blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: In Sat Nav We Trust – Jack Barrow*

In SatNav We Trust – a search for meaning through the Historic Counties of England is a journey through ideas of science and belief, all the while searching for meaning and a bed for the night. Or was that the other way around?

On May 1st 2013 I set off from Oxford on the trip of a lifetime. It wasn’t a trip around the world or up the Himalayas, I set off to visit every one of England’s 39 historic counties. These are the counties that used to exist before all the boundary changes that chopped Yorkshire into bits, got rid of evocative sounding names such as Westmorland, and designated the big cities as metropolitan boroughs. I wanted to visit England as it used to be, although that’s not quite how it turned out.

In SatNav We Trust started out as a travelogue exploring all the usual suspects, spectacular landscapes, architectural or engineering wonders, historic towns with their cathedrals and castles. However, it soon developed into a journey through ideas and beliefs, an exploration of how the rational and the apparently irrational jostle for position in human experience. The book discusses our fundamental scientific understanding of the universe when, deep inside us, we might be as irrational as a box of frogs. This context, the exploration of England—the places stumbled across with no day to day plan, created the backdrop for these ideas.

The book takes the form of a journey through one English county a day. Rather than having a plan, other than a rough anticlockwise direction of travel, the trip was largely spontaneous. This unplanned nature is what drives the narrative, similar to the way a MacGuffin drives a story, and opens the possibility of stumbling across unintended experiences.

The journey is taken in a fifteen-year-old 4×4 referred to throughout as The Truck, along with a sat nav referred to as Kathy (actually the voice of Kathy Clugston from Radio 4). Rather than paying for hotels this was a camping trip to keep the costs down. The logistics of finding somewhere to camp each night provided further challenges. All of these inconveniences, and the unexpected solutions that followed, provided useful metaphors for concepts that arose in the philosophical exploration.

The result of this unplanned approach is that the story only covers the areas of the counties passed through. There are no descriptions of the obvious locations in each county because the journey simply didn’t pass that way. However, this means that there were unplanned encounters with places such as a village falling into the sea, the wonderfully mad Tees Transporter Bridge, or accidentally driving a speedboat with two drunk blokes without any consideration about how to get ashore.

Jack Barrow is a writer of books and blogs about ideas based on popular philosophy in modern life. He is a critical thinker but not a pedant. He has an interest in spiritual perspectives having been brought up as both a Mormon and a Jehovah’s Witness. He’s not sure, but he believes this particular ecclesifringical upbringing makes him a member of a pretty exclusive club. He is also fascinated by science. At the same age as his parents were taking him to church services, he was also watching Horizon documentaries and Tomorrow’s World, becoming fascinated about science and technology. Perhaps around the time of the moon landings, when he was six or seven, he came to the conclusion that, sooner or later, people would realise that the sky was full of planets and stars, science explained the universe, and that there was no God looking down. He really thought that religion’s days were numbered. Declining congregations seemed to back that up, but since then there has been a growth in grass roots movements that seem to indicate people are looking for something to fill the void left by organised religion. He now has a particular interest in the way people are creating their own spiritual perspectives (whatever spiritual means) from the bottom up using ideas sourced from history, folkloric sources and imagination. Rather ironically it was members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who first introduced him to the landscape of Wiltshire, with its stone circles and ancient monuments, which later kindled his interest in spiritual beliefs taken from more ancient perspectives.

He has also written a novel; The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil is a story of a group of magicians who discover a plot to build casinos in Blackpool and so turn the resort into a seedy, tacky, and depraved town. During this hard-drinking occult adventure, with gambling and frivolous trousers, Nigel, Wayne and Clint travel north on Friday night but they need to save the world by Sunday evening because they have to be back at work on Monday morning.

Jack lives in Hertfordshire, England, where he earns a living writing about things in engineering; this usually means photocopiers and bits of aeroplanes. He shares his home with R2D2 and C3PO, occasionally mentioned in his blog posts. People used to say he should get out more. At the time of writing he is currently shielding from the apocalypse, having been of a sickly disposition as a child, and wondering if he will be able to go to a live music pub ever again.

