Blog Tour, Memoir

Ring The Hill

Today I am delighted to be hosting the blog tour for the wonderful Ring the Hill by Tom Cox.

Synopsis

A hill is not a mountain. You climb it for you, then you put it quietly inside you, in a cupboard marked ‘Quite A Lot Of Hills’ where it makes its infinitesimal mark on who you are.

Ring the Hill is a book written around, and about, hills: it includes a northern hill, a hill that never ends and the smallest hill in England. Each chapter takes a type of hill – whether it’s a knoll, cap, cliff, tor or even a mere bump – as a starting point for one of Tom’s characteristically
unpredictable and wide-ranging explorations.

Tom’s lyrical, candid prose roams from an intimate relationship with a particular cove on the south coast, to meditations on his great-grandmother and a lesson on what goes into the mapping of hills themselves. Because a good walk in the hills is never just about the hills: you never know where it might lead.

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My thoughts

I’ve been a follower and admirer of Tom’s writing for quite some time now.  I fell in love with his cats whilst following their antics on facebook and twitter, was unnerved and chilled by his collection of creepy short stories in Help the Witch and came to know him and our wonderful country a little better in 21st-Century Yokel.  He also writes regularly on his website and I have to say that each and every article is thought-provoking and interesting.  I feel that if I was ever to meet him in real life I would possibly feel like I was seeing an old friend.  He is possibly used to this reaction from complete strangers though as his following seems to be growing and growing.

His latest book is a kind of memoir.  Ring the Hill, as it states in the synopsis, is about hills, or is it?  I received my copy on Friday.  Although I knew that I would be writing this piece for the blog tour, I felt that I didn’t want to be rushed with my reading.  It is such a delight to delve in to.  Tom writes beautifully and he conjures up the most wonderful images of his world… no, our world, the world we often miss when we’re always busy, never just stopping and taking it all in.

He is incredibly knowledgeable, humourous (I loved how he described being outdressed by Clarence the pheasant!) and has such a connection with our world and nature that you can’t help but feed off of his enthusiasm. When he moves into a house he invests himself completely in the area and through his books brings them to us with a smattering of history and also anecdotes from his own adventures.  After reading 21st-Century Yokel, it was a joy to hear about his parents again.  I especially love the way his dad always TALKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS.  At the root of it all is real affection and it is, as always, lovely to read.  One of my favourite sections was reading about Steve and Johanna and their pilgrimage to the Tor, a place I have seen many times when driving towards the West Country and a place I have visited once. His books make me want to get out and explore this beautiful country even more.  I also want to go out and buy an OS map for my local area and get out and explore it too. It’s amazing how much we miss just by ‘living’ somewhere. Who knows what I might discover… Tom always reawakens my interest in the world immediately surrounding me. We miss so much as we wonder through life with our noses pointed towards our phones or rushing from one task to another, Ring the Hill reminds us to stop and take a breathe.  Wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated this is absolutely perfect for the coming autumnal evenings.

About the author

1-2Tom Cox lives in Norfolk. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, The Bad and The Furry and the William Hill Sports Book longlisted Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia. 21st-Century Yokel was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize, and the titular story of Help the Witch won a Shirley Jackson Award.

 

You can follow Tom on Twitter at @cox_tom

Thank you to the lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

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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…

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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

 

 

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Adventure, Blog Tour, Fantasy, Folk Tales, Teen, YA

The Stranger’s Guide To Talliston by John Tarrow

So today’s blog tour is filled with fantasy, magic and other realms… what more could you ask for?

Abandoned and alone, thirteen-year-old Joe’s world is shattered when he enters a deserted council house and becomes trapped within a labyrinth protecting the last magical places on earth. There, Joe discovers a book charting this immense no-man’s land, without time or place, its thirteen doors each leading to a different realm. Hunted by sinister foes, the boy is forced ever deeper into both the maze and the mystery of his missing parents. What will he find at the labyrinth’s centre, and can it reunite him with the family he so desperately needs?

