The Company Daughters – Blog Tour

Wanted: Company Daughters. Virtuous young ladies to become the brides of industrious settlers in a foreign land. The Company will pay the cost of the ladies’ dowry and travel. Returns not permitted, orphans preferred.

Amsterdam, 1616. Jana Beil has learned that life rarely provides moments of joy. Having run away from a violent father, her days are spent searching for work in an effort to stay out of the city brothels, where desperate women trade their bodies for a mouthful of bread. But when Jana is hired as a servant for the wealthy and kind Master Reynst and his beautiful daughter Sontje, Jana’s future begins to look brighter.

Then Master Reynst loses his fortune on a bad investment, and everything changes. The house is sold to creditors, leaving Jana back on the streets and Sontje without a future.

With no other choice, Jana and Sontje are forced to sign with the East India Company as Company Daughters: sailing to a colonial outpost to become the brides of male settlers they know nothing about. With fear in their hearts, the girls begin their journey – but what awaits them on the other side of the world is nothing like what they’ve been promised…

Maybe it was because I can’t travel in a literal sense, that I’m getting so much pleasure from time travelling through the books that I’m choosing of late. I can’t stop reaching for historical fiction, and this is one of the best books I’ve read in tis genre this Autumn. I was absolutely intrigued by the premise of this book featuring this historical insight into the idea of the East India Company and its ‘daughters’ I was delighted to be invited on the tour by Noelle Holton & Bookouture  and couldn’t wait to travel vicariously to this beautiful, remote and mysterious part of the world.

body of water during golden hour

This book definitely did not disappoint, it grabbed me and pulled me right into the story even when it was a hard read at times due to the unimaginable situations and choices that women living in this era had to contend with. I was really intrigued by the premise of the book: that we get to hear about events from such a unique perspective and this really added to the story for me. Jana and Sontje’s very different back stories have a massive impact on the way that they perceive events and we start to see their altering and complementary perspectives on tis period of history more clearly as the novel unfolds.

I absolutely loved the unique atmosphere of this novel and definitely found it quite addictive. It was intriguing to imagine setting sail and leaving everything that you have ever known behind you and heading for a world which is not only wholly alien to you, but a world in which your choices and next direction has been wholly surrendered to the choices of others and knowing that the rest of your life lies in the hands of people that you have never even met.

body of water

This novel presents this period of history in a fresh original way which makes the story linger at the edges of our consciousness even when we aren’t reading it. Jana and Sontje feel very much like real people – rather than mechanisms to explore a historical tale – which I’ve often found in novels which want to represent something that happened in the past. This is a really unique novel which has to be experienced to truly realise how absorbing and special it is.

I am in awe of his atmospheric writing that makes you feel the experience of being a historical mail order bride sent off like chattels to colonise the Dutch East Indies. Our two ladies Sontje and Jana have little choice but to embark upon a dangerous sea journey to Batavia – present-day Indonesia – to begin a life as wives to men who have purchased them for their potential as breeding partners and to work the land and help build the colony.

Samantha Rajaram is a skilful and insightful writer – it’s hard to talk about this novel without spoilers, so I’ll just need to tell you that you must read it for yourself. You will be fascinated to uncover all that these women went through and shocked that you didn’t know more about it. It’s not one of these ‘keep looking for the big twist’ stories that people are getting a little bored of now. It is a story filled with skilful description and perceptive characterisation that add up to its sense of atmosphere and your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of their circumstances and everything that they have to go through as a result of this voyage into the unknown…

aerial island and beaches

The Company Daughters asks us to think about the way that our personalities evolve through, because of and despite of all our experiences and doesn’t allow us to dismiss these characters as merely fictional – this novel is based on a real story, after all. The bleakness of the tale is an undeniable aspect of their lived experience and because it’s so immersive I found its difficulties very rewarding and couldn’t stop thinking about the rhythm of its narrative and the true stories that undoubtedly inspired this fictional tale.

This is a book that I know I’ll be recommending to lots of readers as I was totally immersed in its characters, its pace and the way it really made me think. I can’t wait to see what Samantha Rajaram does next. The idea that life for women in the past can be a lot darker than you might think on the surface and I think that this would make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion and comment about a part of the world that most people don’t know very much about…

Buy yourself a copy of The Company Daughters and discover its remote and hypnotically realised story for yourself

sea under white clouds during daytime

Praise for this novel:

Blew my mind… a book I’ve told so many people about purely because I’m still in disbelief that it exists, that it’s so magically written and most of all that it is based on true events… a hard-hitting, soul-crushing book of a woman’s struggle to survive… I loved every moment of it. Breathlessly, and in a way that took up my entire brain… immersive, heart-wrenching, and I feel emotional writing this review.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

