A Stitch in Time by Amanda James

When I heard about the forthcoming release of this book I knew immediately that I had to buy it. I am a massive Dr Who fan and anything that involves time travel and romance was always going to appeal to me. I couldn’t wait to start reading this and finished it within two days.
A Stitch In Time is very easy to read. The subject of time travel can be unbelievably complicated and baffling, but Amanda James manages to explain the way that it works in her novel in a very easy-to-understand way. I found the whole concept of Needles and Stitches very imaginative and a clever concept.
The main characters are Sarah and John. Sarah is a teacher whose self-esteem is at an all time low after a double betrayal, and whose morale is at rock bottom with the pressures of her teaching job and her unfulfilled longing to be a mother. John is a market gardener who lives a double life as a Needle – a kind of guardian to his Stitches. Stitches must travel through time to prevent the death of a person whose loss would have a massive impact on the future. Sarah has been chosen by the powers-that-be to be a Stitch.
Sarah, understandably, is completely stunned by this revelation. She believes she has been hallucinating and it takes her quite a while to accept the truth of her situation. When she does, she is ready to undertake her first mission, and finds herself in Sheffield, during the Blitz. It’s an area that she is very familiar with, but it’s also the night of a major air raid that will leave all those around her dead. Who must Sarah save? And how can she achieve her mission?

The time travelling scenes are brilliantly done, with Sarah also travelling to Kansas in the nineteenth century to save a life among a group of homesteaders who are enduring a plague of locusts, Edwardian London, and a hospital in the nineteen twenties, where a very important discovery is about to be made…if Sarah can be successful. These scenes are just the right length, with the author striking a successful balance between the missions and Sarah’s home life and her developing romance with Needle John.
The two main characters are very likeable. From the first scene Sarah wins the reader over. She is a very modern girl dealing with a complicated life, and immediately the reader will be on her side, willing her on through her heartbreak and cheering her through her challenges. John is a delightful hero, and there is enough passion, conflict and tension to make a very enjoyable romance. Besides Sarah’s trust issues, there is also a former girlfriend of John’s to deal with, and on top of all that, the powers-that-be or “The Spindly Ones” as Sarah calls them, are unwilling to allow a Needle and a Stitch to be together. Can John and Sarah prove that their love is genuine? Will The Spindly Ones give them a chance? Or will Sarah’s lack of faith lead to the end of her Stitching days and the erasure of all her time-travelling memories, including those of John himself?
This is a well thought out book with a unique twist on time travel, likeable characters, a strong romance and some interesting historical facts thrown in for good measure. As Sarah is a history teacher she is quickly aware of the situations she has landed in, and through her easy summing up of what is happening around her the reader understands what is going on without being force fed a lot of dry and dusty facts. School history lessons were never like this (sadly!) and I can well understand why some reviewers are demanding a sequel. I don’t know if that’s the author’s plan but I could quite see it working. All in all this is a very entertaining novel and highly recommended. 5/5

Click Here To Buy

A Stitch In Time

A Stitch In Time

 

Daffodils and Dr Who

Happy Easter, everyone!

It’s been a curious week. Sunshine and blue skies mixed with snow showers and grey clouds. The daffodils, which are my favourite flower, are refusing to come out to play, and who can blame them? Usually they’re in full bloom at this time of year, but the verges and flowerbeds are full of green stems with only the merest glimpse of yellow showing as the flowers decide that it’s far too nippy to bother and go back to sleep. If only we had that option!

I love Easter. I always have. I know not everyone is religious and that it doesn’t mean the same to everyone, but there’s a feeling of hope and renewal for me.  When I was younger I loved the Easter story with a  passion (if you’ll excuse the pun) and although I’m not what I call religious any more (although I do most definitely believe in God, I’m more what I’d term spiritual these days and have a bit of an aversion to organised religion, preferring to think that we should all follow our own path) I still find the whole thing uplifting. Maybe that’s why I love daffodils so much. They fight their way through the cold winds and harsh weather to bring us brightness and a touch of sunshine, reminding us that winter is over and spring is here at last with all its regeneration and optimism. At least, that’s the plan. That’s why I find it a bit disheartening that they seem to be waving the white flag this year. I hope it’s just delaying tactics and not an outright surrender…

And talking of regeneration (see that clever link!) tonight (Saturday) marks the return of Dr Who! Yay!! Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit of a Dr Who fanatic and I make no apologies for it.

