Blog Tour and Book Review – Chasing Petalouthes, The Gift Saga by Effie Kammenou #LoveBooksGroupTours

I am delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the final book in The Gift Saga trilogy Chasing Petalouthes.

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Chasing Petalouthes – butterflies – is the final book in this wonderful family saga following the generations of Greek families as they settle in New York.  In this chapter, the younger generation – third generation – are followed through teens, adolescence and young adulthood.

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Evvie, daughter of Sophia,  has experienced more tragedy than a young girl should ever endure, having lost both her father and a most beloved grandmother at a young age. Her rebellious ways are her only defense to mask the ever-present pain in her heart. Closing herself off emotionally, Evvie enters college life with a determination to follow her chosen path alone.  She might be a talented young dancer, like her mother, but her love for the family vineyard is strong and she discovers just how much she wants this life on a visit to France.  Her determination to work and grow her family business is tested over these tender years as relationships develop and difficult choices must be made.  She also begins to understand her Greek routes, the legacy of the soil and vines that is within her blood, during a visit to her great grandmother, Yiayia Sophia in Athens.

During this time Evvie remains resolute that she will not allow her emotions to sway her – she will not allow her heart to open up to love.  Even when a trip to the Greek island Cephalonia, with Yiayia Sophia, seems to show her where her true happiness and future could lie, she denies herself and a certain young man who she has known since college.

Stella, Demi’s daughter, is two years Evvie’s junior and struggling at high school to “fit in”.  She has a crush on a fellow student, and whilst he is happy to take her to Prom and will stand up for her honour, he makes it clear that Stella is not the girl for him whilst they are growing up.  She is the sort of girl who needs a steady relationship – a happy ever after – he tells her, and he is not ready for this.  Whilst Stella appreciates his honesty, at 16 this is a harsh truth to hear and she experiences betrayal from a friend during this time.  Meanwhile it feels to Stella that her siblings and cousins are all talented and achieving their dreams, whilst she enters college and drifts from one course to another with no real puprose.

She is insecure, a little naive and has no idea just how attractive she is.  Stella is smitten when an older, handsome, worldly young man shows interest in her and she believes that she has found love. But as his behaviour becomes more and more controlling, Stella’s family and friends become concerned that Stella has fallen into an abusive relationship.  Will she accept the situation and the help on offer before something terrible happens? 

“Chasing Petalouthes (Chasing Butterflies) is the coming of age story of two flawed, young women who push their way out from the confines of the cocoons they’d built around themselves and discover how to soar.”

I am going to start by saying what I always do…..please read the first two books in the series and set on a journey with these characters.  You might have read my reviews for Evanthia’s Gift and Waiting for Aegina and will already know how much I have enjoyed this series.  In fact I will go so far as to say that I feel emotionally invested in the characters.

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My greatest enjoyment from the trilogy has been the continuing story of the generations of women from two families and friends that become one : Anastacia, her daughter Sophia and granddaughter Evvie;  Soula, her daughter Demi and grandaughter Stella; close friends, the Honeyhill girls, and their children.  The roles of these strong leading women has been quite inspirational and I see the driving force of the family in the strong Greek woman, who loves to feed her family in my own great friend Evi.

This chapter of the story examines the adolescent years of the younger generation and the author shares the highs and the lows with brutal honesty.  Emotions run high as a teen/early twenty something and we have all experienced the intense joy and sadness that come with the smallest of experiences.  The young ladies in this tale are no different to any others and they feel intensely.  As a palliative care nurse in my previous life, I was particularly interested in Evvie and how the author dealt with her grief.  Something I learnt early in my nurse training (whilst losing many young men in our London taching hospital to Aids in the late 80s) is that there is no “right” way for grief, no timeline, no “one fit for all”.  Yes, there is the Kubler Ross stages of grief, but everyone is so different and Ms Kammenou depicts this beautifully with Evvie.

By the time she is a teen, this young lady has experienced major loss and in order to deal with this she has built an emotional wall around herself.  To the outside world her moods and strange wardrobe choices might seem like those of a “difficult, hormonal” teen, but they are so much more than this.  I applaud the author for her handling and eventual breakdown of Evvie’s grief,  the way in which she slowly realises that she cannot protect herself from the possibility of pain and loss – and in fact in the process may be denying herself love and joy.

Difficult topics are once again tackled in this family saga – suicide, depression and mental health, domestic abuse, death, bereavement.  Perhaps this list should also include falling in love, sexuality & sexual relationships, and the complexities of family life.  Both Stella and Evvie are great role models as they experience the highs and some extreme lows of growing up (no spoilers!), and both come out the other side as mature, more confident and happy young women.  I am not going to say that they have grown up – I’m not sure that we ever finish growing up and I believe that Yiayia Sophia shows us this in her observations of her life.

I could write so much more here, but I think the important thing is to say that I loved it just as much as the first tow books, and I really didn’t want it to end…..surely there must be another chapter waiting in the wings about young Cia, Ms Kammenou?  There are delicious recipes peppered throughout the book, including some French treats when Evvie is dancing in Paris – there is even a recipe for the delicious lemon chicken and potatoes that my own dear Evi makes.  But my kids say that I could never compete!

Five stars for this engrossing, beautifully written contemporary family saga.

Available from:

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About the Author

Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. 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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Just Out: The Year that Changed Everything” by Cathy Kelly – Book Review #SundayBlogShare

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Publication Day!

The Year That Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly

Disclaimer: Thanks to The Book Club on Facebook, I was fortunate to be given an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All views are my own.

When I was told I had been chosen to receive this book I was absolutely delighted – I am a huge Cathy Kelly fan and have always loved her brand of contemporary Irish female fiction.  But this also comes with the possibility of being disappointed by one of my favourite authors and having to write a review!

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Cathy Kelly

Ginger, Sam and Callie are three Irish women all about to reach a milestone birthday.  They have never met, lead completely different lives but share the same birthday – a day on which they will turn 30, 40 and 50.  Ginger is not celebrating her 30th how she had pictured it, in fact her personal life is far from anything she had dreamed of and she is now bridesmaid at her best friend’s wedding on her own birthday. Overweight, overlooked, overdressed in a hideous bridesmaid dress and single.  Meanwhile Sam is planning a quiet day for her 40th birthday as she prepares for the imminent arrival of a much-wanted baby.  After years of failing to conceive she is finally pregnant and feeling excited, yet terrified in equal measure when her waters break. Happy birthday, Sam!  Callie is the woman with everything.  She was a model in her youth and is still has beauty and poise, has a handsome, successful husband, a beautiful home and her greatest pride, her teenage daughter.  To the guests attending her lavish 50th birthday party she appears to live a charmed life.

The stories of these women are written in separate chapters, each chapter titled with one of their names. So, whilst the stories are completely separate, they weave around each other as the chapters progress over the following year of the title.  I enjoyed the way that the author wrote this, although I think I would have preferred reading it from a book rather than on the Kindle – just my preference as I tend to flip back in this style of writing.  Their birthdays all mark a huge change in circumstance for each of them with Ginger overhearing a damning conversation about herself, Sam giving birth to a beautiful daughter and the police breaking up the perfect party at Callie’s.  I am trying very hard here not to write any spoilers!

I have always the loved the passion that Cathy Kelly puts into her writing, and this book is no exception.  These women become real as their stories emerge from the page and their characters grow.  I don’t think that there will be a mother out there who can’t identify with Sam’s feelings of absolute fear as she takes her new born home – “how do I do this? How can I keep her safe? What if I can’t do this? What if I don’t bond? I don’t know what to do and I’m terrified of failing”.  Sam has another reason that is driving her fear and this is deeply connected with her family.  She has been a career woman, but not by choice, whilst her sister has a young family and seems to be the perfect mummy – their own mother is not the role model either of them would ask for, making for difficult relationships.  Ginger flourishes in front of our eyes as she throws herself, quite literally, into her work as a journalist (remember no spoilers) whilst grieving friendships and the lack of a man in her life, but that is not to say it is without some tremendous lows and heartbreak.  For Callie’s tale, all that I will say is that I grew to feel a huge respect for this woman as her world is literally pulled from beneath her feet, leaving her fighting for herself, her daughter and her self respect.

The chapters of the stories wind around each other like twines of ivy until there is one strengthened plant growing…a year on and an epilogue brings them to common ground.  Cathy Kelly has surpassed herself in the realms of female fiction here with warmth, wisdom, tears and laughter….I needn’t have worried as it completely lived up to my expectations. 5 stars

Publisher: Orion 22nd Feb 2018

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Available from Amazon:

 

About the Author:

Cathy Kelly is published around the world, with millions of books in print. Cathy is the bestselling author of The Honey Queen, Once in a Lifetime and Between Sisters, and is a No.1 bestseller in the UK, Ireland and Australia. Her trademark is warm and witty Irish storytelling about modern life, always with an uplifting message, a sense of community and strong female characters at the heart.
She lives with her family and their three dogs in County Wicklow, Ireland. She is also an Ambassador for UNICEF Ireland, raising funds and awareness for children orphaned by or living with HIV/AIDS.
Find out more at www.cathykelly.com or follow her on Twitter @cathykellybooks

Review of a great contemporary novel! “All We Have Lost” by Aimee Alexander

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Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this contemporary novel by The Book Club on Facebook & the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All views are my own. This review contains an affiliate link.

I am a huge fan of classic novels, particularly those with strong female leads, but I also have an enormous soft spot for contemporary fiction.  “All We Have Lost” features business woman, wife and mother Kim who really does seem to have it all.  She runs a successful PR agency, is married to the good looking Ian – the love of her life, has two lovely young children, a great nanny to care for them and supportive family and friends.  Kim knows her own mind, has life mapped out and is certain where she is headed.  Or is she?

For one day Kim wakes up and realises that this isn’t the road she wants to be on at all.  She rarely sees her children, her home is virtually run by another woman and her husband sees more of the children than he does her.  Add to this her parents’ “perfect marriage” that Kim has placed on a pedestal since her father’s death, and suddenly Kim feels like she is in fact failing.  She decides to wind the business down, let the nanny go and be an author who happens to be a stay at home mum.  Her husband is on trial for a new job, she has always aspired to writing like her best friend Sarah and she is certain that she can work this around the needs of 2 preschool children.  How hard could it be?

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All We Have Lost

I think that any parent – particularly the mums out there – will be able to relate to this, working or stay at home!  Of course Kim has no idea just how demanding caring for young children can be.  A 2 year old just will not stick to your carefully constructed time table allowing mum time to write her novel whilst the tot naps.  Add in cooking, housework and a bit of writer’s block into the mix and suddenly the grass isn’t greener on the other side.  I really enjoyed the way that Aimee Alexander showed Kim’s gradual decline from a business woman in control, to a woman who was “letting herself go” and suddenly felt powerless to take back that control.  How many of us can empathise with the gradual weight gain (gym, who has time to visit the gym with young children?), the lack of regular personal grooming time (feel grateful if your hair sees the backside of a brush daily, let alone regular visits for a blow dry at the salon) and the overwhelming tiredness that strikes before hubby even gets home (from his fourth late night of the week).  But it should be ok if only Kim can start writing – and yet even this is not the easy task that she has imagined.

The author shows just how quickly and easily relationships can change – in Kim’s situation it is not just her marital relationship, but also that with her mother and her friends too.  Failure to communicate leads to misunderstandings, jumping to the wrong conclusions, reading signals incorrectly and great hurt.  At times I found myself becoming so frustrated with Kim and Ian, wanting to shout at them to stand still, take a breath and look what is happening.  Kim seems to become completely hung up on her world at home, forgetting that the very things that she complains about in Ian in his new job were her not so long ago.  Ian is so intent on making up for the fact that he is suddenly the main breadwinner and also feels he has to prove himself in his new job, that he becomes unable to communicate his concerns to a wife who no longer seems to have time for him. Aghhhh – I can see your relationship falling apart and yet neither of you can.  It is a testament to Ms Alexander’s writing that I could also feel Kim’s envy for her friend Sarah’s life as an author, yet also hear the alarm bells ringing loudly to warn Kim that her decisions were having awful consequences and yet she didn’t seem to see it.  Misunderstandings and knee jerk reactions have such devastating effects for all the people that Kim holds dear – including the children.

There are no schmaltzy happy endings for every character here.  This is real life and certain actions cannot be undone or forgiven.  I admire the additional change in the relationship between Kim and her mother – how a mother’s desire to protect her children can have devastating consequences if lies are uncovered, even years later.  I laughed and I cried with the characters in this book and I found them to be believable.  The visit to a single friend’s modern flat with 2 young children for a long weekend did make me smile – you will understand when you read it! The author even examines that age old chestnut – can a man and a woman ever be just good friends?

In my opinion an enjoyable contemporary novel about real life relationships that gets 4 stars!

 

About the Author:

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Aimee Alexander is the pen name of best selling author Denise Deegan who writes contemporary family dramas about ordinary people who become extraordinary in crisis. Her novels have been published by Penguin, Random House and Hachette.

Aimee lives in Dublin with her family where she regularly dreams of sunshine, a life without cooking and her novels being made into movies. She has a Masters in Public Relations and has been a college lecturer, nurse, china restorer, pharmaceutical sales rep, public relations executive and entrepreneur. (taken from Author’s Amazon page)

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (20 Dec. 2015)

Buy the novel on Amazon by clicking here:

Blog Tour & Review for “Need You Now” -first in the series of Cloud Bay novels by Emma Douglas

I was fortunate to be given an ARC copy of this book by the author and her publishers, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Imagine that you are the daughter of a legendary rock star, the lead singer of one of the biggest rock bands to come out of the USA. The same legendary rock star who gave you half siblings by different mothers, a dysfunctional yet privileged upbringing and his own brand of love.  An upbringing on an island that, since your father’s untimely death and the subsequent breakup of the band, has become the place of pilgrimage for fans wanting to visit a pivotal place in the band’s history – an island that is your home.

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Imagine that you are a tennis player, at the top of your game with sponsors and adoring fans following your every tournament.  But following shoulder surgery, it is becoming harder and harder to remain in those top rankings and you have announced your unexpected retirement during a press conference.  Now said press, management and fans are desperate to change your mind and you need somewhere to just be incognito and happy in your decision.

Faith Harper is the daughter of Blacklight frontman Grey Harper, and she continues to be the face of the Harper clan in Cloud Bay on Lansing Island as she is the organiser of one of the country’s most popular music festivals, CloudFest. Caleb White has gone to ground since announcing his departure from the tennis circuit until his friend Liam invites him to a music festival, CloudFest, with exclusive use of the home of a Blacklight bandmember.  Neither is looking for a relationship, much less love…..

This is an easy to read, romantic fiction novel that doesn’t always follow the path that the reader expects.  There is a rapport between Faith and Caleb from the moment that they first lay eyes on each other, but they each come with huge amounts of baggage and Ms Douglas does not give us a story where the course of true love runs simply!  Throw in a complicated family that encompasses blood relatives and band members, the attention of the world’s paparazzi and a festival full of music lovers, bands, not to mention surprise acts that fail to show,  what could possibly go wrong?!

The characters are easy to warm to and I felt that they developed into three dimensional people over the course of the story.  It is light – so not for those of you looking for deep literature – but not written in a saccharine or overly sentimental way. Great for a weekend away on a sun lounger or curled up at home for an autumn evening or two. I enjoyed Need You Now and I think that if you are a fan of romantic, contemporary fiction you will too.  This gets 4 stars from me and I’m looking forward to more in the series.

Available from Amazon  Need You Now (Cloud Bay), a Cloud Bay Novel by Emma Douglas – in paperback and Kindle, and other stockists.

Published by St Martin’s Press, 29 August 2017. Macmillan

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