The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden #BlogTour #Extract (@lumsdenrich) @TinderPress @annecater @Bookywookydooda #RandomThingsTours #TheSixLovesOfBillyBinns

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At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time.

As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of hope and heartbreak.

This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

I am delighted to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden. My thanks to Anne Cater for offering me a place on the tour and to Tinder Press for allowing me to publish an extract from the book for you today.

Extract

One

I have to get this out.
I have to get it down before it’s gone for good.
While it’s still clear in my head.
While they’re all sat beside me, as alive now as they were then, these people I once loved.

Mary.
Hello, Mary. Do you remember me?
You were my first, though there may have been others before you; slips of things, stolen moments behind a mar- ket stall or in the straw of a cattle barn, but nothing to match the time we shared together. That first eruption of love when the world shifts and everything glows orange.

You died much too young, of a broken heart if I remem- ber right. Not sure if it was me or someone else who broke your heart, but we were never meant to last, you and me. Too many complications along the way, what with one thing and another.

Still, I loved you, Mary old girl.

Then Evie.
I loved you, Evelyn Ellis. For a lifetime, if I’m honest.

 

We were the right age for love when we started out. You were my forever girl.

A love that should have lasted to the end, but the world doesn’t work that way.

I loved you from the first moment I saw you. You might say that isn’t true, but you’d be wrong. I loved you then as I love you now.

These dry embers, buried deep, set alight once again at your memory. A fire that burned quiet for the rest of my life.

Archie.
My little boy.
I loved you, son, as soon as I knew you’d sparked into life. Knew you were a boy. I felt you kicking, your tiny feet.

Knew it would be you, Archie Binns. With your scruffy knees poking out of your shorts. Your pockets full of mar- bles; the catseye and the oxblood, the jasper, the aggie and the ruby. Your little hands.

Do you remember how we climbed trees together?
You know how much I loved you.
I’m not sure if I ever said it to you, not out loud anyway.

Not in words so you could hear. But you knew it, didn’t you, son?

Vera.
I was unhappy when I first met you, Vera. Forty-something, was I? Life was on a downward spiral, then you showed up out of the blue. You were so beautiful and you made me very happy.

 

page5image5766720page5image5756736page5image5757120page5image5763264You caused me trouble, too. I paid a price for loving you, that’s for sure. For a while I was lost in the wreckage, but isn’t that what we hope for when it comes to the end: to know we didn’t just pass by but lived through some- thing real along the way?

Everyone should be lucky enough to have a Vera once in their lives. Despite the trouble. Despite the price you end up paying.

To be taken to the edge and made to jump. To love until it hurts.

Mrs Jackson.
Black Betty.
Didn’t think I’d ever get those feelings again, much later on in life. After Evie and Vera and the rest of them. But suddenly there you were. You brought me out of retire- ment, you might say.

We were old when we met. Not proper old like I am now, of course. I was still able to do something about it back when you showed up, and we made it good, the two of us, when there wasn’t much pickings around.

Some lovely years together, me and Mrs Jackson. Funny, still calling you Mrs Jackson after all this time.

Mary, Evie, Archie, Vera, Mrs Jackson.
Five of them in all.
Five loves? Is that it?
It doesn’t sound much after all this time.
I recall the names, but the faces come and go.
When you first meet someone, you don’t know how

page6image5638976page6image5639168page6image5639360long they’ll be in your life for. It could be minutes or it could be forever.

You don’t know when it starts.
And you don’t know when it stops.
Some endings are final, others take you by surprise. Their last goodbye.
The world drags them away and all that’s left is a fading memory, turning to dust like the flesh on these old bones.

I want to remember what love feels like, one last time. To remember each of the people I loved, to see them all clearly again.

I’ll start with Mary.

Get it down on paper, all the details, before it’s gone for good.

While it’s still clear in my head.

If you enjoyed this short extract from the book and would like to read it in full, you can buy a copy of The Six Loves of Billy Binns here.

If you would like to read some reviews and see more content relating to the book, please do follow the blog tour as set out on the tour poster below:

six lives of billy binns blog tour poster

About the Author

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Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include Downhill, Sightseers, Sense & Sensibility and The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is his first novel.

Connect with Richard:

Website: http://richardlumsden.com

Twitter: @lumsdenrich

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Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell #BookReview #BlogBlitz (@DredaMitchell) @Bloodhoundbook #SpareRoom #BloodhoundBooks

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Beautiful double room to let to single person

Lisa, a troubled young woman with a past, can’t believe her luck when she finds a beautiful room to rent in a large house. The live-in owners are a kind and welcoming couple. Everything is fine until she finds a suicide note hidden in her room. But when the couple insist this man didn’t exist and that Lisa is their first tenant, Lisa begins to doubt herself.

Compelled to undercover the secrets of the man who lived in the room before her, Lisa is alarmed when increasingly disturbing incidents start to happen. Someone doesn’t want Lisa to find out the truth.

As the four walls of this house and its secrets begin to close in on Lisa, she descends into a hellish hall of mirrors where she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not as she claws her way towards the truth…

Did this room already claim one victim?

Is it about to take another?

I am delighted to be taking part on day one of the blog blitz for Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell. My thanks to Emma Welton at Bloodhound Books for inviting me on to the tour and for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I have wondered from time to time recently whether the trend of the ‘domestic noir’ psychological thriller might have run its course and there can’t possibly be anything fresh and new to come out of this genre – it has all been done to death (pun entirely intended!). Then you come across a book like this one and an awakened interest in this type of book is ignited by a novel with fantastic writing, breath-taking suspense and twists so devious that you couldn’t possibly have seen them coming.

This book is deeply creepy, from the extremely disturbing prologue until the unforeseeable denouement where the truth of everything is finally revealed. The main character is Lisa, a confused and tormented girl who finds herself renting a room in a house which hides a multitude of secrets and pain behind its innocent facade, and her already tenuous grasp on sanity is stretched to its limits by her search for the truth about the house’s past, and her own.

I found Lisa a believable and very sympathetic character who easily draws the reader into the heart of the story and carries them breathlessly along with her as she digs into the mystery. All of the characters are well drawn and individual, but absolutely none of them are what they seem to be. The author very deftly completes tiny pieces of the puzzle throughout the book to keep you guessing and then, every so often, throws in a bombshell that explodes every theory you thought you had and leaves you gasping and confused as you search for a new explanation for what is going on. This book has so many twists that you will meet yourself coming back and it will leave you in a complete spin.

The writing is fantastic, the author really creates an oppressive and dangerous atmosphere throughout the book; I found myself actually holding my breath in places and it is one of those books that had my racing to the end to get the puzzle finished. It did, perhaps, get a little crazy and outlandish towards the end, but it was all in the spirit and enjoyment of the story, and enjoy it I did. A huge thumbs up from me for this book, the first I have read by this author, and I will definitely be seeking out more of her writing.

Spare Room is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To read the rest of the reviews on the blitz, you can find the rest of the blogs taking part detailed on the poster below:

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About the Author

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Dreda Say Mitchell is an award-winning, bestselling crime writer, broadcaster, campaigner, and journalist. Since her sixth book she has been co-writing with Tony Mason. She is the author of eleven novels, with her debut awarded The CWA’s John Creasey Dagger. She has been a frequent guest on television and radio including Question Time, BBC Breakfast, Newsnight, Victoria Derbyshire, The Stephen Nolan Show, Front Row and Woman’s Hour and numerous others. She has presented Radio 4’s Open Book. Dreda was named one of Britain’s 50 Remarkable Women by Lady Geek in association with Nokia. She was the 2011 chair of the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival. Dreda and Tony’s work is currently in development for TV. She was born and raised in the East End of London where she continues to live.

Connect with Dreda:

Website: https://dredamitchell.com

Facebook: Dreda Say Mitchell

Twitter: @DredaMitchell

Tempted by….Novel Gossip: Dreams of Falling by Karen White @novelgossip1 @KarenWhiteWrite @BerkleyPub #DreamsOfFalling #bookbloggers #amreading #readingrecommendations

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On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree’s trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping–including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.

But life can waylay the best of intentions….

Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads–and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.

Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years–whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal–that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.

This week on my Tempted by…. feature, in which I showcase books I have bought after being lured into desiring them by the honeyed words of my beguiling fellow book bloggers, I have Dreams of Falling by Karen White, as reviewed here by Amy on her blog, Novel Gossip.

You will all know by now that I love any book set in the USA, particularly the Southern states with the Carolinas being particular favourites, so this book was always going to be appealing. Then the story, with its mixture of relationships and a hint of mystery sounded like exactly the type of story that I love. Amy’s description and praise of the book made me sure it was one that I should be adding to my TBR, and I decided to but a physical copy because I just love the cover too, and those can only truly be appreciated on a physical book.

Do make sure you visit Amy’s blog and have a look around. It is one of my favourites because, firstly, it is just so pretty and I’m a sucker for a pleasing aesthetic. Hers is the blog where, oddly, the physical appearance of her blog echoes most strongly her personality as I have come to understand it from her posts and interactions on social media, if that makes any sense at all (I’m not sure it even makes sense to me to be honest, but I know what I’m trying to say!) Secondly, she similarly has a very individual way of expressing herself, and I always enjoy her reviews, especially her three word summaries at the end. Thirdly, she is just a lovely and very supportive member of the book blogging community, which is something I greatly appreciate.

If you are tempted, as I was, to buy a copy of Dreams of Falling,  you can get a copy here.

The Lock by Andrew Barrett #BookReview #BlogTour (@AndrewBarrettUK) @BOTBSPublicity #TheLock #BookOnTheBrightSidePublicity

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I’m Eddie Collins, a CSI. I was finishing up at a sudden death in an old house, waiting for the body snatchers to arrive, when I heard a noise from the cellar.

I had time to kill, so I went to investigate.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one with killing on his mind.

I’m delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for The Lock by Andrew Barrett, a crime novella with a forensic twist. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Book On The Bright Side Publicity for asking me to take part in the tour and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly.

I haven’t read any of the other Eddie Collins books, so this was a short, sharp introduction to the character and the writing of Andrew Barrett, and I have to say it was a bit like getting a fast punch in the face that gave me the shock of my life and took my breath away.

This is only a short novella which took me around an hour to read, so perfect if you are wanting a quick, satisfying fix. However, I would not advise reading this if you are at all faint of heart. I made the mistake of reading it late at night just before going to sleep and it scared the pants off me.

This is only going to be a short review to give you a flavour of the book, as it is jam-packed with action from start to finish but I don’t want to include any spoilers in my review. What I will say is that it is a clever combination of forensic crime novel and an interesting dash of horror to go with it, which is quite different to my usual fare. I really liked the main character of Eddie Collins, who is a CSI rather than a policeman, so he brings a fresh and fascinating eye to a crime scene. Although this is a short book, the author does a great job of injecting a lot of Eddie’s personality in to the writing quickly and seamlessly. He does it very cleverly through his actions, thoughts and language, rather than telling us about him, which makes it an easy way to pick it up without slowing the pace of the story.

Eddie gets himself into a pickle by being a nosy parker, to be honest, and as the book goes through the tension becomes almost unbearable and you will feel ready to jump out of your skin. I liked the fact that the author is quite tongue in cheek about the horror aspect, as he has Eddie making references to the various slasher movies throughout which made me laugh a little, but didn’t lighten the tension.

It’s hard to say much more about the book without giving the plot away so I won’t. If you fancy a quick read with a gripping plot and a touch of horror thrown in that will make you jump out of your skin, this is a good choice.

