The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks @annecater #blogtour #bookreview #recommended #mustread

I’m beyond delighted to join the blog tour for The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech today! Massive thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my gorgeous (and embossed!) copy and to Anne Cater for inviting me to join the tour!

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Author : Louise Beech
Title : The Lion Tamer Who Lost
Pages : 323
Publisher : Orenda Books
Publication date : September 20, 2018

aboutthebook

Long ago Andrew made a childhood wish. One he has always kept in a silver box with a too-big lid that falls off. When it finally comes true, he wishes it hadn’t…

Long ago Ben dreamed of going to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally goes there, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting where they least expect. Some collisions are by design, but are they for a reason? Ben’s father would disown him for his relationship with Andrew, so they must hide their love. Andrew is determined to make it work, but secrets from his past threaten to ruin everything.

Ben escapes to Zimbabwe to finally fulfil his lifelong ambition. But will he ever return to England? To Andrew? To the truth?

mythoughts

Good grief. I need a minute. Or a lie-down. Or maybe a few stiff drinks to get past this huge lump in my throat.

I don’t really consider myself a particularly emotional person (although I did once cry at a diaper commercial but that’s another story), yet somehow Louise Beech always manages to rip out my heart, stomp all over it and leave me a big, unattractive, blubbering mess.

We first meet Ben in the magnificent surroundings of Zimbabwe, where he’s volunteering at a lion sanctuary. It’s rather obvious from the start that Ben is trying to run away from something or someone but the what or the who is only teasingly revealed  and it took me a while to figure it all out. Back in England, we get to know Andrew. He’s a children’s author with a long outstanding wish. But when his wish comes true, he wishes it hadn’t. I’m not telling you any more than that. You need to just jump into this novel and be completely swept away.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a powerful, tragic and incredibly emotional love story. With realistic and believable characters that almost jump from the pages, I quickly found myself utterly invested in their lives. Their pain was my pain, their tears were my tears, their heartache was my heartache. What an incredible talent Louise Beech has to evoke all these emotions.

This beautifully written tale is not to be raced through or devoured. Every single word on every single page is to be savoured, to be cherished, to be felt deep down into your very core. It’s so hard to explain but it’s just … special. Original, compelling, emotive, exquisite and in case you weren’t able to tell, it left me lost for words but it is a gem of a book I will treasure forever.

This is the fourth book by Louise Beech I’ve read and I can never find the right words (or any words really) to do them any justice. She is the most amazing storyteller and if you’ve not yet read any of her novels, you’re doing yourself an extremely big disservice. Start with this one, work your way back. I promise you will thank me later! In the meantime, I will (im)patiently sit here and await whatever it is Louise Beech comes up with next because I just know it will be special once again.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Louise Beech is an exceptional literary talent, whose debut novel How To Be Brave was a Guardian Readers’ Choice for 2015. The sequel, The Mountain in My Shoe was shortlisted for Not the Booker Prize. Her third book, Maria in the Moon, was widely reviewed and critically acclaimed. Her short fiction has won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting for the Bridport Prize twice.

Louise lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull, and loves her job as a Front of House Usher at Hull Truck Theatre, where her first play was performed in 2012.

Author links : Twitter | Website

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Vox by Christina Dalcher @CVDalcher @HQstories @LilyCapewell #100words #VOX #WeWillNotBeSilenced

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Author : Christina Dalcher
Title : Vox
Pages : 384
Publisher : HQ
Publication date : August 21, 2018 (ebook)

aboutthebook

Silence can be deafening.

Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins.

Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman.

Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write.

For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…

mythoughts

100 words a day. Just sit and think for a minute how that would impact your life.

A life where you walk around with a counter bracelet, ticking down every time you utter a word until you reach your daily limit. Where an electric shock awaits you if you dare speak one word more. You can’t, can you? And things for Jean and all the women in her country are far worse than that. No sign language, no writing notes, no reading. No passports, no jobs, no bank accounts and each and every decision is made by the men.

Men who may not all agree with what’s going on but for various reasons don’t stand up to make a change. Young boys who are growing up in this environment, almost brainwashed to the point where they think this treatment of women is perfectly acceptable. Little girls who aren’t allowed to learn how to read or write, who have never been read a bedtime story and for whom remaining silent all day suddenly seems like a fun competition. And people who don’t fit the mould or break the rules are sent to camps for the rest of their lives.

This incredibly frightening scenario sadly sounds all too believable in this day and age. It made me angry and it saddened me. The whole thing may seem far-fetched and yet, parts of it are extremely plausible. You may think, just like Jean, this will never come to pass but before she and other women realise, there they are. There’s a lesson here. Stand up and make your voice count. Not only vocally but by voting. As the characters in the novel say, the time to act is always now.

This is quite a hard one to review. It evokes a lot of emotions but it’s one of those books you need to read for yourself to get the full impact of immersing yourself into these women’s circumstances and hoping you’ll never find yourself in that position.

Vox is immensely powerful and thought-provoking, leaving me with a massive feeling of claustrophobia and sheer dread. It’s disturbing, more terrifying than any gruesome thriller I’ve ever read or nightmare I’ve ever had. It’ll make you think and get under your skin and like me, I doubt you’ll ever forget it.

My thanks to Lily Capewell at HQ for my review copy!

Vox will be published in ebook format on August 21st.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Goodreads

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by Gina Kirkham @GinaGeeJay @urbanebooks #blogtour #LoveBooksGroupTours

Truly delighted to join the blog tour for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by Gina Kirkham today! My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for the invitation to join and the publisher for my review copy.

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Author : Gina Kirkham
Title : Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Series : Mavis Upton #2
Pages : 320
Publisher : Urbane
Publication date : July 19, 2018

aboutthebook

Our hapless heroine Constable Mavis Upton is preparing to step down the aisle with her fiancé Joe, but has to deal with her temperamental teen daughter, as well as investigate a serial flasher on a push bike. Throw a diva drag queen into the mix and readers can expect the usual hilarious Mavis mishaps that made the first book such a hit. Revel in Gina Kirkham’s humorous, poignant and moving stories of an everyday girl who one day followed a dream.

mythoughts

All hail the return of the fabulous Mavis Upton!

I’ve been desperately waiting for Mavis to return since I flipped the final page of the previous book Handcuffs, Truncheons and A Polyester Thong, and was incredibly looking forward to seeing what she would get up to this time. With hen parties, weddings, donuts, drag queens and hippos, I wasn’t disappointed! You can’t make this stuff up, unless your name is Gina Kirkham obviously and she’s an absolute natural in setting a scene and making me laugh.

Hilarity ensues throughout the story. Yet, it’s not all a laugh-a-minute and there are some incredibly poignant moments that left me with a lump in my throat. One minute I’m laughing my arse off at the various shenanigans, the next I felt myself go all teary-eyed and in need of a tissue. Not only is Mavis dealing with her dad who is suffering from dementia, she’s also fiercely missing her mom. As was I, to be honest, with her wonderful malapropisms and I’m delighted Gina Kirkham managed to squeeze some in there anyway.

Tackling a tough topic like dementia, in what is essentially a comedy novel, is not an easy thing to do. Yet Gina Kirkham has finely tuned the balance between the sad reality and the lighthearted moments. Having personal experience with this cruel disease, I could really appreciate that because that is what it’s like. As a side note, I will never again be able to listen to Lucy in the sky with diamonds without giggling like a lunatic.

There is a truly delightful and colourful cast of characters to keep you entertained, from Mavis’ friends to her colleagues. The banter between the team is such a joy, whether they’re actively mocking someone or using humour as a coping mechanism to deal with some of the things they stumble on while on active duty. Special shout-out to Petey who caused me to snort tea all over my Kindle on more than one occasion.

I’ve loved every minute of catching up with Mavis. No matter how crappy my day is going, she always manages to make me smile. This series is the perfect escapism, wrapped in a slightly quirky but delightful bow. I do so hope there will be more from Mavis! [Did you know she has her own Twitter account?] Hugely entertaining and you should grab yourself a copy and meet her for yourself. We all need a little bit of Mavis in our lives!

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Gina Kirkham was born on the Wirral in the not-so-swinging 50’s. Being the less
adventurous of three children, she remains there to this day.

Trundling a bicycle along a leafy path one wintry day, a lifelong passion to be a police officer gave her simultaneously an epiphany and fond memories of her favourite author Enid Blyton and moments of solving mysteries.

Thus began an enjoyable and fulfilling career with Merseyside Police. On retirement she put pen to paper to write a book based on her experiences as a police officer.

And so Mavis Upton was born…

Author links : Instagram | Twitter | Website

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The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen @wordsofhelen @MichaelJBooks #blogtour

It is such a pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen. My thanks to Jenny Platt at Michael Joseph for the invitation to join and for the wonderful review copy!

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Author : Helen Cullen
Title : The Lost Letters of William Woolf
Pages : 325
Publisher : Michael Joseph
Publication date : July 12, 2018

aboutthebook

Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries: Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning. Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

mythoughts

William Woolf works at the Dead Letters Depot in East London. A place where lost letters and packages are given a second chance to find their rightful owners. One day, William finds a letter simply addressed to “My Great Love”, written by a woman to a soulmate she’s not yet met. Living a life that didn’t quite pan out the way he thought it would and with a marriage that’s seemingly crumbling, William wonders if he might be the soulmate of the letter writer.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf oozes nostalgia. For the days when people took the time to write long and thoughtful letters and sent them all around the world, but also for those carefree times in our lives when it felt like you were on top of the world and everything would magically sort itself out until life and its everyday toils and troubles got in the way.

The letters and packages aren’t the only things that are lost. William is lost as well. It took me a while to warm to William. I felt he was a tad wishy-washy, indecisive and lacking a bit of backbone. Yet, his quest to find Winter is intriguing in that way that we all somehow think the grass is greener on the other side. What would life be like if we’d made other choices or decisions? It’s not just the letters at the Depot that are given a second chance. There is one for William as well but will it be with his wife or with Winter?

This is a very slow-paced novel and I struggle a little with reviewing it. It didn’t quite turn out the way I expected it to. I assumed the story would be about all those lost letters at the Depot with William playing the part of a very different kind of detective than the ones I usually read about. It’s not that I didn’t care about what happened to William but I sometimes felt the focus lay a bit too much on his marriage, whereas I would have quite gladly spent way more time at the Depot reading letters and handing them over to the person they were intended for. Doesn’t this sound like the most wonderful job? There are one or two moments where this happened and they were so delightful that they left me wanting more.

That aside though, this is a wonderfully moving and beautifully written debut novel by Helen Cullen about all sorts of lost communication, love, hope and second chances.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf is available to buy!

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Bookdepository | Kobo | Wordery | Goodreads

abouttheauthor

Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London. She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010. In the UK, Helen established a career as an events and engagement specialist before joining the Google UK marketing team in 2015.

The first draft of her debut novel THE LOST LETTERS OF WILLIAM WOOLF was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.

‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ will be published in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Italy, Greece and Israel.

Helen is now writing full-time and working on her second novel.

Author links : Twitter

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The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise @SpencerWise10 @annecater @noexitpress #blogtour #RandomThingsTours

It’s a real pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for The Emperor of Shoes by Spencer Wise today! My thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my review copy!

