Sarah Hillary Come and Find Me

Gripping, tense, twisty and full of emotional insight, COME AND FIND ME is Sarah Hilary’s  5th Marnie Rome book – and I’m OBSESSED!

 

 

‘Hilary belts out a corker of a story, all wrapped up in her vivid, effortless prose. If you’re not reading this series of London-set police procedurals then you need to start right away’ Observer

On the surface, Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull have nothing in common, other than their infatuation with Michael Vokey. Each is writing to a sadistic inmate, sharing her secrets, whispering her worst fears, craving his attention.

DI Marnie Rome understands obsession. She’s finding it hard to give up her own addiction to a dangerous man: her foster brother, Stephen Keele. She wasn’t able to save her parents from Stephen. She lives with that guilt every day.

As the hunt for Vokey gathers pace, Marnie fears one of the women may have found him – and is about to pay the ultimate price.

 

I was literally OBSESSED with Someone Else’s Skin

When I was younger, I really wanted to be called Marnie – and after reading Sarah Hilary’s Come And Find Me, It was confirmed:  I want to BE Marnie Rome!

Add that to the fact that I love books that present crime in a wholly original way – where I think about what your own responses might be – rather than feel like I’m just reading about fictional characters, you’ll understand why this was a five star read for me and I was so excited to be opening the blog tour for Come And Find Me today…

This book grabbed me and pulled me right into the story. I was really intrigued by the premise of the book first of all: I mean you read about people who write to prisoners all the time; but have you ever thought about what it might be like to BE one of them? Michael Volkey is the kind of criminal that you can’t imagine being drawn to yourself – but that’s what makes it all the more intriguing, I feel.

Come And Find Me asks us to put yourself in the place of these women and think about Marnie’s response to them at the same time – and this makes for seriously compelling reading….

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Both women – Lara Chorley and Ruth Hull  – have very distinctive stories which really emphasise the way that we interact within the same circumstances in wholly different ways Even though Come And Find Me deals with very challenging issues, they never threaten to dominate the story and the characters feel very much like real people – rather than mechanisms to explore an issue – which I’ve often found in novels which want to look at the way we respond to trauma, horror or tragedy. Sarah Hilary creates characters to explore ideas, rather than having an idea and inventing flimsy characters to explore it. If you haven’t already read the first four then I’m SO jealous of you already – get them ordered as soon as you can

Sarah Hilary is an excellent 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 the hunt for Volkey and want to read on and find out exactly what has led to their obsession and what has led to Marnie really understanding the idea of obsession herself. The backstories of these characters – Marnie and DS Noah Jake – will draw you in and make you feel so invested in them. If I had to wish for a detective pairing to see on the screen this Autumn, this pair would be my absolute first choice…

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I really liked the way that Come And Find Me asks us to look at crime from new and different perspectives and re-see them, once we have a greater understanding of everything that prisoners have been through in order for us to reevaluate our understanding of what ‘the truth’ of our justice system actually is. How many times have you read a crime story and been made to think about issues like prison overcrowding or the way that prison officers families are affected by their jobs? My husband is an ex-prison officer and I feel like it is Sarah Hilary’s real commitment to the truth of our criminal justice system that sets her apart and makes her one of my absolute favourite crime writers.

This isn’t just a straightforward thriller or police procedural. Come And Find Me goes a little deeper than that and asks us to think about the way that our personalities evolve through, because of and despite our experiences and who we can trust with our story. This novel makes us rethink again everything that we’ve discovered in the first four books and will leave you turning the pages, desperate to find out exactly how this fantastic read will end.

Anyone interested in relationships, psychology and human frailties will love Sarah Hilary’s newest novel. I loved Come And Find Me and because I was so excited to read it, I’m delighted to say that I was definitely not disappointed. Even though this book touched on dark and difficult subject matters at times, it was dealt with very sensitively and never felt exploitative or sensational in the slightest. It really asks you to delve inside someone else’s skin as a reader and think about the way that our lives can be derailed or enhanced by the cards that we are dealt. You will really find it hard to tear yourself away -and I have to admit that I tore through it the day it fell through my letterbox!

Come And Find Me was 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 about crime from a wholly fresh perspective. I can’t wait to see where Sarah Hilary goes next – and I can guarantee that you’ll be hooked by the time you’ve finished the last chapter of her first novel!  I feel like Come And Find Me make an excellent Book Group read as it would be sure to provoke lots and lots of discussion about coercive control, the prison system and the impact on crime of those who spend their lives fighting it…

 

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Many thanks to lovely Anne Cater for inviting me to join this blog tour and for my copy of the book for this review.

Writer on the Shelf

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Sarah Hilary has worked as a bookseller, and with the Royal Navy. Her debut, SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN, won Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year 2015 and was a World Book Night selection for 2016.

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The Observer’s Book of the Month (“superbly disturbing”) and a Richard & Judy Book Club bestseller, it has been published worldwide. NO OTHER DARKNESS, the second in the series was shortlisted for a Barry Award in the US.

Her DI Marnie Rome series continues with TASTES LIKE FEAR (2016) QUIETER THAN KILLING (2017) and COME AND FIND ME (2018).

Follow Sarah on Twitter at @Sarah_Hilary

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Dear Mr Pop Star

A collection of hilarious letters to iconic pop and rock stars with fantastic in-on-the-joke replies from the artists themselves: Eurythmics, Heaven 17, Deep Purple, Devo, Dr. Hook and many, many more…
Derek and Dave Philpott are the noms de plume of two ordinary members of the public, working with help from a worldwide social networking community.

Dear Mr. Pop Star

For nearly 10 years, ‘Team Philpott’, as their followers fondly refer to them, have been on a quite bonkers crusade, writing good old-fashioned letters to pop and rock stars (sometimes even sent to their home addresses with prior consent!), either picking up on genuine ambiguities within their lyrics or often deliberately misunderstanding them for comedic effect.

The letters are eminently publishable in their own right, mixing sharp wit, confusion, and unarguable logic in relation to questioning the offending chart hits under scrutiny.

What makes this project especially deserving of attention, however, is that it has achieved a feat never before attempted or probably even thought of. With the missives online for all to see on what was becoming a hugely popular website, the artists quite unexpectedly started to reply, writing back in just as witty and articulate a fashion, politely pointing out exactly where the original letter went wrong…or right.

Also, crucially, nearly all of the responses were procured via ‘‘the back door of the industry”, via roadies, mutual fans, cousins of bass players, and even other famous participants telling the artists directly of the Philpotts’ written pressing inquiries. This marvellous online community, which stretched as far afield as Europe, Canada, Japan, the U.S.A, Australia and Stoke, even cultivated and organically evolved the whole surreal venture by offering up willing stars that the authors would probably not have thought of corresponding with themselves, establishing contact through personal connections.

‘Dear Mr. Popstar’’ proudly features 100 of the best letters and responses from famous and legendary names spanning the whole pop and rock spectrum, all relishing their involvement and revealing their own, in many cases, hitherto unknown humorous sides within what could well be the most interactive dialogue compiled between music stars and their audience ever undertaken. Of course, it is not always possible to reach certain targets, hence many unanswered observations are also included, as they were considered too amusing not to be.

Those to be saluted for their great sportsmanship are:

Deep Purple, Dr. from Dr. and The Medics, Nik Kershaw, Judas Priest, Starship, Tears For Fears, The Eurythmics, Wreckless Eric, Landscape, Smokie, The Strawbs, The Belle Stars, Van Der Graaf Generator, Martha and the Muffins, Thunder, Squeeze, Dean Friedman, Fairground Attraction, The Ruts, Neil Innes from The Bonzo Dog Band, DEVO, Melanie, Alannah Myles, Ian Gillan, Was Not Was, Republica, Then Jerico, Dr. Hook, Toploader, Cutting Crew, Lindisfarne, Spinal Tap, Mott The Hoople, Fuzzbox, Men Without Hats, China Crisis, Mental As Anything, David MacIver and Rupert Hine (Quantum Jump), Timbuk 3, The Rezillos, Saxon, John Otway, The Human League, Chesney and Chip Hawkes, Tenpole Tudor, Shakatak, Katrina and the Waves, Eddie & The Hot Rods, Heaven 17, Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, Matthew Wilder, Middle of the Road, Liquid Gold, The Christians, Paper Lace, Dodgy, Daevid Allen, Bruce Woolley, Country Joe and The Fish, Sad Cafe, The Housemartins, Francis Dunnery (It Bites), Johnny Hates Jazz, The Wurzels, Peter Noone, Suzi Quatro, Strawberry Switchblade, Danny Wilson, Racey, Electric Prunes, The Waitresses, Fiddler’s Dram, Bauhaus, Climax Blues Band, The Jags, EMF, T’Pau, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Nu Shooz, Owen Paul, Steve Hackett, Steve Ellis of Love Affair, Hazell Dean, The Knack, The Maisonettes, Del Amitri, The Skids, Jesus Jones, The Soup Dragons, City Boy, Modern Romance, Wang Chung, The Kursaal Flyers, Fischer Z, Bruce Thomas of The Attractions, Scarlet Fantastic, The B52s. Junior, Spear of Destiny, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine.

Ultimately, this book explores how when a song is released into ‘the wild’ the artist loses all control over it, especially pertaining to its interpretation. It is also testimony to the community spirit capable of being created over social media and how positive and fun it can be.

#BookReview of Dear Mr Pop Star by Derek & Dave Philpot  @derekphilpott @unbounders

I was delighted to be approached by Dave, asking if I would be interested in being part of his tour, and I read this book aloud to my husband as I enjoyed it so much. It really made me laugh!

This tour is massive and I have really enjoyed seeing what such a vast array of fellow bloggers thought of this interesting, fun and original read.  I am a huge fan of some of these bands as I grew up in the 80s – but you don’t have to be a fan to have great fun reading these quirky notes and laughing at the responses they got…

The book starts hilariously with a fantastic inquisition of Doctor and The Medics about their choice of a band name and you will be in stitches reading the letters that wend their way back and forth here… I was reading this aloud to Mr Ontheshelf during a very long car journey south – and let me tell you we had lots of laughs as we made our way across the country hearing what these artists made of the letters they were sent.

The literal way in which some of these lyrics are interpreted and analysed might not be to everyone’s tastes – but it certainly gave us a few laughs. It was great when bands really entered into the spirit of it and was a fantastic insight into lots of the more famous names in pop over the last 30 years.   I was so involved that I found myself getting quite aggrieved when pop stars did not reply to their letters and think that they came across as too high and mighty at times to enter into the spirit of things.

This will definitely take you down memory lane and had me digging out some of my old Now That’s What I Call Music albums from the 80’s and getting lost in memories of discos in the scout hall – but that’s a totally different story 🙂

I loved the whole story behind this book which I researched after reading it:

Read all about it here in Spill Magazine – excerpt below

What makes this project especially deserving of attention, however, is that it has achieved a feat never before attempted or probably even thought of. The artists quite unexpectedly started to reply, writing back in just as witty and articulate a fashion, politely pointing out exactly where the original letter went wrong…or right.

Also, crucially, nearly all of the responses were procured via ”the back door of the industry”, via roadies, mutual fans, cousins of bass players, and even other famous participants telling the artists directly of the Philpotts’ written pressing inquiries. This marvellous online community, which stretched as far afield as Europe, Canada, Japan, the U.S.A, Australia and Stoke, even cultivated and organically evolved the whole surreal venture by offering up willing stars that the authors would probably not have thought of.

Under pressure from fans to go to print, a staggeringly successful Kickstarter Campaign in 2015 raised over 18k in order to self-publish, resulting in a wonderfully impressive book which went out to the hundreds of pledgers and was met with great acclaim before being made available via Amazon prompting nearly 100 five star reviews from avid readers.

