Friday, 7 August 2015

Toodle-oo!

Dear friends,

Can you believe that I started this blog over 6 years ago?! The time has whizzed by, packed with books, reading, love and laughter. I've met some amazing people- readers, bloggers, authors and publishers- both online and in real life- and it's been an absolute blast.

But now I find it is time to say goodbye. I've decided to take a sabbatical from blogging and reviewing- and currently, I think this is likely to turn into a permanent break.

There are two main reasons I'm off to enjoy pastures new. The first one is- I've decided that I'd like to go back to conducting a private love affair with my books. We all gossip about our relationships with friends- but you know what it's like with true love... the magic... the thing that makes your eyes sparkle... the essence of the relationship... is really between you and your other half. Me and my books- we're off to enjoy some private time!

The second reason is... my reading and blogging time is being swallowed up by another area of my life- and that's my drawing. I've recently re-discovered this other 'love', and it's going brilliantly, with various commissions coming my way. I'm thrilled and want to give it my best shot- so will be lavishing lots of time and attention on it over the next year to see where it takes me. If you'd like to see what I'm up to - you can find my work on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LauraBambreyArtist

I didn't want to just disappear into thin air, so here I am... to say 'thank you' to every single one of you who have supported me, chatted with me, sent me books, written the books and read my reviews... I'll miss you... I'll still be on Twitter and Facebook - so don't be strangers.

Lots of love, bye bye.
Chick Lit Love- over and out.
Laura Xx

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Giveaway: Win a Paperback of A Very Big House In The Country by Claire Sandy

Hi guys,
The lovely people at Pan Macmillan have provided me with a copy of A Very Big House In The Country by Claire Sandy for your winning pleasure... go to it :)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! Laura x

Monday, 27 July 2015

Teaser Extract: A Very Big House In The Country by Claire Sandy

I'm thrilled to be the first stop on Claire Sandy's blog tour for her new book, A Very Big House In The Country, which is out on Thursday. With kind permission of the lovely people at Pan Macmillan, I've got a teaser extract for you from Chapter 1. Enjoy!

DAY 1
Tuesday, 11th August
Dear All Next Door
Thanks for feeding the cat and the gerbils and the fish. The fish might die. They do that a lot in our house. My number’s on the fridge in case of emergency, but unless the house gets sucked into a black hole, please don’t call – WE NEED THIS HOLIDAY!
Evie & Mike & Scarlett & Dan & Mabel xxx

Nothing looks as good in real life as it does in the brochure.
Evie was more than old enough to know this simple fact of life, but as the family Ford Focus nudged its way westwards out of London, she found herself hoping for an exception in the case of their rented holiday home.
Rashly, the brochure in her lap promised ‘Paradise’. Evie flicked though the glossy pages as the car slowed beside a derelict kebab shop. The colour photography dwelt in porny detail on a long straight drive edged with topiary balls, leading the eye to a grand slab of Georgian architecture the colour of a warm biscuit. Maybe Wellcome Manor would be as good as it looked. Maybe it really would be a kind of paradise.
‘How much further?’ whined Scarlett from the back seat.
‘Ages yet, darling.’ Evie kept her tone light. She’d vowed to stay in Lovely Mummy mode for this much-anticipated fortnight. ‘And do leave it more than three minutes before you ask again.’ Then again, maybe she’d be in Sleep-Deprived, Packing-Like-a-Madwoman-Since-6 a.m. Mummy mode. ‘It’ll be worth it when we get there, I promise.’
‘It’s just some boring housesaid Scarlett, who, at seventeen, was an expert in what was boring and what was not. ‘It’s .’
‘So am I,’ murmured Evie. She’d aged ten years on this car journey and they hadn’t even reached the M3.
As the scenery morphed from grimy brick to quicksilver motorway, the front seats had to warn the back seats more than once to simmer down or they’d ‘turn this car round’. Patch barked tunelessly from junction 4 to Stonehenge; Dan made little Mabel cry by shouting ‘Bottom’ in a variety of accents; Scarlett’s outrage at being ripped from the bosom of her friends was almost visible, like a mangy fur stole around her shoulders.
‘What!’ Mike was exasperated by Dan’s request. ‘Why didn’t you go before we left?’
‘I did,’ said Dan.
‘You’ll just have to cross your legs and hang on,’ said Mike.
‘I want to go too,’ said Mabel, whispering into Patch’s fur, ‘
As Scarlett shepherded her brother and sister behind a hedge on the hard shoulder, Mike asked Evie, ‘Did you pack Mrs Misterson II?’
‘Of .’ They had a brief communal flashback to that family day out when the original Mrs Misterson – a grubby baby doll, felt-tipped all over and half-bald – had gone missing; Mabel had screamed her way around Wookey Hole. ‘As you’d know,’ Evie continued in the same urgent undertone, ‘if you’d been there to help pack. Like you promised.’
‘Yeah, well . . .’ Mike sniffed and sighed and fiddled with the satnav.
By the time he had finally come home from work, the cases were packed, the fridge was cleared, the dog was on his lead, the windows had been checked (twice), water bottles had been filled, Kindles had been charged, medication for every minor medical eventuality had been lined up, healthy snacks had been chopped up and stashed in ziplock bags, and the younger children were so ready they’d had time to become un-ready again, dropping juice on their clean gear and reading new comics bought for the journey. Evie had even remembered to set the house lights on timers, to hoodwink any burglar crazy enough to imagine the Herreras had anything worth stealing. For mums, the family holiday is more stressful than a business trip.
‘You said you’d just do an hour in the office and then—’
‘I know, I know.’ Mike chopped the air with his hand. ‘I got involved. It’s hard not to.’
Evie glared at him, aware that if the glaree doesn’t look at the glarer, the glare is more or less void. From the hard shoulder came the sound of a small girl falling in her own wee. ‘Mike, give in and look at me. I’m not wasting this brilliant glare.’
When he laughed, Evie found his hand on the steering wheel and squeezed it. ‘Come on, love. Get your holiday-head on,’ she said. ‘After all, your legs are already on vacation.’
‘Don’t diss the shorts,’ warned Mike as their children clambered back into the car.
‘What is there to diss,’ asked Evie innocently, ‘in ten-year-old yellow nylon shorts that are fraying at the crotch?’
‘Crotch!’ shouted Dan.

