Winner Announcement! My Big Blog Birthday Bonanza Bookish Giveaway @Jo_Furniss #Giveaway #BookBloggers #BookBlog #Birthday #Winner

So, it’s finally my birthday (Happy Birthday To Me!) and the winner of my birthday giveaway has been chosen by the discerning panel of my daughters. I am delighted to announce that the winner is (drum roll, please)…

CATHERINE SHIELDS!!!!!!

Congratulations, Catherine. I will be in touch to get the details of where to send your prize. Thank you to everyone who commented for your congratulations and kind wishes and comments on my blog, I’m feeling the love. Here is to another great two years.

Hard Setdown (Sam Cane Book 1) by T. Q. Chant #BookReview #BlogTour @LoveBooksGroup #TQChant #LoveBooksGroupTours

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Sam Cane – ex-con artist (sort of), ex-soldier (definitely), and woman on the run.

She’s looking to escape a life of petty crime on Earth that’s got her in too deep with the wrong people. Taking a job with one of the corporations contracted to open up and exploit new worlds in the growing Commonwealth, she’s assigned to a young colony right on the edge of human space. It looks like the perfect escape, until she arrives on IGC-187X and things start to go downhill. Fast.

Arriving at the colony site, she finds it mysteriously deserted, its communication systems sabotaged and her ride rapidly heading out of the system. Failing to repair the communications system in time, she realises she’s stuck on the apparently deserted planet unless she can get a deepspace message out. Exploring the colony site further, she realises two things – that something terrible has happened to the colonists, and that she’s not alone. She contacts survivors from the colony, who tell her they were forced to relocate due to raider activity, but their story doesn’t quite add up. Betrayed by them, she connects with the only sane person left – Adissa, the daughter of the colonial administrator, who has been living underground since her father had gone mad and led the colonists to a mysterious settlement elsewhere on the planet.

Suddenly, getting a message out has taken on a new urgency. Playing a deadly game of cat and mouth with the colonists, Sam and Adissa work together to try to get an old buried launch array on-line. The full horror of the situation starts to impact on Sam as she realises just how far the colonists have fallen and that something far worse is lurking hidden under the deserts of the arid world.

Out on the fringe, she’ll find out that what you’re running from isn’t always the thing that will kill you.

Today I am on the blog tour for Hard Setdown by T. Q. Chant, the first book in the Sam Cane series. My thanks to Kelly Lacey at Love Books Group Tours for the invitation to take part and to the author for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Sci-Fi is not a genre that I read very often but I do enjoy it if it is well written and this most certainly is that. It is quite a short book that manages to pack a punch of action between its pages and left me definitely wanting to know what comes next.

We join the story as Sam Cane is waiting in a landing pod, about to be jettisoned in to space to join a remote space colony for a few years. She has a shady past and an uncertain future and has no idea what she is getting herself in to – a set up which leaves a lot of scope for a good story.

Because this book is short, the writer keeps character development to a minimum. Sam is the only one we really find out anything about, and even huge chunks of her past are only hinted at, leaving the readers with a lot of tantalising questions about what has gone before. This is is either a clever ploy to make you want to read the next instalment in the hope more details are revealed (which is how it worked on me) or frustratingly hole-y, depending on your perspective. This limited character development does mean that the reader has very little connection with the other characters in the book, which has the effect of lessening the impact of some of their fates and making others’ motivation somewhat of a mystery that is barely touched on.

The world building the author has done is more detailed, which makes me think this is where his true interest lies in the writing. The topography and workings of the planet are well established and there is a lot of information about the mechanics of how things work – tools, weapons, machinery, logistics. To anyone less interested in this aspect of things, parts of the book may drag a little, particularly in the beginning, as it gets very technical. Other people will revel in the fact this has all been carefully thought out. Depends what floats your particular boat.

The greatest strength of this book is the action and the author manages to shoehorn a lot in to a little space. There is plenty going on, and it definitely kept me on the edge of my seat, providing thrills, tension and proper shocks. I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen, and cleverly/ annoyingly, the author leaves enough loose ends in the book to mean that I HAVE TO read the next instalment. Don’t start if you don’t want to be dragged into the trilogy!

