Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire by @scskillman #Blog Tour @amberleybooks

May thanks to Sheila for giving me a chance to read an advanced copy of her newest release, Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire!

Warwickshire, often known as Shakespeare’s county, has a host of strange and mysterious tales ranging from ancient legends and stories of the supernatural to more modern documented cases. Curious beliefs and customs were once widespread in Warwickshire’s towns and villages, some of which still flourish today.

These strange and spooky stories include the quirky death of the Roundhead commander who owned Warwick Castle; the association of the great author J. R. R. Tolkien with the town; the story of the hand of glory obtained at Warwick hangings, and the threshold protection spell widely practised in former times. Stratford-upon-Avon’s historic buildings have witnessed many strange events over the centuries and more recently the Crackley Wood sprite has been sighted at Kenilworth. Other stories include the Wroth Silver at Knightlow Cross; the discovery of the holy grail in a box in Rugby; a violent 800-year-old ball game played annually at Atherstone on Shrove Tuesday; the sightings of a Beast at Barford; the annual wassailing ceremony at Brandon Marsh Nature Centre; and the unresolved mystery of the 1945 murder at Lower Quinton associated with witchcraft, along with other weird tales from the surrounding towns and villages.These strange and spooky stories are accompanied by the author’s photographs of places featured in the text, both present-day and historical, in this hugely entertaining book.

I have been lucky enough to give you a taster with an extract, which centres around authors associated with Warwickshire!

Famous Individuals Not Usually Associated with Warwickshire

Find what you seek, That fame may cry you loud.

All’s Well That Ends Well (Act 2, Scene 1)

J. R. R. Tolkien, Creator of Middle-earth: Inspired by Warwickshire and by the Town of Warwick
The fully realised vision of the great fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien, which emerged in his most popular works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, arose from a rich blend of his experiences, relationships, and inner life from earliest childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. For the most part, no single element of his creation, Middle-earth, can truly be said to have emerged solely from a single source. Nevertheless, he is known to have told his publisher ‘The Shire is more or less a Warwickshire village of about the period of the Diamond Jubilee.’

That refers to Queen Victoria’s sixtieth year on the throne, 1867. More commonly associated with Oxford and Birmingham, it is not widely known that Tolkien was inspired by the Warwickshire countryside and specifically by the town of Warwick itself.

Having spent his infancy in South Africa and his childhood in Birmingham, John Ronald Tolkien married his bride Edith in Warwick, at the Church of St Mary Immaculate in West Street, on 22 March 1916. While Tolkien and his

family called Sarehole, in Birmingham, their home, Edith lived in lodgings in Warwick for a while immediately prior to her marriage. Edith shared her home with her cousin Jennie and received instruction in the Catholic faith from Father Murphy, parish priest of Warwick.

The elements of Warwick so attractive to Tolkien can be detected echoing in his works throughout his life. Tolkien’s foremost biographer Humphrey Carpenter also notes that during the late sixties, Tolkien’s residency in the town was celebrated, and ‘students at Warwick University renamed the Ring Road around their campus “Tolkien Road”’.

The beauty of Warwick in former times was especially significant in relation to Tolkien’s scholarly interests as professor of Anglo-Saxon literature. Anglo-Saxon Warwick, on its rocky outcrop, commanded a crossing on the River Avon. We know that Tolkien admired the stone-built castle on its rock rising above the river, commanding a lofty position from which a wide panorama can be seen. This became a model for Middle-earth locations such as Minas Tirith. Tolkien’s early poem ‘Kortirion Among the Trees’ was written in Warwick during army leave in autumn 1915, when Tolkien’s peers were beginning to be cut down on the battlefields of Europe. In this poem he evokes a fading town overshadowed by towering elms, which was built by elves on a hill close to a river, and it contains what were to become some of his most characteristic themes. He suggested within his vision that it was no longer the dwelling place of elves as its ancient mythical beauty had waned. Nevertheless, Warwick’s remaining beauty and importance to his personal life was such that he dedicated his poem to the town and returned to its image again and again in his writing throughout his life.

