Friday 25 August 2017

Guest Post | Jo Thomas shares her top five writing tips

Published by Headline on August 24, 2017

Jo’s top 5 writing tips

1. Write! Write anything, because something can always be made better.

2. You don’t necessarily have to write about what you know. Write about what interests you. Put yourself in your heroine’s shoes and go on a journey of discovery.

3. Don’t get bogged down by the theory. You need a beginning, middle and end. If you know what the end is, you should be able to work out how you get there.

4. Write what you enjoy reading, not what you think will sell.

5. Keep going. Someone once told me, the only difference between an unpublished author and a published one, is that the unpublished one gave up.

Thursday 24 August 2017

Exclusive Short Story by Sonya Lalli, author of The Arrangement

Published by Orion on August 10, 2017

In The Arrangement, thirty-year-old, fun-living Serena is on the sidelines. She shares a mutual friend with the novel’s heroine Raina, and for a while dates one of Raina’s relatives. Even though Serena’s story doesn’t make it into my novel, I wanted to share a bit more about her own dating misadventures – and give you a few clues about what’s to come in The Arrangement! Read here, herehere and here to catch up on Serena’s story.

Part Five - the final part

“How did it go?”

Serena’s head is lolled back onto the top of her seat. Without lifting it up, she shrugs.

“Raj seemed nice.”

“He was nice.” She doesn’t volunteering any more information as Shaylee slips into the seat across from her. Closing her eyes, her mind glides past the three mini-dates Shaylee had put her up to that evening, and goes straight to James. The way he always angled to sit next to her at their company’s weekly meetings, or always found excuses to use the photocopier near her desk. The way things were going so, sowell – until he unexpectedly stood her up.

“You know,” Serena says, staring up at the bar’s grainy ceiling. “I thought I was going to be on my first date with my future husband right now.”

“There you go again,” she hears Shaylee say. “This is what you always do, Serena. You put so much pressure on yourself for things to work out, before you even know the guy.”

Serena forces herself to sit up straight, her head spinning slightly as the blood rushes through. She watches Shaylee run her hands through her hair, looking slightly annoyed.

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is… this isn’t about James. Or your ex Kris. Or about any guy you’ve ever dated. This about you. And you need to screw that little voice in your head that’s telling you that you need to settle down ASAP and have a marriage and kids and all that. There’s no rush!”

Serena laughs. “Says the girl who just got engaged.”

“Do you think Julien and I knew we were going to get married when we first met? That before our first date, I’d started planning our wedding?”

“I wasn’t planning our wedding…” Serena whines, wondering if apart of her actually had jumped ahead. Maybe Shaylee was right. Serena had only known James for a few months, but in her head had they already been a couple? Planning date nights, weekend getaways at the cottage, even a life together?

“I guess I just really liked him,” she says after a while. “I really wanted it to work out.”

“I’m sorry James let you down.” Shaylee smiles at her, and then reaches for her hand. “You know I wasn’t actually going to hold you to our bet tonight, right? I just wanted to distract you.”

“I know.” Serena sighs again “God, Shaylee. I’m so bummed out right now.”

And you’ll feel bummed out for a while. But you know, pretty soon someone else is going to come along, and you’ll get excited again. And maybe it will work out with that guy, and maybe it won’t. But either way, please stop putting so much pressure on yourself, OK?”

Serena rolls her eyes, and then slumps forward on the table.

“Did you hear me?”

“I heard you.”

“Good,” Shaylee says, tugging on her arm. “Because we’re late for Mean Girls. It starts in five minutes!”

They quickly grab their things and make their way outside. It’s warmer on the street than it was in the bar, and Serena peels off her cardigan and ties it around her waist.

“Your phone’s buzzing,” Shaylee says, the exact same moment Serena notices her purse his vibrating. She fishes out her phone.

“You didn’t give my number to any psychos, did you?”

Shaylee rolls her eyes and starts walking in the direction of the cinema, Serena a step behind her.

“Hello?” she says answering the phone.

“Serena? It’s James.”

Serena’s mouth drops, and she taps Shaylee on the shoulder until she stops walking.


“Serena, I’m so sorry.”

She switches her mobile to speakerphone, and looks up at Shaylee, unsure what to say.

“I really screwed up.”

“Yeah,” she says after a moment has passed. “You did.”

Shaylee opens her mouth as if she’s about to bark something at him, but Serena smothers her hand over her face.

“So where were you?” Serena asks.

“I lost my phone – ”

“Sure you did.”

“Really,” he laughs, and suddenly Serena notices how upset he sounds. “I had dinner with my brother’s family and left my phone at the restaurant. My nephew, he’s obsessed with Angry Birds, remember? I told you about him? He lost it, the rascal.”

“Uh huh.”

“That’s the truth, Serena. And I was so excited when we were texting earlier today that I completely blanked on what you bar you’d suggested. I remembered it was Yonge Street – but do you know Yonge Street is like 86 km long, right? I spent an hour walking up and down trying different bars looking for you.”

Serena isn’t quite sure how to respond, and she’s thankful when Shaylee whispers that she should ask him how he eventually found her number.

James laughs. “Tell your friend I managed to track down Cindy in HR and told her it was emergency. She only just got back to me.”

“Emergency, huh?”

“I didn’t want you to think I stood you up the whole weekend.”

She glances at Shaylee, unsure whether to buy her story.

“Serena, I really like you. This will never happen again.

Shaylee pouts at her from the side, and then makes a heart with her hand and holds it in front of her chest.

“Look, tell me where you are. I’ll catch a cab and be there in ten minutes.”

“It’s kind of late…” She can see Shaylee waving at her, urging her to go meet him, and hears James let out a disappointing sigh. But she shakes her head resolutely. “Thank you for calling. Let’s talk on Monday, yeah?”

“Is that a… let’s talk Monday and pretend none of this ever happened... or let’s talk Monday about giving me another chance?”

Serena laughs. “It’s a … let’s see on Monday.”

After she says goodbye and hangs up, she intertwines her arm through Shaylee’s and they set off towards the cinema.

“We’ve seen Mean Girls a thousand times, Serena. It seems like an honest mistake. You should have gone! He sounds adorable.

“He is adorable.”

“So what’s the problem?”

Serena stops walking and turns to face her, suddenly thankful James had stood her up and she’d met up with Shaylee instead. Her annoyingly-wise, hilarious friend. “You were right, Shaylee. If he’s the one, he can sure as hell wait.”

Friday 18 August 2017

Review | The House by Simon Lelic

Published by Penguin on August 17, 2017

The House by Simon Lelic is creepy and suspenseful. I was drawn to the book by its spookily inviting cover and the way the book begins gave off the same vibes to me – that you were welcome inside, if you dare. There are some great thriller and horror aspects deftly combined by Simon Lelic which had me fascinated as I never quite knew what to expect next. The House is a dark read, tense and at times uncomfortable, which had me gripped throughout.

In The House we meet Jack and Syd. They are at a busy house viewing in London and whilst Jack is not impressed by the place, it is clear to him that Syd is. She thinks it would be perfect for them and so they put in an offer. Despite it not being the best offer, they’re chosen to get the place – and they begin to sort their way through all the belongings the previous owner left behind. That’s where all the creepiness really starts to set in, and a gruesome discovery in the attic beckons…

The author had me hooked straight away, even though I was unsure about how the narrative would be told. Almost in diary form, the chapters begin split between both Jack and Syd as they tell us their views on the house and what’s going on, although it doesn’t feel like they’re telling the reader, it feels like they’re telling each other (just without the speech marks). They go back and forth quite a bit as some of the things they document mean going back in time so we can see the relevancy and how it connects to their situation living in the house. I’ve said so many times on the blog how I’m not overly keen on books told in a diary-style format as I often find them too one-sided and can’t get myself involved in the book enough if it’s told like that. However, as here we get to see both Jack and Syd’s perspectives, and the writing itself is quite convincing, I actually found that The House felt like it had something fresh and different to offer in comparison to many other books out there at the moment and so I enjoyed it more than I expected.

There’s so much about this book I can’t talk about because everything’s a spoiler. I will say that there are many twists and turns to keep you on your toes and this book does having something of a shock factor about it. In their own way, both Jack and Syd have something of an unreliable narrator about them and there is tension between the two of them as cracks in their relationship begin to show. The House was not really what I expected at all, though this isn’t a bad thing. It had originality and a style of writing that was engaging and easy to invest in. I did prefer the earlier scene-setting of the book probably the most, although the twists had me engrossed. I did find, though, that I was waiting for another twist whereas normally I prefer the story to lead me into a misguided sense of comfort, and then a twist strikes. I think the fact that this book didn’t appear like that to me was down to the different form of storytelling and so it can’t really be a criticism – I just really enjoyed the twists!

The House is a fascinating thriller. Though I didn’t love either Jack or Syd, I loved how the author crafted and developed his characters in a believable way. The characterisation in The House is great, as is the level of suspense and intrigue the author writes. Overall this really is an incredibly creepy read that made it a difficult book to put down and forget about. The author has written a clever and spooky tale, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his books in future.

Saturday 12 August 2017

Giveaway | Fractured by Clár Ní Chonghaile

Happy weekend all! It's been a quiet week on the blog as I am just about finished with all my Uni work! Only a week left to go and then I can finally get back to my reading.

Today I have picked the winners for the last two week's worth of giveaways and I have a new book to give away.

This week's prize includes: 
Fractured by Clár Ní Chonghaile 
Notebook and pen

Giveaway begins on the 12/08/2017 and ends at 23:59 on the 18/08/2017. 
Prize is as pictured above. 
Open worldwide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday 5 August 2017

Giveaway | Harry Potter: Winter at Hogwarts: A Magical Colouring Set


Good morning all. I will be picking a winner for The Island Escape bundle, and five winners for The Freedom Broker by KJ Howe later this weekend, so good luck to those who entered!

This weekend I have a different kind of prize up for grabs. It is this (awesome-sounding) Harry Potter colouring set.

The prize includes: 
A 48-page booklet featuring line art of special moments from the Harry Potter films,
A special, do-it-yourself, 3D wood Firebolt ornament from IncrediBuilds.
48 colourable gift tags

Giveaway begins on the 05/08/2017 and ends at 23:59 on the 11/08/2017. 
Prize is as pictured above. 
Open worldwide.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Review | I Am Missing by Tim Weaver

Published by Penguin on July 27, 2017

I Am Missing is book eight in the David Raker Missing Persons series. It can be perfectly read as a standalone but it’s a great series, so definitely one where I’d recommend reading them all, even if you read this one first. I Am Missing is a bit of a twist on what Tim Weaver has written beforehand, and what many missing person books are about at the moment, as the missing person in this book is the very person who approaches Raker – Richard Kite (or at least that’s what he thinks his name is).

Richard has a form of amnesia, and ever since he was found battered and bruised ten months ago, he has no recollection of who he is. He knows how to swim and how to drive. He has a memory of being at the beach and there is a bit of a TV show that he remembers. As for his family, his childhood, his national insurance number, his entire life before the attack, he remembers absolutely nothing. And I loved this concept.

Raker has to be on top form to solve this case but who would you trust more? I love David and the attention and heart he puts into each case. If anyone could solve the mystery of Richard Kite – he could. I liked how unfazed he was about investigating Richard. He had absolutely nothing to go on but that didn’t stop him – nor did it stop him getting caught up in some heavier and more dangerous stuff later on. I love following Raker’s character in each book and seeing what he gets up to next, but one of the reasons why I Am Missing is one of my favourites of this series for me is because I found the missing person twist to be something different in this genre. There are countless books about missing people and I do like the concept, but Tim Weaver has given this book a fresh outlook on the genre which I really liked.

This is a slowburner of a novel but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I found this book to be absolutely absorbing and I was fascinated by every twist and turn. I Am Missing is a very intense novel with a lot of depth to it and some very thrilling aspects. I was hooked on the author’s every word as we try to uncover who Richard Kite is and what links him to certain other people in the story. This was an incredibly compelling mind-fuck of a book. Honestly I had no idea what was going to happen most of the time but it was still highly enjoyable. It’s definitely a book you think about when you’re not reading it and I think book clubs could spend days going over some of the themes and the gritty things which take place.

I Am Missing is a very cleverly written book. The things you would expect to happen tended not to as the author twisted things in a completely different direction. I was intrigued from the brilliant first chapter which set the scene perfectly. You would think if someone is found and has been front page news for so long, someone would come forward as knowing them. But Richard Kite has endured months of nobody knowing who he was before, only who he is now, The Lost Man. Seeing Richard try to rediscover his life, trying to piece together things such as his date-of-birth or trying to get a bank account – each aspect to this book was engaging and had me eager to read chapter after chapter. This is another excellent instalment in the David Raker series – one of my very favourites.

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