Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke

Image Description: The cover of The Lighthouse Witches has a red and gold lighthouse against a black backdrop. Wave-like foiled detailing swirls all around the lighthouse. Above it, the moon glows against the darkness.

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.

A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse?

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll probably have realised that my reading taste is heavily skewed in favour of the Gothic, especially during the autumn and winter seasons. So when the blog tour invite for C. J. Cooke’s The Lighthouse Witches landed in my inbox – with its isolated setting, spooky setting (The Longing – was there ever a better name for a creepy abandoned lighthouse?), and promise of historical witchy mystery – I sensed Shelf of Unread catnip and signed on up!

When struggling single mother Liv is commissioned to paint a mural in The Longing, a 100-year-old lighthouse on the remote Scottish island of Lòn Haven, she sees it as an opportunity for a fresh start for her and her three daughters – fifteen-year-old Sapphire, nine-year-old Luna, and seven-year-old Clover. But all is not as it seems on Lòn Haven. Local legend says The Longing is built above a cave used to imprison and torture local women accused of witchcraft, and there are tales of Wildlings – supernatural creatures mimicking human children – wandering the local woodland.

Twenty-two years later, Luna is the only member of the Stay family still left. Now pregnant with her own child, she is left haunted by her time on Lòn Haven. All Luna knows is that she was found, apparently abandoned, in the woods near The Longing. Her sisters and mother have been missing ever since. So when Luna gets a call to say that Clover has been found, she is overjoyed at the thought of reuniting with her sister and discovering what happened on Lòn Haven all those years ago. Indeed, Clover is exactly the sister Luna remembers: she is, in fact, still the seven-year-old girl who vanished into the night all those years ago. How can Clover have been missing for so long yet not aged a day? Could there be more to the tales of Wildlings and witches’ curses than Luna believes? One thing is certain: Luna will have to return to Lòn Haven – and to The Longing – to find out.

I really loved the way that history and folklore is woven through every strand of this book. Like all good folk tales, there are a number of elements (such as the re-emergence of a still-seven-year-old Clover) that require you to suspend your disbelief and just roll with the story, but it is the premise for a brilliant mystery that is founded upon the (very real) history of the Scottish witch trials and the appalling fate of many of the the Scottish ‘witches’. C. J. Cooke has very cleverly woven this folklore into a tale of contemporary life – of mother/daughter tension, teenage rebellion, the bond between sisters, and the fraught paths that young women navigate as they move from childhood to adolescence and beyond.

Whilst I did initially find the structure a little confusing – the book switches between Luna in the present day, the perspectives of Liv and Sapphire in 1998, and a third, older perspective with some characters appearing across multiple timelines – perseverance paid off and I became thoroughly engrossed in the mystery of Lòn Haven and in discovering exactly what had happened to Liv, Sapphire, Luna, and Clover all those years ago.

C. J. Cooke perfectly realises the isolated loneliness of The Longing and infuses even the smallest of gestures and symbols with a creeping atmosphere of suspicion and claustrophobia – which makes for an intense and page-turning reading experience! Characters are also really well conveyed – from Liv’s watchful desperation to the haughty resentment and anxiety of teenager Sapphire, I really felt as if I was in their shoes when reading. And whilst many of the characters make what can be termed ‘poor life choices’, I felt really sympathy for the predicaments that they found themselves within – and for their inadvertent entanglement with forces beyond their control.

I did have a couple of issues with the logic of The Lighthouse Witches at times. I find it quite hard to believe that any police force or social services team would release a seven-year-old child so soon after her rediscovery – especially since this little girl has been missing for two decades, can’t explain where she’s been, and apparently hasn’t aged a day. At times like this, the magical elements of the story don’t quite line up with the realism of the situation and, for a moment or two, it jolted me out of the world of the novel. This is, I admit, logical nit-picking – as I said at the start of this review, folk tales often require you to suspend your disbelief and, as this novel uses folklore for much of its base, its unsurprising to find that the book requires the occasional leap of faith from its readers. But if you do like all your plotlines wrapped up with logical explanations, consider yourself forewarned.

Overall, however, I found The Lighthouse Witches to be a compelling, unsettling, and enchanting read. C. J. Cooke has expertly woven folklore and history into her contemporary tale to create a modern thriller suffused with the claustrophobic and chilling atmosphere of a classic Gothic novel. With its wonderfully evocative setting and relatable, flawed characters, The Lighthouse Witches provided a page-turning and atmospheric read that is sure to delight fans of Cooke’s previous work – and to garner her plenty of new ones too.

The Lighthouse Witches by C. J. Cooke is published by HarperCollins and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 21 October 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Extracts · Guest Post

GUEST POST!! How I Write Fiction by poet & novelist Laura Stamps

I have something a little different to share with you on The Shelf today – a guest post from poet, short story writer, and novelist Laura Stamps in which she shares her process for writing fiction, as well as sharing an extract from her latest novella!

Laura is the author of novels, novellas, flash fiction collections, and poetry books. Nothing makes her happier than playing with words and creating new forms of fiction.

Her latest novella It’s All about the Ride: Cat Mania (Alien Buddha Press) just came out (September 2021). Laura is the winner of the Muses Prize, as well as the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination and 7 Pushcart Prize nominations. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in over a thousand literary magazines worldwide. She is the mom of five cats and has been in feral cat rescue for over forty years. You can find Laura every day on Twitter at @LauraStamps16, and via her website: www.laurastampspoetry.blogspot.com 

How I Write Fiction

Believe it or not, my writing day begins the minute I wake up in the morning. I’m a runner, and running is fantastic for writing. I think Joyce Carol Oates, who is also a runner, would agree. Running gives you the time and space to flesh out new stories, create outlines, and fix troublesome endings. And that’s exactly what I do first thing every morning while I run. In fact, I’ve never finished a run without coming up with the solution I needed that day for a story or novel chapter.

Image Description: Laura’s zippered canvas writing notebook – complete with pockets for pens, memo pad, and current manuscript!

I keep everything I’m currently working on in my writing notebook, which is a zippered, black canvas, 5.5 x 8.5 Rite in Rain Weatherproof Cordura Fabric Notebook Cover that I bought years ago on Amazon. With plenty of pockets for pens, notes, a memo pad, and my current manuscript, it’s my “portable office” and provides whatever I need to edit and compose first drafts.

Most novelists and fiction writers schedule certain times of the day for writing. Some write early in the morning before the sun rises. Others write late at night while everyone is asleep. Because my fulltime job is hectic, I work on my novels, novellas, and stories while I eat breakfast, lunch, and a snack before bed.

You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in three 30-minute writing sessions every day. Seriously! I’ve worked this way for decades. In the process, I’ve published 64 books with numerous publishers in the last 33 years, and over a thousand of my short stories and poems have appeared in literary magazines worldwide.  

Anything can inspire a new novel, novella, or short story collection. Sometimes it’s just an image, or someone I’ve seen during my day. Sometimes it’s a theme I’d like to explore. Other times all I have is the first sentence or the last sentence. But it’s always something that intrigues me. Something that won’t let me go until I write about it to satisfy my curiosity.

First drafts are written by hand in a little 3×5 spiral-bound memo pad, typed on computer, printed out, and tucked in my writing notebook until I can edit it at my next meal. And so it goes. Several days are spent editing by hand at meals and typing up those edits until the chapter or story is finished. Then I start on the next chapter or story, using the same process, until the entire novel or short story collection is complete.

Image Description: Laura’s writing space

Fiction is a messy business. Nothing arrives in an orderly fashion. Bits and pieces of a story or chapter can come to me at anytime and anywhere: the post office, the shower, the car, at the sink while washing dishes, you name it. That’s why one pocket in my writing notebook is reserved for notes scribbled on scraps of paper (or whatever is handy at the moment). Some of these notes are plot or character details. Some are ideas for new stories or novel chapters.

When it’s time to write the first draft of a story or chapter, I spread these scraps of paper on the table around my meal. Then I arrange them in the order I wish them to appear in the story. This stack of notes on scrap pieces of paper is my “outline.” Then it’s just a matter of going through these notes and writing the first draft, which I can usually complete in one sitting.

Each story or novel chapter goes through at least 15-20 edits before it’s finished. Then, when the entire book is complete, I edit it another two or three times for continuity and flow. After that, the book is ready to be entered in a competition or sent to a publisher.

I never take a break after I finish a book. I just keep writing and start on my next novel or short story collection. By then I’ve accumulated enough notes on scraps of paper in my notebook to compose the first draft of the first chapter or the first story in the new book.

There’s no need to take a break anyway. It’s too much fun to create new stories and characters. Plus, I love pushing the traditional boundaries of fiction to find new formats better suited to my novels and novellas.

My latest novella, It’s All About the Ride: Cat Mania, is the perfect example. This novella is about a neurotic cat rescue lady. Because she considers herself a magnet for bad-news men, she decides to heal her chronic PTSD with self-help books and YouTube videos. Her thoughts become a roller coaster ride, traveling at top speed, as the story races from one hilarious therapy and cat adventure to another.

Since her thoughts move so fast, I had to create a special format for this novella. She’s the kind of person who says what most of us think, things we would never say out loud. But she has no filter, so she says them. As you can imagine, this novella is a fast read. Because of that, it needed a different kind of structure to free the pace of the plot and allow it to flow smoothly.

Eventually, I created an unusual structure of 132 short chapters. This format gave her the freedom to tell her story in her own fast, humorous, wacky way. See for yourself in the excerpt below!

Image Description: The cover of It’s All about the Ride: Cat Mania has a psychedelic cat on it in shades of blue, green, and hot pink!

An Excerpt from It’s All about the Ride: Cat Mania

(2021, Alien Buddha Press)

1.

Here I am at PetSmart. Me and my empty cart, looking at all the things you’ll need if you adopt a dog, because my best friend adopted a dog. She loves that dog. She said I need a dog. She said if I come to PetSmart, see all the cute dog products, I’ll fall in love with the idea of adopting a dog, too. Except, I’m a cat person. I’ve always been a cat person, and that will never change, so why am I here?

2.

I’m still at PetSmart, wandering down one aisle after another, looking at dog products to make my best friend happy. The friend who wants me to adopt a dog, who forgot I grew up with cats. I’ve always had cats. I have cats now. I love my cats. I need to tell my dog-loving best friend this isn’t going to work. It isn’t. Just. Not. Working. 

3.

Although tiny Chihuahuas are cute. You have to admit. In their little dog outfits. But I don’t need to adopt a dog. I just need to leave. I am leaving. I’m leaving this empty cart behind. And walking out. I’m walking out of PetSmart without any dog supplies. I’m walking out without adopting a dog. I’m a cat person. Cats make me happy. Happy is good. I don’t need a dog. I just need to leave. I’m a cat person. And I always will be.   

4.

Happy is good. I’m trying. Trying. Trying to be happy. I am.

5.

Coming back from the grocery store on a Sunday morning, my husband driving, me in the passenger seat, talking about something, I can’t remember what, we reach the top of Harbison bridge when I see a feral kitten, just six or seven weeks old, dart like a flash of tabby out of the bushes into heavy traffic, into the wheel of an SUV, bounce off, terrified, and begin to drag its injured body toward the other side of the bridge, while I scream for my husband to “STOP THE CAR!” while I leap out, while I dodge traffic, while cars screech to a halt until I reach the kitten (finally!), scoop it up in my arms, dash back to the car, jump in, cuddling the frightened kitten to my chest, while my husband yells, “What should we do!” and I shout, “Take me to the Emergency Vet!” since it’s Sunday, and my vet is closed, but even though I spread a fabric grocery bag on my lap to make a soft bed for it, and even though I shower it with love and assurances of a long life, the little tabby passes away before we reach the end of the street, so we turn around and drive home, where I hold a beautiful funeral for this sweet babycat to let it know without a doubt in those last moments and in death it was loved, it was loved, it was loved by me, and always will be.

