Friday, 21 October 2016

Blogiversary Giveaway #2: Win a copy of The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

Sadly I'm not in a position to review every book that I am sent, or sometimes Louise, Emma or I get sent the same book, which is the case for this afternoon's giveaway prize as both Louise and I were sent a copy of The One-in-a-Million Boy.  So Louise is going to review it at some point for the blog so I've decided to give my copy away as part of the blogiversary celebrations. 

The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don't they teach you anything at school?

So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who's been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she's confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.

One Saturday, he doesn't show up. Ona starts to think he's not so special after all, but then his father Quinn arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son's good deed. The boy's mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that even at her age the world can surprise you, and that sometimes sharing a loss is the only way to find yourself again.

It's my 5th Blogiversary!

I still cannot believe that it's been 5 years since I first set up this blog, 5 years which has seen the blog grow beyond my wildest dreams.  When I first set it up I had no idea what I was doing, and at times it still feels that way, but it was definitely one of the best decisions I made as my hobby has given me some amazing opportunities to read some brilliant books as well as the chance to meet and connect with fabulous authors and fellow book lovers. 

Personally I've found this year tough, due to health issues and other factors, which has had a knock-on effect and affected my reading and reviewing.  But the great thing about the blogging community is that you know when you're having a rough day that there is always someone there willing to support you and give you the kick up the backside that you sometimes need LOL.  On that note I have to say a personal thank you to Emma and Louise who are not only fabulous reviewers but are great friends who have been there for me whenever I've needed a sounding board or advice. 

Emma's Review: Lizzie's Christmas Escape by Christie Barlow

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Every Christmas Lizzie promises herself that things will change and she will leap into the new year a new woman. And yet here she is again, at the beginning of December and nothing is different. Her girls have grown up and left home, her husband Henry is slumped in front of the TV and she is alone in the kitchen, seeking refuge in the cooking sherry and talking to her Gary Barlow calendar. She’s also been very diverted by handsome new neighbour Marcus and she knows she shouldn’t be …

So when best friend Ann suggests a weekend away in the country, Lizzie jumps at the chance. Will this Christmas escape give Lizzie some much needed perspective and allow her to mend her marriage? Or will Marcus prove to be too much of a distraction?

Amazon Link: Kindle

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Author Interview: Rebecca Bradley

This afternoon it's my pleasure to welcome Rebecca Bradley back to the blog to tell us a bit about her novella Three Weeks Dead which was published last week, as well as give us a bit more of an insight into her writing process. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey?
Firstly, can I say thank you for having me on the blog, Sharon. I appreciate you having me, especially when I messed up last week!

This question - Ah, it’s a bit of a long-winded one, but I’ll try to keep it short. 

I started writing properly when a big birthday approached. It took me a long time to write my first novel, Shallow Waters, because I was learning. There was a lot of rewriting and editing that needed to happen, but I was lucky enough to get some help along the way in the form of early agent and editor feedback – before I was signed. 

When I felt it was ready, I submitted to agents, signed up with one, but eventually we went our separate ways and I decided to publish Shallow Waters myself. I couldn’t have predicted how well it would do. Reviews were amazing, sales were great and the support from everyone has been brilliant. 

The follow-up, Made to be Broken took less time to write but was filled with much angst. And Three Weeks Dead was much more fun to write, though I mistakenly thought writing a novella was going to be easier than a novel – I was wrong!

If you had to give an elevator pitch for Three Weeks Dead, what would it be? 
How far would you be willing to go to save your wife?
Especially, if she had only been buried a week ago…

Having already published 2 books in the series, what inspired you to now write a prequel novella? 
The novels are mostly from the point of view of DI Hannah Robbins, but during Shallow Waters one of her team, DC Sally Poynter is put through the mill, so I thought it would give readers a bit of insight into how she started life on the Major Crime Unit. The prequel is Sally’s first case and is set when she first joins the unit, so we see her vulnerable, slightly nervous side. You know that, new kid in the office feeling?

Emma's Review: Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

It's Christmas in the Cornish coastal village of Mount Polbearne - a time for family, friends and feasting.

Polly Waterford loves running the Little Beach Street Bakery. She's at her happiest when she's creating delicious, doughy treats and the festive season always inspires her to bake and knead something extra special for the village residents. In fact, the only thing she loves more than her bakery is curling up with her gorgeous boyfriend, Huckle. She's determined that this Christmas is going to be their best one yet, but life doesn't always work out as planned...

When Polly's best friend Kerensa turns up with a secret that threatens the life Polly and Huckle have built together, the future begins to look uncertain. And then a face from Polly's past reappears and things become even more complicated. Polly can usually find solace in baking but she has a feeling that's not going to be enough this time. Can she get things back on track so that everyone has a merry Christmas?

Amazon links: Kindle or Hardcover

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Books Read: The Plumberry School of Comfort Food/Comfort and Joy by Cathy Bramley

Verity Bloom hasn't been interested in cooking anything more complicated than the perfect fish finger sandwich, ever since she lost her best friend and baking companion two years ago.

But an opportunity to help a friend lands her right back in the heart of the kitchen. The Plumberry School of Comfort Food is due to open in a few weeks' time and needs the kind of great ideas that only Verity could cook up. And with new friendships bubbling and a sprinkling of romance in the mix, Verity finally begins to feel like she's home.

