Tuesday 31 December 2013

Happy 2014!

Though I've had much less time to blog this year, it hasn't been a bad 2013. I've started an interesting job, met some fabulous new people in a variety of ways (including Karl Pilkington at a book signing more on that in January), read some amazing books, and encountered some wonderful authors (and adjectives to go along with them!).

I hope 2014 continues for me in the same manner, though I do hope I'll produce more posts! Only time will tell. But, for now, a massive thank you to all my followers and visitors for reading this little blog.

Happy New Year! I hope it's a great one for all of you.

See you on the other side...

Sunday 29 December 2013

Review: The Girl Behind the Curtain by Stella Knightley [Hidden Women trilogy, book 3]

Warning: There are spoilers beyond this point for anyone who hasn't read the Hidden Women trilogy (check out my reviews for the first two books).

Sarah Thomson and Marco Donato's complicated love affair continues - their passion is a deep one but both have been badly hurt before and are wary of exposing their vulnerabilities to the other.

Meanwhile, Sarah begins to research a new subject . . .

In Nineteen-Thirties Germany, Katherine Hazleton escapes her stuffy finishing school and runs away to Berlin in pursuit of an unsuitable man. Alone and penniless when her boyfriend deserts her, she is forced to become a hostess at a cabaret bar. There she reinvents herself as Kitty Katkin. Writing her own songs to accompany her risque dance routines, Kitty is soon a sensation. She is in love with Berlin and her handsome musician lover, Otto. But Germany is about to change.

Will Kitty and Sarah find the love they truly deserve? (via Hodder.co.uk)

So, this is it. The last book in Stella Knightley's Hidden Women trilogy and, I must say, it went far beyond my expectations.

The Girl Behind the Curtain continues the same structure, with Sarah's story running alongside that of a historical research subject this time the fun, brave, and lovable Kitty. There are less sex scenes here than in the previous novels, but I found this to be very fitting of the plot's development and underlying message. Anything more would have seemed gratuitous.

And though I'm sad that such a fabulous story has ended, I absolutely loved its conclusion. I stayed up for hours one night to finish the book because I was dying to find out the truth behind each mystery; including what becomes of Kitty and Otto's relationship and, of course, whether Sarah and Marco are finally able to make it work.

Altogether, The Girl Behind the Curtain is a sweet, emotional, and atmospheric conclusion to an inspiring trilogy, and reveals a powerful message about the true value of love. I cannot recommend it enough!

Rating: 5 / 5

Monday 9 December 2013

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth [Divergent Trilogy, book 3]

Warning: Don't read this review if you haven't read the first two books in the Divergent series beforehand!

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth's #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent. (via Goodreads)

I loved the first two books in the Divergent series, and I'd been counting down until the release of Allegiant – the final book in Veronica Roth’s bestselling dystopian trilogy. Unfortunately, however, I was disappointed.

It’s hard to explain why without giving too much away, but I found that Allegiant had a completely different tone to its predecessors. It was in fact so different, and so unsatisfying, that I truly struggled with the first 80% of the novel. I found the events boring, frustrating, and far too removed from the dystopian society which I'd come to know and love.

By the time Allegiant reached its climax, I’d developed a sort of indifference to everything that was going on, and I even found it difficult to remember why I had loved the characters so much in the previous instalments. It felt as if my reactions had been watered down, and all I could think was, ‘huh’, although I really wanted to care more. I even met that controversial bit which has many Divergent fans throwing tear drenched tissues into bins and cursing at Veronica Roth with a surprising degree of apathy.

So, overall, I found Allegiant to be an anticlimactic end to an otherwise superb series. At some point, I might go back and read all three books simultaneously, just to see if it makes a difference. For now, though, this will have to do.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Thursday 5 December 2013

Interview with Allison Rushby – author of the Living Blond trilogy + a giveaway

It's wonderful to welcome Allison Rushby back to the blog, who's here to talk about her new young
adult series, the Living Blond trilogy, which is available to buy now at Amazon. You can find its blurb at the bottom of the interview, along with a giveaway to win 1 of 20 'We Love Marilyn Monroe/Marilynette' wristbands.