6.

It’s not easy being in feral cat rescue. But I’m a cat person. I want them all. I love them all. I can’t have them all. Well, I could if I lived in the country. On a farm. But I’m not a farm person. Horses? Cows? Pigs? Chickens? HORRORS! Not happening. I’m not a farm person. I’m a forest person. Give me green. Give me trees. Lots of trees. Green and trees. That’s me.

7.

Fact: My husband would divorce me if I lived on a farm with a hundred cats. He tells me that whenever I show him a photo of a cat. Like I’ve forgotten. Like I could. With him reminding me every day. Right.

8.

Fact: Can’t irritate the husband. He’s a good one. Took too long to find him. Had to throw a few bad-news boyfriends back in the pond first. Okay, they threw me back in the pond. First. Just tossed me away. All of them. Back then. Back in the dark days. But who’s counting? Besides, it happens to everyone, every woman, doesn’t it? Of course, it does.

9.

But. But. We cope. And keep moving forward. Move. Forward. I’m trying. Keep. Trying. 

My thanks go to Laura for taking the time to write a guest post and for sharing an extract of the book. It’s All about the Ride: Cat Mania by Laura Stamps is published by Alien Buddha Press and is available to purchase now from Amazon.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford

Image Description: The cover of A Woman Made of Snow has a sailing ship against the backdrop of Arctic mountains and a sunset.

Scotland, 1949: Caroline Gillan and her new husband Alasdair have moved back to Kelly Castle, his dilapidated family estate in the middle of nowhere. Stuck caring for their tiny baby, and trying to find her way with an opinionated mother-in-law, Caroline feels adrift, alone and unwelcome.

But when she is tasked with sorting out the family archives, Caroline discovers a century-old mystery that sparks her back to life. There is one Gillan bride who is completely unknown – no photos exist, no records have been kept – the only thing that is certain is that she had a legitimate child. Alasdair’s grandmother.

As Caroline uncovers a strange story that stretches as far as the Arctic circle, her desire to find the truth turns obsessive. And when a body is found in the grounds of the castle, her hunt becomes more than just a case of curiosity. What happened all those years ago? Who was the bride? And who is the body…?

Part love story, part mystery, and part historical drama, Elisabeth Gifford’s latest novel, A Woman Made of Snow, is certainly endeavouring to tick a lot of boxes – many of them pure Shelf of Unread catnip! And with a side order of Victorian arctic exploration thrown into that heady mix, I was delighted to have the opportunity to be on the blog tour for this captivating novel.

Switching between two timelines, A Woman Made of Snow is the story of several generations of Gillan women. The latest Gillan wife, Caro, is struggling to find her place amidst new husband Alasdair’s ancestral home, Kelly Castle. As one of the first women to graduate from her college at Cambridge, Caro had expected to spend her life researching and lecturing. Instead she finds herself struggling with new motherhood under the watchful eye of her mother-in-law, Martha.

When Martha unexpectedly offers Caro the opportunity to research the history of Kelly Castle, she jumps at the opportunity to claw back a few hours of her old life. Her investigations turn up a curious gap in the archives: a previous Gillan bride – Alasdair’s great-grandmother – who appears to have been erased from the family history. When building work uncovers a woman’s body in the grounds of the castle, Caro cannot help but wonder whether there is any connection with her missing Gillan wife. And when she uncovers the long-lost diary of Oliver Gillan’s voyage to the Arctic in 1882, it soon becomes clear that the Gillan’s family history – and Kelly Castle – may be hiding a murderous secret.

There were so many points when A Woman Made of Snow reminded me of To the Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey’s captivating novel about the exploration of Alaska that I read and reviewed earlier this year. Elisabeth Gifford has the same ability as Ivey to perfectly capture a sense of wonder involved in exploration and the sense of grandeur within the Arctic landscape – and has also written a poignant and touching love story at the beating heart of her book.

Some elements of this novel were, for me, less successful however. For a relatively slender novel (287 pages), A Woman Made of Snow packs in a LOT of plot. Whilst this is definitely not a bad thing per se – it definitely kept the pages turning! – there are several key characters within both the timelines, as well as several subplots that I felt some were in need of more room to breath. One subplot, which revolves around a potential rival for Alasdair’s affections, seemed full of dramatic potential but, sadly, seemed to have dwindled out to serve very little purpose by the end of the novel.

I also felt that the tension between Caro and Martha – and the attempts made to liken this to events within the past timeline – was a little forced at times. Both Caro and Martha are very likeable characters and, to me at least, seemed to act in a perfectly friendly and respectful manner to each other throughout. Whilst I understand that Elisabeth Gifford was trying to convey the uneasy but barely perceptible tensions that can sometimes arise between new wife and mother-in-law, I felt that this was sometimes made into a bigger plot element than their relatively minor disagreements really warranted.

That said, Caro’s frustration at her own loss of identity is brilliantly conveyed and I really empathised with the way she is torn between her love for her new family – and her new role as wife and mother – and her frustration at the postponement of her academic career, and the abandonment of her independent life with Alasdair in London.

Saying to much about Oliver’s plotline would be to risk spoilers – and given that there is a really compelling mystery plot running throughout the book, that would be a great shame – however I will say that I found the sections set aboard the whaling ship Narwhal to be amongst the most compelling sections of the novel. Elisabeth Gifford has clearly done her research into both the place and the period and I felt that the Narwhal and her crew really came alive on the page – as did the lives and customs of the Inuit people they encounter on their journey.

I also found Oliver’s mother, Sylvia, to be a really arresting character – albeit a truly awful one. Again, I don’t want to give away any plot spoilers but I can safely say that I think Sylvia is one of the most reprehensible characters I’ve met on the page in recent years! Despite this, Gifford has made her a woman I almost loved to hate, fleshing out her background and mental state so that I could understand some of the reasoning behind her abhorrent behaviour – even if I didn’t empathise with that reasoning in any way.

