Friday, 20 July 2018

Book Review - One Summer Weekend by Juliet Archer

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Amazon UK
Title:  One Summer Weekend
Author: Juliet Archer
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Ruby Fiction
Publication Date: 19th June 2018
Rating: 4 Stars

One summer weekend can change everything … 

Alicia Marlowe’s life as an executive coach is well under control – until she meets her new client, Jack Smith. Jack’s reputation precedes him and Alicia knows immediately that he spells trouble. Not least because he reminds her of someone else – a man who broke her heart and made her resolve never to lower her guard again.

Taking Jack on as a client is a risk, but one that Alicia decides to take for the good of her career. As long as she keeps him in his place, she might just make it through unscathed. But Jack has other ideas – including a ‘business’ trip to the Lake District. One summer weekend with him is all it takes to put Alicia’s carefully organised world in a spin …

Let me start by saying what a gorgeous cover, I love it so much and it really does give a great feel for one of the two main settings for this book..the other is far more industrial and not as picturesque as the Lake District! 

This is a rather short novella, but within it, there is a great deal of character development, and we get to delve into their pasts too, as well as get a hint of what the future may bring.  

It is clear from the start that there is some sort of chemistry between Alicia and Jack but Alicia for many reasons is determined to keep her relationship with Jack professional at most, non existent if at all possible. 

Unfortunately I wasn't too interested in either of their jobs which made the initial part of the book a bit slow but it is vital set up for their weekend away in the Lake District which is what I really wanted to read about.   I loved everything about the weekend and the descriptions of the landscape gave me a great picture in my imagination. 

I am really keen for their to be a sequel to this book as I would love to get to know these characters more.  This may have been the first book I have read by Juliet Archer but i'm sure it won't be the last. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Choc Lit for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Book Review - An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena - Blog Tour

The Amazon Purchase link below is an Amazon Affiliate link.
Amazon UK
Title: An Unwanted Guest
Author: Shari Lapena
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Publisher supplied copy
Publisher: Transworld
Publication Date: 26th July 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

I read this in one sitting, out in my garden on a hot sunny day.  I was utterly gripped but had I been reading it on a cold wintery day I after dark, I would have probably been terrified too! 

This is a well paced claustrophobic thriller, and as the body county rises, the list of potential suspects goes down, as it is incredibly hard to predict or work out who is killing everyone and why.  

But what we do know is that of all the people that visit Mitchell's Inn over this snowy and icy weekend, to a location that is in the middle of nowhere, that not everyone will be coming home alive. 

Mitchell's Inn itself is a fabulous sounding hotel, full of character and has no mobile reception of wifi, so when the first body is found, in the middle of a power outage, it is hard to know what to do or who to trust. 

What is fascinating is seeing how all the guests deal with the situation, and just what secrets come out about them all in the most unusual of circumstances.  I have no idea how I would have reacted had I been staying at the inn that weekend, apart from being incredibly scared. 

The writing is evocative, it transports you to the inn, and after initial confusion of so many characters introduced very quickly,  and once you are hooked and lulled into a false sense of security, the tension ramps up and will reach boiling point. 

An Unwanted Guest is the second book I have read by Shari Lapena, although it didn't quite amaze me in the way that The Couple Next Door did,  I still found it to be a curious look at human behaviour in an extreme situation, and an incredibly gripping read. 

Thank you to Anne Cater for organising this blog tour and organising this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

Don't forget to visit the rest of the blogs on this fabulous blog tour. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Book Review - The Cottage on Sunshine Beach by Holly Martin

The Amazon Purchase link below is an Amazon Affiliate link.

Amazon UK
Title: The Cottage on Sunshine Beach
Author: Holly Martin
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 22nd June 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

Melody Rosewood loves her new home in idyllic Sandcastle Bay. The beautiful little cottage on the edge of Sunshine Beach, with its bright yellow door and view of the sea has captured her heart. And she loves being close by to her family and best friend Tori Graham. 

Life by the sea is pretty much perfect, there’s just one thing missing…

Gorgeous Jamie Jackson, with his cheeky grin and adorable puppy, works as a sculptor opposite Melody’s jewellery shop. From the moment he and Melody meet sparks fly. But despite their instant attraction, a past heartache is holding Jamie back.

As Melody starts to make a life for herself in the close-knit, quirky seaside community, she realises Jamie could be the one for her. But as the two of them take a chance on romance, it’s one dating disaster after another. Are they destined to always be just good friends? 

Or will Melody finally find her happily-ever-after in Sandcastle Bay?

This book has some of the best scenes I have ever read in a book - such hilarity and the descriptions used were so clear that I could see them unfolding in front of my very eyes.  Keep your eyes peeled for that scene in a cave, that scene in a supermarket aisle, that scene in puppy training class to name just 3 moments of absolute fabulousness. 

But really the whole book is packed full of gems, not just hilarious ones, but actual gemstones as Melody is a jewellery maker, so often has a variety of gems about!  

This is Melody and Jamie's story, who we first met in The Holiday Cottage by the Sea and I am so pleased we were able to meet them up close and personal. You don't need to have read book 1 to be able to read this but like all of Holly Martin's book it would be a shame to miss out.  

We get to catch up with Aidan and Tori,  while still hoping that Leo and Isla get together which I have to presume will be the next book and one I'm already looking forward too... where was I, ah yes, singing the praises of The Cottage on Sunshine Beach which is another masterclass from Holly Martin in romantic comedy.  There is romance, there is sizzling chemistry, there are two main characters with creative jobs that a re a bit different,  there is fun, laughter, hidden depths to both characters, character development - and just generally a fabulous story line that will suck you in, and transport you to Sunshine Beach. 

I absolutely loved this book, the writing is fabulous, and I can't fault it other than I ran out of pages.  This is another top class book from one of my favourite authors. 

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

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Book Review - This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell - Blog Tour

The Amazon Purchase link below is an Amazon Affiliate link.
Amazon UK
Title: This Could Change Everything
Author: Jill Mansell
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Publisher supplied copy
Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: 12th July 2018
Rating: 5 Stars

On the one hand, if Essie hadn't written that letter - the one that only her best friend was meant to see - then she'd still be living like an actual proper grown-up, tucked up with Paul in his picture-perfect cottage, maybe even planning their wedding...

On the other hand (if her true feelings hadn't accidentally taken the internet by storm, that is) she wouldn't have moved into the attic flat on the square. She would never have met Conor. Or got to know Lucas...

And she wouldn't have found herself falling in love with someone she really, really shouldn't fall in love with...

Easily this is Jill Mansell at her uplifting and heartwarming book, in this tale of fate and chance.  As it is a series of chance meetings and incidents that leads to Conor, Zillah and Essie all sharing a house, and Essie meeting Lucas. 

And its thanks to Zillah's enigmatic personality that you realise what a special lady she is.  Yes I know the blurb may imply that Essie is the main character but to me Zillah is the heart and soul of this book. 

She in her 80s, and is prone to random unexpected acts of kindness to complete strangers and also organises last wishes for people with not long left to live in the local hospice.  By trying to re-create their happiest day of their lives. 

If only there were more people like her in real life, the world would be a far better place.  In the opening chapter I was instantly drawn to her, without knowing why in one of the more unlikely opening chapters I have read. 

Essie's introduction, with her best friend Scarlett is just as memorable and leads of Essie being plastered all over the media after an email she had written ended up being sent to everyone.   It lead to her life changing and at the time not for the better.  

Scarlett is a breath of fresh air, and we continually discover she has hidden depths about her, and I found myself amused by her and loving her more and more as the book progresses. 

Connor lives in Percival Square with Zillah, and it is the section where we learn what lead to him changing his life and career, which shows what a lovely gentleman he is.   

There are many storylines that keep your interest all wrapped up in Jill Mansell's wonderful ability to tell a story, to draw you in and keep you entertained.  This a book that could make you think, as so much of the story focuses on actions and their effects on others for the best or worst.   

All the characters are really believable and there are some really slow burning romances in here. All the back stories are interesting, and overall it is just a wonderful book. 

Thank you to Headline for this copy which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jill Mansell is the author of over twenty Sunday Times bestsellers including THE ONE YOU REALLY WANT, TO THE MOON AND BACK, YOU AND ME, ALWAYS and MEET ME AT BEACHCOMBER BAY. TAKE A CHANCE ON ME won the RNA's Romantic Comedy Prize, and in 2015 the RNA presented Jill with an outstanding achievement award.

Jill's personal favourite amongst her novels is THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU, which is about cystic fibrosis and organ donation; to her great delight, many people have joined the organ donor register as a direct result of reading this novel.

Jill started writing fiction while working in the NHS, after she read a magazine article that inspired her to join a local creative writing class. Her first book was published in 1991 and she is now a full-time novelist. She is one of the few who still write their books by hand, like a leftover from the dark ages. She lives in Bristol with her family.

Jill keeps in touch with her readers on Twitter - @JillMansell - and Facebook - /OfficialJillMansell. You can also visit her website

Don't forget to follow all the other blogs on this tour for more Jill Mansell greatness! 

Monday, 16 July 2018

Book Review - First To Die by Alex Caan

The Amazon Purchase link below is an Amazon Affiliate link.
Amazon UK
Title: First To Die
Author: Alex Caan
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Zaffre
Publication Date: 14th June 2018 
Rating: 4 Stars


Bonfire Night and St James's Park is filled with thousands of Anonymous protesters in a stand-off with the police. When a cloaked, Guido Fawkes mask-wearing body is discovered the following morning, Kate Riley and Zain Harris from the Police Crime Commissioner's office are called in.

The corpse has been eaten away by a potentially lethal and highly contagious virus. The autopsy reveals the victim was a senior civil servant, whose work in international development involved saving lives. Why would anyone want him dead? 


As the research team looking into the origins of the deadly virus scramble to discover an antidote, first one, then another pharmacist goes missing. Meanwhile, a dark truth starts to emerge about the murder victim: he was an aggressive man, whose bullying behaviour resulted in the suicide attempt of one of his former staff members.


With thirty lives potentially at stake, Kate and Zain have their work cut out for them. Can they find the two missing pharmacists in time, or will they too end up dead?

That was one intense book, I feel as though I have learned about far too about the incredibly scary world of biochemistry, and just what horrors could await the world if this was to become a reality.  My head feels fried from the amount of information i have taken in, and its already been giving me bad dreams. 

Yet I didn't find I was particularly hooked on this thriller,  nor did I have any ideas where the investigation would take us. 

I was though surprised when I referred back to the blurb after I had read a significant amount of the book and things still hadn't really occurred that were mentioned in it.  I thought I was going to be reading a fast paced thriller with a real race against time, but instead it seemed like the majority of the first half of the book was focused on one specific dead body, and that when it started to get more serious and the investigation proceeded, I found myself a bit confused. 

This may be because I am realising that I am just not keen on thrillers that involve drugs, drug trials, pharmaceutical companies and all that related industry. 

That being said I could easily see that the book was getting under my skin, and I was mildly curious as to how everything would be resolved.  The writing is very good, and it was my personal preferences clouding my enjoyment of the book. 

This was the second book featuring this police team, and although I read the first book a few years ago, I found I was struggling to remember things even with the reminder tidbits, so I would say these are best read one after the other, and Cut to the Bone is by far the better story to my eyes. 

I would though be curious to read more from the author in the future, as I suspect it was the crime that I wasn't engaging with properly, rather than anything else.  If you like slow building thrillers with a lot of explanations then this could be the book for you. 

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

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.

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