#BlogTour! #Review – The Runaway Children by Sandy Taylor (@SandyTaylorAuth) @Bookouture

The Runaway Children - Blog Tour
Stepping back in time today as I review Sandy Taylor’s latest novel, ‘The Runaway Children’, for the last stop on the blog tour! 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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London, 1942: Thirteen-year-old Nell and five-year-old Olive are being sent away from the devastation of the East End. They are leaving the terror of the Blitz and nights spent shivering in air raid shelters behind them, but will the strangers they are billeted with be kind and loving, or are there different hardships ahead?
 
As the sisters struggle to adjust to life as evacuees, they soon discover that living in the countryside isn’t always idyllic. Nell misses her mother and brothers more than anything but she has to stay strong for Olive. Then, when little Olive’s safety is threatened by a boy on a farm, Nell has to make a decision that will change their lives forever…
 
They must run from danger and try to find their way home.
 
Together the two girls hold each other’s hands as they begin their perilous journey across bombed-out Britain. But when Nell falls ill, can she still protect her little sister from the war raging around them? And will they ever be reunited from the family they’ve been torn from?

What does TWG think?

Wow. I struggled to read this book, I’m not going to lie. No, I don’t mean that I struggled to read it because of how it was written, or that I struggled reading it due to any other negative reason. Not at all. I struggled reading ‘The Runaway Children’ because of how emotive and poignant the storyline was. We are taught at school about how things were during the war and, whilst those pieces of information are still quite difficult to digest, a lot of the time it doesn’t seem to work its way to our core. We either shrug it off because ‘it doesn’t affect us’, or we have no idea how to approach history itself. With Sandy Taylor’s novel, that is where everything changed for me personally. I have always loved history, but for the duration of this book, I was able to see things from a completely different point of view. Gone were the historical dates which everyone had to learn just because. Sandy Taylor wrote a story about what happened to people. Whilst the storyline itself is fictional, a lot of it is based on history, after all, children DID have to get evacuated during the war. ‘The Runaway Children’ is a story which is guaranteed to grab hold of your heart and not let it go.

Set in London during the early 1940’s, two sisters are being sent away from the devastation which the war has caused to their beloved city. Why? For safety of course. The opposition didn’t want to throw bombs down in a middle of an empty field, they wanted to attack cities full of monuments and thousands of people. So they did. Unfortunately for Nell, Olive and thousands of other children, London was no longer a safe place to live and their only hope of staying safe would be to leave. Poor Nell has the task of being in charge of her little sister come rain or shine. Okay, for many of us, that would seem like an okay thing to do. For Nell however, the responsibility was extremely large, especially when they found themselves moving from pillar to post on more than one occasion.

It’s not that I was ignorant when it came to learning about evacuees, I just hadn’t had a reason to delve into that period of history to a level which Sandy Taylor has in this story. And, because of that, the entire storyline hit home on a completely unexpected level. I’m not sure whether it was my motherly instincts or the fact that I am indeed human with my own set of emotions, but ‘The Runaway Children’ gave me the feels. It really was like reading a book which made you happy one moment, angry the next, and then realising your face is sodden with tears. How do I know this? Because it happened.

Sandy Taylor has taken a memorable, historical event, and laid it bare to make all of her readers sit up and listen. It certainly made me sit up and listen, that’s for sure! I was absolutely blown away by the intense level of emotion, mixed with the poignancy only a story of this calibre could bring. I shouldn’t sit here and say that I loved this book because of what it contained, however, I really did love this book because it reached my soul in a way I could never really describe. This story highlighted the fact that the little things in life are important, and there is no use wasting your time on stupid things when there are far more important people (and things) to concerned yourself with.

The characters in this book are inspiration beyond belief, and have taught me so much in such a short space of time. ‘The Runaway Children’ is one of the best historical fiction/saga novels I have ever read. You really would be a fool not to grab a copy and travel back in time with Nell and Olive. For me, Olive stole the show and her innocence made the rest of the storyline shine bright like a diamond (whilst also making me laugh out loud more than once).

Written absolutely beautiful and straight from the heart, ‘The Runaway Children’ will forever have a place in my heart alongside Nell, Olive, and Ms Timony. A delightful, heart-warming story from start to finish.

Thanks Bookouture.

Buy now from Amazon UK
Buy now from Amazon US

About the author: 
Sandy Taylor grew up on a council estate near Brighton. There were no books in the house, so Sandy’s love of the written word was nurtured in the little local library. Leaving school at fifteen, Sandy worked in a series of factories before landing a job at Butlins in Minehead. This career change led her to becoming a singer, a stand up comic and eventually a playwright and novelist.


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#BlogBlitz! #Review – A Matter of Love and Death – Caron Albright @carmenratdke1 @Bombshellpub

@bombshellpub@CarmenRadtke1
This evening on my blog, I have a review of ‘A Matter of Love and Death’ as part of the blog blitz for Bombshell Books. Huge thanks to Sarah Hardy for the blog blitz invite, as well as the ARC. Here is my review:

Caron Albright - A Matter of Love and Death_cover_1

Adelaide, 1931. Telephone switchboard operator Frances’ life is difficult as sole provider for her mother and adopted uncle. But it’s thrown into turmoil when she overhears a suspicious conversation on the phone, planning a murder.
If a life is at risk, she should tell the police; but that would mean breaking her confidentiality clause and would cost her the job. And practical Frances, not prone to flights of fancy, soon begins to doubt the evidence of her own ears – it was a very bad line, after all…
She decides to put it behind her, a task helped by the arrival of their new lodger, Phil. Phil takes her to a night club, where she meets charming but slightly dangerous club owner Jack. Jack’s no angel – prohibition is in force, and what’s a nightclub without champagne? But he’s a good man, and when Frances’ earlier fears resurface she knows that he’s the person to confide in.
Frances and Jack’s hunt for the truth puts them in grave danger, and soon enough Frances will learn that some things are a matter of love and death…

What does TWG think?

Oh I just LOVE that cover!! So retro and so in-keeping with the overall theme of the book. Set in the 1930’s in Adelaide, Australia, Frances has the world and its wife upon her shoulders as she does everything she can to keep a roof over her mother and Uncle Sal’s head. Seeing as her job as a switchboard operator requires keeping any information heard from the callers, extremely confidential, Frances finds herself in a bit of a situation when she overhears something she would have rather have not heard. Does she risk losing her job by telling her boss what she heard? Or does she forget about it and pretend she never heard a thing?

It wasn’t until after I finished reading this book that I noticed it was being dubbed a mystery novel. Personally, I didn’t find that the storyline was overly mysterious and, even though it contained multiple ‘hush hush’ situations, ‘A Matter of Love and Death’ didn’t make me wonder who had done anything as I didn’t get the mysterious vibe at all. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, because I really did. I just don’t feel that the term ‘mystery’ is the right description for this book, but that is of course my own personal opinion. I did wonder whether I had missed anything though, as I couldn’t grab that particular vibe. I’m not sure whether I should be disappointed that I didn’t see this book like that, or whether I should just enjoy the book for how I interpreted it.

For me, ‘A Matter of Love and Death’ was touching, heart-warming and severely nostalgic. I’m really not a romantic at heart, but I felt that the storyline had a romantic feel to it, even if the main characters weren’t pursuing anything.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed most of Caron Albright’s novel. I did feel as though there were several storyline gaps along the way which, at the time, confused me a tad as I felt like something vital was missing. However, I enjoyed the 1930’s vibe and feeling as though I had travelled back in time from the comfort of my own home.

A unique, nostalgic and touching novel – mystery, romance or thriller, regardless of the genre, this book is guaranteed to be enjoyed by many.

Thanks BombshellPub.

Buy now from Amazon UK

About the author.

Caron Albright fell in love with books as soon as she could read and never grew out of it. With one foot firmly planted in Fictionland ever since, she is moving from one adventure to the next (strictly on the paper of course).
She loves capers with feisty heroines, dashing heroes with a dangerous edge and thrilling locations and would gladly explore the world for the sake of research – preferably while tap-dancing, with a champagne glass in her hand.
Instead she spends her time in front of her keyboard, sipping herbal tea.
When she feels the need for a change, she switches to coffee and writing crime novels under the name Carmen Radtke.
Links:
 

#BlogBlitz! #Review – The Liverpool Girls by Pam Howes (@PamHowes1) @Bookouture

The Liverpool Girls - Blog Tour
Happy publication day Pam Howes! Whilst today is obviously a day for bookish celebration, it’s also a bittersweet day for readers who have been following Pam’s Liverpool saga series from the beginning. Why? Because, unfortunately, ‘The Liverpool Girls’ is the last book in the series! If, like me, you have read all three books in order, you’ll probably agree that us readers have been on one hell of a ride with each and every character. Some more memorable than others! I am honoured to be one of the blogs kicking off today’s blog blitz with my review. Huge congratulations Pam!

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It’s 1966 and in Liverpool two sisters are about to have their lives turned upside down…

Sisters Carol and Jackie haven’t had the easiest of childhoods, but as they grow up and begin their own lives both hope for happier times ahead. Stylish Carol works in Lewis’s department store, while Jackie dreams of drama school, and a career on the stage.

But the sisters are heartbroken when they discover they have been dating the same man, and an unexpected pregnancy causes a rift between them. Parents Dora and Joe must overcome their past hurts and help their daughters, despite the meddling of Joe’s second wife Ivy.

As the sisters’ troubles spiral and difficult decisions must be made, can the family pull together – or will Jackie and Carol’s sisterly bond be destroyed forever?

What does TWG think?

We are back in Liverpool for the third and final time, as we catch up with Dora and her family in the last instalment of the Liverpool Trilogy. I cannot believe how quick this series has zoomed by, nor can I believe how much all of the characters have grown. Having read the series from book one, it’s been fun watching certain characters grow throughout the years, as if us readers were going through their highs and lows with them at the time. Quite surreal to be honest as some of the characters in this series have lived out their lives before our very eyes.

Dora is our main character once again as we find out what has happened since book two.  Put it this way – A LOT has happened since we left the family and, whilst I’m not surprised that certain situations have come to a head, I really was hoping that I was going to meet Ivy again. But I did. Even though I thought that Ivy’s character was going to rub me up the wrong way yet again, I actually found that another character took that particular crown away from her. Don’t worry though, Ivy was her usual, delightful (ahem) self and still bugged me, yet someone else bugged me even more.

Because I don’t want to give anything away, all I’m going to say is that ONE of Dora’s daughters got my back up on more than one occasion. Once you read the book for yourself, you may think the same, or you may think differently. Who knows! I’m intrigued to see how people fair with this particular character though, I have to say.

In regards to the overall storyline, I really did enjoy catching up with the characters again, but I did find some parts of the storyline to be a little slow burning and lacking in oomph. However, there were parts of the storyline, namely where Carol was concerned, where the pace was on point and the grit made it such an intense read. For me, the story seemed to to and fro between gritty and slow burning, as opposed to Pam Howes’ previous books of being pure intensity. Again, that is just a personal preference.

I am quite sad to see this series come to an end as I would loved to find out what happened to a couple of the characters later down the line. I did thoroughly enjoy the majority of ‘The Liverpool Girls’, especially as the author has made Dora go from strength to strength as a character. Dora really was the star of the show and I really do think that Pam Howes has done a phenomenal job in building her character, whilst also maintaining Dora’s personality across all three books.

Poignant, thought-provoking and definitely memorable, ‘The Liverpool Girls’ is bound to take you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions as you follow Dora and Joe’s life during the late sixties. Full of brilliant history from the sixties, Pam Howes has written yet another touching novel.

Thanks Bookouture.

Buy now from Amazon UK
Buy now from Amazon US

About the author: 

Pam Howes was born in Cheshire. She is a retired Interior Designer who began writing seriously in the mid nineties. The idea for her first novel, set in the sixties, was inspired by her time as a teenager, working in a local record store and hanging around with musicians who frequented the business. That first novel evolved into a series set in the fictional town of Pickford, based on her home town of Stockport. Three Steps to Heaven; ‘Til I Kissed You; Always On My Mind; Not Fade Away, and That’ll Be The Day, follow the lives and loves through the decades of fictional Rock’n’Roll band The Raiders. Pam is a big fan of sixties music and it’s this love that compelled her to write the series. A stand-alone true-life romance, Fast Movin’ Train, set in the nineties, was published in early 2012. A new series of Fairground Romances, set in the sixties, begins with Cathy’s Clown, to be followed by Ruby Tuesday early 2016. Pam is mum to three adult daughters, grandma to seven assorted grandchildren, and roadie to one musician partner. She still lives in Cheshire and is currently involved in raising awareness of her home-town’s musical heritage with campaigns to have Blue Plaques erected on the walls of local clubs, The Manor Lounge and The Sinking Ship, where the likes of The Walker Brother’s, The Who and Jimi Hendrix played; now closed, but still firmly in the hearts of Stockport’s recycled teenagers.  

Pam recently signed a contract with the award winning publisher Bookouture and the first novel in her new trilogy, The Lost Daughter of Liverpool, will be on sale in February 2017

All books are available in Kindle format, paperback, and Fast Movin’ Train is also available as an audio book. 

Follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pam-Howes-Author/260328010709267 

And Twitter @PamHowes1

#BlogTour! #Review – A Winter Love Song by Rita Bradshaw @panmacmillan @ed_pr

Blog Tour Artwork for A Winter Love Song

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A Winter Love Song is a heartwarming and moving story of survival and love from bestselling author Rita Bradshaw.

Bonnie Lindsay is born into a travelling fair community in the north-east in 1918, and when her mother dies just months later, Bonnie’s beloved father becomes everything to her. Then at the tender age of ten years old, disaster strikes. Heartbroken, Bonnie’s left at the mercy of her embittered grandmother and her lecherous step-grandfather.

Five years later, the events of one terrible night cause Bonnie to flee to London where she starts to earn her living as a singer. She changes her name and cuts all links with the past.

Time passes. Bonnie falls in love, but just when she dares to hope for a rosy future, WW2 is declared. She does her bit for the war effort, singing for the troops and travelling to Burma to boost morale, but heartache and pain are just around the corner, and she begins to ask herself if she will ever find happiness again?

What does TWG think?

Without sounding too macabre, I absolutely love read a saga which is set during war time. Obviously I don’t find other people’s misfortune entertaining at all, it’s just the whole vibe of a wartime setting mixed with fictional characters and fictional stories, all inspired by a real life situation, makes me feel as though I can sink my teeth into the storyline without too much of an issue. I have always been fascinated with history so to then mix an interest of mine into novel reading – I’m sure you can see why I get so excited about this genre!

Anyway, back to the book.

Bonnie has had her own fair share of heartache over the years. Not only did Bonnie lose her mother at a young age, she was then faced with the devastating situation of then losing her last remaining parent. Nobody understood Bonnie like her father did. Nobody wanted to understand Bonnie. Instead, she’s left misunderstood with a knee-jerk reaction to flee. Will Bonnie ever get her happy every after? Will Bonnie finally be loved for who she is and everything she stands for?

I felt so sorry for Bonnie as it was like she constantly got the short end of the stick. Everywhere she turned there seemed to be something bad about to happen, or she would end up faced with memories of the bad times past. I had my fingers crossed that she would find true happiness, but without sounding too pessimistic, I wasn’t entirely convinced that she would. I felt that Bonnie was exceptionally hard on herself in a lot of ways, which unfortunately made it harder for me to gel with her as a character as I couldn’t find a way to get through to her.

As the story progresses we see Bonnie’s life take a very different turn, although the feeling of sadness was waiting around every corner, ready to strike again.

I felt that the historic nature of the storyline shone through really well, which in turn made me able to see various characters in very different lights.

I am being really vague with this review as the storyline is rather complex and I would hate to give anything away. Even though I felt that the complexity was definitely a positive, I did find myself becoming a little bogged down by the overall heaviness of the novel itself. Don’t get me wrong ‘A Winter Love Song’ really is a lovely read, but the fact I had trouble keeping up with every situation in the book meant that I couldn’t enjoy the storyline as much as I would have liked.

Overall I did enjoy ‘A Winter Love Song’ – it ignited multiple emotions from deep within whilst also keeping the historic element poignant all the way through.

Thanks Pacmacmillan.

Buy now from Amazon UK

#BlogTour! #Review – See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt (@ikillnovel) @TinderPress

SWIHD blog tour
Excited to be today’s stop on Sarah Schmidt’s blog tour for the paperback release of ‘See What I Have Done’. Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in the blog tour, and thank you to the publisher for a copy of the book. Here is my review:

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Just after 11am on 4th August 1892, the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden are discovered. He’s found on the sitting room sofa, she upstairs on the bedroom floor, both murdered with an axe.

It is younger daughter Lizzie who is first on the scene, so it is Lizzie who the police first question, but there are others in the household with stories to tell: older sister Emma, Irish maid Bridget, the girls’ Uncle John, and a boy who knows more than anyone realises.

In a dazzlingly original and chilling reimagining of this most notorious of unsolved mysteries, Sarah Schmidt opens the door to the Borden home and leads us into its murkiest corners, where jealousies, slow-brewed rivalries and the darkest of thoughts reside.

What does TWG think?

I have been wanting to read Sarah Schmidt’s, ‘See What I Have Done’, from the first moment I saw it doing the rounds on social media back in May. Yes, it has been on my TBR pile that long! One thing I also noticed at the time was just how varied each readers opinions were. Of course, that made me even more curious to get stuck in.

Using events of a real life situation as inspiration, Sarah Schmidt has taken facts from the historic ‘Lizzie Borden’ case in 1892, and has put a personal spin on the storyline itself. Wikipedia states that Lizzie Borden was acquitted for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden, but who DID kill Lizzie’s parents? Still an unsolved case 125 years later, a lot of people seem to reach their own conclusions on the double murder. Sarah Schmidt however, had her own ideas about what really went on that day, thus being the inspiration for this novel.

I have to admit; I hadn’t heard of Lizzie Borden until the day I picked up ‘See What I Have Done’. I had to spend a little while trawling through Google so that I had a rough idea of the situation itself. Not that I didn’t trust the authors factual knowledge, don’t get me wrong, but when it comes to historical based novels, I like to ensure I have some of the facts clear in my own head before I proceed.

I finished reading ‘See What I Have Done’ about ten minutes before I started writing this review as I wanted to keep everything fresh in my mind. I really don’t know where my mind is with this book after all. I loved the authors literary skills and story telling – it was clear that Sarah Schmidt had done her research whilst also ensuring that she incorporated fiction alongside the facts to keep the reader interested. For me, the authors skills were the star of the show. I cannot fault the way in which the storyline was executed overall.

However, I found the content of the storyline incredibly difficult to gel with. Although, I guess having a theme of murder in a storyline isn’t going to make you reaching for the party poppers, but you know what I mean (I hope). I really wanted to fall in love with this book, especially given the fact that historical fiction is one of my go to genres. But there was just something about the book which left me feeling as though I was missing something. What, I have no idea. I did fall in love with the authors words themselves though, does that count?!

Whilst ‘See What I Have Done’ didn’t meet my expectations, the authors story telling and fantastic writing talent made the book come alive. Sarah Schmidt is exceptionally talented at her craft and I am rather looking forward to what she puts her pen to next.

Thanks Tinder Press.

Buy now from Amazon UK

#BlogTour! #Review – December Girl by Nicola Cassidy (@LadyNicci) @BombshellBooks

Blog Tour-2

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Molly Thomas is a feisty, independent soul, born on the Winter Solstice. At every stage of her life she has faced troubles. As a young woman her family are evicted from their home at Christmas. Molly swears vengeance on the jealous neighbour and land agent responsible, Flann Montgomery. Then in 1896 her baby son is taken from his pram. Molly searches the streets for Oliver. The police are called but her baby is gone. Why does trouble seem to follow Molly? And will she ever find out what happened to her child?

December Girl is a tale of family bonds, love, revenge and murder.

What does TWG think?

I have absolutely no idea how I am going to get my opinion of ‘December Girl’ from my head onto this page, without sounding like a tool. Now, I finished Nicola Cassidy’s novel a couple of days ago, yet it is still setting up camp in my head.

I have to be honest; there were times whilst reading the book where I felt like putting it down and not picking it back up again, due to several situations within the storyline which came out of the blue, leaving me quite speechless and feeling a bit uncomfortable. The storyline was raw and brutally shocking. I didn’t know whether I felt uncomfortable for myself, or whether I was feeling uncomfortable for the fictional character.

Please be aware that my honesty above is in no way nasty, I just felt like I had to be honest and explain how I felt whilst reading the book. I’m sure you can guess by now that I didn’t put the book down and stop reading it – especially seeing as I am writing a review for it!

Despite the earlier feelings of ‘running’, the addictiveness of the storyline meant that I was unable to stop reading the book until I reached the end and had found out what had happened. It was as though the authors words had handcuffed me to the book, the characters and the overall vibe of ‘December Girl’. Yes there were nauseating moments, brutal moments, and severely emotional moments throughout this book, yet without those, I truly don’t think that “December Girl’ would have ended up being as strong as it was. There was always something happening, something shocking to render me speechless or prick my eyes with tears. Molly’s mindset took over every single thing about this book and there were times where I didn’t know whether to sympathise, empathise, or feel slightly annoyed towards her. Put it this way, Molly Thomas certainly isn’t a force to be reckoned with and, despite what that character endured, I am incredibly surprised that she didn’t give up the ghost at the time.

