Posted in Cover Reveal, Friendship, Romance, Travel

The Summer Island Swop Samantha Tonge #CoverReveal @SamTongeWriter @Aria_Fiction @rararesources #Romance #Travel #Friendship #Conservation #Summer #RomCom #TheSummerIslandSwop

Sometimes the best holidays are the ones you least expect…

After a long and turbulent year, Sarah is dreaming of the five-star getaway her sister has booked them on. White sands, cocktails, massages, the Caribbean is calling to them.

But the sisters turn up to tatty beaches, basic wooden shacks, a compost toilet and outdoor cold water showers. It turns out that at the last minute Amy decided a conservation project would be much more fun than a luxury resort.

So now Sarah’s battling mosquitos, trying to stomach fish soup and praying for a swift escape. Life on a desert island though isn’t all doom and gloom. They’re at one with nature, learning about each other and making new friends. And Sarah is distracted by the dishy, yet incredibly moody, island leader she’s sure is hiding a secret.

#SummerIslandSwop

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Publication Date: 4th June

Samantha Tonge

Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely.

When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines.

She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women’s fiction with publisher Canelo and in 2020 her novel Knowing You won the RNA’s Jackie Collins Romantic Thriller Award.

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#SummerIslandSwop
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Guest post, Motivational, Travel

Away With The Penguins Hazel Prior 5*#Review @HazelPriorBooks #BantamPress #RandomThingsTours @TransworldBooks #Penguins #Multigenerational #Adventure #love #friendship #loss #Self-Discovery #Travel #Conservation #Secrets #BookReview #BlogTour #humour #HistoricalFiction #ContemporaryFiction @annecater #AwayWithThePenguins

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick, although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.
She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’). Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.
But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this. She is going on an intrepid journey – to save the penguins.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

I was drawn to this book initially because my son has always loved penguins. This story has so much to recommend it.

The star of the show is, Veronica McCreedy, a virtual recluse, who feels at 85 years she still hasn’t made her mark on the world and has lots to offer. She dislikes how she looks because inside she is vibrant and young. Her life is steeped in tragedy, which has contributed to her current reclusive state.

Patrick is at a particularly low ebb in his life, and he becomes introverted and prickly with others. The story unfolds from Veronica and Patrick’s viewpoints, as they get to know each other. Through journals, we learn of Veronica’s past life and find it has some similarities with Patrick’s. Then there is a great adventure, which proves more significant than the geographical miles travelled.

The characters are believable and for the most part lovely. Everyone has their flaws but its this humanity that makes them relatable. Veronica’s relationship with Patrick and the people she encounters on her journey of self-discovery are humorous, poignant and uplifting.

The plot flows and the storytelling is engaging. The conservation message is implicit in Veronica’s quest for the penguins, Like so much in life, Veronica’s life is enriched as she works tirelessly in helping the penguins and Patrick. This is an original, story which entertains, informs and motivates, It gives hope to those of us, firmly on the wrong side of fifty, that we are still important, and can make a difference.

Hazel Prior

HAZEL PRIOR lives on Exmoor. . As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. 

AN INTERVIEW WITH HAZEL PRIOR 

VERONICA MCCREEDY, MY AGING HEROINE 

Veronica McCreedy is eighty-six when she has her adventure with the penguins. Why did I want an old woman for my main character? I have some way to go before I reach her age, but, as I gather wrinkles, I find myself often reflecting about the pros and cons of ageing. Our society still seems to lead us to believe that it’s better in every way to be young. It would have us think that at 30 the best part of your life is over, at 40 nobody notices you anymore and from 50 onwards you may as well not exist – particularly if you’re a woman. The vast majority of novels seem to echo this view, with the protagonists finding fulfilment/tragedy/ happy-ever-after while still in their twenties. This is so wrong. 

We develop at different rates, but I suspect a person is never fully-formed. We are in a state of evolution throughout our lives. This evolution isn’t a steady process, but stagnates sometimes and then goes in spurts, depending on events and our reactions to them. I admire people who are hungry for life, who go out and seek new experiences regardless of their age. For example, a friend of mine started learning the harp at the age of ninety. And my neighbour’s father took up skydiving in his eighties. These are extreme examples, but we never stop dreaming, learning or having new adventures. Every year that passes adds to our rich bank of experiences, our store of stories. The logical conclusion is that the older you are, the more interesting you are – so wouldn’t an octogenarian be the perfect heroine? 

VERONICA PAST AND PRESENT 

I’m very aware that we all judge by appearances, and the first thing you’d notice about Veronica McCreedy if you met her might be her age. But I wanted to show her as a complete person; I wanted to make the reader review this initial impression. We get to see her as a young girl, too, and gradually some of the elements that have shaped her come to light. These days she has slipped into certain habits: tea-drinking, litter-picking and dishing out scorn, but there is much, much more to her than this. Look inside the dry old lady exterior and you will find a vitality and strength to rival that of many young people. And she cares deeply about things, much more than she’s prepared to let on. 

Veronica’s advanced years also gave me the opportunity to explore wartime Britain. That time interests me particularly because my parents were alive then. My father was in the RAF. My mother – who would have been contemporary with Veronica – was a teenager, and her entire school was relocated to a country mansion in the north of England. (That’s where the similarity ends though!) As I researched, I became drawn into this poignant time in our history. There is something very nostalgic about an era without computers, traffic and smartphones, but at the same time, the whole population was living on a knife-edge. It seems that life was lived with added intensity on every level, people grasping whatever joy they could because the future was always in question. The moral values were completely different as well (oh, the shame of having a baby when you weren’t married! The double-shame of sleeping with the enemy!). So much food for thought… 

The cruel side of getting old is, of course, the physical deterioration. Veronica is very conscious of this because as a girl she was exceptionally attractive. Her beauty brought her the benefits of (briefly) requited love and (eventually) a millionaire lifestyle, yet it also led her to shame and utter degradation. She misses her beauty, though. These days wealth has replaced it as her means of getting what she wants. It takes her a long time to realise that she doesn’t need to be so manipulative. There is another pathway to happiness if only she can learn to accept genuine human kindness. 

Although Veronica is now robust for her years she’s deeply frustrated by the ageing process. Her body has become an encumbrance that won’t work as well as she wants it to and she hates the fact that she now has to operate within this unreliable vehicle. In a way, however, her body’s failings also serve her because she is eager to contradict naysayers and prove what she can do. She pushes herself to her limits. When her body nearly gives out, her spirit fights on. I believe this is the stuff of true heroism. 

WHY PENGUINS? 

What Veronica’s experiences have given her – along with certain prejudices and a fear of forming close relationships – is resilience. This resilience is perhaps one of the reasons she’s so drawn to penguins. 

Like Veronica, penguins are feisty and stubborn. They defy harsh conditions and refuse to be beaten. But, unlike Veronica, they communicate and cooperate. They live in a vast community and do everything together. Ever since Veronica’s teenage tragedies, she has remained closed to human contact (reflected by her obsession with keeping doors closed). As she witnesses the penguins’ mutual support system, Veronica begins to realise what has been lacking in her own life. Penguins are the perfect teachers for her. 

I also wanted to write about penguins because: 

• They are funny. 

• They are very relatable. Let’s face it, they do look a bit like miniature humans and they act like us in many ways too. 

• Adélies live in Antarctica – pretty powerful for a setting. 

• I was inspired by my friend, Ursula, who made it her mission to tour the world taking photos of penguins after her husband died. 

PANIC ABOUT THE PLANET 

My job as a writer is to tell a good story and entertain people, not to preach. But I do like to deal with serious issues, wrap them up in a bit of fun and maybe provoke a thought or two. To the perceptive reader, my own values will doubtless show through. You can hardly miss the fact that I love wildlife and care deeply about it. So I’m bound to be worried… 

I’m not a fan of doom-mongering, but it strikes me that our current environmental crisis can’t be ignored. There are many strands of thought here, and powerful feelings, too. Even though I, with my carbon footprint, am partly to blame, I am dismayed that lots of my favourite animals are hurtling towards extinction. A world without tigers, polar bears, gorillas, elephants, snow leopards… and of course, penguins? I’m mentally screaming at the mere idea. I don’t have any children but to leave such a legacy is surely a terrible abuse, both of the animals themselves and the next generation of humans. 

We tend to treat wildlife as if it exists solely to serve our own purposes. It doesn’t. As Jackie Morris, illustrator of The Lost Words, states ‘We are not ‘stewards’ of the natural world, we are not something that stands apart from it. We are a very small part of an amazing ecosystem. The Earth is our home, but it is also the home to so many forms of life, life that is so astonishing, intelligence that puts our arrogance to shame’. 

It’s not clever to destroy our own habitat. The effects of global warming have been well-documented. In addition to mass extinction, there are devastating consequences for humans: Floods, wildfires, malnutrition, disease… the list goes on and on. Scientists say we are horribly close to the point of no return, and if we don’t change our ways the planet will sooner or later become uninhabitable for us too. All this is now old news, but I just want to stress that this isn’t a bandwagon thing for me. In fact, I wrote my novel’s first draft before anyone had seen the David Attenborough programme or heard of Greta Thunberg. The publication of AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS is timely, though, and I’m glad that my quirky Antarctic story adds another small voice to the clamour for change. 

Action is need on a vast scale and movements across the world are pushing politicians and businesses to act more responsibly regarding the future of the planet. But I think the little things matter, too. In my novel, Veronica spends her energy-saving a single penguin chick. To me, that is valid. We experience life as individuals and each individual is important, whether animal or human. I recently saw a photo of a baby turtle next to a hundred pieces of plastic that were found in its stomach. The shocking image was a reminder that everything we do has its consequences. 

In my household we do our best in terms of everyday lifestyle. We grow our own beans, courgettes, potatoes etc; we spurn pesticides and slug pellets. We have a hybrid car and I can’t even remember the last time I got on a plane. I indulge in a rant whenever I see the words ‘packaging not currently recyclable’ and seek out some alternative on the supermarket shelves. I even use a bamboo toothbrush. Still, we often have that “If we’re doing it but nobody else bothers, what’s the point?” conversation. Then I think of the turtle. Yes, every little helps… And in fact more and more people are bothering. And if enough people bother, there’s hope. 

In AWAY WITH THE PENGUINS I’ve hinted at a parallel situation. Wartime forced people into drastic action. During a national emergency, they managed to cooperate on a heart-warmingly huge scale. Women suddenly started working in all sectors. People dug up their gardens to grow food, they re-used everything, they used their initiative as never before. They gathered all their strength and kept on trying despite the odds stacked against them. Now that we have an international crisis that threatens life itself, perhaps we can finally get our act together?”

Posted in Blog Blitz, Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Suspense, Travel

Deep Blue Kristy McCaffrey 5* #Review #ThePathwaySeries @McCaffreyKristy #BookReview #Sharks #Adventure #Romance #Suspense #Marine #DeepBlueBlitz #DeepBlue @LoveBooksGroup #Environment #Conservation #Travel #LoveBooksTours

In the deep blue ocean lives an ancient predator…

Dr Grace Mann knows great white sharks. As the daughter of an obsessed shark researcher based at the Farallon Islands, Grace spent her childhood in the company of these elegant and massive creatures. When a photo of her freediving with a great white goes viral, the institute where she works seeks to capitalize on her new-found fame by producing a documentary about her work.

Underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway admires Dr Mann and jumps at the opportunity to create a film showcasing the pretty biologist. As he heads to Guadalupe Island in Baja California Sur for a three-week expedition, it’s clear that his fan-boy crush on Grace is turning into something more serious. But even more pressing—Grace’s passionate focus on the sharks just might get her killed.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

I’ve always been fascinated, with sharks. This authentically detailed story, which features them and their conservation is what drew me to this book. Aside from the sharks, there is adventure, friendship, rivalry, romance and suspense, all intertwined into an easy to read, enthralling story.

The setting and the vivid imagery that creates it makes you feel part of it. The sharks are unique characters, and you empathise with them. The human characters are also believable. Grace is dedicated and driven but still vulnerable. Her love and respect of the creatures she studies is evident and makes her likeable. Alec is similarly driven. Their attraction is inevitable, and passionate, within the claustrophobic surrounding of the expedition ship. This intensifies feelings and gives their romance, impact.

There is an element of suspense in this story, both from the unpredictable nature of the sharks and the humans, who are in some cases, deceitful and secretive. The filming of the sharks and the danger it involves keeps you turning the pages, as you head into the deep blue ocean, with Grace and Alec.

Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. A fascination with science led her to earn two mechanical engineering degrees—she did her undergraduate work at Arizona State University and her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh—but storytelling has always been her passion. She writes both contemporary tales and award-winning historical western romances.

With the release of Deep Blue, Kristy is launching The Pathway Series, a project she’s been developing for years. Each book will combine her love of animal conservation and environmental awareness, while also shining a light on unique and diverse locations around the world. Come along for high adventure with honourable heroes, determined heroines, and Kristy’s trademark mysticism.

An Arizona native, Kristy and her husband reside in the desert where they frequently remove (rescue) rattlesnakes from their property, go for runs among the cactus, and plan trips to far-off places like the Orkney Islands or Machu Picchu. But mostly, she works 12-hour days and enjoys at-home date nights with her sweetheart, which usually include Will Ferrell movies and sci-fi flicks. Her four children have nearly all flown the nest, and the family recently lost their cherished chocolate Labrador, Ranger, so these days a great deal of attention is lavished on Ranger’s sister, Lily, and the newest addition to the household—Marley, an older yellow Labrador they rescued in early 2018. Both dogs are frequently featured on Kristy’sInstagram account, so pop over to meet her canine family.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

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Posted in Author Guest Post, Blog Blitz, Friendship, Romance, Suspense, Travel

Deep Blue Kristy McCaffrey #ThePathwaySeries @McCaffreyKristy #GuestPost #Sharks #Adventure #Romance #Suspense #Marine #DeepBlueBlitz #DeepBlue @LoveBooksGroup #Environment #Conservation #Travel #LoveBooksTours

In the deep blue ocean lives an ancient predator…

Dr Grace Mann knows great white sharks. As the daughter of an obsessed shark researcher based at the Farallon Islands, Grace spent her childhood in the company of these elegant and massive creatures. When a photo of her freediving with a great white goes viral, the institute where she works seeks to capitalize on her new-found fame by producing a documentary about her work.

Underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway admires Dr Mann and jumps at the opportunity to create a film showcasing the pretty biologist. As he heads to Guadalupe Island in Baja California Sur for a three-week expedition, it’s clear that his fan-boy crush on Grace is turning into something more serious. But even more pressing—Grace’s passionate focus on the sharks just might get her killed.

Amazon UK

Kristy McCaffrey – Guest Post – Deep Blue

Thanks so much for letting me stop by today. My background is in engineering, but I’ve been writing since I was very young. When I was raising my kids, I wanted more flexibility with my schedule so I decided to hone my writing skills and pursue publication. Today, I write contemporary adventure romances and award-winning historical western romances.

Here’s the blurb for DEEP BLUE:

When a photo of Dr. Grace Mann freediving with a great white shark goes viral, the institute where she works seeks to capitalize on her new-found fame by producing a documentary about her work. Underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway admires Dr. Mann and jumps at the opportunity to create a film showcasing the pretty biologist. But can he keep her safe when her passionate focus on the sharks repeatedly leads her into danger? 

Ideas come from everywhere, and I usually only have a general inkling about plot and characters in the beginning. I’m not a big outliner (although I’m trying to do more these days), so I start researching my subject and writing at the same time. There’s a lot of back and forth as I build plot and characters to complement each other. Because of this, my first drafts usually require a lot of revisions on the second pass (for instance, in DEEP BLUE I came to realize that several scenes were out of order—my brain knew I needed them, it just didn’t know where). After that, a third pass is for general clean-up. At that point, I’ll send it to beta readers, incorporate their comments, and then ship the manuscript to my editor. After I revise based on her comments, it goes to my proofreader. Most of my projects are self-published, so I do the formatting for ebook and print myself, and during this process, I’ll clean-up any last-minute grammar and logic issues that might pop up. Finally, the book is ready to be published.

One of my keeper books is THE EIGHT by Katherine Neville, a complex story of a magical chess set woven around historical events. I’m never without the non-fiction WOMEN WHO RUN WITH THE WOLVES by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an excellent resource on the female psyche. I refer to it again and again. For pure escapism, you can’t go wrong with Ann Charles’ DEADWOOD series, filled with paranormal shenanigans, humour, and romance. I’m in love with all her characters.

I grew up reading a lot of science fiction and fantasy because that was on my mom’s nightstand, so I devoured Marion Zimmer Bradley and her epic Darkover books, as well as Anne McCaffrey’s (no relation) Dragonriders of Pern series. I was also obsessed with all things King Arthur. But when I was in high school, I read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and that book really showed me the dynamic that can occur in a great romance. So, while I certainly love to write love stories, I also need a big story behind it, and by that, I mean a highly thematic element. I’m also fond of including a bit of the ‘other’—a blend of paranormal and mysticism—so that often slips into my books.

I just finished THE UNHONEYMOONERS by Christina Lauren, a fun, sexy rom-com. Check it out if you haven’t. It’s a great read. And I just started RECURSION by Blake Crouch, and I’m hooked. It’s a sci-fi flavoured novel about scientists trying to download our memories so they can be saved for patients who later suffer from dementia. And, of course, it goes horribly wrong lol.

My favourite author moment is always finishing a project. The entire process of creating a book from start to finish is incredibly hard, so when I have my novel in hand, at last, I can finally relax and feel proud that I didn’t quit.

For my entire career, it’s been, my husband who has encouraged and supported me. He’s not a writer, but he has always been a big cheerleader for me. He also financially supported me for ten years before I was able to get my career out of the red. I can’t thank him enough.

Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. A fascination with science led her to earn two mechanical engineering degrees—she did her undergraduate work at Arizona State University and her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh—but storytelling has always been her passion. She writes both contemporary tales and award-winning historical western romances.

With the release of Deep Blue, Kristy is launching The Pathway Series, a project she’s been developing for years. Each book will combine her love of animal conservation and environmental awareness, while also shining a light on unique and diverse locations around the world. Come along for high adventure with honourable heroes, determined heroines, and Kristy’s trademark mysticism.

An Arizona native, Kristy and her husband reside in the desert where they frequently remove (rescue) rattlesnakes from their property, go for runs among the cactus, and plan trips to far-off places like the Orkney Islands or Machu Picchu. But mostly, she works 12-hour days and enjoys at-home date nights with her sweetheart, which usually include Will Ferrell movies and sci-fi flicks. Her four children have nearly all flown the nest, and the family recently lost their cherished chocolate Labrador, Ranger, so these days a great deal of attention is lavished on Ranger’s sister, Lily, and the newest addition to the household—Marley, an older yellow Labrador they rescued in early 2018. Both dogs are frequently featured on Kristy’sInstagram account, so pop over to meet her canine family.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

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Posted in Animal Welfare, Book Review, Childrens Books

Mr Dog and the Rabbit Habit – 5*#Review -Ben Fogle- Steve Cole- Illustrator- Nikolas Ilic @HarperCollinsCh @BenFogle @SteveColeBooks @nikolas_ilic #childrensbooks #childrensfiction #animals #dogs #rabbits #conservation

A brand new young fiction series by TV broadcaster and intrepid explorer Ben Fogle, inspired by his real-life animal experiences…

Co-written with best-selling children’s author Steve Cole and illustrated throughout with beautiful black and white illustrations by Nikolas Ilic.

You can always count on Mr Dog to help an animal in trouble…

When a mother rabbit is captured in a trap, he ends up playing bunny sitter

But someone wants rid of All the rabbits, not just this one, and time is running out for Mr Dog to save them…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Harper Collins Children’s Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A refreshingly different children’s illustrated story with wonderful relatable animal characters and an important message, delivered in easy to understand bite size pieces, about animal conservation and welfare. The fun illustrations reinforce the text and make this book suitable for younger children too.

This adventurous and fun story has believable characters with recognisable animal characteristics. It should be a favourite of both children and adults lucky enough to read this book too.

The plot although necessarily simple does have a couple of twists and doesn’t fall into the trap of becoming too sinister or cliche for the intended audience. It deals with contemporary animal husbandry and conservation issues in a readable and understandable way.

Mr Dog is the star, and he is an instant hit with me. Adventurous, clever, courageous, fun and kind, he has desirable personality traits that resonate with children and he makes a good role model.

An enjoyable read for children and their adults and the makings of an important, yet fun series.