Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Charm Bracelet by Melissa Hill - The One Book You Must Read This Christmas!

If you only read one book this Christmas, do try The Charm Bracelet by Melissa Hill, because it has everything you need in a Christmas story!
Single young mother, Holly, working hard in a vintage clothes store, finds a charm bracelet in the lining of a red jacket and because she has her own bracelet which represents the ups and downs of her life, she sets out at Christmastime in New York to find it's owner. And, yes, it's snowing!
Greg, a high-flyer in his father's Wall Street firm, gives up his job to concentrate on his love of photography, without telling his high-maintenance girlfriend, Karen, first.
How will Holly's search for the bracelet's owner help her to find the love of her life amongst the streets of New York at Christmastime? Fabulous!
This book was recommended by my Canadian writing friend, Jen Gilroy, and you can find her blog here!
Happy Christmas!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Always Something There To Remind Me by Lilian Kendrick - A Warm-Hearted Novel About Achieving Your Teenage Dreams

The thing that made me want to read Always Something There to Remind Me by Lilian Kendrick was the fact that, amongst the aims Lydia had written on a list when she was fifteen, was that she wanted to skate like Jayne Torvill! Me too!
Now thirty years later, Lydia, newly divorced, finds her school rough book (remember those?) complete with her other hopes of overcoming her fear of flying; singing in front of an audience; and getting a date with a rock star!
She finds help and inspiration from Des, a man at her writing group, who helps her to achieve her dreams, in sometimes very unexpected ways, and I found myself giggling out loud at the things she got up to.
It was lovely to read a book about a woman in her forties, instead of twenty- or thirty-somethings, with the idea that she is not too old to make those teenage dreams come true.
And does she find new love with Des? You'll have to read the book to find out!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

High Tide by Veronica Henry - An Uplifting Autumn Read

Now that Hallowe'en and Bonfire Night are over and Christmas is sparkling on the horizon, You might like this relaxing autumn read by Veronica Henry. High Tide will definitely help you unwind away from the lists, the shopping, and the cooking!
It's set in the fictional Devon seaside town of Penfleet, and begins with two funerals, and afterwards follows the two characters who are left behind and whose life must go on.
Kate, a New York events organiser, returns to her home town for her mother, Joy's, funeral and has only a few days to attend that and empty her old home ready for selling, before Carlos, her boss, wants her back.
Vanessa lives in Penfleet House, the wealthy second wife of Spencer, who has to cope with his first wife's histrionics and the indifference of his children.
Veronica Henry soon works her magic that can only come from being a scriptwriter on Holby City and The Archers, to weave a story about Kate and Vanessa and how they cope.
She introduces two male characters: Sam, a single dad, who has escaped to Penfleet with his children for a more meaningful life; and Nathan, who lives with his grandfather and apart from sailing the boat that they've restored, works for the local undertaker. . .
This results in an uplifting story to enjoy by an open fire with a mug of hot chocolate, or maybe a glass of red wine!
Which is your favourite Veronica Henry novel?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor - Captivating and Wonderfully Written

I so enjoyed reading The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor earlier this year (review here) that I wondered how on earth she could follow it.
Well, she has, in A Memory of Violets which is just as captivating and as wonderfully written!
Set in 1876, it tells the heartbreaking story of two sisters, Flora and Rosie Flynn: one crippled and the other blind, bound together by poverty, surviving only by selling posies of violets and watercress around Covent Garden to those who will buy them.
But set also in 1912, it tells the story of Tilly Harper who escapes her past in the Lake District and comes to London to work at Mr Shaw's Training Home for Watercress and Flower Girls: a refuge where the girls are given a start in life, with clean living conditions, clean clothes, good food and training in making artificial flowers which are sold to help them earn a living.
There, Tilly finds Flora's notebook, and learns that one day Rosie slipped from her grip along crowded Westminster Bridge, and she has never given up trying to find her.
Tilly decides to try and find out what happened to Rosie, and at the same time discovers how to come to terms with her own past.
Hazel Gaynor is a very talented writer who can immerse the reader right into the heart of the story. I felt I was there beside Flora and Rosie in their bare feet and ragged clothes selling their posies in all weathers; and I was also there with Tilly in the bracing sea air at Clacton, where the younger girls were sent to the orphanage until old enough to learn how to make the flowers, as she fell in love with one of Mr Shaw's nephews (I won't say which one!).
There is so much to say about this book. It's visually beautiful with different flowers decorating each section and chapter. I would love to see a full colour edition, like a Victorian book of flowers, but I'm sure it would be too expensive. Hazel also manages to give many female characters the name of a flower, without distracting from the story, but hinting at the part each plays in it.
Her next book is out next September 2016. Set in the 1920s, The Girl From The Savoy is about a girl who rose from being a maid at The Savoy hotel to being a West End star. I can't wait!