It all began when I was a little girl. I was born in the same year as the programme began – yes, the good Doctor and I both achieve our fiftieth birthday this year, although technically he’s over nine hundred years old and looking a damn sight better than I am which is a bit unfair. I don’t remember the William Hartnell years although I’ve seen clips from them and the odd complete episode, but I do have some slight memories of Patrick Troughton in the role. I do remember crying when he regenerated into Jon Pertwee, although when I see clips of this now I howl with laughter at Mr Troughton’s facial gymnastics as he tries to convey the process of changing into the Third Doctor. To be fair, he didn’t have the back up of all the technical stuff that today’s actors have. And I do have a fondness for the Second Doctor, whose scattiness and scruffiness was the very opposite of the First Doctor’s stern grandfatherly personality.

Now, Jon Pertwee was my Doctor.   I think you always have a soft spot for the one you watched the most during your childhood years, and he was my hero. I remember that fine head of silver hair, the frilly shirts and velvet jackets, the flying cape and Bessie the car. I loved UNIT and the Brigadier. I loved Jo Grant and I ADORED Sarah Jane Smith. She was my heroine. To this day she is my favourite of all the Doctor’s companions and her loss is still deeply felt.

I lost interest halfway through the Tom Baker years. I think by then I’d just grown too old and too bored with the whole thing. Special effects in those days consisted of papier mache masks and a kaleidoscope lens put on the camera. It was hard to feel scared. In fact, I don’t think any of the monsters on Doctor Who ever scared me apart from The Ice Warriors. The Daleks were just silly. Even at my tender age I could see that you only had to climb the stairs to avoid being exterminated. The Ice Warriors had weird claw things that zapped you and spoke in sinister whispers. They truly terrified me.

The fifth, sixth and seventh Doctors passed me by, sadly. I couldn’t tell you anything about them and I do regret that in a way because I have heard excellent things about them, particularly Peter Davison’s portrayal. The Fifth Doctor seems to have been very popular. The next Doctor I saw was Paul McGann in the movie. I liked him but I didn’t like the whole Americanized version of Dr Who in that film. I think it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see The Eighth in a series.

Then….ah! Russell T Davies, that genius of a man, decided to give Dr Who a whole new life. He brought in Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor and Billie Piper as his companion, Rose Tyler, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, this year is the big Fiftieth birthday celebrations and every Doctor Who fan is hoping for something really special. Apparently, the anniversary special is being filmed next month and we are all agog to find out who is going to be in it. Will there be guest appearances from previous Doctors? Christopher Eccleston seems reluctant but everyone knows David Tennant loves the role and, frankly, if his Tenth Doctor doesn’t make some sort of appearance there may be a riot. Fans are clamouring to discover which of the previous incarnations of the character will be taking part, and which former companions. Will Rose return? Will Donna risk having her brain fried to make it back? Will Martha and Mickey help to save the day? Will Captain Jack Harkness flirt his way back to our screens, perhaps bringing the lovely Gwen with him? Will River Song be on hand to flummox the Doctor? Will Silence fall? Will the question be asked? And who the bloody hell is Clara Oswald??

Whatever Steven Moffat has up his sleeve for us the sad fact is he cannot please everyone. No matter what he does there will be cries of outrage that one person or another wasn’t included, or the story was too simple, or the story was too complicated. I wouldn’t have his job for a million quid. What am I talking about? I so would!!! In fact, I’d do it for free.

