Sunday, 9 December 2018

Review: Sadie's Wars by Rosemary Noble

Sadie’s Wars By Rosemary Noble

An astonishing tale, spanning continents, where truth is stranger than fiction. This historical saga of an extraordinary Australian pioneer family continues into a new generation.

Sadie is brought-up amongst the vineyards of the Yarra Valley while her work-obsessed father reaps riches from the boom years before the Great War.

With post-war depression looming, Sadie's only option is to flee from her disastrous marriage, seeking refuge in Cleethorpes, a small seaside town in northern England.

Years later, when her sons are in RAF Bomber Command, she receives a letter from her long-lost brother which forces her to confront the past and her part in her family’s downfall.

Can old wounds be healed?
Will she find new love?
Will this second war destroy everyone she saved?

A fascinating historical family saga spanning Australia and England. Sadie's Wars is the third book in the Currency Girls series and a standalone novel.

Many times when I get around to reading a review copy of a novel, I've usually forgotten why I chose to read a particular one, and as I don't usually refresh my mind by reading the blurb, I dive in blind. Sadie's War was such a novel and I love how I found out the reason within the first pages; Cleethorpes and Grimsby, towns not so far from where I grew up but familiar enough to trigger nostalgic feelings. Coincidentally, the third chapter is set in Cannington, Western Australia, a place I've visited too, although a vastly different to how the town would have been in 1902. As a reader, I loved the surprise and familiarity of delving into how life was in times gone by in places I can relate to.

Alternating between Australia after the turn of the twentieth century, including the time during and after WW1 where Sadie grew up and England during and after WW11 each part focusing on significant aspects of Sadie's life during what were intensive times in world history. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of daily life during war times realising some household names I recognise have been around much longer than I thought. Ms Noble captured the mood of the two eras with her descriptions and inclusions of atrocious events happening in the news at the time.

Sadie's life is colourful enough but the struggle of living during war times intensify the traumas and problems she faced. She's portrayed as a strong woman who always manages to handle what life throws at her, yet she survives with vulnerability and sadness while coping with the stress and tragedy. Thankfully she has people around her who make her see and believe she deserves to be happy too.

An intriguing page-turner, the writing flows fluidly as Sadie's life and events are documented. The scenes are informative and believable as are the emotions expressed; defeat, sadness and hope.

My favourite books read in 2018 have been historical novels based on true stories and Sadie's War definitely makes the list.

***arc received courtesy of the publisher***

I worked as a librarian, mostly with young people, so books have been my life, ever since I first stepped into a library and found a magical treasure trove. My other love is social history. Retirement gave me the opportunity to travel to Australia where I discovered stories that deserved to be written. I found a new career as an author which gives me immense pleasure. I write for myself but am delighted that others enjoy my books.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Release Day Spotlight & Review: Christmas Miracles at the Little Log Cabin by Helen J. Rolfe

Christmas Miracles at the Little Log Cabin

Do you believe in Christmas Miracles?
Holly is looking for a change and even though not everyone agrees with her career choices, she’s determined there’s more to this life than the long hours she works as an editor in New York City. What she doesn’t expect is to meet Mitch, a recluse who’s hiding more than she realises.
Mitch does all he can to avoid human contact, spending his days in the little log cabin out in the woods behind Inglenook Falls where he owns a Christmas tree farm, so when Holly falls into his life, he’s not sure how to react. All he knows is that something needs to change if he ever wants to get his life back on track.
Along with friends Cleo and Darcy, Holly is determined to bring joy back to Mitch’s life, but will he appreciate their interference? And when a business proposition throws everything up in the air, will it do more harm than good and ruin lives forever?
Both Holly and Mitch must learn that on the surface people aren’t always what they seem…but if you dig a little deeper, they can take you by surprise.
Curl up this Christmas for plenty of snowflakes, roaring log fires, a marriage proposal, unlikely friendships and second chances as we return to the much-loved characters in the New York Ever After series.

Amazon UK      Amazon US 

Filled with hope and love, my first Christmas novel of 2018 has an overwhelming message of never giving up on a dream.

