Thursday, 18 May 2017

Blog Tour: guest Post: "Inspiration behind Island of Secrets" by Patricia Wilson


Island of Secrets by  Patricia Wilson
Published: 18th May 2017 (paperback)
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Available in Paperback and on Kindle

Today I have a piece from Patricia on the inspiration behind her brilliant debut novel "Islands of Secrets"

INSPIRATION BEHIND ISLAND OF SECRETS
 After taking early retirement, my husband and I found our place in the sun, Crete. However, I soon realised the idea of laying on a beach all day with nothing to do was my worst nightmare.
I found my solution was to set myself a challenge: to accomplish something new, and difficult, each New Year and to stick at it like a real job for three hours a day, through the twelve months. As time passed, amongst other things, I learned to dive, sail, paint, build, fish, classical guitar, photography.
After living in the tourist area of Crete for many years, we moved to a very old cottage that we were restoring in the remote mountain village of Amiras, on the south coast.
That first year flew by, decorating and refurbishing the property, and getting to know the local people (at that time we were the only foreigners living in the area).
The following spring, in a year dedicated to gardening, I set about organising the vegetable plot. I’d bought half a dozen strawberry plants from the local agricultural shop in the town of Viannos, three kilometres away. A place where I was in the habit of going to meet friends. My favourite kafenion in Viannos was shaded by an enormous, thousand-year-old plane tree.
As the garden of our cottage had been abandoned for more than half a century, I decided to follow Alan Titchmarsh’s advice and double dig before planting. I used the traditional Greek digging tool, a skapáni, a flat bladed pick. When I hit metal, I wondered what it could be. I’d already unearthed some weird and wonderful bits of junk: old weighing scales, and a jerrycan. This turned out to be neither. What I pulled out of the soil was a rusted machine gun.
Wow!
I took the weapon to the Amiras kafenion where the men told me many moving stories about how war effected the local community, especially in 1943. In the nearby town of Viannos, I handed the gun over to the mayor, for the local war museum.
Over the following months, the village matriarchs told me their personal stories about the day two thousand Nazis invaded the village. Some of the women told me of events that they had kept to themselves ever since that terrible day. I was both honoured and humbled that they shared these real-life accounts with me, and the more I heard, the more I realised the women’s story had to be told.
Then, I started to notice how many local Greek men had blue eyes.
I decided that my challenge for the following twelve months would be to learn how to write a novel. I was shocked to discover how exciting, and addictive, writing fiction is.
The year after that, based on the facts I had learned from the women of Amiras, Wikipedia, and the local war museum, I set about writing Island of Secrets.




About the Author
Patricia Wilson lives in the village of Amiras in Crete where the book is set. She was inspired to write when she unearthed a machine gun in her garden - one used in the events that unfolded in September 1943, and much of the novel is based on real stories told to her by the oldest women of Amiras. Woman who've never spoken of their experiences before. This is her debut novel.






Friday, 28 April 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser


The Summer House Party by Caro Fraser
Published: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 512
Available in Hardcover or on Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Blurb
In the gloriously hot summer of 1936, a group of people meet at a country house party. Within three years, England will be at war, but for now, time stands still.
Dan Ranscombe is clever and good-looking, but he resents the wealth and easy savoir faire of fellow guest, Paul Latimer. Surely a shrewd girl like Meg Slater would see through that, wouldn't she? And what about Diana, Paul's beautiful sister, Charles Asher, the Jewish outsider, Madeleine, restless and dissatisfied with her role as children's nanny? And artist Henry Haddon, their host, no longer young, but secure in his power as a practised seducer.
As these guests gather, none has any inkling the choices they make will have fateful consequences, lasting through the war and beyond. Or that the first unforeseen event will be a shocking death.

Review

Caro Fraser is not an author I’ve come across before but The Summer House Party sounded like a book I would enjoy as its promises secrets and mysteries hidden among the lives of this small group of people.

It’s 1936 and a group of friends have gathered together at Woodbourne House for a week long summer party full of fun and flirting. As the week draws to a close there is a shocking death for one member of the party.  As the friends depart they are yet unaware of how the events of that week will shape their lives over the next few years.

This book is huge, at 512 pages it’s definitely a book which will take some time to read and it’s not the easiest of books to snuggle down in bed with, don’t let this put you off as this is a cracking read and I feel best enjoyed out in the sunshine in a comfy deckchair, which is what I did.

This book for me would be best described as a slow burner. I initially found it hard to get into and connect with the characters but once there were a couple of sparks of interest I was hooked and very intrigued by what happened to this group of characters.

I don’t really want to say anything much about the characters or what happens to them as I feel this is a book where the less you know initially the more enjoyment you will have. I will say it’s beautifully written and has a real sense of place to the writing. It’s a book full of mystery, romance and learning to live with the decisions you make.

It’s one of those books where you just want to keep reading and it too never end. When it did I was a bit lost as I had become so involved in the story I wanted more. Hopefully Caro Fraser will write something similar in the future which I look forward to enjoying.

Thank you so much to Head of Zeus for inviting me on this blog tur and for sending a review copy, which is something I will treasure for a long time.

Caro Fraser is not an author I’ve come across before but The Summer House Party sounded like a book I would enjoy as its promises secrets and mysteries hidden among the lives of this small group of people.

It’s 1936 and a group of friends have gathered together at Woodbourne House for a week long summer party full of fun and flirting. As the week draws to a close there is a shocking death for one member of the party.  As the friends depart they are yet unaware of how the events of that week will shape their lives over the next few years.

This book is huge, at 512 pages it’s definitely a book which will take some time to read and it’s not the easiest of books to snuggle down in bed with, don’t let this put you off as this is a cracking read and I feel best enjoyed out in the sunshine in a comfy deckchair, which is what I did.

This book for me would be best described as a slow burner. I initially found it hard to get into and connect with the characters but once there were a couple of sparks of interest I was hooked and very intrigued by what happened to this group of characters.

I don’t really want to say anything much about the characters or what happens to them as I feel this is a book where the less you know initially the more enjoyment you will have. I will say it’s beautifully written and has a real sense of place to the writing. It’s a book full of mystery, romance and learning to live with the decisions you make.

It’s one of those books where you just want to keep reading and it too never end. When it did I was a bit lost as I had become so involved in the story I wanted more. Hopefully Caro Fraser will write something similar in the future which I look forward to enjoying.

Thank you so much to Head of Zeus for inviting me on this blog tur and for sending a review copy, which is something I will treasure for a long time.


Monday, 24 April 2017

Blog Tour: The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson


The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson
Published: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages:434
Available in Hardcover and on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
January, 1987. In the depths of winter, only joggers and dog walkers brave the Thames towpath after dark. Helen Honeysett, a young newlywed, sets off for an evening run from her riverside cottage. Only her dog returns. 
Twenty-nine years later, her husband has asked Stella Darnell, a private detective, and her side-kick Jack Harmon, to find out what happened all those years ago.
But when the five households on that desolate stretch of towpath refuse to give up their secrets, Stella and Jack find themselves hunting a killer whose trail has long gone cold...

Review

The Dog Walker by Lesley Thomson is the latest book in the Detectives Daughter series featuring Stella and Jack. This time Stella and Jack have been called to a row of terrace houses set along the Thames. Firstly they are called by Natasha Latimer the recent owner of number 1 who has renovated her basement and is now hearing strange noises she believes belong to the ghost of the long missing Helen Honeysett. Jack agrees to housesit and rid the house of its ghosts. Meanwhile Stella meets Adam Honeysett who is still searching for answers surrounding the disappearance of his wife over twenty years ago. Stella agrees to look into the case and soon it’s clear that everyone living in this small terrace along the river has something to hide. Will Stella and Jack manage to find out what happened to young Helen all those years ago or will they reach a dead end.

This is the first novel by Lesley Thomson that I’ve read and it was a book which was fairly easy to get lost in. There were a couple of times when I felt I missed something by not reading the previous books but overall this book works well as a standalone novel.

I liked the initial few chapters where we get flashbacks to 1987 before and after Helen Honeysett went missing as this gave a great insight into all the residents’ characters and how they reacted to the news Helen was missing. This was great to contrast with their characters later on in the novel when Stella and Jack meet them.

The things which struck me the most about Lesley Thomson was how good she is at creating an atmosphere. Almost instantly the little cottages by the Thames had a creepy almost sinister feel about them and I can imagine just how scary the towpath along the river could feel. This creepy atmosphere was definitely heightened when there were scenes at night, which there seemed to be a lot of.

I wasn’t overly keen on the ghost hunting aspect of this novel which Jack seems a big believer in but I guess it did add to the sinister feeling of the book and gives it a unique angle.

Stella herself is almost fifty, this was something I really struggled with. With so many mentions of her father and being around her mother so much I felt she was younger and every time her age was mentioned it threw me a little. 

Overall I found this book and enjoyable read with an engaging storyline which had a few little twists to keep me guessing. I loved the detail of all the characters and the setting which eerily brought this book to life. I’m now intrigued by the relationship of Stella and Jack I hope there is another book in the series to follow.




About the Author
Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People's Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective's Daughter, was a #1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.     


Thank you to Head of Zeus for sending me a copy to review and for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Blog Tour : Invisible Women by Sarah Long


Invisible Women by Sarah Long
Published: 20th April 2017
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Available on Kindle

Blurb
Isn't it about time we talked about YOU?

Tessa, Sandra and Harriet have been best friends through first crushes, careers, marriage and the trials of motherhood. After twenty years of taking care of everyone else's every need, they've found themselves hitting the big 5-0 and suddenly asking themselves: 'what about me?!'

Sandra has a sordid secret, and Harriet is landed with her ailing mother-in-law. Tessa is looking for something to fill the gaping hole left by her youngest daughter's departure for uni, where it seems she's now engaged in all sorts of unsavoury activities, if Tessa's obsessive late-night Facebook stalking is anything to go by.

When Tessa impulsively responds to an online message from an old flame, she soon finds herself waiting at Heathrow Airport for The One That Got Away.

But what will the plane from New York bring her? The man of her dreams, or a whole heap of trouble?

And could this be the long-awaited moment for Tessa to seize her life, for herself, with both hands?


Today I'd like to give a warm welcome to Sarah Long who is going to talk about the invisibility of middle-aged women, whom characters in her new book Invisible Women are based. So over to Sarah:




The Invisibility of Middle-Aged Women

That moment when you walk past a building site and nobody wolf-whistles at you. Young women will say, I should hope not, Neanderthal sexual harassment. Older women may say, with a twinge of regret, oh yes, I remember that. When the polite nod replaced the hungry stare. You’d reached a certain age and turned into their mother, you were no longer an object of lust.

Nobody laments the demise of the caveman, but most women will say they miss the attention when they morph into middle age. The loudest complaints come from TV presenters and actors. Their success depends on their looks - unlike their male counterparts who are not obliged to look cute or hot -  and so they are quietly sidelined in favour of younger models. 

The heroines of my novel INVISIBLE WOMEN  are not actors or TV presenters. They are examples of a rather outdated breed, the well-to-do housewife. In fact they refer to themselves as members of the dinosaur club, well aware that it is no longer quite the thing for an educated woman to live off her husband. The lack of a role outside the home reinforces their sense of not being noticed as they grow older, of not counting in a world that increasingly applauds the shouty ones, the sexy ones, the ones with beach-ready bodies.

You’ve only got to read the style advice meted out to middle aged women to get the underlying message. There’s a lot of talk about ‘appropriate’ styles: you can wear mini skirts but only with thick tights; cream is kinder than white against older skin, don’t be a ‘cougar’, don’t wear ‘mum jeans’, whatever the hell they are.   In other words, you’ve had it, you’re ridiculous unless you melt quietly into the background and let the young ones take centre stage.

Bollocks to that. I think we should take our lead from earlier role models. Great old operatic divas with heaving bosoms spilling out of their bodices. Terrifying matriarchs striking fear into whoever crossed their path. Margaret Thatcher would have hand-bagged anyone who told her not to wear those pussycat bows, Bette Davis ruling the roost in All About Eve. The more inappropriate, the better, in my opinion.  

The women in my novel are all emerging from their domestic cocoon to realise it is time to be noticed. Two of them are being particularly noticed by men who are not their husbands. It’s not quite the wolf whistles from the building site – we have moved on, after all – but it’s the kind of attention that forces them out of the shadows and on to the centre stage of their own lives.

INVISIBLE WOMEN by Sarah Long is published by Bonnier Zaffre



Sunday, 16 April 2017

Blog Tour Review : The Married Girls by Diney Costello


The Married Girls by Diney Costello
Published: 4th May 2017 (Hardback)
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Pages: 380
Available in Hardback and on Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
The war is over, but trouble is brewing...
Wynsdown, 1949. In the small Somerset village of Wynsdown, Charlotte Shepherd is happily married to farmer Billy. She arrived from Germany on the Kindertransport as a child during the war and now feels settled in her adopted home.
Meanwhile, the squire's fighter pilot son, Felix, has returned to the village with a fiancée in tow. Daphne is beautiful, charming... and harbouring secrets. After meeting during the war, Felix knows some of Daphne's past, but she has worked hard to conceal that which could unravel her carefully built life.
For Charlotte, too, a dangerous past is coming back in the shape of fellow refugee, bad boy Harry Black. Forever bound by their childhoods, Charlotte will always care for him, but Harry's return disrupts the village quiet and it's not long before gossip spreads.
The war may have ended, but for these girls, trouble is only just beginning.

Review

One of my favourite things about book blogging is the discovery of a new author who I know I’m going to love, Diney Costello for me is a real gem of a find.  The Married Girls is a sequel to one of her early books The Girl with No Name, having not read this book I can say The Married Girls can be read completely as a standalone novel without losing any enjoyment, I thought it was a wonderful book.

The book centres on the lives of Charlotte Shepheard and Daphne Higgins. Charlotte Shepheard was a German refugee from the war who came to London and later was living in the village of Wynsdown where she met and married Billy. Charlotte I believe is the main character in a The Girl with No Name so if you want to read about her early life before Billy you can. She’s happily married now with two children Johnny and Edie. Everything is perfect for Charlotte until her old friend Harry Black appears and the gossip mill starts running and Billy starts to question her love.

Daphne Higgins is the other main character. Born in the east-end of London she’s looking for a way to better herself and when she accidentally meets Felix Bellinger in an air-raid her plans are made.  Becoming an aircraft mechanic put Daphne in the right place to bump into Felix again and her stunning good looks ensured it wasn’t long before she was Mrs Felix Bellinger, but Daphne’s past hides some secrets which need to stay hidden no matter the cost.

Charlotte was lovely character who was kind, caring and resilient to all the setbacks she faced in life. She had fully embraced village life and made herself loved by many. Daphne on the other hand I didn’t really like. She was sneaky, selfish and spoilt and portrayed herself as better than everyone else in the village.

I couldn’t really work out the significance of the Harry Black storyline as it didn’t really add anything to Charlotte or Daphne’s lives in Wynsdown, perhaps this storyline links back to the first book.

I enjoyed this book a great deal as it was full of surprising twists which kept my interest and the storytelling style was descriptive but not drowning in details.  I was a little disappointed with the drama at the end, I felt it could have blown up a bit more. I just felt the book came to an end a bit too quickly.

Thank you to Head of Zeus for sending me a copy to review and inviting me to be part of the blog tour.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Blog Tour Review: A Wedding in Italy by Tilly Tennant


A Wedding in Italy by Tilly Tennant
Published: 14th April 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 330
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Order now from Amazon UK / Amazon US
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
Sun, spaghetti and sparkling prosecco. When it comes to finding love, there’s no place like Rome… 

Kate is living the dream with her gorgeous boyfriend Alessandro in his native city, but the reality is sometimes a little less romantic than she’d hoped. Every day in her new home is a fight against leaking pipes, her cantankerous landlord and her less-than-perfect grasp of the Italian lingo.
All around her there is talk of weddings, but when a secret from her past is thrust out into the open, Kate must fight to prove to Alessandro’s Mamma – and the rest of his formidable family – that she truly is Italian marriage material. 

With the women in Alessandro’s life on a mission to break them apart, the cracks begin to show and Kate starts to question if Alessandro really is the man of her dreams. Can love and the city of romance conquer all, or is that just a fairy-tale?

Review
A Wedding in Italy is the second book in Tilly Tennant’s From Italy with Love series and follows on from Rome is Where the Heart is. I would definitely recommend reading Rome is Where the Heart is before starting A Wedding in Italy as the first book introduces all the characters and sets the scene for the start of the second book, which follows on really well from where the first book ended.
Kate has left her home and family in England and has moved to Rome and is starting to build a new live for herself with boyfriend Alessandro. The reality of living in Rome is starting to hit Kate as she struggles to find a job and with the language proving more of a barrier than she initially thought she’s sometimes a little lonely.
A lot of the drama in this book takes place centred on the Conti family, initially through Lucetta’s wedding. Where poor Kate is thrown in at the deep and gets to meet most of Alessandro’s extended family in one go, good luck girl. Later there are many family gatherings all of which seem to involve copious amounts of food, which made me very envious because it all sounded so delicious.
Jamie, Kate’s friend from New York and her sisters Anna and Lily also make an appearance in this second book. Which was good as we got to see how they were getting on after events in the last book. Much like the first book Jamie added a little bit of fun and chaos to Kate’s life and scenes with him did make the book more light-hearted and appeared at exactly the right time.
Although I enjoyed this book I did prefer Rome is Where the Heart is. For me this second book just lacked a little of the romance and sparkle of the first book. This is probably because Kate’s viewpoint is different, in the first book she’s doing all the touristy things for the first time which is magical and she’s still got that initial excitement when seeing Alessandro. In the second book she’s learning about living as an Italian which is more of a struggle. Kate is a resilient character though and I loved reading how she adapts to her new life.
Tilly Tennent’s writing is descriptive, warm-hearted and addictive and it wasn’t long before I’d finished the lovely A Wedding in Italy. A great sequel and a must read if you want to find out if Kate gets to live her Italian dream.
Thank you to Bookouture for the review copy and inviting me to be part of the blog tour.


Monday, 10 April 2017

Blog Tour Review: The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham


The Cornish Escape by Lily Graham
Published: 6th April 2017
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 319
Available in paperback and on kindle
Order now from Amazon UK / Amazon US
Rating: 4/5

Blurb
Get swept away along the beautiful Cornish coast, where a love story in a long forgotten diary has the power to change one woman’s life forever.

Victoria Langley’s world crumbles when her husband leaves, but she knows exactly where to go to mend her broken heart. The rugged shores of Cornwall will be her perfect sanctuary.
In the quaint, little village of Tregollan, nestled in the sea cliffs, Victoria is drawn to Seafall Cottage, covered in vines and gracefully falling apart. Inside she finds a diary full of secrets, from 1905.

Victoria is determined to unravel the diary’s mystery, but the residents of Tregollan are tight-lipped about Tilly Asprey, the cottage’s last owner. Just as she reaches a dead end, Victoria meets Adam Waters, the lawyer handling the cottage’s sale. He’s handsome, charming, and has a missing piece of the puzzle.

Tilly’s diary tells a devastating love story that mirrors Victoria’s own. Can Victoria learn from Tilly’s mistakes, and give herself a second chance at love? Or is history doomed to repeat itself?

An unputdownable and gorgeously romantic read about lost love and new beginnings set in the green hills and rocky cliffs of the breath-taking Cornish coast. 

Review
The Cornish Escape was the first book by Lily Graham that I have read. Having begun reading without knowing too much about the story or the author’s writing style I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting a light hearted beach romance but instead found an intriguing mystery surrounding a forgotten cottage intertwined with two budding romances a century apart.
Victoria Langley’s marriage has crumbled and needing someplace to go Victoria heads to the rugged coast of Cornwall. While walking along the beach at Tregollan Victoria stumbles across a cottage hidden among the cliffs, as she gets closer she takes a look around she find an old diary written in a secret code.  Being a historical biographer Victoria is intrigued by the diary and the strange connection she has to the derelict cottage.
The story of Tilly, the writer of the diary from 1905 is also told to us and we learn of her growing love for Fen Waters and her intrigue with the mystery surrounding the cottage her father is building at the edge of his estate.
Despite being marketed as romance novel it was the mysteries and the historical aspects of the novel which made it a winner for me. I loved reading about Tilly and her forbidden love with Fen but it was the mystery of the secret cottage and what it all meant which kept me reading. I loved Tilly as a character, she’s determined to do what she wants with who she wants with no regard to her social standing and takes people just as she finds them.
The chapters with Victoria were funnier and had more characters I would like to meet. I would love to go aboard Angie’s Bookshop on a Boat, that place sounded like heaven to me, especially as there always seemed to be cake available when Victoria visited.
Cornwall is one of my favourite places to visit and Lily Graham has really done is justice bringing to life the rugged coastline and the tiny fishing port and it had made me long to go back there. I felt many different emotions when reading about the different places in the book, the cottage by the sea felt eerie and cold with its hidden secrets but the houseboat on the river felt warm, cosy and welcoming, much like the people of Tregollan.
I thought this was a great read with lovely characters, great setting and a mystery which unravelled slowly keeping me guessing until the end. The only thing which I felt let this book down was that the end felt a little rushed and I think the ending could have been a little clearer.
Thank you to Bookouture for inviting me to be part of this blog tour and sending me a copy to review.