Thursday 30 November 2017

Guest Post and Extract from Katey Lovell, Author of Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown

Today is the release day of the paperback of Joe and Clara's Christmas countdown. I am very very excited because I absolutely loved this festive read, as you can tell from my review, which you can find here!

Katey knows how much I love her books and so offered to share an extract from Joe and Clara's Christmas countdown right here for you, and I also asked her for some words of wisdom when it comes to present buying, since there are so many amazing gifts exchanged in her latest novel. You can scroll down to read the extract and I'll leave links to the book down there too, but first, its; over to Katey-thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us!

In my festive novel Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown, Clara generously gives Joe a selection of gifts to remind him of the joy of the season.  Some of them are silly, some of them nostalgic, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re given with love.

This made me think of some of the Christmas presents I’ve been given over the years that have really made me smile.

It made me realise that some of the nicest things I’ve been given are decorations from children I’ve taught – when a child I’ve looked after gives me a tree decoration I’m always thrilled.  Each year when I get the bauble-filled box down from the top of the cupboard and see these presents, which have spent much of the year tucked out of view, I think of the child who gave it me and hope they’ve had a happy and successful year.  

Although Christmas isn’t just about the presents, I do find real pleasure in giving someone the perfect gift and love it when I can find a lovely present that I know they’ll adore.  I’ve done a lot of my shopping already, but as my son Zach turns ten the week before Christmas I still have a few more things I’d like to buy for him.  He’s given me numerous lists of things he might like, so I’ve no shortage of ideas!

Katey Lovell is the author of three romantic comedies published by HarperImpulse.  Her latest novel, Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown, is available now – you can read an extract below.

Thursday, November 30th 2017

Clara had always loved everything about Christmas, and although Advent hadn’t yet started she was fully prepared for the season.  She’d retrieved her collection of knitted Christmas jumpers from the back of her wardrobe (they were now hanging prominently from the picture rail in her bedroom so she could admire them in all their hideously gaudy beauty), and already done the majority of her shopping.  Her cards were written and stamped, ready to go into the post box at the end of the road on the first day of December.  And now she was trying to persuade Deirdre to let her decorate the youth club with spangly decorations galore.

‘There’s no way you’re putting them up today, Clara.  Not a chance.  It’s still November!’ Deirdre shook her head with such vigour that her monstrous clip-on earrings threatened to fly off.  ‘The ones at home don’t go up until at least the middle of the month.  If they were up any earlier I’d get bored.  I’m gagging to take them down by Boxing Day as it is.’

‘Spoil sport,’ Clara pouted. 

‘You’re not going to change my mind.  It’s November.  It’s too early.’

Clara sighed, ready to admit defeat.  It was the same every year – she’d be itching to get the club covered in tinsel and glitter whilst Deirdre would be putting the Christmas dampeners on.  

‘I’ve been patient.  The supermarkets have had their decorations up since the day after Hallowe’en.’

‘Bully for the supermarkets!’ Deirdre blustered.  ‘Go and work for them if you’re so desperate to have your bloody baubles up!’

Clara laughed.  ‘You don’t mean that.  We’re struggling enough as it is with the two of us running this place.  You’d have no chance if you were doing it single-handedly.’

‘Ah, but that’s where you’re wrong,’ Deirdre replied, a cryptic smirk curling at the corners of her lips.  ‘I wouldn’t be doing it alone.  My new volunteer would be able to help me out.’

Clara’s ears pricked up.  ‘New volunteer? You mean someone’s actually been daft enough to sign up to spend their free time in this madhouse?’

‘Yes, and, what’s more, I think he’ll be great with the kids.’


‘Yes, he.  He’s young and enthusiastic and it’ll be good for the boys to have a male role model.  I know it’s all about equality these days, but I switch off the minute Jordan starts talking about football.  What do I know about whether United would be better moving their right back into central defence or whatever it was he was rambling on about last night?  This way he can chew someone else’s ear off about it rather than mine.  Someone who might be able to make a more incisive comment than ‘Hmm, I don’t know’.’

‘Are you going to tell me who this saviour is or are you going to sit there teasing me all night?’  

Deirdre jokingly tapped the side of her nose with her index finger.  ‘I could tell you, but it’s far more fun to keep you guessing.’

‘You’re so mean!’ Clara hated being left in the dark over anything, especially when it came to the youth club.  Deirdre might be the manager, but Clara had taken on more and more responsibility over the years until they were pretty much equals.  Everything was a team effort, from budgeting, to choosing which fundraising events to run and which local groups to work in partnership with.  Clara couldn’t remember the last time Deirdre had made a decision without consulting her first.  ‘So you’re not even going to give me a clue?’

Deirdre shook her head once more.  ‘Nope.  This one’s for me to know and you to find out.’


‘You love me really.  And you’ll love me even more when you find out who our new volunteer is. I’ve got a good feeling about the two of you.’

Clara’s face dropped.  Deirdre and her meddling.  
‘If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.  I’m not looking for a man.  They’re smelly and lazy and slob about on the settee with their hands shoved down their pants.’  Clara remembered the time she’d called Dean out on that, because she’d been sick of the sight of him with his hands in his trousers.  He’d insisted he wasn’t playing with himself but she’d had her doubts. The excuse that his hands were cold didn’t wash with her.  Hadn’t he heard of pockets?  ‘Not to mention they have a habit of sleeping around.’  

Bitterness filled her mouth.  She’d got past the sadness of their relationship ending, but she couldn’t get past the anger at being lied to and cheated on.  It took a lot for her to trust someone.  Watching her mum’s confidence dwindle away to nothing after her dad’s infidelity had been painful.  Dean screwing around behind her back had only reaffirmed her distrust.  

‘Not all of them, and not this one.  This one’s a good one.’

‘I thought Dean was a good one, once upon a time,’ Clara grumbled in retort.  ‘If there are good ones out there, why have you never got married, eh?  Answer me that.’

‘I’m married to this place, remember.  The club, the kids – they’re all the family I need.’

‘Well, maybe that’s enough for me, too,’ she answered defiantly.  ‘Maybe I’ll be married to this place.’

Deirdre waggled her finger in front of her face, wearing a stern expression no one in their right mind would argue with.  ‘I don’t think so, Clara.  I think you need to trust me for once.’

‘I always trust you.  Except when it comes to your decisions of when to put the Christmas decorations up, because when it comes to that you’re just downright wrong.’

‘The decorations can go up tomorrow.  December the first.  Which is still too early, but at least it’ll tie in nicely with the lantern parade.  Plus Joe will be around then, so you can do it together.’

‘Joe?  Simone’s brother Joe?’

Deirdre smacked the heel of her hand into her forehead.  ‘I can’t believe I let that one slip.  Me and my big mouth!  But yes, he’s our new volunteer.  Be nice to him, Clara.  I’ve known Joe since he was eleven years old and he had lines shaved into his eyebrows like he was some sort of gangster.  He was trying to be tough, but he’s was a softie then and he’s a softie now.’  

She looked dreamy, and Clara suspected her boss was imagining Clara in a puffy meringue-like dress and Joe in a jet-black top hat and tails.  Typical Deirdre, never one to let reality get in the way of a good story.

‘Don’t go getting any ideas, Deirdre.  I barely know the guy.’

‘But you’ll get to know him,’ Deirdre reasoned.  ‘Don’t rule anything out yet, that’s all I’m asking.’

Clara didn’t have the energy to argue.  In ten minutes’ time they’d be opening the doors and the stream of excitable kids would flood into the hall ready to spend the next two hours wreaking havoc. 

‘If I can’t have fairy lights, I’m going to need caffeine,’ she grumbled, heading towards the kitchenette. 

‘Clara?’ Deirdre called after her. 


‘If you believe in the magic of Christmas, you can surely believe in the magic of love too.’

Clara rolled her eyes.  Christmas was one thing.  Love was something else altogether.

Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown is out now and you can click here to order your copy: UK or US

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Guest Review: Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan

Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the grand opening plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O'Neil is back in town and looking more delectable than ever. Memories of the electrifying night they shared last summer leave Élise very tempted, but she knows all too well that eventually Sean will be leaving…again. 
Being back in Vermont—even temporarily—is surgeon Sean O'Neil's worst nightmare. Returning home to the Snow Crystal Resort means confronting the guilt he feels about rejecting his family's lifestyle years ago. But discovering that Élise is still in Vermont and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction! Remembering last summer and how good they were together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine….

