Friday, 24 September 2021

Windswept by Annabelle McCormack BLOG TOUR #Windswept @annabelledando #Win #Competition #Giveaway #Prize @RandomTTours


May, 1917. Ginger Whitman left a life of wealth and privilege in England to train as a battlefield nurse and serve in the Great War. Working on the brutal frontlines in Palestine, she finds a wounded soldier hiding in her camp. The soldier claims to carry intelligence unmasking a secret plot against the British-and that traitors within British intelligence are searching for him. Desperate and dying, the soldier entrusts a coded message to her care.

Ginger is hurled into an unfamiliar world of intrigue and murder amidst the war-ravaged Arabian desert. She's determined to help her country but trusting the wrong person could cost her life. Then the arrival of mysterious and handsome British intelligence officer Major Noah Benson offers a chance of help. But Noah may be as dangerous as he is charming. As she's swept away by stolen moments on the desert sands, Ginger realizes her heart may also be at risk.

Hunted by a shadowy enemy spy, Ginger must decide if she can trust Noah. But as she grapples with her decision, Ginger makes a shocking discovery: a sinister secret that threatens to shatter the world she thought she knew.

Windswept by Annabelle McCormack was published on 21 September 2021.
As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to offer a giveaway. I have one digital copy of the book on offer. 
Entry is simple, just fill out the competition widget in this blog post. 

One digital copy of Windswept by Annabelle McCormack

Annabelle McCormack writes to bring under-explored periods of history to life. 

She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University’s M.A. in Writing Program. Half-Costa Rican, she also speaks fluent Spanish. 

She lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband, where she serves as a snack bitch for her (lucky-they’re-cute) five children.

Visit her at or to follow her daily adventures.

Twitter @annabelledando

Salt Lick by Lulu Allison BLOG TOUR @LuluAllison7 @unbounders #SaltLick @RandomTTours #BookExtract


Britain is awash, the sea creeps into the land, brambles and forest swamp derelict towns. Food production has moved overseas and people are forced to move to the cities for work. The countryside is empty. A chorus, the herd voice of feral cows, wander this newly wild land watching over changing times, speaking with love and exasperation. 

Jesse and his puppy Mister Maliks roam the woods until his family are forced to leave for London. Lee runs from the terrible restrictions of the White Town where he grew up. Isolde leaves London on foot, walking the abandoned A12 in search of the truth about her mother.

Salt Lick by Lulu Allison was published on 16 September 2021 by Unbound.  
As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today

 Extract from 
Salt Lick by Lulu Allison

The economic decline of the countryside slid in first to the fields and farmlands, then to the villages, the market towns. Workforces and wage offers no longer matched and so the workers disappeared. For a while, for the well-heeled, little changed. Marshal kept up his flatteringly matey friendships with the wealthy of the parish. The men, encountering their own physicality only in the pampered confines of a gym, were drawn to his way of treating them as casually manly equals. All customers spoke of his impeccable reputation for quality. Though increasingly, at the golf clubs and spas, people muttered about the economic climate. The gin and tonics were knocked back between head shakes and bluster, bitter soliloquies about betrayal. Hand-in-fist together, planning national strategies that best served them, the rural wealthy and the landed gentry were outraged to discover that they no longer had the ear of government.

Chunks of ice clinked against comfortingly hefty glass in the tremor of a suddenly bankrupt hand. During the chaos of the pandemic, the pattern of wealth in the country shifted. Over time, the losses increased, the economic climate became harder still. Some of the rich remained rich. Some did not. There were heart attacks and suicides. The gentleman farmers, astonishingly quickly found that all they had to bargain with was the long habit of association with those that ruled the country. Friendship can go a long way, in individual cases; some of those bonds survived the fall from grace, but is was the developers in the towns who were courted. What was the wealth of a landowner when no one wanted land? 

Marshal, quicker to spot the signs than his complacent customers has shored up some of his options by becoming an installer of new systems for bespoke, single unit flood defences. The wealthy that remain shifted spending from luxury and pleasure to the necessary, to insurance. He is still busy enough to feed the family, busy enough to feel too distant from them, but the days of easy wealth are behind them. 

over time

all will fade


and grow again

this is the meaning of natural order

your time comes to a close

yes in many ways you spent it well

that was a time, was it not?

but think what you could have done with such gifts

Lulu Allison grew up in a small village in the Chilterns. 

She did an illustration degree at St Martin’s School of Art and a fine-art M.A at the University of Brighton. She has exhibited in group and solo shows, worked as a gallery educator and arts facilitator. She has also worked as a cleaner, an art teacher, a scuba-diving instructor, and a maker of spectacle hinges in a small factory in Munich.

She came to writing accidentally whilst undertaking what she thought was an art project, unexpectedly discovering what she should have been doing all along. That art project became her first novel, Twice the Speed of Dark, published by Unbound in 2017. Salt Lick is her second novel, and she is working on a third, inspired by the Thomas Mann novel, Doctor Faustus. 
She lives in Brighton.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Black Reed Bay by Rod Reynolds BLOG TOUR @Rod_WR @OrendaBooks #BlackReedBay #MeetCasey #BookReview

Don’t trust ANYONE…

When a young woman makes a distressing middle-of-the-night call to 911, apparently running for her life in a quiet, exclusive beachside neighbourhood, miles from her home, everything suggests a domestic incident.

Except no one has seen her since, and something doesn’t sit right with the officers at Hampstead County PD. With multiple suspects and witnesses throwing up startling inconsistencies, and interference from the top threatening the integrity of the investigation, lead detective Casey Wray is thrust into an increasingly puzzling case that looks like it’s going to have only one ending…

And then the first body appears…

Black Reed Bay by Rod Reynolds was published in paperback by Orenda Books on 02 September 2021. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour 

I am so very very excited about this book, especially as it the first in a new series from an incredible talent. Here we have a truly American Noir story told by a guy from London with an amazing female lead character who every single reader will fall in love with and back to the hilt. It's frenzied in pace, it's complex, its atmospheric and it is utterly gripping. 

Detective Casey Wray is something of an enigma. It's clear that her rise to Detective level has not been simple, but she has a great mentor and loyal and steady partner to work alongside. Every now and again, she has her doubts about herself. Casey does a lot of inward thinking, she has no choice as she's alone in the world apart from her work colleagues. No romantic relationship and no family, just Casey, and the job. 

A frantic call is received via 911 and this sparks the case that is central to the plot. A young woman, identified as Tina Grace shouts into the phone that 'he is going to kill me', and then the call ends. That's all Casey and partner Cullen have to go on. 

What could have been a fairly simple case of a missing woman soon turns into a case that has multiple strands, and involves the richest community in the Long Island town of Rockport. As is usually the case, money and stature leads to long silences, it's not only the known criminals that are feared in this town, it's the people with the cash and the power that really rule the show. 

There's some pretty explosive action throughout this one, there are some heart breaking scenes too and there's a whole lot of damn fine writing. Reynolds propels the reader into the heart of this town and the surrounding areas, it feels so real, so American, just so like everything you've ever seen of US based cop dramas. 

I was glued to it and I want more, and soon please. I want to know more about Casey, I want more about her background. I want to see how she progresses in the force after the devastation that this case has brought for her department. I just want more.

Highly recommended by me. I loved every single page. 

Rod Reynolds is the author of five novels, including the Charlie Yates series, the standalone Blood
Red City and  Black Reed Bay.

His 2015 debut, The Dark Inside, was longlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger, and was followed by Black Night Falling (2016) and Cold Desert Sky (2018); the Guardian have called the books 'Pitch-perfect American noir.' A lifelong Londoner, in 2020 Orenda Books published his first novel set in his hometown, Blood Red City, which was a Summer 2020 pick in the FT. In 2021, he again turns to the US, this time to present-day Long Island, with Black Reed Bay.

Rod previously worked in advertising as a media buyer, and holds an MA in Novel Writing from City University London. Rod lives with his wife and children and spends most of his time trying to keep up with them.

