Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Through a Vet's Eyes by Dr Sean Wensley


 It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Through a Vet's Eyes by Dr Sean Wensley. With foreword by Miranda Krestovnikoff, RSPB President.

About the Author

Dr Sean Wensley is an award-winning UK veterinarian and recent President of the British Veterinary Association (BVA). He chairs the Animal Welfare Working Group of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), which represents veterinary organisations from 40 European countries.

Sean has contributed to animal welfare and conservation projects around the world and in 2017 received the inaugural World Veterinary Association (WVA) Global Animal Welfare Award for Europe. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and is Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Communication and Education at the national UK veterinary charity, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA). 

His media appearances include BBC Radio 4 Today, BBC Breakfast, BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine and The Big Questions. Follow @SeanWensley on Twitter

About the book

Dr Sean Wensley is an award-winning vet and lifelong naturalist who has contributed to animal welfare and conservation projects all over the world. His debut book is about how we can choose a better life for animals, from the chickens we eat to the pets we keep.

As our societies become more urbanised, we are further removed from the reality of where and how our food is produced. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the humanisation of our pets is a risk to their welfare; with 60% of UK dogs being overweight or obese, we are effectively killing them with kindness. Through a Vet’s Eyes seeks to redress this imbalance so that we see all animals as thinking, feeling beings not dissimilar to ourselves. 

There is high public and political interest in animal welfare, with current attention focused on high-profile topics such as animal sentience, humane and sustainable global agriculture and breeding pets, such as flat-faced dogs, for looks over health. To fully consider and improve the lives of animals, evidence-based information is needed to help us all understand these issues, what they mean from the animals’ perspectives and what we can all do to help.

A polemic with elements of memoir and nature writing, the book takes us through the years in which Sean trained to become a vet and shares his first-hand experience of how animals are treated and used for our benefit. It interrogates the different levels of welfare afforded to them and reveals how we, as consumers and informed citizens, can reduce our animal welfare footprint through the choices we make every single day.

Review

- Reported surveys have suggested that 1 in 4 UK adults don’t know that bacon comes from pigs. - Pretty mindboggling. Have we become so distanced from the concept of animals as a food source that we no longer wish to acknowledge the meat we consume are in fact carcasses of animals. Is that why it is so easy to push the mass production, the inhumane transportation and slaughtering to the back of our minds.

It is possible to put pressure on governments and they in turn on the corporate world to demand accountability in regard to animal welfare, production systems that minimise suffering instead of putting maximisation and profit at the forefront to compete with national and international markets.

This book is so much more than our moral conscience in regard to the world of wildlife and animals, indeed the world we inhabit. It is also a love song to the beauty we are surrounded by, especially the variety of species and life we tend to only acknowledge on the periphery or during a short moment of admiration. 

I think that's what I loved about it the most, the passion and the way the author embraces every single aspect of movement, sights and interactions. Taking more than just a Kodak moment of the space we are in, more than just a second to remember the joy is often in the small gestures and experiences.

In a way it's a book that reminds us of the importance of remembering living beings deserve to be treated with compassion, but without doing it in a preachy flag waving manner, and simultaneously being a love letter to all creatures great and small.

Buy Through a Vet's Eyes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Gaia pub date 28th April 2022 | £20.00 . Buy at Amazon com. At Octopus books.

#Blogtour The Hidden Child by Louise Fein

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Hidden Child by Louise Fein. Today you're in for a treat, a small extract of this powerful story - The Hidden Child.

About the Author

Louise Fein holds an MA in Creative Writing from St Mary's University. Her debut novel, People Like Us (entitled Daughter of the Reich in the USA/Canada, has been published in thirteen territories, was shortlisted for the RSL Christopher Bland Prize 2021 and the RNA Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel Award 2021. Her books are predominantly set during the twentieth century and all of her books seek to explore issues that continue to be of relevance today. Follow @FeinLouise on Twitter

About the book

From the outside, Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have the perfect life, but they're harbouring a secret that threatens to fracture their entire world.

London, 1929. - Eleanor Hamilton is a dutiful mother, a caring sister and an adoring wife to a celebrated war hero. Her husband, Edward, is a pioneer in the eugenics movement. The Hamiltons are on the social rise, and it looks as though their future is bright.

