blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Taste of Iron and Gold – Alexandra Rowland

The Goblin Emperor meets “Magnificent Century” in Alexandra Rowland’s A Taste of Gold and Iron, where a queer central romance unfolds in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire.

Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.

To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.

My thoughts: it took me a while to understand how the world in this book works, and how people relate to each other as the court is very formal and full of rules about who can do or say what to whom. But once I got my head around all of the traditions and relationships, it all flowed very nicely.

The Prince, Kadou, wants to cement his bond with his sister – the Queen, and his new baby niece, who he’s very fond of, and by taking on a complex investigation into counterfeit coins, the Shipbuilder’s Guild and some of the servants closest to the royal family. There’s a conspiracy here and he must get to the heart of it before anyone he cares for is placed in danger.

I liked the growing connection between Kadou and his bodyguard Evemer, the complex layers of servitude and courtly manners making it hard for them to even say exactly what they mean at times. But as they grow closer, it takes on more complexity as Kadou’s former guard is still around and still trying to foster a relationship with Kadou that he doesn’t want. I really liked Eozena – the guard captain and also the only person allowed to tell the Queen and Prince what to do. She was very funny at times, bossing Kadou about in her affectionate, almost parental way.

Kadou was at first quite hard to read, he’s shy and quite reserved, keeping things to himself and struggling to form friendships and connections. Kept separate from most people because of his status, he struggles to bond but with Evemer, he opens up. It’s rather sweet.

The world building was fascinating and complex, lots of layers and etiquette involved. The story was clever, with the conspiracy and counterfeiting, something you might expect royalty to have nothing to do with, cutting right to the heart and Kadou having to become a detective to solve it with Eozena and Evemer to help him.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Devil’s Chew Toy – Rob Osler

Perfect for fans of T.J. Klune, Becky Albertalli, and David Levithan, this hilarious, big-hearted LGBTQ+ mystery follows an unlucky in love—and life—gay relationship blogger who teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a fiesty bull terrier to find a missing go-go boy and bring down an international crime ring.

When Hayden McCall’s new crush suddenly disappears, the twenty-something gay ginger relationship blogger and middle-school teacher teams up with a take charge butch lesbian, a gentle giant, and a feisty bull terrier to find the missing guy. 

Driven by a belief that the police won’t take the crime seriously, the improbable crime fighters prove that friendship — fueled by a lot of caffeine — has the power to bring down a diabolic international crime ring.

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Prior to Devil’s Chew Toy, Rob Osler’s short story, Analogue, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, won the Mystery Writers of America Robert L Fish Award as part of the 2022 Annual Edgar Awards. Rob lives in California with his long-time partner and a tall gray cat. 

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Interview:

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

As DEVIL’S CHEW TOY is a contemporary novel set in a city I’m extremely familiar with, there was not a heavy research task. Also, because the two main characters are VERY amateur sleuths, I could avoid needing to get a lot of police procedure right—though there is some police interaction. That said, it’s amazing how many little questions arise in every chapter that require a pause and some desk research. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

The hardest character to write was Hollister—not that she was too challenging. I strove to be respectful of Hollister’s identity as a Black lesbian in America without going so deeply into her character that hers became a story that wasn’t mine to tell. 

The easiest character to write was Hayden McCall. Why? Because there’s a whole lot of me in him. We are both naturally shy and smaller of stature (though he’s shorter and slighter). I took Hayden on the type of adventure—with a bolder, stronger, and more courageous friend—that I would love to go on.

There are many cozy mysteries out there….What makes yours different?

My story features two extremely amateur sleuths, one mild-mannered gay ginger and one butch lesbian. I’ve heard from some reviewers and readers that while pairing a gay and a lesbian as the main protagonists is not unprecedented it is uncommon. Also, I intentionally wrote a story in which the queer characters are neither the villains nor the tragic victims. 

What advice would you give budding writers?