The Lock is available now as an ebook and you can get your copy here.

Check out the rest of the stops on the tour as detailed on the tour poster below:

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About the Author

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Andrew Barrett has enjoyed variety in his professional life, from engine-builder to farmer, from Oilfield Service Technician in Kuwait, to his current role of Senior CSI in Yorkshire. 

He’s been a CSI since 1996, and has worked on all scene types from terrorism to murder, suicide to rape, drugs manufacture to bomb scenes. One way or another, Andrew’s life revolves around crime.

In 1997 he finished his first crime thriller, A Long Time Dead, and it’s still a readers’ favourite today, some 120,000 copies later, topping the Amazon charts several times. Two more books featuring SOCO Roger Conniston completed the trilogy.

Today, Andrew is still producing high-quality, authentic crime thrillers with a forensic flavour that attract attention from readers worldwide. He’s also attracted attention from the Yorkshire media, having been featured in the Yorkshire Post, and twice interviewed on BBC Radio Leeds.

He’s best known for his lead character, CSI Eddie Collins, and the acerbic way in which he roots out criminals and administers justice. Eddie’s series is four books and two short stories in length, and there’s still more to come.

Andrew is a proud Yorkshireman and sets all of his novels there, using his home city of Leeds as another major, and complementary, character in each of the stories.

You can find out more about him and his writing at http://www.andrew-barrett.co.uk

Connect with Andrew:

Website: https://www.andrewbarrett.co.uk

Facebook: Andrew Barrett Author

Twitter: @AndrewBarrettUK

Instagram: @andrewbarrettauthor

Exclusive Readers’ Group: Barrett ERG

The Monsoon Ghost Image #BookReview #BlogTour (@tomvater) @crimewavepress @rararesources #RachelsRandomResources #crimewavepress #MonsoonGhostImage

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Delighted to be on the tour today for The Monsoon Ghost Image by Tom Vater. Huge thanks to Rachel Gilbey at 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.

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Dirty Pictures, Secret Wars And Human Beasts – Detective Maier Is Back To Investigate The Politics Of Murder

The third Detective Maier mystery is a taut and crazy spy thriller for our disturbing times.

When award-winning German conflict photographer Martin Ritter disappears in a boating accident in Thailand, the nation mourns the loss of a cultural icon. But a few weeks later, Detective Maier’s agency in Hamburg gets a call from Ritter’s wife. Her husband has been seen alive on the streets of Bangkok. Maier decides to travel to Thailand to find Ritter. But all he finds is trouble and a photograph.

As soon as Maier puts his hands on the Monsoon Ghost Image, the detective turns from hunter to hunted – the CIA, international business interests, a doctor with a penchant for mutilation and a woman who calls herself the Wicked Witch of the East all want to get their fingers on Martin Ritter’s most important piece of work – visual proof of a post 9/11 CIA rendition and the torture of a suspected Muslim terrorist on Thai soil. From the concrete canyons of the Thai capital to the savage jungles and hedonist party islands of southern Thailand, Maier and his sidekick Mikhail race against formidable foes to discover some of our darkest truths and to save their lives into the bargain.

This is the third book in a series featuring private detective Maier. I haven’t read books one and two but this did not hinder my enjoyment of this book which can easily be read as a standalone. However, reading books one and two first would fill in some back story and give a deeper understanding of some of the characters in the book, so if you intend to read them all it would probably be a good idea to read them in order.

This is an interesting combination of detective story and spy thriller which is constructed in a way that is very different to the mainstream. The book is extremely fast-paced, sometimes moving so quickly that events pass by in a blur and it is quite hard to keep up with what is going on; the writing a dizzying kaleidoscope of happenings that have the reader and the characters spinning to get there head around it, which is a good reflection of the situation in which the characters find themselves. On the downside, I did find the narrative jumped around quite a bit and there seemed to be linking events missing which made it confusing to follow in places and I found it quite disjointed. This may be that it is just a very different way of writing that I am unused to, but it was definitely disconcerting the way people appeared and disappear rapidly with minimal connecting narrative.

There is a rapid and varied set of locations to match the events happening. From Berlin to Bangkok to Kho Pha Ngan, the case takes Maier and his cohorts across Asia to track down the significance of The Monsoon Ghost Image and why so many people are prepared to kill to keep it from seeing the light of day. There is a high level of very graphics violence in the plot and some extremely sick and unpleasant people involved and the writer doesn’t pull any punches so readers of a sensitive disposition may not enjoy this aspect of the novel but it certainly makes for excitement and high levels of tension for those who do. Bring a healthy dose of credulity to the book, there are parts that need it. At times it reminded me of some of the wilder aspects of a James Bond plot, but there is never a dull moment. Whether or not you are convinced by every aspect will be for you to judge.

The great plus for me of the book is the vividness of Vater’s writing. The scenes are brilliantly and viscerally brought to life through his prose and descriptions and the book has more of a literary leaning than I was expecting, given the plot, as Maier ruminates on the state of the world and the nature of man and the struggle against terrorism. Sometimes the forms of writing and speech are very formal. It was a really unique and interesting mix of elements that make it stand out in a sea of thrillers. Vater’s writing is definitely worth a peek if you are looking for some thing out of the mundane.

The Monsoon Ghost Image is out now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the tour, check out the poster below:

the monsoon ghost image full tour banner

About the Author

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Tom Vater has published four crime novels and is the co-owner of Crime Wave Press, a Hong Kong based crime fiction imprint. He writes for many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Telegraph, CNN and The Nikkei Asian Review. He is a best-selling non-fiction writer and co-author of the highly acclaimed Sacred Skin (www.sacredskinthailand.com).

