The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour. Thank you to Clare Hey at Simon and Schuster for the copy of the book to read and review. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

The smallest man. The biggest heart. The mightiest story. A compelling story, perfect for fans of The Doll Factory and The Familiars.

Nat Davy longs to grow tall and strong and be like other boys, but at the age of ten, he’s confronted with the truth; he’s different, and the day when the stares and whispers stop is never going to come.

Narrowly escaping life in a freak show, he’s plucked from his family and presented as a gift to the new young queen of England – a human pet to add to her menagerie of dogs and monkeys. But when Nat realises she’s as lost and lonely as he is, the two misfits begin an unlikely friendship – one that takes him on an unforgettable journey, as England slides into the civil war that will tear it apart and ultimately lead the people to kill their king.

Inspired by a true story, and spanning two decades that changed England for ever, The Smallest Man is narrated by an irrepressible hero with his own unique perspective on life. His story is about being different, but not letting it hold you back. About being brave enough to take a chance, even if the odds aren’t good. And about how, when everything else is falling apart, true friendship holds people together.

My thoughts:

I have read a large number of historical fiction books this year and I’m pleased to say that this is one of the best (I’ve given it 5 stars on Goodreads).

The story begins when Nat is a young boy, who has already been overtaken in height by his younger brother. He believes his mother, thinking that he will have a growth spurt soon. However, his childhood changes dramatically after the visit to the local fair, where he realises that he will never grow any taller.

Nat tries hard to grow and avoid being sold to the local fair, and he does escape this fate. But is being sold to the local Duke to become a living doll for the young Queen Mary, going to be any better?

Nat moves to a pampered life, no more going hungry, wearing beautiful clothes and relaxing on luxury furnishings but still misses his family. Thankfully he meets Jeremiah, who was also chosen for the royal palace for his unusual height (for being much taller than normal) and develops a much needed friendship. Nat is determined to prove he is a man, not just a boy and with help from friends, he becomes an important member of the Queen’s court, and he helps save the Queen on a number of occasions during the start of the English Civil War.

The storytelling is superb and the pages flew by. This is an era of history I knew very little about, but now feel I understand more. The hero of the story is Nat, who is determined to help his family and friends survive the Civil War, and is willing to risk his own life to do so. This is a fabulous debut novel and I look forward to reading more books by Frances Quinn.

Author Bio:

Frances Quinn read English at King’s College, Cambridge, and is a journalist and copywriter. She has written for magazines including Prima, Good Housekeeping, She, Woman’s Weekly and Ideal Home. She lives in Brighton with her husband and who Tonkinese cats. The Smallest Man is her first novel. Follow her on Twitter @franquinn.

The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper by Spencer Brown

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour and to Marotte Books for a digital copy of the book. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the free copy.

One man vs the coronavirus

2020 was supposed to be a great year. Unfortunately, Tom Cooper, like the rest of the world, has found himself stuck in the middle of a pandemic. He’s going to be spending the next few months trapped inside a small flat with sole responsibility for his two single- digit children. Separated from his girlfriend (and any possibility of help with childcare), Tom is plunged into a world of home schooling, awkward Zoom calls, supermarket feuds, al fresco workout sessions, cash- strapped tooth fairies, aging parents who won’t stay home and competitive clapping for the NHS. Not to mention the problem of trying to fulfill his girlfriend’s request for an erotic selfie of his rapidly deteriorating body…

Join Tom as he navigates the lockdown in the stand-alone sequel to last year’s hilarious The Rebuilding of Tom Cooper. Laugh-out-loud with real heart. Lockdown has never been so entertaining.

PRAISE FOR THE REBUILDING OF TOM COOPER

‘A gloriously self-aware, satirical romp through the terrors of relationships, family life and survival. Philip Roth meets Cold Feet!’ Helen Lederer (Absolutely Fabulous, Losing It (P.G.Wodehouse Award nominee))

‘An aspirational figure for the men of today’ Omid Djalili (Live at the Apollo, The Infidel) ‘Hilarious and heart-warming’ Andi Osho (Live at the Apollo, Curfew)

My thoughts:

If someone had told me back in March or April 2020 that I would enjoy reading a book about being in the UK lockdown part 1, I would probably have laughed at them (from a socially distanced position, of course). However, I have now read a lockdown diary and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As you may have noticed from the synopsis above, this is the second book about Tom Cooper. However this is the first one I have read, and I was able to enjoy it without having read book one. At the start of the book, the UK is getting ready to enter lockdown part 1 (I read this at the start of lockdown part 2). Tom is a single dad of two primary school children, who suddenly finds himself working from home whilst home schooling his children.

The diary looks at how Tom stays in touch with his girlfriend Amanda via zoom (loved the description of the first one), copes with queuing to buy essentials at the supermarket with the children whilst hunting daily for an online grocery slot, takes part in the clap for NHS carers and copes with a shortage of toilet rolls and competent work colleagues.

The book is full of laugh out loud moments, especially when Tom has epic failures with technology, the tooth fairy and a rat, but is also thought provoking in places, as the reality of someone catching Covid-19 is discussed. I enjoyed the humour and the story, and I’m happy to recommend this book.

Author Bio:

Spencer Brown began performing comedy with the Cambridge Footlights alongside John Oliver (HBO’s This Week Tonight) and Matthew Holness (Garth Merenghis Darkplace), before becoming an internationally acclaimed stand up. He has performed everywhere from London’s The Comedy Store to Mumbai and the USA, TV credits including Nathan Barley (Channel 4), Edinburgh Comedy (BBC 2), Last Comic Standing (NBC), his own special on Swedish televisionAs a TV presenter, he fronted ITV’s Lip Service alongside Holly Willoughby and Five’s The Sexy Ads Show. He is also the writer-director of the multi-award-winning film The Boy with a Camera for a Face. The Lockdown Diary of Tom Cooper is his second novel.

The Last Days of Ellis Island by Gaëlle Josse (Translated by Natasha Lehrer)

Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour for this book. Thank you to World Editions for a copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

Winner of the European Union Prize for Literature

New York, November 3, 1954. In a few days, the immigration inspection station on Ellis Island will close its doors forever. John Mitchell, an officer of the Bureau of Immigration, is the guardian and last resident of the island. As Mitchell looks back over forty-five years as gatekeeper to America and its promise of a better life, he recalls his brief marriage to beloved wife Liz, and is haunted by memories of a transgression involving Nella, an immigrant from Sardinia. Told in a series of poignant diary entries, this is a story of responsibility, love, fidelity, and remorse.

My thoughts:

This is a book of highs and lows, both for Ellis Island and for John Mitchell, who is packing up his personal possessions and leaving the island for the last time. This books blends fiction and nonfiction seamlessly.

In many books, I’ve read about how ships full of immigrants would arrive at Ellis Island, hoping to be allowed to proceed into America to make new, brighter lives and to escape poverty, war and persecution back in Europe.

This book brings this to life from the other side of the story, how the United States processed the applications. The section of the book detailing how the immigrants are first observed, then sorted and questioned was written in a way that really brought the images to life. Alongside the general memories of Ellis Island, John Mitchell tells how he fell in love with his wife and why he feels guilty about how he dealt with Nella and her brother, who were fleeing Sardinia to seek safety.

This is a relatively short book for a historical fiction novel with over 45 years of events crammed into the story, as New York and the rest of the world undergo major changes. Some parts are lovely, such as when John falls in love with Liz, but there are many more sad moments than happy memories. I enjoyed reading this book and would love to visit Ellis Island one day, as my teenage boy did last year with his sixth form. A thought provoking story about a gateway to new beginnings.

Author Bio:

Gaëlle Josse holds degrees in law, journalism, and clinical psychology. Formerly a poet, she published her first novel, Les Heures silencieuses (‘The Quiet Hours’), in 2011. Josse went on to win several awards, including the Alain Fournier Award in 2013 for Nos vies désaccordées (‘Our Out-Of-Tune Lives’). After spending a few years in New Caledonia, she returned to Paris, where she now works and lives. Josse received the European Union Prize for Literature for The Last Days of Ellis Island, along with the Grand Livre du Mois Literary Prize.

Natasha Lehrer won a Rockower Award for Journalism in 2016, and in 2017 was awarded the Scott Moncrieff Translation Prize for her translation of Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger.

“Combining real and fictional events, Gaëlle Josse has written a text as visceral as it is melancholy and vibrant.” ―Livres Hebdo

Parents and Teachers by Sara Madderson

Thank you to Sara Madderson for a copy of her book so that I could prepare for the Random Things Tours blog tour organised by the lovely Anne Cater. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

At two of London’s most exclusive prep schools, there are strict rules against parents fraternising with teachers. Well, that’s the theory, in any case.

Jenna, a Year 3 teacher at St Cuthbert’s, catches the eye of the school’s highest-profile parent, a world-famous action movie star, with far-reaching consequences. Meanwhile, over at Chiltern House, Astrid is still licking her wounds after her husband left her. Her daughter’s PE teacher, Callum, may be her best chance of rediscovering her joie de vivre.

Astrid’s friend Natalia, whose life revolves around motherhood these days, finds herself questioning everything she’s taken for granted when her husband becomes embroiled in a #MeToo scandal.

Really, the only ones behaving themselves are the kids … 

  • Paperback : 294 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1916353045
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1916353046
  • Product Dimensions : 12.7 x 1.88 x 20.32 cm
  • Publisher : Madderson (19 Sept. 2020)

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Parents-Teachers-only-ones-behaving/dp/1916353045

My thoughts:

I’ve worked in schools, from nursery through to sixth form, so when I saw the synopsis for this book, I was keen to read it.

As the byline states, the children are the only ones behaving at the two exclusive prep schools. Despite being told at the beginning of the year, that the staff and parents should not have any relationships other than the traditional parent-teacher relationship, not everyone was listening.

In places this story was like a modern day version of a Jilly Cooper novel, full of passionate people and glamourous lives. However, in 2020, some of the relationships are recognised to be inappropriate with older men taking advantage of young women or trying to. Initially I thought Jenna was being naive to get involved with a married man and father of a child in her class, but afterwards thought it was more a case of a #MeToo issue, with a young woman being taken advantage of by the older rich man.

Overall, I enjoyed the fast paced, often humorous and fabulously glamorous story, and could imagine this being made into a TV drama full of very attractive people. I wonder who would play Callum, the hot PE teacher…?

Author Bio:

Sara Madderson is an author, entrepreneur, wife and mother. She was born in Ireland and moved to the UK with her family when she was ten years old. She lives in London with her husband Chris, their two children, Paddy and Tilly, and their cocker spaniel Charlie.

Before turning to writing, Sara worked in finance for a decade and then ran her own fashion brand, Madderson London, for eight years. She earned her MPhil in Early Modern History from the University of Birmingham.

Metamorphosis is Sara’s first book. Given that she spent most of her childhood writing and designing clothes, she’s now seen both of her childhood career dreams come true! She’s enjoyed the adventure of publishing independently as much as she’s enjoyed the writing process itself. She’s now completely hooked on writing!

Twitter @saramadderson

When the Music Stops by Joe Heap

I’m pleased to be sharing my review as part of the blog tour organised by Anne at Random Things Tours. Thank you to Anne and Harper Fiction for a digital review copy, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

This is the story of Ella.
And Robert.
And of all the things they should have said, but never did.

‘What have you been up to?’
I shrug, ‘Just existing, I guess.’
‘Looks like more than just existing.’
Robert gestures at the baby, the lifeboat, the ocean.
‘All right, not existing. Surviving.’
He laughs, not unkindly. ‘Sounds grim.’
‘It wasn’t so bad, really. But I wish you’d been there.’

Ella has known Robert all her life. Through seven key moments and seven key people their journey intertwines.
 
From the streets of Glasgow during WW2 to the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll of London in the 60s and beyond, this is a story of love and near misses. Of those who come in to our lives and leave it too soon. And of those who stay with you forever…

My thoughts:

I was hooked by the blurb for this book but still wasn’t prepared for how the story started and how we meet Ella. The story starts with a storm which leaves Ella holding her baby grandson on a damaged boat, trying to keep him alive until rescuers find them.

During the time stranded on the boat, Ella revisits seven key moments in each decade of her life and meets seven people who she had lost during her lifetime. Each meeting is also linked to a piece of music, from the book of music Ella chose with her dad in Glasgow. The audio book version will include the songs played in full.

Ella’s journey takes her from Glasgow to London. Joe’s writing brings each of the seven periods in time to life, from the school days in Glasgow to the first flat in London to being in a maternity ward as a geriatric mother. I’ve read many books this year whilst furloughed, and this is one of the most poignant. This book is full of emotion and I was caught up in each story, shedding a few tears along the way.

This is a no spoiler review, so you will need to read the book to find out if Ella saved her grandson. A five star book in my humble opinion, a lifetime of experiences captured in one stunning story. It will also make you think about who you would like to meet again, to maybe have a different conversation with. I’ve had Joe’s debut novel, The Rules of Seeing, on my Kindle for months and I look forward to reading it soon.

Book launch event:

On Thursday 28th October I attended Joe’s online book launch event organised by his publisher. It was fascinating to hear about Joe’s inspiration for the book, from how his grandparents met to becoming a father himself, to linking The Seven Ages of Man by Shakespeare to the life of a woman linked by music. The Jack Shapiro who wrote the music in the book is a work of fiction based on Jack Sands, his grandfather.

Author bio:

Joe Heap was born in 1986 and grew up in Bradford, the son of two teachers. His debut novel The Rules of Seeing won Best Debut at the Romantic Novel of the Year Awards in 2019 and was shortlisted for the Books Are My Bag Reader Awards. Joe lives in London with his girlfriend, their two sons and a cat who wishes they would get out of the house more often.

For more information, please contact felicity.denham@harpercollins.co.uk | 0208 307 4203

When I Come Home Again by Caroline Scott

Thank you to Simon and Schuster for a copy of this book to prepare for the Random Things Tours blog tour. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This is the first book I’ve read by Caroline Scott but I have bought a copy of her debut novel, The Photographer of the Lost, from Bert’s Books ready to read later this year.

Synopsis:

They need him to remember. He wants to forget.

1918. In the last week of the First World War, a uniformed soldier is arrested in Durham Cathedral. When questioned, it becomes clear he has no memory of who he is or how he came to be there.

The soldier is given the name Adam and transferred to a rehabilitation home where his doctor James is determined to recover who this man once was. But Adam doesn’t want to remember. Unwilling to relive the trauma of war, Adam has locked his memory away, seemingly for good.

When a newspaper publishes a feature about Adam, three women come forward, each claiming that he is someone she lost in the war. But does he believe any of these women? Or is there another family out there waiting for him to come home?

Based on true events, When I Come Home Again is a deeply moving and powerful story of a nation’s outpouring of grief, and the search for hope in the aftermath of war.

My thoughts:

Having read the opening chapters during the summer of 2020, I was keen to continue reading this book to find out more about Adam. I felt as if I had rushed through the opening chapters on my Kindle and enjoyed taking my time to read them again in the printed book. Caroline’s style of writing brings each person and place alive.

I’m a mother, a sister and a wife, and I think that may have made this story more heartbreaking. The three women who come forward to ‘claim’ Adam are seeking their son (who was their sole reason for living from being young), their husband (who left on a sour note believing village gossip) and their brother (who they need to help bring up his children after his wife died in childbirth). All have been told by the government that their man is missing in action, all believe that he has not died and all believe that Adam is him. As we discover there are various reasons why Adam may not be one of them, from being too tall or having the wrong hair colour. How has their grief affected their ability to make an honest claim?

Alongside the story of Adam, we have the story of James, who is there to help Adam discover his identity. However James was in France during the War and finds that working with veterans is causing his own memories and nightmares to worsen. His wife’s twin brother was seriously injured during a battle and hasn’t been seen since, and James feels guilty that Nathaniel was only there because of him.

In November 1918, many families rejoiced to have their loved ones return home. However many of those loved ones were changed for ever, their physical and/mental health altered in ways that weren’t understood. This book looks at the aftermath of the war, the hopes and dreams of those who fought and those left behind. This is one of those books that will stay in my mind for a long time, beautiful but also heartbreaking. Personally I think that this book should be on school English Literature/History lists for the older students to see why there are no winners in the aftermath of a war.

Author Bio:

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She developed a particular interest in the impact of the First World War on the landscape of Belgium and France, and in the experience of women during the conflict – fascinations that she was able to pursue while she spent several years working as a researcher for a Belgian company. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in southwest France. The Photographer of the Lost was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club pick.

Further praise for The Photographer Of The Lost

‘This excellent debut is a melancholic reminder of the rippling after-effects of war’ – The Times

‘There’s only one word for this novel… and that’s epic… A beautifully written must-read’ – heat

‘A gripping, devastating novel about the lost and the ones they left behind’ – Sarra Manning, RED

‘[A] terrific first novel’ Daily Mail


‘Scott has done an amazing job of drawing on real stories to craft a powerful novel’ – Good Housekeeping


‘A poignant hymn to those who gave up their lives for their country and to those who were left behind’ – Fanny Blake


‘I was utterly captivated by this novel, which swept me away, broke my heart, then shone wonderful light through all the pieces’ – Isabelle Broom

@CScottBooks #WhenIComeHomeAgain

Cows Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne

Today I’m taking sharing a second book review on my book blog as part of the Cow’s Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne, published by Neem Tree Press blog tour organised by the lovely Anne Cater at the Random Things Tours. Thank you for providing a copy of the book – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by my gift.

Synopsis:

17-year-old Billy has just left school with no A levels and he’s desperate to escape middle England. As a grave-digger, he’s working the ultimate dead-end job. Billy’s home life isn’t any better. In the evenings, he observes his dysfunctional family: his Grandad’s engaged to a woman half his age, his xenophobic Dad’s become obsessed with boxing, and he suspects his deeply religious Mum is having an affair. 

All the while, celebrities are dropping like flies and Britain is waiting for the EU referendum. Everything is changing, and Billy hates it.

Meeting Eva, though, changes everything. She’s Swiss, passionate about Russian literature, Gary Numan, windfarms and chai tea, and Billy gambles everything for a chance to be with her.

When things start to go wrong, Billy’s journey across Europe involves hitch-hiking with truckers, walking with refugees, and an encounter with suicidal cows. But the further he goes, the harder it is to be sure what he’s chasing – and what he’s running from.

My thoughts:

Thanks for visiting my book blog today for my review on this debut novel by Philip Bowne. This book won the Spotlight First Novel Prize from Adventures in Fiction, has been long listed for the Not The Booker Prize from the Guardian and left me laughing, blushing and feeling sad in places.

This is one of a handful of books I’ve read this year with a male main character. Billy is turning 18 in 2016, the year of the Brexit referendum and the American Presidential election. As the synopsis mentions, Billy is in the ultimate dead end job as a grave digger at the start of the book. However his life changes when he starts work at an International School and falls for Eva.

We follow Billy as he struggles with his jobs, his parents and his first big romance. When he tries to put the money together to visit Eva in Switzerland he ends up in more trouble. When he finally flies out to Switzerland, he ends up on a grand tour of Europe to find Eva. In a year when many of us are unable to travel, then join Billy as he treks across mainland Europe to meet the love of his life.

This book is full of so many interesting characters, including Christoph, the owner of the cows who can’t jump. I enjoyed how the story looked at Billy’s relationships with his family, work colleagues and the people he met on his travels. This book is modern, funny, tragic and poignant, a stunning debut novel, and I look forward to reading more by Philip Bowne in the future.

Author Bio:

Philip Bowne lives in London and works as a writer for The Wombles, a children’s entertainment brand. 

Like his protagonist, Billy, Phil attended a failing and severely under-resourced school in Bicester, Oxfordshire. However, unlike Billy, Phil ended up studying English Literature and Creative Writing at university.

While studying, Phil published short stories in literary magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada and Germany. After graduating, Phil spent time in Europe and the US, working and volunteering in various roles and settings: repairing boats at Lake Como, housekeeping at a mountain lodge in California and working with charity Care4Calais in the former Calais ‘jungle’ refugee camp.Cows Can’t Jump is Phil’s debut novel, which he worked on while managing a bar in London. As well as a writer for The Wombles, Phil also works on a number of independent writing projects, including a musical set in 1970’s Soho and a sitcom set in a failing leisure centre.

Little Book of Hope by Louise Hall

I’m pleased to be sharing my review for the smallest book I’ve read in 2020 as part of the blog tour organised by Anne of Random Things Tours. Thank you to the publisher for a paperback copy of the book, my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synopsis:

The past few months have made us realise that change is inevitable – sometimes good but sometimes it can be cruel and makes your world go out of control.We might experience anxiety, low moods, night sweats, exhaustion or worse.

We lose all hope and feel that there is nothing to look forward to.

Little Book of Hope helps you find your way back again – through Reflections to guide you through the difficult times, together with: Family. Friends. Rest. Time – for yourself. Walk. Talk. Cry. Grieve. Meditate. Pray. Accept things. Patience.

Dedicated to all those around the world who have lost hard but loved much – that you may re-discover Hope and welcome the beautiful pleasure of joy back into your lives.

My thoughts

This is a perfectly sized book for people to pop in a pocket or bag to carry with them wherever they go. The book gives the reader the opportunity to clear their mind of racing and/or anxious thoughts.

The book includes quotes, poetry, and reflections about how having Hope can help in all areas of life – the power of positive thinking. Some of the pages mention Heaven, prayer and God, which isn’t obvious from the ‘blurb’ on the back of the book.

Author Bio:

Louise Hall is from Malahide, Co. Dublin. She has previously published two works of non-fiction, Medjugorje: What it Means to Me and Medjugorje and Me: A Collection of Stories from Across the World. Her fiction has been published in The Irish Times and been shortlisted for numerous competitions, such as the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Short Story Award, the Colm Tóibín International Short Story Competition and the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards. Pilgrim is her debut novel.

Website: www.louisehall.ie

Twitter: @LouHallWriter

Instagram: @louisehallwriter

The Second Marriage by Gill Paul

I’m pleased to be sharing my review today for The Second Marriage by Gill Paul (published as Jackie and Maria in the USA). Thank you to Anne from Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the blog tour and thank you to Avon Books for a digital proof copy via NetGalley. My thoughts about the book are my own and not influenced by the gift. To catch up on the other reviews, please see the details for the other blog tour members below.

Synopsis:

JACKIE
When her first marriage ends in tragedy, Jackie Kennedy fears she’ll never love again. But all that changes when she encounters…

ARI
Successful and charming, Ari Onassis is a man who promises her the world. Yet soon after they marry, Jackie learns that his heart also belongs to another…

MARIA
A beautiful, famed singer, Maria Callas is in love with Jackie’s new husband – and she isn’t going to give up.

Little by little, Jackie and Maria’s lives begin to tangle in a dangerous web of secrets, scandal and lies. But with both women determined to make Ari theirs alone, the stakes are high. How far will they go for true love?

My thoughts:

This is my first Gill Paul novel and I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I was aware that Jackie Kennedy had been married to Aristotle Onassis after her first husband, Jack died, but I knew very little about the story before reading the book.

Gill Paul explains at the end of the book how she has mixed factual details (such as the details of the death of Jack Kennedy in Dallas), with fiction. This is primarily a piece of fiction based on real people. Many young people dream of being famous but this book shows why fame and money don’t guarantee happiness. Mixed amongst the glamour is anger, addiction and infidelity.

Without giving away any spoilers, I found myself feeling sorry for both Maria and Jackie. Both experienced tragedies and betrayals, and both loved Ari in very different ways. I feel that Gill Paul has been sympathetic to the plight of both her main female characters. My opinion of Ari worsened as the book progressed but as Gill Paul notes, the era this book was set in was was very different to the #MeToo era of 2020.

I loved the detailed descriptions from the story, including the places they visited, the food and drink they enjoyed, the outfits they wore. I’m happy to recommend this as an excellent and enjoyable piece of historical fiction – with a reminder that it is not a true story.

Author Bio:

Gill Paul’s historical novels have reached the top of the USA Today, Toronto Globe & Mail and kindle charts, and been translated into twenty languages. 

They include THE SECOND MARRIAGE (titled JACKIE AND MARIA in the US), two bestselling novels about the Romanovs – THE SECRET WIFE and THE LOST DAUGHTER – as well as WOMEN AND CHILDREN FIRST, which was shortlisted for the 2013 RNA Epic Novel of the Year award, NO PLACE FOR A LADY, shortlisted for a Love Stories award, and ANOTHER WOMAN’S HUSBAND, about links you might not have suspected between Wallis Simpson and Princess Diana.


Gill also writes historical non-fiction, including A HISTORY OF MEDICINE IN 50 OBJECTS, and she speaks at libraries and literary festivals on subjects ranging from the Titanic to the Romanovs.
Gill lives in London, where she is working on her tenth novel, and she swims daily in an outdoor pond.

www.gillpaul.com

Twitter @GillPaulAUTHOR

Instagram @gill.paul1

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (17 Sept. 2020)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000836625X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0008366254

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Second-Marriage-Gill-Paul/dp/000836625X

Nothin’ But A Good Time by Justin Quirk – Extract from the book.

Today I’m sharing an extract from this fascinating new book. Thank you to Unbound for a copy of the paperback in return for an honest review – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. Thank you to Anne of Random Things Tours for inviting me to join the blog tour. I will also be sharing an extract from the book later today.

Thank you to Justin Quirk for supplying a Spotify playlist to listen to alongside the book at https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3JG9tQCecG2iA25DD5Seax?si=PgT_eDGQSye1ZKEDiRzSSw. I’m listening to it whilst writing my review.

Synopsis:

From 1983 until 1991, Glam Metal was the sound of American culture. Big hair, massive amplifiers, drugs, alcohol, piles of money and life-threatening pyrotechnics. This was the world stalked by Bon Jovi, Kiss, W.A.S.P., Skid Row, Dokken, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Ratt and many more. Armed with hairspray, spandex and strangely shaped guitars, they marked the last great era of supersize bands.

Where did Glam Metal come from? How did it spread? What killed it off? And why does nobody admit to having been a Glam Metaller anymore?

Extract:

In the last week of August 2014, a Californian musician uploaded a six-minute long video to Youtube, showing himself taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge – not so unusual in itself, with 2.4million-and-counting of these charitable enterprises online around that time. However, this Ice Bucket Challenge was different: firstly, the man had bags of ice balanced on his head and in his crotch rather than being poured over him; secondly, rather than passing the challenge on to his friends and family, he called out (‘while my jewels freeze’) three of his high profile colleagues – Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth and John Meyer; and finally, he communicated each word of his speech in blinks, painstakingly spelling out one letter at a time via an interpreter, while he sat motionless in a wheelchair.

Once touted as potentially the best metal guitarist on earth, 45-year-old Jason Becker has spent the best part of the last 18 years completely paralysed, since being diagnosed with ALS when he was on the verge of rock megastardom. But in that time he has not only defied medical wisdom by staying healthy and alive, he has also continued to compose and create his own astonishing music, been the subject of an award-winning documentary and helped to invent a communication system which has revolutionised the lives of other patients like him worldwide.

Despite being confined to a chair and unable to physicall perform, his public existence largely limited to a Twitter profile and sporadic musical releases, his influence continues: in 2012, Guitar Player magazine named him as ‘the greatest shredder ever’; in 2014, Seymour Duncan released his signature model pickup with Carvin following up with a signature line of guitars in 2015. And both fundraising gigs and a documentary about Becker’s life have taken place under a title you could only hope to find in the blackly comic world of heavy metal: Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.

Since 1995, Jason Becker has released four albums. Not exactly a punishing workrate for a regular artist, but Becker’s life, composing and recording techniques are very far from normal. Since ALS paralysed his body, he has continued to create music, moving away from the pyrotechnic, lightning-fast metal of his youth to more textured, complicated pieces, often instrumental, sometimes with layered, treated voices giving the work an ethereal, hypnotic feel. 

In the last week of August 2014, a Californian musician uploaded a six-minute long video to Youtube, showing himself taking part in the Ice Bucket Challenge – not so unusual in itself, with 2.4million-and-counting of these charitable enterprises online around that time. However, this Ice Bucket Challenge was different: firstly, the man had bags of ice balanced on his head and in his crotch rather than being poured over him; secondly, rather than passing the challenge on to his friends and family, he called out (‘while my jewels freeze’) three of his high profile colleagues – Eddie Van Halen, David Lee Roth and John Meyer; and finally, he communicated each word of his speech in blinks, painstakingly spelling out one letter at a time via an interpreter, while he sat motionless in a wheelchair.

Once touted as potentially the best metal guitarist on earth, 45-year-old Jason Becker has spent the best part of the last 18 years completely paralysed, since being diagnosed with ALS when he was on the verge of rock megastardom. But in that time he has not only defied medical wisdom by staying healthy and alive, he has also continued to compose and create his own astonishing music, been the subject of an award-winning documentary and helped to invent a communication system which has revolutionised the lives of other patients like him worldwide.

Despite being confined to a chair and unable to physicall perform, his public existence largely limited to a Twitter profile and sporadic musical releases, his influence continues: in 2012, Guitar Player magazine named him as ‘the greatest shredder ever’; in 2014, Seymour Duncan released his signature model pickup with Carvin following up with a signature line of guitars in 2015. And both fundraising gigs and a documentary about Becker’s life have taken place under a title you could only hope to find in the blackly comic world of heavy metal: Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.

Since 1995, Jason Becker has released four albums. Not exactly a punishing workrate for a regular artist, but Becker’s life, composing and recording techniques are very far from normal. Since ALS paralysed his body, he has continued to create music, moving away from the pyrotechnic, lightning-fast metal of his youth to more textured, complicated pieces, often instrumental, sometimes with layered, treated voices giving the work an ethereal, hypnotic feel. 

Soon after Becker’s paralysis, his friend Mike Bemesderfer devised a software programme connected to a visor-mounted sensor. Becker could click a virtual keyboard by moving his chin, altering the velocity of each note and gradually, painstakingly assembling them into entire pieces of music. His album Perspective was the result of this exhausting process, with his epic ten-minute composition, End of The Beginning going on to be performed by the Oakland Symphony Orchestra and the Diablo Ballet in 1999. On its release, Eddie Van Halen appeared on video with the immobilised Becker to describe him as having been ‘just one of the best rock and roll guitarists on the planet.’ The understandable sense among viewers was that in Becker they were watching a man who was living on borrowed time.

To view the other reviews on the blog tour this week, check out the following blogs:

Author Bio:

Justin Quirk is a writer and editor based in London. Since starting his career at the Guardian, he has written for titles including i-DDazed and Confused,Kerrang!QWord, the IndependentThe Sunday TimesArena and Esquire. He has also worked as a curator, DJ and creative director and regularly appears on the BBC World Service discussing culture and current affairs. He lives in London.

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