Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Guest Post by Debut Author Mark Robertson.

I enjoyed reading Mark's debut novel Off Key. It was a bit different from the books I usually read and it was about a subject I knew nothing about. I laughed, I shed some tears and I was left wanting more, that's all I ask for in a book.
I asked Mark if he would write a guest post for Books with Wine and Chocolate giving my readers an insight into why he wrote this book.
So take it away Mark.....          

I’m pretty sure that at one time or another we’ve all said this, in relation to a book we’ve read or a play we’ve seen. For me, it wasn’t just about doing it “better”, it was about doing it more believably. We all know what it’s like to invest in a story only for a sudden element of the writing to break the spell.
Miss Bennett held onto the invitation knowing she would be quite unable to accept the honour, despite his pleasant countenance beside her. She awaited, undaunted, as a groom attended to her horse before Peggy, the housemaid, busselled into the courtyard and announced
“Mr Darcy it’s your Mam on the phone . . . she says are you recording Game of Thrones?”
My first novel is about the world of jazz musicians in the North-East of England . . . which, if I’m honest, makes it as glamorous as a story about ‘couture fashion’ set in Goole. But playing unfashionable music, thousands of miles away from its natural home, is what I know about. The final straw, that motivated me into putting pen to paper, was hearing a radio play in which a girl found herself performing across America within a month of deciding she’d like to be a singer. After thirty years of being a working musician I’m still waiting for that particular call from across the water. There seems to be something of a blueprint in fiction about musicians . . . all stories must end with someone bursting into a room clutching a radio saying” Guess what ‘fellers’ we’re number one in the charts”. Cue the sound of champagne corks popping as the band realise that their epic six week struggle to the top has been worth it.
The sad truth is, I can write with a degree of accuracy about trying and very much failing to get ahead in the music business because that is what I’ve been doing for the past three decades. Twenty years ago I worked with one of the biggest names in the industry, a household name, a multi-million selling Diva who is recognised around the world. It was I, Mark Robertson, who provided the drums behind every note she’d sung, to that point. She was the legendary Cheryl Cole  . . . it was the Whitley Bay Am-Dram Panto . . . she was eight years old. So I’m not suggesting that musical dreams don’t come true . . . I’m just pointing out that they’re quite a rare occurrence.
I wrote Off-Key because I thought there was a more genuine story to tell about people consumed by making music for its own sake and their daily struggle to keep on making it, in the face of endless economic hardship. I think it’s important to stress here that these circumstances, whilst undeniably grim, can also lead to some fairly farcical and funny situations. In the words of Hawk-Eye Pierce from M*A*S*H “Sometimes laughing is the only way I can open my mouth without screaming”.
It may be very noble to give everything in the pursuance of your art but what happens when you have dependents? You might be entitled to go hungry on your own behalf, chasing your dream, but what about your loved ones. In the opening of my novel saxophone player Kyle is more than happy to be kept by his girlfriend Charlotte but once she decides it’s her turn to follow a dream there’s a problem.
“I bet I cost you less than your clothes bill every month.”
“You’re thirty four, you shouldn’t be costing me anything.”
I also wanted to explore what it’s like to be the person at the other end of this equation. There is no doubt that Charlotte loves Kyle but just how far should she be prepared to submerge her own desires, in life, in order to support his? Given the circumstances it wasn’t hard to come up with the friction necessary for a decent story.
As a piece of therapy, writing a novel about musicians, that are unlikely to be famous any time soon, has been wonderfully cathartic. It’s given a sense of purpose to the thousands of badly paid, badly attended gigs I’ve done in pubs, halls, sheds and toilets across the UK and Europe. So I’m quite prepared to take on board any criticism regarding my novel except “I didn’t believe it”. I’ve spent too long, in too many desolate, deserted venues trying to explain to a loved one, down the phone, why I’m not around for it not to ring true!
 Mark Robertson.

Thank you Mark for joining me here I wish you lots of luck with your book and I hope people will give a new author a read.
My review of Off Key can be found here
and can be purchased  here

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cover Reveal! My Life in a Nutshell by Tanya J. Peterson

I'm so pleased to be part of the blog tour for Tanya Peterson's new novel, My Life in a Nutshell.  I loved her last novel, Leave of Absence and if you haven't read it you can find it here
Without further ado here is the beautiful and mysterious cover of My Life in a Nutshell.

Doesn't it make you want to read it? You won't be able to resist after this teaser trailer.

A brilliant and talented man crippled by extreme anxiety and panic attacks, Brian Cunningham has carefully crafted his world so that his interactions with others are severely limited. Although incapable of changing his situation, he discovers that, somehow, he is the only person seven-year old Abigail Cunningham can trust. Having bounced from one foster home to another, she has unexpectedly come to live with a childless aunt and uncle she has never known. For very different reasons, both Brian and Abigail are trapped in emotionally and socially isolated lives. Can they learn from each other?

I have this book in my hands right now and I am itching to get started with it with a glass of wine and some chocolate of course. My review will follow soon.
Amazon uk

Meet the author and read why she is qualified to write books on this subject.

 Tanya J. Peterson holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education, Master of Science in counseling, and is a Nationally Certified Counselor. She has been a teacher and a counselor in various settings, including a traditional high school and an alternative school for homeless and runaway adolescents, and she has volunteered her services in both schools and communities. Peterson is an active volunteer with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), including acting as a co-facilitator of the Connection support group as well as the secretary of the board of directors of her local NAMI chapter. She is a regular columnist for the Anxiety-Schmanxiety blog on
She draws on her life experience on both sides of the couch (counselor and client) to write stories about the psychological aspect of the human condition, specifically mental illness and the impact it has on human beings. Her goal is to use writing and speaking to change the way the world thinks about mental illness and the people who live with it.
Peterson believes that fiction is a powerful vehicle for teaching fact. Further, she knows that people empathize with characters in novels, and commonly they transfer their empathy to real-life human beings. To that end, she has published Leave of Absence, My Life in a Nutshell, and the YA novel Losing Elizabeth.  Additionally, she has published Challenge!, a short story about a person who finds the confidence to overcome criticism and achieve a goal, and a book review of Linley and Joseph’s Positive Therapy: A Meta-Theory for Positive Psychological Practice that appeared in Counseling Today, the national publication of the American Counseling Association.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Off Key by Mark Robertson

Charlotte has supported Kyle's precarious musical career for three years. Now it's her turn. When Kyle doesn't want to play the breadwinner, she looks to a future on the other side of the Atlantic. Saxophonist Kyle has no money, no career and has now lost the love of his life. Can an autistic twelve-year-old boy and an alcoholic 'has been' be his salvation?

As a book reviewer I love to support Indie and debut writers whenever I can and today's review supports both at the same time. Mark has spent five years writing his first novel. We all know how hard it is to attract the attention of a publisher and that prompted Mark to become self published.
The first thing I have to say is, what a lovely book cover shiny and strokeable with lovely white pages. I do hate those books with cream rough paper. All you book lovers will know what I mean.
This is slightly different from my normal read as it isn't often I read a book written by a man. It's not intentional they just doesn't seem many men who write the kind of book I read.

Off Key centres on the relationship between Kyle and Charlotte. Kyle can only focus on one thing and that's his saxophone playing and trying to make a living from it in jazz clubs in the north of England. Unfortunately he not very successful at hitting the big time.
 Charlotte comes from a wealthy background and her parents have disowned her for living with a loser like Kyle. Charlotte has put her plans of training to be a lawyer on the back burner as she works in a PR firm to support Kyle and keep a roof over their head. As Harry travels around with the other no hopers in his band he comes into contact with Harry a once famous saxophone player now an alcoholic living a day to day existance. At the same time Charlotte leaves.  As Kyle's life descends into chaos without her can he see by looking at Harry that he could end up just like him ?

Kyle drove me mad for most of the book I wanted to give him a good kick. I was firmly on Charlotte's side. I mellowed a bit towards him near the end of the story.The reason for my mellowing was that he was kind and good at heart, just a bit daft.
I loved the character of Harry and wondered where it all went wrong for him. Alcohol and his saxophone were his friends and as long as he had them he was happy,or was he?
I realised reading this that it must be so frustrating being married or having a relationship with a musician,they seem to live and breathe music.
There are some really funny bits in the book with Kyle's bandmates and the things they get up to trying to get to venues in an old broken down van.
Dainty who is Charlotte's friend and co worker brings us some of the funniest and saddest moments. I loved her.

A few times in the book we meet a twelve year old autistic boy Craig who Kyle is giving free saxophone lessons too. He was so endearing and  relied on his lessons much more than Kyle knew and I would have loved him to be more involved in the story.

The author is a musician and it shines through the book that he knows what he is talking about. It is just what you imagine life to be like for a band trying to make their mark. The seedy clubs and dressing rooms, the managers out to line their own pockets and the antics of the band.
I enjoyed reading Off Key and as with all books I enjoy I want to know what happens next? I think a sequel is called for. I don't want to give the ending away but I want to know what happens say in four years time.
This is the kind of book that would make a great television drama/comedy and I read on The author's website that this book started life as a screenplay so watch this space.

I want to thank Mark for sending me a copy of his book in return for an honest review, and he told me to be really honest, he said he could take it.Well Mark I didn't expect to be in tears at the end but I was (in a good way)

Off Key at Amazon Uk for kindle or paperback

Paperback from The Book Depository. Free shipping worldwide

Follow Mark Robertson on Twitter here

Mark's website where you can read the first two chapters of his book here 

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Separation by Dinah Jefferies

A country at war with itself, a family divided and betrayed, a bond that can never be broken...Malaya, 1955. Lydia Cartwright returns from visiting a sick friend to an empty house. The servants are gone. The phone is dead. Where is her husband Alec? Her young daughters, Emma and Fleur? Fearful and desperate, she contacts the British District Officer and learns that Alec has been posted up country. But why didn't he wait? Why did he leave no message? Lydia's search takes her on a hazardous journey through war-torn jungle. Forced to turn to Jack Harding, a man she'd vowed to leave in her past, she sacrifices everything to be reunited with her family. And while carrying her own secrets, Lydia will soon face a devastating betrayal which may be more than she can bear...Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaya in 1948 and moved to England at the age of nine. She has worked in education, once lived in a 'rock 'n roll' commune and, more recently, been an exhibiting artist. She spends her days writing, with time off to make tiaras and dinosaurs with her grandchildren. The Separation is her first book.

 Another amazing debut novel. Where have all these authors been hiding?
The prologue of this book is heartbreaking. I always finish reading my books by going back and re-reading the first chapter and having read the story the prologue seemed even more heartbreaking.

We watch as Lydia goes through one of the worst times in her life, trying to find her husband and children. She is given so many false leads and hope along the way that I just wanted to shout the truth to her.
We know where her children are and they are suffering just as much as they miss their mum terribly especially the oldest girl Emma.

Malaya in 1955 was a very dangerous place to be especially if you were British. The Emergency as people called it was at it's peak and no one could be trusted. A woman travelling alone through the jungle and surrounding areas was in very real danger but Lydia was so worried about finding her children that danger didn't enter her mind.
This book is full of intrigue,corruption and revenge. I never knew what was going to happen next or who I could trust to unite Lydia with her girls.
Emma's life without her mother was very unjust. Fleur the younger sister seemed to settle down well without her mum but because Emma was always asking her father questions he was taking his guilt out on her.
The author's descriptions in the of  the sights,sounds and smells of Malaya were so vivid they could only have been written by someone who had lived there and this goes hand in hand with strongly written characters to make the book a page turner.

Harriot and Cicely both old colonial types living the rich life thinking themselves better than everyone else and not interested in what was actually going on in the country they were living in. Lydia, trapped in a loveless married but desperate to find her husband and children. I worried what would happen to the little boy Maz who found Lydia and went on her journey with her.
I hoped for a happy ending but at times I thought Lydia would stop her search and settle for a life in Malaya, I'm not telling you what she decided to do you'll have to read it for yourself.

Although this is a fiction book it is based on the memories Dinah Jefferies and her family have of living in Malaya in the 1950s. I think Dinah's next book should be her own memoirs I'm sure they would make a good read.

The Separation by Dinah Jefferies published both in kindle format and paperback atAmazon uk
or from the Book depository free shipping worldwide. here

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The Atlas of Us by Tracy Buchanan

How far would you go for the one you love the most?
A stormy love affair. A secret. A discovery that changes everything …
Louise Fenton flies to a devastated Thailand to search for her mother, missing following the Boxing Day tsunami. The only trace she can find is her mother’s distinctive bag. Inside it is a beautifully crafted atlas belonging to a writer named Claire Shreve. But what is the connection between Claire and Louise’s missing mum, and can the atlas help Louise find her?
As Louise explores the notes and mementoes slipped between the pages of the atlas she learns the story of a life-changing revelation, a tragedy and a passionate love affair. And she uncovers a secret that nearly destroyed Claire and the man she loved – the same secret her mother has been guarding all these years …

Wow! What a book! Starting with a gorgous book cover that urges you to turn the page.
The story begins with a woman caught up in the tsunami in Thailand, we can only imagine what her fate was.
Louise hasn't spoken with her mother in two years after a falling out. She knows her mum was in Thailand so she flies out to find her much to the horror of her disapproving and controlling husband.
While searching for her mum Louise finds her bag inside which is an atlas full of photos and keepsakes belonging to Claire Sherve who is presumed dead as body has been identified by a friend.
We then hear Claire's story and it's a heartbreaking one. I was so wound up about it because I really liked her and I knew what happened to her at the end.
We are taken through the story from Thailand to Exmoor, Serbia,Venice, Finland and Australia. Claire meets Milo and his extended family and although this may be the love she has been looking for it also comes with heartbreak.
There is so much more to this story and what a wonderful film it would make.
This is one of those books where I'm so anxious to tell you what happens next but I also don't want to spoil your enjoyment. I couldn't put it down. What a great debut novel from Tracy Buchanan, I can't wait for her next one.
I'm passing my blog over to the author Tracy who tells us how food can inspire her writing.
Welcome Tracy!

 At the moment The Atlas of Us  can be downloaded for kindle apps for 99p! 99p? Cheaper than a coffee and longer lasting.
Amazon UK

Guest post: Eating for inspiration by Tracy Buchanan

We writers often talk about the beautiful sights that inspire our writing. But what about the food and drink we taste?  

As a former travel editor, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to some gorgeous places, meaning I’ve also been lucky enough to gorge on some fabulous food and booze. One friend who read THE ATLAS OF US said she left some chapters feeling ravenous due to the dishes my characters devoured while visiting different countries.

Below is a little taster (see what I did there?!) of some of the food and drink that has inspired my writing, in particular THE ATLAS OF US.


When I visited Serbia’s capital Belgrade, I came back a few pounds heavier because of the divine food there, from grilled meat dishes oozing with flavour to rich chocolate tarts that leave you begging for more.

But one memory that always sticks with me was my first experience of slivovica, a delicious plummy brandy that had my head spinning and my taste buds tingling.

It was a particular favourite amongst Serbs frequenting the underground ‘secret’ bars set up by people looking to meet in secret during the Kosovo war. As I sipped glasses of slivovica while out there, I felt like a proper revolutionary.


A few years back, I visited Iso-Syote in Finland. It’s in the north of Lapland so is even snowier and even colder than the rest of Lapland. First day I arrived, I was crying because my hands and feet were so cold (yep, I know, I’m a wimp!).

So when it comes to food, it needs to be hot and energy-boosting to make up for all the energy I expelled keeping warm. My favourite dish was what the Fins call lihapullat – in a word, meatballs. But not just ordinary meatballs. The most mouth-watering flavoursome little suckers you’ll ever taste.

With garlic and paprika and breadcrumbs thrown into the mix, they not only taste delicious but exude this amazing smell. So delicious I missed watching the Northern Lights one night just to get some lihapullat while it was still hot (no fear though, we saw the Northern Lights most nights while out there).


During a press trip to Umbria in Italy, I ate so much rich luscious food, I am not kidding you, I had to call NHS Direct when I got back as my tummy hurt so much from flavour overload.

During one meal, I indulged in seven courses and two bottles of Umbria ‘super wine’ including wild boar, cold meats and creamy bigoli truffle pasta (bigoli is like spaghetti as we know it but thicker).
Photo credit to Marco Varisco (under creative commons licences)

But it was the desserts that sent me over the edge and I particularly enjoyed Panpepato which Italians mainly enjoy at Christmas. It’s a fruity bread with all sorts of sinful ingredients from chocolate to honey to delicious candied fruit, all jumbled together to create an indulgent naughty pud.

Have you enjoyed any dishes while travelling abroad? Let me know by commenting.

The Mum Who Got a Her Life Back by Fiona Gibson

When her 18-year-old twins leave for university, single mum Nadia’s life changes in ways she never expected: her Glasgow flat fee...