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

Single in Buenos Aires (The Polo Diaries, #1) Roxana Valea 3*#Review @roxana_valea #Travel #Polo #RomCom #Argentina #Romance #Sport #BlogTour #BookReview @rararesources #Journal #RachelsRandomResources #FridayReads

Roxy plays polo… but dreams of love. Forty-one-year-old polo player Roxy arrives in Argentina with a to-do list that includes healing from a polo injury and falling in love with a handsome Argentine. From polo boots to tango shoes, the adrenaline of riding horses to glamorous after-game parties, Roxy learns to navigate this unfamiliar landscape with the help of new friends who teach her to take life as it comes. But will she find true love? Over three months in Buenos Aires, nothing goes according to plan, and yet, all the items on her list mysteriously get ticked off in the end. Just not the way she had imagined.

Fans of the Bridget Jones series will love the blend of humour, travel, and romantic comedy at the heart of Single in Buenos Aires, all topped off with the unforgettable flavour of life in one of the most sensual and passionate cities in the world.

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#BlogTour

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

My Thoughts…

An independent woman travels to Argentina, to experience everything it has to offer. A devotee of polo, she wants to recover from a sports injury to play again, whilst meeting her soulmate. She has a to-do list and sets about completing it in a forthright way, but life is never simple as she finds out.

Written in the form of a journal, this story’s originality wars with being repetitive. There are lots of references to Argentina’s culture, landscape, city and way of life, which are fascinating, but the protagonist lacks depth, despite spilling her thoughts into her journal, and is hard to empathise.

As a holiday read, and an informative guide on all things Argentinian, including their obsession and proficiency with polo, it is interesting.

#RoxanaValea

Roxana Valea was born in Romania and lived in Italy, Switzerland, England and Argentina before settling in Spain. She has a BA in journalism and an MBA degree. She spent more than twenty years in the business world as an entrepreneur, manager and management consultant working for top companies like Apple, eBay, and Sony. She is also a Reiki Master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner.

As an author, Roxana writes books inspired by real events. Her memoir Through Dust and Dreams is a faithful account of a trip she took at the age of twenty-eight across Africa by car in the company of two strangers she met over the internet. Her following book, Personal Power: Mindfulness Techniques for the Corporate World is a nonfiction book filled with personal anecdotes from her consulting years. The Polo Diaries series is inspired by her experiences as a female polo player–travelling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.

Roxana lives with her husband in Mallorca, Spain, where she writes, coaches, and does energy therapies, but her first passion remains writing.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Motivational

She Ran Away From Love Mawson 4*#Review @MawsonBear @OdysseyBooks @rararesources #PictureBook #Grownups #SelfHelp #BlogTour #Motivational #BookReview #SheRanAwayFromLove #FridayReads #RachelsRandomResources

#SheRanAwayFromLove

The Light of Love pours down on Frilly. It shines so brightly that she quails and runs away. Upset with herself for feeling scared, she wakes her good friend Mawson and pours out her confusions. She wants to learn how to be bold and is convinced that she can do this by going on a quest. With muddled help from Mawson, she sets off into the great Out There. But is a quest to find oneself really the answer?

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

#BlogTour

My Thoughts…

When I agreed to review this story, I thought it was a children’s picture book, although I did wonder at the title, which seemed an odd one for a child’s story. I enjoyed the themes considered, and the emotion conveyed but thought it was in many ways more appropriate to adults, or older children. Then, looking at the card that accompanied the book, I realised it is intended for adults or grownups.

The second in this series of picture books for grownups, it reads as a standalone. It explores the concept of, who you are, and of being true to yourself. Frilly Bear is scared by the idea of love because she doesn’t understand it. She is awed by the power it has over her. Frilly feels she doesn’t know who Frilly Bear is. Her physical quest to find herself is eventful, but not entirely productive. Frilly finds sharing her fears, and thoughts, with a sympathetic bear Mawson, far more rewarding. Acceptance of herself brings contentment.

The book uses charming and engaging photographs of Frilly, Mawson and friends to illustrate the story’s message. The text is simple, sometimes headings, or rhyming phrases. It complements the images and illustrates the quandary Frilly experiences, and the self-realisation she achieves.

Rather like a colouring book for adults, this book invites you to escape and explore adult issues in a blue sky childhood way of thinking. It is original, and refreshing, with a wide target audience.

#Mawson

Mawson, a big-hearted, soul searching teddy bear, is here to help. He is one of this bright world’s few Writer-Bears. He speaks about Being One’s Best in a world that is often baffling – and not only for bears. He is often muddled about things (well, he is a bear). But he is always confident that things are going to turn out All Right.

