Blog Tour: Summer at the Highland Coral Beach by Kiley Dunbar #BookReview

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach

I’m so pleased to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for Summer at the Highland Coral Beach by Kiley Dunbar. Kiley is fast becoming one of my favourite authors and I could not wait to read her latest book. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

FINAL Summer at the Highland Coral Beach cover

Escape to the Highland Coral Beach – where broken hearts can be healed

Beatrice Halliday needs a break from life. Booking a trip to the Highlands on a whim, Beatrice hopes learning Gaelic in a beautiful Scottish village might help her heal her grief after losing her baby, her husband and her much loved job in a space of months.

But Port Willow Bay isn’t exactly as the website promised. Instead of learning a new language, she’s booked in to learn the ancient skill of willow weaving, her hotel room is Princess and the Pea themed (with a stack of mattresses for her bed!) and worse still, her tutor is Atholl Fergusson, grumpy landlord of the hotel where Beatrice is staying – and she’s the only one doing the course.

But as Beatrice finds herself falling in love with Port Willow Bay and its people, and as she discovers the kind heart beneath Atholl’s stony exterior, can she really leave?

At the very end of 2019, an author whose writing I had loved since I was in my teens very sadly passed away. That author was M. C. Beaton and the books beloved by me were the Hamish Macbeth stories. I spent many holidays in the Scottish borders as a child and in the town in which we stayed there was a newsagents, the Scottish version of W H Smiths, where I discovered the first Hamish Macbeth stories. I was in my early teens at the time and I immediately became addicted. As I am very old, this was in the days before Amazon, and I could not find these books in any local bookshops in the UK, so I used to wait eagerly for the summer holidays, saving up my pocket money, so I could rush and buy the next books in the series.

Several years later, the BBC made the Hamish Macbeth books into a delightful TV series, starring the gorgeous Robert Carlyle and set in a remote and dreamy part of the Scottish Highlands, and I was soon addicted to this too and still love it to this day.

Why is this in any way relevant to a review of the latest book by Kiley Dunbar, I hear you ask? Well, that TV series was filmed around the towns of Plockton and the Kyle of Lochalsh in the western Highlands, and this is a place I have been dreaming of ever since I first fell in love with these books and this show but I’ve never made it there, until now. Because Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is set in the fictional Highland village of Port Willow, which Kylie has based on that long-for destination of Plockton and the setting of the book is so gorgeous, so vivid, so…. touchable on the page that I feel like I’ve spent the last two days there, rather than stuck on my sofa at home. The book filled me with the same kind of joy and peace that made me fall in love with the portrayal of life in this small, remote Highland village and its eccentric characters in the M. C. Beaton books from my youth.

Anyone who read my reviews of Kylie’s previous two books will know I have waxed lyrical before about how wonderful her writing is at making a setting, location and a mood come alive on the page. It is a real gift, this ability to imbue the pages of a book with the spirit, the essence of a place so the reader is really there with the characters, in that place, at the time, and she really has it, possibly more than anyone I have read writing in this genre at the moment. If I really want to escape, these are the kind of books I want to pick up.

Setting aside, the characters in this book are just a delight, and I fell in love with the immediately. They are all warm and likeable and relatable from the off, and it doesn’t hurt that the main male protagonist is a hot Scot in a kilt. But it is the character of Beatrice that carries the book and made this particularly special and moving. For starters, the is in her late thirties, which is refreshing and relevant to us middle-aged readers, and she has been through something that is very moving and personal to me, because I have had a similar experience myself. I found the portrayal of Beatrice and her experience and the reaction to it very realistic and affecting, but it is written with love such and sensitivity and gentleness and understanding that, although it caused me to shed some tears and feel that little crack I forever carry in my heart give a shift, I also nodded along and smiled and acknowledged the truth of what was being shown in the story. This is a hard topic to write about, as well as to read, and it is done here with bravery and grace and I applaud the way it is handled. We must not be afraid to talk about these things, because they are the reality of people’s lives and should not be hidden and ignored.

I don’t want you to get the impression that this is a book full of sadness and pain, because it really isn’t. It is joyful and hopeful and truthful, full of warmth and sunshine and love and optimism. I adored all of the characters, the setting, the feeling of community and caring and family that flowed through it from first page to last. It was just what I needed to lift me at what is a dark time for a lot of people, and left me heart-warmed and cheered. Even in the darkest time, there is brightness and hope on the horizon. In fact, to steal a family motto from the book, ‘Dulcis Ex Asperis’. Let’s hope so.

Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do check out the other fantastic blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

Kiley Dunbar author portrait

Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places. Shortlisted for the Joan Hessayon Award for Debut Romantic Novelists 2019 for One Summer’s Night.

Kiley is Scottish and lives in England with her husband, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English Literature and creative writing. She is proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a graduate of their New Writers’ Scheme.

Connect with Kiley:

Facebook: Kiley Dunbar Author

Twitter: @KileyDunbar

 

Blog Tour: Tapestry by Beth Duke #BookReview

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Twenty-one-year-old Skye Willis lives in Eufaula, Alabama, a tourist mecca of stately homes and world-class bass fishing. Her childhood friends are either stuck at dead ends or have moved on to accomplish Big Things.

Skye’s grandmother, Verna, insists on being called “Sparrow” because she suspects her ancestors were Muscogee Creek. She dresses in faux deerskin and experiments with ancient Native American recipes, offering a myth or legend to anyone who will listen.

Skye has no idea what to do with her life. She’s smart as hell, but she has no faith or knowledge there’s something out there she was “born to do.” Nor does she know much of anything about her father, who died in Afghanistan when she was a toddler. He and his family are a mystery her mother won’t discuss. But when Sparrow sets out to confirm her Creek ancestry through genetic testing, Skye joins in. The results hit like a DNA bomb, launching them both on a path filled with surprises and life-changing events. Skye learns a harder truth than she ever expected.

Alternating chapters between Skye’s Alabama life and an intertwining tale of greed, deceit, and control in Texas, this story offers proof that all life is a woven tapestry of past, present, and future.

I am thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for Tapestry by Beth Duke. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a place on the tour and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This is a story about family, and what that means. Skye lives with her mother and grandmother in a small town in Alabama. Her mother has always been reluctant to talk about Skye’s father and this has left Skye feeling lost and unsure of her place in the world. At least, that is what she tells herself as an excuse for drifting through her life without making any decisions about her future. But does knowing where you come from really tell you who you are, and is blood what makes a family anyway?

Skye’s grandmother believes she has the blood of Native Americans flowing in her veins and that her ancestors are talking to her and guiding her  down the generations. Is she right, and does that sense of history, heritage and place make you more confident and secure in the world?

Skye’s mother, Lisa, has never been able to tell her daughter the truth about her father because she is ashamed, and the loss of the love of her life has left her unable to move on and accept the happiness that is being offered to her elsewhere. If she can forgive herself and allow herself to be happy, can she then open up and give her daughter the support and truth she thinks she needs?

This books explores themes of blood, heritage, family, understanding your place in the world and whether it is DNA or love that creates bonds between people. Through the trials and tribulations of three remarkable women, we explore what family really means and what we really need to know about ourselves to find peace and happiness. Some of the topics covered in this book are deeply personal to me, and I found the whole thing fascinating and profoundly moving. The author displays a deep understanding of the insecurities that can plague individuals and stop us from being the best versions of ourselves, until we are forced to confront them head on and deal with our deepest fears. I related on a fundamental level with a lot of what was discussed here.

There are some wonderful character studies in the book, particularly Sparrow, who was just a beautiful protagonist and one of those people who you remember long after the pages are closed. I wanted Skye throughout to realise that all she needed to do was look at her grandmother and mother for reassurance as to who she was and that there was no gap in her life that she needed a father figure to fill. Her progress towards this realisation, and the pain she feels along the way was genuine and frustrating, but a process a lot of people need to go through before they can accept that who they are is not defined by missing people, but by your own character and by the people who are there to love and nurture you in life, whether they are your blood family or not.

There is one character in the book who seemed to me a bit of a caricature, and I found the sub-plot of greed and power struggles less compelling than Skye’s personal journey, but I realise that aspect of the story was necessary to provide the contrast to Skye’s story arc, as another character comes to the same conclusions from the opposite direction. That being defined by looks, wealth and status are hollow markers because, once they are gone, there is nothing left to fall back on, so make your life choices wisely and be careful where you place your value.

This is all set against a rich and vividly-drawn backdrop of life in the South. As a lover of Southern-set novels, I basked in the warmth of the descriptions, tasted the flavours of the setting and enjoyed every second of it. The historical aspects that the author draws on to further enrich the story were fascinating, and made me want to go away and explore those details further.

This book has so much to offer that any reader endowed with curiosity and empathy will draw a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction from it.

Tapestry is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do visit the rest of the marvellous blogs taking part in the tour for alternative opinions:

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About the Author

Beth Duke Author Picture

Beth Dial Duke is an Amazon #1 Best Selling author and the recipient of short story awards on two continents.
She is eyeing the other five.
Beth lives in the mountains of her native Alabama with her husband, one real dog, one ornamental dog, and a flock of fluffy pet chickens.
She loves reading, writing, and not arithmetic.
Baking is a hobby, with semi-pro cupcakes and amateur macarons a specialty.
And puns—the worse, the better.
Travel is her other favorite thing, along with joining book clubs for discussion. Please invite her to London…England or Kentucky, either is fine. Anywhere!

Connect with Beth:

Website: https://www.bethduke.com

Facebook: Beth Duke

Twitter: @bethidee

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Desert Island Books: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells

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When Siddalee Walker, oldest daughter of Vivi Abbott Walker, Ya-Ya extraordinaire, is interviewed in the New York Times about a hit play she’s directed, her mother gets described as a “tap-dancing child abuser.” Enraged, Vivi disowns Sidda.

Devastated, Sidda begs forgiveness, and postpones her upcoming wedding. All looks bleak until the Ya-Yas step in and convince Vivi to send Sidda a scrapbook of their girlhood mementos, called “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”

As Sidda struggles to analyze her mother, she comes face to face with the tangled beauty of imperfect love, and the fact that forgiveness, more than understanding, is often what the heart longs for.

If you want to know if you are going to like this book or not, all you need to do is to read the prologue. It is only a page and a half long, but it perfectly encapsulates the setting, tone and characterisation of the book. It wraps you in the mood, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings of the Louisiana bayou and pulls you in to the book; a literary seductress of a prologue – I defy you to resist its siren call.

This is the third of the books I have chosen to accompany me to my Desert Island, to be read repeatedly in perpetuity and I had absolutely no doubt at all as to whether to include it in the list. I fell hopelessly and irrevocably in love with this book the first time I read it, and that love has remained unaltered – steadfast and true – through repeated readings over the intervening twenty-plus years. It is a book that has grown with me over that time, as I have matured from naive twenty-something to a woman in her mid-forties with now a history of relationships and children to inform my understanding of the book. It is a novel that gives you different things depending on from where in your life you come at it. A novel so rich in insight and understanding of the female condition that it will not age.

This book is, without doubt, the best book about female friendship that I have ever read, and given how much I read that is no minor feat. When I first read it in my early twenties, I was so moved by the depiction of the relationship between the four Ya-Yas, that I immediately bought a copy of the book for each of my three closest female friends, so I could share the experience with them, and I know I am not alone in feeling this. A whole movement of Ya-Ya clubs sprang up around this book as it moved readers to celebrate their own relationships with the women in their lives. Close female friendship is a unique and special thing, and Rebecca Wells portrays this perfectly. Just as in this book, my girlfriends have been there with me through all the important times in my life, good and bad. They have celebrated with me, commiserated, listened, advised, laughed and cried. At times they have literally carried me through periods when I thought I could not go on. They are always on my side, never judging, never criticising. They are the scaffolding that has kept me upright when my very foundations have been shaken by seismic life events, and this book dissects and celebrates the true bones of these relationships and their role in our lives.

As I’ve grown older and had relationships and family of my own, the dynamics of the mother/daughter relationship which is also central to this book have also come into sharper focus for me and meant more. I have come to understand it better from the perspective of Vivi, rather than Siddalee, and it has added an extra layer of richness to the narrative for me. There is always some new perspective to find on every reading, it is a book rich in nuance that takes more than one reading to mine and, as a result, I never get tired of it.

In addition to the above, this book also gives the most magnificent sense of place of any book I have read and was the reason that I fell in love with the Deep South of the USA before I even visited, and Louisiana in particular. I wanted to experience all the richness that this book promised awaited me there, the heavy warmth, the spice of the food, the twanging patois of the vernacular, so unique to this place and its mongrel history and when I finally got there, it exceeded every expectation. This book took part of my heart and planted it in Louisiana and the call to return and find it continues to draw me back to this day. This is an extraordinary feat for any book and reason enough to pick it up, if the preceding praise was not sufficient. If you want a book that transports you to a different time and place, look no further, this novel will carry you away; it is a book you can lose yourself in completely.

This book touches on some difficult subjects, but that is part of what makes it so glorious. This book is real. It deals with real people, real problems, real feelings, real relationships. The characters are flawed but compelling and the reader cannot help but be drawn into their drama. The writing is sublime. It is the kind of book that makes me want to write, to give people this experience, this connection with characters, this sense of empathy. When Rowan Coleman gave a talk at the RNA Conference last year about finding the three words to describe your writing, the top one on my list was affinity. I want people who read my book to feel an affinity with my characters and what they are going through, even if they have not been through the same experience themselves. That is what I feel for the characters in this book, even though they inhabit a different world than mine. And it makes me want to weep, because I know that I will never write anything as good as this.

If you haven’t got the message by now, I adore this book. It is one of those novels that, when you have read it, you feel that it has changed you.

You can get a copy of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood here and I think I might have to insist that you do.

About the Author

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Rebecca Wells was born and raised in Alexandria, Louisiana. “I grew up,” she says, “in the fertile world of story-telling, filled with flamboyance, flirting, futility, and fear.” Surrounded by Louisiana raconteurs, a large extended family, and Our Lady of Prompt Succor’s Parish, Rebecca’s imagination was stimulated at every turn. Early on, she fell in love with thinking up and acting in plays for her siblings—the beginnings of her career as an actress and writer for the stage. She recalls her early influences as being the land around her, harvest times, craw-fishing in the bayou, practicing piano after school, dancing with her mother and brothers and sister, and the close relationship to her black “mother” who cleaned for the Wells household. She counts black music and culture from Louisiana as something that will stay in her body’s memory forever.

In high school, she read Walt Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” which opened her up to the idea that everything in life is a poem, and that, as she says, “We are not born separately from one another.” She also read “Howl,” Allen Ginsberg’s indictment of the strangling consumer-driven American culture he saw around him. Acting in school and summer youth theater productions freed Rebecca to step out of the social hierarchies of high school and into the joys of walking inside another character and living in another world.

The day after she graduated from high school, Rebecca left for Yellowstone National Park, where she worked as a waitress. It was an introduction to the natural glories of the park—mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, and geysers—as well as to the art of hitchhiking.

Rebecca graduated from Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, where she studied theater, English, and psychology. She performed in many college plays, but also stepped outside the theater department to become awakened to women’s politics. During this time she worked as a cocktail waitress–once accidentally kicking a man in the shins when he slipped a ten-dollar bill down the front of her dress—and began keeping a journal after reading Anais Nin, which she has done ever since.

Connect with Rebecca:

Website: https://www.rebeccawellsbooks.com

Facebook: Rebecca Wells Author

Twitter: @rwellswrites

Instagram: @mizrebeccawells

 

 

Blog Tour: Containment by Vanda Symon #BookReview

Containment Cover

Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.

What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…

As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…

I’m so delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for Containment by Vanda Symon, the third book in the Sam Shepherd series. I loved the first two books, Overkill and The Ringmaster (you can find my reviews of those here and here.) and could not wait to read this one. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for offering me a place on the tour and to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Although this is the third instalment in the Sam Shepherd series, this book would work perfectly well as a standalone for anyone who is coming new to the novels. This book throws you straight in to the middle of the action and in to Sam’s distinctive world and character, as she finds herself immediately in the midst of an affray on a beach where locals are looting beached shipping containers after a wreck. Beaten, but coming back fighting, what at first seems like a minor issue of theft, spirals into something much more sinister as bodies begin to pile up, all linked to the wreck.

This author offers something new with every book, and this time we are confronted with the recovery and examination of a body dumped at sea (fascinating but fairly graphic and gruesome, steel your stomach), the law surrounding recovery of goods from wrecked cargo ships, the market in stolen valuables and the nefarious goings on of the local student population. All her books are packed with description and illuminating detail, meticulously researched and seamlessly stitched into the narrative until the setting and the world come to life for the reader through the text. At a time when we are all housebound, these are books that can take you to the other side of the world and immerse you in a totally different life for a few hours.

The books are well-paced, with short chapters that keep the momentum and new bits of evidence appear around every corner. In the same way a real investigation would unfold, this case starts out in one direction but gradually unfurls like a maze to become something entirely different, veering off in multiple directions and drawing the protagonists down a variety of obscure paths before they find the truth. It demonstrates how a mixture of great detective work, instinct and some pure luck can lead the police to the answer, and it may end up being more than one thing and very far from where they started. The plot is quite convoluted and complex, involving many different strands and characters, and the reader must focus to sort them out, mimicking the thought processes the police have to similarly go through to get there, but the writing is so accessible and flowing and the pace so quick that this is no chore.

Sam is a wonderful character, and she is the main draw for the books. She is small but feisty, brave, impetuous, honest but complicated, with a strong moral code and sense of loyalty. Some of her behaviour is totally outrageous, but she seems to get away with it because it comes from a positive place, a real desire to see natural justice served, which sometimes involves bending the rules. This does not always sit well with her boss, DI Johns, and the tension between the two of them plus throughout the text to add conflict. in addition, her personal life is no more straight forward, either with her blood family or in her romantic life. New developments add strain in this area, and things seem to be getting more complicated not simpler. There were certain matters in the book which were raised but not resolved, leaving me with theories about what might be coming in the next instalment, and eager to find out. However, do not fear, this book is perfectly concluded as a single story for readers who are not yet invested in this as a series, but i predict you will be once you sample Vanda’s writing.

The Sam Shepherd books are always a satisfying read, this one is no exception and I have added a physical copy to my collection. I eagerly await the next book in the series, and my next armchair visit to New Zealand.

Containment is available now and you can get your copy here.

Please make sure you check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour:

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About the Author

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Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for best crime novel. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Connect with Vanda:

Website: http://vandasymon.com/index.php

Facebook: Vanda Simon

Twitter: @vandasymon

Instagram: @vandasymon

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Blog Tour: Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green #BookReview

Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe

I’m thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for the ninth book in this series, which I have been loving, Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe by Rosie Green. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part, and to the author for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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Molly Hooper has a secret. It haunts her dreams and casts a dark shadow over life with her gorgeous three-year-old daughter, Eva.

Arriving in Sunnybrook has given her a glimpse of sunshine. The Little Duck Pond Cafe crew seem so welcoming and there’s even the chance of a new job. Baking delicious cakes has always taken Molly to a happy place, so the job – at the glorious Brambleberry Manor Cafe – might just be perfect for her. It would mean she and little Eva could finally put down some roots at last.

But is Sunnybrook the sanctuary Molly is searching for? Or will the past come back to haunt her, wherever she hides?

I have read all eight books in the series up to this point and I actually think this one might be my favourite. I’ll try and explain why, if I can articulate it into words, although some of it has more to do with feeling than anything else.

This book gives us the story of Molly, who has been a minor character introduced in the last couple of books but is now getting a full novella revolving entirely around her and part of the reason this book is one of my favourites so far is that she is a character that your heart cannot help but go out to. Molly has made a series of ill-advised decisions in her life that have led her to end up in an awful situation that she cannot find her way out of and she believes that she is all alone in dealing with it. Her struggles have made her cut herself off from other people and emotions, so she is solely focused on protecting her young daughter, Eva.

Of course, she has ended up in Sunnybrook, home of the most well-meaning busybodies that ever existed (in a good way), and the troops soon rally round in the usual way to try and help Molly out. The thing that makes this book stand out is Molly’s situation brings in to sharp relief a very real and terrifying situation that is a all too true for too many people in our society today. I doubt many of them are as lucky as Molly is in finding a supportive community to help them out and it makes me very sad.

The author’s writing is always warm and friendly and enticing, and Sunnybrook is a consistently enticing place to revisit and fans of the series will find everything they love about the series here, as well as new things to enjoy. For anyone who has not read the previous books, this works very well as a standalone, but you should definitely go back and catch up on what has gone before, because the whole series is a delight. Bring on book ten!

(I really hope that soon I will be able to buy all of the series in paperback format, I’d love to add them to my shelf to return to in years to come when I am in need of a mood boost.)

Lemon Drizzle Mondays at the Little Duck Pond Cafe is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you check out the rest of the stops on the tour:

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About the Author

Rosie Green Author Pic

Rosie Green has been scribbling stories ever since she was little. Back then they were rip-roaring adventure tales with a young heroine in perilous danger of falling off a cliff or being tied up by ‘the baddies’. Thankfully, Rosie has moved on somewhat, and now much prefers to write romantic comedies that melt your heart and make you smile, with really not much perilous danger involved at all, unless you count the heroine losing her heart in love.

​Rosie’s brand new series of novellas is centred on life in a village café. The first two stories in the series are: Spring at The Little Duck Pond Cafe and Summer at The Little Duck Pond Café.

Connect with Rosie:

Twitter: @Rosie_Green1988

Blog Tour: Surviving Me by Jo Johnson #GuestPost

Surviving Me

I’m happy to be taking my turn today on the blog tour today for Surviving Me by Jo Johnson. My thanks to Rachel Gilbey for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the author for her guest post. Make sure you scroll down to the bottom of the post for a great giveaway.

Surviving Me Cover

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.

Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.

All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.

If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.

This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

An unusual path to publishing a novel by Jo Johnson

Were you educated in this country?’ This was one of the first questions a tutor asked me at university. My punctuation and grammar were terrible. I hated English at school. 

Later, in my work as a clinical psychologist, I was good at relating to people but my reports continued to be a source of amusement. My written work was my weakness. 

As I progressed in my career, I discovered a gift for public speaking. I found telling stories was a great way to entice people to listen. In 2009 I was invited to speak at a national event for people living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and designed a unique workshop called ‘Shrinking the Smirch’. It encouraged my listeners to see their MS as something outside themselves, an external creature. It went down so well that the organisers asked me to turn the session into a workbook.

‘But I can’t write,’ I insisted.

‘If you can speak to people, you can write for them,’ the conference organiser batted back. To my utter amazement, ‘Shrinking the Smirch: the workbook’ won a Plain English Award. This spurred me on to write further workbooks about managing emotional distress and neurology-themed books for young people.

I didn’t plan to write a novel. I left the NHS in 2008 which gave me more time but being self-employed was lonely. So, each day, I interspersed client appointments with visits to the café across the road from my office.

One day, I noticed an unremarkable middle- aged man staring out of the window. I wondered what his story might be. 

On my iPad I wrote:

‘At this point in time, I can accurately be described as unemployed, impotent, and a liar.’

This became the first sentence of my debut novel, “Surviving Me”.

Over the next seven years I added to my story, at times it was an addiction that distracted me from work and family commitments. Tom, my main character was my secret friend for many years. Eventually, I allowed a friend to read it. She loved it and bullied me into finishing it. 

Since then, I have fielded my manuscript to countless friends and colleagues, out of paranoia and lack of confidence. I was always genuinely surprised – and encouraged – by people’s feedback. 

When unbound publishers accepted my manuscript I was delighted. The first editor asked me where I’d done my creative writing course as I didn’t have a clue what he meant by backstory, pace or point of view within the context of fiction writing. 

Fortunately, that amazing structural editor reassured me I had a lot of raw talent and helped me learn the rest. It was a steep learning curve especially as I was working full time as a clinical psychologist whilst preparing my book for publish. My poor teenagers completed their most important exams with very little parental support.

Writing helps me clear my mind of other people’s troubles. And humour is a great way to defuse some of the day’s tensions. My line of work can make you laugh and cry almost simultaneously – and I hope my characters do the same for my readers.

I still can’t believe I’m the author of a novel that is being described in reviews as refreshingly different and beautifully written.

Thank you for sharing your fascinating journey with us, Jo.

If you would like to get your hands on a copy of Surviving Me, you can buy a copy here.

Giveaway

Jo is running a giveaway with two first prizes of a signed copy of Surviving Me and a Surviving Me fridge magnet and five runner-up prizes of a Surviving Me fridge magnet. To enter, please click on the Rafflecopter link below:

Rafflecopter

*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 Rachel’s Random Resources reserves 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 Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

To find out more about the book and read some reviews, please check out the rest of the stops on the tour:

Surviving Me Full Tour Banner

About the Author

Surviving Me - Jo Johnson PHOTO 2

I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.

I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.

I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.

Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”.

In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout. 

Social media links:

Facebook: Shrinking the Smirsch

Blog Tour: Deep Dark Night by Steph Broadribb #BookReview

Deep Dark Night final cover

Working off the books for FBI Special Agent Alex Monroe, Florida bounty hunter Lori Anderson and her partner, JT, head to Chicago. Their mission: to entrap the head of the Cabressa crime family. The bait: a priceless chess set that Cabressa is determined to add to his collection.