Personally, I adore The Eleventh Doctor and think Matt Smith is a genius in the role. I just hope that he stays around beyond the anniversary and if I could ask one think of Steven Moffat it would be that he brings some sort of link in with the Ninth and Tenth’s regenerations…The Eleventh needs to meet up with at least one or two people from his past. It’s been all about The Ponds ever since Matt took over, and although I love Amy and Rory, there needs to be some sort of crossover. The Ninth, Tenth and Eleventh regenerations of The Doctor have been fantastic. The special effects have been worthy of Hollywood, in my humble opinion, and even the Daleks have learned how to fly. Even the Ice Warriors are at long last making a return in this series. I’m so looking forward to it!

If, like me, you’re a time travel fan, you may like to read A Stitch in Time by Amanda James. This is a light and easy read with a clever twist on time travel – no blue box here! There is a lovely romance with a threat from the powers-that-be reminiscent of the one faced by Piper and Leo in Charmed. Yep, I loved Charmed, too. I’ve reviewed the book elsewhere on my blog and also on Amazon and Goodreads if you’re interested. (Although Amazon and Goodreads are apparently now one, as Amazon have purchased Goodreads if you can believe that, although that’s a whole different subject!)

Anyway, whatever you’re doing this Easter, whether you’re having to work, going to church, watching Dr Who, reading books, or just scoffing yourself silly with chocolate eggs, I hope you have a fabulous time.

See you next week! xx

Easing off the Accelerator

I apologise for not posting anything on here last week. The fact is, I took a break from writing – anything. I had reached breaking point, frankly. I was stressed, over-emotional, and tired. I found myself dissolving into tears at the slightest thing. I couldn’t concentrate at work. I couldn’t even focus my mind enough to read, never mind write. I gave up.

Luckily for me I had already booked a week’s holiday from work and boy, it’s amazing what a week off can do for you. My flagging spirits have been restored. I have felt less tired, less weepy and quite positive.

The main event of the week was that my daughter got a job. Okay, it’s not her dream job and it’s not what she trained to do, but it’s reasonable pay and full time and she has a mortgage to pay so … good times. She’d already decided to use her enforced free time to continue her training in her chosen field and has been accepted back at her old college to take a degree in canine behaviour. It’s mostly distance learning apart from the odd day so she will be able to fit her job around it. It’s such a massive relief.

My relationship with DH took a positive turn this week, too. Maybe because I wasn’t feeling so tense and pressured we relaxed with each other for the first time in ages and had a friendly meet-up with some of our children. That was a massive relief, too.

My driving lessons are going well. I had two lessons this week and my instructor assures me I’m almost ready for my test although, as I’d just stalled at a major roundabout when she said it, I have my doubts! For some reason I was mixing up my brake pedal with the accelerator on my last lesson. I have no idea why, as it’s not usually something I have any problem with. Probably not a good thing to do, especially when you’re trying to reverse into a side street, but hey ho.  As with life, I had to remember to calm down and take it more slowly, as my instructor forcefully pointed out as I careered round the corner like Lewis Hamilton. I really enjoy driving, though. I can’t wait for the day when I can finally rip up the L plates and get myself a little car all of my own. The freedom of not having to rely on family members for lifts will be fantastic. I caught a bus last week for the first time in ages and it wasn’t much fun, let me tell you. Waiting at a bus stop for twenty minutes in the freezing cold, with an icy wind taking off the top layer of your skin, and having a very dodgy looking man with a Dumbledore beard, a long grey mac and a suspicious looking carrier bag standing far too close to you, is an experience I’d rather avoid, thank you very much.

I’ve also managed to catch up on some reading at last. My to-be-read pile is horrendous and growing every week as so many lovely and talented authors publish their latest novels. The trouble is, they all look so good. I can’t resist them. This week I read June Kearns’  An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy. You can read my review on this blog. I’m currently reading Mandy James’ A Stitch In Time and I have about another ten lined up ready to read after that. (That’s just the new releases. I have a backlog of about four years’ worth of novels waiting to be read.)

And, having taken the pressure off myself and taken a break from the novel, I have found myself feeling much more optimistic and relaxed about my own writing, too. I have deliberately not switched on the laptop apart from to browse the web and write this post and review. I haven’t looked at my WIP all week. However, I have had my notebook out and have been playing around with plot points and character notes, jotting down ideas and doing bits of research. The relaxed approach has been amazingly productive. I don’t feel tense about the novel any more and have had quite a few problems solved without even trying, after weeks of worrying and intense concentration.

It just shows you what a change of habit can do. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back, take a few deep breaths and clear your mind of all the clutter. Life can get very frantic and it’s easy to get swallowed up in the panic of trying to sort everyone else’s problems out while dealing with your own, and achieving nothing because you’re just too stressed to be of any use to anyone, least of all yourself.

There is one major sadness in our family at the moment and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. This week has helped me to accept that and to realise that not everything can have a happy ending, and I can’t be responsible for everyone. I can feel huge empathy and sympathy for the people involved and try to support them as much as I can, but I can’t actually make anything better and I can’t make it go away. I think accepting that has brought me a serenity and a peace that I haven’t felt for a long time, in spite of the sadness.

I may be hitting fifty this year, but it seems life is still teaching me something new every day.

Have a great week x

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns

Texas in the nineteenth century. Colt McCall, half Sioux, half Irish, is a handsome cowboy. He earns his living dealing horses, is popular with the local ladies, and has friends in unlikely places – as well as enemies. Colt has a reputation and he has a shady past. Staying alive is tough enough; this here’s Comanche country and it sure ain’t no place for a lady.

Annie Haddon – abandoned by her father and left in the care of her unwilling aunts, permanently lame after a spiteful trick by her cousin Charlotte, and all but promised in marriage to a man who repulses her – is travelling with her relatives in a stagecoach when it is attacked, and she is knocked unconscious and left for dead.

Colt is on a mission. He is in a hurry, is in dangerous territory, and a badly injured Englishwoman is the last thing he needs. But he sure ain’t gonna leave a lady to the mercy of scalp-hunters, so he hauls her onto his horse and together they set off to take Annie to a place of safety where she can hopefully be reunited with her family and the man who is to become her husband.
Annie is scared of McCall and he has no time for prissy English women. They come from different worlds and don’t have much trust in each other. Yet, somehow, their journey across the inhospitable Texan plains will bring healing and a whole new beginning for them both…
I loved this book, although I admit I was reluctant to read it. I’m not particularly interested in Westerns and the idea of a cowboy hero didn’t appeal to me. However, I’m happy to say I was right to give it a try. Colt McCall is a real treat. A rootin’ tootin’ cowboy with full on sex appeal, yet kind and understanding, with just enough hurt in his past to make any woman’s heart melt. Oh, and he’s kind to puppies, too!
Annie is a very modern nineteenth century miss, with a determined attitude and strong moral values, but she is also very human. She makes lots of mistakes and errors of judgement and I loved the fact that she wasn’t the typical beautiful heroine. Her cousin, Charlotte, makes the point very forcibly on several occasions that Annie is no beauty and hardly likely to attract any man with her limp and her frizzy red hair. Yet Colt sees beyond all that, ignoring Charlotte’s prettiness and falling for the person that Annie truly is.

There is lots of witty banter between the two of them, as well as a sizzling chemistry. The characters in the book are all very deftly portrayed and feel very real and easy to visualise. There is some wonderful descriptive prose, too, which really brings the west to life. You almost feel the scorching heat on your back, see the sun-bleached bones of dead buffalo, and cough to clear the dust from your throat as you read this novel. It really is wonderful and I can’t wait to read the author’s next book. Colt McCall is a wanted man – and frankly, I’m not surprised! 5/5

Click Here To Buy

An Englishwoman's Guide to the Cowboy

An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy

Jam Tarts

So, tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and that means that today Mr Cadbury will be doing cartwheels for joy, and florists will be beaming, and card shops will be packed with last minute customers grumbling about extortion and pulling disgusted faces at the soppy verses.  Happy Mother’s Day to all you lovely mums out there. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it as they say. And, boy, it can be really tough…

So what are your plans for tomorrow? Are you being whisked off somewhere amazing and being thoroughly spoiled and pampered all day? Or are you going to consider yourself lucky if they remember to grunt “Happy Mother’s Day” at you before demanding to know where the cornflakes are?

I remember when my three youngest were little and they spent the night at my sister’s  – a rare occasion as they were a handful to say the least, and not many souls are brave enough to take on three children at once – and she gave them money to go to the shop at the top of the street to buy me a Mother’s Day present. Every single one of them came back with a box of jam tarts. I think they must have been on offer at the counter or something. My sister was crying with laughter as they all solemnly presented me with jam tarts for Mother’s Day. Yes, it was unusual, and no, it wasn’t exactly flowers and chocolates, but it gave us a laugh and I still smile whenever I see a box of jam tarts.  I may have forgotten some of the more conventional presents they have given me, but I will never, ever forget those.

It’s when I remember things like that that I wish they were all still little. My eldest is thirty-one this year, and even my baby is twenty-two in June. We used to be a very tight knit bunch; all seven of us sitting round the table for tea every night, lots of laughter and squabbling and noisy, chaotic Christmasses and windswept caravan holidays with whining children and grumbling parents. Fabulous.

Things have changed quite a lot. My youngest grandchild is being christened in May and, frankly, I’m dreading it, because the state of play with the family at the moment goes as follows: Eldest child not speaking to either parent; middle and youngest son not speaking to each other; youngest son not speaking to father; two daughters only just speaking to each other after major falling out; parents not speaking to each other after showdown earlier this week which has left us  in need of space from each other – lots of it. So, as you can see, it’s going to be fun, fun, fun. Things are so fractured that I’m spending Mother’s Day with my mother, brother and sister. Obviously, I will see my youngest child as I am currently living in her spare bedroom. Have I ever mentioned that? Other than that, I don’t know how or when I can navigate my way around the warring factions in order to please everyone. I’m really, really hoping that things get sorted out soon, but it’s hard. When I think back to all those years when they were small, and the house was so noisy I used to hand out paracetamol with the cups of tea when we had visitors, I get quite misty eyed. I used to wish the days away, longing for the time when they’d all grown up and I’d get a bit of peace. Now – well, let’s just say I wish I could do it all over again and treasure every moment of their precious childhoods.

And talking of mothers…This week I went to the online launch of Kate Long’s book, Bad Mothers United.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bad-Mothers-United-ebook/dp/B007JLQNS6/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1362739401&sr=8-2

We were asked to give an example of something we’d done when our children were little which demonstrated that none of us are perfect (to put it mildly)! I’m not going to repeat the example I gave (it was embarrassing enough to admit it once!) but it turns out that my contribution won me a signed copy of the novel, which duly arrived on Tuesday. I look forward to reading it, although I’m not sure if my name was just picked out of a hat or if I got it for being the worst example of motherhood they found. I hope it was the hat…

There have been some other great new releases this week. My attention was caught by Mandy James’s A Stitch In Time

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stitch-Time-Choc-Lit-ebook/dp/B00BNGXVTC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1362739474&sr=1-1

and Sue Welfare’s Cooking Up A Storm. (Have tried to post the link but it doesn’t seem to be working! Anyway it’s available on Kindle and jolly good it looks too!)

The trouble is, my to-be-read pile is growing every day. I obviously have a book-buying addiction, and they all look so flipping good! Maybe I need therapy? For being a book addict AND a bad mother??

Anyway, in other news, I got back behind the wheel on Tuesday. Yes, my first lesson in nine months and it went…brilliantly! I had worried that I wouldn’t even remember how to start the car but,  in actual fact, I was amazed how quickly it all came back to me. My theory test is booked for early next month and I have just bought the DVD to help me revise. This could be the year when I actually get my licence. Maybe. Hopefully.

