From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp comes a shocking new thriller about a group of friends tied together by a game and the deadly weekend that tears them apart.
For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways—a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they’ve been playing for the past three years. But they’re all dealing with their own demons, and they’re all hiding secrets.
Finn doesn’t trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family’s expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.
When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it’s a race against time before it’s game over—forever.
MARIEKE NIJKAMPis the #1 New York Times bestselling author of This Is Where It Ends and Before I Let Go. She is a storyteller, dreamer, globetrotter, geek. She holds degrees in philosophy, history, and medieval studies, has served as an executive member of We Need Diverse Books, and is the founder of DiversifYA. She lives in the Netherlands. Visit her at mariekenijkamp.com.
Imogen Tolliman never knew her mother. And when an accident robs Immi of her father too, she goes to live with her grandfather, Tollie, in his picturesque lock-keeper’s cottage by the Aysbury marina.
Tollie is the star of the Santa Ahoy Special each Christmas – a festive boat ride along the canal that enthralls both children and adults alike. And as Immi grows up, she starts to appreciate the magical community she is lucky enough to live in.
When Immi meets Gray Adams, she instantly realises he’s someone special. And as their relationship gets serious, they start to plan for the Christmas to beat all Christmases.
But as the day approaches, and the romantic snow showers turn into blizzards, their dream of a Christmas to remember, looks set to be one they’ll never forget – for all the wrong reasons. Can they salvage the festivities, or will old secrets that are finally uncovered turn Immi’s life upside down forever?
Let Lucy Coleman transport you away to a dreamy Cotswolds Christmas full of snowflakes and secrets, log fires, mistletoe, friends and much-loved traditions.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books in return for an honest review.
This is a lovely festive slice of community spirit, friendship and love. Immi has faced a lot of grief in her young life, but she’s showered with love by her grandfather and the community where they live, she feels blessed. Her love life is peachy with Gray except they don’t see each other as much as they like, so she writes a letter to Santa.
The two protagonists are quirky characters, but they are good people and as the story progresses you like them more. This story emphasises the meaning of Christmas, family and coping with what life throws your way, and the result is a heartwarming and ultimately satisfying festive read.
Extract from the book…
I read an article the other day, giving tips on how to manifest the life you want. You begin by writing a letter and… burning it. Whether you want to free yourself of worry, realise a dream, or simply declutter your mind, a well-respected life coach believes that the universe is listening. I’m not sure how I feel about that statement, but I can see how it might be cathartic for some people – assuming they have the guts to do it properly.
What I’m discovering, though, is that being honest with oneself isn’t easy. After almost an hour, most of it spent with a pen in my hand hovering over the piece of paper in front of me, it remains blank. Even though I love the idea of releasing negative energy into the ether, or drawing positive energy towards me, I can’t do it. I’m not ready to bare my soul to anyone. Least of all, myself.
Maybe I’ll write a letter to Santa, instead, and burn that. Start small and work your way up, Immi, I tell myself. As one of my three jobs involves wearing an elf costume every weekend in December, I figure that if I’m not ready to reach out to the universe, Santa is the next best option.
This year I’m hoping Christmas is going to be a truly joyful occasion to make up for the disappointments of last year. When the man you love – your soul mate – is supporting a parent through the big C, life can feel as if it’s on hold. I won’t lie, it’s been tough. My mind and my body ache when he isn’t here with me because I’m simply going through the motions rather than living my life.
Anyway, what harm can it do to honour an age-old tradition? After all, I’m one of Santa’s biggest fans. They say the act of believing makes things happen and I’ve seen that with my own eyes. So here goes:
When I was six years old, I wrote you a very special letter. I handed Dad the sealed envelope and we stood together, hand in hand, as he threw it onto the fire. I watched in fervent anticipation as the wisps of pale grey smoke, tinged with little curls of white, disappeared up the chimney.
Everyone thought I was asking you for a doll’s house, but actually, I asked you to bring my mum back home to us. Dad didn’t understand why I burst into tears on Christmas morning, after I’d unwrapped the wonderful presents beneath the glittering tree. And, at the time, I didn’t understand that I had asked for the impossible.
Every year until I was twelve, when I wrote my last letter, I just asked for toys, books and clothes, as the other kids did. But in my heart there was only one thing I longed to have, because I honestly believed that it would make my life complete.
But I appreciate now how lucky I was, and that the true magic of Christmas was there all along. I was surrounded by love. The love of my dad, my grandparents and our friends. No child could ask for more than that.
This year there is only one thing on my list and it’s to be able to celebrate Christmas with the man I love, Gray, by my side. I need it to reassure me there really can be an us and that life isn’tgoing to cheat me, yet again.
Just keep everything crossed for me, will you? That’s all I ask. And keep up the good work. A lot of people believe in you, regardless of their age. In today’s world that’s both magical and inspiring, because what is life without hope?
With much love, Immi
Lucy Coleman is a #1 bestselling romance writer, whose recent novels include Snowflakes over Holly Cove. She also writes under the name Linn B. Halton. She won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award and lives in the Welsh Valleys.
Theresa Gonzalez, the Baltimore Medical x-ray tech, was in a middle seat in coach silently cursing. She had been up since before dawn to catch an early flight from BWI to Miami. As the morning progressed, her throat was getting scratchy and she was starting to feel chesty.
She wound up saying, rather than thinking one of her “damn-its” and the elderly man in the window seat said, “Excuse me, did you say something?”
“I apologize,” she said, hacking into a tissue. “I’m going on vacation and I think I’m catching a cold.”
The man was pleasant enough. “Don’t you hate it when that happens?”
“I think I know who coughed on me.”
“Well I hope you won’t do the same to me,” he said cheerfully.
“I’ll be careful.”
“Are you staying in Miami?” he asked.
“I’m boarding a cruise there.”
“That’s wonderful. Where to?”
“The Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, and St. Thomas. I can’t wait.”
She coughed again but this time she was a little slow with her tissue. He must have felt some spray land on his forearm because he dabbed at it with a napkin.
“I apologize,” she repeated.
The man’s smile faded. He put the armrest down and pressed himself against the window.
The stewardess who handed Gonzalez a can of soda and a bag of chips would fly on to Dallas later in the day to attend a training seminar with flight attendants from twenty states.
That night, the window-seat passenger had dinner in Coral Gables with his three elementary-school grandkids, his daughter, a pharmaceutical sales rep with a busy schedule for the next day, and his son-in-law, an accountant who had an early tee-time in a foursome that included a Delta pilot who would fly to London Gatwick in the evening.
Terry Gonzalez, though a little feverish, had her first on-board meal with eleven randomly assigned passengers from five states, coughing her way through the appetizers and entrée before excusing herself. In the morning she was feeling too ill to leave her cabin, but the rest of her dinner companions disembarked at their first port-of-call in Nassau where some of them had lunch at a café next to a table of Japanese tourists on their next-to-last day of holiday. One couple stopped a Swede on the street on his final day of a business trip to see if he knew how to get to the pirate museum. Another couple asked an Italian schoolteacher to take their photo.
And so it began.
If you catch it, you forget everything. Your only hope is the cure…
He wanted to cure Alzheimer’s Disease…
Single parent and neurologist Dr. Jamie Abbott makes a key contribution to treating Alzheimer’s Disease. But the principal investigator short-circuits the study safeguards, releasing a highly contagious virus that wipes the host’s memories. His daughter is one of the first victims.
As the virus spreads and civil order breaks down, Jamie embarks on a perilous cross-country journey. He needs to reach Dr. Mandy Alexander. She has the other half of a potential cure.
If he fails, he’ll leave most of mankind to the oblivion of total amnesia.
Glenn Cooper is a Harvard-trained infectious diseases physician who became the CEO of a large public biotech company in Massachusetts. He sold his company in 2009, about the time that his first novel, Library of the Dead, was published. He has been a full-time writer ever since, with fourteen top-ten bestselling thrillers published in thirty translations, and seven million copies sold. A TV series based on his first trilogy is in development.
Frankie Keegan is struggling. While she tries to make strides in her career, life at home is slowly unravelling as she is haunted by the secrets of her past.
Someone else remembers… As the dark nights draw in, the anniversary of the loss of her brother looms and Frankie is drawn back to the memories of that fateful night 20 years previously. As she descends into a guilt-ridden state, she begins to suspect that someone else is also remembering that night and they are determined to terrify her…
Can she confront her past before it’s too late?