Review: This is book 2 in the Snow Crystal trilogy. Having read book 1 (Sleigh Bells in the Snow), I was eager to read this story and catch up with the characters I had met there. Book 2 did not disappoint; I was engrossed from page 1. The only thing lacking was the snow. Although it is part of a series, this book could easily be read as a standalone. All the main characters, the setting and relationships become clear as the story progresses. 

In this tale, the 2 central characters are Sean O'Neil (part of the family running the Snow Crystal Resort in Vermont) and Elise (the French chef in charge of the popular restaurant and catering in general at the resort). Although Sean has not followed in the footsteps of his brothers, Jackson and Tyler, in living at the resort with the rest of the family and taking part in its operation, he keeps an eye on things there while continuing his job as an orthopaedic surgeon in Boston. He is not a frequent visitor to Snow Crystal due to friction between himself and his grandfather, Walter. However, when a family emergency calls him home, will the memory of a romantic evening he shared with Elise the previous summer make him want to stay?

I found this yet another compelling and extremely romantic story from Sarah Morgan. Although set in summer, the Snow Crystal resort still shines through as a lovely place to spend a vacation, with its marvellous scenery and comfortable lodges. The food prepared by Elise sounds delicious as well. I loved the main characters featured in this story and the romantic tension between them. Sean is a workaholic unable to make a lasting relationship, while Elise finds it difficult to make a commitment due to a disastrous incident in her past. I was rooting for them to get together but was kept guessing right to the end. Great story telling. 

This would be a great book to enjoy on holiday, in any season. As I have said, it stands alone nicely, but I think reading the trilogy as a whole would be very enjoyable too. 

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

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Guest Review: Sleigh Bells in The Snow by Sarah Morgan

Once upon a time Kayla loved Christmas
Now she’s more dedicated to her job than decking the halls, and can’t wait for the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ to be over.
Until she arrives at the enchanting Snow Crystal ski resort, determined to win gorgeous owner Jackson as a marketing client.
But wooing Jackson professionally quickly turns personal as they spend flirty festive nights in this glittering winter wonderland.
With snowflakes swirling and sleigh bells ringing…could Jackson be the one to make Kayla fall back under the Christmas spell?
Snow Crystal trilogy
Book 1 - Sleigh Bells in the Snow
Book 2 - Suddenly Last Summer
Book 3 - Maybe This Christmas
While the Snow Crystal novels can easily be read as standalone stories, you'll likely enjoy reading the earlier books in the series too!

Review: This title is book 1 in the Snow Crystal trilogy from the ever popular Sarah Morgan, one of my favourite Christmas story authors. I have read quite a few of her more recent books and was delighted to find some of the characters in those stories, and indeed the Snow Crystal ski resort, popping up in this one. I was drawn to this book by its excellent cover depicting a lovely snowy scene; once I began to read, I was hooked by the story as well. 

The main female character in the story is Kayla, an English PR executive working in New York. Due to a troubled past, she dreads the festive season and will do anything to avoid all the hype associated with Christmas. It seems that a perfect way of escaping all the fuss presents itself when she is sent off to spend Christmas at a prospective client's ski resort, where she has arranged to stay in the most secluded lodge available. However, she has reckoned without the appeal of the client in question, the rugged and handsome Jackson O'Neil, and, indeed, his whole family. Far from escaping Christmas, she is dragged reluctantly into the whole experience. 

I really enjoyed this story. It was an easy read and transported me off to this glorious ski resort in Vermont. The luxurious lodge where Kayla stayed was described in great detail, and all the activities available at the resort were brought to life by the skilful writing. I only wish it was all real so that I could book a holiday there myself. As well as the setting, I thought that the characters Sarah introduced were both interesting and believable. Jackson's family, although worried about the resort's future, are welcoming and understanding towards Kayla, even Grandfather Walter, who is so suspicious of change. Then, of course, there is the promise of romance; will Jackson and Kayla move their relationship from professional to something more personal? 

I would heartily recommend this book to anyone.  It is heartwarming and full of festive cheer, and couldn't fail to leave the reader feeling ready for Christmas. I am looking forward to reading the other books in this series. 

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

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Author Interview: Julia Chapman

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet author Julia Chapman. She has written the fabulous Dales Detective series. Books 1 and 2 are out now in the UK, Date with Mystery is out in March and Date With Death, book one is also out in the USA (I will leave links to the books below). I made a video about my journey into the beautiful Yorkshire Dales and my chat with her about her novels and her writing process. I hope you enjoy!

Date with Death buy links: UK or US
Date with Malice buy link: UK
Date with Mystery pre-order link: UK

Monday 20 November 2017

Going Home...

So today is the day I fly back to Denver and leave Yorkshire behind again. I've got a really busy week ahead of me with thanksgiving and my wedding anniversary, a trip to vegas and just generally unpacking and getting used to a different time zone again. So there won't be many posts this week, its a quiet one but I promise I will be back to my usual posting schedule again ASAP.

There have been so many highlight from my trip home and I've made videos for my channel documenting a lot of these. There's an author interview with Julia Chapman posting on my channel tomorrow, which I will also post for you on here.

I visited Scotland's bookshop town-so cool!

I went to lots of other wonderful author events...

And I listened to lots of audiobooks whilst going on adventures with my mum!

Obviously I also bought lots of books because I was teaching again so I had a little more money than usual!

So hopefully I will have some more content up for you very very soon, and I'll leave you with these videos for now. Please do let me know if there is anything specific you would like to see on here or on the BookTube channel, I am also open to new suggestions and would love to hear your feedback!

For now, I am jetting off again-nearly 15 hours of reading time-what fun!

Thursday 16 November 2017

This Week's Exciting Releases-My Current Reads!

Ok so I haven't done a post for a little while where I talk about what I'm currently reading. I talk about what I want to read and what I have read in a month or during a readathon but I thought something updating you on the releases I am excited to be reading would be a great idea!

This week seemed like the perfect week to do this because there are three releases that I am excited for coming out this week. Two of them come out today (16th November 2017) and the other came out on Monday. I am busy packing and trying to tie up all my loose ends before heading back to the states so I will try and post my reviews of these books as quickly as I can but there might be a short delay before I can get them out to you. So here are the new release I am excited for this week and the books I am currently reading...

Part one in the new series from bestselling author Holly Hepburn!

Sadie is a single mum, nursing a broken heart. Cat is burned out from working long hours as a chef. They decide to invest in their dream – running their own handmade biscuit shop in gorgeous Castle Court, a three-storey food court tucked away behind Chester's bustling streets.
They soon discover that Castle Court has its own community – a little haven of delight against the stresses of the outside world. But not everyone welcomes the new business; the patisserie owner is less than pleased by what she sees as direct competition and Greg, who runs the fancy bistro that dominates one end of the courtyard, doesn't think Sadie and Cat have the talent or business acumen to succeed. Luckily, there's support in the form of the delectable Jaren, who owns the Dutch waffle house opposite Smart Cookies, and Swiss chocolate-shop owner, Elin. And if all else fails, the friends can drown their sorrows in the cocktail bar that overlooks the court.

The short story eBook sequel to Thirteen Weddings, from bestselling author Paige Toon. 
Four years ago, following that fated thirteenth wedding, Bronte fled the UK and has been happily burying her head in the sand ever since. But when an email lands in her inbox from Alex, it seems her past might be about to catch up with her right here in Sydney. Is it time for Bronte to finally face her demons?
With links to The Last Piece of My HeartLucy in the Sky and One Perfect Summer, this short story ebook sequel to Thirteen Weddings is a must for all fans of Paige Toon.

When the love of your life says you're not The One, who are you?
Lizzy and Ian have been a couple since the first week of university. Now, after celebrating a decade together, everyone thinks they're about to get engaged.
Instead, a romantic escape to Dubai leaves Lizzy with no ring, no fiancé and no future.
Lizzy is heartbroken - but through the tears, she sees an opportunity. This is her moment to discover what she's been missing while playing Ian's ideal 'better half'.
But how much has Ian changed her, and who should she be without him?
Determined to discover who she is at heart, Lizzy sets out to rediscover the girl she was before - and, in the meantime, have a little fun . . .

How exciting! I would love to hear what you are currently reading and also if any of you are reading these books too, yet for awesome new releases from my favourite authors!

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Guest Review: Cold Feet at Christmas by Debbie Johnson

Running out on your wedding shouldn’t be this much fun!
A remote Scottish castle on a snowy Christmas Eve. A handsome husband-to-be. A dress to die for. It should have been the happiest day of Leah Harvey’s life – but the fairytale wedding turns sour when she finds her fiancé halfway up the bridesmaid’s skirt just hours before the ceremony!

Fleeing the scene in a blizzard, Leah ends up stranded at the nearest cottage, where she collapses into the arms of its inhabitant – a man so handsome she thinks she must have died and gone to heaven!

And when Rob Cavelli suddenly finds himself with an armful of soaking wet, freezing cold, and absolutely gorgeous bride on the run, he’s more than happy to welcome her into his snowbound cottage this Christmas…

Review: This is a heartwarming festive treat from the lovely Debbie Johnson. I always look forward to reading her books because I know that the story within will be full of her characteristic humour but also with the ability to touch your heart and have you reaching for the tissue box.

The female lead in this tale is Leah Harvey, a chef from London. We meet her in a deserted part of Scotland as she is faced with trudging through the deep snow in her white satin Jimmy Choo's, having fled her own wedding. Luckily for her, she ends up at the door of the gorgeous but moody Rob Cavelli, an American businessman spending the Christmas break in this remote area. What follows is a Christmas that is very different from what either expected, and a complete change of direction for Leah. In addition to these main characters, the cast also contains Rob's brother, Marco, his powerful mother, Dorothea, and Leah's cheating ex-fiancé Doug. The Cavelli family live in Chicago, where they run a huge business empire, and where much of the action is set. 

I really loved this story. It had me hooked from the start and I really hated putting it down. Leah herself is a likeable and interesting character; feisty on the outside but full of doubts on the inside. In common with Rob, she is suffering from misplaced guilt over an incident in her past. In addition, she has been hurt by Doug's behaviour and the subsequent wedding that never happened. Rob is also a lovely character, but is full of emotional turmoil causing some extreme behaviour on his part. I enjoyed the interaction between Leah and Rob; each was trying not to fall in love with the other and you were never sure what direction their relationship was going to take next. 

In summary, I would heartily recommend this book as one to curl up with in the run up to Christmas. It contains its fair share of humour, but plenty of real drama too. 

Click the link to order your copy: UK or US

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Want to Share with Children 14/11/17

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over there at The Broke and the Bookish. I'd love to share my lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

I am lucky that I get to do this on a regular basis, but there are some books I simply haven't had time to read with children and so this is a mixture of books I have and haven't shared with individual pupils and classes. Yes I know there are more than 10!

Sunday 12 November 2017

Guest Review: Eleven Minutes Late by Matthew Engel

Britain gave railways to the world, yet its own network is the dearest (definitely) and the worst (probably) in Western Europe. Trains are deeply embedded in the national psyche and folklore - yet it is considered uncool to care about them.
For Matthew Engel the railway system is the ultimate expression of Britishness. It represents all the nation's ingenuity, incompetence, nostalgia, corruption, humour, capacity for suffering and even sexual repression. To uncover its mysteries, Engel has travelled the system from Penzance to Thurso, exploring its history and talking to people from politicians to platform staff.
Along the way Engel ('half-John Betjeman, half-Victor Meldrew') finds the most charmingly bizarre train in Britain, the most beautiful branch line, the rudest railwayman, and - after a quest lasting decades - an Individual Pot of Strawberry Jam. Eleven Minutes Late is both a polemic and a paean, and it is also very funny.

Review: This book, sub-titled "A Train Journey To The Soul Of Britain", is a description of the author's travels throughout the rail network, interwoven with his personal view of the historical development of Britain's railway system. It is clear that Matthew Engel has a deep love of Britain's railways combined with a sense of frustration at the seemingly haphazard manner in which they developed and successive governments' lack of a long term, strategic view of the future role of railways. However, the book is not full of gloom and I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions.

In the first strand of the book, a trip from Penzance, the most south westerly point on the rail network, to Thurso, the most northerly point, is described. This is followed by various trips to other places on the network chosen for their location, scenic beauty or just the quirkiness of the place names. Along the way, there are encounters with a number of individuals who give their opinions on the railways.

Although not claiming to be a formal history, the book's second strand gives a reasonably broad overview of the development of the railways, from the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway in 1830, the burgeoning of numerous railway companies during the subsequent period of railway mania, their nationalisation in 1948, the widespread closures following the publication of the Beeching Report in the 1960s, and their re-privatisation during the 1990s. The various individuals behind some of the notable events, such as George Stephenson, George Hudson (the "Railway King"), Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Richard Beeching and John Major (under whose premiership the railways were privatised in the 1990s) are mentioned.

The book is critical of the long term policies regarding the railways, but perhaps the greatest anger is reserved for the privatisation during the 1990s. As a former civil servant myself whose department underwent a series of changes to government agency and then government owned company before being closed down, there are a number of familiar themes. These were the large sums of money paid to consultants, most of whom had no prior knowledge of the core business, prior to the re-organisation; the belief that pre-existing staff would be unfit to manage the new organisation due to their experience of public sector working; and all driven by what appeared to be political dogma that the private sector was better than the public sector.

Overall, I found the author's descriptions of his journeys charming and, although his personal view of the railways and their development is highly critical, he does provide considerable justification for his complaints.

Click here to order your copy: UK or US

Thursday 9 November 2017

Review: Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown by Katey Lovell

This Christmas she’ll give her heart to someone special…
As Christmas approaches Joe Smith knows he should be celebrating with friends and family, making the most of the season. But for Joe, Christmas only holds painful memories. Ones he can feel crushing his heart, a reminder of a time he can never forget.
Clara O'Connell loves Christmas. For her it is the most magical time of the year. And she's determined to make Joe love it too! She knows he's hurting, but maybe she can help to ease his pain. Her plan: One special gift every day to remind Joe just how loved he is.
But the clock is ticking. Will the Christmas magic wear off at midnight or will Clara's Christmas countdown be the perfect gift to heal Joe's broken heart? And in doing so, maybe she will get a gift in return…Joe's love for Christmas and forever…?

Review: Oh this was just a big christmas hug wrapped up in a book! I love reading books about real people at christmas time. People who have families to support, people who have to keep working throughout the holiday season, people who work hard but play hard. And so I loved reading this book. Clara works hard and Joe provides the perfect excuse for her to start enjoying life outside of work as well and I just loved this mix. 

Of course a Christmas book should make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but this book just feels like that extra tight squeeze as you're reading it because these characters are just so lovely. Not only are they trying to support each other in the run up to christmas, but they are also supporting their other friends and the local community too and I just think it is important to highlight how rarely we get to see this in a book, I loved that aspect! 

The storyline surrounds these characters giving each other gifts and taking each other on outings in the run up to christmas and i am sure that this author had so much fun thinking of the gifts they were going to give and the things they were going to do. I won't spoil anything but there are some really amusing gifts as well as some really really touching ones and so each new chapter brought he promise of a new gift for me as a reader, as well as for these characters. 

Obviously, from what I've already said, I loved these characters and they were a great vehicle for this story. I defy anyone not to fancy Joe and Clara is just so easy to identify with. I spent the whole book championing both of them and really wishing that they would get the happy ending that they deserved. This book is about more than Christmas and I think it would be great to read at any time of year, but if you can be reading it close to the countdown days, as the book progresses, then I would really recommend doing that. I loved this read and it is definitely one that should be added to you festive TBR immediately!

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

Wednesday 8 November 2017

Guest Review: Date with Malice by Julia Chapman

It’s dark in the Dales this winter . . .
When Mrs Shepherd arrives at the Dales Detective Agency on a December morning, quite convinced that someone is trying to kill her, Samson O’Brien dismisses her fears as the ramblings of a confused elderly lady. But after a series of disturbing incidents at Fellside Court retirement home, he begins to wonder if there is something to her claims after all . . .
With Christmas around the corner, Samson is thrown into a complex investigation. One that will require him to regain the trust of the Dales community he turned his back on so long ago. Faced with no choice, he enlists the help of a local – the tempestuous Delilah Metcalfe.
Against the backdrop of a Yorkshire winter, Samson and Delilah must work together once again if they are to uncover the malevolence threatening the elderly residents of Bruncliffe. Could the danger be perilously close to home?

Review: This is the second book in the Dales Detective series from Julia Chapman. I found the first in the series (Date With Death) very enjoyable and was looking forward to publication of this new title. As before, the action takes place in the Yorkshire Dales, an area of great natural beauty that I know well. Also in common with the first book, this one has a most attractive cover, illustrating various aspects of the story. 

This tale once again unites the characters Samson O'Brien and Delilah Metcalfe. Both have business premises in the village of Bruncliffe, where Delilah runs not only the Dales Dating Agency, but also a web design company. Samson has returned home to the village after a long absence to open the Dales Detective Agency. Mysterious goings on at the Fellside Court retirement home in the village bring the pair together when Samson is asked to investigate. In addition to Samson and Delilah, there is a delightful collection of elderly residents from the home and local residents from the village playing roles in the story, many adding a touch of humour. Of course, it would be remiss of me not to mention Delilah's faithful hound, Tolpuddle the Weimaraner, who helps with the inquiry as well. 

I very much enjoyed this story. It drew me in from the start and kept me guessing all the way through with respect to what was going on and how it was all going to end. It was very skilfully written to put the reader off the scent at a few junctures. Of course, the lovely Yorkshire Dales scenery was brought to life in the narrative. Although not obviously a festive tale, it was nice that the action took place in the run up to Christmas, with all the preparations going on in the background. This would certainly be a good book to pop into someone's Christmas stocking, but don't forget to buy a copy for yourself as well. 

Click here to order your copy: UK or US

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders 7/11/17

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because they are particularly fond of lists over there at The Broke and the Bookish. I'd love to share my lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

I often like to picture children I teach in their future careers. I've definitely taught some future teachers, some future authors and future leaders and so I think I do this when it comes to book characters as well. I'm not just talking about those who are already leaders either, but those who have the potential to be so...

In the most part it is the female lead who would make the positive leader:

(in this case it is daughter Lyla)

(Hannah Witton for President?)

Monday 6 November 2017

Review: Mirror Mirror by Cara Delevingne with Rowan Coleman

Friend. Lover. Victim. Traitor.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Rose, and Naomi are misfits; still figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Life isn't perfect, but music brings them together, and they are excited about what the future holds for their band, Mirror, Mirror. That is until Naomi vanishes before being pulled unconscious out of the river.
She's left fighting for her life in a coma. The police claim it was a failed suicide attempt, but her friends aren't convinced. Will Naomi ever wake up? What -­ or perhaps who -­ led her to that hospital bed? And how did Red, the self-styled protector of the group, fail to spot the warning signs?
While Rose turns to wild partying and Leo is shrouded by black moods, Red sets out to uncover the truth. It's a journey that will cause Red's world to crack, exposing the group's darkest secrets. Nothing will ever be the same again, because once a mirror is shattered, it can't be fixed.

Review: wow, this book went in such surprising directions. I didn't see so many of the twists and turns coming and this book also made me think so much more than I was expecting! My review is going to have to be very vague on specifics because I don't want to give away any spoilers for those of you planning on reading, which I would definitely recommend that you do, because I enjoyed this book so much more than I thought I was going to. 

There is an authors note at the start of the book about what Cara wanted to achieve by writing the book and the message she wanted to get across and I really think she was able to achieve this. I also think it was interesting to include this note before the book began, because you automatically have some pre-conceived ideas about th direction the book is going to go in. I don't know whether I liked it or not but it definitely stayed in the back of my head throughout the book. 

The characters in this book are very true to life and i really liked the ways the interacted with one another. I sometimes feel like teenagers portrayed in books don't actually act like any teenagers i associated with when I was a teen or any I have come across in my career so far but these teens were London based and behaved like I would expect teens from that area to behave. I feel a real affinity to Red and championed her throughout the book. 

As I have already mentioned, I loved the London setting of this book and really appreciated the fact that these young people lived and went to school in an around London and yet it didn't have them touring the city as if they had never been there before. The setting was very much a background factor. It afforded the characters more freedom than if they were in a rural setting and had to rely on lifts or infrequent public transport, which fitted well with the story, but it didn't romanticise the city in any way. I liked the reality of the setting and it is something that i noticed throughout the whole of the book. 

The storyline kept me gripped right the way through and kept me guessing throughout. Some of the issues explored are fairly concerning and so it wasn't a cheerful read most of the time. I did feel anxious for the characters and concerned for their welfare. One of the issues explored in a specific and a general sense throughout the book is their interaction with the adults in their lives. The adults in their lives vary tremendously but there is a lot of negativity surrounding all of those relationships and I found this especially concerning. I'm not sure how i feel about the negative message that this is sending out to young people reading it and so therefore I would definitely say that this book should be aimed at an older young adult audience, or an adult audience.

Despite my misgivings about those messages I really did enjoy the plot and the structure of this novel. The characters felt very real and I was on their side throughout the storyline. The setting didn't feel forced and I was gripped by the twists and turns along the way. I would definitely recommend this book with an added warning that I mentioned above. 

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