Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Truth about Gemma Grey 
Sophie Ranald

I love doing Q&As with authors and reading their answers before I publish them on the blog! I'm nosey like that! So today I have Q&As from Sophie Ranald. Thank you Sophie for taking part in my Q&As and I hope I didn't grill you too much!!

Author Q&A

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

This is always the toughest question! Writers can bang on for ages about their characters but hate talking about themselves. So... um... I was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa. I love cooking, running and drinking too much prosecco with my mates. This is beginning to sound like a bad online dating profile! Fortunately I don’t have to write those, because I’ve been with my wonderful partner for eleven years.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve never not wanted to be a writer! My mother wrote short stories and plays and two of my sisters (I’m lucky enough to have four!) are published authors. But it wasn’t until 2011 that I made the leap into writing novels, and I’ve never looked back.

What did you do as a job before becoming a writer?
I was (and still am, part time) a journalist. I’ve written about all sorts, from babies to high finance, and it’s actually enormously helpful for me as a writer, because it exposes me to all sorts of people and worlds that I wouldn’t otherwise have experienced.

How do you carry out the research for your novels?
Thoroughly! Research is one of my favourite parts of writing. When I was researching The Truth About Gemma Grey I visited Google’s London HQ to find out about being a YouTube vlogger, and Buzzfeed to learn about new media. I also watched hours and hours of make-up tutorials. It’s much easier to write when you have an in-depth understanding of the world your characters inhabit.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I find writing dialogue really easy. It’s a great way to move the plot along too – having your characters do the work of telling the story for you. Plotting on the other hand I find quite difficult: I often get stuck trying to move a character from one situation to the next. I am also not a fan of writing sex scenes!

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
I write on a laptop at my dining room table, using Scrivener, which is a fantastic writing tool. I try to write 2,000 words a day, but I don’t always manage that. I don’t have a set routine or time of day when I write. Sometimes I’ve got my word count nailed before lunchtime, but on other days I’m still beavering away at midnight. One part of my routine that’s set in stone is an afternoon nap – Purrs, my cat, comes and shouts at me when it’s time to go upstairs to bed and then gets under the duvet for a cuddle.

When you're not writing, what do you like to read?
I’m a voracious reader when I’m not writing, although when I am working on a novel I hardly read at all, and distract myself with box set binges! I don’t have a particular genre I enjoy reading – in fact, I don’t read very much in my own genre at all. I read thrillers, literary fiction, cookbooks, classics – you name it! The most recent book I read and enjoyed was After the Fall, by Charity Norman. I devoured it in one go on a long-haul flight.

How important do you think social media is to authors in today's society?
It’s vital. I use Facebook a lot to interact with my readers and promote my books, and I know I need to start using Instagram more too.

Could you tell the readers a bit about your latest book?
The Truth About Gemma Grey is about an unsuccessful YouTube vlogger who suddenly finds her channel taking off in a way she didn’t expect. She’s also just started a new job and moved into a house-share with some rather weird people, and is having to face the truth about Jack, the boyfriend she thought was The One. It’s about her journey to self-discovery and true love.

Which of your characters would you most like to be and why?
I have a soft spot for Pippa, the heroine of A Groom With a View. She’s got a great job as a chef, a very cute cat and a seriously hot fiancĂ© – she’s very down to earth, confident and sorted.

Is there anything else you would have liked to be asked?
I could talk about Purrs for hours, but I’m not sure your readers would want to listen!

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

Life isn’t working out quite as Gemma had planned. Her breakthrough job turns out to involve writing clickbait articles about cats. Her boyfriend Jack is off travelling the world with his glamorous BFF and her mum’s social life puts Gemma’s own to shame.
Then, after a late-night online rant, Gemma’s YouTube channel goes viral and everything changes.
Suddenly, she’s living the dream – only it’s not turning out entirely as she imagined.
Gemma realises she’ll have to choose between fame, real love and being true to herself – because she can’t have it all. Or can she?



