Before the Blog review – The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

I thought it would be a good idea to put all of my reviews in one place. I’ve therefore created a Before the Blog review page where all of these reviews can be found. I will hopefully be able to say where it was first posted and when I read it.

Title – The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

Publisher – Penguin

Originally posted – on Goodreads, Booklikes and Amazon

Read – 17 -19 Sept 2013

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Synopsis

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is a story about love, life and lobster every Tuesday…

Meet Don Tillman.

Don is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet. But he has designed a very detailed questionnaire to help him find the perfect woman. One thing he already knows, though, is that it’s not Rosie. Absolutely, completely, definitely not.

Sometimes, though, you don’t find love: love finds you… 

With the charm of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night- Time and the romance of David Nicholls’ One Day, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion is both funny and endearing – and is set to become the paperback of 2014.”

My review:

I originally read a library version of this book but also obtained a copy from the publishers via Net Galley which I requested for review purposes and which was provided in return for an honest review. 

Don Tillman is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet…

The Wife Project will solve that problem. He has designed a 16-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver.

Rosie Jarman is all of these things. She is also fiery and intelligent and beautiful. And she is on a quest of her own, to find her biological father – a search that Don, a genetics professor, might just be able to help her with.

The Wife Project teaches Don some unexpected things. Like why earlobe length is an inadequate predictor of sexual attraction. Why ice cream tastes different in New York. Why he’s never been on a second date. And why, despite the best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, love finds you…

Don Tillman likes routine. Everything is scheduled from bathroom cleaning to Tuesday nights being lobster night. He’s straight talking – because that’s the only way he can be. He has two friends, his colleague Gene and Gene’s wife Claudia. 

Don has decided he needs a wife. The obvious solution to him is to create a questionnaire to sift through all the potential candidates to find the correct one. He doesn’t want a drinker, smoker, perpetually late barmaid.

Into his life walks Rosie Jarman, a tardy barmaid who wants Don to help her find her biological father. As the story develop we see Don go on disastrous dates, learn to make cocktails, travel to New York, discovers things about himself he didn’t know and learns to fall in love.

Sometimes you read a blurb on a book and think this will be a favourite, without evening starting to read it. This was one of those books. I knew I would love it, my only worry was that I would perhaps not love it as much as I anticipated. I shouldn’t have been concerned. It’s rare that I give a book 5 stars, even rarer that I add a book to my list of all time favourites and one that I would recommend repeatedly. This book however is one of them. However, the trouble with loving a book so much is the fear of writing a review that doesn’t do the book justice.

It’s hard to find fault with this book, except that I wanted it to continue! The interaction between Don and the various people in his life was a joy to read. He is remarkably clever in a learned way but fails to see things as perhaps you and I would. For example he accepts that Gene and Claudia are in an open marriage, as he see’s Gene flirt and have dalliances with other women. However as he discovers more about himself and the reason why he is as he is, Don learns that things he accepted such as this are not the norm. 

He doesn’t believe he can empathise with people so will never fall in love or make new friends. He’s romantic without realizing it – saying to Rosie at one stage “It would be unreasonable of me to give you credit for being incredibly beautiful” . As Rosie influences his life more and more, and he steps away from the norm, his view of himself and the world changes. He makes new friends and realizes he is in love with Rosie and that he can still be himself outside the little world he has created.

I read the hardback version of the book, borrowed from the library and have waited impatiently for the paperback edition before I purchase it. Not because of any monetary reasons, simply because when I’m waving the book in the face of every person I meet, telling them to read it, if I accidently swipe them on the head, the paperback won’t hurt as much!

If the synopsis sounds good to you read this book. If you like it half as much as I do, you won’t be disappointed.

Update:

I’ve still to buy the paperback but I still love this book as much as I did then :-)

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Seven For a Secret – Lyndsay Faye – Blog Tour

Today is my stop on the Seven For a Secret blog tour. Seven For a Secret is the second novel to feature police officer Timothy Wilde, the first being The Gods of Gotham. Here author Lyndsay Faye discusses  Timothy Wilde and the Myth of Modern Virtue.

