Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Debut

Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton

Today is a glorious day. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and I’m delighted to be hosting the blog tour for Johnny Ruin by Dan Dalton.

Synopsis

Depression can be hell.

Heartbroken and lonely, the narrator has made an attempt on his own life. Whether he meant to or not he can’t say. But now he’s stuck in his own head, and time is running out.

To save himself, he embarks on a journey across an imagined America, one haunted by his doomed relationship and the memory of a road trip that ended in tragedy.

Help arrives in the guise of Jon Bon Jovi, rock star and childhood hero. An unlikely spirit guide, perhaps, but he’s going to give it a shot…

1-5

My thoughts…

Now to be honest there is a lot of strong language and sexual references in this book. The language is crude and raw at times but can I just say that it is oh so beautiful. Dan’s writing is eloquent and emotive. I was absorbed into the storytelling by the strange surreal, nightmarish quality. It is absolutely compelling, poetic and powerful. Dan shows such sensitivity that he moved me to tears on more than one occasion. Johnny Ruin is an absolutely stunning read that will grab you hard by the heart and soul.

One line that particularly stands out for me ‘I thought you’d be taller‘. Read the book and find it yourself. Perhaps you’ll see what I mean but to me this one sentence encapsulates depression perfectly. It looms over life filling it with shadow and sadness before attaching itself, heavy and suffocating. Dan has written depression in it’s very darkest moments, he gives it a form and in that is turning it into something that can be defeated. It can try to hide from the light but it will be found. Despair can feel overwhelming and Johnny Ruin shows this but it also shows that there is still life out there even in times when we feel there is no future. This is a story of broken hearts and broken dreams but most of all it’s a story about finding your way, even through the dark.

Johnny Ruin has been published by Unbound and is available in hardback, paperback, eBook and audiobook.

Many thanks to the wonderful Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. Many thanks also to Dan and the lovely people at Unbound for sending me a review copy.

About the author

Dan Dalton

1-3Dan Dalton is a writer and freelance journalist covering books and pop culture. He is a former Staff Writer at BuzzFeed.

A graduate of the University of Leeds, he was born in West Yorkshire, and lives in North London.

You can follow Dan on Twitter at @wordsbydan

 

 

unnamed-1

 

Advertisements
Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Relationship Stories, Romance, Summer Reads

The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander

Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Last Concerto by Sara Alexander.

Synopsis

Sardinia, 1968.

Eleven-year-old Alba Fresu’s brother, and her father, Bruno, are abducted by criminals who mistake Bruno for a rich man. After a gruelling journey through the countryside, the two are eventually released – but the experience leaves Alba shaken and unable to readjust to normal life.

Accompanying her mother to cleaning jobs, Alba visits the villa of an eccentric Signora and touches the keys of a piano for the first time. The instrument’s spell is immediate. During secret lessons, forbidden by her mother, Alba is at last able to express emotions too powerful for words alone. Ignoring her parents’ wishes, she accepts a scholarship to the Rome conservatoire. There she immerses herself in a vibrant world of art and a passionate affair.

But her path will lead her to a crossroads, and Alba will have to decide how to reconcile her talent with her longing for love and her family…

IMG_20190817_070730.jpg

My thoughts…

This is an incredibly beautifully written novel. The story is engrossing and Sara’s use of language, imagery and her characterisation create a deeply moving and engrossing story. Alba’s life on Sardinia is far from easy. Restricted by family traditions and expectations, along with the trauma and guilt that weighs her down after the abduction of her father and brother, her home life is far from happy. Those closest to her see her only as a difficult, silent child who brings grief and trouble to the family. Yet Signora Elias, a local woman who her mother cleans for, spots a talent burning bright within Alba. This kind, generous old woman takes her under her wing and teaches her the piano. Alba finally finds a way to express the torrent of emotions within and releases a unique talent from within. So many times I felt the injustice of the treatment towards Alba that watching her flourish through her music was a complete joy.

I met author, Sara Alexander at Destination HQ earlier this summer. Listening to her briefly talk about this book I was immediately intrigued to know more. She seemed such a charismatic and vibrant person and spoke of both the novel and her love of music and food (touching briefly on her produce grown on her own allotment). I could tell that she was incredibly proud of her Sardinian ancestry and I felt that such a colourful person would produce an interesting and animated story. During the evening we bonded briefly over our shared love of allotment life and I was excited to receive a copy of both this and her previous novel The Secret Legacy. I’m so glad that I did because she writes beautifully and all that charisma, colour, vibrancy and knowledge seeps into the story to create an absolutely stunning novel. She reminded me a little of Victoria Hislop, although I try to avoid author comparisons, Sara’s ability to bring Sardinia alive did bring Victoria to mind. I love the way she uses music so wonderfully and her articulation and sentence structure is superb. So many of my senses were engaged whilst reading. She conjures a piece of music to your mind with words alone, the atmosphere and emotion are all there. The same goes when she talks about food, such an important part of family life and skilfully used to bring moments with the story to life.

