Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Guest Review: Christmas at the Island Hotel by Jenny Colgan

On the tiny Scottish island of Mure, Christmas preparations are even more hectic than usual . . .

Flora Mackenzie is worried about her brother. Fintan hasn't got over the death of his partner, Coltan, and Flora thinks he needs a project.

The Rock - the rambling, disused hotel on the tip of the island - was Coltan's passion project before he died. With Flora's help, Fintan is going to get the hotel up and running in time for Christmas, transforming it into a festive haven of crackling log fires and delicious food. But running a hotel, they are about to discover, is not that easy. Especially when their motley staff includes a temperamental French chef, a spoilt Norwegian kitchen boy who can't peel a potato without mutilating his own hand and a painfully shy kitchen assistant who blushes when anyone speaks to her.

Can they pull it together in time for the big opening?

And can Flora help her family find happiness this Christmas?

Review: This is the latest in a series of books by Jenny Colgan about the remote Scottish island of Mure, which in fact is closer to Norway than the Scottish mainland. The books have focused mainly on the MacKenzie family who have a farm there, but readers learn lots about other inhabitants as well. Because there are so many characters featured in the books, I would suggest that reading this book before any of the others would be confusing; they make a wonderful set when read together anyway. As the title suggests, this story is set in the run up to Christmas, and has a lovely festive feel about it. As usual with Jenny Colgan’s books, I sat down to read (or in this case listen) and didn’t want to pause until I reached the end. One comment I have about the audiobook is that I was disappointed to find that the narrator was different from the lady who has covered so many of Jenny Colgan’s previous books; I have no complaint about the new narrator, but it changed my perception of the characters I have come to know.

The story this time is set about a year after the end of the last one in the series, which ended really tragically for Fintan MacKenzie. He has now inherited The Rock, a rundown hotel at the end of Mure, and is trying to continue his husband Coltan’s project to open it as a luxury destination for tourists and locals alike. When he is showing little enthusiasm for the job, his sister, Flora, steps in to help. The aim is to have a grand opening on Christmas Day, but there is much to be done and many obstacles along the way. Fintan employs a very temperamental French chef whose ideas are not always suited to what is available on the island. In addition, the kitchen staff includes a Norwegian playboy who has been sent away by his family to learn some sense and has no clue about cooking, and a very shy village girl who lives with an overbearing mother who disapproves of her daughter working at the hotel. With such an assortment of kitchen personnel, can Flora and Fintan pull it off? Meanwhile, there is plenty of other activity on the island as people prepare for the festivities. The islanders we have met before are all present and correct, with developments in the story of the island’s doctor and his sons.

I can highly recommend this book to those who are following the continuing tale of the island of Mure. As I said at the beginning of this review, I’m not sure that it would be an ideal read for someone who has not read at least one of the other books in the series. I very much enjoyed catching up with all the goings on in the island. The staff at the hotel provided a great deal of amusement, the spoilt boy learning to do things he usually had a staff to deal with, and the chef impatiently getting used to island life. It was hard to know whether they would get the hotel up and running on time. In common with small communities everywhere, there was a certain amount of suspicion towards change, and such was the case with the introduction of Christmas lights - another amusing part of the story. As well as enjoying the characters in the book, I was once again struck by the rugged beauty of the island, with its sometimes stormy seas and lovely long beach, all brought to life so well by the author.

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

Tuesday, 24 November 2020

November 2020 Unboxing & Book Haul | Which New Books Did I Get From Book of The Month?


via IFTTT

Top Ten Tuesday: I'm Thankful For. These Nonfiction Books.. 24/11/20


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.

Since it is thanksgiving on Thursday and it is also nonfiction November, I thought I would share some of my favorrite nonfiction books of all time. I am very very thankful for these books. 













And of course everything Bill Bryson has ever written!










Monday, 23 November 2020

Gilmore Girls Readthon Wrap Up-What Did I Read This Week?

 Well we have reached the end of the Gilmore Girls Readathon. I had a great reading week I think perhaps because I was really motivated and excited about what I wanted to read. It was a busy week for me (see the vlog that is coming up) and so I was very reliant on audiobooks this week. I got through a lot of audiobooks and they were really excellent. 

If you missed my TBR and signup post, you can find that here to see what challenges I was intending to take on. 

Here's what I read...


224 Pages


288 Pages


416 Pages


432 Pages


256 Pages


224 Pages


288 Pages


240 Pages


308 Pages


285 Pages


256 Pages


288 Pages


159 Pages

3663 pages total!


I met all the challenge and filled in almost all of the bingo card getting 3 lines overall-yey!










Sunday, 22 November 2020

Movie Review: The Trial Chicago 7 | Is This Another Netflix Streaming Hit?


via IFTTT

Blog Tour: Interview With Stacy Christopher Zaghloul Author of Lady Colombia @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

 


Today is my stop on the blog tour for Lady Colombia by Stacy Christopher Zaghloul. I have an interview with the author to share with you today and if you like the sound of that you can click here to order your copy. 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...

Laidy is a young woman living outside Bogotá, Colombia. She applies herself in school, works a part-time job, and helps to look after her aging father. Her exertions begin to take an emotional toll. An estrangement with her sister is particularly painful, leading her to investigate unanswered questions about her past. To resolve these doubts, she must traverse the world of narco-traffickers, a task she is loath to do. Along the way, she travels to parts of Colombia she has never seen and learns that her family history is much more complicated than she ever imagined. A genre-bending novel which incorporates elements of the women's literature, Latina, coming-of-age, mystery, contemporary romance, historical fiction, family life and multicultural genres, Lady Colombia is a moving tale that guides readers through the splendid cultural weave of the land, whilst delivering on the promise of the unputdownable. This stunning debut work will resonate with readers for years to come.


Here's that interview for you...

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

Growing up, I loved books, storytelling, and writing. I was a teacher for several years, then became a lawyer. I had to leave the professional world to look after my two daughters and because of two international moves- one to Beijing, the latest to Bogota. While in Bogota, both my daughters were teens, so I had more time to myself. I became particularly moved and inspired by the culture in Bogota, so I actually sat down and composed Lady Colombia. I asked my daughters to look at it; they loved it. I showed it to my husband then, and my mother- my toughest critic. They told me the story had to be published.

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

I do now, because my oldest daughter is in university in Florida and my younger is finishing secondary school back home in Texas. I did record my memories of my year in Beijing several years ago- but it is nowhere near coherent; that was catch as catch-can; I was doing that between school runs, laundry, and doing side work editing scientific papers for professional industry.

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

This is a difficult question to answer; my oldest brother says I write for readers, while too many writers attempt to write for other writers, if that makes sense. It is my voice behind everything I write. Genre is something difficult for me to pin down as well. Lady Colombia is technically literary fiction, but it could fit into many categories. My oldest daughter wanted it shaped into more of a romance, my husband, more of an action-adventure shoot-em-up Western type thing. I declined both suggestions, and I think the story is better for it.

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

I cannot say how other writers create characters, but every character I write is based on people I have known for years, or a conglomeration of such. Laidy is a character that I imagined after seeing these same young women in Bogota over and over again- the clerk at the bank, the shopgirls, the neighbors in the next flat, young women walking down the sidewalk alongside me. My oldest daughter, however, will tell you that Laidy is her mother!

What was the inspiration behind your book?

Twenty years ago I was on flight to D.C., where I am a member of the bar association (I believe you call them barristers in U.K.). I always grabbed magazines or paperbacks before boarding-that was before the digital era. I read this stunning account in National Geographic or Foreign Affairs or something about a young woman who was living in Chile or Argentina (can’t remember which) who was living an ordinary life when she was brutally confronted with her past- her biological origins, which were directly tied to the political motivated “disappearances” that dominated the seventies and eighties in several South American countries. I tried desperately to locate that article, that woman’s story, but have been unsuccessful.

Fast forward to my years in Bogota, 2017-2018. While I was living there, I learned that the Colombian government was releasing a devastating report that disclosed the truth of Colombia’s own disappeared- more than Argentina and Chile combined. A mass grave was discovered in Medellin, in September 2019, after I had returned stateside. It is feared that the bodies interred there are many of the “disappeared”.

I had always been a huge fan of Latin American authors, particularly Colombia’s own Garcia-Marquez. But while living there, I found few English language works set in Colombia (political papers and travel books, yes) except for one, a volume which focused entirely on the narco terror that occurred in the years of Escobar. I felt that a book should be written about the beauty of the country, the beauty of the people. Colombia has fought long and hard to rid itself of narco violence and is truly the phoenix from the flame.

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

I do this thing where I have a notebook-just blank pages, and I record thoughts in it as they come to me; in the middle of the night, after hearing a song, while gardening, and particularly, while traveling. Then I begin to outline how these concepts weave themselves into a storyline. Some days, I can sit and write pages and pages (of a first draft). Those days are the ones that aren’t occupied with the demands of life. For me, my mind has to be relatively clear to churn out page after page in one afternoon.

How much of you is reflected in your writing?

As I alluded to above, it is impossible for me to separate myself from my writing, unless, of course, I am writing an informational piece for my blog.


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

I did a tremendous amount of research prior to and while writing the book. This is partly my legal training- for me, authenticity is key. I wanted to highlight the beauty of Colombia, but in the spirit of walking in the truth, I had no choice but to tie the years of la violencia into my storyline. I asked my husband for a general background, he grew up in Venezuela, which borders Colombia. I then read political papers, recorded history, government documents by the score. I also followed the national news there, and still do, to this day.

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

Reviews are tremendously importantly to me; even if I wholly disagree with the reviewer’s comments- I will address that in a moment- reviews are what makes readers want to read your book. That is the bottom line. So the feedback (if not specifically reviews) that I received from other writers prior to and post publication that I ignored included these notions-

Firstly, don’t include Spanish in an English novel. I wholly reject that concept. I grew up reading Amy Tan, who uses Mandarin and Cantonese phrasing in her books to provide cultural texture, which is vital to the experience she is providing her readers.

Second piece of feedback- don’t italicize Spanish in an English novel. I think this is nonsense. Perhaps because I come from the old school, but again, I refer to Tan- she italicizes Mandarin phrases. Even though I read Spanish well enough, I find it difficult to read a book that doesn’t italicize foreign phrases- I have to go back and re-read the sentence, which I find frustrating.

Third- and this came from two very well-read individuals- elaborate on this particular character’s story. That presents a challenge for several reasons, and I concluded that the best way to handle that would be a sequel, because that character deserves her own novel.

Fourth- Stephen King and a librarian friend of mine both warn that adverbs pave the road to hell. So I literally began, during the editing process, to attempt to eliminate them as much as possible. A frustrating experience if ever one existed. That night I picked up Joyce’s Dubliners- a work peppered with, and beautified, if you will, with adverbs. So they remained.

Are friends and family supportive of your writing?

Absolutely. I would have never kept at this if my husband and mom hadn’t encouraged me, as well as some writer friends. Some of my extended family had no idea I was writing fiction, it took them by surprise, but they were pleased by the outcome. My friends have been very busy during this time period- they have to work from home and look after their children, as the schools remain shuttered. So very few have been able to finish my book, a couple did and were delighted.

How do you feel leading up to your publication day?

So the publication of Lady Colombia was really odd- after I finished it, the pandemic had locked down the states (in April). No agents and no publishers were buying books due to the economic downturn. So my family encouraged me to wait it out and keep writing other pieces. But in late June, my aunt died quite unexpectedly. What really upset me was that she would have loved to see the book published. It was devastating, we couldn’t hold a funeral, I couldn’t even travel home to Texas to be with my family. My husband started playing old Spanish songs to calm me. One of the songs, by Julio Iglesias, was “I forgot to live”. Something moved in me that day. I had forgotten to live. I had been waiting on other people- agents, publishers; wanting to give up on writing altogether. That day, I chose to live. So I self-published on Amazon, for kindle and paperback.

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

I read a lot, about five books at a time, from multiple genres. For some reason, for the past two years, I have been stuck on Irish writers. I read all of Colm Toibin’s works and was blown away. Then I picked up a Colum McCann book on a trip in late 2018 and was once more blown away. I am reading one of his other books right now.

When we moved to Oklahoma in 2019 (again, for my husband’s job), I began reading every Pulitzer winning novel in the fiction genre that I hadn’t encountered before. It has been truly rewarding. I loved Geraldine Brooks, Shirley Ann Grau. I love Cormac McCarthy, a fellow Texan, and Larry McMurtry, also a fellow Texan. But again, I love books from so many genres. I could never name them all.

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

So I started a novel that is loosely based on the life of my mother-in-law, who is an Arabic Christian, she was living in Palestine during WWII, and was forced from her home. Her family fled to Jordan, where she met my late father-in-law. He took her to Venezuela, where she raised her family, including my husband, her last child. Her story is amazing, and the research is wonderful. I hope to finish it quickly, before her health fails.

About the Author


I am a proud graduate of Texas A&M University (whoop!) and SMU's Dedman School of Law. I am a happily inactive member of the District of Columbia's bar association. A native Houstonian, I have also lived in Dallas, Beijing, and Bogota.


I taught special education students and English language learners in Texas, and spent some years in the administration of special education services. I also had the privilege to advocate for students with disabilities in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. I recently published my first novel, Lady Colombia, for Amazon. I am currently writing my third book, loosely based on the life of my Palestinian Venezuelan mother-in-law.


When I am not writing, I am reading, gardening, listening to music, painting, and attempting to cook. I have been blessed with two lovely daughters, the eldest of whom is attending university in Florida, the younger completing secondary school in Texas. I live in Oklahoma with my husband Jose and my dog Jet.








Friday, 20 November 2020

Blog Tour: Interview With A Rainbow Like You by Andréa Fehsenfeld @acfcreative @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstours

 
Today is my stop on the blog tour for A Rainbow Like You by Andréa Fehsenfeld. I have an interview with the author to share with you today and if you like the sound of that you can click here to order your copy. 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...

An iconic rock star with everything to prove.

A determined teen runaway with nothing left to lose.

When their fates intertwine, the most unexpected journey unfolds.


Adrian ‘Jazzer’ Johnson’s gilded rock and roll career is the stuff of legend. From out of the dive bars of Long Beach, this high school dropout rocketed his band to the pinnacle of success. But after a whirlwind decade ended with him broken and questioning, Adrian disappeared.


Now back on tour after a year in exile, Adrian’s still struggling and under pressure to deliver his next hit. The last thing he needs is to find a teen runaway hiding on his tour bus. As it turns out, Hastings Sinclair is a synesthete who can see music in colour. But her offer to help colour-blind Adrian unpack his creative block upends their lives in ways they never imagined.


Because Adrian’s troubles run deep—beyond what any song can fix—and Hastings hasn’t been upfront about hers. When calamity strikes, a perfect storm of fates unleashes and caught in the crossfire are Adrian’s bandmates, a fame-shy beauty he falls hard for, and a scheming journalist with a vendetta. With everything he values suddenly on the line, can Adrian reconcile his own brash history? Or will he be forced to face the music in a way he never has before?



Here's that interview for you...

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

I’ve always loved writing and reading; have been a massive book nerd my whole life. After working in TV for years, creating numerous shows and pitches, I committed to writing fiction. I sat down one September and wrote for an hour or two every afternoon. Six months later, I finished the first draft of a novel. That inaugural book will be released next year as book one in my new romance series…published under a nom de plume!

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

Right now I balance my writing with TV production. They are very different worlds – one frantic and collaborative; the other quiet, with solitude to explore my own creativity. I like the blend of both. It’s a great balance for me.

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

I’m firmly in the contemporary fiction niche. I love suspense, although I don’t want to be pigeonholed into writing that all the time.

My TV career has definitely informed my fiction writing. I have a mad love affair with dialogue! It’s my favorite way to explore characters. I’m also big on structure. I’m thinking of each chapter as a scene in a TV show or film and a lot of reviews mention that my stories are very visual. And of course, a good twist is also vital! No one saw the ending coming in my debut novel, Completion and the twists in A Rainbow Like You are also very unexpected.

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

I avoid basing my characters on real people. It’s a lazy and dangerous habit. Characters develop as soon as I unleash them on the page. Then, I’m just hanging on for the ride, doing what they tell me.

What was the inspiration behind your book?

Aside from the premise of the story, the macro and micro themes of the book stem from the question: “What does it mean to be a successful musician in the year 2020?” It’s ironic that musicians barely make a living off music sales these days; touring and merchandise revenue are how they survive. But the touring life is a grind. It’s an isolating, nomadic experience, punctuated with extreme highs and lows. Relationships are constantly under strain. And within that pressure cooker environment, band members battle with their internal dynamics. I love settings with lots of natural tension and the drama surrounding a band on tour made it the perfect backdrop for a story!

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

My stories always start with character. I tend to write a few chapters with a plot idea in mind, but it’s all about getting under the skin of the major players—when they start to interact on the page, they take flight and I understand them better. After that initial writing blitz, I fine tune the plot based on what they’re telling me.

How much of you is reflected in your writing?

There are always little snippets of me or my personal viewpoints coloring the story somehow. I choose not to reveal them, however. It’s better for everyone if I stay behind the scenes!

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

I know quite a few people in the music industry, and they were generous in sharing their insight and stories. And I have seen over 400 concerts. The live show environment is something near and dear to my heart.

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

I love reading reviews. It’s interesting how people interpret my work. Authors get demoralized with reviewers who don’t gel with their books. I believe there is something to be gleaned from every review and don’t take anything personally. I don’t expect everyone to love my stories. My job is to provoke a feeling, a reaction, an emotion. It might be that someone doesn’t like what I’ve provoked in them and that’s okay. Writing isn’t a popularity contest.

Are friends and family supportive of your writing?

Yes, they are. My friends especially. It’s been wonderful how they’ve embraced my creative life. I’ve rotated through different sets of beta readers for my two novels and my friends know me enough to be honest about what’s working or not. My sister especially offers great feedback as I’m hammering out drafts. She’s an English teacher and always finds the grammar errors!

How do you feel leading up to your publication day?

Excited! It’s liberating to finally launch my material into the universe.

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

I’m constantly in awe of how prolific the big authors are—King, Grisham, Baldacci etc. I try to read a little of everything, just to keep on top of the market/trends. Although my personal writing bent is far more contemporary and commercial, for some reason I’m drawn to literary works for my own reading pleasure. Go figure!

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

I’m heading back into the suspense realm for my third novel. It’s got a killer title and an intriguing premise. I’m working on the twist right now. (love a good twist!)

My new romance series also launches next year! I am publishing sexy romance under a nom de plume. After finishing my first two novels, I realized how much I enjoy writing intimate scenes. Plus, sexuality is very personal and exploring characters through that prism is as fun as dialogue choices.

About The Author



Andréa is an award winning TV producer who has delivered more than 200 commercials, series and movies for Fortune 500 companies.

Her debut novel COMPLETION is being adapted for television.

A RAINBOW LIKE YOU is her second novel and will be released on October 27, 2020!