A Day at Edinburgh International Book Festival (Day 2 of 2) @edbookfest

I was hoping to have this posted earlier but work and new job preparations have rather disrupted my plans. However, better late than never! I had a packed day 2 at the festival, I planned on going to four events but unfortunately had to leave before my final event, Matt Haig, because I wasn’t feeling well. I’m still upset I couldn’t stay for that event. Having said that the rest of the day was amazing, I learned some history, got my brain stretched and listened to some poetry so for more information on these, read on……..

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My first event was Susie Orbach who talked about her work and her latest book and explained how they had been able to write the book without impacting on client confidentiality.  The book was originally broadcast on radio 4 so people may already be familiar with it but even if you are it sounds like there is a lot to be learned in the reading, and possible re-reading of the book. They set up fake clients with fake, but genuine issues such as failed IVF treatements, impending retirement, etc and then the fake clients had a session with Susie. This is the closest you’ll get to understanding how counselling works eithout actually experiencing it yourself. There were a few people in the audience in a similar line of work who asked questions about how Susie manages her own mental health if she has had a particularly difficult or upsetting client and the state of mental health services for young people at the moment. 

Having volunteered in mental health myself for a few years I understood the issues that were raised but it was interesting to get someone else’s perspective on them. It was an enlightening discussion and a good way to start the day.

My next event was Alison Weir, who I’d not heard of prior to this but who writes historical fiction and is, herself, a historian. She’s currently writing a series of fiction books about the six queens and wives of Henry the Eighth and the book currently out is about Jane Seymour, wife number three. This talk was spellbinding, Alison showed us pictures of the main charaters and talked us through the life of Jane Seymour from when she came to court to when she died, punctuated with a few readings from her book. It was alive with colour and character and the audience appeared captivated, as was I. I knew little of Jane Seymour before this event but as I enjoy historical fiction I thought it would be interesting and I was not disappointed. If history classes in school had been like this I would have learned so much more than I did. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction should try these books and if you ever have the chance to see Alison Weir at an event talking about her work, go, you won’t regret it!

My last event of the day, and the only one I could get a picture of due to the lighting and my camera not being good in dark conditions, was New Passages: Scotland and India. It wasn’t what I exeptect at all but was fascinating and informative. An Lanntair, on Stornoway held Purvai, a celebration of South Asian arts and culture. It might seem an odd connection but as it turns out the first Surveyor General of India was Colin Mackenzie, from Stornoway. With this connection between Scotland and India and the 70th anniversary of Indian independence, Abir Mukherjee, Nalini Paul, Sandip Roy and Sampurna Chattarji studied items from the collection that Mackenzie created while in India and then created works of poetry or fiction from what they learned about Mackenzie and from the items they studied. This event was the culmination of a year of work which also included a visit to the Kolkata book festival earlier this year. At Edinburgh they read the works they had created from this year long exploration and discussed the experiences they have had on this journey. It was a very interesting event which was rich in colour and informative. The works that have been created from this project were all quite different and diverse. There was poetry as well as short stories and it was a lovely and educational way to spend an hour. 

This year was the first I have been to the book festival in approximately 10 years and it lived up to my expectations. Although it’s a busy festival it’s also peaceful and calm. The loudest noises are of people talking and when they are likely be talking about books, that’s not really noise at all. The covered walkways were ideal for when it rained, which it did a lot, my only criticism regarding those would be that they didn’t cover enough of the seating areas or access to toilets meaning some people couldn’t sit in dry areas or would get wet on the dash from the covered area to the toilets themselves so maybe a bit more covering is required for future years. Considering the small space in which the festival is held (not withstanding the expansion into George Street) there is a lot in the space but it doesn’t feel cramped which is a testament to whoever designed the layout. It’s a lovely experience to go to a festival that is in the city centre and fairly easy to access regardless of how you travel there. I don’t yet know what my plans for next year are but I hope they will involve at least one day back here.  

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A Day at Edinburgh International Book Festival (Day 1 of 2). @edbookfest @Lin_Anderson @antti_tuomainen @russeldMcLean @FrankRGardner @StuartMacBride @thestephmerritt @OrendaBooks

So today I went to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, as you can tell from the above picture I took the train, which gave me some time to enjoy the gorgeous Scottish countryside and get some reading done. I had a packed day (well afternoon and evening!) and had coincidentally booked the same events as the lovely Louise from The Scotsman who I bumped into not long after arriving. This meant that I was able t spend the day with someone I knew, as we had met previously at a book launch, and not wander around myself looking like a lost soul!  I had a brilliant time with Louise, it’s been a while since I could properly talk books with someone else, so to do it for a few hours was heaven. 

