Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Crime, Fiction, Thriller, Uncategorized

Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

Synopsis

The victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses the boys of something unthinkable.

The defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.

Whose side would you take?

Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, shattered the expectations placed on her by her family and forged a glittering career at the Bar. All before hanging up her barrister’s wig to help the victims who needed her most. Victims like Jodie Wolfe.

Jodie’s own best friend doesn’t even believe her claims that their classmates carried out such a crime. But Zara does. And Zara is determined to fight for her. Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?

Thrilling, brave and explosive, Take It Back is a masterclass in storytelling and will hold you in rapture until the final, breathtaking page.

My Review

This is a fantastically written taut drama that had me gripped right until the very end. Brilliantly plotted and structured throughout this is an absolute corker of a novel.

Zara Kaleel is a damaged character in herself. She fights against so many hurdles; her family honour, religion and ultimately her own guilt. She turned her back on a successful career as a barrister because she wanted to make a real difference and help people. Yet this latest victim may be the straw that broke the camel’s back. This is a very complex issue and is so much more than an accusation by a girl against four boys, this is an accusation of a white disabled girl against four muslim boys. In helping Jodie, Zara is seen as turning against her own but all she cares about it bringing justice for the victim.

Author Kia Abdullah highlights so many issues in the novel. Jodie is a disfigured young girl and so doubt is instantly placed on her claims – why would four, handsome young men attack her? Throughout the novel there is a shadow of doubt over both sides of the stories and it brilliantly highlights how difficult such cases are to take through the courts. This is a complex case that sends waves of conflict beyond the local community, including Zara’s own family. Kia manages to put in plenty of twists and turns, and I have to say the ending was rather superb.

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Many thanks to the lovely people at HQ Stories for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for sending me the review copy for an honest review. They have a fantastic selection of novels being published this year so do check out their website via the link above.

About the author

Kia Abdullah

Kia Abdullah is an author and travel writer. She has contributed to The Guardian , BBC, and Channel 4 News, and most recently The New York Times commenting on a variety of issues affecting the Muslim community. Kia currently travels the world as one half of the travel blog Atlas & Boots, which receives over 200,000 views per month.

Visit Kia’s website at Kiaabdullah.com

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2+, 3+, 5+, 7+, Poetry, Review, Summer Reads

Dinosaur Poems: A selection of verses and rhymes with real bite! By John Foster and Korky Paul

If you thought dinosaurs were extinct, then think again! They live on in the stomping, chomping, growling, howling poem collection. So if you’re looking for poetry with a prehistoric twist, look no further than this sensational selection.

Poet John Foster was an English Teacher for twenty years but has been compiling poetry anthologies since 1979 and has written twelve of his own. He has a website crammed with poetry and inspiration and well worth a visit. Dinosaur Poems is an anthology of poems entirely about dinosaurs. It’s a fantastically funny and informative collection of rhyming poems that are perfect for reading aloud. I particularly loved ‘Ten Dancing Dinosaurs’ and ‘The Bookoceros or Ancient Thesaurus’.

The illustrations to accompany this fine collection of dino poems are provided by the rather wonderful Korky Paul (you may have enjoyed his work on the Winnie & Wilbur series). I adore his illustrations. They are filled with humour and interesting details that bring the words alive and adds another dimension to reading the poetry (I particularly love the bunny slippers for ‘Dinosaur Stomp’). There is always plenty to point at with Korky’s illustrations!

This is a brilliant little book of poetry. It is paperback and size wise is about the size of an A5 notebook. There are 21 poems to share and once you’ve finished reading them why not have a go at writing your own. 🙂

Dinosaur Poems is published by Oxford University Press Children’s Books. It was originally published in Hardback back in 1993 but is now available in paperback with Korky’s fabulous illustrations.

The paperback ISBN no is: 9780192767486 and should be available from all good book shops. For more information why not check out the publisher website.

Thank you so much to the lovely team at OUP for sending me a review copy. I absolutely loved it.

