Friday, 20 September 2019

Blog Tour: Guest Post from Paul Tudor Owen Author of The Weighing of The Heart

Today I am lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for The Weighing of the Heart by Paul Tudor Owen. I have a guest post from the author today and if you like the look of that, you can click here to order yourself a copy of the book now. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews!
Here's what it's all about...
Following a sudden break-up, Englishman in New York Nick Braeburn takes a room with the elderly Peacock sisters in their lavish Upper East Side apartment, and finds himself increasingly drawn to the priceless piece of Egyptian art on their study wall - and to Lydia, the beautiful Portuguese artist who lives across the roof garden.

But as Nick draws Lydia into a crime he hopes will bring them together, they both begin to unravel, and each find that the other is not quite who they seem.

Paul Tudor Owen's intriguing debut novel brilliantly evokes the New York of Paul Auster and Joseph O'Neill. 

Guest post – favourite character to write

My novel The Weighing of the Heart is about a young British guy living in New York called Nick Braeburn, who moves in with a couple of rich older ladies as a lodger in their opulent apartment on the Upper East Side. He gets together with their other tenant, Lydia, who lives next door, and the two of them steal a priceless work of art from the study wall.

The work of art that Nick and Lydia take is an Ancient Egyptian scene, and as the stress of the theft starts to work on them, the imagery of Ancient Egypt, the imagery in the painting, starts to come to life around them, and it’s intended to be unclear whether this is something that is really happening or whether it’s all in Nick’s head.

So Nick is the crucial character here and once I’d decided I wanted to write the novel in the first person, getting the narrator’s voice right was crucial.

I was always interested in establishing an unreliable narrator for this book who you initially trust and like, and then gradually become suspicious of – an interest that goes back to books like The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, a stunning novel about the prospect of wasting your life and the lengths you can go to to hide that from yourself. By the end of that book what the narrator, Stevens, is saying and what you as the reader take from that are two completely different things. It’s so skilfully done.

Another book I was thinking of when I was creating Nick’s voice was My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, which is about a man who suspects the woman he loves is poisoning him. Throughout the novel, Du Maurier demonstrates an incredible ability to keep two entirely contradictory interpretations of the plot completely plausible in your mind, and I was aiming for something along those lines too.

And then from an early stage of drafting it I wanted Nick to be a Brit in New York, an outsider. Partly this was to allow myself to live out in writing a fantasy I had had since my late teens of living in New York – something I was lucky enough to be able to fulfil during the writing process. But partly it was because New York is a city of immigrants and newcomers and a melting pot for artists from around the globe and around America just as it is for everyone else, and I felt that that idea would come across most effectively through a foreigner.

In my view, some of the best writing and art and music about New York often comes from outsiders to the city who are looking at the place with fresh eyes. PJ Harvey, for example – whose Stories from City, Stories from the Sea is a quintessential New York album – is from Dorset, and I’ve always loved her description of a conversation on “a rooftop in Brooklyn / At one in the morning … We lean against railings / Describing the colours / And the smells of our homelands / Acting like lovers.”

Perhaps most significantly for my book, which is strongly indebted to The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald was from the Midwest, and his narrator in that unsurpassable depiction of New York, Nick Carraway, takes care to point out that all its key characters, “Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners, and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life.”

I wanted my narrator, Nick Braeburn, to share some of these qualities, and gave him a similar name for that reason.

About the author

Paul Tudor Owen was born in Manchester in 1978, and was educated at the University of Sheffield, the University of Pittsburgh, and the London School of Economics. 

He began his career as a local newspaper reporter in north-west London, and currently works at the Guardian, where he spent three years as deputy head of US news at the paper's New York office.  

Paul Tudor Owen’s debut novel The Weighing of the Heart is published by Obliterati Press and has been nominated for the People’s Book Prize 2019 and the Not the Booker Prize 2019

Twitter: @paultowen
Instagram: @paultowen

Thanks to Paul for stopping by today and readers, remember to stop by the other spots on this tour!

