Thursday, 7 June 2018

Book Review - The Trilogy of Two

Title: The Trilogy of Two
Author: Juman Malouf
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books
Release Date: 7 Jun. 2018
ISBN-13: 978-1782692041

Synopsis

Identical twins Sonja and Charlotte are musical prodigies with extraordinary powers. Born on All-Hallows-Eve, the girls could play music before they could walk. They were found one night by Tatty, the Tattooed Lady of the circus, in a pail on her doorstep with only a note and a heart-shaped locket. They've been with Tatty ever since, roaming the Outskirts in the circus caravans, moving from place to place.

But lately, curious things have started to happen when they play their instruments. During one of their performances, the girls accidentally levitate their entire audience, drawing too much unwanted attention. Soon, ominous Enforcers come after them, and Charlotte and Sonja must embark on a perilous journey through enchanted lands in hopes of unlocking the secrets of their mysterious past.

My Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
The premise of the story sounded really interesting to me – two young girls raised in the circus with amazing musical talents that become magical, it appealed to me in a number of ways which is why I accepted it for review. I love magic, I love Circus based stories and I love mysteries, we’re on for a winner, right!?
Sonja and Charlotte are twins, raised in a circus on the ‘Outskirts’ by Tatty – a lady covered from head to toe in tattoos. They have extraordinary musical talents that they perform in the ring but lately it’s started causing magical things to happen and the customers are getting freaked out. The girls must learn to control their powers or find somewhere else to live. The opening of the book was very exciting and powerful, it put you right into the moment and introduced you to the twins and I was encouraged. The writing style was a bit blunt – a lot of short sentences but I could get past that.
The twins hear about an audition for a famous music academy, and they decide it’s worth a try, even with the possibility of magical mishaps - and that’s when things go wrong, that night their talents get stolen, Tatty gets kidnapped and they end up on a journey to try and save themselves and their adoptive mother. Along the way they meet a host of characters and end up in a variety of different situations. However this is where the book went downhill for me, I found Sonja and Charlotte to be very annoying, Charlotte falls in love with every boy she meets, has no regard for anyone around her and basically ignores her twin, whilst Sonja complains about everything, whines that life isn’t fair and basically makes every situation ten times worse with her bad attitude. They were both very dislikeable characters and I found myself irritated by them and basically wanted to smack their heads together and tell them to grow up a bit. They didn’t really act like the twelve years they were supposed to be.
I also found myself getting confused with who everyone was, you meet so many characters, some that are only present for a few pages and then seem to disappear again but I was never really sure what their purpose was in the first place, and many of them have more than one name, it just got so confusing. Throughout the story they also traveled to a number of places and I found myself getting lost and very confused.
The twins meet a group of characters and they start to travel together to try and save ‘the key’ to the ‘Seven Edens’ (a concept that sounded really cool, like a whole other hidden world that is basically a paradise). Anyway, the team arrive at some sort of factory and the story started to get interesting, I found myself settling into the book again, there was a real edge of mystery and excitement, it was quite creepy but the imagery was great, I could picture all the children and the dark corridors and sinister people, I really found myself engaging with the story again, I started to read quicker again, and I actually wanted to know what would happen next, but that was over far too quickly and then they were out and back on the run again. I just found the whole thing very hard to follow and the writing style started to irritate me again, I wanted flowing sentences that would carry me through the story but I found them to be short and abrupt, very matter of fact and stilted. I just couldn’t get on with it. I found myself counting how many pages were left until the end, I just couldn’t get to grips with it.
I did like the introduction of Wolf-boy and his friend Moritz, they had some real personalities and added a bit of humour to the story. The villains were creepy and twisted just like villains should be, but I didn’t understand their motivation for what they were doing – they just seemed to be evil for the sake of it – at least with the Contessa anyway. With Katz you learn a bit more about his backstory which makes certain things make sense, but I just didn’t feel like I understood the purpose of it.
I also didn’t understand how Alexandria acted throughout it, without giving away any spoilers, her behaviour towards the twins did not match up with her feelings at the end, there was just no arc or development between the two situations and I wondered how anyone could act so coldly all those years if they were feeling something else. She was a mystery to me- although saying that, I loved her magical powers. She was a very cool woman and I did like her sassy attitude.
The book also has illustrations within of the characters, I can see the skill in the drawings but to be honest they kind of freaked me out a bit, they didn’t look quite human to me, and they didn’t add anything to the story, but some people may like them.
Overall I was disappointed with this book, I felt like it had so much potential but it left me feeling flat. There were moments that got me excited and carried me along but they were few and far between. There is a good baseline in there though but for me it didn’t reach it’s potential.

