A Whole Lotta Love by Louise Lee | Blog Tour | Book Extract


Florence Love became a Private Investigator for all the right reasons. She’s extraordinarily nosy, it sounds cool on paper and she needed to find her missing mum.

Now she knows Bambi Love is hiding out in Italy – in a cloud of secrets and Chanel No. 5.

Every family has its skeletons, but Flo’s lot are a particularly special case. And how is she supposed to get over her heart-stealing ex, who holds all the answers but refuses point-blank to ever see her again?

It’s going to take a whole lot of love, sweat and tears to uncover the astonishing truth.


Putting Old Ghosts to Rest 101 – Tip #1:Offload

Unlike the other emergency services, private investigators do not get on-the-job counselling. Nor off-the-job. You’re too here, there and everywhere to have friends, never mind regular therapy; too legally bound by confidentiality agreements; too much of a one-man-band. Sometimes you crave an encouraging slap on the back.

Utilise your best resource – the client. They’re sitting ducks and, boy, do they want to know all about you. See how long it takes them to ask, ‘What’s your most memorable case?’, which they 100% will. Use it as your cue to hop on the psychologist’s couch. Metaphorically.

Never mention identities or the specifics of a case, mind you.

Err towards broad brushstrokes and a few juicy titbits.

Feel free to wax lyrical about the marvel of you.

Make the case a cracker. Get your heart involved. Tell your client the one that’s closest to it.

The result: you are a rock star. No amount of psychotherapy can buy that level of validation. Neither will you see your client more emotionally transparent. While massaging your own ego, study their truth portals and micro-expressions – dishonesty going forward will be as flagrant as a fart.


A Whole Lotta Love is out now.

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Thanks to Jenni Leech for arranging the blog tour, and sorry again for missing my day!

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Strange the Dreamer Blog Tour | Review


The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep.


Content warning: mentions of rape, genocide, slavery, forced pregnancy. Scenes of emotional abuse, explosions, death.

Strange the Dreamer. Where do I even start?

This book is both weird and wonderful, but also really heavy and draining. If you’re looking for something light and fun in a fantasy, maybe leave this one for another time.

Strange the Dreamer is haunting, it deals with topics such as slavery, genocide, and rape, but it also feels enchanting too. The idea of a city that has completely vanished, going on a mission to said city, and then finding what has blighted it for so long. Its the kind of fantasy that has so much world building but you don’t even realise until you know more about the religion and political climate in the book than the ones in our own world.

This would’ve been a favourite for me had it not had such a slow start. Now I understand why it was necessary, to build up the reader for arriving in Weep, but it was a bit of a struggle for me to begin with.

I loved the characters, Lazlo was full of naïveté and a desire for a world of peace. Sarai, who doesn’t know how she should feel towards her father who destroyed her race but did so due to being a slave for many years. Eril-Fane who struggled with nightmares about what he did every single night. Even the side characters were so well developed. Though I did struggle with remembering names sometimes but that’s a me problem.

I’m trying not to talk too much about the plot in this review as I believe it’s very important for this specific book that you go into it not knowing much, because there’s a lot of twists that I either had a feeling about or just did not see coming. It’s very carefully crafted for the reader.

Now the ending I did not see coming and it’s something I want to talk about with people, but it leaves me super intrigued for the sequel and what this means for all our characters.


Paperback is out now. Sequel, Muse of Nightmares, out 2nd of October.

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The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton | Blog Tour | Review


In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle’s powers can make them beautiful. Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle – the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater – and far darker – than she ever imagined.

THE BELLES is the book Dhonielle always wanted to write, a must-read critique of the way teenage girls are taught to think about beauty and body image.


CW: death, people disillusioned with their own looks, mental illness.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing style fits perfectly, a lot of the time I struggle with fantasy because the writing style is too heavy, which is fine if you have the time for it, but I don’t. This isn’t full of flowery language or huge off-shooting paragraphs, it’s straight and to the point and I loved it.

Clayton writes the novel in a way that to begin with you’re a bit confused but she slowly lets you into the world until you completely understand what it’s about and what’s going on without having a big explanation chapter or being taken out from the story to be explained to. My one problem came from this though as I felt that because of the way it was done, the pacing struggled a bit. The last half of the novel was super fast paced but the beginning didn’t have much going on. However I feel like this makes it a really good first novel in a series, I think the next book is going to be super involved and have a lot going on.

The way Clayton wrote the world I am desperate to read more about it. I want to know more about the Belles, I want to find out how the world got to be the way it is, I want to know why people are born grey and discovered how Belles and Arcana existed.

I liked Camille enough, despite growing up in an oppressive environment where you are supposed to do just what you are told she goes against the grain. The character I loved the most, however, was Sophia, she was terrifying. She’s one of the most convincing villains I’ve read in a while. She’s only a teenager but she’s so unbalanced that you literally have no idea what she’s going to do next and it’s actually really scary.

Something else that stood out to me in this novel was how seamlessly LGBT+ characters were in it. People just spoke completely off the cuff about same sex relationships. This shouldn’t be a big thing, but for fantasy this is rare and it made me happy to see that in my favourite genre.


