Friday, 20 May 2016

The Girl Who Lied - Sue Fortin BLOG TOUR



Sue Fortin is joining me today to talk about her love of mysteries as part of the blog tour for her new release The Girl Who Lied.  Follow the tour to find out more about both Sue and the novel! 

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My love of any sort of story with a mystery to it has always been a prominent factor when choosing a book to read, a TV programme to watch or a film to see at the cinema. I have to confess to being an adventure junkie, thrill seeker, code breaker, mystery solver, in fact, anything high-octane with suspense, but all from the safety of my armchair. In particular, is my love for any sort of story with a mystery to be solved.
I blame Enid Blyton for this.
I’ve always enjoyed reading and, like many people my age, I started with Enid Blyton, ‘The Mystery of …’ series being my favourite. I then went onto discover, Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Minette Walters, Sue Grafton, James Patterson and so on. You can see the pattern.
This love of the mystery extended out into TV shows from gentle Murder She Wrote, Columbo, screen adaptations of Agatha Christie novels to Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, NYPD Blue, The Professionals, Spooks, CIS and more recently Line of Duty, Hinterland and The Bridge.
And, of course, the big screen, where I’m probably more drawn to the action films like Heat, Ronin, Lawless, Last of the Mohicans, Reverend … really the list is endless. Having said that, two of my most favourite mystery films are Sleuth (1972) and The Last of Shelia (1973).
It’s probably not surprising that all these different forms of storytelling have influenced my own writing. Although, initially I wrote a romance, I still couldn’t help bringing in a bit of intrigue and mystery and this is a trend that has seeped more and more into my writing as time has gone on.
My latest novel The Girl Who Lied has lots of secrets and suspense which filters through as the story unfolds. I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and loved adding the twists and turns along the way.
The Girl Who Lied is out now, published by Harper Impulse.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Extract from Danger, Sweetheart by MaryJanice Davidson

I'm delighted to be able to share an extract from MaryJanice Davidson's Danger, Sweetheart on my blog today. 
 
 
 
Natalie Lane watched the rented truck cover the last half mile to Heartbreak and was not impressed. This would be the first of what promised to be weeks of awful days, and not for the first time she wondered why she didn’t give up, give in, and get lost. Follow half the town out of town. Let Sweetheart die.
 
Not even if he stuck a gun in my ear. Because it wasn’t the town, it was never the town, it was always the people. Well. Most of the people. Garrett Hobbes, for example, could fuck right off. The world needed more golf courses like a diabetic needed a glucose drip.
 
The truck passed the last gate and pulled up between the farmhouse and Barn Main. The engine quit and she could see him in the driver’s seat, moving his hands, and was he . . . ? Was he patting the steering wheel? In a well done, mighty steed way? Yes. Yes he was.
 
Self-congratulation must run in that family, she mused. Oh, and look at this. He remembered to kick out the ladder this time. Too bad. She’d  have loved to see him on his ass in the dirt. Again.
 
“It’s you!” he said as he hopped down, having the balls-out nerve to sound excited. Except where did she get off ? Before she knew who he was, she’d have been happy to see him, too. If anything, she was more pissed because she had liked him on short acquaintance. What  if he’d never seen her in her other life? When would she have found out his terrible truth? Their first date? Their first month–aversary? Their wedding night?
 
Wedding night? Jeez, Natalie, get a grip.
 
“Hello again.” He stuck out his hand, which she definitely didn’t notice was large and looked strong, especially in contrast to her own teeny paws. Nor did she notice he had big hands and, as a glance at his shoes told her, big feet, and she definitely didn’t form a theory about his dick based solely on his sizeable mitts. She also didn’t notice how his smile took years from his face, or how his pricey clothes beautifully set off those long legs and wide shoulders, that  the color of his crisp button-down shirt was the same color as his dark blue eyes, that his tan slacks
(slacks? Seriously? Slacks?)
fit like they were made for him
(of course they were; guy’s probably got a fleet of tailors stashed somewhere)
and that his swimmer’s shoulders made his waist appreciably narrow in contrast.
 
He was still holding out his hand, and she gave it a brief listless shake, the limp kind with the bare tips of her fingers. “You’re late.”
 

Buy Danger Sweetheart from Amazon UK now

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Love Song - Sophia Bennett


The Blurb

Seventeen-year-old Nina doesn't get why everyone's obsessed with The Point - but when she averts a backstage disaster and is offered a job on tour, she can hardly turn it down. She quickly learns that being with the hottest band on the planet isn't as easy as it looks: behind the scenes, the boys are on the verge of splitting up. Tasked with keeping an eye on four gorgeous but spoiled rock stars, Nina's determined to stick it out - and not fall for any of them ...

The Review

There are some book reviews that I dread writing.  This is one of them.  I just know that it'll be impossible to convey everything I loved about this book in a few short paragraphs, because as young adult fiction goes, Love Song is pretty darn perfect.

Nina is an ordinary seventeen year old - well, sort of.  All around her people are going crazy for hot band The Point, but she doesn't see the attraction.  In fact, she only goes to their gig to keep her sister, who's a big fan, company.  However, when by a twist of fate she's offered an opportunity to join them on tour she sees a different side to each of the boys and they're no longer celebrities staring out of a magazine but real people with real problems...

It's gently humorous and touching and I adored Nina - she's such a relatable character.  Although she's in an extraordinary situation she comes across as a normal, grounded young woman discovering who she is and what she wants from life, which sets this book apart from some of the other reads out there with a celebrity backdrop.  It was well written and engaging, and I genuinely couldn't stop reading it.  I actually fell asleep with it in my hand - that's how unwilling I was to put it down.

However, what I loved most about this book was the way it unflinchingly examined what it means to be a fan to the point of what some people might class as 'obsession'.  As a self-confessed fangirl I absolutely related to the hoards of fans who bonded over a shared love the band.  Sophia Bennett captured the essence of what it is to love a band, and more importantly be part of a fandom, perfectly.  I actually shared certain passages from this book on social media to try and explain that "Yes!  This is how it feels to be a fan!" to all those who have mocked and accused and been dismissive of what it means to be a part of a community of people who love the same thing.  Part of me hoped they'd see it and understand.  But there's a selfish part of me that didn't want them to, because it really feels that Love Song is for us die-hards, for those who've pressed F5 until their fingertips have gone numb on ticket release day, or those who've queued for eight hours for the doors to a gig to open. 

I hope all the other fangirls I know read this book and love it as much as I did.  Love Song is a book I know I'll reread again and again and again.

Love Song is out now, published by Chicken House books.

Darkmere - Helen Maslin



The Blurb

A castle. A curse. One dangerous holiday ...

Kate and her friends are spending the summer at Darkmere Castle in Devon which she thinks will be a perfect opportunity for her to get together with Leo. But instead, she s drawn into the dark story of an nineteenth-century girl who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house ... and whose curse now hangs over them all.

The Review

I'd heard so many wonderful things about Darkmere and as such was very excited to sink my teeth into this young adult novel.  With comparisons to Daphne du Maurier, whose work I absolutely adore, I began reading with a heart full of hope and just a smidge of trepidation - would it be able to live up to such huge accolades?

Helen Maslin has definitely taken the elements of a traditional gothic novel and twisted them to fit this dual narrative tale.  The contemporary element keeps it fresh and current, so teen readers will find themselves relating to Kate, Leo and the rest of the crew as they run from society and the constraints it imposes on them.  But it was the nineteenth century story of young wife Elinor which pulled at my heartstrings the most.  It definitely had a feel of Rebecca, with dark secrets and a protagonist who is unsure of what's happening with her own marriage.

I found myself holding my breath as the ghostly tale unfolded before me and the past and present entwined.  The castle of the title is a wonderful setting and the imagery created transported me into the building in both time periods. 

I'll definitely be looking out for more of Helen Maslin's work as the writing was fantastic and the novel as a whole was a breath of fresh air.  Chilling and captivating, Darkmere had my heart pounding in my chest for all the right reasons.