Holly loves living in New York but wants the freedom to pursue her dreams. She decides to quit her job as an editor to become a freelance journalist where she can indulge her interest in photography. She's happy with the decision and as she becomes her own boss, with work already lined up she knows she made the right decision for her. She's happy and positive, but disappointed her boyfriend Pierre doesn't support or share her enthusiasm. During her first assignment in Inglenook Falls, she meets a dishevelled man, who helps her. Despite his appearance, he intrigues her in a way she never thought possible, making her realise she needs to make more changes in her life.

Mitch is a mess, hidden away living like a recluse, a position he wants to get out of but most of the time he lacks the determination to improve his situation. When a trespasser near his log cabin falls and loses consciousness, he's angry but does what any decent person would do – he helps her. When she leaves, he hopes he never sees her again, but does he really want that?

A feel-good novel which embraces the atmosphere of the season as two people find each other at a crossroads in their lives. Mitch misses his son, not knowing where he is, while Holly seizes a career ambition, which makes her question some aspects of her life. Yet not everything is rosy in the cosy town as heartbreaking details from the past surface. Predictably, it leads to an uplifting and romantic finale. We all love a happy ever after, don't we?

The author manages to capture the essence of the winter holiday, using descriptions to bring the small town of Inglenook Falls to life. The secondary characters add additional warmth and humour to the magical narrative, where believing in a little faith, means miracles can come true. The protagonists compliment each other perfectly despite their differences against a winter wonderland backdrop. Like many holiday-themed novels, this is a perfect read to curl up and enjoy with a glass or mug of your favourite seasonal drink. Christmas Miracles at the Little Log cabin is the fourth book in the New York Ever After series and can be read and enjoyed (as I did) as standalone.

***arc received courtesy of the publisher via Rachel's Random Resources***

Helen J Rolfe writes contemporary women's fiction and enjoys weaving stories about family, friendship, secrets, and community. Characters often face challenges and must fight to overcome them, but above all, Helen's stories always have a happy ending.
Location is a big part of the adventure in Helen's books and she enjoys setting stories in different cities and countries around the world. So far, locations have included Melbourne, Sydney, New York, Connecticut, Bath and the Cotswolds.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Guest Post: Karen Botha, author of Naked Truths

Guest Post
Today, we welcome author Karen Botha as she discusses how she manages her writing schedule:

I’ve tried writing in all sorts of ways over the past few years. I used to just sit down and write for as long as it took me to get bored and then I’d move on to do something else with my day.
Now, I have a target. I need to write 5k words a day to meet my deadlines, and so that’s what I do. I found I struggled with inspiration at first. I’d get to the point when I would usually have gotten up off my backside and done something else and I’d get twitchy. So, someone gave me a tip.
I use an App called Brain Focus which is the best. It counts down 25 minutes during which you write as much as you can. Then you take a 5-minute break. I couldn’t believe how much my output increased when I started using this.
I’m releasing one book a week from 3rd September to Christmas and so I’ve been on a tight turnaround, juggling lots of moving parts.
My old routine used to be to get up in the morning and exercise. What I found though as the pressure increased was that I couldn’t focus. I was too desperate to get into the office that exercising became a source of pressure.
So, instead, I use Les Mills on Demand and I noticed that their classes are in roughly five-minute bursts. So, when I have the break now, I get up and I do another batch of exercise.
Guess what?
My output increased even more. It must have something to do with the blood rushing around my body or something because I am now on fire.
Naked Truths was written both ways because this was my first book. Back in those days, I was proud to say I could write 1000 words in a sitting. It sounded a lot, right? When I came back after getting it re-edited eighteen months later, I’m now up to 1600 per hour.
And that’s critical for me because I have so many books floating around my head, driving me crazy and stopping me from sleeping, that it makes a difference if I can write faster.
My poor husband is a star. I am up at all times of the night paying homage to a new idea which has sprung into my head at the most inconvenient of times. He’ll often wake in the morning to find I have crept out of bed and am ensconced upstairs in my office, putting some words down on paper before they drive me totally insane. Although, he may argue that I’m already there, but you’ll have to ask him about that.

He’s a grieving widower, the perfect boyfriend, and the prime suspect…
Lucy knows the importance of boundaries. As a massage therapist, she keeps her work and her personal life completely separate. But when a handsome widower shows up on her table and sparks an instant attraction, Lucy is shameless. Breaking her rule, she crosses the line, triggering a series of thrilling mysteries.
Paula isn’t so sure about her best friend’s perfect man… or the story of his wife's death. To uncover the truth, the former detective infiltrates his social circle. When she examines a scandalous lodger, a jealous brother, and a protective mother-in-law, everyone seems to have a hidden motive for murder…
Lucy is torn between her old friend and her dark new love. Will she follow her head or her heart? And can Paula discover the true killer before her friend makes a fateful mistake?
Naked Truths is the first book in a series of pulse-pounding romantic suspense books. If you like the odd steamy sex scene, complex characters, and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love the suspense of Karen Botha’s gripping romantic suspense.

Karen Botha was born in Lincolnshire, England where her father was in the Royal Air Force. As a young girl she always had a passion for reading and writing, studying English Language before University.
Working most of her adult life in digital marketing didn't leave her much time to pursue her passion for stories. But, at the age of 36 she retrained as a reflexologist and started working for herself. This helped her free up more than enough time to enjoy a re-found passion; writing.
Her first novel was inspired by the true life experiences of her clients. But don't believe everything you read, she has more than enough imagination to catch you out with twist and turns galore.
She enjoys romance, travelling and motor sport, which also provide her inspiration for her books.
She currently lives in London with her husband and rescue dog, Shadow.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

New Release Spotlight & Excerpt: A Greater God by Brian Stoddart

A Greater God by Brian Stoddart
Paperback: 362 pages
Publisher: Selkirk International Pty (30 Nov. 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0648393801
ISBN-13: 978-0648393801

Superintendent Chris Le Fanu returns to Madras from Penang where he leaves his new Straits Chinese love interest, Jenlin Koh, and a tempting new post in police intelligence there. He finds Hindu-Muslim tension on the rise in Madras, and his friends and subordinates Mohammad Habibullah and Jackson Caldicott at loggerheads as a result. A series of Muslim murders around the Presidency adds more tension. Le Fanu's arch enemy, Inspector-General Arthur "The Jockey" Jepson is reacting recklessly to the new conditions, then Le Fanu has to travel to Hyderabad where his former housekeeper and lover Roisin McPhedren is seriously ill. Le Fanu swings between his personal and professional challenges as a gang of revolutionaries and Hindu nationalists from North India travel south to aggravate the troubles. Le Fanu and Jepson clash head-on as the latter causes several policemen to be killed, and Le Fanu is losing support because his main civil service protectors are leaving Madras. Just as he seems close to overcoming all these problems, news arrives that Jenlin Koh is on board a ship reported missing near Ceylon. How will Le Fanu cope?


As the shimmer on the horizon resolved into Madras city’s coastline, Le Fanu wondered yet again if his return was wise, having left Penang reluctantly with only unpleasant prospects awaiting here. And this voyage back across the Bay of Bengal to India on the SS Ekma was joyless, unlike the one out to the Straits Settlements on which he met Jenlin Koh. The following weeks had passed in a blur, but now here he was while she remained in Penang – ‘The Pearl of the orient’ – expecting to visit Madras sometime but with no date fi xed. Would his life ever be straightforward?

Oddly, though, leaning on the rail and watching the city loom up was still somehow like coming home. He should have expected that. Madras had been his home for twenty years, since 1905, apart from the five away at what he could never call the ‘Great’ War. He was comfortable here. His British memories involved family strains, unhappy experiences and a failed marriage. India had certainly changed since his arrival but, despite rising calls for political independence, Gandhi’s mass civil disobedience campaigns, British India’s obdurate response and his own allegiances being challenged by a growing sympathy for India’s cause, the place still mesmerised him.