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Villa Girls by Nicky Pellegrino - A Gentle Story, Full of Italian Sunshine and Warmth

The Villa Girls wasn't on my Summer Reading List this year, but it was on my bookshelf! I've had it some time because I loved Recipe for Life and The Italian Wedding which I have reviewed here and here, and it has links to both: The Villa Rosa in this one is the same as in Recipe for Life, and, Addolorata features in The Italian Wedding as she is the sister of Pieta, the girl who makes wedding dresses.
The other reason I read it is I love reading about Italy!
The story is told from from two points of view: Rosie, in the first person and Enzo, in the third with alternate chapters telling their stories, and I particularly liked Addolorata's comments and thoughts about Rosie at the end of each of her chapters too.
Not Triento, but enough pink villas for anyone!
The novel is set somewhere in the seventies or eighties; there are no mobile phones or any email, and life is lived at a slower pace. Rosie is coming to terms with her parents' death in England and, in Italy, Enzo Santi is growing up in privilege on his parents' olive farm. (I now know a lot about olive farming, having read this and The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas which I reviewed here!)
She becomes part of the Villa Girls when she goes on holiday with Addolorata, Lou and Toni to a villa in Majorca, and they like it so much that they rent the Villa Rosa in Triento and meet Enzo. But Rosie's fledgling holiday romance is shattered when Toni discovers what the Santi family have been hiding in their barn.
This is a gentle story, full of Italian sunshine and warmth, which follows Rosie and Enzo through the years. Will the promise of true love come true for them despite all the problems they have to surmount?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas - A Perfect Book to Warm up a Chilly Autumn Evening!

The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas was on the top of my pile of summer reads (see my blog post  here), but I waited until I was actually in Italy to read it!
The blurb said that 'olives and romance might just flourish in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun'. A perfect book to read on holiday!

Fuelled with Prosecco, in her empty flat that she once shared with her ex, Ed, Ruthie Collins buys an Italian farmhouse on eBay.
What a great start to a story!
If you enjoyed The Oyster Catcher, Jo Thomas' first novel, (review here) you will enjoy this especially because the cold wet west coast of Ireland has been swapped for sunny southern Italy.
But it doesn't start out like that because Ruthie arrives in torrential rain, only to find a grumpy goat blocking her front door. At least the weather gets better eventually and she meets her next door neighbours, the Bellanouvo family, but why aren't they pleased to meet her? And why is Marco Bellanouvo so angry that she's bought his grandfather's house? And how do you grow olives, anyway?
Jo Thomas has drawn her characters so well, including Ryan, the helpful Australian; Nonna, riding on the back of a Vespa; Luigi, Mrs Luigi and Young Luigi, that by the end I felt that they were old friends.
This book would make a wonderful heart-warming film. I read it on holiday in Italy, but it would be perfect to warm up a chilly autumn evening at home!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

For a Gripping Read, Try Bay of Secrets by Rosanna Ley

Bay of Secrets is Rosanna Ley's second novel, and the second that I've enjoyed in a bid to read them all this summer.
Known for her skill in intertwining place and story to make an epic multi-stranded romance, this one is set in Barcelona, The Canary Islands and England. This made me very pleased because I visited Barcelona in August and I love to have a book to read set in the place I'm staying!

However, the Barcelona that Sister Julia lived in at the time of the Spanish Civil War could not have been anything like the modern city of today, apart from the fact that the amazing towers of the Sagrada Familia would have stood there waiting for the church to be finished as they still do in 2015.

Sister Julia is one of the three main protagonists. Her parents could not afford to feed her, but wanting her to be safe during the war, forced her to join a convent against her wishes. Here she, unwittingly at first, helped Dr Lopez who fasified death certificates and handed babies over to parents to adopt for large sums of money. On finding out his treachery, she begins to keep a book recording the names of the mothers, their babies and who adopted them. Will she ever be able to help any of the children to find out who they really are?

In 2011, Ruby Rae's parents are killed in a motorcycle crash. Clearing out their house, she discovers a shoe box containing a photo of a hippy girl with a baby, love beads and a baby's bonnet and wonders what they could mean.

Meanwhile Andrés Marin, born in Fuerteventura in The Canary Islands, was also sent away by his father because he promised to be a better artist than him. He came to England and spent seventeen years in Dorset setting up a building business. He meets Ruby at an auction when they both bid for a dilapidated  seaside cottage. Will 'hate at first' sight turn into love for them?

Through the themes of adoption; being wanted or not being wanted by parents; art, and the colours of West Dorset and The Canary Isles, Rosanna paints gripping story. It's not an easy heartwarming read because of what the characters have to go through, but you can't help reading on to find out what happens to Ruby and Andrés, and what Sister Julia's little book of names has to do with their lives.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke - A Great Summer Read!

I was pleased to find another book by Lucy Clarke because I enjoyed The Sea Sisters so much. (Find my review here.)
That book was about one sister following in the tracks of the other to find out how she  could have possibly committed suicide on the other side of the world; A Single Breath is about a wife following in the tracks of her husband, who has been drowned, all the way to Tasmania to find out who he really was.
These novels sound rather sad, dealing with death as they do, but it is Lucy's skill as a writer that brings the characters to life.
A Single Breath focuses on Eva, who witnesses her husband, Jackson, drowning off some rocks in Dorset, and decides to travel to Tasmania, as they had planned, to meet his family. Once there she finds she's not really welcome, but Jackson's brother, Saul, lets her stay in a shack which once belonged to Jackson, and gradually, she finds herself falling in love with him. The brothers are drawn beautifully: although they resemble each other, one is dependable and strong and the other, a dreamer and can't be trusted. I can't tell you too much, or I'll give the story away!
One tantalizing thing is that the chapters, telling the story from Eva's point of view, or Saul's, are interspersed with the thoughts of Jackson. How does that happen?
I loved Lucy's description of the sea and the scenes where Eva goes free diving.
This is definitely one of those books to enjoy on holiday!
If you do enjoy it, there was a brand new book out by Lucy Clarke on July 30th 2015 - The Blue.
Again, with a theme of the sea, I can't wait to read it as well!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

My Summer Reads 2015

Here is Norman the Gnome guarding my summer reads for 2015. He looks very happy, doesn't he?
I'm happy too because I've already enjoyed books by all these authors, and I'm looking forward to reading some more of their work.

So, here we go!
The Olive Branch by Jo Thomas
I really enjoyed The Oyster Catcher (see my review here) so I was pleased to find her new book already on sale. This one is about Ruthie Collins who buys an Italian farmhouse on the internet.  Italy is one of my favourite holiday destinations and the blurb says that 'olives and romance might just flourish in the warmth of the Mediterranean sun'.
Sounds just my sort of read!

A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke
I was blown away by Lucy's debut novel The Sea Sisters last year: here is my review, so I'm looking forward to reading her new one. Eva witnesses her husband, Jackson, drowning and travels to Tasmania to meet his estranged family, only to find out that the truth about him was all a lie. I'm hoping to immerse(!) myself in the watery imagery which Lucy does so well, all over again!

Love on the Rocks by Veronica Henry.
Late last summer I read The Beach Hut and The Beach Hut Next Door (review here). Unlike Jo Thomas and Lucy Clarke, Veronica has written many novels and I was surprised that I hadn't come across them before. She is brilliant at bringing all sorts of different characters to life having been a script writer on Holby City, The Archers and Heartbeat, and she must have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every  job you can think of to make them realistic. This book is about Lisa and George who throw in their day jobs to buy a rundown seaside hotel, but I'm sure that it won't be all smooth sailing!

Bay of Secrets, Return to Mandalay and The Saffron Trail by Rosanna Ley
Ok, I've gone a bit mad here! I recently read Rosanna's first book The Villa, (reviewand liked it so much, I decided to read all her others! These are set respectively in Spain, Burma and Morocco. In Writing Magazine (June 2015) she says that in Germany, her kind of writing is called 'love and landscape' where place and story are inescapably intertwined, and that's just what I adore. Exotic location, romance and multi-stranded narrative means a perfect summer read for me.

I hope you enjoy your summer reading and that I've given you some ideas for books to take on your holidays!

