Challenge Participant


Friday, 16 February 2018

Blog Tour - A Year of New Adventures by Maddie Please

It’s time for Billie Summers to have an adventure … but it might not be exactly what she expected.

Billie Summers has always been quite content in her little cottage in the Cotswolds. Sure, half the house hasn’t been renovated, but what’s the point when it’s only her? Working part-time at her uncle’s bookshop and planning writer retreats with her best friend allows her to pay the bills. What more could anyone want?
That is until Oliver Forest, the bad boy of the book world, turns up to one of her retreats and points out that Billie hasn’t done anything very adventurous. Couple that with her best friend falling head over heels and beginning to drift away from their Friday night wine and dinner plans, Billie is starting to wonder if it isn’t time she took control of her life.
So she starts a list: get fitted (properly) for a bra, fix up rest of house, find a ‘career’ and well, get a tattoo … Her life might just get the makeover it needs, too bad irritating and far-too-attractive for his own good, Oliver keeps showing up …
Because sometimes you need an adventure!

A Year of New Adventures is one of those books that a reader picks up to read for an hours and suddenly, five hours later, the book is finished and all the jobs are still waiting to be started. It is a great story, one which leaves the reader laughing out loud, and has a great cast of characters, some which are liked and others that the reader wants to take by the shoulders and give them a good talking to. I really enjoyed the writers retreat, being a fly on the wall, and watching each writer as they observed how each other worked, plotted and planned. 

The retreat was the start of Billie's year of new adventures and I really enjoyed following her 'journey'. I think that it is one of those books that makes a reader look at their own life and start a list of things to achieve in the year ahead, no matter how small or insignificant, we can all achieve!!

Today I am pleased to welcome Maddie Please to my blog. Maddie has agreed to share some of her writing tips with my blog readers to mark the publication of her new book, A Year of New Adventures.

Maggie Please's Writing tips.

There are so many books already published on how to write well. There are also magazines, websites, workshops, degree courses and blogs.

What would be my tips?

1)     Plot properly. Yes I know this sounds boring. It’s so much more fun to just set off, your fingers flying over the computer keyboard or your pen filling up page after page of your gorgeous new notebook as the story flows unchecked and your characters fall in love/solve the murder/find the treasure. But it doesn’t usually work like that because nearly always you will realise you don’t know where you are going/don’t know where you’ve been/can’t remember if the heroine’s eyes are blue or green/forgot that the hero is allergic to horses. Then the story will stall into a soggy mess and nine times out of ten you will go back and realise there is also a huge plot hole and perhaps the great aunt who died in chapter four is happily gardening and handing out advice in chapter twenty. With a plot you have a map to take you from Chapter One to The End.

2)     Write every day. Like most things (cake decorating, dancing, painting your nails) the more you practice the better you get. No one is born able to service a car, speak three languages or make profiteroles you have to learn the basics and then practice. Even if it’s just ten minutes in the car park while you wait for someone, it all adds up.

3)     Start at the right place. Pages of delightful backstory, character quirks, description of that lovely old house, the way your heroine’s parents met when they worked for Princess Michael of Kent – these are not the right place to start your story. Get in there with the challenge. The party/house move/fight/accident/redundancy. Start with action. The other stuff can be fed in through the book as you fill out your story.

         4) Keep going. I’ve been writing for years but when I started submitting to agents and       `publishers I got nowhere. I sent out my work too early. The formatting was wrong, the grammar was old fashioned, I used too many adjectives, characters shrugged their shoulders and ran their fingers through their hair far too often. Sometimes I got crumbs of comfort from an agent who bothered to send a few lines of encouragement as well as a rejection. Often I didn’t. I was still learning the hard way. I don’t think there is an easy way. Go to writing events, festivals (I went to the Festival of Writing at York twice and learned such a lot) and workshops. Talk to other writers. I recommend the Word Cloud (a free to join community of writers) and if you can’t travel think about doing their 6-week Self Edit Course run by Debi Alper and Emma Darwin. I did and I thought it was fantastic. Try new genres, different POV’s, unusual characters. Write as much as you can. Believe in yourself. What I’m saying is never give up.

