#BookReview THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART by Holly Ringland @hollyringland @HarperCollinsAU

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THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART by Holly Ringland

Goodreads Blurb

The most enchanting debut novel of 2018, this is an irresistible, deeply moving and romantic story of a young girl, daughter of an abusive father, who has to learn the hard way that she can break the patterns of the past, live on her own terms and find her own strength.

After her family suffers a tragedy when she is nine years old, Alice Hart is forced to leave her idyllic seaside home. She is taken in by her estranged grandmother, June, a flower farmer who raises Alice on the language of Australian native flowers, a way to say the things that are too hard to speak. But Alice also learns that there are secrets within secrets about her past. Under the watchful eye of June and The Flowers, women who run the farm, Alice grows up. But an unexpected betrayal sends her reeling, and she flees to the dramatically beautiful central Australian desert. Alice thinks she has found solace, until she falls in love with Dylan, a charismatic and ultimately dangerous man.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart is a story about stories: those we inherit, those we select to define us, and those we decide to hide. It is a novel about the secrets we keep and how they haunt us, and the stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Spanning twenty years, set between the lush sugar cane fields by the sea, a native Australian flower farm, and a celestial crater in the central desert, Alice must go on a journey to discover that the most powerful story she will ever possess is her own.

My Review 

THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART is a haunting tale of family secrets, betrayal, and how the stories of the past impact the future.

Alice Hart grows up with an abusive father and downtrodden mother who still does her best to protect her daughter and teach her the language of native Australian flowers that she had learned from her mother in law. When tragedy strikes Alice is taken in by her grandmother, June. June is a flower farmer who takes in women doing it tough and caretaker of the language of flowers created by her ancestors and their family history. When Alice takes of to the Australian desert where she discovers that she is doomed to repeat the tragic history of her past unless she is able to come to terms with her own story.

I loved the language of Australian native flowers that Ringland created to tell this story. Each chapter begins with a description of a different native flower and what it means in the language created by Alice’s family. THE LOST FLOWERS OF ALICE HART is a brilliantly crafted debut novel that will definitely appeal to a wide audience.

*Thank you HarperCollins Publishers for sending me a copy to review.

About the Author

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Holly Ringland

HOLLY RINGLAND grew up barefoot and wild in her mother’s tropical garden on the east coast of Australia. Her interest in cultures and stories was sparked by a two-year journey her family took in North America when she was nine years old, living in a camper van and travelling from one national park to another. In her twenties, Holly worked for four years in a remote Indigenous community in the central Australian desert. Moving to England in 2009, Holly obtained her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. Her essays and short fiction have been published in various anthologies and literary journals. She now lives between the UK and Australia. To any question ever asked of Holly about growing up, writing has always been the answer.

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#BookReview UK2 (Project Renova #3) by Terry Tyler @TerryTyler4

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UK2 by Terry Tyler, featuring Ziggy

Goodreads Blurb

‘Two decades of social media had prepared them well for UK2.’

The pace steps up in this final instalment of the Project Renova trilogy, as the survivors’ way of life comes under threat.

Two years after the viral outbreak, representatives from UK Central arrive at Lindisfarne to tell the islanders about the shiny new city being created down south. Uk2 governor Verlander’s plan is simple: all independent communities are to be dissolved, their inhabitants to reside in approved colonies. Alas, those who relocate soon suspect that the promises of a bright tomorrow are nothing but smoke and mirrors, as great opportunities turn into broken dreams, and dangerous journeys provide the only hope of freedom.

Meanwhile, far away in the southern hemisphere, a new terror is gathering momentum…

‘I walked through that grey afternoon, past fields that nobody had tended for nearly three years, past broken down, rusty old vehicles, buildings with smashed windows. I was walking alone at the end of the world, but I was a happy man. I was free, at last.’

Although this concludes the Project Renova trilogy, there will be more books in the series. A collection of five side stories is planned, and another novel, set far into the future.

My Review

UK2 is the gripping third installment of the post-apocalyptic Project Renova series. I liked it even more that the ending left plenty of room for more stories from this world, because I am hooked!

UK2 picks up after the world is almost wiped out by a virus and most of the main characters from the beginning of the series have settled on a small remote island, Lindisfarne, in the UK. The group on Lindisfarne have long since grown accustomed to living on the island, free of electricity, social media, money, and all the trappings of modern day society. They have already weathered plenty of tragedy and have settled into their new way of life, although it is obvious they will constantly have obstacles to overcome in the future.

