Category Archives: Reviews

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.
 

For Pinning Later

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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An Interview With Author Miles Montague

I was kindly gifted a book by Cameron Publishing, a thriller called “Carbon Game” by Miles Montague, to review. Published on 16 February 2020, this thriller looked, well, thrilling, when I read the blurb on the back of the book. I am a great fan of thrillers and this one was set within the explosive political battles of the 1980s between South Africa and England; and the diamond trade. It was refreshing to read a thriller based on a topic that has rarely been explored, and as Miles is a former diamond valuer who operated from London in the 1980s, the thriller was made more credible due to the attention to details. Miles was born in Kenya and came to England in the 1960s and as I was reading the book, it occurred to me that there were similarities in style and pace of writing between Miles, and fellow African writer, Wilbur Smith – who happens to be one of my top favourite authors. Miles book jogged my memories of London in the 1980s although I did not know the ins and outs of the diamond trade nor the extent of the politics of the time. I found the thriller fast paced and exciting to read, the characters were believable and obviously the locations I could relate too. For a first thriller, this was more than excellent and I, for one, look forward to reading his second thriller! I was honoured therefore, to get a chance to chat to Miles who also shared his photos with me of the London locations used in “Carbon Game”. Hi Miles and welcome…

Hello, I’m Miles Montague, I’m British, married and currently living in Belgium. I’ve also lived in Germany, Switzerland and Africa.

I worked in London as a valuer in the diamond industry in the 1980’s. My first thriller, Carbon Game, is set during this period of great social upheaval, both in South Africa and Britain. My work taught me a great deal about the international diamond business. I have a deep interest in international politics and economics, and love the challenge of complex plot and deep character creation required of thriller writing.  

I was born in Kenya and lived there until my family, like many other colonials, returned to England in the mid 1960s.  I can still remember, as a young boy, watching the severe storm at sea when we rounded the South African coast on our way home and the swimming pool almost emptying of water as the liner lurched to the battering of waves. This gave me a love of nature and drama. So, I suppose it’s no surprise that today, I am turning a rundown, hilltop Italian wine-producing property into a sanctuary for nature where I can watch the storms rolling in whilst I write my second thriller, which is also partially set in Africa.

Who or what inspired you to become a professional writer?​

I cannot be specific on this, but my early interest was radio plays.  The reason for this is primarily that I like character creation.  The plot also needs to unfold quickly in a realistic manner that you can follow.  These are quite difficult challenges which I like.  

“Carbon Game” – your 1st thriller – published on 16 February 2020 – and what a thriller – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish.  Being set between South Africa & England during the political turmoil of the 1980s and the plot being based on the diamond trade; it was certainly fast paced.  As you were a former diamond valuer in London during the 1980s, a lot of the characters must have been based on people you knew and situations experienced.  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Actually only three minor characters were based on people I knew of or had met in the diamond industry.  I used my imagination to create the rest.  The way my writing brain works is that I first create an outline plot and then sub plots which give rise to situations wherepeople find themselves in.  I then think of what kind of people might get themselves in those positions.  I have met a lot of people in my life and I also like watching TV and films.

I enjoyed writing about all the characters even the minor ones.

Janet Bromsgrove was a challenge as I was creating a female character who in some ways is not what you would expect.  She is tough, self-assured, confident and had a background that offered her opportunities, and yet she chose to  turn her back on those opportunities and follow a radical direction.  An interesting character to write.

The locations were based primarily on my experiences.  The bomb threat on the DTC building was something I went through and the streets and buildings were often places I had been to or ones I had researched. I was born in Kenya and lived there as a child and so have some knowledge of Africa.  I have relatives who live in South Africa, although most of these have now gone to Australia.


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

A huge amount of effort went into the plot. Even so, along the way I was pleasantly surprised by ideas that came along that made it more interesting. For instance, I changed the ending of the finished book despite the fact that it created a lot of additional work.  I was lying in bed in that grey zone between being awake and asleep, and at 4am a new ending came to me.  I remember thinking, ‘stay in bed, you will remember it’, but I forced myself to get up and change it.  I often get ideas during my sleep.  

What made you decide to write a thriller about the diamond trade?  Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the thriller developed?

My inspiration for Carbon Game came from when I was working for an international diamond company in London as a valuer, I was told a story by a diamond buyer which really got my imagination going.  

He told me that in Western Africa there was a great deal of diamond smuggling from the alluvial deposits, primarily because of the civil war in Angola.  This theme is partially shown in the film Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo di Caprio.  The buyer went on to say that there were agents or buyers from all over the world located there and their task was to buy the best stones they could. He went on to describe how the smugglers would buy brand new 4×4 vehicles, often Land Rovers.  They would bag up their diamonds and hide them in the engine oil sump.  However, often some diamonds would escape and get into the engine mechanism which would wreak havoc.  One way the buyers would know that the smugglers were coming was the loud rattling noises coming from those broken engines.  After the smugglers had got the diamonds out from the engine sump they would often just leave the vehicle in the middle of nowhere and go buy another one.

These highly valuable alluvial diamonds are the best in the world.  They are quite literally beautiful as they are eroded so they have a smooth skin and when they trickle through your fingers they give a sensation that you will never forget.

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

I am currently writing my next book, and this will be a suspense / psychological  thriller with  some criminal subplots. It starts in Uganda where certain significant events lead to tragic consequences about twenty five years later in Britain driven by personal ambition and lies.  I have already written the first 30,000 words.