Connect with Tom:

Website: http://www.tomvater.com

Facebook: Tom Vater

Twitter: @tomvater

Friday Night Drinks with….Wendy Clarke from The Fiction Cafe @TheFictionCafe #FridayNightDrinks #GuestPost #MadisonWard #TheFictionCafeBookClub #BookClub #amwriting #FictionCafeWriters

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I know I have been promising this guest for quite a while now but finally, at last, I am delighted to welcome to Friday Night Drinks, the founder of The Fiction Cafe Book Club, my favourite corner of the internet, my online writing group, The Fiction Cafe – Writers Group and a host of other brilliant related Facebook groups we will talk about later….. drumroll…….Wendy Clarke!

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening, Wendy, glad you finally made it! First things first, what are you drinking?

Had you asked me that this time last year it would have been anything from a pink gin and ginger ale to a Bailey’s but in April last year I gave up alchol and started drinking water! 

Now though, it’s coffee. I’m a little bit of a coffee addict!

At last, I’m not the only non-drinker at the table (if only for another six days anyway). 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 rarely go out as I prefer the quiet, warm of my home around my family, but if we were going ‘out out’, I’d take you to my daughter Bethany’s work place, which is a Cocktail Bar, restaurant. The Oat Hill which is in Market Harborough. She is training to be a chef. I’d treat you to a three-course meal from the A La Carte menu, cooked by my beautiful daughter. 

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I would really enjoy that. You must be very proud. 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?

Ooh, I have no idea on this one. I’m not that wowed by celebrities. I’d probably rather spend the time talking together. If I had to choose someone, maybe the character’s Joey Tribiani and Phoebe Buffet, from Friends I think they would be pretty funny to spend time with. Plus Joey doesn’t share food so no sharing would be needed!

Good choice! 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?

Well, 2018 was a really busy year and I didn’t get a lot done due to illness and busy groups. I have totally failed at getting my book edited, which I had planned to finish by end of last year. I need to knuckle down and get that done. The debut is a thriller but may be leaning a little more toward crime. I have several ideas for further novels all floating around in my head. Two of which will be books two and three with similar themes. They are both themed with something I’m really passionate about and feel will help people connect.

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Aside from my writing, the Fiction Café groups have been my most valued achievement. I started off by creating a little book group which would be a welcoming, friendly environment for people to talk about books. What I’ve managed to create, with the help of several admins, past and present, and of course the wonderful Tera Tidwell who was co-founder of the Café, is a group where people want to spend their time. We have also expanded in the last two years and now have a ‘franchise’ of additional groups, I’m not sure if franchise is the correct word, but sister groups doesn’t quite feel right either. With our other groups we also offer a unique element of respect and kindness which isn’t found in many book clubs. I do feel very proud of what I have achieved and although it is one hell of lot of work behind the scenes ensuring the group runs smoothly, I couldn’t do it without my wonderful admins. The last few months have been really tough but they have all supported me in a way you wouldn’t believe and I think the team we have currently, together will achieve great things. I can’t thank them enough for what they do for me and the groups and for their friendship. 

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You have truly created something remarkable in The Fiction Cafe. It is a friendly, fun, respectful group where there is never any nastiness, just a love and joy of books. It is totally my favourite place online and I have made some great friends there, so thank you! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

Oh most definitely the Fiction Café groups. I probably should have read ahead and added that here! 

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!

My dream is to publish and hold my paperback in my hand and sell one signed book! It’s a very simple dream, I’m not bothered about being successful, although obviously that would be nice, I just want to write, publish and sell my novel to show people I can. It isn’t a pipe dream, it will be my future. Ideally, I’d like to be a writer full time. I’d love to write a crime series with many books in it but I am very far off from that at the moment. 

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We share the same dream there, along with a lot of other members of The Fiction Cafe – Writers Group. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

My debut. It is my first novel that has taken a different turn from the original storyline that I had but I think it will be a shocker. People who know me will be surprised at my dark side. I write under a pen name of Madison Ward.

I also have another project for an anthology that nobody knows about so this is exclusive news! It wont be out until after my debut novel so unfortunately you will have a little wait yet. 

Wow, a scoop! How exciting! You heard it here first, folks. Thank you for sharing that with me. 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 have a funny story about bucket lists actually. When I first started dating Phil, we used to talk about all the things we would do together and we did create a bucket list of things to do. The first one though was funny because I didn’t know the name for it so I said I wanted to roll down a hill like a hamster. It was actually zorbing but we still laugh about it today because I didn’t know the name for it! Generally, bucket lists are full of cray things people want to do but mine is mainly countries I want to travel to. My favourite place that I’ve been to was Italy. I absolutely love the culture and food. I also loved Corfu. Once day I would like to live the dream of writing books while by the side of the pool in the Greek sunshine… Ah, we can all dream! 

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

I don’t know that there is anything, I was very briefly in a stunt team before I had my daughter but that isn’t anything new to group members of The Fiction Café.  

It will be news to some of my readers though! Stunt woman, amazing. 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’?

This is a very personal thing as everyone has different preferences of genre. I recently read the Chris Carter series of Robert Hunter which was really good. They were very gruesome so not for the squeamish but I like that kind of theme. I started those after reading the most gruesome and sick book called Lines of Justice: Azdaja by Lee Sherred. This was truly shocking but the best book I’ve read for a while. You should definitely read it if you like dark crime thrillers.

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I’m not sure this might not be too gruesome for me. It’s funny, isn’t it, because you’d never imagine Lee would write that kind of thing when you talk to him in the Cafe! 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?

If I drink alcohol, the trick is not to mix spirits and lager! That is the rule to not getting a hangover! But if you do go a little crazy, a pint of water before bed and a banana always ensures I wake up with a smug smile on my face.

Never tried a banana, I’ll have to give that a go. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I’m happy at home, so after spending time with my family, curled up watching Netflix with a blanket and a cup of coffee. I like an easy life and don’t feel the need to go out all the time. A nice field to park up the caravan where we can take the dogs for a walk on a nearby beach and stop off at the local pub for a cider (Obviously local Cornish cider is a must and the only time I generally make an exception to break the no alcohol rule).

Thank you so much, Wendy, for chatting with me this evening, it’s been delightful. And thank you for creating some of my favourite Facebook groups, you have definitely enriched my life!

If you are interested in exploring the marvellous groups Wendy has created on Facebook (and you should), please follow her social media links below:

https://fictioncafe.net

The Fiction Cafe Book Club

The Fiction Cafe – Writers Group

The Picturehouse Cafe – Movie Club

The Jukebox Cafe- Music Club

Facebook: Madison Ward

Twitter: @TheFictionCafe

Next week I will have novelist and stalwart of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Elaine Everest, joining me for the evening, so please call back then.

Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow #BookReview #BlogTour (@ChristieJBarlow) @HarperImpulse @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #LoveHeartLane #NetGalley

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Taking my turn today on the blog tour for Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow, so if you’re in the mood for a cosy, feel good novel with a healthy dash of romance, settle down for this review. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Randon Resources for my place on the tour and to HarperImpulse for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Welcome to Love Heart Lane…

When Flick Simons returns to the small village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.

When a winter storm sweeps in, the only bridge connecting the village to the main land is swept away! As the villagers pull together, Flick finds herself welcomed back by the friends she once left behind. And as the snow begins to melt, maybe there is a chance that Fergus’s heart will thaw too…

There are some occasions when writing a review for a blog tour can be really hard. It’s not those times when I really don’t like a book, because it is my policy not to post negative reviews on the blog. It’s not the times I really, really love a book because then I can wax lyrical for pages (as regular readers will be only too aware) about why you should read it immediately. The tough ones are the ones that fall in between, where you have to write a balanced review for a book about which you have mixed feelings. Finding that balance can be hard – between honesty and fairness to the author. Frankly, sometimes I’d like to duck out, because I blog for fun and writing these reviews sometimes isn’t fun. But I know how disappointing it is for blog tour organisers and authors to be let down, and it is a matter of personal importance to me to deliver on commitments that I have made and produce the reviews I have promised, so all I can do is give it my best shot.

But…I hate January. And I’ve got PMT. And my toilet is broken and taking ages to fix. I think my fridge is on the blink, even though it is only a year old. I’m waiting for the results of Little Miss Sunshine’s 11+ entrance exam. Mini Me has the fingers of her dominant strapped up after a netball injury and it looks like her vision may have worsened again. It’s cold. I hate driving on icy roads. I think one of my cats is becoming a bit incontinent. My WIP is currently in a difficult phase. I’m on a diet. I hate the gym. The finale of Game of Thrones is still three months away. Brexit. I’ve just done my tax return. A project I’m working on has hit a bumpy patch. I’m almost 47 and I’ve found a grey eyebrow hair. I’m doing Dry January.

What is the relevance of this litany of complaints, you ask? I thought you were trying to look on the bright side this year? All that ‘Be Happy’ guff from your New Year’s Resolutions? You are right, of course, and if I try, I can sit down and write a list of all the things in life that I am grateful for and that make me happy. My point is, sometimes we all have a bad day, or week, and that can affect our mood, what we enjoy reading and how we react to the things that we do read. I think that has happened to me this week because this is a book that has received rave reviews from all my fellow bloggers and would ordinarily be the kind of thing that would lift my heart at this time of year, but for some reason it just didn’t. Add to this the fact that this is the second romance book I have had problems loving this week and I feel the need to caveat this review with the idea that it might be me, rather than the book, that is the issue and you should bear that in mind and read all the reviews on the tour to get a balanced view.

(One kindly well-wisher has suggested that the problem may not be the books but resentment at the lack of romance in my own life. Are you listening, Irishman? Your position as my own, real life romantic hero is being brought into question. Better pull your finger out for Valentine’s Day!)

So, after all that, let’s get on to the review. There were parts of the book that I loved, and parts that were less successful for me, and I will try and explain why. Firstly, the general premise of this book and the setting are enchanting. Felicity fled the small town of Heartcross eight years previously under a cloud of heartbreak and has had little contact with its inhabitants since. However, circumstances force her back and she has to try and re-established the life and relationships she abandoned. So far, so fabulous. Heartcross is a picture-perfect Highland idyll and I fell in love with it immediately. Christie draws a very vivid picture of a charming village and peoples it with a cast of warm, real and delightful characters who form a close knit community that you can’t help wishing you could be a part of. Another blogger on the tour likened it to Brigadoon (one of my all time favourite musicals – Gene Kelly, mmmm) and I completely understand what she means, especially after the bridge falls. The plot driver of Felicity trying to rebuild the fractured friendships she left behind provides plenty of tension to keep the plot rolling along nicely from a personal angle, and then there are a number of practical problems thrown in for added impetus. All of this works perfectly. There is, of course, an emotional romantic relationship to be explored as well. Everything you could wish for seems to be present.

So why did it not quite work for me? Having given this a lot of careful thought, I had a couple of problems that prevented the book being a great read for me. Firstly, some parts of the plot were just two unlikely or problematic for me to buy in to. I know the author included them to move the story in a certain direction, but they were too much of a stretch for me to suspend my disbelief quite that far. This might not have been an issue normally – I’m often happy to swallow reality in favour of a romping read – but my overall current level of grumpiness comes with a large side order of pedantry that just made me annoyed at some of the more improbable or impractical aspects. You may fare better.

The second, and probably more damning problem was that there were fundamental things about the central character that I didn’t particularly like. At times she acted in a way that I perceived as monumentally selfish. She barged ahead with things she wanted to do, despite being asked repeatedly by more than one person not to behave that way, as if other people’s feelings were irrelevant, she absolutely knew best, and then seemed surprised when they were angry. Added to this, she was also a superwoman who saved the village pretty much single-handedly from every obstacle thrown at it. To be honest, it set my teeth on edge. Unfortunately, in this genre of novel, a failure to connect with the main character sounds the death knell of the book for me.

