The Girls, by Bella Osborne and narrated by Julia Franklin

Thank you so much to Danielle at The Reading Closet, Isis Audio and Ulverscroft for having me on this audiobook tour!

Synopsis

Four old friends. Thrown back together after forty years apart. What could possibly go wrong?

In the 1970s, The Girls were best friends sharing a house and good times: Zara the famous diva actor, Val the uptight solicitor, Jackie the wild child and Pauline the quirky introvert. Now they’re in their twilight years, and Zara suggests that they live with her to support each other through old age.

Initially, being housemates again is just as much fun as in their heyday. But then Zara reveals the real reason she asked them to move in with her, and suddenly things take a sinister turn.

As the women confront their demons they come under the spotlight of the press, the police and an angry parrot. With their lives spiralling out of control can they save their friendships and each other?

Review

Meet “The Girls”: Jackie, Val, Pauline and Zara. What a fun and endearing bunch to get to know!

Each their strengths, each their flaws, each their own agenda. But how much of it is truly their own decision? As they agree to move to France and all share a house together again; and as the days go by, it becomes clear that Zara’s hand has been more than a little helpful!

What lurks behind Val’s serious, guarded and sensible nature? Why is Jackie so loud and exuberant? What secrets do Pauline keep behind her naive but ever so sweet facade? What is Zara hiding behind the theatrics, glamour and drama?

As you untangle each of their demons, past regrets and ulterior motives, you get to experience this lovely portrayal of friendship, not always rosy but always worth it when you have the best of friends to come together with. You might have drifted apart for 40 years but when it’s real, it’s always like no time has passed, especially in the light of mystery!

This book is the perfect antidote to a reading slump, ideal as an audiobook, and great companion for walks, chores or sunbathing, whatever you lovely bunch do when listening to audiobooks!

And if you’re not an audio convert yet, this is definitely a perfect one to get started, brilliantly narrated by Julia Franklin!

With the right amount of love and quirkiness, treat yourselves to this easy, funny, sensitive and engaging listen! You will devour it quickly!

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Ulverscroft, available on Audible and other trade download platforms, on the digital library platform ulibrary, and on physical CD and MP3 both in libraries and from th website The Reading House. https://thereadinghouse.co.uk/

About Bella Osborne

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember but decided that 2013 would be the year that she finished a full length novel.

In 2016, her debut novel, ‘It Started At Sunset Cottage’, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. She likes to find the humour in the darker moments of life and weaves these into her stories. Her novels are often serialised in four parts ahead of the full book publication.

Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays.

She lives in The Midlands, UK with her lovely husband and wonderful daughter, who thankfully, both accept her as she is (with mad morning hair and a penchant for skipping).

For more about Bella, visit her website at https://www.bellaosborne.com/ or follow her on Social Media: Twitter: @osborne_bella, Instagram: bellaosborneauthor, Facebook: BellaOsborneAuthor.

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Edgware Road by Yasmin Cordery Khan – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Amy at Head of Zeus for having me on board! What a special book this was! I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to read this in advance!

Synospis

A wide-ranging and affecting debut novel about family and identity, from an award-winning historian.

1981. Khalid Quraishi is one of the lucky ones. He works nights in the glitzy West End, and comes home every morning to his beautiful wife and daughter. He’s a world away from Karachi and the family he left behind.

But Khalid likes to gamble, and he likes to win. Twenty pounds on the fruit machine, fifty on a sure-thing horse, a thousand on an investment that seems certain to pay out. Now he’s been offered a huge opportunity, a chance to get in early with a new bank, and it looks like he’ll finally have his big win.

2003. Alia Quraishi doesn’t really remember her dad. After her parents’ divorce she hardly saw him, and her mum refuses to talk about her charming ex-husband. So, when he died in what the police wrote off as a sad accident, Alia had no reason to believe there was more going on.

Now almost twenty years have passed and she’s tired of only understanding half of who she is. Her dad’s death alone and miles from his west London stomping ground doesn’t add up with the man she knew. If she’s going to find out the truth about her father – and learn about the other half of herself – Alia is going to have to visit his home, a place she’s never been, and connect with a family that feel more like strangers.

Review

Slow burning but gripping; set between 1987 and 2003; you wittily alternate between Khalid’s point of view then, his daughter Alia’s there and then, and MP Mark Denby’s.

From the very first page, you get sucked in this serious and complex story, which becomes a journey through different cultures, mixing up intricacies of family dynamics, friendships, politics, struggles of immigration, traditions and communities. 

