One Christmas Star by Mandy Baggot / Blog Tour

Hi there! Today I am delighted to have Mandy Baggot stopping by with a guest post. Mandy is namaley back with her new release “One Christmas Star” that is receiving raving reviews – no wonder, as Ms Baggot is a real Queen of Christmas stories! Today however put your feet high and read about the power of hedgehogs! Yes!

 

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One Christmas Star –Mandy Baggot

The power of hedgehog

The main characters in my novel, One Christmas Starare schoolteacher, Emily Parker and troubled musician, Ray Stone, plus thirty-three ten-year olds at Stretton Park Primary School.BUT there are two little characters who havepushed their way into the limelight and have even scored a starring role on the front cover of the novel! Meet Olivia Coleman and Idris Elba –two of London’s declining hedgehog population.

Living in the countryside,I am really used to seeing hedgehogs all the time in my garden,soI never even considered that these cute little balls of spikes might be endangered. But, putting them into my book, a book set in and around Islington, London, I did some research about urban hedgehogs and was alarmed to realise how in decline they actually are.

Back in the 1950s there were over 30 million hedgehogs in London and now, scarily,there are thought to be less than 1 million. In fact,since the year 2000,the hedgehog population has declined by a third. This is huge! There are many, many reasons why this has happened, for example, less natural gardens (more decking and tidier grass spaces)and decline in their prey as we kill the beetles and slugsthat are their foodwith pesticides etc.But the London Wildlife Trust is doing their very best to tryto help.

In One Christmas Star, the children of Stretton Park add their sightings of the hedgehogs to an interactive map that helps plot where hedgehogs are livingin thecapital. This isso an accurate picture of activity can be established. This map isn’t something I’ve made up, it’s very real and it helps the London Wildlife Trust see theareas that need their help the most. You can find out more on their website and even download a booklet that tells you how YOU can help hedgehogswherever you live.

Here is the link:-https://www.wildlondon.org.uk/hedgehog-help

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Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman / Blog Tour

Hi there. Today I’m taking part in the blog tour celebrating the release of Lucy Coleman’s new novel, Christmas Under the Mistletoe. The book sounds fabulous and original and I am looking toward reading it, a bit closer to Christmas. Nevertheless, a short extract won’t do any harm, right, and so make yourself comfortable and enjoy!

 

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EXTRACT:

After another brief chat with George, I dig out my business card and we do an exchange. His bears the company name Proof Positive. Then it’s time to assemble my thoughts and get to work. George’s nose is in his book again and I leisurely glance through myhastily scribbled notes. I see that the first half of the page is covered with stray lines where my arm kept shooting across at an angle from a shove or a kick. Oh well, at least now I can write without threat of stabbing the pen into my own leg.

As the hours pass my eyes grow weary so I pack my notebook away and nestle back into my seat.

Unable to sleep, my thoughts wander. Cary Anderson is a very attractive man, I will freely admit that. Annoyingly, he has an inherently broody yet enigmatic appeal that, to me, is dashed the moment he begins speaking. It’s the tone he uses that comes across as arrogant and demanding.

With his short, curly brown hair and hazel eyes with a hint of green to them, he turns heads. He doesn’t tower over me at around five-foot-ten, some four inches taller than I am, but he carries himself with a sense of purpose. It makes him stand out in a crowd.

Or maybe it’s his passion for his work that gives him that air of absolute confidence; even though he’s probably only in his mid-thirties and young for a CEO. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Or people who won’t step up when it matters, and he is demanding, I can vouch for that fact. The other side to that, though, is that he makes things happen and expects those around him to do the same.

When his assistant at SPS –Solar Powered Solutions–initially made contact to arrange a meeting at their London office, the first thing I did was to look the company up online. They are one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of solar panels and remotely controlled wireless thermostatic controls. The SPS website was impressive and their mission statement grabbed my attention: profit from securing a cleaner future, today.

They have re-designed the whole heat exchange and absorption cooling system to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Apparently, it’s a game-changer as the installation consumes significantly less energy than anything else currently available. The resultant power savings mean that even a modest-sized home could expect a very good return, over and above the amount saved on their domestic usage, from day one

As with other systems currently on the market their combined installation can be controlled from a phone, iPad or PC. But they are offering a real option aimed at the mass market –the average man in the street who can now benefit significantly in the same way that the bigger users have in the past.

I will admit I was impressed and that was before I had the benefit of the many presentations Cary made at the Sydney Self-Build Exhibition.

He’s passionate about the need to reduce greenhouse gases and the damage it does to the planet, which is very commendable. If only he would climb down out of that tower of his occasionally, it would be easier to warm to him as a person. But maybe that’s the whole point. Keeping everyone at arms’ length is a clever way of remaining firmly in control and getting your own way.

I will be honest and admit I’m not looking forward to the eight-hour stopover at Doha Airport in Qatar. Cary and I will just be hanging around at the airport while we wait for the connection. That means making general conversation and, from what I’ve seen so far, that’s not something Cary’s inclined to do.

I find myself shaking my head at the thought.Settling back against the curve of the seat I feel too tired to sleep.

That wired feeling gives everything an edge and it’s hard to shut down. I figure that closing my eyes might help and while resting isn’t sleeping, it’s better than nothing.

 

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How To Make Time for Me by Fiona Perrin / Blog Tour

How to Make Time for Me by Fiona Perrin

 

46828125._sy475_Publisher: Aria

Publishing Date: 11th July 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages:

Genre: Women’s Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle

 

Synopsis:

No-one said being a single mum would be easy…

Everyone knows that being a single mother means having no time to yourself. But for Callie Brown, its more exhausting than most. She’s juggling the needs of three teenage children, two live-in parents, a raffish ex-husband, and a dog who never stops eating.

The last thing Callie needs is anything more on her plate. So when she bumps (quite literally) into a handsome, age-appropriate cyclist, she’s quick to dismiss him from her life. After all, if she doesn’t have time to brush her hair in the morning, she certainly doesn’t have time to fall in love…

Funny, heartwarming and oh-so-true, this is a novel about motherhood, families, and life after divorce, perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Allison Pearson.

Rating: four-stars

 

Callie Brown is a single mum to 16 – year – old twin daughters and a 14 – year – old Wilf from her previous relationship, who she has been a mother for eight years, with her ex rather absent, and her ageing parents, for whom she cooks and cleans on a regular basis, and, of course, working full time in HR of a car dealership. One day she’s run over by a takeaway delivery bike because, as the cyclist says, he “just didn’t see her”. Callie realizes that actually this is how she is feeling – somehow invisible. To everyone in her life. Surely, something must change in her life now, right?

I liked the romance aspect that was not so predictable. The chaos and drama in the family’s life were brought in a light, chatty way and were not too over the top, simply bringing on how it really is, how complicated things can get. I adored how Callie reacted to all the pressure and struggles and how supportive her friends were (well, she not so invisible, right!). 

It was a light – hearted story with a depth, especially when it comes to Lily and Wilf’s stories. It’s another in the really popular and relevant “not yummy – mummy”, modern family category but it is refreshing and different and I enjoyed it wholeheartedly. I loved the message in this story, that no matter what – blood ties, relationship, shape, whatever – your home is where your family is, and those are not the above mentioned things that determine who you call your family. It was full of funny but also more serious and worrying moments but the writing style was really pleasant, so conversational and easy to follow. The characters and some of the situations are truly likeable and relatable and the plot is a clever one, much more complex that you could think at first, and I really liked this fact. And what’s more, it was full of emotions and explored single parenting in a nice, light but also honest, way. Recommended!

 

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One Last Greek Summer by Mandy Baggot / Blog Tour

One Last Greek Summer by Mandy Baggot

 

44027196Publisher: Aria

Publishing Date: 6th June 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 280

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 11.07.2019)

 

Synopsis:

Beth Martin is 31, newly divorced and wondering just what life holds for her…

Best-friend, Heidi, is adamant that all the answers lie in Corfu – the island where the girls partied away their youth. So cue a trip to a sun-drenched Greek island, ouzo cocktails, a trip down memory lane… and Alex Hallas, the man Beth has never quite forgotten.