As for Alba’s journey well of course it isn’t easy but she is a wonderful character to follow and her story is one with joy as well as sadness. Be swept away to Italy with this gorgeous novel, it is an absolute delight from start to finish.

Thank you so much to the lovely people at HQ Stories for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and for the review copy. It is wonderful and I now look forward to reading Sara’s previous novels, Under A Sardinian Sky and The Secret legacy.

As well as being a incredibly talented novelist, Sara is also and actress and I have to say my son was VERY IMPRESSED that I chatted with an actress who had appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Every time we watch it (and we do quite a lot) I remind him ‘I met her!’ 🙂

About the author

Sara Alexander

B1YMcWRGnnS._US230_

Sara Alexander attended Hamstead School, went on to graduate from the University of Bristol, with a BA hons in Theatre, Film & TV. She followed on to complete her postgraduate diploma in acting from Drama Studio London. She has worked extensively in the theatre, film and television industries, including roles in much-loved productions such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Doctor Who, and Franco Zeffirelli’s Sparrow. She is based in London.

Find out more about Sara by visiting her website at http://www.saraalexander.net

You can follow Sara on Twitter at @AuthorSaraAlex

You can find Sara on Instagram at @sarajalexander

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.

*

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

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.

2+, 3+, Bedtime Stories, Picture Books

Moon River: There’s Such a Lot of World To See illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Based on the song by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini

Follow a little girl on a magical journey along the Moon River. It flows from her bedroom and out into the big wide world just waiting to be discovered. She’s soon to be joined by other children who are all excited to be exploring the beautiful world together. There is such a lot of world to see!

Moon River is a song composed by Henry Mancini with Lyrics by Johnny Mercer. It recieved an Academy Award for Best Original Song for its performance by Audrey Hepburn in the iconic movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

51C1kd6ZLpL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_

This is a stunningly illustrated picture book inspired by the words of the classic song Moon River. As with all picture books the illustrations bring so much more to the story as we see a young girl’s dreams take her on a journey aboard her trusty rocking horse with Ted as her companion. Together they explore the world looking for the ‘same rainbow’s end…waiting round the bend’. Their journey is gentle and Tim has created beautiful, soft illustrations that are perfect to explore together as you unwind ready for a dream-filled sleep and your own adventures. There is also an accompanying CD which is perfect for those of us who still have a CD player at both home or in the car. Brilliant to avoid having to use yet another App or download. The CD has the original song sung by Andy Williams (rather lovely to put on after you’ve shared the story) and a audible version of the story with page-turn prompts (I find this can be useful as your children begin to explore books alone or again if you’re travelling in the car).

Overall a beautifully illustrated picture book that is perfect for sharing with little ones at bedtime and could well become an often returned to classic in itself.

Moon River by Tim Hopgood is available in hardback and paperback and should be available from all good book shops. For more information visit the Oxford University Press Website here.

You can follow Oxford University Press Kids on Twitter at @OUPChildrens

To find out more about illustrator Tim Hopgood and his fantastic selection of children’s books, please visit his website here.

You can also follow Tim on Twitter at @TimHopgood

Paperback ISBN: 9780192746405

Hardback ISBN: 9780192746399

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Coming Soon, Debut, Historical Fiction

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott

Today I am so thrilled to be able to chat about The Photographer of the Lost  as part of the Random Things Tours blog tour ahead of publication in October. The blog tour continues tomorrow with Jaffareadstoo (twitter: @jaffareadstoo ) where she will also be revealing the stunning cover so do take a look.  In the meantime here’s the synopsis and my thoughts on this wonderful novel.

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own…
An epic novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I

1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. He is considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she beings to search.

Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph gravesites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for evidence of his brother.

And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to a startling truth.

An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history, The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again.

IMG_20190717_094940

This is an absolutely stunning novel.  Beautifully written and heartbreaking it takes a very different approach to the subject of war and the ones who have been left behind.

Edie never really knows what happened to her husband Francis after he was reported missing in action in 1917.  Four years later and she is still no closer to the truth, that is until a photograph arrives in the post from France.  It is a picture of Francis and Edie is sure that it has been taken recently.  She must find answers and so reaches out to Francis’ surviving brother, Harry, for help.  Harry was the last person to see Francis alive and he too wants more than ever to find out what happened to him.

This is one of those novels that I feel I can never write a review good enough to give it justice.  It’s not just the subject matter that Caroline has captured so brilliantly but also that sense of hopelessness that must be felt when there is a lack of closure.  Never really knowing if a loved one is dead or alive.  Through Harry and Edie’s journey to France we see the reality of the post-war period.  Of course we are all familiar with the visions of war torn countries still appearing in the news today but the level of death and destruction during WWI was unprecedented. I recently visited the Imperial War Museum in London and some of the most moving exhibits were those concerning soldiers who lost their lives and the families they left behind.  One particular piece that I found most upsetting was a telegram informing a family of a soldiers death on Christmas Day, 1914.  The actual telegram.  I immediately thought of it arriving and being held in hands that had once held those of that soldier and the heartbreak the news must have brought.  These things make their loss relatable to us, they make it more real.

Yet it must have been equally if not more unbearable to receive a ‘Missing in Action’ telegram.  There is always that sliver of hope that they are still alive and yet how on earth do you move on from that? How do you ever find closure.  And the numbers of missing men.  It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Through The Photographer of the Lost Caroline has explored this through Harry and Edie’s search of Francis.  She moves back and forth through time giving us a deeper insight into what happened to Francis and the unknown fate of many others who went to fight for their country and never came back.  In my own lifetime I have seen countless images of people placing photographs of those missing in terrorist attacks and natural disasters.  The people that never came home and are unaccounted for.  I never knew that this is what people did a hundred years ago.  Pictures of the missing and pictures of the family that are missing them – all placed insight so that they might reunite them together in real life.  It invokes a very powerful image indeed.

Caroline has created a beautiful novel of love and loss.  Her writing is incredibly moving and her vast historical knowledge of this time evident throughout.  She brilliantly brings to life worn-torn France and these characters that are completely unforgettable.  Early on we see the beginning of their love ignite as Edie and Francis come together in a chance meeting at their local library and from that moment I was completely invested in their journey.

He was just a white-toothed grin, disembodied like the Cheshire Cat, and words with a scent of boiled sweets.  But then he was eyes that watched her through the Romantics and the Classics; a flicker of long lashes and clear bright blue-green eyes that creased at the corners, so that she knew he was smiling on the other side. He existed only in fragments and glimpses and elements, and a voice that linked them all.  But then he was a flash of profile, and finally a face that had looked directly down into her own as she had stepped out at the end of the row, as if he had always been there waiting for her.

This except is taken from the proof copy but I wanted to share it as an example of both the quality and beauty of Caroline’s writing. The Photographer of the Lost  is a novel that will stay with me for a long time and one that I thoroughly recommend.  When is comes to love we are not so different to how we were then.  Suffering comes in many packages and I feel that stories such as this are important for reminding us what was lost by so many.

The Photographer of the Lost is published by Simon & Schuster in October but you can pre-order it now.  Check out their website for further details.

Many thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and the lovely people at Simon & Schuster for my beautiful proof copy.

About the author

Caroline Scott

1-3
Author photo by Johnny Ring

Caroline Scott is a freelance writer and historian specializing in WWI and women’s history. The Photographer of the Lost is partially inspired by her family history.

You can follow Caroline on Twitter at @CScottBooks

unnamed

7+, 9+, Chapter Books, Children's Fiction, Series

Summer Reading – Hamish and the Monster Patrol

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.

Hamish and the Monster Patrol by Danny Wallace

illustrated by Jamie Littler

Recommended for Middle grade and above (or age 7+)…

514QgrujbnL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Here’s the synopsis:

Get ready for another hilarious adventure from bestselling author Danny Wallace brought to life with illustrations from Jamie Littler, perfect for fans of David Walliams, Roald Dahl, David Baddiel and David Solomons!

Things are afoot in Starkley… again! Out in the ocean something’s on the move … something BIG … something that might change everything …

While most of Starkley’s inhabitants have fled or gone into lockdown, Hamish and his pals in the PDF are coming up with a plan, because if they don’t save the world then who will?!

But this time they’re not alone. Luckily, the top-secret Monster Patrol is on hand to help … even if that ‘help’ is in the form of a strange new kid, a bizarre-looking fish monster and a bonkers old lady…

*

Oooh we do love a bit of Hamish in our house.  It’s a brilliantly funny series and if you haven’t yet discovered it then I throughly recommend them for your newly independent readers (or simply for the joy of sharing them together – you’ll be sniggering along too believe me).  Oh and there are rather brilliant illustrations from Jamie Littler.

Hamish and the Monster Patrol was published by Simon & Schuster Books in April and you can find where to buy it here (also your local indie will be able to get hold of it too if they don’t already have a copy.). It is the most recent book in the series so you might well like to get stuck in right at book one, Hamish and the Worldstoppers.

*

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!

IMG_20180723_161859