Doyle has quickly become disenfranchised with the new UK (UK2) which has been set up by the slimy Alex Verlander from Project Renova. It’s clear to Doyle that the people in charge don’t have the people’s best interests at heart, but he has no choice but to travel to Lindisfarne to recruit the inhabitants to come to UK2.

I loved the character development from Tipping Point to UK2. By the end of this novel it was clear that all of the main characters had undergone some serious personality changes due to the crazy experiences they’d gone through. Some had grown far stronger than they had ever been before the virus hit and others had gone completely bonkers. The use of multiple point of view chapters illustrated these character changes perfectly.

You can check out my reviews of the first two novels in the Project Renova series: Tipping Point and Lindisfarne

About the Author

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Terry Tyler

@TerryTyler4 on Twitter… I am a writer, with 17 books on Amazon. I’m obsessed with The Walking Dead and all things post apocalyptic, also love South Park, Game of Thrones, autumn and winter, history, and most books/films/TV series to do with war/battles/gangsters. I’m a vegan who falls off the wagon now and again. Live in the north east of England with my husband, who I love even more than Daryl Dixo

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#BookReview THOSE OTHER WOMEN by Nicola Moriarty @NikkiM3

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THOSE OTHER WOMEN by Nicola Moriarty featuring Zeus and Ziggy

Goodreads

From the author of The Fifth Letter comes a controversial and darkly comic story about the frustrations of being a childless woman in the modern baby-obsessed world… .

Poppy’s world has been tipped sideways: the husband who never wanted children has betrayed her with her broody best friend.

At least Annalise is on her side. Her new friend is determined to celebrate their freedom from kids, so together they create a Facebook group to meet up with like-minded women, and perhaps vent just an little about smug mummies’ privileges at work.

Meanwhile, their colleague Frankie would love a night out, away from her darlings – she’s not had one this decade and she’s heartily sick of being judged by women at the office as well as stay-at-home mums.

Then Poppy and Annalise’s group takes on a life of its own and frustrated members start confronting mums like Frankie in the real world. Cafés become battlegrounds, playgrounds become war zones and offices have never been so divided.

A rivalry that was once harmless fun is spiraling out of control.

Because one of their members is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. And she has an agenda of her own . . .

My Review 

THOSE OTHER WOMEN is a funny read that explores the complexities of female friendships and rivalries.

I think any woman will find themselves nodding along to this novel at some points, but I hope they will also gain a clearer understanding of the other side.

Poppy’s husband has left her for her best friend. To add insult to injury they are having a baby together when Poppy had thought they were both happy to remain childless. She teams up with her single and child-free work friend, Annalise, to complain about how easy they think it is for mums. Their colleague, Frankie, always seems to be able to get out of work whenever she likes and there is even a local mums group on Facebook that won’t  let single women join. Poppy and Annalise start their own Facebook group for local single women, but things quickly move from companionship and the occasional vent to real-life confrontations and it becomes obvious that somebody in Poppy and Annalise’s group isn’t who she says she is.

THOSE OTHER WOMEN explores the the ways that women can so often be so harsh and judgmental towards themselves, and each other, and the ways that social media can often make these situations so much worse than they need to be.

As a childless woman in my 30s I have definitely felt very uncomfortable about that and been excluded by some women, and I would say I’ve probably unintentionally done the same to some women with kids myself. Like Moriarty demonstrates by the end of the novel, both groups have their own challenges and some bits about our lives that are also pretty fantastic. We really should be more open minded about other people’s life choices and talk to each other in person, rather than letting things fester and get blown out of proportion on social media.

I really love the research by danah boyd who explores how young people use social media for anybody who is interested in doing further reading about the methods and psychology of bullying via social media. It can often be far more insidious and hurtful than real-life bullying and danah’s research would be incredibly insightful for parents of teenagers so they can have a clearer understanding of some of the warning signs to look out for.

About the Author

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Nicola Moriarty

Nicola lives in Sydney’s north west with her husband and two small (but remarkably strong willed) daughters. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can’t seem to stop.

Her writing was once referred to as ‘inept’ by The Melbourne Age. Luckily on that same day the Brisbane Courier Mail called her work ‘accomplished, edgy and real.’ So she stopped crying into her Weetbix, picked up a pen and continued to write. She has been fueled by a desire to prove The Age wrong ever since.

