Thursday, 29 October 2015

Review: The Boy in the Bookshop, Katey Lovell






Boy in the Bookshop

The Boy in the Bookshop is the first short story released as part of the new Meet Cute series by Katey Lovell. 


It's a short story perfect to read on a lunch break or when you have a few minutes to yourself. I must admit, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it at first, as I'm not a big fan of short stories... they usually leave me wanting more. However, The Boy in the Bookshop is absolutely delightful, a short yet perfectly formed story about two people meeting for the first time. 


We are introduced to the focus of the story, Jade, who works in a bookshop. Firstly I'll just point out that I can't begin to explain how much I loved this setting... she's surrounded by beautiful books all day, and then meets a very attractive boy there too... what more could you want?

Katey Lovell skillfully covers all the information you'd want to know in such a short space of time. I didn't need to know any more, she absorbs you into Jade's world in the bookshop immediately and we get to know more about her. It's clear Jade is a complex character; her outward demeanor is loud and brash to match her bright fusia hair and many piercings and tattoos, but in reality she is quiet and shy and a little lost. 

When a very handsome man walks into the shop, Jade is immediately drawn to him. There's a magical sparkle between the two of them which is a delight to read, and the chemistry between the two of them was electric-  I loved seeing the story unfold and them eventually interact with each other. 

The Boy in the Bookshop is the perfect story to read when you have a quick ten minutes to spare. It's a lovely, romantic story filled with books, handsome men and attraction..... what more could you want? I must admit it has left me wanting more, I'd love to see what happens between Jade and the mystery man from the bookshop, but this short story was just enough to bring a smile to my face. An absolutely wonderful debut from Katey Lovell, I can't wait for the rest of the series!




Links: 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Bookouture Xmas: One Wish in Manhattan, Mandy Baggot

Blurb: 

"Christmas: it’s the most wonderful time of the year … to fall in love

The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish … to start over.

With her daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for adventure. But there’s more to New York than twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has her own Christmas wish – to find her real dad.

While Hayley tries to fulfil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked.

Can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might come true – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever?

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they realise life isn’t just about filling the minutes … it’s about making every moment count."




I was first introduced to Mandy Baggot by reading Truly, Madly, Greekly over the Summer (you can read my review here). When I heard she had a Christmas story coming out, I couldn't wait to get my eager mitts on it, as I knew she would write something magical and festive. 

The story is told in a split viewpoint from the two main characters. The first is Hayley, who is taking her young Daughter Angel to New York for Christmas. Staying with her brother Daniel, she has kept the real reason behind the visit a secret... she wants to find Angel's dad, a man she had a one night stand with in New York ten years ago. We also follow billionaire New York business man Oliver Drummond, who is struggling with his health issues and worried they will result in a fatal heart attack like they did for his brother and Dad, who he is still grieving for. The worry is having an effect on the technology business he inherited from his father, and he struggles to lead the business to success. 

Firstly I loved the split viewpoint of the story. I always like it when you see things from both a man and woman's point of view, as the difference in thoughts is always really interesting. For the start of the story Hayley and Oliver are separate, but you just know that at some point they will cross paths and I was eager to find out what would happen and how they would connect (or not). Once they did, I liked that we got a sense of both their feelings of each other. 

Mandy has done an excellent at creating brilliant, likable characters that you really engage with from the beginning of the story. Oliver is a pretty complex character, portrayed by his colleagues as a ruthless businessman, caring only about profit and not much else. However when you delve into his feelings, you realise it's because he's still reeling from the loss of his brother and dad and is worried that he will be next to have a fatal heart attack. He acts like he has a death sentence and is constantly worried, partying away his troubles and doing anything he can to bury his fears. I actually warmed to him early on, knowing that deep down he was a lonely, confused man who had a big burden to bare. Hayley is also a great character- genuinely caring and funny. As well as trying to find Angel's father, she is worrying about money to support her and Angel as before their trip she quits her job at a dry cleaners. It's obvious from the start that she's really talented at fashion and design, and I was willing her on to follow her dreams and use her talents to create a life for her and Angel. Angel is a clever, loud girl who had me in stitches. She's a walking tour guide of facts, which she never keeps to herself and often shares loudly. 


One of my favourite aspects of the story was Hayley and Angels relationship, they get on so well and have a lovely bond. I also found Hayley and Oliver's interactions hilarious, the two of them seem to get on well and so easily, I loved watching their story unfold. 

Now, lets move on the the brilliant location of this book. As you can guess from the title, the story is set in New York (Manhattan), which creates a wintry, festive setting. There was so much attention to detail that I genuinely felt like I was there... Mandy well and truly transported me to the snowy streets of New York. 

The story isn't overly Christmassy, but does have that sparkle due to being set over the festive period. The location and time of year means there's elements of Christmas dotted throughout the story (roasted chestnuts, ice skating etc) but it wasn't so festive that I felt silly reading this in October, it was just the right amount and actually felt more wintery that Christmassy. 

Overall One Wish In Manhattan is a sparkly, festive story filled with family, friendship and romance.... the perfect story to curl up with during Christmas time. Mandy Baggot has done it again, creating an absorbing, lovely read that I thoroughly enjoyed. One of the main highlights? That despite being a festive read, it also delves into quite difficult and uneasy topics, while still maintaining that magical sparkle Mandy is skilled at creating.

