Hello, My Name is May Book Tour

Thank you to HarperCollins HQ for sending me this INCREDIBLE BOOK!

Book description:

They wrote it on the wall above my bed. Hello, it said, my name is May. Please talk to me.

May has been moved to a care home after her stroke. She can’t communicate, all her words are kept inside. If she tries to point, her arms swing in wild directions, if she tries to talk, strange noises come out of her mouth.

May is sharp, quick, and funny, but only her daughter Jenny sees this, and Jackie, a new friend at the home who cares enough to look and listen closely.

When May discovers that someone very familiar, from long ago, is living in the room opposite hers she is haunted by scenes from her earlier life, when she was a prisoner of her husband’s unpredictable rages. Bill, the man in the opposite room seems so much like her husband, though almost a lifetime has passed, and May’s eyesight isn’t what it was.

As Bill charms his way through the nursing home, he focuses his romantic attention on Jackie, while all May can do is watch. She is determined to protect Jackie and keep herself safe, but what can she do in her vulnerable, silent state?

Book Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! What a read – so many ups and downs and twists and turns!

The pace of the book was compelling and captivating which added to the heightened read and made me never want to put the book down.

Another factor which I absolutely loved was the sense of mystery, this was emphasised by the dual narrative within the novel which presented both the past and present. The reader is only given a glimpse into the characters lives which also weaved its way in to make the pace and mystery all encompassing.

If you’ve read my other reviews, you will know I am a sucker for an unreliable and unloveable character and that’s what this book has!

This book is beautifully writing, thought-provoking and marvellous! I highly recommend this book and would love to discuss it with you if you’ve read it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars!

About the Author:

Rosalind Stopps has always wanted to tell the stories of the less heard.  For many years she worked with children with disabilities and their families.   

She has five grown up children, three grandchildren and an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University. Rosalind’s short stories have been published in five anthologies and read at live literature events in London, Leeds, Hong Kong and New York. She lives in South East London with large numbers of humans and dogs.

When she is not writing fiction she is, mostly, reading it or working as a host at London’s South Bank Arts Centre. Hello, My Name is May is her debut novel.

Blog Tour: The Family Secret by Terry Lynn Thomas

Title: The Family Secret

Author: Terry Lynn Thomas

Publisher: HQ, Harper Collins

BLURB:

Will she find the truth?
England, 1940

After a sudden unexplained disappearance, Thomas Charles comes back into Cat Carlisle’s life with the suggestion she leave London – and the threat of bombs – to move to back her childhood village in Cumberland.

Back in her hometown Cat discovers her childhood friend, Beth Hargreaves, is suspected of murder. As Cat tries to prove Beth’s innocence, she discovers a scheme of deception that affects the whole village. Can she uncover the family truths behind the murder and expose the enemy hiding in plain sight?

REVIEW:

Thank you to HaperCollins for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book depicts a compelling and complex narrative which is full of twists and turns. Mirroring the complexities of World War II, this book will leave you distorted and thinking.

Furthermore, the narratives point of views switches between characters adding to the unease feeling and not knowing who to fully rely on for answers. This also gives the reader wide-spread viewpoint on the story being told, but not a straightforward one at that.

It has been a while since I have read a Historical Mystery like this one and oh man, this makes me miss them so much. Compelling and thought-provoking, while covering an array of themes.

Thomas’s writing is captivating, relatable and mysterious.

AUTHOR:

Terry Lynn Thomas grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches, windy dunes, and Gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back. 

Now Terry Lynn writes the Sarah Bennett Mysteries, set on the California coast during the 1940s, which feature a misunderstood medium in love with a spy. Neptune’ Daughter is a recipient of the IndieBRAG Medallion. 

She also writes the Cat Carlisle Mysteries, set in Britain during World War II. The first book in this series, The Silent Woman, is slated to release in April 2018. When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.

