Gail Aldwin Feature – The String Games and Pandemonium

When four-year-old Josh goes missing during a family holiday in France his sister Nim, aged ten, finds it difficult to cope. She carries feelings of responsibility for his loss and grows into a vulnerable teenager.

In order to move forward with her life, Nim reinvents herself as Imogen. As an adult she returns to France determined to find out what really happened to Josh. How will she deal with this new information and what are the implications for her future?Gail Aldwin’s The String Games takes hold of the reader and the juncture of the head and the heart and simply does not let go.

With courage and tenderness, and an unblinking eye, Gail Aldwin explores the ways in which the loss of a child explodes a family. Treat yourself and read this one.JACQUELYN MITCHARD, bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN

The String Games: Amazon.co.uk: Aldwin, Gail, Zechmeister, Fiona:  9781999619510: Books

Writing is collaboration

When I set out in 2009 to become a novelist, I never imagined I would also have a children’s picture book published. Writing for children was the last thing on my mind! But as my journey to become a published author progressed, I found that writing in different genres such as poetry and short fiction was good creative writing exercise and helped build stamina for longer projects including the completion of my debut novel The String Games.

Dr Gail Aldwin on Twitter: "So pleased to have these lovely endorsements  for #PanDeMoNium from @Wendy_J_White Tir na n-Og Award Winner and Liz  Poulain, #Dorset publisher @Fuzzypig_books… https://t.co/TQQvA8xaRw"

This coming-of-age story was a finalist in the People’s Book Prize and shortlisted in the DLF writing prize 2020. As it is published with Victorina Press, a small independent publisher, I was involved in many of the processes. Fiona Zechmeister was appointed to design the cover and she included some of my ideas in the final cover image for The String Games.

The String Games Gallery – Victorina Press

We didn’t realise at the time, but this was the start of a collaboration which would lead to the publication of Pandemonium a full colour picture book for 2­–7 year olds. Picture books are dependent on the interaction of words and pictures therefore input from the writer and illustrator are equally important.

The String Games, book launch | the writer is a lonely hunter

The best children’s picture books allow the words to tell one story while the illustrations offer a parallel more nuanced version. In Pandemonium Fiona and I have mastered this collaborative approach. We’re delighted Pandemonium has received favourable reviews from early readers and we look forward to seeing this book with its message about the importance of being yourself, launched into the world on 1 December 2020.

About Pandemonium

All Peta ever wants to do is have fun. Nobody notices she’s up to mischief until an assistant in the department store spots her. Does this put an end to Peta’s adventures? Of course not!

About The String Games

When four-year-old Josh goes missing during a family holiday in France his sister Nim, aged ten, finds it difficult to cope. She carries feelings of responsibility for his loss and grows into a vulnerable teenager. In order to move forward with her life, Nim reinvents herself as Imogen. As an adult she returns to France determined to find out what really happened to Josh. How will she deal with this new information and what are the implications for her future?

About Gail Aldwin

Gail Aldwin (Author of The String Games)

Gail Aldwin is a novelist, poet and scriptwriter who regularly appears at literary and fringe festivals. Prior to Covid-19, Gail volunteered at Bidibidi in Uganda, the second largest refugee settlement in the world.  Find Gail on Twitter @gailaldwin 

About Fiona Zechmeister

Fiona holds a degree in Visual Communication and a Masters in Publishing from the University of Derby. She works as an illustrator creating book covers and children’s books. Pandemonium is the third children’s picture book Fiona has illustrated. The others are I am Adila from Gaza and Songo. Find Fiona on her website https://www.fionazeich.net

Dr Gail Aldwin (@gailaldwin) | טוויטר

Purchase link for The String Games https://www.victorinapress.com/product/the-string-games/

Purchase link for Pandemonium https://www.victorinapress.com/product/pan-de-mo-nium/

Praise for The String Games

Gail Aldwin’s The String Games takes hold of the reader and the juncture of the head and the heart and simply does not let go. With courage and tenderness, and an unblinking eye, Gail Aldwin explores the ways in which the loss of a child explodes a family. Treat yourself and read this one.JACQUELYN MITCHARD, bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN 

Gail Aldwin excels at creating characters you care about.NINA KILLHAM, author of BELIEVE ME  

An intimate portrayal of family, love and loss, and one that gives a glimpse into how crisis might shape each of us.ELIZABETH REEDER, author of RAMSHACKLE

An insightful, engaging novel, The String Games breaks the reader’s heart and leaves them turning the pages ever more quickly to get to the truth of what really happened.SARA GETHIN, author of NOT THOMAS

Praise for Pandemonium

This is an absolutely beautiful picture book – and I love the important message it conveys that you shouldn’t change yourself to try to fit in!  – Tilly, UK


Young children will see themselves in the playful hero; wonderful illustrations, in a riot of colour, will draw them in. Certain to become a favourite on the bookshelf. – Pete, Sweden


Most excelling for the early years. – Sue, UK

Cute story about a silly panda with great illustrations! My two year old loved it! – Amy, USA

Night Train To Paris Blog Tour

Meet Fen Churche, as she steps off the night train with the sun rising over Paris. Cat whisperer, crossword puzzler… accidental detective?

Autumn, 1945Fen cannot wait to see her beloved godmother Rose, who has invited Fen to stay with her in the city of lights. As she arrives, Fen is dreaming of strolls by the Seine, taking tea at the Eiffel Tower and above all French feasts with Rose where they can trade stories of how they survived the terrifying war years.

But Fen has barely made friends with Rose’s bad-tempered poodle when she returns to the apartment to find her godmother murdered, a paintbrush stuck in her neck. Suddenly Fen is thrown into the middle of a truly puzzling mystery. Who on earth would want to murder Rose, a gentle artist and generous friend?

