Wednesday, 31 July 2019

In The Company Of Strangers by Awais Khan

In The Company Of Strangers by Awais Khan
Published in the UK by The Book Guild on the 28th July 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads and a 2019 COYER Summer Hunt read

Add In The Company Of Strangers to your Goodreads

Mona has almost everything: money, friends, social status... everything except for freedom. Languishing in her golden cage, she craves a sense of belonging... 

Desperate for emotional release, she turns to a friend who introduces her to a world of glitter, glamour, covert affairs and drugs. There she meets Ali, a physically and emotionally wounded man, years younger than her. 

Heady with love, she begins a delicate game of deceit that spirals out of control and threatens to shatter the deceptive facade of conservatism erected by Lahori society, and potentially destroy everything that Mona has ever held dear. 

In The Company Of Strangers is set within the glittering elite social circles of Lahore where being invited to the right parties and being seen with the right people seem to be all that matters. However in this novel Khan swiftly takes us behind that facade. The first chapter is a shocking description of a young suicide bomber walking to a predetermined location and blowing himself up - together with everyone else in the vicinity. It's an immensely powerful start which led me to expect a certain style of novel. Khan doesn't allow himself to be channelled into any one direction though. Instead he allows us glimpses into a number of different lives, all of which will be affected by the repercussions of that initial violence.

I think what I loved the most was Khan's sharply observed character portrayals. I'm struggling to think of a single participant whom I actually liked because they are generally quite self-serving and can be incredibly spiteful to each other! Reading their barbed comments and conversations from this distance was entertaining and a good counterpoint to the several dark narrative threads which include terrorism, domestic abuse and sexual assault. Mona is a strange creation. I understand that I should have empathised with her predicament, but I found this difficult to do. 

I felt I preferred the first half of In The Company Of Strangers because it is more detailed about Lahore and its inhabitants. Once the pace picks up in the latter chapters, I wasn't always sure I could follow people's motivations and I did wonder if Khan was throwing in too many emotional triggers to be completely believable. That aside, this is an enjoyable novel which manages to explore difficult themes in an interesting and exciting story.

Meet the author

Awais Khan is a graduate of Western University and Durham University. Having been an avid reader and writer all his life, he decided to take the plunge and study Novel Writing and Editing at Faber Academy in London. His work has appeared in the Missing Slate Magazine, Daily Times and MODE, and he has been interviewed by leading television channels like PTV, Voice of America, Samaa TV and City 42, to name a few. He is also the Founder of The Writing Institute, one of the largest institutions for Creative Writing in Pakistan. He lives in Lahore and frequently visits London for business.

Author links: 
Facebook ~ Instagram

Etsy Find!

by Fashion Adventures in
Valbonne, France

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Books by Awais Khan / Contemporary fiction / Books from Pakistan

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Heathcliff by Sue Barnard + #Giveaway + Excerpt

Heathcliff by Sue Barnard
Self published on the 9th June 2018.

Add Heathcliff to your Goodreads

It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now…”

Cathy’s immortal words from Wuthering Heights change Heathcliff’s life.  At just seventeen years of age, heartbroken and penniless, he runs away to face an unknown future.

Three years later, he returns – much improved in manners, appearance and prosperity.

But what happened during those years? How could he have made his fortune, from nothing? Who might his parents have been? And what fate turned him into literature’s most famous anti-hero?

For almost two centuries, these questions have remained unanswered.
Until now…


In this excerpt, the coachman (Thomas Braithwaite) describes his conversation with Heathcliff as they set off for Liverpool.

The following morning, the stranger joined me in the stable yard as the other passengers began to take their places in the coach.
“How is your arm?” I asked him.
“Still sore, but it’s not broken. I think I will live.” I detected a faint ghost of a grin on his face as he spoke. “May I sit on the box seat with you? I don’t think the other passengers will want my company again today.”
“Are you sure?” I answered, surprised at his request. “Won’t it make your arm worse?”
He grunted. “Even if it does, I’d rather have your company than sit inside. My intrusion last night was quite clearly not welcome. And in any case, I hate being confined. Certainly not with snobs like them.” He glanced towards the gloomy interior of the coach and grimaced.
“Very well.” I was unsure of the wisdom of this, but he seemed determined, and I had no wish to incur his wrath by arguing with him. Our acquaintance, brief though it had been, had already shown me that he was not a man who would suffer fools gladly.

As we set off, he looked around at the moors surrounding us.
“It is a long time since I was last in Liverpool,” he muttered, as much to himself as to me.
“How long?”
“More than ten years. I was only a child when I left.”
“So what brought you to Yorkshire?”
“Not so much ‘what’ as ‘who’. I was brought here by the master of the house I have just left.”
I was puzzled. “Why?”
“I’m not sure. Out of the kindness of his heart, I think. He’d come to Liverpool for something to do with his business – I don’t know what exactly – and he found me wandering and begging on the streets. He brought me back to Yorkshire with him, and it’s been my home ever since. Until last night.” He relapsed into gloom as he spoke the last three words.
I was silent as I recalled his revelation of the previous evening.
Then he spoke again. “He carried me here, all the way, inside his great-coat.”
“What? Even in the stagecoach?”
Now it was his turn to look surprised. “Stagecoach? No, not at all. He walked the whole way.”

Meet the author

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4's fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as "professionally weird." The label has stuck.

Sue’s first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet), was officially released on St Valentine's Day 2014.  Since then she has produced five more novels: Nice Girls Don’t (2014), The Unkindest Cut of All (2015), Never on Saturday (2017), Heathcliff (2018), and Finding Nina (2019).

Sue now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

Author links: 
BlogFacebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Amazon ~ RNA

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win a signed copy of Heathcliff by Sue Barnard.
(Open until 23:59 on the 1st August 2019, UK entries Only) 

*Terms and Conditions – UK entries welcome.
Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then RRR reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time RRR will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Etsy Find!
by Reading Room Candle Co in
Belfast, Northern Ireland

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Books by Sue Barnard / Retellings / Books from England

Monday, 29 July 2019

Matt's Swirly World by Madeleine Matthews + #Giveaway

Matt's Swirly World - Helping Parents Raise Mindful Kids, Understand Tantrums and Relieve Stress and Anxiety by Madeleine Matthews, Illustrated by Cristina Diana Enache
Self published today, the 29th July 2019.

Add Matt's Swirly World to your Goodreads

When children are young their emotions come in peaks and valleys. Sometimes they’re super excited, sometimes they’re sad, and sometimes they lose control and express themselves by throwing a temper tantrum.

These outbursts of emotions are common for parents and kids of all walks of life and can be leveraged by parents who want to teach impulse control, improved behavior, and better mindfulness.

That’s why Matt’s Swirly World was written to help parents understand the “why” behind a tantrum as well as what’s going on inside their child’s brain when they’re acting out, feeling scared, or reacting to stressful situations.

An adorable journey featuring a mother and her young son, this book is a great reminder about how all emotions are accepted and that proper behaviors can be learned by kids and taught by moms and dads. In fact, your love is the perfect space where emotions can be processed, expressed, and shared together.

In this book, parents will learn how mindfulness helps kids create better coping skills, and also a variety of other useful tools, including:
How love can be used to process emotions and support positive behaviors
Why feelings of anger and frustration come and go and are non-threatening
How a calm voice and demeanor can soothe a child and minimize meltdowns
Providing children relief from stress, anxiety, or big feelings and emotions
How children often mimic the behaviors of their mothers and fathers
Moving forward and adapting to behavioral changes in the future

This is an opportunity to learn and grow as a parent while teaching your child valuable mindfulness and self-control skills they can use long into adulthood. It should be the first book you read on tantrums, emotions, and how to inspire positive behaviors each and every day.

When you need help better understanding why your child feels or acts they way they do in times of crisis, or you just want to connect with them on a deeper level, learn more about temper tantrums and emotional control with Matt’s swirly world – Helping Parents Raise Mindful Kids, Understand Tantrums and Relieve Stress, Anxiety (Growing Up & Facts of Life Emotions Feelings).

Meet the Author 

Aspiring contemporary ballerina, commercial poet, grateful wife and mother. Certified Life Coach, BA Finance, MA Statistics ( don't judge, I was young ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ), now IT Product Manager. When I was pregnant with my now 3 y/o boy, I was worried how I can raise my child to cope in a world of bullying, peer pressure, substance abuse, screen time etc. My husband told me that if we want our son to thrive in this world, all we need to do is build his self confidence & firm limits. So that's how I started reading parenting books, and read a lot. I read tons of books on the latest research discoveries in interpersonal biology and brain development. I love anything that Daniel J Siegel ever wrote. I am also a fan of "How to talk so kids would listen" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

​For "Matt's swirly world," I worked with a psychologist who specialized in child development and attachment parenting. That's because, I am above all, convinced of the immense potential every child has and their absolute innocence. I know from experience that raising kids can often feel quite differently, and challenging. I am convinced that the way to turn that potential into peaceful family lives and well balanced kids - is both intuition and science (and patience). Being emotionally available as a parent, being present for them and for yourself, to keep your own emotional highs & lows in check. Because they are good at triggering us, aren't they? When I was 8, I had no money to buy my mother gifts; I really wanted to create joy in her heart, so I started dedicating poems to her. That's what got me started writing.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

Win $20 Amazon Gift Card, or 1 of 3 Paperback copies of Matt's Swirly World.
Open to the USA only until the 16th August.


Etsy Find!

Tantrum tracker stickers 
by Crafty Planning Shop in 
Bristol, England

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Books by Madeleine Matthews / Self help books / Books from America

Sunday, 28 July 2019

A Divided Mind by M Billiter + #Giveaway + Excerpt

A Divided Mind by M. Billiter
Published by Tangled Tree Publishing yesterday, the 27th July 2019.

Add A Divided Mind to your Goodreads

Sometimes that little voice in your head isn't always yours. What if the only friend you have isn't real? When the voices in his head begin to make sense, high school senior Branson Kovac turns to the one friend he's still got - only to discover he's not really there.


For everyone’s concern about me hurting myself or someone, cutting into a frozen frog didn’t prompt any crazed thoughts. Now the kid next to me who kept tapping me on the shoulder like he had a nervous tick, he deserved a beatdown just for annoying me. 
“Branson, help me out. What is this?” He pointed to a part of the frog. 
“For the hundredth time, it’s the liver.” 
“Oh, that makes sense.” 
No shit. 
I was identifying the other parts of Kermit’s anatomy when tick boy tapped me again on the shoulder. 
“What?” I glared at him and he backed away. That sudden jolt of anger triggered the shadow people. I shook my head, but it was still there. I saw a shadow of a person pick up the scalpel and attack tick boy with exact precision, cutting him across the throat. The only color I could see was red.

Meet the Author 

M. Billiter is the alter ego of contemporary, award-winning romance author, Mary Billliter. After writing more than a dozen love stories, she is exploring the other side. Best known for her emotional honesty, Mary doesn't write about well-adjusted people, but rather the wounds in life. M. Billiter writes with clarity and raw emotion to explore difficult subjects and issues close to her heart.

Author links:

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a print copy of A Divided Mind by M Billiter and a $20 Amazon gift card.
Open internationally until the 1st August.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Etsy Find!
by Stampin Off The Path in
Ohio, USA

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Books by Mary Billiter / Thrillers / Books from America

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Le Chien Qui Ne Voulait Pas Sourire by Stephen Bly

Le Chien Qui Ne Voulait Pas Sourire by Stephen Bly
First published as The Dog Who Would Not Smile by Crossway Books in America in 1992. French language translation by Michele Schneider published by Dynamots in 1995.

One of my Books In French and a 2019 COYER Summer Hunt read

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

De plus en plus inquiet, Nathan court d'un bâtiment vide à l'autre. Où sont-ils tous? Comment était-ce possible que toute la population d'une ville entière disparaisse?

Dans le bureau de poste abandonné, des sacs de courrier encore fermés s'entassent partout ... Son appréhension grandit alors qu'il parcourt les piles de lettres. La voilà, la lettre pour ses parents annonçant son arrivée. Pas étonnant qu'ils ne l'aient pas attendu ici, à Willow Creek. Que faire maintenant? Pourquoi Dieu ne s'occupe-t-il pas mieux de lui?

I read Le Chien Qui Ne Voulait Pas Sourire (The Dog Who Would Not Smile) in a French edition because I spotted a copy at a Little Library book exchange and felt that the book's target age group (8-12 year olds) would be compatible with my level of French fluency. As it turned out this was pretty much exactly the case and, while the early chapters were slower going because I had to frequently look up words in my trusty Harraps dictionary (a diligence is a stagecoach, armoise is wormwood), by the later chapters I was fairly rattling through the pages and excited to find out how this first instalment of Nathan's story would finish.

Nathan T Riggins is a somewhat precocious twelve year old city boy who finds himself unexpectedly alone in a small Wild West town when his diligence abruptly curtails its journey. His intended destination, Willow Creek, where he should have been reunited with his parents, apparently has been deserted. No one is waiting to meet him and he finds himself reliant almost completely on his own resources. Through a series of entertaining (if not always completely plausible) adventures, Nathan learns a lot about himself and about life. I would have loved blithely losing myself in this tale as a child and also enjoyed it as an adult, although from a more pragmatic and, sadly, more cynical standpoint so I couldn't accept every event at face value! The characters are fun, if a little stereotypical, and Bly's descriptions of the vast wild landscapes are beautifully evocative. I felt like I just wanted to saddle up and go exploring too. Well, until the sandstorms started anyway!

I appreciated that this book had a satisfactory sense of closure so it is a standalone story, but with the potential for a series to continue - which it does. The books are marketed as Christian stories, but I was relieved that this one doesn't evangelise. While Nathan's faith is important to him, I could understand his beliefs without feeling hectored to share them. I probably won't search out the further books as I'm not strongly moved to follow more of Nathan's life, but would pick up another of the rare translated editions when I spot one, if only to find out how much Wild West vocabulary I'd retained!

Etsy Find!
by Haleys Hound Haus in
Texas, USA

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Friday, 26 July 2019

The Murmur Of Bees by Sofia Segovia + #Giveaway

The Murmur Of Bees by Sofia Segovia
First published in Spanish as El murmullo de las abejas by Lumen in Mexico in March 2015. English language translation by Simon Bruni published by AmazonCrossing in April 2019.

A 2019 New Release Challenge and one of my 2019 COYER Summer Hunt reads
One of my WorldReads from Mexico

How I got this book:
Bought the ebook from Amazon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From the day old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican village forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil. But he is welcomed by landowners Francisco and Beatriz Morales, who adopt him and care for him as if he were their own. As he grows up, Simonopio becomes a cause for wonder to the Morales family, because when the uncannily gifted child closes his eyes, he can see what no one else can—visions of all that’s yet to come, both beautiful and dangerous. Followed by his protective swarm of bees and living to deliver his adoptive family from threats—both human and those of nature—Simonopio’s purpose in Linares will, in time, be divined.

Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.

I do love reading Latin American magical realism novels! I know the genre isn't to everyone's taste, but if it's to yours then I would highly recommend grabbing yourself a copy of The Murmur Of Bees to read this summer. I can't comment on the original Spanish, but Simon Bruni's English language translation kept me glued to every page of this historical epic. Segovia weaves the story of a cleft-lipped boy, Simonopio, who has a strange affinity with bees around the genuine happenings in Mexico throughout the 1910s and beyond. This is very much the tale of a family, not just one person, and I appreciated the point of view changes which allow readers to observe events from varying perspectives across the years. Simonopio is a wonderful creation. He is an almost silent boy due to his disfigurement, yet I could completely believe in the relationships he establishes without the need for speech. The generations of the Morales family find their lives deeply affected by this adopted child.

Historically, The Murmur Of Bees felt authentic and very well researched. This was a particularly tumultuous time in Mexican and global history and I could clearly feel repercussions of The Great War and its aftermath, the Spanish flu epidemic, in the small town of Linares. The flu outbreak is particularly poignant and moments such as a brief scene of geriatric card players are vividly memorable. Surprisingly for me, as much of the story focuses on negative events, I didn't find The Murmur Of Bees to be a depressing read. The main characters are certainly put through the ringer on a number of occasions and there are chillingly dark narrative threads which evoked strong senses of foreboding for me, however I think I would describe this as a heartwarming novel overall. Segovia has penned a compelling story of family, loyalty and patience.

And now it's time for the Giveaway!

The prize is a Kindle copy of The Murmur Of Bees by Sofia Segovia.
Open until the 9th August to anyone who can receive an Amazon UK gifted ebook.

The Murmur Of Bees by Sofia Segovia ebook giveaway

This giveaway is not connected with the author or Amazon. I will personally be gifting a copy of the ebook to the giveaway winner because I loved it so much!
The giveaway closes at midnight (UK time) on the 9th August and I will pick a winner on the 10th. That winner will have three days to respond to my email otherwise the prize will be forfeit. And, yes, I Will be checking that the winning entrant actually completed the winning task!

Etsy Find!
by Casa Otomi in
Coyoacan, Mexico

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Books by Sofia Segovia / Historical fiction / Books from Mexico