blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Valentina – Cristina Hodgson

Today I’m hosting a stop on the blog tour of new book Valentina by Cristina Hodgson.

Chantelle Rose is back. She has lived a fairytale. But will she ever get her Happy Ever After?
To find true happiness, she must discover who Robbie and Lionel really are. Their past holds the key to her future.
Her quest follows a trail that takes her to the depths of the Pampas lands of Argentina.
There, the beautiful Valentina awaits – and holds the key.
But who is Valentina? What is the mystery surrounding her?
And why is she so important to both Robbie and Lionel?
Will Chantelle discover the truth? And, more importantly, will she discover her destiny and the fidelity in her own heart?

My thoughts:

I haven’t read book one, but this works fairly well on it’s own merits. It’s a bit of an adventure story where the heroine, Chantelle Rose, must undertake a search into her past and also find out about some mysterious figures, including the titular Valentina.

Currently only available as an e-book, this isn’t a hard or overly long read, meaning you could happily read it on your daily commutes.

I enjoyed it, it was refreshing to read an adventure by a woman.

About the author:

Cristina Hodgson, mother of two, born in Wimbledon, London, currently lives in southern Spain. Cristina had a long career in sport, reaching national and international level and still actively participates in Triathlon races and enjoys outdoor activities. In her spare time she also enjoys reading and writing. She won a sports scholarship to Boston College. After a period in Boston, she returned to the UK and graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sports Science.

For more updates from Cristina Hodgson, follow her:

Facebook

Twitter

website

Get Fit with Cris; reading and running fun

Newsletter

Get the book:

VALENTINA: (Book II of the Chantelle Rose Series)

A LITTLE OF CHANTELLE ROSE(Book 1 of the Chantelle Rose Series)

SIMPLY ANNA

Giveaway:

Win a signed copy of Cristina’s Simply Anna.

Check out the rest of the tour:

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: The Hidden Bones by Nicola Ford

9780749023621 hidden bones hb wb

Written by a real life archaeologist this crime novel takes place at a dig in the fictional town of Hungerbourne. After the death of Dr Gerald Hart, who began the dig back in the 70s, two archeologists, Dr David Barbrook and Clare Hills, go through his archive and revive the dig, but have they revived an unnamed killer?

After a series of accidents and deaths, Clare starts looking for the person behind all the tragedy, but are they willing to go to any lengths to close the dig?

This was really interesting to read, I actually find archeology really interesting, growing up my friend’s mum is a doctor of archeology and often had interesting pots and things in their house she was cataloguing for various museums. I would always ask about her work and she took us on trips to see projects she’d worked on on display.

So a combination of crime thriller and Bronze Age dig is right up my alley. Ford (aka Dr Nick Shashall) manages to get the balance between fictional crime and real scientific information right. I loved the behind the scenes at the British Museum, a place I love and would really enjoy delving behind the displays.

It also taps into the history of cursed archeological explorations, even referencing the Cartwright Tutankhamum curse. I’m also fascinated by English folklore and mythology, which this particular “curse” references.

Altogether, this is a really great first novel, and I look forward to the next in the series.

If you’d like to know more or see what other readers think, my review was part of the book tour below.

HB blog tour banner.png

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog tour: Goose Road – Rowena House

In 1916, in France, Angelique is making Hay on her family’s farm when the postman delivers news – her father is dead. Angelique is not sorry – he was a cruel, drunkard of a man – but she is deeply relieved her brother, Pascal, is still alive. She makes a promise – then and there – that the farm will remain exactly the same until he beloved brother returns home. She hopes, desperately, that if nothing changes at home, he won’t either.

Of course, nothing goes to plan. The harvest is ruined by a storm, her mother falls ill and the bailiffs arrive, ready to repossess the farm after her father has gambled it away. Angelique sets off with her treasured flock of Toulouse geese to sell them to make enough money to save her family home and await her brother’s return…….

About the author;

Rowena studied journalism at LSE and spent several years on Fleet Street, reporting for various news agencies. She has lived and worked in France, Africa and Belgium as a Reuter’s foreign correspondent and covered the fall of Addis Ababa at the end of Ethiopia’s 30-year civil war. She now lives in Devon and works as a freelance journalist. In 2013, Rowena won a competition run by Andersen Press, which published her winning entry, “The Marshalling of Angélique’s Geese” in War Girls, a collection of short stories about WWI as seen through the eyes of young women. The Goose Road is her novelization of that story.

Here Rowena shares her thoughts on historical fiction:

Why I love (some) historical fiction

As a reader, when I say that I love historical fiction what I mostly mean is that of all the novels I’ve ever read, my favourites tend to be set in the past.

That doesn’t mean I only read historical fiction. I like detective stories as well. Sherlock Holmes and Raymond Chandler, especially, which just happen to be set in the past.

I like some Sci-Fi and fantasy writers, too: Larry Niven, Tolkien, Terry Pratchett.

So I find it odd when someone assures me they don’t like historical fiction as if it’s all one and the same. How do they know beforehand what book will capture their imagination or speak to something in their souls?

Personally, I won’t ever say ‘I like this’ if it carries the implication ‘I don’t like that’.

As a writer, however, I can say with a hand on my heart that I absolutely love historical fiction. I love the research, and the honest attempt at resurrecting the past by uniting insight and imagination with that research.

Historians when faced with gaps in their knowledge must rely on evidence that meets defined standards of academic rigour, ‘facts’ which they then sift and prioritize, and speculate upon, and rearrange to suit their own logic and reason – and prejudices. In that way, all histories are constructed. Fiction is just further along that line.

In particular, storytellers aren’t restricted by written records from their chosen period, with all the limitations that typically implies about the wealth, power and gender of those who did the writing.

For The Goose Road I read many books about rich, powerful men in the First World War, but I was free to write about a poor, semi-literate girl from a peasant underclass, even though I never once found a first-hand account from such a person despite months of research.

Instead I made up her life from snatches and scraps I found here and there, fleshed out with practical, personal experiments with scything hay and watching the behaviour of geese, combined with memories from my time as a journalist when I meet African girl farmers, working the hard soil by main strength with crude, manual tools.

So one thing I loved most about writing the book was giving my protagonist her strong, independent voice.

Another thing I love about historical research is the way it primes the mind for time travel. The heat and dirt, strange towns, exotic scents, hungry crowds, the fear and excitement. The ‘other’. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

When I went with my family to the labyrinthine medinas of the ancient Moroccan city of Fez, donkey trains shoved us aside in narrow streets crowded with shoppers and hawkers with their baskets of wares.

Cages of ducks, chickens and pigeons spilt out from the butcher’s shops. There were spices on stalls, fabrics, and leather goods from the stinking tanneries, their dye-pits gaudy with reds, yellows, orange and green.

The noise was constant, the faces fascinating.

Squint, and the occasional wrist watch or smart phone would disappear. Stop for sweet mint tea or mud-thick coffee, and it took no effort at all to imagine a slight alteration in clothing, a sword or a dagger worn at the belt…

Stories of the crusades sprang to mind and the tales of Scheherazade. The place felt familiar, but also more confident than I’d ever imagined: busier, buzzing, and entirely caught up with itself. The place belonged to the people. But their time was also ours, and what felt old and distant was suddenly here and now.

I experienced a similar sensation of time collapsing when exploring the muddy back-streets of the French Channel port of Étaples for The Goose Road.

A 1913 map I found in the local library showed that the old town’s layout – even the names of its twisting lanes – hadn’t changed from the days when British Empire troops and nurses walked there, and veiled widows slipped by in the shadows, and the great military trains of the First World War rattled past, carrying infantrymen to the Western Front, and the wounded to hospital.

Only ghosts from that war walk there now, but I felt them brush past me all the same.

I found the book really interesting, I’m fascinated by stories about ordinary people during extraordinary times, like this. Angelique is a farmer’s daughter who defies the odds to do something unusual and quite unprecedented.

This book has a lot of sad moments, some really tragic points, but Angelique is a strong heroine and one filled with determination, like my childhood literary hero Anne of Green Gables, stubborn and headstrong. Wartime France is not a safe place for a teenage girl and a flock of geese, including her pet gosling Armandine, travelling at times alone on trains with dodgy men or through encampments of striking munitions workers.

The writing is good, it keeps you interested and the characters are well defined. I know this isn’t written for young adult readers but I think it would appeal to any teens interested in history, especially if you enjoyed Michelle Magorian’s war books like Goodnight Mister Tom and A Little Love Song.

books, fun stuff, Illumicrate, lifestyle boxes, reviews

Illumicrate #10 Rise Up!

My lovely local Hermes courier braved the freezing weather and snow to deliver my Illumicrate, bless her.

This is a big box, so big it doesn’t have the usual logo on it – but it is packed full of books and bookish treats.

The theme is Rise Up! and the items are all about rebellion.

The book is Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyck – a female centred retelling of Spartacus, which really intrigues me as a premise. I look forward to reading this and sharing my thoughts later. There’s also an exclusive bookmark, pin and temporary tattoo.

There’s also an ARC of Sally Green’s The Smoke Thieves. I read Half Bad and thought it was interesting so I’m curious about her new series, of which this is the first book.

Now we have the box exclusives.

Fight the Darkness cushion cover by @stellabookishart – my copy of Ember in the Ashes is somewhere in my flat – until it turns up I will console myself with this bright and cheerful cover.

A Rebel’s Command List by @howstoreofficial – handy for making my lists of what books to read next.

Inimitable mug by @abbieimagine – I haven’t read the box this is inspired by but I like the design.

Daggermark by @rdashjackdotcom – this is a nice quirky bookmark but too bulky for my preferred bookmark so I’ll add it to my collection. Yes, I collect bookmarks and have done for years (I have the Brownie badge to prove it 😁).

Lunar Lip Balm by @lovely_lip_balm – a minty pot of lip balm, perfect for the current cold snap’s effect on my lips.

Phoenix magnet by @hannahhitchmanart – as I’m not a Potter fan I’ll be passing this on but it’s nice and colourful.

Bonus items are from Shatter Me, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Strange the Dreamer, Witchsign, Clean, The Hazel Wood – all either recently published or upcoming books.

I think that this was a nice mix of items from different rebellion themed novels/fandoms. Nothing really leaped out at me this time.

The books both look interesting but I might not have picked them up in a bookshop.

A solid box but not the best one I’ve had so far.

beauty, cruelty free, make up, reviews, skincare

Sey-Beaute Naturelle Lipsticks*

Sey-Beaute is an independent, cruelty free, vegan beauty range designed by an incredibly talented lady called Meghan who was inspired to start her line while studying in China and struggling with her hair health. Hailing originally from the Seychelles, but now based in the UK, Meghan went back to basics – coconut butter and other natural ingredients that have been used for years.

I was gifted a selection of gorgeous soy based lipsticks to test as well as a tub of delicious smelling watermelon body butter.

Sey-Chic is a gorgeous purple-pink, a warm toned lipstick that brings a pop of colour to my pale winter skin.

Sey-Shea is already a favourite, a rich golden nude that I wasn’t sure would work on my skintone at first, but imparts a slight shimmer in place of my more usual matte nudes.

I also have three of the Sey-slick lipsticks in purple, brown/red and dark pink. All rich, but not overwhelming shades, and you know I love a dramatic lip.

The use of shea and coconut oils mean these lipsticks are moisturising as well as pretty, taking care of my lips while looking good.

The watermelon body butter smells like summer and is made of all natural ingredients that my thirsty skin loves.

The use of natural ingredients and the cruelty free nature of these gorgeous products mean I can see Sey-Beaute becoming a firm favourite and one more people should be aware of.

Currently you can only purchase products directly from Sey-Beaute but I’m sure that will soon change and you’ll see these beauties stocked on the high street.

*this post contains gifted or sponsored items but all words and opinions are my own.

homewares, lifestyle boxes, reviews

Box of Little Lovelies*

As you probably know by now I’m a sucker for cute homewares, especially when they’re in a subscription box.

Little Lovelies is an online shop selling a selection of cute trinkets and decorative items.

The team have curated a monthly box comprising a selection of items from the shop.

At £10 this is a reasonable price considering the individual cost of the contents. The box I was sent contains 5 items.

A bone China mug

Notebook

Scented candle

Glass jewellery box

Magnet (that matches the design of the mug)

This is a lovely box and would make a good gift too. The boxes can be purchased as a one off or as a monthly subscription.

*this post contains gifted or sponsored items but all words and opinions are my own.

food, reviews

Product Review: Global Gourmet Water Urn*

This might seem like a slightly random item to review but bear with me.

I have over the years organised and hosted dozens of events from parties and lunches to corporate events and fundraisers. One of the best things to remember is to always keep people fed and watered.

And being British tea is pretty important to keep people happy.

That’s where a hot water urn comes in. This one holds quite a lot of hot water – 8.8 litres, about 35 cups.

It has safety handles and nozzle so you don’t scald yourself which is definitely an improvement on some of the dodgy old ones I’ve come across in the past and some handy indicators so you don’t have to open the lid to check the water’s hot.

I think this would be perfect for events like a charity coffee morning or to keep spectators warm at a sports event. It’s not too heavy or bulky to transport and even full isn’t too much for one person to carry or move.

All you need is some cups, tea bags or coffee and the all important milk and sugar in order to keep a crowd happy. Just don’t forget the biscuits.

*This post contains gifted or sponsored items but all words and opinions are my own.