Book Review: The Mercury Travel Club, by Helen Bridgett #TheMercuryTravelClub #BlogTour

I’m so excited to be joining The Mercury Travel Club Blog Tour today! Thanks for stopping by 😀

Publisher: RedDoor Publishing

Publication date:  16th March 2017

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Firstly, that gorgeous cover is an invitation to abandon everything else in your life and dive right in, isn’t it?! 🍹

At fifty-three years old Angela (Hargreaves) Shepherd is adjusting to life as a divorcee. The outlook is so overcast that even a meteorologist would have a hard time fathoming what happens next. Still, she does do her best to look on the bright side even though her daughter is still coming to terms with the ‘other woman’ in their lives, as is her rebellious, larger-than-life friend, Patty. Come to think of it Angela hasn’t quite got to grips with the gravity of the situation either.

It was uncomfortable to see her shuffling into a new position as her family unit is rearranged, so I was grateful to the animated widow Patty for encouraging her oldest friend to step out of the shadows by applying a firm, well-meaning shove. Instead of floundering in self-pity, sitting in her little rented house alone, swaddled in cardigans and playing skittles with the vino empties, Angelia can embrace the opportunity to paint a different scene on the now blank canvass that is the rest of her life.

Modest social engagements (except for the odd, cringe-worthy karaoke sensation) spark some unlikely friendships, as well as new ideas for short breaks to revive bookings for the humble travel agency she works for – aaaand behold – The Mercury Travel Club is born!

How terrific to watch Angela embark on her self-made destiny as she scales life’s stumbling blocks. But no tailored vacation remains unchallenged, as a calamitous streak follows her sterling efforts – it’s a miracle she returns from her travels unscathed! As themed weekends take on a mutinous life of their own via a series of impromptu interruptions, this part-time travel shop sales assistant sees her big ideas multiply and offer their own ‘unique’ rewards.

Life’s little downpours are chased away by sunny nuances throughout. I especially liked the mysterious and endearing arrival of a gnome, and other gardening curiosities, leaving Angela wondering who is behind the sentimental helper. Seeing the people at the centre of her world breaking out of their own cocoons was inspiring too.

I’m delighted to have hopped on board this gentle-paced journey to follow the personal itinerary of our narrator, courtesy of The Mercury Travel Club. An array of unscheduled stops en route allow her to rediscover the little things that truly matter to reinforce that somehow, someway, life can reflect a contented symmetry once more.  

Lighthearted, entertaining, and a genuinely lovely read.

Rating:    4/5

(I received an advanced paperback copy of this title from the publisher, and it is my pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)

mercury-club-book-summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

‘Hi, I’m Angela. My husband ran off with the caterer we hired for our daughter’s graduation party. Pleased to meet you.’

Meet Angie Shepherd who, after 24 years and 11 months of marriage, finds herself divorced and driven by friends and family to move on. From hangover to makeover, Angie steps firmly away from the sensible knitwear, and launches into every adventure on offer from baking classes and book groups, to speed dating, and even ‘The Granny-Okes’, a 1980’s tribute act and YouTube sensation.

But Angie needs more than a bar of galaxy and a night in with Murder She Wrote… what she dreams of is entrepreneurial success. Channelling her inner Richard Branson, the light bulb moment happens: it’s time to take the plunge and invest her divorce settlement into The Mercury Travel Club, an exciting new business venture. But as the Travel Club gets going, things don’t go according to plan, and in this digital age a little chaos brings the fame she s been looking for.

Set in present-day Manchester, this classic mid-life journey features the 1980’s soundtrack from Angie’s youth, and sees her travel the world whilst coping with life after the Ex. Angie’s journey is the catalyst her friends need to examine their own lives; as they start to find their true callings, will Angie find hers? Witty, entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, this feel-good debut novel shows it s never too late for a second chance.

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Helen Bridgett was born in the North-East and now lives in Manchester having stopped off at a few places in between. Following a career in Marketing, Helen took an MA in TV and Radio Script-writing and created short films before writing her first novel. She loves nothing more than a glass of wine and witty banter with friends; her love of dialogue feeds into her work and has given her the perfect excuse to eavesdrop on conversations. Helen lives with her husband and their chocolate Labrador, Angus; all three can often be found wandering the Cumbrian hills or in country pubs.