My verdict? An interesting exercise in pushing my horizons that is in equal parts entertaining and frustrating but left me needing to read on.

Hard Setdown is out now and you can get a copy here.

To get some other opinions on the book, check out the rest of the bloggers on the tour:

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About the Author

Tim Chant grew up (mostly), went to school in East Anglia and university in Scotland. He took his History degree and did the only thing he could with it – joined the civil service. When not shackled to his desk he writes science fiction, alternative historical fiction, historical fiction and any other fiction that takes his fancy. When not doing that, he’s an inveterate roleplayer and wargamer (and getting back into historical fencing). He lives in Edinburgh with his partner and their two rabbits.

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Turtles All The Way Down by John Green #BookReview (@johngreen) @PenguinUKBooks @PenguinRHUK @penguinrandom @TheFictionCafe #FictionCafeBookClub #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2019

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‘It’s quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.’

Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred thousand dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

This is the first book I have chosen this year as part of the 2019 Reading Challenge for my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. (If you love books, you must check it out, it is the friendliest part of the internet for bibliophiles). The challenge is to read a new book every fortnight that fits the prescribed category for that two-week period.

The first category is ‘A book about mental health.‘ I have vowed to try and pick unread books from my TBR to fit the challenge categories, rather than buy new ones, which is where this comes in. It has been sat on my shelf since publication. Well, its time has finally come!

Is it safe to admit that I have never read a John Green book before? I know I’m probably the only person left on the planet who hasn’t read ‘The Fault In Our Stars,’ but I’ve avoided it as I thought it would really upset me. I decided it was about time I did read one, since he is one of the biggest selling authors on the planet, and I had this book waiting that seemed to fit the category. I bought it last year mainly because of the title, which piqued my curiosity and, I have to say, I was very happy when I got to the part when the title finally became clear!

So, what did I make of my first John Green novel? Well, the man can certainly write. His characters were fully developed and very intricate. I enjoyed his prose style and he obviously has a good grasp of how people, especially teenagers, tick. The book, whilst seeming to cover a very small life, explores in detail a terrifying and truly problematic mental health issue for the main character, Aza, and how this impacts every part of her life, severely, to the point that she can barely function in any ordinary way. The mystery part of the story is incidental and heavily side-lined, and the main focus is most definitely on the mental health topic and, in this, I think the blurb is a little misleading. Anyone buying this book looking mainly for a detective story is going to end up a little disappointed.

It’s quite clear that I am not the target audience for this book. It is definitely aimed at the YA market and, to be honest, those of a maturer persuasion looking back with years of like experience may find the adolescent navel-gazing a little self-indulgent. But this is how life is when you are a teenager. You do believe you are the centre of the world and your problems take on a magnified importance that can be over-whelming. Perspective comes with age and experience (hopefully, not always). Kids are monumentally self-absorbed and Green captures this very well and reflects it in his writing. And there is no doubt that any deviation in your personality from the norm at this age is terrifying. That’s not to say that mental health issues in adolescents should be trivialised or discounted. They are a real issue, and actually a lack of experience and perspective can magnify them and make them much harder to manage successfully. Aza’a issues are extreme and would be horrifying for anyone to deal with and, for me, the thoughts that she is experiencing are grotesque and would be impossible to live with, for child or adult. The author does an amazing job of displaying Aza’s thought spirals and the perpetual horror she is trapped in as she fights, and fails, to control them.

This book is an illuminating portrayal of the effects mental health issues can have on every part of a person’s life, and how surmounting these things can seem impossible. I think it will be more appealing to younger readers, just because of the focus on teenage lives, but the writing is without doubt compelling and it was a rewarding read. A little too harrowing emotionally to be classed as enjoyable, but definitely illuminating.

If you like the sound of the book, you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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John Green is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars, and Turtles All the Way Down. He is also the co-author, with David Levithan, of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. He was the 2006 recipient of the Michael L. Printz Award, a 2009 Edgar Award winner, and has twice been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Green’s books have been published in more than 55 languages and over 24 million copies are in print. John is also an active Twitter user with more than 5.4 million followers.

