See you soon – a short break!

See you soon!

Well the school holidays have started – or they did a week ago here in Edinburgh anyway – so I’m taking a blogging break to spend some time with my family and try to catch up on some summer reading. I’ve got a few blogposts scheduled but apart from those, it’ll be all quiet here on Portobello Book Blog. I’ll be back towards the end of July and look forward to sharing with you what I’ve been reading in that time. Hope you all have a great summer, with maybe some time reading in the sunshine!

Court of Lions by Jane Johnson #giveaway @HoZ_books

Court of Lions by [Johnson, Jane]

I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour with a fantastic giveway for you today – you have the chance to win a hardback copy of the rather beautiful Court of Lions by Jane Johnson.  It is published today by Head of Zeus in hardback and as an ebook with the paperback to follow next January. 

About the book

Sometimes surrender is more courageous than resistance.

Kate Fordham arrived in the sunlit city of Granada a year ago. In the shadow of the Alhambra, one of the most beautiful places on Earth, she works as a waitress serving tourists in a busy bar. She pretends she’s happy with her new life – but how could she be? Kate’s alone, afraid and hiding under a false name.

And fate is about to bring her face-to-face with he greatest fear.

Five centuries ago, a message, in a hand few could read, was inscribed in blood on a stolen scrap of paper. The paper was folded and pressed into one of the Alhambra’s walls. There it has lain, undisturbed by the tides of history – the Fall of Granada, the expulsion of its last Sultan – until Kate discovers it.

Born of love, in a time of danger and desperation, the fragment will be the catalyst that changes Kate’s life forever.

Court of Lions bridges time, interweaving the stories of a woman who must confront her unimaginable past and a man who must face an unthinkable future, bringing one of history’s great turning points to life in an epic saga of romance and redemption.


If that sounds like a book which appeals to you, click the link to enter the Rafflecopter. It is UK only due to postage costs. You can enter up until midnight on 15th July and I will contact the winner within 24 hours. Your prize will be sent directly from the publishers.

Click here to enter the giveaway


Be sure to follow the rest of the tour where you will find a mixture of reviews, extracts and guest posts.

Court of Lions blog tour banner

James Hazel #AuthorInTheSpotlight #TheMayfly @bonnierzaffre @jameshazelbooks

James Hazel

My author in the spotlight today is James Hazel whose debut novel, The Mayfly, has been described as both ‘horrifically shiver inducing’ and ‘intelligently constructed’ by early reviewers. It published by Bonnier Zaffre and is available in paperback and ebook format. You can order a copy online here

Thanks for joining me James. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m a thirty-five year old former lawyer who wrote his first published novel late at night after everyone else in the house was in bed. I used to be an equity partner in a regional law firm and specialised corporate, commercial, employment law and dispute resolution (what some people term litigation). I have a degree in law and a masters in law and employment relations with distinction.

I’m married to a bloody beautiful woman, Jo, who is responsible for getting me in to crime fiction 10 years ago and my life is enriched with two step-children and a five year old of my own. I love indie music, spherical shaped food and retro computer games.

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember and I recall attempting to write my first novel at fifteen, although I didn’t get very far.

It was really Jo that inspired me to try again when I was in my late twenties. She is infinitely better read than me and I wanted to impress her so I started putting together a couple of novel just so I could present it to her as a gift. It took me five years of constantly starting again before I finally manged to put something together that resembled a complete book, which I called Church of Sin, a supernatural thriller.

She didn’t like the ending though.

Tell me about your journey to publication

An incredible amount of luck was involved. With Jo’s encouragement, I was trying to work out what to do with my first attempt at proper writing, Church of Sin, when I met the awesome people at Totally Entwined Group, a Lincoln based publisher.

I gave my manuscript to Nicki Richards there who offered me some really helpful pointers. Rather than re-write Sin, I started again, more determined and better equipped. Shortly afterwards The Mayfly was born. Then, as luck would have it, TEG become one of the Bonnier group of companies and I was introduced to the Bonnier Zaffre MD, Mark Smith. The rest is history.