Overall, A Woman Made of Snow made for a dynamic, emotive, and propulsive read that was packed full of family drama. With a touching love story and some well-drawn characters, it was a quick and compelling novel that, despite some minor niggles, kept me reading right through to the end! With its immersive period detail, dual timeline mystery, and heartfelt, poignant storyline, A Woman Made of Snow is sure to appeal to fans of Kristin Hannah, Hazel Gaynor, Kate Morton, and Rachel Hore.

A Woman Made of Snow by Elisabeth Gifford is published by Corvus/Atlantic Books and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 22 October 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Giveaway

BLOG TOUR GIVEAWAY!!! The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen

Image Description: The cover of The Rabbit Factor is bright yellow-orange and has the image of a man standing in front of a large-eyed, cartoon-style, one-eared rabbit

I have something a little different on the blog today because I am hosting my very first GIVEAWAY!! Details of how to enter can be found at the bottom of this post but, before you do that, let me tell you a little bit about the book in question!

About the Book

Award-winning author Antti Tuomainen launches his first series with The Rabbit Factor, an energetic black comedy, currently being adapted for the screen by Amazon/Mandeville Films with Steve Carell to star, and Antti executive producing.

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

About the Author

Image Description: Author Antti Tuomainen

Antti Tuomainen was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author in 2013, the Finnish press crowned Tuomainen the ‘King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published.

With a piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen was one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and his poignant, dark and hilarious The Man Who Died became an international bestseller, shortlisting for the Petrona and Last Laugh Awards. A TV adaptation is in the works, and Jussi Vatanen (Man In Room 301) has just been announced as a leading role. Palm Beach Finland was an immense success, with Marcel Berlins (The Times) calling Tuomainen ‘the funniest writer in Europe’.

His latest thriller, Little Siberia, was shortlisted for the CWA International Dagger, the Amazon Publishing/Capital Crime Awards and the CrimeFest Last Laugh Award, and won the Petrona Award for Best Scandinavian Crime Novel of the Year.

In total, Antti Tuomainen has been short- and longlisted for 12 UK awards.

You can follow Antti on Twitter at @antti_tuomainen.

About the Translator

David Hackston is a British translator of Finnish and Swedish literature and drama. He graduated from University College London in 1999 with a degree in Scandinavian Studies and now lives in Helsinki where he works as a freelance translator.

Notable recent publications include the Anna Fekete trilogy by Kati Hiekkapelto, Katja Kettu’s wartime epic The Midwife, Pajtim Statovci’s enigmatic debut My Cat Yugoslavia, two novels by Helsinki noir author Antti Tuomainen, and Maria Peura’s coming-of-age novel At the Edge of Light. His drama translations include three plays by Heini Junkkaala, most recently Play it, Billy! (2012) about the life and times of jazz pianist Billy Tipton. David is also a regular contributor to Books from Finland. In 2007 he was awarded the Finnish State Prize for Translation.

David is also a professional countertenor and has studied early music and performance practice in Helsinki and Portugal. He is a founding member of the English Vocal Consort of Helsinki.

You can follow David on Twitter @countertenorist.

Praise for The Rabbit Factor

Novelist Martyn Waites has said that, ‘Antti Tuomainen turns the clichéd idea of dour, humourless Scandi noir upside down with The Rabbit Factor. Dark, gripping and hilarious […] Tuomainen is the Carl Hiaasen of the fjords’, whilst early readers on Goodreads have called the book ‘fun’ and ‘quirky’, and have praised Antti’s deft handling of both the farcical elements and the darker, drier humour within the novel.

You can also read more reviews as part of the Blog Tour for the novel, which is running until 20 October 2021! Just follow the hashtag #TheRabbitFactor, as well as publisher @OrendaBooks and @RandomTTours!

GIVEAWAY!!!

Thanks to Antti Tuomainen, publisher Orenda Books, and Anne at Random Things Tours I have ONE PRINT COPY of The Rabbit Factor to giveaway to a lucky UK reader!

All you need to do to win is to follow me (@shelfofunread) on Twitter and retweet the pinne tweet that links to this post! The giveaway is open from 9.00am on 04 October 2021 and closes at midnight on 11 October 2021. There is one winner. Terms & conditions apply (see below).

TERMS & CONDITIONS: UK only. The winner will be selected at random via Tweetdraw from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Good Luck!!

The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen (translated by David Hackston) is published by Orenda Books on 28 October 2021 (ebook/hardback) and is available to pre-order now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, Wordery, and direct from publisher Orenda.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me onto this blog tour and providing the opportunity to run a giveaway for the book.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!


Blog Tours

BLOG TOUR SPOTLIGHT!!! The Chronicles of Iona: Exile by Paula De Fougerolles

Image Description: The cover of The Chronicles of Iona: Exile has an excerpt from a map showing Iona and the surrounding area

Today I’m on The Write Reads blog tour for Paula de Fougerolles’s historical novel, The Chronicles of Iona: Exile; the first in her award-winning Chronicles of Iona series.

About the Book

The Chronicles of Iona: Exile tells the story of the Irish monk and Scottish warrior, Saint Columba and Aedan mac Gabran, who would band together to lay the foundation of the nation of Scotland.  They were a real-life 6th-century Merlin and King Arthur and their story has never been told.

The book begins in 563 A.D.  The Roman Empire is long gone, freeing the region of Scotland from the threat of imperial rule but opening it to chaos from warring tribes vying for control. Columba, a powerful abbot-prince, is exiled from Ireland to the pagan colony of Dal Riata on Scotland’s west coast for an act of violence. There he encounters Aedan, the down-and-out second son of the colony’s former king, slain by the Picts.

Together, this unlikely pair travels the breadth of a divided realm, each in search of his own kind of unity.  Their path is fraught with blood feuds, lost love, treachery, dark gods and monsters, but also with miracles and valour.  Beset on all sides, their only hope is to become allies—and to forge a daring alliance with the pagan Picts.

How Columba overcame exile and a crisis of faith to found the famous monastery of Iona (one of the greatest centres of learning in Dark Age Europe) and, from it, the Celtic Church in the British Isles; and how Aedan avenged his father’s death and became, against all odds, the progenitor of Scottish kings and the greatest warlord of his age, begins here.

For both, what begins as a personal imperative becomes a series of events that lead to the foundation of Iona and the kingdom of Scotland—events that literally change the world.

About the Author

Paula de Fougerolles has a doctorate from the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge, and has taught and published in the field. She has lived and travelled extensively throughout Scotland and Ireland, including a prestigious year-long Thomas J. Watson Fellowship in which she criss-crossed Europe in search of the physical remains of the so-called Dark Age – research which ultimately led to this award-winning historical fiction series.

To learn more, visit www.pauladefougerolles.com.

Find Out More!

The Chronicles of Iona: Exile was named to “Kirkus Reviews'” Best of 2012 and a Silver Prize Winner in the 2012 “ForeWord Clarion” Book of the Year Awards, Historical Fiction. Readers on Goodreads have praised it as ‘a book that has everything you could want’ and ‘a MUST-READ for every history-loving reader’. Although I’m spotlighting the book today, this is a series that is definitely going on my To Be Read list – it sounds right up my historical-fiction-loving street and is set during a fascinating period of history.

The book is on tour with The Write Reads from today until 06 October 2021 so follow the hashtags #TheWriteReads #BlogTour and #TheChroniclesOfIona to follow along for more reviews and features!

You can also find out more about Paula’s work by following on her Twitter.

The Chronicles of Iona: Exile by Paula de Fougerelles is available to purchase in paperback and Kindle edition from Amazon. You can also read an extract from the book on Paula’s website, as well as find out more about the series and the inspiration, history, and research behind it.

My thanks go to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour! There are lots of other reviews and spotlights on the tour so follow the hashtags #TheChroniclesOfIona #TheWriteReads and #BlogTour.

Reviews and features on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing

Image Description: The cover of For Your Own Good shows a woman’s face, partially obscured behind the cross-hatched glass of a doorframe

Teddy Crutcher won Teacher of the Year at the prestigious Belmont Academy. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant.

Only you know the truth.

They all smile when he tells us his wife couldn’t be more proud

But no-one has seen her in a while

They’re impressed when he doesn’t let anything distract him – even the tragic death of a school parent.

Even when the whispers start, saying it was murder.

You’re sure Teddy is hiding something about what happened that day.

You’re sure you can prove it.

But you didn’t stop to think that when it comes to catching a killer, there’s no place more dangerous than just one step behind . . .

For the students and teachers at Belmont Academy, life should be good. The elite private school has a track record for producing illustrious alumni and excellent GPA students. Parents can be assured their children will be granted a wealth of opportunities and the staff – and can suitably influence decisions, either directly or indirectly, should that not be the case. The staff are exemplary; none more so that Teddy Crutcher, Teacher of the Year.

Scratch below the surface of Belmont Academy, however, and you’ll find a simmering hotbed of professional rivalries, student resentments, briber, corruption, secrets and lies – all of it ready to go up in flames with one strike of the match. When a prominent member of the school community collapses during a retirement party, apparently poisoned, it isn’t long before the carefully constructed facades of Belmont Academy – and those who work and study within its walls – begins to go up in flames.

For Your Own Good, Samantha Downing’s latest psychological thriller, is a page-turningly compulsive examination of several characters who I suspect many readers will love to hate. Told from several different perspectives, we get to see Belmont from the perspective of a wealthy student, a long-serving teacher, a bitter ex-alumni and, of course, Teacher of the Year himself, Teddy Crutcher.

Teddy was, for me, a deeply unpleasant character to be inside the head of. It is clear from the outset of the book that he has several axes to grind at Belmont and a chip on his shoulder so sharp it could cut people (and frequently does). Underneath it all, Teddy just wants what is best for people, but how he judges what is ‘best’ – and the actions he takes to ensure the ‘best’ outcome for his students and co-workers – is deeply disturbing.

To be honest, I didn’t really like any of the characters at Belmont Academy. Samantha Downing has created a really toxic environment in Belmont Academy – and has clearly had a great deal of fun filling it with equally toxic personalities to create a really tangled web of motives and opportunities. Unusually for me however, the inherent unlikability of the characters didn’t stop me from wanting to know what happened to them. For Your Own Good is the true definition of a page-turning read and Samantha Downing really keeps the tension high with plenty of twists and unexpected revelations right up until the final pages. I definitely see what was coming and was often left reeling from a character death, shocking reveal, or sudden turn of events.

And whilst all of the characters were, in their own ways, quite unpleasant and difficult people to be around, I found their perspectives unique and interesting. Teddy, for example, operates using a weirdly twisted logic and seems to genuinely believe that his extreme methods and personal vendettas are in the best interests of those he targets. Another character is wholly motivated by revenge – and whilst her investigation of Teddy is undoubtedly uncovering the truth about him, you’re left wondering whether she’s doing the right thing for entirely the wrong reasons. Similar uncertainties can be found within all of the characters and, for me, it definitely elevated the novel above the realm of the run-of-the-mill psychological thriller.

For Your Own Good won’t be for everyone – if you need a sympathetic viewpoint character, you might want to steer clear – but for fans of psychological thrillers there is much to enjoy here and readers already familiar with the work of Sarah Pinborough, Louise Candlish, and J P Delaney would do well to check out Samantha Downing’s latest!

For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing is published by Penguin Michael Joseph and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 20 September 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Image Description: The book cover of Lies Like Wildfire shows the silhouettes of 5 teenagers and some trees within a flame, set against a black backdrop.

The monsters have known each other their whole lives. This is their final summer before college – time to hang out, fall in love and dream about the future.

Until they accidentally start a forest fire which destroys their hometown and leaves death in its wake.

Desperate for the truth to remain hidden, the group make a pact of silence.

But the twisted secret begins to spin out of control and when one of the friends disappears they all become suspects.

