Blog Tour: Glittering a Turd by Kris Hallenga

Kris Hallenga was living a totally normal life in her early twenties: travelling the world, falling in love, making plans. However, when she found a lump in her boob and was told that it was not only cancer, but also incurable, life took on a completely new meaning. She was diagnosed at an age when life wasn’t something to be grateful for, but a goddamn right.

Little did Kris know it was cancer that would lead her to a life she had never considered: a happy one. From founding a charity to visiting Downing Street, campaigning at festivals to
appearing on TV, and being present at the birth of her nephew; in the face of all the possible prognoses, Kris is surviving, thriving, and resolutely living.

This book might give you the motivation to appreciate your own life, it might make you realise you are doing just fine, and if needed, it might give you a kick up the bum. Most importantly, it might encourage you to reach for the glitter when shit hits the fan.

What I Thought:

I’m really struggling to ‘review’ Glittering a Turd as how on earth do you begin to critique someone else’s lived experience of cancer? So let’s look upon this as less of a review and more of an essay on why you should be reading this book immediately!

I had heard of Kris before picking up the book as I am familiar with the great work that CoppaFeel! does to inform young people about the importance of checking their bodies and to provide accurate information about cancer to all – as a regular YALC attendee, I have visited their stand, resulting in this fine picture:

But knowing about CoppaFeel! is one thing – it’s something else altogether to realise that it came about due to an inspirational young woman – yeah, I did that, even though Kris says in the book that she decidedly isn’t – and her diagnosis of incurable cancer.

The inspirational bit is not the cancer bit, the inspirational bit is that a 23-year-old decided that her experience of being a young woman not taken seriously by medical professionals should NOT be repeated. In circumstances that would have sent a lot of us back under the duvet, Kris took to a battered old van to spread the message that you should know your body, you should check yourself and that you should be taken seriously, no matter that you’re ‘too young’ to have cancer.

The subject of cancer hits hard for many people, so I’m sure that might stop some from picking up this book – I would urge those people to think again as, despite the undeniable fact that it IS a book about living with cancer, Kris’ writing is so warm and positive that it’s easy to focus on her determination to live and not just survive, rather than wallowing in how unjust it is that such a young person has that horrible, horrible disease.

This is by no means an advice manual, although there certainly is advice in the pages, it’s more a reminder that even in the midst of something bad, there can be good and laughter and connection. It’s a reminder that every day is a gift and that it’s so important to properly live.

Glittering a Turd is published by Unbound.

Coincidentally, just as I started reading this book, I learned from my friend Kirsty that she had been selected to undertake a trek in the Highlands with Giovanna Fletcher and Emma Willis, in aid of CoppaFeel! so I’m going to unashamedly plug her supporter page here – she’s reached her sponsorship goal as she’s a complete legend, but if you want to bung a few quid her way to benefit the charity, please feel free!

About the Author:

Kris Hallenga lives in Cornwall with her cat, Lady Marmalade. She and her twin sister Maren founded the first breast cancer education charity, CoppaFeel!, which raises over £2million per year, and has saved many lives. She has received a Pride of Britain Award, A Cosmopolitan Campaigner of the year award, and been awarded an honorary doctorate from Nottingham Trent University. Kris now pursues speaking engagements, writing, and dipping in the cold sea whilst working for CoppaFeel! part time. Occasionally she even finds time to remember she has cancer.

This post is part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of Glittering a Turd – check out some of the other participating blogs below:

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Line by Niall Bourke

No one hast ever left the Line, nor shalt thou. To do so wouldst dishonour the sacrifices of all those gone before.

No one hast ever left the Line, nor shalt thou. To do so wouldst mean thy family must pay your penance.

Thou mayst leave thy place in the Line but only once – when thou dost marry.

But thou can only move down the Line, never up. For that is how thou will know it is true love.

And because moving up would be skipping.

And that is the most important rule of all.

Thou Shalt Not Skip The Line. Thou Shalt Not Skip The Line

Willard, his mother and his girlfriend Nyla have spent their entire lives in an endless procession, where daily survival is dictated by the ultimate imperative: obey the rules, or lose your place in the Line. Everything changes the day Willard’s mother dies and he finds a book hidden among her few belongings.

What I Thought:

Line is that most confusing of review books – a book that is just waiting to trip the reviewer up and send them into spoiler territory!

There are so many scenes that I would like to tell you about, as Niall Bourke manages to draw such vivid pictures with his writing, but I. CAN’T. TELL. YOU. ABOUT. THEM!

So let’s start then, when we’re in no danger – The Line. The line itself is very familiar to all of us who’ve ever used an airport, but who made the line? Why are people in the line? There are rules that govern the line – who made those rules? Why do people not just leave the line?

