Costa Del Churros by Isabella May #BlogTour #BookReview #Giveaway (@IsabellaMayBks) @crookedcatbooks @RaRaResources #CostaDelChurros #RachelsRandomResources #FictionCafeWriters

Costa Del Churros

Another blog tour today (not mega-relevant as this book was published yesterday but can anyone tell me why so many books are being published today, there seem to be dozens!) and this one is for Costa del Churros by my fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, Isabella May, so I am delighted to be taking part. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author and publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. There is also a fabulous giveaway after the review so make sure you enter that.

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“The rain in Spain doesn’t mainly fall on the plain…

Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.

Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town’s flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers? 

One thing’s for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again.”

Anyone who doesn’t really, really want a sugar-coated churro and some chocolate sauce to dip it in after seeing that book cover? No, didn’t think so, it must be the tastiest looking book cover I’ve ever seen.

This is the story of four very different women who become unlikely friends when they are drawn together in a flamenco class run by the enigmatic Carmen on the Costa del Sol and it could not get more Spanish if it tried. Isabella really brought the whole feel of the location alive and the fish-out-of-water feeling of the non-Spaniards who have made it their home.

To begin with, I found it hard to warm to a couple of the characters, as they are all very different to me but as the book progresses they all grew on me, much as they grew on each other as they learn things about themselves over the course of the novel and the flamenco classes. Isabella’s writing style is very chatty and easy to read and the characters all too believable, even in their more extreme moments so it is easy to get carried along by their stories. There are a number of very astute observations in the book, it cuts close to the bone in places and might make you wince with its accuracy, and it is also quite funny, so plenty to keep the reader entertained.

Having read Isabella’s previous two books, I felt like she has really got in to her writing stride in this one and it was the most comfortable and convincing for me. I think it really grasps the nature of female friendship and the kind of dilemmas that women are faced with, at the same time as having that touch of the exotic (for those of us who aren’t living the ex-pat lifestyle anyway) that takes us away from our every day lives. A really good read for anyone looking for an escapist read now that the nights are drawing in and we are all missing the hot summer days.

Now, where are my churros, please?

Costa del Churros is out now and you can get your copy here.

Giveaway

Giveaway Prize - The Cocktail Bar

Isabella is giving away a signed copy of her book The Cocktail  Bar. To be in with a chance to win, just click the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To follow the rest of the tour, checkout the blogs below on the relevant date:

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About the Author

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Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing. As a co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls – www.theglasshousegirls.com – she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One). She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative ‘drops’! Costa del Churros is her third novel with Crooked Cat Books, following on from the hit sensations, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar. 

Connect with Isabella:

Website: https://isabellamayauthor.com

Facebook: Isabella May Author

Twitter: @IsabellaMayBks

Instagram: @isabella_may_author

The Barefoot Road by Vivienne Vermes #BookReview #BlogTour (@VivienneVermes) @matadorbooks @RaRaResources #TheBarefootRoad #RachelsRandomResources

The Barefoot Road

This seems to have taken ages to come round but it is finally my turn on the blog tour for The Barefoot Road by Vivienne Vermes. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to the author and the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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‘A young woman is found, emaciated and unconscious, in the mountains surrounding a village in Transylvania. When the villagers discover that she is of the same ethnic group that was violently driven out of the region many years before, they are reminded of their part in the bloodshed, and old wounds are reopen.

An uneasy peace is maintained until a young married man falls in love with her, and tensions rise within the community. 

When a child disappears in mysterious circumstances, the tension mounts in to hysteria.

While the story unfolds in the microcosm of a small village in the past, its themes are as universal as they are timeless: the fear of the outside, the supernatural versus the rational, and the force of desire between man and woman.”

I really love the cover of this book. The naivete style of the drawing completely complements the story of a small, remote village deep in Transylvania with unworldly and unsophisticated people trying to address issues that they cannot name or begin to know how to deal with.

This is an adult fairy tale in the very best tradition of the originals, which were written as morality tales for children, but told in a modern style (although set in an earlier time) and dealing with very modern and relevant issues for our current society.

The book’s prologue tells of a previous violent purge by the village of an unwelcome minority group living on its outskirts. A generation later, this bloody past comes back to haunt them when a young woman of the same race comes back to the village and stirs up all their ancient fears and prejudices until history threatens to repeat itself.

This book is deeply affecting in its darkness and violence because, despite it being set in a remote place and time, the parallels with current tensions in our own society cannot be ignored and serve to stoke up the fear of the reader as they contemplate how the prejudice, ignorance and fear of the villagers, confronted by an alien in their midst, turn them ugly and their mob mentality is stoked by the rhetoric of a bigoted leader intent on ousting the people in the village with more understanding and liberal views who oppose him. Anything sounding worryingly familiar here?

This book is not a comfortable read. It is quite graphic and earthy in its portrayal of life in this small village and does not flinch from descriptions of sex and violence. However, this is not done gratuitously but is necessary in the context of the story to understand how and why these people act and react as they do. Life here is hard and poor and on the extremes of society, so the actions and behaviour and beliefs of the people are similarly extreme. There is no middle ground for them, just black and white, good and evil, known and unknown and their lives are governed in equal parts by religion and superstition. Their society is rigidly structured and the structure maintained by social standing and peer pressure and societal judgement and anything that threatens this order is regarded with suspicion and dealt with harshly. It is a gut instinct of pack survival – human beings at their basic, primeval reaction to perceived danger. The reader wonders how much more civilised we have actually become ourselves when we feel threatened.

Despite this, the book is also beautiful in the way it is constructed. The writing is poetic, even in its brutality, and the author really brings to life the people and the settings and the whole story in time and place. The prose is alive with description of landscape and flora and fauna to the point that you can feel the oppressive mountains, breathe the thick vegetative smells, hear the running river and the setting completely mirrors the people and the story being told. It is expertly done and it draws you in to the story and holds you tight, even in the throws of the most uncomfortable, uncompromising scenes. I was in the writer’s thrall from beginning to end and left unsettled and stirred and moved, saddened and enraged and altered by the experience of reading. I cannot say I loved the book, because it was too uncomfortable a reading experience for that, but it is a book I am glad I read and is one I won’t forget in a hurry.

The Barefoot Road is out now and you can order a copy here.

The details of the rest of the tour can be found below:

The Barefoot Road Full Tour Banner

About the Author

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Vivienne Vermes is a writer and actress of Irish and Hungarian descent who divides her time between Paris and London. She has published four collections of poetry: Sand Woman, Metamorphoses, Passages and When the World Stops Spinning, and has performed her work in festivals throughout Europe. She is winner of the Piccadilly Poets’ award, the Mail on Sunday’s Best Opening of a Novel competition, as well as Flash 500s prize for short prose and the Paragram national competition for best poem and “petite prose”. She has taught creative writing in universities in Transylvania, and runs a writers’ workshop in Paris. 

As an actress, she has played roles in a number of French films, including Les Trois Frères, Le Retour and in Les Profs 2 in which she portrayed Queen Elizabeth II.  Her voice also warns passengers on the Paris metro to “Mind the gap”.

The Barefoot Road is her first novel.

Connect with Vivienne:

Twitter: @VivienneVermes

The Tainted Vintage by Clare Blanchard #BlogTour #Extract (@CBcrime) @fahrenheitpress @damppebbles #TheTaintedVintage #damppebblesblogtours

the tainted vintage

“In the small Czech town of Vinice the mayor has been found dead in his wine cellar.

Detectives Jana Dvorska and Ivan Dambersky are called to the scene and soon realise that despite appearances, Mayor Slansky’s death was most definitely not from natural causes.

Almost immediately, the close-knit community closes ranks to try and brush the unexplained death under the carpet with the minimum of fuss.

Dvorska & Dambersky are drawn deeper and deeper into secrets that many hoped would remain buried forever and they’re forced into pursuing an investigation where their own lives are put in danger.

The Tainted Vintage is the first book in a wonderful new series set in and around The Czech Republic, an area rich in history, literature and culture that still remains largely unexplored by contemporary crime fiction fans.”

Delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Tainted Vintage by Clare Blanchard. My thanks to Emma Welton at damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me on to the tour and to the author for allowing me to reproduce the extract from the book for you below.

 

On an instinctive whim, Dvorska went into silent mode to see what effect it would have on Mrs. Slanska, who she could see from these first few minutes was used to having the upper hand in most conversations. Under certain conditions, silence – especially when unexpected – could be one of the most powerful weapons in the interrogation repertoire. So, she flicked her inner mental switch into freewheel, focused softly on her breathing, in and out, in and out, and waited…

It couldn’t have been more than twenty seconds before she noticed the sharp blue eyes of Magda Slanska darting across at her over the immaculately ironed tablecloth, attempting to gauge her intentions. But Dvorska had arranged her features into a veil of blandness. Quietly, deliberately not meeting Mrs. Slanska’s gaze, she took another sip of her coffee, and waited a little longer. Her silence was starting to make Mrs. Slanska feel uncomfortable, as if she were being wordlessly probed. It was Dvorska’s hope that when the silence became too much for Mrs. Slanska, it would break at the point of greatest weakness in the family façade. So Dvorska waited a little longer.

“Of course Daniel was such a wonderful husband and father,” Slanska eventually blurted out with a proud flourish.

“Bingo!” thought Magda to herself, trying hard not to show her reactions. Mrs. Slanska’s last statement almost certainly meant that Daniel Slansky had been anything but a wonderful husband and father, just as she had suspected. Why else, she had been asking herself for the last twenty-four hours, would the Slansky children have been dispatched to their other grandmother in Brno at the very time when you would most expect a family to want to be together?

“I’m sure he was,” Dvorska answered, putting down her coffee cup and lying through her teeth. She went on, carefully maintaining her blandness: “This must be a terrible time for the children. You must be so worried about them.” Magda Slanska now clutched for all she was worth at the straw she had been offered. “Oh yes! – they’re absolutely devastated! They adored their father!” she effused in relief at restoring the conversation to the track from which she feared it had been derailed. But Dvorska now seriously doubted that the Slansky children had adored their father. 

“So Petr and Jirina are staying with their other grandmother in Brno?” she asked cheerfully, putting down her cup and standing up to leave.

“Oh, oh yes. They were so upset!” answered Mrs. Slanska, evidently a little surprised that Dvorska already knew the answer to the question she was asking.

“I can imagine,” said Dvorska. “Well, thank you so much for the delicious coffee. Don’t worry, I can see myself out!” And she was gone before Mrs. Slanska could think of anything more to say.

If this extract has whetted your appetite for the book, you will be pleased to know that The Tainted Vintage is out now and you can buy a copy here.

If you would like to read some reviews of the book, you can follow the blog tour below:

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About the Author

Clare Blanchard

Originally from the North Yorkshire coast in England, Clare Blanchard spent half her lifetime in the Czech Republic, where her books are mainly set. Inspired by Nordic noir, where the settings are often like another character in the plot, she writes crime mysteries and other fiction, usually with a historical twist. She loves beautiful landscapes and architecture, cross-country skiing, the wine of South Moravia, and of course Czech beer. When she’s not being literary she knits funky socks.

Connect with Clare:

Website: https://www.clareblanchard.com

Facebook: Clare Blanchard Books

Twitter: @CBcrime

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Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton #BookReview #BlogTour #PublicationDay (@BrethertonWords) @Unbounders @annecater #BoneLines #RandomThingsTours

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“A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life.  A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bones Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of who we are as a species. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Alternating between ancient and modern timelines, the story unfolds through the experiences of two unique characters:  One is a shaman, the sole surviving adult of her tribe who is braving a hazardous journey of migration, the other a dedicated scientist living a comfortable if troubled existence in London, who is on her own mission of discovery. 

The two are connected not only by a set of archaic remains but by a sense of destiny – and their desire to shape it. Both are pioneers, women of passion, grit and determination, although their day to day lives could not be more different. One lives moment by moment, drawing on every scrap of courage and ingenuity to keep herself and her infant daughter alive, while the other is absorbed by work, imagination and regret. Each is isolated and facing her own mortal dangers and heart-rending decisions, but each is inspired by the power of the life force and driven by love.”

Today I’m very excited to be on the blog tour for this very different book. I love the way that the books Unbound are producing via their unique publishing model are pushing the boundaries of what is available for us to read and this book is no exception. My thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for my place on the tour and the publisher for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially. And a happy Publication Day to Stephanie Bretherton for her debut novel, I hope you have the day you always dreamed you would when your first book was published.

This book is a fascinating study of science, philosophy, religion, gender, morality, history, all bound up in the fascinating story of two women living 74,000 years apart. It is the story of Eloise, a scientist in the present day who is presented with the bones of a prehistoric woman to study, and of ‘Sarah’ that prehistoric woman, battling for survival and to protect her child in an extreme environment. As Eloise studies the skeleton and tries to learn all she can about the woman they belonged to, she is also finding out about herself, and about all of us and how we got to where we are now, what we have found and what we may have lost along the way.

This book presents the reader with so much to think about, so much to contemplate and leaves them with more questions than it does answers, which is a marvellous gift for us to be given. Eloise is a thoroughly modern woman, dealing with dilemmas facing many professional women in the modern day, especially in traditionally male-dominated sectors. She is confronted with the decisions and sacrifices she has made to get where she is, whether they have been worth it and what her contribution as a person and as a woman means for her. She is tussling with so many conflicts – personal, philosophical, moral, religious – some of these she attempts to work out by writing letters to Darwin which could seem a bit gimmicky when described so baldly but actually it worked really well within the context of the book to help set out and work through some of the issues Eloise is faced with.

Alongside Eloise’s story in the present day, we are alternately following the story of Sarah, battling with a hostile climate 74,000 years ago. For me, her story was perhaps the more compelling part of the book as we contemplate what she had to go through to survive back then and what was driving her to do the things she did. Some of them are things that have been lost to us in the modern day, buried under the external support we now have in our every day lives, that innate instinct to survive, listening to our gift as it tells us what we need to do to survive. Sarah relies heavily on something within herself telling her what to do, and it is this inbred, internal voice that compels her to leave her tribe and head away to where she believes at the very core of herself she will be safe. Is this something genetic? Is is something that has carried down through the generations by those who listened to it and as a result, survived to pass on their genes down the generations to the modern day? Is this something we could all still tap in to if we let ourselves and stop over-thinking everything? This is something I have contemplated  myself previously and this book has just given me even more food for thought. Some of the things are motives that still drive us today – self-preservation, bloody mindedness, the desire to protect our offspring and, therefore, our genetic legacy, and … love. There are perhaps more parallels between Eloise and Sarah than there are differences.

This book requires focus, attention and thought to get the most from it but it is one that is really worth the effort. It is not dry and dull, despite the complex issues addressed, but a really fascinating treatise on our origins and the  evolution of our species from then to now, how we got here, what our ancestors needed to do to survive, what they passed down to us, and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of that history and what people are doing to explain it, to get to the truth of where we come from and how those origins have influenced who we have become. A very ambitious and intelligent book, meticulously researched, that the writer has pulled off beautifully and I look forward to seeing what comes next.

Bone Lines is published today and you can get your copy by following this link.

To follow the rest of the blog tour, check out the fabulous blogs listed below:

Bone Lines Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

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Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

Connect with Stephanie:

Website: http://stephaniebretherton.com

Facebook: Stephanie Bretherton

Twitter: @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

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The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper #BookReview #BlogTour (@ItsEmmaCooper) @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheSongsOfUs #UpLit

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So very happy to be taking my turn today on the blog tour for The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper as I absolutely love this book, and the person who wrote it. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me on to the tour so I get another chance to rave again about this wonderful book ahead of its paperback publication tomorrow. I reviewed this book originally back in March so, when you read the review below that I am reposting today, you may recognise one of the lines from it quoted above. Yes, that’s me, on a poster! Fame at last..kind of.

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“If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.”

So, I have just got off a seven-and-a-half hour trans-Atlantic flight where I had planned on watching ‘Darkest Hour’ and grabbing a few hours sleep. Instead, I sat up all night and devoured Emma Cooper’s new novel from cover to cover in one sitting and I don’t regret a single second of lost sleep.

This book is, quite frankly, astonishing. It manages to be funny and heart-wrenching at the same time, and explores some huge themes of love, loss, personal struggle and family, deeply but without being the least bit heavy-going or preachy.

It starts off with a hilarious scene in a supermarket which launches us straight into the complicated and mad world of the main character of Melody King who, following an unfortunate accident, has the embarrassing habit of launching into song at times of stress and anxiety, which leads to some extremely toe-curling but funny moments. Her two children, Flynn and Rose, both in those awkward teenage years and struggling with complicated issues of their own, tend to find this less amusing. I absolutely love the way Emma has chosen the perfect appropriately inappropriate song for Melody to sing at any given moment.

The book is written in the first person from the points of view of four main characters, Melody, Flynn, Rose and Dev, Melody’s missing husband. Each has a distinct voice, totally fitting their character and the personal stresses they are under and Emma has done this so well that we are right inside each of their individual heads, seeing the situation from four totally different points of view with the tint that their specific outlooks gives to the situation. It is so cleverly and perfectly done that we have a complete emotional insight into the whole perspective of the situation they are in, you can’t help getting sucked right into the drama.

And, oh, how much did I love these characters. Emabattled, troubled, sullen but warm-hearted Flynn. My heart broke for him and I was willing him to conquer his demons and become the amazing person you can see under the surface. Brilliant but confused Rose, fragile but not, having to grow up faster than she perhaps can cope with and trying to take control in dangerous ways. I just wanted to fold her in my arms and take care of her. And Melody. I don’t really know what to say about Melody except she is so perfectly imperfect, so valiant. She has stolen into my heart and taken firm root.

This book is a rollercoaster that takes you to unexpected places emotionally and has left me bruised, battered but ultimately uplifted. It is such a brilliant portrayal of how flawed and struggling people can be, but how love and family will hold us up and help us overcome if we have each other. I know I will go back and re-read this book soon, and I will feel exactly the same way about it again. It made me laugh and cry and I didn’t want it to end, to let go of these characters that took such firm hold of me in such a short space of time. This book is something really special, I might even venture to say, perfect.

Just don’t finish it on a jumbo jet full of hundreds of curious people as it comes in to land whilst wearing non-waterproof mascara.

(Blogger note: I love this book so much I have made my two best friends wait until now for their birthday presents just so that I can give them a copy each.)

The Songs of Us is out now on Kindle and in paperback tomorrow and you can (or I should say, must) get a copy here.

To see if my fellow bloggers are as effusive about this book as I am, follow the tour below:

The Songs of Us Blog Tour Poster

About the Author

Emma Cooper Author Picture

Emma Cooper is a former teaching assistant, who lives in Shropshire, with her partner and four children. Her spare time consists of writing novels, drinking wine and watching box-sets with her partner of twenty-four years, who still makes her smile every day.

Emma has always wanted to be a writer – ever since her childhood, she’s been inventing characters (her favourite being her imaginary friend ‘Boot’) and is thrilled that she now gets to use this imagination to bring to life all of her creations.

The Songs of Us was inspired by Emma’s love of music and her ability to almost always embarrass herself, and her children, in the most mundane of situations. She was so fascinated by the idea of combining the two, that she began to write Melody’s story. Working full-time with a large family meant that Emma had to steal snippets of ‘spare’ time from her already chaotic and disorganised life; the majority of her novel was written during her lunchtime in a tiny school office. She never expected to fall so deeply in love with the King family and is overwhelmed that others feel the same.

