Book Review: How to be Perfect by Holly Wainwright @hollycwain @Legend_Press


The bestselling author of The Mummy Bloggers is back with another page-turning, rip-roaring story about mums, phones and the cult of self-improvement.

In the rolling green hills of Australia's hippest hinterland, a new guru is blogging about her breakfast.

ELLE CAMPBELL is back, holed up in an exclusive retreat where women pay thousands to mimic her extreme lifestyle, or die trying. But who's bankrolling Elle's new empire? And why are her two tiny sons suddenly absent from her glossy public image?

ABI BLACK just wants to marry her true love under a tree in the garden on New Year's Eve. But her ex-husband is building a financial cult in the shed, Elle is looming and her teenage daughter's YouTube channel is gaining followers for all the wrong reasons. The wedding might have to wait.

FRANCES GRAHAM has a colicky newborn, an absent husband and a WhatsApp mothers' group that's giving her anxiety. But she's certain that if she can just be more like those fitmums on Instagram, things can only get better. And surely, if she can scrape enough money together to make it to Elle's retreat, everything in her life will be just . . . perfect.

Through a world of fake gurus, green smoothies and bad influencers, How to Be Perfect follows Elle, Abi and Frankie into the cult of self-improvement that's taking over your phone . . . and your breakfast.


I absolutely loved The Mummy Bloggers, so when Legend offered an advanced copy of How to be Perfect, I jumped at the chance to review.

How to be Perfect sees Holly returning to the world of  mummy bloggers. Even though a lot of the characters from book one are back, I love how Holly has evolved each one. We're not stepping back into the same world as the first book. Elle is now a wellness guru with a holier-than-thou, all-forgiving attitude and Abi seems to have a harder edge to her. I really loved how they've all grown since the blogger awards.

Including Frances was incredibly clever as she gives an insight into the other side of influencer world -- those who find themselves influenced. Frances is 100% convinced that her life will be perfect if she only manages to emulate Elle's picture perfect existence. She pours over every blog post and video, taking Elle's word as gospel and racking up a ton of debt in the process. Including Frances gave the book another dimension, an important one. I've seen this happen so much in real life. Ordinary people taken in by wealthy highlight reels on Instagram. Even though the book has a humorous tone it deals with very real issues that have devastating effects on some people's lives (shiny object syndrome, FOMO, depression, and envy). I think it's really important that we address the toxic side of social media and world of blogging. 

The plot moves at a decent pace and I found every chapter entertaining. It could be read as a stand alone but I'd recommend reading the first book as you'll appreciate how each character's past has effected their behavior in this book.
★★★★ ☆

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Guest Post: The Characters in Candy Canes and Buckets of Blood @HeideGoody @IainMGrant @lovebooksgroup


Christmas is a time for families to come together.

Guin Roberts can’t think of anything worse than visiting a Christmas market with her new family. Guin is perfectly happy with own company and doesn’t want that disrupted by her wisecracking stepbrother and his earnest mum.

Their Christmas celebrations are invaded by a sleigh full of murderous elves. And it doesn’t matter if they’ve been naughty or nice — these elves are out for blood.

Can the family band together to survive the night? Or will Santa’s little helpers make mincemeat of them all?

Guest Post:

For Candy Canes and Buckets of Blood, we decided our heroes would be an ensemble cast, a family of four. We made the decision for it to be a reconstructed family, a potential step-family. Dave Roberts and his daughter Guin plus Dave’s girlfriend Esther Woollby and her son, Newton. The story would take place at the moment when sixteen-year-old Newton and eleven-year-old Guin meet for the first time, when they have to face the fact that they might become step-brother and step-sister at some point in the future. All four of them are nice people but flawed in their own ways.

The family dynamic would be very important but it was just one aspect of a story in which, over the course of a single night, the family have to band together to fight off a horde of killer Christmas elves.

Dave is a stereotypical dad. He’s a practical man with unbounded love for those close to him. Beyond that he’s a simple creature — he likes food, he likes beer, he lives for the moment and enjoys what life has to offer.

Esther is an earnest and moral woman — she will tend to injured birds, she will think about the food-miles of the fruit she buys, she would rather knit her own jumpers rather than get something made in a factory by underpaid labourers. She wants to live an ‘authentic’ life and is a great respecter of culture and tradition.

Newton is a worrier. He worries that his mum isn’t happy (even when she is). He worries that he offends people (even when he doesn’t). He wants to make the whole world happy and put everyone else before himself. This causes his mum to worry which in turn causes him to worry further. He loves animals and bad puns.

Guin (short for Guinevere) is a deeply introverted girl. She prefers imaginary friends (made from string and wire) to real friends. She has a rich imagination that she shares with almost no one. She thinks she’s different and special (she is) and needs some medical label to explain this (she doesn’t). She’s very very clever.

When we set out to write Candy Canes, we developed all four characters equally. We wrote chapters from all four perspectives. We had comedy moments and thrilling scenes planned for all of them. And yet… 

And yet…

In any story there’s always a main character. It’s funny but it’s true. Even in an ensemble cast, there’s one that always leads the way, carries the reader through the story. For us, it turned out to be Guin. Guin, the youngest and weakest of the family, turned out to be our own little heroine. We didn’t plan it that way but she kind of took over. When the evil elves attack the family in the hotel, she’s the one who tries to work out their motives. When she and Newton are captured by elves and dragged to their lair, she’s the one who tries to learn their language and worm her way into their good graces. And when the elves’ final wicked plan is revealed and our family of heroes must band together to save Christmas itself, it’s Guin with her hands on the reins in a life and death battle with the evil elf leader.

It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?
★ ☆
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Guest Post: Christmas Carols and the King of Hearts by Mark Stibbe @markstibbe @malcolmdown @LoveBooksGroup


King of Hearts tells the gripping story of Jake Graystone, a struggling teacher, husband, and father, who looks for easy money playing poker. When his wife Sally exposes his secret addiction on Christmas Eve, he walks out and heads north for Casino City, leaving his family for a dark world of gambling, prostitution and murder.
How will the cards fall for Jake in this brutal, urban wasteland? And, as the stakes get higher and higher, will this modern Desperado ever come to his senses?

King of Hearts is a winter, festive story to sit alongside It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Carol. Raw yet redemptive, it is a Christmas tale you'll not be able to put down.

At the end of each chapter, you will want to twist, not fold.  

Guest Post:


It’s that time of the year again already. Christmas adverts are infiltrating our screens and Christmas products are creeping into our stores. It won’t be long before many of us are singing “Away in a Manger” at school nativity plays, or “Once in Royal David’s City” at a carol service. 
Pretty soon, we’ll all be coming home for Christmas.

And Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Charles Dickens’, A Christmas Carol. For all of Dickens’ overtly Christian values – so obvious in the transformation, no, the conversion, of Ebenezer Scrooge – our increasingly secular culture still loves this story, still feels drawn to it.

And yes, you’re right, the Muppet film version is still the finest of all - Michael Caine’s portrayal of Scrooge surpassing even that of Sir Alastair Sim. It’s a story that continues to speak powerfully to our souls, even today. Its impact is universal, enduring, timeless, profound - even in a secular age.
And that’s been true for me too. Ever since I was taken as a boy by my parents to a cinema in Norwich as to see what was then the most celebrated movie version, I have been entranced by this supernatural, winter’s tale of one man’s discovery of the true meaning of Christmas in his heart.
So, you’ll probably not be surprised to learn that when I came to my own Christmas novel, King of Hearts, I pay homage to this classic in the life of my hero, Jake Graystone, over the course of his three fateful Christmases. 

Guest Post: Author Vivienne Brereton's Favourite Character to Write @VivienneBreret1 @LoveBooksGroup


“If I have anything to do with it, we Howards will live forever.” 

Thomas Howard Charismatic head of one of the most powerful Houses in Tudor England. An indomitable old man approaching eighty: soldier, courtier, politician, a ‘phoenix’ rising from the ashes. After a calamitous period of disgrace, the Howards, renowned for their good looks and charm, are once more riding high at the court of Henry VIII. Set against the backdrop of the extraordinary 1520 ‘Field of Cloth of Gold’, it is a tale of ambition, love, and intrigue, with Thomas at the centre of this intricate tapestryWill Thomas’s bold vow be fulfilled? Danger stalks the corridors of the royal courts of Europe. Uneasy lies the head beneath a crown. Every other ruler - a fickle bedfellow…or sworn enemy. The action takes place in England, Scotland, and France. On either side of the Narrow Sea, four young lives are interwoven, partly unaware of each other, and certainly oblivious to what Dame Fortune has in store for them. 

“Nicolas de La Barre laid his lute to one side, hardly bothering to stifle a yawn of boredom. Nevertheless, he couldn’t escape the fact he’d agreed to take on a new wife….” 

Explosive family secrets are concealed behind the ancient walls of castles in three lands. But… “There are no secrets that time does not reveal.” 

Guest Post:


 It has to be Nicolas de La Barre, a French noble, adored by all the women. and envied by all the men. In the opening chapters of ‘A Phoenix Rising’, Book One of ‘The House of the Red Duke’, he’s riding high at the French Court. Here he is in conversation with Guillaume Gouffier, Seigneur de Bonnivet, Admiral of France….

  “Sprawled in a chair opposite, the King’s Master Falconer merely raised an eyebrow and distractedly fingered a golden locket, encrusted with jewels, around his neck. At his feet lay two enormous grey Irish Wolfhounds, in deceptively peaceful slumber: fitting sentries for such a master. Guillaume steeled himself, knowing Nicolas, who besides being the only man François would trust with his precious birds, was also the Lieutenant of Picardy. He was also Master of the Hunt in all but name, carrying out most of the duties on behalf of the ageing occupant of the prestigious post who’d been one of old King Louis’ most trusted men. Even if Guillaume hated to admit it, Nicolas’s success in acquiring these posts was entirely due to his own merits.

Guest Post: Does Location Matter in Crime fiction by Run Author Jackie McLean @JackieJamxx @Lovebooksgroup


DI Donna Davenport and her team are under pressure.

With the hunt on for the country’s most notorious cop killer and an ongoing complex international investigation, the murder of a local thug during a football match is the last thing the police need.

But as more incidents overload the police, and fear brings vigilante mobs onto the streets, suspicion grows that the mayhem is being orchestrated.

One man can make it stop. With the city heading towards chaos and disaster, Donna prepares to abandon caution and the rules, even if it means she is ostracised by her own team.

Guest Post by Jackie McLean:

Does the setting for a crime fiction novel really matter? Isn’t it the plot and the characters that make the story? Well, they do - of course - but as a reader and as a writer, the location matters a lot, too. In fact, when I’m choosing a book to read, the setting is sometimes the deciding factor, since one of the joys of reading is in being transported to somewhere else, and to have a nosey at people’s lives in places that might be difficult for us to visit in person. 

An example is The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri, which I read recently. I loved so much about this book, from its eye-opening descriptions of the horrors experienced by people fleeing their homelands and trying to reach safety, to its endearing insight into the complex lives of honey bees. But I was also fascinated by its descriptions of Aleppo before it was ravaged by war. I had never imagined what a beautiful city this was, and am glad to have learned a bit about it, although sad-dened by what has happened to it since. This is a perspective I only gained through reading the book.
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