Review: A Sunset in Sidney, by Sandy Barker

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About the book, A Sunset in Sydney

 

  • Publisher: One More Chapter (July 3, 2020)
  • Publication Date: July 3, 2020
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

A Sunset in Sydney CoverHow far would you go in the name of love?

Sarah Parsons has a choice ahead of her. After the trip of a lifetime she’s somehow returned home with TWO handsome men wanting to whisk her away into the sunset.

Pulled in two directions across the globe, it’s making life trickier than it sounds. Her gorgeous American, Josh, wants to meet Sarah in Hawaii for a holiday to remember. Meanwhile silver fox, James, plans to wine and dine her in London.

It’s a lot to handle for this Aussie girl, who had totally sworn off men!

Join Sarah after her adventure in One Summer in Santorini, for the heart-warming and uplifting third novel in The Holiday Romance series.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Google Play | Kobo | Waterstones | Goodreads


About the author, Sandy Barker

A Sunset in Sydney - Author Photo Sandy BarkerSandy Barker is an Australian writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list and a cheeky sense of humour. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.
Many of Sandy’s travel adventures have found homes in her writing, including her debut novel, a contemporary romance set in Greece, which was inspired by her true-life love story.

Connect with Sidney:

Blog | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATWhen the world around you is in turmoil, and all your travel plans have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, a light, happy romance is practically medicinal.

Sandy Barker’s third entry into her Holiday Romance series, A Sunset in Sydney, fills that prescription perfectly. It’s light but not too fluffy, keeps you entertained, and has really engaging characters, as well.

Sarah, our protagonist, opens the novel with a complaint many of us wish we’d had when we were young and single: two love interests. James a “silver fox” she meets while sightseeing, and Josh, whom she meets on the same vacation, on a ten-day sailing trip, and whom she immediately has what she calls a “Ross and Rachel, will they / won’t they” relationship.

Both men are engaging, witty, attractive. James is in London, where Sarah’s sister Cat also is, so she uses her time there to meet up with him, and Josh, the “cute American” has made plans to meet her in Hawaii four months after their initial sailing trip.

What follows is typical romance novel fare, made distinctly original by Barker’s handling of both comedy and flirtation. Instead of a cookie-cutter story, we are treated to a tale about people who are all searching for what they truly want out of love and life, with trial and error, doubts and insecurities, misfires and marvelous encounters, all wrapped up in a package of well-written dialogue, and characters you truly enjoy spending time with.

This was my first introduction to Barker’s work, but I’m hooked and can’t wait to read the other novels in this series, as well as her other writing.

Overall, this is the perfect light read, for summer, for quarantine, or just for a murky, damp weekend when you want to escape into someone else’s life for a while.

Goes well with grilled tequila lime shrimp and a margarita on the rocks.


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Sun, Sea and Sangria, by Victoria Cooke

Sun, Sea, and Sangria

About the book, Sun, Sea and Sangria

 

  • Print Length: 289 pages
  • Publisher: HQ Digital (June 10, 2020)
  • Publication Date: June 10, 2020
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

Sun, Sea and SangriaKat swore off dating many years ago, after her marriage ended in a catastrophic mess. Having moved to the Canary Islands for a fresh start, she has never had much time for romance, channelling all her energy into managing all-male dance troupe – the Heavenly Hunks.

 

With golden beaches, sparkling blue water and relaxing after work with a glass of sangria – or three – for Kat, it’s summer all year round. But despite life being postcard perfect, Kat can’t help but wonder if she is missing out on the most important thing of all… love.

The dancers are all well-known for their flirtatious antics and aren’t looking for anything serious… except Jay. Sitting by the pool, watching the sun reflecting in the water, Kat feels like she can tell him anything.

Handsome, caring and a good listener, he ignites a fire in Kat’s heart that scares her witless. But her relationship with Jay should stay strictly professional… right? There is absolutely no way that she can be his boss and his date.

As the temperature rises, will Kat be able to take the plunge, let go of her past and find romance in paradise?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Victoria Cooke

Suns Sea - Victoria Cooke New ImageVictoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016 which was selected for onscreen adaptation in April 2020.

Her third novel, Who Needs Men Anyway? became a digital bestseller in 2018.

Connect with Victoria:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATMy first introduction to Victoria Cooke’s writing was when I read and reviewed her lovely novel A Summer to Remember last year, so I was eager to jump into another of her books, especially since her stories are such a great escape from the every-day. In this summer of lockdown, a novel that takes place in Tenerife and features a cast of hunky male dancers was just what I needed.

But, Cooke’s books are never the fluff they might seem. In this novel, Sun, Sea and Sangria, we get a protagonist in Kat who isn’t some idealistic twenty-year-old. Rather, she’s eight years out of a bad marriage, and pointedly not-dating while managing the Heavenly Hunks. It’s a breathtaking relief to encounter a character who has experience in both love and life, and has learned from it, and I really appreciated Kat’s journey – she had healing to do that she’d been compartmentalizing for the better part of a decade, and when love walked  – danced – into her life again, she had to prepare herself. I loved that. I loved that even though she wasn’t a fresh-faced college kid, she was still unsure and cautious. I think most of us are, and it made her character seem that much more real.

The leading male, Jay, was, likewise, not as young as the rest of the dancers. He, too, brought experience into the story, even if his initial overtures to Kat were strictly professional.

Dating someone you work with is always a risky proposition, but Cooke makes that a plot point, and does so with the same deftness she does everything else. I had no trouble envisioning any of the characters or settings, though I think this book should be sold with a bottle of sangria on the side.

Overall, this is a lovely, flirty, flight of fancy with just enough realism to keep it from becoming saccharine. The perfect summer read. Even in quarantine.

Goes well with pulled pork sandwiches and drinks with umbrellas and rum. Lots of rum.


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Review: The English Wife, by Adrienne Chinn

About the Book, The English Wife

The English WifeTwo women, a world apart.

A secret waiting to be discovered…

VE Day 1945: As victory bells ring out across the country, war bride Ellie Burgess’ happiness is overshadowed by grief. Her charismatic Newfoundlander husband Thomas is still missing in action.

Until a letter arrives explaining Thomas is back at home on the other side of the Atlantic recovering from his injuries.

Travelling to a distant country to live with a man she barely knows is the bravest thing Ellie has ever had to do. But nothing can prepare her for the harsh realities of her new home…

September 11th 2001: Sophie Parry is on a plane to New York on the most tragic day in the city’s history. While the world watches the news in horror, Sophie’s flight is rerouted to a tiny town in Newfoundland and she is forced to seek refuge with her estranged aunt Ellie.

Determined to discover what it was that forced her family apart all those years ago, newfound secrets may change her life forever…

This is a timeless story of love, sacrifice and resilience perfect for fans of Lorna Cook and Gill Paul.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, Adrienne Chinn

Adrienne ChinnAdrienne Chinn was born in Grand Falls, Newfoundland, grew up in Quebec, and eventually made her way to London, England after a career as a journalist. In England she worked as a TV and film researcher before embarking on a career as an interior designer, lecturer, and writer. When not up a ladder or at the computer, she can usually be found rummaging through flea markets or haggling in the Marrakech souk. Her second novel, The English Wife — a timeslip story set in World War II England and contemporary Newfoundland — is published in June 2020. Her debut novel, The Lost Letter from Morocco, was published by Avon Books UK in 2019. She is currently writing her third novel, The Photographer’s Daughters, the first of a 3-book series, to be published in 2021.

Connect with Adrienne:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

MissMelissHATI’ve been obsessed with the musical Come From Away, which tells the story of how the people of Gander, Newfoundland welcomed the “plane people”  – the travelers of the thirty-seven international flights that were diverted away from U.S. airspace after the Twin Towers were destroyed on September 11, 2001.

The English Wife is not connected to the musical, and yet, because I know the play, the contemporary parts of this wonderful novel felt very familiar to me, as they also take place in Gander, Newfoundland, beginning on September 11th, 2001, and continuing from there, as one of the many vibrant female characters in the story, Sophie, is one of the “plane people.”

But, not all of the novel takes place in Gander – half the story is set in England during World War II, where we meet Ellie and Dottie, sisters living with daily fear of bombings, as well as the thrill of being young women (well, Dottie is really just a girl when we first meet her) in the first blushes of young love.