My Rating
 


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Book Review - The Miniaturist

Title: The Miniaturist
Author: Jessie Burton
Publisher: Picador
Release Date: 1 Jan. 2015
ISBN-13: 978-1447250937

Synopsis

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .
Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?
Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton's magnificent debut novel The Miniaturist is a story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

My Review


I saw adverts on the TV over Christmas for the adaption of this book and it looked interesting, but I am one of those people who has to read the book first. So I ordered it from the library. I got the Spoken Word version as I didn’t really have time to read the book at this point so thought I could have it on in my car on the way to and from work every day (I have about a 35 minute drive each way so it shouldn’t take me too long)
Needless to say it took me longer than I thought as I car-shared occasionally and some days I opted for the radio instead, so by the time I had finished it, I had missed the TV adaption and still haven’t been able to look it up to watch. However I did finish listening to the book and have to say I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.
When I first started it, I wasn’t hooked straight away and struggled to get into the story, but I persevered and soon I was invested in the characters and their stories. Nella is very endearing and although comes across quite shy and weak, she’s not afraid to stand up for herself. I hated Marin at first, it was like she had sucked lemons and I wanted to tell her to lighten up but as the story progressed I found myself liking her and wishing the best for her.
Although the book is called ‘The Miniaturist’ you never actually meet that person, she is mentioned and spotted in crowds but never actually appears fully. Yet she has a vast influence over Nella and the events of the book, and will have you as the reader desperate to know more. The characters are all very strong and different in their own right and I felt myself hoping they would all get a happy ending.
Without giving any spoilers, I found the ending really sad and in a way not fully finished. I wanted to know what would become of them in the end. I have to say though, that I figured out who the father of the baby was quite early on – the big revelation wasn’t really a surprise for me, in fact to me it was totally obvious.
It’s an enjoyable read though with many plot twists that will keep you hooked. Warning for younger readers – some scenes are quite graphic and there is sexual content.
Overall I am glad I managed to read it and I can understand why there has been so much hype around this book, it was very well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

My Rating
 

Friday, 25 May 2018

Book Review - Shattered Frost


Title: Shattered Frost
Author: Liz DeJesus
Series: 'The Frost' - Book 3
Publisher: Indie Gypsy
Release Date: 17th August 2015
ISBN13: 9780692422106

Synopsis
Bianca Frost and her BFF Ming Lee return to Everafter to attend the Winter Ball with their boyfriends, Terrance and Prince Ferdinand. They were looking forward to a short vacation, especially Bianca, who is being bullied at school. She is looking forward to the day when she can finally graduate from high school. But all is not cute hair and fancy shoes as a mysterious count sets his sights on Bianca at the ball. When Count Jonathan Bleu kidnaps Bianca and Ming, the pair must do everything in their power to escape his clutches. In this amazing adventure, Bianca and Ming find themselves traveling down a rabbit hole, where they have to survive the madness of Wonderland in order to make it back home to the men they love. Bianca and Ming must travel to the Queen of Hearts labyrinth, find Bluebeard's key and save Jack of Hearts before Bianca loses everything she holds dear.


 My Review
I was lucky enough to read the first two books in this series when they first came out and I really liked Liz’s style of writing and the world she had created. When this book came out, I was very excited to be asked to read and review it and was sent a free e-book copy.
I have to ashamedly admit that I have since had it for 2 years! It wasn’t that I didn’t want to read it, because I really did, but I got so behind with all my reviews and what with doing my English degree and working full time as well I just haven’t been able to read for pleasure that much. And when I do have time, it’s much easier to pick up a paperback book than load up my ebooks However I finally had a break from coursework over the holidays and decided to pick up a book for pleasure. I found this on my list of books I still needed to read and picked it out straight away.

Having been so long since I read the others in the series it took me a while to get back into what was happening, but there is enough information and gentle reminders to bring you up to speed and soon I was off on another adventure with Bianca and Ming and it felt like we were old friends reuniting.
Ming and Bianca are travelling back to the land of ‘Everafter’ to spend the holidays with Terrance and Ferdinand, the girls can’t wait to be back with their beau’s and are praying for a quiet but enjoyable time. But things are never that simple when Bianca is involved and soon they are fighting off ghosts, kidnappers and even the Queen of Hearts. Yep, that’s right – the girls end up making their escape into Wonderland. Once there they discover that nothing is as it seems, there is danger round every corner and a million things they must accomplish before they can hope to get home. Meanwhile back in Everafter, Terrance and Ferdinand are desperately trying to track the girls down and bring them home safely.

Bianca is a great character, she’s a bit ditzy at times and always in the wrong place at the wrong time, yet she is determined, brave and fiercely loyal. She always tries to protect her friends and do the right thing. She is definitely flawed but this makes her all the more realistic and loveable. Her best friend Ming can be a bit of a wimp and I kept waiting for her to have a moment where she would say enough is enough and stand up tall, although it doesn’t come in a kick-ass, empowered way, she does get stronger and stands up to her fears at the end. Maybe she will continue to grow and burst out of her shell in the next book.
Terrance is a great character, he is so feisty and full of the desire to do something that you can’t help but cheer him on. He may have some anger issues, but he’s a sweetheart really.
I loved the setting of Wonderland, there was an interesting twist on the world we think we know and DeJesus has adapted it enough to make it her own. I love the mix in of the traditional characters, but none of them are quite as you remember them. Maggie Hatter is an amazing addition (daughter to the mad hatter), she says the perfect responses to things and really made me laugh at times. She’s strong and not afraid to get involved and help others.
I really enjoyed the book and was happy to be immersed back into those worlds with characters I have come to really like. I can’t wait to see what happens with Bianca, Ming and Maggie in the real world and what Terrance and Ferdinand get up to in Everafter whilst the girls are gone. The book is definitely set up for a sequel and I look forward to reading it.
Thanks again to Liz and once more apologies for taking so long to read it. But here is the review as promised J
If you haven’t read the series yet, I strongly suggest you do – you won’t regret it!

My Rating
 

Friday, 18 May 2018

Book Review - Darkest Night

Title: Darkest Night
Author: Will Hill
Series: Department 19 (Book 5)
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Release Date: 4th June 2015
ISBN13: 9780007505906

Synopsis

The brave men and women of Department 19 have fought Dracula at every turn, but now Zero Hour has passed and the ancient vampire is at full strength.
Inside Department 19, the Operators are exhausted and fractured. Jamie, Larissa, Matt and Kate are each struggling with their own demons. When the friends need each other most, they are further apart than ever.
Outside the Department, the world reels from the revelation that vampires are real. Violence and paranoia spread around the globe and, when it finally comes, Dracula’s opening move is more vicious than anyone could have imagined.
A final battle looms between the forces of darkness and the last, massed ranks of those who stand against it. A battle that will define the future of humanity. A battle that simply cannot be lost…

My Review

I love the Department 19 series, have followed it since the start. I met Will Hill at YALC in London a few years ago and he signed the first book for me and was really nice and approachable. I then met him again last year at the same convention and I got another Department 19 book signed (which made a change as his new book ‘After the Fire’ had just come out so everyone was getting that signed – also another great book, check out my review here) Will asked me if I had read this book yet and I had to confess that I hadn’t, with all my coursework for my Open University degree I haven’t read as much over the last couple of years, but I promised him it was a priority and that I would definitely review it when I was done. (I kept my promise Will, sorry it took so long though).
I have had this book by my side for a long time, I would have it on the side table in the living room, then carry it upstairs to bed to read before going to sleep but it never really happened. I would end up doing coursework or being too tired to read. But I was still desperate to find out what happens to Jamie and his friends.
Then the best idea occurred to me – my husband wanted to go and watch the football the other week and I usually go with him as it’s just the odd game, but I usually take something with me in case I get bored. Well the tables in the pub are too small to spread out my coursework – so I took this book. Best idea I have ever had! In the 90 minutes +20 minute break, I managed to read the first 160 pages. I was so absorbed in the book, I didn’t even notice everyone cheer when Chelsea scored a goal – and that includes my husband and his mate sitting right next to me. Everything around me just disappeared as I was fully submerged in the world of Department 19.
As it has been a while since I have read the others in the series it took me a few minutes to remember who everyone was and what was going on, but I soon found my feet and it was like reuniting with old friends. And now I had started reading, I had to keep going, I put off my coursework assignment that evening and read more when I got home. I squeezed in another hour the next day when I should have been doing housework, and by the next weekend I had finished all 731 pages.
Although the book was quite long, it never felt like I was having to trawl through it, the words just flew off the page and wrapped themselves around me and carried me along, everything was relevant, everything kept you engaged, everything made you want to read more. There are a number of storylines going on at the same time, but the transition between them is smooth and clear – luckily because I am easily confused! But I knew exactly what was going on in each one.
So Zero Hour has passed and Dracula is back – and oh boy is he back with a bang. He wants the world to know he means business and what better way to do that than create utter carnage and mayhem. The officers in Department 19 are stretched to their limits, relationships are breaking down and missions are becoming more dangerous. I really liked the twists in the story, without giving away spoilers – Larissa’s decisions made me want to cry but I also understood her motives and I really liked her development as a character. Jamie has some serious issues and sometimes you just want to shake him and tell him to snap out of it, but overall you can’t help but like him. But my favourite character has to be Valentin – so smooth, so self-assured, and so mysterious!
If you are at all squeamish then parts of the book may make you want to turn away, there is quite a lot of blood and gore and Will Hill doesn’t mince his words – he just says it straight, but in doing so it doesn’t seem unnecessary. I hate it when people put blood and violence in just for effect – but in this book it feels real, it makes everything that much more believable and helps you to empathise with the characters – understand exactly what they are up against.
This book really emphasised why I love Will Hill as an author, he is an amazing storyteller whose characters and worlds come to life around you.  Everything seems believable, every situation will have you wanting to know more and feeling like you are standing next to Jamie and the Department 19 officers, waiting for instructions, ready to work alongside them and fight Dracula. This is a world that will stay with me for a long time and one that I know I will go back to again.
However I am cross with Will Hill for one of those deaths at the end – why did you have to do that!? Actually made me scream ‘No!!!’ when it happened. How could you Will, how could you? – I’m not going to say who though because that would give it away.
Overall an epic conclusion to an amazing series. I can’t wait to see what Will brings out next. Definitely worth a read – I highly recommend.

My Rating
 
 

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Book Review - Barefoot on the Wind

Title: Barefoot on the Wind
Author: Zoe Marriott
Publisher: Walker Books; 01 edition
Release Date: 1 Sept. 2016
ISBN-13: 978-1406333374

Synopsis
A magical retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in a fairytale Japan. A companion title to ZoĆ« Marriott’s critically acclaimed Shadows on the Moon. There is a monster in the forest... Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined, and the beast is not at all what she expects..

My Review
When I was much younger I read ‘The Swan Kingdon’ and ‘Daughter of the Flame’ and really enjoyed them, I still have them on my bookshelves today. At YALC in London last summer Zoe Marriott was on the guest list, remembering how much I enjoyed those other books I knew I wanted to meet her. As I’ve been a bit out of the loop with YA releases the last couple of years as I’ve mainly been reading old classics for my English degree, I wasn’t aware that Zoe had any other books out. When I got to the convention I saw posters for this book ‘Barefoot on the Wind’ and another called ‘Shadows of the Moon’. They sounded so good, I love things to do with Fairy-tale retellings so I was desperate to get a copy, however by the time I got to the book stall at the convention both of these books were sold out – the supplier had underestimated their popularity. I was gutted, but I still had the other two original books with me so I queued up and got them signed. (Zoe by the way was absolutely lovely and a pleasure to talk to) I promised I would get hold of the books and read them and then write reviews, so once back I ordered the books from the library and waited eagerly for them to arrive.
This one arrived first and I dived in as soon as I could. Hana lives in a remote village surrounded by a forest, no one ever goes into the forest as there are rumours of a beast lurking within. Every now and then someone disappears and is said to have been captured and taken away by the beast. When Hana’s father is the next victim, she swears to put an end to it all once and for all. But nothing is ever as it first seems and Hana faces more than just a simple beast, and the beast himself is nothing like she expected.
The world in which this book is set is amazing, the imagery Marriott uses really lifts the small village off the page, I felt like I was walking down the dirt tracks by Hana’s side, playing in the river, going out hunting. I could picture everything and it was beautiful yet slightly ominous at the same time.
Obviously, knowing the story of Beauty and the Beast, there were some points that were going to be obvious and I was waiting for them to happen, but even the most obvious events were transformed into something exciting with Marriott’s own little twist to make you stop and think, nothing is as you expect.
Hana is a great character, strong, determined, and feisty and I felt myself connect to her and her story, the beast was also something else. The man is a gentle and calming spirit, he feels a connection to the earth around him and seems so helpful. How can a beast lurk within?
This book will sweep you into a world of magic and wonder, excitement and adventure and will leave you wanting to know what happens next.
An excellent read that I highly recommend.

My Rating
 
 

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Book Review - After the Fire

Title: After the Fire
Author: Will Hill
Publisher: Usborne Publishing Ltd
Release Date: 1 Jun. 2017
ISBN-13: 978-1474924153

Synopsis
The things I've seen are burned into me, like scars that refuse to fade.

Father John controls everything inside The Fence. And Father John likes rules. Especially about never talking to Outsiders. Because Father John knows the truth. He knows what is right, and what is wrong. He knows what is coming.

Moonbeam is starting to doubt, though. She's starting to see the lies behind Father John's words. She wants him to be found out.

What if the only way out of the darkness is to light a fire?
 

My Review

I’ve been a fan of Will Hill for years, I loved his Department 19 series and Ive met him a couple of times at the London Young Adult Literature Convention. He was on the guest list again last year so I queued up again to meet him. I didn’t know he had a new book out so we had a chat. He was pleased to see a Department 19 fan amongst the new fans and he signed one of my old books, but we also discussed ‘After the Fire’, he told me what it was about and I was very intrigued. So as soon as I got back I ordered it from the library to read.
I did actually read this back in September but hadn’t managed to get round to writing the review until now. However the book was really good and it’s stuck with me so it shouldn’t be too hard to write a review after a couple of months. I never normally get behind on reviews but life has been hectic lately.
Will Hill has created a small community, a place inside a fence. Those inside are aware of the outside world, but don’t speak of it and only one select person ventures out each month to collect supplies. Everything inside The Fence is controlled by Father John, he tells them when to worship, what work to do, who to talk to and who to love. He is there to show them the ‘true path’, a way to salvation.
Moonbeam has grown up inside The Fence, it is all she has ever known, but over the years she has seen things change. Now she is outside of the Fence, and her whole world has changed, but how did it get to this? What started the fire? And What was really going on behind closed doors?
The book switches between the present where Moonbeam is in a hospital facility, recovering from the Fire and everything else that led up to it and the past, where you learn all about life inside the Fence, the other inhabitants and the events that go on behind closed doors.
The book is very raw and has a sense of danger about it, but it’s the sort of book that you just can’t put down. You have to know every detail of what has been happening and what will happen next. Moonbeam is a bit of a mystery throughout, but Will Hill gives you just enough information to keep you hooked and wanting to know more. You feel like you are learning the truth of the past with Moonbeam, everything she is discovering and recounting you are there beside her, feeling the shock, the excitement, the betrayal – everything. It really submerges you into the story and makes you need to keep reading. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book that has hooked me as much as this one, but it seriously had me clutching the book in my hands at every available moment.
There are moments in the book that will have you smiling but there are also some harrowing moments that will leave you thinking and just make you take a deep breath but Hill finds a perfect mix of the two that makes this book just so beautiful.
It’s one that I will definitely never forget, it makes you question things about life but also realise just how amazing life can be.
I would definitely recommend this book, it’s such a powerful read and one that you will want to share.
May not be suitable for younger readers due to some mature content.

My Rating
 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

30th Anniversary of The Princess Bride - Inconcievable!!!

Celebrate 30 years of The Princess Bride
Fall in love all over again as the most beloved fantasy movie returns...

Based on the original fantasy novel by William Goldman, this has now also become a beloved movie with fans worldwide.  

It’s been 30 years since Buttercup and Wesley stole our hearts in one of the most unforgettable and much loved movies THE PRINCESS BRIDE and to celebrate it will be shown 
in cinemas 
nationwide 
for one day only 
on  
Monday 23rd October 2017.

The tale of a kindly grandfather reading an extraordinary fairy story to his sick grandson has become a cult classic.

Directed by Rob Reiner and with an all-star cast including Cary Elwes, Robin Wright Penn, Fred Savage, Billy Crystal, Peter Falk, Mandy Patinkin, Christopher Guest, Mel Smith & Peter Cook, and written by Academy Award® winning screenwriter William Goldman (Butch Cassidy, Misery, Heat)

THE PRINCESS BRIDE is a classic fairy tale; full of swashbuckling swordplay, giants, pirates, an evil prince and a beautiful princess... all woven into the love story to end all love stories.

Also available will be the 30th Anniversary Edition DVD & Blu-ray, out on the 23rd October including the original theatrical poster and all new sumptuous artwork. This two-disc edition features 82minutes of extras on the DVD and 141minutes on the Blu-ray - including featurettes, cast interviews, audio commentaries, the original comprehensive documentary ‘As You Wish: The Story of The Princess Bride’ plus galleries and trailers. 
 



You can also get hold of the novel, published in paperback by Bloomsbury 
ISBN: 9780747590583
www.bloomsbury.com
 

Watch a trailer for the film here:



When I was asked to do a post promoting the 30th Anniversary I was very excited and said yes straight away. Sometimes the oldest stories really are the best. So whether you are an old fan or someone discovering the story for the first time, sit back and enjoy it and treasure a story that will last for all time.
Whether you decide to go to the cinema or pick up a copy of the DVD, or even snuggle down with the original novel, however you immerse yourself, enjoy it 'As You Wish'. 


A huge thank you to the promoters of this campaign for my free copy of the book and Anniversary edition of the DVD. 

Comment below telling me of your favourite moments from the book or film. Share and celebrate this wonderful story.
 

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Book Promo - Swan Song


Book synopsis


LOVE AND LONGING IN THE BRIGHT LIGHTS OF LONDON
When iconic ballerina Beatrice Duvall died, a nation mourned – and a legacy was born. Sixteen years later, her daughter Ava comes to London to take part in a high-profile tribute to Beatrice, and to learn about the mother she never knew.
There’s just one snag: the tribute is a ballet, Swan Lake. Which is infinitely painful for Ava, because she can’t dance. Won’t dance. Not since she quit the Royal Ballet School last year and walked away from everything that defined her.
But this is London, colourful and crazy, and with actor Seb at her side, there’s so much to discover. Like Theatreland razzmatazz and rooftop picnics and flamingo parties. And a whole load of truths Ava never knew about her mother – and herself.
When the time comes to take the stage, will Ava step out of the shadow cast by her mother’s pedestal? And who will be waiting for her there, in the bright lights?
A coming-of-age novel about family and first love, in the city of hopes and dreams.

Book link




Author bio

 
Once upon a time a little girl told her grandmother that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer. Or a lollipop lady. Or a fairy princess. ‘Write, Charlotte,’ her grandmother advised. So that’s what she did.

Thirty-odd years later, Charlotte writes the kind of books she loves to read: romances. She lives in a village of Greater Manchester with her husband and two children, and when she’s not reading or writing, you’ll find her walking someplace green, baking up a storm or embarking on a DIY project. She recently achieved a lifetime ambition of creating a home library for her ever-increasing collection of books. She pretends not to notice that the shelves are rather wonky.

Mini interview


What is the inspiration for the story?
A kaleidoscope of ideas… Memories of performing on stage. The years I lived in Kensington, London. The many shows I’ve seen in the West End. A backstage tour of the Royal Opera House. The public reaction to Princess Diana’s death. My own experience of losing my mother.
What draws you to this genre?
Young adult: the time of life that most signifies discovery and sensation and freedom. Dreaming big; confronting reality. Being trendy; being quirky and out of step. Messing up gloriously; succeeding epically. First crush, first kiss, first love. Making memories that will last a lifetime.
Why do you write?
Because writing makes the blood sing in my veins; it makes me feel alive; it defines me. Because I’m a bibliophile, and the only thing better than having a book in my hand is having my own book in my hand. Because I want to entertain, inspire – and leave a legacy for my children.

