Blog Tour: Strangers by C. L. Taylor #BookReview

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Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

Today I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Strangers by C. L. Taylor. Huge thanks to Sanjana Cunniah of Avon Books for inviting me to take part and for my digital copy of the book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This thriller has a fantastic construction, as it opens with the three main characters standing over a dead body, so we know immediately they are involved in a death, but not who is dead, which one killed them or why . The plot then scoots back a week and follows the separate stories of the three individuals who we quickly realise don’t know each other at this point, so we spend the rest of the book trying to find out how three strangers come together in a week to be involved in a death.

I found this story really compelling in so far as the three protagonists are very ordinary people leading fairly dull lives, who all get dragged into something extraordinary through a series of unremarkable occurrences. It makes you wonder how far any of us are from becoming embroiled in something way out of our control through a tiny twist of fate. From the beginning it is hard to see how any of these simple people could become involved in a violent death, but the plot slowly and cleverly draws the disparate threads together that bring them all to one place. It is very skilfully done, and fascinating to follow. I loved the series of false trails that were laid to trick us into following them and coming up only with red herrings. I didn’t guess where the story was going to end up until quite close to the conclusion.

As well as being a gripping thriller, the story builds three very believable ordinary characters that it is easy for the reader to relate to. Although not individually remarkable, they all dealing with a series of every day problems that any one of us may face at any time – grief, loneliness, infidelity, divorce, money worries, internet dating, sexual assault, unemployment, family illness, troubled teenagers, domestic abuse, psychological distress, workplace stress – which of these triggers, small or large, are the ones that push these people to the place where they find themselves in a terrifying situation.

This is a book that propels you through the story and holds you tightly in its grip until you get to the end. I read it in two sittings (it would have been one if I’d not started it late one evening and fallen asleep before I could finish.) It is a domestic drama, than a thriller filled with whizz bangs and explosions, but it actually all the more gripping for it. This could happen to you or me. Maybe we should be afraid.

Another fantastic and gripping thriller from Cally Taylor, fans of her books will not be disappointed.

Strangers is out now in hardback, audio and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

This book is taking a mammoth blog tour, so make sure you check out some of the other stops as detailed below:

 

About the Author

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C.L. Taylor is an award winning Sunday Times bestselling author of seven gripping psychological thrillers including SLEEP, a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for autumn 2019.

She has also written two Young Adult thrillers, THE TREATMENT, which was published by HarperCollins HQ and THE ISLAND, which will be published in January 2021.

C.L. Taylor’s books have sold in excess of a million copies, been number one on Amazon Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Google Play and have been translated into over 25 languages and optioned for TV.

SLEEP won the ‘best ebook’ award in the Amazon Publishing Readers’ Awards. THE ESCAPE won the Dead Good Books ‘Hidden Depths’ award for the Most Unreliable Narrator. THE FEAR was shortlisted in the Hearst Big Book Awards in the ‘Pageturner’ category.

Cally Taylor was born in Worcester and spent her early years living in various army camps in the UK and Germany. She studied Psychology at the University of Northumbria and went on forge a career in instructional design and e-Learning before leaving to write full time in 2014. She lives in Bristol with her partner and son.

Connect with Cally:

Twitter: @callytaylor

Instagram: @cltaylorauthor

 

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.

 

Blog Tour: Son of Secrets (The Indigo Chronicles #2) by N. J. Simmonds #BookReview

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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.

In a fight against destiny – who will win?

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

Friday Night Drinks with … Sue Moorcroft

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I am delighted to be welcoming to Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow RNA member and one of my favourite authors of fun, escapist, romantic fiction… Sue Moorcroft.

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Sue, I am so thrilled to have you on the blog for drinks this evening, thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

Rosé. I like white wine as well but I have rosé left from Christmas.

You are very restrained! 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 lounge. It was Northamptonshire’s first electric light theatre and now it’s one of those lounges that’s a mixture of industrial, bare brick and opulent light shades. I like their steak and their chocolate brownies are even better. Welcome to The Kino!

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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?

Damon Hill, F1 driver, and Nevil Shute, author. I’m a huge F1 fan and loved watching Damon’s career take shape. Nevil Shute, though his work’s ‘of its time’, taught me what a sweeping love story should be. I’m listening to a few of them in audio now and enjoying them all over again.

I love Nevil Shute. A Town Like Alice is one of my Desert Island Books and I’ll be re-reading and reviewing it for that blog feature later this year. 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?

