Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Guest Post - Introducing the Characters from Wicked Summer by Roma Brooks

Cape Harriet is a small seaside town on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Life slows down here, and things are done the old fashioned way.

The Rising Tides Inn is the scene of most of the action. Super luxurious, set on several acres, this Victorian inn is the place to be if you want to be pampered on your vacation. Pete and Zadie Strathmore run it with love, and if your step falters, they won’t hesitate to nudge you in the right direction. 

Zadie, a former chef, makes the best of the local produce and her organic garden. Don’t miss her famous pimento cheese or barbecued wings. 

The Blooms as a family are slightly peculiar, peculiar enough to be ordinary. Mary’s a widow who keeps to herself. Her three daughters have come together to throw her the best 60th birthday party ever.

Iris Robinson/ Bloom is aggressive and abrasive. With four demanding kids, she has to be. She keeps everyone on a tight leash, watches her figure, runs the carpool, and leads the most meaningful life amongst her sisters. She has no doubt she’s the idol they should live up to.

Hyacinth Bloom got the brains in the family, and kept them. An English professor about to get tenure, she is a modern career woman who has it made. She loves her nieces and nephews, but never understood why Iris had so many kids. She’s smarter than Iris, but somehow, her clothes are not trendy enough, nor her barbs as sharp. Oh well, at least her younger sister is a softer target.

Poppy Bloom has roamed the world at 26, and yes, she has wheels on her feet. She’s worked hard to set up this beach vacay for all of them. But nothing is going as planned. Poppy’s busy training for the trip of a lifetime, dodging her sisters’ snarky comments about how she does nothing in life.

Sibling rivalry and petty squabbles are forgotten when events take an unexpected turn. Life will never be the same again for the Blooms.

Thank you Roma for that interesting look at the characters in your new book Wicked Summer.

A fun family summer holiday on the beach takes an unexpected turn.
Wicked Summer follows the Bloom family as they spend a once in a lifetime vacation at Cape Harriet, a charming seaside town on Virginia's scenic Eastern Shore.

All Mary Bloom ever wanted was to celebrate her 60th birthday at the beach. The extended Bloom family converges at the Rising Tides Inn, where their slightest whim is catered to.

Forty something Iris is the perfect suburban mom, holding her four kids and husband on a tight leash. 36 year old Hyacinth is single, successful and the self-proclaimed brains of the family. At 26, Poppy is a top travel blogger, wandering across countries most people only dream of visiting.

The rivalry among the sisters is as strong as ever, and each sister is dealing with it in her own way. So while Iris taunts and needles, Hyacinth takes the high road and shows disdain. Poppy suffers silently, lost in her own inner turmoil. None of them has an inkling of the storm that is about to break loose in their lives.

Soft shell crabs and salt marshes will be forgotten as shocking secrets are revealed. Everyone seems to be guilty of hiding something.

Set in idyllic Cape Harriet, Wicked Summer takes the reader on a thrilling roller coaster ride with plenty of laughs, tears and intrigue with heartwarming emotions, scrumptious food and never a dull moment.

Author Bio 

Roma Brooks writes stories featuring real life characters, the kind you would come across in your own family. Her books will make you laugh, cry, love, hate and bite your nails. She dreams of retiring to a seaside town like Cape Harriet where the gentle waves of the ocean lull you into sweet dreams.

Book Review - All Fall Down by Tom Bale

Amazon UK
Title: All Fall Down
Author: Tom Bale
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: 1st September 2016
Rating: 3.5 Stars

You tried to save a life. Now you’re fighting to save your own.

It should have been an idyllic day for the Turner family – until a dying man, beaten beyond all recognition, arrives at their home, uttering the words, HELP ME. 

Rob and Wendy Turner and their children try to explain away the horrific scene as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in the days that follow their lives are threatened in ways they could never imagine. 

The family is unaware that they are being watched by someone with their own terrifying agenda, who will stop at nothing to fulfil their own twisted desires. 

But when hidden secrets come rushing to the surface, it’s clear not everything is as it seems in this happy family. Are the Turners a victim of circumstance – or does the key to their fate lie closer to home? 

Forced to fight for everything they hold dear, can they save themselves before time runs out – or will their act of compassion see them paying the ultimate price…? 

After devouring See How They Run earlier this year, and being incredibly impressed by it, I was hyping up All Fall Down in my mind, to be similarly amazing before I started it. However as I should know by now, hype is a dangerous thing and it only leads to disappointment. 

Unfortunately for the majority of this book I just didn't feel connected with the story, or the characters and or even when it was clear there is a huge amount of danger, I found myself not being worried, or scared, more oh well, never mind. 

I just found that the story for the most part didn't resonate with any part of my psyche, however it is a fabulous concept, the writing is certainly good, and there were sections where I did find the book utterly gripping, but they were few and far between. 

It certainly wasn't a story I was able to predict the outcome of, which I am very glad of, but did find myself wondering at times about the actions of the Turner family, and came to the conclusion I just didn't really care for most of them. 

That being said Josh, is clearly incredibly intelligent and a lot of his logic was a pleasure to read, and although I felt he wasn't great at social interaction, the dialogue he did get involved in, was to me one of my most enjoyable bits of the book. 

All Fall Down is a book that I'm sure is going to get a lot of praise and many people will love, however maybe due to way I'm wired, I just didn't feel it, and as a result can only look to the future and hope that the next book I read by Tom Bale, will be a more thrilling thriller, and will be back to being unputdownable for me. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Guest Post - Musings from a debut author by Abigail Osborne

I have always admired writers and the imagination they must have to create works of fiction. It was never something I thought I could do. I was lucky enough to have a lot of free time in my old job as an Assistive Technology Tutor and I just thought why not try it? So I started to write experiences and memories that I had and the more I wrote, the more I felt this need to write more. Before I knew it I had written nearly 10,000 words. Instead of writing more, I sat down and thought about what message I wanted to send through my writing. I wanted to write something that showed that it is important to let yourself be happy, even when you’ve hit rock bottom. Both my characters lose everything and they can let their experiences isolate them or they can take the chance and be happy together. That became the essence of my book.

I wrote a list of what I like in books that I read. One of the things I love, is seeing experiences through two people’s eyes and seeing how they interpret things differently. I especially love this when a romance is developing. I’m one of those people that I always want to know what other people are thinking and so that was when the second perspective appeared in my book. I didn’t use any of my experiences for this character’s story and so this was my biggest test. I sat in front of blank document and just wrote whatever came into my head. I find rather than having an image of the character in my head, as in appearance, I write best when I know what their personality is. So I fleshed out the personality and the ways they would react in certain situations.

I was so surprised at how enjoyable it was making a character ‘out of thin air’, which is what it felt like. When I read through the book for the final time, it was so strange. I found myself thinking ‘wow, I actually wrote that’. It feels as though I have unlocked something within me with this book and I have so many ideas circulating for my next book.

Thank you so much Abbie for sharing your musings with us and Happy Publication Day - The Puppet Master is out now! 

Manipulated by fear and love...could you cut the strings and take back control? 

Billie’s hiding from the world, believing it to be the only way to take control of her life as she lives in fear of the man who nearly destroyed her. But what she doesn’t realise is that she’s exactly where he wants her; isolated and afraid. A chance meeting with budding journalist Adam sparks a relationship that could free her from the terror that controls her. But will Adam be able to see the real Billie buried under her terror and pain? 

Adam knows exactly who Billie is and is determined to expose her and get justice for the lives she ruined. But first, he needs to convince her to open up to him but as unwanted attraction and feelings blossom between them, Adam is forced to realise that all is not as it seems. 

Most of their lives have been unknowingly governed by the desires and needs of someone who considers himself their master. He has influenced and shaped them for years, meticulously weaving a web of lies and control around them. Can Billie and Adam survive the betrayals in store and cut the strings that bind them? 

One thing is for sure. The master wants his puppets back – and he’ll do anything to keep them.