Christie’s writing is great, and on the surface this book works at every level. It certainly has wowed almost everyone else who has read and reviewed it. So, I will reiterate, I think the problem lies with me. I think it is just a case of wrong book, wrong time. This is one of the perils of blog tours. You commit to reading and reviewing a book, regardless of whether that book suits your mood or not, and are then faced with the stark choice of reneging on your promise to take part in the tour, which I hate to do because it is inconsiderate towards everyone else involved who has worked so hard to do their part, or writing a less than glowing review for a book that you may have enjoyed more at another time. It is a no win situation.

For this reason, I urge you to read the other reviews on the tour and use them to judge the suitability of this book for you, rather than the rather cross ramblings of a peri-menopausal woman having a bad week. Or better still, buy the book and read it and make your own judgments. Christie, I probably owe you a drink. I’m off to Google HRT and reliable plumbers and dig out the receipt for that dodgy fridge. And to choose something nice and murder-y for my next read that might better suit my current mood.

Love Heart Lane is out now as an ebook and will be available in paperback on 21 March and you can get your copy here.

To get a range of reviews and reactions to the book, please visit the other blogs on the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Christie Barlow is the author of A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother, The Misadventures of a Playground Mother, Kitty’s Countryside Dream, Lizzie’s Christmas Escape, Evie’s Year of Taking Chances, The Cosy Canal Boat Dream, A Home at Honeysuckle Farm and Love Heart Lane. Her writing career came as somewhat a surprise when she decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. The book she wrote to prove a point is now a #1 bestseller in the UK, USA & Australia.

Christie is an ambassador for @ZuriProject raising money/awareness and engaging with impoverished people in Uganda through organisations to improve their well-being as well as Literary Editor for http://www.mamalifemagazine.co.uk bringing you all the latest news and reviews from the book world.

Connect with Christie:

Website: http://christiebarlow.com

Facebook: Christie J Barlow

Twitter: @ChristieJBarlow

The Manor on the Moors by Liz Taylorson #BlogTour #GuestPost (@taylorson_liz) @BooksManatee @Tr4cyF3nt0n #compulsivereaders #TheManorOnTheMoors

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Alice has landed her dream job, searching the Misterley Manor archives for tales of the elusive Gilbert Fox-Travers – life should be perfect, if only she could untangle her complicated love life…

Caroline is desperately trying to keep Misterley from falling down around her ears, and it’s a tough enough job without throwing a stroppy teenager, a difficult ex-husband and a cantankerous father into the mix.

When disaster strikes, Caroline and her family must pull together to save her beloved family home…Can Alice uncover the mystery of Gilbert Fox-Travers in time to save the Manor?

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Manor on the Moors by Liz Taylorson and  the author has dropped by to tell us a little about how she came to write this particular book. My thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for talking to me today.

The road to “The Manor on the Moors”

“For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a writer. I still remember the excitement of being given a new notebook as a young girl because all those blank pages meant that I could start writing a new story. My writing was very heavily influenced by what I had been reading. I read Daphne Du Maurier and wrote historical stories or I read “The Lord of the Rings” and wrote fantasy – but always at the heart of these fictions was a love story, usually featuring a thinly disguised version of me!

In my twenties I tried more seriously to write novels but I had a problem with finishing them. I’ve got about three unfinished romantic novels somewhere in a shoebox – and one of them might get unearthed and rewritten one day – but then real life intervened and instead of writing myself as the heroine of a romantic novel I actually fell in love, got married and had children, and then had no time for anything else. It was only when the children got older and less dependent on me that I found I had the time (and the energy) to write again. 

And this time I knew this was it. If I wanted to achieve my life-long dream to “be a writer” I had to do it now and do it properly. So, I set about writing another novel and this time I made sure I finished it, which felt like a major achievement. I also joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme so that I could get some help with what to do next. I submitted my manuscript, so lovingly and carefully created, for appraisal, and that’s when I had one of the hardest tests of my writing life to date. Because it isn’t enough just to finish – there’s a lot more to it than that, as my manuscript appraisal revealed. You can’t just write what you want, if you want commercial publication – you have to write what other people want to read, and I hadn’t done that. I had a lot of work still to do.

This is where the hard work began. I did courses, I read books, I took advice, I learnt more about the craft of writing. And finally I wrote a novel that was good enough to be published – the lovely people at Manatee Books liked my slightly awkward heroine as much as I did, and there I was with my first novel in my hand. Now, that was great. But as soon as the first novel was finished, I had to come up with another idea to follow it, and, as any published writer will tell you, that second novel is HARD. 

You feel that you have to write something BETTER than the first novel – and yet you’ve spent years perfecting and polishing novel one. It has to be similar to novel one – now is not the time to switch genre – but not too similar to be repetitive. “The Manor on the Moors” went through, I think, five complete rewrites as I tried to get it perfect! But with a second novel, there is more help. There’s an editor, for a start, to help you develop and polish the story, and by now I had writing friends to turn to with dilemmas that needed advice.

I feel like I’ve travelled a long way from those early days scribbling stories in notebooks and dreaming of being a writer.  However one thing remains constant – I’m still writing love stories (though these days the heroine is only very occasionally based on me …), and in the case of “The Manor on the Moors” there are three love stories for the price of one!”

Thank you, Liz, for sharing your writing story with me today. It is so nice to see someone having success ahead on the same path I am currently treading with my writing!

If you would like to get your own copy of The Manor on the Moors, you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to read some reviews of the book and other great content, make sure you follow the blog tour below:

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About the Author

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Liz has always surrounded herself with books.

