Tuesday, 29 March 2016

The Great Book Survey!

I decided to put together a short book survey for friends to complete and so I had some lovely "booky" blogs for the next few weeks. I asked for volunteers on Facebook and sent the survey out to a few brave souls. I wanted to dig deep and see just what my friends like to read and if they had any little reading "guilty secrets" I should know about!

So first up is the amazing Vicki Bowles. Vicki self published her own novel My Unintended and is currently writing her next novel. We met a few years ago a a Creative Writing Masterclass held at Books and the City publishers. I basically plonked myself down next to her and she hasn't been able to get rid of me since!

Mary, Natalie and Vicki 

So Vicki first question is a fairly simple one names you go by and your *ahem* age...

Vicki Bowles / Vikbat / MUUUUUM*

Age: Very nearly 43**. What's that you say? A Kindle? For my birthday? What a FABULOUS Idea....

*has to be shouted v loud
** ok, ok, I know I don't act it.

What is your preferred genre of book?

Women's Fiction and Contemporary Romance, but it has to have a bit of a bite to it. You know, with lots of swearing and rudity. 

Who is your “go to author” when you want a relaxing read?

Jeez.... there's far too many... Jane Costello, Paige Toon (though I've only read a couple of hers so far but I LOVE them!), Mhairi MacFarlance, Lindsey Kelk... the list goes on and I know I've left loads out. But the Queen of All Fabulousness for me is the Goddess Jilly Cooper. That Rupert Campbell-Black is such a bad boy – I love him!

 How do you chose your books? Cover design, friends recommendations, book reviews etc?

All of the above

 Is there an author that you enjoy so much that you buy every one of their published novels? If so which author?

Jilly Cooper. She has such a way with words, and her descriptions are gorgeous. I can practically smell the wild garlic of Rutshire when I'm reading one of her books. And she's so naughty. Rupert Campbell-Black taught me everything I know!

Do you have a favourite classic book? Do you have a favourite children’s book?

My favourite children's book... actually can I have two please? From my own childhood I loved  'Heidi' by Johanna Spyri. I used to imagine myself living up on a mountain with all those flowers and goats around me. And eating all the cheese.

My other favourite children's book is Dinosaur Roar by Henrietta and Paul Stickland. I've read it with all my four kids, and I still enjoy it with my youngest, Zach. We put on really silly voices to match the dinosaurs. That's one book that will never ever make it to the charity shop.

As for classic books – does Heidi count? Otherwise it would be 1984 by George Orwell. He was amazingly ahead of his time. Actually I think he may be the inspiration for Doctor Who – I'm convinced he must have nipped ahead and seen the future. Which is a bit scary when you think about it...

Would you say you own more digital copies of books or paperbacks? Which format do you prefer?

Looking at my TBR piles (note the plural!) I'd say it's about 50/50. When I first got my Kindle I much preferred that, for storage, accessibility etc. But then I visited Simon & Schuster and my love for the physical book was rekindled (Ha – see what I did there?). I blame Sara-Jade Virtue for introducing loads of fabulous, gorgeous books, with beautiful covers.

 Although I do swear lots when I am reading a book at night, drop it and lose my place. But on the flip side, my Kindle has died, so I'm having to read my Kindle & Netgalley books on my phone. Technology is not infallible.

Finally which 10 books would you take to a desert island? You don’t have to include a survival guide!

Erm... Riders, Rivals, Polo by Jilly Cooper; River God and Warlock by Wilbur Smith; Out of This World: The Story of Muse by Mark Beaumont; Our Song by Dani Atkins; Watchers by Dean Koontz; It by Stephen King; and finally Castaway by Lucy Irvine.

But if I took a Kindle and a solar charger, I could take SOOOO many more....

(I actually read 5 books in 10 days on honeymoon in the Maldives. And yes I'm still married 18 years later.)

Great answers Vicki. I think we can take from most of your answers that you are a fan of "naughty" books! I love your desert island choices although if I took Our Song I think I would need lots of tissues too.

Thank you so much Vicki for taking part in my survey xxxx

 Find Vicki on her Blog, on Facebook and on Twitter

Monday, 21 March 2016

Blogger and Author Meet Up - The Waiting Room, York Way

A Day With The Best People!

