Saturday, 10 December 2016

Book Review: THE MINCE PIE MIX-UP BY JENNIFER JOYCE (Christmas Fiction)


‘I wish I could live your life. I’d happily swap lives with you.’
’Tis the season to be jolly but for Calvin and Judy the usual festive bickering has already begun! Judy’s convinced that her husband has it easy – no glittery wrapping paper, no playground gossip and absolutely no Christmas baking.
Calvin wishes he could trade in his obnoxious boss and dull nine-to-five job to spend more time kicking back with his kids – how hard can Judy’s life really be?
But after a magical mince pie mix-up, one thing’s for certain – by Christmas Day, life for Judy and Calvin will never be the same again. Perhaps the grass isn’t always greener after all…





Judy is a busy mum, she works as a waitress at the local tea shop, bakes mince pies and cakes to make extra money, makes costumes for the school nativity, walks the dog, shops, cooks and looks after the children - her husband Calvin thinks she complains too much and has it easy.  He thinks his life is hard with a bully of a boss, busy work schedule, driving through rush hour traffic every day.

When they get the offer to swap lives and bodies until Christmas Day by a fairy they jump at the chance.

There were some very funny moments, especially the part where Judy had to play in a football match with Calvin's mates followed by an evening drinking pints in the local pub! And Calvin had to learn very quickly to bake mince pies and cook the evening meal!

This is a quirky, funny, feel-good story.  It's about taking each other for granted.  It's about families.

A lovely festive read that put me in the Christmas spirit.  


My thanks to Net Galley and publishers Carina UK for the opportunity to read this novel.

Published in November 2015

Available to buy from Amazon UK


Check out all my Christmas Reads


Sunday, 4 December 2016

12 DAYS OF CLINK ST CHRISTMAS: SPOTLIGHT & GUEST POST: ON TRACK FOR MURDER BY STEPHEN CHILDS


As part of the 12 Days of Clink Street Christmas I am delighted to feature On Track for Murder which is set in the 1800's. Author Stephen Childs has written an exclusive and wonderful post on how Christmas was celebrated in 1889 Australia.


Book Blurb
Travelling from England to Australia in the late nineteenth century, Abigail Sergeant and her brother, Bertrand, are looking forward to their new life. Leaving behind the prejudices that would likely have seen Bertrand committed to an institution before he reached adulthood, Abigail hopes their new life will offer freedom and security.
But what awaits them on the shores of the Swan River dashes any prospects of a blissful life. A murder is committed and Abigail's family is thrown into turmoil. The evidence is damning. Only the guilty would be found standing over the body clutching the bloodied murder weapon. But something is not right. Police are convinced they have their killer. Abigail is certain they are wrong. As their one potential witness is missing, Abigail persuades the detective to allow time for a search. But that time is limited.
Chasing across Western Australia with a reluctant Constable Dunning as her chaperone, Abigail is determined to uncover the truth. If only she had an inkling of what that may be. Through deception, kidnap, sabotage and arson, Abigail finds a resolve she didn't know she possessed. Her understanding of mechanical principles surprises everyone, as does her tenacity. She turns out to be a capable young woman. But is that enough to save an innocent from injustice?

Published on 1 Sept 2015 by Clink St Publishing



GUEST POST

Dec 26 1889, Guildford, West Australia.

