Friday, 23 June 2017

Book Review - The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman

Amazon UK
Title: The Summer of Impossible Things
Author: Rowan Coleman
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: 29th June 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

How far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother's life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.

Easily the most accomplished and impressive book that Rowan Coleman has ever written. 

With every will in the world I was wasn't expecting to even like the book, and it was only due to it being written by an author that I greatly admire that I was willing to give it a go. 

Let me explain, I like my fiction incredibly contemporary and always worry if I know in advance there is any history in the book, I am also very skeptical and knowing that there was a time travel element in the book worried me too. However I did know that if it was all dealt with in a way that didn't wrankle me that I would be fine. And somehow having now read The Summer of Impossible Things, and despite the story not fully being realistically believable in a real world sense, I don't think the book would have worked any other way. 

In fact the main character Luna, does everything in her power to try and explain away what is happening to her, before fully embracing it, and instead of the book being confusing, I found it made complete and utter sense. I had the timelines straight in my mind, and ever what should have been a huge outlandish thing, was understated in a way that I can't fully explain. 

This is a story that is far more than those first elements that I was obsessing over. It is a story about love, possibly the purest form of love, from a daughter to her mother and sister.  The tale is beautifully written and drew me in completely, to the extent that I read the book in two sittings. 

Even when I wasn't reading the book, the characters and what was happening was playing on my mind, in fact I dread to start another book at the moment, as nothing will be able to compete.  I really can't explain the story, as I'm not talented enough to do is justice, for it really is a work of art. 

From the start you are aware that Luna is a scientist and that the author must have put a fair amount of research, so that she could explain things about space/time and just how they work. Although I'm not sure how much understanding I have of it, even now it certainly led an air of intellect to the book. 

Ultimately The Summer of Impossible Things is just that, it takes place in the summer, in New York,  where Luna experiences the impossible, and aims to make a believer out of the reader. It is an absolutely brilliant book and I would suggest you put your own beliefs on hold, and give it a go, or miss out on something really special. 

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

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Book Review - The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach by Kat French

Amazon UK
Title:  The Bed and Breakfast on the Beach
Author: Kat French
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: 22nd June 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

A Greek island solves all life’s problems…doesn’t it?

Winnie, Stella and Frankie have been best friends forever.

When their lives unexpectedly unravel, they spontaneously decide to buy a gorgeous B&B on a remote Greek island. Drenched in hot sun, Villa Valentina is the perfect escape from reality. But when Winnie meets Jesse, their brooding neighbour, she finds that Greece is full of its own complications – not least how attractive he is…

Meanwhile, Frankie and Stella are discovering that Villa Valentina has its own secrets – starting with the large supply of gin in the cellar and the arrival of a famous rock band. A band with one very good-looking member who just might distract Frankie from thoughts of her husband…

I fell in love with the island of Skelidos and all of its inhabitants in this gorgeous summery story.  

Nested just between the islands of Skopelos and Skiathos is Skelidos, a fictional Greek island, that is unspoilt by mass tourism. And it is on that island that three ladies went for a weekend, after all enduring massive changes in their lives. On their return, their bank balances are significantly emptier. 

Don't worry, there was no con-men or theft involved, the ladies somehow managed to buy a pink B&B on the beach! Within a couple of weeks they were back out in Skelidos to try to make the best of their new business venture, learn some Greek and see just how their new lives would turn out. 

It soon becomes apparent that Villa Valentina contains more hidden features than first encountered when they bought it. I won't let you in on them, but they are quite integral to the story. 

Winnie, Stella and Frankie all have their own reasons for wanting this venture in Skelidos to work out, from failed marriages to recently being made redundant. Yet as you may have guessed things don't necessarily pan out as planned, and I loved every second of seeing just what journey Winnie, Stella and Frankie would take. 

There is a gorgeous nearby neighbour, there is plenty of Gin and Tonics to be made and drunk, there are irritable Greek men, a set of famous guests, some lovely locals, a great location and romance is in the air... all this and more in an amusing summery story that I couldn't stop thinking about. It is easy and quick to read, and I was so enamored by Skelidos that I had to google to check if it was real or not! 

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

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Guest Post - Writing The Truth About Gemma Grey by Sophie Ranald - Blog Tour

When I look back over the past 18 months, it seems incredible to me that my first novel, It Would Be Wrong to Steal my Sister’s Boyfriend (Wouldn’t It?) took just 12 weeks to write. The process of getting Gemma from glimmer of an idea to finished novel has been somewhat different!

When I first pitched the idea to my agent at LAW, then the lovely Peta Nightingale, the concept was around a blogger who wrote posts describing a life far more glamorous and interesting than the one she was actually living. Peta liked the idea, but she said, “Of course, you must make her a vlogger, not a blogger, because this is 2016, LDO.”

Now I hadn’t been living under a rock, so I knew that vloggers – YouTubers – were a Thing. But that was pretty much all I knew. My education into the world of vlogging had to start pretty much from scratch, and that meant watching Zoella videos. A lot of Zoella videos. It got so my partner would come downstairs and find me gazing vacantly at my screen and say, “You’re watching that Zoella again, aren’t you?”

The more I watched, the more I realised that first, Peta was right and second, my initial idea was going to have to change somewhat. YouTubers live their entire lives in the public eye, and it would be immensely difficult for Gemma, if she were one of them, to pull off a double life. So I had to go back to the drawing board and rethink things.

The other thing I wrestled with, watching make-up tutorial after make-up tutorial, was what motivates their creators. Money? Certainly, the likes of Zoella have built hugely successful businesses from humble beginnings and made a fortune in the process. But (like authors!) only a lucky few achieve anything like this degree of success. So I had to give Gemma a motive other than money or fame… Enter Jack and Olivia.

My next challenge was to give Gemma a cause to care about. Many YouTubers do this, embracing politics, mental health, HIV education and so on, and using the audiences they have built up to spread the word about something that matters to them. This was something I’d decided on quite early in the process, and I was greatly looking forward to writing it. Unfortunately, Life intervened at this point.

My partner and I moved house. The place we bought thinking it would need minor cosmetic work turned out to need major structural work, and I spent the next few months mired in architects’ drawings, helical screws and builder’s crack stitching kits (yes, really). By the time I returned to  Gemma, the world had moved on to the point where my wonderful plot point was no longer relevant, and I had to bin and rewrite about 20,000 words. Gutting doesn’t even cover it.

So, what with one thing and another, the process of writing this novel was anything but smooth. At 110,000 words, it’s longer than my previous novels, too. Nonetheless, I’m really excited to have released it at last. Even though writing it was tough, there were still many of those moments every author longs for, when the words flow easily, the characters take on a life of their own, and before you know it you’ve spent hours immersed in their world and the cat is complaining that she’s about to lapse into a hypoglycaemic coma (or is that just Purrs?).

Thanks to Rachel for hosting this post and being part of the Gemma Grey release tour, and thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy the novel – please get in touch and let me know what you think.  

Thank you so much Sophie for sharing your story behind your new book. I look forward to reading it at some point in the future, The Truth About Gemma Grey sounds great. 

Genre: Chick lit/romantic comedy
Release Date: 19 June 2017
Life isn’t working out quite as Gemma had planned. Her breakthrough job turns out to involve writing clickbait articles about cats. Her boyfriend Jack is off travelling the world with his glamorous BFF and her mum’s social life puts Gemma’s own to shame.
Then, after a late-night online rant, Gemma’s YouTube channel goes viral and everything changes.
Suddenly, she’s living the dream – only it’s not turning out entirely as she imagined.
Gemma realises she’ll have to choose between fame, real love and being true to herself – because she can’t have it all. Or can she?

