Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes has a bit of a bad reputation, which for the most part, is pretty unfair. So here’s a blog about my hometown:

Common myths about Milton Keynes:

  1. It’s a concrete city – no way! MK has loads of parks, lakes, and more trees than any other city in Europe.
  2. It all looks the same – maybe from the road, but come and look closer, and you’ll see it’s not.
  3. Milton Keynes is boring. Nope. We’ve got indoor skiing and skydiving, night clubs, tonnes of restaurants, an amazing theatre, a football team, Europe’s longest shopping centre, water sports, museums … to name but a few.

What it does lack, I admit:

  1. A bit of character – everything is new and modern.
  2. Mountains or hills with a view … it’s pretty flat around here.
  3. Infrastructure (they’ve built all these houses but the hospital and other facilities cannot cope)

Great things about MK:

  1. You’re never more than 15 minutes away from whatever you need.
  2. It’s in the middle of the country, so it’s easy to visit London or travel north.
  3. Some amazing people live here ;)

Ramble over.

One hundred facts about me

I have stolen this idea from someone else’s blog and now I can’t remember who (apologies if it was you – great idea and thanks!)

100 facts about me:

    1. I was born in the early ’80’s
    2. in Northampton, England.
    3. My parents are Rob & Jackie,
    4. they gave me a great upbringing.
    5. Although, my first word was ‘shit’. Seriously.
    6. I’m left handed,
    7. and I love giraffes.
    8. I have a brother
    9. and his name is Dan.
    10. Plus three step-siblings,
    11. 23 first cousins,
    12. lots of in-laws, aunts, uncles,
    13. and eight nieces and nephews.
    14. I have lived in Milton Keynes my whole life.
    15. As a teen I was mostly in love with Take That
    16. and Boyzone…
    17. I know all the lyrics to ‘Let’s get ready to Rhumble’ by PJ & Duncan.
    18. I’m surprisingly unashamed of number 17.
    19. I left school age 18.
    20. Since then I’ve had some very boring, dull jobs,
    21. And a few good ones too.
    22. Right now I work in Marketing Communications,
    23. for a company that’s considered a ‘Superbrand’.
    24. I started dating Nathaniel Smith when I was 21.
    25. I married him when I was 22.
    26. He’s my best friend and
    27. I love him.
    28. I have a 14 year old step-daughter,
    29. and she wants to be a chef.
    30. She’s another of my best friends.
    31. I also love to cook,
    32. and you can find some of my favourite recipes here.
    33. I subscribe to BBC Good Food magazine.
    34. I love to walk my dog.
    35. Her name is Poppy
    36. and she’s a golden retriever.
    37. I also have a cat
    38. and her name is Amber.
    39. I am always dreaming about my next holiday.
    40. I’ve been to France several times,
    41. and the USA,
    42. Greece,
    43. Belgium,
    44. Spain,
    45. Switzerland,
    46. Italy,
    47. and a few more.
    48. My favourite place so far is the Swiss Alps
    49. or maybe the Grand Canyon.
    50. I really want to go to Austria.
    51. Last year I went to NYC,
    52. Washington, D.C.
    53. and Niagara Falls.
    54. It was a pretty awesome trip.
    55. I love yellow
    56. and purple.
    57. And my favourite foods are lobster,
    58. and crab,
    59. and good quality chocolate.
    60. I’ve met a few famous people,
    61. like Zach Braff,
    62. Ronan Keating from Boyzone,
    63. and Chris Moyles.
    64. There are more, but I don’t want to bore you.
    65. I have a microprolactinoma.
    66. I love books.
    67. My favourite genre is Chick-Lit.
    68. My favourite author is Jane Austen.
    69. Followed by Paige Toon.
    70. I also love to write.
    71. I have been writing stories since I can remember.
    72. In 2012 I finished my first novel.
    73. It’s called Amy & Zach.
    74. Which is written in the first person,
    75. and alternates between Amy’s voice and Zach’s.
    76. It was published in January 2013
    77. by Crooked Cat Publishing.
    78. My second novel is called Izzy’s Cold Feet.
    79. This was also published by Crooked Cat.
    80. It’s about a girl called Izzy
    81. who’s not sure about marrying her fiance, Greg.
    82. She thinks a lot about the boyfriends in her past
    83. maybe she should marry one of them instead?
    84. You’ll have to read it to find out.
    85. My third book came out in September 2014.
    86. It’s called Independent Jenny,
    87. and it’s about a woman whose husband cheats,
    88. sending her into emotional turmoil.
    89. It’s mostly set in Bath
    90. and the Isle of Skye.
    91. I love both of these places.
    92. Now, I’m working on my fourth novel.
    93. The main character is called Ellen.
    94. I’ll tell you more about her soon…
    95. I really think I should blog more,
    96. and read more,
    97. and dance more often,
    98. and eat more raspberries.
    99. I bloody love raspberries.
    100. I quite enjoyed doing this.

Book spotlight: That Old Black Magic by Caroline Fardig

Today I’m featuring some info on Caroline Fardig’s new novel: That Old Black Magic. Looking forward to reading this one! :)

That Old Black Magic 

That old black magicLizzie Hart is back—snooping, lying, and chick-fighting to uncover the truth, hoping not to break any hearts along the way…especially her own.

 That Old Black Magic…will it put Lizzie under its spell?

 Lizzie Hart hoped her first day back at work after nearly being killed would be uneventful. No such luck. Before she can finish her morning coffee, Lizzie and her co-workers find a dead body on the rooftop of their office. Media vultures that they are, the Liberty Chronicle employees are psyched to have first-hand news to report. Lizzie, however, is devastated when she realizes that the victim is her ex-boyfriend’s brother.

When evidence begins piling up against one of Lizzie’s friends, she reluctantly dons her detective hat once again, determined to find the real killer. She’s not thrilled about chasing another psychopath around, but she’ll do anything for a friend. Lizzie’s love life is rapidly becoming a hot mess, too. Her latest attempt at sleuthing isn’t leaving much time for her budding romance with town hunk Blake Morgan. Add that to the fact she’s hiding a secret so big it could rock the very core of their relationship, it’s no wonder that Lizzie’s in a tizzy.

Poor Lizzie ends up juggling a murder investigation, a wacky Wiccan coven, and two men vying for her attention—all while nursing injuries left over from the last time she decided to play Nancy Drew. It’s a good thing she always has a few tricks up her sleeve.

Buy from Amazon UK >

New book spotlight: And The Earth Moved

Today I’m featuring some info on Zanna MacKenzie’s new novel: And The Earth Moved – Amber Reed CCIA Mystery Book One, having read two of Zanna’s other books I can’t wait to read this one! :)

“Romantic comedy meets celebrity murder mystery”

and-the-earth-movedAmber’s making up the horoscopes for the local paper and wishing for some excitement in her life when she gets a phone call offering her just that. It could change her life forever and plunge her into a world where she’s quickly (and scarily) out of her depth.

The call? Heartthrob actor Ennis McKarthy, her old uni boyfriend, begs her for a favour. His brother Joel has been found dead – in very suspicious circumstances.

Desperate to keep the story out of the newspapers and solve the mystery of his brother’s death as fast as possible, Ennis has called in the specialists in the shape of the CCIA. The Celebrity Crimes Investigation Agency has just the man for the job – their top agent Charlie Huxton.

But Ennis, stalked by journalists and paparazzi, doesn’t trust a stranger to handle the case on his own and keep quiet about what he might discover so he pleads with Amber, wanting her to shadow Charlie throughout the investigation.

Much to Amber’s surprise Charlie eventually agrees, leaving her wondering why. What’s he up to?

Charlie and Amber delve into Joel’s death and soon have their hands full with questioning potential suspects and the victim’s irate ex-girlfriend. Then they discover they’re battling something far more dangerous than they could ever have expected… and it’s not just their growing attraction for each other.

