blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Million Story City – Marcus Preece*

An author whose experience embodies the struggle faced by millions of other working class regional writers

When the filmmaker, teacher and editor Marcus Preece died in 2017 he left behind incomplete notes and drafts for dozens of short stories, screenplays, comic strips, poems and music journalism. He was also in the process of writing an inter-connective short story collection Adventures in Million-Story City from which this collected works, edited by his friend, author Malu Halasa, takes it name.

Million-Story City is a fabulous place populated by highly original, delightful characters, where storybook conventions mix and flow in a sequence of tales for both adult and younger readers: Two guys named Tom Bone. A spaceman speaking only lyrics from pop songs, confusing the aliens. A Gogolesque telesales agent with a dog problem. A return to a desolate Australian mining town. Cowboys, detectives and witches, unlike any you’ve ever seen. An irate email to Sepp Blatter. Wise children. Musings on whiskey, the sea and the end of the damn world. It all made Preece one of the most interesting writers you never got the chance to hear of.

Marcus Preece was a solidly working class writer based largely in the Midlands, and the themes of his screenplays, short fiction and poetry – racism, migration, sexism and corrupt government – resonate loudly today. He was a punk at college in Walsall when he became friends with the Birmingham-based director John Humphreys. Their first film together was United Bad Art (1989) about graffiti and other scripts of his were made into films for Yorkshire TV and BBC2. If someone in a bedsit on one of those tumbled down two-up-two-down terraced houses had some success in the wider world than anyone in Birmingham could do it.

But Preece’s personal story is one still experienced by writers around the country, and especially in the regions. In Birmingham it was too hard to make the necessary contacts and when he couldn’t earn a living from his scripts and articles Preece worked as a builder with his dad in East Grinstead. In the 2009 he retrained as a teacher of English as a second language and moved to Hanoi, where he taught English, edited the Voice of Vietnam’s English-language website and held legendary pub quizzes in dive bars when he wasn’t obsessing over his latest short story for the page or film.

Preece’s life was tragically cut short but what remains are his wonderfully acerbic and witty comics and screenplays, his melancholic poems and this anthology is a sheer delight and tribute to that.

As the UK faces an uneasy future, Marcus’s undiscovered writings, his outrage and politics speak volumes now.

Paper + Ink founder Mitch Albert said, ‘Marcus Preece’s writings reveal a man who had considerable talent and vision, and once I tucked into the stories, comics, screenplays and poems, it was a while before I looked up again. In short, I’m a fan, in addition to admiring Malu’s meaningful and highly worthwhile tribute to a fallen friend.’

Malu Halasa is an editor, writer and curator based in London. She has written the novel, Mother of All Pigs, and edited many anthologies including Syria Speaks: Art and Culture from the Frontline and The Secret Life of Syrian Lingerie: Intimacy and Design. Usually she writes about the Middle East but for Million-Story City she returns to Britain’s second city, which inspired her after she moved to the UK in the 1980s.

My thoughts:

Even in the shortest of this collection of writing you can feel how good a writer Marcus Preece was and what a loss his death is.

He creates a strong sense of place and time, drawing pictures that linger in the mind. Even in the opening piece about his birthplace of Ima in the Australian Outback, a tiny no horse town, you can see the things he’s describing so clearly, without ever having been there.

Living in the UK’s second city, Birmingham, for much of his adult life, gave him a unique perspective on its inhabitants and society. As an outsider he could see the idiosyncrasies while also feeling a deep bond and affection for his adopted home town.

This is a book that shows you snapshots of people and places, gifting them to you on the page. In the short stories, poems and screen plays, he creates whole worlds in a few words, strongly drawing you into his characters’ lives. Truly an underrated writer.

*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: It Will Be Quick – Karl Drinkwater*

Read my reviews of Karl’s previous books; Lost Solace Chasing Solace Grubane

A single decision can save – or ruin – a life.
An opportunistic baby theft by a young woman in pain. Two strangers shipwrecked on a lifeless rock,
unable to speak the same language. An isolated cycling holiday descends into terror. One woman seeks the courage to destroy her life. A miracle unites a community, and teenagers take a stand against hypocrisy.