My dearest friend,
I write to tell of our first Christmas in the Swan colony. This truly is a strange land, yet one with which I am growing most fond.
Christmas day found the weather extremely hot. Our neighbours Mr and Mrs Wallace had invited us to supper in the evening. My brother, Bertrand and I were greatly looking forward to this. It also gave us the day to enjoy beforehand. The Wallaces sailed from England merely six years past so very much understand the love we have of the festive season. Much reminiscing was anticipated.
Well, let me tell you. Before breakfast had even begun we received a visit from Mr Ridley Dunning. He’s my fiancee, as you know, but wasn’t expected until luncheon. He came with a covered carriage and the largest picnic hamper you have ever seen. We exchanged gifts over breakfast, then Ridley insisted we embark on his surprise journey. Bertrand was beside himself with excitement. I was just glad of the company, this being our first Christmas since Father died.
We travelled along the river a short while then turned in to the most delightful open grassed area. There, on a spot beside the water under a large willow tree, we set up our picnic.
Ridley had prepared cold chicken sandwiches and potted pork in aspic with two side salads all followed with a delicious strawberry tart. All his own work, he told me. I was most impressed.
Across the river we could see grape vines growing on taught wires stretched across grassy paddocks. Ridley informed us that the owners were making wine. Very good wine apparently. Then, like magic, he produced a bottle. How delightful it was, and so refreshing as the sun beat down.
Bertrand proceeded to regale him with tales of our Christmases at home. The tree set about with glass baubles and ribbons. Candles flickering gayly. Carols beside the fire. I told him of Christmas eve last year when the snow lay deep outside and we invited the carol singers in to warm beside the fire. Oh, how I miss those times.
We had a gorgeous day, nonetheless. A further surprise was the appearance of a group of kangaroos. They came out of the bushes not fifty yards from where we sat. The oddest animals you have ever seen, they have large hind legs and hop along at terrific speeds. And their babies ride in pouches on the mother’s front. A far cry from the usual Christmas image of reindeer in the snow!
My dear friend, this may seem to top off a most unusual Christmas day, but there is more. We returned as the sun began to lower, yet the heat remained in the air. Ridley drove us directly to our neighbours. The strange grin Ridley wore should have warned me of secrets to be revealed, but I was so hot I just needed to get out of the sun.
Well, when the front door was opened I was quite taken aback. We were treated to the most amazing sight. A huge fir tree bedecked with candles, ribbons and baubles. A table ornately set with colourful decorations and a huge Yule log sporting palm tree fronds in place of holly.
And as I wiped my brow with a rather sodden handkerchief I noticed their most faithful reconstruction from home. The grate was blazing with the largest fire it could handle! All the windows needed to be opened to cope with the excess heat. But it looked beautiful.
Such a strange land.
Your friend,
Abigail.


All the authors taking part in the Christmas themed event



About Stephen Childs



Born in Ealing, West London, Stephen Childs emigrated with his family to New Zealand in the 1970s. He has enjoyed a long career in the film and television industry. After a serious health scare in 2005, Childs’ view of life changed. He briefly went into politics as a parliamentary candidate in the national elections, standing against the now New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key. The drive to pursue new challenges prompted Childs to relocate to Western Australia, where he now lives in Joondalup, north of Perth, with his family and two cats. In his spare time, Childs enjoys exploring the great Australian outdoors and studying genealogy.

Check out the advent calendar of all the other blogs taking part in the 12 Days of Clink St Christmas



Sunday, 27 November 2016

Blog Tour, Review, Extract & Giveaway: WHO KILLED THE MINCE SPY? BY MATTHEW REDFORD



I'm pleased today to be the next stop on the blog tour for Who Killed the Mince Spy?

I have an exclusive extract - my review - and a fantastic giveaway!


Published by Clink Street on 6 December 2016


Tenacious carrot, detective inspector Willie Wortell is back to reveal the deviously delicious mind behind the crime of the festive season in this hugely entertaining, and utterly unconventional, short story. 
When Mitchell the Mince Spy is horrifically murdered by being over baked in a fan oven, it falls to the Food Related Crime team to investigate this heinous act. Why was Mitchell killed? Who is the mysterious man with a long white beard and why does he carry a syringe? Why is it that the death of a mince spy smells so good?  
Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, the best food sapiens police officer, once again leads his team into a series of crazy escapades. Supported by his able homo sapiens sergeant Dorothy Knox and his less able fruit officers Oranges and Lemons, they encounter Snow White and the seven dwarf cabbages as well as having a run in with the food sapiens secret service, MI GasMark5.
With a thigh slap here, and a thigh slap there, the team know Christmas is coming as the upper classes are acting strangely - why else would there be lords a leaping, ladies dancing and maids a milking?
And if that wasn't enough, the Government Minister for the Department of Fisheries, Agriculture and Rural Trade (DAFaRT) has only gone and given the turkeys a vote on whether they are for or against Christmas.   
Let the madness begin!

Who Killed the Mince Spy is a silly, quirky short story about the investigation into the grilling and grizzly murder of a Mince Spy called Mitchell.

