Yesterday was Solstice and what better time to release a book titled Midsummer Magic at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium by the Authors on the Edge. This is an anthology of stories based around a magical shop and equally magical proprietor, Miss Moonshine. Scroll down to see if it was as enchanting as it promised.
Title: Midsummer Magic at Miss Moonshine’s Emporium
Authors: Mary Jayne Baker, Sophie Claire, Jacqui Cooper, Helena Fairfax, Kate Field, Melinda Hammond, Marie Laval, Helen Pollard and Angela Wren
Publisher: Authors on the Edge
Genre: Romance, Short Stories
Release date: 21st September 2021
Are you ready to meet Miss Moonshine? Life may never be the same again…
It’s summer in Haven Bridge and Miss Moonshine is getting ready for a busy season. From the window of her Wonderful Emporium, at the heart of the pretty Yorkshire town, she watches and waits, weaving plans to bring happiness to all who step through her door. For Miss Moonshine is no ordinary shopkeeper. She may not have what you want, but she will always have what you need…
Nine romantic novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have joined together to create this anthology of uplifting stories guaranteed to warm your heart. This magical collection of contemporary romances will make you laugh, cry and wish for a Miss Moonshine in your own life.
This is the first time I have ventured to Haven Bridge, but what a joy it was. I love the idea of a collection of short stories based on a magical shop and eccentric lady who is hard to pin down. This book showcases the talents of several romance authors, and I now need to investigate each one’s back catalogue some more.
Miss Moonshine is a delightful character that a reader could never bore of with her indiscriminate age, eccentric fashion sense I admire and unique personality. She made me chuckle. It was interesting to see how each author would tackle her without losing the consistency, which they never do. From car mechanics to time travel, this book kept me entertained for hours and I found it impossible to just read one story. The Emporium has a personality of its own, like all magical shops should, and I would love to walk under the roses to explore it myself and see where it takes me.
This is the third collection of Miss Moonshine books, so I will be looking at the others too.
Would I recommend?
Yes, it is a delightful collection of magical stories set in a delightful Yorkshire village. Short stories are great to fit in between novels or when you your to-do list means you can’t commit to one but be warned these stories are addictive and will lead you to read another then another. It delivered several happy ever afters and characters I will never forget.
The nine Miss Moonshine authors – Mary Jayne Baker, Sophie Claire, Jacqui Cooper, Helena Fairfax, Kate Field, Melinda Hammond, Marie Laval, Helen Pollard and Angela Wren – meet up regularly in the little mill town of Hebden Bridge, on the border between the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire – hence their group name, Authors on the Edge. This picturesque town, home to many writers, artists and musicians, was the inspiration for their magical character Miss Moonshine, and their uplifting series of anthologies featuring romance and happy endings.
Thank you Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to this tour and the advanced copy to review and give my honest and unbiased opinion.
It’s Solstice so I hope you all have a wonderful, sunny day. Today, I’m excited to share my review for a different type of book to my usual genre, Things You Can’t Ask Yer Mum by Lizzie Hadfield and Lindsay Holland.
Book Review: Things You Can’t Ask Yer Mum by Lizzie Hadfield and Lindsey Holland
Title: Things You Can’t Ask Yer Mum
Author: Lizzie Hadfield and Lindsey Holland
Publisher: Kyle Books
Genre: Non-fiction, Self-help
Release date: 27th May 2021
Things You Can’t Ask Yer Mum embodies what Lindsey and Lizzy have had throughout their friendship: the ability to honestly pass on their own experiences in life in order to help the other. This book is the non-judgmental, no-conversation-is-off-limits, supportive best friend we all need in our lives, covering everything from surviving loss, to toxic friendships, to dating in a social media world.
Heartbreak. Grief. Falling in love. Falling out of love. Friendships. Confidence. Disastrous sex anecdotes.
It is filled with everything you don’t want to ask your mum.
I loved this book for many reasons. The main one is the warmth of the duo’s friendship leaps off the page and it’s like having good friends over for a chat. The advice they give is solid, and it reminded me how important female friendships are, whatever your age. I’m lucky to have found some wonderful friends that keep me going, but I was impressed with the chapter devoted to friendship, including how to find and keep them. Friendships are a minefield that can be harder to deal with the older you get. After a couple of chapters, I listened to an episode of their podcast; the humour and naturalness is the same, and it made me laugh out loud, which was much needed. They have captured their personalities and love within these pages well.