The story is a sweeping family drama, with three strong women at the center – Ellie and Dottie in the distant past, and Sophie in the recent past – but there are also male characters who add to the tale, for they are the love interests, the people who gently push the women to greater achievements, and the quiet presences who balance their partners.

Thomas and George, in the WWII sections, and Sam in the more contemporary parts of the story are those central male figures, and they are each as interesting and dimensional as the women with whom they interact.

Rounding out the story is a host of supporting characters, most importantly Emmett (Emmy), Florie, and Becca (Sam’s daughter, who is deaf.)

Author Adrienne Chinn weaves the historical and contemporary parts of her tale together with great aplomb, and her craft is really highlighted by her use of the Newfoundland dialect and the way she describes people using sign language with Becca. (As an aside, I’m now curious as to whether Newfoundlanders use ASL or BSL or something specifically Canadian.) Her skill with dialogue does as much to tell us about her characters as their physical descriptions do.

Overall, this was a story rich in cultural and historical detail, family drama, and a plot that had the perfect pace for a novel  that blends history, romance, personal tragedy, and layered relationships into a satisfying and compelling whole.

Goes well with corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and a really good ale.

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Review: A Shop Girl at Sea by Rachel Brimble

A Shop Girl at Sea

About the book A Shop Girl at Sea

  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Aria (April 9, 2020)
  • Publication Date: April 9, 2020

A Shop Girl At Sea CoverBath, 1912.

Amelia Wakefield loves working at Pennington’s, Bath’s finest department store. An escape from her traumatic past, it saved her life. So when Miss Pennington sets her a task to set sail on the Titanic and study the department stores of New York, she couldn’t be more excited – or determined!

Frustrated with his life at home, Samuel Murphy longs for a few weeks of freedom and adventure. Meeting Amelia on board the Titanic, Samuel can’t help wonder what painful history has made the beauty so reserved. But he already has too many responsibilities for love.

Ruby Taylor has always kept her Pennington co-workers at a distance. Making sure her little brother is safe has always been her priority. But when that means accepting Victoria Lark’s offer of sanctuary, more than one of Ruby’s secrets is under threat of being revealed…

A riveting and uplifting saga, perfect for fans of Elaine Everest and Fiona Ford.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Rachel Brimble

Rachel BrimbleRachel Brimble is the author of the popular Pennington’s Department Store series. Set in Bath’s finest Edwardian department store, the series is a romantic saga filled with drama, intrigue and long-lasting love.

The first book, The Mistress of Pennington’s was a number one bestseller in the Amazon historical category in Australia and also selling well in the UK and US. The second book, A Rebel At Pennington’s was released in February 2019 and the latest instalment, Christmas At Pennington’s was released in September 2019. The next book is due for release in Spring 2020 (all books can be read as single titles).

She also wrote the Harlequin Templeton Cove series which consists of eight books that are either mainstream romance or romantic suspense stories. The Templeton Cove series is sexy, romantic and compelling. Finally, she has written a four-book Victorian series for Kensington Books and several single titles for The Wild Rose Press.

Her next trilogy will be set in a Victorian brothel in Bath and will feature three strong, resilient heroines who come together in the name of survival. Watch this space for news of a release date for book one!

When Rachel isn’t working she likes to read, knit, watch TV and walk the English countryside with her family and beloved chocolate Labrador, Tyler.

To find out more about Rachel’s novels, go to her books page – it’s quite possible there will be more than one title to tempt you…


My Thoughts

MissMelissA Shop Girl at Sea, is the fourth book in author Rachel Brimble’s Pennington’s series, which all revolve around the eponymous store in Bath. To the honest, I haven’t read the first three books in this series, so I was a little concerned that I would be at sea. Fortunately, this novel works well as a stand-alone, and I immediately found myself thoroughly engaged with the three stories that are woven together in this story.

Amelia’s story, of course, is the central one, and in this young woman we are given a heroine for all ages, not just the early twentieth century. She’s bright, curious, loyal to those who deserve it and has a healthy amount of ambition. She’s also got a dark and difficult past – which makes all of her good qualities seem much more real, and make her fully human. She’s flawed, as are we all, but she’s working to improve herself.

Then there’s Ruby, whose story has an interesting juxtaposition to Amelia/s. Both are Pennington ‘s shop girls, but Ruby’s threat begins with darkness and moves toward the light in a way that is both heartwarming and incredibly bold for the times.

