Monday, 27 August 2018

The Glass Diplomat by S.R. Wilsher - BLOG TOUR!

I was so intrigued by the sound of this story when I read the synopsis, and I was very keen to read it. Unfortunately life and other commitments sometimes get in the way of reading (what’s that all about then?), and hence as yet I haven’t had the chance to do so. However I will be back with a full review just as soon as time allows!

The book…

In 1973 Chile, as General Augusto Pinochet seizes power, thirteen-year-old English schoolboy Charlie Norton watches his father walk into the night and never return. Taken in by diplomat, Tomas Abrego, his life becomes intricately linked to the family.

Despite his love for the Abrego sisters, he’s unable to prevent Maria falling under the spell of a left-wing revolutionary, or Sophia from marrying the right-wing Minister of Justice.

His connection to the family is complicated by the growing impression that Tomas Abrego was somehow involved in his father’s disappearance.

As the conflict of a family divided by politics comes to a head on the night of the 1989 student riots, Charlie has to act to save the sisters from an enemy they cannot see.

The author...

It didn’t occur to me to write until I was twenty-two, prompted by reading a disappointing book by an author I’d previously liked. I wrote thirty pages of a story I abandoned because it didn’t work on any level. I moved on to a thriller about lost treasure in Central America; which I finished, but never showed to anyone. Two more went the way of the first, and I forgave the author.

After that I became more interested in people-centric stories. I also decided I needed to get some help with my writing, and studied for a degree with the OU. I chose Psychology partly because it was an easier sell to my family than Creative Writing. But mainly because it suited the changing tastes of my writing. When I look back, so many of my choices have been about my writing.

I’ve been writing all my adult life, but nine years ago I had a kidney transplant which interrupted my career, to everyone’s relief. It did mean my output increased, and I developed a work plan that sees me with two projects on the go at any one time. Although that has taken a hit in recent months as I’m currently renovating a house and getting to know my very new granddaughter.

I write for no other reason than I enjoy it deeply. I like the challenge of making a story work. I get a thrill from tinkering with the structure, of creating characters that I care about, and of manipulating a plot that unravels unpredictably, yet logically. I like to write myself into a corner and then see how I can escape. To me, writing is a puzzle I like to spend my time trying to solve.

Twitter: @srwilsher




Saturday, 25 August 2018

The Things We Leave Unsaid by Megan Mayfair - **BLOG TOUR!**

The book...

Is it the things we don’t say that haunt us the most?

Clare is anxious to start a family with adoring husband, Pete. When she takes on the seemingly simple task of obtaining her late mother’s birth certificate, she finds herself in a family history search that will challenge everything she thought she knew about her life.

Scarred by her parents’ ill-fated marriage, Tessa lives by three rules - dating unavailable men, building her cafe into a food empire, and avoiding her father. However, when her carefully planned life is thrown into chaos, Tessa is forced to decide which of these rules she’s willing to break.

As Clare and Tessa’s paths cross and their friendship grows, can they both finally unlock their family secrets in order to realise their futures?

Purchase from Amazon UK

The review...

A book by a new author is always a bit of a risk - you never know quite what you're going to get or how enjoyable it's going to be. But I'm happy to say that in the case of Megan Mayfair's debut, the risk definitely paid off.

The story follows two women - Melbourne coffee shop owner and serial commitment-phobe Tessa, and the quieter Clare, newly moved to Melbourne with husband Pete.

While Clare and Tessa are very different characters I found both women very believable, likeable and relatable. I adored Tessa’s confidence and independence and honestly, I found her horror of commitment quite refreshing and convincingly done. It made for some hilarious moments too and I laughed out loud quite a few times (Matthew’s scented candles!!). Clare was also a very likeable character. Having lost her mother at a young age and been raised by her grandmother, Clare is anxious both to start a family with the lovely Pete and to learn more about her rather mysterious family history. All is not plain sailing, though, and there are some hard hitting emotional moments. I could definitely relate to Clare's feelings and experiences.

The story is sharply written with a contemporary feel. I really enjoyed the Melbourne coffee shop setting (I want to go there!). And there are some memorable images, like the description of local “It Girl” and footballer’s girlfriend Zoe Diaz as “very tall and extremely thin. She looked like a pretty insect from a Pixar cartoon“. I love that! In fact every scene involving Zoe is comedy gold

While the romance element is definitely there - and there is an excellent love interest - it's handled with a very light touch, which I appreciated.

If I have any criticism to make it’s that there are a few typos and the odd sentence which doesn’t quite make sense. However these are few and far between and certainly don’t affect enjoyment of the book in any way, even for a pernickety reader like me.

The Things We Leave Unsaid was a delightful read, funny, warmhearted and touching, and a very impressive first novel. I will definitely look out eagerly for whatever Megan does next...

Many thanks to the author and Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to be part of the blog tour!

The author...

Megan Mayfair is a Melbourne-based writer who draws inspiration from her beautiful hometown and regional Victoria to create contemporary women’s fiction, containing a big dash of romance and a spoonful of family intrigue.

With a background in public relations, copywriting and higher education, Megan is passionate about words and loves to bring them to life on the page. Megan holds a Master of Arts in professional communication and is a member of Romance Writers of Australia and Writers Victoria.

Megan is married with three children, loves a good cup of coffee and believes you can never have too many scarves.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Calamity in Camberwell by Alice Castle: **BLOG TOUR!**

Beth Haldane, SE21’s answer to Miss Marple, worries she is losing a kindred spirit when her friend Jen, the only other single mum in the playground, suddenly gets married and moves to Camberwell.

Soon Beth has to face much more pressing fears. Has something gone horribly wrong with Jen’s marriage? What is her husband really up to? Why is her daughter leading Beth’s son astray? And where on earth IS Jen anyway?

As Beth’s friends push her to start dating again, Beth turns to Met Police DI Harry York for help. But will they solve the mystery in time, or will it turn out that in south east London, not everyone gets to live happily ever after?

The review...

I've never been to Dulwich (where protagonist Beth Haldane lives) or Camberwell (where her newly married friend Jen lives). Heck, I've barely been to London. But after reading Calamity in Camberwell I somehow feel I now have a clear image of both places and their inhabitants... particularly the Dulwich yummy mummies with their giant cars and white trousers and obsession with private tutoring (yes, we have them here too). Beth's particular frenemy, Belinda, being the quintessential example.

Alice Castle clearly excels at this observational detail, taking you right into the heart of these lives and communities. I definitely related to Beth, a single mother to ten-year-old Ben (though I never quite worked out why she didn't want him to call her "Mum") with a fascinating-sounding job running a newly-created research institute, which she loves. All this puts her in a tiny minority in Dulwich (where "women who worked and enjoyed it were in shockingly short supply"), so her friendship with kindred spirit Jen is important. Now, though, Jen's married, and in Camberwell, and there are inklings that everything in the garden is not as rosy as it could be... (I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that poor Jen's husband-picking skills are not the best.) Then, Jen seems to just disappear...

Meanwhile Beth has other worries to contend with, like Ben's future education, pressure from her friends to begin dating, and her *very* slow-burning friendship with a certain Detective Inspector...

Calamity in Camberwell is a lovely read, intriguing and well observed, and Beth is adorable. I want to be her friend! It probably does help to have read the previous books in the series (which I haven't as yet, though I'm sure I will) but it's not essential as the story is self-contained... though I suspect may contain a spoiler for a previous adventure. I do want to know more about the back-story to Beth's job at Wyatt's and previous sleuthing!

Thanks to the author and Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to be part of the blog tour.

The author...

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks. Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one bestseller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery, was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, is published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019. Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website.

You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter

The giveaway...

Win a signed copy of Calamity in Camberwell (open internationally)

Terms and conditions - Worldwide entries welcome. Please enter using the link above. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within seven days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winner's information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Sky's the Limit by Janie Millman - **BLOG TOUR!**

When Sky Walker (yes, as in Star Wars) and Gail Scott meet on a flight to Morocco, Sky’s still reeling from the shock of learning that her husband is not only in love with, but is leaving her for, her beloved male best friend, Nick. Gail, on the other hand, is on a mission to find her young son’s Moroccan father, Tariq... who doesn’t even know of his existence. 

As the new friends arrive at the Riad Fontaine in Marrakech, Sky remains hurt and angry - not least because Nick has followed her there, in a perhaps misguided attempt to sort things out. Gail is understandably anxious and wondering if she’s doing the right thing in seeking out Tariq, with no idea what she may find or what reception she will get. Then there’s Beatrice, the riad’s French owner, and her winemaker ex-husband Philippe, also in residence.

As the story - and the characters - move from Marrakech back to the UK and then to Philippe’s chateau in Bordeaux, relationships are formed, ended, renewed and healed.

We meet a delightfully diverse cast of characters both in Morocco and France - not least, the entirely adorable Emmie and a pet piglet named Sausage - as well as a couple of, shall we say, not-so-delightful ones! (Looking at you, Celine...)

I loved both settings - Morocco and France - which emerged very clearly, the sights and sounds jumping off the page. It's no surprise to learn that the author, Janie, lives in France - and has presumably spent time in Marrakech too -  as both are atmospherically and believably conveyed. Indeed by the time I finished the book my wanderlust had definitely been stirred.

While the story generally flowed very well, the fact that Sky’s parts of the story are told in first person and the others in third meant that the sometimes rapid changes from one to the other could occasionally feel a little jarring, as we moved back and forth between Sky's narrative and third person accounts. It wasn't a major issue, though. 

Sky’s the Limit is a lovely warm-hearted read which I enjoyed very much.

Thank you to Janie Millman and to Emily Glenister at Dome Press for the opportunity to be part of the blog tour!

Available from Amazon

The author....

Janie Millman is the author of Life's a Drag (Dome Press, Feb 2017). She was an actress for over twenty years, appearing in venues around the UK, in London's West End and abroad. In 2009 she and her husband, actor Michael Wilson, moved to south west France and opened Chez Castillon to host retreats and creative courses. (I've just added it to my list of dream holidays...)