Monthly Archives: March 2017

Book Review – Fearne Fairy And The Landing Lesson by Sarah Hill

The Blurb

Will Fearne Fairy finally master the art of landing? Who will help her overcome her flying flaw? Find out in this 10th enchanting story from the award-winning Whimsy Wood Series.

My Thoughts

Fearne Fairy and the Landing Lesson is book 10 in The Whimsey Wood Series and sees the return of Fearne Fairy and Mustard the Magpie Moth Caterpillar. It is May in Whimsey Wood and Fearne finally takes the plunge and has some landing lessons. Fearne has not mastered the art of landing resulting in bumps, bruises and broken objects. While this is the 10th book, it works equally as well as a standalone.

Fearne is not the perfect fairy – her flying skills and singing voice leave a lot to be desired – and this makes her all the more likeable as, let’s face it, none of us are perfect.

There is so much attention to detail in this book, with Sarah Hill beautifully creating the world around Fearne and her woodland friends. I loved the descriptions of the furniture within Fearne’s house and her clothing. Young imaginations are sure to be fired by this gorgeous tale.

Hill’s use of alliteration adds humour and children will have great fun saying these phrases aloud and parents will enjoying reading them out loud. A great way for kids to learn and remember words, Fearne Fairy and the Landing Lesson is both educational and a lot of fun.

The illustrations are gorgeous and fit with the story perfectly while providing much to look at and discuss.

A great book that both children and adults will enjoy. It’s ‘Bzz-illiant’ as Bristle Bumblebee would say. Highly recommended.

A huge thank you to Sarah Hill for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

Published on 24 November 2016 by Abela Publishing.

Publication Day Excerpt – A Manor In Cornwall by Laura Briggs

Those of you who regularly read my blog may remember that I reviewed Laura Briggs’ A Wedding In Cornwall and A Christmas In Cornwall. Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the celebrations of the publication of  A Manor In Cornwall, the fourth book in the series. Laura has kindly given me an excerpt of the novella, but first I’m pleased to share with you the blurb.

The Blurb

The fourth instalment in the bestselling, feel-good series!

Now that Julianne’s happy ending is secure, her career as Cliffs House’s event planner is suddenly busier than ever. Thanks to a Cornish singing sensation’s upcoming concert at Cliffs House, and her promise to plan the perfect wedding for Pippa, Julianne hasn’t a moment to spare for Matthew or his plans for a weekend outing at Pencarrow. But she’s determined to find a way without letting down Ceffylgwyn for its big moment, or disappointing Pippa on the biggest day of her friend’s life.

With a star-struck crew of volunteers, a persistent American event planner, and a seemingly ill-chosen assistant in the form of the village’s former troublemaker, Julianne has her hands full, as usual. And it will take all of her friends, a few surprise twists, and—of course—her beloved Matthew to see her through it.

Excerpt

The next morning, the winnowed pool of part-time manor workers waited for their assignments. I had a checklist with names divided into two groups, one for Geoff and Lady Amanda and one for Pippa.

“As I read off the names in the first group, you’ll be joining Geoff for stage construction,” I said. “The rest of you will assist Pippa with moving the furniture into storage.” I checked the name sheet once more. “Kitty — you’ll be helping me for this afternoon.”

Several pairs of eyes latched onto the dark-haired girl when I said this last name. Several more people were whispering. After a short pause, the girl began moving in my direction.

“What are you thinking?” hissed Gemma. “That’s Kitty Alderson, for heaven’s sake!”

“What?” I asked.

“She’s a troublemaker,” whispered Pippa. “Don’t you know she’s —” But that was as far as she got before she hushed herself.

Kitty stopped in front of me. She was slightly shorter than I was, but that was because my high heels and her battered red sneakers placed us at different eye levels. Her dark hair was almost black and rather untamed, while freckles were visible on her fair skin, across the cheekbones just beneath her greenish-blue eyes.

“Follow me,” I said. And I led the way to my office, aware that Pippa and Gemma were both watching with disapproval.

“Basically, this is a simple job,” I said. “I want the piles of paperwork on my desk sorted into separate stacks of bills, sketches, and receipts. Any file folders go in the cabinet by the big antique globe, in alphabetical order. And if I need an errand run, you’ll pop out and do it for me so I don’t have to leave while they’re working downstairs. Does that sound manageable?”

Kitty stood in the middle of the room, her hands stuck deep in the pockets of her old canvas coat. Underneath it, she wore a red hooded jacket and a pair of jeans cuffed at the bottom because they were too long. The only time she took her hands out was to lightly touch the globe, her fingers giving it a deft spin on its axis.

“All right,” she answered. She shrugged her shoulders. There was a decided lack of interest or enthusiasm in her voice, and a decided coolness — it was the audible expression of a poker face, almost.

Author Bio

Laura Briggs is the author of several women’s fiction and chick lit novels, with themes that range from wedding planning to modern Jane Austen. Even though she tends to write stories with a romance theme, as a reader she has a soft spot for mysteries, including those by Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart. She also enjoys books by Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, and too many others to name. In her free time, she likes to experiment with new recipes and tries to landscape her yard (a never-ending project).

Author Website: http://paperdollwrites.blogspot.com/
Twitter Account: http://bit.ly/1ME9ivJ
Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/1JjeMoI
Official Series Page for A Wedding in Cornwall: http://weddingincornwall.blogspot.com/

Wishing a huge happy book birthday to Laura and I hope you enjoyed reading the excerpt.

 

Blog Tour – Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski *Guest Post*

Hurrah it’s my turn on the Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski blog tour. Due to having a ridiculously busy month I couldn’t get Six Stories read in time which I’m pretty gutted about. Instead I have a fab guest post by Matt on ‘Tying Up The Threads’ Before I hand you over to Matt here’s what Six Stories about…

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

Sounds good, right? The reviews for Six Stories have been great and this is one I will be trying to push up my TBR pile. Anyway, I will hand over to Matt…

Tying Up The Threads by Matt Wesolowski

I once went to a writing event and heard an author talk about how she planned and kept track of her plot lines. A great whiteboard in her writing room, spider-legs of red pen, like the web of some criminal investigation. That’s such a good idea, I thought to myself, I should really get rid of my shelves of skulls and odd trinkets, get a whiteboard, do this writing thing properly. Why do I do things so backwards?

I never got round to it, I’m afraid.

The amount of times I have tried to plan, to keep track of a plot, to make fastidious notes about characters and locations, all to no avail. These notes end up between tea-stained scraps of A4 that cower, unobserved beside my keyboard or else piled beneath books about monsters.

I just can’t do it. Every other aspect of my life is bound by logistics. All but my writing.

I often feel like that scene in the office where David Brent is being reprimanded and asked why he never writes anything down.
“It’s all up here.” Brent says, tapping his temple.
“It’s not though, is it David?”
I feel like I’m David Brent, ridiculous ideas pirouetting through my mind, never settling into a semblance of order.

What I tend to do when writing is start with an idea, an image then spool out a load of different threads in a story and hope for the best. Yes, that’s as technical as I get, I’m afraid.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s very rare that I know what’s going to happen at the end before I start a book, usually I just start and hope that somehow the end ties itself up on its own.

Which 99% of the time it does. I shelved a manuscript 50,000 words in because there just seemed no way anything would resolve. Maybe I’ll go back to it. Most probably, I wont.
I’ve tried to plan, I’ve tried to flesh out characters before I start, even draw maps of my imagined locations but they’ve all killed the story stone dead.

When I was writing Six Stories, I actually had no idea who killed Tom Jeffries or why, when I began. I just knew he was dead and the circumstances of his death. This was the quickest novel I ever wrote (1st draft was completed in about 4 or 5 months) and I didn’t research, I didn’t plan, I just wrote. The reasons for his death would come in their own time. If I kept writing, surely they’d come…

Believe it or not, I actually didn’t know how or why Tom Jeffries died until I was half way through episode five! It was panic stations for a while, wondering if this novel would end up on the unfinished, never-to-be-looked-at-again part of my hard drive.

I wasn’t going to let this happen for the second time in a row so I just waited until the solution hit me, which it eventually did (probably in the shower, I usually get over a knotty plot-point in the shower).

So there you have it; I have no strategy for plotting, no formula for writing, my characters emerged as pale things, skeletal; they took their forms as I wrote them, as did the plot.

