Monday 31 July 2017

Rachel's Greek Island Cruise Holiday Reading

Well I'm back from a wonderful holiday, although I still have a house move to contemplate this week. Before it becomes too hectic, lets talk about my holiday and then I'll share with you the books that I read and some quick thoughts on them.

I had an amazing time on my cruise, the Norwegian Spirit is a lovely old ship, and having sailed on it last year I knew pretty much to expect. Completely different staff and very different passengers and itinerary made if feel like the brand new holiday it was.

Some of my highlights include taking part in a Wine and Chocolate pairing session, having Petros the Pelican walk past me in Mykonos as he is the Island's icon, seeing the iconic views over Santorini, taking a hop on, hop off bus tour of Rhodes, a horse and cart ride in Chania, Crete had me grinning like a mad woman, as did the Fridge Magnet Shop I found in the city. Then there was the beautiful sail in to Valetta, Malta that looks magnificent, and to top if all off my last day of the holiday proper I tool a trip down the Amalfi Coast. It was exhausting but the views will always stick with me and I now have a keen desire to return to all the towns visited.

You may think with a schedule that was as hectic as all that I wouldn't have a chance to read, well I did find some time.

Over 10 days I have managed to read 13 books which I was impressed by, as didn't think I would get that many in!

Amazon UK
Singles at Sea by Elaine Spires - 5 Stars

What a perfect book to start my cruise holiday reading off with, given its a story that takes in a singles holiday on a Norwegian Fjords cruise. As the fourth book in the series it was great to catch up with some of the recurring characters, as well as meet a whole new cast of holiday makers. This book could easily be read as a standalone, and it shows just how much mayhem can be fitted into a group holiday. It has made me even more convinced that I need to cruise the Fjords for myself as they sound brilliant.  There were some guests that I enjoyed the stories of more than others, but overall just loved this book completely and really want more from this fab series. 

Amazon UK
The Life You Left by Carmel Harrington - 5 Stars

This is a beautifully written story which I found completely believable. And this is despite the inclusion of a character who appears to have psychic abilities as that way the story was told, it just seemed normal, as did the character of Edward who really is rather special too.  I was almost in tears poolside as the book drew its conclusions and I was bereft at that it had to finish at all. An absolutely brilliant book by such an amazingly talented author. 

Amazon UK
The Cornish Guest House by Emma Burstall - 4.5 Stars

The only slight issue I had with this book was that I could predict roughly where the story was going. However despite that I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, and there are some fantastic characters. Tabitha is a hard character to gel with however as I got to read her back story I found myself really impressed with not only her, but the depth in the book. I found The Cornish Guest House to be oddly compulsive to read and although I remembered bits from the first book, it can easily be read as a standalone too. Really looking forward to starting book 3. 

Amazon UK
The Truth About You by Melissa Hill - 5 Stars

Thanks to the brilliant prologue I spent the entire book trying to second guess what would happen, and trying to work out just how it fitted into the stories being told. My mind must have come through many different possibilities while I was reading the story. There are 3 fantastic storylines in this book, with three women who all have one major thing in common. The mystery in the book also kept my attention, and I was thoroughly engrossed in reading this. 

Amazon UK
The Year of Saying Yes by Hannah Doyle - 5 Stars

This is laugh out loud level of funny. I found it to be a great journey of self discovery as Izzy has to say yes to one dare a month to try to improve her life. I loved the variety of the dares and what they tried to achieve, and really enjoyed watching how Izzy grew during the story. This is just a an all around fun book to read. 

Amazon UK
Killing Kate by Alex Lake - 5 Stars

Killing Kate kept me guessing right up to the end. It is an addictive read  that as it continued the tension was continually ramped up until we reach a simply stunning climax.  There is one incredibly creepy killer on the loose in this book, and as various things are finally revealed you realise just what a sick, calculating and twisted mind the author must have to come up with such a character! I completely lost track of time while I was reading this and I am looking forward to reading other books by the author. 

Amazon UK
Summer in Santorini by Holly Greene - 4.5 Stars

I read this while I was in Santorini for the day, and I could see just how accurate the descriptions of the island were. I loved all the Greek Food descriptions and found this to be a really sweet romantic novella. 

Amazon UK
Autumn in Crete by Holly Greene - 4 Stars

I read this the day before I was due in Crete and it really put in the right frame of mind for the island. It is a really easy and quick novella to read, with a sweet story that I did enjoy. 

Amazon UK
Hungry for Love by Lucy Beresford - 3 Stars

It took me a while to get used to Lucy Beresford's writing style and in fact work out who the characters were and what was really going on. About half way through it all clicked at which point I started to enjoy the book a bit more. There are plenty of mentions of food, in every chapter but I didn't feel hungry reading about it, as I think the descriptions were a bit lacking.  Although there were elements I did like, overall this book wasn't really for me,but I'm sure many others would enjoy it. 

Amazon UK
More than She Bargained For: The Prince's Waitress Wife / Powerful Greek, Unworldly Wife by Sarah Morgan - 5 Stars

There are two books in this compilations and although they both have a couple of elements in common, they are completely different stories. In the first book, there are hot and steamy sex scenes, and a relationship I was really rooting for. In the second book there was a mans' determination to keep his wife and some secrets were revealed. It was more about trust than the sex but still a fabulous read. This is what poolside holiday reading should be about, pure escapism! 

Amazon UK
The Lie of You by Jane Lythell - 4.5 Stars

Impressive debut novel from an author that I have started to really enjoy in her newer books. I loved seeing the two different view points Kathy and Heja. Kathy seemingly has a perfect life, yet Heja seems to have a massive grudge. Heja is a very intense character, and felt slightly creepy with it. Due to seeing both view points I knew what was going on at all times, but some of the explanations were very interesting and there is some great explanation for why Heja acts as she does. The tension really ramps up in this book, and its a story that grew on me continually as I was reading it. 

Amazon UK
Flings and Arrows by Debbie Viggiano - 4 Stars

I feel like Flings and Arrows would make a fantastic play, I could see it clearly on stage, as its so farcical in its nature that it would leave audiences rolling in the aisles. It is quite fun, but at times its hard to keep track of who thinks what about who, and just who is or isn't sleeping with who! For this is a classic book of misunderstandings, flirting, minor areas of police interest, through three generations of characters.  There is something in it for everyone and I found it a really fun book. 

Amazon UK
A Beginner's Guide to Salad by Jennifer Joyce - 4 Stars

Although at times I wanted to slap Ruth for some of the diets she was attempting and her motivation for trying to lose weight, I did really like Ruth as a character and enjoyed her housemates and also how she deals with her boss at work. She has a great support network and I loved Jared from the moment we meet him. The book is written from the focus of multiple characters and I think that works really well. There is just something about Ruth that you can't help loving, she had a horrible time of it at school but is still determined to go to her school reunion, which shows a lot of guts and leads to all sorts of questionable decisions.  I really enjoyed A Beginner's Guide to Salad, and I don't think I've ever written enjoy and salad in the same sentence before! 

So there it is all 13 books that I read over the past 10 days. Have you read any of them? Are you going anywhere on holiday this summer? What sorts of books do you like reading on your summer holidays? I would love to hear from you. 

Guest Post - Trolls and Fairytales by Nicolas Starling - Blog Tour

The origin of Trolls differs from place to place .Scandinavian trolls are bigger than humans evil ugly will eat anything have a taste for human flesh and generally not very nice. Icelandic trolls must be real because the people of Iceland build them shelters and will tell you they exist. They will never say they don’t. Norwegian trolls originate from the Viking era they were on Viking runes and called HULDRAFOLK which when translated means hidden folk. Troll evolved from the Viking word Troller which meant magic to harm others. There are trolls that look like humans with a tail and generally run around naked except when near humans when they hide their tails under clothes .

The female of this type of troll is known to sing sing to the human which puts him in a trance and she keeps him as a mate or a pet .When she wants a new one she wakes him up and he doesn't remember anything. There are trolls that are ugly (to humans) and stupid they are the trolls best known to humans I think. They are malignant to humans they appear in countless tales of Norse mythology. Trolls are all descended from the Scandinavian troll called a jotnar .In time trolls had had enough of waiting for their battle against the Greek gods for judgment day a battle of good against evil and the trolls were still evil but liked to play evil pranks on Christians and their churches they would throw large rocks and boulders at the churches to try to knock them down and if they took too long and got caught in the sun they turned to stone. So if you go to Norway and see boulders around a church you know where they have come from. 

