Goodreads Book Review: Search For The Truth by Kathryn Freeman

Search for the TruthSearch for the Truth by Kathryn Freeman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s not often you find a romance novel set in the pharmaceutical industry. Also, I really liked the cover for this – the woman on the front reminded me of Donna from Suits.

Tess is the new Comms manager for Helix Pharmaceuticals. Jim is the returning R&D dude. Tess is hoping to uncover some dirt on Helix’s cancer drug because she feels that her mother’s heart attack was caused by the drugs.

As a lapsed biochemist, I found the setting and the background information hugely enjoyable. There’s mystery and suspense throughout the story. I’m not a big fan of the alpha male, but Jim was nice (and apologetic when he went too far) and Tess came across as a genuinely smart person who was good at her job and not a pushover, so that was okay.

A fun read with a really interesting insight into the world of big pharma.

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Goodreads Book Review: Midsummer Dreams by Alison May

Midsummer DreamsMidsummer Dreams by Alison May
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not big into reading Shakespeare (it’s meant to be watched, not read), but I do know A Midsummer Night’s Dream, thanks to A-level English Lit. It’s not all that relevant to the enjoyment of the book, really, because you can read this modern adaptation without needing to know the original.

I loved the two guys. Alex is bonkers, Dom is so, so sweet. I do like a clever hero. Of the women, I loved Helen and wanted to shake Emily. Really, Emily was incredibly irritating. It’s not until the end that you find out why she’s like she is, and when you do, you can’t help feel a bit proud of her for functioning as well as she does.

The two interlinked stories are good fun and, despite the slightly magical element, completely plausible. There’s a sword fight in a car park which made me laugh out loud. (Voice of experience – do not read this book on the bus).

I should make the usual disclaimers that Alison and I are both published by Choc Lit and she’s a friend. That doesn’t mean I can’t buy her books and enjoy them as a reader too. I believe, when I reviewed the first book in the series ‘Sweet Nothing’ I said the next one was going to be brilliant. I love it when I’m right! Now I just need to work out how to be right more often.

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Please Release Me book trailer (in Lego)

Book cover for Please Release Me - a bride at sunrise

As some of you will know, I like playing with Lego. Given that I usually have more pressing things to do, it’s always nice to have an excuse to get the Lego out. With Please Release Me coming out on the 11th of September, I thought ‘I need a book trailer’. I can’t afford real actors, so here’s my book trailer in Lego.

I’m particularly pleased with the shot of Sally’s car accident. Playdoh may have been involved. Luckily I have kids, so there’s plenty of the stuff lying around in our house.

Incidentally, I wasn’t very keen on girl’s Lego when my daughters first started getting it. I find the idea that someone saw the need for Lego in ‘girly’ colours and themes a little patronising. I’ve got used to it now. Since no one is likely to buy the girls a Star Wars Lego set, I’ll just have to buy the Lego Stormtroopers myself.

If you want to see the trailers DD1 and I did for Doctor January, you can see them here.

Goodreads Book Review: The Wild One by Janet Gover

The Wild OneThe Wild One by Janet Gover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve just finished reading this one. I really enjoyed the first book in the series The Flight to Coorah Creek (apart from the bit that made me cry. I’ve had words with Janet Gover about this making people cry business).

Dan is an ex-military sniper, now a park ranger with PTSD. Quinn is a photographer who lives in the back of her converted Humvee. I love that detail – she LIVES in a converted Humvee. And she knits when she’s bored. I like that too. There’s a secondary love story about Justin the horse breeder and Carrie the ex-jockey who has a touch of PTSD herself. And there’s horses. Lots and lots of horses. As someone who is currently reading the Usborne Book of Pony Care to her 7 year old as a bedtime story, I quite enjoyed the horses.

I liked that the heroines were strong, but not two-dimensionally so. The men were proper butch outback men, but without the alpha male tendency to throw their weight around. To be honest, Trish, who runs the pub in Coorah Creek would soon sort them out if they tried it! I feel like I’m really getting to know the people in Coorah Creek now. I really like the feeling of community.

So… when’s the next Coorah Creek book coming out then?
Oh, and this one didn’t make me cry. I might have teared up a tiny bit at Quinn’s story, but that was just something in my eye.

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Inheritance Books: Liz Harris

Children Reading by Valerie Everett

This week’s Inheritance Books are from my fellow Choc Lit author, Liz Harris. I’ve known Liz through the Oxford chapter of the RNA from way before either of us were published, so I’m delighted that she finally made it to the Inheritance Books sofa. I’ve baked a chocolate cake especially for the occasion.