Travel with Alia to Pakistan. Explore the culture and embark on this sensory journey with her. Share her internal struggles towards her family. Accompany her in her quest for answers. 

Discover Khalid’s life in the 80s. Share his dreams and ambitions for the future, his burning desire of richness and grandeur, of making a mark. Follow his struggles as an immigrant, the toughness of finding a job, his battles as a gambling addict, along with the devastating consequences that this can have. 

Delve into the political dynamics, the dilemmas of right and wrong of Mark Denby. Share his family life, his discoveries about the dodgy BCCI bank, his secrets and his demons. 

A very cleverly drafted, very rich story, where the reader gets to peel off layer after layer, page after page, delving into deep and thoroughly crafted characters, a truly pleasant read which I strongly recommend !

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Head of Zeus

About Yasmin Cordery Khan

Twitter Profile Picture

Yasmin Cordery Khan is an historian and broadcaster. She is the author of The Great Partition (for which she won the Gladstone Prize for History), and The Raj at War, and has written for the Guardian and the Observer. Edgware Road is her first novel.

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Seadogs and Criminals by Alex Fisher – Blog Tour

A big thank you to Eleanor from Literally PR for inviting me on this blog tour! I love a good treasure hunt!

Synopsis

Victorian London. 

Joseph Winter is a master criminal, known around the backstreets as Trace – because he never leaves one. That is, until a tip-off about a fabled treasure map turns sour, shattering his reputation and turning his dreams to dust.

With nothing left to lose, Joseph decides to take the leap and persuades a group of interesting strangers to join him on the hunt. After taking to the waves, they are catapulted into a wonderous odyssey stretching across the globe, unearthing not only missing clues, but their own hidden depths when pushed to extremes demanded by the sea.

The treasure hunt leaves questions. Yet soon Joseph begins to ask his own…

Why are they doing this? Who can I trust? Who am I now?

Review

In need of some adventure? Look no further! Embark on Joseph Winter’s journey and sail away in the hope of discovering the Lost Loot…

When two writers, Alex and Charlie, overhear someone recounting tales of treasure in a pub, they jump at the chance to go and meet the elusive Mr Winter to hear his story first hand.

Being a criminal in Victorian London isn’t as easy as it seems… Having what it takes to be a talented thief is one thing, but finding someone reliable to sell the swag is another matter! 

Joseph “The Trace” cannot help it… It is part of him and his itch is uncontrollable. He keeps on promising his lover Lucy that he will stop, but the lure of profit and the thrill of the act is too grand. 

So when Mad Vinny tempts him with the prospect of finding a map, leading to the legendary Lost Loot, Joseph cannot refuse. His grandfather was an explorer, and it seems like fate that he should follow in his footsteps.

Unfortunately, things go horribly wrong and The Trace is thrown in jail, but not before retrieving the first clue of his fantastic journey out in the seven seas. 

Being strong minded and resourceful, it isn’t long before he manages to enlist likeminded individuals to escape and accompany him on this voyage of a lifetime, aboard Captain Robertson’ ship.

Through doubts, dangers and storms, all of our protagonists will have to find their place and question everything they thought they knew. Life at sea can be cruel sometimes and the lessons to be learned are not only about how to sail… if they hope to succeed, they will have to dig deeper into their past, and delve in the secrets and clues scattered for them.

Who is a friend? Who is a foe? Turning criminals into seadogs is not enough, the elements will be testing and Joseph will have to watch his back…

Fancy sailing out towards the Equator and beyond? Pick up a copy today! 

And if like me you’ve enjoyed reading this book, you are in luck because book 2 is out now too!

With Love
AGJ

Out now and published by Grosvenor House Publishing.

About the Author – Alex J Fisher

Alex Fisher grew up in Cambridgeshire with his parents and two sisters, and still lives there today. Alex says, “Despite the obvious beauty of the flat fields and ongoing horizon there is not much to do, and you need to be able to drive to get anywhere. My active imagination extended beyond childhood, although now I exchange action figures for blank sheets of paper and a keyboard.”

