Friday Night Drinks with….Alison May @MsAlisonMay @julietbellbooks @RNATweets #GuestPost #FridayNightDrinks #RNA #AllThatWasLost

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It’s Friday again, hooray! My favourite day of the week, not only because it is the start of the weekend, but also because it is time to hang out again with a bookish peep and have Friday Night Drinks. This week I am delighted to be sharing my evening with the lovely novelist, short story writer, blogger, writing tutor, and Vice-Chair, no less, of the Romantic Novelists’ Association –  the ever upbeat, Alison May. Alison won the RNA’s Elizabeth Goudge trophy in 2012, and her short stories have been published by Harlequin, Choc Lit and Black Pear Press. Alison has also been shortlisted in the Love Stories and RoNA Awards.

Alison May

Alison, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening. I feel honoured, since you are such a busy woman! First things first, what are you drinking?

Wine. Preferably sparkling. I’m not posh though so I won’t have the slightest idea whether it’s prestige champagne or supermarket prosecco.

I’m not posh either, so special offer prosecco will do me too. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I think my clubbing days are behind me – thank goodness. I like a dance but I’ve always prefer conversation-based socializing to sweat-based really. My favourite summer drinking spots are generally outside – I’m fond of a good beer garden. At this time of year a nice pub is the way to go, squirrelled away somewhere in a cosy corner.

My local is fabulous, inside and out, and has the advantage of being within staggering distance if we over-indulge, I’m sure you’d love it. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Terry Pratchett and Victoria Wood. I used to mock people who got upset when celebrities they’d never met died, but I cried at both of those. I’m sad that I don’t get to read or watch new work from either of them anymore and really sad that I never met them.

I totally agree, two amazing people, both geniuses. Victoria died in a year when we lost so many great artists but I also cried when I heard the news that we had lost her. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

So I’m an author. I write under my own name and as Juliet Bell, in collaboration with Janet Gover.. I started writing about 15 years ago and my first novel was published in 2011. Basically I want to keep writing books that people want to publish and hopefully that more and more people want to read.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I think All That Was Lost, my latest novel, is the thing I’m proudest of. It was a book of the heart that I wrote in snatched moments in between other things. I was delighted that that was the book that found me my agent. I absolutely love what my publisher did with it in terms of the cover. And I was so proud that authors I really respect – Katie Fforde, Rowan Coleman, Liz Fenwick and Julie Cohen – gave me such generous reviews.

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My biggest challenge has been writing two novels collaboratively, as Juliet Bell. In the end I loved doing it, but I’m a total control freak at heart, so giving up control and sharing all the creative process with another person was a challenge. The second Juliet Bell book, The Other Wife, is out now.

The Other Wife

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

I want it all. I want film deals and bestsellerdom and to win big important literary prizes. I am in no way short of ambition!

It’s very refreshing to hear you say that, Alison, as I often hear people say it is all about the writing and not the success, but I am sure secretly we all dream of the movie adaptations and Sunday Times Bestseller labels.

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

At the moment I’m working on a split timeline novel about witchhunts, both the modern social media storm kind and the actual seventeeth century kind. It’s a big complicated book and I genuinely don’t know if I can pull it off which is scary and brilliant in equal measure.

That sounds fascinating – just the kind of thing I love to read. I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I love to travel too, when time and funds allow. I love New Zealand. I’ve been there twice, but I think my favourite place I’ve been is Hawaii. Very laid back, amazing scenery and incredible wildlife. Basically I’m happy anywhere that I can go out on a boat and see dolphins!

In the UK I love Scotland – Edinburgh is my spiritual home, and I love the area around Inverness too (see my earlier comment about dolphins).

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I once played an alien in a radio drama series. Strange but true.

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

If you haven’t already read it then I highly recommend Together by Julie Cohen. It’s beautifully written and manages to be romantic and challenging all at the same time.

