Skip to content

Brooklyn Girls (Angie) By Gemma Bugress

Brooklyn Girls (Angie)‘Brooklyn Girls – Angie’ is the latest book by Gemma Burgess.

Angie James is lost.

A regular poster girl for Generation Screwed, being 22 isn’t what she expected. What happens when having fun isn’t, you know, fun? In the Brooklyn townhouse she shares with her best friends, Angie wants to figure out what to do with her life. But wild parties, bad dates, dead-end jobs, demanding fashionistas and even true love just keep getting in the way… Who knew adulthood would be so damn grown-up?

For the last few days, my head has been buried in Gemma Burgess’s latest book, a story packed with attitude, sexy men and high jinx.

The story is seen from the perspective of Angie, who is Pia’s housemate from the first book in the ‘Brooklyn Girls’ series. Angie is an interesting character, a sexy girl with attitude, an eye for fashion, she doesn’t hold back with her punches or mince her words. But on a quiet countdown to her 23rd birthday, Angie begins to sit back and evaluate her life, especially when her mother announces her parents are divorcing and she wakes up one morning with three thousand dollars left for her. Panicking that she is going no-where fast, she begins to take stock and attempts to make changes to her life, with the help of her best friends and a handsome young boat boy called Sam, who Angie has decided will be her first boy friend with no strings attached.

I loved this book, purely because I loved Angie and I aspired to have her life. Granted, there were moments in her life, when it was utter chaos but I envied her for those moments, when you are starting out in life, meeting new people all whilst trying to find your path. I loved joining Angie on this adventure, with her loud mouth and creative flair, she was the life and soul of the party, but underneath all the bravado we saw a girl who has a genuine fear of loneliness and failure and I loved for it.

A witty and fast paced book from one of my favourite Young Adult authors, ‘Brooklyn Girls – Angie’ is a gritty and scandalous story that follows one girls adventure in life. I loved it!

You can buy Brooklyn Girls: Angie from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

A Place To Call Home By Carole Matthews

A Place To Call Home‘A Place To Call a Home’ is the latest book by ‘Sunday Times’ bestselling author, Carole Matthews.

In the dead of night, Ayesha takes her daughter, Sabina, and slips quietly from her home, leaving behind a life full of pain. Boarding a coach to London, all Ayesha wants is a fresh start.

Hayden, a former popstar, has kept himself hidden away for years. He’s only opened up his home to two people – Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold, and Joy, an ill-tempered retiree with a soft spot for waifs and strays.

When Crystal asks Hayden if Ayesha and Sabina can stay with them, he reluctantly agrees and, as different as they may be, they quickly form an unlikely bond. So when enemies threaten their peaceful home, they will do all they can to save it and each other.

The thing that I have come to love with Carole’s books, is that you genuinely have a fun and warm hearted story but once you delve further into the tale, you come to a serious subject that Carole handles with sensitivity and care.

Ayesha is the heroine of the story, who in the beginning leaves her husband with her daughter, Sabrina. After years of being exposed to mental and physical abuse at the hands of her husband, that has resulted in Sabrina becoming mute. Ayesha decides that enough is enough and leaving with only a bag between them, she sets off to start a new life for the two of them, all whilst Suresh her husband and his friends go looking for her. Unaware that Ayesha has found security in a house with an exotic dancer, a grumpy old woman and a reclusive ex pop star.

This book is a gripping one that is not only entertaining reading but is also an inspirational and courageous story. Ayesha, is an encouraging character, brought to England from Sri Lanka. Her parents thought that they had found her a man that they thought would make the perfect husband, sadly this is not the case as Ayesha fears for her life. Living a lonely existence with only her silent daughter for company when she breaks free, Ayesha finds solace in a house full of troubled individuals and forms a new friendship with people that she would never have met in her previous protected life. Providing new friends with a new lust for life and helping others now realise their own potential as well as her own, Ayesha finds helping others make all the pain and suffering worthwhile as she and Sabrina try to piece their lives back together.