The Living Blond trilogy centres around Nessa, a teen who is obsessed with Marilyn Monroe. What inspired you to write the series based around one of film’s most iconic leading ladies?
Nessa had a bit of a funny start in life as a character. I was house-sitting for a friend, who told me to peep inside her housemate's room one day (she was also away at the time). When I did this, I couldn't believe my eyes. All over the room were huge glamour portraits of the housemate dressed up as Marilyn Monroe. Apparently she had quite the Marilyn obsession, as the portraits demonstrated. I wondered about this for years afterwards – I couldn't stop thinking about how a young person could be so obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, a star long dead. This is how Nessa evolved – I took that character trait to an even younger, stranger place. Imagine a thirteen-year-old with a Marilyn obsession – how strange would that be? What would people make of it? What would her parents do about it if it got out of control? And that was how Nessa came to be. It was interesting to stay with her over three books and watch her grow and her obsession slowly fade, with her eventually handing the torch over to a new Marilyn fan by the end of the third book.

Tell us about trilogy’s leading lady, Nessa. What do you hope readers will enjoy about her personality?
I really hope readers will love her overactive imagination and crazy ability to see what might not be there (okay, is definitely not there, but is way more entertaining).

Like your previous release, Shooting Stars, The Living Blond trilogy has been written for the young adult audience. What do you find most appealing about writing for this demographic? Do you see yourself writing for an older audience in future?
I actually started out writing for adults (my first chick-lit novel came out in 2000) and moved towards writing for young adults after that as I found I simply enjoyed it so much. It's just such a great time of life – very heady and self-involved (in a good way!) when anything and everything is possible. I really love the immediacy of YA and the fact that characters tend to act on their true emotions.

Now to get personal: what’s your favourite Marilyn Monroe movie?
It has to be Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for its amazing lines. Like Lorelei Lee's line, 'Don't you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You might not marry a girl just because she's pretty, but, my goodness, Doesn't it help?'

Lastly, what other projects do you currently have in the works and where can we keep up to date?
In 2014, I'll be releasing two other YA books – Blondtourage and Being Hartley. Readers can always keep up-to-date at http://www.allisonrushby.com, on Twitter, or on Goodreads.


Nessa Joanne Mulholland, aka Marilyn Monroe's No. 1 teenage fan, is used to moving house. This time, however, she's relocating in movie-star style—crossing the Atlantic on board the Majestic, headed for Paris from New York City. And it really would be in movie-star style if it wasn't for the fact that she's bringing her cringe-fest professor dad along for the ride (Dad's specialization: human mating rituals—need Nessa say more?). Oh yeah, and sharing a cabin that's five decks below sea level and next to the engine room. Still, at least Holly Isles is on board. Yes, really, that Holly Isles—star of stage and screen. Suddenly, things are looking up. Looking a little Marilyn, in fact, because events are strangely mirroring Nessa's favorite movie of all time, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. 


International giveaway
Complete the Rafflecopter form to win one of these very cute 'We Love Marilyn Monroe/Marilynette' wristbands!

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Enter to win Karl Pilkington & The Moaning of Life goodies [UK only]

If you're in the UK and happen to be a fan of Karl Pilkington, you'll love this competition where you can win a bunch of amazing Moaning of Life prizes!

Check out the details here:

If the approaching end of Karl Pilkington’s TV series The Moaning of Life is set to send you into a spiral of withdrawal, worry not as the book to accompany the show is out now. And, to coincide with the launch of the DVD, a new competition has launched where three lucky winners will each receive:
  • a SIGNED copy of the book
  • a SIGNED illustration from the book
  • a copy of the DVD. 
Plus, five runner-ups will each receive a copy of the book. Does life get any better, Karl Pilkington fans?!

To enter, simply look at the photo below and then e-mail marketing@canongate.co.uk with Karl Pilkington in the subject line, telling us what you think Karl is saying in the picture:

The funniest entries win. The competition closes on Monday 2 December and the lucky winners will be chosen at random by Canongate. 

Don’t forget to follow @welovemoaning on Twitter for all the latest updates on Karl Pilkington’s Moaning of Life book.

Good luck, everyone!

Tuesday 19 November 2013

The 'I am officially back' post!

