Monday, 20 August 2018

Blog Tour: Extract From Martinis and Memories by A.L. Michael



Today I have a very exciting extract to share with you. Martinis and Memories came out in the UK on August 13th and you can order your copy here. Don't forget to check out the other blogs on the tour for more exclusive content. I have a wonderful extract to share with you so you can get a taste of this novel, here's what it's all about:

Bel Hailstone has spent the past decade building her dream - Soho’s best burlesque club - from the ground up. But now The Martini Club is under threat and it will take everything in Bel’s power to resist encroaching developers and save her pride and joy.
Amidst the chaos Bel’s past comes knocking with the unexpected arrivals of her still-not-quite-ex-husband, her estranged mother and Brodie Porter - the boy who got away all those years ago.

To keep her beloved club afloat – not to mention her sanity - Bel will have to accept help for the first time in a long time, put the past to rest and claim the happy ever after she once thought was lost for good.


And here's that extract for you. Scroll down for more information about this author as well as social media links!

I picked up my gym bag and walked out onto the landing, closing the door behind me.
‘I know you’re there,’ I said, and Sam poked his head over, coffee in hand.
‘Hello again.’
‘You spying on me?’
He appraised me knowingly. ‘I was sitting having a cup of coffee in my stairwell; I’m entitled.’
‘You are, but you have a perfectly lovely flat up there and your knees cramp up sitting on those steps.’
He held up a hand. ‘Okay, okay, I was listening out for yelling. Slamming doors, anything else that might mean a big old American landlord needs to stick his oversized nose somewhere. But it seems you’ve got it covered. How long’s she staying?’
‘I have no fucking idea. I need to go dance it out or I’ll explode.’
He nodded gravely. ‘Smart move.’
‘Do me a favour? She wants to come and see the club, could you drop her by this evening? Just walk her over?’
Sam raised an eyebrow at me, whiskery and unimpressed. ‘And does your mother often look at menfolk like they won’t make it out alive?’
I laughed. ‘No, but they don’t make it out all the same. You’re strong, though, I believe in you.’
Sam paused, as if he wasn’t sure which words to choose. ‘Sweetheart, you’re not trying… this isn’t some sort of set up, is it? Because I am quite happy the way I am.’
I pressed my lips together and tried not to laugh again. ‘Sam, I love you. You are one of my dearest friends. I would not do that to you. I just need to make sure she doesn’t come over early and cause problems.’
He saluted lazily. ‘Okay, you can count on me, poppet. I’ll bring her over. Can’t be held responsible for what happens when she’s there.’
For the hundredth time this month, I thanked my lucky stars for Sam, who was sometimes the only person who made me feel sane.
I jogged down the stairs, weaving in between the Sunday morning tourists and workers, the people enjoying the sunshine, looking in shop windows and restaurants. Every step I took away from my mother, I felt a little better, a little more clear-headed. I tapped into the building on the corner, running up the stairs before walking straight into the studio. I spared a smile for the other women in the corner, almost always the same ones on Sundays. I sat down on the floor to swap my shoes, stretching out my legs and leaning into it, feeling the tension start to melt away. The other women were always perfect and spritely, long-limbed and perfect-bunned, just like when I used to go to ballet class as a kid. There were the cygnets, and then there was me, the chicken. Now, it was almost the opposite. The perfectly coiffed ladies would smile and say hello to me, but they never attempted to talk, and neither did I. I wasn’t the green juices and bran muffins after class type, and they knew that. It was easier to come in three minutes before the class started and focus on stretching out.