Connect with John:

Website: http://www.johngreenbooks.com

Facebook: John Green

Twitter: @johngreen

Instagram: @johngreenwritesbooks

Friday Night Drinks with….Anne from Being Anne @Williams13Anne #FridayNightDrinks #GuestPost #BeingAnne #BookBlogger #BloggerLove

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Thrilled to have as my guest for Friday Night Drinks tonight one of my favourite, most admired and award-winning bloggers, and one of the few I have actually met IRL, the wonderful, Anne Williams from Being Anne.

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Welcome, Anne. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks for inviting me, Julie! I’d usually stick with a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc, but I’ve acquired quite a taste over Christmas for those flavoured gins – could I have a raspberry one please, with a dash of tonic?  

Oh, that sounds delicious! Roll on 1st February, I’m on the soft drinks again. 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’m so boring these days – but, in my defence, I am getting on a bit now. Would you mind staying in instead? I’d be happy with a takeaway – curry or Chinese – and a couple of good rom coms…  

That is perfect for these cold, wintry nights, to be honest. It is forecast snow for these weekend. 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?

I’m a big Radio 2 fan, and I’m so upset that Simon Mayo is leaving – I think he’d be interesting for a night out, and we could find out how he really felt about sharing his drive-time show with Jo Whiley. And how about my favourite actress, Judi Dench? I think she’d be good fun… 

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I love Judi Dench, I’d quite like to be her when I grow up! 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?

I’m doing what I’ve been doing for nearly six years now – reading in my every spare moment, sharing reviews (and sometimes interviews, features and guest posts) on my blog, Being Anne. It all started as a way of keeping my reviews in one place, and no-one was more amazed than I was when I found people liked reading it. I stepped things up a bit when I retired three years ago – moved everything from Blogger to WordPress, improved the way it looked, tried to post content at least every weekday. Life got a little more complicated when I became carer for my mum, and the frequency of posts has dropped rather recently – but I hope what I now manage to do is of the standard I’ve always strived to achieve. I so enjoy sharing my thoughts on books I’ve enjoyed – and if I don’t enjoy a book, you won’t find it on the blog.   

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Your blog is definitely very professional and one that every book lover should check out. What has been your proudest moment since you started blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

I’ve been delighted to win the “Best Pal” award three years running at the Annual Bloggers’ Bash. But I think what gives me the most pleasure is when someone tells me they’ve bought a book on my recommendation – and if they then tell me they enjoyed it just as much as I did, that’s just wonderful. I also love it when authors interact – particularly to tell me how much they’ve enjoyed a review, or to tell me that I totally “got” their book. No particular challenges really, other than finding the time to read and review everything I really want to – although I am rather worried about the new WordPress editor, and will put off using it for as long as I possibly can.

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Huge congratulations on that success. What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

No, I’m really not ambitious – I got that out of my system in my working life, and I never intended that the blogging should be anything more than a pastime for my retirement. 

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

When I retired, I always planned to try my hand at writing. I’m not sure if I have a book in me, but I really would like to give it a try. Now life’s becoming a little easier again, I’ve signed up for an on-line writing course starting in February, and I’ll see how it goes. I’d like to attempt romance, maybe featuring some of those rather older characters I enjoy reading about…

You should join the RNA New Writers’ Scheme if you get into it! 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, and in the last fifteen years or so – after I ditched the partner who only ever wanted to go to the Lake District – I’ve managed to get to a lot of the places that were on my own bucket list. I’ve been so very lucky. I started with the US, West coast and then the East, then followed through with China and Hong Kong. I’ve been to South Africa, ridden elephants in Northern Thailand, watched the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and totally adored my tour of Cuba. Peru – particularly Macchu Pichu – was so spectacular: and you really haven’t lived until you witness the sunset on Halong Bay in Vietnam. My last big holiday was watching the wildlife in Borneo, with a touch of real luxury in Singapore on the way home. I really don’t have a favourite, but the holiday I took for my 60th birthday was particularly special – starting in Peru, crossing the Andes, visiting Buenos Aires, the jet boat under the Iguazu Falls, the helicopter over Rio de Janeiro. There aren’t that many destinations left on my bucket list, but I would like to spend more time in the Far East – and I’ve yet to visit Australia and New Zealand. 

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Oh wow, you’ve been pretty much everywhere I want to go. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

There’s very little people don’t know about me – I share a lot about my life on my blog (too much, maybe?!).

Never, it is lovely to learn about people who are so open and friendly as you come across. 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’?

One book? Maybe… or then again… no, give me a moment. No, sorry, I just can’t do it! You’ll find my books of the year on my blog though, always posted just before Christmas…

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?

I’m afraid I’ve never perfected the art of avoiding one – other than not opening the second bottle of wine. And the cure – or at least, the compensation – has to be a good fry-up. 

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

Here I get boring again! If it’s ok with you, I’d rather curl up with my current book – which is always my favourite way to spend a weekend. Unless there’s a good book event going on – shall we take a look?

Anne, thank you so much for joining me on the blog this evening, it has been so much fun to talk to you and we will have that IRL lunch soon.

Anne and I have a lot in common, She lives in Yorkshire, as I do, in the beautiful market town of Wetherby. Having spent her working life as a civil servant, she’s now 62 and retired, and able to spend her time doing all the things she enjoys most. Her first passion has always been reading – and she enjoys spending much of her time doing just that, sharing her love of books on her blog Being Anne. She enjoys travelling to book related events – and is lucky to be invited to some of the best launches and parties. Her second passion is travel – usually long haul, and to places where other people might not have been. 

If you would like to find out more about Anne, catch up with her on social media:

Webssite: https://beinganne.com

Facebook: Being Anne 

Twitter: @Williams13Anne

Next week I am joined for Friday Night Drinks, by Wendy Clarke, founder of my favourite group on the internet, The Fiction Cafe Book Club. Make sure you join us then.

Night Time Cool by Jamie Paradise #BookReview #BlogTour (@JamieParadise_) @unbounders @annecater #RandomThingsTours #NightTimeCool

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Bent Met police detective DI Frederick Street rules as the Sheriff of Shoreditch who loves shaking down the street goons he arrests. Elvis Street is the son who cannot stand his father for being the balls-out crook he caught in bed with his girl. Elvis wants to take Frederick down and end him forever. Neither father or son realises how much the other understands what controls them. Neither father or son will ever back down. Night Time Cool is the story of why?

It’s my turn on the blog tour today for Night Time Cool by Jamie Paradise. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the opportunity to read the book and to the publisher for my copy, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’m going to honest from the off, this book was a challenging read for me, which pushed me well out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure that I am the target audience for this book (middle-aged, perennially un-hip, rural-living mother-of-five) but I’ve often said that one of the joys of blog tours is being given the opportunity to read book I would never normally choose, and books are all about exploration and gaining a different perspective on the world from your own, so being pushed and challenged is not necessarily a negative.

This book is set in a world of which I have not the slightest experience. A world of drug dealers and drug takers, pimps and prostitutes, bent policemen, porn stars, DJs and party animals. A gritty, fetid, dirty underbelly of a part of London dragging itself from ignominy to a rough-hewn, hipster trendiness, and the characters, plot, and particularly the language, all reflect this. If any of these things offend you, prepare to be offended, but I would suggest that you go in to the book with an open mind, because all of this is essential to the mood and character of the book and its inhabitants, and there is beauty to  be found amongst the grime.

The characters in this book are, largely without exception, unpleasant. Even the ones that start out seemingly innocuous turn out to be something other. However, they are all interesting. Whether or not they are realistically portrayed is not something I am equipped to judge since, as noted previously, this is an alien world to me. All I can say is that I did believe them within the context of the novel. I suspect they are enhanced caricatures of real people, but whilst I was suspended in the world created by the author, I believed in them and was intrigued by their actions, motivations and their fates.

