Two Blankets Three Sheets Blog Tour

Amsterdam Airport, 1998. 

Samir Karim steps off a plane from Vietnam, flushes his fake passport down the toilet, and requests asylum. 
Fleeing Iraq to avoid conscription into Saddam Hussein’s army, he has spent seven years anonymously wandering through Asia. 
Now, safely in the heart of Europe, he is sent to an asylum center and assigned a bed in a shared dorm—where he will spend the next nine years. 
As he navigates his way around the absurdities of Dutch bureaucracy, Samir tries his best to get along with his 500 new housemates. 
Told with compassion and a unique sense of humor, this is an inspiring tale of survival, a close-up view of the hidden world of refugees and human smugglers, and a sobering reflection of our times.
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This book is utterly gripping and very hard to describe as it’s so unique. The fact that it’s fictional fact – or fact based fiction kept me totally engrossed as I felt wholly drawn into this tale of asylum seekers that does not shy away from some harsh truths about the world that we live in 

 

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“The narrator of the book is not me. It is someone I’ve called Samir Karim. This way I can still be the writer, and not the main character. People might ask me if this is my story, to which I will say: no. But if I am asked if this is also my story, then I will say wholeheartedly: yes.”

Two Blankets, Three Sheets gets its name from the list of items that gets issued to every asylum seeker – two blankets, three sheets, a towel, a pillow and a pillowcase – and these things were the sum total of everything Samir owned while living in the centre

This is a semi-autobiographical novel  by Rodaan Al Galidi, whose own experiences mirror some of Samir’s exactly , but this moving and affective book also vividly depicts the stories of the other asylum seekers he encountered in his own journey to safety in the Netherlands.

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It explores these stories whether they were pure of motive or not – and this is one of the most fascinating aspects of this book – it does not merely seek to show all asylum seekers bathed in a golden light. It is a warts-and-all story of the many kinds of people who give up everything and set off in search of a new life – and you will find all human life here.

It is a tale of what it is to be a refugee which will make you think and blends humour with pathos extremely skilfully in order to bring all the highs and lows of their experiences – and some of these experiences are very low indeed.

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It was incredible to lose myself in such an unusual and thought provoking  tale which definitely gave me a new insight into the truth about asylum in all its manifestations – I think it’s so important to get a change of genre every now and then and this winter,  I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and gothic reads.  It’s funny that I get drawn to books in waves, and after reading Two Blankets, Three Sheets  I’m now on a real Non-Fiction mission and have been drawn to more political and controversial reads –  which is pushing me right outside my reading comfort zone…

The hugely contrasting characters and their vividly-depicted journeys allowed me to travel through their experiences right there alongside them through its pages.  I really loved the way that Rodaan Al Galidi draws the reader in and keeps them connected with the characters’  journeys through love, despair and a sense of resignation as we see the way that being stateless affects everyone differently and the uncertainty and despair can wear even the most determined and focussed individuals down.

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I loved the juxtaposition of the individual stories as they interweave and coincide through their differing experiences. This was the perfect January read – and got my year off to a more thought-provoking start.  If you love an unusual and inspiring read with plenty of resonant and compelling characters then you’ll love it as much as I did.

 

I absolutely loved this book and enjoyed the fact that this freezing bout of weather meant that I could really dedicate some serious hours of reading to it.  I enjoyed the feeling of being immersed in his world where humour and despair rub shoulders and you’re never far from another bleak realisation about the way our world is going, even though it might be portrayed through dark humour and going where other writers might not dare.

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Treat yourself to Two Blankets, Three Sheets on Amazon right now!

 

Writer On The Shelf

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RODAAN AL GALIDI is a poet and writer. Born in Iraq and trained as a civil engineer, he has lived in the Netherlands since 1998. As an undocumented asylum seeker he did not have the right to attend language classes, so he taught himself to read and write Dutch. His novel De autist en de postduif (‘The Autist and the Carrier Pigeon’) won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2011—the same year he failed his Dutch citizenship course. Two Blankets, Three Sheets, already a bestseller in the Netherlands, is his most successful novel to date.

“In all its tragedy of miscommunication, loss of identity and meaning of life, humiliations and incapacity to truly connect, it is also a very light and humorous book.” Literair Nederland

“A challenging portrait of Dutch hospitality. Absolutely recommended.” The Correspondent

“You can write emails about refugees until you’re blue in the face, but you can also, thanks to the unique power of literature, spend a few hours inside the mind and soul of one of them. By reading this tragicomic masterpiece. It will do you good.” De Limburger

“‘The asylum center, ‘ Al Galidi writes, ‘is a grave where the time of a few hundred people is buried.’ For this grave he has erected a memorable monument, that functions as both a complaint and a mirror. And I, for one, was ashamed of what I saw in it.” –Tommy Wieringa, author of Joe Speedboat

“Essential reading” Trouw

“A stunning novel about the experiences of a refugee in a heartless regime: polder-bureaucracy thick as mud. Al Galidi holds up a mirror to us. A mirror that we should all look into.” –Adriaan van Dis

Two Blankets, Three Sheets is a valuable and rich novel about fear, uncertainty, arbitrariness and hopelessness, written by someone who was, thankfully, able to use his new language as a lifebuoy.” Tzum

“Confrontational, but also humorous, Galidi provides a very complete portrait of what years of waiting in an asylum center can do to you as a human being. This is a book of absolute urgency in a time of humanitarian catastrophe that hopefully raises questions and will bring about change in our current systems. A must-read that you do not want to let go.” –Mirjam Burger, Hebban

 

 

Three Hours Blog Tour

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Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. From the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

Three Hoursby one of my favourite writers, Rosamund Lupton, is definitely going to feaure on many bloggers’ #BestReadsOf2020 lists and it’s only bloody January! – it’s not only a wonderfully written thriller that keeps you up far too late trying to anticipate what will happen next – it’s also a timely reminder of some extremely pertinent issues and a beautifully written piece of contemporary fiction to boot. I am absolutely not kidding on this one – if you haven’t read it yet, what on earth are you waiting for? I’d like to thank Penguin’s Ellie Hudson for inviting me onto the tour and it’s certainly a privilege to be kicking the tour off on its very first day when it’s a book that you’ve loved as much as this one…

Reading this novel in Dunblane of all places was extremely resonant for me – there were so many parallels that I found it almost disconcerting at times and I think that this is one of the reasons why I feel that the novel has such a huge impact on me. Three Hours takes place in another desirable area, that should be a safe haven for young people: a middle-class school in the gorgeous countryside of Somerset.  The action unfolds across three hours in the life of the school,  allowing us an insight into the experience through the eyes of the parents, teachers and students whilst they are trapped in a blizzard and a catastrophe begins to unfold.

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The situation soon begins to escalate. After the headmaster is shot, some senior students attempt to save him and try valiantly to form a blockade of library books to keep themselves safe from danger.  Meanwhile, in the drama studio, a rehearsal of Macbeth continues in the middle of all the trauma and confusion and these Shakespearean themes of bloodshed and betrayal resonate across this entire novel in an intelligent and thought provoking way. The entire school community is thrown into chaos as the individual groups in isolation struggle to come to terms with what is unfolding and try hard to support one another through an entirely terrifying situation. I could not put this book down and  found myself entirely lost in its narrative as I got so involved with the characters and wanted to know what would befall them.

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Because this novel is told from three entirely different narrative viewpoints, we get to see the horror unfold from three completely different perspectives: a police psychologist who has to try and fathom what might drive someone to behave in this way;  the anxiously waiting parents who are desperate to have news about their children and two Syrian refugees who have travelled thousands of miles to escape bloodshed and trauma only for it to recur in the rural English countryside.

I think it’s difficult to live in Dunblane and not feel profoundly moved by this novel. School shootings like Dunblane and Columbine sear themselves onto the collective memories of communities like ours and mean that reading about them can be hard. Books like this make that so much easier as the beauty of the prose eclipses the challenging subject matter.  It is indeed a terrifying world we live in and Lupton does not shy away from that fact,  it is definitely a read that will make you think whether you think you know all there is to now about radicalisation or the way that commmunities recover from atrocities like this – this book will make you see these things afresh and rethink some of your preconceived ideas and opinions.

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Three Hours is definitely one of those novels that stays with you long after closing its final page and one that I will definitely be recommending to my friends – it packs a powerful punch and never lets up in the way it wholly absorbs you –  right up until the final few pages.   I can’t wait to see what Rosamund Lupton does next. I’m a sucker for a fantastically written novel that really makes you think as well as engaging you emotionally and Three Hours satisfies on all of these scores.  I  heartily recommend it for whiling away a long dreich winter afternoon by the fire.  Away and treat yourself – You’ll thank me for it. Buy yourself a copy here and tell everyone else that you’ve already found them their read of the year 2020!

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Writer On The Shelf

Rosamund Lupton

Rosamund Lupton’s debut novel Sister, was a BBC Radio 4 “Book at Bedtime”, a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller, winner of the Strand Magazine critics award and the Richard and Judy Bookclub Readers’ Choice Award. Her next two books – Afterwards and The Quality of Silence were Sunday Times bestsellers.

Her books have been published in over thirty languages.

You can follow Rosamund on Twitter @Rosamundlupton , find her on Facebook or visit her excellent and infortmative  website.

You can change the world

 

 

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**Joint Gold Winner of the Moonbeam Multicultural Non-Fiction Award 2019**

This inspirational book tells the stories of more than 50 of today’s teenagers who’ve dared to change the world they live in. It’s been written to show other teens they can do the same. Bestselling author Margaret Rooke asks teens about their experiences of being volunteers, social entrepreneurs and campaigners, online and beyond. They explain how they have survived in a world often obsessed by celebrity, social media and appearance, by refusing to conform to other’s expectations.

If you want to achieve against the odds and create genuine impact, this book may be the encouragement you need. The interviews cover race, sexuality, violence, grief, neurodiversity, bullying and other issues central to life today.

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Being a teacher, I love books that inspire young people to go out there and live a life that’s meaningful and will have a positive impact on the world.

 

For them to do that, they need role models who have made the most of their time on earth to fulfil their dreams and those who have risen beyond their circumstances to make their dreams come true.

I loved the title Everyday Teen Heroes Making A Difference Everywhere – In my school that’s exactly what I try to do. I run the MAD Group. This stands for Make A Difference and even though our acts are perhaps not as impactful as some of these, I think that this book would make a fabulous end of term prize for some of the inspiring young people that I work with, encouraging them to dream big and aspire to be the change they want to see in the world.

 

Is like to thank Anne Cater for inviting me on the blog tour and once again sending me a book I never knew I needed until I read it. In a pretty depressing time in British history, this book reminds us all of the good that there is in the world, particularly in the young people, who after all are our future.

Am reading this in beautiful Venice on our anniversary trip and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being reminded of the powerful impact of positivity and concentrating on what can be achieved. An inspirational and heartwarming read that would make a fabulous Christmas present for both young and old.

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Breaking Dad blog Tour

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Think you’ve got a dysfunctional family?

Meet mine.

For 18 years, my family lived a normal life in a respectable suburb…

Until one day, my dad gave up his successful career, and unexpectedly became Britain’s most wanted crystal meth dealer.

This is our story. At times shocking, often unbelievable, and all 100% true.

 

Unexpected Lessons In Love

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What happens when ‘I do’ turns into ‘I don’t know’?

Jeannie always wanted to fall in love, and now she’s finally got the whirlwind romance she dreamed of. Dan’s gorgeous, he’s a successful young vet, and he flew her to New York and proposed on Brooklyn Bridge. Jeannie has to remind herself this is actually her life. It seems too perfect, too magical, to be real. Yet it is.

But now she’s on her way to the wedding she can’t shake off the tight sensation crushing her chest. Is it just nerves . . . or is this all happening a bit too fast?

Jeannie has one last chance to shout, ‘Stop!’ But just as she grabs it, a twist of fate throws everything she knows into the air like confetti. What Jeannie learns about Dan, about her own heart, and about the power of love itself, will change her world for ever . . .

 

 

Violet Blog Tour

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Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

 

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Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

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When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

 

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Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…

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A tense and twisted psychological thriller about obsession, manipulation and toxic friendships, Violet also reminds us that there’s a reason why mother told us not to talk to strangers…

 

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Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone. Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend. 

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She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available. When the two women meet in Beijing, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet in her best friend’s place.

 

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As the journey continues, things start to unravel. One of these women is not who she claims to be… I started the column by telling you I’d spent this summer travelling and we actually took the Trans-Siberian Express all the way to Beijing from Mongolia. This fabulous read took me right back to my travels.

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It’s atmospheric, gripping and and downright terrifying in places and I recommend it unreservedly to anyone who likes a twisted tale of obsession and toxic friendships.

 

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Such a brilliantly dark compelling story set against such a fantastically exotic backdrop. I don’t think I read the book as much as inhaled it. Compelling, gripping and horrifically entertaining, fasten your seatbelts, this is going to be a bumpy read! I loved it’ Liz Nugent

 

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‘Twisted, gripping and totally addictive’ Paddy Magrane

‘Echoes of a Killing Eve vibe. Fabulously awful women you will love’ Sarah Pinborough

Writer On The Shelf

S.J.I. (Susi) Holliday is a scientist, writing coach and the bestselling author of five crime novels, including the Banktoun Trilogy (Black Wood, Willow Walk and The Damselfly), the festive chiller The Deaths of December and her creepy Gothic psychological thriller The Lingering.

Her short story ‘Home From Home’ was published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Prize. Encapsulating her love of travel and claustrophobic settings, her latest novel, Violet, explores toxic friendships and the perils of talking to strangers, as well as drawing on her own journey on the Trans-Siberian Express over 10 years ago.

All of her novels have been UK ebook number-one bestsellers. Susi was born and raised in Scotland and now divides her time between Edinburgh, London and as many other exciting places that she can fit in

On The Up – Alice O’Keeffe Blog Tour

 

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By reading Style magazine, I was training myself not to want things. It was going quite well. I had already found that I did not want a pair of Yves Saint Laurent mules, a chandelier made from plastic antlers, or a diamond-encrusted necklace in the shape of a pineapple. I was still working on not wanting a fitted farmhouse kitchen in warm wood.

Sylvia lives in a flat on a council estate with her not-quite-husband Obe and their two young children. She dreams of buying a house on a leafy street like the one she grew up in. If she closes her eyes, she can see it all so clearly: the stripped floorboards, the wisteria growing around the door…

It’s not ideal that she’s about to be made redundant, or that Obe, a playworker, is never going to earn more than the minimum wage. As sleep deprivation sets in, and the RnB downstairs gets ever louder, Sylvia’s life starts to unravel.

But when the estate is earmarked for redevelopment, the threat to her community gives Sylvia a renewed sense of purpose. With a bit of help from her activist sister, and her film-maker friend Frankie, she’s ready to take a stand for what she believes in.

It’s November – and we’re all in need of something uplifting to get us through these long cold winter nights. Well, look no further – I’ve found the perfect antidote to the winter blues…

On the Up is a heartwarming novel that looks into the heart of what makes us belong, asking us to remember the things that get us through the greyest days and connect us with the ones who matter.

If you love a warm and feel-good read, filled with memorable characters, On the Up by Alice O’Keeffe is a the perfect book for you. It changes the narrative around the idea of  ‘there’s no such thing as society’ and whilst it doesn’t shy away from the harsher side of modern life – it reminds you that there’s far more good than bad in the world.

Sylvia is getting through life in a dreary council flat with her ‘intended’ Obe and their two  children. She has fantasies about a life beyond the confines of the council estate  with its noisy neighbours and overturned bins and moving her family to a suburban idyll – like the house that she herself grew up in.

Although this is her dream, Sylvia is a realist and knows fine well that – short of a miracle – this pipe dream is set to remain just that. Money doesn’t grow on trees and it’s a hard enough struggle managing things as they are, never mind upgrading  their life and turning the dream into a reality. Sylvia’s job situation is precarious at best and Obe’s salary is unlikely to rise much, working with children.

Everything starts to change for Sylvia when the estate is earmarked for redevelopment and this sudden threat to her community shakes things up and gives her the feeling that things perhaps don’t have to stay as they are forever and her actions could lead to positive change. Sylvia and her film maker friend, Frankie join forces to ensure that the people’s voices are heard and they don’t have to put up with things if they join together and work towards a common goal.

This book reminded me so much of one of my favourite contemporary reads, The Lido, and I was rooting for Sylvia in exactly the same way! The characters in this heartwarming read join forces ready to fight for their community  and Sylvia rethinks her attitude to the estate that she had previously been so desperate to escape from. It feels empowering to experience people power along with these characters and you really will be rooting for them as you immerse yourself in this wonderful book.

I loved how realistic this novel feels and love the way that Alice O’Keeffe brought her diverse characters to life and made them feel like friends as you drew to the end of their tale. Finding her community who have been there all along is a real voyage of discovery for Sylvia and the warm and witty characterisation will leave you unsure whether to laugh or cry at times. 

On the Up is a triumph of people rising above circumstances and profit.  It allows you to believe that there is still pockets of real community out there if you know where to look and reminds us that we don’t often understand the good things about places we live in until something threatens to change them or take them from us. I enjoyed this book in Rhodes this autumn and could not put it down. I totally recommend it and can’t wait to hear what other bloggers think about it too.

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Buy yourself a copy here and enjoy reading about Sylvia’s adventures for yourself

 

Writer On The Shelf

Alice Okeefe ©mooseazim 2017-53.jpg

Alice O’Keeffe is a freelance writer and journalist. She was deputy editor of the Guardian’s Saturday Review section, and writes book reviews, interviews and features for the Guardian, Observer and New Statesman.

She has been a speechwriter at the Department for Education and literary programmer at the Brighton Festival. Alice lives in Brighton with her husband and two children.