*A big thank you to the publishers, Bookouture, for an advance copy of the story in exchange for an honest review. 

Links:

 

Monday, 26 October 2015

Blog Tour: The Broken Hearts Book Club, Lynsey James


Blurb: 

"Secrets never stay buried for long…

Lucy Harper has always been good at one thing: running from her past. But when her beloved Nana Lily passes away she has no choice except to return to the one place in the world she most wants to avoid…
Luna Bay hasn't changed much in the eight years she has spent in London. The little Yorkshire village is still just as beautiful, but the new pub landlord is a gorgeous addition to the scenery!
Lucy only intended to stay for a day, yet when she discovers that Nana Lily has not only left her a cottage but also 'The Broken Hearts Book Club', Lucy is intrigued. Her Nana never have mentioned the club and Lucy can't wait to get started, but walking into her first meeting she is more aware than ever that her past is finally catching up with her.

One way or another, Lucy must finally face the past she left behind – or spend the rest of her life on the run…" 



After reading Lynsey James' fantastic debut novel, Just The Way You Are (read my full review here) she was well and truly on my radar as one to watch, and when I read the blurb (and saw the beeeautiful cover) for The Broken Hearts Book Club, I just knew I would love her latest story.


It's safe to say I wasn't disappointed, this is a heart-warming, fun read full of friendship, love and mystery.


The story follows Lucy Harper, who is back visiting her hometown, Luna Bay, following the death of her Nana. What was supposed to be a quick visit back for a funeral extends to a potentially permanent move, when she learns her Nana Lily asked for her to inherit her beautiful cottage, on the proviso she would take over The Broken Hearts Book Club in her place. At first Lucy is torn whether to stay, but eventually the prospect of chairing the book club means that she decides to stay. I was so relieved she did, as Luna Bay is a brilliant sounding place, and I loved watching her settle back into her hometown. 

Settling back into life in Luna Bay isn't as easy as she thought though, as Lucy is dealing with the aftermath of a massive secret, that is referenced throughout the story. As a reader, the secret is shrouded with mystery until fairly late on in the story, we only really know it involves an accident involving her old best friend. Occasionally I wanted to scream at Lucy to let us know what was going on, but really it was a great aspect to the story as it created suspense and a whole load of intrigue, especially when some residents of the village (and the book club) are downright nasty to Lucy, not wanting her to stay in Luna Bay because of her past, and the accident.  


I loved watching Lucy immerse herself into the book club and start helping some of the members through their grief. Some of her suggestions do backfire, and you really feel for her as you know she is just trying to help. The book club really shows Lucy's kind hearted nature and I loved seeing her create some firm friendships that I thought were lovely.

One of the strongest points of Lynsey's writing style is her ability to create realistic dialogue. Seriously, it was like I was having a conversation with my friends most of the time. It's chatty and believable and really showcases the different personalities running through this book.

I also loved the romance element to the story. Lucy meets Jake, the local barman at the pub and there is an obvious connection from the offset. Although he's a bit of a grumpy bugger I was rooting for them to get together and be happy, as it was obvious from the offset they had a spark and connection. Jake, like Lucy, is also hiding a big secret, which explains his stressed-out, grumpy nature and provides some brilliant elements to the story. (I can't say too much or it'd ruin it!) 

The Lonely Hearts Book Club is a brilliantly written, funny read brimming with down-to-earth characters, difficult situations and strong friendships. It's a feel good, charming 
read that will leave a big smile on your face. I can't wait for more from Lynsey, she is an absolute gem. 

*A big thank you to the publishers of this book, UK Carina, for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. 


Links: 

Sunday, 25 October 2015

A day out at Chester Zoo


I've always heard lots of good things about Chester Zoo but have never been, so when my OH's birthday came round we decided to have a few days away and to explore Chester Zoo as well as chester. We drove 2 hours from Leeds to Chester and arrived at the zoo around 11am, paying £20 per adult ticket. I know this sounds, and is, pretty pricey but trust me... it's SO worth it. I'm a big fan of zoos and have been to quite a few now, but this is probably one of my favourites... it's so good.


The zoo is huge, with loads of different sections with plenty of animals. The animals have plenty of space to roam and are in an environment suited to their needs, which meant I felt comfortable wandering around and looking at them. I do love going to zoo's and seeing animals, so long as they are well looked after, which these animals certainly are.

My favourites to see were the red pandas and bush dogs as they were so small and cute. Also the lion was prowling up and down really close to the fence - I've never been so close to one. His coat was thick and glossy and he looked in great condition, which was nice to see. My OH is obsessed with giraffes (he has been known to claim he has seen 10% of the worlds giraffes... yeah right!) and he was really happy to see loads of giraffes in a huge enclosure, including a couple of babies who were really cute and a little wobbly on their skinny legs.


We grabbed a quick late lunch from the zoo restaurant after a few hours looking at animals. We got two drinks and a large pizza for £14, which isn't overly cheap but not as expensive as I thought it would be. If you wanted to do it cheaper, you could take a picnic as there's loads of designated picnic areas dotted around the park.

After lunch (which was pretty tasty), we headed over to a section of the zoo called The Islands, which is designed to look like six South East Asian islands. There were loads of really cool props to make you feel like you were in the islands and there was a boat ride. I'd seen the boats going round a make-shift river and it looked fun, so we had a go. I'm not going to lie, it was slightly disappointing. You couldn't see any animals from the boat and there wasn't a whole lot to see, so it seemed like a really long ride with not much to do. That's the only part of the zoo I didn't enjoy and wouldn't really recommend.


Overall, we had a brilliant day out at Chester Zoo. Although it was quite a pricey day, it was so worth it. We spent about five hours there as there was so much to see and do, and there were loads of different, well looked after animals. If you're looking for something to do on a weekend or on a holiday then this is a great day out, whether you have children to entertain or not!


Have you been to Chester Zoo? What was your favourite part about it? Let me know in the comments below :) L xx






Friday, 23 October 2015

Bookouture Xmas: Jenny Hale Q&A

As part of Bookouture Xmas, I'm delighted to welcome Jenny Hale to the blog to chat books, writing and Christmas. 
So grab a cuppa, put on some Christmas music and enjoy! 

1. Hi Jenny, a big welcome to Little Northern Soul! Can you tell us a little about your Christmas novel, Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses?
Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is about single mother Abbey Fuller. She loves her family more than anything, but she’s had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold to raise her son Max. As a favor for a friend, she takes an interior design job where she meets Nick Sinclair. He needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble… And so begins a little Christmas magic!



2. What was your favourite thing about writing a Christmas story?
Christmas is about family, love, and showing people we care about them—all the things that I like to put in my novels. There’s something so cozy about it, so romantic, that Christmas just fits for the type of story I like to write. It’s my favorite season.


3. How do you keep motivated to write a Christmas story when it's not Christmas time?
I don’t have any problem keeping motivated. Once I’m in my head, creating a story, the whole world outside fades away. I might put on Christmas music, but usually, I don’t need a thing.


4. In keeping with the Christmassy theme, how do you spend the festive season?
I spend it with my husband and my two boys. We make cookies for Santa and get up very early in the morning to find his loot. The rest of the day is spent lounging around the house.


5. You have such a wide range of brilliant stories - do you have a favourite?
My favorite used to be Love Me for Me. But that was until I wrote Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses. With this book, once I figured out who the characters were, I really connected with them and I could be a little more playful. I really enjoyed writing Nick and Abbey.


6. What was your journey to publication like? Any tips for aspiring authors?
I submitted stateside for a couple of years and I kept getting really good feedback so I continued to submit. I wondered what kind of feedback I’d get from the UK, so I submitted to Bookouture. I got a contract, and the rest is history.


7. Looking at your Twitter feed its clear you're busy - juggling a job, writing and raising a family! How do you find the time to write? Do you have a routine?
I don’t have a routine! (Eek!) Every day is different. I set a target of writing 1,000 words a day (or editing 4,000) and then it’s a mad scramble to reach that target. I rarely miss my goal.


8. When you're not busy doing all the above, how do you unwind and relax?
Writing is how I relax! (or reading) My favorite times are when the house is completely silent and I’m all by myself. The minute that happens (which is rare), I literally run for my computer.


9. What does it feel like to be a published author?
Surreal. I think the best way to capture the feeling is the thought that there’s a person somewhere, across the ocean from me, in another language, reading the words that were in my head, that I wrote while getting snack for my kids and doing laundry.


10. Do you have any plans for the next novel? Can you share anything about it?
It’s definitely at the beach—a summer book. I’m throwing around ideas at the moment. One idea has to do with a giant inn right on the water and sailboats…

That sounds fantastic, I can't wait to hear more! Thanks for coming on to the blog, Jenny. 



Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses is out now

Blurb:
An uplifting, beautiful story about never letting go of your dreams, the special magic of a family Christmas… and the rush of falling in love under the mistletoe. 

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be? 

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas. 

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble… 
With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?

Monday, 19 October 2015

Laura's Library Loans #1


Hi everyone and welcome to a new feature! I decided to start 'Laura's Library Loans', which will show you any books I've borrowed from the library, and give a short, mini-review of each. 

I've just joined the Leeds library and I forgot just how special it was to be part of. I get so overwhelmed each time I go with the amazing books on offer... all for free! Granted, it does get to me when I have to give them back, especially if it's a book I've really enjoyed, but it means I can indulge in all kinds of different books and authors with less of the guilt.

This month I picked up The Year I Met You by Cecilia Ahern and Bad Sisters by Rebecca Chance. My mini-reviews of these books are below.


The Year I Met You, Cecilia Ahern
My rating: 4/5

This story explores the unusual relationship between 2 very different people. The main character and narrator of the story is Jasmine, a workaholic who is forced to take 'gardening leave' for a year, meaning she is essentially paid to stay at home. Now for me, this sounds like the dream scenario, but not for her. She feels like a prisoner and aches to be back at work. While at home, she finds herself becoming more fixated on her neigbour, Matt, an alcoholic radio presenter with a whole host of issues. She's not impressed by his sexist, rude and offensive radio programme for personal reasons, which filters into her home life. Throughout the story you see the two start to speak, converse and slightly connect. I enjoyed watching their relationship unfold and as usual Cecilia Ahern has a real knack for detail, character feelings and emotions, and creating an intriguing storyline. I don't think this was my favourite Cecilia Ahern book, but it is really enjoyable and I'm so glad I've finally read it.




Bad Sisters, Rebecca Chance
My rating: 5/5

After reading Mile High I fell for Rebecca Chance's brilliant writing style. I'm not usually a big fan of 'bonk-busters', but these are written in a non-cringey way. Bad sisters centres around 3 sisters who have grown apart following a traumatic and difficult childhood. All the girls are relatively successful and famous, and it explores their careers, relationships and their family dynamic. I particularly enjoyed watching their relationship develop and unfold. My favourite character was Deeley, the youngest sister who returns from LA and is shocked her other sisters aren't welcoming her with open arms. She is young and naive but has a warm heart, and I liked seeing her story unfold. Although I was a little surprised by the ending (I don't want to give too much away but it didn't quite unfold how I thought it would) I was absolutely immersed by this story and loved reading it.


So there you have it, my latest library reads. Keep an eye out for this feature again soon! Also, let me know in the comments below what books you've been renting lately and if you have any recommendations! :)
L xxx











Sunday, 18 October 2015

Author interview: Liz Tipping


Today I'm delighted to invite Liz Tipping, author of Five Go Glamping to the blog for an interview! I read Five Go Glamping last month and it is a fun, quirky read - you can read my review here


So, without any more delay, welcome Liz! :) 




1. Hi Liz & welcome to Little Northern Soul! Your novel Five Go Glamping was published a few weeks ago by UK Carina. Can you tell us a little bit about it? 


Thank you for having me! It’s lovely to be here. Five Go Glamping is a romantic comedy. Our heroine, Fiona, is stuck in a bit of a rut career wise and romantically and she’s worried she’s going to end up a mad cat lady. When Juliet, the Wicked Witch of The West Midlands arrives on the scene at work, things get worse so Fiona and her friends think a glamping trip is just the thing they need to get away from it all. But it’s not the relaxing holiday they think it’s going to be!


2. Where did you get the idea for the story come from?

I wanted to write a book that had all the sense of adventure of my favourite children’s books but with a chick-lit spin on it. The title just popped into my head one day and I started writing! Plus, I had always wanted to go glamping and at that point hadn’t been, so I thought it would be fun to write about it!

3. I absolutely loved Five Go Glamping and a big part of that was because of the variety of different characters, who were all brilliant in their own right. Do you have a favourite?

I’m so happy you enjoyed it! I love all the characters in different ways. I can relate to Fiona not being happy in her office and feeling unable to follow her dreams and I think lots of people feel like that. Sinead is also a favourite as she’s one of those unintentionally funny friends that a few of us will know! I loved writing about Brian too, he’s one of my favourite characters in the book, even though he is canine and doesn’t say much!

4. When it comes to writing, do you like to plan things out or do you just get stuck in?

When I first started writing Glamping, I just got stuck in, but found myself having to stop and re-plan. With the second book, I planned it all out scene by scene and while it changed as it went along, I think planning is best for me. Knowing what’s about to happen makes me excited to write it!

5. What was your journey to publication like?
It was a bit odd, I think! I hadn’t written any fiction since I had left school twenty years ago and I just started writing one day. Once I had a few thousand words, I uploaded it onto the authonomy website which has recently closed and I was approached by an editor. But because she had a Hotmail address and I couldn’t believe an actual real editor would be interested in it, for realses, I thought it was someone trying to flog me editing services!

After that another couple of editors asked to see the manuscript, so I thought, hang on, I am onto something here. I contacted a few agents and finished the book and sent it off to a few publishers. It was all relatively pain – free and somehow I have managed to escape writing a dreaded synopsis.

6. Any writing tips for aspiring authors?

Try to see any rejections as positive and as a step closer to your goal. Set yourself a target of getting 100 rejections rather than getting a publishing contract- it will motivate you to get the work out there and you may receive some feedback on the way!


7. Do you like camping or would you prefer to go glamping? What’s been the best holiday you’ve ever been on?


I love camping and glamping and I do both. I love a caravan holiday too! I’ve had loads of holidays this year because I turned forty and also because my husband had a heart attack last year and we had to cancel a couple. It was really scary at the time and the holiday we went on when he was well again was my favourite. We went camping in Tenby in Wales, just for a couple of nights. It made me really appreciate us being well and healthy being able to go on holiday! It was while I was there that I heard from my editor at Carina about a publishing deal. I have a friend who teases me about going on so many holidays, but I’m very aware now that life is short and the more holidays, the better, I say!




8. On the topic of holidays, when you’re not busy writing, how do you relax? What do you like to do in your spare time?


As well as the all the holidays, I enjoy photography and love to share pictures I take. I did photography at University and since I started writing, I have an even greater love for taking pictures. Writing a book can feel like a long process and it’s nice to contrast that with something so immediate like photography.


9. What’s been the best thing about being a published author?

The best thing about writing has been all the lovely people I have met. Writers, bloggers and tweeters especially. It’s been so fun to get together with people who love stories, write stories and write about stories. It’s just fun to be in the world of books. I love taking part in features on book blogs- it’s such a nice collaborative thing to do.


10. Finally, do you have plans for a next book? Are you able to share anything about it?

I do and I’m quite excited about it! It’s a book which is very influenced by 80s teen movies but has a contemporary setting. It’s really funny ( if I do say so myself!) and really romantic and I’m hoping to be able to share more about it soon!