The setting fascinated me, grounded as it were in the predominately night time world of bars and clubs and hotels of Hoxton and Shoreditch, and the book convincingly transported me to that world. I could feel the bass beats of the music, the throb of energy and euphoria from the crowds. The writing was almost poetic on the subject of the club scene and I could tell that this was a world in which the author is passionately engaged; his ardour for the scene leaps of the page, reflected perfectly in his choice of rhythm and language to describe it. Whether or not this is something you have experience of, you can’t help but feel infected by it, be caught up in the tempo.

That being said, the language and sentence structures the author chooses to tell his story are unconventional and may be testing for some readers. His sentences are often staccato and unfinished. The language is crude in places; a dark urban patois that sounds like a foreign dialect to readers such as myself who are not from that world. The characters’ voices are coarse and jarring in places. All of this is quite deliberate and necessary for the story the author is telling, the world he is building, the characters he is creating, but it isn’t always easy to read. You will need to persist.

If I had one criticism of the book, it would be that the central story of father and son battling to outwit each other in a labyrinthine plot involving many other characters also trying to gain the upper hand and double- and triple-crossing one another became so dense and convoluted that I got lost and, somewhere in the middle slightly lost interest. However, the characters and language carried me through and it picked up again at the end. Again, you will need to persist.

In the end, for me, the persistence was worth the effort. The book paid off in stretching my mind and attitude. It challenged me, opened my eyes, made me uncomfortable, made me think. It gave me a new experience. It wasn’t a warm, happy, lazy reading experience, but it was one worth having.

Night Time Cool is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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

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About the Author

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Jamie Paradise writes all his stuff in a darkened mansion filled with the cadavers of ancestors

The Observer says of Night Time Cool: “Paradise conveys the sheer thrill of partying beautifully; he writes of a piece of music that: ‘It wailed, it reprised, it was a choral hymn a kaleidoscopic, sensate burst of everything right now…'”

Simon Mayo’s Books of the Year podcast: “Like John Niven, Jake Arnott – I really enjoyed it – very much worth your time.”

Mail on Sunday: “A punchy streetwise caper, packed with memorable characters.”

Connect with Jamie:

Twitter: @JamieParadise_

Instagram: @jamieparadise_

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ICYMI: My Big Blog Birthday Bonanza Bookish Giveaway @Jo_Furniss #Giveaway #BookBloggers #BookBlog #Birthday

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In case you missed my post last Sunday about my big birthday giveaway, I’m sharing it again. There is still time to enter, if you are quick!

Sooooo, I am quite excited because next Sunday is my blog’s second birthday!

I can’t believe it has been two years since I set up this blog and I am amazed at how far I have come in that time. The blog has changed substantially from what I initially set it up to be to what it is today, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am and the wonderful journey I’ve had along the way. I’ve read amazing books, had great experiences and made so many fantastic new friends – it has surpassed all the expectations I had when I pressed ‘Publish’ on that very first post two years ago.

Of course, all of that is thanks to you, my amazing followers. I truly appreciate the time that anyone takes to read, comment on and share my posts and it makes me so happy when people say they like my posts, or have bought a book on my recommendation, or take the trouble to engage with what I am saying. So, as a thank you, I have put together a fabulous bookish giveaway to celebrate this milestone.

The prize bundle contains eight mystery paperbacks, which are a mixture of new books from the past twelve months and a couple of my favourite books of all time, in a range of genres. One of them is a book which has been kindly donated by the author of one of my top ten books of 2018, the wonderful Jo Furniss, so a huge thank you to Jo for her generosity and support of the blog. It also includes a pile of other goodies that will delight the heart of any book lover and, I hope, enhance their pleasure in reading the books they receive. I’d love to receive this prize if I weren’t the one giving it away!

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post over the next seven days telling me what you like about my blog or letting me know which posts or categories you have particularly enjoyed over the past two years, or making a suggestion for a new feature you would like to see in the future. Make it as unique, funny or imaginative as you can. One comment will be chosen as the most interesting by a panel of my five daughters (ranging in age from 11 to 16), and the author of that comment will win the prize, so be creative.

As I say, the competition is open for 7 days and the winner will be announced in a post on the blog on Sunday 20 January 2019. It is open to UK entries only I am afraid, due to the cost of postage of the prize. The decision of the girls will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. If the winner does not claim the prize within 7 days of it being announced, a second winner will be chosen to receive the prize instead.

Good luck and thank you for all your support over the past two years, and here’s to the next two.

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2019 Blogging Intentions & Reading & Writing Goals @TheFictionCafe @RNATweets #RomanticNovelistsAssociation #NewWritersScheme #bookblogger #bookbloggers #bookblog #amreading #amwriting #FictionCafeReadingChallenge2019

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As it is new year, and my second blogiversary is approaching, I thought I would do a little post setting out my reading and blogging goals for the coming year, such as they are.

To be honest, after the overhaul I gave the blog last summer, I am fairly happy with where it it as and am inclined to let it coast along unchanged for a while. I have the weekly slots for my Tempted by… and Friday Night Drinks features filled up to the end of May, so they will be carrying on, along with my staple book reviews. I also intend to try and do more regular posts in the Travel, Bucket List and Writing categories, as those have been somewhat haphazard so far. I have a few exciting trips already planned for the coming year, so I’m looking forward to sharing those with you.

I am introducing one new monthly feature this year, which is called Desert Island Books. Not exactly a cryptic title so you may work out the gist of what this is about but look out for a post coming on Thursday of this week for more details on this. Otherwise, it will be business as usual on the blogging front.

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On the reading front, I decided to go back to the principles which were originally behind the blog, and spend the year trying to reduce my TBR, which has gotten completely out of hand if I’m being honest. I just made a spreadsheet to keep track of all the books I own but haven’t read across all mediums and the tally is frankly embarrassing. So, I’m cutting back a bit on blog tours and focusing on reading some of my existing titles.

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To this end, I have set my Goodreads Challenge 2019 goal at 125. I am also going to attempt my online book club, The Fiction Cafe Book Club Reading Challenge 2019, which involves reading 25 books which fall into a specific categories – one every two weeks. I’ll be fitting books from my existing TBR into these categories where possible. Here are the details of the challenge, if you are interested. Watch out for the reviews of these books popping up fortnightly under the FictionCafeReadingChallenge2019 hashtag.

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(If you are interested in joining The Fiction Cafe Book Club, please follow the link above and send a request. I highly recommend it, it is the friendliest corner of the internet for book lovers.)

On the writing front, I’m back in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme for another year, working on edits to my work in progress following my report from my reader last year and planning on having the manuscript ready to pitch as soon as I can. I have a writing retreat booked for March and it is all systems go on the novel front. Wish me luck as this will be me for the next few months:

What are your goals for this year?

Tempted by….Double Stacked Shelves: The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup @dstackedshelves @MichaelJBooks @TheKilling #TheChestnutMan #bookbloggers #scandinoir #crimefiction

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One blustery October morning in a quiet Copenhagen suburb, the police make a terrible discovery. A young woman is found brutally murdered with one of her hands missing. Above her hangs a small doll made of chestnuts.

Ambitious young detective Naia Thulin is assigned the case. Her partner, Mark Hess, is a burned-out investigator who’s just been kicked out of Europol. They soon discover a mysterious piece of evidence on the chestnut man – evidence connecting it to a girl who went missing a year earlier and is presumed dead; the daughter of politician Rosa Hartung. But the man who confessed to her murder is already behind bars and the case long since closed.

Soon afterwards, a second woman is found murdered, along with another chestnut man. Thulin and Hess suspect that there’s a connection between the Hartung case and the murdered women. But what is it?

Thulin and Hess are racing against the clock, because it’s clear that the killer is on a mission that is far from over . . .

The Chestnut Man is the first novel by the creator of The Killing, Soren Sveistrup, and there has been a huge amount of buzz about the book in general, and amongst book bloggers in particular. I bought a copy of this book with a voucher I received as a competition prize, largely on the recommendation of my friend, Jill, in this post on her blog, Double Stacked Shelves.

I was really drawn to the cover of this book for starters, and Jill’s review gives an enticing description of the plot and characters that made me think that it would be a riveting and gripping read that I would really enjoy.

