Thursday, 28 November 2013

The P45 Diaries by Ben Hatch

This book is very different from Ben Hatch's most recent books on his travels. This is a work of fiction but perhaps with elements of his own early life in there.

The main character, Jay, is one who will be recognised by every parent with grey hair, an empty wallet and a teenage son who thinks the world will provide.  Following Jay's progress from job to job you can't help but feel empathy for this young man who just wants to write. The trouble is he doesn't actually seem to get around to doing it. A year and three and a half pages down on his novel, he loses his mother to cancer and his younger brother has to go to boarding school because his father can no longer cope. He has a girlfriend whom he might just be falling for but she wants to go away to university whereas Jay wants them both to travel. On top of all that his best friend Sean starts to act more strangely than usual and Jay doesn't know how to help. His father, though devastated at the loss of his wife, tries to throw himself back in to normality by hob-nobbing with celebrities in his job but only manages this through a haze of alcohol and a stiff upper lip.

Ben Hatch has written an emotive novel with moments of sadness which will have tears welling up to moments of outright snorts of laughter as Jay tries to make sense of the world and his place in it. Cancer is never an easy subject to sit alongside humour but the author manages this very well.

Author's Amazon Page
Twitter @BenHatch

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Dare Club by Margaret K Johnson

I really enjoyed this second offering from Margaret K Johnson. Her first book The Goddess Workshop is fabulous and with this new novel she has again sprinkled the chick lit fairy dust, leaving a really satisfying feel-good factor with every chapter.

Emma, Colette, Nick and Aleysha meet on a course for getting over relationship breakups.  Colette is recovering from cancer and her husbands shocking reaction to her illness. Nick has two young children to care for as well as a full time job since his wife dumped him and their children to 'find herself' in Australia. Aleysha's husband left her after only a few months of marriage leaving her devastated and bewildered and Emma is getting to grips with leaving her own marriage and wondering if she has done the right thing. Their stories are all very different but they quickly form a friendship group and decide they need some challenge in their lives. So the Dare Club is born. Facing challenges which range from gatecrashing parties and running away from policemen to stand up comedy and roller coasters, they start to put their lives back together. All enjoying themselves immensely along the way.

With true to life characters, a fun storyline and the ability to make you feel part of the gang, Margaret K Johnson has written a novel every woman will enjoy.

Author Website
Twitter: @Margaretkaj

Watch Margaret's real life stand up comedy spot here. Brave woman!

Guest Blog - 'One Writer's Country Strife' by author Jenny Lloyd

I've always approached anything mechanical with some trepidation. I generally distrust any machine, including my car, if I don’t know how it works. So it was with unusual recklessness that I decided to try a ride-on mower to keep down the grass in my half-acre paddock. It was a second-hand mower, hence it came without instructions. I assumed it would work like my car; turn the ignition, the engine will start; let your foot off the clutch and away to go. All of which happened, but it was only when I found myself hurtling towards a tree with no room for manoeuvre that I realised I didn't know where the brakes were and didn't have the luxury of time to find out. I leapt from the beast and hit the ground running. I’m guessing I’m not the first person to have abandoned ship in this way because someone invented a mechanism which automatically cuts out the engine when the seat is vacated; thus the mower was saved from being wrapped around said tree.

Following this experience, I decided what I needed to keep the grass down was a more manageable kind of beast, and I set about a quest to buy myself a couple of sheep. After all, I’d grown up on a farm, what could possibly go wrong? I asked one of my brothers, Phil, to come along with me to a forthcoming sheep sale, based on another wrong assumption; that he would have more idea than me. Off we went to the sale. I’d set my heart on a couple of Welsh Black Mountain sheep, though heaven knows we had more than a couple of ‘black sheep’ in the family already, including me.

Into the ring they came, in groups of two or four, and the bidding began. With my heart pounding, I proceeded to wave my programme in the air at intervals, and got the winning bid on a lovely pair of six month old, black lambs. Only when I went to pay did I realise the figure I had bid was not for the two but the price of each. I raise an eyebrow at Phil. He was obviously not as knowledgeable as I had hoped or he would have known this, wouldn't he? At this point I should have had a sense of foreboding.

To be fair, since leaving the farm of our childhoods in our teens, neither of us had been involved in farming in any way. It’s astonishing how much one forgets over forty years; this lapse of memory was to become more evident over the coming hours.

With receipt of my payment in hand we go off in search of my lambs. They are not in a pen of their own, all ready and waiting for me as I expect. What we are faced with is a large pen of thirty black lambs all huddled together in a corner with their backs to us, and all seemingly identical.

“Which two are mine?” I ask Phil.

He gives a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, “I suppose you just take your pick?”

“Oh! Great! Those two look sweet, I’ll have those,” I say, pointing out two from the indistinguishable crowd.

Welsh Black Mountain lambs are WILD. They race, they kick, they bleat, and they buck like untamed horses. After chasing these beasts around the pen for some minutes, we decide to grab hold of whatever we can and hang on for dear life. They are so strong; it takes all our strength to carry them, kicking and writhing, out of the pen and down into the waiting trailer.

“Phew! A bit wild, aren’t they?” Phil says, as we bolt the trailer gate behind them.

Job done. Off we now go to the supermarket because Phil needs to do a bit of shopping; all the while, the lambs are trying to kick and buck their way out of the trailer. On returning with his shopping, Phil takes a peek inside.

“Oh! Come and see this!” He says. “Look! They’ve got numbers on them.”

So they have. Buried in the wool under their chins are paper tags with numbers penned on them; eight and twelve. The penny drops. Phil looks at me. I look at Phil. We hadn’t seen the numbers earlier because while we were chasing and catching the beasts, they were naturally facing the other way.

“Oops,” Phil says.

The two lambs I should have taken were the third and fourth of the group of thirty that were brought into the ring, and so would have had the numbers three and four attached to them. It was obvious now we see they are numbered.

“What a stupid idea. They could at least have put the numbers where we would have seen them,” says Phil.

No doubt the auctioneers weren’t expecting two complete novices to turn up or they’d have stuck the numbers on their backsides.

“I thought you said you’ve done this before,” I say to him with an accusing glare.

“Oh, well, we can’t take them back now. It won’t make no odds, anyway, they all look the same,” he says.

We head for home, accompanied by the loud bangs of our wild companions trying to kick their way out of the trailer. Perhaps they sensed they had been wrongly abducted.

By the time we get to my place, some two hours or more have passed since we had abducted those lambs. We back the trailer up to the open gate leading into my paddock and unleash the beasts. They race across the paddock and do something I’ve never seen lambs do before. They hop, skip, jump, then take a flying leap over the stone wall boundary straight onto my neighbour’s hill.

“Well! Ruddy hell!” Phil says in his most infuriating laid-back style, while I am wringing my hands with angst.

“You’ll never catch ‘em now, they’ll be gone,” says he, stating the bleeding obvious.

I go indoors to make a cup of tea; the only thing to do when you don’t know what to do next. A light is flashing on my answerphone. While we wait for the kettle to boil, I play back the message. It is a woman’s voice and she sounds furious.

“Please phone the auctioneers immediately you get this message.”

“She doesn’t sound very happy,” Phil says with hearty cheer and I give him The Look that tells him this is not in the least bit funny.

When I phone the auctioneers I discover the mayhem we have left in our wake.

“The sheep are numbered for a reason!” I am informed in an officious voice.

“So buyers get the sheep they have bid on, not someone else’s sheep!” The woman goes on, her voice rising higher with each word.

“You have caused a great deal of confusion and trouble!” She says, her voice rising to a crescendo.

“I’m ever so sorry,” I squeak.

“And so you should be! Well! Someone else now has your sheep!” she says with a note of triumph in her voice which makes me suspect the ones which have gone to someone else must have been the better pair.

“We’ll never be able to go there again,” Phil says when I put down the phone.

My neighbour and his dog eventually found my two on the top of his hill, a couple of days later, and brought them home to me after I’d erected a fence above the wall to keep them in.

Not surprisingly, it took them some time to settle in and grow to trust me. They are the best of friends, their relationship cemented during their shared trauma of being abducted by a couple of ne’er-do-wells. At first, their capacity for jumping walls and fences knew no bounds. They had a few adventures over the following months until I made all the fences high enough to restrain llamas. On one of their adventures they ended up a mile away after taking a trip down the country lanes. I suspect they were going in search of their rightful owner.

Jenny Lloyd is the author of Leap the Wild Water, a literary historical novel set in early 19th century, rural Wales. Jenny lives on a remote hillside in Wales with her two black sheep and two springer spaniels. Loves; writing, nature and animals. Writing influences and inspirations; ancestors and social psychology.

Jenny Lloyd's Website
Buy Leap The Wild Water from Amazon
Twitter: @jennyoldhouse

Saturday, 23 November 2013

She by Shireen Jeejeebhoy

This book is interesting for two reasons; not only is it a well written fantasy book in its own right it also holds, for me, a deeper meaning. The main character has been invaded by an alien force called Akaesman and this invasion causes the character to change radically; emotionally and physically. The deeper meaning is this could be the story of almost every person who has a 'hidden' disease, whether that be M.E., Fibromyalgia, Lupus or other disorders which can't be seen or understood easily by those around them. 

Zarine, the 'she' in the story, is having a normal evening drive with her fiancee. On the way they encounter a force on a forest road which blows the car off course and causes Zarine to be slightly injured. Her fiancée gets control over the car again and they reach the edge of the forest where they are stopped by the Akaesman Patrol who look them over and advise Zarine to visit her GP first thing. After her encounter Zarine starts to change physically, mentally and emotionally. Her friends put this down to a lack of will, depression and laziness, mocking what they can't see or understand and telling her it's all in her mind. Zarine is bewildered but struggles on, helping herself the best way she can whilst facing professionals who tell her she is perfectly fine. Eventually she finds the help she needs and embracing faith and expressing true grit she pushes through to her conclusion.

This book follows the story of a woman who was normal one day and who gradually became unable to do the things she once took for granted. It looks at her relationship with her friends and family, the inevitable 'pull yourself together' conversations and the lack of care from some health professionals who simply don't have the answers but won't admit it. It highlights misconceptions about 'hidden' illnesses beautifully and, at one point, reduced me to tears with its realism, emotions and truthfulness.

Shirleen Jeejeebhoy has written a story people can relate to who have a relative or friend in a similar situation to the main character. Her heroine isn't there to be pitied, she is there to show there is light at the end of the tunnel and things can get better no matter what obstacles are thrown in the way or other people's ignorance. Resilience and bravery will win out.

Very inspiring!

Friday, 22 November 2013

The Witch's Storm by Neel Kay

This book is the fabulous follow up to The Witch of Luna Hill which I reviewed earlier this year on here. I downloaded it and read it straight away as I was eager to read more.

In this book, Aia now knows she is actually Freya Willand a powerful witch. She can't use her powers yet as her memory has still not come back due to a binding spell she performed on herself after a tragic accident she felt responsible for resulted in the death of a man. Parmona, the fiancee of the man she killed is one of the most ruthless witchs alive and she will stop at nothing to discover where Freya is and to take revenge by making Freya see everyone she cares about die in the worst way possible. Parmona wants more too, she wants a world ruled by fear and darkness and as Parmona falls deeper in to her own madness she begins to make it happen. Freya must unbind her powers to stand a chance of defeating Parmona, to get her memory back and to find out in whose safe hands she left the princess who was under her care before she lost her memory.

There is love, action, heroines and heroes in this fantasy tale. It's written with a real Nordic fairytale feel about it and I think this series is crying out to be made into a film. Neel Kay's writing is a real joy and she carries you along with strong hearted characters whom you can really care about.

Neel Kay's Amazon Author Page

Neel Kay's Website

Monday, 18 November 2013

Guest Blog: 'Memories Of An Ageing Rock Chick' by author Terry Tyler

Having read both of my rock fiction novels, Dream On and Full Circle, my good friend and esteemed reviewer Bodicia asked me if I would like to do a post on her blog about “rock bands I have seen”. I realise that such a subject is of appeal to a niche market only, but this for is for the rocking minority who understand how fab it was to have seen Led Zep at Knebworth in 1979… and I’d love to know about anyone else’s gig memories, in the comments below!

My pride and joy! Me with Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, 1989

I loved rock music from the moment I heard ‘Little Bit Of Love’ by Free in 1972, closely followed by ‘Silver Machine’ by Hawkwind, which was the first single I ever bought. I started going to see bands in 1975, when I was 16. In Northampton, where I lived, the county cricket ground housed a cricket pavillion which became the ‘County Rock’ on Saturday nights, where the entrance fee was just 90p – here I saw such delights as Budgie, and AC/DC and Judas Priest for less than a quid, before they were really big! I also saw the Heavy Metal Kids, featuring the late Gary Holton of Auf Weidersehen Pet fame - I can still remember him crawling across some net that was stretched across the ceiling. In 1976, The Sex Pistols were on, but me and all my chums just said, oh, that’s that punk rock stuff, isn’t it… and didn’t go to see them. I wish I had! Pop culture history on my doorstep - and we stayed in the pub!

From 1977 to 1981 I was with a chap called Ray whose favourite thing in life was going to gigs – we were always going off to the popular venues of the time; the Roundhouse, the De Montfort Hall in Leicester, and The Friars at Aylesbury. I saw UFO, The Slits, Ian Dury tons of times, The Tubes, Kate Bush… loads more.

Ian Dury, De Montfort Hall, 1978 – taken by me!!

Kate Bush was wonderful, with loads of dancers and different backgrounds. That sort of thing is the norm now, but back in a theatre in Oxford in 1979 it was pretty spectacular. Getting backstage to meet people was much easier in those days. Ray was a photographer; I remember one time he gave a roll of film to one of the press photographers who’d run out, and we were thus invited backstage to join in the party with Ian Dury. That was the first time I saw real proper groupies, and I was a bit shocked – innocent me! We also sneaked into the Palladium one afternoon when Kate Bush was rehearsing, and she very charmingly called out that we could stay if we were quiet!

…. which leads me to another memory. You know what? We used to sneak into half these places without paying. That became impossible after the 1970s, of course. Loads of people did it, though. Knebworth festival ground was sectioned off just by sheets of corrugated steel, and someone always had a spanner…! I remember going with my friend Helen to the Stones at Roundhay Park in Leeds in 1982…..

…. by that time we’d started paying! I’m really pleased I’ve kept so many of my tickets.

I didn’t go to any big venues during most of the 80s, but used to go to see local bands in Northampton pubs all the time. Then, during 1988/9, probably as an antidote to getting divorced, going to see a lot of the newer rock bands became my ‘thing’. I can’t pick a favourite – they were all terrific. Please note, all my photographs of the bands on stage at the time were as crap as everyone else’s, which is why I haven’t put any of them on here!

Me with The Quireboys, 1990

Thunder, The Quireboys, Great White, The Black Crowes, Motorhead, The Dan Reed Network… ah, those were the days. It was a really fun time.

My sister Julia with Danny and Luke of Thunder, in some pub, 1990

Julia and I and various others were always at The Town & Country Club (now The Forum), The Astoria, The Marquee, The Royal Standard. Most importantly, though, it was around then I discovered the mighty AEROSMITH, who remain my first love.

It seems weird that this is all nearly 25 years ago, now. I don’t know if bands still do this, but a lot of them did signing sessions in local record shops, then. There was a brilliant record store called Shades, or they’d be at Tower Records in Piccadilly.

Julia with Dan Reed, Shades, 1990

I’ve seen Aerosmith about 8 times, but Julia has seen them more often that I have… let me tell you a story! In the early 90s she joined the fan club, Aeroforce One, and went on a ten day trip along the west coast, organised by the club, in which she went to five gigs and lots of after-show parties. During this time she got friendly with the guy who ran Aeroforce One – and, several months later, he got in touch with her and asked her if she wanted to run the European branch! But that is her story, not mine… we are not worthy!

Milton Keynes Bowl, 1991

I used to love going to the all day things like Donington Monsters of Rock, or ZZ Top and various others at the Milton Keynes Bowl – rarely can I remember the journey home from these outings!

Donington, 1991 (I think!)

Then my life changed, as it tends to, and I stopped going to see bands so much – just the odd trip to Glastonbury (Black Crowes, Lenny Kravitz), or Aerosmith or David Lee Roth at Wembley Stadium. I also have to admit that about three years ago I had tickets to see Paul Rodgers, ex of Free and Bad Company and one of my heroes, together with Joe Perry (Aerosmith)’s new band, and I got the date wrong. The tickets were eighty quid each, and I got them out on April 8th to put them in my purse for the gig on the 10th – only to discover that it had taken place on the 7th….. I’m still gutted about it now!

I’m glad to say that my friends and I, though all well over 50, may never really grow up…!

The village of Rock, Northumberland, 2011

Thank you to Bodicia for asking me to do this, and to anyone who has enjoyed sharing my rocking memories!

Terry has written several 5* books, all of which can be found here on Amazon. Terry's website can be found here and watch out for Terry's new short story collection, Nine Lives, which will be free for five days from November 20.  The stories are all in the genre of contemporary romance/drama - scarcely a rock band to be found!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Guardian and the Rogue Shadow by S L Lewis

I think S L Lewis has nailed this second book in the Guardian series. His first book was naturally compared to Harry Potter but, having read both books in this series, I think there are huge differences in the stories. Written with the YA market in mind, this tale can be read by young hearted adults too and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Daniel and his family have to leave the wizarding world of Eden behind them. They come to live in our realm when it is discovered Daniel has the mark of the Guardian, the saviour of worlds, passed down to him through his ancestors. This book joins 15 year old Daniel as he perfects his skills and finds out whom he can trust and whom he really shouldn't. Whilst his friends urge him to take his GCSE's seriously and study hard, Daniel is more concerned with fighting off imps and catching shadows lurking out of the corner of this eye. Gilbert, Daniel's mentor from Eden, is acting strangely and Daniel starts to distrust him but has Gilbert changed because he is fighting with his own emotions or is he being controlled by forces unknown? The character of Daniel is a typical teenage boy with all the emotions and angst needed to make him believable but he is also born to be the Guardian and shows maturity beyond his years when necessary. His friends and foes alike support the story well and each has their place in this fantasy tale of wizards, witches and demons.

Both the books in this series are fun, well written and with a fast paced plot and plenty of action. I will be looking out for more from this author.

I really love the covers of both books and I intend to purchase both in paperback for my youngest child who loves this genre. Sometimes Kindle just isn't enough!

Find out more about the Guardian Series at Author Website

Twitter: @S_L_Lewis1

Friday, 15 November 2013

Life After Thirty Ten

So what's it like to be the average British woman sliding down the slippery slope towards 50 before you can say 'Wonderbra' out loud through a mouthful of chocolate?  I'll tell you.

Bras are suddenly there for the purpose of scaffolding and not just to look pretty. G strings look like weapons of torture rather than a sexy addition to one's wardrobe. Derrieres drop an inch from where they used to be and boobs make out with kneecaps.

Then there are the grey hairs. Of course mine are a lustrous silver but are hidden under an iced chocolate dye and won't see the light of day for many years to come, thank you very much. Hair gets dryer and loses its gleam unless you are fortunate enough to have discovered Andrew Barton's gorgeous Frizz Tamer hair products and cleverly slaver them on with abandon *free tip*.

Foundations, mineral enhanced products, non-bleeding lipsticks, scrubs, serums and detoxins line up on the dressing table in ever increasing numbers where once there lay a bottle of Chanel, a light moisturiser and a red lipstick.

Face creams are tried and tested, greatly increasing in their expense until we are slicking on something that wouldn't look out of place on a Atlantic swimmer, all in the hope of a reduction in crow's feet and laughter lines. (I swear that one wasn't there yesterday).

Basted, pruned, plucked and scrubbed we go out praying it doesn't rain because the brolly is broken again and we have run out of waterproof mascara.

Of course, if you have a lot of money and feel the urge you can nip and tuck at the cosmetic surgeons and bend and thrust at the gym all you like. (The rest of us hold it all in and try not to breathe out much).

And what does the average British man do? Run some wax through his hair, slap on some aftershave and straighten his tie...

Are we nearly ready yet? You must be joking!

But when we do step out, we're worth it ;)

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Faith of A Vampire: Sophia's Redemption by Mark A Sprague

There are a lot of books about vampires out there and they can get a bit 'samey' but this one drew me in from the first page. Fortunately there wasn't a sparkle of flesh in evidence and instead it was all about the story.

This book, the first in a series, tells of a farm girl called Sophia who gets bitten by Sara, a vampire from a powerful clan. Sophia feels compelled to seek Sara out and they form a strong bond. After an attack on Sophia and Sara leaves Sophia fighting for her life on the roadside, Sara is forced to turn Sophia fully into a vampire without her permission. Sophia is subsequently accepted by Sara's father Marcus into his family and his care. Sophia's life changes dramatically and with a strength of character she proves herself worthy of the new gifts imposed on her. While she fights by the side of the rest of the family her real purpose is revealed to her and she must return to what she was to discover who she will become.

I really liked this book. Mark A Sprague gives us a strong female character who feels believable and he writes the story with flow, building up the tension whilst keeping the pace going. With clever descriptive writing and a few good meals for vampire fans, this book really is worth a few hours of your time.

Faith Of A Vampire Website

Author's blog

Twitter: @FaithOfAVampire

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Nine Lives by Terry Tyler

I was lucky enough to get an advanced reading copy of Terry's latest offering which is a collection of short stories. I admit to being a bit of a fan of her writing and I was pleased these were up to her usual standard of entertainment.

My favourites are:

'Angel', a tale of lust, jealousy and adultery...always a good combination.

'Mama Kin' is a funny story with a fabulous twist. I could see the horror on Emma's face as the tale unfolded, her mind hardly able to comprehend the implications of what she was hearing.

'Shut Up and Dance' is the girl power one for me; the controlled woman breaking out, flicking her hair, saying 'enough!' and doing it anyway.

'Kiss Your Past Goodbye' is a great bit of 'karma comes back and bites you', a tale with a very satisfying ending.

These nine stories are a great introduction to Terry's writing and will be free for five days after the official launch date around 20th November next week.

Terry's blog

Terry's Amazon Author Page

Terry has also grabbed a guest blog spot for this coming Monday when you can find out about her rock chick days and decide for yourselves whether to be envious or not of her close proximity to the likes of Steve Tyler, the lads from Thunder and a few other rockers of note.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Guest Blog - 'Random Ramblings About Reading' by author Neel Kay

The first page of a book that I read was Dyrene i Hakkebakkeskoven – a Danish children’s book about the animals in a forest. I had memorised the entire page so that I could impress my mum with my extraordinary reading skills. I must have been six or seven.

Now my son is seven, and in his school, they have made learning to read a top priority. Obviously, they have other classes, but it’s the reading that is the most important. My son has mad mathematical skills, several years advanced, but reading, well, to begin with, he kind of lost his patience with it a lot, because: “I’ll NEVER learn to read” followed by exasperated gasps and gestures, usually with a dramatic fall into his bed, face first.

What a drama queen! I wonder where he gets it from?

But slowly, he’s getting better, and my mother-in-law, who is a retired teacher, is very impressed with his reading skills – although, she is of course his grandmother, so she might be adding on a little extra.

I just hope that when he cracks the reading code entirely that he’ll stick with it. That he’ll continue reading, and thus explore his imagination, build his vocabulary and exercise his brain. And I’m sure he will, because he is very curious by nature.

I’ve read to my kids before they were too small to even care. They didn’t know what the words meant, but I read to them anyway. When I was a kid I belonged to a children’s book club and I’ve saved all those books, mostly Grimm fairytales and Disney stories, and they are now among the books I read for my kids.

A few months back, I introduced my son to a rather big book with very few pictures in it. It was Orla Frøsnapper by Ole Lund Kirkegaard – a Danish author who has written many rather humorous children’s book. To begin with, my son did the drama queen thing again.

“OMG, it’s too looooong!”

But then we started and he soon got caught up in the story, and now he brings home books from school by the same author for us to read.

My daughter is four and for Christmas she wants: “a Barbie car and a book.” She sees her brother learning to read and wants to do the same. So she’ll memorise some of the sentences when we’ve read and pretend to be reading. She loves her bedtime stories, and in the rare occasions when it gets too late for a story, tears are shed and drama commences. Seriously, where do they get it from?

I hope they both continue to find books fascinating throughout their life. I’m doing my bit by buying books, bringing my kids to the library, reading to and with them, and I read myself. Some of their books are ragged and slightly torn; those are their favourites.

I don’t mind that books get a bit worn. I like that you can see that they are being read. I’ve read some in my personal library three-four-five times and it shows. I have a friend from school who is the total opposite. It was always a pest borrowing books from her, because she didn’t want the back of her books broken - still doesn’t. She likes her books looking neat and new.

Back in sixth grade, I started to look outside of the children’s library towards the packed bookshelves in my parents’ living room and I stumbled upon The House of a Thousand Lanterns by Victoria Holt. Oooh, there was love in there. Kissing and stuff. I read more books by Victoria Holt, introduced them to my friend from school – the neat one. We’d lie on her bed and take turns to read out loud.

Later, we found the La Bicyclette bleue-series by Régine Deforges and it got a little bit sexier, but it was also about war; it was horrible, educational, entertaining, breath taking and emotional. We’d read in our breaks, sometimes to each other, sometimes silently side by side. We were very different, my friend and I, she - an extrovert and me - a super shy introvert. But we had books in common and we’re still friends. I don’t borrow her books any more, thought, as I can’t relax and usually always get thumb cramps and shoulder pains from trying too hard not to break the back of the book.

I don’t swallow books like I used to anymore. I just don’t have the time between my day job, writing myself, and raising my kids, who, for some annoying reason, demand food on the table Every. Bloody. Day! And I don’t waste my time on books I don’t get into straight away. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later, like years later, and it’ll instantly suck me in. Sometimes it won’t. But when I do find a good book, my family practically doesn’t see me for a day or two. And with Kindle, I can also sneak myself to read a few pages at work with the Kindle app on my mobile phone. That is so brilliant! But please don’t tell my boss.

Neel’s real name is actually Lene – a Danish author writing in English under the pen name Neel Kay. Neel is an anagram for Lene.

Author of the fantasy-series The Witch of Luna Hill. Part two, The Witch’s Storm, will be live on Amazon on 19th November.


Twittername: @neelkay

Friday, 8 November 2013

Authors...Blog Post Competition

Hello lovely Authors!

As some of you might know I post guest blogs by invitation only on my blog. These have become very popular with readers and get lots of hits on my blog so I have decided to widen the net for one month only. I am inviting you to send me a light hearted article which will either make me smile or is of general interest to the indie publishing community for a chance to grab one of FOUR places available in January 2014.

Here's the deal if your article is one of the four chosen -

On one Monday in January I will publish on my blog: your article with a photo of you, a short bio, your latest book cover and short blurb and links to your website and author page on Amazon. I will then tweet your article up to twice a day for a whole week. All for my usual fee of absolutely nothing.


  • Your article must be noncontroversial/nonpolitical and suitable for all ages.
  • Your article must be of a sensible length for a blog post.
  • You may include up to four relevant jpg photos.
  • Articles submitted must be your own work and not submitted anywhere else.
  • You must be a genuine indie author who is on Twitter (this is so I can verify your identity)

The closing date for entries is Sunday 15th December 2013.

Please send your entry (along with photos and links as required) to and put Guest Blog Competition in the email title so I don't miss any of you!


Please note: Any articles not chosen will be deleted from my computer after the closing date. Articles chosen will only be posted on this blog and nowhere else by me personally. Author rights are always respected.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

'Blue Into The Rip' by Kev Heritage

As a book blogger there are a few occasions when you start to read a book and you get that little spark of 'this is going to be good' early on in the first chapter. This is one of those books and I was awake into the early hours reading it. Always a good sign!

Blue Into The Rip is marketed as YA fiction but as a forty something with a love of all things 'space' related I really enjoyed this book and would rate it very highly in my list to date of this genre and type.

Blue is a fifteen year old boy who really doesn't feel he fits in. Kicking around the park he witnesses an accident and rushes to help. He blacks out and can't remember what happens next but comes to again having apparently rescued the occupants of the car. The next morning his picture is in the local paper and his parents are very upset. He storms out of the house not understanding what he is supposed to have done wrong and when he gets back his little sister is missing. Looking for her in the woods, he blacks out again but this time when he wakes up he knows something isn't right. Coming face to face with a crocodile makes him wonder if he is losing his mind but an air rescue and subsequent forced enlisting in the local military makes him realise it's worse than that.

The author has created a future world which is so different from what we know now but it isn't, for a change, all doom and gloom. He has made use of current science (and possibly sprinkled a little Star Trek in there too) to create a place where humans exist with most of their needs catered for. I loved the phrases he used for the military such as 'well met', 'be cool' etc as they are phrases associated with film/literature of today which added a little humour into the writing for me personally. The only critiscm I have is I didn't feel the explanations of words/terms used were needed in the middle of the text but it's a small point and simply a personal preference.

This book is the first installment in Blue's adventures and I will definitely be coming back for more. Young Adult time travel at its best.

Kev Heritage Website

Twitter: @KevHeritage

It's A Bit Chilly Out, Isn't It?

We British have an obsession with the weather which other countries find hard to understand given our temperate climate and location. We are like Goldilocks without baby bear, it's never 'just right' and we do like to contemplate it.

Let me explain.

Our climate and world location is such that we don't get extremes such as hurricanes, earthquakes, plague and flood very often. Well, okay, we do get earthquakes but the Earth moves on such a tiny scale we tend to simply congratulate ourselves on our love making skills if we feel a slight tremour rather than imagining the road outside is about to split in two. We have the occasional spell of strong gusts which uproot trees and allow them to fall on the neighbours new conservatory which they were bragging about all summer (I didn't smirk. Honestly.) but we don't get our houses flattened. We have the odd plague but usually manage to sort those out at the following general election (I thank you). We also have the occasional flood but it's never as bad as it's going to be when the icecaps all disappear into the sea. So, as you can see, we are rather lucky.

However, this complacency and stiff upper lip attitude of 'it could be worse' breaks down completely when we have more than two foot of snow. As does most of Britain. The railways goes into meltdown, schools close and road travel becomes chaotic with cars getting intimate with roadside trees. We British do not like this change to our daily routine. One week in July we will be sweating in a humidity best suited to a Swedish sauna and the next minute it's all thick jumpers and thoughts of 'Is it too early to put the heating on?'. There is no time to adjust and we can't cope with the trauma.

Some of us try going abroad in the summer, spending huge amounts of money on air travel to get off the island, only to find we booked for the hottest two weeks on record at home. Some of us try staying on British soil and clog up the beaches the way the sewage outlets clog up the sea. We come home with sunburn, sand in our shoes and sea water (plus nutritional extras) in our sinuses but we come home happy. Particularly as Uncle Bernard had a conversation in the pub with his cronies the Thursday before which resulted in a new cunning way to Walton On The Naze. This meant we missed out most of the bank holiday traffic and got on the beach two hours before the Smiths down the road who foolishly took the A12 and ran into those roadworks by the turnoff to Brightlingsea.

So as you can see, it's all rather stressful all this change and requires us to keep each other informed on a daily basis. Sometimes this works to our advantage. A quick glance at my social network websites and I can see it's raining ten miles from me which means (depending on wind speed and other important factors such as cloud density and air pressure) I'd better get the washing in within the next ten minutes or I'm destined to be rather put out.

I hope this clears the skies up for you all and parts the rain clouds of your understanding about what it's like to live on this lovely island. Looks like it might be a clear night, better get the plants in.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Guest Blog - 'A Year of Living Dangerously' by author Margaret K Johnson

2013 has been a year of living dangerously. Well, if not living dangerously exactly, then a year of challenging myself.

It all started last November, when I began writing my novel The Dare Club, which is to be published later this month. The Dare Club is about a group of four very different people, who meet on a course for the newly divorced and separated. At first they don’t all get on, but as the group begins to gel, they decide to challenge each other to do scary things as part of their recovery process. It was easy for me to use my imagination to write about some of these activities – gate-crashing a stranger’s party, for example. But other things needed to be researched – and not just by using Google. They had to feel authentic, and for that, I needed to experience them myself.

First off, was the Tree Top Challenge at Go Ape in Thetford Forest. For those of you who don’t know, this is a kind of assault course undertaken several metres off the ground. It’s absolutely the type of thing I wouldn’t normally dream of doing. Why would I? I was a wimp at PE at school, I’m not in the habit of going to the gym, and what’s more, I’m very happy on the ground, thank you very much! However, my characters had decided this would be an excellent challenge for them, and I knew it would be an effective way to show not only their individual characters, but also the relationships between them all. So, Go Ape it was.
My highlights of the day included: walking from one moving piece of wood to another piece of moving wood, twenty times over high up in the sky. Dragging inelegantly along on my behind through wood chippings, at the end of the longest zip wire in the history of zip wires. Leaping from a platform towards a Tarzan net and plummeting towards what felt like my certain death. Oh, and then discovering that it actually took a great deal of upper body strength to climb up the net to the next platform – strength I wasn’t 100% sure I had… All ridiculous activities for non-sporty, skinny me. But after I’d finished the course, and hadn’t chickened out at anything, I felt AMAZING. So, thank you, The Dare Club characters – I would never have tried it without you.

Another thing I probably would never have tried without them was stand-up comedy. Colette, one of my characters, was determined to give it a go, so I had to as well. Like her, I did a weekend stand-up comedy course in London, and like her, I returned later to give a three-minute performance at the Up The Creek Comedy Club in Greenwich. It was very scary, but fantastic! People actually laughed, and in the right way too. Did it go as well for Colette? Ah, that would be telling…

By now, I had developed a taste for doing scary things, so recently, I volunteered to be a model in a charity fashion show. The event was a sell-out, with hundreds of women eager for a taste of the clothes they might want to buy. With our hair and make-up done and our outfits chosen for us by Sarah Morgan, the image consultant organiser, we took it in turns to launch ourselves out into the crowd. Walk, smile, count to seven; don’t forget the people in the gallery. More smiles; walk again, repeat three times. I didn’t fall over, my smile wasn’t too wobbly, and I was introduced as Margaret K Johnson, a famous writer. OK, that was a bit of an exaggeration, but I could hardely cry out, “Sarah, you’re exaggerating!” could I? I was busy modelling.

So, what’s next? Well, later this month, a friend and I are going to give Norwich Speaker’s Club a try… Oooh, help!

The Dare Club will be published later this month.

Margaret’s previous novel, The Goddess Workshop is available now from Amazon for download and in paperback.

Link to see Margaret performing at Up the Creek Comedy Club in Greenwich: Youtube



Facebook Page: Margaret K Johnson Author

Twitter: @margaretkaj