About Me

I was born in the Lake District and have moved all around the UK since then. I currently live with my husband in the West Midlands. I studied English Literature at University but it took four years after I finished University to realise how much I loved writing. I started a book reviewing blog last year and the encouraging responses I got to my reviews encouraged me to try writing this book. The Puppet Master is my first novel but I'm hoping it won't be my last.

You can follow me on @Abigail_Author or @MBequalsML

Book Review - The Lost Cats and Lonely Hearts Club by Nic Tatano

Amazon UK
Title: The Lost Cats and Lonely Hearts Club
Author: Nic Tatano
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 26/8/16
Rating: 5 Stars

Step away from the cat videos on YouTube and put your reservation for the cat cafe on hold because this is a must-read for cat lovers, rom com enthusiasts and hopeless romantics…

Swapping Prada for purrs…

While covering a story, feisty network reporter Madison Shaw gets more than she bargained for when she rescues a box of orphaned kittens. Suddenly the glamazon of the Manhattan news room is doing two am feedings to keep these furbabies alive!

This is certainly a change of pace for the high maintenance workaholic she’s become and taking care of the kittens makes Madison realise how far off track she’s come—after all, she was a stray once too…

When a video of her caring for the kittens goes viral, she knows her image as a hardnosed reporter is shot to hell. What Madison doesn’t expect is the media circus that propels her and the kittens to stardom. And the domino effect that has on her, her career and her love life—especially when she meets sexy Officer Nick Marino…!

I was perhaps a paragraph into this book before realising that I would be in for a an absolute reading treat. The only thing I will say is if you are not a fan of warm fuzzy feelings, and the two potential love interests both being on the surface incredibly honorable and decent guys, then look elsewhere. If you love all that sort of thing, then The Lost Cats & Lonely Hearts Club is a must read. 

I'd generally regard myself as more of a dog person than a cat person, but when reading fiction, I'm a sucker for just about any four legged kitten, and when the book starts with four adorable kittens that have been orphaned, then my heart melts instantly, and stays melted for the whole story. 

The stars of the book without a shadow of a doubt are the four kittens, especially a rather special tortoise-shell who is adorable but not perfect and the clear favourite of their saviour Madison Shaw. 

Madison has a reputation for being a hard hitting television news reporter, who is career driven, up until she spends a weekend up at all hours feeding the kittens she finds and saves when on a job. Between that and another cat related good deed, a video finds its way onto youtube that goes viral and from that stage her story takes on a life of its own. 

During the time she has the kittens, they prove to be the best test ever as to whether a man is worth spending any more time with, and finally they like two men about as much as Madison does, leaving her feeling guilty and torn. 

Madison also has a fabulous network of her friends, all as fabulous as she is, as well as a not so happy childhood that needs to be navigated. There are some bigger issues touched upon this story, but not in any where near enough depth to bring down the happy upbeat, comforting feeling from this book. 

If I was in a position to do so, I would be seriously tempted to run down to my nearest animal shelter and adopt a kitten after reading this story, as I really did fall in love with Buster. I also fell in love with Madison's men too. 

I think that if you are having a bad day this is the purrfect pick me up sort of book, to warm even the hardest of hearts and just have you smiling with all the good and comforting vibes coming off it. I vaguely recall saying only a few weeks ago in my review of The Love Triangle, also by Nic Tatano, that it was my favourite book by him, but this one surpasses it in every single way in my affections. 

I have said it once, and I'll happily say it again, that every book by this wonderful author is going from strength to strength and I am very excited to see what will be next. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Harper Impulse for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Book Review - Letters From Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara - Rachel Reads Randomly Book #36

Amazon UK
Title: Letters From Lighthouse Cottage
Author: Ali McNamara
Format reviewed: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Publisher: Sphere
Publication Date:  14th July 2016
Rating: 5 Stars

The sun is shining in the quiet little seaside town of Sandybridge

Sandybridge is the perfect English seaside town: home to gift shops, tea rooms and a fabulous fish and chip shop. And it's home to Grace - although right now, she's not too happy about it.

Grace grew up in Sandybridge, helping her parents sort junk from vintage treasures, but she always longed to escape to a bigger world. And she made it, travelling the world for her job, falling in love and starting a family. So why is she back in the tiny seaside town she'd long left behind, hanging out with Charlie, the boy who became her best friend when they were teenagers?

It turns out that travelling the world may not have been exactly what Grace needed to do. Perhaps everything she wanted has always been at home - after all, they do say that's where the heart is...

It is not often that I read a book that leaves me at the end, sitting starting into space, mouthing the word over and over. In fact I am pretty much speechless, and also despairing as to how to convey my thoughts into a review for this book. 

I could go down the quick route and just leave you with a one liner, saying its Ali McNamara doing what she does best, go out and buy this book now, as its addictive, absorbing and a joy to read, but although all of that is indeed true, I feel I need to try and express my love for the story a bit more eloquently! 

On the back of my paperback copy of Letters from Lighthouse Cottage, there is one line that caught my eye as I sat down to read it  "Take a holiday in Ali McNamara's magical world". My initial reaction was "help! its going to be full on unrealistic magic" but thankfully I was completely wrong, there is an enchanting, dare I saw bewitching element to the story, but its weaved in so unobtrusively that I was able to take it at face value and accept its part of this novel.  

Within a few pages of starting the book, I found myself incredibly happy I was starting it in an afternoon where I didn't really have much to do, and thus could dedicate my time to reading this properly and over the course of the next few hours, I was hooked on this story. The writing is superb, as it tells you Grace's story, from teenagerhood, to finally realising where her heart lies. It is split into parts, various chunks set in chronological order, all offering key insights into Grace's story. 

In between each part, there is what she is doing currently, in very brief snapshots, in a way that makes a lot of sense now reflecting on the book, as to just really what was going on.  In each interlude in Grace's life, there are some common factors, best friend Charlie, her first boyfriend Danny, and Sandybridge House, a huge manor house, that no owner really knows what to do with. In fact its Sandybridge House that is the backdrop to many life altering moments in the friends lives. 

You may be wondering about the title, but without giving too much away, the letters are completely key to the story and Lighthouse Cottage is fairly key too, in ways you may not realise to start with. 

I'm not sure I'm explaining this well, but basically at the end of the day its the story of friendship, of how the path to true happiness has to go through some ups and downs, and that you may need to go through some of the worsts time in your life in order for fate to sort out its life plan for you. 

Every single time I read a book by Ali McNamara I am blown away to a certain extent, and I am delighted to say her writing and her imagination just seems to get better and better with each book, although I will alway have a soft spot for her From Notting Hill with... series. 

Thank you to everyone that voted for Letters From Lighthouse Cottage this week. It was the runaway winner, and I'm sure there was a reason I bought it, I just sometimes need that small bit of persuasion to step away from the dedicated review books and read something I clearly am going to love. Really looking forward already to seeing what you choose for me next. 

Rachel Reads Randomly - Vote #37

Thank you everyone for your input last time. The results of the last vote were:

0 Votes - One Kiss in...Miami by Various
2 Votes - Hopeful - an autobiography by Omid Djalili 
3 Vote -  Fire Damage by Kate Medina
4 Votes -   The Memory Box by Sarah Webb
9 Votes -  Letters from Lighthouse Cottage by Ali McNamara

You guys have done it again and picked a brilliant book for me, for which I am eternally grateful. I thoroughly enjoyed Letters From Lighthouse Cottage, and didn't really want it to finish. Although I will admit at points during last week I was convinced it could have been a four way tie, as I thought some of the other books had more votes than they really did! 

This week I am going to randomise from books published during 2016, I do from time to time buy books, but then barely have a chance to read them as I focus predominately on my review pile, so would be nice to see if I can read something reasonably new that I just haven't been able to justify the time for yet! 

Below is my initial theory for this feature, and then a bit further, what you are all waiting for... This weeks's vote! Enjoy!

I am also awful at deciding what book to read next, as I often have about 10 titles or authors jumping into my brain at any time, shouting at me to read them, and I tend to worry I have made the wrong decision while reading a perfectly good book. I am hoping this will save me having to make at least 1 choice a week, while possibly providing a review to the site of a book you all either love or are curious about yourselves. 

