Welcome to Serendipity Reviews !

The original UK book blog that brings you all the latest book news straight from the publishers, along with book reviews and author interviews. We read and review all genres, although we love paranormal, fantasy and contemporary books.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Write Way with Kathryn Freeman

Today I am pleased to welcome a Chock Lit author, Kathryn Freeman. Kathryn’s book, Do Opposites Attract? came out with Choc Lit this month.
1) Your new novel, Do Opposites Attract? has recently  been published. How does it feel to no longer be a debut author? 
I have to keep pinching myself when I see the gorgeous cover with my name on it. I keep a couple of the books on my desk and I can’t help breaking out into a goofy grin every time I look at them. It’s been five years since I started writing books, but decades since the dream started to germinate in my mind. Of course having my debut paperback is just the start of the journey, not the end, and I still have so much to learn, but I’m loving every minute of it.
2) Can you tell me a little about the book? 
Hey, you won’t be able to stop me! The title and the cover really do give a good insight into the book. It’s a romance (umm, you probably guessed that bit) involving two people from totally different backgrounds who meet in the harsh, emotionally charged environment of a refugee camp. The hero, Mitch McBride, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks but he’s managed in the main to put his past behind him and now works as a doctor for a medical charity where his background doesn’t matter. That is until the patron’s daughter comes to visit for a week. They couldn’t be more opposite. Where Mitch has had a rough, loveless life full of hard work and suffering, Brianna has had a charmed life surrounded by wealth and parents who adore her. 
Not surprisingly, when they meet the sparks really fly and both are guilty of making assumptions about each other. Mitch of assuming because Brianna is rich, she’s spoilt. Brianna of assuming because he comes across as gruff, he doesn’t care. 
Despite their differences – or because of them? – they find themselves drawn to each other. But is their attraction sustainable? That’s the question I hope you’re asking yourself J
3) How does it feel to be published by an award winning publisher? 
I couldn’t have asked for a better publisher. Choc Lit are a highly professional group dedicated to working with their authors to develop their careers. It’s not just the team behind the scenes that are helpful and supportive, either – it’s the authors, too. For a newbie like myself, with no previous publishing experience, parachuting into this group was the softest, most comfortable landing I could have hoped for. I feel so proud  - and more than little gobsmacked, to be honest – to see my name amongst all those other highly talented Choc Lit authors. Of course many of them are crazier than a box of frogs … but maybe that’s why I feel so at home.
4) Do you write full time or part time? 
I write full time, but only half of that is romance! I worked for the pharmaceutical industry for over twenty years but three years ago I became self-employed so I could follow my dream of writing romantic fiction. At the moment I juggle medical writing for half the week and romance writing for the other half. So far I haven’t got the two mixed up, though I have just written a romance based in a pharmaceutical company.
5) Do you try and aim for a daily word target when writing?
No, I just go with the flow. I do have targets in mind for when I hope the first draft will be finished, and then for when I hope to submit the manuscript. I find they wriggle away from me a fair bit though!
6) Do you edit as you go along or do you wait until the first draft is finished?
I wait until the first draft is finished and then I work on something else for a while so that when I read it back again, I’m not too close to it. Rather sadly I do actually usually enjoy reading that first draft. It’s the second draft that’s the killer to me, when I start to realise it isn’t nearly as good as I thought it was.
7) Are you a planner or a pantser?
I think I’m a bit of both. For quite a while I plot out the major parts of the story in my head. If you see me stuck in a traffic jam, smiling to myself, you’ll know what I’m doing! When I’ve really got a handle on my characters and the setting all the ideas start pouring out and that’s when I open the blank sheet of paper and drop everything down. It’s more of a brain dump than a plan but I do end up with some character profiles and the outline of a story that I can then put into chunks. With this loose framework in mind, the panster in me is unleashed!
8) Who are your favourite authors? 
Nora Roberts is my all time favourite but I love to read a whole host of other authors – though generally I stick to romantic fiction. Erica James, Suzanne Brockmann, Barbara Delinsky, Katie Fforde, Wilbur Smith, Jill Mansell, Judith McNaught, Julie Ann Walker, Susan E Phillips, Winston Graham have all been eagerly devoured. I’ve tried so many more new authors since buying my Kindle J
9) Do you have any advice for unpublished authors?
What helped me most was … writing. I know it sounds basic, but I strongly believe the more you write, the better you get. When I look back at manuscripts I wrote three years ago, I cringe. Did I really think that was good enough to submit to publishers? Joining the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme also helped me enormously. The feedback I was given on a couple of my manuscripts made me take a step back from the detail of each individual sentence and start thinking of my writing as a story. Finally, never give up. If you want it badly enough and are prepared to keep writing despite the inevitable streams of rejections, you will succeed.
To find out more about Kathryn:
Website:  http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kathrynfreeman Twitter:  https://twitter.com/KathrynFreeman1
DOA Apple
Blurb copy: 
There’s no such thing as a class divide – until you’re on separate sides.
Brianna Worthington has beauty, privilege and a very healthy trust fund. The only hardship she’s ever witnessed has been on the television. Yet when she’s invited to see how her mother’s charity, Medic SOS, is dealing with the aftermath of a tornado in South America, even Brianna is surprised when she accepts.
Mitch McBride, Chief Medical Officer, doesn’t need the patron’s daughter disrupting his work. He’s from the wrong side of the tracks and has led life on the edge, but he’s not about to risk losing his job for a pretty face.
Poles apart, dynamite together, but can Brianna and Mitch ever bridge the gap separating them?
About the author: 
Kathryn was born in Wallingford, England but has spent most of her life living in a village near Windsor. After studying pharmacy in Brighton she began her working life as a retail pharmacist. She quickly realised that trying to decipher doctors’ handwriting wasn’t for her and left to join the pharmaceutical industry where she spent twenty happy years working in medical communications.
In 2011, backed by her family, she left the world of pharmaceutical science to begin life as a self-employed writer, juggling the two disciplines of medical writing and romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero…
With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to bother buying a card again this year (yes, he does) the romance in her life is all in her head. Then again, her husband’s unstinting support of her career change goes to prove that love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes can come in many disguises.
Kathryn’s novels include: Too Charming and Do Opposites Attract? 

