Guest Posts

Not Myself Today – Muriel Ellis Pritchett

I am pleased to welcome Muriel Ellis Pritchett to my blog today. Muriel is here to talk to us about character creation as part of the blog tour for her YA novel, Not Myself Today. Many thanks to Muriel for taking the time to talk to us, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour.

BLURB:

High school soccer star Lindsey Anderson was at the top of her game with graduation approaching and a full-ride soccer scholarship offer in her hand. Then she dropped dead on the soccer field, only to wake up in the body of a teenage sex-trafficking victim. No one believes who she really is. Not even her dad. Chased by her new body’s drug-dealing pimp and rabid parapsychologists out to dissect her, Lindsey searches to get her body and her life back before graduation day. Can her BFF and the high school nerdy boy she detests help save her life?

PURCHASE LINKS:

Black Rose Writing

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Not Myself Today Front cover

GUEST POST:

Someone recently told me – quite excitedly, I must say – that they knew who a certain character in my second book really was. I quickly assured him that the character was completely fictional. That all of my characters were fictional. Still, he walked off grinning like the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland.

Are your characters real people? How do you create your characters? Those are two questions I have been asked many times. They are right up there with “Where do you get ideas for your books?” and “I have a great idea for your next book. Would you like to hear it?”

All of my characters are made up of bits and pieces of real people that I know or have met at a party or spotted in the airport or somewhere else. I keep a notebook of interesting physical characteristics and personal flaws.

I usually start with physical characteristics like the colour of their hair or eyes. Do they have a beard or moustache? Are they bald or have a hairy chest? How is their hair styled? Spiked or shaved head or a man bun? Do they walk with a limp or stutter when they talk? Do they have any distinguishing features like freckles or a wart on the end of their nose or a dragon tattoo on their forearm? How are they dressed? Are they wearing dirty and worn T-shirt and jeans or dressed in country-club casual clothes or sporting a three-piece suit with bowtie? Is she wearing a spandex leopard-print mini-skirt and thigh-high faux-alligator boots or an impressive Christian Dior-designer original skirt and jacket?

Once I have some idea of what my character looks like, then I work on the personality and flaws. What makes them unique? Are they a narcissist or a womaniser or a bully? Do they have a raging temper or are they as cool as a cucumber or weak and frail? Milquetoast or overly aggressive? Do they have any phobias or issues? Are they afraid of heights or snakes or tall women? Are they superstitious or a brazen hussy or a risktaker or street savvy?

In my new YA paranormal thriller, Not Myself Today, I wanted a big contrast between Lindsey and Annabeth. Lindsey is a star soccer player. I looked through high school yearbooks to get a picture of a female athlete in my mind. I made her strong, solid, in great health, and smart with curly red hair and blue eyes. I made her 18 years old and graduating from high school with a full-ride soccer scholarship to Stanford. I wanted Lindsey to be from a fairly well-to-do family with a highly respected father in the science community. Life can’t get any better than this. Then she dies on the soccer field after kicking the winning goal for the state championship and wakes up in the body of Annabeth, a sex trafficking victim.   

Annabeth is the opposite of Lindsey. She’s a 14-year-old runaway from a small South Georgia town. Her father, a farmer, died young. Her mother remarried a scumbag who abused Annabeth, causing her to leave home. I made her very skinny with a thick South Georgia accent, long, straight, dirty-blonde hair, hazel eyes, tattoos, and body piercings. For a stronger contrast, I turned her into a drug addict, which further complicated Lindsey’s new life in Annabeth’s body.

I enjoy creating unique characters for my stories. I probably spend as much time bringing my characters to life as I spend plotting out the story line. The next time you read a book, please remember that all characters are fictional and have been created from many bits and pieces to entertain the reader.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Not Myself Today - MurielPSBorn and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Muriel Ellis Pritchett graduated from the University of Georgia and began her journalism career while living in Japan and Germany. Her journalism career included playwriting, editing and writing for magazines and newspapers, and working in public relations, university relations, and media relations.

