Blurb

For some people, retirement dreams can consist of comfy slippers and gardening. Not so David and Helene, whose dream was of adventure. They presented Audley Travel with the challenge of exploring the history, landscape, wildlife, people and food in fifteen countries over ten months.

Fortunately, they were up to the task so David and Helene traded their slippers and gardening gloves for 53 flights, 30 trains, 8 boats, 3 cruise ships, 1 light aircraft, I hot air balloon, a motorbike and sidecar, countless speedboats, taxis, tuk-tuks, cyclos and bicycles. And a disobedient horse.

Turning Left Around the World is an entertaining account of their adventure, often intriguing, frequently funny and occasionally tragic. Share their adventure, enjoy the surprises and meet some fascinating people along the way.

The book is published by Mirador Publishing.

My review

This is a truly impressive and inspiring travelogue.

At an age when some people might consider putting their feet up after a busy career, David sets off to see those places in the world he’s always wanted to. He’s given a gentle prod – or maybe it’s more like a shove, at least to start with  – from his partner Helene, who sounds to be one of those wonderfully organised and energetic people that many of us wish we were, but never quite find the energy! They take in the places Helene’s longed to see too.

The couple do things thoroughly and hire guides when they arrive at their various far-flung destinations so as to get an insider’s view of the place. They thus glean every interesting nugget of information possible, which the author then shares with us. The whole book is a rich tapestry of snatches of their interactions, historical and geological background facts, social commentary, people-watching and detailed observation of the cultures they immerse themselves in. It’s totally absorbing and immensely readable. There’s no overwhelming or impersonal info-dumping. The author has a wonderful flowing style that is so easy to take in. I can’t remember absolutely every fact he shares, but I’ve stored a lot of them away and hope to drop them smugly into those conversations that begin with ‘Did you know…?’!

David and Helene travel to an astounding assortment of fascinating places in Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia (the only spot on their itinerary that I’ve been to!), Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, China and Japan. And that’s possibly just for starters since Helene asks where they’re planning to go next. Maybe this wasn’t the once-in-a-lifetime trip David thought it was!

There are emotional ups and downs to match the physical ascents and descents they make, muddles, a few shocks and frustrations, but the overall mood is of excitement and optimism. They bump into all sorts of people, from quirky to downright scary! Truly never a dull moment.

Their massive undertaking is an inspiration, and a reminder that life is for living to the full. Hats off to David and Helene for having the courage and determination to go for their dream, and I can’t wait to see if there’ll be a sequel…

 

About the author

David owned and managed a London marketing agency for 15 years, creating advertising campaigns to promote iconic international brands including Mars, Kellogg’s, Disney and Coca-Cola. Following the sale of his agency in 1999 he became one of the leading Consultant Marketing Directors in the UK, steering business in the launch or re-launch of their consumer brands including B&Q, Direct Line and RBS. David lives in Berkshire with his wife Helene. www.davidcmoore.author.com

 

Book blurb

When a stranger leaves step-sisters, Victoria and Ness, a half-share in a house in Holland, they think it must be a mistake.

But there’s no mistake when Ness goes missing.

Desperate for the truth, Victoria heads to Holland to find out what happened to her. Has she, as her texts show, embarked on a whirlwind romance? Has someone abducted her or even worse?

But there’s someone watching, and that person wants her dead.

Can Victoria find out the truth before it’s too late?

 

Pre-order on Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07H3TH4HT

So here’s that cover…

Isn’t it eye-catching! I think it’s very inviting and intriguing.

Here’s a sample from the novel:

Prologue

I died yesterday, or so I’ve been told.

Yesterday is the day my life changed but how or why is still a mystery. There are things I know and there are things that they’ve told me but I can’t seem to trust any of it.

I know I’m a woman but I don’t know my age. I know how to hold a cup in the same way I know it’s rude to stick the end of a knife in my mouth. So, somewhere along the way, someone cared enough to drill manners into me. Those are the things I know, the things I can trust but as for the rest…

They tell me I’m in Holland but can I believe them? I don’t remember if I’m Dutch but I also don’t remember if I’m not. I can’t speak Dutch. I’ve been trying all morning but can one lose a language overnight? I seem to have lost everything else. Who knows? Maybe I took the wrong train or something and just rolled up in the wrong city. That would make sense except that it’s not just my sense of place that’s missing. It’s my sense of everything. I have no name, no age and no identity. Yesterday I died and today I’m still here.

 

They’ve left me alone now while they try to puzzle out what to do and in the meantime I’m going to try to remember stuff. I don’t know how long they’ll leave me alone but I need to take this opportunity to come up with some answers to all the questions they’ve been throwing at me like who the hell I am.

Slipping out of bed I recoil as bare feet meets cold tiles, but that’s not going to stop me. Pulling the back of the hospital gown closed in an effort to retain some degree of dignity, I shuffle over to the bathroom and then the mirror only to stare into the face of a stranger.

It doesn’t matter what I look like or that I’m suffering from the worst case of bed-head known to man. It doesn’t matter that my eyes are green or that my hair is that shade of nondescript mouse that keeps colourists in business. The only thing that matters is my reflection, which holds no clues as to my identity. I’m a stranger to them. I’m a stranger to me.

My body holds a clue though – just one.

I push up my sleeve again to stare at the tattoo on my arm. The tattoo puzzles me. It’s not me, or part of me or who I think I am and yet it’s there, a large indelible letter V.

I have no idea what it stands for. Oh, I’m not stupid or anything or, at least I don’t think I am. I can’t quote which exams I’ve passed or if indeed I’ve ever attended school but I do know V stands for victory. But what does it mean to me? Am I victorious? Am I making a statement about something? It must be important because it’s the only tattoo I have. It’s also the only clue.

I’m tired now. My eyelids collapse over my eyes even as I struggle to shift them upwards as I remember the cocktail the nurse told me to swallow like a good girl. I want everything to go away. I want to hide under the blankets and forget. I’ve already forgotten…

 

Author bio

Jenny O’Brien was born in Ireland and, after a brief sojourn in Wales, now resides in Guernsey.
She’s an avid reader and book reviewer for NetGalley in addition to being a RoNA judge.
She writes for both children and adults with a new book coming out every six months or so. She’s also an avid collector of cats, broken laptops, dust and happy endings – two of which you’ll always find in her books.

In her spare time she can be found frowning at her wonky cakes and even wonkier breads. You’ll be pleased to note she won’t be entering Bake-Off.

Readers can find out more about Jenny from her blog: https://jennyobrienwriter.wordpress.com

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JennyOBrienWriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScribblerJB

My cosy mystery / romcom ‘Haircuts, Hens and Homicide’ is currently on tour. For seven days various wonderful book bloggers will be hosting my novel. Do please call by and see what they have to say about my novel.

Here’s the running order:

It’s got off to a great start with some lovely reviews today 🙂 Books, Life and Everything says: “With plenty of humour and laugh out loud moments, the story proves to be an entertaining read and is nicely set up for a sequel.”

Katie’s Book Cave says: “Haircuts, Hens and Homicide is a fun and entertaining riot of a read that will have you laughing away as you follow the adventures of Megan and co. It’s well-written and set in a gorgeous place, I loved my trip to France via this book! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.”

And Julie Palooza says: “Although the mystery aspect of the book is relatively light, its main joy is seeing Megan settle into small-town French life – avec des poulets – and meeting its cast of, variously, huge, handsome, haughty, homicidal, charming, clumsy and coiffure-ly-challenged residents.”

I hope those reviews have tempted you. If so, call by getbook.at/HHH to get your copy!

Synopsis

As if it weren’t enough to be cheated on by her husband of ten years, Yorkshire lass Hannah Davis is losing her beauty salon business too. Luckily, her big sister is there to pick up the pieces, but Hannah is desperate to find some independence.

Impulsively, Hannah applies for a spa job…on a cruise ship! Christmas in the Caribbean, springtime in the Mediterranean, what’s not to like? But, despite being in her thirties, Hannah has never done anything on her own before, and she’s terrified.

As the ship sets sail, Hannah has never been further from home…or closer to discovering who she is and who she wants to be.

 

My review

This book makes for lovely, lively reading. The opening is quite brutal though, as we find Hannah just recovering from what’s pretty much a total breakdown after her husband of many years suddenly leaves her. She’s neglected her business for too long to save it so things look very bleak. Her stalwart of a sister, Jen, is there for her and helps her start to find her feet her again.

An expected nail-mending job introduces Hannah to the idea of working in a cruise ship, which Jen encourages her to do. So Hannah courageously decides to take this career leap, and with her we travel to many locations, deal with frustrations and tribulations, and possible heartache.

Hannah is a great character. She’s fun and feisty, but flawed in that, as her sister says, it’s a crisis if she misses her favourite TV soap. In this novel she faces a real crisis, and while it floors her to start with, she does cope, and with humour and fortitude. You can’t help but like and admire her.

The author has a lively sense of fun too, and creates some great people, places and happenings to entertain us. She gives both sides of the coin when it comes to the cruise ship – it’s not all excitement and glamour, in fact, there’s a lot more drudgery and rule-following.

