I’ve completed my Goodreads challenge! #amreading #booklist #bookreview

So I didn’t set myself a huge target this year, but I didn’t expect to have completed it by August either. That makes me very happy.

Some people might read 20 books in a few months but I’m still pleased with this figure and hope to read quite a few more books by the end of the year.

Netgalley has been responsible for quite a few of my recent reads and I have 4 more accepted requests lined up that I will post about later.

Here is my list and links to reviews or a brief summary of my feelings for the books.

Netgalley Reads

The Hotel at Honeymoon Station – Tilly Tennant. An enjoyable and gentle romance. My 4 star Review

Chasing the Italian Dream – Jo Thomas. Brilliant summer read, I still miss the characters. My 4.5 star review

The River Between Us – Liz Fenwick. Enjoyable dual timeline though maybe not Liz Fenwick’s best work. My 4 star Review

Waste Not. Want Not – Lilac Mills. A surprising and enjoyable romance. My 5 star Review

Under the Italian Sun – Sue Moorcroft. I loved this hot romance right from the first page (not just hot because of the weather!) My 5 star review.

Writing Resourses

200 boosts for Indie Authors – Rayne Hall. A great book of tips to work through to improve your books and author career. Better for those starting out I think. 4 star

Save the cat! Writes a Novel – Jessica Brody. Very interesting way of looking at writing which I hope to try out on a new WIP very soon. 4.5 star.

Romance your brand – Zoe York. Helpful guide that makes you rethink how you should be writing a series. 4 stars

Romance books

An Island Christmas – Jenny Colgan. Enjoyable and emotional read.

Summer Kisses at Mermaid Point – Sarah Bennett. Enjoyable and heartwarming. Looking forward to revisiting soon.

The Tanglewood Teashop – Lilac Mills. Loved it so much I bought the next books straight away. Can’t wait to dive in again.

Perfect Timing – Jill Mansell. Perfect feel-good read. 5 stars.

Unpredictable Consequences of Love – Jill Mansell. Loved this book and thought about the characters long after I finished it. My review

Winter Beneath The Stars – Jo Thomas. Despite a shaky start for me I ended up loving the characters and the location was wonderful. See my review.

Christmas Wishes – Sue Moorcroft. A heart-warming Christmas read I absolutely fell in love with. My big fat 5 star review.

(I started Christmas Wishes at the end of 2020 and finished it in early 2021. I considered it one of my fav reads of 2020 but it could also be a contender for the best of 2021 reads too!)

Fantasy

Raven Storm (book 3) – Emma Miles. My only fantasy read so far this year (shocking)!

I loved this third book just as much as the first 2. Emma Miles is such an accomplished fantasy writer and I love the world and characters she has created in this series. I must review this book and get on with reading book 4 which came out a few months ago. My Review of the series so far (books 1 and 2)

Other Reads

Beginning of The End – GJ Stevens. Gripping with non-stop action and a surprising twist end. My 5 star review.

Capital Action – GJ Stevens. Entertaining thriller of a read. My 5 star review.

Wolf Hollow – Lauren Wolk. Very emotional, evocative and immersive 5 star mid-grade read.

The Circling Sky – Neil Ansell. This cover is beautiful and I love the title which reminds me of the Pink Floyd song ‘Learning to Fly’. I love the New Forest and this book helped to transport me back there. I’m grateful a fellow reviewer sent me her ARC copy once she’d finished reading it – thanks Hannah at Echoes in an Empty Room. This is a relaxing 4 star read.

My only DNF

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte. I just couldn’t get on with this classic. I got half way through but I just didn’t care enough to keep reading. More of a frustrating read than entertaining for me.

The whole reason I decided to read this was because a character in my new romance series is an English Literature Professor and he said Wuthering Heights is one of his favourite reads. Having attempted to read in myself, I’m going to have to have a chat with him as to why he chose it!

What are your views on this classic or classics in general? I just can’t seem to get on with them.

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It has been great to escape into books this year and I have enjoyed being forced to start reviewing again mainly due to my Netgalley reads. There are some books here I would still like to review, especially by indie authors as I know how important it is to get those precious reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

I’ll be back soon with a list of the books I want to read during the rest of the year including the books I still have outstanding on Netgalley.

What are your reading plans and how close are you to completing your 2021 Goodreads Challenge?

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P.S.

Talking of reviewing books, my Goodreads, Amazon and Audible book pages seem to have hit a bit of a slump. If you have read any of my books would you consider helping me out by posting a quick review? I love to read your thoughts and even a short review will really make my day. Thanks very much.

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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Time to ‘Stock Your Summer TBR’ with 99p books in multi-genre #booksale #BBNYA2021

Many of the authors who have reached the second round in this year’s BBNYA contest, which includes The Lost Sentinel, are reducing their books to just 99p for a week long sale.

Check out this list of cool multi-genre books you can add to your collection. CLick the link if you want to find out more about BBNYA (Book Bloggers Novel of the Year 2021).

During the sale I decided to discount my entire back catalogue so now could be the perfect time to add to your collection.

I hope you find some great summer reads amongst these brilliant indie authors.

Thanks to E.G. Radcliff for organising the sales page. Don’t forget to take a look and pick up some bargain books.

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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#Bookreview The Hotel at Honeymoon Station by Tilly Tennant #romance #netgalley

Here’s my latest review of an enjoyable, light-hearted romance by Tilly Tennant. This author is new to me and I look forward to reading more of her books.

Blurb

Run away to the Dorset countryside, to the sleepy village of Honeymoon, where rose-adorned thatched cottages soak up the sunlight and Emma is risking everything for a brave new start on life and love…

When Emma’s useless fiancé tells her a lie she cannot forgive, she decides enough is enough. She leaves him, quits her dead-end job and travels hundreds of miles away to the ancient village of Honeymoon in the Dorset countryside, to help her friend Tia turn the old train station into a boutique hotel.

Tia has told Emma that it will be a project, but when Emma arrives in Honeymoon and sees a weed-choked crumbling ruin, her vision of an idyllic life in Dorset begins to disintegrate. But when she meets twinkly-eyed builder Aiden in the village shop, and sparks fly between them, she can’t help but feel that the stars have for once aligned.

As work begins on the hotel, Emma and Aiden grow closer, and on sun-dappled evening walks, he tells her the secrets of the village. But there are some villagers who wish that Emma had never arrived in Honeymoon… And when Emma is involved in a terrible accident on site, and then discovers what Aiden has been keeping from her, it feels like the universe is telling her to leave Honeymoon for good. What if she was wrong to say goodbye to all that was safe and familiar? Will she ever be able to find her happy-ever-after in Honeymoon?

My Review

This was a gentle and enjoyable romance, perfect to relax and unwind to.

The main character Emma has her personal issues and hang-ups, not to mention the useless boyfriend who I couldn’t wait for her to get rid of. When she finally comes to her senses, she makes the rash decision to sell up and buy a run down train station with an old school friend. With hopes to renovate and turn it into a hotel, things don’t go as planned, especially when the builders turn out to be two hunky brothers who are single.
Emma tries to stay level headed, but her sensible nature stands in the way of happiness.

There are plenty of trials in the renovation too, including opposition from locals and the weather stands in the way of finishing the project before the money runs out.
I enjoyed being along for the renovation ride and willed Emma to allow herself the chance to be happy.

It was a satisfying story and I wish I could go and spend a romantic weekend at The Hotel at Honeymoon Station!

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC.

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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Book Review Chasing the Italian Dream by Jo Thomas #romance #netgalley

I received an ARC via Netgalley and enjoyed this book so much.

Blurb

A summer escape she’ll never forget . . .

Lucia has worked hard as a lawyer in Wales, aiming for a big promotion she hopes will shortly come her way. Finally taking a well-earned break at her grandparents’ house in southern Italy, the sunshine, lemon trees and her nonna’s mouth-watering cooking make her instantly feel at home.

But she’s shocked to learn that her grandfather is retiring from the beloved family pizzeria and will need to sell. Lucia can’t bear the thought of the place changing hands – especially when she discovers her not-quite-ex-husband Giacomo wants to take it over!

Then bad news from home forces Lucia to re-evaluate what she wants from life. Is this her chance to carry on the family tradition and finally follow her dreams?

My Review

I enjoyed this book from the very first page and spent many nights staying up too late reading it. The location comes alive and as always the descriptions of food and wine are perfect and make you long to share in the whole pizzeria experience (especially as I’ve eaten out once in almost a year and a half!).

The main characters in this book have their flaws – Lucia is very single-minded and can’t see what’s truly going on around her and her ex, Giacomo, shuts up and retreats when faced with problems instead of stating how he feels. At times this would irritate me, but I think that’s because it was obvious they were meant to be together and I just wanted that happy ever after moment for them to come asap.

The cast of characters were like good friends, especially Nonna and Nonno, and I shall miss reading about them.

This book is the perfect way to escape for a few hours, who can resist a romantic retreat to Italy?

You can pick up your copy now for just 99p ebook on Amazon

I have loved all of Jo Thomas’ books so far. Here are some more of my reviews if you need any persuading to give this author a try.

The Olive Branch

Late Summer in the vineyard

Escape to the French Farmhouse

Double review – Finding Love at The Christmas Market and Winter Beneath the Stars

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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#Bookreview The River Between Us by Liz Fenwick #romance #netgalley

I received an ARC of The River Between Us via Netgalley. It is due for publication next month – 10th June 2021.

Following the breakdown of her marriage, Theo has bought a tumbledown cottage on the banks of the river Tamar which divides Cornwall and Devon. The peace and tranquillity of Boatman’s Cottage, nestled by the water, is just what she needs to heal.

Yet soon after her arrival, Theo discovers a stash of hidden letters tied with a ribbon, untouched for more than a century. The letters – sent from the battlefields of France during WW1 – tell of a young servant from the nearby manor house, Abbotswood, and his love for a woman he was destined to lose.

As she begins to bring Boatman’s Cottage and its gardens back to life, Theo pieces together a story of star-crossed lovers played out against the river, while finding her own new path to happiness.

The River Between Us beautifully explores the mystery and secrets of a long-forgotten love affair, and will be loved by fans of Kate Morton.

My Review

I’ve read a few of Liz Fenwick’s books and enjoy her style of storytelling. I really liked how The River Between Us is split between modern day and goes back to a historical love affair set around the time of WW1. Reading the book it often felt as much a mystery as a romance. Both timelines are captured beautifully on the page. I found myself drawn to the modern day heroine, Theo, and the characters from the past. It was so interesting to unravel the story and see how people and events have some bearing on Theo’s life.

At times it did feel strange that the love element was firmly in the past. However, Theo has plenty going on in her life including a horrible ex and a mystery love affair in her own distant past.

This was a very enjoyable read. I recommend this book to those who’ve enjoyed Liz Fenwick’s unique storytelling style of mixing past and present, and those who love to unravel a mystery or two alongside their romance.

Add to your goodreads shelf

Pre-order on Amazon

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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‘The Sentinel’s Reign’ by Suzanne Rogerson

Here’s an audiobook review of the 2nd book in my Silent Sea Chronicles trilogy. Please take a look.

Colin Garrow

My Review (4 stars out of 5)

(Audiobook)

With Calissa initiated as the Sentinel, life on Kalaya is good for Tei and the exiles. But the villainous Rathnor has other ideas and Tei faces further challenges if she and her friends are to keep the peace and hold on to the magic. Rumours of a spy in their midst doesn’t help matters and Brogan comes under scrutiny as doubts are cast on his loyalty.

Expertly narrated once again by George Ellington, this is the second book in the Silent Sea Chronicles trilogy and follows on from the events last time. As with the first book, the author’s descriptive skills are on top form, creating vivid landscapes which work well as a backdrop for her characters. What I liked this time around was the way we get more of an insight into each of the characters (such as the curious dynamics…

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Opinion time. How important is location in a book? #readers #readingcommunity

I’m running a twitter opinion poll this week all about the location of novels and if they have an impact on whether you buy / read a book or not.

I’m interested because The Mermaid Hotel Romance Series is set in the fictional seaside town of Lowenporth in England. I’m using a particular county for inspiration, but so far I have avoided mentioning it in the books. It seems like a cliché to use the same locations as so many other novels, but I don’t want to put off readers who expect to know where stories are set. I also wonder if I could be missing out on a market of readers who are drawn to read anything set in a particular county.

This is where you can help me by sharing your opinion in the poll, commenting on this post and sharing this to get as much exposure as possible. Or even email me if you don’t use other forms of social media.

I’d love your help and to know your thoughts. And who knows, maybe your opinion will influence my whole book series.

Thanks for reading and voting.

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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Book Spotlight: A Distant Summer by Deborah Martin #contemporaryfiction #debut

Today’s Book Spotlight is for ‘A Distant Summer’ by Deborah Martin – contemporary fiction / women’s fiction.

Published 22 February 2021.

Note from the author

“Writing the book gave me a chance to think back about my childhood growing in Midwest USA.  We all have those moments of wondering ‘what would have happened if….’ and that was the starting point for my story.  I wanted to look at how reliving those memories can affect us and I also wanted to explore the idea that our perception of our past lives may not be as accurate as we think.”

A Distant Summer by [Deborah Martin]

‘…an evocative account of a woman’s life, from girlhood with all it’s anxieties, hopes and dreams to her adult life and it’s daily challenges. The past discovered through letters is a good device and seamlessly takes us from present day to that ‘distant summer’. Highlighted political and world events act as a back drop to the times. All contribute to an easy but satisfying read.’ Amazon Reviewer

‘A brilliant read. Written so well that you could easily picture the people and the lives they lived…’ Amazon Reviewer

Blurb

The discovery of letters from a pen pal 50 years ago pushes Elizabeth to review a past which was mostly forgotten. Against the backdrop of the tumultuous year of social unrest and politics in 1968, she was a teenager at risk of being in love with someone she had never met. Her family was in danger from the encroachment of the Vietnam war and its own internal battles. It’s a quiet farming area of Indiana where nothing seems to happen, but an accident causes a rift through the family and Elizabeth’s uncle is expunged from its history by the strict Methodist patriarch, Grandpa Ernest. Now settled in suburban Virginia with her husband and about to become a grandmother, Elizabeth is helping to clear out the family home after her father’s death. Looking back, she is taken over by a restlessness to know whether a life with the boy from the letters would have been a better path than the one she took. She yearns to discover what happened to him and to locate another childhood friend. In her quest to find them, she catches glimpses of an alternative narrative to that distant summer.

The book has just gone live on Reedsy Discovery. Check out this great review of A Distant Summer and don’t forget to upvote it.

This is a riveting contemporary fiction that draws you in from the first page through the last. – Gail Kaufman Reedsy Reviewer

About the author

Deborah Martin has drawn the setting for her debut novel, A Distant Summer, from her origins in MidWest America. Her recollections of life in a farming community feed into the characters of the story.

She’s an example of how life can take unexpected directions as she surprised herself in living most of her adult life in the UK after moving there to marry an Englishman.

Wanting to write a novel since her teens, she has taken a wandering path through a variety of jobs and hobbies before accomplishing that goal, but now hopes the next book will not take as long.

To Buy Links

A Distant Summer is available as an ebook and paperback on Amazon UK Amazon US

Add it to your Goodreads shelf

This book is on my TBR for 2021 so I will return with a book review later this year. Why not check it out now and let me know what you think.

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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Guest Post: 5 Must know Tips for Fantasy Worldbuilding #fantasy #writingtips

Over the last year I have been reading writing guides and attending the odd writing webinar. It’s always good to keep learning the craft no matter where you are in your writing journey and that’s why when Desiree offered to write a guest post for me about fantasy worldbuilding, I thought it was a great idea. Read on for some very interesting tips…

5 Must-Know Tips for Fantasy Worldbuilding

Many of the best fantasy novels are considered such because their authors have painstakingly attended to every detail of their fictional worlds — from character names to the mechanics of each battle scene. Indeed, a truly immersive piece of fantasy is no mean feat, and often requires a fine balance between fabrication and reality, smaller details and broader brushstrokes. If you’d like to learn more, have a look at the tips below!

1. Take inspiration from the titans

Reading esteemed fantasy fiction is a surefire way to learn the ropes of worldbuilding. Authors who have found success with their fictional worlds will attune you to readers’ tastes and teach you the conventions of fantasy writing. You’ll learn how the experts incorporate detail into imagined worlds, as well as tips for portraying villainous and heroic characters in the context of those worlds (not to mention you’ll see firsthand what doesn’t work as well).

We’re not suggesting you rip off Harry Potter. For starters, you’re unlikely to ever get a book deal if your book is a warmed-over version of somebody else’s work — but also, the best fantasy is always the product of a person’s unique imagination. Having knowledge of your genre will simply help you carve out your own niche (and prevent you from unintentionally writing a story that’s been done a dozen times already). You’ll be able to blend tried-and-trusted conventions with your own fresh takes for the perfect reader experience of your fantasy world.

2. Blend fantasy with reality

Fantasy is often at its most gripping when its world contains eerie parallels to the world we live in — or if our world were to take a turn for the worst. Take Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale: a macabre story exploring what life might be like if women were brutally subjugated and forced to work within the confines of childbearing. It might feel pretty far from contemporary times, but there’s no doubt that women have struggled for emancipation, and still do, in many facets of their lives — especially when it comes to bodily autonomy. In this sense, Atwood has harnessed SFF to comment on a pertinent political issue, to great effect.

Atwood’s worldbuilding is so powerful because it takes an aspect of reality to an extreme (yet comprehensible) conclusion. It’s the type of writing that makes your spine tingle because one day it might just become a reality. If you can apply this sort of connection to your own worldbuilding, you absolutely should!

3. Do your research

A lot of fantasy is inspired by a particular time period or setting. Before you attempt to counsel your readers on the technicalities of shooting a poisoned bow and arrow, or describe the minutiae of Medieval court life, you’ll need to brush up on your knowledge of the subject at play.

Sometimes it’s as simple as scrolling through a Reddit thread; other times you’ll need to consult more serious literature, especially when the topic is fairly specialized (don’t make the same mistake John Boyne did!). Research will help you write confidently about the ins and outs of how something works, or everyday life in the world you’re basing yours on. Of course, fantasy is necessarily fantastical, but your worldbuilding will fall flat if your story is located on an ancient battleship and your descriptions are completely unrealistic w/r/t how battleships operate.

All that said, if you’re a new writer, don’t go overboard with the research. You don’t have to be a complete stickler with the facts (you’re not writing a history book, after all!), and there is always opportunity to make things up — but it’s important to give your work a degree of accuracy and credibility. This way, readers won’t switch off because your story seems too bizarre to be true.

4. Remember that the devil’s in the detail

There’s a reason people don’t just love Lord of the Rings, but are committed to keeping its lore alive on internet forums and at conventions across the globe: Tolkien spent so many years developing the detailed, complex world of Middle-Earth that it has transcended the texts themselves. It’s what every fantasy writer dreams of — but that doesn’t make it easy.

If you’re secretly hankering after a devoted fanbase for your work, it’s worth putting the extra effort into details that go beyond the sweeping brushstrokes. Thoughtful character and place names are a good start, but think about how you could develop other quirky bits of information that readers can analyze, discuss, and dissect. This could be anything from architecture to flora and fauna, particular music instruments to a customary greeting; the possibilities are endless.

5. Keep it consistent

Keeping the details of your novel consistent is good advice for authors of all genres, but it’s particularly important for fantasy writers. Why? Because, again, fiction that transcends reality requires the reader to buy into the world you’re selling them — and that includes every last bit of it. Chopping and changing details will look sloppy in any piece of literature, but in fantasy could turn readers off entirely.

To that end, try to keep a document (separate from your manuscript) where you keep track of character names, places, the functions of certain objects, and other features of your lore. This might include the rules and regulations that exist in your kingdom, the historic events that have taken place there, and the makeup of its people. This way, you’ll always have something to refer back to when these details come up again — not to mention you can write faster when you don’t have to keep paging back and forth in your manuscript to hunt them down.

Hopefully, these tips will make the process of creating your fictional universe a little smoother. But the most important tip of all is to have faith that your own imagination will take you (and your characters) to exciting and unexpected places. Happy worldbuilding!

About the author of this post – Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects self-publishing authors with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories.

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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#Bookreview Waste Not, Want Not in Applewell by Lilac Mills #romance #Netgalley

I was surprised how much I loved this story, though seeing as it’s a Lilac Mills book I should have known it would be good!

Blurb

George can’t throw anything away. But he’s in danger of throwing away this opportunity to be loved…

George Nightingale is a hoarder with a house full of junk. For years he’s kept it a secret, rarely leaving his house and keeping social interactions to a minimum, but his carefully balanced system is now under threat…

Nessa Millbrook can’t wait to get settled into her new home in quaint, rural Applewell. Everyone in the village is so friendly – except her neighbour, George, who wants nothing to do with her. But Nessa isn’t one to back down from a challenge and she’s determined to win George over.

The years have taught George to shield his heart and trust no one. Yet Nessa keeps reaching out to him – does he have the courage to take a chance, and reach back?

My review

I really enjoyed Waste Not, Want Not in Applewell. It’s refreshing to read a story where the main characters are older and proves love and lust is not just for the young. I wasn’t sure how well a book whose hero is a reclusive hoarder would work, but I was happily surprised by the story and my depth of feelings towards these two lonely people.

Both George and Nessa are well-rounded and believable main characters and their kept me turning the pages. There were plenty of emotional and heart-warming moments and the ending was perfect.

The supporting cast of Applewell village are a friendly bunch and, as this is the first book in the Applewell Village Series, I’m looking forward to many more stories set there. Lilac Mills is right up there as one of my favourite romance authors.

A special mention for Sylvia the cat – she always managed to bring a smile to my face. I do love it when a character has a furry friend.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for this advance review copy.

The book is available for pre-order now on Amazon etc. Publication date 6th May 2021.

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Suzanne Rogerson – Author of epic fantasy and heart-warming romance

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