After retiring, Muriel’s family doctor recommended she get a hobby.  So, she began writing fun fiction about feisty older women who had been wronged and had to pull themselves up out of the muck. But her award-winning fourth book, Not Myself Today, is a change in genres—a YA paranormal thriller. It is scheduled for release September 24, 2020. Her first three “fruity” books, fun romance for older women, are Making Lemonade, Like Peaches and Pickles, and Rotten Bananas and the Emerald Dream. She is currently working on another “fruity” book, titled Sour Grapes and Balmy Knight.

When not writing, Muriel loves cruising all over the world, eating good Belgian chocolate, and spending time in any Disney park. Her favorite Disney attractions are SOARING at Disney World’s EPCOT in Florida, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth at Disneyland Paris, Journey to the Center of the Earth at DisneySeas in Tokyo, and Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland in California.

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GIVEAWAY:

Win a Signed copy of Not Myself Today (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Book Review

The Seven Doors – Agnes Ravatn

Today I am joining the blog tour for Nordic noir, The Seven Doors by Agnes Ravatn (translated by Rosie Hedger). Many thanks to Agnes, and to Orenda Books, for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the blog tour.

BLURB:

University professor Nina is at a turning point. Her work seems increasingly irrelevant, her doctor husband is never home, relations with her adult daughter Ingeborg are strained, and their beautiful house is scheduled for demolition.

When Ingeborg decides to move into another house they own, things take a very dark turn. The young woman who rents it disappears, leaving behind her son, the day after Nina and Ingeborg pay her a visit.

With few clues, the police enquiry soon grinds to a halt, but Nina has an inexplicable sense of guilt. Unable to rest, she begins her own investigation, but as she pulls on the threads of the case, it seems her discoveries may have very grave consequences for her and her family.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Seven Doors Cover

REVIEW:

The Seven Doors is a book of two halves for me. I found that the narrative felt strangely emotionless and entirely detached from the events of the book, which is not a style that I am overly keen on as it prevents me becoming entirely absorbed in the story. However, in spite of the style not being to my personal taste, I was drawn to Nina from the start, and intrigued by the story.

Nina struck me as a gentle soul, and I found it interesting to read about a character who was so successful professionally, and yet seemed somewhat downtrodden and unsure when surrounded by her more confident husband and daughter. I didn’t take to Nina’s daughter, Ingeborg, at all at first. She is as opposite to Nina as I think it is possible to be, coming over as rude and abrasive, only focusing on what she wants. I felt sorry for Nina trying to rein her in, with very little support from Mads.

Mari’s story unfolds slowly as Nina digs deeper into the mystery surrounding her disappearance, and is revealed to be desperately sad in so many ways. I just wanted to wrap her and her son up and protect them from the world.

Although the writing style wasn’t to my taste, I found myself enjoying this book and speeding through it to find out what was going on. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Agnes Author picAgnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist. She made her literary debut with the novel Week 53 in 2007. Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing Still (2011), Popular Reading (2011) and Operation Self-Discipline (2014). In these works, Ravatn revealed a unique, witty voice and sharp eye for human fallibility. Her second novel, The Bird Tribunal, was an international bestseller, translated into fifteen languages, winning an English PEN award, shortlisting for the Dublin Literary Award, a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick and a BBC Book at Bedtime. It was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015. Agnes lives with her family in the Norwegian countryside.

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Book Review

The Calling of the Trinity – Brittany Elise

Today I am joining the blog tour for The Calling of the Trinity, book two of the brilliant Trinity Cycle by Brittany Elise. Many thanks to Brittany for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour.

BLURB:

The fate of the supernatural world lies in the hands of the Trinity. Now that their powers have awakened, they’re one step closer to putting an end to the Darkness surrounding them. Or so they thought…

The death of Wren’s father brings an unsolicited visit from the Alpha Master of the Thornwood werewolf pack, and with it some troublesome news. Wren is faced with a decision that could mean the end of his life if he doesn’t choose wisely.