Karl Drinkwater presents characters to root for – and characters to dread – in sixteen tales of humanity, endurance, and spirit.

Buy a copy here or here

Karl Drinkwater writes thrilling SF, suspenseful horror, and contemporary literary fiction. Whichever you pick you’ll find interesting and authentic characters, clever and compelling plots, and believable worlds.

Karl has lived in many places but now calls Scotland his home. He’s an ex-librarian with degrees in
English, Classics, and Information Science. He also studied astrophysics for a year at university, surprising himself by winning a prize for “Outstanding Performance”.

Karl is an active member of the
British Science Fiction Association (BSFA), the Horror Writers Association (HWA), and the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).

When he isn’t writing he loves guitars, exercise, computer and board games, nature, and vegan cake.
Not necessarily in that order.

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My thoughts:

This was an interesting mix of short stories, some just over a page long, about people making decisions, good and bad, and consequences. My favourites were Fire in the Hole even though it was very sad and the miraculous The Potential which again was quite sad but was ultimately rather lovely. I think sometimes we need bittersweet and these stories definitely are that.

*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: One Love Chigusa – Soji Shimada

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A love story that explores the mechanics of the heart and humankind’s inevitable evolution.

The year is 2091 AD. A horrendous motorcycle accident leaves Xie Hoyu coming to terms with his new cybernetic body. Reconstructed from the latest biomechanical prosthetics, he is discharged from hospital and tries to return to his life as an illustrator after many weeks in recovery.

But something isn’t quite right. Xie is plagued with inexplicable auditory and visual hallucinations and feelings of despair. He fears he is losing his mind and the desire for life itself until he notices a beautiful woman on the street – his sole reprieve from the madness.

Possessed by her beauty and desperate to understand what is happening to him, Xie follows her in the hope of finding answers that only she appears to offer. But not all is as it seems.

An homage to the great artist and creator of Astro Boy, Osamu Tezuka, One Love Chigusa by Soji Shimada, one of Japan’s most famous authors, is a tale of obsessive love in a world where technology has crept into the very heart of humanity.

Translated by David Warren, it offers a glimpse into a possible future and questions the purpose of humanity in a manner that only Japan’s master of the postmodern whodunnit can do.

The Author

Soji Shimada’s debut novel, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, is ranked among the ‘top five best locked-room mysteries published worldwide’ (Adrian McKinty, The Guardian).

An instant classic, it transformed him into ‘Japan’s Man of Mystery’ and one of the country’s bestselling authors. His novel Murder in the Crooked House was a Sunday Times Best Book of the Year.

He is also known for his Detective Mitarai series (published by Pushkin Vertigo) and the Detective Yoshiki series.

Shimada is the recipient of the Japan Mystery Literature Award and the founder of three literary awards: Amateur Mystery Novel contests, The City of Roses Fukuyama Mystery Award and the Soji Shimada Mystery Award.

The Translator

Sir David Warren was British ambassador to Japan from 2008 to 2012, having served twice before in the British Embassy in Tokyo during his career as a British diplomat.

He is now honorary professor at Sheffield University, a member of the Board of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures at the University of East Anglia, and was Chair of the Council of the University of Kent until July 2020. From 2013 to 2019, he was chairman of the Japan Society, the leading independent body in the United Kingdom dedicated to UK-Japanese cultural, educational and business contacts.

One Love Chigusa is part of Red Circle Minis, a series of short captivating books by Japan’s finest contemporary writers that brings the narratives and voices of Japan together as never before. Each book is a first edition written specifically for the series and is being published in English first.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting short story about love, Hoyu is recovering from a terrible accident that meant his body and brain were repaired using cybernetics. His memories are fractured and the people he sees all look like terrible monsters.