This is an easy and enjoyable read, light but not without sharp comment here and there, and a super book to while away a few hours.

 

Purchase linksmybook.to/TheHolidayCruise

Author bio

Victoria Cooke grew up in the city of Manchester before crossing the Pennines in pursuit of a career in education. She now lives in Huddersfield with her husband and two young daughters and when she’s not at home writing by the fire with a cup of coffee in hand, she loves working out in the gym and travelling. Victoria was first published at the tender age of eight by her classroom teacher who saw potential in a six-page story about an invisible man. Since then she’s always had a passion for reading and writing, undertaking several writers’ courses before completing her first novel, ‘The Secret to Falling in Love,’ in 2016

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaCookeAuthor/

https://twitter.com/VictoriaCooke10

https://www.instagram.com/victoriacookewriter/

 

My sequel to ‘Fa-La-Llama-La: Christmas at the Little French Llama Farm’ will soon be ready.

‘Deck the Halles: Next Christmas at the Little French Llama’ sees our heroine Noelle called on at the last minute to help organise a national llama show in the local agricultural halles, so her partner, famous Australian author Nick, decides to profit from this by launching his latest book there. With just days to go, a stream of visitors turn up on their doorstep with assorted tales of woe and all needing somewhere to stay.

Here’s the latest arrival, an early morning one. (Ivy and Franklin, referred to here, turned up yesterday and are staying in the tiny guest cottage, which Noelle’s mum was in but has vacated for a couple of days. She’ll be coming back, though. Truffle is the stray dog Nick and Noelle have given a home to.)

 

We decided we deserved a half-hour lie-in this morning. But ten minutes in there was a knock on the door. Truffle, who’d slept on a rug I’d put down for him just outside our bedroom door, gave a little growl. So did Nick.

“I thought we’d given Ivy and Franklin everything they needed for breakfast,” he grumbled.

“We did,” I confirmed. “But I think Franklin’s still asleep.”

“How on earth can you know that?” asked Nick.

“I can hear him snoring.” It was true. Even though the cottage was a good ten metres from the house, and both buildings had thick stone walls and double-glazed windows, we could hear an intermittent rumbling sound. I’d been aware it during the night at odd moments when I’d been awake. “Or maybe that’s Ivy?”

“Nah, she’s not big enough to make that colossal racket. Streuth, how can the poor woman sleep through that?”

“It’s probably her at the door then,” I deduced. “Wanting earmuffs, or refuge.” I reluctantly sat up, pushed back the covers and swung my legs out of bed. “I did tell them just to come on into the house any time they needed to. I said we didn’t lock the door.”

“Maybe they’re a bit wary of Truffle. Or me,” grinned Nick.

I grinned back. “Yes, they might be worried you’d think they were intruders and batter them with a boomerang.” There was a conveniently-placed, oversized one hanging in our hallway. “Time to get up anyway.”

I shrugged into my dressing gown and stuffed my feet into my slippers and shuffled off, closely followed by Truffle. He overtook me on the stairs, but waited dutifully until I was head of him again in the hallway. I don’t think he was convinced this was officially his territory yet, or maybe he was a bit of a coward and preferred me to confront strangers on the doorstep. That was fine, as I didn’t want an aggressive animal, all bared teeth and raised hackles. I was perfectly capable of playing that part if necessary.

I plastered a smile on my face and pulled the door open to let Ivy and Franklin in. Only it wasn’t them. Two very tall men were on my doorstep, in matching Tommy Hilfiger skiing jackets that oozed class. They also sported those fur-lined earflap hats, and scarves. It therefore took my as yet uncaffeinated brain a few seconds to crank into gear. Then, from the few facial features I could discern, I worked out this overdressed pair was my cousin Joe and his partner Caspar. Talk about surprise. I thought they were at home in New York city.

I launched myself at Joe and hugged him as best I could through all his bulky layers. Truffle took upon himself to be welcome committee to Caspar and looked up at him adoringly, wagging his tail. Any friend of my new family is a friend of mine, he was saying.

“Come on in,” I invited, after hugging Caspar too. “But what on earth are you guys doing here?”

“Long story short, rats,” summarised Joe, peeling off his jacket, and, after looking around the hallway and not seeing anywhere to hang it up since all hooks on the coat rack were already occupied, handing it to me to deal with as appropriate. And the hat.

“Yes, rats,” agreed Caspar, doing the same with his hat and coat.

I saw now that the boys were wearing matching stylish, as in designer label, yet tasteless Christmas jumpers with lurid designs in garish colours.

“Rats?” I echoed, slightly muffled by the heap of tog rating now filling my arms.

“Hundreds of them. No, more like thousands,” declared Caspar.