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The Book of Luce by L. R. Fredericks | Blog Tour | Chapter 1 Extract


My obsession begins in the magical year 1967, at Luce and the Photons’ legendary last secret gig.
That night changes my life: I must know who Luce is. But the deeper I dig, the more questions I turn up. Is Luce a rock star or a pretender? An artist or an acid trip?
My redemption . . . or my delusion?
Drawn into the machinations of mysterious powers, I become the dark shadow who follows the light of Luce. But who follows me? Are they agents of evil or figments of my imagination? And do they follow me still?
The quest for Luce will lead me to the farthest corners of the earth and into the deadliest danger. I will lose everything and everyone I love . . . except for Luce.
Who is pawn and who is player? Murderer or victim? Betrayer or saviour?
I am the only one who knows the truth.
This is the truth.
This is The Book of Luce.


Some might find it offensive that I, of all people, should write the story of Luce. Others may find it ironic. It may well be both, but it is also the completion of the task I began fifty years ago. It has always been my life’s true purpose, though they did their damnedest to convince me that Luce was just a figment of my deranged imagination. And, to survive, I did my damnedest to persuade them that I believed them. I did this so well that I almost forgot. But now I have been called again; I have received Signs.

I won’t pretend to be an ordinary biographer. I’m not sure I can be any more objective about my subject – or should that be object? – than about myself. But if Luce’s story is tangled with mine it can only be because Luce wanted it that way.

I’ll never know why they finally decided to deport me. What I took for yet another chapter in the long-running saga of my persecution by the obtuse officials of the Nevada State Council for Adult Offender Supervision seems to have spirited me back to my old life, my Real life, my life with Luce. The door that I’ve spent more than half of my life pretending toignore has opened and, like a rogue joker sneaking out of the pack during the course of a fumbling card trick, I’ve returned to myself at last.

Maintaining an attitude of utter compliance and mild, baffled disinterest in my circumstances has been an essential part of my strategy for so long that if anyone bothered to tell me exactly where I was to go, I paid no heed. Back to England, back to England, that was all I knew. I didn’t let myself think about it. Never betray interest. Play dead. My brother had made arrangements, they said; it was meant to be reassuring.

What with jet lag and shock at so much change in such a short time, not to mention the temazepam I took to get through the flight, I was a bit out of it when I arrived last night. It had all been a blur: car, airport, aeroplane, airport, come with us please, car, roads, a building, sign in please, stairs, this way please. A door, a flat: my flat. Good night.

The first thing I did was open a window. It was raining hard – good, serious English rain. The rain of home. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed it, trapped for all these years in dry and dusty Nevada. I let the dark drops wash my face.

The building looked out over what I, in my muddled state, took for a lake; across the expanse of black water was a house with many windows glowing. I blinked and squinted through the rain. Could it be? My God, of all the places to have ended up. The poignancy of it nearly killed me. It was Farundell, where Luce first initiated me into his mysteries, long before I knew who she was. Over the decades it had apparently been swallowed up in some kind of ghastly suburban sprawl.

Of course I was wrong; it wasn’t Farundell. (I’m in Enfield, as it turns out. Enfield! And not just Enfield, but an obscure district on its western edge called, with stupendous aptness, World’s End.) The lake, the house – it was a brief trick of the light, or maybe a trick of Luce. Before long the rain slackened, the air cleared, delusion receded. I beheld a wide black slick of tarmac, not a lake. A car park, deserted, and beyond it a smattering of streetlights, not a house. But in that sudden recognition, mistaken though it was, something jolted in me, shook itself, unfurled creaky, neglected wings, rose and lifted itself out into the night to soar and dance among the softly raining stars above Farundell, above a dark island and a chamber darker still. And last night I dreamed the Dream again, the one I’d almost forgotten. The Dream of the Cavern. I woke with the feeling of the thread in my hand. That thread, so long lain lax, is tightening. I know it’s a Sign.

The second Sign arrives with my brother. It isn’t Neil himself, of course, but what he brings, unasked-for, un-heralded. He’s a bit early; I’m not quite prepared and the knock on my door sends a jolt of anxiety through my nerves. I straighten my clothes, smooth my hair and open the door.

‘Hey Weirdo,’ he says.

‘Hey Arsehole.’

He’s changed remarkably little: fatter, balder, an extra chin or two. It is the immense blandness of his face (a feature, or should I say a lack of feature, apparent from infancy) that has always bothered me the most, and it’s hard to forget that for many years I believed he was a demon-simulacrum, not a real human being at all.

‘Good to see you,’ he says. ‘Glad you’re back. Yes. Glad you’re back. So . . .’ His eyes slide this way and that; he doesn’t know where to look.

‘It’s this one.’ I point to my right eye. ‘This is the glass one.’

‘Oh, right. Sorry.’ He makes that shrug, that little wince of repugnance I remember so well. It always had the capacity to enrage me with its implication of distaste and disdain that he was too polite (or cowardly) to express openly. Now his attitude has a sound basis in history; when we were children, it was pure instinct. Dear old Arsehole. We just don’t get along.

‘Thanks for arranging all this.’ My gesture endeavours to convey my gratitude for the grandeur of these lino-floored, woodchip-wallpapered three hundred and sixty-six square feet. (I paced it out last night.)

‘No problem. Glad I could help. Yes. Glad to be of use. So . . . you all right, then? Good journey? How was the flight? Get a decent meal? How do you like this place? Pretty nice, huh? Everything you need. You always were for the simple life.’

Is this a snide reference to the massive complication I made of my life? Just because I’m criminally insane, I want to say, it doesn’t mean I’m stupid. But it does, it does. I play stupid as if my life depends upon it. I make my face smile.

He looks around, rubs his hands. ‘It’s not bad, is it? Not bad at all. Gets the morning sun. Little kitchen, nice. Cosy bedroom, en-suite. Comfy bed? Good. Nice people, too, don’t you think? Oh, by the way, thought you’d like . . . we brought that stuff you left in the attic. Some boxes, remember? Years, long time ago. From before . . . well, you know. We thought it might help you feel at home, to have your old things.’

My teeth have been grinding of their own accord. I have always found Neil’s chummy, pseudo-familial familiarity grating in the extreme. I say pseudo because he is not, Deo gratias, my real brother. I was adopted shortly before he was conceived; my presence in the ‘family’ as a second-best and not-really-needed-after-all appendage has always been awkward for him and for the parents. This awkwardness was only exacerbated by the fact that he, the younger, was very soon much the bigger – physically if not morally. While maintaining a fond and patronising demeanour in public, in private he used the crude advantage of size to subject me to innumerable indignities. My superiority in the intellectual sphere, which I could never fully conceal, did not mitigate his hostility. Quite the reverse.

We go downstairs. Something begins to tickle at my mind through the sticky, gritty cloud of my irritation with Neil. I’m getting the first inkling that an event of possible significance may be waiting, concealed in this mild April morning. Stepping outside, bright sunshine stings my eyes. Luce, I think, and hear a sort of hum in reply. My heart starts to pound.

Neil’s parked in front. He has one of those vast, shiny contraptions that look like they could scale the Himalayas before breakfast, except they’d rather not get their skirts dirty. That must be his wife in the driver’s seat, talking on the phone. Rather a lot of make-up for a woman of her age who’s not – as far as I know – a professional whore. And she’s obviously on the Botox. It’s like she’s wearing a hypothetical face. No wonder I thought she was a simulacrum, too. Still talking, she waves cheerily to me like we last saw each other day-before-yesterday. What’s her name? I never remember her name. Oh yeah, Dot. Ridiculous name for a woman.

‘Hi Dot,’ I say.

‘Jesus, Weirdo. This is Cindy. My. Wife. Cindy.’ Neil gives me a look that says he knows – and wants me to know he knows – that I do this sort of thing deliberately. I don’t.


Neil thinks I’m being sarcastic. ‘Back a day and already impossible.’

‘I’m glad not to be changed beyond recognition, then,’ I say, immediately chastising myself for the slip into acerbity.

He opens the back of the car. His attempt to make a tetchy gesture of it is foiled by the hydraulics, which lift the door ever so gently, emitting a sedate hiss. Boxes, five or six boxes. But could it be? Oh my God. I recognise it. I think I do. That small one at the back. Yes! Would he have brought it if he’d known what it was? Certainly not. Would I have dared ask for it? I assumed he’d destroyed everything long ago. It’s what demons do.

Treasure, long-hidden treasure. Going incognito, pretending to be an ordinary box, one of several, nothing special. Scuffed, corners squashed, bound with packing tape, now brittle and peeling, and green sisal twine. The address label has fallen off but I remember that twine, how it left green streaks on my scared, sweaty hands as I tied it up. The box seems to glow from within – I sincerely hope no one else can see that. It’s Luce’s box. This is the second Sign.

My face never gives anything away. ‘Oh, thanks,’ I say. ‘Wonder what’s here. I forgot all about this stuff.’

We carry the boxes to my flat, where they take up most of the space in the sitting room. Neil leaves, what a relief, mercifully declining my offer of a cup of tea. It’s just me and the boxes now: me and my past. Dear God, let me not become one of those pathetic, repulsive old people who shuffle about in a narrow space crowded to death by stacks of newspapers and the mouse-infested relics of their long-dead lives.

Two boxes contain miscellaneous stuff, including some wonderful old clothes: my floppy fedora with the peacock feather, a silk scarf with an Aubrey Beardsley print that Charlie gave me, a green velvet jacket from the King’s Road, an Indian-print shirt from Haight-Ashbury. Others contain books – I’ll deal with them later. They served their purpose: the flock of sheep that smuggled in the goat.

I turn at last to Luce’s box. I had never dared to hope it would come back to me; I’d grown accustomed to the idea that my past was non-existent, in any reliable way. And now I have a flash of doubt. Might this be the work of a demon of False Hope? Cunning little buggers, but I thought I’d extinguished them years ago. All I have is my memory of the green twine and the stains it left on my hands. I look at them; obviously they’re not green any more. And the glow I saw in the back of Neil’s car? I might have imagined that. If I see it now, it’s only wishful thinking.

I get impatient with myself. This box either is or isn’t what I think it is. My past is either dead or alive; like Schrödinger’s cat, it is both and neither until the box is opened. Do I truly want to know? Oh for fuck’s sake. Open the damn thing. Cut the twine, peel away the packing tape. Open the box.

I have to sit back and take a deep breath. This is it, this is it, this is it! Tears come to my eyes. I feel like a resurrected corpse. With trembling hands I unpack the treasures, untouched for all these years: my draft manuscript of The Book of Luce, plus notebooks and files, interview tapes and transcripts, articles, diaries and journals, newspaper clippings, letters. The records of my search for Luce, the testimonies of the witnesses. Here is René, here is Karen, and here, oh here, is Rachel. I’m half afraid all this will disintegrate like ancient bones in a too-suddenly unsealed tomb. Here’s my original Human album; here is L’Age Atomique, a priceless rarity, perhaps the only one in the world.

Thank you, I say. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

At the bottom, an old box of Gitanes, Luce’s brand and therefore my own, when I can get them. It must have fallen out of my pocket as I packed. All unsuspecting, I open it.

It’s full of rose petals, but they’re not dry or faded. They spill onto the table, soft and fresh and sublimely fragrant. They cannot possibly have fallen from the flower more than an hour ago. I put the box down and back away. Owing to the modest dimensions of the room, I cannot back very far. I close my eyes, count to a hundred. I open my eyes. The rose petals are still there, blithely emitting their rapturous impossibility. It’s the third Sign. I make myself a strong cup of tea.

These three Signs have convinced me that the time has come to write The Book of Luce. Contrary to popular opinion, including my own, it would appear that I am not ashes on the dust-heap of history. My life in the Real world, so long an underground river running deep beneath the polluted realm of mundane Earth and the semi-conscious parasites who inhabit its surface, has emerged.

My mission is now clear: to fulfil my task, to tell the story of Luce. And his mission? Will I ever know? Was she Messiah, Avatar, Bodhisattva? A Superhuman, the long-awaited Nietzschean Übermensch? Was he the first of a new type of human, and will we all be like her one day? Or was he a fluke, an accident, a random confluence of powers and perceptions, a freak, a genetic quirk, merely the greatest artist of all time? As I assemble these fragments of her life and work, as I line them up, put them in order, draw arcs of influence and association, cause and effect, as I try to make the dull-minded world understand . . . surely I will find the real Luce at last.

So wake up, Chimera Obscura! I summon you to remember. Here you come, stepping out of the shadows: a ghost in green velvet, a peacock feather in your hat. Go forth, beautiful one! Go forth and remember.

The Book Of Luce Cover.jpg

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The Cubit Quest by Trevor Leck Blog Tour | Author Spotlight and Review


Twelve-year-old Charlie Watkins could have inherited his dad’s massive intellect.
He got his massive feet instead.

Perhaps if Charlie had that intellect he might have been able to figure out why so many men in suits were suddenly following him or where his dad hid the Cubit – a mythical object that men have sworn to protect and even more have died trying to possess – before his so-called accident.

If starting yet another new school wasn’t bad enough, Charlie meets Mr Leopold, a disfigured, mind-reading lunatic and discovers that he alone must find the Cubit if he is to save his dad. The Brotherhood, however, have other ideas. Led by the ruthless Draganovic, they will stop at nothing to get their hands on it. With the help of Mr Leopold and fellow new boy Elvis, Charlie sets out on The Cubit Quest.

Hunting for the Cubit, playing football, lessons with the dreaded Funeral Face and unsuccessfully avoiding school bully Grimshaw by day, Charlie finds his nights no less complicated. Stalked in his dreams, he’s soon immersed in a world of power struggles, battling dragons and duels to the death. With the Brotherhood hot on his heels and as the bullets begin to fly, there are no guarantees that Charlie, or anyone else, will make it to the end in one piece.

Author Spotlight

Well, they say that everyone needs a hobby, but whilst sat in a tent listening to fighter jets scream overhead in a foreign land, I realised that I needed something else: a distraction.  Writing was the perfect solution; even if writing about military life wasn’t.  I was much more interested in writing about action-packed adventures that was bristling with the likes of bullying, crunching tackles and great goals on the football pitch, the afterlife, mythical creatures, fate, destiny and the obligatory arch-villain hellbent on world domination.  Hence my foray into the world of young adult writing began. You could say that I was always going to be less Andy McNab and more J.K. Rowling.

They also say that you should write about the things you know, and even if I was writing about twelve-year-old boy Charlie Watkins, who suddenly found that he had more enemies than hot dinners, or super-powerful and deadly adversaries, or hobgoblins, I wanted people to believe it.  Therefore, I needed a real place to set my semi-fantasy world. The town of North Shields, in the northern corner of England with a view of the River Tyne, the place where I grew up, provided the perfect backdrop for my first novel The Cubit Quest.  After all, the place really does have it all – great buildings, great parks, great coastline, and even greater people.  I hoped to do the place justice – I didn’t.

The reason for this was relatively simple: I wasn’t very good at it.  Four years down the line and The Cubit Quest was still more a figment of my imagination than a reality.  The ‘Ian Rankin style’ of writing, namely you have a rough idea of where you’re going and let’s see how it pans out, was hugely successful – for Ian Rankin that is!  For me, the process was an unmitigated disaster – four years and no end product proving testament to that fact.  But that didn’t matter.  Other than my lovely wife, nobody knew I was writing and nobody was going to read it anyway – right?

The process also highlighted something that I, and anyone who meets me will figure out soon enough: I have the world’s worst memory.  The places in The Cubit Quest were all real, Ralph Gardner High, Charlie’s house, Elvis’s house, Sonia’s house, all of it – ‘were’ being the operative word.  The story is therefore a mismatch of eras, some present day, some straight from my very poor memory.  The result is less Dan Brown, whereby every detail is correct at the time of writing and more John Grisham – never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Having a second crack at it – it was my secret hobby after all – I knuckled down to some serious planning and eleven months later I had a first draft, a completed novel at last!  Of course, perhaps I should have mentioned that it wasn’t The Cubit Quest, it was the follow up, which takes up immediately where The Cubit Quest leaves off.  It was an odd situation, even I’ll admit that, to have the second part of what I envisaged to be a four-part series and no first part in existence.

All that remained, was to complete that first novel – and complete it I did!  It was a behemoth by the time I’d finished, large enough to give a sci-fi epic a run for its money.  Having visited the fabulous Warner Bros Studios to spend a very enjoyable day living and breathing the equally fabulous world of Harry Potter there is an opening address by J.K. Rowling in which she says that the Philosopher’s Stone was a product of good editing.  I didn’t appreciate this fully – but I did by the time I’d whittled the book down to a more palatable word length – eight edits, ouch!

I was recently asked what short response I’d say to someone who had a passing interest in The Cubit Quest. My response: buy a ticket, strap in and enjoy the rollercoaster ride of an adventure!


This book was a weird read, but something a bit different. It was advertised to me as YA but I’d say it’s that middle ground between Middle Grade and YA.

There was a lot of little references in this book, which I absolutely adored, like Charlie went to the Library to pick up a copy of a Garth Nix book, there was characters with names that were references to things. It made my read more fun when I picked up on them.

At times it did border on a bit silly, but I think that’s mainly because Leck seemed to want to keep the reader in the dark about what was going on in the same way that Charlie was. It was generally a bit awkward at times because it would go from the fantastical elements to kids playing football in the space of a few sentences.

The formatting wasn’t really great either, there wasn’t enough line breaks to tell you when you’d moved into a different POV or a different time. Like it felt like it needed more paragraphs or general transitions.

This was set in South Shields (I think) which was quite nice to read for me as my Gran lives in the Tyneside area and the place she lives was actually mentioned at one point.

I occasionally found some of the fantastical elements of the plot a bit confusing, I eventually got my head around it but I felt there maybe could have been a bit more of an explanation to what was going on.

I liked that this was still set in a school. What I mean by that is that too often in books of this nature kids find out that they have powers and have to go on an adventure leaving their school and family life behind. Whereas this book was still set at home and the MC still had all his childhood problems.

Living in Telford, Shropshire, Trevor Leck has been dabbling in writing for over fifteen years. Always a fan of gripping adventure stories he has taken inspiration from his favourite authors, including John Grisham and J K Rowling, and the towns and cities he grew up, especially North Shields, to create his Young Adult series.

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Thank you to Rachel Gilbey for arranging this tour!

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Goldsmith Jones by Sam Taylor-Pye Blog Tour | Review and Excerpt

I will warn you that this novel is not for you if you react badly to violence towards children, sexual assault towards children, child prostitution etc etc.


Fourteen-year-old Goldsmith Jones is left stranded in crime-ridden, gangland territory. He finds himself living at The Shades, a home to local street kids. While selling sexual favours down the Dead Man’s Alley to survive, Jones is charmed by a seaman he knows as Sweet Virginia. Moving further away from the relative security that The Shades and his best friend, Raccoon, offered him, Jones is drawn ever closer to the manipulative Sweet Virginia. When Raccoon falls gravely ill and is taken to convalesce on the rural Rancheria, Jones is left under the controlling powers of the unscrupulous navvy. Swindled and wrongly accused, he is unexpectedly rescued by the leader of the villainous Suarez Brothers, the charismatic Saul. Faced with a choice between becoming Saul’s ‘little brother’ and saving Sweet Virginia’s life, Goldsmith Jones must embark on a dangerous journey which will change his young life forever.


Chapter 9: I Start Working

Jones is still reeling after finding the boy he’s been sleeping making out with another. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he’s out of money for rent. Alley Mac who manages the boys working on the street, lets him know its time to start earning his keep.
Its seems my paid up board had run out, and I was to start working down the Dead Man’s Alley for real.
She set me up on Washington Street a block away from the Shades. I was made to stand on top of a crate yelling, “Shoe shine, get your shoe shines,” five cents for the regular, two bits for the presidential service—which meant frigging or sucking on a Dead Eye’s thing.
Alley Mac had a fella set up for me already, and said she was sticking around to make sure I done the job well.
I took a long look at that Joe. He was clean, but old, around thirty years living. His ears were overly large. Had red marks on his face that she said was due to him not caring much for fruit or vegetation, and not the clap like everyone was saying.
She went to him and they talked in private.
He swung a look at me and smiled.
He seemed friendly.
Alley Mac comes back to me saying, “Why didn’t you smile back? You got to smile back when they smile at you. Polish your teeth with your sleeve.”
So I did.
She ordered me to get down off the crate and tuck my shoeshine things away before they get stole. Then with me carrying my crate, Alley Mac, me, and Dead Eye headed down Dead Man’s Alley.
Men and boys were hidden in shadow. Some were standing toe to toe smoking pipes and talking. I saw a couple of Dead Eyes standing unmoving and erect like stone statues, each with a boy close up to them. One punk was moving his hand, frigging back and forth, the other had his face pressed against Dead Eye’s open waistbands.  Another boy had done doing his and was spitting the job out into the dirt.
The strong smell of liquor was offending my nose. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. My heart was running, I was panting hard like a hunted down critter. I wanted to turn back and fly, but my feet were stuck fast to the ground like Jesus nailed to the board.
I thought, for a moment, I caught sight of Juan. I swallowed courage and looked closer still, to see if Whitey blue-eyes were with him. But they weren’t there. And the thought of them, maybe being together, someplace else, lying butt naked in the hay, made my eyes fill with tears.
“Don’t start crying,” said Alley Mac. “Dead Eyes don’t like it, and the kind that does, you don’t want to know.”
I wiped my tears away, apologized and told her I didn’t feel well, and how I ought to go back and try again tomorrow.
But she had her mule ears on. “Now look at your man and give him a smile,” she said.
I looked at the fella. And his contagious looking skin. Strange ears that didn’t seem to belong to his head. Had his hands in his pockets and was staring at me with crazy owl eyes.
I bit my lip to stop my tears from spewing down my cheeks. I swallowed hard and tried on a smile.
He smiled back and gave me a little wave.
“So, you know what to do?” she said.
I nodded.
“All right,” she said. “I’ll be waiting around the corner for when you’re done. And don’t worry, he’s nice. Just be nice back. Make him feel, you know, welcome. Keep smiling at him. Look interested. And, before he tells you what he wants, get in first with your own order. Ask him if you can tug on his rooster. Tell him it turns your fancy. That way you’ll be running the show, not him.”
“What about asking for money,” I said.
“No, I already took care of that, all’s you got to do is your job.”
“All right,” I says, “but, do I got to call it ‘rooster,’ can I call it something else?”
“Call it what you will,” she said, “just make sure he understands what you’re getting at. Some of them have a way of taking their own meaning and you don’t want that. They get all kinds of strange ideas. So be clear, all right.”

Excerpt From: Sam Taylor-Pye. “Goldsmith Jones”


This was a strange book. I didn’t really know what was going on a lot of the time. I will warn you that this novel is not for you if you react badly to violence towards children, sexual assault towards children, child prostitution etc etc.

I was confused for a lot of this novel, in terms of the characters I wasn’t sure how they were really feeling about situations. I didn’t know whether Goldsmith was in love with Sweet Virginia because he was queer or because he was forced into a life of gay prostitution and was confused about everything. I do think that Goldsmith is gay but it was just really confusing to read. Added to that there is a character who I think is trans but it wasn’t really clarified what the deal was with the character.

This novel was horrible in that it was completely honest, it was so incredibly brutal. There was a lot of time I just felt so uncomfortable reading it that I had to put it down. But it’s never romanticised, it’s written in a way that tells you that of course this wasn’t good stuff that was happening, it never once made it seem like it was all a-okay. It was an interesting insight into what sexuality was like in the late 1800s, the hypocrisy of happily getting sexual favours from young boys down a back alley but calling people derogatory names for doing the same thing and getting absolutely raging when anyone dare suggest they were anything but straight.

All of the characters are terrible people, but that was simply systemic of the way they have to live their lives.

I found the book quite slow going for most of it, but the writing is really well done, I could imagine all the places detailed. It was a hard book but an interesting one.

Purchase from Amazon UK

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Sam Taylor-Pye grew up on the border between Washington state and British Columbia, Canada and currently lives in Kent in the UK. She received her BA from the Open University, and has an MA in Creative Writing. This is her first published novel.

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Corrupt Me Blog Tour | Jillian Quinn Guest Post and Review | Inspiration for Corrupt Me


Guest Post

When I first came up with the idea for Corrupt Me, I was watching Goodfellas, one of my favorite movies. Most of the time an idea comes to me while I’m watching TV because of a question I ask myself. With Corrupt Me, I asked, “What would it be like to date a Mafioso?” I’ve always loved when Henry takes Karen to The Copacabana in Goodfellas. That was her first real taste of what it was like to date a wiseguy, and when I started plotting this novel, I instantly saw a lot of Karen in Izzie. There’s a certain thrill Izzie gets when she’s around Luca, and that part of her character was inspired by Lorraine Bracco’s portrayal of Karen in Goodfellas.

Before they get married in the movie, Karen says that she knew Henry was a bad man and it turned her on. The same thing is true of Izzie Rinaldi in Corrupt Me when she rekindles her childhood relationship with Luca Marchese. When it comes to The Godfather, I always wanted to write a character that reminded me of Michael Corleone, and I found that in Izzie. She’s not your typical heroine and she will do anything to protect her family just like Michael.

The Godfather and the relationship between Michael Corleone and Kay Adams mostly inspired this series. I always wondered what could have happened if they had worked as a team. When I created Luca’s character, I knew without a doubt that he was a little bit of Michael Corleone, even if it was just his placement within the family and not his overall development. But I think what I did with his character will surprise some readers. Vincent Piazza’s portrayal of Lucky Luciano in Boardwalk Empire also inspired his character.