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Author : Spencer Wise
Title : The Emperor of Shoes
Pages : 312
Publisher : No Exit Press
Publication date : July 26, 2018

aboutthebook

Alex Cohen, a twenty-six-year-old Jewish Bostonian, is living in southern China, where his father runs their family-owned shoe factory. Alex reluctantly assumes the helm of the company, but as he explores the plant’s vast floors and assembly lines, he comes to a grim realization: employees are exploited, regulatory systems are corrupt and Alex’s own father is engaging in bribes to protect the bottom line. When Alex meets a seamstress named Ivy, his sympathies begin to shift. She is an embedded organizer of a pro-democratic Chinese party, secretly sowing dissonance among her fellow labourers. Will Alex remain loyal to his father and his heritage? Or will the sparks of revolution ignite?

mythoughts

How often do we buy something that says Made in China? When we do, do we stop and wonder about the conditions of the people who made this pair of jeans, this phone in our hand or the shoes on our feet?

At twenty-six years of age, Alex Cohen hasn’t really been questioning these things either, despite the fact his father owns a shoe factory in China. It isn’t until Alex meets Ivy, a seamstress at the factory, that his sympathies begin to shift.

This novel is mainly centred around the relationship between Alex and his father. Alex is fiercely loyal and while he feels changes need to be made somehow, he’s wary of going against everything his father stands for. All he really wants is to make him happy and proud. But Fedor Cohen isn’t a particularly likeable character most of the time. He doesn’t care one iota for his workers, the conditions they work and live in and would like nothing more than to see his son follow in his footsteps. Yet, despite their relationship being quite complicated, it’s also rather wonderful. There’s mutual respect and also a lovely dose of humour.

And then there’s Alex’s relationship with Ivy. Ivy was present at the historical and unforgettable student protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and despite the devastating consequences, her desire for a democratic and better China hasn’t waned. Is she using Alex to push through changes, though?

I must admit I struggled with this novel a little bit at the start and wondered if literary fiction was perhaps a step too far for me. But at some point, things just clicked and I became quite engrossed. This is an incredibly thought-provoking novel that gives immense insight into the social issues that plague China and its population. The injustice and the corruption is really laid bare. But it’s not all doom and gloom as there are some quite funny moments too. Chinese proverbs do not translate well to English, for one, and there’s also an older factory worker who apparently learned the little knowledge of English she has through movies.

With wonderfully vivid descriptions of China and an eye-opening topic, this beautifully written and realistic novel about change in every shape or form is a powerful debut by Spencer Wise and I’m glad, that despite the initial struggle, I persevered.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | BookdepositoryKoboGoodreads

abouttheauthor

Spencer Wise is a graduate of Tufts University and the University of Texas at Austin. He recently won the 2017 Gulf Coast Prize in nonfiction. His work has appeared in Narrative magazine, Hayden’s Ferry Review, the Florida Review, and New Ohio Review. Wise teaches at Florida State University and lives in Tallahassee.

Author links : Twitter

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The Backstreets of Purgatory by Helen Taylor @TaylorHelen_M @unbounders @annecater #blogtour #RandomThingsTours #extract

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Backstreets of Purgatory by Helen Taylor!

Huge apologies to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours and to the author for posting this a day late.

I have an extract to share with you all but first, here is what the book is all about.

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Author : Helen Taylor
Title : The Backstreets of Purgatory
Pages : 496
Publisher : Unbound
Publication date : July 12, 2018

aboutthebook

Finn Garvie’s life is one spectacular mess. He spends most of his time fannying around a makeshift Glasgow studio, failing to paint his degree portfolio, while his girlfriend Lizzi treats him like one of her psychology patients, and his best friend Rob is convinced that the tattoos he designs are the height of artistic achievement.

To top it all, Finn is worried that some stinking bastard is hanging around, spying on him, laughing at his cock-ups and eating his leftover curry. Fortunately, he has plenty of techniques to distract him – tackling the church hall renovations with the help of his alcoholic neighbour; pining after Kassia, the splendidly stroppy au-pair; and re-reading that book on Caravaggio, his all-time hero.

Things take a turn for the strange when he finally encounters the person who’s been bugging him, and it seems to be none other than Caravaggio himself…

extract

Boy Peeling a Fruit

At much the same time as Finn was admiring young Davy’s nude torso at the Art School, across town, in a side street two up from Partick Cross, Tuesday McLaughlin was attempting to gain entry to a tattoo parlour that was owned by Finn’s best mate. The shop belonged to Rob Stevenson, a detail to which Tuesday was, for the moment, happily oblivious, intent as she was on finding a lawful way into the premises. The trouble was, from where she was standing, it didn’t look too promising. The sign quite clearly stated the place was open for another hour, but it was closed, no ques- tion. For about the seventh time, Tuesday rattled the locked door and, when it still wouldn’t open, shoved her face up against the window.

The shop was full of stuff she’d have been happy to offload given different circumstances: shelves lined with old medicine bottles and volumes of faded red and green hardbacks; a round mirror speckled with  age that would definitely make good money down the antique market; and, on the counter, gleaming under the protection of a fingerprint-free glass case, a set of brass weighing scales of a quality any dealer would happily pawn their weans for. But, as far as Tuesday could make out, if you were talking actual living breathing life, there was less than what you’d find in your average coffin-dodgers’ coach trip. The only hope of someone who might be able to do the business was the limp skeleton hanging from a scaffold by a screw in its baldy head who appeared to be guarding the till, or the baby alligator perched on top of the stationery cupboard with glassy eyes and a stupid grin on its face. Strictly, Tuesday knew she couldn’t complain if the shop was dead – it was the whole morbid thing it had going on that had made her choose it in the first place – but, frankly, if the sign said open, it should bloody well be open.

Frustrated, she rattled the door again. The lock was pretty flimsy, barely holding. If she still had her old ways about her, she might have considered it worth booting the door in and having a run-in with the skinny bloke at the till, if only for the scrap metal value of the chemical balance. Instead, as she left, she gave the door a half-hearted kick for old times’ sake, and immediately regretted it when she stubbed her middle toe. Once the numbness had passed, it started throbbing like a tadger.

She was hopping on the white line halfway across the main road, waiting for a break in the traffic, when she heard a shout.

‘Hey, missus.’ Rob was waving to her from under a streetlight at the corner of the side street. A big bloke with a shaved head and tats on his face was Tuesday’s take. Nobody she knew. Although with his steel toecaps and pumped-up muscles, she clocked him for the type who reckoned he was hard.

‘Aye, you with the skinny pins. Are you coming in or what?’

Rush-hour traffic was passing either side, coughing out blue exhaust fumes around her. Tuesday shook her head. She’d lost the motivation. The shut-up shop had floored her. Whatever the opposite of psyched-up, that was her. Psyched-down or something. It would be easier to dis- appear into the going-home crowd.

‘Nah, you missed your chance, doll.’

Mind made up, Tuesday waved Rob off, but before she managed to dive through the oncoming traffic, a black BMW came speeding up the main road. The driver was playing with his mobile, steering one-handed, swerving all over the place. For a second, Tuesday swithered on the mid- line, too late to make the dash. She couldn’t believe it. He was practically on top of her and he hadn’t seen a bone in her body. Fuck that. She wasn’t having it. She held her ground and pumped her bunched fist from her forehead. Dickhead. The car missed her by a sliver. The driver beeped, leaving his hand on the klax – a wanker’s lesson in road safety – and, as the car passed, the sound dropped a semi- tone and faded into the traffic hum.

‘You okay?’

‘Aye, fucking peachy,’ Tuesday said, even though she wasn’t. It did her head in, these fancy tossers who thought they were entitled to make her invisible because they lived inside their fuel-injection, leather-trimmed lives. But even though the near-miss had left her shaky, there was no way she was admitting as much to a bloke who wore his denims that tight.

‘Come on. I’ve put the kettle on.’

Tuesday pulled a face and crossed back over, following Rob past the overflowing bins in the darkened side street. At the shop, he waited for her, holding open the door.

‘Milk and three sugars,’ Tuesday said, as rudely as she could. She may have been quarter his size but it didn’t mean she wasn’t capable of opening a door. Not that she was one of those feminist nut-jobs who got offended by basic man- ners, but this chivalry business annoyed the tits off her. In normal life, the only time a man held open a door for her was when the door in question was attached to a police van.

She was still working out how best to slag him off when Rob bowed elaborately and offered her his arm. ‘Would the young lady care to enter my humble premises?’

Tuesday shoved his arm out of the way and pushed past him. ‘If you don’t mind me saying, pal, that’s no fucking normal.’

He laughed and followed her in.

Close up the shop looked even better than it had through the window. Tuesday glanced around, taking it all in. Pretty phenomenal. Without intending to, she let out a low whis- tle. Front of house, a computer and music speakers were the only evidence of the twenty-first century. Otherwise, the place was entirely kitted out as a Victorian consulting room, complete with microscopes, anatomy charts and pickled specimens. There was a waiting area under the window lit with pretend oil lamps, a travelling trunk in place of a table, and through the half-open door at the back of the shop, she could have sworn it was a full-on operating theatre walled by the industrial white glazed tiles familiar from the back courts of warehouses and workshops all around the city.

‘Some place,’ she said, unzipping her puffer jacket. ‘Lots of bottles.’

‘Indeed,’ Rob said. ‘As you can see, we have products to meet your every requirement. From the benign’ – he indi- cated a tin of Beecham’s Pills, another of Allenburys Throat Pastilles – ‘to – I hesitate to say ridiculous – let’s say safe-in- the-correct-hands . . .’ His hand swept past thick bottles with ground-glass stoppers and peeling labels. Tuesday had to strain to read names. Aquae camphorae, saltpetre.

‘. . . to the outright-hazardous-to-human-health.’ Mercurous chloride, belladonna.

‘Are thae ones poison too?’ Arsenic, she knew.

He frowned. ‘Well spotted. I’m probably meant to keep them behind bars. I ought to find out.’

‘Aye, you ought to,’ Tuesday sneered. He was doing that thing they did at the day centre. Feigning idiocy to get down to your level.

After a microsecond of hesitation, Rob finished his tour. ‘Finally, the favourite of poets and physicians alike . . .’ He made it sound like a big pronouncement, a fanfare, like Tuesday would guess what was coming before he said it.

‘Eh?’

‘Laudanum.’

Tuesday gawped as blankly as her irritation would allow. ‘Opium for the upper class,’ Rob clarified.

In response, Tuesday flashed him a look of contempt and pointed out that the bottle was empty.

He grinned at her inanely. ‘Aye, well at least I cannae get done for possession.’

The line of chat was boring her already, so to liven things up she asked why Rob had pickled his dick. Puzzled, he glanced over to see what she was talking about. ‘You mean the eel? I bought it in a supermarket in France when I bought the calf’s brain.’ He nodded at a jellied mushroom  in a jar. ‘It’s amazing what you can buy in the pre-packed aisle over there.’

‘I’ll take your word for it.’ In the last few years, the fur- thest Tuesday had been from Partick was the Underground station at Govan.

‘I’m no sure, though, that bunging it in neat formalde- hyde will stop it rotting.’ Rob lifted the specimen jar off the shelf and wiped the dust on its shoulders with a cloth from under the desk. The liquid around the jelly brain was snot- thick. ‘Maybe I should’ve consulted a taxidermist.’

