Thursday, 16 September 2021

Review: The Little Shop of Hidden Treasures Parts 3 by Holly Hepburn

**PART THREE in the brand new series from Holly Hepburn.**
When Hope loses her husband, she fears her happiest days are behind her. With her connection to London broken, she decides to move home to York to be near her family and try to piece her life back together.
Taking a job at the antique shop she has always loved, she finds herself crossing paths with two very different men. Will, who has recently become the guardian to his niece after the tragic death of her parents. And Ciaran, who she enlists to help solve the mystery of an Egyptian antique. Two men representing two different happy endings.

But can she trust herself to choose the right man? And will that give her the life she really needs?

 Review: Oh it was so great to be back with Hope and her friends at the Little Shop of Hidden Treasures. I didn't realise how much I missed this group in between installments of this series-they really are a great bunch. I was also super eager to start this part in the series because part 2 ended on such a cliffhanger and I was desperate to find out what happened next. 

I love that we are getting to see Hope growing and learning over the course of this series, she is almost unrecognisable from part one because of the amount of confidence she has gained as well as the professional respect and the friendships she has made. I loved spending this installment of the series with her and finding out which steps she would take next. 

The other character I was pleased to spend more time with was Will, and of course his neice Brodie. I didn't realise how happy it made me when they appear in the story until we didnt' see them until partway through the book. I love him as a character and I really hope to see more of him in the next part! 

When I reviewed part 2 I said there was plenty of drama but the twists and turns just keep coming in this installment of the series. I gasped a couple of times and we have been rewarded with yet another cliffhanger of an ending. If you want to travel to York without the crowds and hang out with an awesome group of people then this is definitely the series for you. I can't wait to read part 4!

To order your copy now, just click the link: 

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Guest Review: Just My Luck by Adele Parks

It’s the stuff dreams are made of – a lottery win so big, it changes everything.

For fifteen years, Lexi and Jake have played the same six numbers with their friends, the Pearsons and the Heathcotes. Over dinner parties, fish & chip suppers and summer barbecues, they’ve discussed the important stuff – the kids, marriages, jobs and houses – and they’ve laughed off their disappointment when they failed to win anything more than a tenner.

But then, one Saturday night, the unthinkable happens. There’s a rift in the group. Someone doesn’t tell the truth. And soon after, six numbers come up which change everything forever.

Lexi and Jake have a ticket worth £18 million. And their friends are determined to claim a share of it.

Review: As a person who has been playing the national lottery ever since it started without any significant win, I was intrigued by the sound of this story about a family who won big. Although I am aware that Adele Parks has written several top selling books, this is the first that I have read. I’m glad that I did; the story had me hooked from the start and was a quick read for me. There is plenty going on and enough twists and turns to keep me turning the pages wondering what on earth was going to happen next.

The story begins with Lexi and Jake Greenwood discovering that they have won the weekly lottery draw, with a jackpot of £17.8 million. Until the week before, they had played for years as part of a syndicate with two other couples, but during a rather heated argument, the other couples apparently backed out of the arrangement. However, once the win is made common knowledge, the other four claim their share of the winnings. While Lexi, Jake and their two teenage children are spending the money, the dispute with their former friends is not the only problems their wealth brings them. They all have different ideas of what to do with the money. There are also all sorts of people who want a cut of their good fortune, some of them more forceful in their methods of asking than others. What’s more, they find that there is a change in the way people react to them. It seems that their win has had an effect on everyone around them, often bringing out the worst kind of traits such as greed, violence and betrayal.

This book had me surprised, and indeed alarmed, again and again by what was happening in the lives of Lexi, Jake and their children as a direct result of their lottery win. I found the whole story absorbing and frightening at times; very good writing in my opinion. I actually gasped out loud at a few points. There are quite a few nasty characters in the pages of this book; even the ones you feel you should be supporting have their own agendas apparently. Just when I thought everything was tied up, there was a terrific twist at the end - I certainly didn’t see it coming. I can definitely recommend this thrilling story to other readers, but I would warn them that it might make them think twice about playing the lottery.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Enchanted Fandom July 2021 Drinking Vessel Unboxing (Jane Austen)


Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Numbers in The Title 14/9/21


Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Ooo this is a fun one, I bet there are more than I think...

Monday, 13 September 2021

Blog Tour: Interview With A Country Village Christmas Author Suzanne Snow

Today is my stop on the blog tour for A Country Village Christmas by Suzanne Snow. I have an interview with the author to share with you today. If you like the sound of that, you can click here to buy your copy now. Don't forget to check out the other blogs on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews. 

Here's what it's all about:

Can the magic of Christmas and the community of Thorndale bring two lost souls together in love?

Olivia doesn’t have time for Christmas or for romance – she’s got a demanding career and has been burned before when it comes to love. This year, she’s spending the festive season in her dad’s old house, packing it up now that he’s moved out. Her dad failed to mention she wouldn’t be spending her time there alone…

The last thing Olivia expects is for her surprise guest to be the very man who literally ran from her after an evening of mutual flirtation. But Tom has nowhere else to go and Olivia is determined to forget the disappointment she felt at his abandonment and instead help him find his way again.

As heavy snow keeps them inside the cottage, will their enforced confinement spark romance once again – or will it push them further apart?

Are you ready to read that interview?

First question-bit of a cliche-how did you get into writing?

I loved reading as a child and was always drawn to creating my own stories. Writing seemed like a natural progression and just a few days ago whilst having a clearout I discovered all my old stories and files. Not sure whether to shred or save! I grew up with horses around farms and my first stories were about adventurous girls and their ponies.
Do you write full time & if so, have you always done this?

I now write full time and am very grateful to be doing so, it was always my dream job. After several years as a stay-at-home mum, I trained in horticulture and spent five seasons planting redesigned gardens, which was a real passion.

Do you have a particular writing style or genre that you prefer?

I've always been drawn to romance and love to write about rural landscapes and the communities around them. I enjoy reading crime, especially historical, and have no idea how to write it!

How do you develop your characters as you write, are any of them based on real people?

My characters might be inspired by a story about a person or something I've heard or seen, but they're never based on real people. I love creating my characters and learning about their pasts as I plot their futures.
What was the inspiration behind A Country Village Christmas?

It was actually a house to begin with, a property in Yorkshire with a view of a small library, an old armchair beside the fire. The character of Hugh popped up as I imagined him sitting there, and Olivia and Tom soon joined him. I'd always wanted to write a Christmas book and I so enjoyed creating a romance set in December, with all the festive happenings you'd expect during the holidays.

What is your writing process-do you plan it out first? Write a bit at a time?

I'm definitely a planner and I always know the ending before I start writing. For me the process of writing the book is drawing characters to that ending but however much planning I do, there's usually a surprise or two along the way.
How much of you is reflected in your writing?

I'd say very little, other than each of my heroines have a tiny something of me in them; namely cooking, gardening, horses and home. I've given each woman a very different life experience to mine and they're a lot of fun to create. I think a childhood growing up mostly outdoors has definitely influenced my writing and I love to write across the seasons and celebrate them through the landscape.
What kind of research did you have to do before/during writing A Country Village Christmas?

The story is set around an old bookshop and I researched lots of different Christmas books to decide which ones would suit my character's narratives, as each of the real books referenced have a meaning to Olivia, Tom or Hugh. Tom is an actor and his back story included playing a fictional romantic hero which made him famous and that was brilliant to play around with, as Olivia finds out!
Are friends and family supportive of your writing? 

My friends and family are very encouraging, especially my husband. I was very close to my late mother-in-law and she was definitely one of my biggest supporters. She usually read everything first and never doubted that I'd be an author, even when I did. My mum is a brilliant publicist, and has been known to stop people in the street to tell them about my books. She even took bookmarks on holiday and persuaded a local bookshop to order my books! It all really helps!

How do you feel leading up to your publication day?

There are always some nerves but it's mostly excitement and being grateful to the team who work so hard to bring my books to readers. I'm very thankful for the opportunities I've had and it's always wonderful when a reader gets in touch to say how much they loved a book and are waiting for the next.
Which other authors inspire you or are there any you particularly enjoy reading?

I read everything by Karen Swan and I love CJ Sansom's Shardlake series in particular. I'm inspired by any author who has written and published a book, and I've made some lovely friends since joining the RNA.

Finally...what are you working on right now?

Writing my fifth book, and planning six and seven, which aren't part of the Thorndale series. I'm loving getting to know different characters and exploring a new setting, set in another rural community. 

Thanks so much to Suzanne for stopping by the blog today and answering all of my burning questions!

Sunday, 12 September 2021

Movie Review: Why Did I Love The Action in Marvel's Shang Chi & The Legend of The Ten Rings?


Guest Review: Operation Pedestal: The Fleet that Battled to Malta 1942 By Max Hastings

In August 1942, beleaguered Malta was within weeks of surrender to the Axis, because its 300,000 people could no longer be fed. Churchill made a personal decision that at all costs, the ‘island fortress’ must be saved. This was not merely a matter of strategy, but of national prestige, when Britain’s fortunes and morale had fallen to their lowest ebb.

The largest fleet the Royal Navy committed to any operation of the western war was assembled to escort fourteen fast merchantmen across a thousand of miles of sea defended by six hundred German and Italian aircraft, together with packs of U-boats and torpedo craft. The Mediterranean battles that ensued between 11 and 15 August were the most brutal of Britain’s war at sea, embracing four aircraft-carriers, two battleships, seven cruisers, scores of destroyers and smaller craft. The losses were appalling: defeat seemed to beckon.
This is the saga Max Hastings unfolds in his first full length narrative of the Royal Navy, which he believes was the most successful of Britain’s wartime services. As always, he blends the ‘big picture’ of statesmen and admirals with human stories of German U-boat men, Italian torpedo-plane crews, Hurricane pilots, destroyer and merchant-ship captains, ordinary but extraordinary seamen.

Operation Pedestal describes catastrophic ship sinkings, including that of the aircraft-carrier Eagle, together with struggles to rescue survivors and salvage stricken ships. Most moving of all is the story of the tanker Ohio, indispensable to Malta’s survival, victim of countless Axis attacks. In the last days of the battle, the ravaged hulk was kept under way only by two destroyers, lashed to her sides. Max Hastings describes this as one of the most extraordinary tales he has ever recounted. Until the very last hours, no participant on either side could tell what would be the outcome of an epic of wartime suspense and courage.

Review: The island of Malta lies in the Mediterranean Sea approximately 60 miles south of the Italian island of Sicily. Its strategic importance during World War II stemmed from the fact that it was a staging post lying roughly halfway between the Royal Navy’s Western Mediterranean Fleet based in Gibraltar and Eastern Mediterranean Fleet based at Alexandria in Egypt. It was also an important base from which air and submarine attacks on Axis shipping could be mounted. Following Italy’s entry into the War on the Axis side in June 1940, Malta’s proximity to Italy left it vulnerable to blockade and aerial bombardment. By the summer of 1942, the situation was looking very bleak since, notwithstanding some limited supplies reaching the island, food and fuel supplies for the inhabitants and the garrison were running out. Hence, Winston Churchill ordered a convoy of 14 merchant ships with naval warship escorts to make the voyage from Gibraltar to Malta to relieve the situation.

This book is the account of that convoy, named Operation Pedestal, and its epic voyage. The merchant vessels and their escort assembled in the Firth of Clyde. During the passage to Gibraltar, they were joined by more Royal Navy ships, so that by the time they entered the Mediterranean during the night of 9/10th August 1942, there were up to 50 navy escorts comprising four aircraft carriers, two battleships, together with cruisers and destroyers. This, the most heavily escorted convoy of the war, was effectively a fleet. Over the course of the next few days, it ran the gauntlet of repeated air, submarine and motor torpedo boat attacks from German and Italian forces as it sailed towards Malta.

The author has painted a vivid picture of this operation, which includes accounts of individuals, ranging from statesmen and commanders to sailors and airmen, from both sides of the conflict. The book is a fitting tribute to the men of the Royal Navy, Merchant Navy and US Mercantile Marine (two of the merchant vessels were American with American crews; a third American vessel had a British crew) who undertook such a dangerous mission. Nine of the merchant ships and four of the navy ships were lost. On 13th August, three of the merchant ships sailed into Malta’s Grand Harbour. A further merchant vessel, that had been slowed by a torpedo hit, reached Malta the following day. The most important of the merchant ships, the tanker “Ohio” carrying fuel, had been torpedoed and bombed. With its engines out of action, two navy destroyers were lashed to its sides and it finally entered Grand Harbour on 15th August. Although some of it cargo had been lost, the majority of its precious fuel was offloaded. The supplies delivered by the convoy enabled Malta to hold out for longer until Allied successes in North Africa later in 1942 allowed air cover for further convoys to be provided.

Max Hastings assesses the value of the convoy, arguing that it was not so much the strategic value of Malta that was important as the morale boosting effect of the operation. It demonstrated the willingness of the United Kingdom to fight on after a number of military reverses earlier in 1942.

I found the book to be a detailed and enthralling account of this hazardous mission. There are some maps included, although I feel that more detailed maps would have been an improvement. There are also a number of black and white photographs. However, I should add a word of caution since, although some of them were taken during Operation Pedestal, not all of them were. In particular, there is one photograph captioned as HMS Fiji firing its main armament. However, HMS Fiji was sunk during the Battle of Crete in 1941 and, therefore, could not have participated in Operation Pedestal. On a similar vein, the port of Bône is stated as being in Tunisia whereas it is in Algeria, as shown in one of book’s maps. However, these minor errors aside, this book is an absorbing account of this particular episode, dramatically re-living the chaos, and sometimes the human side, of warfare.

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US