blog tour · book review · literary fiction · thriller · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Games We Played

GameswePlayed

Welcome to the tour for Games We Played, a gripping novel by Shawne Steiger! Read on for details and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!Games-We-Played-500x800-Cover-Reveal-and-Promotional

Games We Played

Publication Date: October 17th, 2020

Genre: Literary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction/ Thriller

When actress Rachel Goldberg shares her personal views on a local radio show, she becomes a target for online harassment. Things go too far when someone paints a swastika on her front door, not only terrifying her but also dredging up some painful childhood memories. Rachel escapes to her hometown of Carlsbad. To avoid upsetting her parents, she tells them she’s there to visit her Orthodox Jewish grandmother, even though that’s the last thing she wants to do. But trouble may have followed her. Stephen Drescher is home from Iraq, but his dishonorable discharge contaminates his transition back to civilian life. His old skinhead friends, the ones who urged him to enlist so he could learn to make better bombs, have disappeared, and he can’t even afford to adopt a dog. Thinking to reconnect with his childhood friend, he googles Rachel’s name and is stunned to see the comments on her Facebook page. He summons the courage to contact her, Rachel and Stephen, who have vastly different feelings about the games they played and what might come of their reunion, must come to terms with their pasts before they can work toward their futures.

Note: Possible Triggers

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Excerpt

Stevie and his mother were evicted from their apartment after his mother’s big fight with the landlord at two in the morning. They left with only his mother’s purse and went to his grandpa’s house to sleep. Stevie had seen his grandpa just once before, and he barely remembered the visit. For the whole taxi ride, his mother kept saying, “Just until I get a job. We won’t stay long. Don’t worry, Stevie.”

He dozed, lulled by a spicy cigar smell and the erratic crackle of the radio from the front of the car. The driver let them out at a two-story stucco house that loomed like a yellow castle in the shadows of streetlight and moon. Stephen followed his mother through a wrought-iron gate that opened to a sidewalk made of pink stone

slabs. He lurked behind her when she knocked, looking around at the rock garden, a few lemon trees, and a big white wall that surrounded the front yard, blocking any view except for bits of road.

Nobody answered, so his mother dropped her purse and slammed the heel of her hand into the doorbell over and over. Then she turned away from the door, picked up her purse, grabbed Stephen’s arm, and dragged him toward the gate and the street, and the door finally opened. His grandpa stood on the threshold, silhouetted by a glow from the living room. Stephen would always remember that glimpse of his grandpa, the faded gray robe held closed at the chest, the gnarled toenails and bushy white hair, how big he was. He wasn’t fat, just big and as shaggy as the mountains he could see from Carlsbad, even though it took eight hours to reach them.

His grandpa stared at Stephen’s mother with bloodshot eyes. Then he looked down at Stephen and twisted his mouth into a closed-lipped grimace. Later, Stephen learned that his grandpa didn’t like to show his mouth when he wasn’t wearing his dentures, but at the time, the vampire smile frightened Stevie.

“Well, you might as well come in, then.”

His grandpa’s voice was harsh and phlegmy. After he finished talking, he coughed until his face turned red, and he lit up a cigarette. Stevie’s mother propelled him through the front door and into the house, where they stayed much longer than she had promised.

Two weeks later, they were still there. Stevie’s mother stayed in her room nearly all the time, leaving Stevie to eat Hungry-Man frozen dinners and watch The Price is Right with his grandpa. When she did come downstairs, she pulled a kitchen chair into the living room and sat on that, far away from Stevie and Grandpa on the sofa.

When Stevie had his sixth birthday, his mother didn’t come down to sing “Happy Birthday,” buy him a cake at the grocery store, or tell him she was sorry she couldn’t afford a present but that she loved him. But his grandpa made sure he had a special day.

He took Stevie up to the attic and showed him the guns gleaming on their racks inside a tall wooden case with a glass front. His grandpa opened a cardboard box next to the gun case and dug beneath a bunch of magazines until he produced a silver key. He inserted the key into the lock very precisely, as if opening that case was a more delicate task than shaving the whiskers around his throat. Then he removed the guns one by one and showed them to Stevie.

