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Places I Have Written. Or Tried To Write Anyway By Maddie Please

A Year Of New AdventuresOn the book tour for Maddie Please’s new book called ‘A Year Of New Adventures’, Maddie talks about her favourite places for writing.

On the train
It’s not often I go on a train but when I do it’s the ideal place to write. I like a table seat with a charging point, a large coffee and possibly a biscuit or two and I’m off. Surprising how many people are also typing away although I expect they are doing spread sheets for international trade expositions or finance deals with the World Bank.

At the hairdresser
I don’t enjoy these visits but somehow I am now in a never-ending cycle of going to the hairdresser. I’m sure it’s a cunning plan. Otherwise I look like a sad old bag lady with stripy hair. The place is far too chic for me; the staff are all depressingly young, thin and cool. As the visit usually lasts at least two hours I take a notebook and pencil so I can write. The alternative is watching my reflection with a head covered in plap and foils, looking unnervingly like my mother.

In the office
I try to write every day. My husband also works from home and we share a garden office and have desks that face each other. I’ve heard it said the perfect view for a writer is a brick wall, but I have a gorgeous view over some wonderful Devon countryside that can be quite a distraction. So can the birds that flock to our garden because I keep tempting them in with over priced fat balls. I’ve just registered for the RSPB annual bird watch much to my son’s amusement. He says I’m now officially middle aged, which is unexpectedly kind of him. As our house is white and on top of a hill I think we are a landmark for the Devon Air Ambulance and some huge military planes that routinely go over us. I love it when that happens and I usually run outside and wave. Sad really.

On holiday
This is really the best. I’ve written on patios overlooking the sea (The Summer of Second Chances), in an old stone longère in Normandy, by the side of swimming pools (A Year of New Adventures) and in huge Malls in America. My absolute favourite was last year on the Queen Mary 2 when my wonderful husband took me on a fantastic trip. The quality of eavesdropping to be had on a transatlantic crossing cannot in my opinion be bettered. I found a favourite spot in the Commodore Club with a fabulous view over the front of the ship (we sea dogs call it the Bow). Every morning I went there to edit my next book, provisionally called ‘The Girl at the End of the Garden’. There were waiters within hailing distance, a beautiful painting next to my favourite chair, and in the adjacent room (glass doors) variously there were meetings of AA, a renewal of wedding vows ceremony and an 80th birthday party for a lady who looked twenty years younger. Sailing obviously agrees with her; I can’t recommend it highly enough.

You can pre-order A Year of New Adventures from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops from 5th April 2018.

2018’s Quick Reads Titles Are Here…

Quick Reads 2018

Six enticing Quick Reads titles from well-loved authors will be released by The Reading Agency on 1 February 2018. The selection of titles written by bestselling writers Fern Britton, Dorothy Koomson, Mark Billingham, Kit de Waal, Tammy Cohen and Vaseem Khan span the globe from Mumbai to Ghana, from Cornwall to inner cities and explore a wide range of themes including friendship, secrets and lies, marriage and the horror that losing your phone can bring.

Quick Reads was founded by Baroness Gail Rebuck DBE in 2006 to provide shorter, easier to read, accessible fiction for less confident adult readers. Now in its 12 th year, the programme has distributed over 4.8 million books since it was launched and introduced hundreds of thousands of new readers each year to the joys and benefits of reading.

One in six adults in the UK struggles with reading, 1 whilst one in three does not read for pleasure; 2 Quick Reads are designed to break down the barriers that prevent people from picking up a book. 95% of literacy practitioners report that using Quick Reads has been effective at raising learners’ confidence in reading, whilst 91% say that the books have been effective at improving readers’ literacy skills.

The Quick Reads titles for 2018 are:

Cut Off by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown):
A punchy, taut urban thriller about that moment we all fear: losing our phone! For Louise, losing hers in a local café takes a sinister turn. Billingham has sold five million copies of his novels and has twice won the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Award for Crime Novel of the Year.

The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton (HarperCollins):
As the sun sits high in the sky over Cornwall, and the sea breeze brings a welcome relief to the residents of the seaside village of Trevay, a stranger arrives in need of a safe haven. The former presenter of This Morning, Britton is now a Sunday Times bestselling author and this story is full of her usual warmth and wit.

Clean Break by Tammy Cohen (Transworld):
A dark and twisty portrait of a marriage coming to its bitter end, from the mistress of domestic noir. Can Kate rid herself of her jealous husband before it’s too late? Cohen’s acclaimed novels include ‘The Mistress’s Revenge’, ‘The War of the Wives’ and ‘Someone Else’s Wedding’.

Inspector Chopra and the Million-Dollar Motor Car by Vaseem Khan (Hodder & Stoughton):
An enchanting Baby Ganesh Agency novella from the bestselling Khan set in the bustling back-streets of Mumbai. Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick have two days to solve the mystery of a missing – and very costly – car for its gangster owner, or there’ll be a heavy price to pay.

The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson (Arrow):
A gripping short read featuring a wedding, family drama, and old secrets. Tessa is thrilled when her daughter arrives in Ghana to get married but memories of the last time she was there haunt her; can she lay the ghosts of the past to rest or will they come back to haunt her daughter’s future? Koomson is the bestselling author of 12 novels including ‘The Ice-Cream Girls’, ‘My Best Friends’ Girl’ and most recently ‘The Friend’.

Six Foot Six by Kit de Waal (Viking):
A charming novella from Costa First Novel Award shortlisted author de Waal about finding friendship in the most unlikely of places. Everything changes for Timothy, a 21 year old with learning difficulties, when local builder Charlie calls on him for help. De Waal worked in criminal and family law and was a magistrate for many years before her international bestseller, ‘My Name is Leon’ was published.

Baroness Gail Rebuck, DBE, Founder, Quick Reads, says: “Since the Quick Reads programme launched 12 years ago, it has brought the pleasures of reading to millions of adults. Once again, I am delighted to announce, alongside The Reading Agency, six more inspiring reads for 2018. Books that will entice, entertain and unlock new worlds; this selection of titles by bestselling writers is ideal for adults who may be low in reading skills, confidence and time.”

Fanny Blake, Commissioning Editor, Quick Reads, says: “This year, I’m proud to introduce a very strong and varied new collection of Quick Reads for 2018 that has something for everyone. We have a gorgeous escapist tale by Fern Britton, set in her beloved Cornwall, Dorothy Koomson’s shock wedding drama played out in a Ghanaian beach resort, Vaseem Khan’s latest Inspector Chopra mystery set in Mumbai, a punchy thriller from Mark Billingham, a twisty portrait of a marriage from Tammy Cohen and a charming novella about an unlikely friendship from Kit de Waal. I hope lots of people will read and enjoy them!”

Sue Wilkinson, Chief Executive of The Reading Agency, says: “This is an exciting, varied list of titles which we hope will inspire people across the country to pick up a book, whether they lack confidence with reading or just want a light, easy read for their commute. At The Reading Agency we believe that everything changes when we read. Evidence shows that Quick Reads are a powerful tool in encouraging adults to read for pleasure.”

Mark Billingham, 2018 Quick Reads author, says: “I am thrilled to be part of the Quick Reads initiative. It’s hugely important to support literacy and to encourage those for whom picking up a book does not come quite so naturally as it does to others. Reading a book is stepping into another world and anything that nudges that door open should be welcomed. It’s an honour to be a Quick Reads author.”

Fern Britton, 2018 Quick Reads author, says: I had one, much older sister as I was growing up so no siblings to play with. Finding books was my greatest joy. Fairy stories with lovely colourful drawings, Enid Blyton adventures and then The Chronicles of Narnia really shaped my imagination. The Quick Reads initiative is enormously important and offers great stories for anyone.

Tammy Cohen, 2018 Quick Reads author, says: “I was lucky enough to grow up in a house filled with books so I’ve always known how a book can be friend, teacher, comfort, inspiration, conversation-starter, table-leg-propper-upper; how it can fill long journeys and even longer nights. I can’t even begin to imagine a life without reading, which is why I was so delighted to take part in the Quick Reads scheme. If I can help just one adult discover the life-changing joy of books, I’ll consider it one of my proudest achievements.”  

Vaseem Khan, 2018 Quick Reads author, says: “I firmly believe that reading is the foundation for learning. Growing up as someone from a less economically advantaged background reading was both my escape and my inspiration. Today I am a writer because of reading. But reading doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Quick Reads’ great insight is to realise that even those who find reading a challenge hanker for exciting, well-written stories that are simple to read. I am delighted that Quick Reads has given me the opportunity to inspire others by providing at least one such story.” 

Dorothy Koomson, 2018 Quick Reads author, says: “I am thrilled to have written The Beach Wedding for Quick Reads 2018. I’ve been a long-term supporter of this scheme, which helps people who aren’t confident readers or who have got out of the habit of reading for pleasure. I believe reading is very empowering and I support all things that encourage people to build their ability with it.”

Kit de Waal, 2018 Quick Reads author, says: “It’s a real privilege to be asked to write something for Quick Reads.  There were no books in the house I grew up in. I only started reading and writing later in life and discovered how important books are and that everyone, no matter what your ability or circumstances, can enjoy reading and have that sense of accomplishment when you turn that last page.  Books can change lives – sometimes for a minute, sometimes for a lifetime. Quick Reads can be part of that change and I hope I have been part of it too.”

Surprise Me By Sophie Kinsella

Surprise Me‘Surprise Me’ is the latest book by Sophie Kinsella.

After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years… and panic sets in. They quickly decide to create little surprises for each other, to keep their relationship fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me – anything from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to photo shoots – mishaps arise with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, the surprises turn to shocking discoveries. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all…

For fans of Sophie Kinsella, you’re in for a treat with her latest book, ‘Surprise Me’, a heart-warming and witty story about family and relationships.

In this story, we meet Sylvia and Dan, a happy couple who are content with each other and their twin daughters, until they discover that they are going to be together for 68 years. Delighted that they are both going to be each other’s happy ever after, they are both terrified that they will grow to hate each other. So, Sylvia comes up with a genius idea to inject some spontaneity into their relationship by surprising each other. But in the true style of Sophie’s writing, nothing is ever simple and there are plenty of unexpected surprises along the way, which ends up challenging the couple’s commitment.

I loved this story. From the very beginning, it was light-hearted and engaging and the characters really made for fun reading. Sylvia is an interesting character, she’s happy in her relationship, but once she finds out about how long their marriage will last, she finds herself re-evaluating her life. Once a confident and happy woman, she begins to find flaws in her life and struggles to properly communicate with Dan, which causes issues for the couple. What I really enjoyed about the story, is that it reflected on real relationships issues, particularly long-term when relationships become stale and mundane.

The story is filled with many vibrant and interesting characters, particularly Sylvia’s boss, an old fashioned woman who struggles to adapt to life with gadgets and social media. The story flows at a lovely pace, with witty narrative and drama along the way that made for really enjoyable reading.

With a vibrant cover and just the right amount of sentimentally and humour, ‘Surprise Me’ is a deliciously written story about new beginnings and discovery

You can pre-order Surprise Me from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 8th February 2018.

Win A Copy Of My Mother’s Secret By Sheila O’Flanagan

My Mother's SecretI’ve a copy of Sheila O’Flanagan’s book, ‘My Mother’s Secret’ to give away to one lucky person.

What the back cover says –

When Steffie helps her two siblings organize a surprise wedding anniversary party for their parents her only worry is whether they’ll be pleased. What she doesn’t know is this is the day that her whole world will be turned upside down.

Jenny wants to be able to celebrate her ruby anniversary with the man she loves, but for forty years she has kept a secret. A secret that she can’t bear to hide any longer. But is it ever the right time to hurt the people closest to you?

As the entire family gather to toast the happy couple, they’re expecting a day to remember. The trouble is, it’s not going to be for the reasons they imagined…

I recently read this book and really enjoyed the warm hearted story of family secrets and sibling rivalry and you can read my thoughts on the book here.

To be in with a chance of winning this lovely story, simply answer the following question by leaving your answer in the comment box below.

How long has has Steffie’s parents been married?

Closing date is Monday 12th February 2018. Good luck!

The Girl Before By JP Delaney

The Girl Before‘The Girl Before’ is the first book by JP Delaney.

Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

‘The Girl Before’ is a global bestseller and after two late nights sitting up reading, this is absolutely no surprise.

A dark and intense thriller from the start, this story had an immediate sense of doom about it.

The story is written in both the past and present tense and is seen through the narratives of Jane and Emma. Both women who have become tenants in the mysterious One Folgate Street, where they spend their time living by rules and guides which have been imposed the owner of the house. A controlling architect who has had relationships with both women.

The interesting thing is Emma is now dead, having died in the house and this is her story about her life and how she came to die. Whilst Jane is now the new tenant and it seems that history is now repeating itself.

Emma is really unlikable and she’s also a very unreliable narrator which gives the story a really clever twist. She’s a compulsive liar with an addiction for illicit love affairs and really falls for Edward Monkford, a strange, controlling man who has to have everything a certain way or there will be consequences. The present tense is seen through Jane’s eyes, a gentle woman who also falls for Edward’s charms but begins to have suspicions about him when she looks into Emma’s mysterious death.

I adored this book so much. The alternating chapters following both women are fascinating. They are so different in personalities but their circumstances and situations are so similar and this makes for such compelling reading.

This book is one of the best psychological thrillers that I’ve read in the while. It had such a sense of creepiness throughout that it kept me on edge preparing for the next drama. A cleverly written, intriguing and sexy story about lust and obsession, ‘The Girl Before’ is a suspenseful story that gets more thrilling with each page.

You can buy The Girl Before from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.