Monday, 20 June 2022

#BlogTour The Heron Kings' Flight by Eric Lewis

It's my turn on the BlogTour The Heron Kings' Flight by Eric Lewis.

About the Author

Eric Lewis' debut novel, The Heron Kings, is a grimdark adventure exploring rebellion and the dangers of obsessive revenge. Avoiding the monsters and magic common to high fantasy, the monsters here are all too human, and extraordinary groups of ordinary people can make their own kind of magic when they've finally had enough. The Heron Kings' Flight is the second book in the series.

Eric has also written several works of speculative short fiction published in various venues including Nature, Cossmass Infinities, Electric Spec, Bards & Sages Quarterly, as well as the anthology Crash Code, the short story collection Tricks of the Blade, and others detailed at ericlewis.ink. Follow @TheHeronKing on Twitter

About the book

The Heron Kings have been betrayed. A century after their formation from a gang of desperate peasant insurgents, the shadowy band of forest rangers suffers a rare defeat when a skirmish turns into a bloody ambush. Their shaky truce with the crown is tested as young members Linet and Aerrus work to track down their enemies. When reluctant peacetime soldier Eyvind reveals a conspiracy to welcome the charismatic invader Phynagoras, the trio must convince a weak king and pitifully few allies to stand against the storm.

Their only hope lies in the forgotten tactics of their own guerrilla past, and a terrifying new alchemical weapon the likes of which the world had never imagined. The only question is which side will be destroyed by it first...


Review

This is the second book in the Heron Kings' series, although this can absolutely be read as a standalone book, I would highly recommend reading the first one.

There is massive twist at the end of the book, so I shall tread carefully with as little info as possible, whilst simultaneously trying to do the book justice. It's a heck of a ride, an intricate plot with plenty of room to expand further with more books.

When Aerrus returns from his duties alone and without the rest of his faithful companions and fierce fighters he enlists the first person he encounters to return to get a bit of blood and revenge. Linet and Aerrus stumble upon something that points towards betrayal and a sense of impending doom. Their hidden community is at risk - the question is who is behind the insidious attack and why, the real question is why.

I think it's fair to say the author is willing to pull out the big guns to keep readers captivated and coming back. Just a wee bit ruthless, but effective. I look forward to seeing where this series goes next - it has to, you can't just leave a reader hanging after such a tumultuous read.

Buy The Heron Kings' Flight at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Flame Tree Press,  pub date 17 May 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Flame Tree Press.

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

#BlogTour The Half-Life of Snails by Philippa Holloway

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Half-Life of Snails by Philippa Holloway.

About the Author

Philippa Holloway is a writer and senior lecturer at Staffordshire University, living in England but with her heart still at home in Wales. Her short fiction is published on four continents. 

She has won prizes in literary awards including the Fish Publishing Prize, The Scythe Prize, and the Writers & Artists Working Class Writer’s Prize. She is co-editor of the collection 100 Words of Solitude: Global Voices in Lockdown 2020 (Rare Swan Press). Follow @thejackdawspen on Twitter

About the book

Two sisters, two nuclear power stations, one child caught in the middle… When Helen, a self-taught prepper and single mother, leaves her young son Jack with her sister for a few days so she can visit Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone, they both know the situation will be tense. Helen opposes plans for a new power station on the coast of Anglesey that will take over the family’s farmland, and Jennifer works for the nuclear industry and welcomes the plans for the good of the economy. But blood is thicker than heavy water, and both want to reconnect somehow, with Jack perhaps the key to a new understanding of one another.

Yet while Helen is forced to face up to childhood traumas, and her worst fears regarding nuclear disaster, during a trip that sees her caught up in political violence and trapped in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone during the 2014 Euromaidan revolution, Jennifer too must discover that even the smallest decision can have catastrophic and long-lasting effects, both within the nuclear industry, and within the home.

And Jack isn’t like other five-year olds… as they will both discover with devastating consequences.

Review

Living on the perimeter of a nuclear power station has driven the mindset of young mother Helen. It has made her more aware of her surroundings and of the repercussions and dangers in regard to said station. One could say her need to be safe and prepared for all situations has become an obsession. The kind of obsession that makes a trip to a disaster scene seem normal - to her at least. Leaving her son in the capable hands of her family.

The bond between Helen and her son is strong, tight to the point of suffocation. A mother who sees danger in every corner and has taught her young boy accordingly. A bond that becomes strained and anxieties are heightened, when the worst case scenario happens whilst the two are separated for the first time.

I don't think this one will leave me, the type of read that exists in the back of your mind - a warning and a stark reminder. A reminder that mankind will never learn their lesson, that greed always supersedes common sense and the safety of those directly in the line of fire. 

