What a difference, a day makes – or in this case, the month of May! #MonthlyRoundUp #TopBook (@NoelleHarrison @bwpublishing)

The Writing Garnet's Book of the Month is......
It isn’t often that I do a monthly roundup, purely because I often forget. However, I felt the urge to do one for the month of May because I feel that I have to speak out about a few things, and what better way to do it than in a roundup post! #KillTwoBirdsWithOneStone

So, what happened in May?

The highlights!

– TWG was involved in 52 blog tours, the highest amount of blog tours in one month, ever!
– I met up with author, Mary-Jayne Baker, in Edinburgh for bookish chat.
– My TWG Facebook page  hit 1602 likes!
– I went over 5000 followers on Twitter, despite starting with around 100 or so when I started blogging two years ago.
– I found myself being quoted yet another book cover (thanks Bookouture!), as well as being quoted on Amazon itself!
– I received so many wonderful proof copies through the post, as well as being approved for other many awesome books on Netgalley. Big thank you to the publishers/publicists who have either sent me books or approved me. You’re all amazing!
– I have had many wonderful bookish chats with my fellow book buddies on social media – love you all!

There have been, I’m sure, many other highlights but it is quite difficult to remember them all when you make yourself do so! Like most things, there is always a downside:

The Lowlights.

May was the month where I was trolled on social media not once, but twice in the matter of one week. Now, despite being told that other people have had similar and just to ignore, for me that isn’t easy and I’ll tell you why. From the age of five, I was horrifically bullied, tormented for the hair on my arms to how I spoke, being pushed into brick walls to then having a metal sellotape holder slammed down on my knuckles. I was even told that I was fat day in, day out, where I ended up battling with anorexia and bulimia. Whilst I would love to say that the bullied ended quickly, it didn’t. For some, comments on social media are like water off a ducks back. But for me, when they come across as personal attacks, similar circumstances or not, I find them to be a trigger. It isn’t nice because it then sets off my mental health which in turn sets off my chronic illnesses. Thankfully I have drawn a line under that, but I just wanted to speak about that.

Another lowlight in May involved the entire blogging community and the idea of ‘paid reviews’. I won’t get into it again, but I am sick and tired of hard working bloggers getting thrown under the bus by people who can waltz in without giving a damn about integrity or hard work. I don’t charge for my book reviews, and I don’t intend on doing so. I review because I love books and because I feel that I am forever in authors debts for writing books which allow me to escape my daily hell. And yes, it is often hell.

Again, another one which involved the entire book blogging community was when it became known that someone was selling ARCs/proof copies on Ebay. The fact that it says somewhere on the proof ‘not to be resold or used for quotation’, is neither here nor there…..clearly. Seriously, receiving proof copies from publishers/publicists is an honour and I feel privileged to be able to receive some amazing books through my letter box. Would I then go on to sell them on Ebay? Like fuck would I. Respect is earned, not given. Respect isn’t an entitlement, it’s a privilege.

The following lowlight is a personal one for me and one which I have ummed and ahhed about saying. Those who know me personally, or those who have read my previous posts, will know that I am rather lacking in the ‘healthy’ area, with illnesses such as fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, joint hypermobility syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, IBS, anxiety and depression, under my belt. It’s bad enough dealing with all of that, but now, after years of battling with doctors who told me it was ‘all in my head’ and being looked at like I had two heads, I am now being treated for CFS otherwise known as ME. I was also put on a new medication, one which isn’t going to become my bestie anytime soon that’s for sure (amitriptyline). Coming to terms with yet another illness at the ripe ‘old’ age of 28 is heart-breaking, and once again I’m left feeling like I am grieving a part of me now gone. Although to be fair, I’m surprised that there is anything left of ‘me’ to grieve but y’know! I want to say a personal thank you to a person who has been checking in with my every few days despite going through their own issues, and that big thank you is for Abbie Rutherford – your friendship means a lot to me, thank you for being there for me <3.

Enough of the lowlights, lets talk books!

With 52 blog tours in one month, I got through quite a lot of books in May such as:

#Review – The Things We Need to Say by Rachel Burton (@bookish_yogi) @RaRaResources @HQDigitalUK

#BlogBlitz! #Review – One Summer in Rome by Samantha Tonge (@SamTongeWriter) @RaRaResources @HQDigitalUK

#BlogBlitz! #Review – What Holly’s Husband Did by Debbie Viggiano (@DebbieViggiano) @Bookouture

#BlogBlitz! #Review – Lead Me Home by CS Savage (@sarahsavage26) @BloodhoundBook

#BlogTour! #Review – The Wedding Date by Zara Stoneley (@ZaraStoneley) @RaRaResources @HarperImpulse

#BlogTour! #Review – #SunshineandSweetPeas in Nightingale Square by Heidi Swain (@Heidi_Swain) @simonschusteruk

& many, many more.

It is such an honour to be involved in the blog tours/blog blitzes for incredible books, so thank you to the publishers who invite me to take part!

If I did have to choose just one book from May, it would have to be ‘The Gravity of Love’ by Noelle Harrison. That book blew my mind like nothing before, plus I managed to make the author AND the publishing team cry with my review. I loved everything about the book and everything it stood for, and I am sure that you will too. In case you missed my review the first time round, you can read it again here:

#BlogTour! #Review – The Gravity of Love by Noelle Harrison (@NoelleHarrison) @bwpublishing

The Writing Garnet is going from strength to strength and I can only thank you all for supporting me along my journey, sharing my blog posts/tweets, inviting me on tours, and involving me in a community that sometimes I don’t feel worthy enough to be in. It is such a joy to be able to share my love of books with you all, so thank you <3.

What’s coming up in June?

As it stands, I have 40 blog tours in my diary for this month already. I expect that to go up when I realise that I have included all of the tours by forgetting to write some of them down (it happens, but I do post them on time!). We are on the 5th June and I will have taken part in 11 blog tours by the end of today. Insane, but amazing. I don’t have many other bookish plans for June at the moment, well, apart from the usual, but I am looking forward to reading some fabulous books!

Lots of love and books,

TWG x

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#BlogTour! #Review – #AFamilyRecipe by Veronica Henry (@veronica_henry) @orionbooks @Lauren_booksPR

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I am so excited to be hosting day two of the #AFamilyRecipe blog tour! Veronica Henry is one of my all-time favourite authors and it is such an honour to be involved in this blog tour. Huge thanks to the team at OrionBooks for the blog tour invite, and my ARC of the novel. Here is my review:

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What’s the secret ingredient to your happiness?

Laura Griffin is preparing for an empty nest. The thought of Number 11 Lark Hill falling silent – a home usually bustling with noise, people and the fragrant smells of something cooking on the Aga – seems impossible. Laura hopes it will mean more time for herself, and more time with her husband, Dom.

But when an exposed secret shakes their marriage, Laura suddenly feels as though her family is shrinking around her. Feeling lost, she turns to her greatest comfort: her grandmother’s recipe box, a treasured collection dating back to the Second World War. Everyone has always adored Laura’s jams and chutneys, piled their sandwiches high with her pickles . . . Inspired by a bit of the old Blitz spirit, Laura has an idea that gives her a fresh sense of purpose.

Full of fierce determination, Laura starts carving her own path. But even the bravest woman needs the people who love her. And now, they need her in return . . .

What does TWG think?

You know the feelings you get after eating your most favourite meal; contentment, cosy, happiness – I’m sure you know the ones I’m on about, and I’m sure many of you have felt like that in the past. Imagine those feelings for a moment, just so that they come to the forefront of your mind, now imagine reading a book which allowed you to feel those feelings all over again. What would you say to that?

‘A Family Recipe’ made me feel as though I had just eaten my most favourite meal in the entire world. I felt content. Delirious. Pretty much as though I was walking on cloud nine. Yet I also felt devastated because the book had ended and I didn’t want those feelings to disappear. Veronica Henry is an author who never fails to disappoint me and, after reading her previous novel, I genuinely though that she had written her best book yet, then. But now, after reading ‘A Family Recipe’, I’m not so sure.

Why?

Because ladies and gents, THIS book is Veronica Henry’s best book yet as it made me feel things I had never felt before. Set in the family home of Number 11 Lark Hill, ‘A Family Recipe’ switches between the present day and 1942 as the author takes us back to how it all began. I absolutely adored the historical feel to the story as I was able to resonate with the characters a lot more in the present day, having known their back story and how they became who they are today. I found the ‘stepping back in time’ moments rather emotional and severely eye-opening. I won’t go into detail as for why, but trust me when I say that those parts of the book were a little slice of heaven.

In the present day, main character, Laura, has reached a point in her life where uncertainty seems to be her main emotion. Her daughters are off living their lives and the ’empty nest’ feeling couldn’t be more strong. What does she do with her life now? Having not worked for a while, Laura’s options are slimmer than most but, after delving into the family recipe box, Laura finds herself baking an idea in her head.

Of course life isn’t that simple and, despite Laura working out what she could do with her children at university, her life took a dramatic turn. I just wanted to step into the book and give her a big hug when I read what had happened. Veronica Henry wrote that part brilliantly as we were able to see both sides of the story, even though a lot of readers (if you’re anything like me) will forge their own opinion on said events and might refuse to see the situation from both sides. I know at first I did!

‘A Family Recipe’ tickled my taste buds in more ways than I could ever imagine. The strong, addictive theme was an incredible basis for the storyline itself, pulling me further in with every turn of the page. I loved every single word, every single page, and absolutely every little thing about this book! Veronica Henry has delivered an outstanding and thought-provoking novel in such a flawless manner – I really do wish I could bottle the feelings this book gave me as I never want to let them go.

A vibrant, emotive, appetising, and joyous read from the incredibly talented, Veronica Henry. I couldn’t love this book even more if I tried and it is definitely the authors best book yet, and my most favourite book of all time. ‘A Family Recipe’ is everything I could have ever dreamed of for a book, and it has been an incredible honour to read. I cannot recommend this book enough.

‘A Family Recipe’ by Veronica Henry is due to be published on the 17th May and can be pre-ordered now from Amazon

#BlogTour! #GuestPost from author of #WartimeAtWoolworths, Elaine Everest (@@ElaineEverest) @ed_pr @Panmacmillan

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Oh I miss Woolworths!! Author of ‘Wartime at Woolworths’, Elaine Everest, has kindly written a guest post for my stop on her blog tour today! Thank you to Bethan for asking me to be involved in the blog tour, and I hope you all enjoy the guest post!

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The Woolworths girls have come a long way together . . .

Fun loving Maisie, is devoted to her young family and her work at Woolworths. But her happy life with her RAF officer husband, their baby daughter leads her to think of the family she left behind . . . With the war now into its fourth year, what will she find when she sets about searching for them?

Sarah and her husband, Alan, are blissfully happy and long for a sibling for their daughter. But dark days lay ahead for this close family.

Freda heads home to Birmingham, to go in search of her family, back to the life she fled – far from the safety of Woolworths and her new friends.

With families’ separated by war, will the Woolworths girls be able to pull together?

Wartime at Woolworths is the third moving installment in the much-loved Woolworths series by bestselling author Elaine Everest.

Guest Post.

A Day in the Life of a Woolworths Girl
Elaine Everest

When researching the working life of Woolworths workers in World War Two I was
surprised to find little had changed from when I joined the company as a Saturday girl
in 1969 at the age of fifteen and three months which was then the legal age for
youngsters to start work.

My memories of those Saturdays are tinged with the excitement of youth and earning
my own money – the princely sum of one pound before thruppence (old money) was
deducted for National Insurance. That day in March, when I proudly took home my
brown pay packet with the thin strip of paper showing deductions was also the day my
pocket money stopped; but that’s a story for another time.

My day started early when I caught the train from Slade Green for the short one stop
journey to Dartford. We had to be in our uniforms and on the shop floor for the bell
that sounded throughout the store announcing the doors were opening to the public at
8.30 am. As a Saturday girl I could be moved around to where I was needed most and
I often found myself in the windowless basement on the toilet roll dpartment. Toilet
rolls had their own department? Yes, and as soft tissues were still fairly new there
were also boxes of the excruciatingly rough paper with the ‘medicated’ smell that we
used as tracing paper when kids. When not busy you would find all assistants dusting
the stock. I have fond memories of dusting boxes of toilet paper using a feather
duster.

At the beginning of our working day we would be informed whether we were first,
second or third lunch and tea breaks – there was never a chance to slip off to the
bathrooms in between breaks or head outside for a cigarette as workers seem to think
is their rights these days. First lunch break started at 11.30 am and meant the
afternoon would drag whereas third lunch meant we had a short afternoon but had a
long wait for that first tea break of the day. Yes, my favourite was third break as I
could make myself busy until 10.45 as I waited to hear the bell that told me I could
down tools and head up to the staff canteen.

The canteen was always a welcoming place and the staff supplied with freshly baked
goods for tea breaks as well as a cooked lunch. We were well looked after. We would
sign a book showing what we’d had for our meals and this was deducted from our
pay.

The bells ruled our lives and they rung for the start and ends of breaks as well as
lunch. Five minutes before the store closed that bell rang again before the doors were
locked. Until then we were not allowed to leave our counters and had to ensure that
everything was tidy and counters covered for the night. If we tried to slip away early
the supervisors who roamed the store would have had our guts for garters.

A quick dash upstairs to change out of our sludgy green overalls and then we queued
to sign and collect our pay packet – minus anything spent in the canteen that day.
Heading for the station we would stop to look in the window of a boutique or perhaps
pop into the record shop to look at the charts and buy a 45 rpm single then head to the
chip shop for a portion of chips, liberally sprinkled with salt and vinegar, to eat on the
train going home.

Life was good when we were fifteen and even better when we escaped the sound of
those bells! Such was my memory of my life at the Dartford store that many years
later I set my books in the iconic Woolies and had Maisie moaning about those bells
whilst Sarah’s mother-in- law, Maureen, was feeding the staff up in the canteen.
Happy days!

Wartime at Woolworths by Elaine Everest is published on 3 rd May by Pan Mac
(available in paperback and ebook, price £6.99)
Buy now from Amazon

 

#BlogTour! #Review – Tapestry of War by Jane MacKenzie (@JaneFMackenzie) @allisonandbusby

Tour Stops
Stepping back in time for blog tour number 6 of the day and it’s for ‘Tapestry of War’ by Jane MacKenzie. Big thanks to Allison and Busby for the tour invite, as well as the ARC of the book. Here is my review:

tapestry of war
In Alexandria, Fran finds her life turned
upside down as Rommel’s forces advance
on the idyllic shores of Egypt. In place of
the luxury and stability that she is used to,
she finds herself having to deal with loss,
heartache and political uncertainty.
Meanwhile, on the Firth of Clyde, Catriona
works day in, day out nursing injured
servicemen. As the war rages on, the two
women’s lives become entwined – bringing
love and friendship to both.

What does TWG think?

Oh I do enjoy historical fiction! ‘Tapestry of War’ was my first book by this author, so I was very intrigued as to how the storyline would be executed from the historical point of view. I couldn’t wait to find out.

Set in both Egypt and Scotland, ‘Tapestry of War’ highlights the heart-wrenching tragedies that WWII brought to the table. Whilst both countries were brought together by one thing; the war, the way in which the differing countries dealt with the war in terms of food, family ties, casualties and so forth, was incredibly different.

I have read a lot of books with the theme of WWII, but I have never read a book written from this angle before as the author describes the devastating conflict in Egypt during that time. Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the historic nature, the eye-opening scenes, as well as the emotional situations between families and casualties, I found the overall vibe of the novel to be extremely heavy and a bit difficult to digest.

If you are already aware of the history this book contains, I am sure that you would find it a lot easier to follow than I did. Don’t get me wrong, I felt that I learnt a lot whilst reading the ‘Tapestry of War’, but my brain did become a little overloaded before too long.

That said, I loved how Jane MacKenzie wrote the novel as I could tell that it was written from her heart. It was as though the storyline had a piece of the authors own history written into it which, for me, makes this book even more beautiful than I originally thought.

‘Tapestry of War’ is an eye-opening, though-provoking and poignant novel which will take you back in time without moving a muscle.

Buy now.

#BlogTour! #Review – The War Nurses by Lizzie Page (@LizziePagewrite) @Bookouture

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Today on TWG, we are stepping back in time as we revisit a moment in history which changed people’s lives in a split second. Wartime. I am delighted to be taking part in Lizzie Page’s blog tour for ‘The War Nurses and, as always, big thanks to Bookouture for the blog tour invite, as well as the ARC of the book.

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As war takes its toll, the love and care of two brave young nurses will become everything to the wounded soldiers they tend.

1914 – Two young nurses pledge to help the war effort: Mairi, a wholesome idealist hoping to leave behind her past and Elsie, a glamorous single mother with a weakness for handsome soldiers. Despite their differences, the pair become firm friends.

At the emergency medical shelter where they’re based, Elsie and Mairi work around the clock to treat wounded soldiers. It’s heart-breaking work and they are at constant risk from shelling, fire and disease. But there are also happier times… parties, trips and letters. And maybe even the possibility of love with an attractive officer in their care…

But as the war continues and the stress of duty threatens to pull the two women apart, will Elsie and Mairi’s special nurses’ bond be strong enough to see them through?

What does TWG think?

Oh I do love a historical novel! If you’re a history buff, you might recognise the names of the two main characters in this book, Mairi and Elsie. Or, as they also liked to be called, Mairi Chisholm and Elsie Knocker. Ring any bells?

I have to admit, whilst my knowledge of the Victoria era, Edward and Mrs Simpson (and others) is pretty decent, my knowledge of nurses who were on the frontline in the war, isn’t exactly 100 percent. Offhand, I had no idea who these two ladies were but, after a little bit of googling whilst I lost myself in Lizzie Page’s novel, I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading. The two main characters in ‘The War Nurses’ are based on real life human beings. Yes, that’s right. Mairi and Elsie actually existed! Whilst a lot of the story Lizzie Page has written is fictional, the dates, names and technical elements of the story are in fact factual. But, seeing as this author knows how to keep her readers guessing, if you’re anything like me you’ll be thinking that every single thing is fact and not fiction.

At first, there was something about Elsie I couldn’t quite seem to understand. I couldn’t put my finger on what that was, but something didn’t quite make sense where she was concerned. I hoped that, as the story unfolded, Elsie would start to make a bit of sense, but, just like everything else, it wasn’t a guarantee. I mean, how could it be? She was a nurse in the war time. Surely that’s enough to make anyone feel detached?

I warmed to Mairi’s personality straight away due to how naive and innocent she came across. I know that sounds daft but it’s true. Because of that, I felt like a proud parent watching her come out of her shell as she did her duty as a nurse in the war. Any obstacle she came across, she got through it. Of course she didn’t have any other option, that is for sure!

I was in my element reading ‘The War Nurses’, not only because of the theme of the book, but because of the way the author engaged her readers with her fabulous storytelling. Even if I wanted to (which I didn’t, just saying), I couldn’t put this book down. Reading about the raw details of war time events was quite emotional. People lost their lives to fight for their country. To fight for us. It certainly made me feel incredibly lucky and very humbled.

‘The War Nurses’ is a gritty, raw and touching novel which left me wanting more. I loved finding out about two iconic women and what they did for soldiers in battle. It was heart wrenching , I shan’t lie, but it was also beautifully written and wonderfully thought out.

If you love your history, you would love ‘The War Nurses’. This book severely got under my skin – I won’t be serving its eviction notice anytime soon because ‘The War Nurses’ deserves its place there. Such a wonderful, wonderful book. Loved it.

Buy now!

About the author.

Lizzie Page has always loved reading the adventures of women in the past so it seemed natural to write historical fiction. The War Nurses is the first in a trilogy inspired by some of the incredible women who served on the Western Front. She likes to think its a ‘fierce-friendship-story’ and hopes the series helps shine a light on the achievements and relationships of women in war, and that you find all the books entertaining and moving. 

#BlogTour! #Review – The Wildflowers by Harriet Evans (@HarrietEvans) @headlinepg @Annecater @Bookish_becky

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It is such an honour to be helping Harriet Evans celebrate her tenth novel, as part of the blog tour organised by Headline and Anne Cater. Huge thanks to them both for the blog tour invite, as well as the ARC of ‘The Wildflowers’. Here is my review:

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The new novel by Sunday Times bestseller Harriet Evans will transport you to a Dorset beach house, where you can feel the sand between your toes. Enter the home of Tony and Althea Wilde – the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor of their generation and with a marriage every bit as stormy. This glorious tale of tangled family secrets and lies will leave you warm and glowing.

Tony and Althea Wilde. Glamorous, argumentative … adulterous to the core.

They were my parents, actors known by everyone. They gave our lives love and colour in a house by the sea – the house that sheltered my orphaned father when he was a boy.

But the summer Mads arrived changed everything. She too had been abandoned and my father understood why. We Wildflowers took her in.

My father was my hero, he gave us a golden childhood, but the past was always going to catch up with him … it comes for us all, sooner or later.

This is my story. I am Cordelia Wilde. A singer without a voice. A daughter without a father. Let me take you inside.

What does TWG think?

Where on Earth do I begin with this review? Wow.

First of all, let me start by saying how gorgeous the book cover is! The image has captured the storyline absolutely brilliantly, but of course you don’t realise the reference until after you have read the book!