When Mabel, their young daughter, begins to develop debilitating seizures, they have to face an uncomfortable truth: Mabel has epilepsy – one of the 'undesirable' conditions that Edward campaigns against.

Forced to hide their daughter away so as to not jeopardise Edward's life's work, the couple must confront the truth of their past – and the secrets that have been buried. Will Eleanor and Edward be able to fight for their family? Or will the truth destroy them?


Extract of The Hidden Child

Brook End is a big house, by most people’s reckoning. It’s not a stately home, as such, but a handsome, brick-built, sprawling villa, four storeys high, and a mere twenty years old. A suitable residence for a respected member of the upper-middle classes, with a growing family and an even faster-growing reputation for being the expert in his field of psychology and education. It’s quite the ticket. Modern is far more suitable for a Man of Science. Edward could undoubtedly have picked up a mansion steeped in history, with a large estate, had he been minded so to do. As soon as he and Eleanor had become engaged, he’d searched in earnest for the right country house for his bride-to-be. He had wanted to give her the very best he could afford, especially after all that she had been through, coming as she did from a good, professional family. Her father had been a financier in the City of London and she had grown up with money until the devastating loss of all the male members of her family during the war had sent their fortunes spiralling downwards, forcing her mother and Eleanor herself to seek work. 

Five years ago, there had been a fair few stately homes going on the cheap, but Edward’s private bankers, Coleroy & Mack, had advised him against taking on such a venture, and their financial acumen, their hunch about the British economy and the increasing tax burden wealthy landowners would have to carry, had been proven right. 

With the aristocracy selling up in their droves and investing their money elsewhere, he is happy not to have assumed their hefty tax burden, not to mention the social and economic responsibility they were all busy extricating themselves from. No, Edward congratulates himself for not falling into that trap. He might be considered by some to be nouveau riche or, as Barton Leyton once called him, a wealthy upstart, and stately home or no stately home, the people of polite society would continue to sniff down their haughty noses at him. But, unlike Barton, who moans regularly about the cost of keeping Mayfield Manor from crumbling around him, Brook End requires little maintenance and boasts both modern conveniences and ample space, as well as a beautiful location. Besides, Eleanor, who is of far better breeding stock than Edward, seems perfectly content with the house. At least, she never says she isn’t. 

‘Evening, sir,’ Alice greets him at the front door. 

‘Good evening to you too, Alice,’ he replies, noticing her round and freckled face is flushed with excitement. 

‘Mrs Hamilton collected Miss Carmichael from the station earlier today,’ she gushes. ‘Lovely to have her home, isn’t it? She’s told me all about her tour around Italy. It sounded wonderful. And you must hear her speak French! Like a native, she is.’ 

‘Indeed? And what did she say?’ 

‘Oh, heavens, I’ve no idea. She could have been telling me I’m the queen of England for all I know, but it did sound lovely, like.’ 

Edward smiles indulgently. ‘I see. And where are the ladies now?’ 

‘Changing for dinner, I believe. It’ll be served in fifteen minutes.’ 

‘Excellent. I just have enough time to wash and change myself.’ 

Taking the stairs, he notices how empty the house is without a dog. A house really isn’t a home without a dog in it. It’s been over a month since Patch died. He must look into replacing him. 

‘My darling!’ And there she is, standing arms outstretched at the top of the stairs. Eleanor. His beautiful wife. 

He bounds up the last two, grabs her and pulls her into an embrace. ‘Oh, how I’ve missed you!’ he says, breathing in her lily-of-the-valley scent. He picks her up and swings her around, making her shriek and giggle. 

‘Edward!’ she cries. ‘Put me down!’

‘Never!’

‘Urgh, it’s making me dizzy! Someone will see!’

‘Who cares,’ he laughs, and releases her.

‘Go and wash and change,’ she smiles up at him. ‘You smell of London.’

‘I do? And how does that smell?’

‘Like old boots!’ she laughs. ‘Scrub it off and put on some of that cologne I gave you for your birthday. That will be a great improvement!’ She blows him a kiss and skips downstairs. ‘I must speak to Mrs Bellamy before she ruins the soup!’ 