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Fiction, Literary, Relationship Stories, Review, Summer Reads

Do Not Feed The Bear by Rachel Elliott

Today I am so thrilled to help kick off the Random Things Tours Blog Tour for Do Not Feed The Bear by Rachel Elliott. My first thoughts upon finishing (as I hugged it close) – What a wonderful book!

On her forty-seventh birthday, Sydney Smith stands on a rooftop and prepares to
jump…

Sydney is a cartoonist and freerunner. Feet constantly twitching, always teetering on the edge of life, she’s never come to terms with the event that ripped her family apart when she was ten years old. And so, on a birthday that she doesn’t want to celebrate, she returns alone to St Ives to face up to her guilt and grief. It’s a trip that turns out to be life-changing – and not only for herself.

DO NOT FEED THE BEAR is a book about lives not yet lived, about the kindness of others and about how, when our worlds stop, we find a way to keep on moving.

A life-affirming novel of love, loss and letting go

– for readers of ELEANOR OLIPHANT,
THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP and WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT.

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Freerunning – there is something that feels quite liberating about it. Parkour UK describe the sport as something that ‘…aims to build confidence, determination, self-discipline and self-reliance, and responsibility for one’s actions. It encourages humility, respect for others and for one’s environment, self-expression, community spirit, and the importance of play, discovery and safety at all times.’ I have of course never personally done it (I don’t have the personal strength of both mind and body) but I found it interesting that throughout the novel Sydney has used it as a way to channel both her guilt and grief. She uses it as an escape, a way to disappear and yet it brings her into the spot light. It’s also something I have never encountered before in a novel and I love it.

As she is reaching her 47th birthday, Sydney returns to St Ives, the scene of a terrible tragedy in her childhood. Her grief is buried deep, as it has been for her family, never enabling them to quite move on. Life has a way of coming full circle though and soon events and people from the past creep back in bringing with it a sense of hope and, if not closure, then the ability to move on.

Do Not Feed The Bear is an exploration of grief and the effect it has on us. It’s funny but only a few days ago I listened to a Happy Place Podcast presented by the wonderful Fearne Cotton featuring the superbly inspiring, Elizabeth Gilbert. She spoke to Fearne about how damaging it can be to suppress our grief, to not allow it the voice it deserves, and as I listened I thought yes, that is so true. Over hundreds of years western society has shown us that it is weak to show our emotions, that they should be held in check and explored privately. Quite often we are afraid to allow ourselves that exploration, as if we may never be able to pull ourselves out again. It can be grief for the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or the regret of an unfulfilled dream. There are different levels of grief and each and every one deserves our acknowledgment and the freedom to express them. This is touched on brilliantly in this wonderful novel.

This is a book that swept me up into it’s pages; a book that I wanted to hug and cherish all the time I was reading. The characters are unique and multifaceted and Rachel explores their present and their past so exquisitely that I felt bound to them and their journey. She steps perfectly into their minds bringing them alive on the page and oh, how I came to love them. In my minds eye they are still there, hopefully a little lighter in spirit since my time with them ended.

The shadow of events from that fateful summer in Sydney’s childhood has nurtured the pain of loss and this is keenly felt throughout. Yet this isn’t a dark book. Yes there is trauma and sadness and yet I never felt despair, I never felt that I couldn’t carry on reading. I felt their loss and yet Rachel writes with such tenderness and she encapsulates the sense that the dead and lost never really leave us. I found this extremely comforting.

When I’m reading a novel I often fold over corners of pages where a sentence or paragraph has particularly moved me (please don’t judge, I just never have my notebook to hand). There are many turned corners throughout my copy of Do Not Feed The Bear, the writing is stunning, so much care has been taken and every line, for me, was a joy to read. The beauty of the word structure and placement made me often pause and reflect. There is so, so much to connect to within this novel but at the very least there is a wonderful story told about life and the people we are and who we can be if we really want to.