As a child, she was always to be found with her head in one and she still has a bookcase full of her childhood favourites to this day. (As a thirteen-year-old she read The Lord of the Rings twelve times in a row, cover to cover!) All this reading led, unsurprisingly, to a degree in English Literature, (and another book-case full of books) and then a job as a cataloguer of early printed books for a major university library. This meant spending hours sitting in a beautiful, ancient building looking at antique leather-bound tomes – although as so many of them turned out to be rather boring volumes of sermons she wasn’t tempted to read them! She went on to train others to catalogue books and her earliest attempts at writing anything as an adult consisted of instructions on how to work out the correct form of an author’s name to use in a library catalogue.

Children (and then cats and chickens) interrupted her bibliographic career, and having given up library work Liz found herself doing more reading, and increasingly she found herself enjoying novels by writers like Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde, Milly Johnson and Lucy Diamond. Inspired by their example, she started writing fiction and hasn’t stopped since, joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s wonderful New Writers’ Scheme to try to learn how to write novels properly in 2015. She has also attempted writing some short stories, with one The Second Princess winning a competition in Writing Magazine which led her to think that maybe publication wasn’t a pipe dream after all.

Liz owes everything to her tolerant and long-suffering husband Ben and her tolerant and long-suffering children, but very little to the cats who are neither tolerant nor long-suffering and keep sitting on the computer keyboard and messing up her manuscript if she forgets to feed them on time.

When not reading or writing Liz is often to be found on stage (or behind it) with her local amateur dramatic society, drinking tea, or visiting one of the several North Yorkshire seaside villages which were the inspiration for the fictional Rawscar, the setting for her debut novel The Little Church by the Sea.

Connect with Liz:

Website: https://liztaylorson.wordpress.com

Twitter: @taylorson_liz

 

Chance Of A Lifetime by Kendra Smith #BlogTour #Extract (@KendraAuthor) @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #NetGalley #ChanceOfALifetime

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A new life down under? It’s not as perfect as you’d think.

Katie and Tom’s marriage is in trouble. As is their bank account. So, when Tom tells Katie that they need to talk, she knows it must be about one of two things, and neither are good. But when he blind-sides her saying that his boss is sending him to Australia – permanently – Katie realises it might just be what they need to save their marriage.

Trouble is, she doesn’t like the heat, can’t swim and hates spiders. Not to mention the bouts of homesickness – and Tom’s endless business trips. Katie is finding the hope of saving their marriage slowly slipping through her fingers. But Katie is determined to take the bull by the horns – and her Speedos by the strap – and tackles her new life.

When all is said and done which side of the globe will she decide to call home?

I’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour today for Chance of a Lifetime by Kendra Smith, a feelgood romance with an exotic setting. My thanks to Victoria Joss at Head of Zeus for inviting me to take part in the tour and providing me with an extract from the book to share with you today.

Extract

Katie’s eyes roamed round the pantry as her mind processed its own inventory. Rice? Yes. Adulterer? That’s a bit harsh, your honour. Filter coffee? Half a packet. Unfaithful? You could call it that. French stick? Might have that for supper. Marriage vows? Need to review. Feeling sick about what you did? Definitely. Great sexual thrill. You bet.

‘Sweetie?’ Katie jumped. Her husband Tom was standing by the pantry door, peering at her.

‘You’re home early!’

‘We need to talk.’ He stared right at her. Oh God, not a ‘need to talk’ moment. Did he suspect? She didn’t actually do very much… She forced a cheery smile. But it soon slipped right off her face.

‘What’s wrong, Tom?’

‘Been repositioned.’ He looked about five-years-old. He was adorable. ‘Like I said might happen.’

‘Repositioned?’ The voice didn’t sound like hers. ‘Where?’

‘Australia,’ he said, as if in a dream. ‘Sydney.’ She stared at him, felt shivery, then walked past him and went upstairs and threw up in their brand-new Villeroy & Boch toilet. She’d never liked heat or spiders.

‘Why Australia?’ she asked quietly, downstairs again, staring into his intense grey eyes. Sitting white-faced in their farmhouse kitchen, clutching her paper napkin and looking round at their beautifully painted duck-egg blue walls, the black and white photos, the blown glass ornaments on the shelf from Italy, shining with a multi-coloured halo from the spotlight below, noticing the dust, the mundane things while the rest of her head was in a spin.

Like when my father died, she thought, all I could do was keep loading the dishwasher and watch baked beans slide off the plates – as if I could keep the stabbing pain away by worrying about how to clean the filter.

Tom paced up and down the wooden floors, his suede brogues making loud clipping noises.

‘Do you mean the E word…’ Her world was crashing around her. ‘Emigrate…’ Katie whispered, slightly hysterical by then, the napkin pink paper shreds. ‘We’ve just had all this done…’ Her voice trailed off, her hand gesturing to the granite work surfaces, the wooden floor, the gleaming glass extension that had robbed the garden of at least six metres. But in fact who cared what they’d had done to the kitchen? She wasn’t really terrified about leaving granite work surfaces; what she was terrified about was leaving her house, her home, England, Britain

‘K-A-T-I-E.’ Tom said her name in a very slow, deliberate way. ‘Martin has just offered me a job as head of New Asian Markets for Trent Financial – he says it’s exactly up my street, says my CV is perfect. He told me, Katie, that at forty-seven, I don’t have many options.’ He closed his eyes, leant his head back, clutched the grey granite work surface. Suddenly, his eyes snapped open again. He stared at her. ‘It’s a great salary and they’ll pay all our moving costs. It’s not emigration, it’s…’ he hesitated ‘…for a few years, a contract. An opportunity, that’s what it is.’ He smiled shakily at her. He’s trying to be his usual self, his alpha male, mused Katie. An opportunity for him maybe, but it might as well have been a job offer to Pluto; she felt like she couldn’t breathe.

