Giveaway and Extract: Wildest of All by P. K. Lynch

wildest of all

Generally I love blogging but occasionally there are some real frustrations. One for me is that I haven’t had time to read Wildest of All by P.K Lynch and it looks exactly my kind of book. Fortunately, I do have an extract to share today on Linda’s Book Bag from the very beginning of the book and I am able offer a paperback copy of Wildest of All to one lucky UK reader in a giveaway at the bottom of this blog post.

Published by Legend Press on 1st September 2017, Wildest of All is available for purchase here.

Wildest of All

wildest of all

The Donnelly family are a tight-knit bunch, but when one of their own dies without warning, the mother, the daughter-in-law, and the daughter, despite being united in grief, are each sent hurtling in wildly different directions.

From the churches of Glasgow to the nightclubs of London, can they find their way back to each other before it’s too late?  And in the wake of a parent’s death, who exactly is responsible for looking after whom?

An Extract from Wildest of All

CHAPTER ONE

Monstrous

They called her Sissy because her red hair made them think of the actress in that movie they’d both loved where pretty much the whole town winds up dead. But names are a big deal in Catholic families, so it was agreed the birth certificate should say Cecilia. That way, Anne could tell everyone that her first granddaughter was named after the patron saint of music. Everyone was happy. No one anticipated any problems.

Of course, the baby didn’t have much of a say in anything, though she became very clear she preferred Sissy to Cecilia, no matter what the kids in the playground had to say about it. Despite the shock of the first grandchild being born out of wedlock, Anne took comfort from the fact that Sissy’s arrival was sure to bring Peter back to his senses. He’d return to the law, and in time she was sure Peter and Jude would marry. The baby, like all babies, was a marvellous opportunity to put everything back on track.

But seventeen years later, none of that had come to pass, and now the family were gathered in Peter’s hallway awaiting the arrival of the cars for his funeral. His sister, Susan, had travelled from Manchester with her three boisterous sons and unfaithful husband, from whom she would never be parted, because that is the Catholic way. His brother, Danny, was there with his two well-behaved daughters, but not their mother because she – the vixen – had left him, and although Lauren had wanted to attend the funeral, Danny had forbidden it because you don’t get to pick and choose your loyalties; you’re either with the Donnellys or you’re not, and if you’re not, then you might as well be against them.

The assembled family looked to the top of the stairs where Sissy stood, wearing a dress for a thirteen-year-old child that she’d found in M&S a couple of days previously. Her dad would have laughed at that. On her feet were a pair of navy blue cowboy boots he’d brought back from a tour around the States. He’d made a mistake with the sizes and bought a couple of sizes too large.

‘You’re not wearing those, are you?’ said Anne, as Sissy clumped down the stairs, fascinated by the strangeness of her own feet. When she reached the bottom, she smiled widely and clicked her heels together: there’s no place like home there’s no place like home there’s no place like home. Nobody laughed, but Lucy, who was the youngest of Danny’s girls, gave a watery smile and whispered to her that they were awesome.

Danny leaned over and kissed Lucy on the head. ‘Good girl,’ he said, and Sissy experienced it as a stab to the heart. No more daddy kisses for her. She searched for her mother and found her leaning against the wall behind Grammy. Red-eyed and vacant, Jude was no longer the mother she’d always known. It remained to be seen who she was now, indeed, who they were, and what they would become together.

‘The cars are here,’ said Susan, from her look-out post at the living room window. A barely perceptible pause followed, then Danny said, ‘Right. Everyone move out.’ The front door opened and everyone began to shuffle out. The three youngest cousins darted through the grown-ups, desperate for exercise.

‘Wait,’ said Susan, catching Sissy by the arm. She brought her into the downstairs bathroom. Taking the corner of the hand towel, she soaked it, squeezed it, and wiped Sissy’s face. Then she reached into her handbag and retrieved a comb with which she teased out the tangles in Sissy’s hair and twisted it into a low ponytail.

‘It’ll be windy at the cemetery,’ Susan said.

How clever she is to know that, Sissy thought.

‘And here,’ said Susan, pulling out a pair of tights from her bag. ‘Your feet’ll get sore in those boots otherwise.’

Susan knelt down and tapped on Sissy’s knee, triggering a long forgotten morning routine. Sissy raised first one foot and then the other to allow Susan to pull her boots off.

‘Right,’ said Susan, running her fingers down the leg of the tights and stretching out the foot. Sissy wiggled her toes into the little cave Susan had created. So many times she had done this with Jude, holding onto her head to keep balanced, always forgetting her mother preferred her to use her shoulders.

