Book Review of Anna Mazzola’s atmospheric thriller “The Story Keeper”

The year is 1857 and a young woman has escaped her father’s home in London to travel alone to the Isle of Skye. With fond memories of holidays spent on the Scottish island with her late mother, Audrey Hart has applied for the position of assistant to an elderly woman who collects and documents the folk tales of the local people. Very quickly Audrey starts to encounter strange happenings on Skye as several young women disappear in extraordinary circumstances, which local people link to folklore tales and beliefs. The fear and suspicions of the people prevent them from speaking honestly with Audrey, but she is drawn to uncovering what has happened to these girls and also to explore her own mother’s death nearly 20 years ago. Unwittingly Audrey is about to wade into an intricate web of secrets, lies and human stories.
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The Story Keeper Book Review

Anna Mazzola is a new name to me, but the description of this historic novel and the beautiful cover picture drew me to it. I should know better right – judging a book by its cover?! But from the outset this novel did not disappoint.

The style of writing is descriptive and atmospheric giving a real feeling of the extremities of an isolated, windswept Scottish isle in the nineteenth century. The landscapes are bleak, the weather tough and at times I could both feel and taste the surroundings. For a Londoner like Audrey the Isle of Skye is both a shock and yet invitingly different in its isolation – she wanted to embrace the huge changes in her surroundings and learn to understand how to live so far from mainland civilization.

Bubbling beneath the surface of the novel is an undercurrent of dark, Gothic suspense. In true Victorian style there are sinister brooding characters and an old, ghostly mansion where the elderly folklore collector resides. The story would not be complete without some paranormal incidents and inexplicable events which seem to be deeply entwined with the old folklore. But alongside this the author writes with historical knowledge and integrity as she describes the consequences of the Highland Clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries – absentee landlords, the poverty of the crofting communities, the disease and a failing economy.

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Ms Mazzola gave the lead roles to strong women, despite the era being patriarchal, and the main character Audrey grows in strength and stature throughout the novel. She knows her own mind – she is not deterred by the initial reluctance of the locals to accept her nor by the difficulties she encounters in trying to solve some mysteries surrounding the death of her own mother on Skye years before. Audrey fights against the constraints of Victorian society from the time she escapes London and the reasons for running, to the inaccurate assumptions made about her by the men on Skye.

Initially I wasn’t sure that I could get into the book, but within several chapters and the brewing of mystery, I was hooked. There are twists and turns throughout, some directly linked to local folklore and others to the characters and location, and enough suspense to drive the novel forward to some surprising conclusions.

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Picture from WrittenbyMorgan on Paperblog.com (see article below)

 

It may even tempt you to visit Skye yourself – I particularly enjoyed reading about one blogger’s trip with a Scottish backpacking company to the Isle of Skye here!

If you enjoy a historical, atmospheric thriller then this is the book for you. I will be looking for the author’s other novels and this novel comes highly recommended.

4.5 stars!

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book through TBC on Facebook and Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

About the Author

Anna Mazzola

Anna Mazzola is a writer of historical crime fiction. Her debut novel, The Unseeing, won an Edgar Award in the US and was nominated for the Historical Writers Association Debut Crown in the UK. The Times called it ‘sizzling’. The Mirror described it as ‘a brilliant debut.’

Her second novel, a dark fairy tale about a collector of folklore and missing girls on the Isle of Skye, will be published by Headline in July.

Anna studied English at Pembroke College, Oxford, before accidentally becoming a criminal justice solicitor. She lives in Camberwell, London, with two small children, two cats and one husband.

Find Anna:

Goodreads

Website: https://annamazzola.com/

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

 


Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You!

We are celebrating our final bank holiday weekend of the year and in true UK style it is raining!  The long, hot days of only a couple of weeks ago feel like a world away, whilst last night yours truly turned on the electric blanket and added a dressing gown to the bed clothes.  Now the fight will be on between husband and wife for changing to a warmer duvet (me) or sticking with the summer one (him).  I must look into these split weight duvets – have any of tried them? Anyway, the wife will win!!

