PublicationDay #PromoPost 1989 by VAL McDERMID #1989 #Books



1989. The world is on the brink of revolution and journalist Allie Burns is a woman on a mission. When she discovers a lead about the exploitation of society’s most vulnerable, Allie is determined to investigate and give voice to the silenced.

Elsewhere, a ticking clock begins the countdown to a murder. As Allie begins to connect the dots and edges closer to exposing the truth, it is more shocking than she ever imagined. There’s nothing like a killer story, and to tell it, Allie must risk her freedom and her life . . .

The brand new unmissable, heart-stopping thriller from number one bestseller, Val McDermid


Praise for the Allie Burns series

McDermid is at her considerable best’ GUARDIAN


‘A brilliant novel by a supremo of the genre’ PETER JAMES

‘Outstanding’ SPECTATOR

‘Another masterpiece’ DAVID BALDACCI

‘Sensational. One of Britain’s most accomplished writers’ SUNDAY EXPRESS

‘A masterly setter of scene’ SCOTSMAN




HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  Let’s see what 2022 has in store for us eh!!!   The madness has to end sometime doesn’t it?!!!
So the start of a new year brings about the chance to start afresh and that means a new plan of attack for me on the book front!  I’m sure I said the same this time last year, but I really mean it this year…… honest 🤣  I should make it more simple for myself – read more, buy less!! Easy!!

Stop being distracted!!! I’m looking at you social media!! And while it’s a brilliant way to give me ideas of great new books to read, it’s also a major sucker of time when I should really be reading so I need to find a way to limit myself to endlessly scrolling and watching what other people are reading instead of focussing on the books piled here I already have!

Failed miserably on this front last year! I promised to stop requesting books on a whim, but just kept clicking!!  So the NG shelves are overflowing so I really need to NOT request anything until I’ve cleared the shelves to a reasonable amount!!  How long do you think I’ll hold out on that one??!! 

3. BOOK SHOPPING I think I was actually more restrained last year to be fair – buying books with gift vouchers given to me don’t count!! – so I’m pleased with myself on that! BUT the various book shelves round the house are still too full which makes finding room for newbies an impossible task! And I’ve unhauled some thanks to the We Buy Books app which has helped a little, but it still needs to remain under control! I’m now part of3 book subscriptions for the year ahead – Goldsboro, Renard Press & Fahrenheit – so I’m hoping this may temper my book buying urges a little more!

4.  AUDIOBOOKS I listened to way more last year than ever before, so hopefully I can carry this on! I have found the library app – Borrowbox – a brilliant way to give me access to free audiobooks which I can then listen to when I’m cross-stitching or gardening! Yay for multi-tasking

5. NON FICTION Again, I’ve read more non fiction than ever before and I loved the whole experience!  It’s nice to be actually learning more about a variety of subjects – mainly history, gardening and wellbeing – so I really want to carry this on!

  6.  NOTEBOOKS I’m still unable to read a book without making notes – sieve brain at work! – so I need to find a better way of putting my many notebooks to good use! Or just give me an excuse to buy yet more notebooks that I then decide I can’t write in as they’re just too pretty!! That needs to stop for sure!!

7. BLOG TOURS I love being part of them!! And it often introduces me to something a little different so I love that! I maybe just need to limit myself to less each month, as it does often become a chore when you know the clock is ticking down to get a review done by a certain day.  I need to be more picky!!

8.  LET GO!! The book hoarding must stop!! I’ve made slight  inroads on the decluttering of my book shelves throughout the year, but I’m still holding on to way too many books that I’m never going to read again!  I need to set them free to find new book homes!  And try and understand why I get so attached to things that I find it impossible to let go of them!  Detachment lessons are needed!!

9.  SHELF ORGANISING With various book shelves in various rooms, my filing system is shocking! There are read books alongside unread, non fiction alongside fiction – no wonder I can often never find things! So I need to find a new system that works better for me – although it may be a little scary if I start to put the unread books together!! That’s a pile I don’t want to face up to!!!

10.  CLASSICS My reading past on this front is very poor so I really want to dip my feet back into the old classics that I probably should have read at school but found a way around not reading them!  I think it’s often the different writing styles and language that put me off but I think the more classics I read, the more I’ll get in that zone!


Let’s see if I can last January at least with this little lot…….🤣  Wish me luck!!  

NetGalley November 2021 TBR @NetGalleyNov

Hello!!! This is my first foray into the world of NETGALLEY NOVEMBER! And I couldn’t be more excited!!

I spotted the details over on Twitter and it’s a place where we can all come together for the month of November to make a dent on our NG shelves!  It’s all hosted by @emandherbooks and @tot_and_tales so go check their pages out, as well as the main NG Nov page, for more details of all the fun!!

My NG shelves are a disgrace!! I keep saying I won’t add anymore to it, and then go and click on a few more without thinking of the consequences! So now it’s time to start getting the numbers down and I’m hoping this will help me focus a little more, and maybe inspire me to get even more read – can we have Netgalley readalongs every month please??!!

So here are the prompts and these are my picks!!



OLDEST APPROVAL…. 2015!! Shame on me!

















So there’s the list!  I am hopeful but know I’ll probably get distracted by other pretty books throughout November but I’m looking forward to being part of it all!  And hopefully taking more off my Netgalley shelves than adding…. famous last words!!

Hope you’ll be joining in too!!

#GuestPost HER NANNY’S SECRET by JAN BAYNHAM #PublicationDay @ChocLituk

Delighted to be handing over the Blog today to JAN BAYNHAM to celebrate publication day for HER NANNY’S SECRET!  Go grab your copy NOW!!!
Over to you Jan……


‘Her Nanny’s Secret’ is my third novel. Excited yet very nervous before publication day, it is a story I loved writing. It has all the features which are becoming my trademark – a dual timeline, contrasting locations, family secrets and forbidden love. In ‘Her Nanny’s Secret’, there is also the theme of social class and the role of women.

The inspiration for the story came to me through a conversation with my cousin after my aunt’s funeral which opened with the words, “You know you could have been a Thomas not an Evans, don’t you? I can tell you now mum’s gone…” Puzzled, I asked her to explain. Apparently, my grandfather was the illegitimate son of a female groom and a wealthy landowner who owned the stables where she worked. The ‘what-ifs’ started in my head. What if you fell for someone from a different social class? What if you had to keep it a secret from everyone close to you for fear of losing your home and your family’s livelihood? I set my story in 1941 when war was raging in Europe. After her youngest brother, Reggie, enlists to fight for King and country, Annie Beynon applies to replace him as a groom at Cefn Court, a large country house. She is faced with opposition from her father and her fellow stable lads.

The boys looked at each other in what Annie soon realised was disbelief, and then looked her up and down.

‘A girl. What use is she going to be?’ said Harry, the tall, gangly one.

‘More work for us, then,’ grumbled Fred.

The novel takes place in two locations I know well. Rural mid-Wales where I was born and grew up was relatively untouched by the horrors of actual war action but for the families whose husbands, lovers and sons died in active service, the grief and sense of loss was very real. I tried to create images of what it would have been like living in a small rural village surrounded by a beautiful natural landscape during wartime and then again in 1963. In contrast, my character, Odile, lived in occupied Northern France,

playing an important role in the French Résistance in 1943. When Annie and Clara visit the same area twenty years later in order to find answers, I was able to draw on what I’d experienced on annual family holidays to France and years of hosting children and adults from our twin-town to try to give authenticity. I hope I’ve done justice to the country I love, its people, culture and language.

‘As they entered the tiny village, a yellow road sign with three flower symbols proudly welcomed the visitor to a Village Fleuri… France was still in a period of reconstruction after the devastation caused by the war, and it was felt that the planting of flowers helped renew and repair communities.’

I do hope readers will enjoy ‘Her Nanny’s Secret’.


About the book:

How far would you go to save the person you loved the most?

It’s 1941, and Annie Beynon has just become the first stable girl for the most powerful family in her Welsh village. Whilst her gift for working with horses is clear, there are some who are willing to make her life very difficult on the Pryce estate, simply for being a girl.

There are other – secret – ways Annie is defying conventions, too. As the war rages, and when Edmund, the heir to the Pryce fortune, leaves to join the RAF, it seems that it’s only a matter of time before Annie’s secret is exposed. That is, until she makes a shocking decision.

It’s 1963 before Annie is able to face up to the secret she chose to keep over twenty years before. Justifying that decision takes her to Normandy in France, and an outcome she could never have expected …






Google Play:

About the author:

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction and from then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and shortlisted in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published. Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full-length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories. Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. They have three grown up children and four grandchildren, with another little one expected in the summer. Having joined the Romantic Novelists Association in 2016, she values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter.


#BookReview THE KINDNESS PROJECT by SAM BINNIE @HeadlineFiction


Help the baker’s ex-wife widow
Find the true calling for the village shop owner
Call a truce on a decades-old feud
Forgive me…?

The locals of the Cornish village of Polperran are grieving the sudden loss of Bea Kimbrel, a cornerstone of their small community.

Now her reclusive, estranged daughter Alice has turned up, keen to tie up Bea’s affairs and move on.

But Alice receives a strange bequest from Bea – a collection of unfinished tasks to help out those in Polperran most in need.

As each little act brings her closer to understanding her mother, it also begins to offer Alice the courage to open her clamped-shut heart. Perhaps Bea’s project will finally unlock the powerful secrets both women have been keeping…

THE KINDNESS PROJECT will draw you deep into the lives of two compelling women who should never have missed their chance to say goodbye. It will break your heart – and piece it back together again… 

ebook – out now

paperback – out 8th July 2021




You can’t escape the message of ‘Be Kind’ all around right now, so it’s only right that you do yourselves a favour and treat yourself to this book as it will give you all the warm and huggy feels and being kind to yourself is a great place to start with your own kindness project!!

It’s an emotional story from the start as Alice is travelling home after hearing that she has lost her mum. They were never close and she never even got invited to the funeral, so it feels odd to her to be travelling back ‘home’ and starts her thinking about the relationship troubles that she had with her mother.

Alice and Bea are very chalk and cheese personalities. Bea was a free spirit, very outgoing and always willing to help others around her. Whereas Alice is very closed off, loves her routine, her little bubble and goes out of her way to avoid people. She was very much a Daddy’s girl and it seems that the troubles between mum and daughter started years ago, and we see why they made such an impact on Alice.