We know how it starts but where does it end?

The proof of Jennifer Lynn Alvarez’s first YA novel, Lies Like Wildfire, landed just after I’d finished reading the excellent Wicked Little Deeds and, eager for some more YA crime/thriller goodness and intrigued by the premise, I dived straight in!

Set amidst the blazing hear of Northern California’s fire season, Lies Like Wildfire is the story of Hannah, daughter of the local sheriff in the small forest town of Gap Mountain, and her four friends: Mo, Luke, Violet, and Drummer. Known locally as ‘the Monsters’, the five have known one another their whole lives – and are looking forward to one final summer of hanging out together before college.

But when the simmering tensions within the group reach boiling point, the Monsters find themselves accidentally starting a deadly forest fire that destroys their town and leaves death in its wake. Afraid for their futures, the group make a pact of silence. When one of the group goes missing after threatening to break their pact and tell everything to the police, it isn’t long before the lies – like the uncontrollable wildfire that sparked them – spread dangerously out of control.

With a fantastic premise, I had very high hopes for Lies Like Wildfire. And there was a lot that I enjoyed about this novel. In a note at the end of the book, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez explains that its genesis was her own experience of the Tubbs Fire, an uncontrollable wildfire that roared through her small community, burning for 23 days, causing $1.2 billion in damage and taking 22 lives. This personal knowledge of wildfire – of the sudden evacuation procedures, the fear, the anger, and the emotional toll of the aftermath – really comes across in the novel and, for me, the chapters where the fire was raging were the most compelling in the book.

Unfortunately I failed to find the same emotional connection to Hannah and her fellow Monsters. It’s hard to say too much without giving away elements of the story but, to be honest, I found Hannah to be a distant and difficult protagonist. Infatuated with her childhood friend Drummer and easily manipulated as a result, Hannah seemed to veer between resolute and chaotic, periodically stomping off into a mood whenever her police officer father or one of his colleagues asked her a question (and then wondering why she and her friends have become suspects in the investigation). I also felt as if her character changed completely over the course of the book and, whilst that can partly be explained by the emotional stress she undergoes, some elements of that change felt a little forced.

Meanwhile I found Drummer – the object of Hannah’s affections – to be emotionally manipulative, selfish and even a bit creepy at times. I get the feeling that Alvarez doesn’t actually want her readers to like Drummer – which is fair enough as characters definitely don’t have to be likeable to be compelling – but I’d have liked to get a sense of why Hannah likes him. From what I could tell, he treats her terribly for most of the time! The other ‘Monsters’ – Violet, Luke, and Mo – were more likeable but, alas, I didn’t feel like we got to spend as much time with them and, whilst the ever-shifting dynamics of a teenage friendship group are really well portrayed, I felt some of the subplots were wrapped up a little too quickly for them to real make an impact.

The story itself is fast-paced and compelling with lots of action and plenty of twists – although a mid-book twist involving a bear attack and a bout of amnesia really pushed the boundaries of plausibility for me and, I felt, provided a convenient way of extending a mystery that was otherwise wearing a little thin.

As you can probably tell, Lies Like Wildfire was a very mixed bag for me. I loved the original concept and the way that the author managed to really convey every stage of the wildfire on the page. And I felt that the emotionally charged dynamics of a teenage friendship group were really well portrayed – as was the tension of constant lying to friends, family, and the authorities. Unfortunately I just didn’t care enough about any of the characters to get really invested in the book and a couple of the plot points and twists fell somewhat flat for me.

Other readers probably won’t be anywhere near as picky as this. If you don’t mind an unlikeable narrator or five, Lies Like Wildfire is a compelling and twisty YA read and its tangled web of toxic friendships, love triangles, and lies is sure to appeal!

Lies Like Wildfire by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is published by Penguin on 09 September 2021 and is available to pre-order now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 15 September 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content by following #UltimateBlogTour and #TheWriteReads on Twitter and Instagram.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

Image Description: The cover of The Beloved Girls has the title of the book surrounded by an oval of nature images including bees, flowers, beehives, an owl and a dog against a blue backdrop. The silhouettes of two girls holding hands can be seen at the bottom of the image.

“It’s a funny old house. They have this ceremony every summer . . . There’s an old chapel, in the grounds of the house. Half-derelict. The Hunters keep bees in there. Every year, on the same day, the family processes to the chapel. They open the combs, taste the honey. Take it back to the house. Half for them -‘ my father winced, as though he had bitten down on a sore tooth. ‘And half for us.”

Catherine, a successful barrister, vanishes from a train station on the eve of her anniversary. Is it because she saw a figure – someone she believed long dead? Or was it a shadow cast by her troubled, fractured mind?

The answer lies buried in the past. It lies in the events of the hot, seismic summer of 1989, at Vanes – a mysterious West Country manor house – where a young girl, Jane Lestrange, arrives to stay with the gilded, grand Hunter family, and where a devastating tragedy will unfold. Over the summer, as an ancient family ritual looms closer, Janey falls for each member of the family in turn. She and Kitty, the eldest daughter of the house, will forge a bond that decades later, is still shaping the present . . .

“We need the bees to survive, and they need us to survive. Once you understand that, you understand the history of Vanes, you understand our family.”

Unreliable narrators? Grand country manor house? Tragic family secret? Mysterious rituals? Yes, The Beloved Girls has all the makings of Shelf of Unread catnip and, sure enough, I couldn’t get enough of this engrossing tale of family, friendship, and identity.

Set across several timelines, Harriet Evans’s latest novel follows Catherine, a successful barrister who has just completed a high-profile and extremely harrowing case, and is due to head off for a much-needed break with her beloved husband. When Catherine suddenly leaves, vanishing from the station and leaving her husband with only a photo of ‘The Beloved Girls’, she sparks a frantic missing persons investigation – and a journey into a past that she has long been trying to hide.

