Challenge Participant


Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Blog Tour - The Worse Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby

Today I am pleased to welcome Chrissie Manby to my blog to celebrate the publication of her new paperback, The Worse Case Scenario. Firstly I must apologise because this should have been posted yesterday, however computer problems have made it a day late. Chrissie has visited lots of blogs and readers can check out the blogs below to follow the tour in its entirety.

Chrissie has joined me on the blog and discusses her 'annus  horribilis’ and how she has written her way back to happiness .........

I don’t mind telling you that the last twelve months have been among the worst of my life.  Scrap that.  Not ‘among’ the worst.  They have been the worst, full stop (touches wood and hopes I won’t need to add ‘so far’).

Anyway, the year I like to call my ‘annus fucking horribilis’ began with the sudden death of my father last August.  The fall out from that, along with a variety of crises that were already brewing, combined to make the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 one constant round of grief, despair and disappointment.  Of staring at the ceiling in the middle of the night, heart pounding, brain full of anxiety.  Of pulling the duvet over my head in the mornings, as I whined ‘do I really have to face another day?’

Yep.  I was fantastic company. And boy was it showing in my writing. 

I started working on The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club just after Dad died.  The book’s due date was the end of March 2017.  Midway through February 2017, I read through what I’d done thus far and realised I’d accidentally written a tragedy.  All three of my main characters were recently bereaved, as I was.  None of them were able to move forward.  They talked and cried and sobbed and occasionally considered suicide. Meanwhile, Hodder had commissioned a book cover featuring a bunting-covered cake stall and a waggy-looking dog.

The disconnect between what I was writing and what was expected of me was immediately and glaringly obvious.  For another two weeks, I tried to make my story fit the cover.  It wasn’t happening.  On March 10th, the day after what would have been Dad’s birthday, I scrapped the whole damn thing.  It’s written in my diary for the day.  Just four words. ‘Made decision about novel’.

It was possibly the craziest thing I’ve ever done.  I was setting aside pretty much a whole book to start again with less than a month before my deadline.  Deciding against telling my agent or my editor what was going on (in fact, I told only one person, fellow writing nutjob Michele Gorman), I made myself a timetable.  Three weeks.  Roughly four thousand words a day.  If I could hit those targets, I should be able to do it. It was madness. But I wouldn’t be the first to try.

I took Anthony Trollope, the Victorian novelist, as my inspiration.  Trollope was a writing machine, fitting in three hours before breakfast every day.  Each of those three hours was broken down into fifteen minute sections with a target of two hundred and fifty words for every quarter of an hour. Insane but, as it turned out, not impossible.

Trollope and Michele (another high speed writer) gave me the encouragement I needed.  I started the second version of The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club on March 12th. On the morning I began again, I had a little cry. Actually, it was a big cry. Then I pulled on my big girl pants and got cracking. 

Luckily, the first draft of WCSCC wasn’t completely wasted.  There were sections I was able to salvage.  The cooking scenes and recipes remained the same.  I also retained my three main characters though I changed their back stories.  Liz’s husband didn’t die this time.  He merely left her for a health food blogger. That immediately opened up the possibility of jokes about quinoa (I was desperate after all).

As I wrote, I channelled some of my zanier heroines from novels past, such as Lizzie Jordan and Ashleigh from Getting Over Mr Right. As I dropped my attempts at ‘heartfelt’ and went instead for ‘flat-out bonkers’, the words began to flow. And something inside me began to change too.

My writing schedule was lunatic but it gave me no time to dwell on the sadness in my little corner of the world.  My waking hours were devoted to coming up with funny scenarios. My sleeping hours were no longer interrupted by those middle of the night dread fests.  I was too fricking tired for that.  My days were just writing and writing and writing.  And finally, once again, finding the energy to laugh at my own jokes (which is apparently one of my worst habits).  My crazy gamble was bringing me back to life.       

I handed in the second draft of The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club bang on my deadline. Then I took a very long nap.

I don’t know if WCSCC is my best book but it’s certainly the one I love the best right now.  Those months I spent writing the first draft weren’t wasted.  In retrospect I can see that I was working through my grief in those pages.  But I am extremely thankful for the joy writing Liz, Bella, John and the Waggy Weight Loss Club gang brought back into my life.  And to Anthony Trollope and Michele Gorman for inspiring me to pull my socks up and get on with it. Four thousand words a day? No problem.