Author links




Book extract


The Tube from Turnham Green is quiet, until we reach Earl’s Court, where it starts filling up. By the time we get to Victoria I’m in a scrum spilling out onto the platform. I find the Victoria Line platform and shoe-horn myself into a carriage; Seb would be proud of my elbow action.
At Oxford Circus I’m carried by a sea of shoppers up the escalators, across the foyer and up some steps to the street level. I’ve managed to come out the right exit, opposite the flagship Topshop. The massive store calls to me. Now that’s where to buy a dress for the tribute. Simple and trendy. I dread to think what Thisbe’s wardrobe department contact is going to make me. Something showbiz, I guess: long and loud and sparkly. Ugh.
But I don’t want to offend Thisbe, who’s called in a favour, apparently, to get me a dress sewn so quickly. So, with a sigh, I turn my back on Topshop and trudge down Argyll Street. When I see the Palladium, like a classical temple with massive columns, my mood lifts. At least I’m getting to visit one of London’s most historic theatres, where anyone who’s anyone has performed over the years, from Elvis Presley to Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald, Elton to Adele – even The Muppets have taken to this stage. I wonder: will I get to stand on the stage?
Nope, is the answer. I don’t even see the auditorium. A security guard shows me from the foyer down into the underbelly of the theatre, to a small, windowless room made even smaller by its many contents: two dressmaker’s dummies, a hanging rail of costumes, shelves of fabric and haberdashery, and a desk for the sewing machine. I barely have time to make a mental comparison of this room and the wardrobe department at the Royal Opera House – in a big room overlooking the Piazza and flooded with light – before a girl springs out from behind one of the dummies and hugs me.
Hugs me?
Thankfully, it’s brief. She steps back and beams. I smile back automatically, and in a second I take her in: round, rosy face, electric-blue eyes, dark wavy hair. She’s a little older than me, maybe twenty, and wearing stylish jeans and a really unusual shirt covered with little embroidered seahorses.
“You’re Cara Cavendish?” I say, daring to hope that maybe my dress won’t end up being horrendously glitzy after all.
“The one and only,” she says cheerfully. “And you’re Ava-who-needs-a-dress. Thisbe explained. Sit, sit…” She pulls out a little stool from under the desk and I perch on it.
Cara walks around me in a circle, eying me up and down. “Easy-peasy,” she declares. “Dancers’ forms are so simple to dress.”
“Oh,” I say. “I’m not a dancer.”
She completes her circuit and leans on the desk, looking curiously at me. “But you’re Beatrice Duvall’s daughter,” she says.
The name gives me a jolt, but I manage to reply evenly: “That doesn’t make me a dancer.”
“’Course not,” says Cara. “I mean, my mum was an architect, and look at me! But I heard you were training to be a dancer like your mother. With the Royal Ballet.”
“I was. I… stopped.”
“Oh. Why was that then?”
I frown at Cara. She smiles back at me.
“Did Thisbe put you up to this?” I ask.
“Up to what?”
“All the questions.”
“Oh, no. That’s just me. My brother’s always telling me I’m blunt, because I don’t go in for all that evasive British crap – ignoring the elephant in the room. Better to lay it all out there and say, ‘My mum’s dead, and it sucks.’ You know?”
“Not really,” I reply honestly. I’ve never said those words in my life.
Cara nods like I’ve said something profound. Then, to my relief, she claps her hands and says, “Let’s talk dresses.”
After a quick-fire round of questions designed to establish my style, Cara hands me a scrapbook in which she’s pasted cuttings, photos and drawings of formal dresses, and she talks me through cuts, lengths, necks, sleeves and fabrics. Somewhere around the midi dress page I begin to come undone.
“What is it?” she says.
“Nothing,” I say.
“Something,” she says. “You look like you’re about to have a panic attack. Is it claustrophobia? This room is a little dinky.”
“It’s not that. It’s...”
She waits expectantly. I gesture to the scrapbook.
“It’s just all a bit real, suddenly, looking at these dresses. I mean, I’ve got to wear one and stand on a stage at the Royal Opera House in front of people. Lots of people.”
“Ah,” she says. “Yeah, I’d be a wreck doing that. But you’ve performed on stage before, right?”
“Sure. Plenty of times. But this isn’t a performance. I have to be myself. I mean…”
“You mean you have to be your mother’s daughter. And your mother was the legendary Beatrice Duvall.”
Startled, I nod. She gets it. I don’t even know this girl, but she gets it.
“So,” Cara says, plucking the scrapbook off my lap and leafing through the pages, “what you need, besides the strength to get on that stage, is a really kick-ass dress. A dress that makes you feel tall and powerful and goddam beautiful, like nothing can touch you while you’re wearing it. Ah-ha. Here. This one. What do you think?”
The dress illustration jumps right off the page. It’s bold, it’s simple, it’s glamorous, it shouts “designer”: a strapless bodice with criss-crossing satin ribbons and a flowing skirt with chiffon overskirt ending just on the knee.
“Wow,” I say. “You can make that? In time?”
She grins. “Hell yeah.”
“And you think I can pull that off?”
Her grin widens. “Hell yeah.”