Maybe Amber’s life is about to get too exciting…

Find the book on Amazon UK

Find the book on Amazon USA

Extract:

“What kind of excitement are Gemini’s going to have this week?” I ponder, tapping my fingers against the keyboard.

I’m a third of the way through making up the horoscopes for this week’s local paper. Aries are going to get news of a fantastic job opportunity. Capricorns will receive some kind of windfall. But what about Gemini? I always like to give my Madam Zamber horoscope column an upbeat feel – after all, nobody reads their star signs to get depressed right?

My fingers hover over the computer keys as I debate on Gemini’s fate. I’m a Gemini so this one better be especially good; it’s been a rough week.

My phone, nestled somewhere in the depths of my bag, starts playing a chart tune at full volume. When I eventually find it I check the caller display and see Ennis’ name.

Ennis and I haven’t spoken for a while but I know he came home last week after he’d finished working on his latest movie, he sent me a text. He probably wants to meet for a coffee and a catch up. It’s strange; to me Ennis is, well, just Ennis. I don’t think of him as a heartthrob actor, just my ex, my university boyfriend, who I meet up with for a chat whenever he’s in Palstone.

Time for a little break from the horoscopes. I hit the answer button.

“Hi, how’s things?” I ask, leaning back in my chair.

There’s nothing but silence on the other end of the line.

“Ennis?” I sit up, instantly concerned. “Are you there? Is something wrong?”

His voice is so quiet I can barely hear him. “Joel’s dead,” he says.

“What?” I shout, leaping to my feet and earning myself a look of curiosity from the other two members of staff at The Palstone Courier. I lower my voice. “How? What happened?”

“We don’t know yet,” he replies, his voice heavy with emotion. “But the police are saying he died in suspicious circumstances.”

I gulp. “You mean murder?”

“Look, Amber can you please come over?” Ennis says. “Now? Please? I need to ask you a huge favour.”

I grab my jacket and bag. “On my way.”

Find out more about Zanna at:

www.zannamackenzie.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

Pinterest

Independent Jenny on location

Well, as my Amy & Zach and Izzy’s Cold Feet ‘on location’ photo blogs were rather popular, I’ve finally gotten around to creating one for Independent Jenny.

Two places that I adore feature in the story, so here’s a bit more about my time in each of them with some photos:

Bath

A typical street in Bath

A typical street in Bath

… where Jenny lives …

I first went to Bath for a few days about six years ago as part of a Jane Austen pilgrimage, which you can read about here and I loved it.

To this day, it remains one of my favourite cities. It has a lot of character and charm, with it’s sandy coloured buildings, picturesque river, and historical sites.

I’ve returned many times since, sometimes just to wander around for a day, others to stay for a weekend. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. There is plenty to do there, for a day or longer …

River scene in Bath

River scene in Bath

In the book, Jenny often walks around Bath so if you’ve never been some of these photos will give you a feel for the streets and how much character Bath has. At one point, she sits down by the river with her dog Wentworth – this photo shows the spot I was imagining her sitting in.

If you fancy going to Bath, I highly recommend a visit to the Roman Baths – over 2,000 years old and fascinating. Afternoon tea at the Pump Room is amazing. And if you’re a Jane Austen fan, then the JA centre is a must. There are also plenty of nice shops to wander around, the Royal Circus and Crescent are beautiful streets to walk to, and Martini’s is an amazing Italian restaurant which we loved.

… maybe you’ll also keep an eye out for Jenny’s friend Shane’s cafe ;)

Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey

Isle of Skye

Me, hubby, and my dog at the Quiraing

Me, hubby, and my dog at the Quiraing

… where Jenny goes on holiday with Hayley …

Those who have read Independent Jenny will have an inkling that I adore Skye. I went there on holiday in September 2013, and during that week I came up with much of the plot for the book, so it really did inspire me.

I stayed in a cottage very similar to the one described by Jenny, and went to all the places she mentions. Beautiful, peaceful, tranquil place – I highly recommend it if you enjoy walking holidays.

The weather can be a bit iffy (as seen in my pics), but we are always happy to drive about so we toured the island, looking for nice spots.

Sunset on the Isle of Skye

Sunset on the Isle of Skye

The sunsets were particularly beautiful, and obviously inspired me a lot.

Several readers have told me they’re now keen to go to Skye and see the sunsets … go! Gaze at the beauty :)

Here’s just one of the zillion photos I took, perhaps you can imagine Jenny and Will watching this now … stunning, isn’t it?

Elgol, Skye

Elgol, Skye

Another place Jenny falls in love with is Elgol. It was a little cloudy on the day I visited, so google for better images … but you can see here the stony beach, and the Cuillins in the background.

A really peaceful, calm place – bit of a drive where we stayed near Uig, but well worth the trip for yet more tranquility …

Kilt Rock falls

Kilt Rock falls

Kilt Rock – a gorgeous waterfall, that flows right into the sea. Jenny’s time here is very similar to my own, a coach trip of tourists turned up so it was quite busy, but the sound of the water and the view was quite something and well worth a little trip out to …

Last but not least, a photo of one of the beaches on the Isle of Skye. My dog Poppy (who inspired Jenny’s dog Wentworth, of course!) loved running along the sand and playing in the water here.

So – fancy a trip to Bath or Skye? Feel free to email me or leave a comment below if you have any questions or want any advice :)

Beach on Skye

Beach on Skye

Review: Mii & U Oriental Cafe in Milton Keynes

When you first arrive at Mii & U, you feel a little underwhelmed … it’s in an industrial estate, and looks nothing from the outside. Once inside, the paint on the walls is peeling a little, the seating is plastic folding chairs, and it generally feels like a canteen. Yet, it’s been voted “Buckinghamshire’s best oriental restaurant” by Trip Advisor users. So, why?

Because of the food.

The food is amazing.

With a wide variety of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese dishes, you really are spoiled for choice. I’ve now been there several times and my favourite dishes are the Wonton Noodle Soup (full of flavour, hearty, healthy), the Crispy Sea Bass Fillet with Mango Salad (the sauce is amazing and the whole dish is balanced beautifully with really fresh mango), and the Beef Thai Glass Noodle Salad (just … yum!). But everything I’ve had there has been delicious. They do take away, too, and that always comes in well-sealed dishes that you can heat up at home (if you can resist eating it long enough for it to get cold).

The portions are huge, the prices cheap.

There’s an open kitchen so you can see everything being cooked, and there’s just a great atmosphere and vibe about the place.

Go. Eat. Enjoy.

Don’t forget to pop into the oriental supermarket next door afterwards for a little shopping.

Visit the Mii & U website to check out their opening times* and menu >

*They’re only open late Thurs-Saturday.

3 Reasons why you should write book reviews

If you read a lot of books (or even if just a few a year), chances are you have an opinion about what you’ve read. Here are some reasons why you should take the time to write a review whenever you finish a novel (especially one that you enjoyed!)

  1. Spread the word about your favourite reads. If you’ve really enjoyed a book, spread the word about how great it was with the wider reading community so more people can enjoy it too.
  2. Help your favourite authors to sell more books. The more positive reviews an author receives, the more people are going to consider that same book. The better the author does, the more great books they’ll produce for you to read in future …
  3. Make an author’s day. Writing can be a lonely life. Many hours are spent tapping away at a keyboard. I guarantee, a positive review will make that author happy; receiving good feedback makes you feel that what you’re doing is worth the effort. Who wouldn’t want to make someone else smile?

Don’t know how to review? A few sentences will do; you don’t need to go into details about the story or produce an essay. Just write about what you enjoyed about the book and why you liked it.

It only takes 5 minutes …

Ready? If you’ve enjoyed my books, feel free to make my day and leave a review on Amazon, GoodReads, or anywhere else you feel inclined :)