Bea’s final wishes were for Alice to continue with the Kindness Project she had set up – an alien concept to Alice! Bea had made a real impact on the community she lived in, and I think it overwhelms Alice a little to see what her mother was doing for others.

As Alice spends more time going through her mothers’ things, the memories start to flood back and the regrets begin to build. Just where had it all gone wrong for them both, and why had they not just faced up to the problems and talked it through. That’s a big thing you take away from this book – time gives you a different perspective on things that happened and you shouldn’t wait until it is too late to make things right, or clear the air. Through the letters that Bea leaves her daughter, and talking to the locals who knew and loved her mum so much, she begins to learn more of the past than she was aware of before.

I loved how Alice took so well to the tasks she was set and I think helping others ends up helping her more as she gets out of her own head, and out of the rut that she found herself in. She realises that she needs to take control of her life, and sometimes all it needs is just a little bit of kindness that can go a long way in brightening someones day!

A really touching and heartwarming story!


#GuestPost IT STARTED WITH A PIRATE by KIRSTY FERRY #PublicationDay @ChocLituk @kirsty_ferry

Hello!! Happily handing over my blog today to the lovely Kirsty Ferry, to help her celebrate publication day for IT STARTED WITH A PIRATE! Schubert is back and the world is a happier place when he’s around!!
Over to you Kirsty……

Welcome to the fourth instalment of Schubert’s series. I’m so happy that Schubert, my fat, black, mystical witch’s cat has garnered such a following in a fun little series which started with Every Witch Way.

When I started the series with Nessa’s tale, it was a rewrite of a long-ish short story that I did in a coffee shop, many years ago, when I worked in a bank and would get into town early. So I’d head off to Boskoops Café in Old Eldon Square, and have cinnamon toast and an Americano, and do a bit of writing in a notebook. The café where Nessa finds the mysterious book that starts the events of the story off is based on Boskoops and there would sometimes be a gaggle of middle-aged women sitting in the window seat, which was the seat I preferred, and also the seat they preferred. I’m ashamed to say that became a battle of wills each morning as to who would get that seat first…

Boskooops was situated on the first floor of an old Georgian house, one of the original houses in the square – number 1, Eldon Square. A few years later, I did a local history course and we had to choose a building to do a project on, and I chose that one. In a sale in the library, I found a book called A Doctor’s Diary. I randomly picked it up, flicked through it, and realised the chap who had written it had come as a young man in the nineteenth century to be a doctor in Newcastle upon Tyne – and he lodged at that very building! It was a weird feeling, thinking I might have been scribbling away, drinking coffee, in a room that he had walked around in.

I just love old buildings and the history attached to them, and I think that’s why I enjoy the historical research so much in my books. It Started with a Pirate was no exception with research. I’ve always loved the romantic side of pirates, but, in a similar way to my obsession with highwaymen, I doubt they’d be very good company really if you met one in real life, doing his actual piratical/highwayman-like job! However, fortunately, we can inhabit the world of fiction and enjoy these bad boys safely, which is lovely.

When I began the research for It Started with a Pirate, it kind of spiralled, and then all came together in the book. The further I dug, and the further I fell down the Google rabbit hole, I came to see a way that pirates, Edinburgh and even the Jacobites could all fit together – and they all do, in this book. Much of my character Mhairi’s story is true – I doubt it all happened to one girl, but the historical records, trials and locations in the book, as well as the connection to the Jacobites, the Orkneys and shipwrecks – were all based on fact. I must also give a shout out to Joanne Baird from Portobello Book Blog for helping me with those locations and answering my questions – so if an author ever messages you and says something like, “um, can you tell me what the Sands of Leith look like now, please, because I believe pirates got hanged there,’ then please be kind, like Joanne was, and answer them! They may have done what I did – found a really interesting article about the skeleton of a pirate turning up in a school playground, and suddenly decide they want to write about it! The culmination of that research is It Started With a Pirate – and I hope you love reading it, as much as I enjoyed writing and researching it!


About the book:

Coffee, cake and cats …

These are a few of Lexie Farrington’s favourite things, and when she walks into the Thistledean Café in Edinburgh, she’s delighted to find all three: coffee, cake, a big black cat on a purple lead being held by a very grumpy-looking pirate. Okay, maybe she wasn’t quite expecting that one …

Of course, Billy McCreadie isn’t really a pirate; he just knows a lot about them and is on his way to give a historical talk to school kids, hence the get-up. He’s also in desperate need of a cat sitter.

When Lexie steps in, little does she realise that Billy will be the key to a hidden Edinburgh she would have never discovered herself, and he might also be the man to help solve a certain piratical puzzle of her own …

Buying links: 

Amazon UK . 

Amazon US .




About the author:

Kirsty Ferry is from the North East of England and lives there with her husband and son. She won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing competition and has had articles and short stories published in various magazines. Her work also appears in several anthologies, incorporating such diverse themes as vampires, crime, angels and more.

Kirsty loves writing ghostly mysteries and interweaving fact and fiction. The research is almost as much fun as writing the book itself, and if she can add a wonderful setting and a dollop of history, that’s even better.

Her day job involves sharing a building with an eclectic collection of ghosts, which can often prove rather interesting. 