I actually have plot ideas for my next four thrillers. The world is in such a state of flux at the moment that opportunities for ideas have probably never been better.

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

I would not classify myself as a bookworm, but I am a bit of a news, economics and politics follower.  My favourite authors are Alistair MacLean and Frederick Forsyth.  I like real paperbooks, but appreciate that Kindle is really popular. 

 Is “Carbon Game” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, via Amazon and you can get to it via the links on my website: www.milesmontaguebooks.com

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

Places in Africa, probably the coffee region in Uganda.

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

Smart casual.  Jeans and sweatshirts. In the Summer I wear more linen shirts and trousers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Definitely an Armani man but I also like Weston for shoes. 

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

Some decent jeans.

Boots or Shoes? 

I like both. I have some old ostrich leather boots which I love made by Lanvin which need some renovation.

For Pinning Later

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

www.milesmontaguebooks.com

Twitter and Facebook accessible from the website

Thank you Miles for agreeing to be interviewed. I really enjoyed reading your book and I can highly recommend it. My thanks also go to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for my review copy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Miles Montague (apart from the top photo which is by Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With Author Linda Rosen

I’m so excited this week to be part of Linda Rosen’s official book tour promoting her fabulous latest book “The Disharmony Of Silence”. I was lucky enough to be gifted an advanced copy of the book – which I thoroughly enjoyed- and even more thrilled to be able to ask Linda Rosen some questions…. but first, here’s the official resume of “The Disharmony Of Silence “….

BOOK SUMMARY

In 1915, jealous, bitter Rebecca Roth cuts all ties with her life-long friends, the Pearls. Eight years later, Rebecca’s son and young Lena Pearl begin keeping company in secret. Rebecca agrees to a truce when the couple marries. But the truce is fragile. Rebecca’s resentments run deep.

In 2010, Carolyn Lee, fitness instructor and amateur photographer, must come to grips with the fact that her mother’s imminent death will leave her alone in the world. While preparing her childhood home for sale, she realizes for the first time that her mother’s antique brooch is identical to the one pinned to the lady’s dress in the painting hanging above the fireplace. Coincidence or connection? Carolyn is determined to find out. What she discovers has the potential to tear lives apart or to bring her the closeness and comfort she longs for. It all depends on how she handles her newfound knowledge.

Genre: Women’s Upmarket Fiction

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684334306

ISBN-13: 9781684334308
The Disharmony of Silence is now available to purchase at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. 

THE INTERVIEW

Hi Linda! Welcome to my blog!

Thank you, Linda, for reading my novel, The Disharmony of Silence, and inviting me to your blog. I am immediately drawn to you since we share the same first name as well as having a passion for writing and reading. To tell you a bit about myself, I live with my husband of almost 48 years splitting our time between New Jersey and Southeast Florida. I am not a fan of snow and ice and love swimming, playing tennis and pickleball outdoors all winter long in warm sunshine and reading with my feet in the sand, though I do miss my two grandsons who live less than a mile from me in New Jersey. 

After a successful career as a fitness professional, who or what inspired you to take the plunge and become a professional writer?

When I was approaching my sixtieth birthday, although I loved leading my exercise classes and working with private clients, which I still do when in New Jersey, I felt I needed something more. My creative side was calling to me. I was actually perusing an adult school catalogue for a photography class and noticed a writers workshop being offered. I signed up for it and the teacher was fabulous. After the first class, I was hooked. Since then, my fingers haven’t stopped flying across the keyboard.

“The Disharmony Of Silence” – your novel published on 5th March 2020 – and what a novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely different.  At first, I wasn’t sure of Carolyn and her quest to discover the mystery of the brooch, but as the story unraveled, I found myself engrossed – I gasped in horror at Rebecca’s attitude and mannerisms … I found myself questioning Carolyn’s methods of unravelling her family history …. Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed the book. Rebecca was definitely the most fun to write yet it is a tie between Rebecca and Kate for who I enjoyed writing the most. They are complete opposites. Kate embodies characteristics I admire in some of the older women who have taken my exercise classes and Rebecca is someone I hope I’ll never be, yet I do understand her and hope readers will try to justify her motives, not only judge.

As to the hardest character to write, Ben gets that award. I had to keep him vulnerable yet believable and since I haven’t been twenty years old for a long time, and I’m not male, he was a challenge. 


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

Yes, actually revising surprised me. I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. When I wrote the first version of The Disharmony of Silence, which had a different title at the time, I thought that was great. I enjoyed sitting at my computer creating characters and story. Though the more I learned along the way and the more I dug into my characters when not actually writing, just lying in bed, swimming laps or driving my car, the more I realized what I hadn’t written. That’s when the real fun began. I love playing with words and phrases and making them come alive on the page and that can only be done once I get the initial raw wording down. 

Unravelling family secrets – sometimes the results can have a pleasing ending and sometimes the results do not turn out for the best.  Delving into family history is, nonetheless, curiously addictive.  What inspired the novel topic? Did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

The inspiration for this novel had nothing to do with a real family secret. It came from a story my sister-in-law had told me when she was getting her mother’s house ready for sale. It centered around a painting that had hung in the living room her whole life. Since no one in the family wanted the painting and my sister-in-law didn’t want to throw it away she decided to search for the artist and, if alive, return it to her. I thought that was a great premise for a story. And, since I’ve always been fascinated by family secrets I’ve heard about, I created one. It wasn’t until I was on one of my later drafts that I realized that the definition of family was a major theme. I had been focused on secrets and lies, which are also themes in the novel and I have questions for book clubs concerning these themes at the end of the book. My personal feelings of what makes a family did influence me as I have an extended family and not all from blood. It also took quite a while for me to know how the book would end and my feelings on secrets did play a huge part in that – as well as Carolyn, my protagonist, telling me what she was going to do with her discovery. 