He picked out the wharves and buildings in what was now one of India’s largest ports. That was a big British achievement in the south. In earlier days, ships were serviced by small lighters that pitched up directly onto 2 A Greater God the sands. The nineteenth-century Charles Hunt prints gracing most Madras mansions depicted boats, crew and luggage tossed by the waves, passengers struggling to reach land both dry and in style. Madras had no natural harbour. Storms smashed piers and enclosures, tides and currents silted entrances in the first attempts to create one. However, Sir Francis Spring’s rule at the turn-of-the-century Madras Port Trust transformed everything.

In true British style, he also established the elitist Royal Madras Yacht Club in the harbour precinct, an incongruous Cowes on the Bay. Another attempt to make India something it was not.

The city’s smells and sounds increasingly filtered across on the breeze as the Ekma eased closer. Ahead, Le Fanu glimpsed the upper levels of Fort St George, Britain’s south Indian power base ever since Sir Eyre Coote saw off the French in 1761. These days it housed the Secretariat for the Madras Presidency whose forty-three million inhabitants matched the United Kingdom’s entire population. He would visit there later today and confront the Indian Civil Service mandarins.

Away on the left stood the Chepauk Palace, built by the Muslim Princes of Arcot but stolen mid-nineteenth century by the British. The Board of Revenue skulked there now, tax gatherers who fancied themselves above the Secretariat bosses. The mutual disdain between these two forces was legendary. Le Fanu hoped not to appear at Chepauk anytime soon, or before First Member Arthur Jamieson.

To the right, First Line Beach and the great trading firms that flourished on the ocean trade spurred by Spring’s harbour. Behind those imposing buildings lay George Town proper. Until 1911 it was called Black 3 Brian Stoddart Town, as in ‘home of the blacks’ even though Indians were not black. The British Empire’s ruling classes applied that term automatically to all non-whites everywhere. Le Fanu knew too many police and civil service officers who held that view – recusants all, irked, outraged and challenged by rising demands that Indians receive more political power and by London’s reluctant, cautious agreement. Madras Europeans were among India’s most vociferously conservative, a further source of his rising discomfort.

More cheerfully, he would soon visit Acharappan Street and his chef friend Krishna Rao who ran the city’s best Udipi restaurant. Penang’s south Indian food was excellent. So were its Chinese and Malay counterparts and all the hybrids. But he had missed his friend’s fare.

Brian Stoddart is a writer of fiction and non-fiction who is now based in Queenstown, New Zealand. Born and educated a Kiwi he has worked around the world as an academic, university executive, aid and development consultant, broadcaster,commentator and blogger.

He works as an international higher education consultant and has worked on programs in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Syria and Jordan as well as in the UK and USA. This work follows a successful career as university researcher, teacher and senior executive which culminated in a term as Vice-Chancellor and President of La Trobe University in Australia where he is now an Emeritus Professor. That academic career took him all over the world including long periods in India, Malaysia, Canada, the Caribbean, China and Southeast Asia.

He has written extensively on sports history, politics and culture as well as on India and south Asia in which field he completed his PhD. 

Most recently he has begun writing on his contemporary experiences, beginning with his life in an old house in the Old City of Damascus immediately before the upheavals of 2011-12. 

He is now also a crime novelist. A Madras Miasma was the first in a series of books set in 1920s Madras in India, and featuring Superintendent Chris Le Fanu. The Pallampur Predicament was the second and A Straits Settlement has appeared in 2016 as the third.

He also writes extensively for mainstream and new media as well as expert commentary for press, radio and television. Brian is also a cruise ship lecturer, specialising in international affairs and history.

In his spare time, he enjoys photography, reading (especially crime fiction),travel to new places, and listening to music, especially gypsy jazz

Monday, 3 December 2018

Spotlight and Excerpt: Facing A Twisted Judgement by K.J. McGillick

Facing A Twisted Judgment by K.J. McGillick

What happens when tunnel vision clouds a police investigation? Is it true that once you are labeled a person of interest you really are the prime suspect? Can you trust the legal system? Probably not.

After a bitterly contested legal battle over inherited property, the hard-won art collection and its owner Samantha Bennington disappear. Both have vanished without a trace.

When blood spatter is discovered under the freshly painted wall of the room in which two of the paintings were hung, the theft becomes the opening act in a twisted tale of jealousy, revenge, and murder leading to a final judgment for all involved.

