A Life in Books with Brian Paone



Today on my blog I welcome author Brian Paone to discuss A Lie in Books.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in the Salem, Massachusetts area. I have, thus far, published three novels: a memoir about being friends with a drug-addicted rock star, “Dreams are Unfinished Thoughts”; a macabre cerebral-horror novel, “Welcome to Parkview”; and a time-travel romance novel, “Yours Truly, 2095”—all three novels are available in paperback, eBook, and audiobook. Along with my three novels, I have published two short stories: “Outside of Heaven,” which is featured in the anthology, A Matter of Words; “The Whaler’s Dues,” which is featured in the anthology, A Journey of Words; and an upcoming third story, “Anesthetize (or A Dream Played in Reverse on Piano Keys),” which will be featured in the anthology, A Haunting of Words. I’m also a vocalist and have released seven albums with my four bands: Yellow #1, Drop Kick Jesus, The Grave Machine, and Transpose. I’m married to a US Navy nurse and we have four children. I’m also a police officer and have been working in law enforcement since 2002. I’m a self-proclaimed roller coaster junkie, a New England Patriots fanatic, and my favorite color is burnt orange.


What was you favourite book from childhood?41fviYQDV9L

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blum

When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald


81WE+TmQvpLWhat is your favourite classic book?

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

The Mission of the Sacred Heart by Randy Blazak


What book to you think you should read but never get round to?

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking


What do you consider to be your favourite book ?41Akk9Z302L

• The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath


Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you

How to get off a desert island,” and “How to make tacos from food items found on desert items”

Kindle or Book?



Brian Paone’s books are available from Amazon now.

A Life in Books with Karen Swan


This evening I am in fan mode as again, one of my favourite authors has agreed to take part in A Life in Books.  Tonight I welcome Karen Swan, author of of thirteen bestsellers, most of which I have read.  Earlier today I reviewed her latest book The Rome Affair, which is a fabulous read, please check out my review, I will put a link at the end of this blog

Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

I’ve been completely moulded by two facts. One is that I grew up in the London suburbs, with the upshot of being ‘neither one, nor t’other’ that I’m both addicted to the vim of city life but crave the peace and birdsong of the countryside. I’m also the eldest of three which I’m convinced is why I’m a ‘mother hen’, always feeling responsible for others and feeling I must set an example.
I’m now married with three children and live in the real Hundred Aker Wood, aka the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. I have two shooting golden retrievers who walk me every day and without whom I wouldn’t be able to work alone, at home.
I spent seven years in the fashion industry working variously as a stylist, a consultant and a writer but the almost-accidental move into writing fiction was life-changing and I realized pretty much instantly that I was always supposed to have done this.


1. What was your favourite book from childhood?

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford about three pets crossing hundreds of miles of the Canadian wilderness to get back to their master. I must have read it a dozen times and cried every time. I was an animal nut as a child and when, one night, our dog went missing and walked himself the five miles back to my grandmother’s house – where he had been staying whilst we were on holiday – I felt as if the drama had leapt from the page into my own life (albeit modestly).


2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?41NZW32CVBL

In my early teens, and as a shy, braced-up student at an all-girls school, I devoured the Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal. The glamorous twin heroines, with boys chasing them and exciting social lives, were everything I wasn’t and I definitely lived vicariously through them. By my mid to late teens though, I got seriously into the classics and whilst the Brontes left me cold, I became obsessed with Jane Austen and George Eliot.


3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra – I loved their chemistry and how she held all the power. I also couldn’t get enough of the metaphysical poet John Donne; he was so wonderfully wry and witty.


51KS2yGe4OL4. What is your favourite classic book?

It’s a toss-up between George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss and Jane Austen’s Emma. Mill on the Floss was the first classic I read that actually made my hair stand on end like a modern-day thriller, but Mr Woodhouse, Emma’s father, was laugh-out-loud funny.



5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

I adored Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. I’m not usually interested in dystopian literature but I had heard good reviews about it so I managed to bag a copy and was rewarded by being hooked from the first page. It’s premise is that 98% of the world’s population is wiped out by a pandemic and apart from the opening chapters showing the final days of life ‘as we know it’, it deals with the aftermath, twenty years on. The civilizing forces of technology and education fall away immediately – this is now a world without power after all – but it is music and literature which prove to be so redemptive for humanity.

6. What book to you think you should read but never get round to?51h7vN4YtJL
Well, I’ve been trying to read Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend for the past few months but I never quite have the time to commit myself to it. I think on some level, I know it’s going to swallow me whole and I’ll be lost to everyone around me till I hit the last page, so I really do need a window in my diary!


7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry – it changed me from the inside out with its depiction of the ripple effect of injustice.


8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

City On Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg. It’s enormous and according to its reviews, very Marmite. I’m on the wrong side at the moment but I am going to persevere and go back to it, ever hopeful that my endeavours will be rewarded!

