Category Archives: Reviews

The Cafe With Five Faces

Imagine a cafe with 5 different rooms, each room representing an iconic city and featuring food, chat and most notably coffee (some wine & mint tea too) …. that is the basis of a most excellent book by Chaelli Cattlin that I had the pleasure to review over the summer. Due to COVID-19 putting a dampener on my summer travels this year, having this book to read in my garden chair during lockdown was a real boost. Like always, I read the book and then got the urge to chat more with the author! But first, my review:

MY REVIEW
I used to work in a village cafe that used to be full of regulars and I often thought a book on overheard conversations would be very interesting reading.  The regulars in my cafe talked about similar issues, often with the same amount of intensity and repetition; that a newcomer would bring a breath of fresh air and a welcome change of topic.  So, The Cafe With Five Rooms, was the sort of book I was subconsciously searching for.  I absolutely adored the travel stories, the characters themselves were believable, loved the themed room idea, love the food and drink descriptions, love the details about coffee making – although I’m not a coffee drinker Chaelli so my drink of choice would be an Algerian mint tea! Or a glass or two of the Lebanese red wine 😊Maybe with a slice or two of Hungarian cake…..

LET’S MEET CHAELLI ….


Hello, I am Chaelli Cattlin, an author and a trainer working in the field of English language teaching, a job which has allowed me to travel all over the world for the past 25 years.

Your book, “The Cafe With Five Faces: What The Walls Heard 2018-2019   – is an engaging collection of short stories, presented as snippets within a fictional cafe with five rooms. Each room is themed and named after a location – Beirut, Budapest, Cape Town, Granada, Hebden Bridge. The stories feature everything including travel, gossip, politics, food , romance, and coffee. What made you decide to write a book of this nature?

While visiting Granada several years ago, I was sitting outside a cafe in the Albaicin district and surveying an empty property opposite, thinking what a nice cafe it would make. It had a few rooms / spaces and it occurred to me that it would save me from choosing between a Hungarian-style cake shop, a Spanish tapas bar, a Lebanese manouche shop and a CapeTown breakfast bar. So I decided to call my provisional cafe The Cafe with Four Faces. When I chose to make a book out of it, rather than a real cafe, I added my local village (Hebden Bridge) to the rooms as it fitted some of the characters I wanted to include. The five rooms of the book / cafe also allowed me to focus on different topics, each of which I wanted to discuss but wouldn’t necessarily fit comfortably in one setting.

I enjoyed reading the book  – I liked the mix of characters. I adored the travel anecdotes. My favourite characters were Zoe, Misha and “The Presence”. What character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Who was the hardest?

Misha was one of my favourites as he was so like me when I first moved to Poland 25 years ago and I quite enjoyed describing myself in self-deprecating but hopefully humorous terms. Mike rants in the way I like to rant myself, but rarely have the nerve to do so in real life, so he was a favourite too. And possibly Jimez, as I think he is such a lovable failure! The hardest ones were the minor characters who made infrequent appearances, like Anna and, I suppose, The Presence, because I would like to have made more of them, but seemed to let them down a bit.

The Five places featured as the rooms obviously hold a place in your heart – why did you pick Beirut, Budapest, Cape Town, Granada and Hebden Bridge?  Were there any other places you considered having as a “room”?

Beirut and Cape Town just picked themselves – they are unique cities and I just feel at home the second I arrive in them. Hebden Bridge was local – I could have chosen Haworth, but that is already very well-known for its Bronte connection. Budapest represents Eastern Europe (in its 1990s definition) – I could have chosen several others, principally Katowice, MInsk and Ljubljana, but I lived in Budapest for 7 years (just a little longer than in Katowice) and it has the old-style cafe society with its literary connections which I love so much. Granada represents the good life / place in the sun – it could have been anywhere in Andalucia, Sicily or Provence, all of which have very fond memories, but Granada is the city of most recent and lengthy acquaintance.


So, as we are talking travelling, where has been your favourite place you’ve visited or lived in so far?

In terms of full-time living, outside of the north of England (Lancashire and Yorkshire), I have lived in Opole and Katowice in Poland, and Budapest in Hungary. However, I have spent periods of 2-3 months in countless places and enjoyed so many of them for very different reasons, it’s rather hard to choose! As I mentioned above, Beirut and Cape Town are really special and I have lived in each for a total of around 3 years and 1 year respectively, and they really feel like home.

You are a coffee fanatic – that goes without saying – and I liked how you incorporated your coffee knowledge into your book.  What is it about coffee that really caught your attention?

This has been a slow burner for me, having grown up on Nescafe with milk and two sugars, and then Nescafe with milk without the sugar. I finally bought a percolator and started having one cup of ‘real’ coffee a day with fresh cream, Then I discovered speciality (third-wave) coffee shops and filter coffee where the addition of milk was frowned upon. It became a real interest to visit such cafes in every city I visited, and since 2016, there has been a dramatic growth in such establishments, which led to me wanting to own my own, In the meantime, I started buying a range of alternative brewing equipment for home use and then started taking training courses.


If we were in your cafe, about to indulge in a drink and nibbles – which room would you feel most comfortable in? What would you recommend we ordered?

Every room suits one of my moods. I am the political ranter (Cape Town), the failed musician (Budapest), the ardent traveller (Granada), the bohemian floor-sitter (Beirut) and the aging reminiscer (Hebden Bridge), so it depends how the mood takes me. In terms of order, however, it would have to be a Chemex and a slice of Eszterhazy (cake), Jen’s favourite in the Budapest room.

When it comes to your personal reading delights – what genre/authors do you read? Kindle or book?

My tastes are rather random. I have a real liking for the humour of PG Wodehouse, while loving the gritty Italian crime of Michele Giutarri. I have also whiled away hours in cafes reading the Brontes, Jane Austen and, particularly, Thomas Hardy. I also read the entire Harry Potter series more than once! Ironically, I prefer paper copies! 

Are there any other book ideas in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond?

Yes, but they’re still in formulation! 

Is “The Cafe With Five Faces” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, through Amazon, Apple and Google Play, with Barnes & Noble and Kobo on the way.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I can hardly remember pre-lockdown! There were some comments in the book about Matthew (Granada room) and his love of Armani jeans, and I have 5 pairs, accumulated over many years, which I wear till they fall apart (and beyond) because they are so comfortable. I have a substantial collection of headgear, including a Colombian hat just like that of The Presence (picture attached) and a larger choice of bandanas than Jimmy. At the moment, T-shirts are it (with the names of assorted cafes if I can manage it), because I’m not working in public, and I have a range of shoes which would terrify many women by their quantity, my favourites being Doc Martens and trainers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Armani Jeans in Milan! For certain items of clothing, I like the street markets in Hanoi, while for shoes, I always check out the windows of Vagabond in Budapest and those of a shop in Palermo the name of which I simply can’t bring to mind. Otherwise, I only seem interested in cafes and online coffee retailers!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I daren’t buy any more shoes for a while as I bought some pre-lockdown I haven’t worn since I left the shop. I love the shirts on the Konrit website, but unfortunately don’t like buying clothes online – I prefer to try them on and see before buying, so it may well remain on my wishlist rather than become reality

Boots or Shoes?

Doc Martens are a nice blend! Otherwise, comfortable trainers; nothing which comes up too high as I find them really uncomfortable.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc.
https://thecafewith5faces.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thecafewith5faces/?modal=admin_todo_tour

@thecafewithfa1 (Twitter)

For Pinning Later

Fabulous to catch up with you “virtually” Chaelli and I really look forward to reading more adventures of the Cafe in the future. Thank you also to Ben Cameron for the copy of The Cafe With Five Faces to review. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chaelli Cattlin.

Linda x

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An Interview With Author Carlos Luxul

Regular readers know that I adore books, especially thrillers, and so I was more than pleased to receive a copy of “Ocean Dove” by Carlos Luxul to review. “Ocean Dove” was published on 28th April 2020 and written by Carlos Luxul , who knows his stuff having worked over 30 years in the shipping and global logistics industry. This is a very fast-paced terrorist attack thriller that is made even more terrifying because the scenarios are extremely plausible. I’m not sure if “liked” or “enjoyed” are the right words but it is a great read that kept me riveted – although if this book was a film, I would have been hiding behind the cushion for most of the time! Security services man Dan Brooks came across as being pretty stubborn, yet thorough and again, an entirely believable character. An interview with Carlos himself had to be on the cards….. hi Carlos!

Hi, I’m Carlos! I’m presently a single guy – and ever hopeful … I travel a lot, for work, often spending long periods abroad, sometimes running into years.  It can be rootless and has its downsides but as a career it’s been fascinating. And you do get to see the world and get to know its peoples.

