Book Review and Blog Tour for Sue Lawrence’s “Down To The Sea” #LoveBooksGroupTours

Disclaimer:  Thanks to Love Books Group and the author for the copy of this book and the opportunity to take part in this tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Down-to-Sea

The year is 1981 and young couple Rona and Craig have spent an inheritance on a large Victorian house in Edinburgh.  Ex-lawyer Rona is excited to turn Wardie House into a luxury care home so sets about exploring and planning, and in the process she uncovers some history of the house and its inhabitants.  The cellar and attic give up secrets from dark corners and when the sea fog descends the new owners hear strange, disturbing sounds.

There is only one close neighbour – glamorous and sophisticated American Martha – and she immediately wants to make friends with the young couple,  sharing with them that the big house has been the centre of several unhappy scandals in the past. But when asked about her own life, she is secretive and reluctant to speak, giving up conflicting details of her life before coming to Scotland.

Return to the Newhaven district of Edinburgh in the late 19th century and 14 year old Jessie has found herself the centre of gossip and accusation, following the loss of a fishing boat in a storm.  Blamed for the death of the fisherman by superstitious villagers, Jessie is thrown out of her home and is sent to Wardie House, the poorhouse.  The home is run by the Governor and Matron, characters who rule with an iron fist and create a harsh, severe life for the many inmates of the poorhouse.  Jessie begins to suspect that all is not as it seems, particularly with one of the older women, and when Jessie’s only friend finds herself in trouble, Jessie plays detective and unpicks secrets.

These secrets directly link 1898 with 1981, but it will be down to Rona and Jessie to unravel them.

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I was sent a paperback copy of this novel, and whilst I am always grateful to be sent an electronic copy, there was something special about holding a book in my hands.  The artwork on the cover is immediately striking and gives a hint of the haunting tale inside.  Ms Lawrence alternates the book chapters between 1981 and 1898, a concept which works well to build up and to link the two parts of the story.  As someone who has a tendency to flick back and forth between times, rereading sections and checking on memories, I was very pleased to be reading a paperback rather than my Kindle!

The book is well written and very easy to read.  The author uses some beautiful descriptions for the Scottish scenery and I was transported to a place where I could feel the sea on my face and the thick mists swirling around the house.  My favourite descriptive writing can be found using every sense in the scenes in the coal cellar and smugglers’ tunnels….no spoilers here!

The characters are all important within the storyline and in each of the two timelines there is a strong leading female character.  Personally I enjoyed Jessie’s timeline the most and was able to feel her emotions and character growth as she learnt the art of survival in the poorhouse.  She was used to hard work amongst the fisherfolk, but the poorhouse presented her with a very different set of challenges and I loved seeing her develop into a steely young woman, prepared to fight and protect those she loved.  This is also something that is mirrored by Rona in her storyline as she learns more about the mysterious Martha, her husband Craig, the residents of the nursing home and also herself.

This is a novel that manages to incorporate the historical with the psychological and weaves a tantalising tale around haunting secrets and painful truths.  The author manages to keep the suspense running throughout, whilst slowly but surely linking the timelines, until the actions of one are revealed to have dramatic consequences for the other.  A great tale which is both eerie and moving in equal measures.

I found this book gripping, became invested in the characters and thoroughly enjoyed it.

4 stars

Find the book:

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About the Author

(from The Scottish Book Trust website)

Sue Lawrence 2Cookery writer and novelist Sue Lawrence was born in Dundee and brought up in Edinburgh, where she now lives, having lived in many places including the French Pyrenees, Ost Friesland in Germany and northern Finland. She trained as a journalist with DCThomson after an Honours degree in French from Dundee University.

She has written 17 cookery books including Book of Baking and A Cooks Tour of Scotland. Her latest cookbook is A Cooks Tour of the Scottish Islands, due out in August 2019.

She specialises in traditional Scottish food and Baking and has written for various newspapers and magazines since winning BBC Masterchef in 1991.

She moved into writing Fiction recently: her second novel, The Night He Left, was published in April 2016. Her latest novel, Down to the Sea, will be published in 2019.

About the writer’s work

Having trained as a journalist, Sue Lawrence began writing cookbooks and newspaper and magazine columns. She now writes both Fiction and cookery books and attends many book festivals around the country, talking on both subjects, but mainly nowadays on fiction (though always happy to talk Cake too!).

Find Sue:

Goodreads

Agent website

Twitter

 

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on LovelyAudiobooks.info

Review and Blog Tour : “It’s Getting Scot in Here” by Suzanne Enoch

Disclaimer: I was sent an ARC of this book by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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Book Blurb (from the publisher)

The first in a wickedly seductive new Scottish historical romance series from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Enoch!

HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER
London socialite Amelia-Rose Baxter is nobody’s fool. Her parents may want her to catch a title, but she will never change who she is for the promise of marriage. Her husband will be a man who can appreciate her sharp mind as well as her body. A sophisticated man who loves life in London. A man who considers her his equal—and won’t try to tame her wild heart…

IN THE HIGHLANDS
Rough, rugged Highlander Niall MacTaggert and his brothers know the rules: the eldest must marry or lose the ancestral estate, period. But Niall’s eldest brother just isn’t interested in the lady his mother selected. Is it because Amelia-Rose is just too. . . Free-spirited? Yes. Brazen? Aye. Surely Niall can find a way to soften up the whip-smart lass and make her the perfect match for his brother for the sake of the family.

JUST GOT A WHOLE LOT HOTTER.
Instead it’s Niall who tempts Amelia-Rose, despite her reservations about barbarian Highlanders. Niall finds the lass nigh irresistible as well, but he won’t make the mistake his father did in marrying an Englishwoman who doesn’t like the Highlands. Does he have what it takes to win her heart? There is only one way to find out…

It's Getting Scot in Here cover

Do you enjoy a historical romantic romp?  Then this is the book for you!  This is the first novel by Suzanne Enoch that I have read, and I must admit that as I found the cover a little “corny” I did wonder how I was going to find the book!  I needn’t have worried though as once I started reading I was hooked and wanted to follow the story of the MacTaggart brothers in London.

This is an easy to read story with everything that you want in a historic romance novel.  From the handsome, yet rugged hero to the misunderstood, headstrong heroine and the beautifully described period surroundings and clothes, the author has packed this book to bursting.  The action is fast paced and the characters will take you on an emotional rollercoaster.

The MacTaggart clan is dysfunctional at best, yet loving, loyal and supportive and very likeable.  The descriptions of some of the antics of the brothers had me laughing out loud and I loved Rory the deer (stuffed!) that they placed on their mother’s landing to rile her, yet the whole family ended up “dressing” him in finery.  Niall is the perfect romantic hero – tall and handsome, yet rugged, tough yet fiercely loyal and loving with a soft heart.  The older brothers Coll and Aden have started to show their characters in this book – but I have a feeling that their own stories might be in the pipeline.  Their mother is someone to be disliked at the beginning, yet as the story unfolds Lady Aldriss shows herself to be a tiger mother merely fighting for her children – no  matter that they are estranged from her and return as great, hulking young men from the Highlands “gracing” her London residence!

I love the main female character Amelia-Rose – better known as Amy to her friends.  She is a young lady who is underestimated by nearly everyone around her, and she is expected to conform to the social expectations of a young lady of a certain standing.  In other words she must not have own opinions, should definitely not speak out of turn and always do as her parents or husband see fit – a young woman of her time.  But Amy is a young lady with a strong character who struggles to comply with these social niceties and has earned herself a reputation for having a sharp tongue as she will speak out.  Although I know that it happened,  I still found myself a bit baffled by the way in which the aristocracy traded their near adult children in order to make better family alliances through arranged marriage – and parents would pay huge sums, as dowries, for more eligible suitors with titles.  It would be easy to feel sorry for Amy – indeed I felt for her having such a scheming mother – except she shows remarkable spunk throughout the novel.

This will not be seen as a great literary classic, but it is well written and most importantly thoroughly enjoyable.  It is a romance and it does have a couple of sexual scenes (I know that some readers like to be forewarned), but it also is fast paced and action packed so should not be underestimated.  I loved the fact that it was easy to read and provided some escapism – something that will appeal to my many spoonie pals out there.

This might not have been a book that would have jumped off the shelves at me, but I must admit that it became a guilty pleasure and I really look forward to a series with the other MacTaggart brothers tales!  Meanwhile I’m off to find some of Ms Enoch’s other Highland flings!