“Thousands?” That was me. Being a parrot was all I could do until I could make sense of what was going on. I dumped the jackets and hats on Nick’s chair as we entered the kitchen.

“Definitely thousands,” confirmed Joe, plonking himself down at the table. Caspar followed suit.

“Definitely?”

Both men nodded, so I nodded too.

“But where?” I demanded, still none the wiser.

“Paris,” Joe informed me.

“Ghastly place,” added Caspar.

Well, I could have told them that. True, it had the world’s most stunning architecture, but it was just a city – noisy, polluted, frantic, expensive, full of sour faces, lonely souls, pickpockets and, distressingly, every other phone box sheltering homeless, hopeless people.

At this point Nick padded into the room. Three pairs of eyes regarded him appreciatively; unshaved and with tousled, bedroom hair he did look gorgeous. The still-lingering, post-flu pallor brought his dark hair and eyes into sharper focus and gave him the air of a tragic, unsuccessful poet or starving artist.

“G’day gents,” he said genially, unaware he was being openly ogled by everyone else in the room, apart from Truffle, and managing not to wince at the overdose of Christmas jumper that assailed him. “You must be Noelle’s cousin Joe.” He identified him from the many photos of Joe I’d shown him on Facebook. He duly shook his hand. “And you’re Caspar. Good to finally meet you. Coffee?”

Joe and Caspar nodded eagerly.

“Oh my goodness, you’re probably starving too!” I realised, jumping up. “Breakfast?”

More eager nodding. “Oh, yes please. We were going to stop at a café somewhere for coffee and croissant, but nowhere was open,” said Joe mournfully.

Given the hour, that wasn’t surprising. It was barely eight o’clock now.

I busied myself shoving slices of bread into the toaster. “So, what happened exactly?” I asked.

Nick placed coffees in front of everyone, moved the jackets onto the sofa and sat down in his place, all ears.

“Well,” began Caspar dramatically, “this was meant to be our fairytale Christmas.”

“Fairytale,” verified Joe.

“A week in the City of Light, walking along the Champs Élysées, visiting Versailles, Notre Dame, Montmatre, all those iconic places.”

“Iconic,” agreed Joe.

“So we booked what we thought was a nice hotel, but oh my gosh.” Caspar pulled a face. “It was terrible.”

Nick and I couldn’t stop ourselves glancing at Joe for the inevitable “Terrible.”

“Rats everywhere.”

“Everywhere.”

“Everywhere? Streuth.” That was Nick, if you hadn’t guessed.

“Well, outside, but still everywhere,” clarified Caspar.

“We saw at least three,” nodded Joe.

I frowned. Only moments ago it had been ‘thousands’.

“The fact we spotted some means there are actually loads and loads and loads, even though you can’t see them all,” explained Joe quickly, seeing my scepticism.

“Thousands?” I suggested.

“Probably,” he said darkly.

I’d heard that the floods the city had experienced in the spring had caused a surge in rat sightings and that lots was being done to get the numbers down. But rats are resourceful and people are dirty, discarding litter all over the place, a lot of it with edible scraps attached. Of course they’ll move in if there’s a food source.

“We’ve got rats in our barn,” said Nick brightly but not massively helpfully.

“That’s different,” said Caspar dismissively, to my astonishment. “You expect that on a farm. And they’re not running down the drive or over your garden, are they?”

“No, they’re not,” I said firmly. “Our cats would be too ashamed to allow that to happen.”

“Well, we couldn’t stay at that hotel,” Joe went on. “Not with rats so close by.”

“No. I mean, one might have come up the toilet or something,” added Caspar, and shuddered.

Nick caught my eye and raised an eyebrow. I managed not to smile.

“I’d have thought that would be pretty unlikely,” I said carefully, “but it wouldn’t have been much of a fairytale holiday if you were constantly worrying about it.”

Nick was more direct. “Yup, getting bitten on the butt while sitting on the crapper would really suck.”

Joe and Caspar nodded seriously.

“Didn’t you think of going to a different hotel?” I asked.

“Oh no, not after that. We’ve gone right off Paris,” said Caspar.

“Yes, right off.”

“Not only the rats, but people there said horrible things,” Caspar went on.

“Horrible,” ratified Joe.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” I exclaimed, genuinely upset. Why couldn’t people just live and let live? My cousin had been at the receiving end of a lot of ignorant hatred over the years simply because of his sexuality.

“Oh, I don’t mean gay bashing,” Joe explained quickly.

“Worse than that.” Caspar looked mortally offended. “I overhead some snooty couple saying our jackets were cheap knock-offs.”

“So cruel,” tutted Joe.