I have to say that I thought this book was my favourite out of all of Carole’s books. Genuinely heartwarming and realistic, it highlights the subject of domestic abuse and no matter what walk of life you are from there is always support available. In the case of Ayesha, I loved her. I loved her quiet ambition, to provide a secure life for herself and for those around her. She provided a calming wisdom to the story, even though she had lived quite a sheltered life, she shared her passion through her love of cooking to her new friends and gave them a shoulder to cry on life became tough.

I thought parts of the story were quite heartbreaking especially the scenes with Sabrina, a beautiful and smart little girl, who seen too much for a child off her age. Along with Ayesha we long to hear her talk and scenes were think this is about to happen make for particularly tender reading.

‘A Place To Call Home’ is a poignant, touching and most certainly a courageous story. And although it still reeks of Carole’s wit and charm, I thought this book was a new chapter to Carole’s style of writing and definitely a book of hers that I would highly recommend.

You can buy A Place to Call Home from Amazon and is available from good bookshops.

Win A Set of Carole Matthew’s Books

Today on Handwritten Girl, as part of the book blog tour for Carole Matthews’ new book ‘A Place To Call Home’ I am delighted to be hosting a special giveaway!

The lovely people at Little Brown Books have given me a set of 10 of Carole’s books in their beautiful new backlist reissue format to give to one lucky winner! Below is just a taster of the books that are included in the prize, including the brand new book.

To be in with an chance of winning this fabulous prize, simply leave your name in the comment box below and I shall pick a random name on Monday 19th May 2014.

Good luck!

Carole Matthews Books

Isabel Wolff Writer’s Tips

Lucy I think the most important thing for anyone when setting out to write a novel is to have a strong, compelling plot that the readers will lose themselves in. To do this you have to employ analytical skills because in my view a novel is really a matter of problem-solving. Who are the main characters and who, or what, connects them in a way that doesn’t rely on coincidence? What, credibly, can happen to these characters during the life of the book and how will they change? From whose point of view is the story to be told? How can the different elements be made to mesh together in a satisfying way? So I think that budding writer should concentrate on this – the mechanics of their story – rather than on developing a beautiful prose style.
Isabel Wolff

Read An Extract From If I Could Turn Back Time By Nicola Doherty

If I Could Turn Back TimeI am excited to be taking part in the blog tour for Nicola Doherty’s new book, ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’.

For my part in the tour, I have been given Chapter 5 from the book, so why not sit back, relax and sample this taster from the story.

‘Rachel,’ I hiss down the phone. ‘Rachel, can you hear me?’
‘Yes,’ she hisses back. ‘Why are we whispering?’
‘Because something amazing has happened. And I wanted to
tell you in person, but I can’t wait so I had to phone you.’
I can hear her intake of breath. ‘Are you and David engaged?’ ‘Oh – no, that’s not it.’ I feel momentarily deflated, before I
remember: that could still happen! ‘No, I just – oh God. Look, I know this is going to sound crazy, but . . .’ I hunch down even lower so nobody can hear me. Which is difficult, because I’m on the street, on my morning break. ‘I’ve turned back time.’
‘You what?’ Rachel says. ‘What do you mean, you’ve turned back time? Have you bought a new moisturiser or something?’
‘No. I mean –’ I hesitate. Rachel doesn’t even believe in star signs. Can I really tell her I’ve experienced time-travel?
‘It’s hard to explain. It would be easier if we met up. Are you free this evening?’
‘No, I’m having dinner with Jay. He’s taking me to the Coq d’Argent.’ She sounds really excited about it. ‘We were meant to go last weekend, but he was sick.’
I’m about to ask what the hell she’s doing seeing him – but then I remember: of course. She’s still going out with him.
‘Rachel –’ It’s on the tip of my tongue to tell her about Jay and his carrying-on, and that his mystery illness last weekend will soon be diagnosed as ‘secret girlfriend-itis.’

But there’s no way I can tell Rachel what’s happened. She would think I was nuts. I’ll just have to try and warn her another way.
After I’ve talked to Rachel, I call my mum. I tend to ring after a long journey, and time-travel must surely qualify.
‘Are you OK?’ I ask her, suddenly full of anxiety. ‘And Dad?’
‘He’s grand, Zoë,’ she says, sounding bewildered. ‘He’s down at the factory.’
Dad is meant to have retired from his business, building and outfitting children’s playgrounds, but last summer – I mean, this summer – he got antsy about the guy he’d left in charge and started hanging around the place again. Mum and I chat for a while, and then she says, in the warm tone she uses when talking about David, ‘And how’s your young man?’
‘Well . . . he’s grand! We went to the theatre last night.’ I’m so happy I don’t have to disappoint her with bad news. Mum loves the sound of David and I really can’t blame her.
‘Isn’t he wonderful the way he does all that, while he’s working all the hours God sends.’
‘He is indeed.’ I smile happily at the thought that David is still in the present tense.
‘I forgot to tell you,’ she adds. ‘That poor old Paul dropped by the other day.’
My relationship with Paul was one of those things that really should have only lasted a month or two, but because we worked together, had lots of the same friends and lived near each other, it turned into two years. His parents live in Blackrock, near mine – they’ve even become friends, which hasn’t exactly helped Paul move on.
‘Did he? What was he wanting?’ I remember this well, but I pretend to act surprised.
‘He’d a story about some shoes of yours. Said he found them when he was moving house. They look years old, Zoë. I don’t know will you want them at all, and they don’t fit me.’ Mum used to be a huge Paul fan, but since David’s arrived on the scene, she’s dropped him like a hot coal.

‘Oh, no, Mum. Just give them to the St Vincent de Paul Society, if you don’t mind.’
If David is the one that got away, Paul is the one that won’t go away. I used to feel guilty about him, but now I know that by the end of the year, he’ll meet a lovely girl, a dental nurse, and the calls and texts will finally stop.
We hang up, and I exhale happily. It’s a gorgeous, bright summer morning in Soho. All the young hopefuls are out: fashion interns dropping clothes back to designers, media interns hand-delivering tapes and CDs with the next big thing on them, models on their way to castings, actors preparing for auditions. I stare at a girl wearing what looks like an original 1950s blue circle skirt, with a shrunken denim waistcoat and a red printed headscarf. I remember her! I saw her six months ago! I grab on to the side of the building: it’s still solid and hot to the touch. But time travel or not, my break is nearly up, so I hurry back inside.
Six months ago – or yesterday – it was freezing outside the store and really warm inside; now it’s the opposite. The blast of air conditioning hits me as I walk inside, deliciously cold after the heat of the streets. When I get back to the till Karen is waiting for me, looking at her watch. I’ve been gone for less than my allocated ten minutes, but she always looks at her watch whenever I return from a break, and when I arrive in the morning, and when I leave in the evening.
‘There you are,’ she says. ‘I’d like you to take over on the till, please.’
‘Of course.’ I wonder what she would say if I told her I was actually six months early, rather than two minutes. In fact, could this even be considered overtime?
Karen is in her early thirties, and quite attractive if a little plump, with an oval face and a small, pursed mouth. Her dark hair is always twisted up in a neat updo, and she wears the same make-up every day: a hard smokey eye with lots of blue eyeshadow.

She’s also pretty suspicious of me, seeming to think that I think the job is beneath me. In my first week, when I asked her if it was OK to give a credit note if a customer was a day past the month’s return limit, she said, ‘I would have thought a manage-ment consultant could work that out.’
‘She’s threatened by you,’ Rachel diagnosed instantly when I told her about it. ‘It’s textbook. She sees you’ve all this glitzy experience and it intimidates her, so she’s trying to put you down.’
‘What glitzy experience? I’ve no glitzy experience! I was a junior analyst. I just did spreadsheets all day.’
‘But you went to Trinity and you worked for PWC. She probably thinks you’re after her job – and that you could do it better than her.’
In fact, I’m after another job – I want to be a buyer – but I know that won’t endear me to Karen either, so I’ve decided to just smile and develop a thick skin where she’s concerned.
‘I’ve got a meeting with the guy from Hugo Boss,’ she says. I stare after her as she goes, remembering her saying this before. This all already happened. I don’t know if I will ever get used to it.
‘Just this, please.’ A fiftysomething customer with a helmet of blow-dried auburn hair is placing a feathery pink Philip Treacy hat on the counter. I stare at her and at the hat. I remember her; she’s going to return it next week, saying she didn’t think it went with her hair.
‘Are you sure?’ I ask her, on a mad impulse.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Sorry, I just wondered if you wanted anything else.’ I reach
under the counter to get a hat box, packing it in carefully with tissue paper.
‘No thank you,’ she says, taking her bag without looking at me.
‘You’re welcome,’ I say, but she’s already gone. It’s amazing how many customers can get through a whole transaction without once looking you in the eye.

It’s one of our quiet days. It’s not nice to think I’m going to have to go through all this again, as well as the good stuff – the slow hours when you’re on the till, you’ve done all the restocking, and there’s nothing to do but stare into space and occasionally give people directions to the loo, or descend on one customer like a vulture to ask them if they’re all right. I much prefer being busy.
It’s so weird to think that the July sales – which I remember vividly – haven’t even happened yet. I feel a swoosh of weirdness, like a rush to the head. I suppose it’s possible that I might be hallucinating. I’m fully prepared to blink any minute and find that all of this has vanished and it’s December again.
A flash of blond hair out of the corner of my eye tells me that Julia, the womenswear head buyer, is going by on one of her floor walks. Most of the buyers for other departments work in the head office which is in Paddington, but the womenswear buyers all work in the building. I always feel so envious when I see them coming in – striding past holding their cappuccinos, or clutching lookbooks or samples, chatting to each other about the show they’ve just been to or their last trip to Milan. It’s my dream.
The buyers all work on the sixth floor. You can’t even go up there in the regular lift; they have a special lift that you need a pass to use. I’ve only been in it twice; once, when I went up to the sixth floor, all psyched up to have my interview for the job of Assistant Buyer, and again when I went down, knowing I’d made a hames of it.
‘It’s not that we don’t think you have potential, Zoë,’ Julia, the head buyer, told me. ‘But you have so little experience still. You’re just not there yet.’
She suggested doing an evening diploma in fashion. It’s a great idea but I can’t really afford it. Mum and Dad have offered to pay for it, but I don’t want to let them do that; I want to make it happen myself. And also, a diploma would take a year, and I can’t face waiting that long.

But wait a second. Walking along, beside Julia, is the old assis- tant buyer, Hannah. The one who’s about to leave. Which means the interview hasn’t happened yet. I have a second chance!
I watch in excitement as Julia and Hannah walk around, stop- ping to examine different racks and displays. It’s not their normal day for a floor walk; I think they’re finalising the sale mark-downs. Julia picks up a geometric print shift dress, and I blink as I remember her doing exactly this, six months ago. ‘These aren’t performing too well, are they?’ she asks Hannah. ‘What’s the feedback?’
Hannah seems stumped. Julia looks at her expectantly, and then drifts away, towards the Marlene Birger rack. I know what’s going to happen next; Hannah will come over and ask me.
‘Hi, Zoë,’ she says, glancing at my name badge and looking a bit flustered. ‘Can you give me any customer feedback on these shift dresses?’
Hannah is tall and willowy and has a mane of blond hair that she often flicks from side to side. I know that she’s dating some photographer who is apparently very well-connected, and that she’s about to leave to take a new job in fashion PR.
‘Well, they’re very gappy, apparently. You can fit your whole hand in between the buttons.’ It’s the exact same answer I gave her last time. But this time I add, ‘I’ll tell you what is selling really well, though: the maxi dresses. I think all the sizes sold out in a few days. Black is huge, but customers have been wanting them in different colours too.’
Julia’s come up to join us now. Her hair is also long and blond – except while Hannah’s is shorter and straighter, Julia’s is curly, and trails almost to her waist. I look hopefully at her, wondering if she heard my little contribution – or if Hannah will at least acknowledge it. But, just as she did last time, Hannah turns her back on me, literally blocking me from Julia’s view, and says, ‘If you ask me, the cut on the shifts isn’t great. We have had good feedback on the maxi dresses, though. I think we should look at ordering some more colourways.’

‘OK, we’ll look at the figures,’ says Julia.
I don’t believe it. When this happened first time around, I just thought Hannah didn’t want to look clueless in front of her boss, which was annoying but at least made sense. But now I know she’s about to leave. Would it kill her to give me a crumb of credit?
‘What about all these Ikat prints?’ Julia has moved away, and is holding up a different, sleeveless shift dress. I can barely contain myself: I remember these! We marked them down, and then Keira Knightley was seen wearing one, and it was featured in Grazia; we sold out within a day, and they were marked down, and we could have sold loads more. I open my mouth, trying to think of what to say or how to put it, but I’m interrupted by a customer.
‘Excuse me. Which way is the ladies’?’
I give her directions, still feeling dazed from everything that’s happening. Julia and Hannah have already left without so much as a backward glance. I can’t believe that I’m so dense, and that this is only just dawning on me.
I know all this stuff.
I know what’s going to sell – and what isn’t. I know that they’re going to mark those boyfriend jackets down, thinking they’re over, but we could have sold more at full price. I know that the midi dress is going to stay full price when it should have been in the sale. I know that the reorders of the maxi dresses are going to come in too late, and we’re going to miss the boat with them. I rack my brains, trying to think what else I could tell them.
But tell who?
As soon as Karen reappears, I decide to take a risk and just ask her.
‘Karen – you know the sale next week?’
‘Yes, what about it? It’s too late to change the rota, I’m afraid.’ ‘No, no. It’s just that if I had some ideas for what should go
in it – who could I tell?’

Karen looks at me as if I’m speaking Martian. ‘Ideas for what should go in the sale? What are you talking about?’
‘Just suggestions about things that are going to sell well, or not.’
Karen just stares at me blankly for a minute and then says, ‘Oh. Of course! Why don’t you just go up to the sixth floor and ask to have a chat with the head buyers, or even the MD? I’m sure they’d love to hear your tips. Meanwhile, I’d like you to go to the stockroom. There are some clothes that need steaming.’
Our store is upmarket, but it isn’t particularly trendy like Harvey Nichols or Selfridges. Our biggest-selling brands are Jaeger, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. But we’re also making the effort to attract increasing numbers of younger shoppers, with labels like McQueen and Temperley and Marc Jacobs – though I think we could afford to have more. I sometimes gather, from things I hear Karen saying, that there’s exciting stuff happening at a strategy level and I wish I knew more about it.
The stockroom is in the basement. It’s huge, with racks of products and shelving units going up so high that you need ladders to access some of them. Harriet is there, steaming away. I seem to remember that we had some kind of falling-out during this steaming session, but I can’t think over what.
‘Oh, hi, Zoë,’ she says, adding, exactly as before, ‘I’m halfway through this rack, so if you could start on the other one? If that’s OK, of course.’ She says it quickly, as if not wanting to give me orders.
Harriet is a student, working here during her summer break from studying English at Leeds University. She’s very dreamy and romantic; she told me that she wanted to study there so that she could walk on the moors like Cathy in Wuthering Heights, which I think says it all. I can sort of see why Kira called her my Mini- Me. We’re both petite with dark hair, pale skin and blue eyes, except that Harriet’s hair is lovely and wavy and mine is poker straight, fine and flat. I would love to have big, bouncy hair, but it’s never going to happen. I take up my position beside Harriet and get the steamer out. I love steaming; it’s very soothing to see the creases disappear like magic, and somehow much more satis- fying than ironing.
‘By the way, I got those green snakeskin flats! I really hope you don’t mind,’ Harriet says, holding out an apologetic toe to show me. ‘I just couldn’t resist them, and there was only one left pair in my size.’
Of course! Today was when we had our falling-out about Harriet ‘channelling’ my style. It was probably because we had the same 40 per cent employee discount, but I couldn’t help noticing that she kept buying the same things as me. I tried not to be childish about it, and I said nothing when she got the grey chiffon midi skirt from Ghost, or the white lace Jaeger top, but these Marc Jacobs flats were the last straw.
‘The shoes too?’ I said. ‘Harriet, come on. You’re turning into my clone.’ She was crushed, and I’d felt bad for weeks afterwards.
But this time I can handle it all differently.
‘Of course I don’t mind,’ I say nicely. ‘They look great on you.’ She beams, and I think: this is incredible. Not only can I get
David back – I hope – I can also be a better friend, and avoid all sorts of mistakes. I’m definitely not buying that neon yellow tank top, or those leather trousers. I’m not going to go to that salon where I had that disastrous eyebrow dye that left me looking as if I had two caterpillars on my face.
‘How is your flatmate hunting going?’ asks Harriet.
‘Aren’t you interviewing flatmates this week?’
‘So I am. Um, fine.’ Great! I’m not even going to have to waste
my time doing this: I’ll just pick Deborah, the same as before. She is a bit dreary and bossy, but she’s fine.
I wish I could think of what to do about work, though. I have all these predictions but how can I put them into practice?

‘Harriet, what would you do if you really believed in a product – or you knew something was going to bomb – and you wanted to tell people? I mean the management?’
She looks at me with round eyes. ‘I don’t know,’ she says, looking confused. ‘Probably nothing?’
I nod, thinking this is quite sensible. This is just a holiday job for Harriet, so there wouldn’t be much point in her sticking her little head over the parapet. I imagine what would happen if I followed Karen’s sarcastic suggestion of going upstairs to tell the senior buyers my ideas – maybe adding that I’ve come from the future. I’d say it would take about thirty seconds before security came and hauled me away. But a lot of them will be helping out on the floor next week, during the sale. Maybe I’ll have the chance to give Julia, or someone, some insights at least.
‘So what did you do last night?’ Harriet asks me.
‘Um –’ Harriet is the one person who probably would believe me if I told her I’d turned back time, but it’s not worth the risk. ‘David and I went to see Hamlet at the Globe.’ This reminds me of Max, and I wonder if he’s going to say anything to David about the state I was in this morning. I really hope not.
Harriet puts down her steamer and clasps a long-sleeved T-shirt to herself, oblivious to the fact that she’s just creased it all over again. ‘That’s so romantic. You’re so lucky!’
‘I am lucky,’ I agree fervently, thinking that she doesn’t know the half of it. ‘What about you, what did you do?’
‘I met up with some school friends I haven’t seen in ages. We went to Hyde Park and had a picnic. It was really fun.’
I stare at her. Old school friends! ‘That’s it!’ I tell her.
‘What’s it?’ she asks, looking even more confused.
I make some reply, thinking: I have to contact Sinead Devlin
as soon as humanly possible. If I’m lucky, she won’t have signed with Harvey Nichols yet. I can show the buyers here her designs, and I’m positive they’ll see her potential. And I’ll impress them
during the sales, and I won’t mess up the job application for Assistant Buyer. I steam away energetically, feeling the excitement mount. I am going to make this happen.

You can buy If I Could Turn Back Time from Amazon and is also available to buy from good bookshops.