Sunday, 24 February 2013

Don't Want To Miss A Thing by Jill Mansell

Dexter Yates loves his fun, care-free London life; he has money, looks and girlfriends galore. But everything changes overnight when his sister dies, leaving him in charge of her eight-month-old daughter Delphi. How is he ever going to cope?
Comic-strip artist Molly Hayes lives in the beautiful Cotswold village of Briarwood. When it comes to relationships, she has a history of choosing all the wrong men. Leaving the city behind, Dex moves to Briarwood - a much better place to work on his parenting skills - and he and Molly become neighbours. There's an undeniable connection between them. But if Dexter's going to adapt, he first has a lot to learn about Molly, about other people's secrets...and about himself.

Don't Want To Miss A Thing is Jill Mansell's 25th novel and was published by Headline at the end of January 2013.

I've always enjoyed Jill Mansell's writing, and have been reading her books for many many years now.  I practically inhaled this story!  Within the first couple of pages I was completely engrossed in the life of the residents of the small village of Briarwood, especially the lead characters; Dexter and Molly.

Dexter is a high-flying city boy, he drives a flashy car and has a different girl dangling from his arm almost every week.  Molly is an illustrator, unlucky in love (her last boyfriend tried to win her back by presenting her with a giant fish!), she lives quietly in the village.   Dexter fancies an out-of-town bolt hole and buys the cottage next door to Molly.  Then tragedy strikes and Dexter's sister dies suddenly, he finds himself in sole charge of his eight-month-old niece Delphi.  Overwhelmed by grief and terrified of the prospect of caring for a small baby, Dexter quits city life and goes to live full-time in Briarwood.

If you want to know more about the plot, then you'll have to go out and buy the book!  Jill Mansell has created a community full of larger than life characters who embrace the reader and make you feel as though you really do know each one of them.  And, you really do care about them.  The warmth of the writing is infectious, and the reader will laugh, sigh, cry and gasp along with the characters.  Cleverly interwoven into the main Dexter/Molly story are the stories of the other main characters, and some of these feature really serious issues, yet they are sensitively handled by Mansell with her trademark charm and wit.
Jill Mansell

I think this is Jill Mansell's best novel to date, it really is the perfect pick-me-up.

To find out more about Jill Mansell, visit her website here.  She is also on Twitter and you can follow her tweets here

My thanks go to New Books Magazine who sent my copy for review.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Man From Primrose Lane by James Renner

Oh boy, where do I start with my thoughts about James Renner's The Man From Primrose Lane?  I can say that this is a book that had me absolutely enthralled yet completely confused at times!

Published in January this year by Corsair, Constable & Robinson, this story really does stretch the mind and requires so much concentration that at times my head hurt.  Despite this, I was utterly and truly hooked.  I'm not going to go into the details of the story, to be honest, I'm still trying to work it all out.

Here's the publisher's blurb:
Imagine an episode of Doctor Who written by Stephen King. Enter the extraordinary world of  The Man from Primrose Lane, a devious, dark, audacious tale about dangerous obsession and the way it can influence our fates.
Rewind:   Once upon a time in Ohio there lived an elderly recluse, 'the man from Primrose Lane'. He had no friends or family. He wore mittens all year round. And one summers day, he was murdered.
Fast-Forward:   Bestselling author David Neff is a broken man, lonely, desolate and lost ever since his wife's suicide. But something about the man from Primrose Lane grabs his attention and he decides to investigate the mystery - only to be dragged back into a world he thought he had left behind forever.

Replay:  As David gets closer to uncovering the true identity of the man from Primrose Lane, he begins to understand the terrible power of his own obsessions and how they may be connected to the deaths of both the hermit and his beloved wife

 James Renner is a very very clever author.  I'm really not a fan of science-fiction, or time-travel, but he has the ability to hook the reader with ease and then thrust them into this world of murder, mayhem and downright fantasy.   It's a crime story, it's a thriller, there's family relationships and there is mystery.  You will be confused, you will be amazed, your head will spin as another unexpected event throws yet another spanner into the works.  However, despite all of this, there is something that compels you to keep reading, maybe you think that you can work it all out?  Believe me, you really won't!

This is probably the most challenging novel that I've read for a long time, yet it's also one that I've really enjoyed.  The whole reading experience was something completely different for me, and the story will stay in my mind for a long time.

James Renner has a website here and you can follow him on Twitter here

Warner Bros have acquired The Man From Primrose Lane and will develop it as a star vehicle for Oscar-nominated Silver Linings Playbook star Bradley Cooper
For more details click here

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Tiny Twisted Tales by Calvin Innes from My Little Big Town

My Little Big Town are a publisher based in Hull which is about an hour's drive away from where I live.  I was delighted to be contacted by them recently and asked if I would like to take a look at some of their books.   My Little Big Town produce and publish books and comics in all genres, but especially focus on high quality children's literature.  

Check out their website here, they are also on Twitter here and have a Facebook page.

I was sent the first three books in the Tiny Twisted Tales series, written and illustrated by Calvin Innes.  The Tiny Twisted Tales are a collection of short stories and poems all featuring scary, gruesome characters dreamt up by Calvin Innes accompanied by his wonderful illustrations.

Book number one is Stuart The Bug Eating Man - a tale about Stuart who loves to eat bugs, any kind of bugs.  He spends all day collecting the most awful and ugly insects and delights in chomping them down, accompanied by a glass of liquidized slug.   Stuart's wife and children are horrified by his behaviour and just want him to get a job and be a normal husband and father.  One day Stuart has a light-bulb moment and his idea allows him to carry on eating bugs, but also to provide handsomely for his family.

Number two in the series is Pale Henry.   Henry is a sad, sickly looking little boy who doesn't like sunshine and doesn't leave the house.  He's pale and thin and would dearly love to play outside in the sunshine like all of the other children.

The final book of the trio is Jenny.   Jenny is no ordinary little girl, she's a werewolf hunting eight-year-old and nothing really scares her.  Jenny doesn't like pink, or fluffy, or dolls. She is happiest when she is in the most frightening of situations, where other children would cry and scream.

Each one of the Tiny Twisted Tales are wonderfully produced.  Calvin Innes has such an imagination, just perfect for small children who really enjoy reading about yuk and slime and all things horrid.  These stories are not only very entertaining, but are a perfect way of introducing poetry to children, making it funny and accessible and sometimes downright gruesome.  There is no doubt that Calvin Innes' illustrations add so much to the books - each one is so precisely drawn and the cartoon characters suit the stories perfectly.

I will enjoy sharing these stories with my little nephew, he will adore the silliness. These books make you smile just by looking at the front cover, you will continue to smile right through to the last page.

Find out more about Calvin Innes at his website here.

My thanks go to Katy at My Little Big Town for sending these books to me.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion started life as a screenplay, the author then created this novel which will be published in the UK by Michael Joseph / Penguin in April 2013.

The Rosie Project has attracted a host of pre-publication reviews, the majority of them are 5 star and readers have fallen in love with the story of Don and Rosie.  Whilst I have to agree that the writing is clever and the story is quirky and unique, I didn't connect with it in the same way as many others.

Don Tillman is a professor of genetics, he's never got past the first date and at age thirty-nine, he requires a wife.  The Wife Project is born, Don produces a sixteen-page questionnaire for prospective wives to complete.   Rosie Jarman arrives into Don's life around the same time, she has issues with her paternity and between them, Rosie and Don embark on The Father Project - they intend to track down all of the guys who were in Rosie's mother's graduation class and collect their DNA - one of them must be Rosie's father surely?

And so, the reader becomes part of The Wife Project, The Father Project, and Don's own personal Rosie Project.  This could prove complicated, but Simsion's writing is sharp and to the point and the story is easily followed.

Although it is never stated in the story, it is clear that Don is Autistic - his day-to-day schedule is rigid and if he has to change even a tiny part of his daily routine he becomes anxious and confused.  There is no doubt that this is a very funny book, some of the one-liners and Don's observations of people and place are hilarious, but I felt that at times, these were pretty over-done.  Don's vulnerability is exposed and the forced humour at times left me feeling a little uncomfortable.