A blackmail letter convinces Fen that the police have got everything wrong and Fen knows she has to solve the case just like one of her crosswords, one clue at a time. As she meets her godmother’s friends, she makes a surprising discovery: Rose was part of the Resistance during the war…

When a second body turns up, another of Rose’s wartime contacts, Fen must act fast. But as the killer turns their sights on Fen, does she have what it takes to solve this mysterious murder and get justice for her darling godmother?

You won’t be able to put down this utterly addictive historical cozy mystery! The absolutely perfect treat if you love Agatha Christie, Rhys Bowen and Jacqueline Winspear.

I absolutely love finding new writers that I adore, and I could not wait to read this historical murder mystery. I’m delighted to be able to share my review of this intelligent and witty read that drew me in from the very first paragraph and kept me entertained and amused by its setting and characters until its very final page.

A crime novel featuring railways, a historical setting and some blackmail and dastardly deeds to boot – I mean, what’s not to love? These were some of the many reasons that I was drawn to Night Train To Paris  and why I’m so grateful to Sarah Hardy for inviting me to participate in this blog tour

train compartment

I love immersing myself in a setting and feeling like I’ve actually spent time in the place whilst I’m reading and this book really achieves this as you feel like you are there witnessing the events in Paris right there alongside Fen and Rose – I know it’s already been said plenty of times – But it really made me hopeful that this eccentric and lively read will be part of a lengthy series of books that I can enjoy on the silver screen shortly- I am already casting Fen in my mind’s eye…

Moulin Rouge tavern

Because you’re definitely in a safe pair of hands, with a writer who clearly knows and loves her subject matter and can craft a perfect cosy crime tale,  you feel like you can totally surrender to this reading experience and spend a few days in the company of these unorthodox criminologists. I really felt like I could imagine this vividly realised world and found it very difficult to detach myself from it to come back to a mundane world of washing dishes and planning lessons.

Eiffel Tower under blue sky during daytime

It was lovely to lose myself in this cosy crime read after a few months where I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and non-fiction.  It’s funny that I get into reading zones and I’m now on a real Crime Fiction mission and have been drawn to exploring a few Agatha Christie’s after seeing the recent stunning edition of Death On The Nile and losing myself in another of my favourite era’s darker sides. I am trying not to give any spoilers at all as I do not want you to lose a single element of the twists and turns of this original spin on cosy crime, but you should prepare to be both moved, entertained and charmed by the idiosyncrasies of this group of crimefighters who go all-out to show that when it comes to solving mysteries, the past can definitely have a huge impact on the present and sometimes the most surprising clues can turn out to be pivotal…

Louvre Museum, Paris

The host of engaging characters and their complementary character quirks in this  charming and entertaining read allowed me to escape from everything COVID and just focus on the twists and turns of the mystery. The way that Fen’s ideas and theories interconnect and collide with one another was one of my favourite things about this book and it certainly does a fine job of not allowing you to put it down as it gives you a solid case of ‘one more chapter’ as you wonder whatever is going to happen next and how her unorthodox crime-busting techniques will win the day.

bridge during night time

This was the perfect second-Lockdown read for me – and if you’re growing despondent with this never ending series of restrictions and feel like everything is too much for you and you just want an escape from it all –  then this would be a perfect book to lose yourself in.  Fans of  the cosy crime genre and Paris alike will have hours of entertainment trying to solve the mystery for themselves whilst managing to raise a smile and a theory or two themselves as they go.

tilt-shift lens photography of woman using phone standing near door

If you love an humorous and intelligent read with memorable characters and a setting that you’ll absolutely fall for then this is the read for you. I definitely enjoyed this book just as much as I’d been expecting to and I’m sure that it would appeal to lots of my Book club readers too. Buy yourself a copy here and enjoy this trip into the world of cosy crime for yourself

Writer On The Shelf

Fliss Chester lives in Surrey with her husband and writes historical cozy crime. When she is not killing people off in her 1940s whodunnits, she helps her husband, who is a wine merchant, run their business.

Never far from a decent glass of something, Fliss also loves cooking (and writing up her favourite recipes on her blog), enjoying the beautiful Surrey and West Sussex countryside and having a good natter. 


Social Media Links:
Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Coral Bride Blog Tour #OrendaBooks

In this beautiful, lyrical sequel to the critically acclaimed We Were the Salt of the Sea, Detective Moralès finds that a seemingly straightforward search for a missing fisherwoman off Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula is anything but …

‘A riveting story of old enmities, jealousies and friendships that come to light after a woman goes missing in a remote fishing village … beautifully atmospheric’ Gill Paul

‘A haunting murder mystery about how human nature is every bit as dangerous and inscrutable as the sea … draws out its suspense to the very last moment’ Foreword Reviews


It’s not just the sea that holds secrets…

When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a rare female in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.

When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep.

Exquisitely written, with Bouchard’s trademark lyrical prose, The Coral Bride evokes the power of the sea on the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.

Maybe it was because I was supposed to be spending five weeks this summer travelling in Nova Scotia – (thank you Covid19 for ruining my holiday plans) I was absolutely intrigued by the premise of this book featuring this evocative insight into the Gaspé Peninsula and its maritime culture. I was delighted to be invited on the tour by Anne Cater & Random Things Tours and couldn’t wait to travel vicariously to this beautiful, remote and mysterious part of the world.

boat near lake

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 harsh and relentless lives that people living in this remote location have 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. The search for a missing fisherwoman was the novel I never realised that I was dying to read – and this unusual premise and the stunning and remote location has a massive impact on the way that the residents of this patriarchal society perceive events and we start to see their perspective more clearly as this intelligently structured and poetically written novel unfolds.

I absolutely loved the unique atmosphere of this novel and definitely found it quite addictive. It was intriguing to imagine Morales trying to navigate the challenges of this disappearance and for anyone who has not already devoured We Were the Salt of the Sea, I guarantee that you will be rushing out to buy a copy as the writing is so evocative that in a time starved of travel, this is definitely the best way to vicariously experience a wholly different landscape, culture and world view.

2 people riding on boat on lake during daytime

Even though some of this novel deals with domestic issues and their isolated existence, it does it in an original way which makes the story linger at the edges of our consciousness even when we aren’t reading it. Both Morales and his son feel very much like real people – rather than mechanisms to explore a missing person story – which I’ve often found in novels which want to get people turning the pages This is a really unique novel which has to be ‘felt’ to be understood. I am in awe of Bouchards’s atmospheric writing that makes you feel the stunning beauty of this austere and remote location and feel like I could almost taste the sea air as I was reading.

Roxanne Bouchard is an intriguing 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 intrigued by this tale of long buried resentments within a close knit community and its deadly repercussions. 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 tiny details that add up to its sense of atmosphere – things start to accumulate and you’ll not be able to believe you missed them before – and your relationship with the characters builds and builds as you experience the challenges and constraints of their circumstances.

brown wooden dock

The Coral Bride asks us to think about the way that our location shapes our outlook and perspective and doesn’t allow us to dismiss these characters as mere constructs – this novel never stops feeling like a real story. 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.

boat floating on sea

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 Roxanne Bouchard does next. The idea that life for remote communities 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 at all. Congratulations must also go to the translator David Warriner as he undoubtedly does a superb job of capturing the beauty and lyricism of the narrative and makes this novel sing as you read, buy yourself a copy to experience it for yourself

Praise for The Coral Bride

“A wonderfully atmospheric novel . . . I couldn’t put this book down.” –Gill Paul, author, The Secret Wife

“An elegant crime novel that deserves to be a tremendous success.” –William Ryan, author, The HolyThief

“I was quite bewitched at times by the language and imagery the author employs. A very satisfying read, and recommended for those who like their crime fiction with a more literary edge.” —Raven Crime Reads

“Morales’ determination to get a result in difficult circumstances shows him to be a character worth following.” —Crime Review

“Refreshingly different, unpredictable, yet deeply rich and touching, it became a part of me.” —LoveReading

‘Lyrical and elegiac, full of quirks and twists’ William Ryan

‘Asks questions right from page one’ Quentin Bates

‘An isolated Canadian fishing community, a missing mother, and some lovely prose. Very impressed by this debut so far’ Eva Dolan

‘A tour de force of both writing and translation’ Su Bristow

‘The translation from French has retained a dreamily poetic cast to the language, but it’s det-fic for all that…’ Sunday Times

‘Characters are well-drawn, from Moralès, the cop, and his sturdy inspector, Marlène, to the husky fishermen who were Marie’s devoted suitors three decades ago … An exotic curiosity, raw nugget’ Shots Mag

Writer On The Shelf

Over ten years ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. Her fifth novel (first translated into English) We Were the Salt of the Sea was published in 2018 to resounding critical acclaim, sure to be followed by its sequel, The Coral Bride. She lives in Quebec.

Translator David Warriner:

David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

Out For Blood Blog Tour

DI Eve Hunter is back in the edge-of-your-seat new detective thriller from Deborah Masson, winning author of the Bloody Scotland Crime Debut of the Year 2020.

A young man, the son of an influential businessman, is discovered dead in his central Aberdeen apartment.

Hours later, a teenaged girl with no identification is found hanged in a suspected suicide.

As DI Eve Hunter and her team investigate the two cases, they find themselves in a tug-of-war between privilege and poverty; between the elite and those on the fringes of society.

Then an unexpected breakthrough leads them to the shocking conclusion: that those in power have been at the top for too long – and now, someone is going to desperate lengths to bring them down…

Can they stop someone who is dead set on revenge, no matter the cost?

DI Eve Hunter is back

For weeks, my Twitter timeline has been FULL of people who have been shouting about how much they’ve loved this book and it’s been hard to keep to my reading schedule and be disciplined as I knew that it was going to be something really special before I even opened it. I absolutely love Deborah Masson’s writing and adored Hold your Tongue And if you haven’t read it you need to add it to your TBR pile without delay as it deserves every single one of its plaudits and more – so when Anne Cater asked me if I’d like to take part in the blog tour for Out for Blood, I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

5 star review

Although I was totally absorbed in the storyline in Out for Blood it is Deborah Masson’s writing itself that makes it such a treat to read.  D.I Eve Hunter is so perfectly realised that it was hard at times to remember that she and her team are fictional characters rather than real people who I’ve been working alongside to get to the bottom of what’s happened with these two seemingly disparate crimes D.I. Hunter ends up in a very difficult situation to navigate; caught in a power play between the haves and the have nots of Aberdeen society where every false step puts finding out the truth ever more out of reach. The Scottish setting was something that really appealed to me as I love reading books set in a city that I know. Added to this was the fact that I love a strong female lead and Deborah Masson can really write them – I have really fallen for Eve’s personality and admire the way that her resilience and refusal to let her own challenges get in the way of trying to solve these cases.

5 star review

D.I Hunter is never presented as just the sum of her challenging experiences or her PTSD, I think that it’s a testament to the strength of the writing that we are rooting for her throughout the novel as we see how determined she is not to let her own personal barriers get in the way of her ability to solve these crimes. Her relationship with the team is convincingly and depicted and the personal insights into their lives gives tiny chinks of relief in what can be at times a dark and unsettling read.  The human trafficking angle is never sensationalised and we get drawn into the human impact of this unspeakable trade with sensitivity and insight.