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And, she says shamelessly sneaking in a second book, at the top of my To Read pile at the moment is The Queen’s Wing by Jessica Thorne. That’s totally different – it’s a fantasy adventure, and I’ve heard amazing things about it from friends who had early review copies. 

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I’ve also seen some early reviews for this from fellow bloggers and it sounds great. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Massive glass of water and paracetamol before bed. Same again in the morning. Then, as soon as you’re sure you’re not going to puke, it’s bacon sandwich time.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Well it’s winter so it feels like the time of year for hunkering down drinking hot chocolate, reading many books, and not doing very much else at all.

That sounds like my kind of weekend. thank you so much for chatting with me on the blog today, Alison, it has been an absolute delight.

Alison’s latest book All That Was Lost is out now and you can buy a copy here. Check out the blurb below:

In 1967 Patience Bickersleigh is a teenager who discovers a talent for telling people what they want to hear. Fifty years later she is Patrice Leigh, a nationally celebrated medium. But cracks are forming in the carefully constructed barriers that keep her real history at bay.

Leo is the journalist hired to write Patrice’s biography. Struggling to reconcile the demands of his family, his grief for his lost son, and his need to understand his own background, Leo becomes more and more frustrated at Patrice’s refusal to open up.

Because behind closed doors, Patrice is hiding more than one secret. And it seems that now, her past is finally catching up with her.

May thrills in this English familial mystery, adding enticing plot layers as intricate and divisive as the themes she introduces.

If you would like to find out more about Alison, here are her social media links:

Website: https://alison-may.co.uk

Facebook: Alison May Author

Twitter: @MsAlisonMay

Instagram: @msalisonmay

Next week on Friday Night Drinks, I am featuring author and fellow member of the Yorkshire Terriers Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Angela Wren, creator of the Jacques Foret Mysteries, set in France.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman #BookReview (@GailHoneyman) @HarperCollinsUK @PamelaDormanBks #EleanorOliphant

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Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

So, now I am sure I have achieved my goal of being the last English-speaking person in the western world to read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, I thought it was about time I got round to it and posted a review. The only problem is, since every other book blogger on the face of the planet has already read and reviewed this book, ad infinitum, what could I possibly have to say that hasn’t been said already?

I have to admit I was little concerned going in, as the book has had such hype that I didn’t believe it could possibly live up to my expectations. At the same time, I have read more and more reviews recently by people who have abandoned the book at an early stage, having been unable to get on with the main character at all. This included my own mother, although she and I have very different tastes and opinions on most things anyway.

I needn’t have worried. I absolutely loved every page of this book. I thought the character of Eleanor was unique and intelligent and really insightful and the whole story so well-drawn from beginning to end that I could not help but get drawn in to her world and life. What a sad and touching and lonely life she has had, until her friendship with Raymond changes everything for her. My heart is bruised from how much this story pummelled it with wave after wave of emotional wrenching. It has been a long time since it has had such a workout.

I guess I can understand how some people can find Eleanor jarring, she does not represent the social norm, but that is the entire point. This is the reason she is so isolated and uncomfortable with her peers. The discomfort that the reader might feel is illustration of why people like Eleanor become so socially isolated and lonely, but if we, as the reader and as people in society, push past this, we find the real person underneath who just longs to belong and is well worth knowing and Raymond is the model of what we should be. Warm, tolerant and understanding, I just loved him, although he himself might not be seen by society on first glance as the perfect specimen.

When I am reading, I tend to make little notes of pages where a particular line or paragraph has caught my eye as something that has touched or spoken to me or is worth remembering. I don’t think I have made as many notes on a book of parts I wanted to revisit as I did on this book. It was like the author was speaking directly to me, or even speaking my own thoughts at times. The final paragraph of Chapter 8. Halfway down page 106. The penultimate paragraph of page 174. The third paragraph of page 195. The top of page 238. A small phrase three-quarters of the way down page 286. The phrase on page 305, “Yellow tights did not, I noticed, flatter a sporty calf.’ All of these held small phrases or images that were joyful or moving or resonant or delightful to me. You will all have your own favourites, I’m sure. Some of it made me cry. Some of squeezed my chest so tight I grew short of breath. Some of it was just too painfully….truthful.

