Friday, 30 May 2014

Feature and Follow Friday: How important is good writing to you?

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.


This weeks question is: How important is good writing to you? In an ideal world, a book would be beautifully written AND have great character development, plot, etc. But in the real world, which do you prefer: (1) Great characters and plot with lousy writing or (2) Middling character development and plot but gorgeous writing?

Being an English graduate I've had the importance of good spelling and grammar drilled into me for as long as I can remember! For this reason I'm inclined to choose the second option. As much as I try to enjoy books that have a good plot but are badly written I just can't, and many a potentially great story has been ruined for me through lack of editing/proofreading. That said, I can overlook the odd error if I really like the characters or if the plot is really exciting. I've also been known to put down books that were beautifully written because I simply couldn't get into them. I think my answer to this question is different for every book that I read!

How about you? Are you  a stickler for grammar or does the writing not matter if the plot is good?

Blog Tour / Guest Post: Shot Through the Heart by Matt Cain


'Need a companion for your beach holiday? Look no further than this fun, glitzy tale.' - Heat

Today I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for Shot Through the Heart by Matt Cain, a perfect read for the summer. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book via NetGalley and I really enjoyed it! Read on for a plot synopsis and a guest post by the author on his favourite romantic comedies!

Publication Date: 24th April 2014
Shot Through the Heart is Matt Cain's debut novel, a Hollywood tale of romance, heartbreak and the lengths some will go to maintain that unblemished movie star image...

Synopsis
The Silver Screen had never shone as bright . . .
Mia Sinclair is the first lady of love, a beautiful goddess known for her romantic roles on the silver screen.
But in reality life does not imitate art and love is not as easily found in the real world as it is in the movies.
Leo Henderson is the Brit living in L.A, enjoying the lifestyle and photographing the stars when they least expect it. He knows that being a paparazzi has its pitfalls, but he’s living the Hollywood dream and enjoying every minute of it.
Billy Spencer, the handsome screen idol of the moment, is sexy, tanned and hiding a secret that could easily end his career as a leading man.
When Mia meets Leo, the sparks fly. But is dating a paparazzi the biggest mistake of her life? And as Mia and Billy look to star in the biggest movie of their careers, will their smouldering on screen relationship destroy a chance of happiness before it begins?

'A deliciously sexy romp that blows open the scandalous secrets of Hollywood.' - Daily Express
'Insider cynicism meets a delight in glamour...' - 5 Books to know for 2014, Elle

About the Author
Matt Cain became Channel 4 News' first ever Culture Editor in 2010. Since then he’s reported on everything from the Man Booker Prize and the Mercury Music Prize to the opening of the Spice Girls
musical and the death of Whitney Houston.
Matt has over twelve years’ experience working in arts television.

As Producer/Director of The South Bank Show, his credits include films on Ian McKellen, Sam Taylor-Wood, Will Young and Carol Ann Duffy. He’s also written for The Times, presented the series What Makes a Masterpiece? for More4, and contributes a monthly column to Attitude magazine. He's judged the South Bank Show Awards, the Stonewall Awards and will be on the panel for next year's Costa Book Awards. Born in Bolton and educated at state schools, Matt went to Cambridge University before moving to London.

Guest Post by Matt Cain: My Favourite Rom-coms
One of the best things about writing a novel set in Hollywood and having a leading lady who stars in romantic comedies was that I got to watch my favourite rom-coms all over again. So here they are – some of the films that inspired Shot Through the Heart!

Titanic
I don’t care if cultural snobs are sniffy about this film because it was such a crowd-pleaser – I love it. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are both amazing and the chemistry between them is the kind of thing all of us dream about finding in real life. Which is why it’s so tragic when their two characters are torn apart. I’m a sucker for a good weepie and every time I watch it, the second the Celine Dion song starts I’m wailing like a Spanish widow right through till the end of the film.

Desperately Seeking Susan
I was such a huge Madonna fan when I was growing up and I always loved this film. It’s set in a 1980’s New York that’s sexy, gritty and cool and I love the screwball-comedy inspired plot of mistaken identities. I was so in awe of Madonna in this film when I was young, I just wanted to go to that nightclub with her and dance to Into the Groove! But it’s Rosanna Arquette’s character who experiences the romance and has a happy ending with the right man. But what I lost most is that the film ends with the two female characters, who’ve been set against each other, coming together to save the day.

True Romance
Like so many of us, I may be a romantic but I’ve made lots of mistakes in life and what I love about this film is that it tells us none of that matters. Its message is that we can all find romance in the unlikeliest of places and in the unlikeliest of scenarios. So Patricia Arquette’s character is a prostitute hired to have sex with the geek played by Christian Slater as a birthday present. But the two of them fall in love and then there’s this whole dark, violent plot that kicks in when they have to run away across the country to escape the Mob. But what’s so brilliant is that even though loads of horrible things happen to them the romance still shines through. More than any other film this one gives me hope that one day I’ll find my own romantic hero!