I just sat there.

“So I suggested we pop here, to see my favourite cousin,” Joe smiled sycophantically. “Can you squeeze us in somewhere?”

“We-ell,” I replied cautiously. “Mum’s here for Christmas.”

“Oh, how is Aunt Mary?” gushed Joe.

“She’s…” I couldn’t go blabbing about her having ditched Dad. “She’s dyed her hair,” I said evasively.

“Good for her,” approved Joe.

Dying their hair clearly meant someone was in good form.

“She’s popped over to see Eve for a couple of days,” I continued.

“Oh, is your sister living in France too?” asked Joe. “Goodness, I’m out of touch.”

“She’s on holiday here at the moment, that’s all,” I explained concisely. “And some friends of ours, Ivy and Franklin, turned up out of the blue last night. They plan to be here at least a few days.” I hoped the boys would get the hint, but no.

“Not Ivy of the pet-sitting booking?” exclaimed Joe, referring to the events of last Christmas. My wily cousin had led me to believe I’d be minding guinea-pigs, not eleven normal llamas and one hugely pregnant one. Good job he had, though, as I might not have taken on the job and thus never met Nick. But you’ll know all this if you’ve read ‘Fa-La-Llama-La’.

“My goodness, what a houseful!” enthused Caspar. “I love big gatherings, don’t you?”

Not when we didn’t have enough space for everyone.

Or enough food. We’d done what we thought was our final Christmas food shop a week ago, before it started getting crazily busy at the supermarket. With all these extra mouths to feed that kept materialising, we’d have to make another trip, today or tomorrow. That was the last thing we needed on top of all the llama show and book launch-related activities already scheduled in.

I responded to Caspar with a non-committal, strangled sort of noise.

“So, what are your plans between now and Christmas?” asked Joe.

I stared at him. I was sure I’d told him about the forthcoming camelid show and my key involvement in it, but maybe not. So I quickly filled him in.

“Oh, how marvellous!” cried Caspar. “I know I shall love every minute. Do you need any extra judges or anything?”

I was touched by his enthusiasm, especially as I wasn’t sure if he knew the front end from the back end of a llama.

“That’s all covered by the association running the show,” I assured him. “But an extra pair of hands will be useful here in the preparations. Sir Winter will need lots of grooming.”

“I’ll be brilliant at that,” promised Caspar, unhampered as ever by modesty.

“Brilliant,” nodded Joe.

“Help yourself to more coffee and food,” I told them, getting up. “I need to go and get dressed.”

“Me too,” smiled Nick. “See you in a few.”

We hurried upstairs. I shut the bedroom door behind us then leant against it and groaned.

“What are we going to do?”

Hooray, my turn to take part in the blog tour for this excellent book!

Synopsis

Sylvia Blackwell is tired. Her grandchildren are being kept away from her, and the expected inheritance that might finally get her middle-aged son to move out has failed to materialise – thanks to her mother’s cat. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain composed. On a romantic clifftop walk for her 47th Wedding Anniversary, an unexpected opportunity leads to a momentous decision that will irretrievably change the course of her life.

The Craft Room is a darkly comic tale of sex, crepe paper, murder and knitting in a sleepy Devon town, with a ‘truly original’ premise and genuinely jaw-dropping moments. What would you do if unexpectedly freed from bondage you never knew you were in? How would your children cope? How far would you go to protect them from an uncomfortable truth? You can only push a grandmother so far…

 

My review

This book is wickedly funny, absolutely dark comedy at its best. All Sylvia wants is her own craft room so she can outdo her nemesis Maureen at the local craft fairs. Now that Robert, her son, has moved out for the second time, having come to terms with his separation from his wife Alexa, she’s got his old room earmarked.

However, she’s temporarily distracted by her mother’s death, an event which doesn’t come as a surprise to Sylvia. Also, the fact her mother has left her next to nothing since she’s gambled it away or promised it to cats takes her focus for a while. Husband Ron swoops into the empty room before she knows it. He annexes it for a golf swing training room. Now, that really is going a bit too far. But he’s not a nice person, someone who delivers encouraging sarcasm and withering looks, and has always belittled their son. Robert moves back in for a while.

Another death in the family, that again doesn’t surprise Sylvia, and neither does the next one, which sees the demise of Ron’s mistress. Cops Frank and Don see the coincidence but rule kind old granny Sylvia out, although suspect she’s covering for someone. They therefore keep an eye on her nearest and dearest, the remaining ones…

The action intensifies from here on, with complications sneaking in. Will Sylvia ever realise her dream of a fully equipped craft room?

This is hugely entertaining. Once you start reading, you can’t stop. The dark humour is wonderful, and addictive! Sylvia is a brilliant heroine, one you can sympathise with – although perhaps you shouldn’t really. She’s larger than life, yet down to earth. She’s great. Robert, insipid at first, comes into his own as the story progresses, and other characters we meet entertain and fascinate.

The physical and social settings of the novel come over well, and contribute towards making this a remarkable and memorable read. I loved it!

Purchase Linkhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Craft-Room-Dave-Holwill/dp/1973974673

Author Bio

Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.

His debut novel, Weekend Rockstars, was published in August 2016 to favourable reviews and his second The Craft Room (a very dark comedy concerning death through misadventure) came out in August 2017. He is currently in editing hell with the third.

Social Media Links –

https://www.facebook.com/daveholwill100

https://twitter.com/daveholwill

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15584279.Dave_Holwill

https://www.instagram.com/dave_holwill/

http://davedoesntwriteanythingever.blogspot.com/

 

 

 

 

Today I’m excited to be taking part in this blog tour:
Synopsis

1934: a doctor struggles with belief, mortality and murder. A novel inspired by real events

John M. Bischoffberger is a Pennsylvanian doctor adrift in the relative wilds of Maine during the dying years of the great depression. Struggling with a loss of religious faith and retreating from painful memories of The Great War, John has married and set up practice in the town of Naples.

As Medical Examiner for Cumberland County, it is also John’s job to investigate deaths that occur under unusual or suspicious circumstances. Yet as he goes about his work, he begins to suspect that the deaths he is called upon to document are in fact far from routine.

Against his better judgement, he becomes convinced that an uneasy alliance of three itinerants is going about the county, killing. An old woman, a little girl and a thin man are fulfilling some strange and unspoken duty, drowning, suffocating, hanging and the like, men, women and children; each of the three harbouring a profound distrust of the other two, yet still this queer confederacy press on with their murderous work.

John confides in local outsider Joseph, an older man who becomes John’s only outlet for his impossible fears. All the while the three continue to kill, and the deaths seem to be drawing closer to John: others who may suspect foul play, then acquaintances of John, then perhaps friends, even family members.

As the storm clouds of a new world war gather in Europe, and John’s rationality slowly unravels, he must find a way to disprove what he has reluctantly come to believe, or to confirm his worst fears and take steps to end the killing spree of the three in the woods, whatever the cost.

With a narrative switching between the doctor and the trio of murderers, and inspired by, and including, genuine accounts made by the real Dr John M. Bischoffberger in his medical journal between 1934 and 1941, The Thirty Five Timely & Untimely Deaths of Cumberland County weaves about them a fictional and dreamlike story of faith, community, and how we deal with life in the shadow of mortality.

My review

This is an unusual,  emotive and ambitious book, which is an enthralling combination in this author’s hands. It all begins quite straightforwardly, with switches between narrators keeping us intrigued. There are also actual historical documents incorporated in the text, which is a fascinating and effective facet to the book.

As the various strands begin to weave themselves ever tighter together the novel becomes quite complex. Not complicated, but you need to concentrate a bit. As Dr Bischoffberger begins to slide into confusion, it becomes more of a challenging read, but you’ll be rewarded for your effort.

It’s definitely a haunting book, slightly uncomfortable almost, and certainly powerful. It’s one that stays with you once you’ve finished reading. I found much of the imagery very striking. A character is described as “like a shout you can see”, another  suffers the “hue and cry” of life. There are numerous superb images that make you think, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s so true! Why have I never thought of that.’ The author is also a poet and this shines through in the pictures he creates with his words.

There is so much you can say about this book, so many levels that it works on, but I think the best thing is to discover it for yourself. Reading a few things that the author has said about it will also be useful and tantalising.

 

The author talks about his book:

How did you come up with the idea for the book?

Some years ago, on my thirtieth birthday, my then girlfriend (now wife) decided that I should collect something and knowing me as she did, she decided that what I should collect was antique medical equipment. To this day I have a lovely cabinet of wonderful and grotesque… things, of varying archaic medical use and brutal if utilitarian aesthetic.

However, one day while searching the internet for something to add to my collection, she came across Bischoffberger’s Medical Examiner’s Record. A large hardcover book, a ledger of deaths stretching from 1934 to 1954, the record instantly drew me in. As I read, my previous disparate ideas and abortive attempts at the story coalesced into a whole (albeit a strange one) and the novel began to take shape in my mind.

 

How would you describe the 35 Deaths?

It’s not so much a historical novel as a novel based on real events and featuring some real people but which takes those incidents and characters and imposes a fictional, even fantastical, framework upon them.

