New Starts and Cherry Tarts at the Cosy Kettle by Liz Eeles #BookReview #BlogTour (@lizeelesauthor) @bookouture #NewStartsAndCherryTartsAtTheCosyKettle #NetGalley

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After yet another failed romance, twenty-six-year-old Callie Fulbright is giving up on love. She’s determined to throw all her efforts into her very own, brand-new café: The Cosy Kettle. Serving hot tea, cherry tarts and a welcoming smile to the friendly locals proves to be the perfect distraction, and Callie feels a flush of pride at the fledgling business she’s built.

But her new-found confidence is soon put to the test when her gorgeous ex reappears in the quaint little village. She’ll never forget the heartache Noah caused her years ago, but when they bump into each other on the cobbled streets of Honeyford she can’t help but feel a flutter in her chest…

As Callie and Noah share laughter and memories, she starts to wonder if this could be her second chance at happiness. But when Callie discovers that someone is mysteriously trying to ruin the café’s reputation… she has an awful suspicion that Noah knows who’s involved.

Was she wrong to ever trust him again? And can she find out who’s behind the lies and rumours, before it’s too late for the Cosy Kettle?

Delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for New Starts and Cherry Tarts at the Cosy Kettle by Liz Eeles. My thanks to Noelle Holten at Bookouture for my place on the tour and my copy of the book via NetGalley, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Another day, another light, heart-warming read and another big thumbs up from me. I think I am just in the mood for lighter fare at the moment to offset the awful weather and heavy doom and gloom of current events and this book is absolutely perfect for that. The ideal book to hunker down at home and indulge in some perfect escapism.

I actually think the blurb of this book misses out one vital factor that would tempt readers in, this book features a cafe IN A BOOK SHOP! Why would you not highlight this marvellous piece of information? I love cafes, I love books … I love cafes in bookshops the most! This has all the perfect ingredients for an enticing read. It is also set in the gorgeous Cotswolds, which the author does a fabulous job of describing and making you want to up sticks and move to Gloucestershire immediately.

There is nothing startling about the plot, but it is undoubtedly charming and what really bring at to life and makes it stand out are the characters. I loved absolutely all of them. The main protagonist, Callie, is attractive (in a personality sense) and easy to side with and her story will resonate with most readers on some level, as it involves family drama and unluckiness in love. But it is Gramp who was my favourite character in the book, he is full of personality and sass and I just loved him, he made me laugh and tear up at the same time. Marvellous stuff. The love interest is suitable interesting and attractive, there is a not-too-villainous villain awaiting either his comeuppance or redemption and a cast of other interesting townsfolk to round out the story. Everything to like in a book.

This story is undemanding but entirely pleasing, it made me laugh and shed a little tear at parts. It whiled away some extremely happy hours, held my interest and left me with the warm and fuzzies at the end. The author’s writing flows well and draws you through the story and I very much enjoyed her voice. There is a hint in the end that there is more to come from Honeyford and the Cosy Kettle and I, for one, am delighted to hear it. Can’t wait for a return visit.

New Starts and Cherry Tarts at the Cosy Kettle is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the tour and here what my marvellous fellow bloggers have to say about the book:

New Starts - Blog Tour

About the Author

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Liz began her writing career as a journalist and press officer before deciding that she’d rather have the freedom of making things up as a novelist.

Being short-listed in the Corvus ‘Love at First Write’ competition and the Novelicious search for a new women’s fiction star gave Liz the push she needed to keep putting pen to paper …. and ‘Annie’s Holiday by the Sea’ (her first published novel) is the result.

Liz lives on the South Coast with her family and, when she’s not writing, likes to spend time walking by the sea, and trying to meditate. Her ambition is to be serene one day …. she’s still got a long way to go.

Connect with Liz:

Website: http://lizeeles.com

Facebook: Liz Eeles Author

Twitter: @lizeelesauthor

Instagram: lizeelesauthor

Friday Night Drinks with….Dave Philpott @DerekPhilpott @Unbounders #FridayNightDrinks #DearMrPopStar

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It’s that time of the week again and this week I have a change to my scheduled guest. I’m really pleased that I have been able to bump this drinking companion forward a few weeks, as I have a sneaky feeling that this might be a Friday Night Drinks to remember. So, I’m delighted to welcome to the blog this week author (or half of one at least, as he writes with his dad, and one gets the impression that the author thing kind of happened by default, jammy bugger. Not that I am at all bitter and envious, on no…but anyway, delighted to have him on of course)….Dave Philpott.

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Dave, welcome to the blog and thank you for agreeing to have drink with me at such short notice. First things first, what are you drinking?

Well it’s early, so diet cola please. I do like 70s beer though, and find it amusing that before the advent of rave music one could enter a pub and demand a ‘Worthington E’ with no fear of arrest.

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You can’t possibly be old enough to have been drinking beer in the 70s, so you obviously love a retro vibe. A bit like me when I reminisce about the Diamond White and Castaways of my misspent youth. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I live in Salisbury so probably a little drive up to Stonehenge. They still haven’t finished it though, so don’t expect much. They did make a start but then said they had another little job 14 miles away in Avebury but would be back next week. That was 5,000 years ago. Typical builders. Then to Carwardine’s in Salisbury for wine or coffee. Us, not the builders..they’ve had their break.

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That looks lovely, but I have to say that diet coke and coffees are at odds with the rock ‘n’ roll mood I was expecting this evening. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Gene Hackman and Polly Styrene. Or Paul Daniels and the lovely Alan, sorry, Debbie McGee.

Okay, that’s more like it. Well, the first two at least. Unless you know something about Paul and Debbie that the rest of us don’t? So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

Alongside father, I am currently working on our third and last book of deliberately demented letters to pop stars with genuine in-on-joke replies.. This last book will be directed at 90s Brit Artists only, and will have a significant charity element.

We started doing this in 2008 – just writing insane letters to pop and rock icons about their songs, and sticking them on a website, thinking that that was funny enough. Then in 2010 we started to get replies.. We want it, like us, to go on and on and on..three demented volumes into infinity.

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

A packed book launch at The Dublin Castle with the artists actually there, actually reading their replies out. Bonkers.

All of our replies are secured through our ’Facebook army’, a legion of dedicated roadies, gardeners at rock stars’ country houses, friends of bass players and so on, that link us straight to the artists through the backdoor of the industry so that we can bypass management and gatekeepers. The biggest challenge is doing our utmost to keep official channels out of it…99 times out of 100, they’ll put the kibosh on it.

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What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

We’ve already achieved the impossible. Two very successful books whereby we broke rules that we didn’t know were there and gently cajoled hundreds of stars into entering our mad little world.

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

A lovely lasagne. Should be ready by 6.

Yum, can I have some? I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favourite place is probably Alton Barnes, all around that way, where the crop circles used to pop up (or pop down) and still do although not as regularly. I also adore San Francisco. My favourite place to visit that I haven’t been to would probably have to be Nando’s without a queue.

How about a Nandos in San Francisco, two birds, one stone! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

In 1962, my uncle was the first lead singer in a band alongside Pete Townshend, ​John Entwistle and Roger Daltrey. I have no idea what became of them.

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I really hope this comes up as a question in the next pub quiz I enter, then my blogging will not have entirely been a waste of time. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Delete This At Your Peril by Neil Forsyth

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This is an hilarious collection of email exchanges starring the anti-hero of spam, Bob Servant, now republished with previously unreleased material. Spam is the plague of the electronic age, comprising 90% of all emails sent and conning over 0150m a year from British victims. Into this wave of corruption steps the brave figure of Bob Servant – a former window cleaner and cheeseburger magnate with a love of wine, women and song as well as a keen sense of fair play. This wickedly funny and original book features the anarchic exchanges between Bob and the hapless spam merchants. As they offer Bob lost African millions, Russian brides and get-rich-quick scams he responds by generously offering some outlandish schemes of his own. The spammers may have breached his firewall, but they have met their match as Bob Servant rises heroically to the challenge, and sows confusion in his wake.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

A pint of water before bed, and a tomato juice with Worcester Sauce if that doesn’t work.

Tomato juice is a big no-no. Ick. First thing in the morning? I just couldn’t, not even to cure a hangover. After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Walking an Irish Setter (as opposed to Irish Settler – no-one wants to see Ronan Keating on a lead) around Avebury, then binge-watching a fresh season of Patriot, with pistachios and a nice Party Seven.

That sounds fun. I don’t have an Irish Setter, just a cocker spaniel. Oddly, I do have an Irish Settler at home, so it would be easier for me to do the second. It’s not Ronan Keating, though, and he may baulk a little at the lead (outside of the house, anyway) but I could give it a try.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening, Dave, it has been fun, if a tiny bit surreal at times. I can’t wait to read the book now though, especially as I thought I was the only person left who remembers Jesus Jones (saw them live at Leicester Uni, 1992 – great show.)

The latest book by Dave, and his dad, Derek, Dear Mr Pop Star, is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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For more than a decade, Derek Philpott and his son, Dave, have been writing to pop stars from the 1960s to the 90s to take issue with the lyrics of some of their best-known songs.

But then, to their great surprise, the pop stars started writing back…

Dear Mr Pop Star contains 100 of Derek and Dave’s greatest hits, including correspondence with Katrina and the Waves, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, The Housemartins, Suzi Quatro, Devo, Deep Purple, Nik Kershaw, T Pau, Human League, Eurythmics, Wang Chung, EMF, Mott the Hoople, Heaven 17, Jesus Jones, Johnny Hates Jazz, Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, Chesney Hawkes and many, many more.

Derek and Dave Philpott are the nom de plumes of two ordinary members of the public, working with help from a small family and, crucially, a worldwide social networking community. Neither they, or anybody assisting with the creative aspects of this project had any connections with the music, entertainment, media or publishing industries whatsoever at the time of its commencement. Despite these humble origins, however, they now find themselves in the bizarre but enviable position whereby many pop stars and people within these circles are their friends “in real life’” (whatever that means!). Many artists consider “getting a Dereking” as a badge of honour, and, as one has participant succinctly put it.

Connect with the Philpotts on social media:

Facebook: The Philpotts

Twitter: @DerekPhilpott

Next week I am having drink with my gorgeous blogging friend, Zoe, from Zooloo’s Book Diary, Can’t wait.

Desert Island Books: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson #BookReview #travel #travelwriting #bookbloggers #bookblog #desertislandbooks #readinggoals

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In the company of his friend Stephen Katz, Bill Bryson set off to hike the Appalachian Trail, the longest continuous footpath in the world. Ahead lay almost 2,200 miles of remote mountain wilderness filled with bears, moose, bobcats, rattlesnakes, poisonous plants, disease-bearing tics, the occasional chuckling murderer and – perhaps most alarming of all – people whose favourite pastime is discussing the relative merits of the external-frame backpack.

Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion whose profoundest wish was to go to a motel and watch The X-Files, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime’s ambition – not to die outdoors.

So, the first of the twelve books that I will be taking with me to my desert island for my Desert Island Books feature is A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.

I love Bill Bryson’s writing, his travel books in particular, but out of all of them this one is my favourite. I must have read it half a dozen times now and it still fascinates me, makes me thoughtful and makes me laugh, all at the same time. I don’t think I will ever get bored of it.

I had a quick look at the reviews on Goodreads of this book just prior to writing this review. The book has an average of 4 stars, but the most prominent review on the first page was a one star by someone who took exception to pretty much everything about the book’s content and the way it was written, which quite surprised me. The review is so prominent, despite being 13 years old, because it has an exceptionally high number of comments on it, as other Goodreads members debated the merits of the review, and the book, back and forth. It is quite clear that this is a book that divides people.

Oddly, the majority of the things people listed as reasons for disliking the book, were the things that make it one of my favourite reads, so I guess you need to decide if these are things that appeal to you.

This is a book about Bill Bryson’s mid-life trek along the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200 mile wilderness footpath that traverses a mountainous route through the forests of the eastern USA from Georgia to northern Maine. Now, I love to read about other people’s travel adventures, and I find this one particularly appealing for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I love the USA and this book covers a couple of the areas of the US that I am particularly fond of – the south eastern states and New England. I  personally have been to the mountains of North Carolina, parts of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampsire and Maine. I’ve stayed at the Mount Washington Hotel and travelled to the top of Mount Washington via the famous cog railway mentioned in the book. I’ve been to Franconia Notch State Park in Vermont. I’ve visited the town Bryson lived in when he wrote this book, Hanover in New Hampshire, so some of the places he talks about are familiar and I can clearly visualise them and it is always interesting in a book to get someone else’s view of something you yourself have experienced. Equally, there are many places in the book I have never been but sound enticing, and I know for a fact that, whilst I might dream about hiking the Appalachian Trail, it is something I will never do, so I can live it vicariously through Bryson’s experience.

This book is extremely varied as it covers, not only his actual experience of physically hiking the trail, but a lot about the people he meets, the climate and weather of the region, geology and history of this part of the USA, information about the flora and fauna and how that is changing, the development and management of the trail, socio-political history of some of the areas he passes through, and much more. Some people find this annoying and accuse him of ‘hopping about’. I find it all fascinating and, for me, it gives the whole experience a context and a richness that really brings it to life and gives it relevance in the mind of the reader. The author obviously shares my insatiable thirst to know everything about everything he sees on his travels and really understand it. I do huge amounts of reading about a destination and its history before I travel, which deepens my interest and enjoyment of a place, and this is the perfect approach for those fact hounds amongst us.

Another thing some people seem to find a negative about this book is Bryson himself and his authorial voice. I do wonder if this is a matter of national perspective. Whilst Bryson is American by birth, he has spent the better part of his life living in the UK and his humour is very British in nature. He relies heavily on self-deprecation, sarcasm and irony and this is not a type of humour that appeals to everyone. I recall from his book, Notes From A Big Country, (a book about how he and his British family adjust to life in the US after living in the UK for many years) an anecdote about how his wife had to ask him to stop making jokes with his American neighbour, because his neighbour didn’t understand them and their exchanges were giving his neighbour migraines. Some people seem to think Bryson comes across as mean and a bit superior, but I actually find that the biggest butt of his jokes is always himself and he is actually very amusing and gives the book a very light-hearted and entertaining tone, rather than it being a heavy and torpid read, despite the fact in contains huge amounts of factual information. He has a real way with words; his prose is vivid and lyrical. He writes the way I would love to write and I could read it endlessly.

I read a lot of travel writing, because travel is a passion of mine, and for me this represents the absolute best of the genre, mixing anecdotes with a lot of interesting factual information and history, and conveying it all in a clear, fun and pacy package. If you have enjoyed Bryson’s other writing, you will love this book. If you don’t like him, you will hate it because his voice is strong and clear throughout. Maybe the Marmite of travel books, but I, for one, will never tire of Marmite on my desert island.

If you have been tempted by this review to want to read A Walk in the Woods for yourself, you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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Bill Bryson was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1951. Settled in England for many years, he moved to America with his wife and four children for a few years, but has since returned to live in the UK. His bestselling travel books include The Lost Continent, Notes From a Small Island, A Walk in the Woods and Down Under. His acclaimed work of popular science, A Short History of Nearly Everything, won the Aventis Prize and the Descartes Prize, and was the biggest selling non-fiction book of the decade in the UK.

The Good, The Bad & The Rugby by Mark Farrer #BlogTour #Extract (@mark_farrer) @damppebbles #Giveaway #TheGoodTheBadTheRugby #damppebblesblogtours

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“Getting to the truth. By trial… and eror error.

Cullen is on jury duty, and the sleepy Scottish town of Melrose is experiencing a rare crime wave: the famous Rugby Sevens trophy is stolen, a dead body is unearthed, there is a spate of petty arson, and someone drives a van into Gloria’s front room.
Why? And what is her husband doing every night up on Eildon hill?

In this hilarious crime romp, misguided loyalties, thwarted love, and unbelievable gullibility reach crisis point on the one day in the year when the world pays a visit to Melrose.

At the final whistle, Cullen will ensure that justice is done.
Because sometimes twelve good men just isn’t enough.”

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Good, The Bad & The Rugby by Mark Farrer today, and this post is packed full of delightful things for you. I have an extract from the book, a link to a free download of the author’s previous book and a giveaway to enter. See, I’m really spoiling you today! My thanks to Emma Welton of damp pebbles blog tours for inviting me to take part and to the author for allowing me to publish this extract from his book today.

Extract

“Big Paul was sweating like a gypsy with a mortgage. He was walking his dogs out over Minch Moor and the spring sunshine was unseasonably warm. As he walked, he was unconsciously playing fetch with his dogs. Ant would retrieve the scabby old tennis ball from the undergrowth and trot back to Paul with it in his mouth; Paul would extract the slobbering article from the dog’s soiled mouth and mindlessly throw it overarm, whereupon Dec would take up the chase, find the ball and bring it back. The three participants all knew their roles and played them on auto-pilot – the only difference being that whilst the dogs were having a rare old time of it, Paul was otherwise occupied. Whilst they happily snuffled and frolicked in the heather, weeing up against the small conifers, Paul had other things on his mind.

Well, one other thing.

Shirley.

Paul and Shirley had been a thing for over a year now and whilst all was lovey and, indeed, dovey on the surface, even Paul’s atrociously underdeveloped senses were picking up signs that Shirley was dissatisfied at the moment. What the problem was, and what he could or should do about it, however, were issues which completely evaded him.

He ran his mental slide rule over the problem at hand. First off, he obviously couldn’t ask her what the problem was. Noooo. Schoolboy error. Asking a woman what the matter was merely opened you up to an accusation that you were insensitive, unfeeling or insufficiently engaged in the relationship. A man should know what the problem was – since, usually, it was the man that was the problem.

On the other hand, maybe he could resolve the situation by buying her some flowers. Didn’t even matter, then, if the problem was real or all in his imagination. Flowers would fix it, if it existed; if it didn’t, she would love them anyway. What woman doesn’t love flowers? 

That’d sort it. If he had money. 

Flowers were expensive and right now Paul had a minor cashflow problem. Again. Buying flowers was a ten pound solution to a five pound problem. He tried to recall when he’d last bought Shirley flowers. Her birthday, was it? Shit! Had he missed her birthday? No, that was September the somethingth. He made a mental note to see if he could somehow pry free the actual date from her later.

Anniversary then? How long had they been together now? He couldn’t recall buying her anything for an anniversary, or celebrating one with her. And he’d have remembered if Shirley had proudly presented him with a card and a gift one day only to discover that he had no clue what was going on. He’d not forget a real dignity-stripper event like that.

So there was still time. Cool! He didn’t know how much time, right enough, but he wasn’t too late. That in itself was a novelty he was prepared to relish while it lasted. Pleased with this mental exertion, he corralled his dogs off the moor and onto the track heading down to the car park. So, if their anniversary was coming up. And he had no money. What exactly was he going to do?

“No.” Cullen had said.

“Why not?”

“Neither a borrower or a lender be.”

“But it’s only a few quid! I’ll pay you back.”

“That is not the point.”

“Well, what is the point?”

“I’ve just told you.”

“Aw, fuck.” Paul’s huge shoulders heaved beneath his black T-shirt. “You realise this’ll ruin me and Shirl?” Cullen remained impassive while Paul rumbled around the sink and poured boiling water from the kettle. “It’s alright for you. You don’t have a partner. You don’t have to consider anyone ‘cept yourself. Me and Shirl – we’ve got a good thing going here. Don’t want to fuck it up.”

“In that case you should have thought about buying her an anniversary gift.”

“I have! That’s why I need the money.”

“Beforehand.” Cullen emphasised. “It’s called budgeting. Planning. Thinking ahead.”

“I am thinking ahead.” Paul slopped a mug down in front of Cullen. “I’m thinking of what it’s like trying to find a potential partner once you’re past forty.”

“By a considerable margin.”

“Alright, Methuselah. I’m still younger than you.”

Cullen regarded the muddy liquid in the mug in front of him. “I didn’t want tea. You know I don’t drink tea.”

“Well I’ve made it now so get it down you.”

Cullen took a sip and grimaced. “What is this?”

“I’ve told you. It’s a nice hot cup of tea. Get it down you.”

“Hmm. Let’s not be so free and easy with the noun tea here, shall we?”

“Thought you said you didn’t drink tea?”

“I don’t.” Cullen put the mug down. “And I’m not going to. I think what we have here is… a cup of hot. Let’s just leave it at that, hmm?”

“Everyone’s a critic.” Paul snarked. “Look. My point is, once you get past forty, finding a potential partner… it’s like trying to find a parking space in Sainsbury’s. They’re either taken, handicapped, or w-a-a-a-a-y out there.”

“Like I said. Thinking ahead. You should try it sometime.”

“Thanks, pal. Thanks a fucking lot.”

Cullen sighed and looked at his friend thoughtfully. “You know what you should do?”

“No.” Said Paul. “What?”

“Trust the soup.”

Trust the soup was Paul’s unofficial motto. His official motto was: Ah, That’ll do.

What trust the soup boiled down to was: don’t worry, be happy, something will turn up, the universe will provide and everything will be alright, you’ll see. Paul had, it was true, come to rely upon this to the extent that he  repeatedly pushed the very fabric of the universe to its limits, in attempting to fulfil its duty to provide. But it usually came through, so Paul continued to push, while the universe continued to heave and sweat and toil and still, somehow, deliver. If Paul had been a reader of management theory (or, come to that, a reader), he would have realised that what he had managed to do – very successfully – was outsource the need to worry. To the point where the outside observer might even replace the term outsource with the verb abdicate.

He unlocked his van and slid the door open for his dogs to leap in but only Dec obliged. He sat obediently on the dirty towel, draped over a couple of bags of finishing plaster, while Paul did his best to wipe most of the mud off his legs and belly. 

“Ant, mate?” Paul looked round. “Here boy!”

When the dog didn’t materialise, Paul gave a loud whistle and looked back up the hill to see if he had absently left him stranded somewhere on the trail. He heard a series of barks behind him and turned to spot a tail stump wagging excitedly in the bushes at the edge of the hard scrabble area.

“Mate!” Paul shouted, but Ant resolutely stayed put. Paul let out a deep breath, pointed at Dec to stay, and strode over to the bushes.

Ant was scratching around in the dirt and when Paul pulled him away he saw a glint of gold shining up through the soil and brambles. He reached down and picked up a dirty sack with a torn neck and peeled back the sacking to reveal a large silver trophy on a mahogany base. It was inscribed The Ladies Cup, Melrose Rugby Club and some smaller cursive writing that Paul’s eyesight couldn’t make out. 

Ant returned his nose to the shallow hole and continued scrabbling and scooping earth back between his hind legs. 

“Mate! Come away. I think you’ve found the treasure.” He reached down and grabbed Ant by the collar, dragging him out of the bushes while the dog continued to resist. When Paul had wrestled the determined creature back into full daylight he saw more gold glinting in the dog’s mouth. He held Ant’s snout and put his fingers into the dog’s mouth to prise its teeth apart. What dropped into his grimy hand was a necklace on a gold chain. The pendant on the necklace was a gold disc with S S on one side and a centred H on the other. Paul flicked it with a finger and the small disc spun quickly round, creating the appearance of a single side bearing the initials SHS.

Well, bugger me, thought Paul. SHS. Shirley Harriet Simpson.

The soup had truly outdone itself this time.”

If this has whetted your appetite for more, you can order your copy of the book here.

And if you would like to take advantage of a free download of Mark’s previous book, Dirty Barry, you can find that link here.

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Giveaway

As if all that wasn’t enough, we have a giveaway of 2 bookmarks featuring the covers of all four of Mark Farrer’s books, all you have to do is click on the Rafflecopter link below.

Please note this a UK only giveaway.  The 14 winners will be selected at random and your postal address will be passed onto Mark Farrer.  There is no cash alternative.  The giveaway ends of midnight (GMT) on 16th November 2018.  Any personal information stored by the Rafflecopter giveway will be deleted after the winners have been drawn.

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To read some reviews of The Good, The Bad & The Rugby and other great content, check out the rest of the blog tour on the poster below:

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About the Author

Mark Farrer

Mark was born in Liverpool, studied Computer Science at Hull University, then had a successful career in IT management in London and the South-East for twenty years before moving to Edinburgh in 2001. He continued working in IT until 2015 when he decided to retire from the rat race and focus on becoming a writer. He now spends half his time writing and the other half worrying why he is not yet making money from writing.

The Good, The Bad & The Rugby is Mark’s third comic novel featuring a morally righteous loner called Cullen. He also has a perma-free novella on Amazon, called Dirty Barry, which tells how Cullen and Big Paul first met. He is currently at work on a second novella, called Bronchial Billy.

Mark has three children, one at University, one on a gap year in Ghana, and one still at High School. He lives with his partner Claire, a photographer, near West Linton, in the Scottish Borders.

He likes: his Mini Cooper, songwriting, playing piano, vanilla panna cotta, The Beatles, woodburning stoves, wittertainment, Bill Bailey, #sadmanonatrain, fruit gums, Carl Hiaasen, The Wire, spicy food, Van Gogh, Lindsey Buckingham, oaked chardonnay, House MD, long walks, cinema, reading in bed, florentines, Only Connect, board games, Otis Lee Crenshaw, Budweiser, GBBO, India, cheese, David Armand’s mimes, bookshops, Scandi Noir, Diet Coke, The Economist, Blackadder, good sausages, Dickens, Helena Bonham-Carter (secret crush), the Times crossword, the song mmmbop, and pies.

And lists.

He dislikes: ITV, pinot grigio, tattoos, ballet, ready meals, rap, religion, clutter, artificial raspberry flavouring, marmite, jazz, under-powered showers, people who don’t look after their stuff, opera, sprouts, and waste.

And mashed potato.

He really doesn’t like mashed potato.

Connect with Mark:

Website: http://markfarrer.com

Facebook: Mark Farrer

Twitter: @mark_farrer

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Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen #BookReview #BlogTour (@antti_tuomainen) @OrendaBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #PalmBeachFinland

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“Jan Nyman, the ace detective of the covert operations unit of the National Central Police, is sent to a sleepy seaside town to investigate a mysterious death. Nyman arrives in the town dominated by a bizarre holiday village – the ‘hottest beach in Finland’. The suspect: Olivia Koski, who has only recently returned to her old hometown. The mission: find out what happened, by any means necessary. With a nod to Fargo, and the darkest noir, Palm Beach, Finland is both a page-turning thriller and a wicked black comedy about lust for money, fleeing dreams and people struggling at turning points in their lives … from the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’.”

I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today for Palm Beach Finland by Antti Tuomainen. My huge thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part and to Orenda Books for my copy of the novel which I have reviewed honestly.

What to say about this genius book? When I found myself simultaneously gasping and laughing guilty at the the opening scenes of this book, I knew from the beginning that I was going to adore it, and everything about the rest of the book cemented this opinion.

This book is the wrong way round. You know from the very beginning who committed the crime. You might think this would spoil the tension of the book but it absolutely does not. For a start, we have no idea who is the victim is, and nor does anyone else. And despite the fact that the perpetrator is not a mystery, there are enough other twists, turns and gasp-out-loud surprises throughout the book to keep you turning the pages until the wee, small hours.

The cover of this book is perfect and would have me intrigued enough to pick up the book on its own, because the setting of this book is what makes it for me. Jorma Leivo is determined to develop the perfect beach resort on the coast of Finland for those people who don’t like it too hot (I actually know a few people to whom this idea would be appealing and I wonder why this place doesn’t actually exist), complete with Florida-style chalets painted pastel colours and named in homage to Miami Vice, cocktails, sun umbrellas, plastic flamingoes and water sports. The fact that the palm trees are plastic might give a hint at the struggle he is up against, but Jorma is nothing if not optimistic and determined – in fact, his absolute determination to bring his vision to life is part of the problem. The setting sets up limitless opportunities for humour, which is the heart of my delight in this book.

The humour is on the dark side, as this is a crime story after all, and the author does not shy away from the violence associated with this genre, but a lot of it is comical. Some of the scenes border on farce and had me laughing out loud, often into my hand as I felt like I shouldn’t really be laughing at all but I could not help myself. There are an array of fantastic characters in this book which tell the story from their own perspectives in alternating chapters and that you won’t be able to help but fall in love with, even the really terrible people. The two bumbling criminal henchmen who set the whole chain of events rolling with their ineptitude in the first place. The psychopathic brother hell bent on revenge. The undercover policeman posing as a holidaying maths teacher as he windsurfs his way to solving the crime. The array of small town dwellers with big hopes and dreams, They all bring this story to joyous life and I absolutely loved all of them by the end of the book.

I don’t read enough translated fiction but, if it was all as good as this, I would read more. I wish my Finnish was good enough to allow me to read this in the original but the translator has done a wonderful job of bringing the spirit of Antti’s story to life in English so we can enjoy it seamlessly. I think this is a book that has layers and layers of nuance to peel back over multiple readings and, consequently, the paperback is now on pre-order so that I can enjoy it again and again. I can’t recommend it highly enough – life-affirming pleasure in paperback form. Books like this are the reason I blog.

Palm Beach Finland is out now and you can buy your copy here.

This book is taking a month-long tour throughout October so there are plenty of fantastic reviews to choose from. If you would like to get an alternative perspective on the book from one of my fellow bloggers, check out the tours dates below:

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About the Author

Antti Tuomainen

Finnish Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011, Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. Two years later, in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards.

Connect with Antti:

Website: http://anttituomainen.com

Facebook: Antti Tuomainen Official

Twitter: @antti_tuomainen

Instagram: @anttituomainen

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Battlestar Suburbia by Chris McCrudden #BookReview (@cmccrudden) @farragobooks @NetGalley #BattlestarSuburbia #NetGalley

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“In space, no one can hear you clean…

When Darren’s charge-cart gets knocked off the Earth-to-Mars highway and lost in space forever, he thinks his day can’t get any worse.

When Kelly sees Darren accidentally short-circuit a talking lamppost, and its camera captures her face as it expires, she thinks her day can’t get any worse.

When Pamasonic Teffal, a sentient breadmaker, is sent on a top-secret mission into the depths of the internet and betrayed by her boss, a power-crazed smartphone, she knows this is only the beginning of a day that isn’t going to get any better.

Join Darren, Kelly and Pam in an anarchic comic adventure that takes them from the shining skyscrapers of Singulopolis to the sewers of the Dolestar Discovery, and find out what happens when a person puts down their mop and bucket and says ‘No.’

Battlestar Suburbia will be loved by fans of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde, as well as anyone who’s ever wondered just how long someone can stay under one of those old-fashioned hairdryers.*

*The answer is: a really very, very long time.”

If I tell you that I spent my teenage years bingeing on the books of Douglas Adams and episodes of Red Dwarf (yes, the first time around when Dave Lister didn’t look mad/sad in his leather jacket and hat) that is really going to age me, isn’t it? However, I think I am exactly the age group that was going to enjoy this book the most because it reminded me of those things I enjoyed in my youth. (Middle-aged people, yes.)

Although I am afraid, for me, that no writer is ever going to be able to reach the genius heights of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this book comes as close as anyone is likely to get. It manages to attain that perfect level of absurdity and humour balanced with wit and intelligence and a healthy dollop of pop culture references to spot and snigger over as you wend your way through the book, a really delicious mix to relish.

We are set in a dystopian future where machines have got sick of being used as tools by infinitely less intelligent units, namely humans, and have turned the tables so that humans now serve them, mostly in the form of mopping floors. This happens not in a creepy Terminator/Matrix way, but in a humorous way where some machines actually secretly decide that they miss having their touchscreens fondled… that pretty much gives you a taste of what to expect. Throw in a very ‘mobile’ hair salon with the best pun name ever whose clientele are at least several millennia old and you must be totally intrigued by now, surely.

Humans have similarly decided that they aren’t overly happy about cleaning up after toasters and a resistance has formed, while some of the machines in the higher echelons have dreams of taking a form more physical, more squashy, more feeling… Quite what will happen when these two opposing desires clash, well you will have to read the book to find out.

This book is extremely well-written – very clever, very witty, great fun and with plenty of action and absurd plotting to keep you intrigued to the last page and beyond. The jokes appealed completely to my warped sense of humour, even the really, really corny/bad  ones. In fact, especially the really, really corny/bad ones (seriously, the salon name, genius). I have ordered a paperback copy of this book and I am already looking forward to the sequel. In space, no one can hear you…tapping your fingers in impatience to see what happens next. I highly recommend this book to everyone…man, woman, cyborg…of any age or persuasion, but especially ageing Dwarfers like me.

Battlestar Suburbia hot of the press and you can buy a copy here.

My thanks to NetGalley and Farrago for my copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

Chris McCrudden was born in South Shields (no, he doesn’t know Cheryl) and has been, at various points in his life, a butcher’s boy, a burlesque dancer and a hand model for a giant V for Victory sign on Canary Wharf.

He now lives in London and, when not writing books, works in PR, so in many ways you could describe his life as a full-time fiction. If you like science fiction, graphs and gifs from RuPaul’s Drag Race you can follow him on Twitter for all three, sometimes at once @cmccrudden.

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