Eva Jordan reviews… Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair by Heidi Swain

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Published by Simon & Schuster UK

I met author Heidi Swain earlier this year, albeit very briefly, at an author/blogger meet up. Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair is the first of Heidi’s novels I’ve read and like the lady herself, it is absolutely charming. Whether you’re looking for something jovially celebratory to read in the run-up to Christmas, or something to curl up to with a mince pie and glass of your favourite tipple over the holidays, I can thoroughly recommend this festive, feel-good tale. 

Set in the fictional Fenland town of Wynbridge (with its very own Market Place not unlike my own home town) this is the story of Anna, who, for reasons not at first obvious, isn’t particularly fond of Christmas. A bit of a nomad, she pulls out all the stops to make sure she works every Christmas, preferably in a position that will keep her both busy, and as far away from the holiday festivities as possible. Anna spots and applies for what appears to be the perfect occupation, as companion to Catherine Connolly, convalescing after an operation. Catherine, along with her husband Angus, is the owner of the somewhat isolated Wynthorpe Hall, situated on the outskirts of Wynbridge, a remote town in the Fens, which sounds ideal to Anna. “Hunkering down in the barren and frosty Fenland landscape, without so much as a carol singer in sight, would be a much appreciated soothing balm to my troubled soul and I mulled it over with relish”. Only, as is often the case with most things in life, things are not quite as they seem.

When the Connolly’s youngest son, Jamie, arrives home just before Christmas, after spending time abroad, he finds himself faced with some difficult decisions. Ones that will no doubt affect his future and that of Wynthorpe Hall. Disillusioned with the family home, can Anna help Jamie fall in love with it again, and, more importantly, can Jamie help Anna, after years of refusing to celebrate it, help her fall in love with Christmas again?

Easy to read, the story is well paced, and, as one who lives in the Fens, the setting feels heart-warmingly familiar. The characters are well rounded and believable, although it is the rather eccentric, not to mention slightly mischievous, Angus, who really captured my heart. Full of festive cheer, love, laughter and hope, Sleigh Rides and Silver Bells at the Christmas Fair is a pure joy to read, providing some light relief and escapism from, what at times, feels like a very troubled world at the moment. Definitely one I’d recommend.

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@BeTeenUs – Stepmum or Stepmonster? How to bring up teenagers in a stepfamily!

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I’m over on BeTeenUs today talking about parenting, stepparenting and moody teenagers!

It’s not easy being a parent, especially a parent of teenagers but if you are embarking on such a journey as a stepparent then I’d say you’re in for an interesting, and at times, bumpy ride. I know because as a parent and stepparent myself, I speak from the voice of experience.

It is just such experiences, along with all those associated with modern day family life, that inspired me to write both my debut novel, 183 Times A Year, and my recently released second novel, All The Colours In Between. Based on a fictional extended family, both novels explore the amusing and sometimes fraught relationship between parents and their teenage children, set amongst the thorny realities of today’s divided and extended families.

I’ve learned a lot over the years, both as a parent and stepparent. I’ve also carried out in-depth research into better trying to understand the Facebook, tweeting, selfie-taking, music and mobile phone obsessed universal enigma, otherwise known as the teenager. I’m not an expert, nor do I proclaim to be. I’ve definitely made a few mistakes along the way, both as a parent and stepparent. Now pop over to BeTeenUs to see a few of my survival guide tips.

All The Colours In Between Blog Tour 2017

 

The official launch of my second novel, All The Colours In Between, takes place tomorrow, 19th October, but the Blog Tour starts today – yay! That means you still have time to pre-order your copy, here and here. And you still have time to enter a giveaway competition I’m running on my Facebook page (ends 19th Oct) here, and a Goodreads competition (ends 26th October) here. unnamed-5

Some early reviews are already popping up and here’s what people are saying:

“If you like Marian Keyes, Jane Green (with a little Liane Moriarty thrown in) I think that you will thoroughly enjoy this book. It will give you all the feels. I really wanted to see how these characters got through the book and couldn’t put it down.” –Married Book Nerds

“…emotive, multi layered and a story that even the most hard hearted reader will find a highly emotional read.” –The Book Review Café

“All the Colours in Between is a powerful, emotional, and fast paced story about modern life in a blended family. It was a pure joy to read and I can’t wait for the next instalment in this family saga.” –Brew and Books Review

“Absolutely WOW, double wow, what a truly amazing, emotional and heartfelt read. The story was so brilliantly written.” –Nessa on Goodreads

“I LOVED IT! There is no sugar coating life here – relationships fail, family life is hard work to maintain, good things happen and shit happens. Eva Jordan gives us it all in a way that had me laughing out loud one minute – particularly with Salocin, the grandfather – and then crying the next. Five golden stars from me. –ClaireMS’s Reviews on Goodreads

 

Eva Jordan reviews… Beautiful by Katie Piper

 

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Publisher – Ebury Press

Several months ago, I had the great honour and pleasure of meeting the writer and TV presenter, Katie Piper. The victim of a horrific acid attack, mostly to her face, neck and upper body, Katie is a shining example of triumph over adversity. Friendly and approachable, Katie, who smiled constantly, proved to be genuinely warm and extremely generous with her time. So, this month’s book review is a work of non-fiction by Katie Piper.

Katie’s autobiography, Beautiful, explains how she was attacked, her life beforehand and the events leading up to that terrible, fateful day. Age twenty-four, living in London, Katie was a beautiful, successful, and ambitious young woman when she was brutally raped by her then-boyfriend, whom she had met on Facebook weeks earlier. Several weeks later she then had acid thrown in her face, also initiated by the same said boyfriend. “I heard a horrible screaming sound, like an animal being slaughtered … then I realised it was me.” However, if Katie’s perpetrator thought she was going to crawl away and hide her injuries from the rest of the world, he was sorely mistaken. He clearly hadn’t bargained for such a courageous and gutsy young woman. Through the love and support of wonderful family and good friends, not to mention an iron will powered by true determination and courage, Katie completely turned her life around. To many, she is both an inspiration and a role model. She is also, I think it is safe to say, still beautiful, incredibly successful and rightly ambitious – despite one man’s attempts to sabotage such qualities.

Some of you may recognise Katie from TV shows like Bodyshockers and Face to Face and like me, you may have read about her terrible ordeal back in 2008, but also like me, you may not have realised the full extent of her injuries, and the pain and suffering she endured, both mentally and physically. “It was just a normal mirror, a round sheet of glass encased in a white plastic frame, but as I reached for it, my hand trembled. ‘Take your time, Katie,’ my psychologist Lisa said gently…But I didn’t do things by halves – I never had…All of a sudden, that normal little mirror became a window into hell.” Katie has had and continues to have, countless operations and skin grafts, she is blind in one eye and because she swallowed some of the acid that permanently scarred her face, neck and arm, she also suffered internal damage, resulting in a great deal of scar tissue around her oesophagus. This left Katie unable to eat and swallow food properly, which again resulted in yet more surgery. Katie makes no attempt to hide the fact she struggled after her attack, describing some very ‘dark’ times, however, this is also a story of hope and inspiration.

Well composed, Beautiful is easy to read but not an easy read. Nonetheless, it is also written with great warmth, humour and aplomb. One woman’s triumph over evil and living proof that life does go on despite, at times, unimaginable difficulties and suffering.

Katie Piper

 

Eva Jordan reviews… Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes by Simon Wan

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Publisher – Urbane Publications

You know the hero always gets the girl right? Well, what if the hero gets the girl but she’s not the right girl? Worse, what if the girl doesn’t actually want the hero?

Such is the life of our romantic hero as he negotiates the triple threat of trying to becoming a cheese ball superstar, finding his cartoon princess, and bringing her home for a perfect Christmas roast potato. It’s a life tale of comic disasters, sex (lots of weird sex), relationship nightmares and discovering your nakedness in a world full of people wearing the same old clothes.

Honest, warm, funny and very hip, this is David Nicholls with the tears, the pain and the naughty bits put brazenly on display for the world to see.

My Review

If you like the idea of reading something a little different then this is just the book. Honest and warm with lots of laugh out loud moments plus a couple of weird ones to boot (check out the acknowledgements to give you a bit of an idea), this is the story of one man’s quest to find true love.

As Shakespeare himself famously wrote, “the course of true love never did run smooth” and never has there been a more appropriate turn of phrase when it comes to the complicated love life of Mr Simon Wan. Beginning at the tender age of eight, the author takes us right back to the 1980s and the first girl he fell in love with, Claire. Having only been at his new school for a couple of days, Claire and her friend feel sorry for the half-Chinese boy being teased by the other boys. In a bid to make him feel better, the girls kiss him on the cheek. “The next playtime, the boys who called me ‘chinkychong pong face’ were a little more interested in being my friend…and that probably set the precedent [for my life] for the next thirty-two years.”

With an obvious zest for life and an honest love and appreciation of women (all kinds of women), as well as music and fashion, not forgetting the roast potatoes of course, the writer then proceeds to walk us through three colourful decades of his life and the never-ending story (and yes, that sentence is alluding to a friend of said author who gets a mention in this book – think eighties pop icon with spiky blonde hair) of his search for true love. And it’s all there, the long hot summers, public transport, the video player, mixtapes, skateboards, drink-fuelled fights and drug-fuelled raves – “we drove around the country lanes in the middle of the night searching for phone boxes that would lead us to hidden rave arenas and when we got there we danced until it was a different day. Life was fast. Life was about lasers and ecstasy, nothing could stop us. We had the keys to a brave new world. We were invincible.”

Snappy, fast-paced but easy to read, Wan is masterful at painting pictures with words. He is also brutally honest about himself and although, on the whole, the book remains upbeat and wonderfully witty throughout, Wan doesn’t sugar coat his faults or his mistakes, which in a way only makes him more endearing. He is human and doesn’t try and hide it. Written with great humour and sincerity, if you’re looking for something a little different then I’d definitely recommend Love and a Dozen Roast Potatoes. But be warned – be prepared to feel very worn out after reading it. 

Love Is In The Air!

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Love Is In The Air!

Celebrated on 14th February each year, the cynics among us could be forgiven for viewing upcoming Valentine’s Day in its current incarnation as a colossal commercial venture seized upon by big businesses to drive huge sales.

Flowers – red roses are by far the most popular, with estimates of around 110 million sold 2-3 days leading up to February 14th.

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Chocolates – more than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold.

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Jewellery – estimates suggest us Brits alone will spend 58 million on jewellery.

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Cards – then, of course, there are Valentines Cards where an estimated one billion will be sent worldwide making Valentine’s Day the second largest seasonal card-sending celebration after Christmas.

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However, the writer and romantic in me prefer to believe there is more to it than that. So, straight from the heart, and in the true spirit of love and romance, here are a few declarations of love taken from several famous love letters.

Zelda Fitzgerald to F Scott Fitzgerald

Darling – I love these velvet nights. I’ve never been able to decide … whether I love you most in the eternal classic half-lights where it blends with day or in the full religious fan-fare of mid-night or perhaps in the lux of noon.

Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf

I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way.

Katherine Mansfield to John Middleton Murry

My darling,

Do not imagine, because you find these lines in your private book that I have been trespassing. You know I have not – and where else shall I leave a love letter? For I long to write you a love letter tonight. You are all about me – I seem to breathe you – hear you – feel you in me and of me … 

John Keats to Fanny Brawne

My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you — I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again — my Life seems to stop there — I see no further.

Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other one wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met.