As they dance under the stars, the sand beneath their toes, old feelings begin to resurface and Beth might just have a chance to take back her life. If they can learn to love the people they’ve become…

Rating: four-stars

 

Recently divorced Beth is trying to figure out what to do next. Her best friend Heidi not only throws her a divorce party at the office but also comes up with a plan of travelling to Corfu, just like 10 years ago, when they were both 21 years old and free – spirited. Moreover, this trip also ended up with a romance for Beth, so who knows what’s going to happen now?
However, the trip doesn’t start as expected, with a villa from hell and ceiling coming down. But then Beth meets Alex again, and even Heidi learns someone, but everything seems so complicated now, when they’re in their 30’s. Will the girls realise that they didn’t change so much at heart?

It was a lovely, summery story about friendship, second chances, new beginnings, hope and love, this all set against the most gorgeous setting ever – any book set in Greece, actually whatever set in Greece I’m going to love, that’s for sure, but “One Last Greek Summer” was also funny, entertaining and so easily written, so it’s a win – win situation.

I haven’t completely warmed to Heidi, I must admit, though there was nothing wrong with her, in fact she was a great friend, but there were moments that she was simply “too much” for me. Beth was great, a woman who knew what she wanted, and I loved seeing her growing up in confidence, starting to follow her dreams, evolving into a strong, independent woman. The friendship between those two was brilliantly captured, this is what I always imagined a real friendship should look like, being there for each other and telling things how they are.

As much as I enjoyed the flawless writing and the storytelling, there were moments that simply passed too slowly. I know, the author has decided to write about many subplots, as each of our characters, even the background ones, was significant to the story and had their own distinctive voice and story to tell, and so there was a lot to tell. I simply think there were passages that could be shorter, perhaps it would make the book this little bit more fascinating.

I really like Mandy Baggot’s writing style. It’s full of sunshine, it’s vivid and light – hearted, and she drops the best one – liners on us effortlessly, also adding a word here or there that made me grin from ear to ear. It’s so welcoming and evoking and it mixes reality with tons of great humour. It would be great to be able to escape to the beautiful, sunny Corfu with my best friend to recapture some moments of our own. There were cocktails, fun, sun, sea and summer romance, and the whole story was filled with fun and surprises for the characters. Under the beautiful surface of Corfu there was so much more to this story – finding yourself and this what is important to you. A perfect summer escape, and be warned that after reading it you’re going to immediately plan your own holidays! Recommended!

 

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The Playground Murders by Lesley Thomson / Blog Tour + Guest Post

Good morning! Today I am a part of “The Playground Murders” (brilliant title, no?) by Lesley Thomson blog tour. I haven’t hosted a guest post for a long time and so, this time, the lovely author has written one for me, and it is about a day in author’s life – I was always intrigued how they look like. So put your feet high and enjoy!

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

40879173Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed for ever.

Stella Darnell is a cleaner. But when she isn’t tackling dust and dirt and restoring order to chaos, Stella solves murders. Her latest case concerns a man convicted of killing his mistress. His daughter thinks he’s innocent, and needs Stella to prove it.

As Stella sifts through piles of evidence and interview suspects, she discovers a link between the recent murder and a famous case from forty years ago: the shocking death of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in the shadows of an empty playground.

