Thursday, 10 October 2019

Elaine Everest - The Teashop Girls Review *gifted

I don't know about anyone else but my love of historical fiction goes up and down, and when it's down it's normally because I am bored, finding too many similar themes and places, and not much originality in the books I'm reading. Recently I was *gifted a copy of The Teashop Girls a new novel from Elaine Everest, and things are looking up.

I was skeptical before I started reading, expecting something along similar lines to Elaine's Woolworths Girls series, just in a tearoom, not a shop. Although there was a touch of familiarity about it, there was also quite a collection of interesting characters that really made this story stand out.

It's always the quiet ones you have to watch, and Mr Cardew is quite possibly the quietest of them all. He is barely mentioned in the novel, let alone suspected for the secrets he hides, so for me, it's a bombshell moment when those are revealed.

It's an unexpected piece of writing, in a time when we are well used to being able to predict what comes next, or at least read speculation from characters in the story. This is a novel with more interesting characters than I expected, and more action too.



Mr. Cardew, before his fall from grace, was a resident of Seaview Guest House, a place many of the interesting characters, such as Polish-born Anya, and fisherwoman Mildred calls home. It's run by Flora with help from her daughter Rosie and provides a comforting backdrop to the action.

The Lyon's teashops where Rosie and her friends worked was another key focus of the plot, although I think this was the only slight downfall in an otherwise excellent novel. I wanted to feel immersed in the world of Lyon's teashops, just as I did with Woolworth's in Elaine's other novels, but it just didn't happen for me.

Apart from that, I was fully engaged with the plot with no temptation to skip pages, and enjoyed the amount of action in every chapter. There are no page fillers here,  just a....?
a somewhat aspirational love interest, so if you revelled in the movie star boyfriend in The Butlins Girls, then look out for Captain Hargreaves.

Have You Read Any Of These?


The Teashop Girls is out now, published by Pan Macmillan. Many Thanks to the publishers, Elaine Everest, and ed pr for the opportunity to review this novel, it's been a great read. Apologies also for the delay getting this up, I got swallowed up into an all-consuming freelancing black hole, but I'd rather read and devour every page, and put up the review how I want it to be. Find out more about the Pan Macmillan roster here.














Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Liv Austen - A Moment Of Your Time (Album Review)


One of the best things about music is that breath of fresh air it can bring, when you need something new. Everything seems a bit samey, and then an artist comes along that just wakes you up and makes you pay attention! Liv Austen does just that. The Norwegian singer-songwriter first came to my attention when she did a duet with Alexis Gerred on his album (read the review here), and although it took me a little while to get the album, I am so glad I did.



The industry has ever so slightly pigeon-holed Liv as a country artist, and I can hear hints of that in the album, but in reality this is a pop record with many influences. There are soulful ballads, upbeat punchy pop, a slight touch of urban attitude, and some indie guitars creeping into the mix, all of which makes for an easy to listen to, press repeat when you’re done record.
Window Shopping was the track that convinced me to give the album a try, and it’s still a favourite. The lyrical story interwoven with shopping references is a lot of fun, and the beat is just perfect for a summer day, or summer gig. There’s also an acoustic version doing well on Youtube, which I would recommend checking out.

It’s hard to pick out highlights from an album I have listened to all the way through, quite a few time over, but there are a few others that stole my attention more than most and The Next Time was definitely one of those. The lyrical references – chainsaws, jigsaws a square peg in a round hole was a lot of fun and seamlessly fit into the lyrics and the changes of pace made for a really catchy song.

Whole Heart was another one that made me smile. The soft vocal harmonies and piano intro worked well with the relatable lyrics, and well-chosen ad-libs, with an emotional punch in just the right places. Liv has a knack of letting a song ebb and flow in just the right way, and letting it build or fade away to suit the story and Whole Heart was a great example of that.


The whole album has a live instrumental feel to it, and you can feel the gig vibe even on CD, but if you want to dance, head on over to track 9 – Part-Time Sweetheart – this will be the dance/sing-along hit of any live session, along with Window Shopping. I’d also like to mention the title track ‘A Moment Of You Time’ – the guitars on this give it a really laid-back holiday vibe, and it adds a nice touch of soul to the tracklist.

The only thing I would say in critique, would be around ‘Don’t Regret A Single One’ – I just felt the higher-pitched vocals at times in this track was a bit overpowering, and the music was drowning out the vocals a little at other points in the song. It’s hard not to be picky at times, especially when you spot potential, but I still really enjoyed the drums and backing vocals on this track.
All in all it’s a refreshing, catchy, pop record, with a lot of soul, interesting lyrics, and some great quality instrumentation. I can’t really say any more than that, other than I look forward to hearing what’s coming next.

‘A Moment Of You Time’ is out now, and available on all your usual streaming services/download sites, on CD via www.livausten.com and if you’re lucky you may even spot it in your local HMV. Follow Liv on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more musical updates.

* In the interests of disclosure I bought this musical gem and just had to give it a shout out on my blog. 


Thursday, 13 June 2019

Sharon White Stationery Review

Although I have missed the boat with World Letter Writing Day (1st September), I think letter writing should be celebrated all year round, and I very much hope it's not dying out. Who doesn't love getting happy mail land on the doormat.

