The Colours – Blog Tour

Ellen sees the world differently from everyone else, but living in a tiny town in the north east of England, in a world on the cusp of war, no one has time for an orphaned girl who seems a little strange.

When she is taken in to look after an rich, elderly widow all seems to be going better, despite the musty curtains and her aging employer completely out of
touch with the world. But pregnancy out of wedlock spoils all this, and Ellen is unable to cope. How will Jack, her son, survive – alone in the world as his mother was?


Can they eventually find their way back to each other?

The Colours is a sweeping novel of how we can lose ourselves, and our loved ones, for fans of Kate Atkinson and Virginia Baily.

The Colours Cover

One of the very best things about the book blogging community and getting to participate in blog tours is that no two books that you are ever asked to review are the same. When I was invited onto the tour for The Colours I was really excited as I always like reading books that are set in two different time periods – and who wouldn’t be drawn in by this stunning cover and the promise of a story that is every bit as expansive, sweeping and Technicolor.

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Discovering new favourite writers can be one of the best things about being a book blogger – as well as hearing what other bloggers I admire thought of a book I’ve loved, It’s like a virtual book group where you are able to consider and connect with what other people enjoyed about a book that’s really caught your imagination. I enjoyed The Colours so much that I’m desperate to launch it at the real book group I run at The Wine Library once things get back to normal and we are allowed to meet up again for books, wine and great chat…

wine bottles on rack

I was really intrigued to read The Colours as  I love novels that deal with the way that different generations connect and the complexities that lurk beneath the surfaces of other families’ lives.  As soon as this book arrived,  I wanted to open that stunning watercolored cover up and find out how Ellen and Jack’s lives would unfold and I loved the fact that it featured the idea of synaesthesia as it’s an idea that has always intrigued me and I thought The Colours brought these feelings beautifully to life.

I found this book totally engrossing once I’d started: I really enjoyed seeing the way that Ellen and Jack had an inter-related, yet totally unique relationship with the beauty of colour and loved the way that the writing brings the way that they both see the world vividly to life and allows us to immerse ourselves in their lives and see the world through their discerning and eclectic perspectives.

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I enjoyed the way that Juliet Bates’ novel allows us to see the complexity of human relationships, from both ends of the narrative ‘kaleidoscope’ rather than just the ‘happy ever after’ that we are so often presented with in fiction and I think that this is one of the things that draws us into their unique and beautifully rendered story.

The way that you can feel so distant from your own roots is exceptionally well-drawn and a testament to her skill as a writer that we really believe in the relationships and interactions with one another – I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Jack and his Uncle Henry and liked the fact that this unorthodox upbringing is so empathetically drawn –   I’m sure that there are many people reading this novel who will feel the same and the abstract beauty of the front cover is beautifully counterbalanced with the precise character observations found inside.

The way that Julie Bates slowly but certainly develops our understanding of what is going on in the heads of these characters is convincingly done and leads to you feeling like you can really start to understand the way they see the world and even though you might not always understand all of the choices they make, you feel like you are able to inhabit their world view and try to empathise with the challenging situations they finds themselves in

I found myself turning back to particular passages so that I could enjoy the writing all over again, even though I’d finished the novel – a sure sign of a book that I won’t be able to forget. It looks at the impact of religion on our lives and asks us to think about the ways that women’s lives have altered in terms of freedom and agency across the last century and I’m certainly glad that things are much different for single mothers as we move into the 21st century…

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The Colours is a truly immersive read as it takes a genuine look at what we really mean by ‘family’ It allows us a glance into relationships where peoples’ needs are complex and real and dares us to ask ourselves questions about the way we ourselves experience the world and the way that our past can shape and form us into the people that we are – for good and for bad.

I always enjoy a book much more if I’m not hyping myself up before I read it and The Colours was exactly that. It was definitely a grower and I found myself thinking about the repercussions of their choices whilst gardening and painting this week and wondering about their lives as if these were real people that I’d crossed paths with and missed now that they wee gone. I will definitely seek out more books by Julie Bates and am keen to keep pushing myself to choose more novels by writers that are new to me in the second half of 2020

Treat yourself to a copy of The Colours here

Writer On The Shelf

Juliet Bates

Juliet Bates was born in the north-east of England. After studying art and art history, she has worked as a lecturer in art schools in the UK and now in France. 

The Colours is Juliet’s second novel; her debut, The Missing, was published by Linen Press in 2009, and her short stories have appeared in British and Canadian journals and magazines.

