Blog Tours · Reviews

BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! Demon by Matt Wesolowski (Six Stories #6)

Scott King’s podcast investigates the 1995 cold case of a demon possession in a rural Yorkshire village, where a 12-year-old boy was murdered in cold blood by two children. Book six in the chilling, award-winning Six Stories series.

In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world. Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.

Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark and fanciful stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act.

And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, King himself becomes a target, with dreadful secrets from his own past dredged up and threats escalating to a terrifying level. It becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…

It’s no secret that I have long been a fan of Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series. Every single book in the series to date has been a 5-star read for me, with their page-turning combination of true crime podcast and supernatural folkloric chills.

Demon, the latest outing for podcaster Scott King, was, for me, a slightly different reading experience to previous entries in the series. I usually race through a Six Stories book over the course of a day or a weekend. Demon took me longer to read – not because it was any less brilliant (because let me tell you know, it is a FANTASTIC read) but because the tone and subject required, for me anyway, a more meditative pace of consumption. Instead of tearing breathlessly through the pages, I read the book almost like I would listen to a podcast: consuming an episode at a time, waiting a few days to digest that, and then consuming the next one. As a means of reading, it worked very well – especially for this particular topic.

For Scott King’s sixth outing, he’s investigating the brutal killing of twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons, brutally murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for their terrible crime but, in the small village of Ussalthwaite, dark rumours of an ancient evil circle around the tragedy. Could demonic possession account for this horrific crime? Familial and societal neglect? Or are some people just born evil?

Make no mistake, Demon is dark read in parts. The book comes prefaced with a trigger warning for fictional violence against children and animals and, in parts, the scenes and scenarios described are upsetting. There’s also discussion of suicide and attempted suicide. That said, I didn’t feel that these elements were used in any way that was gratuitous. Instead it is used to ask quite serious – and at times difficult – questions about personal choice, societal behaviour, and social responsibility in the social media age.

As with previous Six Stories novels, Demon combines a slightly supernatural element with the true crime podcast format and, as in previous novels, this adds a level of spooky tension to the story without ever becoming cliched or overblown. The balance between the folklore and the ‘true’ crime elements is particularly well done here, demonstrating the way in which deviations from societal norms remain insidious even in supposedly ‘modern’ times.

With its ambiguous conclusion, Demon isn’t a book that provides easy answers but it is one that provides a captivating and compulsive reading experience. For fans of the Six Stories series, it is a worthy – and much awaited – addition to the series whilst newcomers will get a darkly compulsive introduction to Six Stories’ fantastically readable blend of crime thriller and supernatural horror.

Demon (Six Stories #6) by Matt Wesolowski is published by Orenda Books and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including the Orenda Books store, 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 31 January 2022 so 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 REVIEW!!! Wahala by Nikki May

Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English. Not all of them choose to see it that way.

Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her urban vibe yet again.

When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them.

Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself.

Billed as Sex and the City meets My Sister, the Serial Killer, Nikki May’s debut novel Wahala is certainly bursting onto 2022’s bookish scene with a bang – I mean, just look at that striking cover for starters!!

Fortunately the contents more than live up to the hype – although I’d agree with a number of other reviewers in saying that Wahala‘s vibe is more Big Little Lies than Sex in the City. The book focuses upon the friendship between three Anglo-Nigerian women in their thirties: Simi, Ronke, and Boo, and examines what happens when a fourth woman, Isobel, upsets the balance of their carefully curated lives and seemingly solid friendship group.

From the moment she steps onto the page, it is clear that Isobel is wahala (which means ‘trouble’ in Nigerian) and that her ‘friendship’ can bring nothing but chaos into Simi, Ronke, and Boo’s lives. But do their lives need a little chaos? After all, Simi is concealing the fact she’s not sure about having children from husband Martin, Boo feels overlooked and unappreciated by her husband Didier and their daughter Sophia, and Ronke can’t get boyfriend Kayode to keep his commitments. Maybe they need a bit of wahala in their lives? But who is Isobel really? And what are her motives for trying to fix their futures?

Wahala is a brilliant portrayal of the complexity of female relationships and female friendship. Ronke, Boo, and Simi come alive on the page and I felt drawn into the evocative details of their lives – from catching up over jollof rice and pounded yam at Buka, to clicking ‘buy’ on a Net-a-Porter order that really shouldn’t be added to the credit card, each of them is relatably fallible and sympathetic, even if they’re not always wholly likeable.

Despite being long-time friends, each of the women has very different personalities and I suspect different readers will warm to different members of the group. I really like honest and reliable homebody Ronke, with her passion for food, and her penchant for unreliable men. Others may prefer career-girl Simi, who suffers with a severe case of imposter syndrome beneath her picture-perfect lifestyle, or put-upon mum Boo, struggling to find herself underneath the labels of ‘wife’ and ‘mother’.

Indeed, the only person it was hard to warm to in any way was Isobel – glamorously lethal and oozing toxicity from the moment she appears on the page. At times, I did wonder why Simi, Boo, and Ronke – all seemingly intelligent and independent women – ‘buy into’ Isobel despite the (many) warning signs. Then I realised that they’re all seeking something in their lives – something that Isobel, however dangerous, seems to be able to provide. As a study in womanhood, Wahala doesn’t always do its characters any favours but, as a study in fractured psychologies and the reasons why competent women make poor life choices, it’s a work of genius.

Without giving away any of the plot, I did find the ‘twist’ at the end to be a bit of a disappointment – a sudden veer into thriller territory in a novel that, up to that point, had relied on psychological nuance and human relationships as its primary appeal. It was also a very sharp turn into tragedy in a novel that, for the most part, never took itself too seriously and sprinkled plenty of humour (albeit quite dark humour) amidst the angst.

The ending is, however, a very minor quibble amidst an otherwise brilliantly evocative and engaging read. Wahala had me hooked from the off! I particularly loved the way that Anglo-Nigerian culture is depicted in the novel (which frequently makes use of Nigerian words and phrases as well as centring many conversations around delicious and evocative depictions of food) and the way that the three women’s identities are informed – but never defined – by their mixed heritage. Having finished the book, I’ll definitely be giving the included recipes for Ronke’s jollof rice and chicken stew a go – as well as Aunty K’s moin-moin. Nikki May has also curated a Spotify playlist so you can listen to songs that inspired the book whilst you read!

Overall Wahala is an unputdownable tale of female life and friendship, told with verve and humour. More of a contemporary drama than a thriller, it’s sure to appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and gave me similar vibes to Anna Hope’s Expectation. With it’s sharply observed humour and evocative depiction of contemporary life, friendships, and relationships, its the perfect riveting read for blowing away the January blues – or for picking up and making a start on your summer reading pile for 2022!

Wahala by Nikki May is published by Penguin Doubleday 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 19 January 2022 so 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

ULTIMATE BLOG TOUR REVIEW!!! You’ll Be The Death of Me by Karen M. McManus

Image Description: The cover of You’ll Be The Death of Me has the title in bold purple font with the silhouettes of three teenagers above. The tagline is ‘Three friends with secrets to hide; One shocking murder; Will the truth come out?’

Ivy, Mateo and Cal used to be close – best friends back in middle school.

Now all they have in common is a bad day. So for old time’s sake they skip school together – one last time.

But when the trio spot Brian ‘Boney’ Mahoney ditching class too, they follow him – right into a murder scene.

They all have a connection to the victim. And they’re ALL hiding something.

When their day of freedom turns deadly, it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out . . .

If you’ve followed The Shelf for a while, you’ll know I became a convert of YA mystery/thrillers last year thanks, in no small part, to Karen M. McManus’ The Cousins. I therefore jumped at the chance to be part of the Blog Tour for her latest standalone novel, You’ll Be The Death of Me.

As in The Cousins, You’ll Be The Death of Me features three protagonists: A-grade student Ivy has just lost the student council election to the class clown despite years of organising school initiatives; girl-crazy Cal has just been stood up by his latest crush; and hard-working Mateo just needs a break – he’s been burned out working two jobs ever since his Mom got sick and the family business went under.

So when the three former best friends bump into each other, they decide to stage a repeat of their Middle School escapade – the ‘Best Day Ever’ – and skip school together for one last time. When a fellow student is murdered, however, the ‘Best Day Ever’ soon turns into a nightmare. Ivy, Cal, and Mateo all have their reasons for disliking Brian ‘Boney’ Mahoney – and, as they day turns ever more deadly – all three have secrets to hide that might just be the death of them.

Whilst You’ll Be The Death of Me doesn’t deviate too far from McManus’s trademark formula: teen angst, deadly secrets, and a dash of budding romance; there is a strong element of ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it’ here. McManus does what she does SO well that fans of her previous books are sure to adore You’ll be The Death of Me with the same fervour.

Whilst I initially didn’t like Ivy, Cal, and Mateo all that much, I gradually warmed to the three teens as the book went on. Yes, each of them is a bundle of teenage angst but, to be fair, each of them has challenges to deal with. Ivy is trying to find her place amidst her high-achieving family, Mateo wants to help his Mom, and Cal just wants to fit in. Their vulnerabilities and anxieties are woven throughout the story and provide a strong emotional pull to the narrative.

The ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with murders’ premise is utterly genius and McManus makes the most of its potential here, offering up plenty of suspects and a wider, all-encompassing plot that kept me guessing until the final pages. The ending also has a real sting in the tail – and possibly sets up events for a continuation – and, whilst not exactly ‘happily every after’ had a realistic feel that suited the story well. There’s also some poignant reflections on growing up and moving on that will resonate with readers of any age.

Whilst I didn’t love the characters or the high school setting quite as much as the atmospheric island of The Cousins, You’ll Be The Death of Me soon drew me in with its brilliant premise, page-turning plot, and regular twists and turns. Fans of McManus will find her latest novel just as compelling as her last, whilst those new to her work could do far worse than starting with this solid YA thriller.

You’ll Be The Death of Me by Karen M. McManus 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 and NetGalley UK for providing an e-copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and to The Write Reads for organising an inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 12 December so follow #TheWriteReads and #UltimateBlogTour 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 REVIEW!!! The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable

Image Description: The cover of The Bookseller’s Secret features a woman in a 1940s-style blue dress at the door of a bookshop.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

Alternating between present-day London and the Blitz-ravaged city in 1942, The Bookseller’s Secret draws parallels between the lives of two women: newly-single Katie Cabot is the author of a romantic New York Times bestseller – and two failed historical follow-ups – whilst once sparkling ‘Bright Young Thing’ Nancy Mitford is the author of three failed novels, estranged from her husband, and utterly broke. For both women, the eccentric Haywood Hill bookshop seems an unlikely saviour – but when Nancy takes up the offer of a job at the shop, it leads her on a journey that, eighty years later, send Katie off on a hunt for a missing Mitford manuscript.

Michelle Gable’s latest novel has the perfect premise for book-loving romantics and deftly combines a lesser-known period in the famous novelist’s life with breezy romance, period high-jinks, and a dash of literary mystery. Although I did find both Katie and Nancy quite annoying as protagonists at times, I was fascinated to learn about Nancy’s time at Heywood Hill, and about the wartime experiences of the famous (and infamous) Mitford siblings.

Both wartime and contemporary London have been vividly recreated on the page – albeit with a slightly unbelievable rosiness at times. There were also one or two points where the world of the book pushed the boundaries of believability and, temporarily, threw me out of the otherwise immersive story – as a Brit, I found it hard to believe Katie’s novelist friend and her husband, however successful in their respective industries, could afford an enormous townhouse in London’s Mayfair with a concierge service, live-in staff, and a chauffeur, for example. But, for the most part, it was clear that Michelle Gable had done her research – especially on the Mitford family and on Nancy Mitford’s life in wartime London.

Combining bright and breezy romance with a wartime setting, writer’s block, and a literary treasure hunt could easily have led to a somewhat contrasting tone but, in Gable’s hands, the novel’s different modes merge easily into a compelling read that, whilst remaining light and easy to read, never sacrifices depth or historical reality. The bookshop setting suits the action of the novel perfectly, with the magic of a really good bookshop being bought across perfectly on the page.

Although I found it challenging to connect with the characters at times, the premise and the lightness of the author’s touch – kept me reading and I finished The Bookseller’s Secret in just a couple of days despite it’s 350+ page length. The book has also encouraged me to find out more about Nancy Mitford – The Pursuit of Love is now very much on my TBR and I’m keen to read more about the Mitford siblings – and, for anyone looking for a charming yet immersive read, The Bookseller’s Secret has a perfect combination of romance, mystery, and charm to while away a weekend or winter’s evening with.