Connect with Emma:

Facebook: Emma Cooper

Twitter: @ItsEmmaCooper

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Haircuts, Hens and Homicide by Stephanie Dagg #BookReview #BlogTour (@llamamum) @RaRaResources #HaircutsHens&Homicide

Haircuts, Hens and Homicide

A very belated turn on the blog tour today for Haircuts, Hens and Homicide by Stephanie Dagg so apologies for the late posting to the author and Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources who invited me on to the tour. I have been hampered by severe headaches the past two days, hence my erratic blogging, but I hope normal service will be resumed tomorrow. Now, on to the book!

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“Megan finds mayhem when she arrives in France to bury her Gran and sort out her affairs. She expected difficult encounters with civil servants and red tape but not with wandering chickens, an imperious policeman and a dead body. Together with her unlikely new friend, the elderly and grumpy Alphonse and his canine equivalent, Monsieur Moustache, Megan becomes involved in investigating the fowl-related foul play that’s at work in this sleepy part of rural France.
She’s helped but mainly hindered by the people she comes across. These include the local mayor, who wants Megan to stay and set up a hair salon in his village to help keep it alive. There are the cousins Romain, the gendarme, and Nico, the clumsy but hunky farmer. They have always clashed, but do so constantly now that Megan is on the scene. Michelle, Romain’s terrifying ex who wants him back, appears along the way, as does Claudette, a wheelchair-bound old lady, and Kayla, Megan’s best friend, who is hugely pregnant but not above taking on the forces of French law and order when Megan finds herself the prime suspect after Alphonse is stabbed.”

What can I say except I really, really loved this book! Part romance, part cosy mystery with a strong element of comedy running through the story, it was sweet, mad, lovely nonsense that was just a delight to read.

Megan arrives in France to bury her Gran and discovers she has inherited her gran’s cottage, her hens and a lot of fairly eccentric but friendly neighbours in a small, rural town. While deciding whether to stay in France, she encounters a poultry-obsessed geriatric with a bad-tempered dog, hunky French cousins warring over her affections and a phalanx of old ladies demanding her hairdressing talents. As Megan becomes embroiled in local life, largely against her will, she is thrust into the centre of a murder mystery that might be the death of her.

Megan was a character I instantly warmed to. Vulnerable but feisty in equal measure, she is very easy to like and begin to root for. She manages to get herself into some terrifying situations through a combination of naivete and a soft heart which is very appealing. Her romantic dilemma was a lovely one for a girl to be faced with, but I’m not sure I would have made the same choice she does…

The plot was hilarious and, whilst I did guess the identity of the murderer about 60% of the way through, I was mystified as to the possible motive and was hooked on the story right to the end. The story was sufficiently crazy to be raucously entertaining and the book is peopled with delightfully mad but believable characters that I just adored.

There is nothing about this book I didn’t like. The writing style is warm and enticing with plenty of detailed description to bring the story to life. we are left with a great cliffhanger at the end to make it imperative that I get my hand on the sequel, Perms, Pigeons and Poison as soon as it is available. Wonderful stuff, buy this lovely book immediately.

Haircuts, Hens and Homicide is out now and you can get your mitts on it instantly here.

Follow the rest of the blog tour below:

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About the Author

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I’m an English expat living in France, having moved here with my family in 2006 after fourteen years as an expat in Ireland. I now consider myself a European rather than ‘belonging’ to any particular country. The last ten years have been interesting, to put it mildly. Taking on seventy-five acres with three lakes, two hovels and one cathedral-sized barn, not to mention an ever increasing menagerie, makes for exciting times. The current array of animals includes alpacas, llamas, huarizos (alpaca-llama crossbreds, unintended in our case and all of them thanks to one very determined alpaca male), sheep, goats, pigs, ducks, geese, chickens and turkeys, not forgetting our pets of dogs, cats, zebra finches, budgies , canaries, lovebirds and Chinese quail. Before we came to France all we had was a dog and two chickens, so it’s been a steep learning curve. I recount these experiences in my book Heads Above Water: Staying Afloat in France and the sequel to that, Total Immersion: Ten Years in France. I also blog regularly at http://www.bloginfrance.com.