‘Aye, mebbe you should’ve,’ Tuesday said, and wandered over to the travelling trunk to pick up one of the folders scattered on it.

‘I’m thinking about a tattoo,’ she said finally. ‘Well, you’ve come to the right place.’

Riled, she spun round, ready to match whatever aggro came her way. But straight off she registered Rob wasn’t taking the piss. He was nervous, she realised. She was making him nervous. She was beginning to wonder if, in fact, she had come to the right place.

Casually, she flicked through the folder. ‘These all yours?’ ‘Indeed. By my own dark hand.’ He did a weird thing with his fingers. ‘No kidding.’

‘Aye. Rule number one. Original artwork only.’ ‘No bad.’

‘Thanks.’ Under his tattoos, Rob blushed. Tuesday snig- gered. How awkward. The bloke clearly fancied himself as an artist. In what even to her was obvious as an abysmal effort to gloss past, Rob took the folder and opened the inside cover. The price list was stuck to the plastic. ‘It’s by the hour. A wee one will take an hour, max hour and a half. Big ones can take anything up to five or six. Longer for colour.’

Tuesday nodded. It was pricier than she had anticipated. ‘When can we start?’

‘Rule number two. First appointments strictly consults only. Don’t want to jeopardise my stats.’

She just looked at him. He laughed. Nervously.

‘My cadaver rate. It’s exceptionally low. If I don’t think someone’s up to it, I scare them off deliberately.’

‘Cadaver rate?’

‘You know, the jessies who take a whitey at the sight of a needle.’

‘Right.’

‘Talking of cadavers and the like, did you meet Lister?’ ‘The skelly? Aye.’ Tuesday didn’t like the way Rob was looking at her, kind of squinty-eyed and troubled, even as he held out the skeleton’s bony hand to shake hers. Sud- denly, she panicked that he was going to refuse her.

But all he said was, ‘We  know each other,  right?’

Tuesday breathed a sigh of relief. ‘To be honest, doll, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen you before in my puff.’ She would have remembered. He had near enough a menagerie swimming, running, crawling around his neck, up his jaw, on to his cheek. ‘It’d be hard to forget a face like that.’

‘Fair point,’ he said. ‘I’m Rob, by the way. Short for Robin. But you knew that already, I take it, or you wouldna’ve come in fancy dress.’

She laughed. ‘Fuck off.’ The funny thing was, he wasn’t that far off. The red puffer jacket had been her latest Oxfam steal and the leggings belonged to the Somali lassie who did the cleaning in the B&B and who changed into her work overalls in the reception toilets. The boots were her own. Discount sheepskin, tide-marked and losing their glue.

‘What I usually do is give the client a tour of the treat- ment room, get them to read over the health questionnaire and consent form, and then we work up some designs together. Gie’s two secs to finish the autoclave check and we can get on to it. Don’t let anyone else in.’ Rob locked the front door. Before he disappeared through the back, he gawked at her again. ‘I swear I know you. Those cheek- bones. Unmistakable. You could chib someone.’

Tuesday chucked the folder back on to the trunk. There was something majorly warped, she reckoned – something your mother probably would have warned you against if she hadn’t been a junkie waste of space with not a drop of maternal instinct – about being locked in a shop full of poison with a guy six foot four and built like a brick shit- house. But if anyone was crapping it, it certainly wasn’t her. While Rob sorted whatever it was he had to do through the back, Tuesday decided to make herself comfy. The choice of seating was laid out in front of her like the kind of cheap personality test they were keen on at the clinic. The window seat padded with charcoal velvet cushions was obviously the easy option. Beside that, there was an antique oak and leather study chair which had the air of being the boss’s and which she reckoned it would be sensible to avoid if Rob was the one inflicting the pain later, or an old- fashioned wicker and wooden invalid’s chair with foldable foot rests and a stick to steer it. She chose the wheelchair.

No contest.

Rob came back a few minutes later with his desk diary. ‘Okay, what are we looking at? See anything you like?’

Tuesday flattened a scrap of paper she’d pulled from her coat pocket and handed it over. Rob studied it.

‘Ah, the midge. Diminutive scourge of the Highlands and unwitting accomplice of the nationalists. The few foolhardy tourists who brave the badlands rarely repeat their mistake. Nectar running in their English blood, I reckon. Unlike the acerbic locals.’

Tuesday rolled her eyes. ‘You’re a freak, doll. D’you know that?’

‘All your own work?’

‘What gave it away?’ She’d torn it from a textbook in the nature section in the library.

‘Only I usually—’

‘You gonnae do it or what?’

‘The thing is . . . okay, maybe this once, but don’t let on to the masses. Where d’you want it?’

Tuesday scrabbled to pull off her coat and pushed up the sleeve of her sweatshirt. ‘Here.’

Livid tracks radiated up her arm from the scarred veins at the crook of her elbow. She stared at him, daring him to challenge her. To her surprise, he didn’t flinch.

He opened the diary. ‘What about next week? Early Monday?’

‘Listen, doll,’ she said, ‘I’m no being funny, but I’m here now.’

Rob stroked his chin. ‘True enough. Still an hour or two to torture before beer time.’ He pulled out a printed sheet from the back of the binder and passed it to her. ‘Is there anything I should know?’

The whole time she studied the form – following the words with her fingertip, mouthing them silently – she could feel Rob’s eyes on her. When she reached the bottom of the page, she flung it back to him. ‘I’m no HIV, if that’s what you’re on about.’

‘Fair enough. Sign here.’

She scribbled her signature. He twisted his neck to read  it upside down.