Monday Magic - 27 aug

 

This week has felt a little surreal if I am honest with you.  The politics student called mid week to say that he could only sleep on his mate’s floor in Nottingham until Saturday – OK, so what do you expect me to do about it??  Well, my final exam isn’t until Tuesday……good old mum puts a shout out to a couple of Nottingham based school friends, but of course it is a BH weekend and guess what, my boy?!  A lot of people go away – and that is why my friends aren’t about but also why the B&B/hostels are all booked!!  He is fortunate that we found an Air BnB – affordable and in walking distance of uni; but arranging transport home was slightly trickier as he hadn’t told me his exam isn’t until 4.30 Tuesday afternoon.  But……with a bit of internet surfing, I was amazed to get him and his friend onto a coach on Tuesday evening, back to London for £15 for the two of them!  Bargain!!  It will probably cost as much to get back from London to home (30 mins on the train!).

Amidst the dramas of the “middle” child, came the exam results of the youngest – the lovely girl.  I did mention a little about this in yesterday’s post.  Needless to say it was mum here who didn’t sleep well the night before and had strange dreams – we knew she would have got the requirements for 6th form, bar a complete disaster, but as the exams have been new this year and she was taking a mixture of the new levels 1-9 and the old grades A*-G, anything was possible.  Thursday morning came, she got up and did her paper round, and I was awoken to squeals as she opened the email – oh my goodness!  I am not allowed to say any more, but if your follow me on twitter of facebook you will know that she didn’t need to worry about me posting her results and picture all over social media – the school did it!! (here!!)).  As I said I’m not allowed to say anything – but delight, surreal, shocked, unbelievable….you get the picture!!

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The young engineer has been a bit put out that his little sister beat him – in fact beat both her brothers – but secretly he is very proud.  In fact on Friday evening he and his partner were going to the theatre with the lovely girl and her friend (who did just as well) – and he took them out for dinner beforehand to celebrate.  Now this is a huge deal as he has always been the “tight” kid of the 3!!!

So moving on from the act of sibling love in my household to the first blog that I’m sharing with you this week – it comes from Rachna and she describes a beautiful festival that traditionally recognises and honours sibling love.  I particularly like the post on ClockWorkClouds that discussed the uses of certain words – how does using “should” rather than”would” change the feel of a situation?  I hope that you will also enjoy some culture with an artist’s exhibition, a book review, flash fiction story and do read the Trolls’ poem, it is funny!  There are also some life posts here too that would benefit everyone.

So grab a cuppa, put your feet up and enjoy some great blog posts!

https://www.rachnaparmar.com/2018/08/raksha-bandhan-a-beautiful-festival-of-sibling-love.html

https://clockworkclouds.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/5945/

https://bootsshoesandfashion.com/a-visit-to-the-orla-kiely-exhibition/poster_2500_1

http://zooloobookblog.co.uk/bookreview-her-final-hour-bookouture/

https://www.mollytotoro.com/2018/08/the-artists-way-for-midlife-vitality/

https://thedarknetizen.wordpress.com/2018/08/26/flash-fiction-the-inn/

http://allthatjazmin.com/mental-health/getting-a-late-autism-diagnosis/

https://teaandcakeforthesoul.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/beware-of-the-trolls-poems-from-simply-modern-life-by-claire-baldry-bookexcerpt/

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https://www.funasagran.co.uk/2018/08/5-essentials-to-improve-your-pets-life.html

https://www.sizzlingtowardssixty.com.au/5-ways-to-start-appreciating-yourself-start-thriving/

As always , please share some love for these bloggers!

Have a great week,

Claire x

 

 

 

To My Future Self – taking notice & learning life skills #SoCS

The long awaited exam results finally arrived for many this week.  There have been tears of joy and despair up and down the country – for some the exultation of achieving that 6th form place in the desired school or college, for others the disappointment of being unable to move on with friends and the upset of starting somewhere different.