The book is filled with wonderful illustrations to add depth to the words you read, too!

Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire by S C Skillman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed S C Skillman’s last foray into Warwickshire history and was thrilled to have been given a chance to read and review this next book.
Warwickshire will always be dear to my heart, and it was great to be able to read some historical tales and facts about the county, with all the fabulous photos to enhance the experience!
Add in the extra tidbits about famous local authors (and bards!) that were included, and it made for a fascinating read!

About the Author

SC Skillman lives in Warwickshire, and writes psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Association of Christian Writers.

Her two literary nonfiction books Paranormal Warwickshire and Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire are published by Amberley, and she is now writing a third book in the series called A-Z of Warwick.

Her novel, Director’s Cut , is out with publishers and she is currently working on Standing Ovation, the sequel.

She began her publishing career with the duology Mystical Circles and A Passionate Spirit which are both set in the same mysterious English manor house in the heart of England – the beautiful Cotswolds hills. There, gothic themes, paranormal events and ghostly tales are never far away. She has set the books in contemporary times, not far from her present home.

She has also written Perilous Path, A Writer’s Journey which is a self help book for those writing a novel, or who would like to write a novel. Packed full of tips and friendly reminders, it’s encouraging and motivational. It’s also for anyone who loves finding out about writers, their lives and works.

SC Skillman was born and brought up in Orpington, Kent, and has loved writing stories most of her life. She studied English Literature at Lancaster University, and her first permanent job was as a production secretary with the BBC. Later she lived for nearly five years in Australia before returning to the UK. She has now settled in Warwick with her husband and son, and her daughter currently lives and works in Australia.

The Burning Question by @Linda_Regan #BlogTour #NewRelease @fmcmassociates

I am thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for the new release by prolific crime writer, Linda Regan!

Here’s the blurb!

DCI Paul Banham and DI Alison Grainger are back. This time they’re investigating the tragic death of a young woman, burnt in her home. When another identical arson attack is reported, Grainger and Banham are on the hunt for a link, unaware that the new trainee DC, Hannah Kemp, already knows the connection.
She also knows that if she comes forward with the information, her own past will come to light, and she’ll potentially lose her job. But, if she doesn’t, more women will lose their lives.
Hannah knows who they are, and she knows their attacker will stop at nothing to keep his ring of illegal prostitutes earning. Once he realises Hannah is now a police detective, she, too, will be in mortal danger.
As the clock ticks against her own life, she must decide whether to stay quiet for the sake of her career, or risk everything she’s worked for to stop a ruthless killer once and for all.
With masterful suspense, Regan reunites readers with her beloved characters DCI Banham and DI Alison Grainger, and delivers one of her most chilling cases yet…

Now, as you will be aware, I am not often one to read crime thrillers, but I do dip in and out, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed The Burning Question, enough to make me want to backtrack and read previous books!

The Burning Question: A compulsive British detective crime thriller by Linda Regan

Crime fiction is not something I often choose to read, but when I have, I’m pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed it.
Despite not having read previous books in the series, I was able to get straight into the story of a team of detectives, assigned to investigate a death, which becomes a murder case, that then morphs into a possible serial arson case.
Entwined within the story, we find that one of the newer members of the MIT has murky background secrets which could tie in with the investigation.
I was gripped, I must say. The storyline was good, and I loved that there was a bit of romance and a human touch to what could have ended up being just another story set in a police station.