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THANK YOU FOR TRAVELLING WITH THE MERCURY TRAVEL CLUB. WE HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED TODAY’S STOP  🎵 🎤 🎶

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Book Review: Mystery at Maplemead Castle (Chapelwick Mysteries #2), by Kitty French

Publisher:  Bookouture

Publication date:  17th March 2017

The Mystery at Maplemead Castle is a place where ghouls rule and rival ghost whisperers duel. It’s bursting with personality, non-stop hilarity, and the eccentricities are just tripping off the page!

Chapelwick is the home of the Bittersweets, no nonsense ladies with an intuition for all things other-worldly.  There’s the champagne flute wielding grandmother, a pancake flipping mother, a converse wearing daughter and her dog she lovingly named after a fictional vampire (I’m 100% convinced that pooch could have his own series!)

Melody might be the youngest of the clan but she has fiercely inherited her ‘gift’ from a long line of independent Bittersweet women. She embraces a contented sense of fashion offset by a lack of passion sense, at least where recurring mania for the journo-inferno that ‘lights her fire’ is concerned. Yes, self-control reaches breaking point as the Melody/Fletcher connection becomes feverishly intense and risqué humour positively thrives with their dialogue exchanges.

When she isn’t failing spectacularly at applying ‘Fletcher Gunn avoidance tactics’, Melody can be found sniffing out baked goodies faster than her one-eared, keg-bellied pug, Lestat, or chasing the next peculiar presence with her ghostbusting fellowship, who are every bit as quirky as she is.

They’re a cracking bunch of individuals, with the stress on individual! A strong cast is needed to cope with the unwanted, wisecracking visitors residing Maplemead Castle, and I’m not talking about the American couple who bought the property over the internet!

What I love about the Chapelwick Mysteries is in addition to the funnies is a compassion shown for the tormented souls who linger to replay the most traumatic moment of their life. The ‘troupe’ of lodgers this time provides an assembly of raw emotions. Despite their poltergeist activities and sardonic retorts when acquainting themselves with the new people that come and go, they are driven by their own tragedy, eternally trapped by the final moment of the end of their lives.

Melody, for all her unintentional inappropriate timing and clumsy approach to life (and death!) situations, is compelled to delve into the source of conflict which is something other people often miss; people like her adversary and ex, Leo Dark, and his snarky devotees who Melody refers to as his ‘fem-bots’. The tottering clones make some fleeting but smashing appearances, and we are treated to a new performance from Leo altogether: is there a lighter side to Mr Dark?

Miss Bittersweet may be a tad unsubtle at times, sugar-crazed certainly, and so impulsive the heckles of hindsight are frequently heard, but she’s a flurry of unpredictable fun, delivering an amusing, amorous, and pretty darn awesome diversion.

Rating:  4.5/5

You can find my review for the first Chapelwick Mystery here. You’ll may notice the cover has been re-branded since my review was written, but as I have a soft spot for the original I’ve left it exactly as it is!

(I requested a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley and it’s my pleasure to provide an unbiased review.)

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Welcome to Chapelwick, a leafy English town in the hills of Shropshire, where chocolate pecan cookies come with a helping of sabotage.
 
Maplemead Castle is crawling with ghosts, and the new owners need them gone. When Melody Bittersweet and the Girls’ Ghostbusting Agency arrive on scene, they quickly identify the troublemakers swinging from the chandeliers… literally.
 
A century ago, stunning trapeze artist Britannia Lovell plunged to her death, and has done every night since. But did she really just fall, or was there something more to her demise?
 
Forced to work with Leo Dark, her scoundrel ex, and infuriating, irresistible reporter Fletcher Gunn, Melody’s investigative powers are under strain (i.e. lost in a pink mist of lust and confusion). She needs her team on top form, but best friend Marina’s cake pipeline goes AWOL, assistant Artie’s distracted by a giant sausage roll, and the pug is scared witless by a lion.
 
