Tuesday 31 October 2023

πŸ‘» Halloween Read ~ A Haunting in the Arctic by C J Cooke

 

Harper Collins
12 October 2023

Thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book



Something has walked the floors of the Ormen for almost a century. Something that craves revenge…

1901. On board the Ormen, a whaling ship battling through the unforgiving North Sea, Nicky Duthie awakes. Attacked and dragged there against her will, it’s just her and the crew – and they’re all owed something only she can give them.

1973. Decades later, when the ship is found still drifting across the ocean, it’s deserted. Just one body is left on board, his face and feet mutilated, his cabin locked from the inside. Everyone else has vanished.

Now, as urban explorer Dominique travels into the near-permanent darkness of the northernmost tip of Iceland, to the final resting place of the Ormen’s wreck, she’s determined to uncover the ship’s secrets.

But she’s not alone. Something is here with her. And it’s seeking revenge…


πŸ‘»My Review..

I enjoy curling up with an eerily spooky tale on Halloween and my chosen book this year certainly brings an ice cold chill.  The ghostly appearance of the book’s ice blue cover appealed to me and whilst A Haunting in the Arctic isn’t your typical Halloween story it certainly has enough creepy elements to have you jumping at shadows especially as it focuses on the ethereal nature of a ghost ship beached in the frozen waters of the Arctic.

In combining a dark mystery with elements of folk lore, this multi timeline story soon had an ice cold grip upon my imagination. The stark and unforgiving landscape of Iceland is very much part of the narrative as is life aboard the whaling ship in 1901 when we experience the brutality of life on the Ormen. The modern day sections of the story, set in 2023, are equally chilling especially as we meet Dominique, an urban explorer, who has travelled to SkΓΊmaskot, in Iceland, to record the final days of the Ormen before it is destroyed forever. 

There’s an undeniable tension to the story which is hard to explain without giving details of the plot away, so I won’t even try except to say I was completely hooked from the start. It’s certainly a harsh read, filled with horror and a sense of despair with the haunting nature of the folklore elements adding a very different sort of dynamic to the story.

A Haunting in the Arctic blends history, folklore and the supernatural into a vengeful and atmosphere story.


About the Author


C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Born in Belfast, she has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.


X @CJessCooke #AHauntingInTheArctic

@fictionpubteam









Thursday 26 October 2023

πŸ“– Publication Day Review ~ The Christmas Appeal by Janice Hallett

 

Viper/Serpent's Tail
Hardback 26 October 2023

The Appeal #1.5

My thanks to the publisher for my ecopy of this book


One dead Santa. A town full of suspects. Will you discover the truth?

Christmas in Lower Lockwood, and the Fairway Players are busy rehearsing their festive pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, to raise money for the church roof appeal. But despite the season, goodwill is distinctly lacking amongst the amateur dramatics enthusiasts. Sarah-Jane is fending off threats to her new position as Chair, the fibreglass beanstalk might be full of asbestos, and a someone is intent on ruining the panto even before the curtain goes up.

Of course there's also the matter of the dead body. Who could possibly have had the victim on their naughty list? Join lawyers Femi and Charlotte as they read the round robins, examine the emails and pore over the police transcripts. Will the show go on?





πŸ“– My Review..

When I was approached by the publisher to read The Christmas Appeal I immediately said yes as I loved reading this author's fabulous debut, The Appeal, which fired my imagination , and so it is with great delight that I return to the company of the Fairway Players as they countdown to their annual Christmas Pantomime.

With her usual flair, the author plunges us deep into the frantic preparations for Jack and the Beanstalk and as emails, and messages, fly to and fro between the actors, we soon start to understand that all is not well with this group of amateur thespians. The epistolary theme gives the story its quirkiness and as  the banter and cutting comments start to flow, so we start to build up a picture of what happened, where, when and to whom.

It can take a little while to become comfortable with this style of narrative but I enjoy the way the story unfolds and I pretty soon became immersed in trying to piece together the clues which are so carefully presented.  Overall, The Christmas Appeal is great fun to read, laugh out loud funny in places, and entering into the ‘acting’ world which this talented author creates so beautifully is a real joy as not only does she give us all the back room shenanigans, and believe me there is a lot going on behind the scenes, but there’s also a rather interesting murder mystery to solve.

Cleverly created to be a shortish novella, The Christmas Appeal sits comfortably alongside The Appeal bringing together the company of players we recognise from the first story whilst at the same time introducing new people who add their own special charm to this intriguing murder mystery. I absolutely loved it and read in one sitting as, like all this author’s books, I simply couldn’t put it down.


About the Author


Janice Hallett studied English at UCL, and spent several years as a magazine editor, winning two awards for journalism. After gaining an MA in Screenwriting at Royal Holloway, she co-wrote the feature film Retreat. The Appeal is inspired by her lifelong interest in amateur dramatics. Her second novel, The Twyford Code, is published by Viper in 2022. When not indulging her passion for global adventure travel, she is based in West London.



Twitter @JaniceHallett #TheChristmas Appeal

@ViperBooks







Wednesday 25 October 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Twenty-One Poems about Wonky Animals from Candlestick Press

 


Candlestick Press
September 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this pamphlet



We use the affectionate word ‘wonky’ when things aren’t quite right but what’s wrong seems rather endearing.

These poems are about creatures who are slightly awry. Some are beloved pets who are vulnerable and in need of human care. Others are just slightly odd in themselves – a hornet, a frog, a mole. They may be more difficult to love, but each is celebrated here in its own particular splendour:

“The heart of a snail can be anywhere in her body, beating in secret. Such a sweet heart, never complains, but explains the world in little steps.”

from ‘Snailology’ by Nora Nadjarian

The anthology demonstrates that every wonky creature – great, small, ugly, beautiful – also has something to teach us about our own human frailties.

Included is a special edition postcard featuring a poem by Di Slaney.

Poems by Sophia Argyris, Anna Barker, Kathryn Bevis, Carole Bromley,Jane Burn, Linda France, Victoria Gatehouse, Tania Hershman,Leah Larwood, Rob Miles, JLM Morton, Nora Nadjarian, Caleb Parkin,Mel Pryor, Amber Rollinson, Clare Shaw, Johnnie Sparkle, Hannah Stone and Sarah Ziman.

Cover illustration by Jane Burn.




πŸ“–My Review..


Looking back I think that all my animals have had something of the ‘wonky’ about them which has made them all the more endearing. They’ve all had their special quirks which have made them unique and lovable in my eyes. However, I’ve never thought about the other creatures who inhabit the world alongside us and this anthology has proved to be as enlightening as it is endearing.


The opening poem ‘Fox names the World’ by Sophia Argyris gets the anthology of to a fine start with the view of the world through the eyes of a fox travelling through the countryside at night:


‘Fox calls the night solace, calls the stars home-light
Calls the clouds her fickle-friends…’



‘What the Frog Taught Me About Love’ by Clare Shaw, made me smile, re-imagining these much maligned creatures as capable of love:


‘Firefly burns very bright for it.
Frog just holds on. Tight…’



Reading ‘To Listen for a mouse’ by Rob Miles made me stop and consider these silent creatures in a whole different way:

‘..A mouse
Must calculate the weight
And tension of it’s very soul..’


There’s a lovely extra poem tucked into the pamphlet - Rehomer’s Prayer by Di Slaney is really lovely and one I shall refer to often as it shows such humanity towards animals who are in need of love and care.

This super anthology of twenty-one poems about some rather special animals has all the qualities I have come to expect from one of these finely produced poetry pamphlets and having twenty-one to enjoy is all the more satisfying. Such a splendid variety really does have something for everyone and is the perfect gift ‘instead of a card’ for all the animal lovers you know would appreciate a rather special anthology about wonky animals.




About the Publisher

Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Mountains, Clouds, Walking, Birds, Wine and Happiness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.


X @poetrycandle

















Tuesday 24 October 2023

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Salt of the Earth by J J Marsh


Prewitt Bielman Ltd
6 October 2023

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book


Based on true events, a forgotten story of courage, conviction and love.

1917: Europe is on the cusp of seismic change. In the Alpine village of St Niklaus, the war seems far away. Yet everyone is fighting a personal battle.

In the shadow of a mountain, 14-year-old Seraphine helps Mama manage the farm while Papa defends Swiss borders. She dreams of seeing the world. After the war.

A young medical graduate arrives in the valley. Under the patronage of a local doctor, he puts his faith in a revolutionary idea. He is determined to influence the world. After the war.

Dr Bayard cannot wait until after the war. In the most beautiful place on earth, people still suffer from a centuries-old affliction. Armed with a theory, two sacks of salt and a mule, Bayard climbs a mountain, intent on treating one tiny village.

The paths of two unlikely young people cross in turbulent times – against the backdrop of one country doctor's fight against folklore, prejudice and false pride.

Salt of the Earth is a journey of bravery and broken hearts following their call. A quest for love and healing in the face of precarious destiny.


πŸ“– My Review..

We take modern medical advances for granted and yet we do well to remember those whose perseverance and skill led to some amazing breakthroughs in medical science. In this beautifully detailed novel we follow the story of Seraphine, a wise teenager, whose love and devotion towards her younger disabled half-siblings is as enlightening as it is endearing especially when her path crosses with that of Bastian Favre, who, released from the army, takes up a place at the University of ZΓΌrich. Whilst the long shadow of The Great War war still rages across Europe, Bastian embraces a new, and quite different, life as a medical undergraduate.

Without revealing too much, this intricately researched story looks at the emergence of a medical breakthrough concerning iodine deficiency and hypothyroidism, serious medical conditions which afflicted the population of the Alpine area where Seraphine lived. Bastion’s link with the area, and his connection to Seraphine, are beautifully explored by an author who knows how to keep the reader invested in place, time and characters. The author uses her words eloquently and with such lyrical quality that I found myself returning to re-read paragraphs and phrases, catching unexpected moments in the heart of the story and in the beautifully detailed reason d’etre of the book’s title. Salt of the Earth is a lovely story about loss, hardship and the advancement of a medical treatment which will have a profound effect on lives going forwards.


About the author






Writer, journalist, teacher, actor, director and cultural trainer, Jill has lived in Africa, the Middle East and all over Europe.

Nowadays, she is a full-time writer, founder member of Triskele Books, co-editor of ZΓΌrich literary hub The Woolf, European correspondent for Words with JAM,reviewer for Bookmuse and professional copywriter.



X @JJMarsh1











Monday 23 October 2023

πŸ“– Book Review~ Ostler by Susan Grossey


21 August 2023

Cambridge Hardiman Mysteries #1

My thanks to the author for my copy of this book


After the horrors of war against the forces of Napoleon and the hardships of guarding convicts in Australia, ex-soldier Gregory Hardiman is enjoying the quiet life of an ostler at a Cambridge coaching inn, with only the occasional nightmare to disturb his sleep, and memory of lost loves to disturb his waking hours. But when the inn’s cook is found drowned in the river in the spring of 1825 and his distraught widow pleads for help, Gregory finds himself caught up in the unexpectedly murky world of college life in the town. As fine wines and precious artworks disappear from St Clement’s College, he navigates uneasily between the public world of the coaching inn and the hidden life behind the high walls of the college. And when a new law requires the university to create a cadre of constables, will Gregory take on the challenge?

πŸ“– My Review..

I’ve just spent an enjoyable few days in nineteenth century Cambridge in company with Gregory Hardiman as he goes about his work as the ostler at the Sun Hotel. This is a responsible position, tending to the horses and ensuring that coaches bound for London, and beyond, leave for their journeys on time. Ex-soldier, Hardiman is a conscientious man, consistent in his work and generous with his time and always with an obligation towards those less fortunate than himself. When the body of George Ryder, the Sun Hotel’s cook, is found in the river, Hardiman senses foul play and is determined to find out more. This investigation takes Hardiman deep into the heart of the Cambridge Colleges and to a complex mystery involving, theft, deception and murder.

Beautifully written by an author whose knowledge of Cambridge, and impeccable research, brings this nineteenth century world alive in such a way that place and people bound into life. The story wraps around you with ease and at each step of the mystery a little bit more is revealed, not just about Hardiman, who I am sure we will discover more about as the series progresses, but also about the intricacies of nineteenth century life in a bustling collegiate town. Mysteries and complexities abound, and throughout, stalwart and steadfast, Hardiman goes quietly about his business, methodical in his manner and naturally trustworthy. His easy affability draws people to him and yet there are complexities within him and secrets we have yet to discover.

Villians, rogues, pugilists and academics vie for attention as we are drawn deeper into a complicated crime mystery and a story which entertained from first page to last. I’m already looking forward to spending more time with Gregory Hardiman in future historical crime mysteries.


About the Author





Susan Grossey is the author of the successful Constable Sam Plank series of historical novels set in the early part of the nineteenth century. Ostler is the first novel in the Cambridge Hardiman Mysteries, set in Cambridge in the 1820s and narrated by a university constable called Gregory Hardiman.














Tuesday 17 October 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Puppet Maker by Jenny O'Brien

 

Storm
17 October 2023

Detective Alana Mack #1

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
 and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour


The scrap of paper looked as if it had been torn from a diary. The words written in faint pencil. The letters rounded, almost childlike: Please look after her. Her life and mine depend on you not trying to find me.

When Detective Alana Mack arrives at Clonabee police station, in a small Irish seaside town on the outskirts of Dublin, she doesn't expect to find a distressed two-year-old girl sobbing on the floor. Abandoned in a local supermarket, the child tells them her name is Casey. All Alana and her team have to go on is a crumpled note begging for someone to look after her little girl. This mother doesn't want to be found.

Still recovering from a terrible accident that has left Alana navigating a new life as a wheelchair user, Alana finds herself suddenly responsible for Casey while trying to track down the missing mother and solve another missing person's case… a retired newsagent who has seemingly vanished from his home.

Forced to ask her ex-husband and child psychiatrist Colm for help, through Forensic Art Therapy, Alana discovers that whatever darkness lies behind the black windows in Casey's crayon drawing, the little girl was terrified of the house she lived in.

Then a bag of human remains is found in a bin, and a chilling link is made – the DNA matches Casey's.

Alana and her team must find the body and make the connection with the missing newsagent fast if she is to prevent another life from being taken. But with someone in her department leaking confidential details of the investigation to the media, can Alana set aside her emotional involvement in this case and find Casey’s mother and the killer before it's too late?

Heart-pounding and totally addictive, The Puppet Maker is the first in the Detective Alana Mack series that will have fans of Ann Cleeves, Angela Marsons and LJ Ross racing through the pages late into the night.


πŸ“– My Review..

This first book in the series hits the ground running and introduces a new investigator on the scene, namely Alana Mack, who is a detective in the small Irish seaside town of Clonabee. Alana is still coming to terms with the after effects of an accident which has confined her to a wheelchair. Alana does not see this as a disability and is determined to be unfazed by anything that comes her way but when a missing person case suddenly becomes much more complicated, Alana and her team of detectives are set a difficult challenge to find out just what evil is afoot in this sleepy seaside town.

I thought this was a good thought out mystery which had everything I wanted to find in a psychological thriller. At the centre there’s a genuinely heart breaking story line concerning an abandoned two year girl and as the alternative chapters are narrated by Alana and the girl’s mother we get an interesting perspective on what is happening. Add a series of mysterious disappearances into the mix and pretty soon the story is awash with spills and thrills, twists and turns, all of which kept me guessing and I enjoyed trying to put together all the pieces of this complex puzzle.

As this is the first book in a new series involving Detective Alana Mack, we didn’t get to know absolutely everything about her in this first novel and I enjoy the anticipation of discovering more about the whole investigative team as the series progresses.  The Puppet Maker, whilst quite dark in places, is an enjoyable crime thriller which kept my attention from first page to last.




About the Author



Born in Dublin, Jenny O'Brien moved to Wales and then Guernsey, where she tries to find time to write in between working as a nurse and ferrying around 3 teenagers.

In her spare time she can be found frowning at her wonky cakes and even wonkier breads. You'll be pleased to note she won't be entering Bake-Off. She's also an all-year-round sea swimmer.


Twitter @ScribblerJB #ThePuppetMaker


@StormBooks_co

@rararesources






Thursday 12 October 2023

πŸ“– Publication Day Book Review ~ The Man Who Didn't Burn by Ian Moore

 

Duckworth
12 October 2023

Juge Lomard Mystery #1

My thanks to the publisher and Laura Sherlock PR for my copy of this book



A KILLER. A SAINT. A TOWN FULL OF WHISPERS

When an English expat is brutally murdered, his charred corpse left on a Loire Valley hillside, the police turn to juge d’instruction Matthieu Lombard to find the perpetrator.

Instead, Lombard discovers a wealth of secrets, grudges and feuds in the idyllic town of Saint-GenΓ¨se-sur-Loire. He begins to suspect that the remaining members of the ComitΓ© des FΓͺtes know more about the death than they are letting on.

But rather than towards an arrest, each clue he uncovers seems to point in one, unexpected Joan of Arc. Is the answer to the murder hiding in the barroom gossip of the Lion d’Or? Or in another century altogether?

The thrilling new crime series from The Times -bestselling author of Death and Croissants.


πŸ“– My Review..

Having a crime story set abroad has been interesting as the criminal investigation system is quite different to the UK so although it took me a little while to understand the investigative hierarchy it did give me the opportunity to witness how things are done in France. The story starts with a distressing opening first chapter which sets the scene for an investigation which is about to test those involved to their absolute limits.

Juge Matthieu Lombard is on compassionate leave when he is asked to return to work in order to take the lead in a perplexing murder investigation which sees him back working with Commissaire Guy Aubrey who, as head of the Brigade Anti-Criminalité (BAC), is the first officer at the scene of this brutal murder. That these two men have a shared, and rather complicated, history is obvious which adds an extra layer to the story dynamic. Lombard is an interesting protagonist, definitely a flawed character, with secrets and shadows in his past, he is looked upon with some suspicion by his superiors and known as someone who does things his own way. However, Lombard, with his French/English nationality, is the best choice to investigate why an English ex-pat has been so brutally murdered in the sleepy French town of Saint-Genèse-sur-Loire.

I have enjoyed the slower pace of this investigation and the way the author brings everything to life in a detailed way without ever over-complicating the police procedural parts of the story. The sleepy quiet of the little French town, and the way everyone seems to know each other’s business, is done really well and there’s a distinct French feel to the story, which I enjoyed observing. The intricacies of the investigation seem to be centred around the Joan of Arc legend and this brings an interesting twist to what is, after all, a complex murder mystery.

The Man Who Didn’t Burn is the first in a proposed new crime series and this first book certainly sets the standard high and gets the series off to a good start. I look forward to meeting with Juge Matthieu Lombard again soon.



About the Author

Ian Moore is a leading stand-up comedian and writer, He lives in rural France and commutes back tot he UK every week. In his spare time he makes mean chutneys and jams. He is the author of the best selling Follet Valley series of mysteries,  as well as two memoirs on life in France contrasting with life on the road in the UK, Γ€ la Mod:My so called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France and C'est Modifique: Adventures of an English Grump in Rural France.


Twitter @IanMooreAuthor

@DuckBooks

@LauraSherlock21



Wednesday 11 October 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2024 by Lia Leendertz

 

Gaia / Octopus
31 August 2023

My thanks to the publisher and to Random Things Tours for my copy of the book
and the invitation to the blog tour


The highly anticipated original and bestselling almanac is here, now in its seventh instalment. Reconnect with the seasons in Britain and Ireland with this month-by-month guide to the world around us - including tide tables, sunrises and moon phases; garden feasts, wildlife and folklore; seasonal recipes, snacks and more.

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2024 gives you the tools and inspiration you need to celebrate, mark and appreciate each month of the year in your own particular way.

Divided into the 12 months, a set of tables each month gives it the feel and weight of a traditional almanac, providing practical information that gives access to the outdoors and the seasons, perfect for expeditions, meteor-spotting nights and beach holidays.

This year’s edition focuses on the natural wonders of the garden, celebrating the beautiful flora and fauna at your doorstep. There are also features on each month’s unique nature, plus a flower and a snack of the month.

You will find yourself referring to The Almanac all year long, revisiting it again and again, and looking forward to the next edition as the year draws to a close.


πŸ“– My Review

There's something about an almanac which fascinates me so I was excited to be invited onto this blog tour to share my thoughts about this 2024 edition. The focus of the almanac this year is on the garden, so from Spring to summer, and autumn through to winter, there is an abundance of facts, not just about gardens, but also about nature, folklore and a myriad of facts about everything you never knew you needed to know.

Beautifully compact, and with a gloriously illustrated cover, the almanac is small enough to fit perfectly in your hands and is so tactile that I found myself captivated by the fine attention to even the smallest of details. There's everything you would expect to find in an almanac from the usual dates for your diary, to monthly phases of the moon and how to work out the tide times, however, there are also fascinating snippets of folklore, help with mediation and I especially enjoyed reading the folk songs which end each month on a musical note. All of which sits comfortably against the fascinating facts about gardens, what to plant where, when and at what time, what wildlife to expect to be paying a visit to the garden, there's even a nutritious 'snack of the month' which can be easily made if you like cooking with simple recipes.

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this seasonal guide to 2024, it's beautifully produced, filled with fascinating facts and with lovely little mono line drawings. It will definitely keep me fascinated throughout the year. The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2024 would make a wonderful Christmas present.






About the Author



Lia Leendertz is an award-winning garden and food writer based in Bristol. She writes regularly for the Daily Telegraph, The Garden, Simple Things, the Guardian and Gardens Illustrated. Her reinvention of the traditional rural almanac has become an annual must-have for readers eager to connect with the seasons, appreciate the outdoors and discover ways to mark and celebrate each month.


Find out more about Lia at:


Twitter@lialeendertz #TheAlmanc2024

@OctopusBooks

@RandomTTours










Tuesday 10 October 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Promise Tree by Elisabeth J Hobbes


One More Chapter
6 October 2023

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book
and to Rachel's Random Resources for the invitation to the blog tour


When does a story begin?

For Edwin Hope, it begins with a childhood dare and a forbidden tree. It begins with him falling … in more ways than one.

Called home from his studies by the grandfather who has always hated him, eighteen-year-old Edwin is once again trapped in a house that is colder than the winds whipping across the fields. Seeking sanctuary, he escapes into the untamed beauty of the Peaks and meets a woman who sparks an old memory. A memory of the sycamore that broke him, and the little girl who saved him.

Drusilla has had many acolytes over the centuries but none like Edwin. With the Great War looming and Edwin’s future uncertain, she knows the right thing to do is to set him free from her spell, but can she do so if it means breaking her own heart?


πŸ“– My Review..

Historical fiction, with more than a hint of fantasy, forms the basis for this evocative story which introduces us to Edwin Hope whose early childhood, spent with his taciturn grandfather, was both unhappy and isolating. When Edwin was just seven years old, his grandfather, in a pique of rage, sends Edwin to live with distant relatives in Yorkshire, only to be allowed home when his education is completed. 

We pick up the story when Edwin, aged eighteen, has returned back to the place he once called home, the old resentments still fester and his grandfather is just as uncompromising in his attitude towards Edwin. The only comfort in this place of secrets is Edwin’s fascination for an old sycamore tree and the spiritual connection he feels towards this powerful symbol of nature and the female spirit who lives within its leaves and branches. 

Whilst The Promise Tree has a magical atmosphere there is also a realistic sense of history and I enjoyed how the author worked both into the story, making both elements totally believable. The story is nicely imaginative, with intricate detail so I felt like I was following in Edwin’s footsteps as he struggles to discover who he is and also to connect with his grandfather who only seems to see the worst in him. Covering the momentous years at the turn of the twentieth century, the rather dour nature of Edwin’s life is reiterated when the story takes us from the family owned textile mill in the north of England, to the horror of the battlefields of Europe during the First World War, but running throughout it all is Edwin’s gentle nature, his fascination for the woman he senses in the tree and his determination to put right the sins of the pst and also to finally understand his grandfather’s dislike of him.

Combining magical realism with history is a tricky concept to pull off so all credit to the author for making The Promise Tree such a fascinating story.



About the Author





Elisabeth’s writing career began in 2013 when she entered Harlequin's So You Think You Can Write contest and it turned out she could. She writes romantic Historical fiction as Elisabeth Hobbes and Historical folklore/fantasy inspired romance as Elisabeth J. Hobbes.

She teaches Primary school but would rather write full time because unlike five year olds her characters generally do what she tells them. She spends most of her spare time reading and is a pro at cooking one-handed while holding a book.

She lives in Cheshire because the car broke down there in 1999 and she never left. Elisabeth has two almost grown kids, two cats, two dogs and a husband. The whole family are on the autistic spectrum and that probably includes the pets! She dreams of having a tidy house one day.


Twitter @ElisabethHobbes


@0neMoreChapter

@rararesources




 

Monday 9 October 2023

πŸ“– Blog Tour ~ The Girls of Mersey Square by Pam Howes

Bookouture
5 October 2023
Mersey Square #1

Thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book and the invitation 
to the blog tour


Mersey Square, Stockport, 1959. Jane Wilson’s parents met during the war in the north of England, but Jane is more interested in listening to the new rock music than hearing stories about the Blitz. When she meets handsome drummer Eddie Mellor, with his sparkling blue eyes and cool black leather jacket, she knows her life is about to start.

But Jane’s parents think Eddie’s rebellious ways will lead their beloved daughter into trouble. They forbid her from seeing Eddie, telling Jane to get a proper job as a nurse. But Jane cannot stand the idea of life without the boy she loves and secretly continues to see Eddie. The day she finds out that Eddie has betrayed her, she is utterly distraught. Were her parents right all along?

Jane is desperate to rebuild her life. Her friends rally round to support her and she gets a job at the local music shop she loves, when to her shock, Eddie invites her to his family home and begs her to reconsider. Just as Jane is feeling tempted, someone pounds on the door of the house bringing shocking news that will change both of their lives forever…

Can Jane find happiness with Eddie? And if she does, will her family ever forgive her?


This book was previously published as That’ll Be The Day.


πŸ“– My Review..

The music filled years of the latter years of the 1950s comes to life in this story of a group of young people who are growing up in Stockport. They all desperately want to finish their exams, leave school and enjoy everything that life has to offer them. However, an interest in rock ‘n’ roll music isn’t really enough to forge a future but that doesn’t stop Jane Wilson and her friends, Sammy and Pat, from starting relationships with Eddie, Roy and Tim, three likely lads who hope to make their fortune in the burgeoning music industry.