Thank you Chrissie for joining me on my blog. Loosing a parent is definitely one of the largest things that can happen in a person's life and it takes a long time to come to terms with. I remember when my dad died suddenly, he was only 52, and it hit me for six. I hope that you are starting to come to terms with your loss and remember all the happy times you spent together.

The Worse Case Scenario Cookery Club is a great read, I really enjoyed all the characters and the storyline is believable and a really enjoyable book. The cooking scenes are fantastic and the food sounds mouthwatering.

Thank you to Chrissie Manby and her publishers, Hodder, for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Blog Tour - 99 Red Balloons by Elisabeth Carpenter

Today I am really pleased to welcome Elisabeth Carpenter to my blog with her debut novel, 99 Red Balloons.

99 Red Balloons Two girls go missing, decades apart. What would you do if one was your daughter?When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge. What are the secret emails sent between Emma's husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems? Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace's picture in the newspaper. It's a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl - the first girl who disappeared... This is a gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist that will take your breath away. 
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers 
ISBN: 9780008223519 

I really enjoyed this book, it is one of those that grabs the readers attention from page one and although it is a difficult subject, the abduction of a young girl, it kept my attention to the very last word. It is really well written and I found myself going through the raft of feelings along with the mother, grandmother and extended family and I was kept guessing to the very end where the twist was that last surprise that made it an exciting book to read.
 I definitely recommend this book to all my blog readers. The author, Elisabeth Carpenter, has told me a little more about the setting for 99 Red Balloons and her ties to the country too. Enjoy ...........

I lived in Germany as a child but, unlike my character in 99 Red Balloons, I have nothing but great memories of living there. My dad was in the air force and was stationed at RAF Wildenrath between 1982 and January 1985. This was the time Nena’s song was all over the radio stations. In the German version, however, it’s ‘99 Luft Ballons’ which means ‘99 Air Balloons’. We used to sing the chorus in German, not really knowing anything about the song itself.

Living on a British base felt safe as a child. We weren’t, however, sheltered from German culture. On Sundays, everything closed – shops shut from 2pm on a Saturday and didn’t open until Monday morning (supermarkets were totally different to UK supermarkets at that time, with non-food products being sold). Washing was not permitted to be hung out to dry on a Sunday and no one washed their cars. This meant family time was valued with get-togethers and barbeques.

Because Germany is so central in Europe, I took for granted the ability to visit other countries so easily. I thought it was something everyone did. We travelled to Holland, Belgium and Austria by car.

The weather was more extreme than in the UK: baking hot summers when we could visit the open-air swimming baths, while we could be knee-deep in snow in the winter. This meant we could take our sledges to the hill at the side of the house and give our parents some peace.

At school, we were permitted to wear what we wanted, though a uniform was available. The idea was that we lived a regimented life being part of the military, so – at school at least – everything was relaxed. We made bread from scratch, and butter from passing round a jar of full fat milk to shake.

My experiences in Germany were the opposite to those of my character in 99 Red Balloons. When this posting came to an end, we were quite pragmatic about leaving. Most RAF children are used to moving around, making new friends quickly. Before this we had lived in Scotland, so I had no memory of ever having lived in England. I remember one of my parents’ friends giving me and my brother a pound note each to take with us.

When I came to England, however, my feelings were similar to those of the child in 99 Red Balloons. Most of the other children in my new class had been there since the start of their education. For my first day at school I wore a burgundy dress with a satin bow while everyone else was in their uniforms.

I’d love to go back to Germany, to travel down the River Rhine, to eat frites with mayonnaise squeezed from giant tubes, and re-visit places I remember. I will always have fond memories of Germany – but that might not be the case for the little girl in 99 Red Balloons

Thank you Elisabeth Carpenter and Avon Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. I really enjoyed the book and look forward to hearing more about future books by Elisabeth.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Blog Tour - The Big Dreams Beach Hotel by

Today I am excited to welcome to my blog, to celebrate the publication of her novel, The Big Dreams Beach Hotel.

A heartwarming, cosy romance from Sunday Times bestselling author Michele Gorman, now writing as Lilly Bartlett Wriggle your toes in the sand and feel the warm breeze on your face when you check into the hotel that's full of dreams... Three years after ditching her career in New York City, Rosie never thought she'd still be managing the quaint faded Victorian hotel in her seaside hometown. What's worse, the hotel's new owners are turning it into a copy of their Florida properties. Flamingos and all. Cultures are clashing and the hotel's residents stand in the way of the developers' plans. The hotel is both their home and their family. That's going to make Rory's job difficult when he arrives to enforce the changes. And Rosie isn't exactly on his side, even though it's the chance to finally restart her career. Rory might be charming, but he's still there to evict her friends. How can she follow her dreams if it means ending everyone else's?
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers 
ISBN: 9780008226626 

I have been given the first page of this novel to share with my blog readers. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have ...................................

New York is where I fell head over heels for a bloke named Chuck. I know: Chuck. But don’t judge him just because he sounds like he should be sipping ice-cream floats at the drive-in or starring in the homecoming football game. Rah rah, sis boom bah, yay, Chuck!

Believe me, I didn’t plan for a Chuck in my life. But that’s how it happens, isn’t it? One minute you’ve got plans for your career and a future that doesn’t involve the inconvenience of being in love, and the next you’re floating around in full dozy-mare mode.

I won’t lie to you. When Chuck walked into our hotel reception one afternoon in late October, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was lust.

Be still, my fluttering nethers.

Talk about unprofessional. I could hardly focus on what he was saying. Something about organising Christmas parties.

‘To be honest, I don’t really know what I’m doing,’ he confided as he leaned against the reception desk. His face was uncomfortably close to mine, but by then I’d lived in New York for eighteen months. I was used to American space invaders. They’re not being rude, just friendly. And Chuck was definitely friendly.

‘I only started my job about a month ago,’ he told me. ‘It’s my first big assignment, so I really can’t fuck it up. Sorry, I mean mess it up.’ His blue (so dark blue) eyes bore into mine. ‘I’m hoping someone here can help me.’

It took all my willpower not to spring over the desk to his aid. Not that I’m at all athletic. I’d probably have torn my dress, climbed awkwardly over and landed face-first at his feet.

Keep him talking, I thought, so that I could keep staring. He looked quintessentially American, with his square jawline and big straight teeth and air of confidence, even though he’d just confessed to being hopeless at his new job. His brown hair wasn’t too long but also wasn’t too short, wavy and artfully messed up with gel, and his neatly trimmed stubble made me think of lazy Sunday mornings in bed.

See what I mean? Lust.

‘I noticed you on my way back from Starbucks,’ he said.

At first, I thought he meant he’d noticed me. That made me glance in the big mirror on the pillar behind him, where I could just see my reflection from where I was standing. At five-foot four, I was boob-height behind the desk in the gunmetal-grey fitted dress uniform all the front-desk staff had to wear. My wavy dark-red hair was as neat as it ever got. I flashed myself a reflected smile just to check my teeth. Of course, I couldn’t see any detail from where I stood. Only my big horsy mouth. Mum says giant teeth make my face interesting. I think I look a bit like one of the Muppets.

‘Do you have the space for a big party?’ he said. ‘For around four hundred people?’

He didn’t mean he’d noticed me; only the hotel. ‘We’ve got the Grand Ballroom and the whole top floor, which used to be the restaurant and bar. I think it’s even prettier than the ballroom, but it depends on your style and your budget and what you want to do with it.’

Based on his smile, you’d have thought I’d just told him we’d found a donor kidney for his operation. ‘I’ve been looking online, but there are too many choices,’ he said. ‘Plus, my company expects the world.’ He grimaced. ‘They didn’t like the hotel they used last year, or the year before that. I’m in over my head, to be honest. I think I need a guiding hand.’

Thank you to Lily Barnett and Harper Impulse for sharing this extract with me and inviting me to take part in this blog tour. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

Blog Tour - Escape to Willow Cottage by Bella Osborne

Today I am pleased to welcome Bella Osborne to my blog to celebrate the publication of her latest novel 'Escape to Willow Cottage'. 