Now the Authors are delighted to have been accepted by renowned publishing house Unbound. The new, second book ‘‘Dear Mr. Pop Star’’ will also benefit from a trade edition being distributed by Penguin Random House. The book features nearly 100 of the best letters and responses from famous and legendary names spanning the whole pop and rock spectrum, all relishing their involvement and revealing their own, in many cases, hitherto unknown humorous sides within what could well be the most interactive dialogue compiled between music stars and their audience ever undertaken. Of course, it is not always possible to reach certain targets, hence many unanswered observations are also included, as they were considered too amusing not to be.

 

BUY YOURSELF A COPY HERE

 

 

 

 

Karna’s Wheel – Blog tour

A poignant story about love, inheritance, and the things that determine who we are, set to the backdrops of Twentieth century Dundee and Calcutta. 


Secrets present. Secrets past. Secrets in India, where Stephen’s grandfather is a lowly functionary in the engine room of the Raj. Secrets at home, held tightly by Stephen’s half-Indian, half-Scottish mother. Only by uncovering what has been hidden can Stephen win Julia, a woman with secrets of her own…

Set in St Andrews, Scotland before the millennium; among the early-Twentieth century jute mills of Dundee; in the industrial underbelly of colonial Calcutta and on the epic plains of ancient India, Karna’s Wheel is a poignant story about love, inheritance, and the things which make us what we are.

‘Karna’s Wheel is compelling, multi-layered and beautifully written.’
Chris Given-Wilson, shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2017

 

 

 

Huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to review Karna’s Wheel by Michael Tobert.  I am so delighted to share my review here as I absolutely loved this fascinating portrayal of historical passions, hidden secrets and betrayal. Anne messaged me with this tour details when I was holidaying in the beautiful Cotswolds and I was so excited, I almost bit her hand off with a definite yes!

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If you read my blog at all, you’ll know that I love a bit of a tale where it sends me diving off into a tailspin of ‘research’ into the real story behind the novel after I finish a good read – and Karna’s Wheel was definitely one of the most fascinating in terms of what I found. It’s so interesting to uncover a very different story of the Raj and its ripples through the generations – seen through the eyes of an ordinary character going through some extraordinary experiences.

Michael Tobert is a really talented writer who really transports you to another place and time – if you love an immersive historical read,  you’re in for a real treat: this is top-class historical fiction with strongly realised characters and an emotional punch – If you haven’t read it yet, you definitely should. It’s one of the most human and engrossing novels I’ve ever read and I really found it hard to ‘decompress’ from the world that he recreates for us after finishing it.

I love the way that there is a skilful balance of foreshadowing and suspense of what is to come so that we feel the balance subtly shift and change as we read, wondering what the ramifications of each decision the characters make will be. Stephen is someone who you will follow keenly as you uncover his family history through these turbulent times and think closely about what you might have done in similar circumstances to parents in the world they were born into.

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I hate giving spoilers about such an engrossing read; instead, I’ll praise Michael Tobert’s deft characterisation that has us pulled into this narrative and experience history in the making.  This is human history at its finest – making us see the Raj not as a list of events but a succession of relationships, decisions and human frailties that accumulated in change, loss and upheaval for thousands of people. I learned a lot about this part of history and exactly how human decisions affected the lives so many people  – far more than I have done in many of the factual articles and films I’ve seen and this is testament to the research and detail woven into the novel which really brings this complex period to life for us.

Michael Tobert is equally impressive in conjuring up the Scottish setting as she is in recreating the complexities of the Raj and the diverse settings in the novel give this novel an epic feel – I kept wondering who I’d cast if I was making a film of Karna’s Wheel  and imagining it coming to life on the big screen was hugely satisfying. If you love an epic tale with fascinating characters and a real insight into a period you might not know much about you’ll absolutely love the setting of this book and if you love the human side of history you’ll definitely be caught up in this very human tale of truth, deception and consequences just as much as I was.

