Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Romance

The Secret Cove in Croatia – Julie Caplin 5* #Review @0neMoreChapter @JulieCaplin @rararesources #Croatia #Travel #Romance #holiday #RomanticEscapes #BlogTour #PublicationDay

Sail away to beautiful Croatia for summer sun, sparkling turquoise seas and a holiday romance that’s forever…

When no-nonsense, down-to-earth Maddie Wilcox is offered the chance to work on a luxury yacht for the summer, she can’t say no. Yes, she’ll be waiting on the posh guests… But island-hopping around the Adriatic sea will more than makeup for it – especially when Nick, her best friend Nina’s brother, is one of them.

Sparks fly when they meet onboard and Maddie can’t believe self-entitled jerk Nick is really related to Nina.

But in a secret, picture-perfect cove, away from the real world, Maddie and Nick discover they might have more in common than they realise…

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I received a copy of this book from One More Chapter in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I always enjoy these romantic escapes, and this one takes place in Croatia, on board a luxury yacht.

Nick, Nina’s brother from ‘The Little Paris Patisserie’, has a glamorous, if shallow girlfriend, who has just invited him to the holiday of a lifetime. Maddie, Nina’s friend is at a loose end and jumps at the chance to crew for the luxury yacht. There are only six guests but Maddie soon has her work cut out, dealing with their constant neediness.

Nick and Maddie’s first meeting, gives both of them the wrong impression of the other, but the claustrophobic atmosphere of the yacht throws them together and they realise they have more in common than they thought.

The description of Croatia and the secret cove allow you to experience the culture, romance and scenery. The glamorous lifestyle is also interesting but the shallowness of its players makes Tara and her friends hard to like. Maddie is lovely, but lacking in confidence, Nick is out of his depth, but eventually realises beauty is more than fancy packaging.

The romance builds slowly between the two outsiders, but there is plenty of conflict and rough seas, even when their passion is undeniable. Thankfully, they get the happy ending they deserve.

A lovely holiday read.

Jules Wake announced at the age of ten that she planned to be a writer. Along the way she was diverted by the glamorous world of PR and worked on many luxury brands, taking journalists on press trips to awful places like Turin, Milan, Geneva, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam and occasionally losing the odd member of the press in an airport. This proved fabulous training for writing novels as it provided her with the opportunity to eat amazing food, drink free alcohol, hone her writing skills on press releases and to research European cities for her books.

She writes best-selling warm-hearted contemporary fiction for HarperImpulse.

Under her pen name, Julie Caplin, her twelfth novel, The Secret Cove in Croatia published in ebook format this July.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Guest post, Romance, Romantic Comedy

How to Make Time for Me – Fiona Perrin @Aria_Fiction @fionaperrin #Family Drama #Romance #Humour #SingleMum #RomCom #Carers #Relationships #Friendships #BlogTour #Guest Post 5*#Review

No-one said being a single mum would be easy…

Everyone knows that being a single mother means having no time to yourself. But for CallieBrown, it’s more exhausting than most. She’s juggling the needs of three teenage children, two live-in parents, a raffish ex-husband, and a dog who never stops eating.

The last thing Callie needs is anything more on her plate. So when she bumps (quite literally) into a handsome, age-appropriate cyclist, she’s quick to dismiss him from her life. After all, if she doesn’t have time to brush her hair in the morning, she certainly doesn’t have time to fall in love…

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I received a copy of this book from Aria via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I love the easy to read writing style of this novel. The themes are familiar to everyone who parents or has parented teenagers or looked after elderly parents. There’s a glossary of teenage vocabulary at the end of the story for the uninitiated. It is the story that most of us have thought of writing at some time, but this author has actually done it and with great results.

Callie is a single mum, with twin girls and a son from her previous relationship who she has been a mother to for eight years, her ex is frankly abysmal, and her ageing parents are a further emotional and physical drain on her already depleted resources. Getting run over by a takeaway delivery bike, is the final straw, she’s invisible and surely something has to change?

Modern family stories are particularly popular and relevant at this moment. This story has many laugh-out-loud moments mixed in with strong emotional poignant scenes, especially concerning Wilf. It is a story of family, friends, self- worth and love, in all its forms.

An absorbing, yet quick read, I read it today in a couple of hours. Its charm is in its relatability and believable characters. A lovely, emotional humorous read.

Guest Post: All about time for you… Fiona Perrin

HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME was inspired by all the women I know who (in the words of the old ad campaign) juggle their lives. I was particularly interested in writing about those who find themselves part of the ‘sandwich generation’ – looking after children as well as ageing parents, mostly while holding down a job (but probably also still making the sandwiches).

It struck me that ‘having it all’ as we say, frequently means having no time to yourself. We have children to bring up, extended families to support and it can be just at the time that careers develop and grow difficult. Callie, the heroine of my novel, is also a single mother with a complicated, modern and messy family, full of happiness but also pretty challenging. How does she get any time for herself let alone the opportunity to fall in love?

I’m not a single mother now, but I was for a few years and I remember the chaos fondly, but also a constant feeling of exhaustion. Luckily, I found time to meet Alan and fall in love and now, we have just about waved all four of our kids off to Uni and careers.

But with them as teenagers, our house was hectic – demanding but also, fun. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME heavily features teenagers and shows the pressures they are up against – as well as taking the mickey out them. It has footnotes to explain teenager-speak for example – they have a whole lingo of their own. While it’s great to have time to ourselves, I really miss the madness of those teenage years, and the kids and their friends all hanging around the house, doing not much. But they all seem to come home quite often too, mostly with huge bags of washing and to eat their way through the fridge.

I’m really lucky in that my Mum is about the most active, healthy, supportive parent you can imagine. However, she is also a carer for my older stepfather, while in her seventies – he can no longer walk – so I have some understanding of being responsible for the older generation too. HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR ME features two loopy parents that Callie adores but also add to the demands on her day. I have dedicated this book to my Mum just so she knows they were in no way based on her.

I would love it if readers took a little time out for themselves to read my novel. They might also enjoy Callie’s struggle to stop feeling ‘invisible’ just as she is knocked off her feet quite literally by a rather attractive neighbour. She immediately feels that there is no way she will have time to fall in love with him, but sometimes life has other ideas.

Thanks so much for this opportunity to appear on your brilliant blog.

Fiona Perrin was a journalist and copywriter before building a career as a sales and marketing director in industry. Having always written, she completed the Curtis Brown Creative Writing course before writing The Story After Us. Fiona grew up in Cornwall, hung out for a long time in London and then Hertfordshire, and now writes as often as possible from her study overlooking the sea at the end of The Lizard peninsula.

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Posted in Author Interview, Blog Tour, Book Review, Friendship

The Dog Walking Club – Liz Hinds 4* #Review @Liz_Hinds99 @rararesources #Friendship #Humour #Relationships #Dogs #DogWalkers #BlogTour #AuthorInterview

Every dog walk brings new drama into the lives of these dogs and their people. A supermarket shelf-stacker, a stay-at-home dad, an elderly widow and a freelance photographer sound an unlikely bunch of friends but they have one thing in common: they all walk their dogs in Beauville Park at roughly the same time each morning.

And that’s enough for Angela, bored organiser without a cause, to get them together to form the Dog-walking Club. For Jock, the Scottie, Benji the spaniel, Pixie the boxer, Mitzi the poodle and Bassett the … all sorts, walking each day with their friends is a dream come true. And it changes the lives of widowed Sybil who’s spent a lifetime hiding her secret sorrow, hopeless-with-women Jon who’s wandering almost unwittingly into an affair, freelance photographer Jemma who is at every wedding but her own, and Maggi who is frantically trying to save money to visit her family in Australia.

And for long-suffering Angela, a nasty shock turns into a new start in disguise for her and her husband – and their love life.

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Author Interview – Liz Hinds – The Dog-walking Club

What inspired you to write a story about a dog walking club?

The idea came from my husband. At the time we were taking it in turns to walk George, our dog, and he’d always come back telling me gossip he’d heard from other dog-walkers. This was unusual because he isn’t a chatterer normally – and I go out of my way to avoid people. It’s not what we do! But telling me about various walkers he always saw together gave him the idea that it would make a theme for a book.

There are many different characters in your story, do you draw your characters from real life, your imagination, or are they a mix of both? How do you make your characters realistic?

A bit of both. I think they often start off as real-life characters but they develop their own personalities, especially as I tend to use people who have a particular look but whom I don’t know very well – if at all – so they’re blank canvasses.

I think dialogue is key to realism. Although sometimes I suspect I write as I talk – including the ums and ers – and get a bit waffly. (I hope I edit most of this out.) I ‘hear’ my characters speaking and I try to capture that.

When you write, what comes first, the characters, the plot or the setting? Why do you think this is?

Nothing as definite as a plot but more of a vague idea. The idea for my first novel, This Time Next Year, the diary of a middle-aged woman, came to me when I was nearly fifty and struggling with life as a middle-aged woman, and I’ve explained where The Dog-walking Club originated. Characters and the stories within the novels come later but, honestly, I don’t really know where any of it comes from.

What made you decide to become a writer and why does this genre appeal to you?

I took the science route in school and only started writing when I was in my thirties and the church I was part of began its own newspaper. In a peculiar twist, as a result of that, I ended up ghost-writing the autobiography of a NYPD cop. I then started writing short stories, did a Master’s degree in Creative Writing and eventually made my way into novel writing.

My collection of short stories for my dissertation could have been entitled Madness and Death because I do enjoy that sort of disturbed writing, but as my tutor said, ‘You build up a wonderful tragic moment – and then you put in a joke.’ I love the novels of Janet Evanovich for their humour and I think being able to make people laugh is such a wonderful thing. The Dog-walking Club doesn’t contain direct humour but I hope there is a lightness to it.

What sort of books do you enjoy reading and why?

Many sorts. I usually read last thing at night so it has to be fairly easy to read. I read fiction especially, what might be termed quirky. I’m thinking of Fredrik Backman’s My Grandmother Sends Her Regrets and Apologises. That sort of thing. The Reader on the 6.27 and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. That said, I also loved Backman’s Beartown, which was very different. I love Simon Brett mysteries, Jacqueline Winspear; do you want me to go on?

What’s the best thing about being a writer and the worst?

The worst is easy: trying to find a publisher/agent. I was going to say, ‘having hope’ is the worst but that sounds too depressing! And the best thing is the dreaming, thinking, creating. The actual writing’s quite hard as it’s never as good on screen as it sounded in my head.

What are you currently writing?

A sequel to This Time Next Year. Several people said they wanted to know what the heroine did next. Looking back I realise that I expected my book to sell with no marketing or promotion so I’m trying to change things this time, hence the albeit belated blog tour for The Dog-walking Club, and at the moment my plan is to make a serialised podcast of the original This Time Next Year before the publication of the sequel.

So many great plans. So little time!

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Any book that features animal characters, always has my attention and this one is certainly worthy of my interest. The characters are varied and realistic, and the antics of the dog characters are amusing and relatable for anyone who shares their life with a dog.

‘The Dog- Walking Club’ is created by Angela, someone who likes to organise. She notices that a group of individuals walk their dogs at the same time each day, after a while, she suggests formalising their meeting and the after much discussion, and qualms the club is born.

There is plenty of variety and background information in this story, which is told from several points of view. The reasons people have their dog companions, and what is wrong, and right in their lives are all revealed in an easy, chatty writing style that draws you into the group.

There is a lovely balance of sad and happy, and of course, the dogs are the stars of the book.
A lovely, mostly lighthearted look at dog owners and their dogs.

I’m a golden-retriever-loving granny, who enjoys walking by the sea or in the woods, who eats too much chocolate and gets over-excited when the Welsh team plays rugby.

Writing-wise, I am an experienced freelance writer – published in The Guardian, Christian Herald and various other magazines and newspapers – with an MA in Creative Writing (Trinity College, University of Wales). My short stories have been published in Cambrensis (the now sadly-defunct short story magazine of Wales) as well as in several anthologies including Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe (Parthian) and Catwomen from Hell (Honno). I am also the author of several non-fiction books published by Hodder & Stoughton, Scripture Union and Kevin Mayhew.

I have self-published two novels, This Time Last Year, and The Dog-walking Club.

I enjoy speaking about my writing to various gatherings and the media and I am an active blogger, facebooker and tweeter.