Follow Kirsty on Twitter: @kirsty_ferry

 Like Kirsty on Facebook: Kirsty Ferry author

#GuestPost ONE BY ONE by HELEN BRIDGETT #PublicationDay @RubyFiction @Helen_Bridgett

Happy Publication Day to Helen Bridgett!  It’s release day for One By One and I’m very happy to be handing over my Blog today for Helen to give you a little more info about her book!!Over to you Helen…


One by One is my debut crime thriller for Ruby Fiction. Previously I’ve written romantic comedies but across both genres you’ll find a strong female protagonist right at the centre, dealing with whatever life throws at them.

One by One features Professor Maxie Reddick – a lively, intelligent character who teaches Criminology at the local university and has her own crime podcast. She gets very frustrated by all the TV cop shows and detective novels because she knows that, in real life, many crimes are never solved. In an outburst on her podcast, she tells her listeners that because the conviction rates are so low, she could probably do better herself.

Listening to her is a young woman who desperately needs the Professor’s help. Now that her bluff has been called, Maxie has to put her money where her mouth is and begin an investigation.

Throughout the novel, I’m asking the reader to put themselves in Maxie’s position and ask themselves – what would I do? Maxie cannot relax knowing that someone might get away with a horrific crime but as events progress she realises there is a thin line between seeking justice and vengeful vigilantism.

I looked at several career options for Maxie in the course of developing the story, but when I started to research the study of Criminology I found it completely fascinating. Students ask questions like: Who gets to decide what is a criminal act? and What new actions should be a criminal act? The questions seem even more pertinent after a year in which visiting one’s friends and family has suddenly become more or less illegal. I have to confess that I’d love to be debating these questions in a lecture theatre, and in writing the novel I was able to indulge that fantasy.

I have another Professor Reddick novel in development so I hope that this one is well-received and that I keep readers guessing right until the end!

Back of the book says

When practising what you preach is easier said than done …

Professor Maxie Reddick has her reasons for being sceptical of traditional policing methods, but, in between her criminology lecturing job and her Criminal Thoughts podcast, she stays firmly on the side lines of the crime solving world.

Then a young woman is brutally attacked, and suddenly it’s essential that Maxie turns her words into actions; this is no longer an academic exercise – this is somebody’s life.

But as she delves deeper, the case takes a sickening turn, which leads Maxie to the horrifying realisation that the attack might not have been a one-off. It seems there’s a depraved individual out there seeking revenge, and they’ll stop at nothing to get it … little by little … one by one.

About the author

I live in the North East of England with my hubby and our chocolate Labrador Angus. Walking the dog frequently inspires scenes, short stories or plotlines as we’re out in all weathers in the glorious Northumberland countryside.

I guess I began writing with a diary as I’ve kept one for as long as I can remember and I’ve always loved the physical act of writing – putting pen to paper. I love exploring words and discovering new books – everything about the craft. Whenever I talk to other authors, I hear similar experiences – how they loved to write poetry at school but never kept it up, how they used to make up stories for their siblings – I was just the same. However, when I left University I went into marketing and although I really enjoyed it, the urge to write a book never went away. One year, I simply decided it was now or never!

I made a new year’s resolution to write a novel and give it as a Christmas present. My first novel, The Mercury Travel Club was born and the characters took on a life of their own resulting in the sequel -The Heat is On.

In 2020 I signed with Ruby Fiction and a new set of characters took up the main stage in Summer at Serenity Bay.

You can follow Helen on twitter @Helen_Bridgett

Buying links: 

Kindle UK: 

Apple Books:


2021 Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize – The Longlist @dylanthomprize #SUDTP21

Swansea, 21 January 2021: The international longlist for one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize – is announced today, featuring a record number of nine debut writers.

The list comprises nine novels, two poetry collections and one short story collection, and at a time when travel has been restricted and contact with loved ones limited, these extraordinary titles – eight of which are by female writers – transport the reader from Seoul to Hong Kong, Syria to Kilburn, Montana to Dublin, in a powerful exploration of homeland, identity, and relationships:

–          Alligator and Other Stories by Dima Alzayat (Picador) – short story collection (Syria/USA)

–               Antiemetic for Homesickness by Romalyn Ante (Chatto & Windus) – poetry collection (Philippines)

–               If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (Viking, Penguin Random House UK) – novel (USA/Korea)

–               Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (HarperCollins, 4th Estate) – novel (USA)

–               Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) – novel (Ireland)

–               The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (Faber) – novel (Nigeria/USA)            

–               Rendang by Will Harris (Granta) – poetry collection (UK)

–               The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes (Oneworld) – novel (Ireland)

–               Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze (HarperCollins, 4th Estate) – novel (Poland/UK)

–               Pew by Catherine Lacey (Granta) – novel (USA)

–               Luster by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Picador) – novel (USA)

–          My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (HarperCollins, 4th Estate) – novel (USA)

The nine new voices on the list includes four of the most dynamic female novelists writing today: Naoise Dolan and her deadpan debut Exciting Times, Frances Cha’svivid dissection of consumerism in If I Had Your Face, Kate Elizabeth Russell and her unflinching exploration of sexual consent in My Dark Vanessa, and Raven Leilani’s acerbic novel of the moment, Luster.The line-up of first novels is completed by Gabriel Krauze and his brutal novel based on a personal experience of London gang violence, Who They Was, and Kingdomtide, the suspenseful story of survival from Rye Curtis.

There are two debut poets up for the £20,000 Prize – Philippines born NHS nurse Romalyn Ante and her expansive Antiemetic for Homesickness, and Will Harris, who draws on his Anglo-Indonesian heritage to create a sharp exploration of cultural identity in Rendang – and one short story collection: the first title from Syria born Dima Alzayat, whose Alligator and Other Stories captures how it feels to be ‘other’ through nine powerful tales.

The three remaining titles in contention are The Death of Vivek Oji, the second novel from Igbo and Tamil, non-binary author Akwaeke Emezi, the foreboding Pew by Catherine Lacey, and Caoilinn Hughes powerful The Wild Laughter, set during the wake of the Celtic Tiger devastation.

Worth £20,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama.

The longlist will now be whittled to a six strong shortlist by a judging panel chaired by award-winning writer, publisher and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale alongside founder and director of the Bradford Literature Festival, Syima Aslam, poet Stephen Sexton, writer Joshua Ferris and novelist and academic Francesca Rhydderch.

On receiving the 2020 award for his debut short story collection, LOT, the twenty-seven-year-old American writer Bryan Washington said: “It’s a gift whenever an audience gives you the time of day for a story, whatever that is, let alone to be acknowledged for your work on such a massive platform. And it’s an honour to tell stories about the communities that are dear to me, and the communities that I live among – marginalized communities, communities of colour, and queer communities of colour, specifically… I’m very grateful.”

The longlist announcement is followed by a special online event at the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival in February 2021.

The shortlist announcement will take place on 25 March, with the winner revealed on 13 May, the eve of International Dylan Thomas Day.

About the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize

Key Dates for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2021

–               Shortlist Announcement: 25 March 2021

–               Winner Announcement: 13 May 2021 

Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence. Worth £20,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as one of the world’s largest literary prizes for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.

LONGLIST TITLE & AUTHOR INFORMATION: Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2021                 

Alligator and Other Stories by Dima Alzayat (Picador)

In Alligator and Other Stories, Dima Alzayat captures luminously how it feels to be ‘other’: as a Syrian, as an Arab, as an immigrant, as a woman. Each story of the nine stories is a snapshot of those moments when unusual circumstances suddenly distinguish us from our neighbours, when our difference is thrown into relief. Here are ‘dangerous’ women transgressing, missing children in 1970s New York, a family who were once Syrian but have now lost their name, and a young woman about to discover the hollowness of the American dream. At its centre lies ‘Alligator’: a remarkable compilation of real and invented sources, which rescues from history the story of a Syrian American couple who were murdered at the hands of the state. Alzayat explores experiences that are startling and real, delivering an emotional punch that lingers long after reading.

Dima Alzayat was born in Damascus, Syria, grew up in San Jose, California, and now lives in Manchester. She was the winner of the 2019 ALCS Tom-Gallon Trust Award, a 2018 Northern Writers’ Award, the 2017 Bristol Short Story Prize and the 2015 Bernice Slote Award. She was runner-up in the 2018 Deborah Rogers Award and the 2018 Zoetrope: All-Story Competition, and was Highly Commended in the 2013 Bridport Prize.

Antiemetic for Homesickness by Romalyn Ante (Chatto & Windus)

The poems in Romalyn Ante’s luminous debut build a bridge between two worlds: journeying from the country ‘na nagluwal sa ‘yo’ – that gave birth to you – to a new life in the United Kingdom. Steeped in the richness of Filipino folklore, and studded with Tagalog, these poems speak of the ache of assimilation and the complexities of belonging, telling the stories of generations of migrants who find exile through employment – through the voices of the mothers who leave and the children who are left behind. With dazzling formal dexterity and emotional resonance, this expansive debut offers a unique perspective on family, colonialism, homeland and heritage: from the countries we carry with us, to the places we call home.

Romalyn Ante was born in 1989 in Lipa Batangas, Philippines. She was 16 years old when her mother – a nurse in the NHS – brought the family to the UK. Her debut pamphlet, Rice & Rain, won the Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet 2018. She is the winner of the Poetry London Clore Prize 2018; joint-winner of the Manchester Poetry Prize 2017, and the recipient of the Platinum Poetry in Creative Future Literary Awards 2017. She currently lives in Wolverhampton, West Midlands, where she works as a registered nurse and psychotherapist.

If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha (Viking, Penguin Random House UK)

If I Had Your Face plunges us into the mesmerizing world of contemporary Seoul – a place where extreme plastic surgery is as routine as getting a haircut, where women compete for spots in secret ‘room salons’ to entertain wealthy businessmen after hours, where K-Pop stars are the object of all-consuming obsession, and ruthless social hierarchies dictate your every move. Navigating this hyper-competitive city are four young women balancing on the razor-edge of survival: Kyuri, an exquisitely beautiful woman whose hard-won status at an exclusive ‘room salon’ is threatened by an impulsive mistake with a client; her flatmate Miho, an orphan who wins a scholarship to a prestigious art school in New York, where her life becomes tragically enmeshed with the super-wealthy offspring of the Korean elite; Wonna, their neighbour, pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they will afford to raise in a fiercely competitive economy; and Ara, a hair stylist living down the hall, whose infatuation with a fresh-faced K-Pop star drives her to violent extremes.

