Friday 19 April 2024

Are You A Junkaholic? by Schar Ward with Debra Varin #AreYouAJunkaholic #ScharWard #BookReview


Are You a Junkaholic? Is an insightful new book written by the founders of Twin Cities Hoarding Clean Up, Schar Ward, and Debra Varin. Schar and Debra offer invaluable advice and support for those grappling with Junk Collecting Disorder (JCD). This compelling resource sheds light on the complexities of JCD and provides practical strategies to help individuals transform their cluttered living spaces into organized and harmonious homes. Are You a Junkaholic is not just a book; it’s a guiding light towards a clean and more fulfilling life.

Does your blood pressure rise and your heart speed up when you see a garage sale? Do you find yourself buying one more used umbrella even though you already own four? You could be suffering from Junkaholism! It's a disease that can destroy relationships and wreak havoc with your life. The good news is that there is a cure!

Schar Ward and Debre Varin are on a mission to rid people of their excess stuff. Their six-step program will leave you junk free. Whether you are making more space in your present home, downsizing to move to assisted living, or preparing to depart (to anywhere), their advice is, "Dejunk because you can’t take it with you."

Through anecdotes, charts, and quizzes, they humorously delve into your junk areas, wardrobe, car, purse, home, and garage-- offering practical ideas for getting rid of unnecessary junk and cutting it off at the root.

* Take the Junk Test that helps you determine how bad your junk problem is.

* Detailed guides for judging junk and how to get it off your back.

* Hundreds of sensible ideas for storing what you need.

They offer a humorous look and a serious remedy for junk collecting. They will keep you smiling as you learn to manage your life and save your sanity, not dozens of worn-out shoes.

Are You a Junkaholic? by Schar Ward with Debra Varin was published on 1 November 2023 by Universal Publishers. My thanks to the author who sent my copy for review. 

Schar Ward and her daughter Debra Varin are the founders of the  Twin Cities Hoarding Clean Up company based in Minnesota in the US. They have been offering their clean up service for fifty years and now three generations of their family work in the business. Not only do they organise cluttered spaces into pristine living spaces by cleaning, organising and dumping, they also offer their knowledge and share their tools and tips to help their customers to keep their homes clutter free. 

Ive always been fascinated by the fact that some people live their lives surrounded by junk. I'm not talking about huge curated collections of thing people like (books in my case!). I'm referring to the homes that a packed full with rubbish. Bin bags overflowing, piles and piles of old newspapers, rotting foods, animal mess etc. I guess we've all seen the TV shows that bring in the house clearers and then leave again. What is different about this book and the service that they provide is that they've examined the psychology behind why people collect junk and come up with simple, effective ideas to try to cure this.

Schar Ward acknowledges that this is a disorder; Junk Collecting Disorder (JCD), and that it can affect people from all walks of life. The book is written in a caring and compassionate way, explaining why this may happen and taking small steps to overcome it.

A 'Junk Test' is provided and to be honest, it did open my eyes a little. I am convinced that I'm not a junk collector, yet I did answer yes to more than one or two questions. I think my tendency to try to keep things neat and tidy overwhelms my need for collecting more than books ... luckily!

The book is filled with practical advice about storage solutions, about how to go through the junk in your house and decide what to keep, and why to keep it. I can imagine that this is a really difficult thing for those with JCD to go through, and the non-judgemental and totally understanding way that the book is structured really will help. 

Like many people, I am a little bit nosey and at the end of the book there are real-life examples included, with photographs. These are fascinating, imagine that your bed is covered in so much junk that you have to create a sleeping space surrounded by bags and bags of rubbish?  Imagine that underneath that junk, there's a house with beautiful finishings, just waiting to be shown the light. 

It is clear that the authors really do care about the people that they work with. This is a fascinating book that anyone will find useful, especially if they have a tendency to over-collect! 

Schar Ward has used her fifty years of cleaning experience to write Coming Clean Dirty Secrets from a Professional Housecleaner, It's About Time, Teaching Children to Clean, and Are You a Junkaholic?, which she co-authored with her daughter Debra Varin. 

Schar wrote a monthly column for Dog Fancy magazine entitled Ask the Cleaning Expert. 

She was known as The Green Cleaning Lady on Twin Cities Live, a local television show, and has contributed to articles in Family Handyman magazine. 

Schar and Debra have entertained and educated attendees at Home and Garden shows nationwide. 

She lives in Stillwater, Minnesota, and happily teaches the world to clean.

Thursday 18 April 2024

The Household by Stacey Halls #TheHousehold @stacey_halls @ZaffreBooks @ElStammeijer #BookReview


London, 1847. In a quiet house in the countryside outside London, the finishing touches are being made to welcome a group of young women. The house and its location are top secret, its residents unknown to one another, but the girls have one thing in common: they are fallen. Offering refuge for prostitutes, petty thieves and the destitute, Urania Cottage is a second chance at life - but how badly do they want it?

Meanwhile, a few miles away in a Piccadilly mansion, millionairess Angela Burdett-Coutts, one of the benefactors of Urania Cottage, makes a discovery that leaves her cold. Her stalker of ten years has been released from prison, and she knows it's only a matter of time before their nightmarish game resumes once more.

As the women's worlds collide in ways they could never have expected, they will discover that freedom always comes at a price . . .

The Household is the new novel from the award-winning, Sunday Times bestselling author of The Familiars, The Foundling and Mrs England. Set against Charles Dickens' home for fallen women and inspired by real figures from history, it is Stacey Halls' most ambitious and captivating novel yet.

The Household by Stacey Halls was published on 11 April 2024 by Manilla Press / Zaffre Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

The Household opens as the first resident of the newly opened Urania House begins to settle in. Martha feels quite alone in the house, with only the housekeeper, Mrs Holdsworth for company. 
Urania House is situated just outside of the city of London, surrounded by countryside, away from the hustle and bustle and the dirty streets. The house is the brainchild of novelist Charles Dickens and has been funded by Angela Coutts; by far the richest single woman in the country. 

Dickens and Coutts vision is to help young women who have fallen on hard times, some of them will have been in prison, some of them in the Magdalen hospital for prostitutes. They believe that given a clean and comfortable home, allowed to learn new skills and dress in brightly coloured clothes, they can pave their way to a new life in Australia. 

Whilst Dickens is the instigator of the project, it is Angela Coutts who features more heavily in the story. Despite her wealth and status in London, Angela has lived in fear for many years. She has been followed and pestered and stalked by Richard Dunn since she was a teenager. Even though he has been imprisoned many times, he's very clever, a barrister by trade and always finds a way to get back to her.

The lives of the girls at Urania House, along with Angela's story are the main plot of this novel and they interweave beautifully together. Stacey Halls has created a cast of characters who are colourful, larger than life and in the main, very strong and able women, despite the difficulties they may have faced. 

As the reader gets to know more about Martha, Josephine, Polly and the others, we see young women with different upbringings who have found themselves in trouble for varying reasons. As they begin to learn new skills and live together comfortably, we really feel that Dickens' idea is going to work. However, as always, there are people who work against the good and some of these young women are tempted. Some leave, some return, and each one of them has a story to tell 

This is a fabulous historical novel, rich in detail and whilst more character driven than plot driven, the central mysteries are intriguing and toward the end of the book, the story really gathers pace.

I've enjoyed Stacey Halls' previous novels and this one is also a great read. I do love to discover things about our history that I had no idea about before and have spent time reading up about Urania House and Dickens' work.  Recommended by me. 

Stacey Halls was born in 1989 and grew up in Rossendale, Lancashire. 

She studied journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and has written for publications including the Guardian, Stylist, Psychologies, the Independent, the Sun and Fabulous. 
Her first book, The Familiars, was the bestselling debut hardback novel of 2019, won a Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards Debut Book of the Year. 
The Foundling, her second, was a Sunday Times bestseller, as was her third Mrs England. 
Mrs England was longlisted for the Portico Prize, the Walter Scott Prize and won the Women's Prize Futures Award.

The Maiden of Florence by Katherine Mezzacappa BLOG TOUR #TheMaidenofFlorence @katmezzacappa @rararesources #BookExtract #Giveaway #Win #Prize #Competition


'My defloration was talked about in all the courts of Europe. The Prince boasted of his prowess, even as preparations were being made for his wedding, as boldly as if he had ridden across that causeway with bloodstained sheet tied to his lance.' 

1584, Italy: Twenty-year-old Giulia expects she will live and die incarcerated as a silk weaver within the walls of her Florentine orphanage, where she has never so much as glimpsed her own face. This all changes with the visit of the Medici family's most trusted advisor, promising her a generous dowry and a husband if she agrees to a small sacrifice that will bring honour and glory to her native city. 

Vincenzo Gonzaga, libertine heir to the dukedom of Mantua, wants to marry the Grand-Duke of Tuscany's eldest daughter, but the rumours around his unconsummated first marriage must be silenced first. Eager for a dynastic alliance that will be a bulwark against the threat of Protestant heresy beyond the Alps, the Pope and his cardinals turn a blind eye to a mortal sin. 

A powerful #MeToo story of the Renaissance, based on true events.

The Maiden of Florence by Katherine Mezzacappa is published today, 18 April 2024 by Fairlight Books.  
As part of this Blog Tour organised by Rachel's Random Resources I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from The Maiden of Florence by Katherine Mezzacappa 

Giulia has been taken from her Dominican-run orphanage to enable a proof of virility for Vincenzo Gonzaga, heir to the dukedom of Mantua, a condition imposed by the parents of his prospective bride, a Medici princess. Their meeting happens in Venice, under conditions of secrecy. Giulia will have a husband chosen for her; he will be bribed with a generous dowry. In this extract the test has been successful, and Vincenzo suggests an alternative career to marriage to Giulia.

Some time later, in darkness, he came at me again, wordless in his attack. I tensed, expecting more pain, but it was easier. I confess also, and have learned not to blush when I think this, that it was pleasurable, only that he finished too soon. I wanted him to put his fingers, or his mouth to me again, but he did not and I did not dare to ask him. But I stroked his body, the way that Vinta had told me to, and he rewarded me with happy murmurs and by stretching like a cat. He complemented me on the gentleness of my touch. I wish that is all he had said.

‘Why don’t you stay in Venice? A girl like you with such a pretty way about her could sell her maidenhead again and again. There are women in this city practised in those arts: some astringent to tighten the passage, a little bladder of pig’s blood, a modest expression and some regretful tears, and one of your dupes would want to keep you, in recompense for having dishonoured you.’

I do not think he could have hurt me more if he had struck me across the face.

‘I want to go back to Florence. I want my dowry. I want a husband,’ I said, fighting the tears. I shifted away from him on the bed; I hated him – the touch, the smell of him, but most of all those cruel words.
‘Ah yes, the dowry! That will be the sixth one paid out over this matter – an expensive business, getting me wed!’

‘The sixth!’ I exclaimed.

‘Ssh! Let old Vinta and the others sleep. There were four in Parma, I believe.’ 

I listened to him in a kind of horrified delirium.

‘Yes, when they examined poor Margherita – that was my first wife, who was malformed, as you, lovely maiden, are not! They didn’t know quite what they were looking for, those doctors. They could have asked me. Probably the only maidenheads any of them had encountered had been owned by their virtuous wives, and the desires of a young husband trump the curiosity of the doctor, so they never stopped to look first, and there is but one eye in the head of a penis, even if it weeps when it is happy, and that eye is blind. The only women they ever got to anatomise were hanged whores, you see.

 Virtuous girls and chaste wives may go to their graves unmolested. Four peasant girls were brought to them, all of an age with Margherita, so that they could see how a normal girl was made. I wish I’d been there; what a winsome parade that must have been! I’m told Cardinal Borromeo – it was he who signed to make me a free man – lived on bread and water for days in expiation. I don’t know why – those girls were all paid off with dowries, so they could make better marriages than they would have dreamed of.’

‘Who was the other?’ 

‘Oh, I never saw her either.’

He had one arm behind his head as he said this, and with the other played idly with his member, which was stirring again. I could see him now, for outside it had to be day, and a sliver of light was visible around the closed door, so that gradually the details of the room, and of the Prince himself, became visible. I remember the hair of his body, dense to the top of his thighs, where it stopped as though a line had been drawn across, only for it to blaze out again around his sex, and to shade that little well in his stomach that all of us have, that once connected every one of us to a mother.

‘That girl was in Ferrara, and had been prepared just as you were. I wanted to see her beforehand, but they wouldn’t let me. I couldn’t stand their handwringing, their orders, their insistence, and most of all I couldn’t abide the Medici ambassador, dull old fool! At least Vinta one can reason with. So I left for Mantua.’

‘And the girl?’

‘Got her dowry, and it paid her way into the convent… ah, I see this talk has pleased him. Look, Giulia, he has raised his head in your honour. Let us oblige him once more.’

After he had joined himself to me that time, he did not sleep, but instead spoke of himself. He described a childhood unimaginable to me, in which he ran laughing from his tutors through endless long galleries hung with tapestries and portraits of people he could name for they were his forebears – and, horrible to relate even now, the mummified corpse of a former lord of his city, vanquished by the Gonzaga, displayed in a sort of cabinet of curiosities along with a unicorn and those strange armoured crawling creatures they call crocodiles, such as Saint Teodoro stands upon on his column looking out from Piazza San Marco.

Katherine Mezzacappa is an Irish writer of mainly historical fiction, currently living in Italy. 
She has published several novels under pen names with publishers Bonnier Zaffre and eXtasy. 
She works as a manuscript assessor for The Literary Consultancy. 
Katherine reviews for Historical Novel Society’s quarterly journal and is one of the organisers of the Society’s 2022 UK conference. 
In her spare time she volunteers with a used book charity of which she is a founder member.

Giveaway to Win a vintage postcard, early 1900s, of the babies from the façade of the Innocenti orphanage. (Open INT)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Clickbait by L C North BLOG TOUR #Clickbait @Lauren_C_North @TransworldBooks @RandomTTours #BookReview


'We're not famous anymore. We're notorious.'

For over a decade, the Lancasters were celebrity royalty, with millions tuning in every week to watch their reality show, Living with the Lancasters.

But then an old video emerges of one of their legendary parties. Suddenly, they're in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons: witnesses swore they'd seen missing teenager Bradley Wilcox leaving the Lancaster family home on the night of the party, but the video tells a different story

Now true crime investigator and YouTuber Tom Isaac is on the case. He's determined to find out what really happened to Bradley - he just needs to read between the Lancasters' lies . . .

Because when the cameras are always rolling, it won't be long until someone cracks.

Clickbait by L C North was published on 11 April 2024 by Bantam. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour 

I really enjoy how L C North structures her thriller novels, just like her previous novel The Ugly Truth (published March 2023), this one is written in a mixed media style. With snippets from YouTube episode, transcripts from the police, along with Twitter/X posts and a podcast it makes for an interesting and easy read. I think, due to the amount of time we spend online these days, flitting from platform to platform, this style is really accessible, it makes it feel more real, more up to date and also adds mystery as we read comments from people not connected to the story, but who have plenty to say. 

Living With The Lancasters has been a huge YouTube hit series for many years. In the style of the Kardashians and the Osbournes TV shows, this one follows the life of Lynn Lancaster and her three children. Lynn's late husband was a well known footballer turned agent and after his sudden death, she created the programme to showcase her children's talents ..... and to give them a push into fame. 

When Locke Lancaster shares a video taken at his father's last birthday party as a tribute to his memory, their world begins to crumble around them. This party was famous for the wrong reasons, a young man, Bradley Wilcox,  went missing after the party, never to be seen or heard from again. Locke's video proves that the story given at the time was not the truth. 

Bradley's sister, Cassie, has never believed what was reported that night. She doesn't believe that Bradley would run away and has spent the last twenty years trying to find the truth. She teams up with Tom Isaac, a true crime investigator on YouTube and they are determined to uncover the truth. 

L C North has a real gift for getting into the mindset of people and in Clickbait we learn all about the Lancasters real life. Peel away the glamour and the edited programme and you will find a family who are really not what they appear to be. As Cassie and Tom delve deeper, another sudden death occurs, one that will find a family member held in custody and the others in hiding. 

The addition of comments from the public on Tom's videos is really clever and puts niggles of doubt into the reader's mind. Who can resist a conspiracy theory?  Let's face it, we all read them and despite how crazy they may sound, we do wonder a little. 

It's a complex tale, with characters that the reader will really dislike, and a mystery at the heart of it that seems stranger and stranger, the more that is revealed. I'm not sure that I actually like Tom to be honest, but he's certainly a character who could go on to have his own series, there's something of a fame hunter in him too, making him not that different to the people he's investigating.

It's a roller coaster of a read, fast paced and filled with revelations that I didn't expect. Recommended by me. 

L.C. North studied psychology at university before pursuing a career in Public Relations. 

Her book club thrillers - The Ugly Truth and Clickbait - combine her love of psychology and her fascination with the celebrities in the public eye. 
When she's not writing, she co-hosts the crime thriller podcast, In Suspense. 
She lives on the Suffolk borders with her family.

L.C. North is the pen name of Lauren North. 

Readers can follow her on Twitter @Lauren_C_North and Facebook @LaurenNorthAuthor.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

The Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder by C L Miller @CLMillerAuthor @panmacmillan @EmmaHarrowPR #TheAntiqueHuntersGuideToMurder #BookReview


Freya, it’s down to you to finish what I started . . .

Freya Lockwood has avoided the quaint English village in which she grew up for the last 20 years. That is until news arrives that Arthur Crockleford, antiques dealer and Freya’s estranged mentor, has died – and the circumstances seem suspicious.

You will uncover an invitation, I implore you to attend . . .

But when a letter from Arthur is delivered, sent just days before his death, and an ordinary pine chest concealing Arthur’s journals are revealed, Freya finds herself sucked back into a life she’d sworn to leave behind.

But beware, trust no-one. Your life depends on it . . .

Joining forces with her eccentric Aunt Carole, Arthur’s staunch best friend, Freya follows both clues and her instincts to an old manor house for an ‘antiques enthusiasts weekend’. But not is all as it seems; the antiques are bad reproductions and the guests all have something to hide.

Can Freya and Carole solve the mystery and unearth the killer before they strike again? Find out in The Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder, the unputdownable cosy crime caper from C L Miller.

The Antique Hunter's Guide to Murder by C L Miller was published by Pan Macmillan in hardback on 29 February 2024, the paperback will be published on 26 September 2024. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

This review appeared in The Mature Times - March edition 

Freya Lockwood grew up in a small English village, she’s not been back there for over twenty years.

When she hears that her old mentor Arthur Crockleford has died and there appears to be some mystery around his death she is drawn back to the village. Freya had worked as an antiques hunter with Arthur for many years, tracking down missing antiques and returning them to their owners. She gave up that life and had no more contact with Arthur after a shocking tragedy in Egypt.

However, Freya and her Aunt Carole receive a letter written by Arthur before he died, along with a trunk containing his journals. It becomes clear that Arthur’s death was no mystery and Freya and Carole find themselves at an old manor house for an antiques weekend.

The other guests at the manor are all connected to Arthur in some way, there’s the gardener from the USA, the squabbling siblings, the sly solicitor and the hapless housekeeper. Along with the ditzy blonde who appears downtrodden and subservient. Each and every one of them appear to have some sort of motive to get rid of Arthur, and as Freya delves deeper, she learns more about what happened so many years ago too. 

Agatha Christie meets the Antiques Roadshow in this delightful cosy crime novel from talented debut author Miller. 

A classic whodunnit with a very fresh voice. The mystery is fast paced and intricate, the setting is wonderfully described and the characters are rounded and believable.

C. L. Miller started working life in publishing as an editorial assistant for her mother, Judith Miller on the Miller’s Antique Price Guide and as a researcher for the Antique Hunter’s Guide to Europe and then went into hospitality and events. 

After she had children, she decided to follow her long held dream of becoming an author and began writing full-time. 

She was an Undiscovered Voices winner 2022 and showcased in UV 2022 anthology.

C.L lives in a medieval cottage in Dedham Vale, Suffolk with her family.

Instagram @clmillerwriter

Monday 15 April 2024

My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes #MyFavouriteMistake @MarianKeyes @MichaelJBooks #BookReview


Anna has just lost her taste for the Big Apple…

She has a life to envy. An apartment in New York. A well-meaning (too well-meaning?) partner. And a high-flying job in beauty PR. Who wouldn’t want all that?

Anna, it turns out.

Trading a minor midlife crisis for a major life event, she switches the skyscrapers of Manhattan for the tiny Irish town of Maumtully (population 1,217), helping old friends Brigit and Colm set up a luxury coastal retreat.

Tougher than it sounds. Newflash: the locals hate the idea. So much so, there have been threats – and violence.

Anna, however, worked in the beauty industry. There’s no ugliness she hasn’t seen. No wrinkle she can’t smooth over.

There’s just one fly in the ointment – old flame Joey Armstrong.

He’s going to be her wingman.

Never mind their chequered history. Never mind what might have been.

Because no matter how far you go, your mistakes will still be waiting for you . . .

My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes was published on 11 April 2024 by Michael Joseph. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I cannot lie. I ADORE Marian Keyes, I've been reading her books since the beginning, all of those years ago. I love her writing, I love her social media presence, I even bought her cake book and baked a lavender cheesecake! 

I was delighted to receive my copy of My Favourite Mistake and despite my paperback proof having 600 pages I flew through it in three evenings. I was transfixed and even though it's been a long time since I last read about Anna Walsh, this fabulous author cleverly incorporates enough of her back story to ease the reader back into her world. 

Anna has a wonderful job in New York, she works in Beauty PR where she has access to as many serums, creams, lotions and potions as she desires. She lives with her boyfriend Angelo, described as a 'Feathery Stroker', because he is kind and considerate and caring. Anna bears the scars of the car accident that killed her husband Aiden all those years ago, and it took quite a few years for her to allow herself to find love again. However, it's the middle of the pandemic and she and Angelo are spending every single day together and it's tough. In a moment of madness, or extreme clarity Anna decides her New York life is done. She's going to resign from her job, split up with Angelo and move back to Ireland.

And she does reader, she does! After a couple of months of bunking down with her sister Margaret and applying for jobs, she's offered the chance to work with her sister's friend Brigit in Maumtully, a tiny town in the country. Brigit and her husband Colm are opening a retreat on the outskirts of the town and the locals are not happy. It will be Anna's job to pacify them, to smooth things over and understand the problems. The only fly in the ointment is that fact that 'Narky Joey' will be working there too. Anna and Joey have history, a long history, and it's because of him that she hasn't seen her oldest and best friend Jacqui for years. 

What an absolute triumph of a story this is. Not only do we have the wonderful Walsh family back, with their eccentricities and YAY for Mammy Walsh, we also have the residents of Maumtully who are just as beautifully created as Anna's family. My favourite by far is Courtney; a woman who knows everyone in town, who works from morning to night, but hides her own secrets too.

Anna is embraced by the townsfolk, she becomes one of them almost immediately. Dealing with the oddities and the strangeness of the whole town. She and Joey have a lot of re-building to do, they need to discuss things, they need to get things right, but it takes time, and a whole lots of misunderstandings along the way. 

Marian Keyes writes about friendship, love and community. There are some one-liners in this novel that made me howl with laughter. Her observation of Anna's perimenopausal state is so astute, and absolutely bang on, any woman who is going through this, or has been through it will nod in agreement as Anna deals with trying to access her HRT, dealing with symptoms, and also trying to appear confident and in charge. 

I could talk/write for hours about this book. Those tiny observations that are so important. The slow unravelling of various characters and the exposure and deft handling of vulnerabilities which are done with compassion and sensitivity. 

All hail Marian Keyes, the queen of contemporary fiction! Another perfect book from a truly outstanding talent. Highly recommended. 

Marian Keyes is a phenomenon. The multimillion copy, internationally bestselling author of some of the most widely loved, genre-defying novels of the past thirty years – including Rachel’s Holiday, Anybody Out There and Grown Ups – has millions of devoted readers around the world.

In addition to her fifteen previous novels, Marian has also written three collections of journalism, upon which hit BBC Radio 4 show Between Ourselves was based. Marian co-hosts the popular show Now You’re Asking with actress Tara Flynn for BBC Radio 4. In 2022, she was named the British Book Awards Author of the Year.

Marian lives in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin. My Favourite Mistake is her sixteenth novel.

X @MarianKeyes

Instagram @marian_keyes

Friday 12 April 2024

Meet Me When My Heart Stops by Becky Hunter BLOG TOUR #MeetMeWhenMyHeartStops @Bookish_Becky @CorvusBooks @RandomTTours #BookReview


The first time Emery's heart stops, she is only five years old...

Emery is born with a heart condition that means her heart could quite literally stop at any moment. The people around her know what to do - if they act quickly enough there will be no lasting damage, and Emery's heart can be restarted. But when this happens, she is briefly technically dead.

Each time Emery's heart stops, she meets Nick. His purpose is to help people adjust to the fact that they are dead, to help them say goodbye, before they move on entirely. He does not usually meet people more than once - but with Emery, he is able to make a connection, and he finds himself drawn to her.

As Emery's life progresses, and she goes through ups and downs, she finds that a part of her is longing for those moments when her heart will stop - so that she can see Nick again.

This is the story of two fated lovers who long for each other, but are destined never to share more than a few fleeting moments - because if they were to be together, it would mean the end of Emery's life.

Meet Me When My Heart Stops by Becky Hunter was published on 21 March 2024 by Corvus. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour 

I'm really having difficulties with putting my thoughts together about this book. It had such a profound and emotional effect on me. It's a novel that sweeps the reader up and doesn't put them down until the final page. Full of joy, a little bit of humour, some incredible sadness and all sewn together with such love. 

Becky Hunter's previous novel; One Moment, made my list of the top books that I'd read that year. I have no hesitation in saying that Meet Me When My Heart Stops will also feature on that list for this year. It's a total joy to meet Emery and her family, the story is perfectly created and will melt the hardest of hearts. 

Emery has a heart condition. Her heart can stop, just like that and this can be sparked by different things, it's usually a sudden shock, maybe a car horn or someone grabbing her wrist. The first time this happened, Emery was just five years old. 

The author details each one of Emery's heart episodes throughout the novel, and even though she is resuscitated each time, she does spend a few minutes in the 'in-between'. This is where Nick comes in. Nick's job is help people adjust to their death, to guide them through to the next part of their journey. Nick usually meets a person once only, but in Emery's case they meet again and again and again. The connection that they form is magical, and each time they meet, Emery finds out a little more about who Nick was when he was alive. 

Emery's condition means that her father is very over protective of her. Her mother left just after one of her episodes when she was a teenager. Emery has always blamed herself for that. Her older sister, Amber is such a support and along with her best friend Bonnie and his brother Colin, she has a wonderful network to fall back on. However, Emery cannot settle. She's aware that her life may be cut short, she takes risks, cannot settle in a job and finds relationships with men difficult. The root of her relationship troubles lies with Nick. She loves him. She can't tell anyone about him, she doesn't know if they will ever meet again. It's a sad and confusing life. 

The reader comes to know Emery and the supporting cast of characters so well, sharing the joyous moments with a sense of happiness, and crying along with them at some of the absolute tragedies that happen. 

This is utterly glorious. The writing and characterisation is superb, the plot is beautiful, unusual and utterly bewitching. There are characters that you will root for so much, you may sigh with disappointment when Emery makes a few decisions that you don't agree with, but you will be transfixed, I promise. 

There is no doubt that Becky Hunter is one of our finest writers of contemporary fiction, up there with Jojo Moyes and Jill Mansell. Highly highly recommended. 

Becky Hunter lived and worked in London for several years before moving to
Mozambique to volunteer with horses and try her hand at writing. 
A few years, a few destinations, and a few jobs later she had the idea that would become One Moment. 

Alongside writing, she now works as a freelance editor and publicist, splitting her time between Bristol and London, and constantly trying to plan the next adventure.

Ma Mum & William Wordsworth by Julie Kennedy BLOGTOUR #MaMumandWilliamWordsworth @RandomTTours


Part coming of age, part road-trip, written in Lanarkshire dialect; the story is from point of view of a fifteen year old lassie called Erin. 

This is the second edition of the novel; the first edition was longlisted in MsLexia's 2013 First Novel Competition. 

Ma Mum & William Wordsworth is a book about grief but also about making a way and finding a voice when you're young and working class and happen to like poetry; it's about when a parent dies and caregiving roles shift. 

It’s a story rooted deeply in its setting in Scotland, firstly in Lanarkshire and then in Glasgow.

Ma Mum & William Wordsworth by Julie Kennedy was published on 16 January 2024. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today.

Extract from Ma Mum & William Wordsworth by Julie Kennedy


Ah finish rubbin orange lip gloss oan ma cheeks. Then ah climb doon fae the tree. Ah pull ma school skirt up an go towards the back door. In the lobby, ah’m passin ma mammy, she says ‘Yi’re too young for blusher.’

‘Better than bein peely wally.’
‘Don’t be cheeky. An wipe those leaves off your cardigan.’ Check ma skirt. Dusty bum, no a good look.
‘You’re coming with me to the doctor’s appointment.’ ‘But mam, it’s English first two periods.’

‘Erin, I’m not your mam or your maw. Don’t use that slang on me. I’m your mother. Now, don't argue. You can go back to bed for an hour if you like, the appointment’s not till half ten.’

She’s only goin oan aboot slang cos she’s Irish, but she’d clout me across the face fir sayin that, so decide it’s no the time fir a discussion.

‘An what’ve you done to your tie? Jesus Christ, where’s the rest of it? You made me swear.’

The fashion at oor school’s tae tuck the lang pairt ae yir tie inside yir shirt, so’s only a short, stubby bit shows. Evirybudy his their ties like that except the snobs who hiv big thick knots an lang pairts tae their bellies. ‘Ah’m no goin back tae bed wi ma uniform oan. Ah’ll go an wake, Anna.’

Lookin in the mirror up the stairs, ah tie back ma hair wi a bobble. Ah’ve git the colour ae hair fae ma daddy’s side ae the faimily, it’s broon wi red through it an ma eyes are a light shade ae green that ma best pal Sally says are cats’ eyes but real cats’ eyes are yellae an mine don’t glow in the dark. Folk say ah look like ma mammy, apairt fae the fact her hair is black, but ah don’t see it, only that ah’ve git her  mooth an her smile. Eviryone else in the faimily his a pointy chin, mair like oor dad.

Same as pickin aw the chocolate aff a Club biscuit, linin the pieces oan a silver wrapper, so yi can eat the chocolate last, ah wait fir the right moment tae tell oor Anna that ah’m gittin the mornin aff school. The reaction’s better than expected; she pure runs doon the stairs gien it:

‘How come SHE gits tae stay aff?’

Ah follow her so ah can enjoy it. Ma mammy’s at the cooker makin toast fir the three wee wans, hauf watchin the grill, hauf gien us a row.

‘Get to school and stop moaning.’

Julie Kennedy is a poet and writer. 

Her work has been published widely in poetry magazines such as New Writing Scotland, Causeway/ Cabhsair. Poetry Society Newsletter; Southwords and was highly commended in Ledbury 2022 Poetry Competition. 

She was awarded a Scottish Government Scots Language Publication Grant 2022 to publish an e novel ‘Ma Mum & William Wordsworth’ (first edition longlisted by MsLexia 2013 First Novel Competition)