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Giveaway to Win a set of reusable beeswax wraps, three metal straws with a carrying pouch and cleaner, and a face wipe, all in pretty doggy fabric (Open Internationally)

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*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Posted in Animal Friends, Blog Tour, Book Review, Childrens Books, Friendship, Guest post

Tabby’s Big Year- Hollie Anne Marsh 4* #Review @Hollieannemarsh @rararesources #Sweetbriars2 #MiddleGrade #Horses #ComingofAge #BritishEquestrian #teen #kidslit #Family #Friendship #BlogTour #GuestPost

After Tabby’s father vanishes, a deep rift develops in Tabby’s family. Tabby’s mother is focused on being a star performer in her pharmaceutical sales career, while Ava, Tabby’s older sister, is living with grandparents in Cornwall. Tabby feels neglected by her mother and jealous of Ava and although outwardly diligent and responsible, she’s like a kettle about to blow its top… bottling things up until it’s nearly impossible to keep a lid on her frustration and sadness.

Tabby finds solace with her best friends Cate and Violet at Sweetbriars Farm where she is nursing her dream horse Bliss back to peak performance, to be able to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

Tabby also finds herself facing other challenges – saving her beloved horse Nancy from the knacker’s yard and finding the courage to tell her friends the truth about her family. 
Will Tabby be able to save the horses she loves and be brave enough to tell people how she really feels?

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

This book certainly stirred some memories for me. At Tabby’s age, I was totally obsessed with horses, and the scenes in the stable yard evoked happy times. This story is the second in the ‘Sweetbriars series, but as I haven’t read the previous book, and enjoyed it, it reads well as a standalone.

Tabby lives with her mum, who is trying to forge a new life, as a single mum. She has a career and this is her main focus, Tabby is self-sufficient and not surprisingly, old for her years because her mother leaves her to fend for herself a lot of the time. Haunted by her dad’s leaving, Tabby reveals her vulnerability and you empathise.

Estranged from her sister, who lives with their grandparents in Cornwall, this story is about reconnecting with family and understanding that everyone’s life has ups and downs, no matter how ideal it appears from the outside. It’s also about learning to trust your friends and being honest about your life and the problems you face.

The issues are those facing young pre-teens and younger teenagers in contemporary society and are explored in a clear and non- judgmental way.

The focus is on Tabby and the horses, one Bliss, she is helping rehabilitate from an accident, and another horse who she is particularly fond of, she battles to save.

The setting is vividly described, and the characters are realistic, and avoid being stereotypical.

As an adult, I enjoyed reading this story, and feel that is perfect for the intended age group.

The perfect read for any horse obsessed young person.

I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

Hollie Anne Marsh and the Sweetbriars equestrian series 

I wrote the manuscript for the first Sweetbriars book over ten years ago. I had a dream to create a premium equestrian series like the successful Saddle Club series, with an addictive mix of horses and ‘coming of age’ themes.

When I was younger, I loved these kinds of books and read them all. I would trade books with my friends, and we would discuss them for hours.

After having a baby and being made redundant from my corporate job, I finished the first book; Leaving The City and then recently, I finished the second book; Tabby’s Big Year… it’s been great to do something creative again and fulfil a lifelong dream!

There are three main characters; Cate, Tabby and Violet and they spend most of their spare time at the Sweetbriars Farm.

Cate Sullivan is the daughter of the family who owns the farm and is the main character in the first book. She is sweet and endearing, however a bit of a worrier!

In the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, we follow Tabby’s story. Tabby lives with her mother in the quaint village of the Dales. She is diligent and hardworking, however, is grappling with her family situation as her father vanished and her older sister Ava moved to Cornwall to live with their grandparents. Tabby becomes a regular at Sweetbriars, finding solace with the horses and her dear friends.

The last character; Violet, she is the sassier of the three girls and she also keeps a horse at ‘Sweetbriars’. She says what she thinks and keeps you guessing with her peculiar ways and habits!

I ran a ‘Search for a Cover Star’ competition for both books in the series and for Leaving The City (the first book), I found a talented young rider, Faye Heppelthwaite, alongside her show pony Gigman George to grace the cover. The photo was taken in an English meadow by the photographer Paul Ruffle and it’s pretty stunning.

