Blog Tour: The Memories We Bury by H. A. Leuschel #BookReview

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An emotionally charged and captivating novel about the complexities of female friendship and motherhood

Lizzie Thomson has landed her first job as a music teacher, and after a whirlwind romance with Markus, the newlywed couple move into a beautiful new home in the outskirts of Edinburgh. Lizzie quickly befriends their neighbour Morag, an elderly, resourceful yet lonely widow, whose own children rarely visit her. Everything seems perfect in Lizzie’s life until she finds out she is pregnant and her relationship with both Morag and Markus change beyond her control.

Can Lizzie really trust Morag and why is Markus keeping secrets from her?

In The Memories We Bury the author explores the dangerous bonds we can create with strangers and how past memories can cast long shadows over the present.

Today is my turn on the blog tour for The Memories We Bury by H. A. Leuschel. My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part in the tour, and to the author for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book from reading the blurb and, throughout the book it became obvious that it was something a little different. Part psychological thriller, part study of human nature and how we are formed and influenced from childhood, it was an usual and fascinating reading experiences which I found interesting, with a couple of caveats.

There are two main protagonists in the book, and we hear the story through their alternating voices. Lizzie, a young mother who has been influenced by a mother who she was never able to please, and this seems to have influenced her choices throughout her life, particularly her husband; and Morag, her older neighbour who is looking for a surrogate family to love. Initially, these women seem to be just what the other needs, but when is life ever that simple? It becomes obvious that there are sinister undercurrents at play and things may not end well.

It is hard to tell throughout who is genuine and who is hiding something beneath their cultivated facade, and my opinions on this changed from chapter to chapter. I found the ending quite shocking, and the whole book is disquieting, digging deeper into ideas about our memories and the influences childhood memories have throughout our lives.

I had difficulty getting into this book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it does jump around between voices and timelines somewhat, and I found it quite hard to keep track of where we were at with each character in the plot to begin with, possibly not helped by the fact that I started reading it quite late one night when I wasn’t at my freshest. Also, some of the sentence construction  and phrasing is a little unusual, I suspect because English is not the first language for this author, and that somewhat upset the rhythm of the reading for me until I got used to it. These are minor niggles, easily overcome and possibly may bother other readers less. The main issue I had, I’m afraid, was my lack of connection to any of the characters in the early stages of the book. Two of them I didn’t like at all and, the one I think I was supposed to feel most sympathy for was a bit wet for my tastes. Other readers may have a different reaction. I did read this book immediately following a reread of one of my all-time favourite novels which has, as its protagonist, one of the strongest and most inspiring female leads in literature, so the contrast perhaps worked against this novel and maybe at a different time under different circumstances, I would have felt differently. In fact, if I hadn’t been reading it to a deadline, it may well have been one of those books that you set aside because you aren’t in the mood, then return to and enjoy more at a later date and in a different mindset.

This novel has a lot going for it. It is s detailed dissection of human nature with an interesting premise and some skilfully drawn characters. There are enough twists and turns and red herrings to keep the reader interested, and the end is definitely memorable. I think this is a book that people need to read and judge for themselves, especially if you enjoy psychological fiction and are looking for something unique and outside of the curve. The minor issues I had with it are very likely to prove personal to me and should not in any way discourage potential readers if they like the sound of the blurb. They distracted very little from the worthiness and value of the book.

The Memories We Bury is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Do make sure you follow the rest of the tour for different perspectives on the book.

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About the Author

HA Leuschel

Helene Andrea Leuschel gained a Master in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She later acquired a Master in Philosophy, specializing in the study of the mind. Helene has a particular interest in emotional, psychological and social well-being and this led her to write her first novel, Manipulated Lives, a fictional collection of five novellas, each highlighting the dangers of interacting with narcissists. She lives with her husband and two children in Portugal.

Connect with Helene:

Website: https://www.heleneleuschel.com

Facebook: H A Leuschel

Twitter: @HALeuschel

Instagram: @haleuschel

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Desert Island Books: A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute

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Jean Paget is just twenty years old and working in Malaya when the Japanese invasion begins.

When she is captured she joins a group of other European women and children whom the Japanese force to march for miles through the jungle – an experience that leads to the deaths of many.

Due to her courageous spirit and ability to speak Malay, Jean takes on the role of leader of the sorry gaggle of prisoners and many end up owing their lives to her indomitable spirit. While on the march, the group run into some Australian prisoners, one of whom, Joe Harman, helps them steal some food, and is horrifically punished by the Japanese as a result.

After the war, Jean tracks Joe down in Australia and together they begin to dream of surmounting the past and transforming his one-horse outback town into a thriving community like Alice Springs…

The eighth book on my Desert Island Books list is A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute, which is one of my favourite love stories. And I am not just talking about the romance between the young English girl, Jean Paget, and the heroic Australian, Joe Harman, but the underlying, unrequited love that the narrator, Noel, feels for Jean, and which informs the whole way he tells her story.