A mysterious book hidden in a secret room just might have the answers the Trinity is searching for. Perhaps with a little help from the past, a winged guardian, and new friends–the Trinity can persevere and rise against the Darkness.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Black Rose Writing

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Calling - Cover TCOTT

REVIEW:

Ever since I read Awakening the Trinity (read my review here) back in January 2019, I have been eagerly awaiting the sequel, so when I heard it was going on a blog tour, I jumped at the chance to get involved.

Calling the Trinity picks up almost immediately after the end of Awakening the Trinity and we find our heroes having to cope with their own grief, the ever present threat of Rionach the Dark returning to power, and the new threat of a massive wolf pack on the doorstep. On top of this, Quinn is still struggling to understand her powers, her history, and the legacy left by her mother. All this means that this book is an action packed rollercoaster of emotion, and one that I struggled to put down when real life interfered with my reading.

When I reviewed Awakening the Trinity, I made a comparison to Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, and I stand by that. The Trinity Cycle series really feels like it needs to be adapted to a Twilight-esque film. The landscape is so atmospheric that it needs to be seen – there is just something so immersive about Brittany Elise’s writing that makes me long to visit the locations in the book.

I found the new tentative alliances formed in this book, and seeing how these new characters interact with the Trinity, to be be fascinating reading, and I am excited to see what is coming next for these unlikely allies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Calling of the Trinity - author photoBrittany graduated from college with a degree in photography, and later became an obedience instructor. During the day, Brittany manages an FBO at a local hometown airport in Ohio and services aircraft. Writing has always been her greatest passion. She enjoys the outdoors and exploring new places in an endless quest to keep that artistic inspiration burning. 

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Book Review

Tipping Point – Michelle Cook

I am joining the blog tour for the dystopian eco-thriller, Tipping Point, by Michelle Cook today. Many thanks to Michelle and Darkstroke Books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour.

BLURB:

A tale of loss, manipulation, and the search for the truth

What would you risk to turn back the tide?

Essie Glass might have been a typical eighteen-year-old – had life not dealt her an early blow.
Struggling to come to terms with the loss of her family in a terrorist attack, and left with nothing, Essie’s not kidding herself about her world. She wants change, and she’ll be honest about it, whatever the cost. From behind her keyboard, that is…

After all, this is England, 2035. Earth’s climate continues its accelerating collapse. A powerful elite controls the disaster-weary population with propaganda, intimidation, and constant surveillance.

By all appearances, Alex Langford is a respected local businessman – until Essie discovers that he’s a murderous conspirator who’d see the planet die for his fortune.

When their paths collide, Essie must decide: how much is she really willing to pay for her honesty?

Her choices, and the events she sets in motion, pit her against both enemies and supposed friends as she risks more than just her life to thwart them.

Will she succeed in revealing the truth? And will she survive?

You can purchase your copy HERE

Tipping Point Cover

REVIEW:

Although I have read my fair share of dystopian fiction, this is my very first eco-thriller, and I must admit I wasn’t too sure what to expect. In Tipping Point, Michelle Cook presents us with a very near future (2035, to be exact) version of England that feels completely alien to the England we live in today, but at the same time scarily possible. It is an England ravaged by climate change, with a population living under extreme restrictions on their lives, imposed by a government that seems more than a little corrupt. It serves as a stark warning of a future that is all too real if our general disregard for the planet goes on unchecked. Dystopian fiction always makes you stop and think, but Tipping Point really got under my skin, in much the same way that Rachel Churcher’s Battle Ground series did just recently, and I think this is because both are set in a world that is still so recognisably ours.

I can honestly say that I don’t know how Essie maintained her sanity over the course of this book. If I had to deal with everything she did by the time I was 19, I would have been a complete mess. And yes, she has her issues, but under all it what we have is a young woman who in spite of everything remains strong, and passionate, and committed to her beliefs.

Tipping Point is a whirlwind of a book, twisting and turning the reader in every direction, never knowing who can be trusted, or who might suddenly be taken away in one form or another. This makes for intense reading and an unforgettable book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Author PhotoMichelle lives in Worcestershire, UK, with her husband Daniel, their two young children, and a cat called Lyra Belacqua. By day, she works for the NHS, a job which she has almost as much passion for as fiction.