And finally, there’s Sam who gets a position on the Titanic to escape from his own troublesome family life.

While Sam and Elizabeth meet on the ill-fated ship, that part of the story is a catalyst and a metaphor. It’s a catalyst because experiencing such an event (and Ruby, who does not go on the ship experiences it as well, just not quite so viscerally) changes you, often in ways that take years to truly discover. But it’s also a metaphor, because while Sam and Elizabeth are literally at sea for part of the story, all three characters are at sea in their lives, caught between brutal reality and their hopes and dreams.

Author Brimble was wise not to make this another Titanic novel, but rather a novel that has the ship in it, and her talent really shows at the way she uses that oh, so famous incident to serve the story she’s really telling, without letting it overpower the tale.

I found the characters to be emotionally truthful representatives of every-day people, the sort we can all relate to, because most of us are not so different. I found this novel to be completely engaging and well worth the read.

Goes well with hot tea and lemon scones.

Review: The Gift of Cockleberry Bay, by Nicola May – with Giveaway

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About the book, The Gift of Cockleberry Bay

 

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Lightning Books (April 1, 2020)
  • Scroll down for giveaway.

The Gift of Cockleberry Bay FINAL COVERFrom the author of the #1 BESTSELLING The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay

All of our favourite characters from Cockleberry Bay are back in this final, heart warming story in the series. Including Hot, Rosa Smith’s adorable dachshund and his new-born puppies.

Now successfully running the Cockleberry Café and wishing to start a family herself, Rosa feels the time is right to let her inherited Corner Shop go. However, her benefactor left one important legal proviso: that the shop cannot be sold, only passed on to somebody who really deserves it.

Rosa is torn. How can she make such a huge decision? And will it be the right one? Once the news gets out and goes public, untrustworthy newcomers appear in the Bay . . . their motives uncertain. With the revelation of more secrets from Rosa’s family heritage, a new journey of unpredictable and life-changing events begins to unfold.

The Gift of Cockleberry Bay concludes this phenomenally successful series in typically brisk and bolshy style and will delight the many thousands of Rosa’s fans.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon US | Amazon UK


About the author, Nicola May

The Gift of Cockleberry AuthorNicola May lives in the UK, five miles from the Queen’s castle in Windsor, with her black-and-white rescue cat, Stan. Her hobbies include watching films that involve a lot of swooning, crabbing in South Devon and devouring cream teas.

Her bestselling The Corner Shop in Cockleberry, the 1st book in the Cockleberry Bay series, went to #1 on Amazon and stayed there for an unprecedented 6 weeks.

She classes her novels as ‘chicklit with a kick,’ writing about love, life and friendships in a real, not fluffy kind of way. She likes burgers, mince pies, clocks, birds, bubble baths and facials – but is not so keen on aubergines.

Connect with Nicola:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Since I haven’t read the first two books in the Cockleberry Bay trilogy, I was a bit concerned that jumping into book three would be confusing. I was wrong. Nicola May’s writing is so vivid, that the characters, both established and new, in The Gift of Cockleberry Bay jumped off the page and into my brain, and my heart.

And how could they not?

Rosa and Josh, Sara, Jacob and Raffi, Alec, Mary, and all their dogs (and one cat) inhabit the sort of coastal village where I was born (albeit mine was an American version) and where I long to live. Sure, there’s constant gossip because everyone’s lives are interconnected, but there’s also support, friendship, and love of every kind. Even better, Cockleberry Bay is a town with a cute cafe (ROSA’s named for ROsa and SAra), a nicer restaurant, a pub, and a corner shop that features pet paraphernalia. I was ready to move in within twenty pages.

But this novel is not all fluff. It opens with a major storm that causes real damage to the town. It has family drama (long lost relatives turning up), romantic drama – Josh and Rosa spend a lot of the novel on separate continents because of his work, and they’re also trying to conceive – and town drama: Rosa has decided it’s time to pass the Corner Shop on to a new caretaker, but who will that be?

All of this is shared with descriptions that put you in the scene, and by characters who are fully dimensional. Reading this, I felt like I was sipping coffee in the cafe, watching it all unfold before me.