In a nutshell, what is your book about?

The Mayfly: The chilling thriller that will get under your skin by [Hazel, James]

Charlie Priest is an ex-Met police detective turned lawyer who is hired by wealthy businessman Kenneth Ellinder to investigate the strange circumstances surrounding the death of his son, Miles. Together with his company of loyal associates, and with the help of Ellinder’s enigmatic daughter, Jessica, Priest uncovers a secret world of murderous intent that started in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

The story can be traced back to a (fictional) secret British operation that examined any possibly benefits in the human experimentation carried out in Nazi concentration camps by SS doctors. The operation, which was ephemeral in nature, was called Operation Mayfly.

How do you plan to celebrate publication day?

We’ve got a launch party set up and ready to go at a venue close to Lincoln and massively looking forward to it! Wine, afternoon tea and a magician. Everything you need for a summer’s afternoon.

Do you have a work in progress just now?

The second Priest thriller is just going through editing and I’m starting to put together the first few chapters of the third.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!

In the past few months? I’ve just finished The Fireman by Joe Hill, which was excellent, and Lies, by fellow BZ author T M Logan, which is wickedly good.

                             Lies: The stunning new psychological thriller you won't be able to put down! by [Logan, TM]

What are you reading just now? 

Right now, Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker (as of June 2017) – great start and promises to be an awesome romp!

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

With all that time to pass, I’d take my Complete Works of H P Lovecraft with me. I’m also a big horror fan and Lovecraft’s work is so extraordinarily rich it would take me the rest of eternity to study it properly.

H.P Lovecraft: The Complete Collection by [Lovecraft, H.P]

Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? 

Sort of assuming I can’t nominate my own here? Okay, if not, then The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. Which is in fact going to be a film, making me very good at picking books for films.

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

Join my readers club! Here’s the link:

Or catch me via twitter @jameshazelbooks

My website is also about to go live.

And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

Willy Wonka. Obs.

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell #review @orendabooks @sarahlovescrime

Exquisite by [Stovell, Sarah]

That sinister cover gives just a hint of what is inside – dark and light. But is the aptly named Alice Dark the darkness and Bo Luxton the light –  lux=light doesn’t it? Well frankly, I’m not sure and neither will you be if you read this book about obsessive love. Bo Luxton is a successful author with several bestsellers under her belt. Alice is an aspiring writer who meets Bo at a writing course Bo is leading in Northumberland. There is an immediate connection between the two, more than just student and teacher, which continues after the course.

It is going to be quite difficult to talk about this book without giving something away! The structure of the book is very clever. Initially chapters alternate between the two characters, then there is a large section from one point of view, then from the other character’s point of view. I’m carefully not saying which is which! Scattered throughout, are short chapters narrated by either Bo or Alice who is in prison. The question is which of the women is this narrator? The connection between the two women builds up throughout the story to create a really intense atmosphere, almost claustrophobic relationship. I was cleverly led to believe one thing when all of a sudden my whole perspective was dramatically altered. I found myself looking back to see if I had missed anything but the author had masterfully guided me to think one thing then turned everything on its head. Who then was I to believe – Bo or Alice or neither of them?

I was interested that both the women were damaged individuals from broken backgrounds who were desperately seeking the love and acceptance they had not received in their childhoods. In a way, they both acted like children with their manipulation, trying to cover up their mistakes and misdeeds by lying. Both characters were full of flaws and frailties. Like children, they both had that tendency to become fixated and obsessed. 

The author brilliantly conveys this story of obsessive love and its fallout, and will make you question who and what you can believe even when it is in front of you. Right to the end you will have questions and you may find they are not all answered, leaving you to come to your own conclusions. When I had completed the book, I went back and re-read several sections with fresh eyes and of course was able to read more meaning in them. It’s a tense read with an undercurrent of danger bubbling just below the surface throughout. Exquisite is an highly addictive domestic noir tale which I couldn’t put down.