The author has caught the musical heartbeat of the 1950s very well,  I enjoyed the musical references to the hits of the day especially to Buddy Holly, who Eddie, Roy and Tim do their best to emulate. The heady days of rock ‘n’ roll are particularly well described and I enjoyed looking up some of the hits which are mentioned in the story and could picture these young people as they met up in coffee bars and record stores. I enjoyed being reminded of listening to records in the music booths which could be found then in most record stores. The reference to Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls also made me smile as these quirky sweets have been made in my home town since Victorian times. Well written, with a fine eye for historical detail The Girls of Mersey Square captures the mood perfectly. The author does a great job of describing those difficult teenage years when the pull of sexual attraction and lure of young love is irresistible and shows both the strength, and vulnerability, of all of the characters, particularly Jane and Eddie who I loved from the beginning of the story.

If you enjoy historical novels which are set during the 1950s, and early 1960s, then you won’t be disappointed with this one. It gets the series off to a fine start and I can’t wait to see what happens next to the characters in The Mothers of Mersey Square which is the next book in this lovely series.






*The second book in the Mersey Square series is also available to read now *



The Mothers of Mersey Square


Bookouture

5 October 2023


Mersey Square, Stockport, 1961. Can she love another woman’s child?

Jane Wilson has just got engaged to her childhood sweetheart Eddie. Although they had a rocky start and Jane is haunted by Eddie’s previous relationship, she couldn’t be happier that they’re back together. But before they can get out the bunting and make it down the aisle, Eddie’s first wife is in a terrible car accident. Eddie’s sweet five-year-old son Jonny is left alone, crying for his mother and inconsolable.

Jane resolves that she must do all she can for the innocent little boy. But at only nineteen, is she ready to be a mother, especially to a child who isn’t her own?

As Jane looks after little Jonny whilst Eddie is away for work, she begins to fall for his cheeky smile and sweet nature, but when she develops an old roll of film and sees the photographs of Jonny and his mother, she realises something is terribly wrong. Jane is sure that Jonny’s mother was hiding a terrible secret. Jane now faces a devastating choice: hide the truth from Eddie or reveal what she knows and risk losing the two people she loves most in the world forever…

This book was previously published as Three Steps to Heaven.


πŸ“–My Review..

After finishing The Girls of Mersey Square, the first book in this series, I couldn’t wait to make a start on The Mothers of Mersey Square as I really wanted to find out how Jane, Eddie and the rest of the characters, were getting on with their lives. We pick up the story just a few years later when they are all a little older, and maybe just a little bit wiser, however, as we soon discover, there is much in store for them.

I’ve enjoyed the continuation and found that I could very easily pick up the story where it left off and enjoyed observing how the characters grow in maturity especially when life deals some of them a devastating blow. The dynamics of relationships, both good and bad, is expertly defined as we follow Eddie’s tempestuous relationship with his wife Angie, and Jane’s uneasy relationship with her boyfriend. Fate has a nasty way of intervening and as the story progresses both Eddie and Jane will face many difficult challenges. Time and place comes to life, the small town nosiness, where everyone know’s everyone else’s business and the way the characters all interweave into and out of each other’s lives is done with a fine eye for detail. The music of the early sixties forms a delightful soundtrack to the story and the excitement of those heady days, and vibrancy of the music scene, makes the story all the more enjoyable. Whilst it is possible to read this as a standalone story it does make sense to read from the start of the series in order to enjoy the development of the characters. 

Overall, The Mothers of Mersey Square is a lovely continuation, I’ve certainly enjoyed being back in Stockport, and hope to meet up again with Eddie, Jane, and the rest of the characters in the next book in the series.



About the Author





Pam Howes is a retired interior designer, mum to three daughters, grandma to seven assorted grandchildren and roadie to her musician partner. The inspiration for Pam’s first novel came from her teenage years, working in a record store, and hanging around with musicians who frequented the business. The first novel evolved into a series about a fictional band, The Raiders. She is a fan of sixties music and it’s this love that compelled her to begin writing.




Twitter @PamHowes1 #TheGirlsOfMerseySquare

@bookouture 




Thursday 5 October 2023

πŸ“– National Poetry Day 2023/Book Review ~ Ten Poems of Kindness Volumes One and Two from Candlestick Press



Candlestick
Reissued 2023

Kindness can be an underestimated virtue in our increasingly hectic and impersonal world. It is a word that we use most often in our conversations with young children when we tell them to be kind to a fellow creature or a new friend.