Helen's approach to raising her son as a prepper, thereby also causing segregation, isolation and a very insulated view of his surroundings - it's contentious and neglectful. He is emotionally stunted and wary of anyone other than his mother, which makes him vulnerable. Or is Helen one step closer to the future than others, thereby creating a child able to survive under the direst of situations and circumstances.

This is the kind of book that resonates in the here and now, and equally has its place in history. It's also one, I am sure, that will divide readers at times. More importantly it will generate conversations - hopefully. It's a cracking and captivating read. 

Buy The Half-Life of Snails at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Parthian Books pub date 4 May 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Parthian Books.

Monday, 13 June 2022

#BlogTour The Silk Pavilion by Sarah Walton

 It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Silk Pavilion by Sarah Walton.

About the Author

The pandemic has restricted Sarah Walton to the Sussex Downs of late, but she is restless for encounters around the world. A digital pioneer in California n the.com era, she remains a leading figure  in digital innovation and corporate storytelling. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and lectures on Hull University’s Online MA Creative Writing. 

Sarah also teaches her Soul Writing method, that combines meditation, free-writing and creative writing skills. This bis her third novel. Follow @sarahwalton on Twitter, Visit drsarahwalton.com

About the book

Lucy is on assignment. A wild, reclusive writer awaits her. She wants his life story. He wants her everything. A whirlwind romance takes them to the highs and lows of Deià. But beneath them lie the bodies of a generation and as Lucy unearths the darkness, her own skeletons begin to rattle the closet.

A brilliant, steamy, summer read - on the Mallorcan coast, a young woman uncovers the history of a nation, of a rogue Spanish writer, and of herself.

Review

There is a huge contradiction between the emotional reaction and physical ones - the latter being lived out and the first narrated as an inner dialogue between the reader and the character. It has psychological connotations, almost as if the conscious and unconscious (subconscious) have their own stage appearances in the story. One after the other, trying to deliver their truth or what they assume to be their truth.

The gut reaction of repulsion (inner dialogue) and the physical desire, which then leads to sexual acts, even when the feeling of being repulsed by Miguel is almost overpowering. From the first page there are parallel paths of red flag gut instincts and self-warnings, and the romanticised drive that fuels the physical interactions.

Running alongside this path of self-flagellation in the form of degradation, risky choices and complete submission to familiar abusive traits, are historical issues in Lucy's past. Then to top it off a complex layer of the history of Franco's Spain, and the waves of pain and destruction it left in its wake.

It's a complex, and yet eerily engaging piece of literature. The author has an interesting way of creating a visceral bond between reader and story, and yet the reactions are often filled with the same kind of revulsion the main character experiences. The result is the kind of pull and hook that just doesn't let you go.

Buy The Silk Pavilion at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎Barbican Press pub date 9 Jun. 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at the Barbican Press.

Sunday, 12 June 2022

#Blogtour Aurora by David Koepp

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Aurora David Koepp.

About the Author

David Koepp is one of the most successful screenwriters working today, known for his work with Steven Spielberg and Brian De Palma. His screenplays include the first two Jurassic Park films, Death Becomes Her, Carlito's Way, Mission: Impossible, Spider-Man, Panic Room, War of the Worlds, Angels and Demons and Inferno.

Koepp's debut thriller, Cold Storage, was greeted by a raft of acclaim from writers like Blake Crouch, Linwood Barclay, and Stephen King.

Shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller of the Year, Cold Storage has now sold nearly 50,000 copies.

About the book

When the lights go out no one is safe… A planet without power. - When a solar storm hits the earth, the lights go out across the planet. But this time the blackout won’t be over soon – it could last for years. Aubrey and her stepson now face the biggest challenge of their lives.

 A society without rules. - Soon they hear rumours of riots, the struggle for food becomes real, and even within their small communities, the rule of law is collapsing. Aubrey’s estranged brother Thom, a self-made billionaire who abandoned her years ago, retreats to a gilded desert bunker where he can ride out the crisis in perfect luxury.

 A race to build a better world… But the complicated history between the siblings is far from over, and what feels like the end of the world is just the beginning of a personal reckoning long overdue…

Review

I want to start this review with a thank you to the author for the foreword - thanks, I really needed to know that. - Starts to prep, buys tinned goods, digs garden and plants produce, oh and let's not forget the generator. My father, who always tends to quote a possible zombie apocalypse for his semi-prepping, feels completely validated by this scenario - sans zombies of course.

