20 February 2011

In My Mailbox #69

Sorry I've been a bit MIA lately. Things are very hectic at the moment and I'm afraid I don't have much time to read or blog. Sadly this will probably continue for the next couple of months so the posts are likely to be sparce, but please bear with me? :)

Anyway, here's my haul from the last couple of weeks!
IN A HEARTBEAT by Loretta Elsworth - Finally out in paperback, yay!
THE LOCKET by Stacey Jay - Sounds good, couldn't resist it!
GOING FOR GOLD by Kay Woodward - The fourth book in the Skate School series. Haven't read the first three, but I'm planning to!
YOU DON'T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME by Sara Manning - Sounds really good, can't wait if it lives up to the hype!
BEFORE I KNEW YOU by Amanda Brookfield - A review copy. This book was SO much more appealing when it was called HOUSE SWAP and it had an amazingly pretty cover. Such a downgrade, I really don't like this horrible new look. :(

That it's from me - what did YOU get? :)

13 February 2011

Author interview: LULU TAYLOR

I've recently read MIDNIGHT GIRLS by Lulu Taylor, which I absolutely loved so I was very excited when the author kindly agreed to an interview for my little blog! Read on to learn more about Ms Taylor, her inspiration, her writing process and even some scoop on her next book!!

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I was brought up just outside Oxford in England, and then went to university there, where I read English Literature – and had a marvellous time. After that, I worked in publishing for a while and then became a freelance writer. Now I love spending my time weaving stories about high society and the ridiculously rich. I live in London.

Your debut novel was published in 2009 and since then you've written a book a year. What was your road to becoming a published author like?
My road to becoming an author was a bit different to most people’s, as I had already worked in publishing and had an idea of how it all worked – for example, I knew how to send my work to an agent and I had a good sense of which agencies might suit me. I think that definitely helped, but having said that, no publisher publishes something that they don’t rate, so there’s no way I could have got a deal just by knowing the business. I get nervous every time I finish a book that the publisher won’t like it and it will all be over.

How would you describe each of your books in five words?
Sexy, dramatic, dark, rich, scandalous. That covers all of them, I think. Besides the heroines’ journeys, there is always another angle or two, and I research those carefully. In HEIRESSES, there is a lot about scent and how perfumes are made and sold. The exclusive nightclubs in MIDNIGHT GIRLS are based on famous places and you will find lots of real details in there of how they look and how they’re run. The department store in BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is based on a very well-known London landmark.

What all your three books seem to have in common is that they are set in the world of the incredibly rich. Is there are particular reason why you decided to write such glamorous bonkbusters? Where do you get the inspiration?
I wanted to write about this world because I’m fascinated by it and love reading about it. The rich really live very different lives to the rest of us. In some ways, those lives are very seductive – a world where you can have anything you want, where high luxury is just an everyday occurrence. In other ways, those lives are dangerous because they’re so removed from reality and because the most extraordinary events – like kidnappings or disinheritance – actually happen. I loved programmes like Dallas and Dynasty when I was growing up, and the novels are like that: soap operas with big cars and expensive houses.

I get inspiration all the time – in fact, it’s hard keeping hold of all the ideas. Newspapers, magazines, and just stories I hear about other people’s lives are always starting off potential plot lines for me.

Are your novels based on personal experience? What kind of research have you had to do so far?
There is plenty of personal experience in the books – in fact, I think readers might be surprised at exactly what is true and what is not! Some of the most bizarre things are completely real – but of course I’m not saying which. The bits in Oxford in MIDNIGHT GIRLS had a lot of truth: I saw some wild events and some very rich young people going off the rails. Luckily I didn’t get pulled into that life myself.

Writing HEIRESSES, I had to research perfume and became a real geek on it for a while, trying out dozens of scents and learning to distinguish between them. MIDNIGHT GIRLS was pretty enjoyable, as I had to go to some smart nightclubs and drink cocktails (I know, it’s a hard life). BEAUTIFUL CREATURES was more desk research than travelling about – though I did have to take a helicopter flight. It’s the small things that can cause the most difficulties – how family businesses work, points of law and trust management – that sort of thing. And I always spend a lot of time researching the clothes, food, furnishings... everything that makes the books feel real.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? How and where do you write? How long does it take for you to write one novel, since they're all massive?
It takes several months to write each book. I work in a variety of places, most often at home. Sometimes I just have to get out of the house for a change of scene and new inspiration. In those cases, I go to libraries or quiet places. I like certain cafes or clubs where I can order coffee and cake when I need a boost. Surroundings can help, so I like to go to luxurious places occasionally. Once the first draft is done, there is always the second to do, and that can be really hard work. As soon as one book is finished, it’s time to plan the next.

As I said, your books are very lengthy and yet they're anything but boring and they seem to be very well structured. Do you do a lot of planning in advance?
I always know where it’s going to begin and where it’s going to end, and what the main plotlines are. I plan the early part of the book and then I always get keen to start, so off I go. Often I end up on quite a different track, or a character turns out not to be what I’d planned, and things change quite radically. That’s part of the fun – seeing where it all goes... I always try to keep it pacy and eventful, and easy to read so you want to keep turning the pages. Sometimes I get completely absorbed by it all, and carried away at high moments of emotion. When a character died in MIDNIGHT GIRLS, I was sobbing!

When can we expect your next novel and can you share any information about it yet (please!)?
My next novel is due out in January 2012, and it doesn’t have a title yet, though I’m working on it. This one is about two girls, born on the same day to very different families and backgrounds. But their lives become irreversibly intertwined and their fortunes vary hugely. There is a love story in this one that’s absolutely central to the plot, and a big, bold villain as well. It’s already lots of fun to write.

Your books would make fantastic films - do you have anything like that planned for the future? Which book for you most like to see as a film and what would your ideal cast be like?
I would love to see one of the novels filmed, though I always imagine them more as mini dramas on the television – because of my old Dynasty influences, I suppose. People are making rather grittier things than this at the moment though, or else making period dramas. So we shall see what happens, but I won’t hold my breath. My ideal cast would be, of course, very glamorous and very good at high drama. I’d love Joan Collins to have a guest role, even if I had to write it in!

Thank you for answering my questions!

Ms Taylor's book BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is out now! Don't forget to check out her other two books, HEIRESSESS and MIDNIGHT GIRLS.
You can learn more about the author on her website or follow her on Twitter!

11 February 2011

Review: REDHEAD REVEALED by Alice Clayton *****

As their careers catch fire, Grace and Jack -- everyone’s favorite foul-mouthed, funny, and feisty couple -- find themselves on opposite coasts. Grace has landed in New York City, where she loves being onstage again, particularly because she’s playing a fabulous character in a musical written by her old college flame, Michael. Their rekindled friendship makes exploring the city that much more fun.
Wait, it’s just friendship, right?

Meanwhile, in L.A., Jack can scarcely keep up with the swirling throngs of women who track him everywhere he goes, the endless press appearances, and the ridiculous rules his manager, Holly, keeps concocting for him -- all part of the buildup to the release of Time, his steamy new film.
Thank goodness for phone sex.

But even when their schedules allow them to connect, Grace and Jack must keep their relationship off the radar and away from paparazzi cameras. Sure, the sex is sensational, but can this duo survive swirling rumors, the demands of their chosen professions, Grace’s raging internal battles, and a whopping nine-year age difference?
Tick-tock, the clock is ticking. Isn’t it?

Alice Clayton brings the second installment of a tale told with her magical mix of humor and heat, so cuddle up under the sheets and flip on the Golden Girls. Grace and Jack are at it again.
I'm honestly head over heels in LOVE with this crazy hot couple!
This is the second book in the so-called Redhead series and some of you may remember how much I enjoyed the first one, The Unidentified Redhead - well, that one was AMAZING, but this one was EVEN BETTER! Yes, caps are necessary because this books deserve them because they are SO GOOD!

Anyway, in my review of the first book I mentioned that while I really enjoyed reading about G&J's hott relationship, I also thought it was a very superficial one - they hardly knew each other outside the bedroom and they seemed to only 'exist in their sex bubble'. Well, in the second book, reality hits and all Grace's unresolved issues and insecurities from the past come back to haunt her. They're both making it big on the opposite sides of the country so they don't get to see each other very often and even when they do, things don't always go according to the plan ... Can they make it through the crazy times and is there a future for them? Do they want a family? Do they even know what they're getting themselves into? Will the passion ever wear off?

Talking about the characters - Grace is fantastic and I grew even fonder of her after this book, but Jack, Jack, Jack ... Oh, Jack, why do you have to be so SWOONWORTHY?! I mean, not only is this man BRITISH (!!!), he's also rich and has an amazingly kind and understanding personality and he's fun and oh oh OOH! Luke Brandon (from Shopaholic) used to be my #1 book crush, but Jack is soooo close to stealing that title, lol.

So yes, I loved that this story was a bit more complex and had some downs and not just ups (life ain't a fairytale, yo), but at the same time it kept its trademark (raunchy) humour and hotness and adorable characters! Quick warning though: this book doesn't shy away from sex or swearing so if you're sensitive about that, then this might not be quite the book for you - but I still strongly recommend it because it's so much FUN to read!

Overall, I have nothing but praise for this gem of a book and I cannot wait for further hothothot adventures of Grace & Jack, whom I absolutely adore! I hear the third book is already in the making and you best believe I'll gobble it up as soon as it's available!

overall rating:
plot: 5/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 3/5

ps: Oh and did I mention that the first book contains the best line e-v-e-r: "TALK BRITISH TO ME." My girl Grace knows what's up! ;)

9 February 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: ROYAL WEDDING FEVER

As we all know, Prince William and Kate Middleton are getting married in a few months (BIG WHOOP?) and the world has gone gaga over their upcoming wedding, which resulted in several royal-wedding-themed books too! Most of them are non-fiction about the couple itself, but there a couple of authors who have been inspired by this event and have decided to use it for a fictional story ... Below are two examples, which both sound FANTASTIC (espesh the first one) and I can't wait to read them, although I'm honestly not that into royal wedding - I guess I'm more interested in what goes on behind the scenes, which is exactly what the books provide, yay. :)

by Sophie Page
[26th April 2011]
One night is about to change Bella’s life for ever…

Bella Greenwood isn’t a fairytale girl. If pushed, she’d probably tell you that her perfect wedding would involve a handful of close friends and family. But as she’s never met anyone she’d like to marry, it’s a moot point.

Until, in a midnight garden, Bella is helped out of an embarrassing situation by a tall, dark, handsome man with laughing eyes. And suddenly her life changes for ever, because the man is the world’s most eligible bachelor: Prince Richard, heir to the throne.

Richard sweeps her off her feet, and before she knows it they’re engaged. Which is when Bella’s problems really begin. Suddenly she is public property, and as if it isn’t enough to have her every move watched – while also learning to curtsy and negotiating the etiquette of how to address her future mother-in-law – she soon finds herself embroiled in bridesmaid politics, a right royal hen night, and a wedding dress controversy that causes a national scandal…

Can this ordinary girl survive the preparations for her very own Royal Wedding?
[OMG, this sounds SO GOOD! The cover's a bit noring though - I mean, where's the tiara?!]

by Chrissie Manby
[31st March 2011]
Thirty-nine-year-old Kate had almost given up on love when she met her fiancé. Now she's planning for the wedding she never dreamed she'd have. But things seem to be slipping out of her control.

Diana, born on the day of the 1981 Royal Wedding, never doubted that one day she would find her prince. Newly engaged, and with daddy's credit card in her grasp, she's in full Bridezilla mode.

Against the backdrop of the other couple getting married in April 2011, both women prepare for the most important day of their lives. But will each bride get her perfect day? Or will it all become a right royal fiasco?
So, what do you think? Anyone else guilty of a bit of royal wedding fever? :)

6 February 2011

In My Mailbox #68

Ooh, another awesome week - check out all the goodies I got below!

BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Lulu Taylor - Yaaaay, my copy finally arrived! You all know how much I adored Midnight Girls and I've already said how much I look forward to reading this one! I'm planning to dedicate a whole weekend to it asap because it's massive!
UNBELIEVABLE by Sara Shepard - I think this is like the 4th book in the Pretty Little Liars series and I haven't even read the first one, but I'm planning to and I can't help buying these books, heh!
ROOM by Emma Donoghue - I've seen this one around a lot and suddenly I just got the urge to read it. It sounds horrifying, but at the same time fascinating? Plus it's like the #1 bestseller pretty much everywhere so I want to see what all the fuss is about.

DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver - The books was released this week and I've already read it (my review here), but I was kindly sent the pretty UK finished copy.
TO THE MOON AND BACK by Jill Mansel - This one was a surprise and even though everyone keeps praising her books, I just don't see myself ever reading them. Why? Because the covers are absolutely hideous - the colours, the text, the illustration, everything is just EW. I'm sure the stories are great, but the covers are just too horrible for me to give the books a chance - no offence.
TO TOUCH THE STARS by Jessica Ruston - I've posted an excerpt from the book here and there you can also learn how to win a copy of this book yourself!

I also got a lovely goodie bag to promote RIVA, the new Mills & Boon imprint! Inside the package were the face mask, the chocolate bar aaaand two books:
I have to say, I am LOVING their new covers and they make me want to buy the whole series! Absolutely gorgeous so well done, Riva, I'll be keeping an eye on you! ;)

3 February 2011

Review: DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver ****

There was a time when love was the most important thing in the world. People would go to the end of the earth to find it. They would tell lies for it. Even kill for it.

Then, at last, they found the cure.

Now, everything is different. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the government demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Haloway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But then, with only ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable ...
Yes, this book just came out and everyone and their monkey is reviewing it! Like everyone else, I can't help comparing it to its predecessor, Oliver's outstanding debut Before I Fall, which I absolutely adored and it just blew me away. I read it ages ago and have been looking forward to Delirium ever since. I was lucky enough to score shiny proof, but I admit I was a little anxious to read it because ... I mean, how could Lauren ever surpass the brilliance that was her debut?! I've also seen several mixed reviews so I had no idea what to expect so I figured I might as well give it a try and see what's up ...

Well, I wasn't disappoint, but I wasn't really blown away either (expect by the ending, but more on that later). As I expected, I didn't find it better than Before I Fall, but it certainly wasn't a bad read, far from it! If I had to use one word to describe it, I'd say it was POWERFUL and it had more of an effect on me than I thought initially ...

But let's discuss the plot first. I'm sure you aaaaaall know very well what this is about, set in the not-too-distant future when love is considered to be the most horrible disease and in order to prevent catching it, all the citizens have a curing procedure done at 18 - a sort of brain surgery that prevents them from not only falling in love, but it also erases on their emotions, both negative and positive ones. It's for their best, the (oppresive) society tells them, and everyone believes it. Lena, our heroine, is almost 18 and she cannot wait to have the procedure done and to be paired with her match and live happily ever after ... right? But then she remember her mother, who was apparently uncurable, and how she danced and sang, so unlike other robotic parents ... and how all her love was the end of her. She also learns about the world that exists outside the strict society rules and she can't help being intrigued. Lastly, there's also this boy ... But he's been cured so nothing will happen ... right? Before Lena knows it, her world is turned upside down and everything she's ever known or believed in turns out to be a lie ...

Lena, like the book itself, is a bit boring at first. I'll admit that I just couldn't seem to connect to either the story or her at first, but as things started changing, so did my feelings for it and as things kept happening and the story gained some depth and picked up the pace, I found myself really warming up to the characters. I loved how Lena slowly gained dimension and turned from this shy little creature into a fierce kickass girl who refuses to be held down and is willing to take risks and follow her heart.

There were a couple of really shocking twists along the way, which will hopefully be resolved in the next books, and the ending had me in tears. The final pages were incredibly gripping - I read them with my eyes and mouth wide open, and as I closed the book, I just started bawling my eyes out thinking, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, surely this isn't what it looks like?!?!?!?!" That ending just broke my heart and it was then that I realized how strongly I actually cared about the characters, which was a surprise to me too, heh.

The ending, as devastating as it was, really paves the way for the next book in the trilogy and I cannot wait to read it as there's just so much to be resolved!

All in all, this book is VERY different to Before I Fall, mainly in terms of the setting and characters, but what both books have in common is that a) they're both incredibly lyrical and amazingly well written, and b) that they creep up on you and though you may roll your eyes at both books at first, you'll find yourself head over heels in love with them by the end. But I guess that's the Lauren Oliver magic for ya! ;)

overall rating:
plot: 4/5 | writing: 5/5 | characters: 5/5 | cover: 4/5

2 February 2011

Waiting On Wednesday: RUBY RED by Kerstin Gier

I came across this title a week ago when I noticed the series in German in an Austrian bookshop. I thought it seemed really cute and when I looked it up, I was SO excited to hear that it's being published in English too because I really wanted to read it, but my German is rubbish, heh.

So yeah, I'm over the moon that this series is being translated into English and I cannot wait to read it!

by Kerstin Gier
[10th May 2011]
Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era! Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon, the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
Doesn't it just sound awesome?! :)

1 February 2011

An excerpt of TO TOUCH THE STARS by Jessica Ruston!

As you may remember, I really enjoyed Ms Ruston's debut LUXURY so I was very happy to hear that she has a new book coming out called TO TOUCH THE STARS! It sounds like another great bonkbuster:
Cavalley’s is renowned for style, glamour and sophistication, providing the ultimate fashion indulgences for film stars and fashionistas. Violet Cavalley has poured her heart and soul into building her multimillion pound business and raising her three children. But Violet is not the woman she appears to be. And her adored children conceal secrets of their own. Behind the Cavalley family’s gilded façade lies a streak of darkness. Darkness that now threatens to destroy them all…
The book comes out in paperback in the 3rd February and I have been kindly invited to take part in the trail of extracts that will be posted in four different blogs for four consecutive days, ending in a fabulous competition on publishing day - READ MORE ABOUT IT BELOW!

You can read all about that on the author's website and to whet you appetite, you can find an exclusive excerpt from the book below!

As they sat, their starters in front of them, Violet remained standing. Before each guest was a bowl of champagne risotto, an oyster placed on one side. Around the courtyard, guests gasped as they realised that inside each shell was a single, perfect pearl. The tables buzzed with laughter and conversation. Violet closed her eyes for a second and allowed herself to tune into snippets of chatter, letting her attention roam around the room. It made her skin tingle to listen.
She opened her eyes, and cleared her throat. It was time.
‘Excuse me…’ she called out. The courtyard fell quiet.
‘I’ll be brief. I don’t want this wonderful food to go cold. I just want to thank you all for coming. I still can’t believe I’m sixty years old. That’s the age other people are, isn’t it? I’m still seventeen, surely.’
‘I am very blessed,’ she continued, more serious now. ‘To have so many of my family and friends here with me to celebrate. My children…’
She gestured to the top table. Flip, her eldest son, and his fiancée Tillie, to one side of her. Blue, Adam. Frangipani, the youngest.
‘My partner, Patrick…’
She looked down to her left. Patrick winked a bright blue eye at her. She hated the word ‘partner’, but to call him her boyfriend at sixty felt absurd.
Kalisto, who has been like a brother to me – more than a brother…’
Kalisto stood and bowed, making a flourish with his long tail coat. There was a round of applause. Violet laughed.
‘Hey. Stop stealing the limelight!’ she teased.
But no one could really steal the show from her, and she knew it. Then she paused. She had suddenly become aware that Pietro - the villa’s housekeeper and caretaker, who had been here since before she owned the place, who was part of it -had appeared at her side and was urgently gesturing to her.
‘Signora Violetta, Ms Cavalley.’
The elderly man looked utterly panicked - floored in a way that Violet had never seen before. His walnut brown skin had turned pale, and he gazed at Violet with eyes that were full of concern.
She carried on. Whatever it was, it would have to wait.
‘And, just as important, are the ones who are not here. Scarlet. Sebastian. And others. Please, raise your glasses, and drink with me, to absent – no, not to absent friends. To lost loves, wherever they may be.’
The room stood as one, and did as she asked.
‘To lost loves.’
Violet smiled.
‘Thank you. Now – eat, drink, enjoy! Life is short.
Then she turned to Pietro, touched his hand. ‘Pietro? What on earth’s the matter?’
‘Someone’s here,’ he said, urgently.
‘All right. Who? Show them to the library and I’ll see them after dinner.’
‘He says he won’t wait. He says… he says he is Signora Cavalley’s brother.’ He addressed the last few words to Flip, who had stood and gone to his mother’s side. It was as though the loyal caretaker could somehow not bear to speak directly to Violet.
Flip shook his head in bemusement. ‘My mother doesn’t have a brother, you know that.
Pietro steeled himself, and did something he could never have imagined doing. He interrupted.
‘I’m sorry, Signor. But he says...’
‘Oh God.’ Violet’s voice was low.
Flip looked at Violet, sensing her trembling next to him. ‘Mama?’
Her hand went to her mouth.
Pietro’s eyes dropped to the ground. ‘I told him this,’ he went on. ‘I said to him, “Signora Cavalley has no brother, no sister. You must leave,” I told him. But he said… ‘
And before he spoke, Violet knew the words that were going to come from his mouth. The words that she had dreaded hearing for so long.
‘He says Signora Cavalley does not have a brother. But he says Signora Cavalley is not… is not Signora Cavalley.
Violet stared. The courtyard had fallen silent. Everything had slowed down. She felt as though she were floating; her arms and legs were numb.
‘Hello, Violet,’ a voice said, from over Pietro’s shoulder. That’s what you’re calling yourself now, isn’t it?
And as she collapsed, she looked beyond Pietro, into the shadows of the courtyard, and into the eyes of her brother.

I don't know about you, but I really enjoyed this snippet and it's made me desperate to read the book - luckily, my copy arrived today, bang on time! What about you - have you read it yet or would you like to? :)

And now, for the competition:
Jessica Ruston’s fabulous new novel is published today – TO TOUCH THE STARS tells the story of the glamorous Cavalley family, their glittering fashion empire, and the secrets that threaten to destroy them all…
To celebrate, Jessica’s publishers are giving away five signed copies, with one lucky winner getting a bottle of bubbly to enjoy with the book! For your chance to win answer this simple question:

What was the title of Jessica Ruston’s first novel?

Email answers to rosie.gailer@headline.co.uk, or tweet answers to @publicitybooks

Good Luck!