Review

Edward is a bright star and mover in the popular Eugenics movement, but when his family is confronted with their own less than perfect specimen, ergo child with an impairment. What does that mean for Edward and Eleanor going forward and their standing in society, and more importantly what does it mean for Mabel?

I'd like to say the Hamilton's are not indicative of beliefs at that time, however eugenics have been a popular pseudo-science for a long time, directly linked to white supremacy, colonialism and the rule of white men. The belief that certain people are superior to others in intellect based on certain genetic characteristics, colour of skin, race.

Also that any condition suggesting a lack of perfection would also be deemed a lack of intelligence, such as epilepsy, special needs, any 'imperfection' really. Society and what is perceived as an imperfection is a steadily moving and evolving target. The need to breed perfection also meant trying to ensure faults weren't passed on, the atrocities of the Nazi Party are a perfect example of the teachings of eugenics. It's important to note that interestingly enough the term and theory of eugenics evolved from Darwin's survival of the fittest via his cousin Galton, who felt that society should be encourage to breed like with like to ensure the purity and strength of species.

Fein always likes to throw a moral conundrum into the mix. Riveting historical fiction with fascinating characters, but the maelstrom at the core of the story is always a question of conscience, of right and wrong, which is often directly linked to certain periods in time. For instance are decisions made during wartime, or certain eras, ones you wouldn't have made under other circumstances? 

In this book the topic of eugenics, which is at the centre of the oppression of minorities and has been for centuries is brought down to the core. It becomes a personal question of ideology and when family defies the so-called logic of that ideology - then what?

What if your family or a family member, in this case a child is considered exactly what you are advocating against. Do you fold to society or do you do what is humane and correct for your child?

This is what I really enjoy about this author, I always come away from her books with questions and have great conversations with fellow readers about said moral conundrums. That in itself, and the fact I could write about this story for yonks, is indicative of a fantastic storyteller, and also one that feels it's important to leave a footprint where they have written and engaged.

Buy The Hidden Child at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Head of Zeus.

Monday, 16 May 2022

#BlogTour Requiem in La Rossa by Tom Benjamin

 It's my turn on the BlogTour Requiem in La Rossa by Tom Benjamin. 'Requiem in La Rossa is the third in Tom Benjamin’s critically-acclaimed Bologna-set series featuring British private detective Daniel Leicester.' 

About the Author
Tom Benjamin grew up in the suburbs of north London and began his working life as a journalist before becoming a spokesman for Scotland Yard. He later moved into public health, where he led drugs awareness programme FRANK. He now lives in Bologna. Follow @Tombenjaminsays on Twitter

About the book

In the sweltering heat of a Bologna summer, a murderer plans their pièce de résistance...

Only in Bologna reads the headline in the Carlino after a professor of music is apparently murdered leaving the opera. But what looks like an open-and-shut case begins to fall apart when English detective Daniel Leicester is tasked with getting the accused man off, and a trail that begins among Bologna's close-knit classical music community leads him to suspect there may be a serial killer at large in the oldest university in the world. 

Review

Leicester is asked to look into a peculiar case, a young musician who has caused the death of a professor. A clear case, but someone believes there are unanswered questions. Then again perhaps it is just about soothing a guilty conscience.

Daniel has this suave way about him, not at all like a foreigner far from home. The assimilation between himself and his country of choice helps him to blend in, and perhaps it also helps him to comprehend the truth of the matter.

I enjoyed the way the author used the imagery, sensations and reactions of the instability of the earth to parallel the same in the characters and the story. The earth moving, buildings shifting and the feeling of possible impending disaster runs smoothly alongside the revelations of Daniel's investigations.

The author definitely makes the reader want to experience the surroundings for themselves. The moments of serenity whilst taking in the surroundings, the history and the people. You can absolutely understand how captivating it is, then add a little crime to the mix, and hey presto. It's also another one I would love to see on the small screen.

It's a story that comes alive through the eyes of the main character - a crime that starts off with one simple deed and evolves into something much more wicked.

Buy Requiem in La Rossa at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏:  Constable pub date 5 May 2022. Buy at Amazon com.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

#Blogtour The Attic Child by Lola Jaye

It is absolutely a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour The Attic Child by Lola Jaye. It's a fantastic read.

About the Author

Lola Jaye is an author and registered psychotherapist. She was born and raised in London and has lived in Nigeria and the United States. She has a degree in Psychology and a Masters in Psychotherapy and Counselling. She has contributed to the sequel to the bestseller Lean In, penned by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and has also written for the Huffington Post, CNN, Essence, HuffPost and the BBC.

She is a member of the Black Writers’ Guild and the author of five previous novels. The Attic Child is her first epic historical novel. Follow @LolaJaye on Twitter

About the book

Two children separated by almost a century, bound by a secret…

1907: Twelve-year-old Celestine spends most of his time locked in an attic room of a large house by the sea. Taken from his homeland and treated as an unpaid servant, he dreams of his family in Africa even if, as the years pass, he struggles to remember his mother’s face, and sometimes his real name. 

Almost a century later, Lowra, a young orphan girl born into wealth and privilege, will find herself banished to the same attic. Lying under the floorboards of the room is an old porcelain doll, an unusual beaded claw necklace and, most curiously, a sentence etched on the wall behind an old cupboard, written in an unidentifiable language. Artefacts that will offer her a strange kind of comfort, and lead her to believe that she was not the first child to be imprisoned there . . . 

Review

I'm not sure there is any right way to review this in regards to the white privilege I acknowledge and access, and the frame of reference through which I experienced this read. White guilt is unwanted and white saviourism is a concept created only to sooth the conscience of deep seated roots of colonialism, and the waves of destruction it has caused.

I found the story of Dikembe incredibly sad, and the actions of the man who bought him as a show pony exemplar, are just despicable. It's hard to fathom how people could disassociate themselves with the concept of  humanity in other races, believing themselves superior and virtuous, whilst treating others like commodities. 

Equally I was moved by Lowra's story, but on a different level. The voice of neglect and abuse is one to be heard and remembered. The connection between the two characters is a shared experience of being invisible, forgotten and never good enough. It's that bond and force of nature, the strength of endurance, that creates a strong legacy from the past, present and into the future.

This is definitely going on my best reads of the year list. I loved it. I can't wait to read more by Jaye - what an incredible writer. The way history, white privilege and colonialism is woven silently into the plot. There is no placard with a silent scream of anger, disappointment, sorrow or pain. There is only fact, fate, truth and acknowledgement of guilt. 

This is only one voice of many silent ones, faction and hard reality melded with a creative flair to create this compelling story of displacement, abuse, racism and identity. An excellent read.

Buy The Attic Child at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Published by Pan MacMillan 28th April 2022 | Hardback - £14.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Pan MacMillan.

Monday, 9 May 2022

#BlogTour The Safe Place by Louise Mumford

 
It's my turn on the Blogtour The Safe Place by Louise Mumford.

About the Author

Louise was born and lives in South Wales. From a young age she loved books and dancing, but hated having to go to sleep, convinced that she might miss out on something interesting happening in the world whilst she dozed – much to her mother’s frustration! Insomnia has been a part of her life ever since.

She studied English Literature at university and graduated with first class honours. As a teacher she tried to pass on her love of reading to her students (and discovered that the secret to successful teaching is… stickers! She is aware that that is, essentially, bribery.) 

In the summer of 2019 Louise experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment: she was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival. Everything has been a bit of a whirlwind since then. 

Louise lives in Cardiff with her husband and spends her time trying to get down on paper all the marvellous and frightening things that happen in her head. Follow @louise_mumford on Twitter

About the book

She told you the house would keep you safe. She lied. - Esther is safe in the house. For sixteen years, she and her mother have lived off the grid, protected from the dangers of the outside world. For sixteen years, Esther has never seen another single soul.

Until today. - Today there’s a man outside the house. A man who knows Esther’s name, and who proves that her mother’s claims about the outside world are false. A man who is telling Esther that she’s been living a lie. Is her mother keeping Esther safe – or keeping her prisoner?

Review

Esther can barely remember a time before the isolation, the bubble and the extreme fear. A fear of the world around her and especially of the outside - the air that can and will kill her given half the chance. Luckily she has a mother who fights ferociously for her daughter's safety, health and life.

The innate trust she has in her mother, the woman who puts her safety above all else, slowly starts to crumble. Living in a bubble in isolation for the majority of her living years, well it means she can only judge and make decisions based on the information she has at this moment in time. It's the difference between life and death for Esther, right?

It is until Esther starts to question the world around her, and her eyes are opened to some inconsistencies. Perhaps it's time to face up to her fears and take small steps in the right direction or straight in the direction of death.

It's an interesting doomsday scenario, which isn't that farfetched in our day and age. There are plenty of people living off-grid and keeping loved ones isolation in the hopes of keeping them safe. The question is whether they are right to do so or in this case have the right to make those decisions for the more vulnerable.

Buy The Safe House at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: HQ Digital pub date 12 May 2022. Buy at Amazon com

#BlogTour The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence.

'The final Book in the stellar new series from bestselling fantasy author of Prince of Thorns and Red Sister, Mark Lawrence.'

About the Author

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. Follow @Mark__Lawrence on Twitter

About the book

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.

Review

After the first few chapters I knew I would have to go back to the beginning of this trilogy and experience the entirety of the premise and intricate worldbuilding. Saying that, this can absolutely be read as a standalone, and the author has added a short four page - the story so far - recap, for readers  who are new to the series.

I have to say kudos at this point because it's not a simple task to condense such a mammoth fantasy concept, and the characters, into a short pitch. The kind of recap you can understand and helps a reader to jump right in at the deep end of the third Book of Ice.

Aside from the complexity of the plot, which is a superbly layered sweetmeat of fantasy, origin, myth, science and great writing, there also a nice wee exploration of the area between right and wrong. Where rules pave the directions of the roads societies walk upon, there will always be cracks and areas in between.

And who determines whether those who wander within those areas off the beaten path are rebels, outlaws or indeed the hero in the story? Are the helpful gestures made in an attempt to interfere or support - looking straight at the Convent of Sweet Mercy.

I'm not sure a review can do the plot justice without giving something pivotal away. Every interaction pushes Yaz further toward what everyone expects of her - being the key and answer to the Ark of the Missing. But what if there is so much more to the Missing than everyone thinks?

Reading the last paragraph I can only hope there will be more, so many directions to take and avenues to explore. Right? One can only hope. I know many feel this is his fantasy work come full circle - I don't, there is always another path to be taken. 

Buy The Girl and the Moon at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Harper Voyager pub date 28 April 2022│HB £14.99│EB £8.99│EA £14.49. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Harper Collins.

Saturday, 7 May 2022

#BlogTour Cause of Death by Anna Legat

It's my turn on the BlogTour Cause of Death by Anna Legat, the third book in The Shires Mysteries.


About the Author

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 magi 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. Follow @LegatWriter on Twitter, Visit annalegat.com

About the book

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.

As Maggie and Sam soon discover, there is more than a quick buck to be  made in the developer's 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?

Review

This is the third book in The Shires Mysteries series - murder most wicked comes to rural life and creates havoc, shakes up the daily lives of villagers and our amateur sleuths Maggie and Sam. 

Sidenote - I kinda loved the whole horse, donkey, mule escapade - it's definitely something I would participate in.

The relationship between Maggie and Sam becomes closer and moves in a slightly different direction, and the reader gets to know more about Sam's back-story. This happens while they are in the middle of solving a bizarre ritualistic killing. I mean it's just your every day village stuff, right.

It's a solid cosy mystery, and I admit I would love to know who would be top choice if it was ever casted. The characters of Maggie and Sam are both comfortable and at times eccentric enough to become reader favourites. Saying that I think it's important to keep an element of surprise and space for growth. With a mystery series everything tends to change and revolve around the constant - the main characters - they have to be able to draw the audience in over and over again.

Looking forward to the next in the series, and to where the author takes this sleuthing duo and their very deadly rural adventures.

Buy Cause of Death at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Headline Accent pub date 14 April 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Waterstones. Barnes & Noble.