Traumatised and struggling to recover, he wanders the city, taking refuge in a coffee shop where he sees a beautiful woman, who doesn’t turn into a monster.

He starts following her, desperate to connect and learn about her. His loneliness and despair lead him all over the city on her trail.

When he finally finds her and tries to form a connection, she seems confused and struggles to understand him.

The ending is tragic and leaves poor Hoyu with more trauma.

The suggestion that humanity’s evolution does not lead to happiness is a dark, morbid one.

A strange, unsettling story of love that ends without redemption. Incredibly well written, you follow Hoyu, desperate to find out more about Chigusa and who she is, winding through the city, trying not to look at the monstrous faces of humanity as he does.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Killing Dad & Other Crime Short Stories – Keith Wright*

A family plagued by an abusive father finally take their revenge.
A detective completes a shift at work like no other. He couldn’t see the hit coming, and he couldn’t see the positive impact he’d had on so many lives.
A detective holds a retirement party. His old friend indicates he knows the truth.
A devoted son carries out his mother’s wishes.
A detective stumbles across a murder. The problem is, he is alone with the killer and there is no way out.
A woman is abused in her back garden. But are things really what they seem?
A Catholic priest is new to the parish and befriends a lady parishioner.
A loving husband and father, discovers a horrific scene and blames himself.
An aging artist falls in love with his muse. But is she as devoted to him?
An elderly couple find themselves next door to a problem family. Surely they will listen to reason?
A young detective discovers his partners impropriety, but he learns a life lesson which conflicts with his instincts.
A boy from an underprivileged family has a run-in with an intruder. It ends in tears…of joy.

Keith Wright is the Author of the crime novels in the ‘Inspector Stark series’ available on Amazon, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited|Audiobook on Audible and iTunes.

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My thoughts:

These short crime stories are inspired by the author’s former career as a police officer and his life’s experiences. Before each story he offers an insight into the inspiration for the following tale, which are pretty intriguing themselves.

The short story can be a hard form to master, there’s a lot to deliver in a limited number of words, and these are clearly written by a confident master of the form. Succinct and satisfying, each story has enough world building and character development built in to satisfy, within a few paragraphs you can picture the entire scene.

A very enjoyable collection of tales, perfect for dipping into at leisure or skipping through one after the other.

*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 Match Made in Heaven – edited by Claire Chambers, Nafhesa Ali, Richard Phillips*

Star-studded and beautifully written, this collection of diverse stories about love and desire by South Asian-heritage British Muslim women authors, including Ayisha Malik and Shelina Janmohamed.

Although outsiders often expect Muslim women to be timid, conservative, or submissive, the reality is different. While some of these authors express a quiet piety and explore poignant situations, others use black humour and biting satire, or play with possibilities.

Still others shade into the territory of a Muslim Fifty Shades of Grey, creating grey areas where the mainstream media sees only black and white. If grooming-gang scandals grab headlines, characters are more scandalized by suitors’ sloppy personal grooming.

Finding the right crimson lipstick for a date or the perfect power outfit for meeting a cheating ex-husband are commoner preoccupations than the news.

Stylish but far from shallow, the stories also reflect on migration, racism, arranged marriage, gender differences, lesbian desire, bearding, and many other subjects.


Claire Chambers teaches postcolonial literature the University of York. Her fascination with Muslim South Asia was sparked by a teenage year spent in Peshawar.

Nafhesa Ali is a sociologist and the lead postdoctoral researcher for the Storying Relationship project at Sheffield University. She researches gender, age, the life course, and methods.

Richard Phillips is a geographer and Storying Relationships’ principal investigator at Sheffield University. His research interests include contemporary multiculturalism and the world after Empire.

All three authors live in the UK.

My thoughts:

This was an interesting collection of short stories centred around love and the Muslim perspective, as written by women living in the UK.

Some of the stories are funny, some sad, one has a possibly demonic cat determined to cause chaos. Some of them made me think about my friends and the conversations we’ve had about sex and relationships.

There’s this weird belief that Muslim women have no agency of their own, and that they’re under mens’ thumbs, clad in hijab and niqab against their will and it jars so harshly against reality.

My Muslim friends are clever, funny, weird, silly and completely normal. Their religion doesn’t dictate their lives, some of them are married, some aren’t. Even among the married ones some chose their own spouse and others went for an arranged marriage (and unlike some people believe, they had a say).

Collections like this one help to redress the balance against the strange stereotype of Muslim women. Showing different facets of life, from writing erotica to pay the bills, finding a (second or third) husband, fending off annoying relatives or buying the perfect red lipstick.

Universal experiences that anyone can relate to, regardless of religion, bring us closer together and help foster better understanding and relationships.

I really enjoyed this book and have some new authors to investigate (although I spotted some familiar names amongst the included writers). The project that spawned this collection sounds really interesting and I hope similar ones produce more enjoyable and enlightening reads.

*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: Cursed – Edited by Marie O’Regan & Paul Kane

It’s a prick of blood, the bite of an apple, the evil eye, a wedding ring or a pair of red shoes. Curses come in all shapes and sizes, and they can happen to anyone, not just those of us with unpopular stepparents…
Here you’ll find unique twists on curses, from fairy tale classics to brand-new hexes of the modern world – expect new monsters and mythologies as well as twists on well-loved fables. Stories to shock and stories of warning, stories of monsters and stories of magic.

My thoughts:

I am always available for new takes on fairy tales and folklore, so this collection was a treat. A mix of poems, short stories and vignettes focusing on the role of curses in classic fairy tales, twisting them into new creatures.

A host of established and critically acclaimed authors offer up their takes on being cursed.

I was kindly sent a copy of this book with no obligation to review.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: The Big Event by Anne John-Ligali

Hello, today is my stop on the blog tour for The Big Event by Anne John-Ligali.

The Big Event is part one of the Friendship Online Short Story Series.

Constance Jeffries is excited when she gets the chance to meet up with virtual friends at a
get-together in a London hotel. She’s been tweeting and messaging her lovely friends for years and feels they must be just as excited to finally meet her in person too.
Or so she hopes.

A short story about the importance of ‘real’ friendships and how it’s the little things that matter the most.

About the author:

Anne John-Ligali is a writer and the founder of Books and Authors UK, a popular website featuring author interviews and book reviews. She loves all things books: reading, writing, going to book events, and meeting other book lovers. She has written a series of short stories and is currently writing her first novel.

Anne has always loved stories and read many books as a child, including the entire Sweet Valley High and Caitlyn series. Her interest in writing fiction came years later, when she began writing for pleasure in 2007. Since then, Anne has been writing on and off and enjoys participating in writing groups. Twice in 2014, she won the monthly Novelicious Pintrest Prompt Fiction Competition.

When Anne is not writing, she is likely to be at soft play with her kids, taking long evening walks in Hyde Park, making green smoothies, window shopping, or having a pampering session at her local beauty salon (whenever she gets the chance). She can also be found watching box sets (albeit with a bit of shame at still having to catch up on Scandal, Grey’s, and Downton).

Originally from Peterborough, Anne now lives in London. After moving to London, she studied graphic design at the University of Arts and has held a number IT administration jobs in the city. Anne continues writing and aspires to write more women’s fiction books, a non-fiction book and several children’s books.

You can find Anne at the following places:

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For more info about the book check out:

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My thoughts:

I really enjoyed this short story, it was a light fun read about friendship,of the virtual kind. Perfect for your commute to work as it’s quick to digest and hopefully unless it’s a very short trip, you won’t miss the stop!

Constance is an author and she’s at a Christmas party filled with people she knows, but not really.

We all portray ourselves a certain way online that often isn’t exactly the truth and these party goers are no exception. But sometimes what we’re hiding has a lot more heart to it.

There’s a sequel due out this year following on from The Big Event.

You can buy The Big Event here.