Cover Reveal: Big Man Down by Michael Shotter

It was a real thrill to host an exclusive cover reveal for Michael Shotter’s previous book, The Nemesis Effect, in a post you can find here. Today, we are launching Michael’s latest book, Big Man Down and I’m delighted to share details of this latest work.

Michael has also stayed in with me on Linda’s Book Bag to chat about another of his novels, Shards in a post you can read here.

Let’s see what we have this time!

Big Man Down

A seasoned, wealthy, and powerful man, Alan Wells was poised to triumphantly enter the prime of his life when the death of his closest and dearest companion shook him to his core, leaving him in a vulnerable physical and mental state just as he became the target of a man eager to see him completely undone.

Can Alan recover and reach his full potential to defeat his greatest adversary, or will he find himself irrevocably broken and discarded, another “Big Man Down?”


I think the concept of a Big Man Down couldn’t be more relevant to today’s society, don’t you?

Big Man Down will be released on 18th March and is available for pre-order here.

About Michael Shotter

Michael Shotter is a lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. As a lover of science, fiction, and fantasy, his first novel, The Big Men, explored the perceptions, manifestations, and consequences of power as wielded and coveted by particular men in the modern era. This all-new paranormal thriller continues the story of those “big men,” while standing alone as its own unique and distinct experience.

For more information about Michael and his writing, visit his Goodreads page, find him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram and Twitter @shotterwriting.

Staying in with Rana Bitar

I’m offered so many wonderful sounding books and it’s a great sadness that I simply can’t read them all. Today I welcome Rana Bitar to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about a book I really wish I had time to add to my TBR.

Staying in with Rana Bitar

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Rana and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

I brought with me The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles.

The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles explores my journey as an oncologist, from growing up in Damascus, Syria, to going to med school, to immigrating to the US and starting my medical training, to becoming an oncologist caring for cancer patients and watching the field of oncology evolves throughout the years.

That sounds fascinating. It’s quite a journey you’ve been on. Tell me more.

The narrative interweaves my life’s stories with the stories of the patients I cared for. It reflects on how bearing witness to their survival or death inspired my life and changed it and how the lessons I learned from my patients enriched my life and influenced the way I raised my children.

That must feel very special.

I brought this book with me today to celebrate cancer patients’ difficult journey and to provide them with a refuge from the feeling of isolation and confusion at the time of crisis. I also brought it for caregivers and health care professionals to help shed some light on both the physical and emotional process of cancer diagnosis and treatment.

I brought this book today to share with foreign graduate students, so they could relate to the complexities, the obstacles, the triumphs, and the setbacks and encourage them to never give up. I also brought it for women who may stop and question if they should pursue their professional aspirations. I want to say it can be done: You can balance your family and professional life. I also brought it for people who want to learn about what it is like to be well-acquainted with death and what it is like to understand it and be so close to it.

I think that’s a really important message Rana. With one in two suffering cancer in their lives we need to speak more about it and demystify both life and death and the challenges facing those trying to start their lives afresh in so many ways.

What can we expect from an evening in with The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles?

The book was inspired by my patients’ strength and perseverance. The stories show how their courage changed my life. Therefore, the book will highlight the premise that we can prompt togetherness, defy finality, and defeat loneliness with empathy and tolerance.

What a wonderful message.

I also think that in immersing in the stories of cancer patients’ struggles and triumphs, the reader will gain new insight into the relative gravity of their own challenges and will acquire a fresh perspective on their health and lives.

You may well be right. When my own husband was diagnosed with cancer it certainly altered our perspectives.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

Photograph: Khaled Al-Hariri/Reuters

I brought with me a photo of my home: Damscus Syria: the world’s oldest inhabited city and where my story began.

It seems to me that your journey has been a very important one Rana. Thank you so much for staying in with me to tell me about The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles?

The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles

The Long Tale Of Tears And Smiles explores an immigrant oncologist’s journey of triumphs and struggles, from growing up in Syria, to the tragic death of her brother, to her experiences as a young immigrant medical student and trainee in the USA. Walk through her anguish witnessing the civil war in Syria and its devastation; see her become a practitioner, watching the field of oncology evolves throughout the years.

This narrative-driven case study interweaves the stories of the patients Bitar has cared for with her own life stories; it reflects on how her patients’ lives and the stories of their survival or death inspired and changed her life starting and raising a family. Each patient’s approach to illness and end-of-life is as unique as they are, and each person’s journey contains unexpected lessons.

In the space between life and death, Bitar’s profession thrives; and in that space, she can search for the meaning of her existence.

Published by Global Collective Publishers, The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles is available for purchase here and on Amazon.

About Rana Bitar

Rana Bitar is a Syrian-American physician, poet, and writer. She earned her Master’s in English and Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University.

​Her memoir, The Long Tale of Tears and Smiles, was published by Global Collective Publishers in August 2021.

She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, A Loaf of Bread (Unsolicited Press, 2019) and the forthcoming Hold Your Breath (Unsolicited Press, 2023).

A Loaf of Bread was a finalist in the “Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition” in 2017 and won an honorable mention in “The 2017 Louis Award” for poetry.

Hold Your Breath is selected by The National Women’s History Museum to be on Exhibit for their Coronavirus Journaling Project.

Her poetry has appeared in many journals including, The Deadly Writers Patrol, DoveTales, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Magnolia Review, El Portal, Pacific REVIEW, Black Coffee Review, The Phoenix, The Dewdrop, The International Human Rights Art Festival, The Charleston Anvil, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Sextant Review, The Nonconformist Magazine, and Seeing Things: Anthology of Poetry.

Her translation of Arabic poetry appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, The Nonconformist, Illuminations, and forthcoming in AGNI.

Her essays have been published in The Pharos Journal and Pink Panther Magazine.

She lives in upstate NY, where she practices hematology and oncology.

For more information, visit Rana’s website or find her on Twitter @RanaBitarBooks and Facebook.

Staying in with Decima Blake

Goodness me. Was it really 2016 when I interviewed Decima Blake about her novel Hingston’s Box in a post you’ll find here. I’m delighted to welcome Decima back to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about her latest book.

Staying in with Decima Blake

Welcome back to Linda’s Book Bag, Decima and thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for the invite.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

To celebrate publication day, I’ve brought along a copy of Hingston: Smoke and Mispers, the second book in the DS Hingston series! Yes, and Pink Pop champagne, if you’d like a glass?

I would. I’m very partial to champagne! Happy publication day for Hingston: Smoke and Mispers. What can we expect from an evening in with Hingston: Smoke and Mispers?

An evening in with Hingston: Smoke and Mispers will make you think twice about eating marshmallows.

Given the three pounds I’ve put on over the festive season I need to think twice anyway! But tell me more.

It will also excite the detective in you. When your feet hit the crowded Piccadilly pavement in Chapter One, you will find yourself close enough to Fortnum and Mason to hear the clock bells acknowledge six p.m. over the rhythm of taxi exhausts, bus brakes wheezing and the clamour that surrounds Hingston on the 1st of December 2012. You can expect deception, murder, magic and historical crimes wrapped up with real-life police procedure and a touch of spookiness.

Hingston: Smoke and Mispers sounds brilliant. Will I see much of London?

Hingston’s investigative race takes you to striking London settings including the British Museum, the Magic Circle Headquarters and Victorian cemeteries. Familiar characters Remi, DCI Smythe and Uncle Zack return, the subplot evolves and there’s a new main character to get to know. Here’s a glimpse into Hingston’s latest case:

Hingston stared at the reams of photographs on the internet that showed inside the iconic West Cemetery at Highgate. The Egyptian Avenue was a popular feature in all seasons. The morning of Wednesday the 5th of December had begun with light snowfall. He imagined the approach of the solitary female tour guide who, at eleven forty-five a.m. set off up the frosty woodland path to unlock the Terrace Catacombs.

The gentle thud of her footsteps, steady, yet not solemn in their pace, were keeping the chill from her toes. Against the silence she was conscious of herself and of the thousands of feet that lay still in the Victorian cemetery. She looked at the names that, over her years at Highgate, had grown lovingly familiar and whose stories she gave life to on afternoon tours. In two hours the cold-penetrated catacombs, mausoleums, monuments and tombs would again be admired for their architectural splendour. Visitors would learn about the funerary symbolism used to remember lost loves long mourned by exquisite stone angels and guarded by loyal pets immortalised in stone.

She looked at the masses of tombstones that were situated in clusters between the trees, far back from the path she ascended. The stones were tilted and were gripped by dense ivy and random undergrowth that twisted around them with a strangler’s hold. It was as if the souls they represented were vying for position, fighting to be remembered.

Scuffing her shoe against the icy gravel, she thought of London’s poor who lay anonymously in common graves beneath the path she trod. She would acknowledge them too on the tour.

She soon came to the broader section of the path that opened out to the left and revealed the two weatherworn obelisks and four lotus columns. They were divided symmetrically by a broad, robust archway and they magnified the entrance to the Egyptian Avenue. She approached the closed iron gates. They were coated in thick black paint to match the sixteen substantial cast iron doors that sealed the vaults that flanked the avenue. The vaults themselves, long unopened, were not solely occupied by the dead; there was evidence of bats. These dark-loving mammals would squeeze in and out of the vaults through small door vents, pushing strands of cobwebs into messy grey clots of fluff that lingered inside the vents and dangled out. They would be quiet now, she knew. The moist, defrosting vegetation and trees that grew above and hung over the avenue held back much of the light. However, when compared to the original tunnel construction (its roof had been removed years before she came to Highgate), she had been able to convince herself that this was a hospitable gloom.

Pulling back the gates, she looked up the avenue and through to the Circle of Lebanon vaults beyond. The sun illuminated the pale stone pediment that faced her and this increased the illusion of the avenue’s great length. She would often pause to admire the drama of the architecture seen from this particular spot at the entrance. It reminded her of the fabled ascent toward heaven’s light, but this morning, her eyes were being drawn from the light toward the unfamiliar shadow that encroached at the left of the exit.

Stood still with her breath trapped inside her pounding chest, she computed the shadow’s human form. The shoulder protruded sharply. The neck was held at a tilt with the face shying away from the daylight. The thickset body appeared of giant stature until she saw the feet drooping down towards the ground…

That is brilliant Decima. I definitely need to add Hingston: Smoke and Mispers to my TBR.

What else have you brought along and why have you brought it?

I’ve brought along a small collection of items. May I place these candles over there and light them, please?

Yes, and shall we turn on my fairy lights?

They’re always a nice touch, so, why not? Hingston would also approve, but you’ll discover there’s limited opportunity for festivity with this case.

Now, this is a postcard of the Egyptian Café that used to stand on the corner of Greek Street in Soho. It’ll be a nice reference for later on. I do like to bring as much realism into my novels as possible (there was light snowfall in London early on the 5th of December 2012, that’s why it’s referred to in the book) and the Egyptian Café was a chance discovery that worked perfectly with this Bakelite telephone and this wonderful blue, shot silk cushion. Yes, these are two of the possessions belonging to a particular character who, many years ago, could have been contacted on 115 Gerrard.


And lastly, with special authority conveyed to me by Smythe… Yes! He is still sporting that unnatural tan, even now! No, he’s not quite retired yet – will he ever leave the Murder Squad! Oh? Is he still with Remi? I’m going to respond “No comment” to that one! So, with special authority, I’ve brought along exclusively for my evening with you, the “stick man” necklace and the original diary borrowed from the Operation PYROLITE archives. And here… is that very bizarre page that features on the cover of Hingston: Smoke and Mispers.

Wow. That’s all very entertaining. Thank you so much for staying in with me to celebrate publication day for Hingston: Smoke and Mispers Decima. Congratulations. 

Hingston: Smoke and Mispers

As the first door on the Advent calendar is opened, DS Hingston attempts to save the life of a teenager in a crowded London café, but ultimately fails. Seventeen-year-old Leanna Snow chokes to death.

Days later, a girl from Leanna Snow’s school is missing and another misper is found dead: his body hanging within the iconic Egyptian Avenue at Highgate Cemetery.

Working under the bombastic DCI Smythe and alongside Remi, his ex-girlfriend whom he still holds a torch for, Hingston discovers the magic of London this December is dark, deceptive and murderous.

Hingston and the Murder Squad are put to the test with this complex investigation that proves to be as mystifying as being asked by a magician to pick a card, any card, not knowing where you will be taken.

Hingston: Smoke and Mispers is published by Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers today, 27th January 2022 and is available for purchase through the following links:

About Decima Blake

Decima Blake, author of the Hingston series, has a long-standing interest in child protection and is deeply passionate about child victims of crime. Hingston: Smoke and Mispers is the second in the series, following Hingston’s Box which was published in 2016. Decima combines historical research, accurate police procedure and a touch of spookiness to provide readers with an immersive experience as they join Hingston on his race to solve cases involving missing persons and murder. A percentage of royalties are donated to the charity Embrace Child Victims of Crime.

For more information about Decima, follow her on Twitter @decimablake and Instagram or find her on Goodreads.

Spotlighting The Highlander’s Substitute Wife by Terri Brisbin

Although I simply couldn’t take on anything new for review this month, I’m very pleased to share details of The Highlander’s Substitute Wife by Terri Brisbin for the blog tour today. My thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources, for inviting me to take part.

Published by Mills and Boon on 20th January 2022, The Highlander’s Substitute Wife is available for purchase through the links here.

The Highlander’s Substitute Wife

She’s the best wife…

…he never wanted!

Ross MacMillan lifts his bride’s veil…and discovers it’s not the woman he’d agreed to marry but her beautiful younger sister, Ilysa MacDonnell! The new MacMillan chieftain must accept Ilysa as his wife, for retaining his clan’s lands depends on her father’s support.

But why is she there?

Are her aims to help him or her father?

Drawing out Ilysa’s secrets will kindle an alliance more powerful—and passionate!—than Ross ever imagined…

Highland Alliances:  Convenient marriages to save their clan!

Book 1: The Highlander’s Substitute Wife by Terri Brisbin

Book 2: The Highlander’s Tactical Marriage by Jenni Fletcher

Book 3: The Highlander’s Stolen Bride by Madeline Martin

About Terri Brisbin

Award-winning, USA Today best-selling author Terri Brisbin is a mom, a wife, grandmom! and a dental hygienist and has sold more than 3 million copies of her historical and paranormal romance novels and novellas in more than 25 countries and 20 languages around the world. Her current and upcoming historical and paranormal/fantasy romances will be published by Dragonblade, Harlequin Historicals, and Oliver Heber Books, too.

For more info about Terri, her works and upcoming events visit her website, follow her on Twitter @Terri_Brisbin, or find her on Facebook and Instagram.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs

When I read The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs way back in 2016 I knew I had encountered a very special author. You’ll find a guest post from Annabel and my review of The Joyce Girl here. I loved it so much that it was one of my books of the year in 2016, and, despite promising myself I wouldn’t take on any further new blog tours this year I simply had to be involved in this one for Annabel’s latest book, The Language of Food. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to participate. I’m delighted to share my review of The Language of Food today.

Published by Simon and Schuster on 3rd February 2022, The Language of Food is available for pre-order through these links.

The Language of Food

‘A sensual feast of a novel, written with elegance, beauty, charm and skill in a voice that is both lyrical and unique. The Language of Food is an intriguing story with characters that leap off the page and live, but what sets it apart from it’s contemporaries is Abbs’ outstanding prose’ Santa Montefiore

Eliza Acton, despite having never before boiled an egg, became one of the world’s most successful cookery writers, revolutionizing cooking and cookbooks around the world. Her story is fascinating, uplifting and truly inspiring.

Told in alternate voices by the award-winning author of The Joyce Girl, and with recipes that leap to life from the page, The Language of Food by Annabel Abbs is the most thought-provoking and page-turning historical novel you’ll read this year, exploring the enduring struggle for female freedom, the power of female friendship, the creativity and quiet joy of cooking and the poetry of food, all while bringing Eliza Action out of the archives and back into the public eye.

My Review of The Language of Food

A cookery book sparks Ann’s memories.

Reviewing The Language of Food is going to be tricky. I just want to say that is it absolutely fantastic and everyone should buy it and read it over and over again, but I fear that won’t really explain why I adore it sufficiently. Brimming with an intangible, quiet, magnificence The Language of Food is a book to savour: to savour Annabelle Abbs’ exquisite prose, her delectable descriptions and the sheer joy of such a beautifully written narrative.

The plot is relatively simple, albeit steeped in the most assiduous historical research and blended with imagination and the kind of sumptuous and affecting prose most authors can only aspire to. Rich in detail and description, there isn’t a superfluous word so that instead of feeling contrived and bloated (excuse the food metaphor), The Language of Food is as much as delight for the reader as any of the mouth-watering tastes that dance on Eliza and Ann’s palates. It’s just wonderful.

I love the fact that both Ann and Eliza have first person narratives, giving them equal status in the book despite their different social class, because The Language of Food is a feminist text, outlining the role of women in history and giving them a voice in an enormously satisfying way. The treatment of women in society, marriage, motherhood, family, social status, connection, friendship, and so on, all swirl through this story so that by the time I read the final entry from Ann I was moved, uplifted and so entranced by the story that it was a surprise to find myself back in the twenty first century. The intense relationship between Ann and Eliza is vivid and compelling so that the prosaic setting of the kitchen where much of the action takes place feels completely authentic.

Sumptuous, immersive and totally mesmerising, I loved The Language of Food. As I neared the end I read increasingly slowly because I didn’t want the experience of living alongside Eliza and Ann to end. It may only be January, but The Language of Food is going to be hard to beat as my book of the year. If you only read one book this year, make sure it’s The Language of Food.

About Annabel Abbs

Annabel Abbs is the new rising star of biographical historical novels. She grew up in Bristol, Sussex and Wales before studying English Literature at the University of East Anglia and Marketing at the University of Kingston. Her debut novel The Joyce Girl was a Guardian Reader’s Pick and her second novel Frieda: The Original Lady Chatterley earned critical acclaim including Times 2018 Book of the Year. She regularly appears on national and regional media, with recent appearances on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and Sky News, and is popular on the literary festival circuit. She was longlisted for the Bath Novel Award, the Caledonia Novel Award and the Waverton GoodRead Award. Annabel lives in London with her husband and four children.

For further information about Annabel, follow her on Twitter @annabelabbs, visit her website or find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown

Today I’m delighted to share the latest of my online reviews with My Weekly. This time it’s The Key in the Lock by Beth Underdown.

The Key in the Lock is published by Penguin imprint Viking on 13th January 2022 and is available through the links here.

The Key in the Lock

I still dream, every night, of Polneath on fire. Smoke unravelling from an upper window, and the terrace bathed in a hectic orange light . . . Now I see that the decision I made at Polneath was the only decision of my life. Everything marred in that one dark minute.

By day, Ivy Boscawen mourns the loss of her son Tim in the Great War. But by night she mourns another boy – one whose death decades ago haunts her still.

For Ivy is sure that there is more to what happened all those years ago: the fire at the Great House, and the terrible events that came after. A truth she must uncover, if she is ever to be free.

But once you open a door to the past, can you ever truly close it again?

From the award-winning author of The Witchfinder’s Sister comes a captivating story of burning secrets and buried shame, and of the loyalty and love that rises from the ashes.

My Review of The Key in the Lock

My full review of The Key in the Lock can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Key in the Lock is a brilliant story of intrigue, society and deception, all of which need either a physical or metaphorical key to expose their truths. I loved it.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Beth Underdown

Beth Underdown lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Manchester. Her debut, The Witchfinder’s Sister, was an Richard & Judy bestseller. The Key in the Lock is her second book.

For further information, follow Beth on Twitter @bethunderdown and visit her website. You’ll also find Beth on Instagram.

Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire by Andreena Leeanne

It’s a little while ago now that I ‘met’ Andreena Leeanne at an online event and I was thrilled when she sent me a copy of her poetry anthology Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share my review of Charred today.

Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire is available for purchase here.

Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire

There is strong correlation between childhood trauma and mental health issues. I suffer with PTSD and depression, and use poetry to write honestly about the multitude of issues I have experienced in my 39 years. I have found writing to be hugely therapeutic. While I recognize the value of professional therapy, my poetry has helped me to come to terms with some of these issues.

If they’re not already doing so, I hope to inspire the readers of this book to speak and write their truth. We don’t have to be qualified writers to write down how we feel – honesty is the only qualification for this kind of work – and we don’t have to share it unless we want to.

This collection is called Charred. Think of a piece of wood that has been exposed to the flames. You may think of it as damaged – and it’s true it has been burnt and blackened – but it is still resilient, and much stronger after going through this process.

Think of me as a piece of charred wood. – Andreena Leeanne

My review of Charred: A survivor speaks her truth to inspire

A collection of personal poems.

In a sense, I don’t feel I have any right to review Charred. Andreena Leeanne’s writing is so gut-wrenchingly honest, raw and powerful and so far outside my sphere of experience that it feels almost impertinent to write a review.

The poems in Charred are remarkable. Stylistically there’s a mix of rhyme and free verse that fits the themes and content perfectly. I loved the use of enjambment as it illustrates the chaotic life Andreena has survived and her thought processes as she uses poetry as a cathartic tool. Sadly, the poet’s experiences echo those of so many and I truly feel her writing can enable people to connect, understand and begin their own healing journey. Her use of repetition, the variety of line length, rhetorical questions and, above all, of honest reflection are so effective. If the intention of Charred is to inspire others, Andreena Leeanne has done just that.

The themes in Charred are universal and often disturbing. Andreena Leeanne explores difficult issues through her own experiences of sexual abuse, lesbianism, love, homelessness, belonging, hope and despair. Her ostracism in Jamaica, for example, illustrates how those who don’t fit conventional expected ‘norms’ are impacted. This is not to say that Charred is a depressing read. Far from it. A whole gamut of emotions is here, from expletive filled, white-hot rage, through extreme physical passion, to tenderness and joy. I found these poems shocking, thought provoking and educational. Reading Charred made me want to know more about Andreena Leeanne, not least because her humanity shines through these poems.

I loved the way the anthology is closed with space for the reader to write their own thoughts, with the offer from the poet to share and connect and with a list of self-care suggestions, because Andreena Leeanne is providing the opportunity for readers to ‘speak their truth’ too. I also thought the inclusion of helpful contacts was a practical and caring touch.

It’s quite hard to review Charred because it’s not really an anthology you merely read and write about. Andreena Leeanne’s words are far more visceral than that. These are poems that are felt, experienced and that alter the perspective of the reader. I thought Charred was a stunning collection.

About Andreena Leeanne

Andreena Leeanne is an out and proud Black working-class Lesbian Poet, compère, inspirational speaker and mother to a teenage daughter. Born in Edgware, London, Andreena was sent to live with her grandparents in St Ann, Jamaica from age 1. At the age of 7 she returned to London and lived in several London boroughs with her mother. Andreena returned to Jamaica at age 17 to find herself, coming back to the UK at age 18 with a man she married at 19. Having left home at 18, after experiencing a period of homelessness she eventually settled in the London Borough of Waltham Forest where, to cut a long story short, she currently lives with her fiancé, Germaine, and her 18-year-old daughter Renée. Andreena hopes to one day return to Jamaica, to challenge the extensive homophobia and culture of childhood sexual abuse that exists there.

Andreena writes and performs poetry to come to terms with and speak out about her personal experiences with abandon-ment, homelessness, mental health, childhood sexual abuse and the many other challenges she has faced in her life. By speaking her truth, she hopes to inspire and empower others to speak their truth and take action.

In January 2015 Andreena founded Poetry LGBT Open Mic Night. Poetry LGBT is a warm and welcoming space for the LGBTQ+ community to come together to share their experi-ences through poetry and spoken word. It is a vital and much needed space for the LGBTQ+ community to share, create and express themselves. Andreena facilitates these sessions live at physical venues and online via Zoom. Andreena delivers writing workshops online and in person, and often performs her poetry at community-led events, Labour Party events, and for local authorities such as the London Borough of Hackney during LGBT History Month, the Greater London Authority, and at International Women’s Day events; and has had her work published in the anthology Sista! (Team Angelica, 2018). In 2018 Andreena was one of Stonewall’s Black History Month role models. Most recently she was delighted to be shortlisted by the National Diversity Awards as a Positive LGBT Role Model.

For further information, find Andreena on Instagram or Facebook and follow her via @PoetryLGBT Twitter or visit her website.

Behind the Veil by E. J. Dawson

I’m delighted that it’s my turn on the blog tour for Behind the Veil by E. J. Dawson today and I can share my review. My thanks to Lilyan at Blackthorn Blog Tours for inviting me to participate.

Behind the Veil was published by Literary Wanderlust on 21st October 2021 is available for purchase here.

Behind the Veil

Can she keep the secrets of her past to rescue a girl tormented by a ghost?

In 1920s Los Angeles, Letitia Hawking reads the veil between life and death. A scrying bowl allows her to experience the final moments of the deceased. She brings closure to grief-stricken war widows and mourning families.

For Letitia, it is a penance. She knows no such peace.

For Alasdair Driscoll, it may be the only way to save his niece, Finola, from her growing night terrors. But when Letitia sees a shadowy figure attached to the household, it rouses old fears of her unspeakable past in England.

When a man comes to her about his missing daughter, the third girl to go missing in as many months, Letitia can’t help him when she can’t see who’s taken them.

As a darkness haunts Letitia’s vision, she may not be given a choice in helping the determined Mr Driscoll, or stop herself falling in love with him. But to do so risks a part of herself she locked away, and to release it may cost Letitia her sanity and her heart.

My Review of Behind the Veil

Letitia Hawking has psychic skills.

Behind the Veil couldn’t be further from my usual choice of genre, but I absolutely loved this story. It’s packed with such intrigue, excitement, fear and mystery that I absolutely gulped it down.

The plot in Behind the Veil is fast paced and dramatic. Short chapters compel the reader onwards and the italicised sections are particularly exciting and gripping. Towards the end of Behind the Veil my pulse was racing and my heart thumping because E. J. Dawson knows exactly how to create tension through the use of the senses in her writing. Her descriptions are evocative and convincing.

Despite the other-worldliness of the plotting, every aspect of Behind the Veil feels authentic and realistic so that I may now be a convert to the genre! I found the dialogue perfect for the 1920’s setting, because there is a formality that sounds really genuine. I think this book would make a fantastic film too.

Letitia Hawking is a wonderful creation. Both vulnerable and strong, she represents a feminism that I found completely engaging. I loved her rituals, her practices and the darkness of her past that permeates this story and is the driving force for her actions. Her integrity in the face of scepticism and expectation made me care about her completely. Whilst she may indulge in actions that are beyond the scope of readers, she feels so realistic that I was entranced by her. Her developing relationship with Alasdair Driscoll adds another element of entertainment to for the reader too.

Behind the Veil does deal with some difficult themes such as abuse, but E.J. Dawson never presents them gratuitously. They are threaded into the narrative in a manner that illustrates the dangers and horrors of both this and the supernatural life without direct exposition so that they are all the more powerful. I thought the style of writing here was superb. I loved the title too because it represents the veil between this life and the spiritual one, between outward appearance and reality and between convention and deviation so that the story has hugely satisfying layers to uncover. Letitia’s physical veil that she likes to wear embodies the metaphor wonderfully.

Having begun Behind the Veil thinking it might be vaguely entertaining, I finished it in the knowledge that I had been treated to a brilliant narrative that made me think, scared me and engaged me completely. I thought Behind the Veil was absolutely excellent.

About E. J. Dawson

Beginning a writing journey with an epic 21 book series, Ejay started her author career in 2014 and has taken on the ups and downs of self-publishing with her fantasy series The Last Prophecy since 2016. At the start of 2019, she put the series on the backburner to write Behind the Veil in 25 days, and signed a publishing contract for the gothic noir novel to independent publisher Literary Wanderlust.

She resumed self-publishing a scifi series, Queen of Spades released across 2020 and 2021, as well as signing another contract with Literary Wanderlust for NA fantasy, Echo of the Evercry. Believing in more than one path to a career in publishing, Ejay pursues self-publishing alongside querying traditional publishers with multiple manuscripts.

For further information about Ejay, visit her website or follow her on Twitter @ejdawsonauthor. You’ll also find her on Instagram.

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

It’s a real pleasure to share another of my online reviews with My Weekly. This time it’s of The Last House on the Street by Nikki May.

Published by Headline on 20th January 2022, The Last House on the Street is available for purchase through these links.

The Last House on the Street

1965. A young white female student becomes involved in the fight for civil rights in North Carolina, falling in love with one of her fellow activists, a Black man, in a time and place where an interracial relationship must be hidden from family, friends and especially the reemerging Ku Klux Klan. As tensions rise in the town, she realises not everyone is who they appear to be.

2010. A recently widowed architect moves into the home she and her late husband designed, heartbroken that he will never cross the threshold. But when disturbing things begin to happen, it’s clear that someone is sending her a warning. Who is trying to frighten her away, and why?

Decades later, past and present are set to collide in the last house on the street…

My Review of The Last House on the Street

My full review of The Last House on the Street can be found on the My Weekly website here.

However, here I can say that The Last House on the Street is a compelling, unnerving dual timeline narrative that unsettles the reader and provides considerable food for thought. I thought it was excellent.

Do visit My Weekly to read my full review here.

About Diane Chamberlain

Diane Chamberlain is a multiple Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author whose books have been published in more than 20 languages. She is beloved by readers around the world for novels that inspire conversation, are rich with emotion and laced with secrets. Her years working as a social worker and psychotherapist inspired many of her characters and stories. Born and raised in New Jersey, she now makes her home in North Carolina, the setting for her most recent books.

For further information, follow Diane on Twitter @D_Chamberlain, visit her website or find her on Instagram and Facebook.

Thirty Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani

My grateful thanks to Team Bookends for sending me a copy of Thirty Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.

Thirty Things I Love About Myself will be published by Headline Review on 20th January 2022 and is available for purchase through these links.

Thirty Things I Love About Myself

When Nina Mistry hits rock bottom – because no one plans to turn thirty in a prison cell – a tatty little self-help book finds its way into her hands. She doesn’t think she needs it; why would a strong, sensible Taurus like her go on a ‘life-changing journey’ to fix herself? But her inner journalist is curious. Within minutes, she’s hooked. By the time the sun comes up, she knows exactly what she needs to do . . .

‘This book will change your life . . . if you’re brave enough to let it.’

This will not be a journey for the faint-hearted, but whatever else Nina has messed up in her life, she’s never been afraid of a challenge.

’30 bold steps. One year.’

Her mother is – as always – appalled. Her brother is too depressed to care. The love of her life? He’s already moved on. And her friends . . . well, that’s another story.

But Nina has Nina.

And she’s about to find out if that’s enough.

‘It’s time for a brand new kind of love story. Are you ready?’

Thirty Things I Love About Myself is a gloriously uplifting novel for anyone who has ever had a self-worth wobble, or is watching someone they love struggle; it is for any woman who has ever failed and got herself right back up again, or whose life is veering a little off track!

My Review of Thirty Things I Love About Myself

Nina has got herself arrested.

Thirty Things I Love About Myself is absolutely glorious. I think it’s the must read of the spring and I loved it. It’s funny, it’s sassy and it’s heartbreakingly refreshing. Radhika Sanghani’s writing sparkles with talent and engagement for the reader. The natural direct speech, Nina’s thought processes and the whirlwind of events all combine into a truly entertaining, mesmerising read.

Nina is an absolute triumph. Her authorial voice is so distinct that it’s impossible to believe she’s a character in a story and not a real person. I adored her. I’m as much in love with Nina as she becomes. Her mother is a wonderfully depicted character too. It was like reading about my own mother in so many ways. Kal’s counterbalance to Nina is perfectly pitched so that his strand to the narrative has all teh more poignancy. The cultural setting for the characters in Thirty Things I Love About Myself may be Indian, but the people, the actions and the themes are completely universal, relatable and compelling for all readers.

Despite the fact Thirty Things I Love About Myself is written in a light hearted, thoroughly engaging manner, with a fast paced narrative, Radhika Sanghani  touches on themes that are so relevant to today’s society, exploring the thorny issue of racism in and between cultures, true friendship, mental health, online and social media realities, and the thin veneer of civilisation in such a way that I was not only cheering for Nina, but rather wished the author held political power in the country. I genuinely feel my world is a better place for Thirty Things I Love About Myself.

Sprinkled with laugh aloud humour, humane truths and the kind of connection for the reader that Nina herself is searching for, Thirty Things I Love About Myself is totally fantastic. I loved it.

About Radhika Sanghani

Radhika Sanghani is an award-winning features journalist, an influential body positivity campaigner and a 2020 BBC Writers Room graduate. She writes regularly for the Daily TelegraphDaily MailElleGuardianGraziaGlamour and Cosmopolitan; was recently featured in Italian Vogue as well as BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour, and is a regular guest on Sky News and Good Morning Britain. She has previously written two YA novels: Virgin and Not That EasyRadhika is also a TEDx speaker on body positivity, a yoga teacher, and she runs a charity initiative with Age UK fighting loneliness in older women.

For more information, follow Radhika Sanghani on Twitter @radhikasanghani, visit her website or find her on Facebook and Instagram.