The format works well, with a mixture of memories, flowcharts, questionnaires and tips on different topics and then each author offering separate advice. This gives a rounded view, and I loved seeing the differences in their answers. The chapter titled grief dealt with the topic head on and was much needed with the recent Father’s day. With sensitive advice and just knowing others still feel loss years later, made the day easier to cope with.
Would I recommend?
Yes. Beneath the unassuming cover is an honest, humorous, but sometimes raw book that makes you feel you have two sisters near you, whatever your age. I’m probably closer to the authors’ Mum’s age, yet there is still plenty I could take away from reading this. I would love to buy a copy for those in their early twenties so they have a copy on their bookcase for whenever they need some big sister advice.
As a child, I had an advice book, Dear Judy by Judy Blume, which I often referred to in times of strife. This is the same; it is a welcome, comforting addition to my bookshelf to be looked at again and again. I would love to see an updated one in a few years’ time, after they have tackled other life experiences.
Lindsey Holland and Lizzy Hadfield, friends for over eight years, founded Things You Can’t Ask Yer Mum in 2018, the chart topping podcast offering real life experience and anecdotes on heartbreak, grief, falling in love, friendships and sex.
Originally from Stockport, Lindsey Holland (right) relocated to London in 2015 to pursue a career as an elderly care physiotherapist within the NHS, curating content for her ‘Ropes of Holland/Lindsey Holland’ channels as a creative outlet. Now a full time focus, Lindsey’s natural Northern warmth and honest humour translate into her carefully curated content, adding personality and engaging her loyal following, contributing to her popularity and success in such a competitive landscape. An incredible eye for an outfit, Lindsey documents her daily sartorial choices through beautifully shot, authentic imagery. Whilst fashion is a primary focus, she is also passionate about travel, interiors, beauty and more profound topics such as mental health and relationships.
Lizzy Hadfield, of Shot From The Street, is one of the fashion industry’s leading influencers, known for her cool, effortless style. Named one of The Sunday Times Style’s Top 100 Influencers and in FARFETCH’s ‘ten most influential people in Europe’, what sets Lizzy apart from her peers is the community spirit she evokes amongst her followers, encouraging conversation and transparency. As such Lizzy has garnered a devoted following. With a combined reach of over 1 million, Lizzy and Lindsey have fostered a global audience who look to them for advice on fashion to friendship and beauty to breakups.
Summer has arrived in Yorkshire and I’m excited to share my review for a summery read, The Summer Island Festival by Rachel Burton. I have read a few books by this author and was attracted by the promise of
Book review: The Summer Island Festival by Rachel Burton
Title: The Summer Island Festival
Author: Rachel Burton
Release date: 4th March 2021
When Willow walks out on her own wedding, there’s only one place she can go…
Growing up in the island village of Seaview, Willow always dreamed of a bigger life. Then her childhood sweetheart Luc betrayed her and she ran, resolving never to look back. Now, twelve years on, her glamorous London life is a mess and the island is her only option.
But she’s not the only one back for the summer. Luc is now a world-famous heartthrob musician, and he’s finally come home to headline the Isle of Wight’s annual music festival.
As Willow untangles her messy past, she stumbles on a secret that could destroy her family, the island’s fragile community – and her second chance at love…
There is nothing like a runaway bride to draw me into a story because it leads to many questions which I need to know the answer to. Once I connected to Willow, I was hooked. I needed to know her story. It was the same with Luc and Cathy. There were many secrets and threads in this summery nostalgic read which kept me turning the page.
The characters all have intriguing backstories to explain their actions but it was Cathy’s past which captivated me most and it was cleverly blended in with Willow’s and Luc’s present. This novel may appear to be a light, romantic read but it has a deeper thread of how people change themselves to fit in, the effects of childhood on adult decisions and mental health issues.
The Isle of Wight seaside location was perfect, as was Cathy’s mandolin workshop. My father-in-law is a luthier and has made mandolins. Rachel Burton captured the unique smell of the workshop with its varnish, stains and woodchips and the magic of this instrument. I was there, and it made me homesick. It was a complete contrast to the darker side of the music industry described in Cathy’s story.
Would I recommend?
Yes, it has all the elements you need for a summer read whether you’re on a sun lounger on a sunny day or curled up watching the rain on a soggy one. It’s pure escapism with the seaside location, the characters to love bundled up with folk music and secrets. I can’t wait to read more from this author.
