Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The Light of Amsterdam by David Park

The Light of Amsterdam by David Parks

Pages: 371
Date: June 29, 2016
Grade: 4+
Details: Book Club Read
Paperback / Own

The blurb:

It is December in Belfast, Christmas is approaching and three sets of people are about to make their way to Amsterdam.

Alan, a university art teacher stands watching the grey sky blacken waiting for George Best's funeral cortege to pass. He will go to Amsterdam to see Bob Dylan in concert but also in the aftermath of his divorce, in the hope that the city which once welcomed him as a young man and seemed to promise a better future, will reignite those sustaining memories. He doesn't yet know that his troubled teenage son Jack will accompany his pilgrimage.

Karen is a single mother struggling to make ends meet by working in a care home and cleaning city centre offices. She is determined to give her daughter the best wedding that she can. But as she boards the plane with her daughter's hen party she will soon be shocked into questioning where her life of sacrifices has brought her.

Meanwhile middle-aged couple, Marion and Richard are taking a break from running their garden centre to celebrate Marion's birthday. In Amsterdam, Marion's anxieties and insecurities about age, desire and motherhood come to the surface and lead her to make a decision that threatens to change the course of her marriage.

As these people brush against each other in the squares, museums and parks of Amsterdam, their lives are transfigured as they encounter the complexities of love in a city that challenges what has gone before. Tender and humane, and elevating the ordinary to something timeless and important, 
The Light of Amsterdam is a novel of compassion and rare dignity.

My thoughts:

“She wondered if it was ever possible in the world to be anything other than on your own and whether that wasn’t the best way to be.”

This is a not altogether nice look at the inner lives of the three featured characters. There’s Alan, who cheated on his wife and now finds himself having to entertain his sixteen year old son during a weekend in Amsterdam. Karen is a single mother who’s sacrificed a lot to give her daughter everything she wanted only to be faced with what she considers the ultimate betrayal by that daughter. Marion is a middle aged woman with doubts about her husband’s loyalty who decides to take rather drastic (and I might add overly dramatic) action to deal with the situation. Because we see events through their eyes only, are living in their heads, and hearing only their thoughts, we are confronted with the inherent selfishness we’re probably all guilty off but prefer not to acknowledge. On more than one occasion I found myself thinking ‘you’re just not that nice’ only to realise that I might well have reacted in the same way and thought the same thoughts when faced with the situation that character found themselves in.

Reading this at times brutally honest book about the shortcomings all of us have in common made me realise that I do prefer it when stories portray people in a somewhat idolised fashion—the way we ought to behave and think rather than the way we all too often do. Something else that felt very realistic and yet threw me at times were the repetitions in what people thought, sometimes showing up as complete and literal reproductions of sentences that had been used before. While I completely agree that our thoughts often run in circles and are repetitive, it’s not something I can read without thinking ‘you could have phrased that differently this time’.

I’m feeling somewhat ambiguous about this book. On the one hand the issues the three main characters are struggling with aren’t earth-shattering—quite the opposite in fact. I mean the fast majority of teenagers are withdrawn and sulky, regardless of whether or not their parents are still together. Most children will want to meet and get to know the parent who abandoned them before they were born, given half a chance just as most relationships will become less sexually active over time. So part of me was constantly thinking ‘get over it already, neither you nor your situation is anything special’. On the other hand, it was the fact that David Parks managed to convincingly portray how those run of the mill concerns can mess with our heads and our lives that really impressed me. And I think he is spot on when he portrays the loneliness we can feel even while surrounded by thousands of others and spending time with those we’re supposed to be close to and comfortable with.

The fabulous and entirely accurate descriptions of Amsterdam in this book delighted me. The author has either been there or did a fabulous job researching the city because I always knew exactly where in Amsterdam his characters were. Even if I had hated the story (which I didn’t) that sense of being in the city where I was born and grew up was fantastic.

Overall this was a very well written book that managed to captivate me despite the fact that I kept on losing my patience with the characters.

Surprising Myself by Leo Bronsen and others: Audio Release

I’m delighted to welcome Lea Bronsen to my blog today and help her celebrate the release of her first audio book!


Thank you for hosting my first audio release, the erotica anthology SURPRISING MYSELF!