A solar storm knocks out the power - the blackout rejigs life as everyone knows it, there are no rules of law. Survival of the fittest, the smartest and the most ruthless. Aubrey finds herself stuck with a moody hormonal teenager, who isn't even a blood relative, and an violent ex-hubby with a lack of boundaries. Her brother Thom, is someone wealthy enough to save himself and his loved ones. He wants to keep Aubrey safe, but she is fiercely independent, and he has to learn the hard way that not everything or everyone can be bought, especially when the established hierarchy and system falls apart and it is every person for themselves.

What I really enjoyed about this story is the wake-up call, the blast of reality, and the way it reads like a written account of a disaster, which could be read by future generations. Also the inability of government at any level to react to an impending crisis with scientific reasoning or common sense, and instead putting greed and profit above safety and potential loss of life. That in itself is indicative of how something like this premise could play out.

The story is almost laid out like a script waiting to be cast. You can envision the screen version, as you read the story. I wouldn't hesitate to grab another book by this author or recommend him for that matter.

Buy Aurora at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎HQ pub date 9 Jun. 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Harper Collins.

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

#BlogTour #Audiobook No Place to Run by Mark Edwards

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour for the Audiobook version of No Place to Run by Mark Edwards.

About the Author

Mark Edwards writes psychological thrillers in which scary things happen to ordinary people. Mark has sold over 3.5 million books since his first solo novel, The Magpies, was published in 2013 and has topped the bestseller lists numerous times. His other novels include Follow You Home, Here To Stay and The House Guest. 

He has also published six books co-authored with Louise Voss. His last book, The Hollows, was published in July 2021. Mark lives in the West Midlands, England, with his wife, their three children and two cats. He Tweets at @mredwards

About the book

Two years ago, on a trip to Seattle to visit her brother Aidan, fifteen-year-old Scarlett vanished into thin air.

After years of false leads and dead ends, Aidan has almost given up hope. But then a woman sees a girl running for her life across a forest clearing in Northern California. She is convinced the girl is the missing Scarlett. But could it really be her?

Heading south, Aidan finds a fire-ravaged town covered in missing-teenager posters. The locals seem afraid, the police won’t answer any questions and it looks like another dead end―until a chance meeting with returned local Lana gives Aidan his first clue. But as they piece together what happened, Lana and Aidan make deadly enemies. Enemies willing to do anything to silence them. Only one thing matters now: finding Scarlett ― even if it kills him. 

Review

This review is based on the audiobook version - I personally often find listening and reading experiences of the same book or material to be completely different, despite the subject matter. Possibly because the narrator replaces a lot of the imaginary character constructs, and situational reactions and tensions, one automatically creates whilst reading. That's a pretty long-winded way of saying that I am also going to be reading the hardcopy or digital version of this story.

When Aidan decides to solve the mystery of his teenage sister, who disappeared into thin air a few years prior, he doesn't realise he will end up having to wade through a quagmire of deception, greed, and ruthless corruption. He finds a companion in Lana, who like himself is looking for a missing loved one - in a town covered in missing posters. Sounds creepy, right? Yeh, it goes to places you just won't expect it to.

Having read prior work by this author I think it's fair to say that although this also carries the trademark slow-building and burning when it comes to storytelling, it is also the most boundary pushing and extensive in terms of scope. There was definitely an aspect of opening new doors and seeing where that leads us, especially in regard to combining genres. It's more speculative, and tugs quite a few ripcords when it comes to controversial topics and indeed 21st century problems.

It's a captivating, has the potential to a more than one-of, mystery come thriller. A slight deviation from the usual books by this author, but I am absolutely here for it. I love it when an author goes beyond the realms they might be boxed into for a variety of reasons - the results are often a great reading or listening experience.

Buy No Place to Run by Mark Edwards at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publication: Thomas & Mercer, pub date 21st June 2022 | Paperback -£8.99. Buy at Amazon com.

Listening Length - 10 hours and 11 minutes, Author - Mark Edwards, Narrator - Will M. Watt. Whispersync for Voice - Ready, Audible.co.uk Release Date - 21 June 2022, Publisher - Brilliance Audio, Program Type - Audiobook, Version - Unabridged, Language - English.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

#BlogTour The Goldhanger Dog by Wanda Whiteley

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Goldhanger Dog by Wanda Whiteley.

About the Author

Wanda Whiteley is co-author of the memoir, Streetkid, which spent three months in the top 10 of the Sunday Times non-fiction bestsellers list. The Goldhanger Dog is her debut novel.

In addition to her role as founder and Editor-in-Chief of Manuscript Doctor, she is an independent consultant for Writers and Artists, and previously worked as a Publishing Director at HarperCollins for over a decade. This year, she will be running her first life-writing workshop at the Atelier de Scriitori retreat in Transylvania. Follow @wanda_whiteley on Twitter

About the book

In 1553, Tudor England is on the precipice of change, with young King Edward in ill health and the religious fate of the country hanging in the balance. But far from power, in the wilds of the Essex Marches, fifteen-year-old Dela meets Turnspit, a scruffy and morose dog sentenced to a life of drudgery turning a kitchen spit.

After Dela frees Turnspit, the pair of misfits flee from persecution, seeking sanctuary with Princess Mary Tudor. Little do the two friends realise that the princess is facing the greatest trial of her life, and they soon find themselves in grave danger, with only friendship to protect them.  

The incredible story of a turnspit dog, a mainstay of Tudor kitchens which has since gone extinct, The Goldhanger Dog is a magical story which explores the power of friendship and family in the face of adversity and misfortune.

Review

When young Dela loses her mother she starts to comprehend there might be something more within her, something powerful that she as yet is unable to control or see the where and why for. It's an unusual power that helps her makes connections those around can't, and to right the wrongs of steadfast and barbaric rituals.

Being different means attracting the attention of people, and the presumption is of ill will, as opposed to lending a helping hand. Accusations of witchcraft send her running, along with a newly found friend, straight into the arms of the next heir to the very sought after throne of England.

This is a book that can be enjoyed by older and younger readers alike. The author always stays within certain boundaries, and yet equally doesn't hide from the more difficult aspects of the era, whether they be political or societal. It's under the historical fiction heading, however I think it deserves a sub-genre of its own - how about historical magical realism. History, magical powers, friendship and above all seeing the humanity in all living beings.

In that sense the book also contains an important message about the way we treat others and animals of course. The way we look the other way when others suffer, especially when they are considered second class living beings, such as a food source or pet. The turnspit dog was bred for the sole purpose of being a kitchen worker, an animal bound to a wheel and tortured for the appetite and sustenance of mankind.

Leaving the more serious ponderings aside, this is a lovely read. Also, I cannot tell I lie, I especially enjoyed the last chapter, an ending that was earnt for sure.

Buy The Goldhanger Dog at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Waterstones.

Monday, 30 May 2022

#Blogtour Beach House Summer by Sarah Morgan

 It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Beach House Summer by Sarah Morgan.

About the Author

Sarah Morgan is a USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of romance and women's fiction. She has sold over 21 million copies of her books and her trademark humour and warmth have gained her fans across the globe.

Sarah lives near London, England and when she isn't writing or reading, she likes to spend time outdoors hiking or riding her mountain bike.

Join Sarah's mailing list at sarahmorgan.com for all book news. Follow @SarahMorgan_ on Twitter

About the book

A marriage in the spotlight - Joanna Whitman’s high-profile marriage held more secrets than she cares to remember, so when her ex-husband dies, she doesn't know what to feel. But when she discovers that he’s left behind a pregnant young woman, Joanna is forced to act. She knows exactly how brutal the spotlight on them both will be…unless she can find a way for them to disappear.

A beach house hideaway - Ashley Blake is amazed when Joanna suggests they lie low at her beach house in her sleepy Californian hometown. Joanna should be hating her, not helping her. But alone and pregnant, Ashley needs all the support she can find.

A summer of new beginnings - Joanna's only goal for the summer is privacy. All Ashley wants is space to plan for her and her baby's future. But when an old flame reappears, and secrets spill out under the hot summer sun, this unlikely friendship is put to the test…

Review

Are you supposed to feel sad if your philandering ex-hubby has a fatal accident and just happens to be in the company of young, attractive woman when it happens. What is the emotional protocol, and what is the public expectation when he is a celebrity, and because of that you are too? The world is eager to know what Joanna knows about his death and the mysterious woman who was with him when he died.

It's an interesting topic to wade into, the question of fame and whether being a public figure gives the media and fans the right to demand access to each moment of their lives. Does being in the limelight mean you automatically sign away your right to privacy? Does wanting a story or a headline warrant hounding a celebrity, perhaps even to the point of distress or worse?

I think there is a common misconception about public persona and interaction being part of their job, as opposed to the world understanding that a star, celebrity and public figure also has a right to privacy. Possibly even more so, when the majority of their lives is out there to be gawked at and commented on.

The author captures the invasive nature of the press, the lack of trust in the people around them, and the fragility of the person in the midst of news hungry media and gossipmongers. It must be incredibly difficult to realise that close friends and family will happily sell your intimate moments, your photos and your secrets for money or moment of fame.

I thought it was a little dialogue heavy and repetitive in the middle, however it is still a good read. The core is, for me at least, understanding that there is always a way forward even when your heart breaks, your trust in people is destroyed and every door seems to be locked. They aren't. It's also about misunderstandings and the way relationships can be redefined as we grow older, and as we enter new periods of our lives. Morgan always delivers a premise that gives plenty of food for thought.

Buy Beach House Summer at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎HQ pub date 26 May 2022. Buy at Amazon com. At Harper Collins.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

#BlogTour The White Girl by Tony Birch

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The White Girl by Tony Birch. It's an excellent read. I highly recommend it.

About the Author

Tony Birch is the author of three novels: the bestselling The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSW Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing, and shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin literary prize; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing; and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012. 

He is also the author of Shadowboxing and four short story collections, Dark As Last Night, Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People; and the poetry collections, Broken Teeth and Whisper Songs. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award for his contribution to Australian literature. Tony Birch is also an activist, historian and essayist. His website is: tony-birch.com

About the book

“A profound allegory of good and evil, and a deep exploration of human interaction, black and white, alternately beautiful and tender, cruel and unsettling.”—Guardian

Australia’s leading indigenous storyteller makes his American debut with this immersive and deeply resonant novel, set in the 1960s, that explores the lengths we’ll go to save the people we love—an unforgettable story of one native Australian family and the racist government that threatens to separate them.

Odette Brown has lived her entire life on the fringes of Deane, a small Australian country town. Dark secrets simmer beneath the surface of Deane—secrets that could explain why Odette's daughter, Lila, left her one-year-old daughter, Sissy, and never came back, or why Sissy has white skin when her family is Aboriginal.

For thirteen years, Odette has quietly raised her granddaughter without drawing notice from welfare authorities who remove fair-skinned Aboriginal children from their families. But the arrival of a new policeman with cruel eyes and a rigid by-the-book attitude throws the Brown women's lives off-kilter. It will take all of Odette's courage and cunning to save Sissy from the authorities, and maybe even lead her to find her daughter.

Bolstered by love, smarts, and the strength of their ancestors, Odette and Sissy are an indomitable force, handling threats to their family and their own identities with grace and ingenuity, while never losing hope for themselves and their future.

In The White Girl, Miles Franklin Award-nominated author Tony Birch illuminates Australia’s devastating post-colonial past—notably the government’s racist policy of separating Indigenous children from their families, known today as the Stolen Generations—and introduces a tight-knit group of charming, inspiring characters who remind us of our shared humanity, and that kindness, hope, and love have no limits.

Review

I'm not sure about other readers, but when I read a book about minorities, the indigenous of any country, the oppressed or the vulnerable - just as an example, I often presume the events are historical. When I say historical I mean over a century or more, and I am often dismayed by the reality of the actual truth. That for the majority we are talking recent events, in modern times when the world should have been condemning such oppression and atrocities.

Odette is a fictional example perhaps, but I think probably a softer version of the awful truth of the way the colonisers have treated the indigenous people of Australia. This story takes place in the 1960s - a long time after the first early colonial period of certain parts of Australia. In a Podunk rural town where white and indigenous are still segregated. The indigenous people live outside in a specified area and are only allowed into the white town on a specific day and for a short period of time. 

Odette takes care of her young granddaughter, who has now reached an age where her presence has become of interest to both the authorities, and she is also vulnerable to the predators who perceive indigenous women especially, as of no worth or chattel of the white man.

The young girl is fair-skinned, and the authorities feel it is their duty to remove those children - white passing - in order to place them in an environment conducive to a less native and savage environment. To save their souls. Odette starts to realise that the danger her family has always faced is starting to wander in the path of her granddaughter. 

This book should be on more prize lists -  I am surprised it isn't and that it hasn't had more traction this side of the pond. It is an incredible piece of work, which is only more admirable when you consider the subtlety of the approach to the sensitive topics in this story. The atmosphere is a stark reminder of reality, and indeed the reader almost walks alongside Odette, that's how vivid a picture the author presents.

The displacement, essentially kidnap, of whole generations of indigenous of children has burdened further generations with generational trauma. Children who survived the system and never saw their families again, parents who never got over having their children stolen. At this point it is important to note that just recently the reality of what really happened to the majority of these children is being unearthed. The mass graves, the unmarked graves of so many abused and neglected indigenous children. It's more than a tragedy, it's a disgrace - absolutely unforgivable.

I wouldn't hesitate to read or recommend this author after reading this. As I was reading I was envisaging the screen version of this - I would love to see Deborah Mailman make Odette come to life. Either way this story needs more circulation, so more people can read it. It's poignant, it is a story that grabs you tightly as it tears you into the murky depths of colonial guilt and the criminal atrocities committed under the auspice of malevolent colonialism and white supremacy. And I might add - the author only skims the surface of the aforementioned.

Buy The White Girl at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎HarperVia pub date 28 April 2022) Buy at Amazon com. At Harper Collins.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

#Blogtour When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley.

About the Author

A native of Nyack, New York, Soon Wiley received his BA in English & Philosophy from Connecticut College. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wichita State University. His writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and earned him fellowships in Wyoming and France. He resides in Connecticut with his wife and their two cats. When We Fell Apart is his debut novel.

About the book

A profoundly moving and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties that bind families together – or break them apart…

When the Seoul police inform Min that his girlfriend Yu-jin has taken her own life, he’s sure it can't be true. She was successful, ambitious, happy, just on the cusp of graduating from university and claiming the future she’d always dreamed of. Min, on the other hand, born to an American father and Korean mother, has never felt quite the same certainty as Yu-jin about his life’s path. 

After growing up in California, where he always felt ‘too Korean’ to fit in, he’s moved to Seoul in the hope that exploring his Korean heritage will help him find a sense of purpose. And when he meets Yu-jin, little does he know that their carefree relationship will set off a chain of events with tragic consequences for them both. Devastated by Yu-jin’s death, Min throws himself into finding out why she could have secretly wanted to die. 

Or did she? With a controlling and powerful government official father, and a fraught friendship with her alluring and destructive roommate So-ra, Yu-jin’s life was much more complex than she chose to reveal to Min. And the more he learns about her, the more he begins to doubt he ever really knew her at all.

As Yu-jin’s story – a fraught exploration of selfhood, coming-of-age, and family expectations – collides with Min’s, the result is an engrossing page-turner that poses powerful, urgent questions about cultural identity, family bonds, secrets, and what it truly means to belong.

Review

This is one of those reads I really want to talk about - get into the nitty-gritty of the premise, but I am also mindful of giving away the whole story.

Although the characters are quite similar in a sense that they are looking for a certain degree of autonomy, independence and searching for their self, their identity and it is indeed a discovery of self. Simultaneously they couldn't be more different, and their paths are actually going in opposite directions, although for a while they walk together on the same path.

Yu-jin, my heart breaks for her and anyone who has to live up to the expectations of Tiger-parents (Tiger equality there). There are certain cultures where those expectations are higher, and held to a higher ransom, than say in other cultures. In a world where the pressure to succeed and be the best is already a standard bar, the failure to do so can appear to be the end of the world, especially when loved ones attach such importance to success.

There is no space for personal choice, for a pursuit of personal happiness. It's not hard to imagine that for many young people the bar is too high and/or the fear of disappointing family and society is the last drop in the already very full barrel.

Min is an interesting character, and I think he is indicative of many who straddle two cultures, multiple origin stories. Feeling obligated to understand and become one with an identity that is drifting into the realms forgotten historical heritage and feeling as if the one you are living in and with daily is someone sub-par. The truth and peace lies somewhere in between the two. Know who you are, where you came from, and forge your own path.

It's both a pivotal and heart-breaking piece of literature. Two people intersecting on each others trajectories, but perhaps never really knowing or understanding the other completely. I really enjoyed it and hope this is the first of many by this author.

Buy When We Fell Apart at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Simon and Schuster Uk, pub date 12th May 2022 | Hardback | £14.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy via Simon and Schuster.

#Blogtour Unaccustomed to Grace by Lesley Bannatyne

 It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour Unaccustomed to Grace by Lesley Bannatyne.

About the Author

Lesley Bannatyne is an American author who writes extensively on Halloween, especially its history, literature, and contemporary celebration. As a freelance journalist, she's covered stories ranging from druids in Somerville, Massachusetts to relief workers in Bolivia. Bannatyne's fiction is collected in her debut collection Unaccustomed to Grace, out from Kallisto Gaia Press in March, 2022.

Follow @BannatyneLesley on Twitter, Visit lesleybannatyne.com

About the book

The stories in Unaccustomed to Grace are often set in a slant version of reality where the extraordinary can exist side-by-side with the ordinary. In “Waiting for Ivy” a woman grieving the loss of her infant daughter discovers a listserv of parents whose dead children have been returned, as if the tragedy were a clerical error. 

In “Corpse Walks Into a Bar” an indigent loner agrees to bury a reanimated corpse, not realizing what it takes to find a resting place when the dead are as self-serving as the living. Characters throughout the collection act on impulses, quixotic to ferocious: a suburban dad leads a violent riot against his neighbour; an eleven-year-old boy puts himself at the nexus of a manhunt for the Boston Marathon bomber. Ultimately, the book plumbs the messiness we bring on ourselves with the best of intentions, and how we find connection and work to build a world we can survive.

Review

Short stories are islands unto themselves - they differ in execution, possible expansion and style. Some short interludes that exist without the need to be anything than what they purport to be, then there are stories I would place in the category of ideas the author could grow. The ones that have the potential to be a novel. I think it's fair to say this author has a few growers in this compilation of shorts.