I was better than they were. I wasn’t good enough to be professional and I had hated dancing through my childhood, the way my mother forced me to practise for hours, took me to auditions. The bloody toes and constant aches as I tried to study on so few hours’ sleep. ‘You can do better, Bel, you know you can do better. You don’t want to embarrass me, do you?’ I had wanted to be better in school. My class tutor, Miss McKay, had gone head to head with Mum numerous times. I was exhausted, I was falling asleep, I was limping at school. How could I be expected to study and do well if I was dancing all the time? Did she know I was a smart girl? I could go to university if I applied myself.
I loved Miss McKay. She was the only person I’d met who ever seemed to think I could do anything. Mum thought I could dance, but never as well as her.
Everyone else I met seemed to think I’d just grow up and take over running the dance studio, or I’d be working at the chippy forever. Having one person, one young, hopeful teacher tell me I was smart enough to do something other than live my small life in Eastbourne, that was enough to plant a seed of doubt. I could do something else, but it would have to be carefully planned. I would never be able to live the life I wanted around Mum. She would never quit, not unless I was so badly injured I couldn’t dance any more, and I couldn’t quite bear to do that. I got close, some nights,
when I was so exhausted, when she was shouting at me about not getting picked at audition, when she made me stand on the scales every morning and sighed, before handing me an apple. I was a constant disappointment.
The weird thing was, after all that, after all those horrible memories and the stress and the way she made me hate my body… I still loved to dance. I loved to go up on my tiptoes and feel the tension in my legs. I loved to stretch and move and sway, and know that I could do what others couldn’t, that my body was a powerhouse. When I’d moved to the city, when I’d first considered leaving Euan, I found burlesque, and that was something else altogether. It was an act, a performance in confidence and sensuality. Ballet was about strength, beauty, control. They were two halves of me.
The teacher led us through some basic moves and I let everything melt away, feeling the tension in my neck release. Every thought about the club, my mother, Euan, money worries and that creeping, ever-present feeling that I was lonely and couldn’t work that away. It sat in my muscles and slipped from them as I stretched.
An hour later, I pulled on my trainers, nodded at the other women and headed out, feeling lighter. I wouldn’t tell Mum, no matter what. If she knew I still danced, it would be a thing. I didn’t know if she’d explode with irritation, that I had run out on it all those years ago, but still danced, or if she would get maudlin and full of regret. My mother’s emotions were like the weather.
When I got back to the flat, thankfully she was out. I saw the spare keys were gone, and her suitcase was open in the living room, clothes strewn everywhere, so she’d obviously taken my suggestion. Music played from Sam’s flat upstairs, and I got ready for work more quickly than usual.
Normally, putting on my game face was an art, like preparing for war. I started as Annabelle Stone, nobody, and I left as Arabella Hailstone, owner of the Martini Club. The make-up was glitter and darkness, plumping my lips until they looked like dark sugar plums. My eyes were lined in liquid black, and some days, if I’d put a before and after next to each other, I was sure I was almost unrecognisable. With my war paint on, I became who I was meant to be.
It’s not that unexpected to see a tall Valkyrie in a sparkling black corset and heels walking through Soho on a Sunday afternoon, but people still stare. They probably wonder if I’m someone famous, or if I’m a dominatrix, a local performer. The things I’ve seen in Greek Street over the years, I barely qualify as interesting. And yet I enjoy it, striding down the street, turning heads, as if it’s my own personal show. I play music on my walk into the office, something upbeat and powerful, so that I walk with a wiggle, keep my head held high. Every moment before entering the club is about becoming more myself, putting on the Wonder Woman outfit and making shit happen.