‘December Girl’ took me miles and miles out of my comfort zone, I’m not going to lie. Do I regret reading it? Hell no. Do I wish I had stopped reading it? Hell no!! At the end of the day, my emotions got the better of me which caused my initial reaction at first. I could empathise with Molly. I could understand, and I feel that the author’s way of laying such a heart-breaking topic out in black and white was shockingly genius. It made me take notice. It made me think about every single word in front of me, wondering whether there was more to Molly’s words at the time.

Nicola Cassidy, quite clearly, is a brilliant, brilliant story-teller, writing words which have the depth to stay by you for a very long time after reading them. I am so glad that I didn’t stop reading the book as I would have missed out on the closure, as well as the rest of the devastatingly beautiful story of ‘December Girl’.

Raw, shocking, emotional and highly addictive, ‘December Girl’ will leave you in such a trance, it might even be December when you wake. The themes throughout the novel may be uncomfortable, yet the underlying message is worth its weight in gold.

Thanks BombshellBooks.

December Girl will be published on the 26th October 2017, but is available to pre-order now from Amazon UK

About the author.

Nicola Cassidy is a writer and blogger from Co. Louth, Ireland. She started
her writing career early, entering short story competitions, penning protest
letters to magazines and making up characters in her head. These
scribblings saw her place in a number of competitions as a child and
encouraged by her English teachers, she chose to study journalism at
Dublin City University.

While working in political PR and marketing, Nicola studied a series of
advanced creative writing courses atthe Irish Writers’ Centre and set up a
lifestyle and literary blog at http://www.LadyNicci.com, which was nominated in
the Ireland Blog Awards in 2015 and 2016.

During her maternity leave for her first daughter, Nicola set about
researching and writing a historical fiction novel, December Girl, inspired
by true events and setin the mystical and ancient Boyne Valley, famed for
its stone age passage tombs, nearto where she grew up.

Nicola signed with US based Trace Literary Agency in 2016. December Girl
was picked up by Betsy Reavley at UK digital publisher Bombshell Books
in June 2017 and will be published 26 October 2017.

She is an avid reader, inspired by the likes of Anais Nin, Joan Didion and
Jessie Burton and is currently working on her second novel, also inspired
by true events. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in
Termonfeckin, Co. Louth.

www.nicolacassidy.com

www.facebook.com/ladynicciblog

#BlogBlitz! #Review – Heartaches and Christmas Cakes by Amy Miller (@AmyBratley1) @Bookouture

Heartaches and Christmas cakes - Blog Tour
I am delighted to be one of the blogs closing Amy Miller’s blog blitz for ‘Heartaches and Christmas Cakes’! Huge thanks to Bookouture for the ARC and for inviting me to take part in the blitz. Here is my review:

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Heartaches and Christmas Cakes: A wartime family saga perfect for cold winter nights (Wartime Bakery Book 1)

December, 1940: All that Audrey Barton wants is her family together for Christmas. But the war changes everything… 

The Barton family bakery in Bournemouth has been at the heart of the town for generations: Audrey and Charlie Barton have never been rich, but their bread and cakes – and their love and advice – have enriched the lives of others in the town for many years.

When war breaks out, it doesn’t take long for trouble to arrive on the bakery doorstep. Audrey’s brother William has joined up to fight, and William’s fiancé Elsie fears she may lose him before their life together has even begun. Audrey’s stepsister Lily comes to stay, but Lily is clearly hiding a dark secret

And a silent and strange little girl is evacuated to the town – will Audrey get to the heart of what is ailing her? 

Audrey battles to keep hope and love alive in tumultuous times. But when disaster strikes at Christmas, will her efforts be in vain? 

This is the first book in a heartwarming and romantic new saga series, perfect for fans of The Gingerbread Girl, Nadine Dorries and Ellie Dean.

What does TWG think?

Oh my goodness me! What a cracking start to a series! I have no idea whether my review of Amy Miller’s, ‘Heartaches and Christmas Cakes’, will do the book justice but I will certainly try my best.

As a lover of saga’s/historical fiction, I just knew that ‘Heartaches and Christmas Cakes’ would be right up my street. With other books I have read in this genre, the storylines are written from a different angle where the reader gets to hear about the war, is probably involved in one way or another via a family member, and that the tale of the war is told secondhand and distant. Amy Miller’s story wasn’t like that. Set in the family bakery in the heart of Bournemouth, the storyline showcases a different side to the wartime devastation as the ‘main character’, Audrey, got stuck into situations when they arose by helping others. Where Audrey went, the reader went.

Despite being set in a bakery the story wasn’t all loaves of bread and buns. Not at all. In fact the story was more about having no choice when a love one gets called up to fight in the war. Finding themselves part of a family under a name, yet also a part of a large, communal family when the town needed help. Putting own feelings aside to help the injured in their time of need. Seeing hundreds of evacuated children with frightened eyes, unaware of what would happen to them beyond that point whilst also hoping that a stranger would be kind enough to take them into their home…

Like I said above, everywhere Audrey went, us readers followed. Because of that, the storyline seemed a heck of a lot more raw than if we weren’t shadowing the main character, so to speak. Of course I have read about the devastation which both wars left on the world, thanks to history books and so forth. But to then be able to conjure up an image in your mind of the emotional devastation from the fighters point of view, thanks to the authors beautiful story telling, was a lot more emotional than I expected. With factual history books it is harder to find emotion as you’re given the facts in black and white. No heartfelt anecdotes or emotional undertones. Just, the facts. Yet with historical fiction books, if based on a certain point in history then the bones of the facts will be there waiting, but it’s then up to us readers to turn the authors words into an image we relate to. Amy Miller told the story perfectly, therefore conjuring up images of the wartime was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Incredibly emotional though.

Even though a lot of the book is written from Audrey’s viewpoint, the author does switch the chapters to a couple of the other characters viewpoints and, because all of the characters were various ages, I was able to feel a bit of release when I read one of the younger girls chapters due to the theme within that chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed reading ‘Heartaches and Christmas Cakes’ from different angles as it meant I got to see different sides to the war and how people were affected. Take Audrey for example; she’s the mother hen of the book and of the town, having to pay attention to rationing when it came to baking cakes, whilst also looking after younger members of her family, running the bakery and assisting other people in her community. Then on the other hand, Elsie’s heart was close to shattering and her own family were subjected to disgusting behaviour from other people.

Two different people, two different views, two different lives, yet joined by the love of one person and the devastation of daily life. Certainly makes you sit and think, doesn’t it?

I have to be honest; this book absolutely broke me! The tears just seemed to fall out of my eyes off their own accord. I became incredibly emotional due to a lot of the storyline and it broke my heart to think that that actually happened to people during those times. Our family members no doubt fought in that war. I know my great grandad did! It’s easy for me to say now seeing as I didn’t have to live through that, but Amy Miller’s outstanding portrayal of a heart-breaking time, certainly opened my eyes.

‘Heartaches and Christmas Cakes’ is an absolutely heartbreakingly beautiful novel about life, love, loss, and learning to find inner strength which you never knew existed. Amy Miller has taken my breath away with her enchanting and spellbinding literary skills.

A truly fantastic, emotional and heart-warming story. I cannot wait to read book two of the series, although based on this story alone, the author has certainly set the bar exceptionally high for herself! If I could give this book more than 5 stars I would. It deserves the entire constellation that’s for sure!

‘Heartaches and Christmas Cakes’ is by far my most favourite saga novel of 2017.

Thanks Bookouture.

Buy now from Amazon UK
Buy now from Amazon US

Author Bio:

Amy Miller is the pseudonym of Amy Bratley, who started her writing life working on magazines and newspapers. She has previously written three women’s fiction novels published by Pan Macmillan, the first of which was a bestseller in Italy. Her day job is being a freelance managing editor of both a vintage interiors magazine and a food magazine, two subjects she’s passionate about. Amy lives in Dorset with her husband and two children.

Author Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmyMillerBooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmyBratley1

 

#BlogBlitz! #Review – The Girl from the Sugar Plantation by @Sharon_Maas @Bookouture

The Girl from the Sugar Plantation - Blog Tour
Absolutely thrilled to be taking part in Sharon Maas’ blog blitz today, for the authors new release; ‘The Girl from the Sugar Plantation’. Huge thanks to Bookouture for asking me to be involved the tour as well as an ARC of the novel! Here is my review:

The-Girl-from-the-Sugar-Plantation-Kindle

An unputdownable story of a woman in search of the truth, the man she falls in love with, and the devastation of the Second World War.

1934, Guyana. All her life, Mary Grace has wanted to know the truth about who her parents really are. As the mixed-race daughter of two white plantation owners, her childhood has been clouded by whispered rumours, and the circumstances of her birth have been kept a closely guarded secret… 

Aunt Winnie is the only person Mary Grace can confide in. Feeling lost and lonely, her place in society uncertain, Mary Grace decides to forge her own path in the world. And she finds herself unexpectedly falling for charming and affluent Jock Campbell, a planter with revolutionary ideas.

But, with the onset of the Second World War, their lives will be changed forever. And Mary Grace and Jock will be faced with the hardest decision of all – to fight for freedom or to follow their hearts…

An utterly compelling and evocative story about the heart-breaking choices men and women had to make during a time of unimaginable change. Perfect for fans of The Secret Wife and Island of Secrets.

What does TWG think?

I have come to realise that a Sharon Maas novel requires nothing less than 100% attention, and nothing less than 100% devotion. I’m not saying that other books require less, I’m just saying that because of the strong and complex storylines which this author produces, it would be wrong to only pay this book (as well as her others) a little bit of attention.

Mary Grace is living life as a mixed-race person, yet nurtured by a white mother. In this day and age, race and skin colour isn’t the be all and end all. Well, it shouldn’t be. However, different cultures and skin colours weren’t at all respected in the past. If you weren’t white then you would find yourself on the lowest bar on the ladder – if you were lucky enough to make it on the ladder full stop. Reading Mary Grace’s story was exceptionally eye-opening due to how coloured people were treated in those days. Of course we could pick up a history people and read all about it, but it becomes ten times more raw when you’re reading someone else’s story and finding out their feelings during said time. My heart went out to Mary Grace, that’s for sure.

The further into the book I read, the more complex the storyline became. A lot more characters were introduced and due to a lot of them being called ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’, I struggled to keep up with who was who. Thankfully it didn’t deter me from enjoying the story, it just meant that I had to focus more on the characters names so that I knew which part of Mary Grace’s life they were from.

I really did enjoy how complex the storyline was as I found myself able to sink my teeth into every chapter. I became hungry for more storyline, more secrets, more challenges – the works. As I reached around three-quarters of the way into the book, I surprised myself by becoming rather emotional due to the intense, from the heart feelings the author managed to convey within her writing. Nearly each and every character had to jump over a hurdle in the lifetime – most of which we were able to follow in ‘The Girl from the Sugar Plantation’. Those hurdles were heart-wrenching, highly emotive, eye-opening yet weirdly enchanting. I could feel the sadness jumping off the page. I could feel the heart-warming moments warming up the room. I could feel the authors heart being plowed into each individual word. This book made me feel from the pit of my stomach.

Obviously, the circumstances in which this book is based around, aren’t exactly easy to read – especially as you find out how certain people were treated by people in your society as it were. I felt quite ashamed that situations like that happened by white people. It just goes to show how much things can change in the blink of an eye and how respect has greatly changed over the years.

‘The Girl from the Sugar Plantation’ is a beautifully executed, highly emotive, and poignant read which is guaranteed to make any reader find emotions which they never knew existed. From the eye-opening situations regarding society, to the beautifully written and well crafted moments regarding multiple characters and their hearts – Sharon Maas seems to have included it all.

I am in awe at how poignant just one novel can be.
Honestly? I am in awe at ‘The Girl from the Sugar Plantation’ full stop.

Thanks Bookouture.

Buy now from Amazon UK
Buy now from Amazon US

Author Bio: 

Sharon Maas was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, and spent many childhood hours either curled up behind a novel or writing her own adventure stories. Sometimes she had adventures of her own, and found fifteen minutes of Guyanese fame for salvaging an old horse-drawn coach from a funeral parlor, fixing it up, painting it bright blue, and tearing around Georgetown with all her teenage friends. The coach ended up in a ditch, but thankfully neither teens nor horse were injured. 

Boarding school in England tamed her somewhat; but after a few years as a reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown she plunged off to discover South America by the seat of her pants. She ended up in a Colombian jail, and that’s a story for another day…

Sharon has lived in an Ashram in India and as a German Hausfrau–the latter giving her the time and the motivation to finally start writing seriously. Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, was published by HarperCollins, London, in 1999 and reprinted as a digital edition in 2014. After working as a social worker in a German hospital she finally retired and now has time for her favourite pastimes: reading, writing, and travelling.

 Author Social Media Links: 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/sharonmaasauthor/?notif_id=1507886997954009&notif_t=fbpage_fan_invite
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sharon_maas
Website: https://www.sharonmaas.com/

#BlogTour! #Review – Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys (@MsTamarCohen) @PenguinRHUK

Dangerous Crossing Blog Tour Poster
Huge thanks to Anne Cater and Penguin Books for inviting me to be involved with the paperback blog tour for ‘Dangerous Crossing’ by Rachel Rhys! I’m thrilled to be sharing my review with you all today:

Dangerous Crossing Cover
*NOW A RICHARD AND JUDY BOOK CLUB PICK 2017* ‘The pages turn themselves!’

Shortlisted for the HWA Gold Crown 2017

A stunning, atmospheric novel in the great tradition of Death on the Nile and Patricia Highsmith, which tells of a young girl’s terrifying journey trapped on a cruise liner to Australia at the brink of the Second World War.

England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …

Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.

What has she done?

What does TWG think?

As a HUGE fan of historical fiction novels, ‘Dangerous Crossing’ had been on my radar for a while –  I was SO glad that being involved in the blog tour would give me the well needed kick up the youknowwhat to finally get it read. It worked, obviously.

Set in 1939 around the time of the Second World War, ‘Dangerous Crossing’ is an intense novel about one woman’s journey to a fresh start. However, due to the Second World War making itself known anytime soon, ‘fresh start’ couldn’t be further from the truth if it tried.

The storyline captured my attention almost straight away as I felt like I was being summoned into an unknown realm. To be honest the main character, Lily, came across as if she didn’t have a clue either. I felt as though the storyline was keeping its cards close to its chest for multiple chapters which meant that the storyline just oozed complexity. The author was determined to set the scene which, as we all know, is not a bad thing, but due to the high levels of information given in such a short space of time, I did feel a little bit overwhelmed by it all. I really do enjoy savouring novels, especially when the storyline has an air of mystery to it like ‘Dangerous Crossing’ does, and I truly feel that this novel needs to have the readers full attention from the first page until the last. I wouldn’t advise beginning this book in-between feeding time at the zoo, purely because every single detail needs to be digested at the time just so you can fully appreciate the authors work and the atmospheric storyline.

What I loved most about this novel was how the entire storyline was built on secrets. Every character seemed to have a secret. Every scenario within the storyline seemed to be reliant on a secret. Even though I knew fine well that I should have been savouring ‘Dangerous Crossing’ so that I could stop feeling so overwhelmed, I ended up turning the pages at record speed, JUST so I could find out what the secrets were, why there was a woman taken away in handcuffs and so forth. As stupid as this sounds, I didn’t know who to trust, but I was determined as hell to get to the bottom of the goings on, regardless of how confused I became.

Overall, ‘Dangerous Crossing’ is such a fascinating and mysterious read which kept me guessing until the very end. Full of rollercoaster moments, more secrets than an episode of Jeremy Kyle, and the feeling of actually being in 1939; ‘Dangerous Crossing’ is guaranteed to keep your attention peaked in one way or another. Whilst I did find the sheer force of information a bit confusing at times, nothing can fault Rachel Rhys on writing such an intense and magnetic storyline.

Huge thanks to the author, Penguin Books & Anne Cater.

Buy now from Amazon UK

#BlogTour! #Review – A Time To Change by Callie Langridge (@CLangridgewrite) @bombshellpub

BLOG TOUR
I am absolutely delighted to be one of the blogs hosting Callie Langridge today,  and her debut novel; ‘A Time To Change’, which was published by Bombshell Books on the 24th September. Usually I can write my thoughts about a book no bother, however this novel has left me tongue tied and possible incapable of making any sort of sense. So, if that ends up being the case, I apologise in advance and I hope you like my review regardless!

9781912175628
“I would rather love passionately for an hour than benignly for a lifetime.”

In a house full of history and secrets, the past will not stay where it belongs…

Lou has always loved Hill House, the derelict manor on the abandoned land near her home. As a child, the tragic history of its owners, the Mandevilles, inspired her dream to become a history teacher. But in her late twenties, and working in a shop to pay off student debts, life is passing her by.

That changes when a family disaster sends Lou’s life into a downward spiral and she seeks comfort in the ruined corridors of Hill House. The house transforms around her and Lou is transported back to Christmas 1913. Convinced she has been in an accident and is in a coma, Lou immerses herself in her Edwardian dream. With the Mandevilles oblivious to her true identity, Lou becomes their houseguest and befriends the eldest son, Captain Thomas Mandeville, a man she knows is destined to die in the First World War.

Lou feels more at home in the past than the present and when she realises the experience is real she sets out to do everything in her power to save her new friends.

Lou passes between 1913 and 2013, unearthing plots of murder and blackmail, which she must stop no matter the cost.

On her quest to save the Mandevilles by saving Thomas, Lou will face the hardest decision of her life. She will learn that love cannot be separated by a century.

What does TWG think?

I wish that there were enough adjectives in the Oxford dictionary to help me describe my thoughts about Callie Langridge’s debut novel. Now seeing as there are over 171k words currently in use in the Oxford dictionary, I am genuinely surprised that none of the adjectives seem to fit this book. Weird maybe, but it’s the truth. I could sit here and say that ‘A Time To Change’ is a ‘beautiful and enchanting read which is phenomenally written’ and, whilst that is the truth, it doesn’t seem complimentary enough. It doesn’t seem to fit the calibre of the storyline, even if it is the truth and I do mean it. Nothing I could write would ever seem enough for this storyline.

Why?

Because it took my breath away in a way I never thought was possible.
It took me under its spell, making everything else around me obsolete and worthless for the duration of the novel.
It filled my arms with copious amounts of goosebumps, whilst also pricking my eyes with unshed tears.
It broke my heart, then it fixed it again with good ol’ PVA glue before breaking it again in the most earth shattering and beautiful way.

Hell, if I can describe a heart-break as beautiful; Callie Langridge really and truly MUST have had me under her spell.

Like always I would love to sit here and have a conversation about the storyline, uncovering all the nooks and crannies, secrets and goodness knows what else – but I can’t because it wouldn’t be fair. For that reason alone, I’m not even going over the outline of the storyline again like I usually do. I just can’t, because this book needs to be read ‘blind’ as it were. You need to read this novel with your eyes open, heart protected, and the biggest box of tissues. If I chose to outline the storyline from my own personal view, it would be like me telling you how to the read the storyline in the same way as I had read it. You can’t.

I adored the unique angle for the storyline, so much so that it caught me off guard multiple times (don’t worry, I’m not complaining). Every single one of the characters were written with poise, grace, and incredible amounts of personality that even the not-so-nice characters came across a teeny bit nicer. Teeny bit….

I loved the historical feel that the author managed to create with her storyline and enchanting use of language. Everything just seemed to fit and when time frames needed to overlap, it was done with incredible precision, thus making the to-ing and fro-ing utterly seamless.

I can honestly say, hand on heart, that there is nothing about ‘A Time To Change’ which I dislike. From start to finish, Callie Langridge’s novel captured my heart, my soul; rendering me useless when it came to any form of adulting. The storyline isn’t all rainbows and moonbeams, yet even during the most tragic and heartbreaking parts of the storyline I felt as though I had something incredibly priceless in my hands; ‘A Time To Change’ itself.

I’m not going to lie, there did come a point in the storyline where the tears just fell out of my eyes and refused to evaporate, but you know what? As heartbreaking as that moment was, I wouldn’t change my reaction to it for the world.

‘A Time To Change’ is the most enchanting, heartbreakingly beautiful and soulful novel that I have read so far this year. Never have I ever read a book like it before, and never will I ever read a book like it again. Callie Langridge has an exceptional way with words as she manages to capture the true essence of each individual character, whilst also making the reader feel as though they’re the chosen ones.

A definite must read by an author to watch; ‘A Time To Change’ needs to be put under the spotlight by every single person. You need to feel the magic within ‘A Time To Change’ because, believe me, your world will feel a lot more nourished for doing so.

Stunning, absolutely stunning.

Thanks Bombshell Books.

Buy now from Amazon UK

Author Bio:

Callie was born and brought up in Berkshire. After a brief teenage spell in the depths of Lancashire, she moved back to London.

Having left school at 16, she studied drama before embarking on a career in marketing. This saw her work in music marketing in the heady days of Britpop in the nineties. She unleashed her creativity in the design of window displays and marketing campaigns for the leading music retailer. More recently she has followed her passion for social history and currently works in marketing for a national historical institution, promoting projects and running events.

On hitting her thirtieth birthday, she decided finally to take her A levels and gained A’s in English Literature and Language, and Film Studies – not bad when working full time! – and this spurred her on to take the first of many creative writing course. A few years later and she has had a number of short stories published and plays performed at theatres and venues across London.

Callie lives in London with her long-term partner and an ever-growing collection of antique curiosities.

Twitter: @CLangridgeWrite

Facebook: Callie Langridge  https://www.facebook.com/people/Callie-Langridge/100017408860162