This is a book of two halves. The story starts with the reader being introduced to a lawyer, Noel Strachan, who is employed by an infirm Scottish gentleman to draw up his will, some time in the early 1930s. The war then intervenes, and after the war, the gentleman dies and Noel has to track down his niece, and inform her that she has come into an inheritance, of which he is the trustee. So Noel’s involvement in Jean’s life begins. 

During the course of administering the trust, Noel hears Jean’s story of being taken prisoner in Malaya during the war and being marched across the country with a party of other women because the Japanese don’t know what to do with them. A terrible incident occurs during this time which deeply affects Jean and stops her fully recovering after the war. She tells the whole horrifying story of her wartime experiences to Noel, so we hear them as he does, firsthand. Before I read this book for the first time as a teenager, I knew very little of what had occurred during the war in the Far East, as my school studies of the period concentrated on the action in Europe, so this story really piqued my interest and encouraged to to expand my reading on the subject to the wider content of the war beyond the repercussions in Europe to the actions of the Japanese and the involvement of our Commonwealth allies. This is what good fiction can do, encourage further reading into the actual events upon which they are based, even if the fiction is written with a little poetic licence.

In the second half of the book, the action moves to Australia and Jean’s attempts to find Joe Harman after the war, and how together they work to expand a community in the Australian outback. I know some people find the second half of the book less exciting, given the horror and high drama of the first half, but they are missing the point. For a young, ambitious girl on the brink of adulthood with big plans for her future, this story of a woman alive in a time of burgeoning opportunity for females, who defies convention and strikes out into the unknown on her own, following her heart but using her head as well, was revelatory. Whilst it is hard to recognise the kind of attitudes that prevailed in that day when reading from a modern day position, I defy anyone not to be inspired by Jean Paget and be cheering her on from the sidelines

If you are coming to A Town Like Alice for the first time in 2020, it is going to make you very uncomfortable in parts. The attitudes to gender, colour and a lot more besides are going to be jarring when you look at them with a twenty-first century eye, and I know people will find this off-putting. This is a book of its time, it reflects society as it was in the early 1950s and needs to be read with that firmly in mind. If nothing else, it gives a clear picture of how far attitudes have moved on since then, even if we have a long way still to go. But setting these acknowledged issues with the novel aside, this is a uplifting and tender love story of triumphs in the face of adversity, powerful love overcoming severe obstacles, and how love can take many forms, and how wonderful it it when reciprocated. For anyone who is a true romantic, this is a beautiful story.

I have read this book many times over the last 30+ years. Inbetween readings, I sometimes wonder whether it will continue to age well, or if one day I will come back to it and find it no longer speaks to me. Although there are aspects of it which are unpalatable in our, hopefully, more enlightened times, the core story of a brave, resourceful and determined young woman setting out to find the man she loves and build a good life for them both is still moving and inspiring and I would definitely like to have it with me on my desert island to remind me what people can achieve if they set their minds to it.

A Town Like Alice is available in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Nevil Shute Norway was born on 17 January 1899 in Ealing, London. After attending the Dragon School and Shrewsbury School, he studied Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford. He worked as an aeronautical engineer and published his first novel, Marazan, in 1926. In 1931 he married Frances Mary Heaton and they went on to have two daughters. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve where he worked on developing secret weapons. After the war he continued to write and settled in Australia where he lived until his death on 12 January 1960. His most celebrated novels include Pied Piper (1942), No Highway (1948), A Town Like Alice (1950) and On the Beach (1957).

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Friday Night Drinks with…. Fiona Phillips

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Look, I’ve finally got round to creating a proper logo for this feature! It’s only taken me almost two years! I’m delighted to welcome to the blog today for Friday Night Drinks to celebrate this momentous creative achievement, author….. Fiona Phillips

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

Well, seeing as it’s Friday night and work is done for the week, I’d love a gin and tonic.

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Me too, cheers. 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 just over the border from Chester, and my favourite place to go there is the Ship Inn. Great bar, lovely restaurant, and located perfectly to take a stroll into Chester to walk off our food.

I love Chester, sounds great. 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?

Ooh, good question. Let me see. 

The female would have to be Mary Shelley. I find her a fascinating character; the influence of her parents Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin, her social circle (including Percy Bysshe Shelley and Byron), and her writing career during her marriage and then as a single parent supporting her son.

Male? Stephen King. I’ve been reading his books since I was a teenager and I love his dark imagination. I’d want to know how he manages to be so prolific and keep finding fresh inspiration for new stories.

Those are interesting choices, your tastes must swing to the macabre a little! 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?

