I’m thrilled to be taking part today in the blog tour for ‘A Clean Sweep’ by Audrey Davis.

 

This is a sparkling novel full of interweaving stories about a diverse and fascinating set of characters, whom we come to know through Emily, namely herself, her daughter and her book club friends and some of their partners, past and future.

Emily is the lynch pin. She’s a widow in her early fifties, content in her singleness and with plenty going on thanks to her livewire daughter and wide circle of friends. She thinks things are ordered and settled, until a chimney fire sets when she’s hosting the book club sets more than the chimney alight. Quite a lot of things start to go up in flames as she’s not the only one to face problems and upheaval in her life at this time. There are highs and lows in the action we witness, mistakes are made but on the whole put right, and so in general it’s a life-affirming and optimistic novel whilst keeping its feet firmly on the ground. Live can be tough but it can also be magical.

We are firmly and delightfully drawn in by many of the characters and it’s impossible not to become emotionally invested in them all, despite their imperfections or perhaps it’s because of them. They’re so warm, so real, so alive and all of them strong and interesting. It would be nice to meet them again – that’s a hint to the author!  

The writing is fabulous – lively, witty, clever. The book flows and sweeps us along with it. It really is a wonderfully enjoyable and inspiring novel.

 

Synopsis

A CLEAN SWEEP is a laugh-out-loud tale of love, lies and second chances.
Love comes around when you least expect it. Fifty-something widow Emily isn’t expecting romance. Nor is she expecting a hunky twenty-something chimney sweep on her doorstep.
Daughter Tabitha knows something isn’t quite right with her relationship, while her boss – Abba-loving Meryl – thinks she’s found the real deal. Are they both right, or pursuing Mr Wrong?
Emily’s sister, Celeste, has the perfect marriage … or does she? Can a fitness tracker lead her down the path to happiness or heartbreak?
Susan is single, overweight and resigned to a life of loneliness. There was the one who got away but you don’t get another try, do you?
Prepare for a rollercoaster ride of emotions in a book that will grab your heart, make you smile and wish you had a chimney to sweep.

Purchase from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2HcZrhl

Author Bio

Audrey Davis survived secondary school on the West coast of Scotland. Rubbish at science but not too bad at English, she originally wanted to be an actress but was persuaded that journalism was a safer option. Probably wise. She studied at Napier College in Edinburgh, the only place in Scotland at that time to offer a journalism course.

Her first foray into the hard-nosed newspaper world was as a junior reporter in Dumfriesshire. Duties included interviewing farmers about the prize-winning heifers to reporting on family tragedies. She persuaded her editor to let her launch an entertainment column which meant meeting the odd celebrity – or just the downright odd. From there, she moved to the loftier rank of senior reporter back in her home patch. Slightly more money, less farm animals but a higher crime rate. As Taggart would say: ‘There’s been a murrrrder!’

After a stint in London on a video magazine – yes, she is that old – Audrey moved to Singapore with her fiancé. She tried valiantly to embrace the stinking heat, humidity and lack of jobs, although she did work briefly on a magazine which was banned by the government for ‘artistic’ use of naked men’s bottoms.

Next on her adventures was a land Down Under where her main focus was raising Cost Centre One (aka firstborn) and coming to terms with the imminent arrival of Number Two. Still, she loved the Aussie way of life – BBQs, beaches and bring your own booze to restaurants – so it came as a blow when OH announced a move back to the UK. Not a job between them, the climate a possible deal breaker and an Exorcist-style vomiting infant on the flight home didn’t bode well …

Always a survivor, Audrey sought out similar-minded friends (i.e. slightly bonkers), got the children into a good school and thought about taking up writing again. Sadly, thinking about it was as far as she got, unless you count shopping lists. Then, hubby drops another bombshell. Switzerland. As in – it’s packing time again. Off to the land of cheese, chocolate, scarily efficient trains and a couple of teeny, tiny issues. Like driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and speaking a foreign language (French). The former was conquered fairly quickly (we’ll skip over the wall demolition in week two), the latter remains an ongoing battle of the hopeful against the hopeless. At least she provides amusement for the local workforce.

It wasn’t until 2016 that Audrey rediscovered her writing mojo with an online Writing Fiction course. From there, her first novel – A Clean Sweep – was born, although it took a bit longer than nine months from conception. A short, darker prequel – A Clean Break – followed, and in November 2017 she published the first in a novella trilogy, The Haunting of Hattie Hastings Part One. Part Two is published on 21 March 2018, with the conclusion following in May/June. After which she might have a wee lie down …

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/audreydavisbooks

Twitter- https://twitter.com/audbyname

I can’t understand how I’ve managed to miss such a wonderful series for so long. (Originally written by Heron Cavic, Hamilton Crane took over after his death.) But at long last I’ve discovered it, at book no. 23 in the series, so I’ve got a lot of reading to do to catch up.  I’m not complaining!

The books works perfectly as a standalone story. The long-standing characters and their relationships soon become very plain and so there’s no confusion about what’s going on. Miss Seeton, or Miss Ess as the computer insists on labelling her as, works as an artist for Scotland Yard. She has a sixth sense that appears in her pictures. She can’t see it, but The Oracle, Superintendent Delphick, knows how to translate her drawings and find the clues. He needs Miss Seeton with her sketchpad and umbrella wherever there’s a mystery that needs solving.

Miss Seeton is delightfully polite and apparently harmless, but she’s quite a force to be reckoned with. She’s clever and witty and courageous. In this story, for example, she heads up to Glastonbury Tor on her own, encounters a range of eccentrics but deals admirably with them all, and also goes up in a hot air balloon. Nothing fazes this elderly lady, although I think she’s a tiny bit scared of Martha, her housekeeper!

This is a busy book with three plot lines going on – a kidnap, a murder and a missing drugs stash – and they all weave themselves firmly around our demure heroine. Her drawings provide clues to help in solving them all. All the characters we meet are rounded and fascinating, and with the hippie, late 1970s setting in Glastonbury for much of the book we get to see some alternative interpretations of the local landscape and find out a lot about the Zodiac. All very interesting.

This is a quirky, fun novel. It’s a pleasure to read and has you chuckling every few pages at the wit and the bizarreness of the situations that Miss Seeton continually finds herself in.

The cover is classy and eye-catching (and clue-containing). All in all the book is a total delight.

 ‘A comic tale of lessons in life, love, dating and the odd samosa party’

The contents lists seems to cover every possible thing you might want to know about dating from creating a profile to telephone interviews with prospective dates to handling speed dating. And that’s only part of it.

We begin with finding out about our author. Raj is sadly divorced but is now back in the dating game. He describes himself at the beginning of the book, and claims that he’s not a writer, but that’s not true at all. He has a wonderful way with words and a wicked sense of humour. Once you’ve started reading, you just can’t stop. I’m the absolute proof of that. I’m in my fifties and have been married to the same man for thirty-two years, so you might not think this book wouldn’t appeal to me at all. However, I loved every minute of reading Raj’s entertaining anecdotes and now reckon I could hold my own on Mastermind with the specialist subject of the dating game, having investigated the process thanks to Raj! 

After meeting Raj we get the lowdown on the Indian perspective on dating, and all the extra complications that brings. We meet the all-important Aunties (matrimonial intermediaries) who make things happen, and tag along to a function introduction samosa party where the faux pas are just waiting around every corner. I love how Raj describes how internet dating is really just the digital version of a match-making Auntie. We then go through all the various stages and explore this minefield alongside our very entertaining guide. If you thought, as the author did, that internet dating was only for freaky nerdy recluses or scary cat women, you’ll soon learn otherwise. There are a lot of perfectly normal people out there who are just needing a little help to meet their Mr or Mrs Right. For them, but actually for anyone, this is a superb hands-on, slightly tongue-in-cheek account of everything, and more, you need to know.

This is short , lively cozy mystery, despite the fact that our two protagonists are retirees. Connie and Sable, who are sisters-in-law, join forces as private investigators to keep themselves busy. Sable is dragged rather unwillingly into it to start with, but she soon begins to enjoy herself and provides the tough edge and technological savvy that Connie lacks.

Their first case is looking into the disappearance of child-minder Rachel. She’s the sort of person who would never leave her clients in the lurch so there’s definitely something fishy going on. Connie and Sable relish the challenge and prove to be rather good at what they do, which includes irritating the local police force. Fortunately  DI Saffron McCue was a good childhood friend of one of Connie’s daughters, so she can’t get too cross with the well-meaning amateur detectives.

Lots happens in the story to keep both the dynamic duo and the reader on their respective toes. There’s humour, grit, confidence, doubt, triumph and terror. The plot is clever and keeps us guessing. The author’s writing style is clear and enjoyable, and she creates beautifully rounded characters for us to encounter.

An excellent start to a series which I shall be following.

My only quibble – well, I’m an editor so there has to be at least one! – is the title. I can see where it’s coming from since a child’s play area is involved in the story, and it also reflects the fact that the two ladies may be seen to be ‘playing’ at what they’re doing. But to me it doesn’t quite make sense. However, it’s catchy and concise.

I received a free copy of this book and have written this review voluntarily.

I am a great fan of cozy mysteries, as you’ve probably guessed by now. What you may not know is that I’m also equally addicted to scones. So how could I possibly resist a cozy involving scones and that’s also set in Oxford, where I spent three wonderful years as an undergraduate rather longer ago than I care to remember!

I was hooked by this book from the very start. It has a very dramatic opening: “I never thought I’d end the week facing an American with a sharp knife.” Gemma is our narrator. She owns the Little Stable Tearooms in Meadowford-on-Smythe. She’s turned her back on corporate life to follow her dream, much to her parents’ despair. But she’s sure she’s made the right choice for her. However, when the unpleasant American turns up dead outside her tearooms the next day with one of her scones stuck in his throat, then even she begins to wonder if she shouldn’t have stayed in Sydney.

She decides to investigate, helped by a group of very nosey old ladies and her own inside knowledge of Oxford, where, like me, she was a student. The police are busy hunting down the killer too, led by Devlin O’Connor, Gemma’s ex-boyfriend who was at Oxford with her. His reappearance results in a lot of mixed feelings for Gemma and definitely causes complications.

There’s a great deal of fun and clever writing in this book. It’s delightful – sweet but never cloying, and tongue-in-cheek at times but never slapstick. Extremely entertaining, it’s cozy at its most delicious. It comes with an explanation of very British terms for readers from different backgrounds, and has a glossary of those strange terms that Oxford University positively revels in. And there’s a recipe for scones too. What more could you ask for! More books in this series? Then don’t worry, there are currently four more books to enjoy, and there’s even a prequel too.

 

Oh dear, my Advent Calendar of Christmas books is proving to be somewhat sporadic. I’m in the middle of moving house, so bear with me.

coco christmas

Today’s Christmassy book is A Very Coco Christmas by Robert Bryndza. It’s a prequella (i.e. a prequel novella) to Robert’s wonderful Coco Pinchard series. If you haven’ts discovered Coco yet, then you’re missing out. She’s brilliant! (Follow her adventures in The Not So Secret Emails of Coco Pinchard, Coco Pinchard’s Big Fat Tipsy Wedding and Coco Pinchard, the Consequences of Love and Sex – all feel-good rom-coms but meat to their bones).

In A Very Coco Christmas, we meet the young Coco (Karen) Pinchard in the early days of her relationship with musician Danny. She has to part with him to head home for a family Christmas – and what a family, and what a Christmas! Those of you who have come across Coco will know that she has the most challenging of mother-in-laws in Ethel, but we discover in this novel that she had some good training for dealing with her through having to cope with her own rather awful mother.

Anything that can go wrong pretty much does, but it’s not over-the-top, just a typical less-than-perfect Christmas with the people you’re un/fortunate enough to be related to, perhaps a tad more action-packed than normal.

The story is set in 1985 and it’s like stepping back in time for any of us who were there during what has to be one of the most lively, quirky and happening decades. There’s clouds of hairspray and cigarette smoke, punks, shoulder pads, Laura Ashley fabrics and wallpaper, Joan Collins… it’s fabulous. As ever, the author’s powers of observation and attention to detail are razor-sharp and he takes us through the full gamut of our emotions.

This is Christmas book that is hilarious, touching, riveting and totally absorbing.

Rob together with Jan Bryndza has also written Lost in Crazytown, which is a humorous yet edgy novel set in Hollywood and has a wonderful, rounded, empathetic hero, Filip, whom I’d love to see in more novels. Hint!

You’ll find Rob’s books at all Amazon stores. Go on – treat yourself!

CRAZYTOWN_KindleHere’s the bright and eye-catching cover for Rob and Ján Bryndza’s Lost in Crazytown,. I asked Rob a few questions about it.

What does the cover for Lost in Crazytown tell us about the book?

It’s a very dark comedy. It’s based on our experiences working in Hollywood a couple of years ago. We lived in an apartment just off Hollywood Boulevard and I was always struck by the difference in the place during the day and night. By day it’s quite a sunny fun place, but at night the darkness falls and all the shops and bars that go unnoticed during the day open up with their seedy neon signs, and some very strange people prowl around. This kind of summed up Hollywood and our story. Scrape off the tinsel of tinsel town and what’s underneath is pretty scary.

What does it tell us about you and Ján?

Ooh, good question. I don’t know… Hopefully that we’ve written a fun entertaining book.

Was is it easy to design?

We have a super cover designer, Dan Bramall and he came up with the look of it based on discussions we had. One thing I sent him was the opening credits for the TV show Entourage, where the car cruises along Hollywood Boulevard in the dark. He went from there.

How many other cover designs did you discard on the way?

There were several variations on the final image, at first it was going to be a sign by a road and we saw different colours for the neon lights, but it pretty much stayed the same from the initial draft.

Having been through the process, what tips can you pass on about designing a cover?

Do your research. Both of your designer and what genre your book best fits into. Be prepared to spend money for the right cover. Also if your an indie author you’ll most likely have 99% of your sales through ebooks, so think of your cover as a thumbnail image – and make sure it stands out in black and white too. Your book cover will be a tiny image at first either on a computer screen or a black and white ereader, you need to make them want to click on your book and explore further!
Stop Press!
The book has been published as an ebook today! It’s a lively, entertaining novel with plenty of humour but it also takes a harsh, uncompromising look at the shallowness of Hollywood life. Very well worth a read.  Here’s the link to find it on Amazon.co.uk.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-In-Crazytown-ebook/dp/B00FQRF5ZM