At the end of The Godfather novel, there’s a scene between Kay Adams and Tom Hagen that is not in the movies. That pivotal scene is what helped shape Corrupt Me. Tom delivers a message to Kay that I thought was brilliant and made me love the book even more. To leave some mystery for the readers, I won’t get into detail.

I hope readers have the same feeling about Corrupt Me.

Thank you for having me on your blog. I hope everyone enjoyed this guest post.


I struggled with what to write in this review because I would consider Jill my friend so of course I want to support her but I was also like how do I structure this review so that I’m not biased and also completely fair.

The pacing of this novel was really good, it never felt too fast or too slow and I kept wanting to read more. The characters were quite believable, and I’m glad that there’s chapter in Luca’s POV otherwise I think I would’ve hated him for some of the stuff he did had we not seen his reasoning for it.

I wish there hadn’t been so much girl on girl hate, I’m not much a fan of reading that, us girls have got to stick together.

I really appreciated how important consent was in this book as many other novels of this genre struggle with making it obvious whether the sex is actually consensual, be it due to alcohol or just awkwardness.

As it is a mafia book the families are of course Italian and oh my god there was so many descriptions of food, be warned, if you read this book you will be absolutely staving afterwards.

I’m honestly not a huge fan of books of this genre, I prefer comedy romance or YA romance but this was really fun to read and of course I will be looking out for Jill’s future releases.  I think if you like Colleen Hoover books you will likely enjoy reading this!

About the Author

Jillian Quinn was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and currently lives in sunny Cape Coral, Florida where she still pretends it’s okay to drink hot chocolate and curl up on the couch with a good book, even when it’s ninety degrees outside. From an early age, writing and storytelling have been her passion. In her spare time, she loves creating fictional worlds and living inside the minds of her characters as well as reading, art, and watching basketball and hockey.

Jillian is also a successful book blogger, dubbed by her followers as The Queen of Rants after making her blog, Rant and Rave About Books, a popular destination in the bookish community because of her honesty and passion for books.

Corrupt Me is her first novel with other young adult and new adult titles to follow.


Stalker Links

Facebook | Twitter | Author Website | Goodreads Profile


Where to buy:

– Amazon (universal link) myBook.to/CorruptMe

– Barnes & Noble http://tinyurl.com/zmewnm4

– Kobo http://tinyurl.com/hs57ewx

– iBooks http://tinyurl.com/jno2tzhl

Corrupt Me by Jillian Quinn on Goodreads


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Fifteen Words Blog Tour | Monika Jephcott Thomas Guest Post & Review | The Difficulties of Researching for History Novels

If you’ve read my reviews of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys and Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin you will know that I have a keen interest in Nazi Germany and the time surrounding the second world war, so when I was contacted to see if I would be interested in taking part in this blog tour I replied very quickly. Thank you to Rachel Gilbert at authoright and Clink Street Publishing for arranging this and for sending me a copy of the book. And thanks to Monika for writing this post for me. 


Two young doctors form a profound and loving bond in Nazi Germany; a bond that will stretch them to the very limits of human endurance. Catholic Max – whose religious and moral beliefs are in conflict, has been conscripted to join the war effort as a medic, despite his hatred of Hitler’s regime. His beloved Erika, a privileged young woman, is herself a product of the Hitler Youth. In spite of their stark differences, Max and Erika defy convention and marry.

But when Max is stationed at the fortress city of Breslau, their worst nightmares are realised; his hospital is bombed, he is captured by the Soviet Army and taken to a POW camp in Siberia. Max experiences untold horrors, his one comfort the letters he is allowed to send home: messages that can only contain Fifteen Words. Back in Germany, Erika is struggling to survive and protect their young daughter, finding comfort in the arms of a local carpenter. Worlds apart and with only sparse words for comfort, will they ever find their way back to one another, and will Germany ever find peace?
Fifteen Words is a vivid and intimate portrayal of human love and perseverance, one which illuminates the German experience of the war, which has often been overshadowed by history.

One of the main difficulties of researching for historical fiction is just that – the research! Or more specifically getting bogged down in the research. Research is important of course and reality is so often stranger than fiction, which is why history provides such good fodder for novelists, but at the end of the day we are writing historical fiction. As a reader, if you want to read a history book, I would suggest you don’t pick up a novel. As a writer, I would suggest, that as soon as something you research sparks your imagination, get writing and stop researching. I often have blank spaces in the pages I write; spaces where a fact or detail needs to be added, but it is not so vital to keep me from actually writing the drama my characters are going through. Later on, after the writing is done, I can go back and fill in the blanks. The internet, being just a click away, is a very tempting and useful tool, but it can lead you down labyrinths that are a massive distraction sometimes. It’s better not to go there until after or before your actual writing time.

There is another difficulty with researching history and that is the history books themselves. As we all know, history can be a very subjective thing, open to interpretation and manipulation by historians, depending on their political and cultural bias. Every few decades, top secret documents are released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, the 30 year rule, etc and we find ourselves a little closer to the truth; a little more aware of how history is not as black and white as we might have thought.

That’s why I think some of the greatest tools for research are photographs. During the research for my novel Fifteen Words, set in Germany during the last days of the Second World War and the few years after it, I would pore for hours over photos found in archives, on the internet and in my families own collections. Luckily, the age of photography was still reasonably young in the early-mid twentieth century, so the photos I saw could not have been doctored; and as such they are often the most honest and objective interpretation of the past we can find. Photos are so full of stuff to inspire your imagination; full of details that can populate your descriptions. Use them!

Private letters are similarly useful, as they can help you imagine the voices of your characters, the vocabulary they might use, the turns of phrase they might employ. Private letters often can tell us what kind of issues occupied the minds of people during the eras you are writing about. For example, nearly all of the letters in my novel Fifteen Words are near transcriptions of genuine ones I found in archives. I would match a letter to the appropriate character, or sometimes a letter I stumbled across inspired a whole new turn of events in the book.

So while the details are important, getting inside the characters is so much more important. And the best research you can do for this is to look inside yourself because, although there may be many decades or even centuries which separate you and your characters, human beings are, and always have been, very similar, beneath all the wonderful and incredible cultural and physical differences we possess. That is why if, as a writer, you can set down emotions that you have felt in a clear and honest way, readers from any part of the globe and from any epoch in the future should be able to relate to and be moved by them.


This was a really interesting book. It had similar experiences in into Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, being put in POW camps by Russians for long periods of time. However this is a different novel, it follows Erika as well who remains in Germany and it was good to read about someone remaining in Germany and seeing what happened when the Americans took control of it.

Throughout the book there is the recurring theme of “Fifteen words” and how important a simple 15 words are which I thought was an important subject as people forget how important words are, how much can change with just a few simple words. It was a good reminder to watch what you say.

Overall I found this a fairly slow read, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing as it is a heavy read and something that really needs to be paid attention to. You can’t just gloss over pages in this book like I occasionally do as it’s a difficult subject. Something that hit me with this book is that there’s a couple of mentions of one of their friends having same sex relations down back alleys and the like which I thought was a really good addition to the story because obviously being gay isn’t a new thing and I think it’s often glossed over in history.

We get to see from the POVs of Max and Erika and on the whole I didn’t really like Erika. She makes some decisions that I wasn’t a fan of and I found it hard to like her after that, especially when I’m reading from Max’s POV every other chapter. I got really attached to Max actually, like I really looked forward to his chapters.

I wish there was maybe 1 or 2 more chapters more for this book but that’s just me. I felt like it just ended and I just wanted that little bit extra after the ending. All in all this was an eye opening read.

Fifteen Words by Monika Jephcott Thomas published by Clink Street Publishing, out now


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Lost Stars Blog Tour | Lisa Selin Davis Guest Post | The Best Part About Writing For Teenagers

Another exciting blog tour post for me! When I was contacted by Carmen, PR for Hot Key Books, this book sounded right up my alley and this sounded like an interesting topic so I was very happy to host it on my blog. Thank you to Lisa for writing this post, and to Hot Key Books for considering me for this tour


Carrie is lost. And she’s angry at almost everything and everyone. Most of all though, she’s angry at her big sister Ginny. For dying. Pretty much the only thing that keeps Carrie sane is her music. Even her beloved comet, the faithful friend that she’s been following for years, can’t help her now that her dad has taken away her telescope.

Then she meets Dean. Gorgeous Dean. He’s sitting out on his front step playing guitar early one summer morning – and everything changes forever.

Admittedly, teens can be a tough audience. They demand authenticity, and they don’t want to see books that are too similar to one another. One teen book blogger, talking about LOST STARS, noted that she was sick of dead sibling stories and hated insta-love. Hm, I thought. I wish I’d given her this novel to read in draft form! It would have been so great to have her feedback. Insta-love, though, was very much part of my own teenage experience, especially with the character of Dean in the book, who is inspired by my first real boyfriend. I saw that guy and, man, that was it for me. I was bowled over with attraction. That’s what made the actual love that unfolded so amazing.

But writing for, and about, teenagers offers such rich territory. Jeez, I could mine the complex web of misery and joy from my teen years for a long, long time. I had so much fun, and yet I was incredibly lonely and confused, tripping all over myself, making mistakes.

Several of the scenes from LOST STARS came straight, or almost straight, from my own experiences. I did go roller-skating with my friends one night, and sweated so much that my shirt got big wet stains in the armpits. My friend Julie gave me a white button down shirt to hide them, which felt like the greatest gift ever, with so much care and generosity. And then, later, her boyfriend—or, rather, her very recently ex-boyfriend—kissed me. I’d kissed very few boys, and I was incredibly flattered and confused. It was so exciting, but maybe it was wrong, and maybe that made it more exciting. But I didn’t know what the heck was going on. I never told Julie about it. So, Julie, I’m telling you now: Mike Whatever-his-name-was kissed me at the roller-skating rink.

I know some teenagers are already better at handling life than I am, but I find that even they can relate to characters who reach and fail and deflate, then gear up and try again. It’s a magical, difficult time of life, that combination of innocence and yet knowingness, the melding of great contradictions. What could be better material than that?

Lost Stars or What Lou Reed Taught Me About Love by Lisa Selin Davis, published by Hot Key Books, out now

Photo credit: Dave Bigler

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