51TwNVZ2piL9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?
Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman and – if you’ll allow me to count this as one – the box set of the Famous Five to remind me of happier times populated with picnics, dogs and feral childhoods.

10. Kindle or Book?
Book. That’s not even a question to me.


IMG_1303Karen’s new book The Rome Affair is published on Thursday 13 July.  Please click on the link to read my review.


The Rome Affair by Karen Swan published 13 July













The Rome Affair by Karen Swan published 13 July




1974 and Elena Damiani lives a gilded life.  Born to wealth and a noted beauty, no door is closed to her, no man can resister.  At twenty six, she is already on to her third husband when she meets her love match.  But he is the only man she can never have, and all the beauty and and money in the world can’t change it.

2017 and Francesca Hackett is living La Dolce Vita in Rome, leading tourist groups around the Eternal City and forgetting the ghosts she left behind in London.  When she finds a stolen designer handbag in her dustbin and returns it, she is brought into the orbit of her grand  neighbour who lives across the piazza – famed socialite Viscontessa Elena Dei Damiani Pignatelli della Mirandola.  Though the purse is stolen, Elena greets the return of the bag with exultation for it contains an unopened letter written by her husband on his deathbed, twelve years earlier.

Mutually intrigued by each other, the two women agree to collaborate on a project, with Cesca interviewing Elena for her memories.  As summer unfurls, Elena tells her sensational stories, leaving Cesca in her thrall.  But when  priceless diamond ring found in an ancient tunnel below the city streets is ascribed to Elena, Cesca begins to suspect a shocking secret at the heart of Elena’s life.



Before I review this I want to give a huge thanks to Pan Macmillan for giving me an early copy to review.  Karen Swan is one of my favourite authors, and I have reviewed two of her previous books on my blog, so I was excited to read this.

The Rome Affair is one large fabulous read, there is nothing I don’t like about this book. In previous blogs I have mentioned my love affair with all things Italian and this just fed that addiction.  Rome, The Eternal City where the past and present live together is a very apt setting for a book where the characters and their stories have to live in the present but with past actions impeding on their lives.  The two central characters may seem very different at first, an Italian Princess living in a palace full of treasures and a young woman, living in a small and dingy apartment not knowing where her next months rent is coming from.  However, as the narrative proceeds we see that both women have secrets in their past that still effect them today.  I loved Cesca as a character, she is intelligent, strong, quirky in her dress but still has a faint air of vulnerability about her.  As a trained barrister she is able to see under Elena’s varnished veneer and glimpse the truth about her life, and the shocking secret at the heart of it.  Elena, on first sight may not gain the readers sympathy; who could feel sorry for one of the richest girls in America, who has every privilege in life and can buy anything her heart desires.  However, we slowly come to see that living that life has its problems and that money can’t buy the one thing Elena never had, love.

The narrative is split between present day Rome, where Cesca finds herself sorting through Elena’s photographs and interviewing her for the biography, and the true story of Elena’s varied and sometimes scandalous past.  Throughout we are drip fed small clues and facts to both Elena and Cesca’s secrets, each chapter brings us a bit closer.  I have to say once I started this book I couldn’t put it down, like the secret tunnels under Rome there were so many twists and turns I was never quite sure where the story was going to lead.

The Rome Affair is a fabulous book, it has so many layers to get lost in, and multi faceted characters to grab your attention. An engaging book perfect to read with a nice glass of Posecco this summer.






A Life in Books with Gina Jenkinson


Today on A Life in Books I welcome Gina Jenkinson whose new book The Wishing Well Bakery s available to buy now.

Hey everyone, I’m Gina, but I write most of my books under the name Mystic Storm. I started writing books when I was eleven years old, my first ever book was written as part of my English class, we had to choose an animal to write about and I chose a panda who went on adventures around the world. My first book was published just over two years ago and is a fantasy romance about a witch who gets turned into a vampire by her ex-boyfriend, it is called The Vampires Curse.
I have written eight books altogether, three novels and five non-fiction books about witchcraft and mythology.
My last novel was a WW2 romance set in London and Surrey, it is called Fighting for Love and is written under my real name, I have gotten over 40 five star reviews on all my books in total.
My influences include JK Rowling, Jane Austen, Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell, Cathy Woodman, and Lynda Page.
I love writing stories, I love creating my own world and characters, making up my own rules.
Even doing the research for my ww2 novel was fun, I even researched the days of the week, weather, and prices and rations.
I have always wanted to be an author, I don’t do it for the money (although that’s a bonus) I do it because I love writing and showing my work to everyone.
My latest novel is part one of three of the wishing well bakery set in the lovely town of Wells Somerset. It’s about a magical bakery and a witch named Poppy Andrews. Full of magical creatures, a healing water wishing well and so much more.
I prefer writing fantasy as I can create anything I want, like in my vampire novel, I made up my own rules, it my new one, anything was possible as it is all make believe.
Apart from writing, I also design jewellery.