Sophie Ranald is the youngest of five sisters. She was born in Zimbabwe and lived in South Africa until an acute case of itchy feet brought her to London in her mid-20s. As an editor for a customer publishing agency, Sophie developed her fiction-writing skills describing holidays to places she'd never visited. In 2011, she decided to disregard all the good advice given to aspiring novelists and attempt to write full-time. After one false start, It Would Be Wrong to Steal My Sister's Boyfriend (Wouldn't It?) seemed to write itself. Her second, third and fourth novels followed, and a fifth is due for release in Spring 2017. Sophie also writes for magazines and online about food, fashion and running. She lives in south-east London with her amazing partner Hopi and Purrs, their adorable little cat.


Twitter: @sophieranald

Goodreads Website:


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Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Blood Sisters
Jane Corry
Blog Tour

I am delighted to be a part of the blog tour for Blood Sisters. Today I have Chapter One for you to have a sneaky peek at! I'm also looking forward to going to the book launch for this next week.

Chapter One

September 2016 
Careful. It’s not the size that counts. It’s the sharpness. And the angle. The blade must sing. Not scratch. I hold the piece of blue glass up to the window light. It’s the same colour as the type you occasionally see in bottles lining the shelves of old-fashioned pharmacies. A nice clean cut. No sharp bits that need trimming, which is always tricky. So easy to get splinters of glass in your skin or on your clothes. Or in your mind. Now for the acid test. Does the glass fit the lead outline? My heart always starts to beat wildly at this stage, as though it’s a matter of life or death. Silly, really, but that’s how it feels. After getting this far, you don’t want to get it wrong. It’s not just the waste of glass. It’s the waste of time. Each second of life is precious. As I know all too well. ‘Would you mind helping me with this, Mrs Baker?’ ‘Actually, it’s miss,’ I say, looking up from my demo piece. ‘And please call me Alison. Everyone else does.’ Most of my students are older than this new one standing before me. Shorter too. He’s substantial without being chunky. Six foot one and a half, at a guess. Three inches or so more than me. As a child I was teased mercilessly for being the tallest in class. I did my best to shrink but it didn’t work. ‘Stand up straight,’ my mother would plead. She meant well, but all I wanted to do was blend in; not to be noticed. To hide my slightly overlarge nose (‘classical’, my mother called it kindly), my thick-framed mud-brown glasses and my train-track braces. Whereas my perfectly put-together sister had that gift of innate confidence that made her naturally poised. Nowadays I’ve learned there are some advantages to my height. You can carry off clothes that others can’t. Put on a pound or two without showing. Yet, every time I pass my reflection in a mirror or shop window, I am reminded to push back those offending shoulders. ‘Droopy angel-wings’, my sister used to call them. How ironic. The man asking the question is neither young nor old. Something else we have in common. The more the years go by, the less I want to put a figure on my age. It makes me panic about the things I thought I’d have done by now and which somehow haven’t happened. In fact, this is the one place where age doesn’t matter. It’s the steadiness of the hand that counts. Making stained-glass windows might seem like an innocuous craft. But accidents happen. How true that is. ‘I can’t quite remember, Alison, what you said about stretching the lead.’ The man’s voice is deep as it slices through my thoughts. Well spoken, suggesting an expensive education. Keen. Not many men sign up for these weekly courses I run at the local college. When this particular student arrived at the first session last week, I felt an instant fluttering of unease. And I still do. It’s not just the way he keeps staring. Or his intelligent questions. Or the confident manner in which he scores his glass, even though it’s a beginner’s class. Or his name –  Clive Black, which has an authoritative symmetry, suggesting a certain amount of thought on his parents’ part. Nor is it even the way he said ‘Alison ’ just now, as though he found it intriguing rather than everyday. It’s all of these things. And something else too that I can’t put a finger on. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust my instinct. And it’s telling me, right now, to watch out. Wearing my protective gloves (mandatory for everyone in class, along with an apron), I pick up a thin, slightly twisted piece of lead, about a foot long. It always reminds me of a strand of silver liquorice: the type my sister and I used to buy from the corner shop on the way back from school. Block it out. Distract. Swiftly, I hand Clive a pair of pliers. ‘Take one piece –  the flat edge of the pliers needs to be on top – and pull. I’ll do the same at the other end. Lean forward. That’s right.’ ‘Amazing how it doubles in length!’ he says in the kind of tone which I’ve sometimes heard children use. ‘Incredible, isn’t it?’ breathes someone else as the class gathers round. I love this bit. Excitement is catching. I pick up a different trimming knife. The funny thing is that I’ve been clumsy ever since childhood. Yet this is the one area where I never falter. ‘Wiggle the blade from side to side and then push down,’ I say. ‘Anyone want to try?’ I address my question deliberately to a horsey-faced woman who has been on several of my courses. Once she even offered to make positive comments on my Facebook page and was distinctly disappointed when I confessed to not having one. ‘Don’t you need it to publicize your work?’ she’d asked incredulously. I’d shrugged casually in an attempt to hide the real reason. ‘I manage without it.’ Class is ending now (‘Ta- ra!’ waves Beryl who ‘loves coming here’) but the man with the well-spoken voice is still lurking. I have renamed him Lead Man in my head, and I suppress a smile because it works on both levels. Tall. Thin. Clean-shaven. Strong jawline. Smooth. Possibly unpredictable. Just like the material we’re working with. In my experience, there’s always a ‘May I ask a final question?’ student who doesn’t want to go. But this one is unnerving me. ‘I was just wondering,’ he says. Then he stops for a minute, his eyes darting to the blank space on my wedding-ring finger. (I’ve noticed that his is bare too.) ‘Are you hungry, by any chance?’ He laughs casually, as if aware he is being slightly too forward on the strength of a short acquaintance in which I am the teacher and he is the pupil. ‘I don’t know about you,’ he adds, ‘but I didn’t have time to eat anything after work before coming here.’ His hand reaches into his pocket as he talks. Sweat breaks out round my neck. I eye the door. Then he brings out a watch and glances at it. The face appears to have a Disney cartoon on it. I’m both relieved and intrigued. But not enough to accept his invitation. ‘Thanks,’ I say lightly. ‘But I’m expected back at home.’ He looks disappointed. Rebuffed. ‘OK. I understand.’ How can he? I don’t even understand myself. Turning round, I tidy up the spare glass offcuts. On paper, this student seems like someone my mother would approve of. Nice manners. Suitable age. A man of means, judging from his well-cut jacket. A good head of light-brown hair, flicked back off a wide forehead. ‘Maybe you’re being too choosy,’ my mother is always saying, albeit kindly. ‘Sometimes you have to take a risk in life, darling. Mister Right can come in all shapes and forms.’ Was this how she’d felt about marrying my father? I’m stung by that familiar pang of loss. If only he was still here. Lead Man has gone now. All I want to do is go back to my flat in Elephant & Castle, put on some Ella Fitzgerald, knock up a tinned tuna salad (my sister had hated fish), take a hot shower to wash out the day, then curl up on the sofa with a good book, and try to forget that the rent is due next week along with all the other bills. Peeling off my rubber gloves, I wash my hands carefully in the corner sink. Then, slipping on my fluffy blue mohair charity-shop cardigan, I make my way downstairs, pausing at reception to hand in the classroom key. ‘How’s it going?’ asks the woman at the desk. I put on my cheerful face. ‘Great, thanks. You?’ She shrugs. ‘I’ve got to rearrange the noticeboard. Someone’s just dropped this off. Not sure that anyone will be interested. What do you think?’ I read the poster. It’s on A4 paper and has a picture of an artist’s palette next to a cell with bars across it. 
My skin breaks out into little goosebumps. A scream. Silence. Blood. ‘You wouldn’t catch me in one of those places,’ sniffs the receptionist. Her words bring me back to myself and I fumble for a pen. ‘You’re not really interested, are you, Alison?’ I continue writing down the email address. ‘Maybe.’ ‘Rather you than me.’ The pros and cons whirl round in my head as I make my way out into the street. Steady income. Travel costs. Enough to stop me worrying over my bank balance every month. But I’ve never been inside a prison before. The very thought terrifies me. My mouth is dry. My heart is thumping. I wish I’d never seen the ad. It’s as though fate is telling me something. But do I really want to listen? I pass a park with teenagers smoking on the swings. One is laughing; head tossed back. A happy, carefree laugh. Just like my sister’s. For her, life was a ball. Me? I was the serious one. Earnest. Even before the accident, I remember a certain mysterious heaviness in my chest. I always wanted to make things right. To do the best I could in life. The word ‘conscientious’ featured on every one of my school reports. But there are some things you can’t make right. ‘It wasn’t your fault,’ my mother had said, time and time again. Yet when I replay it in my mind, I keep thinking of things I could have done. And now it’s too late. I’m walking briskly through an evening market. Silk scarves flutter in the breeze. Turquoise. Pink. Primrose yellow. On the next stall, overripe tomatoes are going for 50p a bag. ‘You won’t get cheaper, love,’ says the stallholder, who is wearing black fingerless gloves. I ignore him. Take a left. And a right. Quickly. I need to get home. Now. Down a road of identical Victorian terraces with overflowing wheelie bins and beer bottles in the streets. Some have curtains hanging off the rails. Others have boarded- up windows. Mine has shutters. Easy to close. It was one of the attractions. There are three name stickers by three bells. My landlord’s. The other tenant’s. And a blank. Mine. I reach for my key. Into the main hall where the post is left. Nothing for me. The second key lets me into my ground-floor, one-bedroom apartment. I’d have liked a room on the first floor (it would have felt safer) but I couldn’t find one at the time and I was desperate. Now I am used to it, although I always make sure the windows are locked before I leave the house. Shutting the door, I kick off my shoes and chuck my bag on to the second-hand beige Ikea sofa. The yearning has become more intense. It’s been building up inside me all day but now it’s reached its crescendo. Hurry. Fast. My hands dive down for the sliver of blue in my jacket pocket like an alcoholic might reach for the bottle. To think that something so small can do such damage! Today it’s the turn of my right wrist. Far enough from the artery. But deeper than yesterday’s. I gasp as the jagged edge scores my skin: a dark thrill flashes through me followed by the pain. I need both. But it’s no good. It doesn’t hurt enough. Never does. For it’s the cuts we hide inside that really do the damage. They rub and they niggle and they bruise and they bleed. And as the pain and anxiety grow in your head, they become far more dangerous than a visible open wound. Until eventually you have to do something. And now that time has come.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Fierce Kingdon 
Gin Phillips

Guest Review 
Julie Williams


Imagine being stranded in a zoo with your four year old son, hearing gun shots and having to run and hide to protect you both from the possibility of being killed. This horrific scenario is the opening to this chilling book.

Joan and her son Lincoln often come to their local zoo in the afternoon and stay until closing time; this is their mother and son together time. Little do they know that this particular visit will turn into three nightmare hours.

Fortunately her knowledge of the layout of the zoo helps to keep them one step ahead of danger, most of the time!

This novel is not for the faint hearted as there are some pretty gruesome scenes and although of course I was routing for the people trapped inside to be safe, my heart went out to the innocent animals that were savagely gunned down.

This is a quick read and just as well, as I found myself holding my breath for what seemed like an eternity. 

If you like psychological thrillers then this is definitely one you must read. My only criticism is that I was left with unanswered questions as to what happened to some of the other characters but that will give me something to think about as I know this book will be rolling around my head for a while to come.

Thanks to Alison Barrow from Transworld Books for this ARC and to Julie Boon for allowing me to guest review on her blog.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Right Here Waiting for You
Rebecca Pugh

Guest Review
Julie Williams

Guest Review

This is the latest chick lit book by Rebecca and explores relations within friendships. In this novel the two main characters are reunited after both made some stupid decisions in their teens which ruined their friendship for years.

Childhood besties Sophia and Magda are brought together again through a school reunion invitation. Sophia is still reeling over the falling out from years ago and has no plans to forgive easily. Her life has changed quite dramatically as she is now a single Mum to Esther. The school reunion also brings Tom Archer, Sophia’s first love and Father of Esther, back in town and this raises the betrayal of Tom and her best friend Magda all over again.

Magda is also dealing with her own problems as she is in a loveless marriage to Greg so uses this time away to forget her worries and hopes for an opportunity for reconciliation with Sophia. 

Magda coming back to her home town is the best thing that could have happened for her still grieving Father Charlie. She makes him realise that he must start living his life again as he has become quite reclusive since her Mum died and she left for a new life with Greg.

It took me awhile to get into this story, but I enjoyed the second half much more. Thank you to Net Galley and HQ Stories for the ARC and to Julie for this guest review on this blog.