The Bodyguard
I did watch this film again when I was writing Shot Through the Heart but it was actually more helpful when I was getting ready to write my second book, Nothing but Trouble, which is out next year and set in the pop industry. I’ve always found the music business fascinating and I love the contrast in this film between the on-stage glamour experienced by Whitney Houston’s character and the backstage drama she’s going through. Obviously the soundtrack’s sensational but I also love the fact that this was one of the first inter-racial love stories to be a mainstream success at the cinema, even though this element of the story is never commented on. But I’m sure this made a difference to certain people’s attitudes when the film was released in 1992.

Sex and the City
It would be no exaggeration to say the TV series of Sex and the City changed my life and is one of the things that has most influenced me as a writer. When it was first shown on Channel 4 I was living with two girlfriends from university in a rented flat in London and every Wednesday night we’d stay in to watch the double bill. We’d get so excited when the Bailey’s ads started and then the HBO logo came up and the music kicked in. I just think the characters are so brilliant, the storylines are short and snappy and the series really captured the reality of life for so many single women at the time. I know some people were critical of the film version when it came out at the cinema but me and my girlfriends were so happy to see the four characters back on screen together after so long we’d probably have loved it whatever it was like!

Moulin Rouge
Of all the films I’ve talked about here this one is probably my favourite. It’s so romantic it makes my heart flutter just thinking about it. When it was released at the cinema I remember thinking I’d never seen anything like it before – it was such a new thing to have all that fast cutting and mad camerawork and Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman singing modern love songs even though the film’s set in 1900. And I was feeling particularly romantic and gushy the first time I saw it because I was going out with a really fit Romanian guy. Unfortunately he didn’t last very long but the film did. I still watch it all the time now and obviously as Ewan McGregor’s character’s a writer it has a new resonance for me these days!

Got to say that I totally agree with Matt on Moulin Rouge, it's one of my all time favourite films!

For more information on the book please contact Lucie Cuthbertson-Twiggs on 020 7014 6095 or lucie.cuthbertsontwiggs@macmillan.com



Thursday, 29 May 2014

Release Day Blitz / Giveaway: An American Girl in Italy by Aubrie Dionne

Today I'm excited to be part of the release day party for An American Girl in Italy. I'm actually going to Italy myself in a couple of weeks, so this book couldn't come at a better time for me! Read on to find out more about the novel, and to enter the giveaway to win a booklet about Italy. I'll definitely be entering this one!


An Italian paradise is the last thing she wants... but the one thing she needs!

Surely any girl would kill for the chance to tour Italy’s most famous cities for the summer? To experience the warmth of the Tuscan sun, the culinary delights of the pizzerias and caffés and to stroll along the cobbled streets of the City of Love itself...
Any girl apart from ambitious oboist Carly Davis that is! For her, the Easthampton Civic Symphony’s latest European tour is one massive inconvenience. She can’t even put her smartphone down long enough to snap a picture of the Coliseum.
Only, there’s one Italian attraction that Carly hadn’t quite expected to be a part of the tourist route... 

Tour guide Michelangelo is as dark and delicious as Carly’s morning espresso. And when she needs a few lessons in the language of love to land her an important gig, he’s a more than capable tutor.

But with her promising career back in Boston, can Carly really afford to lose her heart in Italy?


About the Author
Aubrie Dionne is an author and flutist in New England. Her books have received the highest ratings from Romance Times Magazine and BTS Magazine, as well as Night Owl Reviews and Two Lips Reviews. She has guest blogged on the USA Today Happily Ever After Blog and the Dear Teen Me blog and signed books at the Boston Book Festival, Barnes and Noble, and the Romance Writers of America conference. Her books are published by Entangled Publishing, Harper Impulse, Astraea Press, Spencer Hill Press, Inkspell Publishing, and Lyrical Press. When she's not writing, Aubrie teaches flute and plays in orchestras.

Links 
Blog: http://authoraubrie.blogspot.com     Website: http://authoraubrie.net     Twitter: @authoraubrie

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Monday, 26 May 2014

Blog Tour: The Scandalous Love of a Duke by Jane Lark

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Today I'm excited to be kicking off the blog tour for The Scandalous Love of a Duke. Read on to find out more, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!

Title: The Scandalous Love of a Duke (Marlow Intrigues #3)
 photo TheScandalousLoveofaDukeHighRes_zps4221490a.jpgAuthor: Jane Lark Genre: Regency Romance (Historical) Publish
Date: April 3, 2014 Publisher: HarperImpulse
Event Organized By: Literati Author Services, Inc. 

