Sunday 31 December 2017

My favourite books of the year!

I've finally managed to put together my list of favourite books . . .  but it was a real struggle as I've read so many amazing books this year!

For that reason, there's no particular order to my list other than when I read them and no overall favourite book as that would just be too difficult. Instead, it's a list of books that I've loved and would highly recommend that you add to your TBR's if you haven't read them already!

So let's get this started and head back to January and join me on a journey through the year in books.

Woman of the Hour - Jane Lythell

Set in Storyworld, a fictitious morning television show, Liz Lyons is head of features. It's her job to keep her head when all around her are usually losing theirs! Following Liz both at work and as a single parent to daughter Flo this was a book full of drama, ego's, tension and an eye-opening look behind the scenes of the world of television.

High Force - L.J. Ross

The fifth book in the DCI Ryan Mystery series. You can read this as a stand-alone book but in my opinion it's better if you read the others first and this is a fantastic series. This book had me holding my breath on more than one occasion as I followed Ryan on the trail of his nemesis The Hacker.

Midnight's Chicken - Tom Jeffery

Set in a bookshop, this was a hugely enjoyable book to read. An aspiring novelist, a hugely successful author and a terrorist cell all come together in this funny but also thought-provoking book.

Granny With Benefits - Marilyn Bennett

A refreshingly delightful book full of laugh out loud moments cleverly combined with the reality of being single later on in life when all your friends have settled down.

The Abattoir of Dreams - Mark Tilbury

This was the first book I read by Mark Tilbury and it honestly left me speechless! Imagine waking up in hospital, paralysed from the waist down and no recollection of what happened to you. That's exactly what happens to Michael Tate and following his story took me on one of the most extreme journeys I've ever been on reading a book.

Song of the Robin - R.V. Biggs

 I was totally captivated by this debut novel about kismet, family and the strong bonds between people even when they are sadly no longer with us. This was a beautifully written and well crafted story.

Long Shot - Jack Steele

After reading Loose Cannon last year, I couldn't wait to read Long Shot. This was a hard-hitting thriller, with short punchy chapters that left me breathless!

Handcuffs, Truncheon and a Polyester Thong - Gina Kirkham

I LOVED Mavis Upton! Mum to Ella and daughter to Josie following Mavis through her rookie training to become a police officer had me literally in stitches!

Behind Her Back - Jane Lythell

The second book in the Storyworld trilogy. A fast paced novel which makes for compelling reading as Liz Lyons juggles her hectic work schedule and her home life with daughter Flo.

The Hidden Legacy - G.J. Minett

A well written, gripping thriller full of twists and turns that seamlessly hops between past and present.

Maria in the Moon - Louise Beech

A poignant novel and one of the most beautifully written books I read this year. Maria is a woman with a past. . . .if only she could remember it.

Her Last Secret - Barbara Copperthwaite

A cautionary tale of an outwardly perfect family but scratch the surface and you'll find out that everyone is hiding something.

Letters to the Pianist - S.D. Mayes

 Set in 1941 this wonderful book tells the story of Ruth Goldberg and her family as they struggle through life during the war.

A Rock 'n' Roll Lovestyle - Kiltie Jackson

A heart-warming story about  Sukie, a huge fan of The Sound of Music and Pete a world famous rock star whose paths cross in Salzburg.

The Liar's Promise - Mark Tilbury

A fast paced and gripping thriller that dragged me kicking and screaming to places that I didn't want to go. It was dark, disturbing, sick and twisted . .  and I loved every page!

Phew, so there you have it, my favourite books of the last twelve months! I hope that I've given you a few recommendations to check out. I'd love to hear your thoughts on my choices and maybe you've read some fantastic books that you would recommend to me.

As this is my last post of what has been an interesting and somewhat challenging year for me I'd just like to say a huge thank you to all of the amazing authors (not just the ones in the list above) that have got in touch this year, whether it was to review a book or to write a guest post, I've loved having you all here.

All that's left for me to say is thank you to everyone for all of your support throughout 2017 and I hope that 2018 is a good year for every single one of you!

Sunday 24 December 2017

Hippo Christmas!!!!

I just wanted to put up a very quick post to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!

I'll be taking some time out from reviewing in January to try and catch up on some of my own personal TBR books, I know I'll only manage to make a very small and insignificant dent in it but it will be a start!

Once I can finally decide on my favourite books of 2017 I'll share them with you and maybe it will give you all some ideas about which books you can spend your book tokens on. There will also (hopefully) be some Hippo Hands Over posts as well next month.

Until then I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you. Since I started my little blog I've met some truly amazing people and 2017 was no exception. The book community is such a friendly and supportive one. I've got to know lots of hugely talented authors who have contacted me to read their books or written brilliant guest posts, publishers have got in touch to ask about taking pasrt in blog tours and  I've also met so many fabulous book bloggers, so I'd like to thank each and every one of them for their interest and support, shares, tweets and retweets for my little blog here in a tiny little corner of the internet!

There is one last thank you I'd like to say. . . . .  and that's to you, my lovely readers. Thank you for taking the time to visit and read my blog and leaving comments. It's always great to hear your thoughts on my posts and to interact with you all.

I'll be raising a glass to friends old and new as well as one's that are sadly no longer with us.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas filled with love, laughter, happiness and of course books!!!

Love and best wishes to you all,

Neats x x x x

Friday 22 December 2017

Long Shot - Jack Steele - Paperback release and promo

Back in July I was lucky enough to be given the honour of kicking off the blog tour for Jack Steele's second book, Long Shot and it's now available in paperback for all you lovely people who prefer the traditional way of reading.


Detective Joe Stone and his team investigate a major terrorist attack on one of London’s most iconic buildings. They soon draw up a list of suspects who are highly respected members of the community and government. When most of his team is attacked, it soon develops into a war of nerves and a race against time before a deadly weapon is unleashed with horrific consequences.

Long Shot picks up the Joe's Stones story two weeks after Loose Canon and you can read my review here. But what's that? You haven't read Loose Canon? Well that's another reason for my post because, lovely readers, you can download yourself a copy for free. . . . .yes, that's right, absolutely free for the next five days!! 

Still not convinced? Well take a look at my review and maybe that will change your mind.

Loose Cannon is a hard-hitting, fast-paced crime thriller and one that I couldn't bear to put down.

Detective Joe Stone works for the special investigations unit in London and he often comes into contact with members of the two rival mafia families who operate in his area so when Marcia, the daughter of Chico Stettsi, head of the London Mafia, is kidnapped from her home it's only natural that he's called in to investigate.

This is just the start of some brutal attacks and it's not long before Joe finds that he's become a target. As well as trying to figure out who's the mastermind behind all of this he's also struggling with the disappearance of his girlfriend Gemma almost a year ago. He doesn't know if she's alive or dead but he's sure that at least one member of the two families knows exactly what happened to her but with just his gut feelings to go on he can't pursue it any further. Joe has to try and put his feelings out of his mind for now and concentrate on hunting down the psychopath that's on the loose on his patch.

I absolutely loved this book and raced through it in just two days. With it's short but punchy chapters, each one ended in just the right place to make me want to read on. The story flowed effortlessly, the characters were engaging and the pace was relentless as I followed Joe and his colleagues across London as they tried to identify the culprit. Joe is an interesting protagonist who is immediately likable and one that I was instantly drawn to, you know he's a good guy and you want him to be safe and catch the bad guys. Jack Steele cleverly interspersed the story with little snippets about Joe's missing girlfriend Gemma and as a reader my interest was piqued with every mention of her.

As debut novels go, this one is an absolute stonker, as soon as I'd read the last word my first impulse was to email Jack to find out if there was going to be a sequel and here's a part of my email:

"OMG I've just finished reading Loose Cannon this evening. . . . . . . . . .please tell me there's a sequel!! I've never needed a sequel as much as I need one for Loose Cannon!"

I was one happy hippo when the reply came back with a resounding yes, the sequel is being written and it picks up the story two weeks later.

If you enjoy a gripping thriller then this is just the book for you and I would highly recommend it. Jack Steele is most definitely an author on my one to watch list and I can't wait to read more from him.

Changed your mind now have you? 😉 Well in that case I'll wave my magic wand. . . . . .er, I mean you can just click here and you'll be magically transported to somewhere you can click the Buy Now button, you know the place, and then just a few short minutes after that you can put your feet up and be transported into a gripping book! What more could you wish for?

Happy reading!

Sunday 17 December 2017

The Hippo Hands Over . . . . to Katey Lovell

I'm over the moon to welcome author Katey Lovell to The Hippo today! I've known Katey for many years now (although we've never met in real life ☹️ ) through our mutual love of books and a website called Read It Swap It.

Katey is the author of three commercial women's fiction novels published by Harper Collins' imprint HarperImpulse. Her novels are about people overcoming everyday challenges with the support of their friends, family and local community. She has also penned a series of coffee-break romances (also published by HarperImpulse) and a hot romance for Tirgearr's City Nights series.

Originally from South Wales, Katey now lives in Sheffield with her husband and son. When she's not writing she'll most likely be found watching musicals, enjoying live music or reading anything and everything she can lay her hands on.

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Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown is Katey's latest book and with Christmas fast approaching I couldn't think of a more appropriate time to tell you all about it.

As Christmas approaches Joe Smith knows he should be celebrating with friends and family, making the most of the season. But for Joe, Christmas only holds painful memories. Ones he can feel crushing his heart, a reminder of a time he can never forget.

Clara O'Connell loves Christmas. For her it is the most magical time of the year. And she's determined to make Joe love it too! She knows he's hurting, but maybe she can help to ease his pain. Her plan: One special gift every day to remind Joe just how loved he is.

But the clock is ticking. Will the Christmas magic wear off at midnight or will Clara's Christmas countdown be the perfect gift to heal Joe's broken heart? And in doing so, maybe she will get a gift in return…Joe's love for Christmas and forever…?

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                                     Location, Location, Location

As an author I’ve always enjoyed creating a sense of place in my writing. When I was working on my debut novel The Singalong Society for Singletons it was fairly easy – after all, it was set in Sheffield, the city I’ve spent half my life in.  Although the settings in my second novel The Café in Fir Tree Park were fictional, the park at the centre of the novel was based on parks I regularly visit – however, as it was made up I was free to do whatever I wanted with it, picking and choosing the elements I wanted to make more of a feature of, such as the rose garden and the lake and completely discarding others.  It couldn’t be wrong, which was incredibly freeing (just as well, because writing that book was enough of a challenge). 

With my festive release Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown I’ve gone back to an urban backdrop, this time the city of Manchester.  Manchester is a place I’ve visited regularly over the years.  Not only is it just an hour away by train but I also have friends who live there and it’s often the most convenient place for me to travel to see my favourite bands.  It’s a diverse city and I wanted Joe and Clara’s Christmas Countdown to showcase it as the wonderful, lively, friendly city it is, especially after the awful terrorist attack earlier in the year. 

Most places mentioned in the novel are entirely real – you can visit the Christmas Markets in Albert Square, battle against the crowds of Christmas shoppers at the Trafford Centre and enjoy a drink at The Night and Day Café in the popular Northern Quarter.  Manchester Cathedral and The Palace Theatre also feature in the novel.  

However, some of the locations are fictional – most notably The Club on the Corner where Joe and Clara work.  Elements of the building, such as the architectural style, were inspired by Salford Lads’ Club (which I visited during my research visits) but much of it is a figment of my overactive imagination.

Photo courtesy of Katey Lovell

The book I’m currently working on is set in Newcastle, a city I’ve visited but that I’m far less familiar with – it’s proving to be challenging at times as place is so important to me as a writer.  I’d love to hear from readers about how important settings and locations are to their enjoyment of a book, because for me it’s definitely key.

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Thanks for writing such an interesting post Katey. Personally I think that settings and locations are quite a big part of my enjoyment of reading. I recently read a book set partly in Austria in the winter and despite not being a fan of either the cold or snow, the author described it so well that I felt like I was there. I've also been known to put down my book to go and Google a location! Like you, I'd also be interested to hear other people's thoughts on this.

Joe and Clara's Christmas Countdown is available now and is currently only 99p to download.

You can find out more about Katey, her books and connect with her using the links below:

I'd like to thank Katey for taking the time to stop by today and to wish her every success with her latest book. 😉