Her first joyful steps into creative writing were at the age of ten, when the teacher read out her short story in class. A slapstick tale of two talking kangaroos breaking out of a zoo, the work was sadly lost to history. Still, Michelle never forgot the buzz of others enjoying her words.

More recently, she has had several flash pieces published, was long-listed for the Cambridge 2020 prize for flash fiction, and placed first in the February 2020 Writers’ Forum competition with her short story The Truth About Cherry House. Tipping Point is her debut novel.

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Book Review

The Rue Stone – Janet Stock

I have a quick little read to share with you all today as I join the birthday blitz for The Rue Stone by Janet Stock.

BLURB:

The rue is a mysterious and rare being who is rarely seen, and Janna is amazed when one arrives at the inn where she works, looking for a room. The next morning, her life has changed, and she is left wondering whether she will ever see him again, but only time and the rue stone know the answer to that question.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

The Rue Stone Cover

REVIEW:

The Rue Stone, with it’s mysterious inn in the forest felt instantly magical and drew me in from the first page. The characters are charming and I found myself very quickly becoming invested in what the future held for them.

I would love to read a novel following a rue on his travels across strange lands with even stranger creatures – all things that are hinted at in this book but not fully explored. I read fantasy more for the world building than the romance and the balance was off a little bit in this book for my taste, but I loved the concept of the rue and would definitely read more about him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Rue Stone AuthorHaving written all of my life, I decided to self-publish my writing when I turned 50. I have published four books since then. Two are collections of short stories; Dark & Fluffy; Dark & Fluffy II and 500 Words, which is flash fiction. My latest book The Rue Stone is a fantasy novella.

My passion is medieval fiction, and I am working on my first novel The Little Servant – The Wait’s Son, set in the 12th century, in Lincoln, where I live.

All four books are available on Amazon.

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GIVEAWAY:

Win 5 paperback copies of The Rue Stone (UK Only)

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Meet the Author

Penny Hampson

I am jumping on board the blog blitz for Penny Hampson’s contemporary mystery/paranormal romance novel, The Unquiet Spirit, today. Many thanks to Penny who took the time to answer a few questions that I posed to her, and to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the blitz. Let’s jump straight into the questions, and then I will share all the details of The Unquiet Spirit with you all.

I understand that before venturing into writing, you worked with rare books and historic manuscripts. This sounds like a dream come true to me! Can you tell us more about this please?

Yes, I worked for nineteen years in a world famous academic library dealing with historic manuscript collections and rare books. My job was to source suitable images from the collections for publishers, authors, and academics. It was fascinating work and enabled me to see firsthand not only some of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts but also letters and documents from famous people in history.

A special thrill for me was to handle a manuscript written by Samuel Pepys (1633-1703), the celebrated diarist and naval administrator. I’ve read all of his published diaries (the originals are held at the University of Cambridge) and I had always longed to see the originals, so when I came across this item — not a diary, alas, but an administrative document — it was amazing to see his actual handwriting.

I’ve also been privileged to see the exquisite hand embroidered cover of ‘The Miroir or Glasse of the synneful soul’ a manuscript translation made, written, and embroidered by Queen Elizabeth I when she was eleven years old, as a gift for her stepmother Queen Katherine Parr. 

However, my favourite manuscript has to be MS. Bodl. 264, an enormous tome dating from 1400, with many beautiful illuminations. What attracts me to this manuscript though is not  the marvellously coloured miniatures, but the tiny marginal figures and scenes that dance across the lower margins. Here you will find all sorts of curiosities – nuns in a wheelbarrow (yes, really), children playing games, women cooking, a Punch and Judy show, and knights on horseback training for combat. If you’d like to see this for yourself you’re in luck because it has all been digitised and is available online.

What was the inspiration behind The Unquiet Spirit, and what made you decide to set the book in Cornwall?

