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Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Reflections on Losing a Pet

Image: Lorna Holland
Some people just aren’t animal people. They’ve never had pets and they don’t see the attraction of having a pet. Put simply, they don’t bond with animals. However, other people are the complete opposite.

Far from the crazy cat lady stereotype, being an animal lover is all about caring for your pets and forming a deep, long-lasting connection with them. From childhood right throughout life, pets can provide unconditional love and companionship – is it really a surprise that many people prefer spending time with animals rather than people?

So when you have a trusted pet that you have spent a good proportion of your life with, it can be hard when that inevitable day comes and you have to say goodbye.

This is exactly what my family and I were faced with a few weeks ago when we made the difficult decision to say goodbye to our dog.

Image: Lorna Holland
Max was a member of our family for eleven incredible years, arriving just before Christmas in 2006. To say he was an unexpected arrival would be a bit of an understatement, to say the least, but little did we know that that nervous, worried rescue dog would be the best Christmas present any of us ever received.

He fit into our family seamlessly, as though he was meant to be our pet and we were meant to be his family. In fact, if ever there was something to make you believe in fate, Max was it.

Wherever we went, Max came with us. We had a running joke that he must be one of the most well-travelled dogs in the country, judging by the amount of caravan holidays he accompanied us on. We could never leave him in kennels – he always loved holidays and all the extra walking, treats and attention they entailed far too much for that.

Max was always so firmly engrained in almost every aspect of our lives that it is difficult now to pinpoint a family memory that doesn’t include him. As I sit here now writing this, memory after memory is flooding into my brain. If nothing else, Max certainly managed to enrich every single day with his quirks and unwavering affection.

He certainly knew he had landed on his feet when he arrived on our doorstep, as we couldn’t have asked for a more loving, docile pet. You could have done anything to Max and he wouldn’t have batted an eyelid – throughout the duration of his life, he never intentionally hurt anyone, and to be able to confidently say that about a dog is an incredibly rare feat.

Every pet owner says that theirs is one in a million, but with Max, he really was.

Image: Lorna Holland
Stubbornly independent to the last, in the months leading up to June, he began losing more and more of his control and freedom to move. He was never in pain, but seeing a once-lively, active dog reduced to slithering around the house and barely managing to drag himself out into the garden was a sight to slowly break your heart. Despite frequent trips to the vet and a cocktail of pills and medication (eagerly awaited in their disguise of meat or cheese each morning), there was nothing anyone could really do to halt the progress of the debilitating degenerative condition that affected the nerves in his spine.

We worked to adapt our lifestyle in order to cater to his new needs as best we could. We shortened his daily walks, bandaged up his paws to stop him scraping them red-raw against the pavement, and even obtained a ‘dog on wheels’ walking frame to hook him up to, courtesy of a kind-hearted neighbour. However, there comes a point in every older pet’s life where you have to make that call – are you keeping them alive for their own benefit or for yours?

When that heart-breaking moment comes, you know their time has come.

A post shared by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

We said goodbye to Max on Saturday 10th June 2017.

I’m told he passed peacefully, in the company of his family. I wasn’t able to go to the vets and accompany him on his final journey, but I don’t regret not being there when he gained his wings.

It might sound strange to say that, but here’s why.

On my 11th birthday, I got my very first pet. My mum took me to the local pet shop after school and let me pick out an adorable little hamster all of my own. I immediately knew which one I wanted – I called her Scamper because she scampered up and down the cardboard box I was transporting her in all the way home.

Scamper wasn’t exactly the most sociable of animals, nor the most active – I think I only remember her actually using her hamster wheel twice throughout her whole life. However, that still didn’t stop her from being the cutest thing I’d ever seen.

Max and Scamper’s lives briefly intersected; Scamper remained aloof towards Max whereas he maintained a strong sense of curiosity towards her.

