Challenge Participant


Monday, 26 June 2017

Blog Tour - The Postcard by Fern Britton

The Postcard (Paperback)The new witty and warm novel from the Sunday Times best-selling author and TV presenter, Fern Britton. Secrets. Sisters. The summer that changed everything ...Life in the Cornish village of Pendruggan isn't always picture perfect. Penny Leighton has never told anyone why she's estranged from her mother and sister. For years she's kept her family secrets locked away in her heart, but they've been quietly eating away at her. When an unwelcome visitor blows in, Penny is brought face to face with the past. And a postcard, tucked away in a long-hidden case, holds the truth that could change everything. Young Ella has come back to the place where she spent a happy childhood with her grandmother. Now she's here to search for everything missing in her life. Taken under Penny's broken wing for the summer, the safe haven of Pendruggan feels like the place for a fresh start. Soon, however, Ella starts to wonder if perhaps her real legacy doesn't lie in the past at all.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers 
ISBN: 9780007562992 

I was a big fan of Fern Britton when she burst on to our screens on Ready, Steady, Cook and then when she hosted ITV's This Morning and I remember collapsing with laughter and wiping away tears on numerous occasions as she presented the show and I when she announced she was turning her hand to writing novels I hoped that she would be able to carry her bubbly, but also sensitive manner to this new profession, and I am really pleased to say she has. The Postcard is Fern Britton's seventh novel (she has also written two short stories) and I have really enjoyed all of her novels and The Postcard is one of her best yet.
As with all of Fern's books, The Postcard is set in her favourite county of Cornwall and although I have never been to Cornwall I always feel like I am walking through the lanes and across the beaches along with the characters.  The characters are all fantastic and I really liked the village spirit and camaraderie that is shown throughout the book. I really liked that the main characters was the vicar's wife and that she was not the traditional vicar's wife but one who is modern, not too keen on people constantly visiting the vicarage, wanting to be nosy into their life and expecting her to drop everything for her husband's flock!
I also really liked the support cast, the vicarage new neighbours are brilliant and I really liked the mystery surrounding them when they first arrived but they soon become part of village life.
Although this is a standalone book I would like to revisit the characters and see how Penny and her step sister's relationship has progressed.
This is one of those books that would be great to slip into your holiday luggage to read on the plane or the beach or to sit in the garden on a long summer evening.
Thank you to the publishers, Harper Collins, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and I am already looking forward to what Fern writes next.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Blog Tour - Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby

Pieces of Happiness: A Novel of Friendship, Hope and Chocolate (Hardback)I've planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset. Why don't you join me? Leave behind everything that didn't work out! When recently-widowed Kat writes to her four old school friends, inviting them to live with her on a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific, they swap icy pavements and TV dinners for a tropical breeze and an azure-blue ocean. Leaving behind loneliness, dead-end jobs and marriages that have gone sour, they settle into the Women's House, surrounded by palms and cocoa trees; and locals with the puzzling habit of exploding into laughter for no discernible reason. Each of  the women has her issues to resolve, and secrets to keep. But together the friends find a new purpose, starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness. As they embrace a new culture that views ageing so differently from their own, will they learn to accept and forgive: to discover the value of friendship, and a better way to live?
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd 
I really enjoyed this book - it is one of those books that once finished makes the reader consider their own lives and what is really important to themselves, being thankful for the good times and their nearest and dearest.
It would be a great book to take to the beach this summer and enjoy with the sound of the sea as a backdrop, imagining they are those from Fiji and not from good old Blackpool or Weston Super Mare.

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

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Blog Tour - My Summer of Magic Moments by Caroline Roberts

Today I am very pleased to kick off the blog tour for Caroline Roberts new release, My Summer of Magic Moments.