Who or what inspired you to put pen to paper after working over 30 years in the shipping and global logistics industry?

Whenever I have free time I try to get my head in a book – with the exception of the period I was actually writing The Ocean Dove. And like so many other keen readers, I had always promised myself that I would have a go one day, and then a lull between work contracts gave me the opportunity to sit down without distraction and actually start. 

“Ocean Dove” was published on 28 April 2020 – and what a thriller – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish.  Actually, I don’t know if “liked” is the right word but it was a great read that kept me riveted. All the characters were very believable.. From security services man Dan Brooks, his wife, his colleagues, the terrorists. So, which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

The character I most enjoyed writing was Dan Brooks, the story’s protagonist. He’s the leading player, so I had to work the hardest on him, to make him real and relatable. So I guess the most satisfaction and enjoyment came from putting flesh to Dan. 

The hardest were definitely the terrorists. They also had to be real, and we have to face up to the fact that terrorists are real people. Sure, we don’t like them and we don’t understand them. Firstly, we don’t understand them as people. Secondly, we don’t understand why they’ve chosen that life-path, or is it death-path? But somehow I felt compelled that readers should be able to understand them on important levels, to see them as both human and terrorists. I also felt I had to show what drove them, what was underlying, what societal experiences had shaped their transformation from one of us to one of them. I also thought it important to show their fundamentals, as wholly flawed people, particularly the leaders, and bring their sociopathic and narcissistic cores to the fore. And then to take it further by splitting the various characters into their related groups – the cold loner sociopath, the superficially charming narcissist, and the simply lost and misguided souls. Psychological studies of terrorists usually break them down into these principal types, with the addition of underlying insecurity and anger issues.

Were there any aspects of writing the thriller that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

The aspect that surprised me most was being able to conjure up in my own mind the shocking things that some of the characters do. A secondary surprise was counteracting that with what I hope will be seen as humanity in other aspects of the book and in other characters.

What made you decide to write “The Ocean Dove”?   Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the thriller developed?

The inspiration for the plot had been in the back of my mind for a while. It came from time spent in ports around the world, and realising how vulnerable they were – if someone had malign intentions. Historically, cities started with a port, and a city grew around it. Over time, some of these ports outgrew their host city and moved ten or twenty miles along the coast. But many major ports are still operating cheek by jowl with urban centres. They are a back door to a city, and too often a poorly guarded back door. This was the kernel of the idea  and it developed from there. So I had a pretty clear idea of the who, what and how, and I don’t think I had to adjust my opinion or focus too much when it came to the plot. But from the character side of it, the motivation and so on, that certainly evolved the deeper I got into it. 

Are there any new thriller ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes, I definitely want to write more. The Ocean Dove is a complete story in itself with a proper conclusion. But it does lend itself to a sequel, so … And I think there’s mileage in Dan Brooks as a character as well, so I would like to see him again. 

copyright © Linda Hobden

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I read both fiction and non-fiction. For personal pleasure I enjoy travel and travellers’ accounts and memoirs, with a dash of history. These are non-fiction. For fiction, I like thrillers, espionage and mystery, and this ranges from the masters like Conrad, Christie, Hammett and Chandler, through Le Carre to Cornwell, Clancy and Leonard, and beyond to Brown and Child. I’ve a soft spot for Charles McCarry, who’s sadly overlooked, and I don’t know why. How do I read? Well, I can see the attraction and practicality of a kindle, but for me it’s got to be a physical book in my hands. 

Is “The Ocean Dove” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, The Ocean Dove is available worldwide, direct from the publishers (troubador.co.uk), from all the Amazon sites as a kindle or as a book, and from the main mail-order sites. When the book shops are open again, it will also be available in the High Street.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?

It would have to be the Sahel – across Chad, Niger and Mali. It’s been off limits for too long now, too dangerous. One day I hope to go back there. It’s a region where anything is possible, and I can’t imagine anyone (a writer) could go there and not come back inspired!

Copyright © Linda Hobden

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Now you’re talking. I love clothes!  And sorry, this interview could go on a bit … My daily wear would be jeans, unadulterated Levi 501s please. And I like dressing up. People shine when they’ve made the effort.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Favourites? Not really any more, sadly. The High Street’s so samey now. I pick and choose carefully, perhaps in a vintage shop down a side street, a charity shop, or even a TK Maxx where some oddball but well made things pop up from time to time. I also like to pick up eclectic stuff when I’m overseas.   

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

What’s next? I’ve a hankering for a really good black cashmere cardigan. Yeah, yeah, cardie, I hear you … But I’ll have to save up, though it will last and still look perfect in ten or twenty years. Buying cheap is a false economy anyway.

Boots or Shoes? 

I’m particular about shoes and boots. Firstly, they must be strong and practical, but stylish. Secondly, they have to be well made, that’s traditionally made, so a proper cobbler can maintain them over many years. I’ve got shoes and boots that have been with me for twenty or so years. I can’t abide flimsy footwear. It must be stout, a firm foundation to stand in, to run in, to get out of trouble in, should it arise. And here I hasten to add the best way out of trouble is tact, diplomacy and a smile. But wafer thin slip-ons are just not for me … I have boots for just mooching around in, boots for walking, a good old pair of DMs, and boots for motor biking – ex German army paratroop boots that are maybe thirty years old and still good for another thirty. Shoes are much the same; classic, sometimes with a twist, Oxfords, a bit of brogue, even monks, but always traditionally and heavily constructed.

LINKS 

For pinning later.

www.carlosluxul.com
https://twitter.com/CarlosLuxul  or @CarlosLuxul

https://facebook.com/CarlosLuxul/

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/crime-and-thrillers/the-ocean-dove/

Thanks Carlos ! I didn’t have you down as a shoe connoisseur – have you discovered the shoes by Jeffrey West? Check them out when you’re next in London. You won’t be disappointed.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission by Carlos Luxul & Linda Hobden (where marked)
Thank you also to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for the copy of Ocean Dove.

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Medicine And Miracles Book Tour

Ever since I was a young child I loved hearing about or reading about other people’s adventurous memoirs. The vicar and his wife of my local church when I was a child (in the 1970s) were once missionaries in Uganda, Rwanda and Kenya – they used to tell me their stories and showed me photos of their life living amongst the local people. Their memories enthralled me and I was so thrilled to make my first trip to Kenya in 1990. I read ( and still do) stories, real life and make believe, about the jungles of Congo, the mighty Amazon, kidnapping in Colombia etc. I felt so privileged to be asked to join the book tour promoting the memoirs of a lady, Erica Elliott , who fits the adventurous mode to a T. Her book, “Medicine And Miracles in the High Desert”is definitely a book that grabbed my attention. I enjoyed the descriptive language describing the Navajo heartlands, I gasped at how she coped with some scenarios that would have left me petrified, I admired her resilience and determination to “fit” in with the Navajo people, I giggled at some of her escapades and unintentional faux pas moments, and I loved being privy to Erica’s memoirs. In a recent interview, Erica said “The book is timely, given all the divisiveness and racism in the world. And it’s especially timely given the drastic effects of the corona virus on the Navajo people”.  

Book Summary

This is the true story of a young white woman, Erica Elliott, who comes to the Navajo Reservation in 1971 as a newly minted schoolteacher, knowing nothing about her students or their culture. After several blunders and misunderstandings, and beset by loneliness and despair, Erica makes a determined effort to overcome the barriers of language and culture. From the moment she begins learning the Navajo language, the people open their hearts and homes to her, inviting her into a world that will profoundly impact the rest of her life.

Erica falls in love with her Navajo students—along with their enchanting land, healing ceremonies, and rich traditions. She witnesses many miracles during this time, and experiences her own miracle when the elders pray for her healing. She survives fearsome encounters with a mountain lion and a shapeshifting “skin walker.” She learns how to herd and butcher sheep, make fry bread, weave traditional rugs, and more.

Erica returns years later to serve the Navajo people as a medical doctor in an under-funded and under-staffed clinic, where she treats myriad ailments, delivers countless babies, and performs emergency procedures. When a medicine man offers to thank her with a ceremony, more miracles unfold.

Print Length: 202 Pages
Genre: Memoir
Publisher: Babloa Press

Medicine and Miracles in the High Desert is now available to purchase in print and as an e-book at Amazon.comIndieBound.org, and Barnes and Noble. Add it to your GoodReads reading listing as well.

About the Author Erica Elliott, M.D.

Erica Elliott is a medical doctor with a busy private practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A true adventurer, she has lived and worked around the world. She served as a teacher for Indigenous children on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona and in the mountains of Ecuador.

