Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In - Katie May


'Warm, wise and funny' Rachael Lucas. 
Part One of a brand new summery story about sea, sunshine and second chances
In the gorgeous seaside town of Whitstable, brokenhearted Deb begins to swim each day and gathers a new group of friends around her. But can the magic of sea heal the hurt of the past? Or will family ties drag her underwater again?
A heart-warming, funny and poignant story of romance, friendship and second chances. It's also a song to the author's home town of Whitstable, where the sea is smooth, the shingle is painful on bare feet, and the air is full of possibilities.

What did I think?

Although I would never even consider dipping my toe in the freezing North Sea, it was lovely to take a trip to Whitstable courtesy of Katie May.  Whitstable is a real place on the North coast of Kent and you can read more here about places to see in Whitstable in the guest post that Katie May wrote for my stop on the blog tour.  

Deb has just split up with her husband, Derek, after she stopped turning a blind eye to his drinking and affairs.  Deb finds herself looking forward to the twice daily high tide so she can forget her troubles and go for a swim in the sea.  For a while, she has the beach to herself then one day she notices that she has company in the form of ex-corporate lawyer and recent divorcee, Maisie.  Due to their shared love of swimming, the pair strike up an unlikely friendship as they both come from different worlds: Deb is struggling to make ends meet living in a pokey bedsit and Maisie is affluent enough to be able to start again with a dozen new everything.  When a few more people start visiting the beach at high tide, The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club is born, but the new club has barely got off the ground when developers threaten to move in.

The town of Whitstable is almost a character in itself; it sounds so quaint and picturesque, and Katie May's love for her home town is very apparent.  I loved the blossoming friendship between Deb and Maisie, both women are in their 50's and find themselves having to embrace single life again with Deb doing a bit more of the embracing (and good for her)!  I also thought the storyline about the developers was excellent - developers always seem so cold and callous as they bulldoze their way in and change our beautiful landscape.  Having something to fight for brought the members of the swimming club closer together and I actually felt as if I was an honorary member of the club by reading along as events were unfolding.

This is only part one, so I am delighted that Katie May has more visits to Whitstable planned for us readers.  I think we have only scratched the surface of some of the characters and I'm really looking forward to reading more about them.  With some laugh out loud moments and some serious issues, The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In is a super start to a series set in a beautiful location and filled with colourful characters we can all relate to.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Cold Feet: The Lost Years - Carmel Harrington


All the love. All the drama. All you missed.

HILARIOUS AND HEARTBREAKING OFFICIAL NOVEL FROM THE HIT TV SERIES.

Reeling from the sudden death of Rachel, his beloved wife, Adam has no time to grieve. He has to keep going, for the sake of their baby son.

Jenny moves back in with ex-husband Pete, eight and a half months pregnant with another man's child. Can their relationship overcome past jealousies?

Karen and David agree to an amicable divorce - but that's before he sleeps with the divorce lawyer . . .

THE LOST YEARS reveals what happened to your favourite characters between series five and six of the award-winning TV series written by Mike Bullen. It's an irresistible chance to catch up on all the laughter, the tears, the life lessons we missed while they were gone.

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, this book is AMAZING!  Cold Feet fans, stop reading right now and click here to buy your very own copy of this fabulous book!  You probably don't have to be a fan of the TV show to enjoy this book, but who hasn't watched Cold Feet?  I don't think I will ever recover from THAT episode and just thinking of it now brings tears to my eyes.  Carmel Harrington is clearly a huge fan of Cold Feet as she has written the book that every Cold Feet fan has been waiting for - what happened in the thirteen years between the traumatic end of series 5 and the start of series 6?

We join Adam and his baby son, Matthew, as they are trying to remember to breathe after the death of the love of their life, Rachel.  I was crying from the very first page, just remembering losing Rachel as if it was yesterday, and as if I knew her - yes, I know it's fictional TV, but it still brings raw emotion to the surface over a decade later.  I suppose because it is based on TV, you can hear the characters talking to you, but it is also due to the talented writing of Carmel Harrington that enables us to get so very much under the skin of each character. Carmel Harrington is clearly a huge Cold Feet fan, but also a super-talented writer, to be able to tap into their personas so brilliantly.