4 Stars

Publication Date: February 26, 2019
ISBN-13: 978-1-250-29637-5
St. Martin’s Paperbacks

The book is currently available here:

Amazon :

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Macmillan books

 

About the Author

A native and current resident of Southern California, Suzanne Enoch loves movies Suzanne Enochalmost as much as she loves books, with a special place in her heart for anything Star Wars. Given her love of food and comfy chairs, she may in fact be a Hobbit. She has written more than forty Regency novels and historical romances, which are regularly found on the New York Times bestseller list.
When she is not busily working on her next book, Suzanne likes to contemplate interesting phenomena, like how the three guppies in her aquarium became 161 guppies in five months. Suzanne is trying to learn to cook, and wishes she had an English accent.

She is the bestselling author of Scandalous Brides series, The Scandalous Highlanders series, and One Hot Scot.

Find Suzanne:

Twitter

Website

Facebook

Thanks to St Martin’s Press and the author for giving me the opportunity to be on this blog tour.

A Rare Chronic Illness, A Book Review and a Love Letter – “Leo and the Lightning Dragons” #LoveBooksGroupTours

This is a special post today and it feels fitting that it falls on Valentine’s Day.  It combines a very rare chronic illness alongside a review for a book that I hope you will agree is a labour of love.

Have you heard of Ohtahara Syndrome? No, me neither.  It is a very rare form of epilepsy and seizures  usually start before the age of 3 months, often in the first days after birth.  In fact after birth and the first signs of seizures, some mothers realise that their baby has been having seizures whilst still in the uterus.  This form of epilepsy does not respond well to traditionally used seizure medications and treatment is very difficult.  Many babies will be floppy, have difficulty feeding and suffer repeated daily seizures.  The prognosis is poor. (Epilepsy.org.uk)

Leo White is a little boy who has Ohtahara syndrome and suffers many seizures daily that are as yet uncontrolled. When I was asked to review this book that his mother has written for him, I was delighted to be able to.

Many thanks to Leo and his family, the publishers and Love Books Group Tours for giving me the opportunity to read and review such a special book.

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Leo and the Lightning Dragons

Leo is a knight, probably the bravest knight, and he fights dragons.  But the dragons that Leo fights are not normal everyday dragons, they are huge, lightning dragons inside his head.  Everyone around Leo tries to help, but they can’t tell when the dragons might strike or for how long.  The people of the kingdom and Leo’s parents all think this is so unfair and they try all sorts of special actions to help destroy the dragons, but Leo doesn’t seem to be strong enough to shake them off.  But one day Leo becomes very angry and decides to fight as hard as he can, making him the bravest knight in the land.

This is a wonderful children’s book written with love and personal experience, and is beautifully illustrated by Gilli B.  I am an adult who is able to understand the analogies cleverly used by Leo’s mother to describe the seizures that her little boy fights on a daily basis.  The lightning dragons inside his head depict so well epileptic seizures, and I can feel the frustration that the potions from witches, the music from minstrels and the special food from the wizard can do nothing to help – so often medics are unable to find suitable treatments for chronic illnesses whether this be medication, complimentary therapies or special diets.

leo

But what of the child reading this book?  It is perfect to become a favourite bedtime story for the early years, with its pictures of knights, dragons, witches, wizards, kings and queens.

But it is also perfect for an adult to introduce to a healthy child the idea that some people have different battles and these are against things inside their own bodies.  This need not be done in a scary way and indeed it isn’t in the book, as Leo the knight shows just how someone can battle with their own demons….or dragons in this case.

Leo’s mum also suggests ways at the end of the book to make this a “sensory” story and really bring to life the battles – wonderful and inclusive for all young children, including those with additional needs.  What child wouldn’t love using foil to make crackling, lightning sounds, slime to be witches potion or blowing bubbles from the cauldron? And we are told not to forget the cuddles!  Find more ideas on the website.

adorable blur bubble child
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

The royalties for the book are being donated to the Childrens Hospices Across Scotland, who continue to support Leo and his family and many others like them.

Leo’s mum says “Every day, my husband and I are amazed by Leo’s sheer determination and refusal to give up and we could not be more proud of our boy, the bravest knight we’ve ever seen.”

This is a lovely book that brought tears to my eyes, but will bring hours of fun to so many children.  On Valentine’s Day what could be better than this beautiful love letter from parents to their brave little boy – a true knight!

5 Stars for both the story and the illustrations

red heart drawed white printer paper on pink surface
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Find on Twitter:

@FledglingPress

@leolightdragons 

Website: http://www.leoandthelightningdragons.com/

About the Book and Author

Leo and Mum

“Gill wrote the story before Leo’s first birthday. It was a difficult time and Leo was having huge numbers of seizures every day. Feeling that Leo deserved a happier story, one in which his strength and bravery was rewarded, Gill wrote one for him.

She approached Gilli B, a Fife based artist, after seeing her artwork online and loving her whimsical and quirky style. Although she was only originally commissioned to do a few illustrations, she actually loved the story so much she asked to illustrate the whole thing and Leo got his own ’book’ for his birthday!

The following year, Gill had packed his book for a visit to the CHAS Hospice Rachel House and came back one day to find that the nursing staff had read it and written the most amazing comments inside.

Bolstered by their enthusiasm, Gill approached Edinburgh author Peter Burnett for some advice on how to get the book published. He took the book to Clare Cain at Fledgling Press, who fortunately loved the book. Fledgling Press do not normally publish children’s books but made an exception in this case, to help raise awareness of Ohtahara Syndrome and CHAS – Children’s Hospices Across Scotland.”

Taken from the website

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My spot on the Blog Tour and my Book Review for Seven Deadly Swords by Peter Sutton #LoveBooksGroupTours

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The year is 1097 and 16 year old Reymond is the son of a French farmer, but he yearns to join the Christian Crusades to free Jerusalem from the Saracen enemy.  He runs away from home to join the troop of Charles as a young recruit and is soon embroiled in fighting, sieges and killing.  The troop gradually moves across Europe and Reymond bands together with a group who become his brothers-in-arms.

The Holy War takes some unexpected twists as the Tafurs – peasants dressed in sack cloth yet know to be barbarians – join their ranks and Reymond and his friends become entwined with one particular young man, Sebastien.  He appears to hold powers of sorcery and the men find themselves swearing an oath and taking part in Sebastien’s strange rituals during which he knights them (and himself) as the seven virtues – Patience, Kindness, Diligence, Chastity, Humility, Temperance and Charity – and bestows a specially made sword upon each of them.  Sebastien claims to have visions that show how the men will take the Holy land and defeat the Saracen, but Reymond begins to suspect that there is sorcery at play.

The men find their fortunes changed forever when they partake in one particular ritual that involves a curse to lead them down a dark and deadly path from which there may be no return.  Can the curse of their new personalities and their ever present swords be broken?

Seven Swords Pin

I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity by Love Books Group and the author to read this fantasy thriller and to be a part of this blog tour.

When I started this tale, I must admit to not knowing what to expect after reading the “blurb”.  This feeling only increased when the first few chapters jumped from the present day back to 1097 and then to 1982, yet the lead character seemed to be the same young man Reymond albeit with a series of other names (Patience and Wrath).  Time travel? Doctor Who? However as the tale moved on I started to put the pieces of the puzzle together and came up with my own conclusion, and will leave you to do the same – although all is revealed.

I most enjoyed the elements of the book set in the time of the Crusades and felt that I was learning some history.  The author has researched well the Crusaders, the battles and sieges and their practices in order to make the book historically accurate – I found this when my interest was piqued by Mr Sutton and I did a little extra reading myself!  I wasn’t sure if the Tafurs existed, but found that there was indeed a large element of peasants and poor lay people who joined with the crusaders to fight the Saracen and are known by academics as Tafurs.  There may have been embellishment over the years about their appearance – wearing only sack cloth and being bare footed – and their cannibalism, but there are also ancient texts that describe the Tafurs as being considered barbarians by both the Crusaders and the Arabs (Saracens).  This might have been used as a military tactic by the Crusaders and the author makes use of this as cities are raided and there is talk of burning the enemy at the stake and eating human flesh.  I also established that there was indeed one considered to be the King of the Tafurs…..but as to sorcery, rituals and fantasy this may be something for the reader to decide!

Young Reymond grows from a boy to a man throughout the course of the book and within each century that we find him in.  I liked him as a character and even when he found himself having to carry out hideous acts, I was still routing for him.  The other “six” brothers-in-arms all have a back story, some more fleshed out than others (I loved Andros!) and I enjoyed reading the subtle transformation in their characters as they slowly took on their new personalities : Wrath, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, Greed, Pride and Envy.  There are also two important secondary characters in the more recent incarnations of Reymond’s life – Fisher and Mari, the only female character – who play a vital role in the search for the elusive “book” that will provide the answer to remove the “curse”.  These characters have a more detailed back story and it is through their presence that the reader learns more of Reymond’s story and why a young man carries a sword in the modern day.

The story is fast and the action is definitely furious.  It jumps from century to century, from continent to continent and will keep you on your toes – but if you don’t do blood and gore then it may not be for you.  I think that reading on a Kindle makes it harder to flick back and forth to check what happened in a different part of the book, which I personally needed to do in order to recall an event that related to a new one!  No spoilers, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by some elements of the ritual that changed the personalities…..but then I remind myself that this is fantasy!!

Overall a really enjoyable fantasy thriller with some fantastic historical components.  Well worth a read if you enjoy something a little bit different.  I am definitely going to look out some of Pete Sutton’s other novels.

3.5 stars

Available from:

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About the Author

Peter SuttonPete Sutton is the author of three books: A Tiding of Magpies, a collection of ‘deliciously dark tales,’ Sick City Syndrome, an urban fantasy set in Bristol where he lives and Seven Deadly Swords – a historical fantasy thriller partly set in the crusades, partly set in the modern day.

 

Pete  has a not so secret lair in the wilds of Fishponds, Bristol and dreams up stories, many of which are about magpies. He’s had stuff published, online and in book form, including a short story collection called A Tiding of Magpies (Shortlisted for the British Fantasy Award 2017) and the novel Sick City Syndrome. He wrote all about Fishponds for the Naked Guide to Bristol and has made more money from non-fiction than he has from fiction and wonders if that means the gods of publishing are trying to tell him something. Pete is a member of the North Bristol Writers. (from website)

 

Find him:

On Twitter

Website  http://petewsutton.com/ .

Kensington Gore Publishing

Book Review: The Trial by John Mayer

I was fortunate to be given a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

I have always been drawn towards law dramas from books to TV to radio plays. This book which focuses on Scottish law sounded exactly my cup of tea, although I do not pretend to have any inside knowledge of the UK legal system! I did sit in the viewing gallery of the Old Bailey as a student, but I don’t think it counts!!

When an eminent Scottish judge is found dead in suspicious circumstances, the inner circles of the law lords actively look for a suspect ahead of any police investigation. A likely candidate is found in the shape of Brogan McLane, a working-class boy from Glasgow who has succeeded in entering the elite world of the law and been called to the Bar. He will never truly fit in with the Edinburgh elite law families, nor would he want to, but this sets him apart and singles him out. He is set up for the murder and calls upon all his strength and resources from his Glaswegian upbringing as his old friends help him to uncover enemies and evidence…..no spoilers!!

I thoroughly enjoyed the fast pace of this novel and was able to hear the different voices and accents of the characters – surely an indication of just how well the book is written. It is action packed and follows many twists and turns, uncovering a seedy world that infiltrates so many walks of life. The main character Brogan is tough yet believable, and the author gives us some glimpses of his tender side in scenes with his wife and a back story about their family. Yet he is never intimidated by the powers who consider themselves to be above the law and I think that his sense of justice is what sends him some unlikely sources of help as he tries to uncover the true identity of the murderer.

The information about the law courts are supplemented part way through the book with photographs of these Scottish buildings which I found to be a nice touch, along with a glossary of legal terms to help the reader out. This is my first book by John Mayer and I will definitely be looking out for his other titles. A great intriguing crime thriller that I give 5 stars. 

Thanks to The Book Club on Facebook.

Publisher: John Mayer

Available on Amazon here:

Author Biography

John Mayer (b. 1952) was born in Glasgow, Scotland at a time of post-WW2 austerity. But in 1963 when he heard The Beatles on Radio Caroline, his life path was set. Aged 14 he walked out of school because, in his opinion, he wasn’t being well taught. Every day for the next year, in all weathers, he cycled 9 miles to and 9 miles from the Mitchell Library in central Glasgow where he devoured books of all kinds. John Mayer
While still an apprentice engineer he was soon teaching men two and three times his age.
But in the 1970s he ‘dived off a cliff’ and set out to become a Record Producer. He built his own record company trading in 14 countries. After a court battle with global giants, he went to the University of Edinburgh and became an Advocate in the Supreme Courts of Scotland. He acted for the downtrodden and desperate as well as Greenpeace International. His specialism was in fighting international child abduction.
As an author, John has written non-fiction, legal texts and articles; broadcasting to tens of millions of people on US and UK radio, TV and print media.
The Trial is the first novel in his Parliament House Books series. Set in Edinburgh, it’s an homage to Franz Kafka’s book of the same title. The Trial sees crusading Scottish Advocate, Brogan McLane, fight injustice casually delivered by Low Life in High Places in the Old Town.

Find John Mayer:

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http://www.parliamenthousebooks.weebly.com/

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Blog tour and 4 Star Book Review “The Story after Us” by Fiona Perrin #LoveBooksGroupTours

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Sometimes the end is really the beginning….

Living in flats in the same building, Amelia and Lars are a couple starting out on life together with big dreams for their careers, marriage, a home and family.  They are in love and excited by all that life has in store for them.  Lars is improving his English, Ami is making headway in her career and they spend evenings in cheap eateries with friends Liv and Thor drinking house wine and laughing away the time.

Real life can have a habit of getting in the way of life dreams.  The children, Tess and Finn are born, business opportunities and commitments take Lars away more and more often, Ami is given the backing to set up her own advertising company.  But at home the laughter is being replaced with raised angry voices, the love is being replaced by resentment and mistrust and the perfect family is actually a normal family with all the stresses and joys that come with it.

Young Tess has become preoccupied with death and Ami finds herself called in to school to discuss her daughter’s playtime funeral processions.  The realisation that their lives have reached crisis point hits Ami when she returns home to find her son “buried” under a pile of cushions as her daughter conducts a funeral with the au pair nowhere in sight.  On pulling out her young son from near suffocation, Ami knows that something must change but she is still blindsided by her husband’s actions.

Thanks to Kelly at Love Book Group Tours for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour!

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This is a contemporary novel that tackles the difficulties of modern-day life – with particular focus on the breakdown of a marriage.  The chapters alternate between the current day (2017) and the start of Ami and Lars relationship in 2007, painting a picture of the development of a relationship running alongside its future breakdown.  Eventually the historical chapters have caught up with present day, and as such the author forces her characters to accept what is happening to them.

Ami is a strong central character, even when she is at her lowest ebb.  Her emotions are always just beneath her surface veneer and at times are so palpable.  I think that the author writes with sensitivity and clarity when showing us Ami’s hurt – hurt caused by those closest to her which can feel like betrayal – her husband, her parents, her boss.  Yet her own self-belief and love for her children keeps her swimming against the currents threatening to overwhelm her.

The cast of characters is colourful and very human.  I love Ami’s best friend Liv and the humour that she brings to every situation.  She is responsible for a potential big new client for Ami’s struggling agency, although her intent during a drunken conversation was to actually set her pal up on a blind date!  This introduces Ben – another interesting character with his own baggage, a broken marriage and children in a foreign country.  Young Tess and Finn are delightful, and the author puts words into these little mouths that any parent will smile at.  The grandparents also pay such an important role – I love Lars’ mother Ulrika and her “cold” house – and demonstrate that extended family, whether fully present or not, influence family life.  As a mum I couldn’t help byt laugh at the descriptions of the school gate, the relationships between the mothers and I love the descriptions of the Smugums!!  I definitely came into contact with them and saw the looks of disbelief and pity when I failed to wake up from a night shift to collect my kids from school!

There is a lot of sadness in witnessing this relationship breakdown and whilst I was routing for Ami and Lars, it became hard to see a way back from their difficulties.  The author asks how often a marriage continues after the love has gone – not that initial heady, lustful love but the deep love that grows and develops over time for a partner.  How may relationships are based on loving a partner for being the parent of your child, but no longer loving them for being themselves?  I found myself feeling a whole range of emotions as I followed Ami on her journey – but will give no spoilers as to how things work out for her and Lars.

A very modern tale reflecting current life so well – the good times alongside the difficult and never shying away from the emotive, aspects of modern relationships. Funny, engaging and poignant, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, found it easy to read and definitely recommend it.

4 stars!

Available from

Amazon:

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About the Author

Fiona was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and
marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis
Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us.FionaPerrin author pic 2meg
As a mother and stepmother to four teenagers while holding down a fairly full-on job,
she wanted to write grown-up commercial fiction about messy, modern love and
families – with all their heartbreak, humour and hope.
She grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire,
and now she writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the
end of the Lizard Peninsula, back in Cornwall. She’s currently there, writing her
second novel for Aria.

Find Fiona here:

Website – www.fionaperrin.com

Twitter

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Book Review and Blog Tour for “The Water and The Wine” by Tamar Hodes #LoveBooksGroupTours

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Many thanks to LoveBooksGroup and Kelly for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour.

It is the 1960s and a group of young writers and artists gather on the Greek island of Hydra. Leonard Cohen is at the start of his career and in love with Marianne, who is also muse to her ex-husband, Axel. Australian authors George Johnston and Charmian Clift write, drink and fight. It is a hedonistic time of love, sex and new ideas.

As the island hums with excitement, Jack and Frieda Silver and their young family join the community, hoping to mend their broken marriage. However, Greece is overtaken by a military junta and the artistic idyll is threatened.

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There will be few keen readers who have not heard of Leonard Cohen and his infamous muses, but I confess that I knew very little of the artistic community on Hydra in 1960s beyond this.  I have always been fascinated by the likes of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury set, so the premise and promise of this novel immediately had appeal for me.  Whilst reading the novel, I have also done some background reading of the many articles available describing the actual artistic community and the island of Hydra through the 1950s, 60s and into the Greek Military Junta (the Regime of the Colonels) of 1967-74.

It is clear that the author draws on her own memories and experiences as a child living on this idyllic island and she has also researched the period and characters in great detail.  However the reader must remember that this is a fictional work depicting the lives of real people and Ms Hodes does not pretend that the thoughts and actions of the characters are those of the real people.  This is a difficult balance to strike in such cases to be both engaging and interesting, without rewriting history.

Tamar on Hydra
Tamar on Hydra as a child

I loved this novel and probably read it too quickly in order to write this review!  The beauty of the island, the scenery and the way of life are captured in this well crafted piece.  To be able to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and to taste the lemons used in the food and drink, for me indicates that the writing is descriptive and realistic.  The pace is slow and charming, encapsulating the life being lead by both the Greek locals and the expat community of artists.  Ordinary elements of life are catapulted into something extraordinary.

Human relationships are central to this plot – those of lovers, spouses, the artist and muse, families, friends.  The female characters are strong throughout from the “real” Charmiane and Marianne to the “fictional” Frieda to the Greek women such as Evgeniya, Maria and Kyria Sophia.  These wonderful Greek ladies are recognised and praised for their devotion and hard work whilst in the employ of the expats – as maids, nannies and eventually becoming extended loved and trusted family.  They might have shaken their heads and not understood the way of life that these brightly coloured artists pursued, but they cared for them with wonderful home cooking, maintaining their homes and loving their children.

The complex myriad of human emotions are explored, particularly intense in the lover/muse/triangle relationship of Leonard Cohen, Marianne and her ex husband Axel.  Both men are writers are in this tale they share many traits – I am not sure whether they are typical of a writer or not, but have witnessed something of their emotion and devotion to their art in my own teenage daughter when she is drawing and painting.  Forgetting to eat, to being unable to concentrate on normal life and to pouring everything into the creative process.  I found the dedication to their work both fascinating and bewildering in equal measures – yet I can understand the passion for work that one loves, as I was like this about head and neck cancer nursing and palliative care!

I have read an article by one lady who knew these real people in the 1970s and I do understand that some who were there might find it presumptuous to imagine the feelings and thoughts of real people, some still living.  But Ms Tamar is clear from the outset that this is a work of fiction, and in my opinion it deserves to be read slowly to immerse oneself in what is clearly a rather lovely work of literature.

Five stars!

The book is currently available on Kindle at Amazon for just £1.79! Click on image….

About the Author

Tamar HodesGrowing up, Tamar Hodes’ neighbours were Leonard Cohen, his girlfriend Marianne, and other writers and artists on the Greek island of Hydra. Her parents took her to the island to pursue their own art and writing. However the bohemian nature of Hydra destroyed their marriage. The Water and the Wine is a fictional account of those days.;Tamar Hodes’ first novel Raffy’s Shapes was published in 2006. She has had stories on Radio 4 and others in anthologies including Salt’s The Best British Short Stories 2015, The Pigeonhole, Your One Phone Call, the Ofi Press, MIR online and Fictive Dream. Tamar was born in Israel and lived in Greece and South Africa before settling in the UK. She read English and Education at Homerton College, Cambridge. For the past thirty-three years she has taught English in schools, universities and prisons.

Find Tamar on:

Twitter

Goodreads

and at:

HookLine Books: Website &  Twitter

 

Further reading:

Leonard Cohen Forum

Australian Bohemians on Hydra

A Pilgrimage to Leonard Cohen’s Greek Island Retreat

 

 

 

 

 

Blog Tour and Book Review – “Arcam” Debut Novel from Jason Minick #LoveBooksGroupTour

So the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that my book review earlier today should have been on the blog tour yesterday – so sorry Effie Kammenou!

But I am also delighted to be on the Blog Tour for Debut Thriller ARCAM by Jason Minick – thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group for the opportunity.

Arcam

The Book Blurb

A FAST-PACED CRIME/CONSPIRACY THRILLER THAT IS FULL OF SUSPENSE:

DCI Jack Robson believes he is hunting a kidnapper…

Away from his posting in London, Robson is asked to lead an investigation in the south west of England. But what begins as a baffling local kidnapping mystery, quickly escalates into something far more sinister.

In pursuit of the perpetrators, DCI Robson joins forces with Inspector Emma Wilson and the rest of the regional CID team. Together, they attempt to make sense of the lack of evidence or motive, eventually getting drawn to the tiny island of Steep
Holm, in the Bristol Channel.

As the investigation progresses, Robson, Wilson and their colleagues find themselves facing something far beyond normal detective work. Unthinkable connections lead them to a conspiracy, so great it could change the course of humanity. The question is, can they intervene before it’s too late to prevent the appalling future that potentially lies ahead …

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What a read!  Initially the book appears to be a fast detective thriller following the spate of kidnappings, but quickly there are darker undercurrents emerging.  I like the fact that Robson is a fully rounded character from the off as a background story about his family is quickly shared with the reader.  This history shapes him and his decisions within his detective work, but also his emotional decisions and his working relationships.

This is explored throughout the book as the relationship and bond between Robson and his Inspector Emma Wilson develops.  The happenings that they stumble upon and situations that they find themselves in require honesty and trust – although Wilson at times does struggle with some of Robson’s decisions that aren’t quite by the books.  I admire both characters – they are strong, determined, bloody minded and physically capable even if they do encounter several visits to the hospital!!

The descriptions of the region are picturesque with landscapes that include the coastline, a nature reserve and the sea.  But the real adrenaline rush comes from the suspense and the sudden realisation of what is going on – the use of suspense and critical language is superb.  I applaud Mr Minick for such a fantastic quality of writing and catching such a successful feel of anticipation, fear, excitement and dread in his debut novel.  I believe that the relationship between the two detectives has a long, long way to run yet – I can’t wait for the next in the series!

I love it! 5 Stars

Available from:

Amazon

About the Author

Jason Minick is an engineer living in the south-west of England. He has a passion for the written word and reading.JM photo.jpg
Jason is a fan of many genres. His debut novel, Arcam, is a crime/conspiracy thriller set in his favourite part of the UK.
He lives with his wife, Emma, and his three children, Lucy, William and Sophie. The family share their home with two very small dogs, Digby and Tizzie.
The author is currently working on the second book in the DCI Robson series, the sequel to Arcam.

Find Jason at:

Goodreads

Twitter

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/

simply-modern-life-poems-claire-baldry1

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

 

 

 

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?

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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!

Tired

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