Thursday, 12 July 2018

The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

The Wonder of UsThe Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Riya and Abby are: Best friends. Complete opposites. Living on different continents. About to embark on an epic adventure around Europe.

Since Riya moved away with her family to Berlin, she and Abby have struggled to be there for one another, and they haven’t spoken in weeks. But Riya is pretty sure she knows the perfect way to make things better – a grand tour of European cities. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun.

Can the lush countrysides and dazzling cities of Europe fix their friendship, or does growing up mean growing apart?

I love a good summery book to get you in the mood for summer and with the current heatwave we are having here in the U.K there was not a better time to read this.

Riya and Abby have been best friends forever, they lived in California and have attended school together, they pretty much have been inseparable, that is until Riya tells Abby she is leaving and her family are moving to Germany. This hits the girls hard and they seem to drift away, after a few months they have little contact with each other. Riya knows that they both behaved badly but wants to fix their friendship, after all, it was once as strong as anything. Riya sends Abby a plane ticket to meet her in Italy and said she is giving her a holiday of a lifetime around Europe, something that her nan has paid for. Abby touches down in Italy and decides that perhaps Riya is right, she decides to enjoy her time away, but things don't go to plan.

This is a story about friendship and growing up a long the way. I had a slight problem with the narration of the characters, at times it was hard to identify who was speaking at one point and I had to go back to check which character I was reading, it would have helped if the voices were slightly different to aviod confusion.

This is a cute book, with a travel theme of two girls who are trying to repair their friendship but also knowing that sometimes people change. It didn't blow me away but it passed the time nicely in the garden.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Confessions of a First-Time Mum by Poppy Dolan - Blog Tour

When Stevie had her first baby her life changed. She loves being a mum, but between the isolation and being vomited on she really wishes she had someone to talk to. Turning to the internet, Stevie begins the anonymous First-Time Mum blog and blasts the rose-tinted glasses of parenthood right off her readers.

Soon Stevie begins to realise that being a 'perfect mum' isn't everything. But when the secret blog goes viral, Stevie must make some tough choices over who she wants to be...


I’ve had about 300 hits in the last month and I’m convinced it’s men after porn and, because I say boobs and nipples so much, the metadata wrongly brings them to First-Time Mum. I hope the reality of the mastitis and bloody, oozing nipple cracks I detail are their just desserts. First-Time Mum is not here for anyone’s sexual gratification, thank you very much. She’s here to say everything I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to say in real life.

But I suppose it’s the one thing I expected for my mum life before Cherry’s arrival that has actually come true: I had this vision of myself keeping a little blog going, journalising our adventures and milestones, ‘keeping my mind occupied’ in the time before going back to work. I saw it as flapjack recipes and pics of handprint collages, and baby and I in sunnies on our first beach holiday (which has still yet to happen). But what it turned out to be was an SOS. A catalogue of my shortcomings. A way to say ‘this is hard’ without saying it to a flesh-and-blood person who might judge me or dislike me or tell everyone I’m a bad parent.

And today it’s the space for the things I can’t say to Ted.

He’s still out – he texted to say he was going to swing by the supermarket and get me in some things for next week. And that’s a token effort and all, but I know really he wants to prolong his break out of the house. He has so much more freedom than me that sometimes it feels like I really am the mad prisoner behind the glass and I have to watch him swan off into the great unknown every time he goes to work. To a land where he can pee in private and take lunch just when he pleases and eat food he hasn’t microwaved himself. And the idea of that sweet freedom makes my domestic incarceration so much more of a bitter pill to swallow.

He’ll have drinks in Hong Kong. Dinners. Cocktail parties. He’ll bring back a cuddly toy for Cherry and think balance has been restored. But what kind of balanced relationship can you have when one person is free to hop continents and the other can barely manage a stress-free trip to Sainsbury’s?

Ted and I used to think the same about everything: food – you can’t have too much butter; travel – the path untrodden is all well and good but where can I get a decent glass of red around here?; domesticity – if you make a mess, you clear it up. Genitalia has nothing to do with it. So how has everything slipped so drastically since we’ve moved from a two to a three?

I was ready to take on more of the household chores, of course I was. He’s earning the money to pay the bills so it’s fair enough I push the hoover around more than usual. But all of a sudden I realise I’m doing all the washing. All the cooking. I’m remembering his family’s birthdays and organising trips up to Leicester to see them.

And he doesn’t even seem to notice. It’s like it’s background noise to him these days. Home life is the brief pause between working weeks and international flights.

When no one else is listening, there’s always the internet. I disabled my comments section after a string of spammers, but I also didn’t want to log on one day and see a paragraph of badly spelled abuse about what a lazy, ungrateful harpy I was and how I should feel lucky to have a roof over my head and a husband and a healthy baby, especially when I’m such a bitch. I don’t need a troll to tell me that: I am lucky. Ted might feel like he’s on another planet at the moment, but in so many ways he is a great partner and dad – dependable, a provider, calm and steady. We’re OK for money and, bar her reflux, Cherry is fighting fit. I lost a pregnancy early on, about six months before we conceived Cherry, so I know what an incredible feat of biology and luck and magic dust it is when the stars align and you get that squirmy bundle to take home from the hospital. I wouldn’t have my life without her. Rather, I’d like to keep her, but with more sleep and time and sanity, please?

My phone vibrates on the sofa cushion and Cherry’s head wriggles for a moment, letting just a little cool air in on the sweat patch she’s leaving on my trousers. Another bout of luck that my miracle hasn’t woken up.

It’s an invitation to join a WhatsApp group: ‘Mums I’d Like to Befriend’, from Will.

Will: Coffee at mine on Monday? I can’t bring myself to say ‘play date’ but you know what I mean. 10.30? I’m off Roger’s Lane, no.5 The Annexe.

Nelle pings back before I can think of a snappy reply.

Nelle: Can’t wait! What can I bring?

Will: Tarpaulins. Hoses. Hazmat suit. Anything that will help clean up after a craft session with my girls.

Stevie: Hahahaha! I’ll bring my Marigolds and sheep dip. X

I might not be heard by my husband these days, but I have found two sets of ears who totally get me.

About the Author:

Poppy Dolan is in her mid thirties and lives in Berkshire with her husband. She's a near-obsessive baker and a keen crafter, so on a typical weekend can be found moving between the haberdashery and kitchenware floors of a department store, adding to her birthday wish list. She has written three novels: The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp, There's More to Life than Cupcakes and most recently The Bluebell Bunting Society. The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp made it into the Amazon top 100 bestseller chart, so clearly someone other than her mum must have read it. She's currently working on her fourth novel – it's about friends, siblings and crafty things – and drinking far too much tea. You can get in touch with Poppy on Twitter @poppydwriter and on Facebook at PoppyDolanBooks. She doesn't bite. Unless you are a dark chocolate digestive.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Stalker by Lisa Stone

STALKER, Lisa Stone

Someone is always watching…

Derek Flint is a loner. He lives with his mother and spends his evenings watching his clients on the CCTV cameras he has installed inside their homes. He likes their companionship – even if it’s through a screen.

When a series of crimes hits Derek’s neighbourhood, DC Beth Mayes begins to suspect he’s involved. How does he know so much about the victims’ lives? Why won’t he let anyone into his office? And what is his mother hiding in that strange, lonely house?

As the crimes become more violent, Beth must race against the clock to find out who is behind the attacks. Will she uncover the truth in time? And is Derek more dangerous than even she has guessed?

A spellbinding crime novel from the worldwide bestseller Cathy Glass, writing as Lisa Stone.


At home Julie had checked on the children – they were both sleeping peacefully – and was now downstairs viewing the recording on the monitor in the hall. She had all the camera images showing and the digital display at the bottom of the screen showed the date and time. She had rewound the tape to where Sophie had arrived to babysit at 6.50pm, and had watched her on the camera trained on their front door as she’d rung the bell and Julie had let her in. Then the camera in the living room showed the three of them talking although she couldn’t hear what they were saying as there was no sound, before she and Russ said goodbye and left. Outside, the camera covering the drive showed them getting into their car and pulling away. Julie then saw Sophie sitting on the sofa texting, presumably to tell her boyfriend they’d gone. Within five minutes he was at their front door, so either he lived in the neighbourhood or he’d been waiting out of sight close by. He didn’t press the bell so Julie guessed Sophie must have told him to text her when he arrived as the doorbell might wake the children. They kissed on the doorstep and then the camera in the living room showed the lad making himself comfortable on the sofa and Sophie leaving the room, grinning. She returned with two glasses containing what looked like gin or vodka and ice.

Ten minutes passed when they sipped their drinks, laughed, snogged and groped each other. Julie fast-forwarded the tape and then stopped as Sophie stood, picked up their empty glasses, left the living room and returned with refills. Cheeky little cow! Then sprawled on the sofa with their drinks on the table, they continued their heavy petting. At one point they stopped and cocked their heads as though they might have heard something and Julie hoped it wasn’t one of the children calling out and being ignored. Another five minutes or so and Sophie had her hand down his trousers and his mouth was on her breasts. It was getting close to the time the email had been sent. Julie looked at the footage sent from the outside cameras but nothing untoward was showing there. More heavy petting; she fast-forwarded again and then slowed the tape to ‘play’ mode again as the lad stood. Clearly aroused, he pulled Sophie up and they disappeared from view, presumably going upstairs to her bedroom to have sex.

The living room stayed empty, and the outside cameras showed no sign of any disturbance that could have tripped the alert. She continued to watch, her anger growing. Russ had been studying the dessert menu now and the emails would shortly arrive on their phones. Another few minutes and she guessed it was the time she’d phoned Sophie’s mobile, but she could see it now lying on the table in the living room. She’d then called the house phone but the living room remained empty so the little minx must have answered the extension in their bedroom. She inwardly fumed as she pictured Sophie untangling herself from her boyfriend to reach out of bed and pick up the handset, just as she and Russ did sometimes. No wonder it had taken her time to answer. She’d been having sex in their bed when she’d phoned!

A minute later she saw them rush into the living room tucking in their clothes, now aware that she and Russ were returning. The boy grabbed his jacket and went out the front door while Sophie tidied up the living room, smoothing the sofa cushions, taking out the glasses. She reappeared in the living room, sat on the sofa and switched on the television. Then to her horror Julie saw her daughter appear in the doorway of the living room, possibly woken by the home phone ringing. She watched as Sophie went over to her and disappeared from view, she assumed taking Phoebe back upstairs to bed. She must have only just dropped off to sleep again when they’d arrived home.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One and Other StoriesParis for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nell's boyfriend has deserted her in Paris . . . alone in the most romantic city in the world, can she forget him to find herself?

Eleven unmissable stories from the author of heart breaking Me Before You, including Paris for One - soon to be a major film - about Nell, deserted by her boyfriend minutes before setting off on a romantic weekend away, and a tale of the early days of two marriages, featuring Liv and Sophie from Jojo Moyes' bestselling romance The Girl You Left Behind.

Some nice little gems of stories in this book. I do enjoy short stories as I can dip in and out of the book when I have time. Some of these stories were longer than the average short story, which was nice. Paris for One I had already read as it was featured one year in the Quickreads so this was not a new one for me. It had been a while since I had read it though and I still enjoyed it.

If you are a fan of Jojo Moyes and women's fiction I do recommend you give this one a go. This book is very light and will help you escape for a few hours.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

Last Time I LiedLast Time I Lied by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Have you ever played two truths and a lie?

A gripping new thriller that you won't be able to put down with a plot that will keep you guessing. If you enjoyed A. J. Finn's The Woman in the Window, you'll love Last Time I Lied

Emma's first summer away from home, she learned how to play the game. And she learned how to lie.

Then three of her new friends went into the woods and never returned. . .

Now, years later, Emma has been asked to go back to the newly re-opened Camp Nightingale. She thinks she’s laying old ghosts to rest but really she’s returning to the scene of a crime.

Because Emma’s innocence might be the biggest lie of all. . .

Good pacey book once it got going, it was a little slow to start with but picked up nicely and catapulted to the finale.

Camp Nightingale summer camp held a tragedy when three out of four girls disappear one night and the fourth girl suffers a nervous breakdown. Fifteen years later and now an artist, Emma (the fourth girl) is asked to go back and teach art at the campsite. She is initially reluctant to return but has to lay ghosts to rest and believes going back will allow her to finally find out what happened to those girls so she agrees. She even stays in the same cabin she stayed in fifteen years previously and comes to uncover the truth along with secrets and lies and a very ingenious twist at the end. This one doesn't come out until July 2018 - reserve yourself a copy, its a good read, moves quickly and is well worth the 5 stars I am giving it.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 29 June 2018

Missing Pieces by Laura Pearson

Missing PiecesMissing Pieces by Laura Pearson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What if the one thing that kept you together was breaking you apart?

All Linda wants to do is sleep. She won’t look at her husband. She can’t stand her daughter. And she doesn’t want to have this baby. Having this baby means moving on, and she just wants to go back to before. Before their family was torn apart, before the blame was placed.

Alienated by their own guilt and struggling to cope, the Sadler family unravels. They grow up, grow apart, never talking about their terrible secret.

That is until Linda’s daughter finds out she’s pregnant. Before she brings another Sadler into the world, Bea needs to know what happened twenty-five years ago. What did they keep from her? What happened that couldn’t be fixed?

A devastating mistake, a lifetime of consequences. How can you repair something broken if pieces are missing?

This is a well written book with some beautifully crafted passages describing feelings and heart aching memories that come out of a tragedy. The book is written in 2 parts that happen about 20 years or so apart. The characters are multi faceted and cleverly layered allowing their relationships to come through in an intriguing way. Despite all this I felt a little detached from the characters and it made reading the book as just a story that I had no emotional connection with. It was also very depressing and sombre in places making it very heavy in places. The tragedy that happened affected those that were involved for over 20 years and although there was closure and the promise of new beginnings it still left me feeling dismal and empty at the end. Maybe it just wasn't my type of genre but I didn't enjoy it, it has to have at least 3 stars for the excellent writing but honestly I wouldn't put it high on my recommendation list.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Writing Retreat Information

Have you ever wanted to be whisked away somewhere remote to get that book inside you written? And do you wish that you had expert guidance and support to help you while you did it?

If you answered yes to the above questions then you should definitely continue reading this post which is going to tell you all about the Atelier des Ecrivains (Writers’ Workshop) retreat.

Becky and Sarah who are co-hosting the writing retreat, and are both writers themselves, know that there are lots of people who harbour a desire to write a book but may either lack the confidence, the skills or the headspace to actually do it. They also know from experience that removing yourself from your daily life, with all of its pressures and interruptions, and coming together with like-minded people can be a great way to overcome those barriers. Where better to do that than in a beautiful 18th century manor house outside one of France’s prettiest villages, Aubeterre?

Helen Cross, author of My Summer of Love, which was turned into a Hollywood film starring Emily Blunt and whose other novels, screen and radio plays entertain people all over the world will be leading the workshop. She is an experienced teacher of creative writing and currently teaches on the MFA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, UK. The combination of skills and experience offered by Helen, Becky and Sarah will be invaluable to authors at all stages of their writing journey.


Getting started – Thursday 20 to Monday 24 September, 2018 For people at the beginning of their writing journey, this workshop will help you develop your writing skills, find your creative voice, thematic material and literary style: create credible characters and reveal them through dialogue and active, dramatic scenes: and build your world - structure, point-of-view, and narrative voice. With a small group of up to 10 writers, we are promoting an environment of creativity and support with one-to-one feedback sessions and time for questions and answers.

Keeping going – May, 2019 For people who have already started their writing journey, this workshop will enhance your skills even further, help you overcome barriers and enable you to shape your words into the brilliant piece of work you know it has the potential to be.

Getting published – September 2019 For people reaching the conclusion of a writing project, this workshop is designed to support the final stages of writing and editing, and will contain lots of useful information about how to get published and successfully market your book. You can find out more information about the hosts, venue and workshops here. To book your place or to contact the hosts, you can visit the website here.

I don’t know about you but I would very much like to go on this writing retreat!