Sophie Ranald is the youngest of five sisters. She was born in Zimbabwe and lived in South Africa until an acute case of itchy feet brought her to London in her mid-20s. As an editor for a customer publishing agency, Sophie developed her fiction-writing skills describing holidays to places she'd never visited. In 2011, she decided to disregard all the good advice given to aspiring novelists and attempt to write full-time. After one false start, It Would Be Wrong to Steal My Sister's Boyfriend (Wouldn't It?) seemed to write itself. Her second, third and fourth novels followed, and a fifth is due for release in Spring 2017. Sophie also writes for magazines and online about food, fashion and running. She lives in south-east London with her amazing partner Hopi and Purrs, their adorable little cat. 
Twitter: @sophieranald

Book Review - Catch Me If You Cannes by Lisa Dickenson

Amazon UK
Title: Catch Me If You Cannes
Author: Lisa Dickenson
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Date: 3rd April 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Jess has decided it's time to get out of her comfort zone and live a little. So when her best friend Bryony, a journalist on a gossip magazine, is sent to cover the Cannes Film Festival, Jess decides to seize the day and go along for the ride. Two weeks of sun, glamour and exclusive entry into celeb-filled parties is just the kind of adventure Jess needs.

Reality soon bites though when Jess and Bryony find they're staying in a dingy hotel far away from all the action and Bryony's expenses budget barely covers a glass of local wine. Undeterred, the two women are determined to live like the elite and enjoy one fancy night out to begin their holiday. So what if they have to tell a few white lies along the way? It's just this once. No harm done . . . right?

Full of hilarious one-liners, sparkling blue seas and plenty of romantic moments, Catch Me If You Cannes is the story of two friends, a few white lies and one very sticky situation . . . 

If you are going on holiday this year then pick up a copy of Catch Me If You Cannes as it is perfect summer holiday reading. It's quick witted, hilarious, set during the Canne Film Festival and is generally a delightful story to read. 

It is split into four parts that all follow on from each other, but if you are are just trying to read for a short time, aim to read it part by part...although that may just lead you to reading the book in once sitting due to the mini cliffhangers, that make you want to continue reading regardless of real life pressures. 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to try and infiltrate the gliterati at the Cannes Film Festival? Well that is exactly what Jess and Bryone manage with all manner of hilarious outcomes. There are some little white lies, some brilliant parties attended, both of their wallets take a beating, as they attempt to fit in somewhere they arguably shouldn't be. 

Bryony is a journalist and is attempting to dig up some dirt on the festival to try and make a breakthrough int more hard hitting journalism than her work at Sleb lets her. With her investigating and active imagination, it leads to all kinds of assumptions. 

I warmed to Jess from the first sentence of the book, which gave a great insight as to potentially the sort of character she would be.  Not too long into her first day in Cannes she meets a gorgeous man, and I loved seeing how their story developed, along with their addiction to Nutella Crepes! 

With the whole book I really felt as though I was there besides the characters, that I could feel the sun beating down in me in the South of France, as they experience Cannes during the crazy two weeks of the Festival. I loved their day trip to Monaco, and could picture everything so clearly that i thought I was there too. 

Every second of Catch Me If You Cannes had me smiling, feeling so happy that I was able to enjoy this fabulous book. It is such a joyous reading experience, quick paced, the whole story takes place over just two weeks, and what an action packed two weeks it is.   The sense of humour in the book was great, as was everything to do with Catch Me If You Cannes. 

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Sphere for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Book Review - Under A Tuscan Sky by Karen Aldous - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title: Under A Tuscan Sky
Author: Karen Aldous
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital
Publication Date: 14th June 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

A summer she’ll never forget…
When Olivia Montague’s grandmother passes away, she decides it’s finally time to make some changes in her own life. So she breaks up with her ‘going nowhere’ boyfriend and embarks on a journey to her Nonna’s home in Tuscany.

Until now, Olivia has always believed that she’s incapable of love, after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. But with each day spent at the gorgeous villa nestled in the rolling Italian hills, she feels her heart begin to flutter…

And when handsome antiques dealer Hugh St. James arrives on the scene, she realises things might be about to change forever!

Rightly or wrongly, often the first thing that will attract you to a book is the cover. Now the cover for Under a Tuscan Sky just screams summer at me, and in particular hot sunny days and Italy. And I am delighted to say that the contents inside the cover, carry on that theme and more, providing a sumptuous story of Olivia discovering a lot more about herself than she ever bargained on, and even has two incredibly different gorgeous men after her too. 

Olivia loves making lists, she loves being organised and prepared, so in theory going over to Tuscany to sort out her beloved Nonna's villa should be nice and simple. She already has an estate agent and viewings lined up after all, and shes only heading over to Tuscany to clear the contents of the villa. 

However it soon becomes apparent that not everything goes to plan. On the plane over she meets Alberto a suave Italian man who awakens her hidden inner female! And then the first person to view the house in antiques dealer Hugh. Both become integral to the plot and to what Olivia is doing in Tuscany. 

Between them we discover family secrets which is where the book really kicked up a gear and became very intriguing to read, and we also get a tour of the Italian countryside, and get to take in a lot of places, which is what I love in fiction, being able to travel from my armchair! 

Under A Tuscan Sky is a lovely story and another great book from Karen Aldous. 

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

About Karen Aldous

Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!

Karen gets much of her inspiration from her travels and if she had to choose, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and the USA would be her favourites. However, wherever she goes, she discovers a new character emerges in 'Karen's World'. She likes to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives - but struggle to control them! And, of course there's always a gorgeous hunk or two!

Giveaway (UK Only) (Please include the giveaway and the giveaway photos somewhere in your posts!)

1st prize: £10 Amazon voucher, eCopy of Under a Tuscan Sky & a signed notebook

2nd & 3rd prize: eCopy of Under a Tuscan Sky & a signed notebook

Follow along with the rest of the blog tour:

Monday, 19 June 2017

Book Review - While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax - Rachel Reads Randomly Book #65

Amazon UK
Title: While We Were Watching Downton Abbey
Author: Wendy Wax
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 9th May 2013 
Rating: 4 Stars

Four friends, and a shared passion for Downton Abbey that will change their lives.

When the concierge of a historic Atlanta apartment building invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings of Downton Abbey, four very different people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and - even more unexpectedly - with each other...

Samantha married young and for the wrong reason: the security of old Atlanta money - for herself and for her orphaned brother and sister. She never expected her marriage to be complicated by love and compromised by a shattering family betrayal.

Claire is now an empty nester and struggling author who left her home in the suburbs for a new and productive life. But she soon wonders if clinging to old dreams can be more destructive than having no dreams at all.

And then there's Brooke, a woman in constant battle with her faithless ex-husband. She's just starting to realise that it's time to take a deep breath and come to terms with the fact that her life is not the fairy tale she thought it would be.

For Samantha, Claire, Brooke - and Edward, who arranges the weekly gatherings - it will be a season of surprises as they forge a bond that will sustain them through some of life's hardest moments-all of it reflected in their shared love of Downton Abbey.

After a slightly slow start, and once I got a feel for the characters, I started to really enjoy this book. In fact as the story progressed I became more and more involved with it, and was curious as to just how all the characters would end up at the end. 

The book is about three women who all live in the same building but probably wouldn't become friends if it wasn't for Edward the building's concierge, how has decided to start doing screenings in a communal room of the first two seasons of Downton Abbey, ahead of the third season starting in the States. 

It is through the screenings and mutual love of Downton that the friendship between Samantha, Claire and Brooke flourishes, and Edward plays a key role too in the story. 

Samantha married young and has always been grateful to her husband for helping her raise her younger brother and sister after the death of her parents. However appearances in their marriage can be deceiving.

Claire is a published author of 2 historical romance,s and has moved into the building to embark on a grand year of writing. I think that just about any author reading this would identify with Claire and her brilliant ability to procrastinate! 

Brooke is a single mother to two young children, has a dog, and her ex-husband isn't that pleasant. She is a character that I could identify with the most as she just felt the most real to me, whereas our introduction to Samantha felt like a bit of a fairy story. 

If you have watched the first couple of series of Downton Abbey then when the ladies are discussing the episodes I think you will smile and nod in recognition, or wish you could join in the discussions. As someone that has never watched an episode, I just let those bits wash over my head, as they didn't really mean much to me. 

I loved the various friendships the ladies struck up, and how Samantha tried to deal with her siblings. There is a  fledgling romantic interest for Brooke which I liked seeing how it may develop, and also the web of lies Claire was trying to construct around her, so that her writer' block wasn't evident. 

This is an enjoyable story, but one I may have enjoyed a lot more had I watched the TV programme that links the characters together! 

Thank you to everyone that voted for While We Were Watching Downton Abbey, I'm sure most of the time it was due to the mention of Downton Abbey, in which case you would gain a lot more than I did from sections of the book. I am already looking forward to seeing what will win this week. 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #66

Thank you everyone for your input last time. The results of the last vote were:

1 Votes - I Am The Secret Footballer by Anon
2 Votes - Cream Teas, Traffic Jams and Sunburn: The Great British Holiday by Brian Viner
3 Votes -  Bad Money by Louise Patten
8 Votes -  A Falling Friend by Sue Featherstone and Susan Pape
9 Votes - While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

Thank you to everyone that took part last week. Until I counted I honestly thought A Falling Friend had won, but it turns out that if you put the name of a popular TV programme into a title of a book, people are interested in the book! And thankfully I did really enjoy it, although I still haven't watched an episode ever! 

As far as I'm aware its the summer solstice this week, which to me means half the year has gone already. So what better way to celebrate than this week having a selection of books that were released in the first 6 months of 2017! 

Below is my initial theory for this feature, and then a bit further, what you are all waiting for... This weeks's vote! Enjoy!

I am also awful at deciding what book to read next, as I often have about 10 titles or authors jumping into my brain at any time, shouting at me to read them, and I tend to worry I have made the wrong decision while reading a perfectly good book. I am hoping this will save me having to make at least 1 choice a week, while possibly providing a review to the site of a book you all either love or are curious about yourselves. 

So what I am proposing, is my lovely loyal readers of Rachel's Random Reads, select one book for me to read a week, and I will post the review the following week. 

This week's random numbers are...

And the books these numbers correspond to are...

So the 5 choices with my gut feeling responses are:

20 - Almost a Bride by Jo Watson - Having read the other two books by Jo Watson in this series I am so eager to get stuck into this one, which is set in Mauritius. 
33 - Practice Makes Perfect by Penny Parkes - This is the sequel to Penny Parkes first book which I thoroughly enjoyed and this is another book that I'm looking forward to reading
37 - Breaking All The Rules by Rachael Richey - Despite this year not taking on too many requests direct from authors, this is one that caught my eye and that I would like to read! 
38 - Amber Green Takes Manhattan by Rosie Nixon - Second sequel of this weeks selection, this time to The Stylist. I found the first book to be fun and easy going and very interested to see what Amber Green gets up to this time around. 
43 - The Apple Orchard by Veronica Henry - This is a short story release by an always popular author earlier this year. Thinking about it, I've not read a short story for ages! 

Ok I'm excited by this selection, and I hope you will be too. I know that 2 of the books aren't out until the 29th June, others are ones I've been meaning to find a gap for and just don't know when I'll get there. I desperately want to read all of these books, so all I can ask is...please don't leave me with a tie, as I have no way of deciding at the moment between any of them!

Pick your favourite or the one you most want me to review, or just the one you are curious about, and leave me a comment below, before midnight on Wednesday. 

I look forward to seeing what I will be reading over the weekend, courtesy of you all. 

And authors, if its your book up on this feature, feel free to take part, vote for yourself, or stir up excitement amongst your fans! 

The explanation if you haven't seen the feature before. 

How is this going to work?

Every Monday, I am going to have a post like this, which is going to have some choices on it. I am planning on using to select 7 random numbers, to coincide with my spreadsheet of unread books.  

I will from that produce a list of hopefully 5 books, I reserve the right to veto any books, and will give reasons for them, if it occurs.

I will take screenshots and post them, of the chosen books, and also give you my instinctive reactions to the choices (without checking blurbs or any other info about them, which could be interesting as there are probably many forgotten about books on my spreadsheet!). 

Your task is to post a comment on this post, with the book you would like me to read this week. At midnight on Wednesday I will take a tally of the votes and the book with the most, I will read and review for the following Monday, where you will also get a new choice post. 

In the event of a tie, I will chose which one appeals most, for the Monday review, and possibly try and read and review the other to appear when I can. 

I am hoping this will provide some variety to the books appearing, and will let me potentially read or discover some great authors that I have wanted to read but not got around to yet.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Cover Reveal - Waking by Helen Richardson

I am delighted to be able to reveal the cover for Helen Richardson's debut novel Waking....

Title: Waking
Author: Helen Richardson
Publication date: September 14th 2017
Publisher: Accent Press
ISBN: 9781786153449 (paperback) – 9781786153227 (ebook)

There are dark corners in your mind that even you can’t get to.

Anna Caldwell is terrified of falling asleep. A nightmare, her very own, will be there waiting for her. After sharing her bed with the same vision for fifteen years, she’s desperate to shake it. But it only holds on tighter.

Then Anna meets Jack. She’s drawn to the strange, alluring tension that she feels when she’s around him. It’s as though it’s meant to be. But creeping beneath the roots of their intimacy is darkness.
If you knew your dreams were trying to tell you something terrible, would you listen?

Helen Richardson is a producer for branded content and documentary productions. She lives in London. This is her first novel.

Pre-order link: PB

What do you think of Waking? Will you be tempted to read it? 

Book Review - The Vineyard in Alsace by Julie Stock - 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!

Although not Julie Stock's first book, it is the first book that I have read by this author. 

Amazon UK
Title: The Vineyard in Alsace
Author: Julie Stock
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Clued Up Publishing 
Publication Date: 9th March 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Is there really such a thing as a second chance at love?

Fran Schell has only just become engaged when she finds her fiancé in bed with another woman. She knows this is the push she needs to break free of him and to leave London. She applies for her dream job on a vineyard in Alsace, in France, not far from her family home, determined to concentrate on her work.

Didier Le Roy can hardly believe it when he sees that the only person to apply for the job on his vineyard is the same woman he once loved but let go because of his stupid pride. Now estranged from his wife, he longs for a second chance with Fran if only she will forgive him for not following her to London.

Working so closely together, Fran soon starts to fall in love with Didier all over again. Didier knows that it is now time for him to move on with his divorce if he and Fran are ever to have a future together. Can Fran and Didier make their second chance at love work despite all the obstacles in their way? 

A romantic read set against the enticing backdrop of the vineyard harvest in France. 

If you like books set in France, or vineyards, or wine, or a second chance romance, then look no further than The Vineyard in Alsace.   It is a fabulous story with writing that felt incredibly comfortable to me to read, which is great as I had never read the author before this book. 

I loved the writing style and the fact the book is written in alternating perspectives between Fran and Didier, where you were often getting to see both of their thoughts on the same instance, while the story moves forward too. 

Fran and Didier used to date while they were at uni before circumstances drove them apart. Didier couldn't believe it when Fran applies for a job at his vineyard and can't wait to see her again.  Although a lot has happened in four years. Between them they both have incredibly tricky exes, one of them has a child, and there is also a dog too! 

I loved hearing all about life on the vineyard in Alsace, and with the initial tours showing Fran around, it reminded me a lot of my own tours of a couple of small vineyards in the Bandol region of France, last year. To me it all seemed incredibly realistic and I could picture it all very clearly. 

I loved the innate French-ness of the vineyard and town of Alsace. There was a spattering of basic french vocabulary used in some of the dialogue which added to the feel of the book, and the talk of getting fresh mouth watering croissants at the local bakery each day was incredibly pleasing to see. 

I really enjoyed seeing Didier and Fran's story, but not only theirs Fran's best friend Ellie comes out to visit and it changes her life too. They both have horrific ex-es to deal with, one more recent than the other, and its thanks to the ex-es that there are some great moments of drama and conflict in the book. 

The Vineyard in Alsace is an incredibly enjoyable book,  that transported me to a foreign location, for a lovely story that was very pleasurable to read. 

Thank you Julie Stock for this copy of the book which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Fab Firsts - Q&A with Jackie Baldwin

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!

Hi there, my name is Jackie Baldwin. I am a Scottish crime writer who lives in Dumfries, SW Scotland. 

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

It is a police procedural set in my home town of Dumfries and featuring former RC priest, DI Frank Farrell who has recently returned to the town and is immediately faced with the murder of a priest he holds responsible for forcing him out of the priesthood and into a breakdown. He also has to investigate the abduction of twin boys from a local nursery and as the pressure mounts he must discover their whereabouts, whilst retaining his grip on reality, as events from the past come back to haunt him.

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

I knew I wanted to become a writer from an early age as I had been moved by so many wonderful stories and wanted to be able to give that experience to others. When I started writing the novel, Frank Farrell arrived in my head as a shadowy figure in a cassock but once I heard his voice I took him in a completely different direction. Sounds bad when you talk about hearing voices. 

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

Too long! I started it around 2005 and finished it perhaps three years later but over the years I rewrote it a number of times. At one point I even put it away in a drawer for a few years when I became crazy busy with work and kids.

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

This is a tough question. I did spend a ridiculous amount of time on my first novel. I was incredibly lucky that it paid off for me and it was published. However, had it gone the other way, then I would have been kicking myself for all the other novels I might have written in that time. I don’t intend to make that mistake again!

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

It was traditionally published with a digital first imprint. I really admire those who self- publish and have the self- belief and vigour to make all that happen. For me, though, I felt I needed the validation. I needed someone independent to say to me ‘your book is good enough.’ Otherwise I wouldn’t have believed it.

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

Yes. Bash out that first draft as quickly as possible and don’t get hung up on editing as you go. It will change with every draft anyway. Keep the impetus going. Also, start to engage with social media immediately. Don’t wait until you are published like I did!

Tell us about your first…

7) Book you bought.

Hard to say as I grew up using the library rather than buying books but I do remember buying a second hand book on hypnotism when I was 13. 

8) Memory

Getting stuck under the couch as a baby. I must have crawled under then I stuck my bum in the air, my favourite pose back then, and got wedged solid against the underside of the couch. I still remember the feeling of being trapped and I’m not keen on small spaces to this day.

9) Holiday you went on

A week in Southerness with my mum which is a coastal area near where I live. I made friends with an English girl and we used to write to each other in the Puffin Secret Code.

10) Prize you won

A trip in the Barratt helicopter when I was 12 by entering a competition in the local paper. I was beyond thrilled, particularly as I was crazy about planes at the time. 

11) Album you purchased

Fleetwood Mac. ‘Rumours.’

12) Embarrassing moment you can remember.

I had just arrived in Majorca with my husband and two young children and we were walking around the pool which was free form. I was busy looking back telling them they had to be really careful not to fall in when I took an impromptu header myself, fully clothed, glasses, the lot, causing a mini tsunami. Kids were in hysterics!

13) Pet

Black and white cat called Suzy. 

14) Time you were in trouble

Being pursued by armed police in a ski resort in Italy on a school trip
 as one of the boys in our group had given them cheek. 

15) …time you had any independence

I was allowed to walk to the garage at the end of our road and buy some sweeties. Intoxicating! I can still recall the feeling as I looked back and could no longer see my house round the bend.

16) …toy that you recall loving

A stuffed Panda. It was loved to extent that it had no fur and one side of its face was flat.

17) Dish you cooked

Fray Bentos pie, and potatoes for someone I was trying to impress as a first year student. I had to phone my dad and find out how to cook potatoes first. I tried to pass it off as my own but he saw the tin in the kitchen.

18) Time you were really scared

I was in a serious fire at my school. We all got out safely but as we watched the school burn we were so afraid until they took the roll and were able to confirm all the pupils, teachers and elderly nuns were unharmed. 

Thank you so much Jackie for taking the time to answer my questions, I love your embarrassing moment and I would love to know if you managed to hypnotise anyone with your hypnosis book.

About Jackie Baldwin

Jackie Baldwin’s debut crime novel, Dead Man’s Prayer, was published by Killer Reads, Harper Collins on 2nd September 2016. She is currently working on the second in the DI Farrell series which will be available later this year.

Married, with two grown up children, she lives with her husband and their two dogs in Dumfries, SW, Scotland. She worked as a solicitor specialising in Criminal and Family Law for twenty years before training as a hypnotherapist. 

When not working, she enjoys long muddy walks with her two dogs in surrounding forests and, weather permitting, swimming in the sea.

Twitter - @JackieMBaldwin1

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