blog tour, books

Cover Reveal: The Celestial Assignment – Theresa Braun

Theresa Braun has a new short story coming out called, The Celestial Assignment. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover, and an excerpt from the book.

After a sudden death, Will, a misguided angel, is tasked with protecting a baby girl. Watching over her as she grows up and navigates the world appears a harsh punishment for his past failings. Can he redeem himself, or will he fall further from grace?

“I devoured this phenomenal sorrow-filled piece in one sitting, but Braun left me with so many questions I had to think about. She creates a world that’s vivid, lush and visceral, while setting the reader up for heartbreak and despair. Amazing read, can’t recommend ‘The Celestial Assignment’ enough.” –Steve Stred, author of Ritual

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Hmmm. What’s this? Looks like Ms. Braun left her computer on and her Goodreads bio open.

This should be fun.

What can we say about Theresa? I mean other than the fact that she’s weirdly obsessed with smiley faces :-). Like, seriously obsessed >:-*. It’s kinda scary :-O.

I think she thinks she’s from Renaissance England or Venice or something. I never could figure out which one it was. (She’s really bad at doing accents.)

She likes romance novels and crime TV, which are pretty much the same thing when you think about it. Ha! Am I right?

She has a hell of a singing voice. Seriously. It’s, like, seventh circle of hell bad.

She likes editing. A lot. Just wait till she gets a load a this.

Cats. Shoes. Chips and salsa. In that order.

Yeah, that last part didn’t make sense to me either.

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You know that meme of the angel statue, its face in its hands, with the caption: “This is probably what my guardian angel looks like”? Well, that’s the only thing on the wall in this stark room meant for some 12-step spiritual garbage.

I was mystified as fuck the first time I sat here. The last thing I’d remembered was having a beer with one of my side pieces before witnessing her chuck my body into an unmarked grave. The bitch walked right through me as I grilled her about what she’d done.

Next thing I know, I transported into this very chair. Looking around the circle, I noted everyone’s arms tattooed with wings in shades matching their clothing.

“What am I doing here?” I asked, studying the new gray markings growing iridescent on my skin.

“You’re getting a new assignment,” said someone with platinum hair. His wings were the real deal, tucked at his back, and he wore a white T-shirt and white jeans.

“As opposed to what?”

“Going back to earth. That hasn’t been working.” He stared at me with his unnaturally light blue eyes. “Don’t worry, there’s a manual under your seat.”

That’s when I zoned out. The rest of them yammered on as I frantically retraced my memory for clues to why I was here. What kind of demented lunatic would make me an angel, if that’s what I was? I hadn’t even stepped one foot in a church, at least in my most recent life. That’s when it hit me I’d had more than one incarnation on earth. The mere vocabulary of it made me shiver.

***

With a jolt, my feet landed on slick linoleum, the burning odor of disinfectant and stale medicine in the air. A woman screamed in a hospital bed, her legs pried open with a sheet over them. Ugh. I’d never liked babies and had zero fatherly instincts. As the infant cried and was handed to the mother, the dad busy snapping Polaroids, I heard a whisper: “She’s your responsibility now.”

As my questions flooded in, that damned manual appeared in my hand. Annoyed the heavenly head honchos hadn’t downloaded the content into my brain, I held onto it, lest I be struck by lightning.

“Hello, Celeste,” the mother cooed to the baby.

I tapped my foot.

The irony of the name irked the shit out of me.

As a reluctant guardian angel, I figured my job involved keeping this pipsqueak’s hand off the hot stove, and her mouth away from poisons in the cabinets. Most of the time, I yawned in the periphery, especially since I was trapped in this fucking hick town somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin. Countless Crayon doodles and finger paintings were the extent of my excitement. Eventually, I rejoiced when of a few close calls at the wheel of her parents’ car gave me something to do. But then there was her painfully awkward discovery of boys. Once she inadvertently brushed this dude’s junk at a dance. Her first kiss was lame as shit. It was like being tuned into the Nickelodeon Channel. Her interactions with a new boy made me gag—they’d finish each other’s sentences and giggle like idiots. What did I do to deserve this?

This book is due to be published 14th February 2020.