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

I am presently re-writing a novel I started years ago set on a hillside vineyard in the Hudson River Valley in the 1960s and ‘70s. It’s a sisterhood novel about grit and determination, raising women’s consciousness, and wine. 

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

I am a voracious reader and am drawn to upmarket women’s fiction and historical fiction. Some favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, Kristin Harmel, Susan Meissner, Kristin Hannah and not to leave out men, John Boyne and Pat Conroy. I love holding a real book in my hands though I do read on my Kindle and have also enjoyed listening to audio books

Is “The Disharmony of Silence” available to purchase worldwide?

It should be available on most sites. If there is an issue, readers can contact my publisher, Black Rose Writing. 

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

That’s a fun question. I suppose it would be the Outback in Australia. Ever since I read a book many years ago, whose title I cannot remember, about a female pilot who flew doctors in and out of the Outback, I’ve been fascinated with the place. 

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

I’m a jeans girl – skinny jeans with any kind of top, depending on occasion and weather though I do like summer skirts. As far as shoes, sandals win.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Several years ago Chicos was a favorite, though I’m tired of their styles now. Actually, I much prefer to shop in person for clothes and shoes rather than on-line, and any smaller store that displays outfits rather than going through racks stuffed with all kinds of styles is for me. 

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

As my mother used to say, I can shop in my own closet. I have clothes I barely wear so, honestly;I don’t have any wish lists at this time.


Boots or Shoes?

These questions are so much fun to answer. I’d have to say, given the choice, boots. Since I seriously do not like winter, I have trouble moving from flip flops to wearing shoes with socks and boots are a better look.

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

Thanks for asking. My website is linda-rosen.com where you can contact me if you’re interested in having me either come to or Skype with your book club. You can follow me on Facebook and Instagram @lindarosenauthor and on Twitter @lrosenauthor.  

For pinning later

BOOK BLOG TOUR DATES

March 2nd @ The Muffin

What goes better in the morning than a muffin? Grab your coffee and join us as we celebrate the launch of Linda’s blog tour The Disharmony of Silence. Read an interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book too!

http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com

March 4th @ A Writer’s Life

How much does setting matter in a novel? Author Linda Rosen talks about this very subject over at Caroline’s blog today. You can also enter to win a copy of her book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com/

March 6th @ 12 Books

Make sure you visit Louise’s blog and read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. You can also enter to win a copy of the book as well!

http://www.12books.co.uk/

March 7th @ Lori Duff Writes

Be sure to stop by Lori’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://www.loriduffwrites.com/blog/

March 8th @ Bring on Lemons

Visit Crystal’s blog today and you can read a review written by her daughter Carmen about Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. Don’t miss it!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

March 10th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Make sure you visit Anthony’s blog today where you can read his interview with author Linda Rosen.

March 11th @ A Storybook World

Blogger Deirdra Eden spotlights Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://www.astorybookworld.com/

March 13th @ Lori’s Reading Corner

Stop by Lori’s blog today and you can read a fitness inspiring post by author Linda Rosen! She shares some tips about strength training while reading audiobooks. You can also enter to win a copy of Linda’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://www.lorisreadingcorner.com/

March 14th @ Boots, Shoes and Fashion

Stop by Linda’s blog today and you can read her interview with author Linda Rosen. Don’t miss it!

http://bootsshoesandfashion.com/

March 15th @ Choices

Make sure you stop by Madeline Sharples’ blog today and read Linda Rosen’s blog post about inspiring your creative self by getting outdoors. Don’t miss it!

http://madelinesharples.com/

March 16th @ Reviews and Interviews

Visit Lisa’s blog where she interviews author Linda Rosen about her book The Disharmony of Silence.

http://lisahaseltonsreviewsandinterviews.blogspot.com/

March 17th @ Coffee with Lacey

Grab some coffee and join Lacey over at her blog today. She reviews Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://coffeewithlacey.com/

March 18th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Visit Anthony’s blog again today and read his review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. Don’t miss it!

March 19th @ AJ Sefton’s Blog

Make sure you visit author AJ Sefton’s blog today and read a review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://www.ajsefton.com/book-reviews

March 20th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

Looking for a new book to add to your reading list? Make sure you visit Bev’s blog today and read her review of “The Disharmony of Silence.” You’ll want to add it to your list!

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 21st @ Bookworm Blog

Visit Anjanette’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 22nd @ 12 Books

Are you part of a book club? Author Linda Rosen shares fun activities you can do for your book club. Don’t miss this fun, inspiring post!

http://www.12books.co.uk/

March 23rd @ Cassandra’s Writing World

Make sure you visit Cassandra’s blog today and read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://cassandra-mywritingworld.blogspot.com/

March 25th @ Beverley A. Baird’s Blog

What do you do if you are writing about a made-up setting? Make sure you visit Bev’s blog today and you can read Linda Rosen’s guest post where she shares her advice.

https://beverleyabaird.wordpress.com/

March 26th @ Lady in Read Writes

Stop by Vidya’s blog today and you can read her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://ladyinreadwrites.com/

March 27th @ Jessica Belmont’s Blog

Over at Jessica’s blog today, you won’t want to miss her review of Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence. You can also enter to win a copy of the book as well!

https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

March 28th @ Bookworm Blog

Stop by Anjanette’s blog again today and you can read her interview with author Linda Rosen.

https://bookworm66.wordpress.com/

March 30th @ It’s Alanna Jean

What does your writing space look like? Author Linda Rosen shares her tips for setting up your writing space over at Alanna Jean’s blog. 

http://itsalannajean.com/

April 3rd @ Joyful Antidotes

Make sure you stop by Joy’s blog today where she reviews Linda Rosen’s book The Disharmony of Silence.

https://joyfulantidotes.com/


April 5th @ Teatime and Books

How much do you love revising? Does it spark joy? Linda Rosen shares her thoughts on the joy of revising over at the blog Tea Time and Books. 

http://teatimeandbooks76.blogspot.com/

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Linda Rosen.