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Review: Are We Nearly There Yet? by Lucy Vine

Alice is turning thirty and is stuck in a rut. Her friends are all coupling up and settling down, while she's still working as a temp, trying (and failing) not to shag her terrible ex, getting thrown out of clubs, and accidentally sexting her boss...
She decides to throw caution to the wind and jets off on a round-the-world adventure to #FindTheFun and find herself. Of course, she's no more likely to find the answer to true happiness on the beach in Thailand than she is at the electric beach in Tooting, but at least in Thailand there's paddleboard yoga.
Can Alice find happiness on her travels? Or is she more likely to lose herself all over again...?

Review: Oh my goodness I could not put this book down, it made me laugh, it made me feel and it quite simply made me keep turning the pages until I had had my fill-I just loved it. 

Alice is such a great character because she is so easy to relate to. We have all been there, wondering where our life is going and trying to do something about it when it just isn't going where we want it to. I loved Alice's decision making process and I loved her view of herself. I think a lot of us would struggle with being brave enough to go off and do the travelling that she did and so it was wonderful to live vicariously through here. She also has some amazing one-liners thanks to the awesome writing of Lucy Vine so you've got that to look forward to as well. 

There are some fab supporting characters in this book as well, all of whom add to some great comedy setup but also counteract some of Alice's personality traits. We get to meet friends in LA first then Alice's brother and his friend in Thailand and let's not forget bestie Eva back home in London. Then there are the men in Alice's life, another part of what makes her so relatable. She switches between thinking she needs to meet someone completely different and thinking that she's best to stick with the kind of guy she had back home. There are also some AMAZING one-liners when it comes to sex in this book none of which I will spoil for you but you are in for some spitting out the coffee with laughter moments there trust me!

When it comes to things like being sex positive and being body positive Alice is pretty open and honest. She hasn't got it quite right but she knows what it ought to look like and so this is a pretty open and honest book which is strongly feminist and definitely girl power and that's one of the things that really kept me turning the pages. I loved the fact that Alice knows what respect should look like even if she doesn't always look for it for herself, or others. Those around her also help with that and so I loved what this book had to say about the way we view women in society and the way they are often treated without explicitly coming out and saying in. 

There are definitely some serious moments in this book and Lucy Vine has achieved the perfect balance of some serious messages within the laugh out loud comedy. I loved this book. I loved the characters and the travel and the fab writing and I highly highly recommend it to you!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

Guest Review: A Rose Petal Summer by Katie Fforde

Caro Swanson has taken a job in a remote part of Scotland.
She’s answered an ad in The Lady: being a companion to an elderly gentleman who lives in a country estate could be perfect! Surely it's time to make a change and do something different for a while?
The fact that she may also see Alec, the young man who she met some years previously and who she has always thought of as her ‘one who got away’, is of course purely incidental.
Soon Caro is falling in love - not only with Alec but with the stunning country house she's now living in. But the estate is in financial difficulties, and Caro soon realises there's only one way to rescue it.
So begins a magical romantic summer, one that will take Caro from Scotland to London and the south of France, in search of a classic lost perfume that might just restore all their fortunes.

Review: This latest book from one of my favourite authors is sure to catch the eye, with its fresh, summery cover. I’m sad to say that it sat calling to me from my bookshelf for a few weeks before life calmed down enough for me to give it the attention it deserved. Once I had time to sit down and delve into the story, it had me lost in its pages and all too soon it was finished. Another wonderful story from this great story teller. 

I think that the lovely cover says France to me, and there is a bit of France in the story, but it is set in Scotland, with a little bit of London thrown in. Caro has taken a job as companion to an elderly gentleman who lives in a crumbling but magnificent large house in the Scottish highlands. Caro usually resides in London on a Dutch barge with daughter Posy, but this temporary job seems ideal for her while Posy is off to visit her dad in Australia. When she arrives at the Scottish estate, she finds her accommodation not quite what she expected, and, although the old gentleman is just as described, the rest of the family is much more complicated. She soon becomes involved in all sorts of situations, mainly involving teenager Rowan and her divorced parents; and how did she end up planning a wedding and designing a perfume for a celebrity? Of course, the most difficult circumstance is that Rowan’s father, Alec, is someone who Caro met twenty years ago in Greece; she has never forgotten him, but will he remember her, and will it be with such fondness? 

