Fiction in Anglo Saxon Britain – Blog Tour and Review of “The Warrior with the Pierced Heart” by Chris Bishop #LoveBooksGroup

warrior-pierced-heart.jpg

Wessex 878AD.  Matthew, christened Edward, is third born son of Edwulf the Ealdorman and brother of the Saxon warrior Lord Edwin.  He is a novice monk turned warrior, who starts his tale whilst marching to celebrate King Alfred’s great victory at Edington but soon he and his men fall victim to an ambush by Viking raiders.  He is wounded with an arrow to the heart and believes his injury to be fatal as he feels the life ebbing from him.  But he is found and helped by a mysterious woman called Ingar who proclaims herself to be a healer, deriving her knowledge and skills from Mother Earth.

The book follows Matthew on his road to recovery and the many more battles which lie ahead, both physical and metaphorical, as he attempts to return to Saxon King Alfred.  He finds himself rapidly moving from one disaster to another, whilst making both friends and enemies along the way on a journey that is full of adversity, hope and triumph….no spoilers!!

Pin It!

Review Warrior with Pierced Heart

 

This is the second book in the Shadow of the Raven series and I have to stick my hand up and admit that I didn’t realise this when I started it.  However, the book can be read as a stand-alone as there are plenty of references to the story so far – but I think that if I were to read it again I would read the first part (Blood and Destiny) to gain a better background as it did take me a little while to “get into it”.

I do enjoy historical novels, and whilst this is a period that I have watched on television dramas such as The last Kingdom, I haven’t read many books covering Anglo Saxon times.  This is only the author’s second novel in a field that is dominated by the like of Bernard Cornwell.  The detail felt very well researched by the author – although I can’t vouch for the historical accuracy as I just don’t know! – and I felt immersed into the Britain of the Dark Ages.  The brutality of the Vikings and the severity of the battles are not sugar coated in this tale!

The book is written in the first person – that is with the main character Matthew narrating the story – and I always feel that this is a much tougher style to write in.  As a result, I think that at times the fast paced tale feels slightly stilted as Matthew’s narration lurches from one disaster to another.  I do admire the author for attempting this though, as a first person narrative can take on a list like quality. I personally would have liked Mr Bishop to expand on his descriptions a little more, as those that he does write paint such a vivid picture – for instance the descriptions of Ingar using herbs for healing, the ruffian gang of Viking slavers and the description of sailing up the Thames and Matthew’s first impressions of London.  For me the descriptions of Leatherhead were great as it is only up the road from my home – we were at the the theatre there last month and believe me that it there is no resemblance between then and now!

There is a great deal of humour in this novel, particularly the way in which certain characters are described and little comments that Matthew makes.  I liked the characters – even some of the blood thirsty Vikings – and I loved the way that Matthew plays with his infamy as the story of “the warrior with the pierced heart”, returning from the dead, spreads far and wide.  The character of young Matthew, who was a monk and is now a warrior whilst still in his teens, develops and grows both emotionally and physically throughout the course of the book.  This growth mirrors his personal healing and recovery after his near fatal wounds sustained at the beginning of the book.  As this young man describes his physical strength growing from day to day, I believe that the reader also witnesses his mental strength and personality growing and maturing from day to day.  Matthew does seem to find himself in one sticky situation after another though, and I don’t think that I would want to take a journey with him!

This is an action packed historical novel from a new author that I think will appeal to many historical fiction fans. The writing style is not quite my cup of tea, but nevertheless I did enjoy it.  I believe that the author will go from strength to strength in his writing and I look forward to further novels in the future……and I should mention that I have purchased the first book which I will go back and read now!  3.5 stars

Thank you to Kelly at Love Books Group for giving me the opportunity to be on this tour!

More Information Available from

Amazon:

Waterstones

Goodreads

Red Door Publishing

About the Author

Chris BisshopChris Bishop is a retired chartered surveyor who has pursued his love of writing for as long as he can remember. He is an intrepid traveller and a retired Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. He is married with two children and four granddaughters and lives in London. His other interests are travel, windsurfing and fly fishing.

Website: theshadowoftheraven.com

Twitter: @CBishop_author

Blog Tour & Book Review of “Danube Street” by Linda Tweedie & Kate McGregor #LoveBooksGroupTours

danube street (1).jpg

I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to be part of this blog tour by Kelly at LoveBooksGroup. This is a fair and honest review, and all opinions are my own.

Agnes McLeod is the bright, only daughter of a farmer living in the harsh wilds of Ayrshire.  When her pregnant cousin Mary comes to stay, she is fascinated by this young woman’s view of the world and her survival instinct.  Mary takes Agnes with her to Edinburgh and introduces her to a lifestyle far removed from the farm, rubbing shoulders with gangsters, prostitutes and police alike.  Agnes becomes Stella and the young women learn how to join the elite of “the oldest profession” amongst the hotels of the city. When an “accident” befalls Mary involving the infamous Williams brothers, Stella finds an unlikely ally in the city’s top barrister.

At this point Stella Gold, with the backing of the barrister, set out to turn a property in the Georgian terrace of Danube Street into Edinburgh’s most exclusive brothel.  Stella quickly becomes the city’s most respected Madame, entertaining clients ranging from sailors to councillors to clergy to police.  Surrounded by loyal friends, like young Jack and former prostitute Kitty who both work for her, and enemies, like the Williams brothers and working girls with grudges, Stella must remain astute and streetwise.

Into the picture comes fourteen-year-old runaway Rosie, picked up at the bus station by an infatuated Jack.  Rosie, the youngest of 3 daughters, is pregnant by an American GI and disowned by her father but the youngster has a survival instinct not unlike Stella’s and looks to match.  The older woman allows the youngster to stay at Danube Street until her baby is born, but Rosie soon finds herself at the receiving end of jealousy from some of the other working girls.  This is to have life changing outcomes for her.

Meanwhile Stella is finding herself the object of a vendetta by not only the criminal factions of the city, but also a corrupt Chief of Police, with several secrets of his own.  Stella is the ultimate survivor, but is time running out for her?  Who can she look to in order to ensure the future of Danube Street?

I have had to be so careful not to give away any spoilers as I get carried away in my description!  This novel had me interested from the moment that I realised that the premise is taken from the true story of 17 Danube Street – once an infamous exclusive brothel run by Madame Dora Noyce from soon after the end of World War 2 until her death aged 77 in the 10970s.  Links to articles of interest can be found at the end of my review.  The characters and storylines in this novel are fiction.

danube-st-2

Danube Street (PlanetEdinburgh Blog)

This was for me an easy read as I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline, the characters and the style of writing.  The plots are hard hitting, and the use of strong language, descriptive violence, drugs and abuse will mean that this is not for everyone.  But if you enjoy a fast moving, gritty drama that has a cast of characters that are human, flawed and believable, then this is a novel for you!

Pin It!

Danube Street

The depiction of the young women and their back stories that led them into a life of prostitution is enlightening, and I think probably still rings true for today.   Whilst one could be led to believe that the life of a working girl in a smart hotel or in an “exclusive brothel” is glamorous, the writers also show the other side of the coin.  Jack’s mother Jeanie works the streets and is at the receiving end of vicious abuse, both physical and verbal, with “punters” rarely seeing her as a human being.  Yet when the writers take us back to her early years and the loss of her husband in the war, it becomes apparent that this story that could and should have been so different.  It is just one of many of a young woman doing anything and everything to support her family.  The girls who work for Stella definitely have a better life than the street girls – they are fed well and work in beautiful surroundings, but they are still very much at the mercy of the clients.  The writers also weave in the issue of sexual abuse from a young age and the fact that for some young people because this has been a “normal” for them, it continues to be the norm into adult life (no spoilers, but on reading the book I think you will understand).

I love the strong female lead characters in this book – Stella, obviously, for making her way and then holding her own as a respected business woman in a male dominated society; young Rosie who undoubtedly grows the most in this story, from spirited teen to a street wise young woman with a great head for business; Kitty, the older ex prostitute, whose wisdom, life experiences and loyalty are priceless for both Stella and Rosie.  Jack is the youngest of the male characters and understanding his back story, his mother’s decline into alcoholism and street prostitution, the obvious course for the writers to take him down (gangsters, drugs, alcohol) is not quite the route he follows. Certainly, his life is still set amidst this background, but he makes his life choices with a mature head following his own moral compass.

There are many truly unlikeable characters in this novel – psychopathic, vicious and violent Freddie Williams, Mags the aggrieved working girl – but for me the vilest is probably DCI Ross.  Whilst I detested the man, the writers were very clever to give us his childhood story – harsh conditions with equally harsh parenting – allowing the reader to have an understanding of why the man behaves as he does and almost feeling empathy for him.

The story is fast, packed with action and wonderfully rich characters – I might unpick them all, but you really can enjoy this without doing so! I applaud the wonderful descriptions of both Edinburgh and the isolated areas of Scotland.  This was a novel that I found difficult to put down as I became invested in the characters and genuinely wanted to know what happens to them.  Strange as it may seem, there are some very tender relationships and genuine feelings – the joys and despairs of parenthood, loss, grief and love. Many ends are tied up, but there are also many loose ends and new lives…. a sequel please, Ms Tweedie & Ms McGregor!! Meanwhile I plan to look out your other works.

I can’t help feeling that the original Madame, Dora Noyce, would approve of this version of Danube Street.  She always objected to the word brothel and wanted her house to be known as one of “leisure and pleasure”, where she gave glasses of wine to gentleman arriving and then tea and sandwiches for “afters”.  The opulent house of the book and the rich characters within its walls would get a nod of approval from the real Madame of Danube Street.

danube-st-3

17 Danube Street (from Planet Edinburgh blog)

I loved it too! 4 stars

Articles of interest:

https://www.scotsman.com/news/lost-edinburgh-17-danube-street-1-3334496

https://planetedinburgh.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/17-danube-street-what-your-parents-never-told-you/

Find Danube Street on

Twitter

Goodreads

Facebook

Currently available on Kindle at Amazon here:

Publisher: Fledgling Press

Publication Date: 01/08/2018

ISBN-13: 9781912280131 

Details:

Type: Paperback

Format: Books

About the Authors

LINDA TWEEDIE lives in a small coastal town on the east coast of Scotland and has been a market trader, encyclopaedia salesperson and a drug rep (rep, not dealer) but for over 20 years, until her retirement, (early of course!) she spent most of her time behind a bar barring toilet breaks as landlady of numerous watering holes. Her first three novels came about through customers and friends telling her on almost a daily basis that she should write a book. Well, she did not just one but three The Life series, in collaboration with her best friend and cohort Kate McGregor. The Silence is their début crime novel set mainly in the dark and mean streets of Glasgow at the time of the infamous Ice Cream Wars. A fast-paced, gritty story which will keep you enthralled. 10458773_978010128897355_2150746344268007796_nKATE McGREGOR co-author was born in Paisley, once labelled the most dangerous town in the UK. But, it quietened down considerably once she left and went to work in London. Kate has been a beautician, logistics manager, advertising guru and sexy party planner who, after being made redundant twice in one year, decided it was time to be mistress of her own destiny and with the hindrance and interference of her best friend Linda, embarked on a seven year career in booze! Together they wrote The Life series, the first of which, Life Behind Bars, was a finalist in The People s Book Prize. The Silence is their début crime novel and if you like Martina Cole or Jessie Keane, you’ll love this.

danube-st-instagram

Drugs to Forget – Blog Tour and Review

Yes, yes..another blog tour!  Most unusual for me to have 2 in one week, but this book sounded too good to miss – and today is publication day in paperback!

With many thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for the opportunity to be included in this book tour in return for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

drugs to forget.jpg

Natalie Thompson is an investigative film director, tasked with making a documentary on the threat of bioterrorism.  She is quickly made aware of an Ebola outbreak in central Africa which is being kept under wraps by the authorities, and the journalist in Natalie seeks to find a way into the local healthcare system in order to search for answers.  She gains the trust of medical staff by posing as a film maker for a Western aid charity who wishes to learn more about their vaccination programme.  Whilst in Africa, a contact introduces her to a Zimbabwean terrorist group and she must take on yet another undercover persona, posing as a blogger and Western African rights sympathiser.  Is it possible that these terrorists are really planning to give the West a dose of “African disease”?

Meanwhile in London Tom is a new rookie to the investigative film world and is set to work doing research for Natalie’s project.  He uncovers suspicious activities in a laboratory in Java and soon finds himself dispatched off to investigate – and with a minder in tow!  They make contact with a young chemist who is concerned about the research work that she is being asked to undertake. When Natalie and Tom touch base with each other, they find that there are various strands to their stories that are linking to each other and to the terrorist group.  Certain names in pharmaceutical companies keep cropping up too, alongside studies into Alzheimer’s disease. Now the question is do they continue with the sole purpose of making a documentary or should the authorities be alerted to the very real prospect of a bioterrorist attack?

Drugs to Forget pin

Action, suspense, intrigue, danger, fear, excitement…..just some of the words to sum up this novel.  I believe that Natalie Thompson has appeared in several other novels by the author, but this can be read as a stand-alone book – I haven’t read the others.  This novel is so current and the author’s background in investigative documentary films is very evident with the detailed descriptions of both fieldwork and the editorial offices.  The devastation of Ebola has been on our television screens for several years now and the Western world is well aware of the havoc that it can wreak.  Add to this the recent happenings in the UK with the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter, this storyline becomes completely plausible and for that reason more frightening.

I do love the fact that the lead character is a woman – but then I would say that, I suppose!  Natalie is gutsy, strong, intelligent and driven.  At times I was fearful for her when she appeared to be reckless in her actions, but this for me is an indication of the great suspense that Mr Granger conjures with his writing.  The complexities of her character develop as she becomes more involved with the medical programmes in Africa and meets the real people who are affected.  She is empathetic and finds herself conflicted between the story that she is out to uncover and the other very human stories that she is finds thrown into, including research trials into drugs for Alzheimer’s disease. Essentially, she is lying to people who believe that she is there to help and I like the fact that I can feel her grappling with her conscience when recording in an undercover capacity.

The other characters develop nicely through the story too –  young Tom who finds himself in dangerous situations that he would never have dreamt of and using his sexuality to win the confidence of a source; Nick the ex-soldier sent to babysit Tom who has useful contacts within various police/ authorities; and Geoff the boss, who is spinning so many plates in his office that it feels at times that he can’t possibly keep everyone happy and produce a great programme.  I learnt so much about film production from the great descriptions of the actual filming to the editing and beyond.

The author does cover moral and ethical conflicts that I imagine are a daily occurrence for any documentary maker.  In this case the issues are around the findings of the investigations as it becomes apparent just what the terrorists are planning and just how the pharmaceutical companies are linked.  Should the team continue filming in order to get a fantastic story?  Just when is the right time to inform the authorities what they have discovered? What happens if the authorities in other countries don’t listen or are just too corrupt themselves to act?  Then Mr Granger introduces us to the legal implications!

I loved this book from start to finish.  The fact that at times my heart was in my mouth for me shows how well it is written – the suspense created through the investigation was great.  For an action-packed, exciting, believable investigative read with a twist in the tail, I would definitely recommend “Drugs to Forget” – this gets full marks form me! Now I am off to find the other books from this author.   5 stars.

Available from:

Book Depositary

Amazon: on Kindle & Paperback

Publisher: RedDoor Publishing Ltd (31 May 2018)

About the Author

Martin Granger

Martin Granger HeadshotMartin has been making documentary films for thirty years. In that time he has won more than 100 international film awards. His work has ranged from directing BBC’s Horizon to producing a BAFTA nominated science series for Channel 4.His novels, although fiction, are based upon his experience in the film industry. He lives in Wimbledon with his wife Jacqueline.

Find Martin here:

Twitter

Goodreads

Website

Facebook

Blog Tour & Book Review – “Just Sam” by Kristy Brown

With many thanks to Kelly at LoveBooksGroup for the opportunity to be included in this book tour in return for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Just Sam (1)

Sammy is growing up within a loving family and just showing herself to be a real tennis talent.  Her future,as she enters her teens, seems set when her world is blown wide apart in the cruellest way and her mother is diagnosed with and dies from cancer.  Life will never be the same again as each member of the family – Sammy, her father and her older sister – deal with their own grief and the difficulties of living on.  A house move, a new school and new peers all present Sammy with additional challenges, alongside an increasingly distant sister and a father working long hours.  Her love and enthusiasm for tennis, which was encouraged by and shared with her mum, suddenly feels meaningless so she stops pushing herself and misses out on a big chance for sponsorship.