Is this a romantic novel? Yes. But it’s not a romance in the Silhouette sense of the word (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Rather, this is a novel that explores the comedy and tragedy of normal life in a small town, in a version of reality that’s only slightly heightened. Plus there are cute dogs.

Goes well with coffee and a bacon sandwich.


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Review: Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds, by Nick Albert

Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds

Fresh Eggs KindleAbout the book, Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds

Nick and Lesley Albert yearn to leave the noise, stress and pollution of modern Britain and move to the countryside, where the living is good, the air sweet, with space for their dogs to run free. Suddenly out of work and soon to be homeless, they set off in search of a new life in Ireland, a country they had never visited. As their adventure began to unfold, not everything went according to plan. If finding their dream house was difficult, buying it seemed almost impossible. How would they cope with banks that didn’t want customers, builders who didn’t need work, or the complex issue of where to buy some chickens?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Paperback (Amazon UK) | Paperback (Amazon US) | Kindle (Amazon UK) | Kindle (Amazon US) | Audible (UK) | Audible (US) | Goodreads


Fresh Eggs Author ireland 3 004About the author, Nick Albert

Nick Albert was born in England and raised in a Royal Air Force family. After leaving College he worked in retail management for several years before moving into financial services where he quickly progressed through the ranks to become a training consultant. As a very passionate and reasonably talented sportsman, Nick had always wanted to use his training skills towards creating a parallel career, so in the mid 1980’s he qualified and began coaching sport professionally. After a health scare in 2003 and in search of a simpler life, he and his wife Lesley, cashed in their investments, sold their home and bought a rundown farmhouse in the rural west of Ireland – a country they had never before even visited. With little money or experience and armed only with a do-it-yourself manual, they set about renovating their new home, where they now live happily alongside a flock of chickens, two ducks and several unruly, but delightful dogs.

In 2017 Nick was signed to Ant Press to write a series of humorous memoirs about his life in rural Ireland. Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds (book one) was published in September 2017 and soon became an Amazon bestseller. Book two in the series was published on 1st June 2018 and book 3 in August 2019. Book four is due out in early 2020.

Nick is also the author of the twisty thriller, Wrecking Crew, the first in a series of books featuring reluctant hero Eric Stone.

Connect with Nick:

Website | All Author | Amazon | Facebook (Personal) | Facebook (Page) | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube


MissMeliss2020My Thoughts

For almost my entire adult life, I’ve loved stories of people moving to new places and building or refurbishing their homes. Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence was my “gateway book” in this respect, but since then, I’ve read many others.

It should be no surprise, then, that when given the opportunity to read and review Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds, the first book in Nick Albert’s saga of moving from England to Ireland to revamp, not only a “secondhand” home, but also his own life, I leapt at the chance with all the excitement of a dog chasing a tennis ball. (Like one of Nick’s dogs, mine are into the chase, but not so good at the retrieval part of the game.)

I was immediately absorbed by Nick’s story. He’s candid about the less pleasant aspects of his life – facing repeated staff reductions at work and being the lone survivor (something my husband has gone through more than once) – and then choosing the redundancy package so that he could make a fresh start. (Is it just me, or do these things sound more civilized when phrased in British English instead of American?)

I laughed at the bit where he described the pushpin-and-atlas method of choosing a new place to live to his (adult) daughter (to be fair, this method did not work), and nodded in sympathetic understanding at every mention of a contractor whose work was dependent on other contractors’ work being done, or who couldn’t meet a deadline, having heard similar stories from my own parents when they retired to Baja California Sur, Mexico, twenty years ago (in their case, they refurbished one house, built their second, and then sold that and built their last house, which my mother just sold in the aftermath of my stepfather’s death).

Nick is an engaging storyteller. I felt like I was experiencing all these life changes with him. I could feel the rain, breathe in the wind, and smell the distinctive odor of a dog who has rolled in something disgusting. I was disappointed when I came to the end of this first volume, and then delighted when I realized two sequels are already available, and a third will be coming out later this year.

If you are the kind of person who sees those Facebook ads to buy an island in Scotland, or who fantasizes about moving to Italy every time you catch a few minutes of Under the Tuscan Sun, you will love this book. If you don’t do either of those things, you will still find Fresh Eggs and Dog Beds a worthy read, because of the warmth, honesty and humor with which it was written.

Goes well with cottage pie and a pint of ale.

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Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery by Sharon Ibbotson

About the book, Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery

  • Print Length: 210 pages
  • Publisher: Choc Lit (December 4, 2019)

Hanukkah days, Christmas nights and strawberry ice cream … 

Cohen Ford is a man who could do with a little bit of sweetening up. It’s no surprise that when he walks into The Great Greenwich Ice Creamery on a typically gloomy London day before Christmas, he insists on a black coffee rather than his childhood favourite – strawberry ice cream.

But then he meets River de Luca, the woman behind the flavours. After their first encounter, Cohen begins visiting the ice creamery every Tuesday, gradually learning more about the intriguing River. Could her influence encourage cynical Cohen to become the man who embraces Christmas, Hanukkah and even strawberry ice cream?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the author, Sharon Ibbotson

Author Bio – Sharon was born in Sydney, Australia but now lives in London with her husband, two small children and two black cats named for desserts. She started writing ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ fanfiction aged 15, which eventually transformed into the historical romance novels she writes today. She has two novels published by Choc Lit, and when not writing, can be found baking cakes badly or drinking wine well.

Connect with Sharon:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts

Melissa A. BartellThere are books that fall into your life with little fanfare and end up being absolute treasures. For me, this December, one of those books is Sharon Ibbotson’s Hanukkah at the Great Greenwich Ice Creamery, which is a romance told in food and shared stories.

It’s the structure of the novel that struck me first. Each chapter is headed by a word – usually a food item, but not always – and then the chapter builds to include that word. Sometimes that inclusion is offhand, other times it’s extremely important – in “Apple” for example, our romantic lead, Cohen Ford, learns the BSL sign for “apple,” from his love interest, Rachel, a deaf woman who was adopted as a young girl by his mother’s close friend. The keywords are important, but the chapters feel so organic that everything flows perfectly.

Then there’s the ice cream – the different flavors serve to punctuate the emotions of each character… another bit of craft that I admire Ibbotson for doing so, so well.

Of course, this novel isn’t just a romance. It’s a piece about mothers and sons, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons, those early relationships that color all our lives, and influence our choices long into our adulthoods.

While I began the novel not really liking Cohen Ford, I grew to appreciate him. His growth in this novel is exponential, and mostly self-directed. River may be his muse (of a sort), but he did the hard work, the internal work, himself, turning into a character I would love to follow into a future novel.

I also appreciated the way the author incorporated the use of sign into the piece. Any kind of foreign language or dialect can be tricky to depict, but Ibbotson did a fabulous job of incorporating descriptions of British Sign Language (some of which confused me, because it’s SO different from American Sign Language, which I’m not fluent in, but recognize and get the gist of).

While Cohen is the main character (and kudos to the author for writing a romance from the male POV), River, her mother Rushi, and Cohen’s mother Esther are all equally dynamic. Having spent a chunk of my life with a Jewish (step)grandmother, I found Esther’s cadences so familiar. She isn’t a stereotype by any means, but she’s very much a Jewish mother, despite her career and remarriage being less-than-typical.

I also liked the character of Billy a lot… this hearing father of a deaf son is the kind of parent every kid should have, and he acted as a sort of interpreter for Cohen and River, not only literally, but also translating their emotions. Everyone needs a family friend like Billy.

The pacing of this book was just right, neither super-fast nor mind-numbingly slow, and at times, when one of the characters was relating a memory, the language was almost lyrical.

And then there’s the delight of a novel that mixes Hanukkah and Christmas themes into a single story without it becoming us vs. them.

This is a much deeper novel than the back cover blurb implies, and I recommend it to everyone looking for a holiday read.

Goes well with: strawberry ice cream or melon gelato. You choose.

 

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Review: A Friend in Deed, by G.D. Harper – with Giveaway for UK Residents

A Friend In Deed

About the Book, A Friend in Deed

 

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Troubador Publishing (October 18, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • Scroll Down for Giveaway

A Friend In Deed CoverBritain: a few years from now. A new populist political party has won the recent general election.

Duncan Jones, freelance political journalist and blogger, loses his weekly column at a national newspaper and turns to investigative reporting. The chance remark of a friend leads him to suspect that the Russians are directing the new British government’s policies and decisions. As he visits Moscow and Ukraine to discover more, scandal follows intrigue, dark forces attempt to silence him by whatever means possible and he turns to an unlikely ally for help.