Synopsis
Book three in Jane Lark's Kindle best-selling Regency romance series! Isolated by life and choice, John Harding, the Duke of Pembroke, sees an angel in a pale mauve dress across a room and is drawn closer as lust grips firm and hard in his stomach. The wheat-blonde hair escaping her dull dove-grey bonnet and caressing her neck lures his eyes to a spot he'd like to kiss. She speaks with animation her hands moving. Then as if she senses his gaze the stranger turns and looks at him. A rush of pain and longing spilled from Katherine's heart into her limbs. It was so long since she'd seen John but her reaction was the same as it had been more than half-a-dozen years before. She loved him, secretly, without hope, but a chasm of years and status stood between them.
Purchase Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
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Excerpt
A glass of red wine balanced in one hand, the stem dangling between his fingers, he joined another group of guests, fulfilling his duty. He trusted no one here. God, this was his life now, duty and falsehood. He missed Egypt, he missed adventure and peace and simplicity. He was already bored with people’s endless supplication. Everyone seemed to want something from him. They sought to attach themselves to either his wealth or his power. His grandfather had warned of this. John had had enough. He was seeking his family to escape it for a little while, and looking for Mary particularly. He knew his vibrant sister would bring him back from the cold darkness crowding in on him. He’d passed his mother and Edward in the hall, they’d been speaking with Richard and Penny, they’d directed him in here. His gaze swept about the room then stopped. There was a young woman standing amidst his family, like a blonde beacon of light amongst his dark-haired black-clad cousins. She was an angel in a pale mauve dress. Lust gripped had and firm in his stomach, an intense physical attraction. He’d never experienced anything so instant before. But it was a long time since he’d bedded a woman – far too long. Her figure was a sublime balance of curves and narrow waist. Her spine had a beautiful arch as it curved into the point where her dress opened onto a full skirt. Wheat-blonde hair escaped a dull dove-grey bonnet, caressing her neck and drawing his eyes to a place he’d like to kiss. She was speaking with animation her hands moving. He moved closer and as if she sensed his gaze the stranger turned and looked at him. In answer a lightning need struck his groin, a sharp sudden pain. She was an English Rose among orchids, the sort of woman he had seen nothing of abroad. Her skin was pale, with roses blooming in her cheeks, and her eyes were a vivid beautiful blue, like the bluebells which bloomed in spring, in the woods at Pembroke Place. She was what he had longed for abroad and not even known he’d been lacking. His attention wholly captured, desire slipped into his blood as his groin grew heavy with hunger. This was what came from abstinence he supposed. He’d never had a fancy for fair, fay women before. He did now. She did not look the sort for a fling though, certainly not the she-wolf type who stalked the foreign fields. His mind began rattling through his guest list, but no name fit her, and her dull grey bonnet and shawl did not speak of affluence. Who was she? He smiled as he grew nearer, then realised he was staring and shifted his gaze to the others in the group. It was then he noticed Phillip as they turned to towards him. “My God.” “Your Grace.” “Phillip.” Lord, John hoped Phillip had not come here with a motive. John did not wish to hear oily grovelling from an old friend. His heart thumped in cold anger, not gladness. Then he looked at the blonde and his breath caught as recognition whispered in his head. Kate.  

About the Author
 photo AuthorPhoto_zps80e4e47f.jpg Jane is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance, and a Kindle top 25 bestselling author. She began her first historical novel at sixteen, but a life full of adversity derailed her as she lives with the restrictions of Ankylosing Spondylitis. When she finally completed a novel it was because she was determined not to reach forty still saying, I want to write. Now Jane is writing a Regency series and contemporary, new adult, stories and she is thrilled to be giving her characters life in others' imaginations at last. You might think that Jane was inspired to write by Jane Austen, especially as she lives near Bath in the United Kingdom, but you would be wrong. Jane's favourite author is Anya Seton, and the book which drew her into the bliss of falling into historical imagination was 'Katherine' a story crafted from reality. Jane has drawn on this inspiration to discover other real-life love stories, reading memoirs and letters to capture elements of the past, and she uses them to create more realistic plots. 'Basically I love history and I am sucker for a love story. I love the feeling of falling in love; it's wonderful being able to do it time and time again in fiction.' Jane is also a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development in the United Kingdom, and uses this specialist understanding of people to bring her characters to life.
Connect with the Author: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads

Review: The Edge of Never by J. A. Redmerski


Twenty year old Camryn Bennett needs to get away, to take a break and re-evaluate her life. On impulse she boards a bus out of town, destination chosen entirely at random, and sets off for the adventure of a lifetime. Andrew Parrish is also on a journey cross-country, only his trip is born out of necessity. As the paths of these two strangers cross and become irrevocably intertwined, their lives will never be the same again.

This book had me hooked from the very start, and I raced through it in a couple of days. With alternating narratives from both Camryn and Andrew's perspective, we get an insight into their true feelings for each other as they get to know one another, and will them to get together. Although the subject matter isn't exactly ground-breaking, this book packs a punch through its emotional intensity, and believe me it really is intense in places. Other reviewers have said how they were in tears by the end, and although I didn't get that bad - it takes a lot for a book to make me cry - I can completely see why. Raw emotion pours off the pages during Andrew and Camryn's heated arguments and their heartfelt conversations; it's no exaggeration to say that it takes your breath away.

Andrew is just irresistible! The dimples, the quick-wittedness, the adorable personality, and did I mention the dimples? So romantic too, although I have to admit that I tried the whole looking up at the rain thing today and I didn't see much. Maybe American rain is different to English rain. He's also the only person/character I have ever come across to make tattoos seem romantic, and coming from a tattoo-phobic that's really something! Andrew and Camryn's relationship escalates pretty quickly from a sweet teen-esque romance into an adult one, but you know from the start that this is inevitable. I think given that Camryn is younger than me I automatically imagine her to be more naive than she is, but I guess this is the danger of reading YA/NA novels.

One thing that I liked about this novel was its use of music. Initially a point of conversation between Andrew and Camryn when they first meet, Redmerski creates a soundtrack to their story through song references and lyrics. Admittedly I hadn't heard any of the songs when I read the book, but I listened to them out of curiosity afterwards and can see why she chose them.

Andrew comes into Camryn's life like a guardian angel: her protector, her psychiatrist and her lover all in one. Almost too good to be true. We learn early on in the story that Andrew has his own emotional baggage that he's not willing to share, and we only learn of his circumstances a few chapters before Camryn does. What I found odd about his situation was - without giving too much away - that there is no hint at all of what is to come at all until their road trip is over, and he's conveniently back at home before his secret comes to light.

The whole novel, to quote the legendary Ron Burgundy, seemed to be a case of 'well, that escalated quickly.' From the progression of Andrew and Camryn's relationship to the progression of events once their road trip ends, the couple have lived through more in a couple of months than most of us do in five years! That said, I really did enjoy it, and I have to admit that I fell for Andrew too!

5/5 stars: Sweet, sexy and compelling, The Edge of Never definitely lives up to the hype.


Thursday, 22 May 2014

Book Blitz / Giveaway: A Sweet Life

It's been a busy few days here on my blog... this is the third book blitz that I've taken part in this week! I couldn't resist promoting this boxed set as all of the proceeds from A Sweet Life will be donated to charity! I am also giving away one e-book copy of the set, so comment below if you want a chance to win and I'll pick someone at random!

A Sweet Life Boxed Set (Fourteen Contemporary Romances by Bestselling Authors to Benefit Diabetes Research)
Publication date: May 1st 2014

Synopsis:
Have your cake and eat it too–your purchase of A Sweet Life helps fight against diabetes!
Priced at only 2.99 (regular price 7.99), indulge in this stunning limited edition collection of fourteen contemporary romances by New York Times and USA Today Bestselling authors…
You can make a difference while you read! All proceeds from the sale of A Sweet Life will be donated to the Diabetes Research Institute via Brenda Novak’s Online Auction for Diabetes Research.
Featuring a foreword by #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Debbie Macomber.
Get your copy today!
1500 pages/ 675 000 words

I Only Have Eyes For You by Bella Andre (The Sullivans)
The only woman wealthy Irish pub owner Jake McCann wants is the one he can’t have–Sophie Sullivan, his best friend’s off limits sister. But when the beautiful librarian appears on his doorstep as his every fantasy come to life, even though Jake knows loving Sophie isn’t the right thing to do…how can he possibly resist?

On A Night Like This by Barbara Freethy (Callways #1)
From #1 NY Times Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy comes the first book about the Callaways, a big Irish family born to serve and protect, many as San Francisco firefighters.

May Day! By Heather Graham
Members of the Krewe of Hunters team plan a relaxing vacation to jolly old London for the English celebration–they never figured that a May Pole just might be murder.

Shopping for a Billionaire by Julia Kent
When mystery shopper Shannon Jacoby meets billionaire Declan McCormick with her hand down a toilet in the men’s room of one of his stores, it’s love at first flush.

Built to Last by Susan Mallery
The tale of Aaron Cross, a man who doesn’t know he needs saving…until he meets Marissa Spencer, a heroine inspired by the real life founder of the Motheread/ Fatheread Literacy Program.

A Baby of Her Own by Brenda Novak
Delaney is tired of waiting for the right man–all she wants is a baby. After seducing a handsome stranger, she returns to Dundee to find that same man is actually taking up residence on a ranch just outside of town–where he will very likely realize she’s expecting.

Dare to Love by Carly Phillips
In relationships, Ian Dare offers the bare minimum–until one glimpse of sensual Riley Taylor changes his perspective. Their affair heats up and love comes into play, but Riley’s secret past just might cost them everything.

Executive Seduction by Jennifer Probst
When Chandler Santell turns to Logan Grant, the most ruthless CEO in the finance industry to save her beloved Yoga and Arts Center, she never intended to have seduction as part of the plan…

In Too Deep by RaeAnne Thayne
Though fiercely drawn to the comfort of Andrea McPhee’s arms, Will Tanner isn’t sure he can find room for a woman like her in a life focused on vengeance–until he discovers she has secrets of her own.

Every Girl Does It by Rachel Van Dyken
Amanda gets a flash from the past when the nerdy kid she rejected in high school suddenly reappears in her life…dead sexy, he’s all man and he wants her.

Homecoming Season by Susan Wiggs
Miranda Sweeney and her family find hope and healing while spending an autumn at Willow Lake after Miranda survives breast cancer.

Goodreads

Purchase:
Amazon    Kobo    Barnes & Noble    iTunes

Don't forget comment below for your chance to win a copy!





Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Book Blast / Giveaway: The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes

 Today I'm taking part in the Book Blast for The Art of Lainey by Paula Stokes. Read on for a synopsis and a giveaway!

