The Shogun’s Queen by Lesley Downer book review and Japanese Tea Ceremony post

the-shoguns-queen

The Shogun’s Queen written by Lesley Downer, publisher Corgi, is available now in ebook and hardcover and FROM 27th July 2017 the novel will be available in paperback format.

To buy link:  http://amzn.to/2thjxQ2

Product Details (as per amazon page)

The year is 1853, and a young Japanese girl’s world is about to be turned upside down.

When black ships carrying barbarians arrive on the shores of Japan, the Satsuma clan’s way of life is threatened. But it’s not just the samurai who must come together to fight: the beautiful, headstrong Okatsu is also given a new destiny by her feudal lord – to save the realm.

Armed only with a new name, Princess Atsu, as she is now known, journeys to the women’s palace of Edo Castle, a place so secret it cannot be marked on any map. Behind the palace’s immaculate façade, amid rumours of murder and whispers of ghosts, Atsu must uncover the secret of the man whose fate, it seems, is irrevocably linked to hers – the shogun himself – if she is to rescue her people . . .

Lesley Downer The Shogun's Queen blog tour 1

I am so pleased to be involved in the blogtour promoting and celebrating the launch of the paperback of The Shogun’s Queen.  I reviewed a copy of this novel back in October last year and I’m happy to reblog my review today.

My Review

This was such an epic story that sent my emotions soaring high and dramatically cascading low.  I was enchanted by the author Lesley Downer’s beautiful words describing a colourful world.  I felt instantly transported to a land far, far away to a time where legends and rituals were significant and paramount.  To a time when the unknown were feared.  A time when sacrifices had to be made for the sake of the countries survival.

The Shogun’s Queen is a fictional novel based on events in Japanese history.  Young Okatsu with her beauty, knowledge and courage has been given a task like no other.  At the tender age of 17 Okatsu has been given a mission, a mission that seems almost impossible but none the less she has no option but to try.  Okatsu must leave her family, her village and the love of her life.  A tumultuous journey lies ahead for Atsu, as she is now formerly known and her destiny is shrouded with secrets, political upheaval and death.

The torment that Okatsu faces saying goodbye to her love is so heartbreaking but more heartbreak is to come.  I could hardly read the words with the tears falling.  The Shogun’s Queen story gripped me and left me intrigued all the way through and has left me feeling quite emotional and bereft at the end.  I completely adored this novel and would highly recommend it.  A stunning historical romance of sacrifices and love.  5/5*

japanese word tea

I was fascinated to learn of the culture of Japan in this novel, especially the tea ceremonies.  The author, Lesley Downer, has kindly written a short post for my blog on the art of Japanese tea ceremony.

 

You can connect with Lesley Downer at the following pages:

Website:  http://www.lesleydowner.com/

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/LesleyDowner

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLesleyDowner/

The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse book review

the art of hiding

The Art of Hiding written by Amanda Prowse, publisher Lake Union Publishing is available NOW in ebook format.  The book is also included in the kindleunlimited scheme.

To buy link:

Product Details (as per amazon page)

Nina McCarrick has it all: a loving husband, two beautiful boys, a well-appointed home and more time than she knows what to do with. Life is perfect. Until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

marble

Amanda Prowse knows what she is good at and she continues to dig into our hearts and souls with the words she pens across the page.  From the synopsis you know there is tragedy ahead but when you get lost in the minds of the characters the tragedy that strikes hits you like a sledgehammer and you are left with a shattered heart.  As the main character, Nina, slowly picks up the pieces of her heart you too are gaining strength from within.

Nina’s childhood wasn’t without struggles and when she meets Fin, 10 years her senior a confident, charismatic property developer she is taken in by his promises of a better life.  Happily married with two boys aged 10 and 15 life was idyllic for homemaker Nina but when tragedy strikes her world is turned upside down.  With the sudden death of her husband and father to her two boys Nina is trying so hard to be strong for her family.  However, she is to be dealt with another blow and her boys and herself have to take drastic action to survive.   When the full extent to the secrets he had hidden so well are uncovered Nina starts to doubt whether she actually knew her husband and also whether he actually knew her.

Building a new life for herself and her boys was a challenge and Nina had to step out of her comfort zone which she had slowly built around herself and had been hiding in since her marriage.  Her responsibilities with the love of her boys and her memories from her childhood gave her the strength she needed.

A truly beautiful story of grief, loss, secrets, strength and taking one day at a time.  Heart wrenching but at times inspirational.  5/5*

To find out more about Amanda Prowse and her books please do visit the following pages:

Website:  http://amandaprowse.org/

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/MrsAmandaProwse

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/amandaprowsenogreaterlove

 

Wild Life by Alison Brodie book review

Wild Life

Wild Life written and self-published by Alison Brodie is available NOW on ebook.

To buy link:

Product Details (as per amazon page)

She says he’s got five per cent body fat and one per cent brain activity.
He says she’s a foul-mouthed tart.
Meet Faustine and McPherson.

Faustine is terrified of responsibility and never wants kids. She lives in New York filling her time with dead-end jobs and high-end stimulants but when she hears that Beech Wood Rise is about to be flattened, she sobers up and heads home to England. The ancient woodland holds her only memories of her dead mother and she’s going to fight every step of the way to stop the land developer.
McPherson is the land developer. He never wants kids because he believes he’s inherited his father’s violent temper. Having been evicted from his home as a child, McPherson’s mission is to build low-cost housing for the poor. And Beech Wood Rise is his next project.
Oscar, 9, has been taken from his crack-head mum in London and placed with his aunt in the countryside while Child Services find him a foster home. Oscar dislikes his aunt and takes up residence in the abandoned tree-house on Beech Wood Rise.
Suddenly, Oscar’s peace is shattered.
Oscar watches the battle between Faustine and McPherson with a spectator’s enthusiasm, while fanning the flames of war. Yet he knows his days of freedom are numbered. Rather than go into foster care, he plans to do a disappearing act.
When Faustine and McPherson discover that Oscar is not a middle-class brat dodging piano practice but an emotionally traumatised reject who is about to run away, they declare a temporary ceasefire as they try to save him.
What they don’t know is: all their careful plans to stay child-free are about to be challenged.
Oscar has decided that Faustine and McPherson would make great parents. HIS parents.
Now all he has to do is make them fall in love.

tree silhouette

Wow, I absolutely loved this novel and I didn’t want it to end.

A romcom story with great dialogue that makes you spontaneously laugh out loud and then it rips at your heart leaving you a crumpled mess, then your emotions are soaring high again.  It was so clever of the author, Alison Brodie, to bring laughter to a story that held a serious, sensitive subject to the crux of the storyline.

Faustine couldn’t believe her luck when she’d won the big modelling contract but then her heart sank a little when she learn’t that she had to now portray a certain elegant image.  She thought one last binge wouldn’t hurt then she’d do all she could to maintain the appropriate image for the mega bucks pay packet.  However, a plea of help from her sister to save the sacred trees near her ancestral home back in England may scupper her new image.

Property developer McPherson had set his sights on building a new housing development in a sleepy village in the Cotswolds.  He had a dream to make affordable housing and his aim was to bring families from inner cities to his idyllic location and let them feel and see the countryside all the time.  His dream was being hampered by local protestors appealing against his proposal hoping to save the ancient woodland which included the magnificent old tree lovingly named Old Bob by the locals.  He now had dwellers living in the tree which had been temporarily turned into a makeshift treehouse.  A young boy and woman were residing in the tree but McPherson felt no threat from them.  Little did he know that the woman residing the treehouse had a history with the tree and emotions were running high.

Faustine’s mission was to stay in the tree till the protestors won the appeal.  This tree Old Bob held so many childhood memories for Faustine and it hurt her deeply to think that someone could quite easily chop it down.  The young boy helping Faustine with her protest was Oscar.  A very street wise lad from London that was currently staying with his Aunt nearby whilst his mum was recovering from her drug addiction in rehab.  Through his bravado you could sense a vulnerability within Oscar and the more Faustine got to know him the more she realised he needed her help.  Faustine had never felt maternal but she felt a kinship with this child and with the unexpected help from the developer McPherson the adults strove to help young Oscar as much as they could.  Unbeknown to the adults young Oscar was plotting to bring the temporary warring adults together.

This was such a wonderful story full of warmth and good humour.  Alison Brodie had injected some sizzling sexual chemistry within the story and I felt that the shared love of the countryside was soon spreading it’s magic to our warring couple.  It felt like Old Bob was an anchor pulling all three main characters together; Oscar, Faustine and McPherson each had a part to play in helping one another.  A funny, sexy, heartfelt story cleverly blending around a serious issue.  5/5*

To find out more about Alison Brodie and her books please do visit the following pages:

Website:  http://www.alisonbrodiebooks.com/

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/alisonbrodie2

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/AlisonBrodieAuthor/

 

I Have Never by Camilla Isley blogtour/book review

 

 

i have never

 

I Have Never written by Camilla Isley, publisher Pink Bloom Press, is available NOW in ebook and paperback format.

To buy link:

amazon UK:  http://amzn.to/2uqkdX6

amazon US:  http://amzn.to/2u030Tr

Product Details (as per amazon page)

Twenty-nine-year-old Blair Walker is a girl with a plan, or more a girl with a list. A list of dos and don’ts to live the perfect life, land a dream career, and marry Mr. Right.

But when Blair loses her job and gets dumped by her boyfriend all in one day, she starts to wonder if she’s had it all wrong. And what better way to find out than experience everything the list forbade?

*Never Lie
*Never Pick a Fight
*Never Make a Scene
*Never Make the First Move
*Never Make Impulse Decisions
*Never Mix Business and Pleasure…

With hilarious consequences, Blair will discover some items are trickier to tick off than she’d thought…

I Have Never is a wonderful chick lit beach read and a fabulous office romance. A laugh out loud romantic comedy perfect for fans of Lindsey Kelk, Sophie Kinsella, and Mhairi McFarlane.

First Comes Love is a series of interconnected romantic novels. However, each book in the series can be read as a standalone novel.

blue scroll

I am so pleased to be involved in the blogtour promoting and celebrating the release of Camilla Isley’s latest book I Have Never.  This is the second book in the First Comes Love series and each book in the series can be read as a standalone but to be honest once you’ve read and enjoyed one of Camilla Isley’s stories you want to read them all.

This is Blair Walker’s story who has lived her life with a list of ‘Never’s’ from advice given to her whilst growing up.  She’s been happy living and abiding with this list but when one day her life starts crumbling around her she decides to rebel against the list.

Our leading lady, Blair, sounded like a vibrant young woman who was career orientated and never lost the sights of her dream as a Fashion Editor for a magazine.  Blair was initially taken in by the glossy images of the upmarket offices and of her peers at Evoque Magazine but when she takes a step back and has a closer look revealing the ugly warts of the business she thinks again about her dream.  Appearances definitely are deceiving.  I instantly fell for the charms of our leading man who had a vulnerability about him.  With the introduction of a stray lost puppy the story took on another dimension and both leading characters were softened by this lovable furry friend.

With Blair rebuilding her life and defying against the list and accidentally falling secretly in love with her new boss Camilla Isley has written us a gloriously, fun filled romance.  I loved it!

To find out more about Camilla Isley and her books please do visit the following pages:

Website:  https://camillaisley.com/

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/camillaisley

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/camillaisley/

I-have-never

July 13th
Rachel Brimble Romance – Author Q&A
A Beautiful Book Blog – Book Review
Writing Pearls – Book Review
With Love For Books – Book Review
For the Love of Chick Lit – Book Review
July 14th
Kristin’s Novel Cafe – Book Excerpt (chapter one)
JenaBooks – Book Review
He Said Books or Me – Author Guest Post
Judging More than Just the Cover – Author Q&A
July 15th
I Heart Fictional People – Book Review
Chrissi Reads – Book Review
Books and Photographs – Book Review
Rebecca Book Review – Book Excerpt (chapter two)
Monique McDonell-Author  – Book Excerpt (chapter three)
July 16th
One Book At A Time – Spotlight Post
CosyCuteKnits – Book Review
The Writing Garnet – Book Review
July 17th
The Belgian Reviewer – Book Excerpt (chapter one)
Girl vs Books – Book Review
kraftireader – Book Review

July 18th

 

Reading Is My SuperPower – Book Review
I Heart Fictional People – Book Review
THE CHLOE DOUGLAS BLOG – Book Review
July 19th
Kristin’s Novel Café – Book Excerpt (chapter two)
Simona’s Corner of Dreams – Author Guest Post
Bookish – Book Review
July 20th
TheBlossomTwins – Book Review
Grass Monster – Book Review
Chick Lit Central – Author Q&A
Living Life with Joy – Author Guest Post
July 21st
ItaPixie’s Book Corner – Book Review
Rae Reads – Book Review
Novelgossip  – Book Review
Whispering Stories – Book Review
Ali – The Dragon Slayer – Book Review
A Daydreamer’s Thoughts – Book Review
Steamy Book Momma – Book Excerpt (chapter nine)
July 22nd
BookLoverWorm – Book Review
Pretty Little Book Reviews – Book Review
Book Lover in Florida – Book Excerpt (chapter one)

 

Walking Wounded by Anna Franklin Osborne book review

walking wounded

Walking Wounded written and published by Anna Franklin Osborne is available NOW in ebook and paperback format.

To buy link:

Product Details (as per amazon page)

Born at the end of the First World War, a young girl struggles to find her own identity in her big family and is pushed into a stormy marriage through a terrible misunderstanding from which her pride refuses to let her back down. As her own personal world begins to crumble, the foundation of the world around her is shaken as Germany once again declares war and her brothers and young husband sign up with the first wave of volunteers.

Walking Wounded tells the story of those left behind in a Blitz-ravaged London, and of the web of loyalty, guilt and duty that shapes the decisions of the women awaiting the return of their men-folk as the war draws to a close.

Spanning the period from the Armistice of the First World War to the exodus of the Ten Pound Poms to Australia in the 1950s, Walking Wounded is a family saga whose internal violence is mirrored by the world stage upon which it is set.

london station blitz

This was such a profoundly emotive story that deeply moved me.  At one point I had to pause from reading due to the tears blurring my vision.  Anna Franklin Osborne has taken me on a very real emotional journey, a journey that millions took that had no choice but to “Keep Calm and Carry On” but behind the smiles lay troubled souls and broken hearts.

This family saga started back in 1918 travelling through to 1952 on the life of one family coping and trying to survive what life through at them.  Through pivotal moments in Britain’s history and through life’s own harsh battles.  Women waiting patiently for news of their loved ones; be it fathers, brothers, sons, husbands and lovers.  Dreading the post for fear of bad news.  However, when the men came back they were scarred both physically and mentally and the scenes that they have endured will never leave them.  The joy of seeing and being with your family again was tinged with the fear of what the war did to the minds of their men.

Whilst the men did their duty the women were left to hold the fort back at home and at work, struggling to make ends meet and struggling to keep morale high.  Anna Franklin Osborne’s female characters were all very strong young women full of vitality and hope at the beginning of the war but life was very cruel and hearts were shattered and minds were tested.  The walking wounded were not just the soldiers of war but of those left behind wounded by life and all it threw at them.  A smile can hide a multitude of emotions.

This is a very special story, a fictional story based loosely around Anna Franklin Osborne’s three great uncles, her great aunt and her grandmother who all played a part during the war years.  I do believe fictional stories bring history to life and Anna Franklin Osborne has taken me on this historical journey.  A stunning story spelling out life in it’s raw detail.  5/5*

To find out more about Anna Franklin Osborne please do visit the following pages:

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/GooseWingPublications/

 

 

Guest Post: Hole in the Middle Author Kendra Fortmeyer

Hole in the Middle

Hole in the Middle written by Kendra Fortmeyer, publisher Atom (an imprint of Little, Brown) is available NOW in ebook and paperback format.

To buy link:

Product Details (as per amazon page)

Morgan Stone was born with a hole in her middle. A perfectly smooth patch of nothing where a something should be.

After seventeen years of fear and shame, doctors and nurses, ‘peculiar’ not ‘perfect’, she has had enough of hiding.

One night, among a sea of bodies and lost in a moment of blissful abandon, she finally bares all.

A few photos uploaded to social media is all it takes to create a media frenzy. Overnight, Morgan becomes #holegirl.

And then she meets a boy who is literally her perfect match. They could be each other’s cure. But can he truly make her ‘whole’?

Feisty, feminist and downright different, Hole in the Middle is the story of what happens when a girl who is anything but ‘normal’ confronts a world obsessed with body image and celebrity.

yellow squiggle lineI’m so pleased to welcome author Kendra Fortmeyer to my blog today:

The Holes Inside Us (Form Constellations We Feel, Not See)

My first novel, Hole in the Middle, began as a short story for a class. The week before I was to turn it in, I met with the instructor and blurted, “I’m working on a story about a girl who has a hole through her torso.” He raised his eyebrows and, optimistically reading his skepticism as encouragement, I blurted, “A hole that – it goes straight through. Like, if she were standing in front of a book case, you could read the titles on the shelf behind her.”

The teacher in this tale is an established American fabulist, a weaver himself of strange tales and fictions. He assigned us readings in Barthelme and Cortazar and Michaux and frequently exhorted us to read Philip Roth’s “The Breast” (in which a man spontaneously transforms into a human breast); if anybody understood what I was about, I thought, he’d be the one.

My teacher, who’d been hunched forward in his chair with the seriousness and demeanor of a praying mantis, leaned slowly back, running a hand through his shock of white hair.

“I cannot imagine,” he said, “How in the world you’re going to pull that one off.”

It’s a response I haven’t stopped hearing in the five years since I took Pete’s class, even after I signed with a firecracker agent – even after selling the book to a fantastic editor with Little Brown’s YA imprint Atom Books. The core concept of the book – the girl with a hole in her middle –strikes people as anywhere from interesting to odd. It’s not quite fantasy (the world of the book is quite ordinary; the hero does homework and wastes time on Facebook and falls in and out of love on gum-stained sidewalks), but unless there are hordes of toroid people secretly roaming the streets, realism, it’s not quite realism, either.

It’s a bit uncomfortable, this uncategorizability. We’re not sure what to do with what we can’t understand.

This is a problem the novel’s protagonist, a girl named Morgan, grapples with regularly: when a piece of you is missing, where do you fit? Throughout the course of the book, she both resists and embraces the idea that the hole in her middle is a metaphor for something: she believes both that she is undefined by her body and that she is limited by it; that she is simultaneously a whole person, and also that she is strange, is unlovable, that some key part of her is lacking.

In many ways, the novel is a portrait of myself in my teens and twenties, and my friends and classmates. We were, all of us, shaped by yearning: an obsession with what we were and weren’t yet. Experimenting, laughing, raging, playing, trying desperately to figure out how to become the selves we didn’t yet know we needed to be.

 It’s a portrait of myself even now.

In the novel, the hole and the sense of lack is tied closely to the body, as it often is in Western culture. We’re told since we’re young that there is a physical ideal, and all of the ways in which we fall short of it are personal failures. The novel – and before that, the story – is a rallying cry against all that, for young women especially, but also for people of any age, anywhere. It’s the story of a girl looking at her body and saying, Stop defining me and Enough is enough and This hole is not a flaw; it’s merely space to grow.

Writing it has made me feel whole.

A week after meeting with my instructor, I handed my story into the class. He met with me later, shaking his head.

“I didn’t have any clue how you were going to pull that off,” he said, and laughed his wonderful old Christopher Walken laugh. “This wasn’t quite what I expected. But it works, you know. It works.”

The flaws in us – and that which we are told are flaws, are wanting, are anything-other-than-perfect – are far from it: the gaps in the cardboard cutouts between ourselves and “ordinary” are the spaces that make us who we are. Embrace them, own them, grow into them. Your whole self will thank you.

Wow, this book sounds fascinating and very topical.  Thank you so much to Kendra for revealing more about the insight behind the story.

To find out more about Kendra Fortmeyer please visit the following pages:

Website:  http://kendrafortmeyer.com/

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/kendraffe

Death Plays a Part by Vivian Conroy book review

Death plays a part

Death Plays a Part written by Vivian Conroy, publisher HQ Digital, is available NOW in ebook format.

To buy link:

Product Details (as per amazon page)

With high tide comes murder…

When her beloved London theatre closes for renovations, costume maker Guinevere is excited to start a job at Cornisea castle, a centuries-old keep on a small tidal island off the coast of Cornwall. Imagine a whole summer full of stories of hidden treasures, fab food and long walks with her perky dachshund Dolly.

But when a re-enactment of a medieval trial in the castle dungeons ends in real-life murder, and accusations threaten the castle’s future, Guinevere and Dolly dig deep into the island community’s best-kept secrets to unmask the killer and save their Cornish summer.

The first book in the Cornish Castle Mystery series with the second instalment RUBIES IN THE ROSES coming August 2017!

daschund

This is the first mystery novel I’ve read and also the first book by Vivian Conroy so two firsts.  It’s so good to open your eyes to new genres and new authors.

I loved the premise of this story; Theatre Costume Designer Guinevere and her cute Daschund companion Dolly were off to spend the summer in Cornwall working for the owner of an ancient castle on the fictional island of Cornisea, off the coast of Cornwall.  Sounds like a perfect summer working vacation to me as Guinevere was to help catalogue the books in the castle.  The island was steeped with history and legends and the castle was also to play host in the re-enactment of one of the local legends.  During the re-enactment history was to repeat itself as one of the cast was found murdered in the dungeons.

After the initial shock, horror and upset from all the cast involved in the re-enactment Guinevere and Oliver the son of Lord Bolingbrooke, decide to do some detective work and solve the mystery of the murder in the dungeons themselves.  With Oliver’s local knowledge, Guinevere’s theatrical background with scene plotting and Dolly the Daschund’s inquisitive mind and doggy instincts the trio go on an ‘whodunit adventure’!

I must admit I did find this story a little slow to start with but once I got into it I was as eager as the trio to find the culprit.  The storyline felt quite nostalgic, the crime didn’t feel at all grizzly and I loved the amateur sleuths investigations taking them around this idyllic isle.  By the end of Death Plays a Part I had grown to love the characters portrayed in the storyline and I’m looking forward to the next book in the Cornisea Castle Mystery book series.  4/5*

To find out more about Vivian Conroy and her books please do visit the following pages:

Website:  http://www.carinauk.com/the-call-vivian-conroy

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/VivWrites