Monday, 21 July 2014

You Had Me At Merlot by Lisa Dickenson

1 - 97807515574282 - 97807515574353 - 97807515574424 - 9780751557459

‘I’ve done it!’ I paced around in my little flat in my heels, slowing my breathing. ‘Six years after it came out, I’ve finally perfected the ‘Single Ladies’ dance routine.’
‘Congratulations,’ said Laurie down the phone.’Does that mean you haven’t left home yet?’
Published by Sphere in July 2014
Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they're single, they're not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren't filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine - she likes her independent life, she loves her job, and she has no desire to walk down the aisle anytime soon. But Laurie wants love and she wants it now.
So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. You Had Me at Merlot Holidays promises crisp sunshine, fun and a chance to stir up some sizzling romance. Elle has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else's idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?
This book has been published in four digital parts over the next four weeks, which I find rather a fascinating idea, but one  I can’t fathom out.  Each part needs to be purchased separately.You can’t read the parts out of order, so I am hoping someone will enlighten me as to why it was published in this way.
The story gets off to a hilarious start and straight away you warm to the fiercely independent, Elle, who loves being a single woman and would rather pull her teeth out than  fall in love. How on earth would she practise all those dance routines if she had a man lingering around her house? I really liked Elle. She felt a bit like all the main female characters from Friends squashed into one.
Although the humour had me chuckling to begin with, I have to be honest and say that it started to grate on me a little. It felt contrived at times, and I felt relief as the  humour lessened and the story began to unfold.
The book soon whisks us off to the sultry climate of Italy, where Elle and Laurie embark on their first ever singles holiday. The thought of actually attending one of these would fill me with dread. So many people in one room, all looking for romance. I think the author described the situation well, and should I ever become single, I shall steer clear of this type of holiday.
So as this book is described as a romantic comedy, you know that Elle isn’t going to stay single for long and she soon falls for the charms of the rather gorgeous Jamie. For someone so adamant to stay single, it didn’t take long for Elle to fall under the Italian’s spell. But it wouldn’t be a  good romantic comedy without a bit of a disaster and misconception thrown in.
The story lost a little credibility for me when Elle saved the day with her business acumen. She appeared to solve the company’s problems overnight without any challenge or difficulty and I found that a little unbelievable.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book. I found the author’s writing style easy to get into and I whizzed through the story in a day. The descriptive passages of Italy and the vineyards were beautifully written.  I also liked all the characters and enjoyed most aspects of the plot.
If you are looking for an easy summer read, with a touch of Catherine Alliott’s humour, then this book is for you.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Faye Bird Talks About Her Writing Process

