Posted in Animal Friends, Blog Tour, Book Review, Childrens Books, Friendship, Guest post

Tabby’s Big Year- Hollie Anne Marsh 4* #Review @Hollieannemarsh @rararesources #Sweetbriars2 #MiddleGrade #Horses #ComingofAge #BritishEquestrian #teen #kidslit #Family #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost

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?

Amazon UK

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Goodreads

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

My Thoughts…

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 dear friends.

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.

Image Credit – Kate Amos

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.

What’s next? 

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 Squad.

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 have imagined. 

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.

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Posted in Book Review

5* Review: Country Rivals – Zara Stoneley

Country Rivals eBook

Historical Blurb

Dashing eventer Rory is ready to button up his breeches and settle down. His gorgeous wife, Lottie, wants a bank balance in the black so she can protect the beautiful family estate for future generations.

But with the wedding business at Tipping House going up in flames, and rumours that it was arson not accident, Lottie begins to wonder who she can trust with her future.

Tranquil Tippermere is under siege as movies moguls and insurance investigators invade the countryside, and as events gather pace rescue plans start to look too good to be true, and intentions may not be as honourable as they seem.

As a moody, but definitely marvellous, polo player enters the fray and squares up to the eventing hero of Tippermere, does Lottie stand to lose her husband as well as her home?

Historical Buy Links

Amazon UK 

Amazon

Mystery Thriller My Review

‘Country Rivals’ is characterised by its believable English country setting and complex characters. The lovable and often naughty animals regularly upstage their human counterparts and make this series a delight. The residents of Tippermere are larger than life but they are all grounded, with recognisable human flaws and frailty that make them easy to empathise with and hard to forget.

I have read the other books in the series and so most of the characters in ‘Country Rivals’ are old friends.  If you are new to Tippermere, this story is complete and supported by sufficient back story to make it a standalone read but why miss out on the other books?

 Lovable Lottie and sexy Rory take centre stage but it is Lady Elizabeth’s redoubtable influence that makes the plot unpredictable and interesting. Sam, the quintessential footballer’s wife provides the glamour and glitz and new characters add to the mayhem, misunderstanding and mystery that make this fast paced story an engaging read.

‘Country rivals’ is full of humour, passion and poignancy, with a lovely hopeful ending.

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

Poppy - Author Bio

Zara was born in a small village in Staffordshire, educated in Cheshire, and went on to study at Liverpool University. After a successful career as an IT consultant, she decided to follow her heart and ran a dog grooming business for several years before becoming a full-time writer.

Her fun, romantic, romps draw on her experiences of village life, and her various love affairs with dogs, cats and horses. These days if she’s not at her laptop, you can usually find her trudging across fields on foot, or sat on the back of a horse.

Zara divides her time between a country cottage in Cheshire and an apartment in Barcelona. Her most recent novels include the popular Stable Mates, Country Affairs and Country Rivals.

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Posted in Book Review

Country Rivals Blog Tour – Author Interview – The Tippermere Trail – Zara Stoneley.

Poster

 If like me you loved ‘Stable Mates’, ‘Country Affairs’ and the delightful Christmas freebie, ‘A Very Country Christmas’ , you have been looking forward to today’s release of ‘Country Rivals’ from the lovely Zara Stoneley. I’ve already read this fab story and I will share my review later today but for now, enjoy my interview with this talented author and follow the Tippermere Trail with Zara .

An Interview with...

ZaraStoneley authorpicHow long have you been writing? Was there one event or person who inspired you to start writing? If so can you tell us about them?

I’ve always loved writing and reading, and submitted my first book (a thriller, to Michael Joseph – I aimed high!) when I was in my early teens. Mum always encouraged me to write (she wanted me to write a James Herriot style novel – and lent me her old typewriter to do so!), which is why Stable Mates is dedicated to her. My Grandad also inspired me when I was younger. He was sure that we are related to Elizabeth Gaskell, an author who lived very close to where I do now.

Are you a full time writer? How important is writing in your life?

I’m lucky enough to write full time now, until recently though I juggled writing with a day job. I love writing, and can’t imagine not doing it. Practically every day I see or hear something that I have to jot down as I think it will be wonderful material for a book – so I’d probably explode with frustration if I wasn’t allowed to write!

You write erotic romance and more recently bonkbuster novels, which do you prefer writing and why?

I never set out to write erotic romance, but Accent press ran a competition to write an erotic novel, with a publication contract as the prize. I entered, and as a result ‘Forfeit’ was published in 2012. It was great fun to write the books, but my current publisher (HarperCollins) then suggested I write more of a ‘bonkbuster’.

My natural voice probably lends itself more to romcom, I like to see the funny side of life, which doesn’t always sit well in an erotic romance. I really love the books I’m writing now (which my editor originally suggested) – they’ve been likened to Jilly Cooper and Fiona Walker, but they’re a lighter version. Funny, true to life, with quirky characters and great animals, and set in our wonderful Cheshire countryside – all the things I love, which I hope shines through in the stories.   They still have some sexy, steamy scenes, but aren’t as intense as my erotic romances were – and so probably more ‘me’ – I like my ‘naughty’ with a laugh on the side.

Zara Stoneley is your penname. How did you decide on your penname and why do you use one?

I originally wrote contemporary romance as Susie Medwell, but decided I needed an alternative for my erotic novels to avoid confusion.

I love the name Zara, and Stoneley was derived from the name of the village I grew up in. When I started to write my current books for HarperCollins they said they loved the name Zara Stoneley and asked if I could stick with it – so Susie (after one book) seems to have been ditched!

Can you describe your writing process if you have one?

A ‘what if’ usually is normally my starting point (more about this below!), I then need a very clear picture of my characters – I jot down notes (on cards) so that I can visualise them and understand what makes them tick.

I then often crash ahead and write the first couple of chapters, because I know how the story will start, how it will end, and the key points.

At the start of each day I plan out the scenes very roughly, and then write. I’ve always found that I need some sort of plan, but I don’t like to be too rigid – more often than not, as my characters develop the story will change – but the broad outline stays the same.

The world building in your Tippermere series is wonderful. Can you tell us what inspired you to create Tippermere and its residents?

Thank you! I love Tippermere – I want to live there! My editor originally asked me if I could write a modern take on a Jilly Cooper type novel, as most of my books had dogs, horses and the countryside featured in them. I jumped at the chance – and Tippermere is a mix of all the best bits of the villages around and about where I live in Cheshire. Having ridden and kept horses for a large chunk of my life, and had dogs (and run a dog grooming business), I’ve come across lots of funny incidents, and met masses of wonderful country people. The residents of Tippermere aren’t based on individuals I’ve known, but I have stolen some characteristics and events from real life. I’ll be very sad the day I have to leave Tippermere for good!

‘Country Rivals’ is the third book in your Tippermere series, can you tell us a little about it? Is ‘Country Rivals’ the end of the Tippermere adventures?

Country Rivals has been great fun to write. If you’ve read the other Tippermere books, you will know that Lottie runs a wedding business from her home, Tipping House, as a way of providing income to maintain the estate.

A few years ago, an irate wedding guest at a wedding venue near to where I live set fire to it, and I thought ‘what if this happened to Lottie?’ How would she cope, could she find a solution – or risk losing her inheritance?

When a film crew asks if they can use Tipping House as a location, Lottie feels she has little choice. There are a few twists and turns, a very hunky polo player and a scheming, nasty actress, plus a lot of laughs and some tragedy – as Lottie risks losing her husband and her home.

I can’t possibly drag myself away from Tippermere yet – it’s got a mention in my next book, The Holiday Swap (but with new characters) – and I would love to write about Lottie and the gang again.

It’s vital for authors to have a social media presence. Is this something you enjoy? Do you have a favourite social media platform and why?

I have met lots of lovely people on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, but I have to admit the downside is that it can be too easy to chat, which can be a great distraction. At the end of the day, writing has to be my priority.

If I have very little time to spare, then Twitter is great as you can pop in and out (and Instagram can be inspirational), but the interaction on Facebook can be more rewarding.

Have you a favourite author, book or genre that you like to read?

I read all kinds – whatever suits my mood, and love to discover new authors. I’m really looking forward to Jilly Cooper’s next book Mount, and Fiona Walker is a must-read author for me. I enjoy a thriller (if it’s cleverly written), and nothing can beat a good romcom when I’m on holiday.

What’s next for Zara Stoneley?

I am really excited about my next book, The Holiday Swap! It’s due out later in the year, and if you like the film The Holiday, then this could be a book you’ll enjoy. It’s brilliant fun for me, because I get to visit Tippermere again, plus I’ve got a second setting of Barcelona – a city I spend a lot of time in, and absolutely love. It’s already up for pre-order on Amazon, but for now the cover is being kept under wraps (it’s gorgeous!).

My top 7 favourite places to visit in Cheshire

Tippermere, the setting for Country Rivals, is actually a fictitious place (sorry), but I’ve drawn inspiration from some of the best spots in Cheshire.

Follow my ‘Tippermere Trail’ and check out some of my favourite places – and you’ll be a fair way to knowing exactly how it looks in my head!

 Don’t miss the fabulous Lyme Park – the estate was used as the setting for Pemberley in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve often wandered down to the lake and waited for Mr Darcy to emerge – but I’ve not had any luck yet! The inspiration for the Tipping House Estate started here – I have no problem at all imagining Rory and Lottie strolling by the water, or Pandora and the crew (in Country Rivals) filming in this wonderful place.

 Cheshire Polo Club – take a picnic, drink champagne and tread in the divots. You don’t need to know anything at all about polo, or even horses, to enjoy a fun and romantic afternoon (and it’s a great excuse to dress up). I still don’t quite understand all the rules, but the action can be fast and furious, and the riders incredibly brave.

Zara Stoneley Post 1 Cream tea

 Enjoy tea at The Belle Epoque in Knutsford – this is a stunning hotel with Art Nouveau fireplaces and a Mediterranean roof garden, and the champagne afternoon tea is delicious! A stroll in Tatton Park (Brideshead Revisited and Cold Feet have used this as a location) could be the perfect end to the day.

 The Lovell Quinta Arboretum is at Swettenham, just outside Congleton. Park your car at the Swettenham Arms and wander through 12.5 acres of meadows filled with wild flowers, and a wonderful arboretum filled with more than 2500 trees and shrubs. It is very much off the beaten track and wonderfully peaceful.

 Cholmondeley (pronounced chum-ly) Castle is one of those hidden treasures, and I love this romantic gothic castle with its beautiful gardens. It has an intimate atmosphere and you can take your picnic down to the lake and feel like you’re a lady for the day. (There’s also a fabulous pub just outside the estate, The Cholmondeley Arms if you forget to pack the sandwiches). Time your visit right and you could see Jazz in the Garden, the Power and Speed Festival, Horse Trials, or annual celebrity cricket match (remember that cricket match in Stable Mates? Now you know where I got the idea!).  

 Alderley Edge – is a gorgeous village, and the main inspiration for Kitterly Heath (this place is SO Sam). Whenever I visit I just have to buy something from the G. Wienholt Bakery, there’s also a fabulous butchers shop, lovely boutiques and even the charity shops are well known for designer wear. Do some window shopping, sit outside one of the many restaurants or café’s and celebrity watch (several actors and premiership footballers live in the area), then go for a stroll on…

 The Edge – this was the setting for Alan Garner’s novels The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and offers a panoramic view across Cheshire and the Peak District. It has inspired scenes in more than one of my books, and is where Mick takes Pip in ‘Stable Mates’ when he’s decided to get to know her better!

Country Rivals eBook

Historical Blurb

 

Dashing eventer Rory is ready to button up his breeches and settle down. His gorgeous wife, Lottie, wants a bank balance in the black so she can protect the beautiful family estate for future generations.

But with the wedding business at Tipping House going up in flames, and rumours that it was arson not accident, Lottie begins to wonder who she can trust with her future.

Tranquil Tippermere is under siege as movies moguls and insurance investigators invade the countryside, and as events gather pace rescue plans start to look too good to be true, and intentions may not be as honourable as they seem.

As a moody, but definitely marvellous, polo player enters the fray and squares up to the eventing hero of Tippermere, does Lottie stand to lose her husband as well as her home?

Historical Buy Links

Amazon UK 

Amazon

Poppy - Author Bio

 

Zara was born in a small village in Staffordshire, educated in Cheshire, and went on to study at Liverpool University. After a successful career as an IT consultant, she decided to follow her heart and ran a dog grooming business for several years before becoming a full-time writer.

Her fun, romantic, romps draw on her experiences of village life, and her various love affairs with dogs, cats and horses. These days if she’s not at her laptop, you can usually find her trudging across fields on foot, or sat on the back of a horse.

Zara divides her time between a country cottage in Cheshire and an apartment in Barcelona. Her most recent novels include the popular Stable Mates, Country Affairs and Country Rivals.

Poppy - Links

Website     Twitter    Facebook    Amazon    Pinterest

Posted in Book Review, New Books

4* Review Love is a Four Letter Word Zara Stoneley

Take one rich girl who has a thing for the bad boys.
Take one tough guy who thinks possession is nine-tenths of the misery law.

Mix generously with a land dispute and a whole lotta lust…. And what have you got?

Sometimes being bad can be just too good to miss.

My Review

Love is a Four Letter WordGeorgie’s life is fast paced and glamorous. She works hard to make sure no one digs too deep and reveals the shy vulnerable woman hiding behind the facade. She wants to make her life count but feels unloved and abandoned. Beautiful she has no problem finding admirers but they take rather than give and leave her brittle and disillusioned.

Jake rescues Georgie from a drunken admirer although she insists she didn’t need his help except with something of a more intimate nature. Jake is not her usual type but she can’t resist the excitement he promises. Jake remembers Georgie as a girl although this hardened party girl is so different from the shy studious girl he remembers or is she? A rolling stone Jake realises he wants to discover the true Georgie but will he sacrifice his lifestyle to do it?

Georgie wants to recapture and relive a time in her young life when she was truly happy. Buying the land where she spent the happiest times with her father becomes an obsession even if means clashing with Jake. Faced with an unexpected life change Georgia grows up and finds out what’s important for happiness.

The title ‘Love is a Four Letter word intrigued me and I’m pleased it did. This is an easy to read romantic story. The erotic heat and humour enhance Georgie and Jake’s emotional journey until they realise love is much more than a four letter word.

I received a copy of this E-book from Harper Collins UK Harper Impulse via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

See my  4* review of Summer Surrender by Zara Stoneley

Love is a Four Letter Word by Zara Stoneley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Love is a Four Letter Word

Zara Stoneley

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