‘I’m missing the party of the year for this,’ said Scarlett when they stopped for coffee at a Little Chef.
‘You’ll live, Scarlett,’ said Evie, looking around, yearning for her husband to hove into view with a loaded tray. She needed caffeine, and she needed it Preferably intravenously.
‘You’re ruining my life,’ said Scarlett.
‘Yeah, sorry about that.’ Evie knew there was no point in arguing. ‘If it’s any consolation, I’m planning on ruining Dan’s and Mabel’s as well.’
‘I don’t mind, Mummy,’ said Mabel generously.
‘You’re too kind, Mabes.’
Mike appeared, tray aloft. ‘Hang on!’ he yelped, as greedy hands grabbed at his wares. With great ceremony he handed Mabel a milkshake.
‘I asked for banana!’ spat Mabel, with an abrupt change of tone. ‘This is strawberry!’
‘But you love strawberries,’ said Mike.
‘She used to,’ corrected Evie, sighing and standing to return the rejected shake. ‘Before Dan told her that—’
‘Strawberries come out of pigs’ BOTTOMS!’ yelled Dan. He was happy, so very happy, to have the opportunity to shout ‘Bottoms’ in a public place.
‘Shush, Dan,’ said Mike sternly. ‘Evie, sit down. Mabel will just have to make the best of it.’
They locked eyes for a moment, a silent tussle in their stare. Evie’s eyes were saying, Mike’s eyes, just as eloquent, and with the same fetching bags beneath them, said,

‘Actually,’ said Mabel, ‘I like strawberries.’

