Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 book awards: favourite locations

To me, one of the main strengths of a story is a great location. Whether it be the full setting of a book or one or two places within the story, if it stands-out and is memorable, it means a lot to me. I love vivid descriptions and when a location is so well described by an author that you have no trouble imagining it. When you're fully absorbed and transported to a great location in a story, I think you're onto a winner. For me, these are some of the best locations in stories for 2015 - a very varied and perhaps surprising list! 


The Little Village Series by Gervase Phinn

This is a series that I really enjoy, mainly because of the fantastic location it's set in. I'm all for books that are set in small villages - I love the community feel and the way everyone knows everyone as it creates great drama, as well as feeling comfortable and warming. Barton-in-the-Dale, the village this series is based around, is one of my favourites. There is a great mix of personalities living there and it has a real country-vibe to it, which I absolutely love. 



Pleasure Island by Anna-Lou Weatherley

I was completely surprised and taken aback by this story. I'll admit, I'd pre-judged somewhat and thought it was going to be a story that centred around sex, but it is SO much more than that. It is a clever and twisty psychological thriller that I raced through as it is so, so good. The story follows a select group of individuals who are invited by a billionaire to a luxury island. They think they are just there for an indulgent, relaxing time but what they don't know is a different, select group have paid the billionaire to watch them... think Big Brother but with less viewers and them not knowing they are being watched. Not only was it a great plot and well written, but the island itself sounded amazing... (short of the secret cameras, of course) which is why I chose it as best location. The island sounded beautiful and a real luxurious place that I could easily picture and would love to visit - once the cameras were gone! Read my full review here 


Mile High by Rebecca Chance 

This story is set in a slightly unusual location, in that it is entirely set onboard a new luxury airliner. Only the most prestigious celebrities have been invited on board for it's first flight and so, as you'd expect, major drama ensues. This was a really enjoyable story and I loved that it was set on a plane, which was the driving force of the brilliant plot. The setting really heightened the drama and was also really well described - it sounds like a blumming amazing plane! Read my full review here 

2015 book awards: funniest humour

Reading is, for me, a form of escapism. I love getting lost in different worlds and loosing myself in a good story. I also really enjoy funny stories that can instantly change your mood - they can cheer you up, help you forget the bad things happening in real life and can even make you feel more positive. These three stories are the ones that had me genuinely belly-laughing and causing people to look at me strangely when in a public place... oops!




The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood

I absolutely loved this story which had me laughing out loud from the very first page. Jessica Beam is an all-round hilarious character, the situations she lands herself in and the way she deals with them is just utterly hilarious. Kirsty Greenwood's writing captured my heart and my imagination and this is a story I well and truly fell for... I still keep thinking about it now and is one of my reading highlights of 2015. Read my full review here 



The Temp by Emily Benet 

This is an absolutely brilliant read that follows Amber, a recent graduate wanting to make her mark on the world. While she works out what to do, she flits from temp job to temp job and also dabbles in art (her passion) as she does so. This is a sharp and witty read and Emily Benet has created a fun, tongue-in-cheek story with fantastic characters.  Read my full review here




The Very Happy Afterlife of Rosie Potter (RIP) by Kate Winter

The idea for this story is so different and entertaining I was absorbed from the first word. The story follows Rosie Potter as she wakes up one day to discover she isn't actually dreaming... but she's dead. We follow Rosie as she sees her loved ones react to her death and tries to work out how she died. It might not sound like the sort of story to have laugh-out-loud moments, but it SO does. Rosie is a funny and witty main character and really takes the whole 'being dead' thing in her stride. She does exactly what you'd want to do if you found out you were dead and I enjoyed following her on her journey. There are some emotional and heart-warming moments too, but for me the humour and wit in this story stood out the most. Read my full review here 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 book awards: best foodie novels

Novels that revolve around food are one of my favourites. I love when food is the driving force of a story and there are many books that do this so well. Here are the three books that stand out to me for their fantastic food - I was drooling when reading these! 



The Dish by Stella Newman

This book is phenonomal. Seriously. I could have shortlisted it for many of my 2015 awards - humour, best main character, best romance etc as this book has it all. It is witty and brilliantly written and my only problem with it was how quickly it seemed to end! One of the stand-out features of The Dish though is the food. Oh, the food! The main character Laura is a food reviewer so is naturally passionate about food. There were so many mouth watering dishes featured in this story - Stella Newman is very talented writer and at writing delicious sounding food - have you ever thought of writing a cookbook next, Stella? The Dish is one of those books that sticks with you a long time after reading, and I would heartily recommend to anyone! Read my full review of The Dish, here


Chocolate lovers christmas
Chocolate Lover's Christmas by Carole Matthews

So. Much. Chocolate. Seriously, I have a sweet tooth but the ladies of the chocolate lover's club sure can knock back the sweet treats! This is a lovely festive story that is filled with relationships and strong friendships, but the stand-out factor for me had to be the chocolate. There were so many indulgent treats being consumed in this story that my stomach was grumbling throughout. Brownies, hot chocolates, cake... you name it, it's been given a delicious chocolatey twist. Yum! Read my full review here  

