Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Blog Tour: Review of A Christmas Gift by Sue Moorcroft

It's my stop on the Sue Moorcroft blog tour today to celebrate the release of A Christmas Gift-so exciting! Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content, extracts and reviews!

Here's what it's all about:

Georgine loves Christmas. The festive season always brings the little village of Middledip to life. But since her ex-boyfriend walked out, leaving her with crippling debts, Georgine’s struggled to make ends meet.
To keep her mind off her worries, she throws herself into organising the Christmas show at the local school. And when handsome Joe Blackthorn becomes her assistant, Georgine’s grateful for the help. But there’s something about Joe she can’t quite put her finger on. Could there be more to him than meets the eye?
Georgine’s past is going to catch up with her in ways she never expected. But can the help of friends new and old make this a Christmas to remember after all?

Review: As an avid reader of books by Sue Moorcroft, as well as a lover of Christmas fiction, I have been looking forward with great anticipation to her new Christmas story. As I had expected, this book was easy to read, grabbing my attention right from the start and holding it to the last page. In common with most of Sue Moorcroft's books, this one has a really inviting cover, in this case making the reader think instantly of Christmas. 

As with many of Sue's previous books, this story is set in the Cambridgeshire village of Middledip, much of the action taking place in its performing arts college. Georgine France, who has lived in Middledip all her life, is events director at the college and is currently run off her feet organising the annual Christmas production. Principal of the college, Norman Ogden, surprises her with the introduction of a new member of staff, Joe Blackthorn, who is going to assist her with this task. However, it turns out that he may not be quite what he seems at the start. He seems familiar to Georgine, and as the story progresses surprising details of his past and present life come to light. To add to Georgine's load, she has financial troubles preying on her mind, as well as having to keep an eye on younger sister Blair and ailing father Randall. All in all, a busy and stressful festive season for her. 

Although this story plunged me into an area I am unfamiliar with, from staging a musical production to the world of rock music, I absolutely loved it. Through Sue Moorcroft's skillful story telling, I became totally absorbed in the tale, actually finding myself nervous that anything might go wrong on the night and worried about the outcome of troubles experienced by the main characters. Above all, though, it made me feel Christmassy, surely the best recommendation for a book published at this time of year. 

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

Monday, 22 October 2018

Guest Review: The Christmas Wish by Tilly Tennant

Christmas is coming but it doesn’t feel that way for Esme Greenwood. Recently jilted by her cheating fiancee Warren, she’s had enough of London life and escapes to Thimble Cottage in the Peak District, home of her beloved grandmother Matilda.

While Esme mourns for the wedding she’ll never have, Matilda puts her granddaughter back together again with comforting words and generous helpings of fruitcake and together, they plan the trip of a lifetime, to Lapland to see the northern lights, somewhere Matilda has always dreamt of going.

But tragedy strikes and when Matilda dies, Esme screws up the courage to go on the trip on her own to honour her beloved grandmother’s wishes. At the airport she meets a motley crew of characters including Zach, a handsome, brooding, out-of- work actor and together they set off for an adventure.

Beneath the indigo skies of Lapland, Esme and Zach grow closer. But when Esme is bombarded by messages from Warren promising he’s changed and she discovers that Zach is hiding something very significant - will her head be turned? And when a trip to the northern lights reveals the full extent of Zach’s own secret past, is there any hope that Esme will get the happy ending that her grandmother wished for her?

Review: I am a big fan of Tilly Tennant's books and was looking forward to reading this Christmas story, having very much enjoyed her previous festive tales. I especially love the cover of this book, promising lots of snowy scenes and clear, crisp nights. Once opened, it proved a real page turner too; this was definitely a book I didn't want to put down - once started I had to finish. 

The story revolves around Esme, who has run away from a life she no longer finds enjoyable to stay with her grandma, Matilda, who lives in a dreamy cottage in a sleepy little Derbyshire village. Esme is escaping the clutches of Warren, her cheating and controlling fiancé who turned out not to be what he seemed, although it cost Esme lots of friendships before she realised. When Matilda dies suddenly, Esme decides to fulfil her grandmother's dream of holidaying in Lapland and, hopefully, seeing the Northern Lights. This trip leads to more than a winter delight. Esme makes some new friends, including Zach, who she is attracted to, but finds a little mysterious. At the end of the holiday will she return to Warren, or will her life take a different direction?

I found this a lovely, rounded story, with some humour mixed in with the drama and romance. I was very worried for Esme, firstly that she didn't see Warren for what he was, and then that she might go running back to him; it was at times difficult not to feel angry with her. Zach, on the other hand, was just an all round nice guy, if a bit of a conundrum. Esme's older travelling companions injected most of the humour into the story. I think that this was a wonderfully Christmassy book, with all the snow and winter activities in Lapland added to the usual features at this time of year. I can recommend it to be read at any time of the year, but especially now, in the run up to Christmas. 

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

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Guest Review: The Art of Captaincy By Mike Brearley

My Sunday series of sport and history guest reviews has been on hold for a little while but now i'ts back! So here's something a little different for you today. 

Mike Brearley played cricket for Middlesex and England. He captained Middlesex from 1971 to 1982, during which time they won the County Championship four times and the Gillette one day cup competition twice. He made his Test debut for England in 1976, and captained the national side during two periods, the first from 1977 to 1980 and the second in 1981. On both occasions, he took over the captaincy under difficult circumstances. The first time was when Tony Greig was stripped of the captaincy as a result of his connection with Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. The second occasion  followed Ian Botham's resignation from the captaincy in 1981 after the first two Tests in an Ashes series against Australia. Overall, Mike Brearley's record as captain of England in 31 Test matches was 18 won and 4 lost. Perhaps his most notable achievement was in turning around England's fortunes in the Ashes series in 1981. After the first two matches under Ian Botham's captaincy, Australia were 1-0 up in the series. Under Brearley, England went on to win three of the remaining matches, to take the series 3-1. The most remarkable performance came in the third Test at Headingley, thanks to outstanding performances in the second innings with the bat by Ian Botham and with the ball by Bob Willis, when England fought back from a seemingly hopeless position to win the match. Mike Brearley is considered to have been one of England's best captains. When he finished playing, he pursued a career in psychoanalysis.

In this book, Mike Brearley discusses all the aspects of captaincy, from organising pre-season training, team selection, tactics, motivation and discipline. Throughout, there are numerous examples and anecdotes, mainly garnered from the author's own experiences of his playing days with Middlesex and England. The book was published in 1985, so it is interesting to see what changes in the game have occurred since then. In particular, the physical training and conditioning of the players is a lot more intense nowadays, and more limited overs cricket is played, especially since the advent of 20 overs a side cricket.

This book will provide a fascinating insight into the thought processes of a captain and will appeal to any cricket enthusiast. However, I think the book also has relevance for managers in any organisation in that it deals with what it takes to get the best out of people and to mould a group of individuals with different skills into a cohesive team. One anecdote that I enjoyed especially was the story of a letter that the author received on being recalled to the England captaincy in 1981, which quoted an old Italian proverb: "if you want to know that a fish is bad look at its head". I think there is a lot of truth in that statement.

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

Friday, 19 October 2018

Poetry I've Read Recently

It's been a while since I've been able to include poetry in a top ten or similar list and I've been posting reviews of some poetry books I've read recently over on my IGTV so if you're not already following me on Instagram, you should head on over there.

So here are five poetry books I've read and loved recently and which have fuelled my desire to read more contemporary poetry. 

A new Amanda Lovelace poetry collection is always a must-buy for me. I'm going to share a full review of this one with you soon and I talk about it on my IGTV channel but I wanted to highlight it here too. This book is broken into three section; Monster Boy, Monster Girl and Sun Heart so it almost reads like the arc of a novel. It highlights the damage past relationships can have on us then, now and always. It has some beautiful illustration and even made me cry. I share some of the specific poems that spoke to me in that video. 

I have a full review of this collection of short stories and poems which you can find here

I'm not bundling these two together because I feel that they are the same story but because I loved them both equally and read them virtually back to back. Wild embers is a great collection of poetry and I highlighted so many poems which I talk about in my IGTV video. Some of my favourites were those that concern fairy tales and princesses from those tales. So naturally I rushed out to get fierce fairy tales the day it was released and I have the very beautiful UK hardback edition sitting on my shelves, also show in an IGTV video. I think I definitely preferred the poems to the short stories in this collection but I loved the way it made me look at fairy tales and the princes and princesses found within them. 

First of all, I loved the design of this book of poetry so I could do just as it said and take it with me. I actually borrowed this one from my library but I have it on my wish list so I will try and obtain a copy so that I can read it again. I loved the way this book spoke to me directly as a reader. I loved the way it highlighted the ups and downs of a relationship both inside and outside of one and I loved the structure of the book and the fact that it included illustrations. 

This book really is for everyone, another one where it does exactly what it says on the cover. This is the shortest of the books mentioned in the post and so possibly the most accessible if you are new to contemporary poetry. These poems are really beautiful and really do make you see the things in your life in a new light. The colours used throughout the book are lovely too and make for a very three dimensional reading experience. The thing that I loved most about it was the fact that inside the cover you have a section where you can fill in your name (if you own the book, I got mine from the library) and then pass it on to someone else so it is like a library borrowing system but to leave and pass on to everyone. 

Please let me know in the comments if you have enjoyed any similar collections of poetry recently or have any recommendations for me based on the books I have shared here. 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Review: Fashion Victim by Amina Akhtar

A thrilling take on the fashion world, #FashionVictim is Dexter meets The Devil Wears Prada.

Fashion editor Anya St. Clair is on the verge of greatness. Her wardrobe is to die for. Her social media is killer. And her career path is littered with the bodies of anyone who got in her way. She’s worked hard to get where she is, but she doesn’t have everything.

Not like Sarah Taft. Anya’s obsession sits one desk away. Beautiful, stylish, and rich, she was born to be a fashion world icon. From her beach-wave blonde hair to her on-trend nail art, she’s a walking editorial spread. And Anya wants to be her friend. Her best friend. Her only friend.

But when Sarah becomes her top competition for a promotion, Anya’s plan to win her friendship goes into overdrive. In order to beat Sarah…she’ll have to become her. Friendly competition may turn fatal, but as they say in fashion: One day you’re in, and the next day you’re dead.

Review: Wow this novel is dark. If you don't like a lot of death or violence in your novels then this will definitely not be one for you, but if you do, then you're in the right place. This novel is twisty and unexpected and yet funny and snarky and kind of relatable all at the same time. 

This novel is set in the fashion world of New York, one of my very favourite settings and although we don't get a lot of description of the city, we get a lot of description of New York Fashion Week and just what a cut throat (literally) environment the world of fashion really is. 

I loved the fact that we see this whole story through Anya's eyes, we get her take on everything that goes and and we really get into her mind, which is a very unique place indeed. Anya definitely isn't a character you're going to like but she is one of the most intriguing character I have read recently. She is also quite easy to sympathise with in some ways and so you can see where she is coming from in some of the actions that she takes. 

It is very hard to talk about the plot without giving any spoilers away but there is fashion gossip and bitching, police procedure, weight loss, relationships and friendships covered within the pages amongst other things. One of the great things about the plot is that incidents occur very much in the passive voice and it might be a few pages before we, as readers, get to see what actually happened in the active voice. 

Very twisty, very snarky, full of intrigue and surprise. A thriller with themes of mental health and friendship, truly one of the most unique reading experiences I have had in a long time. 

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

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Guest Review: A Gift From the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson

Christmas has never been Katie Seddon’s favourite time of year. Whilst everyone else shares memories of families coming together and festive number ones, the soundtrack to Katie’s childhood wasn’t quite so merry.

But since she moved to the village of Budbury on the gorgeous Dorset coast, Katie and her baby son have found a new family. A family who have been brought together by life’s unexpected roads and the healing magic of a slice of cake and a cupful of kindess at the Comfort Food CafĂ©.

This year, Katie’s new friends are determined to give her a Christmas to remember, and with a gorgeous newcomer in town, Katie’s Christmas wish for a happy home for her son might just come true.

Review: This is the fifth book in the series about The Comfort Food Cafe, the amazing venue in the seaside village of Bunbury, Dorset, that is so much more than just an eating establishment. As readers of previous books in the series know, the Cafe is a place where the perfect dish to soothe your soul appears as if by magic in front of you, served up by proprietor Cherie Moon, or chef Laura. I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed, all of the titles in this series, and was looking forward to this Christmassy story.

As the series has progressed, we have met the regulars at the cafe and a procession of characters who have discovered its healing powers.  In this story, we learn more about Katie and young son Saul, who have been present from the start, but with Katie always keeping herself to herself. As the pages turn, Katie's background and reason for relocating to Budbury emerge. Cherie and Laura are, as usual, matchmaking and hoping to get Katie together with local man, Van, but can she overcome her misgivings about entering into a relationship at all? While this is the central story in the book, there are, of course, other things happening with the cafe's clientele, making for an entertaining read. 

This book contains the wonderful blend of comedy, romance and drama I have come to expect from Debbie Johnson. I cannot recommend this series highly enough. Each story can be read as a standalone, but it would be a shame not to read them in order. They are full of strong, believable characters, each with interesting back stories. Each time I read about the Comfort Food Cafe, I have a longing to visit and sit there watching the sea, with a plate of their delicious food in front of me. I'm sure other readers would join me. 

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

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookstores/Libraries I've always wanted to visit 16/10/18

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.

Again I've been very lucky when it comes to bookstore and libraries, I always make a point of seeking them out when I travel, however there are definitely some that I haven't managed to get to yet!

Books are Magic, Brooklyn, USA

El Ateneo, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy

Honesty Bookshop, Hay-on-Wye, UK

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

Seattle Public Library, USA

Copenhagen University Library, Denmark

Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK

Admont Abbey’s Library, Austria

Vienna National Library, Austria