It is written in a very tongue in cheek way, with the head of the Food Related Crime Team a carrot called Willie Wortel and his human colleague Dorothy trying to piece together the clues.

It took me several pages to get my head round this strange combination and really start to like the characters and when I did I really enjoyed the silliness, and the play on words such as MI Gas Mark 5.

It had references to a referendum also but this time it was about turkeys being allowed to vote for or against Christmas! Very topical and quite surreal.

It is definitely a different twist on the usual murder mystery!





Extract 1: In the opening chapter Mitchell the Mince Spy meets a grizzly end, and as we move into chapter 2 - Snow White and seven dwarf cabbages - we become acquainted with food sapiens Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, his homo sapiens colleague Dorothy Know and the two fruit officers, Oranges and Lemons, who to be fair to them, are not the sharpest fruits you’ll ever meet.

It was the scientific discovery that due to genetically modified food having greater volumes of nutrients, this meant the food started to develop the ability to think, breathe and talk on their own terms. The Genetically Modified Food Sapiens Act 1955, allowed food sapiens to be released from captivity and live, work and pay taxes alongside the homo sapiens community. While food sapiens hold above average intelligence and have been able to integrate into society, they have never worked out why there is a need to slap a lump of pineapple on top of a gammon steak.
Detective Inspector Willie Wortel, carrot, and head of the Food Related Crime team had seen many a disturbing scene in his time leading the specialised unit within the police force that focused on fighting crimes which occurred within the food sapiens community. Yet even with all of his experience, the latest news he was hearing had managed to shock him to his very core.
Alongside him when the revelations were being outlined was his trusted human colleague Dorothy Knox. And while Wortel was stunned by the news, Dorothy had streams of tears rolling down her face ruining the make-up she had taken so little time to apply that morning as she raced to work.
“I have to hear this again,” said Wortel, his orange face losing some of its colour. “You are accusing Snow White of prostitution and being a drug taker?”
Oranges and Lemons, the two food sapiens officers that assisted, in the loosest possible sense, the Food Related Crime team, stared back at their boss wondering why he was having trouble absorbing their news.
“Boss, the evidence is overwhelming,” implored Lemons. “She walks alone at night, finds a house, lets herself in and shacks up with seven men, in this case, seven dwarf cabbages. And the men know she offers tricks as well as being drugged up, we’ve told you.”
Dorothy Knox let out another howl of laughter, her third in as many minutes. “Sing the song again, sing the song again,” she screeched.
Oranges gave a pained expression to his partner Lemons. He too had no idea why this was proving so hard for his senior colleagues to understand. 
“Well,” sighed Wortel. “Go on; give us the song about the druggy prostitute Snow White.”
Oranges and Lemons counted themselves in and, quite tunefully it must be said, launched into song.
“High Hoe, High Hoe,
High Hoe, High Hoe, off our face on meth we go!
With a shovel or a stick or a hashish kit!
High Hoe, High Hoe, High Hoe…”
Dorothy Knox roared once more and started banging her clenched hand on the table. “Stop it! Stop it! You’re killing me…” she screamed, tears cascading down her face quicker than white water rapids. 
For his part, DI Wortel just stood in stunned silence, amazed that these two fruit officers had managed to get through training and now, for his misfortune, were part of his team. And yet, when all was said and done, he had started to grow a little fond of them. In fact, he had even gone as far as recommending them for Taser training, although apparently, as Chief Superintendent Archibald had told him, it was against regulations to recommend officers to be shot with Tasers. 

About Matthew Redford
Born in 1980, Matthew Redford grew up with his parents and elder brother on a council
estate in Bermondsey, south-east London. He now lives in Longfield, Kent, takes masochistic pleasure in watching his favourite football team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, is a keen chess player and is planning future food related crime novels. To counterbalance the quirkiness of his crime fiction Redford is an accountant. His unconventional debut crime thriller, Addicted to Death: A Food Related Crime
Investigation was published by Clink Street Publishing last summer.
GIVEAWAY
I am thrilled that the publicists have offered a fabulous giveaway for one of FIVE e-copies of Who Killed the Mince Spy on my blog!
They can be epub or kindle format
Open Worldwide
At the end of the giveaway I will email the details of the five lucky winners to the publicists and they will send them direct to you!
Good Luck
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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Book Review: KILLER PUNCH BY AMY KORMAN (Cozy Mystery)


KILLER PUNCH
BY
AMY KORMAN

Antiques dealer Kristin Clark is ready for summer: Her friends-Holly, Sophie, and Bootsie-have been busy party-planning for the annual Tomato Show at the country club, and plotting to beat long-time nemesis, Eula, in the tennis tournament. Plus, Kristin’s now serving a famously potent Peach Punch every Thursday at her store, which will definitely lure in customers!
But when a prominent pastoral painting, a key piece of décor for the big event, disappears from the Club, everyone’s a suspect, and Kristin and her friends start sleuthing. Could the annoying Eula have stolen the pricey painting? And, is Eula violating Tomato Show rules by growing her Early Girls in the unbeatable New Jersey soil?
Meanwhile, their village is an uproar about an unsightly new Mega Wine Mart slotted to go up in a local forest (though everyone’s excited about the cheap booze). And will July be the month their decorator buddy Joe finally proposes to Sophie–if she can get her Guccis back from her shoe-stealing ex, and finish her divorce? The Killer Wasps are on the case!
The third in this fun and quirky series sees Kristin and her rich party loving friends involved in another mystery or two in the small town of Bryn Mawr.
If you enjoy light and frothy mysteries with no grisly murders, no bad language and definitely no bad sex, then you'll love this series.
This time our party girls are trying to discover who stole a painting, the owner of which is the aunt of the local dishy vet, who Kristin is trying not to think about too much, while running her antiques store.  There's also the mystery of who stabbed the local celebrity chef.
Somehow, in between sipping cocktails at the country club. shopping for the latest fashions, partying hard and dining at high class restaurants, they find the time for a little sleuthing.
Always fun to read, you don't need to have read the first two in the series to follow this story.

Available to buy from Amazon.co.uk - Amazon.com
My thanks to the author for providing me with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Book Tour/Excerpt & $25 Giveaway: SINGLE CHICAS BY SANDRA LOPEZ


Women's Fiction / Humor
Date Published:8/19/16

Perfection is a Barbie doll, and, unless you're looking for a guy with a fake smile, a hard head, and no genitalia, then you're better off NOT being perfect―Single Chicas 


Single Chicas is a collection of stories about modern Latinas being in, out, and around the zany hurdles of relationships. One woman receives strange calls from a lonely soul, another seeks advice on how to love herself, and another wakes up in a parallel universe to a man she's never met. These chicas will make painstaking effort to survive the complexities with humor and grace. Once again, López dazzles audiences with her brilliantly candid craft. Smart, witty, and funny, these stories will explore the true endurance of singlehood.


EXCERPT



#1: My Brother's Funeral

I'll never forget the day my brother gave me a stroke. Of course, being that he was my little brother, a stroke should've been classified a recurring condition by then. Instead, the most he had ever given me was a chronic eye twitch, which, now that I think about it, may have been an indicator of an on-coming stroke. But, yes, it was definitely a stroke I had when Benito (I always called him Benny) came over that day to tell me he was getting married.

My brain blew a short and my whole body went numb. I think, at one point, the world before me was engulfed in a white flash, and then somehow I ended up on the floor. When I finally got the feeling back in my jaw, the only thing I could muster to say was: "Are you a moron?" The clear answer was "yes." He was a moron. Getting married? Was he out of his freaking mind? Oh, hell yeah! Let's put aside that he was only 19, not even old enough to drink, for god sakes; let's put aside that he'd only known the girl for 6 months, at most; let's even put aside how annoying the girl was and how I couldn't stand her. Why in the hell would he want to hang himself like that? Had he forgotten that marriage is basically a prison? Had he not paid attention to all the disaster stories I'd told him? Broken marriages from all around the table, starting with our parents and going all the way to our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, to damn near everyone else we knew. It all ended the same: divorce, the blissful release from a life sentence.

"Why, Benny, why?"

"Oh, Bea, don't you even start," he retorted with a dismissive wave of his hand. "I don't want to hear your putdowns on marriage…again. I've heard them over and over and over."

"Well, have you heard that marriages basically suck the big weenie?"  

"I believe I did hear that from you, yes."

"Well, then tell me why? Why the fuck would you do something like that!?" Oh, I could feel my poor blood pressure rising. Good grief, the boy was going to give me a heart attack. I tried taking in a few calming breaths, but the whole thing was basically useless. I was in total freak-out mode. "C’mon, Benny, tell me, please, because I'm not understanding here. What, did she pull that voodoo-hoodoo crap on you? Did you crack your head on something? Have you just completely lost your mind? C'mon, you gotta give me something here."

With an easy shrug, he said, "Oh...you know."

"No, I don't know!" Okay...one, two, three...breathe. I shot him a stern glance and asked directly, "Did you knock her up?"

He looked at me accusingly, his dark eyes narrowing. "You would think that, wouldn't you?"

"Well, I don't know what else to think."

Benny shook his head with a petulant eye roll. I know that eye roll. It's the same one he pulls whenever someone tells him to pick up his socks or wash his hands. In a huff, he simply stated, "No. I didn't knock her up."

"Then why?"

"Because she's just..."

"What? Say something."

"You know..." At a loss for words, he paused then added, "she's just so...you know...great."

A literary master at work here. "Great? What's so great about her?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"That's a good answer," I inserted wryly.

"Well, I can't think with all these questions," he snapped.

"I'm sorry, do you need a minute? I mean, I know I'm throwing really hard questions at you. Worse than poking your nose or scratching your balls, evidently."

"Why you gotta be like that, huh?"

"Hey, I'm not the one ruining my life here. I'm not the one going after those little titties."  

Pulling his "talk to the hand" gesture, Benny turned to walk away.

"Furthermore," I continued, following on his ass, "she calls you forty times a day, she has you running to her every time she cries at all hours of the night, and she's dragging you to all these girly places you wouldn't be caught dead in, even if you were dead. Plus, she's annoying, she's rude, she's just plain crazy. Face it, she's nothing but a big, bi—"

"Okay, Bea, that's enough!" he yelled, twisting around to face me. For a long time, he stood there staring down at me, his nostrils flaring, his jaw tightening. I could tell he was getting pissed. What guy wouldn't? I was basically pointing out that his girl was wearing his huevos like a necklace.

"Look, bottom line: she treats you like a slave. She will ruin your life. She's gonna suck you dry 'til there's nothing left of the old Benny. Seriously, get out of this thing and go live your own life. C'mon, before it's too late."

He stood there in brooding silence for a moment, his gaze lingering on his sneakers. Then, looking back up at me in resignation, he said, "She really wants this."

"What do you want?"  

"I want to make her happy."

"But what's gonna make you happy?"

Biting his lower lip, my brother shifted awkwardly, his head hung low. He had no words.

"Benito!"

"She's already started planning with her mom," he shot out, tearing his eyes from the floor.  

"Who cares!? Just don't do it."

"But I already told her I would."

"Oh, god!"  My frustration had mounted to unbelievable heights. Oy, there go those chest pains again. The boy was definitely killing me here. But what else could I do? I swear he was as loyal as a dumb dog, and he was bound and determined to live out his days with his tail between his legs. I knew then that he wouldn't back out on her for any reason. Not even if she was kidnapped, I don't think (although that was an idea that crossed my mind.)

I stood quiet for a moment, taking long calming breaths. Then I looked up at him, disappointment drawn on my face, and said, "You're making a big mistake."

That day I told my brother not to expect me at his funeral.

About the Author




Sandra C. López is one of today's influential Latina authors in Young Adult literature. Her first novel, Esperanza: A Latina Story, was published in March 2008 WHILE she was still in college. Since then she has published several other books, including the Single Chicas series. She was named as one of "2011 Top Ten New Latino Authors to Watch" by Latino Stories, and her book, Beyond the Gardens, was a Silver Medal winner of the 2016 Global Ebook Awards in Multicultural Fiction and a finalist in the Int'l Latino Book Awards. Art, literature, and travel are her passions, and she aims to keep doing them as long as she can.


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