From the moment I started reading The Company Daughters, I was captivated by this historical tale. Although it does contain a love story, it’s not a romance…This was a gripping read.’ Goodreads reviewer

‘This book is so stunningly tender and beautiful, all mixed in with some seriously tragic and heart-wrenching events… Rajaram is an extremely skilled writer, and I love her writing style… The themes of sisterhood and female love were so present in this book and I found it very moving.’ Goodreads reviewer

I was enchanted by this book! It’s a delightful read that will have your emotions all over the place.’ Goodreads reviewer

‘I love historical fiction, and this book touched on a topic and time I knew nearly nothing about…There’s love, there’s loss, there’s surviving, there’s thriving… It was a very beautiful book.’ Goodreads reviewer

The Company Daughters is a beautifully written love story… a perfect example of the power of human will and the endurance and hope that love can give a person.’ Goodreads reviewer, 5 stars

This book has a beauty and grace to it. The author’s writing just flows off the page, and although there are struggles and upsets by the time you close the book over you are filled with a warm glow.’ Goodreads reviewer

Writer On The Shelf

Samantha Rajaram

Samantha Rajaram is the author of THE COMPANY DAUGHTERS, a historical novel inspired by events during the Dutch golden age. She is represented by Carrie Pestritto at the Laura Dail Literary Agency.

Her essays and short fiction have been published in Catamaran Literary Reader and India Currents, and she was a contributor to Our Feet Walk The Sky, the first South Asian-American anthology published in the US. She was both a 2018 Pitch Wars mentee and a 2019 Pitch Wars mentor.

She spent most of her childhood in Gillette, Wyoming, where she and her family were the first Indian-Americans to live in the community. She received her B.A. in English from UCLA and her M.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied slave narrative and African-American literature. She also holds a law degree from U.C. Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco; while in law school, she focused on social justice and international human rights law with a focus on female sex trafficking.

She currently teaches composition at Chabot College in Hayward, California, and she lives in the California Bay Area with her three children.

Samatha Rajaram Website


The Creak on the Stairs – Orenda Blog Tour

When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.
Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her colleagues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day …

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice … before it’s too late.

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour to celebrate the publication of this novel from one of Icelandic fiction’s rising stars, Eva Aegisdottir and would like to thank Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater of Random Things for the tour invitation otherwise I might never have discovered this original, gripping and unforgettable read. It’s given me yet another reason to thank the good Lord that I discovered Orenda Books and that I’ve been able to sample such a wonderful range of translated fiction through their list! Thank you to the excellent translator Victoria Cribb who really managed to convey the beauty of the language in English and draw me seamlessly into the story.

mountain terrain near body of water

If Iceland is only in your mind because of hot springs and wonderful knitwear then you are in for an amazing surprise once you get hooked on its crime fiction. It really is unique in its flavour and once you’ve started, you’ll be totally hooked. Start looking through Orenda’s back catalogue to find other writers that you’ll be as captivated by as Eva. This novel has a very different feel than some of the other Scandinavian crime fiction I’ve read and  I loved the way that it mixed the elements of the crime novel with Elma’s domestic details and personal life so credibly which really appealed to me as a reader.

I love reading novels that confound my expectation – that turn out to be something totally different to the novel that I thought that I was going to be reading. The Creak on the Stairs is one of those novels. It transported me to Iceland right alongside Elma and her team and it just immersed me in the case. I don’t think I’ve read a novel recently that kept me on my toes as much in terms of ‘solvability’ – it seemed like each new piece of information pointed me at a new culprit and I was absolutely kept on the hook until the end. I really enjoyed this clever writing and rather than waiting for a ‘big twist’ it felt like I was unravelling clues with the team and trying to get to the bottom of this in tandem with them.

This is an absolutely immersive read, it’s as rich in setting as it is in  plot, allowing you to be swept off to the austere beauty of the Icelandic landscape and see it for yourself. It had never been somewhere that I’d have been desperate to see – but I found myself browsing online for holidays ‘once this lockdown is all over’ and trying to see some of these places for myself as they sounded so stunningly beautiful. I found myself re-reading certain parts of it – especially the parts featuring the Lighthouse itself–  just to experience them again as I was so caught up in the feeling that I wanted to see it for myself one day.

white lighthouse near calm body of water

The Creak on the Stairs blends together three very distinct narratives into a tale that is very much more than the sum of its parts.   Elma’s return to Akranes and her trying to move on after a failed relationship, which is incredibly astutely drawn, the development of her new team with colleagues Sævar and Hörður, as they try and solve this mystery together and the element if the long-hidden crimes that begin to be uncovered through their investigation. To me, these three elements come together to provide a highly satisfying read as they are woven together so seamlessly in exactly the right proportions that make for an absolutely engrossing read that holds you tight as you get drawn int the mystery for yourself.