For the second book, Tabby’s Big Year, I took it one step further and ran a competition where a young girl could not only grace the cover, she could also win a photo shoot with her pony or horse with photographer Katie Amos. Twelve-year-old Sia Reiss won the competition and participated in a photo shoot in scenic Yorkshire with her eighteen-year-old horse Frankie.

As part of entering the competition I asked entrants why they thought they should win the competition and here is what Sia said, which I thought was gorgeous: “My pony Frankie is 18 years old and has arthritis. His glory days are over. He is a one in a million pony and I love him so much. To me, the best way I can think of celebrating Frankie is having him on the cover of a wonderful book.” 

Here is one of my favourite photos from the photo shoot. I think it’s easy to see the special that Sia and Frankie have.

Image Credit – Kate Amos

In Tabby’s Big Year, there are important lessons for young readers. The main character, Tabby has been through a lot in her young life and has a habit of bottling things up and pretending she is ok. The book teaches that by bottling things up, problems only seem more significant.

Tabby also thinks she is the only one with problems, and there is a moment in the book where the neighbour of the Sweetbriars farm Sophia, opens up and reveals how her father also abandoned her… this is a lightbulb moment for Tabby, as she thought everyone around her had things perfect.

Tabby also found Sophia strange (she’s eccentric, lives in a rundown house with oddball parents), but realizes they have a lot in common and Tabby and Sophia become quite close. So, I think the book also teaches young readers not to judge people by the way they look. This was also quite prevalent in the first book too.

What’s next? 

Well, the obvious thing seems to write another Sweetbriars book from Violet’s point of view. It could also be fun to write a book about the quirky neighbour of Sweetbriars Sophia and her life… she is a bit of an enigma. Then the books could continue – as the series is in its infancy. At this stage, I am not sure how far I will take it, but I do think it has potential.

Tabby’s Big Year

The second book in the Sweetbriars Equestrian Book Series tells the story of twelve-year-old Tabby and is set in The Dales – a fictional rural Devon village in the Southwest of England.

After the disappearance of her father, several years before, Tabby, her older sister Ava and her mother, are still grappling with the consequences. Things need to be brought out into the open… but go on being unsaid, as a huge rift develops leaving the family at odds with each other.

While Tabby battles her feelings of being neglected by her mother, she unexpectedly has to face another battle – to find the courage to save her last horse, Nancy from being sent to a premature end at the knacker’s yard.

Tabby also has the responsibility of caring for a young horse, Bliss – her dream horse who was entrusted to her and is recovering from a serious accident. The clock is ticking as Tabby nurses him back to health and peak performance to be able to achieve her dream: to participate in the try-outs for the British Young Riders Squad.

By her side are her two best friends, Cate and Violet. Tabby also develops an unlikely friendship – with Sophia. Tabby realises she has much more in common with her than she ever could have imagined. 

It’s a big year for Tabby… will she be able to find the courage not only to save the horses she loves the most but also to speak up and tell the people closest to her how she really feels?

Hollie Anne Marsh is an Australian author who lives in Barcelona, Spain with her partner, baby boy and horse Frieda. 

Hollie has been horse riding since she was a little girl, enjoying activities such as Pony Club, showjumping, eventing, and trail riding in the great Australian bush. Hollie lived in England for almost ten years where she had two horses and trained them for dressage. 

The ‘Sweetbriars’ series is inspired by all the special moments Hollie spent with horses – good, funny, and challenging moments! 

Additionally the ‘coming of age’ and ‘growing up’ experiences that Hollie had. 
Hollie hopes that readers will be able to identify with the characters, find the books’ fun to read, and they will help readers learn more about horses.

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Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Crime, Extract, Guest post, Historical Crime Fiction, Mystery, Suspense

The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson -5* #Review @HoZ_Books @LesleyjmThomson #CrimeFiction #ThePlayGroundMurders #TheDetectivesDaughter #BlogTour

Forty years ago, in the dark of the playground, two children’s lives were changed forever.

Stella Darnell is a cleaner. But when she isn’t tackling dust and dirt and restoring order to chaos, Stella solves murders. Her latest case concerns a man convicted of killing his mistress. His daughter thinks he’s innocent and needs Stella to prove it.

As Stella sifts through piles of evidence and interview suspects, she discovers a link between the recent murder and a famous case from forty years ago: the shocking death of six-year-old Sarah Ferris, killed in the shadows of an empty playground.

Stella knows that dredging up the past can be dangerous. But as she pieces together the tragedy of what happened to Sarah, she is drawn into a story of jealousy, betrayal and the end of innocence. A story that has not yet reached its end…

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I received a copy of this book from Head of Zeus in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I didn’t discover,’The Detective’s Daughter Series, until Book 6 The Death Chamber. That story, and this one, ‘The Playground Murders’, reads well as a standalone. There is sufficient background, especially about Stella’s enigmatic father to let you understand what motivates the main protagonists. However, for the full experience read the older books too.

Original characters and complex cold cases to solve are the hallmarks of this detective series. The characters are quirky and realistic, they all have believable flaws, neuroses and aspiration.

Stella, the detective’s daughter, has two main focuses, cleaning and solving previously unsolved crimes. She runs a cleaning company and a detective agency, with her partner Jack and a cast of unique individuals. They are a family, look out for each other, criticise each other, and share a bond that resists any outside interference.

This story connects a recent murder, with a past child killing, investigated by Terry, Stella’s father. Present day action is complemented by flashback chapters in 1980 when Terry was involved in the child-killing case. The ethos of the historical part of the story is chilling, the contrast of innocence and evil disturbing.

Aside from the detective case, there are snapshots of Stella and Jack’s lives outside work. Stella and her mother Suzie, have the usual mother-daughter issues and Jack a father of twins, has to come to terms with only seeing them periodically, and the spectre of a new father figure in their lives.

This story has a clever, twisty plot, and a menacing undertone. Slow-paced it lets you absorb the action, and atmosphere, as you try to solve the crime. Another exciting chapter in ‘The Detective’s Daughter’, series.

Guest Post – Lesley Thomson – The Playground Murders

With the exception of The Death Chamber (#6), there are children in my stories. As victims of crime or adults who go on to commit a crime. I hope that meeting them as a child gives readers insight into their later actions. Until The Playground Murders, I’d never created a child killer who is a child. No surprise, it’s a disturbing subject. Traditionally childhood is a time of happy innocence. If, for whatever reason, it’s not this is usually down to the transgressions of adults. That a child might deliberately end the life of another child is terrible to contemplate. That photo of James Bulger being led away from his mother by two ten-year-old boys shattered our life-view.

Can a child be evil? Can we forgive the adult a child becomes for a crime they committed long ago? As children did we do bad stuff? Do we write off those misdemeanours because, hey, we were kids? What if punching a kid in the dinner queue caused their death? Do children even understand what death is? The Playground Murders explores these questions.

The playground setting was a no-brainer. Archetypal, it’s in the bones of many of us as kids and as parents. Typically a locus of excitement and fun, joyful shouts, urgent cries and the gales of laughter of children deep in their game carries over municipal lawns, rotundas where Sunday brass bands are long gone. Playgrounds were developed from observing children playing on bombsites after the war. Bounded by railings within a landscaped park or in a school, they offer the change for kids’ imaginations to be free. Girls and boys are heroes of their make-believe. Or villains.  

These days playgrounds are populated with jolly coloured climbing walls, slides, swings and roped walkways but when I was young, and until the nineteen-eighties, the playground was a relatively dangerous place. Heavy iron equipment, the witch’s hat and juggernaut roundabout trapped limbs and crushed fingers and feet. Swings without restraining bars could fly high until chains twisted or snapped propelling occupants onto unforgiving concrete.

There were fatalities. It’s not plot spoiling to tell you that in The Playground Murders one child falls from a tower slide (equivalent to plummeting from a first-floor window), the death ruled an accident because it wasn’t unusual. I feel lucky to have got away with only breaking my arm by crashing pell-mell into my friend Tina when we were eight. Actually, I recently read that kids colliding with each other is a thing. Not just us then.

The Playground Murders, a tale of mired ambitions, of deceit and betrayal and ruined childhoods is also about hope and regeneration. Here’s hoping you enjoy it.

Lesley Thomson grew up in west London. Her first novel, A Kind of Vanishing, won the People’s Book Prize in 2010. Her second novel, The Detective’s Daughter, was a number 1 bestseller and sold over 500,000 copies.

