Blog Tours – my thoughts and observations.

Having posted recently about why I was stepping back from Twitter I am conscious that in the body of the post and via the resulting comments I made several references to blog tours. These by default appear negative, as it was the negative aspects of the tour concept that I was alluding to. Consequently I’ve decided to clarify my thoughts and views to make it clear I am not against blog tours per se, and I’m certainly not being critical of bloggers who take part. In being honest about how I feel, I understand I run the risk of alienating some people and that is not my intention, but I’d rather be criticised for what I’ve actually said, than be judged on what someone assumes from a passing comment without any context.

I think blog tours are an invaluable way to get a group of bloggers together to post their timely reviews and create a buzz about a book. For small, independent publishers in particular, or self published authors, they are a low-cost marketing option which gets the word out to many more people than they could ordinarily hope to reach without taking out expensive adverts or sponsored posts. The positives are not all on the publishing/author side though there are many advantages for a blogger which include unique content for their blog; increased traffic – especially if giveaways are involved; new followers and the ability to build a positive and mutually advantageous relationship with a publisher/author. So all good reasons to participate in and support a blog tour, it can be a mutually beneficial process for both parties, so win, win.

However, just as there are positives, there are also negatives and it is those aspects of the concept that I have always been uncomfortable with. I also think that to a degree they are partly responsible for the increasing number of posts regarding blogger burnout and blogger bullying, which I’ll elucidate on later. These were aspects of blogging that I was unaware of when I dipped my toe in the water and set up this blog at the end of 2015. At the same time, while people were joining in blog tours, I was certainly not as conscious of them then, as I am now. The blog tour seems to be the “go to” medium when launching a book and I’m sure there is a correlation between this and the previously mentioned blogging negatives.  To try to keep my thoughts on track, I’ll attempt to deal with the things I’m uncomfortable with point by point.

Length of Blog Tour/Number of Participants

Maybe it’s just me, but I think a well-organized and relatively short tour is far preferable to create an immediate buzz. Now I’m not intending to get into a debate about how short is short, but having trawled the internet to pull up articles and features on blog tours, the consensus would appear to suggest 7-14 days. Penguin (other publishers are available) for example recommends up to a week before and after publication to create a buzz. To my mind this gives an author/publisher the opportunity to collect together a reasonable number of bloggers to review and share their thoughts on a book. I acknowledge from a publisher or author’s viewpoint they may well have a pool of bloggers to choose from, that far exceeds that number, and the temptation is to try to accommodate as many bloggers as possible. However as a marketing strategy does this really create additional publicity or is it overkill. More importantly what about the blogger?

The following is a review of just some of the blog tours I spotted this weekend via Facebook and Twitter. They are all UK-based. I am not ascribing details of the book or publisher I just want to use these as examples of the numbers.

No of Days in Tour Number of Stops per Day Total Bloggers on Tour
7 2 14
7 2 14
7 2 14
10 1 or 2 11
12 1 12
13 1 13
13 1 13
14 1 or2 26
14 1 14
21 1 21
27 1 27
30 1 or 2 42
32 2 64
52 1 52

Now there are always two ways of looking at everything, some would argue that the longer the tour the more coverage and publicity for the author/book – I can’t argue with that. But think about how the blogging community works and how to my mind that can  actually be detrimental. Here’s an example.

Blogger A is on a 14 stop blog tour. They normally post their content to 2 or 3 book related Facebook pages/forums, to promote the post, which is what bloggers do. However, Reader A is also a member of those forums. This means at worst (or best) depending on your view they’re seeing the same book every day for 14 days posted in 2 or 3 forums by at least 1 if not 2 bloggers. Then we have Twitter, Blogger A tweets their post, which is then retweeted by not only the others on the Tour, but additional supportive bloggers. So on some days we are often batting the same title around between bloggers. Given that ideally the author and the publisher should also be playing their part in promoting the book, they might also be retweeting. That is a lot of views of the same book on an average 14 day tour, multiply that by 30 or 52 and I for one switched off  long ago.

From a marketing point of view, I can’t deny the book is being seen, people will remember it, and it’s done the job of creating a buzz, which is excellent – just what the author/publisher wanted.  But what about the blogger? I’d be curious to know how many participants in a tour can honestly say they read every post, and yet they invite the reader to follow the tour and drop in on other bloggers. If I was interested I might do 2 or 3, but  21, or 42 or 64 – that’s simply not going to happen. My point is, the later participants on the tour have put as much work in as the first, especially if they’ve read and reviewed the book. Now while they might have unique readers on their blog to read their post, how much traffic, new views, new followers are they really picking up at the tail end of a tour, if other people are like me and have lost interest. The problem is, I suspect they may not even be aware,  because in the Twitter age, a like or a retweet is a notification that your Tweet has been seen and acknowledged, but how many people have actually read your content (a problem, I may add, not just restricted to blog tours!).

So let’s be honest, this is just about marketing, read the articles and most authors will admit, blog tours are about getting their book seen and their name recognised, it is not about sales, they are an added bonus if they happen. I had a recent conversation with a publisher who confirmed just that. Blog tours are not aimed at increasing sale, sales are a bonus. Combine this with the increasing use of Q&A’s, guest posts, cover reveals in tours and I start to get uncomfortable. This is pure marketing, I’ve even seen some posts that have a tenuous link to the content of the book. This concerns me because, bloggers have a following, they are respected and they’re good at what they do, but by making this the way forward for the industry to promote itself I worry that it compromises a bloggers  integrity. I’ll explain why in the next topic.

Blogger bullying

Even if you’ve not been on the receiving end, I’m sure you’ve either seen examples on Facebook forums, or heard about it, or had bloggers relate their experiences. One Facebook group, that I was a member of, had a thread that was vociferous and quite vicious in its condemnation of bloggers. Do I agree with it – no, is it acceptable – never, so what I am about to write is not a defence of what went on. It is my attempt to explain why I think these views are held, wrongly in my opinion, but then I’m on the inside. Most of these views, come from people on the outside and to my mind it’s to do with perceptions, and I strongly believe it also links to the increase in blog tours and similar author/publisher promoted posts.

When a publisher simply provided an ARC, it was read and reviewed, ideally to an agreed time frame, but if that slipped a bit, no harm done. As every author is keen to tell us a review is a review whenever it is posted. Now, the blogger, as part of a blog tour, is doing nothing different. They are receiving an ARC, which they are reading and reviewing. The resulting review, would be identical. So what’s different, I thinks it’s the formalisation of the process that puts the author/publisher in control to a degree as they dictate time scale, format, use of corporate logo’s and banners etc. I think this has a knock on effect that skews the perceptions of the validity of the reviews. A blogger  ‘signs up’ to a blog tour before they’ve received the book or can gauge its content, which,  I stress, would be no different from my downloading from NetGalley.  I judge from the author’s previous work, or the genre, or the publisher, whether it is something I’m likely to enjoy, and for the most part I do, and my reviews reflect that. As a result, I rarely write what I deem a bad review. However, it’s the perception with a blog tour, that by default, the review is going to be  a good one, that brings into question, from some people, the honesty and integrity of the reviewer/blogger. They are perceived as writing it for the author/publisher and not the reader.

It’s easier to see this at work if  we look outside of our own bookish world and lets use for example cosmetics. If a company send out samples of their new product to individuals to sample and the results are positive, you might tweet about it or tell your friends. Now imagine you get the same sample, you like it, but the company says, that as part of receiving the sample, you have to tweet your review using their heading, or linked to their poster, or other users. That starts to look less like an honest review and a bit more like a promotional advert. Even though your thoughts on the product are exactly the same, it’s all about perceptions, and I suggest we might also make assumptions about a product if we saw it promoted that way.

The concept is further muddied by the existence of paid blog tours. I don’t know of  any  bloggers that get paid for reviewing, but I am aware of bloggers participating in tours organized by individuals (outside of a publisher’s marketing department) who are being paid. This is a perfectly valid and legitimate way to earn money, and to be honest, the sums involved are not a great deal. But again, it comes down to perceptions, combine this with the knowledge that some tour organisers ‘require’ nothing less than a 3 star review and the whole issue might lead people to wonder about honesty and integrity.  I will admit, that I have always felt uncomfortable with the notion that someone is being paid (however much that might be) to do a job that directly relies on the unpaid, goodwill and professionalism of others. The input from bloggers is not inconsiderable, it can’t be equated to something like getting opinions from a focus group.

I’m not getting into the issue of ‘free’ books as for me that’s a non-starter. A book that takes 3-4 hours minimum to read, then requires a review, a web post and time spent posting across social media is not ‘free’. It’s a fair exchange for anyone’s time, regardless of whether the review is positive or negative.

So I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I think that as blog tours have become more prevalent, they can appear to make the blogger look less individual and more corporate, and because of paid tours, some people think bloggers also are being paid.  It’s not about the reality, it’s about perceptions and what people believe based on what they know or think they know.  It doesn’t make it right, and I’m not sure what the answer is, but I firmly believe it contributes to the negative view of bloggers.

Blogger Burnout

Just as many of you will have read the instances of blogger bullying, you will also have read post’s by fellow bloggers saying they are overwhelmed or tired and need to step back from blogging. Some of those may well be due to external influences, that are totally none book related, such as health. But we are also aware of those who are squarely laying the blame at the pressures of blogging and have expressed a desire to cut down on blog tours. This latter comment, chimes with my theory that the increase in the tours is creating some of that additional pressure.

Most book bloggers set up their blog to spread the word about books and authors that they love. For most it’s a hobby as they work either full-time or part-time. For others it’s an opportunity to mix with like-minded people, and for people with health issues, it’s a level playing field on which they can compete. But I suspect whatever the initial motivation, the key thing was, it was supposed to be enjoyable and not a pressure. Admittedly some of the pressures might be seen as self-inflicted, taking on too much, trying to compete, or succumbing to the dreaded ‘fear of missing out’. But I think the growth of blog tours is also to blame, and it’s effects have been insidious.

The main thing a blogger has over their blog is control. Their blog, their rules. This changes when you embark on blog tours. The timing of when to post is allocated, no problem, until the material doesn’t come through; or the date is changed; or worst still life takes over and you’re up till dawn finishing the book to meet a deadline.  Once your post is ready to go, you have to conform to the standards laid down; make sure you link to the requisite places; use the designated banner or content provided; and then embark upon the round of sharing with social media. When blog tours were less prolific, this was less of a problem. But as they proliferate this is starting to sound a lot less like fun, and more like work with deadlines and instructions. To some people this is not an issue, but for others, it is.

It’s easy to say, if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen, but it’s not that easy to do. It’s hard for some saying no to an author they respect and have worked with before, or the publisher they want to support. The problem is not necessarily that individual request, it’s the accumulation of pressure that can build over time. There might not be an issue when a  tour is accepted, it’s something that might happen along the process, that impinges on a deadline or has knock on effects for others.  The issue with the tour is, it’s not flexible, and one is committed and feels responsible, to the author/publisher and other participants on the tour. This doesn’t happen with an ordinary book review in the same way, as it doesn’t have the same ‘contractual obligation’ attached.

So if you’re still with me at this stage, thank you. It wasn’t an easy post to write, and I might not have expressed things as well as I wanted, but I think it sets out the gist of how I feel. You might agree or disagree, with my views, or it might be something you’ve never really thought about. I have (perhaps unwisely) left the comments option open, so you can add your own thoughts. I would however, request that just as I’m allowing you to offer your opinions, you respect my right to have mine and I have no intention of getting involved in any heated debates.

 

 

Book Haul – week ended 20 May 2017

Kindle Purchases

 

Library at the Edge of the WorldThe Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy (99p)

Local librarian Hanna Casey is wondering where it all went wrong …
Driving her mobile library van through Finfarran’s farms and villages, she tries not to think of the sophisticated London life she abandoned when she left her cheating husband. Or that she’s now stuck in her crotchety mum’s spare bedroom.
With her daughter Jazz travelling the world and her relationship with her mother growing increasingly fraught, Hanna decides to reclaim her independence.
Then, when the threatened closure of her library puts her plans in jeopardy, she finds herself leading a battle to restore the heart and soul of the fragmented community.
Will she also find the new life she’s been searching for?

Broken ArrowBroken Arrow by Matthew Pritchard (FREE)

The discovery of a disinterred corpse at one of Andalusia’s Spaghetti Western theme parks catapults investigative reporter
Danny Sanchez into a story with potentially earth-shattering consequences…

Initially set on the trail of a brutal killer who burns his first victim alive, Danny soon begins to realise that much more lies behind the killer’s actions than the work of a madman.

He soon starts to question whether the man he is chasing is, after all, the true villain.

As Danny pokes and prods in his quest to get the documents and interviews he needs to prove his story, he unsettles a number of powerful people who would much rather see him dead than let the public know the devastating truth of what’s happening in the urbanisation of Bellavista.

This places not only his own life at risk, but that of his photographer friend and colleague, Paco Pino, and even his girlfriend, Marsha.

Yet even this fails to deter him from his quest to reveal the truth about a corporate cover-up that endangers the lives of thousands…

Based on a real-life accident in which the American Air Force dropped three H-bombs onto southern Spain in 1966, contaminating substantial swathes of arable land with highly dangerous plutonium dust, Broken Arrowkeeps its readers guessing until the end as Danny races to uncover the story that others are willing to kill to keep hidden…

May QueenThe May Queen by Helen Irene Young (FREE)

It all began beside the mill pond. Honest, fair and eager to please, fifteen-year-old May has a secret, and not of her own making. She wears it like an invisible badge, sewn to her skin, as though Ma stitched it there herself. It rubs only when she thinks of Sophie, Pa or the other name that’s hidden there; that no one knows about.

Caught in an inevitable net of change, May joins the Wrens, leaving her Cotswolds home for war-torn London and the Blitz. As a dispatch rider, she navigates
the city by day and night, surviving love and loss throughout a blackout of remembered streets and wrong turns.

Night after night, the bombs drop and, like those around her, she takes cover in the shadows when they do. But May is waiting for a greater shadow to lift, one which will see the past explode into the present.

A tale of one girl’s search for love and belonging, The May Queen is a debut novel that goes to the heart of what family means and finding your place in it.

Catching the SunlightCatching the Sunlight by Amy Myers (FREE)

This is the tale of two great love stories.

There’s Lucia, a young optimist looking to make her mark with her new biography, and falling for David, a man who seems irrationally against the project.

And there’s the subject of her biography, Charles, a talented artist with a mysterious past who had a love affair with a dazzling countess.

Both love stories seem doomed. David’s lack of faith in Lucia sours their relationship, turning them almost into enemies. But Charles has much bigger problems – his love story takes place in Budapest in World War Two and terrible forces are at work.

Somewhere in this book lies a cruel betrayal. Somewhere in this book lies a tender love story. Perhaps Charles’ artwork, kept after his death, holds the key to both.

Lucia’s job is to find that key and unlock the truth, with or without David’s help…

Set against the backdrop of World War II Budapest, Catching the Sunlight is heartfelt tale of true love.

Deadly IntentDeadly Intent by David McGlone (FREE)

Mark Rennie is a serial killer. After taking the lives of four women during his college years, he’s now a free man…

While in prison, he wrote a book attempting to clear his name, as he wants to change his image. He also wants revenge on the people who put him away.

Dr Aldous ‘Al’ Andrews wrote the profile that led to Rennie being caught. He also wrote a book about the case, becoming a little bit famous in the process. When he sees Rennie walking free, he knows his old nemesis is in no way a changed man.

DCI Peter Marlin helped bring Rennie to justice. While working on another case with Al, the case of a serial killer named the Phantom who targeted prostitutes, fellow DCI Sue Scott was killed. Scott believed that Al was a likely suspect in the killings, and when she died, with Al nearby, Marlin started to wonder about his friend and colleague, Dr. Al.

It’s not too long before Rennie is on the talk show circuit, peddling his book. When he appears on the Linda Dear Show, Dr Al is also a guest. Al hopes to show the world that Rennie is still an evil, twisted man, but Rennie gets the upper hand, making a fool of Al. It’s now a battle between the two, a battle that will only end in death.

Jeff Stanley is a reporter for the Herald. Tired of hack journalism, he decides to write a series of articles about the people connected to the Phantom case, and reveal the kinky secrets he discovers. And no one is safe, including Lara, Al’s young, gorgeous girlfriend, Al, Rennie and DCI Marlin.

When a body appears, a body bearing the same MO as the now dead Phantom, DCI Marlin is not sure what to think. Marlin is not sure if they have a copycat, or if maybe the Phantom was the wrong man to begin with.  And when he learns one of the dead prostitutes had been booked by a man named Al Andrews, Marlin and the police take notice.

Ella's Ice Cream SummerElla’s Ice Cream Summer by Sue Watson (99p)

Ella’s life just hit rock-bottom, but can a summer by the sea mend her broken heart? When life gives you lemons… make ice-cream!

Life hasn’t always been easy for single mum Ella, but she has just hit an all-time low; she’s jobless, loveless, very nearly homeless and, to make matters worse, now the owner of a pocket-sized pooch with a better wardrobe than her.

Packing her bags (and a bigger one for the dog), Ella sets off for the seaside town of Appledore in Devon to re-live the magical summers of her youth and claim her portion of the family ice-cream business: a clapped-out ice-cream van and a complicated mess of secrets.

There she meets gorgeous and free-spirited solicitor, Ben, who sees things differently: with a little bit of TLC he has a plan to get the van – and Ella – back up and running in no time.

WillThe Will by Jane Mann (FREE)

Set in 1996, Jane Mann’s crime and mystery novel, The Will, follows the story of Hannah Delaney, aged 27, who returns from Hong Kong to England to unravel a mystery surrounding her father and his will. Her investigations lead her through layers of obstruction, deceit and manipulation, which reveal disturbing psychological motives and criminal intent that puts her life in danger. How will she cope with the mysteries that unfold in front of her? Will love from a new encounter change her perspective, or will she find only hate and deceit?

Readers will identify with Hannah as she has to come to terms with grief, uncertainty and isolation in her pursuit of the truth and justice. The Will is a story of suspense and action but one which explores also a seeming evil and the affect of the past on one’s imagination and its conflict with the future. It deals, in addition, with the problem of a very obsessive and self-centred character, Hugo, and how he impacts on Hannah’s story.

Seasons of ChangeSeasons of Change by June Walker Smith (FREE)

Set in England and the south of France, Seasons of Change is a contemporary romance following the lives of four women, three of whom are approaching forty. All four have very different lifestyles. Their stories interweave and are tinged with joy, humour, sadness and regrets.

Chloe is struggling in a long-term relationship with a married man. Will she find the courage to end the relationship and move on, or will she continue to remain the brow-beaten ‘other woman’?

Sarah appears to have it all – she’s attractive, wealthy and an incorrigible flirt but will she ever be truly happy? What price is she prepared to pay to achieve ultimate happiness?

Linda has only ever loved one man – her husband Mike, who died in an accident when she was pregnant with their daughter. Whilst excitedly preparing to become a grandmother for the first time she is hit by a serious illness. How will her own daughter, Emma, react when faced with emotional turmoil?

Sam is searching for someone to share her life with and is desperate to meet ‘Mr Right’. Her quest follows her experiences with dating agencies until she meets Dan. But is he really the right man for her?

Whilst celebrating their fortieth birthdays in the south of France, Sarah is viciously attacked and left for dead. Is her attack the catalyst that causes her life, and eventually Chloe’s, to be changed irrevocably?

Giveaways/Wins

 

Little GoldLittle Gold by Allie Rogers. With many thanks to the author for a signed copy and Wendy at Little Bookness Lane who alerted me to the giveaway.

The heat is oppressive and storms are brewing in Brighton in the summer of 1982. Little Gold, a boyish girl on the brink of adolescence, is struggling with the reality of her broken family and a home descending into chaos. Her only refuge is the tree at the end of her garden.

Into her fractured life steps elderly neighbour, Peggy Baxter. The connection between the two is instant, but just when it seems that Little Gold has found solace, outsiders appear who seek to take advantage of her frail family in the worst way possible. In an era when so much is hard to speak aloud, can Little Gold share enough of her life to avert disaster? And can Peggy Baxter, a woman running out of time and with her own secrets to bear, recognise the danger before it’s too late?

That’s all for this week. Hope you find something that might tempt you to try a different genre or lead you to discover a new author.

 

Standing Back, not Stepping Down

I have been ruminating on this post for a while. I’ve had various versions scheduled to post but delayed posting, however I think the time has finally come. As many of you will appreciate, juggling the demands of blogging, work and real life are not always easily managed. Sometimes, something has to give. I’ve reached the point, where I need to get myself back on track and it’s my intention to step back from social media, or more particularly Twitter.

As many of you will appreciate Twitter has a habit of eating into time, but I also find that increasingly it is not just draining my time, but also my energy and enthusiasm. I suppose I’m becoming increasingly uncertain as to its value, as very often all I seem to do is retweet posts that effectively bat the same books around the same group of people.  As blog tours become more prevalent and to my mind excessively long (this morning I saw one with 52 dates!!) I can only see this getting worse. I really can’t believe that I’m the only one that’s bored with seeing the same books for days on end. It just feels like a marketing treadmill that once on is very difficult to get off and I never had much enthusiasm for that aspect in the first place.

Despite the fact I have over 1700 followers, I interact with probably less than 80 people. That interaction is also very much restricted for the most part to book related posts. If I post anything personal or put something none book related out into the ether, the response is normally a deafening silence. I sometimes feel like I only exist as Jill’s Book Cafe and  I already have enough confidence issues without creating more for myself.

So for the minute I think the time has come to revert back to doing to what I felt happy with which is just reading, reviewing and posting to my blog, I will also maintain my Facebook page. My blog will stay linked to Twitter, for the purposes of keeping my profile up to date, but I don’t expect to be dropping in or participating on a regular basis  – famous last words. (I’ve rethought this strategy as of course it will make it look as though I am tweeting, so this blog will be unlinked for the time being).

I don’t want anyone to feel that this is a criticism of the blogging community or choices that people make. As this week has shown, it’s amazingly, friendly and supportive and I have nothing but admiration for what everyone achieves, the issues are all mine. There are times when I feel like a fish out of water, so basically I’m just getting out of the Twitter pond for the time being.

I’m hoping that perhaps I’ll actually be more productive on the blog as I rediscover my joy of reading and start to make better use of my time. So I shall still be here, but just quietly doing my own thing.

I’m still feeling conflicted about posting this, but I know it’s the right thing for me to do, with the way I feel about things at the minute, so I hope you’ll understand.

Throwback Thursday : The Accident by C. L. Taylor #ThrowbackThursday

Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Renee at It’s Book Talk. Throwback Thursday was designed as an opportunity to share old favorites as well as older books in our TBR. As I started reviewing on Goodreads long before I started my blog, it seemed a great way of sharing my earlier reviews (which I hope have improved since the early days).

So this week I’m revisiting The Accident by C.L. Taylor reviewed in April 2014.

 

Accident

 

KEEPING THIS SECRET WAS KILLING HER…

A gripping psychological thriller about the deadly secrets your children can keep …

Sue Jackson has the perfect family but when her teenage daughter Charlotte deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma she is forced to face a very dark reality.

Retracing her daughter’s steps she finds a horrifying entry in Charlotte’s diary and is forced to head deep into Charlotte’s private world. In her hunt for evidence, Sue begins to mistrust everyone close to her daughter and she’s forced to look further, into the depths of her own past.

Sue will do anything to protect her daughter. But what if she is the reason that Charlotte is in danger?

My Review

I had read the pre-publication publicity for this book and was keen to read it as it sounded like a good psychological thriller. When I got the chance to review it I was therefore delighted. My delight was not misplaced as this really is a page turner.

Sue Jackson’s life is thrown into turmoil when her daughter Charlotte deliberately steps in front of a bus and ends up in a coma. While retracing her daughter’s steps she finds a horrifying entry in Charlotte’s diary and is forced to head deep into Charlotte’s private world.

The situation for Sue is complicated by the fact that demons from her own past cause her to question everything and her paranoia alienates those she needs the most. The story is told in two strands – one looking back 20 years to Sues’ relationship with James a former partner and particularly nasty creation; and the second, that moves the story forward with her search for the answer to why Charlotte did what she did.

It is difficult to describe the plot without reference to events and happenings that might spoil it so I don’t intend to say much about the plot. All I will say is that as the story moves forward it becomes clear that the past clearly has links with how events unfold and as it develops the sense of unease and suspense definitely mounts until it reaches a crescendo that really packs a punch.

“The Accident” definitely deserves its description of psychological thriller and as a debut novel bodes well for future titles which I’m already looking forward to.

The Last Piece of my Heart by Paige Toon – 4.5*s @PaigeToonAuthor @TeamBATC @simonschusterUK

When life feels like a puzzle, sometimes it’s the small pieces that make up the bigger picture… Join Bridget on a journey to put her world back together.

A successful travel journalist, Bridget has ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog about the missing pieces of her heart into a book. But after a spate of rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition.

Nicole Dupré died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel. Tasked with finishing the book, Bridget is thankful to have her foot in the publishing door, even if it means relocating to Cornwall for the summer and answering to Nicole’s grieving husband, Charlie

 

Well this was a book that really got me out of my reading slump, and  I’ll be honest, it was quite unexpected. I received a surprise copy from the publisher, and while I had every intention of reading it, I was guilty of the perennial sin of judging the book by its cover. Chick lit, it is how I defined it from the cover, and with the emphasis on the chick, ie the younger end of the market. Now I dislike that descriptor, primarily because I find it dismissive and also because I ceased to be a ‘chick’ decades ago. However, for anyone with similar thoughts, dismiss them now. The characters in the book, might not have been my age demographic, but I can still remember what it was like to fall in love, and I’m still as partial to the sight/thought of attractive members of the opposite sex (and yes, normally younger ones – let’s not pretend here – I want fantasy, not the reality of wrinkles and knackered knees)

As usual, no intention of revealing too much, and the blurb pretty much gives you the basics of the book. Essentially Bridget, urged on by boyfriend Elliot, had wanted to write a story based on revisiting past boyfriends to claim back the little pieces of her heart they still held. The theory being she needed the closure of getting the pieces back to move forward and love wholeheartedly. Her agent though, isn’t so keen on the story and instead wants her to finish second novel by Nicole Dupre who died leaving it incomplete. This means spending time in Cornwall, with Nicole’s husband and daughter, while she goes through the remaining notes and diaries that might give her a clue as to how the story was meant to evolve.

The story follows Bridget over the summer, staying in her Dad’s old camper van, still pursuing her original idea via her blog, and desperately trying to work out how Nicole would have wanted her book to end. While she’s revisiting Nicole’s life, she’s also taking a look at her own and what she thinks she wanted, might just not be what she really wants.

It’s a book that is in turns funny and moving, and even I, old cynic that I am was even brought to tears. The story of Charlie and his baby daughter, coming to terms with the death of his wife and starting to face the world again, was well portrayed and their relationship was touching. However the humour that runs through the book, lifts the story and prevents it from being what could have been a stock, and possibly mawkish  plot line. It adds a realism and a warmth to the characters, which also serves to highlight the pathos when it occurs.

The characters, for the most part, are immediately likeable, and the ones that aren’t are not supposed to be anyway – so job done on that score. The scene setting is also spot on, especially in Cornwall. Having spent many happy holidays around the Camel Estuary and Padstow in particular, I was back there in an instant, walking along the Camel Trail, sitting on the harbour and sampling the delights of fish and chips or a cream tea. This book will certainly have you adding it to your list of future holiday destinations or my name’s not Judith Chalmers! Aah now you come to mention it …

The themes in the book will also resonate with most people, whatever age, dealing as it does with past and lost loves, grief, motherhood and of course new loves, though not always the one you might have anticipated. Given the title, I don’t think it’s giving the game away to say that finding love plays a big part in the story line, and I was totally in love with a certain someone myself by the end of it – well okay, by about a third of the way through if I’m honest. I defy you not be smitten yourself and thoroughly recommend you read this. It’s a great read and I for one couldn’t put it down until I had my ending – whether that turned out to be happy one is for me to know, and you to find out.

This book is due to be published on Thursday, but is available to pre-order on Amazon

Book Haul (or lack of!) – week ended 13 May 2017

Well this is a turn up for the books, I’ve hardly bought a thing this week – that has to be a first, and hopefully the sign of things to come. While I do love acquiring I seriously need to start reading and stop buying. Of course I did take delivery of my Urbane Book Club parcel this week, so it wasn’t exactly as bad (or good) a week as it looks below.

 

Kindle Purchases

 

This Other EdenThis Other Eden by Sharon Booth (FREE)

Eden wants to keep her job, and, as that means spending the summer caring for three young children in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales, she has no choice but to go along with it. Her consolation prize is that their father is unexpectedly gorgeous. Sadly for Eden, she’s not quite herself any longer…
Honey wants to spend the summer with her married politician lover. The only problem is, there are quite a few people determined to put obstacles in her path. But what Honey wants, Honey usually gets…
Cain wants a knighthood and is willing to sacrifice almost anything for it. If his daughter is putting that goal in jeopardy, it’s time to get tough…
Lavinia wants to keep her marriage intact, and if that means turning a blind eye to her husband’s philandering, she’ll do it. But that doesn’t mean she can’t have someone else spying for her…
Eliot wants to care for his children, and to be left in peace to heal. When he gets an unexpected guest, he wonders if it’s time to start living again. But is this sheep farmer having the wool pulled over his eyes?
Cake baking, jam making, gymkhana games and sheep showing. Blackmail, deception, spying and cheating. Laughter, forgiveness, redemption and falling in love. A lot can happen during one summer in Skimmerdale…

MildredsMildreds The Cookbook (now £10.99 was 99p)

Whether you are a vegetarian, or are trying to cut down on your meat intake, the international influences in these recipes promise variety and flavour. There are also plenty of ideas for how to adapt the dishes quickly by adding meat, to cater for keen omnivores.

With easy ingredients and smart, time-saving ideas, each recipe is easy to cook from the comfort of your own home. The dishes are flexible and include ingredients that can be easily sourced, allowing you to make hassle-free and delicious meals.

Birds and BeesThe Birds and the Bees by Milly Johnson (FREE)

Romance writer and single mum Stevie Honeywell has only weeks to go to her wedding when her fiancé Matthew runs off with her glamorous new friend Jo MacLean. It feels like history repeating itself for Stevie, but this time she is determined to win back her man. She isn’t going to act as he might expect. She isn’t going to wail and dig her heels in, she is simply going to pretend to let him go whilst she pursues a mad course of dieting, exercising and self-improvement.

And it feels like history is repeating itself for Adam MacLean too, who is also determined to win his lady, Jo, back with the same basic psychological tactics. Then he is going to initiate his master plan: Getting together with Stevie to drive Jo wild with jealousy.

So, like the Scottish country jig ‘The Birds and the Bees’, the couples all change partners and learn some revealing truths about each other along the way. But what happens when Adam’s master plan actually starts to work? And just who will Stevie be dancing with when the music stops?

We All Begin as Strangers by Harriet Cummings – 4.5*s @HarrietWriter

we-all-began-as-strangers

 

It’s 1984, and summer is scorching the ordinary English village of Heathcote.

What’s more, a mysterious figure is slipping into homes through back doors and open windows. Dubbed ‘The Fox’, he knows everything about everyone – leaving curious objects in their homes, or taking things from them.

When beloved Anna goes missing, the whole community believes The Fox is responsible.

But as the residents scramble to solve the mystery of Anna’s disappearance, little do they know it’s their darkest secrets The Fox is really after…

Inspired by real events, and with a brilliant cast of characters, WE ALL BEGIN AS STRANGERS is a beautiful debut novel you’ll want to recommend to everyone.

My Review

The author took her inspiration from the real life events that was a reality for her parents and other inhabitants in several Chiltern villages in the summer of 1984. An unknown figure, nicknamed ‘The Fox’ was slipping into people’s homes, evidenced by pictures removed from albums, clothing taken from drawers, warm teapots left on worktops and doors and windows left open on their departure. Thankfully the book does not replicate the more sinister and nastier actions which included sexual assault and rape, but limits itself to the mysterious and unsettling nature of the disturbances.

The action focuses on a handful or so of neighbours in a small, fairly generic English village. The newly married Deloris and Harvey, Stan, the manager of the local supermarket, Brian, the village police officer, Jim, the Lay Vicar, Cynthia a neighbour with her reclusive husband Ralph, and finally Anna, the quiet, unassuming church goer who causes great consternation when she disappears.  The characters are all really well drawn, and I was easily drawn in to their lives as the plot developed.

I really enjoyed this book on several levels. It was a great period piece that really brought the mid 1980’s to life, for better or worse. The role of women in the home and  workplace, the casual and institutionalised sexism, the fashions, the food, the decor and what everyone was watching on the TV. It was a time when a microwave or a water-bed was aspirational, and anyone who was anyone had a sodastream and a Magimix.  Meanwhile no self-respecting kitchen cupboard would be without its Autumn Leaves crockery and Tupperware – branding was everything ( oh how little we’ve moved on).

However while the social and cultural mores of the 80’s provided an authentic backdrop, the characterisation and the prevailing village mentality provided another addictive level to the plotline. Before Anna’s disappearance I suspect if you’d asked the neighbours about each other, they’d have given a fairly consistent, if possibly often bland description of each other. Some were known better to some than others, but each would have said they knew their neighbour. With Anna’s disappearance all such certainties evaporate and suspicion and distrust becomes the order of the day.  It seems they all have secrets they’ve kept well hidden, but whether they’ll be able to hold on to them remains to be seen.

While it’s based on real events, this book falls into my favourite category of read, which by dint of having no better description I tend to call quirky. It is a mystery, but so much more than that and I thoroughly recommend it.

I received an ecopy via NetGalley to enable this review.