Friday 1 March 2024

#Blogtour A Bookshop of One's Own by Jane Cholmeley

 It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour A Bookshop of One's Own by Jane Cholmeley - How a group of women set out to change the world.

About the Author

Jane Cholmeley is a key figure in the history of British feminism. Sandi Toksvig nominated Jane as a Gay Icon in the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition of that name in 2009 and Jacqueline Wilson named Jane her feminist icon in Stylist, 2018.

About the book

Silver Moon was the dream of three women – a bookshop with the mission to promote the work of female writers and create a much-needed safe space for any woman. Founded in 1980s London against a backdrop of homophobia and misogyny, it was a testament to the power of community, growing into Europe’s biggest women’s bookshop and hosting a constellation of literary stars from Margaret Atwood and Maya Angelou to Angela Carter. 

While contending with day-to-day struggles common to other booksellers, plus the additional burdens of misogyny and the occasional hate crime, Jane Cholmeley and her booksellers created a thriving business. But they also played a crucial and relatively unsung part in one the biggest social movements of our time.

 A Bookshop of One’s Own is a fascinating slice of social history from a true feminist and lesbian icon. Written with heart and humour, it reveals the struggle and joy that comes with starting an underdog business, while being a celebration of the power women have to change the narrative when they are the ones holding the pen.

Review

For me the true testament of the impact Silver Moon has had, and of course the women within it, are the Legacy statements. The beautiful, emotional, heart-wrenchingly honest paragraphs from people who have connected with the bookshop, the place of safety, the mirror of self, and of course the championing of women.

It's a bit like its own microcosm of resistance, trying to ensure voices are heard and opening up a space where you can feel seen, heard and accepted. I love the fact it's is also called a sanctuary. A place of exploration, openness, and learning. It certainly is a legacy.

It's a lovely book. Inspirational and poignant, especially from an historical point of view. The magic of a bookshop is an element that is a driver, however the feminist movement built within those walls makes it a powerhouse, and the open-armed culture for the LGBT community makes it a haven.

It's a remarkable story, hopefully this book (which has a beautiful hardcover) will allow a larger audience to partake from the strength, solidarity and sisterhood within the walls of this very special place.

Buy A Bookshop of One's Own at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Mudlark, pub date 29th February 2024 - Hardback - £16.99. 

Thursday 29 February 2024

#Blogtour Leap by O.C. Heaton

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Leap by O.C. Heaton, the first book in The Race is On series.

About the Author

I write what I love to read - big issue thrillers that are super well researched inside a complex plot full of twists and turns.

The result of the above is The Race Is On Series, an idea I had on a trip to Iceland. The first in the series is called LEAP, which tells the tale of a device which has the power to halt global warming. The ensuing race to control the power of this machine will continue throughout the sequel to LEAP which I’m well on my way to completing. It's called Green Ray and will be published in May 2023.

Just like LEAP, the 2nd book weaves fact with fiction and encompasses events such as the 2009 global financial meltdown, Al Qaeda, a new US President and a cornered CIA; another delightful concoction around which I have constructed another tall, but hopefully credible, tale. Watch this space!

I live in Leeds, UK with the love of my life and our two daughters. It rains a lot in Leeds but that works out well for me - loads of time for research and of course writing! Follow @OCHeaton on X, @ocheaton on Instagram, Visit Website : ocheaton.com


About the book

Ethan Rae is known for his billions, but his latest business venture is about to really put him on the map: a quantum teleportation system that would solve global warming for good. Known as LEAP, the system is capable of providing Earth’s ultimate second chance...until it falls into the wrong hands.

When playboy CEO Samuel Reynolds III snatches LEAP out from under Ethan’s nose, he adds insult to injury by attempting to destroy Ethan’s business partner, Uma Jakobsdóttir. But this is no malicious whim. As the daughter of its creator, Uma enforces the LEAP Laws.

Because of its potentially devastating capabilities, LEAP users must not clone people, revive the dead, or merge minds and species. But in the race to recover their precious piece of tech, Ethan and Uma are faced with sacrifices that push their resolve to breaking point.

From the frozen wastelands of Iceland, to the leafy suburbs of London and the mean streets of New York City, LEAP is a technothriller that will keep you questioning what it means to be human.


Review

Uma believes Ethan is the right money-man to approach to bring Leap to the people, and to ensure it is put to use for the good of the survival of mankind. The only problem with that train of thought is that Uma doesn't realise what some people will do for the most innovative and powerful invention of this century. Just imagine what damage it could do in the wrong hands, the ability to move... err I'll let you find that out for yourselves.

It's a fast-paced speculative environmental thriller which balances the greed of capitalism, thirst for power and ruthless people with little thought for the future, with the attempt to make the world abide by some moral standards or code of ethics. Good luck with that when it comes to profit margins and the search for complete control.

The author lets aspects of science, spirituality, and the pure excitement of discovery come together and meld itself into a constantly moving and changing concept. Time and place become interchangeable and are no longer a constant known measurable quantity and wander into the realms of unknown variable.

Kudos to the author for presenting the science in a way that everyone can comprehend without ever losing the complexity of the concept. Not an easy feat. Usually one or the other has to give little. I am looking forward to the next in the series.

Buy Leap at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Rookwood Publishing, pub date 4 Aug. 2022. Buy at Amazon com. 

#PublicationDay The Long and Winding Road by Lesley Pearse

Happy Publication Day! - From the No.1 bestselling author Lesley Pearce comes her own unforgettable story - The Long and Winding Road.

Pic credit/copyright: Charlotte Murphy

About the Author

Lesley Pearse is one of the world’s leading storytellers with numerous No.1 bestsellers to her name and fans who span the globe. A Lesley Pearse book is sold every 4 minutes in the UK and with sales of over 10 million copies, she has dominated the bestseller charts for the last 30 years. Yet Lesley’s success is all the more remarkable because her first book wasn’t published until she was 48, and until that moment, her life was more incredible than any fiction. 

Lesley now lives in Torquay, Devon where she loves to spend time walking on the beach with her grandchildren. A fantastic speaker and committed and passionate fundraiser for the NSPCC, Lesley is a much sought-after guest at literary lunches, library events and festivals up and down the country.

About the book

Born in Kent during the Second World War, Lesley’s life changed irrevocably when a neighbour found her, aged 3, coatless in the snow. The mother she’d been unable to wake had been dead for days. Separated from her brother, and sent to an orphanage, Lesley soon learned adults couldn’t always be trusted, and certainly weren’t always kind. With her father in the Royal Marines, Lesley spent three years alone before her father remarried and Lesley and her older brother were brought home again. They were joined by two other children who were later adopted by her father and stepmother, and a continuing stream of foster children.  

Life at home was difficult and, aged just 15, Lesley headed to London determined to forge a better life for herself. Naïve and innocent, yet always resourceful (a trait that has served her well all her life), she worked her way through many jobs before finding herself pregnant. Sent to a mother and baby home, she was determined to keep her son, before realising she couldn’t give him the life he deserved. Aged just six months, Lesley gave her beautiful son, Warren, up for adoption. She would look for him for the next 50 years.  

The pain of such profound loss haunted Lesley, and she threw herself headlong into the hedonistic world of the ‘swinging sixties’ sharing flats, working hard (promotional work, retail, Bunny Girl), and partying harder, often with East End gangsters and musicians. A short-lived first marriage, was followed by a second to John, a talented trumpeter who played with Dusty Springfield, Lulu and David Bowie (Lesley even inspired lines in Bowie’s A Couple of Kooks). As the 60s turned into the 70s, Lesley found a longed-for sense of home and the start of the decade saw the birth of their daughter, Lucy and a record deal for John. The future looked bright but then the house they lived in was sold – ironically to become a homeless shelter – and the family found themselves homeless. John lost his record deal and his mental health began to suffer. Times were desperate and John became increasingly unwell, until Lesley had no choice but to have him sectioned. They eventually parted.  

Alone once again, and with a small child to support, it was while hitch-hiking to a job interview that Lesley was to meet her third husband, Nigel. She moved to Bristol, had daughters Sammy and Jo and set up a gift shop. It was only then that she began to write and 
the rest, as they say, is history. 