Hi Liz, welcome to Inheritance Books. While I get us some cake, why don’t you introduce yourself.

Liz HarrisThank you very much for inviting me to chat about books with you today, Rhoda; it’s a lovely idea.

First a bit about me. I’d like to say I’ve always wanted to be an author, but I can’t because I haven’t.

I’ve always been an avid reader of books of every genre; I’ve always loved writing essays, letters, exam answers, and I’ve always enjoyed bringing characters to life in amateur dramatic productions, but it was years before I thought of connecting those three by writing a novel. Books just magically happened, I would have thought, if I’d thought about it at all.

As the years passed by, I devoured all the books I could get, especially those by my favourite authors: from Noel Streatfield and Enid Blyton – the Famous Five were Six when I read her stories – to Mickey Spillane and Jane Austen. Then the day came that I left university, tucked my Law degree under my arm and set off to see the world.

I began in California, and ended there.

I had a brilliant year in San Francisco and then five in Los Angeles, where I tried everything from cocktail waitressing on Sunset Strip to returning hired cars to their home location (imagine being paid to drive convertibles across the State, the radio blaring out, the wind in one’s hair … bliss!); from being the secretary to the CEO of a large Japanese trading company to being a ‘resident starlet’ at MGM. This would make a good novel, I mused at times, but never thought of myself as being the person to write it.

Six years later, real life intervened and I returned to the UK, did a degree in English, and went into teaching. During the following years, I wrote voluminous letters to friends until one day a friend in desperation, a mighty tome from me in her hand, suggested that I write a novel. I took the hint, and in 2012, my debut novel, The Road Back, was published by Choc Lit.

Which book have you inherited from a generation above?

Miniature editions of ShakespeareI could have chosen Children of the New Forest or Little Lord Fauntleroy, both of which were given to me by my mother, and both of which fired my imagination. However, I’ve chosen the complete works of Shakespeare in miniature, which stand in their own wooden case. Tiny though it is, each miniature play is the complete, unabridged play.

The miniature plays were passed down to me by my mother, who was an actress. We started reading Shakespeare as a family when I was about nine, acting out all the parts. My mother and I divided the best roles between us, and my sister and father, reluctant participants, would be allocated third servant or fourth gardener.

Thumb-sized copy of Julius Caesar
Aren’t they dinky!

To read together as a family is a truly lovely thing to do, and I shall never forget how lucky I was to have such an introduction to the greatest of our playwrights, whose themes are universal and are as relevant today as they were when they were written.

Which book would you like to leave to future generations?

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck.  This is a short novel, published in 1937, which had originally been written for the radio. It tells the story of the friendship between George and Lennie, two itinerant ranch workers, who move from place to place, searching for work during the Great Depression in the US.

With themes such as dreams – each character in the novella has a dream which gives purpose to his/her life, a purpose which is never more needed than in times of economic hardship – and loneliness and the need for companionship, conveyed in a novella which has the nature of true friendship at its heart, John Steinbeck speaks as powerfully to the readers of today as he spoke to the readers in 1937.Of Mice and Men

I’ve read the novel a number of times, and I never fail to cry at its moving conclusion, which demonstrates the unselfish nature of real friendship. Just as with the plays of Shakespeare, Of Mice and Men, a story told with thought-provoking profundity and a great understanding of human nature, deserves to live for many more years in the minds of readers.

Excellent choices! I read Of Mice and Men a long time ago and still remember bits of it vividly – which is a sign of a great book.

Thank you for sharing your Inheritance Books with us, Liz. All the best with Evie Undercover in paperback.

Evie Undercover paperbackLiz’s latest release Evie Undercover is published by Choc Lit and is available in paperback now. You can find out more about Liz’s books from her website and blog, or chat to her on Facebook or Twitter (@lizharrisauthor). 

Six things I was wrong about six years ago (and Happy Birthday Choc Lit!)

Six things I was wrong about six years ago.

My lovely publisher, Choc Lit is six years old today. Yay! As part of the celebrations, we Choc Lit authors are blogging around the theme of six. I was going to write ‘six reasons I like having Choc Lit as a publisher’, or ‘Six books published by Choc Lit that I love’ *, but decided to write this one instead. Don’t ask me why. It was late at night.