Akranes is almost a character in its own right and I felt like Eva Aegisdottir really brought the stunning Icelandic landscape vividly to life – blending its remote beauty with the personality of its inhabitants and making us think about the fact that even in the most gorgeous areas, murders can happen and that sometimes there can be just as much violence, hatred and revenge bubbling beneath the surfaces of small-town life than any big city on the planet. If like me you are missing travel due to COVID then this novel really is the next best thing and its sense of place is hard to beat. It was wonderful to escape from work and spend time in the beauty and splendour of the Icelandic landscape and felt almost as good as a holiday itself…

aerial view photography of white and red concrete house near village

Eva Aegisdottir is a talented and original writer whose characters spring off the page and come to life for you as you try and work for the answers alongside them. Elma’s character is unforgettable – she is a woman trying to start again and we absolutely empathise with her as she has her own life to navigate as well as the murder to solve during this investigation. I enjoyed the aspects of her life that we get to see and look forward to discovering more about her as the series evolves, particularly her emerging friendship with Sævar and wondering how that will unfold…

The Creak on The Stairs is a superb blend of skilful plotting with a character-driven novel that I’ll be recommending to everyone. It stands out to me due to its deft manipulation of the reader and the way it keeps us guessing as well as its strong sense of place. Iceland springs to life as a character in its own right and makes you long to see some of these locations for yourself as you are reading.  Eva Aegisdottir is an exciting voice in fiction that I’ll definitely be looking out for in future, I loved her voice and the characters that she brought so vividly to life in this book.

Buy yourself a copy of this fantastic and unique read here, you definitely won’t regret it.

The Creak on the Stairs by [Eva Björg Ægisdóttir, Victoria Cribb]

‘Fans of Nordic Noir will love this moving debut from Icelander Eva Bjork Aegisdottir. It’s subtle, nuanced, with a sympathetic central character and the possibilities of great stories to come’ Ann Cleeves

‘An exciting and harrowing tale from one of Iceland’s rising stars’ Ragnar Jonasson

Writer On The Shelf

Born in Akranes in 1988, Eva moved to Trondheim, Norway to study my MSc in Globalisation when she was 25.

After moving back home having completed her MSc, she knew it was time to start working on her novel.

Eva has wanted to write books since she was 15 years old, having won a short story contest in Iceland.
Eva worked as a stewardess to make ends meet while she wrote her first novel. The book went on to win the Blackbird Award and became an Icelandic bestseller.

Eva now lives with her husband and three children in Reykjavík, staying at home with her youngest until she begins Kindergarten.

When the Music Stops blog blast

‘The sheer definition of a page-turner’ Reader review

‘A truly original, bittersweet tale of life, loss and enduring love that had me completely hooked. A treasure of a book!’ Sunday Times bestseller, Ruth Hogan

This is the story of Ella.
And Robert.
And of all the things they should have said, but never did.

Can’t wait to attend the virtual launch party tonight – Thursday, 29th October from 8pm,

There will be a Q&A with Joe and his editor, and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!

When the Music Stops, best new fiction, Joe Heap, The Rules of Seeing, best love stories, new books

‘What have you been up to?’
I shrug, ‘Just existing, I guess.’
‘Looks like more than just existing.’
Robert gestures at the baby, the lifeboat, the ocean.
‘All right, not existing. Surviving.’
He laughs, not unkindly. ‘Sounds grim.’
‘It wasn’t so bad, really. But I wish you’d been there.’

Ella has known Robert all her life. Through seven key moments and seven key people their journey intertwines.
From the streets of Glasgow during WW2 to the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of London in the 60s and beyond, this is a story of love and near misses. Of those who come in to our lives and leave it too soon. And of those who stay with you forever…

When the Music Stops, Joe Heap, The Rules of Seeing, new fiction, love stories, womens fiction, book

Readers LOVE When the Music Stops!

‘Endearing and beautifully told’ Janet

‘Stunning …with touches of a modern day Jane Eyre in that invisible space between the pages. Unusual. Rare. Magical. Highly recommended.’ Jenny

‘What a storyteller this author is…The closing chapters are sublime, and brought me to tears. A beautiful ending. This book will remain with me long after I write this review’ Janette

‘It mixes the ordinary with the extraordinary…in one way a version of David Nicholls’ One Day’ Jane

‘I fell in love with this lovely book…it’s about the things that connect us. A terrific read’ Pamela

‘This is going to leave a few people with tears in their eyes…read it in one sitting’ Louisa

‘There was one scene that overwhelmed me, had me crying so much I had to put the book down and take a breather. I went back after 15 mins to re-read, and cried again…Joe Heap does not disappoint’ Reader review

‘ I just loved Ella and lived every step of her journey…a compulsive read’ Bren

‘I’m swiftly becoming a big fan of Joe Heap!’ Emily

When the Music Stops, best new fiction, Joe Heap, The Rules of Seeing, best love stories, new books

Teapigs Rosamund Lupton event

Below is my review for the Wonderful #ThreeHours book by Rosamund Lupton

We hope you tune in live tonight to Instagram, get cosy on your sofa and pour a lovely cup of Teapigs as you enjoy the Insta Live session

smartphone showing Instagram icon

I adored this book, and if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?

See you all on the Sofa!

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.

snow covered bare trees

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.

person holding revolver

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.

man hugging woman near trees

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!

three hours

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.

A Bowl of Cherries Blog Tour

There’s nothing cosy about these crimes.

Succulent rich stories of the dark and unknown that might terrify, horrify, or deliciously delight. Thirty-two previously published and prize winning tales that contain themes of death, destruction, abuse and emotion, each one a veritable stride into a unique and different world. From the psychologically disturbed, the raging mad, the vulnerability of victims, and desperately needy, there’s not much that isn’t covered in the dark genre for those that like their stories to be troubling, distressing and quirky. NOT for the faint of heart, this comes with a triple X warning.

“A delightfully dark rollercoaster, dipping into a selection of slickly written shorts.” — Robert Scragg, author of All That is Buried
“A patchwork quilt of daring fever dreams, stitched together with effortless, bewitching prose. Highly recommended.” — Rob Parker, author of Far from the Tree

It’s great at half term to get the chance to relax and immerse yourself in books that you’ve been waiting to indulge in, when you have got the time and headspace to really enjoy them and savour them. But if you are anything like me – you find that when you’ve really really enjoyed a book, you might not be quite ready yet to dive straight into another much-anticipated one…

brown ox on mountain

And that’s where this wonderfully dark and more-ish selection of stories comes in! It was great to be able to come back from a huge sweeping drive around the Cowal peninsula and enjoy a couple of these with a gin before dinner. The diversity of story on offer here is fabulous – it’s like a box of Black Magic that I remember so vividly from my childhoood – you can take a lucky dip and be surprised at the range of tales on offer here – the common denominator is that they are all skilfully written and leave you wanting more after you’ve savoured one…

opened box of chocolate

My husband was a police officer and these stories gave us a great deal to talk about over dinner and we got a lot of strange looks off the neighbouring table as we went over a particular one of these tales! It was interesting to hear that they were written by a fellow ex-cop and there must be something in that as they certainly held his attention as we worked our way through them and talked them over at length. I know that the blurb says that these tales are not for the faint hearted – and that’s absolutely right – there’s much to shock here and keep the reader on their toes but these stories do what all the best short story collections do, present humanity in all its glory from the best of us to the very worst of us and I can truly say – all human life is here…

person face

I enjoyed being able to read them in no particular order and roam wherever I wanted to within the pages. Life is never just a bowl of cherries and that is ably demonstraed here – what cherries are present are definitely black cherries as these stories vividly depict the darker side to human nature and bring you despair, cruelty and torment within these pages – it’s not a horror selection but one that makes for excellent Halloween season reading as they definitely conjure the dark side of humanity and bring it to life right before your eyes.

unknown person facing sideways outdoors

I really enjoyed this collection and will be recommending it to people in my book club who enjoy being pushed to the edge in terms of their reading tastes. This is a compelling collection that has enough diversity to keep you intrigued and enough darkness to ensure that you make sure your door is locked before heading upstairs for the night! I recommend it to people who enjoy a walk on the wild side and aren’t easily shocked and hope that you enjoy these deliciously dark tales if you treat yourself to a copy

Writer On The Shelf

Effie Meryl / FE Birch

Effie Merryl is an ex-cop who spends her time between the North East of England and Central Scotland. She won the first Bloody Scotland Pitch Perfect in 2012 with the manuscript that will hopefully become her debut crime novel. She is the pseudonymous author of a ‘faction’ book of memoirs published by Harper Collins in 2013. She has had over 150 short stories published online and in print, many of which have been placed in competitions (2004 – present). Her short story collection, Bowl of Cherries, contains some of her best prize winners, and is released on Amazon Kindle under the name F.E. Birch.

Twitter @EffieMerryl

Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse Blog Tour

In Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse, Nina Schick warns us urgently of the impending information overload (known as the ‘Infocalypse’) and explains the dangerous political consequences of this Infocalypse, both in terms of national security and what it means for public trust in politics. Deep Fakes have been around for less than three years, to silence and for revenge and fraud. Government, business and society are completely unprepared.
Schick also unveils what it means for us as individuals, how Deep Fakes will be used to intimidate and to silence, for revenge and fraud, and how unprepared governments and tech companies are.