Blood Red City

Blood Red City

A witness but no victim. A crime but no crime scene…

When crusading journalist Lydia Wright is sent a video of an apparent murder on a London train, she thinks she’s found the story to revive her career. But she can’t find a victim, much less the killers, and the only witness has disappeared.

Wary she’s fallen for fake news, she begins to doubt her instincts – until a sinister call suggests that she’s not the only one interested in the crime.Michael Stringer deals in information – and doesn’t care which side of the law he finds himself on.

But the murder on the train has left him exposed, and now he’ll stop at nothing to discover what Lydia knows.When their paths collide, Lydia finds the story leads through a nightmare world, where money, power and politics intersect … and information is the only thing more dangerous than a bullet.

A nerve-shattering and brutally realistic thriller, Blood Red City bursts with energy and grit from the opening page, twisting and feinting to a superb, unexpected ending that will leave you breathless.

A big thank you to Anne Cater & Random Things Tours for inviting me on the blog tour for Blood Red City. I love true crime and absolutely adored Rod’s previous book, The Dark Inside, which vividly depicts the Texarkana murders and I absolutely could not wait to get stuck into Blood Red City after reading the blurb– and let me tell you, I got so engrossed that I’ve lost a fair bit of sleep myself across lockdown as I could not stop reading til I found out the truth…

Blood Red City introduces us to Lydia who is presented with video footage of a brutal crime and feels determined that this might pave her way back into the crime writing career she craves in this compelling and gripping read. Lydia is tired of reporting on entertainment and is desperate to reenter a more challenging form of journalism, only to find herself caught up in events that are far far worse than she could ever have imagined.

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If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I absolutely love books that pacey and full of twists and turns and seek them out whenever I can. That’s why I loved Blood Red City so much. It’s the sensation of being totally caught up in the story and suspending disbelief as you get caught up in Lydia’s situation and not being able to rest until you know what happens and you reach the resolution. I was so drawn in that Mr Ontheshelf went without his promised steak dinner last Thursday as I just HAD to know what happened…

grayscale photo of train with no smoking sticker

When Lydia decides that the assault on the Underground spells a fresh start for her career, she hasn’t taken into account the impact of ‘fake news’ on crime stories as the questions are raised about the veracity of the footage and she cannot find any witnesses for love nor money. Little could she ever have anticipated encountering someone like Michael Stringer and being caught up in such a web of hostility and danger as he attempts to put a stop to her concerted investigation and determination to uncover the truth.

vehicles on roadway at nighttime

If you are a fan of Orenda Books, you will know that Karen often seems to select books for publication where the characters often believe that they know what’s best for them, only to discover to their peril that the truth is very far from their initial estimation, and Lydia indeed runs true to form. As her initial investigative plans begin to unavel and she begins to see the inherent danger of tangling with someone with Stringer’s background, it becomes apparent that the truth behind this ‘Underground’ crime might be very different that she first presumed, and it seems to Lydia that in her pursuit of a more exciting career she might just have stirred up a hornet’s nest of nefarious activities and dark deeds that lurk beneath the surface of this Blood Red city itself

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I loved the way that the character of Lydia springs to life off the page and how her gutsy determination to ‘follow the story’ takes her in a totally different direction than she’d first anticipated. I get totally drawn in my novels that are full of twists and turns so it added a dimension of intrigue that Lydia and Stringer have a unique sparring sense of chemistry that definitely adds a frisson to the investigation and I navigated myself through the dark side streets of this story, picking my way forward carefully just like Lydia does as it is increasingly hard for her to know exactly whose truth to believe and how to keep herself on track in an investigation that she definitely no longer feels totally in control of.

Lydia’s spirit and drive and the way we are constantly kept on our toes means that you’ll race through Blood Red City at a breakneck pace.  I hate spoilers, so all I’ll say is that you won’t be disappointed. This is a sure-fire summer pageturner and deserves to win Rod Reynolds an army of new fans and people who – like me – are longing to find out ‘What Lydia Did Next’

Get yourself a copy here and enjoy a roaring good crime read with a gritty and believable atmosphere that would spring to life on the screen and is crying out for an adaptation…

Writer on The Shelf

Rod Reynolds is the author of four novels, including the Charlie Yates series. His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling and Cold Desert Sky; the Guardian has called the books “Pitch-perfect American noir.”

A lifelong Londoner, Blood Red City is his first novel set in his hometown. Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in novel writing from City University London.
Rod lives with his wife and spends most of his time trying to keep up with his two young daughters. 

What Doesn’t Kill You

An explorer spends a decade preparing for an expedition to the South Pole; what happens when you live for a goal, but once it’s been accomplished, you discover it’s not enough? 