Told with Lesley’s trademark warmth, wit and poignancy, The Long and Winding Road is the extraordinary story of a remarkable woman fighting against the odds to achieve her dreams, and finally winning. Follow @LesleyPearse on X, Visit penguin.co.uk/lesley-pearse

Review

If you have ever wondered where Lesley gets her inspiration for her writing and stories, then reading this should explain a few things. Experiences and memories grow into written tales that engage many readers. The good, the painful, the bad, the ugly and the moments of pure joy somewhere in the middle of all the chaos.

And it does seem quite chaotic at times, probably because there is a lot to tell the reader and not enough pages or time to fit it in. Equally it also seems as if the author has disassociated at a certain level, which makes it easier to deliver facts or her experiences at a factual level without letting them, herself and us be overwhelmed by the emotional impact of many difficult and traumatic events.

Aside from choosing what she hoped would be a safer more secure path for her child, Lesley is changed by the traumatic experience of having a child and giving them up. Simultaneously she also glosses over the tragedy of the loss of her mother, the abandonment by the father and other family members, and the neglect and abuse her new mother is responsible for. It's a miracle she didn't let it all break her.

I think her childhood forged coping mechanisms, lack of trust, and the lack of empathy and love is pivotal when it comes to creating meaningful and lasting relationships. Inadvertently creating patterns of chaos, self soothing behaviours and living alone surrounded by many others.

It's an incredibly open experience and certainly one her readers will enjoy.

Buy The Long and Winding Road at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Penguin Michael Joseph| pub date 29th February 2024 price £22.00 in hardback. 

Thursday 22 February 2024

#Blogtour The Sleeping Beauties by Lucy Ashe

 It's my turn on the Blogtour The Sleeping Beauties by Lucy Ashe.

About the Author

After training at the Royal Ballet School for eight years, Lucy Ashe decided to change career plans and go to university, where she read English Literature before doing a PGCE teaching qualification, and she is now a teacher. Her poetry and short stories have been published in a number of literary journals and she was shortlisted for the 2020 Impress Prize for New Writers. Follow @LSAshe1 on X

About the book

May, 1945. - At long last, Rosamund Caradon is feeling optimistic. As she returns the last few evacuees to London from her Devonshire manor, she vows to protect dance obsessed daughter Jasmine from further peril. But a chance meeting with a Sadler’s Wells ballerina changes everything. 

When the beautiful, elusive Briar Woods bursts into Rosamund’s train carriage, it’s clear her sights are set on the immediately captivated Jasmine. And Rosamund cannot shake the feeling this accidental encounter is not what it seems. 

While Briar may be far away from the pointe shoes and greasepaint of the Sleeping Beauty ballet that is so much a part of her, this performance might well be her most successful yet. For what she is watching, Rosamund feels, is a strangely unique show, one that’s just for a mother and a daughter… 


Review

Not going to lie, this started out as a bit of a chaotic read for me. It opened up (digital) on the prologue, which I thought was a great beginning to a serial killer murder - in my defence I had forgotten the blurb and the title sounded like a catchy crime story. Then the first chapter - Act 1, it's war refugees being returned to their homes. Confused, I go back to before the prologue to read Stage Notes, then return to Act 1 for the mysterious and intense ballerina, who has now joined us. To be fair the glaringly obvious references should have been a clue.

Rosamund and her daughter Jasmine meet the persistent and intriguing Briar, whilst returning to London. Something about Briar triggers a gut reaction of concern in Rosamund, something just isn't right about this young woman, who like Jasmine is a lover of ballet. Briar burrows her way into the relationship between mother and daughter, but why?

Throughout the story there is a constant redefining of what motherhood is and whether being a mother is always the bog standard version of what society expects. Is knowing the truth about who you are always the right answer?

It's a good read, which gives great insight into the passion, work ethic and the almost obsessive dedication to ballet. How the world within it becomes its own microcosm of beauty, grace, art and expression. Perhaps also on a bigger scale how moments of pure beauty can bring a little joy in the most difficult of situations.

