The Madonna Of Bolton #Blogtour #Extract

Synopsis

Charlie Matthews’ love story begins in a pebble-dashed house in suburban Bolton, at a time when most little boys want to grow up to be Michael Jackson, and girls want to be Princess Di. Remembering the Green Cross Code and getting out of football are the most important things in his life, until Auntie Jan gives him a gift that will last a lifetime: a seven-inch single called ‘Lucky Star’…

On his ninth birthday, Charlie discovers Madonna, and falls in love. His obsession sees him through some tough times in life: being persecuted at school, fitting in at a posh university, a glamorous career in London, finding boyfriends, getting rid of boyfriends, and family heartbreak. Madonna’s music and videos inspire him, and her fierce determination to succeed gives him the confidence to do the same – and, ultimately, to let go of his idol, and find his own voice.

My Review

I’d like to thank Matt Cain, Unbound nooks and Anne Cater for including me in the blog tour for The Madonna Of Bolton.

Today I’m excited to bring you an excerpt from The Madonna Of Bolton …

Dress You Up

‘Charlie Matthews and Shanaz Gulati – you’re on next!’

I can feel my heart thumping in my chest. Flippin’ ’eck I’m nervous!

I’m in my final year of primary school and about to take to  the stage for the first time. To me, my school’s enormous, even though it only consists of one dirty redbrick  building,  a concrete playground with a football pitch, and a 1960s prefab where we all go for parties on Pancake Tuesday and St George’s Day. At the centre of the school is the main hall, a room so important that we use it for loads of different things – assem- bly, dinnertime and even games of rounders when it’s  too wet  to do PE outside.

Right now the hall’s full of schoolchildren and their families, all their eyes trained on the stage. I peek through the curtains and look at them. Sitting on the front row is the headmistress Miss Leach – or Miss Bleach as everyone calls her because she’s so strict. Miss Bleach’s favourite expression is ‘Woe betide’ and whenever she gets cross, she screams and shouts until the veins stick out on her neck like the Incredible Hulk or  Deirdre  Barlow on Coronation Street.

Sitting just a few seats away is Vince Hargreaves,  someone who terrifies me even more than Miss Bleach. Like me, Vince is

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in the top class and everyone knows he’s the cock of the school. For some reason he’s taken a particular dislike to me – he’ll steal my glasses so I can’t see anything at playtime, give me Chinese burns whenever he feels like it and, if he’s in a really bad mood, throw my satchel onto the railway line next to the playground. Right now he looks in my direction and I’m pretty sure  he catches my eye. I quickly shut the curtains and fart with fear.

Every Christmas in my school, the top class put on a show   for their parents and the rest of the children, singing and dancing along to their favourite pop songs. So far this year, Marina Broadbent and Lucy Drury, who both have fringes so long you can’t see their eyes, have bounced their way through Wham!’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go Go’, and Steven Spriggs, who always seems to have a hole in his trousers and a cold    sore on his top lip, has pulled off an uncannily accurate impression of Shakin’ Stevens. Right now, Damian Bradley and his girlfriend Bev Adams, who caused a stir when they were caught timing themselves necking with a stopwatch behind the caretaker’s room, are finishing off their version of ‘Take on Me’ by a-ha. The stakes are high – so far  each  performance  has been a huge success. Shanaz and I have something different planned and, even though I let her convince me it was a good idea when we were hidden away in the safety of her bedroom, now that it’s  come down to it I’m not sure what I’ve let myself  in for. From the look on her face, Shanaz isn’t either.

‘Good luck, Shanaz,’ I stammer.

‘Don’t say that!’ she yelps. ‘Don’t you know it’s bad luck?’ ‘Really? What are you supposed to say then?’

‘Break a leg. Honestly – it’s what all the stars say. I saw it on

Fame last week.’

Shanaz is so clever and my best friend in the whole world. We

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first met in reception class and bonded by painting a big picture of Wonder Woman together on our first day. To me Shanaz is brave and fearless; she can climb to the top of the tree behind  the headmistress’s office and pick leaves off the thistles near the kitchens without being stung. She tells really great  stories, like the one about her grandma, who grew up in a  Maharajah’s  palace in India but escaped  to England  so that  she could  marry a stable boy she’d been forbidden from seeing by her parents. And at dinnertimes she always has exotic things like chapattis and bhajis in her butty box, which I think look much more exciting than my dull salmon-paste sarnies and Trio or Penguin biscuit. For some reason, though, the other kids at school  aren’t so impressed. They complain loudly about the smell of her food, pulling faces and holding their noses as if it’s disgusting. If there are no dinner ladies around they even spit at Shanaz and call her a ‘Paki’. Whenever they do, she just  smiles  and  says, ‘Actually, my family are from India and my grandma’s a princess!’

I never really understand why the other kids don’t like Shanaz but the truth is they don’t like me much  either.  Not  only do I have no interest in the war games the boys like to   play but I’m no good at football and always come last in every event on sports day, which makes everyone think  I’m  weird and not a proper boy – at least that’s what they never tire of telling me. Maybe that’s why Shanaz and I have become such good friends, because I’m the only one who doesn’t mind what the other kids say about her and she’s the only one who doesn’t mind what they all say about me. Not that we ever talk about that; the last thing we want to do when we’re together is to go over things that make us unhappy. No, as soon as  we’re  together we play games that make us believe nothing bad ever happens to us at all.

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When we were little, this mainly consisted of re-enacting scenes from films like Bugsy Malone and TV shows like Renta- ghost. Or we’d dress up Shanaz’s pet cat in doll’s clothes, brush its hair into bunches and play Mummies and Daddies, pushing   it around in her sister’s pram. Once we were a bit older we left behind those kinds of silly, childish games and instead devoured every volume of The Chronicles of Narnia, chatting endlessly through each book and painting pictures of the castle of Cair Paravel and the Battle of Beruna that we’d stick up on Shanaz’s bedroom wall. Shortly after that we moved on to the Choose Your Own Adventure books, which we thought were ace  as  at  the end of each chapter you got to decide what happened next. We’d never read anything like it and couldn’t get enough  of them – we’d borrow one each from the local library, race through them in a day or two and then swap books with each other.

But recently we’ve decided that we’ve outgrown Choose

Your Own Adventure books too. Now that we’re ten it’s time for us to find a more mature way to spend our time. And that’s how we became obsessed with Madonna.

These days it’s not difficult for us to feed our obsession as Madonna’s everywhere; this is the year of Live Aid, the increas- ing success of the Like a Virgin album and the film Desperately Seeking Susan. Every week Shanaz and I buy Smash Hits or Look-In magazine, cut out the posters and song lyrics and stick them up on our bedroom walls. We use my mum and dad’s new VHS recorder to tape her videos on Top of the  Pops,  playing them back repeatedly to study their every frame. And we devise elaborate dance routines to her music, performing imaginary concerts to audiences of thousands in my backyard. Madonna’s

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Dress You Up

our idol and we want to be just like her. The way we look at it, this year’s Christmas show has given us our opportunity.

‘How are you feeling?’ asks Shanaz. ‘Terrified,’ I bleat.

‘Well, try not to be. I bet Madonna doesn’t get nervous when she goes on stage.’

I make a big effort to relax and tell myself I’m doing nothing wrong; all I’m doing is trying to be like Madonna and she’s so famous that loads of people are doing that at the moment. The only thing is, all the people you see dressing up like her are  girls. I look down at my outfit and feel my heart slam into my throat. I wonder whether it will work if I actually say a prayer  to Madonna. Oh please make this go well, Madonna!

We’re about to perform a routine to ‘Dress You Up’, using a big coat stand and a screen that we’ll disappear behind to change costumes, adding hats, fingerless gloves and other Madonna-themed accessories as we go along. We’ve  adapted the dance routine from a performance we saw her do in the video of The Virgin Tour and have spent  months  rehearsing  it in Shanaz’s bedroom. We found two long blonde wigs in the school dressing-up box and Auntie Jan helped us put together our costumes using her sewing machine at home, agreeing to keep the whole thing secret from Mum and Dad. She’s made us blue and yellow jackets to wear like the one Madonna had on tour, with blue miniskirts and matching lacy tights. Shanaz has   a BOY TOY  belt buckle tied around her waist and I’m wearing     a huge crucifix around my neck. I’ve never dressed up like a   girl before and think it’s ace fun. The only thing that slightly spoils it is having to wear my big plastic NHS glasses on the    end of my nose. But I try not to worry about it too much – if I don’t wear them I won’t be able to see what I’m doing. And it’s

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important that I get the routine absolutely right. This is my chance to impress everyone. This is my chance to make the other kids like me.

‘Now Ladies and Gentlemen,’ announces Mr Fletcher in his broad Bolton accent, ‘please welcome Shanaz Gulati and Charlie Matthews to sing ‘Dress You Up’ by Maradona!’

The audience chuckle at his mistake although he doesn’t  seem to notice. By now my heart’s pounding so violently that  I’m worried it might burst through my ribcage.  We  stand  to one side to make way for Bev Adams  and  Damian  Bradley,  who are just leaving the stage and come barging  past.  They take one look at us and burst out laughing.

‘Freaks!’ hisses Bev.

‘Weirdos!’ adds Damian, elbowing me in the ribs.

I try to take no notice and look at Shanaz and smile feebly. As the four beats of the introduction sound, we take to the stage in darkness. When the lights come up we launch into the routine and straight away  begin  to  relax. We’re singing along to the instrumental version on the B-side of the 12” single and so far I’m amazed to find that things are going well. For those first few moments on stage we understand what it must feel like to be Madonna performing a gig in front of thousands of

fans. And the feeling’s mega.

For the first verse and chorus I sing with so much joy I don’t even notice the reactions of people in the audience – and forget to worry about what people think of me. In fact, I’m so carried away with my performance that for once I forget to feel any kind of fear at all. I’ve never experienced such a powerful sensa- tion and feel as if I’ve enough energy to take on the world.

But then I pause so that Shanaz can sing a few lines on her own and that’s when I notice everyone’s faces; most of the kids

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Dress You Up

and their families are looking at us with a mixture of fascin- ation and, for some reason, distaste. I can just about make out my own family watching by the door  –  Mum’s  pawing  her  neck as it flushes redder than ever and Dad’s  mouth is gaping  so wide that even from this distance I can see his tonsils. When  I catch sight of Joe, his eyes are bulging in their sockets and his chin plummeting slowly, his Jawbreaker gobstopper eventually falling to the floor and rolling halfway across the room.

A few rows in front of them, I spot Miss Bleach glaring up      at us disapprovingly, all steely expression and pursed lips. Just  a few seats away from her, Vince Hargreaves  glowers  at  me and punches his fist into his palm. I tell myself not to pay any attention but to concentrate on my performance.

Miraculously, we’re working our way through the rather complicated dance routine without a hitch. The problems only start during the bridge in the middle of the song, when the record skips and we lose where we’re up to. We just about manage to catch up with the music when it skips again and leaves us really lost. We  freeze and look at each other in panic.   I hear a few kids snigger in the audience and am suddenly paralysed by fear. I recognize Vince Hargreaves laughing like Muttley the dog and see him pointing right at me.

What do we do?

What would Madonna do if she were us?

And what will all the kids think if we mess up now?

Shanaz gives me a determined glare and nods at me to carry on.

We throw ourselves back into it, determined to give it our all and make up for the hiccup. I move forward with a twist and hand Shanaz a fur stole and rosary beads, which she wraps around her neck as she carries on singing. As she leaps forward

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to launch into the next move, it’s obvious that her rosary beads have become attached to my crucifix. By the time we realize what’s wrong, we’re all tangled up and it’s too late. I lose my balance and collapse into her, propelling her forward and over the edge of the stage. Before I know it, I’m lying in a heap on   the floor of the auditorium, my blonde wig in Miss Bleach’s lap and my eyes held by the gaze of a snorting Vince Hargreaves.

The music’s still playing loudly and no one can hear me scream. As I hit the floor I must have crashed down onto my    leg and done myself an injury. The pain’s almost unbearable. I can’t tell what’s going on but there’s a big kerfuffle and lots of adults fussing around me. And then I black out.

When I eventually come round, I’m sitting in the back of an ambulance on my way to hospital. My costume has been hacked off and the music to ‘Dress You Up’ has been replaced by the sound of a blaring siren. Mum and Dad are asking lots of questions and a sweaty paramedic with eyebrows as thick as Dad’s moustache is prodding me in various places. He eventu- ally announces that I’ve broken my leg.

‘Waaaaah!’ Mum starts wailing. ‘Is he going to be like that Joey Deacon?’

‘Shut up, you daft bat!’ says Dad. ‘It’s only a broken leg. I bet you can hardly feel a thing, can you, lad?’

But I can feel it. I can feel it a lot. I tell myself to be brave     but the pain is so bad that I start to feel dizzy.  I  black  out  again.

The next thing I know, I’m lying in a hospital bed with my leg in plaster and a sombre-looking Mum, Dad and Joe huddled around me. Mum’s trying to get me to drink a cup of hot OXO,

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Dress You Up

which she always makes when Joe and I have anything wrong with us.

‘Come on, love,’ she coos, ‘a nice beef tea will do you good.’ Joe holds his head in his hands. ‘You’re so embarrassing,

Charlie,’ he moans, ‘I hope none of my mates from footie find out you dressed up like a girl.’

Dad grumbles away under his breath. ‘Well, all I can say is,   let that be a lesson to you, lad. That’s what you get for  par- ading round the stage tarted up like a woman.’

I wait for Mum to defend me but she doesn’t.  In  the  past she’s sometimes been an ally, such as when Dad found out  I liked skipping and confiscated my skipping ropes and she let  me know where they were hidden. Or the time I wanted a  length of elastic to try out the new craze for what the girls at school called ‘Chinese skipping’ and she secretly bought me some from a gypsy who came knocking on the door. But then Dad started calling me a ‘Mummy’s  boy’ and all that stopped.     It doesn’t look like it’s going to be starting again now.

‘Oh maybe it was a mistake, love,’ says Mum. ‘This is only Bolton, after all.’

‘What are you on about, woman?’ Dad  bellows.  ‘There’s  nowt wrong with Bolton!’

‘I never said there was, Frank.’

‘Yeah, well, that kind of carry-on would be embarrassing anywhere. I don’t know, Charlie, what were you thinking?’

As I listen to his words, a deep shame about what I’ve done sits in me like a boulder. I can feel hot, frustrated tears begin- ning to leak from my eyes and sniff them  back  quickly.  If  I  start to cry I’ll only make things a lot worse.

As the event keeps replaying itself in my mind I feel overwhelmed by a sickening sense of humiliation. I might have

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had my doubts about the performance we were planning beforehand but I enjoyed myself so much during rehearsals  that I couldn’t see how going ahead with it  would  be  a  bad idea at all. I never for one second dreamed it would end up like this. But when I close my eyes now all I can see is Vince Hargreaves, sniggering as he looks at me lying in a heap on the floor. The whole thing has been a disaster and I’ve made  an utter fool of myself in front of the entire school. I don’t know how I can ever face anyone again. They didn’t think much of    me before – now they’ll think I’m really rubbish!

‘Flamin’ ’eck!’ sighs Dad. ‘I reckon I’ll take you to watch the football next week.’

‘Yeah,’ agrees Mum, ‘that might be a good idea, love.’

As I listen to their words, I feel hollowed out. If  Mum  and Dad don’t like me the way I am, what hope do I have with anyone else?

I groan aloud. I try to be like my idol and this is where it     gets me.

Maybe this love story is going to be a bit more complicated than I thought.

Click here to buy The Madonna Of Bolton

All About Matt

Matt Cain was born in Bury and brought up in Bolton. He spent ten years making arts and entertainment programmes for ITV before stepping in front of the camera in 2010 to become Channel 4 News’ first ever culture editor. His first novel, Shot Through the Heart, was published in 2014 and his second, Nothing But Trouble, followed in 2015. As a journalist he has contributed articles to all the major UK newspapers and is currently Editor-in-Chief of Attitude, the UK’s biggest-selling magazine for gay men, and its sister publication, Winq. In 2017 he was voted Diversity in Media’s Journalist of the Year. He lives in London.

Where To Find Matt

Website

Twitter

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The Second Cup #Blogtour #Review

First Anniversary Blog Blitz: The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye

The Second Cup was originally published on 19 July 2017. The extended edition (includes character interviews) was published on 12 February 2018.

Synopsis

Would your life unravel if someone you knew committed suicide? Theirs did.

Faye knows her heart still belongs to her first love, Jack. She also knows he might have moved on, but when she decides to track him down, nothing prepares her for the news that he’s taken his own life.

Faye is left wondering how to move forward – and whether or not Jack’s best friend Ethan will let her down again. And the news of Jack’s death ripples through the lives of her friends too.

Abbie finds herself questioning her marriage, and wondering if she was right to leave her first love behind. Poor Olivia is juggling her job and her boyfriend and trying to deal with a death of her own. And Jack’s death has hit Beth the hardest, even though she never knew him.

Is Beth about to take her own life too?

My Review

Firstly I’d like to thank Rachel’s Random Resources and Sarah Marie Graye for including me in this blogtour.

The second cup is a beautifully written novel that tells a story of four very different friends. Each one very different but all fighting their inner demons and emotional battles.

I really enjoyed the way the story was told from all four friends points of views. It enabled you to see how Jacks suicide had a ripple effect on multiple life’s.

This was a real page turner, the more I discovered about each characters past and present the hungrier I was to discover more.

At times it was an emotional read, the subjects covered don’t make for easy reading. Suicide, mental health and depression are all very much part of today’s society. I found Beth’s diagnosis of ADHD insightful, it was clear that Sarah is very knowledgable and writes from experience and very much from the heart.

It was interesting to discover the different dynamics within the friendship group, this really struck a chord with me. I’m a real people watcher and The Second Cup almost felt like I was a fly on the wall observing this unique little group of people. It was plain to see how each character took a role within that group. Their friendship shone throughout the story.

The last chapter is written from Jacks perspective, the day he kills himself. This was a really powerful chapter.

The character interviews at the end were such a great addition and rounded the book up fantastically.

This book will stay with me for a long time.

Click here to buy The Second Cup

All About Sarah

Sarah Marie Graye was born in Manchester in 1975, to English Catholic parents. To the outside world Sarah Marie’s childhood followed a relatively typical Manchester upbringing, until aged nine, when she was diagnosed with depression.

It’s a diagnosis that has stayed with Sarah Marie over three decades, and something she believes has coloured every life decision, including the one to write a novel.

Sarah Marie wrote The Second Cup as part of an MA Creative Writing practice as research degree at London South Bank University – where she was the vice-chancellor’s scholarship holder.

Sarah Marie was diagnosed with ADHD in November 2017 and published an extended edition of The Second Cup in February 2018 that included character interviews so she could diagnose one of her characters with the same condition.

Where To Find Sarah

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Amazon author page

There are 3 Signed copies of The Second Cup by Sarah Marie Graye up for grabs (Open Internationally)

Click here to enter

*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 I reserve 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 I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Star Jumpers ~ The Lion Roars by Zoe Baxter #Blogtour #Review

Synopsis

Four Teens: One Quest: A World of Magic and Adventure

It was no ordinary zipwire flight. Thrust into the magical world of Hadrixia, flame-haired Zara Bulmer and her three teenage companions must thwart the Dark Ruler of Hadrixia in their quest to locate the Stone of Exerith. The fate of the Empire depends on their success…and safe return to Star Camp.

On their journey, the foursome must tangle with vicious creatures like the horn-headed Warnoks and the venomous web-tailed Tarquids. Will they succumb to the persuasive chants of the fire-loving Brozigs or be mauled to death by the tree-swinging Harnts?

The friends join forces with Hadrixian teenager, Quinn, and encounter the kindness of Semyon, an aged wizard potionmaker.

Will Zara fulfil the destiny bestowed upon her before the sun sets on the last day of July? Or will the Portwall to the Outside remain sealed, imprisoning the four intrepid teenagers in Hadrixia, consigning them to a future of chaos, destruction, or even death?

There’s only one way to find out:

Welcome to the perilous world of Hadrixia…

My Review

Firstly I’d like to thank Rachel’s Random Resources and Zoe Baxter for including me in this blog tour.

Star jumpers was a really fresh, exciting vibrant read. Perfect for young adults or young at heart adults! I’m very much the second!

If you are a fan of lord of the rings you’re in for a treat. I’m a sucker for a book with a magical element so this was right up my street.

At the beginning, the group chosen for the quest are the most unlikely bunch of heroes. It was lovely to see the characters grow and develop as the story progresses.

The story is intricately weaved, there is so much detail about the surroundings that you can imagine everything in full colour as though you are there.

Star Jumpers is a modern day fairy tale that’s a joy to read

Click here to buy Star Jumpers

All About Zoe

Zoe Baxter is the author of the Star Jumpers series, a fast-paced urban fantasy adventure set in the Dark Sky Park of Northumbria. An avid scribbler, she lives in a world filled with vicious and venomous creatures breathing down her neck, and has even been known to take the odd zip wire flight in the name of research.

Where To Find Zoe

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

To win Star Jumpers paperback, bookmark and postcard (UK Only) Click here

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries only 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 I reserve 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 I will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Needle Song by Russell Day #Blogtour #Review

Synopsis

Spending the night with a beautiful woman would be a good alibi, if the body in the next room wasn’t her husband.

Doc Slidesmith has a habit of knowing things he shouldn’t. He knows the woman Chris Rudjer meets online is married. He knows the adult fun she’s looking for is likely to be short lived. And when her husband’s killed, he knows Chris Rudjer didn’t do it.

Only trouble is the police disagree and no one wants to waste time investigating an open and shut case.

No one except Doc.

Using lies, blackmail and a loaded pack of Tarot cards, Doc sets about looking for the truth – but the more truth he finds, the less he thinks his friend is going to like it.

My Review

I’d like to thank Fahrenheit Press, Damp Pebbles and Russell Day for including me in the Needle Song blog tour.

Needle song was a dream read for me, I loved Russell’s style of writing, the characters had depth, an edge and dry wit. A winner!

The story was intriguing, it kept me just teetering on the edge of feeling I didn’t really know the whole story and I was hungry to keep reading.

That fact that it was loosely based around a tattoo shop was tantalising as I’m a sucker for the sound of a tattoo gun!

Needle song had a uniqueness about it that I throughly enjoyed, it wasn’t your usual crime fiction book. The police were not the main focus of the investigations, I’ve read a few books like this recently and I must say I’m really enjoying this twist on crime fiction.I’d love to see these characters reappear in a sequel.

Russell is definitely an author I will be keeping my eye on. Roll on book two! Strong 5* review from me.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Fahrenheit Press

All About Russell

Russell Day was born in 1966 and grew up in Harlesden, NW10 – a geographic region searching for an alibi. From an early age it was clear the only things he cared about were motorcycles, tattoos and writing. At a later stage he added family life to his list of interests and now lives with his wife and two children. He’s still in London, but has moved south of the river for the milder climate.

Although he only writes crime fiction Russ doesn’t consider his work restricted. ‘As long as there have been people there has been crime, as long as there are people there will be crime.’ That attitude leaves a lot of scope for settings and characters. One of the first short stories he had published, The Second Rat and the Automatic Nun, was a double-cross story set in a world where the church had taken over policing. In his first novel, Needle Song, an amateur detective employs logic, psychology and a loaded pack of tarot cards to investigate a death.

Russ often tells people he seldom smiles due to nerve damage, sustained when his jaw was broken. In fact, this is a total fabrication and his family will tell you he’s has always been a miserable bastard.

Where To Find Russell

Twitter

Confessions Of A First Time Mum by Poppy Dolan #Blogtour #Extract

Title: Confessions of a First-Time Mum

Author Name: Poppy Dolan

Previous Books: The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp, There’s More to Life than Cupcakes, The Bluebell Bunting Society, The Woolly Hat Knitting Club

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Release Date: 25th June 2018

Publisher: Canelo

Synopsis

Stevie’s life has changed beyond recognition since having her first baby.

Stevie loves being a mum, but between the isolation and being vomited on five times a day, she really wishes she had someone to talk to.

With husband Ted working hard to keep the family afloat, Stevie really doesn’t want to burden him with her feelings. Turning to the internet, Stevie starts the anonymous First-Time Mum blog and blasts the rose-tinted glasses of parenthood right off her readers.

In the real world, Stevie meets the formidable Nelle and gorgeous Will, along with their own little treasures, and starts to realise that being a ‘perfect mum’ isn’t everything. But when the secret blog goes viral, Stevie must make some tough choices about who she wants to be, and whether she’s ready for the world to know the truth…

I’d like to thank Poppy Dolan and Canelo for allowing me to take part in this Blog tour.

I’m so excited to have an extract from Confessions Of A First Time Mum on my blog today. Enjoy …

Blog Post 3.15pm

‘Fine’: the real F word.

‘Fine’ used to be a fun word, when I was younger and before I had a kid.

‘How’s your food?’ a stylish tattooed waiter in a London gastro pub would ask. ‘Fine!’ I’d chirrup back, tucking into my perfectly cooked rack of lamb served on a slab of tree trunk, getting to eat my food warm and just the way the chef intended, not stone-cold and with solidified fat marbling the meat, because I’d had to rush to change a nappy or awkwardly bring out a boob in front of gawking drinkers.

I might look at myself in a mirror of a changing room with a new, low-cut, slinky top on, turning this way and that, holding in my few extra centimetres of flesh with a deep breath. When I liked what I saw, I might cheekily think, ‘Girl, you look fine in this. Buy it and wear it out tonight!’ And just like that, I’d bought a new outfit and decided my evening plans without having to consult sleeping and feeding patterns like a star map, for weeks in advance. Without having to worry that even if I did beat the odds and make it out for a night, I might fall asleep next to a speaker in a night club at 10.23pm because I’d been awake 20 hours that day.

When friends would ask, ‘So, how are you?’ I would say, ‘Yeah, I’m fine’ and I would really mean that. I would mean everything in my life is good and easy and right. Because I never thought that much about what went into achieving that kind of natural happiness. Because I took it for granted.

And now fine is a totally different word, and laden with so much more meaning than ever before. It’s actually a pretty heavy word, now I think about it. ‘Fine’ means ‘acceptable’, ‘I can live with it’ and ‘This will do’. It’s not pub lunches or new tops or friendly chats. It’s pushing a pram around and around in circles even though my legs are so tired I think they might crumple underneath me, and then a sweet old lady at a bus stop will ask about the baby and I’ll say with a fake smile: ‘Fine.’ It’s about deciding that a jumper to pull on for the day is ‘fine’ because there are no major stains on it and it doesn’t smell all that bad. It’s muttering that the baby onesie is ‘Probably fine’ because you managed to wipe up the sick sharpish with a baby wipe and the thought of putting the washing machine on yet again today makes you want to scream. It’s the ‘Hey, it’s fine’ you hear down the line when you call to cancel a plan with your pre-baby friends because of a worrying temperature or a night before of only 45-minutes’ sleep. And in their tone you can almost hear yourself getting crossed off a mental list of people to socialise with.

It’s scraping by.

And when people ask, ‘So, how are you?’ I still say, ‘Yeah, I’m fine.’ Because to let it all out, all the resentments and complaints and hardships, sound like ingratitude. For being given a beautiful child. For having a baby. For doing what so many couples desperately want to do, and can’t. For having an extended maternity leave when some mums have no choice but to go back to work at three months to pay the bills.

I’m honestly not ungrateful, I swear. Sometimes the impossible perfection of my daughter’s round cheeks actually takes my breath away. And she’ll look at me with her quick, sharp eyes and pull a face and inside I feel like The Wizard of Oz when it goes Technicolor.

I love her, sweet Jesus, I love her to bits, but that doesn’t make everything ‘fine’.

So, my OH is going away, at the last minute, on a work trip. And he tells me, ‘You’ll be fine’ and I think that tells me everything I need to know about our different experiences of parenthood. He believes it. But I know the reality.

My thumb is starting to cramp up as I hit ‘Publish’. Cherry fell asleep after her mid-afternoon feed, like a warm Doberman on my lap, and I didn’t want to risk that by moving her. Besides, the warm heft of her on my lap, the sweet smell of her freshly washed babygro, the slow lift and fall of her chest as she snoozed, was so comforting. A little bubble of sofa love. So I shoved my boob back into my nursing bra and poured all my frustrations with Ted into a blog post.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK

Kobo UK

Google Books

Apple Books UK

All About Poppy

Poppy Dolan is in her mid thirties and lives in Berkshire with her husband. She’s a near-obsessive baker and a keen crafter, so on a typical weekend can be found moving between the haberdashery and kitchenware floors of a department store, adding to her birthday wish list. She has written three novels: The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp, There’s More to Life than Cupcakes and most recently The Bluebell Bunting Society. The Bad Boyfriends Bootcamp made it into the Amazon top 100 bestseller chart, so clearly someone other than her mum must have read it. She’s currently working on her fourth novel – it’s about friends, siblings and crafty things – and drinking far too much tea.

You can get in touch with Poppy on Twitter @poppydwriter and on Facebook at PoppyDolanBooks. She doesn’t bite. Unless you are a dark chocolate digestive.

Where To Find Poppy

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The Letter ~ Kitty’s Story by Eliza J Scott #Blogtour #Guestpost #Giveaway

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Synopsis

Thirty-four-year-old Kitty Bennett is trapped in a loveless marriage to criminal barrister, Dan, who’s gradually isolated her from her family and friends. Until the day she (literally) bumps into her first love, the handsome and easy-going Ollie Cartwright – someone she’s done her best to avoid for as long as she can remember. Looking into Ollie’s eyes awakens feelings for him she thought she’d buried deep years ago, and he clearly feels the spark, too. As she walks away, Kitty can’t help but wonder what might have been… Dan senses that his marriage is on shaky ground and knows he needs to win his wife round. He turns on the charm, skilfully using their two children, Lucas and Lily, as bargaining tools. But Kitty’s older brother, Jimby, and her childhood best-friends, Molly and Violet, have decided enough is enough. For years they’ve had to watch from afar as Kitty’s been browbeaten into an unrecognisable version of herself. They vow to make her see Dan for what he really is, but their attempts are no match for his finely-honed courtroom skills and, against her better judgement, Kitty agrees to give her husband one last chance. But, all-too-soon, a series of heart-breaking events and a shocking secret throw her life into turmoil… Will she stand by Dan, or will Kitty be brave enough to take the leap and follow her heart to Ollie? Life is anything but peaceful in the chocolate-box pretty village of Lytell Stangdale, where life unravels, and hearts are broken. Full of heart-warming moments, this book with have you crying tears of joy, laughter and sadness.

Click here to buy The Letter, Kitty’s Story

 

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I have the greatest pleasure in hosting a guest post from Eliza today, over to you Eliza…

THE BEGINNINGS OF A STORY

Hi there Wrong Side of Forty, thank you for taking part in the publication day blog tour for The Letter – Kitty’s Story and thank you for having me on your blog. I thought I’d share with you how I get the beginnings of a story, so here goes:

I never know when the idea for a story is going to strike, so I almost always carry a notebook and a pen with me wherever I go so I can scribble it down before it disappears! They can pop into my head in the most unlikely of places and, on the occasion I don’t have a notebook to hand, I’ll whip out my phone and tap my thoughts into the notes section before they float off out of my head.

From that simple jotting, the outline can grow quite quickly and sometimes my writing struggles to keep up with my thoughts as they come spilling out of my head! I tend to write these by hand in an A4 notebook (this is the only stage of a story when I don’t use my laptop) and it’s almost as if, once those first words are on the page, the story takes on a life of its own and just blooms and grows.

Once the bones of the story are down, I then start to think of about my protagonists, and I usually have a pretty good idea of what they look like, their mannerisms what they’re called and what their personalities are like. This is such an exciting time and, to me, it’s like getting to know real people.

After this, I’ll move on to the setting and, again I can visualise this pretty clearly and see how all the characters fit into it, whether it be a village or a town. I also have a clear idea of what their homes are like.

The next thing I do is create a spreadsheet of the characters which includes every detail about them: eye colour, hair colour, where they live, who they live with etc. I find this really useful and knowing I’ve got it to refer to helps de-clutter my rather messy mind. I print this off as I like to have it handy to flick through beside my laptop whenever the need arises, though it usually ends up covered in scribbles as I add things!

I’ve had the outlines for several stories like this for quite a few years, and once I get a few of the Life on the Moors stories out of the way, I’ll turn my attention to them. After all, they’ve been waiting very patiently.

I didn’t, however, use the above method when I was writing The Letter – Kitty’s Story. Well, that’s not strictly true, I did have a handwritten outline, but when I sat down at my laptop and started typing, a completely different story emerged! It turned out to be huge – like I’d just vomited words onto the pages! – and I realised that there were actually three separate stories in it: Kitty’s, Molly’s and Violet’s. I’m currently working on Molly’s story which is proving to be even more heart–wrenching than Kitty’s. And poor old Violet faces some pretty tough times in hers, too. I’ve saved the original outline for when it’s ready to be written – if at all.

Thank you for letting me share this with you on your lovely blog.

Eliza x

 

The Letter - Kittys Story

 

 

All About Eliza

I live in a village in the North Yorkshire Moors with my husband, two daughters and two black Labradors. When I’m not writing, I can usually be found with my nose in a book/glued to my Kindle, or in my garden. I also enjoy bracing walks in the countryside, rounded off with a visit to a teashop where I can indulge in another two of my favourite things: tea and cake.

Where To Find Eliza

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The Letter - Prize

 

To win a PB copy of The Letter – Kitty’s Story, Chocolate and Neom Hand Cream (Open Internationally)  Click Here

*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 I reserve 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 I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

 

 

 

 

Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman #Blogtour #Review

Synopsis

West Berlin, 1979. Helen Abell oversees the CIA’s network of safe houses, rare havens for field agents and case officers amidst the dangerous milieu of a city in the grips of the Cold War. Helen’s world is upended when, during her routine inspection of an agency property, she overhears a meeting between two people unfamiliar to her speaking a coded language that hints at shadowy realities far beyond her comprehension. Before the day is out, she witnesses a second unauthorized encounter, one that will place her in the sight lines of the most ruthless and powerful man at the agency. Her attempts to expose the dark truths about what she has witnessed will bring about repercussions that reach across decades and continents into the present day, when, in a farm town in Maryland, a young man is arrested for the double murder of his parents, and his sister takes it upon herself to find out why he did it.

My Review

I’d like to thank Dan Fesperman and Knopf publishing for including me in this blog tour.

Safe Houses is a real slow burner, it lulls you into a false sense of security and then BANG! The last paragraph of the fourth chapter really packed a punch. So much so it stopped me in my tracks, I can’t remember reading such a powerful clever twist in a story that actually stayed in the forefront of my mind for days.

The story switches between 1979 and 2014 but not so much so that it leaves you confused as to which era you’re reading about and who’s who.

Safe Houses intrigued me and made me want to keep turning those pages to find out what happens to Helen. How can a hungry go getter turn into a very guarded, uptight house wife.

For me, the story spanning between the two era’s definitely added to the intensity. Eventually the two decades collide!

This is an amazing read, a 5* review from me.

Click Here To Buy Safe Houses

All About Dan

DAN FESPERMAN’s travels as a journalist and novelist have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. He lives in Baltimore.

Where To Find Dan

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Twitter