I absolutely loved the evocative description and lyrical language in this novel and got swept up in the story so much so that I didn’t want to leave. The portrayal of human relationships and their consequences in Karna’s Wheel is another aspect of this novel that really stood out for me and I loved the way that I could envisage Dundee just as vividly as Calcutta in this epic read. The way that these characters’ lives intersect leaves the reader asking themselves probing questions about the reasons we make decisions and if we are being as honest with ourselves as we think we are at some of the critical times in our lives…

I can’t recommend this book highly enough – it’s an intelligent, immersive and atmospheric read that really draws you in and holds you tight until you’ve turned the final page. Treat yourself to a copy here

Isn’t the cover absolutely gorgeous, by the way?

Writer On The Shelf

Michael Tobert

MICHAEL TOBERT went to Oxford University, started a publishing company of sorts and lives in Scotland where he and his wife have built a Montessori nursery school at the bottom of their garden. While she, and others, nurture the children, he scythes the nettles and whispers encouragement to the wildflowers.

For more information, blogs and stories, please go to his website: www.michaeltobertbooks.com.

And check out his other books here

A Little Bird Told Me- Blog Tour

 

Besides, if you were one half evil, wouldn’t you want to know about the other half?

In the scorching summer of 1976, Robyn spends her days swimming at the Lido and tagging after her brother. It’s the perfect holiday – except for the crying women her mum keeps bringing home.

As the heatwave boils on, tensions in the town begin to simmer. Everyone is gossiping about her mum, a strange man is following her around, and worst of all, no one will tell Robyn the truth. But this town isn’t good at keeping secrets…

Twelve years later, Robyn returns home, to a house that has stood empty for years and a town that hasn’t moved on, forced to confront the mystery that haunted her that summer.

And atone for the part she played in it.

 

A Little Bird Told Me is the kind of novel that I absolutely love. Two time frames that you are equally drawn to and whose stories you can move between effortlessly. Marianne Holmes writes both timelines so convincingly that you really feel that you’ve spent time in these worlds, making it very hard to pull yourself away. It’s a novel made for long autumn afternoons and I got lost in it over a relaxing weekend in Comrie earlier this month.

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This is an engaging read with lots going on beneath the surface. Robyn’s life, in a small town where adult life seems like a mystery waiting to be solved, has been perfectly created. Robyn has deliberately cut herself off from things she can’t bear to think too closely about and her isolation draws us into her world whilst holding us at arm’s length too, which Robyn does to everyone – even her own mother. The secrecy is such a fantastic technique to draw us closer to Robyn; I found myself watching her every movement to see if I could catch a glimpse of whatever she was hiding. Her secrecy hints at the emotional damage that occurs as this tale unfolds – and Marianne Holmes leaves us to guess about what’s going on alongside Robyn – a very clever method of keeping us connected to her.

.A Little Bird Told Me: a twisty yet tender debut about family, secrets, and the lies we tell ourselves by [Holmes, Marianne]

Robyn’s world is upended by a strange man who follows her as she tags along after her brother, which spells the beginning of some very mysterious goings-on. This part too is convincingly conveyed – without being over the top or stretching our belief in Robyn’s story. Her subsequent journey to unravel the secret that’s been locked away for years is a fascinating and unputdownable one which really brings the setting to life and allowed me to lose myself in its twists and turns whilst remaining wholly connected to Robyn and her long-held secrets.

 

I often find that dual narratives can result in you flicking forward to the one that you found more engaging. Not so here. There was a pleasing balance of the past and present and both timelines were so well-drawn that I felt like I could immerse myself in both and wanted to dedicate my attention to the way that one affected the other, rather than feeling that one overwhelmed the other. The 1970s setting is an intriguing one for me as it’s when I grew up too – so I really loved time travelling into my own past within these pages.

 

The atmosphere of secrecy and drama is perfectly maintained throughout this wonderful novel; the perfect recreation of 1970s Britain was a sheer pleasure and was something that I wanted to read more about as soon as I’d finished reading A Little Bird Told Me.  Even though I was reading it in Scotland in Autumn, I felt this summer setting come vividly to life as I walked in the footsteps of these characters and experienced their compelling  stories

 

Holmes is such a talented voice. She draws the reader into her characters’ worlds and makes them live for us as we read. If you enjoy a good read with a wonderfully evocative setting and a really vivid portrait of an era, then you’ll absolutely love this book. Buy yourself a copy here The Kindle edition really is going for a song!