‘The Wildflowers’ wasn’t an easy read, and by that I don’t mean that it was hard to understand, because it was. It wasn’t an easy read because the storyline describes various, hard-hitting situations in such incredible detail, the reality of such emotional times hit home something chronic. Not only that, the author had chosen a path for her characters which some readers may find a little hard to digest. ‘The Wildflowers’, as a fast reader myself, isn’t a book that you’ll be able to read without thinking. It takes time for this storyline to come alive, and for that you need to be patient and just go with the flow. I urge readers not to give up on this book as yes, it does take a little while for the story to get going, but it really is worth the wait. Please trust me on that.

‘The Wildflowers’ confused me at first because it wasn’t really clear when things were happening, especially as the storyline kept switching between various timelines and that clarity was a definite requirement. I knew that, because of the historical element to this book, the storyline would take a little while to get into as the author needed to set the scene with the various characters, as well as explain certain events which led characters to the place they are now. Patience isn’t my strong point where books are concerned, but deep down I knew that Harriet Evans wanted her story to bloom like a wild flower and that isn’t something that can be done over one or two chapters.

I shan’t give anything away, but I will say that I found myself getting a little emotional when certain things came to light. Even though certain characters chose their own path, I couldn’t help but feel a little empathy towards them because they must have been in such a dark place to warrant such drastic and devastating actions.

I really was able to lose myself in ‘The Wildflowers’ and the storyline which the author had so lovingly crafted, bringing it to life with such poise and poignancy. Everything about this book was raw, heart-wrenching, and severely dramatic – as a reader you have no time to think about anything other than the story you’re reading otherwise you’ll end up running to catch up with a character as they choose a different path on their journey.

I wanted to dislike some of the characters, really I did, but once all of the loose ends began to get tidied up, I just couldn’t find it in my heart to hate some of the characters who did so much wrong.

‘The Wildflowers’ got under my skin completely, and not in a bad way. Okay, I struggled with the first couple of chapters due to slight confusion, but once the ball started rolling, I couldn’t focus on anything else apart from the lives of Cord and Ben. Harriet Evans has written such a beautiful story which captures the essence of beauty, trust, loyalty, lies, death, and everything else in between. The author has left no stone unturned, yet has written about multiple hard-hitting themes with a lot of sensitivity, yet has also managed to keep them realistic and relatable.

If you feel like stepping out of your comfort zone, allowing yourself to be transported back to the 1940’s, I would recommend ‘The Wildflowers’ in a heartbeat. Such a gripping and devastatingly beautiful read which captivated my heart almost straight away.

Treat this book with the patience and kindness a flower deserves, even if they are ‘wildflowers’.

‘The Wildflowers’ is available now in e-book from Amazon, and the paperback version is due to be published on the 5th April and can be pre-ordered now.

#BlogTour! #Review – The Allotment Girls by Kate Thompson (@KateThompson380) @panmacmillan @JessDuffyy #Publicationday

Allotment Girls Blog Tour
Happy paperback publication day to Kate Thompson and ‘The Allotment Girls’! It is such an honour to be given the publication day slot on the blog tour, so I hope I do the author and PanMacmillan proud with my review. You may remember me reviewing Kate’s previous novel, ‘The Wedding Girls’, on my blog last year (#Tour! #Review – The Wedding Girls -Kate Thompson (@katethompson380) @panmacmillan @jessduffyy) which also made my ‘Top Books of 2017’ list, so of course I jumped at the chance to review her latest offerings. Please read on to see what I thought of ‘The Allotment Girls’, and whether this book will be making any lists of mine again this year:

THE ALLOTMENT GIRLS

The Allotment Girls is an inspiring and heartwarming novel of wartime hardship, friendship and fortitude from Kate Thompson, author of the Secrets of the Sewing Bee.

During the Second World War, life in the iconic Bryant & May match factory is grimy and tough. Annie, Rose, Pearl and Millie carry on making matches for the British Army, with bombs raining down around them.

Inspired by the Dig for Victory campaign, Annie persuades the owners to start Bryant & May allotment in the factory grounds. With plenty of sweat and toil, the girls eventually carve out a corner of the yard into a green plot full of life and colour.

In the darkest of times, the girls find their allotment a tranquil, happy escape. Using pierced dustbin lids to sieve through the shrapnel and debris, they bring about a powerful change, not just in the factory, but their own lives.

As the war rages on, the garden becomes a place of community, friendship – and deceit. As the garden thrives and grows, so do the girls’ secrets . . .

What does TWG think?

‘The Allotment Girls’ had me hooked straight away when the story begins with a jaw dropping situation which, if you’re into history, you will find that it is actually based on a real life event. Considering the nature of said circumstance, because I knew it was based on an event which happened many years ago, I found my heart hurting just that little bit more.

If you think this book is just about sowing seeds and tending to carrots, I would think again quite quickly. Whilst it is clear that several characters wish to sow their own ‘seeds’, there is a lot more to this storyline than fertiliser and potatoes. Set during the Second World War in a match factory, the author tells the story of the lives of four girls, Annie, Millie, Rose and Pearl. All girls with such different outlooks on life, yet all connected by one incredibly important thing – friendship. During the war, rationing was incredibly important, which meant that growing your own crops to help feed other families worse off than your own, became the focus of a lot of businesses around London at that time. How can growing your own crops change your life? Well, when it becomes the middle man between eating or starving, you would probably find that you would do anything for food. Or, in the four girls’ case, doing anything for friendship.

Out of all of them, I found myself warming to Millie a lot quicker than the others, as I am a lot like her in terms of her loose mouth! I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Rose and, once you read the book, you’ll understand why. As for Annie, I found her a lot more guarded than the other characters, yet she came across as the one with more common sense. Millie’s situation made me feel nauseous, I won’t lie! Then there’s Pearl – a character who I am having to sit on the fence for!

When I was reading this book, I became incredibly invested in all of the ‘minor’ details, allowing myself to be transported back to such a memorable moment in history. Because of those ‘minor’ details, when the book nearly finished I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to a certain item in the storyline. I have no idea why I thought about that particular item, but I did and I knew I wouldn’t rest until I had found out what happened. Thankfully, when all of the loose ends were tied up in the story, the item turned up which left me with a huge smile on my face. Even though it was such a small detail in the big scheme of things, it was a detail which brought such warmth to my soul when it became apparent what had happened to it. Very, very clever.

I honestly thought that Kate Thompson couldn’t outdo her previous novel, ‘The Wedding Girls’, with this book, but you know what? She absolutely did. The attention to detail throughout the entire storyline was absolutely incredible – I felt like I could smell what the characters were smelling. I felt like I could see the allotment where the girls had been working. I felt like I could sense the terror amongst the families, wondering whether their houses would get bombed in the night. There were times throughout the book where I felt that I could have cut the tension with a knife, and rightly so! A lot of this story was heartbreaking to read – I couldn’t even begin to imagine what those people went through during the war, yet Kate Thompson keeps the memory alive without making a mockery of it.

‘The Allotment Girls’, in my eyes, is exactly how books in this genre should be written. Full of intense situations, emotional moments, flashbacks to the past whilst hoping for the future, Kate Thompson has completely outdone herself where this book is concerned.  I am so tempted to plant something in my garden, just so that I can watch it blossom like the author has blossomed in front of my very own eyes.

‘The Allotment Girls’ is a phenomenal portrayal of lives once lost, futures being crafted, and memories living on. Beautiful, poignant, heart-breaking yet exceptionally written, this book is by far one of my most favourite books of all time.

And you know what? I would give Kate Thompson a big hug if I could, but most importantly, I would give her the most beautiful packet of seeds….just because.

Buy now from Amazon

#BlogTour! Author of ‘Last Letter Home’ Rachel Hore (@RachelHore) joins #TWG for a chat! #AuthorInterview @simonschusteruk @HaysMcMullan

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It gives me great pleasure to welcome author of ‘Last Letter Home’, Rachel Hore, to TWG today as I put her in the hot seat by asking her a few questions! Before we begin, here is a little bit about Rachel’s new book, as well as the all important ‘buy now’ link should you want it!

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From the bestselling author of A Week in Paris, and the Richard & Judy Bookclub pick A Place of Secrets, comes a gripping and moving story spanning 70 years, set in Italy and in Norfolk.

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Andrews becomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey.

In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen.

When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain …

‘Last Letter Home’ will be published by Simon & Schuster on the 22nd March. You can pre-order your copy in all formats, right now, from Amazon UK.

TWG – Hi Rachel, thank you so much for joining me today! Could you tell us a bit about you and your background before you began writing?
If you’d asked me when I was very young whether I wanted to become a published writer I’d have been bemused. It would never have occurred to me. I didn’t know any authors or anyone who aspired to be one. I’ve always read endlessly, though. I studied History at university, and got into publishing after taking a secretarial course. Later, as an editor, working with novelists such as Barbara Erskine and Jenny Colgan, I learned a great deal about the techniques of writing fiction. Actually doing it was much more challenging. After nine books I still feel I’m learning.

TWG – What made you decide to write your new novel?
I love walking round old walled gardens where flowers, fruit and vegetables used to be grown for the Big House. They feel safe and secret, and the perfect place to set a love story. During World War II many were destroyed or abandoned. In LAST LETTER HOME, my pair of lovers, the gardener and the land girl, are separated by the war, but the garden re-mains a symbol of their relationship.

TWG – How hard was it to find the inspiration for your book?
Ideas for stories are everywhere if you start looking – in a newspaper, a nonfiction book, a pub-sign, a real-life situation that you hear about. The atmosphere of an interesting place often gets me started. I begin to brood about the people who might have lived there. The problem I have is one of focus. It can be hard to decide who will be the central characters and what their backgrounds should be. Deceptively small details such as a parent’s occupation can affect aspects of the plot later on. When I actually start writing scenes these things tend to iron themselves out because the characters come to life – it’s the planning stage I’m bad at.

TWG – If you could pick a favourite character from your novel, who would it be and why?
I am very fond of Sarah Bailey, the focus of my past story. She’s a sensible type, but has to manage her icy and manipulative widowed mother and a vulnerable young sister. All the time I was writing I was wondering what had originally happened to this family to make them this way, and why it was that Sarah was able to be the strong one.

TWG – Did you ever regret writing a character into your story after it was published?
What an interesting question! Not a character as such, but the name of a character in THE HOUSE ON BELLEVUE GARDENS. After it was published a woman I met at my Pilates class came up to me and told me I’d called a central character by her name and it had upset her. She thought I’d done it deliberately, yet I hadn’t met her until the book was written and still didn’t know her surname. We avoided each other for a while after that!
(TWG – omg! what are the chances of that!!)

TWG – Did you find yourself under any personal pressure for your debut novel to succeed and be liked by many?
Yes, definitely. For my publisher (I wanted them to commission more books) but also for myself, to feel that I’d succeeded. When I was actually writing it my ambitions were much more modest. I’d be pleased if I could finish the book, I’d be pleased if I could find an agent, then a publisher. The trouble is that the more you get the more you want. It’s im-portant to stand back occasionally and be pleased simply to be yourself.

TWG – Time for a tough one, if you could choose any book that has already been published to be the author of, which one would you choose and why?
Ah, that negates what I’ve just said about being yourself! That said, I’d love to write as delicately and powerfully as Tracy Chevalier. My favourite book of hers is The Lady and the Unicorn, which conveys such a convincing sense of being an ordinary mediaeval woman.

TWG – What does your ‘writing space’ look like?
Very messy, I’m afraid! I have an Edwardian attic that has never been done up and is only heated by a portable electric fire. Books that I’m consulting lie in piles everywhere and I also have a lot of postcards and pictures from magazines pinned up on a board to inspire my charac-ters and settings. Were there any authors you wanted to be like, when you were a child? No authors, but I desperately wanted to go to boarding school like Enid Blyton’s Twins at St Clare’s. What I wanted, of course, was the fun bits and once I’d read Tom Brown’s Schooldays I changed my mind.

TWG – If you had to sum up your book to a stranger in five words, what would they be and why?
Love, war, family and relationships. All my books are about love, family and relationships and the conflict that separates us from one another.

TWG – What’s coming up next for you?
I’m in the middle of writing the next novel, which is set in the interwar period and doesn’t yet have a title.

TWG – One final question. What advice would you give to a writer that wants to be published? Any words of wisdom?
Make the work as polished as you can before you show it to a professional (such as an agent or publisher). Research literary agencies and publishers to make sure that you approach one who publishes work in your chosen genre. Check their websites to make sure that you are sending your work in the way that they ask. Some agents want a synopsis, for instance, others only want the first three chapters.

Big thank you to Rachel Hore for answering my questions like a pro! I am actually cringing for her about regretting a character! My goodness!!!

Don’t forget that Rachel’s novel, ‘Last Letter Home’ will be published on the 22nd March and is available to pre-order right now from Amazon.

#BlogTour! #Review – Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes by Amy Miller (@AmyBratley1) @Bookouture

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Happy publication day to Amy Miller and ‘Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes’, the second book in the series! I am super excited to be kicking off the blog tour today! Huge thanks to Bookouture for the blog tour invite, as well as the ARC of the book. Here is my review:

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January, 1941: As Charlie Barton tiptoes silently out of the house one cold winter morning to go off and fight for his country, his wife Audrey is left to run the family bakery on her own.

Times are tougher than ever, but at the Barton Bakery in Bournemouth, Audrey is determined as always to serve the town with love, loaves and cakes, even as the town is reeling from the struggles of the Blitz.

Audrey’s brother William has returned from battle with serious wounds. His fiancé Elsie is waiting for wedding bells, but William is a changed man, and will her hopes be in vain?

Bakery helper Maggie has her heart set on dashing officer George. But will George still want to marry her when he discovers the truth about her family?

And Lily, Audrey’s stepsister, is struggling to raise her illegitimate baby and facing judgement from many in the town. The man who broke her heart returns with an offer, and Lily faces a hard decision about where her future lies.

When disaster strikes the bakery, Audrey fears that everything she has worked for may be ruined. With her shop threatened and her family in turmoil, can she fight to save everything she holds dear?

What does TWG think?

‘Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes’ is the second book in the brand new series from Amy Miller, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you read the books in order as the second book refers to things which happened in book one which might confuse those who haven’t read the previous book. I was actually a little bit concerned when I began reading Amy Miller’s new book as it had been a while since I had read the first book, and I was worried that I would struggle getting back into the swing of the storyline after the break. I needn’t have worried at all – it didn’t take me long to fall back in love with Audrey’s world and everything it stood for.

Set in 1941, ‘Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes’ has rationing and the blitz at the forefront of its storyline, and by golly is it an eye-opener. Seeing as I wasn’t alive during the war, nor was I a glint in my mother’s eye, everything I know about the wartime is what I have read. Whilst I fully appreciate that reading about what went on during the war isn’t as bad as actually living through it, or fighting in it, I still couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion at how quickly lives changed around Audrey. One moment a loved one is there, and the next its only their memory that lives on. I cannot even begin to imagine how people felt during those days, but I applaud authors like Amy Miller who write about such historical moments in time, in such a black and white and honourable way.

What I loved most about this book was how raw the storyline was. Amy Miller didn’t write her characters to pretend that they were fine during the war. No. She wrote them realistically, opening my eyes to such devastating circumstances, whilst also attempting to bring her characters joy by getting married to their loved ones. Okay, rationing meant that they had to be extremely careful of what they used, changing recipes to suit reality. Or, as my great grandmother used to say, ‘cutting their cloth to suit their means’. Audrey made the most of what she had and, whilst I know that she didn’t really have any choice, she still did it with poise, putting those she loved above everything else.

‘Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes’ is a brilliant, second instalment in Amy Miller’s series. Heart-breaking, heart-warming and utterly divine, ‘Wartime Brides and Wedding Cakes’ is a book which is destined to make you see life in a different light. Whilst a lot of things in 1941 had to be rationed, Amy Miller shows that love wasn’t one of them.

Buy now from Amazon

About the author.

Amy Miller lives in Dorset with her husband and two children. New to saga, she has previously written women’s fiction under a different name.
 
Amy is on Twitter @AmyBratley1

#BlogTour! #Extract – The Candle Factory Girl by Tania Crosse (@TaniaCrosse) @Aria_Fiction

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Today I am delighted to be taking part in Tania Crosse’s blog tour for ‘The Candle Factory Girl’. Thank you to Aria Fiction for the blog tour invite. Here is an extract from Tania’s novel:

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1930’s London – A backstreet saga full of hopes, dreams and the fight for survival.

Work at Price’s Candle Factory in Battersea is tedious for intelligent, seventeen-year-old Hillie Hardwick, but she knows she is lucky to have a job at all. Her home life is no better, as she constantly battles with her exacting and bullying father in order to protect her mother and five younger siblings from his abuse.

Her only solace is her loving relationship with the chaotic Parker family and her best friend, Gert Parker. When matters violently escalate for Hillie, smitten Jack-the-Lad Jimmy Baxter seems her only salvation.

But could this be the biggest mistake of her life, and should she be looking for protection nearer home?

A story that crackles with unease where courage and friendship are the only hope.

Buy: Amazon // Kobo // Google Play // iBooks

Extract.

Chapter One

A Friday Morning in June 1932

‘Blooming heck, Hillie! Can’t you wait for us?’
As she neared the corner of the street, Hilda Hardwick heard the hurrying footfall
of her lifelong friend scurrying up behind her, and she slowed her own step. She
turned round, and though she itched with exasperation, she couldn’t help but smile.
Gert was rushing towards her, pulling on her old, fraying cardigan over her work
dress as she went. Hillie could see that one of her hastily tied shoelaces had already
come undone and was threatening to trip her up. To complete the chaotic image,
Gert’s naturally frizzy auburn hair stood around her head in a blazing halo, flying
about her shoulders in a fiery cloud. She always reminded Hillie of one of the Titian
paintings they had admired together on a rare trip to the National Gallery in Trafalgar
Square. It was 1932 and members of the fairer sex had been cutting their hair short for
nearly two decades. However, these two factory girls from the backstreets of
London’s Battersea had yet to catch up with the fashion.
‘I have been waiting for you,’ Hillie chided, pulling her lips back into a displeased
line and resuming her brisk pace now that Gert had caught her up. ‘If I’d waited any
longer, it would’ve made me late for work and I wouldn’t want to risk the
consequences of that. And some of us can’t afford to catch the tram. And my dad’s
already… well…’ She pulled herself up short, knowing she’d said too much. So
instead she finished the sentence with, ‘Gone on ahead.’
Gert’s jaw dropped as she guessed what Hillie had nearly let slip. ‘Oh, Hillie, you
don’t mean…? ’Cos I kept you waiting?’
Hillie instinctively turned to her with a brief, wistful grimace as they half ran along
Battersea Park Road.
Gert caught her breath as she glimpsed the tell-tale pink hand mark on Hillie’s
cheek, and she flushed with remorse. ‘Oh, Hillie, I’m so sorry.’
‘It’s not your fault my dad’s like he is,’ Hillie mumbled under her breath.

But Gert obviously still felt guilty. ‘You shouldn’t have waited for us, not when
you know what he’s like.’
‘Someone’s got to stand up to him.’
Hillie said it quietly, but Gert knew there’d be no arguing. They’d had the same
discussion on umpteen occasions before. Harold Hardwick was a bully and there’d
never be any changing him.
Gert knew the story by heart.
‘Me and Hillie’s mum’d been friends for years,’ her mother had told her, so many
times that Gert could repeat it virtually word for word. ‘She was the timid little thing
from the grocers’ round the corner, and I was the big girl trusted to do the shopping
for me mum. Used to make Nell laugh, I did. Always said it should’ve been the other
way around. She should’ve had the posh name of Evangeline, not me! Anyway, the
years went by, and when things got tough for her and she married that Harold, I got
them the house on the street. 1914 it was, just as the war broke out. Nell found she
was preggers the same time as I did, and you two popped out within days of each
other, May the next year, 1915. Both of you girls, too, except that Hillie was Nell’s
first and I already had Kit.
‘So you two was friends from the cradle. Just learning to walk, the both of you,
when they brought in conscription. Your dad and Harold found themselves together in
the same Pals’ Regiment as they called them. Only Harold’d always been a bully,
keeping poor Nell under his thumb. But he was just what they was looking for in the
army, someone to keep order. So he quickly rose through the ranks to sergeant.
Inflicted his rigid discipline on every poor bugger what came under his command, so
your dad says. Never got a scratch on him. Mind you, you know your dad only got a
bit of shrapnel in his leg in all the two years they was in the trenches. Kept his head
down did your dad, and I was grateful for that. And when he came home, he was his
old, lovely self. But Harold, huh! Remained a sergeant ever since, even if he was back
on civvy street. If he was strict with poor Nell before the war – and with Hillie, too –
he’s been a blooming tyrant ever since.’
Gert released a bitter, desperate sigh. A tyrant and a bully were good ways to
describe her best friend’s dad! But as Hillie had grown up, instead of giving in to him
like her mum did – anything for a quiet life – she’d started challenging him. The
consequences of Harold’s resulting temper were often dire. Gert so often wished, as she did now, that Hillie would hold back, but no end of persuasion could change her
mind.

Author bio

Delaying her childhood dream of writing historical novels until her family had grown up, Tania eventually completed a series of published stories based on her beloved Dartmoor. She is now setting her future sagas in London and the south east.

Website: http://www.tania-crosse.co.uk/

Twitter: @TaniaCrosse

Facebook: @TaniaCrosseAuthor