Sunday, 19 July 2015

A Great Day Out at the RNA Conference 2015

This year, as the RNA Conference was at Queen Mary's University, Mile End, London, I decided to just go for the Saturday, but to be honest, as I left at 5.30, I wished I was staying!
I travelled with Jen Gilroy ( who, this year, is an RWA Golden Heart Finalist!! Their conference is in New York this week and I hope that you join with me in wishing Jen the best of luck!
Arriving in time to pick up our goody bags (you can see some of the contents in the photo), my first session was with Jane Wenham-Jones which I was looking forward to because she gives such entertaining talks. This one was a 'Wannabe a Writer We've Heard Of?' workshop, based on her book of the same name. In her inimitable style, she talked about making the perfect elevator pitch which, if it works before the publisher or agent has reached their floor, can be followed up with a good anecdote about why you wrote the book, which I found useful later in the day!
Then after coffee break, where I caught up with Jen and chatted with some people that I'd met on previous conferences (it's a fact that the more conferences you attend, the more people you know!) I went to Hazel Gaynor's 'Promotion Commotion'. With an impressive two video screens, she told us not only to excel at social media, but to also be a real person attending events and meeting people face to face which she did as a self-published novelist with The Girl Who Came Home, and also afterwards when it was taken up by publishers, William Morrow.
Lunchtime was rather crowded, but I did meet up with Rosemary Gemmell, a longtime online friend from Scotland. She is promoting her new book The Highland Lass, and I was impressed with her giveaway in the goody bag: a beautiful tiny thistle tied with tartan ribbon and a heart-shaped chocolate in a tiny cellophane bag together with a mini cover of her book. Irresistable!
After lunch, I went to Rowan Coleman's session about 'Five Reasons Novels Fail and How To Avoid Them'. I thought one of her best pieces of advice was to:
     'Find the time to write 500 words each day, then they will soon add up and you'll be 'in the zone' thinking about writing the story and you'll find it easier to write each day'.
I think that I'll definitely give that a go!
Then it was 'Following your Heart' with Jane Johnson. She had a captivating tale to tell of how she met her husband in Morocco. Being Cornish, she was intrigued to hear an article on Radio 4 about the Barbary Pirates who kidnapped Cornish people as white slaves, and remembered her mother telling her tales about someone from her family who had been kidnapped. Determined to find out more, she visited Morocco to do some research for a novel and, with a friend called Bruce, to do some climbing. She found the perfect Moroccan man to base her Pirate King on, who in turn rescued Jane and Bruce when they got stuck climbing a difficult rock face. And, dear reader, she married him! You can find out more about this by reading The Tenth Gift which I'm add to my reading list!
I actually had an appointment with a publisher during this talk, and was hoping to hear what happened before I had to leave, but luckily Cristal Phillips told me what I'd missed!
At the appointment, I was able to put Jane Wenham-Jones advice to use when I was asked what other books I had written. I'd only been thinking about promoting the current one, but put on the spot, I was able to remember what Jane had said about the perfect elevator pitch!
The last session was Jenny Barden and Joanna Hickson giving an entertaining talk about 'Researching Historical Fiction'. I loved it!
I had a wonderful day at the conference. Thank you Jan, Roger and Jenny who organised it!
But, I think I'll go back to staying the weekend though, next year!

Thursday, 2 July 2015

The Villa by Rosanna Ley - Read it for Sheer Pleasure!

I know that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but the covers of Rosanna Ley's books entice me to pick them up, and I can't resist!
I bought Bay of Secrets last summer because of its beautiful cover, but I didn't get round to reading it. However, when Rosanna was featured in Writing Magazine (June 2015), I decided to read all her four novels, starting with The Villa (her first), and I wasn't disappointed!
The article talked about her skills at 'writing multi-stranded epic romance' where 'place and story are inescapably intertwined', and this is just what she's done in The Villa.
It tells the story of Tess, who inherits a villa in Sicily from an mysterious benefactor; her problematic daughter, Ginny, who flunks her A Level exams on purpose so she doesn't have to go to university; and Tess's mother, Flavia, who left Sicily at the age of seventeen, never to return.
Sicily takes centre stage when Tess visits the island for the first time to find out why she's been left the Villa Sirena. Family feuds and tales of murder and deceit concerning the mystery of Il Tesoro, the treasure that the villa is supposed to hide, bring her into contact with Giovanni Sciarra who is very interested in her, but is it for the right reasons? Then there is also the mosaic artist, Tonino Amato, dark and moody, yet he's bothered about her diving alone in the sea. . .
Tess leaves Ginny with her parents, and things seem to be going well until Ginny's father, David, turns up after leaving Tess when she became pregnant all those years ago to go to Australia. (I love Ginny and her alliterative exclamations: 'meandering meerkats' to give just one!)
Running alongside Tess's story, is Flavia's own which she writes down in a notebook, interspersed with recipes, as she's never been able to tell Tess, or even her own husband, Lenny, the whole truth about why she left her Sicilian home and family, after the war, to live at first in smoggy, cold November London.
Throughout the book, the colours and moods of the Sicilian landscape reflect the action in the story and I think it would be a perfect novel to take on holiday, or read for sheer pleasure!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas is a Pearl of a Book!