A little bit later than planned, but better late than never, I am pleased to welcome debut author, Faye Bird onto the blog to talk about her writing process.

I wrote the first draft of My Second Life quite quickly. Once I got the idea for the book I had the opportunity to sit down at my desk every day and simply write, and so I took the opportunity and I did exactly that.

Did I plan? Did I plot? Did I have sticky notes? A pin board or flow chart on my wall guiding me through the journey of my narrative? No. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t. I simply had an idea, an opening line and two or three key scenes in my mind that I knew I was working towards. I was not at all clear about how I was going to get there.

So how did I get there?
The simple answer is I got there by writing – just writing – and when I could tell the writing was running out of direction or the words slowed or became thin on the page, I stopped and I picked up my notebook, or as it turned out one of my several notebooks.

In my notebooks I brainstormed where I could go with the story and thought about where I’d got to so far. Sometimes I’d draw crude mind maps, but most of the time I just wrote out all the thoughts as I had them in a stream of consciousness ramble about what I was writing. I’d question myself at all times along the way, refer back to the notes at later dates and ask still more questions each time I revisited them.

Inevitably as a consequence of this kind of process, if you can call it that, there were plenty of flawed routes, and not just in the notebooks; sometimes they went into the drafts too. But those flawed routes were never wasted because they often in themselves lead me to the route that worked in the end. There was definitely a layering effect here, in the thinking and the drafting and the rewriting. Each draft built to the next in a way that moved the story on, and not despite the flaws, sometimes because of them.

Without doubt this was an incredibly labour intensive way to write, and as a consequence I wrote a lot of drafts. But it felt like a natural process for me to work this way. I enjoyed sitting down each day and writing and not knowing exactly where I was heading, and I enjoyed stopping when I needed to and taking stock – not of the exact words on the page – but of where the story was going. And I guess it worked. I had the time and I enjoyed the exploration and eventually I got to a draft that I was happy with for submission to agents and to editors.

However, as I now come to write my next book I think I am realising that I need to reassess my method. I simply don’t have the time I had when I wrote My Second Life to write my way into my story in the way that I did back then. I can see that I need to be able to lock down more than just key scenes in my mind before I start writing, and I know I don’t have the time for my instincts to lead me wholly through. I must hold onto my instincts, I know that, but I suspect this time there may the necessity for some serious sticky notes or a well-produced pin board plan along the way…

My Second Life by Faye Bird is out now. Read the first chapter online now at www.usborne.com/readmysecondlife. Follow Faye on Twitter @faye_bird. You can also search for #mysecondlife on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Echo Boy by Matt Haig