To my future self

This morning the post brought hand written envelopes to a particular group of 16 year olds.  For most the plop of this missive onto the mat was unexpected, a letter that was completely forgotten.  At the beginning of their GCSE studies, the school had added Mindfulness to the timetable – a concept completely lost on many of the 15 year olds particularly the sitting quietly and not letting their minds wander.  In an effort to give them some skills to deal with the stresses that might lie ahead during the 2 year course, they were encouraged to learn about emotions, feelings and how to help themselves.

During one session, they were told to sit back and take notice of their current thoughts and feelings – and then to a write a letter to their future 16 year old self to be received just after exam results.  I wonder how many of them where accurate in their predictions about their future selves…..not their results, but their mindset, organisation, preparation and plans for the future?  If only I had written a letter to my future middle aged self……

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This post is part of Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness and was written on Saturday (I promise) with the prompt “notice” – to find out more visit Linda and more SoCS posts here

 

 

Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You!

Another week has passed, the heat wave in the UK has broken and students across the country have either just received exam results or are awaiting them this week.  In our house, the lovely girl will receive her GCSE results this week and remains very calm and level headed.  But she can’t get her head around the year group chat that is full of anxiety about grade boundaries and count downs to the “big day” – I agree with her that there is no point worrying about the grade boundaries when you have no idea what grades you have received yet!

board chalk chalkboard exam

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The national press is of course feeding this anxiety with articles about the new exams – both GCSE and A level – are they harder, are the grade boundaries higher/lower, have more students done better?  I’m not sure we will be able to make head or tail of her results though as half will be the old style A-C grades, with the remainder bearing the new numerical grades 1-9!!

 

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Monday Magic Inspiring Blogs for You! 20 Aug

 

The politics student is currently taking exams – he was unwell earlier this year with chronic migraines so the university deferred exams until now.  I actually received a text after his first exam earlier!  Maybe it has finally dawned on him that although these first year exams don’t count towards the final degree, he does need to pass them all to go back for the second year……his sister would be horrified to find that both brothers were back home permanently! I’m not sure that my kitchen would cope either…..

I have spent another dislocated week vaping on my Medipen – I feel a review coming on – and adding to my “surgical appliances”.  Firstly I bought some physio kinesiology tape after reading Ali’s article last week – I thought that hubby might be able to learn how to tape my arm back in place, but the family consensus seems to be to mummify me in it! Hmmmm……..Then I sent hubby out to Lidl to buy some chicken and he came home with ankle supports.  Those of you who are Lidl or Aldi fans will know that the middle rows in the store are always very exciting and you never know what you might find nestling alongside the crisps and fruit juice!  This week it was various medical appliances from heat pads to raised loo seats seated next to petrol powered jet washers and lawn mowers.  I came home with a garden table on one occasion….

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So whilst sitting here watching youtube videos about applying sticky tape to my body (we will get our physio to teach us) and adding more velcro straps to my wardrobe, I have been perusing the blogosphere to find some more fab posts for you to read.  Who has heard of #BlogBattle:Moon?  Have a look at Gary’s post for this writing challenge. I’m excited to introduce you to Anna, a local artist who also happens to be a part of the We All Send Cards community (where my girl’s art can also be found on greetings cards).  She has been featured on the Women Talking website and discusses her career as an artist alongside her diagnoses of dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD.  Lily provides pointers for US residents navigating the benefits system at How To Get On blog.  The lovely girl is very pleased that I have included a post about “period poverty” – something that hasn’t been spoken about in the past.

So grab a glass of something nice, turn off the phone and sit back to indulge in some great reads…

https://fictionisfood.com/2018/08/09/blogbattle-moon/

https://writeintolife.com/2018/08/17/motivation-why-do-older-bloggers-blog/

https://kerrylifeandloves.com/2018/08/16/experience-boa-vista-cape-verde-choose-happy/

https://sarahsbrandnewchapter.com/2018/08/17/memories-of-my-grandma/

http://www.womentalking.co.uk/topics/lifestyle/intuitive-oils

https://www.meriahnichols.com/lorna-duff-howie/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=SocialWarfare

https://howtogeton.wordpress.com/about-the-artist/social-security-disability/

www.lifeofpippa.co.uk/2018/08/16/periods-poverty-and-perceiving-empathy-walker-ya-blog-tour/

http://katethealmostgreat.com/is-chronic-illness-a-disability/

https://prettycouchpotato.com/2018/08/16/diy-tpn-backpack/

Please share, comment and like these posts!