Synopsis
Soccer star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they’re sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few “dates”, it looks like her plan is going to work!  But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game.


What’s a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you’re meant to be with, if you’re still figuring out the person you’re meant to be?

Purchase LinksAmazon    Barnes & Noble     Book Depository

About the Author
Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where she graduated from Washington University and the Goldfarb School of Nursing. When she’s not writing, she’s kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers! Find her online at www.authorpaulastokes.com or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.


Giveaway: Two winners will receive a copy of The Art of Lainey, plus swag by Paula Stokes.


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Monday, 19 May 2014

Book Blitz / Giveaway: Tryst by Cambria Herbert

Today I'm taking part in the book blitz for Tryst by Cambria Herbert. Read on for a synopsis and a giveaway!

Tryst (Take It Off #8) by Cambria Hebert
Publication date: May 16th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

Synopsis:
Sometimes all a girl needs is a little fling…
Talie Ronson needs a vacation.
From life.
Since she caught her cheating, loser husband in bed with his assistant, her life has been on a steady spiral—right into hell. Her car’s a junker, her job sucks, and her perfect, gorgeous sister likes to brag about her wonderful life every time they “do” lunch.
In an effort to salvage what’s left of her life and her sanity, she takes the advice of her kooky best friend and takes off to Topsail Island. A week at the beach, alone, is exactly what she needs to recharge, regroup, and relax.

Only, her alone time is about to get derailed.

Gavin Palmer’s favorite activity is walking around in his boxers and eating junk food. He and his neighbors have an understanding. They stay out of his business and he stays out of theirs. He lives at the beach, not for vacation, but for isolation. He’s had enough of people to last him a lifetime.
Gavin’s isolation is interrupted when his normally quiet neighbor starts disturbing his peace. He stomps across the sand to give the guy a piece of his mind… only it isn’t a guy.
It’s Talie.
She’d maddening, nosy, and talks too much.
But she’s hot and her bedroom eyes have him thinking maybe he’s had enough solitude. Maybe a week of company is exactly what he needs.
Maybe what they both need is a no-strings-attached tryst.

Purchase Links: Amazon   BN    Apple ibooks    Smashwords 



About the Author
Cambria Hebert is the author of the young adult paranormal Heven and Hell series, the new adult Death Escorts series, and the new adult Take it Off series. She loves a caramel latte, hates math and is afraid of chickens (yes, chickens). She went to college for a bachelor’s degree, couldn’t pick a major, and ended up with a degree in cosmetology. So rest assured her characters will always have good hair. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and children (both human and furry) where she is plotting her next book. You can find out more about Cambria and her work by visiting http://www.cambriahebert.com 

Author Links:


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Review: The Illusionists by Rosie Thomas


Every once in a while you find a book that hooks you from the very first page, and doesn't let go until long after you've finished it. The Illusionists is one of those books.

Usually I like to write my own plot synopsis, but the blurb encapsulates the story so well that I can't help but share it:

"London 1885. A shadowy and threatening place for a beautiful young woman of limited means. Eliza's choices lie between marriage and stifling domesticity or a downwards spiral to the streets. But Eliza is modern before her time and she won't compromise. One night at a run-down theatre she meets the charismatic Devil Wix - a born showman who is set on running his own company. His right-hand man is Carlo Boldoni, a irascible dwarf whose dazzling talent eclipses everything Devil tries to do. Forever linked to Devil by a boyhood tragedy is his friend Jasper Button, a gifted artist, and the fourth member of this strange crew is Heinrich, an enigmatic engineer. As the seductive but dangerous world of the Palmyra Theatre snares them all, it falls to Eliza to try to keep the peace between the men who love her. Too late, she realises that her fortune and her future depend on Devil and his companions. There is no escape... but to continue to risk her life, not just her heart. Offstage as well as on, Eliza must learn that magic takes on many forms. What is real, and what is merely an illusion?"

From the minute that I read the blurb for this novel I knew I was going to love it, and I was not disappointed. From the very first page you find yourself completely immersed in Victorian London; the sights, sounds and smells so well described you feel as if you are there walking alongside Devil as he goes about his daily life. The novel also provides a fascinating insight into the world of Victorian magic and illusion, revealing the amount of work behind the scenes that was necessary to make a show a success. From the guillotine to the famous bullet trick, you'll never look at magic in the same way again.

Devil Wix is a character worth a paragraph of his own. A brilliant showman, he is also witty and loveable, and I found myself willing him to succeed. Haunted by bad memories from his childhood, he is a man determined to prove his worth in the world, and along with his band of misfits he sets out to put on a show like no other.

The story moves at a relatively slow pace, and at just under five hundred pages it's a hefty novel, but one that is well worth taking your time over. The characters are compelling, darkly so at times, and I found myself looking forward to immersing myself in their world for an hour or so each evening. It's been a while since I've been so eager to find out how a book ends, yet at the same time so reluctant to say goodbye to the characters and the world that they inhabit.

Told in third person primarily from the perspectives of Devil and Eliza, it is clear from the start that this is their story, and you get the feeling that had the narrative reflected a different point of view, Carlos' or Jasper's in particular, we as readers would have a completely different perception of Devil. There are moments in the novel that you ought to hate him, yet you instantly forgive him, just as Eliza does.