Crossing through diverse landscapes from Victorian Britain to fifties New Orleans, The
Stranger’s Guide to Talliston is inspired by the internationally famous house and gardens
dubbed ‘Britain’s Most Extraordinary Home’ by the Sunday Times. It is a classic YA tale of
adventure that introduces readers to an otherworld hiding in plain sight, cloaked in magic and steeped in imagined history. Yet beyond its fearsome huntsmen and battling magicians dwells the secret that lies within all of us – the power to live extraordinary lives.

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A fascinating concept and with an extremely intriguing opening sentence…

THE BOY LIVED ALL ALONE in an abandoned school bus in the middle of a wooded roundabout.

A stunning cover and package holds an adventure filled 364 pages which is said to appeal to a YA readership.  It does almost feel as though it is written for younger readers though so any teen who enjoys fantasy and is not put off by the length may well enjoy it.  It’s fascinating to read about the author’s own connection with the house that inspired the story, showing that, as often is the case, a house can be the most marvellous of muses for writers.

Thank so much to Anne cater for inviting me to be a part of this Random Things Blog Tour.

The Stranger’s Guide To Talliston by John Tarrow is published by Unbound on the 11th of July 2019.

About the author

John Tarrow

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John Tarrow is a novelist, poet, storyteller and award-winning writer. His fascination with folk and faerie tales has taken him around the world, gathering threads of story and legend to weave into his own mythologies: his extensive studies in Lakota Sioux and Druidic traditions offer readers stories resonant with magic, folklore and the wonders of the natural world. He spent twenty-five years transforming a three-bedroom, semi-detached, ex-council house in Essex into the world-famous Talliston House and Gardens.

 

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Blog Tour

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

Today I’m delighted to be kicking off the blog tour for Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness. Every now and then a book comes into your life that you know will only make it better. This is one such book.

When Joe Harkness suffered a breakdown in 2013, he tried all the things his doctor recommended: medication helped, counselling was enlightening, and mindfulness grounded him. But nothing came closer to his experiences with nature and, in particular, birds. How had he never noticed such beauty before? Soon, every avian encounter took him one step closer to accepting who he is.

The positive change in Joe’s wellbeing was so profound that he started a blog to record his experience. Three years later he has become a spokesperson for the benefits of birdwatching, spreading the word everywhere from Radio 4 to Downing Street.

In this groundbreaking book filled with practical advice, How explains the impact that birdwatching had on his life, and invites you to discover these extraordinary effects for yourself.

‘I can’t remember the last book I read that I could say with absolute assurance would save lives. But this one will’ – Chris Packham

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Even as I sit and write this I can hear a chorus of birdsong outside. It is a constant source of comfort to me and so to take it to the next step, to spend time learning about these wonderful creatures and identifying them seems completely the right thing to do. It’s funny, but now that I think about it I can relate a great deal to what Joe talks about in Bird Therapy. Birds are naturally soothing (unless of course you are in a Hitchcock movie). They can make us stop with their sound and their beauty… and it’s almost like pausing and taking a breath. Our destructive thoughts are interrupted and for a moment nature takes over, grounding us in a way that is incredibly hard to do in the world we are living in today.

I think in so many ways Bird Therapy is a very important book.  There are frustratingly still so many issues behind discussing mental health, a stigma that still exists.  It take a great deal of courage to put yourself out there and I am always inspired and in awe of those who can talk about their personal experience with mental health.

So who is Joe Harkness?  Well if you are already someone interested in birdwatching then you may well have heard of him.  I hadn’t until I was invited to take part in this blog tour.  He works as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator, a challenging and stressful job.  He is also a very talented writer and has been writing his Bird Therapy blog for over three years.  Joe is very honest with his own health issues and this honesty is incredibly moving.  To witness, through this book, his absolute rock bottom and see how he has come back  is incredibly inspiring.  Yet is an incredibly upbeat book, filled with fascinating facts and information (and even tips on how to bring Bird Therapy into your life too).

It is beautifully written and the overpowering message for me was the importance of reconnecting.  Reconnecting with nature, the world around us and with ourselves.  I have read many books on coping with mental health issues and this seems to be a common theme.  That at times we just need to stop.  The world is racing along at high speed, everything is instant and then  gone in a heartbeat.  No wonder we are struggling to keep up.  But do we really need to?  The answer is no.  The answer is to find your happy place.  A place where the brightness overpowers the dark.  This will then help us to cope with all the other stuff that life throws at us.