Have a great week,

Claire x

intuitive oils

Stream of Consciousness – Becoming Chronic #SoCS #Chronic

There should be a Saturday on that title, but I am a day late which just about sums it up!!  But I had to join in this week, no matter how late, as the prompt was clearly written just for me.  I spotted Linda’s Friday prompt and it seemed to call out to me…..”Claire, Claire this is for you”, but the very thing relating to the prompt has been the same thing stopping me from typing, from letting my brain and my body work together, cohesively.

The prompt “Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “-ic or -ical.” Find a word that uses the suffix “-ic” or “-ical.” Bonus points if you use both. Have fun!”

How many times do I use the suffix “ic” in the course of my blogging?  Just about every post.  Let me see – chronIC pain, chronIC illness, chronIC fatigue, chronIC bloggers, chronIC community.  But when does pain or illness become CHRONIC?  In fact what is it before this?

lit red and white candle lot on person s back

Photo by Ferdinand Studio on Pexels.com

The definition of chronic is “persisting for a long time or constantly recurring” – so how long is a long time? When does pain cease to be acute and cross into the chronic stage? How does a chronic illness earn that tag?

In a previous life, I was taught that a general rule is that when an illness has persisted constantly for 3 months or more, it can be thought to be chronic.  The illness may have slowly crept up on the individual, or gradually worsened increasing symptoms and disability.  With chronic pain, the pain itself often takes over and actually becomes the “illness” as the individual lives with it day in and day out.  Acute illness and pain is sudden and dramatic, but usually short lived in contrast to the never ending spiral of chronic conditions.

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My own chronic dislocations, chronic pain and chronic brain fog have seen what can only be described as some comical situations over the last 48 hours (yes got the ical in too!!)……having literally gone down a rabbit hole in true Alice style, I shot out of my wheelchair and dislocated the shoulder(again…groan) and the opposite ankle.  In my bedroom that evening my ever helpful kids were taking a long time coming, so yours truly decided that hopping on the good leg was the obvious solution to get to the top of the stairs.  One failure of knee joint later had the young engineer, lovely girl and yours truly all collapsed in a rather strange heap……but why was I crying with laughter??? Strange things happen with these chronic problems!! Got to laugh though….

But did you know that Chronic can mean something else entirely?  I discovered quite by chance that it is the name given to a particular strain of cannabis……ironic or fitting I wonder, with the increased debate over the use of cannabis and CBD (cannabidiol – THC psychoactive element removed) for chronic pain and illness?

shallow focus photography of cannabis plant

Photo by Michael Fischer on Pexels.com

Answers welcome!

This post is part of Linda G Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Click on the link to find all the other awesome posts in the comment section, and join in! https://lindaghill.com/2018/08/17/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-aug-18-18/18d9a-post-comment-love-badge

Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You!

Very little preamble today PainPals – I’ve been battling the onset of a migraine all weekend and it finally broke free this morning, leaving me moribund on the sofa.  My surrogate furbaby Chester apparently kept me company for a couple of hours snuggled up next to me – although I had no idea!  You’ve had my post about books and reviewing already today so I will plunge straight in with some blogs for you.

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https://hughsviewsandnews.com/2018/08/13/5-ways-you-can-save-time-when-blogging/

https://imsickandsoareyou.com/2018/08/09/six-and-a-half-ways-to-cure-writers-block/

https://www.healthyeatingexperts.com/spoonie-secrets/

https://butismileanyway.com/2018/08/10/living-life-keto-style-kindaketo/

https://www.shallowreflections.com/taking-drastic-steps-to-protect-my-noggin/

https://clockworkclouds.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/cracks-in-the-porcelain/

https://ellenbest24.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/watch-right-of-passage-on-youtube-fgm/

https://dreamingandreading.com/2018/08/07/ttt-top-ten-tuesday-sequels-i-am-dying-in-my-tbr-read/

https://sv3dprinter.com/?p=7400 – 3D printing for spinal cord injuries

https://topladytalks.com/2018/08/13/playing-odd-man-out-not-today-reminiscences-of-an-accessible-holiday/

Please like, comment and share!

