#Tour!#Review – White Lies & Wishes @CathyBramley @TransworldBooks @Beckyh1712 @penguinrandom

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Three days into week two of Cathy Bramley’s blog tour for her new book, White Lies & Wishes, and it’s MY turn to host! Being asked by Becky Hunter to be involved in this tour has got to be one of my biggest ‘pinch me’ moments so far. Cathy Bramley has won over millions of hearts with her previous releases; Conditional Love, Ivy Lane and most recently, The Plumberry School of Comfort Food; making her one of the top ‘go to’ authors within contemporary fiction right now.
Basically, I’m a HUGE fan of hers and I am truly honoured to help celebrate and promote such a talented and humble author, as well as her beautiful new book; White Lies & Wishes.
I hope you enjoy my review!

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Blurb.

What happens when what you wish for is only half the story…?

Flirtatious, straight-talking Jo Gold says she’s got no time for love; she’s determined to save her family’s failing footwear business.

New mother Sarah Hudson has cut short her maternity leave to return to work. She says she’ll do whatever it takes to make partner at the accountancy firm.

Bored, over-eating housewife Carrie Radley says she just wants to shift the pounds – she’d love to finally wear a bikini in public.

The unlikely trio meet by chance one winter’s day, and in a moment of ‘Carpe Diem’ madness, embark on a mission to make their wishes come true by September.

Easy. At least it would be, if they hadn’t been just the teensiest bit stingy with the truth…

With hidden issues, hidden talents, and hidden demons to overcome, new friends Jo, Carrie and Sarah must admit to what they really, really want, if they are ever to get their happy endings.

What does TWG think?

Three very unique women plus three bolshie wishes sounds quite straight forward, doesn’t it? After all, it’s ONLY one wish each that they are aiming to make a reality, how hard can it be? Well, considering the fact that Jo, Carrie and Sarah are virtually strangers and their wishes aren’t exactly black and white; they may be in for a bumpy ride before they get their happy endings!

To be honest, I’m sure Jo, Carrie and Sarah, are not the only ones who have made a positive ‘bucket list’, aiming to change something about their life that they haven’t had the confidence to do so before. I was going to say that it’s similar to a new years resolution, except that not many people keep theirs! The three ladies met at a time where making friendships would usually be the last thing on your mind. But for them, it seemed to be the ideal place to strike up a friendship, and put the world (well, their lives) to rights during their very first conversation! Some might say that it was a brave move on their part, or some might say that Cathy Bramley gets top marks for originality of friendship starting places. I say; BOTH!

I adored the unusual way the ladies met each other as it showed exactly how varied different lives can be. Not everyone meets at a bar or in a café; we have the chance to create friendships wherever we go and this scenario was no different. I struggled to associate with the main three characters to begin with as I didn’t warm to them as quickly as I had hoped. However, once the storyline grew and the characters let their guards down, I found that I was able to relate to them all in such very different ways. I actually can’t pick a favourite!

Describing what I enjoyed about Cathy Bramley’s new book is like having to choose a favourite pair of shoes; overwhelming and extremely difficult. I LOVED everything about this book; selecting a couple of positives to write about is really hard when there are so many (cough, the whole book, cough). The only way that I can sum up my thoughts of the book is by imagining a seedling; during the first chapter the seed was planted and the storyline began. As the storyline progressed, the seedling grew as did Jo, Carrie and Sarah. Every chapter saw the seedling gain strength, individuality and the want to weather the storm, and every chapter saw the storyline become something rather special.  So special in fact, I found myself smiling at the book multiple times as the warmth and love that was cushioned under Cathy Bramley’s words, jumped off the page and into my soul.

The seedling weathered quite a few storms, but it never lost hope, neither did the characters. Then, about three-quarters of the way into the novel my heart became full of pride and the seedling was no more. For me, three quarters of the way through the novel was a complete game changer. Cathy Bramley not only managed to fill my soul with warmth and love, she also filled my heart with hope, determination and a heart warming eye opener that left me stunned. The seedling blossomed into a beautiful flower; as beautiful as the storyline of White Lies & Wishes and the humbling message that it contains. If you feel as though your own life has a huge question marking hovering above it, get onto Amazon or pop into your local supermarket and buy this book. It won’t fix your life, but it most certainly will give you the laughter, hope and hunger to fulfill your own special dreams.