So what I am proposing, is my lovely loyal readers of Rachel's Random Reads, select one book for me to read a week, and I will post the review the following week. 

This weeks random numbers are...

And the books these numbers correspond to are...

So the 5 choices with my gut feeling responses are:

1 - Exposure by Ava Marsh - I loved Ava Marsh's first book Untouchable last year and been hearing good things about Exposure. 
2 - It Had To Be You by Barbara Hannay and Nikki Logan - This is a romance that appeared in a goody bag from an event I want to earlier this year. Intend to read it at some point! 
5 - Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard - Thriller set on a cruise ship. Followers of this blog may know I'm a huge fan of cruising, so very curious about this book. 
39 - The Last Day I Saw Her by Lucy Lawrie - I know I bought this and that it looks good, but apart from reading another book by Lucy while I was on holiday the other month, I don't really know much about this. 
46 - My DisOrganised Life by Nina Whyle - I honestly keep meaning to pick this one up and read it, but then others seem to catch my eye. I believe its chick lit and meant to be good fun. 

I have no idea whatsoever how this vote is going to go this week. If I was pushed I could possibly name the winning genre, but not with any confidence. From my point of view, I really want to read all 5 of these books at some point, and think its one of the more varied selections was have had for a while. I am really looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Pick your favourite or the one you most want me to review, or just the one you are curious about, and leave me a comment below, before midnight on Wednesday. 

I look forward to seeing what I will be reading over the weekend, courtesy of you all.

The explanation if you haven't seen the feature before. 

How is this going to work?

Every Monday, I am going to have a post like this, which is going to have some choices on it. I am planning on using to select 7 random numbers, to coincide with my spreadsheet of unread books.  

I will from that produce a list of hopefully 5 books, I reserve the right to veto any books, and will give reasons for them, if it occurs.

I will take screenshots and post them, of the chosen books, and also give you my instinctive reactions to the choices (without checking blurbs or any other info about them, which could be interesting as there are probably many forgotten about books on my spreadsheet!). 

Your task is to post a comment on this post, with the book you would like me to read this week. At midnight on Wednesday I will take a tally of the votes and the book with the most, I will read and review for the following Monday, where you will also get a new choice post. 

In the event of a tie, I will chose which one appeals most, for the Monday review, and possibly try and read and review the other to appear when I can. 

I am hoping this will provide some variety to the books appearing, and will let me potentially read or discover some great authors that I have wanted to read but not got around to yet.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Book Review - A Summer of Secrets by Alice Ross

Amazon UK
Title: A Summer of Secrets
Author: Alice Ross
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Carina
Publication Date: 9th May 2016
Rating: 4.5 Stars

One long hot summer. Secrets never stay buried for long…

Portia is determined to restore Buttersley Manor, her family’s crumbling ancestral home, to its former glory. Yet she has a feeling that there are a few forgotten skeletons in the dust-covered cupboards.

Jenny has put her life on hold for far too long. It’s time to finally start living and to dig up those hopes and dreams she’s kept hidden all these years – but is she brave enough?

Rich is happily married with a beautiful wife and lovely daughter. In fact, his world is perfect until a very unexpected consequence of his past walks through the door…

Joe would like nothing more than to travel back in time to when he and Gina were happy. But is it too late to rescue what they once had?

One thing’s for sure, nothing’s ever quite what it seems when it comes to life in the country!

This is my second and definitely won't be my last visit to Buttersley. I really loved the way the four main storylines wove around each other, and the main characters in this I found a lot easy to get to know than the ones in the previous book in this series. 

Although it is book 2 in the Countryside Dreams series, it can easily be read as a standalone as all the focus are on people that are new to the reader, the book just happens to be set in the location. 

A couple of the storylines were a lot stronger than the others, in fact although Portia is a main character, and is heir to Buttersley Manor, it felt like she had the smallest amount of book dedicated to her, but she still had a budding romance in the offing. 