As the Palmyra blossoms under Devil's ownership, the man himself undergoes a transformation from an opportunist showman into a husband, and eventually a father. I found myself falling more in love with him as the novel progressed - and the ending image of Devil with his son on his shoulders is purposely a million miles away from the Devil that we met on the first page. All of the characters mature and grow as the novel takes place over the span of twelve years, a long time to cover but so expertly managed that it never feels drawn out and all makes perfect sense.

The story is not unlike Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants in its themes of love triangles, misfits and showmanship, but at the same time it is entirely different from anything I have ever read before.The only predictable part of this novel was Devil and Eliza's relationship, but even this doesn't run smoothly, and as events begin to take a darker turn you find yourself wondering which characters will actually make it to the end.

5/5 stars: So much more than a love story, The Illusionists is a story of friendship and fellowship, of magic and illusion, of life and death. It is the most absorbing and atmospheric book that I have read this year by a mile! Read it and you won't be disappointed.


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

 This weeks theme is books that I almost put down but didn't. Whenever I start a book I always feel duty bound to finish it - many books sit half read for months until I decide that they have to be finished and I dedicate an afternoon to read them. A fair few of the books on this list are ones that I had to read for school/college/university - there's nothing like being forced to read a book to put you off it.


1) North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
This had to be top of my list. I ADORE the BBC adaptation of it, and Mr Thornton easily rivals Mr Darcy for the title of my favourite fictional gentleman. But I just couldn't get into the book. I was going through my online library records yesterday (as you do...) and I realised that I had it out of the library for a year before I finally finished it. A YEAR. But I'm so glad I persevered. It was a long time ago but I remember around halfway through the story started to get going a bit. But nothing will ever beat the scene at the train station in the TV adaptation...




2) Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Another set text, this time from second year of uni. I took a module on The Novel From Austen to Hardy, and this was one of only a couple of books that I managed to plough through. I've always preferred the Brontë sisters to Jane Austen - I guess I just prefer novels with a bit of a dark side - but I decided to stick with it. Half of the characters irritated me and I found Fanny Price to be a pretty uninspiring heroine, but again I'm glad that I finished it.



3) Dracula - Bram Stoker
Third year of uni brought a Gothic Literature module, which I took purely on the prospect of studying The Hound of the Baskervilles. Determined as I was to be a good student for my final year I got Dracula out of the library and gave it a go. I knew from the start that it wasn't going to be my taste, but as I persevered I found myself drawn in to the story, and I've never seen any of the films so I had no idea how it was going to end. I'd never read it again but it was worth the effort.






4) Sherlock Holmes and the Angel of the Opera - Sam Siciliano
Sherlock Holmes meets the Phantom of the Opera. Sounds amazing right? That's what I thought too.. Admittedly it does get marginally better towards the end, and I was interested to see how the story would pan out, but it was definitely my love for the original characters that kept me reading. (My review)






5) Park Lane - Frances Osbourne
Billed as a sort of London based Downton Abbey, it turned out to be nothing of the sort. Intertwining the stories of a bored London socialite turned suffragette and her maid, the narrative style was just weird. The story itself was interesting enough so I kept reading, but the ending was a bit of a let-down too. (My review)






6) A Hollywood Ending - Robyn Sisman
This was a novel of two halves for me, hated the first half and loved the second. If rom-com style books are your thing then it's worth persevering. (My review)







7) One Day - David Nicholls
I picked this up to see what all the hype was about, and I just didn't get it. I found myself getting annoyed at both of the main characters to the point where I wanted to shout at them. And I'm still cross about the ending. Finished it more to be able to say that I'd read it than anything else. (My review)






8) Melting the Snow on Hester Street - Daisy Waugh
Another slow starter. Set in 1920s Hollywood I had high expectations for a glamorous read, but the plot was completely different to what I expected from the blurb. From around chapter 12 it suddenly began to get interesting, so I'm glad I stuck with it. But it was riddled with errors to the point where I'm not sure whether the twist at the end was intentional (if so you'd have to have been paying attention to spot it) or an oversight by the editors. (My review)



That's all I can think of for now, if I think of any more I'll add them in later!

What's on your lists this week?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

May Book Haul

Again I only allowed myself two books from the library today (I renewed five so I've plenty to get through!)

The Silver Linings Playbook - Matthew Quicke

I saw the film adaptation of this last year and loved it, so I'm excited to read the book!
"Imagine that your life is a film directed by God. A romcom, obviously, complete with happy-ever-after ending. Before the credits roll, there will, of course, be tears, tantrums and misunderstandings, but you know you'll get there - and get your girl - in the end.
Welcome to Pat's world.
It's a world of silver linings and true love, but also a world where God makes movies and Kenny G lurks in your attic - and when Pat inadvertently befriends the tragic Tiffany, he begins to question whether or not he might just have got the genre wrong.
For anyone who loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time or Little Miss Sunshine, The Silver Linings Playbook is a novel about love, life and American football... and what happens when the woman you love isn't the woman of your dreams."


The Edge of Never - J.A Redmerski

"Twenty-year-old Camryn has always known that she wants a life less ordinary. But when tragedy strikes,
she boards the next bus leaving town, destination unknown. On a journey of self-discovery, she meets another lost soul, Andrew Parrish, who harbours his own dark secrets...
Andrew shows Cam what it's like to live by your own rules and how good it feels to give in to your deepest, darkest desires. But the dark shadow of Andrew's secret is looming. Will it push them together - or tear them apart forever?"




I also received an e-copy of One Night in Italy by Lucy Diamond  to review via NetGalley (click on the cover to find out more and request it yourself!)









As always, I got a fair few Kindle freebies this month too, but I'm thinking of doing a separate post for them, it's becoming an addiction!

What are you excited to read this week?


Friday, 9 May 2014

Feature and Follow Friday: Which authors would you invite to dinner?


Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read

Although I've been blogging for around six months now (blimey, that's gone fast!), this is my first ever Feature and Follow Friday post. The question this week is 'What living author or authors would you like to have dinner with?' I thought I'd have trouble choosing but two sprung to mind straight away. 

Anthony Horowitz: A favourite author of mine ever since I discovered the Alex Rider series of books as a teenager, Anthony is also a writer on some of my favourite crime dramas: Midsomer Murders, Foyle's War and Agatha Christie's Poirot to name but a few. He has also written a new Sherlock Holmes book, House of Silk which I reviewed here a few months back that I absolutely loved, and is currently working on another one, Moriarty, due out at the end of the year. Safe to say that we'd have plenty to talk about!






My second choice would have to be Elizabeth Chadwick. She writes historical fiction set in the Middle Ages, my absolute favourite era of history. I studied joint History and English at university and I'm not ashamed to say that a lot of my knowledge of that era came from her novels! I can imagine that she'd be fascinating to have a conversation with, particularly for a history nerd like myself!





How about you? Which authors would you invite to your dinner party?



Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Fever (A Songbird Novel) by Melissa Pearl


Today I'm excited to be taking part in the cover reveal for Fever by Melissa Pearl. I really like the cover for this novel, it's simple and effective, and the plot sounds intriguing too. Don't forget to enter the giveaway for your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card and/or a Fever e-book!

Genre: NA Contemporary Romance
Release date: June 15th

Designer: Mae I Design
Ella Simmons does not want to move across the country. But she is, because her boyfriend has persuaded her to join him at UChicago to finish out her college education. Never able to tell him no, she hops on a plane and makes the trek from LA expecting to adjust to life like she's often forced to, but things are not that simple when she hears a luscious voice singing over her shower wall. His deep, sexy tenor makes her weak in the knees, spreading fire through her limbs and making her question everything about her life and relationship.

Can one voice really have that much of an impact?

Cole Reynolds is on his way out. In his final year at UChicago, the only this he wants to do is finish school and get on with this life. But the sweet voice that interrupts his morning shower turns his world upside down. Compelled to find his shower songbird, he begins a search across campus. The only thing to distract him from this goal is his roommate's gorgeous girlfriend who's just arrived from LA - Ella Simmons.
Relationships are put to the ultimate test as future dreams are questioned and friendships are thrown on the line for love.


Excerpt
My voice grew stronger as I sang through the first verse of Cheek to Cheek. Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald sang my favorite version of the song. I was so in love with those two. Probably because my mother was a jazz/swing freak. Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong…they were always filling our house with music. But Ella, she was my mom’s favorite and she’d quickly became mine. The woman had a voice like an angel…the supreme songbird. That’s what Mom used to say.
I ended the verse strong on the high note and was about to dip low for the last line when a deep, masculine voice joined me from the other side of the wall. 
My breath hitched, my heart rate tripling. Man, that was a sexy voice. My insides flooded with heat and it wasn’t because of the shower. I bit my lip, wondering how to respond. My mind was flashing with images of a naked man beneath his own shower head. What did he look like? If the person matched the voice, he must be built like a greek god. My insides coiled tight as I touched the tiles in front of me.
I’d never had such a physical reaction to someone’s voice before. I mean, yeah David was sexy in his own way, but whoever was on the other side of this wall was making my knees weak.
The man chuckled, a low gruff sound from his throat…at least I think that’s what it was. It was kind of hard to hear through the wall, but then he started singing again and it was crystal clear. 
He finished the next line.
He paused.
Waiting.
For me.

Pressing my lips together, I blinked a couple of times and then grinned. 


About the Author

Melissa Pearl was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but has spent much of her life abroad, living in countries such as Jordan, Cyprus and Pakistan... not to mention a nine month road trip around North America with her husband. "Best. Year. Ever!!" She now lives in China with her husband and two sons. She is a trained elementary teacher, but writing is her passion. Since becoming a full time mother she has had the opportunity to pursue this dream and her debut novel hit the internet in November 2011. Since then she has continued to produce a steady stream of books. Recently she signed with Evatopia Press and her first Evatopia book is coming out in February 2014 - True Colors, The Masks Series #1. She is very excited to be trying out new things this year while continuing to publish under her own name as well. She has six books planned for 2014 and is excited about writing each and every one of them.
"I am passionate about writing. It stirs a fire in my soul that I never knew I had. I want to be the best writer I can possibly be and transport my readers into another world where they can laugh, cry and fall in love."


