Finn and Fred’s Arctic Adventure By Jocelyn Porter Review (Rachel’s Random Resources)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Finn and Fred’s Arctic Adventure (Published By Full Media Ltd 24th Nov. 2021) By Jocelyn Porter and illustrated By Leo Brown. A big thank you to the publishers for a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to Rachel for the invite to take part in the tour.      

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Finn and Fred’s Arctic Adventure

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“My bus takes off with a sonic boom, straight through the wall and out of my room…”

Finn and Fred Octopus are off on a magical adventure to the Arctic. They meet a kindly seal, a hungry polar bear and an angry walrus. The whales sing to Finn, and Finn arrives home with an important message to share…

In association with the Cornish Seal Sanctuary, Jocelyn Porter’s latest picture book is beautifully illustrated by the super-gifted artist Leo Brown, who has worked with everyone from Roald Dahl to Disney.

Aimed at children aged 3-8, this action-packed rhyming adventure will gently educate your child about protecting the oceans while entertaining them with terrific sea creatures – from seals and polar bears to narwhals and whales!

About The Author

Jocelyn’s writing career began when she was asked to write a story for a preschool magazine. That story was the first of many. Jocelyn became the writer/editor of several preschool magazines and continued in that role for 15 years. Writing one new story every month, plus rhymes and activities was a tough gig, but very exhilarating. Time is the big difference between writing for a magazine and writing a book. You see your work on the supermarket shelves within a few weeks of completion. A book takes longer – a lot longer. Jocelyn has to be patient now – not something she’s good at. Before becoming a writer, Jocelyn worked in higher education as International Students Officer. It was a rewarding and interesting job even though she was on call 24/7. Jocelyn also trained as a counsellor and volunteered at drop-in centres. She never knew who would arrive for counselling and had to be prepared for anything. This work gave her insight into some of the darker corners of life. Motor sport was one of Jocelyn’s early loves, she had the spine-tingling thrill of taking part in a 24-hour national rally as navigator – those were the days when rallies were held on public roads! Jocelyn worked as an au pair in Paris in her teens. Having visited the city on a school trip, she fell in love with it, and always wanted to return. Jocelyn’s first book published by Full Media is The King Who Didn’t Like Snow, illustrated by Michael S Kane. Her second, Finn and Fred’s Arctic Adventure, is a rhyming book illustrated by seasoned artist Leo Brown.

My Review

Under Finn’s bed he has a battered old suitcase. But this isn’t any ordinary suitcase dear reader. This is a magical suitcase that turns into a bus and flies through space. This is a secret only known to Finn and his toy friend Fred Octopus who comes to life when Finn holds him tight. Aimed at children aged 3-8, this picture book is packed full of adventure as Finn and Fred travel to the Arctic where they come across a very hungry polar bear, bump into an angry walrus and hear a powerful and important song by the whales. My boys couldn’t wait for story time when they saw we had a new adventure to go on.

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We love the bold, colourful pictures that cover each page. We were fully immersed in the cold, crisp snowy landscape and could smell the sea air. My eldest loved the imagery of the polar bear chasing Finn and Fred with a knife and fork, he couldn’t stop giggling.

The story flowed beautifully with its lyrical rhyming narrative. We met many friendly animals on our journey who told us to be wary in the Artic as there are ferocious creatures all around. Before we knew it we were running for our lives from a hungry polar bear and angry walrus. Each page was filled with excitement and we couldn’t wait to see what else we would discover.

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As we listened to the whales’ song about protecting the ocean, we talked about how we can do our part to look after the world we live in. I love books like this that encourage talks about looking after the environment and what the younger generations can do to help. We watched some documentaries on the Artic so they could see more of what it looks like and what type of animals live there. They were captivated and kept relating back to the story of how we must do our part to help protect the Artic. I was so proud! YAY!    

Not only does this book teach children about looking after the environment and how they can help protect the ocean by switching off lights and not using plastic. But 10% of the profit of the book will go to the Cornish Seal Sanctuary. If you happen to be visiting the Sanctuary you can also purchase a copy and 100% of the sale will go directly to the Sanctuary. Isn’t that fantastic dear reader?

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I give Finn and Fred’s Arctic Adventure By Jocelyn Porter a Five out of Five paw rating.

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A magical adventure that everyone will love! Full of colour and non-stop excitement this book will show your little ones how they can help protect the Artic ice. A new favourite story added to our shelf here in The Burrow.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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The Maid By Nita Prose Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear reader I am on the blog tour for The Maid (Published by HarperCollins 20 Jan. 2022) By Nita Prose. A big thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part, always a pleasure to work with.        

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The Maid

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I am your maid.
I know about your secrets. Your dirty laundry.
But what do you know about me?

Molly the maid is all alone in the world. A nobody. She’s used to being invisible in her job at the Regency Grand Hotel, plumping pillows and wiping away the grime, dust and secrets of the guests passing through. She’s just a maid – why should anyone take notice?

But Molly is thrown into the spotlight when she discovers an infamous guest, Mr Black, very dead in his bed. This isn’t a mess that can be easily cleaned up. And as Molly becomes embroiled in the hunt for the truth, following the clues whispering in the hallways of the Regency Grand, she discovers a power she never knew was there. She’s just a maid – but what can she see that others overlook?

Escapist, charming and introducing a truly original heroine, The Maid is a story about how the truth isn’t always black and white – it’s found in the dirtier, grey areas in between . . .

About The Author

Nita Prose is a long-time editor, serving many bestselling authors and their books. She lives in Toronto, Canada, in a house that is only moderately clean.

My Review

The Regency Grand Hotel offers nothing but five star quality service. You will always find your pillows freshly plumped, clean sheets and a warm welcome. They pride themselves on nothing but sophisticated elegance. Molly works as a maid at the hotel and prides herself on being thorough and precise. She loves her job and the satisfaction that cleaning brings. Her life is simple and quiet. That is until she discovers a guest, the infamous Mr. Black dead in his bed. Suddenly Molly is thrown into a world where lies and secrets are uncovered under the filth she thought she had washed away. The people she thought she could trust reveal their true selves. She quickly finds herself as a prime suspect with the police. Her! A lowly maid. Surely she is not capable of…murder.

Molly is truly a unique character. She is unlike any other character I have stumbled upon in literature. Her social skills are non-existent and she often comes across as awkward and peculiar when thrown into a social situation. But that is what is so charming about her dear reader. Her ability to speak her mind and be herself. She often mentions her Gran who she lived with before she died and her little mottos. They guide Molly through life and come to her aid when she stumbles into unfamiliar territory. Molly likes things simple and neat.  She is used to being invisible as a maid, the guests pay little attention to her apart from a select few such as the new Mrs. Black. Told in first person the reader can see Molly’s way of thinking and why she struggles to grasp certain situations. Molly feels a part of the hotel, it’s colour, design, and feels alive at work. She blends in and is invisible.

Prose has created a complex, delicate character in Molly that the reader quickly comes to feel very protective of. You find yourself shouting at the page for Molly to open her eyes and see what is really happening around her but she is innocent and much like a child at times. She takes things at face value making her too trusting of the wrong people. She doesn’t follow people blindly like a sheep and lives by her own moral code. You watch as the snakes slowly coil themselves around her and want her to desperately find a way to escape.

I was surrounded my a mixture of expensive perfumes and lemon polish that lingered on each page. Prose has exquisite skill at bringing the senses alive. I could see, touch, smell, taste and hear everything that was happening. I was fully absorbed in Molly’s world and was saddened when I had to leave. It was an experience like no other.

I give The Maid By Nita Prose a Five out of Five paw rating.

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I could not put it down! I devoured this book as quickly as possible, I was addicted and am still left yearning for more.

This book is a labyrinth, full of shocking twists and turns. You never know what to expect as Prose keeps you guessing right up till the very end. My heart was in my mouth dear reader, I did not see that coming. It is a MUST read and I highly recommend you discover the truth as to what really happened in suite 401.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Links

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Write It All Down How to Put Your Life on the Page By Cathy Rentzenbrink Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear reader I am on the blog tour for Write It All Down (Published 6th January 2022 hardback) By Cathy Rentzenbrink. A big thank you to the publishers Bluebird for sending me a copy, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite, you make being a part of this community fantastic.

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Write It All Down How to Put Your Life on the Page

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Why do we want to write and what stops us?
How does the urge to express ourselves fight with the worry that no-one will care or that we will get in trouble?
How do we identify and overcome everything that gets in our way so we can start making work?

Sunday Times bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink shows you how to tackle all this and more in Write It All Down, a guide to putting your life on the page. This is a kind, encouraging and stimulating book that explores the nature of memoir writing and offers helpful guidance on how to write your life on paper. Rentzenbrink will help you to discover the pleasure and solace to be found in writing; the profound satisfaction of wrestling a story onto a page and seeing the events of your life transformed through the experience of writing the self.

Perfect for both seasoned writers as well as writing amateurs and everyone in between, this helpful handbook will steer you through the philosophical and practical challenges of writing the self. Intertwined with reflections, anecdotes and exercises from successful writers such as Dolly Alderton, Matt Haig, Kit de Waal, Sathnam Sanghera and Maggie O’Farrell, Write It All Down is at once an intimate and enjoyable narrative and an invitation to share your story.

About The Author

Cathy Rentzenbrink is the author of the Sunday Times best-seller The Last Act of Love and of A Manual for Heartache, Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books and Everyone is Still Alive. It took her twenty years to wrestle her own life story on the page and she loves to use what she has learnt about the profound nature of writing the self in the service of others.

Cathy has taught for Arvon, Curtis Brown Creative, at Falmouth University and at festivals and in prisons, and welcomes anyone, no matter what their experience, education, background or story. She believes that everyone’s life would be improved by picking up a pen and is at her happiest when encouraging her students to have the courage to delve into themselves and see the magic that will start to happen on the page.

My Review

If you have ever dreamed about writing about your life or writing in general, then this dear reader is the book for you. Rentzenbrink welcomes the reader on the journey of writing the self and explains how it is a tricky, slippery business but very rewarding. She is here to help and can’t promise that it will be easy.

The book is split into four parts, Preparation, Excavation, Crafting and Editing, and finally Getting Work Done. This helps ease the reader onto their path towards writing about the self.

Throughout the book Rentzenbrink is your guide and helps keep you motivated and engaged. She helps the reader discover the pure delight of putting words on the page and watching them dance to the rhythm of your pen. She shows the reader how to unravel the events of your life that changed you, were important and made you who you are today.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book as Rentzenbrink’s narrative is not only positive and inspiring, but warm and friendly. She tells the reader that they don’t have to agree with her and encourages them to find their own style. She is just sharing her knowledge of what works for her. She tells the reader there is no template and that writing is a mysterious, magical beast. She remains very open and hopes the book will feel more like a conversation than a set of instructions. And it does, the tone is not only informative, but relaxed and a pleasure to read. She relates to the reader and shares her own experiences with writing, how she has doubted herself and understands it’s not easy to do. That life can get in the way and stop us from writing. It’s a great comfort to read and you don’t feel so alone. To find someone who understands your passion and supports you is a rare find these days. Rentzenbrink remains constant throughout, standing by your side and cheering you on.

Rentzenbrink helps the reader overcome their doubts with her techniques and exercises such as mind mapping and free-writing. There is one point in the book where I found myself making a horrendous noise, letting it all out and getting strange looks from my husband. It was exhilarating and just one of the many unique ways that Rentzenbrink helps the reader to become comfortable and relaxed with writing.

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I give Write It All Down How to Put Your Life on the Page By Cathy Rentzenbrink a Five out of Five paw rating.

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Engaging and extremely encouraging, this book is for anyone who has a passion for writing. It’s perfect for beginners and even advanced writers as there is always something new to learn when it comes to writing. That’s the beauty of it. I highly recommend you add this to your must-reads this year and give memoir writing a go. You might surprise yourself at what you uncover.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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The Man Whose Wife Was The Moon By Mike Russell (Review)

Today on the blog dear reader I am reviewing The Man Whose Wife Was The Moon (Published 19 Aug 2021) By Mike Russell. A big thank you to Strange Books for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. This is not the first time I have dived into Russell’s strange and unusual world, check out my previous Strange Books reviews here, enjoy.       

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The Man Whose Wife Was The Moon

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The year is 1969. Astronomer Arthur Hart has two loves: his wife and the moon… that is until his two loves appear to become one. Mike Russell’s The Man Whose Wife Was The Moon is a magical novella. Filled with extraordinary imagery, humorous and heartrending, Mike Russell’s latest book is a passionate invitation to rediscover the moon in all its mystery and wonder.

About The Author

Mike Russell was born in 1973. He grew up in the small village of Pulborough in the south of England. As a child, he enjoyed daydreaming, art and writing strange stories. As an adult, he enjoys daydreaming, art and writing strange stories. Mike Russell was awarded a Bachelor of Arts from Falmouth University and a Master of Arts from the University of Central England. Mike Russell’s books have been described as Strange Fiction, Magical Realism, Surrealism, Weird Fiction, Weird Lit, Absurdist Fiction, Metaphysical Fiction, Fantasy Fiction… but he just likes to call them Strange Books.

My Review

The year is 1969 and Astronomer Arthur Hart is giving a lecture about his two loves. His wife, Molly and the Moon. That’s right dear reader, I said the Moon. But how can one be in love with the Moon? Surely that’s impossible? Right? Well think again because in Russell’s world everything is possible, no matter how odd or unusual it may seem, there is always a way. Always.

Arthur talks in his lectures about how there is an aspect of the Moon that cannot be photographed and cannot be seen with even the most advanced telescopes. He hopes that his lectures will inspire people to view the Moon from a different angle, to gaze upon her in awe and wonder; that she is more than just a giant rock in the sky. I mean, when you think about it dear reader, it is pretty mind-blowing how the universe works. We see the Moon everyday and think nothing of it yet if it were to suddenly disappear the consequences would be catastrophic. This rock in the sky is so much more than she appears to be. Russell’s writing shows you this curiosity and fascination through the eyes of someone who is in love with the impossible. You struggle to get your head around it at first but that’s the beauty of Russell’s strange worlds, nothing is ever as it seems. They expand your mind, your imagination and show you a new, different approach to the world we live in. 

I really felt for Arthur throughout the book. He is a humble, innocent character who just wants to share his love of the Moon with people. The things he goes through shock you and you begin to sympathise more with his passion. He is desperate to tell people of his love for the Moon, for people to understand his desire for her. He talks about the Moon as a subject not an object and explains how she embodies the feminine just as the Sun embodies the masculine. He is not talking about gender or sexuality but about the fundamental principles that exist within us all, regardless of our gender or our sexuality. He goes on to explain how every one of us has both the masculine and the feminine principles within us. In some of us the masculine principle is more dominant, while in others the feminine principle is more dominant but they both exist within us all. Arthur is fascinated with the Moon’s extraordinary nature, her power, her mystery and her significance, and hopes that in studying them, we as a society can regain that which we have lost. It’s powerful stuff and really gets you thinking.

I give The Man Whose Wife Was The Moon By Mike Russell a Four out of Five paw rating.

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An experience like no other, the world of Mike Russell will always leave you yearning for more. The strangeness of it all is what makes his writing refreshing and unique to read.

As always with Russell’s writing he takes you to peculiar and magical places that you would never deem possible. He expands your mind and gets you thinking outside of the box; or in this case, circle. It is always a mesmerising experience exploring Russell’s world, to wander around and gaze at all the bizarre beautiful imagery that will leave you tranquil and at one with the world. You feel connected to something different, something unnatural, something strange. And it’s a marvellous feeling dear reader.

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The Guts Of A Mackerel By Clare Reddaway (Review)

Today dear readers I am reviewing The Guts Of A Mackerel (Published December 10th 2021) By Clare Reddaway. A big thank you to the publishers Fly On The Wall for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated.        

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The Guts Of A Mackerel

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“Who’s Bobby Sands?” she asked, as she laid the fish on the face of a smiling young man with long wavy hair. “And what’s a hunger strike?”

On a family holiday to her dad’s Irish homeland, Eve’s concerns about impressing local boy Liam are confronted by the stark reality of political and personal divisions during the Troubles. Former friends have turned into enemies, and this country of childhood memory is suddenly a lot less welcoming.

About The Author

Clare Reddaway is a Bath-based writer of short stories and plays. Her short stories have been widely published online (Barren Magazine, Fictive Dream, Fairlight Books, Storgy Magazine, Blue Nib) and in anthologies (Fairlight Book of Short Stories 2020, Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual 2020, Bath Short Story Anthology, Momaya Short Story Review). 

Last year she was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, having previously won and been shortlisted for many other national competitions. 

Her work is frequently broadcast on BBC Radio Bristol and local community radio stations, and she has had stories recorded by Tempest Productions for their Unbound podcast. 

Her plays have been staged across the UK. She is currently developing a play Flotsam with Theatre West, and a screenplay Whale Song with Screenology in Bristol. 

She runs regular live lit events in Bath (Story Fridays, Stories At The Farm, Festive Doorstep Stories). She often writes site-specific stories which she either performs on location (for instance at a derelict Georgian lido in Bath), or as story walks. 

She is currently compiling a short story collection and brooding on a potential novella. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. 

My Review

Fourteen year old Eve is excited to be back in Ireland on a family holiday. She can’t wait to see Liam again, a local boy she met last summer and spend every possible moment together on the beach talking about their dreams and future. However things do not exactly go to plan; and who is Bobby Sands?

I felt immersed in this short story, I could smell the sea, the fish and seaweed. Everywhere I looked the sliver scales of the mackerel dazzled me and I was hungry for more.

This short story took me back to my youth of the butterflies you would feel when seeing your crush again. The effort you put into your appearance and the excitement of the possibilities. I could smell the overpowering scent of Eve’s Charlie spray wafting off the page. It took me back to a time when wedge shoes and plum eye shadow were the fashion. Days that seemed so much more simpler than they do now. But of course that is the ignorance of youth isn’t it dear reader? We never fully understood what was actually happening in the world around us, being young and carefree. The news and politics were strangers to us. Ones we branded boring and ran away from.

This story has a strong theme of being proud of where you are from, for standing up for what you believe in and never giving up. Eve knows what she wants and fights for it. She wants to see Liam and is determined to prove to him that she does understand about Bobby Sands. She goes on a hunger strike to prove her point which leads to complications. 

The trip is a turning point for Eve, a right of passage into adulthood. She begins to abandon her teen magazines and becomes a bit more serious and political. It is interesting to read, to watch her character develop over a short time.

I give The Guts Of A Mackerel By Clare Reddaway a Four out of Five paw rating.

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Engaging and thought-provoking, you will be left ravenous, begging for more!

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The Dublin Railway Murder By Thomas Morris Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for The Dublin Railway Murder (Published 11 November 2021) By Thomas Morris. A big thank you to the publishers Harvill Secker for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite, always a pleasure to work with.    

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The Dublin Railway Murder

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A thrilling and perplexing investigation of a true Victorian crime at a Dublin railway station.

Dublin, November 1856: George Little, the chief cashier of the Broadstone railway terminus, is found dead, lying in a pool of blood beneath his desk.

He has been savagely beaten, his head almost severed; there is no sign of a murder weapon, and the office door is locked, apparently from the inside. Thousands of pounds in gold and silver are left untouched at the scene of the crime.

Augustus Guy, Ireland’s most experienced detective, teams up with Dublin’s leading lawyer to investigate the murder. But the mystery defies all explanation, and two celebrated sleuths sent by Scotland Yard soon return to London, baffled.

Five suspects are arrested then released, with every step of the salacious case followed by the press, clamouring for answers. But then a local woman comes forward, claiming to know the murderer….

The Dublin Railway Murder tells the story of the extraordinary 1856 murder mystery that gripped a nation – and the sensational trial that followed. Thomas Morris discovered a treasure trove of contemporary documents in the Irish national archives – including original police interviews, surveillance reports and secret government memos, undisturbed for years – that have allowed him to reconstruct the twists and turns of a complex nineteenth-century murder inquiry in unprecedented detail. The Dublin Railway Murder is a fascinating in-depth investigation that reads like a mystery novel.

About The Author

Thomas Morris is a writer and historian. His first book The Matter of the Heart (Bodley Head, 2017), a critically-acclaimed history of cardiac surgery, won a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award for non-fiction. He is also the author of The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth (Bantam, 2018). He was previously a BBC radio producer for 18 years, and his freelance journalism has appeared in publications including The Times, The Lancet and the TLS.

My Review

On November 1856 in Dublin, George Little the chief cashier of Broadstone railway terminus is found dead in his office. He has been violently beaten with his head almost severed off. He is surrounded by piles of cash and there seems to be no sign of a disturbance. The blind is down, the window and door are locked. What’s the most chilling fact of all is there is no sign of a murder weapon.   

The story is told in 5 parts, The Murder, The Investigation, The Suspect, The Trial, The Phrenologist, and then a epilogue at the end. This helps the reader follow the series of events in the correct order so they can begin to piece together how and why this happened.

I adore a who-dun-it story, a crime detective case as it gets me thinking outside the box. This sensational true story of a Victorian murder mystery had me hooked. I was soaking up every extract of information, keeping a look out for clues. I was determined to discover who Little’s murderer was and the reason behind it. You have to remind yourself at times that this is a true story, it actually happened as Morris has a natural style of writing it like fiction.

The in-depth research and resources that Morris has obtained to help reconstruct this 19th century murder investigation is fascinating to read. He has included in his writing original police interviews and all characters identified by name are real people and biographical details however minor are genuine. The detail is immense and you feel fully immersed in this mystery. Morris shows the complete picture of the investigation from the day of the murder and Little’s last known steps to the final outcome. It’s a gripping read and you are shocked at how much of a mess the whole case became. The case baffled everyone.

The minute the murder got out in the newspaper it caused a frenzy. The case became known as The Broadstone murder with both the victim and his suspected killer becoming household names. In five hours since the discovery of Little’s body the crime scene was littered with people coming and going, picking up objects, moving stuff about and leaving few, if any forensic secrets long gone.

I felt a chill down my spine as I followed George Little’s last moments on earth. Watching him leave his home, number 58 Waterloo Road that he shared with his sister Kate, elderly mother and an aunt in poor health at just after 8 am as he made his way to work. George was quiet, had few friends but was well-liked. He would avoid conflict and loathed the idea of leaving a task unfinished. He would often work late long after everybody else had gone home. Oh George, if only you knew what was going to happen that unfortunate day. No one should go out like that.

At first people assumed that George had taken his own life. He was entrusted with thousands of pounds in cash and it was easy to assume he could have been caught with his fingers in the till. Instead of facing the consequences he would rather end his life. But Doctor Jennings discovers that his head is covered with wounds and calls it without a doubt murder.

Morris creates an eerie atmosphere as George is left alone in the office counting the money. The reader is fully aware that something is about to happen. My heart was in my mouth and I was biting my nails with the sheer anticipation for the sinister act to occur.

The more the reader learns about the crime scene, the more it forces you to think. We learn of who else was around at the time of events and who knew about the money in the office. It is George’s sister who raises the alarm when she reports that he had not returned home the previous night. The reader discovers that the door is locked and they soon find a way in through a window on the back staircase but it has been roughly secured by a single nail driven through the bottom sash. The door is locked from the inside, the window was fastened and the blinds down. How did the murderer get out? There is no sign of forced entry or struggle. So what happened? So many questions whirl around your head and like the police you become overwhelmed. But you want to continue on, you have to, you can’t look away now you’ve become involved in a murder mystery that gripped the nation.

I give The Dublin Railway Murder By Thomas Morris a Five out of Five paw rating.

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This book will leave you stunned. This is an intense read and left me speechless…just WOW.

I was on edge the whole time, suspecting everyone as Little’s murderer. Morris absorbs you fully into this tragic, unfortunate situation. You feel a part of it, being a witness to the discovery of Little’s body, interviewing suspects and sitting in a jury. It takes a hold of you and you fully accept it.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Call Of The Penguins By Hazel Prior Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Call Of The Penguins (Published 11 Nov. 2021) By Hazel Prior. A big thank you to the publishers Black Swan for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part in the tour, always a lovely experience.     

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Call Of The Penguins

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Veronica McCreedy returns in a delightfully feel-good novel. A paperback original from the no.1 bestselling author Hazel Prior.

Fiercely resilient, singular, always well turned out, Veronica McCreedy has lived an incredible 87 years. Most of them alone, in her huge house by the sea. Veronica has recently discovered a late-life love for family and friendship, adventure and wildlife. More specifically, she has found a love for penguins!

When she’s invited to co-present a wildlife documentary, far away in the southern hemisphere, she jumps at the chance. Even though this new adventure it will put her in the spotlight, just when she thought she would soon fade into the wings. Veronica might just be about to find out that perhaps it’s never too late to shine?

About The Author

Hazel Prior lives on Exmoor. As well as writing, she works as a freelance harpist. Hazel is the author of Ellie and the Harp-Maker and Away with the Penguins, which was a #1 bestseller in ebook and audiobook, picked for the Richard & Judy Book Club and for the Radio 2 Book Club. It has now sold over 170,000 copies across all formats and has over 12,000 ratings on Amazon. Hazel’s debut novel, Ellie And The Harpmaker, has also been a top 100 Kindle bestseller and has sold over 20,000 copies in ebook in 2021 alone. Call of the Penguins is her third novel.

My Review

I was extremely excited to go on another adventure with the much loved Veronica McCreedy. I read Away With The Penguins and LOVED IT. I squealed the moment I held this book in my hands, I seriously could not wait to get stuck in.

In her eighties Veronica McCreedy battled the elements of the Antarctic to save a teacup-sized grey fluff ball penguin named Pip. Now home and convinced her adventures are over she tries to readjust to daily life that has unfortunately become humdrum. Eating, reading, sleeping, litter picking, etc. So when she receives an exciting invite from Sir Robert Saddlebow to co-present a wildlife documentary in the southern hemisphere she jumps at the chance. Just when she was starting to worry she was fading into the wings, she is put front centre stage and given a chance to shine. 

Veronica is one of those characters that you just can’t help but love. She has her little quirky ways and brings a relaxing, cosy atmosphere to the page. I could happily spend many hours chatting to her about penguins over a cup of Darjeeling. She has style and an air of sophistication but not in a snobby way. She is a lady of the old ways where one should make sure their outfit is coordinated with one’s bag. You begin to care for her and it quickly feels like you have known her your whole life. The way she speaks made me smile and I couldn’t help but love the names she gave for things like doo-dahs when talking about technology. She is always such a joy to read.

What I enjoyed most about this book was learning and understanding more about Veronica’s past. The reader learns about her son Enzo and how she fell in love at 15 years old with Giovanni, an Italian prisoner of war. I was in tears as I read how Veronica was forced to give her baby up. Together, Veronica and Patrick are determined to learn more about Enzo (Now known as Joe Fuller) and his life before his tragic death. While Veronica is filming the wildlife documentary all over the world, Patrick is tasked with going to Canada to find out as much as he can about his father. The more they discovered, the more I had to keep reading. Prior pulls you in and you willingly go as you too become desperate to learn the truth about the past.

The penguins offer Veronica a symbol of hope and it’s not surprising that she can strongly relate to them. They are charming and have the determination to battle against the bitter cold of the wind and icy waters. To find food for their young chicks and daily avoid becoming a quick snack for hungry seals. They show bravery and represent good cheer in the hardship of life. Plus they are extremely cute.

I loved reading the relationship between Veronica and Daisy. An 87 year old and a 9 year old, it was the perfect picture of life. Daisy herself is a very determined young lady and hopes to one day to visit Antarctica and see Pip like Veronica did. They clash at times and Daisy is always asking what’s inside Veronica’s locket but the contrast of the two dance beautifully on the page.

I give Call Of The Penguins By Hazel Prior a Five out of Five paw rating.

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Prior has a natural comforting way with words that surround you like a blanket, keeping you safe and warm. You don’t want to ever leave as it’s far too cosy and just a wonderful place to be. 

This book warmed not only my heart but my soul and reminded me what was most important in life. I learned so much from this book, not only little facts about penguins but how that one’s happiness very much depends on where one chooses to put one’s focus. We all need a friend like Veronica in our lives and I would be proud to wear that friendship bracelet.

One last thing dear reader, always, always remember the penguins.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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Drinking Custard Diary Of A Confused Mum By Lucy Beaumont (With interruptions from Jon Richardson) Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Drinking Custard Diary Of A Confused Mum (Published 30/9/21) By Lucy Beaumont. A big thank you to the publishers Monoray for sending me a copy to read and review. Also the wonderful Anne for the invite, always a pleasure.

Drinking Custard Diary Of A Confused Mum BLucy Beaumont (With interruptions from Jon Richardson)

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Known for her sharp, witty and surreal view on everyday life, Lucy shares the unpredictable craziness of being a mum in this brilliant and laugh-out-loud ‘mumoir’. Mums everywhere will recognise the madness of it all. From when Lucy was hospitalised with indigestion in her third trimester (blame the burrito), to when she was *this close* to slapping her hypnobirthing instructor, to finding herself drinking a whole pint of custard in one sitting. Drinking Custard also captures Lucy’s marriage to comedian Jon, as they navigate Lucy’s raging pregnancy hormones and balk at pram prices together.

About The Author

Lucy Beaumont is a talented stand-up, comedy actress and writer. She is the writer and star of BBC Radio 4’s To Hull and Back, writer of Channel 4’s Hullraisers and cowriter of Dave’s Meet The Richardsons which returns for a second series this year. Lucy is a well-known daughter of Hull and is passionate about her hometown. She has appeared on numerous entertainment shows; Artsnight (BBC2), Jon Richardson: Ultimate Worrier (Dave), Alan Davies’ As Yet Untitled (Dave), QI (BBC2), Drunk History (Comedy Central), Jonathan Ross Show (ITV), The One Show (BBC1), Cats Does Countdown (C4), What’s Going to Kill Us (C5), Live At The Electric (BBC Three) and featured in a Maltesers advertising campaign.

My Review

If you are looking for tips on how to be a great, amazing, perfect parent then dear reader this book is not for you. This is Lucy’s diary of what it’s honestly like to be a mum. She writes the truth and not the hyped up social media lie we have all been led to believe that is instagrammable. Told in seven parts Lucy and her husband Jon embark on the adventure of parenthood with their adorable but terrifying toddler Elsie.

What I adored most about this book is Beaumont’s pure honesty about being a mother. It’s confusing, stressful and so so so tiring. As a mother to four boys (NO MORE) I can strongly relate to those long 9 months of pregnancy, the unexpected change of the birthing plan and the endless night feeds. Now that Elsie is at school and life has calmed down Beaumont has had the time to look at her diary and work out what actually happened over the last five years. And WOW dear reader, it is certainly like nothing I have ever read before. My face ached from smiling and giggling at how beautifully embarrassing and real life can be. I loved the interruptions by Jon in the footnotes, together they made this book a joy to read.

Beaumont tells the reader about how she met Jon at The Fighting Cocks ( Yes dear reader, this is a real pub, one I went to a few times when I was at Kingston Uni) and how she longed for a baby, to be like the mum in the Fairy Liquid advert. Then the reality of actually being a mother was a shock. A BIG shock. I giggled when I read her list of Why I Want A Child as unless you have children you don’t grasp the reality of actually having children, messy, loud and a constant lack of sleep. You imagine it’s all white carpets with a happy baby crawling about your mess free home. HAHAHAHA 

Beaumont lived with Jon in Surbiton and became a tad obsessed with how she appeared to the other women. The ones in their floaty dresses and perfect hair. She calls herself a snob and prides herself on it, wanting a Bugaboo (£869!) to shop in Waitrose and to have the approval from the Laura Ashley Mums at the baby groups. She admits that she only brought a mud kitchen because there’s a Scandinavian idea that if your child plays with mud and has a connection to nature they won’t get depressed when they are older. She still wants to be working class as her and Jon came from humble beginnings but also wants to be in one of those interior design magazines that no one buys. She doesn’t want to be put into a box and wants to be accepted but hasn’t forgotten her roots. She admits that she knows she’s being silly and wants her baby to be grounded, to enjoy avocados but also go to greasy spoon cafes.

The tales Beaumont tells will leave you with tears in your eyes, happy joyous tears. The Mother and Baby Massage class, I strongly agree with her, it should be a class where the mothers get a lovely relaxing massage. I could not stop laughing when during her pregnancy her boobs started to leak and it looked yellow. She freaked and thought she was leaking custard because she had been addicted to drinking the stuff. The midwife reassured her that yes, that can happen. Just thinking about it now is making me chuckle. 

Beaumont also talks about her relationship with her own mother. She reflects back on her childhood and how she was surrounded by love with her family. Her mother used to turn up at her school and pretend to be the queen and once hid in a bush to check she was ok. She grew up wanting different things from her mother and always admired Laura Ashley. But she is proud of her roots, her home, her mother. She admires how being a single parent must be tough and feels extremely lucky that she has Jon. Parenting as a team is tough but parenting solo…that is a brave and admirable thing indeed.

Beaumont is extremely relatable and I felt like I was chatting with a much loved friend. A friend who completely understands the Jekyll and Hyde that is motherhood. Someone I can be honest and open with about how tough this parenting gig is. I don’t blame her for wanting to look after a pet bull when she saw an advert on Facebook during her pregnancy and wanted to bring him home to cuddle and have parties with his bull friends. I would be exactly the same. Hormones, it’s always the hormones that mess with your emotions.

I give Drinking Custard Diary Of A Confused Mum BLucy Beaumont (With interruptions from Jon Richardson) a Five out of Five paw rating.

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These stories are amusing, embarrassing and just pure brilliant.

I had SO MUCH FUN reading this book. I use caps because OH MY GOD IT’S BRILLIANT. Sorry to shout but it is. Where was this book 8 years ago when I first had my eldest, I would have killed to have something like this then. Every mum, new and old, even dads should read this. It’s highly relatable to how parenthood is terrifying as all hell but also a wonderful experience. 

I am curious as to how she preferred to drink custard: Hot or cold? And I am sorely tempted to try it at some point. It sounds most delicious, I do love custard. And also I do hope Beaumont buys a bunny outfit one day. Do it! 

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy.

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Born Of No Woman By Franck Bouysse Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for Born Of No Woman (Published  21 October 2021) By Franck Bouysse (translated from the French by Lara Vernaud) A big thank you to the publishers Weidenfeld & Nicolson for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also to the lovely Anne for the invite and who makes being a part of this community truly an honour.       

Born Of No Woman

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Before he is called to bless the body of a woman at the nearby asylum, Father Gabriel receives a strange, troubling confession: hidden under the woman’s dress he will find the notebooks in which she confided the abuses she suffered and the twisted motivations behind them.

And so Rose’s terrible story comes to light: sold as a teenage girl to a rich man, hidden away in a old manor house deep in the woods and caught in a perverse web, manipulated by those society considers her betters.

A girl whose only escape is to capture her life – in all its devastation and hope – in the pages of her diary…

About The Author

Franck Bouysse is a French author. His novels Grossir le ciel in 2014, Plateau in 2016 and Glaise in 2017 have met with wide success and won a vast array of literary awards. Previously a teacher of biology and horticulture, Bouysse lives in the south-west of France.

BORN OF NO WOMAN has won every prize awarded by readers in France, including the GRAND PRIX DES LECTRICES ELLE, one of the most important prizes in France. It has also won THE PRIX DES LIBRAIRES (given by booksellers), PRIX PSYCHOLOGIES MAGAZINE and the PRIX BABELIO.

My Review

Father Gabriel is told in confession that he will soon be called to the nearby asylum to bless the body of a deceased woman. Under her dress he will find hidden notebooks which contain a most disturbing account of events that will shock and sicken you. In the notebooks Rose finally tells of the years of abuse she suffered and the perverted motivation behind it all. Father Gabriel blesses the body and takes the two notebooks with him, concealing them as he leaves. The notebooks are numbered 1 and 2, he reads them front to back and is traumatised by Rose’s story.

Rose has spent years waiting for this moment, every day she readied herself to put things in order, to sort out her ideas and write her story down on actual paper. The friendly nurse Génie who works in the asylum has given her two notebooks so now she can tell her story. She doubts that anyone will likely ever read them but that’s not important. What matters is for once she will get to the end without anyone stopping her, she refuses to back down. She’s thought a lot about what to write first, which part to start at. She decides on the moment she understood that she was leaving one world for another without anyone asking her. She has just turned 14 when her father sells her to the blacksmith, a fat sweaty mess of a man who takes her to his manor house, Les Forges where he lives with his mother, the Old Lady. Rose describes the manor house like a castle and begins to imagine all manner of things that would happen but it’s never as bad as what she actually has to endure. The fat man tells her to call him Master and she is to obey everything ‘We’ say. At the time Rose doesn’t understand the ‘We’ reference but quickly sees it relates to the Old Lady. The Old Lady tells Rose that she is under the blacksmith’s roof now, that he owns Les Forges and she belongs to him. She is told what is expected of her, she is to become their maid. They warn her they won’t tolerate any dereliction of duty and she will be punished if she steps out of line. Rose works to the best of her ability but no matter what, the Old Lady always finds fault with something. Rose also learns that the Master’s wife is ill and is kept locked away upstairs in her room which she is forbidden to ever enter.

On her first day Rose meets Edmond in the kitchen who is the gardener and horse groomer among other things. Rose describes him as not old or young but between the two. There’s something that fascinates her about him, she begins to feel urges and a desire to be held in his big strong arms. However Edmond is not all he seems to be and is hiding his own dark secrets that will literally leave you with your jaw on the floor. I never suspected it dear reader and was completely, utterly stunned when I learned the truth. Trust me, you don’t see it coming.

No matter how hard Rose works she is constantly shouted at by the Old Lady calling her incompetent, an insolent brat. The Master watches her and makes her feel uncomfortable with his leers. Little does she know what the pair have planned for her. When I read that harrowing scene, I felt physically sick and cried for Rose. She is a young girl and yet she is subjected to such horrific abuse that no human should ever have to suffer. It makes you angry and you find yourself grabbing the book in frustration, wanting Rose to escape and gain her freedom.

Rose is a strong, remarkable character. You keep forgetting at times that she is only 14 as she acts more mature for her age. She tells people she is 16 in hopes they won’t see or treat her like a child. She tells herself to stop crying, that the life she had before on the farm with her family has stopped. She will never again shed a tear for anything or anyone. She doesn’t want to die of despair so young and needs to destroy the 14 year old girl she was if she is to survive her captors. She refuses to let it end this way and promises to fight. It breaks your heart to read of a young girl’s youth being stolen from her and forced into a life of pain and misery. You hold on to the hope, the same hope that Rose has that somehow she will be free again.

I give Born Of No Woman By Franck Bouysse a Five out of Five paw rating.

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Twisted and brutal I had to finish what I started. Bouysse pulled me into a dark haunted world where the only sign of hope was in the form of a young 14 year old girl. A girl who was forced to become a woman in order to survive all manner of horror that was inflicted upon her. A girl who refused to give up, or give in to evil. A girl who will always be a fighter and a remarkable woman.

There are a lot of uncomfortable and unspeakable scenes in this book with themes of rape and abuse that may be triggering for some. There are times you want to look away and can’t believe what you are reading but you feel compelled by Rose’s strength to continue with her. To find out if she gets her freedom and escapes. I HAD to know, I owed it to her. Trust me dear reader, you need to learn of Rose’s story, it will open your eyes in more ways than one.

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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The Restoration By J.H. Moncrieff Review (Random Things Tours)

Today dear readers I am on the blog tour for The Restoration (Published 26 Oct. 2021) By J.H. Moncrieff. A big thank you to the publishers Flame Tree Press for sending me a copy to read and review, always appreciated. Also a big thank you to the wonderful Anne for the invite to take part in the tour, you are amazing as always.                        

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The Restoration

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Inspired by the author’s overnight stay in a historical haunted house, The Restoration is a thrilling tale of intrigue, murder, and family secrets that refuse to stay buried.

It was the perfect opportunity…or so she thought. When Terri Foxworth is hired to spend a year restoring a crumbling manor house, she believes she’s hit the jackpot. She moves in with her young daughter and high hopes for the project’s success. As the restoration begins to go terribly wrong, she realises dark forces won’t let her leave the house until its horrible secrets are revealed.

This job could very well be the death of her.

 

About The Author

J.H. Moncrieff’s City of Ghosts won the 2018 Kindle Book Review Award for best Horror/Suspense.

Reviewers have described her work as early Gillian Flynn with a little Ray Bradbury and Stephen King thrown in for good measure. She won Harlequin’s search for “the next Gillian Flynn” in 2016. Her first published novella, The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, was featured in Samhain’s Childhood Fears collection and stayed on its horror bestsellers list for over a year.

When not writing, she loves exploring the world’s most haunted places, advocating for animal rights, and summoning her inner ninja in muay thai class. 

 

My Review

Terri Foxworth is hired by Miss Vandermere to spend a year restoring the daunting but intriguing manor house, Glenvale House. Curious why the job has remained available for a while Terri can’t help but feel sightly unsettled. She has a paranoid mind but the money is too good to pass up. She needs this job and is desperate enough to ignore the ghost stories that surround the house and the twitch in the curtains she swears she saw. Miss Vandermere warns about not letting her imagination run away with her as old houses make noises…drafts and such. Terri has high hopes of success for the house and plans to reestablish her relationship with her 10 year old daughter Dallas who will be moving into the house while she works. Terri is in love with the house and can’t wait to get started. Ignoring all her natural gut instincts to turn and run like everyone else has, Terri is determined to do her job. There is no one else in the house apart from Terri and Dallas. So why does she get the chilling feeling that they are not alone. And just who is Dallas talking to? Who is Nile and why is he dressed so…old fashioned. It quickly becomes clear that the house is hiding an horrific secret, one that will cost Terri everything, her job, her daughter and her life. 

Terri has big plans for the house and her daughter during their stay. However when things begin to take a sinister turn in the form of Nile she becomes frustrated. She is concerned for her daughter and takes an instant dislike to the room she has chosen to sleep in. There is a lot of conflict and tension between the two throughout the book. Along with the eerie atmosphere of the house it adds to the tension and puts you on edge. It consumes you until the very end.

I enjoyed the variety of characters that Moncrieff has created. A real miss-matched bunch of people that are forced together under strange circumstances. You can relate to Terri’s determination and being protective over her daughter.  She prides herself on being a positive person with a can-do attitude and isn’t a quitter. Dallas is an intelligent young girl and her mother’s daughter. She too has fallen in love with the house and has a great talent for finding unique details throughout its vast rooms. Miss Vandermere is the last living descendant of her wealthy family and has a stern stiff presence that makes you uncomfortable. She is the embodiment of money and will cut you in a second. She is extremely dismissive to Terri’s concerns about the house, making you wonder what she’s hiding. Nile is something else entirely and makes you feel uneasy from the moment you meet him. Is he a victim or a dangerous predator.

The whole time I was reading I felt as if I was being watched. The house is intimidating yet it also pulls you in. There’s something mysterious and unnerving about it. I also enjoyed the contrast of the weather outside to how it feels in the house. The sun is shining and you can feel it’s warmth as you sit in the garden. The minute you step inside the house it’s freezing and you skin starts to tingle. It was a haunting experience, one I would gladly take again dear reader.   

I was addicted to this book, I could not put it down until I knew what secrets were buried in the house. When I learned the truth my blood ran cold, I was shocked. Just when you think you know everything there is to uncover, Moncrieff jumps out of nowhere, causing you to stumble back blindly into the dark. Heart-pounding and anxious you feel compelled to continue on, to find out the truth of what happened to Nile and his family. There are so many twists and turns that are deeply disturbing. The speaking tube gave me chills. I was fascinated by the concept of the device but could also feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up at the low moans that echoed from it.

I give The Restoration By J.H. Moncrieff a Five out of Five paw rating

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Absolutely fantastic! My fingers were gripping onto the pages, desperate for more scars, more twists, more ghosts, and boy I was not disappointed. I couldn’t get enough and was saddened when my time at Glenvale House came to an end. However I was left with a small pinch of hope that maybe this isn’t the end, but only the beginning.

This story will give you goosebumps dear reader. I highly recommend it to everyone. You won’t want to put it down until you know the truth. And the truth dear reader, will haunt you…

Don’t forget to follow the rest of the blog tour, dates below, enjoy!

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