Victoria to Vikings : Blog Tour

BookcoverVictoria to Vikings – The Circle of Blood by Trisha Hughes

At the heart of our present are the stories of our past. In ages gone by, many monarchs died while they were still young. There were battles and diseases and many were simply overthrown. But the days of regal engagement in hand-to-hand combat are over and the line of succession has a good ageing prospect these days.

One of the most famous monarchs in history is Queen Victoria and her passing brought an end to an amazing era. She could be demanding, rude and she frequently fled public duties for the solitude of Scotland. But she loved fiercely, and her people loved her fiercely in return. Under her reign, England achieved greatness it had never known before.

‘VICTORIA TO VIKINGS – The Circle of Blood’ spans from this great queen to another one: Queen Elizabeth II. Ours is the era of the longest living monarch in history and her ancestry is incredible. But walking two steps behind her, stalwart and loyal, stands Prince Philip, the strawberry to her champagne, and with him comes his own amazing Viking heritage.


Review

Victoria to Vikings is a generally entertaining romp through the reigns of six British monarchs, from Victoria to Elizabeth II. Littered with detail both personal and political, it is one of those excellent volumes that educates and imparts knowledge without the dry prose of academia, or the dreary prose of a text-book. British history is rich, diverse, and complex. It is a rich tapestry woven from diverse aspects of social, cultural, and political endeavour. It is embroidered with varying strands of power, politics, personalities, and progress. At the heart of it, struggling to create a stable nation, are the people, the politicians, and the monarchy.

Trisha Hughes attacks her topics with gusto. While I feel the general overview of the nineteenth century could have been better ordered, it gives the reader a good background platform from which to progress. Whilst providing facts and figures, statistics and social data, the author’s relaxed and uncomplicated writing style makes it all digestible. She covers areas as diverse as prostitution, sport, entertainment, as well as advances in medicine, industry, and sanitation, to name but a few. Her chapters on each monarch give a fascinating insight into their character, personality, attitudes, and behaviour. She produces real people; the good, the bad, and the ugly, but also their struggles, their loves, and their heartaches.

This is a book with a remarkable amount of research, presented in an easy-read style, filled with all kinds of stories. A delight to read, even for a dusty research historian like me; I recommend it wholeheartedly.

Quibbles:

I have a few but limit myself to these.

Saying that ‘people had criticised the unfair electoral system and for many years George [IV] had disregarded their protests’  suggests that he could have enacted change. He could not; electoral reform came under the purview of the House of Commons and House of Lords. Certainly George IV had tremendous influence, and certainly he used that influence, but those landowners and aristocrats with and in power did not want the working class to have the vote, or indeed to read or write in many cases. The political classes grip on power remained for many decades. In fact, prior to 1918 some 40% of men did not have the vote; most who fought and died in the First World War never had it.

The statement that ‘syphilis had become curable by penicillin in Victorian times’ is inaccurate. Treatment at the time was primarily mercury, used and applied in a variety of ways, though there were other ‘cures’ used as well. Mercury stayed in favour until the early twentieth century.

Referring to the First World War as ‘the worst family squabble in history’ several times in similar ways, is neither funny nor accurate, but certainly insensitive. It was more complex than royal relatives having a falling out, and the politicians decided on war, not the king.

These are just quibbles, so please read the book and enjoy.


Purchase Links:

UK  –  HERE

US  –  HERE

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Author  

Trisha HughesI am an Australian author born in Brisbane, Queensland now living in Hong Kong.  My writing career began 18 years ago with my best-selling autobiography ‘Daughters of Nazareth’ published by Pan MacMillan Australia.  Over the past 8 years, I have been researching and writing a historical fiction trilogy based on British Monarchy throughout the ages beginning with the Vikings. Originally meant to be a single book, as facts accumulated the material gradually filled three books. I call this series my V2V trilogy.


Social Media Links

Facebook:  Trisha Hughes Author

Twitter:      @TrishaHughes_

Pinterest:   Trisha Hughes

Linkedin:    Trisha Hughes


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How To Date A Douchebag : Review

I discovered recently that one of my favourite New Adult authors had published the first book in her new Jock Hard series – Jock Row: Book 1. I was so ticked that I had missed the notification; in my defence I was up to m eyes in deadlines.  So I bought a copy and am loving it. It reminded me of Sara’s ‘How To Date A Douchebag’ quartet. I loved those so much I decided to tell you about them, before I finish and review Jock Row. You will find the cover and synopsis for each of the four books below this review.

All for titles

All four books are sexy, witty, funny, and every single one is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Each book is worthy of reading on its own merit, and while each story is different, they all have a similar foundation – characters who have their egos pricked and deflated when they meet someone who won’t fall at their feet as they expect. They don’t realise the true worth of the person in front of them and behave in unacceptable ways.

The males in each book range from the cocky star athlete of the wrestling team, full of himself or miserable as sin, to their friends who are generally nice guys but capable of douchey behavior. The women are sassy, smart, and witty. Between overtly sexual and shyly timid, they put up with no-nonsense from these guys. They are refreshing, real, and likeable.

Regardless of how you meet the characters in the books, you soon come to realise that there is more to them than the superficial image they present to the world, and often to each other. Equally, the reader starts by believing that they know which way the story will go, and when the plot takes a sharp turn in a very different direction, its fantastic. None of the characters are crass stereotypes, and that is also one of the points that makes this series so very enjoyable.

The relationships may be slow-burn friendships that develop into romances, and the books may be classed as light reads, but there is justice and redemption, downfall and liberation.  Do not doubt that they are clever, incisive, multi-layered and multi-faceted.

They are also flirty, hot, and sexy. Buy yourself a fan!

Enjoy!


Author

Sara NeySara Ney is the USA Today Bestselling Author of the How to Date a Douchebag series, and is best known for her sexy, laugh-out-loud New Adult romances. Among her favorite vices, she includes: iced latte’s, historical architecture and well-placed sarcasm. She lives colorfully, collects vintage books, art, loves flea markets, and fancies herself British.

Website: https://authorsaraney.com/

Twitter: @saraney

Facebook: saraneyauthor

Instagram : saraneyauthor


How To Date A Douchebag series

All for titles

Book 1 : The Studying Hours

Buy here £2.95 for Kindle

Studying CoverCRUDE. ARROGANT. A**HOLE.
No doubt about it, Sebastian ‘Oz’ Osborne is the university’s most celebrated student athlete—and possibly the biggest douchebag. A walking, talking cliché, he has a filthy mouth, a fantastic body, and doesn’t give a sh*t about what you or anyone else thinks.

SMART. CLASSY. CONSERVATIVE.
Make no mistake, Jameson Clarke may be the university’s most diligent student—but she is no prude. Spending most of her time in the hallowed halls of the library, James is wary of pervs, jocks, and douchebags—and Oz Osborne is all three.

She’s smart, sarcastic—and not what he expected.

…EVERY DOUCHBAG HAS HIS WEAKNESS.

He wants to be friends.
He wants to spend time with her.
He wants to drive her crazy.

He wants… Her.


Book 2: The Failing Hours

Buy here – £2.95 for Kindle

Failing Hours CoverZeke Daniels isn’t just a douchebag; he’s an asshole. A total and complete jerk, Zeke keeps people at a distance. He has no interest in relationships—most assholes don’t.
Dating? Being part of a couple? Nope. Not for him.
He’s never given any thought to what he wants in a girlfriend, because he’s never had any intention of having one.
Shit, he barely has a relationship with his family, and they’re related; his own friends don’t even like him.
So why does he keep thinking about Violet DeLuca?
Sweet, quiet Violet—his opposite in every sense of the word.
The light to his dark, even her damn name sounds like rays of sunshine and happiness and shit.

And that pisses him off too.


Book 3: The Learning Hours

Buy here – £3.06 for Kindle

Learning Hours CoverHe’s not a douchebag; but that doesn’t stop his friends from turning him into one.

MY FRIENDS WANT ME TO GET LAID.

So much so that they plastered my ugly mug all over campus, in bold printed letters:

Are you the lucky lady who’s going to break our roommate’s cherry?
Him: socially awkward man with average-sized penis looking for willing sexual partner. You: must have a pulse. He will reciprakate with oral. Text him at: 555-254-5551

The morons can’t even spell. And the texts I’ve been receiving are what wet dreams are made of. But I’m not like these douchebags, no matter how hard they try to turn me into one.

THIS ISN’T THE KIND OF ATTENTION I WANT.

One text stands out from hundreds. One number I can’t bring myself to block. She seems different. Hotter, even in black and white. However, after seeing her in person, I know she’s not the girl for me. But my friends won’t let up–they just don’t get it. Douchebags or not, there’s one thing they’ll never understand: GIRLS DON’T WANT ME.

Especially her.


Book $: The Coaching Hours

Buy here – £2.87 for Kindle

Coaching Hours CoverTHERE ARE NO DOUCHEBAGS IN THIS STORY.

Well, there are, but they’re not who this story is about.

This story is about me—the coach’s daughter.
When I moved to Iowa to live with my dad, the university’s take-no-prisoners wrestling coach, I thought transferring would be easy as pie—living with my father would be temporary, and he’d make sure his douchebag wrestlers left me alone.

Wrong on both counts.

ASSHOLES ALWAYS COME OUT OF THE WOODWORK WHEN THE STAKES ARE HIGH.

A bet is placed, and I’m on the table. After one humiliating night and too much alcohol, I find the last nice guy on campus. And when he offers to rent me his spare bedroom, I go all in. It’s time for the nice guy to finish first.

Midnight chats and spilling my problems turn to lingering touches. Lingering touches turn to more.

And the ultimate good guy has the potential do more damage than any douchebags ever could.


 

Redneck’s Revenge : Blog Tour

Redneck’s Revenge by Joan Livingston

Rednecks Revenge hi resHer next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over. Then the cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo. Encouraged by her ‘Watson’ — her 92-year-old mother  — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ‘ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband. Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.


It’s not you, its me

A clichéd phrase and yet it couldn’t be more true than between me and Redneck’s Revenge.

This is book a good read, I happily recognize and acknowledge that, it just wasn’t for me. It took quite some time to get my head round the writing and speech style, and I had to keep stopping as it wore me out.

BUT that is just my taste.

Don’t be put off reading it, because what I can tell you is that you will be immersed in this odd town and engaged with the characters who inhabit it, right from the very beginning. Between Dancing Dave and Jack Smith, ‘the moles’ in the general store and Isabel’s spirited 92-year-old mother, irrespective of what side of the law any of the characters fall on, you will find them all very much three-dimensional, realistic and recognizable. Love them or hate them, you can’t deny how well-drawn and true to life they are.

Isabel is a feisty, up front and in our face type of woman, and at the same time appealing and loveable. As the story weaves its way in and out of the lives of the town’s people, their joys and sadness, troubles and heartaches, we enjoy plenty of  twists, juicy sub-plots, and a great ending.

It’s a good mystery and a clever plot, where solving the crime is a slow peeling away of falsehood and misdirection. Joan Livingston is a great story-teller, I just wish I had been able to engage with her writing style better than I did.

Read and enjoy.


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Giveaway – Win a paperback copy of Redneck’s Revenge (Open Internationally)

Click HERE

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  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.


Author 

Rednecks Revenge - Joan Livingston bwJoan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a long-time journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hill towns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, Joan returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Social Media Links

Website: www.joanlivingston.net

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor/

Twitter: @joanlivingston 

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/JoanLivingston_Author

Goodreads: www.Goodreads.com/Joan_Livingston

Litsy: JoanLivingston


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Cupid F*cks Up : Blog Tour

Cupid F*cks Up by Paula Houseman

Cupid Fcks up ebook cover

Ruth Roth is a straight shooter. Pity Cupid’s not.

Smart-mouth Ruth is an inspirational humour columnist for a popular women’s magazine. Recently divorced, she has found the love of her life. Without any help, mind you, from the little fat love god. Ruth has decided she herself is her one and only. And she’s in a comfy place. Why wouldn’t she be? No need to yell ‘Put the bloody toilet seat down!’ No need to hoover toe-nail clippings off the carpet.

But then a silver-tongued Prince Charming fronts up in his shiny Merc and tickles her discarded, little-girl fantasies. He tells her their love is written in the stars.

It must be a misprint.