One morning, I came downstairs to get ready for school and discovered Scamper sitting shivering in a corner of her cage (by this point, she had grown considerably and taken to living in only the bottom storey of her vastly extravagant hamster palace). She remained unresponsive when I picked her up and held her. A few hours later, my first pet passed away in my hands.

The next day at school, a classmate came up to me and asked where I’d been the previous day. When I answered, their response was thus, “I wish I had a hamster so I could have a day off when it died”.

That heartless, throwaway remark has remained with me to this day.

Image: Lorna Holland
Some people’s attitudes to other people’s pets still amaze me, even now. I’m a firm believer in the fact that pets are a real part of the family, so when people are negative about your pets or your relationship with them, it can be a real eye-opener.

On the other hand, the majority of people simply couldn’t be nicer about it. People you barely speak to or people who never even met your pet will share their condolences – losing a pet is a shared grief that all too many of us experience.

While the wounds may still be raw and the grief hides just under the surface, it is important to sit back and reflect on a life which influenced so much of my own.

Goodbye, Max. No words will ever truly do you justice, but here I offer you my best.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Book Review: The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Humanity’s hope of salvation lies within a single laptop…

A mutation in human DNA means no one lives beyond nineteen. Scientists working to reverse this pandemic died before their Salvation Project was complete, leaving behind the results of their research in a sealed vault – the Soterion.

122 years have passed. The civilisation of the ‘Long Dead’ is almost forgotten, the Soterion has been burned to ashes, and communities of Constants are tormented by brutal tribes of Zeds. Cyrus, Miouda and Sammy flee their burning city with a laptop rescued from the inferno. They believe it contains the key to the Salvation Project. But its batteries are dead, there is no electricity to power it, and murderous Zeds will stop at nothing to get it back…

Image: Faye Rogers PR
I haven't written a review in quite a long time (especially for a supposed book blogger) so when I was invited to participate in the blog tour for the final instalment of The Soterion Mission trilogy, I jumped at the chance. 

For those who don't know, the author, Stewart Ross, was actually one of my lecturers at university. Even more strangely, I was approached for this tour by the lovely Faye Rogers, meaning that the fact I already knew Stewart was a complete coincidence!

I always find it difficult to review books by authors I know off the page. All the way through the book I find myself imagining the author writing the story and when it comes to writing up the review, don't even get me started. What if I don't like it? Or, worse, what if I end up offending them?

Most authors are used to negative reviews, but taking it on the chin becomes that little bit harder if a scathing review comes from someone you personally know.

However, luckily, this isn't going to be one of those reviews.

Having followed the trilogy right the way through from the first book (cue all the memories of reading The Soterion Mission as an assigned book, followed by group discussions during the writing of the subsequent two books) I was already familiar with the storyline. Just as well, really, as I think you have to read the entire trilogy if you want to really understand all the nuances behind the events of book three. To that end, a quick word of warning - The Salvation Project is definitely not a stand-alone novel.

One thing I've always admired about this series is the fact that it is marketed as children's fiction yet is unapologetically unashamed to deal with a wide range of serious, deep and complex issues. Ranging from violence and death to sex and much deeper psychological concerns, these are topics most children's books either sugarcoat or skip right over. This provides a refreshing change from the norm - even if sometimes certain passages do leave you a little shell-shocked!

All our favourite key characters return again in The Salvation Project, from the stalwart Cyrus to Miouda and the loyal Sammy. Throughout the book, you find yourself constantly willing them to succeed and finally manage to complete the mission, overcoming their enemies and achieving their common goal. Of course, hardships and perils are encountered along the way (what good is a story if everything goes smoothly?) but it is the ending that really manages to pose the biggest questions of all. This whole series has a strong undercurrent involving questioning the modern world and the values and principals of Western society. Definitely one which leaves you with food for thought.

Rating: 3 stars

The Salvation Project, the final novel in The Soterion Mission trilogy, is available to buy now.


If you fancy getting your hands on a copy, there is currently a giveaway running on Goodreads where you can win yourself a copy of your very own - just head on over to enter. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Salvation Project by Stewart Ross

The Salvation Project

by Stewart Ross

Giveaway ends June 30, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Have you been keeping up with the series? What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Spotlight: Gallowglass by Jennifer Allis Provost

Karina didn’t set out to free the Seelie Queen’s gallowglass. Now she’ll do anything to keep him.

book, cover, gallowglass, jennifer-allis-provost
Image: Jennifer Allis Provost / Bewitching Book Tours
After Karina and her brother, Chris’, lives fall apart in separate yet equally spectacular ways, they leave New York behind and head to the UK. Karina buries herself in research for her doctoral thesis, all the while studiously not thinking about the man who broke her heart, while Chris - who’d been a best-selling author before his ex-fiancée sued him for plagiarism - drinks his way across the British Isles. 

In Scotland, they visit the grave of Robert Kirk, a seventeenth-century minister who was kidnapped by fairies. No one is more shocked than Karina when a handsome man with a Scottish brogue appears, claiming to be the Robert Kirk of legend. What’s more, he says he spent the last few hundred years as the Gallowglass, the Seelie Queen’s personal assassin. When they’re attacked by demons, Karina understands how dearly the queen wants him back.

As Karina and Robert grow closer, Chris’s attempts to drown his sorrows lead him to a pub, and a woman called Sorcha. Chris is instantly smitten with her, so much so he spends days with Sorcha and lies to his sister about his whereabouts. When Chris comes home covered in fey kisses, Karina realizes that the Seelie Queen isn’t just after Robert.

Can Karina outsmart the Seelie Queen, or is Robert doomed to forever be the Gallowglass?

Gallowglass is available to buy now.

About Jennifer Allis Provost

Image: Jennifer Allis Provost / Bewitching Book Tours
Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library).

An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.

For more information about Jennifer and her books, please visit her website.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Spotlight: Where On Earth? by David H. Minton

Dan Richards, an Iraq war vet, is a surveyor for the mining company, looking to open a new silver mine. Scrambling to establish his helicopter charter business in the wilds of Alaska, while trying to stay connected to his teenage daughter, his world soon turns upside down when he rescues a woman and her dog sledding team after an avalanche. 

Samantha Bettencourt, an environmental engineer, is eager to begin her first project with the University. A spokesperson for an environmentalist group intent on preserving the wilderness, she is on the path to saving the wild, but when Dan walks into her life things start to change.

Sparks fly between Dan and Samantha as they find themselves running for their lives - from the good guys as well as the bad guys out to ruin the things they long to protect. Will they be able to escape before it’s too late? Will they get a chance at love or will they lose everything... including their lives?

Image: David H. Minton / Bewitching Book Tours
Where On Earth? is available to buy now.

About David H. Minton

After graduating college, David spent two tours in the United States Military Assistance Command Republic of Vietnam, before beginning his career as a nuclear engineer, then electronics engineer, telecommunications engineer, and software security engineer. He has previously published three non-fiction books, several poems, and many non-fiction technical and historical articles.

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Interview: Cristina Hodgson

For my stop on the blog tour for A Little Bit of Chantelle Rose by Cristina Hodgson, I have an interview with the author to share with you all today.

blog-tour, banner, cristina-hodgson

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

Just a little bit about me, without boring you all! I’m a mum to two cheeky monkeys, who brighten up my day, every day! They are also the proud creators of a few silver streaks in my hair!

A Little Of Chantelle Rose is my debut novel. Amazingly, despite graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and sports science, the novel has nothing to do with running!

How did you first become interested in writing?

I've always loved reading. I never thought about writing myself. Then one day, pretty much out of the blue, I just sat down with a vague idea in my head and three months later, I'd completed my 90 k novel. I think I was more startled to finish the novel than anyone else.

What draws you to writing romantic comedy?

They say “There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” This is so true. I find myself crying my eyes out when writing sad scenes. I don't think I could handle writing a whole novel sobbing away, which is why I opt to write, at least for the time being, comedy. I'm not going to contemplate writing thrillers right now either, I have no need to freak myself out on a daily basis. And forget hauntings!

Tell me about A Little of Chantelle Rose.

My debut novel is based on a young woman living in London who is looking to change her life. In the novel, Chantelle, after becoming an extra in a “seedy crime film” is offered the chance of a lifetime, a role to play with a million dollars to win and seemingly nothing to lose; she accepts without thinking twice.
book, cover, cristina-hodgson
Image: Cristina Hodgson / Neverland Blog Tours

Little does she know that the role she's been given to play may strip her of everything. Simultaneously, two men seem set on winning her heart, but someone also seems bent on scaring her away. The novel is suitable for young adult readers who enjoy romantic comedies.

How do you get inspiration?

Life in general, and for this, my debut novel, I got inspiration from something that actually happened to me. After graduating from Loughborough University with a degree in Sports Science, I travelled and worked in various jobs. One of which was as an extra in a British-produced gangster film which was filmed in Nerja, Spain. It goes without saying that my sports mechanics and kinetic energy knowledge wasn't put to maximum potential in this part-time job. But it was certainly a fun and unique experience, but most importantly it gave me an idea. A year later I sat down and Chantelle Rose was born.

What’s your writing process?

As in whether I'm a panster or a plotter? Panster. I begin with a vague idea which then propels me off to a journey into the unknown. Which, if you think about it, has to be a plus, because if I don't even know the ending to my novel until the last few chapters I should keep my readers guessing too!

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

You spend hours sitting in a chair without moving much, except your fingers as they dart across the keyboard, but it's so mentally draining it knocks you out, almost as much as marathon running. As I've already said, I graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in PE and Sport Science, so I know what I'm talking about. Then you have your internal doubts as to whether what you're writing actually makes sense, let alone if it's interesting or not! And then there's the dreaded writer's block, which is pretty much when all your imaginary friends stop talking to you.

author, cristina-hodgson
Image: Cristina Hodgson

 What do you love most about writing?

Living lives through my characters. It's an escapism really, whilst I'm writing I feel like I'm living another life through my protagonists.

Which authors inspire you?

I would have to say Enid Blyton, no so much that she inspired me to become a writer, rather she made me a reader. As a child, I read all her Famous Five books. She opened a magical world to me and a passion for reading that has accompanied my whole life. She inspired me to read and from the reader, the writer is born. 
I also greatly admire J K Rowling, a huge inspiration, not just for her incredible writing talent, but for her “rags to riches” life story. An amazing lady together with everything she's achieved.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Never give up, which can be applied to life in general. If you have a dream, go and make it a reality. You'll have to work hard because if writing was easy, everyone would be a published author. But the satisfaction of seeing your work in print compensates by far all the time and effort you've channelled into your project, whatever it may be.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Hard one, but I'd have to go with The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I'm quite happy to live this experience without thinking too much ahead. To be able to pay off my mortgage with my writing would be incredible, but only a handful of talented authors achieve that. So for the moment, I'd be more than satisfied if I can make my readers smile and for them to enjoy my work.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

I wake up at 5.30 a.m. to write for an hour or so before the school run and the day job. So I guess if I wasn't a writer I'd be having a lie-in every morning.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

Having graduated from Loughborough University, I imagine it comes as no surprise for me to say that I love any outdoor sports activity. Triathlon, athletics, skiing, scuba diving and horse riding. Though nowadays I mainly find myself chasing after my two young kids. Which is more energetic than a lot of adventure sports!
What are you currently working on?

This is a bit of a secret at the moment, you'll understand if you read my debut novel.

What are you reading at the moment?

Never on Saturday by Sue Barnard, who actually happens to be my editor.

A Little of Chantelle Rose is available to buy now. 

What do you think? Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!