5 star review

Even though on the surface they are very different, both of these crimes are essentially connected by more than divides them. The novel’s portrayal of their relationship is never formulaic: the rich poor divide feels really vivid and true to life as the team navigate some harrowing and challenging situations. You will definitely find it hard to put this book down as you’ll be so wrapped up in their story that you’ll need to keep reading and find out how it all ends. DI Hunter is a feisty character who gets herself into a fair few unsettling scenarios it’s safe to say that there were parts of this novel that I read with a thudding heart and sweaty palms as I was not sure how it was all going to end. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and I’m really jealous of anyone who’s yet to start reading Out for Blood as they are definitely in for a treat this winter.

brown rope tied to vehicle

I absolutely recommend Out for Blood to people who really like to get their teeth into a story  that is as far from formulaic and predictable as it is possible to be. In the present reading climate, many police procedurals can feel interchangeable – but this book certainly stood out a mile amongst the competition.  I loved the deft characterisation as much as I enjoyed the plot and I will definitely be recommending it  to friends of mine who enjoy a page-turning read with a lead character that you’ll be rooting for. Get yourself a copy of Out For Blood here on Hive and enjoy it whilst relaxing over the festive season or treat someone you love to a copy as a great Christmas gift…

police car on road

Karen Sullivan has done it again and made me feel like if my TBR pile hasn’t got an Orenda book on it, then it’s somehow incomplete.  I’ve already got Deity in my sights as my final read of the month and can’t wait to get it started.

READERS ARE OBSESSED WITH THE DI EVE HUNTER SERIES

‘One of the best books I’ve ever read!’
‘I loved DI Eve Hunter and her team’
‘Without a doubt the best police procedural I have read in a long time’
‘I cannot wait to see what else is to come in the DI Eve Hunter series’
‘You won’t want to stop reading this addictive crime novel’
‘Fantastic characters that you’ll fall in love with – I really couldn’t put this book down!’
‘Can’t wait for the next one . . . and the next one . . . and the next one!’

Out For Blood has everything you need in a crime thriller and more’ Rebecca Bradley
‘DI Eve Hunter is truly a force to be reckoned with’ David Jackson
‘This is first-class crime fiction’ Marion Todd
‘Not to be missed, edge-of-the-seat stuff from a genuine rising star’ Denzil Meyrick

Writer On The Shelf

Deborah Masson was born and bred in Aberdeen, Scotland. Always restless and fighting against being a responsible adult, she worked in several jobs including secretarial, marketing, reporting for the city’s freebie newspaper and a stint as a postie – to name but a few.

Through it all, she always read crime fiction and, when motherhood finally
settled her into being an adult (maybe even a responsible one) she turned
her hand to writing what she loved. Deborah started with short stories and flash fiction whilst her daughter napped and, when she later welcomed her son into the world, she decided to challenge her writing further through online courses with Professional Writing Academy and Faber Academy.

Her debut novel, Hold Your Tongue, is the result of those courses.
Hold Your Tongue has been widely well reviewed by readers and authors alike, with many comparing her favourably to Stuart MacBride. It won the Bloody Scotland Scottish Crime Debut of the Year 2020 and was longlisted for CWA New Blood Dagger 2020.

Witch Bottle – Tom Fletcher Blog Blast

A deeply atmospheric literary horror novel about the nature of repressed guilt, grief and fear.

Daniel once had a baby brother, but he died, a long time ago now. And he had a wife and a daughter, but that didn’t work out, so now he’s alone. The easy monotony of his job as a milkman in the remote northwest of England demands nothing from him other than dealing with unreasonable customer demands and the vagaries of his enigmatic boss.

But things are changing. Daniel’s started having nightmares, seeing things that can’t possibly be there – like the naked, emaciated giant with a black bag over its head which is so real he swears he could touch it . . . if he dared.

It’s not just at night bad things are happening, either, or just to him. Shaken and unnerved, he opens up to a local witch. She can’t t discern the origins of his haunting, but she can provide him with a protective ward – a witch-bottle – if, in return, he will deliver her products on his rounds.

But not everyone’s happy to find people meddling with witch-bottles. Things are about to get very unpleasant . . .

Witch Bottle is literary horror at its finest, perfect for fans of Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney and Starve Acre.

person holding cattle skull surrounded by squash and candles

When Milly Reed messaged me to ask me about the Witch Bottle Blog Blast, I was literally ready to bite her hand off – this book has me written all over it. Having seen the cover and read the blurb I could not wait to read it and my excitement and anticipation was wholly justified as I absolutely loved it.

Let me tell you, Witch Bottle did not disappoint.

The cover reveal hinted at a dark and mysterious tale where everything is not quite as it seems and I’d have to say that the comparisons with The Loney are are well founded and if you enjoy Andrew Michael Hurley you will devour this dark and mysterious read

full moon behind a tree silhouettes

I read this in a single day, being utterly loath to drag myself away from the claustrophobic and intriguing world that Tom Fletcher draws you into. I love books that are even better than the one you’ve been anticipating and I have to say that this novel was absolutely compelling – this book is the narrative equivalent of a ‘Magic Eye’ painting – you know that there’s more going on below the surface and try as you might to decipher exactly why it is, things keep shifting before your very eyes and the final picture eludes you right to the very end. And perhaps even afterwards….

person decorating pumpkin and candles

I think it’s difficult to make books with an eerie edge genuinely disturbing without seeming to try too hard or feel contrived – but Witch Bottle manages the perfect balance of a perfectly created fictional world and a realistic portrayal of an unsettling atmosphere and a wonderfully unreliable narrator.

