Thursday 24 March 2016

Book Review: Beneath the Surface by Heidi Perks

Last Updated: 1 June 2021

Beneath the Surface by Heidi Perks book cover

AD* | I don't know where you are...

I don't know what I've done...

Teenager Abigail Ryder is devastated when she gets home from school to find her family gone. Nothing makes sense. Things are missing from the house and her stepsisters' room is completely empty. But the police think she's trouble, and when grandmother Eleanor tells her to forget them all and move on, there's no choice other than face the future - alone.

Fourteen years on, Abi and Adam are a happy couple on the verge of parenthood. But when the past comes back to haunt Abi, the only way forward is to go back and uncover the truth - and reveal the dreadful secrets a mother has been hiding all these years.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

5 foods to eat after dental work

Last Updated: 17 January 2022

Last week I had to have some dental work done, which resulted in an aching jaw, sore teeth and half my mouth being numb. I'm sure many of you will have experienced something similar at one time or another, but it got me thinking - what foods can I eat while my mouth is healing?

Everyone usually heads for the go-to staples like soup, yoghurt or ice-cream, but what if you want to try something else? I am by no means an experienced nutritionist or healthcare professional, but here are 5 foods I recommend for the days following dental work.

1. Roasted vegetables

Veggies are good for you, and if you roast them they can be soft enough to easily mash up or eat without causing further discomfort. Personally I recommend chopping up and roasting root vegetables like sweet potato and butternut squash as they go all soft and fluffy when roasted for the right amount of time. Just be careful to let them cool down before eating because you really don't want to burn your sensitive gums.

2. Risotto

Risotto might seem like a weird choice, but I found it a great way to get a proper meal that I could actually eat! Try pairing the risotto rice with spinach and small pieces of smoked fish fillet to make a tasty, easy-to-eat meal. Make sure it's well-cooked so it's nice and soft.

3. Stir fry

Perhaps another unusual choice, but a homemade stir fry can make another filling dinner for those recovering from dental problems. I recommend using the thicker udon noodles as they're both softer and easier to break up. Personally I'd avoid meat for this (some meat can be quite tough when stir fried) and go veggie. Throw in softer vegetables like cabbage, broccoli and bean sprouts. Team all that with a sauce of your choosing (I recommend nothing too spicy as it might irritate your mouth) and there you have another easy-to-eat meal.

4. Scrambled eggs

Scrambled eggs are a good source of protein, and a great food for this kind of thing. Tasty on their own or with some soft bread, eggs are filling and good for a lunchtime meal. If you're feeling adventurous, you could even try making an omelette to get some variety.

5. Sponge pudding

So you want something sweet but you're fed up of ice-cream? Try a sponge pudding. You can buy them ready made in the chilled section of most supermarkets or, even better, you could try your hand at making your own. There are plenty of recipes out there, but this is one of the simplest. Customise your pudding by adding your choice of flavouring - for example, jam, marmalade, lemon curd, syrup, chocolate sauce, or treacle (though I personally wouldn't recommend treacle as it can sting sensitive teeth because it's so sweet). Make sure it's cooled down to eat, and serve with custard (or more ice-cream!)

What foods do you recommend for after dental work? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday 12 March 2016

Interview: Kara Keen

As you may know, this week I'm participating in the blog tour for Romancing Vegas by Kara Keen. You can read my review of Romancing Vegas too, but today I have the pleasure of interviewing the author herself!

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

I always loved to read and started out as a journalist, then worked for a publisher, then went into public relations and advertising. I wrote my first two books, both non-fiction, ten years ago. I love hanging out with family, traveling with my husband (we are museum and musical theater geeks), and I cross-train at the gym five mornings most weeks. I’m not the fittest person there, but I’m consistent.

How did you first become interested in writing? 

In high school, I wasn’t much of an athlete and I sucked at flirting. I could whip up a killer essay though, and that led to being part of the newspaper/yearbook crowd. Needless to say, I graduated high school a virgin.

How do you get inspiration for your books? 

Captain’s Orders takes place on a cruise ship and I have actually taken the trip described in the novel (no hot twin captains on the real ship though). The idea for Romancing Vegas came completely out of the blue while writing Captain’s Orders. If you were a dancer and you inherited a bunch of money from a man you barely knew, what would you do with it? My heroine Oksana, a Ukrainian woman recently sprung from a human trafficking situation, has to overcome terrible trauma and form a new kind of family to create the Vegas dance show she’s always dreamed of. Of course, complications ensue.

What draws you to writing romance? 

I thought romance was too formulaic for years, and then I read Sylvia Day. I began romance reading with her and have loved Megan Hart, Robyn Carr, Christina Lauren and Bella Andrea along the way, along with many, many others. Realizing that romance is hopeful and real to women and can help them solve problems and understand people in in their lives keeps me writing it.

How did Romancing Vegas come about? 

I’ve been to Vegas many times for conventions and I’ve seen many of the Cirque-style shows like the one I describe in Romancing Vegas. These people are super human, dancer’s heaven! And Vegas is so unique. When you get off the airplane in so many American cities, they all look the same. But when you walk into Las Vegas airport, you know you’re in Vegas baby! The city is inspiring and alive with adult fun.

I’ve previously read your book Captain’s Orders – how does that differ to the new release? 

Captain’s Orders takes place on a cruise ship and the story focuses on Tania and Cole. We get a peek at Primo and Oksana’s relationship, but in Romancing Vegas they take center stage and everyone loves Primo! Tania and Cole continue to explore their relationship in the Las Vegas setting, and some really hot times are had by all!

What’s your writing process? 

 I start out with characters and some kind of a setting or “hook,” but I have no idea where it’s all going. Direction appears like a deer in headlights. Much of writing doesn’t involve typing and doesn’t look like writing – it takes place all the time, especially (for me) while exercising in the mornings. So though my “golden hours” for words on the paper are between 3 and 8, thinking happens all the time. I also think of ideas in my dreams.

What’s the hardest thing about writing? 

Waaay too much sitting! I try to change locations and stand sometimes, but so many of us spend too much time on our butts. Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking in terms of health?

What do you love most about writing? 

Of course, when someone genuinely loves the book and they tell me they couldn’t put it down. A friend emailed me that she was stuck in an airport and hardly noticed because she loved the book so much!

Which authors inspire you? 

Sylvia Day, Megan Hart, Christina Lauren, Robyn Carr, Bella Andre and many, many others.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 

Turn the critic off and just do it. Then revise. Again, sit in the chair and do it! Read a lot. Look for some other writers to get useful feedback from. Hire a professional editor if you’re self-publishing.

What’s your all-time favourite book? 

Can’t really pick one book! In nonfiction, there’s a book about women’s health called Screaming to be Heard. In high school, I loved One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The World According to Garp, Good in Bed and I still love all of Jennifer Weiner’s novels. In romance, I love Sylvia Day’s Bared to You, Christina Lauren’s Beautiful Stranger, and Megan Hart’s Stranger. (Maybe there’s a kinky theme there?)

Where’s your favourite place to write? 

I have a screen porch to use in warm weather and I absolutely love working outdoors!

What are your ambitions for your writing career? 

My husband says he’d like to quit his job and be my full time manager. I’d like that too! I would love my books to be a movie or TV series like Outlander.

What are you currently working on? 

Two Much, a New Adult spin-off from Romancing Vegas, is about Anne and Ariana Carleton, the twin sisters of the hot twin captains in Captain’s Orders and Romancing Vegas. After that, Anne and Ariana’s friend Taylor stars in a novella about finding out that the wrong guy might actually be the right guy!

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books? 

When travelling, e-books are better but at home I like traditional books.

To find out more about Kara and her books, visit her website, her Amazon page, or her Goodreads page.

Have you read any of Kara's books? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday 11 March 2016

Book Review: Romancing Vegas by Kara Keen

Last Updated: 1 June 2021

Romancing Vegas by Kara Keen book cover

AD* | Three sizzling affairs began on a cruise ship... But what happens in Vegas might be more than the lovers bargained for!

Oksana must transform herself from victim to confident choreographer and producer of the sexy Las Vegas show she’s always dreamed of creating. Primo, who loves her, is with her all the way, risking his own life in a deadly grudge fight to finance the show. Will Oksana rediscover the passionate soul she learned to hide, or will the dark realities of her recent trauma drag her down, pulling the lives of her loved ones along with her?

Tania knew she was in love with Cole a few days after they met. They love hanging out, having fun, and working together to help Tania’s sister Oksana develop a successful show. They also love exploring the electrifying edges of desire together. So what will it take for Cole to say those three little words, “I love you?”

Daniella didn’t plan to fall for Jack, but she can’t stop thinking about the crazy, sexy times they’ve shared. He’s into fast, edgy living and so much fun – but is he ready to ditch the Peter Pan act and be her Number One?