Jill has only been running her blog since September so it is very new but the reviews she has posted so far have been very detailed and insightful and I have very much enjoyed reading them. Her approach is quite different to my own, as I tend to be quite light-hearted and more flippant in my reviews, whilst Jill’s are very thoughtful and considered. I am quite envious of her ability to dig so deep, but ultimately I think the difference in each blogger’s method of reviewing gives us all a fascinating diversity of opinions to read on each book and means we get a well-rounded view of whether a book may be for us or not, so vive la difference, I say!

I may be a little biased as she is my friend and I know how lovely she is, but Jill’s blog is definitely worth a look for book lovers and it would be great if she could grow her following with a little support from the amazing blogging community that I have become part of over the last two years. She is definitely a great addition to the canon of book bloggers and I hope she sticks with it and her blog continues to grow.

If, upon reading her review, you would like to get your own copy of The Chestnut Man, it is available now in hardback and for Kindle, and in paperback on 5 September and you can get a copy here.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker by Jenni Keer #BookReview #BlogTour (@JenniKeer) @AvonBooksUK @RaRaResources @RNATweets #Giveaway #RachelsRandomResources #NetGalley #TheHopesAndDreamsOfLucyBaker

the hopes and dreams of lucy baker

I am delighted that it is finally my turn on the blog tour for this debut novel by my fellow RNA member, the lovely Jenni Keer. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker and to Avon Books for my copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Make sure you read down to the end of the post for details of a fabulous giveaway.

the hopes and dreams final cover

Meet Lucy, aged 25, and Brenda, aged 79. Neighbours and unlikely friends.

Lucy Baker is not your usual 25-year-old. She is more at home reading and knitting in her cluttered little flat than going out partying and socialising.

79-year-old Brenda is full of wise and wonderful advice, but when she’s diagnosed with dementia her life begins to change. Before her memories slip away for ever, Brenda is desperate to fulfil one last wish – to see Lucy happy.

Gifting Lucy the locket that helped Brenda find her own true love, she hopes to push her reticent neighbour in the right direction. But is Lucy Baker ready for the opportunities and heartbreaks of the real world? It’s about time she put her knitting needles aside and found out…

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker will be the most charming, heart-warming and feel-good novel you will read this year, perfect for fans of Ruth Hogan and Gail Honeyman.

2019 has got off to a stellar start with the quality of the books I have read so far, and I guess it is a streak that has to end some time… but not with this book because this is a novel which has maintained the very high standard of reads with which I’ve started the year. It is a book which has wrapped me in a cashmere blanket of happiness and given me a long, warm hug, leaving me feeling tingly, moved and with a big smile on my face and a small tear in my eye. Quite a feat.

The central story in this book is the unlikely friendship between Lucy and Brenda, which spans easily the decades that divide them age-wise. In most ways, age doesn’t matter because Lucy is mature and wise beyond her years and Brenda is young at heart, but in other ways the age difference is telling, because of the effect it is having on Brenda’s body and mind. Jenni displays the closeness between the two, but also this physical deterioration of the human body with such tenderness and pathos that the book can’t fail to grab hold of the stoniest of hearts and squeeze it until it feels something (a bit too much in my case, since I’m a big softy and blub at the slightest provocation).

I was totally in love with both Brenda and Lucy. They felt very real and alive to me and their friendship was completely believable and genuine and just a delight to behold. They both really care about the other and want what is best for them, and they bring out the best in each other. They really understand each other and have so much in common, despite the age difference, which is the basis for a true and enduring friendship and it is just gorgeous.

I really enjoyed watching Lucy come to life and blossom and expose more of her personality throughout the book. I felt like a proud parent watching her grow in confidence and stature across the pages. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and shake her, or warn her not to trust someone, that they were not what they seemed to be, and that it is the hallmark of a truly enthralling book, where the people are so real to you that you are completely engrossed in the story as if you are another character yourself involved in their lives. I was rooting for her all the way through, sharing her joys and triumphs and sadness and, when the book ended, I felt like I was leaving behind a good friend. Luckily, she will still be waiting there between the pages of the book next time I want to meet up with her.

The other story arc is a fairly simple boy meets girl, but is elevated beyond the mundane by the charm of the characters, a good dose of humour and a touch of magical realism. It is a winning recipe for a memorable story that you will be sorry ends and you will definitely want to return to. Added to this is the warmth and ease of Jenni’s writing, which I just loved. One of my favourite lines popped up early on in the book:

But the night-black cat had vanished completely into the cat-black night.’

This is one of those lines that, as a writer, you mentally high-five yourself for writing and I gave the author a little cheer of congratulation as I read. It is also one of those ‘kill your darlings’ lines that you are always told you should cut (although the premise that you should cut any line you think is great always baffles me – you should just leave yourself with all the lines you aren’t happy with? Odd idea!) and I am SO glad that Jenni’s editor didn’t make her cut this one! From here on, I knew I was going to enjoy every word and there were numerous other bits I highlighted to go back to.

What more do I need to say? I absolutely loved every word of this book and can’t wait to grab the paperback for my collection so I can come back to it next time I want a book that will just make me happy. Go and buy it and give yourself a treat.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is out now as an ebook and the paperback, which will be released on 21 March, is available for pre-order. You can get them both here.

Giveaway

the hopes and dreams giveaway prize

Please enter the giveaway to win The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker goodies (UK Only) by clicking the Rafflecopter link below. Prize contains – Thornton’s fudge, a Nu notebook, a Hopes and Dreams bookmark and a set of five “Scratbag” blank greetings cards designed by Jenni Keer.

Rafflecopter

*Terms and Conditions –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.

To follow the rest of the tour for this book and get some comparable reviews, check the details of the other blogs taking part on the poster below:

the hopes and dreams of lucy baker full tour banner

About the Author

the hopes and dreams jk mono 2

Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.

She is very tall and also carries around a knitted version of Poldark, so is easy to identify in a crowd!

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Connect with Jenni:

Website: https://jennikeer.co.uk

Facebook: Jenni Keer

Twitter: @JenniKeer

Instagram: @jennikeer

My Big Blog Birthday Bonanza Bookish Giveaway @Jo_Furniss #Giveaway #BookBloggers #BookBlog #Birthday

8 pm | 20 may | 408 byers lane

Sooooo, I am quite excited because next Sunday is my blog’s second birthday!

I can’t believe it has been two years since I set up this blog and I am amazed at how far I have come in that time. The blog has changed substantially from what I initially set it up to be to what it is today, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am and the wonderful journey I’ve had along the way. I’ve read amazing books, had great experiences and made so many fantastic new friends – it has surpassed all the expectations I had when I pressed ‘Publish’ on that very first post two years ago.

Of course, all of that is thanks to you, my amazing followers. I truly appreciate the time that anyone takes to read, comment on and share my posts and it makes me so happy when people say they like my posts, or have bought a book on my recommendation, or take the trouble to engage with what I am saying. So, as a thank you, I have put together a fabulous bookish giveaway to celebrate this milestone.

The prize bundle contains eight mystery paperbacks, which are a mixture of new books from the past twelve months and a couple of my favourite books of all time, in a range of genres. One of them is a book which has been kindly donated by the author of one of my top ten books of 2018, the wonderful Jo Furniss, so a huge thank you to Jo for her generosity and support of the blog. It also includes a pile of other goodies that will delight the heart of any book lover and, I hope, enhance their pleasure in reading the books they receive. I’d love to receive this prize if I weren’t the one giving it away!

All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post over the next seven days telling me what you like about my blog or letting me know which posts or categories you have particularly enjoyed over the past two years, or making a suggestion for a new feature you would like to see in the future. Make it as unique, funny or imaginative as you can. One comment will be chosen as the most interesting by a panel of my five daughters (ranging in age from 11 to 16), and the author of that comment will win the prize, so be creative.

As I say, the competition is open for 7 days and the winner will be announced in a post on the blog on Sunday 20 January 2019. It is open to UK entries only I am afraid, due to the cost of postage of the prize. The decision of the girls will be final and no correspondence will be entered into. If the winner does not claim the prize within 7 days of it being announced, a second winner will be chosen to receive the prize instead.

Good luck and thank you for all your support over the past two years, and here’s to the next two.

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