Challenge Participant


Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Competition Winners - 2 Copies of Katie Fforde's The Perfect Match

Thank you to all who entered into my recent competition. There were 56 entries and I had two copies of the book to giveaway. The two winners are .........................................

Margaret Bonass Madden


 Helen Mawson

Congratulations to both winners, I will be contacting you now to get your addresses to pass to the publishers.

Thank you again to all who entered and please keep visiting my blog as I hope to run more competitions soon. 

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Friday, 14 March 2014

Dead Ends by Erin Lange

Dead Ends

Dane Washington is one suspension away from expulsion. In a high school full of “haves,” being a “have not” makes Dane feel like life is hurtling toward one big dead end. Billy D. spends his high school days in Special Ed and he’s not exactly a “have” himself. The biggest thing Billy’s missing? His dad. Billy is sure the riddles his father left in an atlas are really clues to finding him again and through a bizarre turn of events, he talks Dane into joining him on the search. 
A bully and a boy with Down syndrome makes for an unlikely friendship, but together, they work through the clues, leading to unmarked towns and secrets of the past. But they’re all dead ends. Until the final clue . . . and a secret Billy shouldn’t have been keeping. 
As a journalist, Erin Jade Lange is inspired by hot button issues like bullying, but it is her honest characters and breakneck plotting that make Dead Ends a must-read.

Prejudice about how a person’s looks, looking for an absent father, temptation and bad behaviour, are all covered in this book, modern day problems which today’s school children have to deal with every day. A real coming of age book where the characters realise just what is important to them.
A great read which should be on every school reading list. Covers so many themes which are important in today’s world

I really enjoyed this book. On the surface it is one book looking for his father, who he believes walked out on him and his mother some years earlier. However, this is not the case and the truth is discovered later in the book.

The friendship between Billy and Dane is an interesting one. Dane is at troublemaker at school and his home life is strained. His mum frames winning lottery tickets, she does not cash them in, she is waiting for that big win. Billy D has Downs Syndrome, has to move around with his mum often and is looking for friends. Although it would be expected that Dane would be the leader, Billy D was also a strong character, persuasive and also a calming influence on Dane.

Erin Lange has written a fantastic book, one which I would love to see included in school reading lists. It offers so many questions which would suggest debate and thought.

Thank you to the publishers, Faber and Faber, for sending me the book to review.

Blog Tour - Erin Lange

Last week I was supposed to be taking part in the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Erin Lange's latest release 'Dead Ends'. However due to lose of broadband connection and then many blog issues the post is (very) late, to which I apologise to the Erin, Faber and Faber and my blog readers.

Dead Ends is the latest release by Erin Lange and the main characters Billy D and Dane set on a task to find Billy D's father who left him and his mum many years before. When he left he gave Billy D an atlas which contains lots of clues to towns, where Billy D believes, if he follows the clues, he will find his father.

The author, Erin Lange, joins me on my blog today to talk about the strange names she found while writing this book: 

An Atlas of Odd Place Names

There’s a talking frog in Texas and a monster in Missouri.

Or so says the atlas owned by Billy D., a character in my new book, DEAD ENDS.

Billy’s atlas contains more than maps. It is peppered with handwritten clues pointing to towns with strange names. Kermit, Texas is one. Frankenstein, Missouri another.

Billy D. believes one of the riddles will eventually lead him to his missing father, the man who put the clues into the atlas, and he enlists the help of the main character, Dane, to solve those clues. What follows is an adventure with several detours and more than a few dead ends.

I had the best time researching towns and coming up with clues. This element of the book was born during a discussion in my newsroom (I work as a journalist), when we were covering a story in one of those oddly-named places. All across the newsroom, my coworkers started shouting out silly city names from the states where they grew up. I couldn’t think of one from my home state of Illinois, so I did a web search and was shocked to find a long list – place like Roaches, Dog Walk and even Chicken Bristle, Illinois.

Most of these places are less “town” and more “unincorporated community,” meaning they are often little more than a street with a few houses and maybe a gas station. But I was surprised by how many of these places had official signage, embracing their funny names and welcoming travelers to places like “Nowhere, Oklahoma” and “Slaughter Beach, Delaware.”

I fell down a rabbit hole. I lost hours and hours of time scouring the internet for the most bizarre town names I could find. I would have three websites open at once – a list of towns, google maps, and an image search engine. I ended up cataloguing my favorites for use in DEAD ENDS. This list of towns provided the answers to my riddles. From there, I had to work backward to come up with clues to plant in Billy’s atlas – the most challenging part by far, but also the most fun.