As a breed, Border collies are highly intelligent; Patch had missed that memo. He couldn’t herd sheep, or fetch help, but, boy, could he fall off things and into things (plus a nice sideline in getting his head stuck in other things), so it was inevitable that he would slip his lead and race off across the scrubby wasteground behind the Little Chef, ignoring the shouts of his name (Evie wasn’t convinced Patch his name) as he dodged Mike’s increasingly frantic lunges.
‘Dad, don’t hurt him!’ shouted Scarlett, as Mike’s face thudded into the dirt once again.
‘That jumper’s dry-clean only!’ yelled Evie, as another rugby tackle failed.
‘This is like crap bullfighting,’ said Scarlett.
‘She said “crap”,’ said Mabel.
‘This creature,’ said Mike, dumping the wriggling Patch on the back seat, ‘is going straight to the dogs’ home when this holiday’s over.’
Nobody took that seriously. Everybody knew Mike loved the dog with the same fierce possessiveness that he felt about the others stuffed in the airless car with him. Evie glanced at him as he put the car into gear. He was a looker, her bloke, even with that scowl on his face. A day or two of country air, and the scowl would be history – that was the theory. Mike did a serious job and he took it seriously; duty often claimed him on weekends and evenings. Half of her resented the intrusion, while the other half envied his sense of purpose.
‘How many green bottles,’ asked Dan, ‘were we up to?’
‘Not sure,’ said Mike. ‘But I lost the will to live at thirty-eight.’
‘Daddy’s joking,’ said Evie.
‘Daddy isn’t,’ said Mike.
There was grit in his super-short dark hair and a smear of mud across his not-exactly-big-but-definitely- nose. Evie experienced a small jolt of happy achievement at bagging such a healthy specimen all for her very own. It was a feeling that still sneaked up on her, even after twenty years. Admittedly, it snuck up less than it used to, and it died a death completely as her eyes strayed below his waistline; lustful pride couldn’t win against Mike’s yellow shorts.
The kids had arranged themselves in height order on the back seat. she thought.
Nobody knew where Dan’s Titian hair came from, but Scarlett had Evie’s wiggy, wayward, mucky blonde mop. Scarlett’s eyes were like Evie’s in design – slanted, sea-coloured, either judgemental or indulgent, depending on mood/point in menstrual cycle – although they gazed out through kohl flicks that Cleopatra might deem a little much. Dan was lean, like his dad, whereas Scarlett was ‘robust’ (the official term) like her mother.
And Mabel, their last-born – an emphatic full stop to their brood – had her father’s brunette looks and clever, searching, occasionally inscrutable eyes. , thought Evie proprietorially, .
She frowned. ‘Dan, what happened to your face?’ Clean enough to eat your dinner off when he left the house, her son now looked like a miner coming off-shift.
‘Dunno.’ Dan shrugged. Trivialities such as basic hygiene meant little to him; he was a busy person, with things to break and people to dismay. ‘Why didn’t you invite somebody my age, Mum? I’ve got no one to play with.’
‘There’s a worldwide shortage of ten-year-old boys, haven’t you heard? I’m sure your big sister will let you hang out with her.’
‘Yeah, right,’ said Scarlett, laughing for the first time since London. ‘It’d be my to hang out with somebody who picks his nose and keeps it for later.’
Spotting her opening, Mabel was there in a flash, heart-shaped face shining. ‘I’ll play with you, Dan,’ she said in the tiny, throaty, sugary voice that could make her sound like a very small, very camp man.
‘Who knows a good joke?’ Mike was being hearty, like a dad in a cereal ad.
Evie quailed. She’d heard all the kids’ jokes. she begged,
‘Why,’ shouted Mabel, ‘did the chicken . . . ? No, hang on. I mean, when did the chicken . . . ? On the road, see, there’s this chicken and . . .’
‘I want to die,’ said Scarlett.
‘We’re almost there,’ said Evie. ‘We’re almost at  paradise.’

You can grab your copy of Claire Sandy's A Very Big House In The Country here


The Blurb:
Holidays are about surviving the gaps between one meal and another

For one long, hot summer in Devon, three families share one very big house in the country. The Herreras are two tired parents, three grumbling children and one promiscuous dog. The Littles: she's gorgeous, he's loaded - but maybe the equation for a truly happy marriage is a bit more complicated than that? As for the Browns, they seem oddly jumpy - especially around each other.

By the pool, new friendships blossom, but at the kitchen door, resentments simmer. Summer-crushes form, secrets are swapped and when the adults loosen their inhibitions with litres of white wine they start to get a little too honest . . .

Mother hen to all, Evie Herrera, has a life-changing announcement to make; one that could shatter the summer holiday and rock the foundations of her family. But will someone else beat her to it?


Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Funny Stories From Mothers of the Bride - Guest Post by Sophie King

A huge welcome to Sophie King, author of The Wedding Party, who's guest posting here at Chick Lit Love today...

Picture the scene. Amanda, a well-preserved forty something friend of mine, was looking forward to her daughter’s wedding. She had organised everything down to the last detail. (Some people might call her obsessive. My friend prefers to see herself as organised.) She’d helped her daughter (a mini Amanda) find the perfect dress. She’d found herself the perfect outfit with shoes that showed off her perfect legs. Her husband had sorted out the reception. (He’s a bit of a foodie). All they had to do was turn up at the church in the groom’s home town, about a hundred miles away from where they live.

“We took our places on the front row and there he was,” she said. “My very first love from university. The man who, with hindsight, I should have married instead of my husband. Wearing a long black dress! And about to marry my own daughter!”

No. Amanda’s first love wasn’t a transvestite. And although he was about to marry her daughter, he wasn’t the groom. He was the dishy middle-aged vicar who, thanks to a last-minute change in pastoral duties, was conducting the wedding ceremony. Nor was he wearing a dress. Amanda doesn’t go to church very often so she didn’t realise it was called a cassock.

“When I knew him, he was reading Politics and Economics,” said Amanda. “It turned out that he’d received the call soon after I dumped him because I thought I was too young to get married. I was so shocked that I couldn’t concentrate on the service. Afterwards, we invited him to the reception but he declined. He needed to get back to his wife and their four children. I have to admit that it did make me wonder about what might have been ...”

Trust me. Being a Mother of the Bride – or MOB as I call it – is full of surprises as I discovered when I became one myself not long ago.

