Posted in Audiobook Review, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Inspiration, Motivational

Growing Season Seni Glaister 5*#Review @SeniGlaister @HQStories Narrator Kristin Atherton #HarperCollinsAudioUK #Audiobook #BlogTour #Review #loss #selfrealisation #uplit #nature #life #love #GrowingSeason

Danny is riddled with anxiety. But he wants to be strong for his wife Sam. She’s been through so much already. If only he had someone to talk to.

Sam is facing a very different future to the one she expected. She’s ready to move on, yet other people won’t let her. If only she had someone to talk to.

Their new neighbour Diana is hiding from her past. She wanted a new life. Now she’s got it she feels angry and alone. If only she had someone to talk to.

Each of them is hiding their pain. Each of them needs to heal. But only when they learn to let each other in will they finally be able to grow.

I received an audiobook from HQ (Harper Collins Audio UK) via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This character-driven story features a multi-generational friendship. Told from three viewpoints Diana, Sam and Danny, it is a detailed emotional story that explores finding your true self, fitting in, honesty and loss.

It’s introspective and works well as an audiobook. The narrator is clear and engaging, voicing the characters believably and distinctly. The gentle pace enables the listener to know each character well, and the humour, insight and poignancy, make it an emotional read.

The parallels with nature that affects the characters’ lives are well crafted and make this an engaging, thought-provoking story.

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

The Saturday Morning Park Run Jules Wake 5* Review @Juleswake @0neMoreChapter_ @rararesources #romcom #heartwarming #Family #Friendship #Multigenerational #Community #Preorder #29August #MondayBlogs #MondayMotivation

This is the story of two women.
One old, one young.
One looking for new adventures. One looking for a purpose.
Both needing a friend.

And this is how, along with two little girls in need of a family, a gorgeous stranger, and a scruffy dog, they bring the whole community together every Saturday morning for love, laughter and a little bit of running…(well, power walking).

Some people come into your life when you need them the most.

#PreOrder

Amazon UK Amazon

I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter and the Author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

There’s something for everyone in this heartwarming story of ordinary people looking for friendship, love and purpose without even realising its missing from their lives. Clare and Ash meet or more accurately collide by chance. There’s chemistry amidst the anger and the pride, but where will it lead?

Clare is career-focused. A possible partnership keeps her single-minded. She fails to notice her failing health and the problems in her sister’s life until they unexpectedly make a change in her life inevitable.

Hilda is lonely but wants to bring the community together. When the three unlikely friends meet everything starts to come together in the form of a Saturday morning park run.

This original story has a motivational ethos with believably flawed and relatable characters. The group dynamics are authentic and insightful. This is an emotional story that takes the reader on a journey. Fun, friendship, poignant moments and self-realisation are all explored through the characters with a satisfying life-affirming conclusion.

Jules Wake

Jules 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 and not so luxury brands. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to hone her writing and creative skills penning copy on a vast range of subjects from pig farming and watches, sunglasses and skincare through to beer and stationery. 

She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for One More Chapter as Jules Wake and under her pen name Julie Caplin, she writes the Romantic Escapes series. 

Between them, the two Js have written fourteen novels, The Saturday Morning Park Run being the latest.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Motivational, Travel

The Women Who Ran Away Sheila O’ Flanagan 5*#Review @sheilaoflanagan @headlinepg @RandomTTours #Women #Secrets #TheWomenWhoRanAway #weekendreads #SaturdayMorning

Deira isn’t the kind of woman to steal a car. 

Or drive to France alone with no plan. But then, Deira didn’t expect to be single. Or to suddenly realise that the only way she can get the one thing she wants most is to start breaking every rule she lives by.

Grace has been sent on a journey by her late husband, Ken.

She doesn’t really want to be on it but she’s following his instructions, as always. She can only hope that the trip will help her to forgive him. And then – finally – she’ll be able to let him go.

Brought together by unexpected circumstances, Grace and Deira find that it’s easier to share secrets with a stranger, especially in the shimmering sunny countryside of Spain and France. But they soon find that there’s no escaping the truth, whether you’re running away from it or racing towards it . . .

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

This story is an addictive mix of relationships, serendipity and travel. Deira and Grace are running away, but more from themselves than anything they leave behind. Deira’s relationship is ruined, left for a younger, more malleable model. Grace is bereaved. Even in death, her husband still expects her to follow his wishes.

The women meet serendipitously and end up travelling and solving the treasure hunt together. The women are strangers and diverse in age and personality, but that proves to be fortuitous. The age difference allows a new perspective on the other’s life and a wealth of experience in Grace’s case.

The locations are brought to life through eloquent descriptions and give the story a vivid setting. This is a journey of self-belief and realisation, which makes this a heartwarming and motivational read.

Shelia O’Flanagan

Sheila O’Flanagan is the author of bestselling charttoppers, including Her Husband’s Mistake, The Hideaway, What Happened That Night, The Missing Wife, My Mother’s Secret and All For You (winner ofthe Irish Independent Popular Fiction Book of the Year Award).

After working in banking and finance for a number of years, Sheila’s love for writing blossomed into curating stories about relationships in all their many forms.

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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?”