I have been waiting for weeks to meet Leah. As soon as the book arrived, I made myself some strong coffee and lost myself in France.
As I opened the book, I could feel the ‘sheen on my skin where the sunshine streamed in through the window’. But the book isn’t just about the shimmering heat, a fast heart beat and copious amounts of rosé pamplemousse. It is a wonderfully witty book that isn’t ‘Just for the Holidays’ because the consequences of the holiday will last forever. This novel examines the fragility of the ‘protective shell’ surrounding teenagers that can shatter without their parents. In turn, Moorcroft also shows how adult are left vulnerable and exposed when relationships breakdown. However, you will still laugh all the way through novel and forget that you need to go to sleep – hence strong coffee needed. You will also crave some expensive chocolate.
Prior to reading this novel, I was unaware of the challenges facing Leah as I had focused on the trail of clues in the #PostcardsJFTH. One must admire Leah as she ‘rolls up her sleeves’, supports everyone and hopes that the ‘frost’ will thaw between her sister and brother-in-law. Leah’s ‘heart twists’ for the teenagers but also flutters when she feels the heat from a certain man. It is moving that Leah has an incredible capacity to empathise, putting the needs of others first. It is equally endearing that she removes the halo from time to time. Who wouldn’t want Leah, with her ‘sunny personality’ and compassion, as a sister?
The narrative is as fast paced as Leah’s Porsche, but one longs to find out if the romance will become a harmonious melody rather than a sporadic drum beat. Besides the events rolling on, there is a tremendous lyrical quality to the dialogue that drives you through the events. The humour sparkles throughout the interactions and difficult situations. I am in awe of the way in which Moorcroft combines humour with a more challenging and sensitive subject. Characters are built with precision as each word is selected with tender loving care: Moorcroft cares about her characters thus ensuring that the reader will also suffer from a ‘sore heart’ at times.
Read it and you will understand why Leah needs to get a massive ‘Do not disturb’ sign on her door.
A whole constellation of stars to be awarded to Sue Moorcroft for this funny, poignant yet heart-breaking read! Must go now and bake the quick pecan toffee pudding to console myself for having finished the book.
Twitter is such a polite form of communication that seems to promote that good old fashioned courtesy. It is wonderful that good people can ‘like’ your comments and always thank you for a re-tweet; perfect strangers wish me ‘Happy Monday’, or tell me to have a good weekend.
Recently the lovely Diane Need wished me ’Happy Friday’ on Thursday and this prompted a string of humorous comments from others – all very courteous. My phone beep, beeped for two days with various comments until it was indeed Friday and Diane’s birthday. Here are some snatches of the conversation:
It’s your birthday – it can be whatever day you want it to be. x
Such interactions punctuate your day with positivity and make you laugh out loud in public places. How, I wish that we could apply the same etiquette to everyday situations and people would walk past and share a positive greeting, rather than looking at their feet. Wouldn’t it be great if we could hand out cards with emojis on them, just to confirm our feelings? They wouldn’t have to say anything just hold up a smiley face. The only down side could be that one wouldn’t stop saying thank you. In Twitterland, everyone keeps on acknowledging your comments and it is difficult to know when to stop: I haven’t yet learnt this etiquette as I like to have the last word.
I had a great dilemma when Angela Petch sent me a picture of an orchid from Italy and presented ‘an orchid in Tuscany for favourite Blogger.’ What could I do? I couldn’t go on pressing the ‘like’ button forever and working my way through all of the emojis? I had to be courteous and creative so I sent her a picture of a cup with an appropriate message on it. Does anyone know if that was sufficient or if I have missed something?
I adore the way in which Twitterland guides you down the path of courteousness, reinstates good old fashioned values and inspires creativity. I want to share this love and hand out emojis as I walk the streets. Of course, it would be even better if more strangers would just smile occasionally and pass the time of day – just as the lovely people do on Twitter.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone on Twitter for future re-tweets and any ‘likes’ that they want to share. I like you all, with big hearts, and thank you! I am happy, excited and winking simultaneously.
Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com to read my reviews and subscribe to receive the weekly updates.
Thank you to everyone who regularly visits my website and a massive thank you to my wonderful subscribers. I have been overwhelmed with the praise for my website and book reviews. Angela Petch captured my motivation perfectly when she wrote that ‘your blog shows me that you are a true book lover.’
I am dedicated to reviewing authors’ books as it is simple act of kindness that lets them know that they are valued. For instance, Sue Moorcroft responded to a review with ‘There are few things that give me greater pleasure than people enjoying my book.’ Carol Drinkwater wrote that my review was a ‘wonderful surprise’. Authors are the wordsmiths, the dream weavers and storytellers and it is an honour to read their work. It has made me so happy to discover that Angela Petch was ‘moved to tears’ by my review, and Jan Ellis said that my review made her ‘well up’. It was a delight to receive Diane Need’s comment that she was ‘so thrilled with the review of her debut novel’.
In addition, to writing the weekly review, I have also enjoyed interacting with the authors about their characters. Angela Petch has updated me on Giuseppe, Marisa, Francesco, Anna, Ines, Danilo and the little horses of San Francesco from Now and Then in Tuscany. Diane Need has sent messages from Beth in Press Three for Goodbye. Jan Ellis has kept me posted with regard Eleanor’s social life in A Summer of Surprises. I have exchanged postcards with Leah in Just for the Holidays and as Sue Moorcroft said, ‘it was so much fun’. I will catch up with Leah again soon when I read the book.
Connecting with the virtual world of WordPress, Twitter and Facebook has encouraged me to find a message in the ordinary world around us. I am always looking for photograph opportunities to support a tweet, Facebook post or blog. My mind is constantly buzzing with ideas and it’s great. These adventures can result in some fulfilling interactions in the real world, but my photographing adventures can also get me in into trouble.
On the whole people are very accommodating and let me take photographs of their shops, museums, pubs, gardens, houses etc. For instance, the porters on The Grand Hotel, in Brighton, were happy to let me capture the glamorous setting with my camera. I needed the photographs for Ally Bunbury’s book review and interview. The helpful porters even cleared some luggage to enhance the shot. Later that day, a kind gentleman pointed out various signs for me to capture in his grocer’s shop, but I did get a little suspicious when one of the signs read: ‘New husband for sale’.
During my adventures, I have learned to smile at the museum curators and carry on. Unfortunately, I was chastised for photographing Churchill’s writing desk. Though, I was delighted to be informed that Churchills would ‘fight me on the beaches’ if I dared to take photos. Another curator pretended not to see me taking a view of the garden from the window. One antique shop owner looked at me suspiciously when I declared, ‘I need pictures of old spades etc to display as murder weapons.’ I intended to use these in a murder story lark developed, on Facebook, with Angela Petch and Patricia Stoner. On this occasion, I didn’t use the photos but they will be useful at some stage.
Walking through the Beacons, I decided to write a blog about the inspiring environment. I spied an opportunity to throw a stone in the water to represent a big splash. The splash would represent a thought or an idea. Unfortunately, I was chased away from the lake by the people who were fishing for trout. I did ask if they would like me to ‘sling my hook’ but they weren’t amused.
Sue Moorcroft’s ‘Just for the Holidays’ got me into the most trouble. I required some images of holiday items as mine weren’t glamorous enough for a friend of Leah. While shopping in a supermarket, I saw lots of holiday goodies. Bingo! I set to work removing the various items, placing them in better light and clicking my camera phone. The Canadian security guard was not impressed with me and said, ‘Ma’am, would you please follow me?’ I followed him. Disappointingly, I was led to his security post and not his horse. He was very polite and soon accepted my explanation.
The most frightening experience occurred when I was taking a photo of a street sign for Muddles Green. That day, I was in a muddle with editing so the sign was perfect. I stood in the middle of the quiet country lane to snap the image. A motorbike almost ploughed into me as it raced around the corner. It was worth it when lots of authors connected with the message.
Not everyone can connect with my adventures. I asked shop owner if I could place Jan Ellis’s The Bookshop Detective’ in his window display and then take a photograph. Sadly, he wouldn’t allow it as he was concerned that there would be breakages. How did he know that I am clumsy? Maybe, he thought that I was the detective and wanted to get inside of the window display.
It is great fun to think about representing my adventures through social media. It is a bonus that my everyday experiences and thoughts mean something to like-minded people out there in the world. My handbag adventures have enabled me to connect with a wealth of creative people who challenge and inspire me. These connections wouldn’t have happened without social media, and now I am exploring how I can further develop some creative collaborations. I am looking forward to working with Jenni Lopez from @TheJennieration.
Sue Moorcroft is an author who has worked hard for success. Her last novel, The Christmas Promise, rose to #1 in the Amazon Kindle chart and her latest, Just for the Holidays, has just been released. She likes reading, Formula 1, dancing and sunshine.
It was an honour to welcome Sue Moorcroft. She came to visit on a Sunday afternoon when the sun was indeed shining, as it does in her latest novel. She’d dressed for the weather in cut-offs and a T-shirt and was carting along her usual over-sized bag that she calls ‘half handbag and half briefcase’. As well as her personal stuff it accommodates her iPad and/or Kindle, bookmarks, cards and a battery and leads in case any of her devices need charging. I opened the French doors and we sat on sun loungers that I had placed under my vine terrace.
I poured us both a glass of Crémant d’Alsace and we made a toast to Leah and Ronan from Just for the Holidays. Inspired by Leah, I prepared a simple, refreshing salad. Sue had brought some strawberries as she had promised to make some of her strawberries and cream mug cakes. It was like a scene from Just for the Holidays as the ‘shimmering heat of the garden’ welcomed us. I had planted the pots with ‘white petunias and red geraniums’ to set the scene and we chatted about the novel.
Jessie: I know what happens in the novel and thoroughly enjoyed the exciting sequence of events and the sparkling humour. Can you capture the narrative in fifty words?
Sue: Just for the Holidays is about Leah, who doesn’t want a husband or children, ending up looking after her sister’s husband and children in France, where she doesn’t speak the language. Luckily, there’s a helicopter pilot next door who does – until he receives an unexpected guest of the embarrassing kind.
When asked to read a tempting extract from the novel, Sue opened her book and instantly found the perfect introduction to Ronan.
‘You’re not French!’ Leah exclaimed.
‘No, indeed.’ If anything, she could detect a touch of Irish in his voice.
‘But you spoke to me in French!’
He grinned disarmingly. ‘I’m a big fat show off.’
J: You have had many, many sparkling reviews. Can you provide a snapshot of some of the reviews?
J: It is evident that you care about your characters – it was difficult for me to say leave Leah behind. How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?
S: Whenever I finish a book I always feel a heady mixture of triumph and relief. Yes, I do sometimes miss characters and I particularly missed Leah and Ronan from Just for the Holidays … but I know I’ll meet them again during the various edits. By then I’ll be keen to be with them again and will greet them like old friends.
J: Who would you like to read your book and why? This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.
S: I suppose ‘As many people as possible’ is the answer! There are few things that please me as much as people liking my books, so the more people who read them, the more likely that is.
J: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?
S: Entertainment and food for thought. My books usually have issues bubbling under the surface and in the case of JFTH they are: the changing shape of families, women being voluntarily child free, independence, bankruptcy and homelessness, and the problems of taking a relationship to an intimate level with teenagers around to thwart you.
J: What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?
When she realises Levi has been her guardian angel, initially she’s furious. But the homeless guy tells her not to knock it. This relates to the book I’m currently writing for publication in Summer 2018.
J: What is the biggest challenge for an author?
S: For me, doing my accounts. Being an author is like any other business and I don’t enjoy the paperwork.
J: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?
S: Don’t make enemies. This was from Margaret James, who was then the New Writers’ Scheme Organiser of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
J: How does a best-selling author manage to stay so down to earth?
S: I work hard. I don’t have the time for airs and graces and my family and friends would probably point them out if I did.
Sue made the strawberries and cream mug cakes and they were deliciously gooey. Her recipe is on her Facebook page and she agreed to share the link to my Timeline. Although she’s cut right back on teaching in order to accommodate her publishing schedule of two books a year, Sue was incredibly generous with her time and passed on to me a few nuggets of practical advice about the world of publishing. She feels lucky to be writing full time and able to live her dream and it was a privilege to listen to her wisdom about the professional world of writing.
Before Sue could drive off, she had to remind herself of how to start the shiny new car. In common with Leah, Sue loves cars with a bit of power.
This week has been a busy adventure for @BooksInHandbag.
I have been communicating with fictional characters and trying to get into their world. I feel as if have been residing in a corner of my mind that is neither reality nor fiction and it’s a great place.
Leah, from Just for the Holidays, has been sending me postcards about her dilemma out there in France, and other characters from the books that I am reviewing have asked for help. Annoyingly, the author, Angela Petch is also travelling to Leah’s holiday destination and she has been trying to get into the heart of the gossip. I am sure that Angela wants material for her next book.
I have been desperately trying to get out to France to support Leah, but it is proving to be quite a challenge. Locating a ferry ticket has been an absolute nightmare, holiday shopping has been horrendous and I am petrified of driving in France. As I write, I am planning how to get out there to Leah and find out what is happening. It is difficult because I can sense that she doesn’t want me to go out there for some reason, but doesn’t want to offend. I need to see Leah face to face. It is a concern that Angela will hunt out any gossip and spill the beans in her next novel. Despite my reservations about driving in France, I will just have to get on with it and race out there.
Must stop!!! Someone is knocking at the door and the next-door neighbour’s dogs are going mad. Who is it? I can see a camper van outside. I will be back soon…
It’s me…I am back again.
The characters from my debut novel You Can’t Go It Alone were knocking on my door. Sophie and Jack have arrived in a camper van and they have said that I can borrow it for the journey to France. It is so typical of Sophie and Jack to think of others when they are going through so much. However, I don’t know why they have changed the lovely tangerine orange colour to a yukky pale blue. I might have to take them up on their offer, if I can find an available ferry crossing.
I hope that I get to France on time!
It’s frightening as the characters, from the books, are taking over and I am not sure what is reality and what is fiction: all I do is write, write, write the events of my day. It’s great fun, and it’s amazing to connect with the creative minds of other authors. I may never have to face reality again thanks to Twitter and the power of the imagination. The author Linn B Halton has just messaged me to say that there ought to be an ‘Authors Anonymous’ to assist with our addiction to writing.
Are the characters, in the books that I am reviewing, taking over my life?