Her life feels like it is spiralling as she tries to navigate the uncertainties of the secondary school playground, new friends, romantic friends, the school prom and her tennis.  Added into the mix is an eight-year-old girl who comes to Sammy for tennis coaching and an unlikely relationship develops.  But without her mother how can she possibly cope?  She needs to become a different person and to do this Sammy becomes “Just Sam”.

Pin for later

Just Sam pin

This is a poignant young adult/teen novel which tells a story of love, loss, grief, relationships and moving on during the tough years of adolescence.  The author explores tough subject matter and there is no sugar coating.  Sam’s grief is raw and tangible, but it is also very private and not something that she wishes to share.  Without her mother to be her cheerleader through life, she feels unable to move forward, so it is a nice touch from the author that it is a young girl, lavished with all that money can buy yet starved of parental attention, who helps Sam reconnect with the important things in her life.  The family dynamic is well examined as Sam, her sister and their dad all grieve individually, in the mistaken belief that by not talking about their feelings will protect the others.  No spoilers but there are several nice twists toward the end of the story.

The teenage relationships are depicted well with rival friendship groups, petty jealousies, miscommunication, envy, sexuality, feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.  Ms Brown has built a rich cast of real teens, not from a glitzy teen soap opera, but rather young people with flaws and problems, hopes and dreams growing up in ordinary, often dysfunctional, families.  They feel deeply, as only teens can, and struggle to balance their relationships, school, home life and hormones.  The romances are full of teenage joy and angst in equal measure – the feeling of first love for Sam as her heart beats loudly when she glimpses the neck of a particular young man or how one youngster feels after trying to discuss sexuality and coming out with parents.

As mum to three adolescents (and having been one myself although they can’t believe this!) I do relate to this story and I really enjoyed it.  I can empathise with the situations that all the parents face – they are all very different, yet all very relevant. I enjoyed watching the young characters grow, particularly Sam as she learns for herself the importance of moving forward from her mother’s death.  With time her increasing maturity shines through as she accepts that her tennis isn’t something to hate because of the connections to mum, but rather her success in her burgeoning tennis career is a wonderful way to honour her mother’s memory.  The characters all move on in life – as we all do – and the younger cast are learning to go forward no matter what is thrown at them.  If I were to be very picky, I would say that for an adult novel I would have liked the end to have been fleshed out more – but I would describe this as adolescent/YA fiction and as such the tying up of loose ends is entirely appropriate.  This is just the type of book that I would have loved as as a teen – great antidote to the literature syllabus!

I definitely recommend this novel and applaud the author for tackling some difficult life situations – bereavement, loss, love, sexuality, eating disorder, mental health, relationships – but giving young readers a very positive message for the aspects of life that cannot be controlled.  A well written, sensitive, heart-warming and insightful look at the informative years! 4 Stars

Available at Amazon

Paperback:

Kindle:

About the Author

Hi I’m Kristy and I live in the U.K. I have always written short stories and poetry. I went to university to study acting which I loved, but my real passion has always been writing. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo now I write the kind of stories I would have wanted to read when I was a teen. “Kiera’s Quest-Awakenings” is my first ebook. There will be four in the series. I have written the chapters like scenes in a film, with the action cutting to different characters. It’s fast paced! Book two-“Sacrifices” came out August 2012(Muse It Up Publishing) Book three, “Perceptions,” was released in May. Book four, the last, was out Feb 2014. My YA contemporary romance book, “Just Sam,” Is available on Amazon in print & on Kindle. “Summer’s End,” a YA Paranormal series will be out shortly with ‘Muse It Up Publishing.’ My dream is to have them in print someday! I love reading YA angels,vamps etc. I love my kids and hopefully one day they will enjoy my crazy tales!

Find Kristy on

Twitter

Goodreads

Facebook

Blog Tour and Book Review: The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Cherry Radford

Light House Keepers Blog Tour

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book through Love Books and the author in exchange for a fair and honest review

Living in her aunt’s lighthouse at Beachy Head, recently separated Imogen is doing her best to carve out a new life as a writer.  Her teenage son is living with his father and displays indifference to her at every turn, her ex has a younger model and her aunt is in Jersey recuperating at her cousin’s home.  But how will a middle-aged woman, used to life in suburbia, cope living on a rural headland and perhaps most poignantly a mere stone’s throw from the lighthouse where her own father died in a tragic accident.  Aunt Dorothy has started to send Imogen pages, well excerpts really from her father’s diary, but she is being very mysterious as to why she won’t just send her the whole thing.

Imogen is struggling to find a plot for her novel and definitely does not want to go with her ex-husband Ewan’s idea to write about her own father.  It is whilst she is driving in Ewan’s old car that she inserts a CD and falls helplessly in love with a piece of flamenco guitar music.  She feels the “beautiful but unbearable melody” and as she stops the car to listen, wonders how she had not before “understood the anger in sadness”. So begins the second thread of the storyline as Imogen takes the bold step to contact the guitarist on Twitter, setting the wheels in motion for new friendships and relationships.

Imogen finds herself making a new best friend in Jules, who helps her to put some of the demons surrounding her parents’ marriage and then her father’s death to rest.  In return Imogen introduces Jules to the builder, Dylan, employed by her aunt to undertake an endless list of works at the lighthouse.  Meanwhile the tweets to and from Spain are growing as the guitarist Santiago explains that he needs an English teacher and perhaps Imogen can help him.  His music career is fading and his manager has encouraged him into acting.  Imogen finds herself drawn toward Santi and his close family more and more, as her novel starts to unfold and her imagination mixes fact and fiction.

Her Twitter friendship is unfolding alongside her reading and learning more of her father in his diary, even finding that he also had a penpal – of the more traditional variety!  The diary reveals secrets that make Imogen question everything about her past and throw caution to the wind with a visit to Madrid and a man who she only knows through “140 character” messages.

Pin for later

PinLighthouse Keeper's Daughter

I would class this as a contemporary romance novel, but with a difference.  There are romance novels and films where it is too easy to unravel the whole plot in the first five minutes – too predictable and one dimensional.  This book is not like that and Cherry Radford has written enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.  The lighthouse storyline about her father lends some intrigue, whilst the Spanish storyline adds another whole dimension.  The characters are believable, and I think the fact that some are more likeable than others shows that they are well portrayed.  Imogen’s relationship with son Ollie had me laughing as it rang lots of bells, particularly as I have a teen Olly too and I really enjoyed the scenes of the blossoming relationship with new friend Jules.  I would definitely enjoy a night at the pub with these ladies (this was their first proper meeting place!) – they are chalk and cheese, but this just adds to the humour.

Using social media to set up a “friendship” is genius, resembling so much of life today, and the communication barriers down to language mistakes are at times hilarious.  There is a whole storyline describing Santi’s life and family in Madrid, which you must discover for yourself alongside Imogen…I don’t want to give anything away….but his early referrals to her as “the English woman” and how he views her as stereotypical English with her pale red hair and shy freckled body are very funny.  The characters in the book all grow, not necessarily in the ways that the reader expects or wants, but relationships develop and become clearer as the storyline unfolds.

There are some very atmospheric descriptions of both the south coast of England, particularly of the rain and mist sweeping in, and also of historic Madrid where Imogen gains inspiration for her own novel.

I really enjoyed Cherry Radford’s style of writing and will be returning for more of her novels.  I found this an easy going read – I actually read it within a couple of days – with a bit of history (the lighthouses), some intrigue, friendships, tears and love.  Plus lots of laughter – from me at least!

Five stars.

Available at Amazon here :

 

About the Author

81tEosh+iPL._UX250_Cherry Radford was a piano teacher at the Royal Ballet Junior School, a keyboard player in a band, and then a research optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London before suddenly writing her first novel in the middle of a scientific conference in 2009.  She now lives in Eastbourne and Almeria (Spain).

Her first 2 novels are available from Amazon and she is now thrilled to have signed with the wonderful Urbane Publications, who will publish The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter in Spring 2018.

Blog: Bla Bla Land

Twitter

Website

 

Book Blog Tour – Book Review of “Evanthia’s Gift” Book 1 The Gift Saga by Effie Kammenou

I have been fortunate to be given a copy of this book by the author through Love Books Group in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

EG & WFA Facebook-Twitter 1

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga – Women’s fiction/ contemporary romance – Women’s fiction 2106 Reader’s Favorite Award finalist – Available in print, kindle and audible

Review

Anastacia Fotopoulos has moved to the USA after the horrors of the second world war in order to educate herself and so take a step closer to fulfilling her dreams.  She hadn’t anticipated falling in love and marrying the first handsome man to come her way, nor less to then be cruelly betrayed by those closest to her.  It is 1956 and she finds herself alone, pregnant and ashamed to return home to Greece.  She is fortunate in the support of her wonderful friends Stavros and Soula, also first generation Greek immigrants, and her Uncle who gives her employment to keep a roof over her and her new baby daughter’s heads.  The last thing that she expects is to attract the attentions of another young Greek man from her student days, and when her friends try to match make her with Alex she is determined to resist.  She will never put her future in the hands of a man again.

Ana has no idea that Alexandros Giannakos has loved her since he first knew her, and he wins her over with his perseverance and love for both her and daughter Sophia.  Their friends have had two children, Dean and Demi, and life for the close Greek American families is good.  But secrets have been kept, with the best of intentions by all involved, and these will affect life in the future.  The storyline skips forward to the teenage years of the children, and whilst the girls are closer than sisters, a deeper relationship develops between Dean and Sophia.  Their Greek heritage remains extremely important to the families, particularly the older generation, and teen Dean cannot bear to have his life mapped out by his parents – he wants to be an American boy who goes to college and finds his own way in the world.  As a result, he refuses to acknowledge his feelings openly for Sophia and as he pulls away from the family traditions, Sophia too has her young heart broken.

Life continues for the families.  Dean marries a college girl and goes to work for his father in law, Demi marries her secret childhood sweetheart and Sophia throws herself into her career as a dancer.  Along the way family secrets emerge that threaten to splinter relationships, and the rock the families to the core.

Pin for later

Evanthia pin

If you enjoy family dramas that span generations, without sugar coating life, then you will love this novel.  The historical element of life in war torn Greece was fascinating, as was the story that was so common to many immigrant New York families be they Greek, Italian, Irish….the author is herself a second generation Greek American, and she appears to have exactly the right understanding between the need for embracing their heritage and culture for the older family members, to the desire to be American youngsters and growing up in America for the youngsters.  The friction was palpable in the writing.

The characters all grow and develop throughout the course of the novel as life throws both expected and unexpected joys and sorrows at them.  Ana remains at the core of the story, and I love the way in which both she and Soula are presented as the strong women keeping the wheels of their family life oiled and turning.  The secret to this is food!  I recognised in this book one of my own close friends, who moved to London from Athens in the 1980s, and is the most amazing homemaker and cook.  My kids love to go to her house and she feeds us all in a very similar way to Ana and Soula in the story.  The descriptions of the food are enough to make the reader’s mouth water, but then the author will offer up a wonderful gem every few chapters with a complete Greek recipe.  Imagine my delight when I also found that the author has a recipe website! I am so excited to try cooking some of these mouth-watering delicacies!

Evanthia’s Gift is a love story that covers generations, continents, different loves lost and found – but it is so much more than a love story, it is a story of human life and emotions over a fifty-year period.  I wanted to shout at the characters when the miscommunication caused problems and altered the course of lives and changed choices made.  I cheered when decisions ended well, and I shouted and cried at the bad decisions and the sorrows that life dishes up.  This book depicts real life – not everything can be planned, not everything is sugar coated and joy is tempered with sadness.  If you haven’t guessed I loved this book and am really looking forward to the next one in the series….and yes, you will find out who Evanthia is and just what her gift is.

Five Stars from me!

Karithopita

Karithopita – An Easy to Make Greek Walnut Cake from Cheffie’s Kitchen

About the Author (from Goodreads)

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. cover photo 2.jpg

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: Book Two in The Gift Saga is Kammenou’s latest release.

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 cooking for her family and friends.

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.

Member of Women’s Fiction Writer’s Association & Romance Writers of America

Available from Amazon :

 

Amazon author page

https://www.amazon.com/Effie-Kammenou/e/B013NZRWLI/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1488327067&sr=8-1

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/EffieKammenou/

 Twitter

https://twitter.com/EffieKammenou

Goodreads page

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14204724.Effie_Kammenou

 Food blog

https://cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com

 instagram

https://www.instagram.com/author_effie_cheffieskitchen/

Newsletter signup page

 http://eepurl.com/bIoJl1

evanthiasgift

Book Blog Tour & Review: “When The Stars Come Out” by Laura Trentham

 

Review Tour

 

Disclaimer: I was fortunate to be given an advance copy of this book by the author and publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Blog Tour – for the latest in Laura Trentham’s Cottonbloom series 

I wonder if you remember my previous review of Laura Trentham’s book Leave The Night On in which we met the Abbott brothers?  Well this new contemporary romance in her Cottonbloom series follows the brothers again, focusing particularly on Jackson, twin of Wyatt who we met before.  The Abbott garage is in trouble, not least because eldest brother Ford has announced that he plans to sell his share and he has now disappeared.  The remaining three, Jackson, Wyatt and Mack have now idea where he is and no idea who the mystery buyer could be.

Pin for later

Book review - Stars

 

Still employed at the garage is mechanic Willa, quietly and diligently working under the bonnets of cars and trucks, but hugging a multitude of secrets about her life and loves to her heart.  She doesn’t think that anyone notices her, with her home cut hair, charity shop clothes and beat up old car – and this is how she wants it.  She certainly doesn’t want Jackson to know how she feels about him.  But Willa hasn’t factored in that the Abbott boys are a close-knit family and do notice when someone they care about is in need.  Wyatt has had a few rough edges knocked off him since falling for Sutton Mize (see my last review!), and Mack has always looked out for Willa.  But it is Jackson who has started to notice Willa as a living and breathing woman, rather than just a mechanic and he wonders why she is living in a cold, damp caravan, driving a clapped out old car and failing to eat properly.  Don’t they pay her enough and why does she want cash only?

“I’ll have a pork plate and sweet tea to go.” Willa did a mental calculation for tax and
pulled out two fives. More than she should spend, but her stomach vetoed any protest. Now not only was she saving to fix her car, but she needed a cushion. If she had to move, money was a necessity. Any decent place required a deposit for rent. Not to mention utilities. And how long would it take her to find another job that didn’t require her Social Security number or real name? The thought made her stomach hurt from something other than hunger.
“Make that two for here, Rufus, and I’m buying.”
Willa spun around. Jackson Abbott’s chest filled her vision. The animal like noises her stomach was making must have drowned out his approach.
“Sure thing, Jackson.” Rufus favored them with a grin and turned to dole out barbeque, baked beans, and slaw. She tucked her hair behind her ear, feeling intensely vulnerable without her steel-toed work boots, coveralls, and ball cap. Her flip-flops, worn-out jeans with a rip at one knee, and a black T-shirt with the emblem of a band she’d never listened to were from the thrift shop down
the street.
“You don’t have to pay.” When she found her voice, it was breathy.
“I want to.” His words were low and rumbly and sexy, and she resisted the urge to lay her cheek against his chest, desperate to have someone, anyone, to lean on, even for a moment. Obviously, hunger was impeding her mental faculties.
In the two years she’d lived in Cottonbloom, she’d never run into Jackson outside of the garage. Her forays to secretly watch him race didn’t count since he’d never noticed her. The only place she was a regular was at the library, because it offered free Internet and entertainment—two things she couldn’t afford to waste money on.
Her mental faculties slipped further away as she allowed her gaze to wander over his shoulders before rising. He’d showered, his damp hair darker than its usual rich brown, but hadn’t shaved, his stubble even more pronounced from the afternoon. The scent of soap and clean laundry was mouthwatering in a different way than the barbeque was. The butterflies in her stomach did a slow bump and grind. God, she was hungry for so many things.

So begins the romance that forms the bedrock of the story, but it is by no means plain sailing.  Willa is a determined young lady who trusts no one and is living a life on the run – but what or whom is she running from? Her back-story winds through the book allowing us to watch a veneer of self-preservation to be chipped away as her confidence in those around her begins to grow.  She allows herself to form an attachment to a stray dog and this is when her true nature starts to shine through and little by little we learn just what Willa is running from and how much of this is herself.

Gracefulness

Jackson has his own demons to tackle, in the form of his absent brother and his estranged mother, who abandoned the family as children.  But we see him mellow as his feelings for Willa deepen and he realises that he can have what he sees his twin enjoying – that is a loving relationship.

This would not be a good contemporary romance if there were not some glamour and an opportunity for the hero to be dazzled by the hidden beauties of his new love.  Ms Trentham does not fail us, and with the help and friendship of Sutton, Willa allows herself to once again feel feminine and become the lovely young woman that is hiding beneath her greasy overalls.

not a car - Social Media

I think that if you enjoy a good romance, with some intrigue and some great characters then you will enjoy When The Stars Come Out.  It can be read as a stand-alone book, but I personally enjoy a series that is set around a town and which interlinks characters and plots from book to book – like large chapters of an overall novel.  This is an easy to read, light story that will brighten these cold, wet months at the start of the new year.  I am now looking forward to the next instalment – surely, we need a tale about the other Abbott brother, Mack! Please, Laura Trentham!!  Four stars from me.

Published: January 30th 2018 by St Martin’s Paperbacks

Book Links:

Goodreads

Amz: Amazon
BN: Barnes & Noble
iBooks: ibooks
Kobo: Kobo
GooglePlay: GooglePlay

Author biography:

An award-winning author, Laura Trentham was born and raised in a small town in
Tennessee. Although, she loved English and reading in high school, she was convinced an
English degree equated to starvation. She chose the next most logical major—Chemical
Engineering—and worked in a hard hat and steel toed boots for several years.
She writes sexy, small town contemporaries and smoking hot Regency historicals. KISS
ME THAT WAY, Cottonbloom Book 1, won the Stiletto Contest for Best Long Contemporary and finaled in the National Readers Choice Award. THEN HE KISSED ME, Cottonbloom Book 2, was named an Amazon Best Romance of 2016 and was a finalist for the National Excellence for Romance Fiction. TILL I KISSED YOU, Cottonbloom Book 3, is a finalist in the Maggie contest. LEAVE THE NIGHT ON, the latest Cottonbloom book, was named an iBooks Best Book of the Month and a Recommended Read from NPR.

When not lost in a cozy Southern town or Regency England, she’s shuttling kids to
soccer, helping with homework, and avoiding the Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry that is almost as big as the to-be- read pile of books on her nightstand.

Link with Laura on Social Media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLauraTrentham
Or join my reader group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1733284316920632/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LauraTrentham
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lauratrentham/
Sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bwbOkD
Follow me on Bookbub for new release or sale announcements:
https://www.bookbub.com/authors/laura-trentham

 

#Blog Tour – How I Motivated Myself to Succeed by Shelley Wilson

Dream It, Live It, Become It

Disclaimer: I was fortunate to be given an ARC by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Blog Tour Banner for Shelley Wilson HIMMTS

I first met Shelley Wilson through the blogger community online and was soon following her on Twitter and her blog.  We also belong to a great Facebook group of bloggers who support and promote each other.  Now I must be honest and tell you that I haven’t read Shelley’s first book – yet – “How I Changed My Life in a Year”, but I do know that it was the precursor to this book and that she does refer to it throughout as one book describes the other.  So to put it simply we have “How I motivated myself to Succeed” in my challenge of “How I Changed My Life in a Year”.

Normally I would give a self-help book a wide berth, but I was intrigued by the concept of “How I Motivated Myself to Succeed” and wondered how it could apply to me.  My regular readers will know that my life has changed drastically due to health issues, and as a result I have started to write and connect with the chronic illness community.  I wondered if Shelley’s approach to motivation and success could be translated to something positive for those who are facing huge and often negative health issues.Motivation

This book is easy to read.  There are no difficult words, trendy psychobabble phrases or deep psychological discussions to dissect.  It really does do what it says on the tin – that is to describe Shelley’s personal journey to motivate herself to succeed.  I love the fact that she describes, in brutally honest detail, every little factor affecting her setting and then achieving her goals.  She describes how she learns – as a visual learner – and how preparing vision boards helps her to figure out what it is she wants to achieve.  But Shelley is not prescriptive in her approach and suggests that the reader may find other tools more helpful – she recognises that one size does not fit all.

Many of you will already be familiar with the use of acronyms in the workplace to motivate individuals, or within team building exercises or at a strategic planning level.  Shelley incorporates several acronyms – such as SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) DAD(Decision Action Determination) – along the way but does so in a very familiar and easy format that explains exactly how they can be used by ordinary people in day to day life.  I think that this is what I like most about Shelley’s book and her style of writing – she explains exactly how she personally set goals, undertook tasks and arranged her life to achieve her goals.  Now these goals may have included a mammoth one of writing a book, but equally she includes writing a meal plan for her family and encouraging her teens to tick of items on the household task list!

Shelley is a single mum who has run a holistic health business, but has also experienced her own major health problems which forced her to close her business.  I felt immediately drawn to this normal woman, living an ordinary life and I can identify with her.  Her descriptions of home and the teens made me laugh out loud – this lady knows how I live. If I can recognise myself and my friends in this writer, then I can definitely identify with her writing and her suggestions.

As someone who has been disabled with health problems, I accept that I am not going to set a goal to storm the workplace and become a tycoon as my body physically will not allow this.  But Shelley’s frank discussion about organisation, self-care and changing habits can be easily utilised by someone like me to both make the best of my situation, and to realise that I can still achieve something and flourish.  I love her section on decluttering – this covers both mind, surroundings (in my case home) and social media.  She writes about decluttering your Facebook & Twitter….it would never have occurred to me.

Whilst Shelley has written parts of this book with the twelve months from her first book in mind, and thus sets challenges across the year, she stresses, and I believe, that it is possible to use some of the tools over a shorter timescale or indeed for the longer term.  We talk about “pacing” in the chronic illness community and being “short on spoons”, and the second half of this book has so many good suggestions to plan and incorporate these needs with the goal to a success beyond our illness/limitations.  This might be writing a blog, visiting a friend or running an on line shop.

So before my review for this Blog Tour turns into a book, my conclusions!  If you are interested in reading a down to earth, personal experience of motivation and goal setting in order to succeed and achieve – then this is the book for you.  Nothing fancy, no psychobabble, pure sensible advice that we ordinary folk can use to flourish.

A fantastic four stars – please read Shelley’s guest post below!

Book review & blog tour

 

Guest Post From the Author, Shelley Wilson (@ShelleyWilson72) #BlogTour

 When my wonderful host, Claire, offered a spot on her blog for my book tour I was delighted. I’m ashamed to say that after writing a series of guest posts (seventeen in total!) my typing fingers are beginning to look like gnarled claws! Before they give out on my completely I wanted to take this opportunity to find just the right excerpt from my new release for Claire’s audience. I hope you like it.

 

Taken from How I Motivated Myself to Succeed:

When I began running my Motivate Me workshops, I used to leave a handout on all the chairs for the attendees to take away with them. It was my interpretation of motivation. I’d like to share this with you in the hope it resonates with what you are planning for yourself.

M = Mindfulness

O = Optimism

T = Trusting in the Process

I = Inner Wisdom

V = Validation

A = Activating Your Dreams

T = Thinking Outside the Box

E = Empowering Yourself

 

M is for being mindful and learning to be in the now. Slowing down and becoming aware of what your mind/body is telling you enables you to discover new opportunities and experiences. Try a five-minute meditation every morning or night.

O is for optimism. Start to look at your life through the eyes of a child, with innocence. See the simple things that can make a profound difference to your day/week/month, such as a smile, holding a door open, or paying someone a compliment. All these acts add to our well of optimism.

T is for trust. I’m not a life coach or a neuroscientist; I’m a single mum who turned her life around when she hit rock bottom. I had to trust that the lessons I’d learned were there for a reason. I believed that the universe could deliver, and more importantly, I began to trust myself that I could survive, make changes, and be the person I wanted to be.

I is for inner wisdom. You have the ability to change bad habits, to find happiness, and to love who you are. Sometimes you may forget that your inner wisdom exists. It’s always there, just beneath the surface, and it’s ready to provide you with the answers you long for. Using oracle cards can be the perfect way to tap into your inner wisdom.

V is for validation. For every issue you face, or problem you think you can’t handle, there are a hundred other women/men who have been through this and have come out at the other end. You can use their wisdom and experiences as a case study. Let those who have walked this path before you be a mentor, or join a support network, or social networking group. These are all ways to validate that you can get through anything. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. You are not alone.

A is for activating your dreams. These are the action points you take to make things happen. By taking that first step, you begin a chain reaction that pulls your dream towards you and activates those wishes into becoming a reality. Without this stage you become stuck.

T is for thinking outside the box. Learning to change the way you think can have a profound impact on your life. When you are worried about an issue, stop for a moment and put yourself in the shoes of someone you admire, a strong person who never seems to be fazed by anything – what would they do? Come at your problems and fears from an alternative direction.

E is for empowerment. In today’s society, you have the opportunity to sign up to be a part of powerful social communities both online and in real life. A group of friends with similar interests and beliefs can be invaluable. At home, you may be part of a networking group or a slimming club; perhaps you’re a member of the Women’s Institute, a book club, or a regular coffee morning event. All of these groups empower you. Being around like-minded people, meeting new friends, and sharing that positive energy will feed your motivation to succeed, and will grow your desire to be the best you can be.

If we think about our resolutions, goals, or projects as one big jigsaw, then by collecting all the pieces and slotting them together we achieve success.

This was the final spot on my blog tour for How I Motivated Myself to Succeed, available now in paperback and eBook. Huge thanks to Claire, for allowing me to invade her beautiful blog and share the book love. I hope you enjoyed a brief glimpse into my book world.

 

If you would like to read more then take a look at her new release, How I Motivated Myself to Succeed, out now in paperback and eBook, and packed full of information on self-care, freeing yourself from fear, organising your life, and much more.

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Find out more about Shelley on her author blog www.shelleywilsonauthor.com or via her personal development blog http://www.motivatemenow.co.uk.

 

She is also on Twitter,  Facebook and Instagram

 

Author Bio:

SONY DSCShelley is a multi-genre author of non-fiction self-help and young adult fantasy fiction. Her latest release, How I Motivated Myself to Succeed is being dubbed as the sequel-that’s-not-a-sequel to her bestselling book, How I Changed My Life in a Year. She writes a personal development blog (www.motivatemenow.co.uk) as well as an author blog (www.shelleywilsonauthor.com) where she shares book reviews, author interviews, and random musings about writing. Shelley was thrilled to win the Most Inspirational Blogger Award at the Bloggers Bash in 2016, and to scoop second place in the same category in 2017. She is a single mum to three teenagers and a black cat, loves pizza, vampires, and The Walking Dead, and has a slight obsession with list writing.