Cathy Bramley has once again written such an outstanding novel; I am in awe. A wonderful book that is full of true friendships, dreams and the desire to laugh. I think I may have just found one of my new favourite books. Wait, no, scrap that. I KNOW that I have found a new favourite book. Oh, and no, that isn’t a white lie.

White Lies & Wishes is available to buy now from Amazon.

Author of ‘I do..Or Do I?’, Karen King (@karen_king), joins TWG with a #guestpost @RNAtweets

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Absolutely thrilled to welcome author Karen King, back to TWG! Not so long ago I reviewed Karen’s book; ‘I do..Or Do I?’ and you can find my review for that right here:
Book Review ‘I do? – Or do I? by Karen King (@Karen_king) @AccentPress

The lovely Karen King has written a guest post about her personal writing journey, especially for us here at TWG! Enjoy!

My Writing Journey

I’ve always loved reading and writing. When, aged eleven, I had my first poem published in the children’s corner of a local newspaper I had no idea that twenty years later I would be writing for a living. It didn’t happen overnight, I got married, had four children, scribbled stories whenever I could and eventually started sending them out. After several rejections I had an article accepted by Jackie magazine and soon I was writing photo stories, articles and short stories for Jackie, Blue Jeans, Patches and Loving.

Then I started working for Marvel comics, doing comic strips, text stories, activities and puzzles. I was asked to work for other comic companies too, and before long I was writing for four or five different titles a month.  Most of them were for licensed characters such as Rainbow, Thomas the Tank Engine, Barbie, Sindy, Rosie&Jim. It was hard work and I often worked late into the night but it provided me with a regular income. I was now writing for a living.

Writing activities for the magazines, and making things with my own children, gave me ideas for activity books and I wrote several for Scholastic. I was also approached by publishers to write books about various licensed characters, including Teddy Ruxpin and Henry’s Cat. So at that stage most of my work was commissioned.  When you are writing for a living you’re constantly writing or planning the next book, and then the next, because writing is the way you earn your bread and butter so I was delighted when I was offered more and more commissioned work. I’ve written joke books, plays, activity books, story books – anything that paid the bills! To date I’ve had over 120 children’s books published

I kept writing and eventually got some picture books and story books published too. Children’s books, especially for young children, are very short so it wasn’t difficult to write several a year and bring in a steady income. I love writing for children and as I had young children myself, this fitted in perfectly with my life at the time. But I dreamed of writing a long book, one I could lose myself in, like the chick-lits or romances I read whenever I could find the time.  However, as I was the family breadwinner it wasn’t financially viable to take a chance on spending months writing a book like this and hoping I’d find a publisher, so I told myself that one day I would do it.

Then my chance came. My children grew up, I got divorced, had less financial commitments and more time so I decided to follow my dream. I didn’t even know if I would succeed  – the longest book I’d ever written was 20,000 words! I wrote furiously, in between tutoring writing and commissioned work, and eventually completed and found publishers for two romance novel and two YA’s.

Spurred on by this success, and now happily remarried, I decided to join the RNA and write a chick-lit novel. I already had an idea forming in my mind, about a woman whose wedding plans were being hijacked by her future ‘monster in law’ and then she bumped into her first love again and wondered if she was doing the right thing. So ‘I do?…or do I?’ was born – and at 75,000 words it’s the longest book I’ve ever written.

To my delight it was snatched up by Accent Press, who contracted me to write two more and  also republished my earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever. So finally, I’m writing my dream and I love it! And to think it all started with that little poem when I was eleven!

Wow! Who knows, if you were into reading Barbie or Marvel as a youngster, it may just have been written by this lovely lady herself! I am in awe. Karen has written some very wise words in that guest post, and I am going to listen to them myself! Thank you Karen!

If you fancy nabbing copies of Karen’s books for yourself, here are some more details and the all important buying links:

I do? … or do I?’

Blurb

Local journalist Cassie is getting married to hot-shot, reliable Timothy and his mother, Sylvia, who Cassie has nicknamed ‘Monster-in-Law’, wants to plan the entire wedding. When Sylvia books the exclusive ID Images to take photographs of the extravagant do, Cassie has no idea what she’s walking into.  The elusive JM, ID Images’ newest photographer, just so happens to be Jared, Cassie’s first love and ex-fiancé, who broke off their engagement to travel and take photos of far-reaching wonders. He’s back to pay for his next wild adventure.  Cassie decides it’s best to pretend not to know him, but when she’s asked to write an article for her newspaper, she’s tasked with a column surrounding all things wedding related. When Cassie jokingly writes a column meant for herself depicting her situation, a co-worker submits it in place of the real article and it’s soon making headlines, with readers asking the age old question – Who Will She Choose?

 Buy Links
Amazon

 The Millionaire Plan

Blurb

Love or money, what would you marry for?

Amber Wynters is on a mission to find a millionaire to marry – and fast. Her parents are nearly bankrupt and being forced to sell their family home, a beautiful Tudor house that has been in the family for generations, thanks to Amber’s ex-fiancé persuading them to invest in his dodgy shares. Armed with a self-help book and a ten-point plan, she sets off to hook herself a rich husband. On a millionaire’s yacht, she meets the drop-dead gorgeous Jed Curtess. The attraction between them is sizzling. It’s a shame that he is only a hired hand. Can Amber ignore her heart and follow her plan?

Buy Links
Amazon

 Never Say Forever

Blurb

Do you follow your dream or follow your heart?

That’s the decision Kendall McKenzie has to make when she meets hunky businessman Jake Newman. He’s as attracted to her as she is to him – but Kendall has vowed never to get married, and it seems that Jake has too. When they are together, sparks fly. It’s obvious to everyone except themselves that they’re meant to be together. Can Kendall trust Jake enough to give him her heart? And if she does, will she have to give up her dream?

Buy Links
Amazon

Author Bio.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Karen King writes sassy, contemporary romance just right for reading on the beach.  ‘I do …or do I?‘ her first chick-lit for Accent Press, was published in May. She has been contracted for two more. And she is delighted that Accent Press have republished her earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever.

I do… or do I? has been nominated for the RONA. The Millionaire Plan was nominated for the RONE Award in 2014.
Karen has had several short stories for women’s magazine and 120 children’s books published.
When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven
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Author links

Website | Twitter | Karen King Romance Author Facebook Page | Karen King Children’s Books Facebook Page | Pinterest | Instagram

 

An insight into Maya Berger’s ‘Luna Tree – The Baby Project’.

I had seen the cover of ‘Luna Tree’ before whilst browsing Amazon, and it’s one that definitely caught my eye. How could it not? Then one day, I stumbled across the lady herself, Maya Berger on Twitter, where I won myself a copy of the beautiful book. The cover intrigued me, the author intrigued me, I just knew I had to get her onto my blog and find out more, which leads us to now. Maya has kindly written a guest post about why she wrote her book ‘Luna Tree – The Baby Project’. I read the post, and I cried. I cried because it hit home in more ways than one, and I am sure a lot of you will be able to relate to parts of it as well.
Now, I will hand you over to Maya and her heartfelt words…

‘THE STORY BEHIND LUNA TREE

‘Firstly Kaisha, thank you for the chance to tell your readers about my book!

Luna tree is the first book I’ve written. It is about my desire to become a better version of myself, and my dream to have a baby. I was motivated to write a book because I had very big obstacles to overcome to get to where I am today. I start the book with a peek into my childhood and adolescence. Then I describe my early relationships and finally the period of my life when I met my husband. It was important to me that a reader gets to know my background, where I am coming from. Then I got sick with autoimmune illness that almost made me handicapped. It lasted for almost three years and in that period I visited numerous Western and Eastern medicine practitioners and travelled the world to find a cure. The worst part was not knowing what was wrong with me because you don’t know if there is a medicine for it. Not knowing how will I live for the rest of my life without the ability to sit, or walk, or even lie down without the special mattress was something that I was living with every day and it was hard to accept it.

Finally, I got better and conceived a baby. It was an incredible experience, and I felt a need to share it with everyone, especially with people who feel they are in a dead-end street. Today I am healthy and the proud mother of my baby girl Luna.

I don’t think I am the strongest person living. I cried so many times I can’t even count them. The solution is not to give up. I would cry and then find another doctor, then I would cry again and seek another one until I realized that the doctors might not ever diagnose me properly – that’s when I turned to alternative practitioners. There is a solution for every problem, we just have to find it. The worst is to just accept the situation and feel sorry for yourself. It doesn’t really mean you accepted the situation, it just means you gave up.

Through my whole life I had to care for someone: My Mom, my sister, my boyfriend… and finally there was a person who took care of me and I could relax. But then things went downward. You know, like when you work hard and have no time to be ill, and then you finally get some time, and what happens? You get sick, because you spent the last atom of your strength and now you have no energy for anything. My “time off” started on our skiing trip when I suddenly expected my husband to solve all my little problems that never even existed before (because I was to busy solving other people’s problems ).

I started to write Luna Tree when I got my baby girl. I would write when she was asleep. I always had time for writing, because I felt the need to share my story and maybe help someone in a similar situation feel better. Nowadays, I write an hour or two daily in the morning or evening when I don’t have other responsibilities like my work as a presenter, housework or playing with my girl. If you love doing something, you will always make the time to do it.

Today, I am finishing my second book, also a chick-lit memoir, so to say. It is a funny story about two girls invited to a Belgian wedding. There is a twist, too, and I think readers will love it!

As far as the books I like go – I love psychological dramas, chick-lit, sometimes thrillers. I read all books by Lianne Moriarty, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, and Rainbow Rowell. Those are my favorite writers, but I’ll read anything if I have the time.

Very honest post, don’t you agree? Many of us battle with life long illnesses, or come up against brick walls when it comes to things in our lives. Everyone us different, everyone’s battle is different. But to see an author put it into one of their books for the world to see, and to make the reality of chronic illnesses/autoimmune diseases widely known, it is empowering. Why? Because we need awareness, we need support, and we need people to understand in their own special way. Just like Maya.

How many of you have read the book? If you haven’t read it yet (I haven’t but it’s bumped up my list so expect a review this week), then I will pop the links below of where you can buy it. It’s currently available in both paperback and e-book format. I don’t think this book is one that you should miss:

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Where to buy:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

About the author – Maya Berger:
Maya Berger is a 41-year-old woman from Croatia. Born in Zagreb where she lives, Maya studied in Dubrovnik and life was rosy until something stopped her – Ankylosing Spondylitis. Maya battled chronic pain for years, and was misdiagnosed for quite some time, so when AS was finally defined, she felt relief. She also found a way to get rid of chronic pain for some 85%, following some alternative medicine options.  As Maya personally dislikes depressing books, she did everything to avoid writing one… regardless of a somewhat heavier topic. Most of the people who read it say it’s an uplifting read. She calls it a humorous guide to recovery and healing.

Maya’s Twitter
Maya’s Facebook
Luna Tree Website.

Big thank you to Maya Berger for taking the time to be with us here today, I really do appreciate it!

Bella’s Christmas Bake off by Sue Watson

Bella’s Christmas Bake off by Sue Watson.
ISBN: 1910751618
Published: 20th October 2015 by Bookouture.
Available to buy on Amazon UK and Amazon US in Kindle and paperback format.

‘Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.
But this year things are going to be different.
For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.
Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…
After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…’