The first half of the book asked these and many more questions, mostly as they consume Willard, and also gives us a brilliant idea of the line and the people who live in it. There are some shocking moments as we learn the penalities for breaking the rules, which very much show that we’re all only a short distance from savagery, and all of this feeds Willard’s dissatisfaction.

The second half of this book answers all of these questions, but in some very clever ways that call out a lot of aspects of our modern society that we just don’t think about, but should. Ultimately this book is an indictment of how we live, and how others exploit how we live, showing one completely possible future resulting from that. It is dark – very dark in places, but there is comedy too, some of which is funny because it’s so absurd. What’s important though is that it all flows beautifully, allowing you to be fully absorbed in Willard’s world.

Definitely recommended for fans of speculative fiction and, perhaps, something of alarm bell for the rest of us?

Line is published by Tramp Press.

About the Author:

Niall Bourke is a writer and a teacher. His work has been published widely in magazines and journals in Ireland and the UK, and his poems and stories have been short-listed for numerous awards, including the Costa Short Story Award and the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award. He lives in South London with his partner, his daughter and his cat.

This post is part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of Line – why not check out some of the participating blogs and Instagrammers taking part, as below?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Death at the Gates by Katie Gayle

Hurlingham House school is a high-achiever’s heaven, full of happy, hard-working pupils. There’s just the small matter of the dead body on the field… Sounds like a case for Epiphany Bloom!

When Epiphany Bloom’s best friend’s sister Claire is accused of trading exam papers for money, Epiphany agrees to see Ms Peters, the headteacher of Claire’s fiercely competitive school, to provide moral support. Claire has always been a model student and is loudly protesting her innocence: surely it’s all just a misunderstanding.

But when Ms Peters hears about Epiphany’s previous sleuthing exploits, she enlists her help to track down the true culprit!

Taking a job as a PE teacher, Epiphany soon realises she has plenty of suspects for the exam scam mastermind. The broke young teacher with a shady past? The father willing to buy his daughter anything – including grades? The school governor desperate to keep Hurlingham House at the top of the ranks?

Then Epiphany finds one of them dead at the school fair, and it becomes clear someone is taking the cut-throat culture of the school too literally – and when mysterious accidents start happening around her too, it seems the killer knows she’s onto them.

Can Epiphany solve the murder as well as clearing Claire’s name, before she becomes the next victim? This is one test she can’t afford to fail…

What I Thought:

Epiphany Bloom fans are spoiled for choice, as two books featuring the accident-prone, almost-detective have been published this year.

In Death at the Gates, Epiphany – or Pip to her friends – is tasked with clearing the name of her dishy flatmate’s sister in an exam papers scam, which quickly turns to murder! Can Pip help Claire, before she gets herself into more life-threatening trouble?

I really enjoy crime books like this – the crime and mystery part is dead on and makes complete sense, but there are also elements of comedy, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Our heroine for instance. Pip is a great character and you could spend ages, I’m sure, reading about her mishaps in the world of work, all across the globe! She’s delightfully self-aware, but a bit hard on herself sometimes.

The supporting characters are also great – Mummy, the thorn in Pip’s side, and Pip’s sister Flis, who is inexplicably successful with her blog, despite her wide range of malapropisms and penchant for cooking soup that smells like wet carpets.

All three of the books so far have been a delight – bright and funny, but with dastardly goings-on, the further adventures of Pip are definitely on my must-read list!

Death at the Gates is published by Bookouture.

About the Author:

Katie Gayle is the writing partnership of best-selling South African writers, Kate Sidley and Gail Schimmel. Kate and Gail have, between them, written over ten books of various genres, but with Katie Gayle, they both make their debut in the cozy mystery genre. Both Gail and Kate live in Johannesburg, with husbands, children, dogs and cats. Unlike their sleuth Epiphany Bloom, neither of them have ever stolen a cat from the vet.

Please note: I received this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Book Review: V for Victory by Lissa Evans

It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.

In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel (almost fifteen) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.

The end of the war won’t just mean peace, but discovery…

What I Thought:

Having read Old Baggage and Crooked Heart, I was delighted to continue the series with V For Victory.

After meeting Noel Bostock in Crooked Heart, Old Baggage focused on his beloved Aunt, Mattie, and revealed how the two old souls came to be in each other’s lives, but now we’re back with Noel and his guardian, Vee, as they go about their lives in a London in the midst of war.