A. L. Michael is the author of 13 novels. Almost all of them are snarky love stories where difficult women learn to embrace vulnerability. Andi works as a content writer, so no matter what she’s doing, she’s all about the words. She has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Creative Business and an MSc in Creative Writing. She is represented by Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn.


Social Media Links

Twitter: @almichael_
Website: www.almichael.com

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Movie Reviews August 12th-18th

So sorry I didn't post a blog review of the movies I saw last week, it actually turned out to be a bumper 3 week edition over on my BookTube channel so I will leave that video below if you want to know my thoughts but this week was pretty good in terms of movie watching and i AM going to include one that I watched on Netflix just because I saw a movie twice in the cinema this week so it's not like I'm adding something extra in...

I have book vs movie videos coming up for 2 of these films on my channel so keep an eye out for that. I'll add them to this post they're uploaded.

Sunday


This documentary made by a photographer was just great. It explored different generations of people and different cultures and what their wealth looked like and how it affected them. I really recommend giving it a watch although if you're squeamish about needles or sex, there's quite a lot of plastic surgery and nudity. One of my favourite things about this film was that she interviewed people from her high school 25 years ago and then went back and revisited them today and showed how that much wealth had affected them. 

Monday


I was really excited about seeing this one having loved the trailer and obviously loving Adam Driver. The first third of the film was quite slow and not my favourite, the rest of the film was great and I laughed out loud a lot. I saw it in a full cinema though and I really wasn't laughing out loud as much as the other people in there, sometimes I couldn't hear what they were saying on screen! I loved the fact that it was set just down the road in Colorado Springs and also loved the fact that it was based on a true story, that is honestly amazing. The thing that really toned down my rating of this film though was that they had some news footage from David Duke, Donald Trump and then the riots in Charlottesville last year. I get that they were relevant but really they left me feeling so depressed after a film that had made me laugh so much and taught me so much so...

Tuesday

I didn't watch a film today-what?

Wednesday


I loved this one, I knew that I was going to love it and that's why I watched it twice. The whole time I was reading the book I was thinking, this is going to look great on screen and it really did. You can't always picture the opulent life of the crazy rich when you're reading because that's for the 0.001% of the population so seeing it on the big screen really worked! This was a fabulously romantic story as well and I absolutely loved Awkwafina - she's awesome!


Thursday


This is one of those that I wouldn't have seen without my movie pass to be honest. We recently watched Jaws and I didn't like it. I've never been particularly bothered about sharks but I do like seeing sea creatures and some of the shots of the ocean and the wildlife within are really really lovely. I can see why they released this in Imax and 3D because those shots would have been stunning on an Imax screen! There are some really cheesy moments in this film and moments when the actors start going 'well that was wild but I'm glad it's over' and you just know that that means there's something dramatic about to happen. I was shocked by some of the deaths and the kill count it quite high but I was entertained throughout and it was worth it for those scenes of marine life right at the beginning-also: Rainn Wilson!

Friday


Compared to my previous day's film, this was so quiet and so slow but it was just what I needed. This film has been out for a little while now and I saw it on a Friday night when there were plenty of other blockbusters playing but it was still quite a full cinema. I loved the actors in this one, there are so many familiar faces! Its only when I go to see a British film in a US cinema (as I do) that I really notice the difference in sense of humour. I was laughing when other people weren't. You have to suspend your disbelief going into this one and just wander down to the hundred acre wood ready to play. Eeyore is the best obviously!

Saturday

Saturday I went to see Crazy Rich Asians again so here's my one Netflix film recommendation since it is a book to movie adaptation...


I actually had this one marked in my diary like I do with book publications. I really enjoyed watching this movie. I loved seeing the book come to life and it was just as sweet and lovely as the books. I felt like Margo didn't get a whole lot of action in the film but then I've read all 3 books so it might just be that I am remembering her role from the trilogy and not just from the 3 books. I made a review of the trilogy over on my channel and I will have a book vs movie video for this one on my channel this week all being well (it's filmed it just needs editing!)

Here are those videos as promised (I will update this post with the book vs movie videos as they upload)





Blog Tour: Extract from Come Away With Me by Maddie Please


Today I'm on the blog tour for Come Away With Me by Maddie Please. I have an extract to share with you and if you like the sound of it, you can click here to order your copy.  

Come Away With Me Came out on the 13th August, here's the synopsis...

When Alexa Fisher finds herself trapped on a twelve-day cruise to celebrate her younger sister’s hen-do – just the two of them – she wishes she’d jumped overboard.
Despite the age difference, India has always been the judgemental sibling, and there’s been even more friction than usual since ‘the big engagement’. With India constantly obsessing over wedding plans, Alexa has never felt more single, or more of a failure.
If only she could find a man who was funny, handsome and faithful. But when she meets the enigmatic (and *gorgeous*) Gabriel Frost on the cruise, he is as cold as his name suggests… Isn’t he?
Set sail for an adventure on the high seas, it’s time for Alexa to discover that sometimes romance can surprise you!


If you liked the sound of that, here's an extract that Maddie has shared with us...