‘Tuesday. Tuesday McLaughlin.’ He was grinning, laugh- ing, rubbing the back of his shaved head in surprise. ‘I was right. I do know you. It’s me. Rob Stevenson. I . . . we . . . were in your class at primary. Jed – Gerrard – my brother. Twins. Remember? Athletics club in secondary. We used to pal around together. Bloody hell. I cannae believe it. Tuesday McLaughlin.’

It was pretty astounding how quickly a perfectly reason- able idea could take on a hideous new shape. ‘You know what?’ Tuesday said, scrambling to her feet. ‘Something came up.’ The consent form fluttered to the floor.

‘Hey, hey. You’re no going, are you? Don’t go. Hey.

Come on.’

But there was no way she was hanging about. She snatched up her coat and hurdled the travelling trunk.

‘I wouldna’ve had you down for bottling it.’

‘Fuck off,’ Tuesday said, jiggling the key in the lock. ‘I’m no bottling it.’

‘If you say so.’

‘Aye, I fucking say so.’ She was pissed off now.

Rob unlocked the door and stepped outside. He was chuckling to himself.

‘What’s so funny?’ Tuesday could smell fireworks and burning Catholics on the winter air.

‘I was terrified of you when I was a nipper.’

‘So you should’ve been. You and your brother? Soft as.’ Even in primary, Tuesday was harder than the twins. And wilder. By the time they were teenagers, she was already pretty much a legend, her name earnt by the inability ever to make it to school on the first day of the week. While Rob and his brother and their mates spent their Saturday nights innocently getting bevved on Tennent’s lager (and leching over the less-than-appetising Lager Lovelies that decorated the tins in those medieval times), Tuesday was moving in altogether different circles, getting spannered on acid and vodka in weekend binges that lasted beyond Sunday and put to shame even the Jimmy-Choo-and-fake-tan brigade that hung out those days at the Arches and had slag fights in the street overlooked by police who’d been advised not to inter- vene unless they were wearing stab vests.

Rob grinned at her. ‘What do you say? Mates’ rates?’

She shrugged and went back in, making out like she was doing him a favour. He offered her whisky from his special stock through the back, but she went for tea, loading it with sugar from sachets that had come from the café up the road and, as there was no sign of a spoon, stirred it with the top end of the Biro she’d used to sign the form. Once she was settled back in the wheelchair, she blew on her tea, watching Rob over the top of the mug. He was peeling an apple with an army knife. The peel unravelled in a single spiral.

‘Are you some kinda weirdo health freak, by the way?’ ‘Aye,’ Rob said mildly, dangling the peel into his mouth. ‘Still into all that fitness malarkey?’

‘Aye.’ He cut slices from the apple. Ate them off the knife blade. ‘Yourself?’

‘Don’t be fucking stupid.’

The running club was probably the last place they had seen each other. Tuesday’s one and only attempt at a legitim- ate extra-curricular activity. In the winter, they’d run the laughably named cross-country through the schemes round Knightswood and the Drum, getting abuse from the local kids who were after their Adidas three stripes and cagoules. And in the summer, endless laps round the playing field while Campbell Spence sat in his camping chair, feet up on his cold box, thumb on his stopwatch.

‘Cannon Balls Spence, remember him?’ Rob said, reading her mind. ‘He had a thing for you.’

‘Course he did. I was the  talent.’

‘Whatever happened to Tuesday McLaughlin?’ he said, starting on a second apple. ‘You left the party early, did you no?’

‘Like anyone gave a fuck.’

Tuesday sipped her tea. Rob crunched on his apple slices.

The wicker chair squeaked underneath her.

‘Gie’s a break,’ Rob said eventually. ‘Twenty years is a lifetime ago.’

‘Eighteen,’ Tuesday said. She’d been counting.

‘Eighteen, eh? You’ve no changed.’

Tuesday bit the edge of her mug. The soft git probably meant it as a compliment. ‘Cannae say the same about you, Slimster. What’s the story? Anything new? Girlfriend? Boy- friend?’

Lister jiggled almost imperceptibly in the air current. Tuesday could feel the dust settling on the poison bottles, the calf brain decomposing in its tank. The baby gator gave a rictus grin.

‘Nah, nothing to speak of,’ Rob said sheepishly. ‘So, are we gonnae do this thing or what?

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If this extract has tickled your fancy, then you can go grab yourself a copy of The Backstreets of Purgatory right now!

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abouttheauthor

Helen Taylor is a writer living in France. The Backstreets of Purgatory is her first book.

Author link : Twitter

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Meeting Lydia by Linda MacDonald @LindaMac1 @matadorbooks @annecater #blogtour #RandomThingsTours

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Meeting Lydia by Linda MacDonald! My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join and to the publisher for my review copy!

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Author : Linda MacDonald
Title : Meeting Lydia
Pages : 321
Publisher : Matador
Publication date : March 22, 2018

aboutthebook

When Marianne comes home from work one day to find her husband talking to a glamorous woman in the kitchen, insecurities resurface from a time when she was bullied at school. Jealousy rears its head and her marriage begins to fall apart. Desperate for a solution, she finds herself trying to track down her first schoolgirl crush: Edward Harvey. Even thinking his name made her tingle with half-remembered childlike giddiness. Edward Harvey, the only one from Brocklebank to whom she might write if she found him.

mythoughts

Meeting Lydia is a thought-provoking and sometimes moving account about relationships and growing old(er). At an age where you’re supposed to have it all figured out, insecurities crop up. Never mind a grey hair or two, what’s with all these wrinkles and saggy bits? Not helped by the fact that you feel time is running out. Is your life all you thought it would be? What happened to your ambitions and dreams? What if you’d done this or said that when you were younger? Would your life have been different?

Marianne’s concerns and feelings are undoubtedly familiar to quite a few of us. She was bullied quite severely as a young child, an experience that still affects her to this day. So when she returns home one day and finds her husband, Johnny, in the kitchen talking to a glamorous colleague, all her old insecurities resurface. Is she not beautiful or sexy enough anymore? Jealousy rears its ugly head and while Marianne is also forced to deal with the dreaded menopause, her marriage begins to fall apart.

In her time of need, Marianne turns to an old classmate. A boy she used to have a crush on, one who didn’t bully her. It is in talking to him and facing her past that she and her husband may still have a future together. I must say that this correspondence didn’t quite turn out the way I expected it to and while it is explained why Marianne decides to turn to this person, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that. The more interesting conversations are the ones Marianne has in her head, where she talks about things she doesn’t communicate in person.

Meeting Lydia covers a variety of interesting topics. From relationships both in “real life” and online, to menopause, to bullying and its effects. It explores human behaviour, not just through Marianne’s life but also through the psychology lessons she teaches her students. You’d think Marianne would follow her own advice but as they say “those who can’t do, teach”, I suppose.

Relationships take work and communication is key. Nobody is a mind-reader and that’s probably for the best. But in this case, I’d say Marianne’s struggles put a strain on her marriage that could possibly have been avoided if she’d known how to talk about and tackle her feelings. Will she be able to find some self-confidence and stand up for herself? Can her marriage be saved? And who is this Lydia? You’ll have to find out for yourself when you read this honest, realistic and relatable story about how the past and unresolved issues can affect your future, no matter how old you are.

Meeting Lydia is available to buy!

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abouttheauthor

Linda MacDonald was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria. She was educated at the local grammar school and later at Goldsmiths’, University of London where she studied for a BA in psychology and then a PGCE in biology and science. She taught in a secondary school in Croydon for eleven years before taking some time out to write and paint. In 1990 she returned to teaching at a sixth form college in south-east London where she taught psychology. For over twenty-five years she was also a visiting tutor in the psychology department at Goldsmiths’. She has now given up teaching to focus fully on writing.

Author link : Twitter

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That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina @Bookollective #blogtour

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for That Summer in Puglia by Valeria Vescina! My thanks to the publisher for my review copy and to Aimee at Bookollective for the invitation to join the tour!

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Author : Valeria Vescina
Title : That Summer in Puglia
Pages : 303
Publisher : Eyewear Publishing
Publication date : March 12, 2018

aboutthebook

Tommaso has escaped discovery for thirty years but a young private investigator, Will, has tracked him down. Tommaso asks him to pretend never to have found him. To persuade Will, Tommaso recounts the story of his life and his great love. In the process, he comes to recognise his true role in the events which unfolded, and the legacy of unresolved grief. Now he’s being presented with a second chance – but is he ready to pay the price it exacts?

mythoughts

Thirty years ago, Tomasso left Italy for England. He’s been living under the radar ever since, not wanting anyone to know where he is. But now, a young private investigator has tracked him down. Tomasso asks him not to divulge his whereabouts to anyone but in order to convince the private investigator, he’ll need to tell the story of his life and the reasons he left his home.

Most of the events are set in 1980’s Italy and the author really brings that setting to life. I could see myself sitting on a bench in the Piazza, smell the espresso in the air while watching the villagers go about their daily lives, disappearing into narrow alleys. Tomasso’s parents are property developers and they live in a villa outside the village, with glorious views all around. Again, the beautiful descriptions transported me straight there, from the olive trees to the scent of the flowers.

That summer, Tomasso meets Anna and they fall in love. This will set in motion a sequence of events that will affect Tomasso for years to come. At its heart, That Summer in Puglia is a love story but it’s so much more than that. It is a relatable character study full of complexities that oozes atmosphere.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. The way we react to certain things in the heat of the moment can have a huge effect. It isn’t until later on, that we maybe think “I could have” or “I shouldn’t have”. As a nineteen year old boy, Tomasso makes some dubious decisions based on very little but sheer perception. Did he make the right choices? That’s up to you to find out when you read this novel.

With beautiful descriptions and well-developed rich characters, Valeria Vescina takes us on a moving journey through Tomasso’s life. That Summer in Puglia is a brilliantly written, poignant, thought-provoking character-driven story about young love, loss, grief, family and second chances. An absolutely wonderful debut by Valeria Vescina.

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abouttheauthor

Valeria Vescina is an author, reviewer and creative writing tutor.  She’s from Puglia (Italy), was educated in Switzerland and the UK, and has lived for years in London.  After a successful career in management, she gained an MA in Creative & Life Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Her first novel, That Summer in Puglia (Eyewear Publishing), had its debut at the FTWeekend Oxford Literary Festival 2018

Author links : Twitter | Website

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Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson @DoubledayUK @annecater #blogtour #RandomThingsTours

Good morning and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Meet Me At The Museum by Anne Youngson. My thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation to join the tour and to the publisher for my review copy!

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Author : Anne Youngson
Title : Meet Me At The Museum
Pages : 224
Publisher : Doubleday / Transworld Digital
Publication date : May 17, 2018

aboutthebook

Sometimes it takes a stranger to really know who you are

When Tina Hopgood writes a letter of regret to a man she has never met, she doesn’t expect a reply.

When Anders Larsen, a lonely museum curator, answers it, nor does he.

They’re both searching for something, they just don’t know it yet.

Anders has lost his wife, along with his hopes and dreams for the future. Tina is trapped in a marriage she doesn’t remember choosing.

Slowly their correspondence blossoms as they bare their souls to each other with stories of joy, anguish and discovery. But then Tina’s letters suddenly cease, and Anders is thrown into despair.

