Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A Year of New Adventures

A Year of New Adventures by Maddie Please
Published by Avon
April 2018

Billie Summers has always been quite content in her little cottage in the Cotswolds. Sure, half the house hasn’t been renovated, but what’s the point when it’s only her? Working part-time at her uncle’s bookshop and planning writer retreats with her best friend allows her to pay the bills. What more could anyone want?
That is until Oliver Forest, the bad boy of the book world, turns up to one of her retreats and points out that Billie hasn’t done anything very adventurous. Couple that with her best friend falling head over heels and beginning to drift away from their Friday night wine and dinner plans, Billie is starting to wonder if it isn’t time she took control of her life.
So she starts a list: get fitted (properly) for a bra, fix up rest of house, find a ‘career’ and well, get a tattoo … Her life might just get the makeover it needs, too bad irritating and far-too-attractive for his own good, Oliver keeps showing up …

I'm lucky enough to be taking part in the blog tour for the new novel by Maddie Please called A Year of New Adventures and I've been granted a sneaky extract to whet your appetite before the book is published in April this year.  However if you can't wait that long, it is available to download onto your kindle right this instant (or at least until after you have read this extract)!
I once made the mistake of telling my boyfriend how hard it was to write a book and get it published, and Matt sneered and said writing was just drinking coffee and making stuff up. Why would that be difficult? He then added some pithy comments about how many Mint Clubs I had been getting through recently under the guise of plotting. In my defence they were on a BOGOF offer, and of course once they’re in the cupboard …
We broke up soon after that – I put up with a lot from him in our two years together but even I have my limits – still, I think he was partly right. I like Mint Clubs. I’m not ashamed to admit it. OK, I like most things that mix chocolate and biscuits, if I’m honest. Perhaps that’s why my figure is always slightly out of control.
It wasn’t a very merry Christmas last year. We had been about to go to New York as he had finally persuaded me there were holidays to be had outside Europe. I was fizzing with excitement. These sorts of trips were few and far between but Nan had left me a small inheritance that I’d been hanging on to and I’d just been paid for some private pre-Christmas catering, so for once I had some savings.
Unfortunately, I gave the money for my part of the holiday to Matt and I still haven’t got it back. Swine. We had been living together in the tumbledown Cotswold stone cottage my grandmother had been in the middle of renovating when she died. When we split up he left with my holiday to New York, most of my DVDs and all the decent towels.
New Year’s resolution: never do anything spontaneous.
My sister inherited the picture-perfect holiday house in Cornwall. Typical. In her will Nan said Josie ‘needed’ it more than I did. I guess that’s because Josie and Mark have two boys and their school has longer holidays than some members of the British aristocracy, while I had no kids and no prospect of any.
I started trying to write when I was doing English A level, and had just read Forever Amber. I quite fancied being a writer of historical fiction. After all, it didn’t need specialist equipment, formal training, or a particular level of physical fitness; the only thing it did require was aptitude.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 26 February 2018

The Image of You

The Image of You by Adele Parks
Published by Headline Review
February 2018

Anna and Zoe are twins. Identical in appearance, utterly different in personality, they share a bond so close that nothing - or no one - can rip them apart.
Until Anna meets charismatic Nick.
Anna is trusting, romantic and hopeful; she thinks Nick is perfect.
Zoe is daring, dangerous and extreme; she thinks Nick is a liar.
Zoe has seen Anna betrayed by men before. She'll stop at nothing to discover if Nick is as good as he seems.
Lies may hurt. But honesty can kill.

Ooh now this is a good one.  I literally read it over the weekend, I didn't want to put it down.  Nick (or Gus as he begins) is a bit of a cad and an expert at online dating.  He has many a profile on many a site, and this is where he meets the charmingly naive Anna.  She is not an expert on internet dating, or dating at all if her past is anything to go by, but she instantly falls for Nick's charms.  

There is one person who isn't convinced by Nick and that is Anna's identical twin sister Zoe living back in America.  When Anna fills her in on this amazing man she wants to protect her sister at any cost, and she is going to go to the ends of the earth to prove that Nick isn't the man that Anna thinks he is.