I loved this novel and I’ll be recommending it to everyone who likes their novels dark, intriguing and profoundly unsettling Tom Fletcher is definitely a talent to watch and yet more confirmation that the British horror novel is firing on all cylinders. If you are looking for an unsettling winter read, you have come to the right place – order yourself a copy without delay

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‘Fletcher…convinces me that there may be some truth at last in those rumours about a renaissance in British supernatural fiction’ The Times

About Witch Bottle:

‘A modern gothic stunner…terrifying, slow-burning, exquisitely wrought.’ Lancashire Evening Post

‘Fletcher excels at infusing the mundane…with a slow-burning sense of unease.’ The Guardian

‘An acutely unsettling folk horror with a superbly unreliable narrator.’ The Metro

Writer On The Shelf

Tom Fletcher is a writer of horror and dark fantasy novels and short fiction. His first three horror novels, The LeapingThe Thing on the Shore and The Ravenglass Eye, were followed by Gleam and Idle Hands, the first two books in The Factory Trilogy, his first fantasy series. His new novel, Witch-Bottle, is a deeply atmospheric modern gothic tale of grief and guilt. He lives in a remote village in Cumbria with his wife and family.

Goodreads

Open House by Jane Christmas

Moving house has never flustered author Jane Christmas. She loves houses: viewing them, negotiating their price, dreaming up interior plans, hiring tradespeople to do the work and overseeing renovations. She loves houses so much that she’s moved thirty-two times.

There are good reasons for her latest house move, but after viewing sixty homes, Jane and her husband succumb to the emotional fatigue of an overheated English housing market and buy a wreck in the town of Bristol that is overpriced, will require more money to renovate than they have and that neither of them particularly like.

As Jane’s nightmare renovation begins, her mind returns to the Canadian homes where she grew up with parents who moved and renovated constantly around the Toronto area. Suddenly, the protective seal is blown off Jane’s memory of a strict and peripatetic childhood and its ancillary damage—lost friends, divorces, suicide attempts—and the past threatens to shake the foundations of her marriage. This latest renovation dredges a deeper current of memory, causing Jane to question whether in renovating a house she is in fact attempting to renovate her past.

brown wooden house near bare trees during daytime

With humour and irreverence, Open House reveals that what we think we gain by constantly moving house actually obscures the precious and vital parts of our lives that we leave behind.

This is a memoir that will appeal to anyone whose pulse quickens at the mere mention of real estate.

Canada flags

In Open House,  Jane Christmas shows her extraordinary gift for illuminating the vital details which make us human. She is that rare writer who can make us think about serious topics even when we are laughing in recognition and I absolutely recommend this wonderfully written journey through the houses that made her…

Am so happy to be on today’s Blog Tour of #Open House and I’m wishing more than ever that it was an actual tour today because I absolutely love Canada and was supposed to spend the entire Summer 2020 travelling on a huge road trip from Toronto to Halifax NS, Today, however – we have to be grateful for virtual journeys, it’s wonderful to be curled up with a great book after a windy walk. The wood burning stove is lit and the rugby is scheduled so I have to just be happy to be in rainy autumnal Scotland.

Related image

I absolutely loved this book. It’s a warm and uplifting read that will genuinely draw you in and let you feel part of Jane’s migratory life as she tries to navigate adult life and all the curveballs that it throws her as she moves us through all the houses and experiences of her life.

Jane has an incredible voice and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down with her and hearing her story. When I was reading about her strict childhood upbringing or the many areas to navigate as she tries to throw herself into adult life, it’s an easy sentiment to connect with – I’m sure lots of you will have had that feeling when you think you’re a lot more grown-up than you actually are and end up in situations that you could never have anticipated. Jane’s voice always rings true and you will be creasing up, hearing about some of the situations she finds herself caught up in.

Her uncanny knack for being able to spin the gold out of even the most challenging situation is one of the best things about this book. You will have had lots of these moments yourself where you’ve ended up finding things in common with people you’d never have imagined and this literal as well as metaphorical journey through all the ‘houses’ of her life does it so much better than most. I loved Jane’s style of autobiographical writing and there is much here that will resonate here with people who themselves had a nomadic childhood as well as people who enjoy memoirs with an original and fascinating twist.

trees beside brown wooden house

I really loved the nostalgia I found in its pages. There were loads of moments in Jane’s journey towards adulthood that I really connected with – her honest reflections and off-the-cuff comments are totally unique and I found her absolutely hilarious. There are plenty of awkward and memorable moments as she finds herself looking at her past selves and thinking afresh at some of the choices she made and decisions she took.

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Jane Christmas wrote this book from the heart, and it shows.  It presents a picture of a journey to becoming yourself reflected through the moves we make and the moments that make us become ourselves and captures these moments in time perfectly.

Buy yourself a copy here and enjoy meeting Jane and her 32 houses for yourself as you follow her through all her yesterdays leading he to the person she is today.

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Writer On The Shelf

Open House | CBC Books

JANE CHRISTMAS is the author of several bestselling books, including What the Psychic Told the Pilgrim, about her mid-life pilgrimage along Spain’s famed Camino trail; Incontinent on the Continent, about a six-week road trip through Italy with her elderly and opinionated mother in the hopes of finding a rapprochement in their relationship; as well as And Then There Were Nuns, which chronicles Jane’s discernment about entering religious life, and was a finalist for the 2014 Leacock Memorial Award for Humour. She has been published in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal and Germany. Born and raised in Canada, Jane Christmas is the mother of three wonderful adults and the ex-wife of two kind-hearted husbands. In 2012, she moved to the UK, where she lives in southwest England with her current husband.

River of Sins – Blog Tour


July 1144. Ricolde, ‘the finest whore in Worcester’, is found butchered on an island a few miles up the River Severn. How did she get there, who killed her, and why?