Throughout my own recovery from mental health issues I found solace in the garden. I love the peace and quite, the routine of planting, weeding, and if it all goes wrong then I know that nature will recover.  There is always a fresh start (otherwise known as spring).  Joe has found his solace in birdwatching and from his despair something truly wonderful has emerged.  He is incredibly knowledgeable in what he writes and there is so much in this book that many people can relate to.  He reminds us of the simple pleasures of looking at the worlds around us.

Yes this is a book about birdwatching and mental health but it’s also a fascinating read about human nature.  Even if you have no desire to become a watcher of birds there is something in this book that will move and inspire you.   Even if you don’t suffer from mental health issues then this book will still delight in it’s celebration of nature and it will give you a better understanding of those who do suffer.  Because statistics show that each and everyone one of us either suffer or know someone who suffers form mental health issues – even if we don’t know it yet.

This is an absolutely stunning read inside and out.  The illustrations were a wonderful addition too. When I read the synopsis for the book and saw the cover I thought Bird Therapy was something very different and very special.  Now that I have read it, I would say it most definitely is.

Thank you for sharing your experience Joe.  It truly was a wonderful read.

Bird Therapy is published by Unbound.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Bird Therapy will hold a treasured spot on my bookshelves.

About the author

Joe Harkness

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Joe Harkness has been writing his Bird Therapy blog for the last three years. He has written for Birdwatch magazine. The Curlew and the i newspaper, among others. Joe also speaks about his experiences and has recorded three ‘tweets of the day’ for BBC Radio 4. He works as a Special Educational Needs Coordinator and has worked with vulnerable groups for nine years. He lives in Norfolk.

You can follow Joe on Twitter at @BirdTherapy

You can also read more on Joe’s blog on the therapeutic benefits of bird watching here

The blog tour runs on until June 21st so do check out some of the other posts along the way.

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Blog Tour, Poetry

Take Me to the Edge by Katya Boirand

Today I’m delighted to return to poetry for today’s stop on the blog tour for Take Me to the Edge by Katya Boirand.

FIVE WORDS IS ALL IT TAKES TO PROVOKE A CHAIN OF CREATION.

That is what Katya Boirand discovered the first time she asked a friend for five words and then turned them into a poem, using the words and the subject as her inspiration. This spark started a movement, and soon Katya was asking friends and strangers alike for their five words of choice.

Take Me to the Edge is a selection of these poems, sitting alongside a portrait of each subject, in this stunning and joyous celebration of language, connection and art.

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The more poetry I read the more I love it.  There are so many different ways to be creative with it and with Take Me to the Edge Katya Boirand is taking an exciting and inspiring approach.  A idea awakened by rediscovered words in her travel diaries, Katya decided to begin the project of ‘Poetry by Me, Inspired by You’. The premise being to take five words given by ‘inspirers’ – these are people from all over the world who have touched Katya’s life in some way – from which she then creates a poem from.  Each poem is then beautifully displayed in the book alongside a photograph illustrating the giver of words and ‘the poetic world’.

The photographs have been taken by Swedish photographer, Eli Sverlander.  They alone are absolutely stunning and when you sit them alongside Katya’s beautiful poetry a kind of magic happens.  It brings a whole new dimension to reading poetry.  The photographs show you a glimmer of the person who gifted the five words and this along with the poem made me wonder about them and their lives.  This tiny snapshot of their lives was incredibly inspiring.

Poetry is such an exciting art form, as is photography.  Each has the ability to tell a story just as complex and deep as the greatest tome of literature.  By combining both mediums in Take Me to the Edge, Katya and Eli have created a fascinating collection.  I loved dipping in and out of this book.  At the end there is a section on the subjects and their chosen five words and this adds a little extra insight into the creation.  Read the poems through first and then once again after discovering more about the people behind them. See if you then read the poems differently.

I really enjoyed the poems themselves.  They are quick shots of energy, each one stanza long but each creating powerful images like tiny starbursts within your mind. My personal favourites were those inspired by Ian Cameron and Hazel Thompson.  This book will make a wonderful addition to any bookshelf but I shall definitely be adding a copy to the School Library – it will be a great source of inspiration for our students in not only reading poetry but also creating their own.

