blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Take My Hand – Dolen Perkins-Valdez

HISTORY REPEATS WHAT WE DON’T REMEMBER . . .

Montgomery, Alabama. 1973. Fresh out of nursing school, Civil Townsend has big plans to make a difference in her community. At the Montgomery Family Planning Clinic, she intends to help women make their own choices for their lives and bodies.

But when her first week on the job takes her down a dusty country road to a tumbledown cabin, she’s surprised to find that her new patients are just eleven and thirteen years old. Neither of the Williams sisters has even kissed a boy, but they are poor and Black, and for those handling their welfare benefits, that’s reason enough to have the girls on birth control. As Civil grapples with her new responsibilities, she takes India and Erica into her heart and comes to care for their family as though they were her own. But one day she arrives at their door to discover the unthinkable has happened, and nothing will ever be the same.

Inspired by true events and a shocking chapter of American history, Take My Hand is a novel that will open your eyes and break your heart. An unforgettable story about love and courage, sisterhood and solidarity, it is also a timely and hopeful reminder that it only takes one person to change the world.

My thoughts: this is a very timely book, set in the year Roe v. Wade entered the statute books, it covers issues around reproductive rights, and especially the forced sterilisation of young African American girls – something that really happened. Indeed it’s inspired by the real case of two young sisters who were permanently sterilised without consent.

Newly qualified as a nurse, Civil Townsend is the middle class daughter of a doctor and an artist, raised in a well to do neighbourhood. She isn’t fully prepared for the shocking depths of poverty poor Black people are living in when she meets the Williams family. In a leaking shack with a dirt floor the family live in one room full of squalor. She wants to help them, but struggles against Mace Williams’ pride to do so.

Sent out to do a single job – give Erica and India their birth control injections, she is stunned by their young ages and the fact that India isn’t even menstruating yet. Neither are sexually active, or even know any boys, but that doesn’t matter to the clinic or its manager. Civil becomes deeply involved with the family, helping them find a new home, a job for Mace, schools for the girls. Far beyond the scope of her role.

What unfolds is a terrible tale of government abuse of poor and vulnerable people. With forms thrust at people who can’t read, women manipulated into agreeing to sterilisation during labour and other heinous miscarriages of medical justice. As the case goes to court, Civil worries that the Williams girls will be lost in amongst the growing horrors.

She relates this story to her adopted daughter while undertaking a return to Alabama, ostensibly to visit the grown Erica and India, but more like a farewell tour, revisiting her memories and the people she once knew. She wants to pass on all that she learnt, explain how her guilt and culpability influenced her later decisions – to adopt and to become a doctor.

The book is powerful and shocking, thousands of women, mainly from poor and ethnic minority backgrounds were mistreated and forcibly sterilised. Sadly there is evidence that this cruel policy hasn’t stopped. Many of the victims didn’t even know what was really being done to them. This book brings the reality of medical abuse to light. And as Roe v. Wade is under threat once again in the US, it feels like a book everyone should.

*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: Cause of Death – Anna Legat

All is not well in the village. The local meadows have been the pride of Bishops Well for hundreds of years, but now they are facing the sharp blades of developers. The landowner is a rich and reclusive author who is happy to see them destroyed, but the villagers – including Sam Dee and Maggie Kaye – are fighting back.
Until, that is, someone decides to silence one of their number permanently.
As Maggie and Sam soon discover, there is more than a quick buck to be made in the
developers’ plans. There are age-old secrets and personal vendettas that could have deadly repercussions in Bishops Well today.
With Sam’s legal expertise and Maggie’s… well, Maggie-ness, they delve into the past,
determined to unearth the truth. And, as sparks begin to fly, could there finally be something more between this sleuthing duo?