This is a really engaging and enjoyable story, with its twists and turns and promise of romance for many of the characters. I can definitely recommend it to other readers, whether they have read any of Katie’s previous books or not. The Scottish estate makes a beautiful setting, so well described by the author. Although I love the highlands, I could equally well imagine enjoying living on Caro’s barge; again, I could picture it so well from Katie Fforde’s descriptions. The story is full of interesting characters and dramatic situations. Just as one seems settled another blows up - never a dull moment with this family that Caro has joined. The whole story had me enthralled and always coming back for more.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things I Eat and Drink Whilst Reading 17/9/19

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Now I am someone who reads anywhere and everywhere so if food is around it can be involved here but I can definitely list some of my favourite things so eat and drink when I'm reading. 

1. Coffee-of course and I love to read in coffee shops so this is a must. 

2. Tea-I like a cup of tea if I am reading in bed before I go to sleep. 

3. Breakfast-I do like reading over breakfast and so whatever I am eating for breakfast must go with my book. 

4. Eggs-I know this like of breakfast but I will often read during my lunchtime too and eggs in a nice easy one because they can be eaten one handed. 

5. Pastries-I love pastries and try not to eat them too often but they are pretty good for reading at the same time when you can eat them with one hand. 

Foods that aren't so good for eating whilst reading...

6. Alcohol-I can't drink wine or cocktails whilst reading, they cloud my judgement and my mind wanders, not for me!

7. Pasta-I love pasta, but it is pretty hard to eat past and read at the same time unless it is an audiobook. 

8. Soup-see my reasoning for pasta

9. Chocolate-this might seem like a strange one but this inevitable gets on my fingers and then on my book and then it just looks messy so this is a no-go for me. 

10. Anything with an emotional book-if a book is making me cry then I can't eat or drink anything with it, I'll just start feeling sick and so this is an absolute no no for me. 

So there you have it...I would love to see what made your list and I hope you like the way I did five of each today. I'll be back with another top ten for you very soon!

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Blog Tour: Guest Post From Ray Clark author of Ryder On The Storm

Today I am honoured to be part of the blog tour for Ryder on the Storm by Ray Clark. I have a guest post from Ray today, talking about his writing process and location. Ryder on the Storm is out now and you can click here to order your copy. Thanks to Ray for stopping by today and don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews. 

Here's what it's all about...

When builder Terry Johnson spots what he thinks is a bargain he can’t resist but to succumb to temptation. The large, detached house stands on the side of a railway track and would be perfect for his needs  and it’s cheap! But Billington Manor has a very tainted history, and the grounds upon which it stands were part of an unsolved murder back in the 1850’s. Terry is about to discover that the road to hell is not always paved with good intentions.

Based upon a true incident, Ryder On The Storm is a stand-alone supernatural crime novella from the author of the IMP series, featuring desk sergeant Maurice Cragg.

And here's the book trailer for you too!