About the Author

Linda Regan is the prolific writer of eight crime novels, as well as a celebrated
actress on stage and screen. After winning a worldwide writing competition
with her novel Behind You! (2006), Linda published seven more novels,
including Passion Killers (2007) which was selected as a Sunday Observer pick
of the year. Since then, she has written the immensely popular DI Johnson
series (2015) and the DCI Banham series (2019).
In addition to her writing, Linda is a much-loved actress, known for her
recurring role in the hit BBC sitcom Hi-De-Hi, and guest appearances in popular
shows The Bill, Birds of a Feather, Doctors, and Holby City. Before joining the cast of Hi-De-Hi, Linda started out in a comedy dance troupe in her youth before going on to a lead role in the West End production of Tom Stoppard’s Dirty Linen. Playing such vivid and iconic characters throughout her career
has helped Linda to develop character-focused stories that bring a uniquely immersive filmic quality to the page.
In addition to her acting, Linda uses her personal experiences to write her signature brand of “strong crime”. All of Linda’s novels are set in South London, where Linda writes with meticulous knowledge of the landscape where she grew up and currently lives with her husband, actor Brian Murphy.

Translated Fiction Blog Tour for Karitas Untitled by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir @fmcmassosciates @amazonpub

I am over the moon to be able to launch the book tour for one of two newly translated releases by Amazon Crossing.

Today’s book is Karitas Untitled, by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir.

Growing up on a farm in early twentieth-century rural Iceland, Karitas
Ólafsdóttir, one of six siblings, yearns for a new life. As an artist, Karitas
has a powerful calling and is determined to never let go of her true
unconventional self. But she is powerless against the fateful turns of real
life and all its expectations of women. Pulled back time and again by
design and by chance to the Icelandic countryside―as dutiful daughter,
loving mother, and fisherman’s wife―she struggles to thrive, to be what
she was meant to be.
Spanning decades and set against a breathtaking historical canvas,
Karitas Untitled, an award-winning classic of Icelandic literature, is a
complex and immersive portrait of an artist’s conflict with love, family,
nature, and a country unaccustomed to an untraditional woman―but
most of all, with herself and the creative instincts she has no choice but
to follow.

I am able to share a sneak peek chapter of the book for you to peruse at your leisure.

Untitled 1915
Pencil drawing
The morning is misty gray.
The colors of the sea, the mountain, and the valley have dulled, as if the thin strip of fog painted over a picture in haste before fleeing the bitter cold that crept into the bay in the small hours.
Over the heath, still white with snow despite it being Whitsuntide, goes a cart, pulled by sturdy workhorses. Men from the valley escort the widow to her ship.
She rides straight-backed, with Halldóra next to her, shoulders slumped. The two elder brothers follow the cart, listening to its every creak.
Among the trunks, knitting machine, and sacks huddle we two younger sisters, bundled in wool. Our youngest brother rests in the arms of Bjarghildur, who hums to him, while I sit scrunched between two trunks, watching the shoreline recede.
A horse-drawn cart on a white heath.
Anxiety at the trip over the heath has kept me from sleeping for many nights. I know that an evil spirit dwells here, luring travelers and dragging them to a deep bowl hidden among the steep, landslide-ridden slopes. I look bitterly at my siblings, who have never sensed the presence of trolls and monsters as I have, let alone perceived ghosts, and I regret not having stayed behind like the maid.
Over the white heath hangs a fog that is waiting to swallow us.
All around me in the cold stillness, I hear whispering.

The hold’s hatches and the opening to the staircase had both been shut after the sea worsened, and the sour smell of vomit hung over the prostrate passengers. The families had prepared makeshift beds on the floor, while two women not in the death grip of seasickness propped themselves on their elbows and entertained each other with birthing stories. Steinunn was speaking.
“Karitas came from the sea, but Bjarghildur from the ground like any old potato plant. I was home digging up potatoes when I began having contractions, and everyone else was out in the fields. At first, I ignored the disturbance because the potatoes needed harvesting no less than the hay, and I was convinced I had enough time as it had taken three days to bring my eldest daughter into the world. But when the pangs intensified and I thought I had better go inside, it was too late: all I could do was squat there in the potato patch and let nature take its course. Two years later, when I had my third daughter, it was the same story, but that time, I was down at the beach gathering seaweed when the contractions began. From my previous experience, I knew how things would go, so I went behind a big rock where I would have sand beneath my feet, but as I was delivering, the tide began coming in, and it was only by the grace of God that the child wasn’t swept away. After two births in nature, I didn’t dare venture far from the farmhouse the next times I was due, and because of that, it was soft bedclothes that received my three boys, not sea and soil.”
It was evident from the other passenger’s expression that she wasn’t certain whether Steinunn was telling her what really happened or a dream. Still, it being an excellent story, she decided not to ask, although she did peer at the sisters as if trying to guess which had come from where and which had come into the world the ordinary way. They lay sprawled over each other like kits in their den, deathly pale and helpless from nausea, but their brothers, apart from the youngest, sleeping in his mother’s lap, were no longer susceptible to seasickness and had stayed on deck with the crew.
Steinunn’s fellow passenger had no such stories of her own, having delivered all of her children indoors, but in order not to be outdone by the widow, she resorted to relating some unusual delivery stories that she’d heard. After chatting long enough to reach the point when conversants begin sharing their personal circumstances and plans, Steinunn told the woman briefly about her desire to provide her children with educations. The woman, astonished at Steinunn’s daring, rocked on her mattress and asked whether it wasn’t madness for the widow to rush off into the unknown with six children and an empty purse. Steinunn replied that in this case, having no money made no difference.
“In Iceland, no one who works dies.”
Her fellow passenger agreed, but said that she, poor commoner that she was, could never have imagined sending her children to school, and in any case, it was too late now, since they’d all grown up and moved away. Yet she couldn’t resist mentioning one of her sons, who was a highly distinguished person, “and a deckhand on the Gullfoss itself, neither more nor less, the new ship that arrived in the spring. On board, they dance and sing, I’m told; the ship is so big and steady that there’s hardly any rolling out on the open sea. The cabins are all first class, and when the ship glides into the ports of Europe, all of the passengers, most of whom are higher-ups, gather on deck and wave at the crowd waiting on the quay.” Steinunn, who’d had to settle for a place in the ship’s hold to spare expenditure and had little desire to hear about the luxuries of the upper class, thought for a moment before replying that she doubted that people waited on the quay in foreign lands—“at least not the men, because as far as I know, all of Europe is at war, and they’re most likely on the battlefield, and although I don’t doubt the magnificence of the ship, I can hardly imagine that women on the Continent have any more time than we do for loitering on the quay, even if a ship docks.” At this reminder of the war being fought on the Continent, Steinunn’s fellow passenger grew anxious about her son and didn’t hear it when Karitas asked quietly whether she had any idea what it cost to sail aboard such a fine ship. When no answer came, Karitas gave Bjarghildur a little nudge and whispered in her ear: “Do you think we’ll ever sail overseas aboard such a ship?” Bjarghildur responded crustily to the irritating whispering, waved Karitas off, and exhaled weakly, “Leave me alone; I have no home.” Karitas saw that there was little to be gained from her in the state she was in and turned to Halldóra to ask the same thing, but stopped when she saw her sister’s expression. It didn’t result from nausea alone, that much she knew, and she stroked her sister’s arm to express affection and sympathy. Her sister just lay there, curled up and miserable on her makeshift bed, although the suffering on her face did nothing to spoil her comeliness. She resembled an image of the Savior on the cross.
Gloom settled over the hold; they were out on the deep, and the rolling intensified. The vomiting worsened, the little ones wet themselves, and the sisters held their noses, tried to breathe through their mouths. Then they felt the ship slow down; the engines hiccupped and stopped. People propped themselves on their elbows and stared at the hatches. For several moments, neither a cough nor a groan was heard.
“Ice,” someone then groaned from one corner. “Damned ice.”
The hatches were torn open.
Freezing sea air streamed into the hold.

Purchase your copy, here!

Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir is one of Iceland’s most acclaimed writers and the
internationally bestselling author of numerous novels, including Karitas Untitled,
a Nordic Council Literature Prize nominee; Street of the Mothers; Chaos on
Canvas; and Seagull’s Laughter, which was adapted for the stage and also into
an award-winning film. She received her degree in 1991 from the University of
Iceland and has also worked as a teacher and a journalist. Among Kristín Marja’s
many honors are the Knight’s Cross of the Icelandic Order of the Falcon for her
achievements in writing and her contributions to Icelandic literature, the Jónas
Hallgrímsson Prize, and the Fjöruverðlaun Women’s Literature Prize. Kristín Marja
lives in Reykjavík.
Philip Roughton is an award-winning translator of many of Iceland’s best-known
authors, including Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness, Jón Kalman Stefánsson,
Þórarinn Eldjárn, Bergsveinn Birgisson, and Steinunn Sigurðardóttir.

Golden Healer by @Marjorie_Mallon #BlogTour

I am always excited to be able to feature a dear friend on my blog, and today is the turn of the lovely and most talented Marjorie Mallon!

Now, I have to tell you, I have waited a good few years for this sequel to Marje’s first book, Bloodstone, and thought I read an early first draft of the new book, I was extremely privileged to read the finished product, which continues the story of Amelina in her quest to break The Curse Of Time!

Golden Healer is The 2nd in The YA Paranormal Adventure Series – The Curse of Time.

I didn’t think my life could get any weirder, until the dreaded rollercoaster…

Amelina Scott’s destiny is to be a Krystallos: a magician of light, chosen to learn the ways of crystal magic on her 16th birthday. Located on a river pathway in a mysterious part of Cambridge, the Crystal Cottage is guarded by mythical beings.

Unfortunately, there are those who seek to harm this haven of light. Learning of Ryder – a Shadow Sorcerer with hypnotic powers – Amelina discovers that her own magic is now threatened, and that the Curse of Time might be unleashed again.

As secrets abound and the creatures of the Chronophage come alive, can Amelina become the true magician she needs to be?

A unique, imaginative mystery full of magic-wielding and dark elements, Bloodstone is a riveting adventure for anyone interested in fantasy, mythology or the world of the paranormal. NOTE: this book contains mention of self-harm, mental health issues and alludes to the potential dangers of sexual attraction, which may trigger younger/sensitive readers.

Buy Here!

The Series is inspired by:

The Corpus Christi Chronophage clock on King’s Parade, Cambridge. Find out more here:


And Juniper Artland – artist Anya Gallaccio’s sculpture The Light pours out of Me.

And the 2nd book Golden Healer mentions a popular old haunt of Cambridge  which has since closed down – Clowns Cafe.


My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros!

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these two vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.

Her motto is to Do what Your Heart Desires.

And her favourite genre to write is fantasy/magical realism because life should always be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic!

Accolades: M J is a finalist in the Fantasy category of N. N. Light’s Book Award for her novel Bloodstone and a finalist in the International author. She has also contributed best-selling short stories to Dan Alatorre’s Box Under The Bed anthologies.

Winner of the Blogger’s bash blogging prize with her flash fiction piece The Queen’s Dress Down Day.

Winner of Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest with her murderous piece: Mr. Blamey

#RachelIsBack Book Re-Release tour! Rachel’s Holiday by @MarianKeyes @fmcmassociates

It’s not often that you get the chance to showcase the work of a writing LEGEND, and I am in that position, right now!

Writing powerhouse Marian Keyes had a book out, twenty five years ago, called Rachel’s Holiday. Now, it might sound like a bit of a fluffy read, a beach romance sort of thing, but no, Rachel’s Holiday is a much meatier read than that, and along with a bit of the comedic genius that Keyes always adds into her books, she delves into more serious issues.

Rachel and her experiences never left many readers, or Marian, herself, so, next year, a sequel is coming out, Rachel, Again.

However, before that, Rachel’s Holiday is being rereleased – a 25th Anniversary special – and I am honoured to be a part of the blog tour to celebrate this!