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Anna Legat is a Wiltshire-based author, best known for her DI Gillian Marsh murder mystery series.
Murder isn’t the only thing on her mind. She dabbles in a wide variety of genres, ranging from dark humorous comedy, through magic realism to dystopian. A globe-trotter and Jack-of-all-trades, Anna
has been an attorney, legal adviser, a silver-service waitress, a school teacher and a librarian. She has lived in far-flung places all over the world where she delighted in people-watching and collecting precious life experiences for her stories. Anna writes, reads, lives and breathes books and can no longer tell the difference between fact and fiction.

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My thoughts: on returning to Bishops Well, there’s a mass act of civil disobedience to start things off, before the first body drops. Because yes, Maggie and Sam have found another dead one, much to DI Gillian Marsh’s annoyance. But it takes them a while to solve this one, first they have to finally work out what happened to Sam’s wife Alice, so she can stop haunting him and as always with Maggie, she picks out a few wrong suspects first.

These books are a bit lighter in tone than the main DI Marsh series, a lot of village life is funny, and the villagers are all fairly eccentric, even with the high murder rate.

*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 Game – Scott Kershaw

Across the globe, five strangers receive a horrifying message from an unknown number.

THE PERSON YOU LOVE MOST IS IN DANGER.

To save them, each must play The Game – a sinister unknown entity that has a single rule: there can only be one winner.

IF YOU LOSE, YOUR LOVED ONE WILL DIE.

But what is The Game – and why have they been chosen?

There’s only one thing each of them knows for sure: they’ll do anything to win…

WELCOME TO THE GAME. YOU’VE JUST STARTED PLAYING.

My thoughts: what would you do for the person you love the most? That’s essentially what the characters in this book have to decide, it might require going on the run, getting on a plane and avoiding leaving a paper trail, it might lead you to a remote location with a group of strangers, all of whom trust each other not at all. But you might have to work together to solve this thing and end The Game.

Twisted and sinister, the use of technology, the slightly insane risks (running across a motorway for example) that the “players” are made to take in order to save the people they value the most, this is gripping, stomach clenching read, with twists and chills all the way through.

*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: Equinox – David Towsey

In this world, two souls inhabit a single body, one by day, one by night. But though
they live alongside one another, their ends do not always align. For Special Inspector
Morden, whose hunt for a dangerous witch takes him far from home, this will be a problem…
Christophor Morden lives by night. His day-brother, Alexsander, knows only the sun. They are two souls in a single body, in a world where identities change with the rising and setting of the sun. Night-brother or day-sister, one never sees the light, the other knows nothing of the night.
Early one evening, Christophor is roused by a call to the city prison. A prisoner has torn his eyes out and cannot say why. Yet worse: in the sockets that once held his eyes, teeth are growing. The police suspect the supernatural, so Christophor, a member of the king’s special inspectorate, is charged with finding the witch responsible.
Night-by-night, Christophor’s investigation leads him ever further from home, toward a backwards village on the far edge of the kingdom. But the closer he gets to the truth, the more his day-brother’s actions frustrate him. Who is Alexsander protecting? What does he not want Christophor to discover?
And all the while, an ancient and apocalyptic ritual creeps closer to completion…

David Towsey is a graduate of the Creative Writing programmes at Bath Spa University and Aberystwyth University. Born in Dorset, he now lives in Cardiff with his girlfriend and their growing board game collection. Together, they write under the pseudonym of D.K. Fields
whose Tales of Fenest trilogy is also published by Head of Zeus.
David’s first novel, Your Brother’s Blood, was published by Quercus, and was the first in the Walkin’ Trilogy. He is also one half of the indie games company, Pill Bug Interactive, who have released three titles across PC and Nintendo Switch™.

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My thoughts: this book had a really intriguing premise that it isn’t worth thinking too hard about as it distracts from the mystery at the heart of the novel. The concept of two people sharing a body, one by night, one by day was interesting, you can’t trust your own body because it’s not always yours. But can you trust the other half of yourself? Christophor is the detective but Alexsander, a musician, is putting the information gathered by night together too.

As strange occurrences add up and as neither half of Christophor/Alexsander can remember the others’ wakeful time fully, things get more intense. What is going on in the Eber house, and how do Christophor’s visions fit in?

Clever, layered and sinister, this is a fascinating and involving book.

*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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Cover Reveal: The Only Exception – Claire Huston

Lucinda Green knows something is missing from her life. But what? Her catering business is enjoying modest success and she loves her cosy house, even if she does have to share it with her irritating ex-fiancé. 

Whatever’s making her unsettled and edgy, Lucinda’s certain that a lack of romance isn’t the problem. How could it be when she doesn’t believe in true love?

But Lucinda’s beliefs are shaken by a series of electric encounters with Alex Fraser, a newly-notorious actor who gradually proves himself to be infuriatingly funny and smart, as well as handsome. 

Not that any of that matters. Because Lucinda doesn’t believe in all that ‘The One’ nonsense. That’s the rule.

But doesn’t every rule have an exception?

This uplifting grumpy-meets-sunshine romance is perfect for fans of Katie Fforde, Phillipa Ashley and Milly Johnson.

Pre-order Publication Date: 7th June

Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire with her husband and two children. She writes uplifting modern love stories about characters who are meant for each other but sometimes need a little help to realise it.

A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for over a hundred sweet treats at clairehuston.co.uk. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.
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blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Girl and the Moon – Mark Lawrence

The fate of the world hangs from the Moon.

The green world overwhelms all of Yaz’s expectations. Everything seems different but some things remain the same: her old enemies are still bent on her destruction.

The Corridor abounds with plenty and unsuspected danger. To stand a chance against the eyeless priest, Eular, and the god-like city-mind, Seus, Yaz will need to learn fast and make new friends.

The Convent of Sweet Mercy, like the Corridor itself, is packed with peril and opportunity. Yaz needs the nuns’ help – but first they want to execute her.

The fate of everyone squeezed between the Corridor’s vast walls, and ultimately the fate of those labouring to survive out on ice itself, hangs from the moon, and the battle to save the moon centres on the Ark of the Missing, buried beneath the emperor’s palace. Everyone wants Yaz to be the key that will open the Ark – the one the wise have sought for generations. But sometimes wanting isn’t enough.

Mark Lawrence was born in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, to British parents but moved to the UK at the age of one. He went back to the US after taking a PhD in mathematics at Imperial College to work on a variety of research projects including the ‘Star Wars’ missile defence programme. Returning to the UK, he has worked mainly on image processing and decision/reasoning theory. He says he never had any ambition to be a writer so was very surprised when a half-hearted attempt to find an agent turned into a global publishing deal overnight. His first trilogy, The Broken Empire, has been universally acclaimed as a ground-breaking work of fantasy, and both The Liar’s Key and The Wheel of Osheim have won the Gemmell Legend award for best fantasy novel. Mark is married, with four children, and lives in Bristol.

My thoughts: I’ve really enjoyed this trilogy, Yaz is a great protagonist, strong, determined, smart and with a keen sense of self preservation. Even being sentenced to drowning isn’t going to stop her and her friends from carrying out their plan to reunite the shiphearts and open the Ark.

But the forces ranged against them aren’t going to stop, they want the same thing but for different reasons. Seus wants to open the Ark for his own purposes and they’re not good.

I got a bit confused trying to work out the links between this trilogy and The Book of the Ancestor trilogy – especially the timescale but once I stopped doing that and just went with the final adventure in the undercity, time stones, evil mages, kickass nuns and all, I really enjoyed returning to this world and finding out whether they all survive. The time travel bit at the end got me a bit muddled (I am not always good with such concepts) but it was really enjoyable.

*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: Knave of Secrets – Alex Livingstone

A twisty tale of magicians, con artists and card games, where secrets are traded and gambled like coin, for fans of The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Mask of Mirrors.

Never stake more than you can afford to lose.

When failed magician turned cardsharp Valen Quinol is given the chance to play in the Forbearance Game—the invitation-only tournament where players gamble with secrets—he can’t resist. Or refuse, for that matter, according to the petty gangster sponsoring his seat at the table. Valen beats the man he was sent to play, and wins the most valuable secret ever staked in the history of the tournament.

Now Valen and his motley crew are being hunted by thieves, gangsters, spies and wizards, all with their own reasons for wanting what’s in that envelope. It’s a game of nations where Valen doesn’t know all the rules or who all the players are, and can’t see all the moves. But he does know if the secret falls into the wrong hands, it could plunge the whole world into war…

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Alex Livingston grew up in various quiet New England towns before moving to Buffalo, NY to study English at Canisius College. He writes SFF prose and interactive fiction. Alex is married and lives in an old house with his brilliant wife and a pile of aged videogame systems.

My thoughts: this was an interesting premise – staking a secret on a card game, that should you lose, would no longer be yours. But first Valen and his friends have other games to play. When they become the owners of this secret, one that threatens to destabilise the carefully maintained political balance, they must risk everything to stop it causing war or worse.

I liked Valen, Margo, Jaq and Ten, the interplay between them was intriguing – the trust they seem to share, but always carefully, you can’t really trust another cheat. Their plans and double crosses, the careful tricks they use to win, but just enough so it doesn’t become too obvious.

It was a bit slow going but once the plot and the secret that lay behind everything, started to gather pace and draw in other players, not all of whom know what’s going on yet, it got a lot more enjoyable and interesting.

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

books, reviews

Book Review: The Island Home – Libby Page

Two decades. Hundreds of miles. A lifetime of secrets. Could coming home mean starting again?

Lorna’s world is small but safe.

She loves her daughter, and the two of them are all that matter. But after nearly twenty years, she and Ella are suddenly leaving London for the Isle of Kip, the tiny remote Scottish island where Lorna grew up.

Alice’s world is tiny but full.

She loves the community on Kip and how her yoga classes draw women across the tiny island together. Now Lorna’s arrival might help their family finally mend itself – even if forgiveness means returning to the past…

And as the two find friendship, Lorna also starts to find her place in the world.

Can coming home mean starting again?

My thoughts: I was kindly sent this book to review and as I loved the author’s previous books, was thrilled and so here we are.

This was an incredibly moving and lovely story about family, memory and going home. Lorna’s parents have died and she and her daughter Ella are returning to the island she grew up on, somewhere she hasn’t been back to since she left at 18.

Going back means reliving some terrible memories and trying to repair her relationship with her brother Jack, with the friends she left behind and with the island itself.

I loved Lorna and her sister-in-law Alice, they bonded and were able to talk about the past as Alice wasn’t there and is open to Lorna’s story, in a way Jack struggles with. The other islanders, many of whom are incomers, are mostly welcoming and Lorna’s relationship with the place she grew up changes.

Bits of the book were really gripping and I couldn’t put it down. I also had a little cry because it was so sad at times and I was so upset for little Lorna.

Ultimately it was so redemptive and as Lorna and Jack rebuild their bond, and Lorna realises that sometimes you can go home, that places and people change. I loved it so much.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: No Gods, Only Monsters – Steve McHugh

Today as well as a review of a new book, I’ve got a great piece on historical research from the author, Steve McHugh. He’s sharing his thoughts on researching and some of the things he investigated in the course of writing his new book – No Gods, Only Monsters.

Diana, the Roman Goddess of the hunt, lives alone on the far edge of the Roman Empire. When an old friend arrives looking for help, Diana finds herself thrust back into her old life, and old problems.

With innocent lives caught in the crossfire, Diana realizes that the only way to ensure the safety of her friends and loved ones is to do what she does best: hunt her enemies down.

Historical Research – Steve McHugh

I love research. Not to put too finer point on it, I can get lost in research as I descend that rabbit hole into a world of stuff I probably never needed to know. My brain is full of pieces of information that was useful for a tiny fraction of a book and is now just taking up space that would probably be better served by something useful. 

I’ve spent most of my life being a fan of ancient Rome, Greece, Egypt and the like, and I’ve read countless books on the subjects, so when it came to actually writing a book on the subject I was all set to go. Except not really. 

Here’s a short list of things I had to actually research as I was writing No Gods, Only Monsters:

Roman Occupation of Macedonia. 

Gorgons.

Horses.

Time is takes to go from A to B by horseback. 

Wild animals kept in Ancient Rome. 

Ships.

The History of the city of Troy.

Wild Boar.

Sign language in Ancient Times.

There are probably a bunch of other ones, and most of those were for only a sentence or two, maybe even only a few words, but they were all information I needed to know to ensure that my book was correct. Yes, the book is about magic, and Pantheons of gods, and the like, but the small details that help set the scene need to be right. Or as right as they can be with a little artistic license. 

Research is a lot of fun, but sometimes it’s also a lot of time and effort for a small detail, and it’s easy to go off on a tangent and read about things you might find interesting, but actually offer little to no use for the book you’re trying to write (or maybe that’s just me).

So, yes, research is necessary, and fun, and interesting, and important part of storytelling and worldbuilding, but it’s also a black hole of productivity from which there’s no escape. 

Thankfully, over the years, I’ve managed to notice the signs, usually after I’ve clicked on my tenth Wikipedia link and am looking at something which had nothing to do with the original idea.

My thoughts:  this was a really intersting fantasy novel featuring gods from ancient pantheons – including Greek, Roman and Norse. I really liked the versions of the gods created here – they felt a lot more human, despite being super powered divinities, or in Diana’s case half were-bear as well.

I liked the premise too, in order to protect some mythological creatures from being exploited, Diana is asked to join Artemis, and a dwarf called Skolt, Medusa and some other brave beings to rescue some minotaurs from a cabal of gods and “heroes” with bad intentions.

This is the first in a new series, Antiquity Chronicles, featuring Diana and other characters from ancient myths and legends, which sounds like it could be very fun.

*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: An English Country Murder – Katie Gayle

Meet Julia Bird: recently single, reluctantly retired, and… an amateur sleuth?

Julia Bird has left London for a fresh start in a picturesque Cotswolds village, and the rustic charm and cosy fireplaces of her little cottage are everything she’d hoped for. But when she tears down the old garden shed to make way for a chicken coop, she unearths much more than she’d bargained for… the body of a young woman, apparently buried for decades, thrusting Julia into a baffling mystery.

With only one copper on the case in Berrywick, Julia decides to solve the who and whodunnit herself, taking her wayward puppy Jake along for the ride. And so begins a whirlwind tour of the village – from the dotty 90-year-old to the delightful doctor and the village gardener, it seems everyone has something to hide.

Soon, Julia is convinced she has discovered the killer’s identity, until Jake, a true Labrador, finds a new love of the local lake’s waterfowl and instead ends up catching her chief suspect… drowned. Back at square one, with potential culprits galore, Julia – newly nicknamed the Grim Reaper – despairs at ever solving the murders.

But as Julia ruffles feathers village-wide, the clock is ticking. There is someone in the village who has killed twice already. Will they be prepared to make it third time lucky to keep their secret safe?

This totally addictive page-turning cozy mystery is perfect for fans of M.C. Beaton, Faith Martin and Betty Rowlands.

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Katie Gayle is the writing partnership of best-selling South African writers, Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel. Kate and Gail have, between them, written over ten books of various genres, but with Katie Gayle, they both make their debut in the cozy mystery genre. Both Gail and Kate live in Johannesburg, with husbands, children, dogs and cats.

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My thoughts: this was a fun murder mystery set in a small English village where everyone knows each other but didn’t know there’s a killer in their midst. Julia’s a new arrival and her decision to get chickens and knock down the old shed in her garden uncovers human remains, sparking off a series of terrible events.

As she starts her own investigation, passing on her finds to the police, someone takes matters into their own hands and Julia is determined to find out who.

I liked Julia, she was very entertaining, and her out of control dog, her neighbours and of course the detective constable who actually lets her help rather than tells her to back off.

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