Uncovering details of her life and her past reveal a woman with hidden depths and hidden miseries which are fundamental to the answers, but time has cast a thick veil over the killer’s identity. The lord Sheriff’s men have a trail that went cold over two decades ago, and evidence that contradicts itself. In a place Catchpoll knows inside out, he finds things new even to him, and then the case becomes personal.

The Bradecote and Catchpoll series are set in Worcestershire during the Anarchy of King Stephen’s reign, and commence in June 1143. They follow the investigations of Hugh Bradecote, a vassal lord of the Sheriff, William de Beauchamp, and the Sheriff’s Serjeant, the wily Catchpoll.

Catchpoll is ‘the professional’, having been ‘serjeanting’ for twenty years. He knows nearly all the low life of Worcester, and works on the principle that outside of thefts for survival and crimes of passion, criminals are mean bastards, and the way to keep crime under control is to prove you are a meaner bastard than they are. He is observant, can think clearly, and is, above all, pragmatic.

From the second book they are joined by Walkelin, whom Catchpoll has selected as his ‘serjeanting apprentice’.

This book is the seventh historical epistle, telling the tale of Serjeant Catchpoll and companion in overturning crime – Undersheriff Hugh Bradecote. Their series of adventures has something for everyone, mystery, crime, history, scandal and a real sense of its setting in both time and place. It is an enjoyable historical tale and no mistake, but I absolutely loved losing myself in it and immersing myself in the twists and turns of their adventures as this tale unfolded. You don’t need to have read the preceding six books, but it’s very likely that you’ll want to as soon as you’ve finished…

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Sarah Hawkswood has clearly put her heart and soul into researching this period, and this book shows off her impeccable research skills as she spares no effort in trying to recreate this time for us and brings us along with her on this unforgettable journey. These characters become living breathing people through these pages, and because of this, it’s easy to get engrossed in their story. Because I am a huge fan of historical fiction, I was delighted to discover a new author through this blog tour to get into and know that through reading this tale I could connect with this period in history in a very real way.

I loved the fact that these characters seem so modern – Catchpoll comes across as a man who was ahead of his time – someone who wants to beat the criminals who are in an abundance in the underbelly of the city at their own game and who understands this environment and is prepared to use the knowledge he has gained in order to solve these mysteries, regardless of how ethical his approach might or might not be…

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I found the way that Sarah Hawkswood effortlessly blends her research with real insight into the characters on the page to be stunningly well achieved and even though it is certainly not a slight book, I raced trough it in record time. I absolutely loved the way that this intriguing and original book transports you back into Catchpoll’s time and allows you to get to know these people right across the centuries. You do not have to be a fan of historical crime story to love this book and characters and you will be amazed at how much some of their thoughts and emotions will resonate with you – even though they were living breathing and loving so many centuries ago

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I love doing my research after finishing a book I’ve enjoyed and if you are intrigued by this story, you could find out more about another famous case from this era  here. You will be able to s read all about the man himself as well as get details of the tragedy that eventually unfolded. I loved reading about life for women during this period and it made me realise how much I didn’t know about this period in history – which is brought vividly to life on these pages and I enjoyed going down a few rabbit holes in my own research as soon as I finished reading it.

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If you are intrigued and would like to read more about this fascinating period then follow the blog tour and definitely buy yourself a copy of this fascinating and beautifully researched historical read as well as the others from this series, listed below. Thanks to Allison & Busby for inviting me onto the tour and introducing me to a new series to savour this winter.

The Bradecote and Catchpoll series, by Sarah Hawkswood, is published by Allison & Busby. They have a chronological order but also work as stand alone stories. T

here are currently six in print and as ebooks, and the seventh, River of Sins, will be published in November 2020. The eighth and ninth in the series will be published in 2021.

Read the synopses and titles of future investigations in the Novels section. You can read an extract from Servant of Death here, and the first chapter of Ordeal by Fire here. An extract from the audiobook of Servant of Death can be heard here and one for Ordeal by Fire is here. The third and fourth books in the series, Marked to Die and Hostage to Fortune arenow also available as audiobooks, with the fifth, Vale of Tears, coming out in August 2020.

The Bradecote and Catchpoll series are set in Worcestershire during the Anarchy of King Stephen’s reign, and commence in June 1143. They follow the investigations of Hugh Bradecote, a vassal lord of the Sheriff, William de Beauchamp, and the Sheriff’s Serjeant, the wily Catchpoll. Catchpoll is ‘the professional’, having been ‘serjeanting’ for twenty years. He knows nearly all the low life of Worcester, and works on the principle that outside of thefts for survival and crimes of passion, criminals are mean bastards, and the way to keep crime under control is to prove you are a meaner bastard than they are. He is observant, can think clearly, and is, above all, pragmatic. From the second book they are joined by Walkelin, whom Catchpoll has selected as his ‘serjeanting apprentice’.

Writer on the Shelf

Sarah Hawkswood describes herself as a ‘wordsmith’ who is only really happy when writing. She read Modern History at Oxford and first published a non-fiction book on the Royal Marines in the First World War before moving on to medieval mysteries set in Worcestershire

Things that Bounded

Ellen and Kate were best friends and committed suffragettes. On the eve of the Great War, Kate burned down a church. A man died and she disappeared. Sixteen years later, Ellen and her brother Freddie have rebuilt their lives after the trauma of war and loss. She is overjoyed when Kate reappears. But Kate is consumed by remorse over the death. They enlist the help of Alec, Freddie’s ex-lover, to find out what happened that day in the church. There are ties from the past that bind them all: guilt, fear, pride. Can they break free from these…


I absolutely loved this fascinating historical read. Things that Bounded drew me in from the very first paragraph and kept me engrossed in its diverse characters and their stories right until the very final page.

