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Published: 18 May 2017

 

Description:

LOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET
Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.
But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.
Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?

My Thoughts & Review:

There’s just something so lovely about picking up a book by Jenny Colgan, you know from the moment you start reading that there will be laughter and fun as well as a few more serious moments.
“Spandex and the City” is wonderfully humorous from the opening chapter, poor Holly Phillips finding her chances of a love life aren’t helped by having her knickers splashed over the front pages and on social media.  Her night starts innocently enough, a much needed night out with her best friend Gertie when a band of masked robbers descend upon the bar and demand valuables, phones etc.  These raids aren’t the first that the town has endured and without fail the local superhero Ultimate Man is soon in the vicinity to save the day, unfortunately when he rescues the damsel in distress (or distressing damsel) he throws her over his shoulder to lead her to safety not realising her knickers are on show for all to see.  Holly is mortified when people recognise her face in the picture and attracts some unwanted attention because of this.

The raids continue across the town, and as luck would have it Holly usually ends up being in the same place, as does Ultimate Man.  The pair share a few conversation at their unplanned rendezvous, and from there a budding romance of sorts forms.

“Spandex and the City” is different from Colgan’s other novels, yes there is a love story in here, but there is also a lot more to this novel than some readers may expect.  The superhero and science fiction elements in this novel are well written and it has a feel of an updated superhero tale.  Characterisation is really good, Holly is a funny and charming character that oozes warmth and humour.  Her exchanges with her best friend Gertie as well as those with Ultimate Man are wonderfully crafted and very enjoyable.  Ultimate Man is a little bit of an enigma, very alluring and interesting but I have to agree with Holly’s remarks about his name, it doesn’t sound the greatest!  The evil mastermind was a fantastic character, one with many sides it would seem but how many of them were true?

A lovely light hearted read with plenty of laughter – just what I’ve come to know and love from Jenny Colgan!

My thanks to Hayley Camis for recommending this book and inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

You can buy a copy of “Spandex and the City” via:

Amazon
The Book Depository
Wordery

 

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Published: 18 May 2017

 

Description:

No one in Carniskey has ever truly understood what led Sean Delaney, a seasoned local fisherman, to risk his life in a high storm in the dead of night. Now, three years on from that tragic night, his wife Alison is still struggling with her unresolved grief and increasing financial worries.

After three difficult years, Alison has grown distant from her daughter and estranged from her friends and fellow villagers, particularly her best friend Kathleen who harbours a deeply guarded secret of her own. Isolated by its stunning yet often cruel surroundings, this is a community used to looking after its own but the arrival of an outsider – artist and lifelong nomad, William – offers Alison a new perspective on life and love that threatens to unearth the mysteries of the past.

A story of courage and enduring humanity, Finding Alison follows the community through their struggles in love, loss and betrayal, each coming to understand that only in truth can we find the peace and liberation essential for true happiness.

My Thoughts & Review:

“Finding Alison” is one of those books that instantly appeals to me as soon as I’ve read the description, it’s a lovely change of pace from dark and gritty crime thrillers but it’s still an emotional rollercoaster ride.

The reader is faced with one of the most heart wrenching openings, Alison Delaney is wakened by a knock on the door that will change her life forever, her husband Sean was seen taking his fishing boat out late at night on stormy seas and it has sunk.  Alison is dumbfounded with grief, she struggles to cope with the idea that Sean is gone, wandering the beach and harbour in hope.  As time passes and no sign of Sean or his boat appear washed up on the shore the search is called off and Alison is forced to accept he has gone.  Alison is not the only one in mourning, their young daughter Hannah essentially loses both of her parents that stormy night, Sean’s mother Maryanne stepping in to care for the youngster when Alison is unable to cope.

As years pass, Hannah steps into her teenage years and rebels, perhaps a telling sign of her years but she cannot understand why her mother has sunk to the levels she has, not taking care of her appearance or her health and developing an alarming reliance on a bottle of wine or two to get through an evening.  Alison struggles to connect with Hannah, finding that the gap between them has become too wide, she relies on the help of her best friend Kathleen and her sister Claire.  There are also financial struggles for the Delaney family, the insurance payout from Sean’s accident cannot be released until 7 years have passed so that he can be legally declared dead.
A burglary gone wrong in Maryanne’s home one evening leaves her suffering a massive knock to the head, and she is moved to a nursing home to be cared for and Alison feels duty bound to visit everyday.

