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Bad Choices By Lucy Vine

Bad Choices‘Bad Choices’ is the latest book by Lucy Vine.

Nat and Zoe have always shared everything. Hopeless crushes, emergency tampons, messy sex stories, work triumphs, those days where you can’t stop crying in the loos, those days where you can’t stop dancing on the bar. They even share the same birthday, FFS. The struggle is real, but they’ll always have each other. Except best friends forever is a hard promise to keep…

When it comes to book by Lucy Vine, I find them completely addictive and her latest book with its beautifully vibrant cover is no different.

The story is seen through the narrative of best friend Zoe Darling and Natalie Winters who meet in the school toilets one day when they get their periods for the first time. They also discover that on this milestone day that they share the same birthday and so begins their epic friendship.

Each chapter is a new year as they celebrate their birthdays together and discuss where they are in their lives. I loved the interactions between this pair, they are delightfully honest with each other and offer genuine love and concern for their happiness. Natalie is a delight, she’s a romantic at heart and is looking for the big love and when it comes her way is reluctant to let it go, even though it doesn’t make her completely happy. Whilst Zoe, is trying to find her place in the world and finds it difficult to see Natalie with new friends and her fear of being left behind.

Lucy is a pro at writing about the complexities and dynamics of female relationships. Her writing is fresh, witty and delightfully crude at times that I was regularly snorting with laughter. But she also writes tenderly of the pressure that women and society put on themselves, to find the perfect partner, job and be successful. This was the first book that I’ve got to review on a book tour for Lucy and I was genuinely honoured, as she’s become one of my favourite comedic authors.

With hilarious one-liners, dramas and nostalgia that make for delicious reading from the very first page, Lucy is back with another rollercoaster of a story that was genuinely uplifting to read. For anyone looking for books that will make you chuckle at creative dialogue and scenarios, I wholeheartedly recommend Lucy, as her books are a delight from start to finish and will always make you smile. Bad Choices’ is a wise and warm story that all women can relate to about life long friendships, the make ups and the mishaps.

You can pre-order ‘Bad Choices’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 10th June 2021.

Hot Mess By Lucy Vine

Hot Mess‘Hot Mess’ is the debut novel by Lucy Vine.

Have you ever shown up to Sunday brunch still smelling of Saturday night? Chosen bed, Netflix and pizza over human contact? Stayed in your mould-ridden flat because it’s cheap? Meet your spirit animal, Ellie Knight. Her life isn’t turning out exactly as she planned. She hates her job, her friends are coupling up and settling down, and her flatmates are just plain weird.

I came across this book whilst listening to the ‘The Bestseller Experiment’ podcast, Lucy was chatting with her editor about how she wrote her book over a 2 month period, with a deadline of 10,000 words a week.

As an aspiring writer myself, I was curious to see if this plan could also work for me but I also had more of a curiosity to read the book itself.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Ellie, a young fun loving woman who’s enjoying life and meeting new people but is feeling the pressure to settle down, as it is what society has expected her to do.

The story follows her as she goes on a series of disastrous dates, tries not to fall for her hot flatmate as well as try to pave out a proper career for herself.

I loved Ellie, she kinda is my spirit animal that I empathised with on so many levels. It’s so pressurising to be a woman of a certain age that it’s expected that if you’re not settled down, married with child, then there’s something wrong. And, we get a lot of that pressure from people our own age which is extremely frustrating particularly females.

I read this book over the Christmas holidays which was a godsend as I had read it into the early hours. The story is written with humour and warmth, filled with fabulous characters that made for intoxicating reading. Ellie is a brilliant character, that I instantly warmed to with her wit and drama. I adored Ellie’s father, who was a constant positive energy in Ellie’s life and his own desire for writing made for a fantastic inclusion in the story, as he wrote his own take on the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ novel. Ellie’s older sister Jen is a tyrant, who’s quick to speak her mind and not afraid to offend at any opportunity.

A wittily written story of self discovery that made for fabulous reading. A truly recommended read that reassures that we all travel our lives at our own pace.

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

The Paper Bracelet By Rachael English

The Paper Bracelet ‘The Paper Bracelet’ is the latest book by Irish author Rachael English.

