Friday, 18 October 2019

The Christmas Calendar Girls - Samantha Tonge

About the book… 
This Christmas fall in love with the town of Chesterwood...

Christmas is meant to be a time of giving, so with Chesterwood food bank under risk of closure Fern knows just what to do to save it. She's going to get the town to create a living advent calendar.

Fern, and her best friends, call for help from the local community to bring this calendar to life. When Kit, the mysterious school caretaker, offers his assistance, Fern's heart can't help but skip a beat (or two).

As they grow ever closer, Fern must admit that Kit's the first man to touch her heart since she lost her husband, but his past is holding him back.
In this town, Kit's not the only one with secrets. Domestic goddess Chummy is behaving oddly, burning meals in the oven and clothes whilst ironing, and Davina's perfect children are causing trouble at school leaving her son, Jasper, desperately unhappy.
Can the Christmas Calendar Girls find a way to bring the community together in time to save the food bank, while still supporting their families and each other? Can Fern find love again with Kit?

This is a story about kindness and letting go of the past. It's about looking out for your neighbours and about making every day feel like Christmas.

Buy Links: 

About the author…
Samantha Tonge lives in Manchester UK with her husband and children. She studied German and French at university and has worked abroad, including a stint at Disneyland Paris. She has travelled widely. When not writing she passes her days cycling, baking and drinking coffee. Samantha has sold many dozens of short stories to women’s magazines. She is represented by the Darley Anderson literary agency. In 2013, she landed a publishing deal for romantic comedy fiction with HQDigital at HarperCollins and in 2014, her bestselling debut, Doubting Abbey, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romantic Fiction best Ebook award. In 2015 her summer novel, Game of Scones, hit #5 in the UK Kindle chart and won the Love Stories Awards Best Romantic Ebook category. In 2018 Forgive Me Not, heralded a new direction into darker women's fiction with publisher Canelo. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association romantic comedy award

Contact Links: 
Twitter: @SamTongeWriter

Facebook: @SamanthaTongeAuthor

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My thoughts…
Awwww what an absolute delight this book was.  It was my first festive read of the year and the premise had me hooked from the moment Victoria at Aria Fiction first told me about it. 'A living Calendar" OMG I so want to organise one!!

What's not to love about the Christmas Calendar Girls.  It has it all,  it truly is a magical, read that had me totally hooked.  It pulled at my heart strings and certainly gave me food for thought. It made me question what is important in life, when is it better to give rather than receive, to find acceptance within ourselves, to accept it's sometimes ok to follow your heart rather than your head. To look beyond the obvious, things aren't always what they seem at face value.  It was desperately sad in places but counter-balanced with hope, fun and happiness in others.  It's about love, friendship, solidarity and support - it's about friends, family and a community coming together to support and help each other.  It's about picking your battles, knowing when to fight for what's right or when to acquiesce.  It's what would appear at first glance to be a light, easy read and turns out to be anything but - it has depth, the characters and setting providing solid foundations for the story to unfold. It revolves around three friends, their friendship, their families and their community.   They come together to support a fund raising event  to save a vital public service, the local food bank.  

The story sees 'The Living Calendar' brought to life and I was giddy with excitement  muttering to myself what an amazing idea it was and wondering when and how I could replicate it. It really was brilliant, I loved every aspect of it and dare you not to be touched by this incredible read.  

I highly recommend this Christmas Read, it's definitely one readers will be sorry to have missed.  Huge thanks for allowing me to be part of the blog tour all at Aria Fiction.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

The Family - Louise Jenson

About the book… 
The new psychological thriller from master storyteller, Louise Jensen, will leave you breathless.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.

But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family,' sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.

Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

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About the author… 
Louise Jensen always wanted to be Enid Blyton when she grew up, and when that didn’t happen she got a ‘proper’ job instead.

Several years ago an accident left Louise with a disability and she began writing once again, to distract her from her pain and compromised mobility. But writing turned out to be more than just a good distraction. Louise loves creating exciting worlds, dark characters, and twisted plots.

Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, sons, a dog and a rather naughty cat, and also teaches mindfulness.

Contact Links: 

My thoughts…
It's my stop on the blog tour for The Family by Louise Jensen.  Grateful thanks to Jess at HQ Stories for my copy. I was hugely excited when I heard Louise had written another book, I have devoured every book she has written and with each the tempo, pace and bar is raised. She has immense talent, an author that sucks you right into the heart of the story from page 1.

This book follows the story of Laura and daughter Tilly as they navigate their way through the path of grief, Gavan, husband and father died tragically after falling from the roof of a house he was building.  At the same time they are faced with sudden isolation from the rest of the family too, for reasons unknown to them.  Almost from the very first chapter I had a nervousness low in the belly, a grey, miserable feeling of dread that hung like a cloud over me.  Laura is struggling to cope both emotionally and financially and is trying to hold it together for Tilly.  Tilly is finding herself without friends and ostracised at school by her friends and both try to keep their hurt and grief from each other.

There are hints and insinuations that Gavan, Lauras husband didn't die as a result of an accident and the insurance company are withholding payment of his life insurance whilst it is investigated.  The family are at rock bottom and broken.  Laura is about to lose the roof over their heads and has no idea what she is going to do, how they will survive, where they will live. She is thrown a lifeline in the form of Alex and Oak Leaf Organics - Saffron came to Laura's rescue one day after she fell ill and they became friends, she told her she should visit the farm, that she'd be made welcome whilst she gathered her thoughts and planned a strategy for the months ahead.

Laura reluctantly accepts the lifeline, she has no choice, things couldn't get any worse.  Family have turned their back on her and she is desperate.   As her car rattled up the potholed, lane to the secluded farm I was internally repeating don't do this, turn around, don't go in.  The atmosphere as I read felt tight and claustrophobic I had the most uneasy feeling and my senses were on full alert.

The farm turned out to be a commune of sorts that was a refuge to several others - they were welcoming and caring and welcomed Laura and Tilly into their fold.  So why did it feel so wrong, why did I feel anxious and had a gut feeling that screamed things weren't quite right?  Laura and Tilly were at rock bottom, they'd lost everything and gave off a sense of empty hopelessness.  Saffron, Alex & commune should be their saviour but oh boy, I so wished she'd had second thoughts.  Oak Leaf Organics turned out to be both heaven and hell as both Tilly and Laura got sucked into the life there and were pulled in different directions. I didn't trust anyone. 

The more I read, the more I couldn't shake the sick feeling of dread that rose from low in the heart of my stomach.  I had that feeling that makes you want to stop reading or start reading in equal measures. Too scared to know what’s behind the story yet a burning need to know what comes next.  This was a book that haunted me whilst I read it and haunted me when I finished it.  Nobody is who they seem, everyone has a back story and a hidden agenda, with individual stories so separate yet joined like the links on a bracelet. 

Louise Jensen is a firm go to author of mine, an author that I would buy and read without having read anything about the story.  Louise thank you for yet another page turning thriller that hooked me in and gripped me so tightly I felt captive, breathless and broken as I walked in the footsteps of Laura and Tilly. An outstanding read that will stay with me forever, a read I have already recommended to so many friends, thank you.