Frances Cha is a former travel and culture digital editor for CNN in Seoul. She grew up in the United States, Hong Kong and South Korea. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the Columbia University MFA writing programme, she has written for The Atlantic, The Believer, Yonhap News and other publications, and has lectured at Columbia University, Ewha University, Seoul National University and Yonsei University. She lives in Brooklyn. If I Had Your Face is her first novel.

Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis (HarperCollins, 4th Estate)

The lives of two women—the sole survivor of an airplane crash and the troubled park ranger who leads the rescue mission to find her —intersect in a gripping debut novel of hope and resilience, second thoughts and second chances I no longer pass judgment on any man nor woman. People are people, and I do not believe there is much more to be said on the matter. Twenty years ago I might have been of a different mind about that, but I was a different Cloris Waldrip back then. I might have gone on being that same Cloris Waldrip, the one I had been for seventy-two years, had I not fallen out of the sky in that little airplane on Sunday, August 31, 1986. It does amaze that a woman can reach the tail end of her life and find that she hardly knows herself at all. When seventy-two-year-old Cloris Waldrip finds herself lost and alone in the unforgiving wilderness of the Montana mountains, with only a bible, a sturdy pair of boots, and a couple of candies to keep her alive, it seems her chances of ever getting home to Texas are slim. Debra Lewis, a park ranger, who is drinking her way out of the aftermath of a messy divorce is the only one who believes the old lady may still be alive. Galvanized by her newfound mission to find her, Lewis leads a motley group of rescuers to follow the trail of clues that Cloris has left behind. But as days stretch into weeks, and Cloris’s situation grows ever more precarious, help arrives from the unlikeliest of places, causing her to question all the certainties on which she has built her life. Suspenseful, wry and gorgeously written Kingdomtide is the inspiring account of two unforgettable characters, whose heroism reminds us that survival is only the beginning.

Rye Curtis is 30 years old, originally from Amarillo, Texas but now living in Brooklyn.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)

When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents’ money, it’s called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she’s not sure what to call it, but it involves: – a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children; – Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room; – Edith, who Ava meets while Julian is out of town and actually listens to her when she talks; – money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections. Exciting times ensue.

Naoise Dolan is an Irish writer born in Dublin. She studied English Literature at Trinity College Dublin and Oxford University. EXCITING TIMES is her first novel, an excerpt from which was published in The Stinging Fly.

The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (Faber) 

They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died. One afternoon, a mother opens her front door to find the length of her son’s body stretched out on the veranda, swaddled in akwete material, his head on her welcome mat. The Death of Vivek Oji transports us to the day of Vivek’s birth, the day his grandmother Ahunna died. It is the story of an over protective mother and a distant father, and the heart-wrenching tale of one family’s struggle to understand their child, just as Vivek learns to recognize himself. Teeming with unforgettable characters whose lives have been shaped by Vivek’s gentle and enigmatic spirit, it shares with us a Nigerian childhood that challenges expectations. This novel, and its celebration of the innocence and optimism of youth, will touch all those who embrace it.

Akwaeke Emezi is a writer and video artist based in liminal spaces. A 2018 National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35’ honoree, their debut novel Freshwater was longlisted for both the Women’s Prize for Fiction and for the Wellcome Book Prize. It was also a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award, among others. Their first novel for young adults, Pet, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Emezi’s most recent novel, The Death of Vivek Oji was a New York Times bestseller on publication in 2020. Emezi’s writing has appeared in T: The New York Times Style Magazine, BuzzFeed and The Cut, among other publications.

Rendang by Will Harris (Granta)

In RENDANG, Will Harris complicates and experiments with the lyric in a way that urges it forward. With an unflinching yet generous eye, RENDANG is a collection that engages equally with the pain and promise of self-perception. Drawing on his Anglo-Indonesian heritage, Harris shows us new ways to think about the contradictions of identity and cultural memory. He creates companions that speak to us in multiple languages; they sit next to us on the bus, walk with us through the crowd and talk to us while we’re chopping shallots. They deftly ask us to consider how and what we look at, as well as what we don’t look at and why. Playing eruditely with and querying structures of narrative, with his use of the long poem, images, ekphrasis, and ruptured forms, RENDANG is a startling new take on the self, and how an identity is constructed. It is intellectual and accessible, moving and experimental, and combines a linguistic innovation with a deep emotional rooting.

Will Harris is a poet and critic from London. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Mixed-Race Superman and All This Is Implied, and winner of the LRB Bookshop Poetry Pick for best pamphlet. He received a Poetry Fellowship from the Arts Foundation in 2019 and was shortlisted for the 2017 Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize and the 2018 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem for ‘SAY’ (Poetry Review). He has published with the Guardian, the London Review of Books, Granta, the Poetry Review, and the White Review, among others.

The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes (Oneworld)

It’s 2008, and the Celtic Tiger has left devastation in its wake. Brothers Hart and Cormac Black are waking up to a very different Ireland – one that widens the chasm between them and brings their beloved father to his knees. Facing a devastating choice that risks their livelihood, if not their lives, their biggest danger comes when there is nothing to lose. A sharp snapshot of a family and a nation suddenly unmoored, this epic-in-miniature explores cowardice and sacrifice, faith rewarded and abandoned, the stories we tell ourselves and the ones we resist. Hilarious, poignant and utterly fresh, The Wild Laughter cements Caoilinn Hughes’ position as one of Ireland’s most audacious, nuanced and insightful young writers.

