Friday Night Drinks with….Emma Welton

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Very exciting evening for me, because tonight I am joined for Friday Night Drinks by the first book blogger I ever started following when I discovered her fantastic damp pebbles blog, and she remains one of my favourites. She is also a fantastic blog tour organiser whom I love working with, so welcome to my humble blog….Emma Welton.

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Emma, thank you so much for joining me for drinks this evening, I am so excited to have you here! First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for inviting me! I’m a bit of a coffee addict and seem to live on the stuff, but seeing as it’s Friday evening I’ll have a white wine please – but only if you’ll join me.

I don’t drink much wine these days as it tends to give me a hangover, but I guess one won’t hurt! 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?

Seeing as we’re both book bloggers I would want it to be book-themed, so…….. I would take you to damppebbles – my future bookshop (and the name sake of my blog!). I love book shops and it’s always been my dream to own one. A few years ago, my husband and I were walking through Plymouth and he asked me what my book shop would be called. We had just passed Waterstones so I (with the huge imagination, I have! 😜) said ‘damppebbles’ (Water Stones = damp pebbles) and it kind of stuck. My book shop would be different though, instead of the usual coffee and books on offer, it would be wine and books. Perfect for two book bloggers to meet for a night out!

That is a fantastic concept. If I won the lottery, I would definitely open a bookshop too. 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?

One would have to be an author so probably Chris Carter, who is my favourite author and writes the brilliant Robert Hunter series of books. I think he would be quite fun on a night out. I think Kylie would have to be the other. I’m a huge secret Kylie fan.

Kylie would be great, we could go dancing. I’d also not be the shortest person in the group for once! 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 been blogging for four and a half years now and it’s such a huge part of my life. If you had asked me, back at the start of 2016 before I hit publish on my first post, where book blogging would take me – I would never have believed you. I have made some of the most wonderful friends and met some truly inspirational people.  Blogging has also allowed me to start my own little bookish business which I am very proud of – damppebbles blog tours. My days are full to the brim with books, and that’s all thanks to damppebbles.

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I can’t believe you have only be going for four-and-a-half years, you feel like one of the grandames of book blogging to me, and one of my inspirations for starting my own blog. What has been your proudest moment since you started blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

There have been so many highlights over the years. I’ve won an award, I’ve been quoted on book covers, I have a flourishing little blog tour company, I’ve met famous authors and they know who I am! So many wonderful experiences. I think many bloggers suffer a lot from self-doubt and that’s a big hurdle I’ve had to cross. Are my opinions valid? Does anyone actually care what I think? When I realised why I was blogging, that it was for my own personal enjoyment, it put things into perspective for me.

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That’s such good advice for new bloggers, and certainly something I can relate to. I think it takes us a little time to build that level of confidence. 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!

Another tough question! What are you doing to me, Julie?! I don’t have big aspirations for the blog – I love it exactly as it is. But I would love for damppebbles blog tours to continue to grow. I love what I do – working with bloggers, authors and publishers – so the more I get to do it, the happier I am.

And you are so good at it! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

It’s not something I’m ‘working on’, as such, but I’ve found a rhythm with the blog now and I’m really enjoying reading and writing reviews. I think many bloggers lose their reading mojo every now and then, but mine is currently in full flow and I’m excited to be sharing the book love again. 

Again, not strictly something I’m working on at the moment but I’m really looking forward to the start of my regular end of the year feature #R3COMM3ND3D2020. I invite authors and bloggers to recommend three books to the rest of us, but there’s a catch! They must have been published in a certain year. On 1st November I’ll start sharing the 2020 book love and I can’t wait to see what everyone picks!

I think that is my favourite feature on your blog. I’ve taken part twice and it’s a great opportunity to recommend some books that might otherwise slip under the radar, I always challenge myself to try & pick things others aren’t choosing! I have also discovered books I’d not come across, and great new bloggers too, when I read the posts featured, so I’m looking forward to it again this year.

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 favourite place in the world is Las Vegas. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon and I loved every single second of it. I would love to return one day (when the kids are a lot older; they’re 9 and 6 at the moment so I expect it won’t be for a few years!). 

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Top of my bucket list is to write a book of my own. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years but I don’t have the confidence to put pen to paper. One day inspiration will strike, I’m sure! I’d also love to open a real life damppebbles book shop.

Great goals. You should definitely start that book, what do you have to lose? Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know.

I was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic two weeks before my 3rd birthday so I’ve had the condition for *mumble mumble mumble* years now. My parents lived on a knife edge when I was a child. But the first time I had a big hypo as an adult was when I was pregnant with my daughter and we took a holiday in France. I woke in a daze surrounded by hunky French paramedics and a very concerned looking husband. I was whisked to a French hospital to be monitored. Unfortunately both my husband and I only speak ‘school’ French (Où est la gare?) and the poor nursing staff didn’t speak a word of English. They repeatedly said ‘Confiture?’ to us and we hadn’t the foggiest what that meant. Turns out it’s jam. They were offering me jam on toast to get my blood sugar levels back up!

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’?

Only one?! 😱 If I’m limited to one I’m going to make it a book that’s probably crept under the radar for most people. The Wrong Child by Barry Gornell is absolutely outstanding and one of my favourite books. If I’m allowed two then I’ll also recommend the stunning We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker. It’s highly likely We Begin at the End will be my book of 2020.

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When tragedy strikes in a small Scottish village, everyone in the community is affected.

Most people believe one child is to blame for what happened.

But could a young boy really be responsible? And what lengths will his parents go to protect him?

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?

Sleep! Lots and lots of sleep, which I unfortunately don’t get with a 6 year old in the house! And paracetamol. And coffee. Lots and lots and lots of coffee.

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

A perfect weekend for me would be curled up on the sofa with a good book and plenty of time to read it. 

Emma, thank you so much for coming on, it has been great fun.

Emma Welton is full-time mum, book blogger and blog tour organiser who lives in South Oxfordshire with her husband and two young children (9 & 6). She’s a complete book addict and has been for as long as she can remember. It’s something she encourages in her children too (she likes football, he likes books so she’s halfway there!). She started her blog, damppebbles, in January 2016 and now can’t imagine life without it.

She reads and review mainly crime fiction, psychological thrillers and horror with the odd guest post thrown in for good measure.

You can find out more about Emma via her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Next week I will be joined by another fantastic blogger for Friday Night Drinks, Aruna from The Literary Shed, so do come back then.

 

Book Review: Son of Secrets (The Indigo Chronicles #2) by N. J. Simmonds #Blogtour

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This has been a long time coming, but today I am delighted to be finally taking part on the blog tour for the second book in the Indigo Chronicles Trilogy by N. J. Simmonds, Son of Secrets. Huge thanks to the author for inviting me to take part and for supplying me with a digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Ella has been waiting for Zac for three years. She’s convinced he’ll return for her, but fate has other plans. When Josh is thrown back into her life, Ella has a choice: step back on to her rightful path, or wait for the one who dared her to rebel.

But Ella’s not the only one missing Zac. Luci has been searching for her blue-eyed boy over two millennia and will stop at nothing to get him back. Even if that means hunting down the only girl he ever loved.

From Tuscany 5BC to 17th century witch hunts, Ella, Zac, Luci and Sebastian’s lives have been forever intertwined. The time has finally come to complete the circle.

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I’ve been waiting a very long time for this book. So long, in fact, that I had to go back and re-read the first book in the Indigo Chronicles, The Path Keeper, to remind myself what had happened. I’d forgotten how good it was, and it whetted my appetite for the new one.

And, boy, was it worth the wait. I can say, hand on heart, without a shadow of doubt that the author exceeded all my expectations with the second book and it is even better than the first. There is so much going on in this series, so many themes to unpick, history to explore, so much subversion of expectation that it will excite and entertain the most sophisticated reader of any age.

For those who haven’t read the first book (and, if not, I suggest you do first, it is excellent and this book will provide a much richer reading experience if you have), it picks up three years on from the events of the previous book. Zac has not reappeared and Ella is trying, quite unsuccessfully, to make some kind of life for herself without him. Then a face from her past reappears and she realises that maybe fate has not finished with her yet and there is still a path to happiness available to her. At the same time. a new character appears to shake things up, and she has been waiting for Zac too.

As in the previous book, we are given flashbacks to other points in history that have influenced the place all the characters find themselves in in the present. It is hard to describe without giving away any spoilers, but the lives of the main characters are all intertwined, and their fates have been through the centuries. The author has obviously done her research, the scenes that occur have their basis in real events from history and her descriptions of them are rich in detail and sensation, bringing them to life on the page. If you come away from reading this book with the desire to do some more research into some of them, I will be surprised.

The base story of the series is a passionate love affair between two young people who are kept apart by powerful forces and circumstance beyond their control, but the strength of their love for one another keeps them fighting to reunite against the odds. These are the standard building blocks for many stories. What sets this series apart, aside from the quality of the writing which I will come to later, is the uniqueness and audacity of the particular plot machinations that keep this couple apart, and the complex themes that pepper the narrative to make the reader really think and question. This is so much more than just a love story.

The author has created a world that, firstly, uses an outlandish premise at its heart, and this was explored in detail in book one. This second book has taken that premise and elevated it to another level. It is very hard to go into in any detail without giving anything away but the author has taken some fundamental suppositions about the theories of good and evil, the way we perceive and understand them, the stories we have been told to explain their existence through time and completely turned them on their head. What is what we know is all untrue? What if the opposite were true and the lies had been spun as a means of maintaining power and control over people who threatened the status quo? Trying to work through the connotations of the story will make your head spin, but set your brain alight with thoughts and questions and have you racing through the pages to get more information.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the way it explores feminist issues, the imbalance of power between the genders and the various ways that society has tried to suppress feminine power through the ages, and why. Lots of books have strong, female characters, but this one is quite strident and overt in its exploration of these issues, and has one of the best characters I have ever come across in young adult fiction to demonstrate this, and she isn’t the main character. She actually shows the main character up a little and makes you want to shake Ella and urge her to take control of her life and stop swaying in the winds of fate or doing what she thinks others or the universe expects. Actually, this is Ella’s real journey, I think, and I am interested to see what comes out of this in book three.

I know some of this is a little unclear, but it is very hard to describe the brilliance of this novel without giving away any spoilers. Let me just summarise. As well as having a cracking base story line of a doomed romance between two passionate people kept apart by monumental tribulations, this book is an exploration of some fascinating, historical events that demonstrate how the cause of female empowerment has been fought and opposed throughout the centuries, and how it still continues today. Having just watched the Jeffrey Epstein documentary at the same time as reading this, I have been left with a very unsettled feeling and a sense of wanting my daughters to understand their history and the difficulties they are still going to face in a world that has treated women as lesser than for centuries. There is also a fascinating subversion of our understanding of good and evil that plays into this, and the whole thing blends into an entertaining and complex novel that is one of the most intense and thought-provoking novels I have ever read. Cover this with the gloss of exquisite prose, and you are left with a book that is pure joy to read.

A quite stunning piece of work.

Son of Secrets is out now and you can buy a copy, here.  The first book in the Indigo Chronicles series, The Path Keeper, is available by following this link.

Please do check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour as well:

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About the Author

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N J Simmonds is the author of fantasy series The Indigo Chronicles – she also writes Manga comics and is one half of Caedis Knight. Her stories are magical, historical and full of complex women, page-turning twists and plenty of romance. Originally from London, she now lives with her family in the Netherlands.

Connect with the author:

Website: http://njsimmonds.com

Facebook: N J Simmonds Author

Twitter: @NJSimmondsTPK

Instagram: @njsimmonds_author

Blog Tour: A Cornish Summer Holiday: Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green #BookReview

A Cornish Summer Holiday at the Little Duck Pond Cafe

I am delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for the latest book in one of my favourite romance series, The Little Duck Pond Cafe. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part once again and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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The Little Duck Pond Cafe girls are looking forward to a well-earned break in the Cornish seaside town of Pengully Sands, where Sylvia’s sister, Aggie, owns a holiday home. With the glorious golden sands, sparkling azure sea and an ice-cream parlour only yards away, it seems like the perfect location to relax and watch the surfers riding the waves (and maybe even have a go themselves). But when they arrive, the girls find it’s not quite the seaside idyll they were expecting.

The house is less ‘holiday home’ and more ‘creepy, dilapidated haunted house.’ Gracie, who runs the ice-cream parlour, has problems of her own and the last thing she needs is a bunch of high-spirited girls arriving to disturb the peace and isolation she craves. And when a handsome stranger looks set to destroy her livelihood, it seems like the last straw.

Will Gracie get her happy ending – and maybe even make friends with the girls next-door? This wasn’t the relaxing break the Little Duck Pond Cafe girls were expecting, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be the holiday of a lifetime!

Regular readers of the blog will know that I have been a big fan of this series from the start. I loved the setting of the novels in Sunnybrook, centred around the little Duck Pond Cafe, so it was with some trepidation that I approached this new instalment set away from the familiar location and in the seaside town of Pengully Sands.

I need not have worried, Rosie handled the transition smoothly by having all our favourite familiar characters from the books travel en masse to, what was supposed to be, an idyllic holiday cottage on the Cornish coast. As one would expect, however, nothing is ever straight forward and the cottage is less, coastal idyll, more ghost-infested nightmare. Still, the Duck Pond Cafe girls are nothing if not inventive and they soon get stuck in to solving the problems, including the ones of their new friend in Pengully Sands, Gracie.

Gracie is a great new character in the series. Her story was so melancholic, I felt so sorry for her from the beginning which made me invest in the story and root for her from beginning to end. My concern for her soon overrode my misgivings about leaving my beloved Sunnybrook behind and made sure a little piece of my reading heart will always be in Pengully Sands, which bodes well for Rosie’s first, full length novel.

Part romance, part ghost story, all entertainment, this was a lovely, moving and engaging read from start to finish. I highly recommend it for anyone craving a virtual breath of sea air and a sweet diversion from reality for an hour or so. Previous fans of the series will love it, new readers will want to go back and catch up with the previous books. Thanks for another great story, Rosie, looking forward to seeing what you can do with more words!

A Cornish Summer Holiday: Little Duck Pond Cafe is out now and you can buy a copy here.

For more fantastic reviews, do please visit the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Rosie has been scribbling stories ever since she was little.

Back then, they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’.

Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all – unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

Her series of novellas is centred around life in a village cafe. The latest, ‘Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe’, is out now.

Rosie is currently writing a full-length book, ‘Lucy’s Great Cornish Escape’, which – in a fun twist – will feature favourite characters from the Little Duck Pond Café series.

Connect with Rosie:

Twitter: @Rosie_Green1988

Friday Night Drinks with…Lynne Shelby

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As we continue with our social distancing IRL, what better way to spend a Friday evening that with virtual drinks with an author. Tonight, for Friday Night Drinks, I am joined by author and fellow RNA member….Lynne Shelby.

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Lynne, welcome to my virtual bar and thank you for joining me this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

 I’m drinking cold white wine.

If we weren’t here drinking in cyberspace tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’d be taking you to see a musical in London’s West End. My favourite night out is to see a musical or a play, and we could enjoy a drink in the theatre bar in the interval!     

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I love musicals! 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’d invite Jane Austen for her witty conversation, and Shakespeare because I’d be interested to know what he thought of modern theatre.

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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 looking forward to the publication of my latest novel, The Summer of Taking Chances. The book is set in a fictional seaside village on the Sussex coast, based on a village where I used to spend holidays as a child and which I still visit every year, and was very much inspired by the location. I hope readers enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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

My proudest moment since I started writing was holding a paperback copy of my debut novel, French Kissing, in my hand for the first time. There have been many exciting moments since then, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget. My biggest challenge has been to know when to stop editing a manuscript. Usually, I realize that when I’ve changed ‘a’ to ‘the’ and back again, it’s time to send a story out into the world. 

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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 one of my novels to be made into a film. 

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

I’m working on a contemporary romance set on a Greek island. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Greece several times, and it’s been wonderful to go there again in my imagination. 

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?

Like you, I love travelling, and it’s really hard to choose a favourite out of the wonderful places I’ve visited. But one place everyone should visit is Paris – it’s such a romantic city. Top of my bucket list to visit next is Japan. 

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

I not at all athletic, but I can ride a horse.

I love to ride too, we have two ponies at home at the moment. 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’d give you my favourite book of all time The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. I first read it when I was seventeen, and I’ve re-read it many times since.

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Invited to an extravagantly lavish party in a Long Island mansion, Nick Carraway, a young bachelor who has just settled in the neighbouring cottage, is intrigued by the mysterious host, Jay Gatsby, a flamboyant but reserved self-made man with murky business interests and a shadowy past.

As the two men strike up an unlikely friendship, details of Gatsby’s impossible love for a married woman emerge, until events spiral into tragedy.

Regarded as Fitzgerald’s masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of American literature, The Great Gatsby is a vivid chronicle of the excesses and decadence of the ‘Jazz Age’, as well as a timeless cautionary critique of the American dream.

I love that book. 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?

Drinking a glass of water for every glass of wine usually works for me! If it doesn’t, my go-to cure is toast and marmite – comfort food!

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

Ideally, I’ll be spending the rest of the weekend writing and reading – hopefully in my garden, if the weather is good – and having Sunday lunch with my family.

Sounds delightful. Lynne, thank you so much for joining me, it has been a delight to chat to you. Good luck with the new book.

Lynne’s latest novel, The Summer of Taking Chances, will be published on 4 June and you can buy a copy here.

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It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time.

When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Reykjavik – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

You can find out more about Lynne and her writing on her website, FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Next week, I will be having drinks with blogger and blog tour organiser, Emma Welton, from damp pebbles, so do make sure you join us.

Blogging in a Time of Coronavirus & a severe case of Can’tBeArsed-itis

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Hi guys. Hope everyone is keeping well and staying safe, whatever the situation is where you are. What a strange time we are living through.

I know the blog has been really quiet lately and I can only apologise. It’s not just been the blog either. All my social media, participation in Facebook groups, WhatsApp chats, online friends and family meets – I haven’t really been doing any of it. Truth is, I’ve been suffering for the last month from a severe case of Can’tBeArsed-itis.

It hasn’t been quite as bad as the photo above suggests. I haven’t been laying motionless face down on the sofa (with my shoes on? Who does that? What are we, savages?). I’ve actually been really busy. I’ve just been doing it all within the confines of my home and garden.

When lockdown first started, I was like everyone else. Chatting with friends and family on Zoom, probably more than I did pre-quarantine. Taking part in loads of online challenges and chats. Blogging and Instagramming up a storm. Then I had a little accident and gave myself quite a severe burn on my hand which necessitated a trip to A&E late one Friday night. (The absolute last place I wanted to go at the height of a pandemic and it was as awful as I expected. If anything convinced me how completely unlike normal life is, it was that trip to A&E on a Friday night. It was an eerie, zombie-apocalypse-movie-like experience.) As a result, my left hand was completely bandaged for a week and I had to type one-handed, which brought blogging and writing to a grinding halt and, even as I gradually got the use of it back, my mojo seemed to have disappeared.

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Back in February, I took the decision to cut right back on blog tours for the spring and summer to try and get through my NetGalley backlog, so luckily I had few commitments that needed meeting and I could embrace my lack of enthusiasm for blogging for a while. (I wonder now if I had some weird premonition. I also wound up my travel business in Autumn 2018 because I had a bad feeling about where the industry was headed, and I’ve never been so glad about a decision in my life now. Spooky!) Instead, I have been focused solely on myself and my daughters and our life at home.

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I’ve been quite lucky on the homeschooling front as my daughters’ school are providing real time lessons for them as per their normal timetables via Google Classroom. However, this has still necessitated constant interaction, especially for my 12-year-old who is very gregarious, is missing her school friends desperately, and has co-opted me into the role of new best friend. For someone who is used to working from home and spending many hours by themselves every day, being on constant call is mentally draining. Honestly, I always had a lot of respect for teachers (my sister is one) but now my admiration knows no bounds. The strain is exacerbated by the fact of being a single parent, solely responsible for all of this as well as running the house and all the attendant tasks that go with it (oh, the endless dishwasher emptying and re-stacking…). After spending hours explaining the difference between direct and representative democracy, analysing Beatrice’s role as a woman in ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ timing circuit training exercises and playing netball for PE lessons, searching for photos of the friezes on Trajan’s Arch, dissecting the contrast between socialist and capitalist viewpoints in ‘An Inspector Calls’ (which I had to read first), to be honest, I’ve had little brain space left for any intelligent commentary on the books I’ve been reading. It’s also almost impossible to concentrate on anything when you know there is a strong possibility of being interrupted any second. (My daughter required my help three times just during the course of typing this blog post.) To all you parents who are doing all of this whilst trying to hold down your normal full-time job in this abnormal environment as well, I salute you, I have no idea how you are doing it.

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Instead, the girls and I have been doing lots of fun stuff together. Playing badminton and giant Jenga in the garden. Walking our dog in the fields behind our house. Baking up a storm, making our own pizzas, having cooking lessons. Building Hogwarts Castle from Lego. Doing jigsaws. Sharing TV shows we love. I’ve been introduced to Riverdale and Brooklyn 99 and my daughters are now being spoonfed Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the beginning. It’s been great fun spending proper, quality time with my girls. They are growing up so fast, savouring this time with them is something I will remember as a positive once this is over.

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Basically, over the last month, I’ve pulled my head and tail into my shell like a turtle and shut off the outside world. I guess it’s been a form of self-preservation. The constant negative news, combined with missing family and friends, was dragging me down so I withdrew from it all. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I saw on Twitter some other bloggers discussing the fact that their page views and follower numbers were up, but interactions on the blog were down. I think maybe people are looking for content to consume while they are stuck at home, but the constant need to interact in the virtual world has become draining. I read a fascinating article about why this may be the other day. It suggested that it just reminds us of what we are missing in real life, a momento mori of the lives we had before which are not going to be the same again for a long while. This certainly resonated with me.

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Anyway, I now have a massive backlog of reviews to do, so I’m making a concerted effort to get out of this funk and back into the real world. But for anyone who just doesn’t feel like blogging at the moment, don’t beat yourself up. The world is topsy turvy and we all need to do what we gotta do to stay sane and get through. We’re all adjusting to our new normal, and are doing the best we can. And, if all else fails, there’s always Buffy.

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Take care and stay safe.

Friday Night Drinks….with N. J. Simmonds

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I am delighted to welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow Fiction Cafe Writer and young adult author…..N. J. Simmonds.

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

A glass of 2018 Merlot. It’s my Friday night treat. Normally I drink just water or orange squash!

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 half-Spanish and I spend my summers in my house in the south of Spain. So I would take you to my favourite beach bar where we’d eat paella and drink mojitos as the sun set…then dance all night!

Oh, if only. We are all dreaming of travelling to sunshine-y places at the moment! 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 obsessed with Alicia Keys – she’s so talented and generous, and looks like a lot of fun. I’d invite her and probably my late grandad. He loved a drink and he’d probably ask her lots of amusingly inappropriate questions. I do miss him.

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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?

This has been such a crazy year for everyone that I keep forgetting how many exciting things I have going on. My second book Son of Secrets (the sequel to The Path Keeper) is out 28th May and I can’t wait. Then June and August my two-part Manga story Out Of The Darkness is out with Big Bang! Manga, and in September I’m launching an indie paranormal series…but that hasn’t been officially announced yet!

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

I started writing fiction professionally in 2016, and since then my proudest moment was finding a publisher for seeing The Path Keeper in book shops. I remember sitting in a London Waterstones for my first ever signing with a queue out of the door feeling like it was all a dream!

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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!

My biggest ambition is to write and direct a screen adaptation of one of my books or series. In September I plan to start an MA in film (if I’m accepted) where I’ll be studying scriptwriting. I can’t think of anything better than seeing my characters Zac and Ella in an HBO series or on Netflix! 

That would be great, I’d watch it! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’ve just finished a duology historical fantasy set during the Great Fire of London. The book is with a bunch of agents right now, so fingers crossed it makes it to bookshelves. I also have two co-writing projects: one is an MG spooky adventure set in the Amazon, and the other is a (very adults) indie project that’s a mix of a paranormal Veronica Mars and a European True Blood. It’s corny and horny and the most fun I’ve ever had while writing! I have a very varied To Do list this year, for sure.

Wow, that is quite a lo of different writing strings to your bow. 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 to some breathtaking destinations in my time – from Russia and Bali, to Cambodia and Morocco. But my favourite place has to be Australia. I spent a year living, working and travelling around the country. And the best souvenir I brought back? My husband! He’s also from the UK and we met backpacking.

My bucket list place to visit is South and Central America. I am desperate to see Machu Picchu in Peru, take part in the Rio carnival in Brazil, enjoy a great glass of wine in Argentina and go even further up to Mexico and Cuba.

I also want to visit Salem and New Orleans in the US – for obvious historically spooky reasons.

Peru & Brazil are also on my list. I’ve been lucky enough to visit both Salem & New Orleans and can highly recommend! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Well everyone knows that I write speculative fiction with plenty of esoteric themes and past-life happenings, but not many people know I’m a qualified Reiki healer and a certified colour therapist. I have also been regressed to three of my past lives, some of which inspired my ‘The Indigo Chronicles’ series (two of Ella’s past lives in SON OF SECRETS were based on my own readings).

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’?

The Time Traveler’s Wife by  Audrey Niffenegger is one of my favourite books and was a huge influence on my ‘The Indigo Chronicles’ series. The book is so , yet still unsettling and raw. 

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This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty.

Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future.

In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

This is also one of my favourites, such a great book. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

If I’m out drinking with friends until very late, I stick to one type of drink and swap to water at midnight. And never ever do shots! If I’m hungover the next day, then a fruit smoothie and a big English fry up with a walk in the fresh air afterwards sorts me right out.

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

I would start with lie-in, reading and chilling, then a big fancy brunch. Then I’d spend the rest of the day with friends and family somewhere hot and sunny by the sea or having a BBQ in the garden. Then the evening watching a great movie with my husband, with the kids in bed, and a glass of wine and some peanut M&Ms to hand.

Sounds perfect. Natalie, thank you so much for coming on the blog this evening, it’s been a blast.

Son of Secrets, Natalie’s new book and the second novel in the Indigo Chronicles series is out on 28 May and you can buy a copy here.

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In a fight against destiny – who will win?

Ella has been waiting for Zac for three years. She’s convinced he’ll return for her, but fate has other plans. When Josh is thrown back into her life, Ella has a choice: step back on to her rightful path, or wait for the one who dared her to rebel.

But Ella’s not the only one missing Zac. Luci has been searching for her blue-eyed boy over two millennia and will stop at nothing to get him back. Even if that means hunting down the only girl he ever loved.

From Tuscany 5BC to 17th century witch hunts, Ella, Zac, Luci and Sebastian’s lives have been forever intertwined. The time has finally come to complete the circle.

I will be reviewing Son of Secrets in a couple of weeks time, so watch out for that coming soon.

N. J Simmonds began her career in glossy magazines and marketing, before becoming a freelance writer and consultant. She now fills her days writing books about strong women, magic and adventure. She is the co-founder of the online magazine The Glass House Girls and has since contributed to many publications.

Originally from North London, with Spanish parentage, N. J. Simmonds currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.

You can find out more about Natalie and her work on her website and via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author, Lynne Shelby.

Blog Tour: Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

I really loved Noelle’s debut novel, Dead Inside, last year so I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the second book in the Maggie Jamieson series, Dead Wrong. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Which part of the intriguing blurb for this book would not make you want to pick this book up? A series of murders that has been solved by a confession from the killer, but then body parts of the alleged victims start turning up years later, revealing they’ve only just been killed, AFTER the killer is behind bars? Sign me up!

Maggie is now back with her original squad, after her secondment to the Domestic Violence unit in book one, and she is immediately thrust under the spotlight because she was responsible for putting the original killer away in what now looks like a miscarriage of justice. What an amazing preface for ramping up the tension for the protagonist and making the investigation personal for Maggie from the off. It also raises all kinds of queries as to whether she is being suitably dispassionate about the new investigation or is making bad decisions based on saving her own reputation. It is a clever idea and really well executed.

The accused serial killer, Bill Raven, is a great nemesis for Maggie in this novel. Aside from being an alleged murderer, he is just s deeply unpleasant man, smug and antagonistic, and we, the reader, loathe him from the beginning, regardless of whether he actually committed the crimes or not, which puts us firmly in Maggie’s corner even when she is making unwise decisions. The pace of the book is frenetic, we race through it to find out what is going on in this baffling case and can’t wait to get to the conclusion but when we go OMG! What is happening? You can’t leave it like that! I need Book 3 now, I tell you!

One of the main strengths of Noelle’s books, which is clearly present here, is the way she shows the involvement in an investigation of many different people from different specialisations within criminal justice to bring a case to a conclusion. Too many crime novels have murders being solved start to finish by one or two individuals, with everybody else a faceless sidetone. This is obviously not the way things work and, the fact Noelle has worked in this world and understands the importance of everyone in the process, not just the lead officers, shines through and gives the story a real ring of authenticity, even though it is clearly a piece of entertaining fiction.

A great, pacy and gripping crime thriller that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Can’t wait for the next one.

Dead Wrong is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and was a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie