Drive Me Crazy by Portia MacIntosh

        Published by Carina in June 2015.

It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime…

In reality it was a business trip, prettied up as a romantic mini break, but the man behind the wheel was meant to be Candice Hart’s boss and (married but separated, I swear!) lover. Not Danny the new guy!

Not only is Candice faced with a new driver, but the office’s far too handsome hipster expects her to share the cramped space inside his “fully” restored VW Beetle, aka The Love Bug, and put up with his constant opinions about her life…

Before long she is tired of playing the ‘good girl’ and, with Danny’s help, is determined to finally show the world the real Candice Hart!”

MY REVIEW

First of all I’d like to thank the author for sending me this eBook to read and share my honest review. I’m quite a fan of Portia’s writing (you can read my previous reviews here) so I was looking forward to finding out what she had in store for me next!

The author’s familiar, fun writing style captured my attention quickly and really brought the characters to life. I immediately took a liking to Candice which made reading about her situation difficult for me. You know that feeling when it’s so obvious someone is making a mistake but you know they’ll never listen or make a change if you told them that fact – frustrating!

Danny was brilliant, I loved his carefree attitude and confident demeanour. I also loved the way he brought out a different side to Candice, it was clear he annoyed her but she definitely seemed more relaxed around him.

A big bump in the road (sorry, I couldn’t resist) changed things dramatically for Candice, the giant bubble she’d been living in had finally burst. It was a tough time for her but I was pleased it had happened – I admit to a ” yesssss” as the truth came out. I couldn’t wait for the work trip to get underway after this little blip, I had a feeling it was going to be quite a ride!

There were some really funny moments: permanent reminders of a drunken night out, drama at the roadside, a very awkward surprise homecoming, unplanned public nudity and pug smuggling to name just a few.

I think there’s an important lesson to be learnt from this book – never try to change yourself just to please someone else, if a person truly loves you it’ll be for you, not an unrealistically improved version of you.

This was a fun read with lots of laugh out loud moments, another hit from Portia MacIntosh!

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Author Interview With Margaret K. Johnson

Today I’m delighted to welcome Margaret K. Johnson to Me, My Books and I.

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I live in the beautiful city of Norwich in Norfolk, UK with my partner, our nine-year-old son and our super bouncy rescue dog, Billy. I started writing after leaving art college with the idea of funding my career as an artist, and was immediately hooked. These days writing is my major passion and my canvasses lie neglected in the studio, although I do still like to dabble in collage from time to time.  I’m a great believer in doing thorough research for my books, and have challenged myself to do such things as abseiling, a tree-top assault course and stand-up comedy in aid of authenticity.

Three of my original fiction readers for people learning to speak English have been finalists for Language Learner Literature Awards, and I’m currently waiting to find out if Kilimanjaro will be a winner! I find out in August, and I’m getting excited!

I have an MA in Creative Writing (Script Writing) from the University of East Anglia, and I’m also an experienced adult education tutor. I’ve recently launched WriteUP courses which are fiction writing courses combined with confidence-building activities to make you creatively confident. What with this and two novels – A Nightingale In Winter (Omnific Publishing) and Taming Tom Jones (Crooked Cat Publishing) coming out in the summer, life is very exciting for me at the moment!

To find out more:

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Hi Margaret,

Where did the idea for A Nightingale In Winter come from?

I came across a wonderful book by Lynn MacDonald called The Roses of No Man’s Land about volunteer nurses (VADs) in World War 1. It was filled with extracts from the diaries of VADs, doctors and also some journalists, and these extracts really brought the people in the book to life. They also made me want to find out more, and I went to the Imperial War Museum in London to read some of the actual diaries – this was so thrilling. Gradually the idea of a volunteer nurse who had run away to France to escape some trauma of her past began to grow in my mind, as did the idea of a journalist who was thoroughly disenchanted with the need to abide by the strict rules of censorship when reporting from the Front.

Who designed the cover and why did you go for that particular design?

The cover was designed by my publisher, Omnific Publishing, but they negotiated with me. It was very different to the cover I expected the book to have, I must admit, but I love it! The song of a nightingale of the title plays an important part in the growing relationship between my hero, Dirk and my heroine, Eleanor, as do the misty, mysterious woods. It’s almost as if the battle smoke has drifted in, but there’s hope in the glowing light.

Who was your favourite character to write and why?

I loved writing them all, but I did particularly enjoy writing the character of the soldier and artist Leo Cartwright, because he was so ruthless and evil! There are reasons why he’s turned out this way though, and my challenge was to make the reader empathise with these, even if they couldn’t approve of some of the things he did.

What makes A Nightingale In Winter stand out from the crowd?

A Nightingale in Winter is about personal struggles and a need to face up to difficult truths at a time when the world has gone crazy. In a way, the war is an opportunity – especially for Eleanor, my volunteer nurse – to fulfil a potential that would never, otherwise have seen the light of day. The fact that she also has to decide whether she can find the courage to accept love and also to deal with the ruthless Leo deepen her challenges.

Why did you choose to write in your particular genre?

I normally write contemporary women’s fiction, but I’ve always been drawn to the First World War because it is so very moving. When I discovered The Roses of No Man’s Land, I was drawn in even more. Interestingly, A Nightingale in Winter shares the same theme as one of my contemporary novels, The Goddess Workshop – You can’t move forward in life of really fulfil your potential until you have dealt with the issues of your past.

Do you follow a plan when you are writing or do you let the words guide you?

I have to know my characters, the beginning, the ending and a few touch stones along the way. Then, when I’ve written about 20,000 words, I normally brainstorm scenes onto post-it notes and arrange them so that I have a plan for the rest of the book. At this stage too, I think of a sentence to describe the theme – as above. I find this really helps me, as I can hang everything to it.

Do you have any amusing writing stories to share with us?

Not really amusing, just a bit incredible really, and I hope inspiring. I lost confidence with A Nightingale in Winter after I’d finished it and put it up in the attic for sixteen years! It was only the 100th anniversary of the First World War starting that prompted me to get it down again. When I read through it again after all that time, I could see exactly how I needed to change it to make it work, and I was also really encouraged because I liked so much of it a lot. So it just goes to show, it’s never too late – although I don’t recommend waiting for sixteen years to write your second draft!

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of promoting your book?

I hate all the “buy my book” tweets on Twitter, and don’t want to do those at all. I do need to do some publicity for my books on there though, so it’s a question of getting the balance right.

Where is your favourite place to be when you’re writing?

I seem to have developed the habit of doing the majority of my writing in my notebook early in the morning sitting up in bed with a giant cup of coffee. I do have an office though, and if I’m not teaching my creative writing courses, I type up the morning’s work after I get back from the school run and continue with it on my computer.

If you could travel anywhere in the world to do research for a book where would it be?

Australia and New Zealand or anywhere with a rain forest.

FUN QUESTIONS

Paperback or eBook?

I read both, but paperbacks are better in the bath.

Tea or coffee?

Coffee every time.

Telephone or face to face?

Face-to-face – I like to look people in the eye!

Pen or pencil?

Pen, especially one that flows well. A lovely, brand-new black gel pen. Yum!

Vanilla or chocolate

Definitely chocolate!

Any last words for your readers?

I have another – very different – novel coming out in the Autumn (Taming Tom Jones with Crooked Cat Publishing). A Nightingale in Winter and Taming Tom Jones are both romances, but they’re very different books, and perhaps they represent different parts of me. They must do, I suppose, since I wrote them both! I’d be interested to know what your readers think about writers who write in different genres – whether it annoys or confuses them, or if they’re fine with it.

Thank you so much for being here today Margaret, it was a pleasure to have you on my blog. I particularly enjoyed reading about how A Nightingale in Winter had a long wait before being looked at again!

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Now check out the book:

ANiW Final Cover

“It is 1916, and The Great War is raging throughout Europe. Eleanor Martin is traveling to France to serve as a volunteer nurse. She only wants to bury herself in her work on the Front and forget her traumatic past. But when her ship is torpedoed, Eleanor has to act quickly to save an American journalist’s life. As she cradles Dirk Loreson’s broken body in her arms, speaking to him to keep him conscious, the possibility of a whole different future begins to open up for her.

Leo Cartwright, an ambitious artist, is also en route to the Front. A ruthless man who will stop at nothing to find inspiration for his paintings, Leo’s path is destined to cross with Eleanor’s. As she comes under his spell, will she find the strength to resist his demands? Will she trust her growing love for Dirk?”

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Quintessentially Yours by Linn B Halton

Quintessentially Yours med

Published by Endeavour Press in August 2015.

“James Kingman’s world just got complicated. The love of his life, Katherine Dale, has just given birth to their first child. His troublesome business manager, Phillipa, is sexually harassing him at work. His boss proposes a partnership which would double his workload. With so much on his plate, how will James cope?

Plagued by the unexpected exhaustion of having a baby who suffers from colic, he tries his best to hold his family together. Despite growing up without a mother and a neglectful father, James is a natural-born father.

Katherine, however, is struggling. Dejected and rejected, Katherine battles with her hormones as her writing career begins to slip away from her. She not only doubts her capabilities as a writer but as a mother too. Katherine confides in James’ boss, the enigmatic and world-famous astrologer, Mark Ainsley-Thomas, and he puts her in touch with his agent. Things start to look up for the writer, as her latest work attracts attention from several publishers, but her trips to Mark’s hotel attract attention too…

Suspicion is aroused and photographs are snapped.

Is there any truth to last year’s rumours of an affair between the pair? If not, then why is Katherine visiting Mark in secret? Will James be able to resist the advances of his seductive colleague?

Will the tangled trio be able to avoid scandal in the stars?”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the author for sending me this eBook to read and share my honest opinion. This is the sequel to Under The Stars (my review of which can be found here) but it can also be read as a standalone romcom.

LINN

Catching up with Katherine and James was like meeting up with old friends again after a long break, their lives had changed quite dramatically (as it always does when a baby comes along) and I was keen to see how they would cope with the changes. Their story was retold beautifully in the first few pages so I was easily able to slip back into their world.

Linn captured the mood of the first few months of parenthood perfectly. Those days of joy blended with utter exhaustion and confusion were described with such honesty, for me it really brought the characters emotions to life. Seeing as it hasn’t been long since I had our little one I found myself nodding along at some of the day-to-day struggles that Katherine was coping (or not coping) with. I really felt for her and could sense how overwhelmed she was, there were many times that I just wanted to reach into the book and give her a hug.

No.4 (the cat) was a favourite of mine from the first book so I was pleased to see him making his second appearance. He even managed to save the day on one occasion, what a hero!

There was a very interesting side to the storyline which involved book publishing, this was something I particularly enjoyed as, being a book blogger, I usually only see the finished (or nearly finished) product. I felt like I was being given a behind the scenes peek at everything that comes first.

As with other books from this author there were a couple of moments that gave me goosebumps, I love the way Linn manages to weave spiritual elements into her storylines.

This was a touching read, one that really struck a chord within me – a great sequel!

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Author Interview With Joni Parker

Today I’m delighted to welcome Joni Parker to Me, My Books and I for the second time!

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Although Joni currently lives in Texas, she was born in Chicago, lived in Japan, graduated high school in Phoenix, and got married in New Jersey. Not only was she married to a career Navy sailor, but she also completed 22 years of active duty service in the Navy. After her husband passed away, she returned to the work force until she discovered her love of writing. Her first series, “The Seaward Isle Saga” included 3 books, “The Black Elf of Seaward Isle,” “Tangled Omens,” and “Blood Mission,” as well as a short novella, “The Island Game: The Inside Story of Seaward Isle.” Her latest fantasy novel is called, “Spell Breaker: The Chronicles of Eledon Book One.”

To find out more:

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Welcome back Joni,

How did you come up with the title for Spell Breaker: The Chronicles of Eledon Book One?

The term ‘Spell Breaker’ came as I rewrote chapter one for the millionth time. It summarized what Alex had done and anticipated what she was going to do in the rest of the story. The Chronicles of Eledon is the name of the series. Eledon is the name of the world created for Elves by the Mentors after they left Earth. There are four books in this series, and I liked the term chronicle to account for each one.

Who designed the cover and why did you go for that particular design?

The cover was designed by my publisher, Teresa Kennedy and her husband, Andrew Earley. As a matter of fact, they’ve designed all of my covers so far. Teresa thought the cover should depict more action and gave me a choice of two. I chose this one because it caught my eye immediately. The color was bright and I thought if it caught my eye, it will catch others as well. They also designed the back cover for the print version and inserted a copy of a map Andrew did from a rough drawing I’d made. Originally, it was blue and green, but since the overall tone of the cover was yellow, he made it into a sepia tone which gave it an antique feel.

map parchment

How do you decide on names for your characters?

Most of the time, names pop in my head as I create a character. Unfortunately, I’ve had several names that were too close to other characters and had to change them. I’ve used baby name lists to help me or I think about the character’s personality or job to come up with a name. Thankfully, the computer lets me switch out names quickly.

Which characters would you like to meet in person and why?