The Waiting Room York Way London

Earlier in the year my good friend and author Heidi Swain invited me via Facebook - isn't Social Media a wonderful thing?- to attend Blogger/Author Shenanigans in London. How could I refuse?

Saturday dawned a little too bright and early for me. After the BATC event on Wednesday evening and then two 9 hour shifts on Thursday and Friday at work, I was absolutely knackered. I had the beginnings of a cold and everything ached. However nothing was going to stop me going to London to see Heidi Swain (author of The Cherry Tree Cafe, Summer at Skylark Farm - June 2016 and Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market - October 2016) She was travelling all the way down to London from Norfolk and I wasn't going to miss seeing this lady. This time I got hubby to drive me to the O2. he had been relieved of his hair curling duties today as I went with a plait. Adele was still playing, obviously she had a break between Wednesday night and Saturday, but parking was still a nightmare. 
I got myself some Halls Soothers and a Twirl - purely for energy - purchased my ticket and boarded the tube like a seasoned traveller. I settled down with one eye on the destination board and the other eye on Paige Toon's The One We Fell In Love With. After one change I arrived at Kings Cross. My phone on realization that it was now above ground pinged with messages, one of them from Heidi telling me she was at The Waiting Room already. I began my walk down York Way trying to look like I knew where I was going and thankfully bumped into Vicki Bowles.
Vicki & Me

It was already busy, us writers are a noisy bunch I think it is where we spend so much time alone! I saw some familiar faces, thankfully there were stickers for us to put our names on (red for authors and blue for bloggers) as most people look very different in real life from their tiny twitter pic. It did however mean that everytime we met someone new we looked at their face and then lowered our gaze to their boobies to see who they were!

Name Badge
 I managed to find Heidi who even in her heels is a tiny person. I managed to loose her several times that day!! We had a huge hug and a catch up. We don't see enough of each other although we do text and chat online. I loved the way her fans reacted to her too, it's lovely to see as she is a wonderful person.

Heidi Swain!!! #fangirl
I also got to meet Helen J Rolfe finally in real life too, who is really lovely and Natalie Meg Evans.

Heidi Swain, Mary Lewis, Natalie Meg Evans & Helen J Rolfe
Helen, Vicki, Mary & Heidi

They are bonkers and I love them

I also met Jean Fullerton who is author of Wedding Bells for Nurse Connie - May 2016. She is also a reader for the Romantic Novelists Associations New Writer's Scheme submissions, so she may be reading my finished manuscript. EEKKK!!!!
She was really friendly and gave me her card along with an invitation to email her for more information on RNA events and to contact her publisher for a book.
Isabelle Broom arrived a little later and again we had a quick catch up. I'm going to her book launch for My Map of You in April, so hopefully we'll catch up properly then.

At 4pm I had reached my peak. Unfortunaely due to my illness I get tired pretty quickly and starting a cold had wiped me out. I knew I would have to leave now or risk falling asleep on one of the sofas. I said my goodbyes and walked back to Kings Cross (Via McDonalds who had NO milkshakes!!). I took a few minutes to get some shots of St Pancras Station and then went to get the tube back to the O2.

Beautiful St Pancras Station

Hubby was there to meet me at the O2 and by about 6pm I was in my PJ's, on the sofa with a hot water bottle.

Thanks to Kim Nash and Holly Martin for inviting me and organising everything. Hoping to make the next one in May xx

Spring Blogger Evening

A Night Out at Books and the City

Any invitation to Books and the City is always received with glee, so it was a very excited Mary - that after getting her hubby to curl her hair for her! - set off for London for the much anticipated Spring Blogger Evening 2016.