This is a very quick read, the writing is accessible and the characters are carefully created, at times the story did veer towards the ridiculous, but the saving grace for me was the underlying emotions felt by Don.

Graeme Simsion is a full-time writer. Previously an IT consultant with an international reputation, he wrote his first book in 1994 - the standard reference on data modelling, now entering its fourth edition - and taught at four Australian universities.  He is married to Anne, a professor of psychiatry who writes erotic fiction.  They have two children.

You can find out more about Graeme Simsion and his writing at his website here.  Text Publishing have an interesting page about The Rosie Project here, where you can find out if you are compatible with Don.  You can follow Graeme Simsion on Twitter here and Don Tillman is also to be found on Twitter here

My thanks go to Real Readers who sent me a pre-publication copy to review.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Full Monty at Sheffield Lyceum Theatre

Although we live in the Lincolnshire countryside, we are on the border of both Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire and Sheffield is just 45 minutes away by car.   I love Sheffield, it has some great shops and some really excellent theatres and music venues.

I also love The Full Monty, and can hardly believe that the film was released 16 years ago - where on earth does time go?   I remember going to the cinema to watch it twice, first with Martin and then the next week I took my Mum.  I bought the video (remember those?) and the CD soundtrack.  It's such a feel-good story, but so very emotional at times too - like most people, I have my favourite scenes and lines too.   When I found out that The Full Monty had been adapted for the stage and was going to begin the tour in Sheffield  (where the story is set), at the Lyceum Theatre, I knew that I just had to get tickets.

We went yesterday, to the afternoon matinee performance which was completely sold-out.  The audience was probably 80% female and I think that Martin felt a little uncomfortable when we first took our seats, but by 10 minutes into the show he was enjoying it just as much as the rest of the audience.

The show is fabulous!  I was wondering how the story could be adapted for the stage, but the set is perfect and the casting is superb.  I don't watch a great deal of TV, so I didn't recognise a few of the actors, but it was clear that they were very popular with the audience and I thought they were perfectly cast.

The film's original screenwriter Simon Beaufoy has again worked his magic on the stage version which is directed by Daniel Evans, the Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres.  This is not the first time that The Full Monty has been a stage show, but it seems that the last adaptation had the story moved across the Atlantic to the USA.   This version is firmly back in it's roots - in Sheffield, where it should be and where the gritty Northern humour really works.

I have read a few online reviews that mention the behaviour of the audience, there have been mentions of unacceptable behaviour from 'ladettes' in the audience!   Although there was a hen-party in the audience yesterday, I can honestly say that I witnessed nothing like that.  The audience all seemed to enjoy the show as much as Martin and I did, there was much laughter and some clapping, but nothing that interfered with the performance.

I looked around as we were leaving the theatre, and everyone had a huge smile on their face.   The Full Monty runs until 23 February in Sheffield, but I believe that it is completely sold out now.  The tour moves on around the country, ending in Leeds in May before going to the West End in London.

I'd encourage everyone to go and see The Full Monty - it's wonderful!

The Gilded Fan by Christina Courtenay

The Gilded Fan by Christina Courtenay was published by Choc Lit at the beginning of February this year.  This is Christina Courteney's fifth novel and although it is a sequel to her second novel, The Scarlet Kimono, it is easily read as a stand-alone novel.  In fact, The Gilded Fan is the first of Courteney's books that I've read, but I will most certainly be on the look out for her earlier novels if this is anything to go by.

Historical fiction is not usually my first choice of genre, and I'll admit that when I realised that The Gilded Fan was set in the 1600s, and in China, I was pretty dubious as to whether I would enjoy it.  I really shouldn't have worried, the writing is so accessible, not in the least bit dry and old-fashioned - it's a really fast moving and exciting story.

Beginning in 1641 in China, the reader is introduced to Midori Kumashiro, the daughter of a Japanese warlord and his English wife.  Midori's parents are both now dead and the new Shogun has declared that all residents of foreign extract must leave or die.   Midori hates the thought of leaving her homeland, the place where she had a happy and loving life, but realises that she has no alternative.  Her step-brother risks his own life to enable her to get a passage to Amsterdam on a cargo ship.