1. What was your favourite book from childhood?71qap9rmFRL

My favourite book as a child was called Apricots at Midnight by Adele Geras. It was a Gran telling her Granddaughter about a patch work quilt and the stories behind each patch. I found a copy recently on amazon and bought it.

2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

The Famous Five books, I felt like I was in the story too. It was at this point that I realised I wanted to be a writer.


91BxO3QOLLL3. When you were at school what was your favourite book you studied?

Possibly The Crucible about the Salem witch trials, it was a sad, yet interesting true story about innocent men and women getting killed because of two children.


4. What is your favourite classic book?

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, I have read it numerous times and seen different film versions. I love Teddy.


5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

The Harry Potter series, I am a huge fan of these books and films, they make me laugh and cry. I am a complete Potter nerd.


6. What book do you think you should read but never get around to?41ZWYKZyp+L

The Twilight series, but I cannot stand vampires that sparkle, and I’ve read some vile reviews about it.


7. What do you consider to be your favourite book ?

Perfect timing by Jill Mansell, I have read it like 10 times in the past 2 years. It is a funny book and I named my latest character after the lead character in this book.


8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?
Yes, quite a few. The blurb drew me in, but then I couldn’t finish them. One being The Ivy League Chronicles by Karen Quinn.


51tHwMRYxDL9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have with you?
The Order of the Phoenix and perfect timing. A bit of laughter and magic and a bit of romance.


10. Kindle or Book?
Proper book for definite, I mean I have read a few kindle books but, it isn’t the same as holding an actual book in your hand, the feel and smell of the paper.


Gina’s latest book is available to buy on Amazon now.

In the Name of Love by Louise Lee




Retired, technically, Florence Love is a Long way from her London Private Investigator glory days.  Bur her latest target is achingly personal.

A ration of Montelpulciano in her water pouch, Flo finds herself racing around Italy on a borrowed Vespa in the name of love.  Bambi Love, specifically.  Her mum – missing for twenty five years.  The one case that’s still unsolved.

To find Bambi, maintaining focus all be critical.  Florence must not be distracted.  Not even by a beautiful. goosebump-inducung Italian stranger with mafiosi friends and a habit of suddenly disappearing himself, who knows far more than he’s letting on.



This is such a fun book with the perfect mix of ingredients; a sassy heroine, a gorgeous Italian love interest, a priest with mafiosi connections, and a lot of fun along the way.

In the Name of Love is the second book in the Florence Love series, the previous book being The HoneyTrap.  I have not read the previous book and this did not effect my enjoyment of the book or the understanding of the plot.  Louise Lee does include important points from the previous books plot for background information.  As I was reading this book I really wanted to be Florence Love,  She is sassy, fun, intelligent, confident, fiesty and ultimately flawed.  Florence’s relationship with her brother, Michael, who has Asperger’s was very endearing.  She was both protective of him and encouraged him to live his life, and was never apologetic about his condition or behaviour.  As for the other characters, you can’t have a book set in Italy without some mention of the mafiosi.  Louise Lee has a gun wielding priest who is in hiding after taking on the mafia; and the handsome love interest, Tommasso, whose is next in line to be in charge of the family business, the heat of a mafia family.  Along the way, in her search for her mother Florence meets many other memorable characters, both in Italy and England to pique your interest.

I think that for all the fun and humour of the book at its heart is a family that have been torn apart by the dissappeance of a mother and wife.  Believed dead, Florence discovers evidence that her Italian mother is alive and living under an assumed name after being involved in something that links to the mafia.  Her search for her mother causes friction within her family has her father wants her to leave all alone and her brother doesn’t like her being away.

There are so many memorable moments in this novel; you will laugh, cry and ultimately fall in love with Florence Love.  In the Name of Love is exciting, entertaining and additictive; be prepared to loose yourself in the pages of this book.







A Life in Books with Mary Grand



This evening I welcome author Mary Grand to my feature A Life in Books.


Can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Thank you for inviting me onto this lovely blog. My roots are in Wales but I now live on the Isle of Wight with my family and cocker spaniel, Pepper. (There is usually a cocker spaniel somewhere in my stories!)
I write Woman’s Fiction, the central character is usually a woman at a decisive point in her life.
“Hidden Chapters”, my latest novel, is set on Rhossili Bay, Gower. The novel is about Catrin who finally has to face those early experiences in her life that she has tried to keep hidden. The story explores motherhood, adoption and family secrets. One reviewer said ‘It shows us that love, especially parental love, should be unconditional, that what we see on the surface are sometimes only coping mechanisms , concealing a deep- felt pain”
Available from Amazon : http://amzn.eu/9D8dlqs


51gCcz8I8zL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_1. What was you favourite book from childhood?

When I was very young my favourite picture book was “Tinker the Kitten”. The first books I read for myself were the My Naughty Little Sister stories by Dorothy Edwards. Years later, when I re read these to my own children; I was struck by how innocent the stories were and was very surprised that I had ever thought she was a naughty child! I moved onto Enid Blyton and the Famous Five and Maroly Towers books. It is interesting that I enjoyed reading, almost exclusively, about children whose lives were so different to my own. I guess there was an element of escapism but I do think my own children were fortunate to have access to a much wider range of stories written by a whole new generation of gifted and inspired authors.


2. What type of books did you read as a teenager?

When I was a teenager I don’t remember books aimed specifically at teens. I simply moved into the adult part of the library and read mainly romances and Agatha Christie


3. When you were at school what your favourite book you studied was?41osj5Inq8L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

I was incredibly lucky to have the most wonderful English teacher at A Level. She made me love everything we read from Shakespeare to Orwell. I loved Hamlet and Pride and Prejudice.


4. What is your favourite classic book?

My favourite classic book has to be Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. The language, characters and plot are so wonderfully crafted. I have re read this book so many times. Recently I listened to Jenny Aguter reading it and it gave me a whole new perspective on the book.


61krZmXnB1L._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_5. What would you consider to be one of the best books you have had over the last 5 years?

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant is an interesting and well researched historical novel set 1570 in the convent of Santa Caterina in northern Italy. The story revolves around two women who had entered holy orders for different reasons. It is fascinating insight into the life of convents at that time and very different to anything I had imagined.


6. What book do you think you should read but never get round to?

There are lots of them! Sitting next to my bed is the new book by Victoria Hislop, Cartes Postales from Greece. I love her books and am not sure why I keep getting distracted from it, I am sure I will read it soon.


41Y4VV0H9TL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_7. What do you consider to be your favourite book?

My favourite book I think is “The Rector’s Wife” by Joanna Trollope. I love the central character Anna who stays with me. Her relationship with her husband who is a rector is heart breaking but very honest.



8. Is there a book that you have started but been unable to finish?

There was a time when all my friends and family were reading “The Lord of The Rings” by J R Tolkien and quoting from it. I really tried to get into it but I just couldn’t…tried again with the films and still not my thing.


9. If you were stranded on a desert Island which 2 books would you want to have51y1CLJEloL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_ with you

I think I would need something to make me laugh, so I think maybe I would choose a Bill Bryson book. ”A walk in the woods” is very funny. I would miss the countryside so I think one of the James Herriot books, an anthology like “All Creatures Great and Small”


10. Kindle or Book?

I read from my kindle a lot nowadays. I like to read long after my husband has gone to sleep and so the light on my kindle is great.

Twitter – @authormaryg
Facebook Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/authormarygrand/


Mary’s books are available to buy now.


The Other Twin by Lucy V Hay




A stunning, dark and sexy debut thriller set in the winding lanes and underbelly of Brighton, centring around the social media world, where resentments and accusations are played out, identities made and remade, and there is no such thing as the truth

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her? Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its wellheeled families, The Other Twin is startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth…


The Other Twin is Lucy V Hay’s debut novel, and a brilliant debut it is.  Set in Brighton and the LGBT community, this is a fast paced psychological thriller that deals with important and in some case difficult issues effecting young people in today’s society.  In keeping with the zeitgeist theme the  internet, and in particular Social Media, are central to the plot, in particular how you can be who you want to be on the internet and how it makes people braver in expressing their opinions.

The plot follows Poppy’s search for the truth about India, and also her return to Brighton and her family after being estranged from her family and friends for five years.  The reader follows Poppy’s thoughts as she puts the pieces together and as such puts herself in danger whilst searching for the truth.  There is also an unknown male narrator, who alludes to something darker going on in Brighton.  He is controlled by an unknown woman, he comes across as uncomfortable with his role in this story but too frightened to disobey ‘she who must be obeyed’.  Through him the tension builds as the plot comes to a thrilling and emotional conclusion.

The characters in this book are multi faceted and have a depth to them.  Lucy V Hay creates a plausible and believable back story, to all the characters.  On the surface they look like any normal family but deep down they are flawed and harbouring secrets and lies.

I really connected with the central figure Poppy.  I admired her dogged determination in trying to find out the truth of what happened to her sister; at no point does she believe that India committed suicide.  Through the plot we are drip fed small details about why Poppy left Brighton and her rift with her family.

The Other Twin is a well written, atmospheric psychological thriller.  The plot has so many twists and turns as secrets and lies are revealed turning the characters and their lives upside down.  A brilliant debut that I highly recommend to those who like and intelligent, dark thriller.