Anyway, we were kicking off the day with the Lin Anderson and Antti Tuomainen event and happily bumped into Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books, Michael J Malone and the event chair Russel D MacLean before the event started so spent some time talking with them before the event itself. 

There was a good crowd in The Spiegeltent for the event and I don’t think anyone left disappointed. I know I took the picture below when Lin Anderson was being introduced but can’t remember exactly what was being said at this point. However, going by her expression it was definitely amusing which set the scene for the hour to follow.

The event was a mixture of serious parts and humour, beginning with Antti’s observations on how our reality is currently stranger than fiction, Lin’s explanation of sleep paralysis and a discussion of keeping forensic information up to date as technology progresses. Both authors read from their newest works, Sins of the Dead and Palm Beach, Finland (Antti’s book is not out just yet but can be pre-ordered now or if you’re lucky you can buy a copy at the festival, if there are any left!).  The beginning of Sins of the Dead is intriguing, quite different from what I had expected and unusual but also creepy and gripping, I for one was enthralled. In stark contrast the beginning of Palm Beach, Finland had everyone laughing, I ended up in tears because it was so funny, but at the same time it is dark and slightly creepy too. If you want crime fiction that is completely different from your usual read this is definitely worth considering.

After a very brief recovery from a most entertaining hour it was time to immediately join the queue for the next event, Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, who has written a few books including a new thriller, Ultimatum which is out now. Everyone who regularly watches BBC news will be aware who Frank Gardner is from seeing him on there which is how I knew of him. What I didn’t know, however, was how funny he is. He entertained a huge audience with stories from Cairo, Columbia, Iran and other countries that he has visited. He is clearly very knowledgeable and was able to give a picture of countries, like Iran, which is so different from the one we get from the news and political commentary that exists at the moment. Until I saw the festival programme I had no idea he had written any fiction books (or any books for that matter) but when I saw his name there I was intrigued and, as someone who wants to expand their reading I thought this event would be a good one to add to my crime heavy bundle and I was not disappointed. Predictably the questions at the end of the event turned towards asking him what he thought would happen in various countries, such as Yemen, and he answered them well and in the best way he could. After all, although he has a lot of knowledge and experience, even he can’t predict the future. 

After this it was time for a quick bite to eat before ny last event of the day which was Stuart MacBride, hosted by Stephanie Merritt. I have to say this is the first book event I’ve been to where the author has stood up and sang to the audience, he even made Stephanie Merritt join in too which she did rather well. It was quite different from the other events of the day. There was a lot of discussion of writing, editors, other people’s opinion on crime fiction to highlight just a few. It was most entertaining and I have to say Stephanie Merritt did a fantastic job of managing Stuart MacBride (and yes, I think managing is the right word to use!). I enjoyed myself so much I bought the first book in the Logan McRae series, a series I have been contemplating trying for a while now, and have come home with a new, shiny, signed book to add to ny ever growing to-read pile. 

I’m back at the festival on Friday when I have a packed day seeing Susie Orbach, Alison Weir, New Passages: Scotland and India and Matt Haig.  

#CoverReveal : The Windmill Cafe (Book 1) by Poppy Blake. @Line_Reader @poppyblakebooks

This evening I am thrilled to be involved in the cover reveal for the first book in The Windmill Cafe series.  The cover is lovely and summery and I’ve included the blurb and a pre-order link below, should you wish to use it.  So, scroll down, have a read and then check out this lovely cover.

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Blurb:  The Windmill Cafe is open for business!

As Rosie Barnes serves glasses of tangy lemonade and ice-cold prosecco at her summer garden party, she couldn’t be happier. The Windmill Café, with its peppermint green sails is a roaring success and has given Rosie a chance to escape the heartbreak of her busy life in London.

But then disaster strikes when popstar Suki Richards is taken unexpectedly ill at the party. Now all eyes are on Rosie…have her famous raspberry cupcakes poisoned her most high-profile guest? Or is someone else trying to damage Suki’s chance of stardom?

If Rosie wants to save her picture-perfect life, and the reputation of her beloved Windmill Café, she’s going to have to get to the bottom of the mystery…and fast!

 

The book is released on 9th March but can be pre-ordered here.

 

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2018 Plans and Resolutions : Anne Stormont. @writeanne

Today I am thrilled to bring you a post from Anne Stormont, someone who sounds a lot like me due to her love of making lists although bullet journalling is something I have yet to try.  

Resolved and Raring to Go
I’m not all that keen on New Year resolutions. At least not ones of the lose lots of weight, become super fit, and become a better person variety. Been there, done that, failed miserably.

But I do like to plan. I love lists – master lists, sub-lists, mini-lists – lists of lists. I love post-it notes, notebooks and my latest passion – the bullet journal. When a friend recently introduced me to the concept of the life-planning notebook for uber planners like myself, I almost cried with gratitude. Two of my most favourite things – lists and stationery – had come together.   

At first I searched online and in real world stores but couldn’t find my dream bullet book and then one day while browsing in my local village bookshop, there it was – The Little Bullet Book. With sections such as: 

  • Life Overview
  • Task Tracker
  • Monthly Me
  • Wardrobe Detox
  • Day Planner
  • Project
  • My Goals

It was my perfect match. And with the help of this most excellent piece of stationery I am poised for a productive 2018 – both in my writing and in my personal life.

2018 Writing Goals:

  • Launch my latest novel in March. It’s called Settlement and is a sequel to Displacement
  • Write my next children’s book – like its predecessor The Silver Locket it will be aimed at 10 to 13 year-olds. It’s working title is The Silver Spider
  • Continue to blog and to network with fellow authors, book bloggers and my readers
  • Keep learning – about writing itself and about book marketing

2018 Personal Goals

  • Finish our house renovations. 
  • Visit our daughter, son-in-law and the grandchildren in Australia in July
  • Make time for me 
  • Keep up the daily 5k walk and my yoga practice
  • Go on the walking holidays, the weekends away, and do all the other nice timeout things that the last two years of upheaval haven’t allowed for
  • Spend more time with those who mean the most 

And that’s it. I have a plan. Although I’m mindful of John Lennon’s famous quote: Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans – so I’ll keep an open mind and expect the unexpected too. 

Do you make resolutions or plans? Whatever, I wish you a happy, peaceful and productive year.
Author Bio:

Anne has so far published two novels, Change of Life and Displacement. She is currently working on the sequel to Displacement.

Anne writes thoughtful, grown-up, romantic fiction where the main characters are older but no wiser. She thinks of her genre as Romance Plus – Plus realism, insight and grit. 

Anne also writes for children using the name of her alter-ego Anne McAlpine.

Anne blogs:https://putitinwriting.me

Twitter: @writeanne https://twitter.com/writeanne 

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/annestormontauthor/ 

The Little Bullet Book is by David Sinden and is published by Bluebird/PanMacmillan

Displacement’s Back Cover Summary:

From the Scottish Hebrides to the Middle-East, Displacement is a soul-searching journey from grief to reclamation of self, and a love-story where romance and realism meet head-on. Divorce, the death of her soldier son and estrangement from her daughter, leave Hebridean crofter, Rachel Campbell, grief-stricken, lonely and lost. Forced retirement leaves former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter needing to find a new direction for his life. When Rachel meets Jack in dramatic circumstances on a wild winter’s night on the island of Skye, a friendship develops, despite very different personalities. Gradually their feelings for each other go beyond friendship. Something neither of them feels able to admit. And it seems unlikely they’ll get the chance to because Rachel is due to leave for several months to visit family in Israel – where she aims to re-root and reroute her life. Set against the contrasting and dramatic backdrops of the Scottish island of Skye and the contested country of Israel-Palestine, Displacement is a story of life-affirming courage and love.

If you’re interested in reading Displacement before its sequel comes out then you can get it here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Displacement-Anne-Stormont/dp/0992930332/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1511456623&sr=8-1&keywords=Anne+Stormont

Blog Tour Review: The Silent Pool by Phil Kurthausen

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Blurb:

How long can the past be kept secret?

It is a time of austerity. Financial cuts are biting hard and the once great City of Liverpool finds itself now almost bankrupt. At the eleventh hour funding is found in the form of enigmatic billionaire Kirk Bovind, a religious zealot, determined to change the moral and religious fibre of his old hometown and bringing salvation to the streets.

So when a man disappears without trace solitary lawyer, Erasmus Jones, agrees to track down missing Stephen, but quickly discovers that this is more than just a missing person case. Men are being brutally murdered across the city and Erasmus suspects the deaths are all linked.

As the search for Stephen grows and the ripples from the past begin to spread Erasmus has to ask himself whether Bovind could be behind the killings or if someone is trying to frame him and weaken the strangle hold he has over the city?

Who will be the next to die…?

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20497356-the-silent-pool?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00HAJG0HG/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=x_gr_w_bb_uk-21&linkCode=as2&camp=1634&creative=6738

Giveaway: a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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My Rating: 4/5

Review:  This is a little different from the books I usually read. It’s an intriguing mix of a story as well, there’s missing people and murders which is clearly crime and my favourite genre so that’s not a surprise but the other side of the story is. It reminded me of the Black Mirror series (formerly of Ch4, now on Netflix) in which the near future is depicted as a ‘what if’.  In this story Liverpool is nearly bankrupt, there will be no money left soon to pay wages, collect refuse, etc but in comes someone who has grown up there and then made their fortune in the US. This person comes apparently to save his home city from ruin and that’s the Black Mirror bit for me. Everyone knows of the recent financial crisis and it’s almost as if the author has thought ‘what if things were worse?’ ‘what if someone with money came in to effectively buy the city?’. A slight stretch of the imagination but not ludicrously so given what I’ve seen and read in the news over the past few years.

These two parts for me make this an intriguing story, there’s the questions that come with the supposed salvation of the city and it’s benefactor, why, what’s in it for him, etc and then the disappearances and murders, what’s going on there and are they connected. 

The way the story is written gives the reader time with both aspects of it as both are equally important. The descriptiveness is good too, I’ve been to many cities in the UK but not Liverpool for some reason but the descriptions of both the city and the effects of weather, etc on it are vivid and definitely add an extra layer to the story.

I like crime and psychological thrillers and I would say this fits into both so would be worth a try for anyone who also likes these genres, and those who are new to them, but want something a little different from the books that are currently available. 
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About the author: Phil Kurthausen was brought up in Merseyside where he dreamt of being a novelist but ended up working as a lawyer. He has travelled the world working as a flower salesman, a light bulb repair technician and, though scared of heights, painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Ken Dodd once put him in a headlock for being annoying.

He has had work broadcast on BBC radio 4 extra, published some short stories and his novel ‘The Killing Pool’ won the Thriller Round in the Harper Collins People’s Novelist Competition broadcast on ITV in November 2011 and appeared in the final. It was later shortlisted for the Dundee International Literary Prize in 2012. He lives in Chester.

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/philkurthausen

Website: www.philkurthausen.com

Blog Tour Review: On Thin Ice by Aven Ellis

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Blurb

Holly Johansson knows some things in her life are certain after college graduation:

1.) It’s a long road to become a full-time author.

2.) She’ll need to work to pay her bills.

3.) And Dallas Demons superstar Matt Rhinelander will never return her feelings.

Holly knows her unrequited crush on the partying hockey player is ridiculous. There’s no way Matt would be attracted to a woman who prefers nights in watching TV or reading books when he’s known for his frequent bar hops and fast lifestyle. Obviously he would never see her as anything other than his teammate’s little sister.

Yet Holly is drawn to the other side of Matt—the man she knows has always been thoughtful and easy to talk to whenever she’s been alone with him. It is this Matt that fueled the crush Holly has on him. And she knows it will always be just that—a secret crush.

Or will it?

Because when Matt helps Holly through a crisis, her heart begins to believe that there might be feelings on his part, too. After a night of hard partying puts Matt in jeopardy with the Dallas Demons, can Holly be the one to save him? And when Matt admits he sees her as more than Nate Johansson’s sister, will it put both of them on thin ice?

Links

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/32505490-on-thin-ice

Amazon – mybook.to/thinice

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My Rating: 3.5/5

Review: This is the first book I have read by this author and I liked it a lot but it didn’t grab me quite enough for me to rate it higher.  Holly, one of the main characters was brilliant, I liked her a lot and could identify with her a great deal from the Harry Potter clothing to the fact she would rather stay home than go out partying.  Matt was also a good character but I found him a little too immature and didn’t connect with him as well as I did with Holly.

This is a nice, easy to read story that you can guess the ending of fairly early on but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story itself as you get to watch the relationships unfold and change as they get to know each other.  There’s not a lot  more I can say about the book because it didn’t wow me as much as I’d hoped it might and as a lot of it is character development to say more would just spoil it too much.  I felt there was a lot of emphasis on brand names which have never been of interest to me and still aren’t and I think things like that are part of the reason why I didn’t enjoy the book more, or to put it another way it’s me not the book.  The story is light and fun but with some serious issues in it but just wasn’t for me, much as I would like it to have been.  However, with the time of year it’s set during this is an ideal book if you want to cosy up over the holidays and read a light, slightly fairytale romance.  It is definitely a warm, comforting read for dark, cold winter nights.

