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Friday, 25 April 2014

Blog Tour - Follow me home by Cathy Woodman

The village midwife and a young shepherd find love in the new novel from the bestselling author of Trust Me I'm a Vet and Country Loving, set in Talyton St George, Britain's most romantic town. Life has been tough for village midwife Zara. Recently divorced and living with her grandmother, Zara is struggling to get back on track. Until one day, love walks in, in the form of an abandoned puppy. Although Zara adores her new friend, the puppy causes havoc wherever they go, so she is grateful when local shepherd Lewis offers to train her. But Lewis has an ulterior motive for helping. And though Zara may be able to trust him with her naughty dog, can she trust him with her bruised heart?

Spring is here, with summer around the corner. Where better to relax and be transported to than Talyton St George. I love my annual visit to St Talyton's, meeting up with old friends at the vets and also meeting new villagers as Woodman introduces us to new characters in her books.

In Follow me home we meet the village midwife, Zara, her sister, Emily, who is married to a local farmer, Murray, and their temporary shepherd, Lewis. Zara has many storylines within this book, initially delivering her long awaited niece; her living arrangements as she has moved back in with her elderly grandmother following her divorce from her husband who she still regularly sees in the village but then in a professional capacity when his new girlfriend becomes pregnant and also a possible new romance with her sister's maternity cover shepherd, Lewis. It was great that Zara had so many different storylines - I especially enjoyed her role as a carer for her nan, as with many elderly people she did not want to go into a home and Zara tried to cover up the severity of her dementia to other family members for too long. I also enjoyed Poppy, Zara's niece, who adds a child's voice to the story, and I loved her childish opinions and that honesty that only a young, adorable child can get away with.

I always find myself getting absorbed into Cathy's books, following each character's story with interest. This book also contains reference to Tessa and Jack, who live and run the Talyton animal rescue centre. Tessa is pregnant with their first child and there are complications with the pregnancy. Their story has been told in a separate novella 'The Three of Us by Cathy Woodman' but they are mentioned through out Follow Me Home. Readers have also met Tessa and Jack earlier in the series when Jack interuppted Tessa's wedding and led to Tessa cancelling the wedding and starting a new relationship with Jack. I enjoyed returning to this relationship and would recommend that fans read the short novella that Cathy has recently released about their pregnancy.

As always, Cathy has written a fantastic book, one which can be slipped into holiday luggage or devoured on a Sunday afternoon in a sunny garden. It is great to catch up with regular characters, who I would love to have as friends, I would actually love to live in Talyton St George, and also make new friends. I can't wait for my next visit to the village and look forward who Cathy introduces us to next, or who we revisit - i am hoping that Cathy writes more of the short novellas as I really enjoyed The Three of Us.

Thank you to the publishers, Arrow, for sending me the book to review and also to Cathy Woodman, for visiting me at my blog as part of the blog tour - please see the banner at the top of this blog post to visit other blogs taking part.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Three of Us by Cathy Woodman

The Three of Us is an exclusive short story introducing Zara, the village midwife whose story you can read in Follow Me Home, and bringing us up to date with what's happened to Tessa and Jack from The Village Vet

Tessa and Jack live at the animal sanctuary in Talyton St George. They had been friends for years, but it wasn't until Jack interrupted Tessa's wedding that she discovered his feelings for her were stronger than she ever knew.

Now, a year on, they could not be happier. And when Tessa discovers she's pregnant, it's as if all their dreams have come true.

But a scan shows that there are complications, and suddenly Tessa realises that Jack has always had doubts about having a baby. Supported throughout by Zara, the village midwife, Tessa and Jack have some tough decisions to make.

However, as the baby's birth draws closer, Tessa and Jack grow further apart. Will he feel differently when the baby is born? Or will having her wonderful child mean losing the man of her dreams?

This short story by Cathy Woodman is a great introduction to readers who have never visited Talyton St George before. The story is stand alone, however it can be read alongside Woodman's latest release, Fo0llow me Home, where the characters are mentioned a number of times but the outcome to the pregnancy, which has been upset with complications and uncertainties, is only found out in this short story.

With Cathy's other books there are lots of characters who turn up in many of the series, however this short story concentrates on Tessa and Jack, who run the animal rescue centre. Both characters have been in previous books, and avid readers will remember that Tessa was to marry another villager until Jack interrupted the wedding. I know that I have been hoping that these characters would turn up in another book as I wanted to know if they have stayed together and was pleased to see that they have their own story. 

I enjoyed this short story and I would love Cathy to do more of these, revisiting characters who have previously featured heavily in earlier books from the series.

I recommend this to new readers who have not visited Talyton St George before but also to fans of the story who want to catch up with Tessa and Jack and find out if their pregnancy has a happy ending.

Call back to my blog tomorrow when I am reviewing Follow Me Home, as part of Cathy's blog tour.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Blog Tour and giveaway - Tracy Bloom No-one Ever Has Sex on a Tuesday

Today I am excited to welcome Tracy Bloom to my blog and share with my readers the first chapter of Tracy's bestseller 'No-one ever has sex on a Tuesday'. 

There are those who get to choose the father of their child and those who don’t. Those who spend years sifting through the giant haystack that is the male population and those who get unexpectedly ambushed.

Katy never thought that she would be one of those who got ambushed. She certainly never thought that at thirty-six she would be pregnant, unmarried and with a boyfriend eight years younger than herself. A boyfriend who was now sitting beside her dressed in his football kit, as they drove off for their first antenatal class.

She felt sick. She put this down to pre-class nerves and the fact that Ben had come straight from school, where he was a PE teacher, smelling unpleasantly of gym shoes, teenage-boy sweat and mashed potato. As she stared across at him she comforted herself with the knowledge that at least she could rely on him to offer up some well-thought-out words of wisdom to help calm her fears.

“So this guy at work says that all you do in these classes is talk about tits and fannies for two hours. How good is that?”

Katy continued to stare at Ben for a moment then sighed and put the car into gear.

“Please don’t say that,” she said wearily as they drove off.

“Say what?” asked Ben as he fiddled with every knob, switch and dial he could reach on Katy’s dashboard.

“Fannies,” said Katy, slapping his fingers.

“It’s better than a lot of other words for it,” said Ben. “I mean I could say…”

“No, no more words,” interrupted Katy “You know my Gran wouldn’t like it.”

“Why? Is she coming with us?” said Ben, pulling open the glove box and peering inside.

“Her name was Fanny, I’ve told you that before,” said Katy, starting to lose patience.

Ben turned to stare at Katy in complete admiration.

“You have never ever told me that. That’s exactly the sort of information that makes my life worthwhile and certainly not something I’d forget.”

“Really,” said Katy. She hesitated, wondering if she wanted to continue the conversation before realising that what she was about to say would probably make Ben’s day. “So I’ve never told you her surname either then?” she asked him.

Ben paused for a moment deep in thought until he erupted enthusiastically.

“Vagina. Must have been vagina,” he said, bouncing up and down. “Please tell me it was vagina and I will die a happy man.”

“Mycock actually,” said Katy more than a little triumphantly.

Ben stared at her again in shock, his mouth hanging open.

“You are kidding me,” he said finally. “Her parents called her Fanny with a surname like Mycock. Were they insane?”

“No stupid. Mycock was her married name. She wasn’t born a Mycock.”

“She was called Fanny and married Mr. Mycock?”


Ben was quiet for some time before he declared solemnly, “Your Gran was a comedy genius.”

They didn’t speak for the rest of the journey as Ben was fully occupied with texting or calling his friends to share the funniest name story of all time. He was still on the phone as she started to muster up the effort to get out of the car. She eased her swollen belly in the vague direction she wanted her body to go in, hoping the rest would follow. Looking down at the carefully chosen acre of magenta poly-cotton flowing in all directions over her lumps and bumps she hoped she looked like a woman in control of her pregnancy. But the memory of the lack of control that had landed her here in the first place led to the all too familiar sensation of a fist grasping tightly around her heart. She looked over her shoulder seeking Ben for some reassurance and caught sight of his knees for the first time which were decorated in school pitch mud.

“Your knees,” she exclaimed, pointing at the offending items.

“I’m not proposing now,” said Ben in mock anger.

She shook her head in despair, took a deep breath and set off towards the hospital entrance. She thought she’d pretty much nailed life until this. All the big boxes had been ticked. University, career, homeowner. Admittedly the marriage box had remained conspicuously empty, but that was exactly the way she wanted it.

A truly traumatic experience with her first love as a teenager had left her heart never quite able to recover its full emotional capacity. Since then the slightest flutter of love had alerted her to heartbreak fast approaching, allowing her to lock down the situation quickly with a clean and swift break-up. She knew this approach had served her well over the years as she watched her friends suffer the humiliation of being dumped from a great height, over and over again.

She had lost count of how many times her friends had declared that they had met the one. It saddened her to know that approximately two weeks later they would be on her doorstep sobbing out a tragic but predictable tale of the one, clearly not thinking she was the one, by getting caught with another one. She would patiently pour the wine whilst they poured out their hearts until inevitably the night would end in drunken dancing and singing round her dining room table to boy band music. Then there would be an emotional love-in where they told her she was the best friend in the world. Finally in the early hours one of them would throw up over the balcony.

It amazed her that they couldn’t learn that if they put their heart out there for someone, they would be cast aside as carelessly as last season’s away kit as soon as the next piece of skirt passed by.  These days, though, nights spent consoling the lovesick seemed to have dried up. One by one they had finally all found a man who appeared to want a relationship for longer than five minutes and had enjoyed the weddings they had always dreamed of.

She had, in her opinion, suffered two years of near mental torture as the cream invites lined up frighteningly quickly on her living room shelf. Her heart sank every time she picked up yet another painstakingly selected envelope, which no doubt had been chosen to match the bride’s knicker elastic, and tipped out the invitation, handmade by the future bride herself. She would close her eyes in despair as she read the words Miss Katy Chapman and Partner. Why oh why was it the law to go to weddings as a couple? Why couldn’t she just go on her own? Was there some terrible fear that single people at weddings were bound to run off with the bride or groom given half the chance? Was it one of the wedding vows? Thou shalt always have attached friends to prevent any possibility of straying. It made her dread the so-called happy events, forced as she was to find some random chap she had once had a drunken snog with, who in exchange for free food and alcohol could endure the steady stream of well-meaning relatives saying, “So will it be you next?”

Eventually she had decided enough was enough and that she should make a stand for all strong, independent women and stop pandering to the stereotype that happiness was attached to a man.
When she was next invited to a wedding she made the genius decision to take Daniel from the Advertising Agency where she worked. The look on the face of Laura’s great aunt, who was making polite conversation during the wedding breakfast, was a joy to behold. Daniel sweetly told her that yes it could be him next as he had been seeing his boyfriend Rob for over six months now and neither of them were having sex with anyone else unless you counted the night he’d had sex with Stanley, his ex. However he didn’t think that counted as he had been very drunk at the time and Stanley had been dressed as a Navy Officer because it was at a fancy dress party and who could resist a man in uniform?

From that moment on Daniel had become her new best wedding partner.

Katy jumped when Ben caught hold of her hand as she walked through the doors of the hospital.

“So what do you reckon then?” he asked, spitting on his other hand and leaning over to try and wipe the mud off his knee as he trotted beside her.

“Sorry I was miles away. What did you say?” asked Katy.

“I said what do you reckon the other people in the class will be like?” said Ben.

“Oh they will all have read every book, know exactly what they are doing and ask really intelligent questions,” replied Katy feeling the panic rising again. She was painfully aware that up until now she had put her pregnancy firmly in the “deal with it later” file. It was clear that “later” had most definitely arrived.

“Mmmm,” said Ben, absorbing what Katy had said. “So you think we’ll be the trouble makers sitting on the back row while the swots hang on the teacher’s every word at the front?”

“Probably,” sighed Katy.

Ben glanced over to her.

“The back row always has more fun,” he said grinning.

She couldn’t help but grin back.

“You’re right,” she replied, feeling better. Ben knew exactly how to stop her taking life too seriously. That was what had first attracted her to him when they met on one of the worst nights of her entire life.

My review of this funny book will be on the blog soon. The publishers, Arrow Publishing, have also provided me with one copy of the book to giveaway to one lucky blog reader.

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

Competition - Win Carole Matthews' Chocolate Lovers Club and The Chocolate Lovers Diet.

The Chocolate Lovers' ClubThe Chocolate Lovers' Diet

To celebrate the publication of the paperback edition of A Place to Call Home, the publishers, Sphere, have very kindly offered the followers of my blog to win one of three sets of the two books. As tomorrow is Easter Sunday this is a fantastic oppurtunity to combine two of my favourite things - Books and Chocolate!! To have the chance to win one of the set of two books please enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below: 

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A place to call home by Carole Matthews

A Place to Call Home

In the dead of night, Ayesha takes her daughter, Sabina, and slips quietly from her home, leaving behind a life of full of pain. Boarding a coach to London, all Ayesha wants is a fresh start. Hayden, a former popstar, has kept himself hidden away for years. He's only opened up his home to two people - Crystal, a professional dancer with a heart of gold, and Joy, an ill-tempered retiree with a soft spot for waifs and strays. When Crystal asks Hayden if Ayesha and Sabina can stay with them, he reluctantly agrees and, as different as they may be, they quickly form an unlikely bond. So when enemies threaten their peaceful home, they will do all they can to save it and each other. Uplifting and emotional, this is a novel of new beginnings, of discovering love and of finding A Place to Call Home.

I always enjoy Carol Matthews' books. I know that when I pick one up I am going to be introduced to great characters, strong women who take control of the story. There is romance, humour and great storylines within each book, however each book has a strong storyline which keep readers interested to the very end. 

I thought that the storyline of A Place to Call Home was darker than Matthews' previous books and was one that I was interested to know more about - domestic violence in the Muslim community. I, myself work within a children's centre in an area where there is a high Muslim family population, and I am well aware of the private nature of family life within the community and the close knit feeling within the area. Talking to a family support worker from the centre, she was able to confirm that domestic violence is high amongst the community with women finding it difficult to leave due to the high number of young married couples living with the groom's parents, the brides remaining at home, often not speaking much English and feeling alone. I think that Carole's drew on this background very well and moulded the character of Ayesha very well, a Muslim lady in today's society who was shy and dependent upon on others. I can not think of another book which I have read which tackles the subject of domestic violence and male dominance within a relation which has Muslim families at the heart of it - well done Carole on highlighting this very real and worrying subject.

I also liked the strength Ayesha felt when she left her husband and the way she was able to build a new life elsewhere - however she still took on a similar role, looking after others, cooking and cleaning but I really loved the following story which followed Ayesha as she managed to carve a new life for herself and her daughter. 

As always I loved Carole's latest book and was able to loose myself very easily in Ayesha's story. There was a group of strong women at the heart of the story, each having demons in their own backgrounds, but all working together to give Ayesha the new life she deserved. I also liked Hayden - he sounds like the man all stranded women need to meet - a knight in shining armor who helped Ayesha but also was able to reclaim his life and come out the other side a better man.

I would recommend all women to slip this book into their holiday luggage - a fantastic read with a great story background. Although there is a serious subject at the start of this story, the following story is a fantastic read.

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