My thanks to Anne Cater and Karen Sullivan for my copy of the book and inviting me on the blog tour. Exquisite was published by Orenda Books on 15th May in both paperback and ebook form. You can order a copy online here: Exquisite

From the back of the book

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops … Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

The Summer of Impossible Things by @RowanColeman #review & #giveaway @eburypublishing

“We all have our time machines, don’t we? Those that take us back are memories… And those that carry us forward are dreams.” HG Wells

I am going to find it so hard to choose my Top Reads for 2017. I already had eight books listed as possibles when I read this and this wonderful book makes nine. I didn’t actually know what this book was about before I started it, I just knew that I love Rowan Coleman’s books so when I was offered the opportunity to read this, I wasn’t going to turn it down! And thanks to the publishers, you have the opportunity to win a copy – look for the giveaway link below.

As that wonderful HG Wells quotation which is used in the book suggests, this book involves an strong element of time travel. Now, it doesn’t matter whether you believe time-travelling is a complete impossibility or whether you are more open-minded on the matter, you will absolutely believe in what happens to Luna throughout the course of the book. 

Luna has travelled to New York with her sister Pia following their mother’s death. They have gone there to settle legal matters and find out a bit more about their mother who left in 1977 and never returned. Over the course of the few days they are there, impossibly, Luna finds herself transported back to 1977 and meets her mother and her friends. At first she thinks she must be ill, but slowly realises that this actually happening. On returning to present day New Year, she realises that she has changed  her future. And impossible though it seems, she begins to think she can change the course of her mother’s life. Will this mean losing the person she knows herself to be?

This is such a beautifully written book which I was caught up in for an entire weekend. Rowan Coleman has a real talent for writing about characters who you will take to your heart and you will live through all the experiences and emotions with them. Luna has had her world rocked by revelations she finds out about herself after her mother’s death and is struggling to deal with these at the same time as she is grieving. When she begins to realise that she can influence and change her mother’s life you can’t help feel for her and the impossible choice she thinks she has to make.

Love is such a strong feature in this book. Luna loves her mother so much, and perhaps only realises just how much when she is no longer around. She loves her as the young woman she meets in the 1970s and grieves for the loss of her vitality. The book asks the question about whether love lasts through time and I think it is answered by one of the characters who says: “our physical bodies, they break down, eventually returning to dust, but energy, energy is never destroyed. And what is love if it isn’t the most powerful energy we know of?

I was totally captivated by this book and it made me think once again about how all our actions have consequences, even though we may not know it at the time. The smallest interactions that Luna has in the past have profound effects on her future, but her vitality, her energy, her love remains. Sometimes, just sometimes, what seems impossible can really happen. The Summer of Impossible Things is a wonderfully magical book and I loved it.

Huge thanks to Ebury Publishing for my review copy via Netgalley. The Summer of Impossible Things will be published in hardback and as an e-book on 29th June. You can buy at all good bookshops or can order a copy online here.

If you’d like a chance to win a copy of this book, click the giveaway link below. You can enter up to midnight on Tuesday 4th July and the winner will be contacted within 24 hours. (UK giveaway only)

Click here to enter the giveaway


From the back of the book

If you could change the past, would you?

It is only after her mother’s death that Luna begins to discover her secrets.

While in New York to settle the estate, something impossible happens to Luna. She finds herself in 1977, face to face with her mother as a young woman, in the week that changed her life forever.

If time can be turned back, can it also be rewritten? Luna becomes convinced she can save her mother from the moment that will eventually drive her to suicide.

But in doing anything – everything – to save her mother’s life, will Luna have to sacrifice her own?

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Memory Book, this is a beautiful lush novel about love, courage and sacrifice, The Time Traveller’s Wife for a new readership.