Deep rooted in this tale is a connection with the sea, it almost becomes a character in its own right.  The descriptions of the seascape are utterly hypnotic and the poetry used to portray the movements of the waves make it easy for a reader to “see” the alluring appeal of the sea.  It’s whilst seeking solace beside the sea that Alison meets William and from there she steps into the light and embarks on a journey to find herself.
 

At the heart of it, this is a story of growth, finding yourself and reminding us of the lasting impact people leave on each other.  This is a powerful and evocative read, and at times it’s heart wrenchingly sad, there were moments I could feel tears threatening to spill out but equally there were moments I laughed out loud.  There were also revelations which I genuinely did not see coming and gasped in surprise before reading on eagerly to find out what happened next.
This is very much a book that lingered on in my mind after I’d read it, the writing is so wonderfully rich.  The descriptions of settings, characters, relationships all felt so real and authentic.
My absolute heartfelt thanks to Joanne – Portobello Book Blog and Lina at Black and White Publishing for bringing this book to my attention, I cannot thank you both enough!
You can buy a copy of “Finding Alison” via:
Don’t forget to follow the blog tour!
Finding Alison blog tour

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Happy Saturday and welcome along to my stop on the blog tour for Darcie Boleyn’s “Summer at Corwenna Cove”, I am honoured to be able to share a guest post with you today written by Darcie about some of her romance book inspirations.


Summer at Conwenna Cove

Description:

About the Author:

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Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night. Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.

To find out more about Darcie’s books check out the following links:

Blog: https://darcieboleyn.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/darcieboleyn

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/public/Darcie-Boleyn

Summer at Conwenna Cove blog tour 2

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Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for “The Spy Who Chipped The China Teacup” by Angie Smith.  I am thrilled to share a guest post written by the author on locations used in books and discusses whether or not to use fact or fiction when it comes to the places used.

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Description:

Arms dealing. Murder. Corruption. 

In Africa, Taylor Hudson reaches the stark realisation that she is in imminent danger.

Time is nearly up when, out of nowhere, she is thrown a lifeline.  Left with little option, she places her trust in a complete stranger. But who is this stranger and why the interest in saving her?

The answers lie 6,000 miles away, deep inside the British Secret Intelligence Service, where a former, disgraced, senior officer is attempting to work his way back into the heart of the organisation. But what are his real intentions? 

What ensues is a deadly game of bluff, double-bluff and triple-bluff.

You can buy a copy of “The Spy Who Chipped The China Teacup” via:

Amazon


A book about fiction, or is it?

What is it about locations in fiction that grabs your attention? Makes it real for you? Do you like plenty of detail or do you just not care? Then, there is that old chestnut – should locations be real or fictitious? This last question seems to be one which causes a stir among readers.

Recently, I was puzzled to see a scathing write-up about a book I’ve read and very much enjoyed. The main reason for the cutting review was the author’s use of fictitious place names. But why should it matter? It would appear that to some people it does – very much so. I’ve seen accusations of laziness and lack of research thrown at authors.

Coming in for the most criticism appears to be the writer who adopts the hybrid style, a mix of actual and fictitious. Cries of ‘there is no such police authority in [insert place name]’ along with ‘there is no such job as a [insert made up job title]’. It seems the reader who has real places on which to create their imagination struggles to cope with other aspects which are completely made up. Yet – what is a work of fiction?

I suppose I now need to confess that as an author I am absolutely compelled to write about actual places. And almost exclusively I have to visit those places. Why? For me it provides the backdrop for creating atmosphere, flavour, ambience, call it what you like. So, if a reader lives locally or has visited the areas, then they may travel with me. And the reader who hasn’t is provided with sufficient information in order to experience the fineries of the location.

Having polled readers on a book club it would appear some argue that if you write about places which exist, then every single detail must be accurate. I’d agree – having to bear the brunt of criticism claiming that a certain train journey I’d referred to from a) to b) didn’t exist as a direct route! Whilst finding this amusing I was somewhat cross with myself and I was convinced I’d researched it and there was a direct train. Hey ho! But what is it that makes for a brain which will happily suspend belief about murder, espionage, corruption and spies, but cannot handle a minor detail about whether a direct train journey exists?

Of course the other side of the coin, where writers use completely fictitious locations has to have a mention here. As I alluded to above it matters not one jot to me so long as the author has created a vision – they’ve stirred my imagination enough for me to think it’s real. Isn’t that just as clever as writing about existing locations? Maybe they use real places and change the name, but that’s fine with me too as a reader. It all comes down to horses for courses. What works for one reader might not for another. That’s the thing with books – there are so many variable. So much to discuss. What do you think?

Footnote – that reader who picked up the train journey issue is now a good friend.


A huge thank you to Angie Smith for joining me today and also to Bloodhound Books for having me join their blog tour.  Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for fab reviews, guest posts and other brilliant content! Blog Tour(5)

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I am absolutely thrilled to welcome you along to my stop on the blog tour for “Death’s Silent Judgement” today.  I have a wonderful guest piece written by Anne Coates to share with you.  “Death’s Silent Judgement” is the sequel to “Dancers in the Wind” (I reviewed this back in December 2016 here’s the link to the review).

Description:  

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Following the deadly events of Dancers in the Wind, freelance journalist and single mother Hannah Weybridge is thrown into the heart of a horrific murder investigation when a close friend, Liz Rayman, is found with her throat slashed at her pro bono dental practice at St John the Evangelist church in Waterloo. The free surgery Hannah runs is attended by the homeless people who comprise Cardboard City nearby and initially the police are quick to place the blame in their direction.

Hannah is not convinced and nor is Lady Rayman, Liz’s mother who employs the journalist to investigate.

With few clues to the apparently motiveless crime Hannah throws herself into discovering the reason for her friend’s brutal murder, and is determined to unmask the killer. But before long Hannah’s investigations place her in mortal danger, her hunt for the truth placing her in the path of a remorseless killer…

You can buy a copy of “Death’s Silent Judgement”  via:

Amazon
Urbane Publications
Wordery


My Inspiration for Death’s Silent Judgement

Many people have assumed that my protagonist Hannah Weybridge and her situation are, at least in parts, autobiographical. Of course this is true to a certain extent and I couldn’t put it better than Virginia Woolf who wrote: “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” Although I would probably have changed his to her!

I have dug deeply into some of my own experiences to create Hannah however her life has been refracted through various prisms. How she reacts to situations is part of her personality not mine. She is, like other characters, one of my imaginary friends. I confess I love the way characters arrive in my narratives – sometimes uninvited. I remember a spiritualist telling me she saw spirits vying for her attention and that’s how I feel. Sometimes they are all clamouring for a bigger role. It can get quite noisy in my head.

So where did the idea of discovering one’s best friend dead in the crypt of a church where she held a free dental clinic for the homeless, came from? In truth I have no idea. I had never been into St John the Evangelist at Waterloo and I do not have friends who are dentists – dead or alive. However I have experienced – as most people have – the loss of a friend either through circumstance or death. In particular I lost touch with one close friend when I was pregnant and I have used that situation to explore feelings and emotions in the interaction between Hannah and Liz, which I have done via flashbacks in Death’s Silent Judgement. But that is a kernel of truth that expands fictionally. A “what if…” that that takes me into the fictional world.

A sense of place is also important to me. The murders in Dancers in the Wind began in Kings Cross. In the sequel, the killings and much of the action has moved further south to Waterloo. This is an area I knew and know well. My mother was born there and a lot of her family lived there. As she was the only child of a second marriage, her half-siblings were between ten and 18 years older than her and died years ago. I modelled two minor characters, Eileen and Kit, on one of her sisters-in-law and her half-sister. That’s to say I took them as a starting point. Although I know the area well from when we visited family when I was a child, I also got to know the area as an adult when I worked at IPC Magazines in Stamford Street. The homeless people in the cardboard city of the Bull Ring (now the Imax Cinema) were a familiar sight.

Another source of inspiration is the amazing work individuals do to make life better for other people. WaterAid is a charity I support and they do such important and life-saving work. I have a charity in Death’s Silent Judgement – but I deliberately made the organisation a small, fictitious one. At the outpost where Liz was based, girls suffered rape and abuse through lack of amenities. Sadly this is a situation which continues today.

As a journalist I have been privileged to share and write about many people’s experiences and situations from celeb interviews to talking to prostitutes (my starting point for Dancers in the Wind) and like most writers I love eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. I always have a notebook at the ready for priceless gems! Plus I am fascinated by how people are dressed and present themselves. I make notes and keep them handy for my characters. (I wish I had a hidden camera that Hannah uses to take photos of people who intrigue me.) And I am indebted to friends who offer insights into their lives and careers.

All of this goes into my mind’s melting pot. I use nuggets of information to go off on a journey in my imagination. Often a character will lead me down a different path and reveal his or her secrets in an unexpected way. I was stunned by how this happened with one character in Death’s Silent Judgement and then I realised that the character had been giving me clues all along the way. I just hadn’t been paying close enough attention!


A huge thank you to Anne for joining me today and sharing where she gets her inspiration from.  I’m sure you will all agree that it’s always fun to find out where ideas for characters and plots come from, just be sure never to say anything too juicy around Anne, she might have that notebook handy to jot down all the details!

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Published: 4 May 2017

Description:

How far would you go to save your reputation? The stunning new noir thriller from the author of the bestselling The Missing One and The Other Child. Perfect for fans of I Let You Go and Lie With Me.

Professor Olivia Sweetman has worked hard to achieve the life she loves, with a high-flying career as a TV presenter and historian, three children and a talented husband. But as she stands before a crowd at the launch of her new bestseller she can barely pretend to smile. Her life has spiralled into deceit and if the truth comes out, she will lose everything.

Only one person knows what Olivia has done. Vivian Tester is the socially awkward sixty-year-old housekeeper of a Sussex manor who found the Victorian diary on which Olivia’s book is based. She has now become Olivia’s unofficial research assistant. And Vivian has secrets of her own.

As events move between London, Sussex and the idyllic South of France, the relationship between these two women grows more entangled and complex. Then a bizarre act of violence changes everything.

The Night Visitor is a compelling exploration of ambition, morality and deception that asks the question: how far would you go to save your reputation?

My Thoughts & Review:

“The Night Visitor” is the first book by Lucy Atkins that I’ve read, and if I’m honest I really had no idea what to expect when I picked this up.  I’d seen a fair bit of praise for this book and was curious to see if it lived up to the hype.

Following two characters, Olivia Sweetman and Vivian Tester, the author expertly weaves an intricate plot that will leave readers stunned, the story makes for uncomfortable reading in places but it is also spectacularly clever.  The way in which this book has been written is magnificent, each word, each phrase, each nuance is used for maximum effect and is perfectly placed to ensure that readers are entranced under Atkins spell.
Olivia Sweetman is an interesting character who on the surface appears to have the quintessential perfect life.  She is a highly successful academic, a minor celebrity, has a happy marriage and three children.  But below the surface there is tension bubbling, from the very beginning it is clear there is something bothering her, and the relationships around her are not as stable as they might seem.
Vivian Tester, well there’s a character that I found incredibly difficult to work out.  A true hat tip to Atkins here, as this must have been a character that took time and work to get just right on paper.  Vivian Tester is cold, distant, blunt and for want of a better word, strange.  She likes routine, and does not like anyone upsetting it.  She clearly has a secret or two to hide, but what could be behind her sinister aura.
Both of these women make for unreliable narrators, but it’s up to the reader to decide which is the most unreliable……

At times there is a claustrophobic feel to reading this book, suspicion runs rife throughout the plot, there are secrets being kept that could potentially ruin the lives of many and there is an underlying menace that presents in many forms – the book perfectly titled when you consider the events in the tower in France and Vivian’s terrifying nightmares.  All of this combines to form an incredibly rich and atmospheric read, and one that is filled with intrigue.

The attention to detail in the writing absolutely blew me away, Lucy Atkins has clearly spent a lot of time researching her subject matter, intricate details given about dung beetles, the publishing world and academia add a real feeling of authenticity as well as providing fascinating in-depth reading.

A wonderfully gripping thriller, that haunts the reader long after they’ve turned the final pages.

My thanks to Alainna Hadjigeorgiou and Quercus Books for the opportunity to read this book and take part in the blog tour.

You can buy a copy of “The Night Visitor” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository


Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for reviews, guest posts and extracts!

 

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Published: 17 April 2017

 

Description:

It is 1911, and Jean is about to join the mass strike at the Singer factory. For her, nothing will be the same again.

Decades later, in Edinburgh, Connie sews coded moments of her life into a notebook, as her mother did before her.

More than 100 years after his grandmother’s sewing machine was made, Fred discovers a treasure trove of documents. His family history is laid out before him in a patchwork of unfamiliar handwriting and colourful seams.

He starts to unpick the secrets of four generations, one stitch at a time.

My Thoughts & Review:

Every so often you read a book that speaks directly to your heart and that book becomes a very special one indeed.  “The Sewing Machine” has become a very special book to me, one that I loved reading and will no doubt be reading again before the year is out.

The uniqueness of this book comes in the form that the reader follows the tale of a Singer Sewing machine from it’s “birth” on the production line in Clydebank, Glasgow in the early 1900s.  It is at the Singer factory that we meet the first of the wonderfully rich characters, Jean.  A young woman, who believes in doing the right thing and following her heart, Jean takes part in a strike at the factory which in turn leads to a change of life for her.

The inheritance of the sewing machine by Fred brings the reader to current times and a different world from when the sewing machine first appeared.  It is through Fred that the reader finds out about the history of this particular machine, he unearths notebooks kept by his grandmother and great grandmother detailing all of the projects sewn on this machine.  The author expertly crafts together an intensely rich tale that flows over several time periods from different perspectives but all the while keeps everything linked, you could say her anchor stitching is perfect.

The exploration of each of the main characters in this book is so well thought out and detailed, it is evident that numerous hours of research has been done in planning of this story, including the small details of nursing uniforms and practices in the set time period add a real authenticity.
The lives of Connie and Alfred stuck out for me reading this, perhaps there was something about them that reminded me of my grandparents, certainly some of Fred’s younger memories of his grandparents did strike a chord with me, hours spent pottering in the garden with my grandfather, or creating things with my grandmother like little play dens etc.  theirs is a wonderful example of loving relationship, one filled with respect, care and genuine concern for others.
Fred is another character that found his way into my heart, through his blog entries the reader finds out more about him, how his life has changed following the death of his beloved grandfather and his decisions to remain in Edinburgh.
Kathleen’s story was one that I found troubling at times, not quite knowing how to take her, but I think that some of this has to be credited to Natalie Fergie.  In her writing of this character she invokes a very good representation of a woman who has faced troubling times but still remains vulnerable.  Hers was a tale that I found saddening but empowering, her notebooks proving just how strong she was.

This is a wonderfully charming read, a story that has numerous threads running through it, and like a patchwork quilt, each part is dovetailed seamlessly to form a beautiful creation.  I absolutely loved reading this book, it made me smile, it made me laugh, it made me weep but at the end I felt such a great satisfaction at how things worked out.

My heartfelt thanks to Natalie Fergie for the opportunity to read and review this book, and for inviting me to participate in her blog tour.

You can buy a copy of “The Sewing Machine” via
Amazon

Natalie has advised that paperback has sold out at the wholesalers, however Blackwell’s bookshop in Edinburgh will do a special Free Postage deal if people ring the shop and order on the phone 0131 622 8222.  And in London, The Big Green Bookshop have copies (and Free Postage) if people ring 0208 881 6767 – please note that there may be no guarantees how long they will have copies for, this book is absolutely brilliant and flying off the shelves!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for reviews, guest posts and fantastic features with the author of The Sewing Machine.

Yesterday’s host was the lovely Joanne over at Portobello Book Blog why not pop over and read her review.  Tomorrow’s host is Abby, a smashing lass that writes amazing reviews over on Anne Bonny Book Reviews

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