From the international bestselling author of The Daughter In Law, a gripping psychological thriller about family, secrecy and grief – with a twist you won’t see coming.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The suspense grips you in this story from the first words and keeps its hold until the dramatic conclusion.
Frankie’s never recovered from the accident twenty years ago that took her brother. She’s moved on with life, but the grief and guilt remain festering. A functioning alcoholic with her marriage in trouble, she’s a flawed, and unreliable protagonist but you want her to find peace.
Plot-driven this is a detailed story told from Frankie’s viewpoints both past and present. Everyone in her life has their agenda. As the story progresses, it’s hard to know who to trust. The story’s addictive quality keeps you reading, thinking you know what’s going to happen next.
The compelling characters all have a purpose often to confuse the reader. I did realise what was happening late on in the story, but the dramatic ending still resonated.
This is a poignant tale about the payback of youthful indiscretions and damaged minds.
TheGuilty Wife – Nina Manning – Extract
I stood at the top of the stairs and held my breath as my anxiety spiked and my heart pounded in my throat. But I could no longer hear the noise that had drawn me there. As I stood, my foot perched ready to take the first step, I wondered if perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me. Maybe the events of the last few days had finally caught up with me. But faces were hovering in front of me. Those people I had trusted. And those who I had hurt.
All those years ago I was trying so hard to make a difference in any way I could. But I was young. And I was foolish. I knew the past would never be able to bury itself, and I had not been able to rest for twenty years because the horrors of that day would stay with me until I took my final breath.
But now it was time to face the past head on. I tightened my grip on my weapon and began the descent to the kitchen. I knew I was now in grave danger. I knew that I had to protect my children and face the person who had found their way into my home.
Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.
One sunny day in July, someone took three-month-old Alicia Owen from her pram outside a supermarket. Her mother, Marie, was inside. No one saw who took Alicia. And no one could find her.
They silenced her cry…
Fifteen years later, a teenager on a construction site sees a tiny hand in the ground. When the police investigate, they find a baby buried and preserved in concrete. Could it be Alicia?
But the truth will always out.
When Alicia disappeared, the papers accused Marie of detachment and neglect. The Owens never got over the grief of their child’s disappearance and divorced not long after. By reopening the case, DC Beth Chamberlain must reopen old wounds. But the killer may be closer than anyone ever suspected…
The latest crime thriller featuring Family Liaison Officer DC Beth Chamberlain, Hush Little Baby is tightly plotted, fraught with tension and impossible to put down.
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
This story is emotional and poignant because it involves the death of a baby. The author captures the familial guilt and heartbreak in this story as Beth Chamberlain investigates the cold case. The third in the series, there are mentions of previous crimes and so reading the first two books is advised.
Beth Chamberlain is a believable character. Caring and dedicated, she gives the story authenticity. The dynamic in the police team is well-written and the depth, and pacing of the investigation realistically portrayed.
The compelling plot and engaging, though not always likeable characters immerse the reader into this dark world.
Extract from Hush Little Baby Jane Isaac
The detective chief inspector tapped the screen. ‘In the description given at the time, Alicia’s mother said the child was wearing a towelling vest and a nappy. The contents of her changing bag, also taken with her, included a cream shawl, similar to the one this child was wrapped in. The burial site, if we can call it that, is less than two miles from the Owens’ home at the time, and not far from where Alicia went missing.’
‘Could it have been as long as fifteen years?’ Nick asked.
‘They can’t be completely sure before they run tests, but potentially, yes.’
‘So, we think it is her?’
‘From what we’ve uncovered so far, it seems likely. Pete’s been out to see the farmer who owns the land.’
DC Pete Winston approached the front of the room. He was a tall man, with short dark hair and soft brown eyes. The buttons on his shirt gaped slightly over an overhanging paunch. ‘The land was owned by the Moreton family before it was sold for development,’ he said. ‘Old man Moreton must be in his seventies now. He ran the farm with his only son, it had been in their family over a hundred years. He claims he had no idea how the body came to be on his land.’ Pete lifted a hand and circled an area on the map, indicating the location of the farm and the land attached to it. A purple-headed pin close to the edge marked the area where the remains were found.