Taking a rest after submitting the first draft of the second book in the Haven Chronicles series to my publisher. 

The series started with Haven Wakes, my debut fantasy novel which is set in a future version of our own world. There’s a wonderful combination of magic and future tech (with plenty of robots) as 12 year old Steve Haven and a dark fairy figure known only as the darkling fight to keep a magical device out of the hands of the villains.

Book 2 (title still under discussion) picks up about a week after the end of Haven Wakes. Things seem to have returned to normal for Steve and then – bam! – he’s pulled back into the hidden world of magic.

I foresee two or three more books in this series, but my characters do tend to keep going off on adventures, so who knows?

Fingers crossed, my publisher likes Book 2.

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

My proudest moment has been seeing Haven Wakes published and holding a copy in my hands. 

My biggest challenge was writing the second book in the series. With a publisher lined up, all of a sudden I wasn’t writing just for me, but for them and for all the readers who have loved Haven Wakes. Having said that, the editing process for Haven Wakes and reader reactions to it have been incredibly helpful in pointing me in the right direction.

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 have so many ideas for books, all based in the same magical universe. I would love to have the chance to write them all and see them out there on people’s bookshelves.

I wouldn’t say no to a film or a TV series either. Who knows?

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

Well, there’s Book 2 of the Haven Chronicles, once I get edits back from my publisher, but I’m also just about to start on a secret project that marries my work as an author with my copywriter role too. 

It’s my way to help out my fellow authors.

Intriguing.  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?

By far, my favourite place that I’ve visited is Venice. I’ve been there three times so far – once with a friend, then with my mum, and most recently my husband took me there for a birthday treat. I’d love to return again with the rest of my family.

I’ve had to re-draw my bucket list as being a published author was number one until Haven Wakes was released in 2019.

Now? I want to go on a cruise of the Scandinavian fjords with my husband. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’m an ambivert. That means I’m smack down the middle between being an extrovert and an introvert. 

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’?

It would have to be The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. It’s a wonderful mixture of fantasy, intrigue, romance and history. 

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The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors.

I read The Night Circus during a family holiday in Corfu and its magic is now inextricably tied up with my memory of that time.

I agree, one of my absolute favourites, it was my most recent Desert Island 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?

Water. I try to drink plenty of water before I get started on alcoholic drinks, more before bedtime, and top up again in the morning.

Boring but it really works.

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

Breakfast pancakes at Hanky Pankys in the middle of Chester followed by a stroll alongside the river Dee for an ice cream and a ride on one of the river boats.

That is a Sunday I would really enjoy. Fiona, thank you for coming on the blog and sharing drinks with me, it has been a fascinating evening.

Fiona’s debut novel, Haven Wakes, is out now in paperback and ebook formats, and you can buy a copy here.

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The year is 2110. Everyone has their own robot, and magical worlds are just behind the next door…

Steve Haven always thought he was just another ordinary twelve-year-old boy. Well, as ordinary as he can be given that he’s the nephew of Rex Haven, founder of the globally successful Haven Robotics Corporation.

But when Rex dies in mysterious circumstances and Steve is given a strange artefact known only as the Reactor, he discovers that the world he thought he knew is a lot stranger and more threatening than he could have ever imagined.

On the run from a group of dangerous villains, Steve finds himself plunged into a hidden and dangerous world of magic. With his parents missing and no one in the normal world he can trust, Steve must join with his new-found magical friends to discover the truth about the Reactor and his uncle’s death.

Haven Wakes is the debut novel by Fi Phillips and the first in The Haven Chronicles, an exciting and enthralling journey through new worlds, both futuristic and magical.Bio

Fi Phillips is a fantasy author and real-life copywriter living in North Wales with her family and a cockapoo called Bailey.

She likes to write about magical possibilities.

You can find out more about Fiona’s writing on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Tempted by…. Shalini’s Books and Reviews: Lake Child by Isabel Ashdown

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You trust your family. They love you. Don’t they?

When 17-year-old Eva Olsen awakes after a horrific accident that has left her bedbound, her parents are right by her side. Devoted, they watch over her night and day in the attic room of their family home in the forests of Norway.

But the accident has left Eva without her most recent memories, and not everything is as it seems. As secrets from the night of the accident begin to surface, Eva realises – she has to escape her parents’ house and discover the truth. But what if someone doesn’t want her to find it?

My Tempted By…. is late this week, for a tedious reason I won’t bore you with, but better that than never!

Today the book that has found its way on to my TBR as a result of the seductive words of a fellow book blogger is Lake Child by Isabel Ashdown and the blogger in question is Shalini on her blog, Shalini’s Books and Reviews and here is her review of the book.

