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29 August 2014

Review & Interview: 'Spin' by Catherine McKenzie (2014)

Kate's To-Do List: 
1. Go to rehab 
2. Befriend/spy on "It Girl" 
3. Write killer expose 
4. Land dream job 
Piece of cake! 

Katie Sandford has just landed an interview at her favourite music magazine, The Line. It’s the chance of a lifetime. So what does she do? Goes out to celebrate - and shows up still drunk at the interview. No surprise, she doesn’t get the job, but the folks at The Line think she might be perfect for another assignment for their sister gossip rag. All Katie has to do is follow It Girl Amber Sheppard into rehab. If she can get the inside scoop (and complete the 30-day program without getting kicked out), they’ll reconsider her for the job at The Line. 

Katie takes the job. But things get complicated when real friendships develop, a cute celebrity handler named Henry gets involved, and Katie begins to realize she may be in rehab for a reason. Katie has to make a decision - is publishing the article worth everything she has to lose?

At the start of the summer I was contacted about possibly reviewing author Catherine McKenzie’s bestselling novel ‘Spin.’ Catherine McKenzie is an internationally bestselling author of four novels and up until now I wasn’t familiar with her work. ‘Spin’ was first released in 2009 and quickly became a bestseller in Canada. The book was released in the UK this year and I’m really excited to be able to tell you all a bit more about it today by sharing my review. Next to that, I’ve also had the chance to interview Catherine McKenzie about ‘Spin’, so be sure to scroll down to check it out!

Katie Sandford has always dreamed of working as a journalist for her favourite music magazine, The Line. So, when she manages to finally land an interview for a position at The Line she knows she has to do anything she can to get the job. Unfortunately, the celebrations for her 30th birthday the night before the interview get out of hand, resulting in Katie completely ruining her chances. The Line decides they want to give Katie another chance because they need someone to go undercover to a rehab facility to spy on one of the biggest celebrities of the moment, Amber Sheppard, also known as ‘The Girl Next Door.’  Katie immediately accepts the assignment, but things get more complicated than she expected as soon as she walks into that rehab facility.

After reading this novel I completely understand why it was such a big bestseller in Canada and I’m quite surprised I never heard or read anything about the book before I was asked to review it! Catherine McKenzie has managed to write an engaging and thoroughly entertaining debut novel that has some great characters, a fascinating plotline and a lovely touch of romance at its core. I really enjoyed Katie’s story, mainly because she is a naive and realistic heroine who, just like every single one of us, makes mistakes and has her own personal issues and dreams. Next to Katie, the book is filled with a large cast of interesting secondary characters, who each bring something to the story. I specifically warmed to Amber and loved seeing the friendship between her and Katie develop.

The book is quite fast-paced, devoting just the right amount of time to each event and conversation. It felt like I was flying through the pages, which had to do with both the author’s comfortable style of writing and the fact that I just really enjoyed what I was reading and was curious to find out what would happen next. Catherine McKenzie has definitely written a wonderful debut novel and I’m already looking forward to checking out her novella ‘Spun’ which is a follow-up to this book. ‘Spin’ is a convincing, compelling and entertaining read which I would like to recommend to all chick lit fans, I loved it!
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Author interview with Catherine McKenzie!

I'm really excited to welcome Catherine McKenzie to the blog today to answer some questions about her wonderful novel 'Spin', her own favourite books and what the future has in store for her!

Can you tell us something about your novel, ‘Spin’?
Well, it’s about a journalist who follows a celebrity into rehab undercover so she can try to get her dream job.

Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own personal experiences?
It is in no way based on my personal experience. Got that, Mom. Good. Okay, seriously, I am not a journalist, nor have I been to rehab. I do, however, have a slight addiction to etc. and watching celebrities go in and out of rehab—and the invasive nature of the paparazzi who report on their time there—was what popped the idea into my head.