Somewhere, hidden in the castle, is a heart-breaking secret, but what will it take to find it? And is there a chance it could set Britannia free, or is she doomed to repeat her last fateful act forever?
 
An utterly hilarious, gripping, spooktastic read for fans of HY Hanna, MC Beaton, Gina LaManna and Jana DeLeon.
 (Courtesy of Amazon UK. Photograph courtesy of publisher.)
 

USA Today best selling author Kitty French writes sexy, escapist romance hot enough to burn your fingers…

The USA Today best selling Lucien Knight series has been a hit around the world, and Kitty is now writing and releasing the Regular Sex series of half hour erotic reads, a weekly issue to make sure your weekend starts with a bang!

Kitty is also the disreputable alter-ego of a romantic comedy writer Kat French. She writes full time, and lives in England with her husband and two little boys.

TWITTER    FACEBOOK     WEBSITE

Book Review: Casting Off, by P I Paris

Publisher: Black and White Publishing

Publication date: 8 September 2016

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Casting Office by P I Paris - kindle CoverOh. My. Goodness. What a wonderfully spirited story that proves there is life after youth.

At its core are the residents of a Care Home in the Highlands which captures the vibrancy of Senior Citizens from all walks of life, where age is not a hindrance (providing you’re close to the facilities). Casting Off is a story with heart, humour and soul. It had everything to make me smile like a lunatic one moment, only to find I was welling up the next.

Regardless of their current situation, every individual in Casting Off holds on to their own little quirks with both hands: we hear their stories and see how tentative friendships are nurtured over time. For some, this contact is all they have as they’re among the forgotten, but not by anyone at “We Care For You” – as the staff really do.

But the seniors know how to have a chuckle too, usually at each other’s expense! Plus, one of them likes to wear their birthday suit in his less lucid moments and frequently appears in public places in it, and another likes to raise an eyebrow with innuendos over a game of chess which lead to a few cheeky scenes!

Despite their varied abilities, either physically or cognitively, they are certainly innovative especially when it comes to raising additional funds to cover the cost of the recent increase in the home fees or move to a cheaper, unfriendly care facility. Selling their knitting wares won’t offer the monetary turnover they need. So, they have to think outside the box and their solution is an adult chat line where grannies are waiting to hear your every whim and fancy.

Their bewilderment to certain ‘requests’ is priceless, with some of the more experienced residents assisting those with less confidence in their ability to talk to the callers. To be honest none of them have the foggiest as to what their own business plan entails, but what they lack in knowledge results in a truly unique service, even if they have compromised their long standing morals to do provide it.

Stepping away from their mundane entertainment routines (like the accordion playing bloke whose entire repertoire extends to just five tunes), allows them to fight their own personal battles. Like naughty kids cunningly concealing their plans from the Matron, they have an opportunity to become champions of their own destinies when small victories are won.

Sadly due to the age or frailness of the characters (in body, not resolve) it’s inevitable that some may not be present when the cover is closed for the last time. Yet their individual journeys deserve a standing ovation, as they encompass ALL the emotions to perfection without ever being mawkish. And there’s togetherness, loneliness, forgiveness, happiness, in fact it’s brimming with ‘nesses’!

This uplifting, mischievous, and brilliantly written tale is one that has left a huge impression on me, for ALL the right reasons. And the ‘Last Post’ moment was, what can I say other than… please do read it if you get the chance.

Rating:  5/5

(I received a paperback copy of this title from the publisher with my sincere thanks, and I’m delighted to offer my unbiased review in return – I didn’t believe B & W Publishing could offer yet another book that would achieve 5/5 from me, but they absolutely have! )

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(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

When the residents of a Highland care home discover that the new owners are about to substantially put up the fees, they know that dramatic action is called for. But what can a group of senior citizens possibly do against a big organisation? For Dorothy, the situation is serious. If she can t raise money she’ll have to leave all her friends, like dear Miss Ross.

