bit like coming home and reading a novel about the places and people I know so well. I swear I could cast the entire novel at just one event!

The story beautifully captures the of gossip, in-fighting, loyalties and plotting that go on in these communities (oh - and the amount of rampant hormones too!) I did see the twists and turns coming- the plot itself was a fairly simple affair, but beautifully done - and the charm of this book is all about getting to know the people and places (& of course the animals!)

Overall - a fun, easy read that is naughtily true to life, and the perfect portrait of a specific slice of English country life.

Kindle                            Paperback

      

The Blurb:

Leaving a scumbag ex behind her, Lottie Brinkley has hotfooted it out of Spain and back home to the country in serious need of some flirtatious fun to soothe her aching heart.

Luckily for her she’s spoilt for choice with not one but three eligible bachelors offering a steamy romp in the hay! But faced with the attentions of roguish eventer Rory Steel, the smiling Irish eyes of hunky farrier Mick O’Neal, and mysterious newcomer Tom Strachan, how can she possibly choose?

When billionaire landowner Marcus James drops dead unexpectedly, his WAGish wife Amanda threatens to sell the heart of the village and sets her sights on Tom! It seems things are heating up for little Tippermere… both in and out of the saddle.

Next up: I had planned to go straight to book 2 of the Tippermere series, Country Affairs that follows on from Stable Mates (so excited to read more about this bunch!!) - but as the week has run away with me and it looks as though I'm only going to read 3 of my #SummerImpulse list - I'm going to queue jump to Brittania Beach (1) - Put It Out There by D.R Graham.