The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable is published by HarperCollins/Harlequin and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, 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 03 December 2021 so 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!!! The Dublin Railway Murder by Thomas Morris

One morning in November 1856 George Little, the chief cashier of the Broadstone railway terminus in Dublin, was found dead, lying in a pool of blood beneath his desk. His head had been almost severed; a knife lay nearby, but strangely the office door was locked, apparently from the inside. This was a deed of almost unheard-of brutality for the peaceful Irish capital: while violent crime was commonplace in Victorian London, the courts of Dublin had not convicted a single murderer in more than thirty years.

From the first day of the police investigation it was apparent that this was no ordinary case. Detectives struggled to understand how the killer could have entered and then escaped from a locked room, and why thousands of pounds in gold and silver had been left untouched at the scene of the crime.

Three of Scotland Yard’s most celebrated sleuths were summoned to assist the enquiry, but all returned to London baffled. It was left to Superintendent Augustus Guy, the head of Ireland’s first detective force, to unravel the mystery.

Five suspects were arrested and released, with every step of the salacious case followed by the press, clamouring for answers. Under intense public scrutiny, Superintendent Guy found himself blocked at almost every turn. But then a local woman came forward, claiming to know the murderer….

Writer and historian Thomas Morris’ latest book, The Dublin Railway Murder, takes the reader back to Victorian Dublin, and into the offices of the West Midland Railway Company. The year is 1856 and, on a cold November morning, Chief Cashier George Little has been round brutally murdered within an apparently sealed room at the company’s Broadstone terminus.

The investigation into the mild-mannered and diligent cashier’s death will take several months, involve five arrests, baffle detectives from two police forces, and grip both the city’s populace and its press. When a local woman comes forward with crucial evidence, the case takes a sharp and unexpected turn – but her own relationship to the murderer may prove to be the investigation’s undoing.

The Dublin Railway Murder is a fascinating account of a perplexing police investigation that has been meticulously researched by Thomas Morris. Told in a narrative style that will be familiar to fans of Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher and Kate Colquhoun’s Mr Briggs’ Hat, Morris’ account contains all of the detail one might expect from a history but with the pace and drive of fiction. The extraordinarily detailed archive of governmental documents that Morris has worked from has allowed him to recreate conversations, court appearances, interviews, and witness statements, and to paint a detailed picture of the Broadstone terminus – and of Dublin society – as it appeared in 1856.

Such attention to detail may frustrate some readers – especially as the narrative follows the police investigation down various dead-ends before really gearing up with the discovery of a revelatory witness and the discovery of items taken from the crime scene – but, personally, I loved the way that the small details of the investigation provided a picture of the imperfect art of detection. Various flaws in the investigation combine with legal complications to show the evolution of policing methodology, whilst the relationship between the police, the press, and the public immediately invites comparisons with the modern reportage of crime today; opening up questions about how both victims and suspects are represented, as well as about the role of the press both in garnering information and spreading unsubstantiated yet salacious rumour.

The investigation also touches, albeit quiet briefly, upon the epidemic of corporate fraud and embezzlement that seemed to be taking place in the 1850s – and how new technologies and vast, networked companies such as the railway firms were at particular risk of this. Morris also examines the tensions between the Dublin police force, seen by many Irish people as representatives of – and spies for – a repressive British state, and the working populace of the city, tying the investigation into many of the wider political and social contexts of the period.

In a final twist, the aftermath of the investigation and subsequent trial also sees the involvement of a popular branch of Victorian ‘science’, with the arrival of phrenologist Frederick Bridges – a man who theorised that murderers could be identified by the shape of their skull. This final section, although quite distinct from the relatively procedural narrative of murder/investigation/trial that comes before it, makes for a strange yet fascinating conclusion to an already perplexing narrative – and demonstrates the extent to which new ‘science’ was beginning, for both better and worse, to influence both policing, legal methodology, and political thought during this period.

Meticulously researched whilst remaining eminently readable, The Dublin Railway Murder is a must read for all fans of historical true crime – fans of Summerscale and Colquhoun’s books should definitely get this one on their Christmas lists, whilst fans of fictional police procedurals looking to make the leap into true crime are also sure to find that the detail of this fascinating yet flawed historical investigation makes for a compelling and thrilling read.

The Dublin Railway Murder by Thomas Morris is published by Vintage 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 24 November 2021 so 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 REVIEW!!! The Retreat by Alison Moore

Image Description: The cover of Alison Moore’s The Retreat shows the faint outline of an island against a dark sea and sky

Since childhood, Sandra Peters has been fascinated by the small, private island of Lieloh, home to the reclusive silent-film star Valerie Swanson.

Having dreamed of going to art college, Sandra is now in her forties and working as a receptionist, but she still harbours artistic ambitions.

When she sees an advert for a two-week artists’ retreat on Lieloh, Sandra sets out on what might be a life-changing journey.

She anticipates a friendly and supportive little community but does not get quite what she was hoping for.

Alison Moore’s Booker Prize shortlisted debut novel, The Lighthouse, is one of those books that I’ve heard great things about, has been on my TBR forever but that I’ve never quite got around to reading. Having now sampled The Retreat, Moore’s fifth – and latest – novel, I know I definitely want to read more of her work.

The Retreat is what many people would probably call a ‘quiet’ novel but it packs a powerful punch within its slender 156 pages. Aspiring artist Sandra has always been fascinated by Lieloh, the small, private island that was once the home of a reclusive silent-film star. When the opportunity arises to go to Lieloh for a two-week artists’ retreat, Sandra sets out to try and realise her artistic ambitions. But the supportive artistic community she envisages is not quite the reality she encounters when she arrives at Lieloh. Aspiring author Carol, meanwhile, just needs peace and quiet to write her book. When a friend offers her use of a private, island retreat, she heads off into isolation to dig out the words out of her. But when she arrives in her idyll, Carol begins to feel she may not be as alone as she appears.

To say any more about the plot of The Retreat would be to spoil both the story and the atmosphere of this quietly devastating study of modern alienation and artistic temperament. Not that the novel is particularly plot-heavy, as such – in fact, The Retreat is definitely a book powered by character, and by the tiny interactions of the everyday that become layered with meaning and interwoven into a wider pattern.

Small incidents – the eating of eggs, a refusal to play a game or partake in a picnic, the choice of an evening meal – become weighted with significance as Sandra attempts, unsuccessfully, to navigate group dynamics on Lieloh. Her fellow retreat residents, whilst never outright vicious, are frequently petty, selfish, and domineering whilst Sandra herself is similarly self-absorbed and narrow-minded. They make for a thoroughly unlikeable bunch – a possible issue if you don’t enjoy reading books with few, if any, sympathetic characters – but a fascinating one all the same.

Whilst most of The Retreat is given over to Sandra, personally I found Carol’s narrative to be the most compelling. Alison Moore has perfectly captured the unsettling feeling of isolation, combining this with a delightful sense of the weird to create a not-quite ghost story that revels in its atmosphere. As the novel progresses, Carol’s narrative also begins to shed new light upon Sandra’s predicament, creating a compelling yet uneasy narrative that left me feeling somewhat unsettled by the time I turned the final page.

The Retreat is not going to be a book for everyone. Those looking for continual action or sympathetic characters will not find either here. But if you’re the sort of reader who revels in atmosphere, language, and the minutiae of human interaction, The Retreat will provide a short, sharp treat to curl up with on a winter’s evening.

The Retreat by Alison Moore is published by Salt 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 Helen Richardson for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 23 November 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 REVIEW!!! The Bloodless Boy by Robert J Lloyd

Image Description: The cover of The Bloodless Boy features a section from a map of seventeenth-century London, with a seal in the centre.

The City of London, 1678. New Year’s Day. Twelve years have passed since the Great Fire ripped through the City. Eighteen since the fall of Oliver Cromwell’s Republic and the restoration of a King. London is gripped by hysteria, where rumors of Catholic plots and sinister foreign assassins abound.

The body of a young boy, drained of his blood and with a sequence of numbers inscribed on his skin, is discovered on the snowy bank of the Fleet River.

Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, the powerful Justice of Peace for Westminster, is certain of Catholic guilt in the crime. He enlists Robert Hooke, the Curator of Experiments of the Royal Society, and his assistant, Harry Hunt, to help his enquiry. Demanding discretion from them, he also entrusts to them to preserve the body, which they store inside Hooke’s Air-pump. Sir Edmund confides to Hooke that the bloodless boy is not the first to have been discovered. He also presents Hooke with a cipher that was left on the body.

That same morning Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, blows his brains out. A disgraced Earl is released from the Tower of London, bent on revenge against the King, Charles II.

Wary of the political hornet’s nest they are walking into – and using evidence rather than paranoia in their pursuit of truth – Hooke and Hunt must discover why the boy was murdered, and why his blood was taken. Moreover, what does the cipher mean?

Harry, wanting to prove himself as a natural philosopher and to break free from the shadow of Hooke’s brilliance, takes the lead in investigating the death of the boy. He is pulled into the darkest corners of Restoration London, where the Court and the underworld seem to merge.

Harry has to face the terrible consequences of experiments done in the name of Science, but also reckon with a sinister tale with its roots in the traumas of the Civil Wars.

Set in seventeenth-century London, The Bloodless Boy introduces readers to Harry Hunt, Observator of the Royal Society and protégé of Robert Hooke, the society’s renowned Curator of Experiments. Called to the banks of the Fleet on a snowy winter’s morning, Hunt and Hooke are charged with the investigation and preservation of the body of a young boy, drained of blood and, apparently, transported to the river’s bank without the perpetrator leaving a trace of their passing.

The discovery of the bloodless boy provides Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, Justice of the Peace, with a puzzle – and Hunt with an opportunity to step out from his master’s shadow and prove his mettle as a natural philosopher in his own right. Solving the mystery of the bloodless bodies being left over London will take Hunt into some of the darkest – and most dangerous – corners of Restoration London, where the pursuit of knowledge rubs shoulders with criminality, and where a political hornet’s nest is waiting to be stirred up.

Seventeenth-century London comes vividly to life on the page in The Bloodless Boy, from the intrigues of the Court to the grimy streets of London’s shadowy back alleys. The early proceedings of the Royal Society – and the tensions created as the secular rationalism of the ‘new’ philosophy came into increasing conflict with established, often deeply-held, religious belief – are richly portrayed, and a real sense of the world that the characters occupy comes across on the page.

For me, the characters themselves didn’t come to life quite as vividly as the setting – probably because there were a lot of them. Fictional creations mix with real historical figures and, whilst I admire the dedication Robert J Lloyd has put into creating his rich and detailed world, there were times when I wondered whether the roles of some characters could have been combined to make it easier for readers to distinguish. A character list is provided at the beginning of the novel – which does help – but reading on my e-reader made flicking back and forth to refer to this every time that I’d forgotten who someone was something of a chore.

The mystery of the bloodless boy is, however, certainly intriguing – and considerably more complex than it first appears, and utilises this history of this tumultuous period to add additional depth. With as much a focus upon the ‘why’ as well as the ‘who’-dunnit, you also get a fantastic history lesson alongside your crime-solving, with a Hunt and Hooke’s inquiries taking them back to the dark days of the English Civil War, as well as the very edges of the moral boundaries of philosophical enquiry at the dawn of the Age of Enlightenment.

With its blend of political intrigue, underworld vice, and scientific enquiry, The Bloodless Boy reminded me of Ambrose Parry’s Will Raven and Sarah Fisher series of medical crime-thrillers, as well as Andrew Taylor’s Ashes of London series. With a strong narrative drive and an intriguing mystery, the pace rarely drops off. Whilst this may leave readers who like to spend a little longer getting to know their characters wanting more, those seeking a plot-driven crime thriller within a well-realised historical setting will find much to enjoy here.

The Bloodless Boy by Robert J Lloyd is published by Melville House and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Bookshop.org, Waterstones, and Wordery.

My thanks go to Nikki Griffiths at Melville House Press for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me onto and organising this blog tour. The tour continues until 25 November 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 REVIEW!!! A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa

Image Description: The cover of A Ghost in the Throat has a striking pattern of red and yellow flowers, with green leaves, against a black background.

‘When we first met, I was a child, and she had been dead for centuries.

I am eleven, a dark-haired child given to staring out window … Her voice makes it 1773, a fine day in May, and puts English soldiers crouching in ambush; I add ditch-water to drench their knees. Their muskets point towards a young man who is falling from his saddle in slow, slow motion. A woman hurries in and kneels over him, her voice rising in an antique formula of breath and syllable the teacher calls a caoineadh, a keen to lament the dead.’

A true original, this stunning prose debut by Doireann Ní Ghríofa weaves two stories together. In the 1700s, an Irish noblewoman, on discovering her husband has been murdered, drinks handfuls of his blood and composes an extraordinary poem that reaches across the centuries to another poet. In the present day, a young mother narrowly avoids tragedy in her own life. On encountering the poem, she becomes obsessed with finding out the rest of the story.

Doireann Ní Ghríofa has sculpted a fluid hybrid of essay and autofiction to explore the ways in which a life can be changed in response to the discovery of another’s – in this case, Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire, famously referred to by Peter Levi as ‘the greatest poem written in either Ireland or Britain during the eighteenth century.’

A devastating and timeless tale about finding your voice by freeing another’s.

How to review a book that is part essay, part memoir, part literary investigation, part history, part ghost story, and part translation? That is the challenge that lies before me for A Ghost in the Throat, poet Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s award-winning auto-fiction/memoir about her efforts to translate – and understand – Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill’s eighteenth-century lament, Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire (The Keen for Art Ó Laoghaire).

As you can probably imagine, A Ghost in the Throat is a book that defies easy categorisation. Regardless of whether Doireann Ní Ghríofa is writing about her own experiences of motherhood – and the inevitable sacrifices of selfhood that this requires – or conjuring the grief of Eibhlín Dubh, keening over her husband’s murdered corpse, it is, however, a compelling and powerful read.

A Ghost in the Throat opens with the words, ‘THIS IS A FEMALE TEXT’, a refrain repeated throughout the text that serves both to highlight the erasure of lives such as Eibhlín Dubh’s from history, and to underscore the power of shared female experiences. For what begins as a teenage fascination with the romantic figure of a woman grieving for a lost lover becomes, for Doireann Ní Ghríofa, a means of exploring her own lived experience, and of uniting the fractured pieces of her identity: mother, wife, poet, scholar.

It’s hard to explain exactly how this fragmented, often ephemeral narrative can possess such narrative pull but, once I’d settled into the rhythm of Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s words, I frequently found myself reading for hours; devouring the book in chunks and emerging dazed back into the world when I put it down. For me, reading A Ghost in the Throat was to be transported, however briefly, into other lives: both that of Doireann Ní Ghríofa and of Eibhlín Dubh. On the face of it, I have little in common with either woman – not Irish, not a mother, not a poet – and yet the pattern of their lives still resonated with me through the pages and from across the years.

f the eighteenth-century myself, I can understand the fascination that Doireann Ní Ghríofa develops with the fragments of Eibhlín Dubh’s life that remain in official records – and with the tantalising gaps through which Eibhlín, her sister, her mother, and her other female friends and relations seem to have slipped. Literary investigation can sometimes feel like obsession – the pursuit of knowledge through the fissures of history – and Doireann Ní Ghríofa has perfectly captured both the thrill and the despair that often comes with such a pursuit.

Not being a speaker of Gaelic, I cannot testify to the fidelity of Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s translation of the Caoineadh, but I am glad to have been introduced to this deeply moving and powerful poem: a keen for a beloved husband, brutally murdered, and a lament for a wife unable to seek legal recourse for his death. Hopefully this new translation – the success of Doireann’s exploration of her own relationship with the text – will serve to make this particular piece of Irish literature much better known amongst the English-speaking literary world.

A Ghost in the Throat will not, I imagine, be for everyone. Its ephemeral and fragmentary nature can, at times, leave the reader jolted suddenly from one life and forcibly inserted into another, whilst Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s attempts to understand Eibhlín Dubh and to reconstruct her life are, like so much academic enquiry, ultimately frustrated. In addition, it is powerful and, at times, deeply emotional read that explores motherhood, loss, love, marriage, and the weight of expectation, often accompanied by a howl of female anger, despair, and frustration. It is, as Doireann Ní Ghríofa frequently says, a female text.

Ultimately, you’ll know within a few pages whether A Ghost in the Throat is for you. If it is, you’ll be pulled into this book and swept through, captivated by the power of an eighteenth-century Irish woman and the story of the twenty-first-century poet who fell in love with her words. It’s a book that I would love the opportunity to teach one day – unpicking this alongside students and other scholars would be fascinating, and I definitely think this a book that bears repeat, close reading. As a ‘pleasure’ reading experience, A Ghost in the Throat wasn’t the easiest – or the most comforting – of reads, but it was a deeply rewarding and thought-provoking one that I feel will stay with me long after I turned the final page.

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa is published by Tramp Press 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 Helen Richardson for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 7 November 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 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!