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Laura Bambrey Books

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Friday, 31 March 2017

Book and a Biscuit: The Little Clock House on the Green by Eve Devon

#amreading:

Just started on The Little Clock House on the Green by Eve Devon, out now from Harper Impulse. Wonderful bit of reading ready for the weekend!

Tea:

English Breakfast by We Are Tea. Because you can't beat a gorgeous cup of English Breakfast!

Biscuit:

So sue me- they're doughnuts, not biscuits. The shop didn't have jam doughnuts, so custard will just have to do - I'll nibble around the filling and leave the rest (that counts as dieting, right?!)

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Weekly Series: Doomed Date Diaries: Part 16


Part 16

Doomed Date Diaries by Bethany Quinn

7. Nathan


'You went out with Commander Zlarg of the Ninth Mutant Fleet of Pluu?' Miranda said.
'Uh huh,' I said, already wishing I hadn't mentioned it.
'The Commander Zlarg?' She said in disbelief- or it might have been dismay- it was hard to tell- I was transfixed by the blur of her fingers as they tapped away at a large and scary looking calculator. It was tax return time and Miranda was helping me fill in my form.
'You're joking, right?' She said.

I shrugged. What was the big deal? The guy drank Pinot Grigio and turned up to our date on a skateboard. (As you know, I've been on some pretty dreadful dates lately, but two hours spent with an online gaming Zombie Overlord was definitely a new low point.)

'What was he like?' Miranda asked, briefly looking up from my untidy stack of receipts. At least she'd stopped tutting and rolling her eyes.

His real name was Nathan. He worked in a comic shop. I could smell his trainers from under the table. Thankfully the interaction of the various petrochemical byproducts in his hair severely limited my ability to breath. He didn't want to leave his skateboard by the door so he leant it against my coat instead. I still don't know how I'm going to get the wheel marks out. After explaining his 'other life' Nathan reassured me that he was only an undead Pluuvian mercenary after 7.30pm. Our date started at 8pm. That explained a lot.

I could tell that Miranda was intrigued. She was the only person I knew who'd ran away from the circus to be a financial advisor. Miranda used to be a stilt walker and acrobat in an itinerate troop of touring performers who travelled around the outermost reaches of Scotland in a minibus with a tent strapped to the roof. Every night, during Summer, they entertained a small, mystified crowd that was normally outnumbered ten to one by the cast. When their funding finally dried up she stopped doing back flips in a fairy costume and enrolled in business school.

Nathan and Miranda were strangely perfect for each other.

As she left I gave Miranda Commander Zlarg's telephone number and hoped she'd find a way of limiting my income tax bill in return. I'm not sure that tax really works that way, but maybe it does on Pluu?

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Review: Reunited by Daniel Gothard

Would you go to a school reunion? I’m never sure. There would be people I’d be interested in catching up with, and the nosey blighter part of me would be interested to find out what has happened in the years since we escaped (or in my case, skipped off to 6th form college). But sure, there are plenty of teenaged crushes in my past I’d be intrigued to find out about- from a distance…

This is the premise of Daniel Gothard’s more-com-than-rom book, Reunited.

Told with a split timeline, we follow 16 year old Ben through his journal, as he deals with bullies, grief, how to be cool and being in love with his best friend. 20 years later, we follow Ben as he is ordered back to his school reunion to cover it in his professional capacity as a journalist.

Mature Ben is having just as many girl-problems as his younger self. Having been complete knob to his fiancé, she has walked out on him, and is now giving him the epic silent treatment. (Reader, don’t hate me, but I was cheering her on and sticking a mental middle finger up at Ben for his behaviour).

I think one of the most interesting elements of Reunited is reading a plot like this written from a boy/man’s (or should that be man-boy?!) perspective, and by a male writer. It made for a unique take on the plot, and an interesting insight into how the opposite sex may have thought and felt in the many cringe-worthy situations Gothard lures his characters into.

Reunited is an interesting look into how much people change and what the practical realities of life can throw at you in the interim. There were times I wanted to slap the older Ben with a wet fish- considering 20 years had passed, he still behaved and reacted to situations very much like his younger self- just with a hint more world-weary sarcasm and a lot less sweetness.

Reunited is an enjoyable read that will get you thinking about your own school days and what has changed, which of your dreams have come true… and which of your worst character traits may have managed to survive across the years. As for checking out what happened to my crushes… I think I’ll stick to social media, thanks!

Grab your copy here:

Paperback:                          Kindle:
        

The Blurb:


1992, and Ben Tallis is coming to terms with the recent death of his father. His ability to cope isn't helped by the fact he's secretly in love with one of his best friends. At least keeping a daily journal helps him make sense of events, and he believes it's the perfect preparation for his plan to one day become a successful journalist. 

2012 and Ben has achieved his career ambition - he's a highly respected journalist and is engaged to a hardworking and ambitious lawyer. But this seemingly 'perfect' relationship is fraught with problems. Ben mentions in passing to his editor he has received an invitation to a 20 year school reunion but doesn't want to go. His editor however smells a great feature article and insists Ben returns home, faces his past - including his secret teenage yearning - and writes a feature on how much we change, and yet in so many ways stay the same. As Ben reluctantly re-engages with his past he soon comes to realise that we can never run from the truth...or who we truly are.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Book and a Biscuit: If I Forget You by T. C. Greene


#amreading: 

If I Forget You by T. C. Greene, published by Corvus, paperback release date 1st September 2016

Tea: 

Good old PG Tips Original- because sometimes, you just can't mess with the perfect cuppa. This has always been my 'family tea' - and is like a lovely comfort blanket.

Cake: 

Home made tea-loaf from our own recipe (pop back this afternoon for the recipe and method). Made with PG Tips Decaff tea, this one contains no fat - unless you smother it in butter- like I usually do!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Blogtour: Review: Don't Stop Me Now by Colleen Coleman

Good afternoon, fellow book-fiends. I know it’s grey, wet and cold outside, and not quite the spring afternoon you might be hoping for, but I’ve got the perfect book to change that around and bring some sunshine to your weekend (which, let’s face it, is nearly here- YAY!!)

I have just read Colleen Coleman’s fabulous debut, Don’t Stop Me Now- and it’s a love thing. Really and truly one of the freshest and funniest chick-lit voices I’ve read in years.

Poppy Bloom is riding high. She’s had the perfect academic career so far, has just made Dr – the ink on her groundbreaking psychology thesis and her PhD is still drying. She has everything planned out exactly as she wants it to be. And then it all comes crashing down around her.

Poppy has to pick herself up and start again from square one. She soon realises how empty her ten years of expensive academia have been. But at their heart is something very special- something she could still share with the world- but does she have it in her to chase it – or will she settle for second-best, and a shadow of the dream she once held so dear?

You know what is so wonderfully refreshing about this book? It’s a completely new story. Coleman has struck out and created her own path with her debut- and in doing so, I think she will win a massive fan-base.  Poppy is a unique character you will side with instantly as she finds her way through the challenges that life likes to throw at us all.

If you love Sophie Kinsella (especially her stand-alone novels) – you’ll love Don’t Stop Me Now. If you’re looking for a funny, inspiring, uplifting book to read this weekend- then you’ve found it.

Grab your copy here:

Kindle:                                 Paperback:
            

The Blurb:

A hilarious feel good read about making lemonade when life gives you lemons, and finding the silver lining in every cloud.

Poppy Bloom planned to finish her PhD and walk straight into a job at her university. But here she is, unemployed, unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend, and living back at her mum’s in her vampire-themed childhood bedroom.

Not exactly what she was hoping for.

But when Poppy sets her mind to something, nothing can stand in her way. She scores herself an internship at the hottest radio station in town, joins a netball team, and renews her friendship with her oldest friend Leanne. Spending time with Leanne’s gorgeous twin Tom is just a bonus…

But life has a way of tripping you up when you least expect it, and Poppy soon has to decide where her priorities lie… With new friends, a new career and a new romance, can Poppy keep everyone happy, or is everything about to tumble down around her?

A laugh-out-loud story about friendship, second chances, and new love, perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Marian Keyes and Jane Costello.



About Colleen Coleman:

Colleen Coleman is an Irish-Canadian novelist. She is the winner of the much-coveted Novelicious
Undiscovered People’s Choice Award launched to find the next ‘chick-lit star’. She spent over ten years working as a teacher of English and Philosophy before finally taking a deep breath, scrunching her eyes shut, putting her pen to paper and vowing not to lift it again until she wrote the words The End. As a result, her first novel was born. Colleen lives between London, Ireland and Cyprus with her very patient husband and very, very chatty twin daughters. Don’t Stop Me Now is her first book and will be released in March. 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Weekly Series: Doomed Date Diaries: Part 15


Part 15

Doomed Date Diaries by Bethany Quinn

46. Harvey


Whatever happened to the age old art of conversation?

Okay- letters were obviously doomed the minute the first email was sent- in those heady days before a colon followed by a closed bracket became as annoying as getting a case of the rear end drizzles on holiday- but who'd have thought that talking would be the next victim of the phone-zombie era?

Harvey was hilarious by text. So funny it hurt. The things he could do with 160 characters made a girl's head spin. In the land of the two-thumb-typists Harvey was the undisputed king. In real life however, he turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.