Okay, I know it's been ages. Aside from a must-read interview with Elizabeth Moss, posted at the beginning of the month, I haven't exactly been around.

And for this I blame life, which has really eaten up my free time and forced blogging into the back of my mind. But, from now on, that's going to change. I have a few weeks off work and I'm almost caught up with my studies, meaning I'll have more time to be here. Woohoo!

So, over the next few days, look out for some fab new posts. Among these you'll find a competition, an interview with an awesome Young Adult author, and something Typewritten. I'm also currently reading Allegiant, the final instalment in Veronica Roth's Divergent series, so expect to see this reviewed sometime in the near future.

It's certainly great to be back!

Thursday 7 November 2013

Interview with Elizabeth Moss – author of Wolf Bride

It's delightful to welcome author Elizabeth Moss to the blog, who's here to talk about her newly
released historical erotic romance novel, Wolf Bride.


Wolf Bride tells the steamy tale of Queen Anne Boleyn’s lady in waiting, Eloise Tyrell, and the man she is betrothed to, Lord Wolf. What attracted you towards setting such a story during this historical period?
The sheer drama of it. Everything was more life-and-death at the Tudor court than in most later periods of history, with the slightest error in judgement getting you carted off to the Tower of London. This raises the stakes in a romance to an alarming degree. With Henry VIII in the mix, it's not just 'Does the hero get the girl?' but 'Can they survive this and reach a happy ending?' And of course we know, as 21st century readers, that not everything is going to end well for Anne Boleyn at least.

What can you tell us about the two main characters? Are they based on any real historical figures?
Lord Wolf and Eloise Tyrell are not based on any specific historical figures, but they are representative members of the Henrician Court. Lord Wolf is a superb soldier and commander, tough-minded, incredibly loyal to the crown, driven by his loyalty in fact. But as a nobleman, he approaches picking a wife - to breed an heir - with the same lack of emotion as when buying a horse. So you can imagine how a feisty and rebellious young woman like Eloise throws him off balance. Yet he finds her passion invigorating and seems to take pleasure in nettling her whenever they are together. Eloise has been serving the Queen for several years, and is an independent spirit. She wants to marry for love, so being forced into an arranged marriage - Tudor women often had little choice in the matter - makes her desperate. What stuns Eloise about Wolf is how well he seems to understand a woman's body - he's an expert lover, of course! - while failing to understand her heart. But just when things begin to hot up for them, Anne Boleyn is arrested, with Eloise suspected of hiding dangerous secrets about her mistress ...

Wolf Bride has gained a positive response from several high-profile media outlets, and has been described as a cross between Hilary Mantel and Sylvia Day. What do you think critics and reviewers have found so appealing about the novel?
Cross-genre writing is a very exciting development in fiction right now. And this is really an account of Anne Boleyn's fall from grace, but we see it not through the eyes of key historical characters, but via Wolf and Eloise's love story. By constantly foregrounding the dangers inherent in a marriage where a husband has absolute power over his wife, even to the point in Henry's case where he can sign her death warrant, Wolf Bride achieves an unsettling note that makes the erotic content more ... well, erotic. It responds to something in the zeitgeist, in my opinion. This is the right book for the right time, perhaps.

Judging by the list of previous releases on your blog, you’re quite the productive writer. How do you stay motivated?
I have a large family to support; needing to pay the bills is usually motivation enough to go to my desk every morning. When that doesn't work, I remind myself how little I have achieved so far in comparison with my late mother, who wrote over 150 novels under the name Charlotte Lamb. Now that's productive!

Lastly, what’s next for you? Do you have any other projects currently in the works?
I have two more novels in the Lust in the Tudor Court series to come out in 2014, but would dearly love to write a contemporary erotic series too. I do write under other names, but mostly historicals, so a contemporary story would be marvellous.

England, 1536

Bound to him against her will...
Lord Wolf, hardened soldier and expert lover, has come to King Henry VIII's court to claim his new bride: a girl who has intrigued him since he first saw her riding across the Yorkshire moors.
Eloise Tyrell, now lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn, has other ideas. She has no desire to submit to a man she barely knows and who - though she is loath to admit it - frightens her not a little.

