Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Parenting and Famlies

One Day In Winter Shari Low 5*#Review @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books @sharilow #festive #relationships #serendipity #marriage #parents #children #secrets #lies #Paperback

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I received a copy of this book from Aria – Head of Zeus Books in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I love stories that have an element of serendipity, and this story of four people, seemingly unconnected, is an engaging read. It follows Caro, Cammy, Lila and Bernadette through 24 hours just before Christmas. Some of the characters feature in other books, so if you are a fan of this author, like me, you may recognise them.

The day is divided into time slots, and each of the four main protagonists has a chapter within. As the story progresses, the reader realises they are connected, and eventually so do they. All of the main characters are complex and realistic. Some have more flaws than others, but they are all relatable, and most are easy to empathise.

The plot is cleverly written, it all fits together and the coincidences are realistic. Coupled with the beautifully written characters, the emotion and poignancy of the story make this is a page-turner that you won’t easily, put down.

The ending is satisfying, it fits, and everyone gets the outcome they deserve.

Guest Post – Christmas Blog Shari Low – One Day In Winter

Confession time! I’m one of those people who has a Countdown To Christmas clock and I check it regularly. Please don’t judge me. I know that I’m supposed to harrumph in disapproval at the frivolity and commercialisation of the festive season, but the truth is I love every flashing-elf-hat, neon-reindeer-on-my-roof, pass-me-a-red-hankie-because-I’m-going-to-watch-It’s-A-Wonderful-Life moment of it.

I embrace the tat and naffness of the season because I absolutely believe that there is no day that isn’t made better by a Santa snow globe.

On the first of December, I break out my favourite Christmas sweatshirt – the one that announces in large letters that I’m a Gangsta Wrapper.

I know the names of all the reindeers: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, Argos, Visa and Mastercard.

And now that my two little yuletide thespians have flown the nest (one who delivered a memorable performance as the third sheep from the left, and the other who had a starring role as that well known Biblical character, Humph the Camel), the younger members of my extended family know that I’m a shoo-in for a ticket and some enthusiastic audience participation if they invite me to their nativity play.

But my very favourite pastime during the season of goodwill? Deck the halls with big blooming piles of Christmas novels.

When I decided to write my first December-time book, One Day In Winter, I knew that I wanted to write stories that came together like a big pile of surprises under a tree. 

The novel follows four characters over the course of a 24 hour period on the Friday before Christmas. Caro sets off on a quest to find out if her relationship with her father has been based on a lifetime of lies. Lila decides to tell her lover’s wife of their secret affair. Cammy is on the way to pick up the ring for a proposal to the woman he loves. And Bernadette vows to walk away from her controlling husband of 30 years. As the hours’ pass, their lives intertwine and connections are revealed, with lots of shocks, twists and dramas along the way.

When it first came out in ebook, One Day In Winter was a number one bestseller, so I’m thrilled that it’s now being released in a glossy, shiny, gorgeous paperback.

I hope readers will love it because it makes them laugh, cry and captivates them from beginning to end.

And the extra little gift that the book delivers?

After the last page is turned, it makes the perfect stand for that Santa snow globe.

One Day In Winter is published by Aria in ebook and paperback.

Extract From One Day In Winter – Shari Low

When Gran and Granda passed away, their house had been left jointly to Mum and her sister, Auntie Pearl. When Auntie Pearl married and moved out, they’d worked out a rental agreement and Mum had stayed behind, living on her own until she’d met Jack Anderson at college, got pregnant, married him and he’d carried her over the threshold into the home she’d already lived in for twenty-two years.

Not that Caro could ever remember him being there full-time. He probably was for the first few years, but then he’d capitalised on the oil boom, and ever since then he’d been gone more than he’d been home. Some months he’d be home for a few days, sometimes two weeks, rarely more. She’d never felt neglected or that she was losing out in any way. It was what she’d always been used to and, as Mum always said, just one of the sacrifices they had to make because Dad had a Very Important Job.

The payback for the sacrifice? A couple of years ago, just as her parents should have been starting to contemplate cruises and bucket lists for their early retirement, Jack Anderson had walked out of the door to go to his Very Important Job and he’d never come back.

Caro felt the familiar inner rage start to build now and she squashed it back down. He’d left them a week before her thirtieth birthday, so she was old enough to process her parents splitting up by some mutual consent. Yet she couldn’t. Because it wasn’t mutual and he’d bolted when her mother had needed him most, walked out to a new life and he hadn’t looked back.

For a long time, Caro didn’t understand why.

Only now, did she realise that on the Importance scale, the job was up there with his Very Important Secret.

Maybe.

She still didn’t believe it to be true.

She must be wrong.

Mistaken identity.

Surely?

Yet, here she was, sitting on a train, on a cold December morning, on her way to Glasgow.

She pulled her iPad out of her satchel, logged on to the train’s Wi-Fi, then flicked on to the Facebook page she’d looked at a thousand times in the last few weeks.

It was one of those coincidental flukes that had taken her to it in the first place.

It had been late at night, and she’d been sitting beside her mum’s bed in the hospital, feeling like she’d been battered by the storm that was raging outside. She shouldn’t even have been there because it was outside of visiting time, but the nurses overlooked her presence because her mum was in a private room at the end of a corridor, and they made exceptions when it came to patients at this stage in their lives. Yvonne’s eyes were closed, her body still, but Caro wanted to stay, whether Yvonne knew she was there or not. It was the first night of the October school holiday, so she didn’t have to get up early to be the responsible Miss Anderson for a class of eleven-year-olds the next morning.

Instead, she could just be Caro, sitting there passing the time catching up with Facebook. She only dipped in and out of it every few weeks, caught up with a Carpool Karaoke, the launch of a new book, or maybe a movie trailer.

A promotional link appeared for the new Simple Minds tour, twenty dates around the country, yet another band riding the nostalgic affection for the eighties and nineties.

Before she could stop it, the opening bars of Jim Kerr’s voice belting out ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’ flooded her head and she felt the bite of a sharp-toothed memory. Her dad had been a big fan, their music playing alongside Oasis and Blur on his CD player when he was home or in the car on the few mornings he was around to take her to school, and that had been his favourite song.

The irony in the title didn’t escape her. Don’t You Forget About Me. If only she could forget he ever existed, then she wouldn’t have to deal with the soul-sucking fury that he wasn’t here.

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Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including One Day In Winter, A Life Without You, The Story Of Our Life, With Or Without You, Another Day In Winter and her latest release, This Is Me

And because she likes to over-share toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. 
Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, International Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Thriller

Elevator Pitch Linwood Barclay 5*#Review @HQStories @linwood_barclay #Suspense #urbanfiction #Thriller #policeprocedual #Crimefiction #NewYork #ElevatorPitch #BlogTour #BookReview #bookbloggers

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I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Right from the first page, there is an air of menace, the occurrences seem ordinary, but something seems off, and by the end of the chapter you realise that you are right.

Set in New York, there are a series of freak incidents, a murder, political corruption allegations, and a building sense of panic, as the citizens of New York realise that maybe the freak incidents have some sinister connection.

An urban thriller, the city’s reliance on elevators, (lifts in the UK), makes the attacks, a threat to the city’s economy and infrastructure, in addition to the loss of life. The brewing political scandal amidst the confusion and terror building in the city, make this complex, fast-paced thriller, addictive reading.

This is a cerebral thriller, lots of characters, seemingly unconnected apart from the location. Their connection and the motivation for the mindless attacks becomes clearer as the story progresses, but there is so much happening, you may miss the clues, or not believe what you read.

The final chapters bring the story to a shocking conclusion.

A polished, haunting urban thriller.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Crime, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction

Boy Swallows Universe Trent Dalton 4* #Review @TrentDalton @BoroughPress @HarperFiction @HarperCollinsUK #LiteraryFiction #Comingof Age #FamilyDrama #Friendship #Romance #Magic #Crime #UrbanFiction #Australia #Brisbane

Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious criminal for a babysitter. It’s not as if Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already.

But Eli’s life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He’s about to fall in love. And he has to break into prison on Christmas Day, to save his mum.

A story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships, Boy Swallows Universe will be the most heartbreaking, joyous and exhilarating novel you will read all year.

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I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins UK – Harper Fiction – Borough Press via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I’m always a little wary of critically acclaimed, and over-hyped books, often they are not as good as they are reputed to be. So I started this one with trepidation. Initial impressions are that is honest, raw, and full of experiences of urban life in Brisbane that do not make easy reading.

Eli and August, are brothers, their carers’ lives are driven by drugs, and the boys have to constantly battle adversity to keep the family together. Despite the family’s dysfunctionality, the love the boys feel for their mother and each other dominates this story and puts into perspective many of the bizarre and often frightening experiences they endure.

At the end of this lengthy book, there is a note from the author, about how the story came into being, what it means to him and the story’s themes. It is, on reading this that you appreciate, it is more of a memoir than fiction, although seen through a young child’s and then young boys eyes. I wish I’d read this note first because it grounds this complex story, and makes it more relatable.

There is a great deal of imagination in this story, magic if you like, which I attributed to a young boy’s need to escape from the harshness of his life, and give himself the power to overcome some its more sordid aspects.

I’m still not sure if I liked it, but the writing is engaging and authentic, the story moves forward in an understandable way, and it gives an insider view of Australian life, particularly life in Brisbane and Queensland, through a young person’s viewpoint.

The characters are the lifeblood of this story, and the author indicates that they are based on people he knows or a medley of them, in his personal and journalistic life. Many are not likeable, and the danger the children are exposed to is disturbing, but they are real, and the reality of this story is what stays with you.

An unusual tale of growing up and surviving life in a gritty urban setting. With a cast of characters, covering the spectrum of humanity, and the humour, love and magic required to reach adulthood.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Romance

Being Someone Adrian Harvey 4* #Review @UrbaneBooks @ade_harvey @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksTours #Romance #SelfDiscovery #Adventure #BlogTour#LifeChoices

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Being Someone is a life story, a love story, a human story. 

James has fallen through life, plotting a course of least resistance, taking each day as it comes and waiting for that indefinable something to turn up, to give his story meaning. His journey lacks one vital element a fellow traveller. Then he meets Lainey. Confident. Beautiful. Captivating. And James rewrites himself to win her heart. Lainey gives James a reason to grow, paints a bright future, promises the happy ending he has sought so keenly. But when we discover we can live the greatest story of all, are we able to share the pages with someone else? 

Being Someone is an emotive tale of love, of self-discovery and adventure a story of the eternal search for happiness in another, without ultimately losing ourselves.  

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I received a copy of this book from Urbane Books in return for an honest review.

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My Thoughts…

A thought-provoking contemporary story, about life choices, and the mystery that is love.

The story begins with a story told to James, one of the protagonists, about an elephant and his mahout. The story is one of love, respect and trust, which is shattered by one careless, almost unconscious action. Leaving the elephant guilty and lonely, seeking solace by honouring his dead mahout, until his own demise. Whilst this is a beautiful, poignant tale, you, like James, question what relevance it may have to his life story until it does.

James is a twenty-first-century man, entitled, and content to let life come to him until he meets the one, Lainey, who unsettles him and makes him want more. She is a vital, passionate woman, and their love story is epic, but then life happens, and the cracks appear.

The story explores their love, the conflicts they face, both internal and external, and the consequences of the life choices they make, for their forever happiness. It is brutal in parts, and honest, and James’ often appears cold and unfeeling, but it is interesting to explore his emotions and motivations.

The settings add to the story by echoing their relationship status, The first story’s relevance becomes clear as the story progresses.

An engaging contemporary love story, and insight into relationships in the twenty-first-century.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Mystery, Romance

Buried Treasure – Gilli Allan 4* #Review @gilliallan @rararesources #BlogTour #Romance #Mystery #Friendship

Their backgrounds could hardly be further apart, their expectations in life more different. And there is nothing in the first meeting between the conference planner and the university lecturer which suggests they should expect or even want to connect again. But they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. Both have unresolved issues from the past which have marked them; both have an archaeological puzzle they want to solve. Their stories intertwine and they discover together that treasure isn’t always what it seems.

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

I love to read something a little different, this story is a mix of genre, there is a gentle romance. which is slow-burning, ridden with internal obstacles to its success. There is a mystery, with historical roots, that draws the couple together, when it seems, in the beginning, they have nothing in common, except that they irritate each other. There is also a strong emotional thread in this story, as the first part of the book reveals, why Theo and Jane are unwilling to trust again, this poignancy makes the characters easier to empathise.

The believable setting is contemporary and well researched, and has intrinsic interest. Your primary focus is always on Jane and Theo in this character-driven story. The subsidiary characters both past and present are complex and realistic. The flaws and emotional baggage carried by the two protagonists make them authentic.

An easy to read, engaging romance with an intriguing mystery set against a politicised contemporary background.

Gilli Allan began to write in childhood – a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home, and real-life supplanted the fiction.

After a few false starts, she worked longest and most happily as a commercial artist, and only began writing again when she became a mother. 

Living in Gloucestershire with her husband Geoff, Gilli is still a keen artist. She draws and paints and has now moved into book illustration.

Currently published by Accent Press, each of her books, TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL has won a ‘Chill with a Book’ award.

Following in the family tradition, her son, historian Thomas Williams, is also a writer. His most recent work, published by William Collins, is ‘Viking Britain’.

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Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Romance

The House at Hope Corner – Emma Davies @bookouture @EmDaviesAuthor #Romance #Farming #RuralLife #PublicationDay-5* #Review

The view across the valley takes her breath away; everywhere she looks tiny patches of colour – ochre, chestnut, lime and purple. The farmhouse behind her glows pink in the morning sun. It’s like stepping into a postcard, except that this magical place is real. It’s her new home.

With her beloved shop in danger of shutting down, meeting Ned, a gorgeous farmer with an irresistible twinkle in his eye, couldn’t have come at a better moment for a free-spirited florist, Flora Dunbar. But no one is more surprised than her when their whirlwind romance leads to the offer of a new life on Ned’s farm.

Arriving at Hope Corner, Flora sets about becoming the perfect farmer’s wife, but her creative, alternative thinking falls flat in a household built on tradition and strict routine. Even Ned is becoming more distant by the day…

Pulling up her signature striped socks and throwing herself into her chores, little by little Flora learns to love the order and patterns of life on the land. But the more she learns about her new home, the more she suspects it’s under threat, and worse, that Ned is hiding a heartbreaking secret from her.

But this time, Flora’s not going to run from her problems. Do Ned and his family trust her enough to let her stay and fight for love and the first house she’s ever truly called home? Does she trust herself?

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I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Romance in a rural setting is always a pleasure to read, and the ‘House at Hope Corner’ is unashamedly poignant and romantic. It has a sentimental, old fashioned quality to it, that I love. A new beginning on a farm in beautiful Shropshire is just what Flora needs.

It turns out that it’s not quite the rural idyll it appears, and Flora has to learn to fit in but fight to retain her individuality. Her whirlwind romance with Ned didn’t prepare her for the battle ahead, but she is independent, optimistic and tenacious and determined her new life will succeed.

The setting is authentic and full of farming facts that give the story depth and interest. The romance between Ned and Flora is full of good intentions and conflicts. Secrets and lies threaten Flora’s new start but you want her to succeed and find her happily ever after with Ned.

Great characters that you believe in, numerous seemingly insurmountable conflicts, a villainous antagonist in designer clothes, all in a rural setting to die for, what’s not to love?

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Friendship, Romance

The Olive Garden Choir – Leah Fleming – 3*#Review #Friendship #Family #Secrets #Romance #GreekIslands @HoZ_Books @LeahleFleming

On the beautiful island of Santaniki, close to Crete, it’s not all white sands and sunshine. When retired bookseller Ariadne Blunt suggests the English residents form a choir, there are groans of resistance. After a little persuasion, the group gather in Ariadne’s olive garden to rehearse, but each member of this choir has their own anxieties and secrets.

Ariadne’s partner, Hebe, is in failing health. Clive struggles to accept the loss of his wife while Della, the Pilates teacher, drinks too much and Chloe, Queen Bee of the village society, faces a family dilemma. Then there is Mel, the real songbird amongst them, English wife of a taverna owner who hides her talent until the choir inspires her to raise her voice once more.

In this tiny community, the choir brings the residents together like never before in a bittersweet tale of love and loss – and how life can begin again when you let go of the past.

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I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

The setting for this story is sublime and beautifully described, making it the perfect holiday read. The themes are popular at the moment, a group of people drawn together by necessity, in this case, they are Ex-Pats on a small Greek Island, who need a distraction and are intrigued by the creation of an island choir.

There are lots of characters, and through short chapters, the reader shares their stories, finding out why they are on the island, what motivates them, their emotional state, and what they are hiding from the others. I like following the fortunes of many characters, but for some readers, this can be off-putting.

This is an emotional story and you empathise with the characters, not all are likeable, but their flaws make them realistic and relatable. The choir is a good medium for bringing the community together, and whilst not a new theme, it is used to good effect in this book.

The book also explores contemporary issues, focusing on the humanity angle and shows how small communities react.

A nice mix of characters and a well-told story, in a vividly described setting, something for those who read to escape.