 

Who has influenced you in the writing of this novel?  I’d say the novel’s biggest influences are probably Cormac McCarthy and David Lynch, though I’m not sure it’s that much like either of them; but I suppose every writer’s work is a conglomeration of their own influences, visible or not.

 

How did you go about researching Maine in the 1930s? This is the first piece I’ve written that is even close to being historical in setting and so, beyond the reading of the medical record itself, I had to embark on more research than ever before. The joy of research is that, no matter what, you will find incredible and unexpected things, many of which seem almost tailor made to fit into your narrative.

I found local history books online, sourced period maps of the area (I also used Google Earth a lot!) and even managed to find a book of historical photographs of the region; I cannot deny a slight shiver running through me upon finding within this book a picture of Doctor Bischoffberger himself looking back at me.

 

About the author

Photos by Sin Bozkurt©

Following his poem Fireworks Fireworks Bang Bang Bang at the age of six, Mason eventually took the whole writing thing a little more seriously, graduating in 2009 from London Metropolitan University, having received first class honours in Creative Writing.

In his second year, he won the Sandra Ashman award for his poem Mother Theresa in the Winner’s Enclosure.

He has subsequently had work published in Succour magazine and Brand magazine.

Mason is currently working on a number of writing projects, as well as developing his next novel.

In addition to this, he writes, co-produces and hosts the award-winning monthly cabaret night The Double R Club (as Benjamin Louche, winner of “Best Host” at the London Cabaret Awards). He also worked as a performer on Star Wars: The Force Awakens & The Last Jedi.

Mason is a trustee of East London charity Cabaret vs Cancer.

He lives in East London with his wife, a cat called Monkey, and a collection of antique medical equipment.

 

Social media links

Website: https://www.masonball.co.uk

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/MasonBall

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MasonBallAuthor 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/masonballauthor

Synopsis

While staying in a Dorset cottage, Hugh Mullion finds a mysterious key down the side of an antique chair.  No one can say how long the key has been there or what it opens.

Hugh’s search for answers will unlock the secrets of the troubled life of a talented artist, destined to be hailed a neglected genius fifty years too late.  And no secret is darker than that of The Amber Maze, from whose malign influence he never escaped.

The trail takes Hugh from Edwardian Oxfordshire to 1960s Camden Town, where the ghosts of the past are finally laid to rest.

Delicately crafted noir fiction at its best.

 

My review

This novel is an intriguing and erudite mystery. More noir than cozy, it’s a thoughtful, intelligent story. There’s definite menace and a lurking threat, embodied by the maze that is the symbol of Assendene Court. You get a hint of that from the cover: what exactly is round that next bend

Our protagonist Hugh plunges into a maze of investigation. Progress is slow and cautious to start with, but gains momentum. However, there are wrong turns and dead ends. But like a determined terrier, once he’s got his teeth into this mystery he’s not going to let go. There’s an old box, paintings, a journal belonging to underrated artist Lionel Pybus and the amber maze itself of Assendene Court that all need investigating and, let’s move to a jigsaw analogy now, piecing together.

It’s nice to have a male protagonist, since this type of more literary and less violent mystery is generally the preserve of female sleuths, and a slightly more mature one too. He’s not a perfect person – he’s definitely on the obsessive side, can’t let things go. He’s sharp, curious, personable, and he works well with a number of knowledgeable people to delve deeper into this mystery. He’s methodical, almost a little plodding, but that just means we can keep up with events clearly and  understand exactly what’s going on.

His life partner, Kate, is a perfect foil for him. She’s more impulsive and upbeat, equally likeable and sharp, and is drawn into Hugh’s investigation despite herself. She’s very supportive. She’s just one of a compelling cast of characters that accompany Hugh through the story, all rounded and interesting.

Despite Hugh’s meticulous approach to his investigation, the story progresses steadily, gaining momentum, and the book is a real page-turner. You keep wanting to know what next, fascinating snippet he’ll uncover and how it will fit in with what we know so far.

A delightful and rewarding read.

 

Purchase links:

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0955506751

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Amber-Maze-Christopher-Bowden-ebook/dp/B07FRH481F/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1532280455&sr=1-1&keywords=the+amber+maze

Waterstones https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-amber-maze/christopher-bowden/9780955506758

Smashwordshttps://www.smashwords.com/books/view/880652

 

About the author

Christopher Bowden lives in south London. The Amber Maze is the sixth of his colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay. 

Social media links

https://www.facebook.com/christopher.bowden.90

Keep following this book’s blog tour, and catch up with what you might have missed so far!

 

Maddy feels unfulfilled. The kids have left home, her husband is obsessed with golf and life has become rather boring. She’s a teacher and one of her colleagues and a good friend is Leanne, a bit of an oddball character but with a good heart. She’s looking after her mother, and boy, does she need a break. Both of them do, so when they scoop a Lottery win, they’re decide to go on a road trip to the south of France. Maddy’s husband Tom disapproves, as does her mother-in-law, but she disapproves of everything. And anyway, Tom is planning a trip of his own to play in a golf tournament.

Both women have lurking ulterior motives – Leanne wants to track down her father, Erik, and Maddy desperately needs some thinking time and wouldn’t mind looking up Ludovic, her first real boyfriend.

They have some very amusing  adventures and encounters, including one with Bridget the poodle with royal connections, as they try to rediscover their real selves and get out of the rut that life has somehow shunted them into without their fully realising. They do seem to have found their goal when they reach Nice, only they discover there are goats in it. Their happy endings aren’t quite there for them yet. So it’s onwards with their travels and, you have to hope, they’ll have plenty more adventures for us to share. ‘The Boat Trip’ is the next book in this series.

This is sharply and beautifully written. Maddy and Leanne are wonderful, colourful, imperfect characters trying to do their best and make the most of their lives. We feel they fully deserve this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity their win has given them, and share their enthusiasm and optimism for the future. There are many clever, comical touches, but there’s tension, insecurity and doubt there too. Our characters have responsibilities and have tough decisions to make. But the background is a feel-good one of hope and expectation. Readers’ expectations won’t be disappointed by this lively, touching novel.  

Synopsis

It is May 1968. Students are rioting, civil rights are being fought and died for, nuclear bombs are being tested, and war is raging in Vietnam. For three ordinary women in Lisbon, London and Washington life must go on as usual. For them, just to survive is an act of courage. How much has really changed in fift years?

 

My review

The title quotation comes from something Amalia observes about her son, Ricardo – how he sleeps so soundly, how he can “sleep through war”. Our three lead characters, Amalia, Rose and Mrs Johnson, all experiences ‘wars’ of one sort or another, whether it’s war between cultures, races or actual military conflict. It seems that the whole world is at war in 1968 in one way or another with so much turbulence, social unrest and hostility as well as battles between soldiers. This is what unites these three disparate women.

It’s fascinating to have three such different characters woven together: we have a young Portuguese mother who is doing whatever it takes to earn money to educate her father less son and give him the best start in life she can. Then there is a West Indian nurse who has come to England to work, but isn’t always appreciated. And we have a mother whose son is fighting in Vietnam. She writes newsy, chatty letters to her son, but you can see she’s racked with worry about him.

News reports are interspersed throughout the women’s narrations which give the wider, factual background to their stories.

This is a gentle, poignant read, but that’s not to say that shocking things and cruel twists of fate don’t happen. However, our heroines take events in their stride. Each woman is brave, although each considers themselves to be perfectly ordinary, in the difficult circumstances they find themselves in and cope in what ways they can. It’s the contrast between their apparent normalness and the upheavals they tackle without fuss in their daily lives that is so powerful.

The author has a deft way with words and a sharp eye for detail. It’s the little touches, the smallest o brushstrokes, to the broad canvas of this book that make it so convincing. If you enjoy a book that is rich with imagery, touching, thoughtful, firmly rooted in reality yet imaginative and innovative, then this is one for you.

Just one negative comment, which concerns the book’s presentation and most definitely not its creative content. The narrations of two of the women are delivered in italic text, which I didn’t feel was necessary but which accounts for about two thirds of the book. Personally I don’t find italic text the easiest thing to read and it is a little off-putting when used for long passages.

 

Purchase links

https://wordery.com/sleeping-through-war-jackie-carreira-9781788038539?cTrk=OTI4NjYyNTF8NWIzNGE4OGEyMTcwNzoxOjE6NWIzNGE4ODE5OTMzZjQuMDY5MzQ4MzE6NTNkMGNjYzU%3D

https://www.waterstones.com/book/sleeping-through-war/jackie-carreira/9781788038539

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sleeping-Through-War-Jackie-Carreira-ebook/dp/B078XF7351/

About the author
Jackie Carreira is a writer, musician, designer, co-founder of QuirkHouse Theatre Company, and award-winning playwright. She mostly grew up and went to school in Hackney, East London, but spent part of her early childhood with grandparents in Lisbon’s Old Quarter. Her colourful early life has greatly influenced this novel. Jackie now lives in leafy Suffolk with her actor husband, AJ Deane, two cats and too many books.

Social Media Links –  FACEBOOK: @SleepingThroughWar
WEBSITE:
jackiecarreira.co.uk