A Friend in Deed is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in an all-too-believable near future. It is also the story of how one man confronts the traumas in his past and works out how to resolve them.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

Amazon (US) | Amazon (UK) | Goodreads


About the Author, G.D. Harper

I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.

In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.

I worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me the ideas for the plot and setting that I used in A Friend in Deed.

Connect with G.D.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


My Thoughts

melysse2019.jpgx100A Friend in Deed is set “a few years from now” but it’s eerily close to what we see happening in both the U.S. and the U.K. with the shifts in politics and the way the media is being manipulated.

In this novel, Duncan Jones, aka political blogger Richard Foxe, and novelist Mark Jackson is a middle-aged journalist finding himself a victim of the fading of print media when two things happen at once: his paper downsizes him, basically requiring that every story be a “scoop,” and he meets Tanya, a younger-than-he-is (but not scandalously young) woman from Ukraine.

From this simple setup comes a novel that grips you and doesn’t let go. Duncan is the perfect everyman. He isn’t a hero, he just wants the truth, even if that truth comes with a risk. And risk there is. Part spy novel, replete with an introverted tech genius, and part psychological thriller – are the connections Duncan is making too good to be true? Does his past really inform his present and future? – we follow Mr. Jones down the darkened paths of London, Moscow, and the internet in his attempt to write the perfect political expose and also conquer his inner demons.

I loved the pop culture elements that author Harper included in this novel, from the opening, with Jones staring (and being stared at) by a portrait of Peter Capaldi, to the references to Tanya eventually (maybe) appearing on Strictly Come Dancing. I liked that Jones experienced real fear and trepidation about involving his friends in his… adventures… and I really appreciated the use of the character Nigel to explain the ins and outs of contemporary (ish) hacking and internet security.

One nuance I really appreciated is that Harper writes really good friendships between men and women. Sure, there’s some flirting, but it’s meant in fun. It’s clear that Harper respects his characters and his readers, but that particular bit of craft really mattered to me.

Overall, this is a compelling story that is both an entertaining read and a warning to all of us to be informed citizens of our respective nations.

Goes well with: fish and chips and a microbrew beer.


Giveaway

Giveaway to Win all 3 paperbacks of GD Harper’s Psychological Fiction Trilogy (Open UK Only)

  • Prize features all three books, Love’s Long Road, Silent Money and A Friend in Deed

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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Review: The Haunting of Paradise House by Killian Wolf (with Giveaway for UK Readers only)

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About the book, The Haunting at Paradise HouseThe Haunting at Paradise House eBook

 

  • Series: Reapers of the Veil (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Grim House Publishing LLC (October 6, 2019)
  • Scroll down for Giveaway (UK only)

 

If you were given the chance to become a powerful sorceress, would you leave behind everything you thought you knew?

When Addison is offered the position of her dreams through a mysterious phone call, she rises to the occasion and moves to the Florida Keys to a mansion called Paradise House. Footsteps from playful ghosts, a room of killer dolls, and an all too intelligent owl lead her to the mysteries that lie within the walls, to reveal the true reason behind her invitation. When dark forces get a hold of her and her patient, Addison is left with no choice but to take extreme measures to protect the ones she loves. Will Addison be able to acquire the necessary skills fast enough in order to protect her patient, and defeat the evil entities that thrive in the mansion?

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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About the author, Killian Wolf The Haunting Author Photo

Killian Wolf is a Miami, FL native who enjoys pirates, rum, and skulls as much as she loves writing about dark magick and sorcerers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Cultural Anthropology and Sociology and a Master of Science in Environmental Archaeology and Palaeoeconomy.

Killian writes books about obtaining magickal powers and stepping into other dimensions. She lives in England with her husband, a tornado of a cat, and the most timid snake you’d ever meet.

When she isn’t writing, you might find her at an Archaeological dig, rock climbing, or sipping on dark spiced rum while working on a painting.

Connect with Killian:

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


My Thoughts Melissa A. Bartell

This first novel in The Reapers of the Veil series by Killian Wolf is an engaging delve into contemporary fantasy. It opens with two reapers, Ambrose and Deacon, the former of whom has botched a collection. It then jumps to the apartment of lead character Addison, a young woman looking for work as a nurse. When a live-in position falls into her lap, she is trepidatious, but accepts the position anyway, and then strange events begin to occur.

While some of the setup was a bit implausible (nurses rarely have to seek employment in modern America) and some of the plot twists were a bit trope-y (I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to spoil the story), Wolf’s inclusion of the Reapers and their culture turns what could be a fairly predictable story into something fresh and unique.

I really enjoyed some of the details – grace notes, really – that Wolf included in her story: Addison’s love of Cuban coffee is one, the scent of Cuban cigars in Dax and Orlando’s mansion is another. These specifics made Wolf’s version of Florida feel more vivid and real, and were lovely accents, especially set against the creepiness of the house itself – especially the doll room. As well, while I liked Dax and Orlando as characters, I loved that the mansion was also a character, in a sense.

Part family drama, part haunted house story, part fantasy epic, this is the first novel in a series, and while it is a satisfying story on its own, I look forward to what comes next.

Goes well with Cuban coffee and a chocolate croissant.


Giveaway: UK Residents Only

Giveaway to Win a paperback copy of The Haunting at Paradise House (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

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The Haunting at Paradise House

Review: Fiona and the Whale, by Hannah Lynn – with Giveaway

Fiona and the Whale

Fiona and the Whale coverAbout the book, Fiona and the Whale

 

  • Paperback: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Independently published (September 30, 2019)
  • Scroll down for Giveaway

 

With her personal life on the rocks, it’s going to take a whale sized miracle to keep her afloat.

Event planner Fiona Reeves did not have her husband’s sudden departure on her schedule. However, she’s certain that it’s only a hiccup and he’ll be back in no time, begging for forgiveness. Fortunately there’s a distraction of mammoth proportions swimming in the River Thames.

Absorbed by the story of Martha the sperm whale, Fiona attempts to carry on life as usual as she awaits her husband’s return. However, nothing can prepare her for the dramatic turn of events that throws her life into ever greater turmoil. The road ahead has many paths and for Fiona it’s time to sink or swim.

Fiona and the Whale is a poignant and often hilarious contemporary fiction novel. If you enjoy topical tales, second chances and a little bit of romance, you’ll love this new book from the Kindle Storyteller Award Winner, Hannah Lynn.

Buy, read, and discuss this book:

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Hannah LynnAbout the author, Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn is an award-winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the Gold Medal for Best Adult Fiction ebook at this year’s IPPY Awards – and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series.

While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description.

She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

Connect with Hannah:

Facebook | Bookbub | Goodreads | Twitter


melysse2019.jpgx100My Thoughts

Fiona and the Whale is my first introduction to Hannah Lynn’s work, and I’m in love. This novel is so refreshing with a main character (the titular Fiona)  being a woman in her 40s. Yes, her husband leaves her on the very day they send their son off to college, thus leaving her an empty-nester in more ways than one, but where this could have been a maudlin tale of being dumped, rather it becomes a “coming of middle age” novel.

Of course, there is also an actual whale, Martha, a sperm whale who turns up in the Thames (not the most hospitable of places for large cetaceans). As Fiona becomes more intrigued and invested in Martha’s fate, she also finds herself more aware of, and engaged in, the state of the world.

Obviously aquatic ecosystems are an important part of this story, but, through Fiona (and Martha) author Lynn also tackles food waste, which is an equally important issue in the contemporary world. The Dumpster Dive Cafe is a fabulous creation, and one I applauded while reading about.

At turns hilarious and poignant, this novel may exist in a slightly heightened version of reality, but the characters depicted within are absolutely real. I especially loved the way Lynn wrote about Fiona and her best friend. Well-written friendships between adult women (as opposed to childhood friends or college roommates) are not often found outside of literary fiction, and I was pleased to see it included here.

Overall, I found Fiona and the Whale to be an immensely satisfying read.

Goes well with hearty seven-vegetable soup, crusty bread, and a glass of wine. Red or white, as you prefer.


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$25 Amazon Gift card

2 print copies of Fiona and the Whale

10 ebooks of Fiona

5 ebooks of The Afterlife of Water Augustus

5 ebooks, of Peas, Carrots and an Aston Martin.

 

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