Firstly, I probably would have bought this book just based on the cover. I absolutely LOVE it. Everything about it – the imagery, the colours – I just want to jump into it and, thanks to the wonder of literature, I can! That’s the marvel of books, isn’t it, they are transportive.

Anyway, moving past the cover, the blurb makes the book sound enticing, doesn’t it? Secrets and lies and bed-bound teenagers in remote Norwegian homes on a lake? This is definitely a book I would pick up in a bookshop with that combination of cover and blurb.

However, it was not via a bookshop that I found this book, it was via Shalini’s review and her descriptions of the story are every bit as enticing as the outer package of the book. ‘Atmosphere of swirling darkness,’ ‘approaching storm,’ I love the weather imagery she uses in her review, and her excitement and enthusiasm about the book just leap off the page and grab you by the lapels. Having read this, this was a book I just had to have.

All of Shalini’s reviews beat with the same passion and enthusiasm, and this is why her blog is one of the ones I have been following the longest, and why I love it so much. She is also fabulously supportive and friendly and an all-round marvellous person to know. If you haven’t visited her blog before, what are you waiting for? Get over to Shalini’s Books & Reviews now.

And if you’ve now been equally tempted to get hold of a copy of Lake Child by Isabel Ashdown, you can buy it here.

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Book Review: Summerwater by Sarah Moss

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On the longest day of the summer, twelve people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents.

A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisce about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy braves the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak. Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly alert to the makeshift community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others. Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.

My thanks to the publishers for my digital copy of this book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I spent many of my childhood holidays in the damp environs of the Scottish Borders, including in a log cabin, so the premise of Sarah Moss’s latest book immediately appealed to my nostalgic sensibilities. I had no idea what a rich, densely-packed, insightful read it was going to be in so many other ways.

The story, such as it is, follows twelve people relaxing in a Scottish holiday park, where the main, visible feature is the endlessly falling rain. There is no real meaty plot to form the book, instead we are given a series of internal monologues by different residents of the park, who range in age from children to retirees. The author makes the most remarkable job of giving us the authentic voices of each of the different characters which, although they are doing anything particularly memorable, bring the people vividly to life.

It may sound like not much occurs in the story, and this is a valid observation, but it matters not one jot to the appeal and rewards of the book. The internal observations we gain from the different narrators in their stream-of-consciousness internal pronouncements are more than enough to intrigue, engross and entertain. Moss has captured each of the characters perfectly, their thoughts so searing and authentic that you will find yourself laughing, crying, cringeing, grimacing and nodding along with them as you recognise the reflections and concerns that flit ethereal through their minds, and the way their thoughts skip and jump, making connections that make no sense and perfect sense at the same time. The writing is captivating and I could not get enough of it.

The thread tying all of the strands together is the reaction of the park residents to the inconsiderate behaviour of the occupants of one of the cabins, and the way this eventually played out left me shaken, disturbed and moved all at the same time. It was a shocking and perfect ending to the story, and captured and not-quite-tied up the mood of the novel in a lingering, melancholy and thought-provoking bow. This is a book that hangs around in your subconscious long after you’ve finished it, like a dream you haven’t fully deciphered and can’t quite shake.

The chapter featuring the young couple on their first holiday away together, particularly the thoughts running through the girl’s head during an intimate encounter, and the young mother given the blissful hour to herself that she has long been craving were my favourites. The first because it was so humorous and painful to read, the latter because I could relate to it so closely, but the whole book, which is so short it is really a novella, is packed full and dense with marvel and I know I will go back to it again and again to find fresh nuance to enjoy.

This book packs a massive and powerful bang for its size and was joyful to read. When I look back over the 2020’s reading at the end of the year, I know that this is one book I will remember and treasure as one of the stand out novels of the year. Given how unusual this year has been, and how I have lost myself in a larger than average number of great books, this is no mean epithet.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss is out now in all formate and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Sarah Moss is the author of seven novels and a memoir of her year living in Iceland, Names for the Sea, shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. Her novels are Cold Earth, Night Waking (Fiction Uncovered Award), Bodies of Light (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), Signs for Lost Children (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), The Tidal Zone (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize) and Ghost Wall (long listed for the Women’s Prize, shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize). Her new novel, Summerwater, appears with Picador in August 2020

Sarah was born in Glasgow and grew up in the north of England. After moving between Oxford, Canterbury, Reykjavik, West Cornwall and the English Midlands, she now lives by the sea near Dublin.

Connect with Sarah:

Website: https://www.sarahmoss.org

Book Review: The Last Charm by Ella Allbright #NetGalleyReview

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Leila’s charm bracelet tells a story of love, a story of loss, a story of hope.

This is the story of her… and the story of Jake.

When Leila Jones loses her precious charm bracelet and a stranger finds it, she has to tell the story of how she got the charms to prove she’s the owner. Each and every one is a precious memory of her life with Jake.

So Leila starts at the beginning, recounting the charms and experiences that have led her to the present. A present she never could have expected when she met Jake nearly twenty years ago…

My thanks to the publishers for my digital copy of this book, received via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Well, wasn’t this book just what my soul needed during a really stressful period of life? Honestly, I’ve had a tough few weeks with some difficult family situations, a new puppy needing constant attention, older dog needing placating and getting kids ready to go back to school in a time of coronavirus, so what I needed in my reading was something light but entertaining and easy to read. This book delivered all of that, and so much more on top.

This isn’t quite the light and fluffy chick lit read I was anticipating from the cover, it deals with some really tough issues throughout, and there were parts of it that moved me to tears. However, the author has woven this together with a really sweet story of a charm bracelet and how it tells the story of a relationship between two people who  meet as children, and whose relationship changes and develops over the course of their lives, important occasions being marked by the charms hanging from Leila’s bracelet.

Ella’s writing is very approachable and flowing, it carries you through the story with ease, even the difficult parts. The book jumps forwards through time, and is told between the two voices of Jake and Leila, but it is very easy to follow, and makes perfect sense as it spans the years that Jake and Leila know each other. From a prose point of view, it was very easy and entertaining to read, even if the subject matter wasn’t as light as I was expecting.

Although the topics covered were maybe a bit heavier than I was anticipating, I discovered whilst reading that they were probably exactly what I needed from this book. A tale of a blossoming relationship between two people who support each other through adversity, who find each other as friends at a time they both desperately need one, and are there for one another through their years, their relationship changing as they change and grow, but they hardly notice. It was so honest and believable that I was totally caught up in the emotions of the two characters, alternately cheering them on or screaming with frustration at their setbacks.

The author has drawn two fantastic and realistic attractive characters here for the reader to fall in love with. I have to say, I found Jake the more appealing of the two, Leila really wound me up at times with her behaviour, although I realise that this was deliberate and necessary for the plot. By the end, my attitude towards her mellowed, just as she did, and I loved her so much that certain events in the book affected me very deeply and I shed a couple of tears at the denouement. You really can’t give me a more satisfying reading experience than that.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it is a marvellous read for anyone who enjoys a light romance with a bit of meat on its bones and an ability to cause an emotional reaction.

The Last Charm is out now as an ebook and will be published in paperback on 12 November. You can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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A self-confessed reading addict, Nikki Moore has a HR day job, two teenagers and a lovely Fiancé to keep her busy alongside writing. She’s the author of the popular #LoveLondon series, which attracted four and five star reviews on Amazon. A number of the novellas featured in the Top 100 short story charts on Kobo and the Top 20 in the Amazon UK bestsellers Holiday chart. It was subsequently published as a collection, and in 2018 was released in Italy as an ebook in two volumes. She is currently writing commercial women’s fiction set in her beautiful home county of Dorset.

Her first published work was the short story A Night to Remember in the best selling Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply, edited by author Sue Moorcroft. Best-selling authors including Carole Matthews, Katie Fforde and Adele Parks also featured. Her debut novel Crazy, Undercover, Love was shortlisted for the RNA Joan Hessayon Award 2015 and being before offered her first contract, she was a finalist in several writing competitions including the Elizabeth Goudge trophy and Novelicious Undiscovered.

Nikki was in the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme for four years before graduating to full RNA membership and has contributed to their magazine Romance Matters. She has also chaired a panel and taken part in workshops at the Festival of Romance, as well as co-tutoring a ‘How to Write & Sell Your Novel’ workshop with Sue Moorcroft for the Purbeck Literary Festival.

When not writing or reading, Nikki can probably be found singing, walking the family’s cute beagle puppy or watching drama series on Netflix.

Connect with Nikki:

Facebook: Nikki Moore

Twitter: @NikkiMoore_Auth

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Introducing ‘Romancing The Romance Authors’

Romancing The Romance Authors

I just wanted to put up a quick post to trail a new feature that is starting on the blog next week which I am really excited about, and I hope you, my dear readers, will be too.

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It is called Romancing The Romance Authors and it’s an interview feature where I will be chatting with current members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association about the hows, whys and wherefores of their writing, and hopefully getting some tips on how to write romance from the professionals. I hope it will be fun and be enlightening for any other lovers of romantic fiction and budding romance writers out there too.

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The RNA is an organisation that is important to me, as an aspiring romance writer and lover of romantic fiction. It fosters and promotes the writing of romance, particularly through the mentoring of the New Writers’ Scheme, so I am excited to be able to give something back to the people who have been so encouraging and supportive of me in my writing efforts by shining a spotlight on their work, and maybe learning a little something along the way.

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To begin with, this feature will appear every other Tuesday, beginning on 1st September with author of Art and Soul, Claire Huston. Who knows, if it goes well and proves popular, I may extend to other genres. Cross-examining The Crime Authors, maybe? Studying The Historical Authors? (That one needs a catchier title.)

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There are unlimited possibilities and I am excited to see how it goes.

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Join me here next week for the first instalment.

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Book Review: Wall Of Silence by Tracy Buchanan; Narrated by Moira Quirk #AudiobookReview

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Her children have a deadly secret. Can she uncover it before the police do?

Melissa Byatt’s life in Forest Grove seems as perfect as can be: a doting husband, three loving children and a beautiful house in a close-knit community. But appearances can be deceiving.

One evening, Melissa arrives home to the unimaginable: her husband lies stabbed on the kitchen floor, their children standing calmly around him…. With horror, she realises that one of them is to blame. But which one? And why would they attack their own father?

Her loyalties torn, in a split second she decides to protect her children at all costs – even if that means lying to the police. But when someone in the neighbourhood claims to know more than they should, Melissa discovers that some secrets are beyond her control….

Can she find out the truth of what happened before the rumours spread? And can the family unite to escape the spotlight of scandal – or are none of them as innocent as Melissa insists?

There was something about this book that I absolutely loved, above and beyond what I normally feel about this kind of psychological thriller. The bad news for you and this review is that I am still trying to work out exactly what it is that made it stand out for me so much!

I think a big part of it was the setting. I really loved the idea of an idyllic community set up in the heart of the forest, where everything is supposed to be perfect, but actually is beset with exactly the same problems as everywhere else because, as we know, people are people, wherever they choose to settle themselves and, wherever people live together, tensions are bound to arise.

Actually, the author has drawn a brilliant premise here because the citizens of this community, or many of them at least, believe they are a cut above everyone who lives outside their haven, and this makes them a self-satisfied and judgemental bunch who are quick to criticise and ostracise anyone who doesn’t toe the community line. Tracy evidences this really cleverly with use of the community Facebook group to display people’s inner characters and feelings. After all, people are far less guarded online than they are face to face. It gives a really good sense of the different factions within the community and how the battle lines are drawn as the town works through the shocking events surrounding the Byatt family at the heart of this story.

The author has drawn some brilliant characters in this book, focusing on Melissa Byatt as the main protagonist, and she is a thoroughly sympathetic character. I could easily put myself in her shoes as a mother and try and imagine what I would do in her position. I am not entirely sure I would make the same decisions she did, but I could understand why she did what she did, and feel for her as events played out. This story has tons of drama and plenty of shocks and surprises to keep the story moving along engagingly and I was completely engrossed in the story. I listened to it as an audiobook and it was another one that I found myself wanting to listen to so badly that I was seeking out tasks that allowed me to indulge myself.

This is an engrossing and shocking family-based thriller with an original and shocking premise, a marvellous sense of place and a searing examination of inter-personal relationships in a fairly closed community. I enjoyed it very much and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys this type of book.

Wall Of Silence is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Tracy lives in Buckinghamshire, UK with her husband, little girl and (very naughty) dog, Bronte.

She travelled extensively while working as a travel magazine editor, and has always been drawn to the sea after spending her childhood holidays on the south coast visiting family – a fascination that inspires her writing.

She now dedicates her time to writing and procrastinating on Facebook.

Connect with Tracy:

Website: https://www.tracy-buchanan.com

Facebook: Tracy Buchanan Author

Twitter: @TracyBuchanan

Instagram: @tracybuchananauthor

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Friday Night Drinks with… Vivien Brown

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There has been a last minute change to my companion for tonight’s Friday Night Drinks and I am really grateful to my guest for stepping in and saving me from being stood up! So I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author…. Vivien Brown.

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

Sorry to disappoint but I don’t drink! I would love a nice ice-cold Diet Pepsi with a slice of lime though, thank you!

Teetotallers are always welcome, alcohol not necessary for a fun evening! 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?

Do you like horses? I really enjoy an evening at the races. Windsor is a lovely course. Out on the lawn in the sun, watching the jockeys fly in by helicopter and then mounting up, picking my favourites, having a little bet and collecting my winnings (if only!), taking lots of photos and enjoying a fish and chip supper. You can even arrive in style, via the Thames, if you feel like a boat trip, taking in a view of the castle, and surrounded by swans.

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I love horses, and racing (how could I not, coming from Doncaster!) 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 would probably be horribly starstruck and too scared to talk, but it would have to be the absolute genius that was Victoria Wood, my comedy writing idol, and my all-time movie heart-throb, Kevin Costner (preferably dressed in his white naval uniform as in the film No Way Out). If he couldn’t make it over from America because of the pandemic I would happily take Aidan Turner in his place.

Oh, Victoria Wood is my idol too, I really miss her. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

The cover was officially revealed this week for my fourth novel, Be Careful What You Wish For, coming out in September. It is already doing very well in pre-sales, so I am hoping for great things. Meanwhile, I am halfway through writing the next one, a story combining themes of organ donation and finding a lost family after adoption, and bringing back some of the characters from earlier novels so readers can find out where they are now. I don’t yet have a contract for it so I just hope it gets published!

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

There is nothing quite like holding your first paperback in your hands. My first two full-length novels, written under a different name, were only e-books, so seeing Lily Alone as a print book was a landmark moment for me. The biggest challenge is always just keeping going, finishing a book after months of writing, staring at another blank page or screen and telling myself yes, I really can do it all again!

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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!

What novelist doesn’t dream of a bestseller? By that I mean the full works – my book on all the bookshop shelves and in the window displays, winning awards, making the Sunday Times lists, and being made into a film starring Kevin Costner… Dream on!

Dreams are good, you never know! What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

Not everything is about my actual writing. At the moment I am most excited about meeting my first grandson, due to be born early in December. And the end of lockdown, so I can see all my writer friends and go to social events and conferences again. So many were cancelled, including a lunch at The House of Lords. I am being as optimistic as I can and planning ahead for lots of such events in 2021.

Here’s hoping. 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?

When I was younger I saw quite a lot of the world. I really loved Hong Kong (before the Chinese took it back), Singapore and Thailand, especially all the lovely temples, flowers and wildlife, including my favourite elephants. And, with my husband, I have enjoyed lots of European beach and city destinations, and explored the beautiful Barbados and Jamaica. We even managed to take in a horseracing meeting while on Barbados! More recently I have thoroughly enjoyed holidays nearer to home, taking my daughter Vicky and the grandchildren to Disneyland Paris, especially as you can get there so easily by train. No waiting around at airports or long flights to endure. Now we can’t easily travel, I would be just as happy in England, especially the beautiful rugged areas of the South West – visiting Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, forever now ‘Poldark country’ to me.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

No great surprise to those who know me, but I went through five rounds of traumatic and expensive IVF before I could have a family, resulting in twin girls, and I am a bit of a cryptic crossword addict. Sorry, that’s two things!

Two is doubly interesting! 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 Swap by Fiona Mitchell. As a former IVF patient, its theme of two embryos being accidentally swapped at the clinic resonated with me. Two women finding out three years after giving birth that they have the ‘wrong’ baby. Would you keep the one you have raised or swap them back? 

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Two women, two children. But whose is whose?

When two strangers, Tess and Annie, undergo IVF at an American clinic, their embryos are mixed up and each woman gives birth to the wrong child.

The women only discover the devastating error three years later. Tess wants to swap the children back; Annie doesn’t. As the pair wrangle, neither of them expect what unfolds.

That sounds fascinating, I will add it to the TBR. 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?

No alcohol for me, so hangovers don’t happen! 

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

Get up late on Sunday, have a long hot soak in a very bubbly bath with a good book, fruit and pastries for breakfast, read two newspapers and do the crosswords in them, a lovely roast for lunch, send my husband out to his bowls club so I can have more reading time before settling down with my cats Pixie and Dixie for an evening by the fire in my cosy pyjamas, watching several episodes of Poldark. 

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Cute cats! Vivien, thank you very much for joining me at the last minute, I hope you have enjoyed it as much as I have.

Vivien’s latest book, Be Careful What You Wish For will be published on 26 September, and you can pre-order a copy here.

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Two strangers. Two very different lives. A chance to escape…

Veteran stage actress Madi needs to escape from her lonely London life. The showbiz world is wearing thin. Estranged from her only son and still recovering from a traumatic breast cancer operation, she’s started to forget things and has the strongest sense she is being watched…

Prue feels suffocated by her claustrophobic village life, especially when she is humiliated in the most public way. Now Prue is desperate for anonymity whatever the cost.

A life swap seems the perfect escape for both women. But will changing places solve their problems? Or will happiness come at a dangerous price?

Originally trained in finance and banking, but more recently working with young children and their families in libraries and children’s centres, Vivien started her writing career, using her then name of Vivien Hampshire, with a 150-word paragraph that won the Mail on Sunday ‘Best Opening to a Novel’ competition in 1993, although the completed book was never published. Since then she has sold around 150 short stories to UK women’s magazines and 250 articles about working with children to professional nursery and childcare magazines, and has had two e-novels and a My Weekly pocket novel published as Vivien Hampshire, along with a non-fiction book on how to ‘crack’ cryptic crosswords. 

As Vivien Brown, she has had three women’s contemporary novels, Lily Alone, Five Unforgivable Things and No Sister of Mine published by One More Chapter, all with domestic drama/family relationship themes. Her fourth, Be Careful What You Wish For, comes out on 26 September 2020 in e-book, with the paperback to follow at Christmas. 

Vivien lives in Uxbridge, Middlesex with her husband and two cats. She has twin daughters, now grown-up, and two young granddaughters who keep her busy and entertained. When not writing she loves reading, watching TV quizzes, hospital and period dramas, and tackling and compiling tricky crosswords, many with personalised clues which clients commission as gifts. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a fellow of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ).

You can find out more about Vivien and her writing on her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  

Book Review: Realityland – True-Life Adventures of Walt Disney World by David Koenig #freereading

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The first-ever in-depth, unauthorized look at the creation and operation of the world’s most popular vacation destination.

Step backstage and witness: Walt’s original plans for Disney World and how his dreams completely changed in the hands of his successors… His undercover agents who secretly bought 44 square miles of swamps… The chaotic construction and frantic first years of the Magic Kingdom… The underground caverns that wind beneath the theme park… Disney’s unconventional, initially disastrous foray into operating its own hotels… The behind-the-scenes machinations that led to EPCOT Center… How safety and security are maintained on property at all costs… The tumultuous change of leadership that turned the cherished Ways of Walt upside down.

Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of an obsession with Disney, and with the Disney theme parks in particular. I first went to Walt Disney World in 1998, when I was 26 (we never travelled abroad when I was child, my mother hates to fly, my first foreign escapade was aged 15 on a school trip to France) and I fell in love with the place immediately. But, as well as being magical, I was fascinated by how the whole place had been created and was run, how they had managed to make it so self-contained, so separate from the outside world, so that the illusion could be maintained throughout. A few years later, when we visited Disneyland in California, I became even more fascinated by the difference between what Disney had achieved in Orlando compared to Anaheim.

I have been back to Florida countless times in the past 22 years, and it is even more fantastic when you see it through your children’s eyes. My two girls have grown up with it and they, along with my three step-daughters who first visited seven years ago, and even my big, beefy, cynical Irishman are also enchanted with the place. That takes somewhere special. But none of them are as obsessed with the machinery behind the Mouse the way I am.

Here is my shelf of non-fiction books about the Disney company and Walt Disney World (I’ve got a couple more that are too tall for this shelf and are elsewhere, plus a couple of digital ones as well.) They cover everything from theme park design to how Disney train their staff in customer service, boardroom battles for control of the Disney empire, to stories from ex-cast members and maps of the parks, and they are all fascinating. I’m always on the look out for more too, so if any of you have any recommendations, let me know.

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Since we weren’t going to get a holiday abroad this year due to Covid, and my planning for our next Florida trip is also on hold while the uncertainty around  the pandemic lingers, I decided to take a virtual trip there through one of my favourite books about the creation of the Florida theme park, Realityland by David Koenig. This book is a really comprehensive guide to how the idea for the second park in Florida was conceived, how Walt and his team went about acquiring the land and building the park, to how it has developed over the years (although it only goes up to the mid-90s. Any chance of an updated and extended version covering to the present day, David? I would buy it!)

For any of you who don’t know much about Walt Disney World, but are interested in how something as huge as the Florida park came about, this book is a fascinating read. It tells you how Walt wanted to make sure his park was not eventually surrounded by uncontrolled building of cheap motels, restaurants and gift shops as in Anaheim which spoiled the Disney illusion. How they bought the land in secret, and negotiated with the local government for unprecedented control over everything, including drainage, fire and policing. How they turned 40+ square miles of Florida swamp into what is there today, even after the tragic death of Walt before it was completed, and how they tried to be true to Walt’s vision for EPCOT and whether they succeeded.

It would be hard to see how any book on the subject could be more comprehensive than this one, and yet it is still very easy to read and approachable, if you are interested in the topic. And the story of how this amazing and impressive place was built, is maintained and continues to grow and delight people the world over is quite remarkable when you take a step back and look at it. Regardless of whether you love Disney or loathe it, you have to give them credit for what they have created, from Walt’s original and extraordinary vision to what stands there today, which even he probably could not have foreseen. And it all started with a Mouse.

Realityland is out now and you can buy a copy here (although, being an old book it’s quite expensive!)

About the Author

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David Koenig is chief editor for Costa Mesa, Ca.-based 526 Media Group. He received his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton, and has become arguably the theme park industry’s best-known “outsider,” after penning such best-sellers as Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland, Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks, and Realityland: True-Life Adventures at Walt Disney World. He is also an original contributor to MousePlanet.com.He lives with his wife Laura and children Zachary and Rebecca in Aliso Viejo, Ca.

Connect with David:

Twitter: @davidkoenig

Instagram: @davidgkoenig