What is your secret fantasy? That one thing you dream of doing but have never had the chance to fulfill in real life… Thirteen writers present sexy, steamy stories of women getting the chance to live out their personal fantasies. What’s yours? Whether it’s several lovers at the same time for a pulse-pounding ménage scene or the allure of getting caught in public, these stories will set your mind ablaze. From voyeurism in a sex club to swinging, cuckolding to cosplay, SURPRISING MYSELF brings you stories from thirteen hot new writers to watch out for and just might make you think about fulfilling your own wildest fantasy.


Lorna, a young American reporter, travels to a port town in France to cover a yacht race. She hopes she’ll be able to experience her wildest fantasy on the beach – sex in public. Due to getting on the wrong train, she has an argument with the controller, who she finds both immensely sexy and annoyingly arrogant.

When he brings her to the engine, pretending to restrain her but instead getting intimate with her, she sees the opportunity to live out her fantasy…



If lucky, I might even meet a handsome Frenchman with whom to spend Saturday night. I’m single, have been for the past few months, and at twenty-three, the lack of sex for such a long time is driving me half-nuts. An interlude with a local hotness on one of the warm beaches of Sables sounds like an irresistible idea. Yes, a beach, or any other public place. The eBook I’m reading features a heroine getting the fuck of her life in an open park at night against a tree in full view of passersby. I want that kind of excitement, too. The three boyfriends I’ve had in the past few years were good in bed but not daring enough. I yearn for someone to do something crazy and a little forbidden with me, in public visibility. Surely, that hint of dangerousness, the possibility of being caught by the authorities, should increase the sexual experience—and our orgasms—tenfold.

For now, I’ll have to do with checking out the cute Maghrebian controller while waiting for him to examine my ticket. Row after row, he walks the narrow aisle toward me, distributing polite smiles to the passengers and answering questions. Tall and broad-shouldered, he has the looks and build of a soccer player. A black tribal tattoo appears below the short sleeve of his purple shirt and travels down his sun-kissed, muscular forearm. Beneath his gray cap, he sports a short buzz cut, and two or three days’ worth of black beard stubble covers his cheeks and chin, just enough to make him…oh, God, immensely sexy. With full lips, a strong nose, and black olive-shaped eyes, he’s a gem of North Africa, an exotic, roughly polished jewel. He would definitely fit in my fuck-on-the-beach fantasy.


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I like my reads hot, fast, and edgy, and strive to give my own stories the same intensity. After venturing into dirty inner-city crime drama with my debut novel Wild Hearted, I divide my writing time between psychological thriller, suspense romance, and erotic contemporary romance.

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Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Review Tour - Doc Brodie and The Big, Purple Cat Toy - Brigham Vaughn

As promised, here’s my review of Doc Brodie and the Big, Purple Cat Toy by Brigham Vaughn. And whatever you do, don't forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

Author: Brigham Vaughn

Release Date: June 17 2016

Length: 33,288 words

Buy Links:

Amazon         ARe    Smashwords             iTunes          Kobo


Can a tabby cat with an appetite for silicone toys bring together a lonely computer programmer and a tattooed veterinarian looking for love?

Grant Murchison is a computer programmer with a great job, a small house he’s fixing up, and a mischievous tabby cat named Molly. Doctor Brodie Hall is a veterinarian with a sleeve full of tattoos and an enormous mastiff named Ruby.

When Molly gets sick after nibbling on Grant’s favorite purple toy, he rushes her to the vet clinic where the doctor works. Grant’s embarrassed to admit what Molly ate, but Brodie finds Grant’s reaction charming.

Brodie decides to pursue Molly’s owner, but getting close to Grant is a bigger challenge than he anticipated. Despite Grant’s attraction to the vet, his past leaves him unable to trust in a future together. Doc Brodie may be great with scared and hurting animals but will his techniques work on Grant?

My Review:

Doc Brodie and the Big, Purple Cat Toy comes pretty close to being the perfect story for me. In fact, I could almost be persuaded the story was written, if not specifically for me than at least with readers like me in mind. This story was adorably cute, fun to read and contained just enough angst to keep me on the edge of my seat without ever making me uncomfortable.

At first glance, Grant Murchison is the one with all the issues that might keep these two men from turning their mutual attraction into something more and lasting. His previous partner really did a number on him, leaving Grant questioning whether his sexual appetite is even normal, and very afraid to trust again. But, if you look a little closer, it soon becomes clear that Doc Brodie has his own reasons for wondering whether he’ll ever find a man who’ll put up with him. Since his job demands he only works night-time shifts for the foreseeable future, forging a relationship is tricky at best.

When the two men first meet, Grant is embarrassed to say the least. Admitting what exactly his cat, Mollie, had eaten was excruciating for him, especially since he already questions his hunger for sexual release. Dr. Brodie handles him well though, almost as if he’s dealing with another scared but adorable creature, and when the two men meet again outside the surgery, it doesn’t take long for sparks to fly.

In fact, things go so well it’s hard to believe anything could come between these two men and their journey to a happily ever after… until something does. Good (or should I say naughty? J) Molly comes to the rescue though, and Doc Brodie is determined not to let his second chance pass him by.
I adored everything and everybody in this story. Both Grant and Brodie are wonderful and easy to like men, and obviously meant for each other. Their pets, the adventurous Molly and the huge but loveable Ruby are as cute as their owners and regularly put a smile on my face, unless Molly was doing her utmost to scare me and Grant out of our minds.

As always Brigham Vaughn’s writing is smooth. Her carefully chosen words paint vibrant pictures. The story moves with ease from start to finish; never boring, never rushed, always gripping and without any filler material.  

If you’re in the mood for a wonderful feel-good story with only minor angst and endless amounts of cute, you’ll want to pick this book up immediately.

Author Bio: 

Brigham Vaughn is starting the adventure of a lifetime as a full-time writer. She devours books at an alarming rate and hasn’t let her short arms and long torso stop her from doing yoga. She makes a killer key lime pie, hates green peppers, and loves wine tasting tours. A collector of vintage Nancy Drew books and green glassware, she enjoys poking around in antique shops and refinishing thrift store furniture. An avid photographer, she dreams of traveling the world and she can’t wait to discover everything else life has to offer her.

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Saturday, 25 June 2016

Island Counselor by Sue Brown: Release Promo with Giveaway and Review

I’m delighted to welcome Sue Brown and her latest book, Island Counselor, to my blog today. Below you’ll find all you need to know about this book, an enticing excerpt, my review as well as a giveaway, but we’ll start with a guest post. Enjoy!

Island Counselor by Sue Brown

Island Medics #2, part of the Isle universe.

Release Date Jun 20, 2016
Words 61,503
Pages 200
ISBN-13 978-1-63477-336-2
File Formats epub, mobi, pdf


Ebook:Dreamspinner | Amazon | ARe


Recently I was honoured to be invited to author TJ Master’s birthday party. We all giggled at one of his presents, a very large, blue gnome to go in his garden. For the first time, I have a gnome theme in Island Counselor. Nick makes the mistake of buying his mother a gnome, and the numbers escalate until they take over the garden. Even Logan receives one as a present, albeit he is a reluctant recipient.
Before you ask, I don’t have any gnomes of my own. I just have a huge statue of a Great Dane, called Alex. He stares into the house from one corner of the patio, and has the reputation of freaking out all the dogs who come into the house. I have listened to many a dog growl at Alex, before they realise he’s very well behaved and isn’t going to attack them. Since the Blink episode on Doctor Who I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with statues, gargoyles and grotesques, but Alex is a good boy. He hasn’t threatened us or tried to send the Brown household back in time.
Do you have any statues or gnomes in your garden?


Logan is there for everyone, but who is there when he falls apart?

Counselor Logan Wilde has a successful therapy practice in London, but when a traumatic incident there leaves him suffering from PTSD, he takes refuge in his holiday cottage on the Isle of Wight, unable to face going back to work. Not that he’s allowed to relax. Logan’s time is taken up with helping Liam Owens, plus there’s Nick Brent, whom Logan discovers collapsed on the beach. Nick and Logan spend their time bickering with each other, but that doesn’t alter the attraction they feel.

Logan is forced to make some hard decisions about his future, which entails facing up to recent events. Only he’s not alone—Nick is with him. Unfortunately someone else makes a decision too, and now trouble is on its way to the Isle of Wight.

The Isle Series Information

Island Medics


THE PAT-PAT of Logan Wilde’s feet hitting the hard-packed sand echoed as he ran along the beach. He ignored the splashes of sea and sand on his shins and calves, instead focusing on the white building on the far side of the bay. The beach was mercifully free from tourists at this hour, and the sounds of the island waking up to a new day didn’t disturb his rhythm. His breathing was focused and even as he ran, although the tightness in his abdomen told him he shouldn’t overdo it.
A dog came bounding down the beach to the water’s edge and momentarily disturbed Logan’s pace. He dodged around the golden retriever, which barked happily but thankfully ignored him after that, more interested in the small waves rolling across the sand. Logan loved dogs, but he preferred to like unknown dogs at a distance. As a jogger Logan had been chased, jumped on, and even bitten by dogs. The owners were always apologetic, but apologies didn’t do much to control their mutts.
As the sun rose over the horizon, he ran on, enjoying the time to himself. Logan loved the Isle of Wight. He’d been coming here since he was a teenager on a school trip. Now that he owned a holiday cottage in Freshwater, he spent as much free time there as he could. Unfortunately—or fortunately—as his therapy practice back in South London was thriving, his free time had rapidly decreased. His time on the island was precious and he guarded it jealously. Most of the time he didn’t even let his friends on the island know he was here; he needed alone time to decompress.
Logan had nearly reached the end of the bay and was contemplating turning around, when he spotted a man sitting on the sand ahead of him. He wouldn’t have paid much attention except the man had taken off his left trainer and his sock. As Logan watched, the man swore loudly.
Logan jogged up to him. “Are you okay?”
“Do I look okay?” the man snapped. He was young, maybe midtwenties, with dark hair and long dark lashes that framed green eyes. He would have been handsome but for the sour look on his face.
Logan ignored the hostile words and looked down at his ankle. “Can I take a look? I’m a doctor. At least I was,” he amended honestly.
“Great,” the man muttered. “Like I haven’t seen enough of you lot.”
“It’s up to you. I can leave you here if you want,” Logan said cheerfully enough. “You’re going to have to move soon. The tide’s coming in.”
Sure enough, the sea was creeping up the sand and it wouldn’t take long for the beach to disappear.
The man scowled at him. “Just help me off the beach.”
Logan offered his hand. The man ignored it and tried to stand up by himself, only to crumple with a pained cry when he tried to bear weight on his left foot.
“Look, stop being an arse and let me help,” Logan said. He tucked the sock into the trainer, picked it up, and slung his arm around the guy’s waist.
They managed to get to the promenade without incident. Their progress was slow, and by the time they’d climbed the stairs, the man was sweaty and pale beneath his tan.
Logan manhandled him onto a seat and knelt at his feet. “I’m going to look at your ankle. You might need to get to the hospital and get it x-rayed.”
“It’ll be fine,” the man said. “I had an accident a few weeks ago. I shouldn’t have tried to run yet.”
Logan frowned as he gently examined the ankle. He didn’t fail to notice the man’s muscled calves and thighs with their dusting of dark hair. “I think you just twisted it.”
“That’s what I said.”
“So why do you look like you’re about to pass out?” Logan asked.
“I’m fine. You’ve done your Good Samaritan bit. Now you can go away.”
If the guy hadn’t been looking like death warmed over, Logan might have done just that. He had better things to do with his morning than deal with Mr. Bitchy, but something was wrong and Logan wasn’t going to leave the man here alone. He’d probably pass out and smack his head on the concrete.
The man tried to pull his leg away, but Logan kept him where he was. Logan sat back on his heels. “When you look like you can stand without passing out, I’ll go. Let’s start again. Hi, my name’s Logan Wilde.” He held out his hand.
The man stared at him as if he were mad, and then he gave a short laugh and shook Logan’s hand. “Nick Brent.”
“Pleased to meet you, Nick.” Logan gave him a direct look. “You twisted your ankle because…?” When Nick pursed his lips stubbornly, Logan sighed. “Jesus, Nick. I don’t need to be a doctor to tell you’re in pain.”
“It’s my left hip,” Nick said eventually. Logan nodded at him, trying to encourage him to continue. “I’m a fisherman—or I was up until a month ago. I slipped on the boat and smacked my hip. It’s taking a while to heal.”
“You can’t work until it is?” Logan guessed.
Nick shook his head. “I’m stuck on land until it does.”
“So what were you trying to do today?”
“I went for a jog.” Nick caught sight of the expression on Logan’s face. “I just thought if I could jog, then I could work.”
“So you overdid it even though your hip hurts like hell, then your leg crumpled, and you fell?”
“Something like that,” Nick said sourly. Then he sighed. “Yeah, yeah, I know I was stupid, but I’m desperate, Logan. If I can’t work, I’m not earning any money. I can’t even pay the mortgage on my flat, so I’ve rented it out to get some money in. I’ve moved back in with my mum.”
Logan didn’t need to be a mind reader to see how unimpressed Nick was with the situation. “I understand, but you have to give yourself time to heal. You’re just going to end up doing more damage if you try to force it.”
Nick huffed and refused to meet Logan’s eyes. “I need to get home.”
“Where do you live?”
“About five minutes from here. I’ll be fine.”
“You still look pale and sweaty. I’m going to get my car and drive you home. And before you argue, I’m going to put your sock and trainer on too.” He waited, but Nick didn’t say a word. “What? No arguments?”
“It hurts too fucking much to bend over,” Nick admitted.
“Hallelujah. Sense at last.” Logan carefully rolled on Nick’s sock and helped him with his trainer. “Stay there.”
Nick leaned back in the seat, scowling at Logan, who ignored it and got to his feet. Logan stretched, groaning a little at his cramped muscles. As he relaxed, he noticed Nick eyeing him up and down. When Nick caught Logan’s gaze, he looked away, still scowling, but his cheeks had gone bright red.
Well, then!

My Review


There! That’s it, review done. What else do you need to know?

Okay then, if you insist I’ll expand on what made Island Counselor such a fabulous reading experience. First and foremost it was due to Logan and Nick and the way their relationship developed. From the moment they meet the attraction between them is obvious, both to Logan and Nick and to the reader. The fact that Logan is not interested in a one-night-stand doesn’t put Nick off at all, and they more or less stumble into something resembling a relationship over the next few days without discussing it or the lack of definition being an issue.

While Nick is frustrated because he can’t do the job he loves because of a bad hip due to an accident, Logan struggles with far deeper issues, even if he’s reluctant to admit so both to himself and to others. And that’s where the story really came into its own for me. Logan’s issues are clear to see, and yet we’re not hammered over the head with them. While the attack he has survived is never far from his mind, he’s not constantly belly-aching about it. Having said that, he hasn’t really been dealing with the attack or the resulting PTSD either and it is the growing connection between him and Nick that makes him realise he has to come to grips with what has happened and to start thinking about what he wants to do with the rest of his life.

Nick is exactly what Logan needs. While Nick is understanding and supportive, he doesn’t allow Logan to get away with hiding from the issues any longer. And because Logan is really starting to fall for Nick, he is prepared to do what he has been avoiding so far.

I loved that the tension in this story didn’t come from a ‘will they – won’t they’ scenario, or lack of communication or some stupid misunderstanding. The threat, when they face it, is real, dangerous and also external. I can’t begin to say how refreshing it is to read a romance in which the two characters behave like grownups. Of course there are misunderstandings and moments that are far from perfect, but they happen and are resolved. For someone who dislikes protracted drama as much as I do, this was just about perfect. The at times touchingly sweet moments, only made the story better. The scene, early on in the book, when Logan catches Nick touching the spot on his cheek where Logan has just planted a soft kiss, put a huge and very happy smile on my face.

It was fun catching up with the characters from the previous books. I enjoy watching their stories continue, and their relationships grow. Seeing how issues those characters faced continue to be resolved gives these books a level of realism all too often missing from romantic fiction.

And finally there’s Sue Brown’s writing style, which I love. She never fails to draw me straight into her story, the images she paints with her words are clear and her characters are vivid and real. I always end up wanting to meet her characters and inhabit their world, because by the time I finish the story I have a hard time reminding myself it has all been fictional.

I’m not sure how clear my ramblings above have been and I hope they convey clearly how very much I loved Island Counselor. Part of me still thinks I should have just left it at ‘Wonderful’ J

Related link: Island Doctor review


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