I would love to meet Lord Odin, the leader of the Elves because he seems so wise and yet, he’s approachable. Also, I’d love to meet Olivia Richards, the journalist. She’s really down to earth and a dedicated journalist. It may sound strange that I don’t want to meet my main character Alex, but she’s my alter ego and we’ve already met.

If you had to write it all over again, would you change anything?

No, I worked hard on this story. Over a year ago, I thought it was ready, but another writer read the first two chapters and let me know that it wasn’t. I rewrote it multiple times since then and took classes on editing and writing to help me figure out what was wrong. I’m satisfied with it now.

What do you hope readers will learn from Spell Breaker: The Chronicles of Eledon Book One?

I hope readers will learn that life involves give and take. Alex’s grandmother expects her to be a lady of Eledon, but Alex wants nothing to do with it. Their unwillingness to compromise led to break in their relationship that they couldn’t overcome.

Can you give us any clues about what is going to happen in the next book?

Alex faces false accusations of being the Blue Witch and a spy for the rebels.

Do you think your writing style has changed since your first book?

My writing style has changed considerably from the first book. When I first started, my writing was in a rut, due to lack of use. I did very little creative writing in my adult years and never realized that all my sentences were structurally similar and my vocabulary limited. Now, I use more complex sentences and keep a Thesaurus beside me all the time. Overall, I feel like my writing is more fluid and interesting, but I’m still working on it.

Are there any occupational hazards to being an author?

There are several hazards, mostly related to sitting and staring at the computer screen for long periods of times. My hands get tired from typing, my eyes are strained, and my back hurts. I schedule routine times for exercise to counter it and get up from my computer at least once an hour.

FUN QUESTIONS

Milk, white or dark chocolate?

Milk, not good for those of us lactose intolerant

Listener or talker?

Listener. Let others to the talking.

Laptop, desktop or tablet?

Desktop. I have two and a laptop. I’ve never used a tablet to write.

Early or late?

Early. With my military background, I’m always 15 minutes early.

Pen or pencil?

Pen. I don’t have to sharpen it.

Any last words for your readers?

I hope you enjoy Spell Breaker as much as I did writing it.

Thank you so much for returning to my blog Joni, it was a pleasure to interview you again. I particularly enjoyed reading about the cover and why you chose that design!

Page break Now check out the book:

Spell Breaker 1

After a thousand years, Lady Alexin (Alex) Dumwalt breaks the spell around Seaward Isle, a ring of storms so powerful no one could leave the island.  She joins the exodus of Elves, Dwarves, and mortals to Eledon, the World of the Elves on the other side of the entry point. 

But Alex faces a difficult decision.  Her Water Elf grandmother expects her to stay in Eledon, but Alex was born and raised as a mortal.  Her mixed blood, Elf and mortal, means that she must choose between staying in Eledon or following the other mortals who will soon leave for the mortal world through a special entry point created for them. 

What will she do?”

“Spell Breaker” is currently only available on Amazon. You can get it on Kindle Unlimited for 90 days as a promotion.

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Either Side Of Midnight (The Midnight Saga Book 1) by Tori de Clare

“WHAT IF THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE TURNED INTO YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE?

When nineteen-year-old Naomi Stone is snatched from her husband at knifepoint on the night of their wedding and taken to a deserted cemetery, she knows her life is finished. Drugged and disorientated, she loses consciousness as she lies in an open grave with a gun to her head.

But the following day, she mysteriously awakes to find herself unharmed and secured to a bed. She’s in a beautiful bedroom in a secluded cottage in open countryside. Only one person knows she’s there – the man in the balaclava who’s holding her, feeding her, revealing nothing. Naomi senses the unfolding of a plan.

She should be on honeymoon in the Caribbean. Instead, she’s trapped with an emotionless psycho with no hope of escape . . . And his voice is chillingly familiar.

Who is he? What does he want? What’s happened to her husband? Where is she? Will anyone find her before it’s too late?”

MY REVIEW

I was lucky enough to win this eBook from a giveaway on Jera’s Jamboree. Every now and then I like to read something a little bit different to my usual reads and this was one of those books. The blurb really intrigued me so I was looking forward to the change.

I would just like to say that I’m not sure my review will even do this book justice because I enjoyed it so much! It didn’t take long to get my heart pounding, the mysterious kidnapping raised so many questions that I needed to find the answers to so I couldn’t stop flipping the pages.

There were times whilst reading this book that I felt like a detective trying to solve a crime which made no sense, at least not in the beginning anyway. The clues soon began to piece together so the motive became clear but the person responsible did not – I continuously changed my mind about who the suspect might be.

I liked Naomi and as I learned more about her life before the kidnapping I found that I liked her even more. It was so difficult to read of her fear and confusion about the predicament she was in. The supporting characters were interesting too and provided a good mix of personalities – there were some who I grew to like and others I loved to hate.

Not only did the author give me mystery and great characters, she also gave me complex family relationships which made the storyline even more addictive. The major twist that came along about halfway through completely shocked me, I love it when I don’t see things coming!

Either Side of Midnight played out like a movie in my head and stayed on my mind even when I wasn’t reading – a sign of a great read in my opinion.

This was a suspenseful, unpredictable read that had me on the edge of my seat, book two is definitely going on my wish list!

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You’re The One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

      Published by Penguin in May 2014

“Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob – the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben – best man and the best friend any two people ever had.

And that’s the problem.

Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he turned round and told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?

Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it…”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the publishers for sending me this book to read and give an honest review. I had previously read this author’s debut novel (review here) and I was keen to find out if her second book would be as good as the first.

I’m pleased to say it definitely was!

The storyline centered around three friends – Maddy, Ben and Rob. The beginning of the book took me back to their childhood and explained how they became friends in the first place. I took a liking to each one of them for different reasons and as they grew up on the pages in front of me I felt like I knew them all personally.

The authors writing style was comfortable and easy to read, it enabled me to be pulled into the storyline in a big way, I just couldn’t put the book down – just one more page always turned into about fifty more pages!

I was so conflicted about the love triangle, I simply couldn’t decide which way I wanted Maddy to go. My opinion literally changed from page to page and I hoped something would happen to help me make up my mind once and for all. Sadly, for me, that didn’t happen so I was left undecided even after I’d finished.

This was an addictive read that pulled me in and wouldn’t let go!

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The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson

          Published by Penguin in June 2014

Sally is a woman of many (hidden) talents.

She’s been working as a wardrobe mistress at the Royal Opera House, not telling a soul she’s a damn good singer. But then, she’s only been able to sing if she’s shut inside her wardrobe, where she’s safe.

But she’s made a promise to her cousin Fiona that she would audition for Opera School and, for complicated reasons, she can’t get out of it – even though she’d rather claw her eyes out than sing in public.

Sally has a lot to learn, but will she figure out that stage fright is about more than forgetting the words?

And that perhaps her real problems lie very much closer to home?”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the publishers for sending me this book to read and share my honest opinion. I’ve enjoyed other books by Lucy Robinson (reviews here) so I couldn’t wait to get started.

Right from the beginning I was hit by Lucy’s familiar humour and drawn in by some very vivid characters. I could tell that reading this book was going to be quite a ride! The comedy continued throughout the book and I must admit that it was my kind of humour. The writing style had a certain bluntness to it which simply made me laugh and I do love a book that makes me laugh out loud while I’m reading.

The opera side of the storyline was actually quite fascinating for me, I knew nothing about opera before reading this book and, while it certainly didn’t make me an expert, I do feel like I learned a few things about the world of opera.

There was an intense mystery surrounding Sally’s trip to New York and what had happened there. I came up with a few predictions as to what the big drama was (all of which were wrong) but in the end it all became too much for me and I found myself screaming (in my head of course because little one was asleep) WHAT HAPPENED IN NEW YORK??? There were snippets of information along the way but then just as I thought I was about to find out, I was whisked back to the present day – Lucy Robinson you certainly know how to tease your readers!

I mentioned that the characters were vivid – the most vivid of them all were Barry and Jan, let me tell you why…

  • Barry was just epic! I could picture him so clearly stood there talking to Sally and calling her ‘chicken’. His massive personality really jumped off the page and made me smile every time he spoke.
  • Jan was equally as epic (are we all picturing the epic strut right now? Because we should be)! I could almost hear his accented words whispering through the pages at me. He came out with the most entertaining sentences I think I’ve ever read in a book – “will you be dying in this moment” was one of my favourites.

That big mystery I told you about? Well, towards the end I started to get an inkling of what had happened because each piece of the puzzle had gradually begun to fit together. At that point I couldn’t help but think back to the story I’d just read and look at it with a completely different viewpoint, one that was far more emotional than I’d expected.

This was a cracking read, a laugh-out-loud sort of book that was sprinkled with some very emotional scenes.

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