In 1976, she was one of the first American women to climb Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the western hemisphere. She taught rock climbing and mountaineering for Outward Bound and, after her first year of medical school, she led an all-women’s expedition to the top of Denali in Alaska.

In 1993, Erica helped found The Commons, a cohousing community in Santa Fe where she continues to live. She gave a TEDx talk about living in cohousing. Referred to affectionately as “the Health Detective,” she treats patients who come to her from all parts of the country with mysterious and difficult-to-diagnose illnesses. Erica is a frequent radio guest and has given workshops at various venues, including Esalen and Omega Institute.

For Pinning Later

Find her online at:

Author website: https://www.medicineandmiraclesinthehighdesert.com/

Professional website: http://www.ericaelliottmd.com/


Blog site: https://www.musingsmemoirandmedicine.com/


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ericamelliott

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Erica Elliott. My thanks to Nicole Pyles for the copy of “Medicine And Miracles In The High Desert” and for inviting me onto the #MedicineAndMiracles Book Tour. It has been a blast.

Linda x

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An Interview With Author Pamela Taylor

When somebody asks what book genre I enjoy, I usually say “ Thrillers” but after a while I crave a different genre – sometimes I indulge in a bit of armchair travelling; sometimes I like a classic such as novels by Daphne du Maurier, Charles Dickens or Tolstoy; sometimes a novel by Paolo Coelho; and sometimes I want to curl up and read some historical fiction …. such as Pestilence by Pamela Taylor. I have a love of British history – I did an O Level exam in “Tudors And Stuarts” – and that era along with the medieval centuries, hold my attention and let my imagination run riot. Pamela’s book, Pestilence, held my attention and although it was the 3rd book in a series it was still great to read as a stand alone book. I am honoured to be part of Pamela Taylor’s “Pestilence “ book tour and I am so glad to be able to ask Pamela those questions

Book Summary

At the dawn of the Renaissance, Alfred – the eponymous second son – must discover the special destiny foreseen for him by his grandfather. Now, the unthinkable has happened: Alfred’s brother is king. And it isn’t long before everyone’s worst fears are realized. Traditional allegiances are shattered under a style of rule unknown since the grand bargain that formed the kingdom was struck over two hundred years ago. These will be the most dangerous years of Alfred’s life, forcing him to re-examine his duty to personal honor and to the kingdom, while the threats posed by his brother constantly remind him of his father’s final words of advice. What choices will he have to make to try to protect the things he holds most dear?

Print Length: 234 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ASIN: B08563V87C

ISBN-10: 1684334810

ISBN-13: 9781684334810

THE INTERVIEW

Hello, everyone.  I’m Pamela and I’m thrilled to have the chance to share a little bit about myself and my book.  Well, books, actually, because “Pestilence” is part of a series – the Second Son Chronicles. Three volumes are out in the world now with three more to come. I love to travel – it’s a big part of how I immerse myself into the place and time of my stories – but like you, I’m sticking close to home right now. Thankfully, I have two wonderful companions – Pembroke Welsh Corgis named Maggi and Marlo – who keep me company but who also never hesitate to remind me that a dog walk might be just the thing to get me inspired for that next scene or next chapter. 

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?

Quite frankly, I sort of fell into it. When I was in the corporate world, I wrote all kinds of things from really dry technical stuff to web pages; and one day I just said to myself, “I wonder if I can write fiction.” My first attempt wasn’t great – OK, full disclosure, it was pretty bad. But when Alfred, the protagonist in the Chronicles, started speaking to me, telling me his story, I began to get the hang of it. The first draft of “Second Son” (volume 1) wasn’t quite right – I wound up taking it apart and putting it back together again – but when that book was published and I held it in my hand, I gave myself permission to think of myself as a novelist. I’ve read so much historical fiction and non-fiction through the  years that I feel like I’ve had lots of mentors for my work (even if they don’t know it 🙂 )

Although “Pestilence” is the 3rd book in the series, it can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone book.  I love historical fiction and it was great to immerse myself into the story.  I liked the main character, Alfred, very much indeed – although I found myself disapproving of his very brief “liaison” with Amelia!  His brother, the pompous King John, made me giggle.  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

I’m so glad you like Alfred! I have to admit to being a bit in love with him myself. As for his dalliance, it’s useful to remember that the morés of the fourteenth century were a bit different from ours today and extra-marital liaisons were quite usual for a man of Alfred’s station. But since Alfred’s marriage is as much a love match as a political alliance, he has some inner conflict over the situation – and I hope that makes him more human, more real.

Writing Alfred is a pleasure. And I thoroughly enjoy Gwen and Samuel – the two people who are closest to Alfred. One character who surprised me has been Alfred’s mother. She was important but definitely secondary in the first two volumes; however, when her feisty side came out in “Pestilence,” I had a great time with her. You’ll see more of her in volume 4. The character who’s been the most troublesome doesn’t show up until a later volume, but watch for Hugo.

I am curious – what is your preference – to write a complete stand alone book or to write a complete series of books?

Truth be told, I don’t know 🙂  When I started writing “Second Son,” it was going to be a stand-alone book. But as Alfred kept revealing his story, it soon became clear I was going to end up with well over a thousand pages – hardly something you can offer up as a debut novel – so the series was born. That said, even within the arc of a series, each book has to have its own, fully complete narrative arc – I’m actually enjoying both dimensions.

 I enjoy reading historical novels – many years ago at school, I studied “Tudors and Stuarts” history O level, because I enjoyed reading about and delving into that era of British history.  It runs in the family – my mum is a “Mary, Queen of Scots” fan and my daughter is a “Queen Victoria” fan. I assume you must have a love of history too, what era particularly fascinates you and why?

What a joy to meet other history aficianados! I’m mostly into western European history – particularly France, Great Britain, and Ireland – and I think I must have been British in a former life, because that world just resonates with me in a visceral way that’s hard to describe. (In point of fact, ancestors on both sides of my family are British with a little Danish mixed in on one side – but then, after all, there were quite a few Danes in Britain at one time 🙂 ) I’m actually quite hard-pressed to say I have a favorite era – I’m as fascinated by Alfred the Great as I am by World War II and as interested in Eleanor of Aquitaine as Victoria. What I love best is to go to a historical location, even if it’s in ruins, and immerse myself in the feel of the place to go with the facts. 

 Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

I’ve always loved to read. Some favourite genres besides historical are espionage, mystery, suspense, some thrillers. But I can’t do horror at all. And I’m not a big fan of paranormal. I do like dragons, though – give me a good story with a dragon in it any day. Some favourite authors: Ken Follett, Bernard Cornwell, Jack Whyte, P.D. James, Daniel Silva, John LeCarré, Tom Clancy when he was alive and writing alone, Dick Francis, Dame Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, and, yes, Jane Austen. Actual book, please – there’s just something about holding the book and turning the pages. But I’m not a complete luddite – I do use Kindle for some things.

Is “Pestilence ” available to purchase worldwide?

Absolutely! As are all three volumes of the series.  Online and in book stores – ebook and paperback. Volumes 1 and 2 are also available as audiobooks. Volume 1 (“Second Son”) will soon be available in hardback as well.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?

 I had a trip to France planned for early March. It was to include a visit to Avignon to immerse myself in the old city and the papal palace. I was really bummed when Covid-19 forced me to cancel those plans. So that’s next up as soon as we can safely travel again. I have a project currently in the research stages that involves the possibility of a royal visitor to Pope John XXII.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Tailored slacks and a top of some sort. A light jacket for anything ‘formal.’ Shoes to fit the season and my mood. I like to vary the height of the heel and the style – just makes me feel good – but stopping short of the four-inch heels these days unless it’s a super-formal occasion.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I tend to be a bit opportunistic in clothes shopping. It’s not a good idea, though, for me to sign on to online shoe shops – I can always find something cute.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

No idea. Sort of waiting until it’s truly safe to be in the shops again.

Boots or Shoes?

Yes! And Sandals!  Why not?  One of my biggest challenges when packing for a trip is deciding what shoes to take – don’t want to get caught away from home without some variety and the right thing for whatever comes up during the trip.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

The website for my series:   https://www.SecondSonChronicles.com     Find excerpts from the books, links to historical info, a gallery of images related to the stories, all kinds of good stuff about Alfred’s world.

My author website:  https://pamela-taylor.com   Lots more about me.  And you can link to the Chronicles site from there aRs well.

Facebook:   Second Son Chronicles

Twitter:  @PJTAuthor, #SecondSonChronicles

Instagram:  PJTAuthor

THE TOUR

My thanks to Pamela for the advanced copy of Pestilence. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Pamela Taylor , apart from the Pinterest photo which was taken by myself – it is the backdrop in another medieval house, Lynford House in Norfolk.

Linda x

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Review: Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste Pump

DISCLAIMER ALERT: This product was gifted by Colgate, but all views are my own.

This week I’m looking at toothpaste. I was approached by Colgate to review their Total Whitening Toothpaste Pump. I was quite pleased to oblige because, like many families, finding a toothpaste that pleases all out of the vast array of toothpastes available can be a minefield. I do my main grocery shopping online, so I purchased Colgate’s Total Whitening Toothpaste, the 100ml pump version, when I did my weekly shop at Morrisons.

WHO ARE COLGATE? A POTTED HISTORY

Colgate-Palmolive started life as a small soap and candle business, founded by William Colgate in 1806, in New York City. Toothpaste production began in 1873 – it was sold in jars! In 1896, Colgate introduced toothpaste in a collapsible tube. By 1911, Colgate had distributed 2 million tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes to schools in the USA and provided hygienists to demonstrate tooth brushing. In 1914, Colgate established its first international subsidiary in Canada; quickly followed by Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa in 1920. In 1968, MFP Fluoride was added to Colgate toothpaste, which is clinically proven to reduce cavities. In 1983, the Colgate Plus toothbrush was introduced. In 1992 Colgate Total Toothpaste was introduced and by 1997, it had become a market leader in the USA. In 2019 Colgate launched its first recyclable toothpaste tube along with the relaunch of Colgate Total Toothpaste.

WHAT CAUSES TEETH TO DISCOLOUR?

Like the picture of the stained mug above, the enamel on our teeth are susceptible to staining from our favourite dark coloured drinks such as tea, red wine, coffee and also through smoking. Foods such as curry, soy sauce and those with lots of food colouring can contribute too. Obviously, we can avoid discolouration by quitting smoking, limiting our consumption of dark drinks, eating plenty of raw fruit and vegetables such as carrots and apples to help clean the mouth, and after drinking a dark drink, my hygienist suggested a glass of plain water to swish around the mouth before the discolouration takes hold.

THE PUMP ITSELF

Although Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste can be found in a tube, I’m reviewing the 100ml pump version. I must say that I find having the pump on my bathroom shelf is more aesthetically pleasing than a tube that is contorted out of shape with remnants of dried toothpaste around the lid. Is it just my household or do you also find that the tube is often squeezed from the middle rather than the end? The pump looks neater, there’s no squeezing involved – just a small pump at the top that dispenses just the right pea sized amount onto your toothbrush – no mess, no wastage.

PRODUCT CLAIMS

  • 12 Hour protection on teeth, tongue, cheeks and gums (after 4 weeks of continued use).
  • Effective stain removal for a whiter and healthy smile.
  • Reduces bacteria on teeth, tongue, cheeks, gums
  • Antibacterial and Fluoride toothpaste

MY CONCLUSION

My teenage son has to wear a brace and obviously he has to be doubly attentive when it comes to tooth brushing. He wanted to try out the toothpaste and thought the pump was a bit of a novelty. His teeth definitely looked cleaner, and whiter ( see his photo above).

I found that the toothpaste was gentle on my gums and teeth; but the most overriding factor for me is that my teeth feel oh so clean – straight after brushing, yes – but hours afterwards too, even after eating. I liked the mild minty taste – enough to freshen your breath but not overpowering. My teeth get stained easily as I’m a bit of a tea addict – so a toothpaste that can help eradicate those stains gets a big plus for me – my teeth are not brilliant white but they are looking brighter. To be fair, I haven’t used the toothpaste for 4 weeks so I might be more blown away in another 2/3 weeks time – but I am happy with the current progress.

My score: 9/10

For pinning later.



Thanks to Colgate for giving me the opportunity to try the toothpaste. The potted history of Colgate was my condensed version of the full history of Colgate, which makes fascinating reading, and can be found on https://colgate.com
All photographs are by Linda Hobden.

Linda x

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An Interview With Author Kiran Bhat

“Author Kiran Bhat is a man that is unafraid to take literary risks – would you be interested in reading his book, “We Of The Forsaken World?“ was my introduction by Ben Cameron, who kindly sent me a copy of the book, published by Iguana Books. I am unafraid to jump in and read books which are not “run of the mill” and certainly this is a book that made me think. “We Of The Forsaken World” is about a mix of global issues (pre COVID-19) condensed into one book – 4 main stories set around the world, locations unspecified, as seen from 16 individual points of view:

  • a man who journeys to the birthplace of his mother which is in a tourist town that has been spoiled by an industrial spill.
  • a nameless remote tribe – striving for succession when a 2nd son is born, and the fight to stop the jungle being destroyed by loggers.
  • in a city, a homeless one-armed woman sets out to seek revenge upon the men who trafficked her.
  • in a small village of shanty shacks, a milkmaid naively watches her reputation being systematically destroyed by girls she called friends.

My favourite story was the milkmaid one, but all 4 made you think and each character of each story presented their viewpoint on the same scenario. Very clever way of presenting a story. If you are looking for a quick read, then this book is not for you. I found the book enjoyable once I had understood that different viewpoints were being represented and I found myself adding my point of view to the situations too!

The book may have been interesting, but the author Kiran also peaked my interest antennae! According to his author blurb, he has devoted his life to writing fiction about global experiences. Having travelled to over 130 countries, he has lived in 18 different places and speaks 12 languages. Definitely a person I had to interview…. so, hi Kiran!

Hello. I’m Kiran. I am an Indian-American traveler, polyglot, and writer. I was formed in a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, my family is from Southern Karnataka in India, and I’ve lived all over the world. I try to use these different pieces of me to create globalising art. I’m interested in challenging the bounds of the Me vs You, the My Country vs Your Country in art. I think I do this in various different projects, but “ we of the forsaken world…”  is the one getting the most attention thus far. 

Your book, “We of the forsaken world” is truly intriguing and thought provoking  – a collection of 16 mini stories of 4 situations, each situation from 4 points of view – covering a range of current global and human issues including grief, jealousy, abuse, violence, sexuality, industrial spills, logging in jungle areas, trafficking, mobile phones, parent-child relationships, greed. I was fascinated by the milkmaid character – her need to fit in and be liked, her naivety, her sudden realisation that the girls she called friends were destroying her reputation. But what really made you decide to write a novel like this? 

“we, of the forsaken world…” came to me in 2011, when I was on a bus between Dubrovnik and Zagreb. A tall, brunette woman with a lingering stare sat down next to me on one of the stops. We began to talk about a host of things I can’t remember now, but the one thing that she told me which did remain in my head was the following: Croatia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Something about that sentence inspired my imagination. After we reached the bus station, I had to sit on one of the metal benches for a few hours, and write. I was starting to imagine different countries, completely imagined in my head. One was a half-rich half poor megalopolis, the sort found in most third-world countries. Then, there was a town that wasn’t so different looking from my grandmother’s place, the southern Indian city of Mysore. There was a tribe in the middle of nowhere, not to mention a town of great touristic importance, destroyed by an industrial spill. I also imagined hundreds of voices. Though, over the course of time, those two hundred-so voices became around sixteen; the most distinct and boisterous of the lot.

I enjoyed reading the book  – I grew to like how you wrote the book as the stories unfolded –  the mix of perspectives, the mix of characters. What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about?

Trying to make all of the sixteen characters and four regional voices feel realistic. Also trying to make it so that the structure would work. I kept trying different things, but finally settled on the poetic interludes. It’s now a lot of readers’ favourite thing about the book.

As you have travelled to over 130 countries, lived in at least 18 different places and can speak 12 languages – did you base your mini stories on any places or experiences in particular?

I think my regions are a mix of different places which really inspired me. I would say the city of Mysore, the global cities of Sao Paulo, Guayaquil, and Nairobi, the landscapes of Manu Jungle and the Masai Mara, the stories of Bhopal and Chernobyl, parts of Lake Van, Lake Victoria, and coastal Java. But, I would say that most of the things about this book were imagined, and created from my desire to spark new worlds. So, I don’t think you would see a lot of these places directly in my writing. They manifest in my sub-conscious, and help me to imagine clearer, or better. 

So, as we are talking travelling, where has been your favourite place you’ve visited or lived in so far? 

Well, I consider myself a Mumbaikher. I think Mumbai is the city of India which faces the world, which is why it makes most sense for an Indian origin person of globalising intents to write from. That being said, Istanbul, being the crossroads of the world, is also one of my favourite cities, and I think New York, which has all of the world inside of it, is also up there. 

Which place have you visited that you have felt didn’t actually live up to your expectations?

I don’t think I travel that way. I think I like certain things of certain places, but if a place doesn’t ‘live up to my expectations,’ it isn’t the place’s fault. It just wasn’t meant to be. I don’t think there any countries or cities that I dislike or hate. It’s more that they just weren’t my taste.

When it comes to your personal reading delights – what genre/authors do you read? Kindle or book?

I tend to be a classics person. If it comes from the Vedic period of Indian literature, the Golden Age of Russian writing, European realism, or American modernism, I’m most likely going to adore it. To give names, I love Vyasa, Valmiki, Bana, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Melville, Faulkner, etc. I tend to read on both book and Kindle, but since I travel, I tend to use my Kindle more. It’s just more convenient when you change countries every few months, and I don’t feel like it changes much for me.

Are there any other book ideas in the pipeline for 2020 and beyond?

I have a giant book that I am going to write over the course of a decade, which will take place in 365 different locations on the planet, in the minds of two archetypes that take different regional form over the course of various story structures. It’s a complex book of its own. I’d love to talk about it more in detail, once I start putting it out formally next year. 🙂 

Is “We Of The Forsaken World” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, largely on the typical digital platforms, like Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, etc. I have gotten the book into some indie bookstores in India and the USA. Will let you know if I get it stocked in the UK. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I wear a lot of graphic-Ts, with jeans. I’m trying to look more alternative, like the global-nomad-meets-guru type, but I need a lot of help styling myself. Maybe I can hire you as a fashion consultant sometime. 🙂

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Amazon? It’s where you can buy pretty much anything you want.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Oh, god. I’m the last person to think about clothing, and anyone who has seen how I dress can attest to that. I suppose I need to buy some new shoes though, mostly because the ones I bought some months back are getting worn. I even tripped a few days back on my run, which I attest to partly Melbourne not being as well-paved as people would like to believe, and my shoes having lost some grip

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, as per what I have said above. I also don’t live in muggy places, so I rarely wear boots. In fact, I think I have only worn boots twice in my life.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Yes! 

my website: https://kiranbhatweldgeist.com/

my author fan page:https://www.facebook.com/Kiran-Bhat-105125697596856

my instagram handle: originalsin_0421

my twitter: Weldgeist Kiran

Ah, great to chat to you Kiran and I don’t think there is anything wrong with graphic tees and denim jeans! Boots though… really you should give them a try!! 😊 Having been to Nairobi, I could envisage a lot of what you were saying in your book … and Mysore, the city that I read about as a young child whilst reading such stories as Mowgli, and I have had the city on my “bucket list” for decades!!

My thanks to Ben Cameron & Kiran Bhat for sending me a copy of “ we of the forsaken world…” to review; all photographs have been published with kind permission of Kiran Bhat.

Linda x

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An Interview With Author Sarah Stonich

This week I’m honoured to be part of the “Fishing” book tour. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Sarah Stonich’s book “Fishing” to review and Sarah agreed to answer my nosy questions too! Thanks Sarah!

THE BOOK – OFFICIAL BLURB

Having fled the testosterone-soaked world of professional sport fishing, thirty-something RayAnne Dahl is navigating a new job as a consultant for the first all-women talk show about fishing on public television (or, as one viewer’s husband puts it, “Oprah in a boat”). After the host bails, RayAnne lands in front of the camera and out of her depth at the helm of the show. Is she up for the challenge? Meanwhile, her family proves as high-maintenance as her fixer-upper house and her clingy rescue dog. Her dad, star of the one-season Big Rick’s Bass Bonanza, is on his sixth wife and falling off the wagon and into RayAnne’s career path; her mother, a new-age aging coach for the menopausal rich, provides endless unwanted advice; and her beloved grandmother Dot—whose advice RayAnne needs—is far away and far from well.

But as RayAnne says, “I’m a woman, I fish. Deal with it.” And just when things seem to be coming together—the show is an unlikely hit; she receives the admiration of a handsome sponsor (out of bounds as he is, but definitely in the wings); ungainly house and dog are finally in hand—RayAnne’s world suddenly threatens to capsize, and she’s faced with a gut-wrenching situation and a heartbreaking decision.

First published in 2015 under a pseudonym, this first installment in a trilogy filled with hilarity and heartbreak unspools with the gentle wit and irresistible charm that readers of Sarah Stonich have come to expect. Fishing! eases us into unsuspected depths as it approaches the essential question . . . when should life be steered by the heart, not the rules?

THE BOOK – MY THOUGHTS

I found “Fishing” an enjoyable, easy reading “chick” novel based around a male dominated sport, “fishing”. I wasn’t sure at first what to expect as I am a fan of thrillers and I rarely venture out of that genre, but I found myself sucked in by the antics of RayAnne and genuinely enjoying the story. I liked the fact that the theme was fishing – it was an unusual theme for a chick novel and made a change from the “boy meets girl” scenario. Bernadette, RayAnne’s mother was perhaps my favourite character. She just made me giggle. I adored RayAnne though – I felt like screaming at her to get some self confidence. Unexpected twist at the end of the story too. Great holiday read.

OFFICIAL BOOK PUBLISHING DETAILS

Print Length: 280 Pages

Genre: Women’s Fiction

ISBN-10: 1517908981

ISBN-13: 9781517908980

ASIN: B085LZ4324

THE AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Hi, I’m Sarah, with an H. As a kid, my large family called me Sally, which never felt quite as serious or dramatic as I felt, thinking I deserved some name like ‘Isadora’ or ‘Augustine’. Fifty years later, having gotten over myself, I am really liking ‘Sally’ so am training my husband of fourteen years to call me that. He mostly calls me ‘Hey’, now. We just adopted a cat, Dr. Fauci (it was a name we’d been hearing fifty times a day, right?) Also, they have similar noses. He’s kept us entertained during quarantine and in turn I’ve gone a little overboard on some of the cat gear. Like RayAnne, I’m a bit of a late bloomer. I didn’t begin writing until I was nearly forty. Before that I’d been busy raising a son, renovating Victorian houses, pretending I was Martha Stewart. I worked in advertising, then publishing. 

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?

 I had loads of favorite writers, but didn’t aspire to become one myself. I just started writing and then a story I wrote piled up into a novel, and I showed a writer friend, who showed his agent, and boom – unintentional veer in life plan. Since it landed with me, I decided to give writing a go. So easy! Turns out anyone can be a writer. Kidding! 

Fishing ” Is the 1st installment in the “Fishing With RayAnne” trilogy – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish, and I look forward to reading the follow up books too.  I liked RayAnne’s character a lot although the older ladies, Bernadette (RayAnne’s mum) and Dot (RayAnne’s gran), made me smile and, on occasions, giggle. I think they were perhaps my favourite characters. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest? 

Ask your mom who her favorite child is. Like any mother I’ll lie and say I cherish them all equally. RayAnne, Cassi, Gran and Bernadette are all fun to write because they are so different and each bring their perspective that is so very THEM to the story. Of course I spend the most time with RayAnne, who’s grown to be like a little sister to me. And like sisters, we have our days, believe me.

“Fishing” was first published in 2015, under your pseudonym, Ava Finch. Why did you decide to republish under your own name? Was “Fishing” originally intended to be one off or had you always planned to create a RayAnne trilogy? 

About halfway through I realized I wasn’t going to be finished with this RayAnne character, and I had to see her through her entire transformation. She’s flawed, and has miles to go. Spoiler: she winds up flawed in the end, but is okay with it. With the first publication I used a pen name because I thought it would be fun and different. It wasn’t – I had a publisher that wasn’t a good match, so I’m doubly grateful to the University Of Minnesota to take on Fishing With RayAnne as a trilogy. 

What made you decide to write a chick -lit read based around a predominantly male sport such as fishing? 

I have a writer friend that advises, ‘write what you DON’T know.’ I do that a lot, I find a topic that interests me, but not that I’m too familiar with – researching and digging around in these unknown realms is really the fun part of writing for me.   


I hear that, in the pipeline,  you are currently adapting the RayAnne trilogy for TV.  I personally think the novel is brilliant for this kind of adaptation. What surprises have you encountered (good or bad) whilst trying to adapt your novel? Is it harder to adapt than you thought?

 I first wrote ‘Fishing WIth RayAnne as a feature script before writing it as a book – an exercise to teach myself to lighten up on the details and description I’m so prone to. Getting a feature film actually made has about the same the odds of being born with all your teeth, but, with so many new opportunities for television, adapting it to small screen feels more hopeful, and it really is easier – I love writing dialogue.   

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Actual book. I like paper and pages and covers, and book design and just the book as an object – that said I would never shelve books by color and anyone who does should have their books taken away from them and re-homed. Our loft is lined with bookshelves. At the moment I’m reading dead women – the ‘undervalued British women novelists of the mid-century’. It’s a thing – there’s a website – look it up. These women are true treasures, but we barely know them because male writers got (and still get) most of the publishing attention and dollars. Women are tenacious, like the cicada, a bug that lives underground for seventeen years before emerging and unfurling their wings – these women writers have been largely unread for seventy. Hello, Jane Elizabeth Howard; Naomi Mitcheson; Josephine Tey…   

Is “Fishing” available to purchase worldwide? 

YES!

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I had plans to visit Finland sometime soon to research a book for my Northern trilogy, which has a number of characters that are 3rd generation Finns living in rural Minnesota. I was all stoked to dig into these ancestor’s pasts, then Covid! So, that’s on hold for now. I did visit relatives in New Zealand while writing ‘Fishing!’ and was inspired to set much of ‘Reeling’, the second volume in the trilogy there, when RayAnne and Cassi take the show on the road.  

For pinning later

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing? 

Like RayAnne, I’m fashion challenged, but my happy outfits are comfy cotton or linen or nubby silk things with lots of pockets – no bright colors and God forbid no patterns that might attract undue attention. I could rob a bank and no one would be able to describe what I was wearing – though I like to think a witness might remember me as mildly stylish. Good tailoring gets me. As for shoes, I’m just going to say it: HEELS? Why???

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Some of the small European Etsy shops that will make linen garments with custom options. Love that they come with a label, ‘Made for Sarah’ (maybe time to change up to Sally?) 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Better-quality clothes, fewer items in my closet, and fewer imports. In the follow-up to ‘Fishing!’, ‘Reeling’, RayAnne interviews a young ‘anti-fashion’ designer and in the process learns about the true toll of fast-fashion industry and imports on the environment, as well as grim labor practices. My grandfather was a tailor and my grandmother a seamstress – so maybe I’m genetically bound to some romantic, utopian ideal of knowing one person made a garment I’m wearing, from start to finish, in a room with windows. 

Boots or Shoes?

Converse sneakers (with inserts, I’m not crazy), and chunky low-heeled boots (see above) classic Italian sandals that take forever to break in, then last ten years. Comfort, and not wanting to break my neck or cripple my insteps is why. Last time I wore heels was for a gallery event, during which I fell backwards, like a plank, as if in some skit. Friends still talk about it.  

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

 Website: sarahstonich.com

FB: Sarah Stonich Bookshelf.

Twitter: @sarahstonich

https://bookshop.org/books/fishing-9781517908980/9781517908980

BOOK TOUR DATES

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Sarah Stonich (apart from the fish head photo that was taken by me! )

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An Interview With Author Alexandra Franzen

My guest this week is Alexandra Franzen – author, entrepreneur and proud “checklist” freak. Yes, you read that right . Alexandra is a proud “checklist” freak . So much so that she has written a book about checklists and I’m pleased to be part of her latest book tour! So, armed with her latest book “The Checklist Book”, (thank you Alexandra for my copy), I set out to follow Alexandra’s advice ….

  • BOOK SUMMARY. ☑️

Simplicity at its best: The checklist is one of the world’s oldest―and most effective―productivity systems. If anything, author and entrepreneur Alexandra Franzen shares, it is just as valuable now as it was during the days of the Roman Empire. Writing out a simple checklist allows us to tangibly plan our day and set in stone what we want to accomplish.

Cut out unnecessary noise: There are countless apps and organizational systems out there to help us straighten out our lives, but often they only add to the madness. Trying to keep up leaves us feeling drained and overwhelmed. Learn how to choose your highest priorities, set realistic goals, celebrate tiny wins, and feel calmer every day with the magic of checklists.

Be realistic about the time in a day: By physically writing down our tasks on a single piece of paper, we force ourselves to limit how much we can do in a day. Too often, we cram our day with tasks and chores and leave almost no space for self-care or time with loved ones. We end up disappointed in our inability to complete our never-ending to-do list. Checklists help you plan your day in a more gentle, realistic way. You accomplish what needs to be done―and enjoy things you want to be doing, too.

In the life-changing Checklist Book, learn:

The history of the checklist and why it remains to be relevant and effective today

The science behind the success of checklists, such as the instant satisfaction we feel when we put a check next to a finished task

How to create a basic daily checklist―and checklists for specific situations, like moving to a new city or navigating a divorce

Print Length: 160 Pages

Genre: Self-Help

Publisher: Mango 

ASIN: B07V6GWGW5 

ISBN-10: 1642501182

ISBN-13: 978-1642501186

  • THE AUTHOR INTERVIEW ☑️

I was interested in finding out what it was about checklists that fascinated Alexandra …. Hi Alexandra!

Hi there! My name is Alexandra. I’m a writer, consultant, and entrepreneur based in Hawaii. I live in a small, sleepy coastal town on the eastern side of the Big Island. 

My sixth book is The Checklist Book: Set Realistic Goals, Celebrate Tiny Wins, Reduce Stress and Overwhelm, and Feel Calmer Every DayI’ve also written articles for Time, Forbes, Newsweek, The Huffington Post, and Lifehacker.

Hmm, what else? I have a dog named Zuki. I love coffee, maybe too much. I don’t have any social media accounts. And I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here doing this interview with you today. Thanks for having me!

Your book, “The Checklist Book” is truly eye opening  – I didn’t realize how much you can apply checklists to almost every situation of your life. So why did you decide to write this checklist guide?

I have a lifelong obsession with checklists! 

I love how the act of making a list immediately makes you feel calmer, more organized, and more capable. At least, that’s what happens for my brain. Once things are written down and organized in a list, I feel like, Okay. This is doable.

You write about a range of topics, and you are best known for your short essays. Being the founder of The Tiny Press, a publishing imprint specializing in short books that are around 100 pages long; what is the appeal for you towards short essays? 

Like most people, I lead a full—and sometimes, very busy—life. 

Between running my business, serving my clients, writing books, practicing yoga, treating my dog like the prince that he is, plus trying to be a loving sister, daughter, and friend to the people in my life…it’s a full load! 

That’s why I always appreciate quick, short bursts of inspiration. Like a short essay that sparks a new idea, or a short podcast that shifts my perspective. Big ideas in small packages.

I definitely love curling up with a big, long book as often as I can. I’ve been known to devour epic 900-page science fiction and fantasy novels, for sure! But there’s value in quick reads, too. Just because something is “brief” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s shallow or superficial. A very short phrase (like, “I love you”) can carry so much power in just three little words. And a short essay can change your day, or even your life.

Following instructions….using checklists Photo © Linda Hobden

I was intrigued to discover that you co host a pop culture and comedy podcast with your best friend called “So Obsessed”.  Who came up with the title? And what obsessions/topics have you discussed on your podcasts? Checklists? 

Haha, yes! My best friend is Melissa Cassera, and she’s a brilliant woman who does marketing and PR work, and she’s also a TV screenwriter based out in Los Angeles. 

We love getting together to drink coffee and discuss all of our latest obsessions. 

One day, we realized, “We should record these conversations and start a podcast, and we’ll call it…So Obsessed!” 

Our show is purely a passion project. We rarely talk about work-related matters. We don’t have any sponsors or advertisements on the show. We don’t really “promote” anything. The whole project is totally just for fun.

We’ve discussed so many obsessions on the show—our favorite movies, books, snacks, workouts, self-care ideas, and, oh my gosh, what else…pasta recipes, Jennifer Lopez music videos, and checklists, for sure! The list is endless. We also do games like “Who would you rather?” and hypothetical questions, and more.

Our world can feel so chaotic and stressful. We hope our podcast feels like a mini vacation from your troubles—a little bubble of silliness and friendship. Something to brighten your day, help you smile, and maybe help you remember some things you’re obsessed with, too.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genre of books do you enjoy reading? 

I’m pretty eclectic with my reading. 

Lately I’ve been loving the Wild Irish Heart: Mystic Cove series of novels by Tricia O’Malley. So much fun. 

I recently purchased Why Bother? by Jennifer Louden, which I’m excited to dive into soon. 

In terms of books about personal growth and transformation, one of my all-time favorites is Die Empty by Todd Henry. Definitely a book that made me see my life (and work) in a new light.

Is “The Checklist Book” available to purchase worldwide?

It sure is! It’s available on AmazonTargetBarnes & NobleIndieBound, and lots of other places, too. 

If your local public library or local bookstore doesn’t stock it, just request it, and they can probably order it for you.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Living in Hawaii, the climate is warm year-round…so I rarely wear pants! Honestly, you’ll usually find me in a swimsuit, tank top, yoga shorts, or cut-off jean shorts, pretty much every day of the week. 