Organised by R&R Book Tours

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Vile – Keith Crawford*

Elianor Paine is a Magistrate of the Peace in the Kingdom of Trist and a republican secret agent. She has 6 days to subvert her investigation, supplant war-hero Lord Vile, then coerce his adult children to start a revolution, before her masters discover the truth and have her killed. Just how far is she willing to go? And can she change the world without changing herself?

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Keith Crawford is a retired Navy Officer, a disabled veteran, a Doctor of Law & Economics, a barrister, a stay-at-home Dad, and a writer. He has written for collections of scholarly works, academic journals, and newspapers including The Economist. He has had more than thirty plays recorded or produced for stage, been listed in a variety of short story competitions (in spite of his hatred of short stories), and runs a radio production company, http://www.littlewonder.website, which regularly runs competitions promoted by the BBC to help find, develop and encourage new writers.

In 2014 he was lecturing at Sciences Po in Paris and negotiating a contract to write a book on banking regulation, when he and his wife discovered to their delight that they were due to have their first child. Rather than writing more work that would only be read by his poor students, and then misquoted by politicians, he decided he would do his bit to stick his fingers up at the patriarchy and stay home to look after his own kids rather than the grown-up kids of rich people. Two more children swiftly followed. Keith has discovered that if you recite Stick Man backwards you get the lyrics to AD/DC’s Highway to Hell.

This (looking after the kids, not satanic rites with Stick Man) allowed him to support his wife’s career, which appears to be heading for the stratosphere, and also gave him the space to write about swordfights and explosions. And spaceships. All of which are more fun than banking regulation. As an extension to his work in radio production, he set up his own small press, and his first novel, Vile, is due to be published in December 2019. More novels will swiftly follow, like buses in countries that don’t privatise the bus companies.

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My thoughts:

This was a fun fantasy novel – the characters of Elianor and Nathaniel in particular are strongly written. I did get confused by who was who among the villagers – but that’s just me.

The writing is strong and the plot pulls you along – the clever use of a bracketing meta narrative that you don’t fully get until the end was appreciated. As was the twists, they kept on coming.

I liked the concept of Magistrates who were somewhat more robust in defence of the law than just sitting in a court room and the fact that every twist threw Elianor further into trouble and stopped her carrying out her plan.

If you like your fantasy with a decent female lead, swords, monsters, twists, turns and secrets abounding, then you’ll love this.

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

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: In Her Sights – John Kimbrey*

Set at the outbreak of the Great War, the story depicts a young woman from a Gloucestershire village, tired with the constraints of her life in Edwardian Britain.

In 1916, her brother, a weak and introverted man is called up for military service. She sees an opportunity to finally compete with men in their own world and formulates a plan to go to war in his place.

In this unique and compelling tale of sibling love and extraordinary bravery, they learn to swap lives completely and she quickly adapts to her life as a man, seeking to fight alongside her male peers in war- torn France.

With many twists and turns, it demonstrates the very best and worst of soldiers of the time and brings a new perspective to the many aspects of war. With unbelievable conditions, great loyalty and unrivalled friendships, her world is then shattered as the military machine closes in. With her life now in danger, she battles to survive, bringing a conclusion the reader won’t see coming.

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John Kimbrey served in the Royal Marines for twenty-five years and has travelled the world extensively. He visited Antarctica three times on exploratory and scientific expeditions and was awarded the Polar medal. He lived in New Zealand for seven years, and now lives in Lincolnshire.

In Her Sights, his first novel, depicts the heroism of soldiers in the great war, demonstrates the very best and worst of soldiers of the time. It is the first book of a trilogy that focuses on this period, and, unexpectedly, its main protagonist is a woman. She thrives on many challenges the war offers her, and ultimately becomes a cool and calculated killer.

The sequel to In Her Sights is finished and John has several months of editing and fine tuning ahead of him before it is published.

John has enjoyed reading since childhood, and always felt he had a book in him, but now feels there are many more to come. His writing style is open and reactionary, and whether it’s a gift or luck, his creative mind always develops a variety of plotlines. He gets so absorbed sometimes that ideas flow quicker than he can write them down.

John loves the great outdoors and enjoys exercise. He cycles every week and makes regular visits to his local gym. He was widowed in 2014 and has two married children and three grandchildren.

Today I have an extract from this nov for you.

No words were spoken, and as they had done many times, they followed their wits. Staying low they headed south, taking advantage of any cover available to them, to run in a crouch. They made good speed, but after only fifteen minutes they reached a line of wire right across their line of withdrawal. They dropped to the ground as Frank sought a way forward, Ed turning to cover their rear. Just a minute later, he tapped Ed on the shoulder then headed to his right and scrambled over a small rise, before disappearing into a shell hole beyond. Ed waited until the noise of his movement had ceased before she made her move. In seconds, she was at the top of the rise and was just dropping down when a sudden burst of machine gun fire opened up behind them. Frank heard the bullets fly overhead and ducked instinctively. Then he heard Ed groan. He swung round but could see nothing, so quickly reversed back to where she was, knowing she was in trouble.

Ed lay quite still, face down in the dirt, breathing rapidly. She turned her head to spit gravel from her lips and brought her hand up to feel inside her ghillie suit. It was wet, and she felt quite sick. She began to sweat and then the pain hit her!

Her breathing became shallow and quite harsh as her body went into shock. She heard a noise in front of her but stayed still in the darkness. Her best friend, she knew, would come for her. Then Frank’s hand reached for her, pulling her by the collar as he dragged her along the ground, staying low until they slid down into a shell hole. He sat up and ripped his hood from his head, speaking softly to her, but with urgency, his heart racing as he sought answers.

‘Where have you been hit?’ he whispered. She didn’t answer and so he repeated her name over and over, but she still made no sound. God, he thought, is she dead? Then he heard a murmur and sighed with relief, asking her again where she was hit. Unable to see her too well, he put his ear to her mouth.

‘On my back, at the top of my back,’ she said hoarsely. ‘But I think it’s gone right through as my chest is agony.’

Frank rolled her gently on her back, knowing the exit point would be the worst injury. He opened the buttons of her ghillie suit and pulled it down, reaching inside her tunic until he felt a large hole in her chest. It was pouring blood! He quickly reached inside his own tunic for a field dressing before opening her tunic fully. He unravelled the dressing, placing it firmly over the exit wound and pressed down to stop the bleeding, making her whimper softly. He struggled to wrap the bandages attached to the dressing around her body, but finally tied them off at the side. She arched her back in acute pain, but never uttered a sound. She bit her lip until the pain was under control. He then spoke to her softly.

‘I am going to have to turn you.’

‘Just get on with it,’ she said, groaning.

He turned her over, freeing her arm so he could access her shoulder. He yanked the back of her tunic down, reaching inside her shirt and following the sticky blood trail until he located a tiny indent, a hole. Keeping one finger over it, he reached for her own field dressing with his other hand and ripped it open with his teeth, quickly covering the small indentation that was still bleeding, and tying the dressing off as before. He pulled her tunic back up and pushed her arm into the sleeve, buttoning up her ghillie suit, and laid her flat. He knew he had to move rapidly now, or see his friend die in front of him!

He looked ahead into the darkness, hoping they were not too far from their own trenches, and quickly slung both rifles over his shoulder. He then grabbed a handful of Ed’s ghillie suit behind her head and began to drag her up out of the shell hole and along the ground. It was clear to him within a few seconds that even though she was relatively light, this could easily kill her. He decided there was no point in taking her back carefully if she died on the way! He knew what he had to do was risky, but he clearly had no choice.

‘Ed, I am going to have to carry you, it’s going to hurt,’ he whispered. He bent down, gathering her up across his body so her head lay on his shoulder, clasped his hands and taking a deep breath started to lift her up. He hoped that as he couldn’t see anything, the Germans certainly wouldn’t be able to either. He looked down at the friend he treasured most in his life, and as he set off in the darkness, he heard a volley of shells suddenly whistle overhead, landing seconds later deep into the British lines. The morning barrage had begun!

He wasted no time and set off at a fast walking pace over the undulating ground before him. Progress was swift, and he made a hundred yards before stumbling into more wire, where he dropped to a crouch, pausing for a few seconds to rest. As he rose up, a barb snagged Ed’s ghillie suit and even though he pulled on it several times, he was forced to lay her down to free her, wasting valuable time. Sweat from his exertion ran into his eyes as his fingers fumbled, but quickly he bundled her up once again and set off through the gap, all the while the shells exploding ahead. He was the most frightened he had ever been, and as his arms started to ache once more, he found himself shouting to himself to finish the job! He yelled to Ed over the increasing noise of the shells, her head just inches away from his, but she remained silent, her eyes closed. He kept telling himself they would make it and shouted to her over and over; ‘It will be OK Ed, it will be OK,’ as he maintained his pace forward towards safety, flinching each time a shell landed. He was convinced that they could not be far away now and worked his way through the wire, the bombs shattering the ground all around him. He was sweating heavily, his eyes stinging as it washed into them, his breathing rapid, and then suddenly, the ground disappeared beneath him! It was a second later and he landed in a heap in the mud, Ed now lying across him, groaning.

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

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Blog Tour: Bella – R.M. Francis*

R.M Francis is a writer from Dudley. He completed his PhD at the University of Wolverhampton for a project titled Queering the Black Country and graduated from Teesside University for his Creative Writing MA.

He’s the author of four poetry chapbooks, Transitions (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2015), Orpheus (Lapwing Publications, 2016), Corvus’ Burnt-Wing Love Balm and Cure-All (The Black Light Engine Room Press, 2018) and Lamella, (Original Plus, 2019).

Bella is his debut novel and a love song to the Black Country.

It is a text that deals with queer identity and experience, specifically in a non-metropolitan setting, showcasing the upheaval and difficulties facing the working-classes of post-industrial communities.

The novel plays with oral traditions of storytelling, using Black Country dialects and the different voices of multicultural Britain. It is also a novel that fuses different genre tropes. It is set in Dudley and follows several characters from different eras, attempting to understand the strange pull the local woods have. This rhizomatic, multi-perspective narrative is part ghost story, part social realism, part queer erotica.

BELLA is due to be published in Spring 2020.

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My thoughts:

Written in dialectical English, this multi-person narrative circles around the mysterious discovery of a skull found in a wych elm and the graffiti that appeared asking ‘who put Bella in the wych elm?’

I’ve been fascinated by this mysterious discovery since I read about it a while ago and Francis’ exploration of this mystery told through the lives of some of the residents of Netherton is clever and offers a possible answer to that question.

It’s an interesting exploration of identity, love, family and place.

 

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

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Blog Tour: Right Behind You – Rachel Abbott*

Some doors should not be opened.

Some can never be closed.

Jo Palmer’s peaceful and happy life is about to end. Ash – the man she loves – will be arrested by the police. Millie – her precious daughter – will be taken from her.

She will lose her friends. She will doubt her sanity. Someone is stealing everything Jo loves, and will stop at nothing.

But right now, Jo is laughing in her kitchen, eating dinner with her family, suspecting nothing.

It’s raining outside. There’s a knock at the door. They are here.

A DCI Tom Douglas Thriller

My thoughts:

I hadn’t read any of the previous books in this series but this can easily be read as a standalone novel.

It starts as a family drama that quickly spirals into a nightmare as Jo’s family is ripped apart by the police, but all is not as it seems.

As the plot unwinds various characters have their secrets revealed and their dark sides exposed.

I really enjoyed this and it had enough twists and turns to keep me hooked, who was genuine, who was hiding things?

Focusing more on the victims than the investigators was quite refreshing as I read a lot of crime fiction and it so often shifts to the detectives, but this stayed on Jo and her experience.

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

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Blog Tour: Loot/I’m With the Band – Barry Faulkner*


Two cases from the files DCS Palmer and the Metropolitan Police Serial Murder squad. Case 5 ‘Loot’ sends the team on the trail of stolen WW2 Nazi gold that seems to be the reason for two murders. But where has it come from and how much is there? Soon the body count rises as an old gangland adversary from Palmer’s past emerges together with some feisty women and an English MP all prepared to kill for the prize. Everybody is playing cat and mouse with the gold changing hands with every twist and turn of the story that takes Palmer out of London to Gloucester and then to Brighton for an explosive finale. Case 6. ‘I’m With The Band’ features 70’s rock band Revolution are still very big and packing out the major venues today but their original members seem to be dying in suspicious circumstances. Or so their manager thinks and he contacts Palmer’s number two with his fears. Palmer is not convinced until a nasty happening at Baker Street tube station underlines what the manager was afraid of. But who would want the band members dead? With a forty year career behind them it could be any one of thousands of past or present contacts. But this killer is confident, so confident he takes on Palmer via social network and tells him ‘catch me if you can’. But Palmer’s second in command DS Gheeta Singh was brought into his team because of her computer skills and is a match for the killer in cyber space. With just one original band member left alive the threat is real and Palmer must get to the killer before the killer gets to the member. The finale is an explosive one at a major Rock concert at the NEC. Both case move along at the usual fast pace and with the usual ending twist that Faulkner does so well.

Barry Faulkner was born into a family of petty criminals in Herne Hill, South London. His father, uncles and older siblings ran with the Richardson Crime family from time to time. At this point we must point out that he did not follow in that family tradition although the characters he met and their escapades he witnessed have added a certain authenticity to his books. He attended the first ever comprehensive school in the UK, William Penn in Peckham and East Dulwich, where he attained no academic qualifications other than GCE ‘O’ level in Art and English and a Prefect’s badge (though some say he stole all three!)
His mother was a fashion model and had great theatrical aspirations for young Faulkner and pushed him into auditioning for the Morley Academy of Dramatic Art at the Elephant and Castle, where he was accepted but only lasted three months before being asked to leave as no visible talent had surfaced. Mind you, during his time at the Academy he was called to audition for the National Youth Theatre by Trevor Nunn – fifty years later, he’s still waiting for the call back!
His early writing career was as a copywriter with the advertising agency Erwin Wasey Ruthrauff & Ryan in Paddington, during which time he got lucky with some light entertainment scripts sent to the BBC and Independent Television and became a script editor and writer on a freelance basis, working on most of the LE shows of the 1980-90s. During that period, while living out of a suitcase in UK hotels for a lot of the time, he filled many notebooks with DCS Palmer case plots; and in 2015 he finally found time to start putting them in order and into book form. Six are finished and published so far, with more to come. He hopes you enjoy reading them as much as he enjoyed writing them. If you do read one please leave a review as your comments are very much appreciated.
You can find out more about Barry Faulkner and the real UK major heists and robberies, including the Brinks Mat robbery and the Hatton Garden Heist; plus the gangs and criminals that carried them out, including the Krays and the Richardsons, on his crime blog at http://www.geezers2016.wordpress.com. Faulkner also regularly gives illustrated talks on that era to WI and other social clubs. barryfaulkner1@btopenworld.com for details.

My thoughts:

Having previously reviewed two of the other case files I knew I was in for a treat with these humorous crime files. Whether chasing gold bullion or hunting a vengeful serial killer DCS Palmer and his team manage to maintain their sense of humour and sometimes Palmer makes it home in time to enjoy Mrs P’s famous cooking.

Entertaining and clever, these Serial Murder Squad stories are a joy to read.

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

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Blog Tour: The Weighing of the Heart – Paul Tudor Owen*

Following a sudden break-up, Englishman in New York Nick Braeburn takes a room with the elderly Peacock sisters in their lavish Upper East Side apartment, and finds himself increasingly drawn to the priceless piece of Egyptian art on their study wall – and to Lydia, the beautiful Portuguese artist who lives across the roof garden.

But as Nick draws Lydia into a crime he hopes will bring them together, they both begin to unravel, and each find that the other is not quite who they seem.

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Paul Tudor Owen was born in Manchester in 1978, and was educated at the University of Sheffield, the University of Pittsburgh, and the London School of Economics.

He began his career as a local newspaper reporter in north-west London, and currently works at the Guardian, where he spent three years as deputy head of US news at the paper’s New York office.

His debut novel, The Weighing of the Heart, was shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize 2019 and longlisted for Not the Booker Prize 2019.

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My thoughts:

This was an interesting read with a very unreliable narrator in the form of protagonist Nick, who has plenty of secrets.

The writing is assured and clever, and the plot has plenty of clever twists and turns.

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