All of our favourite characters are here and I felt as if I knew them even better than before after reading Cold Feet The Lost Years.  I found myself watching series 7 and knowing, before it became clear, how a certain character was feeling.  Rachel is clearly a huge gap to fill but she is remembered in every chapter as we join Adam & Matthew, Jenny & Pete and Karen & David on their life journey.

You really don't want to miss this one, Cold Feet fans!  Cold Feet is a timeless series that I could watch over and over again, which is why Cold Feet The Lost Years is also a book to read over and over again!  It's not so much a series companion as a series enhancing book, and I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone!  This is one book that definitely gets under your skin without you even having to think about placing a rose between your naked bum cheeks!  ♫ I've Got You Under My Skin ♬

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

Friday, 15 September 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In - Katie May



Now that we're taking our first tentative steps into Autumn, we can hold on to a little bit of Summer by visiting Whitstable with pretty coloured beach huts and crystal clear seas.  As part of the Blog Tour for The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One: Diving In I have a guest post for you today about the real places you can find in Whitstable and tips if you fancy trying a bit of sea swimming, although I haven't so much as dipped my toe in the icy North Sea for many years.





The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club on location

Inspired to visit Whitstable after reading the book? Here are five places you may recognise in real life.

1. West Beach
First things first: West Beach – and its lovely row of beach huts – is as glorious as it sounds in the book. Head west along the coast from the town centre, go past the sea-front houses, and you’ll come to it: quiet, beautiful, and covered in wild flowers from spring to autumn. Not everyone loves shingle beaches, but it’s easily solved with a pair of sea shoes and it sure keeps the sand out of your picnic. Don’t forget to check the tide tables if you want to swim like Maisie and Deb. When the tide’s out, you’ll be lucky if you can get more than ankle-deep.

2. The Neptune
Sitting directly on the beach, The Neppy is a Whitstable institution, beloved of locals and visitors alike. With its white weatherboard exterior and picnic sets outside, it’s a magnet for summer drinkers, but it’s cosy in the winter, too, when sea-storms lash against the windows. If the crowds get too much for you, seek out some of Whitstable’s wonderful backstreet pubs, like the New Inn or the Smack. True locals drink in the Yacht Club, but you have to be a member.

3. The Windy Corner Stores & Café
Set on a residential street not far from West Beach, the Windy Stores is the café you always dream of finding: great coffee, art on the walls, and the world’s most perfect mushrooms on toast for breakfast. Whenever you turn up, it’s always full of people tapping on laptops, giggling with friends over coffee or indulging in a slice of carrot cake while their kids queue for sweets. Whitstable is awash with wonderful cafés, from the classic Tea & Times to the new-fangled Blueprint Coffee and Whitstable Produce Store, and this book was written in most of them!

4. The Harbour
Whitstable has a way of reminding you that it’s still a working fishing town. You only need to take a stroll into the harbour to see all the fishing boats lined up, and to buy shellfish – including the famous oysters – from the black sheds on the quay. Many tourists leave out the looming towers of the aggregates plant from their holiday snaps, but for me, this is part of what makes Whitstable so special: the collision of longstanding industry with arty ‘down from London’ culture. There’s now a permanent market on the harbour where you can buy anything from bric-a-brac to sushi, as well as crabbing nets to dangle off the end of West Quay. Take a tip from a local: to catch the big ones, you’ll need to use bacon as bait.

5. Trendy gin bars
Okay, I invented the pop-up gin bar where Julie gives Deb some unwanted career advice, but Whitstable’s drinking scene is getting an awful lot cooler, and unlike Deb, I think this is a great thing. If I had to call a favourite, it would have to be the Twelve Taps with its magnificent range of gins (sorry, Deb), craft beer and prosecco on tap. But I’m also deeply fond of goth micropub The Black Dog, the chic little bar attached to the David Brown Deli for a superb wine list, and, over in Tankerton, the wonderful Jo Jos at the top of the Slopes. Wherever takes your fancy, you’ll always be able to spot the locals: we’re the ones in striped shirts with wind-blown hair. To blend in, you’d better dress down.  