Samantha Tonge
Game of Scones by Samantha Tonge

This story was the perfect summer read. Set in Greece, it transported me to warmer climates. The location and romantic storyline are excellent, but the food for me was a winner. Who knew there were so many types of scones?! seriously, I thought it would be all cream and jam, but I was so wrong! The main character, Pippa, frequently bakes gorgeous sounding scones and tops them with ingredients I'd never think to use - think Feta and Pepper, Lemon and Yogurt... the list goes on! This fab story gave me a craving for a scone, jam and clotted cream and I loved seeing all the different ideas and versions of this indulgent treat. Foodie reading at it's best! Read my full review here 

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2015 book awards: best crime novels

2015 was the year I discovered crime novels. This time last year, I was a Women's Fiction only reader. No crime or mystery for me, thank you very much. But, thanks to blogging, this year I've discovered a whole host of brilliant new authors and books, including new genres. I've really got into crime and mystery type novels and I feel these three were the best crime or murder mystery stories that were released this year. 



Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

If I could have done, I'd have put all three of Angela Marson's DCI Kim Stone stories in this shortlist, but it wouldn't really be fair. Angela Marsons has taken the book world by storm this year, and it's so easy to see why. Not only has she released three (yes, three!) books in one year, but she has also now sold over one million copies of her books - an incredible achievement. I've loved all three of her books - they are jam-packed with grizzly murders, interesting characters and a gripping storyline. Kim Stone is a gritty, difficult main character who you still have a soft spot for because of her hardworking and (secretly) caring nature. I loved watching her develop over the course of the different stories. Silent Scream was the one that story that propelled Angela onto my radar, which is why it's one of my favourite crime stories of the year... a truly gripping, well-written and twisty crime novel. Read my review here 




Don't Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell 


Another Bookouture crime author that is doing exceptionally well. Caroline Mitchell has released two books this year - Don't Turn Around and Time to Die. Like Angela's books, I struggled to decide which to shortlist, but decided on Don't Turn Around as it was a story that absolutely absorbed me. DC Jennifer Knight is another strong female lead - feisty, determined and tough, I really enjoyed watching her solve the complex case that Don't Turn Around followed. There is a psychic, paranormal element to the story too, which provides a more unique approach to a crime story. Read my review here



The Dead Dog Day by Jackie Kabler 

This is a really interesting and different approach to a crime novel, as the genre itself is a mix of romance and crime. The story follows a murder at a TV station and I loved that aspect of it - you can clearly see that Jackie has first-hand experience in this industry and I enjoyed seeing how it linked into the crime aspect of the story. The genre mix didn't seem muddled, it actually helped drive the plot and peak my interest. This is a story I really, really liked and it kept me gripped - I was really surprised my the ending and who the killer was. Read my review here

2015 book awards: best thriller/mystery novels

Today I'm sharing the books from 2015 that I felt had the best mystery or thriller storyline. There were some amazing contenders, but these three were my firm favourites and I find myself still thinking about them now! 



 The Lie by C.L. Taylor 


This was the first book I'd read by C.L. Taylor and it's stuck with me for a long while. The story centres around Jane and flicks between present day, where she is clearly a changes person and dealing with her past, which focuses on the 'holiday of a lifetime' she was on with her close friends. Tension soon builds and you know the holiday isn't quite what they thought and I was eager to see what would unfold. I flew through this gripping story and found myself immersed in the mystery. A must read. 

Read my review here




The Broken by Tamar Cohen


I'll admit I was surprised by how much I loved this story. I'd picked it up in Waterstones without really knowing much about Tamar Cohen or the story, yet when I came to read it, it blew me away. It follows two couples who deal with the aftermath of one couple splitting and what really struck me is how this is a situation that could happen to anyone. The realistic yet tense outcome of their split hit home for me and was what really intrigued me. The Broken is a thrilling take on friendship and relationships and is full of twists and turns that leave you wondering right up until the last page exactly what is going on. I absolutely loved this story. 

Read my review here




Follow Me by Angela Clarke 


I only recently read Follow Me, but it is a firm favourite. Immaculately plotted, well written and gripping, this novel had me hooked. I loved the social media element of the story - the story revolves around the 'hashtag murderer', who uses social media to plot and conduct murders. It is a creepy and really unique way to portray murders and create suspense. 

Read my review here



Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 bookish round-up

Hello Everyone! 

First of all, I hope you had a lovely Christmas. Mine was spent with family, friends and lots of delicious food... what more could you want! Now I have a few quiet days before New Year's Eve, which I plan to spend reading, baking and just generally chilling out before I start my new job this time next week (eek!) 

With the New Year fast approaching, I wanted to do something that summarised my year in books. Now, I'll admit that I've found the idea of collating my favourite books of this year slightly stressful. There has been some absolutely amazing books and, mainly thanks to blogging, I've been so happy to discover some fantastic new authors and genres! 

Many bloggers have compiled a top 10, 20 or even gone all-out and picked their favourite book of the year... but I'm struggling. My list keeps growing and I find it hard to choose between different genres. Therefore, I've decided to do something a little different. Over the next few days I am going to be running Little Northern Soul's 2015 book awards. 

Basically, there will be lots of different categories (things like 'best romance', 'best plot twist', best thriller' etc) and I will pick my favourite three books that fit into that category. They won't be in any particular order, just the three books from that topic that I enjoyed the most. I know this is quite a long way to do it, but I think it'll be fun and will let me share with you guys lots of fantastic books!

So, keep an eye out over the next few days as I'll be starting to post my selections. I'll be posting a few of the topics each day and will be tweeting about it too. I hope you like the idea and I look forward to sharing with you all! 


Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Very Merry Christmas...


Hi Everyone! 

I can't quite believe that it's Christmas Eve! I'm now feeling super-festive and excited to spend the next few days with my loved ones. As my last Christmassy post of this year (sob!) I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite things about The Big Day.

Picture source
Food

I mean... you think of Christmas, you think food, right? I think for me Christmassy food begins a few weeks before Christmas when I'll start eating mince pies and chocolates. I love mince pies (especially homemade doused in piping hot custard) and gingerbread, Christmas chocolates (it's not Christmas unless you've had some Quality Street) and twiglets. Then it's the big day itself and the delicious Christmas dinner... turkey, lashings of graving, crunchy roast potatoes.... god, I'm drooling just thinking about it! I think this time of year is the one time when I indulge without thinking of the consequences - the gym will be there in January! 

Time to relax

I'll apologise now if you work in retail, hospitality, at a hospital or anywhere else that requires you to work just as hard over Christmas as any other time, but for me, Christmas is about taking time out of work to properly unwind and relax. I think whenever you have any time off at other times in the year, such as Summer,  you're usually busy doing things - going on holiday, enjoying the sunshine, seeing people and catching up etc. Christmas is the one holiday where I really take time out to have some 'me' time, to properly relax and refelct on the past year. Granted, it's also busy spent seeing family and friends, but I love chilling out. December is the only time of year where I'll spend a whole day on the sofa, watching films (they don't even have to be Christmas films, really!), in my Pjs and munching on chocolate. It's FAB. 


Festive themed... everything

Jumpers. Candles. Chocolates. Alcohol. Decorations. Cheeseboards. The list goes on. 
I love that during this time of year everything links to Christmas. There's the usual stuff (like I've mentioned above), but there's also those things that become festive themed and I don't really get why. Festive loo paper's one. Why do you need toilet paper with Christmas trees on? My Mum gets it every year - I don't think she thinks it's Christmas until you've wiped your bum with Christmas tree loo roll - but it just seems a little too far. It does make me laugh though, I love walking round the supermarkets and shops at this time of year and seeing all the ridiculous things that are festive, as well as the more usual and normal items that get me in the Christmas mood.


Films, Music, Books

As soon as December hits I am onto the Christmas themed music, books and films. This year I've discovered the joys of the Smooth Christmas radio station (if you haven't checked it out then go go go!) which has had me bellowing along to my fave songs for this time of year.
I've read some fab Christmas books this year (there's plenty of reviews for you to catch up on if you haven't already) but two of my faves have to be How to Stuff Up Christmas by Rosie Blake and The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson - they are both hilarious, witty and filled with festiveness. I absolutely loved them and they got me in the festive spirit!
Film-wise, I love all the Christmassy classics - Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Clause, Home Alone... but I also love watching childhood favourites. I don't know why exactly, but this time of year it always seems okay to watch films I used to love when I was younger. So far this month I've watched Anastasia (a classic), Mary Poppins (my fave), Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Cinderella. I have no regrets. 


Spending time with the people you love

That's what it's all about really, isn't it? Sure the presents are good, the food is insaneee and the decorations are beautiful, but without the people you love surrounding you those things wouldn't matter. I think Christmas is a time to appreciate those you love, and spend quality time with them. It's also a time where you can't help but reflect on people you are missing. This is our first Christmas without our Grandma and I know that it will be strange and sad, especially for my Dad, but we're trying to look at the positives and still make the day a good one. So over the next few days tell the ones you love what they mean to you, give them an extra hug and squeeze and just be happy with the ones that mean the most to you :)



I hope you have a Very Merry Christmas. I'll be posting between Christmas and New Year, but in the meantime there's plenty of reviews to catch up with. 

Merrrryyy Christmas! 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Little Northern Christmas: Book Review - Christmas at Lilac Cottage by Holly Martin


"Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…

Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen. 

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded. 

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore … 

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of? 

Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously heartwarming novel down."




I have seen so many great things being said about the White Cliff Bay series, and I can completely see why now I've finished the first in the series, Christmas at Lilac Cottage.

Holly Martin has a real talent at creating vivid, realistic characters and locations that jump off the page at you and this book is no exception to that. The story follows Penny, as she rents out the annex in her beautiful cottage to Henry and Daisy. Their relationship builds and we follow them as they get to know each other and as Henry and Daisy settle into White Cliff Bay. 

The three main characters are all brilliant. Penny is a kind, warm-hearted, yet lonely character who you immediately root for and hope that she finds the happiness that she deserves. Henry is very, very handsome - as usual Holly Martin has created a swoon-worthy male lead, described so well that you have an amazing picture of him in your head as you read the story. Daisy is also a great character - she's your typical teenage girl, but with a loveable twist. I loved watching the three of them get to know one another and become close, like a family unit. 