She somehow managed to get away with things I never would have – from convincing Mum and Dad that her lack of a degree was the fault of the polytechnic, to having men swanning after her despite showing little to no interest in them
When India was told in no uncertain terms that she had to get a job, she tried with a very ill grace, which would have been hilarious if only I hadn’t been forced to pick up the pieces. There was an internship at the local radio station, which failed because India didn’t quite believe there was such a time as seven-thirty in the morning, and if there was it had nothing to do with her. Then came the beauty tester position for the local paper, which unfortunately didn’t pan out, as the paper wanted more than ‘this stuff is crap’ or ‘this smells like a farmyard’ from her.
Much as I enjoyed my sister’s company and hearing about her hilarious escapades, my role in her life gradually changed. Except when she needed cheering up with a good bottle of wine when she was down. Or picking up when her car ran out of petrol.
I’d worked for years learning how to be a good estate agent, getting my qualifications, doing a thorough job and making myself indispensable. But India skimmed the surface of life, getting away with everything, so when she arrived at the office with Dad one Monday morning and flopped down at the desk opposite mine asking for coffee, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
Dad patted me on the back and said, ‘Look after India, will you, Alexa? Show her the ropes, get her some experience. Mum said you’d be okay with it.’

Thank you so much to Maddie for stopping by to share that extract with us today. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Bout of Books 23 Sign up and TBR!


It's that bout of books time again. I love this readathon because it is low pressure and always seems to come at the right time for my reading, either kicking off the year or coming at a time when I'm about to go away so I need to finish up library books or proof copies for review. 

Here's what the lovely Bout of Books team have to say about it (they always explain it better)

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 20th and runs through Sunday, August 26th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 23 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

So it seems that basically this week I want to continue on with my August TBR because I have a load of books I need to take back to the library. Here are the books I have to choose from this week, of course I'm not intending to read them all but this is what is left on my August TBR.

I'm buddy reading this with the lovely Jena, here's the link to her blog!


Some library books...





Some review copies...




An Ebook...


And of course a couple of audiobooks just for good measure...





Guest Review: Perfect Silence by Helen Fields

When silence falls, who will hear their cries?
The body of a young girl is found dumped on the roadside on the outskirts of Edinburgh. When pathologists examine the remains, they make a gruesome discovery: the silhouette of a doll carved in the victim’s skin.
DCI Ava Turner and DI Luc Callanach are struggling to find leads in the case, until a doll made of skin is found nestled beside an abandoned baby.
After another young woman is found butchered, Luc and Ava realise the babydoll killer is playing a horrifying game. And it’s only a matter of time before he strikes again. Can they stop another victim from being silenced forever – or is it already too late?




Review: This is the fourth in a series of crime novels written by Helen Fields featuring Detective Inspector Luc Callanach, seconded to Police Scotland's Major Investigation Team in Edinburgh. I hadn't read any of the previous series and, although this latest entry can be read as a standalone thriller, the previous books in the series would have given a little more background to the main characters than that alluded to in this book.


A series of gruesome attacks has occurred in Edinburgh and the book describes the investigations of Detective Inspector Callanach, together with his superior Detective Chief Inspector Ava Turner and the rest of the Major Investigation Team, to apprehend the perpetrator as the body count mounts up. It therefore develops into a race against time, and I found that the tension was maintained throughout the book. This, together with the fact that each chapter was relatively short, meant that I wanted to keep reading and move on to each subsequent chapter to find out what happened next.

The action is set in Edinburgh, and both the good and seamier sides of the city are described. I don't know if I was reading too much into it, but there did appear to be a nod to the infamous West Port murders that occurred in the city in the 19th century, in that bizarre "trophies" feature in both sets of crimes. One thing that I did find surprising is that the dialogue featured very few Scottish colloquialisms and, indeed, there were a few Americanisms present.

I thought that the characters were very well drawn, and we get to see the private side of some of them. I particularly liked one detective sergeant who was very much of the old school and spoke whatever was on his mind without caring whether or not it was politically correct. Most of the time it was not. Like most works of crime fiction, the distinction between forensic pathologist and forensic scientist was blurred. These are two separate professions. I found the pathologist in this book, at times, too good to be true, in that he seemed to combine the roles of crime scene examiner, forensic pathologist, forensic scientist and fingerprint expert. 

However, the above are minor criticisms, and I found the book to be a thrilling, and graphic, account of a major police investigation into a series of crimes.


To order your copy now, just click here!