But when tragedy strikes at the very heart of the cookery school, can Verity find the magic ingredient for Plumberry while still writing her own recipe for happiness?

This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me personally for various reasons so every time I try to make plans with regards to catching up with reading and reviews on the blog something else comes along to throw a spanner in the works.  And that has certainly been the case for reviewing Cathy Bramley's latest book The Plumberry School of Comfort Food which I actually read at the end of August for the Food and Drink feature month.

What I love about Cathy's books is that she creates characters that you find yourself rooting for, in this instance Verity who finds herself at a low point in her life with regards to her job and her relationship.  But fortunately for her she's given the opportunity to get away from it all when she receives a call for help from Gloria.  And so she sets off to the Yorkshire village of Plumberry to help Gloria set up a cooking school despite having lost her love of cooking following the death of her best friend Mimi, Gloria's daughter, who she used to make cookery videos with when they were teenagers. Has this challenge come at the perfect time for her?

Friday, 14 October 2016

Author Interview: Siobhan MacDonald

Earlier in the year I featured Siobhan MacDonald and her debut novel Twisted River in a spotlight feature and today it's my pleasure to welcome her back to the blog to find out about her second book The Blue Pool which was published in August. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing journey? 
Some years ago, with an engineering degree in tow, I sought out a career that would also allow me to write. I soon found myself working as a technical writer in the technology industry. This has provided me with many of the tools I find useful for writing fiction today – creating outlines, plotting, meeting deadlines, and editing. 

My fledgling writing adventures were not in the thriller genre but included experimentation with poetry, one-act plays, and short stories. Some of my warmest school memories are of time spent in English class. The English teacher didn’t always share my taste however, asking me on one particular occasion to stop reading a creative essay aloud as my descriptive paragraphs were making her ill! 

As I worked away in the technology industry, the whisperings in my head urging me to try a novel, became more frequent. With a rough outline for a novel sketched out in a notebook, I sat in the quiet of the study at home one night and started to write. My first attempt was a novel of two halves that started out as a romantic memoir but morphed into a thriller half-way through. Someday I may revisit it. 

Writing that first novel proved a valuable experience. Stories with a mystery at their core are what I like to read, but I also discovered that they were what I liked to write. Now, with two published novels to my my name, I can safely say that writing makes me feel at home. Some people hug trees. I write.

Four friends go to a remote cabin one summer. Only three return.

Life is good for university friends Sarah, Ruth, Charlotte, and Kathy: exams are over and they’re escaping to a cabin by the Blue Pool.

But when Sarah disappears without a trace, life for the others will never be the same again.

Twenty-five years later a man walks into a police station, claiming to know about the missing girl. Suddenly, the three women – now estranged – become suspects. Forced to revisit that horrifying weekend, they must confront buried memories and decades-old fears.

For not everything was as it seemed. And the greater the secret, the deeper it lies…

The Blue Pool features the disappearance of a young woman during a weekend away with her friends and then  follows the fallout twenty five years later when someone comes forward saying they know what happened, where did the inspiration come from? 
The Blue Pool was inspired in part by a number of young women who vanished in Ireland in the 1990s never to be heard of again. These women were mainly in their late teens and twenties. Many of them disappeared while they were travelling.  One 21-year-old vanished while hitch-hiking home from Dublin to Kilkenny one night in November 1995. A witness saw her using a payphone. She was never seen again. 

Another 18-year-old vanished without trace just yards from her parents home as she walked home in 1998. This particular case was very puzzling as the girl was almost home. Passing motorists witnessed her approaching within yards of her parents’ driveway, but for some reason, she never made it to her house. No trace has ever been found.

The most high-profile case involved an American student from Long Island. She disappeared in 1993. The 26-year-old woman was living in Dublin. She’d taken a bus to the countryside and was last seen outside the highest pub in Ireland – Johnny Fox's Pub on top of the Dublin mountains. Her disappearance became one of the most high-profile unsolved crimes in the history of the Irish State. 

If you had to give an elevator pitch for The Blue Pool, what would it be? 
The Blue Pool explores how far someone will go to protect those they love.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Emma's Review: Christmas at the Cornish Cafe by Phillipa Ashley

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Christmas will be slightly less turbulent than summer, won’t it? Demi certainly hopes so.

She and Cal are keeping their fledgling relationship under wraps for now. But then Kit Bannen, a hunky, blond – and somewhat mysterious – writer arrives at Kilhallon Resort, and not everyone is charmed. Cal is sure that Kit is hiding something. But is he the only one guarding a secret?

Demi is busy baking festive treats for the newly opened Demelza’s cafe, but when Cal’s ex Isla arrives to shoot scenes for her new drama, Demi can’t help but worry that things aren’t quite over between them. Kit flirts with both women, fuelling Cal’s suspicions that Kit has hidden motives for staying on at Kilhallon. Then Cal has to go to London, leaving Demi and Kit to decorate the cafe for Christmas . . . all by themselves.

A storm is brewing in more ways than one. As surprises unfold and truths are uncovered, can Demi and Cal finally open up to each other about their feelings?

Amazon link: Kindle