Darkmere is available in ebook and paperback format, published by Chicken House books.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Recently I Read... Spring 2016 (Part 3)

Here's what I've been reading through Spring 2016...

Dumplin' - Julie Murphy
I'd been so excited for this YA book about Willowdean, a fat girl grieving her Dolly Parton fanatic aunt.  However, whilst it was refreshing to read a book about someone overweight that is comfortable in their skin, I found it so far removed from my own experience of being a fat teen that I struggled to relate.  There were some memorable scenes, as Willowdean and her friend visited her aunt's old haunts and fought to fight societies rigid expectations of beauty, but it fell just short of my high expectations.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli
This was my book group choice as I'd heard fabulous things about it from the book blogging community. The other adults in the group were not as enamoured by it as I was, but I was charmed by Simon as he learns to understand himself and become more at ease with his sexuality.  I was with Simon every step of the way as he sought out the mysterious Blue, who he'd been exchanging emails with.  A heartfelt read.

If You Could Be Mine - Sara Farizan
Sahar loves her best friend Nasrin, but they can never be together.  Iran is not a place accepting of same sex relationships and their forbidden kisses have to stop before someone gets hurt.  This was a fresh idea in YA literature but it lacked depth, possibly because it's a fairly short book and I found it hard to care much about the characters involved. 

More Tales of the City - Armistead Maupin
Back in San Francisco for the second book of the series, and it was wackier and wilder than the first instalment but still with the same quirky and likable characters.  I loved the sleuthing as they try to uncover Mary Ann's boyfriend's past and although it seemed a bit far fetched in places I was gripped to the end.  It's hard to believe this book is as old as it is - it reads as so contemporary.  Funny and touching, Maupin's books are unique and fantastic.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Recently I Read...Spring 2016 (Part 2)

Carrying on with my snapshot reviews, here are some more of the books I read during my crazily busy spring.

Dead Ends - Erin Lange
A story of friendship between wild, popular Dane and compliant Billy D.  The boys have different backgrounds and different dreams, yet their relationship blooms regardless.  The dialogue and banter is so realistic, Erin Lange nailed it.  I loved that this book had a main character with Down's Syndrome too - more inclusive books like this, please!

Seven Ways We Lie - Riley Redgate
Seven characters, each with flaws, tell this story and Redgate manages to balance the multiple narrators well.  We learn early on that someone is having a student/teacher affair, but who?  Can anything remain a secret in the tightly entwined community of Paloma High School?  Diverse, well crafted characters, some likeable and some not, had me turning the pages and I was thrilled to see a pansexual character in this original YA novel.

Flirty Dancing - Jenny McLachlan
A sweet romantic story of overweight Bea who enters a dance competition with a popular boy.  This reminded me of the teen romances I read in my own youth and I loved it for that, plus the plotline of the dance competition really worked for me.  It's contemporary, swoony and highly readable.  Fans of Stephanie Perkins (or Grease!) might well fall in love with this first instalment of the Ladybirds series.

Between You and Me - Lisa Hall
Marketed as a book with a twist, I found myself constantly questioning when it was going to be revealed.  The story of Sal and Charlie's abusive marriage is told by dual narrative which gives insight into both characters.  I felt I understood Sal more (maybe due to being more sympathetic) than Charlie by the end.  I did guess the twist, although may not have had it not been for the hype around it, but this interesting debut has taken the psychological thriller sector by storm and is now available in paperback as well as ereader format.


The It-Girl - Katy Birchall
Laugh out loud funny YA novel about a girl who suddenly finds herself in the spotlight when her dad starts dating a celebrity.  I loved Anna's lists, her friendships, the fast-paced writing and especially the way Anna's relationship with her step-mum and step-sister develops throughout the novel.  I really enjoyed this and wish I'd read it sooner.  It reminded me of Geek Girl, which is a series I love.  Can't wait to read book 2!

Recently I Read...will continue!

Monday, 2 May 2016

Recently I Read... Spring 2016 (part one)

I've had a bit of a blogging hiatus due to life getting busier and busier of late, and I've made a decision that rather than giving full reviews of every book I've read I'm going to review most of the books in 100 words or less in a series of posts 'Recently I Read...)  The stand-out books I read during this time will get full reviews soon as I have to recommend them to you properly!

Here's the first batch of books I read -

The Cricket in Times Square - George Selden
A classic children's book about a cat, a mouse, a cricket and a boy.  Set mainly in Times Square subway station, George Selden's gentle tale gives the reader a flavour of New York life, and even though it was written in 1960 it's still charming and relatable.  Garth Williams accompanying illustrations are gorgeous.

The Thing about Jellyfish - Ali Benjamin
Suzy is grieving her best friend Franny who died by drowning in the sea.  Convincing herself that Franny was stung by a jellyfish and that's the cause of death, Suzy makes it her mission to learn all she can about them.  An interesting idea but I found myself switching off during the fact-dropping sections in this YA book.

Miss Brill - Katherine Mansfield
This collection of short stories in the Penguin Little Black Classics collection interested me as I have been meaning to read Mansfield's work for a while.  That's the great thing about the series - it's a brilliant way to try new authors.  The story of the title was my favourite, an examination of loneliness, whilst the other two were both centred around relationships.  Whilst I admire Mansfield's writing and ability to capture character and setting so well in a short word count, it hasn't made me buy any more of her works as yet.

D is for Dahl - Wendy Cooling
Non-fiction book of facts about Roald Dahl that my son got out of the library.  Both of us enjoyed dipping into this book and finding out more about Dahl's stories, writing process and life. 

Recently I Read...Spring 2016 will return!

Sunday, 1 May 2016

My Month in Manga - April 2016

I think of myself as a pretty diverse reader.  I read fiction and non-fiction aplenty across a variety of genres and with differing target audiences.  I read poetry, fan fiction and flash fiction.  And occasionally I've read graphic novels - over recent years I've reread some of the Tintin stories and reviewed a graphic novel adaptation of Peter Pan last year.

But I'd never tried manga before, despite its popularity.  I can't say why really, other than that a lot of the titles bloggers raved about didn't hold any appeal for me.  I either didn't like the style of the art, or it looked like it was too far towards fantasy/gore for my taste.

Last week I had a bit of spare time after meeting friends at Meadowhall and so naturally I drifted to the bookshop (actually I drifted to a few - Waterstone's and WH Smith).  It was in the latter that I browsed the surprisingly large manga section and found a book I couldn't resist taking away with me.  That book was the first omnibus volume of Princess Jellyfish.  I absolutely fell head over heels in love with Tsukimi and her friends and it's encouraged me to try more manga, mainly josei (aimed at ladies) or shojo/shoujo (aimed at teen girls). 

Here's the manga I read in April.

Princess Jellyfish - vol.1

 
The Blurb
 
Tsukimi Kurashita has a strange fascination with jellyfish. She's loved them from a young age and has carried that love with her to her new life in the big city of Tokyo.

There, she resides in Amamizukan, a safe-haven for girl geeks who regularly gush over a range of things from trains to Japanese dolls. However, a chance meeting at a pet shop has Tsukimi crossing paths with one of the things that the residents of Amamizukan have been desperately trying to avoid - a fashionable socialite!

But there's much more to this woman than her trendy clothes. Their odd encounter is only the beginning of a new and unexpected path for Tsukimi and her friends.
 
The Review
 
Fangirls and romance are an irresistible combination and Princess Jellyfish absolutely nails it.  From the moment I was introduced to Tsukimi I knew this was a young woman I could relate to.  Her and her friends the Amars are socially awkward and devote their lives to their passions in trains, manga and kimonos.  They're disinterested in fashion and no real desire to fit in.  So when a beautiful woman bursts into their life and shows no sign of taking the hint to leave, everything changes. 
 
Princess Jellyfish was a perfect introduction to manga.  Firstly, the art is absolutely gorgeous.  When I finished reading I started again so I could really appreciate it in its own right.  And it was also really, really helpful that the characters were visually different.  I wasn't ever wondering which character was which because they all had individual styles.  The story was compelling - familiar enough because it followed the trope of the misfit, yet with a new twist.  It was humorous and light hearted yet still dealt with issues such as societal expectations, politics (on an accessible level!) and grief.  I'd urge anyone keen to try manga to start with Princess Jellyfish - I can't wait for volume 2 to be released in June!
 
Princess Jellyfish is published by Kodansha Comics.  It is available in ebook and paperback form.
 
Hot Gimmick vol.1
 
 
The Blurb
 

In company-owned rabbit-hutch apartments live tenants who can't afford to live anywhere else, and the apartment complex in which high-school girl Hatsumi Narita lives is ruled over by the rumour mongering, self-righteous Mrs. Tachibana. Get on Tachibana's bad side, and life becomes hell. When Hatsumi has to buy a pregnancy test because her popular sister Akane is late, Mrs. Tachibana's son, Ryoki, who used to bully Hatsumi as a kid, promises not to tell the world about Hatsumi's secret if she becomes his slave. Suddenly Azusa, Hatsumi's protector in their youth, reappears to save her again! He's moving back into the neighbourhood! Despite the budding romance between Hatsumi and Azusa, Ryoki has control over her through the secret that could ruin the lives of everyone in Hatsumi's family, and he hasn't forgotten who his slave is!
 
The Review
 
I picked up Hot Gimmick at the library because I was drawn to the cover.  I loved the style of the art especially the wide-eyed characters and the simplicity in the strong lines.  The cover is typical of the style throughout this manga.
 
The actual plot of Hot Gimmick made uncomfortable reading at times as Ryoki's bullying of nervous Hatsumi is sexual - he's pressurising her to try and make her do things she doesn't want to do.  This didn't sit well with me at all and at one point I almost put it down because I found it so disturbing - probably worse than in other fictions that cover similar topics because it's visually played out through the artwork.
 
However, I did keep reading because I cared enough to know what would happen next and I hoped that with the return of Hatsumi's friend Azusa she'd become more confident and stop giving in to Ryoki's blackmailing. 
 
I was so irate with this book for a number of reasons but I will go and get volume 2 from the library because I'm curious enough to find out what happens next.
 
Hot Gimmick is published by Viz Media in ebook and paperback format.
 
Kiss Him, Not Me! vol.1
 
 
The Blurb
 

Kae is a secret fujoshi (female manga/anime nerd) who spends all day fantasizing about her male classmates making out with… each other.

However, her fervent passion for manga and anime causes an accident that comes with surprising results.

The once homely and overweight fangirl has become an overwhelmingly cute girl who now turns heads everywhere she goes. With her new looks, Kae has caught the attention of a group of handsome boys who all want to date her. But in the end Kae is still a fujoshi at heart, and rather than receive kisses from them, she would get much more enjoyment out of seeing those boys make out with each other.
 
The Review
 
Kiss Him, Not Me! is one of the most popular shojo manga series at the moment.  When Kae's favourite anime character dies, she's bereft - so bereft that she goes from plain and overweight into the hottest girl around in a fortnight.  It soon becomes the typical ugly duckling/'fat girl loses weight and becomes desirable' story when four boys are suddenly interested in Kae and are willing to overlook her obsession with manga to get her to choose them over the others.
 
It's an entertaining read and I can see why it's done so well, I just wish the story didn't revolve around Kae's weight/transformation.  On a personal level, that touched a nerve.
 
The other thing I found slightly confusing was how the male characters looked similar - it made it hard at times to differentiate between them.  There were a few times I had to break my stride to refer back to previous boxes to work out which boy was which.
 
However, I'll definitely be reading volume 2 and just wish this volume had been a double/omnibus!
 
Kiss Him, Not Me! is published by Kodansha in ebook and paperback format.
 
That was my month in manga!