For me, this is the most exciting thing about writing, that not-knowing until you are hit with a revelatory moment where, somewhere in some dark place at the bottom of your subconscious mind, those threads that you spooled out somehow knit themselves together.

Because who wants to have the ending spoiled?

About the Author

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor and leads Cuckoo Young Writers creative writing workshops for young people in association with New Writing North. Matt started his writing career in horror and his short horror fiction has been published in Ethereal Tales magazine, Midnight Movie Creature Feature anthology, 22 More Quick Shivers anthology and many more. His debut novella The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013 and a new novella set in the forests of Sweden will be available shortly. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. He is currently working on his second crime novel Ashes, which involves black metal and Icelandic sorcery.

A massive thank you to Matt for the bloody brilliant guest post and to Karen at Orenda for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Be sure to check out the other hosts on the Six Stories blog tour…

Blog Tour – After She’s Gone by Maggie James – *Review*

Chuffed to bits to be hosting today’s turn on the After She’s Gone by Maggie James blog tour. I love a good psychological thriller so quickly agreed to take part in this one. What did I think? Read on to find out…

The Blurb

Lori Golden’s family has had more than its fair share of troubles. But through it all, Lori and her sister, Jessie, have always supported each other. Then Jessie is killed. And Lori’s world turns upside down.

Devastated, Lori struggles to cope with her loss, and to learn to live in a world without her bright, bubbly sister by her side. Around her, her already fractured family starts to fall apart. And as Lori and her mother try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, secrets long thought buried are coming painfully to light.

Faced with the unthinkable, Lori is forced to ask herself how well she really knows those who are left behind…

My Thoughts

Having never read a Maggie James novel before I was keen to discover a ‘new to me’ author. When Lori Golden’s sixteen-year-old sister, Jessie, fails to return home one night, Lori’s family are thrust into a rapid descent of grief, mistrust and suspicion as long held secrets are gradually revealed.

The prologue introduces us to a mysterious figure who is setting fire to Bristol’s disused buildings and serves to hook the reader in immediately. From there we are introduced to Lori hours before her world falls apart. I really liked the way James sets the scene in chapter one and the sense of foreboding she instils into the reader. Largely told from the perspective of Lori with brief glimpses into the thoughts and feelings of her mother, step-brother and the arsonist, you are taken along with the tide of emotions and individual worries they all have.

The beauty of After She’s Gone for me was the portrayal of a family unravelling in the wake of a tragedy. James depicts this brilliantly. The Golden/Hamiltons are a blended family and the small cracks that were there from the beginning become ravines in the aftermath. The doubts and misgivings Lori and her mother had about their newest family members become more prominent in their minds and take on more significance and meaning, resulting in the family becoming fractured. As long held secrets are gradually revealed they all begin to look at each other through different eyes.

I thought I had it all figured out in regards to who was responsible for Jessie’s death. In some respects I did, but in other ways I was very wrong…which won’t make sense unless you read it! James cleverly plants red herrings and the plethora of secrets within the family has the reader second guessing themselves. Who, if anyone, can truly be trusted?

After She’s Gone is a great psychological thriller which plays on the fear of not being able to trust those closest to you. I loved the combination of trying to figure out who had done it along with the emotional response I had to a family falling apart. A great read.

Published on 16 March 2017 by Lake Union Publishing.

Purchase Link (will take you to any amazon site world-wide)
http://smarturl.it/aftershesgone

About The Author

Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.

Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!

Connect with Maggie James

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MJamesFiction/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/mjamesfiction
Goodreads Author Page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/828751.Maggie_James
Blog: http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com/blog
Website: http://www.maggiejamesfiction.com

A huge thanks to Maggie James and Noelle Holten at Thick As Thieves Publicity for the advance copy and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Catch the other fab bloggers on the rest of the tour…

Blog Tour – Mystery At Maplemead Castle by Kitty French – *Book Review*

I am absolutely delighted to be one of two hosts on the Mystery At Maplemead Castle blog tour today. This is the second book in Kitty French’s The Chapelwick Mysteries series and was one of my hotly anticipated reads of 2017.  So what did I think of it? Did it live up to expectations? You bet it did! Carry on reading to find out what the book is about and my review…

The Blurb

Welcome to Chapelwick, a leafy English town in the hills of Shropshire, where chocolate pecan cookies come with a helping of sabotage.

Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers… literally.

A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?

Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.

Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?

An utterly hilarious, gripping, spooktastic read for fans of HY Hanna, MC Beaton, Gina LaManna and Jana DeLeon.

My Thoughts

Mystery at Maplemead Castle is the second book in The Chapelwick Mysteries and heralds the much welcome return of Melody Bittersweet and her ghostbusting agency. I was very excited to get my hands on this book after loving the first book The Skeletons of Scarborough House (previously titled Melody Bittersweet and the Girls Ghostbusting Agency).

If you haven’t read the first book, don’t worry, this book works perfectly as a standalone–although you are really missing out on a treat and should read it–as French introduces the characters in the first chapter which also helped as a great refresher for those, like me, who have a terrible memory.

The second case Melody’s new ghostbusting agency has been assigned to is at Maplemead Castle. Owned by brash American couple Lois and Barty Letterman, they have let out the castle to be used as a film set but some of the actors won’t step foot inside the place until it is cleared of its resident ghosts. How difficult can this be for psychic Melody? Very, when you add into the mix rival psychic and ex-boyfriend Leo Dark, reporter Fletcher Gunn who Melody should hate but finds herself attracted to and the ghosts of a circus troup! This is an unconventional, eccentric mystery and it works brilliantly.

The characterisation in Mystery at Maplemead Castle is fantastic. Told in first person narrative by Melody, French has a way of writing that makes you feel as though you are conversing with an old friend. I was drawn in immediately and found it really difficult to put the book down. You can’t help but fall in love with quirky, sugar-addicted Melody, her mother, champagne-swigging grandmother, slightly-scary-but-lovable Marina and sweet, geeky Artie. Then of course there is Lestat; Melody’s food obsessed, farting pug! You could really see yourself having a pint down the pub with Melody and her friends and family. French has also taken great care with the peripheral characters including the ghosts Melody has to try and send back to the other side.

The humour is wickedly funny and starts from the very first page. I love the references to popular culture French uses, demonstrating her sharp wit. There is also a depth to this book and I found myself being really moved by the final chapter. I was also touched by Melody’s experiences of being ‘different’ to everyone else and how this has made her feel throughout her life. French effortlessly combines comedy with poignant moments.

I love everything about Mystery at Maplemead Castle! It is quirky, has great characters, ghosts, a mystery, will-they-won’t-they romance and is pee-your-Wonder-Woman-pants funny! Fantastic…roll on book three in the series!

Published 16 March 2017 by Bookouture.

A huge thank you to Kitty French and Kim Nash at Bookouture for the advance copy and the invite to take part in the blog tour.

Purchase Links –

UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2kQqows
US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2kd2Qjp

Be sure to catch the rest of the hosts on the blog tour

 

 

 

Cover Reveal – Just For The Holidays by Sue Moorcroft

I am delighted to be able to reveal to you the cover for Sue Moorcroft’s next book, Just For The Holidays. Publishing in eBook and paperback on 18th May 2017 by Avon, this is what it is about…

The #1 bestselling author returns for summer! Grab your sun hat, a cool glass of wine, and the only book you need on holiday…

In theory, nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. That is, until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple, and a very unexpected pregnancy.

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the relaxing holiday Leah Beaumont was hoping for – but it’s the one she’s got. With her sister Michele’s family falling apart at the seams, it’s up to Leah to pick up the pieces and try to hold them all together.

But with a handsome helicopter pilot staying next door, Leah can’t help but think she might have a few distractions of her own to deal with…

A glorious summer read, for you to devour in one sitting – perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? And now for that all important cover…

Blog Tour – The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney *Book Review*

Thrilled to be taking part in The Missing Ones blog tour today alongside Shell at Chelle’s Book Reviews. I love discovering a new author and Patricia Gibney is one to look out for in the future. This is a cracking start to the DI Lottie Parker series!

The Blurb

The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror.

The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. ‘I wonder which one of us will be next?’

When a woman’s body is discovered in a cathedral and hours later a young man is found hanging from a tree outside his home, Detective Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. Both bodies have the same distinctive tattoo clumsily inscribed on their legs. It’s clear the pair are connected, but how?

The trail leads Lottie to St Angela’s, a former children’s home, with a dark connection to her own family history. Suddenly the case just got personal.

