Merry ‘Twixmas! Looking back, looking forward @TheFictionCafe @RNATweets @lord_dodo @moleskine #RomanticNovelistsAssociation #NewWritersScheme #bookblogger #bookbloggers #bookblog #amreading #amwriting #readinggoals #writinggoals #blogginggoals

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It’s a funny time of year, isn’t it, the week between Christmas and New Year? No one knows what day of the week it is or what they should be doing. Everything seems to come to a standstill, the world taking a breath between the excitement of Christmas past and the promise of the new year yet to come. A great time for a bit of introspection, muse on the year past, plan for the one about to start.

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That’s what I have been doing the past couple of days, anyway. My girls were staying with their dad, the Irishman flew off to Dublin for a few days with his parents, I had the house to myself and some time for contemplation and organisation. I tidied up the Christmas detritus, got out my new diary and calendar ready to fill with blogging and writing goals for the year ahead, and had a think about what I want to achieve and how I’m going to do it.

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2019 was a very busy year on the blog. I did loads of blog tours, read a massive 165 books in total. Friday Night Drinks grew in popularity and I had some great guests and I increased my following. On the downside, my TBR grew ever more massive and out of control, I neglected the travel and writing areas of my blog and failed miserably to complete my two reading challenges because I over-faced myself with blog tour commitments and could not devote as much time as I wanted to free reading. My NetGalley backlog also grew to the point where I got turned down for a couple of books because of my abysmal ratio. Something needs to be done.

So, bearing all of this in mind, what lies in store for 2020 and what are my plans?

My Friday Night Drinks and Tempted by… features are both fully booked and planned to June, so they will be carrying on as before. I will be setting my Goodreads Reading Challenge target at 150 again, with the hope that I can exceed it as I have the last two years. I have decided against doing any other external reading challenges, as I don’t need the pressure. Instead, I will make a second attempt at doing my Desert Island Books (more detail on that to come in January.) I am also determined to be more diligent with the Travel, Bucket List and Writing areas of my blog and have diaried in some regular features for these. I’m looking forward to getting a bit more variety in to the blog.

In an attempt to get some control over my NetGalley ratio and TBR, I have decided to go back to the original aim of the blog as set out in my first ever blog post and buy no new books in 2020, or request any more from NetGalley. I’ll just be reading the ones I already have. Unfortunately, these means cutting right back on blog tours to free up reading time. I’m limiting myself to a maximum of two per month after January and February (where I have already committed to more than two!). I am allowing myself to receive my one Book Club book each month, and spend my monthly Audible credit. I have a few books on pre-order which I will let stand. Other than that, I’ll not be buying anything new, but reviewing what I already have, as randomly selected from my book jar. I’m actually looking forward to the challenge. I got a few book-themed Christmas gifts to see me on my way too.

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(Fear not, dear authors with books being published in 2020, I will be making a list ready for when the ban is lifted!)

I had a bit of an epiphany back in the spring when I had Bell’s Palsy and could not read for six weeks due to issues with my left eye. I had always been a little snobby about audiobooks not being ‘proper reading’ and had never counted them in my reading totals. Well, I have to say, audiobooks were my lifeline during those long boring days of illness and now I am as zealous a convert as St. Paul on the road to Damascus. I am listening to them at every opportunity and, in fact, my favourite book of the year was consumed in audio format. So, in 2020, I will be listening to even more audiobooks and reviewing more of them on my blog.

After a couple of lax months at the end of the year, I also plan on making sure I review every book I read or listen to next year (unless I hate it) and being more engaged with other people’s blogs in the new year.

On the writing front, I’m back in the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme for the third year, and I am determined that this is the year that I start submitting my book to agents and publishers. I’m planning on attending some RNA events again this year, including conference in July, so I hope to share some of that journey with you. My very kind and wise friends have supplied me with some lovely Christmas gifts to help me along, including this gorgeous Story Box gift from my lovely friend Mary-Louise and a Smithson notebook from the Irishman (a hint to get the book finished, perhaps?)

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As far as travel goes, I currently have nothing booked, which is unusual, but I have last year’s trips still to share and I am sure there will be things planned soon, so watch this space!

All in all, I am excited for the coming year, and all that it is going to bring for me, and for the blog. I hope you will continue on this journey with me, share the highs and the lows and, most of all, the book love. After all, it is fairly meaningless without all of you. Thanks for being here and

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Top Ten Books of 2019 (@AuthorSusanB @tgarvisgraves @MrsAmandaProwse @anne_atkins @Jessica_Norrie @will_carver @JenniKeer @writercrow @LouiseWriter @charliemackesy @ajpearcewrites) @ocelotpress @orionbooks @malcomdown @OrendaBooks @AvonBooksUK @AtlanticBooks @AllenAndUnwinUK @picadorbooks @EburyPublishing @RaRaResources @Tr4cyF3nt0n @LoveBooksGroup @annecater

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It’s that time of year again, when I try to narrow down my favourite books from the 165 I read in 2019 to just ten. The task hasn’t got any easier, I loved so many of the books I read this year, but these are the ones I am recommending as the most rewarding of the bunch. These are the books that entertained me, challenged me, moved me and, ultimately, stayed with me long after I had turned the final page.