I think one of my favourite characters is Stuart, an unusual but brilliantly written narrator but this story gives a voices to all of these wonderful characters and I urge you to grab yourself a copy and welcome them into your life.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and read the wonderful novel. Thanks also to Tinder Press for sending me the copy. You can follow Tinder Press on twitter at @TinderPress

Do Not Feed The Bear is published on the 8th August 2019 and will be available in Hardback (with a beautiful cover by the way), eBook and on Audiobook . The paperback edition will be coming in April 2020.
#DoNotFeedTheBear by Rachel Elliott Blog Tour with #RandomThingsTours and

About the author

Rachel Elliott

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Rachel Elliott is the author of WHISPERS THROUGH A MEGAPHONE, long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize in 2016. She is also a practising psychotherapist, and lives in Bath with her miniature schnauzer Henry.

Quickfire Questions with Rachel

Give us three adjectives to best describe your new novel.
Sad, tender, hopeful.

What are the three most important character traits of your protagonist?
Creativity, stubbornness, physical agility.

Where is the novel set?
St Ives, Cornwall, a reimagined version.

What were the last three things you Googled in the name of “research”?
• Did Lego spacemen have removable helmets in 1984?
• How many people could you fit inside a Vauxhall Cavalier?
• David Hockney’s pool paintings

Who is your biggest influence as a writer?
Everyday life is the biggest influence.

What word or phrase do you most overuse in your writing?
The words ridiculous and beautiful. Because I find so many things ridiculous and beautiful.

Who would you cast as your lead character if made into a film/TV?
Claire Danes would make an excellent Sydney Smith.

Do you have any hidden talents?
Unexpectedly, I’m quite handy with a pair of dog clippers, although my dog would disagree.

Which of your characters would you most like to have dinner with?
Belle Schaefer, a 29-year-old bookseller with an old soul. She’s a true outsider, yet a vital part of the community; she has an allotment, volunteers at an otter sanctuary, runs author events, drinks with all the old guys in a pub called the Black Hole. And every now and then, she steals things.

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Adult Fiction, Fiction, Summer Reads, Suspense, Thriller

Summer Reads – The Cliff House

Books to be swept away with this summer…

There are SO MANY great books around at the moment and so I’d like to share a few that I think are particularly exciting.  I’m not going to plop them all together in one post but give each the opportunity to shine in it’s own right…

Hold on to your hats… here are my summer 2019 recommendations.

The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

Adult Fiction

 

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Here’s the synopsis:

Some friendships are made to be broken

Cornwall, summer of 1986.

The Davenports, with their fast cars and glamorous clothes, living the dream in a breathtaking house overlooking the sea.

If only… thinks sixteen-year-old Tamsyn, her binoculars trained on the perfect family in their perfect home.

If only her life was as perfect as theirs.

If only Edie Davenport would be her friend.

If only she lived at The Cliff House…

Amanda Jennings weaves a haunting tale of obsession, loss and longing, set against the brooding North Cornish coastline, destined to stay with readers long after the final page is turned.

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I read and reviews this novel when it was published in hardback last year and I absolutely LOVED it.  Please do check out my review here.  Set in one of my favourite places in the world, Cornwall; it’s a blooming brilliant read and perfect for right now whilst the sun is shining (or anytime really but especially now).  Just go grab a copy, okay!

The Cliff House is out in paperback today!  Visit the publishers (HQ, an imprint of HarperCollins) website here for more information on where you can buy this title (also your local indie will be able to get hold of it too if they don’t already have a copy.) 

Paperback ISBN: 978-0008248895

The Cliff House is also available in Hardback, eBook and on Audiobook.

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Read it already?  Please feel free to let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Happy reading and I hope you have a fabulous summer!

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Literary

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

Today I’m delighted to take part in the blog tour for A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…

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Families can be incredibly complicated. They can bring us pain, happiness, relief, despair and security. These people who can take up such a large part of our lives, people who we don’t choose but that we are bound too. Helga captures this perfectly in The Modern Family.

When, during a family celebration, Liv, Ellen and Håkon discover that their parents are getting divorced there is naturally a massive fallout. Suddenly life is thrown completely off it’s axis and all are shaken by the effects. Everything they came to believe in is questioned. Blame is placed.