Julia Roberts #AuthorInTheSpotlight @JuliaRobertsTV

Julia Roberts author pic

I’m pleased to be joined by author Julia Roberts today as part of the blogtour for Alice in Theatreland. The book was published in April as an ebook and in paperback on 27 June. You can order a copy online here.

Thanks for joining me Julia. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

I’m Julia Roberts and for the past twenty-four years I have worked as a television presenter at QVC, the shopping channel. I started my career in show business as a dancer in the 1970’s, followed by stints as a singer and actress before moving in to TV presenting in the late 1980’s, initially for my local cable channel where I learnt the ropes. I live with my partner of thirty-nine years and have two grown-up children aged twenty-nine and thirty. I support Crystal Palace football club, love cats and am a vegetarian.

What inspired you to start writing?

I’ve always loved writing. When I was ten, my junior school entered a short story I had written into a regional competition, in which I was placed second, and the same year I also wrote and produced a school play for my classmates at the Jesse Gray school. I then had a break of about forty-five years before my first book was published by Preface Publishing (a memoir entitled One Hundred Lengths of the Pool) followed two years later by my first novel.

Tell me about your journey to publication

My novels are self-published. I did submit the first few chapters of Life’s a Beach and Then… to a few agents but no-one was particularly interested. I had lovely feedback from one of the Random House imprint editors but was told it didn’t ‘fit’ their list at the time. As I’ve left it quite late to start on my novel-writing journey, I don’t have the luxury of time so I decided to do it myself. I think it is much easier to self-publish these days and it also means I keep control of the way the book looks and reads, although I do use a copy editor, cover designer and formatter to make sure the end product is as good as it can be.

In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?

Alice in Theatreland by [Roberts, Julia]

Alice in Theatreland is set in 1976 and is the story of a naïve young dancer from Nottingham arriving in London with the dream of seeing her name up in lights outside a West End theatre. She is befriended at the audition by more experienced Gina who is herself embroiled in the seedier side of London’s club land. Alice’s star seems to be rising when she unexpectedly has to step in to the shoes of ‘Theatreland’s’  female lead until unwanted attention from the show’s producer threatens to ruin the rest of her life. 

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I had gone on a short break to Spain in September last year to start writing a book I had plotted. On the first morning, I thought I would enjoy an hour in the sunshine before sitting down at the computer and the title just came to me. Three hours later I had the whole plot, give or take a few twists and turns, but I didn’t start writing it until January and it was finished by April – the whole story just poured out of me. I’m sure you’ve realised it is a play on Alice in Wonderland.

How did you celebrate publication day?

I was intending to have a party, ideally somewhere in the West End of London to tie-in with the location of ‘Alice’,  but life kind of got busy and I ran out of time to organise it. For the Kindle publication in April we held a Facebook live party though and that was great fun – definitely something I would recommend and will do again.

Do you have a work in progress just now?

I’m working on a few ideas at the moment. I’m about a quarter of the way in to the book I was working on when I abandoned it to write ‘Alice’. I really love the idea of it but it wasn’t quite working. However, following a writer’s retreat I attended in March and some constructive feedback from author Rowan Coleman, I am seeing it through new eyes. That may well be my next book, hopefully out at the end of October, unless I get another flash of inspiration as happened with ‘Alice’.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!

I don’t have a lot of time to read except when I’m on holiday. I am just back from eleven days away where I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Private Paris’ by James Patterson.

Private Paris by [Patterson, James]

What are you reading just now?

I’ve been a fan of Adele Parks for years and I’ve just started reading ‘The Stranger in my Home’ – I’m enjoying it so far although goodness knows when I’ll find the time to finish it.

The Stranger In My Home: I thought she was my daughter. I was wrong. by [Parks, Adele]

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

That’s a difficult one… maybe something by John Grisham? A Painted House or A Time to Kill probably.