Can you tell us a bit more about the main protagonist, Katie?
Katie’s a wanna-be music journalist who, even though she’s about to turn thirty, pretends she’s a twenty-five year old grad student so she can scam free wine and cheese a university functions. Think of a female Rob Gordon in High Fidelity.

There’s a great cast of supporting characters in the novel as well. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Oh, that’s easy! Henry :) I have a serious crush on Henry.

A large part of the novel is set in a rehab facility. Did you do any particular research for this part of the book?
I did read several memoirs about being in rehab and research treatment programs. I also ran the therapy aspects by two people I know who are therapists.

Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
Yes! My novel, Forgotten, will be releasing in the UK this fall. It’s about a woman who was supposed to go on a one month trip to Africa but got stuck there for six months. When she returns home, she finds out that everyone thinks she’s dead and her life has moved on without her. Oh, and if you liked Spin, I’ve written a novella sequel called … wait for it … SPUN, which is available now!

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Write, write, write. Read, read, read.

What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
May I pick three? Of course I can: (1) I read Robin Black’s Life Drawing this summer (it came out in the UK in the spring) and I just loved, loved, loved it. Such a beautifully written and suspenseful book—think Gone Girl meets The Husband’s Secret. (2) I recently read my first Jonathan Tropper novel, This is Where I Leave You, and I found it hilarious. (I think a movie based on the book is coming out soon). (3) One of my favourite novels of last year is coming out in the UK on September 23rd – it’s called The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison. A really touching story about a single dad and his son trying to figure out how to move on with their lives and beautifully written.

Which book could you not live without?
Well, I don’t think I could live without books, period, really, but Pride & Prejudice is crucial.

And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘Spin’ in just three words, which words would you pick?
Funny, touching, thought-provoking (okay, that last one is two words, but the hyphen kind of makes it one, right?)

Thanks so much, Catherine!

28 August 2014

September 2014 releases!

The end of summer is getting nearer and nearer as September is almost upon us. September always reminds me of new beginnings; it's going back to school for some, completely back to work after the summer holidays for others, and it's also going to be a new beginning for me since I will be starting my new job which I am really excited about! Of course, the start of a new month also means another list of exciting upcoming book releases. September has some great new reads coming our way so be sure to check out the list below! :)

Sarah Healy - 'House of Wonder' (2nd of September)

When we were little and I needed Warren, I would rub my earlobe.  And perhaps it was the alchemy of childhood, a magic that happened because I believed it could, but I swear it worked. He always came.

Theirs wasn’t always the misfit family in the neighborhood. Jenna Parsons’s childhood was one of block parties and barbecues, where her mother, a former beauty queen, continued her reign and her twin brother, Warren, was viewed as just another oddball kid. But as her mother’s shopaholic habits intensified, and her brother’s behavior became viewed as more strange than quirky, Jenna sought to distance herself from them. She is devoted to her career and her four-year-old daughter, Rose. But now, in his peculiar way, Warren summons her back to 62 Royal Court.

What she finds there—a house in disrepair, a neighborhood on tenterhooks over a rash of petty thefts, and evidence of past traumas her mother has kept hidden—will challenge Jenna as never before. But as she stands by her family, she also begins to find beauty in unexpected places, strength in unlikely people, and a future she couldn’t have imagined. 

Why so excited? --> I love the title and book cover of Sarah Healy's upcoming release. I'm not familiar with Sarah's work, but the blurb sounds intriguing and I'm quite curious to find out more about Jenna Parsons and her family.


Cathy Bramley - 'Ivy Lane - Autumn' (4th of September)

Trust blooms at Ivy Lane...

Life at Ivy Lane allotments is as hectic as always. With crops to harvest and weeds to tackle, Tilly is busier than ever, but she can never resist chatting with Alf, an elderly widower with top-notch turnips and many a story to tell.

When the announcement of a young offenders project sends waves of suspicion through the allotment, Alf and Tilly must persuade Ivy Lane to trust the newly arrived teenagers . . . but what secrets is Tilly keeping to herself?