Alex has learned many things whilst on the trowel and honed his skills these past few years so that he can build houses of a quality standard. He also has some experience in other trades too such as plastering, tiling, groundworks and drainage, but bricklaying is his main area of expertise. This, as well as creative writing. After an idea had been planted, he began writing Seadogs and Criminals when he was 18, making sure to at least write for an hour a night after work. Toward the end of the book though, this turned into three and a half hours a night and became an obsession. It was a thrill to write, absorbing him into the story so much so that he became lost in the pages with the characters. It was a mixture of sadness and exaltation to finish the book and now, after years of proof-reading and editing, he managed to self-publish Seadogs and Criminals into a series of two books, the second of which was published in August. Even though this is the end of a chapter, he somehow feels that this is not the end of the book. There is more to come, and he is excited to discover where his journey leads next.

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BLOG TOUR – 10 YEARS OF SWEET CHERRY

SWEET CHERRY PUBLISHING TO MARK 10th ANNIVERSARY WITH LAUNCH OF TWO NEW IMPRINTS: CLOCK TOWER & CHERRY STONE

Happy 10th anniversary Sweet Cherry!! To participate to the celebrations taking place this week, I’m kicking off this blog tour by sharing with you a fantastic book extract!! After explaining a bit more about this amazing independent children’s publisher, you will get the chance to access an exclusive extract of “Football Rising Stars – Marcus Rashford” by Harry Meredith! How exciting is that!? It will be out on 21 October so if you like what you’re seeing here, get your orders in!

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow bloggers will be saying and make sure to follow Sweet Cherry on social media to join the fun of the celebrations… The coming week will be full of surprises I’m sure!

Thank you very much to Amber over at Midas PR and Diva from Sweet Cherry Publishing for having me on this tour !

www.sweetcherrypublishing.com | www.clocktowerpublishing.com | www.cherrystonepublishing.com

#SweetCherry10

The award-winning, Leicester-based, independent children’s publisher Sweet Cherry Publishing has announced two new imprints: Clock Tower and Cherry Stone. The new imprints will launch in October to mark the 10th anniversary of Sweet Cherry Publishing,winner of Small Press of the Year at The British Book Awards 2021, and form part of the publisher’s mission to bring great stories within everyone’s reach.

Abdul Thadha, Managing Director of Sweet Cherry Publishing, said:
“Marking our tenth year in children’s publishing is a huge celebration for Sweet Cherry. It’s been incredible to watch our list develop, our team grow and our global reach widening year on year while remaining true to our humble Leicester roots. It’s been a decade but it’s only the beginning for Sweet Cherry as we launch two new imprints, hire and develop publishing’s rising stars and bring more and more great stories within everyone’s reach.”

Clock Tower Publishing will champion new, marginalised and diverse voices in publishing and aim to bring their readers a range of high-quality trade fiction for all ages – including standalone and series titles – that authentically showcases the world we live in while leaving them hooked into a compellingly great story. The name of the imprint is inspired by the company’s Leicester roots, and their ethos as a hub for multiculturalism and diversity.

The first publishing from Clock Tower Publishing will be released early in 2022. The list will also include the previously announced neurodiverse middle grade novel by Isabelle Marinov, Boy Underground (October 2022). Boy Underground follows an autistic 12-year-old protagonist, Hugo, who finds comfort in maps, especially that of the Paris underground with its maze of tunnels, quarries, bunkers and catacombs. Further acquisitions for Clock Tower Publishing will be announced over the coming weeks.

Cherry Stone Publishing will be dedicated to bringing literary classics to a modern audience of all ages, celebrating the themes, genres and writing of renowned authors that paved the way for the contemporary books published today. The imprint will offer beautiful editions of the classics at excellent value for money, making them the perfect gift for book lovers. 

Two collections will be released on 14 October 2021 by Cherry Stone: The Art of War and Other Military Classics from Ancient China, an intricately designed collection bringing together Sun Tzu’s The Art of War and more translated military texts and treatise from famous Chinese generals and writers; and an eight-book box set of Maurice Leblanc’s gentleman-thief Arsène Lupin, the perfect gift for fans of mystery fiction and classic literature.

As part of further publishing to mark Sweet Cherry’s 10th anniversary, the publisher will release ten of Dick King-Smith’s titles to mark the centenary of the author’s birth upcoming in 2022. Further anniversary celebrations will be announced over the coming weeks.

Football Rising Stars – Marcus Rashford” by Harry Meredith (extract)

About Sweet Cherry Publishing

Sweet Cherry is an award-winning, independent children’s book publisher based in Leicester, celebrating its 10thanniversary in October 2021.