 And here's what Ray has to say all about location...
Ever since I started to take writing seriously, attending seminars, author talks, workshops and festivals on a regular basis, I listened to the professionals sharing tips on how to write: the best piece of advice they gave was, write about what you know. It’s very true, and it encompasses most aspects of your life, including location. Fans of John Grisham will notice most of his books feature a lawyer for his main character. If you love the Roy Grace series written by my friend, Peter James you will note that it’s set in Brighton – somewhere Peter knows very well.
One of the very first novels I wrote was called Calix, a cross genre novel about possession, set against the backdrop of the Salem Witch Trials. The idea started from a trip to Salem, which is a lovely but strange place. I could never shake the feeling of being watched, wherever I went. The main characters are Martin and Sue Hawthorne, born and bred in America but who had settled into a peaceful life in the Yorkshire Dales. A lot of the action takes place in a Yorkshire village, or in the centre of Leeds. Martin Hawthorne was a musician and music producer. What I had managed to do was combine a number of aspects of my life and weave them into the story. I have been a musician pretty much since I left school, and I am very familiar with the towns and the cities in and around the dales so it wasn’t too hard to maintain the atmosphere.
Seven Secrets was another Yorkshire based novel, set on the NYMR (North York Moors Railway) between Pickering and Whitby: beautiful places trapped in a bygone era where time seems to have stood still. I have travelled that stretch of line more times than I care to remember and I wanted to see how the community would cope if I unleashed hell on them.
The IMP series featuring detectives Gardener and Reilly are set in and around Leeds, and I can remember the exact moment when I realized how perfect the city would be. I had always been an avid reader of crime fiction and many years ago I worked for a company delivering holiday brochures around Yorkshire: Leeds being just one of the cities we went to. It was a Thursday in mid summer, I had almost finished my run and there was a block of shops in Beeston, about a mile from Elland Rd (Leeds Utd football ground). I drove around the back of the shops, put the tachograph on to break and had some dinner. Keeping me company was a copy of Val McDermid’s, The Wire In The Blood, featuring profiler Tony Hill. I loved the book, which was also set in Yorkshire. I remember reading a pretty bleak, dark scene and glancing up. Given that the shops of Beeston were high up I had the perfect vision of what I wanted for book 1, Impurity. The following is a paragraph is from an early chapter with a name change:

“He sighed and peered down the street. To an outsider, Rawston appeared as a reassuring scene of frost-covered, two-up-two-down, back-to-back terraced houses set against the background of a thriving textile industry. Reminiscent of an Ealing Studio’s B-movie, the closeknit community would spend the night indoors huddled around the fire, wrapping presents for their broods of children safely tucked up in bed, encompassed by the mouth-watering aroma of chestnuts roasting in the grate.”

Based on what I’ve said above I think write about what – and where – you know is extremely important. It adds so much more depth to your writing.

Author Bio

Ray’s writing career started with a 3’000 word essay on the author Graham Masterton, published by The British Fantasy Society in 1995: A book length adaptation, Manitou Man: The World of Graham Mastertonfollowed in 1998, and was immediately nominated for both the British and World Fantasy Awards in the category of best collection.
Ray’s previous publications include The Priest’s Hole and Seven Secrets, published by Damnation Books.Calix, two short story collections, A Devil’s Dozen, and A Detective’s Dozen, published by Double Dragon books of Canada. 2016 saw the first crime novel in the IMP series, Impurity. Books 2 and 3, Imperfection, andImplant followed in 2017 & 2018, published by Urbane. The IMP series follows detectives D.I. Stewart Gardener and D.S. Sean Reilly around the West Yorkshire city of Leeds.

Future publications will include book 4 in the IMP series, Impression, and a stand alone cross genre novel entitled, Spirit, featuring characters from Seven Secrets.

Thanks again to Ray for stopping by today!

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Guest Review: The Honeycote Series by Veronica Henry

Homemade mulled wine, freshly baked mince pies and plenty of Christmas cheer...

It's the most wonderful time of the year, they say. And in the little Cotswolds village of Honeycote, the festive season looks set to bring people more than a few surprises under the tree.
As Lucy Liddiard plans the festive lunch for her nearest and dearest, she has little idea of the dramas about to play out before the crackers are pulled and the corks popped. She knows the family brewery, Honeycote Ales, has seen better days. She knows her husband, Mickey, is an incorrigible flirt. But does she realise how close both are edging towards disaster?
As the nights draw in, garlands deck the halls and the carols ring out, there are secrets and lies, love and lust all waiting to be unwrapped.
Welcome to Honeycote, and a Christmas no one will ever forget...

** A Country Christmas was originally published as 'Honeycote' **

Irresistibly good fun and bursting with heart, A Country Christmas is the first book in the Honeycote trio, followed by A Country Life and A Country Wedding. Each can be read as a standalone, or they can be read as a series.

Review: As a relatively recent, but now confirmed, fan of Veronica Henry’s books, I have been promising myself for some time to catch up on some of her older works. Hence, I chose the trilogy of books set in the lovely Gloucestershire village of Honeycote. The books are, in order, A Country Christmas, A Country Life and A Country Wedding, although they were known by different names originally.

Central to all parts of the trilogy is the Liddiard family, who have lived in Honeycote House for generations, running the brewery that produces Honeycote Ales. At the beginning of the first book, the occupiers of the house are Mickey, wife Lucy and their children. Unfortunately, Mickey is not to be trusted with money or the local ladies, and his neglect of the business is causing the brewery to run into trouble. Son Patrick is also a bit of a ladies man and is not really paying enough attention to troubles at the brewery. A big employer in the local area, it is essential for the village as well as the Liddiard family that the business stays afloat. As the story progresses through the books, new characters are introduced who settle in the village and are woven into the picture, becoming major players in the drama and sometimes potential investors in the brewery. There is certainly plenty of drama throughout the narrative, with major incidents as well as romance.

This is a marvellous saga, spread over the three titles. The books definitely must be read in order to gain full benefit of the ongoing story. New characters pop up as the story progresses, each with a really interesting back story and all arriving in the village of Honeycote for different reasons. I can’t say that I found all of the characters likeable; some were far too fond of using others to satisfy their own needs and there was certainly rather a lot of cheating within the various marriages. However, these situations are true to real life. I can wholeheartedly recommend the series to other readers, but it is definitely worth reading all three books, and in order, to appreciate the whole story and have everything slot into place.

To order A Country Christmas just click here
To order A Country Life just click here
To order A Country Wedding just click here

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Review: Unpregnant by Jenni Hendricks and Ted Caplan

Seventeen-year-old Veronica Clarke never thought she’d want to fail a test—that is, until she finds herself staring at a piece of plastic with two solid pink lines. With a college-bound future now disappearing before her eyes, Veronica considers a decision she never imagined she’d have to make: an abortion.

There’s just one catch—the closest place to get one is over nine hundred miles away. With conservative parents, a less-than-optimal boyfriend, and no car, Veronica turns to the only person who won’t judge her: Bailey Butler, a legendary misfit at Jefferson High—and Veronica’s ex-best friend.

What could go wrong? Not much, apart from three days of stolen cars, crazed ex-boyfriends, aliens, ferret napping, and the betrayal of a broken friendship that can’t be outrun. Under the starlit skies of the Southwest, Veronica and Bailey discover that sometimes the most important choice is who your friends are.

Review: I expected to like this book but I really didn't expect to love it as much as I did. This book made me laugh, it made me think and it kept me turning the pages because I ended up reading it in one sitting. 

This book deals with some very serious issues, unwanted pregnancy and the choices that causes, what coming out can do to friendships and also just how it feels to break up with friends at a pivotal point in high school. It deals with those issues through the vehicle of two wonderful main characters though and so it does it in the best possible way. Bailey and Veronica are just great to read about because they really are ying and yang but they complement each other so well, diluting and strengthening one another in equal measure that it just makes for awesome reading. 

This book is also a road trip book-how awesome is that? I had no idea I would be going on a journey when I picked this book up but the road trip aspect of this is just another wonderful vehicle to tackle these big issues. The chapters are numbered in miles which i loved and some of the stops provide for some fabulous comedy moments. 

There are definite care warnings here for pregnancy termination and also to some extent controlling/mentally abusive relationships so make sure you take that into consideration when choosing this book. Those issues are dealt with really well though. At no point did I feel like these authors were talking down to me or simplifying anything. This book is honest and to the point and yet it deals with these issues and these characters with consideration and with a sense of humour. I loved this book and definitely recommend it. 

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US