 

Doesn’t it look amazing in my #OnTheShelfie – thanks so much to Olly & Sam for sending me some of the cutest Book Post I’ve ever had 

 

so much to

 

 Writer On The Shelf

Marianne Holmes was born in Cyprus to RAF parents and bounced between the UK, Germany, Kuwait and Belgium until firmly basing herself in London – well, apart from those years in the Peak District. A love of language led to degrees in Classics and Linguistics from the University of London but her desire to pay the mortgage steered her to a career in Marketing. After distracting herself in all sorts of ways over the years – sailing, flying, volunteering and running away to India – she is now definitely, absolutely concentrating on her writing. Well, that and making sure her children get fed, clothed and entertained. Obviously. A Little Bird Told Me is Marianne’s first novel.

 

The Anniversary Blog Tour

From the bestselling author of Thursdays in the Park comes a deeply moving novel which asks if you can fall in love with the same person twice….

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Stella’s marriage ended decades ago, after a tragedy that not only shattered her life with her husband but shaped her whole relationship with her daughter, too.

Now, despite the tensions that linger between Stella and Eve, Stella is called upon to look after her daughter in her time of need. She just hadn’t bargained on being brought back into her handsome, stubborn ex-husband’s life too, or that she would find common ground with Jack in their shared adoration for their little grandson.

Just as the pain of the past once tore them apart, now the joys of grandparenthood are bringing Stella and Jack back together. But each of them has a new partner and new lives.

Should they fight temptation? Should the past remain the past? Or are some loves simply meant to be?

This is the kind of book that you’ll think about long after you close the final page. I loved Thursdays in the Park and was really looking forward to seeing what Hilary Boyd did next – and let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. I read this almost in one sitting over the last few rainy September days and it was the perfect companion for a pyjama day where I could totally lose myself in a great story with characters I could really believe in. Like all the best stories, I feel like Hilary Boyd drops us into a world where we could imagine the characters as people that we actually know, in situations we could really relate to and this is definitely why I found it so engrossing to read.

This book makes you think hard about your life choices as you see characters having to live with the ramifications of their earlier decisions many decades later.  I loved the fact that we see them both young and old and it made me think about the fact that we are changed both by our choices and our chances in life. The fact that Jack and Stella are no spring chickens added a unique twist to this books as we are far too used to seeing books about relationships focus on the first bloom of love in novels that we read. Stella and Jack’s relationship proves the old adage that the course of true love never did run smooth and even when you really love someone staying with them might not always be the best choice you could make.  It’s only now that their daughter Eve is pregnant, that Jack and Stella see each other again and realise that they might have taken a different pathway.

This book shows that love is indeed without age and that you are never too old to yearn for a happy ending. It does not shy away from the idea that actual relationships are hard work and in that, it certainly portrays a more realistic idea of love than the one we see in many contemporary presentations of romance and relationships in fiction – which was an aspect of this novel that  I really enjoyed. Even though this is Stella’s tale to tell, I loved the fact that we travel back in time to an earlier incarnation of Jack and Stella and we get a real sense of the way that their relationship has unfolded due to the way that the novel leads us through their time together towards the present day situation, making us think hard about how this happened and other ways that their love story might have unfolded.

Even though Jack and Stella had other relationships in the present day, the way that this narrative unfolded really made you see their life-long story and feel so invested in it. I don’t give spoilers, so all I’m going to say is that this is an emotional read and lots of people might actually find themselves in tears at some points due to the sensitive and realistic way that Hilary Boys gives us an insight into her characters hopes, fears and barriers in this compelling novel.
#BookReview of The Anniversary by Hilary Boyd @HilaryBoyd @Tr4cyF3nt0n @JennyPlatt90 @MichaelJBooks @PenguinUKBooks

 

 

I loved The Anniversary, and I’m recommending it to lots of people as I think that there is something in it that will appeal to people at many different stages of their own relationships. The way that Jack and Stella’s loves are laid bare in front of us will have you thinking more deeply about your own families and wondering about the way that our decisions can have the most unexpected repercussions years and years down the line. You’ll absolutely love the story of Stella and Jack and I dare you to read it without wanting to give someone you love a hug and tell them that you really do care. I can’t wait to see what Hilary Boyd does next as these first two books have both charmed me in their own very unique and original ways of looking at the way people live and love and asking us to think about our responses to their stories. Check it out for yourself by clicking the link below…

Thanks so much to Jenny Platt for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The Anniversary was published on the 20th September.

You can buy yourself a copy here: The Anniversary

 

 

Writer On The Shelf

Hilary Boyd

Hilary Boyd was a nurse, marriage counsellor and ran a small cancer charity before becoming an author. She has written eight books, including Thursdays in the Park, her debut novel which sold over half a million copies and was an international bestseller. The film rights have been acquired by Charles Dance, who will be directing and starring.

Narcissm For Beginners – Blog Tour

 

Narcissism For Beginners Cover.jpgLonglisted for the 2017 Guardian Not the Booker Prize

Meet Sonny Anderson as he tips headlong into adulthood. Sonny doesn’t remember his mother’s face; he was kidnapped at age five by his father, Guru Bim, and taken to live in a commune in Brazil. Since the age of ten, Sonny has lived in Redondo Beach, California, with his guardian Thomas Hardiker. Brits think he’s an American, Americans think he’s a Brit.

When he turns 21, Sonny musters the courage to travel alone to the UK in an attempt to leave a troubled past behind, reunite with his mother and finally learn the truth about his childhood. With a list of people to visit, a whole lot of attitude and five mysterious letters from his guardian, Sonny sets out to learn the truth. But is it a truth he wants to hear?

Narcissism for Beginners is a fresh, witty and humane take on the struggle to make sense of growing up.

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You know when you see a Book jacket and just KNOW that it’s going to be your kind of book? Well Narcissism For Beginners was exactly that for me.

I love original and quirky reads and I was desperate to get started with this book where Sonny uncovers his past as soon as it came through my letterbox.

I often avoid books thst other people label as “quirky”  as this can often mean that they are jarring and hard to pigeonhole, but Narcissm For Beginners belongs in a category all of its own as it is so original and appealing.

Sonny is a fantastic creation and he definitely springs to life off the page. It’s safe to say that he’s had a pretty unique upbringing – between his unorthodox father, millionaire guardian  and early years in the Brazilian commune – but all that aside, as a reader I really believed in him. He’s got to be met on the page to really understand what a unique character he is!

The fact that’s he does not feel that he really belongs anywhere was a fascinating one and I think this could be very thought provoking if you have a book group as Sonny’s quest to understand who exactly he is will be something many people can relate to, even though their childhood might be a lot more sedate than Sonny’s very colourful one…

Sonny’s journey around Britain – including to my beloved Scotland-  is both a literal and metaphorical one as he has many things to deal with on his quest. At  21 years old, he has so many questions and his navigation of a new country and a new understanding of himself makes for compelling reading. I think this novel will appeal to people who enjoy a story where you’re never very sure what might happen next, but you’re happy to see where the writer takes you. I felt safe in Martine McDonagh’s hands and wanted very much to see where Sonny’s ‘Voyage of Discovery’ would take us.

Th device of the five Letters was an inspired one as it really gave Sonny’s journey a structure and with each new discovery, we start to see a different facet of Sonny and understand more about his very unique and often unbelievably complex background. I loved The Goldfinch as a novel and the sense of exploration and discovery in this novel reminded me of it at times. I read this on a sunny weekend in beautiful Perthshire and it made me think about Sonny’s travels in such an unfamiliar environment and how feeling like we belong somewhere is such an important thing to us as human beings.

IMG_4479.JPGSometimes, getting away with the ones you love, a gorgeous pup and a blooming good read is just good for the soul! Treat yourself to a copy here

WRITER ON THE SHELF

 

Martine McDonagh was an artist manager in the music industry for 30 years and now leads the Creative Writing & Publishing MA at West Dean College, Sussex. This is her third novel, following I Have Waited, and You Have Come and After Phoenix.

Thanks so much to Anne Cater for nviting me on this Unbound blog tour. I will definitely be recommending it to some of my young readers at school who like something a little left field to read as I know they’re going to love it.

 

 

Full Metal Cardigan Blog Tour

“Whilst I continued to spend my days buffing up the bones of the dead, I knew in my heart I wanted to work with the living.”

 

Full Metal Cardigan is David Emery’s first book and chronicles his adventures in social care, from enthusiastic volunteer to feral frontline worker, taking in abusive popstars, chanting cults, drug runs and assessing a corpse.

He recounts how he gained international notoriety for cheating in a pancake race, encounters with the supernatural, High Court appearances, accidentally booking someone into Dignitas, one-inch death punches in Woolworths, waterboarding, psychotic psychopaths, plunger-wielding pregnant women and suicide attempts with rhubarb along the way.

This is a humorous look at life as a social worker: in turns both laugh-out-loud funny and mind-boggling.

This book is one of the reasons that I love being a blogger. If it wasn’t for meeting the lovely Kelly, I would NEVER have picked up this book.  And I would seriously have missed out because I bloody loved it! It’s the kind of book you think that all the best bits will be in the blurb and you’ll know everything that’s going to unfold after reading the summary above – but in terms of laughing at mad and improbable situations, the incidents described above are literally just the tip of the iceberg.

‘Full Metal Jacket’ is one of my favourite war movies and as a public sector worker myself, I’d never have thought of it as having any parallels with the work I do. But David Emery has definitely proved this idea wrong as he shows in this book that having courage ‘under fire’, never quitting and finding strength and comradeship in your very own ‘Band of Brothers’ is something that we might find we have more in common with than we previously anticipated.

Although this book is full of drama and some truly nail-biting situations, you never get the feeling that David feels negatively about his ‘trade’ – it’s more like he thrives upon the absolutely bizarre situations that he regularly finds himself in – and becomes quite the expert at seeing the silver lining in every  – mildly traumatic – cloud…

It’s good to read a book where professions like teaching and social work are positively framed and there is a real sense of the vocation that some people have for this kind of work. There is literally never a dull moment when you are working with the general public and this book displays them before your very eyes in glorious technicolour

It’s a real skill to take something as complex, challenging and difficult as social work and make it as readable as this. It’s not to say that there aren’t emotional and difficult parts to this engrossing read, it’s just that he lets us see all of the faces of the job, instead of dwelling on just the hilarious times or merely concentrating on the moments where everything seems insurmountable and too difficult to go on with.

My best friend is a senior social worker and a former pupil has just qualified as one – and I’ll definitely be buying them both a copy. I would recommend this book to people with a keen interest in human nature and readers who love something unexpected, touching and totally heartfelt. This book really lets you into this world and shows you that humanity is a broad church – but there’s much more good than bad in it.

Full Metal Cardigan: Adventures on the Frontline of Social Work by [Emery, David]

Thanks so much to Kelly and Fledgeling Press for inviting me on the tour. It has reminded me of my passion for hidden gems and lost treasures – and for me, that’s what book blogging is all about.

Treat yourself to a copy here

Writer On The Shelf

Born in Bury, Manchester, David grew up with his parents, sisters and a revolving cast of characters that his mum would bring home from the local secure psychiatric hospital where she worked.

After finishing college, he went into archaeology until it became clear that he was more suited to working with the living than the dead.

A voluntary job supporting vulnerable young people confirmed this and encouraged him to find paid work in various residential and nursing homes. From this he trained to be a social worker and has gone on to work in all areas of the profession; from children to older age, on the front line and as a manager.

David lives in the countryside with his wife and children where he spends his days working for the NHS and his evenings writing in the shed. Full Metal Cardigan is his first book.