Caoilinn Hughes is an Irish writer. Her first novel Orchid & the Wasp (Oneworld 2018) won the Collyer Bristow Prize 2019 and was shortlisted for the Hearst Big Book Awards, the Butler Literary Award and was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and the International DUBLIN Literary Award. Her poetry collection, Gathering Evidence (Carcanet 2014) won the Irish Times Strong/Shine Award. Her short fiction won The Moth Short Story Prize 2018, an O.Henry Prize in 2019 and the Irish Book Awards’ Story of the Year 2020. Her second novel, The Wild Laughter (2020) was shortlisted for the An Post Irish Book Awards’ Novel of the Year, the RTÉ Radio 1 Listener’s Choice Award 2020. She is the 2021 Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin. 

Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze (HarperCollins, 4th Estate)

This life is like being in an ocean. Some people keep swimming towards the bottom. Some people touch the bottom with one foot, or even both, and then push themselves off it to get back up to the top, where you can breathe. Others get to the bottom and decide they want to stay there. I don’t want to get to the bottom because I’m already drowning. This is a story of a London you won’t find in any guidebooks. This is a story about what it’s like to exist in the moment, about boys too eager to become men, growing up in the hidden war zones of big cities – and the girls trying to make it their own way. This is a story of reputations made and lost, of violence and vengeance – and never counting the cost. This is a story of concrete towers and blank eyed windows, of endless nights in police stations and prison cells, of brotherhood and betrayal. This is about the boredom, the rush, the despair, the fear and the hope. This is about what’s left behind.

Gabriel Krauze grew up in London in a Polish family and was drawn to a life of crime and gangs from an early age. Now in his thirties he has left that world behind and is recapturing his life through writing. He has published short stories in ViceWho They Was is his first novel.

Pew by Catherine Lacey (Granta)

Fleeing a past they can no longer remember, Pew wakes on a church bench, surrounded by curious strangers. Pew doesn’t have a name, they’ve forgotten it. Pew doesn’t know if they’re a girl or a boy, a child or an almost-adult. Is Pew an orphan, or something worse? And what terrible trouble are they running from? Pew won’t speak, but the men and women of this small, god-fearing town are full of questions. As the days pass, their insistent clamour will build from a murmur to a roar, as both the innocent and the guilty come undone in the face of Pew’s silence.

Catherine Lacey is the author of the novels THE ANSWERS and NOBODY IS EVER MISSING, and the collection of stories CERTAIN AMERICAN STATES. She has won a Whiting Award, was a finalist for the NYPL’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. Her books have been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch & German. She was born in Mississippi and is based in Chicago.

Luster by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Picador)

Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, is sleeping with all the wrong men, and has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her, painting. No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family. Razor sharp, provocatively page-turning and surprisingly tender, Luster by Raven Leilani is a painfully funny debut about what it means to be young now.

Raven Leilani’s work has been published in Granta, The Yale Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Conjunctions, The Cut, and New England Review, among other publications. She received her MFA from NYU and was an Axinn Foundation Writer-in-Residence. Luster is her first novel.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (HarperCollins, 4th Estate)

Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that. Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many. Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues of our age.

Kate Elizabeth Russell is originally from eastern Maine. She holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of Kansas and an MFA from Indiana University. My Dark Vanessa is her first novel.

JUDGING PANEL INFORMATION: Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2021      

Namita Gokhale (Chair of the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize 2021)

Namita Gokhale is an award-winning writer, publisher and festival director. She is the author of twenty books, including ten works of fiction. Her latest novel Jaipur Journals, published in 2020, is set against the backdrop of the vibrant Jaipur Literature Festival, of which Gokhale is a co-founder-director. Jaipur Journals will be published in the UK in Spring 2021 by HopeRoad Publishing. She is director of Yatra Books, a publishing house specialised in translation. Gokhale was conferred the Centenary National Award for Literature by the Assam Sahitya Sabha in Guwahati in 2017. Her novel Things to Leave Behind has won the Sushila Devi Literature Award in January 2019 and Valley of Words Book Award for the Best English Fiction. Follow her on Twitter @NamitaGokhale_

Syima Aslam

Syima Aslam is the founder and Director of the Bradford Literature Festival (BLF), which she established in 2014. A 10-day literary and cultural celebration, BLF welcomes more than 70,000 visitors to Bradford annually and is celebrated as the most socio-economically and ethnically diverse literary festival in the UK. Under Syima’s directorship, BLF has made a significant impact on the country’s literary landscape, hailed as ‘one of the most innovative and inspirational festivals in the UK’, bringing together literature from all genres, promoting intercultural fluency, providing a platform for marginalised voices, and reflecting the changing face of contemporary Britain through a programme which celebrates diversity, empathy and artistic excellence.

Stephen Sexton

Stephen Sexton’s first book, If All the World and Love Were Young was the winner of the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2019 and the Shine / Strong Award for Best First Collection. He is the 2020 recipient of the E.M. Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was the winner of the National Poetry Competition in 2016 and the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award in 2018. He teaches at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, Belfast. Follow him on Twitter @ssexton02

Joshua Ferris

Joshua Ferris is the bestselling author of three novels and a collection of short stories, The Dinner Party. He has been a finalist for the National Book Award, winner of the Barnes and Noble Discover Award and the PEN/Hemingway Award, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize, and was named one of The New Yorker’s “20 Under 40” writers in 2010. He lives in New York.

