Posted in Book Review, Crime, Magic, Mystery

Breaking The Lore-Andy Redsmith @canelo_co @AndyRedsmith #fantasy #crime #humour-3*#Review

How do you stop a demon invasion… when you don’t believe in magic? Inspector Nick Paris is a man of logic and whisky. So staring down at the crucified form of a murder victim who is fifteen centimetres tall leaves the seasoned detective at a loss… and the dead fairy is only the beginning.

Suddenly the inspector is offering political asylum to dwarves, consulting with witches, getting tactical advice from elves and taking orders from a chain-smoking talking crow who, technically, outranks him.

With the fate of both the human and magic worlds in his hands, Nick will have to leave logic behind and embrace his inner mystic to solve the crime and stop an army of demons from invading Manchester!

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Creating a fantasy world that appeals to readers is difficult, everyone has their own preconceptions of what should be in this world, what the creatures look like, and how they behave. The key is perhaps to hold back on the descriptions of your fantasy creatures and let your reader imagine them. This is what I like to do, but in this mystery the creatures are so well defined, it leaves little to the imagination.

Once you’ve achieved this, the next obstacle is how to create a story that fits in with the world you’ve created, and entertains your reader. I have no problem believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, or another world running parallel to ours, but largely unseen by humans. However, some of the descriptions of the creatures living in this fantasy world didn’t resonate. Believable characters or ones you can empathise, are important for the reader to connect to the story. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find that connection with any of the characters in this story.

Inspector Paris is amusing, but his addiction to cigarettes and whiskey, apparently supported by his employers didn’t ring true. A functioning alcoholic for a detective is not a new concept, but this didn’t fit with his almost naive belief in the supernatural. unless of course, they are part of his drunken haze?

The story fits into the cozy mystery genre, but the supernatural elements, if any, are usually implied rather than implict.as in this case. I admire the courage to merge genres but maybe the fantasy needs taming a little and the mystery deepening for it to work effectively.

The pacing and plot are good. The dynamics between the main players believable, and often amusing, If you are looking for a lighthearted read, and enjoy this type of urban fantasy, this is worth a read.

Posted in Book Review

#blogtour: A Village Affair – Julie Houston- Guest Post – Extract -5* Review

Cassie Beresford has recently landed her dream job as deputy headteacher at her local, idyllic village primary school, Little Acorns. So, the last thing she needs is her husband of twenty years being ‘outed’ at a village charity auction – he has been having an affair with one of her closest friends.

As if it weren’t enough to cope with, Cassie suddenly finds herself catapulted into the head teacher position, and at the front of a fight to ward off developers determined to concrete over the beautiful landscape.

But through it all, the irresistible joy of her pupils, the reality of keeping her teenage children on the straight and narrow, her irrepressible family and friends, and the possibility of new love, mean what could have been the worst year ever, actually might be the best yet…

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Guest Post –  The Reading |Gene – Julie Houston

I’ve spent a good part of the last hour searching through albums for this particular photo. What is perhaps strange is that, as a prolific reader and writer myself, this is the only photograph I have of my offspring reading. And this is the reason: now twenty-four and twenty-one, my children have never, as far as I know, read a book in its entirety in their whole life. Which brings me to the conclusion that one is either born with – or without – the reading gene.

I think it’s fair to say my makeup is almost entirely made up of the reading gene. While my parents were both readers, I don’t actually ever remember them reading to me but, by the time I was four, I was more than happy to read to myself, head stuck in a book and totally engrossed. I can still see the black and white front covers of the reading books at infant school and the utter joy of immersing myself in a world of Rumpelstiltskin and Rapunzel.

Comics played a big part in my life and the excitement of waiting for my first copy of Bimbo, aged five was almost palpable.

I’m not making this up – by the age of five I had a subscription to Bimbo! I’m also not making up that I have every copy of Bunty ever read, up in my loft. Every time I’ve moved house, Bunty and Petticoat and Romeo have come with me, despite my husband’s protestations that one night we’ll drown in a sea of girly stories when the ceiling caves in on top of us. I had a tendency towards bronchitis as a child and craved comics to read when I was ill in bed. What I really wanted was a box of comics that I didn’t have to wait until the following week to know what the Four Marys – Mary Cotter, Mary Field, Mary Radleigh and Mary Simpson (I promise you, those names have just rolled out without any Googling) – were up to. Thus, the thinking behind this hoarding was that if ever I had a daughter – with or without bronchitis – she would be delighted when I presented her with my cache of comics.

Wrong. She showed no interest whatsoever.

I empathise totally with children I teach who are totally swept away into a different world through their reading book and have to be brought back, almost blinking against reality, because it’s now Maths or Science and we have to ‘get on.’ They have the reading gene and almost definitely will remain readers throughout their life. They will get a thrill as they go into bookshops and come to recognise and love the smell of the library. They will hover around friends’ bookshelves and stroke new editions that have never been read. They will be found behind the sofa at parties – as I still am – excited by the find of an unknown title by a favourite author.

I read to my children when they were still bumps, lovingly stroking my abdomen as I read my favourite childhood books to them in the womb. They were going to love reading like I did, be readers before they went to school. Well, yes, they could both mechanically read at the age of four and adored being read to, but neither had any inclination to pick up a book and immerse themselves in it. The rugby, hockey, skiing, deep-sea diving and watching TV gene firmly entrenched in my husband’s gene pool trounced any reading gene of mine.

Checkmate.

Both my offspring were bright children who did well at school and are now intelligent young adults with excellent degrees from a top university, and yet will cheerfully admit to never having read a book in its entirety. For them, reading is a necessary evil to be got through in order to filter required information before leaping down slippery slopes, scuba-diving or pre-lashing (drinking copious amounts for the uninitiated) and socialising, and certainly not the wonderful pleasure that it affords me.

There may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. My daughter asked to read one of my books while we were away in the summer.

‘Gosh, Mum, I can’t stop reading this. It’s good isn’t it…?’

My Thoughts… 

A lovely mix of humour and romance set in a vibrant English village.

Cassie’s world crumbles when she finds out her husband and best friend are having an affair, starting a new job as a  Deputy Headteacher seems impossible, how will she survive the gossip.  Cassie’s life takes on the appearance of a roller coaster, but she discovers she likes who she has become.

The plot is pacy and full of twists and the characters bring the setting to life, and you feel part of the community. Cassie is a great character, easy to empathise, and the story has so many laugh-out-loud moments that it’s guaranteed to brighten up a dull day.

The romance is gentle and unexpected and the not without its challenges but the ending is worth the angst and makes you want more of Westenbury and its inhabitants.

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

Extract

‘She’s Right Off My Christmas Card List…

At 1 a.m. on the Monday morning – the morning when I was apparently supposed to breeze into Little Acorns and take over at the helm, steering both staff and pupils in the direction demanded by the local authority, the governors and, more pertinently, bloody Ofsted, my husband slunk back home. I say ‘slunk’ but to be honest I didn’t have a clue as to the speed or mode of his arrival, being dead to the world as a result of a couple of Fiona’s little helpers.

Totally shattered from lack of sleep and the shock, as well as the bombshell of my sudden promotion, I was in a pretty catatonic state by the time Fiona and Clare left, late in the afternoon, to sort out their weeks ahead.

Clare, who was in the process of expanding her rather successful stag do business, Last Stagger, to incorporate hen dos, had been given a lift by Fiona to get her own car and laptop and, on her return, set herself up at my breakfast bar dealing with emails and the many enquiries for new business. Fiona, who believed any problem could be solved through food, and lots of it, found my pinny, ingredients in the fridge and freezer and set to rustling up a meal in order to have some semblance of normality for the kids. At least when Freya and Tom finally got around to realising this particular Sunday was shaping up to be rather different from the usual Sunday in the Beresford household, I had the excuse of being in shock and terror at suddenly finding myself headteacher instead of deputy. Having said that, while there might be a shepherd’s pie in the oven, I still didn’t know how I was going to explain Mark’s absence.

Before Fiona left to feed her own brood, she’d nipped down to Sainsbury’s, returning with an enormous chocolate cake, concealer and a pack of Nytol.

‘The cake’s for pud to stop your two talking,’ she announced drily. ‘If their mouths are full, they can’t be asking too many questions. You’ll need the concealer to cover up those red eyes in the morning and the Nytol…’

‘I’m not taking sleeping tablets,’ I protested. ‘I don’t believe in them…’

‘They’re just antihistamine,’ Fiona said calmly. ‘Far better that you actually get some sleep to face tomorrow than have another night like last night. You probably won’t need them, you’ll be so exhausted. I usually drop a couple when Matthew is snoring horrendously and doesn’t respond to my clapping.’

‘Clapping?’ Clare looked up from her laptop, bemused. ‘You applaud him for bloody snoring. God, I’d be kicking him, not encouraging him. Clapping?’

Fiona laughed. ‘Honestly, it works. Try it next time one of your men happens to be a snorer. You just gently clap two or three times and they turn over and sleep without another sound. It doesn’t always work.’ Fiona started giggling. ‘The other night I was so fed up with him I clapped really angrily – staccato – in his left ear, and he shot out of bed shouting, “What is it, what is it, wassamatter…?” fell over his bloody great size-fifteen boots – that I’m always telling him to shift from the bedroom – and landed in a naked heap on the carpet.’ Fiona carried on chortling. ‘Great entertainment,’ she added.

‘I think you need to get out more,’ Clare said. ‘Why don’t you go into the spare room when the snorer from hell kicks off?’

‘Haven’t got one any more. Now that the girls are horrible adolescents and can’t stand sharing a bedroom – or each other, come to that – Bea has purloined the spare room for herself. Moved all her stuff in there a couple of months ago and refuses to move.’

‘I’d smack her bottom,’ Clare said.

‘Not when she’s almost six foot and her hockey stick’s a constant accessory, you wouldn’t,’ Fiona said mildly. ‘Anyway, enough of my lot. How are you feeling now, Cassie?’

‘Like I’m in a dream,’ I shrugged. ‘Totally not with it. Even if Mark hadn’t done what he’d done, if he was here now with me instead of you two, I’d still be in a state about tomorrow.’

‘But why?’ Clare looked up again. ‘I thought you wanted to be in charge?’

I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself as terrifying thoughts of the next day replaced incredulous thoughts of Mark’s recalcitrant behaviour. ‘I know you two – particularly you, Clare, not having any kids in the system – don’t know much about what’s going on in education at the moment, but being a deputy head in a primary school is totally different from being the head. I have a class of my own to teach, albeit on a slightly, and I emphasise the word slightly, reduced timetable. I’m given two afternoons off to perform my deputy’s role.’

‘Sounds much better now then,’ Clare said, draining her cup of coffee. ‘As head, you won’t have a class to teach and you can shut yourself away in your office and swivel round on your chair, pressing those red and green lights that say, “Come In” or “Bugger Off”.’

I actually laughed at that. ‘You don’t know the half. I’m still going to have to deal with my new class tomorrow; someone will have to teach them and I can’t see David Henderson having sorted out any supply.’

‘David Henderson.’ Fiona whistled. ‘I’m still amazed that the man they call “the Richard Branson of the North” is actually your Chair of Governors. What’s he like? Rather attractive, isn’t he?’

‘Rather?’ Clare snorted. ‘Very, you mean. He’s gorgeous…’

‘With a very attractive wife,’ I smiled.

‘Since when’s that stopped Clare?’ Fiona sniffed, giving me an anxious look. ‘Look, Cassie, you can’t do everything. You can’t be expected to teach a class of thirty ten-year-olds and be deputy head and now head as well. What did David Henderson say? What’s likely to happen?’

‘Well, in cases like this, where the head is suddenly no more if the deputy has been in situ for years then they will be acting head and another member of staff will be acting deputy until the post of head is advertised and filled. In my case, where I’m brand new, a new acting head is usually brought in from the authority. You know, someone who’s been a deputy for years in their own school and is actively looking for a headship. They’ll ship them in to take over temporarily.’

Clare looked disappointed. ‘Oh, so you’re not going to be head after all? Well, that’s all your problems halved in one fell swoop. You just need to sort Mark out and you’ll be back to square one, job done.’

‘Clare!’ Fiona frowned as she saw my face. ‘I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that. You get back to sorting your rampant stags and don’t be so damned flippant.’

I smiled at Fiona but realised my stomach was churning and I wanted to throw up. ‘I’m sure they will bring someone in to take over as head but, according to David Henderson, it won’t be tomorrow. He said he’d be on hand in the morning to help me. Shit,’ I said, suddenly realising. ‘I’m going to have to do a new-term, new-year, new-beginning assembly and I’ll have to explain to the children that Mrs Theobold is dead. Or do I say she’s with Jesus? No, I can’t; what about the Muslim children? OK, Mrs Theobold is with Jesus or Mohammed – take your pick, kids.’

‘Calm down,’ Clare said as she realised panic was mounting in every fibre of my being once more. ‘Sit yourself down, pen and paper in front of you, and we’ll help you compose your very first assembly as head. How hard can it be?’’

Julie Houston is the author of The One Saving Grace, Goodness, Grace and Me and Looking for Lucy, a Kindle bestseller top100 general, and a Kindle bestseller Number1. She is married, with the two teenage children and a mad cockerpoo and, like her heroine, lives in a West Yorkshire village. She is also a teacher and a magistrate.

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Posted in Book Review

Love in the Dales Series- Mary Jayne Baker – Guest Post and 5* Reviews

In a lost corner of the Yorkshire Dales, Lana Donati runs a medieval theme tourist trap restaurant with her brother. As a distraction to help them get over losing the father, they loved dearly, and as a tribute to his passion for the beautiful area they live in, Lana hatches a plan to boost business for everyone by having the Grand Départ route pass through their village. 

But this entails getting the small community to work together to convince the decision-makers that their beloved village is Tour material. Not an easy task when the people involved include Lana’s shy, unlucky-in-love brother Tom, the man-eating WI chair Yolanda, bickering spouses Gerry and Sue, arrogant celebrity Harper Brady, and Lana’s (attractive) arch-nemesis, former pro-cyclist turned bike shop owner, Stewart McLean, whose offbeat ideas might just cost them everything. 

Amazon UK

mirrorbooks.co.uk

My Thoughts…

Authentic characters that have emotional depth and realistic flaws are the lynchpins of this romantic comedy set in the lovely Yorkshire Dales.

A story about community spirit, village life and honouring those we love. The main protagonist is independent, but with a vulnerability that endears her. The romance she finds is paced realistically and adds interest to this story of family, relationships and friends.

Another charming story by this author who has the knack of bringing her setting to life to enhance her wonderful characters. Looking forward to the next one.

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

After years living in London, costume shop owner Becky Finn is trying to build a new life for herself and fiancé Cole in her old home of Egglethwaite, a sleepy village in the Yorkshire Dales.

Keen to raise funds for the struggling village hall she loved as a child, Becky soon finds herself at the head of a colourful group intent on resurrecting Egglethwaite’s Christmas pantomime. But, as she quickly discovers, there’s more to panto than innuendo and slapped thighs.

As the opening night grows closer, Becky starts to wonder if her embattled panto will ever make it to the stage and, with handsome co-star Marcus on the scene, if shes picked the right man for her after all.

Amazon UK

mirrorbooks.co.uk

My Thoughts…

What I love about this author and this series is the humour that dominates the plot and acts as the perfect counterpoint to the deep emotion of some scenes. Again, this story concentrates on community spirit. How after a little persuasion and give and take, they work as one for the good of the village.

The storyline is engaging and unique, again a characteristic of this author. The quality of characters, the events and emotions bring James Herriot’s Vet stories to mind, which I love.

There’s romance too, which is a realistic mix of poignancy and laughter and adds just the right amount of sweetness and spice to this delightful story.

Love in the Dales is a great series, well worth reading.

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

Guest Post – Mary Jayne Baker 

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Ok, so here’s a tweet of mine from 23rd October 2016, as I was planning out my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, for those who’ve not come across it) for that year:

That book became A Bicycle Made for Two, the first book in the Love in the Dales series. It was published in April 2018, with the second book in the series, The Perfect Fit, following in November. And yes, it does indeed feature trombones, chips shops and morris dancing, as well as Flash the border collie pup!

I’ve been asked to write a few words about the inspiration behind the series. As the tweet above shows, when it comes to where an author gets their ideas, it’s often a bit of a mishmash, chucking in ingredients as and when they occur to you. Mine go into a big brainstorming document, then are weeded down when I come to write an outline. So, I wanted my heroine to play in a brass band because I used to play in a brass band (saving myself research, basically…). I wanted to include a chip shop because I’d been standing in one when I’d had a vision of a scene I could set there. Morris dancing – I’d noticed that morris dancers were often older, very serious-looking men and I thought there was potential for humour in creating a character who was such a man. And the dog is called Flash for the sole purpose of one Queen-based joke that made me giggle.

In terms of having a plan, all I really knew when I decided to write the first book – which I didn’t know at the time would end up being part of a series – was that I wanted to write about Yorkshire. I wanted my deep affection for my home county to shine through in the story, the characters, the setting and the writing.

I’d written books with Yorkshire characters and settings before. My debut novel, The Honey Trap, was set in London but featured a villainous editor from Bradford, who became my favourite characters to write for. My next book, Meet Me at the Lighthouse, was set on the Yorkshire coast, and Runaway Bride had a heroine from Settle. But I wouldn’t have said Yorkshire was the primary inspiration for those books in the same way as A Bicycle Made for Two. This brings my bit of the West Riding into focus: the glorious blend of moorland and mill towns often referred to as Brontë Country.

I wanted the book to reflect a tight-knit village community such as the one I’d grown up in, and as with all my books, the individual ingredients came more often than not from my own experiences. As mentioned, like my heroine I once played in a brass band (2nd Euphonium). The village, Egglethwaite, is a patchwork of bits and pieces I’ve stolen from other villages near where I live. The viaduct and reservoir are based on Hewenden viaduct and reservoir, near my home in Harden (and although the viaduct is integral to the story and features on the cover, it only occurred to me to include it about a third of the way through writing the first draft – some insight into the writing process there!). The beauty spot of Pagans’ Rock is based on Druids’ Altar near Bingley. Egglethwaite’s cobbled main street was borrowed from Heptonstall, its pub name from Oxenhope. When I come across something that lights a spark for whatever reason – whether that’s a cobbled street, a pub name, a phrase or tic of an individual I encounter, an event or anecdote – I jot it down to add to my brainstorm. Even things that don’t become part of the core plot can add texture and character to a book, and help to flesh out the people who live in its pages.

With this series particularly, I wanted to include all the things I loved best about Yorkshire, from the sweeping beauty of the moors to the dry humour of the people. I wanted this to be Yorkshire as it is, my experience of it, rather than the view of it from the outside as a land of whippets, flat caps and puddings. So I made the decision to set the first book around an event we’re still talking about in the county: the Grand Départ of 2014 when the eyes of the whole world were on the county and it really showed itself at its best. I’m not a follower of professional cycling but like everyone in Yorkshire, I got carried away by that event and the sense of community spirit it brought out.

For the second book, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. Again, I wanted to bring out the community spirit at the heart of Egglethwaite. I’d always wanted to write a story about a village pantomime, and now I had the perfect village and the perfect set of characters to take the job on. With all the old friends I’d got to know writing A Bicycle Made for Two, plus a new hero and heroine and their families, I set about throwing obstacles at my wannabe amdrammers, both romantic and theatrical. These included randy cast members, bad acting, iffy Welsh accents, piddling puppies and deflating boobies. It was so much fun to write, I do hope I’ll get the chance to visit Egglethwaite again in future!

 

Posted in Book Review, Festive Read

The Cosy Christmas Tea Shop – Caroline Roberts – 5* Review

 

blurb-winter

Amazon UK

 Amazon

my-review-winter

Festive angst and cheer at the castle tea shop. Easy to read with believable characters and events, definitely my favourite book in this series. Romance, friendship and sparkling humour. Lovely down to earth characters, a perfect slice of cafe life at the castle for Christmas. I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Posted in Book Review

The One With The Wedding Dress – Bridesmaids #2 – Erin Lawless- 4* Review

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BLURB

Nora Dervan is ready for her Happy Ever After. With her darling Harry waiting at the altar, and all her family and friends around her. She is certain that her special day will not be forgotten/will be one to remember…

But with her four bridesmaids hiding more secrets, than bottles of champagne. Will her big day be remembered for all the right reasons?

Bea has barely gotten past the fact that her two best friends are dating, and now they’re engaged, whilst cupid’s arrow points in a forbidden direction for Cleo. She is so distracted by her off limits, hot new colleague that she has forgotten Daisy, who has been left dreading the singles table. There’s more romance in the cheesy pick- up lines than Sarah’s own marriage, which hasn’t turned out as she hoped it would be.

Buy Links

Amazon UK

Amazon

My Review 2016-1

The One With The Wedding Dress

 

Reacquainting with bride to be Nora and her prospective bridesmaids, as they celebrate Cleo’s thirtieth birthday is easy, despite the months that have passed since I read part 1 of the Bridesmaids’ story. Experience, a nerve racking but hilarious weekend finding the perfect wedding dress. There is plenty of tension between bridesmaids Cleo and Bea and Nora and her mum, who seems set on ruining her daughter’s wedding dress buying experience.
It’s enjoyable sharing the ups and downs of the weekend and the story ends with an unexpected cliff-hanger that could threaten the stability of the group and turn the wedding into a disaster.
This is a quick easy read but there are complex characters and vivid imagery which make this story addictive. I also love the snippets of real wedding memories at the beginning of each chapter.
Looking forward to the hen weekend, all the fun without the hangover, what could be better?
I received a copy of this book from Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

 

 

The One With The Wedding Dress by Erin Lawless

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The One With The Wedding Dress by Erin Lawless

Erin Lawless

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