Five tips for wild swimmers

Inspired to take up sea-swimming after reading The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club? Here are some tips for getting started.

1. Know your beach
Every beach is different. Spend some time paddling first, and get a feel for how the sea is behaving. Is the tide coming in, or going out? Are there any rocks to avoid, or shelves where the waves break suddenly? If it’s a monitored beach, find the safe swimming area marked by red and yellow flags, and ask the lifeguard about any tides or currents you should take into consideration. Don’t be afraid to ask local swimmers for advice.

2. Assess your ability
Put simply, it’s harder to swim in the sea than in a pool. If you’re a weak swimmer, spend some time in the local baths first, developing your strokes and building up strength and distance. You could even work with a coach or take adult lessons to build confidence.

3. Bring the right kit
Whether you’re a bikini swimmer like Deb, or a wetsuit swimmer like Maisie, will be a matter of preference - and the time of year you plan to swim. But it’s worth making sure you have everything you need before you get in the water. Here’s a checklist:
  • Swimming shoes if the beach is stony
  • Goggles if you plan to put your face underwater
  • A neoprene glasses retainer if, like me, you’re lost without your specs
  • A light towel to dry off – I’m devoted to cloth hammam towels
  • Waterproof sun cream
  • A bottle of water to rehydrate
  • I hate to say it, but a bright bathing cap like Maisie’s really can help you to stay visible.
4. Acclimatise
The best way to get used to cold seawater is to start swimming in the summer, and then keep going into autumn as the sea gradually cools. Winter is up to you. If you don’t have this option, it’s sensible to cool down gradually rather than shocking your body. If I’m swimming in cold weather, I stand on the beach in my cossie for a few minutes before getting in. Get into the water slowly, and stay shallow so that you can get out quickly if you need to. Have warm clothing ready for when you get out, even if it’s the summer. A cup of tea helps if you get really chilly.

5. Safety first
Sea-swimming is one of the great pleasures of my life, and it gives me an instant hit of happiness. However, I know my limits and carefully assess the sea every time I swim. If I’m in any doubt about safety, I don’t go in; it’s as simple as that. You can read up on basic survival techniques on the RNLI’s excellent website, respectthewater.com. There are also some useful (and inspiring) articles for beginners on the Outdoor Swimming Society’s website: go to outdoorswimmingsociety.com and select ‘survive’ in the top menu.


Follow the tour:

Thursday, 14 September 2017

What Was Left - Various, edited by Amanda Saint and Jane Elmor


A past that comes back to haunt a woman when she feels she has no future. A man with no mind of his own living a life of clichés. A teenage girl band that maybe never was. A dying millionaire’s bizarre tasks for the family hoping to get his money. A granddaughter losing the grandfather she loves. A list of things about Abraham Lincoln that reveal both sadness and ambition for a modern day schoolgirl. 

These stories and more make up this anthology from the winning and shortlisted writers in the 2016 Retreat West Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize. From moving and poignant, to creepy and laugh out loud funny, these stories showcase the talented voices writing short fiction today.

What did I think?

What a fabulous collection of short stories.  I don't read a lot of short stories as sometimes I find that they feel incomplete; just when they start to get going the end appears all too suddenly.  This collection has shown me another side to short story writing as clearly if the quality is there, a story can be both compact and complete.

There are some amazing stories in this anthology; I was completely blown away by the first story, which is also the title of the anthology: What Was Left by Joanna Campbell.  To start a collection with a story of this calibre had my heart racing in anticipation of what was to come next, as this story wasn't even the winner of the Retreat West competition!  The variety is astounding, in contrast to this first poignant tale is the hilarious Honeysuckle Happiness Hospice by Ian Tucker that is simply a collection of email correspondence and the deserving winner that gave me goosebumps, On Crosby Beach by Judith Wilson.

