Guest Posts

Space Academy – Hannah Hopkins

I’d like to give a very warm welcome to Hannah Hopkins, who has kindly written a guest post on her mission as a writer, as part of the blog tour for her MG Fantasy novel, Space Academy. Many thanks to Hannah for taking the time to do this, and also to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

It’s the year 2100. Earth is dying. A young woman, Elsie, has risked everything to get her newborn son, Will, aboard ‘The Mayflower’ – a spaceship that will transport a select number of people to a new planet they can call home. Elsie’s luck takes a turn when she discovers the captain of ‘The Mayflower’ is an old friend. He allows her to board with her son, giving them a place on the luxurious Floor One, where they live amongst the most honoured of ‘The Mayflower’s’ passengers.

Thirteen years later, and Will is ready to start school at Space Academy, an institute specialising in subjects such as Alien Studies, Technology, and Rocket Control. While a pupil there, Will starts to uncover secrets about his father’s death, becoming wrapped in a mystery that he and his friends must solve if they are to have any hope of saving humanity from the threat that lies in wait.

Lose yourself in this brilliantly addictive novel as it takes you on a journey through the stars. But be warned – you might be surprised by what you find.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Space Academy Cover

I’ll pass you over to Hannah now so she can tell you all what she wants readers to take away from her stories.

As a writer, first and foremost I want to entertain my readers. I fell in love with the magic of the written word at a young age, and have since spent my life either buried in books or my own imagination. Giving somebody the opportunity to escape into a different reality and explore another world brings me such joy, and I love the idea that my readers can connect to characters and settings that I have invented. It’s like sharing a piece of your imagination or a piece of your soul, and it creates a unique and enduring bond. I love it when readers become invested in my stories, and hearing phrases like ‘when is the sequel?’ or ‘I felt really sad when I finished the book,’ is so rewarding! I know how it feels when I fall in love with a novel, and knowing I can give that to someone else is giddying.

 In terms of a message, I think the most valuable thing I can give to readers is the feeling they are not alone. Whether they befriend the characters in their mind or simply relate to what they’re growing to, I truly believe the best power of a story is allowing you to feel as though you are understood. The idea that as human beings, we all experience the same hardships is incredibly unifying, and helps release the burden of thinking we are the only ones who struggle. Stories can help us make sense of our own lives. They use beautiful prose to summarise ideas and feelings we cannot articulate, and make us feel a part of something bigger. They give us hope when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and help us believe in the magic and mystery of life. Part of my mission as a writer is to reach people who feel alone and give them something that eases their pain. Whether that is a piece of entertainment or a deeper message of support, a story is a tremendously important and valuable tool.

 Recently, I have tried my hand at writing as advocacy. As a young woman, the feminist cause is incredibly important to me, and is something that I have become deeply passionate about. I have always been fascinated and saddened by the stories of well-known women in history, and I started to imagine how things might have been if we had had more power. I started writing about a fictional world, where inherited power is passed from woman to daughter instead of father to son, and began to realise the issues I was exploring in the novel are extremely relevant to real life and modern society. If I can create a gripping and immersive story which also serves to further a cause I care about, then I feel I will have completed my mission as a writer! Writing makes the world a better place, and it is a privilege to be able to tap into that power.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Space Academy - hannah hIn 2017, Hannah Hopkins released a self-published novel entitled ‘The Split’; the story of four teenagers navigating life after Earth as they journey through space to a new planet. Two years later, the book was picked up by ‘The Conrad Press’ and re-vamped as ‘Space Academy,’ with a new cover, new title and new additions to the story. ‘Space Academy’ was released in 2020, kickstarting Hannah’s career as a writer.

Hannah is currently busy writing a historical fiction novel with a feminist twist. She spends the rest of her time working at a University and caring for her two young children in the UK.

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Have a look at the other blogs taking part in this tour for more on Hannah and Space Academy.

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Book Review

Empire’s Reckoning – Marian L Thorpe

When I heard that Marian L Thorpe was writing a follow up trilogy to Empire’s Legacy, I was over the moon, and I am delighted to be able to introduce it to you all today, as I join the blog tour for Empire’s Reckoning, the first book in the new series. Many thanks to Marian, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to be a part of the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

How many secrets does your family have?

For 13 years, Sorley has taught music alongside the man he loves, war and betrayal nearly forgotten. But behind their calm and ordered life, there are hidden truths. When a young girl’s question demands an answer, does he break the most important oath he has ever sworn by lying – or tell the truth, risking the destruction of both his family and a fragile political alliance?

Empire’s Reckoning asks if love – of country, of an individual, of family – can be enough to leave behind the expectations of history and culture, and to chart a way to peace.

BOOK ONE OF THE EMPIRE’S REPRISE SERIES

PURCHASE LINKS:

Purchase Link

Empires Reckoning front cover

REVIEW:

Let me start by saying if you haven’t already read the Empire’s Legacy trilogy, go away and do that now, and then come back to read this review. Although I think there is enough backstory in Empire’s Reckoning for it to make sense if you picked it up with reading the first trilogy, you will be missing out on a really wonderful series if you don’t read it, and it adds so much depth to this book too. I also thoroughly recommend reading the novella Oraiáphon in between the two trilogies. It is a wonderful book, and offers a deeply emotional insight into what happens immediately after the Battle of the Taiva at the end of Empire’s Exile. It also works as a really good way of easing you in to the narrator change that occurs for Empire’s Reckoning.

Getting back to Empire’s Reckoning, I am pleased to report that I loved this book just as much, if not more, than the Empire’s Legacy trilogy. It has a gentler, more emotional feel to it than the first trilogy, which I feel is reflective of the differences between Lena and Sorley’s personalities. Sorley has long been a favourite of mine and him picking up the narrative felt like the perfect way to move forward. Empire’s Reckoning is a tale of love and shared history, and could really only be told by a scaeli of Linrathe.

Picking up some years after the end of Empire’s Exile, Empire’s Reckoning offers a fascinating look at what happened next for some of the much loved characters, and gave an insight into how they had changed and grown in the intervening years. That said, as much as liked reading about where everyone was now, it was the slow unpeeling of the years between the two books that I really enjoyed, seeing how each of them got to the point they were now at, and unveiling the intricacies of their relationships and betrayals.

Often with fantasy and alternate world books, it is easy to completely separate them from the reality of the world that we live in, and I think it is testament to Marian L Thorpe’s writing skill that this book really made me stop and think about various prejudices that exist throughout the world, and how these can be set aside to create something better.

I could gush about this book for ages, but that would eat into valuable reading time for you, so instead I will let you head off to your favourite outlet for books so you can buy all five of the books set in this wonderfully rich world and settle down for a few happy days reading.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Empires Hostage AuthorNot content with two careers as a research scientist and an educator, Marian L Thorpe decided to go back to what she’d always wanted to do and be a writer. Author of the medieval trilogy Empire’s Legacy and the companion novella Oraiáphon, described as ‘historical fiction of another world’, Marian also has published short stories and poetry. Her life-long interest in Roman and post-Roman European history informs her novels, while her avocations of landscape archaeology and birding provide background to her settings. Empire’s Reckoning is the first of a planned trilogy, Empire’s Reprise.

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Guest Posts

The English Wife – Adrienne Chinn

In the second of today’s guests posts, I am delighted to welcome Adrienne Chinn to my blog, along with lots of seriously tempting photographs! Many thanks Adrienne for taking the time to write a guest post for me, and also to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part in the blog tour for Adrienne’s book, The English Wife.

BLURB:

Two women, a world apart.

A secret waiting to be discovered…

VE Day 1945: As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action.
 
Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.

Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…

September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.
 
Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…
 
This is a timeless story of love, sacrifice and resilience perfect for fans of Lorna Cook and Gill Paul.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

The English Wife Hi Res Cover

Now, without further ado, here is Adrienne to tell us about eating like a Newfoundlander, and those photos I promised you.

Bread is the staff of life, so they say, but Newfoundlanders don’t limit themselves to a single fundamental like bread. Oh, no, m’dear. Newfoundlanders love their food, and I couldn’t write a book where half of it is set in Newfoundland, without talking about food (and drink, of course). If you visit, be sure to try bottled iceberg water!

In The English Wife, Florie is constantly cooking up hardy Newfoundland staples like Jiggs Dinner and stew and dumplings. Ellie, trying to navigate herself around her new life as a fisherman’s wife in a remote outport after the war, is faced with learning how to make salt cod and brewis (pronounced “brews”) with scrunchions.

So, exactly what are some of these local culinary delights? Jiggs Dinner is a favourite weekend dinner meal. You place a whole piece of corned beef in a pot on the hob with enough water to cover the meat. Cook for several hours until tender, then add cabbage, carrots, potatoes, swede, turnip… and boil. Then eat. I like mine with HP Sauce.

I remember growing up on fish and brewis as a kid in Newfoundland – I teethed on Purity hard tack biscuits – biscuits literally as hard as rocks, which, when soaked overnight soften into a dense bread which becomes brewis. Cooking up fish and brewis is easy – soak the hard tack overnight in one pot, and the salt cod in another. Change the cod water again in the morning and simmer until cooked.  Then you heat the hard tack until it comes to a boil and drain it. Cook up some chopped onions and diced salt pork in some butter, add the flaked up cod and fry it all up with the brewis until golden. Believe me, this is very tasty.

Newfoundland is full of delicious berry plants, from red partridgeberries and orange, raspberry-like cloudberries to the best blueberries on the planet – tiny balls of blue deliciousness. You haven’t had a blueberry until you’ve had a Newfoundland blueberry. Here’s an easy recipe for Newfoundland blueberry duff (a steamed pudding):

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups (500 grams) of flour

3 tsp baking powder

½ cup (170 grams) sugar

½ tsp salt

½ cup milk (235 ml) whole or half-fat milk

1 egg

¼ cup (85 grams) unsalted butter

1 cup  (340 grams) fresh blueberries

Preparation:

Cream butter with sugar, salt and egg with a mixer. In a separate bowl combine flower and baking powder. Add milk and the flour alternately to the butter mixture. Fold in blueberries. Note: If you use frozen blueberries, these will stain the whole pudding blue. Grease a pudding bowl with some butter and pour in the batter. Cover with greaseproof paper or aluminium foil tied with a string or held in place with a large elastic band. Put a couple of inches of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Set in the pudding bowl and cover with a lid, letting it boil for about 1 ½ hours. Be sure it doesn’t boil dry – add more water if necessary. Place the bowl upside down on a rack to cool for 15 minutes then slowly lift off the bowl.

Sweet Sauce:

Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

¼ tsp salt

1/3 cup (115 grams) brown sugar

1 cup (470 ml) boiling water

¼ tsp vanilla

Preparation:

Melt the butter in a pot. Add flour and salt and stir till smooth. Add brown sugar, stirring constantly. Remove the pot from the heat and add boiling water. Stir till smooth. Place pot back on the heat and continue to stir until it comes to a boil. Add vanilla and serve with pudding and clotted cream. Yum! A million calories but worth every one.

If you don’t have time to cook up a Jiggs Dinner or make a blueberry duff, just do like a Newfoundlander and grab a couple of Jam Jams and a mug of tea with Carnation tinned milk and a few teaspoons of sugar. You’ll be a Newfoundlander in no time.

If you visit Newfoundland, be sure to stop by these terrific restaurants if you want to taste some delicious Newfoundand food: Norton’s Cove Café in Badger’s Quay, The Bonavista Social Club on the Bonavista Peninsula, Fogo Island Inn on Fogo Island, and Mallard Cottage in St John’s.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The English Wife Author PhotoAdrienne Chinn was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, grew up in Quebec, and eventually made her way to London, England after a career as a journalist. In England she worked as a TV and film researcher before embarking on a career as an interior designer, lecturer, and writer. When not up a ladder or at the computer, she can usually be found rummaging through flea markets or haggling in the Marrakech souk. Her second novel, The English Wife — a timeslip story set in World War II England and contemporary Newfoundland — is published in June 2020. Her debut novel, The Lost Letter from Morocco, was published by Avon Books UK in 2019. She is currently writing her third novel, The Photographer’s Daughters, the first of a 3-book series, to be published in 2021.

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Guest Posts

War Bringer – Aaron Hodges

Happy book birthday to Aaron Hodges and War Bringer, and welcome to Aaron who has written a fascinating guest post for us today. Many thanks to Aaron, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to be a part of the birthday celebrations.

BLURB:

Centuries ago, the world fell.
From the ashes rose a terrible new species—the Tangata.
Now they wage war against the kingdoms of man.
And humanity is losing.

Recruited straight from his academy, twenty-year-old Lukys hopes the frontier will make a soldier out of him. But Tangata are massing in the south, and the allied armies are desperate. They will do anything to halt the enemy advance—including sending untrained men and women into battle. Determined to survive, Lukys seeks aid from the only man who seems to care: Romaine, the last warrior of an extinct kingdom.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s Archivist leads an expedition deep beneath the earth. She seeks to uncover the secrets of the Gods. Their magic has been lost to the ages, yet artifacts remain, objects of power that could turn the tide of the war. But salvation is not all that waits beneath the surface. Something else slumbers in the darkness. Something old. Something evil.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Warbringer Cover Final

Now I will hand you over to Aaron to talk about plotting versus pantsing in fantasy writing (which is perhaps the perfect guest post for me at the moment!)

They say there are two types of writers—plotters (those who carefully plot out every detail of their novel before writing a single word) and pantsers (those who make things up as they go along). in my experience in discussions with my author friends, I’ve found this to be more or less true, with the exception that its less of a duel choice and more of a continuum between the two.

Certainly, there are elements of epic fantasy novels spanning multiple characters and grand plot arcs that are likely to require a certain amount of plotting before hand in order to create a coherent story. That’s not to say it can’t be done—if I’m honest, most of my first trilogy was written while I was pantsing in my early days as a writer. However, that series required a lot of rewriting when the time eventually came to publish it, in order to remove dues ex machina scenes and create a more cohesive plot.

For my later series I’ve managed to find what I think is a good balance between plotting and pantsing. I usually by a pantsing mind map session in which I put down every interesting scene I can think of that might fit into the realms of my story. This usually takes place over the course of a week and I’m always having to jot down ideas on the go, as you never know when one will come to you! After that, I then begin to connect the dots, so to speak, and work out what order the scenes come together. Once I have a skeleton of a plot in place, I’ll start to write outlines for each chapter/scene in the story that will help trigger my writing in the coming months.

At the point I have about two thirds of my chapters outlined, I begin to feel confident about starting to write. On the first draft, while I have those outlines to follow, I often find myself veering off-track because of plot points that didn’t work or characters that develop a life of their own (I’m serious, some of my characters over the years have been a real pain!). For this reason, I generally write my first draft as quickly as possible and don’t worry too much about details in this early version—as often chapters will need to be completely rewritten or even deleted in later drafts.

Which brings me to the second draft. By this point I have usually developed a good understanding of my main characters, so I am able to return and rewrite earlier chapters to ensure a clean plot arc throughout the book. I’ll also add in more important details, names (sometimes I just leave them blank in the first draft!), and settings

Once the second draft is complete, I send it off to my editor who finds all my repeated words and incorrect grammar, before I go over it one more time myself. In the third draft I am mostly just polishing sentences and paragraphs to make sure they flow, as well as hopefully catching spelling mistakes—although my proofreader and ARC readers then have one last read over the manuscript to catch the last of these.

And walluh, I have a complete book!

When I’m working full-time, all of that generally only takes me 3 months from start to finish.

Not bad ay?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Warbringer Aaron Hodges Author PictureAaron Hodges was born in 1989 in the small town of Whakatane, New Zealand. He studied for five years at the University of Auckland, completing a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology and Geography, and a Masters of Environmental Engineering. After working as an environmental consultant for two years, he grew tired of office work and decided to quit his job and explore the world. During his travels he picked up an old draft of a novel he once wrote in High School (titled The Sword of Light) and began to rewrite the story. Six months later he published his first novel, Stormwielder, and hasn’t looked back since.

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Book Review

The Silent Wife – Karin Slaughter

Today marks a massive highlight in my blogging career for me as I join the blog tour for The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter, my absolute favourite thriller writer. Many thanks to Karin, to Liz at Harper Collins, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours, for inviting me to be a part of the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book.

BLURB:

Atlanta, Georgia. Present day. A young woman is brutally attacked and left for dead. The police investigate but the trail goes cold. Until a chance assignment takes GBI investigator Will Trent to the state penitentiary, and to a prisoner who says he recognises the MO. The attack looks identical to the one he was accused of eight years earlier. The prisoner’s always insisted that he was innocent, and now he’s sure he has proof. The killer is still out there.

As Will digs into both crimes it becomes clear that he must solve the original case in order to reach the truth. Yet nearly a decade has passed—time for memories to fade, witnesses to vanish, evidence to disappear. And now he needs medical examiner Sara Linton to help him hunt down a ruthless murderer. But when the past and present collide, everything Will values is at stake.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Silent Wife Cover

REVIEW:

Well, what can you say about a book that is so great that it leaves you totally lost for words? I finished this book a good few days ago and it has taken this long for me to gather my thoughts enough to write my review. Karin Slaughter is just pure class, and her writing style puts her firmly at the top of my thriller writer list. Her books are instantly addictive and The Silent Wife is no exception.

The Silent Wife sees the return of many familiar faces as Sara and Will’s life together in Atlanta merges with Sara’s old life in Grant County. The dual timeline allows us to see Sara at two very different times in her life – one where we see the tough, resilient Sara we are used to, following her separation from Jeffrey, and another softer side as she shows her vulnerability in her relationship with Will and struggles to come to terms with the ghosts of her past. I loved seeing this side to Sara, as much as I hated to see her hurting so badly. I found it very interesting to explore her relationships with both men and the emotions they stir up in her.

Faith has long been one of my favourite characters from Karin’s books, and I particularly enjoyed her interaction with Lena in this book, and her blatant hatred of a character that, let’s face it, is totally unlikeable, and who we all love to hate. The years have not mellowed Lena and, much like Faith, I found myself really wanting to slap her! She really is a brilliant character to inspire such strong emotions in the reader.

As always, Karin doesn’t pull any punches with the brutality of the crimes featured in her books, or in the detail of the medical exams of the victims. There are some particularly graphic descriptions in The Silent Wife that may not be for the faint-hearted, but they are in no way gratuitous or out of keeping with the story.

As if being part of the blog tour for this brilliant book wasn’t excited enough, Karin was kind enough to take part in a Zoom Q&A session with the bloggers taking part on the tour, which was just amazing. Thank you so much Karin for being so generous with your time, and thanks to Liz at Harper Collins too for making all the arrangements and hosting the chat. It was most definitely the highlight of lockdown for me and a massive boost to my mental health.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Karin-Slaughter-Alison-RosaKarin Slaughter is one of the world’s most popular and acclaimed storytellers. Published in 120 countries with more than 35 million copies sold across the globe, her 19 novels include the Grant County and Will Trent books, as well as the Edgar-nominated Cop Town and the instant Sunday Times bestselling novels Pretty Girls, The Good Daughter, and Pieces of Her.

The Good Daughter and Cop Town are in development for film and television and Pieces of Her is soon to be an eight-part Netflix adaptation, directed by Lesli Linka Glatter (Mad Men), and produced by Charlotte Stoudt (Homeland) and Bruna Papandrea (Big Little Lies).

Karin is the founder of the Save the Libraries project- a non-profit organisation established to support libraries and library programming.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

‘One of the boldest thriller writers working today’ TESS GERRITSEN

‘Fiction doesn’t get any better than this’ JEFFERY DEAVER

‘Passion, intensity, and humanity’ LEE CHILD

Her characters, plot, and pacing are unrivalled’ MICHAEL CONNELLY

‘A great writer at the peak of her powers’ PETER JAMES

‘Karin Slaughter has – by far – the best name of all of us mystery novelists’ JAMES PATTERSON

For information, review copy or interview request

please contact Liz Dawson:

elizabeth.dawson@harpercollins.co.uk / 020 8307 4412

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs taking part in the tour for this fantastic book.

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Blog

The First Lie – A.J. Park

Out Tomorrow

“A. J. Park is a master of suspense who knows how to keep readers hovering tensely over the edges of their seats.” 
Sophie Hannah

THE FIRST LIE COVER

THE FIRST LIE BY A.J. PARK

“This is a real page-turner. I finished it in one go!”
Martina Cole

A husband and wife cover up a murder. But the lie eats away at the fabric of their relationship and things unravel till they can’t trust anyone – even each other.

“A great thriller that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.”
Luca Veste

A freak accident. An impossible choice. But what was the first lie?

When Paul Reeve comes home to find his wife in the bathroom, bloodied and shaking, his survival instinct kicks in.

Alice never meant to kill the intruder. She was at home, alone, and terrified. She doesn’t deserve to be blamed for it. Covering up the murder is their only option.

But the crime eats away at the couple and soon they can’t trust anyone – even one another…

But there is much more at stake than anyone realises – and many more people on their trail than they can possibly evade…

“Fast-moving, gripping, the ground shifting perpetually beneath your feet as you read… I read it in one sitting.”
Alex Marwood

Available as a paperback, ebook and audio book.

Links:

Waterstones Paperback: http://tidd.ly/553cdf07

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2KNl4rt

THE FIRST LIE all quotes

Book Review

Esme’s Gift – Elizabeth Foster

I am returning to Aeolia as I join the blog tour for Esme’s Gift, book two in Elizabeth Foster’s Middle Grade Fantasy series. Many thanks to Elizabeth, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part in the tour, and for providing me with a copy of the book. If you haven’t read book one, Esme’s Wish, yet, I recommend reading that before you read any further down this post, as there are unavoidable spoilers for it coming up.

BLURB:

Terror was within. Terror was without.
Like her mother, she was at the water’s mercy.

In the enchanted world of Aeolia, fifteen-year-old Esme Silver faces her hardest task yet. She must master her unruly Gift—the power to observe the past—and uncover the secrets she needs to save her mother, Ariane.

In between attending school in the beguiling canal city of Esperance, Esme and her friends—old and new—travel far and wide across Aeolia, gathering the ingredients for a potent magical elixir.

Their journey takes them to volcanic isles, sunken ruins and snowy eyries, spectacular places fraught with danger, where they must face their deepest fears and find hope in the darkest of places.

Esme’s Gift, the second instalment in the Esme trilogy, is a gripping fantasy adventure for readers 12 years and over.

Fans of Harry Potter will love this book for its similar themes. The genuine friendship of the characters make this book a satisfying read, and hints at a healthy romance in the next book. The conclusion of the trilogy will be greatly anticipated! Sorcha, Goodreads

From dragons diving into volcanoes, Esme and her friends portalling out of art class and deep underwater adventures, Esme’s Gift is quite simply a thrilling and exciting read. Jean, Goodreads

9781925652246-Cover.indd

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

REVIEW:

Having enjoyed Esme’s Wish earlier this year, I was looking forward to reading the sequel and getting to know the wonderful world of Aeolia better. The city of Esperance always makes makes me think of Venice and the magical feeling I remember from my visit there – just with fewer tourists, and in Esperance the magic is real.

In Esme’s Gift, we see Esme settling into life in Esperance and starting lessons at Pierpont College. As much as I love Daniel and Lillian, it was great to see Esme making more friends, and interesting to read about her less friendly interactions with some of her fellow students. Watching the students come into their sometimes tricky to control Gifts was very entertaining too. Not least of these unpredictable Gifts is Esme’s, as she races against time to get hold of it before it is too late to save Ariane.

Esme’s Gift is full of drama and action as Esme uncovers more secrets and betrayals on both sides of the portal to Aeolia. Elizabeth Foster has expanded her world beautifully and created so much intrigue that I am left impatiently awaiting the next book!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A-Elizabeth Foster Hi Res 06 (1)I read avidly as a child, but only discovered the joys of writing some years ago when reading to my own kids reminded me how much I missed getting lost in other worlds. It’s never too late to find and follow your passion! I now have two books published and am about to start writing the third and final story in the Esme series.  My home base is Sydney, where I can often be found running (just kidding – walking) by the water, or scribbling in cafés.

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GIVEAWAY:

Win 3 x pairs of e-books Esme’s Wish & Esme’s Gift (Open Internationally)

Esme's Wish cover[2]

*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 Rachel’s Random Resources reserves 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 Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

ENTER HERE

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Book Review, Uncategorized

The Summer of Taking Chances – Lynne Shelby

 

BLURB:

Would you take the second chance you’ve always dreamed of?

 It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The SUMMER OF TAKING CHANCES_EBOOKB2 (1) (1)

REVIEW:

The Summer of Taking Chances is the kind of book that I would normally say is great for reading poolside, or on a tropical beach, with an ice cold cocktail in your hand. As that looks unlikely this year, you might just have to settle for a chair in your back garden and a glass or two of something fizzy – either way, this is definitely a book to be enjoyed al fresco. It is a lovely light read to relax with and escape the stresses of the real world for a little while.

Whilst Emma is warm and relatable, and Jake is as irresistible as every leading man should be, it was the supporting cast of characters that really grabbed my attention in this book. They took me right back to my own amateur dramatics days in my teens, with all the politics and back-biting going on, not to mention the speed at which any snippet of gossip could travel around the entire company. I think anyone who has ever been involved in a village club or society will spot elements of people they know within the ranks of the South Quay Players. The catalogue of disasters that befalls the Players did leave me wondering whether someone had perhaps invoked the name of the Scottish play!

All in all, The Summer of Taking Chances is an enjoyable, fun summer read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Summer - Lynne Shelby Author PhotoLynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, French Kissing, was published when it won a national writing competition. She has worked at a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actors’ chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre watching a musical, or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Athens – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

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Book Review

The Book of Us – Andrea Michael

Today I am joining the blog tour for the women’s fiction novel, The Book of Us by Andrea Michael. Many thanks to Andrea for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

The Book of Us is a story of the complexity of forgiveness and the friendships that change our lives forever. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Jojo Moyes and Diane Chamberlain.

We’ve got some important things to talk about. It’s time.

Cass and Loll used to be inseparable. They met at university and they made sense, like two halves of a whole. They had planned their lives around each other, writing down their dreams in The Big Book of Our Life – the things they wanted to achieve, the places they’d go after they finished university. But then one night changed everything.

Seven years later, Loll receives a letter from her old friend. The coming year will be the year they both turn 30, but Loll might be making it to 30 alone. Cass has cancer. Loll had believed she would have her whole life to come to terms with Cass’ betrayal, but time is running out. Cass’ final wish is to complete The Big Book of Our Life, but has enough time passed to heal old wounds?

PURCHASE LINKS:

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Waterstones

The Book of Us cover

REVIEW:

As soon as I started reading The Book of Us, I was put in mind of the Bette Midler film, Beaches, with Cass so wild, so full of life, and sweet, gentle Lauren, content to remain on the edges of Cass’s spotlight. That comparison really should have prepared me for what was to come, but I carried on reading, never giving a thought to just how bumpy this particular ride was going to be.

After a truly terrible betrayal, and a six year separation, The Book of Us sees Cass and Lauren slowly finding their way back to each other following major upheavals in both their lives. For two very different women, this was never going to be easy, and the book swings from laughter to tears more than once as they rebuild their friendship from the ruins.

Reading about their adventures through Finland, Spain and Australia reignited my own wanderlust which I thought was long gone, and made me yearn for my own favourite spot in Spain, and all the people I will miss seeing this year. There is just so much life and passion in their travels, and the way Andrea Michaels captures everything, you can almost imagine you are right there with them.

The Book of Us is a heart-breaking, emotional rollercoaster of a book (complete with actual rollercoasters), and one that I recommend reading with a ready supply of tissues, wine and chocolate.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Andi-1202-2Andrea Michael writes books to explore complicated relationships. Having trained in using writing for therapy, she really believes in the magic of stories to change your life. Failing that, sparkling wine and obnoxious sing-a-longs also do the trick.

Andrea works in content marketing, and runs Writing for Wellbeing workshops. She lives in Hertfordshire with her fiancé and their crazy cat, and can be found reading in a comfy corner or digging something at the allotment.

You may also know her from her romantic comedies written as A L Michael.

Andrea is represented by Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn. The Book of Us is her thirteenth book. She’s hoping it’s lucky.

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Extracts

Seven and a Half Minutes – Roxana Valea

As part of the blog tour for Seven and a Half Minutes by Roxana Valea, today I have the privilege of sharing an extract of the book with you. Many thanks to Roxana for allowing me to share this, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to be a part of the tour.

BLURB:

Before Roxy found herself “Single in Buenos Aires,” she was a single girl in London in search of true love. The third installment of The Polo Diaries series takes us back to that time, and we follow Roxy as she hires a love coach to help her navigate the dating scene. But the love coach comes up with an unexpected assignment: reconnect to a long-forgotten passion. For Roxy this means horses. Within weeks, she finds herself playing polo, thanks to a series of unforeseen events.

Torn between her desire to become the best polo player she can be and the dream of falling in love, Roxy steps fully into the exciting and demanding world of polo, where injury and recovery mix with hard training, and where celebrating the victory of a tournament comes at a high price. Will Roxy eventually become the polo player she dreams to be? And with polo being such a demanding sport, can there be any space left for love?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Seven and a Half Minutes - 9780993130991

EXTRACT:

Context: Polo player Roxy arrives in Argentina and makes her first contact with a different type of polo…

Dale, Dale, vamos!” I tell him I’m Roxy, but Monica seems to please him more, so I settle on being Monica for now. He rides behind me, and I get my horse into a canter again. The ball is in front of me: head over the ball, lean out, swing, hit. Again… again… again…

My back is arched, my body is crying out, every little bone in my back is sore, but he rides behind me and passes over every single ball I miss, and I have to carry on. Strangely enough, I don’t miss that many balls these days; it’s as if my polo has got better overnight simply because I’ve landed in the country of polo—Argentina.

I ride in the morning until I’m close to exhaustion and my horse simply refuses to go for another run. I ride until I feel he’s about to buck me off, and then, grateful that it’s over, I turn and walk him slowly to the stables, wondering if my knees will give in once I jump off. I ride in the afternoons with them, the Argentine polo players, who ride like they were born on horses. They ride with no hard hats, no knee or elbow pads. They ride in jeans and T-shirts with their hair flowing freely in the wind, and I smile and realize how ridiculous we look with all our protective equipment and hard hats. I ride alongside them, wishing my hair were free in the wind…

“Dale, Monica! Put your boobs out and your bum out as well, like this.” He arches his back in the perfect pose of a polo player in full swing—or a pole dancer, same thing really. “You see, like this, boobs out!” I smile at his directness. This would have been a bit too explicit for an English coach, but here it seems perfectly acceptable. I try to imagine myself pole dancing. I swing and hit, a plain, clean hit, and the ball goes halfway across the field. “You see?” He smiles. “Boobs out and the ball goes far!” I now think of pole dancing every time I hit, but it’s a really difficult thing: my arched back makes my muscles hurt even more. “I know, I know.” His smile is kind. “I know, more difficult, but better hit.” And I get it suddenly: the pain is there, but the trick is to allow it to be there, and arch your back despite the pain, and hit, again… again… again…

I play with them again in the afternoon. I play as number one (weakest position), and I’m told to mark the number four (strongest position) from the opposite team, and I can’t even get close to him. The only time I try to hook him, I miss, and I’m grateful that I missed, since his swing is so powerful I would most probably have been thrown out of the saddle. I ride close to him, and then I feel he’s about to ride me off, and this would be the end of me and my horse as well, but he knows better. He comes close and shouts “Taco, taco!” just to frighten me, and then, in full gallop, he grabs the ears of my horse and laughs, galloping away. He doesn’t need to ride me off; I get the message totally and fully. It’s his ball, and I graciously move out of his way.

I ride with them every day, and every time I get off my horse, my body aches and refuses to think about ever getting back on a horse. I crawl into bed for the noon siesta, and I promise myself that I’ll not get on a horse again that day. But the afternoon comes, and we’re due to play. It’s a four-chukka game, and by chukka two, I almost cry out in pain. I’m out of breath, and I feel like bailing out, but then I remember I’ll miss the handshakes at the end if I do, and this thought keeps me going. And I move on, with him riding behind me shouting “Dale, Monica!”, with the smiley guy I’m supposed to mark far in the distance. I ride in the late afternoon sun with the smell of freshly cut grass in my nostrils. I ride despite the pain in my body and despite the weakness in my knees. I ride, and I don’t think of anything but the ball, the horse, the fact that the game appears to be turning, and I need to change direction. I ride, not knowing sometimes which way we are supposed to go and whether that was a real goal or not, but I ride on. I ride with them, and their joy of riding spreads to me, and for a few moments I feel there’s nothing else to life but riding…

By the third chukka, I’m given a very narrow horse with a shiny leather saddle. My legs are almost giving in by this time, and I cringe when I think I’ll probably end up on the horse’s neck. I’m too tired to keep myself stable on a shiny leather saddle. But he’s there and reads my thoughts: He asks me if I want some water. Water? No. Another horse maybe. But he smiles, takes a bottle of water, pours it all over my saddle, and tells me to rub my trousers against it. Now I look like I’ve been peeing in my trousers, or even worse, because the brown color of the saddle comes out on my white jeans. But it’s okay actually, because now the wet leather grips like never before, and I smile, really grateful for this trick, and I know I’ll be safe for another chukka. “Dale, Monica.” The chukka has started without a whistle, without a lineup, and without notice, flowing on as naturally as everything these people do on their horses. I run out, mad, in full gallop across the field. I run flat out, and smile when I feel the solid grip of my wet leather saddle, and I know I’ll now be able to stay safely on this horse.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Seven and a Half Minutes Author PhotoRoxana 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 Word 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–traveling to Argentina, falling in love, and surviving the highs and lows of this dangerous sport.

Roxana lives with her husband between England and Spain, and splits her time between writing, coaching and therapy work, but her first passion remains writing.

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