I found quite a few of them have certain elements of connection in regard to reactions to the plight of a fellow human. Do I cross my own boundaries, face my own fears and ignore ingrained societal responses and do what my gut says is the right thing to do? Also what impact do these actions, gestures have on the person themselves, not just the person they have decided to engage with or help.

Written at times with a tongue in cheek nod to certain ironies and contradictive behaviour, they are also stories with depth. If you position yourself just slightly differently, if indeed you are willing to do so, then you might be surprised to find the world, the people around you, and your idea of what constitutes a problem to be solved - it might just look completely different.

I'd love to see some of the these short stories evolve into something longer, the Corpse Walks into a Bar is an excellent example of that - I have so many unanswered questions. Either way I would certainly enjoy reading more by this particular author.

Buy Unaccustomed to Grace at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Kallisto Gaia Press pub date 8 Feb. 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Kallisto Gaia Press.

#BlogTour The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan

It's a pleasure to take part in the BlogTour The Murder Rule by Dervla McTiernan.

About the Author

Internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed writer Dervla McTiernan burst onto the writing scene with The Ruin, her crime debut set in Ireland. The Ruin is the first in the detective Cormac Reilly series and has been published in the United States, the UK and Ireland and in New Zealand and Australia, where it was a top ten bestseller.

Dervla spent twelve years working as a lawyer. Following the global financial crisis, she moved to Australia and turned her hand to writing. An avid fan of crime and detective novels from childhood, Dervla wrote a short story, The Roommate, which was shortlisted for the Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Competition. She went on to write The Ruin, and a string of other bestsellers. Dervla is a member of the Sisters in Crime and Crime Writers Association, and lives in Perth, Australia, with her husband and two children. Follow @DervlaMcTiernan on Twitter


About the book

First Rule: Make them like you. Second Rule: Make them need you. Third Rule: Make them pay.

They think I’m a young, idealistic law student, that I’m passionate about reforming a corrupt and brutal system. They think I’m working hard to impress them. They think I’m here to save an innocent man on death row. They're wrong. I’m going to bury him.

Review

There are a few great topics for discussion woven into this psychological thriller. The fact a flawed system still imprisons too many people who are innocent of the crimes they have been convicted of. Decades, life sentences ( I just want to point out that life only means a fraction - fifteen years sometimes) in certain countries, and the death sentence. Imagine spending decades in prison and being completely innocent.

The plot has an Innocence Project at the core. Legal experts, volunteers and loved ones of the incarcerated dedicated to picking individuals with cases layered with the distinct smell of wrongful conviction. Hannah has forcefully wrangled herself into this particular project. She has an agenda, not exactly one that is in line with the organisation in question. How far will she go to execute her plan?

It is a well plotted and written riveting psychological thriller with a legal angle. I'm going to stay tight lipped on a certain aspect that shows itself fairly early on and comes to a nice wicked conclusion at the end. It's the kind of read that keeps you captivated from the start.

Buy The Murder Rule at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Harper Collins; 12th May 2022 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £14.99. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Harper Collins.

Monday, 23 May 2022

#Blogtour Tell Me An Ending by Jo Harkin

It's a pleasure to take part in the Blogtour Tell Me An Ending by Jo Harkin.

About the Author

Jo Harkin studied English Literature at university. She daydreamed her way through various jobs in her twenties before giving in and becoming a full-time writer. She published four real-world literary fiction novels under a pseudonym, before deciding to follow her passion and move into speculative fiction. Her focus is ‘what if’ stories with an emphasis on human lives. She lives in Berkshire.

About the book

Across the world, thousands of people are shocked to receive an email telling them that they once chose to have a traumatic memory removed. Now they are being given the chance to get that memory back.

For Mei, William, Oscar and Finn there is a piece missing, but they're not sure what. And each of them must decide if the truth is worth the pain, or better left unknown.

For Noor, who works at the memory clinic Nepenthe, the process of reinstating their patients' memories begins to shake the moral foundations of her world. As she delves deeper into the programme, she will have to risk everything to uncover the true human cost of this miraculous technology.

An exploration of secrets, grief, identity and belonging - of the stories we tell ourselves, and come to rely on, Tell Me An Ending is a sharp, dark and devastating novel about the power and danger of memory.


Review

I thought this was a fascinating concept and there are so many places to take it. The entire premise is a tightrope of black, white and fuzzy areas of boundary crossing. Is it a good thing? Does it create worse scenarios than the bad memories it purports to erase. Is the erasing or extraction merely a band-aid that in actual fact becomes a timebomb? A bomb that can cause mental health, general health issues, the breakdown of relationships and mistrust in self.

Imagine getting a letter telling yourself you had made the choice to erase a memory, however you have no actual memory of doing so, which of course makes it a Schrödinger's Cat situation. Do you retrieve to find out what it is, and end up with a memory you would rather not have. Or live with the niggle that you have experienced something worrying enough you felt the need to erase it.

I am legit interested in which decision people would make if this were the future. I think I would need to know, then probably ask for it to be taken again, thereby creating an endless repetitive loop of actions and behaviour. What if it was used against your will - a Big Brother tool, the possibilities are endless.

Told through multiple character narratives, who all have something in common, the fact that they have had a memory removed and know about it or did it and wanted to remain oblivious to that decision. Of course there is also the aspect of them being consciously or subconsciously aware of this fact. The subconscious element of the story is quite fascinating. Are our brains hardwired to restore information it thinks is relative and pertinent to our wellbeing and survival? An innate response to flight or fight?

Which memory would you pick, if any at all? Would you choose to erase pain or a secret, but what if that put you at risk at a later date. This a self induced black hole moment, the ethics and moral aspect of this story are intricate. I can't wait to discuss this book with fellow readers. It's absolutely fascinating, and a great story to boot. I can't wait to read more by this author.

Buy Tell Me An Ending at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Hutchinson Heinemann pub date 12th May 2022 | Hardback | eBook | Audio | £12.99. Buy at Amazon com.

#Blogtour The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken


It's my turn on the Blogtour The Memory Keeper of Kyiv by Erin Litteken.


About the Author
Erin Litteken is a debut novelist with a degree in history and a passion for research. At a young age, she was enthralled by stories of her family’s harrowing experiences in Ukraine before, during and after World War II. Her first historical fiction title, The Memory Keeper of Kyiv, draws on those experiences. She lives in Illinois, USA with her husband and children. Follow @ErinLitteken on Twitter, Visit Erin’s website: erinlitteken.com


About the book
In the 1930s, Stalin’s activists marched through the Soviet Union, espousing the greatness of collective farming. It was the first step in creating a man-made famine that, in Ukraine, stole almost 4 million lives. Inspired by the history the world forgot, and the Russian government denies, Erin Litteken reimagines their story.

In 1929, Katya is 16 years old, surrounded by family and in love with the boy next door. When Stalin’s activists arrive in her village, it’s just a few, a little pressure to join the collective. But soon neighbours disappear, those who speak out are never seen again and every new day is uncertain.

Resistance has a price, and as desperate hunger grips the countryside, survival seems more a dream than a possibility. But, even in the darkest times, love beckons. Seventy years later, a young widow discovers her grandmother’s journal, one that will reveal the long-buried secrets of her family’s haunted past.

This is a story of the resilience of the human spirit, the love that sees us through our darkest hours and the true horror of what happened during the Holodomor. - May we never forget, lest history repeat itself.

A share of proceeds will be donated to DEC's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.


Review
I think of myself as lucky in regard to the influence my father has had on my education - in filling the gaps created by country hops, school moves, schoolyear jumps and just in general where society and the system is inadequate in passing on knowledge. Irrespective of whether it be intentional or due to curriculum changes. 

He is a font of knowledge, especially when it comes to history, and putting historical events into perspective when it comes to current events. Why is this story of historical importance, even if certain details and characters make it faction - a melding of historical fact and fiction. It's important because it gives context to the current conflict - the invasion of the Ukraine by Russia, or Putin to be more precise.

Putin styles himself on a man he admires, a ruler upheld by many of the Soviets then and even now in Russia. Stalin was a murderer, a monster, a dictator who was a master of propaganda, both inside and outside the boundaries of Mother Russia. Even now the millions of the Ukrainian people he purposely starved, killed and tortured - they are a mere footnote in history, and one that is purposely held under a suspicion of doubt.

In a way that is exactly why Katya's story is buried and hidden for decades. It's not uncommon for survivors of extreme trauma, such as war or the Holodomor - the Terror Famine - to simply remain silent about the events they have experienced. People displaced, ripped from their homes, family and culture in the most horrifying way, only to then be subjected to the horrors of World War 2. How do you resume a semblance of normality after that?

This story is about generational trauma, family secrets and about finding peace after experiencing the unimaginable. It's also a stark reminder about the lack of empathy when it comes to the pursuit of power and control, which is why the small gestures and moments of connection are even more important. It's a captivating story - a timely piece of work.

Buy The Memory Keeper of Kyiv at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher ‏: ‎ Boldwood Books pub date 16 May 2022. Buy at Amazon com. Buy at Boldwood.

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.