Jenny is a lot more interesting, she has lived with her domineering mother for her whole life, and has barely done anything with her own life. Finally at the age of 50 she is slowly starting to show a rebellious streak which is wonderful to see, and did make me think that if I don't change my own life I may end up like Jenny in the future. 

Rich's story is a bit more complex when a blast from the past shows up, but at the same time shows us his family situation, and work situation and I really liked his whole family. 

And then there is Joe, he is a young twenty something, working as a window cleaner that offers additional services, but is heartbroken, until things slowly start to change, and he has real adult decisions to make which will affect his future. 

The narrative switches between the various characters fairly often, but instead of feeling confused, it didn't take long to get used to it, and to know who was who. I really enjoyed the way the four main strands would interact, even if I couldn't work it out to start with. 

My only slight niggle with the book was the it felt like rather an abrupt ending, but I hope that just means we will get glimpses of these characters in the next book, to find out what is going on with their lives. 

A Summer of Secrets is  a very enjoyable glimpse into the lives of some of Buttersley's residents, and I can't wait to see what happens next in this charming series.

Thanks to Carina and Netgalley for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Book Review - An Amsterdam Affair by Amanda Addison

Amazon UK
Title: An Amsterdam Affair
Author: Amanda Addison
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Peach Publishing
Publication Date: 6th July 2016
Rating: 3.5 Stars

An Amsterdam Affair follows Sam and her idealistic teenaged son, Matty. Phil, Sam’s husband, is unemployed because of a short-lived affair that cost him his job as a geologist. 

Sam finds solace in wild swimming and making art in her beach hut studio. Matty prepares for a college trip to Amsterdam but before he leaves, Sam gives him a book and asks him to look for someone in Amsterdam. 

Phil gets a temporary job and for the first time in a long while, Sam finds herself alone. She starts writing an art blog which attracts the attention of Theo, her Dutch-Indonesian ex-lover from a long forgotten relationship. Their online correspondence re-ignites their relationship and he wants to meet up with her once again. 

Matty meets the girl of his dreams, Alice, and both soon find themselves as detectives caught up in unravelling his family’s secret past. 

Meanwhile, Sam does not realise that her careless emailing has been read by Phil, who returns home early to confront her.

If you like art, then you will love An Amsterdam Affair. It has a very strong artistic theme, with Matty being in Amsterdam on a college trip for the subject, and them heading around Amsterdam to various galleries. And Matty's mother Sam is also artistic and spent a summer in Amsterdam herself in the mid 80s which she relives for us. 

The view point switches between Sam and Matty and its Matty's sections I preferred, as a teenager in Amsterdam is always going to be a fun viewpoint, especially when he's part of a group. Matty is an incredibly gifted child, but struggles to fit in, and had trouble in his earlier childhood. He does thankfully have a couple of friends on the trip with him, as well as a girl who has just joined the college, Alice, who seems to be on his wavelength. 

I loved the scene at customs involving Nikki and some dogs, where I guessed the reason behind the unusual behaviour far before the "adults" in charge of this trip. If it was my child on a college trip, I would have hoped for far more responsible people to have been running it. 

Matty had been given a quest as such, to try and achieve while in Amsterdam, thanks to Sam, and it helps to reveal the real reason she went there in the first place as a youngster. 

Sam in the meantime has had her old lover from those days get back i touch, and she starts to think about him a lot more. 

There are sections of the book that I thoroughly enjoyed, but other bits I just thought dragged on a bit, and where there could have been highly emotionally charged events, or anything with a bit more interest, they just seemed to be glossed over, which I found frustrating. 

An Amsterdam Affair is set between Amsterdam (of course) and Great Yarmouth, which gives off a great feel of both places to the reader. I liked this book but feel I would have loved it even more had I had a bit of knowledge of Dutch artists. 

Thank you to Amanda Addison for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Book Review - Made in Nashville by Mandy Baggot - Back Catalogue Books

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it! 

My back catalogue review this week is Made in Nashville by Mandy Baggot, which I read as part of a Summer Impulse readathon at the start of August. 