This book is marvellous. It, and Eleanor, are truly worthy of every minute you invest in reading it, and re-reading it will I am sure be equally beneficial. Anyone who does not persevere and try to find some bond with the character is missing out. A profoundly honest book that feels like it was written just for me.

If there is any chance at all that you haven’t got a copy of this book, you can buy it here.

About the Author

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Gail Honeyman’s debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, won the Costa First Novel Award 2017, and has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize.

As a work in progress, it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. Since publication, translation rights have sold to over thirty territories worldwide, Reese Witherspoon has optioned it for film and it was chosen as one of the Observer’s Debuts of the Year for 2017. Gail was also awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award in 2014, and has been longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines and shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Gail lives in Glasgow.

Connect with Gail:

Twitter: @GailHoneyman

A Little Christmas Charm by Kathryn Freeman #BookReview #BlogTour (@KathrynFreeman1) @ChocLituk @RaRaResources #ALittleChristmasCharm #RaRaResources #Giveaway

A Little Christmas Charm

Delighted to be taking part today in the tour for this festive book by Kathryn Freeman. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. There is a giveaway for another title by this author further down the post, so make sure you read to the end.

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Would you swap sea and sunshine for tinsel and turkey?
Gabby Sanderson is used to being let down – even at Christmas. Which is why she’s happy to skip the festive season completely in favour of a plane ticket and sunnier climes.

But this Christmas could be different, because this time she might not be spending it alone. Can Owen Cooper charm Gabby into loving Christmas in the same way he’s charmed his way into her life, or is he just another person who’ll end up disappointing her?

I wasn’t sure what I expected from the cover and blurb of this book, but it wasn’t whatt I got. I think I was anticipating a fairly twee, boy-meets-girl-at-Christmas story – pleasant in a superficial, passes-a-couple-of-hours kind of way. I love that kind of book when I am in a relaxed festive mood, with a cup of hot chocolate, cosy room, and my brain and emotions want something undemanding. However, this wasn’t that.

This book has a lot more depth of emotion and thematic range than I was imagining and really took me by surprise, in a good way. It just goes to show that you should never judge a book by its cover.

This is the story of Gabby and Owen, two very different people who meet and feel attraction. However, they both come with a lot of baggage and hang ups, which look like getting in the way of their relationship developing into something meaningful. Possibly predictable so far, but the author really gives them some genuine, painful issues to deal with and develops these in a very realistic, detailed and compelling way that brings that depth to the novel that I was talking about before. I was completely captivated by the characters and their story to the point where I was totally engrossed, feeling all the ups and downs of their emotions, willing them to work things out and unable to put the book down until I knew how it ended. I read it in a single sitting.

This is a very modern story with people who are in unconventional families, which are actually becoming more and more the norm these days and I love the fact this is being reflected in the novels that are available for us to read. Diversity is becoming the new normal, thankfully, and it is about time this was reflected in the literature we buy. I loved all the characters in this book. Gabby is a strong, independent woman who is totally self-reliant but events from her childhood have left her with trust issues and she is struggling to decide whether to let own in, especially given his reputation. But like the book, Owen is someone it would be wrong to judge by first impressions, he has a lot more depth to him than one might think and I defy anyone to read this book and not fall a tiny bit in love with him themselves.

The secondary characters were also delightful and the books rolls along at a smooth and fluent pace which was a pleasure to read. That is not to say it was all plain sailing. The behaviour of both protagonists had me inwardly screaming in frustration at times, but I am absolutely sure this was fully the intention of the author to reflect how the characters felt and to ramp up the tension and it definitely made the book more compelling.

This book has a lovely festive setting, but one which reflects a normal Christmas, rather than the OTT Yuletide fantasy portrayed in some seasonal stories, which perfectly fitted in with the story. I really enjoyed this down-to-earth, romantic read and I am sure you will too.

A Little Christmas Charm is out now and you can get it here.

Giveaway

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To be in with a chance of winning a paperback copy of A Little Christmas Faith by Kathryn Freman, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

This book is taking a big blog tour, check out the poster for details of the other blogs taking part:

A Little Christmas Charm Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero. 

With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn’t always about hearts and flowers – and heroes come in many disguises.

Connect with Kathryn:

Website: http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk

Facebook: Kathryn Freeman

Twitter: @KathrynFreeman1

Shilly-Shallying, Stalking and Serendipity @RNATweets #amwriting #motivation #selfbelief

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Yesterday morning I cleared out my kitchen cupboards.

What a riveting topic for a blog post, Julie, I hear you all say. Why are you telling us? Well, bear with me, all will become clear.

Back in the summer I took a big decision and decided to close down my travel consultancy business to focus on training for a new career more related to publishing, and completing my first novel. People who have been following my blog this year will know that I made a commitment to myself to take my writing seriously this year by joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme (NWS), doing a writing retreat and getting the book finished and ready for submission. (If you are interested, you can read all about my resolution here.) I have made quite a lot of progress towards this goal, getting the first draft of the book done, attending a lot of RNA events, which have been hugely inspirational, having a ball on my writing retreat, and getting my manuscript critique back from my NWS reader, which should help me improve my manuscript during the editing.

Then I hit a roadblock. A mental one. I’ve started to doubt myself, my story, my abilities, in fact everything about my book and, as a result I am avoiding working on the edits. This is where the cupboard tidying comes in. I told myself I needed to do it before Christmas and today was the perfect time as they are quite empty before the big shop, but I’m lying to myself. It is a displacement activity to avoid having to look at my book. I’ve finished my Christmas shopping. Booked next year’s family holiday. Blogged like a maniac. Anything but write. Procrastination. Shilly-shallying of the highest order.

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The truth is, I have become afraid of my book. Or, more accurately, I am afraid of my lack of ability to do justice to my book. I don’t believe I am a good enough writer to get anything published. The story matters too much to me. The whole thing has become too big for me to face, so I’m running away from it. I’m afraid of failing. I am literally frozen with fear. So I’m doing nothing. ‘Tomorrow,’ I keep telling myself, ‘I’ll work on it tomorrow.” But you know what they say about tomorrow.

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Things have got worse this week because of the conference. What conference, I hear you ask? The conference currently being held at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida where all my old colleagues and friends from my travel consortium are currently gathered to celebrate and talk about the travel business. They are all together in one of my favourite places in the world, celebrating their successes….together. This is the first year I am not with them. Instead, I’m sitting alone at my desk, not working on the book I gave it up for.

So I’ve been torturing myself, following the conference hashtag on Twitter; stalking my old travel mates on Facebook; watching as they have a private, after-hours dinner in Diagon Alley with exclusive access to the Gringotts ride. Meeting Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Singing karaoke on CityWalk. Sending me messages telling me they miss me and it’s not the same without me. And, for the first time, I’m starting question whether I’ve done the right thing after all.

But this is the fear talking.

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I have to keep reminding myself why I made the decision I did (and there were many good reasons and a lot of thought went in to it) and that I have the support of my family behind me. But I’m not very good at talking myself up. I am the Queen of Self -Doubt (that would make a good book title, wouldn’t it); the ultimate possessor of Imposter Syndrome; chronically lacking in confidence.

Then, yesterday, three things happened all together that made me stop and think and pull myself together. If you believe in serendipity, they all happened to guide me back on to my path and re-focus my determination on reaching my goal. Reminding me why I started this in the first place and that what I am experiencing is not unusual and I can’t let it stop me.

Firstly, one of my friends posted this video on Facebook:

There are a couple of messages in this piece of slam poetry that really spoke to me, mainly that I need to speak more kindly to myself, as I would to someone I love. Would I be so hard on another person, or would I be encouraging them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams? I need to be my own cheerleader.

Secondly, I found this website, just when I needed it and realised that I am not alone. Every writer feels how I feel and I just have to push through it. There is no reason why I can’t finish my novel. My feedback so far has been good. People have told me they like what I write. And one thing is for sure, I’ll never know unless I try.

Finally, a close writing friend of mine (I won’t out them, they can comment if they want to share) messaged me and told me they thought their writing was s***e and they weren’t sure they could finish their book and I inwardly smiled, before telling them all the things I truly believe about their abilities, but which I don’t seem to be able to tell myself. They were giving voice to all my fears about my own work and reminded me, I am not alone. There is a whole tribe out there in the same boat as I, who I can turn to for support and all the positive reinforcement I can’t give myself.

Why is it so easy to believe the bad things we tell ourselves and not the good? Why is it so easy to be kind to others but not ourselves?

So, I am now determined. I’m going to get this book finished and send it out into the big wide world to take its chances. Maybe I will never get published, but at least I’ll know. Because one thing is for sure, by failing to try, I am already failing, and that is not good enough. I don’t want to spend my days wondering, what if? Living with failure will be easier than living with regret.

If you need me, you can find me at my desk because I #amwriting.

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Five Ladies Go Skiing by Karen Aldous #BookReview #BlogTour (@KarenAldous_) @HQDigitalUK @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #FiveLadiesGoSkiing #Giveaway #RNA

Five Ladies Go Skiing

It’s freezing outside as the pinch of winter takes hold so it is apt today that I am on the blog tour for Five Ladies Go Skiing by Karen Aldous. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on to the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. Make sure you visit the giveaway further down the post.

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When Ginny Watts’ husband passes away, she is left grief-stricken, not only over her husband’s death but the secrets he has left behind…

Luckily for Ginny, she has four wonderful friends – Lou, Cathy, Angie and Kim – poised to whisk her away on a ladies’ skiing holiday to beautiful La Tzoumaz, Switzerland.

While all of them appear to have their lives together from the outside, little do the ladies know that every single one of them is fighting a secret battle.

As the trip unfolds, they realise that fears of tumbling down the slopes after too much après-ski fun is the least of their worries and all is not what it seems…

I was really looking forward to reading this book, attracted by the cover and the title and the blurb. I am really enjoying the current trend of books featuring older protagonists and I have thoroughly enjoyed the ones I’ve read this year. I think it is refreshing to read about women who are a bit older, although there was quite a lot of talk in this book about having a body of a younger woman which actually slightly detracts from the appeal of a book of this nature for me. I like heroines who are happy to be and look their age!

The setting of the Swiss Alps, a cosy chalet in a bustling ski resort and all the trappings that go with a ski holiday were the main draw of the book for me and this aspect fully lived up to my expectations. I love to ski, and I think the author did a fabulous job of bringing the scene and the whole experience to life, especially the food! I loved the fact that four of the ladies had never skied before and the trials and tribulations of that learning experience in later life were marvellously portrayed. The theme of being young at heart and it never being too late to experience new things were delightful and the book gave me everything I had hoped for in this regard.

The heart of this story is the friendship between these five women, which has lasted through the years and seen each of them through some tough times. However, it also explores the ideas that people still keep secrets from each other, however close they are, and that these secrets have the potential to destroy even the closest of relationships. Again, I think the author brings the characters to life very well and they are all warm and likeable and the relationships they have are genuine and plausible and really reflect how women interact and relate to one another. So far, so great.

However, there were parts of the prose that needed cutting because they dragged the pace of the book to a crawl, especially at the beginning. I understand that the author was trying to establish the characters, and this took some doing as there were five of them and the book is telling the story from multiple points of view. However, there was simply too much description early on, too much telling, rather than showing, of the ladies’ back stories and a lot of repetition of points that had already been covered.

It was a bit of a shame, because it made the reading a little laborious to begin with of what was otherwise a warm, seasonal, uplifting  and enjoyable book about female friendship and enjoying life.

Five Ladies Go Skiing is out now in e-book format and will be available in paperback on 13 December. You can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

To enter a giveaway to win one of 5 paperbacks of Five Ladies Go Skiing, please click on the Rafflecopter link below.

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*Terms and Conditions –Please note prize will be distributed once the paperback is available (published 13th December).  UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

If you would like to check out the other blogs on the tour, you can find them on the poster below:

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About the Author

Author Karen Aldous High Res

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Much of Karen’s inspiration comes from her travels and meeting people. The UK, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and parts of the USA and Asia are just some you will experience in her books to date. However, wherever she goes, new characters emerge in ‘Karen’s World’ screaming at her to tell their stories; past or present. She loves to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives – but struggle to control them! And, of course there’s always a gorgeous hunk or two!

Connect with Karen:

Website: http://www.karenaldous.co.uk

Facebook: Karen Aldous Author

Twitter: @KarenAldous_

Instagram: @karenaldous_

Small Town Nightmare by Anna Willett #BlogTour #BookReview @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours #SmallTownNightmare

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A young drifter is in deep trouble, his sister is his only hope…

Lucy’s younger brother has gone missing. When she sets out to find him, the trail takes her to Night Town. It’s a rural backwater deep in the forests of south western Australia.

Lucy tries to enlist the help of the local police, but she is met with hostility. She befriends a man who might help her cause. Yet he is not quite who he says he is.

As the locals begin to resent her presence in the town, danger quickly mounts. The town has secrets and they seem to centre on the enigmatic Samuel Nightmesser, its wealthy benefactor.

What connects her missing brother to this grim boondock? And why do the townsfolk want rid of Lucy?

As the story unfolds we are immersed in a creepy, claustrophobic drama in which everything is at stake. If you like books with a strong female lead that keep you on the edge of your seat, you’ve found your next favourite read.

I’m delighted to be rounding off the blog tour today for Small Town Nightmare by Anna Willetts. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for asking me to take part and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Well, this book does exactly what it says on the tin! The story of Lucy who is looking for her missing drifter brother in a tiny, remote rural town in Western Australia and finds a horror more awful than she could have anticipated. The book was gripping from the opening pages to the end and kept up the suspense all the way through and anyone picking up the book because of the title will not be disappointed. The author really brought the environment and setting to life and I particularly enjoyed this aspect of the book, as it is not a place I have read much about, but is a harsh and barren land very fitting to the story.

The author has set the book in a town where community are close-knit and suspicious of outsiders and, as the story is kept largely within its confines, we feel intimately the constrictions of the setting which gives an intense sense of claustrophobia to the story and heightens the tension to almost unbearable levels, particularly towards the end of the book. There were plenty of moments which had my nerves jangling and would be ‘peeping from behind a cushion’ scenes if this were a TV drama.

The book was well-plotted and had a surprising narrative, one which some people might find disturbing as parts of it involve fairly graphic examples of torture and violence. There is a theme of sadism and disturbed mentality in the book that will not suit everyone but makes for a compelling story for the reader. Lucy is a strong protagonist, which is always a pleasure in a book, although I did find her very reckless and naive to a degree that didn’t quite ring true for an investigative journalist if you really stop to examine it closely, so it requires a suspension of disbelief. Quite why she trusted one particular person so quickly and readily, given the circumstances, was the main sticking point for me.

The one other issue I had with the book was that I felt there were couple of loose ends which were adequately explained for me which left the book slightly hanging. I one way, the ending was great and exactly right and the motives of the main antagonist were clear but there were some developments at the end which happened rapidly and weren’t fully fleshed out and left me guessing. This may have been deliberate but it left me feeling faintly dissatisfied with that particular thread. It is hard to say more without giving away the plot so I apologise if this doesn’t make too much sense. You’d better read the book yourselves and then come back and tell me if you know what I mean and whether or not you agree!

This book is quite a quick read, but packs a lot of punch into the pages and definitely is one I would recommend. It was tense, disturbing and gripping thriller set in an environment not much written about and the author really captured a sense of menace and insularity in the pages. A worthwhile read.

Small Town Nightmare is available now and you can get a copy here.

To get a range of opinions on the book from my fellow bloggers, make sure you check out the rest of the blogs on the tour:

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About the Author

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Anna Willett is the author of Backwoods Ripper, Retribution Ridge, Forgotten Crimes, Cruelty’s Daughter and the best-selling thriller, Unwelcome Guests. Her new release, Small Town Nightmare is available on Amazon. Raised in Western Australia Anna developed a love for fiction at an early age and began writing short stories in high school. Drawn to dark tales, Anna relishes writing thrillers with strong female characters. When she’s not writing, Anna enjoys reading, travelling and spending time with her husband, two children and their dogs. 

Connect with Anna:

Website: https://www.annawillett.info

Facebook: Anna Willett

Pinterest: Anna W Author

Goodreads: Anna Willett

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Tempted by….Tales Before Bedtime: A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson @AJ_Wils @panmacmillan @ShelleyFallows #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #AFarAwayMagic

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When Angel moves to a new school after the death of her parents, she isn’t interested in making friends. Until she meets Bavar – a strange boy, tall, awkward and desperate to remain unseen, but who seems to have a kind of magic about him. Everyone and everything within Bavar’s enchanted house is urging him to step up and protect the world from a magical rift through which monsters are travelling, the same monsters that killed Angel’s parents.

But Bavar doesn’t want to follow the path that’s been chosen for him – he wants to be normal; to disappear. Fighting one another as well as their fears, Angel and Bavar must find a way to repair the rift between the worlds, and themselves, before it’s too late . . .

Wow, these Mondays seem to be coming around quickly, which means it is time for the next in the ‘Tempted by….’ series, highlighting books I have been tempted to buy after reading reviews of them by my fellow bloggers.

Today I am showcasing A Far Away Magic by Amy Wilson, which I bought after reading this review by Shelley at Tales Before Bedtime. It was featured on the Tales Before Bedtime Juniors section of Shelley’s blog, as part of her  Summer Reading suggestions to keep kids occupied during the long holidays. My daughter loved Amy’s previous book, A Girl Called Owl, which I bought her for her birthday back in March, so I thought she might enjoy this too, but not until I’ve read it first!

My mother, when I ask her why she has never read Harry Potter, always responds with a question: “Why would I, as an adult, want to read a children’s book?” and I always reply, ‘Why wouldn’t you?” Children’s books contain some of the most beautiful, imaginative, innovative and exciting writing being produced today and anyone who thinks that the quality of writing for children is lesser than that in adult fiction is sorely mistaken. Plus, I think we all need a little magic and fantasy in our lives in these stressful times, to remind us what it was like to be uncynical; to be filled with wonder and imagination and optimism; to believe anything is possible for us. Why wouldn’t you want to read children’s books?

When I read Shelley’s review of this book, I thought it sounded like a book that might offer all of this magic and wonder and imagination. Shelley sums up the book in this quote: “Beautifully written, filled with magic, love and grief, this is a powerful novel with wonderful characters – I was left feeling a little of the magic had stayed behind with me.” Just what I am looking for when I pick up a book to provide me with a respite from the adult world for a time. I can’t wait to read this, and fully intend to steal back A Girl Called Owl from my daughter to read too. Actually, I’ll swap it for this one as fair exchange is no robbery.

Make sure you check out the full review of the book on Shelley’s blog, and have a further scout around while you are there. She has lots of interesting content, including some of her own writing which I am sure visitors will enjoy as much as I do. You can find Shelley’s blog here.

If you would like to get your own copy of A Far Away Magic, you can buy the book here. Amy Wilson’s new book, Snowglobe, is also out now.