Saturday, 29 March 2014

BLOG TOUR: Skeletons by Jane Fallon (plus giveaway!)

Thursday saw the release of Skeletons, the latest novel by Getting Rid of Matthew author Jane Fallon. We thoroughly enjoyed this book, and courtesy of publishers Michael Joseph, have two copies to give away!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply email the editor with 'Skeletons' as the subject header by April 5th.

BOOK REVIEW

Jen Masterson has always adored her husband Jason's family - his large, loving, home with his happily-married, proud parents has always been a welcoming fixture in her life. Jason's siblings are her best friends; a huge difference to the family she was brought up in. And with the couple's two children having grown up and ventured away to university, the extended Masterson family unit with their weekly visits and family dinners keeps Jen involved.

However, Jen accidentally discovers a secret. And a rather big secret, at that.

A secret that has the potential to tear the entire Masterson family apart.

Letting Jason know what she's found out would only upset him and possibly drive a wedge between Jen and the family. So she decides to keep it quiet, continuing with life as normal and trying remarkably hard to keep up the pretence in the presence of the Mastertons.

Though it can only last for so long. Soon, the secret is catching up with Jen; following her, demanding that she comes clean about what she knows.

And if she doesn't confess, then someone else will...

The longer Jen keeps the secret, the harder it becomes. With family events looming, there's only so much time before she has to come clean about what she knows, And when it happens, she tells not only Jason, but the entire Masterson family.

Jen is soon forced to deal with the consequences of confessing all to the family that's trusted her, enveloped her in love and let her be one of them. And when her world comes crashing down around her, Jen has to decide what to do next in order to pick up the pieces.

It's quite hard to write a review without giving too much away - after all, one of the things I enjoyed most about this book was discovering the secret, and I really don't want to post any spoilers! Sometimes in life, we come across things that could be kept to ourselves; secrets that could cause harm when revealed. But is it best to keep these secrets? What would happen if we told? Jane Fallon explores this concept wonderfully, and tells a fantastic, highly addictive story about a woman placed in terribly predicament - one that could potentially break up a family.

Skeletons is a very intriguing novel of secrets, scandal and family dilemma, which Jane handles brilliantly (her novels Getting Rid of Matthew and The Ugly Sister are some of my favourites), and I was very excited about the release of Skeletons. Such a great book - I'm already looking forward to Jane Fallon's next offering!

Rating: 5/5

Check out The Friendly Shelf for tomorrow's stop on Jane's blog tour!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Choc Lit's Mother's Day round-robin love story - Part Five!

We're pleased to be taking part in Choc Lit's Mother's Day love story! Part five is written by Beverley Eikli, author of The Maid of Milan. Enjoy!

Part Five by Beverley Eikli

Seven Choc Lit authors have contributed to give you one exciting story. Each author has to continue the tale left by the previous author. They have no idea where the story will take them! Not an easy task but makes good reading for us all.

If you have missed parts one and two, you can read them here:


Damien returned his attention to the river view even before the door had even shut behind the two women.
He’d thought he’d be immune to whatever emotional ploy Kelly chose to soften his righteous anger towards her. He hadn’t expected dignity, as if she were the wronged party. Nor had he expected his own traitorous responses to be so strong.
A discreet cough dragged his attention back to the present and he swung round to see Ade standing in the centre of the room.
He forced himself to return to more important matters. ‘Ah yes, Ade, security arrangements for the Grande Reception tomorrow night…’
Ade raised one bushy eyebrow. ‘Looks like your mind was on other things.’ He took a few steps forward. ‘Your father will be surprised when he learns Kelly chose to return to work rather than take up his generous offer.’
The tone, as much as the words, sounded a warning.
‘What generous offer?’ Damien narrowed his eyes at the man who’d been more of a father figure to him than his own. As youths George Grande and Ade had worked together in the building trade but when an eye to the main chance and ruthless ambition had propelled George Grande to his current illustrious heights, he’d made Ade his right-hand man.
Ade offered Damien a look of sympathetic understanding and rubbed his chin as if weighing up whether to say more.
‘What generous offer, Ade?’ Damien repeated, his voice crisp and sharp-edged like his growing fury.
A distant roaring had already begun to fill his head. So his father had been doing his usual interfering in the wings? Worse, though, was that Damien hadn’t even suspected.
Ade reached for the only framed photograph on Damien’s desk. Taken the night George Grande had received his OBE for services to architecture, he stood flanked by his son and Damien’s glamorous ex fiancĂ©e, Celia.
‘Your father didn’t want to believe it was all over between you and Celia.’
Damien shook his head. Already the pieces were coming together. The heated argument following the celebrations that night had been the catalyst for Damien doing what he’d wanted to do for some time: call off his on-off relationship with Celia. The office party the following night had been like a glorious dive into crystal clear waters. Unshackled at last, Damien had felt gravitated naturally to the doe-eyed, coolly efficient Kelly Taylor, the firm’s newest recruit to whom he’d become increasingly attracted over the months. One thing had led to another, and when Damien had woken up in bed next to Kelly, he’d felt this was where he wanted to wake up every morning for the rest of his life.
Clearly, though, Kelly thought differently, for when Damien had woken properly at noon, Kelly was gone, and when he tried to phone her, he’d learned she’d gone to Prague on assignment and was unreachable.
Nor did she make any attempt to answer his calls or messages until Damien’s own business schedule took him to the US where, by design or coincidence, Celia had reappeared with a concerted, but ultimately futile, effort to reinvigorate their stalled romance. 
The next real conversation Damien had with Kelly was when she’d announced she was four months pregnant – with his child.
‘Your father was convinced Kelly was a gold-digger and that without her around, you and Celia would patch up your differences and marry.’
Damien sucked in a laboured breath. ‘So my father did what he had to in order to make Kelly believe the worst of me.’
‘Because he believed the worst of her.’ Ade dropped his eyes from Damien’s fulminating glare. ‘But her reappearance more than adequately proves that financial gain was never her motivation.’
Resolve was like a steel rod driving into Damien’s backbone. By God, his father was going to regret meddling in his son’s life.
Coolly he said, ‘Well Ade, I trust Kelly is attending tomorrow’s celebrations.’
Ade inclined his head. ‘I’ll personally see to it she does.’ He hesitated, the sympathy replaced with a warning look. ‘But don’t leave it any longer than tomorrow night. I’d hate to see you miss out a second time.’



About the Author 

Beverley Eikli wrote her first romance when she was seventeen. However, drowning the heroine on the last page was, she discovered, not in the spirit of the genre so her romance-writing career ground to a halt and she became a journalist.

After throwing in her secure job on South Australia’s metropolitan daily, The Advertiser, to manage a luxury safari lodge in the Okavango Delta, in Botswana, Beverley discovered a new world of romance and adventure in a thatched cottage in the middle of a mopane forest with the handsome Norwegian bush pilot she met around a camp fire. 

Eighteen years later, after exploring the world in the back of Cessna 404s and CASA 212s as an airborne geophysical survey operator during low-level sorties over the French Guyanese jungle and Greenland’s ice cap, Beverley is back in Australia living a more conventional life with her husband and two daughters in a pretty country town an hour north of Melbourne.

Beverly won Choc Lit’s Search for an Australian Star with The Reluctant Bride. Beverley’s Choc Lit novels include: The Reluctant Bride and The Maid of Milan.



Follow the rest of the story daily!


The Maid of Milan
How much would you pay for a clear conscience?

Adelaide Leeson wants to prove herself worthy of her husband, a man of noble aspirations who married her when she was at her lowest ebb.

Lord Tristan Leeson is a model of diplomacy and self-control, even curbing the fiery impulses of his youth to preserve the calm relations deemed essential by his mother-in-law to preserve his wife's health.

A visit from his boyhood friend, feted poet Lord James Dewhurst, author of the sensational Maid of Milan, persuades Tristan that leaving the countryside behind for a London season will be in everyone's interests.
But as Tristan's political career rises and Adelaide revels in society's adulation, the secrets of the past are uncovered. And there's a high price to pay for a life of deception.




UNCOVERED INTERVIEW: Lenny Smith

Lenny Smith has recently published her debut novel, If - the first part of the If Choices Unravel trilogy. If focuses on Karla, who decides to make a new start in life, only to have her world potentially collapse. We're excited about this new novelist and couldn't wait to ask her some questions!

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
A hot drunken mess of a drama that will make you laugh and cry.

What inspired you to write If?
I never consciously decided that I wanted to be a writer. Growing up I wanted to be an artist - then a singer. Writing happened by accident! The idea behind If actually came about about 20 years ago. A friend and myself had this idea of writing the same story from two sisters points of view, Karla's and Ella's - just for fun. We worked out a vague plot, which barely resembles the final plot now. I started Karla's story but I'm not too sure if she ever got around to starting Ella's. I got to about chapter 7 and decided it was rubbish and left it. It wasn't until years later I happened to find it when unpacking after moving house. I read through it, and will admit that it needed a lot of work but the bones of a good story were there, so I decided to start re-writing it. A friend read it on a weekly basis, chapter by chapter and gave me both positive and negative feedback. Several edits later I felt ready to send it off. I received numerous rejection letters as is often the case but finally managed to secure myself an agent. My computer then died a tragic irreparable death. At the time, I felt it was game over. A simple case of not meant to be! The agent obviously lost interest and it took a good six years before I decided to re-write it again - from scratch, and actually I think that was a good thing. After time apart from it I could look upon it with fresh eyes and managed to fine tune the plot to run a little smoother whilst writing the characters with more empathy ( I hope) which is something I felt the earlier drafts lacked.

Where do you do most of your writing?
Most of my writing is done at home, however, I always have a notepad in my bag to jot things down because I'll run scenes in my head repeatedly when walking to and from places. I have been known to scribble snippets down on napkins and till receipts before too. At some point, all these little things link up and create a story.

What is your favourite book?
Ooh there are far too many to pick one. One of the first books I fell in love with was Flowers in the Attic by Virginia Andrews. I also loved Savages by Shirley Conran, My sisters keeper by Jodi Piccoult and the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella because I could relate to that character so much. I like books that provoke emotion whether that is making me laugh or making me cry. I hope that If does both.

Which part of If did you enjoy writing the most?
Karla's character was always a pleasure to write and against all the advice I had been given, I let her take control of the story (that's how it ended up as a trilogy rather than the one book it was intended to be). I particularly enjoyed writing the scenes between Karla and John (not so much that scene, but just the way she reacted to him in general and the conflict between them.) I also loved writing her as she started to unravel towards the end of If. It was hard sometimes to remember that she was just a figment of my imagination. I have shed many a tear for her.

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
That is an easy one, Karla from If. She goes through so much and although she is perhaps a little too impulsive at times which gets her into trouble, I think her strength is admirable, and even at her lowest points she still shows compassion towards others.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
If you want to write, write and don't give up. Get inside your characters, know them inside out and love them for all their faults. If you love them, you readers will too. Also, trust your instincts - It is your story, tell it how you want to hear it.

Are you working on anything else at the moment and if so, can you tell us?
I am half way through the rewrite of Choices - the sequel to If. The three books create one title - If Choices Unravel. The general theme of the story is learning to live with the consequences of the choices we make, and what happens if they come back to bite us on the arse (by we, I really mean Karla). They are all written from Karla's view point and span twenty years of her life. Choices will hopefully be out in June and Unravel in December. After that, who knows! I will have to decide if there is another story in me to tell. Or maybe I will become a singer after all, haha!

You can keep up to date with my progress and get sneak peeks on my Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks, Lenny!

If by Lenny Smith
In life there will always be choices and the right choice is often the hardest one to make, but it will never be as hard as living with an eternal "If". Life was getting a little bit out of control for Karla Berkeley but when her father dies she is given the chance to wipe the slate clean, make a new start and leave her troubled past behind her. For Karla, this means taking down the emotional barrier she has hidden behind since she was seven years old and finally allowing someone into her heart. But there is another love in Karla's life, one that threatens to destroy her and she finds that life is soon spinning back out of her control. As her world starts to collapse around her, it seems that there is only one tragic choice left to make!

UNCOVERED PICKS: 5 Books for Mother's Day

This weekend we'll be celebrating Mother's Day here in the UK, and in honour of this special Sunday, here's our selection of five reads - for and about mums!


Take Mum Out by Fiona Gibson

"What do you need a boyfriend for? You're a mum." Fiona Gibson's eagerly awaited new novel is full of dating disasters. Sharply observed and laugh-out-loud funny, its perfect for fans of Tracy Bloom, Kate Long and Tess Stimson. Three blind dates Two teenage boys messing up her plans And one man who'll melt Alice's heart. 'You need to get back in the saddle...' Alice despises that phrase. She's fine being single - with two slothful teenage boys and a meringue business to run, she has enough on her plate without negotiating the troublesome world of modern dating. However, Alice's three best friends have other ideas. Each one will present her with an utterly delicious, eligible man - all Alice has to do is pick her favourite.



Mums on Strike by Laura Kemp
It was just a squashed grape on the kitchen floor. Hardly a reason to get upset, right?

But six years of motherhood has left Lisa Stratton feeling like a skivvy.

Every morning before she's opened her eyes, she starts her mental inventory of jobs to do. And just like yesterday, the day before and every day since she became a mum, she's woken up knackered.

So when her husband deliberately steps over the grape because it's 'her responsibility' to run the house, it tips her over the edge.

He wasn't always like this - they used to share everything.

Then the kids came along and he saw it as an excuse to sit back.

But this time things are going to change. Lisa has made a decision. She's going on strike.

Mother of the Year by Karen Ross
 
'I often think my mother would prefer colonic irrigation to hanging out with me...' Beth Jackson is a national treasure, celebrated for her television shows and winning the Mother of the Year Award three times in a row. Only, her daughter just wishes that Beth would be more like a normal mum...

A Mother Dimension by Mink Elliott
 
Kate O’Reilly, mother of three on the cusp of her 45th birthday, has got a thing about the past. Her husband, Seamus and long-standing best friend, Georgia, both call her chronic nostalgia an obsession – but Kate sees it as her safety harness, her private Prozac, her coping mechanism of choice. Because when being a wife and mother is weighing her down, making her feel trapped and overwhelming her, all Kate needs to do is take a quick trip down memory lane - to where the music was better, her social circle was wider, her self-esteem higher, her hair thicker and her waist much, much thinner - and voila! All is right with her world again.

But when a freak electrical storm propels her back in time to 1996 for real, Kate can’t believe what’s happening. Soon, however, she’s elated, because this is the moment she’s been waiting for all these years – her chance to re-live those good old days and actually do all those things she’s been fantasising about.

Armed with little more than the optimism of youth, the benefit of hindsight, a taut-again tummy and just the one chin, Kate sets out to discover what might have happened if she’d only done things a little bit differently. And why some things really are best left in the past...

Balancing Act by Joanna Trollope
Susie Moran is a success. She has founded and run her own highly profitable company, and now her three daughters are all involved in the business. Rooted in the traditions of the Stoke-on-Trent potteries, and producing charming, useable objects of distinctive design, Susie is justly proud of her family and her achievement - and has no intention of letting it change.

But what of the men in the family? Susie's husband, a musician and artist, has always seemed happy to take a back seat. One of her sons-in-law has few ambitions outside the home. Another daughter, though, has brought her husband into the company - and they want to change things, much to Susie's distress.

And then, into the mix, arrives Susie's father, an ageing hippy who abandoned Susie as a baby. Now he's alone, and wants to build bridges, although Susie's daughters are outraged at the idea. Can the needs of a family business override the needs of the family itself? In wanting to preserve her business, will Susie lose something much more precious?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

NEW RELEASE: Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff

Ghostwritten, the latest novel from Isabel Wolff (author of Rescuing Rose and A Vintage Affair), was released today, and follows ghostwriter Jenni, whose latest project is about to reveal elements of her own past...
A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a ‘ghost’: she writes the lives of other people. It’s a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara’s help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?

Gripping, poignant and beautifully researched, Ghostwritten is a story of survival and love, of memory and hope.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Beauty by Louise Mensch

Those familiar with bestselling author Louise Bagshawe may already know that this is the pen name of MP and Unfashionista blogger Louise Mensch. Beauty is Louise's latest novel, penned under her real name. Having only read one of Louise's previous books, I wasn't sure what to expect, but Beauty did not disappoint. At all.

Dina Kane is a natural beauty. She didn't ask to be so beautiful, nor did her mother particularly ask for a  daughter - after all, being graced with their son Johnny, the Kanes could hardly afford to raise another child. Being so the blatantly second best Kane sibling doesn't seem to bother Dina given that beloved Johnny is practically her only friend, and the only one to show her affection - her mother's disdain is always evident. Intelligent, ambitious and gorgeous Dina has her heart set on going to college, but there are only funds for one child's tuition - Johnny's. And when their father dies, leaving their grieving mother alone and on the start of a downward spiral, Dina quickly realises that whatever she wants in life, she'll have to work hard to get.

And life is only just beginning.

Dina's determined to get to the top, and with an aim to save fund for college, leaves her hometown for the city, renting a tiny, grubby apartment and getting a job as a coffee-shop waitress. Very soon, her once undesirable living space has been transformed due to her knowledge and flair, and the job is proving a success - helped partly by the fact Dina's natural beauty can charm customers in an instant - though her life is about to change when Edward Johnson walks through the door.

Rich, arrogant and self-assured, Edward and his friends place a bet amongst themselves that he can bed the coffee-shop waitress. Despite Dina's high-achieving nature in business, she's still naive and weary about men. So Edward makes it his mission to fool Dina - and when he does, leaving Dina upset and humiliated, she vows to get him back.

When Edward's life is left in tatters due to Dina’s successful attempt at revenge, Edward Johnson starts to plot his own.

Dina Kane is going to be sorry. But he needs to catch her first…and with Dina’s know-how, having left the coffee shop and moved onto bigger and better career opportunities, there’s no stopping her. Dina Kane is working towards a life she'd dreamed of; properties, money and a career in the beauty industry. But with Edward lurking in the background, intent on ruining everything she loves, it’s only a matter of time before things come crashing down…

My verdict? I loved Beauty, and struggled to stop reading. I could go on for quite some time about the events in this novel but to do so would spoil it. Beauty is a gripping, scandalous tale of ambition and revenge, with a fast-paced plot that makes this book so hard to put down. Despite not inititally taking to Dina Kane's coldness and her high-achieving ways, I grew to like her quite early on, and couldn't wait to see what her next move would be.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

INDUSTRY NEWS: Veronica Henry scoops Romantic Novel of the Year Award

The Birthday Party author Veronica Henry has picked up the RNA 2014 Romantic Novel of the Year Award, winning a cheque for £5000 and trophies presented by Darcey Bussell, CBE, for her book A Night on the Orient Express.

The novel, which won in the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year category, was described as a 'feel good romantic book with very natural dialogue' and a 'page turner' by the judging panel, which consisted of five industry professionals: Alison Flood (The Guardian), Sarah Broadhurst (The Bookseller), Jane Mays (The Daily Mail), Karin Stoecker (Harlequin Books) and Chris White (fiction buyer at Waterstones).

Category winners were Jennifer McVeigh in the Epic category for her novel The Fever Tree (Penguin), Christina Courtenay in the Historical category for The Gilded Fan (Choc Lit), Milly Johnson in the Romantic Comedy category for It's Raining Men (Simon & Schuster), and Imogen Howson in the Young Adult category for Linked (Quercus).

Bridget Jones author Helen Fielding was given an Outstanding Achievement award.

RNA president Katie Fforde said: "Every year we are astounded by the quality of writing and enthusiasm from our entrants. Their passion is evident in their writing and all can be proud of having been part of the Awards this year. Our congratulations go to Veronica Henry, who is thoroughly deserving of her win and provided the judges with an intriguing plot with some twisty turns that delivered what can only be described as a page-turning novel. All in all a very well-earned win."

A Night on the Orient Express by Veronica Henry
The Orient Express. Luxury. Mystery. Romance. For one group of passengers settling in to their seats and taking their first sips of champagne, the journey from London to Venice is more than the trip of a lifetime. A mysterious errand; a promise made to a dying friend; an unexpected proposal; a secret reaching back a lifetime...As the train sweeps on, revelations, confessions and assignations unfold against the most romantic and infamous setting in the world.

BOOK NEWS: A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby

Chrissie Manby, author of many novels including Spa Wars, Crazy In Love and the hilarious Getting Over Mr Right, will be releasing a new book in June titled A Proper Family Holiday - and it looks set to be a fantastically funny read! Hurry up, summer...

Fashion journalist Chelsea Benson can't think of anything better than going on a week-long package holiday in Lanzarote with her entire family. No, scratch that - she can't think of anything worse.

Your small nephew wiping his sticky hands all over your (borrowed) designer dress, and pestering you to play for days on end...

Your eighty-five-year-old granddad chatting up ladies at the hotel bar...

Getting nothing but sarcastic comments from your older sister, who's always been the family favourite and hasn't spoken to you in two years...

And all this is before your parents drop their bombshell.

It's certainly shaping up to be a holiday Chelsea and the rest of the Benson family will never, ever forget...

Friday, 7 March 2014

UNCOVERED INTERVIEWS: Rosie Blake


Rosie Blake's debut novel, How to Get a (Love) Life, is out now - and it's a fantastic read (not to mention hilarious - review coming soon!) Of course, we couldn't wait to speak to Rosie and find out more about the novel, which focuses on heroine Nicola who takes on a challenge to find love before Valentine's Day.

Tell us about your latest novel in 15 words or less.
Nicola Brown dared to get a (love) life by Valentine's Day. Cue ensuing madness. Whoop! (I had a spare word).

What inspired you to write How to Get a (Love) Life?
*pictures self in a field of daisies bursting with writerly inspiration* In truth, I had been on so many horrific dates that made "great copy" that I thought: "The world should hear of these horrendous men so it can LOL over my misfortune."

Where do you do most of your writing?
Ha, ha, do you want the truth or the lie? I like to think of myself in a writer's paradise – flowers on every polished surface, the muse floating around on a candle-scented breeze, but in reality, I write in tracksuit bottoms while sitting on my sofa trying not to spill crumbs on the laptop.

What is your favourite book?
Unfair question. When I realised I wanted to write comic novels, I was particularly inspired by books like Are you Experienced by William Sutcliffe, Yes Man by Danny Wallace and, of course, the fabulous Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding. They all made me chuckle.

Which part of How to Get a (Love) Life did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved some of the minor characters and most of the scenes with Mark, her bat-obsessed brother, were some my faves. And the kayak scene. Need I say more…?

Who is your favourite literary heroine?
I have a few at the moment. *does intense fan girl face* I am currently stalking, I mean admiring, Hannah Richell. Her books Secret of the Tides and The Shadow Year have kept me completely gripped.

Do you have any tips for readers who are looking to become published writers?
It's the age-old tip – keep going. I have written for around 10 years – four in earnest – and have numerous short stories, novels and articles in various drawers. Gradually, I noticed I started to be placed in competitions as I practised and picked up tips from others.

Thanks, Rosie!

You can find out more about Rosie Blake at her website, or by following her on Twitter (@RosieBBooks)

Thursday, 6 March 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Take Mum Out by Fiona Gibson

Having read (and loved!) Fiona Gibson's previous novels, including Mummy Said the F Word and Mum On the Run, I was rather excited about her latest book, Take Mum Out. Released next week, Take Mum Out focuses on busy single mother Alice Sweet - meringue maker, school secretary and mum of two teenage boys.

With her successful meringue business, Sugar Mummy, having recently taken off,  Alice hasn't had much time for finding a love life. And after one particularly bad date, she realises that she's perfectly happy staying single. Though Alice's three best friends disagree - and with that, set out on a mission to find Alice her Mr Right.

Three dates. Three men, set up by perfectly responsible friends. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, Alice is about to find out. And trying to get time alone away from teenage sons Logan and Fergus is proving a challenge in itself - though she's helped by her often annoying mother and her ex, who has taken on a new catalogue-perfect country life with sugar-fearing wife Patsy.

From doting to downright disastrous, Alice's new suitors give her friends a lot to answer for. However, I don't want to reveal any more and spoil the fun!

One of the reasons why I'm such a fan of Fiona Gibson is her fun writing style; her 'real' heroines and the hilarious scrapes that they - that we all, sometimes - get into. Admittedly, I wouldn't usually be so excited about a book that focuses mainly on dating, given that I've read so many. Though having loved Fiona's previous novels, I knew that this would be a great book. Despite not being a parent myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed her amusing tales of life as a mum, and Take Mum Out is no exception. It's the perfect book to curl up with; a brilliantly funny and heartwarming read.

Rating: 5/5

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

BOOK REVIEW: One Little White Lie by Pricilla Bleik

What do you get when you combine one problematic sister, an irritating mother, one awful husband, a worldwide major TV talent show and one hell of a lie? India is about to find out in Pricilla Bleik's debut novel One Little White Lie.

Thirty-something India Roman is somewhat trapped in her life; her condescending, uninterested husband leaves her to take care of their twins and her irritating mother is constantly on her case, mainly about India's younger sister Cylia - spoilt and bitchy with an array of anxiety disorders that have made India's mother give in to her every whim, resulting in India missing out on certain freedom of her own over the years.

When Cylia's mother and therapist encourage the youngest sibling to enter STAR, a worldwide quest to find the next singing sensation, Cylia agrees. Despite knowing that auditioning will be pointless with her sister's anxiety, she's forced, as per usual, to chaperone, having to endure Cylia's nasty jibes and the impending fear of an inevitable breakdown. And when cute, young Cylia is plucked from the audition queue and given the chance to showcase her talent in front of some of the harshest TV judges, she quickly makes a run for it - leaving India to quickly fill in, even though she's years over the age limit...

India takes her sister's place, getting through to the next round - however, after escaping the auditions, Cylia doesn't return home.

Naturally, their mother is distraught over her favoured daughter's disappearance, constantly pestering the police and India, who both believe she's just escaped for a while. If her missing sister and incessant mother aren't bad enough to deal with, things take a turn for the worse when husband Phil disappears too, leaving India with a staggering amount of debt...

Faced with the prospect of losing everything, India realises there's nothing she can do  - or is there? If she continues to take Cylia's place on STAR, just getting through the next few rounds will earn her thousands of much-needed pounds.

Despite breaking the rules with her age, India takes to the STAR stage as Cylia, getting to know the fellow contestants; from fame-hungry Helmet to kind American Lennie May. The youngsters are all in for the chance of fame and a contract - all besides India, whose plan is to get voted out and take the cash, all while hoping her family doesn't find out.

With the lies slowly stacking up and her sister still missing, things can only get more difficult - including run-ins with the toughest talent-show critics on television and the producer's own immoral goings-on behind the scenes at STAR. The TV talent contest isn't as fair as everyone thinks - and as India is about to find out, along with something a LOT more shocking...

One Little White Lie is one of the most enjoyable books I've read. To say that I couldn't put it down is an understatement - I simply had to find out what happened next and spent every spare minute with my Kindle in hand. The twist at the end is so shocking and unexpected, though made me enjoy this book even more - it's witty and amusing, yet at the same time, very dark. Even though the novel is set around an X-Factor-like talent contest, the book takes a step away from the glitz and glamour and focuses more on India, her family and the contestants, conveying a darker side to STAR, which I particularly liked. This is Pricilla's first novel - a very different tale of TV talent stardom - and I really, really hope she writes many more novels in future!

Rating: 5/5

Monday, 3 March 2014

UNCOVERED PICKS: Five new novels for March

There are plenty of great new chick-lit novels heading our way in March, from authors including Jane Costello, Fiona Gibson, Collete Caddle and Rebecca Chance. Here are our five picks for the month - what are yours?

Take Mum Out by Fiona Gibson
“What do you need a boyfriend for? You’re a mum.”

Fiona Gibson’s eagerly awaited new novel is full of dating disasters. Sharply observed and laugh-out-loud funny, its perfect for fans of Tracy Bloom, Kate Long and Tess Stimson.

Three blind dates
Two teenage boys messing up her plans
And one man who'll melt Alice's heart.

'You need to get back in the saddle…' Alice despises that phrase. She's fine being single – with two slothful teenage boys and a meringue business to run, she has enough on her plate without negotiating the troublesome world of modern dating.

However, Alice's three best friends have other ideas. Each one will present her with an utterly delicious, eligible man – all Alice has to do is pick her favourite.

Skeletons by Jane Fallon
Jen has discovered a secret.

It's not hers to share, but is it hers to keep?

If she tells her husband Jason, he might get over the shock but will he forgive her for telling the truth? She might drive a wedge through their marriage.

If she tells someone else in Jason's family - the family she's come to love more than her own - she'd not only tear them apart but could also find herself on the outside: she's never really been one of them, after all.

But if she keeps this dirty little secret to herself, how long can she pretend nothing is wrong? How long can she live a lie?

Jen knows the truth - but is she ready for the consequences?

Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff
A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a ‘ghost’: she writes the lives of other people. It’s a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.
Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara’s help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?

Gripping, poignant and beautifully researched, Ghostwritten is a story of survival and love, of memory and hope.


The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger
Twenty-nine-year-old Sophie Diehl is happy toiling away as a criminal law associate at an old line New England firm where she very much appreciates that most of her clients are behind bars. Everyone at Traynor, Hand knows she abhors face-to-face contact, but one weekend, with all the big partners away, Sophie must handle the intake interview for the daughter of the firm’s most important client. After eighteen years of marriage, Mayflower descendant Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim has just been served divorce papers in a humiliating scene at the popular local restaurant, Golightly’s. She is locked and loaded to fight her eminent and ambitious husband, Dr. Daniel Durkheim, Chief of the Department of Pediatric Oncology, for custody of their ten-year-old daughter Jane—and she also burns to take him down a peg. Sophie warns Mia that she’s never handled a divorce case before, but Mia can’t be put off. As she so disarmingly puts it: It’s her first divorce, too.


The Time of Our Lives by Jane Costello
Three best friends. One five-star hotel. Will it be the holiday of a lifetime ...? Imogen and her friends Meredith and Nicola have had their fill of budget holidays, cattle-class flights and 6 a.m. offensives for a space by the pool. So when Meredith wins a VIP holiday at Barcelona's hippest new hotel, they plan to sip champagne with the jet set, party with the glitterati and switch off in unapologetic luxury. But when the worst crisis of her working life erupts back home, Imogen has to juggle her BlackBerry with a Manhattan, while soothing a hysterical boss and hunting down an AWOL assistant. Between a robbery, a run-in with hotel security staff and an encounter on a nudist beach that they'd all rather forget, the friends stumble from one disaster to the next. At least Imogen has a distraction in the form of the gorgeous guy who's always in the right place at the very worst time. Until, that is, his motives start to arouse a few suspicions ...

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