But today Sissy held onto the sink for balance, and studied her aunt’s head, which she didn’t think she’d seen from this angle before. Susan’s roots were an inch long and greying. Something about this moved Sissy. She felt sorry for her aunt who’d be seeing absolutely everyone in the whole extended family today. It was the sort of day you’d normally want to make an effort for.

Three stretch limousines carried them to the church because Anne said it had to be done properly. Even among the principal mourners there was a hierarchy: Sissy and Jude travelled in the first car, Anne, Danny and Susan in the second, and all five cousins in the car behind, with Susan’s husband their reluctant chaperone.

Sissy and Jude took a window seat each. Jude wondered later if perhaps it was the car being so big that put all that space between them. And perhaps it was Anne’s tiny stature that made Susan and Danny sit so close, as though their presence was required merely to keep the old lady propped up. And Susan’s husband, Phillip, stared at his phone the whole way, while the eldest girls, Lucy and Emma, kept his three boys entertained with a series of games ranging from I Spy to Yellow Car Touch in an effort to keep them calm.

‘There’s glasses in here!’ shrieked the youngest, Andrew, having pressed a button to reveal a drinks cabinet hidden in the door. Lucy and Emma shared a look, a silent agreement to tolerate this now, but tell all to their dad afterwards about how inappropriate the boys had been in the funeral car, knowing already that Danny would nod, then shake his head, and say what else could you expect from boys as wild as they?

Jude had some pills from the doctor, one of which she had swallowed an hour before with one of her special teas, Earl Grey laced with vodka. Her journey to the church passed in a pleasant fuzz, although she was acutely aware of all the edges of her reality, and somewhat amused by the expanding hole at the centre of her which seemed to creep closer and closer to the boundary of her existence. She deliberately let her right arm trail into the centre of the back seat in case Sissy needed something to hold onto. She would always be there for Sissy.

Sissy was the most important thing. For Sissy, her hand would always be open, lying between them like a half-built bridge.

About P.K. Lynch

Pk Lynch

Pauline Lynch trained as an actor and her first professional job was playing Lizzie in the film of Irvine Welsh’s novel, Trainspotting.

After having a baby, P.K. completed her first stage play, Promise. Her second play, King of the Gypsies, played at the Edinburgh fringe, and then toured.

She then enrolled on the MLitt Creative Writing programme at Glasgow University where Armadillos was awarded the Sceptre Prize for Fiction.

You an visit Pauline’s blog here. You can also follow her on Twitter @lynchpinpauline.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Uk Paperback Giveaway of Wildest of All by P.K Lynch

wildest of all

UK only I’m afraid, but thanks to the lovely folk at Legend Press I have a paperback copy of Wildest of All by P.K Lynch to giveaway. To enter, just click here. Giveaway closes UK midnight on Sunday 24th September 2017.

An Extract from Letters to the Pianist and Publication Day Guest Post by S D Mayes

Letters to the pianist

I love fiction with an historical theme so what could be better than to be celebrating publication day of Letters to the Pianist by SD Mayes than with a guest post delving into how the book came about and an extract for you all to read?

Letters to the Pianist is published today 19th September 2017 by BHC Press and is available for purchase here.

Letters to the Pianist

Letters to the pianist

Letters to the Pianist is a poignant, suspense story about a broken family, struggling to find an anchor in the midst of loss.

In war torn London, 1941, fourteen-year-old Ruth Goldberg and her two younger siblings, Gabi and Hannah, survive the terrifying bombing of their family home. They believe their parents are dead, their bodies buried underneath the burnt remains – but unbeknownst to them, their father, Joe, survives and is taken to hospital with amnesia.

Four years on, Ruth, stumbles across a newspaper photo of a celebrated pianist and is struck by the resemblance to her father. Desperate for evidence she sends him a letter, and as the pianist’s dormant memories emerge, his past unravels, revealing his true identity – as her beloved father, Joe.

Ruth sets out to meet him, only to find herself plunged into an aristocratic world of sinister dark secrets.

Can she help him escape and find a way to stay alive?

An Extract From Letters to the Pianist

Chapter One

Way back, in 1941, when I was still young and naive, in that twilight world of adolescent confusion, I could fritter away time daydreaming for hours. In truth, all three of us: the Goldberg children, escaped into a magical world, immersing ourselves in books like The Secret Garden and Peter Pan, or transforming into castaways wrapped up in old towels pretending we were on Treasure Island foraging for food. We grew to thrive on fantasy as if it were an energy fuel, always searching for a new diversion. Anything to block out the bitter reality of London life.

Our home was a red-brick terraced house on Sandringham Road in Hackney, known as the heart of the East End, a cosy haven despite the peeling paintwork and windows so thick with dust you couldn’t see in or out.

There weren’t many families like us that remained. Our once friendly neighbourhood, with the sound of children’s laughter and neighbours chattering in the street, had long gone. It was now eerily quiet; the pavements strewn with rubble and a swamping sadness that hung in the air like the reek of burning flesh.

Most of my school friends had been evacuated, disappearing to the countryside without time for goodbyes, whilst others were horribly maimed or killed in the blitz. But our daddy was adamant. ‘We’re not staying in a stinking shelter,’ he’d say, ‘home is our anchor and they can take me on bare knuckles an’ all before I’d send you three away.’ And I felt truly blessed that he kept us together despite the dangers.

At night, when darkness came along with the night raids, I often thought of my old friends as I tried to sleep, wondering if their spirits were rejoicing in heaven or aimlessly wandering the shadowlands of Sheol. I prepared to die so many times; the sirens screeching in my ears as I’d dive under the covers frantically reciting the Shema, trying to block out the grinding roar of planes overhead and the whistling bombs raining down, the deafening boom, boom, boom as they crashed into buildings and tore them apart. It all felt monstrously chilling, the cruelty of it all; in awe that our lives were so fragile, knowing we could be snuffed out in seconds and ready for a coffin.

In the morning, I’d clamber out of bed rubbing my gritty eyes, exhausted from lack of sleep, and walk straight into my warm fuzzy bubble, brushing away my worst fears as I awaited my handsome prince, hoping he would come and save us as promised in every happy ending.

That was all I had: pretence to help save my sanity and give me some kind of antidote to pain.

Until one day my bubble popped, bursting open.

And finally, I knew.

That dreams and wishes and fairy tales were like icing on a mouldy cake – they can’t hide the truth – because when you take a proper bite, you choke.

Saturday morning, 8th March 1941

‘I’m coming to get you,’ I whispered in a sing-song voice. ‘Something’s going to bite you, rip you in two.’ I leant across the breakfast table staring at my younger siblings menacingly as they ignored me, scraping up the rest of their porridge. I waited, ready to pounce. ‘Last one out’s a dead-un.’ This was our favourite game; goading, teasing, scaring each other witless with our safe form of ‘terror’ until their spoons slammed down and in a shrieking mad scramble, we all hurtled outside like cannon balls ready to play.

I threw down a penny, hopping onto each numbered square, drawn out with chalk on the pavement a few yards from our house.

A stone skittered in front of me and I stumbled outside the chalky lines.

‘Ha-ha you forfeit a point,’ Gabi shouted, punching the air in victory.

‘That’s not fair, Gabi. You’re cheating.’

‘Boohoo,’ he cried, wiping away fake tears as he broke into that big silly grin; so like our daddy’s magnetic smile that could put a spell on you in a heartbeat and charm you into submission.

‘Wow, see that?’ squealed Hannah, interrupting our spat.

We spun round to look.

She pointed at the roadside, her blonde ringlets falling across her face as she crouched down scrutinising something that glittered on the kerb edge, near the drain that went down to the sewers. That was typical of her; she was such a magpie, always finding shiny things amongst the rubble, like marbles or bobby pins.

Gabi and I bent over, peering closely.

She took a breath and picked up a chain from the dirt and held it in the centre of her palm, wiping off some of the sludgy grime with the sleeve of her jumper. ‘Woo, look at this little sparkler. I bet it’s worth a fortune.’ She draped it between her fingers and then glared at us. ‘It’s mine, all mine, do you hear? Finders keepers.’

I gazed at the gold chain with the Star of David dangling from it and instantly knew whom it belonged to. Looking back at the roadside, my heart raced as something caught my eye, lying in the kerb about a foot away. A bloody lump partly hidden under a heap of broken red bricks.

‘What’s wrong, Ruth?’ asked Gabi.

I gulped. He must have noticed my fixed stare. ‘Nothing,’ I said, looking away.

‘Have you seen an icky diseased rat scuttling about, because I’ve seen lots?’ He laughed and pulled out a sticky humbug from his trouser pocket and popped it in his mouth making slurping noises.

‘Yuck, rats,’ said Hannah, wrinkling her nose.

‘Can both of you cover your eyes, please?’

‘Why? I don’t want to.’ Hannah stamped her foot in defiance.

Gabi smirked.

‘Do it! Or you might see something you really wished you hadn’t.’

As with all our little scraps, they reluctantly obeyed, and I could breathe easier. Mama told me countless times, ‘Ruth, get out of that pink fog!’ She said being at war meant facing the ugly facts of life, especially now I was over fourteen and able to apply for work. Gabi was twelve and Hannah only ten and in my mind they were still the ‘little ones’ and I didn’t want to give them nightmares.

Forcing myself to be brave, I leant forward, carefully moving the brick fragments out of the way.

I jumped back in fright.

A severed hand swarmed with maggots, one of the most disgusting insects of all time, and they were crawling everywhere, burrowing into the flesh. I covered my mouth to stop myself screaming, heaving at the sickening sight. Catching my breath, out of morbid curiosity I dared to look again, watching the maggots crawl around revealing patches of bloodstained skin.

Something seemed familiar: the glimpse of chipped nail polish and a pink Bakelite ring on the right forefinger. I looked down at my own matching ring.

This was my friend, Jane Beckerman’s hand, discarded in the gutter like a piece of rubbish along with her necklace that she’d always treasured, a family heirloom her much-loved grandmother had passed down the family. I swatted away the swarm of flies that gathered from nowhere, flitting in circles, taunting me like a gang of bullies.

‘Can I look now?’ asked Hannah, the chain still draped across her fingers.

‘No, not yet!’

‘Hey, don’t be mean!’

‘Sorry, Hannah. Another minute, that’s all.’

I scooped up rubble to re-cover Jane’s rotting hand, ensuring it was completely camouflaged. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I whispered.

I turned to look at Gabi, the pupils in his eyes dilated with ghoulish fascination as he chewed on his plump bottom lip, the way he always did when he was nervous. Gorgeous Gabi we all called him, labelled ‘pretty’ ever since he was a baby, given his mop of wavy dark hair and those long feathery lashes that fanned his copper-coloured eyes.

‘You saw, didn’t you?’

He nodded.

‘Well, I hope you don’t get nightmares.’

‘It’s no big deal.’ He leant forward so Hannah couldn’t hear. ‘I’ve seen worse collecting shrapnel off the bomb sites.’ He tilted his head to one side as if monitoring my face for shock value. ‘Once I tripped over a decapitated head.’

I sighed at his flippant bravado. He didn’t know the hand belonged to my best friend and I felt it best to say nothing. It wasn’t unusual for body parts to be torn off in explosions and fly into the air landing randomly. Usually, though, the relief workers cleared them away before you stumbled across them.

‘You can look now, Hannah,’ I said, my voice choked, ‘but the necklace … can I have it, please?’

She opened her eyes. ‘Why? Might be worth a bob or two.’

‘It belongs to Jane. She always wore it, remember?’

‘Oh, yes, Jane, she gave me some liquorice.’ She handed me the chain, pouting sulkily. ‘Best give it back to her then.’

I cupped it in my hands as if it were a priceless treasure, placing it in the front pocket of my pinafore. It was all I had left of my best friend. We’d been close for years, more like sisters really; our arms always linked as we walked to the shops, giggling at any silly thing that caught our eye. This was all so unfair, a mockery of her life. Where was the rest of her body, I wondered. I pictured her gap-toothed smile and that frizz of ginger hair and my eyes filled with tears. It hit me hard. I’d miss her, really miss her, and now I’d never see her again.

I decided to sneak back later, wipe away the yucky maggots and put her abandoned hand in a shoebox along with her necklace. I would get daddy’s trowel from the shed and dig a hole in our bomb-blasted back garden, in a private spot behind our leafless, charred apple tree. I’d recite a prayer and give her the humane burial she deserved. She was my friend and I had to make that count, because whatever they tell you, there are no gold stars for good behaviour; a perfect angel or a nasty monster, it’s pot luck how you peg out.

The Inspiration for Letters to the Pianist

A Guest Post by S.D. Mayes

I can still remember when the story for Letters to the Pianist dropped into my consciousness three years ago. It was about a man called Joe, of Jewish descent, who appeared to have lost his wife and children, along with his memory in the war. Having to start again, he ends up with a new identity and unknowingly marries into a family with dark secrets. When his long lost daughter tracks him down, and writes him a letter, fragments of his memories return, and he realises the dangerous trap he’s fallen into.

I remember thinking, wow, I’d love to read what happens next.  I guess it’s that ‘what would happen if …’ that inspires most writers.  It took me a while to get going. But a downpour of February rain drove me on – a good excuse not to go outside.

I  had to do a huge amount of research and it was tricky summoning a wartime atmosphere to mind, but that changed when I discovered my mother, Ruth’s diarised memoirs, when she sadly died a few months after I started the book. I knew she had a traumatic childhood, but was intrigued to flick through the pages and read about her past – something she never discussed – and was amazed how well she vividly described her family home being bombed in the blitz, as her and her siblings were left orphaned after their parents were killed overnight. It was shocking and deeply emotional. And so the bomb scenes at the beginning of the story are an authentic account of what actually happened, along with the children’s separation as they were evacuated to stay with different relatives.

I also did some fascinating in depth research on Hitler and his occult activities, where he employed psychics and practised rituals in order to influence the mind of a nation.  Of course Hitler will go down in history as one of the most evil men that ever lived, but there is no denying that he was a bizarre and fascinating character, and without giving away the plot, it is that supernatural aspect, that also made me wonder – what would happen if a character stumbled into all this ritualistic madness? And with that, I will leave you to discover exactly what I mean …

About SD Mayes

S D Mayes

S.D. Mayes worked as a journalist for nearly twenty years before turning her hand to fiction. Inspired by the bizarre but factual events of Hitler’s pursuit of power and his obsession with the supernatural, Letters to the Pianist is her first historical suspense novel.

Originally from the West Country, she currently lives in Caversham, Berkshire.

You can follow S D Mayes on Twitter @authorMayes.

Starting Writing: A Guest Post by Phoebe Morgan, Author of The Doll House

The Doll House cover

I love a psychological thriller so when I was asked to be part of the launch celebrations for The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan, I jumped at the chance. Even better, Phoebe has agreed to tell me a little about how she started writing and how her debut The Doll House came into being.

The Doll House was published by HQ Digital on 14th September 2017 and is available for purchase here.

The Doll House

The Doll House cover

You never know who’s watching…

Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.

But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…

How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

How I Started Writing

A Guest Post by Phoebe Morgan

My grandmother sent me a parcel in the mail the other day, a padded envelope with her trademark smiley face on the outside. Inside were several sheets of folded up A4 paper, and written on these was my very first ‘book,’ complete with some questionable pictures. It wasn’t great, I’ll be honest, but the drive was clearly there.

I’ve always loved writing, but it took me a while to make myself take it seriously. It wasn’t until I was in Chicago on a year abroad that I took some creative writing modules as part of my degree, and picked them up again when I was completing the course at Leeds. We mainly wrote short stories, which I loved, and it was from the seed of one of these that The Doll House was born. Those classes were so valuable in many ways – they showed me about discipline, because I’d literally have homework, and they gave me ideas; in one class we visited an art museum and had to each choose a picture to start writing about. Second-guessing the story behind a picture is still something I do today if I feel a bit stuck for inspiration, and it’s a really handy technique.

It can be hard to make time for writing when life gets in the way. When I first moved to London as an adult, I was working three different jobs. I remember being at a friend’s housewarming one night when a man asked me what I liked doing. Someone else said ‘she likes writing!’ and I blushed, embarrassed because I wasn’t actually doing any writing at the time. He looked at me and said, ‘if you like writing, why don’t you just do it?’ Something shifted then – I knew he was right and those words still come back to me now when I’m feeling lazy.

Once I had a full first draft of what would go on to become The Doll House, I started emailing literary agents. I met up with one, then had interest from another – Camilla Wray at Darley Anderson. She emailed me within about 24 hours of my first email, which was so exciting. Along with this, though, I had lots of rejection emails – a couple of close but not quite emails, some form rejections, and some pretty basic ones that were personalised, but still not for them. The rejections hurt a little at first, but not a lot – I knew I had to keep going and if there was specific feedback I always listened to it. I also knew from reading that nearly everyone gets rejected, and that I’d need a tough skin if I was going to pursue writing! Once I signed with Camilla, we worked on the book for another few months before it went on submission. And then I had to start another book, and another one! But I always know now that if I can do it once, I can do it again – because why not?

About Phoebe Morgan

Phoebe

Phoebe Morgan is an author and editor. She studied English at Leeds University after growing up in the Suffolk countryside. She has previously worked as a journalist and now edits crime and women’s fiction for a publishing house during the day, and writes her own books in the evenings. She lives in London.

You can follow Phoebe on Twitter @Phoebe_A_Morgan. Phoebe also has a website and is on Facebook. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

poster

The Fear of Success: A Publication Day Guest Post by Pam Billinge, Author of The Spell of the Horse

the spell of the horse cover

Having met Blackbird Books founder Stephanie and loved her approach to publishing I’m just delighted to be supporting them in celebrating the publication of The Spell of the Horse by Pam Billinge today. Pam has written a fantastic guest piece to mark the occasion of The Spell of the Horse being published that it is my privilege to share with you alongside my review.

The Spell of the Horse is published today, 18th September 2017 and is available for purchase here.

The Spell of the Horse

the spell of the horse cover

‘The ability of the horse to sense emotion, energy and spirit is way beyond what most of the human world realises.’

When Pam’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she began to notice the way her horse responded to her emotional turmoil. Thus began an exploration into the spiritual relationship between horses and humans and their infinite capacity to help us heal. Building on her remarkable discoveries, Pam began her pioneering work as a horse-led coach and therapist. By sharing her own path to redemption through personal tragedy, and other stories of healing inspired by the incredible interactions she has observed between horse and human, Pam puts forward her uplifting insights about the true nature of the horse, setting out some simple principles to help the reader transcend life’s challenges.

Discover the lessons which horse behaviour have taught the author about

* managing anxiety
* surviving bereavement
* letting go of fear and finding courage to live with joy and purpose
* listening to inner wisdom without overthinking dilemmas, allowing the right things to happen in life without force

A must-read for those wishing to understand the spiritual connection between horses and humans.

The Fear of Success

A Guest Post by Pam Billinge

Pam and horse

Today my first book is published, The Spell of the Horse. Thank you to Linda for the opportunity to write a guest blog to mark this special occasion.

Writing a book, never mind publishing one, was beyond my wildest dreams a few years ago. When someone suggested that I should do so, to tell the story of how I came to do what I do for a living, I laughed with a self deprecating tone. ‘Yeah, sure!’ Owning a horse, too, was once a longing I thought would never be met. I still remember vividly the moment that my first horse Delilah was mine, after parting with way more money than I should have done. I was 28 years old and gazed at her over the top of her stable door with the adoration and wonder of a 6 year old.

My passion and respect for horses has only grown stronger over the intervening years and those I have known have helped me to be who I am.  Now I work as a horse-led therapist and coach – a vocation which I wasn’t even aware could exist until many years into my career. The Spell of the Horse reveals how this path emerged for me and what horses have taught me, and others, about living a life with purpose and joy.

Writing The Spell, as I call her, took me on an emotional rollercoaster which I had not bargained for at the outset. Fear of failure and of being judged paralysed me at times, and almost stopped me signing my publishing deal. Yet continue I did and today The Spell is set free in the world to do her work. I hope that if you read her you will enjoy the stories and be captivated by the wonderful horses and people you encounter.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all for me, in this writing journey, is that receiving praise for my book, and owning it, is a lot harder than hearing criticism (although I should like to add that if you do like my book please do tell me via the review pages!) This has led me to reflect on how it isn’t fear of failing which holds many of us back, it is the fear of being as great as we can possibly be. Because if you embrace your greatness fully,  who knows what might happen?!

So today, do something to reach for your dream. That thing that you long for but feels out of reach. Why should you not have it? Be open to the path which is unfolding before you and trust where it is taking you, you are probably not even aware of your likely destination yet. Open your heart to receive and offer praise. Step into your own potential, and help those around you to do the same. And if a horse is still an unfulfilled childhood dream, remember…it is never too late!

(What a wonderful post Pam. Congratulations on The Spell of the Horse and good luck!)

My Review of The Spell of the Horse

Horses have the ability to understand out emotions and help us in ways we can’t possibly imagine.

I confess, I thought The Spell of the Horse would be a twee book of sickly entries from a horse fanatic. My abject apologies Pam. There is nothing twee or sickly about the depth of emotion portrayed in this wonderful book. in fact, I found much of The Spell of the Horse so powerful I had to read it in chunks as I couldn’t deal with the emotions portrayed in big sessions.

I think The Spell of the Horse is actually a very brave book. Pam Billinge lays herself bare for all to see. She shares her hopes and fears, her happiness and sadness, joy and grief, so that it is impossible not to be moved by several of the entries. Pam knows when she has made mistakes and is not afraid to share those times so that others may benefit. The events in Pam’s life are those where all readers can find something to relate to. I loved, for example, Pam’s description of herself as three different women who could hold hands and support one another as I know I’ve used different personas in different situations in my own life. I think the concept of ‘integrating the splinters of yourself’ will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Pam also writes beautifully. There’s a poetic quality to her descriptions and she has a real eye for detail, especially colour, so that her words really come alive on the page. Pam is a true storyteller as well as someone writing self help style material.

The Spell of the Horse is a very special book. In the same way many of those in its pages needed to learn to approach the horses appropriately in order to appreciate them and their power fully, I think some readers will need to approach this book with an open mind if they are to benefit from it fully. I shall be revisiting the pages of The Spell of the Horse many times and if you’re feeling lost in your life I urge you to read it too.

About Pam Billinge

pam

Brought up in suburban Liverpool, the first horses Pam fell in love with were ridden by the mounted policemen she would see passing her house on the way to supervise  football matches at Anfield. Little did she know, then, how these magnificent creatures would influence her adult life, leading not only to support her through a number of personal tragedies, but also to her pioneering work in horse-led psychotherapy and coaching.

When Pam became disillusioned with her stressful career in industry she set up as an independent coach and leadership consultant and trained as a body psychotherapist. It was during this time that her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and Pam began to notice the way her horse responded to her emotional turmoil. Thus began an exploration into the true nature of the horse and their infinite capacity to help humans heal and deepen their sense of themselves.

You can follow Pam on Twitter and there’s more with these other bloggers:

The Spell of the Horse - Blog Tour

Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren

Prisoner of Ice and Snow

I really miss my days of reading KS3 fiction and writing resources for it for a big publishing house so it’s always lovely when I can return to books aimed at children. Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren is a middle grade book and I would like to thank Faye Rogers for asking me to be part of the launch celebrations.

Prisoner of Ice and Snow was published by Bloomsbury Children’s Fiction on 7th September 2017 and is available for purchase here and on Amazon.

Prisoner of Ice and Snow

Prisoner of Ice and Snow

Valor is under arrest for the attempted murder of the crown prince. Her parents are outcasts from the royal court, her sister is banished for theft of a national treasure, and now Valor has been sentenced to life imprisonment at Demidova, a prison built from stone and ice.

But that’s exactly where she wants to be. For her sister was sent there too, and Valor embarks on an epic plan to break her out from the inside.

No one has escaped from Demidova in over three hundred years, and if Valor is to succeed she will need all of her strength, courage and love. If the plan fails, she faces a chilling fate worse than any prison …

An unforgettable story of sisterhood, valour and rebellion, Prisoner of Ice and Snow will fire you up and melt your heart all at once. Perfect for fans of Katherine Rundell, Piers Torday and Cathryn Constable.

My Review of Prisoner of Ice and Snow

With a peacekeeping musical box stolen from the palace, Valor wants to prove her sister Sacha is innocent of the crime.

Prisoner of Ice and Snow is a fantastic book for children aged around 8-11. Firstly, it is well written so that it models good writing for children. I loved the settings and the way in which Ruth Lauren portrays the cold and bleakness of the prison so magnificently,  to the extent that it almost made me shiver. However, it is the exciting plot, great characterisation and the meaningful themes that make Prisoner of Ice and Snow such a good read.

The story is fast paced and thrilling with plenty of peril facing Valor and the friends she makes along the way. Every time I thought there might be a resolution another really exciting event took place. Even the end of the book isn’t entirely resolved with the potential for further adventures and I’d love to read any follow up story.

The characters are wonderful, especially Valor. She is a fantastic role model for girls, even when she behaves somewhat recklessly because her motives for doing so are admirable. She’s brave, strong, loyal and an excellent shot with a bow and arrow. Prisoner of Ice and Snow has no simpering girl as its protagonist, but a skilled dynamic being in whom all children would find something to emulate.

I highly recommend Prisoner of Ice and Snow – to all readers, not just children!

About Ruth Lauren

Ruth Lauren

Ruth Lauren lives in a Victorian house in the West Midlands in England with her partner and a lot of children and cats. She likes chocolate, walking in the woods, cheese, orchids, going to the movies, and reading as many books as she can. She’s been a teacher and worked in lots of different offices, but she likes writing best. Prisoner of Ice and Snow is her debut novel.

You can follow Ruth on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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House of Lies by E.V. Seymour

House of Lies

My enormous thanks to Karen Bultiauw for a copy of House of Lies by E.V. Seymour in return for an honest review.

House of Lies is a Harper Collins Killer Reads book and is available for purchase here.

House of Lies

House of Lies

Somewhere in Vixenhead, I’m certain the truth lies…

A sudden disappearance…

When Roz Outlaw’s partner Tom mysteriously vanishes, she knows his life is in danger. Tom has been distracted lately, afraid, as though he is being hunted…

A desperate search…

With the police showing little interest Roz knows it falls to her to find Tom. But as Tom’s secrets are uncovered nothing can prepare Roz for the dark lies and twisted truths she finds. She thought she loved Tom, but quickly realises she has been living with a stranger – a man with murder in his past.

A house of evil.

The key to unlocking Tom’s past lies in his childhood home – Vixenhead. A house of wickedness that keeps its secrets well hidden. Can Roz find Tom before it’s too late or will the evil within Vixenhead claim her too…

My Review of House of Lies

When boyfriend Tom seems to over-react to having his photo taken, Roz will find this is only the start of a catalogue of terrifying events.

House of Lies is a breathtaking roller coaster of a read. The plot gallops along with so many exciting events I sometimes wondered what on earth could happen next. I found it a highly entertaining and exciting read.

E.V. Seymour has a smashing style that adapts sentence length to situation so that she can convey terror and emotion with searing accuracy. I found Roz’s first person account particularly effective, so much so that I almost felt affronted when there was a switch to the third person and Tom’s perspective in the story. The attention to detail and the creation of setting is brilliant. I loved the metaphors that truly brought the places alive. I know the places in North Wales where much of the story takes place and could easily imagine myself there too from E.V. Seymour’s words. The house, Vixenhead, is superbly created so that it felt as if I was in there too. Vixenhead is almost sentient with a malevolence that is tangible.