What none of them know is that an old enemy lurks in the background, waiting for the right moment to take his revenge.

Thursday 10 March 2016

Review: Online Art Lessons

Interested in art? Wanting to improve your art skills? Always wondered how to get that painting or drawing just right? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then read on!

For the last month, I've been trialling a new online art subscription service. Online Art Lessons basically does what it says on the tin - it offers new, returning and developing artists the chance to learn how to create more artwork across a variety of mediums.

I'm not an artist by any means - receiving a disappointing grade in my art A-Level kind of killed my desire to create artwork - although art is subjective and I never picked projects my teachers liked, which I think may have had something to do with it... Though that's a whole new debate for another time!

The Online Art Lessons website is still in beta, so some of the videos are currently unavailable as content is still being added. It also struck me that a lot of things you'd expect to see on the site (how to guides for basic things like trees, buildings, different poses and positions etc) aren't there. Instead, there are some really specific or obscure tutorials - for example, how to paint a Zulu woman on a mat. I mean, specifics are great, but surely it would be better to focus on a wider, more general perspective while the site is still gaining popularity?

Personally, I would like to see more abstract tutorials. I love experimenting in my own work, and as you can see from my pieces I've added into this post, one of my favourite styles is pop art - some less realistic tutorials would be great to see in the future. I'd also be interested to see some tutorials working with different mediums, like charcoal, chalk, or textiles.

However, the tutorials that are on the site are great. The ones I've tried are really detailed and in-depth, with the tutors talking you through the process step by step. I like that it's not aimed at a high-brow 'artsy' audience, it's just aimed at regular people with an interest in art.

One thing I would say though, is not to get your hopes up. Don't expect to join up, take a tutorial, then suddenly transform into a master of art, because that's not how it works. Online Art Lessons are designed to gradually hone your existing skills and help you through specific tutorials. It's more of a hobby than a would-be artist's tool.

But despite that, I've really enjoyed my month of personal art improvement with Online Art Lessons. If you want to try your hand at art but maybe don't want to attend a class (for financial or time reasons), I'd recommend you give Online Art Lessons a go.

If you're interested in finding out more, why not sign up for a 7-day trial?

Will you be trialling out Online Art Lessons? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday 9 March 2016

Book Review: You Can't Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet by Juliette Harper

Last Updated: 1 June 2021

You Can't Get Blood Out of Shag Carpet by Juliette Harper book cover

AD* | Wanda Jean Milton discovers her husband, local exterminator Hilton Milton, dead on her new shag carpet with an Old Hickory carving knife sticking out of his chest. Beside herself over how she’ll remove the stain, and grief-stricken over Hilton’s demise, Wanda Jean finds herself the prime suspect in the case.

But she is also a member of “the” local Study Club, a bastion of independent Texas feminism 1960s style. Club President Clara Wyler has no intention of allowing a member to be a murder suspect during her administration. Aided by her younger sister and County Clerk, Mae Ella Gormley; Sugar Watson, the proprietress of Sugar’s Style and Spray; and Wilma Schneider, Army MASH veteran and local RN, the Club women set out to clear Wanda Jean’s name — never guessing the local dirt they’ll uncover in the process.

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Book Review: Twisted Mind by Mia Hoddell

Last Updated: 1 June 2021

Twisted Mind by Mia Hoddell book banner

AD* | GP2 race car driver Dustin Coates has been made irrelevant…

For the past year, Dustin helped his best friend, Raine Wilkins. It was a good diversion from his twisted life. Now she’s settling down with his brother, and without the distraction from his own toxic relationship, Dustin is rapidly spiralling out of control.

​​Everyone warned him to leave his girlfriend, Elora, yet they knew nothing about the baby…

It’s up to Dustin to protect the innocent life hanging in the balance and to do that he must endure Elora’s twisted games of manipulation and violence. However, when she does the unthinkable, Dustin finally snaps. Leaving her, the light-hearted jokester people have come to love is replaced with a grief-stricken man intent on one thing - earning a Formula One contract.

​​Everything changes when Tazia Nixon moves in next door…

Dustin clings to the Latin beauty who soothes his aching heart and helps him forget. But beneath her eternal optimism is a distressing past she refuses to share. Dustin must decide if he can risk his fragile heart a second time. She might ease his pain, but she could also break him like no one else.

​​Will Dustin be able to overlook the deceit to find his forever with Tazia, or will he see nothing more than a ​​​​Twisted Mind?