Nico Noordholt is the captain of the ship and the last thing he wants or needs is a solitary female passenger on board his ship, amongst his crew for months on end.  Despite this, Midori shows courage and cunning when dealing with him and before Nico knows it, he has a passenger.

The story then follows Nico and Midori's journey to Europe, but not before Midori has to fight for her life after being captured by the Shogun's forces.   The journey takes many months and Midori faces many dangers throughout.

Christina Courtenay
The Gilded Fan is steeped in history; from China, to Amsterdam and finishing with the Civil War fought between the Royalists and the Parliament in the South of England.  Christina Courteney has obviously researched her subject very well and has produced a story that both informs and excites the reader.  Midori and Nico are wonderful lead characters.  Midori's strength and beliefs inform her actions, she is a strong-minded, and fair person whose passion sometimes allows her to get carried away.  Nico is something of an enigma, often surly but always loyal, he struggles to stop his heart ruling his heart.

The clash of different cultures is highlighted when Midori reaches England, and finds that her family are Puritans - they wear no bright colours, own nothing that could be considered pretty and live a very simple and quite frugal life.  Midori has been brought up with beautiful silks, servants and good food.  She is a trained warrier and has a mind of her own.  Her internal struggle to be accepted by her new family whilst remaining loyal to the memory of her parents often causes her a lot of pain and grief.

I have been very impressed by The Gilded Fan, the historical detail is stunning, and Courteney has a real skill in transporting the reader back.  Her characters are colourful and realistic, often troubled and flawed, but realistic and honest.

I'd like to thank Choc Lit for sending this copy of The Gilded Fan for review, and I will most certainly be on the lookout for more from Christina Courteney.

Friday, 15 February 2013

I stumbled across the book Broken by Daniel Clay back in July 2008, almost five years ago now but I still remember how much this story affected me a the time.   I remember almost every detail of this beautiful debut novel, it is one of my all time favourite books.

I wanted to blog about Broken because the film adaptation of the story will be released next month, I don't think I've ever been so excited by a forthcoming film as this one.

Here's what I wrote about Broken back in 2008:

Original Cover
New Cover
This is definitely the best book I have read so far this year, I know it's going to be up there in my top ten books of all time - a keeper for me.

I'd call this a modern-day 'To Kill A Mockingbird' - and I'm sure that Daniel Clay has based his story on Harper Lee's original novel. Set in a street in modern day Southampton and narrated by Skunk who is laying in a coma and lives with her brother Jed and lawyer single father Archie - the 'Broken' of the title is nineteen year old Rick Buckley who plunges into a spiral of madness after being falsely accused by one of the Oswald sisters. The Oswald family are brilliantly depicted - five tearaway girls with an oafish, beer swilling, dope smoking Father who lets them run riot but will defend them to the end.

As the Oswald family become more and more uncontrollable, the consequences of their actions spread throughout the whole street. The novel shows how one disfunctional family can affected a whole community. We watch Broken slowly descend deeper and deeper into madness - we see how this affects his Mother and Father and how the system sadly fails him. We watch the effect the Oswald girls have on the other youngsters in the area - some of the bullying scence are horrific and very violent, but so emotional, you can feel the fear.

Skunk is such a real and likeable heroine - at the start of the book she is laying in a coma and narrates her story from there. The story is told in a very real and intelligent way, yet so easy to read and be drawn in by. It is often painful to read as you see the inevitable happening, yet cant do anything to stop it but you have to read on. There are very touching moments and also some laugh out load funny moments.

Each character is perfectly formed and rounded. I really found it hard to put this book down once I'd picked it up and hope that Daniel Clay will write more, and very soon.

Anyone who enjoyed Mark Haddon's 'A Spot of Bother' will love this book

The film stars Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy and Rory Kinnear and the release date is 8 March.

Broken - Promotional Poster

Take a look at the trailer for the film here

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

A Mile of River by Judith Allnatt

Almost every day I receive parcels of books through my letterbox - from publishers, authors and book websites.  I'm so lucky and really grateful, I often read books long before they are published and it's a pleasure and an honour.

Sometimes though, I look across at my heaving bookshelves and see the books that have been sitting there for such a long time.  Books that I've bought because I knew that I must read them, books that have been passed on to me highly recommended from fellow book addicts, books that have sat patiently waiting to be read.

So, I decided that I really must read a few more of my sad and lonely books, alongside the new releases and pre-publication copies that arrive all the time.

A Mile of River by Judith Allnatt has been on my shelf for at least 2 years, mine is the hardback copy which was published by Doubleday in March 2008 and is Judith Allnatt's first novel.

Set in the long hot summer of 1976, this is the story of seventeen-year-old Jess and her younger brother Tom.  Jess and Tom live on a farm in the heart of the English countryside with their father Henry.  Their mother left many years ago, when Tom was just a baby.  She drove away one day and Jess and Tom have not seen her or heard from her since.    Jess wants to be an ordinary teenage girl, she dreams of studying medicine, of going to the local fair and the end of term dances.  She's beginning to take an interest in boys and longs to be like her friends.  Her father Henry expects Jess to be a mother figure to Tom, to prepare the meals, wash the clothes and clean the house - he is a brutal, cold man who shows no love towards his children at all.  They are expected to help out on the farm - a farm which is struggling and is in debt to the bank, yet Henry is too proud to ask for help.

One evening, when Henry is at the local pub, Jess finds her mother's diary wedged at the back of a chest of drawers.  This diary is the only thing that she has that links her to the woman who left them.  Henry refuses to speak about her, and all of her belongings are long gone.  Although there is little of note in the diary, Jess treasures it.

As Jess becomes more and more determined to make something of her life, and Henry becomes more desperate to save the farm, the temperatures rise both inside and outside.    The story turns darker and more menacing when Jess makes a discovery that will rock her world and change everything that she has ever believed.  Coupled with a disaster on the farm, this is the turning point for the family.

Judith Allnatt
A Mile of River is a beautifully written story of family relationships and how one lie can lead to another and in turn, can shape a life and a future.  Judith Allnatt has cleverly interwoven Jess's present story with that of her mother Sylvie - giving the reader a real insight into her life and her marriage to Henry.

The characterisation is superb.  Henry is a selfish and mean man, his past has soured his future, yet he made his own past, and although the reader can understand to an extent what has made him behave in the way that he does, it didn't make me like him at all.  He is a coward who refuses to face up to his failings.

This really is a fabulous debut novel and although it is very dark in places, the characters of Jess and Tom, and their hope shines through.  The sense of place, alongside the realism of the stifling heat and parched earth  add volumes to this excellent story.

Judith Allnatt's second novel The Poet's Wife was published in February 2010, and yes I have that one sitting on my shelf waiting to be read too!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Lifesaving For Beginners by Ciara Geraghty

Lifesaving For Beginners was published by Hodder in September 2012 and is Ciara Geraghty's fourth novel.  Why have I not read any of her books before now?   Where have I been?  Where has she been?  Somehow, her novels have totally passed me by and until I saw the cover of Lifesaving For Beginners, I had honestly never heard her name before.   Big slaps around the head for me!!   On the positive side though, this does mean that I now have her first three novels to catch up on.

The story is just so wonderfully told - in two voices; that of nine-year-old (nearly ten) Milo and thirty-nine year old (nearly forty) Kat.    The reader is enticed into the story when it begins with a car accident in Dublin.   A lorry driver falls asleep and two cars are involved in the collision.    One is driven by Beth, Milo's mother who is visiting Ireland from her home in Brighton, the other is driven by Kat.  Kat's car is written-off but she escapes with just a fractured rib.  Beth dies, she doesn't return home to Milo.

Alternate chapters are narrated by Milo and Kat.   Two people connected by one tragic accident - or are they?  As the story unfolds it becomes clear that there is far more to connect them than just the car accident.

Ciara Geraghty
Ciara Geraghty has created a story that is original, quirky and very emotional.  She has also brought to life some stunning characters, not least the fabulous Milo.  Milo is a typical nine-year-old boy who says what ever comes into his head, doesn't really understand what is happening to him, but is kind and good and wants everyone around him to be happy.     Then there is Kat who at first seems to be a very insular, almost selfish character.  She appears unable to care about anyone, and that includes herself.  She's aloof, she's cold and she's very very alone.  It's not until almost half-way through the story that the reader begins to understand just why Kat is like she is, and although she can be difficult, by the end of the novel I found myself cheering for her and desperately hoping that she would find the happiness that everyone deserves.

I was really impressed by this novel, the writing is engaging and very very funny in places.  It's also heart-breakingly sad in others.   The plot is fast-flowing, the characters are realistic and worth caring about.

A really great read that I would recommend to others, especially if you've enjoyed novels by Marian Keyes or Ella Griffin.

Ciara Geraghty's official website is here, you can follow her on Twitter here and like the Facebook page here.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Dance The Moon Down by R L Bartram

Dance The Moon Down by R L Bartram is published by Authors Online.

The story is set during the First World War, the war that was supposed to end all wars.   In 1910, Victoria's parents debate whether to let her go to University.  Her Father, a scholar is keen for her to go, her Mother, more conservative believes that she does not need to further her education.  Her Father wins and Victoria goes off to study.  It is whilst she is at University that she meets Gerald and falls in love.

Despite initial opposition from her Mother, they get married and move out to the country, enjoying life and each other.  Until War breaks out and Gerald goes off to fight.   Within six months Gerald has disappeared, his letters stop arriving, yet nobody in authority seems to have any news of his whereabouts.  Victoria is devastated and determined that she will find him, she knows that Gerald is not dead.

As Victoria's money dwindles away, and she wants to stay where Gerald will find her when he returns, she is forced to take a job as a labourer on a nearby farm.   It is on this farm that Victoria encounters the other side of life.  The poverty, the uneducated, the pure hard work, it is also the place that she discovers great friends and more and more about herself.

The most obvious thing that shines through this story is the author's passion for the era.  He has done extensive research into the lives of civilians left behind to keep Britain going through the very tough years of the First World War.  Dance The Moon Down is not just Victoria's story, it is not just the story of an emerging love affair, it is the story of ordinary everyday people who pulled together for the war effort.  The women of Britain who were left behind to keep the home fires burning were thrust into a life that was totally alien to them; working long hours on the land, coping with families on their own, beginning to wear trousers and to smoke in public.  This was a time of great change which has been captured expertly by the author.

I was very impressed by this novel, the plot line is interesting with some fabulously painted characters and the historical detail is stunning.

My thanks go to R L Bartram for providing me with a copy for review.

Monday, 4 February 2013

William Thomas and The Cypress Branches

In June 2012, I read and reviewed an amazing novel by William E Thomas called  Pegasus Falling, you can read my review here.

Not only is this a really wonderful story, but the accompanying story of the author's life and how the book came about is just as fascinating.   William's grandson Mike has championed this work and there are two more books in the series in the pipeline.

I'd like to welcome Mike to my blog today, he's written a guest-post that explains all about his ambitions for the series.

On his retirement, William E. Thomas, my grandfather, sat down to write a novel. After years of nonstop writing, the result was The Cypress Branches, a 350,000 word epic love story set against the backdrop of World War II and its aftermath.

William E Thomas
Shortly after finishing it, William started to fall ill and was eventually diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

As the disease took hold and we watched him slowly become a shadow of his former self, it seemed that William's dream of seeing his novel published were over. But I wasn't prepared to see the story end there.

Why? Well, because when I first read the novel, I totally fell in love with it. It’s a fantastic book, a real page turner full of incredible characters, a gripping plot, wonderful humour and a fascinating insight into an era I didn’t know much about. It’s one of those books that when you read it, you want all your friends to read it as soon as possible so that you have someone else you can talk to about it.

I became determined that William should see his book in print and that it should have the chance to reach the audience it deserves. With the onset of his illness, William is no longer able to work with an editor, so I took on that role myself and I started a project to self-publish his novels on his behalf.

The book is huge - far too big to publish as one volume in paperback so I have edited it into a trilogy. Thankfully, its episodic nature lends itself to this. The first part - titled Pegasus Falling - was released in March last year as a paperback and ebook and I set about contacting bloggers, critics and reviewers to see if they’d be in
terested in taking a look. One of those bloggers was Anne, and sure enough, Pegasus Falling became one of the random things to drop through her letter box last summer.

Before last year, very few people outside of William’s immediate family had read his writing. When I began contacting bloggers - people who had no idea who I was or who William was - I had no idea what their reaction would be. I was terrified that their reaction would be negative, but I needn’t have worried. Anne’s review was tremendously positive and encouraging . And what’s more, it was one of many similarly enthusiastic responses. As four and five star reviews came in from across the UK, and even as far away as the US and Australia, I knew that I had been right all along - that this was a book that deserved to be read by a wide audience.

When Pegasus Falling became a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Books of 2012 contest, it was even more encouragement to carry on and complete the trilogy.

Part two - titled It Never Was You - has been edited and is almost ready to launch. But I’m facing a catch-22 situation. To find the audience who will enjoy reading the books, I need funds to invest in printing, marketing and distribution. To raise funds, I need people to read the books!

To help make that happen, and give It Never Was You the launch it needs, I have started a crowd funding campaign. I have used Indiegogo, the world’s leading crowd funding platform, which is used by writers, artists, film makers, entrepreneurs and campaigners around the world to help fund their projects. The great thing about Indiegogo is that it’s not just a donation platform. In exchange for a contribution to a campaign, backers can choose from a variety of “perks” which they will receive in return. I have set up a number of perks for my campaign to encourage contributions. The key perk that I’m hoping will be popular is getting hold of a copy of It Never Was You before it’s released.

I plan to release It Never Was You in mid-late April. Anyone able to contribute £5 to the campaign can claim the ebook version of It Never Was You (suitable for Kindle or any other ereader). A £10 contribution will get you the paperback sent straight to your door. Both will be sent to backers in mid-late march (depending on lead times from the printers), so you could be reading the book well ahead of its official release.

I need to raise around £500 to make the print run happen. If I can raise more than that, I’ll be able to invest in a marketing campaign to get the book into the hands of more readers and also start working on the third and final part of the series as soon as possible.

If you like the sound of William’s books, and would like to be one of the first to read them, then please consider backing the campaign. Any contribution will be gratefully received and all the money raised will be invested in future endeavours to get William’s books into print.

If you can’t back us with cash, then you can still back us with kindness. There are some handy share tools on the campaign page which you can use to help us spread the word on Facebook or Twitter, by emailing it to your friends of posting it on your blog. Whatever you can do, it will all help us get the word out and reach the goal.

If you’ve read Pegasus Falling, or would like to find out more, please feel free to get in touch. I love hearing from readers. You can reach me on Facebook (, Twitter (@cypressbranches) or by email (

You can find the campaign page is here:

Find out more about William and his books on my blog:

Sunday, 3 February 2013

I Should Be So Lucky by Judy Astley

I just love Judy Astley!   I feel as though I've been reading her books for ever and looking back through her back catalogue, I see that it's almost 20 years ago that her first novel was published.   We've all got a little older, and maybe a little wiser (or not!), but Judy Astley's books have always been there as a comforting friend.  Amazingly, I Should Be So Lucky is her seventeenth novel - it was published by Bantam Press /Transworld on 3 January this year.

Not only does the title make you hum 'that' tune every time you pick it up, and a bit of Kylie is always a good thing, but the cover design is beautifully sunshine yellow, which in the dead of Winter is almost as good as a session under one of those light boxes.

This is such a great read.   Viola, the lead character is 35 and recently widowed.  Her first husband Marco 'turned gay' and her second husband Rhys was a total waste of space.  Rhys was a minor celebrity with a part in a hospital soap opera when he and Viola got married, just a few months after meeting.  The marriage was a mistake and a disaster from day one.  Rhys was killed in a car accident just over a year ago just after informing Viola that he was leaving her for the love of his life.  Viola never found out who this woman was although Rhys had his fair share of stalkers and obsessive fans.  It was these fans that forced Viola and her teenage daughter Rachel from their home.    Viola has decided that it's time that she and Rachel started again, she's going to move back to her cottage and she's going to accept every invitation that is offered to her.

