Book Review

Christmas Miracles At The Little Log Cabin – Helen J Rolfe

I have another festive treat for you today with Christmas Miracles At The Little Log Cabin by Helen J Rolfe.

BLURB:

Do you believe in Christmas Miracles?

Holly is looking for a change and even though not everyone agrees with her career choices, she’s determined there’s more to this life than the long hours she works as an editor in New York City. What she doesn’t expect is to meet Mitch, a recluse who’s hiding more than she realises.

Mitch does all he can to avoid human contact, spending his days in the little log cabin out in the woods behind Inglenook Falls where he owns a Christmas tree farm, so when Holly falls into his life, he’s not sure how to react. All he knows is that something needs to change if he ever wants to get his life back on track.

Along with friends Cleo and Darcy, Holly is determined to bring joy back to Mitch’s life, but will he appreciate their interference? And when a business proposition throws everything up in the air, will it do more harm than good and ruin lives forever?

Both Holly and Mitch must learn that on the surface people aren’t always what they seem…but if you dig a little deeper, they can take you by surprise.

Curl up this Christmas for plenty of snowflakes, roaring log fires, a marriage proposal, unlikely friendships and second chances as we return to the much-loved characters in the New York Ever After series.

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PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

Christmas Miracles at the Little Log Cabin has the feel of one of those made for TV movies that pop up at Christmas every year – you know, the ones where you figure out how it is all going to end from about five minutes in, but you don’t care because they give you that warm Christmas glow, and you just can’t resist settling down for the duration and enjoying the ride. It is full of snow, festive cheer and goodwill, and redemption stories – everything you need in a heart-warming Christmas story.

This book is the fourth in the New York Ever After series, but it honestly doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the others. I haven’t, and it certainly didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story. There is enough background information for you to form an attachment to the characters, without it turning into a total rehashing of the first three books and an information overload. There was just enough that everything made sense, but that I was also left wanting to read the first three books to uncover the full stories of the characters.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Author Photograph Helen Rolfe (4)

Helen J Rolfe writes contemporary women’s fiction and enjoys weaving stories about family, friendship, secrets, and community. Characters often face challenges and must fight to overcome them, but above all, Helen’s stories always have a happy ending.

Location is a big part of the adventure in Helen’s books and she enjoys setting stories in different cities and countries around the world. So far, locations have included Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Connecticut, Bath and the Cotswolds.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Facebook

Twitter

Website

BookBub

Many thanks to Helen and to Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to talk part in the blog tour for this book, and for providing me with my copy of the book. Please have a look at the other blogs taking part. Us bloggers love it when someone stops by to say hi!

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Book Review

The Christmas Spirit – Susan Buchanan

It’s time for another festive book today, with Susan Buchanan’s delightful The Christmas Spirit.

BLURB:

Christmas is coming, but not everyone is looking forward to it.

Rebecca has just been dumped and the prospect of spending the holiday period with her parents is less than appealing.

Eighty- two year old Stanley lost his beloved wife, Edie, to cancer. How will he cope with his first Christmas without her?

Jacob’s university degree hasn’t helped him get a job, and it looks like he’ll still be signing on come New Year.

Workaholic Meredith would rather spend December 25th at home alone with a ready meal and a DVD box set. Can anything make her embrace the spirit of the season?

The enigmatic Natalie Hope takes over the reins at the Sugar and Spice bakery and café in an attempt to spread some festive cheer and restore Christmas spirit, but will she succeed?

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PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

The Christmas Spirit is a wonderful book, full of sugar and spice, snow, kindness, and everything else that makes for a magical Christmas.

I devoured this book in one sitting, much as I would have done with one of the divine sounding cakes that Natalie baked over the course of the book. As I read, I could almost taste the baking and smell the Christmas spices. I loved reading about all the Christmas cakes from around the world, and not being a fan of the traditional Christmas fruit cake, I will certainly be investigating some of the recipes.

I loved how Natalie was able to sense exactly what it was that was missing from the lives of each of the people she interacted with, and felt that the whole book served as a timely reminder that life is not just about the material things. Just through tiny kindnesses, and being present and aware of what is going on around you, you can make a huge impact on someone else’s life.

Reading this book was like being wrapped up in a giant, squishy hug, and was just what I needed as the stresses of the festive season begin to kick in.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Susan Buchanan lives in Scotland with her husband and their two children. She is the author of four novels: Return of the Christmas Spirit, The Christmas Spirit, The Dating Game, and Sign of the Times. She is currently working on books five and six: The Proposal and Just One Day.

Susan is also a proofreader, editor and translator, and when not working, writing, or caring for her two delightful cherubs, loves reading, the theatre, quiz shows and eating out – not necessarily in that order!

SOCIAL MEDIA:

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

GIVEAWAY:

Win e-copies of Sign of the Times and The Dating Game (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494170/

Many thanks to Susan and to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in today’s blog blitz, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

Meet the Author

Madeline Dyer

I am doing my happy dance today because I have an interview with the wonderful Madeline Dyer to share with you all. Grab a cuppa and a biscuit and come on in and join us.

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What inspired you to create the Untamed world? 

The initial premise of the first book evolved when I saw the music video for “La La La” by Naughty Boy and Sam Smith. More specifically, there’s a scene in that video where what appears to be a human heart is being sold at a market, and it got me thinking about what would happen if all the things that a heart represents—such as love, happiness, and lust—could be bought at a market, just as easily as clothing and food. This idea became the basis for the augmenters—artificial emotions that only allow the user to feel positive qualities, at the expense of their humanity—that the majority of mankind are addicted to, and thus the distinction between the Enhanced Ones (those who take augmenters) and the Untamed (those who don’t) was born.

From here, I added more and more layers to my worldbuilding—predominantly by asking myself questions about how a society like this would operate and function. But I wanted to make this dystopian world a little different too, and I always knew I wanted there to be spirits in this world too. I love fantasy, and creating a world that is both dystopian and has strong fantastical elements was something that really appealed to me. And, thus, this series is set in an alternate present-day earth where augmenters have been around for hundreds of years, but it’s also a world where spirits walk the land and are very much part of the landscape. There’s a whole mythology and religion that the Untamed have created around the spirits and nature and other Divine beings (a mythology that the Enhanced Ones have rejected in favour of technology). It was really fascinating seeing how this world managed both the conflict between the Enhanced and the Untamed, and between technology and spirits.

Everything about the Untamed world feels so real. How did you go about the worldbuilding required to create something that feels so authentic? 

I’m so happy you think this world feels so real! That was something that was really important to me, and something I considered carefully when creating this world. Because my worldbuilding requires so much suspension of belief—you’ve got spirits, Gods and Goddesses, the prophetic bison, and the Dream Land—I knew that I absolutely needed to be as detailed and factual as possible in many other areas, as well as making sure that this book is as visual as possible.

I spent months and months researching and fact-checking different areas to make sure that everything but the fantasy elements were as fact-based as they could be, realistic, and familiar. Thus, a lot of the survival skills that the Untamed use to survive are real-life survival skills, and many of the plants Seven and Corin come across are also ones readers will recognize—and I made sure to include their descriptions within my imagery when establishing setting, so even if it was a plant that was unfamiliar to the characters (and so they didn’t know the name of it) readers who are familiar with that terrain may still identify it.

The volcano in Fragmented (book two) is based on a real-life volcano, and I talked with numerous volcanologists and professors at universities, to make sure my depictions of this volcano and the old lava tubes—from the type and colour of the rock, to the smells and temperatures inside the old tubes—were accurate and realistic.

Including little things like this which readers can use to ground themselves in this world that is both similar and so different, is something I think really helped to give a strong sense of ‘place’.

What made the original Enhanced create the augmenters?

So, it’s human nature to strive toward perfection and improve the human condition. This can already be seen in the medical advances in the last few centuries, in particular. This desire to live a better life, free from pain, suffering, etc., was what drove the creation of the first augmenters in my Untamed world, as they were designed to make people stronger and faster. It wasn’t until a little later that they focused on making people happier too, and thus ‘positive emotions’ became the main focus of the augmenters, as well as a line that allows for phenotype change, under their belief that a more ‘beautiful’ appearance allows the person to feel happier as well.

But it’s important to remember that the first augmenters were actually created by the Untamed, as the Enhanced are the result of the augmenters and their humanity-destroying effects.

Do you have any favourite quotes from any of the books?

Yes! This is from Destroyed (book four).

Raleigh laughs. “You are not a killer.”

“You don’t know what I am.”

I absolutely love these lines as they show both Raleigh’s pretentious nature in that he assumes he knows what Seven is or isn’t capable of, while also revealing how controlling he is as he tells Seven she is not a killer. To him, it’s not a question, and there’s no doubt about it. It’s a fact, and he assumes he knows her better than she herself does. This definitely plays into the cat-and-mouse chase between the two of them that we’ve seen across all four books, and the mind-control and mental manipulation he exerts over her in books one and three.

But Seven’s reply is what I think really makes these lines really fantastic. She’s no longer the scared or vulnerable girl she was in book one. She has grown into herself, her powers, and books three and four are where we really see her as a confident and determined character. Now she has the power to face Raleigh on her own terms, and she directly confronts him and challenges the foundations that he’s stood on for so long (as he has always told her he knows what’s best for her).

This is definitely the moment where the power-balance shifts and readers see who Seven really is now.

What was your favourite book to write? Why?

I’d say it’s a draw between Fragmented (book two) and Destroyed (book four). I particularly liked writing the Zharat culture in Fragmented, as well as seeing how Seven is recovering from both the addiction that stole so much of her in book one and the loss of her family. But I also really liked writing Destroyed. With it being the final part of Seven’s story, there was a lot I wanted to fit into this book, but it also had to feel like a satisfying end to the series and have its own plot, rather than just tying up all the loose ends and being exciting purely for the sake of going out on a bang. Destroyed certainly shakes up what readers think they know about the Untamed world, raises new questions (and answers), and with new layers of worldbuilding being explored, I hope it’s an engaging and thrilling ride.

Which book did you find the hardest to write? Why?

Divided (book three), definitely!

This is the book where Raleigh (the antagonist) really gets inside Seven’s head. There’s a lot of mental manipulation and mind games, and its tone is greatly darker than the other books. Its structure is also very different to Untamed (book one), and the majority of the action takes place in an Enhanced town (unlike the other books which have more of a road-trip feel to them as the Untamed are on the run), so we really get to see inside the enemy. There’s a lot of worldbuilding that’s solely focused on the Enhanced society, whereas in Fragmented (book two), in particular, it was solely the Untamed society that was explored. I really liked writing this contrast, but found it very hard as Seven’s situation in this book means that most of the action is centred around her internal conflict as she fights the mind control Raleigh has over her, rather than externally (such as in the fast-paced car chase scenes in book one).

Do you have a playlist for your books, or songs that you associate with a particular character?

Yes! Well, only for some books. I’m weird. Whether I create a playlist as I write and edit depends completely on the book that I’m writing—and I remember distinctly that Divided, book three, didn’t have a playlist. I required absolute silence when writing that.

Destroyed did however have a playlist, and it can be found here: https://madonreading.blogspot.com/2018/11/blog-tour-destroyed-by-madeline-dyer.html

I also have a playlist for A Dangerous Game! This is my standalone novel that’s set in the same world as my Untamed series, and although it has a different narrator, Seven and Corin do make appearances in it. The playlist can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnEZs7UwfVAk82LPChnpL-tBX4EDXMtkw

As you know, I am a massive Corin fan, but do you have a favourite character of your own?

Hmmm…so I like all my characters, but I particularly enjoyed writing the intense scenes with Raleigh! Although Divided was the hardest book to write, I found it fascinating learning so much about him in that book.

Writing from Keelie’s POV in A Dangerous Game was also really fun, and it was refreshing to see such a familiar world through the eyes of another character who’s so different to Seven.

You have spoken of a love of prehistoric fiction. Did this influence you to use the bison as the symbol for seer dream and for how the dreams appeared? I always imagined the dreams as having a cave art quality to them, even before I knew that you were a fan of prehistoric fiction.

The bison was very much influenced by my love for prehistoric art. I studied Ritual and Religion in Prehistory at Oxford Uni, and I loved the modules on cave art. As so many prehistoric paintings focus around animals, and there’s so much evidence to suggest that animals were very important to them (their bones have been found in the foundations of many prehistoric buildings and settlements), I wanted the Untamed culture to be focused around an animal too. I chose a wood bison as I love the symbolism this animal has.

Who/what are your favourite authors/books?

My favourite authors include Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Bronte, Jean M. Auel, J.V. Jones, Rick Yancey, Richelle Mead, C.L. Taylor, and Ruth Ware.

If you could have dinner with any three authors, alive or dead, who would they be and why?

Only three? Hmm. I’d probably go with Virginia Woolf, A.A. Milne, and Anne Sexton. I think that would be quite an interesting combination, and just listening to their conversations would be fascinating.

Now that the final book in the Untamed series has been released, what comes next? 

I can’t believe that Seven’s story is finished! I’ve got tentative plans for a second Untamed standalone—possibly focusing around a character we meet in Fragmented—but nothing solid on that yet.

And in terms of non-Untamed books, I’ve been working on the first book in a YA science fiction trilogy. Hopefully, I’ll have news on that soon!

I also really want to write a YA thriller.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes young adult books—sometimes, at the same time. She holds a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter, and several presses have published her fiction. Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes.

As well as this interview, Madeline has lots more exciting stuff happening on her Destroyed blog tour, so make sure you visit all the other blogs taking part.

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Book Review

Destroyed – Madeline Dyer

I am feeling a little bit sad today because I am here to tell you about Madeline Dyer’s latest book, Destroyed. “Why does that make you sad?” I hear you ask. Well, Destroyed is the fourth and final book in the amazing Untamed series, and now I have finished it, and have to leave the much loved characters behind, I am feeling just a little lost.

For those of you who are not familiar with the series, let me tell you a bit about it before we jump into all the juicy bits about Destroyed. The Untamed series consists of four books (Untamed, Fragemented, Divided, Destroyed) and it follows Seven Sarr and her friends and loved ones as she battles to remain Untamed, while the Enhanced, or Chosen Ones, do everything they can to hunt them down and convert them.  I will pop a separate post up shortly with all the blurbs for all the books, so that I don’t blind you with all the info here.

Alongside the series, there is also a standalone novel, set ever so slightly before the start of the series, called A Dangerous Game. I reviewed this book earlier in the year, and you can read my review here.

Right, so now you know a bit more about the series, let’s get back to why we are really here – Destroyed!

BLURB:

Seven Sarr, the most powerful human in the world, is alive–and she’s on the run from her enemy. With the Dream Land gone, the Gods and Goddesses dead, and the Untamed’s number of Seers at a record low, Seven knows she must attempt to control the Lost Souls–including the most volatile and dangerous spirits–if her people are to have a chance at beating the Enhanced Ones once and for all.

But when the Enhanced impose a new threat and Corin’s life is at stake, Seven must make her hardest choice: save the man she loves and let her people perish, or allow Corin’s death so the Untamed can survive.

Locked into a tight countdown to her own demise and solitary entrapment within a torturous realm, Seven must make her decision quickly. Her Seer powers are the strongest, and her death will end the War of Humanity once and for all. When the new morning dawns, the world as she knew it will be gone. What–and who–will be left behind is up to Seven.

Will her love shape the future of the world?

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REVIEW:

Destroyed is a fitting finale to an amazing series. The Untamed series has been a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, and there is no let up through the adrenalin filled events of Destroyed. Where sometimes the final book in a series is just used to tie up the loose ends, this is in no way the case with Destroyed. The twists and turns just keep coming, and every time you think that the battle must surely be over, you find yourself thrown in a completely different direction.

It is hard to say too much with giving away spoilers, but suffice to say in this book, we really see Seven grow into the powerful woman that the Untamed need, as she unlocks her abilities and comes to terms with what she needs to do. We also see the lengths that Raleigh is prepared to go to in order to claim total control over Seven and swing the war in favour of the Enhanced.

The vivid imagery that has been present throughout Madeline’s writing continues here, as we are taken on an exploration of new lands and cultures. The worldbuilding involved in creating something so fantastical, but at the same time deeply believable is a real skill, and one that Madeline has in spades.

As sad as I am to be saying a final farewell to Seven, Corin and their friends, and even to Raleigh, I thoroughly enjoyed the way in which the series came to a head, and I loved seeing some familiar faces from the past, which really added to the sense of closure given by this book.

PURCHASE LINKS:

iTunes

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

30591626_2044993659121645_3880142398021435392_n (1)Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes young adult books—sometimes, at the same time. She holds a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter, and several presses have published her fiction. Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes.

GIVEAWAY:

Madeline is running a giveaway to win a complete set of the Untamed books, which you can enter here.

Keep your eyes peeled for my interview with Madeline which will be coming to a blog near you (i.e. this one) very soon – in just five days time to be precise. In the meantime, please check out all the amazing stuff on the other blogs that are joining me on this tour.

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