Stella knows that dredging up the past can be dangerous. But as she pieces together the tragedy of what happened to Sarah, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…

 

GUEST POST:

    • A Day in the Life
      Readers ask me, what is a typical day?
      I’m lucky, unless I’m preparing for an event or teaching (I’m a visiting tutor on an creative writing MA) I write every day.
      7am. I walk our poodle Alfred through a ruined priory of crumbling flint walls. In winter I wear a high-vis jerkin and a headtorch.Alfred has a neon collar. In the dark it’spotentially scary and it inspired me to write The Dog Walker … in which the dog walker dies. Unlike a character in that novel I’m not alone. There’s a bunch of us solving world issues and keeping each other sane.
      After breakfast and a read of the newspaper, I start writing.
      8.30am. My target is1,000 words.Obviously not any old words, but this objective keeps up the pace of the drama and gets the first draft down. On a first draft with blank pages ahead, it’s easy to procrastinate, rework a sentence over and over or dip out and check email.
      11.15. I’m in the patisserie for a takeaway latte and a natter with the owner Libby and anyone in the queue. I leave invigorated for the next writing stint. If I’m stuck -Why would Stella be at the crime scene? When should Jack tell Stella the truth?-I’ll stop inthe gardens of anElizabethan house where colourful flowerbeds, newly-cut lawns within more flint walls soothe the brain.
      1pm. Lunch with The Archers on catch up. Another dog walk, just me and Alfred. Walking’s ideal for fleshing out characters and deciding their next move. I dictate ideas into my phone or I won’t remember. In the old days I’d ring home and leave a weird message on the answer machine.The blood was between the floorboards.
      I’ve had mishaps. I lost Alfred’s lead and had to lug him home (he chases lorries so can’t be off-lead). Seven kilos gets heavier after half a mile. Another time I fell on my face in mud. Heigh hoe, it feeds the fiction.
      Then one afternoon we were playing ball in the park.I stopped by the children’s playground, the primary coloured equipment cheery on a greyday. Kids charged about,swarming up ropes,swinging from bars. I recalled the playground of my own childhood. Playgrounds, I pondered, chucking Alfred his ball, are fun places where children play imaginative games. What if their games are not fun? The plot for The Playground Murders unfolded.
      4.30pm. Cuppa and reads omething, perhaps for research or another crime-writer’s novel if I’m moderating a panel. It’s called work, but I love it.
      6pm: The End.Relax. Take ages to do half the Guardian Quick Crossword.

 

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I Know You’re There by Sarah Simpson / Blog Tour

I Know You’re There by Sarah Simpson

 

42868406Publisher: Aria

Publishing Date: 6th June 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 404

Genre: General Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Is your house as safe as you think?

Natalie spent most of her childhood feeling afraid. So when she moved into her cosy little flat in St Ives and met her three friendly neighbours, she knew at once it was somewhere she’d feel safe.

Before long, Natalie’s neighbours have become the family she never had. Kind, motherly Morwenna, serious, reliable Nigel, and sweet, anxious Daniel. They collect each other’s mail, water each other’s plants, and share each others lives.

But as Natalie knows all too well, the people who are closest to you can also be the most dangerous.

And this house is not as safe as she thinks…

Rating: four-stars

 

Natalie lives in an apartment in a house shared with three other people. After an abusive childhood she finds it hard to trust others but she finds she can trust her neighbours and has managed to built a friendship with some of them. The something happens that changes her world – her father is being released from prison and at the same time she and her friends start to receive mysterious postcards from someone who seems to know a lot personal information about them all. Are they all in danger?

The story introduces us to relatively many characters but the author takes her time to give us a chance to get to know them all, dedicating alternative chapters to each one. Because of this the pace was rather slow and it wasn’t easy to engage with all the subplots, to be honest, the not knowing what is significant and what is not has provided for a rather confused feelings. But – the characters were well developed, each of them had their own story and really, the author has managed to play with my mind, making me change my mind and my suspicions were jumping all over the place. Natalie comes across as paranoid and anxious but honestly, after her abusive childhood you can understand her. She’s dating her landlord and is full of secrets. Mowenna, Natalie’s friend, is the motherly one but also with past that she’s afraid to be exposed one day. Serious, quiet Nigel, and Daniel, young and naive and also with a past that’s haunting him, even though he tries to escape it. Each of them has their own issues and secrets but they are all believable and complex characters. They all have flaws, you might not agree with their decisions, you’re going to have doubts about them but they’re all going to get under your skin.

This story was full of tension and this creepy feeling that something bad is going to happen, and it was great. I could feel Natalie’s fear, anxiety and uncertainty, as the chilling sense of fear and insecurity was truly strong. Moreover, almost each chapter ends with a cliff-hanger, so in the end you’ll find telling yourself only one chapter more and than totally forgetting the time. There were twists and turns, and they for sure turned out well, as some of them managed to shock me and gasp in disbelief, and well, as usual, yours truly had no idea how it’s going to end, the book kept me guessing till the very end.

It was captivating, character driven thriller written in a great way, Sarah Simpson has for sure a way with words. It was complex, unpredictable and gripping, a slow – burner but I think this laying down the foundations at the beginning was really necessary. Full of secrets, lies and grim atmosphere it still makes for a brilliant, captivating and clever read. Recommended!

 

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My Husband’s Wives by Faith Hogan / Blog Tour

My Husband’s Wives by Faith Hogan

 

45013776Publisher: Aria

Publishing Date: 7th March 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Better to have loved and lost, than never loved.

Paul Starr, Irelands leading cardiologist dies in a car crash with a pregnant young women by his side.

United in their grief and the love of one man, four women are thrown together in an attempt to come to terms with life after Paul. They soon realise they never really knew him at all.

The love they shared for Paul in his life and which incensed a feeling of mistrust and dislike for each other, in his death turns into the very thing that bonds them and their children to each other forever.

As they begin to form unlikely friendships, Paul’s deaths proves to be the catalyst that enables them to become the people they always wanted to be.

Rating: four-stars

Evie, Grace and Annalise’s lives are suddenly brought together after Paul Starr’s death – it turns out they were all married to him. As for Kasia, nobody actually knows what ties her to Paul. The present becomes intermingled with the past as the women say their goodbyes to Paul, and what starts as a complicated mess of secrets, lies and mistrust ends with an unlikely friendship.

With so many main characters there were a few storylines running through the novel and I liked how seamlessly their tales were waived together – it felt natural and authentic, so hats off to the authors for doing it like this. Each of the female characters was different and I really liked to get to know them and their background, and they were really well developed, strong and believable women. I might not have always agreed with their choices and decisions, they were full of flaws but still they were likeable and authentic. Some of them more, some of them less, some of them it was easier to like to hate. I think that Kasia’s character was the most interesting one, her storyline for sure seemed so – it was a subplot with a difference, showing another side to the story. Also, she was kind and warm, always looking for good things in people. Annalise was the most shallow one, I think, a little like bimbo who couldn’t do anything for herself and alone, always unhappy and whinge-y, but as the story progresses you could see the change in her. Evie wasn’t happy with her life, she was vulnerable and I think she was still mourning the end of her relationship with Paul, didn’t come to terms with the break, this vulnerability and fragility were really well described. Grace is a famous artist who also must move on without Paul’s support. They were all compelling, real and authentic and simply they made the book so special.
I couldn’t help but feel dislike to Paul, the smooth operator who always knew what to say, how to make a woman feel wanted, who sweet – talked them, wrapping them around his finger but in the end he was cheating and playing them. He kept so many secrets from them and his lies have caused so much heartache. And I also think that the women were really better off without him – at least they knew where they stand.

I enjoyed the way the book was written. You can’t help but have tons of question and you want to know the answers immediately, but the author really takes her time, drip feeding us with them throughout the story. Maybe this is why I had a feeling that it’s rather slow – paced but it didn’t bother me so much, as there was enough to keep me interested. The fact of Paul having had more than one wife was not the main point of the book in my opinion, but rather the mentioned in the blurb “unlikely friendship”. It was heart – warming and beautiful to see how the women became friends. They were suddenly connected, in truly difficult circumstances, and yet they found strength, which the author vividly captured.

“My Husband’s Wives” was a story full of secrets and intrigues, filled with sadness, friendship and family bonds. It was about finding friendship and confidence, a touching story about grief and how it affects people. And the author had a way with words, she can beautifully write about feelings and emotions and gave her characters very distinctive voices and beautifully balance the lighter and darker sides of life. Recommended!

 

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