Hopefully this will be the first of many collections from Katya.  She invites readers to submit their own five words to her via Instagram and it would be lovely to see more of these books including more subjects of all ages and backgrounds.  There is so much beauty in life and this is a wonderful way to capture it.

Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

Take Me to the Edge is published by Unbound on May 16th 2019.

About the author

Katya Boirand

Katya Boirand Author Pic

Katya Boirand is an actress, dancer, writer and poet. She has travelled the world but now has roots in London. Take Me to the Edge is her first poetry collection.

You can follow Katya on Instagram at @poetrybymeinspiredbyyou

You can follow Katya on Twitter at @Katyahazel

 

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Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Historical Fiction

Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

Today I am absolutely thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for Green Gold by Gabriel Hemery

In 1850, young Scottish plant hunter John Jeffrey was despatched by an elite group of Victorian subscribers to seek highly prized exotic trees in North America. An early letter home told of a 1,200-mile transcontinental journey by small boat and on foot.  Later, tantalising collections of seeds and plants arrived from British Columbia, Oregon and California, yet early promise soon withered. Four years after setting out, John Jeffrey, and his journals, disappeared without a trace.  Was he lost to love, violence or the Gold Rush? Green Gold combines meticulous research with the fictional narrative of Jeffrey’s lost journals, revealing an extraordinary adventure. 

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There is something quite exciting about plant hunters. It’s a subject that I have been interested in for some time. I have come across hunters such as Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Joseph Hooker and Ernest Wilson. I’ve admired the botanical paintings and adventurous spirit of Marianne North, her own contribution to the history of plants and their native habitat being incredibly valuable. Yet I had never heard of John Jeffrey.  Therefore this partly fictional/partly historical record is filled with fascinating insight and takes us back to the past and a time when travelling to North America would have been fraught with danger.

Jeffrey’s journals have never been recovered but meticulous research through archives such as those held in the library of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh has enabled Gabriel to piece together Jeffrey’s journey from the time he left the UK until his disappearance.  Of course we may never know exactly what happened but through this combination of fact and carefully considered fiction we are able to gain an insight into the treacherous journey that John undertook.  The wonders he witnessed, the hardships he suffered and the life changing relationships he forged. It would seem that those who sent him on his journey had little appreciation for what he was to face.  He was very young and although had a good knowledge of his subject could not have been adequately prepared for the world he was thrown into.

Anyone interested in botany and the history of plant hunters will find this a fascinating read.  Gabriel brings the realities of these dangerous expeditions to life and by giving John a voice has brought him and his legacy to light in the twenty-first century.  John Jeffrey collected ‘at least 400 plant specimens and seeds of 199 species‘ during his 10.000-mile expedition route across North America.  These include trees that are now part of the British landscape.  John Jeffrey as well as many other adventurers risked their life to find new and exciting species of plants and it’s wonderful to be able have a glimpse into their worlds through books such as Green Gold.  An unusual style of writing that is refreshing, thought-provoking and made me want to discover more about John Jeffrey.  There is also rather helpfully a further reading list at the back of the book so I look forward to exploring some of the recommendations there.

I’m delighted to have discovered Gabriel and look forward to now reading his first book The New Sylva.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this blog tour.

About the author

Gabriel Hemery

1-5Gabriel Hemery is a tree-hunter, forest scientist and published author. As a young researcher he led a seed-collecting expedition to the walnut-fruit forests of Kyrgyzstan, and in his career as a hands-on scientist has planted tens of thousands of trees in plantations and experiments across Britain. Gabriel played a lead role alongside other prominent environmentalists in halting the sell-off of England’s public forests. After leading the Botanical Society of the British Isles as its first Director of Development, he co-founded the environmental charity Sylva Foundation, since leading it as Chief Executive. His first book The New Sylva was published to wide acclaim in 2014. He lives near Oxford in England.

You can follow Gabriel on Twitter at @GabrielHemer

Gabriel has an absolutely fascinating website: GabrielHemery.com

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Green Gold is available in eBook and Paperback and is published by Unbound.

 

 

 

Adult Fiction, Blog Tour

#Zero by Neil McCormick

Today I’m delighted to be on tour with the rather fabulous #Zero by Neil McCormick and oh my, is it the craziest road trip going.

Zero is a drug fuelled, burnt out pop star who has one of the most recognisable faces on the planet. Every second of his life is played out for the fans to watch, every moment perfectly choreographed for the best publicity to keep him shining, keep him (and those around him) at the very top. Yet in reality he’s hit rock bottom and suddenly wants nothing more than to escape it all, to disappear into obscurity whilst running towards the woman he loves. The only problem is that the woman he loves just happens to be a world-famous actress currently filming in the depths of the jungle, who is old enough to be his mother, and reported to be cheating on him with her current co-star.

Undeterred, Zero escapes the clutches of his entourage and keeps on running, trying to make his way across America without being killed, kidnapped or recognised.  As he steps away from the bubble of life at the top he begins to search for the young Irish boy with the big dreams he once was. The boy who is disgusted with what and who he has become and questions if he truly deserves the adoration that comes with his success. What follows is a crazy, drug-fuelled week with a whole host of characters, each screwed up in their own individual ways but all instrumental in his pilgrimage to find himself again.  Zero wants to gain back a sense of worth, a sense of control and most of all a sense of freedom.

#Zero is a story about fame, selling your soul to the devil (your manager) and finally finding what really matters. It’s a story that highlights just how far we have gone with social media in a world where fame has become a form of ownership, where there seems to be no boundaries on privacy. Power comes in many forms.  I remember reading that it was once believed that each time your photograph was taken a little piece of your soul was captured and stolen.  I think that there is some truth to this.  Being in the public eye, constantly photographed, filmed and shared all over the internet with no off button, must, at times, be all consuming.   Yes  Zero lives a life that most people only dream of but I think Neil has written a novel that shows that more often than not the reality is a far cry from what we dream it all be.  Zero is a major success but those around him are not people who care and love him but simply see him as a product rather than a person.

Neil McCormick knows a thing or two about the music business (see about the author below).  His previous book Killing Bono (originally published as I Was Bono’s Doppelganger) which Elton John was quoted as calling ‘The best book I have ever read about trying to make it in the music business.’.  Well #Zero seems to me about surviving once you’ve made it. Isn’t it the dream of so many kids? The adulation, the money, the popularity, the making a mark on the world, perhaps even giving yourself some form of immortality.  Yet #Zero shows just what it can cost.

There is not much that is beautiful about Zero’s life but within this novel, beneath all the drugs, sex and hedonism there is a rather beautiful message and the last few pages were incredibly moving but oh. my. god. the ride getting there was a blast.  Funny, fast and furious. This is an awesome read.

Thank you to the wonderful Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.  Such an amazing read.:)

 

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Synopsis

Zero is the latest craze. Young, sexy and brilliant, he is a multi-hyphenated (singer-songwriter- rapper-producer) superstar for the digital generation. According to his publicist at least. He’s also a narcissistic, insecure, hyperactive, coke-snorting, pill-popping, loud-mouthed maelstrom of contradictions skating over the thin ice of terminal self-loathing.

He has touched down in New York with his sycophantic entourage for the launch of a new single/album/movie/tour. It is countdown to Year Zero. But the boy at the centre of the media feeding frenzy is cracking up. Inside the echo chamber of his own skull, he isn’t sure he deserves all the attention, doesn’t even know if he wants it anymore and is being driven half-mad by the mysterious absence of the love of his life.

As the crucial hour approaches the young star cuts and runs, setting off on a wild trip across America pursued by paparazzi, fans, fortune hunters and his Mephistophelian manager, Beasley. He’s about to find out that when you have the most famous face in the world, you can run… but you can’t hide.

About the author

Neil McCormick

1-6Neil McCormick is the Daily Telegraph’s chief pop and rock music critic. He is an author, radio pundit and television presenter, with his own music weekly interview show, Neil McCormick’s Needle Time, broadcast on Vintage TV. His memoir, Killing Bono (originally published as I Was Bono’s Doppelganger) was turned into a feature film in 2011. He lives in London.

You can follow Neil on Twitter at @neil_mccormick

#Zero is published by Unbound.

For those of you wishing to purchase via your local independent bookshop the ISBN no is: 9781783526628.

Or you can purchase on all online bookshops such as Waterstones.

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