An exclusive high-stakes poker game is arranged in the penthouse suite of one of the city’s tallest buildings, with Lori holding the cards in an agreed arrangement to hand over the pieces, one by one. But, as night falls and the game plays out, stakes rise and tempers flare.

When a power failure plunges the city into darkness, the building goes into lockdown. But this isn’t an ordinary blackout, and the men around the poker table aren’t all who they say they are. Hostages are taken, old scores resurface and the players start to die.

And that’s just the beginning…

I’m so happy to be taking part in the blog tour today for Deep Dark Night by Steph Braodribb, the fourth book in the Lori Anderson series. If you missed my catch up of the first three books in the series, you can find that post here. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Just when you think you know what to expect from a series, an author pulls something totally unexpected out of the bag and really shakes things up. Having binge read the first three books in the Lori Anderson series over the past few weeks, I thought had got into the rhythm of Steph Broadribb’s story-telling and then, boom, she has veered off on a totally unexpected and exciting new course with this latest instalment.

Firstly, we have moved away from the sunny settings of Florida and California for this book and are now visiting the lakeside northern city of Chicago, with its skyscrapers, wide, urban streets and the eerie wave-free lake beaches. It is a place I have visited twice and the writing immediately transplanted me from locked-down rural Yorkshire, back to the Windy City.

And, whilst we are back in the world of ruthless mobsters, shady FBI agents and bounty hunters, the author completely alters the feel and tone of the book from the previous novels where Lori was pursuing her prey across open vistas, by presenting us here with a locked room mystery. This time she finds herself trapped in a sealed penthouse with a group of dangerous men, with both time and air running out and a rush to find out who amongst the group is not what they seem before tensions spiral out of control.

Anyone who enjoyed the film, ‘Molly’s Game’ starring Jessica Chastain will immediately relate to the plot set up here, with a young woman hosting a high roller private poker game, but here the background to the contest is far from simple, and throughout the plot we find out, along with Lori, how all of the players are interconnected and what has lead to the situation they all find themselves in when the penthouse locks down.

Placing everyone into a confined space, with spiralling danger and increasing paranoia and rising stakes works brilliantly to crank up the tension to breaking point, in the characters and, consequently, in the reader. You can feel the temperature rising, muscles flexing, heart rates and stress increasing and anticipate the explosion that is imminent. It compels the reader to keep flying through the pages, to see how long it is going to take someone to break and what will be the outcome when it does.

I love the fact that Steph continues to give JT more of his own plot in this book, rather than just appearing as a sidekick to Lori. He is establishing himself in importance and relevance in the minds of the reader, just as he is in the lives and hearts of Lori and Dakota. Here, as in book two, when he and Lori are separated we get to see the action from their distinct viewpoints and it gives us an interesting dual perspective on the story. Seeing how JT reacts when Lori is in peril, and vice versa, allows the reader an intimate insight in to the dynamics of their relationship, which increases our investment in it and, consequently, the value of what is at stake for us as the risk for them increases. It gives the reader a fantastic pay off by the end of the book.

Every volume of this series has drawn me further in to Lori Anderson’s world and made me care more and more about what happens to her and her little family group. I think this was my favourite book yet, it had echoes of all the great mystery books I love, combined with the excitement of this unique thriller series. I really love these books, and I look forward to what is to come next. These books are so different to a lot of what I usually read, I really can’t get enough of them.

Deep Dark Night is out now and you can get your copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of this extended blog tour for some great reviews and other content:

Deep Dark Night BT Poster

About the Author

Steph Broadribb Author Pic

Steph Broadribb was born in Birmingham and grew up in Buckinghamshire. Most of her working life has been spent between the UK and USA. As her alter- ego – Crime Thriller Girl – she indulges in her love of all things crime fiction by blogging at crimethrillergirl.com, where she interviews authors and reviews the latest releases. She is also a member of the crime-themed girl band The Splice Girls.

Steph is an alumni of the MA Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) at City University London, and she trained as a bounty hunter in California, which inspired her Lori Anderson thrillers. She lives in Buckinghamshire surrounded by horses, cows and chickens.

Her debut thriller, Deep Down Dead, was shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards in two categories, and hit number one on the UK and AU kindle charts. My Little Eye, her first novel under her pseudonym, Stephanie Marland, was published by Trapeze Books in April 2018.

Connect with Steph:

Website: https://crimethrillergirl.com

Facebook: Crime Thriller Girl

Twitter: @crimethrillgirl