Posted in Rachels Random Resources

Being Netta Wilde by Hazel Ward.

An uplifting story of love, loss and second chances that celebrates friendship and human connections.

Netta Wilde was all the things Annette Grey isn’t. Netta Wilde was raw, unchecked and just a little bit rebellious. She loved The Clash and she loved being Netta Wilde.

Annette Grey is an empty, broken woman who hardly knows her own children. Of course, it’s her own fault. She’s a bad mother. An unnatural mother. At least, that’s what her ex-husband tells her.

The one thing she is good at …

the one thing that stops her from falling …

is her job.

When the unthinkable happens, Annette makes a decision that sets her on a journey of self-discovery and reinvention. Along the way, her life is filled with friends, family, dogs, and jam. Lots of jam.

Suddenly anything seems possible. Even being Netta Wilde again.

But, is she brave enough to take that final step when the secrets she keeps locked inside are never too far away?

I chose to read this novel, purely because I am a middle-aged woman who looks back to the nineties from time to time and wonders what would that girl think of who I am now? I still wear floral dresses, Doc Marten boots and big slouchy cardigans. I still listen to the same music sometimes, go to gigs and read, constantly. Of course there are times I think I’ve lost myself – that underneath the avalanche of life experience I’ve taken on a different shape. There are times life has been so difficult I haven’t been able to find the girl I was. I’m at my happiest when I’m close to her. When I feel we’re still connected. The times when I can’t find her and I feel completely lost, she’s still there. She never really goes away.

Annette Gray doesn’t know that. She thinks she’s lost her self. She’s become drab, miserable and as Gray as her name suggests. I thought it was clever to create a structure where the actual story feels dull and slow, just as Annette does. It just didn’t come alive at first. Then I realised what the author was doing. As we see flashbacks to her university days they do come alive like the bit in Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wakes from her black and white world to glorious technicolour. It isn’t surprising that she feels so drained. Under the pressure of a terrible marriage where all of her confidence was eroded, it was no surprise to me that she had lost herself. Colin, thankfully now her ex-husband, is unfortunately still playing a huge role in her life. Not only is he a spiteful bully, he has conditioned his children to treat their mother the same way. While working she has footed the bill for their life, while never getting chance to see her children or even put across what life was life was like for her. Even now they’re grown up, their Dad still influences how they feel about her.

When Netta is made redundant I worried that this was another setback for her and when Colin starts complaining about his hand-outs I worried she would crumble. However, this is where the book really does take on some colour and Annette Gray starts to find her inner Netta Wilde again. I loved the joy she found at the foodbank and the new friends she makes there. She also has time for a new hobby that brings her happiness and self-fulfilment – jam making. As a jam maker, I know the satisfaction that comes from a completed batch on the pantry shelf. Like Sophie’s mum in Peep Show, I like to give my batches quirky names that remind me of when I made them – Blair Resignation Plum and Downton Abbey Zingy Damson being two from my shelves! This new lease of life and financial upheaval really opens Netta’s eyes. She can no longer afford to subsidise Colin or her children the way she has, and when she realises she’s been taken for a ride, even more revelations come to light that made me furious. I was dying for the children to realise what a thoroughly unpleasant man Colin is. I also wanted them to see the real person Netta was, someone willing to give up her home to live more simply so she could look after others. Her fellow volunteers at the foodbank really do rally round and become the family she’s been missing for so long.

I think many women lose each themselves, because of the expectation that we’re the caregivers in life. Not just for children, but for elderly parents, disabled siblings and sick spouses. Instead of rebelling, we internalise this and blame ourselves for our rebellious and ‘unnatural’ feelings if we don’t want to do it. Often we don’t even stop and ask ourselves if the men in our family and of our age have the same expectations placed upon them. I think the book captures an experience familiar to many middle aged women. It is peopled with great characters and has a real sense of someone awakening to who they want to be for the next chapters of their life. Someone who’s still a little bit Netta Wilde of yesteryear, but brought bang up to date. The Netta Wilde for now.

Meet The Author

Hazel Ward was born in a back-to-back house in inner city Birmingham. By the time the council knocked the house flat and packed her family off to the suburbs, she was already something of a feral child who loved adventures. Swapping derelict houses and bomb pecks for green fields and gardens was a bit of a culture shock but she rose to the occasion admirably and grew up loving outdoor spaces and animals. Especially dogs, cats and horses. 