'He comes here a lot,' the barman said.
'Who?' I said, as I handed over what seemed like enough money to buy the entire vineyard where my ghastly wine was grown.
'The bloke you're with,' the barman said. 'You've got to be the fourth date he's had this week.'
'Really?' I said. Harvey didn't seem the sort. He was certainly a lot shorter than I expected. Less suave and chiseled. Balder too.
'Women seem to love him, but he never goes home with any of them.'
'Why's that?'
The barman shrugged. 'I think he has an unfortunate manner,' he said, handing me back a much smaller pile of change than I had really hoped for. 'You'll see.'

True enough, Harvey didn't say much. Instead, his gaze got stuck somewhere around my left breast. What few words he did say were addressed directly to my cleavage- but with a definite left hand bias. He was transfixed- though what he could see through a shirt, a sweater and a sports bra was beyond me. (Yes- I've stopped jogging for now- but occasionally wearing the sports bra makes me feel kind of toned and athletic. Matt says that I'm just 'soft and undisciplined.' I love it when he says things like that.)

When I got home I had a good look to see what was so wrong with my right breast. I took my top off and did a twirl in front of the bathroom mirror and everything. I bounced up and down too. I couldn't see that there was any difference.

Later I wanted to send Harvey a text asking him why he was so left-bosom-centric- but I didn't. I didn't want to know. Some things are best unsaid.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Blogtour: Extract: The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney

I'm excited to have an extract from Patricia Gibney's The Missing Ones as a part of her blogtour today... enjoy!
PROLOGUE
31st January 1976

The hole they dug was not deep, less than three feet. A milky white flour bag encased the little body, firmly tied with the strings of a soiled, once white apron. They rolled the bag along the ground, even though it was light enough to lift. Reverence for the deceased was absent as one of them kicked it into the middle of the hole, squeezing it further into the earth with the sole of his boot. No prayers were said, no final blessing, just the shovelling of damp clay quickly covering the whiteness with darkness, like night descending without twilight. Beneath the apple tree, which would sprout white buds in spring and deliver a flourishing crop in summer, there now rested two mounds of earth, one compacted and solid, the other fresh and loose.

Three small faces watched from the third-floor window, eyes black with terror. They knelt on one of their beds, cushioned with rough-feathered pillows.

As the people below picked up their tools and turned away, the three continued to look at the apple tree, now highlighted by the crescent of the moon. They had witnessed something their young brains could not comprehend. They shivered, but not from the cold.

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head.
‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

Grab your copy here:

Kindle:                             Paperback:
       

The Blurb:

The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror. 

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how? 

The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal. 

As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? 

Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice. 

Fans of Rachel Abbott, Karin Slaughter and Robert Dugoni will be gripped by this page-turning serial killer thriller, guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Book and a Biscuit: The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe


#amreading: 

The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe, published by Zaffre, Kindle and hardback available now, paperback release date 6th April 2017

Tea: 

Strawberry & Vanilla Fool by the London Fruit & Herb Company - a rich, tangy berry tea with the added softness of vanilla.

Biscuits:

Cadbury Chocolate Fingers... well, it's got to be better than chewing on my own fingernails at the scary bits!


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Weekly Series: Doomed Date Diaries: Part 14


Part 14

Doomed Date Diaries by Bethany Quinn

36. Brian


Brian liked to talk about his past a lot- and how crazy the 'wild old days' were- without giving any real details or precise dates.

He had the look of a man whose weekends were a long and tiring negotiation with ex spouses about access to awkward, spoilt children who despised him. His profile said 'single'- which I read for 'divorced' - and probably more than once. He was a battered husk of a man whose hope, enthusiasm and exuberance had all been sucked out of him through the third finger on his left hand. Or maybe I was reading too much into it?

His photograph had clearly been taken a decade earlier. There was no way he was in his 'late twenties'- unless he'd found a miracle moisturiser or recently had his face re-hemmed with something extremely sharp. The handsome, garrulous young man was gone and all that remained was the sorry-looking shadow sitting across the table.

Brian glanced at his watch. It was Friday night. No doubt he had another weekend of arguing, taxiing and returning to look forward to. I felt sorry for him. His post-domestic bliss apocalypse was far from over. But thankfully Brian wasn't my problem. He was Amanda's.

Amanda's husband had just left her for a gas fitter called Keith. She was still a little shaken- but at least she'd had her boiler fixed. She wasn't a client as such. I was just helping her take the first tentative steps back into the world of dating. I hadn't mentioned to her that it was a doomed enterprise. She could find that out for herself.

Having been married for almost nineteen years her circle of friends was rather small- and sadly depleted by those who were switching allegiances and getting Keith to sort out their central heating systems.

We'd spent an evening together, trawling the online dating sites. It soon became clear that Amanda liked disheveled, moody and needy looking. She only had white wine in her walk-in fridge that was the practically the size of my living room. I drank water. White wine is for cleaning wounds.