For a start, I didn’t feel old enough to be a MOB. It didn’t seem very long since I was helping my daughter to ride a bike. Did it mean I had to start acting all grown up? I’d only just renewed my fake ID along with my then teenage son. His made him older and mine made me younger.

“See the funny side,” advised a friend of mine who’d become a MOB the previous year. “You’ve got to make sure the wedding goes smoothly. Keep your calm when your daughter makes outrageous requests (they all do). And (most important ) you’ve got to find a dress that’s chic but not mumsy. Simple. Oh – and you get to wreak your revenge on relatives you don’t particularly care for by making them sit next to each other at the wedding breakfast which, by the way, is usually held in the evening.”

It sounded like a minefield. And it was. Unlike Amanda, I’m not that organised partly because I’m constantly juggling balls. So the wine was warm (no one remembered to put it in the fridge). I lost the wedding umbrella (I’m sure one of the guests ‘borrowed’ it). And I had a wobble about my MOB outfit the day before and ended up buying another, just minutes before closing time – only to find that the SALE label was clearly visible in the wedding photographs.

But all this is nothing compared with some of the stories I came across when researching The Wedding Party. “I know an MOB who fell for the FOG (father of the groom),” admitted a friend of a friend of a friend who has begged me to change details in case the characters are recognised. “Both went missing during the reception. When they came back, he had grass in his hair. They’re now living together, very happily unmarried. But the original bride and groom are divorced.”
You wouldn’t believe it unless it was in a novel, would you? But that’s the great thing about fact. It sounds just like fiction. Take the MOB who wore exactly the same dress as the MOG (mother of the groom). It looked great on one and not so good on the other.. .Then there was the MOB who was late for the wedding. Her excuse? She’d got the wrong church. (It didn’t help that she’d clearly ‘had a few’ beforehand.)

But the biscuit has to go to another friend of a friend of a friend, whom we’ll call Julie. She persuaded her daughter not to go through with the ceremony, a week before the event, because she didn’t think the groom was ‘good enough’ for her. It turned out that she fancied the groom herself – and the feeling was mutual.

Believe it or not, the bride is still speaking to her mother. She married the groom’s stepbrother-in-law (once removed), instead ...

NOTE: Some of the names in this post have been changed!

The Wedding Party by Sophie King - The Blurb:

When Monique and Geoff decide to tie the knot they soon discover that love second time around brings special challenges. And not just for them. There are ups and downs for family, friends, the wedding planner, and even the vicar as the big day approaches.

Geoff’s ex-wife can’t accept that he has moved on. Could a chance meeting help Helen come to the right decision about her future?

Their daughter, Becky, doesn’t approve of her dad’s bride-to-be. But as she juggles motherhood and a high-powered career, will she realise it’s her own marriage that needs most attention?

Janie was sacked from her last job as a wedding planner for being so disorganised. Is she really the right choice to help the happy couple get hitched without a hitch?

Mel swapped a job in advertising for a new life as a vicar. But can she keep her faith after an accident which turns her family’s world upside down?

Family and friends learn that the course of true love never did run smooth, and there really is no such thing as a stress-free wedding. But can they each still find their own happy ever after?

WIN AN £80 GIFT EXPERIENCE VOUCHER FROM TINGGLY.COM!
To celebrate the publication of "The Wedding Party", thanks to the lovely people at gift experience company Tinggly, we have a voucher worth £80 for any one experience worldwide from their Essential Collection. The ideal present for friends or family who are about to tie the knot!

To be in with a chance, simply email your answer to the following question to sophie@greatstorieswithheart.com by midnight BST on 10th August 2015.

Question: What is the name of Geoff's daughter in "The Wedding Party" by Sophie King?

See the full range at www.tinggly.com. Voucher must be used by 25/6/2017. Entry will be chosen at random. Emails and contents will not be shared with any third party and will be deleted after the competition. Competition run by Wyndham Media Ltd. Judges decision is final. Good luck!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Celebrating Independent Bookshops Week - A Chat With Cliff Shephard from Totnes Bookshop

For me, there's nothing better than popping into my favourite bookshop to see what's new in, what the staff (who have come to know me and my reading tastes very well!) have to recommend, buy another tote bag full of gorgeous bookish goodness...

So, as soon as I heard about Independent Bookshop Week 2015, I knew that I wanted to go and have a chat with Cliff- the Manager of Totnes Bookshop - and introduce you all to my favourite haunt...

If you'd like to check out Hive further, and see how you can support your fave indie bookshop whilst shopping on line - head over here (or follow them on Twitter @hivestores)

If you'd like to say hi to Cliff and the team at Totnes Bookshop- they're on Twitter @totnesbookshop and on Facebook here.

If you'd like to find out more about the Dartington Hall Trust - you can find them on Twitter @DartingtonHall or head over here for their website.

If you'd like to check out the two books that Cliff recommends at the end of the interview, please consider buying them on Hive: