A book shop with a difference ūüďĖūüďĖūüďĖūüďĖūüďĖ

A great friend’s thoughts on a great day.

Ideas.Become.Words

Yesterday I met with a new friend; a fellow aspiring author and a successful book reviewer and blogger ‚Äď ALittleBookProblem

It was a true honour to meet someone I‚Äôve been chatting to for a few months now ‚Äď an avid reader with a book obsession and a to-be-read pile even larger than my own! She will, and already has been, a huge resource of great advice on my writing journey, because she is on one of her own ūüĎĮ‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ

We spent an hour in and around this beautifully welcoming barge called Word-on-the-Water and TimeOut have written this article about them.

We enjoyed a coffee in the sun and listened to some lovely lazy tunes while we chatted about books and writing… and life.

We both love a good story and thankfully so does the publishing world and the agents who work within it. We meandered our way down to The…

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#BlogTour Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind by Elizabeth McGivern #bookreview (@MayhemBeyond) @RaRaResources #AmyColeHasLostHerMind #bookbloggers

Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind Blog Tour Banner

Today is publication day for¬†Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind by Elizabeth McGivern and I am delighted to be taking part in her blog tour on publication day. Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

Amy Cole - Final Cover

“Amy Cole is a stay-at-home mum and a woman on the edge.
After a very public breakdown and failed suicide attempt, Amy finds herself trying to make it through her everyday life as a high-functioning zombie.
Elle De Bruyn is a force of nature ready to shake Amy back to life whether she likes it or not.
After a fortuitous meeting, the two embark on a journey together which will change them both and help them find out exactly what they‚Äôre capable of when rock bottom is just the beginning.”

Amy Cole is a woman suffering from depression following a traumatic event in her life. We meet her at a point where she has got so low she has attempted suicide and is now trying to climb back up and find some equilibrium. After all, she had a loving husband and two small boys depending on her. But as anyone who has struggled with depression knows, this is a difficult thing to wrestle with. Enter Elle De Bruyn, a brash, bossy, bullshit-free new best friend who is going to help Amy out of her hole, come hell or high water. However, Elle is struggling with issues or her own, can Amy find the strength to help her friend out in return?

This book is a fascinating mix of really serious issues and absolutely outrageous and hilarious incidents that combine to create a book that approaches its tough subject matter in an original and approachable way. Parts of this book had me howling with laughter – the trampolining exercise class, the speed dating, the life drawing to name but a few. My absolute favourite laugh out loud moment though was the sexting section, I had tears rolling down my face.

There were also lots of relatable moments, especially as a mum. The horror of the mother and baby group filled with competitive, smug mums. The ex-colleague who is constantly shoving her success in your face and making you feel inadequate. The inability to tell the makeover lady at the cosmetics counter that you hare the clown face she has pasted on you and you don’t want to buy any of her products. Elizabeth McGivern has drawn on experiences that women everywhere will be able to connect with.

I adored all the characters in this book, they were all really well rounded and authentic. Amy is a woman that you will recognise as yourself or someone you know. She was very down to earth and honest and I liked her from the start, she feels very real to me. Elle is the best friend we wish we all had, or could be. Amy’s children were a delight and brought back so many memories of my own kids at that age. She has a real knack for observing people.

Underlying all this, as previously mentioned, are some serious issues and I think the author handles these very sensitively and well. Experience of depression is different for everybody, and everybody who suffers will have a different reaction but I think the way the author deals with it feels true to someone’s experience, if not the reader’s. It is good to see a book dealing with this subject, as it is something often swept under the carpet or including in an insensitive way and this book tackles in head on.

I really liked this book, I think it is balanced very well between humour and candour and I would definitely recommend it as a worthwhile read.

Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind is out today and you can buy a copy here.

To see what other readers think of the book, follow the tour:

Amy Cole Has Lost Her Mind Full Banner

About the Author

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Elizabeth McGivern is a former journalist turned hostage-in-her-own-home surrounded by three men and a horrible dog named Dougal.

In an effort to keep her sanity she decided to write a parenting blog after the birth of her first son so she can pinpoint the exact moment she failed as a mother.

In an unexpected turn of events, the blog helped her to find a voice and connect with parents in similar situations; namely those who were struggling with mental health issues and parenting. It was because of this encouragement ‚Äď and wanting to avoid her children as much as possible ‚Äď her debut novel,¬†Amy Cole has lost her mind, was born.

Elizabeth lives in Northern Ireland although wishes she could relocate to Iceland on a daily basis. To witness her regular failings as a parent you can find her on: www.mayhemandbeyond.com 

Connect with Elizabeth:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mayhemandbeyond

Twitter: @MayhemBeyond

Instagram: @mayhemandbeyond

 

Florida Straits by Laurence Shames #bookreview (@LaurenceShames) #FictionCafeBookClubChallenge @PaigeToonAuthor @CarrieJoHowe

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“People go to Key West for lots of different reasons. Joey Goldman went there to become a gangster…”

So begins this classic Key West caper, the hilarious and touching book that launched a much-loved series and introduced the world to Bert the Shirt and his chihuahua Don Giovanni, two of the most unforgettable characters in contemporary fiction.

Joey, the illegitimate son of a major NY mafioso, decides to break away from a decidedly unpromising future in the old neighborhood of Queens. But will the old neighborhood and the Family let him go in peace? Not if knucklehead half-brother Gino has anything to say about it. As Joey is finally establishing his new life in sunny Florida, Gino involves him in a disastrous scam featuring a boatload of stolen emeralds and several squads of very nasty thugs. Finding within himself resources of smarts and courage he never knew he had, Joey beats long odds and muddles through to a brilliant solution to the problems dumped on him by Gino.”

The latest fortnightly challenge in my online book group (The Fiction Cafe Book Club¬†– check it out, it is a great place for book lovers to hang out) was to read a book set in my favourite holiday destination. Where is that, Julie, I hear you ask? Well, it’s here:

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Key West!

There are a surprising amount of books set here. One of my favourites is Paige Toon’s¬†The Longest Holiday. I am reading another for my classic of the month, which is Ernest Hemingway’s¬†To Have and Have Not¬†and next month I will be reviewing another as part of the blog tour for¬†Island Life Sentence¬†by Carrie Jo Howe so come back on 4 June to check out that post. However, for this challenge I have stepped outside my usual genre choices and read¬†Florida Straits¬†by Laurence Shames.

This is the first book in Shames’s Key West Capers series which now stretches to thirteen books. I was initially drawn to it by the funky cartoonish cover. The gangster genre would not be one I would usually be drawn to but the promise of a humorous storyline intrigued me and I am always trying to stretch my reading outside my comfort zone so I decided to give it a try and I am very glad I did.

The main protagonist is Joey Goldman, the half-Jewish illegitimate son of a New York Mafia kingpin who is failing spectacularly in the family business. On the lowest rung of the gangland ladder and with no hope of getting ‘made’, he decides to swap being a tiddler in the huge pond of New York and travel to the sunnier climes of the Florida Keys to set up on his own. Dragging his reluctant girlfriend, Sandra, with him, he sets off with high hopes. Unfortunately, all does not go according to plan as you would expect and he has to battle Cubans, Colombians and his own half brother along the way.

This book is fantastic. The plot is smart and funny, the dialogue is snappy and the characters are diverse and colourful. My favourites are the staid Sandra and Bert the Shirt, a retired mafioso from New York who becomes a kind of mentor to Joey, and pretty much his only friend in Key West. Bert’s chihuahua, Don Giovanni steals the show without any lines.

What I enjoyed most about the book though was the way Shames really brought the setting and the inhabitants of Key West to life. His descriptions are spot on and very evocative – you can practically smell the sun cream and seaweed. The characters, especially the inhabitants of the condo community where Joey and Sandra end up living are so off-the-wall in the way that so many real inhabitants of Key West are (my favourite sighting there has been an elderly lady with two cats dressed in tutus on leads walking around a museum!), I particularly loved the naked landlord. This book really gave you a true flavour of Key West, which is what is what looking for when I picked it up.

I loved this book. It made me laugh, it kept me hooked and it took me back to one of my favourite places on earth. What more could you ask for, except maybe to be drinking a frozen strawberry daiquiri at Sloppy Joe’s as we speak. I wish I was there.

I enjoyed this book so much, I bought the next three in the series. If you would like to get your hands on a copy of Florida Straits yourself, you can buy it here.

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Now, here is a gratuitous picture of a pelican that I took in the Keys, just because why wouldn’t you want to see a photograph of a beautiful pelican?

Amazon/Goodreads

About the Author

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Laurence Shames has been a New York City taxi driver, lounge singer, furniture mover, lifeguard, dishwasher, gym teacher, and shoe salesman. Having failed to distinguish himself in any of those professions, he turned to writing full-time in 1976 and has not done an honest day’s work since.

His basic laziness notwithstanding, Shames has published twenty books and hundreds of magazine articles and essays. Best known for his critically acclaimed series of Key West novels, he has also authored non-fiction and enjoyed considerable though largely secret success as a collaborator and ghostwriter. Shames has penned four New York Times bestsellers. These have appeared on four different lists, under four different names, none of them his own. This might be a record.

Connect with Laurence:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/laurence.shames

Twitter: @LaurenceShames

Website: http://www.laurenceshames.com

Would you like a quiet walk around the farm with us? Let‚Äôs see what wildlife we can spot…

As a child of the countryside, I love this post by Viola Bleu

Ideas.Become.Words

Assumption

How cute are these baby pine cones? (I‚Äôm assuming that‚Äôs what they are ‚Äď maybe you‚Äôre a flora and fauna expert and can confirm!)

New growth is simply everywhere; spring time is so full of promise, growth, a future. It‚Äôs difficult not to be affected by that positivity ūüĆł

Of course, crops follow a growing season too and here is your Sainsbury’s loaf of bread in its most basic form; a field of winter milling wheat…..

‚Ķ being watched over by Man of the Woods‚Äô dog, ‚ÄėRock‚Äô. This border terrier cross Lakeland can be simultaneously cute and a real sod. He has to stay on a lead because if he smells a rabbit, rat or hare, he‚Äôs off at very high speed with no return-radar until his need to chase has been fulfilled. That‚Äôs terriers for you ūüôą

I was serious about the Sainsbury’s thing. The next time you…

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Write A Novel in 30 Days by Megg Geri #bookreview (@MeggGeri) @PictPublishing #FictionCafeWriters #FictionCafeReviews

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“This book walks you step by step through planning your novel to writing your novel. This book is full of personal stories, tips, and exercises to inspire you and to help you write your novel. This book is honest and realistic with an easy to follow step-by-step approach to writing a book. This book is for the writer who wants to follow their dream of completing a book but doesn’t know where to start or where to find the time. This is more than just a book about writing, this is a book about surviving the writing process.

THE BOOK IS DIVIDED INTO FOUR MAIN SECTIONS: 01 | THIS IS YOUR DREAM This section is all about discovering yourself within the writing world. It’s about getting over your insecurities and creating your dream writing life. 02 | PLAN IT ALL OUT This section teaches you to plot and plan your book. From time scheduling to discovering ideas and writing applications and resources. 03 | WRITE IT OUT This section covers the actual writing process that happens. 04 | WHEN THINGS GET TOUGH This is a survival guide to writing. This section of the book handles everything from writers block to loss of inspiration and falling behind schedule as well as when you’re getting yourself down too.

BONUS MATERIAL This is not called an interactive book for no reason. This book comes with access to a resource library of downloads like; word trackers, worksheets, charts, and checklists. And you will get a 28-day course to get you ready for writing.”

As a new writer working on her first novel and often feeling like an imposter, floundering out of her depth in a strange and alien sea, I jumped at the chance to read and review this writing guide by Megg Geri.

This book is aimed at people trying to complete annual challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month in the joyous madness that is NaNoWriMo. For anyone not familiar with this event – the writer’s equivalent of completing a marathon – you can find details¬†here.¬†I attempted this for the first time last November and failed spectacularly, managing only 32,000 of my target but, of course, I did not have this book then and was under-prepared. However, this book can be used at any time of year, and by anyone intent on beginning to write, even if they do not intend to do it at a sprint.

This book is full of great practical tips on inspiration, plotting and planning, where to find story ideas, how to develop your characters, what software you might like to use, everything you would expect in a book of this type. But this book contains so much more than that. It also deals with the emotional aspects of writing, working out why you want to write, how to keep motivated, what might be stopping you for achieving your goals and how to overcome these hurdles and this, for me, is the real appeal of this book.

What stands out the most is the encouragement. The sheer belief that you CAN write a book if you really want to and, what is more, you should. The belief that you have an important story to tell and that the world needs you to tell it. This is very important as, for me and I suspect many other people, a lack of self-belief is what holds us back. We need encouragement, and this book will give you that.

It is written in a very friendly, personal and approachable voice and in a very easy to read layout with very practical exercises to do at the end of each segment and useful checklists as the end of each part. It is a real, useful, practical book that would be great to refer to, not just for your first book, but again and again at the start of each new novel. I think even experienced writers will find a lot of useful reminders in here.

Interspersed with the tips and exercises are motivational quotes to spur you along which is a nice touch.

I found myself bookmarking a lot of sections as I went through this book which really resonated with me and that I want to be able to refer back to easily which is always a sign that a book has offered me something useful. (My favourite tip in the book was the ‘character’s handbag section). The part that resonated with me most on a personal level was this:

“Hiding behind perfection can also be an excuse not to do the work, or because you’re simply too scared to put your work out there.”

This is a person who understands me!

This book is not too long, not too verbose, not too elitist but full of handy guides, tips, information and encouragement. I loved it so much that I have ordered a paperback copy to keep on my shelf for future reference and I have no doubt it will become dog-eared with use. I think this is a must-have for any aspiring writer out there who needs a friend.

Write A Novel in 30 Days is out now and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Author of Write a Novel in 30 Days also writes fiction and owns Megg & Co Editing Boutique.

She specialises in novel editing and coaching by day and by night she reads, a lot. She also runs an online international book club for women who love to read.

Megg loves interacting with writers on Twitter and Instagram (where she shares her favourite writing tips).

Connect with Megg:

Website: https://megg.me
Goodreads: Megg_Geri

Facebook –¬†TheMeggGeri
Instagram –¬†@megggeri

Twitter: @MeggGeri

#CoverReveal An Artisan Lovestyle by Kiltie Jackson @KiltieJackson @rararesources #FictionCafeWriters

An Artisan Lovestyle Cover Reveal

I love a cover reveal but this one is extra exciting because it is the cover of my good friend and fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, Kiltie Jackson’s, new book.

Thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources¬†for inviting me to take part in revealing this cover. And here it is:

An Artisan Lovestyle - Hi-res

I’ve heard a bit about the story behind Kiltie’s new book in our writing group and have been lucky enough to have a sneak peek of a few pages. Now I’ve seen the fabulous cover, I’m even more impatient ¬†and to read the whole thing. To whet your appetite too, here is more detail on the book:

Are you ‚Äėliving‚Äô your life or just living your life?

Elsa Clairmont was widowed barely five years after marrying her childhood sweetheart. She has struggled to come to terms with the loss and, six years later, has almost ceased to live herself. She does just enough to get by.

Danny Delaney is the ultimate ‚ÄėMr Nice Guy‚Äô. He‚Äôs kind, caring and sweet. A talented artist in his teens, his abusive mother ruined his career in art and he turned his back on his exceptional gift. Now, he does just enough to get by.

On New Year’s Eve, both Danny and Elsa die in unrelated accidents.

Thanks to some poker playing shenanigans, Elsa’s husband Harry, and Danny’s old Art teacher, William, manage to orchestrate a deal with Death that allows Danny and Elsa to live for one more year on the condition they both agree to complete three tasks.

They have until the last chime of Big Ben on the 31st December to fulfil their quests.

If they succeed, they stay in the world of the living.

If they should fail however…

‚ÄėAn Artisan Lovestyle‚Äô is a story of personal growth and self-discovery as two people find themselves forced to make overdue changes in their lives, changes in other people‚Äôs lives, and all with the added challenge of¬†finding true love before their time runs out.

Will they do it?

Can they do it?

After all, it’s a matter of Life or Death…

The book will be published on 28 June and is available for pre-order here.

I’m delighted that I will also be participating in the blog tour for this book. Pop back here on¬†10 July to hear my thoughts.

If having read the above you can’t wait until the end of June, I highly recommend reading Kiltie’s first book¬†A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle¬†while you wait, it was one of my favourite reads of 2017.

About the Author

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Kiltie grew up in Glasgow in Scotland. This is a very unique city with a very unique way of looking at life.

When¬†she¬†was¬†old¬†enough¬†to¬†do¬†so,¬†she¬†moved¬†to¬†London¬†and¬†then,¬†after¬†several¬†years¬†of¬†obtaining¬†interesting¬†experiences¬†-which¬†are¬†finding¬†their¬†way¬†into¬†her¬†writing¬†–¬†she¬†moved¬†up¬†to¬†the¬†Midlands.

Kiltie currently lives in Staffordshire with five cats and one grumpy husband. Her little home is known as Moggy Towers, even though despite having plenty of moggies, there are no towers! The cats kindly allow her and Mr Mogs to share their house on the condition they keep paying the mortgage!

She loves reading, watching movies, and visiting old castles.
She really dislikes going to the gym!

Her biggest desire is that one day she can give up the day job
and¬†write¬†her¬†stories¬†for¬†a¬†living.¬†Kiltie’s¬†debut¬†novel,¬†‘A¬†Rock¬†‘n’¬†Roll¬†Lovestyle’,¬†was¬†released¬†in¬†September¬†2017¬†and¬†won¬†a¬†“Chill¬†With¬†A¬†Book¬†–¬†Reader¬†Award”¬†in¬†December¬†2017.¬†She¬†first¬†began¬†writing¬†her¬†debut¬†novel¬†eleven¬†years¬†before¬†it¬†was¬†released¬†but¬†shelved¬†it¬†as¬†she¬†didn’t¬†think¬†it¬†was¬†very¬†good.

In November 2016 when, having read more on a best-selling author who had begun her own career as a self-published author, she was inspired to revisit the unfinished manuscript and finally finish what she had started.

Since¬†beginning¬†to¬†write¬†again,¬†the¬†ideas¬†have¬†not¬†stopped¬†flowing.¬†‘An¬†Artisan¬†Lovestyle’¬†is¬†the¬†second¬†book¬†in¬†the¬†Lovestyle¬†Series.

Work is due to begin on book three (not yet titled but also part of the Lovestyle Series) in the Summer of 2018.
She¬†currently¬†has¬†a¬†further¬†ten¬†plots¬†and¬†ideas¬†stored¬†in¬†her¬†file¬†(it’s¬†costing¬†a¬†fortune¬†in¬†USB¬†drives¬†as¬†each¬†story¬†has¬†its¬†own¬†memory¬†stick!)¬†and¬†the¬†ideas¬†still¬†keep¬†on¬†coming.

Kiltie now lives her life around the following three quotes:
“I¬†love¬†having¬†weird¬†dreams,¬†they’re¬†great¬†fodder¬†for¬†book¬†plots!”
“Why¬†wait¬†for¬†your¬†ship¬†to¬†come¬†in¬†when¬†you¬†can¬†swim¬†out¬†to¬†meet¬†it?”
“Old¬†enough¬†to¬†know¬†better,¬†young¬†enough¬†not¬†to¬†care!”

#BlogTour Ask Me To Dance by Sylvia Colley #bookreview (@SylviaColley) @MuswellPress @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #AskMeToDance

Ask Me To Dance Cover

“Rose Gregory has suffered a devastating blow, a double bereavement from which months later she is still reeling. Sanctuary and rest are prescribed by her doctor. But when she arrives at her refuge, a dank and decaying Monastery, she finds it is not the haven promised. Despite the veneer of calm contemplation, the Monastery turns out to be a hotbed of intrigue and disharmony. Rose witnesses bullying and cruelty and ultimately in defence of the vulnerable turns to violence herself.

Sylvia Colley’s extraordinary understanding of a woman s struggle to deal with grief, the denial, the anger, the loneliness, is described without sentimentality. A beautifully written and moving story.”

Today I am delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for Sylvia Colley’s beautiful new novel¬†Ask Me To Dance. Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part.

Where to start describing this extraordinary book? It is a book that is impossible to categorise and very different to anything I have read recently, neither of which are negatives. I was drawn into the book from the beginning, held throughout and left thinking about it long after I finished it.

The protagonist is Rose, a woman in the grip of a grief that has driven her to the edge of madness. We meet her as she arrives at a monastery where her doctor has sent her to rest and recuperate but it soon becomes apparent that this may not be the right place for her to do that. The monastery is down at heel, on the verge of closing and populated by only a small group of Brothers who are struggling with their own internal and rather petty tensions which in turn infect Rose and disrupt her state of mind further.

The author does a fantastic job of describing the crumbling monastery and its wild and neglected grounds, complete with a graveyard full of deceased Brothers, and it gives the whole book an air of despair and, for me, a slight creeping menace which was the perfect backdrop to the mental disintegration within Rose and the decay of the relationships between the remaining Brothers. Rose has gone there for peace and seclusion and possibly spiritual guidance, but it is clear than none of these things are on offer for her here where the Brothers draw her into their issues rather than helping her with hers.

We learn about the events leading to Rose’s breakdown gradually through the course of the book, at the same time as more information is fed to us slowly about the different Brothers and the tensions between us. This approach for me, resulted in a slow build of tension and oppression with minimal actual action until the final explosive events – a very clever reflection of how the tensions and despair and feeling of unfairness and futility have built up in Rose. The book is written mostly in the first person through Rose’s eyes, which let us get further into her mindset and feel what she is feeling and seeing. I was infected with it and the feelings have lingered in me long after I closed the book.

If I had a small criticism, it was that I was left unsure of the relevance of one of the characters introduced, whom I had thought would play a more vital role but it is a small niggle in an otherwise startling book.

This book is clever, thought-provoking, evocative, surprising, difficult, menacing and insidious. It defies the trend towards shoehorning books into a genre, instead leaping outside the box. It is not a comfortable read but it is a true and worthwhile one.

Ask Me To Dance is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to Anne Cater and the publisher for supplying my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Follow the rest of the tour and find out what other bloggers think of the novel:

Ask Me To Dance Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

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Sylvia Colley was born in Romsey, Hampshire. She became a teacher and spent many years as Head of English at the Purcell School in North London.
She has published a book of poetry, It’s Not What I Wanted Though, and a novel, Lights on Dark Water. Her work has been read on BBC Radio 4. She lives in Pinner, Middlesex.

Follow Sylvia on social media:

Twitter: @SylviaColley

Website: http://www.sylviacolley.co.uk

A Family Recipe by Veronica Henry #bookreview (@veronica_henry) @orionbooks #AFamilyRecipe #NetGalley

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What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .”

I’ve noticed a trend in the books I’m picking up recently towards central female characters that are, shall we say, not in the first flush of youth. I’m not sure if this is because more books are being written and published with older women as the focal point or that my tastes are changing and I am drawn more to novels featuring characters I can relate to as my age increases, possibly it is a combination of the two. Either way, I think it is a positive change and something to be celebrated.

I spent yesterday, my forty-sixth birthday, indulging myself in a my favourite pastime (reading, of course!) and the the book I chose was Veronica Henry’s latest novel¬†A Family Recipe. The main character of this book is Laura, a forty-something woman who is faced with finding herself again after her children flying the nest and a shocking family revelation combine to knock her life off the track it had been trundling along for twenty years. As a woman with rapidly maturing children, relationship upheaval and a major career change behind me, there was a huge amount in this book to which I could personally relate and, as a result, I was drawn into Laura’s story immediately.

I suspect any woman of a similar age reading this is going to find herself able to sympathise with a least one aspect of Laura’s life and this is the skill in Veronica’s writing. Her stories, in this and her previous novels, are built on the personal experiences and domestic dramas of ordinary people and, as a result, her characters and their travails are easy for her readers to relate to. We recognise them and, consequently, care about them – an essential ingredient for a really successful novel.

There are actually two timelines running through this book, and two main characters. We have Laura in the modern day, – trying to find her feet during a rocky time in her life and falling back on the comfort of her family’s traditional recipes to ground her – and Jilly, one of Laura’s ancestors – living at the time of the Blitz in Bath and using the same recipes to comfort herself through the fear and grief of that terrible time.

Veronica weaves the two threads together beautifully to demonstrate the influence of our family on us and the importance of those ties of blood and love to hold us together in times of need. Veronica was inspired to write the novel by her own box of family recipes and the personal connection to the story is palpable in the pages. This novel feels so authentic, so full of passion and love, it is impossible not to get drawn in. I was totally enmeshed in the lives of the characters to the point of tearfulness on more than one occasion and I have been left with a feeling of warmth and tenderness at the end. I love Veronica’s work, and I think this might be my favourite yet.

The beauty of this book is helped along by setting it in the gorgeous city of Bath and Veronica manages to bring that gracious city to life with her deft descriptions. I know this is another aspect of the book that is very personal to the author and her love of the city shines throughout.

All in all, this is a perfectly crafted book, one to treasure and return to whenever you are looking for an uplifting story of family, friendship and food.

A Family Recipe is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Orion Publishing for my advance copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

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Veronica Henry has worked as a scriptwriter for THE ARCHERS, HEARTBEAT and HOLBY CITY amongst many others, before turning to fiction. She won the 2014 RNA NOVEL OF THE YEAR AWARD for A NIGHT ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Veronica lives with her family in a village in north Devon.

Connect with Veronica:

Website: www.veronicahenry.co.uk

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/veronicahenryauthor/

Twitter: @veronica_henry

Instagram: @veronicahenryauthor

What We Did by Christobel Kent #bookreview @littlebrown #WhatWeDid #NetGalley

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“He stole her childhood. She’ll take his future

What would you do if you accidentally encountered the man who once abused you?

And how would you get away with it?

Bridget’s life is small and safe: she loves her husband, her son and works hard to keep her own business afloat. Then one day her world is changed forever. The music teacher who abused her walks into a shop with the teenager he’s clearly grooming. Bridget is sent spiralling back into her past.

Anthony begins to stalk Bridget, trying to ensure her silence – until suddenly, she snaps.

And now Bridget must find away to deal with the aftermath of her actions…”

Today is publication day for Christobel Kent’s new novel¬†What We Did so I have completed reading it at the perfect time to post my review. Although, this is going to be a tough book to review without giving away any spoilers so I may be briefer than normal. (Was that a small sigh of relief I just heard?)

Let’s just take a moment to admire the cover, which was one of the things that drew my eye to it on NetGalley. I love the grey with the bright spots of orange and green. Would look fabulous on any book shelf, great cover design.

This is a psychological thriller with a tricky subject matter at its heart. Bridget is a survivor of abuse she suffered as a teenager at the hands of her violin teacher. She has built a small, safe life for herself in a provincial university city with a quiet husband and a well-balanced teenage son, running her own clothing shop and working hard to keep her demons at bay. Her husband and her son know nothing about her past and that is the way she would like to keep it so when her abuser casually walks into her store one day in the company of his latest pupil, Bridget believes her whole way of life is at risk.

When I started this book, I had a slightly jaded feeling that I knew how the story would pan out. However, I was completely wrong. Things unfold in a very unexpected way and the story goes off then at a totally different tangent and really drags you with it.

The first quarter of the book was quite slow and I did start to worry that the whole story pacing was going to be too staid to carry me to the end – I have begun to expect more flourishes from a book in this genre – but once the first pivotal act occurs, things pick up and I was totally gripped from that moment on and I ended up staying up late to finish the book. Looking back at the book as a whole, the pacing was perfect for the storyline and the nature of the characters and it was actually a refreshing change from the constant bombardment of action and tension we sometimes get. The gentle start, followed by the sudden shocking change was the perfect reflection of how Bridget’s gentle life is so immediately disrupted when her abuser reappears on the scene.

The characters that need to be sympathetic are sympathetic, the criminal perpetrators are suitably loathsome. Bridget’s sister was my favourite character, and the most complex, I believe, and I also enjoyed the way her innocuous husband’s story arc developed. There was a side storyline involving her shop assistant that I think was meant to throw Bridget’s complicated feelings about her past into relief and give her some enlightenment, but it wasn’t really well-developed enough to end up as anything but a distraction which was a little disappointing.

The main storyline was psychologically twisty enough to keep me guessing about who was involved in what. I suspected people of things they hadn’t ended up doing and didn’t guess the ending so early in the novel that it was an anti-climax when it came. All in all, I enjoyed the book and it is well worth a read. However, it does not have the jaw-dropping twists that have become the norm, this is much more a character-based novel that isn’t relying on any schlock or shock for shock’s sake that some novels in this genre do. You will have to make your own decision about whether this is a positive or negative based on your own preferences for this type of novel.

What We Did is published today and you can purchase a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown for the copy of this book which I have reviewed fairly and impartially.

About the Author

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Christobel Kent was born in London and educated at Cambridge. She has lived variously in Essex, London and Italy. Her childhood included several years spent on a Thames sailing barge in Maldon, Essex with her father, stepmother, three siblings and four step-siblings. She now lives in both Cambridge and Florence with her husband and five children.

#BlogTour The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley #bookreview (@ZaraStoneley) @HarperCollinsUK @HarperFiction @fictionpubteam @rararesources #TheWeddingDate #bookbloggers

The Wedding Date

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Zara Stoneley’s new book¬†The Wedding Date. a big thank you to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part.

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One ex.
One wedding.
One little white lie.

When Samantha Jenkins is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, she couldn’t be happier. There are just three problems…

1) Sam’s ex-boyfriend, Liam, will be the best man.
2) His new girlfriend is pregnant.
3) Sam might have told people she has a new man when she doesn’t (see points 1 and 2 above)

So, Sam does the only sensible thing available to her… and hires a professional to do the job.

Actor Jake Porter is perfect for the role: single, gorgeous and cheap! Sam is certain it’s the perfect solution: no strings, no heartbreak and hopefully no chance of being found out.

But spending a week in the Scottish Highlands with Jake is harder than she imagined. He is the perfect boyfriend, charming, sexy and the hottest thing in a kilt since Outlander! And his dog Harry is quite possibly the cutest things Sam has ever seen!

As the wedding draws closer, Jake plays his part to perfection and everyone believes he is madly in love with Sam. The problem is, Sam‚Äôs not sure if Jake is acting anymore‚Ķ”

Before we start, is anyone else salivating over the delicious-looking cake on the cover of this book? Honestly, I can taste it. Congratulations to whoever designed the cover, it is definitely enticing!

This is the first book I have read by Zara Stoneley, although I have a copy of Summer with the Country Village Vet sat on my TBR. Now that I have read this book by Zara, I will be moving that one up the pile to read soon.

The main character in this book is travel agent, Sam. Recently dumped by boyfriend, Liam, Sam is presented with an invitation from her best friend, Jess, to join her elaborate wedding party in Scotland. To Sam’s dismay, not only will she have to deal with celebrating romance whilst facing her own heartbreak, her ex, Liam will be the best man and Sam will come face to face with the physical evidence of his infidelity in the form of his very-pregnant girlfriend. Unable to face the ordeal alone and deal with the pity on the faces of her family and friends, Sam decides to hire actor Jake to pose as her handsome and charming new boyfriend for the week. As you do.

It was very easy to relate to Sam. She is a warm and slightly hapless character and we can all put ourselves in her shoes, feeling the humiliation of being cheated on and dumped and then having to face her ex in public. The ordeal has sapped her of all her self-confidence and she is at a very low ebb when she concocts the slightly crazy plan of hiring a fake boyfriend to take to her best friend’s wedding. I doubt most people would go that far but I could appreciate the impulse and Zara’s humorous and entertaining writing made the plan seem a lot more plausible than it probably would be in real life.

Jake, the impoverished actor that Sam manages to bag as her fake date is almost too good to be true. Handsome, charming and kind, he is the kind of man that every woman wishes to have on her arm, but Sam struggles at times to work out how much of his behaviour is an act and how much is genuine, which becomes a problem when she finds herself falling for him, despite her best efforts to keep him at arms length. Jake is no cardboard cut-out romantic lead though, he has a complicated past of his own which stops him being as one-dimensional as is sometimes the case with romantic leads of this ilk.

This book is written in the first person from Sam’s point of view and I really enjoyed being in her head and seeing everything from her slightly-neurotic point of view. Her inner monologue was completely authentic – somewhat reminiscent of Bridget Jones – as she worries about her weight, wanting to look amazing when she first sees her ex, whether anyone will find out that she and Jake are faking it. She is so likeable, it really carries the story along and had us rooting for her and a positive outcome.

The story is filled with humour, which made it a really easy read. There are some scenes that will have you howling with laughter and wondering how anyone can get themselves into such scrapes. I loved the character of Sam’s mother, who just added to the cringe-factor of some of the scenes, and there was a nicely rounded cast of friends and family to fill out the story. I did feel like the character of Ruby, who was set up to be a bit of a villainess, was slightly wasted and could have been used to throw a bit more of a spanner in the works and I wondered if that was a plot point that was in the original draft but then tailed off. It felt like a bit of an unfinished thread. However, it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book. The mystery of Jake’s past also went in a different direction than the one I had imagined, but it has given me an idea for a story twist that I might use in the future since it didn’t turn out to be the solution I had imagined in this book, so that was a bonus from my reading. Thanks, Zara, for sparking my imagination!

This was a lovely, light and funny read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading romantic fiction. You won’t be disappointed. Now I’m off to track down that piece of chocolate cake.

The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley is out now on Kindle and you can buy a copy here.  The paperback version will be published on the 28th of June and you can pre-order it here.

Follow the blog tour and see what other readers are saying about The Wedding Date:

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About the Author

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Born in a small village in Staffordshire, Zara Stoneley wanted to be James Herriot, a spy, or an author when she grew up. Writing novels means she can imagine she is all these things, and more!

Zara‚Äôs bestselling novels include ‘The Holiday Swap’, ‘Summer with the Country Village Vet’, ‘Blackberry Picking at Jasmine Cottage’ and the popular Tippermere series – ‘Stable Mates’, ‘Country Affairs’ and ‘Country Rivals’.
She lives in a Cheshire village with her family, a naughty cockapoo, and a very bossy cat, and loves spending time in sunny Spain.

Connect with Zara:

Website: http://www.zarastoneley.com
Twitter: @ZaraStoneley
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZaraStoneley

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zarastoneley/