The inspiration for The Unquiet Spirit was a house I discovered on the internet. I was browsing at houses for sale (as one does) and a beautiful 17th century house popped up. Not one that I could afford or even in the right location, but there was something about it that really attracted me. It became my inspiration for The Beeches. I wondered what it would be like to live in such a house, and that was when the idea formed to create a character who unexpectedly inherits an old house from her godmother. And being such an old house it would surely have secrets and possibly a ghost.

I decided to locate my story in Cornwall, specifically Falmouth, because it’s a place that I love. Falmouth itself is a lovely vibrant town with a lot of history. It was an important hub for the packet ships that plied their way across the world during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, bringing news and passengers to British shores. Falmouth was the first place Royal Naval officer John Lapenotiere landed with the urgent dispatches about the victory of Trafalgar and Nelson’s death, and Lord Byron, the poet stayed in Falmouth in 1809, prior to heading off on the Lisbon packet ship to commence his Grand Tour.

Today Falmouth is still a fantastically vibrant place, with what I call a real community feel about it. I’m sure the extra buzz is due to not only the summer visitors, but also the student population of the local university, which specialises in the creative arts. In addition, Falmouth has a fabulous Maritime Museum, and I can certainly recommend the local studies library located inside the museum. There are lots of lovely coffee shops too – the one where Kate has breakfast is based on a favourite of mine. But, I hasten to add, the one where she spies on the art dealers’ is entirely a figment of my imagination!

I try to visit at least once a year, although this year has been a little difficult and I haven’t managed it yet.

What made you break away from the historic fiction you have previously written and move to a contemporary setting for this book?

It was my husband who encouraged me to write a contemporary story. He’s always been great at supporting and encouraging me, reading my work and offering constructive feedback. However, he’s not a great fan of carriages and bonnets, so I decided it was time to give him something he could really get into. I also wanted to test myself as a writer. I’ve written three historical novels now and feel reasonably comfortable in that genre, so it was a challenge to myself too.

There are also issues that I feel strongly about, ones that don’t easily fit in a historical novel. So with The Unquiet Spirit I was able to introduce elements of life that are sometimes overlooked or ignored. For instance, one of my characters suffers from a chronic illness, and I wanted to show how that can impact the whole family, something I have personal experience of as a carer.

Do you follow a set writing routine, or have a favourite space to write?

I don’t have a set routine for writing. I try to write everyday, but sometimes, because of other commitments, this isn’t always possible. I share a rather cramped office with my husband, so it can get a little difficult at times, especially when I am trying to write a tense, emotional scene and he is swearing at his computer (we both do that!). However,  the good news is that I have been promised a study of my own; our spare bedroom will hopefully be transformed into a super-duper writer’s workspace, with room for all my research books, maps, and other bits and pieces. 

What are your favourite books, either from now or from your childhood?

My favourite books? Well, for escapism I always go to Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels; well-written and historically accurate, they give me a lift when I’m feeling down. I also love crime fiction and stories that have a strong sense of place. Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels fit the bill here. I only visited Edinburgh a few times when I lived in Scotland but through his books I feel I know it so well. Because I worked in Oxford for many years, reading Colin Dexter’s Morse novels was a must; the plotting is so intricate and detailed, and again, there is that great sense of place. My favourite book from childhood has to be Peter Pan, even as a child I picked up on the sadness of the little boy who never wanted to grow up, and I always dreamed of being able to fly.

Thank you so much Penny for taking the time to answer my questions so thoroughly. I am even more envious of your time spent with so many wonderful manuscripts now (folks, if you haven’t seen MS. Bodl. 264 that Penny mentions, go and have a look – I had a peek as I was writing this blog post and it is wonderful!).

So now, onto the all important book details.

The Unquiet Spirit Cover

BLURB:

A new beginning. A house with a past. A man with secrets.

It was a dream come true…that turned into a nightmare.

Kate Wilson thinks moving back to Cornwall might be the answer to her prayers. But it isn’t long before she begins to have doubts. Is the house she inherited from her godmother haunted? Or is she going out of her mind? With a stalker, threats, and attempted break-ins, Kate’s troubles multiply.