A Christmas Wish will come out later this year. I’ve sent the first draft in and any moment now I’ll be working on the edits. The schedule tends to go: structural edits (big stuff), line edit (small stuff), copy edit (minutiae) then proof reading (mistakes). Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have the first two rounds of edits in one, which is a great time saver. I write two books a year so the writing and editing tend to overlap and I have no idea when I actually started it. It involved a wonderful research trip to Sweden, though, at the invitation of friend and fellow author Christina Courtenay and her mum.

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

My proudest moment occurred recently when A Summer to Remember won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020. (see above photo). The awards took place in a glitzy London hotel and I’m incredibly lucky that it was just before Covid-19 social distancing began so it wasn’t cancelled. My biggest challenge was when a past agent telephoned to say my latest book wasn’t good enough and she couldn’t represent it. It was the only time writing has made me cry. Luckily, I have the personality type that made me write a better book rather than stop writing.

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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’d like to be a topseller with a huge film deal. I’m a bestseller now and used to think that was my ambition. Then I saw the word ‘topseller’ attached to authors who are household names and millionaires and I sharpened my ambitions.

It’s always good to push yourself with new ambitions. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I want to get on with planning my summer 2020 book! It’s an idea about identity that has been knocking on my head for a while. 

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 is Malta. I was brought up there for several years, my new book, Summer on a Sunny Island is set there, and I love it. On the top of my bucket list is Australia, which has always fascinated me, with a generous stopover in Singapore, where my parents met and married.

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

I’ve answered this question a few times so I’m not sure I have any secrets left. One less-known detail I’m proud of is that when my kids were in primary school I led a campaign for a security fence after one of my kids was biffed in the face by a senior kid who wandered into their playground without hindrance. Twenty-plus years later, the fence is still there, giving children security.

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’?

My big passion too! Jules Wake’s From Rome with Love. Or anything written by Jules or Julie Caplin, Jules’s alter ego.

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Romance is the last thing on Lisa’s mind when she finds herself staying in a beautiful apartment with her childhood-friend-turned-arch-enemy Will Ryan…no matter how hot he is!

Lisa’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father. Except when her search falls at the first hurdle, Will doesn’t just help her get back on track, he also shares the romantic sights – and exquisite tastes – of Italy and Lisa starts to wonder if it’s not just Rome seducing her.

Only, as Lisa and Will dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal. Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …

I love Jules’s books too (actually, I just love Jules, her writing and in person!). 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?

The only failsafe I know is ‘don’t drink alcohol’. I don’t drink that much now. My body has taken against it! It has made me appreciate alcohol-free beer.

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

At the coast in perfect, hot weather, with my family.

Sue, thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been an absolute pleasure. I hope we can meet up in person soon at the next RNA event when all of this madness is over! Good luck with your new books this year, I look forward to reading them, as ever.

Sue’s latest book, Summer on a Sunny Island,  is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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When Rosa Hammond splits up from her partner Marcus, her Mum Dory suggests a summer in Malta. Not one to sit back and watch her daughter be unhappy, Dory introduces Rosa to Zach, in the hope that romance will bloom under the summer sun. But Rosa’s determined not to be swayed by a handsome man – she’s in Malta to work, after all.

Zach, meanwhile, is a magnet for trouble and is dealing with a fair few problems of his own. Neither Rosa or Zach are ready for love – but does fate have other ideas? And after a summer in paradise, will Rosa ever want to leave?

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s uplifting novels of love and life are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by an array of publishers in other countries.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.

You can find out more about Sue and her fabulous books via her websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Next week I will be having Friday Night Drinks with author, N. J. Simmonds, so do pop back then and join us.

Saturday Night Drinks with… Christina Hoag

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This should have been taking place last Friday but, due to unforeseen circumstances, had to be postponed so I am socialising two nights on the trot and I am delighted to welcome to this special edition of Saturday Night Drinks, author…..Christina Hoag.

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Hi Christina. So sorry for having to delay our evening, thank you for joining me on a Saturday. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks, Julie. I’ll have a glass of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, my favourite wine. I may be a little biased as I was born there but I do love the wine.

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 live in Santa Monica, which is right on the coast of California near Los Angeles, so I’d take you to the Hotel Shangri La, which has a rooftop bar with a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean. We’d go for happy hour to see the sunset.