Understand that whatever amount of patience you have will be depleted and then some. Publishing moves in increments of months. It takes a long time—and a lot of collaborators—to bring a book to market.

Your book is set in Seattle. Have you ever been there?

I set the book in Seattle because it’s my “Spirit City.” I lived there for nearly twenty years and loved it. Given as much time as it takes to write a book, I wanted to return to Seattle and its neighborhoods and hills and waterways during the long writing process.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have been a marketing and branding strategist for many decades, both at agency/consultancies and at technology corporations. I think the general mind set of prioritizing activities that matter most has helped me with all aspects of writing and the navigating the publishing process.

How long have you been writing?

I actually started my professional career as advertising copywriter writing television commercials for Kellogg’s and Tropicana and Procter & Gamble. Fiction writing also uses words to communicate but that’s about the only commonality I’ve found! It’s the difference between landing one memorable message versus telling a compelling, captivating story over three hundred-plus pages. Trust me, a novel is way harder.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

You know, I really never do. But then I’m not much of a procrastinator either—not that they’re the same thing. My biggest challenge is going off on a tangent with a character or a scene that needlessly complicates the story and “writes me into a corner.” I do a lot revisions.

What is your next project?

I have recently sold my second short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It features a fifty-something cross-dressing whacky amateur sleuth named Perry Winkle who solves a murder at his Palm Springs condo community.

What genre do you write and why?

I write traditional mysteries because that has been the genre I have always most loved to read. And I feature LGBTQ+ main characters because I am gay and we need more books—of all genres—that represent the great and glorious rainbow of humanity. 

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Two spring to mind. The first: THE SAVAGE KIND by John Copenhaver, who also happens to be a very nice human being. This novel—no surprise—won the Lambda Literary Award for best mystery this year. The second: DEAD LETTERS FROM PARADISE by Ann McMan is sheer delight. Both books are truly terrific.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

“I can’t wait to read the next one!”

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

Both Hayden and I are gay, mild-mannered, quiet, but good for an occasionally humorous one-liner. We both play tennis and enjoy big personalities. As Hayden says, “we balance each other out.”

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

The characters are so distinct in my head, I can’t picture a known movie star playing either Hayden, Hollister or Burley. However, I can see Della Rupert, the oddball proprietress of Barkingham Palace, played superbly by Melissa McCarthy.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

Stanley Kellogg’s “Falling Hard,” of course! This song, which was made up along with the new country star himself, reoccurs throughout the story. Fun fact! After the book was published, a good friend, Ben Davis, and I completed the lyrics and Ben wrote the music and produced the track. It’s on my website. Check it out!

What were the biggest rewards with writing your book?

Hearing from readers that they enjoyed it. 

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

Long.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Every time you are certain you’re done working on a book, know that you aren’t.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Agatha Christie and Armistead Maupin.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

There’s a line that 91-year-old Jerry delivers in reply to Hayden’s question: “How did you get to be so wise old man?” Over the whistle of the kettle, Jerry replies, “I managed to live a long damn time.”  That “damn” was an Eff-bomb until the final edit. It was the only strong swear word in the book. By removing it the book avoided an R rating, if you will. But I still love the idea of Jerry saying the line with more gusto!

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

No snacking. But I do try to drink plenty of water.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I’ve never been able to do the coffee shop thing. I am too easily distracted.

Do you write every day?

Not every day. But I do write most days. 

What is your writing schedule?

I usually write in two- to three-hour spurts. In a mystery, context and pacing is so important I am not skilled enough to dipping in and out.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

Nope. I just plop my butt down and starting tap, tap, tapping. I will say I find it very difficult to stop writing before I finish a chapter, even in the roughest draft form.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. But I do use notebook paper to scribble plot ideas before I write.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

The seventies. The music was awesome. Though I’m still wary of bell bottom pants.

Favorite travel spot?

Switzerland.

Favorite dessert?

Raspberry rhubarb pie

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you? 

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Tales of the City

All the Light We Cannot See

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I set off for Alaska to work on fish processing barge after my sophomore year at college. If fish were running, the shift was 16 hours, every day until all the fish were processed. I still don’t know why I did it, but I returned two more summers. 

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I have been life-long tennis player and watcher. I can usually name the top twenty men players—and often in order!

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

Rob Osler writes traditional mysteries featuring LGBTQ+ main characters. 

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

We are social creatures who need human interaction.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

Inventing Anna by Shonda Rhimes on Netflix.

What is your theme song?

“Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. 

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

“The Seaside” by The Lazy Eyes

What is something that made you laugh recently?

Jinx Monsoon’s roast performance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Hi-lar-ious.

What is your go-to breakfast item?

Toast and yogurt with berries.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

I have a green argyle sweater I bought in Seattle thrift store about forty years ago.

Tell us about your longest friendship.

Twin girls, Kelly and Shelly. I grew up with them. We went to elementary, middle school, high school and then to the same out-of-state college! Just a few months back, I did a book event at the wonderful Boise bookshop Rediscovered Books. Guess who was in the front row?

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

Willy Ames who played the role of Tommy on Eight is Enough.


My thoughts: this is a very funny book. I loved Hayden and Hollister, the world’s most ridiculous PIs, in their very recognisable car, hunting for their missing friend, ably assisted by the excellent Burley (who bakes, this book made me hungry!)

The characters are great fun, the plot completely bonkers at times and there’s an adorable dog in the mix too. It reminded me of How I Paid For College by Marc Acito (one of my favourite books) and several other highly entertaining capers I’ve read. I really want more of Hayden and Hollister solving crimes and getting in way too deep with things that are maybe best left to actual law enforcement.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Twelve Percent Dread – Emily McGovern

A fast-paced, laugh-a-page graphic novel about friendship, capitalism, and never putting your f***ing phone away!

Katie and Nas are best friends, exes, co-dependents. They share everything, including a tiny room in a North London townhouse belonging to their landlord Jeremy, former host of the hit 90s show ‘Football Lads’.

While Katie bounces from job to job and obsesses about falling behind in life, Nas has bigger things in mind—waiting endlessly for their visa to come through, while working on a seismic art project that will revolutionize politics and society as we know it. Their friend Emma, meanwhile, seems to have it all figured out—job, mortgage, engagement—yet the long hours working for tech giant Arko and endless wedding admin prove equally dread-inducing.

But when Katie’s latest job finds her tutoring the daughter of Arko’s formidable CEO, Michelle, and Emma welcomes the eccentric and enigmatic Alicia to her team at Arko, none of the three women are aware that their lives—and possibly the future of society itself—are about to change forever.

Twelve Percent Dread is a fast-paced, laugh-a-page graphic novel about friendship, capitalism, and never putting your f***ing phone away from Emily McGovern, author of Bloodlust & Bonnets and the hugely popular webcomic My Life As A Background Slytherin.

My thoughts: Bloodlust & Bonnets is still one of my favourite graphic novels of the last few years – it’s very, very funny and we need a sequel please! So I was delighted to be gifted a copy of Twelve Percent Dread to review.

It didn’t disappoint, funny, insightful, intelligent and wry, this is very much a book for right now. With a giant tech firm, its megalomaniac founder poised to try to take over everyone’s lives, while threatening the Prime Minister and barely parenting her teenage daughter, and two young people who have to share a room even though they broke up – rent is not cheap people, just trying to get through life, make enough money to survive, oh and not get deported, this is the satirical read we need!

Katie and Nas are just about surviving, Katie’s addicted to her phone, just lost her job and needs to get a new one – not least because the rent is due. Nas is hoping to stay in the UK (why?) and isn’t allowed to get a job. And now they want to bring down Arko. As things start to spiral out of control, will they be ok?

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Grooms Wore White – Charlie Lyndhurst

Even wedding planners struggle to get it right…
Jason is the best wedding planner around, known as the Fairy Godfather to the couples whose special days he plans. But coming up against workplace prejudice is taking a toll on his love for his job.
His mother-in-law, Mel, has just discovered her husband has been cheating on her with a younger woman. Nearing fifty, jobless and struggling, she needs to work out who she is aside from a mum and a wife, and get her life back on track.
Meanwhile, up-tight wedding planner Harriet is struggling to find her own true love – if such a thing exists. Between liars, married men, and disaster dates, she thinks she may never find the one. And
her outdated attitude toward LGBT marriages make her even more bitter.
When Jason starts Extra Weddings – helping people marry whoever they like, in whatever way they want – he, Mel and Harriet find themselves coming together to help couples make memories to last
a lifetime. But can they bridge their gaps, and be a unit when others need them most?
Fans of Casey McQuiston, Lindsey Kelk and Justin Myers are invited to the most heart-warming and extravagant wedding event of 2022.

AMZ Kobo Apple

Charlie Lyndhurst is an award-shortlisted gay romance novelist, writing tutor, ghostwriter, and the Diversity Officer of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The Grooms Wore White is his first commercial crossover novel.
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My thoughts: I really enjoyed this, Jason and Pete were lovely and Mel getting her groove back made me cheer. Her stupid husband deserved everything he’d done to himself. It took a while to warm to Harriet, whose opinions were stuck in the 1950s, and needed a good sharp shock to jump into the 2020s.

I liked the clever use of almost the correct names – The Fridays, Appledrama, for real bands and brands, that made me laugh. Having planned my own wedding, nightmare!, I think I’d hire a wedding planner like Jason if I ever had to do it again. Let someone else deal with all the chaos and stress.

Funny, thought provoking, sweet and heartfelt, a really enjoyable book. Hope for more from this author soon.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Instagram Tour: Atonement Camp for Redemption – Evan J. Corbin

Head over to Instagram to find out my thoughts on today’s book – sequel to Atonement Camp for Unrepentant Homophobes

Rick Harris finds himself back at a place he never thought he’d return—the Atonement Camp. With Marilyn now serving as camp director, Rick turns away from his empty home—and his equally vacant pursuits with headless online suiters—to accept a job teaching at the camp. With Garrett missing, Rick and his friends soon learn that there’s more to the jobs they were offered than they were led to believe.

Meanwhile, Missy Bottom seeks revenge against Rick and those who thwarted her plan: to invalidate the New Revelation and gain her esteemed Luminary membership. Caught in the middle of warring factions of Luminaries and camp spies, Rick and his friends struggle to uncover Missy’s plans while concealing their true purpose at camp from those who begin to suspect their teaching credentials are somewhat lacking.

Old enemies become allies as Rick and his friends are forced to choose between those who would seek to invalidate the New Revelation and sacrifice all the newfound LGBTQ freedoms that came with it, and those who would leverage the ancient teaching for retribution. Rick faces an equally intractable decision—whom does he truly love? And why? Rick soon learns that the answer to those questions may be the key to solving more than one problem.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Dr Susan’s Reign – Katerina Degratte

When a mad scientist swipes her chatty pet, she’ll claw her way through any danger to get her back…

Cat Johnson just wants a quiet life. Living paycheck to paycheck, the soft-spoken game-store clerk prefers to spend her nights home alone in the company of her sassy, talking kitty, Maori. But when a beautiful woman lures her out on a date, she’s devastated to discover it was a ruse to abduct her beloved feline friend.

Forcing the duplicitous dame to show her where Maori was taken, Cat races to a secret research lab to rescue her bestie. But she’s horrified when her snarky pal has been transformed into a giant killing machine.

Can Cat free Maori from a terrifying fate?

Dr. Susan’s Reign is the electrifying first book in the Cat Johnson Chronicles LGBTQ science fiction series. If you like strong female characters, sarcastic four-footed heroines, and non-stop action, then you’ll love Katerina Degratte’s meowsome tale.

Available on Amazon

My thoughts: the premise of this was interesting and having discussed it with my cat, Ted, I’m not sure I wouldn’t want a giant cat, however the food bill would be astronomical and I don’t think a super sized Ted would fit through the cat flap!

Cat Johnson’s precious Maori is turned into such a giant fluffball and hangs out in the woods with a giant tiger and some creepy giant spiders (not into that, thanks) while Cat tries to get an antidote made up, even though the outfit she works for wants to turn her pet into kibble.

Cat herself is woefully naive and keeps falling for the worst women, first Susan, then Raven, neither of whom are exactly on the side of the angels. But she does love animals and wants to help them rather than put them down – it’s not like anyone asked them if they wanted to be made gigantic!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books

Blog Tour: No Good About Goodbye – C.T. Liotta

nogoodaboutgoodbye-copy

“Like Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, if Simon’s mom were a vodka-soaked spy and grown assassins were trying to kill Simon.”

Welcome to the book tour for No Good About Goodbye by C.T. Liotta. Read on for more info and a chance to win some fun giveaways!

Ebook Final Cover

No Good About Goodbye

Publication Date: November 24th, 2021

Genre: YA/ Coming-of-Age/ Adventure/ LGBTQ2+

Publisher: ‎Rot Gut Pulp

Fifteen-year-old Ian Racalmuto’s life is in ruins after an embassy raid in Algiers. His mother, a vodka-drunk spy, is dead. His brother, a diplomat, has vanished. And, he’s lost a cremation urn containing a smartphone that could destroy the world.

Forced to live with his cantankerous grandfather in Philadelphia, Ian has seven days to find his brother and secure the phone—all while adjusting to life in a troubled urban school and dodging assassins sent to kill him.

Ian finds an ally in William Xiang, an undocumented immigrant grappling with poverty, a strict family, and abusive classmates. They make a formidable team, but when Ian’s feelings toward Will grow, bombs, bullets and crazed bounty hunters don’t hold a candle to his fear of his friend finding out. Will it wreck their relationship, roll up their mission, and derail a heist they’ve planned at the State Department?

Like a dime store pulp adventure of the past, No Good About Goodbye is an incautious, funny, coming-of-age tale for mature teens and adult readers.

“Brilliant… a rollicking good read. Rich with often realistically crude boy lingo, No Good About Goodbye is an utterly charming teenage LGBTQ falling-in-love adventure while simultaneously rocking an international crime storyline.”—C.S. Holmes, Indiereader

A smart, funny pile-up at the intersection of Surrender Your SonsGrasshopper Jungle, and a pulp spy thriller.

IndieReader Review

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Excerpt

The airport baggage conveyor spun for twenty minutes while Ian and Mario caught up. Ian’s voice differed from his grandfather’s. His Italian was perfect, but his English fused accents learned around the world. He merged British and American dialects, rolled an occasional r, and mispronounced words. He hated his patois. Worse was that, like Mario, he flailed his hands when he spoke. Deena would sometimes say that to silence the two, she might cut off their arms.

“So let me get this straight,” said Mario. “Richard Finzel wants to start a war using codes on your mother’s smartphone.”

“Yes.”

“Where is he now?”

“Dead. I triggered a bomb.”

“They recovered his body?” asked Mario.

“No, they found three of his teeth.”

“Teeth aren’t vital,” said Mario.

“Of course they are,” said Ian. “He won’t be able to chew things, and he’ll die.” He tilted his head. “Even if he survived and still wanted to start his war, he’d have to find mom’s phone and fly to D.C. to activate it. I hid the phone inside Aunt Judy’s funeral urn. Diplomatic security recovered it while I was in hospital. It’s out of my hands.”

“You’re certain they have it?” asked Mario.

“They said they would handle it,” said Ian.

“Shit,” Mario groaned under his breath. A blue suitcase appeared. “Ecco qua!” he said.

“No,” said Ian. “Mine has a Pan Am logo on it.”

Mario wheeled a cart toward them and stacked the bags Ian had pulled. A glittery tag on a steamer chest revealed his mother’s address in her script, and Mario’s eyes saddened. “You shouldn’t be the one to do this.”

“Someone has to,” replied Ian, “though I’d rather be with dad.”

“Algiers is too dangerous.”

“Algiers has always been too dangerous!” Ian erupted, throwing his hands up. Mario stepped back, surprised by the outburst. Ian lowered his voice. “Non voglio pensarci. Erik’s missing and dad’s sitting alone in a hotel room with a stuffed shirt convincing him he’s dead. I can hear the conversation now. Erik is gone. It’s a recovery, Cardiff, not a rescue. Little Ian has an undeveloped frontal cortex and uses denial to cope with grief.” He dug his hands in his pockets and settled back.

“Are you in denial?” asked Mario.

“I would deny it if I were,” said Ian. “I’ve developed the good sense to shut my mouth when adults think one way and I think another. Let’s discuss it, they say. Discussion only ever means debate. I’m sick of debating. I’ll say whatever people want me to say in public if it makes it easier to be who I am in private.”

“No man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.” Mario winked. “That’s Nathaniel Hawthorne. Bet you didn’t know that. In spycraft they call it the wilderness of mirrors.”

Ian waved the old man off. “Erik’s out there. I have, at best, seven days to locate him before the trail turns to ice. It’s not just about finding him—living with him abroad is the only way to get my life back on track. Philly is perdition. No offense, but I shouldn’t be here.”

The bag carousel stopped. Mario pointed to a stuffy office for lost bags, and Ian gathered his backpack.

Grab a copy at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Bookshop

About the Author

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CT Liotta was born and raised in West Virginia before moving to Ohio for college, where he majored in Biology. He now uses Philadelphia as his base of operations. You can find him backpacking all over the world.

Liotta takes interest in writing, travel, personal finance, and sociology. He likes vintage airlines and aircraft, politics, news, foreign affairs, ’40s pulp and film noir. He doesn’t fear math or science, and is always up for Indian food. His favorite candy bar used to be Snickers, but lately it’s been 3 Musketeers. He isn’t sure why.

CT Liotta | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Newsletter

US Giveaway:

Grand prize winner gets:

1 Autographed ARC Copy of NO GOOD ABOUT GOODBYE

1 $25 Amazon Gift Card

1 Set of fake mustaches

1 Set of invisible ink pens

2 Fake passports with stamps for blowing town incognito

A custom thank-you note and luggage stickers

Page a day travel journal

Second place winner gets:

1 Autographed ARC Copy of NO GOOD ABOUT GOODBYE

1 $10 Amazon Gift Card

2 Fake passports with stamps for blowing town incognito

A custom thank-you note and luggage stickers.

Third place winner gets:

1 Autographed ARC Copy of NO GOOD ABOUT GOODBYE

2 Fake passports with stamps for blowing town incognito

A custom thank-you note and luggage stickers

Click HERE to enter!

Book Tour Organized By:

R&R Button

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Blog Tour: The Thousand Eyes – A.K. Larkwood

Just when they thought they were out…

Two years after defying the wizard Belthandros Sethennai and escaping into the great unknown, Csorwe and Shuthmili have made a new life for themselves, hunting for secrets among the ruins of an ancient snake empire.

Along for the ride is Tal Charossa, determined to leave the humiliation and heartbreak of his hometown far behind him, even if it means enduring the company of his old rival and her insufferable girlfriend.

All three of them would be quite happy never to see Sethennai again. But when a routine expedition goes off the rails and a terrifying imperial relic awakens, they find that a common enemy may be all it takes to bring them back into his orbit.

My thoughts: do not mess with creepy snake gods – that’s the main takeaway from this book. I suppose if you keep prodding a bear, it will eventually bite you. Which is essentially what Sethennai is doing. And the gang really need to stop getting mixed up with him. He’s always got another agenda. Csorwe and Shuthmili get the brunt of it after they awaken ancient scary goddess and world destroyer Iriskivaal. Tal of course gets to do his hero bit, reluctantly. And he gets a sidekick too, the latest Chosen Bride to the Unspoken, Tsereg, who might be more than just a complete handful of chaos.

This book was a lot of fun, the characters were more fully realised and their relationships cemented in and realistic. Csorwe and Shuthmili’s bond is unbreakable, even when they’re variously possessed by ancient gods. They’re Tal’s best friends despite his insistence that he doesn’t like them much and Oranna, even undead, is still annoying and knows way too much!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: The Love That Dares – Rachel Smith & Barbara Vesey

A good love letter can speak across centuries and reassure us that the agony and the ecstasy one might feel in the 21st century have been shared by lovers long gone. This is all the truer of LGBTQ+ love letters: love affairs and relationships that, until very recently, had to survive within sealed envelopes and behind closed doors.

In The Love That Dares, queer love speaks its name through the words of lovers from years gone by. Alongside the more famous names coexist beautifully written letters by lesser-known lovers, giving us an insight into queer love outside of the spotlight of fame or fortune. Compiled by Bishopsgate archivists Rachel Smith and Barbara Vesey, these letters give us a glimpse into the passion and courage it took to continue a gay relationship in times when it was at best improper, and at worst illegal.

Enlightening introductions to each set of letters give readers an idea of the historical context in which they were written.

My thoughts: this is a really lovely collection of letters from queer writers, artists, musicians and others from across history. From famously gay people to ones you might not have known about, from early philosopher Marcus Aurelius, via Oscar Wilde and Vita Sackville-West to modern voices. There’s also a selection from Dear Sappho, published originally in 1996.

Explanatory notes give context to the writers and their letters, a brief glimpse into the lives and loves of people often living under threat of censure and criminality.

I found this incredibly moving, the ways people expressed their love and desire, their hopes and fears in words to friends and lovers, sometimes simple banal everyday news to passionate expressions.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Blog Tour: Other Parents – Sarah Stovell

In a small town like West Burntridge, it should be impossible to keep a secret.

Rachel Saunders knows gossip is the price you pay for a rural lifestyle and outstanding schools. The latest town scandal is her divorce – and the fact that her new girlfriend has moved into the family home.

Laura Spence lives in a poky bedsit on the wrong side of town. She and her son Max don’t really belong, and his violent tantrums are threatening to expose the very thing she’s trying to hide.

When the local school introduces a new inclusive curriculum, Rachel and Laura find themselves on opposite sides of a fearsome debate.

But the problem with having your nose in everyone else’s business is that you often miss what is happening in your own home.

My thoughts: what at first felt like it was going to be a gossipy PTA, school drama, evolved into something much more thought provoking and complex story, pulling in family make up, depression, sexual assault, divorce, sex work, child abuse and neglect, bigotry and organising a school fete. All the big important stuff, and some of the less so.

Rachel and Erin are dealing with Rachel’s children’s backlash to their relationship and their parents’ divorce – son Reuben seems unbothered, but his sisters, Maia and Tess both seem to be furious. While Tess acts out by being rude, teenage Maia goes off the rails. But Rachel has taken her eye off the ball and Maia ends up hurt.

Meanwhile Laura is struggling with raising her son as a single parent without much in the way of support or money. When Max’s dad reappears, she starts to reassess all the things she’s had to do to just survive.

Jo is the new Head of the primary school and headed for a clash with Kate, head of the PTA, over her petition against the school teaching LGBTQ+ relationships as part of the curriculum. A clash that drags Rachel, Erin and Laura in and as things start to go tragically wrong in their personal lives, does anyone really care about the Christmas fete?

Funny, sad, moving and ultimately redemptive, this a fascinating read about how we don’t see what’s going on behind the facade at the school gate.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.