Then there’s her enigmatic neighbour, the brooding Tom Carbis; a man with secrets he doesn’t wish to share. Can she trust him when he says he wants to help?

In her quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding her, will Kate uncover more than she bargains for?

Set in beautiful Cornwall, The Unquiet Spirit is a gripping suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Fans of Barbara Erskine will enjoy this tale.

You can purchase your copy of The Unquiet Spirit HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

The Unquiet Spirit - Author photo April 2020 2 2 IMG_3862Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.

Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a  historical mystery/romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.

But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.

Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

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Book Review

A Song of Isolation – Michael J Malone

Today I am joining the blog tour for A Song of Isolation by Michael J Malone. Many thanks to Michael and Orenda Books for providing me with a copy of the book, and to Anne at Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in the tour.

BLURB:

Film star Amelie Hart is the darling of the silver screen, appearing on the front pages of every newspaper. But at the peak of her fame she throws it all away for a regular guy with an ordinary job. The gossip columns are aghast: what happened to the woman who turned heads wherever she went?

Any hope the furore will die down are crushed when Amelie’s boyfriend Dave is arrested on charges of child sexual abuse. Dave strongly asserts his innocence, and when Amelie refuses
to denounce him, the press furore quickly turns into physical violence, and she has to flee the country.

While Dave is locked up with the most depraved men in the country and Amelie is hiding on the continent, Damaris, the victim at the centre of the story, is also isolated – a child trying to make sense of an adult world…

Breathtakingly brutal, dark and immensely moving, A Song of Isolation looks beneath the magpie glimmer of celebrity to uncover a sinister world dominated by greed and lies, and the unfathomable destruction of innocent lives… in an instant.

PURCHASE LINKS:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Song of Isolation Cover

REVIEW:

A Song of Isolation is a powerful read, looking at the ripple effect of an accusation, how it affects more people than just the accused and the accuser, and how the media, in their endless hunt for gossip and scandal, can exacerbate a situation.

Malone looks at the emotional strain of life on a sex offenders unit, which actually made for difficult reading I found. I didn’t want to feel sympathy for the inmates, but as I flip-flopped between believing in Dave’s innocence and thinking he was guilty, I found myself thinking about things differently.

My hear went out to poor Amelie, so damaged by what happened in 2010, and just looking for a quiet life, but forced back into the limelight in the worst possible way. She feels like such a fragile person, and it was interesting to see how she dealt with the situation that she found herself in.

As the story moved on following Amelie and Dave, I found my thoughts drifting back to Damaris and wondering what became of her. I was both glad and sad when the story returned to her and we saw what had become of her and how damaged she was by the situation.

A Song of Isolation is a thought-provoking read, and Michael J Malone is a master at making you stop and reconsider situations from different perspectives.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

M Malone Author pIc

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and Markings. Blood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. His
psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines, After He Died and In the Absence of Miracles soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

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Book Review

We Are Not Okay – Natalia Gomes

Today’s book is one filled with vitally important messages, We Are Not Okay, by Natalia Gomes. Many thanks to Natalia, and to HQ, for providing me with a copy of the book, which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

13 Reasons Why meets John Green and Jennifer Niven in We Are Not Ok – a powerful novel about what happens when girls are silenced.

If only they could have spoken out.

Lucy thinks she’s better than the other girls. Maybe if she’s pointing fingers at everyone else, no one will see the secret she’s hiding.

Ulana comes from a conservative Muslim family where reputation is everything. One rumour – true or false – can destroy futures.

Trina likes to party. She’s kissed a lot of boys. She’s even shown her red bra to one. But she didn’t consent to that night at Lucy’s party. So why doesn’t anyone believe her?

Sophia loved her boyfriend. She did anything for him, even send him photos of herself. So why is she the one being pointed at in the hallways, laughed at, spat at when it was him who betrayed her trust?

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REVIEW:

Natalia Gomes wrote one of the first books I ever reviewed on this blog, Blackbird, which I loved, and so even without the comparisons to Jay Asher and John Green, I knew this was a book I wanted to read. With those comparisons, I also knew that it was not going to be an easy book to read.