Blog Tour: Trapped by Nick Louth

Title: Trapped

Author: Nick Louth

Publisher: Canelo

Genre: Thriller

Links to Book:

Amazon (UK)

Kobo (UK)

Google Books (UK)

Apple Books (UK)

Blurb:

Two desperate criminals.

Something she never saw coming. A searing suspense thriller from bestselling author Nick Louth. In Manchester, two hardened gang members on the run take Catherine Blake and her one-year-old son hostage at gunpoint. She is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Held in a Transit van, Catherine needs a plan fast. But it means diving into her captors’ risk-drenched world, and playing them at their own game.

Catherine has been through cancer, miscarriages and five draining years of IVF in order to have her son Ethan. He is the most precious thing in the world. She may be terrified out of her wits, but she’d do anything to protect him. Anything, no matter the cost… Brace yourself.

A nerve-shredding suspense thriller you won’t believe until you have experienced it yourself, Trapped is perfect for fans of Cara Hunter, JP Delaney and Rachel Abbott.

Review:

Thank you so much to Canelo for sending me a digital version of this book in exchange for a review.

This fast paced narrative captivated my attention straight away and I completely lost myself within Louth’s words.

The tension continues to build and build AND build and narrative is laced with violence and mistrust. So, it is safe to say that this is a STRESSFUL read! But in the best way possible because you (the reader) is completely lured into the narrative.

The multi-narratives provide the reader with mass information as they try and piece together the mystery and figure out who and what is reliable. The twists and turns will grab and maintain your attention while also leaving you longing for more. The characters were also well developed and thought out.

Author:

Nick Louth is a best-selling thriller writer, award-winning financial journalist and an investment commentator. A 1979 graduate of the London School of Economics, he went on to become a Reuters foreign correspondent in 1987. It was an experience at a medical conference in Amsterdam in 1992, while working for Reuters, that gave him the inspiration for Bite, which was self-published in 2007 and went on to become the UK No. 1 Kindle best-seller for several weeks in 2014 before being snapped up by Sphere. It has sold a third of a million copies, and been translated into six languages.

The terrorism thriller Heartbreaker was published in June 2014 and received critical acclaim from Amazon readers, with a 4.6 out of 5 stars on over 100 reviews. Mirror Mirror, subtitled  ‘When evil and beauty collide’ was published in June 2016. The Body in the Marsh, a crime thriller, is being published by Canelo in September 2017.  Freelance since 1998, he has been a regular contributor to the Financial Times, Investors Chronicle and Money Observer, and has published seven other books. Nick Louth is married 

Website: http://www.nicklouth.com

Twitter: @NickLouthAuthor

The Girl Next Door by Phoebe Morgan Blog Tour

HQ kindly gifted me this book in exchange for a book review

Genre: Psychological Thriller
Source: HQ Stories
Where to buy: Amazon

Blurb:

Things like this don’t happen here.

Perfect mother. Perfect wife. Jane Goodwin has spent years building her picture-perfect life in the quiet village of Ashdon. So when sixteen-year-old Clare Edwards is found murdered in Sorrow’s Meadow, Jane knows she must first protect her family.

Every marriage has a few white lies and hers is no exception. Jane’s worked hard to cover up her dark secret from all those years ago – and she’ll do anything to keep it hidden…

Review:

I absolutely love love loved this book! I am always a sucker for a good psychological thriller!

I was literally hooked from the get go! Prologue – first sentence – ‘I’m not coming home tonight.’ – second sentence – ‘The thought hits me as soon as I wake up, fizzing excitedly inside my brain, like one of those sherbets Mum used to buy me from miserable Ruby’s corner shop.’

HOOKED! Instantly captivated with my detective head on and eager to unpack the mystery. Where is she going? Is she meeting someone? Why is she so excited? What is wrong with her home life?

I quickly devoured this novel and I am so happy with the narrative, tone, pace, writing and characters! URG I LOVE IT!  I really love Phoebe’s writing style, so I am definitely going to pick up her debut novel The Doll House.