These days, she writes everything from novels to football stadium announcements to VW radio ad scripts and Home Loan EDMs to the occasional Mamamia article and the odd Real Estate advert.

Her first two novels, Free-Falling and Paper Chains were published by Random House Australia in 2012 and 2013. Free-Falling was translated into Dutch and German and was awarded the title of ‘Best Australian Debut’ from Chicklit Club. Paper Chains was later picked up for publishing in the U.S. by HarperCollins and will be released there in 2019.

Her romance novella Captivation was released both as an e-book and in print as part of a collection of romance stories titled, All My Love. She has since concluded that romance writing is not her thing. She also wrote two travel themed short stories for the U.K. Sunlounger anthologies, which were Amazon bestsellers.

While completing a BA with a major in writing at Macquarie University, she was awarded the Fred Rush Convocation prize for creative writing / literary criticism in Australian literature. This achievement made her glow with pride and happily took some of the sting out of The Age’s aforementioned criticism.

In 2017, Nicola released her third novel, The Fifth Letter. Published by HarperCollins in both Australia and the U.S. and by Penguin in the U.K, it was a top ten best seller in Australia and just snuck onto the USA Today Best seller list! It was translated into German, Dutch and Hungarian. In exciting news, film rights for The Fifth Letter were also optioned by Universal Cable Productions.

Nicola’s latest novel, Those Other Women was released in Australia, the US and the UK in 2018 and was an Amazon best seller. Marian Keyes had this to say about Those Other Women, ‘I devoured it, loved it and totally escaped into it … Fun and topical.’

She has four older sisters and one older brother and she lives in constant fear of being directly compared to her two wildly successful and extraordinarily talented author sisters, Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty. Unless of course, the comparison is something kind, perhaps along the lines of, “Liane, Jaci and Nicola are all wonderful writers. I love all of their books equally.”

Other things of note are Nicola’s lack of fine motor skills, demonstrated by her inability to thread keys onto key-rings, tie balloons, braid hair and apply eyeliner. If you have taken the time to read this far, she would very much like to send you a Freddo Frog to show her appreciation. But she probably won’t follow through, because she’ll most likely eat all the Freddo Frogs before she gets the chance to post them. Sorry, she does mean well.

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Win a copy of WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS by Lauren Weisberger

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WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS by Laura Weisberger

Goodreads

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada—Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.

Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI—with a Suburban full of other people’s children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths—and the lies—that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears

My Review

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS is the perfect book to unwind, relax, and treat yourself to something indulgent.

Emily Charlton, everybody’s favourite assistant from Lauren Weisberger’s bestselling novel and major motion picture THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA is back! Emily has successfully developed her own company working as an image consultant to the stars. She is happily living in LA with her hunky husband, Miles, until she starts to lose her biggest clients to a young social media savvy rival. While Emily takes refuge in the suburbs of Connecticut with her former high-power lawyer turned full time mum friend, Miranda, she can’t help but take on a new client. Karolina Hartwell is a former supermodel in the midst of a nasty divorce with her husband, a newly elected New York senator with presidential aspirations. At first, Emily is bored and slightly horrified by the plastic surgery obsessed Lululemon wearing Connecticut housewives, but life in the suburbs begins to grow on her as the friendship between the three women develops.

WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS is a lighthearted and seriously funny look inside the glitz and glamour of the wealthy Connecticut suburbs filled with on-trend pop culture references. As Emily observed, this world is a lot like THE REAL HOUSEWIVES reality series with a bit less yelling. But, Weisberger successfully includes insightful social commentary on the craziness of this world, the importance of strong and supportive female friendships, and the ways our priorities and confidence in ourselves change as we grow older along with all the fun and action. I loved the guest appearance of the devil in Prada herself, Miranda Priestly, and it was nice to learn that she hasn’t changed a single bit.

Thank you to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for sending me a review copy.

Competition

I have a copy of WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS to one lucky Australian reader.

To enter, simply let me know in the comment section your favourite way to indulge yourself while you read.

Competition is open to Australian residents and entries will close July 24th, 2018.

Visit me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to increase your chances of winning.

 

#BookReview A PLACE TO REMEMBER by Jenn J. McLeod @jennjmcleod

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A PLACE TO REMEMBER by Jenn J. McLeod  featuring Ziggy

Goodreads Blurb

A man loses five years of his life. Two women are desperate for him to remember.