Trolls tend to live on mountains in Forrester or caves even under bridges. They don't like or trust humans because humans are nomadic and will trick or steal a troll’s gold or his magic if he can. A lot of modern day trolls have changed from evil to naughty stupid creatures but as long as they look like trolls they still give the same impression. They have appeared in Lord of the rings .Harry potter to name but a few .You never know they might not be mythical. ASK IN ICELAND.

           Most of us think fairies are tiny creatures that fly about with a magic wand. History and folklore say people didn't like to call them fairies and called them little people or hidden people. Some people think they are spirits of the dead which were not bad enough for help but not good enough for heaven. There are hundreds of different types of fairies. Some fly some tiny some ugly. But they can all appear and disappear when they want or need to. The oldest recorded fairy was in the thirteenth century so they have been around for a long time like the trolls. The fairies called Brownies or Hobgoblins are really very ugly but very nice and do housework and odd jobs for you but Banshees are evil and sinister and only appear to tell of a tragedy that is about to happen. Goblins and Bug o boos are really evil and people should keep away at all costs. Most of nature's fairies are thought to be descendants of pre Christian gods and hostesses of spirits of the trees and rivers. 

Black Ann  a blue faced hag haunts Dane hills in Leicestershire and gentle Annie are thought to be descended from Danu mother of Irish cave fairies. Jack o lantern is thought to light flames in marsh gases and tempt travellers to go into the bogs and drown. Some people still believe they are real and why not?

Thank you Nicolas for explaining about all the types of trolls. I just thought they were those toys with the fun hair from the 80s and 90s! 

Thomas Troll's Travels 

Thomas the Troll comes from Norway. Like most Trolls he is mischievous, naughty and full of adventure.
One day, he has to leave Norway because the troll elders are going to punish him for being so cheeky.
Thomas decides to live in England and has had all kinds of adventures on the way there.
He meets elves, gnomes and brings Ticklefish with him; Ticklefish are great fun and nearly as naughty as Trolls.
Thomas meets pirates a friendly ghost and even thinks he's sees the queen!
Some people think Trolls are a fairy tale. I don't. Do you?

About the author:

Living in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, retired Butcher Nicolas Starling has always enjoyed entertaining people both young and old with his vivid imagination.

Follow along with the rest of this blog tour for Thomas Troll's Travels. 

Book Review - Love at the Italian Lake by Darcie Boleyn - Blog Tour

Amazon UK
Title:  Love at the Italian Lake
Author: Darcie Boleyn
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Canelo
Publication Date: 31st July 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

Sophia Bertoni discovers her boyfriend in bed with another woman, and realizes her life is going nowhere. Leaving her high-pressure job, she travels to Italy to stay with her grandmother while she figures out her next move.

When Sophia – quite literally – bumps into devastatingly handsome Joe Lancaster her plans are turned upside down. As the two realize they’re both spending the summer in the same town, a love affair seems on the cards.

But Sophia and Joe are both burdened by family secrets. Despite their attraction, will the sun set on Sophia and Joe’s romance – or will they find love at the Italian lake?

I'll freely admit that it was the cover that completely seduced me into reading this book, its simply gorgeous and makes me feel as though I am on the shore of an Italian Lake. Well its a good thing the cover had that effect as the book is set in Lake Garda, in summer and the story is every bit as lovely as the cover. 

The book opens on a bit of a cliche, although Sophia's reactions aren't as passionate as you may have thought, and she uses it as an opportunity to change her life a bit. Which is why a while later, she decides to visit her Nonna in at small town in Lake Garda to reevaluate her life. 

All of Joe and Sophia's early meetings are really enjoyable, especially as they seem to spark off accident proneness in each other, which leads to some quite funny situations.  Initially I wasn't sure if the leads had much chemistry but towards the end I was really rooting for them. 

Both are only planning to stay in Italy for the summer, and over the course of the summer there are family secrets to be revealed, sight seeing to be done and potential new friendships and of course Italian Food! One of my favourite scenes was the descriptions of the various types of Italian pastries at a market stall, which just made my mouth water. 

Love at the Italian Lake is exactly what is says in the title, a love story set around Lake Garda, which was really enjoyable to read. 

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

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Rachel's Random Reads is going on holiday....

.... well at least the person behind the blog is jetting off in the morning. I'm flying into Rome to board the Norwegian Spirit for a 10 Night Greek Island & Med Cruise taking in Mykonos, Athens, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Valletta, Messina & Naples.

Currently my plans involve an excursion in Naples to take in the Amalfi Coast, including an hour of free times in Sorrento, Positano, Ravello and Amalfi, so hopefully will have some gorgeous pictures of that part of Italy.

I don't have any concrete plans for the other ports, although may stay onboard in Athens as I know how hot that city is at this time of year and would rather take advantage of a relatively quiet/empty ship. If anyone has been to any of the other places and has suggestions that don't involve history, religious buildings or ruins, then I'd love to hear them!

As a result of this trip have nothing scheduled for the blog while I'm away, sunning myself and generally pottering about the ports.

Then once I'm physically back in the UK, I will be moving house a few days later. As I mentioned in a post at the start of the month, it means that from tomorrow until probably end of August the amount of content on the blog is drastically reduced.

I do have some blog tours coming up, and I have got some reviews scheduled and dotted about, but need the break to give me a chance to get into new routines in the new place, and also to spare a bit more time to work on an exciting new project for me....all will be revealed hopefully in September!

I'm taking four paperbacks with me on the cruise but often find I run about the ship taking part in many activities, and then doing excursions or exploring ports that I don't have huge amounts of time to read. I hope to have some mini reviews for you as always once I'm back but it may not be possible just due to the above demands on my time.

Anyways, I'll miss all of you that read the blog while I'm away, and hope you will still want to see what my random thoughts on books are when I return!

Guest Post - Ann O'Loughlin's Writing Process - Blog Tour - #LudlowLadies

I am an early riser and usually you can hear me tapping away at my keyboard at 5am. There was a time in my house when the dogs would enthusiastically greet me when I sat down to write at such an early hour, but now with my third book The Ludlow Ladies' Society sent off in to the world, just two sleepy dogs snuggle further in to their baskets. There isn't even the wag of a tail.

The dogs know it is too early and they also know there is no time to give them attention as I sit in my big comfy chair in the kitchen wrestling with the words and the word count.
When I was writing The Ludlow Ladies' Society, I lived on toast and marmalade in those early hours.

But I never even have a sip of tea until the first 500 words are set down.

After the first 500 words, I reward myself with a big mug of tea and brown bread toasted with a nice fancy marmalade on top. That sets me up nicely for the next 500 words and hopefully even 1000 words as the characters fight it out inside my head vying with each other for space on the page.

That is the way it happens for me. Characters have a way of sneaking in to my head and setting up home.

First a germ of an idea takes root, constantly agitating, making me wonder ‘could I pull a story from here?’ But it is when the characters start talking that the fingers can do the walking across the keyboard.

Some writers use story boards, plaster walls with notes or fill notebooks full of interesting phrases and ideas to use at an appropriate time. Some writers sketch a picture of their characters with words. They even know before they write the first line of chapter one their main characters, the traits, foibles and eccentricities that will make them stand out. They also know the storyline and all the minor characters who weave their way through the pages of the book. Some writers are extra lucky; they even know the ending.

How I wish it was like that for me. But it is not. The story; the characters and the twists and turns; all of it rattles inside my head, competing for my attention, only revealing themselves as we move along, getting the first words down.

If the idea is going to work, the characters lead the way designing their own destinies, only giving me the satisfaction that when they are shouting the most and bossing me senseless, do I get my best writing done.

Maybe that is the reason I have to get up so early, there are too many voices in my head and characters waiting to jump on the page. My favourite parts of The Ludlow Ladies' Society were the scenes where the women are stitching memory quilts and chatting. As Eve, Connie and Hetty stitched, sewed and told each other stories, I have to say I did not feel so alone on my early morning writing shifts.

The Ludlow Ladies’ Society by Ann O’Loughlin is published 20th July, price £12.99

Connie Carter has lost everyone and everything dear to her. Leaving her home in New York, she moves to a run-down Irish mansion, hoping to heal her shattered heart and in search of answers: how could her husband do the terrible things he did? And why did he plough all their money into the dilapidated Ludlow Hall before he died, without ever telling her?

At first Connie tries to avoid the villagers, until she meets local women Eve and Hetty who introduce her to the Ludlow Ladies’ Society, a crafts group in need of a permanent home. Connie soon discovers Eve is also struggling with pain and the loss of having her beloved Ludlow Hall repossessed by the bank and sold off. Now, seeing the American Connie living there, the hurt of losing everything is renewed. Can these women ever be friends? Can they ever understand or forgive?

As the Ludlow Ladies create memory quilts to remember those they have loved and lost, the secrets of the past finally begin to surface. But can Connie, Eve and Hetty stitch their lives back together?

Purchase from Amazon UK

About Ann O’Loughlin

A leading journalist in Ireland for nearly thirty years, Ann O’Loughlin has covered all major news events of the last three decades. Ann spent most of her career with independent newspapers where she was Security Correspondent at the height of the Troubles, and was a senior journalist on the Irish Independent and the Evening Herald. She is currently a senior journalist with the Irish Examiner newspaper covering legal issues. Ann has also lived and worked in India. Originally from the west of Ireland she now lives on the east coast in Co. Wicklow with her husband and two children. Her debut novel The Ballroom CafĂ© was a bestseller, with over 250,000 copies sold in eBook alone. Her second novel The Judge’s Wife was an Irish bestseller for 5 weeks, and was shortlisted for a Romantic Novel Award in February 2017.

Follow Ann on twitter -

Book Review - Chasing The Sun by Katy Colins

Amazon UK
Title: Chasing The Sun
Author: Katy Colins
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ
Publication Date: 27th July 2017
Rating: 5 Stars

Georgia Green is on the conveyor belt to happiness.
Live-in boyfriend, perfect career and great friends, it seems like Georgia is only a Tiffany box away from her happily ever after. But when she arrives in Australia for her best friend’s wedding and is faced with the bridezilla from hell, she starts to realise that she might not want the cookie-cutter ending she thought.

What was meant to be a trip full of sunny days at the beach and wedding planning over cocktails, has turned into another problem for her to fix – just like the ones she’d left behind. With hardly any time for her boyfriend, let alone herself, it feels like there is just too much to juggle. It might be time for Georgia to step off the conveyor belt to find the balance in life and see if she really can have it all…

Easily one of the most enjoyable books I have read for a while, it whizzed past as I was absorbed in the latest installment in Georgia's story. 

For although the name of the book doesn't feel the same, this is sort of the next in the Destination series that I was reading last year, but since the focus of the book is more to do with Georgia's friends and boyfriend than with the Lonely Hearts Travel Club, the book feels different, but still up to the usual quality. If you haven't read any of Katy Colin's previous books don't worry as this should work as a standalone, and most of the relevant snippets of back story are included. 

I don;t think I have stopped smiling from the second I finally started this book to the moment it ended. I was thoroughly enjoying Georgia's trip to Australia, her bridezilla of a best friend Shelley, the other bridesmaid Cara, the hen party road trip that has an ulterior motive and just everything little unexpected occurrence, or problem that needed to be solved. 

Even before Georgia flew Down Under there were laughs to be had, at her attempts to babysit for another of her best friends, and a rather familiar-ish scene on the plane, where you realise just who is sitting around you on a massively long haul flight. 

Although there wasn't too much sightseeing, I did like the small glimpses I got of Australia, and lets just say Adelaide has some absolutely mad brides to be, who really did get over excited at one little sale....well it was a sample wedding dress sale, but still camping overnight for a shop? As a glorified single person who has never been within sniffing distance of her own wedding dress, please forgive my amusement at the situations! 

Chasing The Sun is another excellent book by the talented Katy Colins and I adored this slight shift in direction for the book. I loved catching up with these fabulous characters and of course exploring a new destination with Georgia.  This is a fabulous summer read that I am sure people will love reading while relaxing in the sun themselves. 

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

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Guest Post - Escapist settings by T.A. Williams - Blog Tour

I was going to write this about my new book, To Provence, with Love (and I will, a bit lower down, I promise), but first, I would just like to say a big thank you to Rachel and to all the other bloggers out there who read their way through millions of words every year and then write tens, if not hundreds of thousands of words in support of authors like me. And you all do it for the pure love of reading. I am ashamed to admit that I read very little. My excuse is that I spend all my time writing – and, in fairness, I do write a lot. But those of you whose appetite for the written word spurs you on to read and review book after book deserve a vote of thanks from all of us. So, thank you.

Having got that off my chest, let me tell you about my new book. Somebody on Facebook the other day pointed out a constant theme in my work: she remarked that I always write about nice places. And it’s true. So far I’ve written about Tuscany, Cornwall, rural Spain, Dartmoor, the high Alps, Venice and loads more. So why don’t I write about scruffier places, I hear you ask. The answer is twofold. First of all it’s selfish: I always research the settings for my books and I like going to nice places. So, on that basis, it’s very unlikely that I’m going to be writing a book set in a recycling centre any time soon. Not impossible, but unlikely. Second, it’s because I want my books to offer a bit of escapism. I want people to be able to lose themselves in descriptions of wonderful, romantic places, the food, the drink, the architecture, the people. If you don’t get to the end of the book wishing you, too, could have been there, then I haven’t been doing my job properly.

So, this book is To Provence, with Love. I studied French at university a long, long time ago and I love going back there. I have a very good friend who lives just an hour or so inland from the Riviera coast and it was while visiting him and his wife a couple of years ago that I realised that would make a terrific setting. Once you get away from the hustle and bustle and the unbelievable traffic(!) of the coast, it’s an area with a slower pace of life. Yes, there are loads of foreigners living there, but the French flavour remains. It’s a part of the world blessed by a mild climate, some spectacular scenery and some of the best food and drink anywhere in the world. For a visitor (not just an author on a research trip), it’s gorgeous. Fly to Nice, rent a little car and an hour or so later you’re among the vines, the umbrella pines and the lavender fields. 

As for the story of To Provence, with Love, it’s a nostalgic look back over her life by a grand old lady of 83, assisted by her Labrador, Marlon. Along with this comes the gradual realisation by Faye, the main character, that there’s more to life than her job in London.

I hope you enjoy the book.  

Thank you so much Trevor that that wonderful look of your locations. I love all of your settings and having read To Provence With Love, I can safely say I really enjoyed Provence too.  And thank you so much for your kind words about book bloggers. 

Purchase from Amazon UK

Escape to the south of France with this perfect feel-good summer romance!
Anything is possible…

Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau!

So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…

But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?

Author Information

I write under the androgynous name T A Williams because 65% of books are read by women. In my first book, "Dirty Minds" one of the (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. I couldn't possibly comment. Ask my wife...

I've written all sorts: thrillers, historical novels, short stories and now I'm enjoying myself hugely writing humour and romance. Romantic comedies are what we all need from time to time. Life isn’t always very fair. It isn’t always a lot of fun, but when it is, we need to embrace it. If my books can put a smile on your face and maybe give your heartstrings a tug, then I know I’ve done my job.

I‘ve lived all over Europe, but now I live in a little village in sleepy Devon, tucked away in south west England. I love the place. That’s why you’ll find leafy lanes and thatched cottages in most of my books. Oh, yes, and a black Labrador.

I've been writing since I was 14 and that is half a century ago. However, underneath this bald, wrinkly exterior, there beats the heart of a youngster. My wife is convinced I will never grow up. I hope she's right.


Tour Schedule

Tuesday 18th July

Wednesday 19th July

Thursday 20th July

Friday 21st July

Saturday 22nd July

Sunday 23rd July
Blooming Fiction

Monday 24th July

Tuesday 25th July

Wednesday 26th July

Thursday 27th July

Friday 28th July

Saturday 29th July

Sunday 30th July

Monday 31st July

Book Review - The Cotswolds Cookery Club: A Taste of Italy by Alice Ross

Amazon UK
Title: The Cotswolds Cookery Club: A Taste of Italy
Author: Alice Ross
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ Digital 
Publication Date: 21st July 2017
Rating: 4 Stars

The perfect recipe for happiness?
Connie has had enough. Enough of the city, enough of her job – and most importantly, enough of her cheating boyfriend! So, when her best friend jets off to sunny Australia for six months and calls on Connie to house and dog-sit, the timing couldn’t be more perfect.

Finally free to chase her dreams, Connie sets up her very own Cotswolds Cookery Club – a place to share scrumptious recipes and, more importantly, a lot of wine! Cue Melody, Kate and Eleanor, three very different women who Connie realises are all in need of a recipe for happiness…

But with two gorgeous men turning up the heat, Connie may have just ended up with a recipe for disaster!

Relatively short novella, that takes in the feel of the picturesque Cotswolds, two gorgeous men, 3 new friends and a whole lot of Italian cookery. What more could you want from a book called The Cotswolds Cookery Club: A Taste of Italy! 

Connie isn't really sure what she is doing with her life, so when her friend offers to let her housesit for six months while she is off to Australia, Connie jumps at the chance. On settling into the lovely Cotswolds house, she reawakens her love of cookery and decides to start a cookery club, starting with an Italian theme. 

Well the food that is being created sounds delicious and I suspect by the time this series finishes that I will be hoping for a companion recipe book to try them all out for myself.  Connie clearly knows her food and it rubs off on the three ladies who join her club. 

They take it in turns to produce delicious Italian menus at each others houses, and we have Eleanor who runs the local newsagent, Kate who has three young children, and Melody who is need of a friend as she is also new to the area, 

Connie also needs to dog sit, for Eric, who is scared of his own shadow to start with, and a former rescue dog. Despite not being the most outgoing of canine companion his personality is really felt in each scene he is in. 

As the first book in a new series, it gives a great introduction to the various characters that I hope to see more of in the next two parts.

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

Monday 17 July 2017

Guest Post - What's In A Name? by Emma Burstall - Blog Tour

Choosing a name for a book character can be almost as hard as naming a baby. When I was deciding what to call my children, I ummed and ahhed for ages because I wanted to get it just right, and so it is with the men and women in my novels. Often I’ll spend hours writing out different combinations of first names and surnames until I’m completely satisfied. 

A name can convey so many things, from someone’s personality and age to their nationality and background. Plus, if my character is someone I like, then I have to find a name I like, too, and if it’s my hero or heroine, I have to love it.

There’s another issue as well. I try not to name my characters after family or friends, in case they think I’m writing about them when I’m not. This is especially important when it comes to villains, for obvious reasons. It can be extremely difficult, though, because I know a lot of people, and at times I’ll plump for something generic, like ‘Helen’, ‘Claire’ or ‘Ben’, and hope no one gets the wrong idea. 

My sister once pointed out that I’d used the name of one of my nieces for a minor character, and although it’s a very common girl’s name, I then worried that the other niece was feeling left out. So you see, it’s hard not to ruffle feathers however hard you try!

Here are some tips for choosing names for your own books:

1.   Think about the kind of person your character is and their defining features, physical, intellectual and emotional. Names have associations, although of course this will vary for different people. For me, ‘Summer’ and ‘Tansy’ suggest carefree, New Age types while ‘Susan’ and ‘Victoria’ are practical and sensible. Graveyards can be a good source of inspiration. I once found a headstone in a Cornish cemetery bearing the name ‘Mary Screech’. I thought it was so marvellous that I made a note and used it for a character, Shelley Screech, who was suffering from a particularly nervous disposition!

2. Make sure your name fits the person’s age. Patricia, Barbara and Sheila, for instance, were very popular in the Thirties and Forties, but they’ve gone out of fashion.  And how many eighty year old Kylies or Tegans do you know? Exactly. If you need ideas, there’s plenty of information online about top boys’ and girls’ names in a particular year of birth.

3.  Try not to have too many names beginning with the same letter, as this can become confusing for the reader. Also, read all your names out loud once you’ve picked them. I once had to change someone’s name at the last minute, because I realised that it sounded too similar to someone else’s. This is especially important if your novel is to be made into an audio book.

4. Try alliterative initials if you want a character to be really memorable. This works particularly well with children’s books, think Bilbo Baggins and Rowena Ravenclaw, but use sparingly in adult fiction or you’ll risk irritating your readers.

5. Try to avoid unpronounceable names, unless it’s intentional. I once called a female character ‘Persephone’ precisely because it’s so unusual. The other characters kept mispronouncing the name in different ways and winding her up, which provided lots of comic scope.  

Thank you so much Emma for this interesting post. I completely agree about not having too many names beginning with the same letter,  I've read some books where I've been very confused the whole time for just that reason.

Bramble Challoner has had a very normal upbringing. She lives in a semi in the suburbs of London with her parents and works at the call centre down the road. She still goes out with the boy she met at school. At weekends they stay in and watch films on the telly and sometimes hold hands. Bramble is dying for an adventure.
So when her very grand grandfather, Lord Penrose, dies, leaving his huge, rambling house in Cornwall to her, Bramble packs her bags immediately, dragging along her best friend Katie. The sleepy village of Tremarnock had better be ready for its newest residents...

About Emma

Emma Burstall was a newspaper journalist in Devon and Cornwall before becoming a full time author. Tremarnock, the first novel in her series set in a delightful Cornish village, was published in 2015 and became a top-10 bestseller.

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