Most families have conflict. There is sibling rivalry amongst even the closest and quite often we become blind to the suffering of others, because ours always seems greater. This is one thing that struck me about this novel. The misunderstandings and the difficulty of looking at things through someone else’s eyes.

Helga has written the novel through the eyes of the three grown children. Each has a very distinct voice and each has a very different perspective to their family. It reminds us how complex these units of people are. There is such skill shown in the writing, you can feel the character (and their emotions) erupt from the page.

This is a beautiful novel, tinged with sadness but even during the heartbreak I felt the strength of the family. No matter what happened they were there for each other. This was never more apparent then at certain low points. For me it showed that no matter how fractured we become as life moves on and we each become our own person (and accept that our parents are too!), family can still be there. It may look a little different, but love and a shared history stand for an awful lot.

Another thing that stood out for me was the expectations quite often felt by children of their parents. Helga addresses this without pulling any punches, letting her characters show us in their raw, uncensored thoughts how easy it is to let expectations blind us. How our childlike feelings towards our parents can reoccur at any age.

A parent, generally, has a very specific role in our lives as adults: in this case to grow old quietly and to be consistent. What a shock when this is challenged by admitting, so late in life, that nothing is guaranteed and that, even at seventy, life can change so dramatically. The subject of age and how, in modern life, getting older doesn’t mean we simply stop dreaming of something more and suddenly what was right for our younger selves may no longer be so.

Therefore, this isn’t just a novel about the divorce of parents. It’s also about the complexities and struggles of modern life, and perhaps most of all it’s about embracing life and allowing those around us to do the same.

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A Modern Family is published in both eBook and Paperback by Orenda Books.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my review copy.

About the author

Helga Flatland

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Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. Born in Telemark, Norway, in 1984, she made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize.

She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards. Her fifth novel, A Modern Family, was published to wide acclaim in Norway in August 2017, and was a number-one bestseller. The rights have subsequently been sold across Europe and the novel has sold more than 100,000 copies.

You can follow Helga on Twitter at @HelgaFlatland

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Adult Fiction, Crime, Nordic Noir, Thriller

His Sweet by Hildur Sif Thorarensen

When small town sheriff Yolanda Demetriou comes to work that day, she has no idea what to expect from her new case – or the horrors that lie ahead.

What are the diary entries about? And who wrote them? When Sheriff Yolanda Demetrioy receives boxes of notebooks, she has no idea of the horrors that lie ahead.  Will she be able to piece together the information and locate the house where childhood dreams become nightmares? Or will she be too late to save an abducted girl?

In this dark psychological thriller, Yolanda and her team embark on a hunt for a monster, following maddeningly sparse clues in a race to solve a heartless crime.

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Hildur very Kindly sent me a copy of My Sweet to read and review.  It was a pleasure to receive such an intriguing package form Norway.  I do love Nordic Noir and so I was happy to dive in.  So did I enjoy?  Absolutely, I read it in one sitting.  Hildur is an interesting writer and I felt the technique of the using the victims diary entries along with the realtime investigation by Yolanda and her team to tell the story worked really well.

Yolanda is sheriff of Crowswood, Alabama, a small town with small crime.  So when a box of disturbing diaries are handed in that hint at a young child being held captive locally they all pull together to try and find her.  The content of the diaries lead them to believe that time is running out and it’s not long before the big guns from Washington arrive to give a helping hand in the hunt for the girl before its too late.  For Yolanda the case has become personal and she’s so eager to find and save the girl that she may just have put both herself and the victim in even greater danger.

An exciting and interesting new voice in Nordic Noir and one that I look forward to watching grow.

Thank you so much Hildur for sending me a copy.  I really enjoyed reading My Sweet.

My Sweet is now available on Amazon in both paperback and eBook.

About the author

81VyknWQgBL._US230_Hildur Sif Thorarensen was born in Iceland but is currently living in Norway. Although, spending most of her adult years at the University, she’s been writing ever since she was a little girl and alongside Medical studies and a Master’s in Engineering, has also taken a year in Creative Writing.

At the age of eight she started a neighborhood paper with her friend which was filled with short stories about the neighborhood, written by Hildur Sif. The girls sold the paper to the people living in their street and used the profits to buy candy, much to their parents chagrin.

Hildur’s way with words later led her into working as a journalist for a newspaper in the Westman Islands. There she was known as the optimistic girl because of her exuberant, cheerful spirit which always seemed to find its way into her work.

Her first novel was published in Icelandic at the end of 2016 and in English in 2018. Her second novel, My Sweet was published in November 2018.

You can follow Hildur on Facebook at hildursifthorarensen

You can follow Hildur on Instagram at hildursifthorarensen

You can follow Hildur on Twitter at hildur84

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour

The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw

Today I’m so delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw.

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini’s perfect life begins to splinter when her celebrity father becomes more distant, and her mother dies suspiciously during a lightning storm. This death has a massive effect on Emma, but after stumbling through university, she settles into work
as a journalist in Edinburgh. Her past, however, cannot be escaped. Her mental health becomes unstable. But while recovering in a mental institution, Emma begins to write a memoir to help come to terms with the unravelling of her life. She finds ultimate solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe – which offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

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I’ve been so lucky to have been able to review some wonderful books of late and this has certainly continued with The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw.  It is a beautifully poignant tale and one that I was swept away with from the start. Told through the eyes of Emma, we join her in childhood and embark on her journey suffering loses and heartbreaks along the way.  As a narrator she is an incredibly interesting character.  Her world is actually quite small.  The daughter of a famous actor, she is hidden away with her reclusive mother, secluded from the bright lights of the Hollywood lifestyle. Her father visits, seemingly rarely, and although adored by millions, is simply Dad to her.

What’s also interesting is the way that memory is explored within the story.  The villains in Emma’s own story are darkened by her own beliefs and disappointments.  An ‘ordinary’ childhood she did not have.  Her mother is beautiful, swears and drinks a lot and seems to suffer from her own neurosis.  Her father a famous actor who is absent more often than not and who also seems to send her mother into a constant rage.  The characters that surround Emma are given to us how she wants them to be presented but there is much provided between the lines by Charlie that enable us to question and come to our own conclusions.

This wonderful novel touches on so many different themes but the subject of mental health, dysfunctional families and of course the fascinating question of memory were prominent for me. How things are expressed considering whose view point we see it through and the reliability of the narrator are key to interpretation.  I often find a first person narration can be pretty unreliable, especially when our protagonist is remembering traumatic events and what led to them. Yet first person can be incredibly powerful as we get to feel through their words and, I think, one of my favourite viewpoints.  Charlie is very good at it and he brought Emma to life beautifully.

This is an engrossing read and I really liked Emma and I liked how the echoes of her family history fed into her life and personality.  Families give so much history behind us and there is often so much we don’t know about what went before us, yet we can still feel the aftershock rumbling through our own lives, thoughts and feelings.  This is hit on wonderfully in The Space Between Time.

One of the things that drew me to this novel was the theme of the universe.  How we are all connected.  The talk of stars, dark matter and black holes.  Of course this isn’t just a story about science and mathematics but Charlie does use it to bring a wonderful extra dimension that I found absolutely fascinating. I loved how each chapter title was an equation – compared to many I know very little about it all but their presence made me feel that a message was being conveyed throughout this tale… and it was.  One of life, love, family and the universe, and what an absolute pleasure it was to read too.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour and to Charlie for writing such an engaging enjoyable novel.  I’m now very intrigued to go back and read his earlier novel, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead.

The Space Between Time is published by Accent Press on the 20th June and will be available in both eBook and paperback.

About the author

Charlie Laidlaw

1-2Charlie Laidlaw was born in Paisley and is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh. He has been a national newspaper journalist and worked in defence intelligence. He now runs his own marketing consultancy in East Lothian. He is married with two grown-up
children.

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