Rachel Burton has been making up stories for as long as she can remember and always dreamed of being a writer until life somehow got in the way. After reading for a degree in Classics and another in English Literature she accidentally fell into a career in law, but eventually managed to write her first book on her lunch breaks.
She has spent most of her life between Cambridge and London but now lives in Yorkshire with her husband and their three cats. She loves yoga, ice hockey, tea, The Beatles, dresses with pockets and very tall romantic heroes.
Find her on Twitter & Instagram as @RachelBWriter or follow her blog at rachelburtonwrites.com. She is always happy to talk books, writing, music, cats and how the weather in Yorkshire is rubbish. She is mostly dreaming of her next holiday….
Today I’m excited to share my review for the first in a new series by Victoria Connelly, The House in the Clouds. I first became aware of this author during a blog tour last year, for the delicious The Book Loversseries and I fell in love with her world building. This title and blurb offered a beautiful and whimsical read. Scroll down to see if this novel matches my high expectations.
Book Review: The House in the Clouds by Victoria Connelly
Title: The House in the Clouds
Author: Victoria Connelly
Publisher: Cuthland Press
Genre: Women’s fiction
Release date: 8th June 2021
Artist Abigail Carey has always dreamed of a life in the country and, when Winfield Hall comes up at auction, she’s desperate to make the place her home. The only trouble is that businessman, Edward Townsend, has exactly the same idea.
With its position high on the Sussex Downs, Winfield is a stunning house, but it hasn’t been a home for a long time and there’s a lot of work to do to restore it to its former glory. It’s going to take a lot of time and money, so Edward and Abi decide to take a risk and share the house, each living in their own wing.
But can these two strangers agree on a vision that suits them both? And will free-spirited Abi ever get the rather reserved Edward to reveal the secret he’s been hiding for so long?
The House in the Clouds is the first novel in a brand new trilogy from the bestselling author of The Rose Girls and The Book Lovers series.
What a lovely welcome to Winfield House; it was a beautiful pleasure to read and a strong start to this new series. Victoria Connelly has a talent for painting locations, characters and scenes with her words and brings them to life as showcased in this novel. She uses all the senses in her descriptions, making reading her work a very holistic experience. I could taste the food, breathe in the refreshing air of the Sussex Downs and visualise the stunning house through Abigail’s eyes, making me fall in love with it, too. As an artist and designer akin to Emma Bridgewater, Abigail’s point of view is amass of texture, light and hue. Her bohemian relaxed nature is a contrast to Edward’s view of the world where his emotions are held close, but when snippets of his true nature slip through, the chemistry between the two main characters is a joy to read.
The plot is emotional, heart-warming, and it deals with mental health issues sensitively. I wasn’t sure how sharing a house with strangers would work but it does and Winfield Hall provides a stunning location that grows in the imagination. The walled garden is somewhere I would love to own myself. I kept reading to discover the reasons behind both the character’s actions and the revealing of secrets but also for the enjoyment of the prose, setting and company. I was disappointed to reach the end because I needed to know more. With several threads left open and the introduction of side characters who I need to get to know better such as Abigail’s sister, Ellen, I can’t wait to read the next in the series.
Would I recommend?
Yes! It’s beautiful and is a wonderful escape from the hassles of life. Like the The Book Lovers series, this novel will be on my forever shelf so I can return to Winfield Hall again for companionship and contentment. It’s perfect for a sunny day lying in the garden or cuddled up under the duvet when the seasons change.
Victoria Connelly lives in a 500-year old thatched cottage in rural Suffolk with her artist husband, a springer spaniel and a flock of ex-battery hens. She is the million-selling author of two bestselling series, The Austen Addicts and The Book Lovers, as well as many other novels and novellas. Her first published novel, Flights of Angels, was made into a film in Germany. Victoria loves books, films, walking, historic buildings and animals. If she isn’t at her keyboard writing, she can usually be found in her garden either with a trowel in her hand or a hen on her lap.
Happy bank holiday Monday! I hope the sun is shining where you are and you can take the exxtra time to relax and read. Today I am pleased to share my review for Matilda Windsor is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin. The blurb intrigued me because I remember overhearing a conversation as a child about a friend of the family discovering they had an aunt in an asylum after being forced there because of an out of wedlock pregnancy. It horrified me this could happen. I wanted to know how the topic would be discussed.
Book Review: Matilda Windsor is Coming Home by Anne Goodwin
Title: Matilda Windsor is Coming Home
Author: Anne Goodwin
Publisher: Inspired Quill
Genre: Saga, historical fiction
Release date: 29th May 2021
In the dying days of the old asylums, three paths intersect.
Henry was only a boy when he waved goodbye to his glamorous grown-up sister; approaching sixty, his life is still on hold as he awaits her return.
As a high-society hostess renowned for her recitals, Matty’s burden weighs heavily upon her, but she bears it with fortitude and grace.
Janice, a young social worker, wants to set the world to rights, but she needs to tackle challenges closer to home.
A brother and sister separated by decades of deceit. Will truth prevail over bigotry, or will the buried secret keep family apart?
In this, her third novel, Anne Goodwin has drawn on the language and landscapes of her native Cumbria and on the culture of long-stay psychiatric hospitals where she began her clinical psychology career.
There are three main voices in this novel, Matilda/Matty, Henry and Janice but it is Matilda who shines and made me keep turning the page. She is an unreliable protagonist because the years in the asylum has affected her mental health making her confused, and living in the past but I adored her. She is honest to herself, eccentric and adds humour to this emotional novel. Her confusion is shown in those chapters effectively by making the reader see things through her eyes. It took a while for me to realise who was who because she does muddle names up. She made me care and want her to have the happy ending she deserved.
Henry also came across as an unreliable protagonist but I struggled to connect with him despite his obvious love for his sister. Janice is the thread linking them together and I admired her integrity and ideological way of thinking which is important to make things happen and fight against nimbyism and bureaucracy.
This majority of the novel is set in the late 1980s and early 90s. I grew up in the 80s and it highlighted how much opinions on mental health and events have changed, even in my lifetime. Never mind the stigma attached to mental health in the war years. The past stories are heart breaking but the topics are dealt with sensitively and highlight the cruelty of the past and the control men had over women’s mental health.
Would I recommend?
Stories like Matilda’s need a voice so we can learn. The topic and range of characters makes this an ideal book to read in a book club setting. There are plenty of characters to love and hate and much to discuss. I imagine they could be some lively conversations triggered by the story.
Anne Goodwin grew up in the non-touristy part of Cumbria, where this novel is set. When she went to university ninety miles away, no-one could understand her accent. After nine years of studying, her first post on qualifying as a clinical psychologist was in a long-stay psychiatric hospital in the process of closing.
Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in 2017. Her short story collection, Becoming Someone, on the theme of identity, was published in November 2018. Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of prize-winning short stories.
If you ask a roomful of book lovers what their dream would be, the majority would admit to longing for a bookshop of their own. The blurb for The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar, promised to ignite this dream and I couldn’t wait to read.
Book Review: The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday by Kiley Dunbar
Title: The Borrow A Bookshop Holiday
Author: Kiley Dunbar
Genre: Women’s fiction, romantic
Release date: 5th May 2021
The Fully Booked Bookshop Café invites literature lovers to run their very own bookshop … for a fortnight.
Spend your days talking books with customers in your own charming bookshop and serving up delicious cream teas in the cosy café.
Bookworms, what are you waiting for? Your holiday is going to be LIT(erary).
Apply to: The Fully Booked Bookshop, Down-a-long, Clove Lore, Devon.
Jude Crawley should be on top of the world. She’s just graduated as a mature student, so can finally go public about her relationship with Philosophy professor, Mack.
Until she sees Mack kissing another girl, and her dreams crumble. And worse, their dream holiday – running a tiny bookshop in the harbour village of Clove Lore for two weeks – is non-refundable.
Throwing caution to the winds, Jude heads down to Devon, eager to immerse herself in literature and heal her broken heart.
But there’s one problem – six foot tall, brooding (but gorgeous) Elliot, who’s also reserved the bookshop holiday for two weeks…
As Jude and Elliot put their differences aside to run the bookshop, it seems that Jude might be falling in love with more than just words. Until she discovers what Elliot is running from – and why he’s hiding out in Clove Lore.
Can Jude find her own happy ending in a tiny, tumbledown bookshop? Or is she about to find out that her bookish holiday might have an unexpected twist in the tale…
I read this novel on May’s bank holiday Monday when the windows were rattling in the wind and rain. It was just what I needed and provided a much-needed escape to a delightful Devonshire village. It gave me everything I wished for when reading the blurb and more.
Jude put her life on hold in her teens to care for her gran, so when the opportunity to have her life back arises, she flounders until the chance to run a bookshop for two weeks. The beginning chapters focused on her life pre-bookshop and offered a good insight into the life of a young carer and the impact it has on their lives. It was refreshing to read a book that highlights this as well as dyscalculia, a form of number dyslexia. Her caring family were a delight to meet. The pace of the book picked up when she arrived at the bookshop and met Elliot, who is not your average bookseller. The chemistry between the two was a joy to read, as were the interactions with the other characters. Aldous, the dog was a wonderful addition to the bookshop.
The characters brought to life by Kiley Dunbar’s words, were quirky, had depth and unique qualities about them, making them very memorable. The location, based on Clovelly, was perfect and I could visualise the cobbled steep hill and the nooks and crannies of the bookshop. I did not want to leave because there was so much to explore. It had everything I needed including a bakery. Elliot was a hero of my dreams, with his tattoos, book nerd tendencies. His secret was well written and though I guessed some of it, it did not detract from the read. The only issue I have is there is no such place called Fully Booked Bookshop. I did not want this book to end and reality to loom over me again.
Like many books that involve a bakery or café, this book made me fancy scones with jam and cream, so be prepared if you can. An afternoon tea would complement this novel perfectly.
Would I recommend?
This is a wonderful book and one I know will revisit again and again so once I get a paperback version, it will love on my forever shelf. It has become one of my favourite books in this genre for the plot, setting and style, not only for this year but ever. It’s quirky, has unique characterisations, an idyllic location and a hero like no other to swoon over. Forget Mr Darcy (even Colin Firth’s adaptation) tattooed book loving Elliot is my ideal book man. I will look into Kiley Dunbar’s other novels because I loved her writing style.
Kiley Dunbar writes heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places.
Kiley also works as a senior lecturer, teaching creative writing at the Manchester Writing School. One Winter’s Night is shortlisted for the RNA Romantic Comedy Novel Award 2021.
Is prophecy real; can Arridia and Joss defeat a god?
Evil never sleeps, and neither can the fire spirits who have guarded Kesta and her family so faithfully for more than fourteen years. United in a desire for peace, the four lands beneath the sky have enjoyed relative stability, but under the surface stirs unrest. Greed, ambition, disquiet, rebellion; and the ever-present threat of Geladan’s crazed god discovering she has been fooled.
Quiet Arridia is a Raven Scout, dedicated to the principles and hopes of her parents. When an opportunity presents itself to come home, she grasps it, longing to settle and find the love she has patiently waited for.
Fun-loving Joss is drawn to the court of Elden with all its colour, noise, and intrigue; but has he taken on more than a young man can survive?
Raven Fire is the final part of the breath-taking Fire-Walker saga.
If you could, would you dare to change the world?
Book Extract: Raven Fire by Emma Miles
This extract is taken from chapter four, where we follow young Joss – son of Fire-Walker’s protagonist, Kesta – as he navigates the dangerous court of the King of Elden. With him is his faithful adopted brother and bodyguard, Alikan.
Joss swallowed back his ale and smoothed down the front of his dark-blue jacket. His training kicked in as he surveyed the room before stepping further in. King Bractius sat at the high table, laughing loudly with the Jarl of Southport. Bractius was drinking from a large, ornate tankard carved from the bone of an enormous animal and traced in gold. Joss startled, his eyes narrowing. Had the king forgotten it had been a long-ago gift from the murderous delegation from Geladan? Bractius’s astute brown eyes travelled around the hall even as he joked with his subordinate. He’d allowed his sandy beard to grow long, plaited and held by silver beads. Queen Ayline was standing apart, Eleanor at her side. The young princess was wearing an elegant gown that hugged her slender figure, and Joss raised an eyebrow.
Alikan nudged his arm hard, and Joss only just avoided splashing ale over his expensive clothes.
‘Keep your eyes in your head.’ Alikan scowled.
Joss grinned. The king’s hall was an array of very tempting young woman, but Elden wasn’t the Fulmers, as his parents were fond of reminding him. There was a sudden buzz in the conversation, and many turned toward the main doors. A man strode in with a retinue of Borrowmen warriors on his heels. Bard of the Borrows and captain of the Undine, Temerran’s striking red hair seemed untouched by grey despite the years he’d accumulated. His green eyes sparkled with mischief as he bowed to both men and women on his way to present himself to the king. Temerran’s first mate, Nolv, was a more sombre figure, in practical loose clothing of salt-splashed grey.
‘Your majesties.’ Temerran gave a low and flamboyant bow. The man never forgot to include the queen, and despite her dislike of the Borrowman, Ayline flushed and smiled.
‘Temerran.’ The king gave the Bard the courtesy of standing but didn’t move to greet him. ‘How good of you to come.’
‘It honoured me to be invited,’ Temerran replied.
Movement caught Joss’s eye, and he turned to see his parents slipping in quietly through a side door. As ever, his father wore perfectly tailored black, but his mother had chosen a bright red, and unlike the women of Elden she allowed her long dark hair to fall loosely around her shoulders. Despite their discreet entrance, they stood out like hawks in a flock of doves.
Doroquael gave a sudden squeal and flew out of the torch in which he’d been hiding. Joss’s hand twitched, readying to draw power, before he realised the fire-spirit was excited, not alarmed. Alikan took a step forward, putting himself between Joss and the room.
‘It’s okay, Ali.’ Joss’s heart beat just a little faster as he squeezed through the crowd, hurrying toward the main doors through which Doroquael had vanished.
One of the king’s stewards loudly announced, ‘The Icante of the Fulmers.’
The Icante stepped in, wearing a pale cream dress with a sky-blue cloak wrapped around her shoulders. Unlike her daughter, the ruler of the Fulmer Islands had her steel-grey hair coiled artfully about her head. The warrior Gilfy flanked her, along with the Fire-Walker, Eidwyn. Her new apprentice, Vivess, and the formidable scout, Heara, followed behind. Despite being in her sixties, Heara moved with energy, her bare arms still tight with muscle. As far as he could see, Heara was the only one who’d dared bring weapons into the king’s hall; her two long knives tucked into her belt.
Joss appraised his grandmother’s new apprentice before moving forward again to meet them. Vivess had lighter hair than most of those in the Fulmers, a dark chestnut, almost red where it caught the light. She was about Joss’s age and had one grey eye, one green.
‘Joss.’ Dia’s serious expression melted into a joyful smile and she halted to hug him. ‘Are you well?’
‘I am.’ Joss waved a hand at Doroquael. ‘Calm down!’
The fire-spirit ceased his noisy buzzing and made himself small, coming back to Joss’s shoulder.
‘Did Grandpa not come?’
Dia’s smile faded, and anxiety squeezed Joss’s heart. ‘Your grandfather was a little unwell. Joss, I’ll catch up with you as soon as I can, but it would be rude of me not to go straight to the king.’
‘Oh, of course.’ Joss’s face warmed, and he glanced around, realising many eyes were directed his way. ‘I’ll find you in a moment.’
Dia Icante smiled, then turned to continue to the high table. Heara gave Joss a huge grin and a thump on the arm as she passed. Alikan ducked in time to miss the scout’s hand as she tried to clip him around the head.
Despite his laughter, Joss felt uneasy. His grandmother had seemed worried.
I often get asked when I knew I was a writer; the answer is always. A writer is what I am, it’s in my soul. There have been times in my life when I couldn’t write, and times when my writing has been the only thing that kept me going. I think I always longed for something deeper from life, something more meaningful, and I found it in my imagination and in the music of words. It was poetry which first caught my attention, and whilst my younger cousins called for ghost stories it was animals I first wrote of. I think I gravitated toward fantasy because of the freedom it gives, I could create my own worlds and decide my own rules. My Wind’s Children trilogy was born from an image that came to me whilst daydreaming, of a young man sitting alone below a bridge. I didn’t know who he was; it turns out neither did he, but we found out together. I’m now working on my eleventh book and love writing more than ever, it’s an addiction, an obsession, but one I now share with my wonderful writing family. My beta readers, my editor, and you, my readers, having you with me on my journey means the world to me. I write as much as I can around work, but I also try to squeeze in a ridiculous amount of hobbies! I’m a wildlife photographer and do a little archery. I paint, sculpt with clay, withies and driftwood, preferring to be outdoors if I can. I still have a love for the theatre, having started out in life studying backstage crafts, and a great love for language. I speak a little French, Romanian and Italian, ma non molto bene!
Thanks for reading this. If you read any of my books and love them, please come say hello and tell me, you’d be surprised at how much that means to an author. Take care of yourself. Em x
Researching the family tree is another addiction of mine but I have never succumbed to the temptation to take a DNA test to make this easier for fear of the unknown. The blurb of Don’t Ask by Paul Carroll tapped into this fear so I was excited when invited to the tour by Random Things Tours.
Book Review: Don’t Ask by Paul Carroll
Title: Don’t Ask
Author: Paul Carroll
Publisher: Matador books
Genre: Adult fiction
Release date: 24th March 2021
A DNA ancestry test opens up a Pandora’s Box of secrets.
When Elsa Watson takes a DNA ancestry test out of idle curiosity she little imagines the devastating consequences she is about to unleash.
Two families become reluctantly entwined as inconvenient truths and long suppressed memories resurface.
A #whodunnit with a difference, Don’t Ask visits the glam rock Seventies, Britpop, Operation Yewtree and #metoo within its alternating past and present chapter structure.
This novel is a warning to those embarking on taking a DNA test, you never know what you may find and it studies the implications on multiple generations when new relatives are discovered. Elsa takes the test on a whim and finds she is connected to the family of Chaz, an ex pop star. She is a complex character and is the driving force of the novel but it is more Chaz’s tale and how his music career affected his life and family. It hops through time which confused me at the start and chapter titles may have helped but the clever prompts using music and fashion showed the way. The music scene chapters were riveting and were brought to life with egotistical characters and description.
I enjoyed this well written book and needed to know how the facts and character’s history threaded together when Chaz’s personality clashed with the possibility being shown. It covers many issues sensitively and includes mental health, drug abuse and the Yewtree investigations into historical sexual abuse.
I never would have imagined the ending which is always good.
Would I recommend?
Yes, it’s refreshingly different novel on a topic I’ve not read before. The issues it covers are on trend and gave me plenty to think about. It would work well as a book club read because there is much to discuss and debate over a glass of wine. It would also work well on screen.
Paul Carroll has been drawn to ink and the written word since launching a rock fanzine in his late teens.
Born and bred in Leeds, Paul crossed the Pennines in the mid-70s to study English Language and English Literature at the University of Manchester.
Chasing a job in journalism he stumbled into the world of PR and ten years after starting his career set up his own PR consultancy, Communique PR, in Manchester.
There he worked on many well-known brands including Boddingtons, Heineken, Thorntons Chocolate, Chicago Town Pizza, Big D peanuts, Co-op Funerals and Manchester Airport.
These days, Paul concentrates on his writing.
Paul’s books are full of dark humour and satirical takes. His writing has been compared to that of Ben Elton, Nick Hornby and Jonathan Coe in tackling serious contemporary issues in a highly engaging and entertaining way.
Don’t Ask (Matador 2021) is Paul Carroll’s fourth novel, following A Matter of Life and Death (Matador, 2012), Written Off (Matador, 2016), and Trouble Brewing (Matador, 2017).
Thank you Random Things Tours and Matador books for providing an advanced copy to review and give my honest opinion.
This is a completely different book for me to review but after a year shielding, my home is itching for an update. I’m conscious of my tight budget and need to consider the environment when I do. With this in mind, I jumped at the chance to read and review this book for ideas so thank you Random Things Tours and Kyle Books for an advanced copy. Scroll down to see what I thought.
Book Review: Resourceful Living by Lisa Dawson
Title: Resourceful Living
Author: Lisa Dawson
Publisher: Kyle Books
Genre: non-fiction, interior design, environment
Release date: 15th April 2021
It’s often thought that restyling your space comes with a hefty price tag and unavoidable waste. But in Resourceful Living, award-winning interiors blogger Lisa Dawson shows how, with a little creativity, you can revamp your home with existing pieces, vintage finds and key purchases.
The clever ideas in this beautiful book cover:
– The most important ways we use our homes, from eating to sleeping, living and working.
– The Basics of steering clear of interiors ‘fast fashion’, multi-purposing furniture and making the most of what you have.
– Styling Your Home with simple solutions for re-imagining each room, from gallery walls to home bars, repainted storage to retro accessories. Including her top ten key vintage buys and tips for in-store and online thrifting, Lisa’s inspiring advice shares the fun of creative sourcing as a more sustainable way to keep your home feeling fresh.
‘Resourceful Living feels like reading a recipe book, not only because of the delicious interiors images, but because of the simple ingredients and easy methods that are shared to achieve beautiful living spaces for yourself.’ Melanie Sykes
The premise of this book fits with my desire to revamp my home on a budget, and my love for all things quirky and unusual. The book is broken down into rooms where it to give an overview of what can be achieved, mood boards to inspire and checklists of what to consider when approaching the project. It gave me a much to think about. With lots of tips, I can not wait to resume charity shop browsing but instead of buying things haphazardly I will have a plan of the aesthetic I’m after. Quality matters and I will only be buying items that will add something to the house. No more tat.
Even without access to the shops at the moment, it has made a difference by making me consider where to place my plants to make a feature of them rather than just being in a cluster on the sideboard, how to display my teacups and things I love, and take pride in my homemade blankets and furniture I have inherited.
Resourceful Living is easy to read, and with stunning photographs and a clear layout, it is a book I love and will tap into in the future. It inspired me to look at my space with fresh eyes and rekindled my love for it, so I’ve become excited at the possibilities it has which had dwindled since we moved in a few years ago.
Would I recommend?
Yes, it is a delightful and accessible book that inspires you to revamp your home to showcase your personality and gives clear instruction on how to do it by reusing things you already own or locating in charity shops etc. It is one for my forever shelf to be revisited so I can make my house a home.
Lisa Dawson is a multi-award-winning interiors blogger, writer, workshop presenter and social media influencer. She writes a popular weekly blog, is a regular contributor to Frank magazine and creates professional social media content for brands such as John Lewis and Loaf Home. She is co-founder of the popular Instagram hashtag #myhomevibe which has over 1.5 million posts and was the first UK-based interiors community hashtag when it was launched in 2016. She lives in York with her husband, three children and a badly behaved Lhasa Apso called Buddy. Lisa shares her home inspiration on her Instagram @_lisa_dawson_.
It has been glorious sunshine here the last couple of days but cold and even snowing at the weekend which was made bearable by a visit to Southern Italy in Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas. I am pleased to share my review for this romantic read.
Book Review: Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas
Title: Chasing the Italian Dream
Author: Jo Thomas
Release date: 8th April 2021 ebook 10th June 2021 paperback
A feel-good story of new beginnings, love and family set in the sun kissed atmosphere of a southern Italian town and its much-loved pizzeria.
A summer escape she’ll never forget . . .
Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home. But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over! Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams? From the bestselling author of Escape to the French Farmhouse comes a deliciously feel-good story about making your dreams come true.
Lucia is a strong, independent lawyer working hard for promotion, and is on a much needed holiday in Italy when Nonna, her grandfather, drops the bombshell he is retiring and selling the business to her ex, Giac. With a stunning location, beautiful scenery and atmosphere brought to life with Jo Thomas’s writing, I was immersed into the story quickly. I could smell the fragrance of the citrus trees, the aroma of the food cooking in the bustling kitchen and my mouth watered for the majority of the novel; I longed for pizza or a large bowl of pasta.
I cared for Lucia, the business and for her family. Full of warmth and love, this book made me homesick for somewhere I’d never been and would love to have someone like Nonna in my life. It explored the clash of the traditional and new ways of cooking and living, with a superb cast of characters. The chemistry between the women in the Nonna network and in the kitchen was heart-warming and I would love to know more about Veronica. She is a character I imagine could have her own novel that would be emotional but ultimately uplifting read. A romantic novel cannot exist without a romance and the tension between Giac and Lucia kept me reading. I wanted to know more about their past relationship and keen to see a way forward for them so they could have their happy ever after.
Ultimately, this is a novel about finding your place in the world and having the courage to shake off other people’s expectations and follow your heart and dreams, which is something we all would love to do.
Would I recommend?
Yes, it was a holiday in the sun without leaving home. It’s a beautiful, emotional, and uplifting novel which was a joy to read and one for my forever shelf for a reread when I need some much needed sunshine and food inspiration. It is wonderful to read about the power of women, even those who some consider living in the background. The setting has also meant rural Italy is added to my list of places I long to visit.
Once I can, I’m booking a table at my local Italian to indulge in a homemade pizza and imagine it was made by Lucia, Nonno and Nonna.
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. In 2013 Jo won the RNA Katie Fforde Bursary. Her debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller in ebook and was awarded the 2014 RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award. Jo lives in the Vale of Glamorgan with her husband and three children.