Escape to Willow Cottage - Willow Cottage Series (Paperback)The Escape to Willow Cottage was originally published as a four-part serial. This is the complete story in one package. A cosy and heartwarming seasonal romance, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley. Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a warm, caring and safe place for little Leo. When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it's not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage. Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose... Escape to Willow Cottage was originally digitally published as a four-part serial under the title Willow Cottage. This is the complete story.
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers 
ISBN: 9780008181024 

I have really enjoyed 'Escape to Willow Cottage'. It it is great read for enjoying on a sun lounger this summer. I live near the Cotswolds and so it was great to read a book set in an area where I could picture the scene. The story is a really enjoyable to read and although on the surface it may appear to be a nice gentle read, there is a darker story underneath which I am sure some readers will identify with. There is a great cast of characters. Beth is a strong women who has faced a knock to her confidence and arrives at Willow Cottage having bought it unseen and as she renovates the cottage, her life also begins to regrow. Carly is also a great character, along with her partner, Fergus who is deaf. I can imagine him as a really cheeky chap who brings life to any occasion. 

The publishers have provided me with an extract from the novel. Carly is Beth's friend who is still living in London. She lives with Fergus and wants to take their relationship to the next stage and get married by Fergus does not appear to be on the same page ...........

Carly loved Fergus, there was no question about it, but some of the things she loved about him were also the things that drove her slightly crackers. As she opened the front door she could hear him chattering excitedly in his playroom. That was what she called their spare room; he grandly referred to their converted second bedroom as his office but, seeing as all he did was play computer games all day, she thought her label was far more appropriate. She pushed on the door so it opened a fraction. It went quiet inside and he popped his head round the door in greeting.

Hiya, C. Good day?’ he asked, his game controller clutched between his thighs and his uncombed dark hair falling across his face.

Youve not got dressed. Carly puffed out her cheeks.

Fergus looked down at his Minecraft lounge trousers and grinned. ‘I have, I was wearing Batman ones this morning. The door shut behind him. Every day was a pyjama day to Fergus – how he managed to pay his share of the bills into the joint account each month Carly had no idea. He had tried to explain how it worked a couple of times but, whilst she did use the Internet occasionally, she didnt really get it and it still baffled her how he got paid for playing childrens games.

She pouted at the shut door and listened to him gabbling on to himself like a total loon. His own grandmothers phrase popped into her head, recited in her broad Irish accent, Thick as manure but only half as useful.

Carly started chopping vegetables for a stir-fry and found the action quite therapeutic, although the more she chopped and sliced the more disgruntled she became. It was Wednesday night and she always saw Beth on a Wednesday night; it was takeaway and natter night, a chance to have a night off from signing and give her aching wrists a rest. That had all changed now that Beth had gone.

The flats door entry buzzer interrupted her thoughts. She put down the knife and went to see who it was. There was a hunched figure on the screen.
Carly pressed the button to speak. Yeah?’ Carly, its Nick. Can I come up?’

Carly felt her heart start to race. No, you bloody well cant. Sod off. She leaned across the hallway and opened the playroom door. Fergus looked irritated at first until she pointed at the screen to show Nicks face peering at them in black and white.
Come on, Carly. Elizabeth has blown this all out of proportion. I want to fix things but I cant if she wont take my calls.

Carly felt the need to shout, Out of proportion! You shit, you hit her!’
Carly, this is between me and Elizabeth. Tell me where she is. I just want to know shes all right.

I dont know where she is, she lied, but she is fine now shes away from you.

Whats he saying?’ asked Fergus and Carly relayed the conversation. Tell him to feck off, said Fergus.

‘Ive tried that. You go down and see him.

‘Dressed like this?’

Carly shrugged; perhaps he would now see the benefits of getting dressed on a daily basis. She turned her attention back to Nick.

Nick, you can stand there till Christmas for all I care. Youre not coming in and I’ll never tell you where she is even if I knew. She put down the entryphone. Nick stood and stared at the screen for a bit. She watched as he tried the door a couple of times and pressed the button again. Carly ignored it. Nick leaned on the button.

Carly swore and then answered. ‘I’ll call the police.

‘I need to speak to her. Nicks voice had a harsh tone to it now.

Never going to happen.

‘I will find her. I guarantee it,’ warned Nick as he stared into the monitor. Carly watched him, her heart racing. He gave the door one last try and then walked away.

Fergus hugged Carly. You okay?’

No, not really. Beth said hed come looking for her. I think

Im starting to understand why shes run so far away.

Thank you to the publishers, Avon, and Bella Osborne for inviting me to take part in the blog tour and for sending me an exclusive extract of this fantastic novel.