Amy’s Christmas memories as a child mainly involve baking with her mother and her childhood best friend, Bella. Unfortunately, Amy and Bella’s history isn’t all that straightforward, but ‘thanks’ to Bella’s Christmas television programme, Amy finds herself confronting her past. Amy manages to get herself onto Bella’s Christmas programme to finally put to bed the past, but can Amy make Bella see what is right under her nose?
Who said Christmas books were just meant to be read in December? Certainly not me! If anyone has said that, I’m going to ignore it and so should you because this needs to be read ANY month of the year! Remember your childhood Christmases’? The excitement surrounding Santa Claus and whether you had been good enough in the year to find presents when you got downstairs. Not forgetting Christmas dinner of course! Paper hats on heads eating mountains of food because it was Christmas, and that’s the law! Oh, it’s not? Oh! Home made mince pies! (Thanks mum!) Reading Bella’s Christmas Bake off will transport you to every Christmas you have ever had whilst reliving all the special memories and traditions. Although, you might find yourself laughing at the realisation that a ham could be seen in a sexual manner……
I will rephrase that, you WILL find yourself laughing at multiple things, and not just the ham! This book has been on my ‘to read’ list since last year and I never got round to reading it until last month!  I am extremely regretful that I didn’t read this book sooner because it is such a captivating and warming book. Within the first few pages of the book, one of the main characters; Amy is hit with drama, major drama considering it’s three weeks before Christmas and she finds herself husband-less. Her Christmas now in tatters, oh, and the cake she spent ages making. The cake decided to have its own Christmas venture…on the floor…outside…where a cake should not be. Oh my goodness I feel faint at the thought! Amy’s Christmas tradition as an adult was watching Bella’s perfect Christmas life on the television. Is it really that perfect though? Luckily for Amy, in a roundabout way, she gets the chance to confront Bella over many things, including her mother’s recipes.
As you can probably guess already, I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book. The humour within the story is witty, on point, and will make you spit out any liquid in your mouth due to uncontrollable laughter. Well, looks like my secret is out! FYI, it was tea! Not only does the book contain hilarity, it also contains festivity and, for me, several hidden messages. Now, this isn’t a spoiler because no two people will read a book in the same way as someone else. Bella’s Christmas Bake off had me crying because it makes you realise that you need to live your life because of what you want without having to worry about what anyone else is going to say about your choices. It also made me realise that Christmas doesn’t have to be all fancy, it just needs to have what you hold dear to your heart. Family, close friends, even memories. Every single one of us has our own special memories to do with Christmas. Memories are priceless and so are traditions, however, you can make those memories last by carrying on special traditions as an adult. I know I will be.
I really can’t praise this book enough because it exceeded any expectations that I had before I read it. Hilarious, witty and extremely magical.  A truly compelling story that has been written straight from the heart, with Santa’s sleigh bringing it straight to your heart.

A London Affair by Jan Ellis

A London Affair by Jan Ellis.
Published: 12th April 2016 by Endeavour Press.
Available to buy on Amazon UK and Amazon US in Kindle format.

‘Turning her back on university, Kate hopes to find an exciting opportunity that will take her away from wellies and wet sheep in the English countryside to the glitz and glamour of London.
However, after a year selling chutney on a chilly market stall, the prospects for a glittering career in the capital are looking increasingly unlikely.
All that changes when Ned, the intriguing buyer from a smart London deli, brings a welcome chance to follow her dream, and Kate finally embarks on a new chapter, leaving behind rural life and ex-boyfriend, Steve, in exchange for six months in the hectic café scene.
In Chelsea, Kate finds a bunch of ready-made friends in her flat-mates and grows close to Clare, Imogen, Freddy and the glamorous Russian heiress, Valentina. Imogen’s many comical attempts to find Kate a boyfriend backfire for Kate, but result in a twist in Immy and Freddy’s relationship.
Friendships deepen and secrets are revealed when Kate accepts an invitation to spend Christmas at the coast with Ned.
Back from the holidays, the flat-mates receive news that changes everything and forces Kate to make some big decisions: stay in London, return home or follow her heart to Cornwall?’

Do you remember what it’s like to have a choice about your life looming over your head? Remember making the big decision to begin your adult life as you choose, regardless of the hurdles, or begin your life the way that someone else wants you to? To be honest though, how many teens/twenty-something actually knew what they wanted to do when they grew up? A plan? I did, but life threw me curveballs. Just like Kate actually. She makes the decision to start her new found freedom the way that she wants, and not what her parents wanted her to do. Risky move? Probably, considering Kate has no idea what she is letting herself in for. She could find herself landing on her feet, or she could find herself regretting every single choice that she makes. Hopefully her new friends she finds herself bonding with, are good influences on her….

A London Affair was only the second novella (short story) that I have read, and it’s the first book of Jan’s that I have read as well! Huge thank you to Jan for giving me the opportunity to read her book! The first half of the book, I found myself realising that I was incredibly nosy as I wanted the characters and their pasts to be delved into a bit more, HOWEVER, as it is a novella, and you’re not going to find out what they had for breakfast in 1994, my nosiness doesn’t make the book bad at all. It just makes me realise that I am infact…..incredibly nosy and curious! By the second half of the book, I didn’t want it to end. I loved following Kate’s life in the story, finding out what choices she made and how her life turned out in the end. Several times whilst reading the book, I found myself feeling rather sorry for a couple of the characters because of the cards that they were dealt! Are people really that ignorant as to who’s around them? A London Affair is very romantic in multiple parts, there is always something that will make you go ‘awwwww!’. Well, if you’re a slush puppy like me that is. You never know! The story was also such a light and refreshing read, full of good intentions, bad choices and a girl trying to live her dream. What’s not to enjoy?

A book review of The Insignificance of You by Tammy Robinson.

The Insignificance of You by Tammy Robinson.
Published on the 10th December 2015.
Available to buy for your Kindle from Amazon UK.

‘After the death of her father when she was twelve years old, Skye Levene finds it easier to stick to her daily routine and keep her heart firmly closed against love. Without love, there is no possibility for hurt. At least so she thinks.

However, when she falls off the edge of a cliff and is saved by the mysterious Tai, routine goes out the window and suddenly she’s feeling things she never even knew were possible. Tai, fascinating, funny and sexy as hell, has his own burdens to bear, the reason why he’s camping out in the old abandoned lighthouse on the top of the cliff.

As snow falls and winter deepens, he introduces her to new experiences; card games, hot chocolate and the magic of stargazing. Most of all, he introduces her to love.

But when his past catches up with them, Skye is left wondering whether love is worth risking your heart for after all. 

First of all I would like to say a big thank you to THE Book Club and Tammy Robinson for the chance to read this book!

Skye hasn’t had the easiest of childhoods due to learning to cope with the death of her father. She tries to carry on with her life as best as she can, but, as the anniversary of her father’s death arrives, Skye’s life gets turned upside down. Again. But will Skye ever get her happily ever after? Or will she be faced with more heartbreak?

‘The Insignificance of You’ was the very first book that I have read (and come across) of Tammy’s, and now the bar is now raised incredibly high! Within the first few lines of the story, you’re transported to New Zealand (which is handy if you have never been!). The way Tammy has written about the surroundings is unbelievable. She has described them in such a way that I felt like I was standing on the edge of the cliff, looking out at the ocean. Tammy has stayed with the descriptive writing all the way through the story meaning that everything comes to life, and it’s like you’re in the story yourself.  I certainly felt that way because of the emotion and raw feelings that presented themselves within the story. Skye lives with her mum, and despite being in her late teens, her mother still worries about where she is and whether she can cope on her own. Rightly so if you think of their history!

I found every chapter to have a gripping moment which most certainly kept me even more interested as I carried on reading. I couldn’t wait to see what else happened and ended up reading faster than I do usually! More often than not, I was gasping in shock at the events unfolding before my very eyes. Although I will admit that I cried at the end…for two reasons. One: the ending of the story, and two: because the book was finished!! I didn’t want it to end and I was extremely disappointed that I had finished it. It was an unbelievable book to read from start to finish. I cannot find one thing that I didn’t like about it. There were no dull or slow moments and there was always something to keep you guessing. Personally, I found that the story spoke to me and contained very special messages. A message of following your heart no matter what the circumstances may be. A message of taking chances before it is too late and doing what YOU feel is right. I am in awe at what I read and I am (for once) struggling with my words. The Insignificance of You is such a brilliant and special read and I most certainly recommend this to anyone and everyone. You will not be disappointed. Even if you aren’t a big reader..you will love this!

Take a look at me now – Book Review

Take a look at me now by Miranda Dickinson.
Published: 24th October 2013 by Avon Books.
ISBN: 978-1-84756-235-7.
Available on Amazon in paperback and kindle format.

‘Nell Sullivan has always been known as ‘Miss Five-Year Plan’. But when she finds herself jobless and newly single on the same day, Nell decides it is time to stop planning and start taking chances.

Nell blows her redundancy cheque on a trip of a lifetime to a place where anything’s possible – San Francisco. There she meets a host of colourful characters, including the intriguing and gorgeous Max Rossi, Very soon the city begins to feel like Nell’s second home.

But when it’s time to return to London, will she leave the ‘new Nell’ behind? And can the magic of San Francisco continue to sparkle thousands of miles away?’

Have you ever wanted to change your life for yourself, but the mundane, everyday life took over, meaning that you’re unable to live in the moment? Meet Nell Sullivan. A woman whose job involves paperwork, and lots of it. Unfortunately her job is no more and her on-off ‘boyfriend’ decides to let her go. But is it unfortunate that Nell is no longer employed?

Nell has the opportunity to live a little, and by living a little she means booking a spur of the moment holiday to San Francisco to see her cousin Lizzie! Can’t really blame her after losing her job! Whilst in San Francisco she gets involved in the life style by sightseeing, helping her cousin in the after school club, oh, and getting work experience. Nell has the opportunity to learn more about a career that she has always wanted to explore, but the amount of hard work and challenges she faces comes as a bit of a surprise. Will Nell manage to make her dream come true and prove that she has moved on from her past? Or will she be faced with as many problems as she did in the U.K?

‘Take a look at me now’ was the very first book that I read of Miranda Dickinson’s. I came across it one day when I needed a little pick me up and with a title like that, I would have been a fool not to buy it. It was exactly what I needed to feel like ‘hey, I’m better than how you treat me’. Personally, the title had the power of making me feel like I was wiping smug looks off of people’s faces by going ‘take a look at me now’. Daft perhaps. Pretty powerful message though.

I have never been lucky enough to venture to San Francisco, but luckily Miranda Dickinson has! Because of that, she manages to capture the city in such an incredibly descriptive way that you’ll feel like you’re there, living the dream. Throughout the story you will do all the touristy things that Nell does, for example, having breakfast in an American diner and seeing the Golden Gate bridge, to name a few. Following Nell’s story from heartbreak and upset, to her flourishing in another country is incredibly refreshing. The obstacles that Nell faces yet still gets through is enough to make you think you can do the same in the moment.

I love how fast paced the story is because of all the swapping between various issues and the lifestyle Nell is currently in. Each character stood out in their own personal ways because of the personality Miranda has given them, and I think that can be hard to find when reading a busy story. I did tear up while I was reading the book (shock), I felt so sorry for Nell and the way she was treated. Especially when she had given her heart and soul to her new life, and that didn’t seem enough no matter what she did.  I also found the blurb to be spot on, you do end up cheering Nell on. You want her to find happiness, finally.

‘Take a look at me now’ is such a heart-warming read with an incredibly powerful message. I actually read the book two years ago, and it has stuck in my mind ever since, even to the point of writing this review now, two years later. It is definitely a book that, despite knowing exactly what happens, I would quite happily read it again and again. It’s crazy how words on a page can give you such a confidence boost after reading them, but it can take a very passionate author to get that power across in writing. If you are after a boost and a book to curl up in bed whilst eating copious amounts of chocolate, then this is for you.

Miranda Dickinson, thank you for writing confidence in a book. It is such a lovely story, I felt extremely content after reading it. You are very talented author, and I feel privileged to have you in my ‘circle’ so to speak! Brilliant.

 

Dream a little dream….

Dream a little dream of meeeee do do be do do de do…
You singing yet? Thought so. Did you have a childhood dream? By dream I mean something plausible and not the obvious one about wanting to be batman, or superman, or wonder woman! I mean seriously, we have all wanted to be one of those….or Iron man! No, I mean a dream that you would have done anything to achieve. You thinking about it? Good. I had an amazing ‘what I want to be when I grow up’. Well, two. I actually achieved one of my dreams when I was in my teens. I wanted to be a checkout girl! Stop laughing, I’m being serious! I wanted to work on the checkout so that I could sit down all day, I made my dream come true at 17. True story. As a child I wanted to be a singer, got plenty of practise singing into the light hanging from the ceiling…..’you know we belong togetherrrrrr, you and I forever and everrrrrrr’. Home and Away eat your heart out! Choreography was also on point, I mean, if Sclub 7 or Steps needed new members me and my brother could have filled in at a moments notice! We were that good. Well, we thought we were. In this day and age we would probably be seen as the joke act on the X Factor! Now there’s a thought!
I did have one other dream though, I wanted to be a published writer. I wanted to publish a children’s book for my own children. Is that still an aspiration of mine? Yes, it is. I never thought I could do it, I still don’t, but I don’t know unless I try. This is why I’m here, writing for you. Now while it is funny that I wanted to sit down all day back then, it’s not as funny now if you think about me and my situation. My situation is me being chronically ill, with not one, not two, but six conditions. Six that won’t go away. I could sit down all day, but unless I want to look like I’ve just been sitting in a freezer all stiff, moments after getting up, I can’t. Take my fibromyalgia for example (all over body pain – issues with the nerves, but can affect every part of your body), for an outsider looking in, it’s obviously far too easy to go ‘just get an early night and you’ll feel better’ or ‘take time to rest, you’ll feel better for it’ or ‘think positively’. Why didn’t I think of that!  Imagine this a second, imagine not being able to make any plans because you don’t know how you’re going to be when you wake up every morning, being exhausted just from taking a shower, parts of your body hurting and you haven’t done anything to make them hurt, feeling like you’re letting your loved ones down for not being ‘you’. How does that make you feel? Scared? Like you have lost a part of you?
You grieve for the life that you have lost, a life that had no limitations, a life you had more control over. Will I accept that I’m never going to get better, and that I’m reliant on tablets to keep me alive? To an extent, yes. Because that is the case. Will I accept that my life now has limitations…my body has limitations? Yes! I have to! It is either push myself and flare up for goodness knows how long after, or prioritise and be able to do things with my daughter and flaring up because of fun and not because I cleaned the kitchen floor. Not saying my kitchen is dirty by the way, totally an example!!
When you get told that you’re chronically ill on multiple occasions, you don’t really get told much, you have to go to your good friend Google. Me and google are BFFS!!! The illnesses are all completely unpredictable in their own very special (ahem) ways. The cognitive problems are sometimes more hurtful than the pain because I feel I can come across stupid if I get my words muddled up. I don’t want sympathy, I just want to be remembered. Not that hard really is it?
So the dream of me wanting to be a writer, a published writer, and feeling that now is the right time..you want to know why? Because me taking the control and working hard to try to make it a reality, is probably one of the few things I can be certain about. It is down to me to make this work. Words won’t write themselves. I have the control. I love to read, I love to write. If you truly want something and you know full well that if you don’t do it right now you may not even be able to do it in a few years time, it’s a kick up the youknowwhat. Grab the bull by the horns! Actually, don’t, I don’t think that is allowed. Is it?! Plus I can hide behind what I write to an extent. That isn’t me being false, it’s a way of escaping what I have to face. I may write something emotional but you won’t be seeing me cry so the embarrassment factor is no longer there.

Despite all of that, since 2013 I have had one main aspiration. One that will always be with me. I want to make my daughter (and my mum) proud of me. Every day is a battle for me, in various ways. Some days have more battles than others and I know I’ll not win every single battle I come up against. Does that bother me? No, not anymore. Whilst inside I think I’m Iron Man and can do everything, I can’t. I shouldn’t be expected to either. You all have your limits, be aware of them. Be true to yourself and the ones that love you, otherwise you will feel guilty. Believe me.

If you have somebody close to you right now that is needing a pick me up, don’t be all ‘awwww i’m sorry’ be all ‘here, have a cookie’ or just remember them. Goes for anyone really, even a stranger. I’m learning every single day that I fight my battles, but one thing I know is clear, the little things are what make it. The little things are important because they make up the bigger picture. You have to start somewhere…..