Contact him:

twitter: @Rod_WR

How To Be An Olympian by Harry Reardon BLOG TOUR @rsreardon @unbounders #HowToBeAnOlympian #BookExtract


Hannah Dines and Jess Leyden are two perfectly normal, brilliant women. One, a world record-holding athlete and a Paralympian on the trike. The other, a multiple age-group world champion and one of the most promising rowers Great Britain has to offer.

In the five years (yes, that’s right) between Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020, they will face cancer scares, crushing defeats, and the biggest global health crisis in a century. They will get dropped, they will get injured, and they will win medals. They will spend the best years of their lives knowing that at any moment, it could all come crashing down. That all the training, all the sacrifice could be in vain, wasted effort as a pandemic raged. That maybe these could be the years that will shape their finest hour – or that maybe, after everything that they’ve been through, it could all still be snatched away at the last… 

How To Be An Olympian by Harry Reardon was published on 16 September 2021 by Unbound.
As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you. 

Extract from 
How To Be An Olympian by Harry Reardon

First up, a hop over the North Sea to Rotterdam, and the under-23 World Championships. Since the quad missed out on Rio, the coaches have been lining Jess up for a double with the other stand-out sculling prospect in the British women's squad, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne. It's a boat, though, that has no history and very possibly no future, however well they perform. It's not nothing, of course – it'll keep them in shape, it might well earn them a medal. But it's been cobbled together at short notice essentially to give them both something to do, and age-group racing in the September of an Olympic year is not why either of them got into the sport.

For Jess and Mathilda, what the next few months are really about is getting in the best possible shape for trials – the series of head-to-head races, time trials and rowing machine tests which runs between November and April each year, punctuating the punishing winter-to-spring training programme. It's a gruelling experience, which will officially form the basis for crew selections for next season and in practice quite probably beyond; in fact, it's fair to say that what happens at the upcoming final assessment, in April next year, could end up defining the whole Olympic cycle. Which makes it important, obviously, even if you can't think of it like that.

“Sometimes people –” begins Jess, and she names no names, but that's not the point, this could be anyone, any sport, any cycle, any country – “sometimes people get really caught up in trials, and trying to be the best person in the country. Whereas actually, day-to-day training as a team, you should be thinking about beating the world. That's the team I want to be part of, a strong team that wants to beat the world and not just each other, that shouts to each other to get better, but that supports each other, and doesn't tear each other down. Because you'd rather miss out on a team that's winning a gold medal than be in a team that comes last.”

Team dynamics. At the very top level, a huge amount of sport is about how to get people working together, and it's a tricky business. For one thing, assuming Jess makes it into a boat this time around, it's going to be completely different to the one that missed out on Rio, not least because over the next few weeks, half of the old crew will quit the squad – Ro to try her hand at cycling, Tina to turn her back on professional sport entirely and join Deloitte. So if there is going to be a return to the quad, and Jess admits to a feeling of unfinished business, there will need to be new team mates, new relationships. The only one left from the Rio cycle that she could be racing alongside is Holly Nixon, and the two of them haven't always seen eye-to-eye.

“When we first came onto the team together, we didn't really trust each other,” says Jess. “I think Holly had a few issues outside of training that she was trying to work through, but she was quite closed about those, and so came across to me as weak-minded. And with my personality, I'm a bit of a bull in a china shop.” But then British Rowing brought in someone from one of those companies that do team insight profiles, the upshot of which was everyone on the squad being assigned colours to represent their personalities. Holly came out as Earth Green, Jess was a Fiery Red, and just like that, it started to make a bit more sense. So now when Jess blurts out something critical, Holly knows that she's not doing it to upset her, and when Holly is acting all sensitive and over-thinking things, it's not because she wants to piss Jess off. It's anyone's guess how that will play out in the long term if they end up back in a boat together, but for now it's great, it's lovely, it's the end of Cool Runnings and it's Junior and Yul and 'This doesn't mean that I like you.' Holly helps Jess rein herself in, and if Jess really believes in what she's saying, she'll explain why and they'll talk it through, and now Holly's one of the closest friends Jess has got.

Harry Reardon is a qualified lawyer who, at the age of thirty-one, left the law completely to train as a sports journalist. He now works in the civil service. He lives in a small village outside Winchester with his wife and their two young children.

Twitter @hsreardon

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The Sound of Sirens by Ewan Gault @EwanGault @leamingtonbooks #TheSoundOfSirens #BookReview

In a dead-beat coastal town in North East Scotland, seventeen-year-old Malky Campbell is desperate to help his pregnant and heroin addicted girlfriend.

DI Stark, a middle-aged detective, alarmed by the rise of teenage crime in Port Cawdor, uncovers the operations of a county line gang that are flooding the area with drugs and engaging in a vicious turf war with a local family. 

Malky has just started working on his family’s trawler with his cousin Johnny, when their boat pulls up Johnny’s brother in its nets. The rest of the crew, the tightly-knit community and the police start to suspect that the cousins are responsible for his death.   
With his brother dead, Johnny inherits the family trawler, which he plans to use to smuggle drugs into the country for the county line gang, giving him enough money to start a new life.
Ewan Gault’s debut, The Sound of Sirens is a tough, modern crime novel, presenting the complexities of young life in a town at the end of the line.

The Sound of Sirens by Ewan Gault is published on 23 September 2021 by Leamington Books. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I have been absolutely consumed by the plot and the characters of this stunning debut novel. Ewan Gault is an incredible talent. This is a story that has lingered in my head for days. It is often brutal, it is dark and grim, but it is beautifully constructed and packs such an emotional punch. 

Port Cawdor is a town on the coast of Scotland. Once a thriving fishing community, it is now well known as the town with the drug habit. The young people just want to get out and the older ones are just resigned to their fate. 

The construction of the story is perfectly done, as the reader learns about each character. We find out what they think about, what they'd like to be and who they are. The town is described excellently, it's a dark and dreary place, there's not a lot of laughter but there's so much pain. 

Malky recently started to work on his uncle's trawler and on this particular day, the net that they haul in doesn't contain fish. Instead, they drag up the body of his cousin Joe. Joe went overboard some weeks ago and his body is not a sight to savour.

DI Stark is tired of Port Cawdor. He is tired of the drug dealers, the organised crime gangs who run the county lines. He's tired of the addicts and he wants out. He wants more for his two daughters than a life surrounded by drugs and hopelessness. Stark doesn't believe that Joe's death was an accident and starts to ask awkward questions of Malky and the other crew aboard that night. 

Joe's brother Johnny has plans for the trawler. He can get rich and it involves drugs and will also put him and Malky at risk. There's already drug dealers in town, and they don't want to share their patch.
Malky just wants his friend Nikki to have a decent place to live. Nikki is pregnant and a heroin addict, and Malky is determined to find a clean home for her and the baby when it arrives. He soon finds himself doing things that he could never imagined.

The tension builds and the pace increases toward the shocking finale of the story, I was utterly gripped. 

The story is brutal, grim, very dark and very emotional. We see humanity at its very worst, we see people who have no hope in life and those who do hope but who have everything in their ways. It's a look at fractured relationships and small town politics. Unflinchingly honest and at times very moving. 

This is Ewan Gault's debut novel and it is stunning. Highly recommended from me, one of the best books I've read this year. 

Ewan Gault is the author of the novel ‘The Most Distant 
Way’ and numerous short stories that have appeared in anthologies and magazines including New Writing Scotland and Gutter.

In his new crime novel ‘The Sound of Sirens’, a body is 
dredged up in a trawler’s nets bringing with it submerged secrets to the surface. Extracts from the novel have won the Fish Knife Award and the Toulmin Prize. 

He works as an English teacher in a sixth form 
college in Tottenham.

Twitter @EwanGault

Friday, 17 September 2021

The Country of Others by Leïla Slimani, trans Sam Taylor @SamTayl66360996 @FaberBooks @laurennicoll_ #TheCountryOfOthers #BookReview


1944. After the Liberation, Mathilde leaves France to join her husband in Morocco.

But life here is unrecognisable to this brave and passionate young woman. Her life is now that of a farmer's wife - with all the sacrifices and vexations that brings. Suffocated by the heat, by her loneliness on the farm and by the mistrust she inspires as a foreigner, Mathilde grows increasingly restless.

As Morocco's struggle for independence intensifies, Mathilde and her husband find themselves caught in the crossfire.

From the internationally bestselling author, The Country of Others is perfect for fans of Elena Ferrante, Tracy Chevalier, and Maggie O'Farrell.

The Country of Others by Leïla Slimani was published in hardback on 5 August 2021 by Faber and is translated by Sam Taylor. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I am a huge fan of this authors first two novels; Adèle, and Lullaby and have been looking forward to The Country of Others for some time. This novel is something of a departure for the author. It's the first in a planned trilogy and is based on her family history. The story begins toward the end of the second world war, so can be classed as historical fiction, and very different to her two contemporary novels. 

Once again Sam Taylor has expertly translated Slimani's French prose into a stunning story. 

However, just like her previous books, this is beautifully written and drew me in from the very first page. Once again, this author shines when creating strong female characters who are constantly battling wars. It is not just world war that Mathilde, the lead character, has to face up to, but the huge battle that her marriage often becomes. She faces hardships in a strange land, after marrying Amine, a Moroccan solider that she met when he was fighting in France. 

Mathilde moved from her home in Alsace, France to Amine's home; a rurally isolated farmhouse in Meknes. Slimani writes so descriptively. The countryside, the city, the people and the landscapes are all brought vividly to life for the reader. As someone who knew very little about Morocco and its history, I learnt so much from this story. 

The constant battle for independence from the French colonial rule is expertly portrayed, and the effects on Mathilde. a French woman married to a Moroccan man, who has children of mixed heritage is especially poignant.

There are times that the reader shares Mathilde's despair as her husband agrees with and allows the intensely patriarchal society to impact on her life, and that of her daughter and also her sister in law. There are scenes that are heartbreaking and quite devastating, but it is Mathilde's strength of character that shines through. She is able to pass on her wisdoms to those she has to live amongst and whilst not wholly accepted, she does become a valued member of the community. 

The Country of Others is a powerful, moving story that proves that this talented author can write historical fiction just as well as her contemporary stories. I was totally swept away by the prose, the characters and the setting and eagerly await the next in the series.

Leïla Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary prize,
the Prix Goncourt, which she won for Lullaby. 

A journalist and frequent commentator on women’s and human rights, she is French president Emmanuel Macron’s personal representative for the promotion of the French language and culture. 

Born in Rabat, Morocco, in 1981, she lives in Paris with her French husband and their two young children.

Born in Nottinghamshire, England in 1970, Sam Taylor began his career as a journalist
with The Observer. 

In 2001, he quit his job and moved to southwest France, where he wrote four novels, learned French, and raised a family.


In 2010, he translated his first novel: Laurent Binet's HHhH.


He now lives in the United States and works as a literary translator and author.

Twitter @SamTayl66360996

The Lost Wisdom Of The Magi by Susie Helme BLOG TOUR @susiehelme @TheConradPress @RandomTTours #BookExtract

This engaging, meticulously researched novel tells the story of Sophia, a first-century Babylonian Jew who learns ancient languages at the royal archives of the Parthians and secretly studies the magic on cuneiform tablets. 

Sophia runs away from home, joining a Nabataean incense caravan, studies with the Essenes on the Dead Sea and joins with the militants of Qumran. 

As the Zealots battle to defend revolutionary Jerusalem against Titus, she falls in love with a Greek freedman, Athanasios, a comrade in arms. Jews and Christians briefly unite with Samaritans and the People of the Land. 

But messiahs can prove false.

The Lost Wisdom of the Magi : the memoirs of Sophia Zealotes by Susie Helme was published in December 2020 by The Conrad Press.

The book was recently awarded the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award for Best Historical 

As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book with you today. 

Extract from The Lost Wisdom of the Magi by Susie Helme

Sisters of Alexandria, you have requested an account of my years in Palestine, and so I pledge these scrolls to you, a gift from sister to sister, in appreciation for all your works. Some

of you, my Sisters, are interested in the war, and want to hear heroic tales of Zealots. Some of you mourn Churban HaBayit (Destruction of the Temple), and wish to join my grief with yours.

I know that some of you, too, yearn for the Lost Wisdom. You are curious about magic; and I will teach you what I know. As my most beloved disciples, these things are for your eyes alone.

Our Academy is dedicated to the womanly promulgation of all the jewels of civilisation. This work must be part of that goal. In my memory, the story began on that night when I came to my senses on the sandy hill west of the ruins of old Babylon. Everything before that seems a far distant past. It was on that cold ground that my destiny was cast, the Evening Star shining down upon my dusty shawl and bloodied robe, a magical fox questioning my actions with a probing gaze. I’ve had to trace the story backward from that moment, as for many years my

mind blocked the memories of what had gone before.

I cannot report to you that event, Sisters, other than by start- ing from the beginning. I cannot confess to you my behaviour on that night before I tell you the story of who I was, for I was very different then as a girl from the old crone you know now.

As you know, I was born in the Land Between the Rivers, in the city of Babylon, which is called Seleucia on the Tigris by the heirs of Alexandros (Alexander the Great).

My father, Itamar son of Nebazak, was a keeper of the royal archives of the Parthians. It has been the tradition in our family for eighteen generations by virtue of our scholarship. We are in Babylon since the Captivity.

My mother, Sherah, suffered a grave illness in the years after my birth, and there are many years between me and my younger brothers.

Some moons passed her with no moonblood, other moons she bled so heavily she took to bed. Sometimes when she lifted something heavy, she would cry out in pain and curl into a ball on the kitchen floor. Father was so careful when he embraced her, it seemed as if he was afraid even to touch her. Of course, no one ever explains such things to children, but I later described the symptoms to Ima Devorah, and she said it sounded like scarring on the womb. When Mother conceived and delivered the first boy, Adam, the birthing must have cleared away the scarred tissue from her body. When she recovered, she had three more sons in a row, each born before the elder was weaned.

My father gave me a Greek name, Sophia. It was the fashion in those days among Babylonian Jewry to have Greek names, and Father, a Pharisee of the old school, had ever a soft spot in his soul for the Greek arts. Sophia is a Greek word. It means wisdom. I believe my father saw the true course of my spirit when he so named me. Mother was too ill to dispute it, though I think she would have done.

Grandmother lived with us as nurse all during my mother’s illness, remaining as minder to the boys, and as she aged, I was expected to replace her in that role. She constantly scolded me to do this or that ‘for Mother’ or ‘for your brothers’ and scolded me with the same words she scolded the slaves. The boys saw me as a maidservant. Not only did I have to do all the work, but I got no respect for it. My brothers asked me to fetch them things without saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’.

Susie Helme is an American from Nashville, Tennessee, living in London, after sojourns in Tokyo,
Paris and Geneva with a passion for ancient history, politics and magic, mythology and religion. 

She is a political activist and a socialist. 

Once editor of Mobile Communications Asia and other mobile communications magazines, she co-authored the Jan 2000 Future Mobile Handsets. 

She published with the Conrad Press in December 2020 her first novel, The Lost Wisdom of the Magi 

She is founder member of the Bounds Green Book Writers writers’ circle, which published in Autumn 2020 an anthology of coronavirus-inspired fiction, Lockdown Lit—Inspiration in Isolation. 

She now subedits Dignity magazine, writes historical novels and grows organic vegetables. 

She offers freelance services proofreading or developmental editing for authors needing help with their novels and is open to offers of review-swapping and mutual beta-reading.

TWITTER @susiehelme