The focus of this book is not all the flash-bang-drama of a war book – although there certainly IS drama – but it’s more about the people of London and Noel and Vee especially. There is a real sense of the war being in the closing stages, and that the people of London and the main characters in the book are counting down the clock until the shouting is over. You get a strong sense of ennui throughout, and it’s a definite skill to make you feel like that, while still grabbing your attention.

I was really struck by the similarities between Vee in this book and Mattie in Old Baggage. Although their backgrounds couldn’t be more different, they are connected as women trying to find their place in the world and also as women whose lives have been touched by Noel. Noel has matured since the first book and is a kind and thoughful young man and while Vee would claim that his intelligence and curiousity about the world comes from his early life with Mattie, you can see the effect that she herself has had on him. She could have easily discarded Noel at any time and yet she stuck with him and works hard to ensure he has a good education and this is not lost on Noel who clearly cares deeply for Vee.

Despite Noel’s overall satisfaction with his life, you can tell that there is still an underlying need to find out who he is – something that comes into play heavily in this book. This is one of the instances where it might benefit you to have read the earlier books, but it is by no means essential (although highly recommended!).

I have often recommended all three books in this series as they are beautifully written, with superb period detail and main characters that really live long in the memory. There is spectacularly dry humour here, but where the plot needs to pack a punch, it very much does so, whether that is with a huge event which rocks a number of lives, or a small, everyday detail that could easily be missed in the grand scheme of things.

I could go on and on, but put quite simply, this trilogy is just superb!

V for Victory is published by Doubleday.

About the Author:

Lissa Evans grew up in the West Midlands. She comes from a family of voracious readers and spent most of her adolescence in the local library, thus becoming well read if not wildly popular.

After studying medicine at Newcastle University, she worked as a junior doctor for four years, before deciding to change to a career in which she wasn’t terrified the entire time; a job in BBC Radio light entertainment followed, and then a switch to television, where she produced and directed series including ‘Room 101’ and also ‘Father Ted’, for which she won a BAFTA.

Her first book, ‘Spencer’s List’ was published in 2002, and since then she has written five more novels for adults (one of which, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’, was filmed in 2017) and three novels for children. She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She still reads voraciously.

Please note: I received a copy of this book via Netgalley for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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Blog Tour: Under a Greek Moon by Carol Kirkwood

Hollywood actress Shauna Jackson left the Greek island of Ithos twenty years ago and thought she would never return. Reeling from a scandal that has tarnished her success, she is drawn back to the beautiful olive groves and endless azure skies – and to the secrets she has tried hard to forget.

Looking down from his hilltop villa, enigmatic tycoon Demetrios Theodosis knows he can’t change the past, and looks to the future through his tempestuous daughter Ariana, but in trying to tame her free spirit, is he driving her further away?

Set against bleached white houses bounded by a sapphire sea, a yearning for the truth will compel them both to confront their shared past, and take them back to a distant summer that seemed to hold so much promise…

What I Thought:

I’m thrilled today to be closing out the blog tour for Carol Kirkwood’s debut novel, Under a Greek Moon.

I was immediately drawn into this book as it reminded me of those epic romantic fiction books of my formative years – Danielle Steel and Barbara Taylor Bradford were my go-to books to borrow from the library (telling the librarian that they were for my mum!) and this book gave me the same feel and brought back some really happy memories. In fact, I vividly remember reading Danielle Steel’s ‘Star’ while on holiday in Greece!

What helped very much in that feel was that the sections of Shauna’s early life were set in 1982, allowing Carol Kirkwood to draw on a rich seam of classic Hollywood celebrities and old-school glamour. I especially loved Shauna’s fascination with Grace Kelly – which I can well understand – and it was great to see her in cameo in this book.

Although Shauna’s earlier days were a great mix of exotic locations and romance, the parts I enjoyed most were where we follow Shauna as she tries to rebuild a life after a devastating scandal implodes it. This is a much more self-assured woman who is facing up to new and old demons and looking towards what comes next for her. I liked her very much.

This is a really excellent book – especially so considering it is a debut novel – and perfect holiday reading this summer. If you can’t physically travel to Greece, then just let this book paint a vivid picture of the magical island of Ithos for you!

Under a Greek Moon is published by HarperCollins.

About the Author:

 Carol Kirkwood is one of the BBC’s most loved TV presenters, best known for presenting the weather. She lights up viewers’ homes every day, appearing on programmes such as BBC Breakfast, Strictly Come Dancing, Wimbledon Tennis Fortnight, and Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show.

She is hugely popular with fans and Carol frequently trends on Twitter. Beyond the television screen, she can often be found ensconced in a book, singing, dancing, and driving fast cars.

This post is part of a tour celebrating the publication of Under a Greek Moon – why not check out some of the other reviews and exclusive content on the blogs below?

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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