With best friend Gemma to support her, Tilly must face up to her difficult memories and finally reveal what happened to change her life for ever. But can she open her heart to love at the Hallowe'en party?

Why so excited? --> The past couple of months we have been treated to the first and second part of Cathy Bramley's serialized novel 'Ivy Lane.' The book tells the story of main character Tilly who is trying to build a new life for herself. I loved the 'Spring' and 'Summer' parts of the series and can't wait for the third part! 


Zara Stoneley - 'Stable Mates' (4th of September)

Secrets and scandals, love and lust – when the ‘Cheshire Set’ are up against the ‘Footballer’s Wives’ the only common ground is carnal…

Flirting and fun seem the perfect antidote for Lottie's battered heart, and where better to find them than back in tranquil Tippermere, home of sexy eventer Rory Steel, the smiling Irish eyes of hunky farrier Mick O'Neal, and mysterious newcomer, model Tom Strachan?

But when landowner Marcus James drops dead unexpectedly, and the threat of his waggish wife Amanda selling the heart of the village out from under them looms large, things look like they're about to heat up in and out of the saddle.

With tensions running high, and the champagne flowing as freely as the adrenalin, is it any wonder that love catches more than one of them unawares?

Why so excited? --> September also has some great Harper Impulse releases in store for us! Zara Stoneley's 'Stable Mates' promises to be a steamy and entertaining read and I look forward to picking it up!


Kerry Fisher - 'The School Gate Survival Guide' (11th of September)

Feisty Maia Etxeleku is a cleaner for ladies who lunch. She spends her life wiping up spilt Sauvignon and hoovering around handbags before rushing back home to skivvy after her children's feckless father on an estate where survival depends on your ability to look the other way.

But an unusual inheritance catapults her into a different world where no child can survive without organic apricots and Kumon maths classes – and no woman can contemplate a week without Pilates and pedicures.

As she blunders through a middle class minefield, dashing from coffee mornings to her mops and buckets, she is drawn to the one man who can help her family fit in. But is his interest in her purely professional or will her modern My Fair Lady experiment end in disaster.

Why so excited? --> I've been lucky enough to have read and reviewed 'The School Gate Survival Guide' earlier this year and I thought it was a great read (click here to read my review). The paperback version will be released on the 11th of September and I can't recommend it enough! / / Goodreads

Hester Browne - 'Honeymoon Hotel' (16th of September)

The Bonneville Hotel is the best kept secret in Mayfair: its art deco suites and glittering ballrooms a former home-away-from-home for royalty and film stars alike. Recent years haven’t been kind, but thanks to Events Manager Rosie, the Bonneville is reclaiming some of its old cachet as a chic retro-glam wedding venue.

While Rosie’s weddings are the ultimate in romance, Rosie herself isn’t; she’s focused on the details, not the dramas. But when the hotel owner appoints his eccentric son Joe to the Bonneville staff, Rosie finds herself up against an unprecedented challenge: a rival whose predilection for the unconventional could derail not only Rosie’s own career, but the most elaborate, high-profile wedding the Bonneville has ever seen.

Why so excited? --> I love Hester Browne's novels and 'Honeymoon Hotel' sounds like a fantastic read. I already love the sound of events manager Rosie and how she organises the most romantic weddings in the Bonneville Hotel. Can't wait to read this book!


Nic Tatano - 'Twitter Girl' (18th of September)

Meet America's Tweet-Heart.

She's network reporter Cassidy Shea, better known as @TwitterGirl, with more than a million followers thanks to her sarcastic tweets. One hundred forty characters that can take anyone down a notch.

But while brevity may be the soul of wit, it can also get you fired.

When a controversial tweet goes viral the snarky redhead finds herself locked out of the career she loves... and watches her boyfriend take a hike.

Alas, no industry values sarcasm more than politics, and Cassidy becomes a marketable commodity for Presidential candidate Will Becker, a squeaky-clean, stone cold lock to be the next occupant of the White House. This candidate is unlike any other; he's the country's most eligible bachelor. He's also looking for a running mate, and we're not talking about a Vice President.

Twitter Girl has caught his eye.

Cassidy finds herself swept up in a whirlwind romance that turns her into the next Jackie Kennedy and becomes the favorite to be the next First Lady. The country can't get enough of America's First Couple... will Cassidy and Will Becker bring back Camelot?

But an anonymous tip triggers her journalistic curiosity. Is Will Becker all that he seems? The search for the answer teaches Cassidy the meaning of love.

Why so excited? --> I've heard lots of positive things about Nic Tatano's work and I can't wait to check out his work. 'Twitter Girl' sounds like a really entertaining read; another promising Harper Impulse release that's coming our way! / / Goodreads

Angela Campbell - 'Spirited Away' (18th of September)

Book 3 in the brilliantly witty ‘Psychic Detective’ series from Angela Campbell – perfect for fans of the Sookie Stackhouse & Stephanie Plum books!

Who knew pet-sitting could be so dangerous…or so sexy?!

Socially awkward Emma “Spider” Fisher prefers her laptop to people, so she’s more than happy to oblige her boss when he asks her to pet- and housesit while he honeymoons in London.

But it doesn’t take long for accident-prone Spider to lose a dog, get locked out of the house, and set off the house alarm!

Thankfully, her hot new neighbour is more than happy to come to her rescue. But Noah West is a mystery to Spider—and one she intends to solve.

Why so excited? --> 'Spirited Away' is the third part of the 'Psychic Detective' series. I have to admit I haven't read the first two parts, but the series sounds like a lot of fun and different from anything else I've read before. / / Goodreads

Ella Harper - 'Pieces of You' (25th of September)

Thirty-something Lucy and Luke Harte, have everything – jobs they love, a great home, lovely family and friends – except the one thing they want the most: a baby.

After eight miscarriages and years of disappointment, their luck has finally turned. Lucy is nearly four months pregnant – the furthest she has ever got – and both she and Luke are ecstatic. But fate has another plan for Lucy and, on the day of their fifth wedding anniversary, Luke is involved in a horrific car accident.

As Luke lies in a coma, Lucy tries, with the support of her mother-in-law Patricia, best friend Dee and sister-in-law Nell, to hold everything together.
But life for Lucy and the Harte family is about to change more than they could ever have imagined when Stella, a colleague of Luke’s, turns up at the hospital pregnant with his baby…

Why so excited? --> The e-book version of 'Pieces of You' was released on the 14th of August and the paperback version will follow on the 25th of September. I think the book sounds quite intriguing, and I can't wait to read the review copy I've been lucky enough to have received!


Nicola Doherty - 'Lily Does LA' (25th of September)

The second instalment in this hilarious, romantic and unputdownable five-part series. Perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk's I Heart... novels.

Lily is an actress. At least, that's what she tells people, even though she's currently working in a call centre and her last big part was an ad for Sofa Warehouse. So when she's invited to her cousin Alice's wedding in LA, it's a dream come true. Alice's fiancé Sam is actually a Hollywood agent; how can Lily fail to get talent-spotted? There's only one problem; not only is Lily banned from mentioning acting, parts or producers to Sam, she's expected to spend the entire week doing wedding-related prep (read: chores) with Sam's boring groomsman Jesse. But Lily firmly believes that rules were made to be broken...

Why so excited? --> Nicola Doherty's 'Girls on Tour' series focuses on four friends, 'ordinary girls who have extraordinary fun in faraway places.' 'Lily Does LA' is the second part of the series and I love the sound of it! / / Goodreads

Alice Peterson - 'One Step Closer to You' (25th of September)

After Polly ends her relationship with the father of her young son, Louis, she is determined to move on. All she wants is to focus on her job, her friends and to be a good mum. No more looking over her shoulder. No more complications...

Then Polly meets Ben.

Ben is guardian of his niece, Emily. They become close, with Polly teaching Ben how to plait Emily's hair, and Ben playing football with Louis. Their friendship is unexpected. Polly’s never been happier.

But when Louis's dad reappears in their life, all Polly’s mistakes come back to haunt her and her resolve weakens when he swears he has changed.

Will she give herself a second chance to love?

Why so excited? --> I think 'One Step Closer to You' promises to be a captivating read. I've heard many positive things about Alice Peterson's writing and I can't wait to check out one of her stories for myself! / / Goodreads

Jane Green - 'Saving Grace' (25th of September)

Grace and Ted Chapman.  Literary power couple.  Ted is considered “the thinking man’s John Grisham” and Grace, his wife of twenty years is beautiful, stylish, carefree.  All of this is on the surface.  Beneath, what no one sees, is Ted’s rages.  His mood swings.  And the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon.  When Ted’s longtime assistant and mainstay leaves, the house of cards begins to crumble and Grace, with dark secrets in her past, is most vulnerable.  To the rescue comes Beth, a new assistant.  Someone who will help handle Ted.  Someone who has the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf their household.  Soon, though, it’s clear to Grace that Beth might be too good to be true.  And that this new interloper might be the biggest threat of all, one that could cost  Grace her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity.

Why so excited? --> I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Green's previous release, 'Tempting Fate.' It was an incredible book that was really well-written and I have been looking forward to Jane's newest release for quite some time now; I have a feeling this one will be just as good, fingers crossed! / / Goodreads

Romy Sommer - 'To Catch a Star' (25th of September)

Teresa Adler is the ultimate Ice Princess, with a heart as frozen as the winter landscape of her beloved home, Westerwald. All her life, she’s belonged to the ‘inner circle’ of wealth, privilege and position.

Christian Taylor: Heartthrob. Movie Star. Bad boy. The mischievous actor sets temperatures soaring in the picturesque baroque principality – and with a wicked glint in his eye and a chip on his shoulder he sets his sights on the one thing he’s told he can’t have. Teresa.

While Tessa holds the ultimate clue to the secret of Christian’s parentage, it is the heat of his touch that will make this Ice Princess feel more alive than she ever has before…

Why so excited? --> We are being treated to another fabulous Harper Impulse read this September and I love love love the sound of this one! 'To Catch a Star' sounds and looks a bit like a fairy tale (the cover is just enchanting) and it has definitely made me curious! / / Goodreads

Katy Regan - 'The Story of You' (25th of September)

There is no story of me without the story of you
I want to explain it all to you. How this happened. How that summer – the summer I was 16 – made me the person I am today.

I want to share my memories with you: the happy memories are like sunbursts, sparkling on the sea. But then, like a current dragging me under, there's that summer of 1997.

The summer my life exploded.
The summer I had to grow up.
The summer you came into my life.

And so this is the story of you.

Why so excited? --> The paperback version of 'The Story of You' will be released on the 25th of September and it's one of the books I have been looking forward to reading a lot for quite some time now. Gorgeous cover and the promise of a great story, what more do we need, right? / / Goodreads

Judy Astley - 'It Must Have Been the Mistletoe' (25th of September)

Thea's parents decide to host a big family Christmas in a house by the sea. even though they are, in fact, about to split up. Thea herself is newly single - her sister and brother are both settled, with children, homes and a future. But Thea's boyfriend has ditched her in favour of his pedigree dogs, and Thea can't decide whether or not she minds.

There will be copious food and drink, holly and mistletoe, lots of bracing walks and a wintry barbecue on the beach. If it seems an odd way to celebrate the final break-up of a marriage and the Moving On to new partners, no- one is saying so. But then no-one had anticipated that the new partners might actually turn up to complicate the sleeping arrangements.