Curly Mary!
 I drove to the O2 arena to park and jump on the tube, but when I arrived I realised Adele was playing and that all non-booked parking was £31. I managed to charm my way into a car park on a normal ticket after convincing the car park attendant that I wasn't an Adele fan and was getting the tube. I walked across to the North Greenwich Underground and began my journey to Chancery Lane. There were very jolly Underground staff on that night, which made the journey a lot easier. I reached Chancery Lane and after a short walk down Grays Inn Road I reached Books and the City. 
Fellow blogger Rachel Gilbey was already in reception so we began chatting about books - what else?! More and more excited ladies arrived including my friends Natalie Ross, Vicki Bowles, Emma Crees and Maureen Stapleton who along with me are all graduates of the Creative Writing Masterclass held at BATC.
We all made our way upstairs to be greeted by the gorgeous Sara-Jade Virtue and the equally gorgeous Dawn Burnett. SJ gave us our name badges and we moved into another room for soft drinks and nibbles.

Name badge

Next we were shown into the neighbouring room to take our seats for the main event! SJ introduced us to the authors who were:

Penny Parkes Out of Practice 
Juliet Ashton These Days of Ours

The panel of authors L to R: Georgia Clarke, Penny Parkes, Paige Toon, Holly Hepburn & Juliet Ashton

 Clare Hey began by giving us a brief piece of information about each book and then each author read a sample aloud to us. I didn't want that bit to end as they all sounded fabulous. After the readings Clare put some questions to the panel about love and friendship. A late arrival author of The Regulars Georgia Clarke then joined the panel fresh off the plane from Spain. Her book was revealed to us in an exclusive chapter sample.
The readings and questions finished we retired to the other room for a glass of prosecco and amazing cupcakes

 There were more surprises to come in the form of the famous BATC goody bag. This one was A-MA-ZING!! It contained little treats of nail polish, lip balm, post it notes, pencil, book of quotes, love heart sweeties, but best of all proofs of all the authors books which we could get signed!!!!!

Proof copies of the books
Exclusive chapter sample
Penny Parkes
Georgia Clarke

Holly Hepburn
Paige Toon

Juliet Ashton

 Of course as you can see I got all my books signed and it was a chance to speak to all of the ladies who were all lovely. Juliet Ashton remembered my review and particularly liked my use of the word "devour". 
After a brief catch up with SJ - she is a very busy lady - and a quick chat with Isabelle Broom about her upcoming book My Map of You it was time for me to leave to try and beat the Adele traffic exiting the O2 (which I managed to do).

It was another fantastic evening and I'd like to say a huge thank you to SJ for the invite and for organising everything. Thank you also to the authors and the staff at BATC for making the evening a great success.

L to R Vicki Bowles, Maureen Stapleton, Isabelle Broom & Natalie Ross
L to R Me, Natalie Ross & Vicki Bowles

Looking forward to next year!!

Books and the City - Simon and Schuster is home to Romantic Novelist Association award winners Iona Grey Letters to the Lost & Milly Johnson Afternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe
Other authors include Heidi Swain, Andy Jones, Jane Costello & the late, great Jackie Collins.

Monday, 14 March 2016

These Days of Ours

Book Review

These Days of Ours by Juliet Ashton

I was lucky enough to win a signed proof of this book from Sara-Jade Virtue at Books and the City - thank you SJ and Juliet.

The book centres around Kate and Becca who are best friends and cousins. It starts at Kate's 5th birthday party and follows the two women through their lives. 
It's a tale of love, friendship, jealousy, betrayal and loyalty between the two and their respective families. Every chapter seems to have a twist, which certainly keeps the reader on their toes. I began reading each chapter and was surprised at each turn of the page as the story took me off in a different direction.

Kate is quite a complex character in that she hides a lot of what she is feeling. Becca on the other hand is larger than life and has no problem vocalising quite clearly what she wants from life. In fact Becca is quite exasperating at times and you have to wonder does she really have Kate's best interests at heart? She is certainly used to getting her own way. 

Kate's first love Charlie declares his love for her at her 5th birthday party and gets a cake in his face for his trouble. Will their love endure? Can your first love remain your love throughout your life?

Juliet certainty pulls on your heart strings and surprises you at every turn with this superb novel. It's funny, sad, happy and a good old fashioned tale of love. What's not to like??

A seriously good read that you will devour in one sitting. I cannot wait to read more by this author.

Available on ebook now and in Paperback April 2016. Published by Books and the City.

Available now in digital and in Paperback April 2016