I’m married to Chris and we have three bilingual TCKs (third culture kids) who are resilient and resourceful and generally wonderful.     

I’m a traditionally-published author of many children’s books, and am now self-publishing too. I have worked part-time as a freelance editor for thirty years after starting out as a desk editor for Hodder & Stoughton. Find me at http://www.editing.zone. The rest of the time I’m running carp fishing lakes with Chris and inevitably cleaning up some or other animal’s poop.   

Connect with Stephanie:

Website: http://www.bloginfrance.com

Facebook: Stephanie Dagg Books

Twitter: @llamamum

Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer by Lily Mae Walters #BookReview #BlogTour (@LilyMaeWalters1) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #JosieJames

Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer Blog Tour

Taking my turn on the blog tour today for Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer by Lily Mae Walters (the pen name of my fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, Florence Keeling). My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for my place on the tour and to Lily Mae/Florence for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly. Make sure you check out the giveaway after the review for a chance to win a signed copy of the book.

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“Josie James is an ordinary 13 year old until something extraordinary happens during her summer holidays.

Whist staying at her Great Grandmother’s cottage in the country she finds herself swept into the cursed world of Suncroft where it is perpetual winter.

Her new friends believe she could be the Chosen One who it is foretold will lift the curse, but there are more pressing matters.

The Teardrops of Summer – magical crystals that render the owner immortal – have been stolen.  Along with her telepathic husky-dog Protector Asher and her new friends, Josie must race to find the Teardrops and prevent catastrophe for their world.”

This is a really enchanting fantasy read aimed at the middle grade reader which is the start of a series I am really looking forward to.

The main character, Josie James, has no idea she is special until the summer she is thirteen when she visits her great grandmother and everything changes. She is taken to a new hidden world full of magic and talking dogs where she may be the ‘chosen one’ foretold in a prophecy. The plot will draw a child in in the best traditions of the Narnia books or Alice in Wonderland. What child can resist a hidden magical world?

There is plenty of action and magic and intrigue to keep a child wanting to read to the end, and is left well balanced at the end of one mystery but with more to discover in the next story, so to hook the child in to the series. Josie is a really appealing lead character, strong, resourceful, curious, slightly rebellious, slightly insecure – I am sure a lot of children will relate and wish they could have the same kind of adventures. Making a central characters that children want to be is the main part of the battle in drawing the young reader in.

I think the author did a great job in setting up a world that children will find intriguing and magical. The book took a little while to get going while the story was set up in the first half, but the second half was action-packed and I am sure the following books in the series will not have the same slowish start as the stage is already set. I did also think that some of the writing near the beginning was a little simplistic and pitched the book at the lower end of the middle grade age range or at the reluctant reader – my ten-year-old is a more sophisticated reader than some of the language in this book is aimed at, but that is not necessarily a draw back. I think she would still enjoy the story and I will share it with her and get her reaction.

I was really drawn in to the world and the story created in the book and look forward with pleasant anticipation to the second book in the series. I would definitely recommend this book to children of ages 7-10, boys and girls, especially those who like a slightly less demanding and gentler paced read to encourage them.

Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer is out now and you can get your copy here.

Giveaway

To be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer, enter via the Rafflecopter link below.

https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494132/

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box above.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Make sure you check out the stops on the rest of the tour on the blogs listed below:

Josie James and the Teardrops of Summer Full Tour Banner

About the Author

Lily Mae Walters chose her pen name in honour of her beloved grandparents who also stare in the Josie James series.

She is married with two teenage children, and two huskies that are the inspiration behind Murphy and Asher in the books.

Lily Mae lives in Nuneaton, England and finds herself using local  places and even her old school in her stories.

Family and friends mean the world to Lily Mae and many will find themselves popping up throughout the series.

Lily Mae also writes for adults under the name of Florence Keeling.

Connect with Josie:

Facebook: Josie James

Twitter: @LilyMaeWalters1

Instagram: @lilymaewalters