As Cornwall experiences the biggest snowstorm in living memory, the festive atmosphere comes under some strain. Will Thea manage to find some happiness for herself? Will the mistletoe work its magic on them all.

Why so excited? --> Judy Astley has released so many books over the years, but I still get really excited when a new novel of hers is being released. I can't wait to get in the Christmas mood and 'It Must Have Been the Mistletoe' sounds perfect to do just that! / / Goodreads

Sophie Kinsella - 'Shopaholic to the Stars' (25th of September)

Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has stars in her eyes. She and her daughter, Minnie, have joined husband Luke in LA—city of herbal smoothies, multimillion-dollar yoga retreats, and the lure of celebrity. Luke is there to help manage the career of famous actress Sage Seymour—and Becky is convinced she is destined to be Sage’s personal stylist, and go from there to every A-list celebrity in Hollywood! 

But things become complicated when Becky joins the team of Sage’s archrival. How will charming and supportive Luke deal with this conflict? Is it possible that what Becky wants most will end up hurting those she loves most?

Why so excited? --> Sophie Kinsella! Becky Bloomwood! Another Shopaholic story! Do I need to say more?!


27 August 2014

Review: 'Five Days Left' by Julie Lawson Timmer (2014)

Destined to be a book club favorite, a heart-wrenching debut about two people who must decide how much they’re willing to sacrifice for love.

Mara Nichols, a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and adoptive mother, has recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance, the power of relationships, and that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go.

Thanks to the lovely people at Random House I received a review copy of Julie Lawson Timmer’s upcoming release ‘Five Days Left’. The book will be released on the 28th of August and is author Julie Lawson Timmer’s debut novel. After reading the short blurb, I knew this would most likely be a quite intense and emotional read considering the subject of the book and it straight away made me think of Jodi Picoult’s novels. I was looking forward to giving the book a chance and found myself hoping I wouldn’t be needing too many tissues along the way! 

Mara is a successful lawyer and a complete workaholic. She loves her job almost as much as she loves her husband Tom and their adopted daughter Lakshmi. Yet, Mara’s life is turned completely upside down when she suddenly discovers she has Huntington’s Disease. Slowly, she feels like she is becoming a burden to the people around her, which is a nightmare for someone as independent as Mara. She promised herself that when her symptoms would reach a certain point of no-return, she would end her life on her own terms instead of waiting for things to get even worse. Scott is happily married to Laurie who is pregnant with their first child and together they are the foster parents of a young boy named Curtis, whose mother is in prison for a year. Scott works with troubled children and he is extremely passionate about his job. He has become really attached to Curtis and doesn’t want to let the boy go, even though he knows he will have to. Both Mara and Scott have 5 days left with their loved ones, just 5 days to say goodbye in their own way... 

Wow, this book definitely makes it into the top 10 of the most intense books I’ve read the past couple of years. Julie Lawson Timmer’s gripping and detailed writing style fits this particular genre perfectly and almost made me feel everything the characters were feeling. The book consists of two storylines, one told from the perspective of mother and wife Mara and one from the perspective of foster parent and soon-to-be father Scott. I thought both stories were really fascinating and they managed to capture my attention from start to finish. The fact that the book simply focuses on these five days the two protagonists have left to say goodbye to their loved ones provides the reader with a lot of detail and many thoughts, which results in a close connection with the characters and what they are going through. 

It definitely made me think; what would I do in these specific situations? Did I support and understand the decisions Mara and Scott made? Would I do things differently? Because of this, the book is the perfect thought-provoking read for book clubs or to discuss with other readers or a friend. It are definitely two stories that will make you think and also two stories that will stay with me for quite some time to come. Fans of Jodi Picoult’s work should definitely give this book a chance, or anyone else who is looking for a captivating read. ‘Five Days Left’ is an incredibly emotional, moving and gripping read; one that will definitely make an impression on its readers.
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.