Have a great week,

Claire x

 

 

 

 

 

Books, Reviews and Finding a New Purpose through Chronic Illness

When a person loses their “raison d’etre”, what do they become? Blood and bone and tissues.

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I have just watched a young athlete win her heat in the European championships with an enormous Personal Best and the delight on her face, in her body language, in her voice were infectious and special.  The training and the hard work that she has put her body and mind through over weeks, months and years is paying off today.

The thing that drives each and every one of us to get out of bed in the morning will be individual and change at different times of our lives.  Dreams and aspirations aged 20 will alter, expectations change with life experience and maturity.  But what happens when that reason for being feels like it is “stolen’ away by chronic health issues?

Books, Reviews pin

Personally I found that something that affected me greatly was medication.  The combination of strong anti convulsant drugs combined with opiates used for nerve pain combined with a night time drug usually used in severe depressive disorders, at times created side effects that were as difficult to cope with as the chronic pain for which they had been prescribed.  The combination of pain, sleep deprivation, brain fog and inability to concentrate just felt like a recurring cycle –  a domino effect as one thing caused another caused another in ever decreasing circles.  I didn’t know whether I was coming or going and the antidepressant drug, mirtazepine, left me unable to function in the mornings – my kids, the younger two at primary school then, would have to physically get me out of bed and then I would drift off into semiconsciousness sitting on the loo.  I could hear them talking to me but I just couldn’t open my eyes.

man standing facing white fogs

Photo by Harman Abiwardani on Pexels.com

Slowly but surely it felt as if the ordinary things in life were being stripped away, including my lifelong passion for reading.  I have always had a book or two on the go, and no matter how late is is, I always have to read at least a couple of pages before turning the light out to sleep.  Over a period of a couple of years I found my ability to read a book diminished – despite being awake until the early hours night in, night out, I was unable to complete a book as I read the same page over and over.  What the heck was happening to my brain?  A friend bought me a magazine subscription for my birthday and I couldn’t even manage to read a whole article.  But my pain was so severe and uncontrolled that my inability to read was the least of my problems, as some days I couldn’t imagine living another week like this let alone another 40 year years.

When joining the pain programme at St Thomas’s hospital (London), before I had my spinal cord stimulator trial, I had to agree to reduce my oxycontin (oxycodone – double strength synthetic morphine) with a view to coming off it entirely.  I have written about the current opinions re use of opiates and chronic nerve pain before and about my “withdrawal” – that is not what I want to concentrate on here.  My opiate dose reduced over a period of time and gradually my sleep improved along with my concentration.  How is it possible that my sleep got better with no pain relief (I cannot have my scs turned on at night)? I had not realised just how huge an effect the drugs were having on my sleep and general well being – and not a good one!

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Gradually my brain has allowed me to start reading again and to finish a book or an article.  I found a local book club that meets monthly in the pub and we read any genre as long as it is a recent publication, so that no one has already read it – no issues to be had with discussing someone’s all time favourite!  I love the fact that we don’t take our discussions too seriously and I have met some lovely new friends.  My love of books led me to some social media book groups and it was here that I discovered the world of reviewing.

The fact that authors and publishers are generous enough to share their new pieces of work with an amateur reviewer like me feels amazing.  I have discovered the joy of receiving an advanced copy (ARC) of a new piece of writing and being one of the first people to read it.  Books have always been a part of my home and as a bit of a puritan, I would only ever read an actual book – I like the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of new paper and the beauty of a new cover and uncracked spine.  But……becoming a book reviewer has converted me to a Kindle user.  Don’t get me wrong – nothing competes with a brand new book or a well thumbed favourite classic – but I do appreciate having so many books available in one place and as my ability to hold a book has worsened, the ease and weight of a Kindle is perfect, particularly when lying down!