There were elements that I didn’t enjoy quite as much and I preferred the first half of the novel to the second, partly because there seemed to be a shift of genre from psychological thriller to crime thriller so that it felt a little as if the book had lost its identity. I also had to suspend my disbelief at some of Roz’s actions. However, I decided to accept events and actions as they were presented and soon found myself sucked back into the story and thoroughly enjoying what I read.

Of particular interest to me was E.V Seymour’s examination of identity, of family and how we are shaped by our early experiences. I believed in Tom completely as a character even though his is the most unreliable identity of them all. House of Lies has quite a cast of villains, but even the most innocuous people have their own secrets and lies so that reading the book made me wonder just how much we really know those around us.

Alongside the concept of identity, there’s also an interesting theme of crime and retribution. Reading House of Lies led me to consider what I might have done in Roz’s place, especially towards the end of the novel when it seems no-one is entirely innocent.

House of Lies is an exciting, fast paced read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

About E.V. Seymour

eve-portrait-5

Eve Seymour is the author of nine novels and has had a number of short stories broadcast on BBC Radio Devon. Educated in Malvern at an girls’ boarding school, which she detested, she spectacularly underachieved. Sixth form in Cheltenham proved a lot more interesting, enjoyable and productive.

After a short and successful career in PR in London and Birmingham, she married and disappeared to Devon. Five children later, she returned and began to write seriously. In a bid to make her work as authentic as possible, she has bent the ears of numerous police officers, firearms officers, scenes of crime, the odd lawyer and United Nations personnel. She also works by day as a freelance editorial consultant, specialising in crime fiction.

Eve lives with her second husband and often has a houseful of offspring, sons-in-law, partners, and a growing tribe of little ones. Nomadic by nature, she is planning another move very soon.

You can follow Eve on Twitter @EveSeymour and visit her website. Eve also has a blog and you can find her on Facebook.

Lulu’s Ballalam-Bam-Bam Grooves by Serina Adham

Lulu

I’ve been featuring quite a few children’s books on Linda’s Book Bag of late and was delighted to be asked to review Serina Adham’s Lulu’s Ballalam-Bam-Bam Grooves by E G Book Publicity.

Lulu’s Ballalam-Bam-Bam Grooves was published by Create Space on 1st July 2017 and is available for purchase on Amazon US.

Lulu’s Ballalam-Bam-Bam Grooves

Lulu

Bing-boom, zing-zoom-ting-ding-click!

When Lulu the gorilla hears the opening notes to her favorite songs in her jungle home, she cannot help but get up and dance!

While making up some new dance moves, Lulu does not realize that her actions are causing a huge hullabaloo for her friends, Squin Squirrel, Lilly the owl, and Miss Skunk Fleur.

“Who is disturbing my slumbeRRR!?” roars the fierce lion Jhawfors when awakened from his deep sleep. What will happen when he confronts the young gorilla? Are Lulu’s dancing days over for good?

This charming new children’s poem follows one enthusiastic gorilla as she finds the balance between having fun and being mindful of others. Your little adventurers will not just learn an important lesson about thoughtfulness, they will pick up some amusing new dance moves to try out at home too!

My Review of Lulu’s Ballalam-Bam-Bam Grooves

Lulu loves to try out new dance moves but they aren’t always welcome!

One quick negative to get out of the way first. I found the font style used quite difficult to read and think it would be tricky for emergent readers too.

This is a lively and jolly book to share with under fives with smashing, bright illustrations. I really liked the fact that the gorilla Lulu is blue and the owl Lilly Loo is pink as I think it undermines stereotypes and allows children to accept that being different is acceptable.

There’s a lively rhyme scheme that is underpinned by an equally good rhythm so that reading the words aloud flows easily and I can imagine children creating some dances of their own to the music of the poem, or emulating Lulu’s moves. Both alliteration and assonance bring life to the words and I think there are good literacy lessons to help promote children’s vocabulary.

I also liked the message behind the poem that even when we are simply having fun and not intending to hurt anyone else, it’s a good idea to think about others and how they might feel and respond to our actions. The animals have to learn to live together harmoniously.

Lulu’s Ballalam-Bam-Bam Grooves is bright, lively and fun with a serious message. I think young children would really enjoy it.

About Serina Adham

serina

Serina Adham drew on her experience as a dancer and dance instructor to give you this fun new adventure with her first edition of Lulu and all her animal friends. She hopes that Lulu will teach children to enthusiastically follow their dreams but also consider the effects they have on others.

Serina Adham lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. In addition to teaching dance, she has also worked as a jewellery, clothing designer and an interior designer. She has one fearless, singing and dancing daughter of her own.

You can find out more about Serina on her website.