Monday 30 November 2020

The Push by Ashley Audrain @audrain #ThePush @MichaelJBooks @lcnicol #BookReview #Debuts2021


'The women in this family, we're different . . .'

Blythe Connor doesn't want history to repeat itself.

Violet is her first child and she will give her daughter all the love she deserves. All the love that her own mother withheld.

But firstborns are never easy. And Violet is demanding and fretful. She never smiles. Soon Blythe believes she can do no right - that something's very wrong. Either with her daughter, or herself.

Her husband, Fox, says she's imagining it. But Violet's different with him. And he can't understand what Blythe suffered as a child. No one can.

Blythe wants to be a good mother. But what if that's not enough for Violet? Or her marriage? What if she can't see the darkness coming?

Mother and daughter. Angel or monster?

We don't get to choose our inheritance - or who we are . . .

The Push by Ashley Audrain is published on 7 January 2021 by Michael Joseph. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This is a dark, bleak, emotional read. I have never given birth, I am not a mother, or a step-mother, and to be very honest, after reading this story, I have absolutely no regrets about my life choice! 
Readers who may be thinking about starting a family, or may be new mothers themselves may want to think hard about what they are about to read. Remember, this is fiction, it's not a true-life account of being a mother, but it really is magnificently done. 

Audrain has chosen an unusual style of story telling; with her main narrator telling the story to another lead player, it's a little difficult to adjust to, but once you are in, you are consumed by the narrative, it's very beautifully structured.

Blythe and Fox are a young couple with dreams. Blythe's childhood was difficult. Her mother Cecilia lacked the maternal instinct and Blythe just longed to be loved, she dreamt of having a mother like those of her friends. Nestled within Blythe's own story, the author includes snippets from Cecila's life, and that of her own mother Etta, and it is here that the reader realises just how damaged these women were.

When Blythe gives birth to daughter Violet, her determination to become the mother that she never had is strong. However, Violet isn't the child that she dreamt of, and the bond that everyone told her would be natural seems to be missing. As Blythe struggles with daily feeding and constant exhaustion, she becomes fearful of expressing her feelings to Fox. Fox is the perfect Daddy; a doting and loving father to Violet who clearly adores him. Blythe feels like a failure, Violet isn't what she dreamt of.

Audrain's use of words to describe Blythe's first year of motherhood are brutally honest. I flinched as I read about the cracked, bleeding nipples and the ever growing exhaustion. I'm probably in the minority here, but I had nothing but sympathy for Blythe, I despaired of Fox and his sunny outlook and dismissal of Blythe's attempts to explain herself. 
When their second child is born, a son called Sam, Blythe discovers that she does have that motherly love .. she adores Sam, she cannot get enough of him, but what about Violet? 

I won't go further into the plot as that would spoil the story, but I can promise you that this one will tear at your heart. Audrain poses many questions within her novel. There's the question of nature versus nuture, and the taboo issue of can a mother love one of her children far more than the other. Or, can a mother actually hate their own child? 

The Push is a vivid and often disturbing novel that is filled with suspense. The characters are created with care and compassion, they are flawed and they make choices that are often stunning, but they are human and so realistic. There are scenes that are almost impossible to read without having the put the book down for a moment and reflect, provoking thoughts and questions that are some of the most difficult to deal with. 

The Push is unsettling, but astonishing and compelling at the same time. It's a book that will linger for a long time after the final page is turned. It's a book that, whilst reading, you can make guesses about what will happen, and the anticipation of these events is quite breathtaking. 

This book haunted my dreams whilst I was reading it and has continued to linger in the corners of my mind. It is an exceptional debut novel. Raw and honestly brutal. Highly recommended. 

Ashley Audrain began writing The Push after leaving her job as publicity director at Penguin Books
Canada to raise her two young children.
The experience of being a new mother inspired Ashley to write about the idea of motherhood and expectations, and what happens if that experience turns out to be nothing like it's supposed to be.

At Penguin, Audrain worked with bestselling authors including Khaled Hosseini, Elizabeth Gilbert and Meg Wolitzer. Prior to Penguin, she worked at a global public relations agency in consumer marketing.

Twitter @audrain

Sunday 29 November 2020

One August Night by Victoria Hislop @VicHislop @HeadlineFiction @headlinepg #OneAugustNight #BookReview


25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.

When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.

In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.

Number one bestselling author Victoria Hislop returns to the world and characters she created in The Island - the award-winning novel that remains one of the biggest selling reading group novels of the century. It is finally time to be reunited with Anna, Maria, Manolis and Andreas in the weeks leading up to the evacuation of the island... and beyond.

One August Night by Victoria Hislop was published by Headline on 29 October 2020 and is the sequel to the multi-million-copy best seller, The Island. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This review was originally published in the Daily Express

Set in August 1957 and taking place on the island Crete and mainland Greece, the story begins as a cure for leprosy has been found. The leper colony on Spinalonga island, just off the coast of the village of Plake in Crete is closed and the inhabitants return to their homes.

A huge celebration is planned in Plaka, and despite the stigma still attached to leprosy, many of the ex-patients are being welcomed home. One of these is Maria. Mara’s sister Anna has been worried about her return, she is concerned that her secrets will be uncovered, and she becomes reckless in her actions. 

On the night of the celebration, a moment of violence devastates the village. Manolis, the man who had been engaged to Maria before she left is left heartbroken by the events and flees the village for the mainland.

Hislop expertly portays the warmth of Greece and its people, she delves into the long and complicated history of this fascinating country whilst delivering a family saga to be devoured. 
As Manolis starts a new life away from his family and friends, he discovers people who become more like family than he’s ever experienced before, yet Anna and Maria and the people of Plaka are never far from his thoughts.

Combining the sleepy small island vibe with the hustle and bustle of the mainland cities, this is a beautifully written story that will enchant the reader.

Inspired by a visit to Spinalonga, the abandoned Greek leprosy colony, Victoria Hislop wrote The Island in 2005. 
It became an international bestseller and a 26-part Greek TV series. She was named Newcomer of the Year at the British Book Awards and is now an ambassador for Lepra. The Island has sold over 1.2million copies in the UK and more than 5 million worldwide.Her affection for the Mediterranean then took her to Spain, which inspired her second bestseller The Return, and she returned to Greece to tell the turbulent tale of Thessaloniki in The Thread, shortlisted for a British Book Award and confirming her reputation as an inspirational storyteller. It was followed by her much-admired Greece-set short story collection, The Last Dance and Other Stories. The Sunrise, a Sunday Times Number One bestseller about the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, was published to widespread acclaim in 2014. Victoria’s most recent book, Cartes Postales from Greece was a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and one of the Top Ten biggest selling paperbacks of 2017. Her novels have sold 10 million copies worldwide.

Twitter @VicHislop

Friday 27 November 2020

Sins of the Father by Sharon Bairden @sbairden #SinsOftheFather @RedDogTweets BLOG TOUR #BookReview


Lucas Findlay thinks he has struck gold when he marries Rebecca, but she married him for one reason only - to destroy him.

Trauma runs deep

When her past comes back to haunt her, Rebecca begins to disconnect from herself and the world around her. As secrets are unearthed, she begins to fear for her sanity ... and her life.

Truth will out

With her world unravelling around her, Rebecca clings to her determination to make Lucas pay, whatever the cost.

Forgive his sins

But someone must pay for the sins of the father...

Sins of The Father by Sharon Bairden is published today; 27 November 2020 by Red Dog Press. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review and who invited me to take place on this Blog Tour.

I have waited a long, long time to read this book. Sharon Bairden is a well-known and very respected blogger who reviews crime fiction. I've followed her journey, as she wrote Sins of the Father and then secured a publisher deal. I have to admit that I had high hopes for this novel. I've read Sharon's reviews and they are perceptive and well thought out, she knows her crime fiction, that's for sure.

So, where to begin? What on earth to say? To be honest, I'd just like to stop here and tell you to go and buy this book (it's out today), and read it for yourself. Then, come back and tell me what you think.

However, I've promised to write a review, and that's what I'll do. Forgive me if I blather on a bit, I may not make a lot of sense, but bear with me .... 

Sins of The Father is Rebecca's story and opens with a chilling, heart-stopping prologue set in 2018 as Rebecca fights to wake from a nightmare, and as she opens her eyes, she realises that her waking life is as horrific as the demons that haunt her sleep.

The author then takes her readers back to Rebecca's childhood. Brought up by a single mother on a housing scheme in Glasgow, this is no fairy-tale story of growing up. As Rebecca's mother enters a slow but long and tortured decline into the darkest depths of life, surrounding herself with people who have no conscience, or empathy, or love to give, Rebecca's own life hurtles out of control too. 
There were times when I had to stop reading; the absolute and utter deprivation of Rebecca's life is dark and difficult to read about, more so because, although this is fiction, we are aware that things like this are happening every single day to children.

Rebecca's only friends are the voices that keep her company. A mass of shouting voices who  alternate between telling her that she is worthless and unloveable, whilst at other times, they defend her and make her feel brave and out of danger. The loudest voice is that of Samantha, and it is this voice that becomes Rebecca's ally and her worst enemy. As Rebecca gets older, Samantha becomes louder and more powerful, until it's difficult to differentiate between the two.

Rebecca escapes her home, but not to safety. She's placed in the care system, where she finds everything but care. Where her suspicions about adults, and especially men are proved right. 

The second part of the story finds Rebecca married, holding down a responsible position within a charity that works with the female victims of domestic violence. Her husband Lucas also works in the voluntary sector. On the outside, their marriage appears perfect, but behind closed doors there are fists, and kicks and cuts and bruises.

This is a tangled web, and a complex and eloquently written domestic noir drama. It's a thriller, but at its heart, it's a story of how humans can do the most terrible things to one another, and how their actions can create a monster. There's more than one character who commits monstrous deeds in this story, and whilst Rebecca, at times is cruel and intimidating and ruthless, the reader cannot help but remember that dirty, frightened little girl who was taken away from the only home she knew when she was just ten years old. She had no chance, but she is determined that someone will pay.

The author works in the voluntary sector and her experience shines through in her writing. She's well aware of the failings of many services, of how funding can be cut at the swipe of a pen, and how vulnerable and broken people can slip through the net. The characters in this novel are impeccably crafted; from young desolate Rebecca, to the hard-faced, totally driven and narcissistic Nicole Holten whose actions drive the ending of the story so furiously.

I am in awe of this writing, and the story. It's heart-breaking and brutal and filled with characters who are far more than they appear to be on the surface. There are twists that will stun and scenes that will leave you breathless. It's an amazing, dark story that will shock the reader. There are subjects tackled which are most often not spoken about, but it's done with such a deft and fine touch.

Tough, emotional, raw and shocking. The Sins of the Father is an outstanding read. Highly recommended from me. 

By day Sharon Bairden is the Services Manager in a small, local independent advocacy service and
has a passion for human rights; by night she has a passion for all things criminal. 

She blogs about books at Chapterinmylife and is delighted to be crossing over to the other side of the fence to become a writer. 

Sharon lives on the outskirts of Glasgow, has two grown up children, a grandson, a Golden Labrador and a cat. 

She spends most of her spare time doing all things bookish, from reading to attending as many book festivals and launches as she can. 

She has been known to step out of her comfort zone on the odd occasion and has walked over burning coals and broken glass - but not at the same time!

Twitter @sbairden

Thursday 26 November 2020

To Kill A Stranger by Simon Kernick @simonkernick BLOG TOUR @headlinepg @HeadlineFiction @Tr4cyF3nt0n #ToKillAStranger


They took your fiancée.
They framed you for murder.

You're given one chance to save her. To clear your name.
You must kill someone for them.

They give you the time and place.
The weapon. The target.

You have less than 24 hours.
You only know that no-one can be trusted...and nothing is what it seems.

Kill A Stranger by Simon Kernick is published by Headline today; 26 November 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, and to Tracy from Compulsive Readers who invited me to take part on the blog tour 

Phew! This is a pretty exhausting, relentless read. A story that takes the reader on a journey with twists, with dead ends and more than a few hill starts along the way. 

In the prologue we are introduced to DCI Cameron Doyle; a long-in-the-tooth copper whose many years of experience means he's seen a lot. He may be jaded, but he's determined to get his man.

Kate and Matt are newly engaged and about to become parents. They run a luxury hotel in Sri Lanka but have decided to return to the UK to ensure the best healthcare for Kate whilst she's pregnant. They are renting a cottage and it's just an ordinary night. Matt has been out to see friends and returns home, expecting to find Kate tucked up in bed. 

What he does find is the beginning of a nightmare few days for him, for Kate and for Cameron Doyle. Kate isn't in bed. Another woman is though, and she's dead. 

Horrified and stunned, Matt receives a call from an unknown person. It becomes clear that if he doesn't do exactly as he is told, then he will never see Kate again. 

Kernick tells this story through different points of view. We are there, as Matt is instructed what to do, and we are also aware of just what is happening to Kate. Taken in the boot of a car, blindfold and tied up and then held captive in a disused building. It's all very strange.

As the story progresses, and it does at a lightning speed, the reader soon becomes aware that someone is not telling the whole truth. These narrators are totally unreliable, there's something fishy about what's happening - but why, and who is behind it?

The reader knows far more about Kate than Matt does, despite the fact that they're a couple and have decided to spend their lives together. We learn about her childhood, and her father and the things that have happened to her in the past. She doesn't remember lots of it .... or does she?

Meanwhile Cameron Doyle has to put this flimsy jigsaw together, and he's certain that only one man is behind all of this, but will that guy get justice? Or, will he evade punishment, just as he has for the whole of his life. 

There were times when I had to suspend my belief a little during this story, but it moves with such a pace that I can get over that.  There's a wide cast of characters and I struggled to like one of them, except for Cameron Doyle of course. Again though; cheater, liars and murderers are rarely likeable people so this bunch of fiendish villains were perfectly placed within the story.

Non stop action and a plot that is devilishly tricky. A great read.

About Simon Kernick 

Well where do I start? I wanted to be a writer ever since I was old enough to pick up a pen. I started with one page stories that I illustrated myself (badly) and, as I grew older, the stories got longer. For a long time I just wrote for myself, enjoying the process of disappearing off to new, imaginative worlds, but eventually, while working as a salesman in London I experienced this desperate desire to get published.

I've always been a huge crime fiction and thriller fan so I wrote a crime novel that, unfortunately, pretty much every literary agent and publisher in the land rejected. So I wrote another one with exactly the same result. I have enough rejection letters to decorate a whole house- three hundred in all-but finally I struck gold with my first novel, The Business of Dying, about a cop who moonlights as a hit man named Dennis Milne. It was released in 2002 (seven years after I first tried to get published!) and was described as 'the crime debut of the year' by The Independent, which was a very nice compliment.

Since then I've written a book a year (fifteen in all now) as well as a total of three novellas. I specialise in very fast-paced thrillers set over a short space of time which I like to think grab the reader from the very first page and don't let go. My fifth novel, Relentless, was a Richard and Judy summer read, and the ninth and tenth, The Last Ten Seconds and The Payback, both reached number 1 in the UK book charts, so they're good, I promise!

I don't have a series as such and most of the books can be read as standalones, but I do have recurring characters. Dennis Milne, my vigilante cop, returns in A Good Day to Die and The Payback, and my female detective, Tina Boyd- a woman who finds herself in dangerous situations seemingly at every turn- appears in the vast majority of the recent books.

Anyway, I hope you get a chance to take a look at one or more of them and please feel free to let me know your thoughts.

Twitter @simonkernick

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Things That Bounded by Fiona Graph @fiona_graph BLOG TOUR @RandomTTours #ThingsThatBounded @SilverWoodBooks


Ellen and Kate were best friends and committed suffragettes. On the eve of the Great War, Kate burned down a church. A man died and she disappeared. Sixteen years later, Ellen and her brother Freddie have rebuilt their lives after the trauma of war and loss. She is overjoyed when Kate reappears. But Kate is consumed by remorse over the death. They enlist the help of Alec, Freddie's ex-lover, to find out what happened that day in the church. There are ties from the past that bind them all: guilt, fear, pride. Can they break free from these and reclaim the lives they deserve?

Things That Bounded by Fiona Graph was published on 30 October 2020 by Silverwood Books.

I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today as part of this #RandomThingsTours blog tour. She's talking about 'Ten Things About Me'.

Ten Things about author Fiona Graph

1. Like my protagonist Ellen in Things That Bounded, I love to swim, especially outdoors.

2. I don’t have a favourite book as such, but a number of books have been important for me: these include The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, and The Charioteer by Mary Renault, because that got me writing.

3. I hitchhiked around Europe in my twenties.

4. Like my character Alec, I sing in a choir; music is very important for me.

5. Some of my favourite authors (not an exhaustive list) are Jane Austen, Alan Hollinghurst, Kate Atkinson or Andrew Sean Greer.

6. I enjoy thunderstorms.

7. I’ve been stung by jellyfish - twice.

8. I love to take long walks in nature.

9. The Mediterranean is my favourite place to swim.

10. I always vote, no matter how unappetising the options, in tribute to the suffragettes.

Fiona Graph was born in Sydney. 

Once she had obtained a degree in Psychology and Ancient History, she travelled before settling in north London. 
She worked variously as a psychologist, for an LGBT organisation and as a librarian, before ending up at the Foreign Office. 
Her youthful interest in writing came back strongly about five years ago. 

Things that Bounded is her first novel to be published. A second novel will come out in 2021.

You can find Fiona on Twitter @fiona_graph

Tuesday 24 November 2020

The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster @SaraJFoster @Legend_Times_ #TheHiddenHours BLOG TOUR #BookReview


Arabella Lane is found dead in the Thames on a frosty winter's morning after the office Christmas party. No one is sure whether she jumped or was pushed. The one person who may know the truth is the office temp, Eleanor.

Having travelled to London to escape the repercussions of her traumatic childhood in Australia, tragedy seems to follow Eleanor wherever she goes. To her horror, she has no memory of the crucial hours leading up to Arabella's death - memory that will either incriminate or absolve her.

Caught in a crossfire of accusations, Eleanor fears she can't even trust herself, let alone the people around her. And soon, she'll find herself in a race against time to find out just what happened that night - and discover just how deadly some secrets can be.

The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster was published in paperback by Legend Press on 2 November 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review, for this Blog Tour 

In The Hidden Hours, Sara Foster introduces lead character,  Eleanor Brennan in the short but compelling prologue. It's April 2010, and fifteen-year-old Eleanor is attending an appointment with her therapist. This short, but compelling prologue gives the reader some insight into Eleanor's issues, but not a great deal, just enough to ignite the imagination.

Fast forward to December 2016 and Eleanor is now living in London and temping at a publishing company. It's the morning after the Christmas party, and employees of the company are shocked to hear that Arabella Lane, a senior executive was found dead, in the Thames in the early hours of the morning.

Eleanor's reaction to this news is one of total breakdown. Whilst she's only been at the company for a few weeks, something is triggered in her memory. It soon becomes clear that the police are treating Arabella's death with some suspicion. There are people who think she fell, some wonder if she took her own life, but many people believe that she was murdered. Eleanor was one of the last people to see Arabella at the party, but her memory is blank. Was she drugged? What happened? Why does she have something that belonged to Arabella in her purse? 

Sara Foster is a skilled author. She has created such an unreliable character in Eleanor. She's certainly not an easy person to relate to, or even to like. It's clear that she has many issues, and that her move to London was an escape from her past, yet the reader is never quite certain if Eleanor's memory issues are a cover up, or a result of her past experiences. 

The author takes the reader back and forth throughout the novel. We learn more about Eleanor's early years back home in Australia, and how the slow deterioration of her family have impacted upon her.

There's a dark and brooding menace running throughout this story. The sense of place is extremely well done, with the complete contrast between dark, damp and crowded London and the wild, empty Australian setting done especially well. 

Foster's characterisation is excellent. Her characters are flawed, and at times I was suspicious of them all. The ending, for me, was unexpected and satisfying. Recommended for those who like their thrillers with depth.

Sara Foster is the bestselling author of three psychological suspense novels, COME BACK TO ME,
BENEATH THE SHADOWS, and SHALLOW BREATH. Born and raised in the UK, she worked for a time in the HarperCollins fiction department in London, before turning her hand to freelance editing, and writing in her spare time.

It wasn't until 2007 that she decided to take seriously her aim of getting published, and she took time out from editing to finish her first book. COME BACK TO ME was published in Australia in 2010 and reached the Sydney Morning Herald top ten Australian bestsellers list. Her second book, BENEATH THE SHADOWS, reached No. 4 on the Australian Sunday Telegraph bestsellers list, and has been published in the USA/Canada and Germany. In 2011 she was nominated for Cosmopolitan Australia's Fun Fearless Female awards in the author category.

Sara loves to travel, and has taken extended trips to South America, Asia, and all around Australia. She writes for the female-friendly travel website, and is one of the contributors to their Handbag Guide on New York, Paris, London and Rome. She is also very proud to have been one of the original editors of the bestselling Kids' Night In series, which has been raising money for the charity War Child since 2003.

Sara moved to Western Australia in 2004, where she lives with her husband and young daughter.

Twitter @SaraJFoster

Haunted Magpie by Anna Nicholas BLOG TOUR @ANicholasAuthor @burrobooks @RandomTTours #HauntedMagpie


When 33-year-old Isabel Flores Montserrat quits a promising career with the Spanish police to run her mother's holiday rentals agency in rural Mallorca, it seems that her crime-fighting days are far behind. Basking in the Mediterranean sunshine with pet ferret, Furo, she indulges her passion for local cuisine, swimming in the sea and raising her pampered hens. However, when a young florist goes missing, Isabel is once again seconded by the National Police to help solve the mystery. Meanwhile, trouble is brewing in her own village with a sinister spate of animal disappearances. When another islander vanishes, Isabel and the local police chief, Tolo Cabot, must hunt a potential serial killer using their unorthodox investigative skills. With the clock ticking, they urgently need to find answers and restore harmony to the island once more.

Haunted Magpie by Anna Nicholas was published by Burro Books on 19 November 2020. I am delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour. She's telling us 'Ten Things About ....'

Ten Things about author Anna Nicholas 

I’m of Irish, Scottish and Welsh origin and my home is in the mountain town of Soller in northwest Mallorca where I live with my Scottish husband Alan - our son, Ollie, lives abroad. We have 20 hens and an orchard of rescue animals including ducks, peacocks and seven cats. I’m a sucker for animals.

Marathon girl
I’ve run ten international marathons and 20 half marathons for my favourite causes, mostly endangered communities along the Amazon.

Film and Farce
I love farce but not so much slapstick. Favourites include The Man who knew too little with Bill Murray, Pink Panther with Peter Sellers and the play, We can’t pay, we won’t pay by Dario Fo.

Most embarrassing moment 
When I ran my London PR agency, I was once invited to a soiree at the Spanish Embassy. It was raining hard and my colleague and I jumped out of a cab into what we thought was the right building. It was in fact the Portuguese Embassy and before we knew it, the Portuguese Ambassador was greeting us. Helplessly, we had to apologise and make a hasty retreat with a furious butler on our heels. 

Princess Diana
As a graduate and rookie press officer at national charity, Help the Aged, in London, I handled fundraising events for the amazing Princess Diana.

Guinness Book of Records
In my twenties I was an international adjudicator for the Guinness book of Records with founder, Norris McWhirter, CBE. My favourite record was judging the longest conga with singer, Gloria Estefan, in Miami. It was probably the best and funniest job of my life! 

Far flung places
I’ve participated in seven tough humanitarian aid expeditions to weird and wonderful places with my wonderful friend explorer, Colonel John Blashford-Snell. You come back a stone lighter and appreciate clean water and clothes when you return!

Omar Shariff
Bizarrely,  the one and only Omar Sharif once bought me pink champagne and read Baudelaire poetry to me in the bar of The Athenaeum Hotel.

Climb every mountain
Madly, my chum, Alison and I have for the past three years been climbing every peak in Mallorca over 1,000m. There are 54 in total and we’ve reached 50. The worst, shaped like a needle, is yet to come which involves ropes and a technical guide. We’d like to be the first women to scale them all.

Favourite cocktail
Well, if you put me on the rack, I’d have to say a Dry Martini, stirred, not shaken.

ANNA NICHOLAS is of Celtic origin & has lived for 18 years in rural Mallorca. 

An inveterate traveller & experienced freelance journalist, she regularly participates in humanitarian aid expeditions overseas with British explorer Colonel John Blashford-Snell, CBE & is a Fellow of the RGS. 

She ran her own PR company in Mayfair, London, for 20 years, was a Guinness Book of Records adjudicator alongside the book’s founder, Norris McWhirter, CBE, and as a rookie press officer at charity Help the Aged, handled events for Princess Diana. 

She runs an international marathon annually for her favourite causes. 

Anna & friend, Alison, are currently scaling all of Mallorca’s 54 peaks over 1,000m. 
They hope to be the first women to have climbed them all by the end of 2020.

Monday 23 November 2020

Love Songs For Sceptics by Christina Pishiris @ChristinaPi #LoveSongsForSceptics @simonschusterUK #BookReview


When she was a teenager, Zoë Frixos fell in love with Simon Baxter, her best friend and the boy next door. But his family moved to America before she could tell him how she felt and, like a scratched record, she’s never quite moved on. Now, almost twenty years later, Simon is heading back to London, newly single and as charming as ever . . .

But as obstacles continue to get in her way – Simon’s perfect ex-girlfriend, her brother’s big(ish) fat(ish) Greek wedding, and an obnoxious publicist determined to ruin her career – Zoë begins to wonder whether, after all these years, she and Simon just aren’t meant to be.

What if, despite what all the songs and movies say, your first love isn't always all it's cracked up to be? What if, instead Zoë and Simon are forever destined to shuffle around their feelings for each other, never quite getting the steps right . . .

Love Songs For Sceptics by Christina Pishiris was published by Simon and Schuster in paperback on 1 October 2020. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

This review was originally published in the Daily Express

Zoe Frixos and Simon Baxter lived next door to each as teenagers. The best of friends, Zoe’s warm Cypriot family was Simon’s refuge from his parents’ fiery relationship and when their marriage finally broke down, Simon moved to America. Zoe never did get the chance to tell him how much she loved him. 
Twenty years later, Simon is returning to London, and even though he and Zoe have kept in touch, they’ve never talked properly about their relationship.  
Simon is as charming and handsome as ever, and Zoe is determined that this time, they won’t be separated. 
However, there’s Simon’s ex-girlfriend to contend with, as well as Zoe’s brother’s upcoming wedding and a job that is on decidedly shaky ground. If Zoe can get a world-exclusive interview with recluse ex rock-star Marcie Tyler, the magazine that she edits will be saved from closure.  
Nick Jones is Marcie’s PR and Zoe has had nothing but bad experiences with him. He’s arrogant, and very handsome and is seems determined to make Zoe’s life as difficult as possible. 
This is such a wonderful fresh, funny and joyful story. It’s a story of love and of growth and the addition of song tracks and movie memories adds so much to the telling. As Zoe and Simon side step around each other, Zoe realises that long-held memories are often rose-tinted and true love may be closer to home than she ever realised. 
With a cast of extraordinary characters whose voices shout from the page, this is brilliantly written, an absolutely stunning debut. 

Fans of Beth O Leary and Mhairi McFarlane will love this!  

Christina was born in London to Greek Cypriot parents, who used to bribe her to go to family weddings by promising that George Michael might be there. To deal with the inevitable disappointment, she began making up stories on napkins and has been writing ever since.

Her debut novel, Love Songs for Sceptics, a romcom set in the world of music journalism, is published by Simon & Schuster in the UK. You can find her on Twitter: @ChristinaPi Facebook: @ChristinaPishirisAuthor and Instagram: christinapishiris

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