Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Excerpt, Extract, Family Drama, Friendship, Motivational, Parenting and Famlies, Romance, Travel

Take a Look at Me Now Kendra Smith 4*#Review @KendraAuthor @Aria_Fiction @HoZ_Books #BlogTour #BookReview #Life #Love #Friendship #Motivational #multigenerational

Out with the old…

Maddie Brown has spent most of her life putting everyone else’s needs above her own. But with her marriage crumbling and her nest scarily empty, she realises it may be time to spread her own wings and fly.

In with the… ex?

At a university reunion, Maddie meets Greg. He was the love of her life – and the one that got away. Some things never change, and neither of them can deny the feelings that linger between them. But there are so many reasons they can’t be together… not least the massive secret she has been keeping from him all these years. 

Maddie is SO ready for a brand new start. But what do you do when the past just won’t stay in the past?

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

My Thoughts…

A multi-generational story about life, love, romance and friendship. Maddie regrets her choices made twenty years ago. Can she be the person she is inside? Maddie is a relatable character, easy to empathise and like. Essentially this is a journey of belated self-discovery, it retains its grip on reality because Maddie doesn’t shy away from her responsibilities, but realises she deserves to do things for her too.

Extract from Take a Look at Me Now – Kendra Smith

They sat at separate tables. Maddie picked at her food and allowed her glass to be refilled several times, and eventually emerged from the fuggy hall, where the fog of drinks, steam and aromas of the four-course dinner came up against the sharp evening wind outside.

It was dusky, the horizon swallowing up the smear of crimson streaked across it, like a watercolour painting turning dark at the edges. Maddie looked around as she inhaled the air heavy with the scent of honeysuckle. She could see him standing at the bottom of the steps, his face glowing in the eerie white light of his mobile phone. Then he was taking a call, his shoulders hunched over. She pulled back and waited by the doorway, unsure of her place.

She swayed slightly on her heels, knowing she’d had too many drinks. Whatever the conversation was, it was heated. He was gesturing with his free hand towards the grass, as if conducting his own private, invisible orchestra. After a minute, he spun around and jammed his phone in his pocket. Then he saw her, walking slowly down the steps. She pulled her wrap around her shoulders tightly as she got to him.

‘I have to go,’ he muttered, and jerked his head to the left.

Like the last time, Greg? she wanted to ask. But instead she calmed the butterflies in her stomach, as the wave of emotion overwhelmed her and forced a smile. Theirs was a story from the past.

They used to miss lectures on a Friday as they both only had one – they’d stay in bed most of the day. He’d wander around her tiny bedsit in not much more than a towel tied around his waist after a scalding-hot shower. In fact, she realised with a shudder, that’s what she missed the most: the easy intimacy. He used to wash her hair sometimes, with gentle hands on her scalp, circling the back of her neck with his strong thumbs. He’d sit her down in front of the basin and gently wet it all, pour over shampoo then put on honey-scented conditioner and comb it through.

It was wonderful and so relaxing. Sometimes it had led to something more… but normally he’d wrap her hair in a towel and they’d sit, watching her tiny TV, and she’d feel like the luckiest girl in the world. And now, here he was, in a dinner jacket and black tie, standing right next to her. Stony-faced. She bit her lip, tasted the blood, so she could focus on the present.

And with that he walked briskly away.

She watched him. Watched as he strode across the concrete courtyard, heels clicking, like he did all those years ago. Perhaps she’d been stupid to come, to open up all those old wounds again. She folded her arms across her chest and shivered.

‘Maddie!’ It was Ellie, weaving her way towards her in purple slingbacks, clipping on the hard surface. ‘There you are! C’mon, we’re all going to the Student Union bar for Snakebites! Maddie, c’mon!’ Ellie had stopped by one of the pillars and was fiddling with her shoes.

‘Looks like you need some help with your footwear!’ She took Ellie by the arm as they made their – slightly wobbly – way to the bar.

As she licked the traces of blood from her lips, she was thankful that at least it would take her mind off the nagging question that was building up in her mind.

Kendra Smith has been a journalist, wife, mother, aerobics teacher, qualified diver and very bad cake baker. She started her career in Sydney selling advertising space but quickly made the leap to editorial – and went on to work on several women’s magazines in both Sydney and London. With dual Australian-British nationality, she currently lives in Surrey with her husband and three children.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Romance

The Neighbours Nicola Gill 4* #Review @Nicola_J_Gill @AvonBooksUK #BlogTour #Romance #TheNeighbours #Friendship #life #multigenerational #relationships #BookReview #Paperback

#TheNeighbours

Some women have it all. Others are thirty-four and rent a tiny flat alone because they recently found their long-term boyfriend in bed with their boss. Ginny Taylor is certain her life can’t get any worse. But then she meets her downstairs neighbour…
 
Cassie Frost was once a beloved actress, but after a recent mishap, she desperately needs a new publicist. And Ginny is a publicist who desperately needs a job – but can she be persuaded to work for the prickly woman who lives below her floorboards?
 
Ginny and Cassie are two very different women, but they have more in common than they’d care to imagine (or admit). And when their worlds collide, they realise that sometimes – just sometimes – bad neighbours become good friends…

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I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

An excellent multi-generational look at friendship, romance, career, self-esteem, self-realisation, seen from 30 something, Ginny’s point of view. The writing style is contemporary, referencing current events and issues. It’s easy to read and focuses on the lives of Ginny and Cassie, who is in her fifties and experiencing the sharper end of being a media star.

It takes a while for us to meet Cassie, and to begin I wondered where the title ‘The Neighbours’, related to the story. When the two do meet, both women are experiencing all-time lows in their lives, and consequently are lashing out. Any kind of friendship seems unlikely, but Cassie needs someone to promote her positively and Ginny needs a job, so they start there, and out of a professional need, a worthwhile. mutually beneficial friendship grows.

Ginny is lovely but flawed, and meeting Cassie forces her to look at herself, and see how she can achieve her life goals. The relentless, unforgiving nature of modern life is explored, with its consistent toll on mental health, and self-worth. Like many good friendships, the two women are different in many ways, and this draws them together because they both have something positive to offer the other.

Humorous and poignant, this is a relevant story about life in the twenty-first century and the importance of friends, who care about you, and not your career or financial status.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post

The Time of Our Lives Abby Williams 4* #Review @fionajourno @Aria_Fiction @HoZ-Books #MultiGenerational #Friendship#SecondChances #NewBeginnings #BlogTour #GuestPost

Two women from two very different generations are brought together through dramatic circumstances and help each other to forge new paths.

Twenty-six-year-old Erin has everything she’s ever wanted – a good job, a gorgeous fiancé and a best friend who’s always there for her. But suddenly her life comes crashing down around her. Unable to return home to her parents, she takes a room in a house nearby and her life starts over in the most unexpected of ways…

Seventy-six-year old Lydia, who, shocked by the sudden death of her husband, is devastated to discover that he has left her in crippling debt. With no choice but to take in a lodger, Erin comes into her life. When they find a letter hidden in the attic old secrets come to light and, with Erin by her side, Lydia finds herself going on a trip of a lifetime.

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

My Thoughts…

A delightful multi-generational story of love, loss, friendship and new beginnings.

Erin’s life implodes, when she is betrayed by those she loves, she needs to escape, to rebuild her life. Lydia still in shock from her sudden bereavement, finds that loss isn’t the only emotion she has to contend with. Her financial security is compromised, and taking in lodger seems the only way to make ends meet. The unlikely pair, find that material security isn’t the only benefit of living together, and they forge a friendship that opens up a new lease of life for both.

A chance discovery, reveals more family secrets, and a chance to experience something special for both women.

This is a story full of emotion and poignancy, but there are plenty of humorous moments too. Lydia is a witty woman, and Erin soon realises that age is no barrier to a true friend.

A lighthearted, emotional read, with characters who you can empathise and a heartwarming ethos.

#TheTimeofOurLives
Naked Saunas – The Inspiration behind The Time Of Our Lives– Abby Williams

I’ve always enjoyed running. Not only is it a great stress reliever, it’s great for allowing you to eat lots of cake, and also great for me, as I usually find all my best novel ideas come to me when I’m pounding the pavement.

The idea for The Time Of Our Lives was no different. One summer’s evening, I was out with my running club, when Nella, my lovely Finnish friend started telling us all about the naked saunas she and her fellow Finns all enjoyed back home! Cue much hilarity amongst us British girls who were positively squeamish at the thought of showing off our bits and pieces to all and sundry. Not so for Nella. She said she thought it was a good thing – young and old came together to enjoy simple pleasures. Inhibitions and modesty were left at the door she said, and real, lasting connections were formed, regardless of age.

She was right. It was us Brits that were repressed. After that conversation, I couldn’t get the idea of these generations coming together and although I didn’t really want to write about naked saunas, (Sorry Nella, it was a step too far), what did strike a chord was the idea of age being no barrier to friendship. It was then I knew that what I wanted to write about next was the power of friendship.

And so I found millennial Erin and almost-octogenarian, Lydia. Two women who come to need each other more than they can ever realise after their lives implode in very unexpected ways.

The moment I hit upon the idea I found I couldn’t wait to spend time with my characters. Lydia and Erin became as real to me as any of my friends and family, and I found their friendship as charming and inviting as any relationship I’ve experienced in real life. It was funny because even though I never wrote about naked saunas the image Nella created for me that day was so strong, I only had to shut my eyes and I could see young and old coming together, laughing, sharing, joking and confiding about all manner of things to bond Lydia and Erin.

And so no, there are no naked saunas in this book, but there’s still lots of running for me. The last time I ran with the girls we started talking about the best places to go to the loo on a long run…someone mentioned the bushes and Paula Radcliffe. Safe to say, that hasn’t inspired anything in me quite yet.

Fiona Ford – Abby Williams

Abby Williams is the pseudonym for Fiona Ford, writer of romantic up-lit and historical fiction. Fiona started out as a freelance journalist for titles such as Grazia, Sunday Mirror and Stylist before realising her passion lay in novels. Now she spends her days immersed in made-up worlds and reckons she has the very best job in the world. When she’s not writing, Fiona is a gym nut, but only so it means she can eat lots of cake and drink lots of wine – not necessarily in that order. She lives in Berkshire with her husband and two cats who she sometimes thinks she might love just a little bit more than all the humans she knows. The Time of Our Lives is her first romantic novel and she is now busy scribbling away her second.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Romantic Comedy

How to Make Time for Me – Fiona Perrin @Aria_Fiction @fionaperrin #Family Drama #Romance #Humour #SingleMum #RomCom #Carers #Relationships #Friendships #BlogTour #Guest Post 5*#Review

No-one said being a single mum would be easy…

Everyone knows that being a single mother means having no time to yourself. But for CallieBrown, it’s more exhausting than most. She’s juggling the needs of three teenage children, two live-in parents, a raffish ex-husband, and a dog who never stops eating.

The last thing Callie needs is anything more on her plate. So when she bumps (quite literally) into a handsome, age-appropriate cyclist, she’s quick to dismiss him from her life. After all, if she doesn’t have time to brush her hair in the morning, she certainly doesn’t have time to fall in love…

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

My Thoughts…

I love the easy to read writing style of this novel. The themes are familiar to everyone who parents or has parented teenagers or looked after elderly parents. There’s a glossary of teenage vocabulary at the end of the story for the uninitiated. It is the story that most of us have thought of writing at some time, but this author has actually done it and with great results.

Callie is a single mum, with twin girls and a son from her previous relationship who she has been a mother to for eight years, her ex is frankly abysmal, and her ageing parents are a further emotional and physical drain on her already depleted resources. Getting run over by a takeaway delivery bike, is the final straw, she’s invisible and surely something has to change?

Modern family stories are particularly popular and relevant at this moment. This story has many laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with strong emotional poignant scenes, especially concerning Wilf. It is a story of family, friends, self- worth and love, in all its forms.

An absorbing, yet quick read, I read it today in a couple of hours. Its charm is in its relatability and believable characters. A lovely, emotional humorous read.

Guest Post: All about time for you… Fiona Perrin

HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME was inspired by all the women I know who (in the words of the old ad campaign) juggle their lives. I was particularly interested in writing about those who find themselves part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – looking after children as well as ageing parents, mostly while holding down a job (but probably also still making the sandwiches).

It struck me that ‘having it all’ as we say, frequently means having no time to yourself. We have children to bring up, extended families to support and it can be just at the time that careers develop and grow difficult. Callie, the heroine of my novel, is also a single mother with a complicated, modern and messy family, full of happiness but also pretty challenging. How does she get any time for herself let alone the opportunity to fall in love?

I’m not a single mother now, but I was for a few years and I remember the chaos fondly, but also a constant feeling of exhaustion. Luckily, I found time to meet Alan and fall in love and now, we have just about waved all four of our kids off to Uni and careers.

But with them as teenagers, our house was hectic – demanding but also, fun. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME heavily features teenagers and shows the pressures they are up against – as well as taking the mickey out them. It has footnotes to explain teenager-speak for example – they have a whole lingo of their own. While it’s great to have time to ourselves, I really miss the madness of those teenage years, and the kids and their friends all hanging around the house, doing not much. But they all seem to come home quite often too, mostly with huge bags of washing and to eat their way through the fridge.

I’m really lucky in that my Mum is about the most active, healthy, supportive parent you can imagine. However, she is also a carer for my older stepfather, while in her seventies – he can no longer walk – so I have some understanding of being responsible for the older generation too. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME features two loopy parents that Callie adores but also add to the demands on her day. I have dedicated this book to my Mum just so she knows they were in no way based on her.

I would love it if readers took a little time out for themselves to read my novel. They might also enjoy Callie’s struggle to stop feeling ‘invisible’ just as she is knocked off her feet quite literally by a rather attractive neighbour. She immediately feels that there is no way she will have time to fall in love with him, but sometimes life has other ideas.

Thanks so much for this opportunity to appear on your brilliant blog.

Fiona Perrin was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard peninsula.

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Posted in Book Review, Friendship, Literary Fiction

The Woman Who Wanted More – 5*#Review – Vicky Zimmerman @ZaffreBooks @VickyZimmerman_ @stellanewman @bonnierbooks_uk #LiteraryFiction

Two lonely women.

An unlikely friendship.

And one big life lesson: never be ashamed to ask for more . . .

After a major life upheaval on the eve of her 40th birthday, a reluctant Kate Parker finds herself volunteering at Lauderdale House for Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 97-year-old Cecily Finn. Cecily’s tongue is as sharp as her mind but she has lost her spark, simply resigning herself to the Imminent End.

Having no patience with Kate’s plight, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference – it’s a 1957 cookery manual, featuring menus for anything life can throw at ‘the easily dismayed’. Will Kate find a menu to help her recover from her broken heart? If Kate moves forward, might Cecily too?

The cookbook holds the secrets of Cecily’s own remarkable past, and the story of the love of her life. It will certainly teach Kate a thing or two.

So begins an unlikely friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls – one at the end of her life, one stuck in the middle – who come to show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living and the way to a man’s heart is . . . irrelevant!

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

My Thoughts…

The story of a lovely, yet unusual friendship between two women, one at the latter years of her life, the other at a crossroads, both are lonely, vulnerable and unhappy. Cecily the feisty ninety-seven years old deals with her unhappiness by withdrawing or criticising those around her, just for a reaction. Kate blames her own supposed inadequacies on herself, and accommodates the needs of others, at the expense of her own wellbeing.

Kate is dreading being forty. When Kate’s carefully nurtured, relationship with Nick and her job are threatened she falls apart spectacularly, blaming herself, and living on a diet of cigarettes, coffee and social alcohol to get her through the day. Volunteering brings her into Cecily’s realm, they are so different yet both at a time of their lives where nothing is as they want it. Kate’s dilemma gives Cecily a purpose.

Cecily gives Kate a cookery book, with pertinent life messages, it becomes the focus of their relationship, and the start of positive change for both of them.

The first few chapters of this story are so negative, you want to shake Kate out of her self-destructive cycle. I almost stopped reading, but when she meets Cecily the story’s positivity explodes and you are glad you persevered.

Well- written honest characters, a varied plot, especially with the flashbacks to Cecily’s life and a lovely balance of humour, poignancy and wit, making this a lovely reading experience.