A successful broadcast journalist ends up broke, drunk and sleeping rough; what makes alcohol so hard to resist despite its ruinous consequences? 

A teenage girl tries to disappear by starving herself; what is this force that compels so many women to reduce their size so drastically?

In this essay collection, writers share the struggles that have shaped their lives loss, depression, addiction, anxiety, trauma, identity and others. 

But as they take you on a journey to the darkest recesses of their mind, the authors grapple with challenges that haunt us all.

Today is my stop on the What Doesn’t Kill You blog tour. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the chance to read and review.

It’s been a funny old time and lots of people have had real difficulties keeping a hold of their ‘reading mojo’ and their usual books haven’t really been hitting the spot. If that sounds a bit like you then look no further because this book will be a real palate cleanser for you as it’s so refreshingly different it’ll get you back reading again in absolutely no time.

I’m not normally a huge lover of essay collectionss, I can find them bitty and find that collections of them vary so much that it can prove hard for them to hold my interest. I was intrigued to read this collection once I heard about it because of the thematic link that joins them together and instead of dipping into them as I imagined I would, I ended up totally immersed and actually read it from cover to cover once I’d started.

Although the subject matter can be dark, instead of feeling gloomy, I felt that the writers’ strength and resilience described in these stories gave me a real lift in these last few difficult weeks and reminded me that when it rains we should think about the rainbows that follow and when it is dark, we can see the stars shining brightly overhead too!

As a mental health first aider I will be recommending this book to lots of people who might find many things to relate to in its pages. The diversity of experiences and the variation in the tone of these essays makes the breadth of appeal huge and the fact that the writers all have something completely different to reflect on means that everyone will find something that they can find a connection to and feel moved and inspired by reflecting on the way we can all move towards moments of grace and acceptance

As an English Teacher, the poem I’d match with it is Mean Time by Carol Ann Duffy and I’m including it here in my review to provide a moment of grace for anyone who needs it. I absolutely recommend this book and feel that Elitsa Dermendzhiyska has done an amazing job in collecting and editing this array of first class writing. Even if you think this might not be your thing, you should definitely give it a go as it’s one of those books that your thoughts keep returning to. My favourite piece was Last Fragments of Love by the wonderful Cathy Rentzenbrink – and it’s almost worth buying it for her piece alone – but you will honestly be spoiled for choice here if you love beautifully written pieces where you feel the writer speaking to you and close its covers feeling moved, inspired and overawed in equal measure. This has been my ‘sleeper hit’ of lockdown and I recommend it wholeheartedly

Buy yourself a copy here

‘Mean Time’ by Carol Ann Duffy

The clocks slid back an hour
and stole light from my life
as I walked through the wrong part of town,
mourning our love.

And, of course, unmendable rain
fell to the bleak streets
where I felt my heart gnaw
at all our mistakes.

If the darkening sky could lift
more than one hour from this day
there are words I would never have said
nor have heard you say.

But we will be dead, as we know,
beyond all light.
These are the shortened days
and the endless nights.

Writer On The Shelf

litsa Dermendzhiyska went from stock investing in Washington DC to a technology incubator in south-east Asia, then joined the rat race in London and promptly burned out while building a tax software business. To avoid actually getting therapy, she spent the next two years interviewing therapists, psychiatrists, NHS clinicians, authors, artists and entrepreneurs from South London to Silicon Valley – this book is the result.

Follow @elliethinksnot on Twitter

on Goodreads

on Amazon,

Visit elliethinks.com

Out of Love

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As a young woman boxes up her ex-boyfriend’s belongings and prepares to see him one last time, she wonders where it all went wrong, and whether it was ever right to begin with. Burdened with a broken heart, she asks herself the age-old question . . . is love really worth it?

Out of Love is a bittersweet romance told in reverse. Beginning at the end of a relationship, each chapter takes us further back in time, weaving together an already unravelled tapestry, from tragic break-up to magical first kiss. In this dazzling debut Hazel Hayes performs a post-mortem on love, tenderly but unapologetically exploring every angle, from the heights of joy to the depths of grief, and all the madness and mundanity in between.

This is a modern story with the heart of a classic: truthful, tragic and ultimately full of hope.