As Lottie begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger?

Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.

Fans of Rachel Abbott, Karin Slaughter and Robert Dugoni will be gripped by this page-turning serial killer thriller, guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.

My Thoughts

The Missing Ones by Patricia Gibney is the first in a new crime series featuring DI Lottie Parker. I’m always excited to start a brand new detective serial, so really anticipated this debut novel.

I was hooked from the very start! The prologue, which is set in 1976, is chilling, creepy and unnerving—a great way to start a book—and draws you in immediately. It then switches to December 2014 and we are involved in the first murder. From there we are taken through the eight days of the investigation with Lottie and flashbacks to the past. The Missing Ones moves along at a fast pace with Gibney including teasers at the end of the chapters that leave you hanging and just having to read more.

I really liked DI Lottie Parker and she is character I look forward to seeing more of. She is a tenacious detective who is struggling to juggle her career with her role as a mother to three children. She has an intriguing background and has had her fair share of significant life events which still cause her issues. The relationship between her and fellow detective Mark Boyd is one that I will watch with interest. Gibney has set the ground for Lottie’s development through a series really well.

The Missing Ones is a dark novel that deals with corruption, the attempt to bury disturbing secrets and abuse. I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to risk giving any of the plot away, but Gibney reaches into the disturbing echelons of Irish and Catholic history which is discomfiting and alarming.

Gibney is a talented writer and, weirdly, I found her description of the first victim’s death rather beautiful. She has created a wonderfully twisting tale that keeps you reading late into the night and the plot progression is flawless. She seamlessly weaves the tale together, combining past and present with great results. A very accomplished debut novel.

The Missing Ones heralds the start of a great new detective series. With a dark and twisting tale, an interesting lead character and wonderful writing this is a book not to be missed. Highly recommended for lovers of crime fiction.

A huge thank you to Patricia Gibney and Bookouture for the advance copy and for the invitation to take part in the blog tour.

Published 16 March 2017 by Bookouture.

Purchase Links

UK 🇬🇧 http://amzn.to/2i8lVTY
US 🇺🇸 http://amzn.to/2imcDD0

Be sure to catch the other stops on the blog tour!

 

 

Blog Tour – Evie’s Year of Taking Chances by Christie Barlow *Book Review*

I am so pleased to be today’s host on the Evie’s Year of Taking Chances blog tour along with my blogging buddy Kaisha at The Writing Garnet. I was chuffed to bits to be asked to be part of this blog tour as I adore Christie Barlow’s books. Before telling you my thoughts on Christie’s latest novel I will tell you what the book is all about.

The Blurb

It’s Evie’s birthday and the start of a year she’ll never forget. An emotional story of love, friendship and grabbing life by the horns.

Evie’s job has always been her safe haven. As a librarian in the little town of Becton she loses herself in books – after all it’s far easier to read about other people’s problems than set about solving her own.

Then, one birthday, everything is turned upside down. A mysterious parcel containing a beautiful book with a poignant inscription arrives for Evie. It’s the beginning of a new chapter for Evie and she’s inspired to try and find her real mother.

Evie’s search leads her to meet handsome author Noah Jones. Charming and intelligent, Noah seems the perfect catch but what Evie doesn’t realise is that he is hiding something – a key to Evie’s past.

As Evie gets closer to Noah and discovering her mother, she must take a giant leap of faith. Can she embrace the new and make this her year of taking chances? And if she does, will she get her heart broken?

A romantic, funny and poignant story of living life to the full and finding love in the most unlikely of places. Fans of Debbie Johnson and Cathy Bramley will adore this book!

My Thoughts

I have a real soft spot for Christie Barlow’s books and couldn’t wait to get my hands on Evie’s Year Of Taking Chances and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Evie’s Year of Taking Chances begins on her birthday in January. The book loving librarian receives a signed book with a personal message from her favourite author, but she doesn’t know who sent it or how the author knew it was her birthday. It is also the day she decides, after spending her childhood in various foster homes, to take the plunge and try to find her birth mother.

Barlow always produces a novel that is so much more than a romantic comedy. Yes, the romance is there and it had the trademark Barlow wit, but she also always manages to add another layer to her stories. In this case that layer is Evie’s experience as a child in care and the impact it has had on her. Written with emotional acuity and a sensitivity towards her characters, it is clear that Barlow has spent time researching the impact of a life brought up within the care system. She manages to get right to the heart of the issues her character’s face and the affection she has for them shines through.

The characters in Evie’s Year of Taking Chances are just gorgeous. They have that down-to-earth, relatable quality to them and the fact that they are just like me and you make them feel like old friends. You can’t help but get completely immersed within their lives and I was really rooting for Evie. You feel every moment she goes through and she is the sort of person you would love to spend time with in real life.

I did figure out one aspect of the plot but this did not in any way hamper my enjoyment of the book. There were still lots of parts I didn’t see coming and in my opinion this book is as much about the journey Evie takes as it is about discovering the outcome.

I generally veer towards the dark novels, the ones that don’t always have a happy ending with characters you love to hate, but every now and again I need something different. Barlow’s books tick all the boxes in providing me with the warmth, humour and depth of emotions that I sometimes need in my reading. Evie’s Year of Taking Chances is no exception to this. This is a book to get cosy with, a comforting book that, despite the sad parts, lifts your spirits and gives you hope while wrapping you up in a snug cocoon. Barlow pretty much has it nailed when it comes to romantic comedy and women’s fiction and Evie’s Year of Taking Chances is testament to that. Just gorgeous!

A huge thank you to Christie Barlow and Kim Nash for the advance copy and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. This is my honest and unbiased review.

Published on 10 March 2017 by Bookouture. You can purchase a copy of Evie’s Year of Taking Chances via the following links –

UK 🇬🇧http://amzn.to/2j4p7jt
US 🇺🇸http://amzn.to/2jTXxFE

About Christie Barlow

Christie Barlow was born in Cheshire and had a successful career as a civil servant until she decided to trade it in for something more glamorous: ironing, mucking out chickens and horses and chasing a mad cocker spaniel while rearing four children. Christie wrote her debut novel, A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother, as an example to her kids about realising their dreams.

https://www.facebook.com/ChristieJBarlow

https://twitter.com/ChristieJBarlow

www.christiebarlow.com

 

Author Influences with Helen Bridgett

I am delighted to be welcoming Helen Bridgett to Bloomin’ Brilliant Books today. Helen’s debut novel The Mercury Travel Club is published tomorrow so a huge happy book birthday for tomorrow. Helen has kindly answered my questions about the books and authors who have influenced her and her writing.

Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
As a very young child I read Enid Blyton – practically everything she’d written. I loved the fantasy worlds of The Wishing Chair and The Faraway Tree but it was the characters and camaraderie of Mallory Towers and St. Clare’s that really caught my imagination.

Later I was influenced by the texts I had to read for English and French literature. I really enjoyed poetry and still do. I wasn’t particularly fond of Austen or Hardy but I loved Emile Zola. L’Assomoir is still my favourite novel of all time as it was the first that actually made me cry.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
Yes – I was good at it and I absolutely loved it! I’ve always loved reading and the very act of writing – no matter what it is. They are my passions.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read quite a variety from the thrillers of Nicci French and PD James to the comedy of Carl Hiassen and Sue Townsend and the gothic of Erin Kelly. Often I’ll have a lighter and darker novel on the go at the same time – picking up the one that suits my mood at the time.

My debut novel falls into a new genre – “mid-lit” – a term coined by Helen Lederer. It’s a comedy about fresh starts and friendships so rather different to my darker reading material!

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I’ve actually started penning a thriller. I have the basic concept but the reveal takes a lot of planning. I didn’t really choose the genre – it just came to me; I had pictured a scenario and the question “what if?” came to mind. After that I had to start writing.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
I’ve always loved writing and have kept a diary since my early teens. I guess I was encouraged by Sue Townsend – she showed that you could convey a message and have a good laugh along the way.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Erin Kelly at the moment.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
The Tales of the City series – because I simply loved the characters and followed their stories throughout the years. I’m still convinced they’re real people!

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Oh yes! Let’s just say that many of my family and friends have inspired either scenes or characters! In particular, at one work karaoke event, I was forced with two other colleagues to get on stage dressed as Bananarama! The worst rendition of “Venus” you have ever heard!