Francesca Rhydderch

Francesca Rhydderch is a novelist and academic. In 2014, her debut novel The Rice Paper Diaries was longlisted for the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and won the Wales Book of the Year Fiction Prize. Her short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines and broadcast on Radio 4 and Radio Wales. She was the recipient of a BBC/Tŷ Newydd bursary in 2010, and in 2014 she was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award. She subsequently co-edited Seren Books’ most recent fiction anthology New Welsh Short Stories with Penny Thomas, and has been Associate Professor in Creative Writing at Swansea University since 2015.


Let the book challenge sign ups begin!! I spotted this challenge over at The Secret Library Site today and thought it sounded lots of fun, so I wanted in!
It’s hosted by Carolina over at Carolina Book Nook and it’s pretty simple to follow!

The challenge runs from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021. You can sign up any time, but only count books that you read between those dates.

Read a book in any format (hard copy, ebook, audio) with a title that fits into each category.

Don’t use the same book for more than one category.

Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed, it’s encouraged!

You can choose your books as you go or make a list ahead of time.

And here’s the list of categories for 2021;

I’ve got a couple of titles in mind already but will have fun hunting out options for the other categories!! Should be a fun reading challenge!!


A huge delight for me today to welcome Allie Cresswell to my Books and Me! blog, to share a guest post following the release of her latest publication, THE HOUSE IN THE HOLLOW.  I hope you’ll find her thoughts as  fascinating and thought provoking as I have, especially given the relevance of the topic!
Over to you Allie…..

Introducing Diversity

My latest novel, The House in the Hollow, is set during the Regency era, over the course of the Napoleonic War. This time-period is the setting of Jane Austen’s novels but my book is not related to hers other than that I have attempted to emulate some of her erudition of dialogue, as being appropriate to the age.

I was about a third of the way through writing it when a furore blew up in the Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) community—as everywhere else—about the issue of diversity.

I had become involved with Austenesque writers and readers because of my Highbury Trilogy, which is inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma. I had used the JAFF community to promote my books and to connect with other writers who are inspired to continue, vary or just re-visit Jane Austen’s stories. I’d had it in my mind to explore the hinted-at backstory of Jane Fairfax and Frank Churchill since I first read Emma when I was at school, forty-odd years ago. I was amazed to find how many Jane Austen variations there were and how many writers, like me, had attempted to capture something of her wit and elegance.

What the majority of these books have in common, however, is their lack of diversity. It might be argued that Jane Austen’s books lacked it too; apart from Miss Lambe in Sanditon there are no characters specifically identified as BAME. My own Highbury Trilogy is no different although there is, in a throw-away line, a suggestion that newcomers to Highbury might be, “Mulattoes, children of a West Indian plantation owner, come to England for the first time.”

With the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter campaign, in common with people in every sector of our world, JAFF writers began to ask themselves whether this lack of diversity was in fact a fair and true reflection of the Regency era in Britain and whether, regardless of what seems to be the case in Jane Austen’s novels, we ought to try and show a much broader, more inclusive range of race and colour—and, for that matter, disability, age and sexual orientation—in our work. For me, a brilliant article by JAFF writer Bella Breen suggested to me that the overwhelmingly white population we see in TV and film adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels is far from being historically accurate. In the light of her informative and challenging article and after my own research into the question I reviewed my WIP (work in progress). I had no desire to jump on any bandwagons, nor to simply tick a box labelled ‘diversity’. If I was going to be more inclusive it had to be natural, seamless and realistic. As it happened The House in the Hollow has at its centre a gentleman whose wealth stems from his involvement with the East India Company and who has spent much of his youth in Bengal. This provided a natural and ready-made opportunity for me to introduce some Indian characters which I took advantage of, although with some trepidation: one would not wish to patronise, misrepresent, disrespect or—worse of all—be accused of tokenism. Later I also created a valet who is a person of colour to be the romantic interest for one of my secondary characters. It seemed to me to be a completely plausible situation.

What I hope I’ve produced is a story with historically accurate diversity; believable characters whose ethnicity is secondary to their impact on the plot and their interactions with others.

How successful have I been? You must be the judge.


The Talbots are wealthy. But their wealth is from ‘trade’. With neither ancient lineage nor title, they struggle for entrance into elite Regency society. Finally, aided by an impecunious viscount, they gain access to the drawing rooms of England’s most illustrious houses.

Once established in le bon ton, Mrs Talbot intends her daughter Jocelyn to marry well, to eliminate the stain of the family’s ignoble beginnings. But the young men Jocelyn meets are vacuous, seeing Jocelyn as merely a brood mare with a great deal of money. Only Lieutenant Barnaby Willow sees the real Jocelyn, but he must go to Europe to fight the French. The hypocrisy of fashionable society repulses Jocelyn—beneath the courtly manners and studied elegance she finds tittle-tattle, deceit, dissipation and vice.

Jocelyn stumbles upon and then is embroiled in a sordid scandal which will mean utter disgrace for the Talbot family. Humiliated and dishonoured, she is sent to a remote house hidden in a hollow of the Yorkshire moors. There, separated from family, friends and any hope of hearing about the lieutenant’s fate, she must build her own life—and her own social order—anew.