‘I fell in love with this book. The writing was good enough to make me forget I had a phone, put it that way’ Aisling Bea

Sometimes a book appears at just the right time in your life – and this was one of those times when I really needed to find a book to lose myself in. I have recommended it to so many people as ‘the perfect book for you’ , talked about it people at my Zoom Book Group and will definitely be buying it as gifts for quite a few of my friends too. I was SO excited to be invited on the tour for this book and can’t wait to read about what my fellow bloggers thought too…

I don’t think you have had to experience a break up like this to bond with this book, but by god – if you have there will be moments in this novel that you’ll read and read again saying ‘HOW DID SHE KNOWWW?’  and I think that there will definitely be so many people all over the UK who will be wondering whether Hazel Hayes was sitting behind them in a bar eavesdropping on their conversations as so much of this book feels so utterly REAL that at times you forget that this is an actual novel

I’d like to thank Anne Cater  for inviting me on the tour and recommend that you follow it and see what all the other fab bloggers had to say about this unforgettable book. It’s so good to back in the blogging world after my time of planning our return to school after the pandemic and this was such a great read to remind me of why I love bookblogging so much – when I get to read fantastic novels like this and tell other people how much they’ll love it too!

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Books about dating and love and friendships and breakups can feel like they are ten a penny – but this one really is different. It’s dark and light in exactly the right ratio to be truly satisfying and there will be moments where you’ll literally be devastated – but by the end the holistic effect is both cathartic and gratifying and I’m so jealous of everyone who hasn’t read it yet…

As you will have surmised by now, I literally could not put this book down, I was so caught up in this poignant breakup journey and I’m sure you will be too. It really felt like we’d been through this together. Hazel Hayes’ combination of  devastating brutality and moments of absolute normality mean that everyone can identify with some part of this backwards-lived story– it’s a representation of all the things that we all struggle with in modern life and you’ll be reminded of your own journeys from bliss to breakup in the reading of it

woman leaning on bed

I loved the idea behind this book: that in the middle of loss and devastation it’s important to remember sometimes that our future might not always be written the way that we think it is and that we can see relationships differently if we view them from the other end of the kaleidoskope. Seeing the relationship from end to beginning was a reminder that we can forget the positives while living through a breakupnand a vivid reminder that good times will come again – if we only have the patience to wait…

broken heart hanging on wire

This is the kind of book you’ll be buying for your friends and begging them to read as you will want to spend hours thinking of all the ways you’ve lived through moments like these or met someone who’s been through exactly the same set of emotions even if the root causes were slightly different…

I hope that you find some time to check out some of the other fantastic bloggers on the tour – I am really looking forward to hearing what they thought and I’m hoping that they reveal their own breakup moments in their reviews. Mine was breaking up with an ex boyfriend and leaving a uni folder at his flat – then having to go back after my grand exit and squirmingly retrieve my folder of notes on Byron whilst totally avoiding the hoots and derision of his flatmates…

Hazel Hayes is definitely a writer to watch for me – and if you have a look at these stunning reviews from a whole host of amazing bloggers, you can see that I’m not alone in my opinion!

Buy yourself a copy here:

Writer on the Shelf

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Hazel Hayes is an Irish-born, London-based writer and director who has, until now, been writing primarily for the screen.

Having graduated from Dublin City University with a degree in journalism, she went on to study creative writing at The Irish Writers’ Centre, before finally finding her feet on YouTube and honing her craft as a screenwriter through numerous short films and sketches.

Her eight-part thriller, PrankMe, won Series of the Year at SITC, as well as the award for Excellence in Storytelling at Buffer Festival in Toronto.

http://www.youtube.com/user/ChewingSand @TheHazelHayes

Island Of Secrets – Blog Tour

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1957: Iris Bailey is bored to death of working in the typing pool and living with her parents in Hemel Hempstead. A gifted portraitist with a talent for sketching party guests, she dreams of becoming an artist. So she can’t believe her luck when socialite Nell Hardman invites her to Havana to draw at the wedding of her Hollywood director father.

Far from home, she quickly realizes the cocktails, tropical scents and azure skies mask a darker reality. As Cuba teeters on the edge of revolution and Iris’s heart melts for troubled photographer Joe, she discovers someone in the charismatic Hardman family is hiding a terrible secret. Can she uncover the ugly truth behind the glamour and the dazzle before all their lives are torn apart?

This was such a treat to read. I absolutely lost myself aboard Rachel Rhys’ previous novel, Dangerous Crossing and I absolutely could not wait to travel to Cuba and lose myself in the sun-drenched atmosphere of her latest read, Island of Secrets. I was utterly delighted when Anne Cater invited me onto the blog tour for Island of Secrets and could not wait to escape and see what awaited me there…

Iris Bailey is another narrator that we absolutely identify with as we are plunged into a whole new world right alongside her. Travelling to exotic Cuba was nothing that she had ever imagined in her humdrum Hemel-Hempstead life in the typing pool.  Her life is turned absolutely upside down when glamorous Nell invites her to Havana to deploy her artistic skills among the rich and famous at her movie-director father’s wedding. At first Iris seems entranced by the heady glamour that surrounds her in this very different world – but Iris soon finds the sheen of novelty wearing off as she begins to sense the seamier underbelly of this dream destination…

The people Iris is exposed to in Cuba are very different to her previous experiences and her shyness and introverted nature threaten to overwhelm her until she discovers that it is perhaps her very shyness that creates a space for her subjects to open up and begin to tell her truths about their inner selves. Iris is then led down a dangerous pathway where the normal boundaries become blurred in the glamorous and heady atmosphere she now finds herself in. Journalist Eugene and photographer Joe are more worldly than Iris and begin to see that they have uncovered some things that many of the more powerful characters that surround them would prefer to stay hidden. Iris begins to see that the political undercurrents and fragile allegiances that surround her mean that every step is fraught with danger and it is difficult to know exactly who to trust as she tries to navigate this disorientating and wholly unfamiliar situation.

Iris makes for such a memorable narrator: because she is so naive and sheltered that we often sense dangers around her that she is at first less aware of – which creates a satisfying tension as we try to anticipate when things will begin to come clear to her. At first, we too fall in love with Cuba, seeing it through her eyes and finding it as heady, magical  and steamily glamorous as she does. Her growing friendship with Joe and Eugene and her dawning awareness of what they see lurking beneath the surface provides an interesting counterpoint to her experiences with the rich socialites like Barbara Bonini and Lana the blushing bride and keeps you turning the pages as more and more secrets begin to come to light. The reader develops a dawning sense that most people assembled for these nuptials are very different than they at first might have appeared and she will need to keep her wits about her as she gets drawn deeper into situations where she feels more and more out of her depth.

Rachel Rhys’ reputation as a first-class purveyor of classy historical mysteries is wonderfully apparent as the plot skilfully seduces us with the balmy Havana breezes and lulls us into a false sense of security right alongside Iris. Once the glamour starts to tarnish for her, we are right there alongside her as she tries to get to the bottom of the nest of vipers that she has found herself caught up in.

Once again, Rhys proves herself a worthy successor of Dame Agatha Christie in terms of keeping the reader on their toes and providing us with a lot of misdirections and sleight-of-hand that kept me feverishly turning the pages long after my bedtime -and on a school night too! I was totally invested in the mystery as Iris got more and more out of her depth in understanding anyone’s true motives or who she could truly trust. I hate giving spoilers, so I’m definitely avoiding too much detail about exactly what secrets and lies they manage to uncover behind the gorgeously painted facades of Havana– but I can promise you that you’ll not be able to stop reading, once you’ve started.

The period is evocatively recreated for us and the glamorous and decadent atmosphere is skilfully realised by Rachel Rhys. I love this post-war period, its glamorous clothing, the dances and drinks in the louche and wealthy circles that Iris becomes exposed to, the sense that the world is changing around them as the political climate in Cuba starts to build momentum around them.  

I’ve never been to Cuba but it’s most definitely on my bucket list and I loved the way that Island of Secrets allowed me to vicariously experience the vintage glamour and excitement from lockdown in Bonnie Scotland. I read this in a single day, I was so fascinated by Iris and her story and I desperately wanted to know what was lurking beneath the surface of the Hardman family’s seemingly gilded life. The plotting is as skilful as ever, the characters are wonderfully captured and the lush setting seductively whisked me off to a gorgeous destination from the comfort of my own garden.

This is a wholly satisfying read and I absolutely loved it. If you like your thrillers brutal and depraved, then this might not appeal to you – but if you enjoy a wonderful period read with an evocative atmosphere that will stay with you then you’ll definitely love it too.

Thanks so much for Anne Cater for inviting me aboard on the Blog Tour  –  It was definitely just the trip that I needed over lockdown I didn’t want to end. I’d love to see this on the screen and I can already envisage some of the locations and costumes in my mind’s eye

Buy yourself a copy here so that you can pack your own bags and head off to Havana and experience it for yourself

Writer on the Shelf

Rachel Rhys is the pen-name of a much-loved psychological suspense author. She is the author of the Richard and Judy bookclub pick, Dangerous Crossing and the bestselling A Fatal Inheritance. Her latest novel is the immersive Island of Secrets. 

Rachel Rhys lives in North London with her family.