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That looks beautiful, I will imagine being there now. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’m a bit of a Shakespeare nut so I’d love to invite the Bard and ask him about his inspiration and writing process. I’d also bring along Margaret Mead, the anthropologist who studied human behavior: how much is innate and how much is socially induced. I think she’d be fascinating.

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 had a bunch of exciting things lined up, including appearances at book and literary festivals, but thanks to Covid-19, but they’ve all been cancelled. I was also awarded a writers’ residency on Jersey for a week but that had to be cancelled as well. I’m hoping to do the residency later in the autumn, and one of the book festivals is supposed to take place in October so crossing fingers they’re not lost altogether. In the meantime, I’m trying to stay on track with my writing and building readership.

It is very difficult in present circumstances when everything seems to be on pause, let’s hope life can resume as near to normal as possible soon. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

I had two literary agents on my novel Skin of Tattoos (different versions) so seeing my manuscript submitted to top New York publishers and getting praise from their editors led to some over-the-moon moments. (Despite the praise, they all passed on my book, which I finally got published through a small press.)

My biggest challenge was knowing what to write after I finished my two novels. I really floundered because now I knew how unbelievably hard it is to get readers, sell a book, etc. and that really daunted me. I just didn’t know what to write.

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’d love to have a book adapted either for film or TV and be involved in writing/producing that. I’d really to love to win an Oscar, have a bestseller or a big literary award. (You said ambitious!) 

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

I’m working on a standalone mystery novel which involves a true crime podcast and a young woman coming to terms with her past. I’m still on the first draft but it’s coming along really well. I feel the best about this than anything I’ve tried since my books were published in 2016.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I love to travel, too. I’ve been to more than 70 countries. Some that are high on my list are Mongolia, Tibet, India and Greece. I love going to places that are exotic or remote or both! I also like making what I call “literary pilgrimages,” visiting places where famous writers lived or worked. That’s always fun.

That is impressive, I am jealous! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I’ve lived in 10 countries! I grew up in seven countries due to my dad’s job as a mining engineer (New Zealand, Fiji, Sweden, UK, Nigeria, Australia and USA) and lived in three others as an adult (Spain, Guatemala, Venezuela).

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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’?

I can only choose one? Hmmm. That’s tough. Well, as far as contemporary reads, I absolutely loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I read it for my book club. It was so well written, and I just loved the quirky, weird Eleanor. I really felt for her. Brilliant book.

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Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than…. fine?

I loved this book 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 drink a ton of water before going to bed and take aspirin to try to ward off waking up with a headache. The water is really key!

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

I’d spend the next day lounging by a pool somewhere sunny and doing nothing but reading and drinking tropical fruit drinks with little umbrellas in them!

Christine, thank you so much for taking the trouble to chat with me, this has been fascinating and well worth waiting for!

Christina’s literary novel, Skin of Tattoos and her YA novel, Girl on the Brink are both out now and you can buy them by following the links.

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The summer before senior year, 17-year-old Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce.

But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire and Kieran becomes violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up.

Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.

Christina Hoag is a novelist and journalist based in Los Angeles, California.
She is the author of literary noir-thriller Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown, 2016) and YA romantic thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice YA, 2016). She also writes non-fiction. She co-authored “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence,” (Turner Publishing, 2014) a groundbreaking book on gang intervention.

Christina was born in New Zealand of Kiwi and British parentage, and at the age of six, won a prize for “writing interesting stories.” That’s what she’s been doing ever since. She has had numerous short stories, poems and creative nonfiction published in literary magazines and journals. Her short story “My Mother’s Knives” was included in a horror story anthology, “And Now the Nightmare Begins” (Bear Manor Media, 2009.) Her short story “Life Stories” is forthcoming in the anthology “100 Voices” (Centum Press, 2016).

She is a former staff writer for The Miami Herald and the Associated Press, and other newspapers. Her career as a journalist took her to Latin America, where she reported from 14 countries in the region on issues such as the rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Colombian guerrillas, Guatemalan human rights, Salvadoran gangs, Nicaraguan landmine victims, and Mexican protests for Time, Business Week, The Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle,The New York Times, and other publications. She is fluent in Spanish.

A graduate of Boston University, she is the recipient of two writing awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

If you sign up for Christina’s (very infrequent) newsletter on her website, she’ll send you a code and link for a free audiobook on Audible of her Young Adult novel Girl on the Brink.

You can find out more about Christina and her work via her website, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Next Friday, I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by fabulous author and fellow RNA member…Sue Moorcroft, so please make sure you join us then.