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Laura Bambrey Books

It's all about the books... News. Reviews. Interviews

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Review: The Legacy of Lucy Harte by Emma Heatherington


Don't you love it when you open the cover of a book and are instantly grabbed by an author? I found this with Emma Heatherington. Her story-telling is completely unapologetic, her tone blunt and her characters far from perfect. I was instantly mesmerised.

Maggie’s life has taken a turn for the worse. Everything seems to be crumbing around her and she’s really not dealing with it well. The thing with Maggie is, her time is very precious. 18 years ago, she received a new lease of life in the shape of a donor heart. The problem is- her time with her second-hand heart is limited and incredibly precious- and here it is trickling away from her.

Maggie has always felt tied to the little girl whose heart she now has. Lucy Harte gave her a second
chance. Now, Lucy gives Maggie another gift- and another chance to save her life.

The thing that I loved most about this book is that it is far from sugar-coated. Dealing with grief, loss, guilt, love and death- it packs a huge emotional punch whilst keeping the story incredibly real.

This is the second book about organ donation I’ve read over the last month- the other being Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray (review here) and both have opened my eyes to different elements of the process. Instructions dealt with the waiting game for the op and the emotion directly after transplant. The Legacy of Lucy Harte deals with the emotions that remain years after the operation has taken place, the lasting effects it can have on a family unit and, of course, the fact that a transplant isn’t a long-term solution in the sense that there is still a limited time with your new organ even if the operation is successful. I had no idea about this.

So what you have here is a strong, gripping story about a lovable character who has lost her way, but with the help of friends, family, strangers and her guardian angel- she finds her way back to life. And the ending is perfect. Again, very real, raw and full of emotion.

Hugely life-affirming, this is a book that makes you want to grab life by the balls.

Grab your copy here:

Paperback:                  Kindle:
   

The Blurb:
'Sometimes time is all we have with the people we love. I ask you to slow down in life. To take your time, but don’t waste it….’

Maggie O'Hara knows better than most that life can change in a heartbeat. Eighteen years ago she was given the most precious gift- a second-hand heart, and a second chance at life.

Always thankful, Maggie has never forgotten Lucy Harte – the little girl who saved her life. But as Maggie's own life begins to fall apart, and her heart is broken in love, she loses sight of everything she has to live for…

Until an unexpected letter changes Maggie’s life.

It seems Lucy's final gift to Maggie is much more than the heart that beats inside her. It's a legacy that Maggie must learn to live by, a promise to live, laugh, fall in love and heal her broken heart for good.

Because as the keeper of a borrowed heart, Maggie's time is more precious than most. She must make every cherished second count…

Monday, 30 January 2017

Book and a Biscuit: My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella


#amreading:

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella - will be published by Bantam Press on the 9th February. Sophie Kinsella is one of my all time favourites- so huge thanks to the publishers for sending me this advance copy!

Tea:

Darjeeling First Flush by The Tea Experience. Strong but somehow subtle at the same time... just like the perfect man ;)

Biscuit:

Sorry guys- I'm on a major health-kick this week, so you'll just have to join me in a tasty apple treat!

Friday, 27 January 2017

Book and a Biscuit: The Farm at the Edge of the World by Sarah Vaughan


#amreading:


Tea:

A good, strong mug of PG Tips. Because sometimes (especially at the start of a long-weekend off of work!) it's just what the doctor ordered.

Biscuit:

And the doctor also said that I simply HAD to have a couple of Bourbon biscuits to soak up the tea :)

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Weekly Series: Doomed Date Diaries: Part 8


Part 8

Doomed Date Diaries

16. Ben


'What I'm looking for is a really good kisser,' Ben said as he sipped his mineral water. No ice. No lime. A spotlessly clean glass.
'Uh huh,' I said. It was certainly a unique opener.
 
At first I didn't get it. 'You're a what?'
'A lip model,' he said- with a truly dazzling smile.
I could feel the backs of my eyeballs frying, but I was none the wiser. 'A what?'
'I do lip shots. Toothpaste ads. Magazine stuff. You know.'
I didn't.
'Then there's the occasional stand-in lip-work for some of Hollywood's finest.'
'Really?' I spluttered.
'Yeah,' he said. 'And that's been the problem. For the last five years I've been contractually obliged to avoid tea, coffee, red wine or anything else that might damage my teeth or lips. Especially kissing.'
At that moment I felt certain that the Croatian Cabernet Sauvignon I was drinking had probably turned my tongue navy blue.
'That's terrible,' I said.
Ben shrugged. 'It wasn't so bad. I knew it wouldn't last forever. There's always a new pair of lips coming along- younger, fuller, firmer. It was just a matter of time before the work started to dry up. Now I get to find out what I've been missing.'
Ben looked at me expectantly.
I swallowed hard. 'Oh, I said. 'You want to kiss me?'
'Yes,' he said.
'What- right now?' I said.
'Yes,' he said.
'Shouldn't we wait until later?'
'We could. But let's just call it a test drive. Would you mind?'
'No. Not at all.' I said.
So we kissed. It was nice. Very nice in fact. I'd only known Ben for a few minutes but there was certainly a hint of toe-curling in there- well, for me at least. He had great lips. Somehow they felt like virgin territory- like the Wild West.
'Pretty good,' he said.
I didn't know whether to be flattered or offended. I kind of guessed he was looking for something better after five years of abstinence.
'So what are you going to do now?' I asked, attempting to change the subject.
'I'm moving onto butts,' he said.
'Butts?' I said.
'Yeah. There's loads of money in butt modeling. I've been working out. Getting my rear in gear.'
I was kind of hoping he'd let me take his behind for a test drive too. But no such luck. A girl can dream though, right?

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan


There are those rare moments in life when a book comes along that feels like it has been written especially for you. Every nuance, character and tiny quirk chimes somewhere deep inside your heart- making the story soar. For me, this is that book.

What I’m about to say is pretty momentous for any book-lover- (without wanting to upset any of my other much loved books)- I have found my new all-time favourite.

Ageing writer Anthony Peardew has been trying to atone for a mistake he made years ago. Every single item he finds and meticulously catalogues is an apology for his broken promise. Now, aware that his time is coming to an end and the importance of the endless task he has created with his collection of lost objects, he appoints his successor as The Keeper of Lost Things.

Laura has been disappointed with many things in life- but her work at Padua as Anthony Peardew’s assistant has never been one of them. When he leaves Padua to her, it saves her, but the task that comes with the bequest threatens to overwhelm her… as does the scent of roses, her new friendship with Sunshine, the music, and the gardener…

So, what made this such a special book? Everything! The cast of characters is incredible- very real,
complex, flawed and loveable. I adored the relationship between Bomber and Eunice- possibly one of the most moving love stories I’ve ever read. Sunshine was a brilliant character- beautifully written and offering a completely fresh perspective on the story (and life). And Laura… well you can’t help but be on her side through it all.

The writing itself was beautiful, weaving the gentle storylines together perfectly and dotting them with short vignettes tied to the different lost items. I particularly liked the fact that the author didn’t feel the need to spell everything out for the reader- but allowed a sense of whimsy and magic to carry you through the story- taking whatever you want from it. This is why my copy is going to be read and re read so many times - it’s a story full of layers, and I have  the feeling that I’ll be discovering parts of it for years to come.

The other thing that really drew me to this book is something personal. I’m a complete magpie too- and felt so close to Laura, Anthony- and - having read more about Ruth Hogan - I feel an affinity with the author herself.

Over the years, I have collected everything- from random lost objects I’ve found in my wanderings (buttons, beads, teddies, gloves… the list is endless… as is my collection!). So- you see, this is why I feel like this book was written for me… and I suppose that must be the mark of the very best of books.

The Keeper of Lost Things is a love story to everything (and everyone) that is lost, and the fragments of life-stories they hold.

Grab your copy here: (this is such a stunning cover- I thoroughly recommend treating yourself to the hardback!! Out Thursday 26th January 2017)

Hardback:                          Kindle:
      

The Blurb:

MEET THE 'KEEPER OF LOST THINGS'...

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.
Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters...

With an unforgettable cast of characters that includes young girls with special powers, handsome gardeners, irritable ghosts and an array of irresistible four-legged friends, The Keeper of Lost Things is a debut novel of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that will leave you bereft once you've finished reading.

WE'RE ALL JUST WAITING TO BE FOUND...

Monday, 23 January 2017

Book and a Biscuit: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan


#amreading: 

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan, published by Two Roads, release date 26th January 2017

Tea: 

Lemon and Ginger tea from Twinings - a warm, spicy, citrus tea that's the perfect pick-me-up for the short January days. The perfect, gentle accompaniment to this beautiful book.

Biscuit:

Nothing can beat the comfort of a classic McVitie's Rich Tea biscuit.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Review: Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray


I originally read Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart back in the autumn, and was completely bowled over by it. It was one of those books I struggled to sit down and write a review about straight away because, frankly, it had my emotions exposed and raw... and I just wanted to savour it for myself for a little while. So this week I decided on that rare, beautiful moment a book-blogger can usually only dream of... re-reading a favourite. That's right, I sat down and devoured the story again. And this time I'm ready to tell you about it.

Teenaged Jonny has been waiting for a suitable heart for a transplant for what feels like for ever- and now, it seems as if time is going to run out for him. His world in the hospital is as familiar to him as his home-life- and the other patients count as his best friends- especially Em. But just because they've been in and out (or in ... and in... and in...) hospital for so long, it doesn't take away from their delicious 'teen-ness'.

Niamh is trying to come to terms with losing her twin brother. Her feelings are completely confused- grief, mixed with guilt, mixed with a kind of numbness. When Jonny gets in touch and the pair are drawn together through the weirdest of circumstances, it seems that he may be the only person who can help her begin to heal- and in turn, heal him.

What drew me into the story- both times- and makes this book so memorable is the un-sentimental viewpoint and voices of the teen protagonists. This lack of sugar-coating heightens the emotional impact of the novel. Murray writes with feeling, depth and warmth- providing much-needed awareness of serious issues- organ donation, childhood death and grief.

I've seen this novel described as a 'tear-jerker'. Yes and no. No: because, to me, that describes a weepy- the kind of book or film that purposefully sets out to draw out the tears. This book is all about Jonny, Niamh and Em's story. It's not there to provide the reader with some kind of catharsis. Yes: because the story is full of real, raw emotion and characters that you end up caring a great deal for. It didn't reduce me to a sobbing wreck (thank goodness). I actually think its impact went a lot deeper than that.

You could draw comparisons... YA fans of John Green's The Fault In Our Stars should definitely read this... and contemporary fiction fans of Jojo Moyes' Me Before You should also grab a copy asap. But all that said, Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart stands out all on its own. It doesn't really need comparison- this is powerful YA at its best.



Paperback:                     Kindle:
   

The Blurb:

Jonny has a faulty heart and his time is running out. Niamh has just lost her twin brother in a tragic accident. As their fates collide, soon Jonny is on the mend - but desperate to know more about his donor. When he tracks down Niamh, he only intends to find out about her brother, the first owner of his heart. He doesn't plan on falling in love... A stunning, tear-jerking novel about grief, guilt, and the unpredictability of love.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Writer's B*%locks


Book and a Biscuit: Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray

#amreading: 

Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray. Actually- technically I'm re-reading this awesome book. I read it back in the autumn and loved it- so I'm indulging in that very rare treat for a blogger- a re-read :) Review coming tomorrow!

Tea:

Blooming Cherry Bliss- cherry green tea with rose petals by Jolly Brew- a beautiful, delicate tea that smells of roses. (Thank you Adele @ Kraftireader for sending me this to try)

Biscuit:

The Classic McVitie's Fruit Shortcake.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Weekly Series: Doomed Date Diaries: Part 7


Part 7

Doomed Date Diaries by Bethany Quinn

10. Dennis


Dennis was a regular date. Half eleven, every other Sunday morning for the last three months. He was an older gentleman, true, but he still had a mischievous twinkle in his eye. I liked that. He was funny looking, protective, stubborn- in a charming sort of way- and absolutely devoted to anyone who would throw him a stick. Despite his carefree attitude though, Dennis was a bull terrier with some serious dual custody issues.

I'd helped his owners, Clive and Hannah, split up back in November. That's what I do for a day job- I un-connect people. I make the difficult transition from couple to single again easier. They hire me as an intermediary, someone with no vested interest in who gets to keep the couch or the signed Mariah Carey album. And I see it through to the bitter end, whatever that may be. It saves time, heartache and a lot of 3am arguments on the phone.

Sometimes I'm more successful than others. Dennis was the result of a couple who were simply unable to let go. Now they shared him. A fortnight each. And I was there to referee the handover.

Clive was sitting next to me on a park bench. Dennis was sitting on the ground. Hannah had dropped him off ten minutes earlier. It was February and minus five. How do dogs do that? I was worried his little furry wedding vegetables would freeze to the pavement. Clive was crying- again.

'I miss her,' he blubbed. I handed him another tissue.

It never ceased to amaze me the amount of water that man could pump out through his eyes. Where in his head was he storing it all?

'Why doesn't she love me anymore?' He kept burbling.

Dennis wasn't really paying attention. He was watching a labradoodle trot by with the same look of bemused distrust that I give anything with 'Greek' and 'Wine' on the same label. I tickled him between the eyes and he pretended not to notice but I could see his tail wagging.

I wasn't there to judge but I guessed Clive's predicament had something to do with him sleeping with Hannah's sister. He called it a 'little accident.' She called it an affair that lasted over a year. Funny how people see things differently.

Dennis didn't seem to mind though. He had a stick- and me. He was happy.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Review: Chasing Shadows by T.A. Williams


Time slip and historical novels have not really appeared on my reading radar much in the past- sure, I’ve picked up and enjoyed the occasional novel in these genres- but haven’t actively gone on the hunt for them… until the last few months. I’ve read some truly outstanding work both in historical and time slip romance recently- and I’m quickly finding that these are becoming two of my most enjoyed genres.

So, when I heard about T.A Williams’ new book, Chasing Shadows- a time slip romance set between 2016 and the early 1300s, I had to have a read. This genre is a departure from Williams’ previous work in the chicklit / romcom category, and I was really interested to read his take on such a different genre.

Our 2016 protagonists, Amy and Luke are both haunted by events in their respective pasts. Amy lost her family in the same accident that robbed her of her eyesight. And there are dark events in Luke’s past that he’s keeping close to his chest. The pair are thrown together by a well meaning, mutual friend when Amy decides to travel the Camino pilgrimage route to indulge her love of medieval history and to break her out of her insular life. But of course, she needs a guide and Luke is just the man. They begin their journey- thrown together in the most intimate and extreme circumstances.

In the 1300s we have Luc and Aimee. Aimee has lost her husband and travelling companions on the treacherous pilgrimage route whilst undertaking a task of vital importance for her husband’s order. A brutal attack has left Aimee blind and helpless. Luc is a Templar Knight who is running from his pursuers. When he encounters Aimee, the wife of his former comrade, he takes her into his protection and together they continue their epic quest to escape.

William’s style is fluid and effortless, and the scene changes between the present day and the 1300s are perfectly timed to keep the pace of both moving swiftly. When a book has multiple viewpoints, I always find that I tend to favour one or the other, and the clear contender for me here was the historical element. These passages were structured far more in the style of a fantasy novel, with plenty of action, cliffhangers and danger, whereas the present day passages were far more character-led and introspective.

The time slip element of the book is incredibly subtle- hinted at as a possibility just a couple of times rather than overt time-travel between the historical periods.

Overall, this is a fascinating read that introduced me to a period of history that I have absolutely no knowledge of- though now I’m keen to find out more. The romance is warm and real, and I felt close to all of the characters by the end of the book. The epilogue in particular left me smiling, with a little tear in my eye. Chasing Shadows gives you one epic journey, two beautiful love stories.
Grab your copy here:

Kindle:


The Blurb:
Amy had it all – money, brains and beauty. And then the accident happened.

The Present Day: Left blind and without her family, Amy feels she needs to get away. On a trip along the Camino, she is accompanied by the mysterious and troubled Luke. Having been set up to help Amy by a mutual friend, Luke finds he is also running from his past…

1314: A Templar Knight, Luc, is also running. He meets the wife of a former comrade, now blinded in a terrifying attack: Aimee. Taking her under his wing, they must journey together through a dangerous world.

As they travel through the stunning scenery of Northern Spain, this couple, so very like Luke and Amy, emerge from the shadows of time carrying a treasure of inestimable value.

Chasing Shadows is an enchanting novel about the search for happiness, fulfilment… and love.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Book and a Biscuit: Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard


#amreading: 

Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard published by Corvus, paperback release date 5th January 2017

Tea: 

Cranberry and Raspberry by Twinings - a soothing, sweet fruit infusion that tastes a like a summer's day. Caffeine free- and just look at that colour! Perfect to take the edge off of this chilling read.

Biscuit: 

Garibaldis (these are Morrison's own-brand and are pretty bloomin' moorish!) Definitely the favoured biccy of my other half- these were purloined from the remainders of his Christmas stash!

Blogtour: Review: Relativity by Antonia Hayes


Happy Monday everyone! Today, I'm thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for an incredible book that took the country by storm when it originally came out in hardback and e-book last year- and the paperback is due for release this Thursday.

Ethan is a 12 year old lad who is obsessed with physics and astronomy. He sees the world differently to everyone else, and frames every-day occurrences through the lens of science.

Ethan's mother Claire is protective to a fault- but then she is a single mother, bringing up a very gifted boy- and his different way of viewing the world means that he stands out a mile- drawing bullies and difficulties to him.

Ethan wants nothing more that to have his father back in his life- but his father has been gone since he was a baby. And there lies the secret- to Claire's protectiveness, Mark's silence and Ethan's extraordinary brain.

I'll start by saying that I loved Relativity. It is a unique and assured debut that has a compelling, crushingly-sad story at its heart. Hayes succeeds in making her readers believe in the magical beauty that is physics, through Ethan's view of the world. He takes incredibly difficult circumstances and uses science to digest and understand them- viewing them as no one else would think to.

I admired the author's treatment of a very serious and delicate subject- there was an objective quality to the flashbacks of events that happened to Ethan as a baby. The story is told beautifully, the facts presented, without an attempt to make the reader emotionally side with any character in particular.

Over all, I really enjoyed Antonia Hayes' beautiful writing, and I still struggle to believe that Relativity is a debut. It is an understated and powerful read that will stay with me for a long time. I really look forward to reading more of her work.

Grab your copy here:

Paperback (out Thursday)         Kindle:                   Hard cover:
               

The Blurb:

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.

His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can't shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father's absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.

Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.



Friday, 13 January 2017

#Friday5: 5 Questions With TA Williams



I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the lovely T.A Williams last weekend. Author of the popular What Happens... series with HQ, this insanely prolific author has something completely different up his sleeve with his next book Chasing Shadows. And considering I was part way through and hooked, I couldn't wait to pick his brain a little bit. So on a cloudy Sunday in Exeter, we gossiped over sticky toffee pudding, custard, and plenty of tea. 

1. Can you tell us a little bit about the research for Chasing Shadows? Especially research you had to do around having a blind main character… 


Chasing Shadows is a bit of a departure from my romantic comedies like the What Happens… series. In order to write Chasing Shadows, there were three main areas of research that needed to be undertaken. First, there was the pilgrims’ way to Compostela itself. I first got interested in the Camino (as it’s called) years ago when I drove along parts of it. After that, I knew I needed to see it more thoroughly so I cycled all the way from here in England, down through France and all along it, really soaking up the atmosphere and taking loads of photos. Second, there’s the history of the chosen period. I’ve been hooked on medieval history for years and years, in particular, the Knights Templar. I’ve probably got more non-fiction books history books on my shelves than fiction. So I have become pretty familiar with the Templars and that period. Finally, there was my decision (and I still don’t know why I chose to do this) to make the main protagonist(s) blind. Having no first hand experience of blindness, I have been greatly helped by local sight-loss charity Devon in Sight and, through them, I met Darren and his guide dog, Jet. From him I have learned many things about being blind, prime among which is the determination of most blind people not to let blindness get in the way of their lives. Darren himself is fiercely independent and I have ensured that I have passed that same spirit onto Amy.   

2. Tell us a bit about your writing routine… how long it takes you to write a book, how you find your way into the story etc. And then a bit about the process of working with your editor.


My writing routine is pretty inflexible. I write on a desktop PC, tapping away with two fingers (among many regrets in my life, not learning to touch type is high on the list), in my study without music, radio or any other distractions. I even close the door if the washing machine is on. Once I’ve decided on my subject, setting and main characters, I write pretty fast. In fact, I am a self-confessed binge writer. Particularly in the summer when dawn can be as early as 6 o’clock, I tend to type most of the morning, then go for a long walk or a bike ride in the afternoon, before coming back and rereading what I wrote that morning and making amendments. I have never been able to plan a story in minute detail and stick to it. I love the way a book often leads me off in unexpected directions. I discover (presumably from my subconscious) new characters and new twists, sometimes fairly major changes. I like to go with the flow and see where these lead me. Generally (though not always) they tend to work out in a positive way.

Working with my editor at HQ (Harper Collins) is proving to be a challenge. My current editor has a very clear idea of what sort of book she wants from me and she insists upon a full and detailed synopsis in advance. Easier said than done. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love her to bits and she definitely brings something to my work that is needed – in particular as I’m a man trying to get inside a woman’s head, she can point out where I have or more often haven’t managed to sound convincing. The problem, as I know and she knows, is that the finished article often varies substantially from the summary for the reasons mentioned above. Still, as a relationship it somehow seems to work for the good of my writing. 

3. Can you tell us anything about what you’re working on next and when it’s due to hit the shelves?

Yes, I’ve just finished another romcom for HQ called To Rome with Love. This is coming out on 24th February and is set on a charity bike ride from Venice to Rome. My main female protagonist is Sarah and she’s not happy. Not happy at all. Only a week before her wedding, her fiancé got cold feet and called it off. The bike ride turns out to be just the therapy she needs. After that, there’s another coming out in May (I did tell you I binge write, didn’t I?) called Dreaming of Venice, another romcom, this time about an artist who doesn’t believe in the phenomenon of love at first sight until it happens to her. Or does it? And currently I’m still at the planning stage of another book for HQ, hopefully coming out this summer. This one will probably be called To Dartmoor with Love and will be the second in the series after the Rome one. I can’t tell you much at this stage, but it will involve an old black and white movie star and a black Labrador.

4.  What are your own reading habits like?

I read far too little. In particular, seeing as my books are often described as chicklit or romcoms for women, I suppose I really should be books in that genre, but I don’t. Instead, I read history books (I’m deeply into the First World War at the moment – do you realise, if I had been born just 50 years earlier, I would have been involved in that madness?) and an occasional thriller. My all time favourite contemporary author is John LeCarré and the TV version of The Night Manager was excellent. 


5. Tell us the top 3 things on your bucket-list for 2017… 

I’d love to see one of my books in the top 10 overall. The best I’ve achieved so far was #17, so it would be good to beat that. I am looking forward to visiting the battlefields of the First World War, no doubt armed with  big box of Kleenex. And thirdly, I’m hoping my tennis improves from its present lamentable level to something a bit more respectable. Oh yes, and health, happiness and world peace…

TA doing what he loves- on a bike somewhere along the pilgrims' way!

A massive thank you to TA Williams for the great conversation and cake! You can pre-order your copy of Chasing Shadows here- it comes out on Monday. Pop back on Tuesday for my review!

Who ate all the cake....?! :)

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Weekly Series: Doomed Dates Diary by Bethany Quinn: Part 6


Part 6

Doomed Date Diaries by Bethany Quinn

19. Gavin


I watched as the taxi pulled up outside. He was right on time. A face briefly appeared at the window. It was Gavin- I was sure of it. The door opened a crack. I quickly scooped all my junk off the table and into my bag, checking to make sure my glass of Mexican Tempranillo was looking presentable. By the time I looked back he had clearly thought better of getting out. There was a moment's discussion with the driver, then the taxi simply drove away again into the night. 

Great. Another date so utterly doomed that it hadn't even started. Was it cold feet? Or a sudden, catastrophic and irreversible loss of interest? Or maybe he just couldn't get his wedding ring off? I guess I'll never know. I waited another fifteen minutes to be certain, then I finished my wine in a single gulp and ordered a pint.

As a rule I don't normally drink pints on a first date. I have a famously small and excitable bladder. Nipping off to the loo every few minutes does rather spoil the moment. It can also give the impression that I've got some kind of urinary tract infection, which isn't entirely helpful. That said, there have been a number of occasions when my date has been so nipple-twistingly awful that I've used the urgent need for the bathroom as a ruse to nip outside and have a good laugh. Mostly at myself for being there voluntarily.

I prefer drinking pints because bottled beer is three times more expensive. I also have this annoying habit of peeling the labels off in thin, unbroken strips- which makes me look a bit obsessive and weird.

I also draw the line at anything blue, or any of those premixed concoctions that look, smell and probably taste like something you unblock drains with. 

Pint in hand and with the rest of the evening seemingly to myself, I decided to play the 'how drunk would I have to be' game. First I cast a critical eye over the men in the bar. Then I worked out how many glasses of wine I would have to consume before I thought it was a good idea to take each one home. 

I've only ever met one man who I thought would take more than a crate. I ended up going out with him for two years.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Book and a Biscuit: The Legacy of Lucy Harte by Emma Heatherington


#amreading: 
The Legacy of Lucy Harte by Emma Heatherington, published by HarperImpulse, paperback release date 12th January 2017


Tea: 
Clipper Pure Green Tea- it's time to take on the new year and get my detox going with fresh brew.


Biscuit: 
It's all about baby-steps right? A girl's gotta detox at a nice steady pace... don't want to rush things so a couple of Custard Creams will keep me on the straight and narrow :)


Huge thanks to Dartmoor Vintage Tea Set Hire for the beautiful crockery!

Friday, 6 January 2017

#Friday5: 5 Questions with Mandy Baggot

I can't believe it's that time of the week again- but yup- it's #Friday5 time, and this week I'm delighted to welcome the wonderful Mandy Baggot to the blog. Mandy is one of my favourite authors (you can find my recent review of One Christmas in Paris HERE). Anyway- I'm chuffed to have the chance to ask Mandy 5 quick questions... so here we go!

1. I know you’re not meant to have a favourite child- but if you had to pick between them all, which of your books is your personal favourite and why?


Oh nooooo! Nooooo! Don’t make me pick! I really don’t have a favourite because each book means so much! My first book, the ones that have been shortlisted for awards, my latest book, the book idea I love but haven’t had time to write yet… I suppose, if you’re really pushing me, my surprise loves are my books set at Christmas. One Wish in Manhattan was my first ‘Christmas’ novel and everyone seemed to fall in love with it and I loved writing it and then there was One Christmas in Paris… Julien and Ava *sigh*.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re currently working on and when
it's due?


Haha! I can’t tell you very much about what I’m working on at the moment but I will say it’s a summer-themed book I am absolutely in love with! I’m really hoping to be able to tell everyone more about it VERY soon!

3. What are the absolute best bits and worst bits about being a writer? And what has taken you by surprise?


The very best bit is being able to make a living out of doing something I love to do. I took a big leap of faith leaving my job as a paralegal back in 2010 but I’m so glad I did. Another good bit is being able to be flexible with my hours so I can make all the school shows etc. for my girls and I am a School Run Mum so writing fits in with that too. I LOVE hearing from readers on social media or through reviews. When you’ve written something and people have bought your book, you never really know how it’s going to be received and I do read EVERY review. I think it’s really important to get feedback, even criticism, because a lot of the time there is a kernel of something in those low star reviews that needs addressing.

The bad bits - well edits I guess! No one likes them and authors also hate it, when we’ve gone through them, having to admit that actually the editor was right… some of the time at least!

What’s taken me by surprise? How quickly the days go when you’re jugging writing, promoting, chatting on social media and looking after two children!

4. In my humble opinion, you write the best heroes out there... for you- what ingredients make the perfect hero? Do you base them on real people or is it purely imagination?!


My heroes! *swoons* Yes I do love a gorgeous hero in my books. They are purely in my imagination but they all have a similar connection in that they are obviously GORGEOUS and, even though they are fictional, I hope they are REAL. A lot of readers start out unsure about my heroes a few chapters in (editors - stop listening now!) because my lead males aren’t perfect at the beginning. I like them to go on a journey as much as the heroine, which I think is something that’s missing from other romantic comedies these days. I've been writing the male point of view as well as the female point of view since readers said how much they loved this. My book boyfriends are all strong, sexy but with an edge of vulnerability - the perfect man in my opinion!

5. Tell us the top 3 things on your bucket-list for 2017…


OK, my writing bucket list would be:- 1. Write some cracking new books for readers to enjoy. 2. Go to as many writing conferences/parties as I can manage. 3. Do some more research in Corfu with cocktails!

Thank you so much for having me!

***
A massive thank you to Mandy for taking the time to chat with me. You can find her  on her website www.mandybaggot.com, on Twitter @mandybaggot and on Facebook

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Weekly Series: Doomed Date Diaries by Bethany Quinn: Part 5





Part 5


Doomed Date Diaries by Bethany Quinn


37. Neville


First things first. He had great eyes. Fabulous eyes in fact. I would happily have drowned myself in them right there and then- no holding my breath- just a running jump and straight in at the deep end. They were that good.
They were an uncommon blue with flecks of grey and the kind of long, dense eyelashes that I've always dreamt of having myself. (I've got the sparse, weedy types that mean I can make a mascara last for the best part of a decade.) The whole package under dark, quizzical brows. I've always been a sucker for a great pair of eyes. Yup- big tick on the eyes. The eyes were definitely not far south of spectacular.
That wasn't to overlook the smile. That was pretty good too. It sent a jolt of electricity down my spine every time I saw it. He made me laugh in that easy, unforced way that made me want to have his children- all of them. Well maybe not so much the having part- but a great deal of the making bit.
He was everything I was looking for- tall, refined, attentive and gainfully employed. Such a shame then that he was sitting on the next table with his wife and I was fending off Neville.
'What do you think of handcuffs?' Neville asked, sounding for all the world as if he was talking about pipe lagging.
At that precise moment I felt overwhelmingly relieved to be sitting in a busy bar with staff who knew me well enough not to pour me anything that hadn't been awarded at least an 'Editor's Choice' in a Sunday newspaper wine review.
I'd already said a firm but courteous 'no' to leather, fairy wings, stirrups and low fat fromage frais. I'd also chosen to ignore the fact that Neville liked to preface everything he said by playing a few notes on an imaginary glockenspiel on the table in front of him.
'Actually I prefer a box of chocolates and a bad movie', I said.
As the perfect man left the bar I felt my heart sink in a series of lurching, downwardly spiraling somersaults.
'I've got a trapeze in my bedroom,' Neville said with a 'ping pong ping!'
'Neville, you should be locked up,' I said, gathering my stuff together for a hasty getaway.
Unfortunately, Neville looked like he just might enjoy it.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Review: Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market

So, I decided to fit in one last Christmas read before heading back to work and the ‘real world’ today- you know, just to wring every last ounce of festive-goodness from my break as possible- and I’m so glad I did. Heidi Swain’s Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market was a lovely way to end my Christmas holidays.

Ruby has admitted defeat, packing in her master’s course at university, she has headed back home to Wynbridge to stay with her parents and gather enough cash to give in to her wanderlust in the New Year. She has everything planned and is looking forward to manning a market stall as an outpost for her friends at the Cherry Tree Café. What she isn’t counting on is having to battle her father every step of the way, fighting against his own views of what his highly academic daughter should be doing with her life.

And it’s not only her dear old dad that Ruby has to contend with- she wasn’t expecting to fall head over heels in love with the town, and the market in particular. She soon finds that she’s at the centre of its battle for survival. And having Steve, her ex, working on the stall right next to her certainly isn’t helping her heart-rate either.

Ruby is a brilliant character. She’s resourceful, loyal and incredibly feisty. I loved the fact that she fights for what she believes in- even if it means making life difficult for herself. The supporting cast of characters is fantastic and it was great to catch up with so many names from Heidi's previous Wynbridge books.

With all the town events in the lead up to Christmas, I could recognise so many characters from the villages and small towns I’ve been a part of. The WI ladies, the school-mums, the market traders who’re like a close-knit family- impenetrable at first glance, but incredibly hard-working and once you get to know them- kind and community-minded. I think this is the real charm of Heidi’s writing, the ability to capture a sense of community and its importance. It’s something so rare these days, that to find it perfectly represented in a book is something very special.

As well as being beautifully festive, Mince Pies and Mistletoe at the Christmas Market is full of joy and those moments that really tug at your heart. The plot was full of bits of intrigue and mini-mysteries that kept me glued all the way to the last page. And boy, what a last page it was. I thoroughly enjoyed cheering Ruby on, and wished for the very best ending for her and all the folks of Wynbridge. Do they get it? You'll just have to treat yourself to a read, and find out!

If you're getting Christmas withdrawal symptoms, I highly recommend that you grab a copy and spend some time in Wynbridge- this is a warm, festive hug of a book, and a complete joy to read.

Paperback:                   Kindle:
  

The Blurb:

Christmas has arrived in the town of Wynbridge and it promises mince pies, mistletoe and a whole host of seasonal joy.

Ruby has finished with university and is heading home for the holidays to save up for her trip around the world in January. Against her father’s wishes, she takes on a stall at the local market, and sets about making it the best Christmas market stall ever. There’ll be bunting and mistletoe and maybe even a bit of mulled wine.

But with a new retail park just opened on their doorstep, the market is under threat. So together with all the other stallholders, Ruby devises a plan to make sure that Wynbridge is the first port of call for everyone’s Christmas shopping needs.

The only thing standing in her way is Ruby’s ex, Steve. It’s pretty hard to concentrate on saving the world when he works on the stall opposite, especially when she realises that her feelings for him are still there…

This Christmas make time for some winter sparkle – and see who might be under the mistletoe this year… 

Monday, 2 January 2017

Book and a Biscuit: The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick


#amreading: 

The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick, published by HQ, paperback release date 29th December 2016

Tea: 

PG Tips Decaff - because sometimes you want a great cup of tea without the caffein hit. I love this stuff- makes a great bedtime cuppa as well as a gentle wake-up brew.

Biscuit: 

Paterson's shortbread. Yum. Buttery, crumbly and delicious. The perfect dunking biscuit.