As the list of suspects narrows, the focus lands squarely on the husband. Some labeled Samantha’s husband a corrupt attorney, others an opportunist. Either way, he’s in the crosshairs of law enforcement and they are calling him a murderer. But is he the only viable suspect? What about the missing woman’s drug-addicted sister and her convicted felon brother? Both were furious over their loss at court and have more than enough reason to hate Samantha.  

Guilty until proven innocent leaves Alexander Clarke facing a twisted judgment.

 I’d reached a crossroad. If I argued with her, she might want to rethink her plans to marry me and think we might not be compatible after all. Or I could wait, and once married, I could catch her in a vulnerable position and make her see things my way. Yes, that was the better plan.
“Well, that is very noble and something worth considering,” I said.
We were about to have another drink of champagne when we heard a pounding at the front door along with the simultaneous ringing of the bell. Then, the shouting began.
“Open up the fucking door,” she pounded.
“Call the police,” I said to Samantha. “We are not dealing with this tonight.”
As she was about to answer, we heard the crashing of something that sounded like glass or maybe pottery.
“Shit.” I was on my feet, running toward the door.
When I opened it, I saw a broken flowerpot and dirt scattered on the porch. Marley was tearing through what once had been flowers in the jug. Possibly looking for a weapon from the broken pottery.
What the hell?
She was screaming over and over, “I want my money. I want my fucking money.”
Sam ran to stop her when Marley picked up a shard of the broken vase.
“Come near me, bitch, and I’ll cut you.”
She was clearly drunk and probably high. Her pretty face was streaked with mascara, and her wild red hair gave her a comical appearance, as if she were Bozo the Clown’s sister. Her breath stunk of beer and whiskey.
“Oh my God, you’re drunk, and you drove here like this? What’s wrong with you? You could have killed someone. I’m calling you an Uber,” Sam said.
“I’m not leaving here without my m-m-money,” she slurred.
“We’ll talk about it tomorrow,” Sam replied, trying to move a little closer.
“And you! You are a fucking cold, bastard gold digger. You’re not getting a penny from me for lawyer fees,” she said, now waving the piece of ceramic my way.
My motto had always been never to argue with toddlers and drunks. I stood there, crossed my arms, and let her continue her rant.
“And the Campendonk is mine. I helped Grandpa pick that out. You have no right to it,” she screamed.
Then, I broke my own rule. “Marley, your grandfather knew, if he left you in charge of any money, you’d spend it on party drugs. You’d sell the painting for a song—” I said.
“This is none of your business,” she screamed and lurched forward.
I put my hand out to stop her, and she swiped my arm with the pottery shard, drawing a trickle of blood.
“That’s it. Uber or police?” Sam said, standing up to look at the cut.
“Neither,” she said, and before anyone could stop her, she raced to her car and drove away.
“Call the police and report her driving drunk while I wash this cut,” I said.
She hesitated as she assessed my arm.
“Sam, that woman is dangerous. You need to call the cops,” I reinforced.
“What, to embarrass her more? It’s only a few miles on a secluded road. Leave her be,” Sam said.
“I’m not comfortable with your decision, but she’s your sister,” I said.
A sober Marley was trouble. But a drunk Marley was a disaster.

K. J. McGillick was born in New York and once she started to walk she never stopped running. But that's what New Yorker's do. Right?

As she evolved so did her career choices. After completing her graduate degree in nursing she spent many years in the university setting sharing the dreams of the enthusiastic nursing students she taught. After twenty rewarding years in the medical field she attended law school and has spent the last twenty-four years as an attorney helping people navigate the turbulent waters of the legal system. Not an easy feat. And now? Now she is sharing the characters she loves with readers hoping they are intrigued by her twisting and turning plots and entertained by her writing.