The malicious use of Deep Fakes is not only a real threat for democracy but they take the manipulation of voters to new levels. With the impending US election, and with vast amounts of money being spent of social media, it is expected that Deep Fakes will become a huge story later this year – – AI generated fake content is here for good, and we will have to figure how to navigate a world where seeing is no longer believing. As a political advisor to select technology firms, Schick is at the forefront of trends emerging from the worlds of data science, machine learning and AI. In Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse, Schick tells us what we need to do to prepare and protect ourselves.

“Too often we build the cool technology and ignore what bad guys can do with it before we start playing catch-up. But when it comes to Deep Fakes, we urgently need to be on the front foot.”

Mr On The Shelf is a graduate of History and Politics and i was delighted to read this fascinating book first and them pass it over to him to see what he thought and so that we could compare notes on it together during our massive roadtrip around Argyll and the stunning Cowal peninsula

brown grass under white sky

It has been interesting to read this at a time when we can feel like we are in information and news broadcast overload – the COVID regulations, the continuing rumblings about BREXIT and the forthcoming US Elections make this a timely and important read. It is a sad state of affairs that the more news we are capable of accessing, the more unsure we are about its veracity and the more confusing its messages can be. Nina Schick deftly and expertly starts to unravel the complexities of this situation and provides much food for thought in accessing this rolling news broadcast that we are living through at the moment

Voted printed papers on white surface

I had of course heard of deep fakes, but I had no idea how powerfully their influence could be once political machinations step into effect. This book is a timely warning about the war on truth in a very methodical way, taking the time to explain fully the potential impact of these ‘deep fakes’ on a world which sadly takes news at face value far to much of the time – even though we know that deep fakes can happen , we are lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that we think we would be able to notice fake news if we saw it and we would be far too astute to be taken in ourselves…

man sitting on chair holding newspaper on fire

Schick’s job, as a political advisor to these very technology firms, puts her in the best possible position to warn and advise us to adopt a more sceptical position on the ‘news’ we are presented with and think about the possibilities that AI can conjure to governments and powerful corporations that wish the population to implicitly believe things because they are lucrative and beneficial to them. AI is being used now, right under our very noses and Schick wants us to understand that it might be our own vanity and obstinacy that is preventing us from seeing this.

woman in white long sleeve shirt anime character

The truth, what is said or not said ad by whom has an enormous impact on our day to day lives. The BREXIT vote here and the public reaction to Coronavirus briefings have shown that people see what they want to see – and believe what they choose to believe – and this is magnified by the fact that the public can feel more invested in things that they’ve ‘seen’ with their own eyes. Mr On The Shelf and I had many a fascinating conversation about this as we drove the tiny twisting roads of Cowal and talked about how Trump’s tendencies of yelling ‘fake news’ at everything which he disagrees with has almost begun to devalue the concept of fake news and desensitise people to it. Once people are ‘fed up’ hearing about fake news, then corporations and political parties can capitalise on this and present us with ever more skilfully made ‘truths’ which people will definitely begin to absorb and accept more unquestioningly as time goes on…

brown concrete building with trees under black sky

I heartily recommend this book to people who love to question the status quo and who enjoy an intelligent and perceptive overview of things that they might previously been unaware of. Nina Schick is a skilful and intelligent writer who makes the complexities of the current landscape much more easy to navigate. This book unquestionably provides a great deal of food for thought for anyone with a questioning mind who is interested in exploring the headlines that we are surrounded by with a sceptical eye. It empowers its readers to look below the surface at the way that we are being manipulated and the potential for this to spiral in future if we are not more active now in our clarification of what we mean by a ‘reliable source’

You don’t have to be massively political, or well versed in tech to get a great deal out of this book, it will keep you up late reading it as it is such a fascinating blend of politics, news and prescience. Get yourself a copy here and arm yourself for the future

Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse: What You Urgently Need To Know by [Nina Schick]

“In writing this book, it is my modest aim to help you understand how dangerous and untrustworthy our information ecosystem has become, and how its harms extend far beyond politics – even into our private and intimate life. It is my hope that this understanding can help us come together to bolster our defences and start fighting back. As a society, we need to be better at building resilience to the Infocalypse. Understanding what is happening is the first step.”

– Nina Schick

Writer On The Shelf

Nina Schick is a political commentator, advisor and public speaker, specialising in how technology is reshaping politics in the 21st century. Most recently, her work has seen her focusing on the evolution of disinformation, and the fallout generated by election interference in the US (and around the world) since 2016.

Nina has advised global leaders including Joe Biden and Anders Fogh Rasmussen
(the former Secretary General of NATO), through her research on next-generation disinformation and AI-generated deep fakes. She has also worked at the heart of historic campaigns, including on the presidential campaign, the Brexit referendum and with Emmanuel Macron.

Half German and half Nepalese, she speaks seven languages and holds degrees from Cambridge University and University College London. She divides her time between London, Berlin and Kathmandu.

Betrayal Orenda Blog Tour

When aid worker Úrsula returns to Iceland for a new job, she’s drawn into the dangerous worlds of politics, corruption and misogyny … a powerful, relevant, fast-paced standalone thriller.

Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.

But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And the death of her father in police custody so many years rears its head once again.

As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch- like cleaning lady intertwine.
Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

The award-winning internationally bestselling author Lilja Sigurðardóttir returns with Betrayal, a relevant, powerful, fast- paced thriller about the worlds of politics, police corruption and misogyny that feels just a little bit too real…

When it’s October, we read Orenda! and this book is everything that’s best about the #Orentober tag rolled into one. This was the perfect book for me to luxuriate in, in misty Fife this week on half-term. I have absolutely loved Sigurðardóttir’s Reykjavik Noir trilogy and I absolutely could not wait to immerse myself in her latest read, to see what she conjured up next. I was utterly delighted when Anne Cater invited me onto the blog tour for this stunning Orenda novelist and could not wait to see what this master of political Icelandic -noir would present me with next…

photography of white swan floating on water body

Ursula is another one of Sigurðardóttir’s strong female characters and I really fell for her as we are plunged into the story and start to see her passion and energy for supporting other people and making changes happen.   Her life is turned absolutely upside down when not only does she become entangled with a mother’s fight for justice on behalf of her daughter; she becomes aware of a stalker’s presence who threatens to turn everything she was so certain of on its head and bring up waves of repercussions regarding her father’s death to boot. If you think that this sounds action-packed you are right – this novel grips you tight and doesn’t let you go for a second as Ursula is pulled in many directions at once as she attempts to navigate these dangers and difficulties in the pursuit of justice…

brown and blue concrete building

Just like Sigurðardóttir’s other novels, the other characters on the periphery are every bit as beautifully realised as the main contenders. Stella our cleaning lady with some secrets of her own – and Gunnar, Ursula’s indefatigable driver are vividly drawn and you get a real sense of Ursula’s relationship with them as the novel unfolds. Her every step into uncovering exactly what is going on is perfectly constructed – you are very much at the mercy of this skilled and inventive writer as you follow the trail of breadcrumbs and uncover with Ursula a great deal of things that might have been easier to have been kept hidden.

asphalt road surrounded by green grass field during daytime

Ursula is such a well-drawn and memorable narrator: because she is herself suffering from a kind of PTSD from her International work and because of her fractured relationships with her own family, we absolutely buy into her quest to bring about justice for this girl and her mother. Unusually for a thriller, you actually care when you sense danger around her that she is at first unaware of as underneath her tough exterior is a real sense of vulnerability and humanity.

This creates a satisfying tension as we feel protective of her, whilst at the same time we are absolutely in thrall to her skills at navigating the shifting sands of the Icelandic political scene. Her determination and inner strength keeps you turning the pages as more and more secrets begin to come to light. The reader develops a dawning sense that most people in this story are very different than they at first might have appeared and Ursula will need to keep her wits about her as she gets drawn deeper into situations where the familiar begins to twist and then shatter before her very eyes as the underlying tensions begin to come to a head.

top view of house near body of water

Once again, Sigurðardóttir proves that she really can keep the reader on their toes and provide us with several tightly- constructed possibilities that kept me feverishly turning the pages. I was totally invested in the question of who this homeless man was and whether Ursula could trust him, that I just could not out it down. I hate giving spoilers, so I’m definitely avoiding too much detail about exactly what corruption and secrecy she manages to uncover once she begins her quest– but I can promise you that you’ll not be able to predict the ending and you’ll be left wanting more as you turn the final page.

panoramic photography of village near water

I’ve never been to Iceland but it’s become more and more tempting to me as a consequence of loving these books so much. I read this in a single day, I was so fascinated by Ursula’s predicament and her pursuit of the truth.   Sigurdardóttir’s plotting is as skilful as ever, the characters are wonderfully captured and the vividly realised Icelandic Setting allowed me a few moments of lockdown virtual travel from the comfort of my half term bolthole in stunning Fife.

brown and white concrete buildings beside body of water under blue sky during daytime

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 chilling and intelligent read that will challenge your brain as well as engage your emotions with its well-drawn characters and gripping plot, then you’ve come to the right place.

