Book Review: One Thousand Stars And You.

cover138629-mediumThe one thing you can guarantee after reading an Isabelle Broom novel is that you’ll want to book a holiday – and this time you’ll be packing for Sri Lanka.

One Thousand Stars And You is a beautifully written tale of friendship and self-discovery with more than a touch of romance.

I was quickly swept into the story and was really quite surprised to find myself at the end – I even went and checked how many pages it was because I felt sure it couldn’t be over already, even though it clearly was. It just flows perfectly and there’s never a good point to put it down – so I obviously didn’t!

Here’s the blurb:

Alice is settling down. It might not be the adventurous life she once imagined, but more than anything she wants to make everyone happy – her steady boyfriend, her over-protective mother – even if it means a little part of her will always feel stifled.

Max is shaking things up. After a devastating injury, he is determined to prove himself. To find the man beyond the disability, to escape his smothering family and go on an adventure.

A trip to Sri Lanka is Alice’s last hurrah – her chance to throw herself into the heat, chaos and colour of a place thousands of miles from home.

It’s also the moment she meets Max.

Alice doesn’t know it yet, but her whole life is about to change.

Max doesn’t know it yet, but he’s the one who’s going to change it.

I sigh happily when I think of Alice and Max but that’s because I’ve finished the book and know how things end (I’m pretty sure that’s not a spoiler).

At the start they are both pent up and unhappy – although I’m not sure Alice realises it yet – but Sri Lanka, with its endless beaches, exotic wildlife, rich culture and historic sites, quickly begins to work its magic.

Isabelle has a wonderful talent for making the location almost another character in her books. I was lucky enough to travel there for work many moons ago but I know from her other novels that, even if you haven’t been, her colourful descriptions, seamlessly woven into the story, make you feel like you have.

Once again, Isabelle has crafted a wonderful novel with a cast who come alive on the page – and not just Alice and Max but their friends too.

While A Year And A Day will probably always be my favourite, her new book is a very close second.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £4.99.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Michael Jospeh, via NetGalley, for inviting me to read it.

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Book Review: The Map Of Us.

mapofusHow can someone tell such a mighty story using so few words? That’s the question I asked myself after finishing The Map Of Us by Jules Preston.

There are well over 100 chapters but some are only a couple of paragraphs long. I still felt like I knew the characters as well as if they’d had entire books dedicated to them. And even the shortest chapters, maybe especially the shorter ones, packed a punch.

You really need your wits about you to keep up as the tale spans generations of the same family and broadens out to include others who are all, in some way, linked.

Here’s the blurb:

Violet North is wonderfully inconvenient. Abandoned by her family and lost in an imagined world of moors and adventure, her life changes in the space of just 37 words exchanged with a stranger at her front door.

Decades later, Daniel Bearing has inherited his father’s multi-million pound business, and is utterly lost. He has no idea who he is or where his life is headed.

When Violet’s granddaughter’s marriage falls apart, Tilly, always adept with numbers, compiles a detailed statistical report to pinpoint why. But the Compatibility Index Tilly creates has unforeseen consequences for everyone in her world.

Tilly and Daniel share a secret too. 10.37am, April 22nd.

Soon, a complex web of secrets and lies is exposed and an adventure begins with a blue typewriter…

There’s an energy to this book that almost propels you along. It feels exciting. It feels new, which is no mean feat.

I’ll admit the fact it had a typewriter on the front just like the one I was bought for ninth birthday was the reason I was tempted by this book but, memories aside, it didn’t take long to be completely gripped by this quirky, beautiful and fantastically told story.

It seems to start off small and then bloom. There’s a story within the story, which led to me almost forgetting that it was all fictional and not just some of it.

I can’t seem to find much info about Jules Preston (maybe I’m looking in the wrong place?) but this appears to be his debut, although it feels too accomplished for that. I have certainly put him on my one to watch list.

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p (via Amazon).

My rating: Five stars.

 

A Look Behind The Book With Kirsten Hesketh.

meWriter Kirsten Hesketh recently took a huge step towards making her dream to publish a book (or two) a reality after securing an agent.

Her debut novel is finished and she has another well underway – both of which sound like my cup of tea. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time before they are snapped up.

I first ‘met’ Kirsten via Twitter and we joined together as part of a lovely group of writers supporting each other through last year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I wouldn’t have even signed up with out their support let alone finished so I’m very grateful to them.

I was delighted when Kirsten agreed to take part in my Behind The Book series and I can relate to SO much of what she says.

Have a read and see what you think.

What’s your writing dream and how long have you been dreaming it?

Good question.  I had to think long and hard about this one and there are several different answers. My first dream, which I’ve held ever since I was a child, was to write a book that somehow captures my world and that people enjoy. At the end of the day, novels are all about entertainment, aren’t they? (Are they? Discuss!) Once I’d started my book, my second dream was to finish the damn thing, because writing a novel is hard. Bloody hard. And very long! Don’t let anyone tell you differently! I’m not always a great completer/ finisher in life – I can get bored and flit onto the next thing – so it became very important to me to actually type THE END … and then to edit it … and then to start polishing. And, then my dream changed to becoming published. To be honest, that feels a bit of a pipe dream at the moment, but I am discovering in myself a depth of tenacity and perseverance I never knew I had, so who knows. You have to keep the faith, don’t you?

Can you tell us about your writing?

I write commercial (hopefully!) women’s fiction and my novel is about a husband and wife whose marriage is tested to the limit after one of their sons is diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. My twitter pitch is as follows:

One son recently diagnosed with autism. One teenager going off the rails. One marriage under pressure. One waistline out of control. And one woman desperately trying to hold it all together.

Writing

When did you know book one was finished?

I didn’t! First time around, I submitted far too early and I still cringe to think of what I send out. I don’t think it had a plot! But I got some requests for the full and some lovely rejections from agents with invitations to re-submit. I’ve now edited the book so we’ll see if it’s ready now. I’m not sure any creative endeavor is ever really finished, but I think I’ve got it as far as I can on my own.

How many people you know have read it? What was that like?

No one in ‘real’ – i.e. non-writing life – has read the whole thing although my family has dipped in and out. Three writing friends asked to read it – Chris Manby, Jane Ayres and Julie Cordiner. They were all enormously supportive and helpful and I’m very grateful to them all. It’s always a bit scary when people you know read something you’ve written but I love sharing my stuff. After all, I think most of us write to be read, don’t we?

How do you make time to write?

I treat it like a job. It’s not my main job yet – although I would love it to be – but I try to be vaguely professional about it. I am a freelance marketing consultant and the work tends to come in peaks and troughs …. Every time there’s a peak, I write in the evening and at weekends. When there’s a trough, I am at my desk from 9 to 5. If the muse comes calling, that’s a bonus!

How important has social media been for you as a writer connecting with other writers? What do you gain from it?

Twitter has been hugely important. Twitter is for writing, Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn for work and WhatsApp for family! Of course, there’s overlap – particularly as writers have become friends – but that’s basically how it works for me. I joined Twitter specifically to connect with the writing community after my friend, Susanna Scott at BritMums suggested it. At first it just seemed like a lot of noise and I was about to leave. Then I found ‘my’ people. More specifically, I found Maddie Please who was then also an aspiring author and she made me laugh. A lot.  Since then it’s been great. I’ve made very genuine friends, found out about retreats and conferences and agents and had a whole lot of fun along the way. And, of course, there are the LLs – Literary Lovelies – a message group where we support each other through the highs and lows. I don’t think I would have finished this book without them.

You regularly write for Susanna Bavin’s blog about how things are going. I’ve found your posts really inspiring as someone on a similar journey but do they help you take stock too?

Thank you, Tara. I’m so thrilled you find my posts inspiring.

I love contributing to Sue’s wonderful blog. I’m so grateful to her for giving me a regular slot. It’s hugely generous of her. I love writing the posts too. Writing and submitting can be such a glacial process that sometimes I wonder if I am making any progress at all but when I sit down to write the post, I realise that, each month, things arehappening albeit very, very slowly. It’s quite cathartic sharing the frustrations and disappointments and wonderful sharing the highs. And I love, love, love all the comments. It helps me feel plugged in to the wider world in what can be a pretty lonely business.

Is there something you have learnt during the process of submitting either to agents or publishers that you wish you had known at the start?

Not really except to make sure that you are actually ready to submit and have a plot rather than blindly pressing the button after Draft One! Also, it may sound contradictory, but make sure that you do submit.

Kirsten Quote

I actually really enjoy the submissions process – I love the thrill of the chase. It’s rather like chasing boys as a teenager. (Who? Me?)  Of course, the rejections aren’t very nice, but once the sting has subsided, I’ve found that every agent’s comment has actually turned out to be gold-dust in helping me move forward.

Are you able to share a little about what are you working on at the moment?

Of course. My second book is a love story set on an archaeological dig and affectionately nick-named Muddy Milly. I wrote about 25k words last summer and then added another 50k during NaNoWriMo last November. Wasn’t Nano fun? I very much enjoyed sharing it with you and the rest of the Ab Fab writers! I’ve just returned to Muddy Milly and – although there is loads of work to do, I’m quite pleased with it. Lots of clunky writing though –  you can really tell when it’s the end of each day and I was just battling to get those words down!

Do you have a top tip to share? Something that has helped you on your writing journey?

Something that Susanna Bavin advised me to do has really helped. Make sure when you stop writing each day, you know how you are going to carry on the next day. Mornings are never my best time, and it’s so dispiriting staring at the screen with a mushy brain and not knowing how or where to start. If you leave something flagged up from the day before, you’re flying!

~

Thank you very much to Kirsten for answering my questions so thoughtfully. I know I suffer from the same issue of sending things out long before they are ready. I think it’s because of the media industry we work in – normally we write something and it’s done. I need to remember that a novel is a VERY different beast and to take my time.

If you’d like to follow Kirsten’s path to publication you can find her on Twitter and you can read her latest blog post for Susanna Bavin here.