'So you've got a large house?' Brian asked. 'Does it have a garden?'
'Yes,' Amanda said, leaning her head to one side coquettishly. 'Why?'
'It's just, I've got the kids this weekend and I've got nowhere to take them.'

I hate being right all the time.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Blogtour: Review: Rome is Where the Heart Is by Tilly Tennant

This is the first Tilly Tennant book I’ve read and I have to say that I’m completely enchanted. Rome is Where The Heart Is gave me exactly what I was looking for- a real-life fairy tale in the sunshine.

Kate’s world is falling apart around her- and everything she had been planning and hoping for since she was a teenager has come to nothing. So she does exactly what any self respecting, heartbroken woman would do- she runs away to Rome (or at least, she does for a week of much-needed holiday!)

But her Roman adventure doesn’t start- or even carry on- as she planned. Sure it’s different to what she had in mind, but very soon Kate realises that her heart isn’t necessarily broken- just bruised. But Rome is working its magic and she quickly starts to heal.

Love, friendship and a rather scary Italian family are all waiting for her – the question is- will the magic of Rome last longer than just the week?

I’d love to meet Kate, Alessandro and Signora Conti- hang out at a street café with them and ask Kate to make me a dress. But that’s the best thing about this book- it makes you believe in your dreams- and that they can come true- so maybe Rome isn’t that far away after all!

Tilly’s writing is as warm and welcoming as her characters, and makes for the perfect feel-good story with the occasional hit of reality to throw a spanner in the works. I thoroughly recommend Rome is Where The Heart Is- whether you’re craving romance or sunshine or  Rome or a tale of finding yourself and following your heart- this is the perfect (prefect perfect) book for you.

Grab your copy here:

Kindle:                             Paperback:
    


The Blurb:

Can a holiday romance ever have a happy ending? Escape with Kate to the sun-drenched city of Rome where a love affair is just about to begin …

When Kate’s husband Matt dumps her on Friday 13th she decides enough is enough – it’s time for her to have some fun and so she hops on a plane to Rome. A week of grappa and gelato in pavement cafes under azure blue skies will be just what the doctor ordered.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting and falling for sexy policeman Alessandro. But the course of true love doesn’t run smoothly – Alessandro has five meddling sisters, a fearsome mama and a beautiful ex Orazia. They’re all certain that Kate is not the girl for him.

Can Kate and Alessandro’s love last the distance? Or will she return home with the one souvenir she doesn’t want – a broken heart …

Fall in love with the colourful cafes and the cobbled piazzas of Rome and follow Kate’s dreams and her heart in this enchanting escapist read. Perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Carol Matthews.



About Tilly Tennant:

From a young age, Tilly Tennant was convinced that she was destined for the stage.  Once she realised she wasn’t actually very good at anything that would put her on the stage, she started to write stories instead. There were lots of terrible ones, like The Pet Rescue Gang (aged eight), which definitely should not see the light of day ever again. Thankfully, her debut novel, Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn was not one of those, and since it hit the Amazon best seller lists she hasn’t looked back. Born in Dorset, she currently lives in Staffordshire with her husband, two daughters, three guitars, four ukuleles, two violins and a kazoo.




Monday, 13 March 2017

Book and a Biscuit: Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington


#amreading: 

Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington, published by Penguin, release date 2nd February 2017

Tea: 

Blackcurrant, Ginseng and Vanilla tea by Twinings - last of a stash of one of my favourites... can't seem to find this fruity delight anywhere at the moment, but hey- it's nearly Valentine's day so I thought I'd treat myself!

Biscuits:

Jammie Dodgers from Burton's Biscuits. Don't they make you smile? I know they always make me smile. A little bit of love in every bite :)

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Blogtour: Review: Evie's Year of Taking Chances by Christie Barlow

Oh oh oh you guys! What a way to start a weekend! I have just binge-read the whole of Evie’s Year of Taking Chances by Christie Barlow and am now sat here with a goofy, satisfied grin on my face.

Incredibly Evie is a well-balanced, pretty normal young twenty-something. So far, so usual you might think – other than the fact that Evie is far from usual. In fact she is remarkable. With a childhood full of hardships and sorrow behind her, the fact that she has emerged as a loving, caring human being is nothing short of a miracle. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there are no lingering demons to contend with- and these very much form the basis of the book.

As Evie searches for love, in many forms, her incredible group of friends and extended loved-ones grows as they support both her and each other through every trial life decides to throw at them.

Christie Barlow isn’t afraid of taking a scene and wringing every last drop of emotion from it- and I feel a bit like I’ve been on a roller coaster this morning- laughing out loud one minute and then trying to swallow a giant lump in my throat the next.

