Saturday 31 August 2019

Guest Review: Bluff By Jane Stanton Hitchcock

There has never been a better time for revenge.
One-time socialite Maud Warner polishes up the rags of her once glittering existence and bluffs her way into a signature New York restaurant on a sunny October day. When she walks out again, a man will have been shot.
Maud has grown accustomed to being underestimated and invisible, and she uses her ability to fly under the radar as she pursues celebrity accountant Burt Sklar, the man she believes stole her mother's fortune and left her family in ruins. Her fervent passion for poker has taught Maud that she can turn weakness into strength to take advantage of people who think they are taking advantage of her, and now she has dealt the first card in her high-stakes plan for revenge.
One unexpected twist after another follows as Maud plays the most important poker hand of her life. The stakes? To take down her enemies and get justice for their victims. Her success depends on her continuing ability to bluff--and on who will fold.
Can she win?

Review: This is the sixth suspense novel by Jane Stanton Hitchcock. It draws on her experiences of growing up in New York Society and of playing poker at tournament level. It follows the attempts of the heroine Maud Warner, who has fallen on hard times, to try and exact revenge for what she perceives as wrongs perpetrated on her and her family.

The narrative is very fast moving, helped by the fact that each chapter is relatively short. I also liked the fact that some chapters are written in the third person, whilst others are written in the person of Maud. The plot has more twists and turns than a mountain road, although readers may be able to guess the final twist towards the end because clues have been planted cleverly throughout the book.

I enjoyed the book because of the suspense built up and because of the strong heroine. The moral of the story is that one should never underestimate women of a certain age. So, how does Maud play the hand that she has been dealt: will she fold or will she bluff? You'll have to read to the end to find out.

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

Friday 30 August 2019

Guest Review: Foxglove Farm by Christie Barlow

Return to Love Heart Lane for friendship, romance and a community who will be be there for you no matter what…
Isla and Drew Allaway appear to have the perfect life – a strong marriage, two beautiful children and their picture-perfect home, Foxglove Farm.

But, new mum Isla is struggling.  She loves her little family but with Drew working all hours on the farm, Isla’s lonely.

When she discovers that Drew has been keeping secrets from her, Isla has to face losing the home they all love.

Can the Love Heart Lane community pull together once more to help save Foxglove Farm?  And can Isla save her home…and her marriage?

Review: This is the second book in the Love Heart Lane series and Christie Barlow’s ninth book in all. This series is set in the fictional village of Heartcross in the Scottish highlands, one of my favourite areas to visit, and (not really a spoiler) this book features lovely cuddly alpacas, so it was a definite read for me. I found the story really pulled me in straight from the start and I finished it in quick time; I am already looking forward to the next book in the series.

As the title suggests, the action here takes place mainly on Foxglove Farm, and revolves around its inhabitants, farmer Drew Allaway, his wife Isla and their sons Finn and Angus. Many other villagers are added into the mix, including Isla’s girlfriends, Drew’s farmhand and the local vet. Then there is Isla’s grandmother, Martha, a real character, whose tales add a touch of comedy to the story. As we join the Allaway family in this book, we find Isla beginning to wonder what has happened to her happy marriage. Why is Drew suddenly turning away from her? What she uncovers shocks her, but, with the help of family and friends she is sure that everything can be turned around. Surprisingly, Drew’s birthday present is at the heart of their salvation.

I have really enjoyed reading this book. It is really well written, with a balanced mix of romance, suspense, danger and fortitude. I have to admit to shedding a few tears. The village of Heartcross sounds the kind of place I would love to visit, with its tea shop, welcoming pub and wonderful sense of community. While the farm itself comes across as having an idyllic setting, the reader is left in no doubt of what a hard life it is to build and maintain a successful farming business. There is a great deal of commitment from all members of the family. While I was suspicious initially about what was going on with Drew, I admired Isla all the way through the book. She was far more patient and supportive of her husband than I think I could have been in the circumstances. All in all, I think that this is a really entertaining read that I can heartily recommend and that has left me eagerly waiting for the next book in this series.