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I know that authors are grateful to the band of book reviewers that are out here in the blogosphere, on goodreads and Amazon.  We help to get their titles out in the public domain.  For me though, I have so many reasons to feel grateful to these wonderful authors, publishers and social groups as becoming a reviewer has given me back a role and with it a sense of worth.  The first time that I saw my name on a banner for a blog tour, I knew that I could still make a difference.  I might not be able to hold down a job due to my chronic conditions and the unpredictability of my symptoms – but this is something I can do!

There still are days when I am unable to read, and others when I might have read the book but brain fog stops me from getting a review from my head onto paper.  I have had times when I will know that a deadline is looming and the stress of being unable to write will increase my symptoms, thus starting a vicious circle.  But I appreciate that I have been gifted someone’s work, something precious to them that they have poured their heart and soul into.  I am entrusted to care for it and I will always do this.  There may be times when I struggle to get a review written, literally when I have dislocations, but I will always read a book sent to me and give a fair, honest review.  In school many years ago, I was taught how to write a book review and I have never quite been able to shake off my old teacher’s instructions – some of you will know that this means my book reviews can be a bit long.  But if I have been given an author’s “baby” the very least that I can do is spend the time to give it due care in my review.

Books

Reading and writing has given me a new purpose.  It can never take the place of my lost life, but it can sit alongside it and over time reviewing has become an important motivator for me.  I am reading a huge variety of genres, some that I would never have chosen myself and thoroughly enjoying expanding my horizons.  I have discovered audio books and use these to help motivate me when doing physio and exercise plans – I can be often be found pacing my neighbours’ treadmill whilst listening to a thriller!  It isn’t easy to do the necessary exercise to keep conditioned when everything hurts, but a good drama or mystery certainly helps to distract from pain and dodgy joints.

 

At times living with a chronic illness can roll one day into another into another,  but amidst the fatigue, pain and failing body, I believe that it is important to have a reason to get out of bed and keep the brain “moving”.  For me reading and reviewing has given me a new “raison d’etre” – something to keep my brain working, to feel some pride in and to appreciate my self worth.

TBC

 

Thankyou to The Book Club on FacebookTracy Fenton, Netgalley, Love Books GroupKelly, Justine Sha at St Martin’s Press and the many authors and publishers who have entrusted me with their work.

Book bloggers

pile of hardbound books with white and pink floral ceramic teacup and saucer

Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

Monday Magic – Inspiring Blogs for You! #PickledBlogs

Hello all! It has been another scorcher of a week in the UK and across Europe the temperatures are set to reach record breaking highs.  The lovely girl arrived home from her 2 weeks in Greece in the early hours of Sunday morning and whilst we got little sense out of her yesterday, she seems to have had a great time.  Her hair is even blonder, she is sporting a very healthy glow and has been swimming daily – including a midnight dip in the sea on Friday.  Oh to be sixteen (nearly) again!

Pickled Blogs Monday Magic

 

I joined Em Linthorpe’s Facebook group Pickled Blog Project recently and meant to join in with the fun tag post questions, but haven’t got round to it ……until now!  So I thought that I would change things about and share my pickled answers here on Monday Magic.

How to play

  1. Answer the questions.
  2. Link back to Em’s post : Pickled Blogs Project
  3. Use the hashtag #PickledBlogs on any social media shares so everyone can find your post, and in the title of the blog post too if you like.
  4. Feel free to tag some of your blogging friends at the end.

Wm will add the links of everyone who plays along, so please shout up when you have completed it!

Pickled Blog proj

The questions

1. What is your favourite pickled item to eat?

2. Tell us about a time you were in a “bit of a pickle” (a tough situation)

3. Pickle Rick, a character from Rick and Morty, is a personal hero of Em’s. Who are your heroes?

4. If you had to live in a jar, what three items would you take with you?

Questions:

What is your favourite pickled item to eat?  It HAS to be pickled onions – but I can’t eat onions of any sort now (gut problems has meant I have had to follow a restricted diet) – I used to love the huge dish that our local fish and chippy would give us when we ate in!