The plot deals with several sensitive issues that will affect every reader- no matter their background- but the author treats them with care and respect- allowing them to flavour the story beautifully.

Over all, this is a gorgeous, life-affirming read about a bunch of characters you come to really care about.


Grab your copy here:
Kindle:                             Paperback:
     


The Blurb:

It’s Evie’s birthday and the start of a year she’ll never forget. An emotional story of love, friendship and grabbing life by the horns.

Evie’s job has always been her safe haven. As a librarian in the little town of Becton she loses herself in books - after all it’s far easier to read about other people’s problems than set about solving her own.

Then, one birthday, everything is turned upside down. A mysterious parcel containing a beautiful book with a poignant inscription arrives for Evie. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Evie and she’s inspired to try and find her real mother. 

Evie’s search leads her to meet handsome author Noah Jones. Charming and intelligent, Noah seems the perfect catch but what Evie doesn’t realise is that he is hiding something – a key to Evie’s past. 

As Evie gets closer to Noah and discovering her mother, she must take a giant leap of faith. Can she embrace the new and make this her year of taking chances? And if she does, will she get her heart broken? 

A romantic, funny and poignant story of living life to the full and finding love in the most unlikely of places. Fans of Debbie Johnson and Cathy Bramley will adore this book!




About Christie Barlow:

Christie Barlow was born in Cheshire and had a successful career as a civil servant until she decided to trade it in for something more glamorous: ironing, mucking out chickens and horses and chasing a mad cocker spaniel while rearing four children. Christie wrote her debut novel, A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother, as an example to her kids about realising their dreams.

https://www.facebook.com/ChristieJBarlow

https://twitter.com/ChristieJBarlow

www.christiebarlow.com

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Blogtour: Review: The Beachside Sweet Shop by Karen Clarke

Okay guys- humble-pie time. You know how last year I said that I’d had it with reading any “food-stuffs” roms coms… you know- teashops, sweet shops, bakeries etc… well, today I find myself on the blogtour for Karen Clarke’s The Beachside Sweet Shop- and I’ve loved every moment of it. Looks like the embargo has lifted!

Marnie Appleton has been running the sweet shop in Shipley ever since her Grandfather passed away 2 years ago… but she’s convinced herself that she’s desperate to escape the small town and the only thing that is keeping her there is her loyalty to her grandfather’s name and legacy.

Marnie is still nursing a broken heart after splitting from Alex- when he got a job in America and she had to make the decision to stay behind and nurse her ailing grandmother.

But when the sweetshop gets an unexpected publicity boost, it’s not all plain sailing as Marnie and her team become the unlikely target for some pretty nasty behaviour.

Marnie is a fantastic character- warm and loyal- with just the right amount of confusion and neuroses to be completely loveable. And then of course there’s her wonderfully messed-up love life and the potential love interest(s?)- and I loved the twists and turns this side of the story took.

The writing is brilliant- witty, light and very funny- making The Beachside Sweet Shop an absolute joy to read. I’m very much looking forward book two in the series.

Huge thanks to the author for curing me of my allergy!

Grab your copy here:
Kindle:                               Paperback:
        

The Blurb:

When Marnie Appleton inherited a sweet shop from her grandfather she was determined to do his legacy proud. The shop has been a much-loved feature of the little seaside town of Shipley for years, but now Marnie needs to bring it up to date, and she’s recruited gorgeous new assistant Josh to help. 

Marnie gets busy redecorating the shop and choosing delicious new sweets to stock, but things are never that simple: new neighbour Isobel, a fame-hungry blogger, is on a crusade against sugar, and she’ll go to any lengths to secure bad publicity for Marnie’s shop. 

Marnie fights back with homemade sugar-free treats, but with her best friend Beth heavily pregnant, her grandmother Celia recovering from an operation, and her very recently ex-boyfriend Alex returning to Shipley with a new love, Marnie has a lot on her plate. 

And then there’s Josh, with whom Marnie is struggling to keep her relationship strictly professional…Will both the sweet shop and love flourish? 

A deliciously heartwarming read about family, friends and handmade coconut ice. Perfect for fans of Cressida McLaughlin, Debbie Johnson, and Tilly Tennant.



About Karen Clarke

After giving up her job as a library assistant, Karen now writes full-time. She’s had over 300 stories published in women’s magazines in the UK and abroad, and has written three paranormal romantic comedies, published by Little, Brown/Corsair. When she’s not writing she reads avidly, walks dogs at her local rescue centre, and is eagerly awaiting the next season of The Walking Dead. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband and three grown-up children.





Weekly Series: Doomed Date Diaries: Part 13

Part 13

Doomed Date Diaries

3. Gregory

I had the paperwork in front of me. Kelly had very neat handwriting.

'This is the way it works,' I said, sipping my Napa Valley Cabernet Franc- fully expecting it to be like drinking week-old rainwater from the muddy hoof print of a lame horse- and not being the least bit disappointed. 'Breaking up is no fun for anyone. My job is to make it quick and clean- for both of you.'

'Okay,' she said.
'Make no mistake- this is business. I'm not your friend. I'm not a shoulder to cry on. If you ring me up in the middle of the night wanting to tell someone, anyone, how much you miss him, I won't answer the phone.'
'I understand.' she said.
'Saying you understand now is one thing,' I said. 'Meaning it after you've drunk two bottles of wine and cried your way through a box of tissues is quite another.'

Kelly didn't know whether to nod or shake her head. She grinned sheepishly instead.

The ground rules always sounded a bit harsh at first but they were essential for an orderly and successful separation. Kelly was a new client. I wanted to make sure she knew what she was getting herself into.

'If you choose to bypass the barriers I put in place and contact- er…(I paused momentarily to look up his name) Graham- directly I will not be held responsible. Is that clear?'
'Yes.'

So far so good. Now the tricky stuff.

'If, at any point, you and Graham decide to get back together, I keep the deposit and please don't call me anytime in the future to dump him again.'
'I won't,' she said.
'However,' I added quickly. 'If you want to leave someone else, feel free to give me a call.'
'That's very reassuring,' she said, with only a hint of sarcasm.

Then came the bit I really hated- but it had to be done.

'If you decide to go ahead- I do also offer an after-care package of fine chocolates, a library of classic romance films on DVD and several luxury spa products.'

It made me feel cheap and commercial- preying on the aftermath of failed relationships- but if I didn't fulfil the need some crummy corner shop would. I'd even had a brochure printed.

In the end Kelly went with the Belgian truffles, seaweed face pack and Gregory Peck. Good choice.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Blogtour: Review: How To Mend a Broken Heart by Anna Mansell

Shhh… don’t tell anyone, but I’ve been up most of the night reading Anna Mansell’s debut, How to Mend a Broken Heart… and it’s lovely. Truly lovely.

The ingredients? Take a whole cast of damaged, lost characters. Whip them up and push them to the very edge of self-destruction. Get them all together in one pot. Add a whole heap of emotions, secrets, loss and love and leave to bake. And you end up with a gorgeous, bittersweet story.

I have to be honest, I’m terrible for choosing a book by its cover, and very rarely read the blurb before I get stuck in – and I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting such an emotionally complex read… I thought I was headed into a lighter story. But having got to know this unique cast of characters, fallen a little bit in love with Mark, and decided that I’d quite like to have Kat as a best friend because there is just so much about her to admire- I’m very glad that I picked this up and got sucked in.

The author has identified that universal sense of being lost- of not belonging- that I’m convinced that each of us feels- if only fleetingly- at some point in life. It’s this that makes for a brave and compelling debut novel.

A beautiful story about how much we can all impact on each other’s lives – for good, for ill, strangers, family and friends. And how simply caring can be enough to save someone.


Grab your copy here:
Kindle:                         Paperback:
    

The Blurb:


Hello? Rhys Woods? I have a patient here I think you know. Yours is the only number in her diary…

When Rhys is called to the hospital to meet Susan, a woman he barely knows, he is compelled to help her. Still grieving the loss of his brother months earlier, Rhys knows all too well the feeling of loneliness.

There are years between them, but Rhys is the only person Susan will respond to, and when she asks him to bring her her most treasured possession, a book of fairytales, he is intrigued.

Hidden in the book is a clue to Susan’s past, and the painful regrets she carries with her. And as Rhys starts to unearth Susan’s secrets, he finds that his own grief begins to heal too…

Together, Susan and Rhys must learn to live again. Can they help each other to find happiness and finally mend their broken hearts?

How to Mend a Broken Heart is a heart-wrenching and absorbing story about second chances, forgiveness, and making every second count, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, Lucy Dillon and Miranda Dickinson.


About Anna Mansell

Anna spent almost twenty years trying to shoehorn writing in to her career as a marketing manager for dance and theatre companies. Eventually, she did what you are not remotely supposed to do and walked away from an excellent job in order to try and become a published author. Three years, lots of tears and some slightly hairy bank balances later, she met Kirsty Greenwood and the rest, as they say, is history. Anna lives in Cornwall with her husband and two kids. She feels very fortunate!

https://twitter.com/AnnaMansell
https://www.facebook.com/AnnaMansellAuthor

Monday, 6 March 2017

Book and a Biscuit: Reunited by Daniel Gothard


#amreading: 

Reunited by Daniel Gothard, published by Urbane Publications

Tea: 

Strawberry & Vanilla Fool by the London Fruit & Herb Company. A little taste of the English summertime in a cup.

Cake: 

Fox's Party Rings. Because they make me feel like a 6 year old again.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Review: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan

I find it hard when writing a review about a book which touched me deeply not to fall into the trap of speaking in sweeping, gushing clichés – trying to convey how much the writing affected me whilst not really wanting to examine the raw edges of emotion that it has left me with. You know the kind- “characters that will stay with me”, “stunning description and scenery”, “full of emotion which packs a punch”. Yes all of these are true- but I kind of hate myself for not being able to describe the book’s impact in a way that is as unique and beautiful as the writing itself. This is one of those books. I don't really know where to begin...

Told with a dual timeline- we see Skylark Farm both in its wartime heyday- where there was no work more important. Young evacuees Will and Alice are finding their feet and their place alongside their surrogate family's daughter, Maggie, in this world that is so different to the one they are used to. This is interwoven with the modern-day timeline 70 years later, where the farm is in trouble, and Maggie, her daughter and grandson are keeping hold of the farm by the very tips of their fingers. With the arrival of Lucy, Maggie’s granddaughter, and a new visitor to the farm’s holiday cottages, the past and present are set on a collision course where the secrets of the past are set to finally come to light.

Sarah Vaughn is an incredibly clever writer, and the constant dance between past and present is
perfectly executed – just complex enough to keep the reader in her thrall- building to the perfect, shattering climax.

Cornwall played one of the main characters in the novel. When discovered and explored through the eyes of the young refugees Alice and Will, its beauty and the everyday wonders and horrors of farming life stood out in stark relief. I love a story where its situation is intrinsic to the plot and the story- where it couldn’t exist in the same way anywhere else- and this has to be one of the strongest examples I’ve come across.

There was so much depth and emotion in the writing that at times I found it hard to take, and resorted reading short passages before taking a break to digest it. It was raw, bleak and incredibly beautiful. There is a sparkling, young love story at the heart of the novel- but it was one that had me in tears- and then, to be honest, beyond tears – you know, in one of those moments where you’re sat paralysed, hand to your own throat as if you’re holding the emotion in somehow?

See, I told you I wouldn’t be able to do this book justice. My reaction Sarah Vaughan’s powerful, poetic writing was on a physical level. Maybe I should have filmed myself reading it instead- but then, that’s not a mess I’d want anyone to witness. All I can say is that I couldn’t recommend this intensely emotional, beautiful book more.

Grab your copy here:

Kindle:                      Paperback:


The Blurb:

1939, and Will and Alice are evacuated to a granite farm in north Cornwall, perched on a windswept cliff. There they meet the farmer's daughter, Maggie, and against shimmering barley fields and a sky that stretches forever, enjoy a childhood largely protected from the ravages of war.
But in the sweltering summer of 1943 something happens that will have tragic consequences. A small lie escalates out of all proportion. Over 70 years on Alice is determined to make amends - but has she left it too late?
2014, and Maggie's granddaughter Lucy flees to the childhood home she couldn't wait to leave thirteen years earlier, marriage over; career apparently ended thanks to one terrible mistake. Can she rebuild herself and the family farm? And can she help her grandmother, plagued by a secret, to find some lasting peace?
This is a novel about identity and belonging; guilt and atonement; the unrealistic expectations placed on children and the pain of coming of age. It's about small lies and dark secrets; and how the need to love and be loved endures. But above all it's about a beautiful, desolate, complex place.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Meeting Authors and Bloggers IRL: Part 1


Tomorrow I’m off up to Exeter for the Author/Blogger Shananigans, organised by the rather fabulous Holly Martin and Kim Nash. Kim and Holly have held these events regularly both in London and Birmingham, but this will be the very first meet-up in Exeter, and I’m so excited to have something like this in the South West.

Sooo... what’s this post about? Well, the thing about authors is that they spend quite a lot of time alone, behind their screens…. And the thing about bloggers is they spend quite a lot of time alone, behind their screens…  I’m not saying that we’re all introverts- but we are certainly far more accustomed to emailing, tweeting and facebooking each other than holding face-to-face conversations.

Following some chat online after the last event I went to, and my own observations (read: insecurities!) I thought I’d put together a little survival-guide post as a reminder to myself- and perhaps to offer a little bit of comfort to anyone else who gets THE FEAR!

1. Firstly and most importantly -do not cancel going just because you are nervous- because you’ll really regret it (and I want to meet you).

2. Don’t worry if you’re going alone- because loads of people will be alone. When you go in- if everyone seems to be in groups or paired up – just head over to someone and introduce yourself because I can guarantee that 99% of the conversations already happening around you are between people who have only just met.

3. Make sure your name & blog name is on your name-badge and visible- it’ll help other authors and bloggers seek you out and introduce themselves (especially important if your online identity doesn't have a photo of you anywhere!)

4. Don’t forget that every single person in the room is in exactly the same situation as you. They want to meet other authors and other bloggers. That means that there are people in the room who are just as keen to meet you as you are them.

5. If you know someone is going to be there who you desperately want to chat to- make sure you do. Say hello... talk about their blog / their writing… ask for a pic… whatever you fancy. You could even send them a message in advance saying how much you're looking forward to meeting them - then they'll know to keep their eye out for you. I know this takes balls, but you’ll regret it if you don’t grab the opportunity. (I speak from experience. Let’s just say that I found myself in a lift with Jojo Moyes several years ago, and all I managed to do was squeak at her. I bet she’s lovely… I bet she’d have happily had a quick chat on the way up to the Penguin party. I’ll never know because I was too busy being shy, bright red and squeaky… DOH!)

6. If you have them – take business cards with your blog address, social media and contact details. Then when you get chatting, you can make sure you stay in touch after the event. If you don’t have cards, just print off a handful of slips with the info and cut them out by hand- or jot your details on a couple of notecards… it’ll only take you a few minutes and I promise you’ll wish you had them.

7. Take photos if you want to. When others invite you to be in their pics- squidge in and smile. I really hate having my photo taken- and I can get all awkward about it- then wish I had them as a memento (and of course, for the blog!)

8. If you’re still feeling super-nervous- find out as much about who else is going to be there as you can. If there’s a Facebook page for the event (which there is for tomorrow!) have a trawl of the “Going” list – maybe look people up and follow them on Twitter, on Amazon, see what they’re interested in and what they’ve written recently. This’ll help you figure out who’s who, and arm you with lots to talk about.

9. I’m going to say it again – remember most people are feeling like you… so get chatting… I can guarantee they will have a flock of butterflies following them around too! After the last event, I couldn’t believe it when some of the others (who I’d been watching with silent awe- thinking how confident they were and how they seemed to know everyone)- tweeted that they had been nervous and wished they had the confidence to speak to so-and-so…

10. Forget all the above and just enjoy yourself.


So my lovelies – whether I see you tomorrow or at some future event, please do bound up to me for a chat! I’m looking forward to meeting you, to hearing all about your writing and blogging, your book releases and interviews...

See you soon,
Laura x

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Book and a Biscuit: The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

#amreading: 

The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan, published by Penguin Ireland

Tea: 

Invigorating Peppermint tea by Twinings - what can you say about mint tea? Nom nom nom nom nom. When you can't get your hands on fresh mint from the garden, this is the next best thing.

Biscuit:

Mrs Crimble's Large Chocolate Macaroons - chocolate covered gooey coconutty goodness. I have to say it one more time... NOM NOM NOM!

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Weekly Series: Doomed Date Diaries: Part 12

Part 12

Doomed Date Diaries by Bethany Quinn

17. Vernon


I was jogging around Kensington Gardens, trying not to stare at the couples arguing. The bandstand by the Round Pond has always been a great place for splitting up. I really should pin some business cards to the trees.

My new fitness regime was as a direct result of the previous night's unexpectedly disheartening dating disaster. So, as usual- I only had myself to blame.

Vernon was a personal trainer. He was lean and tanned and had strange muscles in his neck which were probably attached to weightlifting ears. He bulged where most men sag. He wore designer trainers and overly tight T-shirts and worked with a host of minor celebrities whose names he couldn't possibly mention- but I probably wouldn't know anyway because I don't own a television.

It also didn't take long to realise that I wouldn't be falling head over heels in love with him. Vernon was already deeply and exclusively in love with himself.

And when he casually slipped into the conversation the fact that there were as many calories in a large glass of red wine as there were in two chocolate biscuits- I knew- without a moment's hesitation- that I never wanted to see him again.

I'd almost made it halfway down the Broad Walk, Kensington Palace was in my sights- and every part of me felt like it was in flames and ready to fall off.

I stopped and clung onto a bench for dear life, resisting the urge to be sick on the couple already sitting there. They carried on arguing, completely oblivious to my distress.

I wiped the sweat from my eyes- or was it tears?- and glanced at my newly acquired GPS tracking sports watch- with built-in heart monitor. It was clearly faulty. Instead of many hundreds of torturous miles- I had apparently only run 1023 yards.

Jogging was Matt's idea. He liked nothing better than running a marathon when he wasn't moving other people's heavy furniture about.*

When I got my breath back and could feel my legs again I was going to have to kill him. It was a shame. I've been in love with him since I was nine years old.

*Actually he left the really heavy stuff to his cousin Will. Will could lift a piano on his own- you just had to show him which way up it was supposed to be afterwards.