Giveaway: Click on the picture below to enter!





Thursday, 8 May 2014

FREE Online Course: Literature of the English Country House

For those of you who haven't heard of FutureLearn, it is essentially a free open university: universities from all over the UK run courses for learners all over the world, for free!

I've taken a few courses with FutureLearn over the past few months, and today came across another exciting one: Literature of the English Country House. This is how FutureLearn describe the course:

"A journey through the literature of English country houses from the time of Thomas More to Oscar Wilde.
On this course, we’ll be introducing you to literature from 450 years of English country-house history and we’ll be seeing together how that literature shapes our understanding of country houses. We’ll be joined on the way by guest experts from the University of Sheffield School of English and tapping into their specialist knowledge.
We’re going to travel on a historical journey through literature, visiting notable country houses around Yorkshire and Derbyshire. You’ll gain insight into life in these country houses and will learn about some common misconceptions. You will see the magnificent seventeenth-century wall paintings at Bolsover Castle, often held to be the best of their kind in England. You will visit Haddon Hall, a house frozen in the time of William Shakespeare and an inspiration for the great Gothic novelist, Ann Radcliffe.
We’ll be using a wide range of texts spanning the history of literature from Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ to Oscar Wilde’s ‘Canterville Ghost’. Along the way we will examine sections from a play by Shakespeare, poetry by Margaret Cavendish, and brief passages from novels by Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. We will even look at fiction by a country house resident Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
During this course you’ll learn to analyse literature using a technique called ‘close reading’. It will help you to make your own connections between country-house literature and its historical backgrounds."

If this sounds like your thing then give it a go. There's no obligation to finish the course, and I'm weeks behind on the other courses that I'm taking so don't worry if you have a busy schedule.

Literature of the English Country House starts on June 2nd. Click here to sign up and take the course with me!


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Review: How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days by Kate McKinley

Lucas Alexander, the ninth Duke of Arlington, is a man who is used to getting his own way. So when he decides he wants to marry Miss Pippa Welby, the beautiful and spirited daughter of a wealthy tradesman, he expects his proposal to be gratefully accepted. But Pippa, who has been subject to snobbery from the upper classes her whole life, has no intention of marrying into their society, least of all to the man she believes snubbed her at a ball last year. The final straw comes when Lucas smugly presents her with an invitation to her own engagement ball in ten days time, and the stage is set for a battle of wits and wills as Pippa tries to lose the duke, and not her heart.

I love to indulge in a good old historical romance from time to time, particularly when the other books I'm reading are heavy going, and this novel is perfect for a light read. I liked how independent and determined Pippa was; it's refreshing to see that in a heroine from this era. Lucas is everything you'd expect of a playboy Duke, tall, dark and wickedly handsome. It is clear from the start exactly how the story is going to end, but this doesn't make it any less enjoyable. The chemistry between the two characters is apparent from the moment they meet, and only increases as they try to outwit each other. I also liked how Lucas, who is stereotypically brooding, gradually reveals his softer side as he finds himself falling for Pippa. The adorable dog was a nice touch too! There's a slight cliffhanger at the end to encourage you to read the next book in the series but don't let that put you off reading it; Pippa and Lucas' story is neatly wrapped up before it ends.

4/5 stars: Perfect for a light bedtime read,  I would definitely recommend How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days to anyone who enjoys historical romance novels.

I was kindly given an e-copy of this book by the author in exchange for a review.


Top Ten Tuesday: Covers I'd Frame as Pieces of Art

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This weeks theme is really interesting: covers that I'd frame as pieces of art. I'm the first to admit that I'm guilty of judging a book by its cover, before even reading the blurb - I think sometimes a nice cover even makes me enjoy the book more somehow. For me to want to frame a book cover, it not only has to be gorgeous, but the book also has to mean something to me. From childhood favourites to classics and newly discovered gems, I found it difficult to choose, but without further ado here are my top ten:

1) Peter Pan - J.M Barrie. There's obviously been hundreds of different covers to this children's classic, but these are two of my favourites:



2) Lords of the White Castle/The Champion - Elizabeth Chadwick. I LOVE all of Chadwick's covers in this style, and I hope to collect them all one day, but these are my two favourites:



3) The Faraway Tree books - Enid Blyton. I already had a copy of The Magic Faraway Tree from a book sale, but as soon as I saw the covers on this collection I knew I had to have them. Gorgeous.



4) The Adventures of Robin Hood - Roger Lancelyn Green. Like the second Peter Pan cover, this is another of the Puffin Classics cover collection. 


5) Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen. I first discovered this Pulp! The Classics cover via Girl with her Head in a Book, and it really made me smile. 




6) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll. All of the Penguin Clothbound Classics are gorgeous, but this one has to be my favourite.



...and I suppose that technically is ten covers so I'd better stop there! What's on your lists this week?