My thoughts:

An interesting wander around England’s counties, including ones like Rutland and Westmorland, that don’t technically exist anymore. My own county of Middlesex only exists as a postal county, having been swallowed up by London over the years.

I got a bit cross with the lack of organisation at times – not having investigated campsites in advance horrifies me, I would need to know where I was sleeping before I arrived. But that’s just me. There was a very freewheeling, take it as it comes feel to the narrative.

Dipping into his own past and that of the land around him for stories and anecdotes as he travels, Jack seems a little like a travelling storyteller, someone perhaps unfamiliar in our modern age, but perfectly common in the past.

Reading this in the post-lockdown days of 2020 was slightly jarring, you certainly can’t just travel freely around the UK anymore so there was an extra edge of nostalgia there, that I don’t imagine the author thought of.

It was fun to stop places I’ve been to, and interesting to learn a little about places I haven’t, and I certainly know which campsites are best avoided!


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Pizza Girl – Jean Kyoung Frazier*

In the tradition of audacious and wryly funny novels like The Idiot and Convenience Store Woman comes the wildly original coming-of-age story of a pregnant pizza delivery girl who becomes obsessed with one of her customers.
Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles, our charmingly dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She’s grieving the death of her father (whom she has more in common with than she’d like to admit), avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future.
Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled-covered pizzas for her son’s happiness. As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.
Bold, tender, propulsive, and unexpected in countless ways, Jean Kyoung Frazier’s Pizza Girl is a moving and funny portrait of a flawed, unforgettable young woman as she tries to find her place in the world.

My thoughts:

This is a sad and slightly painful read, mimicking the despair and confusion a lot of us felt at 18, with a hundred options in front of us but no idea what to do.

The girl at the heart of this story has even fewer options though, she’s pregnant, working in a pizza delivery job, living at home with her mum and boyfriend, utterly lost.

She just goes through the motions, never really coming to terms with her unresolved issues around her dad and his death, the situation she’s in, or the life she thinks she should perhaps be trying to attain.

Her crush on a customer jolts her from her day to day and throws more confusing feelings into the mix.

Darkly funny, bathetic and ultimately redeeming, this is a short but sweet summer spent in the company of the anti-Juno – she doesn’t have a plan.


*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Curse of Gold – Annie Sullivan*

Curses and queens. Pirates and kings. Gods and magic. This highly anticipated sequel to Annie Sullivan’s enchanting A Touch of Gold, the story of the daughter King Midas turned to gold, is the gripping crescendo to this sweeping fantasy adventure. The final saga of a cursed queen, a vengeful Greek god, and a dazzling kingdom in the balance.

After barely surviving thieving, bloodthirsty pirates and a harrowing quest at sea to retrieve her stolen treasure, Kora finds readjusting to palace life just as deadly. Kora’s people openly turn against her, threatening her overthrow as heir to the throne—a cursed queen who has angered Dionysus. When Dionysus puts out a challenge to kill the girl with the golden touch and burn down her kingdom, it’s not just her future on the throne in danger. Kora’s life and entire kingdom are now on contract.

As bold and brave as ever, Kora sets out to find Dionysus, the very person who is trying to kill her, on the mysterious disappearing island of Jipper. Kora has no other choice. If she wants to save her kingdom and have any chance at reversing her father’s curse, she will have to enter into a deadly game with Dionysus, the greatest trickster the world, or the underworld, has ever seen.

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Annie Sullivan is the author of the young adult novels A Touch of Gold, Tiger Queen, and A Curse of Gold. She lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, and she loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s working as the Senior Copywriter at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. She loves to hear from fans, and you can reach her via the contact form on this website or on Twitter and Instagram.

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My thoughts:

I really enjoyed A Touch of Gold – Greek myths, pirates, peril on the high seas, it was basically written for me, so I had high hopes for A Curse of Gold and they were thankfully not misplaced!

Kora, Royce and their friends set out on an epic quest to find Dionysius and get him to reverse the curse on her father, King Midas, and rescue the kingdom from ruin.