Thank you Maggie for sharing these tips with my blog readers and to Avon Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

201 Crochet Motifs, Blocks, Projects and Ideas by Melody Griffiths

201 Crochet Motifs, Blocks, Projects and Ideas (Paperback)

201 Crochet Motifs contains over 150 original crochet blocks and motifs plus 51 gorgeous projects to inspire your creativity.
Packed with ideas to get you going, this clever directory is split into three main chapters entitled Motifs, The Projects and The Techniques. The first chapter, Motifs, is divided into five sections that cover everything from the simplest crosses and spirals to geometric shapes, pictures, lacy patterns and bold, beautiful flowers. Use them to make up your own bags, throws, scarves and cushions, designed just as you choose, or follow one of Melody's foolproof patterns in The Projects. With over 50 projects to choose from there'll be something for everyone to make, whether that is a butterfly brooch, holly greetings cards, an openwork afghan, cat cushion, button baby blanket, tie belt, cherry border cardigan or something entirely different. Each motif is displayed as a colour photograph next to easy-to-follow instructions, with stitch diagrams for more complex motifs. Melody also advises on the type of yarn to use, the tension and the size of the motif, and gives tips on how to achieve the best result. There is also advice for designing your own makes, so you can treat the motifs as a jumping-off point. Finally, The Techniques offers further explanation and guidance so that no stitch is beyond your ability.
With sketches and photos showing how the motif can be used, either on its own, with several together or partnered with other motifs, 201 Crochet Motifs will show you that the crocheting possibilities are endless.

Publisher: Ryland, Peters & Small Ltd
ISBN: 9781782495727

201 Crochet Motifs, Blocks, Projects and Ideas is jam packed full of inspiration, projects and inspiration for a range of crochet projects. The book is split into two clear sections; Motifs and Projects. 

Motifs includes patterns  of flowers, lace, alphabet, shapes, pictures and geometric. Each sub section is full of lots of designs of various styles and technique difficulty. For example the floral section includes tiny violets, a beautiful rose which could be used as a brooch, flowers in squares, hexagonal designs and much more. There are so many different styles that the book is a go to book for inspiration or a quick project. 

The patterns are all written very clearly, each beginning with a brief description of the design in words, alongside a very clear colourful photograph. The instructions are written in English terms (i.e. dc, tr) and clearly separated into rounds. The written pattern is also accompanied by a diagram chart which is accompanied by abbreviations and a key.  I don't use charts, preferring to follow a written pattern but this book includes both and in some of the more complicated designs I can see that the chart will also help to explain the pattern.

The projects section includes patterns for clothes, hats, baby booties, afghans, cushions, gloves, scarfs and cushions, along with ideas for motifs to add to existing clothing. This section is full of great tips and tricks and inspiration for further projects where techniques learnt can be used to update items that may have been passed over due to tiny holes or lose of interest in them. The book is finished off with a brief section of crocheting techniques.

I really like this book and I think it will be one that I regularly reach to from my book shelf when I am looking for stash using projects, or motifs to finish off a project, or to update a tired jacket.

Thank you to the publishers, CICO Publishing, for sending me the book in return for an honest review.

Crocheted Throws and Wraps by Melody Griffiths

Crocheted Throws & Wraps: 25 Throws, Wraps and Blankets to Crochet (Paperback)

Create something warm, beautiful, and special with any of these 25 stunning designs for throws and wraps. With easy-to-follow patterns and a comprehensive techniques section, there'll be nothing stopping you from crocheting all manner of gorgeous creations.
Within the four chapters, you'll be able to explore all sorts of styles from `Vintage Style' to `Around the World', in a variety of stunning colours and yarns. Packed with 25 beautiful ideas for crocheted throws, comforters and blankets, Crocheted Throws and Wraps has a project for everyone and every design aesthetic. Create an heirloom effect with wraps based on antique lace and traditional textiles or, if you dream of pioneer patchwork, try one of the patterns inspired by Navajo motifs or crazy quilt patchwork. Don't be afraid of the professional, luscious look of the blankets you see in the photos - the designs have been created with simplicity in mind, so even novice crocheters will be able to produce exquisite pieces in no time at all. Many of the projects are made up of small, easy-to-work-with squares and motifs, so you can carry on crafting while on the move.
Including charts and detailed instructions, you'll have everything you need to make any of these beautiful 25 projects, plus the10 extra ideas for ways to make larger or smaller items, such as bed covers or pillows.

Publisher: Ryland, Peters & Small Ltd
ISBN: 9781782494867
I really enjoy crocheting and in the past two years I have enjoyed hooking again, however, i have stuck to basic blankets and want to get braver and try new designs and stitches. Crocheted Throws and Wraps may just be the book that makes me step outside my comfort zone and try something new.

Crocheted Throws and Wraps is split into four sections: Vintage Style, American Dream, Outside Inside and Around the World and each has 6-7 individual patterns for throws, blankets and one shawl.