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

Thursday 29 August 2019

Guest Review: Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow

Welcome to Love Heart Lane…
When Flick Simons returns to the cosy village of Heartcross she only expected to stay for a few days. The white-washed cottages of Love Heart Lane might be her home, but the place holds too many painful memories, and of one man in particular – Fergus Campbell.
When a winter storm sweeps in, the only bridge connecting the village to the main land is swept away. As the villagers pull together, Flick finds herself welcomed back by the friends she once left behind. And as the snow begins to melt, maybe there is a chance that Fergus’s heart will thaw too…

Review: This is the first story in a series set in the fictional Scottish highland village of Heartcross. It sounds a really picturesque place, nestled on the banks of the River Heart and accessible only by the grade II listed bridge. Love Heart Lane is one of the streets in the village, lined with quaint cottages. Although I haven’t read anything from Christie Barlow before, the setting of this book alone was enough to make me want to pick it up and start to read. Once I did, I quickly found myself across that bridge and immersed in the charms of the village and its inhabitants.

The story begins, not in Scotland, but in London, where we find Felicity Simons, planning to return to her native Heartcross after an absence of 8 years for a well-deserved and long overdue holiday. Having apparently left the village under a bit of a cloud, she is not entirely sure what kind of reception she will receive from her estranged friends, and especially her former boyfriend, Fergus Campbell. You might imagine that her arrival, in the midst of a blizzard, could hardly be more dramatic, but worse was to follow in the shape of a terrific storm which sweeps away the old bridge, leaving the village and its inhabitants cut off completely. Felicity suddenly finds herself at the centre of the campaign to have the link with the other side of the river restored and to keep the villagers from starving in the meantime. As the community comes together in the face of their problems, Felicity begins to imagine what life would be like back here with her family and friends, and whether her relationship with Fergus can be rekindled.

I have really enjoyed reading this story; it was one of those books that I found difficult to put down. The chapters are not over-long, so it was easy to say “just one more chapter” instead of whatever else I was supposed to be doing. Although I would undoubtedly describe it as a romance, there is plenty of drama and excitement in the outwardly sleepy village of Heartcross. Christie Barlow’s descriptions of first of all the snow blizzard and then the storm in which the bridge collapsed really brought the situation and the peril to life. I found myself holding my breath hoping that everyone was going to be OK. She has also created some wonderful characters and successfully conveyed the sense of community that can still be found in places like this. I can highly recommend this book to anyone and I’m very much looking forward to the next one in the series.

To order your copy now, just click here!

Wednesday 28 August 2019

Guest Review: Sunshine Over Bluebell Castle by Sarah Bennett

The summer she will never forget…
Time’s running out for Iggy Ludworth to restore the wild gardens of Camland Castle in time for the Summer Fete, so she ropes in hotshot gardener Will Talbot…
But she regrets her decision as soon as he sets foot in the historic grounds – not only is Will arrogant and bossy, he’s totally gorgeous!
And very soon, sparks are flying amongst the bluebells. Yet with summer nearly over, will their summer fling convince Will and Iggy to go the distance?
Book 1: Spring Skies Over Bluebell Castle
Book 2: Sunshine Over Bluebell Castle
Book 3: Starlight Over Bluebell Castle

Review: This is book 2 in the Bluebell Castle trilogy from Sarah Bennett. Although it follows on from the first book in the series, Spring Skies Over Bluebell Castle, and contains the same central characters, it could easily be read as a stand-alone. I found the story quite absorbing, and, in common with all the books I have read by this author, once I started reading I didn’t want to stop until I reached the last page.

Once again, the story centres on Camland Castle (known informally as Bluebell Castle due to the huge display of the flowers every year), the Derbyshire home of the Ludworth family, who are struggling to hold onto their ancestral seat. Obviously an imposing property, the building and grounds require an injection of cash as well as hard work to return them to their former glory. The current baronet, Arthur, and his siblings are planning to open their home to the public. Arthur’s sister, Igraine, or Iggy for short, is the family member interested in the grounds and estate, and she is fighting a losing battle with the effects of neglect on the once grand gardens and woods surrounding the castle. Her realisation that she needs expert help in her endeavours brings her into contact with celebrity landscape gardener Will Talbot, who unexpectedly juggles his other commitments to help out. However Iggy may be attracted to this man, she has to wonder if his proclaimed interest in the project is genuine. Can she overcome her misgivings and follow her heart?

This is a wonderfully romantic story. The marvellous writing made it so easy to escape into the majestic house, wander through the gardens and become immersed in the history of the Ludworth family. The characters that Sarah Bennett has created are all so likeable, with the exception of Iggy’s mother, who was obviously out to make trouble; how can such a selfish character have given birth to such caring children? I loved the way in which Iggy battled with her initial distrust of Will’s motives and, on the other hand, how Will patiently bore her prickly attitude towards him. I was so worried that she might drive this lovely man away. This is definitely a heart warming and feel good story that I would recommend to sit down and read at any time. I can’t wait for the third part of this trilogy to land in my Kindle and find out what happens next to the Ludworth family.

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

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Review: My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi

National Book Award-finalist Ibi Zoboi makes her middle-grade debut with a moving story of a girl finding her place in a world that's changing at warp speed.

Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has lived with her beloved grandfather Jeremiah in Huntsville, Alabama ever since she was little. As one of the first black engineers to integrate NASA, Jeremiah has nurtured Ebony-Grace’s love for all things outer space and science fiction—especially Star Wars and Star Trek. But in the summer of 1984, when trouble arises with Jeremiah, it’s decided she’ll spend a few weeks with her father in Harlem.
Harlem is an exciting and terrifying place for a sheltered girl from Hunstville, and Ebony-Grace’s first instinct is to retreat into her imagination. But soon 126th Street begins to reveal that it has more in common with her beloved sci-fi adventures than she ever thought possible, and by summer's end, Ebony-Grace discovers that Harlem has a place for a girl whose eyes are always on the stars.

Review: It was so great to read a middle grade book with such depth and substance. In this novel, Ibi Zoboi creates such a tangible and all encompassing world in 1980s Harlem that is impossible not to be drawn in and completely absorbed by this book. I loved wandering through the streets with Ebony Grace, seeing the view from her window and experiencing it through the eyes of someone the same as myself, someone who has never seen anything like it before. 

Ebony Grace is a really interesting character because her father is the king of Harlem, but her grandfather, to her, is the kind of space exploration but Ebony has not spent a whole lot of time in either of those places. She is familiar with her home in Alabama and so she has this innocence and naivety about her. She has very strong views about how she THINKS the world should be however and things she has learned from what her mother has said to her about this particular part of Harlem over the years. I enjoyed getting to know her stubborn personality and see her learn and grow over the course of the novel. 

This really was a whole different world for me and I enjoyed spending time getting to know 1980s Harlem and the characters we find throughout the book. I loved the fact that we get to escape into Ebony Grace's head and blast off into space. There are some graphic novel style pages in this book too that give you a better understanding of the world that she envisions and the kind of space missions she would like to undertake with her grandfather. I do think this book reads towards the upper end of middle grade but I did really enjoy it and definitely recommend this book. 

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

Monday 26 August 2019

Bout of Books 26 Wrap Up

Another Bout of Books has come to an end, and what a week it was! My Goal during a week long readathon is generally to read 7 books and so I put some shorter books on my TBR and them completely ignored them in favour of reading full-length books all week. I took part in both twitter chats, acted as an expert over on social media and commenting on other blog. I did every day's instagram challenge and did most of the challenges on here this week (see below for more details on that). It was just great fun and I had such a blast chatting to people whilst running reading sprints over on Twitter too. 

I decided not to count the books from my 2 volunteering sessions this week, even though they would have counted for 6 more books, because I meant to show them in my vlog as I read them and I didn't so I just left them off here. I also worked 5 days and vlogged the whole week so you can look forward to that coming up on my channel this week too. 

As you can see, if you've been following my posts this week, I had a last push on the final day, reading nearly 2 whole books (yes my eyes are very tired today) I did listen to maybe 15 minutes of audiobook but I'm not going to count that as I read enjoy pages and I will finish that off today!


I missed 2 challenges this week. One was to recreate a book cover and I didn't end up doing it on the day because it was a pretty severe storm here and I didn't want to get wet or struck by lightening etc. So here's that for you now... (I'm ok with missing out the other challenge.

Reading Update 

Audiobook 307 Pages

Paperback 384 Pages

Audiobook 304 Pages

Audiobook 352 Pages

Paperback 448 Pages

Paperback 368 Pages

Ebook 464 Pages

Part Books Finished

I listened to half of this one.  Half of this one is 160 pages. 

Pages Read This Week: 2787

Complete Books Finished: 7

Part Books Finished: 1

Blog Tour: Interview with Kristy McCaffrey Author of Deep Blue

Today I am lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for Deep Blue Blitz by Kristy McCaffrey. The book is out now and you can click here to order a copy. I have an interview with the author to share with you today. Don't forget to check out the other stops on the tour for more exclusive content and reviews. 

Here's what it's all about...

Don’t miss this first book in a suspenseful new series!!

In the deep blue ocean lives an ancient predator…

Dr. Grace Mann knows great white sharks. As the daughter of an obsessed shark researcher based at the Farallon Islands, Grace spent her childhood in the company of these elegant and massive creatures. When a photo of her freediving with a great white goes viral, the institute where she works seeks to capitalize on her new-found fame by producing a documentary about her work.

Underwater filmmaker Alec Galloway admires Dr. Mann and jumps at the opportunity to create a film showcasing the pretty biologist. As he heads to Guadalupe Island in Baja California Sur for a three-week expedition, it’s clear that his fan-boy crush on Grace is turning into something more serious. But even more pressing—Grace’s passionate focus on the sharks just might get her killed.

And now please enjoy my interview with the author. Thanks so much to Kristy for stopping by today!

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

As a child, I was always writing – diaries, stories, a list of every movie I’ve ever seen – but in college I studied engineering because I wanted to make my dad proud. Two engineering degrees later, however, all I really wanted to do was write. So that’s when I got serious about learning the craft.

Do you write full time & if so, have you always done this?

When I started writing with more intention, I was a stay-at-home mom with four young children, so I wrote part-time for many years. It wasn’t until they were older that I started working full-time at it.

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

I write both historical western romances and contemporary adventure romances, and I enjoy them both. As for my style, the only thing I strive for when writing is to be as invisible as I can as the author. Not sure I always succeed lol.

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

Sometimes I use real people as inspiration, but ultimately I develop the character that I need for my story. Character and plot go hand-in-hand for me.

What was the inspiration behind your book?

Like many people, I’m both frightened and fascinated by sharks. It was my curiosity that led me to create a story with sharks as the backdrop. The more I studied the work of several biologists, it became clear that sharks are much more complex creatures than we give them credit. I knew that I didn’t want to write the typical shock-and-awe drama that most people have come to expect from movies like Jaws and The Meg. (And please don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those films as much as anyone.) But instead, I wanted to show the sharks as they really are, as seen through a woman who’s passionate about them and their existence. I’m proud to say that no sharks or people were killed in the making of my book.

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

A little bit of both. I plot, I write, I plot, I write. If it goes off-course (and it always does), I plot again to self-correct. It’s a bit maddening, to be honest. And I can become a bit neurotic and peevish when I’m struggling with a storyline. My poor husband.

How much of you is reflected in your writing?

Probably more than I realize, since my own perspective must certainly infiltrate my writing voice. And the direction I go in my novels is based solely on subjects that I’m curious about.

What kind of research did you have to do before/during writing your book?

For DEEP BLUE, quite a bit. I read a lot of shark books to get a feel for research, human-shark interaction, and the biology of sharks. I’m never comfortable writing about something I don’t understand, so I’ll research for as long as it takes for me to feel that I can do justice to the material. I did want to go cage diving with great white sharks at Guadalupe Island, but I’m having trouble getting my husband on board with the idea lol. Maybe next year.

How much attention do you pay to the reviews that you get?

I always appreciate reviews, both good and bad. That being said, I don’t look at them often, because I feel they are the domain of the reader who should feel free to share their opinion as they like. Also, I’m only human and bad reviews can drag me down a bit and make it difficult to write, so I need to be careful and protect my own head space. Reading is a subjective experience, and I respect that not everyone will like my work.

Are friends and family supportive of your writing? 
Yes, very much so, and I’m very grateful.
How do you feel leading up to your publication day?

Honestly, sick to my stomach haha. The closer I get to release day, the more I worry whether it’s good enough.

Which other authors inspire you or are there any you particularly enjoy reading?

I’m a fan of Susan Casey’s nonfiction books: The Devil’s Teeth, The Wave, Voices In The Ocean. Books on my keeper shelf are Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ masterpiece on the female psyche, Women Who Run With The Wolves; the classic novel The Eight by Katherine Neville; and of course the best romance of all time, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I also love the Deadwood mystery series by Ann Charles, a blend of humor, romance, and paranormal mayhem. Ann is my critique partner and good friend, and not only do I get to read her books in draft form, but I’m privileged to have a front row seat to a great writer at work. I’ve learned quite a lot from her.

Finally, what are you working on right now?

I’m working on Book 3 in my Pathway Series, ANCIENT WINDS. This will feature Brynn Galloway and Dr. Tristan Magee as they search for an ancient artefact. It will be a mix of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ and ‘The X-Files.’

Thanks so much for letting me stop by and chat. Readers can find me at the following places:

Author Bio

Kristy McCaffrey has been writing since she was very young, but it wasn’t until she was a stay-at-home mom that she considered becoming published. A fascination with science led her to earn two mechanical engineering degrees—she did her undergraduate work at Arizona State University and her graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh—but storytelling has always been her passion. She writes both contemporary tales and award-winning historical western romances.

With the release of Deep Blue, Kristy is launching The Pathway Series, a project she’s been developing for years. Each book will combine her love of animal conservation and environmental awareness, while also shining a light on unique and diverse locations around the world. Come along for high adventure with honorable heroes, determined heroines, and Kristy’s trademark mysticism.

An Arizona native, Kristy and her husband reside in the desert where they frequently remove (rescue) rattlesnakes from their property, go for runs among the cactus, and plan trips to far-off places like the Orkney Islands or Machu Picchu. But mostly, she works 12-hour days and enjoys at-home date nights with her sweetheart, which usually include Will Ferrell movies and sci-fi flicks. Her four children have nearly all flown the nest, and the family recently lost their cherished chocolate Labrador, Ranger, so these days a great deal of attention is lavished on Ranger’s sister, Lily, and the newest addition to the household—Marley, an older yellow Labrador they rescued in early 2018. Both dogs are frequently featured on Kristy’sInstagram account, so pop over to meet her canine family.

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – John Muir

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Sunday 25 August 2019

Bout of Books Day 6 Update and Day 7 Challenge

Today was a funny one because we had the chat in the morning which was great and I listened to my audiobook the whole time. I also had some audiobook and gym time an then that was basically it for reading time. I was out all afternoon and evening and so managed a few pages before bed and that was it. Tomorrow is another day though, tomorrow is another day!


Today's challenge is to stretch your goals. I had 10 books on my TBR to choose from and I have read 2 of them so far. So my goal is to read another book from my actual TBR today. I have them in my hands I am ready to go-I might do some reading sprints to achieve those goals. We're going to smash it!

Reading Update 

I read the last 15% of this one. I did it before I even got out of bed to make sure that it happened. This book is excellent. 15% is equivalent to 60 pages. 

I also started a new audiobook and read half of this one.  Half of this one is 160 pages. 

And then I also finally started reading this when we got in from our night out. I really wanted to red more of it but I got the first 56 pages read-not too shabby. This will be a quick read as it is a re-read so hopefully I will have time to squeeze in one more book after this. 

Pages Read Today: 276

Pages Read This Week: 1937

Complete Books Finished: 5

Saturday 24 August 2019

Bout of Books Day 5 Update and Day 6 Challenge

I didn't end up having as much time for reading today as I thought I would. I read well into the night after having read over breakfast too so I'm gonna be tired tomorrow but I didn't manage to finish my ebook which I was really aiming to do today. I did to today's insta challenge though as well as replying to a whole bunch of other people's book spine poetry!


Today's challenge is to leave a review. As I write this I have just finished a recent release so I am about to go and leave my review on Netgally, Amazon and Goodreads and it will be up here on the blog next week-reviews are so important and you know I love to share them with you!

Reading Update

I finished this book reading the other 175 pages to completion. It was great being able to talk about this one with Jena because that makes writing the review so much easier. 

I just couldn't quite finish this one even though I tried. I read another 35% and will finish the last 15% in the morning! Altogether 35% equals 140 pages. 

Pages Read Today: 315

Pages Read This Week: 1661

Complete Books Finished: 4

Guest Review: Cricket Rebel By John Snow

This is an autobiography of cricketer John Snow. 

Review: This is the autobiography of John Snow, a fast bowler who played cricket for Sussex and England. Between 1965 and 1976 he played 49 Test Matches for England, taking a total of 202 wickets. Probably his finest hour came during the 1970-1971 tour of Australia, during which he took 31 wickets, helping England to become the first touring side to regain The Ashes in Australia since the "Bodyline" tour of 1932-1933.

His career was not without controversy. There were a number of confrontations with the cricket authorities due his readiness to speak his mind, no matter the consequences. During the 1960s and 1970s, this was not considered acceptable behaviour by professional cricketers, who were expected to accept authority without question. One controversial incident occurred in the above-mentioned Ashes tour when, during the final Test Match at Sydney, an Australian batsman ducked into one of his short-pitched deliveries and was struck on the head. John received a warning from the umpire for the persistent bowling of short-pitched deliveries. When John returned to his fielding position on the boundary at the end of the over, bottles and cans were thrown on to the field and one spectator grabbed his shirt. The captain of the side, Ray Illingworth, took the England team off the field until order was restored. Another incident occurred during a match with India, when John collided with and barged over the Indian batsman Sunil Gavaskar when the latter was going for a quick single and John was attempting to gather the ball to effect a run out. For this incident, he was dropped for one Test Match for disciplinary reasons.

This autobiography was published in 1976, before the author's playing career had ended. It makes interesting reading the second time around, since many of the improvements called for in the book, such as improved pay for cricketers, four day matches in the County Championship and neutral umpires in Test Matches, have all come to pass since the book was written. A major factor in the improvement in cricketers' pay was the setting up, by the Australian businessman Kerry Packer, of the rival World Series Cricket in response to being denied the television rights to Test Matches in Australia. Many international players signed up to this and it will come as no surprise that John Snow, disillusioned with the cricket authorities in England and coming to the end of his career, also signed up in 1977. Eventually, the Australian Cricket Board agreed terms with Kerry Packer for the television rights and normality was restored, but the increased money that he was offering the players led to increases in the players' fees.

One aspect of John Snow that may not be expected of a hostile fast bowler with a reputation for bloody-mindedness is that he has published two volumes of poetry. These are reprinted in full at the end of the book, and show the author's thoughtfulness and ability as a wordsmith, qualities that are apparent throughout the book.