We Are Not Okay is told from the multiple viewpoints of the four main characters, Sophie, Lucy, Ulana, and Trina each of whom has their own secret to hide or issue to battle. Having four such strong main characters means there was a lot crammed in to one book. Each girl’s story could fill a book on its own and while I could see why Gomes chose to weave them into the one book, at times it felt that they weren’t explored to their full potential.

Covering issues including bullying, racism, the sharing of intimate photos on social media, and teen pregnancy, We Are Not Okay is an emotional read from start to finish, and is a heartbreaking portrayal of just how quickly situations can spiral. It is a book that served as a reminder of just how glad I am not to be at school today, and also that social media and camera phones didn’t exist when I was.

We Are Not Okay is full of important messages, and I hope that it will make any teenager reading it think twice about how their actions can affect other people.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

ND Gomes is originally from Scotland, but spent ten years living in America working as an educator in the public school districts.

She has an M.Ed. in Education and is working towards an MLitt. in Scottish Literature and Creative Writing.

She loves to read a variety of YA and adult fiction in all genres, and is always on the lookout for a new book recommendation. ND Gomes has an enthusiasm for books, travel, photography, yoga, vegetarian cooking, and spending time with her family, friends, and chocolate Labrador.

Her YA debut DEAR CHARLIE and second novel BLACKBIRD is published by HarperCollins imprint HQ in the UK.

Book Review

Girl, Serpent, Thorn – Melissa Bashardoust

Today I am reviewing Girl, Serpent, Thorn, a fantastic Persian fairy-tale inspired book by Melissa Bashardoust. Many thanks to Melissa, and to Hodder & Stoughton, for my copy of the book which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…

There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.

As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.

Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

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REVIEW:

Girl, Serpent, Thorn captivated me from the first page to the last. Before I started reading, I hadn’t realised that it was inspired by Persian myth, but Melissa Bashardoust’s writing has a magical feel that instantly put me in mind of folkloric tales handed down over many generations.

As a tactile person living through lockdown, I can understand Soraya’s need for human contact and the feel of soft textures more acutely than I think I would have before. Touch is something that we have always taken for granted, and yet it is something I have found myself craving over recent months. At least we have the hope that the situation won’t be permanent, but for poor Soraya there is no way out that she can see, and I can quite understand why she would be desperate enough to try whatever it took to break free of her curse.

Each character is beautifully developed, and each has their own flaws and secrets (some more than others). I practically felt my heart crack at times, as the depths of betrayals were revealed and Soraya slowly learnt who she could and couldn’t trust and rely on.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn is a story of learning to be comfortable in your own skin – something I think we could probably all do with being a bit better at.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Melissa Bashardoust received her degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley, where she rediscovered her love for creative writing, children’s literature, and fairy tales and their retellings. She currently lives in Southern California with a cat named Alice and more copies of Jane Eyre than she probably needs. Girls Made of Snow and Glass is her first novel.

Book Review

The Black Kids – Christina Hammond Reed

Today’s review is of The Black Kids by Christina Hammond Reed, a YA novel looking at the issue of race in 90s Los Angeles. Many thanks to Christina, and to Simon & Schuster, for providing me with a copy of this book which I received via NetGalley.

BLURB:

Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

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REVIEW:

I was a teenager in the 90s and although I remember the Rodney King case and the resulting riots, my life in rural England meant it was impossible for me to truly understand what it must have been like to live through this. Christina Hammonds Reed captures the emotions that Ashley and her friends and family must have felt watching their world blow up around them in a way that simply watching the news reports could never do. It must have been devastating to live through and it saddens me that almost twenty years later, little or nothing has really changed.

The Black Kids is a powerful book, and, coming from a safe, comfortable home environment, Ashley’s was a perspective that I haven’t encountered in any other book that I have read.

I will admit that I am woefully uninformed on many of the issues surrounding race, and I wanted to read this book as part of my efforts to educate myself. I still have a lot to learn but this book has opened my eyes more than perhaps I expected it to and I would recommend it to anyone else in my position.