Challenge Participant

Pages

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Here Come the Boys - Milly Johnson

Here Come the Boys (short story)

An exclusive ebook short story from top ten bestseller Milly Johnson. Also includes a sneak peek of her new novel The Teashop on the Corner.
Angie Silverton and her husband are taking a much-needed holiday on the cruise ship Mermaidia, so the last person she hopes to bump into is her one-time best friend Selina who stole the love of her life and married him twenty years ago.
And what she needs even less is to be marooned in Malaga with Selina when both of them manage to miss boarding the ship in port. 
It will take three days for them to travel across Europe to catch up with the ship again in Croatia. And in the company of each other twenty-four/seven, a lot of old baggage is going to be unloaded. 
Praise for Milly Johnson:
'Bursting with warmth and joie de vivre' JILL MANSELL
'Warm, optimistic and romantic' KATIE FFORDE
'An irresistibly feel-good read' JANE COSTELLO

great short read. I hope that we meet Selina and Angie again in a book as this story felt like the start of a great book.

A great short read from Milly Johnson. Set aboard a cruise ship heading on a short cruise disaster strikes when, following a day trip on dry land, two ladies miss the ship settings. forced to face days of travel across land they are surprised to find they used to be best friends before Selina stole her best friends man. 
It is a great quick read and left me wanting to find summer Sun very soon as well as a
waiting for Milly's next release, The teashop on the corner, which is out very soon!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Thirteen weddings by Paige Toon

Thirteen Weddings

Last year, Bronte left Sydney for a wedding in England, where she met newly single Alex. After a night of passion they parted ways, and Bronte returned to Australia. Now working on a picture desk for a magazine in London, Bronte is about to meet her new colleague, who turns out to be all too familiar. Although awkward at first, as Alex is now engaged to the girl he was on a break from when they met, they soon become friends. But as the two get closer, and the wedding day looms, it is clear that Alex and Bronte have unfinished business...A charming bittersweet novel from the author of The Longest Holiday.

I have been waiting for Paige Toon's next release for a long time and I am happy to say that Thirteen Weddings was definitely worth the wait! This is a great summer read which will have have readers split - #TeamLachie or #TeamAlex ?

Paige's books always have great characters and Thirteen Weddings has a number of great ones: Bronte, the main character, is a magazine editor, who also has recently started a weekend job of an assistant wedding photographer. She had a one night stand at her best friend's hen night, who she saw again eighteen months later when she transferred from Australia to the English edition of the magazine for which she worked. What follows is the story of Bronte's life over the following twelve months: Alex is back with his girlfriend, now his fiancee, and then there is Lachie, a fellow Australian, who is funding his stay through both pub work and the odd gig as a wedding singer. Who will win Bronte's heart, Alex or Lachie - I know who I hoped would win it but I will not give away the ending. 

I also liked many of the other characters, Polly, Bronte's friend who was getting married and whose hen party Polly met Alex at, had a great storyline. Although it was only a small storyline I think that the alcoholism was treated with respect and reminds the reader of the ease that it can creep up on people. 

The two males within the story, Lachie and Alex, were very different to each other, but they were both likable in their own way. I think Lachie would be the first choice, he appeared to have a happy go lucky outlook on life and went where ever the work was whereas Alex was a hard worker, dependable and didn't want to upset anyone.

I really enjoy Paige's books and I like how characters from her back catalogue pop into new books - the books do not need to be read in order, they just appear, and their back story does not matter to the reader, but to fans it is nice for them to appear.

The story was believable and I am sure that readers will be able to identify with some, if not all, of the story. It is not only the story of Bronte's love life, but includes other characters, all with their own story, which adds extra depth to the book - something for readers to get their teeth into!

In summary, another fantastic read from Paige Toon. Perfect to add to any holiday luggage this year or to curl up with one Sunday evening!!

Thank you to the publishers, Simon and Schuster, and Net Galley for sending me the book to review.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Blog Tour - Playlist for a Broken Heart by Cathy Hopkins

Today I am pleased to welcome Cathy Hopkins to my blog as  part of her blog tour for her new release 'Playlist for a Broken heart'.

Playlist for a Broken Heart is written by Cathy Hopkins, who has written more than sixty titles for children and teenagers.

When Paige finds an old mix CD in a local charity shop, she can't help but wonder about the boy who made it and the girl he was thinking of when he chose the songs. The tracks tell the story of a boy looking for his perfect girl, a girl to understand him, a story of being alone, being let down, misunderstood and not knowing where to turn. Following the clues of the music, Paige sets out to find the mysterious boy, going from gig to gig and band to band, hoping to track him down. But will who she finds at the end of the trail, be the boy she's imagined? Another perfect girly read from Queen of Teen nominee Cathy Hopkins!

I am able to share the first two chapters of Cathy's latest book with my readers in an exclusive extract:

Playlist for a Broken Heart

Chapter One

‘Here we go,’ whispered Allegra.
I held my breath and waited for Mr Collins, our
drama teacher, to read out who had got parts in the
end-of-year play. Everyone who’d auditioned was
standing near the wooden stage in the school hall. It
smelt of beeswax and lavender from the polish used
by the cleaners who’d started the evening clear-up
behind us. Please, please let me get Juliet, I prayed.
I’d been rehearsing for weeks with my friend,
Allegra, reading all the other parts so I could get it
just right. She’s a good mate and knows that it means
a lot to me. I’ve come so close to getting a lead role in
school productions before but never quite made it –
always the bridesmaid, never the bride sort of thing. I
2
also have an ulterior motive for wanting the lead
female role this time and that is that I’m pretty sure
that Alex Taylor, love of my life, though he doesn’t
know it yet, will probably play Romeo.
Everyone thinks it’s in the bag that he’ll get it
because, apart from being a good actor, he’s classically
good-looking with soft brown hair that curls at
his shoulders. If he gets the part, whoever plays opposite
him will get to spend a lot of time with him.
Normally I am not boy mad like Allegra and so many
other girls my age. I think there’s more to life than
drooling over some stupid boy, but Alex is different.
He’s clever and motivated and just thinking about
the scenes where Romeo and Juliet have to kiss makes
my toes curl. So please, please let Alex Taylor get the
part of Romeo.
Mr Collins glanced over our group, all of us ready
to put on a cheerful face if we didn’t get a part.
‘Romeo. Alex Taylor,’ he read. Alex, who was standing
in front of me to the right, punched the air and
grinned. I felt a rush of excitement – so far so good.
Allegra glanced over and gave me the thumbs-up.
‘Juliet. Paige Lord.’
Ohmigod. I’d got it! I felt elated and relieved at the
same time. All that hard work had been worth it.
‘Yay,’ exclaimed Allegra and gave me a hug. I felt
myself blush as everyone turned to look, even more
so when Alex glanced round to see who I was. I immediately
looked at the floor and cursed that I didn’t
have the nerve to look him in the eye and hold his
gaze, the way an article about how to flirt in last
week’s Teen Vogue had advised. Make the connection,
it had said. Look him in the eye that moment
too long and, when you feel a charge of electricity,
hold it another few moments and then look away. So
I’ve blown that, I thought.
Up until today, I don’t think Alex has even noticed
me despite me accidentally-on-purpose walking past him
a million times in the corridor. It’s the only place I see
him because he’s in Year Twelve and I’m in Year Ten
and the sixth formers have their own common room.
But all that is about to change. Now that we’re playing
the lead roles, he has no choice but to notice me. We’ll
be acting the parts of one of the most famous romantic
couples in history. We’ll be rehearsing together for
months, up until the performance just before we break
up for the summer. I call that a result with a capital R.
When Allegra and I left school later, I was on cloud
nine. It had been an excellent day. Besides hearing
that I’d got the part of Juliet, some pieces from my art
project had been chosen to hang in the reception
hall. I’d been working on a series of portraits from
some photographs I’d taken on the London streets
over the Christmas holidays. On top of that, I’d got
an A star for an English essay, and the cherry on the
cake was that, after Mr Collins’ announcement about
the parts, Jason Rice, who would be Tybalt in the
play, had suggested that the whole cast get together
over the Easter holidays for a party at his house. My
future had never looked brighter and it felt like I was
about to embark on an exciting new chapter in my
life.
‘I knew you’d get it,’ said Allegra. ‘With your long
dark hair and brown eyes, you have an Italian look.
And you’re tall like Alex so you’ll look good together.
Plus – don’t take this the wrong way – you have a sort
of innocence about you that I think worked in your
favour too.’
‘I have a sort of innocence about me because I am
innocent! Not that I want to be. I mean, it’s pathetic
really. Fifteen and never had a proper boyfriend,
unlike you, Miss Experienced.’
‘You just haven’t met the right boy. Playing opposite
Romeo will be a good place to start, and for
someone who’s shy like you, it will be the perfect
opportunity to get some confidence,’ said Allegra.
She was much more savvy about relationships than I
was. Slim but curvy, blonde and cool, she attracted
boys while I stood by, feeling tongue-tied and awkward.
It was weird. I was fine if I was acting because it wasn’t
really me, so I didn’t clam up like I did when I had to
speak to boys in normal life. Acting a part in a play
was like wearing a mask that I could hide behind.
‘It will, won’t it? It’s a great chance to get in with
Alex. Life would be perfect if Mum and Dad would
sort out whatever it is that’s been bugging them,’ I
said as we waited in the car park for her mum to pick
us up. There had been a weird atmosphere at home
lately, which of course I’d told Allegra all about
because I had to talk to someone about it.
‘How’s that going?’ Allegra asked. ‘Still no idea
what it’s about?’
‘The only thing I can think of that makes sense is
that they’re getting divorced,’ I replied. I’d known
that something was wrong with my parents for a few
months, though nothing had been said. Dad had
been more absent than usual and then quiet when he
was home, whereas Mum was acting cheerful but
something about her manner didn’t ring true.
‘Sounds like it,’ she agreed. ‘Are they arguing a lot?’
‘Not that I’ve heard. But they both go silent the
minute I enter the room as if they have a secret, but
not a nice one like a surprise party or holiday.
Whatever. I’m not going to let them ruin my mood.’
‘Good because this is your day,’ said Allegra. ‘It’s
probably nothing. You know what parents are like –
there’s always something stupid bugging them.
They’re going to be over the moon when you give
them your news.’
‘They will,’ I replied. I couldn’t wait to get home
and tell them.