The Great War, the Women’s movement and long buried secrets – these are some of the many reasons that I was so drawn to Things That Bounded and why I’m so grateful to Anne Cater from #RandomThings Tours for inviting me to participate in this blog tour.

I love immersing myself in a convincingly told historical tale and I felt like I could totally surrender myself to this reading experience and luxuriate in it over a drench week where we are teetering on the edge of another lockdown here in Scotland – I really felt like I could imagine life in Ellen &Kate’s world and found it very difficult to detach myself from this tale, once I had lost myself in it. I loved the idea that complicated relationships and allegiances aren’t a modern invention and same sex relationships aren’t the prerogative of 21st century people and got totally caught up in his story. I have immediately ordered another two books set during the same period and can’t wait to enjoy them over the weekend

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Is anyone else like me and love to go online and immerse themselves in the period of the book that they’re loving, to try and really place themselves in the characters’ world? I love doing it and I found myself scrolling through pages and pages of tales of crimes, the fashions of the time and the limitations for women living in that periods too – I found it totally fascinating and might have developed a new obsession…This book wears its research lightly and makes you feel like you are learning new things about life at this time, rather than just the accepted narrative, which I really enjoyed.

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It was lovely to lose myself in an interesting and thought provoking historical read after a period where I’ve been mostly reading contemporary writing and non-fiction.  It’s funny that I get drawn to books in waves, and after reading Things That Bounded I’m now Bouncing off myself on a real Historical Fiction mission and have been drawn back to one of my comfort-reads –  Rebecca– dealing with secrets, fractured family dynamics and unspoken feelings, too. I am so excited to see it on the screen once my sister is out of lockdown and think that Things that Bounded would make a fantastic Adaptation too!

Ellen, Kate, Alec and Freddie have such vividly-depicted lives, Fiona Graph allowed me to travel back in time with them through its pages.  I really loved the way that she draws the reader in and keeps them connected with the small details that connect and separate these characters as we see the way that people’s choices were far more limited in that era and it is so easy to see why so many people living at that time bowed to convention and tried to mask the truth and bury things that would bring disgrace on the family. The supporting characters played just as important a part as The key figures and I enjoyed seeing the personal and political landscape of the time contrast in this novel as we get an
insight into their lives as well as see how they fitted into the wider context of life and its limitations at this point.

I found myself wondering about Kate,Alec and Freddie when I wasn’t reading this book and thinking about their reasons for behaving in the way that they did – as well as considering how Ellen’s life and choices was of course very different to my Own experiences and how Kate’s personality And passions really shone through although we were so far apart in time and space. This is a touching and intelligent read that will make you think about the way we view people from the past and the suppositions we have about sexuality, courage and acceptance in this period.

I recommend this book for people who enjoy a compelling narrative with memorable characters and a Fresh look at gender roles, decisions about self expression and bravery at a time when even following your heart was a perilous endeavour In a world where conforming was very much the Lesser of two evils…

This is a novel with female and male queer characters, and their love for each other is at its heart. The two central characters were young suffragettes who find each other again in the 1930s. It is an uplifting story which manages to address important and universal themes around vulnerability and courage.” – Helen Pankhurst, international women’s rights activist and writer

Writer On The Shelf

Biography

Fiona Graph

Fiona Graph was born in Sydney. Once she had obtained a degree in Psychology and Ancient History, she travelled before settling in north London. She worked variously as a psychologist, for an LGBT organisation and as a librarian, before ending up at the Foreign Office. Her youthful interest in writing came back strongly about five years ago. 

Things that Bounded, published in October 2020, is her first novel. Helen Pankhurst, international women’s rights activist and writer, called it “an uplifting story which manages to address important and universal themes around vulnerability and courage.” A second novel, Beloved Ghost, will come out in 2021.

The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper

2020 was supposed to be a great year. Unfortunately, Tom Cooper, like the rest of the world, is going to be spending the next few months trapped in the middle of a pandemic. Stuck inside a small flat with sole responsibility for his two single-digit children, Tom is plunged into a world of homeschooling, supermarket feuds and alfresco workout sessions, not to mention trying to keep tabs on ageing parents who won’t stay home.

Faced with the problems of cash-strapped tooth fairies, buying a rat trap online, and an NHS-supporting arms race with an elderly neighbour, Tom realises he must rise to the occasion, but when his girlfriend asks for an erotic photo of his rapidly deteriorating body, it might just be one step too far…

In The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper Spencer Brown shows his talent for noticing the tiny and everyday details which make us human. He is the kind of writer who makes us laugh whilst reminding us of the ridiculousness, humiliation and the pain, of being alive and this book is just the thing to turn to when you are feeling like there is nothing around you but bad news. It will be a charming and uplifting reminder to you that life isn’t all bad and that even in the worst moments of your life it’s important to remember that the only way is up…and don’t we all need that right now

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Am so happy to be on today’s Blog Tour of #TheLockdownDiaryofTomCooper today and I can’t think of a better way to escape from the circumstances we find ourselves in than to lose yourself in this funny, charming and touching read. It’s wonderful to be curled up with a great book after a windy walk and some exercise at a time when that’s about the only thing to look forward to. The wood burning stove is lit and the gin is poured. What could be a better way to relax after a few challenging weeks and as we head into another demi-lockdown here in Scotland.

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I absolutely loved this book. It’s a warm and uplifting read that will genuinely draw you in and let you feel part of Tom’s ups and downs as he tries to navigate life and all the curveballs that it throws him as he tries to navigate the lockdown and all that it entails – I mean, what could go wrong?

Tom was a fantastic character that you can totally believe in. When I was reading about his lockdown trials and tribulations it took my mind off lots of the privations and challenges of the situation that we find ourselves in at the moment. The adventures he ends up having through this situation means you will be creasing up, hearing about some of the situations she finds himself caught up in.

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Tom’s journey through the mayhem of his incarceration and all the complexities that he finds himself juggling is one of the best things about this book. You will find lots of these moments to recognise from your own lockdown life, from trying to source things you need online from the joy of the Zoom call and the hilarity and confusion that comes from this It was a refreshing perspective to hear about lockdown domesticity from the perspective of a male character and I’m sure that many readers will be reassured to discover that whatever gender you are it is difficult to cope with being banged up with your loved ones at times and there will be many occasions where it feels that you can’t do right from wrong.

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Spencer Brown really understands human nature.  This book presents a picture of a lockdown that whatever your age, gender or nationality, you’ll find much to connect with and lots to laugh about and could be exactly what you need! When you read the reviews below, you’ll see that lots of other people loved it too– so you don’t just have to take MY word for it…

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Buy yourself a copy here and get a laugh at a time when lots of us could really do with one

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and cheering me up when I needed it the most as we plunge back into the challenges of Tier 4 this week!

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Writer On The Shelf

Spencer Brown

Spencer Brown began performing comedy with the Cambridge Footlights alongside John Oliver and Matthew Holness, before becoming an internationally acclaimed stand up. He has performed everywhere from London’s The Comedy Store to Mumbai and the USA and his TV credits include Nathan Barley, Edinburgh Comedy, Last Comic Standing, and his own special on Swedish television, as well as the lead role in the 2019 horror comedy movie Shed Of The Dead.

As a TV presenter, he fronted ITV’s Lip Service alongside Holly Willoughby and Five’s The Sexy Ads Show. He is also the writer-director of the multi-award-winning short film The Boy With A Camera For A Face. The Lockdown Diary Of Tom Cooper is the follow up to his hilarious debut novel The Rebuilding Of Tom Cooper.

The Last Days of Ellis Island

A man looks back on his long tenure at America’s former entry point.

New York, November 3, 1954. In a few days, the immigration inspection station on Ellis Island will close its doors forever. John Mitchell, an officer of the Bureau of Immigration, is the guardian and last resident of the island. As Mitchell looks back over forty-five years as gatekeeper to America and its promise of a better life, he recalls his brief marriage to beloved wife Liz, and is haunted by memories of a transgression involving Nella, an immigrant from Sardinia. Told in a series of poignant diary entries, this is a story of responsibility, love, fidelity, and remorse.

‘In the tale of this fictional bureaucrat, Josse powerfully evokes the spirit of the “huddled masses” who landed on America’s shores while creating a memorable portrait of a man torn between his commitment to his difficult job and the longings of his heart.’ Kirkus starred review.

This is portrait of hope, aspiration, suffering and courage that won’t be easily forgotten and was the perfect read to remind me of the courage shown by generations gone by with so much more to endure than we have had to, even in these uncertain times…

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If you love a non-fiction read you can really get caught up in, that will make you think about its events long after finishing it and remember the characters you meet through its pages, then The Last Days of Ellis Island might be your next favourite read. I’m always a sucker for any book that’s got the slightest connection to emigration and setting off for new horizons and I was really drawn in by John Mitchell’s story and determined to see Ellis Island for myself once these awful travel restrictions are over.  I love books that educate me as well as draw me into their story and I read this across a chilly autumn weekend – totally losing myself in the stories I encountered in its pages and Gaelle Josse’s fantastic sense of atmosphere in this immersive and sweeping read.

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 The Last Days of Ellis Island  is a tale written in diary form, which is a clever device that allows you to draw parallels and see the differences between our expectarions and John William’s perceptions and insights as we watch the ‘huddled masses’ come and go as their tales unfold in an incredibly lifelike way. Their story is so captivating that it’s easy to forget that for so many people, this was not fiction, it actually happened as they travelled across the oceans in search of a better life– witnessing the daunting obstacles and challenging ordeals that they managed to endure together.

statue of Liberty

Gaelle Josse has a deft and distinct turn of phrase and recreates John’s insights, experiences and thought patterns very skilfully in order to make both him and the characters that he encounters come to life in these pages. This is an moving and shocking read at times and there are some scenes that might shock – especially if you find sexual assaults difficult to read about. The most important thing for me is that the bravery of these travellers and all that they went through is wonderfully brought to life for a generation who can only imagine the circumstances that they went through in their determination to seek out the New World in search of hope for themselves and their families.

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If you want a memorable and beautifully written book that brings a moment in history alive and ensures that you think a little more deeply about the concept of emigration and the hope, despair and bravery that compels people to leave everything they know behind and gamble everything on a new horizon and a journey into the unknown you’ll love this book and I know a few book-loving friends who I will be suggesting it to as a fresh insight into this momentous period in American history.

Why don’t you treat yourself to a copy and find out more about their stories for yourself?

Writer On The Shelf

Gaëlle Josse holds degrees in law, journalism, and clinical psychology. Formerly a poet, she published her first novel, Les Heures silencieuses (‘The Quiet Hours’), in 2011. Josse went on to win several awards, including the Alain Fournier Award in 2013 for Nos vies désaccordées (‘Our Out-Of-Tune Lives’). After spending a few years in New Caledonia, she returned to Paris, where she now works and lives. Josse received the European Union Prize for Literature for The Last Days of Ellis Island, along with the Grand Livre du Mois Literary Prize.

Translator on the Shelf

Natasha Lehrer won a Rockower Award for Journalism in 2016, and in 2017 was awarded the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for her translation of Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger.