Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Pink Ice Creams by Jo Woolaston + Excerpt


Pink Ice Creams by Jo Woolaston
Self published on the 14th May 2019.


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

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

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


Excerpt


Kay has always blamed herself for her brother leaving the safe confines of her entrusted care. A childish argument, a strop, a bent back finger, and he was gone. But at 12, she was still a child herself, so should the blame be at someone else’s door? Adam wasn’t the only person Kay lost that day, as she also now mourns the loss of the mother who abandoned her at a time when Kay needed her most of all, and, despite everything, still does...

She is somebody without effort. A flash of teeth and a sway of hips, and they flock around her like flies around shit. 

‘All in red, all in red, she took him up to bed, down in the valley where nobody goes.’

She sits at the bar on a high stool, legs crossed, her bare legs a deep bronze from her pink painted toenails to the spilt at the top of her red dress. She sips through a straw, lips pouting, eyes bright and hopeful, furtively watching the people walk in, looking for a potential playmate and weighing up her options. I’m longing to go in and sit with her, laugh with her, mock and make fun with her, imitate her actions, mimic her pose, but I won’t. She’d brain me. 

‘I can’t see, Kay, I can’t see.’

We are balanced on an overflow down-pipe, fingers aching and raw from clinging onto a thin flaking window ledge. The windows are too high up for Adam but on tiptoes I can see through, just. I kick Adam off my leg and he falls on his backside and bursts into tears. He is tired, it is way past his bedtime, he is scared of the dark.

‘Get off me! If Mum sees us she’ll kill me so pack it in!’
‘I can’t see Kay, it isn’t fair.’
‘Here, have this, and keep your whiny gob shut.’

I throw down to him his little wooden gonk and lift myself up again to peer over the ledge. It is pretty inside, dark parquet flooring, rich reds and gold, tall heavy lamp-stands with tasselled shades. The air is thick with fag smoke and the music vibrates the window glass, loose in their old frames. She has company now, a man with a mullet well past its sell-by date, with blond streaks that could almost disguise the copper curls if it weren’t for the well-cultivated ginger moustache that adorns his upper lip. What does she see in him, the red-headed copper-top, Duracell ginger-nut? A hilarious character judging by the way Mum’s head is thrown back and her mouth agape, hacking out reams of unconvincing laughter. Her hand has fallen off her straw and has landed between her thighs.

‘Kay can you see her? What is she doing?’
‘She’s laughing.’

Adam’s face is streaked with dirt and tears and his eyelids sag at half-mast, straining to stay open. He has just wee’d his pants, and a dark patch of wet spreads across his pyjama bottoms as he makes the gonk dance in front of him, the little beads on the end of its string arms bouncing against its body. Tip tap tip tap tip tap. 

‘Come on, let’s get you back in bed.’

I pick Adam up and carry him on my hip across the grass verge onto the gravel road and out towards the vans. People pass us on their way to the bar, some of them with kids, some holding hands, all hopeful, bright-eyed with anticipation for the night ahead. Adam wraps his arms around my neck and rests his head on my shoulder, the gonk tightly clenched in his fist. I will wait up for her to come home.

‘Good morning little chicks. Come on Kay wakey wakey!’
‘Mummy!’
‘Hello my little angel, did you have a good sleep? Come on both of you, up you get. Kay?’
‘Ng.’
‘Come on sleepy-head, there’s no point spending the holiday in bed.’

She looks sweaty. Her make-up is half way down her cheeks and her red dress is still visible under her dressing gown. I waited, a long time. 

‘What time did you get in?’
‘What is this, twenty questions?’ 
‘That’s one question.’
‘I didn’t want to wake you. Sleeping like a baby you were, both of you.’
‘He is a baby.’
‘Don’t start Kay, it’s a lovely morning so let’s not spoil it. Just play nicely.’

Play nicely and you can stay up late. Be good and we’ll go to the beach. Stay put and I’ll buy you an ice-cream. Double cone? Mint choc chip? Raspberry ripple.


‘All in pink, all in pink, she made his fingers stink. Down in the valley where nobody goes.’


Meet the author

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

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

Author links: 
WebsiteFacebook ~ Twitter ~ Goodreads




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Books by Jo Woolaston / Contemporary fiction / Books from England

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva + #Giveaway + Playlist

  

Hold My Hand by Michael Barakiva
Published in America by Straus and Giroux today, the 21st May 2019.


Add Hold My Hand to your Goodreads

Alek Khederian thinks about his life B.E. and A.E.: Before Ethan and After Ethan. Before Ethan, Alek was just an average Armenian-American kid with a mess of curly dark hair, grades not nearly good enough for his parents, and no idea of who he was or what he wanted. After he got together with Ethan, Alek was a new man. Stylish. Confident. (And even if he wasn't quite marching in LGBTQ parades), Gay and Out and Proud.

With their six-month anniversary coming up, Alek and Ethan want to do something special to celebrate. Like, really special. Like, the most special thing two people in love can do with one another. But Alek's not sure he's ready for that. And then he learns something about Ethan that may not just change their relationship, but end it. Alek can't bear the thought of finding out who he'd be P.E.: Post-Ethan. But he also can't forgive or forget what Ethan did. Luckily, his best friend Becky and madcap Armenian family are there to help him figure out whether it's time to just let Ethan go, or reach out and hold his hand.

Hold My Hand is a funny, smart, relatable take on the joy and challenges of teenage love, the boundaries of forgiveness, and what it really means to be honest.



Playlist

Seventeen by Troye Sivan
Lovely 2 C U by Goldfrapp
Sour Times by Portishead
Under Pressure by Queen (since The Magicians version from S03E09 isn’t available)
Do I Disappoint You by Rufus Wainwright
Cry When You Get Older by Robyn
I’d Rather Be Blue by Barbara Streisand
Focus by Leo Kalyan 
Supercut by Lorde
Hold My Hand by Brandy Clark
There’s More to Love by The Communards

Meet the Author 

Michael Barakiva, author of One Man Guy, is a theater director and writer of Armenian/Israeli descent who lives in Manhattan with his husband, Rafael. He is a graduate of Vassar College and the Juilliard School, an avid cook and board-game player, and a soccer player with the New York Ramblers.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a print copy of Hold My Hand.
Open Internationally until the 30th May.

a Rafflecopter giveaway



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Books by Michael Barakiva / Young adult fiction / Books from America

Monday, 20 May 2019

What We Do For Love by Anne Pfeffer + #Giveaway + Excerpt


What We Do For Love by Anne Pfeffer
Published by Bold Print Press tomorrow, the 21st May 2019.


Add What We Do For Love to your Goodreads

Thirty-eight year old Nicole Adams has given up on finding love. Instead, the single mother focuses on the things she cherishes most - her sixteen-year old son Justin, her friends, and her art. When she convinces a prominent Los Angeles museum to feature a piece of her work, a large-scale installation, she thinks her life has finally turned a corner.

Then Justin brings a girl, Daniela, home to live with them. Daniela's angry parents have thrown her out of the house, because she's pregnant with Justin's child. Shattered, Nicole takes Daniela in and, in so doing, is drawn into the inner circle of Daniela's family - a frightening world of deceit and violence. Nicole struggles to keep life going as normal. Forced to deal with people she doesn't trust or like, fearful for the future of both her son and the grandchild they're expecting, Nicole wonders if she can do what she tells Justin to do: always have faith in yourself and do the right thing.

What We Do for Love won the Chick Lit category of the 2019 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, and finalist for Best Cover Design/Fiction!



Excerpt

From Chapter Four.  Justin and Daniela have told Nicole that Daniela cannot return to her own home, but Nicole is nonetheless trying to reach Daniela’s parents. 

By nine o’clock, Daniela’s parents still hadn’t called back. 
Justin gave me a pointed look. Told you so. 
Shocked by the apparent indifference of these people, I asked, “How do they know you’re safe? You could be camping under the freeway right now.”
Daniela’s voice quavered. “I’m sure they think I’m fine.” The sadness in her voice tore me up.
“They’ve got to be worried.” The tiny crack in my mind had widened just a bit, and a tremor of … something ran through me… a premonition, maybe? Or maybe just nerves. “Even if you’ve had a disagreement, they still love you. They’re your parents.”
“They’re not worried.” 
I tried to keep my tone brisk and matter-of-fact. “If that’s the case, then of course you must stay tonight!”
 “Thank you,” Daniela whispered. At my request, she dialed her phone again and handed it to me. I left another message.
“Hello, Viviana. This is Nicole again. Since I haven’t been able to reach you, Daniela will stay the night here, in a separate room from my son. I’ll make sure she gets to school on time tomorrow. Please feel free to call me.” I left my phone number again, feeling my temper rise as I thought of what these parents had done tonight. 
“So,” I said, “let’s get ready for bed!” I kept my voice bright and chipper. “Justin, will you move your sheets out onto the sofa? I’ll put some fresh ones on your bed for Daniela.” 
By comparison to Justin’s male friends, whose presence resounded through the house like a herd of elephants, Daniela was almost ghost-like, blending into the background and whispery quiet. And eager to please. 
“Let me put the sheets on,” she said. “You shouldn’t have to do that.”
“All right, thanks.” I found her an unused toothbrush and an old t-shirt of mine to sleep in. “And here’s a clean towel.”
Justin’s small bedroom still had its blue plaid wallpaper. The bedspread had borne pictures of teddy bears until he revolted in his freshman year of high school, requesting a plain blue comforter. Justin’s stuff filled every corner, covered every surface: music posters, two guitars and a drum, his bicycle, a debate trophy, comic books, and books with art or math and logic puzzles. 
 “Thank you again.” Daniela drooped as she sat down on the bed.
“Are you all right, honey?” I sat down next to her. “Do you want to tell me a little more about what’s going on?”       
The two dogs galumphed into the room just as Justin’s tall, lean frame appeared in the doorway, dressed in the sweatpants and t-shirt he wore to bed. Midge and Margo rushed the twin bed, trying to climb aboard, but I pushed them gently down onto the rug. I put my arm around Daniela as she shuddered and the tears started to fall. She gripped her hands together tightly. “I did something… that my parents didn’t like. My dad especially.” 
Justin fastened his gaze on her as she spoke. His bleak eyes reminded me of the time he’d found a dead baby rabbit in the swimming pool. My throat suddenly felt dry, and a chill ran over me despite the balmy evening air. 
“My mom would forgive me, but Dad won’t let me live at home anymore.”
“I’m sure he’ll reconsider. You know, once he cools off.” What could this girl have done? Totalled the family car? Burned down the house? 
Could she be…?
No way… I wouldn’t permit myself to have the thought. She’s only sixteen.
Justin spoke up, his voice harsh in the silence. “We have to tell her, Daniela.”
Up until now I’d thought, or kidded myself, that Justin was only helping a girl with a problem. Now, the fear arose that it might be Justin’s problem, too.
I held my breath.
“Daniela’s pregnant,” Justin said. “And I’m the father.”

Meet the Author 

Hi! I grew up in the desert around Phoenix, Arizona, where I had a bay quarter horse named Dolly. If I wasn't riding, I was holed up somewhere reading Laura Ingalls Wilder or the Oz books or, later on, Jane Eyre and The Grapes of Wrath. Horses eventually faded as an interest, but I ended up with a lifelong love of books and reading.

After college and eight years of living in cold places like Chicago and New York, I escaped back to the land of sunshine. I now live in California, one mile from the Pacific Ocean, with my dachshund Taco. I have worked in banking and as a pro bono attorney, doing adoptions and guardianships for abandoned children.

As a writer, I'd always been interested in children's books, since they had meant so much to me as a kid. I've found I especially like writing books about teens and twenty-somethings, an age where you make so many decisions about who you are and how you want to spend your life. I love hearing from readers, so please write to me any time.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a $25 Amazon gift card.
Open Internationally until the 30th May.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Books by Anne Pfeffer / Women's fiction / Books from America

Sunday, 19 May 2019

In Love with the World by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche


In Love with the World: What a Buddhist Monk Can Teach You About Living from Nearly Dying by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche with Helen Tworkov
Published by Bluebird on the 16th May 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



A rare, intimate account of a world-renowned Buddhist monk’s near-death experience and the life-changing wisdom he gained as a result.

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s experience begins the night he has chosen to embark on a four-year wandering retreat, slipping past the monastery gates. Alone for the first time in his life, he sets out into the unknown. His initial motivation is to step away from his life of privilege and to explore the deepest, most hidden aspects of his being, but what he discovers throughout his retreat – about himself and about the world around us – comes to define his meditation practice and teaching.

Just three weeks into his retreat, Rinpoche becomes deathly ill and his journey begins in earnest through this near-death experience. Moving, beautiful and suffused with local colour, In Love with the World is the story of two different kinds of death: that of the body and that of the ego, and how we can bridge these two experiences to live a better and more fulfilling life. Rinpoche’s skilful and intimate account of his search for the self is a demonstration of how we can transform our dread of dying into joyful living.

There's something very funny about the thought of a venerated Buddhist monk - an abbott nonetheless - escaping  from his monastery in the middle of the night and running away. After months of meticulous planning that's exactly how Rinpoche begins what will become several years of a wandering retreat for him. I felt it was also a great way to begin this memoir. I had been concerned that aspects of the book might be beyond my understanding as I don't have much of an understanding of Buddhism beyond the usual preconceptions (and, as it turns out, misconceptions). However to be greeted with a flawed flight which involves slipping into a muddy puddle immediately made me realise that I could understand Mingyur Rinpoche. He might come from a completely different culture, but too much haste resulting in a muddy puddle accident is an event with which I could easily identify.

In Love With The World is partly a memoir of the first month of Rinpoche's retreat and partly a tome for him to impart relevant Buddhist teachings to his readers. I did feel therefore as though I was starting to learn about the religion from the middle, but I could mostly keep up with the concepts being discussed and understood the points being made. It wasn't until the final chapters and Rinpoche's description of his near-death experience that I lost track of what he was trying to say. I enjoyed the earlier recounting of stories and the information imparted about the places visited. It was also very interesting and helpful to me to read about episodes such as Rinpoche's intense anxiety during his first ever unaccompanied train journey (he's 36 years old). I would have imagined that a Buddhist abbot would be serene under any circumstances, so to learn that he had to employ breathing and relaxation exercises to calm himself was reassuring to me.

I didn't realise that In Love With The World would only cover such a short period of Rinpoche's retreat. I would have preferred to have learned more about the whole period of travel with less religious theory, although I understand that teaching Buddhism is Rinpoche's vocation. My reading here has encouraged me to discover more about Buddhism and its history, and the whole concept of meditation.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche / Biography and memoir / Books from Tibet

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Twelve Unending Summers by Cholet Kelly Josué


Twelve Unending Summers by Cholet Kelly Josué
Published in America by Authority Publishing on the 22nd May 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Bahamian. Haitian. American. Where can I fully belong?

At age sixteen, Cholet Josué arrived on the shores of Miami in a wooden boat—and immediately put the past behind him. More than two decades later, the elusive question of identity pursues him, forcing him to confront a difficult truth: the cultures that formed him have each indelibly stamped his soul. Courageously, Cholet dismantles his own story to uncover a way to unashamedly, unabashedly fit in with three different worlds while belonging to none.

Honest and compelling, Twelve Unending Summers is a deeply personal journey that resonates with the universal human need to find a home and embrace the legacy of family heritage.

The message that shines through Josue's memoir is the importance of education for young people and how, in giving this hope for the future, they can establish themselves of a firm grounding wherever they may be. Josue was born a British citizen in the Bahamas, but travelled with his Haitian parents back to Haiti at four years old. Another country, another language. Then at sixteen, and not of his own volition, he endured a rickety boat journey to Florida where, initially as an illegal immigrant, he had to find a way not only to survive but to blossom. Another country, another language. That Josue had the strength of character to persevere against many setbacks is inspiring. His search for his own cultural identity raises interesting questions especially for me having just read Bloom Where You Are Planted (a memoir in which transient expat Lasairiona McMaster assures readers that raising her son in various cultures will enable him to fit in everywhere.) Josue's life experience is of never feeling as though he totally fitted in anywhere.

Josue recounts a few episodes from his childhood in the Bahamas and mostly from Haiti. He also talks extensively about his fight to become a legal American citizen and the struggle to raise the ridiculously high sums needed for his education. Now fully qualified and practicing as a doctor, it is obvious the struggle was worthwhile. I was dismayed at how easily his skill and talent could have been lost though. To deny someone education purely on the grounds of their wealth (or lack of!) strikes me as ludicrous and the situation is just as bad here in the UK.

Josue has a engaging style and I enjoyed reading this memoir, especially where I was able to encounter cultures that are very different to my own. His explanations of the importance of superstition to Haitians were interesting as was learning this island nation's history. I would have actually liked Twelve Unending Summers to have been a longer book. I felt there was a lot more to say on the question of identity for example and some other episodes felt rushed. That said, I am very pleased to have had this opportunity to 'meet' Josue and to read about his life.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Cholet Kelly Josue / Biography and memoir / Books from Haiti

Friday, 17 May 2019

Alone In Berlin by Hans Fallada


Alone In Berlin by Hans Fallada
First published in German as Jeder stirbt für sich allein in West Germany in 1947. English language translation by Michael Hofmann published by Melville House Publishing in 2009.

One of my 2019 Mount TBR Challenge reads and a Classics Club Challenge read.

How I got this book:
Swapped for at a campsite book exchange

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Inspired by a true story, Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin is the gripping tale of an ordinary man's determination to defy the tyranny of Nazi rule.

Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels' necks.

Alone In Berlin appealed to me when I spotted a book exchange copy because of its having been written by a German author almost immediately after the Second World War (in 1946) and its subject being a true story of resistance within Germany to the Nazi regime. I have read a lot of stories about the French Resistance, but German civilian resistance is far less frequently portrayed. As it turned out, I think 'inspired by a true story' would have been a more truthful tagline than 'based on' because Fallada invents a lot around the central narrative idea, bending the truth to achieve a more interesting novel.

What feels absolutely genuine though is his portrayal of wartime Berlin. The stifling atmosphere of suspicion and intolerance leeches through every page. I could envisage every neighbour constantly spying though peepholes, every work colleague on the lookout for a chance to gain favour by denouncing a former friend. The characters in Alone In Berlin do feel absolutely genuine and it is their interactions which kept my attention, and my sympathies, throughout. We meet gamblers and black marketeers, people trying to do their best under the circumstances and people making the most of every opportunity. No one is all good or all bad and I could easily understand their individual motivations.

As with Good People by Nir Baram, partly set in the same wartime Berlin but written decades later, I felt the author encouraging readers to put themselves into the characters shoes. Alone In Berlin asks us to think about the roles we might take in similar circumstances. In the novel, Otto and Anna Quangel had initially voted for Hitler because they felt he and his policies would improve their lives. It is not until a couple of years later that they realise the full truth of what their votes enabled. This is such a relevant novel for 2019, especially with the political similarities many of us are witnessing right now. It is an engrossing historical story with a powerful cautionary message for today.


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Hans Fallada / War fiction / Books from Germany

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Bloom Where You Are Planted (Life the Expat way) by Lasairiona E McMaster


Bloom where you are planted (Life the Expat way) by Lasairiona E McMaster
Self published yesterday, the 15th May 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads


Add Bloom Where You Are Planted to your Goodreads

Are you contemplating a move abroad?

Don’t panic!

From culture shock to capable, from language barriers to lifelong friends, and from foreign land to the familiar. Being hurled into life in a strange new place can be daunting and overwhelming, but it can also be exciting and enjoyable.

Rich with tips on how to expat like a boss, Lasairiona McMaster’s “Bloom where you are planted”, takes you on a journey from packing up her life in Northern Ireland to jumping in at the deep-end as an expat in two countries.

An experienced expat from a decade of living abroad, her honest and uncensored tales of what to expect when you’re expatriating, are as funny as they are poignant, and as practical as they are heartfelt. If you’ve lived abroad, or you’re considering the move from local to expat. If you’re looking to rediscover yourself, or simply wondering how on earth to help your children develop into adaptable, resilient, and well-rounded people, this book has something for you.



May seems to be turning into Memoirs Month because my book review today, of Bloom Where You Are Planted is the sixth of at least seven varied memoirs I have read or will be reading. Part memoir and part self-help guide, Bloom Where You Are Planted is targeted towards people who find themselves living a transient lifestyle, frequently relocating because of the demands of their (or their partner's) job requirements. My experience of expats prior to reading this book is of people who have chosen to emigrate to one other country and then they stay put. McMaster has introduced a whole new level of expat-ism by showing us what she learned through creating homes first in Houston, Texas, then in Pune, India, with a brief Northern Irish sojourn in the middle and now a repatriation to Northern Ireland again. It all sounds quite exhausting!

McMaster began her writing as a blogger and this social style shines through in her book. She has a bright, enthusiastic voice and, while I could have done without quite so much swearing in print, I did appreciate her enthusiastic and honest approach - even in the Too Much Information moments! Advice to prospective expats is logically laid out in concise chapters and includes instructions and ideas interspersed with examples from McMaster's own life. This allows readers to learn from her mistakes or to realise that they are not alone in the emotional turmoil of relocating with all that this involves. Bloom Where You Are Planted is a fascinating glimpse into an often overlooked lifestyle. I felt this book provided an timely reminder that economic migrancy isn't all about people of other nationalities coming to Britain, but also that we Brits live and work in countries all around the globe too.


Meet the author

Lasairiona McMaster grew up dreaming of an exciting life abroad, and, after graduating from Queens University, Belfast, that is exactly what she did - with her then-boyfriend, now husband of almost ten years. Having recently repatriated to Northern Ireland after a decade abroad spanned over two countries (seven and a half years in America and eighteen months in India), she now finds herself 'home', with itchy feet and dreams of her next expatriation.

With a penchant for both travelling, and writing, she started a blog during her first relocation to Houston, Texas and, since repatriating to Northern Ireland, has decided to do as everyone has been telling her to do for years, and finally pen a book (or two) and get published while she tries to adjust to the people and place she left ten years ago, where nothing looks the same as it did when she left.

Author links: 
Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram




Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Lasairiona E McMaster / Self help books / Books from Northern Ireland