Blog Tour: When Life Gives You Lemons by Fiona Gibson #BookReview

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Sometimes life can be bittersweet . . .

Between tending to the whims of her seven-year-old and the demands of her boss, Viv barely gets a moment to herself. It’s not quite the life she wanted, but she hasn’t run screaming for the hills yet.

But then Viv’s husband Andy makes his mid-life crisis her problem. He’s having an affair with his (infuriatingly age-appropriate) colleague, a woman who – unlike Viv – doesn’t put on weight when she so much as glances at a cream cake.

Viv suddenly finds herself single, with zero desire to mingle. Should she be mourning the end of life as she knows it, or could this be the perfect chance to put herself first?

When life gives you lemons, lemonade just won’t cut it. Bring on the gin!

It is my turn on the blog tour today for When Life Gives You Lemons by Fiona Gibson. My thanks to Sanjana Cunniah at Avon Books for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is my first book by Fiona Gibson, and I’m now wondering why I haven’t read anything by her before because this novel was right up my street, definitely what I needed to cheer me up and take my mind off my enforced isolation.

It probably helped that the main character of Viv could, in many ways, be me. I haven’t related this closely to the main protagonist of a novel in a long while. It is so refreshing to see a menopausal woman of a certain age as the main character of a mainstream book, and one who is so unassuming but kickass as Viv. Although I have to say, the thought of having a seven-year-old at the age of 52 (which would be the equivalent of me currently being in charge of a toddler) filled me with abject horror! Those days are far behind me, thankfully (although dealing with teens can be just as bad) and I admired Viv’s fortitude in this regard.

The writing in this novel is light and upbeat and easy to read throughout and I fairly flew  through the pages. The plot and tone and characters are all very engaging, and it was very easy to immerse myself in their world and care about what was going on. I really loved the fact that Fiona did not make any of the characters canonised saints or absolute sinners, which sometimes can happen when an author wants us to sympathise with a protagonist and her decisions. Here, although Viv’s husband behaves like a cad, he is not a pantomime villain with no redeeming features, just an ordinary, if slightly weak, man, and this makes it much easier for the reader to believe in him and Viv’s reaction to him. All in all, I felt like all of the characters and their behaviour were realistically portrayed.

What made this book a real winner for me, though, was the painfully and brutally honest portrayals of peri-menopause and what it does to a woman, both physically and emotionally. As someone who is going through this stage of life at the moment and has, at times over the past three years felt like her body has been hijacked by an alien who keeps doing very undignified things to it, it was refreshing to see someone talking about this out loud and taking the sting out of it. At times this book had me absolutely howling with laughter. The part when Viv’s boss takes her out to lunch to discuss a potential new role for her in the company was a particular highlight. A good chuckle at women in my current situation was the tonic I never knew I was missing.

On the downside, I may never eat another Wotsit.

This book was funny and pacy and all-round delightful. If you looking for an easy, upbeat read to get you through quarantine, I highly recommend it.

When Life Gives You Lemons is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the blog tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Fiona Gibson is the author of 15 romantic comedy novels, including the best-selling The Mum Who Got Her Life Back (Avon), which celebrates the empty nester years. Under the name of Ellen Berry, she also writes the heartwarming Rosemary Lane series (Snowdrops on Rosemary Lane is out in January 2020).

Fiona grew up in West Yorkshire, before working on Jackie and Just Seventeen magazines – in those heady pre-internet days when it was thrilling to get a free plastic mirror taped to the front of your magazine. She went on to edit More! magazine, where she introduced the infamous Position of the Fortnight. After having twin sons and a daughter, Fiona started to write novels, usually at night with the house full of toddlers and builders. She was sleep deprived anyway so it really didn’t make any difference.

She also loves to draw, paint and run – by some miracle she managed to finish the London Marathon 2019. With the kids all grown up now, she and her husband Jimmy live in Glasgow with their collie cross, Jack.

Connect with Fiona:
Twitter: @FionaGibson
Instagram: @fiona_gib

 

Friday Night Drinks with… Sasha Lane

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Tonight, on Friday Night Drinks, I am joined in my virtual bar by romance author….Sasha Lane.

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

Gin and Tonic, and it has to be rhubarb gin!

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I love rhubarb gin, so I think I will join you. 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? (We can but dream of that day!)

I love the Cloud 23 Bar at the Hilton on Deansgate in Manchester. Although I live in South Yorkshire, not Manchester, this bar has a panoramic view of the city, and where you visit it by day or by night, the view is always amazing.  

This definitely looks like somewhere I need to visit when life gets back to normal! 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 love to have a drink with Marilyn Monroe. I bet she’d be great fun and we could learn a thing or two from her. She absolutely rocked it! And Justin Timberlake, because I’d love to watch him dance all night – I saw him in concert two years ago and was amazed at his dance moves, plus he’s pretty cute – I could easily hang off his arm all 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?

After a hectic end to last year – I launched my fourth book two weeks before we moved house! – I’m trying to find a bit more time to read books and to work on my next project. I’m working on a new book and am trying something a bit different to my usual novels. Having written a series, I’m now working on a kid of ‘girl turns detective, chick lit crime book’. This is me trying to combine two of my loves. I’d love to write serious crime novels, but my writing style is far too lighthearted. I read Nancy Drew books as a kid and want to write something along this theme where it’s crime related but still capturing some humour and romance. 

Sounds fantastic, I loved the Nancy Drew books. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

When I did my first book signing at WHSmith in Meadowhall shopping Center they said I had outsold some of the celebrity authors they had recently had in store and immediately asked me to book back in for another signing date with them. I was overwhelmed.

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I think the marketing has been the biggest challenge as it’s led me to do things that were way outside of my comfort zone. I’ve done so many public speaking events, recorded radio interviews, live radio interviews etc that I would never have dreamed I would have done as I’m actually quite shy so this took some confidence to do. 

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’d love it if one of my books was made into a movie! I know it might seem like a cliché but I’d really like to see the characters I’ve created come to life, other than just in my head where they, of course, are very real!

Well, as an avid reader, I can tell you that I’m sure your characters come to life in your readers’ heads too! 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?

 My favorite place I’ve been is New York – I fell in love with it the minute I got off the plane. The whole place just feels magical, and you don’t have to be doing anything special to feel in awe of New York. I loved just grabbing a take away coffee and strolling around Central Park watching the world go by. I loved New York so much that I write about it in both my first book, Girl Conflicted, and again in the third book, Girl, Unconventional.

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

I have a 2:1 BA Honors degree in Criminal Justice which I completed via online distance learning in my early thirties. I love Criminology and have done from a really young age – I’m not sure what that says about me! I’m just as likely to have my head in a crime novel as I am a romance one.

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’?

I read The Runaway by Martina Cole about 20 years ago. This was the first book I read of hers, and in my opinion, the best. It’s not an easy read but you go through every emotion. No matter how many times I’ve read this book it’s probably the only book that I will still gasp out loud at, and shed a tear while reading, even though I know exactly what will happen at the end.

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You can’t run for ever.

All that prostitute’s daughter Cathy Connor and drunkard’s son Eamonn Docherty want to do is escape their grim childhoods in London’s East End. And soon events turn so dangerous they are left with no choice but to flee. Cathy to the red lit streets of Soho, Eamonn to the high ranks of gangland New York.

Now she’s a hardened survivor, he’s Gotham’s most ruthless villain, and their paths are about to cross once again…

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?

Drink a bottle of water before bed. If all else fails, although it will be agony, I go for a 20 minute run and have a fruit and protein smoothie to try to kill of cure my hangover!

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

Relaxing at the spa having some ‘me’ time – a facial, massage, and of course, a good book!

Sounds fantastic and relaxing! Sasha, thank you so much for joining me, I’ve really enjoyed our chat and finding out more about your work.

Sasha’s latest book, Girl, Always and Forever is out now. This is the latest title in her Girl series, following Girl, Conflicted,  Girl, Unhinged and Girl, Unconventional.

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Emma is turning forty, and that’s when everything in life falls in to place, right? Apparently not.

As Emma moves into a beautiful new house with her lovely boyfriend, Joe, she feels that life couldn’t get more perfect.  But perfection is short lived as Emma’s friend’s relationships all start falling apart at the seams, with adultery and mid-life crisis wreaking havoc.

Joe is also given a promotion at work meaning he is away from home in London, leaving Emma alone and under pressure to keep everything together.

Joe‘s new found love for life in the big city, and his close relationship with his new work colleague, Karen, leave Emma questioning everything.

Is she destined to follow in the footsteps of her friends, or will she and Joe stand the test of time?

A proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Sasha Lane lives in Barnsley and works full time in the finance industry but writes in her spare time, allowing her imagination to have a whole lot of freedom as she writes Chick lit novels. They’re romantic comedies with a hint of darkness.

She tries to create characters that are everyday women so hopefully readers can find something about their personality or lifestyle that they can relate to and fall in love with them as much as she has while writing about them.

The idea behind her books is to show the challenges of everyday women trying to balance jobs/careers, with family, friends and relationships. It’s hard, and sometimes you have to laugh at yourself, which the main character, Emma, does, but she also wanted to show how important friendship is too at keeping us all sane!

She loves writing romance with twists and turns, but of course, with a happy ending!

You can find out more about Sasha via her website, Facebook,  Twitter and Instagram.

Please come back next Friday for another virtual night out with…Carol Thomas. See you then.

Blog Tour: Blood on the Tyne: Body Parts by Colin Garrow #BookReview

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Newcastle, 1955. A death in the family brings nightclub singer Rosie Robson home to Newcastle, but her planned return to London hits a snag after she agrees to perform with her old band.

Learning the group’s previous singer left after an argument, Rosie begins to wonder if there might be a sinister reason behind the young woman’s disappearance. Uncovering the first in a series of grisly murders, Rosie decides to investigate, but in doing so, finds her own name has been added to the killer’s list…

I’m delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for Blood on the Tyne: Body Parts by Colin Garrow, which is the first book in the Rosie Robson Mystery Series. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

So, this book is a short, sharp read of absolute joyous madness. Total hokum, but so engaging and fun that you really don’t mind it is in no way realistic. A really unusual and unique story of fairly brutal murders that is written in such a tongue in cheek and outrageous way that it was making me smile internally. I know that sounds really bizarre but there is no other way to describe it. You really need to read the book for yourself to find out what I mean.

There are two particular factors that really make this book. The first was the total immersion in the setting, which is some of the seedier parts of Newcastle. Because the main character is a pub singer and a lot of the book is set around the cheaper pubs and clubs of Newcastle, we are already prowling dark and dangerous streets at night, even before the series of grisly murders of young females begins. The author paints this world really well, it feels very authentic. He uses Geordie vernacular throughout, which sometimes in books can feel forced but here it feels very natural and fitting for the book, presumably because the author is born and bred in the area and is soaked in the speech patterns and turns of phrase, so it is not being forced. This may not be to everyone’s taste, especially if the speech of the North East is particularly alien to you, but I really enjoyed it and it enhanced, rather than detracted from, the story for me.

The second strong factor is the main character of Rosie. Tough and determined, with a no nonsense attitude and strong sense of self, she was perfectly developed and a great protagonist for the book. Look, what she gets away with is nonsense. No way would the police ever allow a civilian to be involved in the investigation in this way, but it is enjoyable nonsense for sure. If you can get your mind past the fact that her behaviour, and that of pretty much everyone else is ludicrous, the plot is gripping and fun and I really was swept along by it. In fact, this book reminded me of nothing so much as a dark, gory, sweary Nancy Drew story for adults. I can’t think of a better analogy. Anyone who grew up in the seventies on a diet of The Famous Five, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but whose tastes now turn more to the noir, will absolutely love this.

A crazy, entertaining read to while away a couple of hours, different from the run-of-the-mill crime novel. Great fun! I really look forward to seeing where this character goes next, I felt like there were interesting themes and storylines to be developed further for this character.

Blood on the Tyne: Body Parts is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for more great reviews and other content:

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About the Author

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True-born Geordie Colin Garrow grew up in a former mining town in Northumberland and has worked in a plethora of professions including taxi driver, antiques dealer, drama facilitator, theatre director and fish processor, and has occasionally masqueraded as a pirate.

Colin has published three stage plays, six adventures for middle grade readers, two books of short stories, the Watson Letters series and the Terry Bell Mysteries. His short stories have appeared in several literary mags, including: SN Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grind, A3 Review, Inkapture and Scribble Magazine.

These days he lives in a humble cottage in North East Scotland where he writes novels, stories. poems and the occasional song.

Connect with Colin:

Website: https://colingarrow.org

Facebook: Colin Garrow The Writer

Twitter: @colingarrow

Instagram: @colinngarrow

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Blog Tour: Summer at the Highland Coral Beach by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach

I’m so pleased to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Summer at the Highland Coral Beach by Kiley Dunbar. Kiley is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and I could not wait to read her latest book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Escape to the Highland Coral Beach – where broken hearts can be healed

Beatrice Halliday needs a break from life. Booking a trip to the Highlands on a whim, Beatrice hopes learning Gaelic in a beautiful Scottish village might help her heal her grief after losing her baby, her husband and her much loved job in a space of months.

But Port Willow Bay isn’t exactly as the website promised. Instead of learning a new language, she’s booked in to learn the ancient skill of willow weaving, her hotel room is Princess and the Pea themed (with a stack of mattresses for her bed!) and worse still, her tutor is Atholl Fergusson, grumpy landlord of the hotel where Beatrice is staying – and she’s the only one doing the course.

But as Beatrice finds herself falling in love with Port Willow Bay and its people, and as she discovers the kind heart beneath Atholl’s stony exterior, can she really leave?

At the very end of 2019, an author whose writing I had loved since I was in my teens very sadly passed away. That author was M. C. Beaton and the books beloved by me were the Hamish Macbeth stories. I spent many holidays in the Scottish borders as a child and in the town in which we stayed there was a newsagents, the Scottish version of W H Smiths, where I discovered the first Hamish Macbeth stories. I was in my early teens at the time and I immediately became addicted. As I am very old, this was in the days before Amazon, and I could not find these books in any local bookshops in the UK, so I used to wait eagerly for the summer holidays, saving up my pocket money, so I could rush and buy the next books in the series.

Several years later, the BBC made the Hamish Macbeth books into a delightful TV series, starring the gorgeous Robert Carlyle and set in a remote and dreamy part of the Scottish Highlands, and I was soon addicted to this too and still love it to this day.

Why is this in any way relevant to a review of the latest book by Kiley Dunbar, I hear you ask? Well, that TV series was filmed around the towns of Plockton and the Kyle of Lochalsh in the western Highlands, and this is a place I have been dreaming of ever since I first fell in love with these books and this show but I’ve never made it there, until now. Because Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is set in the fictional Highland village of Port Willow, which Kylie has based on that long-for destination of Plockton and the setting of the book is so gorgeous, so vivid, so…. touchable on the page that I feel like I’ve spent the last two days there, rather than stuck on my sofa at home. The book filled me with the same kind of joy and peace that made me fall in love with the portrayal of life in this small, remote Highland village and its eccentric characters in the M. C. Beaton books from my youth.

Anyone who read my reviews of Kylie’s previous two books will know I have waxed lyrical before about how wonderful her writing is at making a setting, location and a mood come alive on the page. It is a real gift, this ability to imbue the pages of a book with the spirit, the essence of a place so the reader is really there with the characters, in that place, at the time, and she really has it, possibly more than anyone I have read writing in this genre at the moment. If I really want to escape, these are the kind of books I want to pick up.

Setting aside, the characters in this book are just a delight, and I fell in love with the immediately. They are all warm and likeable and relatable from the off, and it doesn’t hurt that the main male protagonist is a hot Scot in a kilt. But it is the character of Beatrice that carries the book and made this particularly special and moving. For starters, the is in her late thirties, which is refreshing and relevant to us middle-aged readers, and she has been through something that is very moving and personal to me, because I have had a similar experience myself. I found the portrayal of Beatrice and her experience and the reaction to it very realistic and affecting, but it is written with love such and sensitivity and gentleness and understanding that, although it caused me to shed some tears and feel that little crack I forever carry in my heart give a shift, I also nodded along and smiled and acknowledged the truth of what was being shown in the story. This is a hard topic to write about, as well as to read, and it is done here with bravery and grace and I applaud the way it is handled. We must not be afraid to talk about these things, because they are the reality of people’s lives and should not be hidden and ignored.

I don’t want you to get the impression that this is a book full of sadness and pain, because it really isn’t. It is joyful and hopeful and truthful, full of warmth and sunshine and love and optimism. I adored all of the characters, the setting, the feeling of community and caring and family that flowed through it from first page to last. It was just what I needed to lift me at what is a dark time for a lot of people, and left me heart-warmed and cheered. Even in the darkest time, there is brightness and hope on the horizon. In fact, to steal a family motto from the book, ‘Dulcis Ex Asperis’. Let’s hope so.

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the other fantastic blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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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.

Connect with Kiley:

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar