Shakespeare’s sonnets are among the great achievements in world literature. Alas, the immortal Bard never used his command of iambic pentameter to explore such themes as porn, Snapchat and Austin Powers.
#Sonnets is a collection of hilarious and inappropriate poems complete with illustrations of Elizabethan RoboCop and Snoop Dogg in tights. Musing on everything from Donald Trump to Tinder, comedy writer Lucien Young offers a Shakespearean take on the absurdity of modern life.
Sadly, I didn’t have time to read and review this, so instead,I have an extract from this book of verses to share.
Extracts from #Sonnets- Lucien Young
Lucien Young is a comedy writer who has worked on various TV programmes, including BBC Three’s Siblings and Murder in Successville. He was born in Newcastle in 1988 and read English at the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of the world-famous Footlights Club.
is not the man everyone believes him to be. And Emelia is not the woman he
wants her to be.
was a whirlwind romance, Anthony was the doting boyfriend, the charismatic and
successful career man who swept her off her feet. But now Emelia is trapped in
a marriage of dark secrets and obsession. She is no more than something Anthony
wants to ‘fix’, one of his pet projects.
has no escape from the life that Anthony insists on controlling, so she shares
her story through the only means she can – her blog. Yet Anthony can never find
out. Forced to hide behind a false name, Emelia knows the only way that Anthony
will allow her to leave him, is death.
Trapped with a man she knows is trying to kill her, Emelia is determined that someone will hear her story and Anthony will meet his ends. That everyone will discover the truth.
I received a copy of this book from the Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A story of two halves as many psychological thrillers are.
The story begins with a blog post, Emelia has a life-limiting condition and wondered if she would have the chance of a normal marriage. Anthony was more than she thought possible until he wasn’t. Once married, things change and the doting man becomes increasingly controlling. Limiting her life, even more than her physical state does.
This is a domestic thriller, claustrophobic and dark, and you wonder if she has it in her to escape. Then there’s a twist that turns this into a noir psychological thriller, where you doubt what you read, and don’t know who to believe, and wonder if anything that came before is ‘The Truth’?
The ending has another twist and leaves ‘normal’ minds with more questions. Based on a collection of real events, this is chilling, claustrophobic and clever, something different.
Guest Post – Naomi Joy – The Truth –Notes on Inspiration
If you ask authors where they get their inspiration, you’ll receive a range of answers. It might be an amazing location that’s captured their imagination – I think of Mandy Baggot’s Greek settings or Pat Black’s dark forests. They could have picked up on trends in our society – how more and more people are meeting one another online (Click, L.Smyth). It could have been a big change in their own lives – a new baby, a new job, a new man on the train (The Note, Z.Folbigg) – that sparked their creative fuse. I read about an author whose grandparent had lived through the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and written a diary about the day – inspiration indeed. It could be other worlds, imagined worlds, or a hypothetical question they’re keen to explore. But for me, my interest is usually piqued by a real-life person, most often a fascinating female case-study who’s done something terrible. I love to start from that point and imagine what’s come before: how did this evil emerge? What made this person who they are? Why?
Before I started writing The Truth, I was inspired by a collection of real people who’ve all committed the same sociopathic crime and, though I can’t go into detail about the specifics, as soon as I heard about them I couldn’t do anything else until I’d written a version of their stories myself.
The Liars, inspiration came from a number of toxic women I’d worked with, but, more interesting than their devious and despicable behaviour, was what made them that way. I read about how modern office culture favours competition and actively encourages employees to cut-down their competitors rather than collaborate, and thus the office-culture at the heart of the story was born.
As I sit down to work on my third novel for Aria Fiction, I will follow the same process, so, if you hear about any deranged and dastardly women: send them my way!
Naomi Joy is the pen name of a young PR professional who was formerly an account director at prestigious Storm Communications. Writing from experience, she draws the reader in the darker side of the uptown and glamorous, presenting realism that is life or death, unreliable and thrilling to page-turn.
My ears prick, and I tune into the crescendo of footsteps, the turn of a lock, the twist of a doorknob. I push my laptop under the bed, determined to keep my blog a secret. It’s not that I don’t trust him, I just… It thuds as it hits the damask rug beneath and I recoil my arm quickly, pulling the covers back over my body and up around my neck to make it looks as though I’ve been sleeping rather than typing, but this sudden movement throws fistfuls of confetti-dust into the splinters of light in the room and I worry he’ll suspect that I’ve been up to something.
in,’ I reply.
dressing gown fans as the door opens, the gust catching the silk sleeve and
part of the body, transforming it, for a second, from inanimate object to
darling. How are you feeling?’
He peers at me through full-moon black-rimmed spectacles, the paper-thin skin beneath his eyes tinged purple – not enough sleep – his long fingers curled around the door handle. His carefully groomed moustache quivers above his top lip flicked up at the ends. He’s excited about something.
better?’ he asks.
I croak from my resting place. ‘I still feel like death.’
walks towards me, eyebrows crooked, wedding ring flashing as he passes through
the bursts of sunlight. He dabs the sweat slathering my brow and folds back the
duvet gently, eager to help, but the movement releases the smell of my own
stench into the otherwise beautiful room. His lips pucker in response. He tries
not to gag.
want to take you somewhere today,’ he says, bitter coffee on his breath.
my head fully towards him and we lock eyes.
I ask too quickly, too eagerly, droplets pooling anew in the curve of my lower
excavation. I thought it might make you feel better.’
smile, elated for a moment, then look away, my eyes on the opposite wall. There
are a couple of problems with this suggestion. The first: he’s promised this
before. I must not get my hopes up. The second: I am sick, deathly unwell, and,
though I have the will to leave, I’m not sure there’s any possible way that I
can. My stomach twists and jealousy rumbles in its pit. He is well. He can go
wherever he likes. He can work and, better still, he loves his job. Anthony’s a
famous archaeologist and, although that might sound oxymoronic, to those in the
industry he’s a rock star. Literally.
love to,’ I answer.
Despite my reservations, I am hopeful that I will go outside today. In fact, it is imperative that I do; Anthony is nothing but kind and patient with me and yet my brain is turning me against him, doubting his intentions. If I could just find the strength to ignore the searing pain in my abdomen, the tightness in my chest, the raging sweats, the all-consuming itch of my skin, the fire beneath, things would start to improve, we’d get back to who we were before. I know we would. My heart thumps, already exhausted, as I heave my reluctant body up to a seated position and swing my feet to the floor. I balance on the edge of the mattress, letting the black spots from my headrush pass, and, just as I’m about to stand, my toes hit the edge of my laptop hidden beneath the bed, making me jump. I glance behind me, hoping he won’t have noticed.
then,’ he says softly, taking my hand. ‘Time for your medicine.’
pills land in my palm – Antriptophene – and for once I stutter at what he’s given
me: I don’t recognise this brand and I’m immediately suspicious of it. I look
at the long drink of lukewarm water left on the bedside table overnight, coated
now with a thin film of dust. Something doesn’t feel right.
doctor’s recommended them, they’re supposed to be excellent.’
at the pills again, at the blocky red writing atop bright orange casing and
make a decision.
not taking these.’
face breaks with lines, lips curling at my refusal, shocked that I would even
question what he’s giving me. Taken aback, he stalls, then relents, folding
them into his hand and leaving the room without another word, his tall frame
pausing momentarily in the light of the doorway.
Evie Kilgaren is a fighter. Abandoned by her mother and with her father long gone, she is left to raise her siblings in dockside Liverpool, as they battle against the coldest winter on record. But she is determined to make a life for herself and create a happy home for what’s left of her family.
Desperate for work, Evie takes a job at the Tram Tavern under the kindly watch of pub landlady, and pillar of the community, Connie Sharp. But Connie has problems of her own when her quiet life of spinsterhood is upturned with the arrival of a mysterious undercover detective from out of town.
When melting ice reveals a body in the canal, things take a turn for the worst for the residents of Reckoner’s Row. Who could be responsible for such a brutal attack? And can Evie keep her family safe before they strike again?
A gritty, historical family drama, full of laughter and tears from the author of Annie Groves’ bestsellers including Child of the Mersey and Christmas on the Mersey.
I received a copy of this book from Boldwood Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I love reading a book that you become absorbed in from the first page. ‘The Orphan Daughter’, has this quality, and it’s an enthralling story, with historically authentic characters, whose lives you feel part of, especially the two main female protagonists Connie and Evie.
The historical period for this book, the post WW2 era, and the terrible winter of 1947 is a time I often heard my grandparents and parents talk about. The historic details are believable, and the setting and characters portrayed using vivid imagery, which brings the book to life.
Evie’s hardships are all too common during this time, the euphoria of the ending of war recedes, leaving the bombed cities, damaged infrastructure and relentless poverty for many. Life is hard in Reckoner’s Row, although the community is tight, it is wary of outsiders and unforgiving to those who break the unwritten laws. Evie wants to get out and make something of her life, but love and responsibility draw her back, into the world she longs to leave. This is an emotional family drama, where women are important, they keep families together, and have to subjugate their ambitions.
Angus is an outsider, there to investigate. He and Connie have an attraction, but she is loath to risk her heart and reputation on a fling. There is a mystery element, in this story, which adds to the family saga theme. The air of menace increases as the story progresses. Connie and Evie find that their daily hardship is not the only danger they face.
‘The Orphan Daughter’ has an authentic historical setting, complex characters, with intriguing elements of crime and mystery cleverly woven into the story. An enticing start to the ‘Reckoner’s Row’ series.
Extract from The Orphan Daughter – Sheila Riley
CHAPTER 1 SUMMER 1946 Nineteen-year-old Evie Kilgaren gathered her mane of honey-coloured hair into a loop of knicker elastic before taking a vase of heavy-scented lilies and freesias into the kitchen. The flowers were barely faded when she rescued them from the churchyard bin that morning.
Placing them in the centre of the table, she hoped their heady scent would mask the smell of damp that riddled every dwelling in the row of terraced houses opposite the canal and add a bit of joy to the place.
‘Who’s dead?’ her mother, Rene, asked. Her scornful retort was proof she had already been at the gin and Evie’s heart sank. She had wanted today to be special.
Surely her dead father’s birthday warranted a few flowers. Even if they were knockoffs from the church – at least she had made an effort, which was more than her mother had.
‘I got them for Dad’s…’ Evie was silenced by the warning flash in her mother’s dark eyes. A warning she had seen many times before. Rene gave a hefty sniff, her eyes squinting to focus, her brow wrinkled, and her olive skin flushed. Evie knew that when her mother had drunk enough ‘mother’s ruin’, she could be the life and soul of any party or, by contrast, one over could make her contrary and argumentative. ‘I thought they’d look nice on the table,’ Evie answered lightly, quickly changing her answer to try and keep the peace. She should have known better than to mention her father in front of Leo Darnel, who’d moved in as their lodger six months ago and taken no time at all getting his feet under her mother’s eiderdown. ‘I found a vase in…’ Her voice trailed off. Her mother wasn’t listening. As usual, she’d disappeared into the parlour to darken her finely shaped eyebrows with soot from the unlit grate – make-up was still on ration – dolling herself up for her shift behind the bar of the Tram Tavern. The tavern was barely a stone’s throw away on the other side of the narrow alleyway running alongside their house, so why her mother felt the need to dress to the nines was anybody’s guess.
Out of the corner of her eye, Evie noticed a sudden movement from their lodger, who was standing near the range, which she had black-leaded that morning. Leo Darnel didn’t like her and that was fine, because she didn’t like him either.
He was a jumped-up spiv who tried to pass himself off as a respectable businessman. Respectable? He didn’t know the meaning of the word, she thought, her eyes taking in the polished leather Chesterfield suite that cluttered the room and seemed out of place in a small backstreet terraced house.
‘None of your utility stuff,’ he’d said, pushing out his blubbery chest like a strutting pigeon. All the time he had a wonky eye on the bedroom door. He would do anything to keep her mother sweet and made it obvious every chance he got to show Evie she was in the way.
He’d been very quiet for the last few minutes, Evie realised. That wasn’t like Darnel. He was up to something, she could tell. He hadn’t interrupted with a sarcastic comment as he usually did when she and her mother were having a tit-for-tat. His elfsatisfied smirk stretched mean across thin lips as he hunched inside a crisp white shirt and peered at her.
His beady eyes looked her up and down as he chewed a spent matchstick at the corner of his mouth before turning back to the grate. His piggy eyes were engrossed in the rising flames of something he had thrown onto the fire. Her attention darted to the blaze casting dancing flares of light across the room.
‘No!’ Evie heard the gasp of horror and disbelief coming from her own lips. How could he be so callous? How could he? As he stepped back with arms outstretched like he was showing off a new sofa, Evie could see exactly what he had done.
‘You burned them!’ Evie cried, hurrying over to the range, pushing Darnel out of her way and grabbing the brass fire tongs from the companion set on the hearth, desperate to save at least some of the valuable night-school work.
Two years of concentrated learning to prove she was just as good as all the rest – reduced to ashes in moments. Thrusting the tongs into the flames again and again was hopeless Her valuable notes disintegrated.
‘Mam, look! Look what he’s done!’ Her blue eyes blazed as hotly as the flames licking up the chimney.
‘You are not the only one who can crawl out of the gutter? Mr High-and-mighty!’ Evie was breathless when her burst of anger erupted, watching the flames envelope her books, turning the curling pages to ash. She balled her work-worn hands, roughly red through cleaning up after other people and pummelled his chest. Why? She caught his mocking eyes turn to flint before being dealt a quick backhander that made her head spin.
Her nostrils, which only moments before had been filled with the sweet fragrance of summer freesias and Mansion polish, were now congested with blood as traitorous tears rolled down her cheek. Evie dashed them away with the pad of her hand, ashamed and angry because he was privy to her vulnerability. Her pale blue eyes dashed from the range to her mother, who was now standing in the doorway shaking painted nails.
Sheila Riley wrote four #1 bestselling novels under the pseudonym Annie Groves and is now writing a new saga trilogy under her own name. She has set it around the River Mersey and its docklands near to where she spent her early years. She still lives in Liverpool.
Sail away to beautiful Croatia for summer sun, sparkling turquoise seas and a holiday romance that’s forever…
When no-nonsense, down-to-earth Maddie Wilcox is offered the chance to work on a luxury yacht for the summer, she can’t say no. Yes, she’ll be waiting on the posh guests… But island-hopping around the Adriatic sea will more than makeup for it – especially when Nick, her best friend Nina’s brother, is one of them.
Sparks fly when they meet onboard and Maddie can’t believe self-entitled jerk Nick is really related to Nina.
But in a
secret, picture-perfect cove, away from the real world, Maddie and Nick
discover they might have more in common than they realise…
I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter in return for an honest review.
I always enjoy these romantic escapes, and this one takes place in Croatia, on board a luxury yacht.
Nick, Nina’s brother from ‘The Little Paris Patisserie’, has a glamorous, if shallow girlfriend, who has just invited him to the holiday of a lifetime. Maddie, Nina’s friend is at a loose end and jumps at the chance to crew for the luxury yacht. There are only six guests but Maddie soon has her work cut out, dealing with their constant neediness.
Nick and Maddie’s first meeting, gives both of them the wrong impression of the other, but the claustrophobic atmosphere of the yacht throws them together and they realise they have more in common than they thought.
The description of Croatia and the secret cove allow you to experience the culture, romance and scenery. The glamorous lifestyle is also interesting but the shallowness of its players makes Tara and her friends hard to like. Maddie is lovely, but lacking in confidence, Nick is out of his depth, but eventually realises beauty is more than fancy packaging.
The romance builds slowly between the two outsiders, but there is plenty of conflict and rough seas, even when their passion is undeniable. Thankfully, they get the happy ending they deserve.
A lovely holiday read.
Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way
she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands,
taking journalists on press trips to awful places like Turin, Milan, Geneva,
Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam and occasionally losing the odd member of the
press in an airport. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it
provided her with the opportunity to eat amazing food, drink free alcohol, hone
her writing skills on press releases and to research European cities for her
best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for HarperImpulse.
Under her pen
name, Julie Caplin, her twelfth novel, The Secret Cove in Croatia published in
ebook format this July.
Everyone knows that being a single mother means having no time to yourself. But for CallieBrown, it’s more exhausting than most. She’s juggling the needs of three teenage children, two live-in parents, a raffish ex-husband, and a dog who never stops eating.
The last thing Callie needs is anything more on her plate. So when she bumps (quite literally) into a handsome, age-appropriate cyclist, she’s quick to dismiss him from her life. After all, if she doesn’t have time to brush her hair in the morning, she certainly doesn’t have time to fall in love…
I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
I love the easy to read writing style of this novel. The themes are familiar to everyone who parents or has parented teenagers or looked after elderly parents. There’s a glossary of teenage vocabulary at the end of the story for the uninitiated. It is the story that most of us have thought of writing at some time, but this author has actually done it and with great results.
Callie is a single mum, with twin girls and a son from her previous relationship who she has been a mother to for eight years, her ex is frankly abysmal, and her ageing parents are a further emotional and physical drain on her already depleted resources. Getting run over by a takeaway delivery bike, is the final straw, she’s invisible and surely something has to change?
Modern family stories are particularly popular and relevant at this moment. This story has many laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with strong emotional poignant scenes, especially concerning Wilf. It is a story of family, friends, self- worth and love, in all its forms.
An absorbing, yet quick read, I read it today in a couple of hours. Its charm is in its relatability and believable characters. A lovely, emotional humorous read.
Guest Post: All about time for you… Fiona Perrin
HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME was inspired by all the women I know who (in the words of the old ad campaign) juggle their lives. I was particularly interested in writing about those who find themselves part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – looking after children as well as ageing parents, mostly while holding down a job (but probably also still making the sandwiches).
It struck me that ‘having it all’ as we say, frequently
means having no time to yourself. We have children to bring up, extended
families to support and it can be just at the time that careers develop and
grow difficult. Callie, the heroine of my novel, is also a single mother with a
complicated, modern and messy family, full of happiness but also pretty
challenging. How does she get any time for herself let alone the opportunity to
fall in love?
I’m not a single mother now, but I was for a few years and I
remember the chaos fondly, but also a constant feeling of exhaustion. Luckily,
I found time to meet Alan and fall in love and now, we have just about waved
all four of our kids off to Uni and careers.
But with them as teenagers, our house was hectic – demanding
but also, fun. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME heavily features teenagers and shows the
pressures they are up against – as well as taking the mickey out them. It has
footnotes to explain teenager-speak for example – they have a whole lingo of
their own. While it’s great to have time to ourselves, I really miss the
madness of those teenage years, and the kids and their friends all hanging
around the house, doing not much. But they all seem to come home quite often
too, mostly with huge bags of washing and to eat their way through the fridge.
I’m really lucky in that my Mum is about the most active,
healthy, supportive parent you can imagine. However, she is also a carer for my
older stepfather, while in her seventies – he can no longer walk – so I have
some understanding of being responsible for the older generation too. HOW TO
MAKE TIME FOR ME features two loopy parents that Callie adores but also add to
the demands on her day. I have dedicated this book to my Mum just so she knows
they were in no way based on her.
I would love it if readers took a little time out for
themselves to read my novel. They might also enjoy Callie’s struggle to stop
feeling ‘invisible’ just as she is knocked off her feet quite literally by a
rather attractive neighbour. She immediately feels that there is no way she
will have time to fall in love with him, but sometimes life has other ideas.
Thanks so much for this opportunity to appear on your brilliant blog.
Fiona Perrin was a journalist
and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in
industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative
Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall,
hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as
often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard
Every dog walk brings new drama into the lives of these dogs
and their people. A supermarket shelf-stacker, a stay-at-home dad, an elderly
widow and a freelance photographer sound an unlikely bunch of friends but they have
one thing in common: they all walk their dogs in Beauville Park at roughly the
same time each morning.
And that’s enough for Angela, bored organiser without a cause, to get them together to form the Dog-walking Club. For Jock, the Scottie, Benji the spaniel, Pixie the boxer, Mitzi the poodle and Bassett the … all sorts, walking each day with their friends is a dream come true. And it changes the lives of widowed Sybil who’s spent a lifetime hiding her secret sorrow, hopeless-with-women Jon who’s wandering almost unwittingly into an affair, freelance photographer Jemma who is at every wedding but her own, and Maggi who is frantically trying to save money to visit her family in Australia.
And for long-suffering Angela, a nasty shock turns into a new start in disguise for her and her husband – and their love life.
Author Interview – Liz Hinds – The Dog-walking Club
What inspired you to write a story about a dog walking club?
The idea came from my husband. At the time we were taking it in turns to walk George, our dog, and he’d always come back telling me gossip he’d heard from other dog-walkers. This was unusual because he isn’t a chatterer normally – and I go out of my way to avoid people. It’s not what we do! But telling me about various walkers he always saw together gave him the idea that it would make a theme for a book.
There are many different characters in your story, do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?
A bit of both. I think they often start off as real-life characters but they develop their own personalities, especially as I tend to use people who have a particular look but whom I don’t know very well – if at all – so they’re blank canvasses.
I think dialogue is key to realism.
Although sometimes I suspect I write as I talk – including the ums and ers –
and get a bit waffly. (I hope I edit most of this out.) I ‘hear’ my characters
speaking and I try to capture that.
When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?
as definite as a plot but more of a vague idea. The idea for my first novel,
This Time Next Year, the diary of a middle-aged woman, came to me when I was
nearly fifty and struggling with life as a middle-aged woman, and I’ve
explained where The Dog-walking Club originated. Characters and the stories
within the novels come later but, honestly, I don’t really know where any of it
What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?
took the science route in school and only started writing when I was in my
thirties and the church I was part of began its own newspaper. In a peculiar
twist, as a result of that, I ended up ghost-writing the autobiography of a
NYPD cop. I then started writing short stories, did a Master’s degree in
Creative Writing and eventually made my way into novel writing.
collection of short stories for my dissertation could have been entitled
Madness and Death because I do enjoy that sort of disturbed writing, but as my
tutor said, ‘You build up a wonderful tragic moment – and then you put in a
joke.’ I love the novels of Janet Evanovich for their humour and I think being
able to make people laugh is such a wonderful thing. The Dog-walking Club
doesn’t contain direct humour but I hope there is a lightness to it.
What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?
Many sorts. I usually read last thing at night so it has to be fairly easy to read. I read fiction especially, what might be termed quirky. I’m thinking of Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologises. That sort of thing. The Reader on the 6.27 and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. That said, I also loved Backman’s Beartown, which was very different. I love Simon Brett mysteries, Jacqueline Winspear; do you want me to go on?
What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?
The worst is easy: trying to find a
publisher/agent. I was going to say, ‘having hope’ is the worst but that sounds
too depressing! And the best thing is the dreaming, thinking, creating. The
actual writing’s quite hard as it’s never as good on screen as it sounded in my
What are you currently writing?
A sequel to This Time Next Year.
Several people said they wanted to know what the heroine did next. Looking back
I realise that I expected my book to sell with no marketing or promotion so I’m
trying to change things this time, hence the albeit belated blog tour for The
Dog-walking Club, and at the moment my plan is to make a serialised podcast of
the original This Time Next Year before the publication of the sequel.
So many great plans. So little
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Any book that features animal characters, always has my attention and this one is certainly worthy of my interest. The characters are varied and realistic, and the antics of the dog characters are amusing and relatable for anyone who shares their life with a dog.
‘The Dog- Walking Club’ is created by Angela, someone who likes to organise. She notices that a group of individuals walk their dogs at the same time each day, after a while, she suggests formalising their meeting and the after much discussion, and qualms the club is born.
There is plenty of variety and background information in this story, which is told from several points of view. The reasons people have their dog companions, and what is wrong, and right in their lives are all revealed in an easy, chatty writing style that draws you into the group.
There is a lovely balance of sad and happy, and of course, the dogs are the stars of the book. A lovely, mostly lighthearted look at dog owners and their dogs.
I’m a golden-retriever-loving granny, who
enjoys walking by the sea or in the woods, who eats too much chocolate and gets
over-excited when the Welsh team plays rugby.
Writing-wise, I am an experienced freelance
writer – published in The Guardian, Christian Herald and various other
magazines and newspapers – with an MA in Creative Writing (Trinity College,
University of Wales). My short stories have been published in Cambrensis
(the now sadly-defunct short story magazine of Wales) as well as in several
anthologies including Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe (Parthian) and Catwomen
from Hell (Honno). I am also the author of several non-fiction books
published by Hodder & Stoughton, Scripture Union and Kevin Mayhew.
I have self-published two novels, This
Time Last Year, and The Dog-walking
I enjoy speaking about my writing to various gatherings and the media and I am an active blogger, facebooker and tweeter.
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After Tabby’s father vanishes, a
deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star
performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister,
is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother
and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like
a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible
to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.
Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.
Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family. Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This book certainly stirred some memories for me. At Tabby’s age, I was totally obsessed with horses, and the scenes in the stable yard evoked happy times. This story is the second in the ‘Sweetbriars series, but as I haven’t read the previous book, and enjoyed it, it reads well as a standalone.
Tabby lives with her mum, who is trying to forge a new life, as a single mum. She has a career and this is her main focus, Tabby is self-sufficient and not surprisingly, old for her years because her mother leaves her to fend for herself a lot of the time. Haunted by her dad’s leaving, Tabby reveals her vulnerability and you empathise.
Estranged from her sister, who lives with their grandparents in Cornwall, this story is about reconnecting with family and understanding that everyone’s life has ups and downs, no matter how ideal it appears from the outside.It’s also about learning to trust your friends and being honest about your life and the problems you face.
The issues are those facing young pre-teens and younger teenagers in contemporary society and are explored in a clear and non- judgmental way.
The focus is on Tabby and the horses, one Bliss, she is helping rehabilitate from an accident, and another horse who she is particularly fond of, she battles to save.
The setting is vividly described, and the characters are realistic, and avoid being stereotypical.
As an adult, I enjoyed reading this story, and feel that is perfect for the intended age group.
The perfect read for any horse obsessed young person.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Hollie Anne Marsh and the Sweetbriars equestrian series
I wrote the manuscript for the first Sweetbriars book over ten years ago. I had a dream to create a premium equestrian series like the successful Saddle Club series, with an addictive mix of horses and ‘coming of age’ themes.
When I was younger, I loved these kinds of books and read them
all. I would trade books with my friends, and we would discuss them for hours.
After having a baby and being made redundant from my corporate
job, I finished the first book; Leaving The City and then recently, I finished the
second book; Tabby’s Big Year… it’s been great to do something creative again
and fulfil a lifelong dream!
There are three main characters; Cate, Tabby and Violet and they spend most of their spare time at the Sweetbriars Farm.
Cate Sullivan is the daughter of the family who owns the farm and
is the main character in the first book. She is sweet and endearing, however a
bit of a worrier!
In the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, we follow Tabby’s story.
Tabby lives with her mother in the quaint village of the Dales. She is diligent
and hardworking, however, is grappling with her family situation as her father
vanished and her older sister Ava moved to Cornwall to live with their grandparents.
Tabby becomes a regular at Sweetbriars, finding solace with the horses and her
The last character; Violet, she is the sassier of the three girls and she also keeps a horse at ‘Sweetbriars’. She says what she thinks and keeps you guessing with her peculiar ways and habits!
I ran a ‘Search for a Cover Star’ competition for both books in the series and for Leaving The City (the first book), I found a talented young rider, Faye Heppelthwaite, alongside her show pony Gigman George to grace the cover. The photo was taken in an English meadow by the photographer Paul Ruffle and it’s pretty stunning.
For the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, I took it one step further and ran a competition where a young girl could not only grace the cover, she could also win a photo shoot with her pony or horse with photographer Katie Amos. Twelve-year-old Sia Reiss won the competition and participated in a photo shoot in scenic Yorkshire with her eighteen-year-old horse Frankie.
As part of entering the competition I asked entrants why they
thought they should win the competition and here is what Sia said, which I
thought was gorgeous: “My pony Frankie is 18 years old and has arthritis. His
glory days are over. He is a one in a million pony and I love him so much. To
me, the best way I can think of celebrating Frankie is having him on the cover
of a wonderful book.”
Here is one of my favourite photos from the photo shoot. I think
it’s easy to see the special that Sia and Frankie have.
In Tabby’s Big Year, there are important lessons for young readers. The main character, Tabby has been through a lot in her young life and has a habit of bottling things up and pretending she is ok. The book teaches that by bottling things up, problems only seem more significant.
Tabby also thinks she is the only one with problems, and there is
a moment in the book where the neighbour of the Sweetbriars farm Sophia, opens
up and reveals how her father also abandoned her… this is a lightbulb moment
for Tabby, as she thought everyone around her had things perfect.
Tabby also found Sophia strange (she’s eccentric, lives in a
rundown house with oddball parents), but realizes they have a lot in common and
Tabby and Sophia become quite close. So, I think the book also teaches young
readers not to judge people by the way they look. This was also quite prevalent
in the first book too.
Well, the obvious thing seems to write another Sweetbriars book from Violet’s point of view. It could also be fun to write a book about the quirky neighbour of Sweetbriars Sophia and her life… she is a bit of an enigma. Then the books could continue – as the series is in its infancy. At this stage, I am not sure how far I will take it, but I do think it has potential.
Tabby’s Big Year
The second book in the Sweetbriars Equestrian Book Series tells the story of twelve-year-old Tabby and is set in The Dales – a fictional rural Devon village in the Southwest of England.
After the disappearance of
her father, several years before, Tabby, her older sister Ava and her mother,
are still grappling with the consequences. Things need to be brought out into
the open… but go on being unsaid, as a huge rift develops leaving the family
at odds with each other.
While Tabby battles her
feelings of being neglected by her mother, she unexpectedly has to face another
battle – to find the courage to save her last horse, Nancy from being sent to a
premature end at the knacker’s yard.
Tabby also has the
responsibility of caring for a young horse, Bliss – her dream horse who was
entrusted to her and is recovering from a serious accident. The clock is
ticking as Tabby nurses him back to health and peak performance to be able to
achieve her dream: to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders
By her side are her two best
friends, Cate and Violet. Tabby also develops an unlikely friendship – with
Sophia. Tabby realises she has much more in common with her than she ever could
It’s a big year for Tabby… will she be able to find the courage not only to save the horses she loves the most but also to speak up and tell the people closest to her how she really feels?
Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda.
Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage.
The ‘Sweetbriars’ series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments!
Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had. Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books’ fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.