A huge thank you Helen for taking part and I hope you have a fantastic publication day!

Helen’s debut novel The Mercury Travel Club is out on eBook and paperback on 16 March 2017, published by RedDoor Publishing and is a laugh-out-loud, feel-good book about second chances.

About Helen

Helen Bridgett has always loved books and always loved writing. One year she decided her New Year’s resolution would be “Write a novel to give as a Christmas present”. She spent the year writing and The Mercury Travel Club was born. Helen hails from the North East but now lives in Manchester with her Husband and their Chocolate Labrador Angus. When not writing, Helen can usually be found walking or drinking wine – not usually at the same time.
Helen is currently working on the sequel to The Mercury Travel Club.

Connect With Helen

Website: www.helenbridgett.com

Twitter: @Helen_Bridgett

Children’s Book Review – Fearne Fairy and the Chocolate Caterpillar by Sarah Hill

The Blurb

It’s April in Whimsy Wood and Fearne’s about to make a new friend! Find out how our new quirky character gets in a sticky situation and how Fearne rescues him, in this 9th chocolatey instalment from the award-winning Whimsy Wood series.

‘I loved it. It was a really charming book’ Bo Griffiths, 8 years.

‘I loved Mustard! His little legs kicking about covered in chocolate was very funny!’ Sadie Gregory, 6 years.

‘Sarah Hill brings Fearne Fairy and the Whimsy Wood folk to life, in a way that children will relate to. The alliteration and onomatopoeia combined with an uplifting and heart-warming story, make this a joy to read.’ Gemma Hodgson, English Coordinator at Wyberton Primary School, Wyberton, Lincolnshire.

‘I like the animals in this book as they make me laugh, especially when they say “C-c-crunching c-c-cucumbers!”‘ Annie Watts, 6 years.

‘I loved this book! It’s great that Fearne is different to other fairies and her awful singing made me laugh!’ Martha Barber, 7 years.

‘The Whimsy Wood folk are timeless characters in the fashion of Potter, Milne and White. In time, The Whimsy Wood series is likely to find it’s place in the lexicon of classic children’s literature.’ Reader’s Favourite, U.S.

My Thoughts

Fearne Fairy and the Chocolate Caterpillar is the 9th book in the Whimsy Wood series written by Sarah Hill and illustrated by Sarah Mauchline. The series is aimed at 5 to 8 year olds and each book is written for a specific month and the flora and fauna throughout reflect this. In this book it is April and this is highlighted with the use of hot cross buns and April showers. Although this is part of a series it works perfectly as a standalone.

For newcomers to Fearne Fairy there is a wonderful introduction to Fearne with a great description of her illustrating her bright and colourful clothing. In her rainbow raincoat and frog-patterned fairy wellies you warm to Fearne immediately. The characters are well thought out with each having their own unique personality and voice making them easily identifiable.

I loved the way this book is written. Hill’s use of alliteration gives the story a rhythm and makes it immediately engaging to the reader. The use of this technique within the character’s names makes them easy for children to remember. Brilliantly written for young readers, I can imagine that any child would be easily captivated by the story. It also has a conversational tone in plcaes making it an ideal book to read aloud to your child. The use of phrases such as ‘splish, splash, splosh’ encourage young, new readers to get involved in the story and I can imagine children saying these phrases loudly. Fearne Fairy and the Chocolate Caterpillar is the perfect length to keep young minds focused.

The humour throughout had me smiling to myself and as an adult I really enjoyed reading this book, so children will adore it and the fact that Fearne needs some practice in her fairy skills. As well as been fun to read, Hill has incorporated an educational element as Fearne learns that caterpillars do not stay caterpillars forever and go through their own magical transformation.

The illustrations throughout are beautiful and match the story and the characters perfectly. They really complement the prose and each has plenty to point out and talk about. The humour throughout the book shines through in the pictures. At the end of the book there is a map for the child to complete to engage them further and keep discussion and thoughts on the story going.

Fearne Fairy and the Chocolate Caterpillar is a real delight to read. It is charming, funny and enchanting and will really appeal to the age range it is aimed at and encourage them to develop their reading skills. Whimsically wonderful!

Published on 2 July 2016 by Abela publishing.

A huge thank you to Sarah Hill for the copy in exchange for my fair and honest review.