Now, whenever you pick up a Holly Martin book, you expect there to be a romance storyline - she is absolutely brilliant at creating sexual tension and chemistry. Christmas at Lilac Cottage more than lives up to expectation. The spark between Penny and Henry is electric and has you on edge from the beginning, willing that they act on their feelings and become a couple. 

White Cliff Bay is an absolutely amazing setting and I really fell for this location. The seaside town itself sounds lovely, with a real community feel (even if some of the residents are possibly a little too nosy!). But, it was Lilac Cottage that really captured my heart. Penny's cottage sounds so amazingly homely and cosy and, thanks to Holly's detailed descriptions of it, I felt like I'd been transported there. I built up a real picture in my head of what it would look like, and I just think it's cruel that I can't immediately pack up and move there myself! 

I absolutely loved Christmas at Lilac Cottage. It's an absorbing read that has you hooked from the first page. I enjoyed finding out more about the brilliant characters and watching their relationships play out. White Cliff Bay is a beautiful location and made me feel all cosy and Christmassy as I read. I also loved Penny's unusual career choice as an ice carver - it added another interesting layer to the story, and you can tell that Holly put in a lot of work to make sure she got the details right. 

If you're looking for a cosy, cute Christmas story to snuggle up with on the run-up to the big day, then look no further... Christmas at Lilac Cottage is the book for you! It'll be sure to make you feel festive and warm your heart. I'm now going to make a start on Snowflakes at Silver Cove, the second  book in this fab series! 

Links: 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Little Northern Christmas: Book Review - The Chocolate Lover's Christmas by Carole Matthews


"Christmas is just around the corner, but the women of The Chocolate Lovers’ Club have more to worry about than present shopping …

Lucy loves running Chocolate Heaven but she hasn't spent time with her boyfriend, Aiden in weeks. And then her ex-fiance turns up and things become even more complicated! Nadia hasn’t let herself get close to a man in a long time, yet she can’t help feeling drawn to Jacob. will he be her last chance for a happy ending? Chantal and her husband, Ted , are besotted with their baby daughter Lana – but Chantal isn’t sure that’s enough to base a marriage on. Autumn is dealing with a tragedy that has hit too close to home. But when she doesn’t get the support she needs from her fiance, will she look elsewhere for comfort?"


The Chocolate Lover's Christmas is a follow on from Carole's hugely successful books, The Chocolate Lovers Club and The Chocolate Lover's Diet. Now, although I've read a few of Carole Matthew's books (and really enjoyed them) I hadn't read these two, so I was a newcomer to the Chocolate Lover's Club... and boy am I glad I've finally found them! 

The Chocolate Lover's Christmas perfectly combines some fantastic story elements - chocolate, friendship & Christmas. It's pages of festive perfection snuggled in-between a beautiful cover. 

You don't need to have read the first two books in the series to be able to follow and understand whats happening in The Chocolate Lover's Christmas. Carole makes sure that the character's situations are explained as they are introduced, either to inform new readers (like me) or remind returning readers. 

The story follows the members of The Chocolate Lover's Club - Lucy, Nadia, Chantal & Autumn as they go through different challenges and events. I am a big fan of stories that are focussed on more than one character viewpoint, so this ticked the boxes for me. The story is told from the first person view for Lucy, but in the third person for the other characters. For the first few chapters this confused me slightly, but after a while I got used to this format and actually, really liked it. It was a different way to tell a multiple-character story, and I think it worked well. I will also mention here that I did occasionally get a little mixed up between Nadia, Chantal & Autumn as four characters, all with very busy lives, is quite a lot to keep up with and occasionally I'd begin a chapter thinking they were someone else, but after a few sentences I was quickly reminded of who's who and immersed myself in their stories. 

My favourite character was definitely Lucy. I don't know if it's because we're told her story from her point of view, or because I feel we get to know her slightly better than the others, but she was brilliant. Slightly ditzy, bubbly and immensely positive she was a character that you just immediately warmed to and rooted for. I loved hearing about her working in Chocolate Heaven (which I'll get to in a minute) and really felt for her when some of her 'big ideas' didn't quite go to plan. (I won't spoil it, but there was one scene with chocolate body paint that had me laughing out loud.) When her slimy ex-boyfriend makes a reappearance, I hoped she'd not fall for his ways and remain happy with her new boyfriend (nicknamed 'crush').  There were times I felt like shouting to her to not fall for his tricks - she's too trusting, and a little naive, for her own good. 

Now, I don't feel I can write this review without talking about Chocolate Heaven, the cafe that is at the centre of the story. It's where the women mainly get together, and plays a big part in all of their lives. The cafe itself sounds absolutely amazing, and I'm gutted that it doesn't actually exist anywhere near me (although, maybe that's a good thing for my waistline!) as it is filled with delicious sounding chocolatey treats. Think your usual cafe and then add LOTS of chocolate to the sweet treats and drinks on offer. Amazing. You can see why the women love it so much, and why Lucy is in her element working there, and it had my stomach rumbling on more than one occasion. These women sure can eat chocolate, I think in every chapter they were tucking into a different treat, but it is the driving force of the story and I loved it. 

Towards the end, they celebrate Christmas and they spend it in the most perfect way - in a remote, beautiful village in an amazing cottage, all together with plenty of drink & food (and chocolate, of course). It was a lovely way to bring the Christmassy element to the story, and had me reaching for a tin of Quality Street to feel like I was there with them. 

The Chocolate Lover's Christmas is a lovely, lovely read. It's got plenty of great characters, a fantastic sounding cafe, and lots and lots of chocolate. I mean, do you need anything else?! If you're wanting to cosy up with a good book in the run-up to Christmas, this is the one for you. It's guaranteed to pull you in and keep you thinking about it, as well as making your stomach rumble for some delicious sounding chocolate. This is one of those stories that leaves you with a happy, content feeling when you put it down and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Links: 


Friday, 18 December 2015

Blog Tour: Death in Shanghai by M J Lee


"Shanghai, 1928. The body of a blonde is washed up on the Beach of Dead Babies, in the heart of the smog-filled city. Seemingly a suicide, a closer inspection reveals a darker motive: the corpse has been weighed down, it’s lower half mutilated…and the Chinese character for ‘justice’ carved into the chest. The moment Inspector Danilov lays eyes on the dismembered body, he realises that he has an exceptional case on his hands. And when the first body is followed by another, and another, each displaying a new, bloody message, he has no option but face the truth. He is dealing with the worst kind of criminal; someone determined, twisted…and vengeful. Someone who must be caught….whatever the cost."

Death in Shanghai is the first novel in M J Lee’s Inspector Danilov series, perfect for fans of Philip Kerr.


Excerpt:


In the middle of Soochow Creek is a sandbank known by the locals as “The Beach of Dead Babies”. On a bright, cold Shanghai morning, there were no dead babies lying on it, just a dead blonde.
Inspector Danilov stamped his feet on the cobblestones of the bank, trying to force some life into his cold toes. He pulled his old coat around his thin body and searched its pockets for his tobacco tin. Blowing some warm air on his fingers, he opened the tin and rolled a cigarette with one hand. The first breaths of smoke choked his lungs, producing a series of deep, barking coughs like the alarm cries of a deer. A spit of black tar filled his mouth, the remains of the opium he had smoked the night before. He spat it out and watched it land in the mud at the edge of the creek before it was swallowed by the lapping, grey waters.
His colleague, Charles Meaker, the District Inspector from Hongkew, walked to the middle of Zhapu Bridge, scanning the area as if getting his bearings. At the centre of the bridge, Meaker located the position of the blonde stretched out on the sandbank. From a pocket, he produced a linen meas-uring tape and laid this along the stone parapet of the bridge.
After an age of measuring, a smug smile spread across his pale face. 
‘I believe it’s one of yours. It's on your side,’ he shouted. Then rolled up the measuring tape and put it back inside his jacket pocket, taking the opportunity to hitch his trousers over his large stomach.
He strolled over to Danilov on the city side of the bridge. ‘Floaters are always a nightmare. Hate ‘em meself. Looks like this one topped hersel’ upstream, and the body floated down. Enjoy it.’ He tugged at his moustache. ‘Another chance to enhance your reputation.’
Danilov took a long drag of his cigarette, savouring the bitter tang of the tobacco. ‘Thank you, Inspector Meaker, have you finished?’ He turned back looking for his new constable in the large crowd that now lined the banks. ‘Stra-chan, come here will you?’
‘It’s Straw-aaan,’ said Meaker, the “ch” is silent. But you Russians wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?’
The young detective ran up. ‘Yes, sir?’ He had a shock of black hair, an eager smile and eyes that gave away he was half-Chinese.
‘Stra-chan,’ Inspector Danilov emphasised, ‘go down to the sampans and check if anybody saw anything.’
‘Good luck with that. Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. Just do evil. That’s what this lot believe.’ Meaker mimed the actions of the three monkeys ending with an expansive gesture that took in all the watching Chinese.
Inspector Danilov ignored him. ‘Go and check them anyway. Somebody may have seen some-thing.’ Strachan began to turn away. ‘Don’t forget to send a man to the pathologist. The morgue is just across Garden Bridge on the other side of the river. Let Dr. Fang know there's a body coming in.'
‘Yes, sir, anything else, sir?’ Strachan stood to attention awaiting his orders. He was new to the detective squad, and this was his first case.
‘Hurry up, we haven’t got all day,’ said Danilov. ‘The feet feed the wolf, as we say in Minsk.’
‘Er…yes, sir, right away.’
‘I’m off back to Hongkew for a nice cuppa. Good luck with the floater, Danilov, rather you than me, heh?’ With a long, pipe-stained chuckle, Meaker twisted his moustache and walked back across the bridge to his own district.