Friday, 17 August 2018

Review: Educated by Tara Westover


Tara Westover grew up preparing for the End of Days, watching for the sun to darken, for the moon to drip as if with blood. She spent her summers bottling peaches and her winters rotating emergency supplies, hoping that when the World of Men failed, her family would continue on, unaffected. 


She hadn’t been registered for a birth certificate. She had no school records because she’d never set foot in a classroom, and no medical records because her father didn’t believe in doctors or hospitals. According to the state and federal government, she didn’t exist. 

As she grew older, her father became more radical, and her brother, more violent. At sixteen Tara decided to educate herself. Her struggle for knowledge would take her far from her Idaho mountains, over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d travelled too far. If there was still a way home. 

EDUCATED is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes with the severing of the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, from her singular experience Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it.





Review: This was one of those books that was very different from what I was expecting and it took me a while to process my thoughts. This was actually a really wonderful read. I listened on audiobook and the narration was great, they got the tone of the memoir just right. I was aware that this was a book about someone who hadn't been educated in the traditional sense but I didn't realise quite how many obstacles Tara had had to overcome to get to where she is today-it was really inspiring.

There are definitely plenty of scenes involving education, both early education and the education she chose to go and pursue herself in later life, but there was a surprising amount about her home life and the education that that provided her with. There is also a great deal about how her faith affected her life and how her parents raised her. Her relationship with the Mormon faith is very interesting to read about and definitely made me go away and do some reading of my own.

This book made me think about many many other things as well. Because the title of the book is Educated and I'm a teacher, I really thought it would be all about schooling, but actually because school was absent for so much of this writer's life, there is an awful lot about the education she received at home about so many different things. The things she knew and the things she didn't when she eventually went into more traditional education were really surprising and so different from what I would have even thought. The fact that she learnt so much off her own back as well was very inspiring and I really feel like a took a lot from this book!

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

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Review: Sex and the City and Us by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong


By the bestselling author of Seinfeldia, a fascinating retrospective of the iconic and award-winning television series, Sex and the City, to coincide with the show’s twentieth anniversary.


This is the story of how a columnist, two gay men, and a writers’ room full of women used their own poignant, hilarious, and humiliating stories to launch a cultural phenomenon. They endured shock, slut-shaming, and a slew of nasty reviews on their way to eventual—if often begrudging—respect. The show wasn’t perfect, but it revolutionized television for women.

When Candace Bushnell began writing for the New York Observer, she didn’t think anyone beyond the Upper East Side would care about her adventures among the Hamptons-hopping media elite. But her struggles with singlehood struck a chord. Beverly Hills, 90210creator Darren Star brought her vision to an even wider audience when he adapted the column for HBO. Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha launched a barrage of trends, forever branded the actresses that took on the roles, redefined women’s relationship to sex and elevated the perception of singlehood.

Featuring exclusive new interviews with the cast and writers, including star Sarah Jessica Parker, creator Darren Star, executive producer Michael Patrick King, and author Candace Bushnell, Sex and the City and Us brings us a both a critical and nostalgic, behind-the-scenes look at a television series that changed the way women see themselves.



Review: Oh I just loved every minute of this book. I am a massive Sex and the City fan anyway but there is just so much to take away from this book even if you're not a die hard fan like me. I feel like I learnt so much about the production of the show and the impact it had on society that I didn't know before. I know more now about HBO and New York than I did before I started as well as taking away fun facts about the actors and the shooting schedules that I am enjoying in my re-watch of the show now. 

I have come across this writer's work before and so I knew I was going to enjoy the way this book was structured. I am glad that I got a physical copy of the book so that I could enjoy the pictures that were included of the cast, the crew and the locations. This book is structured so that it works in chronological order from conception to pilot to season one and beyond but I loved the little asides that were included about the impact one particular episode had on either the actors or the audience.

Of course the fashion is talked about as well as the taboos surrounding sex that the show broke. It covers how the show was met with LGBTQ+ audiences as well as non-white audiences since the show itself is not very diverse when it comes to people of colour. I can definitely reassure you that this book is not just a fan companion for the show, but a critical look at every aspect of the show, its fans and the impact it had on television, New York and culture as a whole. Now I need to get back to my re-watch of the show with this at my side to reference what I'm watching!

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