It Started With A Snub by … well … me!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Started-Snub-Bernadette-Maycock-ebook/dp/B00XZMIGC4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1432335014&sr=8-1&keywords=it+started+with+a+snub

My book came out today. On Amazon. So, I only started blogging recently, and this being a book review blog, I haven’t ventured away from reviewing, but I just really wanted to share this with you, as it’s been an exciting few days of firsts (somebody bought my book in another country before I’d told anyone about it, I found my cover on Google Images, and I charted quite decently in comedy fiction!). Also this is a predominantly chick lit site, and my book is … yup, you’ve guessed it, chick lit!

The book tells the story of twenty-something Heather Greene, who moves away from home for the first time to live with four male housemates. We get to know each of the guys and see how her quirky, infectious personality helps the sometimes-fraught relationships in the house as they all go about their daily lives. My aim for this book was to have characters that bounced off and yet complimented each other. I wanted it to be light hearted, romantic and funny but with drama that would grab people. Hopefully I succeeded.

Below is the blurb and I hope you enjoy!

HEATHER GREEN is a fun loving, happy go lucky, twenty-six year old who has remained upright and beaming despite a few wobbles in life. She wears her heart on her sleeve and pins on her thoughts for good measure.

We meet Heather as she moves out of her family home to share with four guys, much to the dismay of her long suffering (by his own admission!) boyfriend Graham. We follow her housemates and watch their sometimes funny, sometimes-fraught relationships as they go about their daily lives.

Join Heather as she navigates the simple things in life, her inability to remember the code for the house alarm, odd driving habits, general musings on chick flicks, casualties in cooking, as well as her attempts to talk down the “mad farmer with the gun.” Experience comedy and drama as we get to know her family and housemates, and, as an unexpected event finally takes her down, learn what happens when the last people you expected to turn to are actually the ones you need the most

The Vintage Guide To Love And Romance

Vintage guide

What they say:

“Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she’s been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother.Things aren’t going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print, her mortgage repayments are staggering and her granddaughter wears neon Wonderbras.When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads – by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.The true test of their make-over will be to capture the heart of notorious London playboy Leo Frost and prove that Matilda’s guides still work. It’s going to take commitment, nerves of steel and one seriously pointy bra to pull this off . . .”

The review:

Okay. So the reason I picked up this book (well, picked up my Kindle with this book on it;)) was all of the hype surrounding it. Now when I say hype, I mean it was ALL I heard about. People on twitter and Goodreads were really raving about it, and so I thought I’ll either hate it or absolutely adore it. Either way, all reviews were talking about ‘comedic genius’ and such and so, well, I’m in!

The book opens with us meeting Jess, a, em, free spirit. So Jess is a pear cider loving, kooky, quirky blogger who lives with her best friend, Summer, who is her out and out opposite.

With Summer, I found their relationship funny at the start , Summer was very much the mother hen, but then I realised there was either a jealousy/ irritation/ disgust- done so well by Ms Greenwood as we didn’t hate Summer right off the bat, but still knew that poor Jess was going to get it at some stage.

The comedic moments in this book were genius. Every review I had read was bang on – it could be called ‘Kirsty Greenwood does comic gold’ and it wouldn’t be selling itself short. You know when people speak of ‘laugh out loud’ moments and you smile politely and think to yourself: ‘I might smile a little but I amn’t going to laugh. Well you do here. No, I mean it – there are at least three places where I suddenly laughed out loud out of nowhere. Gotta be a first.

And I’ll be honest, at the very very start of the book, I thought I’d made a bit of a mistake, some of the curses used were those odd curses, you know the ones, not totally curses, kind of funny words used as curses, with maybe a curse thrown in? Anyway, you’ll know when you see them. I’m sorry to say, I was a bit of an idiot and put off by something that was fine when you realized that that’s just who Jess was, and how they suited her, and that they weren’t actually bad.

Anyhoo, I’m rambling. So yes, we are right, Summer does do a number on Jess and we find out she has no one to go to and why. But, wait, there’s a rich Grandmother. Aha, we think, this is where the grandmother is going to be loaded and we’re going to be watching Jess adapt to life as a wealthy heiress, maybe falling in love with some rich lord or prince …

There are both diary extracts and book excerpts from a Good Woman Guide that are written so beautifully and tease your imagination, so you not sure why they are there and definitely don’t know where they’re going to lead. The diary pages were so good that I was wishing that there was someone from the book reading them too, I just wanted them to know! They are genius – you feel for the writer of the diary when you suddenly start to see where it may lead (I cried at one stage) , and you feel for the writer of the books because you know how modern day society is and think of how different things must be for her generation. Plus the suspense, all in all, gave me shivers, brilliantly done.

This review was longer than it is, because I had so much to get out of me, things I found hilarious, things I found beautifully written*, but to post would be unfair.

I cannot fault this book. Kirsty Greenwood does comedy, romance, suspense and pacing amazingly and ties it all up with great writing. ‘Read the book’ is all I can say. Read it, sitting in a deck chair out the back yard with a fizzy drink (or alcohol if you’re so inclined;)) and a straw, on a grey day, and feel the sunshine that will warm you up FROM THIS BOOK**.

Rating 5/5 JJJJJ

*By the way, my favourite quote OF ALL TIME (that I can remember!) is in this book.

**Disclaimer: This book will not actually make the sun shine.

Stable Mates by Zara Stoneley

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Stable Mates by Zara Stoneley

What they say: Leaving a scumbag ex behind her, Lottie Brinkley has hotfooted it out of Spain and back home to the country in serious need of some flirtatious fun to soothe her aching heart.

Luckily for her she’s spoilt for choice with not one but three eligible bachelors offering a steamy romp in the hay! But faced with the attentions of roguish eventer Rory Steel, the smiling Irish eyes of hunky farrier Mick O’Neal, and mysterious newcomer Tom Strachan, how can she possibly choose?

When billionaire landowner Marcus James drops dead unexpectedly, his WAGish wife Amanda threatens to sell the heart of the village and sets her sights on Tom! It seems things are heating up for little Tippermere… both in and out of the saddle.

Review: The greatest of thanks to Harper Impulse and Zara Stoneley for the copy of Stable Mates in return of an honest review.

I jumped at the chance to read this, as someone who’s stepped away from horses only out of necessity! I had recently begun to dream of all the equine books I used to read when I was younger, and wished that there was more out there for adults. Enter Stable Mates!

The book starts out with a list of all the characters in the book. This is a welcome surprise- I have no problem with a large number of characters, but there are a lot here, and this comes in handy! (Note, if you have a problem with a lot of characters and aren’t opposed to giving out about how such and such stated that there should never be more than a certain amount of characters, just bear with it!)

The equine part of this book is phenomenal. The descriptions are amazing, the landscape drawn beautifully, the horses vivid and fully alive. It’s definitely aimed at people that have experience of horses, which I found great, but I probably wouldn’t recommend for non horsey people. That might seem like a given, taking into account the obvious title and cover, but sometimes people want to give a book a try and ignore that it seems to be aimed at a certain reader.

It took me a while to get into the book, one of the first issues was that the village of Tippermere and the book in general, automatically brought your mind to an earlier time in history that was at odds with them texting each other and driving flash cars. I just couldn’t picture it as a modern day story.

The next thing was that I would have thought that the book could possibly have done with a slightly tighter edit, there were just a few little grammatical things that jumped out at me, but that was me being pernickity, I’m sure it won’t affect most people but I always feel the need to warn readers, because if they’re very fussy, it’s better they’re ready so it doesn’t take away from a great story.

The biggest thing for me, however, and people will be shouting at their screens as a result of this one- was all of the sex. I know. I’m cringing myself that I’m saying this, given that the book is very obviously put out as a, well, actually, I’ve seen the term ‘bonkbuster’ used, so let’s go with that! The thing was, every single character seemed to have the same thing on their mind and as a result every time I started to get into the story line, somebody was lusting after someone else, or fumbling, or shagging, and it just took away from what I thought was a very good premise for an equestrian book-namely that nobody knew whether the widow of Marcus, who was the owner of the equestrian centre- the heart of the village as said above- was going to sell or whether she could be turned.

As a result, a thought I couldn’t help regularly thinking, was that if this had been a simple women’s fiction with fewer double entendres and less innuendo , I’d have been one hundred percent in. I would say this was both unfair and wishful thinking on my part, and very selfish of me! The equestrian side of this book just grabbed me and led me to a genre I do not frequent and I shouldn’t want to change it as I have no doubt others will ADORE this book, and I’ve actually recommended it to a few people since I finished!

