Villager by Tom Cox

Tom Cox’s masterful debut novel synthesises his passion for music, nature and folklore into a psychedelic and enthralling exploration of village life and the countryside that sustains it.

There’s so much to know. It will never end, I suspect, even when it does. So much in all these lives, so many stories, even in this small place.

Villages are full of tales: some are forgotten while others become a part of local folklore. But the fortunes of one West Country village are watched over and irreversibly etched into its history as an omniscient, somewhat crabby, presence keeps track of village life.

#Villager @cox_tom Instagram @21stcenturyyokel @unbounders #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

In the late sixties a Californian musician blows through Underhill where he writes a set of haunting folk songs that will earn him a group of obsessive fans and a cult following. Two decades later, a couple of teenagers disturb a body on the local golf course. In 2019, a pair of lodgers discover a one-eyed rag doll hidden in the walls of their crumbling and neglected home. Connections are forged and broken across generations, but only the landscape itself can link them together. A landscape threatened by property development and superfast train corridors and speckled by the pylons whose feet have been buried across the moor.

My Review

Villager is written from the point of view of a number of different ‘characters’, one of whom is an American folk musician called RJ McKendree who ‘blows through’ in the late sixties and stays a while, writing songs inspired by the people of the village of Underhill and the surrounding countryside. He meets many interesting people while he is there. Years later his iconic album Wallflower, recorded in 1968 and released in 1975 becomes the focus of a cult following.

‘Two decades later, a couple of teenagers disturb a body on the local golf course. In 2019, a pair of lodgers discover a one-eyed rag doll hidden in the walls of their crumbling and neglected home.’ The book jumps around between the decades and sometimes feels a bit disjointed but stay with it. Towards the end, we hear from the man who was living in the same house in 1932 and he tells us the origin of the one-eyed doll and why it was hidden in the wall.

I put ‘characters’ above in inverted commas because one of them is not a person – it’s the moor itself. It watches what goes on – a jet skier and his sons disturbing the peace and creating a dangerous situation for the people swimming. But the moor remembers what this man did years ago, when he knocked down a pony and left it to die. The moor is privy to secrets no-one else knows. And it remembers the dark, the old dark, before ‘the time of light’.

‘I honestly can’t tell you how dark it once was around here. I couldn’t even begin to make you understand.’

But my favourite part is about Bob and Sally in 2021 at the start of the pandemic and then 22 years later in 2043. Sally has died and we see what the world might look like in the future.

‘Everyone knew the state of play now, the chorus of denial of two decades ago had fizzled down to a low hum, and. while plenty was being done to stop the acceleration into the void, the two major obstacles standing in the way – corporate greed, and the illusory drive towards convenience – could not be circumnavigated.’

Visors had been introduced ten years earlier – Bob refused to be fitted – Shropshire is disappearing under water, and Bob, now 73, believes that, ‘the planet as it had been known for the last few thousand years would end soon.’ He has nothing electronic, no phone, no internet, little access to news. He believes he is lucky in that he can afford to make that choice and join the Resistance.

His cousins in Stroud chose not to join the Resistance. Now if anyone is going to join the Resistance it would be the people in Stroud!

There is so much in this book that is prophetic, often funny, sometimes sad, and always makes you think. I frequently had to go back and read a sentence or a paragraph again because if you read too quickly you might miss something important.

It’s not a quick, easy read. The language is lyrical and meandering and sometimes the individual stories appear a tad overlong. This is a book to be savoured when you are not in a rush, when you are sitting in the sunshine, on holiday, and without the daily interruptions of life. It breaks all the rules of traditional storytelling and replaces them with its own.

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

About the Author and more

‘I’m writing a novel. My first. It was twenty years ago this month that I took a pen and a notebook up to a hillside in the south of England and decided I was going to write a novel and that doing so was more important to me than anything else in the whole universe, so I thought it was about time. The novel is called Villager and already feels like the most exciting flood of words I’ve ever put down on paper. It also feels new and at times quite frightening, which I have learned, from my previous experience of writing books, both tend to be positives. I would be extraordinarily grateful if you, dear readers, who have so kindly funded my previous four books, were able to help me transfer this new, exciting, frightening experience into something real that will appear on bookshelves late next year. A bit more grateful than before, even, to tell the truth. Because, for me, this feels like the big one. Not big in the sense of “This book could be big, commercially!” But big in the sense of what I’m trying to do, the challenges and risks it represents, and what an enormous, emotive place it occupies on the map of my own personal and creative history.’

Tom Cox lives in Devon. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, the Bad and the Furry and the William Hill Sports Book longlisted Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia. 21st-Century Yokel was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize, and the titular story of Help the Witch won a Shirley Jackson Award. @cox_tom

Tom Cox has 80k followers on Twitter and 33k on Instagram. He is also the man behind the enormously popular Why My Cat is Sad account, which has 240k followers.

Tom is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Good, the Bad and the Furry.

Only May by Carol Lovekin

A young woman haunted by ghosts, magic and long-kept family secrets, in a new novel from the author of the Wales Book of the Year 21 shortlisted Wild Spinning Girls.

I give you fair warning, if you’re planning on lying to me, don’t look me in the eye. It’s May’s 17th birthday – making the air tingle with a tension she doesn’t fully understand. But she knows her mother and her aunt are being evasive; secrets are being kept.

#OnlyMay @carollovekin @honno #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

Like her grandmother before her, May has her own magic: the bees whisper to her as they hover in the garden … the ghosts chatter in the graveyard. And she can’t be fooled by a lie.

She becomes determined to find out what is being kept from her. But when May starts to uncover her own story, she threatens to bring her mother and aunt’s carefully constructed family to the edge of destruction….

My Review

“When my bees swarm….I tell myself it is the death of a lie. I keep still, let the vibrations surround me….Come with us. And, as I am pulled into the hive mind, the bees lay a sleep spell on me. Their best remedy.”

Such poetry, such lyrical writing. I just love this. So many beautiful passages I could quote, but then it wouldn’t be a review, just a series of extracts. Maybe no bad thing.

It’s the 1950s. Just-turned-seventeen-year-old May lives with her mother Esme, her father Billy, seriously wounded and shell-shocked from his experiences in the second world war, and Esme’s sister Ffion. Esme, Billy and May live in the main family house, while somewhat-Bohemian Ffion lives in a caravan in the garden. May and Esme both work at the Drovers Hotel, owned by the indomitable and slightly scary Constance Cadwallader and her live-in lover Amelie Griffin.

‘Keep it under your hat though, May,’ says Ffion, ‘It’s a secret, okay, and no-one’s business but theirs.’ If it became common knowledge, certain people might hate them. ‘They aren’t hurting anyone. Trouble is, I’m afraid prejudice brings out the coward in a lot of people.’

But Constance is lying to her about something else and May can tell. Because May can see who is telling lies – it’s a special gift – like conversing with the bees and hearing ghosts in the graveyard. And Esme and Ffion also have secrets, secrets that will change everything if they ever come out. Yes, even Esme, who ‘loved so deeply, she was in danger of wearing out her heart.’

What can I say. I loved this book. It’s a slow burn, but you need to savour every word, every phrase, every sentence. Just look at this quote. It’s pure poetry:

‘Years later, she was still finding them – slivers of her heart floating in her body. She collected them, like the shards of broken crockery she unearthed in the garden, patterned with grief, saved them for better times that never seemed to come.’

The story is both sad and joyous, the characters among the loveliest I have read about in recent years. There are no bad people here, just a group of characters who thought that what they did was for the best.

Sometimes it takes a while for a story to sink in and it’s only afterwards that you realise you have read something really special. This is such a book.

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

As an aside, my friend and I were out on a walk when she spotted a big, fluffy bee on what I think was a Californian Lilac. I could see her little legs (the bee’s not my friend’s) and feet working away, flicking petals all over the place. ‘She’s working so hard isn’t she,’ said my friend. Thinking of May, I started talking to the bee. We both did. I wish I’d taken a photo.

About the Author

Carol Lovekin has Irish blood and a Welsh heart. She was born in Warwickshire and has lived in mid Wales since 1979. A feminist, she finds fiction the perfect vehicle for telling women’s collective stories. Her books reflect her love of the landscape and mythology of her adopted home.

Also by Carol Lovekin:
GHOSTBIRD: ‘Charming, quirky, magical’ Joanne Harris
SNOW SISTERS: ‘… a novel of magic, of potent spells, and of great beauty.’ Louise
Beech
WILD SPINNING GIRLS: ‘an author with magic in her writing whose words enhance
the lives of those who read her.’ Linda’s Book Bag

Framed (Jax Diamond Mysteries#2) by Gail Meath

It’s a deadly game of who’s who, and who isn’t.

Things get pretty sticky for PI Jax Diamond and his courageous canine partner, Ace, when their best friend, a cop, is framed for murder. And not just anyone’s murder. The victim is the fiancée of the most notorious gangster in the city, Orin Marino, Jax’s worst enemy.

#Framed @GailMeathAuthor @Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours #blogtour

Laura Graystone, the budding Broadway Star and Jax’s new squeeze, proves to be an ingenious partner as they sift through clues trying to find the real murderer. But when Jax is pinched for another crime, Laura and Ace are forced to go undercover.

Hang on to your seat as Jax, Laura and Ace take you on another crazy, whodunit ride during the Roaring Twenties. Where no one is who they seem, and those who do, aren’t. Anything goes during an era of fun and frolic, song and dance, speakeasies, gangsters, bootlegging, and bribes.

My Review

I adored Songbird – the first book in the Jax Diamond series – and this one is just as good, if not better. It’s a rip-roaring ride through a world of murder, gangsters, night clubs, jazz and bootlegging.

Sometimes you can’t help liking the enemy (remember Denzel Washington in American Gangster) and I had a soft spot for Orin Marino right from the beginning. After all, he was Jax’s best mate in the army back when, but then people do change over time, so we need to keep an open mind.

Jax Diamond is our hero – tall, blond and handsome, with a wicked sense of humour. Ex-police officer turned private detective, Jax counts Ace the German Shepherd as his faithful and very clever sidekick. And now he has ‘songbird’ Laura Greystone, feisty, fearless, beautiful and talented on his side. And she knows all about cars. What’s that all about?

So when Orin’s fiancée is found murdered, the intrepid three must discover who is responsible as Jax’s police officer friend Murph is being set up for the murder. One problem though, the last time Jax and Orin met they had a real physical fight, and Jax is blinkered as to who is involved. Orin Marino, end of.

But what’s his motive – apparently he adored his fiancée – and why was Murph hit over the head and almost drowned if he was the killer? It all gets very complicated and then Jax is also implicated and wanted for murder. Where will it end?

It’s a fast-paced, quick and easy read, always exciting and with a brilliant cast of characters. I can’t wait for the next in the series. I’m already casting it for its Netflix series.

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

About the Author

Award-winning author Gail Meath writes historical romance novels that will whisk you away to another time and place in history where you will meet fascinating characters, both fictional and real, who will capture your heart and soul. Meath loves writing about little or unknown people, places and events in history, rather than relying on the typical stories and settings.

Follow her at:
Facebook: https://facebook.com/Gail-Meath-Author-121289219261348
Instagram: https://instagram.com/gailmeathauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GailMeathAuthor
Website: https://www.gailmeath.com

Buy Links
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/FRAMED-JAX-DIAMOND-MYSTERIES-Book-ebook/dp/B09L8FG6DH
Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/FRAMED-JAX-DIAMOND-MYSTERIES-Book-ebook/dp/B09L8FG6DH

The People on Platform 5 by Clare Pooley

Nobody ever talks to strangers on the train. It’s a rule. But what would happen if they did? From the New York Times and Globe and Mail bestselling author of The Authenticity Project, a heartwarming novel about unexpected friendships and the joy of connecting.

Every day Iona, a larger-than-life magazine advice columnist, travels the ten stops from Hampton Court to Waterloo Station by train, accompanied by her dog, Lulu. Every day she sees the same people, whom she knows only by nickname: Impossibly-Pretty-Constant-Reader and Terribly-Lonely-Teenager. Of course, they never speak. Seasoned commuters never do.

Then one morning, the man she calls Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader chokes on a grape right in front of her. He’d have died were it not for the timely intervention of Sanjay, a nurse, who gives him the Heimlich maneuver.

This single event starts a chain reaction, and an eclectic group of people with almost nothing in common except their commute discover that a chance encounter can blossom into much more. It turns out that talking to strangers can teach you about the world around you – and even more about yourself.

My Review

I enjoyed The Authenticity Project, but The People on Platform 5 takes feelgood to a whole new level. Warm, funny and totally relatable – it’s a masterclass in how to write a heartwarming story.

Magazine therapist Iona, high-flyer Piers, cancer nurse Sanjay, pretty bookworm Emmie (who Sanjay fancies like mad) and teenager Martha are thrown together every day on a journey of ten stops from Hampton Court to Waterloo Station. We also meet David, whose marriage is on the rocks, gym owner Jake and of course Iona’s dog Lulu who has her own seat on the train and God help anyone who tries to sit there.

No-one ever speaks – Iona’s first rule of commuting – until one morning the man opposite starts to choke on a grape and Sanjay comes to the rescue. And this mismatched group of misfits (my apologies for calling them that – it’s not meant as an insult) are forced to speak to each other. And Iona is the glue that holds them together.

This is such a lovely story and I adored reading it in daily staves with my online book club friends, as we could discuss all the characters and their sometimes strange behaviour. Why does Iona think she is an old, saggy, baggy, has-been at 57? She had a colourful life, so why give up now? And why does Piers behave like a 50-year-old when he is only 38? We did laugh at some of the crazy goings-on and never more so than at the tale of Sanjay’s mother Meera and her innocent use of inappropriate emojis.

It’s such a happy book, though often tinged with sadness, because not everything can be fixed. And it also inspired what is now my new favourite hashtag #bemoreiona.

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

About the Author

Clare Pooley graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge and spent twenty years in the heady world of advertising. Clare’s memoir – The Sober Diaries – has helped thousands of people around the world to quit drinking. The Authenticity Project, Clare’s first novel, was a New York Times bestseller, a BBC Radio 2 book club pick, and winner of the RNA debut novel award.

Clare’s second novel – The People on Platform 5 in the UK, and Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting in the USA – is out now.

How To Spot A Psychopath (Oscar de la Nuit #1) by MQ Webb

Could you tell…

Would you?

When four-year-old Mia Edwards goes missing on a play date, everyone suspects Jessica Green knows what happened, especially Mia’s mother, Holly…

But Jess won’t tell anyone.

#HowToSpotAPsychopath @marswebb1 @Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours #blogtour

Psychiatrist, Dr. Oscar de la Nuit, is perceptive and determined to save Jess from the same regret and secrets he lives with.

Oscar thinks he has Jess figured out, but will she lead to Oscar’s redemption, or will she be his downfall?

My Review

Two complex characters – Dr Oscar de la Nuit, forensic psychiatrist at Whitner Psychiatric Hospital and his patient, Jessica Green. Jess is keeping secrets and can Oscar get her to trust him enough to reveal what they are.

Because a child has gone missing – Mia Edwards – and everyone believes Jess knows where she is, or maybe even killed her and hid the body.

But Jess is not the only one shrouded in mystery. Her husband Clay was almost killed by an intruder but the police believe it was Jess who tried to kill him. But what was her motive? She swears she didn’t do it. Is she telling the truth?

Then we have Holly who has tried to infiltrate her way into Jess’s friendship group, succeeding with Jess’s sister Niki. Their children all go to the same school and Mia has attached herself to Zoe, Jess’s five year old daughter. Mia also has secrets of her own. Is mummy hurting her? She is too scared to tell. And her daddy Ray is dead according to Holly, but Holly is the worst liar of all, claiming that Ray beat her up, but is that the truth? Even Zoe has secrets. Does she know what happened the day Mia went missing?

This is the main story, but this is also about Oscar. He is trying to get over a tragedy in his own life while rebuilding a new one. Can he form a relationship with a colleague and overcome his own feelings of guilt? And can he prevent Charles from discretiting him?

A lot of questions to be answered and secrets to be revealed in this exciting debut from a new author. 3.5/5 stars.

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

About the Author

MQ Webb has always believed in the transformational nature of words, and a medium to utilise them. How to Spot a Psychopath is the first book in the Oscar de la Nuit Psychological Thriller series.

Born without a Middle name, Q is such an undervalued letter of the alphabet, only appearing with u, so thought they would give it some respect by acknowledging it in their name.

A fascination with human behavior and motivation led them to study psychology. They once worked in a building that was converted from a gaol and is a marketing consultant for NFP’s, universities, and the public sector.

Follow her at:
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/MQWebbAuthor
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/mqwebbauthor/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/marswebb1

Buy Links
Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09NW85VRH
Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09NW85VRH

The Lie In by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

You have to make the most of a day off. But Pat’s lie-in isn’t going to plan and now his day off is turning out to be a disaster. Poor Pat! How much worse can it get?

Written by Peter Foster
Adapted for radio by Emmeline Braefield

With
Jason Parkes as Pat
Genevieve Swift as Winona and Miss Bushell
and
Elsie Parkes as Nick

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions 

Music:
Come On Out by Dan Lebowitz

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 @theatrephonic, or visit their Facebook page.

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

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon 

A NICE, NORMAL HOUSE
Linda has lived around here ever since she fled the dark events of her childhood in Wales. Now she sits in her kitchen, wondering if this is all there is – pushing the Hoover round and cooking fish fingers for tea is a far cry from the glamorous lifestyle she sees in the glossy catalogues coming through the door for the house’s previous occupant.


A NICE, NORMAL HUSBAND
Terry isn’t perfect – he picks his teeth, tracks dirt through the house and spends most of his time in front of the TV. But that seems fairly standard – until he starts keeping odd hours at work, at around the same time young women start to go missing in the neighbourhood.


A NICE, NORMAL LIFE…
If Linda could just track down Rebecca, who lived in the house before them, maybe some of that perfection would rub off on her. But the grass isn’t always greener: you can’t change who you really are, and there’s something nasty lurking behind the net curtains on Cavendish Avenue…

My Review

When I was asked to read and review A Tidy Ending, I read the blurb and immediately said yes. It was only when I started reading that I discovered that the author also wrote The Trouble With Goats and Sheep which I read and enjoyed a few years ago. I knew therefore that I would love it. And I did.

Linda is the main character and we are reading in her voice. She is so naive, there are times when I cringed as I dreaded what she was going to do or say next. Still at the beck and call of her mother Eunice (who is one of my favourite characters in the book), Linda’s confidence has been knocked from early childhood, made to believe she is big and clumsy, yet her mother still keeps feeding her cake and puddings.

Linda and Eunice left their home in Wales following an unfortunate incident with Linda’s father, a piano teacher, and a number of his attractive, female, teenage students. Linda, however, maintains the girls made it all up, even though she caught him ‘at it’ when she was eleven years old. He was just comforting them, she maintains.

One of the saddest parts is when Linda is invited to a dinner party and even buys an expensive trouser suit, plus shoes and a handbag, only to discover she is not actually going to be a guest. I was heartbroken for her. The suit is ruined but she still makes excuses for the person who invited her.

But this is not a simple tale. It’s full of twists and turns and it’s also hilarious with as much dark humour as you can hope for in a book that revolves around a serial killer. It’s so well written, witty, clever and full of sharp observations, like the following.

‘When someone writes down what you say, what you say doesn’t belong to you any more. It belongs to the person who writes it down, and all the other people who read it, and everyone can look at your words and see whatever it is they want to see,’ observes Linda. And that’s the whole point. People only see what they want to see, don’t they.

It’s definitely one of my favourite books of the year. I just loved it. As I already said, it’s so clever – much more so than I could possibly have imagined.

About the Author

Joanna Cannon’s first two novels, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep and Three Things about Elsie, were both Sunday Times bestsellers and Richard and Judy picks. She is a regular panellist on radio, TV and at literary festivals across the country. Her writing has appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Guardian, amongst others.

Joanna left school at fifteen with one O-level and worked her way through many different jobs before returning to school in her thirties and qualifying as a doctor in her forties. Her work as a psychiatrist and interest in people on the fringes of society continue to inspire her writing.

The Safe House by Louise Mumford

“The house keeps us safe,” she says. “There’s nothing left for us outside.”

Esther is safe in the house. For sixteen years, she and her mother have lived off the grid, protected from the dangers of the outside world. For sixteen years, Esther has never seen another single soul.

Until today.

Today there’s a man outside the house. A man who knows Esther’s name, and who proves that her mother’s claims about the outside world are false. A man who is telling Esther that she’s been living a lie.

Is her mother keeping Esther safe – or keeping her prisoner?

My Review

Following a severe asthma attack that nearly killed her when she was five years old, Esther has been living in a ‘prepper’-style bunker in the middle of nowhere, with her mother Hannah. How they arrived there forms quite a large part of the story, but as it progresses, we realise that Hannah has become obsessive over Esther’s safety to the point where Esther has not left the House for sixteen years. Because ‘What keeps us safe? – the House.’

According to ‘Mother’, Esther’s father was killed in an explosion at the steelworks where he was employed, and Out There ie where the rest of us live, is too dangerous for Esther. Her only friend is a stuffed velvet whale called Mr Wiffles who speaks to Esther, apart from her inhaler of course.

Then one day, just as Esther has turned twenty-one, everything changes. It starts with a bird that has injured itself and Esther wants to help it. But Mother just flings the bird away, not even checking to see if it’s dead and Esther sees another side to the only person she has known since she was five.

And then a young man turns up and he knows her name. Who is he and what does he want? Why is he telling her that everything she has been led to believe about Out There is a lie. But the man is caught in a bear trap and needs her help.

I loved this story SO MUCH. I can’t begin to tell you how much I adored it. Poor Esther, but also poor Hannah, whose obsession has gone beyond what is normal (if obsession is ever normal) and tipped her into a kind of madness. She’s only trying to protect her daughter, but in saving her life, she’s denied her a family and a normal childhood.

This is one of my favourite books of the year.

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

About the Author

Louise Mumford was born and lives in South Wales. From a young age, she loved books and dancing, but hated having to go to sleep, convinced that she might miss out on something interesting happening in the world whilst she dozed – much to her mother’s frustration! Insomnia has been a part of her life ever since.

She studied English Literature at university and graduated with first-class honours. As a teacher, she tried to pass on her love of reading to her students (and discovered that the secret to successful teaching is… stickers! She is aware that that is, essentially, bribery.)

In the summer of 2019, Louise experienced a once-in-a-lifetime moment: she was discovered as a new writer by her publisher at the Primadonna Festival. Everything has been a bit of a whirlwind since then.

Louise lives in Cardiff with her husband and spends her time trying to get down on paper all the marvellous and frightening things that happen in her head.

The Beautiful Ones by Julia Sutton

Caitlyn Shaw has it all. Surrounded by loving friends and family, she is excited to begin her training to become a primary school teacher.  Her dream job, one which she’s been working steadily towards her whole life.  

However in 2008 things start to go wrong.  After suffering a traumatic event, Caitlyn’s idyllic life is shattered.  She finds herself spiralling into an abyss of mental terror and despair which manifests as a psychotic break.  Caitlyn is subsequently hospitalised in a psychiatric unit and her future no longer appears so rosy.  

#TheBeautifulOnes @sparklyauthor @Zooloo’s Book Tours @zooloo2008 #ZooloosBookTours #blogtour

Desperately ill, she refuses to believe there is anything wrong with her and rebels against the hospital staff.  A battle of wills ensues, as she begins her fight back to sanity, challenging the many stigmas that blight people with this misunderstood condition.  

Can Caitlyn drag herself back from the brink to fulfil her dreams? Find out in one woman’s harrowing journey.  

Come and walk for a while with The Beautiful Ones

My Review

Almost every one of the books I have read recently has made me cry and The Beautiful Ones is no exception.

While I have considerable experience of mental illness due to my mum’s chronic anxiety and agoraphobia, I have never known anyone suffering from psychosis. It’s a very hard condition to understand and I can’t pretend that I do. Caitlyn’s paranoia that people are following her and watching her, while she is trying to make her family believe that it’s real is hard to read. It’s hard for her father too who is slightly less patient than her mother and sisters.

Caitlyn’s condition starts to spiral into further psychosis and she becomes a danger to herself as she goes to the police saying that her poor neighbour is stalking her, that her university lecturers know secrets about her and that TV and radio stations are transmitting messages telling her what to do.

I’ve read books where someone is accused of being paranoid when in fact it’s all true and they are trying to discredit the main character in some way. But that is not what this is. Caitlyn’s delusions are not real and she is soon getting out of control.

When she is finally hospitalised, she still thinks her imaginings are real and that everyone is out to get her. She refuses to admit that she is ill and won’t take the medication that would help her.

This is not an easy book to read. It’s quite short and I read it in two sittings. In Caitlyn’s own words; ‘…sometimes too much has happened to build bridges, and for Caitlyn Shaw there isn’t going to be a fairy-tale ending.’ It’s very sad but probably more realistic. This is not chick-lit romance – this is an insightful look into serious mental illness.

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

About the Author in her own words

“Hello I’m Julia Sutton, born and raised in Wolverhampton, I love it so much I still live here. 😊 I’m fifty at the end of May and have been married for 24 years with two grown up children.

“I’ve had a variety of careers – I started out as a sales assistant in a newsagents and have worked as a secretary, a teaching assistant and most recently a lunchtime supervisor in a primary school. I’m now happily retired but am studying for a Masters in Creative Writing. I’m also a part time author who has written and published 9 adult fiction novels.

“I’m an avid reader who also loves drawing, walking, listening to music and spending time with my family and friends.”

Follow her at:
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/booksbyjulia1972/
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/booksbyjulia72/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sparklyauthor
TikTok : @sparklyauthor

Buy Links
Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beautiful-Ones-Stunningly-haunting-fiction-ebook/dp/B09VCXCP98/
Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Ones-Stunningly-haunting-fiction-ebook/dp/B09VCXCP98

The Caulder’s Well Trial of 1648 by Cat on a Piano Productions / Theatrephonic

There is a great evil abroad, but it’s not what you might think.

A woman sits shackled in a cage waiting for the two witchfinders, March and Dale, to pronounce their verdict.

But wait a minute. This woman appears to have done nothing but good. Easing pain and curing illness goes against the will of God, they tell the townsfolk. They are punishments for evil and the sins of Eve.

The witchfinders are still building the pyre.
Five wise women burnt at the stake in just one year – there is a great evil abroad.

And charred bones are easier to hide than corpses.

I loved this short story. Absolutely brilliant.

A short story written by Silvandar

Read by Emma Wilkes

Produced by Cat on a Piano Productions

Music:
Yonder Hill and Dale 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 @theatrephonic, or visit their Facebook page.

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

The Shadow Child by Rachel Hancox

Eighteen-year-old Emma has loving parents and a promising future ahead of her. So why, one morning, does she leave home without a trace?

Her parents, Cath and Jim, are devastated. They have no idea why Emma left, where she is – or even whether she is still alive. A year later, Cath and Jim are still tormented by the unanswered questions Emma left behind and clinging desperately to the hope of finding her.

#TheShadowChild #RachelHancox @centurybooksuk @PenguinUKBooks #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

Meanwhile, tantalisingly close to home, Emma is also struggling with her new existence –
and with the trauma that shattered her life.


For all of them, reconciliation seems an impossible dream. Does the way forward lie in facing up to the secrets of the past – secrets that have been hidden for years? Secrets that have the power to heal them, or to destroy their family forever.

The Shadow Child is a book of hope and reconciliation, of coming to terms with trauma and learning to love again. Most of all, it’s about how you can never quite escape from the shadows of your past – especially when one of those shadows is a child …

My Review

This is a story about loss and love, guilt, grief and secrets. And reconciliation.

It’s the story of an ordinary couple – Cath and Jim – and the teenage daughter who walked out one day and never came back. I can’t imagine what that must be like, the uncertainty, the not knowing.

Emma had a twin called Rose. We know something bad happened to her, but it takes a while before we discover the whole story.

A year after Emma disappeared, Cath and Jim have bought a cottage. It’s ideal to rent out, they just need to find the perfect tenants. And they do – in Nick and Lara, a young married couple for whom life seems idyllic. But one of them has a secret that lies so deeply buried, it is in danger of tearing everything apart.

My favourite part of the book is when we hear from Emma’s point of view. Her reasons for running away stem from guilt, rather than anger. It was heartbreaking. Her room-mate Jeannie also has her own secrets and her story is one of the saddest of all.

I deeply sympathised with all the characters, apart from Jim. While it’s no surprise that he lies about something he’s done (no spoilers), I could not understand why he lies about certain other things, or rather he decides not to tell Cath. In fact everything he does could break Cath’s heart all over again. Poor Cath. She doesn’t deserve the hurt inflicted upon her.

You’ll need plenty of tissues towards the end. I certainly did, but what a wonderful, heartfelt book that all mothers will be able to identify with.

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

About the Author

RACHEL HANCOX read Medicine and Social and Political Science at Cambridge, qualified as a doctor three months after getting married, and has juggled her family, her career and a passion for writing ever since. She worked in Paediatrics and Public Health for twenty years, writing short stories alongside NHS policy reports, and drafting novels during successive bouts of maternity leave. Rachel has five children, three dogs and a cat. She lives in Oxford with her husband and youngest children.

Lost Property by Helen Paris


One lost purse. One lost woman.
A chance encounter that changes everything.


Dot Watson has lost her way. Wracked with guilt and struggling with grief, she has tucked herself away in the London Transport Lost Property office, finding solace in the process of cataloguing misplaced things. It’s not glamorous or exciting, but it’s solitary – just the way Dot likes it.

#LostPropertyBook @drhelenparis @DoubleDayUK #RandomThingsTours @annecater @RandomTTours #blogtour

That is, until elderly Mr Appleby walks through the door in search of his late wife’s purse and Dot immediately feels a connection to him. Determined to help, she sets off on an extraordinary journey, one that could lead Dot to reclaim her life and find where she truly belongs…

My Review

Each year I wait for that one book that grabs me by the heart and won’t let go. One of those books is Lost Property. Every phrase, every sentence, in this wonderful story needs to be savoured. You can’t read this beautiful book too quickly or you will miss something worthwhile.

There is a very poignant moment where Dot remembers her father’s death and how her mother was washing and ironing his clothes to give them away to the charity shop. Dot is furious and can’t understand her mum’s behaviour. I remember a friend whose mum had taken her own life and how cross she was that her sister had started to clear their mum’s house a few days later. She thought it was disrespectful. We have to remember that everyone handles grief in their own way. For some that clearance is cathartic, while for others it’s too painful. My mum died in hospital in 1992 but had been living in a nursing home and my brother and I had four days to clear her belongings from her room. They already had a new patient, but at the time it was terrible. In hindsight I can understand, especially as my mother-in-law passed away recently and we had to do the same thing.

I was at times reminded of The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan (one of my favourite books of all time) just because each lost item has its own ‘identity’. Like in Keeper, Dot gives some items their own back story. Dot also collects lost travel guides which have not been collected, taking them home and arranging them by country or other criteria. Occasionally she finds a duplicate which she then pops into the pocket of a lost coat or bag, very carefully matching the guide to the owner.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved this book. How much I laughed and how much I cried. The saddest parts of the story are when Dot visits her mum in The Pines care home, where she is suffering from dementia. I cried while reading – it was so beautifully written – Dot so desperate for her mum to remember something, anything. Just for a glimpse of the woman who sang like an angel.

I know one criticism is that Dot seems much older than she is, but that’s the whole point isn’t it? She is old before her time. I think she is only about late thirties – maybe 40 – but she dresses and behaves like someone’s maiden aunt. Until she finds herself again.

Her journey of rediscovery begins when Dot goes looking for an elderly gentleman named Mr Appleby, to reunite him with his leather holdall and his late wife’s purse. The only clues that Dot has to go on are a receipt from a coffee shop called Judges, that the town has a funicular railway and fisherman’s huts and that it overlooks the channel. I guessed immediately!!

But her greatest grief is over the death of her father and the guilt she feels. ‘Loss is the price we pay for love,’ says Mr Appleby. How true.

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

About the Author

Helen Paris worked in the performing arts for two decades, touring internationally with her London-based theatre company Curious. After several years living in San Francisco and working as a theatre professor at Stanford University, she returned to the UK to focus on writing fiction. As part of her research for a performance called ‘Lost & Found’, Paris shadowed employees in the Baker Street Lost Property office for a week, an experience that sparked her imagination and inspired this novel.

Lost Property is her first novel.

A note from Helen:
Although entirely a work of fiction Lost Property was influenced by the short time I spent in Lost Property, Baker Street shadowing different employees as research for a performance. Whether it’s a designer bag left in the back of a black cab or a woolly scarf forgotten on the number 44 bus, loss touches all of us. It is pervasive, and it never ends – as Dot Watson might say, ‘It’s reliable like that.’

I have always been fascinated by the memories that objects hold, how even the most every day object – a pipe, a bag, a small purse – can help us recall a place or a person or a particular time in life. Objects can be totemic, portals to the past. Tactile memory – the memories triggered by holding familiar objects – can be profound. Some objects almost let us time-travel back to the places we yearn to be, to the people no longer with us, and linger there, if only for a moment.”