A Painted House by [Grisham, John]

Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?

Does it sound bad to say I would love to see Alice in Theatreland made in to a film? It would be a cross between A Chorus Line and La La Land but with a thriller edge. I don’t know who I’d cast as Alice but the part of Anita, wife of evil theatre producer, Richard, would be perfect for Helena Bonham Carter. I can dream can’t I?

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

I’m on twitter @JuliaRobertsTV and my Facebook page is also Julia Roberts TV. I have just started an Instagram account-  juliagroberts and my website is

And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind – my favourite heroine of all time.


Catch up on the rest of the tour on the following blogs

Alice Book Blog Tour 3

Bookshop Manager in the Spotlight! Keith from @WaterstonesFort

Portobello book blog photo

My nearest bookshop is Waterstones in a local retail park, about five minutes drive from my house. The shop has recently moved and there is to be a grand re-opening tomorrow. Today I’m pleased to be joined by the shop manager Keith, who is chatting about his reading habits, his favourite things about working in a bookshop and tells me a bit about the move as well.

Thanks for agreeing to visit the blog Keith. First of all, would you tell me a little about yourself?

I have worked for Waterstones for 10 years now. Books have always been one of my major passions.

What books/authors did you enjoy as a child?

As a child I particularly loved the “Alfred Hitchcock & The 3 Investigators” books. One summer in Belgium I happened upon a copy of “The Godfather”, & devoured it in a 3 day reading jag. I was 12, & from then on my favourite authors were Ian Fleming, Alistair MacLean & Desmond Bagley. I also loved novelisations of Clint Eastwood movies, because I was too young to get into “X” cert movies at the time. Videos still hadn’t been invented back then.

What do you enjoy most about working in a bookshop?

Talking to people about books and writer related topics is the main thing I enjoy about working in a bookshop.

Just yesterday I recommended Eva Ibbotson’s wonderful “Journey To The River Sea” to a customer.

She seemed absolutely delighted with my enthusing. Wee moments like that make it a pleasure.

Your shop has just moved within Kinnaird Park – why and what was the move like?

We had been in a huge unit, that we used to share with HMV & Starbucks, but the park wanted to redevelop the unit, so we had to move. Luckily there was an empty unit across the road, so after building a first floor into the unit, and many booksellers drafted in from our Princes Street branch we moved the locks, the stocks & the barrels across the road on two of the hottest May days on record.

What are the plans for the grand re-opening?

           Mary Paulson-Ellis  

For our Grand reopening, we are having Mary Paulson-Ellis do our ribbon cutting at 11:30 am and signing copies of her book. We have the Gruffalo appearing,  storytime and activities for children throughout the day.

Are there social media accounts for the shop eg Twitter or a Facebook page?

The shop has Facebook waterstonesfortkinnaird, Twitter @WaterstonesFort & Instagram -waterstonesfortkinnaird.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past year? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose. 

My favourite books in this past year are “The Tucci Cookbook” by Stanley Tucci. Cool guy, cool stories & great recipes. That and “Crash Land”, Doug Johnstone’s latest book.

             The Tucci Cookbook by [Tucci, Stanley]      Crash Land by [Johnstone, Doug]

What are you reading just now? 


I’m currently reading “The Power” by Naomi Alderman, this years winner of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction.


If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

For my desert island selection it would have to be T.H. White’s magnificent retelling of the Arthurian legends, “The Once & Future King”.

The Once and Future King by [White, T. H.]


Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?

Made into a film? That would be “Jupiter’s Legacy”, an amazing super-hero dystopia comic by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely. Dream cast: Arnie, Krysten Ritter, Luke Evans & Ryan Hansen (he played Dick Casablancas in “Veronica Mars”)

Jupiter's Legacy Vol. 1 by [Millar, Mark]

And finally, if you could be a character in any book, who would it be and why?

Any character, any book? Batman. If you must be someone, be Batman.