On a side note, there are no serial killers in the story at all, although I stand by the fact the prologue and title sound like a great idea for a crime novel.

Buy The Sleeping Beauties at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Magpie, pub date 15th February 2024 - Hardback £16.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

#Blogtour The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore

Sunday Times bestseller Rachel Hore’s captivating new novel of secrets, loss and betrayal - set on the beautiful Cornish coast during World War Two and the heady days of the 1960s. 

It's my turn on the Blogtour The Hidden Years by Rachel Hore.

About the Author

Rachel Hore worked in London publishing for many years before moving with her family to Norwich, where she taught publishing and creative writing at the University of East Anglia before becoming a full-time writer. She is married to the writer D. J. Taylor and they have three sons. Rachel Hore is the author of twelve previous novels, many of them Sunday Times bestsellers. Follow @Rachelhore on X

About the book

When talented musician Gray Robinson persuades Belle to abandon her university studies and follow him to Silverwood, home to an artistic community on the Cornish coast, Belle happily agrees even though they’ve only just met. She knows she is falling in love, and the thought of spending a carefree summer with Gray is all she can think about. 

But being with Gray isn’t the only reason Belle agrees to accompany him to Silverwood. Why does the name Silverwood sound so familiar? What is its connection to a photo of her as a baby, taken on a nearby beach? And who is Imogen Lockhart, a wartime nurse who lived at Silverwood many years ago? As the summer months unfold, Belle begins to learn the truth – about secrets from the past that have been kept hidden, but also about the person she wants to be. 

Review

It's the 60s and Belle is about to embark on a new path, a deviation from her plans from her sensible life. Why? The charm of a persuasive man is so convincing that she is willing to become a butterfly floating on the winds of change. Sounds so convincing, right?

She follows Gray to a place called Silverwood, and eventually it's as if she was meant to follow him to that place, because it appears to hold the answers to some secrets she was never aware of.

The second timeline begins on the cusp of the start of World War II and Imogen, who helps to accompany two evacuees to a house that becomes an important fixture in the story. Somehow the two must be connected right, but perhaps the stories connect in a different way completely.

One of things the author does really well in this book is bring to life the forgotten world of the first line of defence, ergo the coastal communities during the war. The preparation for a possible invasion, the actual invasion of friendly forces - the way the allies changed the fabric of certain areas, and just how many stories remain locked in and forgotten.

Set across two timelines this historical fiction story has the heart of a fighter, the compassion of an open heart and keeps the reader engaged from the get-go.

Buy The Hidden Years at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Simon and Schuster, pub date 15th February 2024 | Paperback | £9.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour Point Zero by Seicho Matsumoto

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Point Zero by Seicho Matsumoto. 'First published in Japanese in 1959, the novel abandoned the template of closed-room mysteries so popular in pre-war Japan to embrace social criticism.' 

About the Author

Author: Seicho Matsumoto (1909-1982) was Japan's most successful mystery writer. His first detective novel, Points and Lines, sold over a million copies in Japan. Vessel of Sand, published in English as Inspector Imanishi Investigates in 1989, sold over four million copies and became a movie box-office hit.  

About the Translator 

Louise Heal Kawai is a translator of Japanese literature based in Yokohama. She previously translated Seicho Matsumoto’s A Quiet Place for Bitter Lemon Press. She is the translator of other works in the mystery genre, including Seishi Yokomizo’s The Honjin Murders and Death on Gokumon Island, and Seventeen and The North Light by Hideo Yokoyama. Follow @quietmoonwave17 on X

About the book

Tokyo, 1958. Teiko marries Kenichi Uhara, ten years her senior, an advertising man recommended by a go-between. After a four-day honeymoon, Kenichi vanishes. Teiko travels to the coastal and snow-bound city of Kanazawa, where Kenichi was last seen, to investigate his disappearance. When Kenichi’s brother comes to help her, he is murdered, poisoned in his hotel room. 

Soon, Teiko discovers that her husband’s disappearance is tied up with the so-called “pan-pan girls”, women who worked as prostitutes catering to American GIs after the war. Now, ten years later, as the country is recovering, there are those who are willing to take extreme measures to hide that past.

Review

When you realise that the whole point of Teiko's movements - in fact the entirety of the plot structure - is the antithesis version of the much loved closed room mystery. Then it all makes sense, because at some point you might find yourself in a state of confusion or with a bit of whiplash from the constant movement from start to finish. It never lets up. It begins with Teiko and eventually other characters follow suit.

Teiko begins her journey as a woman who is expected to fulfil her societal role and tick the appropriate boxes, which includes an arranged marriage to businessman ten years her senior. The niggles and the reddish flags that raise their heads are suddenly forgotten when her brand new husband disappears on a business trip. Her initial response - concerned wife - turns into something akin to Miss Marple with a bone.

What slowly unravels is mystery wrapped tightly in the claws of those who will do anything to hide the truth and others who wander on the periphery of said truth.

It's the kind of story one could imagine being set on screen, where the vivid imagery would unfold and gift the eye of the beholder with the true beauty of this story. Each tense emotionally restricted moment becoming the minutiae as the background tries to seduce the watcher or reader. Kudos to the translator for capturing the voice, spirit and soul of this book.

Buy Point Zero at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Bitter Lemon Press; pub date 10 Feb. 2024. Buy at Amazon com.

Monday 19 February 2024

#Blogtour The Sisterhood by Katherine Bradley

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Sisterhood by Katherine Bradley.

About the Author

Katherine Bradley worked for many years managing services for people who are marginalised by society; her work has taken her into prisons, mental health hospitals and alongside the homeless. She currently works in education. She holds a first-class degree in English Literature, in addition to qualifications in creative writing and teaching. 

As Kate Bradley, she published two suspense thrillers - To Keep You Safe (2020) and What I Did (2021). Her work has been described as 'addictive, original and brilliantly twisty' by T. M. Logan and 'heart-stopping' by David Nicholls. Katherine lives in a small coastal town just outside of Brighton with her husband and sons. Follow @kate__bradley on X

About the book

In Oceania, whoever you are, Big Brother is always watching you. Trust is a luxury that no one has. Julia is the seemingly perfect example of what women in Oceania should be: dutiful, useful, subservient, meek. But Julia hides a secret. A secret that would lead to her death if discovered. For Julia is part of the underground movement called The Sisterhood, whose main goal is to find members of The Brotherhood, the anti-Party vigilante group, and help them to overthrow Big Brother. Only then can everyone be truly free. 

When Julia thinks she’s found a potential member of The Brotherhood, it seems like their goal might finally be in their grasp. But as she gets closer to Winston Smith, Julia’s past starts to catch up with her and we soon realise that she has many more secrets than we’d first imagined – and that overthrowing Big Brother might cost her everything – but if you have nothing left to lose then you don’t mind playing the game . . . 

This is a story about love, about family, about being a woman, a mother, a sister, a friend and ultimately about what you would sacrifice for the greater good. 


Review

I think to get a better and perhaps a more objective view of the book you have to try and forget what has gone before. Experience the story without the frame of reference of the reimagining of the classic, then afterwards compare and examine if you want. 

Fresh eyes experience the oppression of a dystopian society with a bleak shimmer of hope coursing through the veins of the few who haven't given up quite yet. Sisterhood speaks volumes and suggests vast connections with the feminist reimagined character development of 1984.

It deserves the objective eye and to stand on its own merit even if the base idea is inspired by the well of another. This idea well has allowed growth beyond expectation, despite the societal construct of complete oppression, monitoring and control being an old concept. Although it is both worrying and an eye-opener how the degeneration happens in the first place - is it not upon us already as we speak? 

I found it riveting. The author knows how to captivate the reader with the fraught tension, the risk and constant danger, and does so in the midst of a bleak concept. Bare minimum makes you focus on the small interactions, the barely evident body language and expressions, the repressed emotions and fear in the back of your neck.

Excellent read - hopefully there is more to come.

Buy The Sisterhood at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Simon and Schuster, pub date 18th January 2024 - Paperback | £9.99. Buy at Amazon com.