Friday, 26 September 2014

The Beginners Guide to the Birds and the Bees by Sophie Hart

Out Now
Published by Bookouture
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

Let’s talk about sex… would you share your bedroom secrets if it meant saving your marriage?

A refreshingly open and uplifting romantic comedy about friendship, love and sex. Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone in order to give a relationship a good dose of TLC…

Sex therapist Annie Hall helps couples put the fizz back into their relationships. It’s a shame her own love life is non-existent. When Jamie who works next door catches her eye, she can’t ignore the spark of chemistry.

Most men would jump at the chance to skive off work for an afternoon quickie with their gorgeous wife but Nick knows Julia is after only one thing – a baby. Sex shouldn’t be a chore. Can Annie help Julia see that?

Newly engaged Zoe and Simon can’t keep their hands off each other. They’ve decided to take a vow of celibacy until their wedding night. Will Annie help them stick to it?

Roy and Linda have been married for over thirty years but she’s more interested in the family business than getting intimate with him. Can Annie convince Linda to rediscover her passion for Roy after all this time?

While Annie begins to work her magic with the three couples, she soon finds herself falling for Jamie. But she’s been hurt before – will he be different? It’s time for Annie to take some of her own advice and learn a few life lessons of her own…

My Review:

The Beginners Guide to the Birds and the Bees is a great book which had me laughing out loud, but also some sensitive moments.I was totally hooked right from the start, and throughout.

The story line is different to any that I have read before and I loved it. Whilst I have read many books about couples, I have never read any where the main character, Annie, is a sex therapist, and we meet the couples when they enlist her help for various issues. I thought it was brilliant and gave a new depth to each relationship.

We meet three couples; Ray and Linda, Julia and Nick, and Zoe and Simon. Each couple go to Annie wanting help with their sex life. Annie explores these in both individual sessions, but also holds group sessions during which they all meet up and become friends. The couples are all very different in age, relationship status, and what brings them to Annie. I loved each of them and felt real empathy towards them all. My favourites were Zoe and Simon who just appeared to have the most amazing relationship, with such love and devotion to eachother, as well as always having so much fun together. They had me laughing out loud more than once. Would it be wrong to say that I almost wanted to enrol in sessions with Annie so I could meet them all and be part of the group? They are just so adorable!

I also adore Annie who we get to see both as therapist, but also as a woman searching for love herself. I really liked her and how much she cared about others and worked hard to get the best for them. We meet Jamie who works in the same building as Annie, and there seems to be definite chemistry between them. However, will love blossom? I loved the way the author developed their friendship, and with all the lovely things that Annie does for others I so wanted her to be happy too.

Sophie is a brilliant author who has bought the characters and storyline together so wonderfully. Whilst sex is a big theme throughout the book it is not written in a graphic or embarrassing way so would be suitable for all readers. There is humour injected throughout as well as some beautiful touching scenes. The beginning of each chapter starts with a sex related quite which were brilliant.

I loved the way the book flows. It felt so natural and because there are only a few characters I felt we had time to really get to know them all. I was willing them to sort through their issues and have their happy endings. Having three couples spanning a wider age and life experience range meant that as a reader I could think about how important sex and more importantly intimacy is through their lives and how easy it is just to get caught up in day to day life and stresses and forget about keeping the spark alive.

I loved this book and would highly recommend others read it too. Full of fun, laughs, love and hopefulness this book had it all for me.

Thank you to Bookouture who provided a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Cover Reveal: The Prophecies by Holly Martin

I am delighted to be able to reveal the stunning cover for Holly Martin's forthcoming book 'The Prophecies'.The Prophecies is book 2 of The Sentinel Series, and will be released on 1st October, which is just a week away.


The Prophecies - Book two

The Blurb:

The world is a big place, will Eve really be the one to save it?
Eve grows stronger and more powerful every day as she strives to ensure she is ready to face her destiny. But some of her gifts are unwelcome.  Eve's visions of the future become darker and those she loves are in terrible danger. But when her actions result in tragedy, Eve is called before The Oraculum, the council that created her
When she is summoned to their castle she becomes aware of a rift between the council members that not only could endanger her life, but could put the whole planet at risk. Would The Oraculum really turn against her and risk everything?
But in the darkness, a light burns bright. Her love for Seth is stronger than any of her powers.

But as she battles against a new threat, can she really forsake those closest to her in order to save the world?  Will everyone Eve loves survive?

The Sentinel - Book one

Purchase from Amazon here
The Blurb:


When Eve is rescued from a horrific coach crash by her teachers, she is shocked to discover they possess super strength and speed. But what happens next is even more harrowing. 
In the aftermath of the crash she discovers that everyone in her life from neighbours, doctors, dentists, teachers, shop keepers and even her family and friends are actually super strength Guardians sent to protect her. They all have one thing in common, a single minded ferocity that she must be kept alive at all costs. 

However, she is surrounded by secrets and lies. Those in the know deny all knowledge of what happened that fateful night. Everyone else carries on as normal, seemingly unaware of the new strange world that she has stumbled against. 

With the help of Seth, her best friend, Eve discovers the prophecies surrounding her true identity and the super strength she too holds. With her Guardians pledged to protect her, her closest friends ready to die for her, her own hopes and dreams are put on hold whilst she battles to control the amazing powers she has been bestowed with. 

But those that seek to destroy her move ever closer. Will the Guardians be enough to protect her when so many are prepared to stop at nothing to see her dead? And will she be strong enough to fulfil her destiny when the time comes? 

Lily Does LA by Nicola Doherty

Publication Date: 25 September
Published by Headline
Purchase from Amazon here

The Blurb:

The second instalment in this hilarious, romantic and unputdownable five-part series. Perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk's I Heart... novels.

Lily is an actress. At least, that's what she tells people, even though she's currently working in a call centre and her last big part was an ad for Sofa Warehouse. So when she's invited to her cousin Alice's wedding in LA, it's a dream come true. Alice's fiancé Sam is actually a Hollywood agent; how can Lily fail to get talent-spotted? There's only one problem; not only is Lily banned from mentioning acting, parts or producers to Sam, she's expected to spend the entire week doing wedding-related prep (read: chores) with Sam's boring groomsman Jesse. But Lily firmly believes that rules were made to be broken ...

Girls on Tour is an irresistible series of interlinked stories about four friends, ordinary girls who have extraordinary fun in faraway places. Expect the unexpected, the utterly hilarious and unforgettable, on this rollercoaster ride of love, laughs, surprises and sparks. You have a VIP pass to join each girl's adventure, so pack your bags and buckle your seatbelts, because just about anything is possible...

My Review:

Lily Does L.A. is the second novella in Nicola Doherty's Girls on Tour series. I really enjoyed part one so was looking forward to reading this installment too.

As the title suggests the story revolves around Lily. Lily is an aspiring actress who has yet to break into the big time. As we meet her she is working in a call centre, and not at all happy. However, she is soon given the opportunity to escape to LA when she gets word that her cousin Alice is getting married out there, and would like Lily to go out and help with arrangements.

We also meet Sam, who is Alice's fiancé, and works in the film business....will Lily be able to resist trying to tap him up for help? There is also Jesse who is Sam's groomsman, and enlisted to help Lily with the preparations.

As the novella is only 75 pages I don't want to say much more about the plot, or it will give it away and spoil it for others reading it. I will say that I enjoyed it. I found it a fun quick read that would be great for some time out, for commuting, or just for a short bit of escapism.

I had a not of a roller coaster ride in my like / dislike of Lily. The way her story begins it tugged at my heart strings slightly and I built up an impression of what I thought she would be like. When she reached LA I changed my mind, and really went off her, but she redeemed herself to me in the end!

As with other books I have read by Nicola, I really did enjoy this one. I like the way she writes. I feel it connects me to the characters and situations and I usually become immersed in the plot quickly. There is a good mixture of laughter, but also some softer mor caring moments too. And of course, a love interest....

A good uplifting, feel good book that made me laugh. I would love to know what happens next for Lily, and am looking forward to meeting another of the girls in part three.

Thank you to Headline for providing a copy of the book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Cover reveal: Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe

Hi all

I am so excited to bring you the cover , synopsis, and details of how you can pre-order Rebecca Raisin's new book, Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Cafe, which is being released on 15 October. Readers of my blog may have seen my reviews of the other books in this series and just how much I have loved them. I really would recommend reading them....they are brilliant and so well written.

I am really excited about being re-united with the characters one last time. Roll on 15 October......

Christmas Wedding at the Gingerbread Café

Released October 15th

You are invited to the wedding of the year!

Snow is falling thick and fast outside the Gingerbread Café and inside, its owner Lily is planning the wedding of the year. Her wedding! She never dreamt it would happen, but this Christmas, she’ll be marrying the man of her dreams - in a Christmas-card-perfect ceremony!

The gingerbread is baking, the dress is fitted and the mistletoe’s in place – for once, everything’s going to plan. That is until her mother-in-law arrives... Suddenly, Lily’s famous cool is being tested like never before and her dream wedding is crumbling before her eyes.

In the blink of a fairylight, the Gingerbread Café has been thrown into chaos! Lily thought she had this wedding wrapped up, but with so much to do before she says ‘I do’, can Lily get to the church on time – and make this Christmas sparkle after all?

Pre-order the book here:

Find Rebecca here:

Thursday, 11 September 2014

You Had me at Bonjour by Jennifer Bohnet

Out now
Published by Carina UK
Purchase from Amazon here

The Blurb:

New year, Nouveau Jessica!

If you’d asked Jessica a year ago, she would have told you that her life was pretty near perfect. But one year – and one very messy divorce – later, she’s not so sure. Which is how she found herself boarding a plane to the south of France, determined to put her past behind her… preferably via some deliciously chilled rosé.

Meeting a new man was never part of the plan. Yet when she meets Nino, her new neighbour’s impossibly sexy nephew, steering clear of romance seems easier said than done. Suddenly, Jessica finds herself right back where she started: with her heart on the line. But now she’s made a new start, perhaps it’s time for Jessica to throw caution to the wind, take a few risks… and learn to regrette rien!

My Review:

You Had me at Bonjour tells the story of a year in the life of Jessica. Having been betrayed by her husband who has left her for another woman, Jessica decides to jet off to the south of France for twelve months to 'do a Shirley Valentine'.

The book is set out like a diary and during this time we see her go from a nervous newcomer, to a confident woman who makes friends and even finds some love interest in the form of Nino. I liked the format of writing it as a diary as it kept me aware of how quickly the twelve months were passing, but it was also snappy enough to flip between the events taking place.

Whilst Jessica and Nino are the main characters we also meet a number of supporting characters who really enhanced the story for me. Her best friend Bella seems like a real friend who can be relied on through good and bad. She pops over to see Jessica regularly and is also Godmother to Jessica's grown up daughter Katie. I couldn't help but feel for Jessica and Katie who are both struggling to come to terms with the marriage breakdown, albeit in different ways. There is a point in the book where their relationship is stormy and I really wanted them to work through it.

I really liked Eliosa who is an older lady living in the same block of apartments as Jessica. She came across to be as vivacious and wise woman. She takes Jessica under her wing and opens up her confidence and social life.

Whilst not the same as Shirley Valentine Jessica does have similarities in starting over and searching for happiness in life. I felt that Jessica got stronger as the year progressed and I loved her reaction when events occur with her ex husband later in the year.

The storyline is predictable and you could see what the outcome would be with her dilemmas. However the book was still enjoyable and I felt quite buoyed seeing her relax and grow in confidence. The book is well written and easy to follow. It is a quick read and I flew through it with it's lighthearted, snappy pace. It left me with a smile on my face....and a desire to travel and escape too. I am sure there are many more adventures to come and I would love to catch up with her again to see what happens next for them all.

Thank you to Carina UK for providing a copy of the book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Invisible Illness Awareness Week - My story of chronic illness apt that this week is invisible illness awareness week. This week also marks 1 year since I first went to my GP complaining about feeling 'out of sorts' and my battle with invisible illness began. An illness which still, a year on, has no medical diagnosis, and no treatment plan.

I am sure some of you may be saying...oh no! Here comes another moaning rant from Jill...all me me me. Feel free to stop reading right now :-)

If you are still reading...poor you haha, and thanks. I hope that anyone suffering from a chronic illness might find some reassurance that you're not alone, and there are people that understand. I hope that anyone reading might come away understanding a bit better what its like to go through an invisible illness. I don't have an 'official' diagnosis as yet, but Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) was informally diagnosed late last year, and as tests rule other conditions out it is becoming more and more likely.

Everyones story is different but, whatever the illness, and whatever someone's circumstance, the one thing I can guarantee you that we all have in common is that not a single one of us wants to be ill, and will do anything it takes to get better.

It's never easy being ill, especially when on the outside you don't look it. If I had a cold, a broken leg, or a medical diagnosis it would be far easier for people to get their heads around it, and for some to believe me that I am not just making it all up.

We never really tend to think about those suffering from conditions such as ME, CFS, Fibromyalgia, Crohn's, anxiety, bipolar, depression, diabetes, lupus, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, epilepsy, autism, migraines....the list goes on, unless we know someone who has one of them. The debilitating nature of the illness varies from person to person, and often changes from day to day, if not hour to hour. It is hard for the person with the illness to get their heads around it, so I can understand why it can be so hard for those supporting them to do so.

Who was Jill?

Just a short twelve months ago Jill was unstoppable! A workaholic who often worked 50 plus hours a week. I was Chair of the Lambeth branch of Cruse bereavement care, running it on a day to day basis which took over 15 hours a week. I went to watch AFC Wimbledon up and down the country. I went to the cinema all the time, ate out lots, shoppe more than I should. i regularly went to concerts and took holidays. I was a Mum to a 19 year old daughter and a girlfriend and daughter myself. I literally didn't stop and had transformed from a shy, introverted person into a far more confident, outgoing and happy woman.

My only experience of being ill was in my twenties when I suffered from agoraphobia for 3 years. I had always been an anxious person and I think a mixture of things culminated in me becoming overwhelmed, and shutting down to recover. And recover I did. It was bloody hard work, and took lots of fight, determination, and strength, but overcome it I did, and life went from strength to strength. Perhaps one day I will tell that story, if it would be helpful.

I can honestly say that in all my years (all 42 of them), my total number of visits to the  doctors could be counted in single figures, and they had been for one off events such as pregnancy, dodgy smear test results and an aspirin allergy. I could do with losing some weight, but other than that I was healthy and happy.

How did I become ill?

Hindsight is a great thing, and looking back now I can see the signs of how I began to slowly come apart at the seams. Exhaustion out of the blue, struggling to carry on and having to put a smile on my face and dig deep when I just wanted to stop.

I find it hard to believe that this week 12 months ago I first went to my GP to talk to him about how 'I just don't feel right'. I was struggling to have the energy to work through the day, wishing for it to end so I could clamber in to bed. I felt run down and ill all the time, like I was fighting something off.

I had never felt back to normal after having my first dose of proper flu in January, but had thrown myself full throttle back into a manic working and social life. I wanted to slow down, but felt under pressure from all angles to keep going.

I knew I had a week off at the start of October, that's what kept me going. I had no idea that when I did stop exactly what would happen to me...if I did I would never ever have had that week off. That is the week I feel I lost my life as I knew it.

I will never forget 1st October 2013 until the day I die. Even thinking about it now almost overwhelms me with sadness and emotion. I went to the walk in clinic as I felt so awful and was given antibiotics 'as a precaution'. My GP had sent me for all sorts of blood tests, all of which had come back as normal, and so they presumed I must be fighting a virus. I don't react well to antibiotics so took to bed feeling rough as hell.

I haven't really spent much time out of bed since......

My body literally felt like it was shutting down. I became progressively unable to function. I have never been so scared in all my life and became so terrified that I must be seriously ill that I was up and down to A&E on many occasions.

At the same time my Doctors were baffled. More and more blood tests were taken and I was clinging on to any thread I could to try and solve why I honestly felt like I was dying. My vitamin B12 levels were low - could this be the answer? No. My cortisol levels are too high, could I have Cushings? No! Back to square one each time.

What has astounded me most is the medical attitude towards patients. I have had a real mixture. Some have been amazing, really listened, and have worked to try and find out the cause. There have been a few who have shown no interest, have categorically told me that I am making up the symptoms I am describing, and am merely suffering from stress and anxiety. Well, yes, 12 months on, I am increasingly stressed and anxious about wanting to know what is wrong with me. But please trust me when I say that these feelings are totally different. I am not imagining them!!

What does if feel like?

Every day of my life has become a battle. I have become less scared of the symptoms now, and know that, in time they will pass. I have had so many various symptoms that to list them would take all day. My main daily battles are the following:

Feeling spaced out, like I am in a bubble and never quite present. My mind never feels sharp, it's always hazy and fuzzy. Sometimes it feels like I am drunk but without any alcohol. I feel constantly woozy and dizzy and find it hard to concentrate, even on conversations.

My vision is blurry and I suffer from bad tinnitus, particularly in the evenings. I feel like I am walking on rubber, or on bubble wrap and I often feel incredibly faint if I stand up or try to walk.

I feel exhausted in a way that is hard to describe. It's like having constant jet lag, struggling to keep my eyes open, and every step is like wading through treacle it is such an effort. At the same time I have had severe bouts of insomnia, and until the last couple of weeks I slept on average 4 hours a night, sometimes as little as 90 minutes. I still have broken fitful sleep but can manage about 6 hours now, often then napping for a couple of hours longer to try and feel human for the day ahead.

At my worst I couldn't abide any lights on, and would wear sunglasses in the house to be able to get to the bathroom etc. I still carry them around with me as I know light sensitivity really disorientates me. I am also incredibly sensitive to noise. I often struggle even with people having conversations around me. I can hear noises that no one else can, and they distress me. I believe some of this may now come from being isolated in my room for so long.

My stomach is in bits! I cannot tolerate lots of foods, and suffer from continual acid reflux. I live pretty much on gluten free bread, lactose free milk, boiled rice and roast chicken....very dull! I am starting to slowly experiment and it's hit and miss! I am sick e erg morning for the last year, and have developed a chronic cough where acid is constantly burning my throat and lungs......only been waiting 4 months for my referral to Gastro, lost it twice and shut it down mistakenly 3 times now!!!!

I have gained alot of weight and am conscious of its affect on my health, both short and long term, as well as my fitness and the way that I look to others. It's not nice!

So,those are my main symptoms. I battle them every day with varying levels of success.

At my worst I cant get washed or dressed, I cant get downstairs and am totally captive in my room. I am like a zombie just willing the hours to pass and to get through the day intact.

I can see a big improvement in me the last couple of weeks. I am able to get washed and dressed everyday. I have been able to spend some time in the garden, prepare some food. Sit in the living room, and have even been for some short walks. I am adamant I will not relapse again. So this week I have only been spending about 22 hours a day in my room......what a great feeling that is.

I am not going to say anything about what that does to you as an individual, to go from such a go getter to a hermit living in one room. I will allow you to draw your own conclusions.

Reaction from others

One thing this has definitely done is shown me who my friends are. I haven't seen anyone in person, other than my family and my boyfriend in a year. I have become totally invisible which is ironic when it is classes as an invisible illness. However, I am not alone. I know there are friends who are there for me and I can call on them at any time. I cannot begin to tell you how much that means to me. I will never ever forget them and will never be able to repay them for their kind words, support and friendship. I just hope I can be half as good to them if they ever need me. The power of a random text, or message on t'internet saying hello, or just catching up on whats happening in the world is so powerful and welcome.

I would be lying if I said that it is all positive. I am sure anyone with an invisible illness will agree that you do get shocks from the way some people react. It must be weird to them for someone to go from 'normal' to a totally different person. Some have gone silent and just disappeared, which Is understandable. Other have had opinions on what they think is wrong with me. A few have tried to tell me that it is all in my head and that it is 'just' anxiety or depression. It infuriates me when I am told that. For one, I know what anxiety is, and if it was anxiety, trust me I would be acting on it. But equally, I hate the term 'just'. Anyone who has ever suffered anxiety will appreciate how debilitating it is, and how hard it is to conquer. I never want to see anxiety sufferers belittled in such a way.

I have had some horrible things said to me. One person told me a couple of months ago that 'I am a psycho who should be sectioned', 'I am just lazy and no normal person would just to their bed for 8 months', and the best one 'it would be better for others if I were dead'.  I haven't spoken to that person since, and they haven't felt the need to apologise. The reason I mention these comments isn't just to bitch, but to highlight how damaging such comments can be. If I were a normal fit and healthy person I am sure that I would have brushed them off. But being stuck in a room, feeling as awful about myself as I do, that has impacted on me and each time I have a bad day I think that they are right. I feel like a failure that people who I thought knew me would think that of me. I can only think and hope that it was frustration and ignorance rather then their true feelings.

In the last week I have realised that whilst I don't want to let people down, they have to think of me what they choose. I cannot let negativity into me now. I need to focus on recovering and getting out and meeting people who make me feel happy, and I hopefully make them feel happy too. It's hard enough thinking badly of yourself without surrounding yourself with negativity too. Letting go of others thoughts has really empowered me and I already feel stronger and better about myself.

My biggest revelation has been the power of social media. If I didn't have Facebook and Twitter I don't know what I would do. Facebook has allowed me to stay connected with friends who have given me such amazing support, and laughs too. Twitter has opened up my world. I have discovered book blogging thanks to it and I adore the book blogging community. I have also come across the spoonie community,  particularly fellow ME/CFS sufferers. They have made me feel less alone, totally supported and understood. I not feel so alone and scared anymore.

Thank you to every person who has helped me. Even a hello helps more than you will ever know.

Effect on relationships

What would I do without my parents? Honestly, I will never be able to repay them for all that they have done for me over the last year. I love them with all my heart. They have done all my cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping as well as giving me support. It must be so worrying for them to see me like this too.

My relationship with my daughter is what scares me the most. I have not been able to be a Mum to her and I will never get that time back. I hope she realises how much I love her and just how much I am going to fight to get better so I can make it up to her. She herself has had agoraphobia since early teens and I need to be there to help her overcome her battles too.

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost 11 years and my illness has had the biggest impact on our relationship. it has given us massive ups and downs. He has supported me the best he can but doesnt know what to do for the best. He is away working for a few days each week and then comes home to me stuck in bed. I can only imagine how frustrating and boring that must be for him. I try to conserve my energy and good days for when he is around, but even that means watching a DVD or tv. We can't even sit in the dining room and share a meal together. I also take out most of my frustrations and moaning about how I am feeling out on him. its not intentional, but it always slips out. He has had a tough year and has lost his Dad in the last few months. That, along with having to put up with all the uncertainty about what is wrong with me is totally unfair on him. It has been a total role reversal too as I am usually the one giving the support, and never asking or any in return so we are on new territory.

I know I have become a different person since I got ill. I was always the giver who always focused on others and never leant on anyone for support. This role reversal is very hard for me, and others to come to terms with. It's not something that sits comfortably with me. I had become self obsessed and worry constantly about my health. I am trying so hard to stop this but it is bloody hard.

What's next?

Who knows! What I do know is that I will never stop battling to overcome this illness. As time passes I am becoming braver. I recognise the symptoms and through trial and error I am learning what is good and bad for me. I have more medical tests to undergo but I am not going to be scared of how I feel anymore. If I can let go of the fear I hope it will make me stronger.

I am going to try and change back to some of the qualities I had before. I am not perfect and will falter, but I am going to start to take more of an interest in others. I love other people and want to get involved in the real world again. Also, by doing that it will hopefully distract from me and my brain will start to work again.

I have started to meditate. It is already feeling good. I have loved it in the past and am going to keep practicing. I hold alot of frustration, anger and fear and this is a good form of letting it flow over me. I hope it will make me a nicer, more relaxed person to be around, and I might even laugh more too!

I hope me telling my story has been interesting. It has been therapeutic to write it, but more importantly if I can help even one person feel less alone, or scared about their illness, and helped even one person to partially understand what it is like to be chronically ill then I will be a happy bunny.

I am not going to lie - it is not easy. I am still in early days of illness compared to some 'veterans' and will never claim that I know it all. What I do know is that if we stick together and help eachother we can be stronger. I promise to always be there for anyone who needs a bit of a pick me up.

I want to be a good, non judgemental, caring, loving, understanding and nice person to be around. I will get there and being ill will make me a better person in the long term with others.

If anyone wants to contact me fdo email me or come join me on twitter @jillstratton

There is a website for invisible illness awareness week here

Action for ME have been brilliant for support and their website is here

Invest in ME website is here

Take care all and no matter will wonder what you've been up to!


Giveaway: The Hidden Girl by Louise Millar

Hi all

I am delighted to be part of the blog tour for Louise Millar's new book 'The Hidden Girl' which is out now on both ebook and in paperback, and receiving rave reviews from readers! I am really looking forward to reading it myself too.

Below you will find a synopsis of the storyline, along with an opportunity to win a signed copy of The Hidden Girl. Enjoy and good luck!

Out Now
Published by Panmacmillan
Purchase ebook from Amazon here
Purchase paperback from Amazon here

About the book:

When a country life dream turns into a nightmare . . .

Hannah Riley and her musician husband, Will, hope that a move to the Suffolk countryside will promise a fresh start.

Hannah, a human rights worker, is desperate for a child and she hopes that this new life will realise her dream.

Yet when the snow comes, Will is working in London and Hannah is cut off in their remote village. Life in Tornley turns out to be far from idyllic, who are the threatening figures who lurk near their property at night? And why is her neighbour so keen to see them leave? Plus Will's behaviour is severely testing the bonds of trust.

Hannah has spent her professional life doing the right thing for other people. But as she starts to unbury a terrible crime, she realises she can no longer do that without putting everything she's ever wanted at risk.

But if she does nothing, the next victim could be her . . .


For a chance to win a signed copy of The Hidden Girl please enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below. Competition closes Friday 12 September at 23:59 UK time. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Pieces of You by Ella Harper

Out Now
Published by Harpercollins, Avon
Purchase from Amazon here

The blurb:

The perfect marriage.
A devastating secret.
An impossible choice.

Lucy was always sure of one thing – her future with husband and soulmate Luke. But after eight long, heartbreaking years trying to have a baby, that future is crumbling before her eyes.

When a terrible accident puts Luke into a coma, Lucy is forced to reassess everything she thought she wanted.

Then Stella arrives. A woman Lucy’s never met, but with a secret that will change her world forever . . .

My review:

Pieces of You is a beautiful and moving read that had me hooked from the start. I am exhausted today after staying up until the wee hours of the morning to finish it. I couldn't put it down until I knew what happened!

The book tells the story of Lucy and Luke. They have been together for 8 years, and married for 5. It was clear from the start just how absolutely besotted they are with eachother. The one thing missing for them is a much wanted baby. They have been trying for years, but each pregnancy has ended in miscarriage and heartbreak. We then also learn early on in the book that Luke has had a terrible accident and has been left in a coma.

Sounding heartbreaking? Wait until you see what happens next! I am not going to tell you and spoil it all for you but suffice to say that there are shocks and more heartbreak ahead for Lucy.

As a reader I enjoyed not only following Lucy and Luke's story, but also those of the other characters who as more than bit part players. We meet their best friends Dee and Dan, as well as Luke's Mum, brother and sister. There is one other character who I will not mention more about.

 I really liked Dee who I felt was very much Lucy's best friend and would be there for her no matter what. The one character I struggled to warm to was Patricia, Luke's Mum. For some reason I just couldn't warm to her. I found her quite cold and distant towards Lucy despite what she was going through. I know that as a Mum she must have been distraught to see her son so ill, but I just wanted her to be more loving towards her daughter in law. I felt a sense of jealousy, but could be totally wrong.

My favourite character has got to be Lucy. I defy you not to want to wave a magic wand and make it all better for her. It is clear that the last few years have been just awful for her with all the miscarriage misery. Now Luke has been in an accident and lies in a coma, leaving Lucy not knowing what the future holds. Oh, but there is more m&s that will rock Lucy to the core. I just wanted to wrap her up in cotton wool, tell her it was all a bad dream and make it go away. I felt a real affinity to Lucy and marvelled at her strength and courage. It seems like she is falling apart at times, but the fact she is there shows she isn't.  What a marvellous character.

I loved the way each chapter follows a different character which as a reader I felt helped me understand what was going on for each of them, and in a way bond with them. I loved the chapters showing how Luke and Lucy's relationship romantic!! The depth of love for eachother definitely came through which makes some of what happens so devastating.

The book for me also touched on the effects of bereavement and how Luke's fathers death had affected his family. This was almost a side story that entwined with the present, which I found compelling. Sometimes everyone is so caught up in their own grief it can affect family dynamics and also the longer term impact on the person bereaved. Having trained in bereavement counselling, as well as having experienced a family bereavement this year I was gripped and very interested in this part of the storyline.

For me, the book was perfectly written and paced brilliantly. I felt like it grabbed me and took me on a roller coaster ride of emotion which ranged from passion and love to bewilderment, anger and utter heartbreak and despair. At certain points in the book the despair was all encompassing. However by the end I felt a clear message that no matter how bad a hand life deals you, you can overcome anything, and to never give up....things can feel better.

I had seen alot of chat about Pieces of You on twitter with book bloggers and readers all saying how much they had loved the book so I was really looking forward to starting it. I will be joining in spreading my praise and love for this book!

Have some tissues ready and be prepared for a roller coaster of a ride with twists and turns, but do read what to me is a beautifully written story of love, loss, forgiveness and acceptance.

Thank you to Harpercollins UK, Avon who kindly provided a copy of the book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Blog Tour: Mexican Kimono by Billie Jones

Hi all

I am delighted to be a part of the blog tour promoting Mexican Kimono by Billie Jones. I have just started reading the book and I am loving it. I have been laughing out loud already and finding it hard to put down!

Mexican Kimono has excellent reviews on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon and via word of mouth.

I am pleased to provide an extract from the book below along with all the details on how you can get your hands on a copy for some fun escapism.


Out now on Kindle
Published by Carina
Purchase from Amazon here

About the book:

Samantha knows what she wants from life – and she’s got it! 

1.A loving family. OK, her Mum’s plan to marry her off to the world’s most metrosexual man might not be ideal… but it’s only because she cares!

2.A great job. Or at least: a job that leaves plenty of time to update Twitter and shop for designer bargains online…

3.A credit card, with a very generous limit. So generous that she’s just spent over $10,000 on an antique kimono… 

But suddenly Samantha’s charmed life starts to fall apart! From a hair-related fire to losing her job, Sam’s facing bad karma – and it all started when she bought that kimono… 

Sure, it’s ridiculous. How could a piece of silk ever bring bad luck? But it can! Because, whether Samantha likes it or not, someone wants to teach her a lesson: it’s what’s inside that counts.

Book Extract

5. The Hair Psychologist

I held my breath until I reached the taxi rank. Once I flagged an incoming taxi, I managed to relax and do a big old evil belly laugh. I pictured JJ finishing the bottle of chardonnay, ordering another perhaps even more expensive wine. He’d eat my main meal, then his. Then it would dawn on him. I was not coming back. He would have to leave his fake Prada sunglasses as collateral and make some frantic phone calls for cash to get out of there with any shred of dignity.

The taxi pulled up, and I jumped in without taking any notice of the driver’s details. I was too distracted picturing JJ’s handsome face trying to explain to Alberto why he couldn’t pay. Then, JJ takes Alberto’s soft manicured fingers in his strong warm hand, and convinces him he could pay in other ways. Alberto’s eyes light up and he kisses... eww, hang on. Damn it! That’s not the right fantasy. Bloody cheating bisexual men. It’s rife around here, I’m telling you.

I shook the image from my mind and glanced at the registration of the driver. I began to text it to my mum when a distinctive voice pipes up and says, “So, how was lunch, love?”

You’ve got to be friggin’ kidding me. Beer belly Bob. Of all the luck.

I was left unsatisfied, if you must know, Bob.”

Boy trouble, love?”

You could say that.”

What’s the trouble? He’s not a vegetarian too, is he?”

Hmmm, I’m not sure how to answer that, Bob. I’ve heard lesbians described as vegetarians, so does the same apply to straight men that turn gay, then straight, then almost definitely gay again?”

You’ve got me there, love. I have no idea. So, your boyfriend’s gay?”

Yes. He’s gay and the only slot he is interested in is the one that swipes my credit card.”

Beer belly Bob looked slightly shocked, but managed to change the subject back to himself, like most good cabbies do. “So, I called my sheil - I mean Val - like I told you I was gonna. I’m all set to take her out to this Indian vego place tonight. I was thinking of buying her some flowers and maybe some chocolates.”


Yeah. I thought I might get a hotel room, you know, with a spa. Get some of that non-alcoholic champagne she loves.”

Ew. Go away naked mental picture of Bob in the bath.

Yeah, then I thought I’d surprise her and scatter rose petals all over the bed, you know, all romantic-like.

You’re very original, Bob. Did you think of that all by yourself?”

No, love. I wish. Saw it on a movie.”

I just wanted to get home, but it’s the saint in me, I tell you. I had to, something literally forced me to. “Bob, what are you planning on wearing tonight?”

Well, my birthday suit eventually,” cue disgusting bawdy laugh.

Another mental picture I’ll need erased by regression therapy.

To the date, Bob. What are you planning on wearing on your date?”

Oh, I’ll just chuck a shirt on over this one I think, love. Maybe spray on a bit of Old Spice.”

Aptly named. Old.

Hmm. I was thinking, Bob, you really need a new look. You look like a truck driver that’s been on the road. For a few months. With sheep. Who have fleas.”

A new look? Val likes me just as I am.”

I bet she makes you take a shower before she kisses you. Am I right?”

He narrowed his bloodshot eyes at me.

I bet she bought you a ‘special’ toothbrush just for her house. Am I right?”

Well, yeah, but that’s only ‘cause...”

I bet she came to your house only the once and has never been back. Am I right?”

He hung his head and said, “Yes. You’re right.”

It’s like I have a gift. I had to help him. For the sake of his poor girlfriend.

Right, Bob. I’m very busy you know. Stop at these shops here. Bring your credit card and let’s go.”

Bob pulled in to a narrow car park and wearily followed me into the shop. He really was very shabbily dressed and I was risking my reputation just by being seen with him. What can I do, though? I’m just a good person. Saint-like.

Bob followed meekly behind me with his head hung as low as his thick neck would allow, like he was trying to hide his face in his chin folds. I filled my arms full of clothes and directed him to the change room. I sat expectantly on a blue and yellow striped chaise lounge. I knew Bob could be transformed from booze hound barfly to, well, one step up from that.

I’m ready, but I’m not coming out. I look ridiculous,” Bob whispered sharply over the change room door.

That’s an impossibility. You looked ridiculous before we came in here. Be a man for God’s sake and come out so you can see yourself from every angle.” Big tough men were all the same deep down. Sensitive and scared.

Bob walked out in loose fit denim jeans coupled with a navy blue long sleeved shirt that nipped in slightly at his waist. It had small white pinstripes running down the length of it. He looked like a different person.

What’s wrong with that? You look great. What size shoe are you?”

What’s wrong with my thongs?”

Bob. I’m on a schedule here. Things will move quicker if you just listen.”

The shadow cleared from his eyes. He had no fight left. “Size eleven.”

I walked to the shoe section, which sold genuine leather shoes in every colour imaginable. I picked a black, brown and beige and six pairs of matching socks. He could wear his thongs on Sundays.

Try these.”

The black boots fit perfectly and again I realised how gifted I was. I had a natural talent for shopping.

Bob stood in front of the mirrors and eyed himself cautiously. “I like it, but it doesn’t feel like me any more.”

Will you miss the grubby old polo, Bob? Now try on the rest of the clothes. We’re running out of time.” I shooed him back into the plush-purple carpeted change room and decided I’d call Kylie even though she was a no good, gossiping liar,to see if she could fit Bob in for a mercy cut.

What now?”

I decided to ignore her curtness and get straight to the point. “I have an emergency client for you. He has a date tonight and he can’t possibly go looking like the Bee Gees. The dead ones. Bad hair coupled with pallid and pasty skin, it’s not nice to look at.”

What? Who is he?”

Bob. A taxi driver I met today. Can you meet at my place?”

You want me to cut the hair of some random taxi driver you met today and you’re taking him to your house?

God, when you say it like that it sounds creepy! Good point, though. Let’s meet at your house in half an hour.”

No, I’ll meet at yours. He’ll be the last client anyway.”

Ok, if I’m not there on time just make yourself comfortab ...

Samantha, this is not a social experiment, just friggin’ get there on time!” And with that, she hung up on me for the third time that day.

I glanced over at Bob, who was still looking at himself sceptically in the full-length mirror. “C’mon, Bob, we’ve got another appointment. Grab the clothes and pay. I’ll meet you in the cab.”

Five minutes later, Bob returned to the car. His face was devoid of all colour and his eyes seemed vacant, dead almost.

Bob, what happened? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

He glared at me and said, “Are you on commission for that shop? Jesus, that little bundle of clothes just cost me two months wages!”

God, is that all? I thought something serious had happened! Let’s go, my friend Kylie is going to try and do something with that hair of yours.” He looked at me and went to speak, but thought better of it.

During the elevator ride up to my floor, I explained to Bob how many CCTV cameras he’d been seen on today with me just in case he was some kind of homicidal maniac. He looked at me blankly and said something totally nonsensical: “I think I’d be let off once a jury of my peers met you.

As if. I pictured myself flouncing around a court room, yelling, “Objection!” I’d wear those thick black spectacles so people would notice my intelligence and not just my looks. Then I’d wink at the cute juror, the one that looked like Keith Urban, but with shorter hair. Why oh why did he have to be married to Nicole?

I opened the front door of the unit and walked smack bang into hundreds of tiny little mirrors hanging from the ceiling on thick silver wire.

What the hell?” I said, as I tried to untangle myself from their tentacle-like clutches.

The house smelt like coconut. Hmm. I walked over to where my hall table usually sat, to find a row of three pot plants with round leaves. Hmm. There was some kind of waterfall music playing – the kind that stresses you out because you know it’s meant to calm you and the more you think about being calm the more stressed out you get.

I walked to the kitchenette and snatched up a hastily written letter.


I feng shui-d for you. The mirrors should turn your fortunes around. Your front door faces your backdoor and your money walks in and right out again. Dont forget to water the plants. Its bad feng shui to kill aliving thing. (You might want to consider this when youre eating meat. Cows have feelings too, you know.)Ive taken the liberty of moving your furniture around so you have good Chi. Please, please get rid of that dress!Heed my...

I screwed up the letter and boiled quietly on the inside. Crazy woman! I made a mental note to get my locks changed. My Mum was obviously practising some kind of occult ritual on me, her innocent daughter and guinea pig, so she could perfect her craft and charge unsuspecting customers. She was a crook, a charlatan, a swindler even.

Kylie knocked on the door and let herself in. “So, where is he?” she said as she walked into the mirrors and was momentarily blinded by the swirling prisms of light. “Whoa, your Mum’s been here, I take it.

You’re late!” I screamed at her, maybe somewhat unwarrantedly (that goddamn waterfall music had me on edge), “Can you start on Bob here, so I can finally relax? It’s been a hell of a day.”

OK, OK. Don’t get your knickers in a knot. Geez, I’ve come all the way over here for the second time in two days!”

What do you mean ‘all the way over here’? You live next door!”


So? So, next door isn’t even two metres away!”

So?” Kylie kept going, she couldn’t let me get the last word in. “I could be relaxing too, you know!’

Fine, fine. Can you just get started then?”

Kylie huffed and puffed like she was the big bad wolf while she unpacked her tools. Bob was busy trying to look inconspicuous.

Hi, Bob, I’m Kylie. Have a seat for me here, will you?” she said, pointing to a dining room chair.

Hi, love. I just need a small trim, I think.”

Kylie nodded and summoned me. “Sam, what’s the plan for Bob today?

Well a metro-sexual style won’t suit will it?” I asked.

No, he’s definitely not sharp enough for that. What about retro-sexual?”

It’s gotta be better than bet-tra sexual! Hair style for the chronic gambler!”

Kylie laughed and then remembered the seriousness of the situation and became a little bit emotional.

She held Bob’s hair between her fingers and tutted, “Now, Bob,” she said in a soothing tone, “I can fix this, but we have to get to the source of this flagrant self-abuse. Your hair is a living thing too, you know. Why would you spend years hiding behind dirty unkempt hair, Bob? This is a safe environment, Bob. You can be honest. I won’t judge you.” Bob looked at me like he feared for his life. I guess he’s never had his hair cut by a hair psychologist before.

Ah, I’ve just been busy. It’s only hair, love.”

Oh, God. Wrong answer. Who says that to someone holding razor sharp scissors?

Kylie sucked in her breath so severely I thought she was going to pass out.

She shook her head and walked away from Bob. “Samantha, I’m going to need a minute here,” and she sat on the lounge with her head between her knees and concentrated on shallow breathing. She muffled through her red cotton skirt. “This is more serious than I thought!”

I walked to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of white wine, hoping a glass or two each, would help diffuse the situation.

Glass of vino, anyone?”

Kylie stood up and walked back over to Bob. “I can only have green remember?

Well, white wine is made from green grapes.”

Kylie smiled for the first time in a while and said, “Of course, I’ll have a big glass, then. This is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Bob lifted his knees up and hugged them into his body. He started rocking back and forth a little strangely. Kylie whispered to me, “This is all part of the process, don’t let it scare you.”

She put on her serious voice and said, “Bob, was it your Mum? She cheated on your Dad, didn’t she? It made you feel invisible didn’t it?”

Bob ignored her and continued rocking, only adding a small mewing sound like a lost cat.

Or, was it the kids at school, Bob? You were always picked last for sport weren’t you? You had asthma and couldn’t run fast, could you?”

I must say I was fascinated. I think we were getting somewhere here.

It was your ex-wife, wasn’t it, Bob? She started buying your clothes from K-Mart and cutting your hair herself, didn’t she? You kept quiet even though you started to resemble Bob Hawke, didn’t you?”

Bob’s eyes widened and his body stiffened. The rocking stopped as suddenly as it started. Kylie nodded to me and said, “It’s OK, Bob. It’s OK. There, there. We can fix this.” Bob started sobbing and cried, “Yes, please, I’ll do anything! I’m so sick of the Bob Hawke jokes. She did it on purpose, you know! She was evil, pure evil!”

Ok, you’re going to have to commit to a six week treatment plan. Every six weeks you need to see me. Now it’s not going to be cheap. Cheap is what got you into this mess, remember?

I can pay!”

Hallelujah, Bob. I’m going to start cutting now. Try to relax. This is a safe environment. If you need a break, you just let me know, ok?”

OK,” he sniffed, wiped away his tears and looked suddenly hopeful. I left them to it, it was becoming a little too TyraBanks for me.

My phone started playing the Jaws theme song.

Hi, Mother. I noticed you did some redecorating.”

Darling. You sent me a message about Bob? And I just wanted to say …”

Oh, it was nothing, just the taxi I was in, for precaution.”

Right, so … you didn’t actually talk?”

No, not really,” I could see where this was leading, some kind of new therapy she’s designed targeting taxi drivers. Bloody con woman, she’d rob children if she could get away with it. “So, I noticed you broke into my house, again.”

Darling, I wouldn’t call it breaking in, I have a key you know, and I’ve been so worried about you. Tell me everything that’s happened since I saw you yesterday!”

Well, I think you of all people know exactly what’s happened to me since yesterday.”

Darling, what does that mean?” She used that mawkish mother voice that sounded very innocent, thus implying to me,she was very guilty.

I think you should use your powers for good not evil, Mum.”

Darling, are you on that sugar-free diet again? You sound a little on edge.”

I thought about all that had happened. Really, I was some kind of machine to keep going with all I’d been through, whowouldn’t be on edge? I decided to change the subject.

JJ is back in town. I escaped from a potentially expensive lunch date.”

Mum sighed. “I love JJ, darling. I think you get too caught up in that imagination of yours when you are with him. He loves you. I’ve done his numbers. You two are well suited.

Oh, please, Mum! He’s obviously gay!”

About Billie Jones
Billie Jones is a writer from Australia who enjoys imaging herself wrestling killer crocodiles and swimming with great white sharks. She thinks she may have to attempt base jumping so she can write about it and Bungee is on the list too. You can find her either in front of her computer writing about her fictional adventures or at the beach searching for the next perfect wave.