Down Dorset Way... A Guest Post by Debbie Johnson


Today I'm welcoming Debbie Johnson to Books with Bunny.  Her new release Summer at the Comfort Food CafĂ© was published by Harper Impulse last Friday, and Debbie was keen to share exactly why she so loves Dorset in this guest post today.

Over to Debbie!




I must admit that when I booked our first holiday in Dorset, I actually secretly wanted to go to Cornwall, one of my favourite places on earth.

But with three kids and two dogs in the car, and the prospect of a lengthy drive from Liverpool, it seemed like a good compromise – a similar vibe, but with less time swearing on the motorway.

We headed off to our cottages near the village of Maiden Newton half expecting it to be a poor man’s Poldark country.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead, we found a rich and varied county full of rolling hills, stunning countryside and of course a world-renowned coastline. We found pretty villages and wonderful pubs and gorgeous food. We found welcoming people, friendly faces, and heaven on earth for both the children and the dogs.

This is the land of Thomas Hardy and Tess of the d’Urbervilles; it’s Far from the Madding Crowd and it’s the French Lieutenant’s Woman and it’s Broadchurch. It’s absolutely bloody gorgeous, and I deny anybody looking down at Durdle Door in the morning not to fall in love with it.

We stay at Lancombe Country Cottages, a dog-friendly, family-friendly haven set between coast and country. Like Cherie’s properties at the Rockery, they’re wonderfully located – but unlike the Rockery, they are beautifully decorated inside as well!

Just a short drive away from there, you can find the resorts of Weymouth and Poole; Lyme Regis and West Bay, the Jurassic Coast and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Like Laura and her family, we never want to leave – but real life isn’t fiction, so we always have to!

It’s been wonderful creating a whole Dorset world for my characters to inhabit, and I hope you have enjoyed sharing their stories.

Sadly, the Comfort Food Cafe is entirely fictional – but the kind of beautiful view from its clifftop location are not. If you’re tempted to go and see for yourself, my friends at Visit Dorset have provided us with their list of the area’s Top Ten Views to Fall in Love With – and seeing is believing! 

1) Gold Hill, Shaftesbury – this steep cobbled street is famous for its picturesque appearance; the view looking down from the top of the street has been described as “one of the most romantic sights in England” and was made famous in the 1970s Hovis advert.

2) Hengistbury Head – this headland south-east of Christchurch was an important trading port even from the Iron Age but is now a Nature Reserve; stand on top of the plateau and you will see views of Christchurch Harbour, Mudeford, Isle of Wight and Bournemouth beach

3) Hambledon Hill – standing on top of this prehistoric hillfort situated near Blandford Forum gives glorious views across the Blackmore Vale. Nearby Fontmell Down offers similarly spectacular views.
 
 

4) Ballard Down – One of Dorset’s most attractive hills, Ballard Down offers fantastic views of the Dorset heaths, Poole Harbour and Old Harry Rocks.

5) Chesil Beach view near Abbotsbury – the coastal road from from Bridport to Abbotsbury (the B3157) offers wonderful views along the Jurassic Coast and just before you arrive in the picturesque village of Abbotsbury, Chesil Beach stretches before you with views to Portland.

6) Golden Cap –this is the highest point along the south coast of England and on a clear day, you can see to Dartmoor in Devon.

7) Hardy’s Monument, Portesham – erected in 1844, a monument to Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy who captained Nelson’s ship HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar and was born in Dorset; views across both heathland and the coast.
 
 

8) Swyre Head – the highest spot in the Purbeck hills near Swanage; the hill commands extensive views from the Isle of Wight to Portland.

10) Pilsdon Pen – Pilsdon Pen is an Iron Age Hillfort on the highest hill in Dorset and is only 30 metres short of a mountain! The hill offers sweeping views across the hedged landscape of the Marshwood Vale and is a perfect spot for a picnic.

You can find out more at www.visit-dorset.com, or connect with them via twitter @dorsettourism, https://www.facebook.com/VisitDorset/, or https://www.instagram.com/‌visitdorsetofficial/.