Sweet Cherry Publishing was founded by Abdul Thadha in 2011, with the mission to ensure that children of all backgrounds and abilities should have access to great stories. Based in the Midlands where literacy rates are amongst the lowest in the UK, Sweet Cherry aims to break down the barriers that often get in the way of reading: the team is positive and fun, with kindness, success, and collaboration at the core of their values. Thadha alsochampions inclusivity amongst the staff and strives to make creative careers accessible to underrepresented backgrounds: now, half of the management are from BAME backgrounds.

Sweet Cherry Publishing includes three imprints: Sweet Cherry Publishing, launched in 2011, focuses on easy-to-read illustrated fiction with a core focus on middle grade; Cherry Stone Publishing, launched in October 2021, presents favourite classics with modern covers that are great value for money and make the perfect gift; Clock Tower Publishing, launched in October 2021, features quality trade fiction for all ages – both standalone titles and series – creating a platform for marginalised and new voices to be heard.

Sweet Cherry won Small Press of the Year at The British Book Awards 2021.

About Clock Tower Publishing

Clock Tower Publishing was launched in 2021 and is an imprint of the award-winning Leicester-based independent publisher, Sweet Cherry Publishing.

Clock Tower champion new, marginalised and diverse voices in publishing, inspired by Leicester’s multicultural heritage, and aim to bring their readers a range of high-quality fiction that authentically showcases the diverse and inclusive world we live in while leaving them hooked into a compelling great story. From fantasy fiction to future classics, Clock Tower are dedicated to creating a great list of quality trade fiction that’s championed by its authors and illustrators alongside a diverse team of book lovers.

About Cherry Stone Publishing

Cherry Stone Publishing was launched in 2021 and is an imprint of the award-winning Leicester-based independent publisher, Sweet Cherry Publishing.

Cherry Stone’s team of diverse publishing professionals come from a range of backgrounds and their passion for reading inspires the list of books we publish. Dedicated to bringing literary classics to a modern audience, Cherry Stone showcase the themes, genres and writing of renowned authors that paved the way for the contemporary books published today – and publish titles that educate, entertain and inspire readers to champion a love for reading and keep the classics alive for new generations. Cherry Stone offers beautiful editions of the classics at excellent value for money, making them the perfect gift for book lovers, avid readers, fans of the classics, literature students and book collectors across the world.

www.sweetcherrypublishing.com  | @sweetcherrypub

About Abdul Thadha, Managing Director of Sweet Cherry Publishing

Abdul Thadha founded Sweet Cherry in 2011 with a wealth of experience in online bookselling. From selling his used university textbooks to brand new books from a Leicester-based bargain store, Abdul’s eBay store climbed the ranks so much so that he needed warehouse space. This blossomed into Books2Door.com, a multi-million-pound online bookselling platform that buys print runs from all major book publishers and sells to consumers, businesses and schools all around the world.

“Her Little Secret” by Julia Stone – Blog Tour

Thank you very much to the Orion Dash team for having me on this tour!

Synopsis

His therapist. Their love affair. Her Little Secret.

Cristina knows all about boundaries. As a therapist, it is vital that she keeps her clients at a professional distance.

Enter new client Leon: educated, charming, affluent — and newly bereaved, following the death of his married lover, Michelle. Cristina soon learns that Leon has an ulterior motive for approaching her: Michelle was one of her clients, and Leon is desperate for her insights into the woman he loved.

Moved by the depth of his feelings, Cristina is drawn to help him through his grief. But as she struggles to ignore her own growing attraction to sophisticated, attentive Leon, her boundaries start to blur and then collapse, and the two embark on their own clandestine love affair.

But why does Leon switch so quickly from charm to criticism, attentiveness to distance? Can anyone truly be as perfect as he paints his beloved Michelle to have been, and what is hidden inside of her off-limits therapy file? Torn between her conscience and curiosity, Cristina is about to discover the truth is far beyond anything she could have imagined…

For fans of You, Before I Go to Sleep and Obsession, Her Little Secret is an utterly chilling new psychological thriller about obsessive love and the danger of crossing lines.

Review

The French say you can’t play chess if you are kind-hearted. Like war, you need strategy and a killer instinct to win“.

A very interesting take on psychology and therapy, bound to make you feel quite tense as you never know how far things will escalate to. 

After the death of her father, Cristina isn’t quite sure how she fits in, how to move forward. She is on and off with her ex-husband Davy, who is himself moving on. She’s still grieving and this makes her connect more deeply and differently with Leon. 

The reader really gets to delve into the characters’ psyche and witnesses the psychological shift that operates in Cristina’s head. She is desperate to appear (and be) professional after a year off, but Leon somehow manages to get her to let her guard down.

It truly was fascinating to get prime access to the “behind the scenes” and insights into a therapist brain; especially when said therapist becomes her own worst enemy. Human nature and human brains are so ambivalent. There are always many different options, different reasons hidden behind someone’s behaviour.

In this book, you are much more than a reader. You become an observer, a voyeur, it is somehow intimate. You are privy to Cristina’s internal struggles between her ethics, personal and professional, and her desire of acceptance from this man who she is falling for. 

She wants to save him as much as to be loved by him. All along Leon slowly weaves this web, demonstrating strange behaviour that you can’t help but try and analyse with her. 

The more Leon drags her into this bizarre menage a 3 with his late lover Michelle, against whom Cristina cannot help but compare herself to, the more boundaries are slipping away, the lies are increasing, and the insecurities intensify.

Will Cristina let herself get tangled in all of it? What are Leon’s real intentions? Will she throw away her whole life, friends, career for him? What are their respective secrets?

Get a copy today to find out!

With Love
AGJ

Out now in e-format and paperback with Orion Dash.

About the Author – Julia Stone

Julia Stone is a psychologist, trainer, coach, and psychotherapist. She attended Faber Academy in 2017 and in 2018 won The Blue Pencil First Novel award. Julia has a background in psychology and psychotherapy and has a passion for writing and the arts.  She was born in London and has lived east, north and west but never made it south of the river. Several years ago she moved to the countryside and now lives in rural Suffolk with her partner and varying numbers of ducks, muntjac and moorhens.

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Bonus Content: The Inspiration for Her Little Secret by Julia Stone

This morning my Twitter followers expanded by one, with the addition of a famous international actor. Of course, I politely followed back – having first checked his profile. He has the photo, the banner header, the many images from his films, and the requisite thousands of followers. It appears to be him. But that begs two questions: how could I ever be sure that this person is who they say they are? And, if he is Mr Megastar, then why on earth would he be following me?

These questions relate to the original inspiration behind Her Little Secret. What if a client presents a story which isn’t true? In my work with couples I sometimes hear two completely different versions of events. Like a mirror image. She paints him as a miser. He describes her as wasting their savings. Both believe their interpretation is ‘the truth’. But how would I know if one of them was lying to me?

How would you know if a stranger is lying to you from the start? TV detective programmes suggest there are visual ‘tells’, a scratch of the nose, eye contact maintained too long. Stories which are too detailed, too consistent. But these are amateurs’ mistakes, a practised liar knows how to lie.

Cristina, the therapist in Her Little Secret, observes: ‘Unlike prospective employers, it would be frowned on for a therapist to search social media for background information, check out websites or scour LinkedIn CVs… All we have to work on is what the client choses to share with us.’ Cristina doesn’t get to meet her client’s friends and family, she doesn’t see them at work or at home in the evenings. All she knows is what she sees, hears and feels in the therapy sessions. 

But what if someone came for therapy and didn’t tell the truth? What possible reason could they have…?  These were the questions that got me thinking.

As a therapist, Cristina has been trusted with a lot of secrets. Leon is being selective with the truth because he wants something – something only Cristina can tell him. The story idea blossomed from there.

What does she know that he wants to find out? 

What drives his desperation? And how far will he go to get what he wants? 

“The Garfield Conspiracy” by Owen Dwyer – Blog Tour

Thank you very much to Sofia Saghir and Midas PR for organising this tour and having me on board!

It’s out not with Liberties Press. 

Synopsis

Richard Todd, an award-winning writer, is outwardly successful but inwardly plagued by uncertainties. Worst of all, he can’t seem to write any more. When a bright young editor, Jenny Lambe, arrives on his doorstep to work with him on his latest book, about the assassination of US president James Garfield, his life is sent spinning off in a new direction.

President Garfield was killed by Charles Guiteau, who was tried and hanged for the murder. But was he acting alone, in July 1881, or was there a more sinister force at work? Richard hears Guiteau’s voice in his head, and as his relationship with Jenny deepens, he is visited by other characters from the assassination drama – including Garfield himself, his Secretary of State James Blaine, Republican senator Roscoe Conkling, Conkling’s mistress Kate Chase Sprague, and the investigating police officer, Detective McElfresh. Are they helping Richard to solve the mystery surrounding Garfield’s murder – or pushing him further towards the edge?

A remarkable, disturbing portrait of a middle-aged man torn between his carefully constructed life and new adventures which may beckon, in the present and the past, from one of Ireland’s most exciting emerging authors, and based on original research into a little-known period in US history.

Review

A refreshing and interesting read!

Richard has unfortunately reached the point in his life where he’s facing the so-called “writer’s block”. Unsure what to write about next, he’s chosen to dive into the conspiracy behind the assassination of President Garfield in 1881. 

But that’s not going that great either..

When his publisher sends him Jenny Lambe to assist with his work, his world will become a rollercoaster, gifting him a one-way ticket to rock bottom. 

Falling madly in love with Jenny, he is addicted to being revered. Since his fame has wilted, due to years without any quality writing, this new jolt arrives as a godsend… or is it tolling the bells..?  

The more he throws his life away, the weirder his research around Garfield turns out. When Secretary of State Blaine, Senator Conkling, Vice President Arthur and Officer McElfresh start being more than words in books, it really looks like the beginning of the end.

From voices in his head to proper physical manifestations, Richard’s mind conjures up all the protagonists that can help him untangle the conspiracy surrounding Garfield’s death, along with Charles Guiteau himself, driving Richard into fear and folly, guiding him to the truth. 

Charles Guiteau was indeed the murderer. But was he that insane? Did he get a nudge in the “right” direction by someone close to Garfield? Or was he even pushed? He believed he acted in the name of “the Deity”, his action sanctioned by God, but was it solely God who suggested he should kill? 

Through all those conversations, the reader follows as much the history surrounding this period of US political life, as Richard’s analysis of his own failures and shortcomings. Those characters give him clues as to who might have had something to gain from Garfield’s death, but not only. They question him about his existence, his future, forcing Richard to confront his mid-life crisis and through analysing his past, his marriage, his upbringing, his new relationship with Jenny. 

A really cleverly crafted novel, mixing historical facts amongst fictional writing, informative without drowning the reader into too much boring data, just the right amount of investigation versus personal internal struggles. 

It is a subject I didn’t know much about an I’m glad I’ve been given the opportunity to read this book!

Was it really a political necessity or a plot for power? Only one way to find out!

With Love
AGJ

About the Author

Owen Dwyer is a prize-winning short-story writer who has won the Hennessy Emerging Fiction Prize, the Silver Quill (twice), the Smiling Politely Very Very Short Story competition, the South Tipperary County Council Short Story competition and the Biscuit Fiction Prize, and has had stories published in Whispers and Shouts magazine. His previous novel, Number Games, was published to glowing reviews by Liberties Press in 2019, and follows The Cherry-picker (2012) and The Agitator (2004). Owen lives in Dublin with his wife and their three children.

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The Undying Tower by Melissa Welliver – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Peyton and Agora Books for having me on this tour, what a treat to have had the privilege of reading the first installment in what promises to be a fantastic and epic YA trilogy!

Synopsis

What if living forever was a death sentence?

Decades after the discovery that a small percentage of the population has stopped ageing, the Avalonia Zone is in crisis. From overpopulation to food shortages, the ‘Undying’ have been blamed for the state’s problems, banished to the fringes of society, and punished for every minor infraction.

When sixteen-year-old Sadie takes the fall for an attack by a rebel group, The Alchemists, she suddenly finds herself wrenched away from her quiet life and from her ailing father.

Armed with little help and even less knowledge, Sadie is thrust into a cold and cryptic ‘correctional facility’ – The Tower. Here she’ll have to rethink everything she’s been told about the Undying population in an attempt to save the life she knows, protect a group of unlikely friends, and give voice to the voiceless in a society on the brink of catastrophic upheaval.

Review

Welcome to the Avalonia Zone.

After nuclear bombings, climate change and riots, the world as we know it has ceased to exist. Instead, this dystopian world has taken over, and the Protectorate rules over the AZ. Many areas such as London are radioactive and inhabitable, and the population has been divided and rationed. 

Although, saying “divided” doesn’t quite cut it. 

During this period of evolution, more and more people have stopped aging past 25 years old, and developed heightened senses and skills: “The Undying”. Representing 5% of the population, they became chastised and marginalised in a frightening and demeaning way, forced to live in ghettos and given dangerous jobs.

The Protectorate managed to instigate fear towards them, referring to them as “Locust”, and marking them for all “Normals” to see: branding them with a blue armband monogramed with the letter U…

This new order is strongly in place, with banned words and items, related to religion or monarchy, and brainwashing the kids through rewritten history and mandatory attendance to public executions. 

However like in any oppressive dictatorship, an elusive group of rebel is fighting for freedom: The Alchemists. Friends or foes? So-called terrorists but are they really? 

During one of said Undying execution, an Alchemist bomb goes off and our main protagonist Sadie, gets arrested for it. Sadie is no ordinary teenager. She is a model citizen and does everything she can to succeed. She takes care of her dad who is awaiting a heart transplant, and apart from her best friend Jasper, she pretty much keeps to herself and is driven to become an artist.

But the most fascinating thing about Sadie, is that her emotions translate into sounds, smells, tastes and colours… How incredible is that? I’d really like to know why Melissa made those choices as regard to associating particular colours and smells to specific emotions…

In this really accomplished and cleverly crafted novel, going back and forth through time between the few weeks preceding the blast and now, the reader embarks on Sadie’s journey and discover the infuriating and unfair world she lives in. 

A word of caution though, once you start, you won’t be able to put it down, you just get hooked from page 1!

I am truly impressed by the fact this is a debut, it is so well written and thought through, drawing sometimes from historical facts. Sadie is perfection. You witness her evolution from naïve and oblivious to what is really going on around her, thanks to the people she gets to meet and the hidden truths uncovered. She is a true heroine, becoming a new version of herself as the story unfolds, discovering things about herself, her past, her parents, the world she lives in, unleashing the powers hidden within herself and accomplishing things she never even imagined were possible!

From striking a deal with the head of the Anti-Terrorism Unit, accepting to spy in prison to find out an Alchemist mole, in exchange of hope of a heart for her dad, little did she know about what was waiting for her behind those doors…

I cannot say anymore by fear of blurting out a spoiler so I will simply leave you with those words: pick a copy straight away and join us down in Avalonia ! Once you’ve read it, you too will be seeing all pink and turquoise!

Out now with Agora Books

With Love,
AGJ

–About the Author – Melissa Welliver–

Melissa Welliver writes speculative fiction about how the End Of The World is never really the end of the world. After studying MA Creative Writing under Jeanette Winterson at the University of Manchester, she went on to complete Curtis Brown Creative’s Writing for Children course. Her work has listed in Bath Novel Award, Mslexia, the Hachette Children’s Novel Award, and the Wells Book for Children Competition. She has been published in two short story collections and is an avid member of the Twitter writing community. Born in Stockport, she now lives in the High Peak with an assortment of doggy friends. The Undying Tower is her first novel.

In case you missed it, go check what my fellow bloggers have been saying!

The Tsarina’s Daughter by Ellen Alpsten – Blog Tour

Thank you so much Becky Hunter for gifting me this wonderful historical novel and having me on the tour!

–Synopsis–

Ellen Alpsten’s stunning new novel, The Tsarina’s Daughter, is the dramatic story of Elizabeth, daughter of Catherine I and Peter the Great, who ruled Russia during an extraordinary life marked by love, danger, passion and scandal.

Born into the House of Romanov to the all-powerful Peter the Great and his wife, Catherine, a former serf, beautiful Tsarevna Elizabeth is the envy of the Russian empire. She is insulated by luxury and spoiled by her father, who dreams for her to marry King Louis XV of France and rule in Versailles. But when a woodland creature gives her a Delphic prophecy, her life is turned upside down. Her volatile father suddenly dies, her only brother has been executed and her mother takes the throne of Russia.

As friends turn to foes in the dangerous atmosphere of the Court, the princess must fear for her freedom and her life. Fate deals her blow after blow, and even loving her becomes a crime that warrants cruel torture and capital punishment: Elizabeth matures from suffering victim to strong and savvy survivor. But only her true love and their burning passion finally help her become who she is. When the Imperial Crown is left to an infant Tsarevich, Elizabeth finds herself in mortal danger and must confront a terrible dilemma–seize the reins of power and harm an innocent child, or find herself following in the footsteps of her murdered brother.

Hidden behind a gorgeous, wildly decadent façade, the Russian Imperial Court is a viper’s den of intrigue and ambition. Only a woman possessed of boundless courage and cunning can prove herself worthy to sit on the throne of Peter the Great.

–Review–

With yet another gripping prologue, you get engulfed in the epic story of Elizabeth Petrovna Romanova, daughter of Peter the Great and Catherine I of All the Russias.

What a fantastic book!

Enter, if you dare, the Russian court and all of its marvels. Thanks to Ellen’s divine and poetic writing, you get to experience, taste, smell, feel, touch it all to perfection. 

In this next installment of the unforgiving race for the throne of the Russian Empire, journey with Elizabeth through all the hurdles she had to overcome and her incredible destiny.

With all the scheming forces at work, this fierce woman had to show much resilience to survive. First promised to the King Louis XV of France, fate had other plans for her. 

Stakes are high and the price to pay even greater… Having lost both her father and her mother in the span of 2 years, the games became more dangerous than ever, the enemies lurking in the shadows. 

Wading through all the humiliations, the loss of her sister with whom she had once the strongest of bonds, the death of her fiancé and torture of her lover, only her eternal devotion to Russia and its people, the assistance of Lestocq, Schwartz and Alexis, the love of her life, kept her going.

I can only recommend you pick up a copy of this wondrous story of courage, resilience and tenacity, and witness Elizabeth’s fascinating transformation whilst facing adversity with bravery and humility.

And if you haven’t done so already, pick up a copy of Tsarina by the same author.

With Love
AGJ

Out 8 July with Bloomsbury Publishing
TW: torture, death, violence, sex

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–About the Author – Ellen Alpsten–

Novelist and journalist

Ellen Alpsten was born and raised in the Kenyan highlands, before attending L’Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. Whilst studying for her Msc in PPE she won the Grande École short story competition with her novella Meeting Mr. Gandhi and was encouraged to continue writing.

Upon graduating, she worked as a producer and presenter for Bloomberg TV in London: knowing no-one and working gruesome night shifts on breakfast TV, she started to write in earnest, every day, after work and a nap. Tsarina, the first and only account of the incredible rise of Catherine I of Russia from serf to Empress, is her debut novel. 

Today, Ellen works as an author and as a journalist for international publications such as  VogueStandpoint and CN Traveller. She lives in London with her husband, three children and a chubby, moody fox-red Labrador.

Grown Ups by Marie Aubert – Blog Tour

A very big thank you to Tara McEvoy over at Pushkin Press for having me on this tour!

–Synopsis–

Ida is a forty-year-old architect, single and starting to panic. She’s navigating Tinder and contemplating freezing her eggs, but forces these worries to the back of her mind as she sets off to the family cabin for her mother’s sixty-fifth birthday.

But family ties old and new begin to wear thin, out in the idyllic Norwegian countryside. Ida is fighting with her sister Marthe, flirting with Marthe’s husband and winning the favour of Marthe’s stepdaughter. Some supposedly wonderful news from her sister sets tensions simmering even further, building to an almighty clash between Ida and her sister, her mother, her whole family.

Exhilarating, funny and unexpectedly devastating, Grown Ups asks what kind of adult you are without a family of your own.

–Review–

A short, nevertheless very thought-provoking book! 

Through this honest portrayal of antipathic Ida and her dysfunctional family, you are pulled into this eternal debate of “what does it mean to be a “grown-up”?

Ida is 40, single, and demonstrates quite a few self destructing traits. Life as she believes she should have hasn’t materialised for her, but does she really want it to? 

In her eyes, her sister Marthe is the opposite of who Ida aspires to be, but somehow has it all: a boyfriend Kristoffer, a step daughter Olea, and, coming as an unwanted surprise to Ida, a baby on the way. Ida wants nothing more than to overtake her.. or does she really?

Their mother has settled with her long term boyfriend Stein, having had to suffer through the girls father deserting them when they were young. She sparks up the siblings rivalry but is it on purpose or is she simply oblivious?

In this very clever book, wonderfully translated by Rosie Hedger, Marie Aubert takes no kid gloves to show that as much as we’re sometimes pretending, in the end aren’t we just still kids playing grown ups? 

Tantrums, jealousy, lies, selfishness, deceptions, cries for attention, as much as Ida and Marthe try to pretend to have it all figured out and together, they’re bickering and behaving like 6 year old, experiencing the same feelings they did when they were young. 

What shapes our behaviour? Does being a parent, owning a cabin, driving a boat, really means being a grown up? “You have to let kids be kids”.. but do we ever really stop being kids? 

With Love
AGJ

Out now with Pushkin Press 

–About the Author – Marie Aubert–

Marie Aubert was born in 1979 and lives in Oslo. She made her debut with the short story collection Can I Come Home with You (2016), which was a huge success in Norway, selling more than 10,000 copies. Her acclaimed first novel Grown-ups (2019) won the Young People’s Critics’ Prize, and was nominated for the Booksellers’ Prize.

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