Accompanied by a sulky Triton, son of Poseidon, some amazing pegasi (flying horses, I think Pegasus was actually the name of one), a sea creature that behaves like a dog (almost as good as a ship’s cat, almost), and after defeating the gorgons, will Kora be able to outwit the god of ill-advised bets?

Adventure, monsters, romance, this book has it all. So dive in and learn that sometimes what appears to be a curse may actually be a gift.

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*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Trials of Koli – M.R. Carey*

Read my review of the first Book of Koli here.


The Book of Koli is the unforgettable story of a young boy struggling to find his place in a world where nature itself has turned against humanity: Everything that lives hates us…

Beyond the walls of the small village of Mythen Rood lies an unrecognizable landscape. A place where overgrown forests are filled with choker trees and deadly seeds that will kill you where you stand. And if they don’t get you, one of the dangerous shunned men will. Koli has lived in Mythen Rood his entire life. He believes the first rule of survival is that you don’t venture too far beyond the walls. He’s wrong.

My thoughts:

Koli and his companions, Ursula and Cup are on the road, trying to reach London and find whoever is sending out a signal, but the journey is dangerous.

I enjoyed this a lot more than the first book, it felt more fully realised and I liked that the perspective went back and forth from Koli and Spinner, back in Mythen Rood.

A lot happens in the pages of this second novel – Koli and his friends fight off attacks from old enemies and of course nature, which really has it out for humans, and who can blame it.

They do meet some good people though, ones who offer them help rather than threats.

Meanwhile Spinner is trying to find her place in Mythen Rood, having married Haijon in the previous book. She’s beginning to see some things about the all powerful Ramparts that leave her with questions no one wants to answer.

This was a really good book and I’m already looking forward to the third and final installment.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Song of Isolation – Michael J Malone*

Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job.

The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?

Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse.

Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses to denounce him, the press furore quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country. While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is also isolated – a child trying to make sense of an adult world…

Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives… in an instant.

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings.Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers.

His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died and In the Absence of Miracles soon followed suit.A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller.

Michael lives in Ayr.

My thoughts:

This was very good, dark and shocking at times but ultimately redemptive and hopeful. Examining what happens after someone is convicted of a terrible crime and the impact on their loved ones, a different perspective than perhaps expected.

But then Dave is innocent, so the suffering he and his family endure should never have been theirs. Victims of a manipulative and jealous conspiracy, their lives are forever changed.

Amelie, hounded by the press, flees to Bordeaux, her ancestral home, in search of peace and anonymity, never giving up on Dave.

But only when the truth is shockingly revealed can they truly recover.

Gripping, moving and powerful, this is another excellent novel from Michael Malone and Orenda Books, worthy of a space on every shelf.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The High Moments – Sara-Ella Ozbek*

NY RESOLUTIONS – THE PLAN

Exercise 6 times a week

Have sex once a month min. (counts as exercise)

Delete Tim’s number

Move out of home TO LONDON (career??)

Make more friends

Be better

New Year’s Day is the ultimate cliché for Scarlett: hangover, check feeling weepy, check broken sense of self, check check check.

Jobless and stuck living at home with an academic mother who has no time for pep-talks, the one saving grace for Scarlett is that her friend, Billie, still works at the pub down the road. But even the pub is losing its appeal.

Desperate to do something, she moves to London with no plan, no money and nowhere to stay.

Unsurprisingly, she finds herself crashing on her ex-boyfriend’s sofa with all of her terrible life choices for company.

It’s after Scarlett starts interning at a modelling agency that she takes her first step to becoming something – but it’s also her first step to becoming something else. Each terrible decision she makes leads to another and her life begins to spiral.

But people are starting to know her; she’s starting to become someone. And surely it’s better to be someone – even if it’s someone you hate?

With a vein of dark humour at its core, The High Moments offers an astute, often stark look at the fashion industry and the issues you can face as a woman in your twenties – fans of Girls and Emma Jane Unsworth’s Animals will love this.

Sara-Ella Ozbek is a London-bred author of South African and Turkish descent.

After graduating from the University of Exeter with a BA in English Literature, she interned at Vogue magazine and subsequently fell into a job at a modelling agency.

After six exciting, if somewhat draining, years as an agent, she left to pursue a career in writing. She attended the New York Film Academy screenwriting programme then went to Los Angeles where she joined the hustle of the screenwriters.

Out of the frustration and misery came her first novel, The High Moments.

Aside from the novel, she has written non-fiction for titles including Because Magazine, Suitcase, Tatler, Drugstore Culture, Voyage D’Etudes and Soho House Notes.

My thoughts:

Wryly funny, and full of the mistakes you make in your twenties, this reminded me of the girls I used to know, all now grown up and sensible thirty-somethings, but formerly disaster prone, panic driven and messy like Scarlett.

First jobs, falling in love with the wrong men (and women), spending entire paychecks on shoes (whoops, that one was me) and desperately trying to work out where they belong. I didn’t work in fashion but I definitely understood Scarlett.

I reckon anyone who’s ever been young and chaotic will find some empathy for Scarlett, desperate to move out of her judgmental mum’s house and the small Devon town they live in, to grow up and be Someone.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Coming Home to Hope Street – Marcie Steele*

Step across the cobblestones, pull back the curtains and peek behind the doors in the second instalment of The Hope Street Series. Catch up with old friends and fall in love with new ones in a story of friendship, second chances and new beginnings.

Livvy has no choice but to return to Hope Street, the childhood home she left over twenty years ago. Along with her sixteen-year-old daughter, Pip, she turns up on the doorstep, hoping for forgiveness from her sister.

Hannah thought she’d never see Livvy again. She’s overwhelmed with emotion but locks away her real feelings. How could Livvy stay away without any contact? And why has she come back now?

It isn’t long before the charm of the market town of Somerley begins to work its magic. Hannah is opening a book shop in the square, adjoining The Coffee Stop, and Livvy’s offer to help out brings the sisters closer together.

But when someone from Livvy’s past arrives unannounced too, he threatens everything she’s built up since her return. Can Livvy convince her sister, and her new friends, that her intentions to return were good ones? Or will her dreams of settling down and being happy again become nothing but a closed book?

Marcie Steele is the pen name of Mel Sherratt. For as long as she can remember, she’s been a meddler of words. Born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, she’s a romantic at heart and has always enjoyed writing about characters that fall in and out of love, have good friends to hang around with, and live in communities with great spirit.

She can often be found sitting in her favourite coffee shop, sipping a cappuccino and eating a chocolate chip cookie, either catching up with friends or writing on her laptop. Whether she writes crime or women’s fiction, she loves making up things for a living.

You can find more about Marcie Steele on Mel Sherratt’s website

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My thoughts:

This was like a big hug in a book, the bond between Livvy and Hannah might have been stretched thin but it rebounds when they’re reunited and as Livvy starts to open up about the years they’ve been apart, it grows stronger.

A book about making mistakes and mending fences, finding your place and a bookshop! They say you can never go home again, but you can if you live on Hope Street! *I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Emily Knight I Am… Becoming – A. Bello*

Homecoming. Sacrifice. Family. Fire.
The Knights are finally reunited and ready to defeat Neci once and for all. But Neci is one step ahead and is targeting them one by one. When Neci takes one of Emily’s best friends hostage, Emily leads the elite team on a rescue mission but nothing can prepare them for what Neci has planned.

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A. Bello is an award-winning author and publishing entrepreneur, born and raised in London, where she still lives and works. In 2018, Abiola was named ‘Trailblazer of the Year’ by London Book Fair.
Abiola wrote her first novel at the age of eight – when she fought monsters and dragons on a daily basis – and experienced her first taste of ‘being published’ after winning a school poetry competition at the age of 12. Seeing her words in print fuelled a passion for writing that remains to this day.
The first incarnation of the Emily Knight story can be traced back almost 20 years; Abiola wanted to fill the gaping hole in children’s fiction for an inspirational, strong, black, female, young protagonist. This ‘gap’ in publishing remains in today’s publishing world despite continued calls for more diversity in terms of the authors creating the books and the characters and plot lines within the stories.
She is the founder of The Lil’ Author School and co-founder of The Author School (shortlisted for The Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2016 and celebrating its fifth birthday in 2020). Abiola is also co-founder of The Diverse Book Awards and Hashtag BLAK.
Abiola is regularly asked to contribute to the media; she has been featured in About Time Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Female First, Daily Mirror, BBC1XTRA, The Bookseller, The British Blacklist, Melan Magazine, London Post, and many more.

Abiola is also a regular at literary festivals and gives talks to children in primary and secondary schools, as well as to young writers and people wishing to get into the publishing business.

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My thoughts:

This was a fun and enjoyable read, Emily and her family and friends are super powered humans who fight against evil versions led by a woman called Neci.

Emily is fifteen, and as well as dealing with teenage dramas, she’s dealing with being a warrior, and the return of her long lost father and brother, both of whom are seen as heroes and attract attention Emily would rather avoid.

I hadn’t read the previous books in the series and I think I might have got into this faster if I had, it took me a little while to understand what was happening and who everyone was.

I’ve recommended the series to a few friends raising daughters who read and who might enjoy having a female hero.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Mistress – Jill Childs*

It wasn’t until that night that I found out he had been cheating. I never would have guessed it of Ralph – I was still head over heels in love with him then. I would have done anything for my husband… that is, until I found out what he was really hiding.

The night it happened, I was late home from a parent-teacher conference. Things hadn’t been the same between us recently and I was hoping we could start over – make things right over a bottle of wine and an early night like the old days.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I sometimes think I never really knew Ralph at all. Because I never thought he’d be capable of doing what he did. It wasn’t only dangerous, it was very, very wrong. And I’m not talking about the affair with Laura.

As I said, I came home that night hoping to finally fix things with the man I love. The very last thing I expected was to find my husband murdered.

No marriage is ever what it seems from the outside.

A compulsively unputdownable domestic thriller from a USA Today bestselling author. Perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and The Silent Wife.

Jill always loved writing – real and imaginary – and spent thirty years travelling the world as a journalist, living overseas and reporting wherever the news took her. She’s now made her home in south-west London with her husband and twin girls who love stories as much as she does. Although she’s covered everything from earthquakes and floods, wars and riots, she’s decided some of the most extraordinary stories are right here at home – in the secrets and lies she imagines behind closed doors on ordinary streets just like yours.

My thoughts:

This was a very twisted thriller that seemed pretty straightforward to begin with but as Laura’s mental state deteriorates, and she loses her grip on reality, it starts to become clear that there’s something else going on here, something darker and more twisted than first appears.

I really enjoyed this book, the revelations of what’s really been going on, then the massive about face a character commits right near the end, completely altering the direction everything seems to be going, it certainly keeps your attention!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.
My thoughts:
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Blog Tour: May Day – Josie Jaffrey*


If the murderer you’re tracking is a vampire, then you want a vampire detective. Just maybe not this one.It’s not that Jack Valentine is bad at her job. The youngest member of Oxford’s Seekers has an impressive track record, but she also has an impressive grudge against the local baron, Killian Drake.

When a human turns up dead on May Morning, she’s determined to pin the murder on Drake. The problem is that none of the evidence points to him. Instead, it leads Jack into a web of conspiracy involving the most powerful people in the country, people to whom Jack has no access. But she knows someone who does.

To get to the truth, Jack will have to partner up with her worst enemy. As long as she can keep her cool, Drake will point her to the ringleaders, she’ll find the murderer and no one else will have to die.
Body bags on standby.

May Day is the first book in Josie Jaffrey’s Seekers series, an urban fantasy series set in Oxford, England.
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My thoughts:

This was a good slice of crime noir, with added fangs. Vampire detectives investigating crimes potentially committed by their own crime, finding all kinds of creeps lurking in the shadows along the way.

Keeping their bloodthirsty secrets safe from the human population and making sure not too many bloodless corpses turn up is a full time job, so the last thing they need is a weird murder.

These vamps seem to be Daywalkers, blending in amongst the students and locals of Oxford as they carry out their investigation, problem is it all seems to loop back round to the people they least want to be guilty.

Riddled with pitch black humour, pop culture references and a healthy dose of old fashioned British irreverence, this is an excellent new addition to the vampire literary canon.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.