Sunday, 23 October 2022

The Empire by Michael Ball

The Empire
by
Michael Ball

I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Tour for Michael's first book. I hope to review this one as soon as I can, but with the postal strikes, i'm afraid it didn't come in time!


1922. 
When Jack Treadwell arrives at The Empire, in the middle of a rehearsal, he is instantly mesmerised. But amid the glitz and glamour, he soon learns that the true magic of the theatre lies in its cast of characters - both on stage and behind the scenes.

There's stunning starlet Stella Stanmore and Hollywood heartthrob Lancelot Drake; and Ruby Rowntree, who keeps the music playing, while Lady Lillian Lassiter, theatre owner and former showgirl, is determined to take on a bigger role. And then there's cool, competent Grace Hawkins, without whom the show would
 never go on . . . could she be the leading lady Jack is looking for?

When long-held rivalries threaten The Empire's future, tensions rise along with the curtain. There is treachery at the heart of the company and a shocking secret waiting in the wings. Can Jack discover the truth before it's too late, and the theatre he loves goes dark?

It my turn on the blog tour for Michael Ball’s very first novel. I am hoping to review soon, but I didn’t get the book in time unfortunately. Good luck Michael!

https://drive.google.com/uc?export=view&id=1nAz1nDnple8Pww-lYiBbcric4R7es6GM

Thursday, 20 October 2022

The Winter Dress

by

Lauren Chater

BLOG BLAST


I'm delighted to be a part of the Blog Blast for The Winter Dress by Lauren Chater which is published today. You can read my review below. 


Blurb
Jo Baaker, a textiles historian and Dutch ex-pat is drawn back to the island where she was born to investigate the provenance of a 17th century silk dress. Retrieved by local divers from a sunken shipwreck, the dress offers tantalising clues about the way people lived and died during Holland's famous Golden Age.
 
Jo's research leads her to Anna Tesseltje, a poor Amsterdam laundress turned ladies’ companion who served the enigmatic artist Catharina van Shurman. The two women were said to share a powerful bond, so why did Anna abandon Catharina at the height of her misfortune?
 
Jo is convinced the truth lies hidden between the folds of this extraordinary dress. But as she delves deeper into Anna’s history, troubling details about her own past begin to emerge.
 
On the small Dutch island of Texel where fortunes are lost and secrets lie buried for centuries, Jo will finally discover the truth about herself and the woman who wore the Winter Dress.


Review

Jo Baaker lives in Sydney, Australia, having moved there as a child when her parents died to live with her aunt. She originally came from a Dutch island called Texel.

She is a historian with a special interest in textiles and when she was headhunted to look at a dress from the 17th century that was brought to the surface from a shipwreck near her birthplace, she had to pack her bags and get on a flight back to Texel.

The dress belonged to a girl called Anna Tesseltje who came from Amsterdam, but what was she doing on the ship in the first place? this is what Jo needs to find out and also to find out more about the exquisite gown.

This is a dual timeline story (which I love) and the attention to detail and research the author did was very thorough and based on the real discovery of a shipwreck in 2014 in Texel.

A good read for historical fiction fans. 


Thursday, 13 October 2022

 Keeping a Christmas Promise

by

Jo Thomas

Review

by

Julie Williams


What a day for Christmas publications! And congratulations to Jo Thomas for Keeping a Christmas Promise and once again, to Julie Williams for reviewing. She does love a Christmas book!


Review

Keeping a Christmas Promise is a delightful festive fun read. It immediately transported me to snowy Iceland with its beautiful scenery and community.

When a group of friends honour their deceased friend Laura’s wish to see the spectacular Northern Lights, they embark on a mini trip to Iceland. None of them can really spare the money or time with their own hectic lives at this time of year but are determined to keep their promise to her. 

They start off in high spirits but soon encounter an avalanche as the Northern Lights evade them and are forced to stay in a remote area in the middle of nowhere but its' community are so welcoming that they soon begin to realise just where their lives have taken them and not always for the better.

I really enjoyed this Christmas story with its unique characters and I learned some Icelandic traditions.

My thanks to NetGalley and Transworld Publishers for the advanced digital copy of this gorgeous book.

 On the First Day of Christmas

by

Faith Hogan

Review 

by

Julie Williams


And I'm also delighted to say happy publication day to Faith Hogan for her new novel On the First Day of Christmas and thank you again to the lovely Julie Williams for reviewing!


Review

This Christmas story is a little confusing at first but all comes together and makes sense when I realised that it is two versions of one tale. 

Set in Dublin, an Accident & Emergency nurse Liz, still in the throes of grief after the death of her twin sister, experiences a near death event herself as she leaves the hospital after her shift. This event changes her life as this story continues in two different ways. 

It reminded me of the film Sliding Doors and required me to give my full concentration.