Then comes that first kiss...
It awakens in both a fierce desire that bares them to the soul. But as the court erupts into scandal around the ill-fated Queen, Eloise sees first-hand what happens when powerful men tire of their wives.

Dare she surrender her body and her heart?

Sunday 29 September 2013

Busy as a butterfly

I wanted to apologise for the lack of posts lately (especially book reviews), and let you guys know that I'm still around!

It's been a very weird and hectic few weeks for me, and it's only going to get busier. I started a new full-time job a few days ago and, on top of that, I have a university course kicking off in the next week. So, until I settle into my new schedule, I'm not going to be blogging or communicating as much as I would prefer.

So bear with me, everyone, and I promise there will be new stuff on the blog before too long.

See you soon!

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Interview with Katie Dale – author of Little White Lies

It's a pleasure to welcome Katie Dale back to the blog, who's here this time to talk about her fabulous new young adult thriller, Little White Lies (out now). Check out its blurb at the bottom of the interview.


Q: Your new novel, Little White Lies, centres around Lou and a guy she meets named Christian, who turns out to be hiding some rather large secrets from her. What can you tell us about the settings for the story? Do the events occur in the present day or somewhere more distant?
A: The setting for the story is present day – actually in September, so right now! – as Lou starts at Sheffield University as a fresher studying English Literature. As it happens, I myself also studied English Lit at Sheffield University, so a lot of the environment is based on my own memories of being a student there – going to pubs and trekking up and down the killer hills! – though my own hall of residence has sadly been knocked down so I had to do some research into the glitzy new “student village”!

The protagonist in your previous release, Someone Else’s Life, also discovers a secret which fuels the plot of the novel. What do you think it is that makes secrets so interesting to read about?
I think secrets are so compelling because everyone wants to know a secret, to share a secret or to guess a secret before someone else. It’s what keeps us eagerly turning the pages in mystery books, detective stories, and thrillers, hungry to find out what really happened – that’s the kind of book I really like to read, and also the kind I love to write – with a good few twists in there as well, to keep readers guessing!

Which Little White Lies character did you enjoy writing the most, and why?
Funnily enough, I enjoyed writing two of the secondary characters most of all – Vix and Kenny. Vix is just so bubbly and full of life and ideas, whilst being incredibly loyal, whilst Kenny (who knows most of the secrets) is quite dry and witty and cunning, and it was really fun to write their dialogue.

What advice can you give to budding authors wishing to write for the Young Adult genre?
Read as much YA as you can – it’s by far my favourite genre, as it’s always reinventing itself, pushing the boundaries and experimenting – and there are some really stunning books and authors out there. Then just imagine yourself as a teen – thinking you pretty much have life sussed out, but having so many surprises and choices left in store. There are so many possibilities awaiting teenagers – their lives aren’t mapped out yet, and it’s such an exciting time, and the scope for fiction of all kinds is vast.

Finally, do you have any other projects in the works? Where can we stay updated?
Ah, I’m afraid I’m going to have to keep my next project my own secret for now! But do stay updated at katiedaleuk.blogspot.com and follow me on twitter @katiedaleuk – You’ll hear about it there first!

The first time Lou meets tall, dark, and handsome Christian, she knows he's hiding something. Why does he clam up every time she asks about his past? Why doesn't he have any family photos and why does he dye his blond hair black?

Then suddenly his terrible secret is unveiled to the world - and it seems everything he's ever told Lou is a lie. Can what the media are saying about him really be true? Should Lou trust him? Or is she in terrible danger? But Christian isn't the only one keeping secrets. For what if their chance meeting was no accident at all ...?

As lie follows lie, nothing is as it seems, and soon Lou finds herself ensnared in a web of deceit, her loyalties torn, her emotions in tatters as she faces a heart-wrenching dilemma: should she shatter the lives of those she holds dearest, or betray the guy who, against all odds, she's fallen in love with?

Full of family secrets, surprising twists and unexpected revelations, Katie Dale's second novel will have readers on the edge of their seats.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Review: The Transfer (a Divergent short story) by Veronica Roth

Warning: Don't read this short story (or this review) if you haven't read the first two books in the Divergent series beforehand!

More Four! Fans of the Divergent series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth will be thrilled by "The Transfer," the first of four new short stories told from Four’s perspective. Each brief story explores the world of the Divergent series through the eyes of the mysterious but charismatic Tobias Eaton, revealing previously unknown facets of his personality, backstory, and relationships. (via Goodreads)

Being a Divergent fan is great, isn't it? We get the last book in the trilogy next month, a high-profile film next year, and a whole set of short stories told from Four's point-of-view!

The Transfer is the first short story to be released (if you don't count Free Four, which was available for free on the internet a few months ago before it was subsequently pulled. It'll be re-released as an eBook in the UK on 26th September). It illustrates Tobias's life prior to becoming a Dauntless initiate; before he became the boy that Tris knows and loves. Indeed, he's certainly a very different person – here he is a scared, timid boy who is at the complete mercy of his tyrannical father, Marcus.

Altogether, The Transfer is a fantastic short story which will both shock and delight its readers. I can't wait for The Initiate!

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Fifty Shades of Grey movie cast: Meet Anastasia and Christian

After more than a year of speculation, the actors cast in the lead roles for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie were finally announced yesterday. Were they the names people had expected?

Well, not really.

Social media has been going crazy with various campaigns for well-known actors to land the role of Christian Grey. There was Ryan Gosling, Ian Somerhalder, Alexander Skarsgård, Henry Cavill and, my personal favourite, Matt Bomer. Remember this image I posted a few months ago?


Yeah, turns out that was a little fake! But not that we hadn't realised at the time.

There was less speculation about Anastasia Steele but, nevertheless, people still had their favourites. I would love to have seen Alexis Bledel in the role, or perhaps even Emmy Rossum. Again, I wasn't the only one:


So who are the strangers actually starring in the roles? Even though they're not immediately recognisable, they're not exactly newcomers either.

The first to be announced was Anastasia, who'll be played by Dakota Johnson. She's the daughter of actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and has previously starred in films such as 21 Jump Street and The Social Network. Personally, I like her she's got an understated beauty that Anastasia is said to have, and her voice has a delicacy which will suit the role. 

Here's an interview she did for Nylon TV:

Then, shortly afterwards, it was revealed that Charlie Hunnam will be playing Christian. Charlie is a Brit who is best known for his roles in Pacific Rim and Sons of Anarchy. I must admit that I hadn't heard of him before the announcement, and I was a little dubious at first, but he is starting to grow on me. He looks a bit like a cross between Heath Ledger and Daniel Craig, don't you think?

And here's Charlie in a clip from Pacific Rim. Love those arms!

What are your thoughts on the casting? Are you disappointed by the choices, or are you excited to see how the characters will be interpreted? Who do you think will be cast next?

~ ~ ~

ETA 20/11/2013

Well, that didn't last long...

Charlie Hunnam is out, and Jamie Dornam is in as Christian Grey!

Here are Jamie and Dakota on the cover of Entertainment Weekly (yup, it's real this time.). Personally, I think he might be a better choice. But how good of an actor is he? I guess we'll find out sometime around Valentine's Day 2015...

Thursday 29 August 2013

Typewritten no.1: Wodehouse and Hemingway

Monday 26 August 2013

Review: The Memory of Scent by Lisa Burkitt

Set against the backdrop of Paris in 1883, The Memory of Scent is the story of two French women, Fleur and Babette, and of how their lives diverge when the artist they both model for is found dead. For Fleur, hers is a life lived on the fringes of the Impressionist movement in a world of colour and music; Babette is not so lucky, and following the death of the artist, her life begins to quickly unravel on the streets of France. This is a novel of the senses, in which memory, love and loss are explored and examined, and where it appears the ties which hold us together can also pull us apart. (via Amazon.co.uk)

I love Paris and Impressionism, so I was very keen to read The Memory of Scent. But, as it turns out, my experience was quite mixed.

I enjoyed the backdrop of Paris, which the author describes in clear, nicely written detail. These descriptions give the novel a lovely romantic tone and bring this renowned era of Parisian history to life. The elements of scent are also well-integrated, and prove to be an extremely important catalyst to the plot. I particularly liked the way that each chapter is set around a specific smell, and how that smell conjures up thoughts, memories, or associations which then move the story forward.