I was recently given the chance to receive and review a selection of stationery from mixed media artist Sharon White. Sharon has exhibited at the London Fashion and Textile Museum and Dubai International Art Festivals, and has worked the Strictly pro dancers and craft fan Kirstie Allsopp.

The online store on her website features some wall-art, cushions, and her recent stationery release, and to give you an idea of style, this artist likes bling, pearls, crystals, fabric and floral accents. Sharon has chosen to magnify elements of some of her paintings to create the cushions and stationery.

I received samples of her correspondence cards, which all have foil greetings at the top on one side, with wording such as hey, hello lovely and guess what. They were also nicely presented with the top of the envelope folded down so you could see the artwork that was printed/inserted within.

Pro's - the magnified artwork looks stunning, and the printing has really captured the detail of the materials used. I don't know how she has done it, but the glitter, pearls, gems etc. really stand out. I'd definitely notice this on a shop shelf, as I find most writing sets out there at the moment quite muted, old fashioned, and a bit boring. The greetings at the top of each card are also a lot of fun, and although I've never used them before, I like the idea of correspondence cards, a bit of old school tradition mixed with modern mixed media prints, and they've all been printed on good quality materials.



How I Would Use - Because of the artwork and foiling, size of cards and price, I'd say this set is more for gifting or special messages to keep rather than everyday use. I wouldn't write normal penpal post on something this nice.

Cons - The price. Although there are 12 beautifully made cards in the set, and as a crafter I appreciate the work that has gone into them, I think £19.99 is too steep for a pack of 12 cards. I'd look to pay more for an artists product, but not that much, and would look for extras such as writing paper and pens/pencils for that price. I think the price of the cushions is more inline with what I'd expect. I also think its a neat idea to package the cards in a bag that can be kept and reused for other things, I was disappointed that the decoration was just a name. It's not something I'd keep, and I don't think adds value and would put me off the price point again.



Sharon has the right idea by magnifying some of her artwork for more affordable stationery pieces, but I think the packaging should match the prettiness of what's inside, and as an avid letter writer, I couldn't justify the price for the amount of product received. That said, I am currently wondering whether one of her cushions would go in my bedroom.

Please do check out Sharon's artwork collections, and the images she has chosen for her stationery range, although I wouldn't buy, I loved the ideas and it's great to see more stationery products out there.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Me, Myself, and 90's Nostalgia *hosted



I have a big birthday coming up soon, and I am not happy about how the numbers are adding up this year, but a bit of nostalgia never hurt right? even if it does make me feel old! The '90s were (whispers quietly) my teenage years, remembered for watching Thunderbirds after swimming on a Friday, tussling with friends over who got what ice pop at the shops after school, and saving pennies to buy a Tamagotchi to look after, something which I was probably too old for.

Other favourites include binge-watching The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air - the fairly recent video from Graham Norton's show of Will Smith, Jaiden Smith, Alfonso, and DJ Jazzy Jeff is a beautiful thing. Challenging my sister to a skip-it challenge (still a big kid that would probably do this again!) was also a favourite weekend activity.

My main memories of the ’90s though all circle around music, and the big part it played and still does play in my life. I was always happy around music, listening to it, dancing around to the radio, but as a teenager, I was much more interested in who was out there, how I could experience them, and what I was going to buy next on cassette or CD from Woolworths.


This was also the time I discovered the magic of live gigs, the excitement, the energy, and the disgust of my sister as I enthusiastically danced and sang all night long, while she looked on in embarrassment. I sunk to new lows when we were watching boybands and I screamed as well! Luckily I don't think I was ever as bad as the super fan in the video below: 



My first big concert outing was to see Take That at the Chelmsford Spectacular in 1993, how exciting it was back then to have them visit our town, and break records (at the time) for the largest crowd. That was the first of 3 times I saw the band, the second I had them over my head on an aerial stage, and the third I watched a school friend cry at Mark Owen singing Babe, at what turned out to be their last UK tour gig (that time around).

I’ve been a Take That fan since I was 13, but it wasn’t just the big boyband arena shows that caught my attention, there were so many other ways to enjoy pop music, from radio roadshows, touring events like the Radio 1 Massive Music Tour, and fun entertainment events like the Capital Extravaganza, so good I went twice and returned the next year. I also managed to fulfill a big ambition of going to the Smash Hits Poll Winners Party, after many years of sellouts and was in the audience of CD:UK a few times. On one show during a commercial break, H from Steps filmed us all on his video camera, waiting for Kavana to perform – who knows maybe the footage still exists and I have a little claim to fame from one of the best eras of pop!



I’m new to Spotify so maybe my next challenge will be to create a 90’s playlist, starting with Elton John – Candle In The Wind, and End Of The Road by Boys II Men, and ending with Ace Of Base – I Saw The Sign, with the Bodyguard Soundtrack in the middle! So many choices! What would you add? If you were buying music, games, films and more in the ’90s what did you choose? Join me in celebrating the 90’s, and forgetting how old we are now, and drop a message below, I’d love to hear your stories. 

* This post contains a hosted/sponsored video element. 

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Elaine Everest - The Teashop Girls Review *gifted