There is a good smattering of grown-up romance in this story, life is not all plain sailing and Viola seems to make a habit of totally misunderstanding the most obvious signs of interest - this adds so much to her story though and there were times when I actually snorted with laughter.   There are serious issues covered too, young Rachel is discovering older boys and Viola's sister and mother both have some major secrets that have to be dealt with and are going to have a major impact on Viola.

Judy Astley really is a master in witty dialogue and creating realistic, likeable and quite sparkly characters.  Never overdone, never cheesy, this is a real pleasure to read.

Find out more about Judy Astley at her website here, or follow her Tweets here

Friday, 1 February 2013

Flash Fraction : A Collection of Very Short Stories by Helena Mallett

Although I do read short story collections every now and again, I often find that I'm left feeling a little let-down by them.

Although I've heard the term 'flash fiction', I'd never investigated it further until I was contacted by Helena Mallett, the author of Flash Fraction.   Her book is a collection of 75 short stories - very short stories - each one is exactly 75 words long.  I was intrigued, and wondered just how this would work - how on earth can a story be told in so few words?

I've been really surprised and very impressed by Flash Fraction.  Each story does indeed stand up on it's own, and each one is so cleverly put together, and the best thing about the stories is that most of them have a  little unexpected twist at the end.

It must be incredibly difficult to incorporate an interesting, often funny and always quirky story into such a short space, but Helena Mallett seems to do it with ease.  The collection includes stories about everything from love to aliens, each one is very different and each one makes a lasting impression.

Flash Fraction was published by Marsh Cottage Publishing in September 2012 and is available in paperback or ebook.  Helena Mallett has a website here.

I'd like to thank Helena for sending a copy of Flash Fraction to me and also for introducing me to a style of writing that I'd probably never have looked at otherwise.

Foodie Penpal - January Reveal Day

We didn't have a Foodie Penpal in December, so it seems ages since the last lot of foodie delights dropped through my letterbox.  However, January was back to business as usual and I was delighted to receive a parcel from Alice in Denmark.   Alice has a blog here

I've never visited Denmark, so was really looking forward to seeing what delights Alice would include in the parcel, I was thrilled to find a lovely assortment of Danish goodies:

Citron Mane (or Dan Cake):  This is a traditionally Danish cake and is sold in almost every store.  Alice tells me that lately it has become really popular to bake this cake at home.  It's a lemon flavoured Madeira-type cake with lemon icing on top.  I expected it to be really sweet, but it's not at all, even though it has a good helping of sticky icing on top.  My husband loved it - it's all gone now!

Frikalet - Frikadeller:   This is a spice mix used in Danish meat balls.  Alice kindly supplied the instructions on how to make the meat-balls - using pork mince.   We do like Frikadeller, and quite often buy them in Aldi, but have only eaten them cold with salad - I'm definitely going to have a go at making these at home.

Brun Sauce:  This is a traditionally Danish sauce, made with melted butter - add the sauce mix and some milk and then stir and boil.  I guess this will be a little like a thick gravy, I'm going to serve it up with the Frikadeller

Mango Relish:  Alice included a little pot of what looks like home-made Mango Relish which I've had with some cheese and crackers.  It's really tasty, quite sharp, but sweet too.

Lakerol Liquorice Pastilles:  Two boxes of liquorice pastilles.  These are great, liquorice is one of my big loves and these are tiny little sweets with a huge flavour - and not sweet at all.

Huge thanks to Alice for putting together such a thoughtful and interesting food parcel.

I sent my parcel to Stacey.  Funnily enough Stacey lives in just the next town to me, we are randomly matched up, so that was quite a surprise.  I found it more difficult to put together a foodie parcel for someone who lives so close, as usually I like to do a Lincolnshire theme, which seems a bit daft when you are posting within the same county!   I did manage to put together a box of goodies though - you can check out what I sent on Stacey's blog here

If you like the sound of the Foodie Penpal project and think you would enjoy taking part - check out the details on the This Is Rock Salt blog here