That’s me for this week. So, if you’re lucky enough to still have your mum, give her a hug and tell her you love her. It will make her day.  And if you’re a mum, give your kids a hug and tell them how much you love them. If they’re grown up it may make them look at you suspiciously and demand to know if you’re ill, and if they’re little they may hug you back and tell you they love you, too, or they may acknowledge you vaguely as they fly past on their way to win a Quidditch match, or sonic a Dalek – or buy you some jam tarts – but somewhere deep inside us all, there’ll be a warm, cosy glow, and the world will seem just that little bit kinder.

Have a great week x

Spring Has (almost) Sprung!

So here we are in March. Already! It seems only days ago that we were taking down the Christmas tree. Actually, it was only days ago. Well, I may not have mentioned this before, but I’m currently living with my daughter in her spare room, (I live in the spare room, we don’t share it!) and all my worldly belongings are crammed into there and the little box room. I moved in on the first of December, and to cheer myself up I stuck up a tiny fibre optic  Christmas tree, although, as things turned out, I only switched it on once. It was stuck in the corner of the room and I had so much junk around it that I forgot all about it and only finally took it down and packed it away when I sorted the bedroom out last week.

Anyway, I digress. Spring is almost here. The skies have been decidedly brighter lately, daffodils are appearing, snowdrops are everywhere and when I gaze out of the office window longing for home time there is still daylight. It won’t be long before I’m actually leaving work in the light instead of darkness. I can’t wait. I get decidedly gloomy in the winter and find it very hard to see the positive side of things.  I love spring. Everything seems so fresh and clean and new and there is a feeling of optimism and hope in the air. Or is that just me?

I always loved Easter more than I loved Christmas. That may have had something to do with the endless supply of chocolate Easter eggs but I doubt it. I mean, we were hardly short of chocolate at Christmas. No, it was just the feeling of a clean page. I’ve always loved that feeling. Could explain why just lately I’ve been staring at so many of them…

Yep, I’m still struggling with the novel at the moment. My mind is full of different ideas and I just can’t make up my mind which one to go with, which is why I haven’t gone with any. I did buy a nice new notebook, though. That’s always a treat. I’ve written two thousand words every day this week in an effort to unblock my mind and unravel the tangled ball of wool that my novel has become. Instead, I’ve written about five different beginnings and I’m still not sure I’ve found the right one. I have a whole load of later scenes that are absolutely fine, but it’s getting to them that’s proving the problem. And I’m really not sure what to do about it at the moment.

On the plus side, I’ve been reading. Just finished Vampire State of Mind by the wonderfully talented Jane Lovering. My review of that is available elsewhere on this blog, and also on Goodreads and Amazon. If you haven’t read it I really do recommend it. I’ve also been watching the creepy new programme Lightfields. It was so scary that I had to have every light in the house on just to go upstairs afterwards. Scary stuff and I just don’t mix. I’ll still be watching the next episode, though. Ooh, and the new David Tennant programme starts next week, too. Must NOT miss that!

I’m just about to start reading An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy by June Kearns, one of the four lovely ladies who make up the New Romantics 4. I’m really looking forward to that.

And my other big news this week is that I have booked my theory test. Yes, at the grand old age of 49 I am resuming driving lessons and taking the next step to independence. I was taking lessons early last year, but unfortunately my instructor was unable to work for several months and so I haven’t driven for eight months now. I’ve probably forgotten everything I learned, but I’m absolutely determined that this will be the year I finally pass my test. Fingers crossed!

So with everything going on it promises to be a very busy spring.  All I need now is to get on with this dratted novel. How to untangle the threads and work my way through it? That is the question that will be preoccupying me most this month, I fear. Sometimes I think I should just give up and forget all about it. Life would be much easier and less stressful if I didn’t write. Just think of all the books I could read, all the television I could watch, all the people I could visit…

Something stops me. Something always makes me carry on, no matter how stressful it is. Something tells me that I have to do this, the alternative is really unbearable. I suppose that says something after all…

Have a great week x