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Friday, 30 November 2018

Spotlight & Extract: Mavis and Dot by Angela Petch

Mavis and Dot by Angela Petch

A warm slice of life, funny, feel-good, yet poignant. Introducing two eccentric ladies who form an unlikely friendship.Meet Mavis and Dot - two colourful, retired ladies who live in Worthington-on-Sea, where there are charity shops galore. Apart from bargain hunting, they manage to tangle themselves in escapades involving illegal immigrants, night clubs, nude modelling, errant toupees and more. And then there’s Mal, the lovable dog who nobody else wants. A gently humorous, often side-splitting, heart-warming snapshot of two memorable characters with past secrets and passions. Escape for a couple of hours into this snapshot of a faded, British seaside town. You'll laugh and cry but probably laugh more."This book is quirky and individual, and has great pathos...[it] will resonate with a lot of readers." Gill Kaye - Editor of Ingenu(e). Written with a light touch in memory of a dear friend who passed away from ovarian cancer, Angela Petch’s seaside tale is a departure from her successful Tuscan novels.
All profits from the sale of the books will go towards research into the cure for cancer.

Thank you for asking me on to your blog. I love reading too. If I don’t have a book on the go, I feel undressed; something important is missing from my life. I’ve been known to read backs of packaging in the absence of nothing to read.
Mavis, one of the two main characters in my new book, reads a lot. I had fun inventing the titles of her favourite, romantic genre. She reads in the bath or in bed, if she can keep her eyes open. The Vampire’s Missing Brides, The Gondolier’s Secret Vices and The Secrets of the Missing Courtesans are just some of the pocket books she devours.
ILLUSTRATION FROM BOOK – Mavis reading in the baath.
Mavis reads to escape and for companionship. Until she meets her new friend, Dot, also newly retired to Worthington-on-Sea, she’s felt lonely. She compiles a list of things to try and, when we meet her, she has dipped into ballroom dancing and is thinking of trying belly dancing next.
Dot has a pricklier nature than easy-going Mavis and she often thinks back to her childhood spent in East Africa. She owns coffee-table books of animals to pore over, and dreams of happier times in the past. Even when the pair travel on a coach tour to Tuscany, in Chapter Eleven, Dot’s mind is on Africa.
“…the pair sat in silence for a few minutes. Mavis drank in the spectacle of Italy in the piazza while Dot spooned the very last wisp of foam from the bottom of her cappuccino.
Dot didn’t feel at home in Italy. The trouble was her constant comparison with childhood memories of Tanganyika. Italy seemed tame, the fashions subdued, colours muted. She missed the bright colours of kitenges, the produce and baskets piled untidily in the market, the bleating of goats, and transistor radios belting out tinny tunes. Although it was generally held that Italians were noisy and liked confusion, Africa was far noisier and, in her memories, people smiled more. In truth, she wasn’t quite over her operation and had begun to think she’d been hasty in agreeing to come on this holiday. She needed to lie down.”

I read for entertainment but also to take myself to different places. Sometimes I write to gain perspective. “Mavis and Dot” was written after I lost my best friend to cancer. We had fun times together, especially when we hunted in charity shops for treasures. We often went to seaside towns to discover new haunts and we called each other Mavis and Dot as we trudged along with full shopping bags (most of the items ended up being donated back to charity shops in the end. Call it recycling). I miss Olga but, instead of crying, I want to remember the happy, smiley times we spent together. And if I can raise a few pounds for research into cancer through sales of “Mavis and Dot”, then that will be grand.
I hope readers will laugh a little and cry a little when they read my novella.

A prize-winning author, Angela Petch lives half the year in West Sussex and the summer months in a remote valley in the Tuscan Apennines. She recently signed a two-book deal with Bookouture for her Tuscan novels and “Mavis and Dot” is a temporary departure from her usual genre. She has travelled all her life: born in Germany, she spent six years as a child living in Rome, worked in Amsterdam after finishing her degree in Italian, moved to Italy for her job, then to Tanzania for three years. Her head is full of stories and she always carries a pen and
In May 2017, Angela Petch won PRIMA’S monthly short story competition and recently had a dozen stories published by The People’s Friend magazine.
“Mavis and Dot” was written in memory of a dear friend who lost her battle with ovarian cancer. All profits from sales of the book will go towards research into a cure for cancer.

Twitter: @Angela_Petch

“Tuscan Roots” (to be reissued by Bookouture in 2019)