Because back during one long hot summer in 1989, there were two beloved girls – Catherine ‘Kitty’ Hunter and Jane ‘Janey’ Lestrange. Kitty and Janey spend the summer at Vanes, the grand and imposing West Country home of the Hunter family – and home also to ‘The Collecting’, a strange family ritual involving the historic beehives that are kept in the nearby chapel. Recently bereaved and cast adrift in the world, Janey is captivated by each member of the Hunter family in turn – patriarch Charles, effervescent Sylvia, handsome Joss, precocious Merry, and pretty, popular Kitty. But all is not well at Vanes and the Hunters are hiding secrets. Secrets that bound Sylvia to Janey’s father Simon in devastating ways – and that will bind Kitty and Janey together in ways that will shape both their lives well into the future.

I do love a ‘mysterious country house’ story and The Beloved Girls certainly provided! I was immediately drawn into the lives of the enigmatic Hunter family and could completely see the allure they held for plain, shy Janey, grieving the loss of her beloved father and desperately trying to avoid the secretarial fate decreed for her by her resentful absent mother.

Weaving between the 1950s, 1980s and the present day, and following the interwoven lives of several characters, The Beloved Girls is a deep and, at times, complex read. I never lost the thread of any of the stories, but given some of the deliberate blurring of identities and relationships, there were the odd moments where I had to flick back a few pages to double check a connection or re-read a paragraph to figure out exactly what was going on.

Partly this is because one of the narratives – that of Catherine – is deliberately disjointed. Suffering from immense mental pressure after the outcome of her last case, Catherine is a portrait of a woman on the verge of (and tipping into) a complete breakdown. I have to admit that, at first, I found Catherine and her “I’m fine, really” attitude rather annoying but, as the story progressed, I began to empathise with her fractured sense of self and to understand the history that lay behind her carefully constructed façade of coolness and competence. As Catherine’s connection to the Hunter family – and to the tragic events of the summer of 1989 – became apparent, I found myself admiring Harriet Evans’s complex and layered portrayal of Catherine. I’m still not wholly sure I ‘like’ her as a character, but I definitely feel as if the author made me understand her.

The strange and unusual nature of the Hunter family also takes a bit of getting used to. Their ritual – ‘The Collecting’ – is like something out of The Wicker Man and, as the novel progresses, it becomes clear that there is a much darker side to this seemingly ancient family tradition. Indeed, The Beloved Girls is, in places, a much darker novel than its cover (which is absolutely stunning) might lead you to think, with discussion or mention of sexual and psychological violence, grooming, coercive control, gaslighting, suicide and mental breakdown all featuring as part of the main story threads. These dark themes are handled sensitively however, with Evans weaving together an intelligent and atmospheric modern saga of family secrets, loss, guilt, and resilience.

With its rich intertwining narratives and grand scale, The Beloved Girls is an immersive, layered novel about family and identity that is sure to appeal to fans of Kate Morton, Kristin Hannah, and Barbara Erskine. It’s not exactly a quick read, being one of those books best savoured slowly, but if you’re looking for a narrative to sink into and whisk you away as the nights begin to draw in and the last of the year’s bees wander lazily around your garden, you could do far worse than this captivating and compelling novel.

The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans is published by Headline and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 31 August 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR!!! Wicked Little Deeds by Kat Ellis

Image Description: The cover for Wicked Little Deeds shows a young woman in silhouette running away from the camera down a corridor.

The rumours don’t add up, but the bodies are starting to…

From its creepy town mascot to the story of its cursed waterfall, Burden Falls is a small town dripping with superstition. Ava Thorn knows this well – since the horrific accident she witnessed a year ago, she’s been plagued by nightmares.

But when her school nemesis is brutally murdered and Ava is the primary suspect, she starts to wonder if the legends surrounding the town are more fact than fiction.

Whatever secrets Burden Falls is hiding, there’s a killer on the loose, and they have a vendetta against the Thorns…

Regular readers of The Shelf may know that I’ve been enjoying the occasional YA thriller recently. I read and LOVED both The Cousins and The Inheritance Games last year and, since then, have added considerably to my TBR by seeking our more writers in the YA mystery/thriller genre.

What I hadn’t considered was that I could also add another of my favourite genres into that already delightful mix – the ghost story. So imagine my delight when Kat Ellis’s Wicked Little Deeds landed on my doormat described as (to quote Mina and the Undead author Amy McCaw) “Riverdale meets The Haunting of Hill House“. Sold already? Because I certainly was! But before you race off to the nearest book shop or your favoured web retailer of choice, let me tell you a little more about Wicked Little Deeds and why it’s so good (because yes, I loved it – it contains all the ingredients that make for Shelf of Unread catnip so what did you expect?!).

Ava Thorn’s family have lived in the small town of Burden Falls for generations. The Bloody Thorns of Thorn Manor are as well known as the legend of Dead-Eyed Sadie, the town’s most famous ghostly legend – as is the fact that a sighting of Sadie is supposed to portend tragedy for any Thorn unlucky enough to catch a glimpse of her. Following a horrific accident that killed her parents, Ava is reluctantly leaving Thorn Manor – and its ghosts – behind her.

But when pretty and popular Freya Miller – Ava’s school nemesis and the daughter of the man who ruined her life – is found brutally murdered, Ava begins to wonder if the creepy stories that surround her family might be true after all. Reluctantly teaming up with Freya’s brother Dominic, Ava begins investigating the truth behind Dead-Eyed Sadie. Who was she – and why does every tragedy in town seem to lead back to a Thorn? As secrets are uncovered and old truths are laid bare, Ava and Dominic must confront both the past, and the killer who is waiting for them in the present.

Combining the compulsive suspense of a thriller with the sinister chills of a ghost story, Wicked Little Deeds (published as Burden Falls in the US) is the perfect page-turner to pick up as the nights begin to draw in! I was rapidly drawn into the story and, with the cliff-hanger chapter endings and constant stream of mysteries and revelations, I read the book in just a couple of sittings.

