Three Little Girls (Karen Thorpe series #2) by Jane Badrock

Three cold cases. One determined cop.

Someone’s playing tricks on Karen at home and at work.

When two cold case files about missing girls turn up on her desk, she’s fuming. When a third file arrives…she blows a fuse. 

#ThreeLittleGirls @janebadrock @Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours #blogtour

Her boss demands she takes holiday leave just as Karen discovers her late father was involved in one of the cases. Now she’s compelled to investigate them. 

Karen’s accompanied by sometime boyfriend John – but can she trust him or his friend and map-keeper Mr Binks? 

She has formidable detective skills but will they work in places where old-world magic is still powerful? 

Karen’s life is in serious danger… but from whom…. or what? 

My Review

What a crazy roller coaster of a ride. I just loved this book. Fantastic cast of characters – DI Karen Thorpe, tough, clever, untidy, her on-off boyfriend John Steele, head of forensics, Karen’s opposite, tidy and organised. But I especially loved ‘wee’ book shop owner and map-keeper Mr Binks. Who is he and what does he really do? Can we trust him?

Suspending disbelief doesn’t even come close to cutting it. Witches pathways, gatekeepers (are you the gatekeeper? homage to Ghostbusters?), visions, nightmares, ghosts, hallucinogens, a powerful spell book and even raising the dead – it’s all here, but what is real and what is not? Who knows. Who cares. I just couldn’t stop reading. This is the kind of stuff I love. I hope it ends up on TV.

In 1964 three little girls went missing. Three girls, three locations, many miles apart, but are they connected? No-one was charged, no-one was prosecuted, their bodies never found.

Many years later, Karen’s father re-opened one of the cases, but he died before any progress could be made. Now these files plus two more have mysteriously appeared on Karen’s desk and she feels compelled to investigate. So she and John set off round the country to Lincoln, York and Edinburgh to see what new evidence they can discover. But strange things happen which are linked to old-world magic – the type of thing that Karen is far too sensible and down-to-earth to believe in. Big mistake and one that could put her in serious danger.

I’m a huge fan of crime fiction and police procedurals, but they can often be a bit samey and formulaic. Trust me, this is like nothing I’ve read before and I couldn’t get enough of it. Brilliant!

Many thanks to @zooloo2008 for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the Author

Jane writes novels, short stories and poems, usually with a good dose of humour in them. She’s probably owes it all to her late grandmother who, she’s just found out, also wrote short stories and poems. She tends to get an idea and then run with it whether it be a 100 word short story or an 80 thousand word novel. It all depends on the voices in her head at the time…

Follow her at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janebadrockauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janebadrock/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/janebadrock
Amazon : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Badrock/e/B07HZ2HD3Q
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18510015.Jane_Badrock

Dog About Town – Bob’s Lockdown in London by Bob

During Lockdown, when rules allowed, Bob found he had some of London’s most extraordinary landmarks all to himself…

When the UK was in lockdown, the usually heaving streets of London emptied and the city became unrecognisable.

Mini Labradoodle Bob is furry, soft, and lovable. In Dog About Town, we get to see the beauty of London from his dog’s eye view.

Follow Bob as he explores the City of London at its emptiest, from a deserted Covent Garden to an abandoned Tower Bridge. If he’s not looking regal at Buckingham Palace, he’s salivating at Smithfield market.

All captured on an iPhone, this collection of Bob’s selfies offers fascinating insight into pandemic life, served with humour and charm.

Accompanied by witty captions, this book will have any dog lover chuckling, whilst making them feel as warm and fluffy on the inside as Bob is on the outside.

The perfect Christmas present for London and dog lovers alike, Dog About Town’s lightness of touch offers a fresh perspective on lockdown and allows the reader to reflect on the past two years, with a pawsome new literary talent. Bob is a life-long London resident, with a penchant for bones, rolling in mud, snoozing and, of course, Instagram. This is his first book.

A contribution from every copy of Dog About Town will be made to the dog rescue and rehoming charity All Dogs Matter.

Click here to buy

My thoughts

I love this book. The pictures are brilliant and the captions are very clever. And of course Bob is such a sweetie.

I recently lost my beloved Jack Russell, Pancake, four weeks shy of 17 years old, so this book is for her, for me, and for everyone else who loves dogs and for those who are still missing their best friends.

The following are some examples of what you can expect in Dog About Town.

Sole trader
Leadenhall Market, Gracechurch Street, EC3

Is this my best side?
Tower Bridge, London, SE1

7000 years old – in dog years
Tower of London, Tower Hamlets, EC3

Only corgis allowed
Buckingham Palace, SW1

Sitting just to the left of centre
Westminster, SW1

Many thanks to Grace Pilkington Publicity @GracePublicity for inviting me to give an unbiased review of Dog About Town.

By the Author

Truth be told, I’m not really one for culture or history. I generally prefer chasing balls, running, swimming and mud in all its forms. However, during the pandemic, I humoured my owners by accompanying them on some walks around London. To be fair, the urban sniffing was good, we had the streets practically to ourselves, and in return for some pretty tasty treats, I agreed to pose in front of some iconic, and some less familiar, landmarks. I never thought a scruffy labradoodle like me would make it into a book, but if these images of a deserted London, with me in it, raises a smile and helps some of the less fortunate canine community, then it seems a good idea.

And in case anyone is interested, I’m now a fully qualified tour guide, with a special interest in the Houses of Pawliament.
Yours,
Bob

Click here to buy

Spirituality, Healing and Me by Ilana Estelle

Everyday life has never been more challenging and it’s easy to lose sight of who we are and who we want to be.

In Spirituality, Healing and Me, Ilana Estelle draws on her experiences of emotional, mental and physical disability, to show how tuning into our spiritual side can improve wellbeing, heal our minds, and set us firmly back on track.

#SpiritualityHealingAndMe @TheCPDiary @RedDoorBooks @Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBook Tours #blogtour


Ilana shows how focusing on values such as understanding, empathy, compassion, tolerance, kindness, creativity and acceptance can help us find our inner calm.

Packed with inspiring messages and real-life vignettes, Ilana’s book shows how spirituality can help us navigate even the roughest waters.

Ilana’s book can help to:
•Improve emotional balance and wellness
•Boost confidence and self-esteem
•Stay self-aware, grounded and patient
•Appreciate life and each other
•Accept changing circumstances
•Enhance positive emotions and personal healing
•Change the way you perceive and think about your life

My Review

Firstly and very importantly, this is not a religious book. You don’t need to follow any religion to read it. Spirituality is something quite different.

In reading this book you will learn a lot about selflessness and humility, karma (the real meaning), why integrity is so important, living a more spiritual life and mindfulness.

“Mindfulness allows us to pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment, without us passing judgement.” Ilana tells us. “It’s a technique that helps us manage our thoughts, feelings and mental health.”

Now we come to emotional stability.

“To work on emotional stability, we need to continue to find a level of acceptance and understanding on our experiences. We should work on the premise that the things we can change we will, and the things we can’t change, we should try to accept.” How important this is.

Bitterness and resentfulness are also self-damaging. “A good affirmation to remember”, we are told, “is Being positive is my choice. I shall choose to be positive.”

There is a lot of discussion about mental health. We still need talk and remove the stigma, particularly amongst men. 12.5% of men suffer from anxiety and depression and 76% of suicides are committed by men. It’s the biggest killer of men under 35. 36% of referrals to a psychologist are for men.

There is a section on how to cope with conflict and inner turmoil arising from unresolved issues. I found this part very useful.

Learning from our mistakes is pivotal to emotional and spiritual growth. We learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes.

I have picked out a few things from this marvellous book that particularly resonated with me. For you it may be quite different. I will try and take as much on board as I can and hope it allows me to grow.

Thank you to Ilana for her wonderful writing. Do read it and take what you need from it. It doesn’t have to be everything. As she herself tells us, it’s all about small baby steps.

Many thanks to @zooloo2008 for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the Author

Ilana was born with a disability she didn’t know she had until the age of 46, when through her medical notes she discovered she had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 2.

That discovery turned out to be a unique and life-changing experience that has forced Ilana to stand back and look at her life experiences differently. On her late diagnosis, Ilana set up her website The CP Diary and uses her experiences to explore her emotional and physical health, with an inspiring message advocating resilience and change.

Ilana likes to spend her days writing and blogging about anything that contributes to her health and wellbeing. She is an animal advocate and is passionate about environmental issues. When she is not writing to tending to her blog, Ilana enjoys days out exploring the Yorkshire countryside.

Ilana lives with her husband and their much-loved cat, in Yorkshire. Her grown up son and daughter both live in London.

Follow her at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecpdiary
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/TheCPDiary/_saved/
Twitter: ttps://twitter.com/TheCPDiary
Website: https://thecpdiary.tumblr.com/

Buy Links
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirituality-Healing-Me-spiritual-healing-ebook/dp/B09F9ZNV83
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/Spirituality-Healing-Me-spiritual-healing-ebook/dp/B09F9ZNV83

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world.

She’s an associate specialist at Sotheby’s now, but her boss has hinted at a promotion if she can close a deal with a high-profile client. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galapagos–days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.

But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.

Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. Her luggage is lost, the Wi-Fi is nearly nonexistent, and the hotel they’d booked is shut down due to the pandemic. In fact, the whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.

In the Galapagos Islands, where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself–and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different. 

My Review

Reading Jodi Picoult is not a straight path. It’s a winding road full of opposing views, some of which will resonate, some of which will anger and all will make you think.

My last foray left me upset and a bit traumatised and while I had conflicting views here, it wasn’t so dramatic for me. I’d almost managed to forget the first few months of the pandemic. The horror of the deaths and hospitalisations. The fear that we would run out of beds and ventilators and people would be left to die in hospital car parks.

We tried to care for my elderly mother-in-law in her sheltered accommodation. Between us we visited six times a day, probably breaking lockdown rules but there was no-one else. She stopped eating, lost two and a half stone. We tried to get her to eat. My husband and brother-in-law had to pick her up off the floor every day where she had fallen off the chair – she wouldn’t get into bed. She had constant UTIs and hallucinated, her leg ulcers wept in puddles on the floor. She got cellulitis and nearly died. I had to clean her and change her ‘nappy’. There was no-one else to do it.

Eventually in June, we got her into respite. Six months later you wouldn’t know she had even been ill. She can’t walk but then that’s the arthritis, but everything else is back to normal. She turned 88 in September.

So, yes, we broke the rules, but the alternative was to leave her to die alone. Many people did, in nursing homes and hospitals. My friend’s partner had Alzheimer’s. She couldn’t visit – just peering through the window made him agitated. He died and there were only five people at his funeral. She was heartbroken and still is.

But then we see Finn’s point of view and know why it had to happen. But many of us still question if it was the right decision. I don’t mean lockdown or travel restrictions. I just mean holding the hand of your dying loved one. Kissing their forehead in their last moments. Just saying goodbye.

In April I was furloughed for three months. First I heard the birds. The roads were clear. Traffic stopped. I went for a walk once a day, exercised and did yoga in the garden to music. I did my bit and shopped for disabled or vulnerable neighbours. I’ve never felt so free, like Diana in the Galapagos. Priorities changed.

I thought it would last – the peace I mean, not the pandemic – but of course it didn’t. Shops and bars opened. Traffic resumed. Hustle and bustle, pollution, noise. Schools went back, rightly so. People moaned about foreign holidays as if nothing had happened. And marriages and relationships dissolved in anger.

Nearly two years later and a new variant has just been announced as I write this review. When it’s all over, if it ever is, I’d like to travel, maybe see the tortoises in Isabela or just go to Gran Canaria and sit in the sun.

This book is so good and heart-breaking. I sympathised with both Diana and Finn. But for him it was black and white, as there was no alternative. For her it was shades of grey, like for me. But Diana and I were not at the sharp end, saving and losing lives, every day, every hour. Celebrating the successes, weeping over the failures.

I can’t say much more without spoilers, but do read it, just keep the tissues to hand and prepare to get emotional. I did.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Jodi Picoult is the author of numerous novels, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers Small Great Things, A Spark of Light, Leaving Time, The Storyteller, Lone Wolf, Between the Lines, Sing You Home, House Rules, Handle with Care, Change of Heart, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister’s Keeper. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

Website: http://www.jodipicoult.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jodipicoult
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jodipicoult

Sorry, I Love You by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

The true journey of a relationship is never a straight line.

One couple, seen from different timelines. We jump back and forth.
How could it all go so wrong?
It seemed such a perfect relationship, but “the course of true love never did run smooth” as someone famous once wrote.

Heartbreaking and so well acted.

Written and directed by Danielle Lade
Starring:
Ashley Shiers as Him
Danielle Lade as Her
Sam Jordan as His Mate
Emmeline Braefield as That Girl, and Her Mate

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Music:
Lover’s Stripes by ALBIS
Clover 2 – Vibe Mountain

The Theatrephonic Theme tune was composed by Jackson Pentland
Performed by
Jackson Pentland
Mollie Fyfe Taylor
Emmeline Braefield

Cat on a Piano Productions produce and edit feature films, sketches and radio plays.

Their latest project is called @Theatrephonic, a podcast of standalone radio plays and short stories performed by professional actors. You can catch Theatrephonic on Spotify and other platforms.

For more information about the Theatrephonic Podcast, go to catonapiano.uk/theatrephonic, Tweet or Instagram us @theatrephonic, or visit our Facebook page.

And if you really enjoyed Sorry, I Love You listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

The Every (The Circle #2) by Dave Eggers

When the world’s largest search engine/social media company, the Circle, merges with the planet’s dominant e-commerce site, it creates the richest and most dangerous–and, oddly enough, most beloved–monopoly ever known: the Every.

Delaney Wells is an unlikely new hire at the Every. A former forest ranger and unwavering tech skeptic, she charms her way into an entry-level job with one goal in mind: to take down the company from within. With her compatriot, the not-at-all-ambitious Wes Makazian, they look for the Every’s weaknesses, hoping to free humanity from all-encompassing surveillance and the emoji-driven infantilisation of the species. But does anyone want what Delaney is fighting to save? Does humanity truly want to be free?

Studded with unforgettable characters, outrageous outfits, and lacerating set-pieces, this companion to The Circle blends absurdity and terror, satire and suspense, while keeping the reader in apprehensive excitement about the fate of the company–and the human animal.

My Review

Is this the future? One where people are happy to give up their freedoms in exchange for a life without crime, false friendships and anxiety. But there’s a catch. Constant monitoring and surveillance. Scared to say anything in case it tips your algorithms into the negative, and never get cross with your kids, it’s all being recorded. There’s no hiding place because the Every has the technology.

The problem is that there is so much truth in what the Every stands for. We know the planet is almost at tipping point. Global warming, rise in sea levels, ice caps melting, plastic filling our oceans. So what’s wrong with no more travel, there’s an app for that known as StayStil – just virtual reality trips from the comfort of your own home. Thoughts Not Things – you have all your possessions photographed and then they are destroyed, but can be recreated using a 3D printer.

Are You Sure is an app that gets you to check before you buy anything, Is it made from ethically sourced products? What’s its carbon footprint? Aren’t we doing that already?

Then there is Friendy – originally called AuthentiFriend and invented by Delaney herself. it can tell you who your real friends are. In other words – are you sleeping with my husband? Of course not. I can tell you are lying. Does my bum look big in this? Of course not, but again you are lying. Obviously not your true friends then.

But it gets worse. Live on site – no travel to work in gas-guzzling cars or dirty trains. No pets – they are a liability. No trips out – by the time they are risk-assessed it’s not worth the hassle or the upset as Delaney discovers. But the planet is being protected, so it’s all good.

At times we go from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, like men wearing all-in-ones made of very revealing Lycra. I could go on.

Delaney wants to infiltrate the Every and destroy it from the inside. Best friend Wes is on her side initially. But who can she trust? No-one it would seem.

This book will surprise you, worry you, make you question everything. At times you will even laugh out loud, the trouble is that it’s not really funny. It’s too close to the truth and it scares me.

Many thanks to The Pigeonhole and my fellow Pigeons for making this such an enjoyable read.

About the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of ten books, including most recently Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, The Circle and A Hologram for the King, which was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award. He is the founder of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a quarterly journal of new writing (McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern), and a monthly magazine, The Believer. McSweeney’s also publishes Voice of Witness, a nonprofit book series that uses oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. Eggers is the co-founder of 826 National, a network of eight tutoring centres around the country and ScholarMatch, a nonprofit organisation designed to connect students with resources, schools and donors to make college possible. He lives in Northern California with his family. The Every is the follow up to The Circle.

Psychopaths Anonymous by Will Carver

When AA meetings make her want to drink more, alcoholic murderess Maeve sets up a group for psychopaths.

Maeve has everything. A high-powered job, a beautiful home, a string of uncomplicated one-night encounters. She’s also an addict: a functioning alcoholic with a dependence on sex and an insatiable appetite for killing men. When she can’t find a support group to share her obsession, she creates her own. And Psychopaths Anonymous is born. Friends of Maeve.

#PsychopathsAnonymous #Welcometotheclub #blogtour @Will_Carver @OrendaBooks
#RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours

Now in a serious relationship, Maeve wants to keep the group a secret. But not everyone in the group adheres to the rules, and when a reckless member raises suspicions with the police, Maeve’s drinking spirals out of control. She needs to stop killing. She needs to close the group. But Maeve can’t seem to quit the things that are bad for her, including her new man…

My Review

One thing I love about Will Carver is not that he tells it like it is, but more that he tells it like no-one else has the nerve to do. Raw, blatant and unnerving. And then the dreadful things our main protagonist thinks and does makes us laugh out loud, when you know you shouldn’t be laughing at all. And then you recoil with shock horror.

Are we laughing from shock or is it really very funny? I think it’s both combined with the language the author uses to convey it. Maeve’s smart, acerbic tongue. I’m almost ashamed to be laughing but then I think ‘hell no’ it IS funny in a grotesque kind of way.

Maeve is our narrator. She loves to drink. She’s a functioning alcoholic. She likes to attend different AA meetings all over London and give her story when in fact she has no intention of giving up drinking. Anyone who can’t match her gin for gin or wine for wine is a lightweight. And she enjoys sex with strangers – random men she picks up along the way. And she kills people. She totally lacks empathy. In fact she’s really rather horrid. But most of all she hates God, the big man upstairs, in whom you must put your trust if you are to follow the 12 steps to sobriety. Sod that – why does everything involve him? Or that nosy priest.

Because Maeve has set up her own self-help group. No silly names like the other groups – just Friends of Maeve or Psychopaths Anonymous. Then she meets the man of her dreams, if she had dreams about that kind of thing. She needs him. She loves him. But is that enough to give up the other things in her life she loves, like killing people and keeping their heads in the freezer.

‘I will have to slow down a little with the murders. I’m running out of space for my ice cubes. I need them for my gin and tonics.’

One word of warning though. If you don’t like books that contain a lot of swearing, a lot of sex and a lot of violence, then this is not for you. So don’t start reading and then give it 2 stars and say it was full of gratuitous swearing, sex and violence, because that’s the whole point. It’s about psychopaths and Maeve is a serial killer. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours

About the Author

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Will’s latest title published by Or Orenda Books, The Beresford was published in July. His previous title Hinton Hollow Death Trip was longlisted for the Not the Booker Prize, while Nothing Important Happened Today was longlisted for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.

Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.

The Red Button by Keith Eldred

The prequel to A Christmas Carol — A sweet Regency Christmas romance

Here at last is the untold story of Scrooge’s doomed engagement

Belle Endicott and Ebenezer Scrooge are young, bookish, hardworking Londoners drawn together by button-making. His brand-new factory threatens her family’s tiny shop, yet they fall in love and start planning their future. When personal and business calamities strike, they confront them vigorously side by side, but ultimately something has to give. We know what it is. They do not.

My Review

Almost everyone has seen, read or heard about the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. I read it at school and have seen it countless times over the years. My son has played Bob Cratchit twice, once with Tiny Tim as a puppet on his shoulder. I’ve seen it performed in a church with a ball scene where the audience joined in with the dancing. Played straight, played for laughs – I’ve seen them all.

But what actually happened that turned Ebenezer Scrooge from a love-struck young man, madly in love with his fiance Belle Endicott, into the mean, greedy, miserly old man we see in A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is shown what his life was like when he was happy to what it became and how it would end up if he didn’t change it. But let’s go back now, dear reader, as the narrator tells us Jane Eyre-style from time to time. The narrator in this case is the red button of the book title.

In The Red Button, Ebenezer meets Belle through their button-making businesses. Belle hand-sews fabric on buttons as did her mother Lily – recently departed – and her father Archie, who owns the button shop. Ebenezer has just left the employ of Fezziwig to embark on his own, with a brand new button manufacturing factory which threatens to put Archie – and Belle – out of business.

But Ebenezer falls in love with Belle and for a while all seems well. They become engaged to be married and Belle even helps with suggestions to make the factory more comfortable for the workers.

So what goes wrong and we know from A Christmas Carol that it does. Scrooge is introduced to Jacob Marley (remember him – Marley’s ghost all clanking chains ​'”made of cash boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds”, all items connected with his job. Indeed, Dickens clarifies that these are the ​”chains forged in life”‘). Just as Scrooge forged his own destiny, he will pay the price unless he can look back with regret and undo the harm he did.

Poor Belle. Ebenezer has become a monster. A stingy miser.

‘Don’t you know my reputation,’ he says to Belle, ‘I have no soul.’

The story follows the change in Scrooge’s character and what starts out as a cosy romance turns into something much darker. This is a tale of greed and power, of money above all else and how these things will only buy unhappiness and misery in the end. A great read just before Christmas or any time at all.

Many thanks to the author for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Keith Eldred created the THIS IS RED project with his wife Janet, a public library director diagnosed with early-stage dementia. With Janet’s condition making every day precious, they decided to make the most of 2020, the year of their 30th anniversary, by publishing 20 books. All profits from these titles go the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library, where Janet works. See more at www.thisis.red.

The Unravelling by Polly Crosby

Tartelin has been employed by Marianne Stourbridge to hunt for butterflies, but she quickly uncovers something far more intriguing. The island and Marianne share a remarkable past, and what happened all those years ago has left its scars.

The island has a strange effect on Tartelin, too, finally allowing her to confront her own, painful, memories. As she does, Marianne’s story begins to unravel around her, revealing an extraordinary tale of two girls, an obsession with pearls, and a truth beyond imagination.

Atmospheric and deeply emotional, The Unravelling is a captivating novel about the secrets we can only discover when we dare to look beneath the surface. 

My Review

‘The sea is made up of unspeakable sadness.’ This is a sentence you will read many times in this extraordinary book.

Tartelin, a young woman who has recently lost her mother, travels to the tiny, remote island of Dohhalund in the middle of the North Sea, to work for Miss Stourbridge. Her job will be to catch butterflies and kill them, so they can be pinned and studied. It’s a strange request and one that Tartelin doesn’t realise will have such a profound effect on her.

‘It’s been 63 years since I left Dohhalund for the mainland,’ Miss Stourbridge tells her, ‘and still this island is changing.’

Initially the relationship between the two women is difficult and strained. There is no common ground between the young girl and this seemingly cantankerous and difficult woman who we know to be very old, frail and wheelchair-bound – I worked it out that she is around 103 years old. Tartelin wants to know the island’s secrets, but Miss Stourbridge doesn’t want to tell her.

But ultimately, this is a story of friendship, love, emotion and ‘unravelling’ – a story that will see new relationships beginning and others rekindled, and the secrets of the past finally revealed, until by the end I was in tears for the ‘unspeakable sadness’.

This is easily my favourite book of the final quarter of 2021 and its beauty and sincerity will stay with me for a long time to come.

Many thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

After a whirlwind of a year which saw Polly receive writing scholarships from both Curtis Brown Creative and The University of East Anglia’s MA in Creative Writing, she went on to be runner up in the Bridport Prize’s Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel. Read Polly’s piece for the Bridport Prize’s blog here.

Polly’s novel was snapped up by HarperCollins HQ in the UK and Commonwealth in a 48 hour pre-empt, and a few days later by HarperCollins Park Row Books in North America.

Polly grew up on the Suffolk coast, and now lives in the heart of Norfolk with her husband and son, and her very loud and much loved rescue Oriental cat, Dali.

The Illustrated Child is her first novel. Her second novel, The Unravelling, is out on 6th January ‘22.

Man of Clay by Alan Derosby


Retribution comes with a price

1930s Germany
Karl Auerbach escapes Buchenwald concentration camp. Ashamed of the truth of how he fled, Karl vows never to speak of the memories of his imprisonment.

Present Day: Rhode Island
When Karl’s grandson Zachariah is faced with prejudice of his own and a close friend is subjected to a horrific assault, Karl knows he must finally confront the demons of his past before Zachariah sets in motion a deadly chain of events.

#ManOfClay @AlanDerosby @SpellBoundBks @Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours #blogtour

Man of Clay explores the consequences of being held captive by the ghosts of our past, the decisions we make and what happens when someone crosses the line in search of revenge and retribution.

My Review

Wow – what an incredible story! So much sadness and heartbreak. So much cruelty. The story of the Jews in Buchenwald concentration camp and the terrible crimes that were perpetrated against them. It’s also the tale of a family torn apart by prejudice and hatred.

This book is written in two timelines which interweave, the first being the story of 15-year-old Zachariah’s torment as the victim of three despicable school bullies. The second takes us back to his grandfather Karl’s terrible experiences in Buchenwald during Word War Two and the memories that haunt him and he never speaks about, not even to his wife.

This is also a book of magical realism. Now whether you believe in mythology and magic is up to you. You can take this story literally or view it as something symbolic for a time when many Jewish people, who had endured six years of suffering, had reached the end of the road and finally sought revenge and retribution.

It doesn’t really matter which interpretation you choose. What matters is that you understand how despair, grief and starvation can lead to committing heinous acts of your own, which eventually you are unable to control. Or to quote a famous saying, once released you can never put the genie back in the bottle.

Many thanks to @zooloo2008 for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the Author

Alan Derosby, a Maine native, has spent the past several years focusing on his passion: writing. Alan has created original and spooky short stories, having several published in a variety of anthologies. Man of Clay is his debut novel.

When not writing, Alan is teaching history at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine, spending time with his wife and daughter, or watching the New York Mets suffer through another disappointing season.


Follow him at:
Facebook: – https://www.facebook.com/ADerosbyauthor/
Instagram: – https://www.instagram.com/aderosby75/
Twitter: – https://twitter.com/AlanDerosby
Amazon Author Page: – https://www.amazon.com/Alan-Derosby/e/B084LVSRG7?ref_=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Buy Links:
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Man-Clay-chilling-historical-thriller-ebook/dp/B09HPY4J77
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/Man-Clay-chilling-historical-thriller-ebook/dp/B09HPY4J77

Mari by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

Mari only wanted an easy life.

‘That’s all I wanted. An easy life and a push-up bra.’

Not much to ask is it. Mari works at the library. Does the cleaning, same as she does at home. That’s how she knows her husband Ron of 45 years will never find the things she hides and how she knows where he keeps his girlie magazines.

She didn’t read much when she was at school. Never did much at all really. Unless you were pretty or clever it was best to remain invisible. But now she buys books and hides them. Ron thinks she’s at the bingo. She has 16 books and sometimes she even borrows an audio book from the library.

But what she really wants is a room of her own, just like Virginia Woolf said. And a life, not just one lived through books.

Very clever and sad.

‘Bon voyage Mari.’

Written by Jackie Carreira
Directed by Zoe Cunningham and Emmeline Braefield

Starring
Geraldine Brennan as Mari
Anthony Young as Derek
and
Molly Wilkes and Toby Wilkes as the Youths

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Music:
Greaser by TrackTribe
The Quiet Aftermath by Sir Cubworth
Quiet by The Mini Vandals
Parisian Cafe by Aaron Kenny

The Theatrephonic Theme tune was composed by Jackson Pentland
Performed by
Jackson Pentland
Mollie Fyfe Taylor
Emmeline Braefield

Cat on a Piano Productions produce and edit feature films, sketches and radio plays.

Their latest project is called @Theatrephonic, a podcast of standalone radio plays and short stories performed by professional actors. You can catch Theatrephonic on Spotify and other platforms.

For more information about the Theatrephonic Podcast, go to catonapiano.uk/theatrephonic, Tweet or Instagram us @theatrephonic, or visit our Facebook page.

And if you really enjoyed Mari listen to Theatrephonic’s other plays and short stories and consider becoming a patron by clicking here…

It All Comes Back To You by Beth Duke

Alabama, 1947. War’s over, cherry-print dresses, parking above the city lights, swing dancing. Beautiful, seventeen-year-old Violet lives in a perfect world. Everybody loves her.

In 2012, she’s still beautiful, charming, and surrounded by admirers.

#ItAllComesBackToYou @bethidee Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours #blogtour

Veronica “Ronni” Johnson, licensed practical nurse and aspiring writer, meets the captivating Violet in the assisted living facility where Violet requires no assistance, just lots of male attention. When she dies, she leaves Ronni a very generous bequest―only if Ronni completes a book about her life within one year. As she’s drawn into the world of young Violet, Ronni is mesmerized by life in a simpler time. It’s an irresistible journey filled with revelations, some of them about men Ronni knew as octogenarians at Fairfield Springs.

Struggling, insecure, flailing at the keyboard, Ronni juggles her patients, a new boyfriend, and a Samsonite factory of emotional baggage as she tries to craft a manuscript before her deadline.

But then the secrets start to emerge, some of them in person. And they don’t stop.

Everything changes.

My Review

Veronica “Ronni” Johnson is our hero. That did make me laugh. You see I was Veronika known to many as Ronnie at school, though I was Veronika with a ‘k’ and Ronnie with an ‘e’ on the end. When I grew up I became Vee as Ronnie sounded too 1960s.

The writing in It All Comes Back To You is brilliant and I loved both Ronni and Violet. The men not so much. Johnny has an accident and rejects Violet afterwards. Sam is too weak to stand up to his parents and defy their religious bigotry – is that being unfair? I have personal experience of this so maybe I’m biased. Violet’s husband Tolly is a nasty, horrible man and well we’ll see what happens next. As for Chet – I’d love to discuss, but there would be too many spoilers.

Then there is Rick. I tried to like him but he would not be my idea of a partner. I found him rather overpowering to be honest. I’d have ditched him pretty quick after his ex phones Ronni and dishes the dirt, but there’s no accounting for taste. He makes her feel safe but then so would a bolt on the door and a can of mace and I’d definitely resort to the former if not the latter.

I did love Halle though but then even the cat is female.

There is so much humour in this book as well as sadness and regret. Ronni’s conversations with Kait at the rest home are hilarious and the descriptions of some of the residents are brilliantly funny. And Ronni can be really funny as well.

‘I’d spent a lot of my childhood in Violet’s hometown of Anniston. I despised it, but it was the cradle of all that was dear to her. As soon as she found out I had a car…she asked me to drive her around and reminisce. I’d rather have reminisced about my first root canal.’

It’s such a great story, I really couldn’t stop reading. I can understand that this book is like Marmite but a few of the reviews really shocked me. Sometimes I wish people would remember that this is fiction and it’s not meant to be totally realistic so get over it and enjoy the ride. And I wish someone would offer to leave me loads of money to write a novel based on their life. I wouldn’t hesitate. Any offers?

And don’t you just love the cover of the book. It’s gorgeous. I think it may be my favourite ‘cover of the year’.

Many thanks to @zooloo2008 for inviting me to be part of this blog tour.

About the Author

Beth Dial Duke is an Amazon #1 Best Selling author and the recipient of short story awards on two continents. She is eyeing the other five.

Beth lives in the mountains of her native Alabama with her husband, one real dog, and one ornamental dog. She loves reading, writing, and not arithmetic. Baking is a hobby, with semi-pro cupcakes and amateur macarons a speciality. And puns–the worse, the better.

Travel is her other favourite thing, along with joining book groups for discussion. If a personal visit isn’t possible, she is fluent in Zoom. Please visit bethduke.com for more information, to request a book club visit, and to see photos of the most beautiful readers in the world!

Follow her at:
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5399106.Beth_Duke
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/onlythebethforyou/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bethidee
Website : bethduke.com
Twitter : https://twitter.com/bethidee

Buy Links:
Amazon UK : https://www.amazon.co.uk/All-Comes-Back-You-Recommendation-ebook/dp/B07GVN38FX
Amazon US : https://www.amazon.com/All-Comes-Back-You-Recommendation-ebook/dp/B07GVN38FX