I do love a whodunit narrative? All the guessing, all twists and turns…love love love! This is an interesting and thought-provoking story about a teenage girl who is found dead in the local park and the narrative encourages the reader to look closely at the parents, neighbours and the people who live in the small Essex town of Ashdon as suspects.

Go and pick up / download/ order this book now because it is sooooo worth it! Fans of Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins will love this book!


Author Profile:

Phoebe Morgan is an author and senior commissioning editor.  After growing up in the Suffolk countryside, she studied English at Leeds University. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits crime and women’s fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings.

She lives in London and you can follow her on Twitter @Phoebe_A_Morgan, or find her blog about publishing and writing at phoebemorganauthor.com.

The Doll House was her debut novel. It became a #1 iBooks bestseller and spent over 8 weeks in the Kindle top 100. The Girl Next Door is her second book, and a third is on its way in 2020!


Prestige Flowers Review

Thank you to Prestige Flowers for sending me this gorgeous Valentines bouquet! There is something special about receiving flowers, the notion of thought and kindness associated with the gifting warms my heart.

I was lucky enough to be sent this wonderful bouquet from Prestige Flowers in exchange for an honest review. Lets get real now…the packaging is STUNNING, the massive delivery box got me soooo excited! The flowers themselves were absolutely GORGEOUS! My bouquet was made up of red roses and luxurious gold leaves that really made the flowers POP!

The bouquet was accompanied by the CUTEST teddy bear and a box of luxury chocolates!

Do you need Valentine’s or ‘GALENTINE’S’ day inspiration? Look no further, because they have you covered – just click on the link provided above and explore!

Here is a picture of my teddy, I named his Bruce.

I cannot recommend this company enough! The flowers were in incredible condition and the accompanying gifts were the perfect addition and will make any one feel special this Valentine’s Day.


Flowers + Books = PERFECTION

Of course, I had to get books involved! How beautiful is this picture!

Whats your favourite flowers?

I absolutely ADORE sunflowers and daisies!

2018 in reading…

Yay! I read 97 books in 2018!

  1. An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire 
  2. Dog Songs by Mary Oliver 
  3. A Mighty Dawn (The Wanderer Chronicles #1) by Theodore Brun 
  4. Letters Home by Sylvia Plath 
  5. Letters of Sylvia Plath, Volume 1: 1940-1956 by Sylvia Plath 
  6. The Sun Is Also a Star Nicola Yoon 
  7. Secrets for the Mad by Dodie Clark 
  8. The Yellow Wall-Paper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  9. Idiot Verse by Keaton Henson
  10. You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want by Sarah Knight
  11. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  12. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella 
  13. The Keeper of Lost Things Ruth Hogan 
  14. My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent 
  15. The Tinder Box by Hans Christian Andersen 
  16. Everything Wrong with You is Beautiful by Tina Sederholm 
  17. Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong 
  18. Burnings by Ocean Vuong 
  19. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen 
  20. The Suffragettes by various
  21. Equal Power: A Handbook for Men and Women by Jo Swinson 
  22. The Beautifull Cassandra by Jane Austen 
  23. To Be Read At Dusk Charles Dickens 
  24. Places I Stopped on the Way Home: A Memoir of Chaos and Grace by Meg Fee 
  25. The Real Peter Pan: The Tragic Life of Michael Llewelyn Davies by Piers Dudgeon 
  26. The Art of Not Falling Apart by Christina Patterson 
  27. Midnight Sun by Trish Cook 
  28. Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World by James Ball 
  29. This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay 
  30. Only Ever Yours by Lousie O’Neill 
  31. The Child by Fiona Barton
  32. The Memories of Us by Vanessa Carnevale 
  33. Mad Girl’s Love Song: Sylvia Plath and Life Before Ted by Andrew Wilson 
  34. The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath by Ronald Hayman 
  35. Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder 
  36. The Aladdin Trial: A Burton and Lamb Thriller by Abi Silver 
  37. Mind Platter by Najwa Zebian 
  38. 11 Missed Calls by Elizabeth Carpenter 
  39. She Must Be Mad by Charly Cox 
  40. Letters of Ted Hughes by Ted Hughes
  41. Her Husband: Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath – A Marriage by Diane Wood Middlebrook 
  42. Ted Hughes: Poems Selected by Simon Armitage by Ted Hughes 
  43. Ariel’s Gift: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, and the Story of Birthday Letters by Erica Wagner 
  44. Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath by Kate Moses
  45. Rough Magic: A Biography of Sylvia Plath by Paul Alexander 
  46. Sylvia Plath by Peter K. Steinberg 
  47. The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes by Janet Malcolm 
  48. Ariel: The Restored Edition by Sylvia Plath 
  49. Sylvia Plath: A Critical Guide by Tim Kendall 
  50. The Cambridge Companion to Sylvia Plath by Jo Gill 
  51. American Isis: The Life and Art of Sylvia Plath by Carl Rollyson 
  52. Crossing the Water by Sylvia Plath 
  53. Sylvia Plath and the Mythology of Women Readers by Janet Badia 
  54. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath by Anita Helle 
  55. That Was When People Started to Worry: Windows into Unwell Minds by Nancy Tucker 
  56. I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell 
  57. Normal People by Sally Rooney 
  58. Lullaby by Leila Slimani 
  59. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith 
  60. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture by Roxane Gay 
  61. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite 
  62. Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill 
  63. Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. by Malcolm Duffy 
  64. How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo 
  65. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill 
  66. This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl by Esther Earl 
  67. Ted and I: A Brother’s Memoir by Gerald Hughes 
  68. The Letters of Sylvia Plath Vol 2: 1956-1963  by Sylvia Plath 
  69. Almost Adulting: All You Need to Know to Get It Together by Arden Rose
  70. Sunrise by Jessie Cave
  71. Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim 
  72. Scrapbook of an Unfound Songstress by Vicky Nolan 
  73. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris 
  74. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh 
  75. Africa’s Tarnished Name by China Achebe
  76. Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton 
  77. Hopeless Romantic by Dolly Alderton 
  78. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton 
  79. The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K.Rowling 
  80. The Missing Girl by Shirley Jackson 
  81. The Veiled Woman by Anais Nin 
  82. Lance by Vladimir Nabokov 
  83. P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, #2) by Jenny Han 
  84. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  85. It’s Not Summer Without You(Summer, #2) Jenny Han 
  86. We’ll Always Have Summer(Summer, #3) by Jenny Han
  87. Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
  88. Ted Hughes: Poems Selected by Simon Armitage by Ted Hughes
  89. Lucky by Alice Sebold
  90. Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero by William Makepeace Thackeray
  91. It’s Not Me, It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane 
  92. Genuine Fraud by E.Lockhart
  93. The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One by Amanda Lovelace
  94. The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
  95. The Child by Fiona Barton
  96. The Necessary Angel by C.K.Stead
  97. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

How was your 2018 year of reading?

What was your favourite book?

Can you recommend any for me?

10 ways to overcome a book slump…

Recently I have been in a bit of a bookish slump, I  keep picking up books – reading a bit and then putting it down. Urg, I hate myself for doing this…come on Shannon – just read the darn book.

So, to motivate myself and you – I am going to reveal my top tips for getting out of a book slump.

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1. Stop reading the book you are currently reading:

This might sound like a strange thing to say but sometimes the book is just not right for you at this time in your life. It is stopping your progression, slowing you down and hindering your ability to move on – so put it down and pick another book.

2. Start a smaller book:

Size does matter! If you’re feeling the dread of a big book, do not rush your reading experience and force yourself to read it quickly. We all know there is no better feeling than finishing a book, so go and pick up a smaller book or an easy read because you will feel fab-u-lous once your read that last page. You will feel like your reading mo-jo is back, embrace it and let it motivate you.  Even if you just read one of the £1 penguin modern classics – reading is reading.