Ava is, if not always a likeable character, a very sympathetic one. Grieving for her parents and the loss of her family home, she’s angry and resentful but also determined, driven, and brave. I liked her very much – even when she was being horrid to her friends or lashing out at easy targets like the Miller family – and I really liked how resilient and resourceful she was. Kat Ellis has done a fantastic job of capturing what its like to be a teenager – all high drama and shifting emotions that, sometimes, you barely understand yourself. And that applies equally well to the other characters too – from queen bee Freya and Ava’s preppy best friend Ford to Freya’s quieter, more reflective (and unbearably handsome) brother Dominic, all of the characters came across as real people with real, messed-up emotions and shifting, complex motivations.

The novel blends the mystery/thriller and horror/supernatural elements of the story together really well, although I’d say the focus does stay on the mystery throughout as Ava and Dominic work to stop the spate of murders and uncover the truth behind the old Thorn family legends. That said, things do go towards the horrific in places – there are some fairly gory moments when the bodies are discovered, and some of the descriptions tend towards the gruesome so readers of a sensitive disposition should be forewarned. Trigger warnings also for bereavement, a road traffic collision, mentions of alcohol abuse/alcoholism, mentions of depression, psychological abuse, and drug abuse. Taking the edge off all those dark themes, there are also some fantastic friendships, cutting humour, and a gentle, nicely interwoven romance.

Saying any more about the plot would be to risk spoilers but I will say that this was definitely an edge-of-your-seat, can’t-turn-the-pages-fast-enough read for me! Once the story got going, I was so eager to get back to my book and get to the next chapter – definitely one of those reads where I wanted to put life on hold for a bit! Perfect for anyone looking who loves dark and creepy mysteries or YA thrillers with a horror twist, Wicked Little Deeds might have been my first novel by Kat Ellis, but it certainly won’t be my last!

Wicked Little Deeds by Kat Ellis (published as Burden Falls in the US) is published by Penguin and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 20 August 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content by following #UltimateBlogTour and #TheWriteReads on Twitter and Instagram.

Reviews on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

Blog Tours · Spotlight

BLOG TOUR SPOTLIGHT!!! The Other Side of the Whale Road by K. A. Hayton

Image Description: The cover of The Other Side of the Whale Road by K. A Hayton depicts a young man in a red shirt and khaki trousers looking at two Anglo-Saxon thatched houses. A sword is upright in the ground to the left hand side of him.

Today I’m helping to kick off The Write Reads blog tour for K. A Hayton’s exciting historical YA adventure, The Other Side of the Whale Road.

About the Book

YOU KNOW HISTORY IS REAL WHEN IT’S RAZOR-SHARP AND AIMED AT YOUR NECK

‘The Vikings are better armed than we are. They have long, heavy axes that can take a man’s head from his shoulder. I know this because I see it happen’.

When his mum burns down their house on the Whitehorse estate, sixteen-year-old Joss is sent to live in a sleepy Suffolk village. The place is steeped in history, as Joss learns when a bike accident pitches him back more than 1,000 years to an Anglo-Saxon village.

That history also tells him his new friends are in mortal peril from bloodthirsty invaders. Can he warn their ruler, King Edmund, in time?

And will he ever get home?

THE STORY OF KING EDMUND’S LAST BATTLE WITH THE GREAT HEATHEN ARMY BROUGHT TO LIFE FOR YOUNG ADULTS

Inspired by both her study of old English poetry at university and the wealth of Anglo-Saxon history in the landscape around her home, K. A Hayton’s The Other Side of the Whale Road offers to take young adult readers onto a journey into the far-off past.

After his troubled alcoholic mother burns down their home, sixteen-year-old Joss is placed into care in the sleepy Suffolk village of Hoxne. As he settles into his new home, Joss is introduced to the fascinating history of the local area by his foster family Cressida and Tim – a history that becomes all too real when a freak bike accident sends him hurtling back 1,000 years.

Stuck in an unfamiliar time, Joss rapidly realises that his new friends in ancient Hoxne are in danger from a deadly Viking invasion. Setting off on a dangerous mission to warn the Anglo-Saxon ruler, King Edmund, of the approaching peril, will Joss be able to save the village in time? And will he ever make it back to the present day?

About the Author

As an RAF child, K.A. Hayton grew up in various parts of Europe, arriving in England just in time for the winter of discontent.

She spent her first year of an English degree at Sheffield University studying Anglo-Saxon poetry, which sparked an enduring interest in the Dark Ages. She trained as a nurse, now works as a health visitor and is also a magistrate. She has two grown-up daughters and lives in rural Suffolk, very close to Sutton Hoo, with her husband and a Hungarian rescue dog.

She is a keen runner, sea-swimmer and supporter of Ipswich Town FC. The Other Side of the Whale Road is her first novel and has already been shortlisted for the Chicken House competition.

Find Out More!

Promising history, adventure, and a coming-of-age story with a twist, The Other Side of the Whale Road is garnering some fantastic early ratings on Goodreads. The book is on tour with The Write Reads from today until 25 August 2021 so follow the hashtags #TheWriteReads #BlogTour and #TheOtherSideOfTheWhaleRoad to follow along for more reviews and features!

The book is published in paperback and ebook on 02 September 2021 and is available to pre-order now – and ideal early Christmas present or autumnal read for the 12-15 year olds in your life (or any older history lovers who love a bit of YA adventure in their reading life!).

You can also find out more about K A Hayton’s work by following her on Twitter.

The Other Side of the Whale Road by K A Hayton is published by Lightning Books on 02 September 2021 and is available to pre-order from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, and Waterstones, as well as from the Lightning Books store.

If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green BookshopSam Read BooksellersBook-ishScarthin Books, and Berts Books

My thanks go to The Write Reads for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour! There are lots of other reviews and spotlights on the tour so follow the hashtags #TheOtherSideOfTheWhaleRoad #TheWriteReads and #BlogTour for more reviews and content!

Reviews and features on The Shelf are free, honest, and unbiased and I don’t use affiliate links on my posts. However if you enjoy the blog please consider buying me a coffee on Ko-Fi!