I could go on and write about some of the other stories, and I'm sorry to have only selected a few, but I think this is a collection from which everyone will pick a different favourite.  I read the whole collection so fast that I wouldn't be surprised if I see something new and choose new favourites when I re-read it.  From heart-achingly poignant to laugh out loud craziness and, with more variety than Heinz, there really is something for everyone in this cracking collection.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon


Retreat West was founded by novelist and short story writer, Amanda Saint, in 2012.  You can find out more about Retreat West by visiting the website https://www.retreatwest.co.uk/ 

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

BLOG TOUR: Too Damn Nice - Kathryn Freeman



I love Kathryn Freeman's books so I'm delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for her new novel, Too Damn Nice.  I am releasing my review for my stop on the tour and there is also a fabulous giveaway where you can win a signed copy of Kathryn's previous novel, Before You.  As a big F1 (and Jenson Button) fan I absolutely LOVED Before You and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, and you definitely don't need to be a motor racing fan to enjoy it.  You can read my review of Before You here but do make sure that you come back to enter the giveaway at the end of my post - you don't want to miss this one!





Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 1st August 2017
Publisher: Choc Lit

Nice guys don't kiss like that ...

Do nice guys stand a chance? 

Lizzie Donavue went from being the sister of his best friend to the girl Nick Templeton most wants to kiss. On her birthday, he finally summons up the courage to make his move. But it looks like Nick’s missed his chance when he discovers that Lizzie has been offered a modelling contract, which will take her away to the glamorous fashion scenes of New York and Los Angeles.

Nick is forced to watch from the sidelines as the gawky teenager he knew is transformed into Elizabeth Donavue: top model and ultimate English rose pin-up, forever caught in a whirlwind of celebrity parties with the next up-and-coming Hollywood bad boy by her side. 

But then Lizzie’s star-studded life comes crashing down around her, and a guy like Nick could be just what she needs. Will she take a chance on him? Or is he just too damn nice?


What did I think?

I do love Kathryn Freeman's books, they are so easy to read with characters that you can both identify with and care about.  Nobody can ever be sure of what someone else is thinking and Kathryn Freeman has absolutely nailed the insecurities and misunderstandings that surround fledgling relationships in her new novel, Too Damn Nice.

Nick Templeton has been in love with Lizzie Donavue for as long as he can remember, but she is the sister of his best friend, Robert, and Nick is like a member of the Donavue family himself.  Nick has kept his feelings well buried but, on the day of her 18th birthday, Nick plans to tell Lizzie how he feels about her.  He is beaten to the punch by an announcement that Lizzie has secured a modelling contract and she is going to New York to make all her dreams come true.

Lizzie becomes a successful model and it looks like all her dreams have indeed come true but then her world comes crashing down.  Nick is on the first flight over to pick up the pieces but they are both so afraid of letting their feelings show and ruining their long-standing friendship.  As the pair struggle with their attraction to each other, Nick feels like he is taking advantage of Lizzie in her weakened state, and Lizzie thinks that Nick doesn't look at her as anything other than Robert's little sister.  Both of them are trying to guess what the other is thinking and naturally, they are both ultimately assuming the wrong thing.

Despite her high flying modelling career, Lizzie is quite insecure and doesn't think she is worthy of anyone as 'nice' as Nick.  Nick doesn't think he is good enough for someone as stunning as Lizzie to even look twice at.  It is clear that they are both meant for each other and, although I wanted to bang their heads together and tell them to get on with it, they need to work that out for themselves and be honest about their feelings.  It was sobering to see that someone as beautiful as Lizzie struggled with the same insecurities as every other girl. It's so hard to open your heart and tell someone your feelings: the fear of your heart being broken always seems to win but the reward is limitless if the other person feels the same way.

Too Damn Nice is a book filled with love, laughter, tears and misunderstandings.  It reminds us that, although we may look different on the outside, we are ultimately all the same underneath.  I love books that make me think about things like this - it just goes to prove that Kathryn Freeman doesn't write superficial chicklit, it's as deep and thought-provoking as you want it to be.  I'll leave you with one final thought: although it sounds like such a bland word, there's nothing wrong with being 'nice', because when you consider the opposite is 'nasty', I know which one I'd rather be.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:






BUY LINKS
Choc Lit - http://bit.ly/2xLXJhp


About the author:











A former pharmacist, I’m now a medical writer who also writes romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero.
With two teenage boys and a husband who asks every Valentine’s Day whether he has to buy a card (yes, he does), any romance is all in my head. Then again, his unstinting support of my career change proves love isn't always about hearts and flowers - and heroes come in many disguises.
Website: http://kathrynfreeman.co.uk





GIVEAWAY!!!


BLOG TOUR: Shadows - Thorne Moore


I am delighted to be taking part in the blog blitz for Thorne Moore's latest novel, Shadows, with an extract and my review.  So before I tell you what I thought of the book, here's a little extract to whet your appetite.

EXTRACT
‘Is it haunted, Kate?’ Sylvia clapped her hands, like a child wanting ice-cream. ‘Oh please, please say there’s a ghost down here.’
‘There’s a ghost down here.’
‘No seriously, please tell me. You’d sense one, I know.’
What the hell. I closed my eyes solemnly. ‘I detect – a definite shiver of fear.’
‘Is that all? I was hoping for a white lady. If only we had battlements. I’m sure we’d have had a white lady, walking in the moonlight.’
‘Perhaps we can persuade one to move in.’
‘Yes!’ Sylvia gripped my arm. ‘A ghost hotel! We could get a licence to serve spirits!’
We were still laughing as we climbed back to the buttery. To finish, she led me on into the second small room, under the upper chamber.
As before, a low square room. One tiny window, two doors, stained walls, stone floor, just another empty room. ‘Not sure what to call this one,’ babbled my cousin. ‘Think of a good name. The armoury! I wonder if we could get a suit of armour.’ She was already opening the far door, into a panelled arch through deep masonry back into the Great Hall.
Just a doorway to Sylvia.
But not to me. Oh God, not to me.
‘Come on,’ she sang. ‘Where next?’
I watched her pass through, amazed that she could sense nothing. Rigid in my determination to conquer, I followed her, trying to block out the shadow, to refuse it entry into my brain.
I couldn’t. It overwhelmed my defences, enveloping me in a black cloud. Huge atavistic fear, searing thirst, gut-wrenching despair. I could feel the interweaving strands of emotion like filaments of rot, tightening around me, meshing in my lungs, my veins, my bones. How could Sylvia possibly not feel this?



Genre: domestic noir. Psychological Crime. Women’s lit. Paranormal.
Release Date: 14 June 2017
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Kate Lawrence can sense the shadow of violent death, past and present. In her struggle to cope with her unwelcome gift, she has frozen people out of her life. Her marriage is on the rocks, her career is in chaos and she urgently needs to get a grip. 

So she decides to start again, by joining her effervescent cousin Sylvia and partner Michael in their mission to restore and revitalise Llys y Garn, an old mansion in the wilds of North Pembrokeshire.

It is certainly a new start, as she takes on Sylvia’s grandiose schemes, but it brings Kate to a place that is thick with the shadows of past deaths. The house and grounds are full of mysteries that only she can sense, but she is determined to face them down – so determined that she fails to notice that ancient energies are not the only shadows threatening the seemingly idyllic world of Llys y Garn. 

The happy equilibrium is disrupted by the arrival of Sylvia’s sadistic and manipulative son, Christian - but just how dangerous is he? 

Then, once more, Kate senses that a violent death has occurred… 

Set in the majestic and magical Welsh countryside, Shadows is a haunting exploration of the dark side of people and landscape.


What did I think?

I could tell from the dark, moody cover that something disturbing was lurking within the pages of Thorne Moore's new novel, Shadows.  I love anything with a paranormal edge to it, so I was completely intrigued by Kate's ability to feel 'death' and how she copes with her 'gift'. Shadows is another compelling read from Thorne Moore and I find myself looking forward to whatever deeply atmospheric delight she might have up her sleeve for us next.