Each pattern is accompanied with a number of colour photographs and charts. There are full length photographs along with close ups to allow the reader to get a real idea of the stitches involved. Each pattern is started with a brief description of the design, the finished size, the amount of wool needed (including weight or description), the suggested hook. There are tension instructions and a list of abbreviations used in each pattern. The pattern is clearly written in English terms (i.e. dc, tr, 2trtog) and is easy to follow. The pattern is split into individual sections making it very easy to find the sections i.e. square, strips, border, making up.

The patterns cover a wide range of needs; a blanket for a new baby, a textured blanket for a sofa, afghans, a circular coverlet/shawl to name but a few. There are floral designs, checked designs, aa Scottish tartan, an African design, a Shaker style and a Scandinavian sampler. There are designs made up of individual blocks, circular designs, designs crocheted line by line and a patchwork throw which is embellished with cross stitch motifs.

There really is something for everyone in this book, the patterns are for a range of ability with designs that could be made by a beginner but also for advanced crocheters. The back of the book has a section entitled 'How to Crochet' which includes a quick description of how to crochet the basic stitches (lots more indepth instructions can be found on the good old internet or find a local craft group where I am sure others will be pleased to pass on their knowledge). This section also includes great advice re choosing the right yarn, using scrap yarns and how to join blocks.

I really like this book and I think that when I have finished my current projects (and there are a few) I will be choosing a design to crochet from this book. I rather fancy trying the Scandinavian sampler which combines two of my favourite crafts, Crochet and Cross Stitch.

Thank you to CICO Books for sending me a copy of the book to review in return for an honest review.

Bobby and Morph Help the Man who didn't have a House by R E Fisher

Bobby & Morph: Help the Man Who Didn't Have a House - The Bobby & Morph Collection 1 (Paperback)

Bobby and Morph help the man who didn't have a house.

Bobby and Morph help the Mayor with the magic scarf.

Bobby and Morph find their happy place and meet Sonny.

Bobby and Morph find a new toy.

Bobby and Morph have friends to stay.

Bobby and Morph win a competition.

Bobby and Morph take part in the big race.

Bobby and Morph meet Button.

Bobby and Morph help in the woods.

Bobby and Morph have fun with their friends.

Publisher: 2QT Limited (Publishing)
ISBN: 9781912014934

I first heard of R E Fisher while listening to LBC Radio's business hour when he rang up to ask Clive Bull and his expert guest, Emma Jones, for help in promoting his self published books. After listening to the conversation I decided to track R E Fisher down and offer to include his books on my blog (in return for a review copy of one of the books).

Bobby and Morph are rescue dogs and the dedication at the front of R E Fisher's books which tells of the love the author has for these special dogs. The stories began as a series of hand written scribbles in the back of a notebook and it was through the encouragement of friends and family that they became books. The illustrations are by Bryony James.

'Bobby and Morph help the man who didn't have a house' tells the story of friendship and also tackles homelessness. There is a great message of kindness and friendship.  It is a story for an older child (7+), with lots of words on each page, although there are beautiful pencil line illustrations on a number of pages.

I wish R E Fisher lots of good luck with his books and I recommend this as a great story to share with little ones or to be used as a conversation starter for a range of topics and emotions.

Thank you to R E Fisher for sending me a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Quick Reads

Today marks the launch and publication of The Reading Agency's 2018 Quick Reads selection of books.


I am a big fan of the Quick Reads series. Each book costs only £1 and they are written by popular authors, and this years collection of authors are, I think, the best yet. I have read books by all of these authors and I firmly believe that there is something for everyone in this selection.

Quick Reads are designed to encourage more people to pick up a book and read. 1 in 6 people find reading difficult or something which they rarely do. This may be for a number of reasons, they have never learnt to read, they don't want to pick up a book or just don't have the time. Quick Reads aim to encourage everyone to (re)discover the joy of reading. 

Quick Reads are short books and are written in language that is easy to read and understand. These books may be the first 'adult' book a person reads or one that encourages a reader to try a new author as each book has details of other books by the author included.

Quick Reads are being sold by all the major retailers and also available in libraries across the country.

Quick Reads is making real, lasting changes to people's lives. Since 2006, 4.8 million books have been distributed through the initiative, 3 million library loans have been registered and through outreach work hundreds of thousands of new readers each year have been introduced to the joys and benefits of reading. Quick Reads is a unique collaboration and we are very grateful for the support of everyone involved.

     2018 titles

This year's Quick Reads authors and titles, available from 1 February 2018, are:
Cut Off by Mark Billingham (Little, Brown): A punchy, taut urban thriller about that moment we all fear: losing our phone! For Louise, losing hers in a local café takes a sinister turn. Billingham has sold five million copies of his novels and has twice won the Theakston's Old Peculiar Award for Crime Novel of the Year.
The Great Cornish Getaway by Fern Britton (HarperCollins): As the sun sits high in the sky over Cornwall, and the sea breeze brings a welcome relief to the residents of the seaside village of Trevay, a stranger arrives in need of a safe haven. The former presenter of This Morning, Britton is now a Sunday Times bestselling author and this story is full of her usual warmth and wit.
Clean Break by Tammy Cohen (Transworld): A dark and twisty portrait of a marriage coming to its bitter end, from the mistress of domestic noir. Can Kate rid herself of her jealous husband before it's too late? Cohen's acclaimed novels include The Mistress's Revenge, The War of the Wives and Someone Else's Wedding.
Inspector Chopra and the Million-Dollar Motor Car by Vaseem Khan (Hodder & Stoughton): An enchanting Baby Ganesh Agency novella from the bestselling Khan set in the bustling back-streets of Mumbai. Inspector Chopra and his elephant sidekick have two days to solve the mystery of a missing - and very costly - car for its gangster owner, or there'll be a heavy price to pay.
The Beach Wedding by Dorothy Koomson (Arrow): A gripping short read featuring a wedding, family drama, and old secrets. Tessa is thrilled when her daughter arrives in Ghana to get married but memories of the last time she was there haunt her; can she lay the ghosts of the past to rest or will they come back to haunt her daughter's future? Koomson is the bestselling author of 12 novels including The Ice-Cream Girls, My Best Friends' Girl and most recently The Friend.
Six Foot Six by Kit de Waal (Viking): A charming novella from Costa First Novel Award shortlisted author de Waal about finding friendship in the most unlikely of places. Everything changes for Timothy, a 21 year-old with learning difficulties, when local builder Charlie calls on him for help. De Waal worked in criminal and family law and was a magistrate for many years before her international bestseller, My Name is Leon was published.
Thank you to Ed PR for sending me a selection of the Quick Reads books. I really love the selection of authors chosen for this years selection and will be reading all the titles very soon.

Blog Tour - A Year at Meadowbrook Manor by Faith Bleasdale

Today I am pleased to welcome Faith Bleasdale to my blog to celebrate the publication of her new novel A Year at Meadowbrook Manor.

One divided family, one life-changing year…

Harriet Singer hasn’t been home in ten years. When her beloved dad dies suddenly, she races to be there for her estranged siblings, despite the memories it brings back.
Then Harriet learns that all four Singer siblings must live together for one year, caring for their dad’s Animal Sanctuary, or forfeit their inheritance.
Living under the same roof could make or break the family, but it’s time Harriet stopped running and faced her past. Especially when her first love turns up…
A heart-warming story about love, hope and family, perfect for fans of Cathy Bramley and Heidi Swain

I really enjoyed A Year at Meadowbrook Manor, a lighthearted read which I lost myself in over a weekend. It is one of those books that transports the reader to a idyllic English countryside village, within which live characters who become friends. The story was one within which I became engrossed and found myself laughing out loud.

The publishers, Avon Books, have shared with me an extract to get my blog readers hooked with the everyday life of Meadowbrook Manor .........

‘OK, well we have chickens over there.’ He pointed to another field which held a very elaborate looking henhouse as well as space for them to run. ‘They’re all ex-battery hens but they do lay eggs – at times – and we try to rescue as many chickens as possible. They come to us in such a dreadful state but we mostly get them happy and healthy again. Although, and you have to get used to this, we do lose some of our animals.’

‘I guess they all have names too?’ Harriet asked. She hated to think about the cruelty aspect to the sanctuary, or animals dying. She knew it went on but she didn’t want to give herself nightmares. She might be a hard-nosed city woman but she had a heart. It was just a bit of a well-kept secret at the moment.

‘All named after Jane Austen characters, one of our staff, Jenni, is a huge fan so we let her name them. And she can tell them apart, but the rest of us get them mixed up.’

‘The chickens look kind of the same to me,’ Harriet said, looking at them.

‘Don’t tell Jenni that. There are also some geese, they sort of roam around, they’re quite tame, so you can approach them but don’t scare them. And in the far field two Highland bulls.’ He pointed and she looked across. They were enormous, and quite magnificent with their horned heads and shaggy coats. ‘They’re best friends. About a year ago I had a call about them and, well, it wasn’t easy as they aren’t always the friendliest of animals but we managed to get them here. They clearly adore each other, barely leave each other’s side, but they can be aggressive to any other animal and some humans, although they’re fine if you approach them properly. Still, we keep them on their own, we named them Elton and David.’

‘Gay bulls? Are you joking?’ Harriet looked at Connor but he had already turned his attention to other animals.

‘And if you look at the far side of the field just beyond the ponies, you’ll see that in the shelter we have our blind sheep and her guide lamb. Agnes and Abigail.’ Harriet looked to where Connor pointed and saw two white dots.

‘How come she’s blind?’

‘She was attacked by a crow when she was pregnant, blinded, but she managed to deliver a healthy baby and the lamb, Abigail, became her “guide lamb”. No good to the farmer so he brought them to us. They trot around together quite happily, it’s very sweet, but we do take extra special care of them, almost like domestic pets.’

‘God, Connor, the stories, they’re quite sad.’ Harriet wiped fresh tears from her eyes, for someone who never cried she was suddenly finding it a bit too easy. Poor heartbroken Romeo, the neglected gay cows, the blind sheep and her lamb who took care of her, the ex-battery hens, not to mention the domestic animals. It was so, so tragic. No wonder her father had invested so much in this.

Thank you to Faith Bleasdale and the publishers, Avon Books, for inviting me to take part in this blog tout.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Blog Tour - Dreaming of Florence by T A Williams

Today I am pleased to welcome T A Williams to my blog to celebrate the publication of 'Dreaming of Florence', which is a fantastic book that takes the reader on a tour of Florence. I have never been to Italy, let alone Florence, however while reading 'Dreaming of Florence' I could feel the Italian sun on my skin and the gorgeous scenery surrounding me. The author's writing allowed me to experience the sounds, smells and tastes of Florence from the comfort of my own home. I really enjoyed the story and felt it brought some of the Italian sun to my life during England's dull and gloomy winter months.

The Fascination of Italy

TA (Trevor) Williams tells us why he loves writing books set in Italy and why he chose it for his latest – Dreaming of Florence.

Before we go any further, I must hold my hand up and admit that I am a confirmed Italophile. I lived there for eight years, my wife is Italian, we still speak Italian together - even though we’ve been back in the UK now for forty years - and, just to put the icing on the cake, we have a Fiat 500. I have friends and relatives in Italy and I love going back to visit this wonderful country.

 For a writer, being able to write about a subject with which you are completely familiar is a great advantage. Although I still make regular “research trips” to Italy to check that everything is still as I remember it, I know I’m writing about something very, very familiar. I’m currently thinking about starting a future book in the sweaty jungles of Equatorial Africa and, although you can find out all sorts of information on the internet these days, no computer can give you everything. I want the smells, the imperceptible gestures of the people, the feel of the clothes, or the sound of a black mamba infiltrating its way into my tent (from a safe distance, I trust). Italy has no black mambas, but I do know that unmistakable smell of old incense, dust and humanity that greets any visitor to Florence’s iconic Duomo. I also instantly recognise the hand gestures an Italian uses to tell me the food is good, the girl beautiful, or the driver of the car in front a moron.

Italy is such a diverse country. We have a stereotype of Italy as a composite of gondolas, pizzas, priests in black robes, Roman amphiteatres, and Ferraris driven by handsome Latin Lovers. These do indeed exist, but the country – and the people – differ so very much from region to region. Don’t forget that Italy is a very recent addition to the family of nations. Up to 1861, it was just a collection of different – and often warring – states, and a peasant from Calabria would have been unable to understand a single word spoken by a peasant from Tuscany. And don’t forget that there are still today regions of Italy where they speak French, and others where they speak German – although Italian is taught as the lingua franca. Indeed, my wife’s native language (she’s from the very far north, in the Alps) is a dialect that is still impenetrable to a fellow Italian living only a few hundred kilometres down the road.

This very diversity is what gives the country so much of its charm. In my latest book, Dreaming of Florence, the characters can step out of their doors in the middle of the Florence and be on the ski slopes in little more than an hour and a half. On that very same day, the temperature a bit further down the peninsula might be like a balmy summer day in England. People can be dining outside on the Italian Riviera while less than a hundred kilometres away, the temperature is well below zero, and there is ice on the roads. Italy is a very long country. I remember when, shortly after I arrived in Turin in northern Italy, I was told that the distance from there back to London was considerably shorter than from there to the southern tip of Italy. If you look at a map, you’ll see that Florence is still pretty far north, but the feel of the place is so very different from Venice to the north or Naples to the south.

Florence, in my opinion, has it all. It has a rich and fascinating history, incomparable art and architecture, delightful scenery and warm, welcoming people – although some of them can hide it pretty well at times. I love the city, just as I love the whole country, and I hope some of my love shines through as you read Dreaming of Florence.

Thank you to the publishers, Canelo, and to T A Williams for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and a copy of the book in return for an honest review.