 

About Author

I live in the Dallas area with my family. I enjoy clipping out recipes I will never get around to trying, working out, and chatting with friends on social media. I’m a hockey nut (Go Stars!) and watch as much as humanly possible. I also love shopping and fashion and admit to being obsessed with whatever the Duchess of Cambridge is wearing. In addition to be obsessed with the Duchess, I’m equally obsessed with any show or cookbook featuring Gordon Ramsay.

Links

Website/Blog – http://avenellis.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/@AvenEllis

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/AvenEllis1

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7265661.Aven_Ellis

Amazon Page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Aven-Ellis/e/B00GHUYO90/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1455968038&sr=1-1

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/avenellis/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest post and review: Holiday with the Mystery Italian by Ellie Darkins

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Blurb:   Since the accident that paralyzed him, Italian tycoon Mauro Evans vowed to embrace life. So when he stars in a dating show for charity, picking prickly journalist Amber Harris as the winner to take on holiday is a challenge he can’t resist!

In Amber’s experience, relationships equal pain, so she’s determined to ignore her attraction to charismatic Mauro. But his bravery and strength threaten to tear down her defenses, giving her a new Christmas dream—ringing in the New Year with wedding bells!

Guest post:  on dating shows.

My initial idea for my latest Mills & Boon story came from watching a dating show with my friends. It had been years since I’d sat and watched Blind Date with my family on a Saturday night, and I was shocked by what I saw. It was bigger, bolder and brasher than Cilla had ever been, with a host of gorgeous women making the lone man work hard for their attention.

But what really struck me was that the reason for watching was the same as back in the days of Our Graham and the slightly wobbly Blind Date screen – we love to watch people falling in love.

Since that reintroduction to the world of TV dating, I’ve got hooked on a load of different shows with wildly differing formats, demographics and levels of cringe. There’s Dinner Date, where the unlucky contestants get a microwave meal for one delivered to their door by way of a let-down (I nearly wept at the unlucky contestant who didn’t even own a microwave), and the high-concept Marriage at First Sight, where the couple meet for the first time at their own wedding. And my all-time fave – First Dates – which takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to a restaurant patronised solely by couples meeting for their first date. It’s an hour of TV that leaves you shocked, surprised and disbelieving in turn, but by the end of the show the resounding feeling is one of hope – that one of the couples you have been watching will get their HEA.

In this way it’s not that different from picking up a Mills and Boon, seeing those tentative first steps that the hero and heroine take together. Trying to find out what makes them connect, where the difficulties in a relationship are going to lie. Whether they’re going to be prepared to work hard to overcome those difficulties. The one major difference, however, is the outcome. Much as we might be cheering those TV couples on as they share their first meal together, more often than not the catch-up taglines at the end of the programme show that even some with the most promising starts fizzled out before they really started. The success rates vary from ‘not great’ to ‘really terrible’ depending on which show you watch. But when you pick up a good romance, you know that that’s one thing it will deliver – a happy ever after, every time.

And as for how my para athlete Mauro and heartbroken journalist Amber get on when they meet in front of the cameras? Well you’ll just have to read on to find out!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Review: There’s a lot in this post already so I’m not going to say much other than I really enjoyed this book.  Yes, it’s a romance and you can probably guess what will happen in the end but the journey there is the most important and interesting part and this journey in particular is quite different from the other books of this genre that I’ve read in the past.  The two main characters are flawed but in different ways than you might expect and watching them come together and spark off each other was rather fun.  There aren’t many characters in this story and it works even better for it, the focus is on Mauro and Amber and that’s exactly where it should be.  The premise is good and different from usual and it works really well and I especially liked the twist about the holiday abroad and it’s exact location.

If you already enjoy romance books then you’ll definitely enjoy this one and if you haven’t read any before but fancy something a little different, especially in the hectic run up to Christmas then this is definitely an excellent choice.  Perfect in whatever setting you choose as long as it is away from any hustle and bustle and you can just drift away abroad and watch the magic happen.

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Ellie Darkins writes heart-warming stories about falling in love, finding your soul mate and fighting hard to make real relationships work. The HEA is guaranteed, but nothing else along the way is. Expect to see surprise babies, breath-taking settings and alpha heroes by the bucketload. Plus steamy kisses, heaps of sensual tension, and fireworks just audible from behind a closed bedroom door.

Elliedarkins.com

Facebook: facebook.com/elliedarkins

Twitter: twitter.com/elliedarkins

Insta: Instagram.com/ellie_darkins