About the author:

Martin has spent most of his adult life writing in one form or another. As a University researcher in history, he wrote pages of notes on reams of obscure topics. As a social worker with Vietnamese refugees, he wrote memoranda. And, as the creative director of an advertising agency, he has written print and press ads, tv commercials, short films and innumerable backs of cornflake packets and hotel websites. He has spent 25 years of his life working outside the North of England. In London, Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Bangkok and Shanghai, winning awards from Cannes, One Show, D&AD, New York and London Festivals, and the United Nations. Whilst working in Shanghai, he loved walking through the old quarter of that amazing city, developing the idea behind a series of crime novels featuring Inspector Pyotr Danilov, set in 1920s and 30s. When he's not writing, he splits his time between the UK and Asia, taking pleasure in playing with his daughter, practicing downhill ironing, single-handedly solving the problem of the French wine lake and wishing he were George Clooney.




Giveaway:







Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Little Northern Christmas: Gingerbread Recipe



I subscribe to Good Food magazine and each month I love flicking through the latest issue and finding new recipes. Their November edition was outstanding - brimming with fantastic sounding festive recipes that I couldn't wait to try. Top of that list were the mince pies (which I'll be blogging about soon) and their gingerbread. I LOVE gingerbread and thought this recipe sounded fairly straight forward as well as delicious, so I eagerly gave it a go. This is a straight-forward, easy-to-follow recipe that produces delicious tasting gingerbread, which really got me in the festive spirit! 


To make the gingerbread, you will need

  • 175g dark muscovado sugar
  • 85g golden syrup
  • 100g slightly salted butter
  • 350g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten



Method: 

  • Put the sugar, golden syrup and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then bubble for 1-2 mins, stirring until well combined. Set aside to cool for 10 mins.

  • Tip the flour, bicarbonate of soda and spices into a large bowl. Add the warm syrup mixture and the egg, stir to bring everything together, then gently knead in the bowl until smooth and streak-free. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least 30 mins.


  • Remove the dough from the fridge and and leave at room temperature until softened. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6 and line two baking trays with baking parchment.

  • Working with half the dough at a time (keeping the remaining dough well wrapped), roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin, keeping the dough in a rough rectangle shape.

  • Now this is the fun part! Grab some cutters and start making some shapes! I opted for stars (and also did some smaller stars to create a double-stacked star effect. 

  • Once you've cut out the pieces, line them on the tray and put in the oven.




  • How long you need to bake them depends on the size of your shapes, but I baked mine for around 10 minutes. They need to be a little darker than when they first went in, and also a bit higher. 

  • Take them out the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, they can be decorated how you wish. 

  • To decorate my stars I took a bit of a shortcut and used ready-made royal icing. All I had to do was roll it out, cut it into a star shape using a cutter, and then place it on the gingerbread. (I used a little runny icing sugar to stick the royal icing in place.) 



Then, grab a cuppa, a piece of delicious gingerbread and enjoy! Perfect :) 


Sunday, 13 December 2015

Cover Reveal: Match Me If You Can by Michelle Gorman



MATCH ME IF YOU CAN - Michele Gorman

Release date: 14th January 



Blurb: 

"What if Mr Right was just a click away?

Meet best friends Catherine, Rachel and Sarah.

Yet to find Mr Right, they’ve been settling for Mr Right Now.

But when Catherine, London’s finest matchmaker, gets the girls to join her dating site where they can rate and recommend their ex-boyfriends, they soon realise that anything could happen . . .

There’s someone for everyone, right? These best friends are about to find out for themselves!"


Aren't these covers absolutely gorgeous? I have to say I think I prefer the UK one - I love the teal green colour and the pretty heart graphic! which is your favourite? 


Little Northern Christmas: Book Review - Bella's Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson

"Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials. 

But this year things are going to be different. 

For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever. 

Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off… 

After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember… "





My festive reading is picking up quite a pace and I'm loving reading stories that are filled with Christmassy food, traditions and great characters. Bella's Christmas Bake Off more than fits into that category, it's a great Christmassy read! 


The story follows Amy as she embarks on her first Christmas alone... her husband has just left her for a younger woman, and her grown-up children are all embarking on their own Christmas adventures. Settling down for a Christmas in-front of the TV, Amy flicks on Bella's Christmas Bake-Off - a cookery programme run by the lavish and gorgeous Bella, who is actually Amy's former best friend. 

It turns out that Bella's recipes aren't hers at all, but actually Amy''s Mum's. Annoyed that Bella could so easily claim them as her own, Amy tries to make contact and ends up entering a competition to win a Christmas Day meal cooked by Bella. Deciding it would be one way to out her as a fraud, Amy goes ahead with the prize, preparing for an unusual Christmas spent cooking on TV with her former best friend, revealing to the nation how she stole her Mum's recipes. However, this doesn't go to plan when the two women meet back up and reminisce on their past friendship. 

Overall, I found this a really enjoyable and easy read. My favourite part was definitely finding out all about the TV programme, Bella's Christmas Bake Off - I loved when they were filming for Christmas Day and you got a snapshot of how busy and frantic it can be to prepare a live show, as well as getting a peek at all the different, flamboyant characters that exist in TV Land. Sue Watson explains in her 'about me' that she used to work in TV, and her experience and knowledge shines through and creates a wonderful setting for this story. 

I must say, I didn't really shine to Bella. I found her pompous and a little deluded. Even as the two women start building bridges and becoming friends again, I still didn't warm to her as much as I did Amy. When the big secret is revealed, I think it perhaps was meant to sightly explain Bella's attitude and way of life, but it didn't quite work with me. I didn't really feel sorry for her and felt the same as I had from the start. However, I actually think this is a good thing - the characters are so realistic and vivid that it means you form very clear opinions of them, so I think my dislike for Bella is an indication to Sue Watson's talent for writing brilliant stories with dominating, jump-off-the-page characters. 

I thought the plot worked really well, I liked that the story was centred around friendship rather than romance, and seeing the two women interact with each other after such a long time brought great drama. It's obvious from the off-set that something dramatic happened to stop the two being friends, Amy hints at the secret they kept and the bad thing she did, so I was eager to discover what it was. I'll admit I'd sort of guessed what the secret could be, so it didn't come as a massive shock, but I thought it added to the plot anyway and worked well. 

The pace of this story was a bit up and down for me. I found the beginning really absorbing and interesting, but towards the middle it slowed down a bit and I willed it to liven up again. Thankfully, it does and I raced through the last few chapters as I found it so funny and engaging. 

If you're looking for a fun, festive read that focuses more on friendship than romance, this is the story for you. I enjoyed that Bella's Christmas Bake Off explored the relationship between Amy and Bella, rather than being another Christmas romance novel. It made a nice change and is a breath of fresh air. It's laugh-out-loud funny at times, serious at times, but filled with drool-inducing food all the time. Perfect! 

Links: 

Friday, 11 December 2015

Blog Tour: The Accidental Guest by Tilly Tennant

"Soulmates don’t just fall from the sky… do they? 

Hannah Meadows doesn’t believe in fate or destiny, or any of the other things people reach for when they lose control of their lives. That is, until a man arrives on her doorstep on Christmas Day begging for help. Hannah’s not the sort of woman to turn her back on someone in need, but this isn’t what compels her to aid the handsome stranger, nor is it his intense dark eyes, or the inexplicable feelings she quickly develops for him. Something magical is coming her way, something that will turn her life completely upside down. 

Hannah Meadows may not believe in fate or destiny, but they seem to have other ideas…"



The Accidental Guest is a perfect festive read, bursting with bold, funny characters, delicious Christmas food and a budding romance. What more could you need? 

The story begins with Hannah, her sister Gina and Gina's teenage daughter Jess celebrating Christmas. They're opening gifts, arguing about which festive soap to watch first and preparing snowballs to be drunk while preparing the dinner. Tilly beautifully captures the essence and excitement of Christmas morning and made me SO EXCITED for the day to arrive! 

Soon, their day takes an unexpected turn as a man knocks on the door, his head covered in blood and with no memory as to why he's there. He can't remember his name, where he's from, why he got there... nothing. Although hesitant at first, the girls know he needs help so let him in and wait for an ambulance, while trying to work out who he is (and, at Jess' insistence, keep going with Christmas dinner!).  I really enjoyed seeing the different reactions to his arrival as it brilliantly showcased the various personalities between the women. 

Speaking of which, I really warmed to all the characters in this story. From the offset you gain a real insight into Hannah, Gina and Jess' relationship and the family banter between them all is so real. Most of the story is told through conversation, which pulls you in and grips you - I read this is one sitting as I was hooked! Then there's the obvious chemistry between Hannah and the stranger (who they name Tom). Hannah has a crush on him almost instantly, but this builds up, and looks to be reciprocated, throughout the story. It's made complicated by the fact he has no memory what so ever, not exactly the perfect setting for a new romance, but I still wanted to shout at them to just get on with it and kiss already!

As The Accidental Guest is the first book in the Once Upon a Winter series, it's a fairly short story. This means that the ending isn't all wrapped up as it will continue into book 2. I must admit this was the only downside to the book as I'm very impatient and was eager to find out more instantly! I'd become so invested in the characters and their journeys that I wanted to know straight away how things turn out for them. Still, I have no doubt the wait for book 2 will be worth it.. I'm already looking forward to it! 

Overall, I'd say The Accidental Guest is the perfect read for Christmas time. It's festive, funny and filled with fabulous characters - as well as an intriguing storyline. It's a vibrant and bubbly read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Bring on book 2! 


Buy Links: 

ABOUT TILLY TENNANT



Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset, the oldest of four children, but now lives in Staffordshire with a family of her own. After years of dismal and disastrous jobs, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing (she never could carry a bowl of soup without spilling a bit), she decided to indulge her passion for the written word by embarking on a degree in English and creative writing, graduating in 2009 with first class honours. She wrote her first novel in 2007 during her first summer break at university and has not stopped writing since. She also works as a freelance fiction editor, and considers herself very lucky that this enables her to read many wonderful books before the rest of the world gets them. Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn was her debut novel; published in 2014 it was an Amazon bestseller in both the UK and Australia. It was followed by Mishaps and Mistletoe and The Man Who Can't Be Moved. 


Find out more about Tilly and how to join her mailing list for news and exclusives on her website, twitter  & Facebook 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

#HarperXmas - Carmel Harrington's top 10 Christmas songs!


Today I'm delighted to welcome the fabulous Carmel Harrington back to Little Northern Soul, this time to talk all things festive! (You can read my previous interview with Carmel here). As part of #HarperXmas Carmel has shared with me her Top 10 Christmas songs... if these don't get you in the festive mood, I don't know what will! 


My Top 10 Christmas Songs


Here’s the thing, I’d love to be a broadway star. Or a popstar, a proper diva that would give Beyonce a run for her money. Maybe I could have been the 6th Spice Girl. Bookish Spice. Never mind girl power, it’s writerly power! One big problem though. My talents don’t quite back up my ambition. Now, I can hold a note or two, can even do the odd party piece which sounds decent, once a few drinks have been consumed by all listening. But I know my limits.

There’s no better time to practise your vocal acrobatics than at Christmas. I switch on Christmas FM and listen to it 24/7. Well, maybe not all night, but you get the drift. 

I adore classic anthems that make me feel warm and fuzzy and full of love for my fellow mankind. The lyrics and melodies tap into my memory bank and bang, I’m back in one of my happy places. Then there’s the big dance songs that make me jump up and throw my best moves around the kitchen table. Some of these are novelty songs, the sillier the better really, that should grate on my nerves, but somehow or other, at Christmas they work! And lastly, there’s the carols, those wonderful songs that make me feel the spirit of Christmas with every note.

Choosing my top ten for you all has been a horrendous task. I could have done a top 100. But I’ve taken it all very seriously. I’ve listened to my short list over and over, whittling it down to 19. I’ve had to drink wine and eat mince pies, to help get me through it all, but I’m ever the trooper.

Are you ready? Right, in no particular order ….



Last Christmas


I’ll admit it, I was a huge Wham fan when I was a young wan’! And this song, brings me right back to my teenage years, where I was crushing big time on Andrew Ridgely. Last Christmas is one that stands the test of time and sounds as good today as it did back then. I love that music video too, of them all frolicking in the snow. I have been a fan of the Christmas jumper and wooly festive hats and scarves ever since. Yesterday, Amelia was singing this very song at home. Another generation already a fan.


I’ll Be Home For Christmas

I don’t mind who sings this. Buble, Crosby, Bennett, Hastie, I’ll take any of them. When I hear it, I remember all the years I lived away from home. I counted down the days till Christmas Eve till I got to go home.


FairyTale Of New York


The lyrics are genius. The melody unforgettable. And the chorus one of those that everybody has to sing along to. When I hear this, I think of all the Christmas parties where at the end of the night, everyone is up on the dancefloor, arms wrapped around each other, swaying and bopping to this.

O Holy Night



I think that no matter what our religious beliefs, this carol just connects us in an emotional festive wave. Did you know that it was adapted from a French poem in 1855? I always well up when I hear this song. I’m an awful boohooer, won’t lie. So it doesn’t take much to set me off, but this song, moves me deeply. I love Mariah’s rendition. When I wrote Every Time A Bell Rings, EVERY DAY, before I started to write, I listened to this, to put me in the right frame of mind.


Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas



For me, it has to be Judy Garland’s version. One note in, and I’m back to the 1980’s, in my sitting room, on a Sunday afternoon, with Mam, Dad and my brother and sisters, watching Meet Me in St Louis. Pure nostaliga.

The Christmas Shoes




Now I know that some will argue that this is one of the worst songs ever, but I say bah, humbug scrooge to those! It’s pure cheese on toast, sweet, smaltzy with over the top sentiment. But I ADORE it!
First time I heard it, I was in the car with Mr H and it came on and I literally went into the ugly cry. Now, okay, I was pregnant and hormonal at the time, but still, that little boy just wanted to buy shoes to make his dying mama look beautiful. Oh sweet divine, I am not able. Someone buy those sparkling shoes, someone hug that little boy, someone find a cure for that dying mama! Ah here, now I’m off boohooing again. You see? Told you, I’m a disaster!


Merry Christmas Everybody



Now come on, Slade = It’s Christmas! I can still remember watching Top of the Pops as a kid and seeing these guys belting this out. And in party season, it’s one of those songs that gets us all up on the dance floor, doesn’t it? (Not that I need an excuse. I love a good bop.)


Silver Bells



Ring aling, hear them sing … sigh, I’ll admit it, I could listen to Michael Buble singing Rock a Bye Baby and it would make me, well sigh, but I adore this song. I love Dean Martin’s version and Bing Crosby’s, as they were the ones that mam always played. This song is the one I sing the most at home, when I’m just mooching about.


Do They Know It’s Christmas



I still get chills when I hear this song. I know many versions have been tried, but the original Band Aid one is the ONLY one I’m interested in. I know all the lyrics by heart, can tell you who sang which part and can remember where I was and who I was with, the first time I heard it. Which incidentally was mam and dads sitting room with John, Fiona and Shelley, my siblings. I can still remember dad in the background telling us to turn that rubbish down. And mam telling him to be quiet! Ha!


Santa Claus is Coming to Town

The only version of this I want to hear, is the one by this really cute double act called Amelia and Nate. Some might say I’m biased, but as far as I’m concerned it’s pure magic when they belt this number out. And by the way, I believe. Do you?



Wishing you all the merriest of Christmasses, full of love, joy and song!
Love,
Carmel