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, 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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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour

Baxter’s Requiem by Matthew Crow

Today I am so happy to be taking part in the blog tour for Baxter’s Requiem by Matthew Crow, an unforgettable novel that I thoroughly recommend.

Baxter and Greg are coming together a lifetime apart.  Both have suffered heartbreaking loss. At ninety-four, Baxter knows that time is no longer on his side.  Old wounds begin to resurface and he knows there is one thing he still needs to do.  At just nineteen, Gregory’s time is just beginning but already he is weary with life after the death of his younger brother.  He’s struggling to make sense of his world and has lost hope for the future. Both men need each other to move on and learn to say goodbye. For Baxter this means a trip to France and a final goodbye to the man who never came home. For Greg it’s the opportunity to see what it means to survive heartbreak and that even after the worst has happened, there is still a life out there waiting for him.

This is a stunning novel with a beautiful love story at the heart of it.  Baxter is such an intriguing character.  Matthew writes his story with care and grace.  I found the relationship between Baxter and Thomas touching and for me it portrayed the meeting of two soulmates perfectly.  Thomas’ fate is shown to us gradually through the story and although incredibly sad, Baxter’s love and his need to have Thomas remembered left me feeling hopeful.  Remembrance is important and this novel shows us how vital it is to continue to talk, write and read about the past and the people we have lost.  This is really the only way to keep them alive.

Now, so late in the day, his wounds had reopened.

Names he had not mentioned in over sixty years danced on his tongue, daring to be spoken.  Names of people that he loved.  People that were silenced; their ashes swept clean.

Inside of him were names that deserved to be heard.

Inside of him were names that deserved to be known.

There will always be hatred and evil in this world, history continues to teach us that, but  the memories we hold will give us hope and remind us that there is always something worth living for.  Love is indeed a beautiful thing and the light from it can never be extinguished, no matter how dark the days may be.

The world he had seen that day did not exist in the world he had known before.  The noise was too loud.  The horror was too succinct. How, he thought as they disembarked at camp, could a world so full of love be privy to such vast and unyielding hatred?

Baxter’s Requiem is a book to remind us that cruelty, a lack of acceptance or understanding still continue to cause loss, heartbreak and unimaginable pain even today.       And yet there is empathy, kindness and most of all love to be found in the most unlikely of places.  With Baxter we have learned the peace that can be found in facing our past and also helping others along the way. He and Gregory have also shown that you really are never to old (or young) to make a difference.

There is so much love and kindness in the pages of this book.  From  Suzanne, the hardworking Manager of Melrose Gardens Retirement Home, Baxter’s lifelong friend Winnie (thank you Matthew for writing such an awesome school Librarian :), to Ramila who is tough as nails but hands a lifeline to Gregory without even realising it. I absolutely adored every word of this novel and I look forward to seeking out more from this inspiring young author.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of the blog tour and for bringing wonderful Baxter into my life.

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Synopsis

Mr Baxter is ninety-four years old when he falls down his staircase and grudgingly finds himself resident at Melrose Gardens Retirement Home.

Baxter is many things – raconteur, retired music teacher, rabble-rouser, bon viveur – but
‘good patient’; he is not. He had every intention of living his twilight years with wine, music
and revelry; not tea, telly and Tramadol. Indeed, Melrose Gardens is his worst nightmare –
until he meets Gregory.

At only nineteen years of age, Greg has suffered a loss so heavy that he is in danger of
giving up on life before he even gets going.

Determined to save the boy, Baxter decides to enlist his help on a mission to pay tribute to
his long-lost love, Thomas: the man with whom he found true happiness; the man he waved
off to fight in a senseless war; the man who never returned. The best man he ever knew.

With Gregory in tow Baxter sets out on a spirited escape from Melrose, bound for the war
graves of Northern France. As Baxter shares his memories, the boy starts to see that life
need not be a matter of mere endurance; that the world is huge and beautiful; that kindness
is strength; and that the only way to honour the dead, is to live.

Baxter’s Requiem is a glorious celebration of life, love and seizing every last second we
have while we’re here.

About the author

Matthew Crow

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Matthew Crow was born and raised in Newcastle. Having worked as a freelance journalist since his teens he has contributed to a number of publications including the Independent on Sunday and the Observer.

He has written five novels, Ashes and My Dearest Jonah – the second of which was nominated for the Dylan Thomas Prize for Literature – and two book for young adults, In Bloom which was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and the North East Teen Book Award and listed in the Telegraph’s Best YA of 2014 List – and Another Place​.

Baxter’s Requiem was published in September 2018 by Corsair, an imprint of Little Brown.

You can follow Matthew on Twitter at @matthewcrow

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