The Blurb…

Meet Rachel Walsh. She has a pair of size 8 feet and such a fondness for recreational drugs that her family has forked out the cash for a spell in Cloisters – Dublin’s answer to the Betty Ford Clinic. She’s only agreed to her incarceration because she’s heard that rehab is wall-to-wall jacuzzis, gymnasiums and rock stars going tepid turkey – and it’s about time she had a holiday.

But what Rachel doesn’t count on are the toe-curling embarrassments heaped on her by family and group therapy, the dearth of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll – and missing Luke, her ex. What kind of a new start in life is this?

And, here’s my review!

Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now, not having access to Goodreads, 25 years ago, what better time to post my review of a fantastic book, by a fabulous author, on the re-release of it?
I treated myself to a re-read, as well, all almost 600 pages of it, in one weekend, too!
This is quite a read, filled with comedic moments, however, the real subject is no laughing matter.
We have Rachel Walsh, our hapless heroine, who finds herself back in Ireland, incarcerated in Cloisters, a clinic for addicts, after an accidental overdose in New York.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with Rachel.
Oh, no.
It was all a misunderstanding.
She can’t wait to get out.
But, the eight weeks she stays there, end up being the most poignant years of her life.
Rachel is the middle sister of five, in a loving Irish family. Well, as loving as you can get, with all that oestrogen running rife around the house. Many choices she makes in life are a direct result of how she felt, growing up.
And some of those decisions led her to drugs.
Addiction does a lot to you. You may feel you are gaining a lot, every time you feel that high from your chosen poison, but in reality, you are losing everything around you. And every one that really mattered.
Rachel’s Holiday explores this whole scenario, including the stages of acceptance, that you might, indeed, be an addict.
I loved this, and cannot wait for the sequel which is due out next year!

Can I say, I am a little excited at having read a teeny snippet of Rachel, Again, and I now can’t wait for that to be released, either!

A little bit about Marian Keyes

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes review – comic, convincing and true | Marian Keyes  | The Guardian

Marian Keyes is one of the most successful Irish novelists of all time. Though she was brought up in a home where a lot of oral story-telling went on, it never occurred to her that she could write. Instead she studied law and accountancy and finally started writing short stories in 1993 “out of the blue.” Though she had no intention of ever writing a novel (“It would take too long”) she sent her short stories to a publisher, with a letter saying she’d started work on a novel. The publishers replied, asking to see the novel, and once her panic had subsided, she began to write what subsequently became her first book Watermelon, published in 1995.

To date, the woman who said she’d never write a novel has published 13 of them: WatermelonLucy Sullivan is Getting MarriedRachel’s HolidayLast Chance SaloonSushi for BeginnersAngelsThe Other Side of the StoryAnybody Out ThereThis Charming ManThe Brightest Star in the Sky , The Mystery of Mercy CloseThe Woman Who Stole My Life, and The Break Her books have all been bestsellers around the world, with a total of over 30 million of her books sold to date in 33 languages. Anybody Out There won the British Book Awards award for popular fiction and the inaugural Melissa Nathan Prize for Comedy Romance. This Charming Man won the Irish Book Award for popular fiction. Marian’s latest book Grown Ups is publishing in hardback and eBook in February 2020.

The books deal variously with modern ailments, including addiction, depression, domestic violence, the glass ceiling and serious illness, but always written with compassion, humour and hope.

In 2009, Marian experienced the start of a major depressive episode, and had to stop any work. Eventually she found that baking cakes helped her survive; and in 2012, she published Saved by Cake, which combines recipes with autobiography.

As well as novels she has written short stories, and articles for various magazines and other publications. She has published three collections of her journalism, titled Under the Duvet  and Further Under the Duvet, now collected in one volume under the title Under the Duvet: Deluxe Edition, and donated all royalties from Irish sales to the Simon Community, a charity which works with the homeless. In 2016 Marian published a new collection of essays, Making It Up As I Go Along.

She was born in Limerick in 1963, and brought up in Cavan, Cork, Galway and Dublin; she spent her twenties in London, but is now living in Dún Laoghaire with her husband Tony. She includes among her hobbies reading, movies, shoes, handbags and feminism.

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