Amazon UK
Title: Made in Nashville
Author: Mandy Baggot
Format reviewed: Ebook
Source: Author supplied review copy
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Publication Date: 6th February 2014
Rating: 5 Stars

An on-stage attack left Honor Blackwood with more scars than just the one on her face. It's been ten years since she left her spot as Nashville's brightest country music star. Is now the time to return? And is she brave enough to do it?

Country rebel and rock star, Jared 'Jed' Marshall is hot property on the Tennessee music scene in more ways than one. He's wild, he's sexy and everybody wants a piece of him. But when he sets his sights on Honor, is it pure attraction or just distraction on his mind? 

Honor's record label sign the ex-boyfriend that dumped her and suddenly going back to her old life is harder than she thought. And when a secret from the past becomes public knowledge it's no longer just about the music. Are all the people in her life lying to her to get what they want? 

Join the country scene to find out! 

Made in Nashville - where the off-stage action's as hot as the music!

I'm still in disbelief that a little over a year ago, I had never read a Mandy Baggot book, and now I am slowly working my way through her back catalogue as well  as being keen to read her newest releases and every single time, I am astounded at the quality of the writing, the way she writes her leading characters, and in some cases the picture of the location that is built up. 

I am delighted to say that Made in Nashville is no exception to this. This is a fast paced roller coaster ride of a book, taking in the country music scene in Nashville, Tennessee. Now I don't know a lot about country music, but I would suggest that if you can read and listen to music simultaneously then to set up the suggested play list at the start of the book to really enhance your enjoyment of the book. Unfortunately I didn't and thats only because I knew if I started listening to music, I may have lost track of what I was reading, and I didn't want that!  

Honor Blackwood is a country singer who hasn't recorded or performed for 10 years, after she was attacked on stage at one of her concerts. Understandably it takes some getting over that, and now she has settled down to an ordinary life, and tries to ignore country music, despite it being part of her. However in a series of coincidences her manager tries to persuade her to return to produce new music for a Greatest Hits album, and current star Jed Marshall happens to hear her singing to herself and wants her to be the support act on his latest tour. 

All of this leaves Honor needing to make some very brave decisions, and I loved seeing her thought processes. I also loved how the view point alternated regularly even within chapters, between Jared (Jed) and Honor, allowing the reader to have a well rounded view of what is going on. 

There is a clear chemistry between Honor and Jed, and its wonderfully charming to see that Jed has been brought up with a respectful attitude toward women and with strong personal justice values that lead him into some sticky situations. 

Made in Nashville has a lovely story, which shows that true love doesn't run smoothly, and as we learn more about the main characters, some more in depth storylines are dealt with, within their back stories, which justs to my respect and love for both Honor and Jed. 

Thank you so much to Mandy Baggot for this review copy. This was my honest opinion. 

Back Catalogue Books - Q&A with Isboel Blackthorn

Back Catalogue Books is my new regular Saturday feature, focusing on books that are not the latest releases. There is going to be a mix of Q&As and also reviews, depending on what I have the space for. 

If you are an author wanting to take part in Back Catalogue Books then please do email on gilbster at gmail dot com and I'll whizz the questions over to you. 

I hope everyone enjoys this weekly look back at some of the slightly older books that are about but still great, and that I eventually make a dent in my TBRs as a result of it! 

This week we have Isobel Blackthorn talking about her previous welcome.

I’m a Londoner originally and I’ve spent almost half my life in the UK. I’ve also lived in Spain and the Canary Islands.  Now I’m in Melbourne, Australia. I have two daughters, twins, all grown up and leading busy lives. I’ve been a high school teacher, a market trader and PA to a literary agent. I have a PhD in Western Esotericism.

Please tell me about your first book, and what started you writing in the first place

I’ve wanted to be a creative writer since I was eleven. My passion for it grew in my late teens and early twenties and a few people around me thought I had some talent for it, but I had no confidence at all and I was too caught up with the challenging workings of my own mind to consider other people’s, even in fiction. I was one of those young people told to ‘get a real job’. I waited and waited and when finally my daughters reached 18, the creative passion in me reared up and demanded my attention. 