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Extract From The Playground Murders – Lesley Thomson

The group considered the furry mass. The cat was large with a collapsed tummy.

‘I think it’s old,’ Sarah decided. ‘Is it dead like Robbie’s dead?’

‘Yes,’ Nicola snapped at her.

‘Robbie didn’t get runned down,’ Sarah said.

‘No one said he did, darlin’.’ Danielle imitated her older sister Maxine being nice to Jason. ‘Best you go to bed. No nightmares.’ She yanked Sarah to her.

‘You can’t chop it up,’ Jason said. ‘It’s not yours.’

‘I’m a detective,’ Danielle repeated.

‘Can we play Doctors and Nurses with it?’ Sarah enquired.

‘It’s dead so it doesn’t need nursing or… doctoring.’ Danielle forgot to be nice.

‘Let’s pretend it’s alive. Like you did with Robbie,’ Sarah said.

‘Sarah!’ Lee snatched her hand. ‘We’re going. And don’t tell your Dad about this, OK?’

‘Ouch.’ Sarah squirmed crossly. ‘I want to stay for the chopping.’

‘We should tell the owner. They’ll be waiting to give it its tea,’ Nicola said. ‘When Spiderman didn’t come back, Robbie cried. I did too. He’d got stuck in next door’s shed. He was starving. Robbie was allowed to give him Whiskas with a fork.’

‘Robbie’s dead,’ Danielle said.

‘He wasn’t then. Spiderman is alive,’ Nicola mumbled.

‘Has this cat got a collar?’ Danielle wished Nicky would shove off. She folded her arms.

Kevin felt under the cat’s chin. Revolted, Jason sniggered. In his doctor’s voice, Kevin reported, ‘She doesn’t have no collar.’

‘A collar. Not no collar,’ Danielle barked. ‘You don’t know it’s a lady.’

‘It’s had babies, that’s why it’s all flabby like that.’ Kevin did sound like a doctor.

‘I know.’ Danielle tapped her front tooth. Her notion of a detective was derived mainly from Scooby-Doo. ‘We’ll call on everyone in the street and detect the owner. Kevin, you’re my sergeant.’

Kevin scrambled to his feet and stood next to Danielle, hands behind his back like a policeman.

‘There’s hundreds of houses in this street,’ Sarah said.

Everyone went quiet as they digested this.

‘Spiderman crosses the road as soon as he comes out,’ Nicola said at last. ‘He goes in a straight line. If this cat does that, it lives there.’ She waved a hand at the house behind them. A decorated Christmas tree sparkled in the window.

‘No. It’s down there,’ Danielle stated firmly.

‘How can you be sure?’ Nicola asked.

‘I keep saying because I’m a detective. I’ll sling it behind there and people can work it out for themselves.’ Tiring of the operation, Danielle pointed at the memorial for the three dead policemen. She hauled up the cat in both hands. More blood spewed from its mouth. The children scattered like birds.

‘Dead! Dead! Dead!’ Jason did a war dance.

‘We should tell the owner since you know it’s them in that house,’ Lee stepped in.

‘I’ll do it.’ Nicola went along the pavement to the house where Danielle had said that the cat had lived.

Sarah dragged on her brother’s Harrington jacket. ‘Lee, I got to tell you a secret.’

‘Not now,’ Lee hissed.

‘There’s no one in,’ Nicola said.

Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Extract, Literary Fiction

10 Minutes 38 Seconds In This Strange World – Elif Shafak #BlogTour @PenguinUKBooks @VikingBooksUK @Elif_Shafak #Turkey #LiteraryFiction #PoliticalFiction #Extract 5* #Review

‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away…’

For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .

Amazon UK

Waterstones

I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

There are so many facets and layers to this absorbing and inspiring story, it’s breathtaking. Family, friendship, abuse, religion, politics, corruption, culture, custom, mysticism, prejudice, history and equality are the ones that resonate. The idea that even when the body dies, the mind lives on, recalling memories, sensory experiences and emotions, is lovely. It forms the basis for a literary and political adventure, instilled with humanity, faith, poignancy and humour.

Leila is dead, but her mind refuses to die and in the 10 minutes and 38 seconds it has it recalls her early life, her friendships, choices, tragedies and eventual demise. Even though her life was hard, it was vital and enriched by friendships. Her five true friends have all faced their own battles, but together they survive and it is this connectivity that allows Leila, freedom in death that was never hers in life.

The fluidity of Istanbul is at the heart of this story, its gateway to both the east and west and its vibrant and violent historic past, makes it unique and this storyteller knows it in intimate details, which is fascinating.

The pacing is perfect, the characters engaging and believable, you hate the injustice they encounter, and cheer on their seemingly insignificant victories because they matter to you. The writing is full of vivid imagery, sometimes uncomfortably so, but this story holds your interest and is an addictive read.

An emotional, vibrant story that makes you think.

Extract from 10 Minutes 38 Seconds This Strange World – Elif Shafak

Her name was Leila.

Tequila Leila, as she was known to her friends and her clients. Tequila Leila as she was called at home and at work, in that rosewood-coloured house on a cobblestoned cul-de-sac down by the wharf, nestled between a church and a synagogue, among lamp shops and kebab shops – the street that harboured the oldest licensed brothels in Istanbul.

Still, if she were to hear you put it like that, she might take offence and playfully hurl a shoe – one of her high-heeled stilettos.

Is, darling not was . . . My name is Tequila Leila.

Never in a thousand years would she agree to be spoken of in the past tense. The very thought of it would make her feel small and defeated, and the last thing she wanted in this world was to feel that way. No, she would insist on the present tense – even though she now realized with a sinking feeling that her heart had just stopped beating, and her breathing had abruptly ceased, and whichever way she looked at her situation there was no denying that she was dead.

None of her friends knew it yet. This early in the morning they would be fast asleep, each trying to find the way out of their own labyrinth of dreams. Leila wished she were at home too, enveloped in the warmth of bed covers with her cat curled at her feet, purring in drowsy contentment. Her cat was stone deaf and black – except for a patch of snow on one paw. She had named him Mr Chaplin, after Charlie Chaplin, for, just like the heroes of early cinema, he lived in a silent world of his own.

Tequila Leila would have given anything to be in her apartment now. Instead, she was here, somewhere on the outskirts of Istanbul, across from a dark, damp football field, inside a metal rubbish bin with rusty handles and flaking paint. It was a wheelie bin; at least four feet high and half as wide. Leila herself was five foot seven – plus the eight inches of her purple slingback stilettos, still on her feet.

There was so much she wanted to know. In her mind she kept replaying the last moments of her life, asking herself where things had gone wrong – a futile exercise since time could not be unravelled as though it were a ball of yarn. Her skin was already turning greyish-white, even though her cells were still abuzz with activity.

She could not help but notice that there was a great deal happening inside her organs and limbs. People always assumed that a corpse was no more alive than a fallen tree or a hollow stump, devoid of consciousness. But given half a chance, Leila would have testified that, on the contrary, a corpse was brimming with life.

She could not believe that her mortal existence was over and done with. Only the day before she had crossed the neighbourhood of Pera, her shadow gliding along streets named after military leaders and national heroes, streets named after men. Just that week her laughter had echoed in the low-ceilinged taverns of Galata and Kurtulush, and the small, stuffy dens of Tophane, none of which ever appeared in travel guides or on tourist maps. The Istanbul that Leila had known was not the Istanbul that the Ministry of Tourism would have wanted foreigners to see.

Last night she had left her fingerprints on a whisky glass, and a trace of her perfume – Paloma Picasso, a birthday present from her friends – on the silk scarf she had tossed aside on the bed of a stranger, in the top-floor suite of a luxury hotel. In the sky high above, a sliver of yesterday’s moon was visible, bright and unreachable, like the vestige of a happy memory. She was still part of this world, and there was still life inside her, so how could she be gone? How could she be no more, as though she were a dream that fades at the first hint of daylight? Only a few hours ago she was singing, smoking, swearing, thinking . . . well, even now she was thinking.

It was remarkable that her mind was working at full tilt – though who knew for how long. She wished she could go back and tell everyone that the dead did not die instantly, that they could, in fact, continue to reflect on things, including their own demise. People would be scared if they learned this, she reckoned. She certainly would have been when she was alive. But she felt it was important that they knew.

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.