‘But shouldn’t we—’

‘What? Wait for me to get another job? The country’s in a total recession.’ He folded his arms. ‘Bankers are getting fired everywhere, Katie, don’t you see?’ He sighed. ‘We are mortgaged up to the neck – especially with the bloody extra borrowing on the extension—’ She scraped her chair back, guiltily, remembering the cost.

‘You wanted it as much as me. Wanted to show off to all your clients…’ she whispered.

‘Katie, sweetheart – I’ve had a hell of a day,’ he said sweeping his fringe from his forehead and looking across at her. The look said don’t challenge me; don’t knock me when I’ve been kicked in the balls today and have managed to come up for air already. It said don’t try me when we are up to our necks in debt and I feel like I’m drowning.

She supposed that was the beauty of working for such a massive financial player as Trent Financial, and that was the beauty of having an ego the size of Tom’s – you could get redeployed anywhere. She remembered when she’d first met him; he was the Financial Director of the publishing house she was working for and several years older than her. She’d noticed him straight away. Tom with his long lashes, with his sandy-blond hair and schoolboy fringe, his oddly dark eyebrows, freckled nose and square jaw. He was rather like an older Prince Harry.

She’d been working there for two years, slowly inching her way up from Sales Assistant, (‘Can you photocopy this whole book before lunch? There’s a love’), to Senior Staff Writer. It hadn’t been easy, but she’d loved the work and loved the industry. Born with printer ink running through her veins, she used to say.

Tom had tested her one day. ‘Katie?’

‘Yes?’

‘Get that proof from the colour printer, will you?’ She’d ventured into the room where the huge colour printers hummed away. Coming out of the machine before her proof (‘How to meet Justin Timberlake this weekend!’) had been a pink and flesh-coloured ensemble of places where the sun don’t shine in the female anatomy. Her face had taken on a similar hue of magenta.

‘All right?’ Tom had smiled, taking the proof from her hand and looking her straight in the eye. (This was his little test she later found out to see who’d sink, who’d swim in this particular publishing house that also churned out a number of distasteful top-shelf titles as well as her teen magazine.)

‘Fine. Want a cappuccino?’ she’d asked.

He’d given her a quick look and said with a faint smile, ‘Thanks. Latte. No froth.’ That was the first time she’d seen that look on his face, one that was a mixture of mirth and mischief.

She had learnt her trade there. An editor who would not give up until everything was perfect; a ‘small team’ (that’s three full-timers and three and a half days’ worth of Claire, the anorexic office assistant) so you were forced to learn each other’s roles. She’d learnt how to cheat so it didn’t show.

‘Katie?’ Tom was looking at her. He put his huge hand over hers. ‘Are you all right?’

God, where had all those days gone, she wondered and then shook herself, tried to smile at him and squeezed his fingers. They should eat. Yes, remember the beans. Eat in a crisis. She watched Tom pour himself his second single malt. She walked past him towards the fridge, then suddenly had to grip the side of the counter as hot blood flooded over her chest and rose, like crawling spiders legs up her neck and face: Australia?

If you enjoyed this short extract from Chance of a Lifetime, you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to read some reviews of the books and see other interesting content, make sure you visit the rest of the stops on the tour:

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About the Author

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Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.

Connect with Kendra:

Website: http://kendrasmith.co.uk

Facebook: Kendra Smith Author

Twitter: @KendraAuthor

Tempted by….Mrs Bloggs The Average Reader: Up by Ben Fogle and Marina Fogle @MrsBloggsReader @Benfogle @FogleMarina @4thEstateBooks @WmCollinsBooks #Up #bookbloggers #Everest #travel #adventure

My eyes lifted to the horizon and the unmistakable snowy outline of Everest.

Everest, the mountain of my childhood dreams. A mountain that has haunted me my whole life. A mountain I have seen hundreds of times in photographs and films but never in real life.

She looked angry.

In April 2018, seasoned adventurer Ben Fogle and Olympic cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, along with mountaineer Kenton Cool, took on their most exhausting challenge yet – climbing Everest for the British Red Cross to highlight the environmental challenges mountains face. It would be harrowing and exhilarating in equal measure as they walked the fine line between life and death 8,000 metres above sea level.

For Ben, the seven-week expedition into the death zone was to become the adventure of a lifetime, as well as a humbling and enlightening journey. For his wife Marina, holding the family together at home, it was an agonising wait for news. Together, they dedicated the experience to their son, Willem Fogle, stillborn at eight months.

Cradling little Willem to say goodbye, Ben and Marina made a promise to live brightly. To embrace every day. To always smile. To be positive and to inspire. And from the depths of their grief and dedication, Ben’s Everest dream was born.

Up, from here the only way was Up.

Part memoir, part thrilling adventure, Ben and Marina’s account of his ascent to the roof of the world is told with their signature humour and warmth, as well as with profound compassion.

Today on the blog I have been Tempted by…  the book, Up by Ben and Marina Fogle, as recommended by Caryl in this review on her blog, Mrs Bloggs Average Reader.

I really love a good non-fiction travel memoir and I have read and enjoyed Ben Fogle’s writing before, most particularly his book, The Teatime Islands, which I have read several times. So I thought I would enjoy this book, and Caryl’s review just convinced me of it. Caryl is a fan of books about Everest and, having read several, recommended this as a noteworthy addition to the canon so it sounded like this was a worthwhile read. In addition, the inclusion of their experience of dealing with a personal tragedy that I have myself suffered, made the book sound like one I would find particularly relevant.

If you don’t follow Caryl’s blog already, why not? It is a pleasingly constructed and easy to navigate blog. She has a great mix of content, an eclectic range of books that she reviews and her critiques are always honest, well-considered and clearly expressed. She is one of my go-to bloggers for reliable reviews and I trust her opinion. We seem to often align on our feelings towards the books we have read and have similar tastes. I highly recommend taking a peek at Mrs Bloggs The Average Reader, if you haven’t already.

If you have been tempted by Caryl’s review of Up, you can buy a copy here.