He had six guns in six different shapes and sizes—three thick-handled guns with narrow noses that his grandpa said were Lugers, a smaller-nosed pistol called a Walther, a rifle called a Mauser, and one MG 34 machine gun. Stevie liked the rifle best because its long brown nose seemed sleek and dangerous.

His grandpa cradled it. “With this Mauser, I killed a Jew resistance fighter who thought he could get away.

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About the Author

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Shawne Steiger wrote her first story when she was seven. Over the years, she has been a pizza maker, dressage teacher, house cleaner, and therapist. The one constant in her life has been her writing, which is why, after years working as a trauma therapist, she applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts and completed an MFA in Fiction writing. After learning that she’s happiest when writing, Shawne published short stories and essays in several literary journals. Supporting her writing habit with her social work degree, Shawne frequently incorporates her understanding of how trauma affects people into her fiction. When not writing or working, she enjoys going to the theater, reading and travel. Luckily her love of travel stops her from fully realizing her aspirations to enter the realm of mad cat woman, since she’s yet to find the perfect suitcase that will fit both her cats and still be light enough to carry.

Shawne Steiger | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | BookBub

My Review

I had great expectations for this story given that it touches on so many themes current to modern times: white supremacy, abortion, and being gay are topics charged with controversy when emotion takes the place of facts.

The stories hops about from different time periods usually from the main viewpoints of Rachel and Stephen who grew up together, and whose “war games” are those referred to in the book’s title. Innocent though those games seemed then, it set the scene for the type of adults they became.

Rachel’s life changes when her grandmother, Gladys, comes to live with her and her parents, a move not welcomed by Rachel’s mother at all, since Gladys is a devout Jewish women and insists on them living a kosher lifestyle from thereon. For Rachel, it means an end to her magic tricks and generally any freedoms she had before Gladys arrived. It’s no surprise she shuns that life at the earliest opportunity.

Now an actress, she has a difficult relationship with her girlfriend, since Liz is still living a “married” life with her husband, supposedly for the sake of the kids. When Liz lets her down once again, on her birthday, Rachel is forced to consider their future as a couple. Hooking up with Jo, a policewoman, that night only heightens her confusion.

Yet, her love life is not her only concern. Not when a group of white supremacists take offense to a comment she makes about the character she is currently playing in the theatre. When they track her down on social media, it’s scary to see the lengths they will go to in order to put the “Jew Girl” right.

Stephen’s life is pretty much a mess since he left the army, dishonourably discharged, and he reinvents himself as someone who is more impressive than he really is, at least to those he chooses to consort with (the white supremacists). Yet when his old friend comes under attack from that very group he is torn between how he feels towards Rachel and how much he wants to belong to that group.

Rachel visits her parents in California, planning to say goodbye to Gladys who is in hospital with dementia. Leaving her home will give her time to think about her relationship, and also put some space between her and her hunters.

Except they are persistent in their desire to find her. Going so far as to find her grandmother’s hospital as a place to wait for Rachel to arrive.

The tension ratchets up as the group get closer to Rachel, and her life and that of her family seems in danger all because of that one comment. Scary stuff!

I’m not going to spoil the ending here. The pace in the latter stages of the story was much faster than in early chapters, where if I hadn’t read the blurb, I would have been wondering where the story was heading. I must admit to not really liking any of the characters, even Rachel, but particularly not Stephen whose neediness and desire to impress left him looking weak and insignificant in my eyes.

Did I enjoy the book? “Enjoy” wouldn’t be the word to describe my feelings here; it’s not the sort of story that you read for enjoyment. It was, however, fascinating and intriguing. A warts and all look at the issues it addressed, of which there are many. I did feel for Rachel. From the moment Gladys arrived permanently in her home, her world was turned upside down, and I could understand how she felt towards the old lady in later life. It did become evident though, that there was another side to Gladys that Rachel didn’t see, and that struck me as sad. For me, the overriding sentiment was a realisation of the damage that racism, hostility and partisanship can create. Add to that other family traumas, and the combination is explosive and surprising.

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book review · literary fiction

Book Review – The Bodies That Move

by Bunye Ngene

Finalist 2021 Next Generation Indie Book awards

“But what other options are available to you when you’re stuck in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea in a tiny dinghy other than to reflect on your life and how the decisions you made brought you there?”

The Bodies That Move tells the riveting story of a man who embarks on a journey in search of greener pastures.

Abandoned by his father as a child, Nosa is forced to bear the responsibility of caring for his mother and siblings. Seeing no future in Nigeria, he is persuaded by an old schoolmate to migrate to Europe. In order to achieve this, he employs the services of smugglers.

His journey takes him through many transit cities, safe houses and detention camps in Nigeria, Niger and war-torn Libya, and sees him cross the Sahara Desert. On his journey, he meets other travellers, each with unique stories. They are all united, however, by the desire for a better life in Europe.

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My Review

The story begins with Nosa stranded in a dinghy on the Mediterranean sea, heading for Italy in search of a better life for himself (and his family back in Nigeria). Alongside him are equally desperate passengers, none more so than a young woman willing life into the body of her dead baby. Instantly, the reader is aware of the risks these people are taking and how fortunate we are to have not faced such a struggle.

Then, the story heads back in time to explain and illustrate why and how Nosa ended up in that boat.

Nosa is an excellent student, top of his class, destined for great things. But coming from a single-parent family with little in the way of money, he’s immediately at a disadvantage even when it comes to simply progressing through the interview stages for a job at the bank – where, incredulously, a fee is required to permit him through despite his outstanding resumé.

Nosa is obliged to contact the father who left him and his mother many years, and who is now a wealthy man, albeit one who has played no part in his son’s life since. Contact made, and money for the fee acquired, Nosa learns from a ‘friend’ he met at the bank that he wouldn’t get the job anyway since it would be awarded to some rich man’s son, regardless of merit.

And so the journey to Europe becomes a reality. Of course, it’s not as simple as boarding a flight. Nosa will pass through many places, including detention centres, as well as being “sold” to work as a gardener before he can even get close to the ocean. He’ll travel through his home country, onto war-torn Libya, and across the Sahara desert beforehand. He’ll meet people from across the continent, some who are rejected partway through the journey as their agent (smuggler) has not paid for the full trip. He’ll go hungry, get beaten, and robbed. He’ll see women led away to be raped, men kicked to death, people abandoned in the desert, left to die. And many a time he’ll wonder if it will be worth it. But there’s no turning back.

The Bodies That Move is a most moving story, encapsulating the perils and exploitation that refugees must encounter to find that so-called better life. I found it to be a compelling read, filled with every emotional circumstance possible: friendships are formed and lost, hopes are raised then dashed, but despite everything there is a determination that keeps Nosa and those like him going.

An important story given the headlines we’re used to seeing, and one that paints the true picture of the human cost of these journeys, and the extent of the exploitation of those who feel they have no choice but to leave everything and everyone they know for a chance at a better life.

Highly recommended!

As always,

Amazon Reviewer Name
Reviewed on Amazon UK as Meandthemutts
book blitz · contemporary fiction · humour · literary fiction

Book Blitz – Everyday Magic

EverdayMagic2

Great news! If you pre-order a copy of Everyday Magic by Charlie Laidlaw, you will receive a signed edition! But you have to order before May 26th!

Everyday Magic Front cover FINALEveryday Magic

Expected Publication Date: May 26th, 2021

Genre: Literary fiction/ Contemporary Fiction/ Humour

Publisher: Ringwood Publishing

Carole Gunn leads an unfulfilled life and knows it. She’s married to someone who may, or may not, be in New York on business and, to make things worse, the family’s deaf cat has been run over by an electric car.

But something has been changing in Carole’s mind. She’s decided to revisit places that hold special significance for her. She wants to better understand herself, and whether the person she is now is simply an older version of the person she once was.

Instead, she’s taken on an unlikely journey to confront her past, present and future.

Everyday Magic is an uplifting book filled with humour and poignancy, and reminds us that, while our pasts make us who we are, we can always change the course of our futures.

Pre-Order HERE!

About the Author

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Charlie Laidlaw lives in East Lothian, one of the main settings for Everyday Magic. He has four other published novels: Being Alert!, The Space Between Time, The Things We Learn When We’re Dead and Love Potions and Other Calamities. Previously a journalist and defence intelligence analyst, Charlie now teaches Creative Writing in addition to his writing career.

Charlie Laidlaw | Facebook | Twitter

 

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cover reveal · literary fiction · psychological suspense · RABT Book Tours

Cover Reveal – La Chimere of Prague


Literary Fiction / Psychological Suspense

Date Published: October 28, 2020


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Joseph is haunted. His mermaid bi-sexual ex-girlfriend drowned in mysterious circumstances. Naked Pete may have the answers, if he would pick up his phone. Joseph doesn’t pay for sex; the price is more than he bargained for. Waitress-turned-supermodel Karina stays over, only to run off to Italy with her English tutor. Now Joseph’s 9-month obsession is back; she’s ready for more. Is it too late?

 

            “Spicy, witty, charming and surprisingly hilarious. Unrelenting entertainment.” — Rabia Tanveer, 5-star review

About the Author

 Award-winning author and poet Rick Pryll lived in Prague from 1997 to 2002. He currently lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, artist Holly Spruck HMCAS. This is his fourth book.

 

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blog tour · book review · contemporary fiction · literary fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Surviving Me

Surviving Me

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.

Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.

All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.

If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.

This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.



Purchase Links

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/48660416-surviving-me

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Surviving-Me-Jo-Johnson/dp/1789650615

https://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Me-Jo-Johnson/dp/1789650615

 

Author Bio

I’m very excited that my debut novel ‘Surviving Me’ is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.

I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.

I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.

Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”. 

In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.


Social Media Links 

https://en-gb.facebook.com/shrinkingthesmirch/

Giveaway to Win two signed copies of Surviving Me & five Surviving Me fridge magnets (Open INT)

1st Prize – 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me

5 Runners Up – each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet

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

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My Review

5/5 stars

This has been probably one of the most engaging books I’ve read this year.  The reason: it’s very real, believable, and features topics that we just don’t talk enough about. I loved it!

Written primarily from the male viewpoint of Tom, with occasional chapters headed up by his wife, Siri, the story eases us into their everyday life. Siri wants a baby, but it’s not happening which starts to create tensions. So when Tom loses his job, he’s wary of telling Siri, and hopes to find a new one quickly and then break the news.

But the new job doesn’t happen, and Tom’s insecurities mount. Rather than face up to the truth, he continues his regular routine, pretending to go to work, and with each passing day it becomes harder to tell her. 

What does he do then, when he’s pretending to be at work? He drives around, not too far because fuel costs money, but eventually stops off at a café in a small village where he can be anonymous while applying for jobs on his laptop. Here there are no expectations, no judgements to be made. 

But this is no ordinary café, or rather the owner and the regulars are not so easily duped. While keeping their distance, they notice him …and his visits become more frequent and longer lasting. He finds himself intrigued by them too, especially a young girl, Lydia, who sits alone by the window, lost in her own world.

At home, Siri is still fretting about not conceiving, so both of them visit the doctors for tests. When Tom finds out he is infertile, this is another blow to his confidence … and another secret to keep for as long as he can. Already feeling pretty worthless, knowing he can’t give Siri the one thing she wants tips him over the edge. His own personal depression is not helped by other worries about his brother-in-law’s odd behaviour. In all, everything seems to be going wrong. 

You’ll have to read for yourself what happens next – you won’t be disappointed. There are moments of sadness, poignancy, hope and despair, but above all, there’s a sense of love, togetherness, and community.  

I don’t have any personal experience of depression, but there is a genuine sense of vulnerability in many of the characters. They are real people, with real flaws and issues, and a very real British approach to such issues – i.e. say nothing and it’ll all go away! Asking for help seems so hard, but absolutely nothing to be worried about or ashamed of.

I don’t want to give the impression that this story is a hard or a heavy read; it’s not. It flows effortlessly and will scoop you up for the ride. Emotions are laid bare, but that means humour and hope rise to the surface and will make you smile. I particularly appreciated the author writing much of this from a male perspective given that suicide is such a major problem among younger men. It’s easy to see how life can become too much, and by not talking about it, the future seems too bleak. Kudos to the author for tackling this head on and with such clarity. 

The ending is possibly one of the greatest twists I’ve read in recent months. Delivered with great subtlety but with the power of a sledgehammer! Fabulous, and I hope it leads to a sequel.

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blog tour · book review · crime · family · literary fiction · must-read · mystery · nostalgia · thought provoking · women's fiction

Blog Tour ‘n’ Book Review – Pink Ice Creams

Pink Ice Creams

by Jo Woolaston

Pink Ice Creams

Intent on fixing her broken marriage and the alcohol-fuelled catastrophe that is her life, Kay Harris arrives at her grim and grey holiday let, ready to lay to rest the tragedy that has governed her entire adulthood – the disappearance of her little brother, Adam.

But the road to recovery is pitted with the pot-holes of her own poor choices, and it isn’t long before Kay is forced to accept that maybe she doesn’t deserve the retribution she seeks. Will the intervention of strangers help her find the answers she needs to move on from her past, or will she always be stuck on the hard shoulder with no clear view ahead and a glove box full of empties?

Pink Ice Creams is a tale of loss, self-destruction, and clinging on to the scraps of the long-lost when everyone else has given up hope.


Purchase Links

Amazon.co.uk:

Paperback:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1984168231

Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07RV49TKB

Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B07RYX3YWP

Amazon.com:

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1984168231

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RV49TKB

Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/jowoolaston

 

Author Bio

Jo Woolaston lives in Leicestershire, England with her extreme noise-making husband and two lovely sons. She tries to avoid housework and getting a ‘proper job’ by just writing stuff instead – silly verse, screenplays, shopping lists…

This sometimes works in her favour (she did well in her MA in TV Scriptwriting, gaining a Best Student award in Media and Journalism – and has had a few plays produced – that kind of thing) but mostly it just results in chronic insomnia and desperate tears of frustration. Pink Ice Creams is her first novel, she hopes you liked it.

Social Media Links 

Facebookhttps://m.facebook.com/nevermindthebloggers

Twitter @JoWoolaston

Website: https://www.jowoolaston.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19176972.Jo_Woolaston

My Review

Wow – what a book!

Kay’s story switches between one major life event to another. As a pre-teen, her younger brother, Adam went missing while on holiday – a caravan holiday with her mum and little bro. She harbours some guilt about his disappearance, and it’s clear she hasn’t really grieved and recovered from it all.

Years later she is back at the same caravan park, this time having left her husband Martin. We learn he’s a bully, an abuser with violent and manipulative tendencies, and even now, whilst in a safe place, she contemplates going back to him. But, this time, she fears he won’t forgive her actions.

Vulnerable, traumatised and paranoid, the events that play out at the caravan park and the local area are indicative of her disturbed state of mind. Yet, despite being at her lowest, she still has the strength of character and sisterly love to unravel the details surrounding her brother’s disappearance.

Peppered with nursery rhymes, holiday nostalgia as well as less happy memories relating to her marriage, the story drifts between the past and present. Sometimes, this is a little confusing and jarring – but maybe that’s just the Kindle version. I can imagine a print copy would break the text up more successfully, thus avoiding any confusion as the timeline changes.

The story totally took off, for me, in the second half, where the pace of events sped up, and Kay became clearer as to what happened to Adam – after a series of very unfortunate mistakes, generally due to her drunken state and paranoia and an ability to jump to conclusions at those times.

A powerful read, with moments of humour and sadness. The author’s character observations are uniquely made, but with such clarity and detail that brings every scene to life. Jo Woolaston is definitely a great talent, and one I’ll be following with interest, awaiting her next tour de force.

 

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