A romance with this particular PC is not so PC! Still …

Ruth’s life plays out more like ancient myth than fairytale. And what hot-blooded woman can resist forbidden fruit? There’s a problem, though. Ruth does not have a hot-blooded mum. Ruth has a pain-in-the-arse mum whose squawking disapproval cranks the taboo up a notch. All the more reason to take up with the stud! But it means taking on the harpy.

Tensions mount, and even Ruth’s man can’t protect her from the trash-talking voices in her head. It looks like he can’t muzzle his own either. When an earth-shattering revelation causes him to give her grief, it makes her feel like she’s dating her mother.

Taking the kind of advice she doles out to her readers is not so easy, and Ruth wonders if this love can survive. More to the point, is it worth the trouble?Ruth has survived plenty with the help of her friends. And as a writer, her wry wit, dirty muse, and a bent for ancient mythology have sustained her. This, though, might be her undoing.


In my review of the first book in this series, Odyssey in a Teacup, I wrote:

The hallmark of a great writer is their ability to make their characters, the situations they find themselves in, and the feelings they experience, entirely relatable for the reader. 

Paula Houseman did it then and does it now. Sometimes in a series, the author’s writing dips and we are not as wowed by the second book as we are the first, not so here. The author has presented us with another laugh-out-loud, face-achingly funny, exploration of family and relationships. It’s the same Ruth; lewd and immature, crass and self-conscious, strong and insecure, she stumbles through life, dealing with whatever drama comes her way, with her usual style and bravura.

In this novel, we have moved forward, and as in real life, the old makes way for the new, and so we have fresh characters to get our reading-teeth into. Various twists and turns present us with a dramatic production whose characters include Ralph as her new-love-man-of-her-dreams, teenagers filled with angst and issues, the neighbour from hell, as well as their respective idiosyncratic families and friends. As we are moved, from scene to scene, through the tragedies and comedies of their lives, and the revelation of secrets, Ruth discovers they have more skeletons than the local cemetery.

With a littering of births, marriages, and deaths, self-discovery and re-incarnation, with a wry look at the realities and craziness of  life, Paula Houseman entertains, amuses, and enlightens us. What I said of Odyssey in a Teacup is just as true here:

She writes with vigour and humour, giving the reader no time to excuse themselves from the reading room. Her highly comic and satirical look at Ruth’s (and Ralph’s) navigation through the minefield of their respective families and assorted relatives, is nothing short of brilliant.

Want more? Read the book! You’ll love it!

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Purchase 

Amazon UK – HERE

Amazon US – HERE

 

Author

photo copy – Version 3Paula Houseman was once a graphic designer. But when the temptation to include ‘the finger’ as part of a logo for a forward-moving women’s company proved too much, she knew it was time to give away design. Instead, she took up writing.

She found she was a natural with the double entendres (God knows she’d been in enough trouble as a child for dirty wordplay).

As a published writer of earthy chick lit and romantic comedy, Paula gets to bend, twist, stretch and juice up universal experiences to shape reality the way she wants it, even if it is only in books. But at the same time, she can make it more real, so that her readers feel part of the sisterhood. Or brotherhood (realness has nothing to do with gender).

Through her books, Paula also wants to help the reader escape into life and love’s comic relief. And who doesn’t need to sometimes?

Her style is a tad Monty Pythonesque because she adores satire. It helps defuse all those gaffes and thoughts that no one is too proud of.

Paula lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband. No other creatures. The kids have flown the nest and the dogs are long gone.

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/paulahouseman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/PaulaHouseman

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulahouseman


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A Laughing Matter of Pain : Blog Blitz

A Laughing Matter of Pain by Cynthia Hilston

harrycoverHarry Rechthart always knew how to laugh, but laughter can hide a lot of pain that’s drowned by the bottle and good times. He grew up the joker in the early 1900s in Cleveland, Ohio, but as he enters adulthood, conflict splits him. His once close relationship with his brother, Erik, breaks as they come into their own and Erik goes off to college. No longer under Erik’s shadow, Harry feels he might finally shine and make others see him as someone to be proud of. Harry finds an unlikely comrade who understands how he feels–his younger sister, Hannah. Once free of high school, Harry and Hannah double date sister and brother, Kat and Will Jones, attending wild, extravagant parties during the years of Prohibition. Harry thinks he’s won at life–he’s found love in Kat, in a good time, and in the bottle. But all the light goes out fast when Harry’s alcoholism leads to disastrous consequences for him and Kat.

Harry thinks the joke’s on him now that he’s sunk lower than ever. He’s in jail. He’s pushed away his family. He’s a broken man, but in the darkest depths of a prison cell, there is hope. Can Harry rebuild his life and learn that true laughter comes from knowing true joy, or will he bury himself once and for all in this laughing matter of pain?


Superficially, this is a cautionary tale of a boy coming into manhood in the shadow of a clever and much-loved older brother. It maps his journey through the excitement of 1930s American prohibition, with illicit booze and bootleggers, parties and speak-easies, glamour and sleaze. Harry is out of control. He can’t see or accept how bad he has become, nor the seedy depths he is spiralling down. He hits rock bottom. It is from his cheerless and miserable jail cell, with the lies and pretence stripped away, he tells his story.

Deeper into the tale, we find this powerful and moving study is not of one man alone, but the story of many. It is the study of family; the dynamics of sibling relationships, the conflicts and tensions between parents and children, and the damage we inflict on ourselves and those we love.

BUT…

this is not a bleak story. It is liberally laced with light and love, and with hope and redemption. The author has cleverly and successfully adopted the speech and style of the period which conjures all those images we have of that period in US history. She writes in a way that pulls you until you become so invested in the characters you have no choice but to keep reading. We have been given a gem of a novel that is perceptive and thought-provoking, and readers should add it to their TBR stacks.


A Laughing Matter of Pain

Purchase Links

Amazon UK: HERE

Amazon US: HERE

 


Author

authorimageCynthia Hilston is a thirty-something-year-old stay at home mom of three young kids, happily married. Writing has always been like another child to her. After twenty years of waltzing in the world of fan fiction, she finally stepped away to do her debut dance with original works of fiction. Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful is her first original novel. She’s currently working on more books. Visit her website for more information.

In her spare time – what spare time? – she devours books, watches Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, pets her orange kitty, looks at the stars, and dreams of what other stories she wishes to tell.

Social Media:

Website: http://www.cynthiahilston.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cynthiahilstonauthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/cynthiahilstonauthor

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Hilston/e/B01KSD8RPS/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1532102291&sr=1-1

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cynthiahilston

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/authorcynthiahilston


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Mrs Bates of Highbury : Blog Tour

Mrs Bates of Highbury by Allie Cresswell 

The new novel from the Readers’ Favourite silver medalist. 

MrsBatesThirty years before the beginning of ‘Emma’ Mrs Bates is entirely different from the elderly, silent figure familiar to fans of Jane Austen’s fourth novel. She is comparatively young and beautiful, widowed – but ready to love again. She is the lynch-pin of Highbury society until the appalling Mrs Winwood arrives, very determined to hold sway over that ordered little town.

Miss Bates is as talkative aged twenty nine as she is in her later iteration, with a ghoulish fancy, seeing disaster in every cloud. When young Mr Woodhouse arrives looking for a plot for his new house, the two strike up a relationship characterised by their shared hypochondria, personal chariness and horror of draughts.

Jane, the other Miss Bates, is just seventeen and eager to leave the parochialism of Highbury behind her until handsome Lieutenant Weston comes home on furlough from the militia and sweeps her – quite literally – off her feet.

Mrs Bates of Highbury is the first of three novels by the Amazon #1 best-selling Allie Cresswell, which trace the pre-history of Emma and then run in parallel to it.


I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, having read all her novels several times, and some more times than I can remember.  When it comes to an author’s canon of work, much beloved by millions, ‘fiddling’ about with the books and characters can be a very tricky undertaking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a pedant; I do not baulk at the mere hint of playing with a classic author’s books. I have thoroughly enjoyed several modern authors’ re-writing of Austen’s novels, but there are certainly some where the ink should never have hit the page, never mind the book hit the shelf.

I liked Allie Cresswell’s ‘Game Show’, but this is a very different animal. A prequel to Emma, (not one of my favourites) and set quite some decades in the past, the author has had to reverse engineer the story and at the same time keep the setting and language accurate and firmly under control. Cresswell has achieved what few do, she has taken the Austen style and made it her own, and in doing so has produced a novel where style, behaviour, conversation, and moral code are as comfortable as an old sweater.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the Bates women, the Knightly men, the Westons, and all their friends and neighbours. There are some great moments of hilarity, and equally some sorrowful and forlorn moments. Around the main protagonists, the village and its characters help bring the Austen world to life.

We have three women, mother and daughters, each with very different personalities and temperaments, and yet each with a possible romance. In an age when women were restricted by society as to what they could and could not do, many times they were left to fend helplessly for themselves. It was particularly difficult for single women, where marriage was the best and often the only option. Even then, social class dictated a woman’s marriage prospects.  Finding a suitable husband was very difficult, propriety demanded that thoughts and feelings were kept strictly guarded and unspoken, and crossing the social divide was tantamount to social suicide.

Cresswell pitches the tenor of the book perfectly, neither slipping into sentimentality, nor straying into bleakness. As with Austen, she highlights the absurdity in manners, pokes fun at the sycophant, and spotlights the impossible situation women of women in society. Reading this was as natural as reading Austen herself, and as with Austen, you cannot help but enjoy the story. This is a delightful, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining book.

For myself, the only cloud was that I know what happens to all three women – as I said, I have read, re-read, and re-re-read Austen’s novels many times. So, if you have too, then stick that knowledge in a deep dark corner of your brain, lock the door, and temporarily mislay the key.

Congratulations, Allie Cresswell on a brilliant novel. You’ve wowed me again. Thank you.

For the duration of the blog tour, Allie Cresswell has five hard copies of Game Show and five hard copies of Tiger in a Cage, all signed, available for £5 plus p & p to UK addresses. If you are interested then please get in touch.


Purchase

Here : Amazon

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Author

Mrs Bates Author PictAllie Cresswell was born in Stockport, UK and began writing fiction as soon as she could hold a pencil. She did a BA in English Literature at Birmingham University and an MA at Queen Mary College, London. She has been a print-buyer, a pub landlady, a book-keeper, run a B & B and a group of boutique holiday cottages. Nowadays Allie writes full time having retired from teaching literature to lifelong learners.

She has two grown-up children, two granddaughters and two grandsons, is married to Tim and lives in Cumbria, NW England.

You can contact her via her website at www.allie-cresswell.com

or find her on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/alliescribbler/

@alliescribbler


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Haircuts, Hens, and Homicide : Blog Tour

Haircuts, Hens, and Homicide by Stephanie Dagg

HaircutsHensHomicideBig2Megan 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. 

There’s excitement, humour and lots of ruffled feathers in this rom-com slash cosy mystery, the first in a projected series.


This is not an ordinary straight-forward romance; it is a mix of genres (and we all know I like that), filled with a brilliant cast of characters, human and otherwise. I believed in these people, they were as real to me as my friends, and I’m convinced that if I rolled up in a village these people would be in residence and recognisable. The author has created a wholly realistic and believable world inhabited by characters that have all the strengths, weaknesses, and failings of human beings everywhere.

Megan’s life is vastly different from the one her grandmother has been living in France in recent years; she’s a hairdresser in Maidenhead, living an average life, but with aspirations for her career. Although Megan has visited France many times, and feels relatively ‘at home’ there, she encounters much that she doesn’t quite understand. The constant invasion of her kitchen for a start. In an area populated mostly by old and older people, cousins Romain, an unsmiling, serious gendarme, and Nico, a seriously hot looking farmer with a severe ‘bull in a china shop’ problem, are constantly locking horns around Megan. Some of their encounters are comical as are some of her reactions.

Stephanie Dagg’s depiction of the main characters is absolute delight, and she reveals them to us in different ways. Cleverly writing in the first person, we see everything from Megan’s point of view, so immediately we know her thoughts and feelings, her opinions and reactions. With Romain, she peels back the layers slowly and steadily, so like Megan, we are kept wondering just what is going on inside his head. Megan and Romain are constantly thrown in each other’s company, partly by accident and partly by design on Romain’s side. While their backgrounds and experiences are very different, through the narrative the author subtly highlights the underlying similarities. These two devices are a masterclass for anyone with writing ambitions.