3. Switch genre:

You might not be feeling the genre anymore, so mix it up and try something else. This is also a good time to explore a completely new genre that is outside your comfort zone. Go for it!

4. Pick up an old friend:

This is where I would be whacking out one of the Harry Potter books for comfort (probably Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) or The Bell Jar. Sometimes you just have to return to an old favourite and remind yourself why you love reading so much. For me, in my hectic life – I just need to zone out sometimes and lose myself within books.

5. Start or join a bookclub:

I have failed at this more times than I should admit – I have the best intention of going and then I don’t or me and my friends organise our own , read the book and then never discuss it. But I will join a bookclub soon, I will!

6. Set your own goals:

If you are an introvert like me and not fond of the bookclub idea, set your own goals to motivate yourself. Easy or hard goals will act as a reminder to you – this is why I love the Goodreads Reading Challenge because I can track what I have read and achieved so far and how far I have to go.

7. Reorganise your bookshelf:

If you’re anything like me, this tip will help you live your most organised life while also familiarising yourself with books you have forgotten about. We have all been there haven’t we? Moved a book and discovered a forgotten hidden gem.

8. Go book shopping:

I love a good bookshop! They are cozy, warm, full of wonderful people and of course, books! What more could you want? Go and motivate yourself with some new reads and grab a cup of tea if they have a coffee shop.

9. Watch a book to film adaptation:

Sometimes you just want/need a break from reading…do not judge yourself too harshly and just relax with a good movie.

10. Listen to a bookish podcast or audiobook:

This may be a podcast by your favourite author or a podcast about books! Like tip number 9, be kind to yourself and seek comfort in other forms. Some people do not view audiobooks as reading but it is – do not be ashamed of listening.

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  • What are you book slump tips?
  • Do you agree with any of mine?

Bookstagram

I am becoming a frequent user of instragam, especially on my book page. I think you should go and check out my page and maybe give me a cheeky follow.

Let me know if you follow me from this blog and I will follow you back!

My Instagram is – Captivated_by_Fantasy    …here is a sneaky peak. 📚🤓💫🍂🍁👑📝


Guest Post: The Aladdin Trial by Abi Silver.

Thank you to the wonderful people at Lightning Books for sending me this marvellous book to read and thank you so much to Abi Silver for writing me a guest post. I am half way through this book and I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT, please go check it out. So, without further ado – welcome to my place on the blogging tour:

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Title: The Aladdin Trial
Author: Abi Silver
Pages: 368 pages
Blurb:

When an elderly artist plunges one hundred feet to her death at a London hospital, the police sense foul play.

The hospital cleaner, a Syrian refugee, is arrested for her murder. He protests his innocence, but why has he given the woman the story of Aladdin to read and why does he shake uncontrollably in times of stress?

Judith Burton and Constance Lamb reunite to defend a man the media has already convicted. In a spellbinding courtroom confrontation in which they once more grapple with all-too-possible developments in artificial intelligence, they uncover not only the cleaner’s secrets, but also those of the artist’s family, her lawyer and the hospital.

A new Burton and Lamb legal thriller with an AI twist from the author of the acclaimed The Pinocchio Brief.

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Guest Post:

Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land…love them as you love yourselves’: Leviticus 19:33-34

#These are a few of my favourite things – part two

It always takes time for my ideas to bed down, sometimes months, sometimes years. That’s the nature of the beast called #amwriting, I suppose. Some days I overhear a snippet of conversation on the underground, I make a mental note and use it that very night. More often, I squirrel it away for a wintery day, when it suddenly and unexpectedly becomes relevant. Other times, ideas flood in at night and I thrash around, attempting to tame them, before scribbling them on a notepad I keep by my bed. Sadly, there have been occasions when I’ve been unable to decipher my scrawl in the morning – enough said!

But throughout 2015, the refugee crisis was featuring most nights on the News and it could not fail to stimulate my interest and evoke my sympathy. Overloaded boats of all shapes and sizes were taking to the water and promptly sinking, with tragic consequences. Our inspired response? To cease patrols of the Mediterranean, in the hope that would stem the flow.

Camps of destitute migrants were expanding at Calais; our answer was to tear them down. Young, desperate men were storming lorries bound for the Channel Tunnel in the hope of reaching England before arrest, so we increased security and threatened drivers with prosecution. Further East, Hungary closed its border with Serbia, ceased all railway crossings and mounted-police patrolled barbed-wire fences, forcing families to take long and often treacherous journeys on foot, to reach their desired Western European destinations. I watched and gawped and felt totally and utterly powerless.

Then I realised there was something I could do, something I often do when I am trying to make sense of what is going on around me; I could write about it. And as the focus slowly shifted from exclusion towards ‘integration’ and our then PM, David Cameron, committed the UK to accepting 20,000 migrants from Syria over the following five years, I began to reflect on my own immigrant past.

Just over a century ago, all four of my grandparents arrived in the UK, fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe. As with many of today’s refugees, we don’t know the route they took, how long they were travelling or how they managed to travel so far. They certainly didn’t talk about it to me; Kitty, Joe (my maternal grandparents), Bernard and Esther (on my father’s side), not their real names of course, but the closest approximations in English to their birth names. They didn’t get to keep their long, difficult-to-spell surnames either, being lumped in with the people in front in the queue, suddenly creating a whole new artificial, extended family.

There were not many clues for my younger self to my grandparents’ foreign past. They spoke English, apart from the odd Yiddish word, which tended to escape from their mouths in moments of tremendous angst, when there really was no English substitute (I challenge you to find an appropriate synonym for ‘Oy a Clog!’ – sort of OMG but imbued with centuries of bondage, woe and affliction).

Grandma Kitty loved the Queen (‘I think she’s marvellous’ she would say) as she munched on Ryvita with cottage cheese for breakfast, Grandpa Joe liked to write long, almost illegible letters to Margaret Thatcher (he had only spent three years at school) and never missed an episode of Hawaii Five O and Grandad Bernard, who had worked as a tailor, was ‘a frustrated artist and musician’ (apparently he had played the violin as a young man but I never saw any evidence of this; I do, however, have some of his paintings up in my house today, so that part of his history, at the very least, must be true).

But as I watched the modern-day refugees on TV, disembarking on our shores, I wondered what life had been like for my grandparents when they first arrived, clutching a few personal possessions, dispossessed even of their names, knowing no one and saturated, no doubt, with a wealth of traditions and culture which most English people would have found strange and frightening.

And so with the inspiration of my grandparents firmly in mind, I created Ahmad Qabbani; a recent arrival on English soil, considered fortunate to have found cleaning work at my fictional St Mark’s hospital, but ultimately unlucky to have chosen to befriend an elderly patient who ends up dead, eleven floors below. Ahmad becomes the prime suspect in her murder and Judith and Constance, our accomplished double act, have to work hard to craft him a defence, in circumstances where the media has already judged him to be guilty; nothing like real life then, I’m pleased to say.

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Thank you once again to Abi Silver for writing such a wonderful piece.

Go buy the book here : https://amzn.to/2xv8CZB and to find out more about Abi and her writing go check out her website: www.abisilver.co.uk

To see more about the influences for The Aladdin Trial check out Shaz’s Book Blog, @ShazsBookBlog on 21 June and The Book Bag, @TheBookBag on 26 June, both part of The Aladdin Trial blog tour.

 

Guest Post: The Sheriff’s Catch by James Vella Bardon.

*Today’s post is by author James Vella Bardon. Thank you James for writing such a wonderful guest post for my blog. Readers, it would be fabulous if you could check the author out, watch his book trailer and ultimately – READ THE BOOK.  If you have read this book, let me know in the comments below, I would love to hear from you and I am sure James would also love to see your comments. *

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The Making Of The Sheriff’s Catch / Introducing James Vella-Bardon

I don’t think you can beat well-researched novels which are also fast-paced. It doesn’t matter if they’re in eBook format on your smart phone, leaving you to miss your train stop on your way home from work. Or if they’re paperbacks that you hide under your pillow with a small torch, so that you can read late past midnight long after the missus and kids are asleep.
There’s heaps of other people I know who love these breaknjeck page-turners which leave you too breathless to realise just how quickly you’ve read the story. Yet for some reason these sorts of books are so hard to find. I remember reading The Fellowship Of The Ring when I was ten and sick in bed. It was a magical week that I’ll never forget, in which my eyes were absolutely glued to the page while I read the chapter about the fellowship fleeing orcs and a flaming balrog in the Mines of Moria. Reading that chapter left me wondering: what if I could one day create the same levels of anticipation and exhilaration for other readers, all through written words on a page?
There have been other similar works which have also stirred great emotions inside me while also teaching me a lot about different periods in real human history. Henri Charriere’s Papillon was quite simply ‘crack on a page’ from cover to cover, not to mention the opening chapter of ‘Q’ by the band of Bologna-based writers who call themselves Luther Blissett (and subsequently Wu Ming). The first-person account of Gert from the well fleeing Catholic forces with the unconscious Anabaptist Thomas Muntzer was like something out of Mel Gibson’s Apocalytpo. Precious few novels have evoked the same exhilaration and burning curiousity, and in my case these have included Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’s Tiger’, Perez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste series and more recently Tim Willocks’ ‘The Twelve Children Of Paris’.

What if I could write a whole novel with the same first-hand intensity? Something which you couldn’t put down, like ‘The Da Vinci Code’? But without the dryness of an airport read and without all the sagging, flouncy, hellishly boring bits usually contained in a Booker Prize-winning novel? And even better still: what if I could produce a series of books like that, with a story arc akin to those created by fantasy writers like Tolkien, David Eddings and Stephen Donaldson?

At the age of 25 I finished university and with my tertiary studies off my back, I instantly knew what I had to do. I was working in Brussels when I decided to try my hand at writing a fantasy epic, but I knew that the Dark Lord vs the forces of good theme had been done to death and was wearing a bit thin. Rehashing former fantasy series just wasn’t a stimulating enough venture for me. It was during that period of deliberation that I received a book called ‘Romegas’ by Carmel Testa as a birthday gift from my uncle Klaus in Malta. I was instantly drawn towards the stark differences in customs and traditions between the people of the 16th Century, and immediately decided that this world would be the canvas for my novel. But what sort of story should I write?

The key spark of inspiration occurred a couple of years later, shortly after I had emigrated to Sydney, Australia. I walked into a second hand bookstore and picked up a small historical nonfiction book by the Irish journalist T. P. Kilfeather, called ‘Ireland: Graveyard Of The Spanish Armada’. Spanish Armada in Ireland? What was this about? Yet I hardly started to read the first page, that I did not put the book down until I’d read it all. I bought it for three bucks and staggered out of the shop, feeling like I’d just been on the wildest rollercoaster ride I’d ever been on. Moria? Orcs? Papillon? The stories of the Spanish Armada castaways in Ireland ate all that up for breakfast!

I locked myself away in my studio flat, typing out my first twelve-chapter draft in less than a week, subsequently realising that the first draft required further rewriting and editing. I stuck to this project like a hound on the scent, editing and rewriting it again and again for years on end until I developed my voice. Extensive research was also carried out on this period of history, which was nearly as addictive as the writing itself!

And how couldn’t it be? The Spanish Armada shipwrecks in Ireland were a juncture at which three starkly different cultures met: counter-reformist Spaniards, reformist English and the late medieval Irish. There were just too many dramatic episodes to cover, from the preparation and voyage of the Spanish Armada itself, to the dramatic slaughter of Spanish castaways along the Irish beaches, with desperate ‘man on the run’ stories of those Spaniards who managed to elude the great bloodbath along the beaches.

