Sunday, 28 May 2017

Character Spotlight on James Ballantyne by Paul Purnell - Blog Tour

The Foreign and Colonial Office known as the FCO is the pillar of British Government Diplomacy. It aims to keep a high standard among its members. It recruits from the best at universities. James Ballantyne could never be in that group.

After High School, he turned his back on academic life. His family background was unremarkable. His parents lived comfortably in Cheshire not far from Manchester and he enjoyed most outdoor sport including shooting and riding. When the time came to think of a job, only one life appealed to him; to be a soldier.

Unable to pass the Sandhurst Academy examination, he chose to apply for a short term commission (for three years) and made his way through the short course to become a second lieutenant. He had found his calling; he passed high in the commission Examinations and joined an infantry regiment. He was nineteen years of age.

Within a year, he found himself in Afghanistan based in Helmand Province. That Province was the sector of Afghanistan allocated to the British Army. In brief, the Army was over stretched and he became involved in several fire fights against larger groups of Muhjaddin. His skill in these situations was noted and he came through that tour of duty with high marks in his Personal Report.
Boosted by this, when the regiment came back to the U.K, he applied for a transfer to the Marines. Months passed before the transfer was approved. In the meantime he enjoyed the social life of a young unattached officer in a popular regiment stationed near London. Invitations to parties and other social events came easily to hand and he was in demand. For months he grew accustomed to the life and enjoyed it. There were several girls who reckoned they had lassooed him. He knew he was not cut out for their world of social triviality and the idea horrified him. He never gave the idea of a serious relationship much thought but enjoyed what came along. When the transfer came through he ran like a greyhound.

Life in the Marines is hard and he confronted the rigour of training with fierce concentration. During the Iraq war, his unit remained on standby for months until finally deployed to Basra. After the official withdrawl of British troops, his patrol stayed on for observation duties. 
That was how he became involved in the incident leading to his court-martial. After an ambush by insurgents, his patrol took prisoners for interrogation. Two of the four prisoners were shot. His account at court-martial was they tried to escape by seizing the weapons of the men guarding them and were shot escaping.

The court-martial dismissed the charge of manslaughter but brought in a verdict of insubordination arising from his disobedience of orders not to pursue combatants. No penalty was imposed but it had to be recorded on his Personal File. Effectively, this meant the end of his military career.

For a year he travelled in Asia, improving his Russian and Farsi which he picked up in Afghanistan. He had no clear plan of what to do. A chance meeting with an old army friend introduced him to a FCO official, Sir Edmund Cravendale. It was a crucial meeting, since Cravendale needed personnel to carry out 'unofficial' tasks for the Foreign Office. That is, tasks which would not be directly linked to the British Foreign Service. Unofficial enquiries confirmed Ballantyne's combat record and Cravendale urged him to apply for FCO employment. He was rejected officially but Cravendale overruled the decision and took a chance, sending him to Kazakhstan on a simple exercise of treaty preparation. It was intended as a test. Events turned out unexpectedly.



James Ballantyne travels to Kazakhstan on a minor diplomatic assignment. A simple task, but he falls for the glamorous aide Ocksana Petrova, sent to guide him through the process. Fate leads him to the rescue of a US special agent who is the target of assassination by the Kazak authorities.
What should Ballantyne do? Should he be led by duty or compassion?

Events force his hand and he recruits smugglers to get the agent away from Kazakhstan. The escape route is dangerous and it becomes clear they are being monitored every inch of the way. Is his new love, Ocksana, behind the surveillance? Or has his own team been infiltrated?
Getting out of Kazakhstan alive will draw upon all of James’s military skills, and a lot of luck. With ambush and deception along the way, will he make it to the border and safety? How can he protect his lover? This journey through a wild country stretches every nerve.

Purchase from Amazon UK 

About Paul Purnell

Based in London, Paul Purnell has worked for over forty-years as a Criminal Law barrister. After serving five years stationed in Germany with the British Army, Purnell began his career as a trial lawyer prosecuting and defending in serious criminal cases across the country. Later he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, a role which has seen him engaged in court cases both across the country and to far flung destinations including the Cayman Islands and Kazakhstan. His extensive experience and understanding of the criminal world has provided the inspiration for his short stories and his latest Jack Ballantyne series. When not writing, or in court, he enjoys racing around the country on his motorbike and spending time with his three children and grandchildren.

Previous titles include a series of well-received short stories; The Hireling (2015), Scaramouche (2015) and The Storm (2016).



If you liked this taste of The Kazak Contract, then follow along with the rest of the blog tour. 


Fab Firsts - Q&A with Alice May

Take a chance on an author new to Rachel's Random Reads - Alice May. 



Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

Hello Rachel Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be interviewed for your Fab Firsts feature.


Introduction

My name is Alice May and I am the author of ‘Accidental Damage’ which is book 1 in the series ‘Tales From The House That Sat Down’. I am currently working on the sequel ‘Consequences’. There is also a third book (as yet un-named) in the series which is in the early planning stages. In addition to these projects I am writing and illustrating a children’s book.


1. Can you tell a bit about your first book?

‘Accidental Damage’ is the tale of a family of six who suddenly find themselves homeless after their old cottage falls down completely out of the blue one day. With nowhere to go they are forced to move into a tent in the garden. The tent is supposed to be a temporary solution but when their house insurance company refuse to help them the tent becomes a more permanent fixture.

Told retrospectively from the mother’s point of view, ‘Accidental Damage’ is packed with both humorous anecdotes and brutally honest reactions to what it is like to live in your garden whilst working out how you are going to rebuild your home. 

It is a tale of family love and loyalty, proving that if you pull together as a team and look after each other you can survive anything. 

2. What was your original Inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut novel?

Having been a prolific reader all my life, I had always thought that one day I would write a book. Nevertheless I was completely unprepared for the fact that one day would suddenly arrive unexpectedly and that I would quite literally just sit down and actually start writing.

No joke! One minute I wasn’t writing and book and the next minute I was.

Bizarre!

The urge to write completely overwhelmed me and once I started I found I couldn’t stop. I wrote day and night for three weeks. My beloved husband thought I had gone a bit mad, but by the end of that time I had 60,000 words and the initial draft of my first novel. 

It seemed that ‘Accidental Damage’ was a story that wanted to be told.

3. How long did it take you to write your first book

As I mentioned, the first draft was written in approximately three weeks, but after that began the lengthy process of editing and re-writing as well as cover design etc. It was important to me that I be able to use my own artwork on the cover of the book.

Having never done anything like this before I was completely clueless and had to learn everything from scratch, which has been fun and scary at the same time. All in all it took about six months to get ‘Accidental Damage’ ready for publishing. Then on 1st August 2016 ‘Accidental Damage’ was officially published. It was an amazing feeling.

4. If you could do anything different in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

In retrospect I would probably do a lot more research into the world of publishing. There are so many different ways to approach it.  I had no idea that promotion and marketing were going to be such a massive part of the whole process or that you would have to devote quite so much time to it that it can get in the way of actually writing.

5. Was your book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

‘Accidental Damage’ is self-published. I am a control freak and wanted to retain complete artistic control over my work and self-publishing allows me to do that. I do appreciate that this makes the promotion and marketing side of things a lot more work but I don’t regret my decision.

6. Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

I would advise any first time authors to join social media author/writer groups. There are so many inspirational people out (authors/reviewers/bloggers etc) there with fantastic advice for newbie authors. Find a group that is supportive and inclusive and you can ask all sorts of daft questions about writing, publishing and promotion and get practical advice and support. The book community is a very special one.

7. What was the first book you bought?

The first book I bought was Watership Down by Richard Adams. I was ten years old and saved my pocket money for it. I must have re-read it a hundred times and eventually the pages all fell out. 

8. What was your first pet?

My first pet was a rabbit.

9. What was the first prize you won?

I remember wining a first prize for poetry in an Eisteddfod (a traditional Welsh festival of literature, music and performance) when I was 16.

Thank you so much Alice for answering my questions.

Contact details

‘Accidental Damage’ by Alice May is available from Amazon.co.uk.

Website: www.alicemay.weebly.com
Twitter: @AliceMay_Author

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Cover Reveal - Sunshine After The Rain by Daisy James

Although I don't do cover reveals too often, I couldn't resist being involved in this one for Daisy James, given how much I seem to love her books...

...and as you are about to see this cover and blurb a promising to be another fabulous book. 


A summer that changes everything…

Frazzled workaholic Evie Johnson has finally had enough! When she’s blamed for a publicity disaster at the art gallery she loves, she decides to flee the bright lights of London for the sun-drenched shores of Corfu and turn her life upside-down.

Under the shade of the olive trees, she picks up her dusty paintbrushes and begins to chase the dreams she had put aside for so long. But she never expected to bump into drop-dead-gorgeous Sam Bradbury – and certainly not whilst wrapped only in a towel!

A summer fling is the last thing Evie wanted but a few stolen kisses under the stars might just begin to change her mind…

Publication Date - 5th July
Pre-order now on Amazon UK

Well Daisy, if your last book hooked my on Cornwall, I just know the mention of Corfu in this one will have me pining for Greece until either I read this, or I set off on my Greek Cruise a few weeks after publication! Really excited to have been able to share this gorgeous summery cover with everyone.

What do you think of it? Are you as excited as I am to read this book?

Short Bank Holiday Break + Chances Fortnight Intro with Giveaway

About a month ago, I received some messages from my sister begging me to go with her to a Gloria Gaynor concert. I asked the date, she said 26th, and I pointed out that I had a busy week that week at work and flying off to Tenerife with 3 days notice wasn't possible. 

The following day Mum was randomly googling and we established that the concert was actually 26th May, not April, so I had a rethink. and ultimately the lure of seeing Gloria Gaynor singing I Will Survive live was too much for me, plus a few days in the sun to make the trip the worth while. 

So basically from Friday to Tuesday I'm off sunning myself in Tenerife, enjoying a concert, and hopefully reading a bit, plus also giving me a chance to catch up with my sister who lives out there. 

As its only a short trip with added distractions I am only taking 3 paperbacks with me, which I have already decided on, plus my kindle. As always I will do some mini reviews once I am back. 

As a result there are no posts on Friday, Saturday and Monday this week. On Sunday I have Fab Firsts interview as usual, and I'm also kicking off the blog tour for The Kazak Contract by Paul Purnell with a character spotlight. 

Which brings me onto Tuesday...and the next fortnight and introducing my 



Chances Fortnight. 2 Weeks of reviews, guest posts and giveaways. 

Each review will be featuring a book from an author I have never read before, hence my taking a chance on a new author. 

Each guest post will be from authors talking about Chances they have taken in their lives, and there is a complete mix of posts from them. 

And I think I counted 21 giveaways running over the fortnight allowing you chance to win books, and potentially take a chance on a new author. 

I don;t know about you but I'm really excited to showcase this all for you, and hope you enjoy everything. 

Giveaway - Win a book in my massive lucky dip of books - Open to Europe

Due to moving house later this summer, I basically need to clear the books on my giveaway shelf, so its less to move to the new place. The best way I can think of is to combine that need with my chances fortnight!

So I'm giving you a chance to win a book a random, from a large quantity of books. I have minimum 10 prizes in this lucky dip,,,but by the time I finish it could be a lot higher. Basically enter for a chance to win a random book, giving you the opportunity to take a chance on a new author for yourself. 

Towards the end of the giveaway I will be tweeting the final number of prizes actually up for grabs, and will make sure to draw enough winners. 

Giveaway is open to Europe only, all options, with the exception of follow on twitter,  are voluntary, but please do what they ask, as I will be verifying the winner. Giveaway closes 23:59 13/6/2017. Winner will be announced on twitter and emailed, and they will need to reply within 7 days, or forfeit the prize, and I will re-draw for a new winner.  Good luck everyone.


Win a book in my massive lucky dip of books - Open to Europe

Book Review - Right Here Waiting For You by Rebecca Pugh

Amazon UK
Title:  Right Here Waiting For You
Author: Rebecca Pugh
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: 31st May 2017
Rating: 4 Stars


We used to be best friends…
Magda used to be the girl everyone wanted to be – most likely to achieve her every wish. That is until suddenly her perfect life seems to be anything but!

Sophia has never regretted her life, sure it isn’t perfect, but being a single mum to a daughter she loves is pretty great. Perhaps she never moved away from home, or got to live out her dreams, but what she has right now isn’t so bad.

That is until an invitation to their school reunion arrives, throwing both their lives into a spin – because these two used to be friends and it might finally be time to face up to that one big mistake that happened all those years ago…

One of the best opening paragraphs I've read for ages. It sets up the first chapter brilliantly, and just wasn't what I would have expected going into the story. 

I just wish this book was longer. The entire time I was reading it, I was conscious of how fast the percentage bar was going up, and really didn't want it to end. I would love to know what happens next to the characters and I did feel the ending felt a bit rushed. 

I whizzed through the story, and alway like books that are nice and fast to read.  It is the story of Magda and Sophia, who as children were best friends, until their friendship was torn apart. The viewpoint alternates between the two of them, so we can see just how differently their lives have turned out. 

The book builds initially towards a school reunion, and both ladies agonise whether to go, much less if they even want to see the other.  And then the aftermath of it. 

I really enjoyed Sofia's present day storyline, her little girl Esther seems very sweet and I loved their friendship with Michael and Harry.  Whereas Magda is a bit harder to like and sympathise with, but it was once she returned to her home town, and I understood what she had left behind that I started to like her a lot more. 

This is the third of Rebecca Pugh's books that I have read, and it feels quite a bit different to the others. The writing style is still a pleasure to read, and I enjoyed the story. I think it could be the writing feels a bit more established, and it is quite intense how much focus the two main characters have, to the extent that there aren't that many others featured at all, and when they are I wouldn't say I knew that that well. 

Right Here Waiting For You is a story of friendships and relationships. I loved the flashbacks to Magda and Sophia as teenagers to discover more about them that way. This is a solidly good book that I loved spending my time reading. 

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

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Book Review - The Cafe in Fir Tree Park by Katey Lovell

Amazon UK
Title: The Cafe in Fir Tree Park
Author: Katey Lovell
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 26th May 2017
Rating: 4 Stars


Maggie’s café is at the very heart of Fir Tree Park. Business is booming, her lemon drizzle is the stuff of legend, her children are happy and life is good. But she hasn’t had it easy. When her husband Clint was sent to prison, she had to raise Josh and Kelly alone. But Clint can’t hurt them now, and there’s no denying that Paolo, the Italian football coach she spies every weekend out on the green, is more than easy on the eye.

It may be summer outside, but a new arrival in Fir Tree Park sends an icy chill through the café…

From its gorgeous cover, to the delicious sounding cakes inside the walls of Maggie's Cafe, every page is a delight, as  the lives of the four leading ladies weave in and around each other in a very clever tale. 

Regardless of which of the voices/chapters you are reading, you are generally not only learning more about their character, but also of some of the others, as the lives of all for women are interlinked, but its only as the months progress, you see the full extent of everything. 

We have Maggie, who can almost always be found in her cafe in the centre of Fir Tree Park, she is continually baking, and has her two children Josh and Kelly, and an ex-husband who is currently in prison. We see a lot more of Kelly than Josh, so it feels as though Kelly is the 5th lady of this book, ever present and lovely to get to know, plus a really strong support character. Maggie may have her eye on a certain football coach that is incredibly sexy sounding. 

Kelly is also best friends with Fern who works in Maggie's cafe, Fern has such a strong crush on someone that she barely notices a potential boyfriend who keeps coming into the cafe. She also has self confidence issues, and a storyline involving her brother scared me to my core, as it encompasses one of my biggest most recent fears. 

Pearl who is related to Kelly and her family, is still getting used to being by herself after the death of her husband. Luckily she has an adorable daschund that keeps her going. She also has a massive secret on her hands that is hinted at a lot, and then slowly revealed to the readers, before some incredibly shocking and emotional few scenes. 

Then there is Lacey, who is in training for a half marathon, despite not being a fan of running. She is doing it to raise money in honour of her late aunt, and is determined to do her proud. Both of her uncles and her other aunt are very supportive, but none as much as the young man she meets early on in her training. 

Over the course of a summer you  will see these ladies lives change in ways you probably could not have predicted at the start of the book. I loved seeing how the story evolved and found it be a gentle and easy to follow writing style. 

This is a story of friendships, of family and relationships, of which Maggie's Cafe is the centrepiece of the story. So much action takes place in the cafe and in Fir Tree Park, which proves itself as a hub for the community. 

I thoroughly enjoyed following the lives of Maggie, Fern, Pearl, Kelly & Lacey throughout the book, and was glad to see for a change in books that the main characters spanned a good age range, from student to a lady in the latter half of her life. All of them are relatable to, and I was so glad I had the chance to get to know them all. 

Thanks you much to Harper Impulse and Netgalley for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Book Review & Extract - Just For The Holidays by Sue Moorcroft - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title: Just For The Holidays
Author: Sue Moorcroft
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 18th May 2017
Rating: 5 Stars


The #1 bestselling author returns for summer! Grab your sun hat, a cool glass of wine, and the only book you need on holiday…

In theory, nothing could be better than a summer spent basking in the French sun. That is, until you add in three teenagers, two love interests, one divorcing couple, and a very unexpected pregnancy.

Admittedly, this isn’t exactly the relaxing holiday Leah Beaumont was hoping for – but it’s the one she’s got. With her sister Michele’s family falling apart at the seams, it’s up to Leah to pick up the pieces and try to hold them all together.

But with a handsome helicopter pilot staying next door, Leah can’t help but think she might have a few distractions of her own to deal with…

A glorious summer read, for you to devour in one sitting - perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Carole Matthews and Trisha Ashley.

Just For the Holidays really hits the spot, it has everything I love in a book, a gorgeous summery location, a family going through issues, a gorgeous guy, some amusing teenagers, and some brilliant professions. How much cooler can you get when you have a helicopter pilot and a chocolatier in the same book! 

In fact the helicopter pilot is called Ronan, and with his son Curtis they are staying next door to the holiday home that Leah and her family are staying in this summer in Alsace, France. 

Leah loves her own space but has been persuaded onto the trip to support her sister Michele, who is trying to separate from her husband. Let's just say that the plans for the holiday fall apart in quite spectacular fashion, leaving Leah to try her best for her niece and nephew. 

I just loved the character of Leah, not only does she taste and test chocolate for a living, but she is also a speed demon, drives a Porsche and is a huge F1 fan. It's such a great combination of traits, especially given she is single and when in charge of teenagers, she is terrified and  I love the decisions she makes. 

Some of my favourite moments in this book involved Leah, and chocolate. I'm a chocoholic, so it may not be surprising that I was salivating over a lot of the content - pain au chocolat being created from scratch, mug cakes, chocolate tastings, chocolate baskets and more. I just wish I had known in advance to have my own chocolate supplies on me. I had been reading on a train, and when I got to the bar I was aiming for, I just couldn't resist ordering a chocolate based cocktail, just to try and curb the cravings I was getting from this book. 

In fairness it wasn't all chocolate, and the story takes in themes such as broken families and how it affects teenagers, Ronan's interesting work situation, and a young romance.  I loved the days out in the surrounding area, and getting to know Leah's family.  Natasha and Jordan are good teens just going through a tricky time with their family and hormones. 

Just For the Holidays is aptly titled in time for the summer season. its a fabulous summery read, that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was completely absorbed in the story, and just found it so entertaining. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Avon for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.  

Here is a short extract from Just For The Holidays:

Leah loved her sunglasses, and not just because they made her look cool or made driving her Porsche in the mellow sunshine of France more pleasurable. No. Those sunglasses were currently allowing her to pretend to leaf through a magazine in the sunshine outside La Petite Annexe while actually watching the first-floor balcony of the house next door where a workman had bared his tanned back to the morning sun.

His sure and easy brushstrokes were transforming the walls of the house from dirty grey to the gold of unclar­ified honey but Leah’s anxious gaze was trained on the youth behind him. Everything the youth wore was black and decorated with studs or chains. Having perched himself on the wooden balcony rail and hooked his feet around the uprights, he was now arching backwards into scarily thin air. Flexing his spine, he swung gently, chains dangling and winking in the sun.
Leah bit her lip against an urge to shout a warning, scared of startling the youngster into falling.

Then, as if possessing a sixth sense, the man turned. Demonstrating commendable reflexes, he dumped his paint pot and made a grab for the gangly figure. 

Bellowing with laughter, the youth allowed himself to be hauled to safety. Leah let out the breath she’d been holding and grinned at the man’s obvious exasperation as he gave the youth a tiny shake before dragging him into his arms for a hard hug. Finally, the man managed a laugh as he loosened his embrace, his dark hair lifting in the breeze.

Then his gaze snagged on Leah and, after a moment’s contemplation, he raised his voice. ‘Bonjour!’

Unnerved at being spotted through the leafy trees, Leah lifted her head as if she hadn’t been spying on them. ‘Oh! Bonjour.’

‘Vous êtes en vacances? Restez-vous ici en Kirchhoffen?’ The man settled his forearms on the balcony rail as his voice rolled over the sunny air. His front view was as pleasing as the back had been.

Leah smiled. Her French was just about equal to the conversation so far. ‘Oui.’
But then, ‘Enchantés’ launched him into a speech of fascinating undulating rhythm punctuated with urrrr and airrr, of which Leah caught about ten per cent. She did at least understand that when he paused it was to invite her to respond to a question.

Both oui and non carrying equal risk, she prepared to offer a shrug and her stock phrases, ‘Désolée, mon français est très mauvais. Parlez-vous anglais?’
But then Natasha bounded out through the door of the main gîte. ‘Dad says, aren’t you coming in for breakfast? We want to go kayaking.’ Both man and boy swung their heads to gaze Natasha’s way as, message delivered, she dashed back inside again.


Thus saved from confessing to her rubbish command of the native language of her host country, Leah put her shrug to good use and called ‘Excusez-moi!’ to the occu­pants of the balcony and went to join the family.

Don't forget to check out the rest of this blog tour, for more Sue Moorcroft goodness! 


Monday, 22 May 2017

Rachel Reads Randomly Book #64 - An Apology

Thank you to everyone that took the time to vote on last weeks Rachel Reads Randomly feature.

I honestly do love this feature, but will admit my heart dropped slightly when I spotted what was in the lead and was eventually won.

I am shocked that the first time a non fiction book wins, is one that I had a feeling I may struggle with.

Now to be fair, I have got to 130 pages, but I can't read on, I am sorry.

It is not particularly the fault of the author, nor the subject, and it definitely lies with me.

My copy of the winning book is in hardback. Anyone that knows me I am not a huge fan of hardbacks, and I'm surprised I have got this far in some respects.  They are heavy, and given half the time I seem to struggle with my motivation towards reading paperbacks, hardbacks are a step too far most of the time. That being said had it been fiction, I may have been able to continue.

My other main concern was that the book was a biography. I much prefer autobiographies, as I like hearing things from the person's point of view, instead of how someone else has chosen to portray the subject.

Now the subject of this book definitely has had an interesting life, but in the 8 or chapters I have read, I can't seem to even keep the keen players straight in my head. There are mentions of things happening out of order, and for someone who is struggling to concentrate due to external factors, I am finding myself either skimming sections, or re-reading the same bit 2-3 times over.

I received a copy of this book from a giveaway run by the publisher, and it wasn't until it arrived that I twigged I had made an error of judgment entering, due to my preference for autobiographies and paperbacks, and it has taken until this week for me to even give it a go, thanks to popular opinion.

I suspect if you are a fan of the subject of the book then you would thoroughly enjoy it, but at the point I am at in the story, I can't keep track of the information. I did contemplate skipping ahead to the chapters involving films that I have seen, but I doubt it would increase my enjoyment of the overall book that much.

If it had been purely a hardback problem, then I would have probably paid and got the book onto kindle to complete, but with my other issues, I'm sorry to say I'm giving up. Life is too short to continue struggling, even for the sake of anyone that picked the book this week.

And the name of the book that I am apologising for that I have been unable to complete, for the first time since I first started this feature is - Maggie Smith: A Biography by Michael Coveney.

Just as a reminder the next new vote is on 12th June, so hopefully it will be better luck next time! 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Book Review - Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea by Liz Eeles - Blog Tour - Fab Firsts



Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

This is Liz Eeles debut novel. 

Amazon UK
Title: Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea
Author: Liz Eeles
Format reviewed: Ebook 
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 18th May 2017
Rating: 5 Stars


When twenty-nine-year-old Annie Trebarwith receives an unexpected letter from a great-aunt she’s never known, she leaves her shoebox-sized flat in London and catches a train to the rugged Cornish coast.

Salt Bay is beautiful and Annie begins to kindle a bond with her great-aunt Alice. Even though there is zero phone signal and the locals – including the gorgeous but brooding Josh Pasco – can be decidedly grumpy at times, Annie starts to feel at home in Salt Bay.

Soon Annie’s love of music leads her to relaunch the Salt Bay Choral Society, and she’s surprised to see how just much the choir means to the community – and she even starts to break through Josh’s surly exterior…

But London is calling Annie back, and she has to make a decision. Give up her old life completely, or leave Salt Bay, her new-found family – and the choir – behind?

Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea is a heart-warming story about family, belonging and the healing power of music, perfect for fans of Jo Thomas, Holly Martin and Carole Matthews.

If you are looking for a story including long lost relatives, deep family secrets, a lovely older woman,  one villainous man, one gorgeous guy, an Aussie barmaid, a lovely Cornish coastal location, and a choir, then you have come to the right place, as Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea has all that and more. 

Long lost relatives - Annie recieves a letter out of the blue from her Great Aunt Alice who she didnt even know existed, inviting her down to Cornwall, to spend some time with her. Since Alice's mum died she ha had no family and until now has lived a nomadic life in London, temping and moving from flat to flat.  She really isn't sure how to deal with unexpected family but curiosity trumps nervousness. 

Deep family secrets - ah well if I told you about these in any detail, I would spoil elements of the book. However by virtue of the fact that Alice herself was a surprise to Annie, anything Alice says about the big family rift will be a revelation. 

A lovely older woman - great aunt Alice is exactly that, she is in frail health and is determined to have Annie live in Salt Bay with her on a more permanent basis, whereas Annie isn't as sure. 

One villainous man - within the first few mentions of this character, my hackles were well and truly raised and it turns out with good reason.  There is just something about the way he acts and his attitude in general towards Salt Bay that really annoyed me. 

Whereas my one gorgeous guy - well he is a typical Cornish hunk, quite moody and is determined to hate Annie due to the family she is a part of. He and Annie don't get off the smoothest of starts, and I loved seeing their dynamic. He also seems to be an arch rival of the villainous man! 

An Aussie barmaid - Kayla who takes Annie under her wing to show her the sights of Salt Bay. She is a breath of fresh air, and I  loved any scene she was part of. 

A lovely Cornish coastal location - welcome to Salt Bay, where is seems to rain a lot, but on the nice days it has stunning views, and beaches, a cream tea shop, the local pub and a whole group of inhabitants that would be best described as salt of the earth people.  I love reading books set in Cornwall, and this definitely matched in with my previous fictional trips to the county. 

And last but not least there is the Choral Society, which Kayla and Annie decide to resurrect. Although you don't really see much in the way of the practices, you can't help but get a good feel for just what it is doing for the community in Salt Bay, and how it will continue to affect people's lives. 

Ultimately Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea is an all around entertaining story with various threads running through it. I loved the reasoning behind the Choral Society's reformation, and found the whole book to be a pleasurable reading experience.  Brilliant debut and I'm already looking forward to the next installment in the series. 

Thanks you so much to Netgalley and Bookouture for this copy which I have reviewed voluntarily and honestly.

About the author

Liz began her writing career as a journalist for newspapers and magazines before moving into the health sector as a communications manager and press officer. The low point of her career was abandoning an interview with Cliff Richard after two questions because she was about to faint – her excuse is that she was newly pregnant at the time.
Liz is from Gloucestershire but now lives by the sea in West Sussex with her husband and grown-up daughter. She spends a lot of time meaning to meditate, avoiding exercise, and missing her son who lives in London.


Follow along with the rest of the blog tour for more about Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea


Fab Firsts - Q&A with Kate Field

Congratulations to Kate Field on winning the RNA Joan Hessayon Award at the RNA Summer Party on Thursday evening. It is an honour to have her on Rachel's Random Reads this week. 



Fab Firsts is my new regular Sunday feature, that is going to be highlighting books that are firsts. When interviewing authors, it will be about their first book, as well as other firsts in their lives. When reviewing books for this feature, there will be a mix of debuts, first books in a series, the first time I read an author, and possibly other firsts depending on what I can think of!

If you are an author wanting to take part in Fab Firsts then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you.

I hope you enjoy this look at a variety of hopefully fabulous firsts, while making some sort of dent in my review and paperback TBRs which are my current main focus!

I'm Kate Field, an author of women's fiction.


1) Can you tell us a bit about your first book?

My first book, The Magic of Ramblings, is a contemporary romance and it was published by Accent Press in September 2016.

It's about a Victorian Gothic mansion in Lancashire and the three people who live there – Cassie, Barney and Frances, who are all hiding from their pasts. Through friendship, love and the magic of Ramblings, can they help each other find a happy ending?

2) What was your original inspiration to become a writer, and to write your debut?

My first attempt at writing a full length novel was inspired by my love of Georgette Heyer’s Regency books. When I ran out of books to read, I tried writing one myself. The Regency era wasn't as popular then as it is now, and I was advised to try contemporary romance instead.

I haven't forgotten my first love, though: in The Magic of Ramblings, Cassie goes to work as a companion to Frances, which was often a popular job for heroines in Regency romances!

3) How long did it take you to write your first book?

The Magic of Ramblings is the fifth complete book I’ve written, although the first to be published, and it took about 8 months to write the first draft and three or four more to edit it. I have a day job so writing has to fit around that. The very first book took years to finish!

4) If you could do anything differently in retrospect, what would you change about your debut, or how you went about writing it?

I wish I'd had more confidence in myself and my book. I never really believed I would be published, so when it came out I didn't have much presence on social media – and I still don't! – which made promotion more difficult. I’ve met some lovely bloggers online and in real life since publication and I wish I had been braver and contacted them in advance.

5) Was your first book self or traditionally published, and how did you go about making that decision?

It was traditionally published by Accent Press. It was an easy decision to make as I didn't have the confidence to believe the book was good enough to be published until someone else told me it was.

6) Do you have any tips for other first time authors?

Start preparing for publication day as early as possible! And the advice I've had to take on board recently – stop worrying about sales and reviews, and remember the joy of writing.

Tell us about your first…

7) Book you bought

It would have been one of the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. I remember touring round bookshops on holiday so I could find the latest one. Looking back, I can't believe how generous my parents were, agreeing to spend so much holiday time in bookshops when they weren't keen readers themselves.

8) Person you fell in love with

I can't provide a better answer than Jane Eyre. ‘Reader, I married him.’ We’ll celebrate our 22nd anniversary in 2017, touch wood!

9) Holiday you went on

The earliest holiday I remember was spent in Harlech, North Wales, not too far away from our Lancashire home. The only things that stick in my mind are that we had to open a gate to drive across a field to the house we stayed in, and that I slept in a bunk bed for the first time, both of which seemed hugely exciting at the time!

10) Album you purchased

Hunting High and Low by a-ha – on a cassette tape. That ages me, doesn't it!

11) Embarrassing moment you can remember

I’ve always been a shy person and easily embarrassed, so over the years there have been far too many moments to remember, but one stands out. I attended an all girls school, but a few lessons in the Sixth Form were mixed, including a course of lessons on American Studies. The teacher asked everyone to prepare a talk on a famous American we admired, and picked a few people to deliver it to the class. After impressive talks about Martin Luther King and the poet EE Cummings, my name was called. I stood up, scarlet faced, and said, ‘My favourite American is Jon Bon Jovi because he oozes pure sex from every pore.’ I’d been dared to say it by a friend and the memory still mortifies me now!

12) Pet

It was a Yorkshire Terrier dog called Lucy. She was left to my Dad in the will of a former colleague. 

13) ..choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author

I wanted to be a pathologist, probably because I’ve always loved reading crime novels. I realised in the nick of time that I was too squeamish to pursue that career!

14) Dish you cooked

I was brought up in a traditional ‘meat and two veg’ household, so although it sounds odd nowadays, when I went to university and a friend showed me how to cook pasta it was a revelation!

15) …toy that you recall loving

My first love wasn't a toy, it was an old pyjama top called Sniffy.  I used to sniff one particular corner of it - no other spot would do - and couldn't get to sleep without it. My Mum would sometimes sneak Sniffy away for a wash when I was at school, and it took ages for him to smell right again!

Thanks for featuring me on your blog, Rachel.

You are very welcome Kate, its been a pleasure to host you, and thank you for answering my questions.

Kate Field – bio


Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,  where she lives with her husband, daughter and hyperactive cat. 

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
The Magic of Ramblings is her first published novel.

Social media links:

Twitter: @katehaswords
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KateFieldAuthor/

Buying links:

http://amzn.to/29ZDTrv

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Book Review - The Hope Family Calendar by Mike Gayle - Back Catalogue Books - #AroundTheUKIn144Books #Surrey



Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, going to aim to read books that have been out for at least 6 months, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

Given I downloaded this in July of last year, I can't help but think its definitely valid for this feature, and about time I read it!  

Amazon UK
Title: The Hope Family Calendar
Author: Mike Gayle
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication Date: 16th June 2016
Rating: 4.5 Stars


Tom Hope is broken. Ever since his wife Laura died he hasn't been the same man, and definitely not the same father. Luckily for Tom his mother-in-law Linda is around to pick up the pieces and look after his two struggling daughters, Evie and Lola.

But Tom getting arrested on the first anniversary of his wife's death is the last straw for Linda.

In a last bid attempt to make Tom reconnect with his daughters she takes drastic action and leaves for Australia. With two fast-maturing daughters Tom has to learn how to accept his responsibilities and navigate the newly discovered world of single fatherhood - starting immediately.

With only himself to rely on, will Tom fall back into grief or finally step up and be the father his girls need?


Far more serious in places than the average Mike Gayle novel, this is one family's journey to come to terms with the death of Laura, husband to Tom, and daughter to Linda, and mother to Evie and Lola. One year on from her death, and Linda is at her wits end, as Tom is still deep in grief but turning into a workaholic and barely spends any time with his daughters, while she has moved in and taken over Laura's role. 

Linda realises there is only one thing she can do to force Tom to take control of his own actions, and make him step up to the world of single parenthood, and she flies off to Australia for 6 months, despite it hurting her to be separated from her grandchildren. 

The book is told from both Tom and Linda's perspectives and on the whole it is an uplifting story, there are moments that will make you smile, and Mike Gayle's normal wit is definitely there to shine through in places, such as Clive, Tom's new friend. 

I loved reading about what Linda was getting up to Australia, and how she was coping. She has her ups and downs but its lovely to read about. Tom on the other hand struggles big time at first, and slowly learns and remembers how to be a parent. He is scared of doing the wrong thing, but his daughters are generally great girls and I especially loved Lola the youngest. 

Tom over the course of the book experiences a real rollercoaster of emotion, as he tries to get life back on track for him and the girls. Sometimes he is a typical non thinking man, others he is a compassionate father and goes to great lengths to make sure he can fulfill promises to his daughters. 

The Hope Family Calendar is a pleasureable story that I think would give griefing people some hope at the end of the tunnel. Tom and Linda both do a lot of growing in the novel, and after part 1 was finished, and the story was moving in the right direction, I found it very hard to put down, as I was enamoured in their story, while crossing my fingers that things would work out well. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Hodder for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.
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