Ooh that sounds brilliant, I can't wait to hear more about it! Thanks for coming on Little Northern Soul, Liz, it's been great chatting to you :) 


LINKS:


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

My writing process - guest post by Rhianne Williams

Today I'm delighted to welcome the lovely Rhianne to Little Northern Soul. Rhianne is a fellow book blogger at www.littlenovelist.com and is also in the process of writing her first book. I invited her to the blog to talk about her writing process. Hope you enjoy!



Being a writer was never my childhood dream, that came about when I turned 16. Before then I was all about anthropology and forensic science (I know right?!) and then one day, while in college studying forensics, my friend asked me if I wanted to do some writing. I had expressed my opinion on how being an author would be awesome but never in a million years did I think I'd fall helplessly head over heels in love with words. 

The manuscript for the book I was writing with said friend is still in the works, if not on hold while I pursue my other dreams. I'm currently redoing my blog - I've recently got my own url (get me with the big girl pants) and started using squarespace. You'll have to wait a couple more months for that though. However that's not what I'm here to talk about today. 


Last November I participated in NaNoWriMo or national novel writing month for those who don't know. I surpirised myself by writing 31,000 words in two weeks however that all went down hill once I started my 8-6 job in January. Since January (I didn't write through December) I've managed to write only 10,000 words and honestly this isn't good enough for me. 

With this being my debut novel I feel that I should have written it already and be on edits by now, at least compared to other writers I should be. But then I read this post by Rae and it made me realise that there is no time limit on writing. You don't have to write 95,000 words in a year, especially if you're working full time and trying to build a side hustle business as well as writing a novel. I'm a super star right? 

I'm plodding along through the 40,000 and given myself a small daily word count to hopefully get my first draft finished by January 2016. That's my aim and I'm going to stick to it. 300 words a day isn't a lot and if I really sit and try I can do that in an hour. An hour of my day is hardly a substantial amount and should be fairly easy to complete (so she says). 

Writing a book is the hardest thing I have ever done, but also the most rewarding. I love the feeling I get when I aim to write 300 words a day and end up writing 1500, this happened to be recently and it’s such a good feeling. The feeling of achievement can happen with small goals and big goals while you go through the writing process. If you take anything away from this post take this: There is no time limit on writing and having something down is better than nothing. 100 words is better than 0 words, and don’t beat yourself up about it. As my boyfriend always says, “it takes as long as it takes."

Now for the juicy bits you're all really only here to read! My novel is titled The Collective: Pirate Beginnings and it's about two girls from very different backgrounds being thrown together and going back in time. One forced to go and the other to save her new found friend. There will be tales of love, friendship and magical artefacts along with loyalty and adventure. I'm currently working on a blurb for this book so pop over to my page and sign up for the updates if this sounds like something you would like to read. 



Sunday, 11 October 2015

Book Review: A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson


The gift of a lifetime?

Anna Browne is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life. Her day job as a receptionist in bustling London isn't exactly her dream, yet she has everything she wants. 

But someone thinks Anna Browne deserves more . . .

When a parcel addressed to Anna Browne arrives, she has no idea who has sent it. Inside she finds a beautiful gift - one that is designed to be seen. And so begins a series of incredible deliveries, each one bringing Anna further out of the shadows and encouraging her to become the woman she was destined to be. As Anna grows in confidence, others begin to notice her - and her life starts to change.

But who is sending the mysterious gifts, and why?




So anyone that's a regular reader of Little Northern Soul knows I'm a HUGE fan of Miranda Dickinson's... she's up there with some of my favourite authors. On the day A Parcel for Anna Browne was released I raced to the shops to get my mitts on a copy. I think I need to mention here that I absolutely adore this cover, It's my favourite of hers so far and looks absolutely beautiful on my bookshelf.

It's always a concern with my favourite authors that their latest book isn't going to live up to expectation or be as good as the previous one. A Parcel For Anna Browne is also Miranda Dickinson's first novel for her new publishing house, Pan MacMillan (her previous novels were published under Avon) I felt those stakes were even higher. However, if anything, the change has been good for Miranda, A Parcel for Anna Browne is a fantastic story that I thoroughly enjoyed, and will be recommending to anyone that will listen for the forseeable future. This story firmly reminds you why Miranda is a bestseller and a firm favourite, not just for me, but for many people across the country, if not the world. (wow, that was fairly dramatic wasn't it!?)

The concept for this story is wonderful, really unique and different. It follows Anna, a woman who lives in London and is pretty happy with her life. She has a home she loves, a job she enjoys and a circle of friends. One day, a parcel arrives for her, unannounced. The mysterious package contains a gift of a beautiful silk scarf. Wearing the scarf increases her confidence, and she begins to wonder who is behind the parcels. More and more parcels arrive, each containing beautiful gifts that boost Anna's confidence and make her reflect on her life... was she as content and happy as she thought?

What I loved about this story is the journey you go on with Anna. She is a lovely, down-to-earth character that you immediately warm to. Although her life is fine, the parcels make her want more, to become ambitious and do what makes her happy. I loved that, seeing her grow and develop and strive for more. I thought it was an unusual element that the changes within her were down to the parcels and the beautiful gifts that were nestled between the wrapping. 

Writing strong, relatable characters is definitely one of Miranda Dickinson's strong points, and A Parcel For Anna Browne is brimming with them. I loved her work colleagues and the team behind the reception desk, who were funny and showed off Anna's kind and friendly personality. My favourite character was her best friend Jonah, who's a real sweetheart. He had such a sparkle to him and I could see why him and Anna were such good friends. 

Then there's Ben, the journalist who Anna gets to know through work shadowing. I didn't warm to him as much as I did Jonah, although it was obvious he was handsome and charming, too. I could see why Anna's interest was peaked and I enjoyed watching the two of them interact. 

The story is told mainly through Anna's viewpoint, although some chapters start from a different character's view-point and then come back round to Anna. I liked this change, as it gives a more detailed insight into some of the other characters and always links to the situation unfolding within that chapter. It's done in such a way that it adds another layer of delight to the story and isn't distracting or confusing.

This story is fantastic, really magical and gripping. To me, it wasn't obvious who the sender was, which had me hooked. I kept guessing but then changing my mind as the story progressed and I never really settled on a culprit at all. I was shocked by the reveal but not disappointed, I felt it was a fitting end to such a wonderful story. 

This is Miranda Dickinson's first book with Pan MacMillan and it certainly has been an exciting change. Her writing style is impeccable as usual, creating engaging characters, 'I want to go there now' locations and a unique storyline that is entertaining and fun. If I had to sum up A Parcel For Anna Browne in one word? Magical. 

I absolutely loved it and can't wait for more!

Links: 
Buy the book (and I certainly would recommend you do!) 
Website
Twitter
Facebook
YouTube

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Blog Tour: Evanthia's Gift by Effie Kammenou




1. Hi Effie, welcome to the blog! Evanthia's Gift is your debut novel. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Evanthia’s Gift is a multigenerational love story and family saga rooted in Greek heritage. The story spans fifty years, with some flashbacks dating back to World War II. More than a simple love story, Evanthia’s Gift proves the power of family, tradition, and friendship, as well as everlasting love in all of its forms.

2. Where did you get the inspiration to write this story?

The inspiration to write this story came from a couple of sources, but it was my mother’s passing that put me on the path to writing in the first place. In 2012 my mother passed away after battling pancreatic cancer for two and a half years. I was so busy being the strong older sister, the compassionate mother and aunt, and a supportive daughter to my grieving father. I never really let myself crack. One night I sat at the computer and just started writing. It was my way of working through my grief. I’d had a story in my head for a long time, one I kept developing over the years. I took that story and combined it with a story inspired by my mother’s life and wrote a saga. The novel is a work of fiction, but there are elements in it that are true. Personality traits, events and circumstances may be recognizable to all that knew my mother, but the story is in no way her biography. There were some difficult chapters where I sobbed every time I wrote, rewrote, or edited them. But I honored her, and our Greek heritage that she was so proud of.

3. Did you plan it out before writing, or do you just get stuck in and see what happens?

I knew the basic story, and how I wanted it to end, but when I started writing, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get from point A to point B. I began by giving my characters life – a timeline, character traits and a history. As I began to write the ideas just seem to come to me. I would say that I got sucked in and it took on a life of its own. The characters are so real to me that I feel as though they are an extension of me – part of my family or circle of friends.

4. What does your average writing day look like?
There is no such thing as an average writing day for me. I hold down a job during the day. Fortunately, it’s only part time, and I have two days off during the week in addition to Sundays. Yet, that still seems to interfere with my writing time. I generally do not start writing until after dinner, preferably after everyone has gone to bed. I stay up very late into the night writing. sometimes until 2 am. If I can, I plant myself in front of the computer for one of my days off for a full day when I have the house to myself. I have the ability to stay focused for hours, and there never seems to be enough time in a day.

5. What was your journey to publication like? 
Any tips for other aspiring authors?

This was my first experience, so the learning curve was huge. Thankfully, I had a couple of author friends who guided me every step of the way. Originally, I got my story down on paper and thought, ‘That’s it! I’ve got a good story here.’ Boy, was I ever naive. I had to learn to polish, trim and edit. I got beta readers, a critique partner, and a professional editor. I wrote draft after draft, until it was where it needed to be, some of the words painful for me to delete. But I took the advice of the professional who knew more than I did, and the result was richer for it. My tip for aspiring authors is to take all the above steps. DO NOT try to take short cuts. Do it right. Hire the right people to help you.

6. Are you a bookworm? Who are some of your favorite authors?

I’m not really into labels, but I have always been thought of as more the social butterfly type, not a typical stereotype for authors. I usually have one book that I am listening to in my car on audio and another that I am reading. I have a theater background and studied all the classic playwrights from ancient Greece to modern day, but Shakespeare still holds my heart. As for fiction, I love the classics there as well. Jane Austen and John Steinbeck are two of may favourites. My I love my lighter women’s fiction and romances. Nora Roberts, Jude Deveraux, Sophie Kinsilla, Adriana Trigiani, and Sylvia Day are among the novelists I read most often. But the one that has captured my attention the most is Sylvain Reynard who wrote the Gabriel series. His use of language is breathtaking, and he keeps me intrigued with his knowledge of literature, religion, art, history, and culture.

7. What do you like to do to relax, when you're not busy writing?

I don’t think relax is in my vocabulary. I love to cook and entertain. When I entertain guests at my home, they know everything will be cooked from scratch. It could take me days or up to a week to prepare. I write a food blog that not only shares my recipes, but usually a story or tradition that goes along with the food. When reading Evanthia’s Gift, you will notice recipes tucked between some of the chapters. These recipes have a direct link to the story line.I like to dance and play tennis, although I am the weak link on the court when playing with my family. In the summer, I spend my days off venturing out East on Long Island, visiting the wineries or lunching and shopping in one of the Hampton towns. On the rare occasion that I get to do absolutely nothing, I like to sit by the pool with a good book and relax with my husband and two daughters.
Thanks so much for coming onto Little Northern Soul, Effie! 


Blurb:


In the year 1956, Anastacia Fotopoulos finds herself pregnant and betrayed, fleeing from a bad marriage. With the love and support of her dear friends Stavros and Soula Papadakis, Ana is able to face the challenges of single motherhood. Left with emotional wounds, she resists her growing affection for Alexandros Giannakos, an old acquaintance. But his persistence and unconditional love for Ana and her child is eventually rewarded and his love is returned. In a misguided, but well-intentioned effort to protect the ones they love, both Ana and Alex keep secrets - ones that could threaten the delicate balance of their family.



The story continues in the 1970’s as Dean and Demi Papadakis, and Sophia Giannakos attempt to negotiate between two cultures. Now Greek-American teenagers, Sophia and Dean,
who have shared a special connection since childhood, become lovers. Sophia is shattered when Dean rebels against the pressure his father places on him to uphold his Greek heritage and hides his feelings for her. When he pulls away from his family, culture and ultimately his love for her, Sophia is left with no choice but to find a life different from the one she’d hoped for.


EVANTHIA’S GIFT is a multigenerational love story spanning fifty years and crossing two continents, chronicling the lives that unify two families.



Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Cover reveal: The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin



 Today I'm delighted to show you guys the BEAUTIFUL cover of Rebecca Raisin's 'The Little Bookshop on the Seine'. As usual it's a stunning cover and I'm sure it will be a brilliant novel... I can't wait to read it as this new series sounds brilliant. So, without any more delay, here is the cover!



Isn't it fantastic?! Eek!


Blurb: 

Le Vie En Rose
Bookshop owner Sarah Smith has been offered the opportunity to exchange bookshops with her new Parisian friend for 6 months! And saying yes is a no-brainer – after all, what kind of a romantic would turn down a trip to Paris…for Christmas?
Even if it does mean leaving the irresistible Ridge Warner behind, Sarah’s sure she’s in for the holiday of a lifetime – complete with all the books she can read!
Imagining days wandering around Shakespeare & Co, munching on croissants, sipping café au laits and watching the snow fall on the Champs-Élysées Sarah boards the plane.
But will her dream of a Parisian Happily-Ever-After come true? Or will Sarah realise that the dream of a Christmas fairytale in the city of love isn’t quite as rosy in reality…

A deliciously feel-good Christmas romance perfect for fans of Debbie Johnson and Julia Williams


The Little Paris Collection:
The Little Bookshop on the Seine
The Little Antique Shop under the Eiffel Tower
The Little Perfume Shop off the Champs-Élysées

Also by Rebecca Raisin:

The Gingerbread Café trilogy: 
Christmas at the Gingerbread Café 
Chocolate Dreams at the Gingerbread Café 
Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café

The Bookshop on the Corner 
Secrets at the Maple Syrup Farm 


About the authorRebecca Raisin is a bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in various short-story anthologies, and in fiction magazines, and is now focusing on writing romance. The only downfall about writing about gorgeous men who have brains as well as brawn is falling in love with them – just as well they’re fictional. Rebecca aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships, and, most importantly, believe in true, once-in-a-lifetime love.

Follow her on twitter Facebook or her Website

Monday, 5 October 2015

Monthly round-up: September

Photocred: cartoondollemporium.com

Happy Autumn everybody! 
I'm not sure If I'm alone with this thought, but I'm really looking forward to Autumn being here - snuggly blankets, PJs, hot chocolate.. I love the comfort of Autumn and the excuse to curl up inside with a good book! I can't quite believe how fast this year's going though and that I'm already on my September round-up.... eeek!

Things I've Done: 

September was a massively busy month. It was my Sisters 21st birthday, so we went out for a family meal and some drinks to celebrate. It was nice to spend some quality time with the family and for a happy occasion, which was welcome after the past few months. 
My sisters 21st birthday cake

We had our first dinner party with friends, my best friend Livi and her boyfriend Tom came over for a night of food, drink and boardgames. We felt pretty grown up but we had so much fun! I can't wait to do it again. I went out for drinks in Leeds, again with Livi and Tom and our other friend Tom (I know, it gets confusing). It's the first night out we'd been on in ages and we really enjoyed it. 

Books

Books I've won:
A signed copy (!) of The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

NetGalley approvals:
One Wish In Manhattan, Mandy Baggot
Christmas At Lilac Cottage, Holly Martin
The Hidden Legacy, G J Minett
As Good As Dead, Elizabeth Evans


Books I've Read:
Book of the Month:


A creepy, gripping crime thriller that I devoured. This is the second book in the DC Knight series and didn't disappoint, You can read my full review here



Things I've Watched:
Hunted - A new documentary on Channel 4 that puts real-life people in an 'on the run' situation. They get given an hour to disapear and then have to remain on the run for 28 days. An absolutely brilliant concept that I'm hooked on - I look forward to this every week.

Doctor Foster - A gripping BBC 1 drama that follows a Doctor who finds out her husband is having an affair. A really intriguing storyline that has plenty of twists and turns. Really enjoyed.

Downton Abbey - It's baaaack! for the final ever series (sob). I'm a massive fan of Downton and although I haven't enjoyed the last few series as much as the earlier ones, I still really love cosying up on a Sunday evening and watching it. The first few episodes of this series have been really good and I'm looking forward to seeing how they'll tie it all up.

Films: 

Tomorrowland - One of the latest Disney movies, it didn't grip me really. Although I loved watching George Clooney for a few hours, the actual storyline was pretty meh.

Mission Impossible - I think once you've seen one of these films, you've seen them all. That theory stuck with the latest one, which had a whole load of fight scenes and not a whole lot of plot. Another meh!

What have you been up to in September? Read any books you'd recommend? Let me know in the comments below! Laura x

Saturday, 3 October 2015

8 photos of happiness

I've seen this post a few times, on Sky's Book Corner and Jenny in Neverland's blogs to name a few. I thought it looked like a really fun thing to do and decided to give it a go myself! I loved going though my photos and whittling it down to 8 was actually much more difficult than I thought. Hope you enjoy :) 


This tag was originally created by Ariel’s Little Corner of the Internet and the intention is simple. Share 8 photos that represent a moment, object, place or feeling that makes you happy. Then tag others to share their own photos! So lo and behold, here are my 8 photos.


1. Christmas dinner with the family


This photograph was taken on Christmas Day 2014. It was a brilliant Christmas spent with my family and the OH (My dads not in the picture as he's in the corner, probably pouring wine!). I've picked this one not only because it was a great day, but also because sadly, it turned out to be the last Christmas we'd have with my Grandma, as she passed away in August. This photo now means even more to me than it did before, and stands proudly in a frame in my living room. 

2. Graduation Day


This is from my graduation day in July 2012. It was a great day to celebrate achieving a 2:1 in my degree, and it made me so happy seeing my parents proud. 

3. University Days


On the Graduation theme, this is a photo with my uni girls :) I had some absolutely brilliant times living with these lovely girls, and  I'm so pleased that we're all still in touch.  We don't see each other as often as we'd like as we're spread across the country, but when we do see each other we have just as much fun as we did during our uni days (although maybe not quite as wild as back then haha). This was one of the last photos we had all together before we graduated. 

4. My 21st Birthday


Another photo from 2012 - this time my 21st birthday! Although this photo itself might not be the most meaningful, I fell it represents the day itself which was honestly one of the best days ever. My mum and dad spent ages organising a party for me at their house, with all my family and friends coming to celebrate. The day was filled with laughter, love and champagne and it was THE best party I've ever had, one I'll always remember.

5. My Boys


This is a pretty old photo - I think 2009?! Anyway, these boys here were my best friends though high school and college (and thankfully still are today, including my OH who you can see at the front!). This photo means a lot to me as it was our final night together before we all left the village for uni. As usual with growing up, once we went to uni everything changed, so this really takes me back to those care-free, fun times we spent together. We spent our last night together having food and drinking at Will's house before some teary goodbyes (mainly on my part). I still love this photo!

6.  My Boys no.2 - Reunited!


Yep, here's the boys again! This photo was taken last Summer. As I mentioned above, everything changed when we went to uni. One of those reasons was Will (far left) went travelling and fell in love with the wonderful Jess, from Chicago. Yep, America. He now lives there with his wife and beautiful daughter, so we don't get to see him as much as we used to and really miss him. This night in particular was really special, as Will had come back to England but not told us! We went to our friend Toms thinking it was just for a normal night out, and there was Will, just sat chillin'. I cried, of course, and was the most surprised I've ever been! It was absolutely brilliant & something I'll never forget. 

7. My Girls


This is me and my two best friends, Livi and Jess, on a night out. We're not massive 'party people' any more, but on this night we'd decided to get dressed up for cocktails and dancing. This picture sums us up really - silly, relaxed in each others company and not taking ourselves too seriously! Fun fact: that night Livi got a free drink from a bartender for being 'really polite'. Never mind looking good ladies, manners are clearly where its at! 

8. Our House... (in the middle of our street)


The final picture is of my house! For you regular readers, you'll probably be sick to death of hearing about this but I am SO happy. In June the OH & I moved into our first house together. It's quite a change to renting a flat in the city centre, but we absolutely love it. It's been a fun few months furnishing and settling in, and we're now at the stage where we've got the bulk of the work done and can actually enjoy it. One of my favourite times is Friday nights - coming in from work, blasting some music and cooking together, before snuggling on the sofa with a box set and a glass of wine. Perfect!


So there you have it, 8 pictures that pretty much sum up my life and what makes me happy. Looking at these has made me realise how lucky I am, and how much my loved ones mean to me. Soppy but true! If you've done this tag, post the link below - I'd love to be nosy! :)