Sunday, 15 July 2018

Guest Post - Kristina Beck on Germany - Bookish World Cup - Germany

Germany is known for several things but some of the top, fun ones are World Cup soccer champion, Octoberfest, Black Forest, Castles, Mercedes, BMW, the autobahn and Riesling wine.

I live in the southwest tip of Germany, where it meets the borders of Switzerland and France. This region of the country is called Margraves’ Land, also called the Tuscany of Germany. It’s known for its sunny warm temperatures. It’s a dream for wine lovers, biking, hiking and skiing.

My house stands at the border of the Black Forest and is surrounded by rolling hills of vineyards. Everyday feels like a vacation and the view is breathtaking.

The white wine in Germany is not only Riesling. That is what I thought when I first moved here, fourteen years ago. I was used to the California wines and the only German wine I was aware of was Riesling. Most German white wine isn’t made in wooden barrels. If wooden barrels are used it is for a very short amount of time but not found everywhere.

I used to think white wine bottles with a screw cap were cheap wines. One day I asked an owner of a vineyard why most white wine made here are in bottles with screw caps. I come to find out it isn’t because they are cheap wines. It is because it’s not necessary to use a cork when most white wines are not aged for a long period of time. Those who are, will have a cork. So don’t judge a white wine by its cap. 😊

As the years have gone by, I don’t enjoy white wine made in oak barrels as much as I used to. My taste has adapted to the wine here. As I have also adapted to other things. It was culture shock when I first moved here from the USA. Now that I’ve been here for years, I have culture shock when I visit my family back in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. I’m so used to the relaxed environment I live in that it takes me a couple days to get back into the hustle and bustle in New Jersey.

Germany is counting down the days until the next World Cup starts in June. The national team is training ferociously to win again. It’s hard to believe four years have already gone by. Unfortunately, some of the best players are injured and won’t be able to play. But Germany is confident our team will kick some butt.

I have published two books in my contemporary romance Collide Series, Lives Collide and Dreams Collide. They can be read as standalones and are available on Amazon. Dreams Collide touches a little bit about where I live. I decided to add a sexy German chef into the story. I was able to incorporate a few of my own personal experiences. I loved writing this story and enjoyed adding some humor to it.

If you ever want to visit a European country, please add Germany to your list. It’s a gorgeous country with never ending things to do and see.

Thank you so much Kristina for this great look at Germany.  Given this is the last day of the feature and thus the World Cup Final day, as a huge England fan I have to say I really hope that Germany isn't in the final...and good luck to whoever the relative underdog is today! 

To find out more about Kristina Beck

My social media links:
Links to my books if needed:

Collide Series - standalones and free with KU

Lives Collide Book One -

Dreams Collide Book Two -

Guest Book Review - Lucy V Hay reviews FEAR by Dirk Kurbjuweit - Bookish World Cup - Germany

Today I am handing over to the lovely Lucy V Hay, who has reviewed a book set in Germany.

So, as part of Rachel’s World Cup tour, I am now kicking that ball (?!? I have no clue about sport, can you tell!!) in favour of Germany via the brilliant FEAR by Dirk Kurbjuweit.

A psychological thriller about stalking, the narrative loosely resembles the author’s own experience. You can tell. FEAR feels as authentic as it is dark. Apparently, German opinion was split on the book – and if you like to read others’ reviews (I do!), you can see that has been replicated on Goodreads with the English version. It’s not hard to see why, because it mines a VERY contentious question as its source: is there such a thing as ‘justifiable homicide’?

I adore a good ‘Marmite’ book, so FEAR ticks all the boxes for me. I was lucky enough to get my grubby paws on an ARC last summer. I found it to be an enthralling read, with three-dimensional characterisation and thought-provoking themes with NO easy answers.

I’m also a script editor for movies, so plotting and structure has to keep me engaged. This book does not disappoint: the pace of the tale rockets along, without ever once becoming convoluted or meandering. I loved how all the layers of the stories were exposed, one by one – it’s agonising!!!

But it’s the thematic element that really grabbed me and keeps me thinking about it, nearly a year after reading it. The author poses questions on the nature of culpability; class; mental health; abuse; marriage breakdown and more. Even amidst these weighty issues, the story is never overpowered.

For me, I think this book is something special because it takes our own assumptions, prejudices and expectations and not only turns them upside down, but inside out!

Be warned … If you’re not keen on stories about the true nature of violence, then this book is not for you. If you like cathartic tales of revenge, then again this is not for you. FEAR is much more about what lead to the crime, plus its aftermath and the consequences everyone must deal with because of it.

But if you like intelligent crime fiction that will grab in the gut and keep you thinking MONTHS after reading, then FEAR by Dirk Kurbjuweit is a SCORE!

Thank you so much Lucy, for this great review of Fear.  If you love the sound of it you can purchase from Amazon UK

BIO: Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Her crime novel with Orenda Books, THE OTHER TWIN debuted in 2017 and featured in The Sun and Sunday Express Newspapers, plus Heatworld and Closer Magazine. Her YA novel, PROOF POSITIVE, came out on May 28th with Littwitz Press. Check out all her books, HERE

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Book Review - The Things We Need To Say by Rachel Burton - Bookish World Cup - Spain

Amazon UK
Title:  The Things We Need To Say
Author: Rachel Burton
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital 
Publication Date: 11th May 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

Sometimes the things we never say are the most important.
Fran loves Will with all her heart. They had a whirlwind romance, a perfect marriage and a wonderful life. Until everything changed. Now Fran needs to find her way again and teaching a yoga retreat in Spain offers her just that. Leaving behind a broken marriage she has some very important decisions to make.

Will needs his wife, he needs her to open up to him if they’re to ever return to the way things once were. But he may have damaged any possibility he had of mending their relationship and now Fran is in Spain and Will is alone.

As both Fran and Will begin to let go of a life that could have been, fate may just find a way of bringing them back together.

I really wasn't sure what to expect from this novel and for the first quarter I was wondering if I had made the right decision to read it, purely as I was exhausted and not thinking straight. However a few pages later I started to really get to grips with the book and over the course of the next few hours lost myself between the pages of Fran and Will's story. 

I suspect that if I had been through any of the things Fran has been through then I would have been in floods of tears for large amounts of the book as it is emotional, but it is also beautifully written, and really makes you think too. 

The story is told in the present from both Will and Fran's perspectives and also in a series of chapters set int he past slowly chronicling all the highlights and lowlights of their marriage together up to the present.   To start with you are given the bare bones information as to their current situation, but as the book progresses gaps start to be filled in, and with it your opinions may alter. 

Most of the present day of the book is set in Salou, Spain on a yoga retreat that Fran is the instructor on, the trip has not had the best timing in terms of a revelation the day before Fran flies out but it gives the pair a chance to think and reflect on how circumstances have got to this stage. 

I loved the bits where Fran was out and about in the local area and got a real feel for the Catalan area of Spain, complete with its own language and references to current events from the last year or two out in the region. 

The other people on the yoga retreat we get to know really well too and I loved being drawn into their stories too, as they are allon the retreat for different reasons but feel that yoga will help them out with their personal situations. 

I wouldn't be surprised if this is a book that will stay on my mind for a while, I'm not sure what I would have done in Fran's position but it certainly gives food for thought. This was the first book I had read by Rachel Burton and it certainly won't be the last,  as I found the story incredibly well written and full of emotion, with believable characters and situations. 

Thank you to Netgalley and HQ Digital for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Guest Post - Living In Spain by Anne Allen - Bookish World Cup - Spain

Photo Credit: Kirsteen Ann Lyons
The omens for our new life in Spain were not good. After a trouble-free two day drive from St Malo to Javea we arrived in evening sunshine to find we had no electricity in our villa. This was January and the nights drew in quickly, leaving us with little time – and no Spanish – to solve the problem. Fortunately the previous owners were staying with friends locally prior to returning to their native South Africa and the husband came round, saying it had been working the day before when they moved out. He and my partner went exploring for the cause and found one of the water heaters  in the under-croft had exploded and water had tripped the mains. The bad news was we needed the Spanish electrician to un-trip it as the fuses were in a special sealed box at the front of the house. Tony, the previous owner, tracked him down but it was awhile before he turned up. In the meantime we had a car to unpack and beds to make in semi-darkness and without heating. By the time power was restored my partner and I were tired and hungry and decamped to a nearby restaurant for warmth, light and food.

Things did improve over the next few days, but it had been a sharp reminder that Spain did things differently to us in Britain. We were not allowed to employ an English electrician and never met a Spanish electrician who spoke English. But we did find an English plumber, and later, an English builder who employed men from various countries. I made valiant attempts to learn Spanish, but was never awfully proficient and struggled with phone calls, in particular. Many ex-pats did speak good Spanish and we came to rely on them when stuck and the local town hall employed a multi-lingual lady specifically to help newcomers like us.

Photo Credit: Kirsteen Ann Lyons
Apart from such issues, Spain was a delight. Even in the tail-end of winter, the sun shone and it was warm enough to walk around without a coat. In fact, I never used a coat or thick jacket in the two years I lived there. I remember eating outside in a restaurant at Christmas with the sun on my face, feeling quite smug knowing my friends and family back home would be shivering around a fire. The area around Javea in the Costa Blanca is a beautiful area of Spain, full of citrus orchards inland and with wonderful beaches, coves and fishing ports on the coast. Spring arrives in late January and the almond trees burst into pink blossom. Whenever my father visited he took it on himself to collect all our almonds and crack them for us, ready for a snack to accompany the gin and tonic topped with lemon from our own tree. Bliss!

Photo Credit: Kirsteen Ann Lyons
Our villa was perched half-way up the local mountain, named Montgo and shaped like an elephant when viewed from afar. It’s the focal point of the area, looming up a little inland from the coast and forming a barrier between us and the nearby town of Denia on the other side. From the bustling port of Denia,  ferries sail out to the Balearics and the local marina is home to many leisure boats.

I was sad to leave Spain and would, if I had the money, love to buy a little place there for frequent retreats from our English weather. And the Spanish certainly know how to enjoy themselves, with their late-night family trips to restaurants and many fiestas, it’s always lively.

N.B.  Javea and my villa feature in my second novel, Finding Mother.

Thank you so much Anne for this fabulous look at your move to Spain. I hope you can afford your dream one day of owning a place there. 

Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children, and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby.  Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns.

By profession, Anne was a psychotherapist, but long had the itch to write. Now a full-time writer, she has written The Guernsey Novels, six having been published and the seventh, The Inheritance, is due out in 2018. The books form a series, but each one is a standalone story with links to other books and characters. Although not originally planned, Anne is, in effect, writing a saga of Guernsey; featuring numerous characters and stories covering both the German Occupation and the present day. A mix of family drama, mystery and love, the books have a wide appeal to readers of all ages.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Book Review - Sammy in Japan by Lillianna Blake - Bookish World Cup - Japan

Amazon UK
Title: Sammy In Japan
Author: Lillianna Blake
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 2nd September 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

I can’t believe it’s the last stop on the book tour and Japan is definitely one of the most exotic places I’ve been to yet.

Sushi, karaoke, cat cafes, ramen soup, bullet trains…there’s A LOT to see and do in Tokyo AND the toilets—did I mention the toilets?! I won’t ruin THAT surprise for you. 

P.S. We’re also celebrating our first anniversary in Tokyo. I know! Can you believe it’s here already? Shhh don’t tell Max, but I just might have a little surprise for him. ;)

This is an incredibly fun story that I really enjoyed reading.  If anything it feels incredibly short, in part as I was surprised to see the book finished 77% and then it was previews of other books by the author, was was mildly annoying as I had been wanting more story. 

With that gripe out of the way, I have nothing else to fault the book on,  it is witty,  Sammy is a great character and I loved seeing her interactions with Max.  This is the first book I have ever read by the author and I really do think it does work as a standalone story, although I do suspect had I had the full background to Sammy and Max's relationship and more about the book they were doing their world tour for, I may have felt more deeply for them. 

But taking everything at face value you have a witty story where Sammy is exploring elements of Japanese culture during a week or so spent in the country.  I don't know if this is just because Japanese toilets are different but some of the best scenes in the book seemed to involve them..but like the blurb says I won't say more than that. 

This is fast paced, written in a friendly style that is accessible and made me warm to the characters quite quickly.  I found the pages were passing at an alarming quick speed, with loads of mad cap antics on the way.  Overall a really amusing story that gives us a quick guide to Japan, plus moves along what I believe to be series story arcs. 

Guest Post - Roger Bray on Japan - Bookish World Cup - Japan

The central plot of The Picture is the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which struck the Tōhoku region of Japan and from which many stories of heroism sprung.  Not the false heroism of a sporting star scoring the winning points in the dying seconds of a game but normal people putting their lives on the line for others, often strangers, without thought of their own safety.   As I was writing, building the plot lines and deciding where the story was taking me I spent many hours researching what had happened and the effects of the event on the population in the area. 

While things like the devastation of the Fukushima nuclear reactor have continued in the headlines with the often seemingly impossible task of cleaning it up, there were many stories of heroism.  I have already blogged about some of the unassuming heroes of the disaster like Yasuteru Yamada, a 72 year old engineer, who had already survived cancer.

When the tsunami devastated the Fukushima nuclear facility he couldn’t watch younger men being subjected to radiation poisoning everyday as they struggled to clean up the aftermath.  He formed a volunteer corps and called for help. 400 elderly Japanese signed up straight away and took over tasks from the younger workforce. Knowing that the radiation would shorten their lives they are philosophical about the danger, rationalizing that they will probably die before the radiation poisoning affects them.

While the events and continued heroics of workers at Fukushima seem to be the mainstay of the stories from the region what struck me most was the resilience of the general Japanese people.  Of the workers who rebuilt a road in three days so rescue efforts wouldn’t be hampered to teachers who led their pupils to safety.  Of ordinary people doing what they had to.
One story which did strike me when I was doing my research was the matter of fact heroics of Miki Endo.  She worked for the Crisis Management Department in Minamisanriku, she was the voice of the warning and alarm system who broadcast warnings and alerts over the community loudspeaker system.

Miko told residents to get to higher ground, over and over, with an intensity that caused some residents to think twice about going back home.   Had it not been for her efforts continually cajoling the local population to evacuate many more people in the town would have died.  Such was the affect of Miko’s announcements many survivors have said they would have returned home, not realising the severity of the situation, instead of seeking higher ground.

Miko stayed at her post, continually alerting the population to the end. 

The three-story headquarters of the Crisis Management Department was completely gutted as the tsunami wave overwhelmed the building and even the workers who had made it to the roof.  Miko, inside with her boss, both still broadcasting were lost.  The red-coloured skeleton of the building was all that remained.  Even the workers who had made it to the roof didn’t realise how high the wave would come and some only survived by clinging to the rooftop antenna mast.

Why am I writing about the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami now with the emphasis of these blogs being the forthcoming World Cup (Go England and Australia!) and the events of 2011 fading into history a little?   When I started writing The Picture I had, like most people, a broad understanding of what had happened.  It was a disaster, many lives had been lost but is wasn’t until I started my research that my broad brush knowledge started to focus down onto individuals.  It was then I began to really understand the disaster which had struck the region.  When you begin to put names and faces on the missing and the dead they become real people.

When Stalin reputedly said ‘a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic’ he was probably right but once the dead become a million individuals they are no longer statistics but someone’s mother, father, brother or sister.  That is what struck me when I began my research about the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami; the dead were no longer statistics but people. 

After this time there remains a duty for us to remember people like Miko who sacrificed their lives so others may live.  For all it’s pomp and ceremony and even with Bill Shankly’s view of it being more important than life and death it is, in the end, a game. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love football but as a lifelong Blackburn Rovers fan with all the ups and downs that has involved and having seen many of the more abysmal performances from the England squad I keep reminding myself there are more important things.

Then again, just to show the power of football. The best bit of news the Japanese received that year was the victory of the Japanese woman’s football team in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final held in Frankfurt, Germany on 17 July 2011.  Japan won 3-1 on a penalty shoot-out following a 2–2 draw after extended time, becoming the first Asian team to win a FIFA World Cup final.
Such are the highs and lows of life from the devastation of a natural disaster to world cup victory all in three months.  I think Miko would have been cheering them along.

Miko Endo was 26 years old when she died, her body was recovered 700 meters from the coast in Shizugawa Bay on 23 April 2011.

Thank you so much Roger Bray for this fascinating post.

Amazon UK

A warehouse in Japan used as an emergency shelter in the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami. A distraught, young Japanese woman in dishevelled clothes sits on a box, holding her infant daughter. Ben, a US rescue volunteer, kneels in front of her offering comfort. They hug, the baby between them. The moment turns into an hour as the woman sobs into his shoulder; mourning the loss of her husband, her home, the life she knew. A picture is taken, capturing the moment. It becomes a symbol; of help freely given and of the hope of the survivors. The faces in the picture cannot be recognised, and that is how Ben likes it. No celebrity, thanks not required.

But others believe that being identified as the person in the picture is their path to fame and fortune. Ben stands, unknowingly, in their way, but nothing a contract killing cannot fix.

Author Bio –  I have always loved writing; putting words onto a page and bringing characters to life. I can almost feel myself becoming immersed into their lives, living with their fears and triumphs. Thus, my writing process becomes an endless series of questions. What would she or he do, how would they react, is this in keeping with their character? Strange as it sounds, I don’t like leaving characters in cliffhanging situations without giving them an ending, whichever way it develops.
My life to date is what compels me to seek a just outcome, the good will overcome and the bad will be punished. More though, I tend to see my characters as everyday people in extraordinary circumstances, but in which we may all find our selves if the planets align wrongly or for whatever reason you might consider.

Of course, most novels are autobiographical in some way. You must draw on your own experiences of life and from events you have experienced to get the inspiration. My life has been an endless adventure. Serving in the Navy, fighting in wars, serving as a Police officer and the experiences each one of those have brought have all drawn me to this point, but it was a downside to my police service that was the catalyst for my writing.

Medically retired after being seriously injured while protecting a woman in a domestic violence situation I then experienced the other side of life. Depression and rejection. Giving truth to the oft said saying that when one door closes another opens I pulled myself up and enrolled in college gaining bachelor and master degrees, for my own development rather than any professional need. The process of learning, of getting words down onto the page again relit my passion for writing in a way that I hadn’t felt since high school.

So here we are, two books published and another on track.

Where it will take me I have no idea but I am going to enjoy getting there and if my writing can bring some small pleasure into people’s lives along the way, then I consider that I will have succeeded in life.

Social Media Links –

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Book Review - A Lake in Switzerland by Melinda Huber - Bookish World Cup - Switzerland

Amazon UK
Title: A Lake In Switzerland
Author: Melinda Huber
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Fabrian Books
Publication Date: 27th February 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

Stacy can’t believe her luck when her best friend Emily invites her on a holiday to Switzerland.
She arrives at the Lakeside Hotel with high hopes, but the problems begin straightaway. Emily’s recent injury doesn’t let her do much, and something is wrong at the hotel. Where are all the guests? Why is the owner’s son so bad-tempered? And then there’s the odd behaviour of Stacy’s fiancé, back home. It’s hard to enjoy the scenery with all this going on…

By the last day of the holiday, Stacy knows her life will never be the same again – but the end of the week is just the beginning of the Lakeside adventure.

A really lovely feed good novella with a stunning back drop of a lake in Switzerland. 

Two friends, Stacy and Emily are staying at the Lakeside hotel for a week of relaxation and recuperation, and it turns into a rather life changing staay for them both. 

I loved the various day trips / outing the friends did around Switzerland and on once occasion Germany and Austria too since they are close to the borders.  Was great to get a bit of insight into some of the perhaps less known areas of Switzerland. 

There are romantic elements too, to this story especially for Emily, as Stacy has a fiance who I didn't think that highly of.  We also get to know Rico rather well, with sections from his perspective of what he should do about the hotel's future. 

An excellent debut rom-com from Melinda Huber and I'm already wondering if I have time to fit in another trip to Switzerland to fit in the second book. 

Guest Post - Living the Dream in… Switzerland by Linda Huber - Bookish World Cup - Switzerland

The Santis

Several decades ago, I was a young physiotherapist, working in a big Glasgow hospital. And I had a dream. I wanted to spend a year working somewhere in Europe, travel around a bit, maybe even become proficient in another language. The Physiotherapy journal always had job ads in the back… should I apply for one in France? Germany? No, Switzerland was bang in the middle of Europe, I’d try there first. So I did, and one foggy January night I left Glasgow Central Station, en route for snowy Switzerland.

Long story short, I’m still here. Why? Quite simply, it’s the best place ever. I love Scotland, but Switzerland has become home. Mountain scenery, beautiful lakes, fresh air, stability – there’s nothing not to like. Okay, we don’t have an ocean anywhere nearby. Although the lake just metres from my balcony is gorgeous, it’s not quite the same. But that’s a small price to pay for everything else.

Bernese Oberland
Over the years I’ve been to all the typical tourist places – the Matterhorn, Zermatt, St Moritz, Lucerne, the Bernese Oberland, as well as Salzburg, Vienna, Milan – I could go on and on. As a child I devoured the Chalet School books, and I’ve often felt I was taking part in one of the excursions the schoolgirls used to love!

Lake Constance
It hasn’t all been plain sailing. We lost my husband at a young age, and my boys and I had to pull together. Home nowadays is a little town in the top right-hand corner of Switzerland, on the banks of lovely Lake Constance. On a clear day, I can see across the lake to Germany, and another window shows the mountains in Austria, snowy in the distance. You don’t get much more Central Europe than that. I feel very privileged.  

In spite of all this, up until this year, none of my books have been set in my adopted country. People kept asking, ‘Why don’t you set one in Switzerland?’, but somehow, psychological suspense came more easily to me when my characters were roaming around in the UK. Then I had an idea – I’d write a couple of novellas, short feel-good pieces of fiction set right here on Lake Constance.

Rhine Falls
In the first, A Lake in Switzerland, my characters Stacy and Emily visit not only the lakeside resorts, but also the Rhine Falls and the summit of our local mountain, the Säntis. (In between times, they try to sort out their problems, with varying degrees of success…)

Lake Lugano
In A Spa in Switzerland, they take a fateful weekend trip to Lake Lugano, in the Italian-speaking part in the south.

I’m having huge fun with my novellas, and I have all my memories of trips to these places to help me. It’s making me want to visit them all again… And if anyone reading this has a dream – go for it. It could change your life!

Just how pretty does Switzerland sound. You are incredibly lucky to be living in Switzerland and thank you so much for this post. 

Linda Huber bio
After spending large chunks of the current decade moving house, she has now settled in a beautiful flat on the banks of Lake Constance in north-east Switzerland, where she’s working on another suspense novel.

Find out more about Linda here:

Amazon Author Page:

A Lake in Switzerland universal link:

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Book Review - Misspelled Paradise by Bryana Plog - Bookish World Cup - Colombia

Amazon UK
Title: Misspelled Paradise
Author: Bryana Plog
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 27th February 2014
Rating: 4 Stars

What does “Colombia” bring to mind? This South American country has sometimes been misrepresented, only known for cocaine, guerrilla groups, coffee, and Shakira’s hips. In 2011, Bryanna Plog spent a year in the country to find out what the headlines might be missing (headlines, that let’s face it, sometimes misspell the country as “Columbia.”).

As a volunteer middle school English teacher in an impoverished community outside of Cartagena, Colombia, Plog recounts with delightfully understated wit her year traveling Colombia’s cities, deserts, and rain forests (fairly successful ventures), her attempts to hold class on a regular schedule (less successful), and her quest to eat meals that didn’t include rice (a complete and utter failure). 

Through her teaching and traveling, Plog realizes Colombia is a place closer to a paradise than a country supposedly off-limits to travelers. Instead of having to survive encounters with drug cartels or avoiding kidnappings, Plog discovered her biggest problems included trying to get her students to pay attention in class, the country’s strangely undrinkable coffee, and the searing Caribbean heat.

Misspelled Paradise gives an honest and lighthearted look at the history, culture, and diversity of this complex Latin American country. Colombia may be struggling with poverty and civil conflict, but over the year she gets to know the country and its people, Plog also sees it celebrate its passion for life with raucous street parties powered by champeta, vallenato, and reggaeton music, crates of tiny watery beers, its eighteen national holidays, and a never-ending parade of beauty pageants.

Misspelled Paradise is a book for readers of memoir and travel writing and anyone who is interested in travel to South America. It gives an honest looks at the ups and downs of teaching abroad and how one teacher and traveler was surprised and captivated by a culture and country so unlike her own.

Plog takes her readers to the mountainous streets of Bogotá and to the small island of Isla Barú, to the deserts of the Guajira Peninsula and to the jungles of the Amazon rain forest, to the inside of her sweltering classrooms and to the sweeping beaches of the Colombia’s Caribbean coast. 

Learn, be surprised, and laugh out loud as you journey through a reinvented Colombia.

The author spent a year working and travelling around Colombia and brings with to this book a clear love of the country.  The longer she spent in Colombia the more she seemed to enjoy her time there, and with it we are presented all manner of interested anecdotes about all elements of life, as well as the history and culture,  sports, food,  music and more. 

This really is all things Colombian for the 21st Century, and it was eye opening as to just how the school day was "structured" there, and how little teaching appeared to be done, not Bryana's fault, but due to a whole variety of idiosyncrasies that made trying to work out what she was meant to be doing at times hard. 

I loved the spattering of Spanish in the book, as it gave ma an opportunity to see if I could work out the gist of the statement from my own limited knowledge of the language. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Bryana's trips around Colombia, exploring different areas and the trip to the Amazon was completely absorbing, having never really read anything set anywhere near the Amazon rainforest before.    Hearing about elements of culture and regional differences was also really interesting. 

I also really enjoyed meeting the students she was teaching and hearing about some of the different lessons she came up with. while being shocked at the attitude of her co-teacher. 

There is a lot to love about this book, and if you know nothing about Colombia but want to learn a lot about the country, from someone that has spent a good amount of time there, then this  a very accessible book  and I would highly recommend it. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Guest Post - Sue Shepherd talking about Australia - Bookish World Cup - Australia

My latest novel, Can’t Get You Out of My Head, is about twin sisters. The book tells the story of their relationship, which is tempestuous at best, and follows them from childhood through to their thirties. Part of the story is set in Australia, where they go backpacking as young adults.

Like the twins, I was fortunate enough to spend time travelling around Australia when I was younger.

During my time there, I threw myself into many new activities. Amongst other things, I sailed the Whitsundays, camped out in The Blue Mountains and fell from a great height with a large elastic band attached to my feet. I saw the iconic Sydney Opera House up close, rose at 5am to go crocodile spotting in Kakadu and flew to Tasmania in a tiny little plane to visit the sobering Penal Colony, Port Arthur. What an amazing trip -  I’m so pleased I kept a diary!

When I decided to send my characters to Australia, I dug out my diary and spent a wonderful afternoon reminiscing, not just about the activities and the places, but also about all the people I met along the way.  The diary was really helpful to me when, for example, I came to write the scenes in the book where the twins spent Christmas Day on Bondi Beach, and when they go scuba diving.
Although the characters in my book went to Australia in what we now refer to as the ‘noughties’, I was there a whole decade before them, in 1990. To give you an idea of just how long ago that was – Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister when I left England!

Of course, backpacking is still hugely popular today. But, one of the main differences between my experience and that of people who are currently heading off to the other side of the world, which my diary really highlighted for me, is ‘technology’. If a young person goes backpacking today, I expect that the last thing that’s said to them, as they pass through the gates, is something along the lines of, ‘WhatsApp me when you arrive safely.’ Or ‘Don’t forget to email us.’ Or even ‘Facetime us from Departures.’ But, when I went to Australia, there were no mobile phones, or emails, in fact, there was no such thing as the internet at all! We really were on our own out there.

So, I thought I’d share with you how I kept in touch from Australia, ‘90s style.

Money was short and phone calls home were rare, so, the system backpackers used, which I understand is still in use today, although not so necessary, of course, was a thing called ‘Post Restante’. The idea was that the traveller would write home and let people know what city they planned to visit next. Their family could then write to them care of Post Restante at the Post Office in that city, and their post would be held for up to a month. As I travelled around, the first stop in each new place would be to head over to Post Restante to see if there was any post for me. I stood in line for ages. There were always huge numbers of exhausted backpackers desperate to get to the counter. The anticipation was enormous. Towards the end of my trip it was getting on for a year since I’d left home, so you can imagine my emotions as I snaked my way to the front of the queue.

When it was finally my turn, I would hand over my passport, and the Post Office employee would head out the back to search for my post. I waited. Chewing my nails. Then … oh, the joy when they returned with letters in their hand! As I was given my precious post I immediately wanted to burst into tears. I’ve tried to explain that feeling to my teenage sons, but they are of the generation who have always had a phone. If they want to ask me a question, they text me (often from the next room) and my reply is instantaneous. Those letters that I held in my hand, having slowly winged their way from England to Australia, had possibly then waited patiently for me in a dusty pigeon hole for a couple of weeks. They were much anticipated little parcels of news and messages of love from my family and friends.

Having been out of contact and waited to hear from people for so long, I could wait no longer. No sooner was I outside, than I would find the nearest clean piece of floor and sit and devour the news. I remember the Post Office in Sydney, it had huge steps leading up to the main doors. I spent a few months in a little suburb of Sydney called Coogee and went into town often. Whenever I passed that building there were always hordes of backpackers sitting on the steps, reading letters, lost in thoughts of home, happy tears streaming down their faces. They knew they were the jammiest gits in the world to be sitting there, enjoying the glorious sunshine, but, those words that their family and friends had written, still tore at their heartstrings.

In this world of immediate gratification, if a traveller does a bungee jump in Australia, it’s possible they will have sent the video clip to their family and had a shocked reply within the hour. When I did my first bungee jump in 1991, I posted the promotional leaflet to my parents with a note that simply said, ‘Hey … I did this today.’ Their startled response didn’t reach me for weeks!
There really was something rather magical about those trips to Post Restante. There was a sense of occasion about them. Post Restante bonded us. We came from all over - Europe, the USA, Asia or elsewhere. There was no doubt we were having the most amazing overseas experience, but in our hearts, we all had someone back home whom we missed like crazy.

Despite my best intentions, I haven’t, so far, made it back to Australia. It remains an amazing memory for me. A year in which I bravely embarked on adventures and pushed myself to the limit. There were experiences that shaped and changed me, and I was delighted to be able to revisit some of it through the eyes of my characters.

In a box in my loft, there are letters, written by my friends, my sister, and my wonderful parents (who are sadly no longer with me), and I know that if I get that box down and read those letters again, I’ll feel the same elation that I did almost thirty years ago, when a younger version of me waited in line for them at Post Restante.

Thank you so much for this fabulous post on Australia.  Had I realised your new book featured Australia I would have reviewed it for today, instead I continue to look forward to reading it.

A moving and funny story about sisters, secrets and second chances.

Twin sisters Beth and Lisa do everything together, so what will happen now they both want a life of their own?
Beth has a secret she's kept from everyone except her sister. But it's time to get on with her life. Could a seductive Italian, a smooth-talking charmer or backpacking around Australia be the answer?
Lisa feels she's always lived in her sister's shadow. Maybe now it's her turn for some fun, whatever the consequences. But will her drunken antics land Beth in trouble?
And when it comes to the crunch, will one sister have to give up what she wants so the other can have what she needs?
Another entertaining page-turner from the No.1 bestselling author of Doesn't Everyone Have a Secret? – where things, and people, are not always as they first appear!

Purchase from Amazon UK 

Sue's Bio:

Born in Harrow, Sue went on to spend several years living in Hertfordshire before selling up and taking a leap of faith across The Solent. She now resides on the picturesque Isle of Wight with her husband, two sons and a standard poodle. Her passions in life are: her family, writing, the seaside and all the beautiful purple things her sons have bought her over the years. Happiest when hunched over her laptop with a cup of tea on the go, Sue loves to create stories with plenty of heart and laughs, but she makes sure to include a bit of naughtiness too. Ask Sue to plan too far in advance and you'll give her the heebie-jeebies and she'd prefer you not to mention Christmas until at least November!

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