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Food & Drink Of Madeira

Ahh… Madeira. I could wax lyrical about this island for hours! However, this week I’m writing about the food and drink of Madeira. The Madeira Archipelago is an autonomous region of Portugal, consisting of 4 islands lying off the north west coast of Africa. The island is closer to Morocco than to Portugal. The main island of Madeira is volcanic, green, rugged and extremely scenic. Known already for its Madeira wine and warm, sub tropical climate – the food and drink in Madeira warrants a special mention. Yes, there is a McDonald’s – in Funchal, the capital – and a Starbucks ( much to the islanders’ disgust) situated at Funchal airport. The thing is that Madeira’s soil is fertile and volcanic – the warm year round climate lends itself to producing a vast array of fruits, vegetables (especially garlic & sweet potatoes), sugarcane, wines, coffee – and its location in the North Atlantic Ocean …. the fish! And Madeira cuisine is absolutely delicious!

Banana Plantation in Ponta Delgada, Madeira © Linda HobdenA

BANANAS

Bananas, bananas everywhere! The bananas grown are small and sweet. Alongside the different types of passionfruit, they are the main varieties of fruit you will come across in Madeira. Unfortunately in the UK we tend to see the larger bananas imported in from the West Indies or from West Africa.

MERCADO DOS LAVRADORES

Mercado Dos Lavadores © AdamHobden

The main marketplace for fruit, flowers and fish In Funchal is a “must see visit” on everybody’s tour list. It is a fully functioning market – the upper floor is full of fruit, vegetables and exotic flowers. The smells, colours, varieties are intoxicating! There are many strange and wonderful hybrid of fruits to try – such as banana-pineapple; passion-fruit pineapple; passionfruit-banana; lime passionfruit; peach-mango. Stall holders will try to entice you with samples of fruit to try. Beware though – it is rather pricey and you might find better prices in the smaller stalls outside of the main market. However, it is still worth a wander around – great for people watching and photo opportunities. It gets very crowded and, in summer, very hot. I prefer the cooler lower floor which houses the fantastic fish market. Yes, it is smelly but I don’t mind the fish smell. The range of fish on sale straight from the harbour is amazing – tuna, black scabbard fish, parrot fish, mackerel, castanets, limpets …

THE FISH

Castanets are small fish that are seasoned with salt & fried. Parrotfish is fried also – pay a visit to the Doca do Cavacas Restaurant in Funchal which has a reputation of cooking the best fried parrotfish on the island. Lapas or limpets are a slightly chewier version of clams. They are usually served in the frying pan they are cooked in. Tuna is extremely popular – tuna soup with noodles; raw in sashimi; tuna & onion stew; marinated tuna cooked with potatoes and chick peas; grilled tuna medium-rare steak; tuna steak with fried maize …. I must admit I was very surprised to see just how big tuna was! However, the ugly looking Black Scabbard fish – Peixe Espada Preto is divine. This is the fish you must try when visiting Madeira. It is grilled or lightly fried in a crumb batter and served in restaurants with a fried banana and a passion fruit sauce. It is better than it sounds, believe me! The sweet/savoury combination works well. As a snack though, try a black scabbard sandwich – a local favourite – tastes a bit like an upmarket fish finger sandwich!

Black scabbard fish with banana & passionfruit sauce. Onda Azul Restaurante, Calheta Beach © Linda Hobden

MEAT

Being an island, fish dishes do dominate however meat dishes are popular too – mainly pork and chicken. Estapada means food cooked on a skewer. In Madeira, wooden skewers are made from fragrant bay laurels, which season the meat as it cooks. Casseroles consisting of wine, garlic & pork are on every restaurant menu too. Garlic is widely used in Madeiran cooking – garlic oil, garlic cloves .

VEGETARIAN OPTIONS

Vegetables grow in abundance on the island and the vegetarian dishes I have come across have been wholesome basic vegetable stews/ kebabs that are just as delicious as their meat counterparts. If you are a vegetarian that eats fish, then you have no trouble being well fed on this island!

BREAD

Bolo de caco is Madeira’s regional bread, named after the caco or basalt stone slab that it is cooked on. The bread is extremely soft and is often served up in restaurants as a starter, with garlic butter.

FENNEL

Funchal (Madeira’s capital) literally means “The Place Where Fennel Grows” . This indigenous plant is especially found in the rocky mountains around Funchal. It is used for cooking, in the production of cough candy, in essential oils, tea and liqueurs.

Fennel © Linda Hobden

DESSERTS

The main dessert is Passion Fruit Pudding, using the various species of passionfruit available on the island. Passionfruit pudding is made with passionfruit pulp, jelly, condensed milk and cream. Tasting like a cross between a mousse and yogurt, it is a refreshing and flavoursome end to a meal. Fresh fruit salads are a healthier option, especially with the various fruit varieties available that the dish isn’t boring at all! Madeirans do have a sweet tooth, and a popular “cake” is the “Queijadas” made with cottage cheese, eggs and sugar.

Array of desserts, including the passionfruit pudding. Hotel Calheta Beach, Calheta © Adam Hobden

Talking of cake, traditional Madeira Cake isn’t the yellow light sponge found in the UK. Authentic Madeira Cake, “Bolo De Mel” is a sticky dark honey cake, a bit like a British Christmas Pudding. Served in slices, it looks like a thick gooey tart and tastes divine. The Calheta Sugar Cane Mill is famous for the dark honey cake and walking past the kitchens where the cakes are made … well, the air is filled with the delicious aroma of molasses, alcohol, almonds … in fact, the whole sugar cane factory is enveloped with the smell. A giant cake is made every January , which is matured and freshly basted throughout the year, and is then ceremonially cut a year later. The cultivation of sugar cane was the first significant agricultural product in Madeira. The sugar cane is used to make molasses, dark honey, Madeira Cake, rum & the island drink, Poncha. The mill in Calheta is still a working factory, open all year round and visitors are welcome. There is a small museum, the mill itself, a shop and tasting area. Free entry and I have visited many times over the last few years – it is a lovely place to while away an afternoon.

Although not Madeiran in aspect, the Reid’s Hotel in Funchal has a tradition that goes back donkeys years – the afternoon tea, British style. Every afternoon, proper brewed tea served in dainty wedge wood china cups ( or champagne) is served along with scones, sandwiches, petit four and cake. It really is quite a civil affair and a dress code is rigidly applied – no shorts, flip flops or trainers. Famous celebrities that have stayed in this hotel are numerous and include George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Charlie Chaplin.

The Madeirans are great sponge cake bakers – I tried a delicious slab of homemade orange cake ( and some chocolate cake) at a cafe near the church and cable car station in Monte, washed down with local Madeiran coffee. In Calheta, the homemade apple pie and ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon was a delight. And, cheese lovers need not despair – the cheese courses in restaurants are alive and kicking with some of the best European cheeses you can imagine.

Cheese … Calheta Beach Hotel, Calheta © Adam Hobden

DRINK

Like their Portuguese mainland counterparts, Madeirans do love their coffee. Unlike Italian coffee which is 100% Arabica beans, Portuguese coffee is a mixture of Arabica & Robusta beans. I was disappointed at first when my coffee with milk (Garoto) was served in a small espresso cup; but I soon discovered that asking for a Chinesa instead got me the same coffee with milk, but double the quantity in a larger teacup. All other styles of coffee, including cappuccino, espresso, iced coffee are available in the more touristy cafes in Funchal.

Brisa is a range of soft drinks produced and distributed in Madeira. A variety of flavours available include cola, cola light, cola zero, tonic water, orange, lemonade, apple, mango and, of course, passionfruit.

Madeira wine is one of the two fortified wines that Portugal is famous for – the other being Port. Unlike port, Which is stored and matured in a cold cellar, Madeira wine is stored in a warm place like an attic. The 4 most famous Madeira wines are Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Malmsey.

Madeira produces some excellent table wines also, although not widely exported, they are well worth hunting out. There’s around 12 table wine producers in Madeira; 24 varieties of red, white & rose. The vineyard I visited was high up in the mountains above Sao Vicente on the north coast. The vineyard is small but oozes character, the producers are knowledgeable and they are rightly proud of the wines they produced. After a tour of the vineyard, I was able to taste the wines – all were good, hic! – and all had a touch of sea saltiness from the air and volcanic earthiness from the volcanic caves they were stored in.

If you like chocolate and cocktails, then you won’t be disappointed with a “Ginjinhas” – a strong cherry liqueur served in an edible chocolate cup. Cheers!

You can’t visit Madeira without trying PONCHA. Poncha is believed to have been inspired by an Indian drink called “panch”. Panch means 5 and was named because it is made from 5 ingredients: alcohol, sugar, lemon, water, tea or spices. Traditional Poncha consists of sugarcane rum, lemon juice, and honey mixed together with a wooden stick called a “caralhinho” – named for its distinctive male genital shape!! And is served without ice. Legend also has it that fishermen used Poncha has a remedy for sore throats when they disembarked from their ships. For tourists, Poncha is now available in various versions – Surinam cherry, passionfruit, tree tomato, tangerine, orange. I’m not sure whether it is a great remedy for a sore throat, but as a drink it is delightful. Best to drink some at a local rustic bar where it is made in front of you, of course. You can buy premixed Poncha in bottles at the airport and supermarkets, which are nice but a bit sweeter than the real mccoy.

For pinning later.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite! I know I’m craving for a slice of Madeira cake and a glass of Poncha now!

Linda x

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Review: Trendhim

Men’s jewellery is enjoying a bit of a revival, especially when it comes to bracelets. In the past, especially in the 1980s and 1990s, gold curb and rope chain necklaces and bracelets were in vogue. Chunkier the better, and yellow gold was the colour. I remember shopping in Corfu Town in 1992 and there were jewellery shops selling gold rope and curb chains by the length. Pop icons such as Wham enhanced this fashion for men. Spring forward to 2020 and men’s jewellery is enjoying popularity again but with a more subtle approach – beads and leather bracelets in blacks, browns, and other shades are worn either on their own or in a stack – teenagers, businessmen, musicians, young, old, bikers, cyclists… you get the drift. It’s a trend that you can wear on any occasion too. Having the chance to review a bracelet for Trendhim, a company based in Denmark – my husband Adam, a fan of leather bracelets, was pleased to take part, of course!

Disclosure: I was gifted the “Lucleon Pleated Black Leather Bracelet ” in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my ownand Adam’s imput too!

For Pinning later

SO WHO ARE TRENDHIM?

Trendhim are a menswear/accessory brand founded in late 2007 by Sebastian and Mikkel. Their products are designed in Denmark and they currently offer 13 unique house brands and they launch several collections a year. In 2014, Trendhim expanded into Norway, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands. At the end of February 2016, they had further expanded into 11 new countries, hired 43 translators as all 3000 of their products and website had to be translated into 8 different languages! In 2017, Trendhim became the 10th fastest growing company in Denmark. In 2018 Trendhim has opened up in 12 new countries including Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, NewZealand and the USA.

THE WEBSITE

https://www.trendhim.co.uk/

https://www.trendhim.com

Apart from the main Trendhim website, there are also dedicated websites for both the UK and USA. I looked at both the USA & UK websites and found them to be very slick, informative, good selection of products, easy to navigate and reasonable prices too. The pictures on the website are pretty much what you get. For the bracelets, selecting your size was pretty simple: you need to measure your own wrist – my husband’s was just under 7.5 inches. The sizes then go by wrist size and whether you want a tight fit or a loose fit. My husband opted for a loose fit, and it was true to size.

Showing the fit of the Lucleon Pleated Black Leather Bracelet, in large (7.5 inches) loose fit.

PACKAGING & DELIVERY

There were two options of delivery available – standard delivery quoted as being 3 – 5 working days; and next day delivery by DHL. I did feel that the next day delivery charge to the UK was a bit steep at £12. The standard option was £4 ( in some cases free). If you are a regular reader of my reviews then you’ll know that I do have a wee browse in the reviews of brands left by customers. I am pleased to report that the majority of customers were very satisfied, but those that did have a grumble wasn’t anything to do with the products but delivery times. It was being reported of waiting up to 10 working days for items – it was around Christmas time so that might have disturbed the apple cart. My experience – I opted for the standard delivery; I received tracking details. I could see that the company had processed and despatched my order within 24 hours. And then Brexit happened. Things slowed down somewhere between Denmark & UK . I am not going to lie – I did get anxious. When it comes to deliveries I do like a quick service… but I waited 5 days…. the parcel came on working day 6. Not too horrendously late. Trendhim are working to try and improve delivery times, but unfortunately they are tied by the efficiency (or non efficiency) of the courier companies. My advice? Learn to chill! If you are ordering for a special occasion, order 2 weeks in advance or go for the next day service. The bracelet came in a strong “climate controlled Jiffy- type bag envelopealong with 2 yummy sherbet lemon sweets (gratefully devoured after the photo was taken). The bracelet was not in a box or pouch – there are available extras: personalised engraving, gift box, wrapping & gift tags, wooden jewellery stand – details on website.

Inside the package
The Envelope

THE BRACELET

Our chosen bracelet was the Trendhim brand Lucleon Pleated Black Leather Bracelet. As my husband Adam is a Leo, the brand’s lion logo instantly appealed. The bracelet is double thickness plait design – he already has a Pandora leather single plaited bracelet, so Trendhim’s bracelet compliments his “stack”. The clasp is magnetic, which is unusual – there is no locking mechanism although it is highly unlikely that the bracelet will come undone . The workmanship of the bracelet is really good – the leather is good quality and it is visually stunning.

Close up of the plaited design
The logo
Magnetic clasp

MY VERDICT

Trendhim’s website and newsletters contain a wealth of information regarding how to care for your jewellery, how to wear bracelets, how to create your perfect stack, how to wear your bracelet with your watch…. signing up to the newsletter would also give you the chance to get free gifts with your orders such as socks etc .

Adam has given the bracelet a score of 8/10 – it is very well made but his only fear was the clasp coming undone, although his fear might be unfounded.

My thanks goes to Trendhim for gifting the beautiful bracelet for this review.

Linda x

All photographs are copyright © Linda Hobden




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Review: Prestige Flowers

Roses. Who doesn’t love to receive some luscious red roses? Roses just happen to be my favourite flowers so when Prestige Flowers asked me to review their luxury red rose bouquets for the forthcoming Valentines/Mother’s Day season, it was more than a pleasure – it was a delight. Prestige Flowers are an online florist based in the UK but deal with orders from the UK and international clients.

Disclosure: I was gifted the “Valentine’s 12 Luxury Roses + chocolates” in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

The Website


https://www.prestigeflowers.co.uk/valentines-day-flowers

Easy to navigate and a great variety of bouquets on offer. The site does offer Next Day Delivery – but there are exceptions according to where you live. Delivery of my flowers was prompt and was by Royal Mail 24 hour tracked delivery. The roses were delivered in a substantial cardboard box and was handled carefully. I was very impressed with the whole packaging. I always check out the website reviews – this website has a mixed bunch of reviews (which is always healthy!): Negatives were mainly delivery times (next day not always being available); the positives about the standard of the flowers.

The Package I Received

Inside this gorgeous box I received the “Valentine’s 12 Luxury Red Rose Bouquet” plus a box of 12 delicious luxury chocolates. The bouquet consisted of 12 large red Rhodos roses, copper ruscus foliage, bear grass. Plant Food. The roses were well packaged with a wet cotton wool like envelope at the end to keep the roses moist whilst in transit.

The Roses

There are over 20,000 varieties of rose and red roses symbolise love. “Freedom” red roses have traditionally been the most popular red rose for florists to use in Valentine bouquets – these are bright red roses with thorns. In recent years, new varieties have crept into the red rose Valentine arena – including the Rhodos rose, from the slopes of Mount Kenya.

The Rhodos rose is a darker red in colour than the “Freedom” rose, with a distinctive dark edge around its petals. Almost velvety in touch, the Rhodos rose is a slow opening rose bud, has a fatter thornless stem and is fast becoming a Valentine favourite.

This bouquet of red Rhodos roses has been complimented with the copper ruscus – my husband feels the copper, green foliage and the darker red of the roses gives the bouquet a “classy look”; I personally love the velvety darker look of the roses.

Looking After The Roses

My bouquet came with a handy flower guide with hints and tips on how to look after your roses. Tips such as keeping the roses out of direct sunlight, keeping them in a cool room would help the roses to last longer, removIng the outer discoloured petals as these are “guard petals”, and how to revive drooping rose heads … by placing newly cut stems in an inch of boiling water for 30 seconds before placing in the vase.

For pinning later

My Verdict

I was very impressed with this bouquet from Prestige Flowers – the roses are absolutely gorgeous and they looked like their picture on the website. I particularly liked how they were presented – a lot of care and attention had been given to the packaging to ensure the flowers arrived in a pristine condition. I loved the copper & foliage that accompanied the roses too. A lovely touch. My score: 8/10

My thanks goes to Prestige Flowers for sending me the lovely roses to review – it was an absolute pleasure to receive them. My score is based on my experience with the company and the product received. I did not order or pay for next day delivery so I can’t comment on the next day delivery service.

Linda x

All photographs are by © Linda Hobden

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Knights At Warwick Castle

One evening last July, whilst watching television, an advertisement was aired that immediately caught my family’s attention. It was talking about the “Dragon Slayer” Light & Show extravaganza at Warwick Castle. Apart from the stunning light show & fireworks, the Castle looked magnificent and there was a plethora of medieval activities going on. We thought it looked good & having not visited Warwick Castle before, decided to book an impromptu weekend away in August. Having sons in their early teens, Warwick Castle looked as though it was fun enough for them as well as mum & dad!

Glamping section of the Knights Village

Having looked on the website, we decided to book a Woodland Lodge in the “hotel” Knights Village, located in the grounds of the Warwick Castle Estate. The lodges were semi detached wood lodges consisting of a double bedroom with the usual tea making facilities; a twin bedroom with bunk beds; and en suite shower and toilet facilities. My sons found their bunk beds slightly uncomfortable – possibly because they are designed to accommodate younger children. Being that the lodges were semi detached, I was worried that the walls might be paper thin – but they were totally soundproofed and a peaceful night was had by all.

Our bedroom. Woodland Lodge, Knights Village.

The Medieval Banqueting Hall was the main restaurant where dinner and breakfast was served. A buffet breakfast featuring both continental and cooked traditional food. Breakfast was included in the cost of the lodge – there was plenty on offer. We had also purchased a dinner and “Dragon Slayer” show package – Hot buffet style 3 course dinner with free soft drinks. I had a delicious homemade steak pie but I found the salad starters rather bland and unappetising; and desserts consisted of mini doughnuts with a plethora of toppings or a fresh fruit salad. The children liked the doughnuts, of course! I suppose, in keeping with food in medieval times, it was more focused on hale and hearty meat dishes with an array of delicious seasonal vegetables. I can’t remember if there were any vegetarian/vegan options. If you are an adult, and you are not a fan of drinking water, cola, lemonade, tea or coffee with your dinner – there is a bar where you can purchase wine and beer. Beware, the price for a small glass of wine and a bottle of lager is expensive! We stuck to tea & coffee for the rest of the evening. If you do enjoy a glass of wine in the evening, I would suggest bringing your own tipple to consume on your lodge decking. The Medieval Banquet Hall, of course, was decked out like it would have been in the Middle Ages – long trestle tables, low ceiling, light was from candless dotted around – it was really well done BUT it was August, it was hot outside, there was no ventilation apart from the entrance doors, no air conditioning (of course) so it was stiflingly hot inside, and the restaurant was full of diners. You had to wait to be seated, and I’m glad that we were positioned both days near the doors! It was slightly claustrophobic so we did not linger over our meal.

Medieval Banqueting Hall

We travelled to Warwick in torrential rain, but by the time we arrived mid afternoon the rain had cleared. Check in time is 4pm but when we arrived, just after 2.30pm our lodge had already been cleaned and was ready for arrival, so we were handed our keys. After a quick freshen up & a mug of hot tea we were ready to explore. The castle closing time is 5pm, so we decided to spend the last hour and a half in the castle grounds – we had a whole day pass for the next day too and as the weather forecast was hot and sunny we decided that was the day to spend in and out of the castle itself. Not forgetting the “Dragon Slayer” show later in the evening….

We made our way to the jousting field just in time to catch the final Wars Of The Roses Jousting show. There was adequate seating and standing room on both sides of the field – and an area dedicated to wheelchairs. To be honest, most people were standing and if you were seated on the benches you probably wouldn’t have seen a thing! Each stand represented either the House of York or the House of Lancaster – audience participation in the form of cheering and booing your “knight” was very much encouraged. The horsemanship was brilliant.

Audience Participation
The winner!

After the show, which was more enjoyable than I had imagined we headed over to the Birds of Prey field which overlooked the river. My youngest son likes watching Birds of Prey shows and we have been to many over the years. This was slightly different. As we perched upon the benches, with coffees in polystyrene cups in our hands, we were warned to keep as still as possible. There was a good reason for this because as the show progressed with displays from owls, kestrels, vultures, eagles and other rare birds of prey – not only did they perform in front of us but they expertly glided between the benches and over our heads with only inches to spare. The finale: all the birds swooped in a display literally inches above our heads. It was hard to take a picture!

Archery lessons

Back at the Knights Village, once the castle is closed, entertainment for the family is provided in the riverside field, free of charge – Lessons in archery, learning to be a knight, learning to be a princess and handling birds of prey. These activities are available in the castle grounds, during the day, but at a cost. As you can imagine, the knights and princess lessons were not of interest to my boys – but the classes were packed with excitable 5 and 6 year old boys and girls in long dresses and tiaras, both sexes brandishing foam swords! My sons opted for the archery lessons instead.

Dragon Slayer Show part 1

We didn’t spend too long in the entertainment field as it was time to venture back into the castle for the main Dragon Slayer Show. First half was taking place back in the jousting field, where the Wars of the Roses show had taken place that afternoon. The show is about the brave knight, Guy of Warwick. As legend has it, Guy of Warwick was a 10th-century English hero who travelled the world on a series of daring adventures in order to impress the Earl of Warwick’s daughter – Lady Felice – and win her hand in marriage. Sir Guy’s daring exploits include slaying a dragon, fighting a giant and battling in holy wars. In this part of the show, the legend unravelled using fire eaters, daring deeds on horseback and a lot of audience cheering & even a unicorn ….

It was soon time for Part 2 – the slaying of the dragon, which took place inside the castle walls, in the central courtyard. The castle walls were the screens as in front of our eyes, the dragon came alive, with a spectacular light show with flames that kept the audience absolutely mesmerising. It was the most dramatic light show I have ever seen – absolutely brilliant. There was a lot of standing, approximately 3 hours, but it was absolutely worth it. Unfortunately, I was so mesmerised watching the show that I didn’t take a photo or video. Yes, it was one of those wow moments. There are plenty of videos on YouTube though of the show.

Warwick Castle

Day 2 – Warwick Castle itself. Blazing sunshine and warm temperatures greeted us this morning – just right for visiting Warwick Castle itself. The terrain is pretty hilly – so make sure you’re wearing comfy shoes, trainers or walking boots. There are sweeping pathways suitable for wheelchairs & pushchairs – however, apart from the grounds, the state rooms, main castle cafe, dungeons and ramparts are not. Warwick Castle is a medieval castle developed from a wooden fort, originally built by William the Conqueror during 1068. I loved looking around the Great Hall, State Rooms and Chapel. The Great Hall was first constructed in the 14th century, rebuilt in the 17th century and restored again in 1871 after being badly damaged by fire. various suits of armour line the Hall. The State Rooms are lovingly recreated with wax figures depicting the various centuries. The Queen Anne Bedroom has her actual bed that she died in, in 1774. The 1st Earl of Warwick, Francis Grenville was given Queen Anne’s furniture by King George III, along with some gorgeous Delft tapestries, dating from 1604.

The Castle Dungeon Tour is where the ghoulish history of Warwick Castle comes alive with the help of some talented actors and special effects, including smells. I’m a bit squeamish so I baled out of the tour, relaxing with an ice cream in the castle courtyard instead, whilst my husband and sons merrily explored the depths learning about the days of the Plague to the tale of Moll Bloxham.

If you have a head for heights, and mobile, then climbing up the towers and ramparts is a must. The views from the top are astounding. There is a strict one way system in place as the stairways up to the ramparts are so narrow, so the only way is up! Caesar’s Tower is the tallest tower at the castle, standing at an impressive 44.8m tall. It was built on the orders of Thomas de Beauchamp in the 14th century. The lowest chamber of Caesar’s Tower is the Gaol – the original dungeon. You can still see graffiti from prisoners 100s of years ago on the prison walls.

A big surprise was the beautiful gardens, 64 acres of rolling landscaped gardens with peacocks strutting around. The gardens were transformed in the 1750s, under one of Britain’s greatest landscape gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. It is believed that Warwick Castle was Brown’s first independent castle commission. There are over 20 peacocks and peahens running around the garden. The Peacock Garden was designed by the Victorian landscape gardener Robert Marnock and consists of topiary peacocks, manicured hedges, pond and fountain.

The Horrible Histories Maze is also in the castle grounds and it is quite fun, whatever your age! Due to uneven flooring, pushchairs and the wearing of high heels are banned – although the maze is wheelchair accessible.

For pinning later

My Verdict

Weather is very important. If the weather is dry then this is a fantastic castle to visit as apart from The State Rooms & Great Hall, everything else takes place in the open air. For an estate of this size, there isn’t a lot of seating but plenty of grassy areas for sitting on the ground. There is a lot of walking, and a lot of standing (especially for the shows) . There is a castle cafe, which we didn’t visit, and plenty of food stands selling everything from pulled pork rolls to ice cream, tea & coffee to soft drinks. There is a lot to do, activity wise, for all the family – some activities have an added cost eg the archery, Dungeon tour, Knight training – but the jousting and birds of prey are included in your castle entrance fee. Young children will adore the knights and princesses; adults will appreciate the castle, gardens and everybody will love the jousting!

Warwick Castle itself 8/10

Knights Village. 4/10


Linda x

All photographs © Linda Hobden


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