Running away for the second time in her life, twenty-seven-year old Ava believes the cook’s job at a country B&B is perfect, until she meets the owner’s son, John Tate. At twenty, the fifth generation grazier is a beguiling blend of both man, boy and a terrible flirt. With their connection immediate and intense, they begin a clandestine affair right under the noses of John’s formidable parents.

Thirty years later, Ava returns to Candlebark Creek with her daughter, Nina, who is determined to meet her mother’s lost love for herself. While struggling to find her own place in the world, Nina discovers an urban myth about a love-struck man, a forgotten engagement ring, and a dinner reservation back in the eighties. Now she must decide if revealing the truth will hurt more than it heals…

My Review

A PLACE TO REMEMBER is a sweet Australian romance story spanning two generations. Ava takes a job as a cook for the B&B on a remote northern Queensland cattle station, Ivy-May owned by the Tate family, in the 1980s. She is running away from a troubled childhood and plans to stay just long enough to save enough money to travel overseas. She doesn’t plan on falling in love with the only son of the Tate family, John. Tragedy separates Ava and John until thirty years later in the present day when both Ava and her daughter, Nina, travel to Ivy-May to seek answers about the past.

I really enjoyed the remote and quintessentially Australian setting and characters of A PLACE TO REMEMBER. I’ve visited this area before and McLeod has perfectly captured the scenery and Aussie characters through her vibrant and descriptive writing style. Ava and John’s tragic romance story filled with long-buried family secrets and betrayal was beautifully told.

 

About the Author

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Jenn J. McLeod

Jenn J McLeod was fifty when she started ticking things off her bucket list. So far she’s made that sea change, written that bestseller, and downsized her life to hit the road full time. Since 2014, home for Jenn (and her partner) is a 3-tonne, 25-foot caravan named Myrtle the Turtle. Selling her slice of suburbia and every stick of furniture was liberating (as was saying goodbye to the glut of kitchen gadgets and swapping a wardrobe of classy clothes and shoes for rubber Crocs, T-shirts, and shorts). (Check out my blog post on that.)

With her Seasons Collection of four novels already adored by readers in her home country, April 2018 will see her fifth novel released by the UK’s 2017 Independent Publisher of the Year, Head of Zeus, and distributed worldwide. Best described as heart-warming tales of Australian country life, friendship, family, love and contemporary issues, readers who enjoy family and friendship stories in the style of Monica McInerney, Mauve Binchy and Liz Bryski, will enjoy Jenn’s small town stories.

In addition to her novels, Jenn is published in short form and in industry magazines (including the Australian Literature Review’s ‘Novel Writing in Australia’ education series). She also maintains her own blog and loves connecting with readers online

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June Wrap-Up

June has been a bit of a study in contrasts. I’ve had periods where I’ve had a lot of work to do and a couple of weeks where I could have won a gold medal in the couch potato Olympics. I think it balanced out to be successful month overall, although I would have liked to have been able to read more books.

I wrote an article for HelloCare Carepage that describes my experiences of the Australian aged care sector with my Pop who suffers from dementia, calling for mandated staff ratios to be introduced. It’s a sad, but increasingly common, story and I’ve been overwhelmed by the support I have received for this article, particularly by aged care staff across the country. I’m so relieved that my respect and support for aged care professionals came through loud and clear. I’m in the process of working on some more articles for HelloCare Carepage, including dementia communication tips and strategies I have learned over the last few years. I feels like an enormous weight has been lifted off my shoulders to be able to make something positive out of such a crappy situation.

The other sort of non-bookish activity that has taken up a good chunk of my time has been watching the Outlander television series. I usually prefer to read the books before I watch the film/series, but I knew I would never find time to read the entire series in a hurry. I’ve just began the third season and I’m hooked and desperate to visit Scotland after seeing so much of the breath-taking scenery of Scotland.  I really admire the fighting spirit of the Scottish who fought the British Empire at its peak for so many years and hope a dash of that courage was passed down to me by my Scottish ancestors!

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Books I read in June

I only read three books in June, but I enjoyed them all in different ways. Hopefully the worst of the chilly Melbourne winter nights are behind us so I can find more energy for reading and blogging! I’m the kind of person who would totally sleep through winter if I could get away with it.

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P IS FOR PEARL by Eliza Henry-Jones

Goodreads 

From the talented author of the celebrated novels In the Quiet and Ache comes a poignant and moving book that explores the stories we tell ourselves about our families, and what it means to belong.

Seventeen-year-old Gwendolyn P. Pearson has become very good at not thinking about the awful things that have happened to her family. She has also become used to people talking about her dead mum. Or not talking about her and just looking at Gwen sympathetically. And it’s easy not to think about awful things when there are wild beaches to run along, best friends Loretta and Gordon to hang out with – and a stepbrother to take revenge on.

But following a strange disturbance at the cafe where she works, Gwen is forced to confront what happened to her family all those years ago. And she slowly comes to realise that people aren’t as they first appear and that like her, everyone has a story to tell.

‘P is for Pearl is a complex, authentic exploration of grief, friendship, mental illness, family and love, sensitively written by a writer whose voice will resonate with teen readers.’

My Review 

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THE RULES OF BACKYARD CROQUET BY Sunni Overend

Goodreads

Disgraced fashion prodigy Apple March has gone into hiding, concealing herself within the cashmere and silk folds of a formerly grand fashion boutique – the hanging of blouses and handling of difficult patrons now her only concern. But when her sister Poppy needs a wedding dress, old passions are reignited … along with threats from her past.

As Apple finds herself falling for someone she shouldn’t, her quest to re-emerge becomes entangled in a time she wants forgotten, and life unravels as quickly as it began to mend.

From the cool heart of Melbourne to Paris and New York, in an effervescent world of croquet, Campari and cocoon coats, can Apple prevail over demons past to become the woman she was born to be?

My Review 

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THE STORY OF OUR LIFE by Shari Low

Goodreads

Unwind, laugh, cry … but feel uplifted with this bittersweet love story. Perfect for the fans of Jo-Jo Moyes and Marian Keyes.

So what would you do if your ‘happy ever after’ was stolen from you?

Colm strolled into my life fifteen years ago. If there’s ever such a thing as love at first sight, that was it for us both. A few weeks later we married, celebrating with those who cared, ignoring the raised eyebrows of the cynics.

We knew better. This was going to be forever. The dream come true. The perfect ending. Until it wasn’t.

Because a couple of months ago everything changed. We discovered a devastating truth, one that blew away our future and forced us to revisit our past, to test the bonds that were perhaps more fragile than they seemed.

So now I ask you again, what would you do if your ‘happy ever after’ was taken from you?

Because this is what I did.

I’m Shauna.

And this is the Story of Our Life…

My Review 

 

#BookReview THE STORY OF OUR LIFE by Shari Low @sharilow

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THE STORY OF OUR LIFE by Shari Low

Goodreads Blurb

Unwind, laugh, cry … but feel uplifted with this bittersweet love story. Perfect for the fans of Jo-Jo Moyes and Marian Keyes.

So what would you do if your ‘happy ever after’ was stolen from you?

Colm strolled into my life fifteen years ago. If there’s ever such a thing as love at first sight, that was it for us both. A few weeks later we married, celebrating with those who cared, ignoring the raised eyebrows of the cynics.

We knew better. This was going to be forever. The dream come true. The perfect ending. Until it wasn’t.

Because a couple of months ago everything changed. We discovered a devastating truth, one that blew away our future and forced us to revisit our past, to test the bonds that were perhaps more fragile than they seemed.

So now I ask you again, what would you do if your ‘happy ever after’ was taken from you?

Because this is what I did.

I’m Shauna.

And this is the Story of Our Life…

My Review

Colm and Shauna have been married for 15 years. Despite plenty of ups and downs they were planning on spending the rest of their lives together until tragedy turns their worlds upside.

After reading the description of this novel I wasn’t quite expecting just how  gut wrenching this novel actually was. I had to put this novel aside for a while once I discovered how sad it actually was compared to what I was expecting from the blurb. I often enjoy sad stories but I do like to be prepared for it from the get go.

I’m glad I was able to pick it up again, though, because it really is a beautifully written story. The characters are well developed and sometimes did things I disagreed with, but I could also understand why they behave they way they did. I think almost everybody deals with tragedy in ways that don’t make any sense at the time.

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Shari Low

Shari Low has published eighteen books under her own name and pseudonyms Millie Conway and Ronni Cooper. She is also one half of the writing duo, Shari King, with old friend and TV presenter, Ross King.
Back in the nineties, after living abroad for many years, Shari returned to Scotland, met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, two teenagers and a labradoodle.
Shari also writes an opinion column and a literary page for a newspaper and is working on the TV adaptation of one of her books.
For all the latest news, visit her on Facebook, twitter, or at www.sharilow.com

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