(1 May 2019)
Time to come out of hibernation...
Sylvia Penton has been hibernating for years, it's no wonder she's a little prickly...
Sylvia lives alone, dedicating herself to her job at the local university. On weekends, she helps out at a local hedgehog sanctuary because it gives her something to talk about on Mondays - and it makes people think she's nicer than she is.
Only Sylvia has a secret: she's been in love with her boss, Professor Lomax, for over a decade now, and she's sure he's just waiting for the right time to leave his wife. Meanwhile she stores every crumb of his affection and covertly makes trouble for anyone she feels gets in his way.
But when a bright new PhD candidate catches the Professor’s eye, Sylvia’s dreams of the fairy tale ending she has craved for so long, are soon in tatters, driving her to increasingly desperate measures and an uncertain future.
Sylvia might have been sleep walking through her life but things are about to change now she’s woken up…
(actually a hog – a pig relative)
Whilst I quite liked this rather sweet novel
about obsession and its consequences – and how stalking can come about – I wish
stories about universities were a little more realistic.
Unless ‘her’ Professor was working in an
Oxbridge university or was a ‘name’ and thus bought in for prestige, the whole
concept of a personal administrator has long gone. Universities just can’t
afford them. Nor can they afford Professors who sit around their offices all
day writing without producing. It would be nice – but generally speaking,
Professors are busy on committees, holding seminars, seeing multiple research
students, and networking, as well as lecturing. Administrative staff are
usually not required to submit students’ work to any conference – and a
conference would require several months notice of submission due to the peer
reviewed process it would need to go through. Sometimes they will book flights
and accommodation but often these days, staff do this themselves and then get reimbursed.
So a lovely view of what university life must
have been like some 20-30 years ago perhaps?
That said, I liked the hedgehog component. It was
the saviour of the story really – they really are blameless creatures who are
totally dumb, and sanctuaries deserve all the support they can obtain. We once
found a nest of babies in our greenhouse. The mother had gone in there, late in
the year and had got herself killed by getting tangled in support wires for
tomatoes. The babies were too small for hibernation and we took them to
Tiddlewinkles and gave a generous donation for their care.
The Christmas Lights
Christmas books by this author
contemporary fiction, romance, suspense
Set on the scenic fjords of Norway, The Christmas Lights by bestselling author Karen Swan is a moving Christmas tale of love and heartbreak. December 2018, and free-spirited influencers Bo Loxley and her partner Zac are living a life of wanderlust, travelling the globe and sharing their adventures with their millions of fans. Booked to spend Christmas in the Norwegian fjords, they set up home in a remote farm owned by enigmatic mountain guide Anders and his fierce grandmother Signy. Surrounded by snowy peaks and frozen falls, everything should be perfect. But the camera can lie and with every new post, the 'perfect' life Zac and Bo are portraying is diverging from the truth. Something Bo can't explain is wrong at the very heart of their lives and Anders is the only person who'll listen. June 1936, and fourteen-year old Signy is sent with her sister and village friends to the summer pastures to work as milkmaids, protecting the herd that will sustain the farm through the long, winter months. But miles from home and away from the safety of their families, threat begins to lurk in friendly faces . . . The mountains keep secrets - Signy knows this better than anyone - and as Bo's life begins to spiral she is forced, like the old woman before her, to question who is friend and who is foe.
This is a story with a moral for people who live by their instagram feeds – living a life defined and paid for, by social media exposure, can be more of a ‘drudge’ and be more limiting, than working in an office. you may think you are living a free life, but in fact you are not – you are bought and paid for by your advertisers. And in this story, this proves to be only to true for the couple that thought that they were giving into their wander lusting and living free of the consumer/money driven world.
We read the disturbing story of the couple who whilst scuba diving off Samoa, mountain climbing in Norway and all their many other adventures, yet they were always ‘on’, on an adventure, that was being photographed and videoed for the their followers. Being a digital influencer was not a job with many hours off. and where they went and where they stayed was always with an eye to how they could improve their ratings and followers.
To counter this, with a story set on the same mountains but in 1936. This part of Norway is rather remote especially in 1936. roads hadn’t yet reached across and through the mountains and the modern conveniences of skidoos and helicopters were not yet available.
So the village still abided by pagan customs mixed with Christian and old ways of farming. And i was a little concerned that, if the village was that remote, wasn’t there a good chance of too much in-breeding?
I found myself getting more and more engrossed by both storylines as the book progressed. Initially, it was difficult to see where the two interlinked and some elements remained unresolved as the book ended – but we can always hope for the happiest of endings of course.
I was concerned about a couple of things – okay they improved the story but even here in England no-one goes up a mountain, especially in winter, without a winter pack – including hot drinks, silver blankets for accidents and extra layers surely? At least that”s what our rescue guys always tell us. Yet in Chapter 9 we have an experienced guide doing just that.
Having been to Gereinger myself, I enjoyed re-visiting, in my memory the fjord and its waterfalls and the little orchards down by the water’s edge. And having spoken to natives, know just how easy it is to get cut-off there by snow in the winter – and funnily enough – to match the story – I arrived there on the cusp of pneumonia but with the antibiotics having just kicked in by 24 hours…!
Welcome to the Cotswolds Festive Feast cookery course...
Fresh off the successful opening of the Paradise Cookery School in St Lucia, Millie Harper is headed to the Cotswolds for Christmas!
Co-presenting Claudia Croft’s famous Festive Feast cookery course at Stonelea Manor is a dream come true for Millie…as is reuniting with gorgeous estate manager Zach Barker.
But arriving in a winter wonderland Millie learns the manor is under a mysterious threat. It’ll take a holiday miracle, but Millie is determined to save the school and get Zach under the mistletoe to finally finish what they started in the Caribbean!
Cosy up with this fun, festive visit to the Cotswolds premier cookery school! Perfect for fans of Jenny Oliver and Sarah Morgan
If you loved Mistletoe & Mystery, why not read the first two stories in The Paradise Cookery School series? Sunshine & Secrets and Confetti & Confusions are both available now!
Mistletoe & Mystery – Daisy James
Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it?
I loved writing Mistletoe & Mystery, which is the third book in the Paradise Cookery School series. The story combines two things that really fire my imagination – and my taste buds! First of all, the story takes place in a fabulous country manor in the Cotswolds where the cookery school is based and is filled with a kaleidoscope of delicious recipes. Baking is one of my favourite things to do – I find it so relaxing and there’s usually something fabulous to eat at the end of it! Secondly, the story is set at Christmas and that gave me the chance to write about all the wonderful things we do to celebrate – not to mention all the foodie treats we associate with that time of year.
How long do you think about a topic before deciding to write about it? Do you have a set of notes or a note book where you write down topics that appeal before making a decision as to which topic this time?
I always do a lot of research before I start writing a new novel. I really enjoy this part, and to be honest, I think I probably spend too much time on it. The first two books in the Paradise Cookery School series are set on the beautiful island of St Lucia, so I had an amazing few months taking virtual tours of the fabulous beaches, the lush rainforests, and the picturesque towns and markets all over the island. I listened to Caribbean music, learnt about the food and spices that are grown there, and tried out lots of amazing recipes. Cocoa beans are grown in St Lucia, so there had to be plenty of chocolate-filled desserts too.
Yes, I have a notebook where I jot down details that interest me, and I also have a collage of photographs and interesting articles that might come in useful for inspiration. I also always change my screensaver to a picture of the location I’m writing about.
What resources do you use? In general, and for the last book that you wrote?
So far I’ve always set my books in places that I’ve visited, but then I make sure that I back my personal experience up with detailed research, either by borrowing books on the topic from the library or spending time on the internet. The book I’m writing at the moment is set in Tuscany, so I’ve been spending lots of time reading up on that area, especially the local cuisine – and of course sampling it!
How helpful do you find authority figures, such as the police, when you say you want to write about them?
I write romantic comedy, so thankfully the police don’t make a regular appearance! But I agree with you, if I’m going to write about a particular profession it makes sense to approach someone who has in depth knowledge of the industry, such as the daily routine, the procedures they have to follow, what qualifications they need, or any quirks that readers would find interesting. The main character in my next book is an interior designer. I love interior design, and I actually have a qualification in it, but I also have friends who can help if I’ve got any questions. I hope it will add a level of authenticity.
What is the funniest thing that happened to you on a book tour?
I really enjoy doing blog tours. I’m always interested to hear what readers think of my books, but, of course, there’s always that little kernel of anxiety about how the story will resonate with people. In my experience, the book blogging community is a very friendly and generous community and I’ve had some fabulous comments and reviews over the years for which I’m very grateful. I can’t think of anything funny that has happened, or even that has gone wrong, but that’s probably because everyone has been so professional!
What is your favourite genre?
My favourite genre to read is travel autobiographies. I love those stories of people who have undertaken amazing journeys around the world and come home to write about them. I’ve recently read books about two girls who drove a Tuk-Tuk from Thailand to London, a woman who cycled around the world, a guy who hitchhiked to Australia and back, and a folk band who drove a red double-decker bus around the world. I really enjoy Simon Reeve’s books, Levison Wood’s books, Patrick Leigh Fermor & Nick Hunt. One of my favourites is Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart – what a fabulous title – so evocative of the part of Spain where he lives.