‘Moreton was quite clear that this particular field—’ Pete tapped the crime scene twice ‘—has been used solely for crops for the last thirty years. It’s several acres away from the farmhouse and not overlooked. There are no bridle ways or walkways that run through, or close by, and it was edged with high hawthorn hedging along the roadside, until recently when the developers cut it back.’
‘How did they access the field?’ Nick asked.
‘Through a locked gate at the bottom of the road.’
‘So, he’s saying nobody else had access apart from farm workers?’
‘Not legitimately. He did admit there were a few breaks in the hedging back in the day, caused by badgers and other animals, where someone may have climbed through.’
Nick’s face crumpled. ‘Surely the farmer or a labourer working the land would have noticed something freshly buried, or that the soil was disturbed.’
‘Yeah, I mentioned that. Moreton wasn’t convinced.’ Pete glanced down and sifted through his notebook until he found what he was looking for. ‘This was one field in a farm of over 700 acres. They combine crop and cattle. The work is constant. They harvest, cultivate and sow the crops. Often fields aren’t touched for months in between. If the block was buried at the right time, the soil could have had plenty of weeks or months to settle afterwards.’
Beth narrowed her eyes. Once again, it indicated a level of knowledge and planning. To know when the seeds would be sown. Although it would have been cumbersome to transport a concrete lump that size into the field. The killer would have had to dig quite a hole to conceal it. ‘How far does their machinery penetrate the soil?’ she asked.
Pete shot Beth a knowing smile. ‘Down to a maximum of thirty centimetres.’
Which meant if the block was buried deeper than thirty centimetres it could have sat there for years, undisturbed. Beth gave an appreciative nod. ‘What about the builder working the digger this morning?’ she asked. ‘How come they didn’t notice they’d hit the concrete block? Especially if they were working through soil.’
‘They’d been breaking up the foundations of a dilapidated barn nearby. Some of the remains were mixed in with the soil in that part of the field. They probably didn’t give it a second thought.’ Pete snapped his notebook shut. ‘The farmer’s putting together a list of labourers he’s used. They’d know the area, be aware it was remote.’
Freeman thanked Pete and sunk his hands deep in his pockets. ‘As I said, if this is Alicia, the quickest way to confirm identity would be through a DNA check against her parents. Depending on how busy the labs are, we’d hopefully know within two to three days.’
‘I’ve already taken a sample from the mother,’ Beth said. ‘It was couriered to the lab this afternoon.’
Jane Isaac is married to a serving detective and they live in rural Northamptonshire UK with their daughter, and dog, Bollo. Jane loves to hear from readers and writers.
Sign up to her book club at http://eepurl.com/1a2uT for book recommendations and details of new releases, events and giveaways.
Emily Adams has reached a breaking point. Her boyfriend pushed her down the stairs, breaking her arm, and now she’s found herself in an unfamiliar city with fifteen cents in her pocket and nowhere to go. She’s decided that all that’s left for her, is to take matters into her own hands and put an end to her misery…
Until an encounter with a magic man in a dress changes everything.
In a story full of humor and heart, The Very Real World of Emily Adams shows that there is hope in darkness, triumph in tragedy, and the moment when things are at their worst is when you hold on the hardest, because you never know what good things are waiting for you on the other side of despair.
The Very Real World of Emily Adams by Samantha Rose
The first thing I noticed was the silence. It wasn’t the sort of silence we’d had in our conversation on the drive there, where it wasn’t really silence—there’d been the background noises of air rushing past us, of the fan, the engine. This… this was a different kind of silence. There were no crickets. There was no wind. It was the kind of silence I imagined falling over the funeral of a horrible person who’d died a horrible death, where the few in the audience were too shocked and disturbed to shed a single tear, and the pastor had no words of solace to give.
Then there was the darkness. I couldn’t see anything beyond the still blades of grass and the figure of the farmhouse touched by the headlights. Off in the distance, I thought I could see the very first violet rays of morning, but other than that…
Nothe wrung his fingers a little. A faint, uneasy emotion radiated from him. “You know, maybe you should stay in the truck.”
I remembered what had happened the last time I’d done that. I grabbed the notebook and pen, saying, “That’s okay. I’m here to help and take notes, so yeah! Put me to work.”
He looked as though he were about to argue against this, but then he brightened. “Well, okay then. If you insist.” He popped open the door and got out. I did likewise, meeting him in the glow of the headlights. We stared up at the quaint, country style house. It had a porch lined with chipped, white columns that wrapped all the way around the eastern corner. It would’ve been a darling home that reminded me of my grandma’s, if not for the darkened windows and the feeling of gloom that weeped from them, and the smell of dead, decaying things that permeated the air.
Nothe said cheerfully, “Let’s start with the house.”
My eyes widened. “Why? I thought we were trying to avoid the farmers.”
“Well, I think if they were home, they’d have seen us pull up, don’t you?”
“Yes. Let’s make things worse by spying on them through their windows.”
“Oh, no. That won’t be necessary. The front door is wide open. See?”
He pointed to the wall where the porch ended. I wasn’t sure how I’d missed it, but he was right. The door was wide open, leading into black emptiness. I swore, for the briefest moment, I saw two, glowing yellow orbs peering out from the edge of the doorway before disappearing from view.
I blinked. I rubbed my eyes, my face. That’d just been a trick of the light, right? I hadn’t actually seen… what I thought I saw…
I looked up at Nothe. It might’ve been my imagination, but I thought he looked a little paler and slightly more serious than he had the last time I’d glanced at his face. I asked him, “Did you see that, too?”
Samantha Rose is a forever-student at Utah State University, who will one day have her Masters Degree in Psychology. She wrote her first novel in permanent marker on her sister’s vanity chair when she was three-years-old. It wasn’t well received.
She currently resides in the mountains, in a little house full of toys, where she’s enjoying her happily ever after with her Prince Charming and three adorable, little bears.
When Crystal’s pimp, protector and former lover, Gilly, dies of a drugs overdose Crystal is bereft. She refuses the paid protection of a rival pimp, determined to go it alone. But a vicious beating from a client leaves her feeling vulnerable and angry.
Meanwhile, Crystal’s daughter, Candice, is asking difficult questions about her job. Crystal decides it’s time to make some changes, and, when a high-profile judge offers her payment to keep schtum about his nefarious activities, it gives her an idea. Perhaps other clients will also pay for her silence…
Crystal engages on a revenge mission to rob, blackmail and expose her most depraved clients. But some of these men are highly dangerous and, if Crystal wants to exact her plan of revenge, she must accept the risks that go with it.
Heather Burnside is back with this breath-taking, heart-racing series
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus -Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The third book in the gritty and gripping working girls series features Crystal. Addicted to alcohol and drugs, Crystal reaches an all-time low when her partner and pimp Gilly dies. It’s decision time for Crystal. She chooses to fight against her addictions and take revenge against her worst clients. Blackmail forms the basis of Crystal’s exit strategy from her old life, but she fails to see the inherent dangers.
Crystal’s significant character development makes the ending positive in this story of redemption and revenge. Characterised by a pacy, twisty plot and positive female protagonists working girls is an addictive series worth reading.
Crystal – Heather Burnside – Extract
Ruby was becoming irritated as she listened to Crystal defending Gilly. ‘I know he had a temper but I never f**kin’ saw him lose it big time with anyone else,’ she snapped. ‘You were the one that was always on the receiving end and don’t forget that you were the one he beat unconscious as well.’
‘No, he didn’t just lose it with me,’ said Crystal. The guilty expression had returned and Ruby knew there was something more.
‘Go on. Who?’
Crystal swallowed and without further encouragement she came out with it. ‘He killed a man.’
Ruby sprang back in her seat. ‘You’re f**kin’ joking!’
The words hit her like a thunderbolt. It wasn’t only the revelation; it was because it brought home to her that she too was a killer. But, despite prompting Crystal to confide in her, there was no way Ruby was going to share her own secret. Too many people knew already; her partner, Tiffany, and her cousins who had helped her to dispose of the body.
Ruby’s mind drifted back to the scene when Kyle, her childhood nemesis, had tried to take advantage of her. Then she thought of her own callous treatment of him and stifled a shudder of revulsion. Although she was ashamed of how far she had gone, she refused to feel guilty for the piece of shit that was Kyle Gallagher. He was another one who deserved everything that happened to him. And, at the end of the day, she had only paid him back for what he had done to her.
Not content with scarring her for life as a child, Kyle had then moved on to her business, a city centre brothel, where he’d collected protection money and manhandled her girls. But when he’d tried to manhandle her it had been a step too far. There was no way she was going to submit herself to him so he’d had to die.
‘What happened?’ she asked, quickly shifting the focus back to Crystal and blocking her memories but not before she had subconsciously run her finger over her facial scar.
‘He didn’t mean to,’ said Crystal.
Ruby held back her irritation again as Crystal went on to describe how Gilly had made it his mission to punish a client who had abused her. When they’d eventually tracked him down Gilly had driven him to a secluded place, intent on retribution. But the man had retaliated fiercely, forcing Gilly to take desperate action to stop him.
‘He did it for me,’ Crystal added. ‘He felt really bad about it afterwards. He never meant to kill him.’ She paused and took a deep breath before adding, ‘So we went back and buried the body. It was on the news about the man disappearing. But we just kept quiet. Gilly didn’t want anyone to know.’
‘So you kept it secret for him?’ asked Ruby. ‘As well as helping him to bury the f**kin’ body!’
‘Yes,’ Crystal whispered before finding renewed vigour as she continued. ‘But, like I said, he did it for me so it was the least I could do.’
Ruby shook her head but Crystal wasn’t finished yet. ‘I feel really bad about that too. Now that I’ve lost Gilly I realise what that man’s family must have felt like. I think I should tell the coppers everything.’
‘What, and take the rap for what Gilly did? Are you off your f**kin’ head? You keep schtum about the f**kin’ lot, Crystal.’ Ruby looked at her friend who had now bowed her head low and was sobbing again. ‘Are you listening?’
‘Yes,’ Crystal mumbled.
Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.
Caught in a web of murder and vengeance, Theo must outsmart the Spylady to save her new friends.
Imprisoned in a male appearance, can Nand survive deportation without losing herself?
Forced to leave Eridan after her mental battle with Keith of Rain Forest, Theo travels to Earth Metropolis with SpaceSS agent Jack Finch. When Jack is arrested for murdering his husband, Farren, Theo’s plans for a new future collapse.
To impress Declan, Nand face-changes into her cousin’s appearance on the day of the Face Changer Assembly. But her moment of triumph turns into a nightmare when Keith launches an attack against the Face Changers.
Deported to Gambling Nova, the federal prison, with Ashta and a few Face Changers, will Declan be strong enough to overcome his guilt in order to help Nand keep her male appearance and safeguard Eridan’s future?
Convinced that Farren is still alive, Theo must outsmart the Spylady if she wants to get Jack released from the penitentiary and find Farren’s whereabouts. Yet when Sheer, the Savalwomen leader, orders her to rescue the Face Changers, Theo faces a new challenge: is she ready to return to Gambling Nova? And risk her life?
But where? Where could she go? What could she do? What would happen to her?
She collided with someone and fell backwards. Her elbow and head bumped against the pavement.
“Sorry, Miss. Are you hurt?”
A man leaned over her. In the dusk and the dim light from the low-energy street lamps, she could not discern his features, only his dark hair. He helped her to her feet.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before. Did you recently arrive here?”
What could she say? What dare she say?
“Are you hurt?”
Why would he care? She stepped back.
“What’s your name? In which department do you work?”
He was too tall, too pressing.
“Leave me alone! Or, the Winds help me, you’ll regret it!” She flashed her Nuong-bought knife, bent over and slipped past him. He moved. Was it to catch her? She cut him. He swore. She ran away.
She zigzagged through streets and gardens burdened with blooming roses. Their smell, which had gone unnoticed that morning, surrounded her. Panting, she stopped near a cluster of palm trees and glanced over her shoulder.
She was alone.
And completely lost.
Jennie Dorny was born in 1960 in Newton, Massachusetts. She lives and works in Paris with her three cats. She is both French and American. She studied American literature and civilization, Italian and history of art at three Parisian universities. She wrote her Master’s thesis about contemporary Irish poetry after spending a year in Dublin. She loves words and languages, and she can spend hours exploring a thesaurus. Over the years, she has studied Spanish, Japanese, Hindi and sign language, and recently took up Italian again. She has published in French Gambling Nova (1999), Eridan (2002) and Les Cupidons sont tombés sur la tête (Mischievous Cupids gone Crazy, 2007). Gambling Nova and Eridan are partial, earlier versions of Hybrids; science-fiction novels that in many ways deal with the question of gender.
Jess’s life was turned upside down when her blog went viral. Now, with hundreds of thousands of followers, Jess is now navigating the trials and tribulations of a world online.
Being a mummy blogger was original an escape, but now it seems to be turning into a career. And after one wrong post on her social media channels, Jess discovers that life in the spotlight isn’t always peachy.
With a new baby on the way, the possibility of starring in a reality TV show and a husband who’s struggling with his wife’s new-found fame, Jess has a lot going on.
Jess needs to decide whether this is everything she wanted it to be or whether this is all a bit too much for her? Can Jess persevere against the haters, rise up above the pettiness and find the perfect balance of life in the real world and life online?
I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus- Aria in return for an honest review.
Mum’s Big Break is another enjoyable chapter about Jess, her family and her life as a successful mummy blogger. Now a ‘celebrity’ social influencer Jess finds that blogging isn’t the escape it was. Amusing anecdotes and an insiders insight into the world of mummy blogging and social influencers make this a delightful read.
Mum’s Big Break is a contemporary, engaging, and humorous story about life as a mummy blogger.
Excerpt From Mum’s Big Break – Louise Emma Clark
Truthfully, she’d been a bit surprised by how much time had been demanded by the staff at the hotel, but it was too late now. She’d accepted the holiday and she had to do the work – even if that meant being dragged away from her sunbed to listen to a monologue about the interior design decisions behind an overwhelmingly brown conference hall.
It was a few hours before she was able to say her goodbyes and scurry back to the pool, but when she arrived, Chris and Bella were nowhere to be seen. Looking down at her phone and realising it was now midday and Bella had probably been tired and grouchy, she made her way up to their room.
She’d never set eyes on a hotel suite before this holiday, let alone stayed in one, and when they first arrived and were shown to their room, it had taken them a good five minutes to explore, eyes wide with shock. There were two bedrooms, joined together by a large lounge. Wardrobes opened up to reveal storage space the size of small rooms just for their clothes and shoes. Everything inside the suite was perfectly matched in hues of dark wood and warm tones of caramel-brown, and vast, floor to ceiling windows showed off the view to its absolute best.
From their balcony, they could see the whole of Jumeirah Beach stretched to the left and right of them. The white sand, the colour of the sea a perfect reflection of the cornflower-blue sky above, hotels dotted along the coast, the impressive Burj Al Arab hotel shaped like the sail of a boat to their right, and a big wheel that seemed to be sat on its very own island to their left.
Looking directly down from their balcony to the hotel grounds, a series of pools stretched invitingly in front of their hotel.
‘Seven pools, to be exact,’ their concierge had informed them on that first night. ‘Three general pools that everyone can use, one saltwater pool, one shallow pool for children, one adult-only pool, one pool for swimming laps, and a swimmable canal that connects them all.’
The biggest pool was directly below them, with the words ‘THE MERRYGOLD’ stamped on the bottom in large, black letters. And as swimmers disturbed the surface of the water, the letters shimmered and danced in the sunlight.
It was, without doubt, the most impressive hotel that Jessica had set foot in.
In fact, the room alone was so inviting that Jessica was quite tempted to spend the full week inside it, relying on room service and gawping at the views, but with a nearly-two-year-old in tow, that was never going to happen.
Jessica made it back to the room and stood in front of the heavy mahogany door with 3008 monogrammed in gold letters, pulling her key card from the pocket of her bag to unlock it. As the light flickered green, she pushed the door as gently as possible.
‘Sssshhh,’ Chris hissed, turning towards the door from his armchair. ‘F**k’s sake, Jess, please don’t wake her!’
‘Seriously?’ Jessica whispered. ‘What was I supposed to do? Beam myself through the door?’
Chris rolled his eyes.
‘You know,’ Jessica continued. ‘This hotel room is nearly as big as our house. She’s got her own room, Chris! You’re sat out here lording it up with your iPad and she’s fast asleep in her own room, with the door closed. How was I ever going to wake her?’
‘Lording it up with my iPad?’ Chris repeated slowly. ‘Good one. That’s obviously what I’ve been doing while you’ve been swanning around conference rooms for the last couple of hours…’
‘Oh whatever,’ Jessica said, shaking her head. ‘Anyway, what have you been doing while I’ve been gone? Has she been OK?’
‘No,’ Chris said. ‘She’s been a bit of a bloody nightmare actually. She was tired and hungry, and she wanted Mummy as soon as you disappeared. We waited for as long as we could, as I thought it would be nice to have lunch together, but I needed to give her something to eat in the end. Not that she enjoyed the chips I ordered her… Most of them ended up on the bloody floor, so she’s probably gone to bed hungry.’
Louise’s blog, Mum of Boys and Mabel has over 100k followers. Having moved to Dubai with her family she’s now back in the UK and is enjoying writing. From Mum with Love was her debut novel.
Maddie Brown has spent most of her life putting everyone else’s needs above her own. But with her marriage crumbling and her nest scarily empty, she realises it may be time to spread her own wings and fly.
In with the… ex?
At a university reunion, Maddie meets Greg. He was the love of her life – and the one that got away. Some things never change, and neither of them can deny the feelings that linger between them. But there are so many reasons they can’t be together… not least the massive secret she has been keeping from him all these years.
Maddie is SO ready for a brand new start. But what do you do when the past just won’t stay in the past?
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A multi-generational story about life, love, romance and friendship. Maddie regrets her choices made twenty years ago. Can she be the person she is inside? Maddie is a relatable character, easy to empathise and like. Essentially this is a journey of belated self-discovery, it retains its grip on reality because Maddie doesn’t shy away from her responsibilities, but realises she deserves to do things for her too.
Extract from Take a Look at Me Now – Kendra Smith
They sat at separate tables. Maddie picked at her food and allowed her glass to be refilled several times, and eventually emerged from the fuggy hall, where the fog of drinks, steam and aromas of the four-course dinner came up against the sharp evening wind outside.
It was dusky, the horizon swallowing up the smear of crimson streaked across it, like a watercolour painting turning dark at the edges. Maddie looked around as she inhaled the air heavy with the scent of honeysuckle. She could see him standing at the bottom of the steps, his face glowing in the eerie white light of his mobile phone. Then he was taking a call, his shoulders hunched over. She pulled back and waited by the doorway, unsure of her place.
She swayed slightly on her heels, knowing she’d had too many drinks. Whatever the conversation was, it was heated. He was gesturing with his free hand towards the grass, as if conducting his own private, invisible orchestra. After a minute, he spun around and jammed his phone in his pocket. Then he saw her, walking slowly down the steps. She pulled her wrap around her shoulders tightly as she got to him.
‘I have to go,’ he muttered, and jerked his head to the left.
Like the last time, Greg? she wanted to ask. But instead she calmed the butterflies in her stomach, as the wave of emotion overwhelmed her and forced a smile. Theirs was a story from the past.
They used to miss lectures on a Friday as they both only had one – they’d stay in bed most of the day. He’d wander around her tiny bedsit in not much more than a towel tied around his waist after a scalding-hot shower. In fact, she realised with a shudder, that’s what she missed the most: the easy intimacy. He used to wash her hair sometimes, with gentle hands on her scalp, circling the back of her neck with his strong thumbs. He’d sit her down in front of the basin and gently wet it all, pour over shampoo then put on honey-scented conditioner and comb it through.
It was wonderful and so relaxing. Sometimes it had led to something more… but normally he’d wrap her hair in a towel and they’d sit, watching her tiny TV, and she’d feel like the luckiest girl in the world. And now, here he was, in a dinner jacket and black tie, standing right next to her. Stony-faced. She bit her lip, tasted the blood, so she could focus on the present.
And with that he walked briskly away.
She watched him. Watched as he strode across the concrete courtyard, heels clicking, like he did all those years ago. Perhaps she’d been stupid to come, to open up all those old wounds again. She folded her arms across her chest and shivered.
‘Maddie!’ It was Ellie, weaving her way towards her in purple slingbacks, clipping on the hard surface. ‘There you are! C’mon, we’re all going to the Student Union bar for Snakebites! Maddie, c’mon!’ Ellie had stopped by one of the pillars and was fiddling with her shoes.
‘Looks like you need some help with your footwear!’ She took Ellie by the arm as they made their – slightly wobbly – way to the bar.
As she licked the traces of blood from her lips, she was thankful that at least it would take her mind off the nagging question that was building up in her mind.
Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial – and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.