Tell us when you were in a bit of a pickle – going back just a few years(!) to our wedding and my lace dress that needed something underneath, to maintain my dignity.  Mum decided that she would make me an underdress but she didn’t want to put a zip or fastenings on that would show, so having a light bulb moment she stitched me into it.  This was great until we were at the hotel reception and yours truly needed to nip out to the little girls’ room – only to find mum had stitched my dress to my tights and knickers, so limited champagne for me for the rest of the day!

Who are your heroes? Hmmm…..Dame Cicely Saunders (founder of the hospice movement) and I’m rather fond of Marvel’s Daredevil!

If you had to live in a jar, what 3 items would you take with you? Now Amelia over at You Can Always Start Now assures me this jar is already furnished……so I am assuming I have unlimited wifi to set up Netflix & Amazon as my number one, second my Kindle crammed full of classics and contemporary favourites, and finally – well frankly I am struggling to choose between chocolate or wine.  I am sure that says something about me!!

 

I’m not going to tag anyone in particular – so please feel free to join the fun!  I hope you have enjoyed my answers and now will sit back and enjoy this week’s selection of fab blog posts. They are really varied covering yoga, friendship and being an adult,  finishing with a very talented dog called Sasha who writes beautifully and looks stunning too.

http://livingpositivelywithdisability.com/16-things-that-suck-about-adulting-and-16-things-about-it-that-are-actually-quite-good/

http://notebooksandglasses.com/2018/08/05/3-not-so-obvious-things-i-do-to-help-manage-my-neck-pain/

http://chronicallyhopeful.com/spoonie-gift-guide-my-summer-survival-kit-items/

https://mymedmusings.com/2018/07/05/its-ok-to-take-an-online-break/

https://insideoutblog.co.uk/oops-i-did-it-again/

http://www.chickenruby.com/2018/07/what-is-friend.html?m=1

http://www.mumonamissionforabetterlife.co.uk/2018/08/my-july-movie-reviews.html

https://lisaorchard.wordpress.com/2018/07/28/technology-friend-or-foe/

https://www.rendezvousennewyork.com/saturdays-are-for-a-yoga-rendezvous/

http://janetgivens.com/insideoutsurance/

Please comment, like and share!

Have a great week,

Claire x

Blog Tour & Book Review “Waiting for Aegina” The Gift Series #LoveBooksGroupTours

waiting for aegina

Many thanks to Kelly and Love Books Group for including me in this book blog tour!

Waiting for Aegina takes us back to the family and friends saga picking up the story where its predecessor, Evanthia’s Gift, left off.

It is the beginning of the 21st century and friends Sophia, Demi, Donna, Amy & Mindy are entering the next stage of their lives – as wives, mothers and business women. Affectionately known as the Honey Hill Girls, after the street where they grew up together, their friendships and love have strengthened with time and different experiences.

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Sophia, now very happily married to childhood sweetheart and Demi’s brother Dean, is still grieving for her mother Ana and worried for her father Alex.  She is also battling with her teen twins from her first marriage, who miss their father since his death and resent her marriage to their “Uncle Dean”, running her successful dance studio and she is heavily pregnant!

Demi has grown from a feisty youngster into a self assured woman, with a Greek fiery temperament and a fiercely protective streak for all those that she loves.  Her children are growing and the business that she runs with her husband Michael and brother, Dean is going from strength to strength – a vineyard that holds weddings and functions in a recently restored Carriage house.  But Demi and Michael are spending more and more time concentrating on their separate areas of the business, and Demi feels estranged from her adored husband and jealous of anyone else spending time with him – particularly his demanding mother!

Donna, the former high school cheerleader/Prom queen married to the football team captain/Prom king, is a teacher with 2 sons.  She has reached her forties and is feeling disillusioned with her marriage as husband Richie lavishes more attention on his sport, car and beer bottle than on Donna and the family.  The attention he focuses on elder son RJ – a keen sportsman like his father – is in direct contrast to the lack of interest that is shown towards younger son Anthony, a sensitive boy who enjoys art, theatre and music.  Donna struggles with her husband’s attitude toward their youngest and his derogatory comments about Anthony’s interests and gentle character.