In protest, the residents barricade themselves into the lounge. However, their rebellion fails, so worldly-wise Joan suggests a most unusual way to cover the rise a very naughty chat line for men who want to talk to older women in a particular way ! As their lives take a series of unexpected turns, things get increasingly out of control …

Casting Off is a hilarious, poignant tale of friendship, loyalty and sacrifice and how it’s never too late to try something new.

BUY THE BOOK – KINDLE

BUY THE BOOK – PAPERBACK

casting-off-author-profile

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

Author, playwright and journalist P I Paris lives in the Highlands of Scotland and is best known for the historical fiction and non-fiction books he wrote about the Italian chapel, built during WW2 by Italian POWs in Orkney. His contemporary novel, Men Cry Alone, broke new ground in raising the profile of domestic abuse against men.

His stage play, Casting Off, played to sell-out audiences in the autumn of 2015. The hilarious storyline is taken to new heights in this latest novel by the same name.

WEBSITE   |   PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE

BLOG TOUR – STOP PRESS MURDER by Peter Bartram: Extract, Review and FREE Novella!

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Today I’m delighted to welcome author Peter Bartram to Little Bookness Lane as part of his Stop Press Murder blog tour.

Peter has kindly provided an extract of his new Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery starring crime correspondent, Colin Crampton.

My review for Stop Press Murder follows this extract, and you can discover more about this new book and the author at the end of this post – PLUS you can download a free novella too!

Stop Press Murder Extract

An extract from Stop Press Murder, a Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery

by Peter Bartram

The mystery of Milady’s Bath Night began with a riddle and ended with a tragedy.

I was sitting at my desk in the newsroom at the Brighton Evening Chronicle, weighing up the pros and cons of putting brown sauce on my breakfast bacon sandwich, when my telephone rang.

I lifted the receiver and said: “Colin Crampton, crime correspondent.”

A man’s voice with a deep rustic drawl, which reminded me of haystacks and summer meadows, said: “If I mentioned the word ‘bunch’ what would be the first thing that came into your mind?”

I said: “Roses, as in ‘bunch of’. Red for the love of your life. Yellow to welcome home a long-lost friend. White for your grandmother’s coffin.”

“You’re not even close. Try again.”

“Girls’ hair – as in ‘tied in bunches’. Tidy when she’s ten. Tempting when she’s twenty.”

“That doesn’t count. I said ‘bunch’, singular.”

“In that case, I can offer you a bunch of fives. As in the fingers in a fist – to give you a smack in the mouth.”

Haystack voice said: “Tsk. It doesn’t pay to get tetchy with a police officer.”

The man offering me advice – and possibly a story – was Ted Wilson. He was a detective inspector in Brighton Police Force. And one of the few ‘tecs I trusted in the town. The rest of them spent more time looking for the main chance than for clues. Put it this way: if they were drinking in the same pub you wouldn’t leave your loose change on the bar.

I said: “What have you got for me? Am I going to be yelling hold the front page?”

He said: “Possibly. It’s certainly bad news.”

“The best kind.”

“You’re a cynical bastard. When I have to deliver the hard word most people don’t want to know. They’d rather shoot the messenger.”

I said: “If journalists shot the messenger they’d have to go out and find their own stories.”

He said: “You won’t have any difficulty finding this one. There’s been a killing on Palace Pier.”

I laughed. “Don’t tell me someone finally landed the jackpot on that one-armed bandit in the amusement arcade.”

“This wasn’t a three-cherries-in-a-row kind of killing. It’s a blood-on-the-floor job.”

I reached for my notebook. Flicked it open. Grabbed a pencil.

“You mean murder? I asked.

“Yes.”

“When did this happen?”

“Some time last night after the pier closed. But it wasn’t discovered until this morning. And there’s a bizarre touch.”

“Which is?”

“The body was discovered in the coconut shy.”

“And hence your riddle about ‘bunch’. You were thinking of the song I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts.”

“Yes.”

“As sung by Danny Kaye. And played endlessly on the Billy Cotton Band Show.”

Wilson chuckled. “I’d say, ‘Give the man a coconut’, if it wasn’t in bad taste.”

“Why’s that?”

“The victim was killed by a blow to the head with one.”

I scribbled a shorthand note. “Male or female?” I asked.

“Coconuts don’t have a sex.”

“The victim.”

“Male, I gather.”

“Why, ‘I gather’?”

Wilson said: “I wish I knew more. But I’ve been frozen out of this case. Tomkins has taken it.”

That wasn’t good news. Detective Superintendent Alec Tomkins hadn’t liked me since I’d run a story about a cigarette-smuggling ring he’d arrested. The three smugglers had been acquitted at Lewes Assizes when the defence pointed out that the police were unable to account for all the contraband ciggies they claimed they’d seized.

I’d written that Tomkins’ case had “gone up in smoke”. He’d accused me of insinuating the lads at the cop shop had been treating themselves to duty-free drags from the evidence. Tomkins had blustered about a writ for libel. But the chief constable made it clear he wasn’t funding a lengthy court case out of the police budget.

Instead, Tomkins settled for nurturing a life-long hatred of me.

“That explains why I didn’t know about it,” I said.

“There’s more,” Wilson said. “I’ve just heard that Tomkins tipped off Houghton more than an hour ago.”

That was worse news. Jim Houghton was my opposite number on the Evening Argus, the other paper in town. By now, he’d be at the scene of the crime with Tomkins. The two would be laughing themselves silly over the right royal stuffing they were giving me.

I said: “Thanks for the tip-off, Ted.”

“Sorry I couldn’t do it earlier. Needed to get out of the office to make this call. You’ll know why.”

The phone went dead.

I replaced the receiver with mixed feelings.

What Ted told me was enough for two paragraphs for the Midday Special edition’s “news in brief”. But Houghton would have a front-page lead in the Argus.

As soon as my news editor Frank Figgis saw the midday Argus, he’d want to know why I’d been scooped. He wouldn’t be interested in hearing that Houghton had been given an inside track by Tomkins.

Figgis wouldn’t sack me. It would be worse than that. He’d think up some creative revenge – like making me sit through endless meetings of the crime-prevention committee at the Town Hall.

Or he’d book me as the guest speaker on the “ethics of the press” at the Women’s Institute in an inaccessible Sussex village.

Or he’d make me interview a retired police-dog handler with bad breath and dandruff.

Or the dog.

To avoid any of those horrors, I had to find an angle on the story that outpaced the Argus in time for our Afternoon Extra edition. That meant I had three hours to turn the story around.

I grabbed my notebook and headed for the door.

The bacon sandwich would have to wait.

Stop Press Murder: a Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery by Peter Bartram is published by Roundfire Books.

Stop Press Murder My Review

STOPhighres

My love for the Crampton of the Chronicle Mysteries was sparked by Headline Murder in 2015. Two novellas and another novel later and still this series never fails to entertain and amuse.

Stop Press Murder continues the journalistic adventures of a newshound who is looking to impress his editor with next big scoop for the crime section of the Evening Chronicle in 1960’s Brighton.

It’s not easy to conjure an all singing, all dancing crime headline out of thin air when nothing of any notable interest appears to be happening. That is, unless your name’s Crampton. Colin Crampton. The man possesses an almost rabid journalistic gift for sniffing out the obscure. Frequently this means he takes risks by presenting an outrageous headline before his theories can be backed up which leaves him in some pretty awkward predicaments, providing oodles of entertainment for the reader.

This time, when he senses an unrelated murder on the pier and a recent theft could be connected, he finds he’s on the receiving end of a fair amount of jibes from the rival paper to discredit him. His ‘unnamed police source’ is none too happy with him either, as like a dog with a bone Colin goes above and beyond to prove there’s more to a saucy film called Milady’s Bath Night going missing from the Palace Pier and a night watchman being attacked some days later in the coconut shy with a very odd choice of weapon.

Despite his natural drive to unearth the truth no matter how deep its buried, Crampton is an exceedingly likeable reporter. He has the cheek of the devil and a keen sense of humour, although the investigative journalist that lives within can’t be tamed at times and tests the resolve of even his strongest allies! This time round he hasn’t even got the long suffering support of his Aussi girlfriend, Shirley, who has gone walkabout to contemplate the future – is she the love of his life, or is he already married to his job…

That particular question may not seem to be the most pressing of Colin’s problems presently, as there are plenty of others forming a queue to get his attention covering a multitude of unsavoury crimes, the steely gaze of an ice cold marchioness, a spy in the newsroom, or his landlady with whom he flouts every rule possible. When things look like they’ll turning ugly, he turns on the Crampton charm. There’s never a dull moment things keep buzzing along nicely indeed!

Whether he’s casually conversing with snooty aristocrats or just a bloke down the greasy spoon, Colin follows the story wherever it may take him which often leads him straight into the path of imminent danger as he uncovers people’s secrets that have been hidden for very good reason. To catch that killer headline Colin sets some very careful traps before he reaches the crescendo of this jauntily plotted mystery.

This entertainingly baffling ‘step back in time’ crime caper is ripe with a variety of situations and subtle innuendos that will no doubt raise a few chuckles. An old school investigative approach is very much alive and kicking in these days of classic telephone boxes and little MGB’s, making Stop Press Murder an absolute delight to read.

(Oh, and can be enjoyed as a standalone, should you wish.)

Rating:  5/5

(My thanks to the author for providing a copy of his new book in exchange for an unbiased review. It was a lovely surprise not only see that a snippet from my review for Headline Murder had been quoted but to find Peter had generously signed this paperback copy, which I will treasure.)

Stop Press Murder Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

FIRST, the saucy film of a nude woman bathing is stolen from a What the Butler Saw machine on Brighton’s Palace Pier. NEXT, the piers night-watchman is murdered – his body found in the coconut shy. COLIN CRAMPTON, ace reporter on the Evening Chronicle, senses a scoop when he’s the only journalist to discover a link between the two crimes. HE UNCOVERS a 50-year feud between twin sisters – one a screen siren from the days of silent movies, the other the haughty wife of an aristocrat. BUT COLIN’S investigation spirals out of control – as he RISKS HIS LIFE to land the biggest story of his career. Stop Press Murder, a Swinging Sixties mystery, has more twists and turns than a country lane. It will keep you guessing – and laughing – right to the last page.

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The Crampton of the Chronicle Mysteries…

Crampton of the Chronicle Mystery series

Stop Press Murder Author Profile

Author Peter BartramPeter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime series – which features crime reporter Colin Crampton in 1960s Brighton. Peter has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s interviewed cabinet ministers and crooks – at least the crooks usually answer the questions, he says. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. (The former is easier to get into but at least you don’t have to wear a hat with a lamp on it in the latter.)

Peter wrote 21 non-fiction books, including five ghost-written, in areas such as biography, current affairs and how-to titles, before turning to crime – and penning Headline Murder, the first novel in the Crampton series. As an appetiser for the main course, there is a selection of Crampton of the Chronicle short stories at http://www.colincrampton.com. Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.

FACEBOOK  |  COLIN CRAMPTON SHORT STORIES  |  AUTHOR WEBSITE 

Stop Press Murder Free NovellaMICL-cover-web

Read Murder in Capital LettersFOR FREE!

Murder in Capital Letters, a Crampton of the Chronicle novella, is free to download for your kindle or other e-reader at:

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE NOVELLA HERE

SHOT TWICE!: Brighton antiques dealer Freddie Hollingbourne-Smith is murdered in his workshop – and crime reporter Colin Crampton is first on the scene.

TOO MANY SUSPECTS: Colin discovers plenty had reason to kill Freddie… like thwarted beauty queen Julie Appleyard, his jilted mistress… snooty toff Sir Tunnicliffe Hogg, his persecuted neighbour… devious hard-man Harry Spittlefield, his cheated partner… not to mention fiery and passionate Isabella, his betrayed ex-wife.

CRYPTIC CLUE: Colin must puzzle out the mystery left by a small pile of printers’ type – all in capital letters – before he can finger the killer.

