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Laura Bambrey Books

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Monday, 26 September 2016

Review: The Singalong Society For Singletons by Katey Lovell

It’s Monday and it’s grey, wet and windy here – so I thought, what better than to bring you news of a book that will cheer you up, make you feel warm and cosy and get you humming your way through your week.

The Singalong Society For Singletons by Katey Lovell follows the relationship highs, lows and flatlines of close friends Monique, Issy and Connie. When Monique’s long-term boyfriend heads off to the USA to focus on his career for a year leaving her high and dry and in a complete quandary as to whether there is still a relationship there between them, she comforts her broken heart by filling her Friday nights with friends, wine, nibbles… and of course, musicals.

Very soon, their little society expands to welcome new members- Mon’s sister Hope… and two rather dashing young actors – who quickly add a very different edge to their Friday evenings.

What did I love about it? Not a page went by without having a song stuck in my head. Beware the ear-worms – seriously! It can be very distracting if you’re reading just before sleep. And thank you Katey for introducing me to a bunch of musicals I haven’t listened to before. Also, I completely fell for Ray – his character is truly swoon-worthy.

This is a sweet story of friendship and finding yourself – set to a seriously catchy score!

The ebook is out 7th October, followed by the paperback on the 15th December. Click below to pre-order!

      

The Blurb:
Monique and Issy are teachers, housemates and lovers of musicals! Their Friday night routine consists of snacks, wine and the Frozen DVD. So when Monique’s boyfriend moves to America for a year and her sister Hope moves in because of her own relationship woes, Friday nights get a new name… ‘The Singalong Society for Singletons’!

It’s a chance to get together, sing along to their favourite tracks from the best-loved West End shows, and forget the worries of work, relationships and love (or lack of it). But when Issy shares the details of their little group further afield, they get some unexpected new members who might just change their opinions on singledom for good…

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Review: The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan

Today I am grateful that I live and work in Devon. Such a beautiful part of the country that I get to call home.

I'm grateful I have the time to go for a wander in the evening with a gorgeous man by my side making me laugh.

I'm grateful that I was sent this lovely book out of the blue by the good people at Yellow Kite!

The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan follows an autobiographical tale of a year in Janice's life, as she explores gratitude. This book is not the diary itself, although it does contain snippets of it, but rather an enquiry into how a year of living gratefully affect’s Janice’s life- and the lives of her friends and family.

Divided into four parts, each section homes in on different areas of Janice’s personal life and how gratitude can be applied to and affect each one. These are:

1. Marriage, Love and Family
2. Money, Career and the Stuff We Own
3. Health
4. Coping, Caring and Connecting

As with any personal development or self-help book (or any non-fiction book come to that!) I found that there were certain areas that I connected with and that felt I could use personally, and others that didn’t resonate with me as much (I know I do need to diet- I really can’t bring myself to be grateful though!). But, I have to say that I really enjoyed reading the whole thing. Janice’s personal accounts and examples are liberally sprinkled with interesting snippets of research and the input of experts, as well as anecdotes about the famous people the author has met and spent time with (and the one time I meanly thought to myself “name-dropping!!” I have since come to the conclusion that actually, I was just jealous.)

Janice Kaplan has managed the seemingly impossible, she has written a book that is thoughtful, funny, inspiring, applicable, wise and humorous whilst managing to navigate away from the huge potential for smugness.

Does it work? Well, yes. I’ve spent many an evening drive home from work listing my reasons to be grateful out loud to myself (I've also been given some seriously strange looks by other road users- but that's a whole other story). Here I should mention that I've also spent the usual amount of time grumbling- the book's not a magic bullet- but it does give you something to take your mind into a much healthier setting.

This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to start seeing the brighter side of their every-day existence. It can’t help but change your outlook, and it’s a bloomin’ good read to boot.

Kindle:                        Paperback:
    


The Blurb:

It's easy to look at others and think how lucky they are, and sometimes finding the positives in our own lives can be hard. Success is often measured in tangible ways, and as we strive to achieve more and get more, we forget that it's often the simple things that can bring us the most joy. After reading about how expressing gratitude for the little things can be incredibly powerful and affect our lives in profound ways, Janice Kaplan decided to spend a year living gratefully and find out whether being grateful really does offer a new path to happiness.

Her experiences of living gratefully will be anchored by intriguing research findings, as well as in-depth interviews with real people, those in public life, and neuroscientists and experts in the field, including Dr Martin Seligman and Dr Robert Emmons, the world's leading scientific expert on gratitude.

Recounted with warmth and humour, this story-filled memoir will inspire readers to reflect on the true meaning of gratitude, and provide them with a structure and context for making significant changes in every aspect of their lives. For not only can gratitude make you more honest, courageous and generous; research has shown that it can also improve overall health and reduce stress and depression.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Win: DVD & Book Bundle: A Hologram For The King







To celebrate the film release of A Hologram For The King, I have a DVD & Book Bundle to give away to one lucky winner. Scroll down to enter via the Rafflecopter widget... good luck!

A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING


ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON 12TH SEPTEMBER
ON BLU-RAY AND DVD FROM 19TH SEPTEMBER, 2016



Academy Award winner Tom Hanks (Bridge Of Spies, Inferno, Sully) is a desperate man searching for a way to get his life together in a strange and foreign land in A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING, arriving on digital platforms on 12th September and on Blu-ray and DVD from 19th September, 2016 courtesy of Icon Film Distribution. 

Cultures collide as a washed-up, desperate businessman Alan Clay (Hanks) is sent on a business trip to Saudi Arabia where he hopes to sell a state-of-the-art 3D holographic meeting system to the nation’s King. After losing his house and being divorced by his wife, Alan needs nothing more than for this deal to go through without a hitch. But once he begins work he quickly learns that he will have to adapt to a different culture and way of doing business in order to be successful. Baffled by local customs and stymied by an opaque bureaucracy, he eventually finds his footing with the help of a wise-cracking taxi driver (newcomer Alexander Black) who shows him how best to adapt to the Saudi culture. After suffering a panic attack in his hotel room, Alan meets a beautiful Saudi doctor (Sarita Choudhury, Homeland) whose presence has a profound effect on the American, leading him to question the path his life has taken.

Adapted from Dave Eggers’ (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, The Circle) novel of the same name, A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING marks the second collaboration between Hanks and visionary director Tom Tykwer following their pairing on Cloud Atlas. With another tour-de-force performance from cinema’s greatest everyman at its heart, the film serves as inherent evidence that sometimes you have to change your scenery to change your life.



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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?