Strangely, for someone who couldn’t sit still, she also developed a ferocious reading habit and a love of words. She wrote her first novel at fifteen, along with a lot of angsty poems, and was absolutely sure she wanted to be a writer. Sadly, it all came crashing down when her seventeen-year-old self walked out of school after a spot of bother and was either too stubborn or too embarrassed to go back. It’s too long ago to remember which.  What followed was a series of mind-numbingly dull jobs that paid the bills but did little to quell the restlessness inside. 

Always a bit of a smart-arse, she eventually managed to talk herself into a successful corporate career that lasted over twenty years until, with the bills paid and the children grown up, she was able to wave it all goodbye and do the thing she’dalways wanted to do. While taking a fiction writing course she wrote a short story about a lonely woman who was being made redundant. The story eventually became her debut novel Being Netta Wilde.

Hazel still lives in Birmingham and that’s where she does most of her writing. When she’s not there, she and her partner can be found in their holiday home in Shropshire or gadding about the country in an old motorhome. Not quite feral anymore but still up for adventures. 

Social Media Links – 

https://hazelwardauthor.com

https://www.facebook.com/hazelwardauthor

https://twitter.com/hazelward

https://www.instagram.com/hazel.ward

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrmdeA7DKEXhrj6n


Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Being-Netta-Wilde-Hazel-Ward-ebook/dp/B0947351XQ

US – https://www.amazon.com/Being-Netta-Wilde-Hazel-Ward-ebook/dp/B0947351XQ

Posted in Rachels Random Resources

The Cornish Key To Happiness by Laura Briggs.

Today on the blog I’m taking part in the publication day push for the final instalment in Laura Briggs’ ‘A Little Hotel in Cornwall’ series. For the past seven books we have been following the fortunes of aspiring writer and hotel worker, Maisie. Now finally we reach the conclusion of a series of books that have been like a little ray of sunshine in a difficult year. We left Maisie in a relationship with the lovely Sidney and on the verge of celebrating her first published book.

However, past secrets return to complicate Maisie’s future with the charming in the final installment of the Cornish romance series.

Picking up where book seven left off, Maisie’s plans to celebrate her book’s thrilling news remain on hold after Sidney has vanished from Port Hewer overnight, following a brush with his secret past. His departure leaves Maisie with a head full of questions and a heart torn in two, made even worse by the rumors flying about him through the town. Where and why has he gone? Will he ever come back again? And—foremost in Maisie’s mind—was the heartache from his younger days somehow to blame for his sudden and mysterious flight?

But when Dean convinces her that Sidney may be facing a choice that could ruin his life, Maisie must set out to find him, once again leaving behind the Cornish seaside haven of Port Hewer she’s come to think of as home, and leaving behind the answer to a secret she’s been longing to know since the beginning. Not knowing when or if she’ll return, she’s taking the biggest risk with her heart so far…and the truth she discovers waiting for her at the end of her journey will make her wonder if things can ever possibly be the same as they were before.

Questions are answered, secrets are spilled, and the biggest reveal of the series is finally unveiled as A LITTLE HOTEL IN CORNWALL reaches its exciting conclusion.

Purchase Link – https://smarturl.it/cornishroad

Author Bio –

Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

Social Media Links – 

Author Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1JjeMoI

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1ME9ivJ

Posted in Rachels Random Resources

A Stargazy Night Sky by Laura Briggs.

#RachelsRandomResources #AStargazyNightSky #ALittleHotelInCornwall #BlogBlitz

At the sleepy Cornish hotel Penmarrow, there is a rare celestial event bringing new guests. The staff are tasked with hosting an astronomer’s conference to coincide with the appearance of a rare comet. Romance abounds amongst the staff as timid maid Molly is flustered by the return of charming astronomer George and seems to need a little advice on how to rekindle the spark they shared last autumn. Hotel porters Gomez and Riley are vying for the attentions of a mysterious female guest, and the eccentric ‘Megs’ Buntly pays another visit. For our main character Maisie, romance is blossoming between her and Sidney Daniels. All is well, that is aside from the small matter of some secrecy about his past. That isn’t Maisie’s only uncertainty though. She’s happy to be working at the hotel, but it’s future ownership is still up in the air and even more anticipation surrounds her manuscript which will be soon be in the hands of acquisitions editors in London. There is so much excitement about the future in the air but trepidation too. When a dramatic revelation comes to light about someone on staff, it leaves Maisie and everyone else reeling from the unexpected news. Is this the moment for the revelation Maisie has been waiting for since her Cornish journey began?

This was my first time in the Penmarrow’s universe so I had to go back and read some of the other parts – this is the 7th in the series. The best way I can describe these stories is the reading equivalent of a good Sunday night TV series, with beautiful surroundings, loveable characters and gentle storylines. There’s nothing here to frighten the horses. I felt soothed by the descriptions of the cosy hotel and the surrounding countryside. Everything about this place is restful, apart from Sidney’s mischievous terrier digging up bulbs of course. Maisie is a lovely central character to root for and as an aspiring writer I could understand her anxieties about her potential future career. What will happen if her book isn’t accepted? How much will her life change if it is?

The format was interesting too. I’ve become more aware of these short reads in my past year as a blogger. I have MS and can suffer cognitive symptoms that make reading difficult such as an inability to concentrate – I can find myself reading the same paragraph over and over till it sinks in. Or I can have physical symptoms such as optic neuritis which makes my eyes ache, sting and become blurred. As you can imagine this is very frustrating for an avid reader and in my therapy work I’ve met many other disabled people who also struggle to read. I always recommend audio books, but have found that short books like this one are also a great way for people like me to carry on enjoying stories even while feeling unwell. They can continue to enjoy the escape and when the escape is as feel-good as this it can lift the mood considerably. It really is a little gem of good-natured humour, heart-warming romance and packs a little surprise at the end for good measure. Just enough of a cliffhanger to have readers looking forward to the last instalment of Maisie’s story.

Purchase Linkhttps://smarturl.it/stargazynight

Author Bio – Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

Posted in Rachels Random Resources

Tipping Point by Emily Benet.

#blogtour #TippingPoint #RachRandomResources #TheLotusReaders

Tipping Point centres on an apartment block in Mallorca, and it’s various inhabitants. Retired couple George and Ellen have come to Mallorca with two very different expectations of how that retirement will look. George would like a secluded farmhouse inland for some peace and quiet. Ellen is more of an extravert and hopes to meet new friends, especially if they own yachts. They’re no longer busy and their differences have become even more apparent. Salva is a private investigator, here on behalf of his family who have been the victims of a property scam. However, he is distracted by his recent heartbreak; his usual work involves investigating adultery so it came as a surprise and embarrassment when he found out his own girlfriend was cheating on him. Finally, Robyn is a motivational speaker, touring round the country with her new book on avoiding toxic relationships. Ironically, she has a boyfriend who is avoiding her. The sunshine and surroundings may be enviable, but for all of these residents Mallorca is not what it appears to be.

The book is told across chapters from each of the characters perspectives – Robyn’s chapters appear in italics because we are being let into her diary so we read her written thoughts instead of spoken ones. Although each character is experiencing their own problems, the issue of property scamming is central to the plot. Any google search on buying property in Mallorca brings up recent scams where people were sold properties off plan from a building company. They would pay their deposit, see the plans filed and approved, pay the next instalment of cash and then see the company disappear with their money. There are scams where people have booked apartments that were not for rent, and even looked around properties and left deposits only to find they were not on the market. This must be a terrible blow for those who are looking for their final home in the sun and don’t have the money to start again. Ellen and George have been looking forward to their retirement in the sun for so long and they’ve been viewing George’s dream farmhouse. However, its not really Ellen’s dream because she can’t understand why he’s brought them so far inland, when she wants to near to the sea. I found myself hoping they wouldn’t be the victim of scammers taking their life savings.

The focus for me became trying to work out who the scammer was. Salva’s family, victims of the scam, are crammed into his tiny apartment while he tries to find the identity of the criminals behind the scheme. Robyn, in the meantime, doesn’t seem to fit and I felt like she was hiding many secrets.

I didn’t get a full sense of place throughout the novel, beyond how sunny it is, the book could have been set anywhere. I wanted the characters to be more grounded in an identifiable setting. When the place is hard to picture, the reader can lose their way in the story. I wanted to know what was so wonderful about this place and why these people were willing to spend large amounts of their life savings to live there. However, I did find it a very addictive experience because I was determined to work out who was scamming who. This was a good beach or holiday read that was diverting without needing lots of concentration, perfect for the summer.