My Summer of Magic Moments: Uplifting and Romantic - The Perfect, Feel Good Holiday Read! (Paperback)
'A delightful, life affirming story. I wanted to retreat to a cottage by the sea after the first chapter!' Ali McNamara When a seaside escape spells a little romance ...Claire is ready for a bright new chapter. Winding her way to the coast for a cosy cottage retreat, she prays that three weeks of blissful peace and summer sunshine will wash away the pain of the last year. Claire's a survivor - she's growing proud of the scars that prove it - and she's determined to make the most of each and every day, to seize those little magic moments that give life its sparkle. Her plan for peaceful solitude goes awry when handsome, brooding Ed turns up in the cottage next door. Will a little summer romance prove the worst distraction? Or might it be the perfect remedy? A gorgeous, heartwarming novel to make your heart soar from the author of The Cosy Teashop in the Castle.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers 
ISBN: 9780008236274 

I am very pleased to welcome Caroline to my blog where she has answered some questions about her magic moments.
If you had to pick one for this summer, what would you hope for the perfect ‘magic moment’?

My daughter gets married this summer, so I hope the day works out beautifully for them both and for all of our family and friends.

What’s the best piece of advice you've ever been given as an author?

Can I have two?

One: ‘Don’t get it right get it written’ – stop procrastinating or wanting your writing to be perfect especially at the first draft, just get the story down and keep going until the end. You can always edit later.

Two: Perseverance – especially for the submission process. If you really want to get published, it can take a long time and it can be hard facing the rejections (and there might be many!) as you will have put your heart and soul and many hours into your writing. Just keep learning, keep writing and keep trying. It is really difficult to find a publisher for most authors. It can be tough on you emotionally, but keep going, write what you love and are passionate about and don’t give up!

What do you enjoy most and least about being an author?

Most – creating these wonderful imaginary worlds and getting to know my characters.  Also, it’s just wonderful knowing that readers enjoy my stories too.

Least – marketing and publicity. Most writers aren’t naturally good at blowing their own trumpets or thinking about their books in a business-like way, they just want to write them, but it’s a necessary part of being a published writer these days. Having support from book bloggers, readers and reviewers is really great though.

What genre of books do you mostly read? And do you read anyone else while you’re writing your own books?

I have read widely in the past having taken an English Literature degree, but nowadays I mostly read contemporary women’s fiction. I really enjoy stories about relationships.
I do read whilst I write, usually in bed at night, but I try not to read anything too similar to my current themes, plot or setting, especially when I’m on the first draft stage.

Who are your favourite authors writing today?

I really like Jo Jo Moyes, David Nicholls, Khaleid Homeini, Rowan Coleman, Maggie O’Farrell, Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’, Helen Dunmore. I would love to read more, but time is an issue when I’m busy writing myself.

Thank you to Caroline for joining me on the blog today. I really enjoyed reading My Summer of Magic  Moment definitely deserved a break after her breast cancer journey and the recent breakdown of her marriage and the imminent sale of the marital home. The cottage sounded the perfect place to forget about daily life and enjoy the peace and quiet of the seaside - I must admit I would love to see the mysterious neighbour's early morning skinny dip each day!

The book was a great read and I really enjoyed it. It is a cosy read which is perfect for a summer holiday but as the story progresses the story gathers pace and when I was halfway through I thought I was going to be disappointed with the outcome, however I can safely say, that I was very pleased with the ending.

Each chapter begins with a magic moment and I found myself smiling as I started each new one. I really like Caroline's writing style. Her descriptive writing brought the village to life and there are some great characters within the story.

This story is going to touch many people and I am sure there are lots of Claire's within the world, who have or are fighting cancer and I think that Claire is a strong role model that people will relate to.

Thank you to the publishers, Harper Collins, and Caroline Roberts for inviting me on to this tour and I am very excited to be kicking the tour off.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Blog Tour - Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham is one of my very favourite crime authors and his latest release, Love Like Blood, sees his books just getting better and better. It is a definite must for crime lovers this summer.

Love Like Blood - Tom Thorne Novels 14 (Hardback)A BLOODY MESSAGE As DI Nicola Tanner investigates what appears to be a series of organised killings, her partner Susan is brutally murdered, leaving the detective bereft, and vengeful. A POWERFUL ALLY Taken off the case, Tanner enlists the help of DI Tom Thorne to pursue a pair of ruthless killers and the broker handing out the deadly contracts. A CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE As the killers target their latest victim, Thorne takes the biggest risk of his career and is drawn into a horrifying and disturbing world in which families will do anything to protect their honour. From number one bestseller Mark Billingham comes a masterful, intense crime novel that pits DI Tom Thorne against an evil beyond comprehension, yet shockingly real.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group 
ISBN: 9780751566888 

Mark Billingham's books feature the very popular DI Tom Thorne and this is the fourteenth book in the series. Die hard fans will have read all of them, however new readers will be able to pick up this book and delve straight in and be in awe of DI Tom Thorne.
Tom Thorne is reunited with DI Nicola Tanner, who he met in Die of Shame as she is trying to find out who killed her lover, who she believes was killed instead of herself, due to becoming too close to solving a crime. 
The storyline is brilliant and as with Mark's earlier book, the reader is lead on a trial which sees Thorne get deeper and deeper into the case, which is at times tough, as it involves honour killing across the religions where the modern world overtakes past beliefs. There is lots of great content and it gives the reader an insight into these homes where the younger generation are determined to make their own choices and not agree to those of their parents.
As with all of Mark's books, the reader makes many decisions about who is behind it all and what they believe to have happened but Mark always leaves a big surprise to the end and I was definitely not expecting this one!
Love Like Blood is definitely Mark Billingham's best book yet and I hope my blog readers enjoy it as much as I have.
Thank you to the author and Little Brown for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Blog Tour - Obsession by Amanda Robson

Today I am pleased to welcome Amanda Robson to my blog as part of The Obsession blog tour where I can share an extract from the book with my readers:

I’m FaceTiming you, Craig, because I’m missing you. I’m missing your comfortable arms around me. Missing the feel of you. The heat of you. I am not FaceTiming Luke and Mark because seeing me may unsettle them when they seem to be doing so well with you.

Your smiling face appears in front of me – a ‘beam me up, Scotty’ moment – a miracle too futuristic to be real. But it is real. You are smiling up at me from my iPad as if you were in the room. For a second I think I can smell the hard-edged scent of your favourite aftershave. It’s there for a second and then gone.

‘How’s it going?’ you ask, your face crumpling in concern.

‘She had a good day today,’ I say, trying to sound bright, trying to smile, wanting to let you know I’m not going to drag you down. That I can cope.

What I’ve told you is true; she has had a better day. But better is a comparative term. Still she has slept almost incessantly, like a small baby bird, bony and vulnerable, her Egyptian cotton bed sheets her nest. Still she hasn’t eaten, even though I tried to force a gel pack of sugary nutrients between her teeth. Still her chest wheezes like wind in the trees. But today, at least, morphine has contained her pain.

‘How are the boys?’ I ask.

‘Fine.’ You pause, watching me watching you. ‘Honestly,’ you add as if I might think you were lying.

Thank you to Amanda and the publishers, Avon, for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Blog Tour - Want You Gone by Chris Brookmyre

I first met Chris Brookmyre twelve months ago at Chiplitfest, when I am unsure if his worried and vacant look was relating to my questions about his social media presence and use of blog tours t promote his latest book or if he was still looking for the answers to Saturday nights main event of Chipping Norton Literary Festival, Mark Billingham's Saturday Chiplit Quiz where the infamous picture and music rounds always leave people dumbfounded as they try and decide just who that famous author is or which author also has a secret profession as a song writer or singer. Chris was unsure what a blog tour was or how to organise one so I was really pleased when Grace Vincent, Little, Brown Book Group's Publicity Manager invited me to take part to celebrate the publication of Want You Gone, Chris' latest release.

Want You Gone - Jack Parlabane 3 (Hardback)What if all your secrets were put online? Sam Morpeth is growing up way too fast, left to fend for a younger sister with learning difficulties when their mother goes to prison and watching her dreams of university evaporate. But Sam learns what it is to be truly powerless when a stranger begins to blackmail her online, drawing her into a trap she may not escape alive. Who would you turn to? Meanwhile, reporter Jack Parlabane has finally got his career back on track, but his success has left him indebted to a volatile source on the wrong side of the law. Now that debt is being called in, and it could cost him everything. What would you be capable of? Thrown together by a mutual enemy, Sam and Jack are about to discover they have more in common than they realise - and might be each other's only hope.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781408707173

Want You Gone is from the popular Jack Parlabane series, although if this is the first book you have read by Chris, it is a great introduction to Jack and his world. However if you have read and enjoyed the previous two novels I believe that you will enjoy this book as Chris grows in confidence and his writing style matures as he reintroduces characters from earlier novels back into his story. 
I was filling out a survey earlier today which was about another crime writer and one of the questions was about if the writing, plot line, characters and story were relateble and as I was thinking about it I realised that that perfectly describes Chris Brookmyre's books. There are many moments within the book that could happen to the reader or to their friends and family - one moment that springs to mind is after a burglary, during which a television is stolen and within the family, a little girl with additional needs has a moment because she can't watch her DVD's during her daytime routine - how many writers would include such a well thought out detail in their books? Chris Brookmyre has and it describes the situation perfectly and I really felt for the little girl and her family, victims of crime have to deal with so much and this is one of those effects that no one thinks about, unless they have a child with additional needs. 
There are computer hackers and financial fraud but also, on the other side, the benefits system and how it can go wrong as the reality of living within this system hits those hardest. I really liked the partnership and interaction between Jack and Samantha and the rollercoaster that they ride throughout this book is one that I wouldn't like to try but they are fantastic characters and I loved following them as the twists and turns are throughout and leave you on tenterhooks to the very last page.
I really did enjoy this book and I hope that my blog readers will give Chris Brookmyre a try. I hope that Chris enjoyed visiting my blog today and has enjoyed the blog tour experience.

Thank you to the publishers, for inviting me to take part in the blog tour in return for an honest review of the book. 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Blog Tour - The Woman who met her Match by Fiona Gibson

The Woman Who Met Her Match: A Funny Romantic Comedy That Will Make You Laugh Out Loud! (Paperback)What if your first love came back on the scene ...30 years later? After yet another disaster, Lorrie is calling time on online dating. She might be single in her forties, but she's got a good job, wonderful children and she's happy. This, Lorrie decides, is going to have to be enough. That is, until she receives a very unexpected request from France. Antoine Rousseau, who had once turned a lonely French exchange trip into a summer of romance, wants to see her - after thirty years. But Lorrie is a responsible woman. She can't exactly run off to Nice with the man who broke her teenage heart ...can she? A wonderfully funny novel, perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Joanna Bolouri and Milly Johnson.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008157029

Chick lit fan for the (slightly) older lady. Perfect for ladies aged in their 40's who want a light and fun read with a reminder of love from years gone by and the oppurtunity to rekindle in later life but will there be a happy ever after ending?
A perfect book to slip into holiday luggage and enjoy while lazing around the pool or on the beach. I enjoy Fiona Gibson's writing style - an easy read which is littered with Fiona's fantastic dry humour. The story covers many issues which are faced by women everyday including grief, bringing up children as a lone parent, the dynamics within a family and the strong bonds within. There is also the oppurtunity for second chances while also reliving memories from ones younger years. 
I must say a big thank you to the author, Fiona Gibson, who hand drew the gorgeous blog tour poster shown at the top of this post, it is fantastic and I feel honoured to be a part of her beautiful work.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Blog Tour - The Wild Air by Rebecca Macsull

The Wild Air (Hardback)In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed. When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother's aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her. But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything - and everyone - Della loves.Uplifting and page-turning, THE WILD AIR is a story about love, loss and following your dreams against all odds.
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
ISBN: 9781473604438

I have always been a fan of Rebecca Mascull's books and I know that I am in for a good read with scenes where I get lost in the moment and The Wild Air, Rebecca's third novel, again transported me to Edwardian England where planes are taking the world by storm and there are, of course, mixed feelings about these new machines. The Great War is approaching and female pilots are increasing in number. 
I really enjoy Rebecca's writing style and as I previously said, I was transported into Edwardian England and I found myself liking the characters within this book. I really liked the characters of Adeliza, Della and Dawnay and enjoyed their wit along with their flamboyant style of speech. 
I think this book is a great tribute to the world's first female pilot and I am in real awe of the ladies who made this possible.

Thank you to the publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Blog Tour - The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars are Fire (Hardback)The brilliantly gripping new novel from the New York Times best-selling author of The Pilot's Wife (an Oprah's Book Club selection). Hot breath on Grace's face. Claire is screaming, and Grace is on her feet. As she lifts her daughter, a wall of fire fills the window. Perhaps a quarter of a mile back, if even that. Where's Gene? Didn't he come home? 1947. Fires are racing along the coast of Maine after a summer-long drought, ravaging thousands of acres, causing unprecedented confusion and fear. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her difficult and unpredictable husband Gene joins the volunteers fighting to bring the fire under control. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, the women watch in horror as their houses go up in flames, then walk into the ocean as a last resort. They spend the night frantically trying to save their children. When dawn comes, they have miraculously survived, but their lives are forever changed: homeless, penniless, and left to face an uncertain future. As Grace awaits news of her husband's fate, she is thrust into a new world in which she must make a life on her own, beginning with absolutely nothing; she must find work, a home, a way to provide for her children. In the midst of devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms - joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain - and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens, and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781408702987
This is the first Anita Shreve I have read in some time and it is definitely not going to be my last. I was drawn in to the story from the very start. I really liked Anita's style of writing, it is very atmospheric and I found myself living through the drought, snow and the fire. I really enjoyed reading about the style of living on the US coastline during 1947 and the dynamics within the families. It was a time where men went out to work and women stayed at home looking after the children and keeping house, however I think that life in America was different to that within postwar UK.

 I felt the story had a strong storyline, with characters who I sympathised with and I really felt for Claire, two young children and then pregnant with a third, which was conceived in violent circumstances. It is evident from the start that family life was not a happy place with Gene marrying Claire after loosing the love of his life. 

After the fire, life changes for the neighbourhood and while Gene is lost Claire has the oppurtunity to stand up and make things better for her family. The mysterious pianist who Claire finds squatting in the home previously owned by her mother in law, is the sunshine in her life for a short time but when he leaves Claire continues to work hard and gains independence making a better life for her and her family. However this is short lived when the police turn up on her doorstep and Claire's fortunes change again and a difficult decision must be made.

I really enjoyed the story and I think that although the story is set in 1947 and in America it is still relevant today. Women across the world are living in fear, with husbands who take charge or monopolise their families, leaving women and children living in daily fear (of course many men are also living in abusive relationships), however stories like this show that these relationships can be escaped and people can have a life after their fear. 

I think this is one of those books that could give many of its readers a positive message that things can improve and I hope that it is a book that is shared because it it a great story but also one that can give hope,

Thank you to the publishers, Little Brown, for inviting me onto this book tour in return for an honest review. 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Blog Tour - The Beachside Flower Stall by Karen Clarke

The Beachside Flower Stall: A Feel Good Romance to Make You Laugh Out Loud - Beachside Bay 2 (Paperback)Carrie Dashwood fled Dorset ten years ago when her best friend Megan stole her love, local heartthrob Tom. Now she’s back to help run her aunt Ruby’s flower stall in idyllic Shipley. 

Trying to persuade herself that her feelings for Tom are in the past, Carrie plans to avoid him and Megan completely. But it’s not to be, because Ruby’s Blooms are arranging the flowers for Megan and Tom’s wedding. 

Soon Carrie’s crawling under the stall to hide and accidentally inventing an imaginary boyfriend... But with the stall’s finances in jeopardy and Ruby needing her niece more than ever, Carrie has to keep her emotions in check.

With bouquets to arrange, family secrets to uncover, and Tom unavoidably a part of her life again, can Carrie keep her cool, save the stall, and find her very own happy ever after?

Publisher: Bookouture
ISBN: 9781786811578

The Beachside Flower Stall is a return to Shipley, the second installment in the the Beachside Bay series. The book contains a whole new cast of characters although a few favourites from The Beachside Sweet Shop pop up too.

I really enjoyed The Beachside Sweet Shop and was looking forward to the second book, although unfortunately this book didn't grab me as quickly. However, I did enjoy the story as it got going, particularly as the meaning behind individual flowers were entwined into the story, reiminscent of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers.  There are a number of storylines throughout the book but I really enjoyed Ruby's story which was a heartwarming storyline.

There were also a number of times during the book when Karen Clarke's humour shone through and I found myself laughing out loud. 

The book can be read as a standalone novel, however it is the second visit to the beachside town of Shipley and the series is introducing the reader to a great cast of characters who I hope to meet up with again soon.  Karen Clarke has created a great setting and I look forward to returning again soon.

Thank you to the publishers, Bookouture, for inviting me to take part on this blog tour in return for an honest review. 

Friday, 14 April 2017

One Happy Tiger by Catherine Rayner

One Happy Tiger (Board book)

"Catherine Rayner has the marvellous gift for capturing the souls of animals in a few, rich washes of colour." - The Daily Telegraph. Help your toddler learn to count from one to ten with this stylish counting book from Catherine Rayner. The simple text gently touches on themes of happiness, friendship and the natural world, making it the perfect companion to the classic picture book, Augustus and His Smile. With sturdy board pages for little hands to turn, this beautiful tall-format board book encourages your child to practise their first numbers and develop their counting skills - and it's a wonderful gift for babies and toddlers too.
Publisher: Little Tiger Press Group
ISBN: 9781848692343

Catherine Rayner is a fabulous illustrator and one of my favourite books by her is Abigail, about a giraffe who is teaching others to count, and I often read this book at storytime with children.  
One Happy Tiger is about a tiger and is again a book about counting. Catherine has illustrated this book with her stunning illustrations which all feature a tiger, who is beautiful, striking and friendly and are accompanied by butterflies, insects and fish. I would love to have some of Catherine Rayner's artwork on my wall but I love having the books to hand to look through until such a time.
The book is toddler friendly with a sturdy board cover and thick pages for those small hands to enjoy.
Thank you to the publishers, Little Tiger, for sending me the book to review. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Blog Tour - The Secrets of Ivy Garden by Catherine Ferguson

Today I am pleased to welcome Catherine Ferguson to my blog as part of her blog tour to celebrate the ebook pubilication of her new book, The Secrets of Ivy Garden.

The Secrets of Ivy Garden (Paperback)

The ebook bestseller is back with her next hilarious read - a fun, fresh tale of love, friendship and family secrets...When Holly breaks up with her boyfriend Dean, she's at a loss as to what to do next. But things go from bad to worse when her beloved grandmother Ivy dies - and Holly is left in charge of sorting out Ivy's house and garden. As she sorts through her grandmother's belongings and makes her way through the wilderness outside, Holly soon finds that there is more to Ivy than meets the eye, and uncovers a surprising family secret that changes everything...This is a heart-warming and hilarious story from Catherine Ferguson about starting over, learning to garden and most of all learning to love.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780008253356

The publishers have kindly shared with me and my blog readers an extract from the book which I hope you all enjoy .....
I want Ivy so much right now, I feel as if my heart will break.

Last time I saw her, she was waving me off on the train back to Manchester.

I remember thinking how elegant she was that day. Normally, Ivy lived in casual trousers and tops. Life was too short, she said, for feeling like a trussed-up goose in the name of fashion. But she’d taken me for an early supper at a nearby pub before driving me to the station in Stroud, which was why she was all dressed up. Right then, on that station platform, she could have passed for a woman in her late fifties. Hard to believe she was seventy-two.

Actually, the way I usually remember her now is in the old gardening garb she used to wear, or in her hiking gear, fresh from walking in the country lanes around Appleton.

A painful lump wedges in my throat.

This is how it happens. I’ll just be starting to think I’m doing okay, coping well, beginning to make plans – then boom! The thought that I’ll never be able to see Ivy or hug her ever again sends a flood of grief washing through me.

Hot tears prick my eyelids. The nails-in-palms trick isn’t working. Then something Ivy used to say zips into my mind: Worry’s like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.

I swallow hard, picturing her giving me one of her no-nonsense pep talks. It’s almost as if she’s sitting right here next to me, a twinkle in her eyes, on the bench in her beloved Ivy Garden. Telling me not to worry because things are never as bad as they seem and I’ll figure it out somehow.

Of course! That’s where I need to be.

Ivy Garden.

Her favourite place in the whole world.

With my eyes still closed, I picture Ivy Garden the last time I saw it, on that final weekend I spent with her.

It was a hot August day. We wandered over the road and squeezed through the gap in the hedge, to the dappled woodland clearing that, over the years, Ivy had transformed into a sanctuary of peace and tranquillity.

She discovered the place years ago, when she was newly married to Peter, my granddad. He died long before I was born, when my mum was only three years old. Ivy never talked about Peter much, except to say he was ‘a good man’. She said that a lot whenever I asked her what he was like, so I still only had a rather hazy impression of him. He was a self-employed accountant and I got the impression he worked really hard. I think Ivy liked to escape the house and leave him in peace with his calculations. More than once, I heard her say laughingly that her ‘secret garden’ had kept her sane during her marriage.

The clearing in the trees was on public land, on the edge of a wood, and Ivy nurtured it into a lovely woodland garden. She planted shrubs, flowers and grasses for every season, so there was a rolling show of colour all year round, from the banks of snow­drops and crocuses as the frosts of winter melted into spring, to the glorious russets of autumn. Many of the villagers knew about the garden and would pop in for a chat while she worked. She often lounged on the old wooden bench reading the blood-curdling thrillers she loved, her feet up, with an old cushion at her back. She never seemed to mind being interrupted.

Someone once referred to it as ‘Ivy Garden’ and the name stuck.

We were there that blisteringly hot afternoon to pick lavender so that Ivy could make her perfumed drawer sachets to sell at the Appleton summer fete. She would run up the tiny white muslin bags on her old sewing machine and then fill them with the evocatively scented dried herb, tying them up with silky pink ribbon. The proceeds would be donated to the village hall commu­nity fund.
After we picked the lavender that day, she set her old gardening trug on the mossy ground and we sank on to the wooden bench under the dappled shade of an oak tree, and drank chilled pear cider straight from the bottle. It was a relief to be out of the sweltering sun and we lingered there a long time, soaking up the birdsong and the buzz of nature, as Ivy Garden weaved its magic around us.

I am currently reading The Secrets of Ivy Garden and am loving it. It is the perfect book to read this spring time and I am loving the descriptive writing of Ivy Garden and wish I could visit it as I think it is the perfect place to sit for a day, in the sun, and read a book and enjoy the peace, quiet and the wildlife and insects that are in the surrounding gardens. 

Thank you to the publishers. Avon, and Catherine for inviting me onto the tour and I will publish my review as soon as i finish the book.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Blog Tour - Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses by Carole Matthews

paperhearts_blog poster copy
Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses (Paperback)'A gorgeous novel that will delight' Katie Fforde A heart-warming and poignant novel of romance, family and second chances, Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses is Sunday Times bestselling Carole Matthews at her outstanding best. Perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Milly Johnson. Christie Chapman is a single mum who spends her days commuting to her secretarial job in London and looking after her teenage son, Finn. It's not an easy life but Christie finds comfort in her love of crafting, and spends her spare time working on her beautiful creations. From intricately designed cards to personalised gifts, Christie's flair for the handmade knows no bounds and it's not long before opportunity comes knocking. Christie can see a future full of hope and possibility for her and Finn - and if the handsome Max is to be believed, one full of love too. It's all there for the taking. And then, all of sudden, her world is turned upside down. Christie knows that something has to give, but can she really give up her dreams and the chance of real love? Will Christie find her happy ending in ...Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses.

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9780751560268
Carole Matthews is one of my all time favourite authors and I often recommend her titles to my friends and unsuspecting shoppers in the book aisles and 'Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses' is, in my opinion, one of my top Carole Matthew's novels (along with The Chocolate Lovers series). 
'Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses' is also about another of my favourite pastimes, papercrafting and is based loosely upon the real life story of Christine Emerson, a single parent with an ill child, who is given the oppurtunity of a lifetime and a way to earn a living while continuing with a hobby that she loves. 
Although I had heard about Christine Emerson before this book and loved her work and have watched her on one of the Craft Shopping channels, I really enjoyed the story and it is a great fiction story even if the reader knew nothing about the lady behind the story. The story has a great character list and there is a lovely love story within as well as a strong woman who has as the saying goes, been dealt lemons, but she definitely makes lemonade and does the best thing she can for both herself and her family. 
I really liked the character of Finn, Chrissie's teenage son who is ill, but he is also a strong character who develops throughout the story and encourages his mother to follow her dreams and takes steps to make things happen.
I hope this book introduces lots more new readers to Carole Matthews and also encourages lots of readers to take a step into the papercrafting world. I know that Carole has developed a love for papercrafting and I hope others do too. I really enjoyed reading the book and felt lucky that I could visualise the contents of the boxes of goodies that arrived at Chrissie's house however it is definitely not a necessity of enjoying the book, although if you are a fellow crafter, it may add a few things to your shopping basket. 
Thank you to Carole Matthews and the publishers, Little Brown, for inviting me to be part of the blog tour in return for an honest review of this (fabulous) book. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Blog Tour - Murder on the Pilgrims Way by Julie Wassmer.

Murder on the Pilgrims Way - Whitstable Pearl Mysteries 4 (Paperback)Pearl receives a surprise present from her mother, Dolly - an early summer break at a riverside manor house that has been recently transformed into an exclusive hotel - the newly named Villa Pellegrini. Pellegrini - the Italian word for pilgrims - reflects the fact that the building lies on the old Pilgrims Way into Canterbury, and Pearl is looking forward to the break, not least because DCI Mike McGuire has been neglecting her due to his work. But when she discovers that she's actually booked in for a cookery course from the Italian celebrity chef, Nico Caruso, she begins to think again ...Pearl doesn't welcome instruction on cookery at the best of times, and certainly not from an arrogant chef like Caruso. She goes along, intent on challenging Caruso's egotism - and a long tradition of men dominating gastronomy - but soon finds herself distracted, not only by her enchanting surroundings but by the disparate selection of guests. She even begins to enjoy Caruso's attentions - and his cookery - until one of the guests goes missing and it becomes clear that murder is on the menu.
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781472124920

Murder on the Pilgrims Way is the latest book in the popular Whitstable Pearl Mystery series and it is a return to the cosy crime genre I enjoy. It is easy to relax and curl up with this book and loose oneself in the book for an entire weekend. Set in Kent, it invites readers into a riverside manor which has recently been refurbished into a posh hotel and it is here that a hotel guest goes missing.
I do not want to go into detail of the story line as I think that one of the best things about this Whitstable Pearl Mystery series is that Wassmer is a fantastic story teller who keeps the reader guessing until the very end, while also providing a story with a great cast of characters. 

Thank you to the publishers, Little Brown, for sending me the book to review and for inviting me to take part in the tour.

Blog Tour - My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal

My Name is Leon (Paperback)**A TIMES and INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER** **SHORTLISTED FOR THE COSTA FIRST NOVEL AWARD 2016** A brother chosen. A brother left behind. And a family where you'd least expect to find one. Leon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to give Jake to strangers. Since Jake is white and Leon is not. As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile - like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum. Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a heart-breaking story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how - just when we least expect it - we manage to find our way home.
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
ISBN: 9780241973387

'My Name is Leon' is one of those books that once read, are never forgotten. It is a beautifully written book which is all about Leon, an nine year old boy who, along with his baby brother, is fostered out, after his mum has an emotional breakdown. Leon has always been the main carer for his brother, and when Social Services decide that it is better for the brothers to be separated, finds it difficult to accept that he is a boy who should be looked after himself. The book is a great insight into the mind of a young boy who looses everything important to him, including his prized possessions of the Action Man figures he received as a present, his young brother and his mother who, although he should of felt resentment towards her for not looking after them both, was worried about her. It is also a great piece of social history, with the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, the riots and also the issues of being an Afro-Carribean person living in Great Britain during the time.
The story is told by nine year old Leon and his childish view of the world is a very clever way to tell this story. The things that are important to Leon, his Action Men figures, Curly Wurlys, the one photograph of his young brother are throughout the story and added to the freedom Leon has through the bike his Social Worker gifts to Leon all give a small insight to how Leon is feeling and what he feels unable to express through his conversations with others.

This is a relatively short book, however it is a very thought provoking story which I am sure would be perfect as a book group read. There are many issues and themes which lend themselves to in depth conversations between fellow readers. The book also gives an insight into the fostering and adoption process and gave me much to think about in relation to the issues concerning this.

I recommend this book to anyone who wants a book that stays with them long after they have read the last paragraph, however I do recommend that you have some tissues to hand as there are a few heart breaking moments within the book. 

Kit De Waal, the author is taking part in the Unbroken Voices panel event at Chipping Norton Literary Festival on Saturday 29th April 2017. I usually attend this festival and was looking forward to meeting Kit, but am now unable to visit the festival. I hope some of my blog visitors can make the festival - it is a great weekend.

Thank you to the publishers, Penguin, for sending me the book to review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour to celebrate the paperback publication of My Name is Leon.