It wasn't a happy, heart-warming festive read that I am used to reading, so for me it did not fill me with Christmas spirit! However, it will not put me off reading this authors books in the future.

My thanks to NetGalley and Head of Zeus for the ARC of On The First Day of Christmas.

 A Christmas Celebration

by

Heidi Swain

Review

by

Julie Williams


I'm delighted to be able to bring you a review by the lovely Julie Williams for latest novel by Heidi Swain, A Christmas Celebration. Enjoy!


Review

A Christmas Celebration is not just about the festive season, it is about family, friends, and the magic that surrounds Wynthorpe Hall.

I love going back to re-visit the characters from Heidi’s previous books as she cleverly weaves them into this latest noel with such joy. I especially enjoyed Winter Wonderland, an annual event put on by the Connelly family in the beautiful grounds of the Hall, much to the delight of the community.

When Paige returns to England after leaving as an aid worker for a charity her parents suggest that as they are away she visits her Godfather Angus at Wynthorpe Hall. Paige is instantly welcomed back with open arms, love and understanding, which is just what is needed after the loneliness she has suffered recently. 

Paige discovers herself again with the help of the community and its glorious surrounding. Paige is a caring person so when she meets octogenarian Albert, she coaxes him out of his small world and they both get a new spark of life.

This third visit to Wynthorpe brings us readers a chance to meet new characters who I hope will feature in future books in this gorgeous setting of Norfolk.


My thanks to Net Galley and the publishers for this ARC.


Tuesday, 11 October 2022

 The Christmas Letters

by

Jenny Hale


Happy publication day to Jenny Hale for The Christmas Letters. The lovely Julie Williams has kindly reviewed for you.


Review by Julie Williams

The Christmas Letters is a gorgeous festive read from Jenny Hale filled with romance, snow, Christmas culinary that will have your mouth watering and so much more.

Elizabeth retreats to her hometown after her relationship of seven years ends in New York. 

Elizabeth is uncertain of where her life will take her next as she had gone to The Big Apple to pursue her dream, leaving the small community of Mason’s Ridge behind.

 Upon returning, she discovers that a corporate developer is seeking much of the land including her own family’s farm. Determined to keep her childhood home and all the memories it holds makes her realise that this is where her heart belongs.

This story has lovely characters with firm friendly natures that certainly gives a heart-warming feel to the book. It is a perfect winter read to cosy up to.

My thanks to Harpeth Road Press for the advanced copy and to Julie Boon for sharing my review on her blog.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

 Every Shade of Happy 

by

Phyllida Shrimpton


I am beyond happy to say that the lovely Phyllida Shrimpton has a new book out today called Every Shade of Happy. I am hoping to read and review this one as soon as I can, but I just wanted to make you aware of this fabulous author. Her first book Sunflowers in February was reviewed by me back in April 2018 on my blog and to this day, it is one of my favourite books and a story that will stay with me always....

Today I have an extract for you and it is the prologue to the book. I hope to review as soon as I can, so in the meantime enjoy the beginning of Every Shade of Happy by Phyllida Shrimpton.


Algernon is at the end of his life.
His granddaughter is at the start of hers.
But they have more in common than they think...

Every day of Algernon's 97 years has been broken up into an ordered routine. That's how it's been since the war, and he's not about to change now.

Until his 15-year-old granddaughter arrives on his doorstep, turning Algernon's black-and-white life upside down. Everything from Anna's clothes to the way she sits glued to her phone is strange to Algernon, and he's not sure he likes it.

But as the weeks pass, Algernon is surprised to discover they have something in common after all – Anna is lonely, just like him. Can Algernon change the habits of a lifetime to bring the colour back into Anna's world?



PROLOGUE

ALGERNON

1929

Algernon’s feet, constricted by brand-new leather shoes, dangled a good two inches above a bare wooden floor where he sat. The narrow bed, metal-framed and identical in every way to all the others in the dormitory, sagged wearily beneath him, and a coarse woollen over-blanket made the back of his legs itch. A single pillow, where he was to lay his head that night, whispered to him of other schoolboy’s nightmares still caught inside its cotton slip.

Algernon’s bony knees, poking out from black flannel shorts, sported ruddy brown grazes which peppered their way over the bulge of his kneecaps before disappearing into the carefully folded cuffs of his new grey socks. Dragging a nail along the skin of his right leg he gathered a line of pinprick scabby crusts which, when bringing his finger up close to his face, he was able to examine closely. Each one, he thought, was a beautiful relic of the life he’d left behind. He flicked the debris from his nail onto the floor and watched how a single tear of blood trickled down his shin before rather satisfyingly staining the cuff of his new grey socks. His knees told of a very recent and daringly triumphant act of bravery and for a brief, liberating moment Algernon indulged himself in the memory of it.

His fingers curled tightly around the railings of his village school and his face pressed against the cold, black iron. He was on the outside looking in. A ball, accidentally kicked onto the roof of the school, had wedged itself in the dip between the gables and the chimney and his friends were all looking up at it, defeated by the problem. Being the most adventurous of boys Algernon had, quick as a flash, climbed over the railings and scaled the side wall knowing every inch of it as he did. Having officially left the little school only the day before, he was trespassing now of course but finding himself back on the right side of the railings once again a delicious sense of familiar belonging lifted his heavy heart. In his mind he was shinning up

the drainpipe, the rough brick catching his hands until he reached the chimney stack and clung to it.

Two boys staged a fight to distract the schoolmaster while a gathering of upturned faces waited for the ball. He tossed it down to them. Still clinging to the chimney stack he tilted his face until he could feel the fresh wind against his cheeks. From his vantage point he could see past the village and out across an expanse of glorious fields, each patch-working their way towards the shores of the River Fal and an overwhelming need to fly gripped his soul.

Algernon stared at his knees, at the evidence of his ungraceful dismount from the roof into a surprisingly deep puddle where he was treated like a hero by his friends. The story they told belonged to yesterday. Yesterday he had said goodbye. Yesterday he was free to run wild in the green fields of Cornwall. Yesterday he was a child. Today, according to his parents and the sign above the entrance to his new private boarding school, Algernon Edward Maybury, aged seven years, was now a young Catholic gentleman.

God, Algernon had noticed, was in the very architecture of his new school, resplendent in arches and glorious through stained glass windows and His only son hung flogged and bleeding from a cross on seemingly every wall. God, however, felt entirely different in this place where his heart now quivered inside his skinny chest. Algernon’s God was in his church back in Cornwall where every Sunday a congregation of familiar faces coughed and rustled through hymns and the Divine Liturgy. Algernon’s God asked that everyone wore their best clothes to church and greeted each other with a smile on the way in. At Algernon’s church the priest always had a precarious dew drop on the end of his nose and Mrs Dyer, the organist, had an enormous bottom that always made him and his friends laugh behind their hymn books when they weren’t having their wrists slapped for being more interested in the contents of their nose than the word of Our Lord. Crying babies were jiggled in their mother’s arms and the air smelt of incense and the promise of Sunday luncheon.

This new God was different. The air in this building, this school where Algernon now sat on the narrow bed, was heavy with a thousand secrets all spiralling silently among the dust motes and hiding behind the eyes of the Brothers who held the futures of all one hundred and sixteen schoolboys in their care. Algernon knew that despite God or because of God, he wasn’t sure which, this place was not a happy place.

He also understood that from now on he could no longer expect to be called Algernon. He would, as his father informed him in the brief minutes between decanting his son from his Austin motorcar and hauling his huge school trunk from the boot of the car onto the drive, now be addressed by his surname ‘Maybury’. His father also informed him that he would excel in

class, be victorious in the sports field, and take it on the chin when a likely drubbing were to come his way. Algernon had nodded sombrely and wordlessly while his mother had simply smiled encouragingly, her earlobes stretched and wobbling from the huge pearls that hung heavily from them. His parents then climbed back inside their car offering final stiff-upper-lipped farewells and casting promises through the open window to see him in a few weeks’ time.

Algernon clenched his fingers tightly until his knuckles turned white and he craned his head towards the open leaded windows of the dormitory. If he willed them hard enough his parents might change their minds and return for him. The long drive outside, which led all the way to the huge iron gates, remained heartbreakingly empty. The overwhelming desire to fly away filled him to the brim and he wished with all his heart that he could climb onto the windowsill, grow wings and soar high into the clouds.

Echoes of the voices of other boys bounced across the dorm, along cold corridors and out from shadows. They told of pecking orders and alarming rites of passage that made Algernon… rather Maybury feel so terribly small. He didn’t cry, not then at least, but cast his gaze down towards his own, unpacked trunk and breathed in air that smelt of fear. When at last he understood that his parents most definitely would not be returning for him, he squeezed his small hands tightly together and prayed to his God back home that the school holidays would come quickly so that he could leave this place and return to the fields, the rivers and the beautiful craggy coastline of Cornwall where he belonged.


About the Author

Phyllida Shrimpton is a full time UK author who first wanted to write a novel after having a vivid dream at the age of 15 which she thought might make a good plot for a book. Finally in 2015 she finally stopped procrastinating about it and turned this dream into the plot for a YA novel, Sunflowers in February, published in 2018. This novel won the Red Book Award in Falkirk, Scotland and was shortlisted for the Centurion Book Awards for Bath and North East Somerset schools. The Colour of Shadows was published in 2019 and was shortlisted for the Amazing Book Awards.

Deciding to make the move to writing adult novels, Phyllida’s latest novel Every Shade of Happy will be published in August 2022 by Aria Fiction.

Phyllida’s books are centred around uplifting fiction and with the firm belief that there are two sides to every story.