Can their unexpected friendship survive?

mythoughts

The story of Meet Me At The Museum starts when Tina Hopgood emails a professor at a museum in Denmark. She and her best friend have always wanted to visit the museum to view an archeological discovery that has held their interest. But now Tina’s friend has died and Tina regrets never having made the journey.

She doesn’t expect a reply and as it turns out the professor she tried to contact has long since died himself. But her letter is picked up by Anders Larsen, the current curator.  What starts as talk about archeology, over time develops into a deep and fulfilling friendship.

Both Anders and Tina are incredibly lonely. Anders lost his wife of thirty years, although he’s not quite sure he ever truly had her in the first place. His two children live quite far from him and all he has is his work. Tina is a farmer’s wife. She has a husband, three children and a few grandchildren. And yet, she feels lonely too. This isn’t exactly the life she chose for herself. She was thrust into it and she wonders what her life would have been like if she’d been able to make another decision.

Meet Me At The Museum is entirely written in letters between Tina and Anders. The topics vary from archeology, to every day life and as their friendship deepens, they find themselves revealing things they haven’t even discussed with those closest to them. Ultimately, life will change for both of them. For instance, Tina’s letters encourage Anders to look around himself more, to appreciate nature and to let go of certain things. I quite liked Anders and sympathised with him. I found Tina, on the other hand, a little harder to connect to. While I could understand her situation, her indecisiveness got to me sometimes.

This is a beautifully written and moving story about an unlikely friendship, about how someone you’ve never met and may never meet knows you better than the people around you, about how it’s never too late to make a change. I found the concept of the correspondence a little hard to get into at first but once I got to grips with it and the characters’ personalities began to shine through, it ended up being rather enthralling and captivating. Tina and Anders will capture your heart and you will root for them all the way. A very accomplished debut by Anne Youngson.

Meet Me At The Museum will be published tomorrow!

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abouttheauthor

ANNE YOUNGSON worked for many years in senior management in the car industry before embarking on a creative career as a writer. She has supported many charities in governance roles, including Chair of the Writers in Prison Network, which provided residencies in prisons for writers. She lives in Oxfordshire and is married with two children and three grandchildren to date. MEET ME AT THE MUSEUM is her debut novel, which is due to be published around the world.

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The Night of the Party by Rachael English @EnglishRachael @HachetteIre

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Author : Rachael English
Title : The Night of the Party
Pages : 393
Publisher : Hachette Ireland
Publication Day : May 3, 2018

aboutthebook

January 1982: In the village of Kilmitten, the Crossan family are holding their annual party during the biggest snowstorm Ireland has seen in decades. By the end of the night, the parish priest, Father Leo Galvin, is dead.

The lives of four teenagers – Tom, Conor, Tess and Nina – who had been drinking beer and smoking in a shed at the back of the house, will never be the same. But one of them carries a secret from that night that he has never shared.

The friends go on to lead very different, separate lives – some quiet, others in the media spotlight – but the four remain connected by what happened during the time of the big snow.

As the thirty-fifth anniversary of Father Galvin’s murder approaches, Conor, now a senior police officer, becomes obsessed with the crime his father failed to solve. He believes that Tom can help identify Father Galvin’s killer. But does Tom wish to break his silence?

His dilemma draws the four friends back together, forcing them to question their lives and to confront their differences. But only Tom can decide whether Kilmitten’s secret will finally be revealed.

mythoughts

I absolutely loved Rachael English’s previous novel, The American Girl. So much so, that I was never quite able to put it into words and the review remained unwritten. Since then, I sat eagerly awaiting the author’s next offering and it sure was worth the wait. The Night of the Party and its various characters had me completely enthralled.

The story begins in 1982 when Tom’s parents throw their annual January party during a massive snowstorm. By the end of the night the parish priest, Father Leo Galvin, is dead. The lives of Tom and his friends, and the other villagers, will never quite be the same again. Kilmitten is a quiet village, where nothing ever happens and the priest’s death rocks this little community to its very core. It will take thirty-five years for this mystery to be solved and the story follows Tom, Conor, Tess and Nina throughout the decades. As Tom and his friends go on with their lives, the mystery surrounding Father Leo’s death remains with them. Some won’t rest until it is is solved, others wish the whole thing would just go away.

I was a teenager in the 80’s myself and so I truly enjoy stories set in that era. Despite the fact they make me feel rather ancient. The mention of certain bands or items of clothing is enough to turn me into a gigantic puddle of nostalgic goo. The struggles Tom and his friends go through felt quite relatable. There’s always that one friend who seems to have everything together and knows exactly what to do with their life. And there’s the one who doesn’t have a clue, who drifts from course to course, from job to job and hopes some day they’ll figure it out. (That was me, in case you wondered. Still haven’t figure it out 😉)

As an avid crime fiction reader, you’d think I’d be all about trying to solve the case of Father Leo’s death. While I admit it was always in the back of my mind, I actually found myself utterly absorbed by the lives of Tom and his friends. Their careers, or lack thereof, their relationships, families, hopes and dreams, lost loves and grief … it was all brilliantly engaging and I cared about these characters, rooted for them, urged them on and sometimes felt sorry for them as well.

Set in the lovely surroundings of Ireland, this beautifully written tale kept me engrossed from start to finish. The Night of the Party is a truly wonderful story about friendship, secrets and life in a small community with characters I began to miss as soon as I turned the final page. The journey through the decades really highlights the differences in the way lives were led, beliefs and thoughts changed, albeit it a slower pace in a village like Kilmitten. This is a captivating and enchanting story that wormed its way into my heart and I very much look forward to whatever is next from Rachael English.

My thanks to Rachael English for my stunning copy!

The Night of the Party is available for purchase.

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