Megan was abandoned by her mother, has no clue as to who her father is, and was raised by her prickly, no-nonsense, but loving grandmother. Not only dumped by her fiancée but now newly redundant, apart from her best friend Kayla, Megan is alone in the world. Romain has recently returned home but we don’t know why, he has family, friends, and a community that he belongs to, and though his parents are wealthy and he had a somewhat privileged background, it wasn’t a fun childhood.

Frivolity was frowned on

So whilst one set of parents were there, and the other parent disappeared and declared dead, they have each marked their children. Megan and perhaps Romain too, learn that family is more than blood relatives. Megan’s friend Kayla, and the little community they belong to show more real and genuine care and concern.

Both characters have escaped potentially disastrous relationships. Megan started the new year being dumped by her fiancée in January, two months before their wedding. Romain has escaped from a relationship with Michelle, a rather domineering woman with a demanding career. She is high maintenance, very much a city-dweller, and a force to be reckoned with. Her return causes a frisson of dread to both Romain and Nico, and the reaction of the men to her entrance in the café was hilarious. Megan is not in the least put out or perturbed by Michelle, she deals with snooty domineering women often in her business, and while she has some similar traits to Michelle, they are more subtle and less selfish.

Megan is a feisty, warm-hearted and loving young woman yet simmering quietly beneath the surface is a discontent. She is bright and intelligent, and the walking talking epitome of the phrase, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Torn between returning to England and remaining in France, she weighs up what each has to offer. As the trail of criminal activity expands, shocking secrets revealed, and homicide is on the doorstep, Megan is undaunted. Her open and unsophisticated nature is in sharp relief to Romain who seems to be somewhat aloof. He keeps his behaviour, thinking and emotions, under strict control, and Megan enjoys confronting and provoking him, as much as Romain enjoys doing the same to her. Gradually however he is revealed to be a caring and compassionate man, with a warm and passionate nature.

With a cast of ‘villagers’ that includes Erik the vet and his mother, Alphonse and Monsieur Moustache,  Megan’s girls, the Mayor, and many more, we are presented with a plethora of characters who entertain and endear themselves to the reader. Who hasn’t experienced the rural French lunch hour, where almost everyone and everything stops work, as Megan says:

No-one messes with lunchtime in France

Stephanie has given us a novel that is humorous and romantic, lively and cheerful. The tone and language are light and amusing, and it’s an all-round bloody good read. The burgeoning romance and the murder detection are woven together with subtly and ease. We are flipped from yes they will to no they won’t with no regard for the readers sensibilities – and its brilliant! To find out who killed who and who ends up with who, you’ll have to read the book. Be prepared for face-achingly hilarious situations, cringe-worthy moments, and plenty of wonderful animals, but for me Monsieur Moustache ultimately steals the show.

ShockerAnd the extra bit at the end?

Shocker!

Give me Perms, Pigeons, and Poisons NOW!!

 

What to more can I say?

Buy it. Read it.

Enjoy it. Love it.

I did.

Haircuts, Hens, and Homocides has been added to my books of the year list. Yes. Its THAT fantastic.


Purchase

HERE : Amazon

Haircuts, Hens and Homicide


Author

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’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.

Social Media Links

@llamamum

www.facebook.com/StephanieDaggBooks/

www.bloginfrance.com


Brought to you via:

Rachels Random Resources

A Wedding in Cornwall : Blog Tour

A Wedding in Cornwall (Books 7—12) by Laura Briggs

A Wedding in Cornwall - Anthology A Wedding in Cornwall 7-12 CoverThe last six novellas in the UK bestselling series A WEDDING IN CORNWALL are now available in one collection! Join American event planner Julianne in her final set of adventures ‘across the pond’ in beautiful Cornwall. From celebrity sightings to a local talent show, from a charming village fete to a secret Cornish garden, there’s never a dull moment for Julianne and her Poldark-esque true love Matthew in the quaint village of Ceffylgwyn.

This collection contains:

  • A Romance in Cornwall
  • A Star in Cornwall
  • A Sewing Circle in Cornwall
  • A Talent Show in Cornwall
  • An American in Cornwall
  • A Garden in Cornwall.

PLUS: Exclusive bonus materials include a sneak peek of the author’s all-new 2019 Cornish romance series!


Purchase

HERE – Amazon


Author 

A Wedding in Cornwall Briggs Author PicLaura Briggs is the author of several lighthearted romance novels and novellas, including the bestselling Amazon UK series A Wedding in Cornwall. She has a fondness for vintage-style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, caring for her pets, going to movies and plays, and trying new restaurants.

Social Media Links 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PaperDollWrites

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

Website:  https://paperdollwrites.blogspot.com/


A Wedding in Cornwall

This is the second half of a series and consists of books 7 to 12. I haven’t read any of the first six, but I found it didn’t matter.

These stories are lovely, sweet and endearing, but sadly I couldn’t totally engage with them. There were parts of some of the books that I found a little routine, and to be honest, I skimmed some bits.

That said….

The characters were quirky, amusing, and scary – who’d like to be under Mrs Norbert’s reign of terror? The villains were equally well drawn and many of the scenes were sheer delight. The author writes with an easy, relaxed style, and her some of her descriptions are brilliant – who wouldn’t want a man ‘as sweet as chocolate and as brainy as Sherlock’? There were amusing moments of great observation and wit, and others that were perceptive and shrewd.

If you want some thoroughly enjoyable and charming books to relax with, then these are definitely for you.

Read and enjoy.


Brought to you via

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Oddest Little Shop Series : Blog Tour

Having already read and reviewed three books in author Beth Good series, namely the Oddest Little Romance shop, Chocolate Shop, and Book Shop, and loved all three, I approached the final two books with excitement and trepidation in equal measure. What if they were not as good? What if I didn’t ike them?

My fears were unfounded. Beth Good delivers again and again. Completing the series are two novellas that only add to the love and romance of Cornwall, its villages, and traditions They are funny, heartwarming, quirky, with characters you’ll love, and delicious romances that get you just that little bit hot and bothered.


Author

Jane Holland Beth Good credit Anna Rybacka-1Born and raised in Essex, England, Beth Good was whisked away to an island tax haven at the age of eleven to attend an exclusive public school and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Sadly, she never became rich or famous herself, so had to settle for infamy as a writer of dubious novels. She writes under several different names, mainly to avoid confusing her readers – and herself! As Beth Good she writes romantic comedy and feel-good fiction. She also writes thrillers as Jane Holland, historicals as Victoria Lamb and Elizabeth Moss, and feel-good fiction as Hannah Coates.
Beth currently lives in the West Country where she spends a great deal of time thinking romantic thoughts while staring out of her window at sheep. (These two actions are unrelated.)
You can find her most days on Twitter as @BethGoodWriter where she occasionally indulges in pointless banter about chocolate making and the Great British Bake Off. Due to a basic inability to say no, she has too many children and not enough money, which means she needs as many readers as she can get.

Social Media Links

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

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BethGoodWriter


The Oddest Little Cornish Tea Shop

Oddest Little_TEA SHOPIt’s a big day for Charlie Bell – the grand reopening of her Aunt Pansy’s long-closed tea rooms in Tremevissey, a quaint Cornish seaside resort. But not everyone is happy for Charlie. The locals say the tea rooms are cursed. For Pansy was cruelly jilted by her lover, and walked out into the ocean, never to return.

Charlie dismisses the ‘curse’ as superstitious nonsense, but by the end of the first day, her world is in tatters, and she’s not even sure the tea rooms can open again.

Then in walks a rugged, taciturn man with a sexy smile and everything he owns on his back, looking for a summer job . . .

Is Gideon Petherick an angel in disguise? Or is history about to repeat itself?


After all the time effort and money she ploughed into refurbishing the tea shop in the village of Tremevissey, Charlie (Charlotte) has a disastrous re-opening. Her cook turns out to be clumsy and incompetent, after ruining the food, she almost burns the place down, and Charlie has to close again.

Awaiting the insurance assessor, the handsome and enigmatic Gideon turns up and offers his help in return for food and lodging. Even with his help things go from bad to worse as electrics need to be fixed and more. Is there really a curse on the shop? And just what is Gideon’s secret?

What is he hiding from Charlie?

Seriously, with its mix of romance and mystery, characters that will have you laughing, tearing your hair out,  and loving every minute of it, you need to read this book.


Purchase 

HERE – Amazon


The Oddest Little Beach Shop

Oddest Little_BEACH SHOPFrom the first day of Annie’s arrival in the sleepy Cornish resort of Polzel, next-door neighbour Gabriel seems determined to make her life difficult.

Despite his sexy looks and angelic name, Gabriel behaves like an ogre to everyone, and has apparently been that way since losing his wife in a surfing accident. Annie would do far better, her friend Claudia urges her, to focus her attentions on Jamie instead. Jamie’s the hottest lifeguard in the village – and her co-worker in the Polzel beach shop.

But when Polzel’s famous annual pie-rolling contest sees Annie and Gabriel forced together, it turns out Annie might have a thing for big Cornish ogres after all . . .


Very different in so many ways to the last novella. This is a wonderful story of family, bereavement, and starting over. Annie and her teenage nephew are learning how to make life together work. They move to the small town of Polzel in Cornwall where her friend Claudia lives, looking for a fresh start.

But does the fresh start mean new love for Annie? And if it does, then who with? Jamie the hot lifeguard, or Gabriel the grumpy neighbour? What about Leo? Maybe she should put her life on hold until he’s older? She needs to focus on Leo, a damned annoying and utterly lovable thirteen-year-old boy. A typical young teenager, finding his way out of death and loss.

Again, the author gives us clearly defined characters that the reader will love; we get them warts and all.


Purchase

HERE – Amazon


These two are arguably the best, or maybe just my favourites, or maybe not….

I loved them all.

What I said in my last set of reviews applies equally to these final two novellas, adding just a soupcon of mystery into the mix:

Beth Good writes beautifully and can draw a character for the reader with just a few words…each book is whole and complete in and of itself; readers were not left wanting.  Like their titles, they are the oddest collection of romances, a little off-beat, idiosyncratic, and an utter delight to read.  They’re sweet and lovely, laced with humour, alive with romance, and with the merest hint of darkness and wickedness. All of which combines to lure the reader deeper into the story until, like me, you cannot put the book down.

Buy them. Put them on your phone, your kindle, slip a paper back into you bag or pocket, and when you are waiting somewhere, having a coffee, or on your lunch-break, whip one out to read. You’ll not regret it.

Enjoy my pretties…enjoy them all.


Brought to you via:

Rachels Random Resources

Oddest Little Shop series: Blog Tour

The Oddest Little Series

Today Heartshaped is reviewing three of author Beth Good’s novellas from her Oddest Little Shop series. Two more will be coming later.

Reading a novella is a lovely change for a blogger used to reading full novels. Rather like a sorbet after a fish dish, they clear and refresh the reading palate., and they slot neatly into the space between short-stories and novels. It’s the Goldilocks Syndrome; there are times when one is too short and the other is too long, but novellas are just right. Beth Good’s books are certainly all that; refreshing, pleasant, and the perfect length for an afternoon’s reading.


So – to the books, and first out of the starting gate is:

The Oddest Little Romance Shop

Oddest Little_ROMANCE SHOPIzzie has the perfect plan for a perfect life. Work hard, get married, settle down, start a family. But when a mysterious Valentine’s day card arrives, asking in a bold scrawl, ‘Will you marry me?’, it upends everything.
Because Izzie thought she’d found Mr Right – and the card isn’t from him.

Puzzled, she sets out to discover the identity of her secret admirer . . . and is shocked by the truth. Torn in two directions, Izzie doesn’t know what to do.

Should she stick to the plan, or is it time to take life in a bold new direction?


I loved the prologue of this book. It was everything that is sweet and innocent about childhood, friendships, and that blossoming awareness that there is an ‘opposite sex’. My heart melted at the tenderness expressed by Lewis, and then laughed at his horrified surprise in finding his hand being held. It’s a story that is repeated the world over, again and again, and never gets tired.

We jump into the present with Izzie preparing for her wedding to Norman. She has accepted his proposal after knowing him but a short time, and while this may seem implausible to some, things like this happen all the time. In her mid-twenties, Izzy wants a family of her own, children, stability, and she sees no other prospect on the horizon. Sadly, this is not a great whirlwind-swept-off-her-feet-romance; Izzie is ‘settling’. She says herself:

It felt like my life was going nowhere. Or maybe round and round in circles. There was something missing.

Her friend Annie is the perfect foil. Sharp, funny, and out-going, Annie asks the reader’s questions for them. She is the one who shines a light on the odd suddenness of Izzy’s relationship. Norman on the other hand is revealed to us slowly, carefully, and is everything we expect him to be. Controlling, possessive, unpleasant, and deadly, deadly dull.

The arrival of a mysterious Valentine’s card, not from Norman, is the catalyst that shifts the story on to the next level. The realisation that its old, and then who it may be from, rocks Izzy to the core, and forces her to confront what has been ‘wrong’ for many years. What ensues, is a fabulous genre mix of thriller, crime, and romance. But mostly romance.


The next book will require a stash of your favourite chocolate, if you’re a chocolate lover:

The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop

Oddest Little_CHOCOLATE SHOPWhen Clementine discovers that Monsieur Ravel’s beloved chocolaterie is about to close, she rushes to rescue it – without thinking through the consequences.

A lost Persian cat, a depressed but utterly gorgeous French chocolatier, an allergic shop assistant in search of true love, the oddest little chocolate shop Clementine has ever seen.

Can Clementine save them all, or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

 


After many chocolate-free months, Clementine discovers her favourite chocolate shop is closing. As she peers at the empty window, she finds a cat out in the bitter cold and takes it into the shop, thinking it must belong there. She comes to a staring halt when she meets Dominic Ravel, the gorgeous Frenchman who is the Chocolatier and owns the business. He in turn stares at her while they have a slightly stilted and amusing conversation.

Clementine’s thoughts are like a run-away juggernaut. I love how her thoughts race one after the other, tripping and stumbling their way through her head, as well as the way the author weaves them seamlessly into the narrative. It made me laugh, and there isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t had her brain jumbled thoughts when confronted by an unexpectedly lusty male. Dominic is somewhat more inscrutable at first, anxious and under family pressure, but with Clementine he relaxes and we find a charming man.

At one level, I was incensed at the idea that Clementine was rather useless. She has clearly been told repeatedly that she’s not very good at things, and clumsy. Yet she held a good job, gave Dominic some good advice, and is clearly very practically minded and loaded with common sense…. most of the time. She does get very flustered when she’s anxious or embarrassed, which is quite a different thing altogether. She’s feisty and funny, and a marvellous character.

A wonderful story with about going for what you want, believing in yourself, and falling in love in unexpected places!


The final book today is my favourite.

The Oddest Little Book Shop

Oddest Little_BOOK SHOPAfter ten long years away, television star Daisy Diamond is finally going home.

She’s not back at the gorgeous seaside resort of Port Pol in sunny Cornwall five minutes before she realises the mistake she’s made. Her childhood sweetheart Nick Old – affectionately known as ‘Devil’ – is still living there, running the local bookshop, and he is determined to rekindle their flame.

Daisy is no longer the dewy-eyed romantic of her school days. Her life may not have gone according to plan, but she’s not afraid to show Nick how much she’s grown since he famously dumped her at the school leavers’ disco.

Even if it means bending her heart out of shape a little . . .


Television star Daisy Diamond is back at home in Cornwall house-sitting for her parents before filming starts the next series of her show. She has just split from her erstwhile boyfriend and co-star who cheated on her. The paparazzi haven’t a clue she is there – so far – and she is hoping for a relaxed and enjoyable time.

And yet.

There is something lurking in Daisy’s past, an unresolved issue that hurt her terribly. Through the course of the story we meet Nick Old, her boyfriend from ten years past. As they verbally spar and knock chips of each other, the under current of passion and tension is almost palpable. Throw in a mad wife, an 9-year-old daughter, an uncharacteristic make-out session with a married man when she is snapped by one of paparazzi, and the gates of hell open.

What ensues is hilarious, scary, and heart-breaking. You’ll end up pulled in different directions over Daisy’s decisions, and will have moments of hate and sympathy in equal measure. Daisy is a tremendously funny, delightful and amiable young woman, whose moral compass is true and sure on the whole. Equally, Nick is an honourable man, whose decency has led him to ten years of unhappiness, alleviated only by the love of his daughter, and thoughts of what might have been.

Amid the humour and romance the author takes the time to include certain issues such as the autistic spectrum, anger management, and bereavement. She writes with such a light-hand and so sensitively, you may hardly notice that those weighty matters are there. This was my favourite of the three novellas. It had depth and complexity mingled with wit and humour.


Overall:

Beth Good writes beautifully and can draw a character for the reader with just a few words. Often novellas can feel like a Chinese take-away, you feel full after eating the last fork (chopstick)-full but an hour later you want more. Not so with this author. each book is whole and complete in and of itself; readers were not left wanting.  Like their titles, they are the oddest collection of romances, a little off-beat, idiosyncratic, and an utter delight to read.  They’re sweet and lovely, laced with humour, alive with romance, and with the merest hint of darkness and wickedness. All of which combines to lure the reader deeper into the story until, like me, you cannot put the book down.

Devours BooksDo yourself a favour. Read these books. Read them on the train, in your lunch hour, sitting in the car waiting for whatever….

I’m looking forward to the next two I’ll be reviewing soon. In the Meantime, I’ll be looking at her other titles to check which I want to add to my ever-growing TBR Mountain!

 

Purchase  Here


Author

Jane Holland Beth Good credit Anna Rybacka-1Born and raised in Essex, England, Beth Good was whisked away to an island tax haven at the age of eleven to attend an exclusive public school and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Sadly, she never became rich or famous herself, so had to settle for infamy as a writer of dubious novels. She writes under several different names, mainly to avoid confusing her readers – and herself! As Beth Good she writes romantic comedy and feel-good fiction. She also writes thrillers as Jane Holland, historicals as Victoria Lamb and Elizabeth Moss, and feel-good fiction as Hannah Coates.

Beth currently lives in the West Country where she spends a great deal of time thinking romantic thoughts while staring out of her window at sheep. (These two actions are unrelated.)

You can find her most days on Twitter as @BethGoodWriter where she occasionally indulges in pointless banter about chocolate making and the Great British Bake Off. Due to a basic inability to say no, she has too many children and not enough money, which means she needs as many readers as she can get.

Social Media Links –

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

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BethGoodWriter


 

 

 

 

 

Odyssey in a Teacup : Blog Tour

Odyssey in a Teacup by Paula Houseman

Odyssey - Paula_Houseman_Odyssey in a Teacup_AMAZON_LRGE_NOV15Encounters with a pair of supersized Y-fronts; a humourless schoolmarm with an unfortunate name and monstrous yellow incisors; and a tut-tutting, big-breasted, modern-day gorgon are the norm for Ruth Roth. She’s used to crazy. Her mum squawks like a harpy and her dad has a dodgy moral compass. Add in daily face-offs with a relentlessly bitchy mirror, and Ruth’s home life feels like a Greek tragicomedy.

She hankers for the ordinary. But blah is not a good fit for someone who doesn’t fit in. And isn’t meant to.

Ruth’s vanilla existence is an issue for her besties—her hot-looking, obsessive-compulsive cousin and soul mate (who needs to do everything twice-twice), and her two closest girlfriends. With their encouragement and a good homoeopathic dose of ancient mythology, Ruth embarks on an odyssey to retrieve her spirit. She’s confronted with her biggest challenge ever, though, when one of these friends sends her spiralling back into a dark place.

The decision she must make can either bring her out or launch the mother of all wars in her world.


Paula Houseman has given us a veritable cornucopia of characters who are fascinating, utterly adorable, terrible and yet compelling, but like Greek mythology and the people who inhabit those tales, we are driven ever onward through Ruth’s take on her family, friends, and life. And just like the tales of ancient Greece with which Houseman has underpinned her novel, we meet the heroes, the harpies, those who think they’re gods, and those who have to blunder through the havoc these creatures wreak in the lives of those around them. Its great!

She writes with vigour and humour, giving the reader no time to excuse themselves from the reading room. Her highly comic and satirical look at Ruth’s (and Ralph’s) navigation through the minefield of their respective families and assorted relatives, is nothing short of brilliant.

Starting with her single-syllable name, Ruth Roth is terrific. The cruel and demoralising treatment she suffers at the hands of her family is appalling, and yet this cheeky, sassy teenager manages to emerge in adulthood relatively intact. The middle name saga is hilarious, but it is also highly revealing on several levels. Ruth’s father shines a spotlight on the culture in which she’s growing up, specifically when she asks why her brother has middle names but she doesn’t. He tells her:

“The extra initials will look good printed in his cheque book.”

But what about her cheque book?

Girls don’t need one.”      And there it was. Four bloody words that set the precedent for my standing in the family, and beyond.

I seethed with indignation! Her mother wasn’t any better. Her refrain of why can’t you be like everyone else? just irritated the hell out of me; I travelled that road. The hallmark of a great writer is their ability to make their characters, the situations they find themselves in, and the feelings they experience, entirely relatable for the reader. For me Ruth’s life experience aroused so many memories and so many conflicting emotions, but the author writes with such wit and empathy that you cannot help laughing and crying at the same time. You never wallow.

Ralph is utterly adorable and vexing at the same time. His clothes, his treatment at the hands of his father and brothers, his gawky looks do not make for an attractive child, and yet his mind is fabulous. Clever, inquiring, and unashamedly adroit at using his intelligence against his tormentors, he’s that awkward kid you just want to hug and take home. Duck – that’s all I’m saying. He and Ruth, along with friends Maxi and Vette, talk about at length about subjects like school, religion, and family, but of course their minds are dominated by thoughts of boys, girls, kissing, and sex. Ralph joins these discussions, he’s very much one of the pack.

Odyssey in a Teacup is a love song to those who can’t be like everyone else. It sings of their difference – to their parents, to their siblings, and to their wider family, and positively resonates with their inability to conform to the lives and behaviours their parents want to thrust upon them. You will laugh until you cry; you will cry woefully and with sympathy, but in the end you will love the voyage wherever it takes you, and the company you keep on it.

This is another title that is firmly on my Books of the Year list, and is the first of three books. (The remaining two will be reviewed in the fullness of time.)

While you wait…do yourself a favour. Read it!


Purchase

from   Amazon UK 

Odyssey in aTeacup


Author

photo copy – Version 3Paula Houseman was once a graphic designer. But when the temptation to include ‘the finger’ as part of a logo for a forward-moving women’s company proved too much, she knew it was time to give away design. Instead, she took up writing.

She found she was a natural with the double entendres (God knows she’d been in enough trouble as a child for dirty wordplay).

As a published writer of earthy chick lit and romantic comedy, Paula gets to bend, twist, stretch and juice up universal experiences to shape reality the way she wants it, even if it is only in books. But at the same time, she can make it more real, so that her readers feel part of the sisterhood. Or brotherhood (realness has nothing to do with gender).

Through her books, Paula also wants to help the reader escape into life and love’s comic relief. And who doesn’t need to sometimes?

Her style is a tad Monty Pythonesque because she adores satire. It helps defuse all those gaffes and thoughts that no one is too proud of.

Paula lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband. No other creatures. The kids have flown the nest and the dogs are long gone.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: https://twitter.com/paulahouseman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/PaulaHouseman

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulahouseman


Brought to you via

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Summer at Carrick Park :Review

Summer at Carrick Park by Kirsty Ferry

Carrick Park coverA summer wedding, fifty cupcakes and a man she thought she would never see again … 

When Joel Leicester walks into the hotel where Rosa Tempest works, she can’t believe her bad luck. Out of all the hotels in all of North Yorkshire, the man who broke her heart would have to walk into Carrick Park!

The last time Rosa saw Joel it was after a whirlwind holiday when they’d been greeted at his flat by a woman claiming to be his fiancée. Rosa never stuck around to hear Joel’s side of the story but now, six years later on, Fate has another trick up its sleeve as a potentially disastrous summer wedding at Carrick Park can only be saved by Joel and Rosa working together …

You may recognise Carrick Park from A Little Bit of Christmas Magic and Some Veil Did Fall!


Summer at Carrick Park is a real delight. I was engaged from page one and read it in a single sitting. There is an amazing cast of people with distinct personalities, which isn’t always the case with secondary characters who often seem to blend into one another. The groom is so laid-back he’s almost horizontal, and he’s as hilarious as his Bridezilla is frightening –  and I want those God-fathers in my life!

Cupcake 2And the cake!

While the novella is charming and funny, it’s not a saccharin sweet fluffy romance. This about two people who clearly belong together, but who have been torn apart by suffering and heart-break inflicted by others, and their own blinkered responses to it.

Rose and Joel have been apart for several years, without any contact. They parted abruptly when Rose thought Joel was engaged to another woman, and she ran before history could repeat itself.  Joel did everything he could to find Rose, but to no avail; she had her family block his every move. Now she works at Carrick Park Hotel, a wedding is booked for the weekend, and Joel walks in as Best Man.

A potential wedding disaster throws the pair together, and things move forward from there.

Cupcake 1With cake.

Rosa is a great character, and instantly relatable. Nursing a badly broken heart, she throws herself in to working at her god-fathers’ bakery, which is when she meets Joel. She has a talent for baking, and its hoped that she will take over the business one day. Kind and loving, she is determined to never to be part of any complicated romantic entanglements. Joel is kind, resourceful, and funny. Reeling from a disastrous relationship, he meets Rosa. He has moved on only in the same way that Rosa has – he works, occasionally hangs out with friends, but there is no-one special in his life.

The author has presented us with a romance that speaks to the knee-jerk reactions we have to hurtful situations, and the subsequent fall-out. It’s a great, realistic love story about how we let our emotional past determine our future, about making rash and impetuous decisions and suffering the consequences. Its also about second chances, letting go of the hurt, and not being an idiot.

Cupcake 3Did I mention cake?

One of the aspects that I loved, was the lack of explicit sex. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good steamy romance as much as the next reader, but as a constant diet it becomes boring. Variety is the spice of life after all, and this story didn’t need it.

Hilariously for me, this combined two parts of the country I seem to be spending almost all my reading time inhabiting – Yorkshire and Cornwall. Beautiful counties with glorious scenery, both brimming with charm and mystery. This warm, appealing romance will leave you happy and smiling. I highly recommend you read it, but Be Prepared. You’ll get hunger pangs, so a supply of tea and cake will be necessary whilst reading.

Altogether a recipe for a perfect afternoon.


Purchase

Available to buy here:


Author

Kirsty FerryKirsty Ferry is from the North East of England and lives there with her husband and son. She won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition and has had articles and short stories published in various magazines. Her work also appears in several anthologies, incorporating such diverse themes as vampires, crime, angels and more.

Kirsty loves writing ghostly mysteries and interweaving fact and fiction. The research is almost as much fun as writing the book itself, and if she can add a wonderful setting and a dollop of history, that’s even better.

Her day job involves sharing a building with an eclectic collection of ghosts, which can often prove rather interesting.

You can find Kirsty on Facebook as “Kirsty Ferry Author”
Or on Twitter @kirsty_ferry

http://www.rosethornpress.co.uk/


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The Gathering : Blog Tour

The Gathering by Bernadette Giacomazzo

The Gathering EbookThe Uprising Series tells the story of three freedom fighters and their friends in high –  and low – places that come together to overthrow a vainglorious Emperor and his militaristic Cabal to restore the city, and the way of life, they once knew and loved.

In The Gathering, Jamie Ryan has defected from the Cabal and has joined his former brothers-in-arms — Basile Perrinault and Kanoa Shinomura — to form a collective known as The Uprising. When an explosion leads to him crossing paths with Evanora Cunningham — a product of Jamie’s past — he discovers that The Uprising is bigger, and more important, than he thought.


I have to admire this author’s determination to write a hard-hitting, hard-nosed dystopian novel where New York is under the control of a self-styled Emperor, rather than a ruling elite, and for the most part she succeeds. The style and language give the book something of a fresh feel, but is occasionally awkward and off-putting, and for those who watch these things, I had images of Walking Dead violence, and Star Wars evil ruler running through my head at various points

This Emperor reigns supreme. He has manipulated and connived his way into absolute power, and now controls the citizens by way of his merciless Cabal. The clever naming of this group sets it apart from our notion of what constitutes police or armed forces; it is more like a private army. The Cabal is a vicious and savage military-style group who punish any Infractions of the law, no matter how minor, with impunity. Cabal members can and do mete out death or worse; the worse being psychically tortured into a catatonic, docile state, not unlike zombies. This is ‘psi’, and members of the Cabal are recruited for and trained in this ability. Society does not have any resort to law, justice, or the courts. This is not a democracy; there are no elections. The only course of action to gain freedom is revolution.

The book opens with Jamie (alias Ivan Sapphire) talking to us about himself, his life, his friends, and New York as the city was. His language and style of speech takes some getting used to. He’s a musician in a rock band, that shoots to meteoric success. He is brash, arrogant, crude; stereotypical of that ilk, yet at the same time funny, witty, and off-beat. Then he meets a girl.

Moving forward to the harsh present of the book, we meet Evanora; secretly rebellious, grateful and resentful all at once. With a mother who has sacrificed so much for Evanora’s safety, the young woman is treading a cautious but precarious path.

As friends decide enough is enough, and people start to recognise others willing to fight back, so the faction grows and takes shape. The freedom movement works to depose the Emperor, regain control of New York, and take the city and her people back to its colourful life of liberty and independence.

The book is well-paced, punchy, and uncompromising. It holds a mirror up, albeit a dim one, to society today. The elimination of free speech, the destruction of the Arts, the harsh and pitiless punishment of wrong-doers, with the powerful throwing their weight against the weak, and playing on people’s fears. It is in these circumstances that the unscrupulous and corrupt seize power and in twisting it to their own ends, subjugate a society to a single, tyrannical ideologue.

Sound familiar?

The author has created a dark and unnerving world that has very recognisable characters and characteristics. There is an immense audience out there for this book, though it won’t appeal to everyone, and whilst I enjoyed it, I won’t carry on with the series.


Purchase Links

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1980613788/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1980613788/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39279875-the-gathering

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Author Bio

The Gathering AuthorWith an impressive list of credentials earned over the course of two decades, Bernadette R. Giacomazzo is a multi-hyphenate in the truest sense of the word: an editor, writer, photographer, publicist, and digital marketing specialist who has demonstrated an uncanny ability to thrive in each industry with equal aplomb. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, People, Us Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and many, many more. She served as the news editor of Go! NYC Magazine for nearly a decade, the executive editor of LatinTRENDS Magazine for five years, the eye candy editor of XXL Magazine for two years, and the editor-at-large at iOne/Zona de Sabor for two years. As a publicist, she has worked with the likes of Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and his G-Unit record label, rapper Kool G. Rap, and various photographers, artists, and models. As a digital marketing specialist, Bernadette is Google Adwords certified, has an advanced knowledge of SEO, PPC, link-building, and other digital marketing techniques, and has worked for a variety of clients in the legal, medical, and real estate industries.

Based in New York City, Bernadette is the co-author of Swimming with Sharks: A Real World, How-To Guide to Success (and Failure) in the Business of Music (for the 21st Century), and the author of the forthcoming dystopian fiction series, The Uprising. She also contributed a story to the upcoming Beyonce Knowles tribute anthology, The King Bey Bible, which will be available in bookstores nationwide in the summer of 2018.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/bernadettergiacomazzo

https://www.instagram.com/bg_takes_pics/

https://twitter.com/bg_writes_stuff
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Little Cornish Kitchen : Blog Tour

The Little Cornish Kitchen by Jane Linfoot

cornish kitchen new (1)It’s time to come home to Cornwall

With an exciting new life in Paris, Clemmie Hamilton isn’t looking forward to heading home to the picturesque but sleepy village of St Aidan, Cornwall. However, when she discovers that the cosy apartment by the sea, which her grandmother left to her, is under threat from neighbour and property developer, Charlie Hobson, Clemmie realises she can’t abandon her home in its time of need.

With her childhood friends encouraging her, Clemmie decides to turn the apartment into ‘The Little Cornish Kitchen’ – a boutique pop up pudding club raising money for the repairs to the building in an effort to stop Charlie once and for all. But when Charlie and his easy charm won’t seem to go away, everything soon becomes even messier than the state of Clemmie’s Cornish kitchen…


I seem to be spending my reading time whizzing between Cornwall and Yorkshire – not that I’m complaining – this time we’re back in Cornwall, in a town called St Aidan, with life-long friends and mermaids Sophie, Plum, Nell, and Clemmie. We open with a launch of Sophie’s latest beauty products where her three friends are working as their favourite personas – mermaids.

WARNING: this book is not for anyone with a cake habit! Your mouth will be watering before the end of the first chapter, it won’t stop until long after you’ve finished the book, and you’ll be craving cakes all the way through. I have no idea how I managed on merely half a packet of gingernuts, a cinnamon Danish, some Jaffa cakes, and two large helpings of carrot cake!

Chapter One is a virtuoso lesson in giving the reader necessary information and background about characters in an amusing and totally entertaining way, and without the reader feeling that they are being spoon-fed facts. It’s an absolutely fantastic opening chapter.

(Aside: Iron Maiden Cleaners? Somebody really ought to start that business!)

Our narrator is Clemmie, who has reluctantly returned home after many years working her way around various countries and is currently in Paris. She is back to deal as fast as possible with matters regarding the flat left to her by her grandmother of whom she has very little memory. Clemmie struck me as sulky and petulant. She’s so tied up in her world of travel and adventure, refusing to be tied down to a small, local life, in a town where your private life isn’t private, and the horizons are restricted and narrow, that she can’t see there is no adventure. She believes her friends are

…all as settled as I am rootless. They can’t imagine living without the echo of the waves rushing up the beach, and the familiar clink of the rigging on the boats bobbing in the harbour. If I explained non-stop for a month, they’d never get that for me St Aidan isn’t enough. That after half a day away from Paris, I’m aching for the broad boulevards and big elegant buildings and the round-the-clock roar of the traffic. They don’t get that the world beyond here is huge. And they totally miss that when Paris dulls I’ll move on and feel the thrill all over again somewhere new. Even though my jobs are what they call ‘shit’ ones, and my career trajectory is non-existent, at least they allow me to move. To be free.

What we gradually discover is a woman who, no matter how she protests otherwise, isn’t free at all. Clemmie has a deep-seated hurt – her father left before she was born and has never been a part of her life. Growing up it was not a topic for discussion. Clemmie learned at a young age that any talk of him caused her mother pain and so she blocked him from her thoughts.  Her refusal to even acknowledge this hurt exists, never mind address it, has had implications that affected her life in so many ways. She has taken no interest in the property she owns, has little recollection of Laura, her Grandmother, and just wishes to be rid of this one thing that connects her to her unknown father. A visit to the flat changes everything. There is no escaping your past and its unanswered questions.

While Clemmie has been drifting from job to job and country to country, her three friends have evolved and grown. Each of the three women showed various aptitudes when they were younger that have led them too successful careers and comfortable lives, but Clemmie displayed none.

Sophie is a high-powered, highly organised, super-efficient business woman, married to Nate and with four children, and wealthy. It is her natural beauty products being launched in Plum’s gallery. Sophie’s life looks ‘like she plucked it from the Boden catalogue

Plum is an artist. After she finished university, she took on a disused chandlers as her studio, opened it as a gallery, selling her paintings, and the work of other artists as well. It’s a thriving business, and while she is currently single and happy, unlike Clemmie and Nell, she is not opposed to finding that special someone.

Nell is a ‘hot-shot accountant’ in it for the money. She is also St Aidan’s Singles Club event organiser extra-ordinaire. Her amicable divorce turned out to be painful for Nell. Within a short space of time her ex-husband had a new wife, children, and the domestic life that she wanted but he didn’t.

Thrown into this mix is Charlie Hobson and his dog Diesel. Charlie is hot, dark, but moody and scowling. Worse still, he’s a property developer and therefore the ‘bad guy’. Gradually we learn more about Charlie and have a constant battle as to whether we like him or not. What property is he after and can he be trusted? People who go through life long-faced and miserable, usually have a reason to do so. What has happened to Charlie to make him scowl?

The author takes us through the story regarding Clemmie’s flat whilst at the same time, she peels the layers back on each of the characters, but most specifically Clemmie and Charlie, as well as Nell. It is a beautifully nuanced tale. As Clemmie finds herself thrown into Charlie’s company regularly, never knowing quite what his property developer intentions are, and with her friends rocking from one events to another, she discovers a world of memories. The sulky, petulant woman in Chapter One, shows us that she is funny and feisty, but scared of the unknown in terms of relationships. Whatever misgivings I had about Clemmie’s character at the beginning of the novel, long before the end I really liked her, and felt her struggle. ‘No commitment’ has been her default setting for all aspects of her life, and we see her friends and others gradually build her confidence, show Clemmie her worth, her aptitude, and her capacity for love and forgiveness.

It would be easy to say this is a heart-warming tale, but that is too simplistic. The Little Cornish Kitchen is filled with humour and kindness, tenderness and love; the love of friends as much as romantic love. It’s about second chances, at life, at love, and at family; its about dropping your guard and letting people in no matter how scary, and grasping the future with both hands. I loved the kitchen scenes with Clem and Charlie, they were so revealing for both of them, and I love that she finally discovers that she does have a great talent and skill after all. She had just forgotten.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough – I loved every page, and every character, especially Diesel. Read and enjoy!


Purchase

Here  from Amazon UK

The Little Cornish Kitchen

 


Giveaway

Win a signed copy of The Little Cornish Kitchen, Mermaid Notebook and Sugar Unicorns

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  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.


Author

DSCN3473_2Jane Linfoot is a best-selling author, who lives in a muddy cottage, up a steep hill in Derbyshire, with her family, their pets, and an astonishing number of spiders. Although she loves seeing cow noses over the garden wall, she’s happy she can walk to a supermarket.

Jane grew up in North Yorkshire where she spent a lot of her childhood avoiding horizontal gales blowing off the sea, and wrote her first book by accident, while working as an architect, and renovating country houses. While she loves to write feel-good books that let readers escape, she’s always surprised to hear her stories make people laugh, admits to (occasionally) crying as she writes, and credits her characters for creating their own story lines.

Jane’s garden would be less brambley if she wasn’t on Facebook and Twitter so often. On days when she wants to be really scared, she rides a tandem.

Her latest books include a series of stand alone novels, based around a seaside wedding shop in Cornwall. Cupcakes and Confetti – The Little Wedding Shop by the Sea, Sequins and Snowflakes – Christmas at the Little Wedding Shop, and Bunting and Bouquets – Summer at the Little Wedding Shop, and most recently, The Little Cornish Kitchen. These are all published by Harper Impulse,  an imprint of Harper Collins.

Follow Jane on Twitter @janelinfoot, or find her on her Author Page Facebook or her Personal Page Facebook. She’s also on Instagram, and has lots of Pinterest boards relating to her novels.


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Dangerous Waters – Blog Tour

Dangerous Waters by Anne Allen

Dangerous Waters 3D CoverTragedy seems to follow Jeanne Le Page around . . .
Can she really go through it again and survive?
She is lucky to be alive at sixteen Jeanne was almost killed in a boating accident which brought heart-breaking family tragedy. Now, fifteen years later, Jeanne returns reluctantly to the island of Guernsey following the death of her beloved grandmother. Struggling for breath as the ferry nears the island; she is overwhelmed by a dark foreboding as hazy memories of that terrible day resurface.
Only returning to sell her inheritance – her grandmother’s old cottage – Jeanne has no intention of picking up her old life. But the cottage holds a secret, dating back to World War II and the German Occupation, and Jeanne becomes drawn into discovering more. Then, soon after her arrival, a chance meeting with an old teenage crush leads her to thoughts of love.
Jeanne is forced to face her demons, reliving the tragedy as her lost memory returns.
When the truth is finally revealed, her life is endangered for the second time. 

Dangerous Waters is the first in the Guernsey Novels series

The Guernsey Novels

The author Anne Allen proudly presents an exciting prize draw to win a short-break to the beautiful island of Guernsey & signed copies of The Guernsey Novels, enter at end of review

Anne AllenDangerous Waters is a good story. A really good story. Author Anne Allen plays with genre; mixes it up, and slips seamlessly between them. This is romance, history, and mystery, but on so many levels – distant past, recent past, and present. She maintains a good balance on the whole, though I would have liked more of the distant past story, it’s  research, and piecing it together (but then I’m a historian).

The writing is too verbose for my taste, with irrelevant information and over-laboured issues. Examples:

  • Unless the dishwasher is ploy to introduce a character or an incident, and being used to move the plot along,  we don’t need to know anything about it
  • There is a lot of eating and drinking, but the  real food interest is the collection of historical family recipes and their modern reconstruction. An important catalyst in Jeanne’s story. By the time we get to their being cooked, I was bored reading about characters eating & drinking. Writing should have been confined to the recipes.

The Letters:

These are an historian’s dream! I appreciate that Jeanne is not an historian, but she is a journalist and writer. Who in their right mind would delay reading them?  Yet Jeanne does. This doesn’t quite fit in with her character and motivation.

AND YES  *head in hands* tracing ‘W’  IS a priority.  The letters and the recipes are the whole soul and centre of Jeanne’s book. It is their stories from the 19th and 20th centuries that give it a unique selling point, and thereby make it very attractive to a publisher. Equally, they are at the centre of this book too. An amazing opportunity allowed to just gradually slip away by the end (which came too swiftly). I couldn’t help but think that with DNA kits, Ancestry, Find My Past, and myriad of other sites online, Jeanne potentially had the chance to find someone from W’s family. DNA is a part of the story, but missed that vital and fascinating opportunity.

What I loved.

Guernsey Author and BooksAnne Allen’s genre mix is excellent, quite well-balanced, and works well. She doesn’t follow the easy path of an angst and issue ridden character where ‘misery loves misery’, creating morose people missing opportunities to make their lives better. Of course life’s experiences leave their mark, but her main characters generally take responsibility for themselves rather than sink deeper and further into their unhappy episodes.

Jeanne, Marcus, and Nick are great characters; well-drawn, rounded, and full-bodied, to pinch a wine metaphor. If we ignore the occasional ‘not so great’ dialogue, the interplay between characters is good. Jeanne’s inner monologue could have done with an edit, but its insightful, funny, and utterly realistic. I certainly felt an affinity with her on certain points.

There are typical romance novel teases. Will she won’t she? But I also loved the will he won’t he? I don’t know why, but at one point I half expected ‘A’ to appear full of remorse (or with an eye to the main chance, given Jeanne’s inheritance). At first Jeanne comes across as an easily manipulated young woman, but her development through the novel is subtle, and she soon shows that she had an iron rod back.

Molly and Peter are lovely, though more use could have been made of Peter. Molly is gentle and loving, though at times I think a little misguided. This makes her a lovely flawed human being, and she is certainly not a ‘substitute-mother’ trope. They’re Islanders, they know the people Jeanne went to school with and with whom her parents and Grandmother were friends. They would have heard the gossip and rumours, but little is made of this. This is an island community, people know things, guess things, and stories would have been flying around about the accident. Even so, they add an interesting perspective.

Historically, wartime occupation romances can be tricky things, and depending on the country, retribution against females was mostly violent and abusive, even towards the children of those relationships. Allen is no apologist. She writes fictionally about events that actually happened, and the character of Mrs Ozane was crucial. She came into the picture late in the day, but not too late. A lovely little old lady now, yet a very vibrant young woman during the occupation. What a lost opportunity  – in real life she could have furnished us with a fascinating tale or two from wartime Guernsey. Through her we get to feel the desperation and despair of the elder Jeanne, her fear of the consequences of her actions, but no guilt. Love is love. Although these things are merely touched upon in comparison to other parts of the story, she still tugs at our heartstrings, and we can only feel sympathy for such awful events in a terrible time.

There are lovely descriptions of the island, the walks on the beach, the countryside –  I’ve never been to the Channel Islands, but the author makes Guernsey a ‘must see’ place.

Then there is the garden. I could see myself there, in summer, with a good book. All the way through I hoped for something magical to happen concerning it, because young Jeanne clearly has some sort of sixth sense, and with all the herbs and so forth, it sounded like a white witches’ charm!  (And I wanted magic, damn it!)

Dangerous Waters a great story, and I did enjoy it. I just wish Anne Allen had a much better Editor. On the whole her writing is lovely, and she certainly has great story-telling instincts. It’s a shame so much was lost in the extraneous prose. I’m torn but for this novel can only give 3 stars while wishing it could be 5.

Please pick up Dangerous Waters and read it. If you’re unsure, try a sample from Amazon first.

I will never read Anne Allen’s entire series – not all the plots appeal to me – however I’m hoping that, with another five books under her belt, the editing skills have been honed. So I have chosen three that  do interest me, and downloaded samples. If I do read the books in full, I shall post reviews for them here, though it may be many months before I can.

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Teashop of Horrors – Blog Tour

 

Little Teashop of Horrors – Jane LoveringJane Lovering 2

Cover

Secrets, lies, carrot cake and an owl called Skrillex!

Amy Knowles has always been the plain sidekick to her pretty best friend Jules. And whilst the tearoom they both work in on the Monkpark Hall estate in Yorkshire is not exactly awash with eligible bachelors, it’s obvious where the male attention is concentrated – and it’s not just on the cakes!

There is one man who notices Amy. Joshua Wilson also works at Monkpark, where he flies his birds of prey for visitor entertainment. He lives a lonely existence but he has reasons for choosing isolation – and, in Amy, he may have found somebody who understands.

Then a management change brings slick and well-spoken Edmund Evershott to Monkpark. He’s interested in Amy too, but for what reason? Josh suspects the new manager is up to no good – but will Amy? Because Edmund could leave her with much worse than a broken heart…

Let me say upfront, that I really enjoyed this book. The characters are very relatable and  very real. A couple are annoying, horrible, selfish, and downright revolting. They do not, however,  take away from the fact that this odd, idiosyncratic romance is an absolute delight, and is a great anti-dote to the standard sickly sweet romantic tropes churned out ad nausea.

I found the title to be a little misleading; the ‘Little Teashop of Horrors’ led me to expect something very different. I’m not exactly sure what the ‘horror’ was meant to be, maybe it was the new boss…

Amy is a character that makes you want to shake her, but only because you are rooting for her to stand up for herself. The two people closest to her, her grandmother and friend Julia, are more concerned with themselves, and don’t appear to see the negative impact they have on Amy’s life.

Her Grandmother has brought Amy up within a confining set of rules and behaviours to the extent that Amy’s gentle character consistently buries her anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction. The behaviour and strictures are the product of Grandma’s generation, class, and upbringing, and from having lived and worked all her life within the small community on the estate. Though I wouldn’t put up with the tea-making shenanigans, Amy must also deal with the early symptoms of her Grandmother’s dementia.

Amy’s childhood friend Julia knows how to manipulate and sway Amy to get her own way. I found her to be selfish and ego-centric, and given what happened between them in the past, I would have questioned their friendship except that Amy is so used to burying any irritation or grievance,  her life has become governed by other people’s wants and needs rather than her own. She sees nothing in herself that would be attractive to the opposite sex, or make her of more value to those around her.

Evershott is brilliantly drawn as one of those men who plays with the emotions of people he perceives to be ‘weak’, in order to get what he wants. His manipulation of Amy is almost textbook and very unpleasant. Gaslighting springs to mind. As the new boss who holds the future of the estate’s employees in his hands, and by extension their homes, he is in a position of power, and he uses it for his own ends, especially with Amy.

Josh is the unlikely hero of this tale, and by far one of the best characters in the book. He is a loner, a bit odd, and is plagued by his past. In Amy, he sees someone he can relate to. He is attracted to her but not sure what to do about it. His behaviour at one point is totally un-hero-like, and I loved it. None of that ‘man to the rescue’ stuff we are plied with repeatedly. The other great characters are Josh’s birds. They are such a refreshing addition, and I love their disobedience! The relationships between humans and birds are terrific – Skrillex is just a delight!

Written slightly tongue-in-cheek, it is gentle and warm with a most liberal sprinkling of humour. I read it in two sittings (I do sleep occasionally), and thoroughly enjoyed how the story panned out. Peopled by refreshingly real characters, this isn’t a fast-paced read, but it doesn’t need to be; the story unfolds around the characters and the romance builds naturally. Lovely!

Read and enjoy.

Buy your copy here

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Game Show : Blog Tour

Game Show by Allie Cresswell

Buy your copy here : £1.99

Imagine that for one night only you could do absolutely anything you wanted and get away with it.
Welcome to Game Show.
It is 1992, and in a Bosnian town a small family cowers in their basement. The Serbian militia is coming – an assorted rabble of malcontents given authority by a uniform and inflamed by the idea that they’re owed something, big-time, and the Bosnians are going to pay. When they get to the town they will ransack the houses, round-up the men and rape the women. Who’s to stop them? Who’s to accuse them? Who will be left, to tell the tale?
Meanwhile, in a nondescript northern UK town, a group of contestants make their way to the TV studios to take part in a radical new Game Show. There’s money to be won, and fun to be had. They’ll be able to throw off their inhibitions and do what they want because they’ll all be in disguise and no-one will ever know.
In a disturbing denouement, war and game meld into each other as action and consequence are divided, the words ‘blame’ and ‘fault’ have no meaning and impunity reigns.
Game Show asks whether the situation which fostered the Bosnian war, the genocide in Rwanda, the rise of so-called Islamic State in Syria and the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar could ever happen in the West. The answer will shock you.

This is a compelling and forceful book which I highly recommend everyone to read. As an historian, it took me to past events that I wish hadn’t crammed themselves into my mind all at once, but in the context of this book they are important to remember.  More of these later.

I found it difficult to get hooked into the reading at first. There are many characters introduced to the reader quite quickly, and repeatedly being engaged with one and then pulled to another could have resulted in putting the book down. The author’s writing however, is consistent, intelligent, and seductive; you want to know where these characters’ experiences will take them, so you must keep reading. The slow build throughout the first part of the novel reaches its apex about halfway, and from there on all the strands start to come together ever more tightly.

The characters are well-defined, and you will have mixed feelings about some of them, like others, and detest some. The overlapping of lives, and the stark contrast between the Game Show and its contestants and the wretched desperation of the family and people in Bosnia, are handled with unmitigated skill. The pace and tension build to a crescendo in one story, only to sweep you up and do it all again in the next, leaving you both mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end. Thankfully there are moments of ‘comic relief’ to ease your reading journey.

The question posed in the synopsis asks – could this happen in the West? Well it has…the Holocaust. Germany was a civilised land of art, literature, music, and more, and was no more anti-Semitic than many other nations. It took poverty, hunger, greed, a desire for power and someone to blame, coupled to an extreme political party and its leader, for people to turn on one another. Sounds remote? This book is set in 1992, but speaks directly to us now. Currently, we are in a situation where ‘poverty, hunger, greed, a desire for power and someone to blame’ are causing problems in many nations, including First World countries. So no, the answer did not shock, and Game Show goes much deeper than that.

The use and abuse of power against people has been repeated many times by the West just since 1945; Kenya, Vietnam, Abu Ghraib, are three that spring to mind, as well as the several waves of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. The use of rape as a weapon of war is well documented, and while it is right that this is an important theme in the book, I feel it was over-used. Sexual violence encompasses a broad spectrum, as does torture, and it would have been fitting to have included those too.

What the author does highlight most effectively, is the political constipation that allows these events not only to happen, but to continue to happen and to spiral out of control, with none taking action to stop it. Leaders can be caught up in the chaos, as demonstrated by the Stanford Experiment (see end notes and appendices in the book). They can also be so caught up in their political careers, busy cow-towing to political behemoths, they become too paralysed to do what they know is the right thing.

Game Show - Allie CresswellIn addition, the advent of reality TV and its repeated pushing of the boundaries of acceptability, is also most powerfully highlighted. To my mind, the author’s big question isn’t ‘could it happen’, but who will stop it? If we can treat our fellow human beings so viciously and brutally, then without restrictions and rules, it is inevitable that reality TV will continue to push boundaries. Where will it end? Allie Cresswell shows us a very real possibility ‘Game Show’.

As you may have guessed, this book touched me deeply. It is powerful and emotional,  BUT it is exceptional.  I highly recommend reading it.

Game Show Blog Tour brought to you by @rararesources

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Blog Tour – Elle Spellman Interview

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The joy of asking an author questions is that you can be as imaginative as you want to be with the questions. Of course they don’t have to answer, but when they do, what an interesting insight you get into the author.

Today we have Elle Spellman, author of the great fun read She’s Bad News, who hasShe's Bad News - Author Photo ES HSBS agreed to join the fun Here are the questions with her repleis.answer my questions.

Here are her replies:

If you had to spend a day with Bella, what would the two of you do?

Fight crime! Well, maybe. Bella is definitely someone I’d like to hang out with. I’d love to be part of her slightly crazy life if just for one day, as she tries to find some interesting stories for the Hartleybourne Gazette. I’d love to meet Chloe too. And yes, I would love to head out in the night and catch some criminals with her. Sure, I don’t have powers, but I could be the lookout!

If you could have any, what super-power would you choose and why?

Oh, that’s such a tricky question (but definitely one of my favourites)! There are so many possibilities that it’d be hard to choose. I mean, I’d love to have superhuman strength, for a variety of reasons. But I’d also like to have sentient hair like Marvel’s Medusa. I guess it would have to come down to what would be the most useful. So for me, my super-power would probably be something like the ability to control or freeze time, so that I’d have more hours in the day!

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?

I think the main problem I have is being overly-cautious when it comes to writing male characters. I tend to worry that I might be writing a stereotype, or adhering to certain traits often found in women’s fiction. That’s normally just me overthinking things! Luckily I have a lot of male friends, so it helps me to draw from experience, or that of my friends.

When writing, do you have a favourite snack and/or drink?

Definitely tea! I’m not so particular when it comes to snacks, but I have to have a mug of tea as I’m writing.

 How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I’ve just put aside my third book (which I’ve only just started) in order to rewrite my second. Both books are standalone novels and not related to She’s Bad News, although I do have ideas for a sequel. Currently I’m enjoying working on other projects so if I do decide to write a second Bella book, it won’t be for a little while yet. After that, I have a fourth book planned, which is currently just a fun personal project. There’s also a YA novel that’s been in my head for over a decade so hopefully at some point in the near future I can sit down to work on it. (And this is why I need that time-stopping power!)

If you could invite any fictional character to dinner, who would it be and why?

Can I stick with the superhero theme here and say Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman? Catwoman has always intrigued me, and she’s one of my all-time favourite Batman characters. Most people would recognise her as a villain (especially when working with fellow Sirens: Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn) but personally I’ve always found her to be neutral. An anti-hero. Sure, she’s an expert thief, but she only hurts those who truly deserve it. She does her bit to help Gotham, and often Batman, in her own special way. Her attitude and willingness to fight often masks the fact she has a big heart. Plus, she’s sassy, strong and kick-ass. What’s not to love about Catwoman?

What was your favourite childhood book?

I had many! I learned to read with Ladybird Books, so had a big collection of those, which included the Garden Gang series and a lot of fairytales. I still love reading fairytales, but nowadays I like to read the original, much older versions that are were a lot more sinister! But I think my all-time favourite childhood book is Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Everything about it is wonderful. I read it again and again, and still love it to this day.

What is the naughtiest thing you did as a child?

I don’t think I was a particularly naughty child but I did play the game ‘knock down ginger’ (when you knock on someone’s door and run away) a couple of times with friends in my street even though I would have been in a LOT of trouble if my mum knew!

What books are currently on your bedside table?

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming, because I’ve wanted to read the James Bond novels for so long and it’s about damn time! I’m also about to start The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne, followed by The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. As for comics, I’m currently reading Gotham Central #2, by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka.

If Heaven is a library, in which section will you spend eternity?

It would have to be fiction! I would spend every blissful day in a different fictional world. I would never feel alone. The very idea of Heaven being a library is an amazing one indeed.

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She’s Bad News – Blog Tour

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She’s Bad News – Elle Spellman

What would you do if you woke up with super powers?
For Bella Brown, life hasn’t gone according to plan. She’s almost thirty, still living in her uneventful hometown, and her dreams of becoming an investigative reporter have fallen by the wayside.
That is, until she wakes up one morning to find she’s been gifted with some amazing new abilities. What’s a girl to do with heightened senses, super speed and the ability to lift a truck one-handed? Bella quickly discovers that her new powers can easily help her land front-page leads at local newspaper, The Hartleybourne Gazette. 
Soon Bella’s out every night chasing down local criminals for stories, while keeping her powers a secret from everyone besides flatmate Chloe. But when a burglary-gone-wrong accidentally turns her into the mysterious Hartleybourne Heroine, Bella finds herself on the front page for the wrong reasons. Her secret becomes harder to keep as she tries to track down the source of her powers, and especially when crime reporter Matt Gilmore is intent on unmasking the town’s new vigilante…
Suddenly, having an extraordinary life is far more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She's Bad News - Author Photo ES HSBSIt would be very easy for any reviewer to classify this story as a nice easy read with nothing much to think about, or that it is a silly book, and over the top. Yes, it is all those things, but it is also much more. It very subtly addresses weight issues, the diet industry, workplace bullying, amongst other things.

Elle Spellman has written a fun superhero novel, where an ordinary girl accidently acquires some super-powers. It is funny, cringeworthy, sad, and scary. Yes, there are sections that could have been edited more tightly, others that should have been cut or condensed, but all in all this author has given us a book that covers some interesting issues and does it within the confines of a delightfully eccentric, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable story.

Bella, our heroine, can be irritating, but is adorable. She is the girl who left her mundane life, went to university and graduated with a journalism degree, and hoped for a bright future in London with a national newspaper. Sadly, she finds herself locked into a job with the local newspaper where she writes the Better Self column, covering slimming aids, the health benefits of asparagus, and such trivia, but not anything she regards as journalism. Layla, her boss, is a bitch, and belittles Bella at every opportunity. No matter how many article idea Bella tries to get approval for, Layla cruelly shuts her down, telling her that she is overstepping, and to leave the journalism to the reporters.

‘You’re responsible for Better Self, not Bella Brown Investigates…read the PR, write the reviews and the copy. It’s all I want you to do.’

Alice, Bella’s sister, doesn’t treat her much better. Everything is about Alice. She contacts Bella at anytime she deems fit, ignoring the fact that Bella is at work, for example, or anything else Bella may be doing. Bella may as well answer her mobile at work, she not a reporter, after all she failed at journalism.  As Bella tells us:

‘She would either call my desk phone all day, hire a sniper to take me out, or worse, take a three-hour drive…and turn up at my office just to make a point.’

Chloe is a health and fitness trainer and Bella’s best friend. She’s as mad as Bella, and though a bit annoying and ‘preachy’ at times, she has Bella’s best interests at heart, and helps and supports her. Add to the character mix the attractive crime reporter and the mysterious CEO of the company that produces NARCIS Ultra-Boost, the slimming pill that Bella must review, and the stage is set for madness, mayhem, and mishaps.

She's Bad News Cover HSBSShe’s Bad News is pure escapist fun, with a subtle lifting of a mirror to reflect the insanity of our world. A world that bullies, denigrates, and belittles those who don’t meet the standards of others. One of the things I liked about Bella and her acquisition of superpowers, is that she remained the same – a curvy overweight, awkward, sweet, down to earth girl. The superpowers gave her back the confidence and self-worth that was being slowly chipped away by her boss, her family, and others.

There is plenty of laughter, plenty of action, and some scary moments, as Bella uses her powers for crime-fighting investigative good. I just couldn’t read the last few chapters fast enough. Whatever the need for editing, She’s Bad News is a one of the most fun and enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. I’m keen to read whatever Elle Spellman writes next and I hope she’ll bring us a Bella sequel.

Highly recommended.

Last Letter Home

Last Letter HomeLast Letter Home – Rachel Hore

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Wood becomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey
In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen. 
When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain.

This book is like glue, it doesn’t matter what you want to do, you can’t put it down. I read it in two sittings BUT only because I had to sleep in between. Some bits I read twice, which I’ll explain later.

Compelling, romantic, and mysterious, it’s a thoroughly fascinating tale that moves between two time-periods, present day and World War 2, revealing some interesting relationships in both. This appealed to the historian in me, and it highlights a much-ignored subject, those Germans who lived here, served, and fought for this country.  Few people know that some 10,000 German and Austrian nationals volunteered to fight for Britain.

These won’t spoil the story, but I had some ‘niggles’. Let me get those out of the way first. Research historians enjoy the chase. In fact we LOVE the chase; hunting down information, solving the riddles, answering the questions, there is nothing quite like the thrill of it. So that being the case I had some issues with Briony as a research historian with a PhD, and why I had to read certain parts twice, in case I had missed something. Given that her specialism is supposed to be World War 2, I found it difficult to believe that she struggled at certain points about what to do, and at another had a museum assistant to direct her to what amounts to the county record office. No doubt some of her research was done ‘off stage’ as it were, but when she’s questioning herself, I was mentally shouting things like ‘look on bloody Ancestry’ or ‘go to the National Archives for heaven’s sake’. This is stuff she should and would know. A missing part for me is how she researched Sarah and Paul’s story, and I was disappointed that the author didn’t give us more of that.

None of this will spoil the enjoyment of an otherwise great story, or more properly, two great stories.

Rachel Hore writes the historic sections exceptionally well. Her subtle composition reflects the social divisions of the 1930s and how they work under the surface, while clearly highlighting the awful calculating snobbery and conceit of some of the characters. She recreates the period splendidly and doesn’t shy away from the unpleasant and ugly aspects of war and society.

I liked Briony, though occasionally her lack of confidence became very annoying, but I couldn’t like her friend Aruna no matter how I tried. There were moments when I wondered how and why they were friends though towards the end there is some resolution on that front. Lavender, her step-mother develops beautifully, as does Briony’s relationship with her. The men in her life are not perfect, indeed far from it, but they are real in as much as they are fleshed out, flawed, and recognisable.

Sarah and Paul are fantastic characters. The chapters dealing with their story had me glued to every word on every page, and they raise the book from an average to an outstanding. The beautifully paced journey of their relationship makes for great reading, and the whole mystery element makes this a page-turner. At certain parts you will find yourself anxious to find out what’s going on and so rush to read, yet at others you’ll enjoy and relish the slower pace that lets the story unfold gently. The ‘will they, won’t they’ conundrum will have you rapidly reading and page turning through secrets, heartbreak, and tightly bound emotions, all of which builds to an end that is both bitter and sweet at the same time.

Enjoy!

Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe

JohnsonSunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson

My name is Willow Longville. I live in a village called Budbury on the stunning Dorset coast with my mum Lynnie, who sometimes forgets who I am. I’m a waitress at the Comfort Food Café, which is really so much more than a café … it’s my home.

For Willow, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach, together with its warm-hearted community, offers friendship as a daily special and always has a hearty welcome on the menu. When a handsome stranger blows in on a warm spring breeze, Willow soon realises that her quiet country life will be changed forever.  Perched on a windswept cliff on the coast at what feels like the edge of the world, the café and its warm-hearted community are a haven for lost souls who happen to wander by with a heavy heart and a story to tell. Serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes, there’s nothing a cup of tea and a delicious treat won’t fix. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

When I started reading this I didn’t realise it was part of a ‘Comfort Food Cafe‘ series. I had a quick look at the synopsis for each of the other titles, and they all sound fabulous. That said, Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe works just as well as a standalone,  certainly  I don’t feel that I have missed anything, in the way that you do sometimes with a series. It took me a while to settle into the book, but once we got going, I was glued to it.

Willow, the central character, doesn’t have it easy as not only does she work cleaning as well as waitressing at the cafe, but she is also she is her mother Lynnie’s carer. Sadly, Lynnie has early onset dementia, and as this progresses, Willow’s struggles and issues are heartbreaking.  I could make a long list of the things that pulled me into the heart of this book, here are but a few. Willow’s pink hair, Doc Martens, piercings, and tattoos (very close to home…); the journals they both keep, one to remember, one to unburden;  the dogs; the colourful array of characters. There is something a little magical about it.

Then enters Tom, a boy from Willow’s childhood; an inventor and rich, but still geeky and awkward, yet totally on Willow’s wavelength – let’s just say Zombie Apocalypse. Read and you’ll understand.

It would be easy to go down a clichéd and superficial route, but the author has dealt with issue of dementia in a real yet sensitive manner, and is to be applauded for that. She’s written a lovely book full of love and optimism, humour and tears. I’m going to arm myself with the previous books, and will read them all at some point – that’s how much I enjoyed this one. Seriously, just go and get a copy and read it.

BE WARNED: you’ll need a supply of tea and cake, and tissues to wipe your damp eyes….

The Exact Opposite of Okay

The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

Exact OppositeIzzy O’Neill here! Impoverished orphan, aspiring comedian and Slut Extraordinaire, if the gossip sites are anything to go by. Izzy never expected to be 18 and internationally reviled. But when explicit photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off – but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns that the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay.

It’s The Exact Opposite of Okay.

Well, there is nothing like tackling an issue head on, and Laura Steven does just that. It’s a very powerful book, and given the media spotlight on how young women and girls are abused and bullied on the internet, it is extremely apropos. What Laura does, is take the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions; laughing and crying, happy and despairing. How do you deal with the fact that one day you are with your friends, happy and loving life, the next the internet is awash with very explicit photographs of you?

The social judgement, revenge porn, slut-shaming, victim blaming, male entitlement and more is  terrifying. Yet no matter how low and despairing it gets, you come away feeling emboldened and encouraged.  If  you do not know much about feminism or maybe are unsure what it means, this book will give some the reader some illumination.

On a less serious note, I spent a lot of time laughing; this book is riddled with humour!  The characters are well drawn, their voices are fresh and immediate, and you cannot help but become invested in them. Izzy comes across as a tough, strong girl, but in fact she is as vulnerable as everyone else, which we discover as the story progresses. As this book is aimed at an audience of teenage girls and young women, pulling away the layers of Izzy ‘front’ is a really great device to show that underneath, there is another Izzy who is just like the rest of us. Her friend Ajita provides the best friend support, and their relationship feels real and relatable. Anita’s development as a character is also excellent, but most of all I liked how her background, ethnicity, culture (call it what you will) impacts on her decision-making. Equally, well drawn are two good women;  Betty, Izzy’s Grandmother, and Mrs Crannon, Izzy’s teacher, who provided her with essential love and support.

It is astounding to think that this is a debut novel. If Laura Steven keeps this standard in her next novels, she is going to be a writing force to be reckoned with.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

 

Ottercombe Bay – Part One

Ottercombe Bay, Part One – Bella Osborne

OttercombeEscape to the Devon coast, with Part One of a brand-new four-part serial from the author of Willow Cottage.

Daisy Wickens has returned to Ottercombe Bay, the picturesque Devon town where her mother died when she was a girl. She plans to leave as soon as her great uncle’s funeral is over, but Great Uncle Reg had other ideas. He’s left Daisy a significant inheritance – an old building in a state of disrepair, which could offer exciting possibilities, but to get it she must stay in Ottercombe Bay for twelve whole months. 
With the help of a cast of quirky locals, a few gin cocktails and a black pug with plenty of attitude, Daisy might just turn this into something special. But can she ever hope to be happy among the ghosts of her past?

There are only 9 chapters, and as I found myself so irritated by Daisy, the lead character, I nearly gave up. She’s selfish, arrogant, self-important, and ungrateful. So annoyed was I, that I wondered what in the name of romance the author thought she was doing. Then bit by bit it inveigled its way in, until I hit chapters 8 and 9. What a turn!What a twist! So now I’m invested, intrigued, enthralled, and have to keep going.

I like Jason and Tamsyn. I have high hopes for Max; annoying, but not quite at the same level of irritation as Daisy.

Part 2 here I come. Clever ploy, dear author, I hope it lives up to expectations. 🙂

 

Little Pink Taxi

Little Pink Taxi – Marie Laval

Take a ride with Love Taxis, the cab company with a Heart … 
Rosalie Heart is a well-known face in Irlwick – well, if you drive a bright pink taxi and your signature style is a pink anorak, you’re going to draw a bit of attention! But Rosalie’s company Love Taxis is more than just a gimmick – for many people in the remote Scottish village, it’s a lifeline. 
Which is something that Marc Petersen will never understand. Marc’s ruthless approach to business doesn’t extend to pink taxi companies running at a loss. When he arrives in Irlwick to see to a new acquisition – Raventhorn, a rundown castle – it’s apparent he poses a threat to Rosalie’s entire existence; not just her business, but her childhood home too. 
On the face of it Marc and Rosalie should loathe each other, but what they didn’t count on was somebody playing cupid …

Maybe its the historian in me, but Laval’s Little Pink Taxi turned out to be NOT what I was expecting! In fact, it was so much more, and the synopsis does not do it justice at all.

Starting with all the elements that make this book so good and kept me reading.

Firstly, genres. Little Pink Taxi is a crossover/genre mix in my opinion.  It is in essence one romance between 2 people, however it encompasses several other romances,  between people, with home, with landscape, and with heritage. It is a mystery, a thriller, a fantasy, and a historical romance novel. The menace of strange phone calls, a very unpleasant bully, and ‘road rage’ incidents add to the atmosphere and appeal. Who can be trusted? Who can’t? The characters have to deal with their pasts and the people in them; they have to learn and to accept that their perceptions may not be the full picture, that perhaps they’ve got it wrong. Not everything is black and white, and they must accept that they didn’t really know those people fully. The mythology that pervades this book, that surrounds and motivates the characters, is fascinating, and rooted in history. It informs the present, giving us historical characters and another love story. Of course, this historical aspect pulled me deeper into a story  that already had its hooks in me. Deep hooks.

Secondly, the growth and development of the characters. They suffer loss, betrayal, cruelty, and deception. They have to recognise elements within themselves that need to change, no matter how subtly, especially Marc, and to a lesser degree Rosalie. The staggering, stumbling  journey of their romance is excellently written. I found Marc a difficult character to like, so rude, distant, and unfeeling, however the author gradually peels away the layers and you find a man with feelings and issues that he represses.  He initially fights the change that he actually wants, eventually he becomes the man he hoped he would.

Rosalie appears to be very much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get character; sweet, kind, loving, and caring. She still hurts over the loss of her mother. There are elements to her that are not so nice. She easily takes advantage of one relationship which is unkind of her. It’s easy to say she’s not aware she’s doing it, but I’m not convinced. This doesn’t make her a terrible person, it makes her real. She works hard to keep everything going for everyone’s sake, and I did wonder if and when she would finally face the facts about her business.

I can’t say more without revealing really interesting plots and sub-plots. The great mix of genres and various plot-lines suggest it is a mish-mash of a story, but Marie Laval handles it all with great aplomb, and I loved every page of it. I don’t often use the phrase ‘page-turner,’ but this book was for me. I loved the Danish/Viking connections. I wanted to know how and where everyone’s story would end. I had to know about the secrets and mysteries, the crimes and the threats. By the end I couldn’t read fast enough, to the last we are kept guessing even though we are sure this will be a happy ending.

Read this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s a scary, thrilling, romantic ride, and I loved it!

BIG THUMBS UP! 


Maybe Never

Maybe Never – Sadie Allen

Maybe NeverJudd Jackson had it all—star football player with a college scholarship, perfect family, tons of friends, and a beautiful girlfriend. He was the most popular guy in town … until a family secret burned it all to the ground. Now, he’s the object of scorn and ridicule, and the only thing he has left is his scholarship and counting down the days until he can leave town. 
One goal-oriented girl… 
Sunny Blackfox was alone in the world, but she had big plans and big dreams to keep her occupied. She didn’t have time for anyone in her life. That was, until she came to the rescue of the boy she always had a thing for. 
They have everything going against them, but maybe, if they are lucky, they will make it out-of-town after graduation together … or maybe never.

A great read, with great characters. Sadie Allen’s writing pulled me in with the drama at the start of the book, and kept me reading with great characters, both nice and nasty. I love how Sunny stood up for Judd, and it just goes on up from that point, experiencing everything from both Sunny and Judd’s points of view.

While I like both the main characters very much, I especially like Sunny. She’s strong, smart, and brave. Her life is tough and she wants to leave the heartache behind and make something of her life. Judd was a ‘golden boy’, and when that is taken away he is lost, insecure, and unable to deal with the injustice of it all. Sunny is his saviour; she brings out his true character.

 

Their romance is adorable, and it was a lovely and natural evolution from study partners, to allies, to friends, to a couple. Although these are teenagers with rampaging hormones, the sex is kept in the background, rather than explicitly on the page. It makes such a change, and made the story so much more realistic to be honest.

Allen sets a good pace as the pair battle neglect, bullying, violence, and brutality, while fighting to remain strong and true to themselves and each other. The author also gets the balance between dark and light, drama and peace nigh on perfect, and while there is tragedy at the heart of this tale, for some reason Hamlet’s words jumped into my mind:

to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them

I believe that is the essence of what Sunny and Judd do. Intense, dark, heartwarming and sweet, I highly recommend Maybe Never.