And these odd names aren’t limited to the U.S. at all! In fact, after writing DEAD ENDS, my critique partner passed along an article from the Daily Mail all about a partnership between Dull, Scotland and Boring, Oregon. Apparently, they hope to defy their names with an annual celebration. They call this holiday, of course, “Boring and Dull Day.”

I’ll leave you with a clue from the book… and a hint! This one leads to a town in the state of Arizona, where I live.

The name of this town is what’s needed for a duel.

Happy hunting!

Thank you again to the author, Erin Lange, for including me in the blog tour and apologies again for the delay in posting it.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

60 Postcards: The inspirational story of a young woman's journey to celebrate her mother, one postcard at a time by Rachael Chadwick

60 Postcards: The inspirational story of a young woman's journey to celebrate her mother, one postcard at a time

The heartfelt and uplifting story of how a project to scatter 60 Postcards in memory of her mother helped a young girl come to terms with her loss.
On 11 February 2012 Rachael Chadwick lost her Mother to cancer, just sixteen days after first being diagnosed, and her world shattered right in front of her. Utterly fed up of the milestones and reminders, in December of that year she decided she would do something different and created a project based around her Mum's approaching 60th Birthday. Desperate to spread the word about the wonderful person she had lost, Rachael had the brainwave of leaving notes around a city in her memory. Deciding she would take it a step further she wondered what would happen if she could ask people to respond to her? Full of hope and energy she hand-wrote sixty postcards, each with her email address at the bottom asking the finder to get in touch. But one question remained, where should she go?
Knowing how much she longed to visit Paris, the last gift that Rachael's mum had given her was Eurostar vouchers, and so it seemed fitting that this would be her chosen city. So off she went with a group of friends to celebrate, discover, and to scatter her memories. Filling their time in Paris with sight-seeing, food and drink, laughter, and of course postcards.
When Rachael returned to her London home, she desperately tried to switch off, switch off from the wondering (and hoping) whether she might actually hear from a postcard finder. And then, they started flowing in

I had not heard about Rachel Chadwick's story before I read this book but decided to pick up the  book as I liked the idea. What a fantastic way to remember her mum which lead to an incredible oppurtunity to travel the world and make new friends, which all started with leaving 60 postcards around Paris.

The book begins with the cruel and sad diagnosis of Rachel's mum with Cancer. Unfortunately the cancer took hold quickly and she lost her life very soon after diagnosis. Rachel and her family managed to get through the funeral but then the difficult times really began. It was at this time that Rachel decided she was going to do something in memory of her mum and 60 postcards was born.

The project began with a group of friends visiting Paris and leaving 60 postcards around the city, anyone who found one was asked to contact Rachel and tell her their story. A website was born, , and the book written.

I really enjoyed reading about the initial postcard drop, I visited Paris on my honeymoon, nearly fourteen years ago, and I think that if I had found one of the postcards I would of felt honored and immediately contacted Rachel myself. The postcards were left over one weekend and it wasn't long before Rachel began to have contact with the people who had found them. There is a large proportion of the book devoted to these people and Rachel also met many of the people or went on more trips after hearing of their stories, visiting USA, Paris again to name but two.

This is a lovely story, although it starts of with the death of loved mum, Rachel turns her sadness to a great project and the book really is a good read. Her trips to the ballet sounded fantastic, along with meeting Thandie Newton and the friendship she made with a couple who stayed in the apartment that the project began in in Paris.  It is a tribute to her mum and is filled with emotion and love, but is a book that should be read with happiness because I think this is what Rachel received through the project.

Well done Rachel - I will be following your blog with interest and also on twitter (@60postcards)

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Perfect Match by Katie Fforde

The Perfect Match

This is the wonderful new novel from the RNA award winning and Sunday Times bestselling author of A French Affair. Three years ago Bella Castle left her home town nursing a broken heart over Dominic Thane, the man she fell in love with but couldn't have. Now she's made a new life for herself in the country, working as an estate agent. Bella loves her job and she loves her boyfriend Nevil. But recently he's been preoccupied, and she's starting to question if his future hopes and dreams are a perfect match for hers. And when Dominic turns up unexpectedly in search of his dream house, she begins to wonder if home is really where the heart is. But she's over him, isn't she?

I really enjoy picking up Katie Fforde's new release each year. I know that I am going to be reading a fantastic story which I can loose myself in and I have not been disappointed with The Perfect Match, Katie Fforde's 2014 novel.

In each book that Fforde publishes, her main female character will have a successful career, each book features a different profession. In the Perfect Match, Bella Castle is an estate agent. She is a strong character, however I think that she is feeling lost at the moment, working alongside her partner, who runs the Estate Agent branch in which they both work. It is evident from the start of the book that Bella is not as into her relationship but feels uncomfortable about breaking it up and continuing to work in her ideal office. As the story progresses it is evident to see that Bella loves her job and the challenge she faces when finding her client the ideal property - often thinking outside of the box to tick as many points off the ideal shopping list. 

I am not going to talk anymore about the plot line because I do not want to spoil it for readers but I really enjoyed this book. It was classic Fforde, a book that I could settle down with on a Sunday afternoon and loose myself in the village setting and follow Bella as she goes about her estate agent duties helping prospective house buyers find their ideal home. 

As well as following Bella in her day to day life, the reader is also able to look into the relationships that Bella has: that with her current boyfriend, who is also her boss, Nevil; with her landlady and godmother, Alice, who also has a chance of romance during the book; and that of Bella with her clients, she sees them as more than just clients, she always tries her best to find them the perfect property and will go to the extremes to find it for them.

I really enjoyed Alice's trip to Marrakesh - Katie managed to bring the city to my imagination, never having been there myself, I was able to  imagine walking down the streets and through the markets myself. Katie's imagery and descriptive writing also bought the many houses in Bella's portfolio to life and I must say a number of the houses could of been on my preferred list to view.

I recommend this book to anyone who loves a great chick-lit read. It is perfect to loose yourself in on a summer evening or on a beach this summer.

I also have a competition on my blog with the chance to win one of two copies of the book.

Thank you to the publishers, Century, for sending me the book to review.

Blog Tour - Exclusive Extract from The Perfect Match by Katie Fforde and Competition

I am a huge fan of the author Katie Fforde. Each year Katie publishes her latest novel which quickly climbs the Sunday Times bestseller lists. This year her latest release is The Perfect Match, who's heroine, Bella Castle, is an estate agent.

I have been lucky enough to be asked to be one stop on Katie Fforde's blog tour for The Perfect Match and my exclusive material is an introduction to Dominic, the hero of the book. Dominic Thane previously broke Bella's heart which lead to Bella leaving her home town and move to the countryside.

A couple of evenings later, Bella walked across Jane
Langley’s expansive lawn, sent there by the notice on
the gate: ‘In the garden’. She felt a bit like the Boden
poster girl, but she thought the print dress was probably
appropriate for drinks with her friend – whom she must
remember to call Jane – and her nephew. Pretty but
respectable was the look she was going for. She had
picked a bunch of flowers from Alice’s garden and put
them in a jam jar so Jane wouldn’t have to find a vase.
Even though Jane had a garden full of flowers Bella felt
she couldn’t arrive empty-handed and she knew Jane
would appreciate them.

She could see them sitting where the rose grew up
into the tree behind, on the chairs where she and Jane
had often sat, drinking tea and eating cake. But as she
got nearer, she realised Jane’s nephew looked familiar.
Two steps on and she recognised exactly who he was
and wished, with all her heart, that she could stop,
turn and run back across the lawn to her car. There,
sitting in a lovely sunny garden she knew well, was
the reason she had left her hometown and her first

‘Darling! How pretty you look!’ said Jane Langley as
Bella approached.

Dominic Thane stood up.

Two steps later Bella was face-to-face with her past.

‘Dominic says you two know each other,’ said Jane
Langley. ‘What a coincidence!’

‘Yes,’ said Bella, trying to smile. ‘Hello, Dominic.’ Just
for a moment, their eyes locked. He glared at her with
such dislike it made her catch her breath. She’d worked
hard to get away from him, physically and emotionally,
and seeing him again, entirely unexpectedly, was a
shock, especially given his reaction to her. She sat down
without waiting to be asked. It was either that or fall
over. She put the flowers down without even handing
them over.

Dominic passed her a glass of champagne from the
tray on the table. Jane was looking at her a bit oddly,
she realised. Bella took the glass. ‘Are we celebrating?’

‘Dominic brought it. Isn’t it kind?’ Jane frowned. ‘Are
you all right, dear?’

‘I’m fine!’ said Bella, sounding to her own ears a bit
strangled, hoping no one had noticed she had yet to
make eye contact with Dominic since sitting down.

‘Shall we have a toast?’ he said. ‘To the reuniting of
family members and old friends.’

He raised his glass to his great-aunt and then looked
across at Bella, but she didn’t look back. If they’d been
friends once, the look he had given her told her they
were anything but friends now. But why? How on earth
had that happened? She hadn’t said goodbye to him
when she’d left, but surely he wouldn’t care about that?
And certainly not three years on!

Bella’s first sip of champagne at least made it possible
for her to talk normally. ‘So, er – Jane, when did you last
see Dominic? You might have told me, but I’ve forgotten.’
It wasn’t the best opening topic of conversation, but it
was the best she could do.

‘He was a page boy at a family wedding when I last
saw him,’ said Jane. ‘He looked enchanting. It was before
he took after all the men in his family and his hair went
white the moment he reached thirty. Then it was as dark
as his eyes.’

‘I prefer to call it silver, not white, Aunt Jane,’ said
Dominic and suddenly laughed.

A jolt went through Bella and she took another
desperate sip. Her body was letting her down. It had just
been a schoolgirl crush – nothing had happened between
them! Not unless you counted a kiss under the mistletoe
that might have – but probably hadn’t – contained a hint
of something more. Her brain told her it was just because
the moment Dominic laughed, his rather severe features
were transformed into something very attractive. His
silver hair highlighted his dark eyes, framed with brows
and lashes that were equally dark. It was only her body
responding. Her brain was in charge; it would be OK.

No one spoke and Bella sipped her drink, trying to
think of something to say, wishing someone else would.

‘The garden’s looking lovely, Jane,’ she said at last,
sounding like an actress who was ad-libbing rather

‘Thank you. Since the weather has obliged I’ve been
able to get quite a lot done,’ said Jane. ‘Oh, and thank
you for sending that lovely young man. He’s set up a
brilliant system so I can water my tomatoes without
doing more than turn on a tap.’

Bella smiled. She’d thought the lovely young man was
to be a secret, but obviously her old friend felt it was
all right to mention him in front of Dominic. ‘I’m glad
it all worked out OK.’

‘And he’s quite happy to come and do some of the
heavier things for me if I want him to. I have got Keith,
who does the lawns, but he’s not really a gardener. I
can’t trust him. But Aiden knows his stuff.’

‘Oh good,’ Bella said, deciding to leave the conversation
instigation to the other two. If she went on she’d end
up asking Jane what she thought of the latest goings on
in the Archers.

‘Would you like some more champagne?’

Bella looked up. Dominic’s expression was as cold as
his laughter had been warm a moment ago.

‘Yes please,’ she said quickly. She was not going to
get through this without some sort of support, and
alcohol would have to be it.

Much to her relief Dominic and Jane began talking
about family members and Bella was left to her own

Was it just coincidence that had brought Dominic into
her relatively new and comfortable life? He couldn’t
have been following her, surely!

Or did he want to tell her off because she’d stopped
Jane selling her house? If so, why wait until now? She
had done that less than a year after she’d moved here.
No, she was being paranoid, she decided. He didn’t
dislike her and he wasn’t following her.

‘So, are you here for long?’ she asked when there was
a break in the conversation.

‘I’m joining a practice in the area. As a solicitor,’ he

Bella’s heart lurched. She hadn’t forgotten he was a
solicitor – they’d both worked for the same large estate
agent, but here? Nevil’s estate agency wasn’t big enough
to have a separate legal department; they used local
solicitors, and that would mean she and Dominic could
easily run into each other.

Still, if Nevil brought up his name she’d say something
damning about him, and that would be the end of it. It
would be far too embarrassing to have to work with
him again.

‘Oh?’ she said. ‘That’s interesting.’

‘It should be. I’m very excited, about it.’

He didn’t sound terribly excited, but he always had
been cool and unemotional.

‘He was going to rent while he looked for somewhere
to buy, but it seems silly to do that when my house is
so big,’ Jane explained. ‘You live with your godmother
and it works well, doesn’t it?’

This was a nasty shock. She would have to time her
visits to Jane more carefully. As Jane was looking at her
appealingly, she quickly nodded. ‘It works brilliantly, but
I’m very well house-trained.’

‘But you could find him a nice house, couldn’t you?’
Jane went on.

‘I might be able to, but don’t forget’ – she laughed
lightly, sounding slightly shrill – ‘other estate agents are

‘I’m very well aware of that,’ said Dominic and he
frowned. His very dark brows, in stark contrast to his
silver-grey hair, looked like clouds gathering before a

What Bella longed to know was whether he’d be
bringing his wife with him.

‘What sort of house would you want?’ asked Jane. ‘A
family home? Period features?’

Bella couldn’t help smiling as she realised her long
chats with Jane had rubbed off on her language.

‘I’d like something to do up and, yes, period details
would be good. I don’t want a new-build.’

‘How many bedrooms?’ asked Bella, glad to be on
firm ground again.

‘It would really depend on the property.’

‘More than two?’ She couldn’t help herself asking.


She still didn’t know about his wife. Not that it would
make any difference, not now.

‘Well,’ said Jane, who was beginning to relax, ‘you
can’t expect Bella to find you a house if you don’t tell
her how many bedrooms you want.’

‘I’m not particular. And I’m not in a hurry. If it’s
OK with you, Aunt Jane, I’m happy to keep staying
with you.’

Bella didn’t like this plan much. ‘I think you should
rent. If you’re a cash buyer, you can go into a rental
property, learn about the area, which parts you like best,
and then you’ll be in a good position to proceed if the
right property comes up.’

Dominic raised one of his thundercloud eyebrows.
‘That’s me told!’

‘No,’ said Bella firmly, ‘that’s you advised. Of course
no one is obliged to take advice if they don’t want to.’
She got up. ‘Now, I’d better go. You’ve probably got a
table booked.’ She bent down and kissed her friend’s
cheek. ‘Thank you so much, Jane. It was charming, even
if there wasn’t cake.’

She straightened up. ‘Goodbye, Dominic. It was – interesting
meeting you again.’

Then she walked across the lawn, her back stiff and
her chin up, wishing her heels didn’t keep sinking into

the grass.

I have also been asked to give away two copies of this fantastic read to two of my blog followers. To enter please enter the rafflecopter giveaway below. Books will be sent out direct from the publisher. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway Thank you to the publishers, Century, for the competition prizes and for allowing me to post this exclusive extract.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Baby's Coming by Virginia Howes

The Baby's Coming: A Story of Dedication by an Independent Midwife
Virginia Howes was a mother of four doing the ironing when she had a revelation. Still broody, but not really wanting to add to her family, she realized that becoming a midwife was her true vocation. It was a long journey to get the education and qualifications she needed, especially with a young family, but she was determined and never doubted her decision. Following her training, she spent three years working within the NHS, but her naturally independent spirit fought against the constraints of the system and twelve years ago she decided to set up on her own. Virginia works with mothers who want to give birth at home naturally, something which Virginia believes in passionately. 350 births later, Virginia still loves what she does. The Baby's Coming is Virginia's memoir and tells the stories of her training as a midwife as well as some of the most memorable of those 350 births: the most dramatic, the most touching. Virginia particularly remembers the births of her own grandchildren, whose arrivals in the world were some of the most special moments for her as both a midwife and grandmother.

I am a mum, I have two children aged nearl 10 and nearly 12. Both births were quick, one in hospital and one an unscheduled home delivery with dad delivering his son in a rare footling breech birth. I also work in a children's centre and am surrounded by children aged 0-5 years throughout the week. My husband knows I am broody and would have another baby at the drop of a hat, however he is not wanting anymore, and if we did , i would be in hospital at 20 weeks and not allowed out until the baby is born!  However, this book has really made be want another baby and to have a birth at home, which is scheduled and to my wishes!

I first heard about Virginia Howes through a television programme on ITV last year which followed midwives about their work. Working in a children's centre I knew that there were district teams of community midwives who cared for ladies from the moment they knew they were pregnant until around ten days following the birth however I had never heard about independent midwives. Virginia Howes is one such midwife and after reading this book I think she is a remarkable lady. 

Through this book, the reader learns about Virginia's life - her early years, her school life, her teenage relationship which lead to her becoming a teenage mum who's child was planned and the subsequent years and the births of her other children. The care that she received changed with each pregnancy and it was through these experiences that Virginia decided midwifery was for her and also that she wanted to support women in giving birth how they wanted to and in a calm and relaxing environment with minimal intervention. 

When reading this book I believe that Virginia is a very strong willed lady and is confident to speak on behalf of her patients whenever possible and also to remind her clients of their initial wishes and try her best to ensure that these are followed to the letter.  There are many birth stories included in the book, although they are all relevant to the progression of Virginia's career, and some are the ones included in the television programme.

I would recommend that all student midwives should read this book as part of their course as it really encourages the mother's wishes to be central to their work. It is a great read which also is one of social history of the medical profession as practice changed.

Many books which document a midwife or nurse's life has the obligatory ten or so pages of glossy pictures, this one doesn't and I don't think it needs it, in fact I believe it shows Viginia's beliefs that her clients are most important, not all about the end result, although of course healthy babies are also important. This book is evidence that Virginia Howes should be recognised for her work in the medical profession.

Thank you to the publishers, Headline, for sending me the book to review, although I am not sure my husband is glad I have read it as I keep on about having baby number three!