It took me until chapter 40 to actually work out what the twist in the plot was but by then I was turning the pages at lightning speed to find out what the conclusion was going to be.  There are some great characters in here too; Anna is whimsical and sweet and her twin Zoe is as feisty as they come, Nick's parents are the sort you'd want your boyfriend to have and his sister Rachel, well she is a bit of a hard nut to crack!  I'm not going to say much more because I don't want to give the plot away but if you've read any of Adele's other novels then you are sure to love this one, and if you haven't had the pleasure of reading her books before, dive right in and give this a go.  I'm convinced you are going to be enthralled by it!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 19 February 2018

The Woman in the Window

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
Published by Harper Collins
January 2018

What did she see?
It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside.
Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers.
But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?

This book reminded me of the film The Bedroom Window, the one where Steve Guttenburg's girlfriend sees a woman getting murdered but no one else believes them.  Here we start with an unreliable narrator, Anna, an agoraphobic who also drinks, a lot. She spends a lot of time looking out of her apartment windows and photographing her neighbours in their houses opposite.  She befriends the wife and son of her new neighbours, the Russells and one evening she hears a scream and thinks she sees the demise of Mrs Russell before her very eyes.  However when she reports the incident, it appears that Mrs Russell is in fact, very much alive and well, and not the woman that Anna met only days before.  

Anna is convinced that what she saw really happened but vast amounts of alcohol plus a strong combination of medication means that her story is doubted by everyone around her, apart from her estranged husband and daughter whom she talks to on the telephone.  As Anna's story as to why she is house-bound is revealed, we soon begin to question whether she did see a woman in the window or not.  And if she did, is Anna truly safe in her own home?

This book has lots of twists and turns and a whole host of characters with dubious qualities - anyone of them could be a potential killer.  This book is a little like that of the recent bestseller  The Girl on a Train but in many ways I preferred this tale.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Everything I know about Love

Everything I know about Love by Dolly Alderton
Published by Fig Tree
1st February 2018

When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming a grown up, journalist and former Sunday Timesdating columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, wrestling with self-sabotage, finding a job, throwing a socially disastrous Rod-Stewart themed house party, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop is the only man you've ever been able to rely on, and finding that that your mates are always there at the end of every messy night out. It's a book about bad dates, good friends and - above all else - about recognising that you and you alone are enough.
Glittering with wit and insight, heart and humour, Dolly Alderton's powerful d├ębut weaves together personal stories, satirical observations, a series of lists, recipes, and other vignettes that will strike a chord of recognition with women of every age - while making you laugh until you fall over. Everything I know About Love is about the struggles of early adulthood in all its grubby, hopeful uncertainty.

The hype surrounding this book on social media, particularly on Instagram has been huge; it would appear that everyone everywhere has either read or is reading the debut book by Dolly Alderton and having read it myself, with good reason.  Dolly takes us on a journey of her life, of her doomed love affairs with a variety of men and boys and of her relationships with her friends.  She is brutally honest and this makes the book enjoyable in that it doesn't seem like she is trying to hard to make you like her, you just do.  There are recipes inside to help when you might be in need of them, tips on how to conduct the best hen night ever (no actually that's a joke, don't do it like that please!) and lots of things not to do in your twenties - like riding around in taxi cabs solo for hundreds of miles!

I feel like I know Dolly now and am having to stop myself messaging her over on Instagram in a casual 'hi' manner when in reality she hasn't a clue who I am, and I feel like stalking Farly and asking her to be my bestie too.  This book sucks you in because at the end of the day, love is all you need.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 5 February 2018

The Hazel Wood

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Published by Penguin
February 2018

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice's life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice's grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate - the Hazel Wood - Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Her mother is stolen away - by a figure who claims to come from the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: STAY AWAY FROM THE HAZEL WOOD.
To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began . . .