Kate is burdened with the ability to feel death, the lingering essence of fear, hurt and anger that might be left when someone departs this life.  In an effort to get away from it all, after dealing with her own painful experience of loss and a broken marriage, she joins her cousin, Sylvia, in Wales with plans to restore a mansion.  With so much history, Kate feels death in several parts of the house and grounds, then the bodies start to be found...

As if Kate and Sylvia don't have enough to contend with, Sylvia's son, Christian, keeps turning up like a bad penny.  He spits his venom in every direction, alienating his family and making them afraid of his violent threats.  He appears to be at the root of all their troubles and Kate is shocked when she starts to get the feeling that she wishes he was dead.  When Kate senses another death, and Christian can't be found, she is overcome with guilt and feels as if she is the harbinger of death.  Thank goodness for Al, the new age traveller who is helping to restore Llys y Garn; he keeps Kate grounded and provides her with a little bit of comfort, but he is as deep as the ocean and has his own secrets.  Could Al have done something to Christian to protect Kate?

Shadows is so very compelling; it has a bit of everything: a dysfunctional family, secrets and lies, dead bodies and a bit of paranormal activity.  It's so very dark, brooding and atmospheric: I felt as if I was roaming the Welsh hills and breathing the fresh country air myself.  If you've not discovered Thorne Moore yet, you're missing out on a treat.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:






BUY LINKS



About the author:
Thorne was born in Luton and graduated from Aberystwyth University (history) and from the Open University (Law). She set up a restaurant with her sister but now spends her time writing and making miniature furniture for collectors. She lives in Pembrokeshire, which forms a background for much of her writing, as does Luton. She writes psychological mysteries, or "domestic noir," and her first novel, A Time For Silence, was published by Honno in 2012. Her second Motherlove, was published in 2015 and her third, The Unravelling, came out in 2016. A collection of short stories, Moments of Consequence, came out the same year. She's a member of the Crime Writers Association.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

COVER REVEAL: Love, Secrets, and Absolution - K.L Loveley

I am thrilled to be taking part in the cover reveal of the new K.L. Lovely book.  Love, Secrets, and Absolution is to be published on 1 November 2017 but you can preorder your copy from today by clicking through to Amazon


So without further ado, here's the fantastic book trailer!


Book Blurb
People in the village gossip about Grace’s son, Alfie.

He’s a lonely boy full of secrets, lies, and obsessive thoughts.

How far can a mother’s love go? Will she ultimately sacrifice her life for his?

Set in Nottinghamshire, this family drama follows the lives of Grace and Alfie as he transforms from a naïve, young boy into a teenager spiralling out of control.

Love, Secrets, and Absolution is a coming of age story with a difference.

Deceit, betrayal, love, and addiction, a family falling apart in the midst of teenage angst and torn loyalties; will anybody find absolution?





About the author:

K.L Loveley is a former nurse, who has seen, heard, and dealt with a wide range of medical, social and family dramas. She has used her nursing experience, along with her excellent people watching skills to create fascinating characters and intriguing scenarios within her books. She writes contemporary fiction, psychological dramas and poetry.

Her debut novel ‘Alice’ was published in 2016, and the story tackles alcoholism head-on, and presents the reader with an empathetic account of a spiralling addiction and the resulting pattern of hopelessness that many fall into.

K.L Loveley’s second novel ‘Love, Secrets, and Absolution: An emotional and gripping psychological, family drama’ is a coming of age story with a difference. Deceit, betrayal, love, and addiction, this story is about a family falling apart in the midst of teenage angst and torn loyalties.

If you enjoy reading authors like Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, you will enjoy K.L Loveley!

K.L Loveley lives in Nottinghamshire, England and loves socialising with friends and family. She is an avid reader and enjoys a variety of genres including psychological, thrillers and historical fiction. Her favourite authors include John le Carré, K.L Slater, Marian Keyes and Philippa Gregory.


Twitter: @K_L_Loveley