The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst #BookReview #BlogTour (@writercrow) @AtlanticBooks @AllenAndUnwinUK @theotherkirsty #TheIlluminationOfUrsulaFlight

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‘ON THE 15TH DAY OF DECEMBER IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1664, A GREAT LIGHT BLOOMED IN THE DARK SKY…’

Born on the night of a bad-luck comet, Ursula Flight has a difficult destiny written in the stars. Growing up with her family in the country, she is educated by a forward-thinking father who enables her to discover a love of reading, writing and astrology. Ursula dreams of becoming a famous playwright, but is devastated to learn she must instead fulfil her family’s expectations and marry. Trapped and lost, Ursula plots her escape – but her freedom will come at a price.

As Ursula’s dangerous desires play out, both on and off the stage, she’s flung into a giddy world of actors, aristocrats and artistic endeavours which will change her life irrevocably.

A gutsy coming-of-age story about a spirited young woman struggling to lead a creative life, this uplifting tale vividly evokes the glittering world of Restoration-era theatre. For anyone who has ever tried to succeed against the odds, The Illumination of Ursula Flight is an inspiring journey of love and loss, heartbreak and all-consuming passion. This is a debut pulsating with life for readers of Jessie Burton, Sarah Waters and Sarah Perry.

Today I am delighted to be taking part in my first blog tour of 2019, and what a book to start with! The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anne-Marie Crowhurst is my first blog tour book of the year and I want to say a massive thank you to Kirsty Doole at Atlantic Books for inviting me to take part in the tour, and for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I was really looking forward to writing my review of this book, because I loved it and thought writing the review might be almost as fun as reading the book was. Then I happened to read this review of the book by the wonderful Jo at My Chestnut Reading Tree, and realised that she said everything I wanted to say about the book, and in such a lucid and elegant way that any review I wrote would be somewhat redundant! So, if you would like to read a definitive review of this book, please visit Jo’s blog. If you are still interested in my take on it, please read on and I’ll do my best to tell you why I loved it so.

The first thing I want to say, and I think this is the first book that has ever given me cause to mention this, is that the quality of this book is lovely. It has a gorgeous cover as you can see, and it is made of a really nice card; the paper is great quality and the book is printed beautifully. It was a great physical pleasure to read; a lovely tactile experience. This may sound weird to some, but true book lovers will know what I mean! This is a book where getting the paperback is a worthwhile investment. I am even contemplating buying it in hardback.

So, where do I start? Let’s go with the setting. This book is set in the Restoration period, which is not a historical period I particularly seek out as a genre, but I adored reading about it here and the author captured everything about it perfectly. The speech, the customs, the dress, the manners, the food – all so alien to us today but brought vividly to life between these pages so that the reader is totally immersed in it. As someone who is writing herself and, therefore, reading as a writer, I was very conscious of how skilfully the author has used every sense to bring the story and setting to life; reading purely as a reader, this is done subtly and seamlessly so the setting jumps off the page, grabs you and pulls you in without you realising it has done it. It is such a rich environment to mine, and Anne-Marie has dug every facet out with which to stud her book and gild the reading experience.

Next let’s talk about the structure, which is one of my favourite things about this book. It is told in the first person voice of the main character, Ursula Flight, and what a fantastic voice she has, but more about her later. However, rather than just straight prose, the author uses all manner of techniques to tell the story, including letters, diary entries, imaginary conversations and, most importantly, plays that she has written, based on real plays of the era which works brilliantly as a device to tie in with the crux of the story. It is so cleverly done and adds real variety and interest to the reading experience, and I found it worked to great effect to give Ursula a very clear and distinct voice. I’ve never seen a narrative done quite this way before, including very imaginative and fun use of fonts and typeface, and I really, really enjoyed it.

So, I’ve mentioned the character of Ursula above and what a clear voice she has. She was my favourite thing about this book for so many reasons. I defy anyone to read this book and not fall immediately in love with her and, I would even venture to suggest that, in Ursula, the author has created a truly memorable heroine in the best traditions of Becky Sharp and Moll Flanders. She is a woman ahead of her time; educated when women were not typically, intelligent, quick-witted, ambitious, adventurous, but bound by the fact of her gender and frustrated by the limitations it poses on her, particularly in the face of the stupidity of many of the men she meets. And, at the very heart of this book is its great joy. This is a novel about feminism; about the unfairness and futility of trying to keep women down and curtail their ambition, because talent will always out in the end and brave women will always fight for their own happiness. Despite the gap of years, the same issues are alive and well today; this book brings them in to sharp focus and holds them up as the fallacy they are and it is extremely relevant for women everywhere. You cannot read this book and fail to cheer Ursula on as she questions the status quo at every turn and highlights its absurdities as she pushes against it. However, this is not done in any kind of militant, man-hating way, but as a gentle and comedic showing of the nonsense of inequality through every age of man.

Yes, I did use the word comedic above because one of most delightfully unexpected things about this book is that it is very funny and extremely witty. The author has a great eye for the absurd, and uses it to great advantage here. I found myself laughing out loud more than once, and smiling inbetween at the quick-wittedness of Ursula, particularly in her exchanges with her husband and mother-in-law. I even photographed some of the pages so I could quickly read them again (dog-ear the pages? I could never!). My absolute favourites were the part where a character explains why reading is an unsuitable pastime for women, and when Ursula is discussing pre-marital sex with her new husband. These parts alone are worth buying the book for and have caused me to fall deeply in love with the author.

This is an intelligent, unique, topical, rich, rewarding and joyful book peopled with diverse and riveting characters, relevant issues and set in a fascinating and colourful period. I can’t remember when I last enjoyed a book so much and it has set a high bar for the rest of my reads for the year. You must buy it immediately.

The Illumination of Ursula Flight is available now and you can buy a copy here.

To follow the rest of the blog tour, check out the tour dates on the poster below:

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About the Author

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Anna-Marie Crowhurst has worked as a freelance journalist and columnist for more than 15 years, contributing to The Times, The Guardian, Time Out, Newsweek, Emerald Street and Stylist. In 2016 she studied for an MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, where her debut novel The Illumination of Ursula Flight was born. She lives in London.

Connect with Anne-Marie:

Twitter: @writercrow

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye with Rebecca Mascull #BookReview (@rebeccamascull) @HQstories #Christmas #MissMarley #VanessaLafaye

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Before A Christmas Carol there was… Miss Marley

A seasonal tale of kindness and goodwill

Orphans Clara and Jacob Marley live by their wits, scavenging for scraps in the poorest alleyways of London, in the shadow of the workhouse. Every night, Jake promises his little sister ‘tomorrow will be better’ and when the chance to escape poverty comes their way, he seizes it despite the terrible price.

And so Jacob Marley is set on a path that leads to his infamous partnership with Ebenezer Scrooge. As Jacob builds a fortress of wealth to keep the world out, only Clara can warn him of the hideous fate that awaits him if he refuses to let love and kindness into his heart…

In Miss Marley, Vanessa Lafaye weaves a spellbinding Dickensian tale of ghosts, goodwill and hope – a perfect prequel to A Christmas Carol.

Any of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram or Facebook will have seen the picture of me finishing this book over a cup of tea in Sainsbury’s cafe on the morning of Christmas Eve, after I’d finished my shopping and at that point I was filled with Christmas spirit, due in no small part to this book.

For any of you who have not heard the story behind the publication of this book, it was the creation of author Vanessa Lafaye, who unfortunately passed away in February of this year after a long battle with cancer, before she was able to finish it. At the request of Vanessa’s publisher and her husband, the book was completed by Vanessa’s good friend and fellow author, Becca Mascull. This tragic and moving story meant there was a lot of buzz about this book on social media and in the blogging community and I was desperate to read it. I am a huge fan of A Christmas Carol, so the premise behind the book was enticing, and it sounded like the perfect Christmas read.

Oh, but this book is even more beautiful and moving than I expected. It is the story of how Jacob Marley becomes the person who ends up as the tormented spirit that haunts Scrooge at the beginning of A Christmas Carol. To tell his story, Vanessa has given him a sister, Clara, who is witness to the circumstances that shape him. This device is so clever, and executed so beautifully that it immediately pulls you heart and soul into their story and transports you back to Dickens’ London and the world inhabited by Scrooge and Marley. Both authors have perfectly captured the essence of Dickens’ story telling in this book so that it is very easy to believe that this is exactly how Marley and Scrooge end up as the mean-spirited, uncharitable old misers that we have come to know.

The period and setting of Victorian London is brought vividly and perfectly to life through the language and descriptions, and the whole book has a lovely, festive feeling to it, despite the melancholy story. I absolutely loved the character of Clara, she is warm and vibrant and extremely sympathetic, and she makes Jacob Marley’s story sympathetic too. You cannot help but care about her plight from the beginning, which makes the book enthralling and moving and kept me glued to the pages from beginning to end.

I have such admiration for the skill of both authors. I don’t know how Becca managed to complete this book whilst grieving for a beloved friend- it must have taken a strength of will and a huge amount of love to get through it. In the interview I have linked to below, Becca says she felt like she was almost channelling her friend as she completed the book, and I can believe it as it is impossible to tell where the two parts join. The voice and narrative are so consistent throughout; there is no jarring change of tone or pace and it ends perfectly. These were two friends so obviously in tune and their story has completely moved me to tears.

This book is a beautiful testament, both to the authors’ love of A Christmas Carol  and to their friendship and it will delight anyone who is a fan of this timeless Christmas tale. I believe that a festive read of this book will become a new Christmas tradition for me to cherish. I highly recommend you pick up a copy now.

Miss Marley is out now and you can get a copy here.

About the Authors

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Vanessa Lafaye

Vanessa Lafaye was born in Florida and studied in North Carolina. She moved to the UK in 1999 (having been deported once). She is the author of two previous novels, her first book Summertime, was chosen for Richard and Judy in 2015 and was shortlisted for the Historical Writers Award. Vanessa passed away in February 2018.

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Rebecca Mascull

Rebecca Mascull is the author of three historical novels and also writes saga fiction under the pen-name Mollie Walton.

If you would like to read more about the heart-breaking story of the writing of Miss Marley, you might like to read this article.

Tempted by….Ronnie Turner: A House of Ghosts by W. C. Ryan @WilliamRyan_ @Ronnie_Turner #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #AHouseOfGhosts

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Winter 1917. As the First World War enters its most brutal phase, back home in England, everyone is seeking answers to the darkness that has seeped into their lives.

At Blackwater Abbey, on an island off the Devon coast, Lord Highmount has arranged a spiritualist gathering to contact his two sons who were lost in the conflict. But as his guests begin to arrive, it gradually becomes clear that each has something they would rather keep hidden. Then, when a storm descends on the island, the guests will find themselves trapped. Soon one of their number will die.

For Blackwater Abbey is haunted in more ways than one . . .

An unrelentingly gripping mystery packed with twists and turns, A House of Ghosts is the perfect chilling read this winter.

Today on my Tempted by…. feature I have A House of Ghosts by W. C. Ryan as featured by the lovely Ronnie Turner on her eponymously-named blog. Ronnie’s review, which you can find here, is short and sweet but totally enticing to the extent that I had to run out and grab a copy of the book straight after reading it.

If you go over and read the post, I put it to you that this is a masterclass of how to write a book review that teases out all of the salient points about the book without rambling on for hours (as my readers will know is something I am perpetually guilty of in my own reviews), all couched in beautiful language and delicious descriptions that can’t help but sell the book to you. This is what makes Ronnie one of my favourite bloggers to follow and I love reading her reviews and trust her recommendations.

If you have enjoyed reading this review, you’ll want to take a look at the rest of Ronnie’s blog where she has some lovely and unique features such as her book photography and cover designers talking about their work on book covers. You’ll also find links to her own writing and, I’m sure once you’ve seen what a way with words she has in her reviews, you’ll be keen to check out her novel Lies Between Us as well. If you would like to read my review of Ronnie’s book, you can find it here.

If you have been tempted, as I was, to buy a copy of his book, you can get it here.

The Luckiest Thirteen: The Forgotten Men of St Finbarr – A Trawler Crew’s Battle in the Arctic by Brian W. Lavery #BookReview #BlogTour (@brianlavery59) @BarbicanPress1 @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheLuckiestThirteen

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A true-life drama of an intense battle for survival on the high seas.

The Luckiest Thirteen is the story of an incredible two-day battle to save the super trawler St Finbarr, and of those who tried to rescue her heroic crew in surging, frozen seas. It was also a backdrop for the powerful stories of families ashore, dumbstruck by fear and grief, as well as a love story of a teenage deckhand and his girl that ended with a heart-rending twist.

From her hi-tech hold to her modern wheelhouse she was every inch the super ship the great hope for the future built to save the fleet at a record-breaking price but a heart-breaking cost. On the thirteenth trip after her maiden voyage, the St Finbarr met with catastrophe off the Newfoundland coast. On Christmas Day 1966, twenty-five families in the northern English fishing port of Hull were thrown into a dreadful suspense not knowing if their loved ones were dead or alive after the disaster that befell The Perfect Trawler. 

I’m privileged today to be taking part in the blog tour for this amazing book, The Luckiest Thirteen, by Brian Lavery, which tells the true-life story of the crew of the super trawler St Finbarr and their battle for survival against incredible odds. My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the tour for this book, and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

We don’t really think about it, do we? The danger that some people put themselves in, in order to provide certain things for the rest of us. We take these things for granted – fossil fuels, electricity, fish, security – without thinking about the terrible conditions and dangers that other people have to endure in order to provide them for us.

I have given it some thought over the past couple of years. Around this time last year I read a short story called Safety Tips for Living Alone,  about the collapse of a manned surveillance tower off the American coast which is based on true events. The Irishman introduced me to a TV show called ‘The Deadliest Catch’ which follows trawler men from Alaska fishing for King crab in some of the harshest conditions on the planet. i’m sure most of you will have seen the movie, ‘The Perfect Storm.’ Well, you can add this book to the list of things which will open your eyes to what human beings endure to bring goods to us that the rest of us take for granted.

This is the forgotten story of an event which happened on Christmas Day in 1966 when the super trawler St Finbarr caught fire whilst out in a remote part of the ocean in a terrible storm. Because this happened at Christmas at a time when communication was not available 24/7 all year round, the families of the men on the ship had to wait anxiously for news for three days and the rest of the world barely got to hear about it at all. The author of this book has tried to remedy this by bringing the tragic story to people’s minds by way of this book.

It may not sound like the kind of thing you would normally like to read, it certainly isn’t my standard reading fodder, but this is the beauty of blogging for me and a joy I want to share with you – reading outside of your comfort zone and, as a result, discovering amazing stories that would have just passed you by otherwise. This is one such book, and I am so glad I read it.

The author really brings to life the reality of life for these men on the inhospitable waters, separated from their families at the worst time of year while the rest of us are cosied up together celebrating Christmas, battling elements that most of us would not walk outside in, never mind take to the waves. They were away for months at a time, with limited communication with their families back home and working in conditions that were by no means as safe as they are today. What really struck me, as a lawyer who worked for one of the biggest personal injury firms in the UK, was the end of the book and the outcome of the enquiry into the disaster. In today’s climate, there is no way that people would not have been held to account for what happened.

I’m not going to lie to you, this book contains a lot of technical detail about boats and engines that wasn’t very interesting to me as I mostly didn’t understand it. At the beginning, there is also a degree of historical detail about some of the people that seemed a little irrelevant to the story and slowed the pace of the start. I urge you to push past this because, once you do, the author really brings to life the human story behind this tragedy and it is more gripping than any thriller novel you will pick up, the truth of it giving it extra poignancy. This is what people endured, and it deserves to be heard and remembered.

So, push yourself out of your reading safe place, pick up something different. take a plunge into the extraordinary lives and risks of a community I bet your barely give a second’s thought to. Think about the sacrifices they make to bring you something you take for granted and appreciate what you have in life. This book will open your eyes a little, which can never be a bad thing. I’ll certainly be complaining less about my cushy circumstances, having read it, I’m very lucky.

The Luckiest Thirteen is available now by following this link.

To follow the rest of the tour and get some further reviews of this book, please visit the blogs listed on the poster below:

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About the Author

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Brian W. Lavery is a former national newsman, whose tales deliver true journalistic flair. Born in Glasgow, long resident in Hull, he writes with a deep knowledge of the community and the dangers faced by those working in extremes. He has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Hull. 

Connect with Brian:

Website: http://www.brianwlavery.com

Twitter: @brianlavery59

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Tempted by….Random Things Through My Letterbox: Bitter by Francesca Jakobi @fjakobi @wmbooks @annecater #bookbloggers #bloggerlove #readingrecommendations #booklove #Bitter

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It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out? It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son.

Today’s book which has made its way on to my teetering TBR courtesy of a recommendation by a fellow book blogger is Bitter by Francesca Jakobi which I bought after reading this review by Anne Cater who blogs at Random Things Through My Letterbox.

Anne needs no introduction to most of you, she is the doyenne of book blogging, a highly respected blog tour organiser and general all-round head cheerleader for book promotion. I would find it hard to believe that there is anyone reading this who hasn’t read Anne’s blog but, if not, head over there straight away and check it out. Her reviews are always honest and well-balanced and insightful so, when she raves about a book as much as she did this one, I know it is something I need to read.

The premise of the book really grabbed me, a woman who walks out on her young child. As a mother, I can never understand how any woman could do this, so I’ll be fascinated to see what the protagonist’s motivations are and how their reunion pans out. I’m really drawn to books with flawed central characters, as most of us are in real life, and how the writer manages to make a reader care about someone who has done something deemed by society as so unnatural. Anne waxed so lyrical about the depth, subtlety and beauty of this book that it sounds like a compelling read and I’m looking forward to getting in to it.

Please do go and check out Anne’s original review of the book and if you then feel like it might be something you would enjoy, you can buy a copy here.

The Promise of Tomorrow by AnneMarie Brear #BlogTour #Spotlight (@annemariebrear) @RaRaResources #RachelsRandomResources #ThePromiseOfTomorrow

The Promise of Tomorrow

Due to reading pressures and the start of NaNoWriMo, this is another book that I haven’t had chance to read yet, but I wanted to shine a spotlight on it today as it sounds like a great read for lovers of historical fiction. I have had the good fortune to meet AnneMarie, as she is a fellow member of the RNA, and I am delighted to be sharing details of her latest book with you.

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“Charlotte Brookes flees her lecherous guardian, McBride, taking her younger sister with her. After a year on the road, they stumble into a Yorkshire village. There, they are taken in by the Wheelers, owners of the village shop. This new life is strange for Charlotte, but preferable to living with McBride or surviving on the roads. 
Harry Belmont is an important man in the village, but he’s missing something in his life. His budding friendship with Charlotte gives him hope she will feel more for him one day, and he will have the woman he needs. 
However, when McBride finds out where Charlotte lives, his threats begin, and Harry takes it upon himself to keep Charlotte safe. Only, World War I erupts and Harry enlists. 
Left to face a world of new responsibilities, and Harry’s difficult sister, Charlotte must run the gauntlet of family disputes, McBride’s constant harassment and the possibility of the man she loves being killed.

 
Can Charlotte find the happiness that always seems under threat, and will Harry return home to her?”

If you would like to read some reviews of the book, to further whet your appetite, make sure you check out the posts of the other bloggers on the tour detailed on the poster below. And if you would like to get your hands on the book, you can buy a copy here.

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About the Author

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Australian born AnneMarie Brear writes historical novels and modern romances and sometimes the odd short story, too. Her passions, apart from writing, are travelling, reading, researching historical eras and looking for inspiration for her next book.

Connect with AnneMarie:

Website: http://www.annemariebrear.com

Facebook: AnneMarie Brear

Twitter: @annemariebrear

Blog: https://annemariebrear.blogspot.com

Finding Rose by Julie Ryan #BlogTour #Spotlight (@julieryan18) @RaRaResources #Giveaway #RachelsRandomResources #FindingRose

Finding Rose

I’m delighted to be shining the spotlight today on this very unique book, Finding Rose by Julie Ryan. Unfortunately, time constraints have meant that I have not been able to fit in reading this yet, but it has been firmly added to my TBR and I’m looking forward to getting to it soon. Let me share the details with you so you can see why it has piqued my interest. There is also a great giveaway below.

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“When three sisters, Ginny, Sally and Molly are brought together at their father’s hospital bed, they are forced to confront not only the prospect of a future without him but also the secrets of the past that have kept them apart.

Their father, Eddie Matthews, drugged up on morphine, seems to be rambling but could he in fact be reliving previous lives as a Tudor monk and as a soldier on the Front in WW1. Struggling to speak he reveals that he has a secret and urges his daughters to ‘Find Rose’. Can the sisters put aside their differences to fulfil his last wish?”

To read some fabulous reviews by my fellow bloggers, check out the tour dates on the poster below:

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If you would like to pick up a copy of Finding Rose for yourself, you can find it here.

Giveaway

To win a £10 Amazon Voucher, simply click on the Rafflecopter link below:

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*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link 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.

About the Author

Julie was born and brought up in a mining village near Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She graduated with a BA (hons) in French Language and Literature from Hull University. Since then she has lived and worked as a Teacher of English as a Foreign Language in France, Greece, Poland and Thailand. She now lives in rural Gloucestershire with her husband, son and a rescue cat. She is so passionate about books that her collection is now threatening to outgrow her house, much to her husband’s annoyance, as she can’t bear to get rid of any! They have been attempting to renovate their home for the last ten years.

She is the author of the Greek Island Mystery series, Jenna’s Journey, Sophia’s Secret and Pandora’s Prophecy, each of which can be read as a standalone. Her latest book, Finding Rose, is a new departure for her as it is set against the backdrop of WW1 and has a strong link to the Tudor Court.

Connect with Julie:

Facebook: Julie Ryan Author

Twitter: @julieryan18

Pinterest: Julie Ryan

Goodreads: Julie Ryan