ChocLit-logo transparent background

So here are six things I believed in six years ago, that I’ve subsequently realised are not true:

  • Published writers are more special than normal people

Six years ago self-publishing wasn’t what it was today. Few people did it and people still sniggered at them. And anyway, ebooks were something that happened to Americans. The only way to get published was to get an agent and have a traditional publisher pick up your book. So people who had publishing deals had this aura of WOW about them. Then I joined the RNA with their New Writer’s scheme and actually met these people. They were still pretty wow, but they were also very, very nice. I don’t think I’ve met a community that pays it forward quite as much as romance novelists do (and I’ve lived with nuns!). Published writers are just like all other writers. The only difference is that they’re published.

  • Ebooks aren’t a real thing

I didn’t have an eReader until 2 years ago, which is weird since my first book came out as an ebook four years ago. I didn’t think an ebook could ever replace a ‘real’ book. You couldn’t feel the paper under your fingertips or smell the pages. Now you’d have to prise my Kindle out of my cold dead hands. I prefer it to paper books. I still buy paper books, but those are my keepers.

  • Having an idea is the hardest bit/ I’ll never have another idea for a book

I used to really struggle with the whole ‘ideas for next book’ thing. I used to slowly burn up with envy when people said stuff like ‘I have tons of ideas, the main problem is finding the time to write it all down’. Inspiration strikes so rarely. Now I know that you don’t sit around waiting for inspiration. You grab a piece of  paper (I need paper to think) and write out ideas until you’ve got a story. With practise, you can actually pull a plausible storyline out from a thinnest of ideas. I’m not saying it’s easy or that those books are solid enough to be written. I’m just saying it can be done.

  • Writing books becomes easier

Um … you’d think it would, but it doesn’t. Each book is hard. Each time you get about 20 -30K in you hate the book, you hate the plot, you hate your whole damned life. Each book makes you sweat and cry. But you have to complete it, because a half finished book is just a waste of time. And each time, it works out okay. Some books will be better than others. But none of them are easy to write.

  • If I get a publication contract, I’ll be happy. I won’t want anything else.

Seriously? I can’t believe I thought that! Yeah, I’ve got my contract. Now I want it paperback, thanks. And audiobook, please. And in German. I want my books to be at the top of the charts. All the time. I’ll never be satisfied. I blame the human condition. I bet even JK Rowling wants something more from her writing career.

Of course, I had assumed that published book = loadsa money. I’m not sure why I believed this. Speaking of totally odd thing to believe, see 6 below.

  • Stress makes you thin

I have had extensive experience in this. I can tell you that the high stress, no sleep diet did not make me thin. Where, I ask you, is the justice in that?

So there you have it, my six things that I was wrong about six years ago. How about you? What’s changed for you in the last six years? Come tell us at the #ChocLitParty.

*After much dithering I’d have gone for: Vampire State of Mind, Sweet Nothing, The Flight to Coorah Creek,  Truth or Dare, The Elephant Girl and Untied Kingdom, in case you were interested.

I’m dreaming of… Midsummer Dreams

Today is publication day for m’chum and Choc Lit colleague Alison May’s new book Midsummer Dreams. For those who don’t already know, Alison writes rather fabulous modern adaptations of Shakespeare. Her previous book Sweet Nothing is a great read.


To celebrate the big day, Alison asked a whole bunch of us to write something about dreams. So here goes.

I had a dream about two women. It was all very exciting, but the only bit I remembered when I woke up was a single image of the two women sitting on a park bench together. You could tell they knew each other very well, but that there was something awkward between them. Frenemies, if you like. One of the women was quiet and mousy and the other was a ghost in a wedding dress. This image stayed with me for the whole day. Eventually, I decided I had to find out what was going on. The end result was Please Release Me – which will be published by Choc Lit later this year. It didn’t turn up as a complete story (if only!), but it started with a dream.

I had a nightmare where I was trapped inside a giant chocolate sponge. More specifically, I was in one of those air bubbles that you get when the cake doesn’t rise evenly – the sort that Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry would probably tut at. ‘But what’s nightmarish about that?’ I hear you cry. Well, the nightmarish bit was that I started to eat my way out and started to feel sick! See. Total nightmare, right? I felt so ill that I couldn’t eat any more and I knew I still had several feet of cake to eat before I could get through. And then I remembered that it was Monday morning and I hadn’t sorted the kids’ school uniforms out, which made it all the more important that I break out of the giant cakey prison. Shudder.

I do believe that nightmares (and dreams) are my subconscious trying to tell me something. I think the subtext in this one is probably that I eat too much cake. And that I need to be more organised about school uniforms…

My dream for the future: I reckon, in the future we’ll make more of the sea and start having underwater communities where people live in giant bubbles with the entrance at the bottom of the bubble (so that the air pressure keeps the water out). A cross between the Willard Price’s Underwater Adventure and The Octonauts. Any power needs would be generated using tidal turbines and drinking water would be desalinated from the surrounding area. There are issues with waste disposal and disrupted eco systems, but I’m sure we can sort something out.

Of course, by then, I’ll be a fabulously famous novelist with oodles of money. I will also know some fabulous recipes for seaweed cake.

Right. Enough of my wittering. Now please go and check out Alison May’s Midsummer Dreams. Shakespeare never sounded so good.

Inheritance Books: Clare Chase

This week I’m delighted to welcome Clare Chase to Inheritance Books. Clare writes for Choc Lit, but I’ve known her through the RNA and Twitter for years.

Hi Clare, welcome to Inheritance Books. (Have some carrot cake, go on. It’s good for you). Tell us a bit about yourself.

Clare Chase 1 (480x640)Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Rhoda. I write romantic mysteries and my debut novel, You Think You Know Me, was published by Choc Lit at the end of 2014. It’s set in the arts world, in London, with a denouement in the Lake District.  I’ve always had a passion for both mysteries and love stories, and relish doubling the intrigue by interweaving the two.

My non-writing ‘career’ has been, let’s say, eclectic… Amongst many other things, I’ve practised creative writing in the world of PR, and done some Miss Marple-style studying of human nature whilst running a prison reading group.

I live in Cambridge with my family, and my current day job is at the Royal Society of Chemistry. (I’m actually an English grad, but I sneaked in to work for their fundraising arm!)

Which book did you inherit from the generation above? Why is it special?

I Capture the CastleWhen I was about twelve, my mother started to ‘encourage’ me to read I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. It almost didn’t become an Inheritance Book at all, she was so keen to get me to try it. I felt she must be over-egging its wonderfulness and didn’t think the title sounded that exciting. I’m so glad I opened it up and saw how right she was. Who could resist the first sentence: ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’? I’ve re-read it many times since: a wonderful, bitter-sweet coming of age story that’s both funny and touching. The feelings Smith deals with are universal, but the context she puts them in is out of the ordinary. The setting of a decaying house, grafted on to a fourteenth century castle, is just as memorable as the array of eccentric characters. From the major to the minor, they live on in my head in colourful detail. It was the perfect book to discover during my teenage years.

Which book would you leave to later generations? Why?

I’d like to pass on a classic of romantic suspense, Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart. For me, it has the perfect mix of love interest and mystery, and my spine still tingles when I remember the scene when Gianetta, the heroine, realises who the murderer is. Needless to say, she’s alone with him at this crucial moment… The final piece of the jigsaw slots in so chillingly. Stewart also made excellent use of settings, and you can travel the globe whilst reading her books. Wildfire at Midnight takes advantage of the rugged landscape of Skye, which is perfect for instilling a feeling of isolation. She made me fall in love with my chosen genre, and convinced me that escapism is good for you! I’d like to pass on that feeling of being drawn away from everyday life, into a world of excitement and adventure.

YTYKM_Kindle 150dpi (2)You can find out more about Clare Chase, and watch the trailer for her book, on her website. She’s also on Twitter (ClareChase_) and Facebook 

You Think You Know Me is available on Amazon Kindle. (International buying link is: You can read my review of it here.

Goodreads Book Review: You Think You Know Me by Clare Chase

You Think You Know MeYou Think You Know Me by Clare Chase

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How well do you REALLY know your friends?
This book follows the heroine, Anna, as she tries to work this one out. She is at a gallery ‘do’ organised by her art-dealer friend Seb to showcase a new artist. Seb sometimes does her a favour and passes her some freelance work. She meets a guy called Max Conran, who isn’t who he says he is. He’s Darrick Farron, who does some sort of mysterious job involving sourcing rare art.

Seb thinks Darrick is shady (and he does seem a bit dodgy, what with the fake names and odd disappearances). But then Seb is a little creepy himself. Who’s a girl to believe?

I honestly did not know who the bad guy was until right at the end. When I found out, it wasn’t who I expected to be! This is a very tense book, which keeps you guessing right to the end. I thought Anna could do with a bit more cynicism in her life. Mind you, she gets so much conflicting information, she’d have been hard pressed to choose anyway.

A good, tense romantic suspense. Well done Clare Chase!

The usual disclaimer for Choc Lit books – we write for the same publisher. I read a lot of Choc Lit books (research, don’t cha know), but I buy them all myself.

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