What have you done with the things you wrote when in school?
I’ve always loved writing and started to scribble stories when I was about eight years old. I even illustrated them myself and glued them together like a real book. I really wish I still had them now. I do have my very first full-length novel – handwritten in five exercise books – which is still in a shoe box on top of my wardrobe. I doubt it will ever see the light of day, but I won’t throw it out. It took me three years to write and I learned loads – mainly what not to write!
Daisy James is a Yorkshire girl transplanted to the north east of England. She loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. When not scribbling away in her summerhouse, she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something pink and fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.
For all fans of Motherland, Allison Pearson and Hurrah for Gin.
Amanda Wilkie unexpectedly finds herself alone with three children under five in a rambling Victorian house in London, after her husband walks leaves them claiming he's just 'lost the love', like one might carelessly lose a glove.
A few months later, Amanda's heavily pregnant friend, Ali, crashes into her kitchen announcing her partner is also about to abscond. Once Ali's baby Grace is born, Amanda encourages them to move in.
When Jacqui, a long-lost friend and fellow single mum, starts dropping by daily, the household is complete.
Getting divorced is no walk in the park, but the three friends refuse to be defined by it. And, as they slowly emerge out of the wreckage like a trio of sequin-clad Gloria Gaynors singing 'I Will Survive', they realise that anything is possible. Even loving again...
A fun book all about the trials that beset women who have suddenly become single mums as their husbands decide that they no longer love them.
So, left alone with lots of young children, they form a self-support group in Amanda’s victorian house in South London, which is only half renovated as her husband left before completing it. With little money, the group find themselves dependent on each other for everything – including support after monster hang-overs and crying jags.
This is a light and fun novel but yet it still manages to highlight the desperate feelings and often poor living conditions of the ‘first’ wife and the emotional toll that having a husband leaving and then acquiring a second family often imparts.
I enjoyed this book even though I have little experience personally of what the characters written about go through, I found that the writing gave me that knowledge and made me very aware of just how awful it must be to be in that situation. A well written book with enough humour not to make it too emotionally draining.
romance, contemporary, women's fiction, suspense, humour, women sleuths
(13 Feb. 2017)
A young woman plunges from a Las Vegas sightseeing helicopter, landing in the Pirate Lagoon in front of the Treasure Island Hotel in the middle of the 8:30 Pirate Show. Almost everyone writes her off as another Vegas victim. But, Lucky O'Toole, head of customer relations at the Babylon mega casino, smells a rat, though she's got a lot on her plate: the adult film industry's annual awards banquet, a spouse-swapping convention, sex-toy purveyors preying on the pocket-protector crowd attending ElectroniCon... Still Lucky can't resist turning over a few stones.
When a former flame is one of the snakes she uncovers, Lucky is certain the woman's death was no Sin City suicide. To top it all off, Lucky's best friend, Teddie--Las Vegas's finest female impersonator--presses to take their relationship to the next level. Leave it to Lucky to attract a man who looks better in a dress than she does.
Lucky must manage the Babylon's outrageous festivities, solve the crime, and struggle to keep her life and libido from spinning out of control.
This series explains why, despite a strong sense that I really should be a voyeur there for 24 hours, just to gape, mouth open, I don’t ever intend to go to Las Vegas.
The town offends me on so many ways and levels.
The ostentation. The flash and glitter. The incredible waste of water (it’s a desrt – don’t taje water from farmers, and yes, the town wouldn’t exist if they didn’t – but is tat such a bad thing? the catering to addictive tastes – gambling and drinking being only two. And then there is the ridiculous architecture as is exemplified in the hotel that is core to these stories – The Babylon. Although seeing a Mama Duck and her Ducklings wandering through a hotel foyer would be fun. Not to mention the selfishness of the people who go there, as deomstrated in this particular story in the series, where a guest at the hotel, being denied passage in the main body of the airplane for her 3 cats, shuts them in her trunk and puts them in cargo. And then demands that the hotel deals with a. the urine smell on her clothes; b. the urine smell in her trunk; and c. find the cats who had run away! Well, wouldn’t you run from such an owner?
And then there are the Conventions that are held there. Probably because nowhere else would have them, such as the Swingers, and the Adult Film Industry (aka porn) Awards.
All that beside, you read the book mouth agape at this strange world, but also smiling and sometimes giggling at the antics got up to. And how our heroine copes. Note to self, elbows break noses and don’t get bruised knuckles..
I like this series, so far. It is well written. Fun to read. Not heavy and really good for the beach or garden.
And PS., the cellulite for bums and thighs treatment is also used in burns scars treatment, at a lower intensity – as i know from personal experience. It helps loosen up the skin..