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#SheRanAwayFromLove
Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship

The Afternoon Tea Club Jane Gilley 4*#Review @AvonBooksUK @JaneGilley2 #Friendship #Intergenerational#FamilyDrama #Community #BlogTour #BookReview #Ageing

#TheAfternoonTeaClub

Everyone’s welcome at The Afternoon Tea Club…

Marjorie, Stacy, Raymond and Dora each hold a different story to their chest – lost loves abandoned dreams, crippling self-confidence issues, and simply feeling invisible. For each of them, the thought of letting those stories out is almost as terrifying as letting strangers in, and that makes for a very lonely life indeed.

But when these four strangers who have struggled to “fit in” end up on the same table for an event at their local community centre, little do they know that their lives are about to be entwined and changed forever because of an Afternoon Tea club.

Cue an unexpected journey of self-discovery, some unlikely new companions, and plenty of tea and biscuits along the way…

Heart-warming and poignant in equal measure, this is a story about loneliness, kindness, and the power of friendships that span generation, proving that the most simple of human connections unite us all

Amazon UK


TheAfternoonTeaClub

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

My Thoughts…

A contemporary story that deals with the invisibility and loneliness of being older.

The story begins with a gathering of individuals from the community, mostly, but not exclusively older. Most do not want to be there, but gradually realise that it may add something to their lives. The story has lots of characters and perhaps would benefit from a character list at the beginning.

This a gentle story, where the characters earlier lives are explored, so that the reader knows how they came to be in the situation they find themselves in. The story charts laughter, sadness, and an unmistakable camaraderie between its characters. It is diverse and reflects how an increasingly significant portion of the population feel about their lives.

Older people often feel surplus to requirements and invisible, and this story reflects this well but gives hope that with a little understanding and courage, life can be fun and worthwhile at any age.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Friendship, Guest post, Romantic Comedy

#No Filter Maxine Morrey 4*#Review @BoldwoodBooks @Scribbler_Maxi #romcom #Instagram #NoFilter #Relationships #Friendships #LifestyleBlogger #Vlogger #JustBeingYou #SelfDiscovery #ComingofAge #BlogTour #BoldwoodBloggers #GuestPost #Extract #BookReview

#NoFilter

Popular lifestyle blogger, Libby Cartwright, is being boggled by business when help shows up in the shape of gorgeous but shy, Charlie Richmond. Libby’s determined to keep it at ‘just good friends’ – she’s dated someone from ‘Corporate Land’ before and it didn’t end well. As she and Charlie begin spending more time together, Libby is starting to waver  – until she discovers something which makes her question if she’s ready for love.

Still reeling, she suffers another blow as her blog is attacked in a national newspaper, for promoting unachievable perfection. Libby knows it’s not true – but the only way to prove that is to strip off the armour she’s been wearing for years.

Is she brave enough to show the world she’s far from perfect? And will Charlie be by her side if she does…

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Extract from #No FilterMaxine morrey

Chapter 1

‘That’s it! I am totally going to jail. I’m going to get it wrong, owe thousands, not be able to pay, and go to jail!’ I flung myself backwards with an overly dramatic sigh and lay sprawled on the paperwork I had been looking at. ‘And seriously? Me in an orange jumpsuit? I don’t care how on trend they are; I could never pull that off! Orange is so not my colour.’

Amy topped up her wine glass before reaching a hand down to grab my arm, tugging me in the direction of the sofa. I slid along the floor for a few moments in my prone position, like some sort of beached, four-legged starfish, until I eventually bumped into the furniture.

‘I think that’s more America, hon,’ she said, yanking me upwards. ‘I’m not sure what ours are like. Something much more subtle, I expect. And don’t worry. I’ll hide a file inside the first cake I bring you. You’ll be out in no time.’

I paused in my clambering from the floor onto the sofa, and gave her a look. She made a sawing motion with one hand, accompanied by an over-exaggerated wink as she held out my wine glass. Flopping onto the couch, I took the glass and swigged a large mouthful, before laying my head back onto the soft cushions.

‘Seriously though. I really don’t know what I’m doing with this. I thought I was handling all this business stuff OK until now.’

‘And you are!’ Amy interjected. ‘Your blog is doing amazingly well! I can’t believe the difference in a year – it’s incredible! Seriously, Libs, you should really be proud of yourself.’

I sighed. ‘Thanks, Ames. And I am, and of Tilly. I couldn’t have done it without her. But I’m so frustrated! I’ve taken on this insane learning curve and, for the most part, got the hang of things. I think. But this?’ I kicked a piece of paper with my bare toes. ‘This, I just cannot get my head round! Why does tax have to be so bloody complicated? They send you this stuff so that you are supposedly able to do it yourself, but write it in the most confusing language possible! How is that even remotely helpful?’

Amy just shook her head and took another sip of wine.

‘So, what are you going to do?’

‘I don’t know. I guess I need to start looking for an accountant.’ I twiddled the wine glass stem in my hand.

Amy leant over and bumped her head gently on my shoulder. ‘You know; it is OK to ask people for help sometimes. We can’t all be amazing at everything. Creating all this in such a short space of time is brilliant, Libby. Finding that you need some extra expertise in one area is perfectly acceptable, and perfectly normal.’

‘I guess.’ I put the glass down. ‘Before I forget, I have something for you.’

Immediately, Amy sat up straighter in anticipation and her eyes watched me as I crossed to the other side of the room and picked up a small, but fancy, cardboard bag with intricately twisted rope handles and a swirly script logo on the side. Walking back over to the sofa, I plopped the bag down on Amy’s lap.

‘Did I ever tell you that going for it with this lifestyle blog business is the best thing that you’ve ever done?’

I laughed. ‘You just like the freebies.’

‘True,’ Amy agreed, before letting out an ‘ooh’ of pleasure at the eyeshadow palette and perfume she’d just pulled out of the bag.

‘But thanks anyway.’

‘Any time. Oh!’ Amy’s eyes shone like those of a child who’d just won pass the parcel. ‘Really? I can have this?’ Without waiting for confirmation, Amy began excitedly spritzing the exclusive new perfume copiously on pretty much every pulse point she could reach, including mine.

Laughing, I lifted my wrist up to take another waft of the fragrance. It really was gorgeous. I smiled as my friend rummaged in the bag, unwrapping the various goodies from their pretty tissue-paper packaging. The cosmetic companies often sent more samples than I could possibly use so I always made sure my assistant got some to review and regularly ran giveaways on the blog, as a thank you to my readers. But occasionally I still had extra goodies left over. Amy always loved a good freebie so when I had something spare, it meant I got to make my best friend happy.

As the fumes of Amy’s fragrance enthusiasm began getting a little pungent, I pushed myself up and padded over to the doors that led out onto the balcony. Grabbing the handle, I slid the door to the side. Immediately, a warm breeze rushed in from the sea, dissipating the perfume, and bringing with it the screech of seagulls intertwined with chatter and laughter from the nearby bars and restaurants in the marina. I stepped out, grabbing a wide-brimmed, slightly battered straw hat off the nearby console table, and took a seat on one of the two wooden steamer chairs that resided on my balcony. Amy followed me out, wine glass in hand, the gift bag now swinging off her wrist.

If I was honest, the furniture was a squeeze and a trendy little bistro set would have been a better, more sensible option. I’d made the classic mistake of ‘guesstimating’ that they would fit perfectly on the balcony. They didn’t and I’d ended up building them in situ like some sort of furniture Jenga, which had proved to be the only way of getting them both to fit on there. But I loved them. I didn’t want a trendy little bistro set. The loungers were super comfy with full-length padded cushions, and reclined just enough without touching the glass. I could sit out here and read in comfort, watching the boats sway and bob gently in the marina, listening as the sound of waves bumping against the harbour wall carried across the water. Even in winter, when the wind howled and the sea reared up before crashing down forcefully onto the nearby beach, I would happily sit out here, wrapped up against the cold, just absorbing it all.

There was definitely no need for coats and scarves this evening. It seemed that spring had decisively handed off the baton early to summer and the new season was away and running. The evening was warm and the breeze soft as Amy and I, now having inelegantly climbed onto our respective loungers, sat back and sighed happily.

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

My Thoughts…

A lovely, slow to ignite friends to lovers and opposites attract romance, in a contemporary setting. Libby is a lifestyle blogger, whose popularity is now making her serious money. Worried about tax issues she eagerly accepts Charle, a friend of a friend’s offer to look over her accounts, She is accident-prone, bubbly and creative, the antithesis of Charlie who is climbing up the corporate ladder and is introverted,

Mutual attraction, proximity. and an unanswered need for someone special in their lives draws the couple together. Firstly into friendship and after much ado, romance. Both are reticent about commitment and their self-worth making them more alike than they first appear.

Libby experiences some of the negative aspects of celebrity status and social media and wants to prove that her blog is a true reflection of her and not a facsimile. Doing this is risky both from a business point of view and personally, and she wonders if people will like the true Libby, with #NoFilter.

This story has a likeable rom-com element and complex realistic protagonists. The romance is very slow-paced. which some will find frustrating.

There is also a message about the power of social media, and how it affects those who live their lives on it. There is a significant move away now, from unrealistic and negative media portrayals of self-image, especially for the young. Maybe its time for us to be more circumspect about what we share of our lives, and not try and constantly strive for an unrealistic ideal, that is probably not even real anyway?

A gently romantic, thought-provoking read.

Guest Post – Inspiration for #No Filter – Maxine Morrey

I wasn’t an early embracer of the whole social media scene. I joined Twitter to see what it was about but didn’t really use it, barely going on it. Facebook had never had any appeal for me, but writing full time meant having a ‘business’ presence on there was kind of required.

Instagram, however, was a different matter for me. As a photography fan, this platform appealed as a place to share and view interesting pictures, and perhaps connect with others who shared similar interests. It still took me a while, joining four years after its launch. But it was really about the opportunity to practice photography skills and share them. I wasn’t bothered about the Like count. It was just fun. And I think this was true of a lot of users at this time. That was the point – just having fun.

But somewhere along the line, things seem to have become a bit skewed. And there are times when it’s not fun at all– in fact, it’s the very opposite. Some users are experiencing a lack of self-worth, jealousy, violence, self-harm and heartbreakingly, even suicide. It was actually this side of things that gave me the inspiration for the book that would become #NoFilter.

Bearing in mind I write romcoms, I can see that this isn’t exactly what people would call a perfect match. But this is what many people miss about the romance genre – especially the critics, the majority of whom have never even dipped a toe into the scene before dismissing it as unworthy of their, or anyone else’s attention. Many romcoms and romances tackle subjects which are quite serious, but they do it in a way that makes it accessible, and relatable. Yes, my books have a non-negotiable happy ending but that doesn’t mean the characters have led  Pollyanna lifestyles. There’s more to these books than meet the eye if people bother to look.

The spark for #NoFilter was reading a report about the increase in reports of self-harm since the advent of social media, and how the growth of the two correlated. This was both shocking and saddening. We’ve all heard of cyberbullying and trolling and how intrusive that can be, especially to school-age children. Once our home was a sanctuary away from the school bullies. Now, unless you’re offline entirely – something that seems almost impossible, if not anathema to a generation who were practically born with a mobile phone in their hand –  it’s very hard to get away from.

But it’s not just others who bully. And you certainly don’t have to be of school age to be a victim. Sometimes the biggest bully is the one inside our head, and unfortunately, social media, especially the image focused channels have only given these more power. These problems are not exclusively female either. Men are certainly not immune to doubting their self-worth, but there has always been an added pressure on women when it comes to how they present themselves and how others perceive them.

Once it was the glossy magazines being berated for presenting aspirational images impossible to actually achieve. Not because there aren’t women just as stylish, intelligent and beautiful out there. But because the images laid in front of us weren’t genuine. The real person- a model, a woman already been singled out for her aesthetically pleasing appearance – has been made up, dressed and photographed in the most flattering way possible. And then begins hours of photo editing. In some cases, four or five different women are amalgamated to make one ‘perfect’ one. No wonder we feel like we’re not good enough – the image we’re aspiring to sometimes isn’t even one person! Even children aren’t immune from the photo editing suite – what sort of message that sends, I hate to contemplate.

So, battling against these perfect images on the newsstand was bad enough but in the back of our minds, many of us knew these were tweaked and toned and literally, perfected. But somehow, when it comes to social media, we seem to forget. All of a sudden there are these ‘normal’ women – not movie stars, or models – just regular women looking absolutely flawless. And that seems a lot more real than the glossy magazines. Which is a lot more dangerous.

The truth is a vast majority of the images on Instagram are not real. They’re just as fake as the magazines. The amount of photo editing apps available is staggering, with an enormous number dedicated specifically to selfies. It’s basically plastic surgery for your photograph and it can get addictive. When selfies are continuously filtered and edited, they are a representation of that person – but most certainly not that person. However, as we scroll through, seeing one perfect face and body after another, that logic doesn’t always make it through and instead, our own self-worth takes a mental pounding. That’s the danger and it’s only getting worse.

Social media is not a bad thing. It’s supposed to be fun, and it can be. It can also be supportive. Being a writer is a very solitary job, but social media has enabled me to be in contact with others in the same position and being able to gain and give support via these platforms is brilliant. The same goes for hobbies – you might not know anyone in your ‘real’ life that finds the same things as you interesting but social media enables you to find a community and I know people who have made long and strong friendships via it. It’s not evil. But it does need to be used with caution.

No one is perfect. But you are perfect as you are. If there’s anything that’s making you doubt that, then it may be time to do a bit of detoxing. Accounts that make you question your self-worth need to go. Press that unfollow and feel the pressure lift. Find the next one and do the same, and the next.

Replace these accounts with others that don’t adhere to the editing obsession and instead bring you joy. They’re just as interesting and encourage a world and a belief that is far, far more social.

#MaxineMorrey

 Maxine Morrey is a bestselling romantic comedy author with eight books to her name including Winter’s Fairytale and the top ten hit The Christmas Project. She lives in West Sussex. Her first novel for Boldwood, #No Filter, will be published in November 2019.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship, Romance, Romantic Comedy

Look at me Now Simone Goodman 4*#Review @simonegauthor @BoldwoodBooks #BoldwoodBlogTours #RomCom #RealityTV #Cookery #Romance #Friendship #Extract #PublicationDay #BookReview #BlogTour

#LookatmeNow

GRACIE PORTER’S LIFE IS IN A TANGLE. HER TELEVISION COOKERY SHOW IS FLAILING AND HER BOYFRIEND’S AFFECTIONS ARE WANING. IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE…

Best friend Faith rescues her place on the small screen when she unwittingly lands them both starring roles in a steamy spin-off that becomes an instant hit. The new show is more about relationships, sex and stonking big vegetables than cooking.

Throw in a fluctuating crush on her surprisingly irresistible agent, Harry Hipgrave, an unlikely friendship with a pair of D-list models and a gossip journalist intent on making her life miserable, Grace wonders if becoming famous is all it’s cracked up to be?

Romantic, utterly uplifting and poignant.

Paperback at Amazon UK Kindle at Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

Definitely a story for lovers of celebrity and reality TV.

‘Look at me Now’, follows Gracie’s exploits as a celebrity chef on day time television, new owners and a tired show mean either change or unemployment. Gracie and Faith come up with a topical slant to make the show a twenty-first-century hit. What happens next pushes Gracie, who is a typical rom-com heroine, likeable and naive, well out of her comfort zone. Can she do it? Well, you’ll have to read it and see.

There is genuine humour in this story, plenty of romantic and work-based angst and conflict, and a gentle romance. The cast of characters are vividly written, and most avoid becoming stereotypical.
The writing style is inclusive and informal and makes this an easy, escapist read. Short chapters keep it well-paced.

If you like a romantic comedy with a contemporary twist, this is an enjoyable read.

Extract from – Look At Me Now – Simone Goodman

Chapter 1

‘Oops!’ Rushing into the television station where I work, escaping the demonic gale that’s sweeping across London this morning, I slide delicately across the wet tiles inside the entrance.

I say delicately. But it’s more hope that I look like an accomplished ice skater as I clumsily regain my balance. Being a healthy size 14 – I don’t consider myself fat, I’m just not reed thin – there’s a risk I’ve come off more like a comedian on a banana skin. Thankfully, no one other than Mitzi, our receptionist, is here to hold me accountable.

‘Golly, Gracie, are you okay?’ Mitzi calls from across the foyer, where she’s sitting behind the front desk, most likely reading a script.

‘I’m okay, Mitzi.’ By all accounts, my near miss looked distinctly less than elegant. Laughing, I steady myself on the death-tiles. It could have been worse. I could have toppled right over my own feet.

It’s only a short few hundred metres dash from Oxford Circus Tube station to my workplace, our studios located in a narrow but deceptively cavernous Georgian building on Soho Square. My umbrella blowing inside-out against the pelting rain and wind this morning, I covered the distance as quickly as possible. My dash best described as a nippy jog, it’s the most exercise I’ve done in months. It’s early January, the time for New Year resolutions. Possibly, it wouldn’t be the worst idea for me to consider joining a gym?

‘I’ve been warning someone will break their bones on those tiles,’ Mitzi says.

‘We could do with a non-slip mat here,’ I agree.

‘We could do with a lot of things around here,’ Mitzi sighs.

She reminds me of Daisy Lowe, the model. Dark hair. Doe eyes. Cherry-red lips. Though her role is to welcome visitors, Mitzi looks the part for television. Like many people who work here, she yearns to be in front of the camera.

I have my own show. But it troubles me, more and more lately, that I don’t look like I belong. This isn’t to say I don’t have my finer points. Pragmatically speaking, we all do. What can I tell you? My eyes are sometimes so blue as to appear violet. Almond-shaped, they’re generously framed with oodles of long, thick lashes. My dark locks cascade to below my shoulders and, at thirty-three years of age, I’ve not got a single grey hair on my head. My complexion is creamy, free of lines and, generally, spots. But before you picture me as some uber-glamourous cross between a young Elizabeth Taylor and a brunette Katy Perry, bear in mind I’m the more robustly packaged (sometimes size 14 plus) version. Some days, I fear I’m veering more into the territory of a Dawn French and Melissa McCarthy lovechild – without their comedy vehicles for kicks. But surely no one likes a thin chef?

I host my own daily cookery show, Gracie Porter’s Gourmet Get-Together.

The title is a bit of a misnomer. It’s impossible to prepare gourmet meals, haute cuisine of several aesthetically balanced and rich courses of food, within a short thirty minutes allotment of air time. Notwithstanding that with preparation of the set, the ingredients and me, it takes almost a full day to pre-record every show that then airs across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales at 10.30 a.m. the following week. Also, there isn’t much ‘getting together’ with my format. I like to think I’m always engaging with my audience as they tune in to connect with me from the comforts of their own homes, but the original concept had me hosting the occasional special guest: other chefs, celebrities and perhaps the more interesting politician. With none of us, including my producer, Robin, moving in celebrity circles, with Westminster MPs otherwise occupied with their scandals, solicitations and squabbling and me reasoning that any chef who wants to be on television would surely want their own show, we failed to deliver. When no one pushed us, we let it slide. We don’t even have a live audience. It’s pretty much me and the crew who chow down after a recording finishes. On this basis, my cookery show has aired daily for almost a year and a half.

Previously, I worked as a normal chef. I prepared mouth-watering meals in lovely places where people came to eat. When it comes to food, I’m a consummate professional. As far as television goes, I’m still cutting my teeth.

From the beginning, both investment and expectation of our little cookery show has been low. Being at the bottom end of a long list of hot shows and hotter stars left me below the radar – and this has suited me fine. Things changed late last year after Titan Media, the US entertainment giant, acquired a large chunk of our relatively tiny UK operations. This afternoon, at 3 p.m., I have a meeting with the American executives who now run things to discuss my ‘future services to the company’. It hasn’t escaped me that not everyone summoned to such meetings returned from their New Year breaks. People have been literally disappearing from the studios in droves. And I know my ratings aren’t the best.

I don’t disagree with Mitzi that things around here could be better. However, today is a day for putting the best, most confident and upbeat version of me forward.

‘I’m sure things will settle down and everything will be fine again soon,’ I assure her. I put my wet umbrella inside a cotton shopping bag.

Behind me, the front doors burst open. I turn to look. Shadowing the doorway, wearing her long, spectral black-hooded cape, stands Zelda the Magnificent, our resident daytime television psychic.

‘Gracie,’ Zelda declares on seeing me. ‘Dahling.’ Her voice is deep and melodic. Her accent is old Budapest enchantment. She’s like a darker, earthier Zsa Zsa Gabor. ‘Please, stop for Zelda,’ she implores in her dulcet tones. ‘I have, for you, a vision.’

#SimoneGoodman

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Simone’s Bio – Simone Goodman is CFO at one of the fastest-growing tech companies in Europe. She is Australian and lives in London with her daughter and her two cats.  Look At Me Now is her debut romantic comedy and will be published in November 2019.

Posted in Book Review, Folk Tales, Friendship, Indie, Literary Fiction, Magic, Mystery

The Seagull’s Laughter Holly Bidgood 4*#Review @Wildpressed @HollyBidgood @LoveBooksGroup #LoveBooksTours #LiteraryFiction #Friendship #Magic #Folklore #Greenland #Shetland

TheSeagullsLaughter

Born in 1973 to a Greenlandic mother and an English-Explorer father, Malik has always been something of a misfit. He has one black eye and one blue. As a child, his mother’s people refused to touch him and now his own baby daughter’s family feel the same way.            

On his own now, Malik’s only companion is a guiding spirit no-one else can see, but one day a white man with a nose like a beak and a shadow like a seagull appears on his doorstep and invites him to England.

Martha has had enough of living with domestic abuse. She compares bruises with her friend Neil, who regularly suffers homophobic attacks. With Martha’s baby, they go on the run to Shetland, where Martha has happy childhood memories of summers spent with her aunt.

On their way up north in a camper van, they come across a dejected Malik, alone again after a brief reconciliation with his father’s family.

They arrive safely together in the Shetland Isles, but Malik still needs answers to the identity of the beak-nosed man who casts a shadow over his life, and must now embark on a further journey of his own.

The Seagull’s Laughter is an immersive read, intertwined with nature and the magic of Greenlandic folk tales.

Amazon UK

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

My Thoughts…

I love the colourful cover of this book. It makes you want to pick it up and read it, but what lies within, is even more enticing.

An original tale of differing cultures, family, friendship, magic, myths, prejudice and self-realisation. Set in the 1970s, with flashbacks to the late 1940s, it has so many layers. Each one has a purpose, and all it demands from the reader is time to absorb and enjoy it.

To begin with, this is Malik’s story, he lives in Greenland in the early 1970s. His life isn’t easy, but he accepts it, even though his people, don’t embrace him. You realise early on that he has a differing set of beliefs to an urbanised man. He has a spirit guide, and it is his importance that leads Malik on a journey that covers many miles geographically, culturally and spiritually.

Mythical quests are never easy, and neither is Malik’s journey of self-discovery, he encounters misunderstanding and prejudice. Emotionally raw, he meets two similarly, damaged people Martha and Neil, who share part of his journey and make him appreciate true friendship. He realises that family is sometimes not only those you share blood with.

The appearance of a strange man who resembles a seagull plagues Malik. The last part of his journey is solitary and demands the most courage. The descriptions of the cultures, settings and time periods are vivid and illuminate Malik’s story. The ending is powerful and uplifting.

#HollyBidgood

Holly grew up in Derbyshire but has always been drawn to the sea. She has written from a young age. Her love affair with island landscapes was kick-started on a brief visit to the Faroe Islands at the age of eighteen, en route to Iceland. She was immediately captivated by the landscape, weather, and way of life and it was here that she conceived the idea for her first novel, The Eagle and The Oystercatcher.

Holly studied Icelandic, Norwegian and Old Norse at University College London. She also studied as an exchange student at The University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands) and spent a memorable summer working in a museum in South Greenland.

She decided to start a family young and now has three small children. Holly helps run Life & Loom, a social and therapeutic weaving studio in Hull.  She likes to escape from the busyness of her life by working on her novels and knitting Icelandic wool jumpers.

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The Seagull’s Laughter will be published in November 2019.

Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Christmas Read, Family Drama, Festive Read, Friendship, Romance

Christmas Every Day Beth Moran 4*#Review @BethCMoran @BoldwoodBooks #FestiveRead #Christmas #BlogTour #Author #Interview #BookReview #bookbloggers

When Jenny inherits her estranged grandmother’s cottage in Sherwood Forest, she has nothing to lose – no money, no job, no friends, no family to speak of, and zero self-respect. Things can only get better…

Her grumpy, but decidedly handsome new neighbour, Mack, has a habit of bestowing unsolicited good deeds on her. And when Jenny is welcomed into a rather unusual book club, life seems to finally be getting more interesting.

Instead of reading, the members pledge to complete individual challenges before Christmas: from finding new love, learning to bake, to completing a daredevil bucket list. Jenny can’t resist joining in, and soon a year of friendship and laughter, tears and regrets unfold in the most unexpected ways.

Warm, wise, funny and utterly uplifting, what one thing would you change in your life before Christmas comes around?

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


My Thoughts…

Jenny sees the rundown cottage, she’s inherited from a Grandmother, she hardly knew, as a lifeline from her imploding life. Romance, family and career disintegrate just before Christmas and she needs somewhere to heal and start again.

The cottage has issues and on first acquaintance seems to reflect her shattered life, but with help from the village community, she starts to repair both. There are lots of great characters in this story, the villagers and the members of the unusual Christmas book club are believable and in most cases lovely.

Romance realistically isn’t the focus of this story, but where it occurs, it is gentle and born out of friendship. The festive atmosphere is evident and given a quirky twist by the Christmas book club.

Humorous, poignant, with a romantic sparkle, this is a good festive read, that leaves you with a warm Christmassy feeling.

Author Interview – Beth Moran – Christmas Every Day

Do you enjoy writing festive stories?  If so why?

Christmas Every Day is the first festive story I’ve written, but as my other books are spread over several months, I always make sure I include some lovely Christmassy scenes. It’s one of my favourite times of the year, so I have great fun creating the warm, joyful atmosphere, and of course, it’s always a time when something magical might happen!

Festive stories are often written out of season, to fit in with publishing schedules, how do you get in the festive mood in the Summertime?

I wrote a lot of the festive scenes for Christmas Every Day in a summer heatwave. To get in the mood I listened to Christmas music in my car, guaranteeing I ended up with a festive tune stuck in my head! I drink a lot of tea while writing, so I swapped to spicy chai tea with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in my favourite Christmassy mug. It was also a great excuse to spend ages admiring a lot of beautiful decorations, trees and all things festive on Pinterest!

Image Credit Beth Moran #GettingInTheFestiveMood

What inspired you to write this story?

I wanted to write about someone who had grown up in a cold, unfeeling family and ended up becoming part of one that was the complete opposite – warm, noisy, chaotic and bursting with love. I also walk a lot in Sherwood Forest, and had this picture in my head of a run-down, ramshackle cottage in the middle of the trees, and wondered how a woman would cope if she suddenly found herself living there.

As someone who loves books, I could easily spend way too much time reading about other people’s stories, rather than getting out there to live some stories of my own, so that was how the Christmas Book Club Challenge came about. But all that is just for starters – like any writer I’m nosy, and always picking up new ideas or overhearing snippets of conversation that get me thinking. I used to carry a pen and paper to jot down interesting ideas as they came to me, but now I just add them to the dozens of notes on my phone.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

My books are mainly set in and around Sherwood Forest where I live – I think for me to write with authenticity I need to stick to places I know, and my life doesn’t currently allow for many research trips elsewhere! So usually it starts with a plot idea – how would someone react to this happening to them, or what if someone did this. Then I start asking a lot of questions about who this person is, and who they might meet, and what would happen next, and it goes on from there. I got the inspiration for my first novel, Making Marion, while I was camping in France. I had a random thought about how a campsite would be a great place for a wounded woman to hide away and heal for a while. I then start wondering about this person – who is she, and what is she running from? – and took it from there.

What are the best things about Christmas for you? Is there anything about the festive season you don’t like? Why is this?

I love so much about Christmas! These days, one of the best things is that my two eldest children come home from university, so the house becomes full of noise and laughter again. I’m a huge foodie, so really enjoy planning meals, shopping for ingredients and then cooking and baking it all. On Christmas Eve my mum and sister-in-law come over with my nieces, and we chop vegetables, make stuffing and do all the other prep for Christmas dinner for 10 people, while the cousins hang out together. So – I suppose food and family, and all our quirky traditions that have built up around them are the best things. I think the only thing I don’t like is all the mess afterwards!

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

As a writer, I try to read a variety of different genres. I grew up reading my dad’s crime and thriller books and was a real Tolkien geek. Since then I’ve broadened into women’s fiction – I love how Cathy Lamb and Kristan Higgins write books that make you laugh one page and cry the next. I also became a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books several years ago – I love the detailed history, and how she’s written a powerful love story that takes places over several decades. Of course, I love a good festive read, and every December treat myself to Karen Swan’s new Christmas book. Generally speaking, I will give most things a go as long as they don’t leave me feeling too depressed afterwards!

What are the best and worst things about being a writer? Why?

The best thing is when other people let me know how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books. One of my greatest treats in life is discovering a new author who keeps me reading far too late into the night because I can’t put a book down, those books that make our hearts swell and our spirits soar. Knowing that what started out as a hopeful jumble of ideas in my head has become one of those books for someone else is priceless, and such a huge joy. I consider myself very blessed to get to do this for a living.

The worst thing is probably the inevitable moments of doubt. I take months to write the first draft, and in all that time no-one else reads the book apart from me, so when I hit a plot snag, or a character won’t behave themselves, it can be easy to get discouraged. That’s when the messages from people telling me they love my books become so helpful in motivating me to stop faffing about on the internet and get back on it!

What are you currently writing?

I’m currently writing a book about someone who as a teenager was a sporting celebrity, and then gave it all up for a man who promptly dumped her. She’s spent thirteen years raising her son alone while battling agoraphobia and crippling shame, but thanks to a scary invitation, a fabulous running club and a very lovely personal trainer, things are about to change…

#BethMoran

Beth Moran is the author of three previous books, including Making Marion. She regularly features on BBC Radio Nottingham and is a trustee of the national women’s network Free Range Chicks. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest.

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