Back to the story-there were numerous secrets that were expertly unfolded by characters that did, most definitely, grow as the book progressed. Funnily enough I found the males of the story easier to like than the females. I was also surprised, as all reviews I read pointed to people warming to Lottie straight off, and Lottie was probably more for me someone I couldn’t quite figure out. In general, I found I cared about the characters, wanted to know that everything would turn out alright

Anyway: to round up: For all of those people put there who adore Jilly Cooper, want to hear of all the shenanigans that go on in the stables behind closed doors and after dark, are crazy into horses, and like a good, ‘what’s going to happen next’ story; this one is for you. I would definitely recommend. As for me, if Zara Stoneley does ever feel like going more contemporary, I’ll be the first in the queue!

Rating: 3.5/5

Into The Night Sky by Caroline Finnerty

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What they say: “Conor Fahy, owner of a struggling bookshop, is finding it hard to cope in the aftermath of his partner Leni’s tragic death. His friend Ella Wilde tries to be supportive but is herself in a fragile mental state. Then eight-year-old Jack White walks into Conor’s bookshop and settles down on the floor to read.”

The review!: Firstly I have to comment on the cover- this book was so beautiful, and had me. The moon, the stars, the glowing lantern, that perfectly placed bright shiny star, glowing in the corner? Gorgeous. So I did what seems to be turning into the norm for me, and purchased without a blurb. Now this practice has bitten me since, but not here. I will admit I read the blurb before I started the book, and was satisfied with my choice.

Starting off we meet Ella, the presenter of a show that exposes politicians and public figures. The book smoothly places you in Ella’s body and sleep walks you through her daily grind, with the trials of parenting three young children leaving you feeling a little ragged yourself. The tension was done amazingly, I felt it all. From the start you are always waiting, not just nervous, but worried-for her, for her children. Where’s she going? What’s she doing now? It was told so well that I felt the dread in the pit of my stomach, afraid of what her next move would be. And when she got there-the explosive moments, the first time we realized what Ella was up to? Wow. Did not see that coming!

The big thing about Ella was that she was human. Where we saw Ella’s flaws, we also saw how she was struggling to get her old self back. You got the feeling that her inner turmoil was so new, which made it that little bit more unbearable. As can be the case with many issues, however, there were unfortunately times where the sympathy waned slightly and I had the awful ‘why can’t she just snap out of it?’ thought, which made me feel quite guilty (and yes, I am aware that this is just a book and not real life!). The unfortunate thing was that the places where sympathies dropped were compounded, just a little, in Ella’s big realization. I felt she was just a bit too quick to hold it up as a justification for her actions, however, with the illness that’s in it, maybe it does justify them fully-I would say more that it justifies them to an extent, but I suppose that would be something that would attract different opinions.

And so we come to Ella’s rock. Not her husband by any means, who was a great dad but possibly the most unsupportive partner I’ve ever read. In my notes I merely wrote ‘Do not like Dan.’ That was the essence AND the totality of it. I really could not warm to him. Fair enough his life was turned upside down, but he really had no interest in listening, was very self obsessed (again I had an awful thought that this was why they were together, both had qualities very close to being self absorbed) and his sympathy, when it came, was too little too late.

No, Ella’s rock was her friend Conor, who showed so much compassion for her at a time when he was more justified than most to tell her to get it together. He, like Ella, was human, starting out grumpy and quiet and progressed from there with the telling of his story and the beautiful flashbacks of life with the lovely Leni. I have to say, I think Conor is my top male character to date (I am well aware in my last review I found my favourite female character, guess I’m just lucky at the moment!) Conor’s story tugged at the heartstrings (to lift an overused, clichéd phrase-fits well for these purposes!) In the same way the author brilliantly put you into Ella’s weary bones, Caroline Finnerty seamlessly transferred us into Conor’s worried shell, as he balanced a business struggling financially with the trials of living in a bad neighbourhood. Again- the tension, the nerves. I was there. Put this with the vivid descriptions of the shop, and indeed each of the locations that transpired before your very eyes, with the scenes set flawlessly/seamlessly, and you had a serious page turner to see what happened to Conor. Amazingly done.

Of course much of Conor’s story revolved around Jack … Jack, the star of the show, a young lad whose amazingly strong and brave mother was bringing him up with true values against all odds. I amn’t a fan of spoilers myself so can’t say much, however I will admit to shedding a few tears here … all I can say is ‘read the book!’

The only issues with this book were minimal and to be honest, didn’t effect me that much. Firstly there was the grammatical tense used, the simple present (I stand corrected if I’m wrong)- so ‘He goes, he stops’, unusually done, and very likely a pull for some people, I just wasn’t used to it even though it did the job.

The chapters ended abruptly for me, it was like each one was missing a line that would tidy it all up and pull it neatly together. Again, a small thing that I’m sure no one else would notice (sorry, readers if I’ve dragged your attention to such a pernickety issue!)

The other thing, maybe a bit more of a problem, was when I found out that Rachel was actually a main character as opposed to a minor one, and in general the story of Rachel and Marcus. I couldn’t warm to either, and definitely couldn’t warm to them as a couple, maybe I was too entangled with Conor and Ella and Jack, who were so strong? I will say that this in no way took away from the book, which shows what a great book it was, it was just that when Rachel was with Marcus, I was hoping she’d suddenly leave to do her job, which I found very interesting!

As for the book in its entirety? I cannot gush enough about it. From the start, I had some ideas both good and bad as to where each of the story-lines and the characters were going and wanted to eat up the book to see if they were correct. I looked forward to sitting down each day so I could get to this. I do think it is more of a paperback book than a Kindle one-there’s so many books out there that suit e-books, but this is one of the special ones that should be read, accompanied by the turning of crisp paper as opposed to the pushing of a button. The cover only seals this. Great characters, great storyline, good pacing, tension, a number of dramatic events, flashbacks that were done at EXACTLY the right time … I honestly was so impressed!

If there was any author that I wished I could write like in terms of descriptions, Ms. Finnerty would be it. In general the feeling was warm and wholesome and yet fresh-the type of story you would read sitting in the park on a Spring day, only getting up when you finished or when you found the park to be closing. A beautiful, captivating read that will definitely send me to Ms. Finnerty’s back catalogue. Highly recommend.

4.5 out of 5

The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams- Fiona Harper

The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams

What they say: Nicole Harrison is planning the proposal of the century. Too bad it’s not her own Nicole, a born organiser and true romantic, has created her dream job when she sets up the Hopes & Dreams proposal agency – staging YouTube worthy proposals… until she’s hired to plan a proposal by gorgeous photographer Alex Black’s girlfriend. Alex is the New Year’s kiss that Nicole hasn’t been able to forget – and now she’s planning his wedding to someone else! But if she lets herself fall for Alex’s charms, her reputation and business will be ruined before it’s even got off the ground! Suddenly, the girl who’s always prepared is at a loss… and falling head over heels.’

I saw this book a few months ago and was quite taken by the cover. I went into the book blind, so based it solely on cover, not even on Amazon’s ‘look inside’ option. Maybe it was just the book, maybe not, but it worked out well … We meet a slightly tipsy Nicole and her two friends, out on New Year’s Eve, at a fancy dress ‘do.’ Nicole is so drunk that she teeters over to a guy she’s never met before (Alex) and kisses him but then basically lets him get away. Fast-forward to ten months on and Nicole, whose job is as a proposal planner, is hired by Saffron, an IT girl-about –town- type of girl, who is out to cement her relationship with Alex so that she can show everyone that she’s settled down. Even though I hadn’t read the blurb for this, I knew where it was going, not a bad thing at all. In fact, when Nicole was about to find out who the husband to be that she had to talk to was, I was thinking ‘here we go, here we go,’ brilliant! Off we went then, at a nice pace- with the satisfaction of a leisurely stroll, but the happenings of something so much more. My only problem with the book came on meeting Alex’s girlfriend. Saffron started out so well, apologizing for making an entrance as she sometimes forgets that there isn’t a crowd around. This told me that there was much more to her than met the eye, that she was just playing her expected role, but that ultimately there’d be more to her than just a socialite dating the guy that Nicole has feelings for. The problem was that Saffron quickly reverted to type-late for meetings, ignoring what Nicole hinted that Alex would like, fully into how she was portrayed. I would have loved the slightest bit more contrast between ‘real’ and ‘public’ Saffron. This was my issue but a fairly big one as it made it more likely that Nicole was to be the one. Saying that, the other characters were brilliant! I warmed to Nicole quicker than I’ve warmed to any character ever! The whole story centred around her wanting to live up to people’s expectations and it was done so well that I just wanted to hug her. She was funny, ditzy yet intelligent and always thinking of her friends. Her friends, Mia and Peggy were also done brilliantly. Two opposites, they never felt clichéd as even when they were showing their main attributes, they put views across that were very unbiased and made sense to us, the readers. Alex was another nicely balanced character, a good mix of good and bad, if you will. The story was kept going by Nicole not wanting to let the business and her friends who were investors in it, down. Made total sense. The narrative switched from Nicole to Alex and helped us immensely, as it showed us who they both were and put out their issues. The chemistry between Alex and Nicole was great, as were the scenarios put before them. All in all, a lovely, satisfying read, that I happily ate up, smiling a lot of the way. The descriptions were brilliantly written, the characters flashed in front of my face as I read and I could picture every single place they went to. I would fully recommend this, not just as a Christmas read- the season is actually more of an aside- but just as a nice little gem of a book that’ll make you do that little nod at the end. You know the one- the ‘ good stuff’ nod. Happy out;) Rating: 4.5/5

The Magic of Chick Lit

Reading. It’s all about escapism, isn’t it? Being transported to another place, another time, another reality. The author takes you by the hand and leads you along to show you an event that wouldn’t ordinarily happen to you. If they’re good enough they’ll push you in there, you will become the lead, the hero or heroine, the protagonist. Imagine that, it could happen to you!
Personally,  I think this is part of the pull of my favourite genre, chick lit. Oh no, I hear you groan, somebody switch my brain off now before the light, cotton wool textured bubble gum that is chick lit, envelops me. But think about it. It’s easy because it’s not the biggest stretch of the imagination. You just have to take a slight sidestep to slide into the comfy shoes of the protagonist to allow you to laugh, cry and fall in love as them. And that’s what these little pieces of genius are for me-a portal into a similar but fantastically magical, witty, romantic life. Yeah baby, I’m there.
Ever since Marian Keyes delivered Rachel’s Holiday, I knew I was hooked. Sign me up. But, hold on, there’s something we need to talk about. Houston, we have a problem. The name ‘chick lit’ is being phased out. It’s part of the ‘women’s fiction’ classification now, and, if you are to mention it, then please whisper! The first time I told someone (with a proud, content smile) that I was writing a book called ‘It Started With a Snub,’ I was told not to worry, maybe the next one would be the Booker prize candidate. I had no answer. Now, of course, I’d give them my spiel and tell them how I read nearly all genres, enjoy most of them regularly so I don’t get stuck to one but inevitably it’s the book which will deliver many a comedic punch followed by the ultimate question: ‘who will she choose, a or b?’ that has me running to the checkout. So the Booker thing? No thanks, I’m happy just making people smile.
It seems chick lit has become the new fifty shades-something to be smuggled out of the library for fear of somebody seeing you-‘this old thing? Somebody got it for me, I’d never have chosen it myself’. If there’s so much as a happy ending in sight then forget it. And no twist? I mean what was that person doing writing the damn thing anyhoo?
Because we want to be ‘well read,’ we want to be intelligent and have something to say … And apparently that shouldn’t be ‘just the way you are’ (taken from Bridget Jones-some of you may have been dragged to the cinema to hide behind your hand as it played-please don’t admit to having READ this book).
But I want to tell you not to worry. There are still chick lit bloggers out there who’ll help you wade through the murky waters of modern literature to find the gems-the books that make you laugh out loud, smile to yourself, say aww. There can be twists, and misery and tension. Look, there’s nothing to stop you trying Ulysses or Proust, Tolstoy or Wilde. How about this: You pick the books you want to read, any genre, and I’ll try to help you choose the ones you didn’t know existed but which will satisfy any remaining comedy or romance needs you have. Let’s call it, adding to the lighter side of your ‘To Be Read’ pile. Deal?