Amy is now a successful lawyer turned politician, married to Ezra and mother to son Adam.  She is hiding a secret from her past that only Sophia knows – a son born 20 years ago and given up for adoption to a Greek family – but his father is a secret that Amy has never shared.  When her son, Sam, contacts her, Amy is delighted to get to know him through letters and phone calls. But before she has found the right time to tell Ezra and Adam about him or to even meet him face to face, the story has broken in the press that Congresswoman Amy had an illegitimate child and that the father was a now senior Congressman.

Mindy is the only one of the Honey Hill Girls to have never married, having put her soul into the building of her now successful dress design label Bloom.  She has been in love. Nightclub owner Tyler loved Mindy and wanted a life with her, but her long working hours and devotion to her work killed the relationship.  Several years later a chance encounter with Tyler gives Mindy a glimpse of the life that she could have had – marriage and his children.  She takes off to Greece to “grieve” and meets the dashing Apollo, but can this become a long distance relationship or will their differences make it doomed from the start.  As Mindy’s career goes from strength to strength, she despairs that she will never experience in her personal life what friends Sophia and Demi have.

The women’s lives move in different directions but remain intimately connected as they love and support each other through births, love and loss.

My review of the first in the Gift trilogy Evanthia’s Gift can be read here and whilst this book can be read as a stand alone……please, please, please read it as a sequel!  I gave the first book 5 stars and absolutely adored the characters, the settings, and the story telling – so I started the sequel with excitement but also trepidation.  Would it match up to the first novel?  Would I enjoy it as much and feel the characters in the same way?  Would I be inspired?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yes, yes, yes!  This book is written around the five friends, whilst the first concentrated on the stories of the first generation Greek families, and each chapter is titled with a different friend’s name – Sophia, Demi, Donna, Amy or Mindy.  Sophia and Demi featured heavily in the first book, so it is lovely to get to know more about the other friends in this novel and the author gives us some more of their back stories whilst delivering the individuality of the characters.  When I feel that I could be friends with a character, that I think about the people as I go about my day to day life and I might even dream about them – then I believe that the author has really succeeded in creating something special.

There were so many aspects of this book that appealed to me – but as a woman of a similar age with growing children, I identify with these women.  I know that the author’s inspiration came from a group of close school friends and a reunion (see her facebook page), and I have also recently returned for a 30 year reunion with both old school friends and my nurse training set.  The feelings reignited with people who you have grown up with or spent informative years of your life cannot be underestimated – it just happens that these women have remained in each other’s lives and those feelings have only strengthened over the years. Love, loyalty, strength and friendship

Ms Kammenou tackles both the joyful aspects of family and friendship, but she doesn’t shy away from difficult aspects of real life.  This novel tackles depression and counselling, domestic abuse, sexuality, devastation from a road traffic accident, politics, suicide, separation and bereavement.  As the mother of a young gay man, I was particularly moved by the story of young Anthony’s sexuality and the difficulties he and others experienced.  This is very different to my own family.

Once again I laughed with these ladies, but I also cried with them.  Their characters grow throughout the book and the author describes real life, not sugar coated, warts and all.  I loved this sequel and can’t wait to get my hands on the final book in the saga.  A great warm, emotional family saga to pack in your suitcase this summer!

I forgot to mention that once again Ms Kammenou demonstrates her wonderful Greek heritage with beautiful descriptions of Greece but more importantly of the food preparation.  Then interspersed with the chapters are recipes and directions to make the dishes, and they are so mouth watering that my family were treated to the Greek Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers last night!  More wonderful recipes can be found her her website.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another 5 stars for this heart warming contemporary, family novel.

About the Author:

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. cover photo 2She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category.  Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.

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Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category.  Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.

Find Effie:

On Twitter: @EffieKammenou

Facebook: @EffieKammenou

Website:  www.cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com

Gift Saga