THE CLIMAX EXPLODES: on the famous train, the Brighton Belle. With Colin’s feisty Australian girlfriend Shirley at his side, the laughs are never far from the clues as the pair hunt down the murderer.

ENJOY!

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Book Review: The Feiquon Heist, by D C J Wardle

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing   |   Publication Date: 12th January 2016

The Feiquon Heist My Review

The Feiquon Heist Kindle CoverThe Feiquon Heist is a superbly written caper of social pecking orders, rising and falling aspirations, plus, THE most impromptu bank robbery you could ever imagine!

The would-be thieves are a funny old bunch. Each of them are brimming with truly individual traits, being quirkily charming and outwardly content with their quiet, uneventful noodle-eating day. Then why on earth would they contemplate breaking into the bank that’s paying their wages and putting food on their tables?

Following the sad passing of Old Papa Han the bank is left to recruit a new manager. Modernising the ramshackle building is a work in progress, with new staff and security measures to boot. Some employees are finding it difficult to adjust to the changes in their lives, both inside and outside the bank walls. Most are doing what they can to accept the new order of things, but sometimes that comes at a price.

Bought together through circumstance and opportunity, the gathering of kindred spirits hastily plot the crime. Considering it was based on the vaguest interpretation of an idea, which came to a security guard via a pig, the moon, and his villainous deceased aunt, you would think they would at least have a contingency plan in place, not sitting around in their underwear (don’t ask), scrambling around for plastic bags to wear on their hands as no one thought to bring gloves to prevent fingerprints being left! Little do they know, the poor little bank is already under fire from events outside their control.

That security guard is Mr Keung, who is undoubtedly the brains *coughs* behind the operation. This extraordinarily loyal employee invites both an ex-burglar and a man living with a guilty secret to share in his chaotic vision, and it feels like the best idea he’s had in ages. What is it they say about too many cooks and all that …?

Despite this shady escapade at the bank, and the wretched past that has shaped each of their lives, there’s still a politeness to the trio’s behaviour. Their story shows that occasionally there’s a good reason why some people may do a ‘bad thing’.

Sometimes it looks like things are changing because everything’s different for a while. It’s only really a change if you can look back a long way and no longer recognise where you came from.

Set in an off-the-beaten-track town in South East Asia this marvellous, warm-hearted tale has oodles of classic, standout moments, both humorous and poignant – it’s a little bit special, and I loved it.

Rating: 5/5

(Huge thanks to Kate at Authoright for arranging a  review copy of this little gem.)

The Feiquon Heist Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

“Three people, three problems, one solution. That’s why the three of us have to rob this bank. What’s more, we have to do it tonight!”

The colossal roll of thunder that roared from the night sky, close above, shaking the floor and rattling the windows in their frames did nothing to steady Kheng’s frayed nerves or suppress his increasing anxiety as he cautiously led his co-conspirators through the dark corridors of the Maklai Provincial Bank. Still, once they’d made it through to the safe room, all they had to do was take the money that they needed and make their way back out.

It was a simple plan, and would solve the ever-growing burden of problems that had been forming since Old Papa Han had passed away. It had never occurred to Kheng that his co-conspirators might have some very different ideas of their own about how the robbery should eventually play out. He was even less aware that he was far from alone in his attempts to capitalise on the evolving circumstances of recent weeks.

Deciding to plan a heist of the provincial bank in a sleepy backwater town in South East Asia wasn’t going to be the straightforward solution that Kheng had imagined, even if he did have the advantage of being the bank’s longest- serving night guard.

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The Feiquon Heist Author Bio

(Courtesy of Authoright)

DCJ Wardle is the author of humorous novels “The Feiquon Heist”, ‘Trading Vincent Crow’ and ‘Vincent Crow: Export’. In January 2013 he was author of the month on http://www.lovewriting.co.uk. Holding post-graduate qualifications in development managements as well as community water supply engineering, over the past sixteen years, he has worked in developing countries in Africa and Asia managing emergency and development programmes.

He currently lives and works in South East Asia.

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Book Review: Kitty’s Countryside Dream, by Christie Barlow

Publisher:  Bookouture   |   Publication date:  25th February 2016

Take a moment. Go on. Just look at that cover, isn’t it wonderful? All that inviting gorgeousness on the outside is only the beginning. Just wait ’til you step inside…

Kittys Countryside Dream My ReviewKittys Countryside Dream by Christine Barlow

Kitty’s Countryside Dream is a soul-boosting necessity. I have a suspicion it’s been sprinkled with a little bit of magic, as on the darkest days it’ll warm your cockles and make everything seem right with the world. And I don’t say that lightly – this is not my usual genre of book, but my mood went from grumpy to carefree in nought to sixty (pages that is!).

Life’s not been too kind to Kitty Lewis. She lost her dad when she was young and her mum recently passed away after a long illness and Kitty nursed her until the end.

Ideally she could do with a break. She’s still grieving but needs to try and move on, look for a job, heck, discovering a social life would be a start, when out of the blue our gal in the title unexpectedly inherits a chicken farm. Yes, a chicken farm!

It’s a new start, alright. But she knows as much about chickens as she does about her grandmother – a well respected, but private lady, and a relative she never knew she had.

Kitty’s apprehension to practical poultry is tackled, courtesy of Tom ‘nice on the eye’ Drew, a neighbour and her grandmother’s farm manager. Their initial introductions are met with Kitty generally falling over and planting her rear in the mud, and Tom subsequently smirking while rescuing her.

As Kitty settles into country life with all its farm yard antics on offer, she is determined to discover more about her mystery benefactor. When routinely sorting out the office, the diary of a young woman called Violet comes to light and poses more questions than answers. Kitty might muck in and get her hands dirty, but she’s edging closer to a broken heart. With the help of her characterful friends and a little detective work they try to uncover the past, but it’s a history Kitty could never prepare for.

Expect humorous learning curves, romantic confusion, and the highs and lows of life when secrets that may have died with her parents begin to bubble to the surface. So, get those wellies on and head for a new roost in the country in this delicious feel-good tale with a gorgeous soft centre – this book shows that adapting to a new life is ever easy, but if you’re willing to embrace it then anything is possible.

Rating: 4/5

(My thanks, as always, to Team Bookouture for arranging a digital copy of this book for review.)

Say hello to Snowflake, one of my nephew’s favourite Silkie chooks (one of the breeds mentioned in the book). THEY’RE SO FLUFFYYYY!!!

Kittys Countryside Dream Book Summary

(Courtesy of Amazon UK)

New home. New Life. New beginning. Love affairs can blossom in the most unlikely places…

When Kitty inherits Bluebell Lodge from her grandmother, a farm in the beautiful Staffordshire countryside, it’s time for fresh air and a fresh start. Up to her elbows in chickens and ponies, Kitty soon realises there’s an awful lot to learn about farming. Still, at least the locals seem friendly, not least her handsome neighbour Tom…

But just as Kitty is beginning to find her feet, and the possibility of love, the discovery of a long-hidden diary, by a mysterious character called Violet changes everything. Who is Violet and what is her message for Kitty? As Kitty fills in the lost pieces of her family jigsaw and discovers some shocking revelations, will her countryside dream and blossoming relationship fall to pieces? When it comes to life in the country, nothing is ever quite as it seems …

A heart warming, moving and funny tale, perfect for fans of Trisha Ashley and Cathy Bramley.

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Kittys Countryside Dream Author Bio

(Bio Courtesy of Amazon UK / Author photograph courtesy of publisher)

Christie Barlow Profile

Christie Barlow is the author of A Year in the Life of a Playground Mother, The Misadventures of a Playground Mother and Kitty’s Countryside Dream. She lives in Staffordshire with her husband, four kids, horses, chickens and a mad cocker spaniel.

Her writing career came as somewhat a surprise when she decided to write a book to teach her children a valuable life lesson and show them that they are capable of achieving their dreams. She is a Mum who wrote a book to prove to her children whatever you want to do in life go for it. The book she wrote to prove a point is now an Amazon #1 bestseller in the UK and USA.

Christie loves to hear from her readers…

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