However, I found some parts less agreeable. My chief problem was with the organisation of the plot, which could be confusing. I remember one point in particular where I needed to reread what had happened a few times, just to make sure that I hadn’t missed an important detail. Additionally, I found the voices of the two narrators, Babette and Fleur, a little too similar and sometimes this could add to my confusion.

But even though I believe The Memory of Scent could have benefited from further editing, I still found it a unique novel with some interesting twists. If you’re looking for something different and don’t mind a plot with a gentle pace, this might be for you.

Rating: 3 / 5

Monday 19 August 2013

A manual typewriter can be a writer's best friend

One thing I learnt during my creative writing course was that, in order to write well, you must first allow yourself to write badly.

I’ve hardly ever been able to carry this out, and for that I blame word processors. They provide a person with too many opportunities to second guess everything they’ve typed, meaning that a single paragraph can take hours to construct. It’s incredibly frustrating!

But a manual typewriter doesn’t allow this option. Nope, once you’ve punched a key and printed a letter straight onto a sheet of paper, there’s no turning back. You’ve done it now – you might as well follow that messy train of thought and clean it up later (my idea is to type first drafts with a typewriter, and then to later copy that onto a word processor for editing).

Indeed, these are the primary reasons why I have chosen to invest money into a classic machine. Plus, could I honestly pass up the opportunity to own such a marvellous piece of iconic nostalgia? I’ve become quite infatuated with nostalgia over the past few years, as various people know, and I often wish that I’d been alive to experience the first seventy years of the twentieth century (yup, I’m that specific!).

A manual typewriter can communicate so much about a decade, just by observing its appearance. Building them was certainly an art; from the curves of their frames to the stylisation of the brand’s logo. And they were built to last, unlike 90% of the gadgets which frequent our shops, homes, and workplaces these days. Here’s what Tom Hanks says on the subject, in an article published by The New York Times earlier this month (read it in full here):

The machine, too, may last as long as the rocks of Stonehenge. Typewriters are dense things made of steel and were engineered to take a beating, which they do. My dad’s Underwood, bought used just after the war for his single year at U.S.C., had some keys so worn out by his punishing fingers that they were misshapen and blank. The S key was a mere nib. I sent it to a shop for what was meant to be only a cleaning, but it came back with all the keys replaced. So long, Dad, and curse you, industrious typewriter serviceperson.

And I mustn’t forget to mention the therapeutic side to typewriting. Don't bother kicking holes in your walls anymore if you’re really having a bad day, write about it on your manual. Because of the sheer force you’ll need when pressing down on the keys, you’re almost guaranteed to feel a little better!

So which typewriter did I choose to offer a new home? Well, after much browsing, deliberation, a few bidding wars and some near misses, I can reveal that I am now the proud owner of a 1958 British-made Remington Quiet-Riter. Doesn’t she just ooze that distinctively '50s style?

She also arrived with her original case (though very musty and worn), three ribbons (including the one inside the machine), all the original instructions, and various other bits and bobs. Quite a find, I’d say!

Fancy watching a TV commercial, straight from the Fifties, advertising the American version of my Quiet-Riter? It’s on YouTube in all its cheesy, upbeat glory!

Oh, and I’ve named her 'Betty'! (Insert crazy writer jokes here!)

And from now on, you can expect to see Betty frequently on my blog. I’ve decided that, each week, I will share something that I have produced on my typewriter. But it won’t be in the normal, word-processed format – instead, I’ll scan whatever it is that I’ve typed and attach the image to a blog post. It could be anything – part of a story, part of a poem, an opinion, a quote, etc. You’ll never know!

But until then, folks, let me once again direct you to Tom Hanks’ ode to the typewriter. I just love it!

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Review: Candide, or Optimism by Voltaire

Witty and caustic, Candide has ranked as one of the world's great satires since its first publication in 1759. In the story of the trials and travails of the youthful Candide, his mentor Dr. Pangloss, and a host of other characters, Voltaire mercilessly satirizes and exposes romance, science, philosophy, religion and government. (via Goodreads)

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from Candide. I’d heard Voltaire’s name before, of course, though I knew very little about him or his works. In fact, it wasn’t until I found this book on my university reading list that I ventured to find out more.

What I did immediately discover was that Candide is a satire. But would I find it funny? This is mid-eighteenth century French humour so how much would I understand? Well, as it happens, quite a lot – I found it hilarious! A lot of Candide is obviously silly and so, having a wacky sense of humour myself, I was often laughing out loud.

It’s also fairly easy to identify some of the aspects which Voltaire has chosen to parody. Among these are societies, cultures, the adventure and romance genres, and philosophy. The context of the philosophical humour was a little lost on me at the time of reading, though I later found out that Voltaire's aim was to ridicule some of the more popular philosophies of his day.

I’m looking forward to learning more about Candide when my next course rolls around – I have a feeling it’ll be very interesting to analyse. For now, though, I can only say that my enjoyment was a very pleasant discovery.

Rating: 4 / 5

Saturday 3 August 2013

Romancing the Bookworm swag & Amazon.com gift card giveaway – the winners!

A huge thank you to everyone who entered the Romancing the Bookworm giveaway! Kate and I received exactly 500 entries, which is a fantastic number.

And now for the results!

If your name is below, you should have been sent an email confirming you as a winner. Reply as soon as you can – after two weeks, if no reply is received, your prize will be thrown back into the hat and another winner will be selected.

Winner of the Romancing the Bookworm swag –– Cerian Halford
Winner of the Amazon.com $10 gift card –– Ryver Morrissey

Congrats to both!

Stay tuned for more giveaways in future.

Monday 22 July 2013

Review: A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen

When James Bowen found an injured, ginger street cat curled up in the hallway of his sheltered accommodation, he had no idea just how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London and the last thing he needed was a pet.

Yet James couldn't resist helping the strikingly intelligent tom cat, whom he quickly christened Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.

Soon the two were inseparable and their diverse, comic and occasionally dangerous adventures would transform both their lives, slowly healing the scars of each other's troubled pasts.

A Street Cat Named Bob is a moving and uplifting story that will touch the heart of anyone who reads it. (via Goodreads)

A Street Cat Named Bob tells the true story of how the lives of an unlikely duo – a former addict turned street musician and a streetwise ginger tomcat – became enriched after a chance encounter. Through Bob's presence, James is given a sense of responsibility which propels them both towards a future more loving, structured, and hopeful than ever.

I came to really love Bob and his very unique personality. I don't think I've heard of a cat with such natural patience and intuition, and you can clearly feel the bond between him and James. I also really appreciated reading an insider's perspective on the lives of people who live and work on the streets. My views on buskers, Big Issue sellers, and other street dwellers have certainly changed, and I'm going to make sure to show them more courtesy next time I'm out and about.

But that's not to say that A Street Cat Named Bob was perfect. The writing isn't particularly well-crafted, and I did note a cliché or two. However, to pay too much attention to this would be to miss the heart and honesty of the story and storyteller. And this is certainly a very honest book with a lot of heart.

Overall, A Street Cat Named Bob is an eye-opening tale about a man who found new hope through the unwavering love of a feline companion. If you're an animal lover who's looking for an easy summer read, I highly recommend this.

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Review: The Girl Behind the Fan by Stella Knightley [Hidden Women trilogy, book 2]

Warning: There are spoilers beyond this point. Check out my review of The Girl Behind the Mask first.

Hurt and confused by the sudden end of her strange love affair with Venetian millionaire Marco Donato, Sarah Thomson is persuaded to take her bruised heart to Paris by her ex-boyfriend Steven, who is hoping for a reconciliation. While she and Steven rekindle their psychologically and sexually tortured relationship, Sarah tries to forget her yearning for Marco by throwing herself into a new project: a study of the life of notorious nineteenth-century courtesan, Augustine Levert, whose sensual charms parted many a man from his fortune.

But when her life begins to parallel Augustine's story, Sarah realises she will never erase Marco from her heart. Faced with a choice between safety and overwhelming passion, will both women make the right decision? (via Goodreads)

Though it started off a little slowly, it wasn't long before I found The Girl Behind the Fan even more absorbing than its predecessor.

Much like The Girl Behind the Mask, there's a good balance between the stories, and the switches in perspective are well-timed. I loved how a few of the latter chapters would end on a cliffhanger for one of the girls and, instead of immediately finding out what happens to her, the next chapter changes its perspective to the other girl. Sure, I might have cursed the book at the time, but I quickly realised this as a fantastic way of creating suspense.

But that's not to say that there's a shortage of suspense within the rest of the novel. The Girl Behind the Fan is darker than the previous instalment, what with the return of Sarah's ex-boyfriend Steven and the introduction of Augustine Levert's turbulent life, so there are a variety of uneasy, and sometimes shocking, occurrences.

I also loved Augustine. Her narrative is utterly compelling and at times heartbreaking, so I couldn't help but feel an attachment to her. Be prepared to have some tissues to hand whilst reading her point-of-view!

Altogether, The Girl Behind the Fan continues Sarah's unique tale with great sensuality, intelligence, history, and a beautifully realised Paris. By then end of it, you'll be begging for the next book – I know I am!

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday 15 July 2013

Closed for entries | Win Romancing the Bookworm swag or an Amazon.com giftcard! {International}


In celebration of her latest novel, Romancing the Bookworm, I've teamed up with the wonderful Kate Evangelista to bring you this fantastic giveaway!

There are two prizes up for grabs. The first is a Romancing the Bookworm swag pack filled with all sorts of goodies (see pic) and the other is a $10 Amazon.com giftcard.

To be in with a chance to win, simply complete the tasks on the Rafflecopter form below. You have between 15th July and 1st August at 12am (London time).

This giveaway is also international. Woohoo!

Also, if you want to know more about Romancing the Bookworm, read my interview with Kate here.

Good luck, everyone!

Saturday 13 July 2013

Review: The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Yellow fog is swirling through the streets of London, and Sherlock Holmes himself is sitting in a cocaine-induced haze until the arrival of a distressed and beautiful young lady forces the great detective into action. Each year following the strange disappearance of her father, Miss Morstan has received a present of a rare and lustrous pearl. Now, on the day she is summoned to meet her anonymous benefactor, she consults Holmes and Watson. (via Goodreads)

This was my first foray into the world of Sherlock Holmes and I absolutely loved it!

Though it was written in the 19th century, a time noted for its long novels, The Sign of Four is fast-paced and very easy to read. There’s no superfluous information – the reader is given the necessary facts and developments in an orderly and effective fashion, with remarkable descriptions and delightful humour thrown in along the way.

But it’s far from a mindless read. Through prompts and questions from Sherlock Holmes, a teacher among other talents, Watson, the narrator, must fill in the blanks even when the former already knows the answer. He wants Watson to use his brain too and this, in turn, encourages the person reading.

The mystery itself is a very exotic one involving a disappearance, a few Indians, some Asian islanders, and valuable treasure. But if that’s not enough to keep you entertained, just leave it to the wonderfully quirky characters. Watson is lovable and inquisitive, and he always manages to ask the right questions. Holmes is a remarkable master of all trades, and his innovative thinking never fails to induce a sense of wonder.

Altogether, The Sign of Four is an impeccably written mystery filled with never-ending wit, excitement, beautifully described locations, fantastic characters, and plenty of puzzles. I can’t wait to read more of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's masterpieces!

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Saturday 6 July 2013

Vintage Paris in postcards

Paris. I love Paris. And lately it seems as though Paris is everywhere, including amidst the storylines of several books that I have lined up to peruse over the coming weeks. Let's just call this 'The Coincidental Summer of French Reading'! Not that I'm complaining – it has, after all, been nearly a year since my last visit, so there must be something subliminal going on here.

But in addition to visiting this romantic city vicariously through the printed word, my vintage postcard collection appears to only have created space at present for those sporting Parisian photographs taken during the early to mid 20th century. Thank goodness eBay has plenty of these to whet my appetite!

So, I thought I'd share a few of my favourites here.

I love trying to find (or create) a story behind each photograph. Perhaps one day I'll use some of these as inspiration for a novel...?

Click on any postcard to enlarge the image