I can thoroughly recommend The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas. Published originally as an ebook in 2013, it was a runaway success and was then published in paperback in 2014, winning not only the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon award for a newly published writer, but also the 2014 Festival of Romance Best Ebook Award too.
I heard of it through the RNA and have been keen to read it for some time, and I wasn't disappointed!
After a disastrous wedding, when Fiona's husband runs off, and she crashes the honeymoon camper van, she is left wearing only her wedding dress in Dooleybridge, County Galway. Her salvation comes in the shape of Sean Thornton who takes her on to help on his oyster farm. Through Jo Thomas's hilarious descriptions, I see Fi as a sort of Bridget Jones in Sean's oversized boots and waterproofs, and Sean himself as a brooding hero, with perhaps a bit of Ross Poldark about him although it is set in twenty-first century Ireland, not eighteenth century Cornwall!
There is a whole cast of village characters too including Margaret, the barmaid who has terrible fashion sense, but who becomes Fi's friend.
Dooleybridge has declined into a quiet backwater since it's waters were declared unclean for oyster production after the Murrays sold their oyster farm for building on the shore. However Sean proves that the waters are now pure, and wants to make a success of his farm, but he is hampered by oyster pirates who steal his stock when Fi is left in charge. So to help Sean, she becomes involved in reviving the legendary Oyster Festival to bring business to the village, and their love/hate relationship becomes the backbone of the story.
This is all complicated by the arrival of Dan Murray, a famous American broadcaster, who has come to make a TV programme about finding his roots, and has his eye on Fi; and also Nancy, Sean's girlfriend, a restauranteur who has her own ideas about the Festival.
Jo Thomas actually did her research on a Scottish oyster farm, going out into the sea to collect the oysters and prepare them for market, and I think she has done a really good job in making Fi's attempts at working at Sean's oyster farm so believable.
Interestingly, The Oyster Catcher is written in the first person present for Fi, and in other chapters, in the third person past for Sean, but it definitely works.
So whether or not you like oysters, this is a pearl of a book for you!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Eighty-five Years Ago Today, Amy Johnson Became the First Woman to Fly Solo from London to Australia!

Amy Johnson - Wikipedia
On May 24th 1930, Amy Johnson flew into Port Darwin after a 21 day flight from London. The first woman to fly the 11,000 miles alone.
Her adventures read like something out of H Rider Haggard: flying over jungles and shark infested waters with only her trusty Gipsy Moth made only of wood and cloth to keep her safe.

Here is a short extract from my novel Gipsy Moth which tells the story of Kathy who wants to fly like Amy Johnson, but who gets pregnant instead and is sent to stay with her aunt in Devon near Haldon Aerodrome.

It is available from Amazon, just click here.

I sat up in bed surrounded by all the Sunday papers that Uncle Jeremy could get hold of. Amy Johnson may have achieved her goal and been the first woman to fly solo to Australia, but I was no closer to solving my problems . . .  
The baby kicked right up under my ribs. I winced and stretched, trying to pull away from it. What am I to do with you? Should I follow my dreams, or should I do the right thing?

Which is the right thing, anyway?

Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor Captures the Amazing Story of the Titanic

One hundred and three years ago today, fourteen people from one village set sail from Queenstown, on the southern coast of Ireland, aboard the fastest, safest, passenger ship in the world: Titanic, and their amazing story is told by Hazel Gaynor in The Girl Who Came Home.
I bought the book at the RNA conference last year after hearing Hazel give a talk about how she originally self-published her novel and how it was taken on by an American publisher, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Apart from feeling just a little envious at that, I have to say that The Girl Who Came Home is beautifully written, capturing the life of people in Ireland just over a hundred years ago; the life on board the magnificent ship, the like of which had never been seen before; the horror of the collision with the iceberg, and the life of a survivor, Maggie, and the later story of her great-granddaughter, Grace. Hazel has pulled all the threads together to give a very satisfactory ending.
One of the images that appears through the story is cherry blossom. Maggie used to meet her sweetheart, Seamus under the sixth cherry blossom tree in Ballysheen every Wednesday, and she carries a handful of blossom in her coat pocket as she boards the ship, and when Grace takes her great-grandmother out for tea and apple pie each week in Cass County, Illinois, they go to The Cherry Tree restaurant. It's a beautiful story with Grace's love for Jimmy mirroring Maggie's for Seamus, and I can thoroughly recommend it.
 I've always been fascinated by Titanic because A Night to Remember was the first film that I was ever taken to see!
Last year, I was also able to visit the Titanic, The Artifact Exhibition in Las Vegas.
That probably sounds a bit tacky, but actually it was as serious an exhibition as you would expect to see at any museum in London or New York.
It told the stories of the people who had lived or died on that fateful night. In fact your ticket, or boarding pass, bore a name and details of a passenger, and you didn't know whether they had survived, or not, until you went out afterwards and looked for their name on the lists, just as anxious friends and relatives would have done all those years ago.
So many passengers made a last minute decision to sail on the ship because of a miners' strike which had meant that other ships couldn't get any coal. Titanic, itself, used one pound of coal a second to move only sixty feet!
The entrance to the exhibition was through the third class cabins to the foot tapping sound of Irish tunes, then we waltzed through to the first class cabins to the sound of an orchestra. The ship was so luxurious that conditions were often better for those travelling third class than for those left at home, even though there were only two bath tubs for seven hundred third class passengers.
There were so many interesting artifacts like china and glass decorated with the distinctive White Star Line flag, and also personal papers and letters which were preserved in leather Gladstone or hand bags, and which had been brought up from the bottom of the sea.
One of the most chilling experiences was walking outside onto the reconstructed starlit deck on the calm, peaceful night of April 14th 1912, whilst music played behind in the salons. Hitting an iceberg and the resulting chaos would have been the last things that any passenger expected.
The most amazing exhibit was a big section of the actual ship that was brought up from a depth of two and a half miles from the North Atlantic ocean.
So if you are ever in Las Vegas, and you are interested in the Titanic story don't forget to go and see it.
Meanwhile, you could always read Hazel's book, The Girl Who Came Home!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Postcards and Suntan Cream - Easter Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal Day 4 - Camping in France with a Little Comedy!

Camping in France is one of my favourite holidays; I also like a little comedy! This story, combining both, features in Postcards and Suntan Cream: my collection of twelve super summer stories, perfect for the beach, a deck chair in the garden, or if we're not so lucky with the Easter weather, by the fireside!

La Vallée d’Amour

‘Peter! There’s a donkey eating my knickers!’
Peter peered out of the tent where he had been trying to catch a quick siesta, to see a soft grey donkey with Kate’s hot pink M&S pants rapidly disappearing into its mouth.
‘I didn’t want to come here. I told you. We’re too old for this.’ Kate stomped towards him, her face as red as the scarlet canvas that Vacances en France used for its holiday-homes-away-from-home. 

My Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal continues today with a Limited Edition Postcards and Suntan Cream  with a fab Sixties cover designed by Samantha Groom which you can download for only 99p from today, until 8am BST on Tuesday, April 7th 2015.
But hurry, after that the price will go back up to £2.15!

If you want to contact Samantha about a cover for your self-published book, you can at

Postcards and Suntan Cream is available here on Amazon.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Postcards and Suntan Cream - Easter Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal Day 3 - Cruising

Cruising is becoming more popular every year and, because I love it so much, it features in two stories from Postcards and Suntan Cream: my collection of twelve super summer stories, perfect for the beach, a deck chair in the garden, or if we're not so lucky with the Easter weather, by the fireside!

The Woman With The Long Hair

The sun sparkled through her wet hair as Paula rinsed it under the shower by the Castaway deck pool, and swung it up and over her shoulders like an arc of diamonds. She plaited it into a thick dark rope, which reached down past the top of her turquoise bikini bottoms and swished from side to side as she picked her way between the sunbathing passengers back to Karen.
‘I want to ask your advice,’ she said, as she stretched out on her sunbed and closed her eyes.

My Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal continues today with a Limited Edition Postcards and Suntan Cream  with a fab Sixties cover designed by Samantha Groom which you can download for only 99p from today, until 8am BST on Tuesday, April 7th 2015.
But hurry, after that the price will go back up to £2.15!

If you want to contact Samantha about a cover for your self-published book, you can at

Postcards and Suntan Cream is available here on Amazon.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Postcards and Suntan Cream - Easter Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal Day 2 - The Amalfi Coast

This is Positano on the Italian Amalfi coast which features in two stories from 
Postcards and Suntan Cream, my collection of twelve super summer stories, perfect for the beach, a deck chair in the garden, or if we're not so lucky with the Easter weather, by the fireside!

                   Sea Change

We didn’t need to draw the curtains up here on the steep Positano cliffs. Only the gulls wheeled past our window and dipped down, calling to each other, as they caught an early breakfast.
I’d been awake since the sun sailed into the sky and hovered over the sparkling Mediterranean with the promise of another bright day. But, would this one be any better? 

My Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal continues today with a Limited Edition Postcards and Suntan Cream  with a fab Sixties cover designed by Samantha Groom which you can download for only 99p from today, until 8am BST on Tuesday, April 7th 2015.
But hurry, after that the price will go back up to £2.15!

If you want to contact Samantha about a cover for your self-published book, you can at

Postcards and Suntan Cream is available here on Amazon.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Postcards and Suntan Cream - Easter Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal Day 1 - The Sixties

Easter is here, so give yourself a treat with this Limited Edition Postcards and Suntan Cream in my Amazon Kindle Countdown Deal!
The deal means that you can download this edition with its specially designed Sixties cover by Samantha Groom for only 99p from today, until 8am BST on Tuesday, April 7th 2015.
But hurry, after that the price will more than double to £2.15!

Postcards and Suntan Cream is a collection of twelve super summer stories, perfect for the beach, a deck chair in the garden, or if we're not so lucky with the Easter weather, by the fireside!

The first story is one of two set in the 1960s and gives its title to the book:

Postcards and Suntan Cream

I did so wish that Ted had come on holiday with me . . .
Ellie fingers a dog-eared postcard and holds it to her heart, remembering that hot August when anything seemed possible. She closes her eyes, and the picture’s so real that she can almost smell the suntan cream.

If you would like to find out what happened that hot August so long ago, don't forget that that this Kindle Countdown Deal ends on April 7th.

If you want to contact Samantha about a cover for your self-published book, you can at

Postcards and Suntan Cream is available here on Amazon.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

the house we grew up in A Gripping Easter Novel by Lisa Jewell

Are you a hoarder? I am a bit; it didn't take long to find some gift wrap to use as the background for my photo here.  But Lorelei Bird has more of a problem: she's unable to throw away anything and her house has become literally stuffed full of junk or, as she calls it, her memories of good times. Each item a reminder of a particular day or event.
She started by collecting things for her craft box which she kept under the stairs, particularly the shiny foil wrappers off the Easter Eggs she hid around their lovely garden each Easter Sunday.
Thirty years ago, the Birds were a perfect family: Lorelei, Colin, Megan, Beth and the twins Rory and Rhys living in their perfect house in the country, until one Easter, something happened that was so terrible that it destroyed their life altogether.
Lisa Jewell has written a jewel of a book. Weaving backwards and forwards in time, each Easter from then to 2011, she unravels their story and temps us to discover who was actually to blame for the disastrous event.
It is not a traditional Easter story with bunnies and fluffy chicks; it is quite harrowing to read in places, but it is a story that grips your attention, so you keep reading, caught up with their lives, until the end.
Do you have a favourite Easter novel?

Thursday, 19 March 2015

CS Lewis, The Last Battle and The Total Eclipse

Back in 1999 when Britain was getting ready to watch only the second total eclipse of the twentieth century, the Daily Mail ran an article about the first one which took place on June 29th 1927.
The best place to view it was the Yorkshire Dales, and to quote the paper, people arrived there 'by plane, ship, railway, car, charabanc, omnibus, motorcycle and pushbike'.
Virginia Woolf even arrived by train with other members of the Bloomsbury set.
The Mail included the report of their very own correspondent who described seeing the total eclipse through a break in the clouds with a crowd of fifty thousand on Richmond racecourse.
He (or she!) described the increasing chill in the air as the light 'insensibly decreased', until the sun hung in the east like the brightest and most splendid new moon. The world now waited, dark and cold in a 'ghastly grey-yellow, gloom'.
'The waves of blackness, accompanied by an icy breath, were rushing on faster and faster as though the sky was full of groups of lights that were being put out one by one, and suddenly, as if with one fell swoop, it was night - night dense, sinister, an muffled in silence'.
Anyone watching the eclipse could not help believing, for the few minutes of totality, that the end of the world was at hand.
It was interesting to read that amongst the crowds heading for Yorkshire, the Daily Mail correspondent mentioned that there were some 'college dons'.
Now, in 1925, CS Lewis became a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Magdelen College, Oxford, so it's quite possible that he made the trip up to witness the eclipse.
This is even more likely if you read his account of  the end of Narnia, in The Last Battle.
In the chapter, Night Falls on Narnia, he describes the moon coming up close to the sun and how the sun's great red tentacles reach out for it and surround it until they were like one huge ball of burning coal. Then Aslan asks a giant to squeeze the sun as he would an orange. And instantly, there was total darkness.
It's nice to think that that CS Lewis might have witnessed the eclipse in 1927 and made some notes to be used nearly thirty years later in his final Chronicle of Narnia.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Don't wait two years to read The Italian Wedding by Nicky Pellegrino like I did!

I bought The Italian Wedding by Nicky Pellgrino two years ago, and can't understand why I didn't read it sooner!
It's got all my favourite things: weddings, cooking and Italy, of course!
The book starts straight off with Beppi Martinelli's recipe for aubergines in tomato sauce with mozzarella and parmesan: Melanzane alla Parmigiana. It's sounds delicious, and even better in Italian!
Beppi's daughter, Pieta, can't understand the long feud her father has with Gianfranco DeMatteo who owns a grocer's shop near their restaurant, Little Italy, in London.
She works for a wedding dress designer, and she is concerned to find that her latest customer is Helene who is to marry Gianfranco's son, Michele, the boy she has always wanted for herself. However, at home, she is making a wedding dress for her sister, Addolorata, and whilst she and her mother, Catherine, sew on the tiny shimmering beads, Catherine tells her the story of how she and Beppi met  in Rome, and the part Gianfranco played in the story.
It is a lovely picture of Italy all those years ago: all Vespas and full skirts, mixed with the relationships of the young people of today, and I can thoroughly recommend it for a satisfying read.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes is full of treasures. And great news about a new release!

The Peacock Emporium by Jojo Moyes is many stories in one and, rather like the shop itself, it's full of treasures. Susanna Peacock runs the Emporium, but it's also about her parents Vivi and Douglas; Athene Forster, nicknamed the 'Last Deb' in the Sixties, and her reckless life; and Jessie, a young outward-going young mother who helps Susanna make a go of her business.
Jojo is very clever at making up a cast for her novels, and to read them is always like watching a film in my head. This book is no exception and the action takes place at the main locations of the Emporium and the family estate run by Douglas and his son, Ben.
There is also the added spice of Alejandro, a midwife, who has left his native Argentina because of the troubles there to make a new life in England and is a regular at the cafe in the shop.
Susanna doesn't fit into her family and feels that her sister, Lucy, and Ben are favoured more than her. However, her father lets her and her husband, Neil, live in a cottage on the farm, because he's lost his job. She doesn't feel ready to have a child yet because of her dream of owning a shop and making an identity for herself, so Neil agrees to her running it for a year, if she will then try for a baby.
However, she's attracted to Alexjandro, who is friendly to both her and Jessie, with distastrous consequences.
I had to keep reading to find out what Susanna would do next and also uncover the family secret which has been the root of her unhappiness.
Reading this book means that I have read all of Jojo's books apart from the novella, Paris for One, for which there's really no excuse! However, the big news for all her fans is that the sequel to Me Before You, called After You, will be out on September 24th 2015!
I can't wait!
Which is your favourite Jojo Moyes book?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Snowdrops and Writing

February is the month for snowdrops. Hidden, peeping out from under trees and bushes, you can hardly see them, but they herald the end of snow and winter, and hint of the yellow daffodils and bright tulips that are yet to come.
These snowdrops were given to me by a friend and nestle at the bottom of a giant Christmas tree, planted about fifty years ago in the garden by the previous owners and, protected through the cold weather by the brown curly leaves of summer, they represent re-growth.
Perhaps, writing is like that.  Sometimes it is hard to begin to write; life gets in the way. But all the time, just like the little snowdrop bulbs, ideas are pushing away under the surface, nurtured by the life itself and its experiences and suddenly burst forth urging to be written down.
Have snowdrops, or other spring flowers inspired you to write?

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Missing Dancing on Ice? Read Torvill and Dean's autobiography - Our Life on Ice instead!

Sunday evenings this winter aren't the same without Dancing on Ice. Settling down with a Winter Pimms and some twisty cheese straws for a couple of hours with our favourite celebrity skaters was bliss.
But no longer, 2014 was the last series, and for the moment Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean have hung up their skates (but not before we went to see their Final Live Tour at Wembley Arena!)
However, I was excited to receive their autobiography Torvill and Dean Our Life on Ice for Christmas with their trademark sparkly purple cover! Actually written by James Hogg, an established ghost-writer and biographer for sports and entertainment: the two spheres well-represented by this skating couple who not only won Olympic Gold for Bolero in Sarajevo in 1984, but since then have danced professionally on ice in many world tours and shows.
It is written in a documentary style with Jayne and Chris mostly separately, but sometimes together, talking about their childhood, their beginnings on ice and how they were put together as a pair one cold Thursday morning at Nottingham ice rink. They mention their mentors, such as Betty Callaway, and how their amateur career developed culminating in that unforgettable Olympic win.
They talk about their special working relationship, and their marriages to others. However, if you want to find out if they really had that romance that the media seemed to think they were hiding, you'll have to read the book!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

I'll Take New York by Miranda Dickinson - A Real Romance!

I've been looking forward to reading I'll Take New York by Miranda Dickinson and I wasn't disappointed; I think it's her best novel yet!
A real romance: not too fluffy and not too gritty.  Just right!
It's her sixth novel and, although not a sequel, its characters are connected to Rosie and Ed in her first one, Fairytale of New York.
Ed's brother, Jake, who moved to San Francisco for his wife, has been told by her that she wants a divorce.
Bea, from England like Rosie, runs a bookshop with her college friend, Russ. She's been let down in front of her family by her boyfriend, Otis.
Meeting up at a party where Jake is helping out in the bar, they agree on a Pact not to have another relationship with anyone and make the most of their single lives. However, their lives get more complicated than they expected!
I think that Miranda does a great job of writing the dialogue for the American characters. It comes over as being very believable. I loved the settings too, for example, the bookshop when Bea and Russ put on a birthday party, and of course New York which takes star billing with the Wollman Ice Rink in Central Park.
The story is told from Bea and Jake's points of view and I couldn't wait to find out what happened to them in the end.
Which is your favourite Miranda Dickinson book?