Thanks so much for Anne Cater for inviting me aboard on the Blog Tour  –  It was definitely just the trip that I needed at a time when real-life foreign travel seems like an ever remoter possibility. I’d love to see one of Lilya’s books on the screen and I can already envisage some of the locations and characters in my mind’s eye. I would absolutely love to see it brought to life and I know that I say that about most Orenda reads – but Karen has a real eye for a story that you definitely see unfolding visually as you read – and i’d love my #Orentober dreams to come true and see one of these reads on the silver screen one day soon!

Buy yourself a copy here so that you can pack your own bags virtually and experience the intelligence, skill and intrigue of Sigurdardóttir’s prose for yourself.  I’d also ike to congratulate Quentin Bates for his work in translating this novel as so translators’ efforts go unsung, and this book is beautifully written and it has clearly been a labour of love to get it right…

Praise for Lilja Sigurdardóttir

‘Tense and pacey’ Guardian

‘Highly unusual’ The Times

‘Smart writing with a strongly beating heart’ Big Issue

‘Deftly plotted’ Financial Times

‘Breathtakingly original’ New York Journal of Books

‘Taut, gritty and thoroughly absorbing’ Booklist

‘A stunning addition to the icy-cold crime genre’ Foreword Reviews

Writer On The Shelf

Icelandic crime-writer Lilja Sigurdardóttir was born in the town of Akranes in 1972 and raised in Mexico, Sweden, Spain and Iceland. An award-winning playwright, Lilja has written four crime novels, including SnareTrap and Cage, making up the Reykjavik Noir trilogy, which have hit bestseller lists worldwide.

The film rights have been bought by Palomar Pictures in California. She lives in Reykjavík with her partner.

Follow her on twitter @lilja1972

The Good Samaritan Blog Tour


‘Compulsive, scary and breathtakingly original’ Dreda Say Mitchell

Perfect for fans of FOUND by Erin Kinsley, I LOOKED AWAY by Jane Corry and NOW YOU SEE HER by Heidi Perks, this gripping emotional thriller will keep you hooked from the very first page.

When her five-year-old daughter disappears from the park, Carrie’s world shatters. She is tortured with worry and she blames herself. What if her inability to read facial expressions has put her child in danger?

But just days later, a stranger finds Sofia and brings her home.

Carrie should be relieved, but the abductor is still out there, still unknown. Still after her child…

And are those who have offered their help really the good Samaritans they seem… or has Carrie missed the warning signs?

When Anne Cater messaged me to ask me about the The Good Samaritan Blog Tour, I bit her hand off. I absolutely love A clever and original thriller and was really looking forward to indulging during my school holidays. I actually read it in full all in one day, on my half term break in stunning Fife and it was the perfect read to keep me engrossed and detach totally from the busy term we’ve just had…

The cover Reveals that this will be a tale of a missing child, and we have all imagined just what that nightmare would be like – and I’d have to say that once I started reading this take of Carrie’s living hell, I was absolutely invested and could not stop reading. It is rare to be able to dedicate a whole day to reading at this time of the year if you are a teacher – never mind in the middle of a pandemic, and I so appreciated the chance to lie down and read without being disturbed. But this book had me hooked and I just could not stop until I’d found out everything I needed to know and discovered if my fears would be confirmed. I’d really like to chat with someone else who’s read it now and see if they enjoyed it as much as I did, I’m not in the mood for Christmas books just yet, but this felt like the perfect autumnal read. It is an absolute belter and I promise you that you won’t be able to stop thinking about it once your eyes are closed and you’re lying in bed at the end of a long day…

I got to read it here and I am happy to report that it really made my extremely pleasurable half term all the better. The popularity Of this genre really means that writers have to go the extra mile if they want their readers to be genuinely engaged, and I am happy to report that CJ Parsons manages this with skill and originality. I am also determined to ensure that there are no spoilers as this book really is worth the wait. I am a literal true crime addict and this felt like getting a fix of a real missing persons case that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It is one of those novels that you finish and feel like googling as you are so convinced that the events actually happened. I absolutely loved it and think that it would make another superb TV adaptation. I’m surreptitiously casting it in my mind’s eye right now and I think that move over Broadchurch, this would be an amazing five parter!

🍁 Beautiful Fife 🍁

I absolutely love a novel where we are kept guessing and are not very sure where we are as the story unfolds and Carrie’s brush with her ‘Good Samaritan’ hints at there being more to their unfolding narrative than meets the eye furnished by a set of wonderfully contrasting characters that play with your mind and weave in and out of your sense of direction until you really are left wondering who on earth to trust. The tension surrounding the facts of this case and how far Carrie can trust this helper is realistically rather than than sensationally handled – something else that sets CJ Parsons aside from other more run of the mill writers.

Carrie’s face blindness adds a tantalising twist to the proceedings and I was so invested in this clever addition to the narrative that I went off and read all about it afterwards to see other cases of this phenomenon. The characters are not just one dimensional agents of the plot but really are people we feel like we see developing before our eyes. The tension rises as the novel unfolds and Carrie’s confusion and distress is so much more effective because we actually feel compassionate towards her as a real person.

Limekilns in Fife

As I said earlier, I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from this twisty and intriguing tale that we are drawn into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel was the perfect fit for a half term break.This book is the narrative equivalent of a hot bath, I could plunge in and lose myself and switch off everything else that was going on in the world. I think it’s difficult to make a thriller genuinely original without seeming to try too hard or feel contrived – but The Good Samaritan manages the perfect balance of a perfectly created narrative and a plot that holds you in its grip and doesn’t easily let you go. A superb read that will keep you up too late turning the pages until you know how if ends.

Buy yourself a copy here and immerse yourself in Carrie’s faceless nightmare for yourself.

Writer On The Shelf

CJ Parsons

C J Parsons was born in Britain and grew up in Canada. She graduated from Montreal’s McGill University with a degree in psychology and went on to earn a graduate degree in journalism.

She worked as a newspaper reporter at Canada’s Globe and Mail before moving to Hong Kong, where she became a columnist at The South China Morning Post.

She also spent two years covering crime, seeing first-hand the disturbing forces that drive people to kill, something that has informed her writing to this day.

After returning to Britain, she moved into television news, working as a broadcast journalist for both the BBC and CNN International. CJ is now a senior producer at CGTN. She lives in north London with her twelve-year-old daughter.

Gravity Well Blog Tour

In Gravity Well, Marc Rahe’s incisive third collection, the poems beckon readers through an ever-shifting series of landscapes, drawing our gaze across a dynamic tableau— an octopus wearing a sweater, a white sky over the bridge we’re standing on, flowers pressed into a forgotten book — as a means of revealing the most particular thrills and anxieties of the human condition.

Unafraid and unwavering, careful and concerned, Gravity Well propels its reader through the imagined apertures of the universe one striking image at a time, leaving us ocularly magnified in a world now seen anew. A singular voice in American poetry, Rahe deftly centers the body in relation to ailments such as love, decay, aging, friendship, and grief. His powerful, meditative plea is resounding: “Earth, turn me.”

Gravity Well will be published by Rescue Press on 20th October 2020

As an English teacher as well as a blogger, I was absolutely delighted to be asked to review Mark Rahe’s eclectic new collection. I love poetry and think that there can be a lot of fear surrounding it and what is the ‘right’ way to read and respond to it…

marble toy

Poetry has often been described as ‘the best words in the best order’ and this is definitely the best way to respond to it. I like to set aside some time to read poetry before going out for a walk and think about how I’ve responded to the words on the page as I’m outside in nature.

forest heat by sunbeam

Rahe’s newest collection really makes you think, but it’s nothing to be afraid of and there is definitely much to enjoy whether you are a poetry aficionado or someone who is just curious and interested in opening up their reading horizons a little bit this year.

person on top of the cliff

I think that letting the words hit you as they land and not being too ‘hung up’ on divining the meaning is the answer with these poems – the bold cover with its lunar design invites you in and reminds you that reading poetry can be a doorway into another landscape and terrain totally different from our own – but just like the moon we can discover it for ourselves and inhabit it for a different perspective of the world we dwell in…

total lunar eclipse

In ‘Previous Lives’ and ‘Unwashed’ Rahe takes the domestic and the familiar and turns them on their head, asking us to consider the ways that even the most ordinary moments can stop us in our tracks and lead us to think about much bigger questions than can lurk on the surface of our consciousness.

silhouette photography of person

The idea of the ‘music of the spheres’ and the world turning on its axis as we lead our ordinary, extraordinary lives was really captured for me in the poems ‘Where All Motes Lead’ and ‘Appetite’ and I really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the quotidian aspects of our lives with metaphysical questions about humanity and our place on this tiny planet that we live on

green grass

I enjoy reading books that take me off the beaten track and make me think at the same time. Rahe has certainly achieved this in Gravity Well and I’m really grateful to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for offering me the chance to discover this fresh and original poetic voice. If you are looking for something different this autumn, that will maybe chase away your fear of poetry and lead you in a new literary direction, then you can buy yourself a copy here and enjoy discovering his voice as much as I have.

Gravity Well

Writer On The Shelf

thumbnail_Marc Rahe photo.jpeg
Mark Rahe

Marc Rahe is the author of The Smaller Half (Rescue Press, 2010), On Hours (Rescue Press, 2015), and Gravity Well (Rescue Press, 2020).

His poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, jubilat, MAKE Literary Magazine, PEN Poetry Series, Sixth Finch, and other literary journals.

He lives in Iowa City.