The books don’t have to have been published in 2019, just be ones that I have read for the first time this year. Here we go:

= 10. The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard

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(Okay, so I failed miserably at the first hurdle and could not narrow it down from 11. So sue me!)

=10 The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

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9. The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse

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8. An Elegant Solution by Anne Atkins

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7. The Magic Carpet by Jessica Norris

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6. Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver

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5. The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker by Jenni Keer

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4. The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst

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3. Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech

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2. The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy

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  1. Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce

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So there we go, those are my choices of my favourite reads of 2019. Do you approve or are you currently screaming at your screen in rage at my dire reading tastes? Please feel free to engage me in debate. Have you read and enjoyed any of my choices or will you be adding them to your 2020 reading list? Let me know. What were your top reads of 2019?

 

 

 

Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce, Narrated by Anna Popplewell #BookReview #Audiobook (@ajpearcewrites) @picadorbooks @MacmillanAudio @audibleuk @AnnaPopplewells

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London, 1940. Emmeline Lake and her best friend, Bunty, are trying to stay cheerful despite the Luftwaffe making life thoroughly annoying for everyone. Emmy dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent, and when she spots a job advertisement in the newspaper she seizes her chance – but after a rather unfortunate misunderstanding, she finds herself typing letters for the formidable Henrietta Bird, the renowned agony aunt of Woman’s Friend magazine. 

Mrs Bird is very clear: letters containing any form of Unpleasantness must go straight into the bin. Emmy finds herself dismissing problems from lovelorn, grief-stricken and morally conflicted readers in favour of those who fear their ankles are unsightly or have trouble untangling lengths of wool. But soon the thought of desperate women going unanswered becomes too much to bear, and Emmy decides the only thing for it is to secretly write back…. 

I know, I am SO late to the party with this book. I have had the hardback version sitting on my TBR forever, and I had never got round to reading it for some reason, mainly pressures of all the blog tours I took on last year. I finally gave in and bought the audiobook with one of my monthly credits and, it was obviously fate that had stopped me reading it because I absolutely adored the audio version.

I just have to say from the off that Anna Popplewell does the most amazing job of narrating this book. Any of you who have read it will know that the author captures the patterns and peculiarities of speech from the era perfectly and, hearing this spoken aloud rather than reading it, really brings it to life. I could picture Mrs. Bird so clearly in my mind’s eye through the narration, it gave the novel an extra dimension and I would highly recommend listening to this in audio format. Not every book lends itself equally well to audiobook, and so much of the success depends on the narrator, this one is just beautiful.

Moving on from the format, I fell completely in love with this book. The premise was what drew me to it in the first place, the magical idea of a repressed wartime agony aunt refusing to deal with any Unpleasantness from her readers and a sympathetic young woman who relates only too well to the messes that women found themselves in during wartime. It was a genius way of demonstrating the perils of war in a completely fresh manner with a unique approach and it worked like magic. I have to say, I am not personally a fan of wartime books, I often find them quite traumatic, so the fact I loved this one so much is testament to the skill of the author.

The book is a delightful blend of gentle comedy and pathos. The situation the girls find themselves in is dire, but their friendships and love for those around them bolster them and pull them through, so when that is threatened, it puts their whole world into more peril than the war itself, and this is the real core story of the book. Our personal relationships are the things that hold us solid through the direst of times and anything that threatens those are the things that are truly dangerous. I absolutely adored the approach that the author took to this whole topic, it spoke to me on a really fundamental level and was the main reason that this book got under my skin.

The main character of Emmy was totally relatable as a modern young woman dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Flawed but wonderful, any reader would fall in love with her and be riding the highs and lows of her experience through every page. My twelve-year-old daughter, who listened to portions of this book while we were in the car, was fascinated by the name Bunty (which is ‘not a real name, Mummy’), and kept asking me what had happened during the portions of the book she had missed. Anything which can capture the imagination of a modern tween like this must be something special.

And what to say about the titular Mrs. Bird? Only that the author has created a character so much larger than life that anyone who reads this will never forget her. A Lady Bracknell for a new age.

I loved this book so much that I have given a copy to every one of my friends who hasn’t yet read it, nominated it as my Secret Santa book in my book club swap and gifted the audiobook to my writer buddy. I know it wasn’t published this year, but it is my read of the year for 2019, and I know I will come back to it again and again. Pure joy on the page, as close to reading perfection as you are ever likely to find.

Dear Mrs Bird is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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AJ Pearce was born in Hampshire, UK. Her favourite subjects at school were English and History, which now (finally!) seems to be making some sense.

She majored in American History at the University of Sussex, spending her Junior Year at Northwestern University in Illinois, USA.

She began writing as a hobby in 2005. In 2012 she came across a 1939 copy of a weekly women’s magazine and had the idea of writing a novel set in wartime London.

In 2016, following a seven-publisher auction in the UK, Dear Mrs Bird was acquired by Picador, and in the USA by Scribner after a similarly competitive auction.  Dear Mrs Bird was published in hardback in the UK in April 2018, becoming a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller two weeks later. It has been sold for translation in thirteen other countries.

AJ was one of The Observer’s New Faces Of Fiction Debut Novelists 2018, and was shortlisted in the Breakthrough Author category in the UK’s 2018 Books Are My Bag Readers Awards. Dear Mrs Bird was chosen as one of NetGalley UK’s Top Ten Books of 2018, and shortlisted in the US LibraryReads Favorites of Favorites 2018.

In 2019, Dear Mrs Bird was a Richard and Judy Book Clubpick. It was shortlisted for the Debut of the Year at the 2019 British Book Awards as well as the Royal Society of Literature Sir Christopher Bland Prize, and long listed for the inaugural Comedy Women in Print award.

In July 2019 it was further longlisted for the Goldsborough Books Glass Bell Award, and the Historical Writers’ Association’s Debut Crown 2019 for the best historical debut.

AJ is currently writing her second novel, the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird.

Connect with A. J. Pearce:

Website: https://www.ajpearce.com

Facebook: A J Pearce Writes

Twitter: @ajpearcewrites

Instagram: @ajpearcewrites

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy #BookReview (@charliemackesy) @EburyPublishing #TheBoyTheMoleTheFoxAndTheHorse #illustrated


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A book of hope for uncertain times.

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

I kept seeing this book being mentioned on social media but wasn’t quite sure what it was all about. I thought it was a children’s book until I picked it up in Waterstones and immediately fell in love with it.

This is a book unlike any other. A combination of nuggets of wisdom passed on through the story of four unlikely friends, combined with beautiful, fluid pen and ink drawings of the cosy quartet, it is a book you can pick up and dip in and out of whenever time allows, or your soul needs a little succour.

This isn’t a book with a linear plot, as such, more a loosely connected series of thoughts and advice for anyone needing to be reminded that the world is generally a good place, people are mostly kind and generous and, in a society that seems to value only surface perfection, it is okay just to be a perfectly imperfect you. The author is obviously a very astute individual, the sentiments in the book really touched and moved me on almost every page.

It is very hard to describe what is so special about this book, you really should pick up a copy and take a look for yourself. It is full of warmth and comfort and kindness, as well as beauty and friendship. I found the messages in the books so powerful that I immediately bought five copies to send to my close writing friends as a reminder of how strong we are as a group. This is a book you will want to share with the people you love.

A beautiful book that you will return to again and again when you need a virtual hug and a reminder that things are never as bad as they seem. One of my favourite discoveries of the year.

The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is out now and you can get a copy here.

About the Author

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Artist Charlie Mackesy has been a cartoonist for The Spectator and a book illustrator for Oxford University Press. He has collaborated with Richard Curtis for Comic Relief, and Nelson Mandela on a lithograph project, ‘The Unity Series’. His first exhibition for the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse was in London in November 2018. Charlie lives in South London with his dog.

Connect with Charlie:

Website: https://www.charliemackesy.com

Facebook: Charlie Mackesy Art

Twitter: @charliemackesy

Instagram: @charliemackesy

 

Friday Night Drinks with…. Julie Ryan @julieryan18 @RNATweets #FridayNightDrinks #GreekIslandsMysteries #FindingRose

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For my final Friday Night Drinks of 2019, I am joined by author and fellow RNA member….Julie Ryan.

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Julie, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Champagne if we’re celebrating, lime and soda if I’m driving.

Champagne all the way then, it’s nearly a new decade. 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?

A lovely little Indian restaurant I know where the staff are friendly, the food is good and you can almost always get a table.

Wonderful, I love Indian food. 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?

Stephen Fry as I think he is a wonderful raconteur so he would keep us amused and Joanne Harris, who just happens to be one of my favourite authors.

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’ve just started an MA in Creative Writing so everything else has been put on hold for the moment. When I manage to organize my time I have two books on the go, both set in Greece. I’m hoping to finish the first one at least before I finish the MA.!

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

I think seeing my first book in print and that moment when you hold it and realize everything in it came from your imagination. A wonderful feeling. The biggest challenge for most indies is to sell copies. I’ve built up a following but after the initial rush, sales invariably dwindle.

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!

I would love a three book deal with a reputable publisher, representation by an agent and then a film deal. Sorry, I’m greedy – that’s more than one big thing. Seriously, if any of those were to happen I’d be absolutely thrilled.

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

A new series which features a wedding in Greece, a boutique hotel and an unlikely romance.

I love books set in foreign climes! 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?

Greece is my spiritual home and I try to visit as often as I can. There’s so much to see and somehow it always draws me back. On my bucket list is Delphi, closely followed by Meteora. Hopefully, I’ll get to tick one of those off next year.

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

When not reading, blogging or writing, I belong to an amateur dramatic group. Each year we perform a  pantomime, which I love. Next Spring though, I get to direct a farce that I’ve written – my directorial debut.

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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’?

John Fowles The Magus.  I always find something new in it each time I read it and I owe my love of Greece, at least in part, to this book.

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On a remote Greek Island, Nicholas Urfe finds himself embroiled in the deceptions of a master trickster. As reality and illusion intertwine, Urfe is caught up in the darkest of psychological games. John Fowles expertly unfolds a tale that is lush with over-powering imagery in a spellbinding exploration of human complexities. By turns disturbing, thrilling and seductive, The Magus is a feast for the mind and the senses.

I have not read this one, I will add it to the list. 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 rarely drink too much these days. I learned my lesson at my wedding when I had a hangover for two days!

Oh no! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Reading with a cup of coffee and a bar of chocolate by my side – my cat curled up at my feet and the house to myself. Bliss.

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Julie, thank you so much for joining me and sharing a chat. It has been a great way to round off 2019.

Julie’s latest book, Finding Roseis out now on Kindle and in paperback, and you can buy a copy here.

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When three sisters, Ginny, Sally and Molly are brought together at their father’s hospital bed, they are forced to confront not only the prospect of a future without him but also the secrets of the past that have kept them apart.

Their father, Eddie Matthews, drugged up on morphine, seems to be rambling but could he in fact be reliving previous lives as a Tudor monk and as a soldier on the Front in WW1? Struggling to speak he reveals that he has a secret and urges his daughters to ‘Find Rose’. Can the sisters put aside their differences to fulfil his last wish?

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire, England. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances; thrillers set in the Greek Isles. In a new departure her latest novel, Finding Rose, has two historical timelines, the Tudor Court and the First World War.

A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and rescue cat. She manages to write a book a year although without their help, she would probably write more quickly. She is a book addict and will soon need either a bigger house for her collection or a new husband!

You can find out more about Julie and her writing on her websiteFacebook and Twitter.

Next week, I will be kicking off a new blogging year by having Friday Night Drinks with book blogger Els Ebraert from B for Book Review, so please do join us. In the meantime, I would like to say how much I have enjoyed and valued your support over the past twelve months and wish all my readers and followers a very

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#R3COMM3ND3D2019 with #BookBlogger Julie Morris (@book_problem) #ALittleBookProblem #damppebbles #BookRecommendations #Publishedin2019

Today I am sharing recommendations for three stunning books published in 2019 over on Emma Welton’s blog at damppebbles.com. I hope you will go over and have a look, and catch up on all the fabulous books recommended by Emma’s other guests while you are there.

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Hello and welcome to the last #R3COMM3ND3D2019 post before Christmas. As in previous years, #R3COMM3ND3D and I will be taking a short break over the next three days, only to return on the 27th with even more brilliant book recommendations. As this is my last post before Christmas I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I hope your festive break is exactly what you want it to be. I also hope you get to spend some quality time with a good book too 😉.

Today I am delighted to welcome a brilliant blogger to share three of her favourite books from 2019 with us. The warmest of welcomes to the very lovely Julie Morris of A Little Book Problem. Julie’s blog is a treasure trove of beautiful books and fantastic reviews. I strongly recommend that you give her blog a follow if you…

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Friday Night Drinks with…. Kiley Dunbar @KileyDunbar @HeraBooks @RNATweets #FridayNightDrinks #ChristmasAtFrozenFalls

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It’s the A Little Book Problem Christmas Friday Night Drinks party tonight. I’m in a festive mood so, who better to be joining me for a knees up on the blog tonight than author of my current Christmas read, author and fellow RNA member…..Kiley Dunbar!

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Kiley. welcome and thank you for joining me for Christmas drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Hi Julie! Thanks for having me! Nice place you’ve got here! Since it’s Christmas I’ve gone for some bubbly, by which I mean ALDI prosecco (my usual Friday night drink, to be honest.) I might go mad and add some cranberry juice to it. Cheers!

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Slainte! I think I’ll have a mulled wine, it’s a bit nippy tonight. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I think a nice bit of carolling round town with a few cups of mulled wine might be nice. Do you fancy that? I’ve always wanted to go carolling; never tried it.

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Nice idea although, I must warn you, I have the world’s worst singing voice! 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?

My idol Phoebe-Waller Bridge would be amazing on a night out. She’s so funny, she’s gorgeous and super smart and I bet she’d be good at belting out the loud bits in O, Come all ye Faithful (we’re still going carolling, remember?) And for festive eye candy purposes can we invite my latest celebrity crush, the gorgeous Hyun Bin? If you haven’t seen him in Memories of the Alhambra you are missing a treat! 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge is totally my girl crush, so I would love to spend an evening with her. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

At the moment I’m celebrating my festive novel doing well this season. It’s called Christmas at Frozen Falls and is set in gorgeous, snowy Lapland over Christmas week. It’s a One That Got Away reunion story and is super romantic, properly funny, and the most festive thing you could ever hope to read! I wrote it because I can’t get enough Christmas romance novels. I read them all year round and I just had to try one myself! I hope to write many, many more love stories set at this time of year. 

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I’m also putting the finishing touches to my next novel for Hera Books, which is coming out in the spring. You can expect a gorgeous cover reveal soon. This one is set in the western highlands of Scotland and is achingly romantic and also a bit of a weepy, but there’s joy and real humour too. Ooh, I can’t wait to share the details with you all in the new year.

All sounds exciting, can’t wait for more details! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I was so proud when my debut, One Summer’s Night, launched in March 2019. I remember it going live at midnight and seeing my ebook and audiobook appear on my Kindle. It was overwhelming. I’d just turned forty and had been facing redundancy in my uni job (I lecture in English) and things had been tough for a long time, and then suddenly I’m a published author! It felt like a dream come true. Still does!

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The biggest challenge has been balancing writing, teaching, and looking after my kids all at once. Sometimes it’s exhausting and earlier this year I got pneumonia. I think I was just generally run down. It stopped me writing for a whole month and I learned a hard lesson about how important it is to look after myself when I’m pushing myself to work hard. So 2020 is going to be all about eating well, getting enough sleep, taking time off, drinking enough water; the basic stuff we all sacrifice when we’re busy, and we really, really shouldn’t.

What an exciting year. I absolutely loved your debut, and I’m starting the Christmas book today, which I’m really looking forward to. 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!

Since it’s just us, and we’re aiming high, I want what all romance authors want: a movie adaptation! Imagine Christmas at Frozen Falls as a Hallmark or Lifetime movie! That would be a dream come true. But mostly, I want to have a long career writing books that make people happy. 

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

I’ve just begun work on the early draft of the sequel to my debut novel, One Summer’s Night. It’s so comforting going back to see how Kelsey Anderson is doing now she’s opening her own photography studio, and it’s wonderful being back in Stratford-upon-Avon with her, my happy place. The sequel is set over the autumn and winter after her big summer far from home finding herself (and finding love). It won’t be published for a good few months yet, but it’s on its way!

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’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot when I was younger. When I first met my husband we visited India, Morocco, Egypt, and travelled all over Europe too. By far my most favourite place on the planet is Finnish Lapland. 

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In December 2018 we took the Dunbar babies for the holiday of a lifetime to Saariselkä to meet Santa and his elves. It was magical from the second we touched down in the arctic twilight. I poured all of the magic and romance of that holiday into Christmas at Frozen Falls which is set in a fictional resort somewhere near Saariselkä. 

I love your bucket list idea! What would be on mine? I’d love to travel more in northern Europe and see an aurora sky over the fjords. Everything about Scandinavia is just so utterly appealing. And I’d really like to see more of the Scottish highlands and islands. I’m from near Edinburgh originally but don’t get back to Scotland nearly enough. Oh, and I’d love to visit Granada in Spain. That’s quite a long list, isn’t it?

Almost as long as mine! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I’m a huge BTS fan. Like HUGE. I love them!

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’?

You must read Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca if you haven’t already! It is perfect. A masterpiece. Oh, and try her Frenchman’s Creek as well if you like hot, seventeenth-century, French pirates. And who doesn’t?

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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .


Working as a lady’s companion, the orphaned heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers . . .

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

I LOVE du Maurier! Rebecca is fantastic, and I have a huge fondness for Jamaica Inn too. 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 know I should drink lots of water, take my make-up off properly, and have some Coke going nicely flat in the fridge overnight to help me recover tomorrow (only flat Coke will do when it comes to hangover cures), but I know I won’t remember to do any of that. Most likely I’ll wake up feeling rough with smudged panda eyes.

That’s how you know you’ve had a great night! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Wake up late (some chance with two kids under seven!), something nice for breakfast like square sausage on a roll with brown sauce (OMG!), a cosy start by the (electric) fire watching the Christmas tree lights twinkling while the kids play, then a stroll into town with Amos our Bedlington Terrier, a cuppa and cake in a nice café, a potter round the books shops, then home for a lazy afternoon with Cbeebies for the kids and a Christmassy romance novel for me. Perfect!

That sounds amazing! (Glad you went for the brown sauce and not the ketchup!) Kiley, this has been the most fantastic evening, thank you so much for coming out with me tonight. I’m off to curl up with your book now with a G&T in front of the fire.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas at Frozen Falls by Kiley Dunbar is out now and you can buy a copy here.

HI RES Christmas at Frozen Falls FRONT

Christmas can thaw even the coldest of hearts…

Sylvie Magnusson is going to be lonely this Christmas. Instead of jetting off for her honeymoon, she’s freezing at home in Cheshire. Guess that’s what happens when your fiancé dumps you a week before your wedding…

Sylvie’s best friend, Nari, plans a trip to see the Northern Lights and get Sylvie’s mojo back. But as their Lapland getaway approaches, Sylvie realises that Frozen Falls is the hometown of Stellan Virtanen, her dreamy Finnish ex-boyfriend, the one that got away.

When they meet, Stellan may be a bit grumpy but he’s still gorgeous – and her heart is warmed when he shows her the romantic delights of Lapland (as well as some adorable husky puppies).

But when she returns to England, can she really leave Stellan behind? Or will she find that her heart belongs in the frozen North?

Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places. Shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award for Debut Romantic Novelists 2019 for One Summer’s Night.

Kiley is Scottish and lives in England with her husband, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English Literature and creative writing. She is proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a graduate of their New Writers’ Scheme.

You can read my review of Kiley’s debut novel One Summer’s Night here.

You can find out more about Kiley and her writing on Facebook and Twitter.

Next week I will be enjoying my last Friday Night Drinks of 2019 and seeing in a new blogging year with author, Julie Ryan. Until then, may I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a

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Friday Night Drinks with…. Rachel Sargeant @RachelSargeant3 @HarperCollins @HarperCollinsUK #TheRoomMates #FridayNightDrinks

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It’s that time of the week again! Time to relax, kick back and enjoy some Friday Night Drinks and a good old chat with this week’s guest, author….Rachel Sargeant.

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Rachel, welcome to the blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for inviting me, Julie. I’d like a tonic water with a slice of lemon but no ice.

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?

My local theatre. It’s very small but puts on fantastic amateur productions. My favourites are comedies and murder mysteries.

I love the theatre but don’t get to go as often as I’d like so that would suit me perfectly. 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’ve never met anyone famous and I’d want to be sure of picking someone nice and friendly, rather than a big ego. Having watched Katie Price and the late Keith Chegwin on Celebrity Big Brother, I’d choose them. They seemed down-to-earth and pleasant despite the mayhem around them. They also got on well with each other and stayed in touch afterwards so there’d be no danger of them falling out during our evening together. 

Unexpected choices! We’ve not had either of them before so that would be an interesting evening. 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 planning an in-depth writing project, more literary and experimental than my usual work, but I’m keeping details a secret in case it doesn’t work out. I’m also writing another thriller. This one is set in rural Shropshire where I went for a weekend break this summer and where I used to live. Two main characters – mother and daughter – and two timelines – present day and 1986.

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

Proudest moment was when The Perfect Neighbours sold 100,000 copies and I received a bouquet of flowers from my publisher, HarperCollins.

My biggest challenge is the social side of writing. Although I love reading other people’s posts on social media and often reply and retweet, I struggle for something interesting to say myself and I get very nervous attending literature festivals. 

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

I don’t want theme parks named after my characters or queues for my autograph, but I’d love to build up a core of readers who like my books so I can continue to work as a full-time author. 

That’s a lovely ambition. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

The two projects I mentioned get me out of bed in the morning (along with the tea and toast my lovely husband brings me). 

I’m also promoting my current psychological thriller The Roommates and responding to kind comments from readers. The fantastic support I’ve had from bloggers really helps.

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 the British seaside on a summer’s day. A particular favourite is Pembrokeshire, but I’m happy on any sunny beach with a picnic and a good book. I’d like to visit the seaside towns around the British Isles I’ve never been to.

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Lovely. I highly recommend Talybont beach in Snowdonia, which is our favourite (see above!) Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I won two swimming races when I was a teenager on holiday with my friend’s family at Pontins. My prize for each race was a toffee, which I gave to my friend’s brother as I was too out of breath to chew.

I love it! 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’?

Well, Julie, I read your blog. You know almost all there is to know about books so it’s hard picking something you haven’t read. I’m going for two suggestions by two of my closest writing pals. I was lucky enough to read and comment on their early drafts. The final products are great.

Final Diagnosis is a novella by Peter Garrett (Luna Press). It’s a brilliantly bonkers blend of sci-fi, murder and comedy, featuring time-travelling alien dinosaurs.

Final Diagnosis

In the port city of Searcy, murder is no longer a common occurrence, despite its history of violence. But when a senior psychiatrist is found with his head quite literally emptied out, it seems things might be about to take a dark turn. For DI Shaymie Sjaemusson, it marks the beginning of an investigation unlike any before, even as he’s forced to confront a deep trauma from his childhood.

As if things couldn’t get any stranger, all evidence points to a perpetrator that may not be human. And then, a myth from the dawn of human sentience appears from the shadows.

Sunrise in the Valley by Fergus Smith (Headsail Press). Army press officer Major Paul Illingworth must help build stability and trust in troubled Kosovo in 2001. He believes his role is to tell the truth but soon discovers truth has many versions. One truth belongs to Anja, a young child whose family is caught in the crossfire of war.

Sunrise

It’s 2001 and NATO protects a fragile peace between the Albanians and Serbians in the Balkan region of Kosovo. British Army spokesman Major Paul Illingworth must win hearts and minds to build peace and stability. But all factions are suspicious and volatile, and veteran war reporters deeply cynical of what he is trying to do. Can he trust Roza, his young Albanian interpreter? Which version of the truth does he believe?He who controls the message, controls perception. And he who controls perception, controls behaviour.The sequel to In the Shadow of the Mountain, this novel brilliantly highlights the vanity at the heart of New Labour.

I’ve not read either of those so I will check them out. 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?

Stick to tonic water. I learnt the hard way in my student days there’s no cure…

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

If I can’t get to the seaside, I’ll settle for a swim in our local open air pool and a visit to a country house. If it’s mid-winter, I’ll still go to the country house but stock up on cake and coffee at the café. In December I like visiting the Gloucester Quays Christmas market to look at the craft stalls, drink mulled wine and eat a hot snack.

That sounds absolutely perfect for a winter weekend. if you ever get chance, I highly recommend visiting Chatsworth House in Derbyshire at Christmas. Thank you so much for joining me, I’ve had a lovely evening.

Rachel’s brand new book, The Roommates, is hot off the press and you can buy a copy here.

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Do you really know the people you live with?

THEY LIVE IN YOUR HOUSE
University is supposed to be the best time of your life. But Imo’s first week is quickly going from bad to worse.

YOU SHARE EVERYTHING
A stalker is watching her flat, following her every move, and Imo suspects that her new roommates are hiding dark secrets…

BUT DO YOU TRUST THEM?
When one of them suddenly disappears, the trauma of Imo’s recent past comes hurtling back to haunt her. And she begins to realise just how little she knows about the people she lives with…

FOUR STUDENTS. FOUR SECRETS. ONE DEVASTATING CRIME.

Rachel Sargeant grew up in Lincolnshire. She is the author of Kindle Top Ten bestseller The Perfect Neighbours, a psychological thriller set in Germany. Her second novel with HarperCollins, The Good Teacher, is a detective mystery, featuring DC Pippa “Agatha” Adams. Her new psychological thriller, The Roommates, takes place during a university freshers’ week. She also wrote Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty, a novel featuring Great War nurses on a hospital ship. This is loosely based on the 1915 diary of her husband’s grandmother, a nurse at Gallipoli.

Rachel has a degree in German and Librarianship from Aberystwyth University, and Creative Writing MA from Lancaster University. She spent several years living in Germany where she taught English and she now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children. Her hobbies are swimming, visiting country houses and coffee shops, and going to the theatre to watch quality amateur productions.

You can find out more about Rachel and her writing on her website or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Next week I will be having Christmas Friday Night Drinks with author, Kiley Dunbar and talking about her festive read, so join me then.

 

 

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides #BookReview #BlogTour (@AlexMichaelides) @orionbooks @midaspr #paperback #TheSilentPatient

The Silent Patient

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

My final blog tour of 2019 and I am delighted to be going out with a bang and joining the tour to celebrate the paperback publication of one of the standout novels of the year, The Silent Patient  by Alex Michaelides. My thanks to Midas PR and Orion Publishing for my paperback copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I’ve been meaning to read this book all year and I’m not wondering why I’ve waited so long. What did I just read? OMG, my heart is still pounding from the final chapters of this amazing thriller. It was every bit as gripping, twisting, turning and unexpected as I had hoped from everything I had heard. Sometimes books are hyped so much they can never live up to the anticipation but this one actually delivered on every level.

This book is so cleverly crafted and plotted. How the author manages to give the reader so much empathy for a main character who doesn’t speak throughout the majority of the book and who is in a mental institution having been convicted of the brutal killing of her husband is quite a feat. Despite her silence, we ‘hear’ her speak throughout the book via some clever techniques and we are kept guessing about the truth and her motivations throughout. Her story is intriguing, ether must be more to her than we see at face value, but what is it, what is the truth? The author keeps us dangling, revealing tantalising clues that keep the reader turning the pages throughout. We glimpse different facets of her character, despite her lack of speech, which have our opinions swinging wildly from chapter to chapter. Victim or vixen? Manipulated or manipulator? It is masterfully done.

The main voice behind the narrative is Theo, her psychoanalyst, and the voice of reason in contrast to Alicia’s madness, trying to guide the world, and the reader, to the truth behind the murder and why Alicia did it and, more importantly, why she has remained mute ever since. Theo is a professional, and a man of science, so he should be able to sort the facts from the fiction, shouldn’t he? But has he been seduced by Alicia? And are events in his own life colouring his emotions about this case?

The insights into life in a psychiatric hospital were fascinating, the author’s own experiences giving a ring of authenticity to the narrative, and the tensions and rivalries between the professionals in the hospital certainly will seem familiar to anyone who has worked in a competitive environment. The descriptions were very visual and, again, the author’s pedigree as a screenwriter is apparent throughout and you can see why this book has been optioned as a movie.

This is a book where nothing is what it seems, shocks and surprises abound and there really is no getting to the truth until you turn the very final page. It truly had me on the edge of my seat from first page to last and, at the final hurdle, delivered on every promise made throughout. I honestly think I gasped out loud at one point. Beautifully constructed, with gorgeous character development and a taut story. Worth every moment of anticipation. A must read.

The Silent Patient is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the blog tour for the paperback release:

The Silent Patient PB blog tour

About the Author

Alex Michaelides (c) Andrew Hayes-Watkins

Alex Michaelides is an author and screenwriter born in Cyprus to a Greek-Cypriot father and English mother. After graduating from Cambridge with a degree in English, he received an MA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film The Devil You Know, starring Rosamund Pike, and co-wrote ,The Brits Are Coming, starring Uma Thurman and Tim Roth. The Silent Patient is Alex’s debut novel, the inspiration for which came in part from when he worked at a secure unit for two years. A Sunday Times bestseller, it went straight in at #1 in The New York Times bestseller lists which is a first for a UK debut novel, and stayed at the top for seven months, the first UK debut novel to do so. It has sold in 44 territories so far, which is a record for a debut novel. The film rights have been acquired by Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B.

Connect with Alex:

Twitter: @AlexMichaelides

Instagram: @alex.michaelides

Magpie by Sophie Draper #BookReview #BlogTour (@sophiedraper9) @AvonBooksUK @Sabah_K @NetGalley #NetGalley #Magpie

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She’s married to him. But does she know him at all?

Claire lives with her family in a beautiful house overlooking the water. But she feels as if she’s married to a stranger – one who is leading a double life. As soon as she can get their son Joe away from him, she’s determined to leave Duncan.

But finding out the truth about Duncan’s secret life leads to consequences Claire never planned for. Now Joe is missing, and she’s struggling to piece together the events of the night that tore them all apart.

Alone in an isolated cottage, hiding from Duncan, Claire tries to unravel the lies they’ve told each other, and themselves. Something happened to her family … But can she face the truth?

It’s my turn on the blog tour today for Magpie, the second book by Sophie Draper. Huge thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon Books for asking me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I have to admit, this book took a little while to get going for me. It is the story of a troubled family, living in a small village in the Peak District. Duncan and Claire have been married a long time, but the marriage is in difficulty, not helped by the problems suffered by their only son, Joe. Claire is on the verge of leaving when Joe goes missing and everything really falls apart.

The book is told from the dual perspectives of Duncan and Claire and, to begin with, neither of them were characters I particularly warmed to which made it difficult to form that connection with the book. It is hard to know which of them is telling the truth about their relationship. As well as jumping between the perspectives of Duncan and Claire, the story also runs on two timelines – Before and After (before and after what is the crux of the story)- this made the book a little difficult to follow, it requires a certain level of concentration to keep up with who is talking and in what point of the story. I am not sure I have read a book that jumps about in quite such a complicated and disjointed fashion.

However, and this is a big however, this book is absolutely worth the perseverance it took to get into the groove. A third of the way through, I became completely hooked on the story and raced through the rest of the book in desperation to get to the end. This story has so many elements that I love in a novel – suspense, deception, atmosphere – and it is extremely creepy. The author does a wonderful job of bringing to life the oppressive feel of remote corners of the Peaks, especially in winter when the looming crags and endless expanse can feel claustrophobic (I used to live in Ashbourne, so I know this area well).

You will find it hard to categorise this book. Is it a thriller? Is it suspense? Is it gothic? It is all of these things and more. It took a while, but it eventually got under my skin and became a compelling story that I had to pursue to the end. I had no idea what was going on for the majority of the story, I did not guess what was coming until very close to the end and it was a story that really took me by surprise. That can be a hard thing to do to someone who reads as much as I do.

An initially slow-burning novel that turns in to an atmospheric treat with a marvellous pay off. If you are looking for something a bit different and are willing to have a little patience, this is a fulfilling read.

Magpie is out now and you buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour for more perspectives on the book:

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About the Author

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Sophie ‘s debut novel, CUCKOO, was published by Avon (HarperCollins) on 29th Nov 2018. It won the Bath Novel Award 2017 (as “The Pear Drum”) and the prestigious Friday Night Live competition at the York Festival of Writing 2017.

Her second book, MAGPIE, is due out on 28th November 2019.

Sophie lives with her family in Derbyshire, in a house filled with music, several cats, too many books and three growing boys. When not writing, Sophie works as a traditional oral storyteller. She was nominated for the British Awards for Storytelling Excellence 2013 (Outstanding Female Storyteller) and performs across the UK, telling stories for all ages at festivals, schools, historic houses, museums and community groups.

Connect with Sophie:

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

Facebook: Sophie Draper Author

Twitter: @sophiedraper9