The debut novel by Melissa Albert has been quoted by some as being like a modern day Alice in Wonderland and having read it, I can see why some reviewers have made that comparison.  Our central character is Alice, a teenager who has spent her whole life moving from one bed to another with her mother across America.  She has a famous grandmother, Althea Proserpine, who wrote one  fairy-tale novel that blew the minds of those who read it, then disappeared from the face of the earth. She has never known a steady homelife, until now with her mother's husband and her step-sister.  One day coming home from school Alice discovers that her mother has been kidnapped and her step father literally forces her out of his house at gun-point; she knows that she has no one else to turn to other than Ellery Finch, a boy at her school who is kind-of obsessed by her grandmother's book Tales from the Hinterland.  He knows the short stories inside out and is the only one who can unravel the clues to help rescue Alice's mother from the Hazel Wood, the estate where her grandmother lived and died.

The book takes us on a journey with Alice and Finch where no one is really whom they seem and no one can be trusted.  Think  dark fairy tale here (like Alice Carter) and you will have some idea of what sort of world is being conjured up.  This is Melissa Albert going back to the dark fairy tale days of the Grimm brothers, not sugar coating them like Disney does.  I wouldn't say this is necessarily a book for younger teen readers as there are some quite dark and violent moments in the story but if you like a twisted fairy tale then this will definitely keep you turning the pages long into the night.  My only gripe is that the American cover is so much prettier than the UK version!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 22 January 2018

Three Things about Elsie

Three Things about Elsie by Joanna Cannon
Published by The Borough Press
January 2018

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

This is Joanna Cannon's follow-up to the outstanding debut novel The Trouble with Goats and Sheep which I loved when I read it this time in 2016.  I was slightly worried if she would manage to pull out another wonderful book or whether this would be the dodgy second novel that you sometimes see authors produce.  Having finished the book this weekend I am thrilled to report that this is not the case at all.  This is a very different novel to the first but equally as wonderful.

Our central characters are all octogenarians who live at the Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly - we spend our time with Elsie, Florence and Jack, the managers of the home Miss Bissell  and Miss Ambrose  and the caretaker Handy Simon.  It soon becomes apparent that Florence is suffering from dementia and is threatened with a move to another care home Greenbank if her 'performance' doesn't improve in a month.  Elsie, her best friend, is her helping hand, always telling her to remember three things from the past so that she doesn't forget the present.  Their daily lives are quite mundane until a new resident moves in, a Mr Gabriel Price who seems polite, capable and a friend to everyone.  However, for Florence this sparks a memory of the past, of a man she knew as Ronnie Butler who drowned sixty years earlier.  The trouble is, who is going to believe anything a woman with memory problems says?

Joanna Cannon takes us on a journey with Florence from the present day back through her memories of growing up with Elsie and of the infamous Ronnie Butler.  Who is he and why does Florence think he has now returned from the dead?  There are some wonderful moments of humour throughout, some characters you will both love and detest and some emotional scenes too.  Three Things about Elsie has them all in spades and I predict this will become another huge bestseller.  Grab a cuppa, a slice of battenburg cake and devour the book that everyone will be talking about this year before I run out of superlatives to describe it!!!!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x

Monday, 8 January 2018

The Alice Network

The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
Published by William Morrow
July 2017

In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women—a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947—are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.
1947. In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family. She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive. So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915. A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited to work as a spy. Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, the "Queen of Spies", who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart the Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house. Until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hasn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth...no matter where it leads.

I loved the real-life element of The Alice Network as the central characters are based around the network of female spies that did indeed help the war effort abroad during the first world war.  The book takes the view point of two very different characters - Eve, a seemingly battered older woman who it turns out was a spy in World War One, and Charlie, an American socialite looking for her missing cousin..For these two people's paths to cross seems unlikely but Charlie is given Eve's name as a last resort to help with finding the missing Rose.  The two, it turns out, need each other, and they journey across France in what is seemingly only in a hunt for Rose, but for Eve is also to close something that has plagued her daily life for many years.  

We live through the first world war as we see what Eve faces during her time as part of the amazing 'Alice Network', seeing what daily challenges she, and the other women around her, face and of the enormous strength and courage that they undertake to help their country.  I loved this part of the story the most, particularly as I have real passion for the women who worked undercover during both wars; of their grit and determination.  The second part of the story shows the destruction and change of Europe after the second world war and of how it affected so many.  Rose and Eve return to a France that has not recovered and this is a very visual novel in that respect.  

It is gritty and violent in parts but also full of passion and drama and I can see why it was chosen as one of the books for Reese Witherspoon's book group last year.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapters x