Tuesday 31 January 2017

Blog Tour Post - A Lonesome Panda by Ruth Hogan - The Keeper of Lost Things

The Keeper of Lost Things

Amazon UK

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.
Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.
But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters...

With an unforgettable cast of characters that includes young girls with special powers, handsome gardeners, irritable ghosts and an array of irresistible four-legged friends, The Keeper of Lost Things is a debut novel of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that will leave you bereft once you've finished reading.

Today Ruth Hogan is sharing with us one of her beloved curiosities.. A Lonesome Panda. 

Since starting my novel I have become the proud owner of a large collection of single gloves. It has convinced of the need to resurrect that simple but effect device used by most mothers of school children when I was at school – gloves attached to either end of a long piece of wool threaded down each sleeve of your coat. I never lost a single glove!  This little panda has such a cheerful face and I found her on yet another dog walk next to some iron railings.

“The Keeper of Lost Things is out now, priced £16.99, published by Two Roads books”

Book Review - A Little Luck, A Lot of Fate by Linn B Halton - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title:  A Little Luck,  A Lot of Fate
Author: Linn B Halton
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Choc Lit
Publication Date: 23rd October 2016
Rating: 3.5 Stars

When destiny calls, you need to pick up …
On the surface, Kristi Danielson has it all. She’s lifestyle coach to the rich and famous, has a bestselling book to her name and is described by her fans as “the veritable Queen of how to lead a fulfilling life”.

But the harsh truth is that Kristi has never practiced what she preaches. Her home life is a mess, her relationship with artist boyfriend, Tom, not much better – and now she has to redeem herself before all is lost.
At her wit’s end, Kristi is driven to seek out the help of Patrick Blakeslee, a tarot card reader and psychic medium, in an attempt to make sense of the mounting panic she’s feeling.

But Patrick’s visits have an unexpected effect on Kristi, leaving her with more questions than answers – and a life-changing decision to make.

A lovely romance that challenged my thoughts on tarot cards, mediums, spirits and self-help guides. By challenged I mean, i had to put a lot of my own scepticism aside in order to try and enjoy this book fully, as they are just subjects I'm not convinced about. 

In between the subject matter that I don't always believe in, there is a good story, written from three points of view, and it was always clear which character you were with, as their name appears on a separate page turn, before the next chapter heading, so there should be no excuse for confusion. 

There is Kristi who is a famous lifestyle coach, who is on the verge of a breakdown and is scared that the public will discover the truth about her own not so perfect life, so is taking a sabbatical to try and solve that problem, while writing a new book. 

Tom is Kristi's best friend and back up plan, he lives in a cabin in Forest Dean, and is a tortured artist. He and Kristi have known each other since childhood, and they are in a sort of relationship. 

Then there is Patrick, who is a tarot card reader, and psychic medium and seems to be drawn into Kristi's life by a higher power. Due to my own beliefs I was not convinced by a lot of what Patrick had to say about the spirit world, but understand that many people love this sort of thing, and will enjoy everything about Patrick.  A lot of his talk about the spirit world seemed accurate based on my vaguest understanding of it, I'm just not a believer!

This is a story of self discovery, not just for Kristi but also for the two gentlemen in her life, they are all going through big changes, and its interesting to see how the characters develop over the course of the book.  I also loved Kristi's fledgling friendship with her cleaner Eve. Eve has a lot of her own troubles, but seemed to have a heart of gold, and I really enjoyed reading her interactions with Kristi. 

I found A Little Luck, A Lot of Fate to be an enjoyable story, one that in places really held my interest, and the main times my enjoyment dropped were nothing to do with the book, but to do with me. The romance elements were done really well, and I also loved the journey that Kristi went on. 

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

Below is an excerpt from A Little Luck, A Lot of Fate:

I’m the middle child, sandwiched between my eldest brother, Luke, and the baby of the family, Drew. My mother had three brothers and so, as the only two daughters in two generations, we were always in the minority. That rather tends to shape the way you look at things and there are only two ways it can go. Either you are the one whose voice is seldom heard above the sea of testosterone around you, or you make yours the loudest voice of them all. You become the organiser; the one who leads – in short, my brothers accepted that I was in charge. Maybe it was because I had inherited the bossy gene, if such a thing exists. But, from a tender age, what I lacked in practical knowledge, I made up for with sheer common sense and the dubious ability to be believable.

I say dubious, because I learnt that I had the power to organise and control what went on around me. I was a natural. What surprised me was the fact that people around me loved being told what to do. They sought my advice, opening up to me and looking for guidance at every step of the way. As a teenager I felt I had a heady power and it gave me a sense of confidence. At the time I didn’t understand that it was something to be treated with respect and a healthy dose of reality. People simply lapped-up what I told them and that, I suppose, was the blessing that has become a curse. When people are unsure about what to do next they look around for someone strong to advise them. In their desperation they are grateful and comforted and the person delivering the advice? Well, it’s addictive and each little success elevates you in their eyes, as well as in your own.

The truth is that I am supremely confident when it comes to organising other people’s lives. I’m extremely proud of the fact that I can inspire others and encourage them to develop their full potential. When it comes to my own life, it’s held together with the emotional equivalent of string and Blu-tack. Simply put, I’m a fraud.

Money and fame go hand-in-hand and there isn’t a chat show worth mentioning that hasn’t featured me at some point in the last few years. My name constantly crops up around the world and even in countries like the US, Japan, and Sweden, it’s instantly recognisable. Grab Life and Run With It is in its fourth season in the UK and I’ve just signed a contract for a further six episodes. My fan club is full of hopeful people, eager to share each of their milestones on Twitter, as they follow my celebrated Twelve Steps to Finding YOU plan.

To the world it appears I have all of the trappings of success. The harsh reality is that I spend my time trying to cover the tracks of a life that has no balance. All I have is my work – there is nothing else.

About Linn B Halton

Bristol-born Linn B Halton lives on the edge of the small market town of Cinderford, in the Forest of Dean, in the UK. 

"I'm a hopeless romantic, self-confessed chocaholic, and lover of strong coffee. For me, life is about family, friends, writing ... and house renovation! Oh, and the occasional glass of White Grenache..."

An Amazon UK Top 100 best-selling author with A Cottage in the Country in November 2015, Under The Stars also became a best-seller in November 2016. Linn's novels have been short-listed in the UK's Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

Linn writes chick lit, women's contemporary fiction and psychic romance for Choc Lit, Harper Impulse and Endeavour Press.

Goodreads Author Page: http://ow.ly/pv6N306918g


Three signed copies of A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love paperbacks.

Monday 30 January 2017

Book Review - The Other Sister by Rowan Coleman - Rachel Reads Randomly Book #50

Amazon UK
Title:  The Other Sister
Author: Rowan Coleman
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: 17th November 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

Every family has its secrets...
Willow and Holly are identical twins, as close as two sisters can be. But while Holly has gone through life being the ‘good twin’, Willow has always been the less than perfect one. Holly is happily married, Willow is divorced and almost twice her twin’s size. And while she puts on a brave face to the world, Willow knows she’s been hiding her unhappiness for far too long.
So when the past catches up with her, Willow realises it’s finally time for her to face her fears, and – with her sister’s help – finally deal with the secrets of their childhood before it’s too late.

The Other Sister has hidden depths to it, which completely took me by surprise. I could tell the story was leading up to something, and there had to be a reason why Willow and Holly, identical twins, seemed to be so different, but I just wasn't expecting what was revealed. 

Willow on the whole doesn't tend to like people, she likes her sister and her best friend, but generally doesn't want to spend her days with anyone else. She lives alone, and has a job in a talent agency and has an ex husband plus ex-stepdaughter. 

Over the course of just a few days Willow ends up sharing her house with a famous actress that is a client of the agency, needing a bolthole to lay low, and her ex-step daughter is suddenly back in her life too. What is seemingly the trigger of this is one day when Willow was heading back to the office, she accidently took a wrong turn, and found a shop that had the most magnificent pair of shoes in stock. 

Whether you believe it or not, these shoes, plus some of the other things in this shop appear to have magical qualities, or at the very least life altering consequences, and from that moment Willow is suddenly more open to people than she has been for years, more attractive to men than she has been for a long time, and generally is liking her own reflection a lot more. 

I loved the scenes involving Willow, India the actress and Chloe (the stepdaughter), and there are some great moments between the three of them. The trip to Hamleys brought a huge smile to my face as well as reminders of my own childhood. 

As I have said there is far more to this story than I want to say, mainly as its far more fun to discover everything for yourself. What I will say is from the start I was interested in Willow's story, and as more threads and characters were introduced, I felt more and more involved and just wanted to help Willow change to become a more rounded person. 

I've read quite a few of Rowan Coleman's books now, and I really enjoyed this one, it may not become a new favourite, but its still a lovely piece of writing, with warm hearted humour, as well as some far more serious subject matter too. 

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

Thank you to everyone that voted for The Other Sister this week. You managed to pick the one review book that was in the selection, which is rather helpful, as it fell into my backlog of review books, especially as it was released while I was deep into Christmas reading season! I'm very glad that I've finally read it and look forward to seeing what paperback I will be reading courtesy of this weeks vote. 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #51

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

0 Votes - What My Best Friend Did by Lucy Dawson
1 Votes -   Undertow by Elizabeth Heathcote 
1 Votes - Gigi's Island Dream by Rosie Dean
4 Votes -  The Cornish Guest House by Emma Burstall
10 Votes -  The Other Sister by Rowan Coleman

Definitely a runaway winner last week with The Other Sister by Rowan Coleman which I really enjoyed. Was a bit surprised at the lack of votes for the two psychological thrillers, as I honestly thought they would be a lot more popular. 

For those of you that read my Welcome to 2017 post, I have basically decided I need to actively make an effort to read more of my unread paperbacks this year, and to that extent every other week on this, we will be randomising from my paperbacks, as you may get me to read those I've forgotten I even own! 

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...

I am using my power of veto on 47 - The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick purely because it seems a bit to soon to be reviewing an end of March release.

So the 5 choices with my gut feeling responses are:

3 - Sworn Secret by Amanda Jennings - Never read anything by this author, but keep hearing good things about her, and feel I should give this a try at some point. 
12 - His Sicilian Cinderella by Carol Marinelli - Second paperback only vote in a row this one has appeared for...maybe fate is telling me something
31 - Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber - Love this author, can't believe the fates may have me reading a Christmas book only a month after December. My fault for not fitting it in over the Christmas period
42 - Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs - Based on the title I'm fairly sure this is a crime/thriller book which I won in a competition somewhere. Unfortunately I can't recall anything else about it, other than its survived a couple of recent paperback culls, so must be something I'd like to read
78 - One Kiss in Paris by Various -  This is 3 books in one, a Mills & Boon compilation. 

Have fun! I have absolutely no real inkling what way this selection will go, there is definitely a bit of variety in there. I look forward to and encourage comments on this, as I don't know that much about quite a few of the books. And don't forget if in doubt I'm trying to read books set in the various UK Counties this year, in addition to paperbacks. Two birds with one stone would always be a pleasing result! 

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.

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 random.org 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 29 January 2017

Book Review & Giveaway - How to Get a (Love) Life by Rosie Blake - #AroundTheUKIn144Books #Bristol - 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!

How to Get a (Love) Life was Rosie Blake's debut novel and is now coming out in paperback on the 2nd February. 

Amazon UK
Title:  How to Get a (Love) Life
Author: Rosie Blake
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Corvus
Publication Date: 2nd February 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

Nicola Brown doesn't like to lose control. Her flat is always meticulously tidy and her weekly meals carefully planned; Nicola keeps her life in order. When her carefree colleague Caroline challenges Nicola to find a date for Valentine's Day, it's a surprise to them both when Nicola agrees.

As Nicola's search for a man begins, she is thrown in at the deep end - sometimes quite literally - of the dating scene. From men more likely to sell their mother than open their wallet, to those who are determined to find a girlfriend who shares their passion for extreme sports, Nicola has to run the full gamut of dodgy dates. But as the deadline looms closer, Nicola realises it isn't so bad to lose control. It turns out that trying to get a love life can be rather a lot of fun...

How to Get a (Love) Life is a highly amusing story about one girl and her attempts at dating. Nicola is at the start of the story an incredibly regimented person, she is slightly OCD, has a habit of eating the same food the same day each week, and even waits until a certain time of her lunch break to eat a sweet treat. Her life seems to be in  a bit of a rut, but she isn't completely sure she needs to change. 

Her colleague Caroline dares Nicola to have a date by Valentines Day which is four months away. Nicola agrees which is rather surprising and from that her life slowly changes.  There are some absolutely hilarious dates which Nicola is set up on, my favourite of which involved Kayaking in the sea, in November! 

While Nicola is trying to see if she can find anyone she would even like a second date with, her brother keeps coming round too, and has his own romance problems. Her brother is absolutely bat mad, and seems to be fairly socially inept. He has his own specific way of looking at things, and even comes up with a plan to win the girl he loves, including graphic stick figure drawings!

I loved seeing the lengths Nicola was willing to go to, just to try and win a dare. You get the first hint as to her whole mindset in the prologue, while the majority of the book is leading up to that point in time. Amongst the ways she tries to meet men is going to a driving range, and taking up a carpentry class. Add in a whole bunch of unreliable and dodgy men, and you have the general idea of her current attempts at dating! 

I found as the book went on, I was liking Nicola more and more, as her personality opened up a bit, and her brother grew on me too. I also was loving both Caroline and James who she works with, and in fact the whole entire nutty office environment she was working in. 

This was Rosie Blake's debut novel but yet its the third book of hers that I have read, and with that point of view, I can say that her writing, and storytelling gets better with each release. How to Get a (Love) Life is a very pleasurable debut, and is a book I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Giveaway to win 1 x How to Get A (Love) Life (Paperback) (Europe only) 

I happen to have a spare copy of the new paperback release of this book, for one lucky winner. 

Giveaway is open to Europe only (but don't worry there will be more INT giveaways in the future) , all options are voluntary, but please do what they ask, as I will be verifying the winner. Giveaway closes 23:59 6/2/2017. 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 1 x How to Get A (Love) Life (Paperback) (Europe only)

Fab Firsts - Q&A With Sharon Booth

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!

Thank you, Rachel, for having me on your blog. I write contemporary romance with a good sprinkling of humour—"fun-filled fiction with heart". I live in East Yorkshire with my husband and our German Shepherd dog, Tessa. I'm one tenth of blogging group, The Write Romantics, and a full member of the Romantic Novelists' Association. I've published five books and I've also written for The People's Friend. My PF pocket novel is due to be published in large print by Ulverscroft in April. I'm currently working on my sixth novel. I love books, chocolate, and I'm shamefully prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. 

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

My first book is called There Must Be an Angel. It's the first book in a series, set in the fictional village of Kearton Bay, which was inspired by the beautiful Robin Hood's Bay near Whitby. Here's 
the blurb:

When Eliza Jarvis discovers her property show presenter husband, Harry, has been expanding his portfolio with tabloid darling Melody Bird, her perfect life crumbles around her ears.

Before you can say Pensioner Barbie, she’s in a stolen car, heading to the North Yorkshire coastal village of Kearton Bay in search of the father she never knew, with only her three-year-old daughter and a family-sized bag of Maltesers for company.

Ignoring the pleas of her uncle, chat show presenter Joe Hollingsworth, Eliza determines to find the man who abandoned her mother and discover the reason he left them to their fate. All she has to go on is his name – Raphael – but in such a small place there can’t be more than one angel, can there?
Gabriel Bailey may have the name of an angel but he’s not feeling very blessed. In fact, the way his life’s been going he doesn’t see how things can get much worse. Then Eliza arrives with her flash car and designer clothes, reminding him of things he’d rather forget, and he realises that if he’s to have any kind of peace she’s one person he must avoid at all costs.

But with the help of beautiful Wiccan landlady, Rhiannon, and quirky pink-haired café owner, Rose, Eliza is soon on the trail of her missing angel, and her investigations lead her straight into Gabriel’s path. As her search takes her deeper into the heart of his family, Eliza begins to realise that she’s in danger of hurting those she cares about deeply. Is her quest worth it?

And is the angel she’s seeking really the one she’s meant to find?

It's a story of love, friendship, and new beginnings, of home and belonging, and finding out who you really are. Oh, and there are donkeys. And marshmallows!

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

I always wanted to write, and really looked forward to English lessons at school. I was the annoying kid in the class, who actually wanted to write stories, poems and plays. In fact, I occasionally wrote my classmates' stories, too, if they couldn't be bothered. I more-or-less stopped writing anything when I had children, except shopping and to-do lists, sometimes managing a "Chapter One" but rarely getting beyond that point, before throwing the thing in the bin and giving up. One day some characters popped into my head and just wouldn't budge. I had to tell their story, and I used NaNoWriMo as an incentive to make sure I finally finished my first novel. 

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

Well, the first draft took thirty days. Throughout November 2011 I wrote solidly, and finished NaNoWriMo with a manuscript of a hundred and twenty thousand words. Done, I thought triumphantly. Ha, how naïve I was! Little did I realise that the work was just beginning. I can't tell you how many changes I made to that first draft. I lost count. In all, I was editing and re-writing for well over two-and-a-half years.

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

I don't think I'd change anything about how I went about writing it. It was incredibly frustrating at the time, and I can remember almost giving up on several occasions. It actually reduced me to tears! But, at the same time, I learnt so much from the process of pulling the thing together. I took advice from a creative writing tutor, and I submitted a draft to the Romantic Novelists' Association as part of its New Writers' Scheme, receiving a very encouraging and useful report, which helped me to understand where I was going wrong, and what I could do to improve the book. I also asked three other writers to read through it and give me their honest opinions, which they did. Their advice was invaluable, and it was wonderful to have people to discuss it with. All that writing, rewriting, chopping, changing and refining was a fantastic experience, and I'm glad it took me that long to feel happy with it. I read There Must Be an Angel a year ago, to get me back in the "Kearton Bay vibe" as I was about to start writing the third book in the series, and I will admit there were a few things I would change. I think it's inevitable that, as you get more experience, you see how you would improve your previous work. However, I wouldn't change the storyline, or the characters. I actually enjoyed reading it, so that must say something!   

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

Angel was self-published. I always wanted to self-publish, and intended that the whole time I was writing it. I was encouraged to seek a publisher, and did submit to half a dozen small publishing companies. Angel was being considered by one when I had an offer from a fellow writer, who was setting up an author co-operative, whereby several writers would publish under one imprint and we would pool resources, advice, and help each other with publicity etc, but keep our own profits. It seemed the ideal solution to me, so that's what happened. The situation with Fabrian Books has evolved since then, and continues to do so. We're now going in a different direction, so that will be interesting. I've also had a pocket novel published by People's Friend, and that's due to be published in large print by Ulverscroft in April, so it's been a nice balance.    

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

Write! Just keep writing, even when you want to give up. Get support and take as much advice as you can get from people who know. If you write romance, join the RNA's New Writers' Scheme. The joining fee is worth it for the critique alone. Writing is lonely, so make friends online with other writers. There's a massive writing community on Facebook and Twitter, and it's very welcoming. Read how-to books. Don't be in a rush to get published. Most of all, though, just keep going. If you really want to write, you will.  

Tell us about your first…

7) Book you bought

I can't remember the first book I bought, though it was probably a pony book from WH Smith. I can remember the first book I was ever given, though. It was Noddy by Enid Blyton, and I still remember the wonder I felt when I unwrapped the present and held that book in my hands.

8) Memory

Looking out of the dining room window into the garden and feeling sad. It was my third birthday. I can't remember why I was feeling sad. I just remember that feeling, and watching the rain pouring down.

9) Person you fell in love with

Probably Jimmy Osmond when I was nine years old!

10) Holiday you went on

Primrose Valley on the North Yorkshire coast. A whole crowd of us went—Mum, Dad, me, my sister, possibly my brother (though I'm not sure if he was born then), Nanna, Grandad, auntie, great-aunties and great-uncles, and half-cousins. We stayed in caravans or bungalows, and we'd walk along the beach to Filey each night for fish and chips, and my Nanna and great-aunt took me and my sister winkle picking on Filey Brigg. Dad got sick eating too many winkles! Happy days. 

11) Prize you won

A diary from WeightWatchers in a raffle, unless you count merit badges and certificates that I got from primary school for being good. I was a very well-behaved child!

12) Album you purchased

The first albums I bought with my own money were for other people. The first one I remember buying was a Vera Lynn Christmas album for my mother, who pretended to be thrilled. I was persuaded by the shop assistant that it was the ideal Christmas present for her. Hmm. I think I was conned. My mum was only in her very early thirties at the time! The first album I remember having bought for me by my parents was Donny Osmond's Too Young. I can't remember the first album I bought for myself, but I suspect it was probably by Abba.

13) Sport you enjoyed participating in

You must be joking! Unless Cluedo counts as a sport. I did love watching show-jumping, though, and used to follow all the famous nineteen-seventies show-jumpers. Dad used to take me to the annual local show, where the likes of Harvey Smith would be competing. It was amazing. Anything horsy was thrilling. Netball and hockey meant nothing to me.

14) Embarrassing moment you can remember

Being told off in front of the whole class for going to get a toy from the cupboard in the classroom, and playing with it while the teacher was telling us a story. "This is story time, Sharon, not toy time," she said crossly, taking it from my hands. It must have been a very dreary story, because usually I preferred story time to anything!

15) Pet

A Yorkshire terrier called Sooty. She was my best friend. Really. I remember all that teenage angst, and crying into her fur while I poured out all my troubles. She never tried to move away. She always listened. She died when I was fifteen and I was devastated. I still miss her.

16) Time you were in trouble

I can't actually remember, though knowing me, it was probably because I was late.

17) Choice of alternative career if you weren’t an author

I work for the NHS, but that wouldn't be my first choice. If I had my time over again, I would start writing seriously much earlier, but I'd also like to do something similar to my friend's work. She teaches creative writing to people with depression and anxiety, and other mental health issues. The writing really helps them, and I'd love to have done something like that.

18) Time you had any independence

Well, I left home at just sixteen, so I was pretty independent very early on. I remember, though, being allowed to go on the bus to my Nanna and Grandad's house all by myself. It was a thirty-minute bus ride, so I felt quite accomplished about that. Also, I remember being told that I was old enough to walk to school and back on my own for the first time. I was about five. That was quite scary. I wasn't sure if I could remember the way, but the sense of achievement when I did was exhilarating.

19) Toy that you recall loving

A navy-blue Silver Cross twin pram, complete with two Tiny Tears dolls, dressed in red velvet coats and white tights. A Christmas present from my Nanna and Grandad.

20) Time you felt like an adult

I'm still waiting for that to happen.

21) Time you realised you were good at something

When I got double A for English on my school report. I usually only managed Bs or Cs for most subjects, so that was a real thrill, and the comments made me start to think maybe there was something I could actually do at last.

22) Dish you cooked

I'm not sure, but I do remember the first Christmas dinner I cooked. I still remember the pink turkey legs. It's a wonder we survived.

23) Time you were really scared

I was bullied at school by a girl in another class, when I was about eight. I didn't even know her, so I don't know why she decided to pick on me. She pushed me into a huge puddle after school, and I was dripping in mud and slime. My school project was completely ruined. My mum went into school the next day to see the headmaster, taking my mud-soaked clothes with her. I think I was more scared about her turning up and making a fuss than I was about being bullied!

Thank you so much for that comprehensive interview, Sharon.  I laughed at the album you bought your mum, I think you definitely were conned, and such a shame your earliest memory is being sad on your birthday.

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Saturday 28 January 2017

Book Review - Somebody Else's Boy by Jo Bartlett - Back Catalogue Books - #AroundTheUKIn144Books #Kent

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, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it!

This week I am reviewing Somebody Else's Boy, which is the first of the St. Nicholas Bay series, and book two is already available. 
Amazon UK
Title: Somebody Else's Boy
Author: Jo Bartlett
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Accent Press
Publication Date: 25th August 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

Will Nancy and Jack be allowed to embrace the future, or will their histories forever bind them to the past?

Drama teacher Nancy O’Brien puts her ambitions on hold to support her family, and returns to her idyllic seaside home town, St Nicholas Bay. Jack has his own reasons for heading to the Bay; a young widower desperate to come to terms with his loss, he hopes setting up home there with baby son, Toby, might just enable him to survive the future.

As Nancy and Jack become closer, not everyone is thrilled, in particular Toby’s grandmother, who can’t bear to see her late daughter ‘replaced’. When Fraser– the only man Nancy’s ever really loved – reappears, her living arrangements with Jack seem set for disaster.

Logically the best place to start to talk about this book is with St. Nicholas Bay, which turns out is a fictional town in Kent. I say that because I was so convinced the town had to be real from the detailed descriptions of it, and its history, that I went onto google to find out more about it, especially since the town has connections with Dickens, but then discovered that apart from a hotel in Greece sharing the name, it really is a fictional setting. 

And what a setting it is, as has a real small, community minded,  town feel to it, which is especially evidenced by the new theatre group , and their first production, the Cinderella pantomime that has been changed slightly to fit in with the towns connections to Charles Dickens. 

The theatre group has been started by best friends Nancy and Olivia, although after a very specific and hilarious incident, they aren't really best friends any more. In fact in a short space of time, Nancy has lost her best friend, and her fiancee, and needs to find somewhere else to live. 

Jack who edits the panto, is a single father to 9 month old Toby, who tragically has found himself widowed and has moved to St. Nicholas Bay, as a change of scenery. He comes to the rescue and offers Nancy a place to live, so long as she is ok to do some babysitting, while Jack is at work at his new job, teaching creative writing, at the same place Nancy works. 

There are some tough topics dealt with in a very realistic way, which include grief and moving on, and alzheimer's, as well as domestic abuse, but not in as much depth.  With each new topic introduced into the story, I found myself enjoying it more and more, despite the not overly joyous nature of the conditions, because the writing was endearing me so much to the characters, they just gained new depths and felt more real with these obstacles to overcome. 

Yet with the seriousness of some of the book, there was also many humorous moments which kept the book on its toes, and pace moving along steadily.  

I loved Jack and Toby and would love to see more of them both. Toby is the most adorable baby, generally quite well behaved, and is very happy playing, or giving people he likes, big grins. Jack is of course grieving for Alice, has his mother-in-law's grief to handle too, and yet also feels guilty at how this life starts to turn out, especially with Nancy living with him, which in a purely platonic sense alleviates some loneliness. 

Somebody Else's Boy is an uplifting story, written in a style I enjoyed reading, and is a good mix of fun and more serious moments. 

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

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