As if this story was not amazing enough, nothing prepared me for the wonder and complexity of 16th Century Gaelic culture. We all too often forget that Ireland was the last European country to be influenced by Rome, so that a sophisticated Gaelic culture of law and bardic tradition had blossomed there, with women having the exact same rights of men and there being no concept of a bonus paterfamilias. I was also taken aback by the sheer beauty of the countryside when I visited Sligo Town and surrounds in Western Ireland to undertake further research on the novel back in October 2012. This was just too much mind-blowing material to be left untouched by fiction, and before I knew it I had penned a staggeringly long novel in five parts. I subsequently divided this into a five-part series called The Sassana Stone Pentalogy.

The first instalment is called ‘The Sheriff’s Catch’ and was published by leading British crowdfunding publisher Unbound on 15 March 2018. The required crowdfunding figure of 4000 pounds was raised in less than six days, even though the campaign was expected to last three months! A number of other highs were to follow. My publisher Unbound got me to work on the manuscript with structural editor and talented novelist CM Taylor, as well as experienced copy-editor Andrew Chapman. There followed work with award-winning cover designer Mark Ecob, before the novel was serialised on international online book club The Pigeonhole. To my disbelief, this book club was previously used by Ken Follett to promote his sequel to ‘The Pillars Of The Earth’, called ‘A Column Of Fire.’

I was walking on air as the comments from 250 readers about my debut novel came through on The Pigeonhole, with a few of them kindly also posting reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. My nine years of backbreaking rewriting and research had already paid off, with a large number of readers greatly warming to my anti-hero protagonist and deadly marksman Abel de Santiago, also known as ‘The Lynx of Haarlem’, not to mention the gutsy tragic heroines Elsien Van Der Molen and Muireann Mac An Bhaird. And as if that wasn’t enough, I received a call from Tim Willocks’ (and Ken Follett’s former) literary agent Mr Albert Zuckerman last month which was the absolute cherry on the cake! Mr Zuckerman kindly invited me to his hotel to discuss my novel for close to an hour, which was quite simply unbelievable. Yet more unbelievable news was to follow earlier this month, when a novel trailer I created was nominated in the ‘best trailer for a novel or book’ category at the Golden Trailer Awards to be held in Los Angeles on 31 May 2018!

Watch the trailer below:

The product of a long lonely nine-year slog has so far met with a really good reception, and I cannot wait for what’s next around the corner. And for those readers who have loved ‘The Sheriff’s Catch’ (and you only need to check my Goodreads and Amazon pages to discover what the feedback has been to date), the good news for my growing following of readers is that the draft manuscripts for four other sequels have already been penned, which altogether will make up ‘The Sassana Stone Pentalogy’. I can’t wait to get stuck into the editing of the next instalment: ‘A REBEL NORTH’.

 So what are you waiting for?

Jump on Goodreads and have a look at the reader reviews, then hop on Amazon and read the ‘Look Inside’ free excerpt of The Sheriff’s Catch, and find out for yourself just how hard it is to put down! And if you love it, well, then strap on your seatbelt and buy the whole thing, as you embark upon one of the literary thrills of your life!

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James Vella-Bardon

James was born and raised in Malta, an island nation steeped in the millennia of history. As a boy he often caught a rickety old bus to the capital of Valletta, where he would hover around the English bookshops to check out the latest titles in fiction.

Growing up he was an avid reader and a relentless day-dreamer, with his standout subject at school being English composition. He also won a couple of national essay competitions. Although he spent seven years studying and obtaining a doctor of laws degree, this did not cure him of his urge to write stories. So after emigrating to Sydney in 2007 he resolved to have a proper stab at writing his first novel.

The result of this decision is an epic, sprawling five-part historical fiction series called The Sassana Stone Pentalogy. It is the product of nine years of intense rewriting and research, and tells the story of a Spanish Armada survivor who is shipwrecked in Ireland.

The first instalment in the series is a rip-roaring, myth-busting page-turner called The Sheriff’s Catch. Its anti-hero protagonist Abel de Santiago is an Armada survivor who finds himself on the run across Connacht, whilst being pursued by English troopers who want him tortured and killed.

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