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A Morning With Cecelia Ahern

A Morning With Cecelia Ahern

On Saturday 21st September, I took myself off on an adventure to the suburban area of Rathmines in South Dublin.

The reason for the adventure was the launch of Cecelia Ahern’s latest book called ‘Postscript’ which is the highly anticipated sequel to her debut novel called ‘PS I Love You’ which hit the bookshelves 15 years ago,

The event took place in the picturesque Stella Cinema, an Art Deco theatre that wouldn’t look out of place in F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, with its exquisite lighting and opulent interiors.

Lucky attendees of the event were treated to a healthy and scrumptious breakfast of pastries, Greek yogurt with granola and a cheeky glass of Prosecco before settling down in the cinema to watch the film adaptation of ‘PS I Love You’ starring Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler.

With a box of salted popcorn for company, I settled down into the leather armchair and joined the rest of the audience on the heartbreaking story of Holly and Gerry on their tragic love affair, I laughed, snorted and cried along with everyone else as a dead Gerry urged Holly to step out of her comfort zone through the medium of letters.

A Morning With Cecelia Ahern

Once the film was over, we enjoyed a Q&A with Cecelia and IMAGE magazine’s group brand director of Rosaleen McMeel. Cecelia talked about her writing journey and how her story has helped people deal with grief and loss. She admitted that she cried ugly tears whilst writing the book, so I’ll have that to look forward to when reading the book next and her main splurge when writing is a Jo Malone candle that accompanies her through the writing process of each book. Warm-hearted and funny to listen to, Cecelia had the audience in the palm of her hands when she revealed the exciting news that Hilary Swank had emailed her wanting to read ‘Postscript’ and after reading it, is fully on board to bring Holly and Gerry’s love back to the big screen, as well as interest from Nicole Kidman’s production company to bring ‘Roar’ to life, which was a collection of short stories.

After treating her fans to one novel a year for the past 15 years, Cecelia is taking a well earned break from writing as she prepares for the imminent arrival of her third child.

A Morning With Cecelia Ahern

A huge thank you to Harper Collins Ireland and IMAGE magazine for the kind invite as well as the goodie bag of a copy of ‘PS I Love You’ with customised tissues and the latest issue of ‘IMAGE’ magazine. A Morning with Cecelia Ahern was organised by An Post, sponsor of the Irish Book Awards.

You can buy ‘Postscript’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Flower Arranger By JJ Ellis

The Flower Arranger‘The Flower Arranger’ is the latest book by JJ Ellis.

Holly Blain wants to cover real news. The entertainment beat — pop stars and teen trends — was not why she moved to Tokyo. When she meets Inspector Tetsu Tanaka, head of Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police’s Gaikoku-jin unit, it might just be her big break. Tanaka isn’t so sure. Always one to do things by the book, he’s hesitant about bringing this headstrong reporter into his carefully controlled investigation. But young women keep disappearing and Tanaka is given no choice. He and Blain must trust each other if they are to stop a tormented killer from bringing his twisted plan to its shocking conclusion.

Today I spent my head buried in this Japanese fast paced thriller packed with suspense and drama from the start.

The story is seen from the perspective of budding crime journalist Holly Blain and Inspector Tetsu Tanaka as they race against time to find a young missing French woman after another young woman turns to dead with mysterious wounds.

Set in the bustling city of Tokyo, young English journalist Holly Blain has always wanted to report crime instead of showbiz so she offers to work with one of the police stations, she seizes the opportunity to work alongside Inspector Tetsu Tanaka and report, what has become known as ‘The Flower Arranger’, a murderer who leaves his victims with intricate floral arrangements.

This is a fantastic book, gritty and intense the story flows at a fast pace that really pulls the reader in. Set in Japan, the story is so vividly written that you can almost smell the cherry blossom and find yourself bowing with each new meeting. As well as being a gritty thriller, the story is incredibly well researched and it’s obvious that the author has a genuine passion for Japan and it’s heritage and this was an interesting addition to the story, as new legends and traditions are revealed.

Holly and Tanaka are an interesting duo that work well together. They both have the same goal to catch the killer but Holly has an even bigger goal to become a crime journalist as well as being respected amongst her peers. With Tanaka, there’s an underlying sadness to the character, that makes the reader feel an empathy towards him.

A clever slant to the story is the inclusion of the perspective from the killer, as they race against the police and try not to be caught. An interesting angle about the killer narrative is that the author has written them in a way that you feel a sympathetic connection with them.

With a fast paced narrative and twists at every turn, ‘The Flower Arranger’ is a thrilling new voice in crime fiction. The book introduces an exciting new duo that gives both sides of the story when it comes to investigating and reporting crime and the complexities and horror they impact along the way.

You can buy ‘The Flower Arranger’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Day We Meet Again Book Tour – Extract

The Day We Meet AgainOn the book tour for Miranda Dickinson’s new book called ‘The Day We Meet Again’, sit back and enjoy the first chapter from the book.

ALL TRAINS DELAYED, the sign reads.
No, no, no! This can’t be happening!
I stare up at the departure board in disbelief. Up until twenty minutes ago my train had been listed as ON TIME and I’d allowed myself a glass of champagne at St Pancras’ Eurostar bar, a little treat to steady my nerves before the biggest adventure of my life begins. ‘Looks like we aren’t going anywhere soon,’ the woman next to me says, gold chains tinkling on her wrist as she raises her hand for another glass. She doesn’t look in a hurry to go anywhere. But I am.

I arrived at St Pancras two hours early this morning. The guys driving the cleaning trucks were pretty much the only people here when I walked in. They performed a slow, elegant dance around me as I dragged my heavy bag across the shiny station floor. I probably should have had a last lie-in, but my stomach has been a knot of nerves since last night, robbing me of sleep.

I’m not always early, but I was determined to be today to make sure I actually get on the train. I want this adventure more than anything else in my life, but doubts have crept in over the last two weeks, ever since all the tickets were booked and my credit card had taken the strain. Even last night – frustratingly wide awake and watching a film I didn’t really care about, after the farewell drinks in our favourite pub in Notting Hill when I was so certain I was doing the right thing – I found myself considering shelving the trip. Who jacks in everything and takes off for a year, anyway? Certainly not me: Phoebe Jones, 32 years old and most definitely not gap-year material.

It wasn’t just that thing Gabe said, either.

Although it threw me when it happened.

After all his bravado inside the pub – the You won’t go through with it, Phoebs, I know you speech that in his actor’s voice rose above the noise and look-at-me-I’m-so-important laughter from the tables around us – the change in him when he found me on the street outside was a shock.

‘I’ll miss you.’

‘You won’t, but thanks.’

And then that look – the one that got us into trouble once before,
the one that has kept me wondering if it might again. ‘Then you don’t know me, Phoebs. London won’t be the same without you.’ Why did he have to launch that at me, the night before I leave
for a whole year?

But the money is spent. The tickets are in my wallet. My bag is packed. And Gabe is wrong if he thinks I won’t go through with it. I know my friends privately think I’ll cave in and come home early. So I got up hours before I needed to this morning, took my bag, closed the door on my old life and posted my keys through the letterbox for my friends and former flatmates to find. And I’m here, where Gabe was so certain I wouldn’t be.

But now there’s a delay and that’s dangerous for me. Too much time to think better of my plan. Why is the universe conspiring against me today?

‘Having another?’ the woman next to me asks. Her new glass of champagne is already half empty. Perhaps she has the right idea. Maybe drinking your way through a delay is the best option.

‘I don’t think so, thanks,’ I reply. I can’t stay here, not until I know exactly what kind of delay I’m facing. ‘I’m going to find out what’s happening.’

The woman shrugs as I leave.

The whole of St Pancras station seems to have darkened, as though a storm cloud has blown in from the entrance and settled in the arcing blue-girdered roof.

Beyond the glass the sun shines as brightly as before, the sky a brave blue. But I feel the crackle of tension like approaching thunder.

At the end of the upper concourse near the huge statue of a man and woman embracing, a crowd has gathered.

Somewhere in the middle, a harassed station employee in an orange hi-vis gilet is doing his best to fend off the angry mob’s questions. And then, without warning, the crowd begins to move. I’m almost knocked over and stagger back to stop myself falling. Being trampled to death is definitely not in the plan today.
The mob swarms around the station employee as he makes for the stairs to the lower concourse. The forward motion of their bodies pushes me backwards until my spine meets something immovable. I gasp. Around me the angry commuters part, a splitting tide of bodies flooding either side of me, their feet stomping inches from mine. Once they pass me they continue their pursuit of their prey as the poor station official flees down the stairs.

I’m shaken, but then I remember: I hit something. Someone.

‘I’m so sorry,’ I rush, turning to see the poor unfortunate soul I’ve slammed into.

But my eyes meet the kind, still expression of an iron man in trilby and suit, his billowing mackintosh frozen in time as he gazes up, as though checking the departure boards for his train.

The Betjeman statue.

I’d forgotten he was here. Compared with the huge iron lovers beneath the enormous station clock over the entrance, he’s diminu- tive. I’ve seen visitors double take when they find him. He’s just there, standing in the middle of the upper concourse, humble and friendly. The only thing marking him out as a statue and not another train passenger is the ring of slate around his feet, the words of one of his poems carved into it in beautifully elegant script. I’ve heard station announcements asking commuters to meet people by the Betjeman statue when I’ve been here before and thought nothing of it. But finding him here this morning, when everything has suddenly become so uncertain, is strangely comforting.

‘I don’t think he minds,’ a voice says.

I jump and peer around the statue.

‘Sorry?’

Over the statue’s right shoulder, a face grins at me. ‘Sir John.

He won’t mind you bumped into him. He’s a pretty affable chap.’ Laughter dances in his voice, his green eyes sparkling beneath dark brows and a mess of dark curls. And I instantly feel I know him.

‘I can’t believe I just apologised to a statue.’

‘Happens to us all, sooner or later.’ His hand reaches around Sir John’s arm. ‘Hi, I’m Sam. Sam Mullins. Pleased to meet you.’ I hesitate. After all, this is London and my seven years in the city have taught me strangers are supposed to stay anonymous. But Sam’s smile is as warm and inviting as a newly opened doorway on a winter’s night and – suddenly – I’m accepting his handshake.

His hand is warm around mine.

‘Phoebe Jones. Pleased to meet you, too.’

The concourse is eerily empty now; the raging commuters all disappeared to the lower floor chasing the poor man from the train company. It’s as if me and Sam-with-the-smiling-eyes-and-laugh- filled-voice are the only people in the world.

Apart from the statue, that is.

‘Did you get to hear what the bloke from the station was saying?’ I ask, suddenly aware I am still holding Sam’s warm hand, and quickly pulling mine away.

‘Most of it, before the mob closed in.

They’ve stopped all trains in and out of the station. I haven’t heard the Inspector Sands announcement, so I’m guessing it isn’t a fire or a bomb threat.’

My stomach twists again. I’ve only heard the automated announcement used to alert station staff to a possible emergency like a fire or a bomb once before at Euston and I ran from the station like a startled hare then. Given my nerves about my journey, if I’d heard Inspector Sands being mentioned today I would already be halfway to Holborn. ‘Did he say how long it was expected to last?’

‘Well, I heard four hours, but there were so many people yelling around the chap by then I guess anyone could have said that.’

‘Four hours?’

‘Nightmare, huh? Trust me to pick today to make the longest train journey.’

I blink at him. ‘Me too.’

‘Oh? Where are you headed?’ His eyes widen and he holds up a hand. ‘Sorry, you don’t have to answer. That was rude of me.’

It’s sweet and it makes me smile. ‘Paris, actually. To begin with. You?’

‘Isle of Mull. Eventually.’

‘Oh. Wow. That is a journey.’

He shrugs. ‘Just a bit. Already had to change it because of the engineering works at Euston, so I’m going from here to Sheffield, then over to Manchester then changing again for Glasgow. Going to stay with two of my old university mates near there for a night or two, to break it up a bit. Then I’ll catch a train to Oban, take the ferry to Craignure and then it’s a long bus ride to Fionnphort, where I’m staying with a family friend.’ He gives a self-conscious laugh. ‘More than you wanted to know, probably.’

Although I’ll move on from Paris later, Sam’s journey sounds epic and exhausting by comparison. And it’s strange, but I don’t even consider that I’ve just met him, or question how he can share his entire travel itinerary with me when we don’t know each other. Like the heat from his hand that is still tingling on my skin, it feels like the most natural thing.

So I forget my nerves, my shock at finding myself here beside the statue, and the looming delay. And instead, I just see Sam.

‘How long will all that take?’

‘The whole journey? Hours. Days, even.’

He laughs. ‘It’s okay. I have several books in my luggage and my music. I’ll be fine.’

Novels are one thing I do have, although they are safely packed at the bottom of my bag. Books are the reason I’m here, after all. The Grand Tours across Europe inspired my PhD and have underpinned all my dreams of seeing the places the authors wrote about for myself. My much-loved copy of A Room with a View is in my hand luggage and I’m more than happy to hang out with Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson for the thousandth time, but I’d much rather be on the train heading off already.

What if this delay is a sign? I hate the thought of Gabe being right, but the doubts from last night return, swirling around me, Sam and Sir John Betjeman like ragged ghosts. There are other ways of pursuing a great adventure, they call.

You don’t have to spend a year away to prove you’re spontaneous… My room at the flat-share is already someone else’s but I could persuade one of my friends to let me stay at theirs until I can sort out a new place. I don’t really want to go home to Evesham, but I know my parents and brother Will would love having me to stay for a bit. Maybe I should be a bit less intrepid – Cornwall would be nice this time of year, or maybe the Cotswolds? Safer, closer, easier to come home from…

I don’t want to doubt this now, not when I’m so close to boarding the train, but I can feel panic rising.

But then, Sam Mullins smiles – and the ground beneath me shifts.

‘Look, if you’re not going anywhere for a while and neither am I, how about we find a coffee shop to wait in?’

Did I just say that? But in that moment, it feels right. Who says my new, spontaneous self can’t start until I board the train for France?

‘Yes,’ he says, so immediately that his answer dances with the end of my question. ‘Great idea.’

As we walk away from the statue of Sir John Betjeman, Sam’s fingers lightly brush against my back.

And that’s when I fall in love.

heartbreaker.

You can buy ‘The Day We Meet Again’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Lies Lies Lies By Adele Parks

Lies, Lies, Lies’Lies Lies Lies’ is the number one book by Adele Parks.

Daisy and Simon’s marriage is great, isn’t it? After years together, the arrival of longed-for daughter Millie sealed everything in place. A happy little family of three. And so what if Simon drinks a bit too much sometimes – Daisy’s used to it, she knows he’s letting off steam. Until one night at a party things spiral horribly out of control. And that happy little family of three will never be the same again.

I’m a huge fan of Adele Parks and have been for many years. So, when each year a new book by her is released, I always make it my priority to read it as soon as possible.

In her latest thriller, we meet married couple Daisy and Simon, who after years of trying to get pregnant are delighted when they finally have a little girl called Millie. But Simon wants to add to their family and puts pressure on them and doing so unveils a secret that destroys the family and after one tragic night lands Simon in jail.

The story then flows over the period of time as Simon serves his sentence and is seen through the narrative of the couple as they deal with the consequences of that fateful night. Simon has to address the alcohol addiction and Daisy deals with the sudden changes in her life.

Thrilling from the first page, the story is cleverly written with many layers to unfold as it progresses. Both characters are relatable with their strong family ethic and priority for their little girl, their weaknesses are Simon’s dependency for alcohol which is pulling them apart as well as the secrets that Daisy has had to keep and together they make a destructible couple that you will for them to find their happy ever happy.

Riddled with deceit, drama and plenty of twists, this book is a genuinely thrilling story. With unlikable characters and unreliable narratives, ‘Lies Lies Lies’ is a sharply crafted tale of a mother’s love, a broken marriage and is most certainly worthy of its current number 1 status.

You can buy ‘Lies Lies Lies’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Win A Copy Of Ask Again Yes By Mary Beth Keane

Ask Again, YesI’ve a copy of Mary Beth Keane’s new book called ‘Say, Yes, Again’ to give away to one lucky person.

What the back cover says –

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.

Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.

It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.

To be in with a chance winning the book, simply answer the following by leaving your answer in the comment box below by Monday 30th September.

What is the name of the town where the story is set?

Good luck!