My writing started out intensely autobiographical. It’s taken years to transcend this. My first novel, Asylum, began as memoir. It was so dour my beta readers were left depressed for days. So a year later I hacked into it, deleted over half the content, created a character that definitely wasn’t me, and re-wrote it. I slaved and slaved over the story. I wanted to portray what its like to be a British-born visa overstayer in Australia. I wanted to tell a story from a perspective that was critical of this country. A story of alienation. 

How many books have you written and what are they?

I am working on my fifth novel. I had two novels published last year, Asylum, a work of contemporary women’s fiction, and The Drago Tree, a literary love story set on Lanzarote. I also have a short story collection, All Because of You, released in May this year (2016).  My next novel, A Perfect Square, a literary thriller, is out in August. 

Which book are you most proud of writing?

I am most proud of my short story collection, All Because of You. I started writing short stories in 2010.  They are my most autobiographical works. Although each story is carefully crafted and shaped, they are almost all based on real events and experiences. I pitched each story to every literary journal in Australia. I got little post-it notes saying ‘Well done’, and twice a story was short listed, but none made the cut. It was unbelievably demoralising. Then in 2012 a small press picked them up. I’d made it! My current publisher, Odyssey Books, loves the collection so much she re-released it, with an additional three stories. 

Which book was your favourite to write?

The Drago Tree, without a doubt. I wrote this novel in 2013, after the break up of my last relationship. I needed to escape so I took myself off to Lanzarote in my mind, immersed myself in memories, in images on the Internet, and I took Google maps man out on long tours (I clicked my way round the whole island). The writing was not without its challenges and the construction is complex with two points of view and a lot of backstory, but I was so entertained by the three main characters that sprang to life on the page. So much so, that I am now at work on a whole series based on them.

Who are your favourite characters from your books and why?

My favourite characters are geologist Ann Salter, hack crime author, Richard Parry, and indigenous potter, Domingo, all of The Drago Tree. These characters have become my best friends.

If you could go back and change anything from any of your books, what would it be, and why?

I would change some parts of Asylum, in keeping with current circumstances concerning refugees. I wrote this novel in 2012/13, before the Syrian exodus, before the huge refugee crisis in Europe. In Asylum I was focussed solely on the situation of offshore detention centres and boat turn backs, protagonist Yvette Grimm comparing her migrant situation with that of real asylum seekers, but now things have become far more critical and there is a lot more Yvette would have thought and said as a result. 

Which of your covers if your favourite and why?

I think my publisher produces great covers and I love them all. But my favourite is the one she created for All Because of You. I think it captures the mood of the collection perfectly.

Have you ever thought about changing genres, if so what else would you like to write?

This is my pet subject. I change genres all the time. I started out with literary aspirations, which was a good jumping off point because it forced me to work really hard on my craft. Each story I write sits in a different genre. I’ve just completed a work of dark fiction, tinged with domestic noir. And I’m at work on a crime series. I don’t imagine I’ll ever write fantasy or science fiction, or a traditional romance, but I really embrace the challenges of writing in different genres. It keeps an author on their toes!

Looking forward can you let us know what you are working on next?

I am very excited about my current work. Set on Lanzarote, with Ann and Richard and Domingo from The Drago Tree, it’s a quirky cosy mystery, at times hilarious but mostly gripping and intriguing. I can’t say any more than that. 

I dare not ask for a favourite author, but is there any author’s back catalogue you admire and why?

Iain Banks. I have learned more from Iain Banks than from any other writer. He is the father of my muse. He was a master storyteller, an adept, and a risk taker too.  Through him, I have developed a real affection for Scotland.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your back catalogue of books?

All my books to date have been published by Odyssey Books, a small press based in Canberra, Australia, and are available in English worldwide.

You can purchase all my books in paperback or e-book formats from Amazon.

Thank you so much Isobel, loving the idea of setting books in Lanzarote, and I'm very impressed at your ability to write in multiple genres.

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