Timothy Wilde and the Myth of Modern Virtue

I have a thought exercise to propose regarding whether the modern era is more moral, more upstanding, more forthright, and more liberal than any other historical time period. Here are three quotes from females, and I’d like the reader to take a snap judgment on when each was written:

1) I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.

2) It is not enough to be abstinent with other people, you also have to be abstinent alone. The Bible says that lust in your heart is committing adultery.

3) Women are systematically degraded by receiving the trivial attentions which men think it manly to pay to the sex, when, in fact, men are insultingly supporting their own inferiority.

The first quote occurs in Jane Austen’s novel Persuasion, completed in August of 1816. The second quote was stated by recent political Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell in 1996 during an MTV interview. The third quote was written by Mary Wollstonecraft in the late 1700’s, believe it or not—and this data, rather than discouraging me, makes me wholly delighted by the legacy of iconoclasts through the ages.

Despite the discernible theme of the preceding excerpts, feminism isn’t my point here. My point is that shockingly “modern” opinions are often expressed by free spirits living in what we think of as backward historical time periods, while shockingly backward opinions (in my humble view) take place and are then lionized by the media every single day in the present United States.

Scrolling through my Facebook feed earlier this afternoon, I came across a screen capture of a FOX news piece titled “FEMALE DO’S & DON’TS” that suggested you should make your husband happy by wearing “simple, statement clothes—well-cut jeans with a colorful top,” and not “rais[ing] your voice under pressure.” After wandering over to my computer and then afterward to my phone to double-check what year it was, learning that the year I’d suspected it to be was in fact correct, and choking down a nasty bit of stomach flux, I proceeded to gently tap my head against my desk. Repeatedly.

And with cause.

Seven for a Secret, the second installment in the Timothy Wilde series, is a book about two sisters who rise above their harrowing antebellum circumstances. It’s also about a man who refuses to fall in with the opinion that African Americans should be universally despised, and refuses to fall out with his brother after learning his sibling is bisexual. Every so often, someone comments that the novel possesses “modern values,” and every time that happens, I grow more fascinated by the subject. Do we really suppose that we’re morally superior to generations that preceded us, and do we think expressing that opinion is somehow complimentary to ourselves?

In the course of my research, I read a great many autobiographies written by people like Frederick Douglass and Lydia Maria Child, both of whom lived during the mid-19th century and espoused values some apparently regard as anachronistic; I speak of a black man and a white woman who were both pro-female rights and anti-slavery, at a time when being of either opinion essentially excluded one from polite circles. No, strike that, both of those opinions could get you swiftly killed.

Altruism isn’t common, but is altruism truly so time-specific, and so confined to modern charitable institutions or volunteerism? We shrug off murders on the news, walk past beggars in the streets, just as generations before us have done. This patting each other on the back for being up-to-date and politically correct baffles me, particularly in an America where we can’t talk about gun violence without being labeled unpatriotic, and a health care society that thinks female reproductive rights aren’t all that important in the long run. I know that I’m not the only person who has ever heard of Walt Whitman, and thus I wonder: do people truly think that homosexuals didn’t exist before the Civil War? And if they suppose gays did exist, do they think that every acquaintance who ever encountered Walt Whitman chose to sock him in the jaw?

Free people of color in Seven for a Secret are trampled upon systematically, fight back again the system that allowed slave catchers to snatch them from their homes unawares, and they’re aided by a sort-of-hapless but determined white male cop named Timothy Wilde, whose best qualities include his attention to detail and his good intentions. I didn’t invent good intentions, so I don’t find it odd that Tim owns them. But I will quote Lydia Maria Child again, and blithely, for her early and unflinching statements about female opinions and the proper spheres in which they should be expressed:

I was gravely warned by some of my female acquaintances that no woman could expect to be regarded as a lady after she had written a book.

About the book:

Pbk Jacket

“Timothy and Valentine Wilde must once again delve into the darkest underbelly of old New York.

When the beautiful and terrified Mrs Lucy Adams stumbles into the Tombs, headquarters of New York’s newly formed police force, it’s the beginning of a dense, thorny maze of crime for copper star Timothy Wilde. He’s hardened to the injustices of life in the unforgiving city he’s grown up in, but that doesn’t mean he accepts them. With immigrants flooding into the docks every day, each community is both adapting and fighting for its place in the new world, and there are many who fall victim to the clash. But the worst menace growing on the streets are the blackbirders; slave catchers who make a tidy sum from their human trade. And Timothy is about to be taken right to heart of them…”

Seven For a Secret is published by Headline Review and is out in paperback now.