These generous poems remind us that kindness can take many forms and that a kind gesture doesn’t have to be either time-consuming or complicated. On the contrary:


“Sometimes a sober voice is enough
to calm the waters & drive away
the false witnesses,”


from ‘Kindness’ by Yusef Komunyakaa

Edited by Jackie Kay and containing two new poems she has written specially for the anthology, this moving selection is allied to a compelling cause. ‘Felix’s Campaign of Kindness’ was instigated by the mother of Felix Alexander, a 17-year-old boy who took his own life after years of online bullying. The pamphlet is dedicated to the memory of Felix and contains the inspirational open letter written by his mother after his death. 

Jackie Kay is one of the foremost poets writing in Britain today. She has published numerous poetry collections and a memoir, Red Dust Road, about her quest to find her birth parents. She was the third modern Makar, the Scottish Poet Laureate.

Included are two special edition postcards featuring poems by Olga Dermott-Bond and ZoΓ« Green, who were the winners in the Kindness Poem Competition.

Pens by Fleur Adcock,Gwendolyn Brooks, Ian Duhig, Sarah Howe, Jackie Tempest,Yusef Komunyakaa, NormanMaxCaig, Sylvia Plath, Rabindranath Tagore,and Kate Tempest.

Donation to Place2Be.


πŸ“– My Review..

I reviewed this pamphlet back in 2017 when it was first published, my thoughts remain the same, it’s a beautiful collection of poetry. I have especially enjoyed reading the two special edition poems Some Words from my Imaginary Friend, Jeff by Zoe Green and small change by Olga Demott-Bond which reiterate both the gentleness and power of small acts of kindness and encouragement.

The notion that we should always be kind to one another is something which, at times, I am afraid that far too many of us forget. And in the hustle and bustle of today's world we so often leave little time for those random acts of kindness which should always be right at the core of our daily lives.

The Ten poems of Kindness reflect so thoughtfully what it means to be kind...

From the poem Kinder by Jackie Kay which urges us to:

" ...Choose to be kind:
Not duplicitous, not two-faced,
Not passive-aggressive, not dishonest,
Not spiteful, not cowardly anonymous,
Have a good grace..."

To the simple beauty of Yusef Komunyakaa's, Kindness

"...When deeds splay out before us
precious as gold & unused chances
stripped from the whine-bone,
we know the moment kindheartedness
walks in..”

Ten Poems of Kindness reminds us that we should look around us and see what's happening - online bullying is a devastating problem, especially when vulnerable are people are stripped of kindness by cruel and unnecessary words which break and shatter lives.

Lucy Alexander's Open Letter to her son Felix, broke my heart into a million pieces.








This moving anthology of poems about kindness is a second volume which beautifully complements Ten Poems of Kindness Volume One, edited by Jackie Kay.

These ten poems were successful in the Kindness Poem Competition in association with Fair Saturday Foundation, and they offer a rich variety of experiences and reflections.

There’s the memory of a school teacher who didn’t like to cross out his students’ mistakes, and a fleeting encounter with a pigeon which calls forth feelings of empathy for a fellow living creature:


“Be kind, and respect its expectations –
it flew through clouds of jewels to you,
powdered sapphire blue, mists of rubies.”


from ‘Be Kind to Pigeons’ by Paul McDonald


The poems remind us that kindness comes in all shapes and sizes – and is often a gesture so small that it takes a poem to hold and keep its meaning.

Poems by Jane Burn, Jennifer Clark, Michelle Diaz, Louise Greig, HM Truscott, Chitra Kalyani, Paul MacDonald, Phoebe Robertshaw, Ali Rolland and Frances Thompson.

Donation to Place2Be.


πŸ“– My Review ..

There’s something really lovely about reading poetry which reminds us to be kind to one another, something that we so often forget as we rush around in our daily lives. It is the small acts of kindness we remember long after the original giver of that kindness has forgotten what difference it has made to us.

The lovely poem Kindnesses by Ali Rolland captures the essence of being kind:

“ Throw some kindness up into the wind
And watch it flutter down like softening rain…”


The Garden of the Heart by Phoebe Robertshaw is such a lovely poem and made me stop and consider the emotional effect of kindness:


“A kind heart is a garden 
Flourishing with vitality
Carefully sowed with the seeds of benevolence,
Every compliment given
Every door opened
Every stranger smiled at
Spouts as a wand of tight green bud…”

I’ve really enjoyed reading both of these lovely poetry pamphlets and can think of no better day to share them than on National Poetry Day 2023. Both would make a perfect act of kindness to brighten someone’s day  instead of a card..

My thanks to Candlestick Press for my copy of these two beautiful poetry pamphlets.




Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Mountains, Clouds, Walking, Birds, Wine and Happiness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online.



Twitter @poetrycandle