Chapter Two

Mum and Dad were in the hall at home waiting for
me when I arrived back from school.
‘Where’ve you been, Paige?’ asked Dad.
‘Drama. I told Mum I’d be late. I got the part!’ I
said. I was dying to share my news but as I waited for
the congratulations and questions, I saw that what I’d
said hadn’t registered with either of them.
‘Come and sit down, Paige,’ said Dad. ‘We need to
talk to you about something.’
‘Let her get a cup of tea or something,’ said Mum.
‘She’s only just got in.’
They were both acting so seriously, it was beginning
to freak me out.
‘No. I’m fine,’ I said. ‘I don’t need anything. Just
8
tell me what’s happened. Has someone died? Gran or
Grandpa?’
‘Nothing like that,’ said Mum. ‘Let’s all go into the
sitting room.’ I followed them in from the hall and we
sat down, Mum and Dad next to each other on the
sofa and me in one of the armchairs opposite. All of
us took a deep breath and the room felt heavy with
the weight of the unspoken words in the air.
A feeling of dread hit me as I looked at their faces.
I had to break the uncomfortable silence. ‘I know
what you’re going to say,’ I blurted.
Mum looked taken aback. ‘You do?’ she asked.
I nodded. ‘You’re getting a divorce. But before you
do, have you thought of trying counselling?’ A few
girls in our class had parents who had got divorced so
it was often the topic of conversation in school lunch
breaks, and I remembered that Phoebe Marshall’s
parents had been to Relate then stayed together –
until her mum ran off with her skiing coach.
A glimmer of a smile crossed Dad’s face. ‘We’re not
getting divorced, Paige. No getting rid of me that easy.’
‘Ohmigod. One of you has cancer,’ I said. Another
classmate, Mary Philip’s mum had breast cancer last
year, but they got it in time and she’s OK now. Maybe
there was hope.
‘No, we don’t have cancer either,’ said Dad. He
looked at Mum again and gave a small shrug. ‘Do you
want to tell her or shall I?’
‘I will,’ said Mum. ‘So, Paige. It’s not so bad. It’s
er . . . it’s just that . . . our circumstances have
changed. We . . .’
I listened as words came out of her mouth and then
Dad’s, but as they spoke I felt like part of me left the
room. My body was there, ears listening, eyes seeing,
but everything took on a dreamlike quality, not real at
all. I got the gist of what they were telling me though.
My whole life was going to change big time. Big time.
And not in a good way.
I’ve never been totally clear on what Dad actually
does, although he’s tried to explain a number of times.
Finances. Something to do with shares and investments.
He’s always done well at it, that I do know,
because we live in a fabulous detached house with a
huge garden by the river in Richmond. Dad drives a
Mercedes, Mum a Porsche. I go to one of the best
private schools in the country and we have two fivestar
holidays a year. Not any more, I was hearing. Dad’s
lost everything and had to declare himself bankrupt.
What? That’s not possible, I thought, then told
myself to keep listening. This was important. Some
investments went badly wrong, and he’d put the
house up as collateral, and it seems we’ve lost that too
and we have to vacate in a month’s time. Nothing is
left but a big bad debt.
I felt totally in shock, like someone had just
knocked a hole in me.
‘We can’t have lost everything,’ I said. ‘It can’t be
true.’
‘I’m afraid it is,’ said Dad.
‘But you must have savings?’
‘All gone,’ said Dad.
‘So . . . so what does this mean exactly?’ I asked.
Dad glanced over at Mum. I’d never seen him like
this before – uncertain, unshaven and pale. Usually he
was Mr Sure of Himself, out the door at six in the
morning, dressed in a suit and tie, dark hair slicked
back and shining. He had a glow about him. A glow
that said, ‘I am a successful and very wealthy man’. Not
today though. Today he looked dejected, broken even.
‘It means we’re going to be moving,’ Mum said
with a false smile, her voice in the higher pitch she
always used when she wasn’t happy about something.
As I studied her, she looked her usual immaculate
self, her make-up impeccable, her highlighted blonde
hair freshly blow-dried as it was always was on a Friday,
11
ready for the weekend. However, I could see shadows
under her eyes like she hadn’t slept properly. ‘We’re
going to go to Bath to live with my sister.’
‘Moving? To Bath? Aunt Karen?’
Mum nodded.
‘For how long?’
‘Until . . .’ Mum looked at Dad. ‘Until we can
make other arrangements.’
‘But that’s insane,’ I blurted.
‘That it may be, but that’s what’s happening,’ said
Dad wearily.
‘Do you mean for a few days or weeks?’ I asked.
‘A permanent move, Paige,’ said Mum. ‘We’re leaving
London.’
‘Permanent? No. But why? This is our home.
When? It doesn’t make sense. This is a wind-up, isn’t
it? You’re having me on.’
‘I wish we were,’ said Mum. ‘We’ll be going in a few
weeks.’
‘Few weeks? No. I can’t leave my school now.’
Mum looked like she was going to cry and I felt as
if I might too. ‘It’s the last thing we want to happen,
believe me Paige, but luckily we’ve found a school
in Bath that has the same syllabus. It’s called
Queensmead. It has a very good reputation.’
I didn’t want to hear about a new school. I didn’t
want to hear about moving – especially not today,
which had been the best day of my life until I got
home. ‘No. Dad, you can fix it can’t you?’
‘Not this time, baby girl,’ said Dad sadly. ‘Believe
me, I’ve tried, I really have, and I’m afraid we have no
choice. We have to go.’
‘Can’t Gran or Grandpa lend you money?’
Dad shook his head. ‘Not the amount we need,
and anyway I wouldn’t take their savings, especially
not at this time of their lives.’
This could not be happening. Not now. I was going
to be Juliet. Alex was going to be Romeo. I liked my
school. I liked our life. ‘But why can’t we move in
London? Everyone we know is here. We have to stay.
What about school?’
‘We can’t afford to stay in London and we can’t
afford the school fees any more,’ said Mum in a
clipped voice.
‘But you’ve paid until the end of the year, haven’t
you? So I have to stay.’
‘Due to the circumstances, the school has been
kind enough to reimburse the fees for the last term,’
said Dad.
I felt a wave of anxiety as I pictured the scene – Dad
having to go to my headmaster. It must have been
excruciating for him.
‘Bath will be great, Paige. You’ll love it. It will be a
new start for all of us. A new place, new people to
meet, and it will be lovely spending some time with
Karen and her family. It’s been ages since we had some
proper time with her. I bet we won’t miss London for
a second once we get settled in.’ She couldn’t fool me.
She smiled but it didn’t reach her eyes.
‘Are you saying that we’re . . . we’re poor?’
Mum glanced nervously at Dad. ‘Not poor exactly,’
she said. ‘Just our circumstances have changed and
we have to make some cutbacks.’
Moving in with Aunt Karen. Losing our lovely house.
That sounds like poor to me, I thought as I looked at
Dad, willing him to take charge, but he was just staring
at the floor as though he wished he could be
anywhere else but here with Mum and I having this
conversation.
My mind went into a spin as the implications hit
me. Moving meant leaving my friends, Allegra, my
bedroom with the window that looked out over the
river. I’d be leaving my life. And Alex Taylor. Alex
Taylor, and just after he’d noticed me. It was too
cruel. Tragic.
And live with Aunt Karen? There were six of them,
eight if you counted the dog and cat. Aunt Karen,
Uncle Mike, Tasmin, Jake, Joe and Simon. We hadn’t
ever stayed over with them the few times we’d visited
because they didn’t have room, and we hadn’t even
been down that way for years, not since I was nine or
ten. Not that Mum isn’t close to her sister, she is –
they’re always on the phone to each other – but
everyone gets together at Christmas or for birthday
celebrations at Gran and Grandpa’s in Surrey. How
could we possibly be going to live with Aunt Karen
and Uncle Mike? From what I remembered, they’d
moved since we were there and their new house
sounded tiny. Terraced. Four bedrooms and one
bathroom. We had four bathrooms, one each for
Mum, Dad and I and one for the guest suite.
‘But there’s no room there. There are six of them
in that minuscule house,’ I said.
‘It will only be temporary, until your dad and I get
jobs and we can find our own place to live,’ said Mum.
‘You’re going to work?’ I asked.
Mum has never worked, not in a job. Not that she
was idle. She was always doing something – Pilates on
a Monday, watercolour painting on Tuesday, cooking
class on Wednesday, ladies’ lunch on Thursday
followed by a meeting for one of the charities she
runs, and Friday shopping, the hairdresser’s and
beautician with her friend. She was always busy but
she’d never had a paid job. She hadn’t needed to.
Mum nodded. ‘I’ll find something.’ As she said
this, I saw Dad wince.
‘I’ll find something,’ he said. ‘I’ll get us out of this
mess.’
Mum leant over, took his hand and squeezed it. ‘I
know you will, Patrick.’
‘I’m sorry, Paige,’ Dad said to me, then put his
head in his hands for a few moments. I wasn’t sure
which was more shocking, seeing my father behave
like this or the fact that we’d be leaving London and
the house where we’d lived all my life to live in some
unfamiliar place in the middle of nowhere. I hadn’t
seen much of Bath when we had been there, only the
area where Aunt Karen lived, and it looked really
boring. London was the place to be, everyone knew
that. London was my place to be.
It. Could. Not. Be. Happening.
‘But you must have some money somewhere,’ I
said.
‘Not any more,’ said Mum.
‘Can’t you borrow some from a bank?’
I wish it was that easy,’ said Dad.
Mum took a deep breath and sat up straight. ‘Come
on. Let’s remember who we are. We’re the Lord
family. We’re survivors. We’ll get through this. Life’s
a rollercoaster, up and down we go. We’re going down
for a while but things will turn around and we’ll be
going up again before you know it.’
Dad sat up straight too. ‘Course we will,’ he said.
‘Things will turn around but, in the meantime, you’ll
have to be a brave girl, Paige. I need you to be strong
and not be too upset about the changes coming.
Change is part of life and you have to embrace it and
go with it or it will destroy you.’
I got the feeling he was talking to himself as well as
me. But it couldn’t really be happening. Something
would make things all right. We couldn’t have lost everything.
Things like this didn’t happen to people like us.
Mum stood up. ‘Would you like a hot drink now,
Paige?’ she asked.
As if that will make everything all right, I thought,
but I nodded anyway. I felt stunned by their news.
Dad got up and left the room.
As I sat there, trying to take in the enormity of
what they had just told me, I felt cold. So, not divorce.
No. This was much, much worse.

Thank you to Cathy Hopkins and her publishers, Simon and Schuster, for inviting me to join the blog tour. my review will follow shortly.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Bizarre Beasts (Deadly 60 Factbook)

Deadly Factbook 5: Bizarre Beasts - Steve Backshall's Deadly Series

Did you know that there is such a thing as a bone-eating snot-flower worm? Or that the secretary bird's kills its prey by stamping on it! Discover the world's most extraordinary creatures in the fifth factbook from BAFTA AWARD-winning, TV Deadly presenter Steve Backshall. Illustrated throughout with full colour photographs and art.

This is the fifth book in a fact filled series of books bought to us by the team behind BBC Earth's Deadly 60 programme. Each factbook concentrates on a specific group of animals - this one looks at Bizarre Beasts, beasts which look bizarre!

The book comprises of seven chapters entitled: Weaky weapons; Freaky foods; Curious camouflage; Deadly defenders; Remarkable hunters; Strange senses; and Bizarre bodies. Each is filled with a number of beasts from the animal world, giving fantastic facts which would add depth to any school project or just improving the knowledge of these creatures to children who love animals or who wants to know everything about the animal kingdom. It includes those facts which will gain those extra marks or could be tie breakers in quizes. There are great photographs throughout.

I received this book from the publishers, Orion Children's Books, in return for an honest review.

Baby Shine (Baby Look) - My first Sparkly Book

Baby Shine - Baby Look

This high-contrast baby board book is packed with baby's first words! Every page has an eye-catching shiny green finish and a simple illustration of one of baby's favourite things.The black and white pages, with a bright colour and shiny green foil, are designed with baby in mind.

This is a fantastic gift for a newborn or young toddler. It is a very sturdy board book which will withstand sucking from youngsters. It is very striking using black, white, blue and green throughout the book. Each page also has foiling on each page. The pictures included within the book are of everyday items which children will enjoy looking at again and again.

This would make a perfect gift for very young children - it would be a great addition to a homemade treasure basket gift for newborn children. 

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

The Scruffy Puppy by Holly Webb

The Scruffy Puppy - Holly Webb Animal Stories 27

A brand new tale in the Animal Stories series from best-selling author Holly Webb, this story is about the true meaning of friendship - and how there's the perfect pup out there for everyone! Bella instantly falls in love with her scruffy puppy Sid when she sees him at the animal shelter. She gets her family to agree that he's the perfect pet for them and she cannot wait to bring him home! But one person is not too impressed with Sid - Bella's friend Megan, who is getting her own pedigree pup. Megan is pretty snooty about Bella's beloved mongrel pet, and she begins to wonder if she's that good a friend after all. Bella decides to enter Sid into a dog show, so she can prove for once and for all that all dogs are brilliant, no matter where they come from! The Scruffy Puppy is the 27th book in Holly Webb's Animal Stories series, a must for animal loving girls and boys aged six to eight years.

Holly Webb writes the best animal stories - this is the 27th book in her Animal Stories series and it is yet another great read for animal loving children. 

Although this is the 27th book in the series, each new story offers something new. This book has a great hidden message - it doesn't matter what anyone/thing looks like, there is more to each person, beauty is not skin deep. Holly does this fantastically, using the animal world to promote positive messages within everyday life.

Bella has a new puppy, when she went to choose a new pet, she didn't choose the run of the mill, cute dog but rather a scruffy little puppy. When she excitedly went to school to share the news of her new puppy she was embarrassed to say anything when her best friend also had news of a new pet, a pedigree puppy. However, Bella continued to love her new pet, taking it to classes and when both she and her best friend entered the dog show, Bella found out that good looks isn't everything, but love and companionship are so much better.

This is a great book for animal loving children, the story is easy to read and perfect for young readers who are gaining confidence in chapter books. The story is accompanied by great pencil sketches by Sophy Williams who I think has captured the adorability of Sid in every illustration.

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

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Chipping Norton Literary Festival (Chiplitfest) 2014 (Photo Heavy)

Chipping Norton Literary Festival

My husband and I went on our first, childfree, weekend away in many years at the end of last month. Destination - Chipping Norton, to their Literary Festival. I have looked at the programmes for lots of literary festivals over the last few years but have not felt able to attend due to ongoing health issues,as I suffer with panic attacks and find it difficult to travel away from home. However, I decided to bit the bullet and after tentatively showing my husband the programme, his words 'well book want you want to see and I will take you', I booked a number of events and started looking for a hotel for the night (after securing a weekend of childcare care of my mum).

Chipping Norton is not too far from Worcester and we were there within an hour. The weather was not ideal, grey and odd heavy showers (my umbrella broke and so husband could be spotted going between venues with a very fetching pink, spotty and frilly umbrella), however the close proximity of the main venues meant we never got very wet.

I have met a number of authors and publicists through social networking, however there is only so much that can be discussed in 140 character tweets or emails.  I was pleased to see that a number of my favourite authors would be attending, although it was  a shame that Penny Vincenzi and Jo Baker were unable to attend.

Our first event was a last minute addition to the calendar - Sir Roger Bannister. This was a very interesting talk which was led by Caroline Sanderson from the Bookseller Non-fiction. The event was sponsored by Send Out Cards who gave each member of the audience a gorgeous gingerbread biscuit. There were many memories discussed during the session and the session ended with questions from the audience, who were listening to every word from Sir Roger Bannister as he reimicised the build up to and that most important race of his life.


The second event for Saturday was Haunting Tales and Citadel with Kate Mosse. The event was led by fellow author Fanny Blake, who we saw alot of over the weekend. The first thing I must say is that Kate Mosse had fantastic shoes on! It was really interesting to hear how she develops her stories, entwining truth and fiction to create her books. The session was held in the town hall which added to the atmosphere. My husband, who does enjoy books, although usually on an audio cd, was also very interested in this session and has added Kate Mosse to the list of authors he must try.


The third session of the day was one of ones I was really looking forward to going to, although I assumed my husband would not enjoy it. Entitled Shoot, Shag, Marry with Fanny Blake, Harriet Evans, Veronica Henry, Janey Fraser the premise was that each author would take a character: Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (Harriet Evans), Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre (Fanny Blake) and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (Janey Fraser), with Veronica Henry as Chair. The event took place in a Methodist Church - which was full to the rafters and filled with laughter and cheer, along with audience participation as each author stated their case for their character. The overall winner was Mr Darcy as the one to marry, with Healthcliff being shot! It was a fantastic event, my husband even said that he enjoyed it, and he was not expecting to, although I do think he had a soft spot for Harriet Evans.






We remained in the Methodist Church for Spies of World War Two with Elizabeth Buchan, Clare Mulley, Jane Thynne, Jason Webster. Another interesting talk about world war spies. I had read only Jane Thynne's book but have already ordered both Jason Webster and Clare Mulley's books and have moved Elizabeth Buchan's up my to read pile on my kindle. There were many examples given of the lengths gone to by spies, especially women, to get secrets across and it really showed how unrespected women were in the world when men were searched for suspected illegal materials but females were waved on with not a second glance. 







The last event of Saturday was The Grand Chippy Literary Quiz hosted by Mark Billingham (a festival patron) - what a laugh. Teams of six were invited to enter the quiz. My husband and I managed to combine with another team, which I think was a good thing as I don't think we would of done any good on our own. The event was sponsored by Hook Norton Brewery who gave participants some welcome liquid refreshments. 
There were a number of rounds: book beginnings, who am I photographs, initial authors, pot luck and the much loved music round - did you know there was a song all about Bilbo Baggins! The quiz ended in a draw between two teams - the Buchaneers with Elizabeth Buchan, Fanny Blake, Veronica Henry, Harriet Evans and two more authors and another team. The winners were able to choose between three gorgeous hampers: a food hamper, a book hamper and a bottle hamper! This was a fantastic night and the festival organiser, Clare Mackintosh, said it had been decided before round one was even complete that this was going to be an annual event. It was a fantastic event and enjoyed by all.


Sunday morning saw an early start, the venue, the Theatre was a beautiful setting for a chat beween Fanny Blake and Nicci French, entitled One Writer: Two Minds with Nicci French. For those of you who don't know, Nicci French is actually a husband and wife team, Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, who work together, but alone, to write fantastic crime fiction. They work together to loosely plot a novel and then one will go away to write chapter one, before emailling it to the other who edits it, returns it and then after it has been agreed, the second author will write chapter two. Fanny Blake was a fantastic host and she delved deeper into this partnership and I really enjoyed listening to how the novels evolve and take shape. This is another author that my husband has shown an interest in reading. Unfortunately I did not manage to get my book signed by this partnership as we had to rush over to the Town Hall for Does Opinion Matter? with Tim Dowling, India Knight, Lucy Mangan, Jane Wenham-Jones.


 Does Opinion Matter? with Tim Dowling, India Knight, Lucy Mangan, Jane Wenham-Jones was the one event where my husband said " Didn't think you would go to that sort of thing". The only reason I can think of is that it was 'journalists', however I really enjoyed the event and he was happy in the corner on Candy Crush! It was a lively discussion listened to by a packed out Town Hall. We had had to rush over from the previous event and it was nearly standing room only, trying to find a spare couple of seats together, in the end I found one in the back row and husband lurked at the back! I am not a Guardian reader but I think after this event I will be - I have missed out on Lucy Mangan and Tim Dowling's columns but they sound very good. I have read a number of India Knight's work and was pleased to be able to hear her writing strategies and daily life within the panel's daily life and their own ways of writing their columns.



Our last event was . In Conversation with India Knight and Gill Hornby with Gill Hornby, India Knight, chaired by Jane Wenham Jones. I have read Gill Hornby's The Hive and have reviewed it on this blog. I did not realise that she was Nick Hornby's sister and married to Robert Harris. I loved the book and thought the rationale behind it was very clever where Gill likened the creation of a hive and the hierarchy of the Queen Bee and her workers to the school playground. It was very interesting to hear about her observations and anecdotes from the school playground and I look forward to her next book about Empty Nest Syndrome.  The event was sponsored by The Chipping Norton Tea Set who provided tea and the most beautiful cakes, all served on bone china tea sets, with gilded handles, making this event a very civilised ending to our festival.



My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our festival weekend, although the accommodation we had organised for the Saturday evening was not what we expected, however this did not spoil our weekend and we are already organising accommodation for next years event which is being held on 23rd-26th April 2015.

Throughout the weekend the shop owners and villagers of Chipping Norton and the team behind the Chipping Norton Literary Festival, fantastically led by Clare Mackintosh, provided a fantastic event. Between events my husband and I wandered around a food market which was held on both days - i must give a shout out to the fantastic brownies that were sold, the raspberry and chocolate ones melted in the mouth. Downstairs in the Town Hall a pop up coffee shop was staffed all weekend, with teas, coffees and home made cakes. I know on Sunday it was hosted by a local primary school (sorry I have forgotten their name) and they provided a gorgeous spread of cakes and soups.  I also enjoyed rumaging in the local charity shops, adding to my book pile, during the gaps within the timetable.

There was also a gang of Yarn Bombers who brightened up Chipping Norton with their bookworms throughout the town as can be seen below:






We also had a three hour gap between events of Sunday and following a disappointing evening meal at our Saturday night accommodation we had a meal at The Chequers in Chipping Norton. This was a gorgeous meal - we both had burgers (I had Lamb and Darron had Venison). The meals were very reasonably priced, cooked fresh and served quickly. The pub also had a range of local beers and there was a great atmosphere. The landlord was very friendly, chatted to us and was able to give us recommendations for next years accommodation and local attractions.

I should also mention the local independent book shop, Jaffa and Neale Bookshop and Cafe who were at every event giving opportunities to buy the author's books and also providing a 'hub' for the festival.

All in all, my husband and I have had a fantastic weekend, one which we will remember for a long time. My husband has found some new authors to try and I met up with many authors who I have chatted to via Twitter and Facebook (thank you to all of you who knew my blog and commented upon it) and also met new authors who I hope to work with in the future and literary agents and publicists.

My husband has already said that we are going again next year and I am looking into booking accomadation and I can't wait until the Autumn when authors will begin to be announced.

This is an honest and impartial review of our weekend at Chipping Norton Literary Festival.

All photographs included have been taken by my husband Darron Broadhurst.

Sealed with a kiss by Rachael Lucas

Sealed with a Kiss


* The Top Ten Kindle bestseller, now with brand NEW material! *

This funny, big-hearted novel is the perfect read for fans of Carole Matthews, Trisha Ashley and Katie Fforde.
Kate is dumped on her best friend's wedding day by the world's most boring boyfriend, Ian. She's mostly cross because he got in first - until she remembers she's now homeless as well as jobless. Rather than move back home to her ultra-bossy mother, Kate takes a job on the remote Scottish island of Auchenmor as an all-round Girl Friday. Her first day is pretty much a disaster: she falls over, smack bang at the feet of her grouchy new boss, Roddy, Laird of the Island. Unimpressed with her townie ways, he makes it clear she's got a lot to prove.

Island life has no room for secrets, but prickly Roddy's keeping something to himself. When his demanding ex-girlfriend appears back on the island, Kate's budding friendship with her new boss comes to an abrupt end. What is Fiona planning - and can she be stopped before it's too late?

I really enjoyed this book - it was a great read, a quick read, and one which transported the reader to a remote Scottish island, where the reader can be lost in its beauty and village life.

Kate was a great character. I think that I could see myself as one of Kate's friend - although I don't think I would want to be the best friend, who's wedding saw Kate end her relationship with Ian! When she upped sticks and moved to Auchenmor, Kate not only left her boyfriend and family but also the hustle and bustle of everyday life. I envy people who can do this, I am too much a family girl and would be lost without family, friends and modern day conveniences.

The story is a true rom com - however, there is more to this book. I loved the love story but there is also one of seal rescue which was adorable. There is a good mix of humour and romance, making it great to add to any holiday luggage - perfect for a beach read or to while away long journeys, transporting its readers to the remote island, Rachael's narrative depicts a beautiful setting with idealic landscapes, in a peaceful location. 

The setting of this book is also very important, a remote Scottish island which has a close community - no one can sneeze in Auchenmor without everyone knowing, and this is important to the story where the village community are often involved in the fate on its members. The characters were also very believable and I would love to live in a close knit community such as this one.

I read the book in two sittings and was left wanting more. I hope that Rachel revisits Kate and Rodderick in a future book as I felt this book was only the beginning of their story.

Thank you to the publishers, Macmillan and Net Galley for sending me the book to review.

Blog Tour - Sealed with a Kiss by Rachael Lucas

Today I am excited to welcome Rachael Lucas to my blog to celebrate the paperback release of her novel 'Sealed with a Kiss'. 

Rachael Lucas is a mother, gardener, coveter of beautiful things, outgoing introvert, reader, bed lover, early morning riser, night owl and a sleep deprived mass of contradictions.

She wrote her first (astoundingly awful) novel at the age of 11, bashing away every night after school on a portable typewriter. It was rejected (very kindly) by a publisher.

Rachael lives by the seaside in the North West of England with her partner, their blended family of six children, a very hairy dog and two and a half cats. She likes listening to BBC Radio 4 and thinking about writing. When she is writing, she hates everything and everyone and doesn't brush her hair.

For more about Rachael, visit her blog at www.rachaellucas.com/ or say hello to her on Twitter, where she can be found talking nonsense under the username @karamina (and if you ask, she'll explain the origin of the slightly odd name).

I was lucky enough to meet Rachael at the recent Chipping Norton Literary Festival (Chiplitfest) and (I feel I must apologise as I first asked if she was Fiona Walker) she is a lovely lady - funny, bubbly and very enthusiastic about the power of bloggers and social networking to promote literary. I did not see her event where she was giving new writers her thoughts on the art of self-publishing but I am sure it was jam packed full of hints, tips and advice.

Anyway, back to the blog tour, in celebration of Rachael's new release, Sealed with a Kiss, where the main character Kate dumps her then partner at her friend's wedding and then up sticks and becomes a Girl Friday for a Scottish landowner, I asked Rachael about her top Rom-Com films: 

Top 5 - 10 Rom-Com films and why you love them

I absolutely adore romantic comedies. I’d love to say I’m the sort of person who likes to sit down and watch a black and white French film about something meaningful, but give me a good old swoonfest any day. I could list tons, but these are my top five…

1.     When Harry Met Sally – It’s perfect. Will they, won’t they? I wanted Sally’s hair when this film came out (and her outfit, which is frankly a bit dodgy looking when I look at it now). But I love their arguing, their shared jokes, the conversations they have on the phone together. I love it when their friends get together and I love it best of all when that New Year’s Eve party happens and they finally kiss. Sigh.

2.    Ten Things I Hate About You – Oh, Heath Ledger. I love this because it’s an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, and I love Shakespeare. I also love it because it’s my favourite kind of love story – they hate each other because they love each other. And I love it because of the song at the end. And now I want to stop writing and watch it…

3.    Bridget Jones. Because I adore Bridget and gorgeous Mark Darcy and it makes me laugh every time, and because I don’t care how unlikely it is that she’d run through the streets in her pants and I know it never snows in London but I DON’T CARE. And if I could I’d add Bridget Jones – The Edge of Reason as my fourth choice, but I think that’s cheating. But I adore it, too.

4.    The Holiday. I’m totally outing myself as a complete girly sop with all these. But I love it. Jack Black is one of my favourite actors and clearly I’m a sucker for a Richard Curtis style snow scene and a totally unrealistic cottage that Kate Winslet can apparently afford on a tiny salary and…oh, I don’t care. Jude Law is sweet in it and there’s a lovely sparkly lights New Year’s Eve ending.

5.    Reality Bites – Showing my age here. I love this one so much because it reminds me of a time when Generation X was the next big thing and we weren’t all grumbling old gits. Ethan Hawke is gorgeous in this and even though I sort of want to throw a bucket of water at Winona Ryder, I still love it. Basically all a film has to do to keep me happy is have a bit of will they/won’t they, a huge snog at the end and a blooming good soundtrack and I’m happy.

I   I thoroughly recommend Sealed with a Kiss and my review will follow later today. It is a fantastic read and I am already loooking forward to Rachael's next release. 

T   Thank you Rachael for visiting my blog today and I hope I get to catch up with you again at a festival soon and I promise I will not mix you up with other authors next time! Thank you also to Pan Macmillan for organising the blog tour.