I often work out (or walk the dog) first in the morning. And then sometimes, right after that, I get immersed in my work and…I kinda forget to shower until much later. So I’m often pretty sticky and salty all day long. As I type this, I’m realizing that maybe my routine needs to change. Haha! Maybe I should put “take a shower” up a little higher on my daily checklist. 🙂

For pinning later
  • THE LINKS ☑️

Website: http://alexandrafranzen.com/

Newsletter: http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/newsletter/

Books: http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/shop/

Free stuff, including downloadable worksheets and checklist templates: http://www.alexandrafranzen.com/free-stuff/

  • THE BOOK TOUR ☑️

ALL PHOTOS PUBLISHED WITH KIND PERMISSION OF ALEXANDRA FRANZEN (except where stated) ☑️
MY THANKS TO ALEXANDRA FRANZEN FOR THE REVIEW COPY OF “THE CHECKLIST BOOK” & FOR INVITING ME TO TAKE PART ON THIS BOOK TOUR ☑️

Linda x

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An Interview With Author Kay Hutchison

“My Life In Thirty Seven Therapies: From Yoga to Hypnosis And Why Voodoo Is Never The Answer”. An intriguing title for a book. I thought so anyway when I received a complimentary copy to review. I won’t beat about the bush – I loved the book and eagerly devoured each chapter/ therapy. A strange feeling though – part memoir, part guide – about dealing with midlife crisis, menopause, professional burnout, relationships – and yet amongst the facts and seriousness there were comedic moments and on occasions, real belly laugh moments. Kay has written her book in such a way that I could imagine myself being there in that therapy room or group alongside her, experiencing it all too. It may have been the way she described her therapists, companions or therapies. I do know that some therapies I’m glad I was only virtually there, not experiencing the moment for real; and I admired Kay for being able to maintain a silent vigil at the silent retreat over the Christmas period. I don’t do silent!! I couldn’t leave just a review though, I just had to chat to Kay herself and ask her a few questions… Hi Kay!

Hi, I’m Kay Hutchison, I’m an author and I run a small independent publishing company ‘Belle Kids’ that publishes mainly children’s books. I had good career in radio and television after studying music and French at Glasgow University. I started working in Decca Records, worked as a producer for BBC Radio and moved across to tv with Channel 4, then leading the launch teams of Disney TV and Channel Five.  I led the partnership that delivered a long term future for the Olympic Broadcast Centre.  It’s now a thriving tv and production hub. After founding my own company Belle Media, I launched Belle Kids in 2015. We produce multi-platform, conservation-focussed content for children and are best known for the Tigeropolis series – fun stories with wildlife conservation at their heart.

Your book, “My Life In Thirty Seven Therapies: From Yoga To Hypnosis And Why Voodoo Is Never The Answer” is truly inspirational  – I alternated between being fascinated by certain therapies, eg cupping; laughing out loud at others eg the voodoo episode; and admired your gutsiness when it came to enduring the silent retreat in Norfolk over Christmas. But what really made you decide to write about your experiences in the first place? 

So glad you feel that way about the book! 

What really made me decide to write about my experiences was preparing for a writing retreat in Wales.  My friend had persuaded me to join her – she didn’t want to go alone and she knew I loved retreats. Somewhat worryingly, I discovered there was lots of writing homework. I was a bit wary as we were to bring samples of our work. However, I got stuck in – writing about subjects that interested me and I discovered that I loved writing about the many therapies I’d tried and about my childhood and what led to my meltdown and mid-life crisis. The course was led by the critically acclaimed English novelist Mavis Cheek. She taught us the importance of dialogue, characterisation and clear structure. She was very encouraging.

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – the mix of your personal story, your people observations, your guide to the therapies and your sound advice. Your book is also published as an audiobook – I did listen to some excerpts on your YouTube channel.  How did it feel recording and reading your own book? 

I wasn’t sure what to expect in recording the audiobook. I was once a radio producer and so I was comfortable being in a studio together with technical and production experts.  However, it was a totally different experience. Being shut away for hours at a time in the quiet of the sound-proofed studio with the just the producer on the other side of the glass, made the narration quite intense. I think it’s a different story as you can probably hear some emotion in my voice in certain places.  It will be so interesting to know how readers react to the audiobook. Surely quite differently. Let’s see.

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about?

Personal stories about my family, especially my father who I adored – struggling without my mother, becoming more dependent on alcohol to get through the day, being sad and alone as he aged and needed more care. It was also hard to write about my own personal failures – the loving relationship I thought I had with a man who turned out to be married. It brought it all back.  

So, having been through 37 therapies, at least, you must have some particular favourites? Which was the weirdest? And, which therapy did you find overrated?

My favourite was the silent retreat. I think I’m someone who needs a lot of solitary time (just as well as I need that to write) although I only realised that after I lasted 10 days without saying a word. It was challenging but ultimately so liberating and I realised I could cope on my own after that somehow. 

The weirdest was Voodoo – it’s only a small episode in the book but when you read it you will know why. It is right for some people but for me, it was an important experience as it helped me realise that I was recovering, I no longer needed the more unusual therapies to survive.  

For me, the most overrated is colonic irrigation. Some of my friends absolutely swear by it and are perfectly comfortable having regular treatments. My view is that it was too expensive, too intrusive and I believe it could even be dangerous if not done really well by highly qualified professionals. But that’s just my own personal view of course. Always check with your GP!

I liked the frank way you described your experiences and that there was a lot of trial and error involved along the way.  If somebody was going through a midlife crisis, menopause or professional burnout, which therapies would you recommend? 

Midlife crisis, menopause and professional burnout are such different things.  They can be all mixed up together – which was my experience – but if I had to recommend something for all three, it would be yoga without a doubt.  Yoga helps with menopausal symptoms as it is healthy physical exercise, combined with breathing control and requires good mental focus. These are all helpful but I should say I also take HRT now which solves so many of the symptoms like hot flushes, sleeplessness and mood swings.

Professional burnout requires you to be aware of changes in your work behaviour that are not healthy.  Often this is overworking and not being able to stop, being out of control. There are so many ways to deal with this – NLP, CBT, Skyros retreats in Greece are wonderful as they actually focus on burnout or more precisely life change.

Midlife Crisis sometimes doesn’t happen – I have some friends who have no clue what I’m talking about as they have sailed through it or are currently sailing through. For me, it’s when everything falls apart – work, relationships, stability. The great thing is that there are so many therapies that can help you out there – find something that appeals to you and start there. Perhaps try Reiki or Reflexology – they are wonderful healing treatments that allow you to take a step back and have someone look after you.  Get a recommendation from a friend or look up the organisations that regulate the practitioners to be sure you’re getting the best treatment. For example the Reiki Council, the Association of Reflexologists.

It must have been tough for you when you decided & suddenly realised you wanted to live alone and leave your husband after so many years. What was the hardest thing to leave behind?

The hardest thing to leave behind was the stability and balance of life. Everything was normal, everything was in place (we were married, we had a beautiful home, we were both relatively successful in our jobs).  Everything was in place – accepted and expected to always be that way by our friends and family. It was terrible to have to try to explain why I would wish to leave such normality and to start again.

So, what do you do to relax and de-stress nowadays? Are there any new therapies you’re tempted to try out?  

Yoga and massage are the two constants in my life.  I like different yoga classes with different teachers as they are always different – some more traditional, some modern with music being important, others who like to run gong baths afterwards.  Massage helps me unwind if I need to clear my head and recover after a long writing session (often stiff back results). 

I am still interested, still learning. Alexander technique is one on the physical side – it helps posture and works to improve the structure of the spine which changes as you get older. On the spiritual side I have recently tried Akashic Records – I would describe this as a library that contains all of life’s events, each person’s life records. A good practitioner can access these records and answer questions that you have about yourpast, your life and future direction. In my first session a message from my grandfather was conveyed to me – it made complete sense to me as he wanted me to ensure that his legacy was not forgotten; he was a well-known Scottish footballer who, after the war became known as the first ‘audio-describer’ for the blind. He took blind war veterans to football matches and described the action for the groups. I remember helping my gran make sandwiches for the group.

Is “My Life In Thirty Seven Therapies” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes the books are available in the big bookshops like Foyles and Waterstones as well as online (kindle and Amazon) and the new audiobook is available via Audible and will soon be available on streaming services like Spotify and Deezer. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I have a lot of well made, classic suits and dresses that I have had for a few years. I look after my clothes and occasionally have them altered so that they last and are a really good fit. I like figure-hugging dresses or cropped trousers with a roomy coat or jacket over the top.  I have lots of scarfs to add a little extra colour (and to keep me warm) but I generally like a simple, pared-down look.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love browsing in big department stores where they have so many different brands in once place. I like Massimo Dutti for something special, but if I’m in a rush for something I’ll go to Zara, Hobbs or L.K.Bennett as their sizes usually fit my shape quite well. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I would like a pair of toe-cap slingback shoes in nude and black. They are flattering especially if, like me, you’re not very tall. I saw a pair of these on Audrey A La Mode and Russell & Bromley have a similar-looking pair so I will probably buy those.

Boots or Shoes?

I have a large collection of boots in lots of different styles and fabrics but really only two main colours – black and brown.  I find boots are really versatile and work equally well for business meetings or going out (usually lace-up ankle boots with a decent heel or long sleek leather or suede boots with a small heel). I also like calf-length, low heel boots for casual walks so I spend quite a bit of the year with my feet hidden away. I always feel comfortable in boots.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Website   www.kayhutchison.com

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kayhutchison1/

Instagram:  Kayhutchison_author

Youtube   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzvql4FXQ4BQY7QF2o1FDHw

Twitter        @37Therapies

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/kayhutchisonauthor/


Thanks so much Kay for agreeing to be interviewed and it was a pleasure to receive your book, too. I must say that I am short as well and I totally agree with you about sling back shoes – I love them. Currently I have pairs in black, black & white, and navy. I did covet a pair in coral recently … might need to add them to my collection!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kay Hutchison

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An Interview With Tot Knots Of Brighton

Tot Knots of Brighton specialise in turban hats, headscarves, tot knots and headbands made exclusively with Liberty of London fabrics. Owners Katie and Susan, wanted to promote their beautiful headbands from a completely different angle – as a great stylish addition to gym/sportswear. Gifted with a lovely multicolour graphic Liberty of London headband, my friend Tracy and I put the headband through its paces as part of our gym gear and took it for a run, walk, aerobic exercise, yoga and Pilates… here are our results…

Disclosure: I was gifted the “Multicolour Graphic Liberty of London Headband” in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my ownand Tracy’s imput too!

Photo by Linda Hobden

REVIEW

THE WEBSITE: Lovely site full of lovely looking headbands, turbans, headscarves for both adults and children in a variety of colours and Liberty of London prints. From a gym/sports point of view : if you like to be colour coordinated, then I’m sure you’ll find a headband to match. The headbands are virtually bespoke – the headband needs to fit as snug as possible, especially when doing exercise – there is an easy to follow measuring guide on the website.

Photo courtesy of Tot Knots of Brighton

DELIVERY: Nice packaging. The headband print and colour matched the description on the website. It was silky and soft to touch. You can see at a glance that an awful lot of love, care and attention had been put into the making of the headband. There was a guide enclosed if the headband needed to be altered further – my headband was spot on. Very impressed. Taking it for a yoga and Pilates spin, the headband was soft to wear. My score: 8/10

Photo by Linda Hobden

Taking the headband for its energetic spin, my friend Tracy put it through its paces with a high powered walk, running and an energetic aerobic session ! Tracy ‘s opinion was that the headband looked good and was fine with the high powered walking, yoga and Pilates sessions; however, it was slightly too bulky, as it gets very sweaty, when it came to running and the aerobics sessions. During an energetic workout, the silky headband struggled to stay put – soon remedied with some clips though. Tracy’s score: for sports wear 3/10 ; for general use, as it looks good & is comfortable 8/10

So, who are Tot Knots of Brighton? I caught up with Susan & Katie to find out more… welcome ladies 😊

Hello. We are a mother (Susan) and daughter (Katie) team creating accessories and beautiful handmade headbands, hair ties, turbans and eye masks for little and grown up people. We specialise in Liberty prints and luxury, natural fabrics, perfect for delicate skin. I (Katie) recently left my role as Picture Editor on a UK national magazine to fully focus on Tot Knots and my family.

What inspired you to set up “Tot Knots of Brighton”? 

We were on holiday together with my little girls and were struggling to keep summer hats on their heads – especially as my littlest had cradle cap – so my clever Mum fashioned a turban headscarf al la land girls 1940s out of a handkerchief and e voila it worked! – not only did it stay on but they loved wearing them and got loads of attention from everyone we met.  So when we got back home we decided to develop this further and create our first kids readymade turban and see if there was a market for them – and there was
.

Your products are created using the beautiful Liberty of London fabrics, lined with 100% cotton or 100% silk. What do you like most about using Liberty of London fabrics?

Liberty fabrics are iconic and synonymous with quality and design – and, in fact, my mum has been working with them since the 70s. She used to make smocked dresses for us and private clients in the 80s. Tana Lawn is still believed to be the best cotton on the market, and it is exclusively produced for Liberty.  It is so lovely to work with and feels beautiful to the touch, and one of the best parts of the job is being able to handpick from a huge range of beautiful colours and prints for each of our collections.. For us it is really important that we only use the highest quality fabrics we can find – be it silks / velvets / cottons and wools to give our loyal customers the best quality products we can.


I personally love the multicolour graphic print that you kindly sent to me to review  –  and I love the new season Yellow D’anjo Floral design too. What items & prints are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season? 

We love the Merchant graphic we gave you and think that is going to be a big hit for us this season too.  The red and white Marco is proving to be our best seller – as it seems to bridge lots of seasons, but we’ve had an overwhelming response to our first summertime preview – in the yellow floral D’anjo – so we have high hopes for the new collection which is going to be fully released on 1st May.   

Out of all your pieces, do you have any favourites? 

We love the twisted turban headbands as they are really vertisile  – can be worn to dress up an outfit, rectify a bad hair day – great on holiday sunbathing on the beach, or keeping your hair back during a work out.  There is no occasion it can’t be of some practical and stylistic use! They are classic and timeless and seem to suit all ages really well.
 
You currently offer a wide range of products including turban hats, headscarves, headbands – for adults & children alike. Have you got any new products in the pipeline?

Our summertime collection is going to launch on 1st May with a host of beautiful new prints.  We are very excited to be launching our ultimate luxury silk turban collection this month (date TBC) – this is going to be a very exclusive and limited edition using Liberty printed silk and silk crepe instead of Tana lawn, for the ultimate in luxury. 

As you are based in England, are your products available to purchase overseas?

Yes, we ship worldwide.  Mostly to the USA, but also to Australia and we are very popular in Europe.
 
When choosing print designs/colours to add to your collection, do you take into account your own tastes, your customer base, current fashion trends, requests, traditional charm, colour or bits of all those?  

Bit of all of those – it is quite an instinctive process – when we see a print we absolutely love it’s hard not go for it. 

Have you got any advice on how to keep your turban/headband in tip top condition? 

We recommend dry cleaning or handwash carefully in tepid water, with a very gentle silk / wool wash detergent but our top tip to give any of our products a refresh is to get the iron out and gently press them back to their beautiful crisp cotton, boxfresh-ness!

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in sewing/ craftwork/ textiles?

Yes it’s been part of Susan’s world since the swinging 60s when making clothes for herself and friends she realised she not only had a passion but a real talent for it – handed down by her own mum.  For as long as I remember there has been a family ‘cottage’ industry of sewing and handcrafts.  Being creative has always been part of our family life. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I (Susan) have quite a modern classic style – slip on pumps, cut off trousers, and a cashmere or cotton knit top suits me just fine!I (Katie) love denim of all kinds – it’s so versatile and great teamed up with a plain, crisp, white shirt, big statement earrings and topped off with a tot knot twisted headband or Alice band for a splash of colour!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Susan loves Bimba and Lola, Pure, Paige Jeans, and loves a designer bargain.Katie loves Cos for classic basics and great cuts, Top Shop Moto jeans are affordable and fit  well, Whistles and Sezane for something a little extra special 13.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Susan –  Another Missoni dress (preferably in the sale!)Katie – I am always on the hunt for a pair of denim dungarees! I love Rockthejumpsuit.com and one day I will buy a pair of Chloe Susannah boots (crossing fingers!)

Boots or Shoes?

Boots – total comfort and work all year round not just for winter but look great with summer dresses and a good denim or leather jacket.
 

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Tot Knots of Brighton

https://totknotsofbrighton.com/
Summertime collection goes fully live  on 1st May: https://totknotsofbrighton.com/collections/summertime

Thank you both for the headband and for chatting to us today about your lovely headbands & turbans. The material, products and prints are exquisite. I remember walking through Liberty store in London in the 1980s, a treasure trove of textiles! I adored the place.

Linda x

My thanks to Tracy Cook for reviewing the headband on my behalf.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Tot Knots of Brighton, Tracy Cook and Linda Hobden.

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