About the Author:

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Lyndsay was born in 1980. She worked as an actor doing professional theatre for ten years before turning to writing. In the course of her acting career, she went to college in the Bay area, learned how to sing, moved to NYC with her husband, and had a ferociously, indecently great time. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson and The Gods of Gotham and is a member of The Baker Street Babes, Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes and The Baker Street Irregulars. For more information on Lyndsay go to http://www.lyndsayfaye.com

Don’t miss any of the stops on the blog tour:

Seven For a Secret Blog Tour Button

 

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The Visitors – Rebecca Mascull – review

Hodder

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“Imagine if you couldn’t see
couldn’t hear
couldn’t speak…
Then one day somebody took your hand and opened up the world to you.

Adeliza Golding is a deafblind girl, born in late Victorian England on her father’s hop farm. Unable to interact with her loving family, she exists in a world of darkness and confusion; her only communication is with the ghosts she speaks to in her head, who she has christened the Visitors. One day she runs out into the fields and a young hop-picker, Lottie, grabs her hand and starts drawing shapes in it. Finally Liza can communicate.

Her friendship with her teacher and with Lottie’s beloved brother Caleb leads her from the hop gardens and oyster beds of Kent to the dusty veldt of South Africa and the Boer War, and ultimately to the truth about the Visitors.

Rebecca Mascull’s first novel is the tale of a wonderful friendship, but it is also a thrilling adventure, a heartbreaking love story and a compelling ghost story.”

4.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from Rebecca Mascull and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Adeliza Golding is the much wanted child of Edwin and Evangeline Golding, born after 5 other miscarriages. She is born with extreme myopia and soon looses her sight to cataracts. When she is just two years old she contracts Scarlet Fever and is left deaf as a result. Her world is closed off. She comes to cherish the interaction with her father, misbehaving and lashing out in the hope that it is he who comes to calm her down. Other times it is Nanny who has less patience with the frustrated Liza. Meanwhile Liza’s mother has retreated to her bed and refuses to allow Liza to interact with her.

One day Liza ‘escapes’ the confines of her nanny and runs amongst her father’s hops plants. Suddenly someone grabs her hand and repeatedly stokes a pattern in it. Surprised, confused and intrigued Liza allows herself to be led away. Soon her new friend Lottie replaces Nanny and opens up the world to Liza, introducing finger spelling to her, and with it a way to interact and live again.

Lottie’s influence on Liza has a dramatic effect on the family. Her father can now communicate with her and her mother too. She soon emerges from her room and Liza can finally realise how loved she is. Lottie introduces Liza to her family and the outside world and allows Liza to become the determined, selfless, caring person she is.

I picked this book up intrigued with the synopsis but not sure what to expect. I read the first few pages and was immediately drawn into the story. Rebecca Mascull has created a compelling character in Adeliza Golding and I didn’t want to stop reading until I found out how her life was going to develop. It was a pleasure to see the relationship between Liza and other members of her family grow, and to see that family grown beyond her immediate one to include Lottie and her family.  Lottie was also a wonderful character, full of love and understanding and as the story develops we see how she has come to know finger spelling and see a little of the heart-ache that drives her.

When Liza learns to communicate she not only opens the world to herself but also the Visitors. These visitors she learns to realise are spirits, trapped on earth. She learns to first keep these visitors a secret but then opens up to Lottie of their existence. In time as she discovers more about her own spirit she figures out how she can help the ones only she can see and hear.

I loved the pace of this story, how we get to see Liza grow from a child to a young kind woman, who realises her own limitations but who is determined that her lack of senses will set her back in life. The story travels from Kent to Africa and I particularly liked that part of the story related to the Boer War.

It is a beautifully rendered story of acceptance – acceptance of ourselves and others, acceptance of our gifts and limitations, of forgiveness and accepting that we can make more of our life than was originally deemed for us if we try.

I highly recommend this book. It is part love story, saga, ghost story and historical fiction, a perfect amalgam. It is wonderful debut and I can’t recall reading a story quite like it. I eagerly await more from Rebecca Mascull.

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Love Me for Me – Jenny Hale – guest post

Today on the blog author Jenny Hale tells us about why her novel Love Me for Me is the perfect beach read.

Why is Love Me for Me the perfect beach read?

 

I have this secret spot.  It’s a place where I go to clear my mind, where I can spend time with my family, where I can hear the lapping of the waves from the screened porch while I eat my dinner.  My secret spot is so remote—located on the very edge of Virginia’s Northern Neck Peninsula—that it’s difficult to even get cell phone reception there.  It’s a tiny village in Lancaster County, Virginia, called White Stone.  When I’m there, I stay in a very small cottage that has a paddle fan on the porch, a kitchen that probably dates back to the 1950s, and an enormous grassy yard where my children can play. But what I love most about it, is that at the end of that yard, as far as I can see, is the water of the Chesapeake bay.

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When we pull up at the cottage, my children immediately run all the way down to the water because it’s down there, that we have a private beach, a few Adirondack chairs, and hammock suspended between two pines.  It is where we spend lazy days in the sunshine, watching the boats go by, playing games, and swimming.  It is also the inspiration for Pop’s house in my novel, Love Me for Me.  

LMFM COVER

 

Sometimes you find perfect where you least expect it…

Libby Potter has just lost the perfect job, the perfect apartment and the perfect boyfriend. Moving back to the same home town that she couldn’t wait to escape when she was younger was definitely not on her to-do list. Especially as it means running into the man whose heart she broke when she left.

Pete Bennett can still walk into a room and make Libby’s world stop with just the sound of his voice – even ten years on. Only now, she is the last person in the world that he wants to see.

As everyone else welcomes Libby home with open arms, she realizes she’s missed that special closeness that comes from lifelong friendship. And, as Libby tries to make amends with Pete, she begins to wonder whether she made the right choice in leaving all those years ago.

When an amazing career opportunity gives her the chance to leave again, Libby will have to decide what her version of perfect is… and where she really belongs.

Links:

Amazon.com:

http://amzn.to/1lGIpEV

 

Amazon.co.uk:

http://amzn.to/1i76unc

 

JENNY'S PIC

 

 

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The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Alice Hoffman – review

Simon and Schuster

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Coney Island, 1911: Coralie Sardie is the daughter of a self-proclaimed scientist and professor who acts as the impresario of The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a boardwalk freak show offering amazement and entertainment to the masses. An extraordinary swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl,and a 100 year old turtle, in her father’s “”museum””. She swims regularly in New York’s Hudson River, and one night stumbles upon a striking young man alone in the woods photographing moon-lit trees. From that moment, Coralie knows her life will never be the same.
The dashing photographer Coralie spies is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community. As Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and the dispute between factory owners and labourers. In the tumultuous times that characterized life in New York between the world wars, Coralie and Eddie’s lives come crashing together in Alice Hoffman’s mesmerizing, imaginative, and romantic new novel.

– See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.co.uk/Museum-of-Extraordinary-Things/Alice-Hoffman/9781471112133#sthash.9Dgs6hlO.dpuf”

3 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this novel from the publishers via Net Galley and this is my honest review.

Coralie Sardie has lived at her father’s Museum of Extraordinary Things her whole life. Though she was sheltered from the contents of the museum until she was ten she has grown up surrounded by the people paid to perform there, the ‘freaks’ on show to entertain the masses. Born herself with a deformity, having webbed hands she keeps covered, she is trained by her father to hold her breath in water for long periods, and develops a talent for swimming.

When she is ten she is introduced to the world inside the museum and soon enough becomes one of the exhibits, the Mermaid, spending her days in a tank of water.

One night when Coralie is swimming in the Hudson River she comes across Eddie Cohen. This chance meeting sets into motion a series of events that lead her to question everything her father stands for, her past and her future.

Eddie Cohen has fled from his past, his family and his faith. He has inherited his photography business from his mentor and spends his days trying to find what is missing from his life, without knowing what that is. His past catches up with him when he is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young woman. His investigation leads him to discover more about his past, himself and his future.

Though I have heard of Alice Hoffman, she being the author of many works of fiction including Practical Magic, this was the first novel of hers I have read.

There is a lovely atmosphere to this book. Alice Hoffman evokes what I imagine 1900′s New York and Coney Island to be like – the gaudy entertainment, the poverty and the struggle to ‘fit in’. It has a sense of magic woven into it even though it is not magic that fills the Museum, just the extraordinary works of nature.

It is a story of two people who searching for something they didn’t know they were looking for and finding more than they expected in the process. It weaves fact into fiction, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the fire at Dreamlands Amusement Park are integral to the story. It is also the story of two fathers, both misunderstood for different reasons, their true natures coming to light and with that providing different forms of liberation.

An enjoyable read, I’ll look out for more novels from Alice Hoffman.

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Other Publishing Company – Q&A

Today on the blog independent publishers Other Publishing Company tell us a little bit about themselves.

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1. Tell us a bit about your company (background, size, imprints etc.)

The Other Publishing Company is an independent publisher of fiction and some non-fiction. We’re funded by venture capital and publish both print and e-books that have a unique voice and fresh perspective. We also have a short story imprint called Cracked Eye that sells single, and some illustrated, stories on Kindle for 99p or 99c. Every now and then we will feature two stories in one one volume by the same writer – we call these our ‘double features.’

2. How hard is it establishing a foothold in the publishing market as an independent publisher?

There’s no denying it’s difficult. But with any business it’s important to stand out and offer the customer value. With our long books that’s done by investing in works that offer something a little different. It’s also why we’re developing the Cracked Eye short story imprint where we have started to partner engaging, entertaining, and well-written fiction with exceptional illustrators, which we believe creates a great experience that’s good value for money.

3. What is your submission policy?

We’re pretty open minded and fairly relaxed when it comes to category and genre – our philosophy is to publish stories and books that engage, entertain and intrigue – but we do have submission guidelines and these can be found in the links below. We currently get a lot of submissions but we try to read every single one. The business is growing and so is our team and obviously commissioning the right work is hugely important, so we take it very seriously.

We also run writing competitions such as the Weekend Challenge, where we challenged writers to produce a 1000-word short story on a set title over the course of a weekend.

The Other Publishing Company submission guidelines: http://bit.ly/TOPCSubmit

Cracked Eye short story submission guidelines: http://bit.ly/CrackedEyeSubmit

4. Do you have any tips for those wanting to be published?

Always read the submission guidelines! Commissioning editors are just like anyone else, they get frustrated when people do not follow clear instructions and make their life difficult. Read and re-read your work for typos, punctuation and other errors. Be ruthless; it may be golden prose to you but is a reader going to like it and love it in the same way you do? Edit, edit, edit and then edit it some more. You’ll always find weaknesses and boring bits – take them out; less really can be more! And probably the most important thing is to research the publisher or agent you’re sending your work to. Ultimately publishing decisions are business decisions. Get a feel for what they publish and whether your book fits their market. For instance, right now the Other Publishing Company is clearly publishing a lot of short stories – so send us short stories, not long biographies or other non-fiction work. Blanket emailing every publisher under the sun will waste time and only lead to despair.

5. What are the best things about publishing, and the worst?

Best: Getting to read good submissions.

Worst: Getting to read bad submissions.

6. What does the future have in store for the Other Publishing Company?

We’ve just secured second-round funding and we are working on some exciting developments for the Cracked Eye imprint, which will be announced in the Autumn. So keep an eye out for that.

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The Book of Life – book launch

On Friday 4th July I was lucky enough to attend the pre-launch part for the final installment in Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, The Book of Life. The party hosted by Headline and Glamour magazine was held at the Royal Institution in London.

Canapes and drinks were served in the lovely surrounds and it was great to finally meet up with fellow bloggers and twitter friends, including Kelly from Compelling Reads, Louise who guest reviews for many blogs including Compelling Reads, Michelle from Book Club Forum and Hannah Beckerman, author of The Dead Wife’s Handbook. It was also a treat to meet many of the wonderful people at Headline including Caitlin Raynor and of course the author herself Deborah Harkness who had travelled all the way from the USA.

Deborah was interviewed by Rebecca Cox of Glamour magazine. She revealed that as well as feeling relieved at completing the trilogy she was also suprisingly sad and that Gallowglass was a surprise character for her to write. Deborah told us that her favourite book to write was Shadow of Night and that she had lots of ideas for new stories.

At the end of the night we were all lucky enough to receive a goody bag which included a signed copy of The Book of Life and a lovely wine charm made by Nola Bijoux. I was also lucky enough to receive a signed book plate from Deborah who had seen my frustrated tweet about loosing my copy of Shadow of Night somewhere in the house, which I was hoping to have signed.

All in all a great first book launch for me and I’m very grateful to Caitlin at Headline for the invitation.

If you haven’t heard of the All Souls Trilogy here’s a bit more about them:

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“A world of witches, daemons and vampires. A manuscript which holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future. Diana and Matthew – the forbidden love at the heart of it.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it’s an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she’s kept at bay for years; one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons and long-lived vampires. Sensing the significance of Diana’s discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing. As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels…”

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“Historian Diana Bishop, descended from a line of powerful witches, and long-lived vampire Matthew Clairmont have broken the laws dividing creatures. When Diana discovered a significant alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, she sparked a struggle in which she became bound to Matthew. Now the fragile coexistence of witches, daemons, vampires and humans is dangerously threatened.

Seeking safety, Diana and Matthew travel back in time to London, 1590. But they soon realise that the past may not provide a haven. Reclaiming his former identity as poet and spy for Queen Elizabeth, the vampire falls back in with a group of radicals known as the School of Night. Many are unruly daemons, the creative minds of the age, including playwright Christopher Marlowe and mathematician Thomas Harriot.

Together Matthew and Diana scour Tudor London for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782, and search for the witch who will teach Diana how to control her remarkable powers…”

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“After travelling through time in SHADOW OF NIGHT, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home in France they reunite with their families – with one heart-breaking exception. But the real threat to their future is yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for the elusive manuscript Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on a terrifying urgency. Using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the palaces of Venice and beyond, Diana and Matthew will finally learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.”

The Book of Life is published by Headline on 15th July 2014

 

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Confession is Murder – Peg Cochran – review

Beyond the Page publishing

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“For middle-aged “Jersey girl” Lucille Mazzarella, only two things in life really count—her family and her friends. When her brother-in-law’s body falls out of a church confessional, everything she holds dear is threatened, especially when the police arrest her husband for the murder.

Plagued by hot flashes, a thickening waistline, a mother addicted to the home shopping channel, and a sexy old flame who’s come back to town, Lucille really has her hands full. And while she may not know much about solving crimes, this traditional churchgoer with very modern attitudes knows that with some prayers, some fast thinking, and some even faster talk she might just be able to nail the killer and restore order to her life.”

2 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Net Galley and this is my honest review.

Lucille Mazzarella is at work in her local church when out of the confessional tumbles her brother-in-law Joseph. She soon realises that he is dead and that he was murdered. With her loved ones implicated she decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate for herself.

I love a ‘cozy’ mystery and this has all the makings of such a book, it has the small town atmosphere, quirky characters and a ‘gentle’ murder. Lucille investigates in the haphazard way that most of the protagonists in cozy mysteries do when they are first starting out and the pacing of the story is quick and easy to read.

However sadly this book just wasn’t for me. There are heavy religious references throughout the story and this I personally found off-putting. This is only down to my personal preferences however and the blurb should have given me a clue.

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The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton – Review

Picador

Publication date – 3 July 2014

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“On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .

Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall? Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

- See more at: http://www.picador.com/events/jessie-burton-at-drink,-shop,-do#sthash.8LH8YxMN.dpuf”

4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers and this is my honest review.

Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam in 1686, apprehensive about starting her new life with her new husband Johannes Brandt. She arrives at his home to be faced with his sister Marin, who is not pleased to see her, and no husband. As she waits for Johannes to appear she has to content with Marin, and the strange and unfriendly servants Cornelia and Otto.

Soon Johannes appears and with him he brings Nella a spectacular gift, a miniature of the house she now lives in. But as she engages the services of a miniaturist to furnish the house Nella discovers that the inhabitants of the house are not all they seem.

This is a beautiful book. The beauty of it starts before you even open to the first page. The cover is stunning, evocative and completely in tune with the story. Then you come to the end pages in the hardback edition where the beauty continues. The words that then come complete the beatific trilogy being of themselves completely captivating.

This is author Jessie Burton’s debut novel, which has of course been lauded. I tend not to think of whether a book is an author’s debut or their twentieth novel but read and consider the book itself, as it seems as if the plaudits are given almost as if it is a surprise that a first novel can be so good. A beautifully written, engaging and thought-provoking novel should be recognised for that on its own merit.

This novel is about love, unexpected, hidden, forbidden or expected. It is also a tale of prejudice, jealousy and the lengths people will go to hide secrets. It’s all one could hope for in a novel.

This is a enticing, beguiling read, that draws the reader in. I soon found myself absorbed in Nella’s world, eager to find out the secrets held in the house of Brandt and what the miniaturist would wondrously create next. I look forward to seeing what spells Jessie Burton can weave on readers in the future.

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Blog Tour – The Bookshop on the Corner – Q&A with Rebecca Raisin

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Bookshop on the Corner and author Rebecca Raisin, who also writes the Gingerbread Cafe series of books, kindly took some time out of her manic writing schedule to answer some questions.

Thanks so much for having me here, Janet!

  1. What’s the Bookshop on the Corner about?

It’s about a girl called Sarah who owns a secondhand bookshop in the small town of Ashford. Sarah loves romance books, and the idea of the Happy Ever After. Secretly she yearns for a love affair like one from the books, but doesn’t feel she’ll ever find it. She’s a little shy, and prefers the company of a good book to anything else, and refuses to settle for anything other than the book boyfriend bought to life. Sarah thinks books are magical, and has this notion they move around the shop when she’s not looking. She believes books choose us when we most need them and not the other way around. Her best friends try to gently cajole Sarah to step from behind the pages of her books, but she refuses until one day a reporter steps into her bookshop…

  1. Where did you get the idea for the series from?

The Bookshop on the Corner is a stand-alone, but is linked to the Gingerbread Café series because it’s set in the same town, and the girls from the café pop in every now and then. Originally Christmas at the Gingerbread Café was going to be just one book, but I had so much interest in a follow up that I wrote a second book, and there will be a third soon! Also Missy, Sarah’s friend from the Sassy Salon will have her own story soon too! I guess the characters have become real to me in a way, and I like touching base with them through another characters point of view!

  1. Are you a plan it all ahead or a write as you go kind of author?

I so wish I was a planner! I am too disorganised for that! Though soon I’ll have five or so books from the same town I’m having to make lots of notes about who said what or what happened so I don’t get any future details wrong! Before starting the third Gingerbread Café book I reread the first two so I could get back in the zone with how each character talks, and their personality. Lil, the owner of the Gingerbread Café is quite feisty compared to my bookworm Sarah, so it was helpful to go back and remember the differences between the two.

  1. Can you tell us anything about your current work in progress?

I’m writing the third Gingerbread café book! It’s the last one from Lil’s perspective and I must admit I will be sad to say goodbye! And boy, there’s a lot happening in this one! It’s set over Christmas and there’s so much to celebrate, but there’s also some sadness. When you live in a small town like Ashford, everyone knows everyone, and when something good or bad happens, it seems as though everyone is involved, which is quite sweet when certain things take place. (Gee it’s hard to say it without giving anything away! I hope that makes sense!)

  1. Have you suffered from the dreaded writer’s block and if so how did you cure it?

I guess we all have those times when writing doesn’t flow and feels like a chore. I know I’ve had plenty of times like that and the only thing to do is keep writing. It will come eventually and you can edit later. At some point clarity will strike and then you’re on your way again J

  1. You must answer a lot of these questions. What question have you not been asked that you wish had been, and what’s the answer?   

Oh good one! Hmmm.

If you could pick a character from your books to come to life, who would it be?

This is tough! Ha ha! It’d be a toss-up between Sarah from The Bookshop on the Corner or CeeCee from The Gingerbread Café!

Thanks so much! These were great fun!

The Bookshop on the Corner is published by Carina as an ebook and can be purchased here.

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