For almost fifty years, Katie has kept a box of secrets. It dates from her time working as a nurse in a west of Ireland mother and baby home, and contains a notebook with details of the babies and young women she met there. It also holds many of the babies’ identity bracelets. Following the death of her husband, Katie makes a decision she has long kept at bay. She posts a message on an internet forum, knowing that the information she possesses could help reunite adopted people with their birth mothers. Soon, the replies are rolling in, and Katie encounters success, failure, heartache and joy as she finds herself in the role of part-detective, part-counsellor – chasing down leads, piecing together stories, and returning many of the bracelets to their original owners. But there is one bracelet in the box that holds the key to a story that may never be told.

‘The Paper Bracelet’ is the first book that I’ve read by Rachael English and I must admit that it was a truly charming story that tugged at the readers’ heartstrings.

The story is about a mother and baby home called Carrigbrack in Ireland during the 1960’s where young women who became pregnant were sent away to. These homes were by the Catholic church and the women were mistreated and babies were taken away, never to be seen again. The story is seen from the perspective of Katie, who was in a nurse in the Carrigbrack and decides she wants to help reunite mothers with their children, as she collected the paper bracelets that each baby was given with their date of birth and weight. The story is seen from her narrative with the help of niece Beth, as well as the perspectives of Gary, Brandon and Alish who have spent their lives looking for their real mothers. Another inclusion in the story is flashbacks to the Carrigbrack from the perspective of a young mother called Patricia who’s expecting a baby.

The sad thing about this story is that it is based on true events. Ireland had homes where women disappeared to have children and were exposed to harsh brutalities of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. They were punished for becoming pregnant, even though some of their pregnancies may have come from sexual abuse within the family. It’s a shocking read in parts, especially with the cruelties of the nuns and how they treated the women, they lacked compassion and sympathy towards the situations. The different narratives give a lovely slant to the story as we join Alish, Brandon and Gary find their mothers and try to piece their lives together and find their place in life properly. I loved Katie, having lost her husband, she’s now committed to helping reunite families and it makes for tender reading as we join her on this journey.

A heartwarming story that is reminiscent of a Maeve Binchy story, ‘The Paper Bracelet’ is a beautifully written and emotional story about the tragic hardships of mother and baby homes. Written with tenderness and filled with warmth and Irish charm, this book is the perfect page turner.

You can buy ‘The Paper Bracelet’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.

Holly Peterson

Holly PetersonHolly Peterson is the ‘New Times’ bestselling author of ‘The Manny’ (I loved that book). She was a Contributing Editor for Newsweek, an Editor-at-Large for Talk magazine and an Emmy Award–winning Producer for ABC News, where she spent more than a decade covering global politics. Her writing has been published in the ‘New York Times’, Newsweek, Vogue plus numerous other publications. Her brand new book is called ‘The Idea Of Him’.

  1. To the readers of the website, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    I started my career out as an ABC News Producer where I spent a decade mostly overseas in Russia and various places covering big stories for the network. It was a very exciting time filled with Gulf Wars, Russian Coups and insane trials like the O.J. Simpson trial that captivated America. In my thirties, I started writing pieces for magazines and decided the art of writing and reporting was ultimately more satisfying than all the insane logistics of television. I’ve written two novels now, ‘The Idea of Him’, and ‘The Manny’ and I still write magazine pieces all the time for all kinds of magazines.
  2. What is the story behind your new book ‘The Idea of Him’?
    Writing novels is really no different from birthing children. We plan, we create, we add equal parts pain and anguish and excitement, and when it comes out…each one is miraculously unique. My new book, ‘The Idea of Him’, was very different from my first novel in that the story was harder to tell. This new book is much more poignant, not better, but a deeper emotional study.

    Like one of those rocket style, delivery stories with panicked nurses and no time for anesthesia, my first novel, ‘The Manny’, came out quickly, written in the wee hours night. It flowed out of me every evening in six months record time after my family went to sleep. I couldn’t write as fast as my mind was spinning out the pages.

    I wrote this second novel during a time of change in my life. I wasn’t as busy logistically this time: I wasn’t keeping vigil at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital for an ill family member, working at a demanding (and failing) magazine, or arguing with plumbers over tile with a tortured renovation as I was during the time I wrote ‘The Manny’…but during the writing of ‘The Idea of Him’, I was busier inside.

    By that I mean, I was changing inside…busily changing…sometimes manic-ly changing. The only thing that calmed me down during this period was my newfound, (yes at age 42!), love of surfing and the healing powers of the ocean’s saltwater.

    In the past five years, I got divorced, adapted to that (kind of), helped my children function in a new family structure and all the while tried to figure out what propels people to love, to stay in relationships, to convince themselves this is the one, or, harder, to admit to themselves this actually wasn’t the one.

    I asked myself often, “What is love?” Is it a partnership that really works in tandem as I definitely had with my former husband? Was that real love or was that a really good pairing of two like-minded people with shared values and ability to get things done they as a team? Sounds a little dry, but, honestly, maybe it was. Maybe my marriage was more of an amazing partnership than real love. I love a lot about my former husband and admire him immensely but I’m not sure it was the right kind of love or we would have stayed together.

  3. What authors do you admire?
    My favorite all time author is Truman Capote. I especially love his short stories. He is all “show, don’t tell”.
  4. If you were starting your writing journey again, would you do anything differently?
    Not really, writing is all about expressing how you feel and how you uniquely see a situation. While my books aren’t autobiographical, they have been mirrors into my feelings and experiences in a way…so since I can’t really change the flow of my life…my writing has simply followed behind it, capturing it in words.
  5. Who is favourite hero or heroine?
    Well I’m going to have to be terrible and say my favorite heroine this year is Allie Crawford from my own book. She is a women trying desperately to break free of a tough relationship and realize that she will need to be on her own without clinging to a man in the form of a life raft to save her. I honestly right now can’t think of many characters where the woman is learning to be on her own. I feel so much of literature is about women devastated because they can’t (often tragically) have the man they want or need…or about women who “get the guy” in the end. Can you think of literary heroines who work hard to feel strong on their own?
  6. Describe your writing routine.
    I get up at 430 am, make a huge pot of tea and a protein shake, and write for 2-3 hours before the children wake up or the barrage of emails begin. Then after I take the kids to school, I write in the library until the kids get home. Then I work on job #2: MOTHERING hard until bedtime for all of us!
  7. How do you feel about the current state of the publishing industry? Do you feel like it is an exciting time for authors?
    Well I think it’s a confusing time for authors and publishers because it’s so very hard to know what is going to work out in this environment when bookstores are closing, huge chains are closing. If people can’t peruse books as easily as they used to, they how can they know about the selection? The question of what makes a book break through is more complicated than ever.
  8. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    ‘Summer’s Crossing’ by Truman Capote
    ‘Disgrace’ by J.M. Coetzee
    ‘Tender is the Night’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    It’s a tremendous opportunity to write blogs and to actively post on sites and to connect through social media. Sometimes it’s all just a big, strange Internet haze out there that is do disintermediated that it’s hard to know who is listening…however, there is a breadth of eyeballs out there to try to capture so it is definitely an exciting time to be starting out. I think old school real paper magazines is the best bet. I write for many free magazines they have in American loaded with advertisements, but many many people read these. I also have written for Vogue and all kinds of well-known magazines, but I find I like to get my name out there any way I can.
  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    A huge cup of tea. Non-negotiable.
  11. And finally Holly, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I am working on a new novel, kind of upstairs downstairs in bikinis about the local dwellers and the swell summer people that converge in the Hamptons.

Follow Holly on Twitter Holly Peterson for updates or check out her blog at Holly Peterson

Ali Harris

Ali HarrisAli Harris grew up in Norfolk and was a book and magazine-addicted musical theatre geek. When she was eighteen, she moved to London where she studied performing arts whilst working as a waitress. Inspired by authors such as Helen Fielding and Lisa Jewell, Ali found herself writing in her spare time. Six months later, she sent three chapters to ten agents and got nine rejections plus a flicker of interest from the tenth. Giving up the waitressing, she began to her dream career as a journalist at Company, Ali then went onto write at Cosmopolitan and ELLE whilst trying to write her book, but the writing bug persisted and within months of marrying and having her first baby, Ali’s first book ‘Miracle On Regent Street’ came out in October 2011, followed by ‘The First Last Kiss’ in January 2013 and now her third novel ‘Written In The Stars’ is now in the shops

  1. Your new book is called ‘Written In The Stars’, can you tell us a bit about the story and what inspired you to write it?
    It’s the story of Bea Bishop, a woman who has been paralysed with fear for years, not making any decisions for herself, instead piggy-backing along her life path with the help of her family, friends and boyfriend of seven years, Adam. We first meet her on her wedding day when she is waiting outside the church and is about to walk down the aisle to marry Adam. She knows she loves him – everyone believes they’re the perfect match – but still, she isn’t entirely sure that she’s doing the right thing. But, she pushes away her concerns and tells herself everyone feels nervous on their big day. When the wedding march begins, she takes a deep breath and walks towards Adam and what she hopes is the happy ending she is desperate for. Suddenly she spots her ex boyfriend, Kieran, in the congregation and the shock of seeing him makes her slip and fall over and she is knocked unconscious. At this point in the story Bea’s entire world (and the story) splits and we see her make two entirely different decisions. In one story, she gets up, brushes herself down and marries Adam, determined to focus only on her new life as Bea Hudson. In the other, Bea Bishop (as she remains) runs out of the church and sets about facing up her past, something she knows she has to do in order to completely move on. We see each story, each path, each version of her life played out in parallel throughout the course of a year. But do the end up in different places? And which one will give Bea the happy ending she longs for?

    I was inspired to write this book by the idea that in this day and age, with social network playing such a big part in our lives, it is pretty impossible to completely let go of our pasts. Through Facebook we are given us daily, sometimes hourly reminders of what our life could be like by connecting us with ex colleagues, old boyfriends and school friends. That’s why I decided to use Facebook status updates as the device by which we know which story we are following. Bea Hudson for the married version, Bea Bishop for the single. I was particularly interested to explore whether the choices we make have a big impact on our futures, or if they are already… ‘Written in the Stars’ (see what I did there!)

  2. To the readers of the website, that may not be familiar with you or your writing, can tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing?
    Oh that’s hard. Ok, so I once dreamed of being an actress and did a degree in Performing Arts (which means I basically have a 2:1 in Jazz Hands) I’m a magazine journalist who has written for ‘Glamour’, ‘Marie Claire’, ‘Cosmo’, ‘Red’, ‘Compan’y, ‘Stylist’… all the greats, basically. I have singing tourettes when interviewing celebrities, which is painfully embarrassing for all involved. I’m a die-hard romantic and a total technophobe. I love musicals. I have seen Barry Manilow in concert more times than I care to mention. I have a husband, two small children and a ridiculous pet house rabbit called Miss Lulu Lop Ears who thinks she’s a dog. I have over active tear ducts. I love a statement ring and have a weakness for Marc Jacobs handbags.

    As for my writing I think particularly since the success of my last novel ‘The First Last Kiss’, I have come to be known as an author who writes highly emotional, thought-provoking and heart-breaking books that may have helped to keep Kleenex in business for the past few months! That’s what people tell me, anyway!

  3. What authors do you admire?
    So many! J.K Rowling, just because she’s a legend and I cannot imagine carrying that enormous, perfectly layered and plotted and story, that carefully drawn and brilliantly imagined world, the entire history and characters inside her head for so long. I admire Helen Fielding for single-handedly paving the way for so many women writers to write about modern women with humour and heart in a genre that still sells millions of copies. I love Jennifer Weiner as she’s one of the many female authors who inspired me to start writing. She writes humour and pathos and deep emotion so brilliantly – and she also is famously championing that contemporary women’s fiction should be taking more seriously. Also, on a more personal level, I am in awe of my friend Paige Toon because she writes brilliant books and characters that come to life seemingly effortlessly whilst I appear to go through torture and a much slower and more painful process to get to the same place. I am inspired to get to her level of confidence, certainty and turnover!
  4. What’s your favourite book of all time?
    Oh it’s hard – too hard! There are so many for a multitude of different reasons. I adored ‘Labyrinth’ by Kate Mosse when I read it a few years ago and it’s one of the only books that I long to read again. If only I had more time…
  5. What do you find the hardest in the writing process?
    You know in ‘The Great British Bake Off’ when Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry talk about ‘soggy bottoms’. Well, I often fall prey to a flabby middle in my books. It is usually at the half way mark that I start sinking a little, panicking that the story is not going where I want it to, that my characters aren’t coming to life enough, that I’m not making the right decisions for them. At this point I have been known to chuck 40,000 words away and start again. Or at least I have to stop, regroup, change a few things and then try and push on till the end. I am happiest when I’ve finished the first draft and I LOVE the editing process. It’s such a relief knowing that someone else is going to read it and have some input so I’m not carrying it on my own anymore. I also tend to rewrite a lot off my own back at this point (much to my editor’s dismay I think!) I just suddenly get these lightbulb moments once the story is out of my head that make me understand my characters so much more. I love going back and colouring in the characters, creating more light and shade. I just find I have so much more perspective at this point.
  6. What book did you read, that made you decide to become an author?
    I have always written for my own amusement but reading ‘Ralph’s Party’ by Lisa Jewell made me realise this was what I wanted to do for a living. Prior to this brilliant debut, I hadn’t read anything that resonated with me so much. As someone who had always loved to read and write it definitely made me think I want, no – I need to do this as a career. I loved Lisa’s writing style (she is still one of my favourite authors today) and I completely engaged and related to the complicated lives of Jem, Ralph and co who were struggling to find their place in the world. Something I very much related to in my early 20s. I guess this idea continues to inspire me now particularly with Written in the Stars, this idea that all of us have moments when we wonder if we’re making the right decisions, choosing the right careers, the right partners, living our life in the best possible way. That it isn’t always smooth sailing and happy ever afters.
  7. If you were starting your writing journey again, is there anything you would do differently?
    I don’t think so. For a while I wished it hadn’t taken me quite so long (ten years!) to be published. But then, I had a fantastic career in magazines prior to becoming an author and I wouldn’t change that for a second. I also don’t think I was really ready before. As you can tell, I’m not a big believer in regrets!
  8. What’s been your proudest writing moment?
    Definitely publication day for ‘Miracle on Regent Street’. It’s such a cliché but it really was a dream come true. My publishers had organized for a taxi to drive down Regent Street with me in it – and my book cover was emblazoned on the side. I kind of got mobbed in the street when I got out (mainly because my publishers were giving away free books – but still…) It was the moment I felt that finally, after years of false starts and lots of hard work and rejections, my dream had come true.
  9. What tips or advice would you offer an aspiring writer?
    To have utter faith and confidence in yourself. You will need it to cope with the endless rejections. If you are lucky enough to be published quickly then you will also need this same self-assurance to not take bad reviews to heart. Also, it is so important to enjoy what you do and to write a book that you love and you could only do that if you believe in what you are writing. If you do if for more cynical reasons (money – ha! Fame – double ha!) not only will agents/publishers see through it – you will also be sorely disappointed because (apart from a very small percentage of authors) there is not much of either in this business. You have to not just want to do it, but need to do it. I would also say that you have to write often. If you treat it as an occasional hobby, that’s all it’ll ever be. It took me years to get a book deal because I let life get in the way, I threw myself into my career and social life, fell in love, got engaged, then married, renovated a house, wrote a few chapter here and there, when I had time, or thought that the ‘muse’ might strike. It took me getting pregnant and telling myself it was my final deadline to really sit down and take it seriously. A year later I had an agent. And another year later, I got my book deal.

    The last piece of advice – and the one thing I always say to aspiring writers is to remember that all it takes is one ‘yes’. That and the determination to never give up.

  10. When sitting down to write, what is the one thing you always need beside you?
    A latte. And a tidy desk. I’m the freak that finds it impossible to be creative unless everything is tidy! Yes, it is an avoidance technique…. That’s why I have a writing shed – so I can ignore the chaos in my house!
  11. If you were stranded on a desert, what three books would you bring with you to occupy your time?
    Ooh that’s so hard. I’d say really, really thick ones so that I wouldn’t run out of reading material too quickly. Let’s say ‘War and Peace’, because I will never read it otherwise. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy… (published in one enormous tome! Is that cheating?) because I never finished it as a child. My parents brought me it as one book and it was so heavy and that my 10 year old self could barely pick it up let alone lug it around! And last but not least I’d definitely take a book about Surviving on a desert island!
  12. And finally Ali, do you have any new projects coming up on the horizon?
    I’m currently writing my fourth novel which I am super excited about as it is set on Broadway, both in present day and in 1955 during the golden era of musicals. So not only am I getting to geek out and doing lots of incredible research (me to husband: ‘I really MUST go to New York on my own for a week and see lots of shows”) but I am also indulging my love of history in an era that I am completely fascinated by. Heaven!

Follow Ali Harris on Twitter Ali Harris for updates or check out her website at Ali Harris