Audrey. Mind-log 427
It has been two weeks since my parents were killed.
It has been the longest two weeks of my life.
Everything has changed. Literally everything. The only thing that remains true is that I am still me.
That is, I am still a human called Audrey Castle.
I still look like me. I still have the same dark hair I got from my dad and the same hazel eyes from Mum.
My shoulders are still too wide.
I still walk like a boy.
I still think it would have been cool to live in the past.
Published by Random House 2014
403 pages in paperback review copy
Summary from Guardian Children’s Books website
Audrey's father taught her how to stay human in the modern world; he taught her to love books, music, philosophy and dreams, so that she would never be simply a machine, like the Echoes. Daniel is an Echo – but he’s not like the others. He feels a connection with Audrey; a feeling Daniel knows he was never designed to have, and cannot explain. And when Audrey is placed in terrible danger, he’s determined to save her.
I have to be honest, I am something of a Matt Haig fangirl – you can spot me for a brief moment on ‘The Humans’ trailer. So of course I was itching to read this first YA novel of his. 
As you can see from the extract and the summary, it could loosely be described as science fiction, which is not usually my thing. I review partly to experience work outside my comfort zone, so I plunged in anyway. If you’re not normally a fan of SF, don’t worry. Echo Boy is more of a thriller with a futuristic setting.
Yes, there are references to events that haven’t happened ‘yet’ and a reasonable amount of new technology but they don’t over-dominate the fundamental story. For me, it works best when he just mentions these in passing, and doesn’t really explain the mechanics or back story. That way, the plot zips along and we care about what happens to Audrey and Daniel.
Obviously, the human-android relationships are central to the book and Matt Haig uses these to explore what our humanity is. It is something he really engages with – and so do most YA readers, I would say. Older teens might well enjoy some of his adult work afterwards such as ‘The Radleys’ or ‘The Humans’.
Although it is marketed as a YA book, I think proficient readers of 9+ may well enjoy Echo Boy (not the others yet!). Both violence and romance are portrayed without exaggeration or callousness. Overall, it’s not difficult to read nor over-complicated. The perspective shifts – but you do know who is ‘talking’. There is definite peril and distress, but the feeling I was left with after reading was not oppressive, but hopeful.
So in short, I would recommend this for any competent reader who likes a good thick read with plenty of action and suspense but with emotions at its core. They would be happy with exploring a less-than-perfect vision of the future and intrigued by the implications of thinking androids.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Write Way with Sophie Duffy

Considering author, Sophie Duffy has been reviewing for me for nearly two years, I thought it was about time I interviewed her on the blog. So rolling my sleeves up and adjusting the spotlight, I interrogated her about her writing skills!
1) With two books firmly under your belt, how does it feel to no longer be considered a debut author?  
I feel very lucky as there are a lot of very good unpublished novels out there. Even now I still can’t quite believe I broke through. Winning the Luke Bitmead award was awesome. But I still have all the neuroses of any writer. Will my latest work-in-progress be good enough?
2) Can you give me a one line pitch for both The Generation Game and This Holey Life to give the readers an idea what they are about?
The Generation Game: 40 year old Philippa Smith, newborn baby, childhood in a Torquay sweetshop, a mismatched family, and Brucie on the box. 
This Holey Life: A reluctant curate’s wife, an adulterous brother, a heap of trouble, a dose of grief, all piled into a terrace in Penge. 
3) Can you tell us anything about the book you have been working on recently?
I am editing a novel after an extensive rewrite. My narrator is a Scottish bloke who is reunited with old student friends and has to face the tragedy that blew them apart.
4) With each book, do you find the  writing process gets easier?
It’s always a slog for me, writing a novel. The first draft takes about 18 months and then the rewrites take as long again. I am not a great planner so the novel evolves organically as I get to know my characters. The process doesn’t get easier but I do trust myself a bit more that writing in this unstructured way will work out in the end.
5) Do you try and aim for a daily word target when writing?
I aim for 1000 words when I’m in the groove but I often miss this target as my teenagers and dogs can get in the way somewhat.
6) When is your ideal time to write? Morning, afternoon or evening?
Morning is a good time for me to get down the words. Evening is a good time to do a read through, make notes, and then I have something to start with the following day. 
7) Do you edit as you go along or do you wait until the first draft is finished?
I do edit as I go along. And then after the first draft, I do a substantial rewrite as I know what I am dealing with.
8) Are you a planner or a pantser?
Definitely a pantser. I have a character and I put them in a situation with only a rough idea as to what will happen. Then I plunge in. This means I have to cut a lot of rubbish, but it’s exciting and never boring.
9) Which authors inspired you whilst growing up?
Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Jilly Cooper, George Eliot, Sue Townsend, Daphne du Maurier, Thomas Hardy
10) If you could have written any other book in the world, what would it be? 
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend
11) I know that you also mentor writers, so what advice would you give unpublished authors?
Enter competitions. There are a growing number of novel competitions now, including The Yeovil Literary Prize, the Luke Bitmead Bursary and The Exeter Novel Prize which I help to administer as part of Creative Writing Matters.
If you are serious, always be prepared to learn. 
Read shedloads. 
Never give up.
Thank you Sophie for surviving the interviewing process. I f you would like to know more about Sophie, then check out her website here. If you are interested in Sophie’s mentoring services, please click here.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.  
Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying.(Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is really.) But my mom believed I required treatment, so she took me to my Regular Doctor Jim, who agreed that I was verbally swimming in a paralysing and totally clinical depression, and that therefore my meds should be adjusted and also I should attend a weekly Support Group.
Published by Penguin 2013
Pages – 313
Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.
I first picked up this book before all the hype and adulation now heaped on it. I read the first few pages, and put it down again, thinking I didn’t want to read a depressing book about someone dying from cancer. I was wrong and I’m so glad I picked it up again this year. It is not depressing, it’s uplifting, it’s sad, but it’s also funny, it’s heart-breaking but also heart-warming. And it is written by John Green, who is such an amazing writer, that you want to read it almost as much as for his beautiful way with words, as the story itself. 
Except it’s such a brilliant story, it’s impossible to stop once started. Hazel and Augustus seem so believable and real. They are cancer-sufferers, but so much more than that, they are American teenagers, brought together by their cancer support group, who refuse to be defined by their illness, who share a zest for life, video games and a growing love, despite the turmoil this brings – for how can you possibly allow anyone to get close when your life feels like a grenade that will explode when you die, devastating everyone near you? 
This is a book about life and our impact on the world, about taking responsibility for our own actions and making the most of the hand life deals. Light and witty as well as serious and sad, it delves into the lives of families touched by cancer as well as the sufferers themselves. It is funny, sharp, poignant, irreverent and insightful. Above all, it is life-affirming and achingly beautiful. Do read it, whatever age you are. You won’t regret it.

Monday, 7 July 2014

What’s The Big Idea????

You may not have heard of it, but after today you will be buzzing about the Big Idea. Launched in conjunction with The Blair Partnership and Chicken House Publishing, the hunt is on to find the next big story idea for children. You don’t need to be an aspiring writer to enter, you just need an amazing idea!
The UK is well known for creating awesome characters and inspiring tales that constantly capture children’s imaginations. We have such literary greats as JM Barrie, Roald Dahl, not to mention JK. Rowling. Our stories can change the way the world reads. So now it’s time for a new show stopping story.
The competition will be judged by six well known and respected people from the world of media.
  • Tess Daly – TV broadcaster
  • · Neil Blair –  J.K. Rowling’s agent
  • · Barry Cunningham OBE – Children’s publisher
  • · Debra Hayward – Film producer
  • · Sonia Friedman – Theatre producer
  • · Philip Ardagh – Children’s author and literary critic
Working as a team, the judges will pick out six winners, who will all receive £1000 alongside the opportunity to see their idea materialize into reality, through a range of media platforms, including film, TV and gaming. There will also be one overall winner, who will be offered a publishing contract and the promise of their idea being developed by a well-known author.
So what do you need to do to enter? Well that’s easy. Outline an original idea using up to 750 words to describe what happens in your story, the setting and what audience it is aimed at. If you want more advice, then please click here for top tips on entering.  The competition opens today and will stay open until the 2nd of September. The winning ideas will be announced in November.
Need more information? Then check out the media links below.
Twitter: @thebigideacomp
Facebook: The Big Idea Competition
About Chicken House Publishing:
The Chicken House is a small, highly individual children’s book publishing company with an enthusiasm for new fiction. Chicken House books have found huge popularity with children, parents, teachers and librarians around the world.
About The Blair Partnership:
The Blair Partnership is a rights management agency with a strong literary heritage specialising in large-scale commercial properties and projects. They act as J.K. Rowling’s agents and business managers and work in partnership with authors, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and many other rights owners to develop and manage their properties and ideas globally across all platforms and media.
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